Bye Bye Cribs…Hello Big Girl Beds!

Well we’ve gone and done it now!

As usual, I am the parent that drags the feet on another change in the household, whether that relates to changing up bottle feeds, sleep training, or venturing off schedule (in my defense, I’m getting better). The latest shift in the Douglas household, which we are now a couple weeks into, is transitioning to toddler beds from cribs.

We hastily purchased toddler beds about fifteen months ago, right after the girls turned two, because they were climbing out on Nanny Chris during nap time or when they didn’t want to be left “alone” (alone with two siblings apparently) in their beds. We managed to nip this impending transition for over a year, and quite successfully I might add. The only caveat? It meant that bedtime routine included one parent chilling in the nursery chair until all parties drifted off to sleep. Some days this occurred in moments; other days it meant an hour or more arguing with one, two, or three tiny tots that refused to settle and sleep and trying to keep the unsettled souls from waking already asleep sisters.

While I fully recognize digging ourselves the hole of one parent needing to be very close by during the beginning of sleep times is not the optimal method, it resulted in over a year of really great naps and decent evening routines. I personally enjoy sitting in their room with my iPad many nights; once everyone settles it becomes relaxing and enjoyable, listening to the littles dream and talk in their sleep and getting some quiet time to myself. This method did not keep them in bed overnight, unfortunately, but we had a good six month burst of them complying so we could catch up on sleep (several years worth!). Allergy season in July appears to have ruined this beautiful trend and we’ve continue to slide backwards since then.

Since overnight sleep was already getting back to the normal LACK of sleep for the adults, we figured we might as well make the transition and just go for it. As summer rounds out and the “summer snow” cottonwood isn’t as widespread, everyone’s runny noses, ear infections and intense dry coughing fits eased up, but the battle of overnight sleep continued.

The girls helped Craig assemble the new beds on a sunny afternoon, running around the garage and making blankets with the boxes and protective packaging. After a driving nap to entice them to sleep, I managed to get the disassembled cribs down to the garage and the new beds upstairs and made by the time they returned, usually starting around midnight and off and on until morning.

That first night the girls excitedly checked out their beds and sat on them, commenting on pretty sheets and cuddly stuffed animals. Everyone picked out a book and sat under their blanket, flipping through and noting pictures on the pages. Then, much to my surprise, everyone went straight to sleep. It wasn’t a battle, with a ton of whining, crying, demands for water and to go potty again, they weren’t climbing out of beds and free-for-alling it around the room; they went to sleep!! Shocking, right? While the melatonin may deserve the majority of credit here, I also believe a few more months of maturity brought the benefit. All three slept the entire night through, which felt a-ma-zing, but also abruptly ended about ninety minutes earlier than normal routine the next morning.

I will also note that is the only night everyone slept in their bed all night since then, and it’s gone downhill from there…

Harper handled the transition the best by far; in fact, she immediately laid down in her bed and went to sleep, the first night and most after! I expected keeping her in the bed to be more difficult since she is more like me and doesn’t respond as easily to change, but she really took it well and enjoys choosing a book and reading it to herself. The past few weeks only resulted in a few abrupt midnight interruptions here and there and overall she’s our star bedtime routiner.

Reagan, on the other hand, never wants to sleep and has sung that tune for quite a while now, strongly resisting every night and fighting with every breath. She goes as far as throwing super tantrums and flat out screaming until we swap parents out, which seems to help. It doesn’t matter which adult is there; switching is the only way to first of all, not lose your sanity and emotional awareness and two, actually convince her to close her eyes. There are definitely many frustrating nights. Once asleep in her bed, since we refuse to cave to her demand of sleeping in daddy’s bed or her usual I don’t want to go to sleep, she snoozes about half the night and then hastily demands us to come get her. At least those demands originate from her bedside and not running across the house!

Overall Emerie adjusted to some well behaved bedtimes and some meltdown bedtimes and not much in between. Ever since Craig spent a few nights in Juneau last month for work, she is both feet into Team Daddy, reminding me on the regular that she wants dad at bedtime, cried for daddy after nap at school, and loves only daddy (her words, not mine!). Thanks, kiddo. While I’m not taking it too personally that she’s riding the dad train full time right now, it definitely makes bedtime less smooth when under no circumstance can I solve whatever thing she believes needs resolution prior to closing those sleepy, little eyes. Since this transition, she excelled greatly at not needing her overnight pull up. In fact, the last few days I’ve completely forgotten about putting one on and no accidents occurred. Good job, Em!

So yes, I wouldn’t say we’ve found the toddler bed groove yet, but at least we made it through the first few weeks, already gave up binkies last spring, and don’t even have to blockade (or empty) the bedroom to convince said toddlers to settle and snooze. I believe the girls know they can walk out of the room freely, although they don’t and I’m not pushing that, since the door is still cracked open at night and the gate isn’t shut, just propped closed so the animals don’t disrupt them. Through all the fits and arguing, everyone still eventually settles in their own room and I’m taking that as a win in itself. I’m excited for the day the animals begin to sleep with them without causing problems, assuming primarily the dog on their rug, and when they will get up to use the bathroom solo AND return to their beds.

All this new excitement essentially obliterated our nap time and we are rolling with the punches. Nearly three and a half isn’t too terrible for giving up naps, right? Since the first year of life they were non-existent, it was only fair we had least made it past age three! Weekends most toddler beds are usually spent with an encouraged driving nap if the day proves it’s essential (which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t), but otherwise we are done with that phase and not pushing an afternoon snooze, which becomes quite the fight and not worth the added stress. One would think this would improve the ease of bedtime and cause more droopy eyelids, but that isn’t the case for the most part. Every once in a while they will request to go to bed if they are tired enough though!

I’m optimistic bedtime might improve and at some point in their lives, they must go to sleep without us so nearby, but not this week! And at some point in their lives…they will sleep through the whole night….right?!

First night in big girl beds

From Beaches to Backcountry

In a whirlwind of quick preparation, we decided to grab life by the horns and take the kids on a back-country Alaska excursion over the past weekend. With our fishing trip to Kasilof such a success, we optimistically decided the girls could handle a little more of an Alaskan edge to traveling. What do I mean by that? Well, why not try going somewhere with no power or water, somewhere tucked back in the remote wilderness and only accessible by four wheelers…THAT kind of adventure! Quite a bit different than our cozy, two bed, two bath with laundry and kitchenette stay last month, but regardless, it went pretty well overall! We are very thankful for friends who share their fun places to stay with our family, even when it’s definitely not easy to spend the weekend with three, three-year-olds!

One has to pack far lighter when all the gear must be hauled in, not one of my best traits since I like to over prepare. With one bag filled to the brim with my clothes and the girls, we managed to get the gear, food, extra coats and boots and such, and other toddler necessities like stuffed animals and car seats, down to two trips back!

Adventuring with Grandma Sue is far easier, as she is the “in-flight entertainment” for the girls on the way and back. This trip we split everyone up in the car so one sat in back and the other two had no seat between them. We also hooked the iPad up to one of the front chairs so everyone could watch a movie as we drove out and back, about 3 hours each way. Movies and a million snacks worked out pretty well; amazingly on the drive home no one napped, but were rather quiet overall.

It was my first time driving and pulling a trailer and it went pretty well overall. Maybe that is good training for a future RV to pull…one can dream. Craig completed all the hard, manual labor of setting up the four wheeler on and off the trailer, strapping car seats and gear on it, and toting the kids in (most of the way with all three to their joy). I wrangled everyone as we geared up, everyone used the portable potty chair (that we bring everywhere) and became smothered in bug spray, and excitedly tried to “help” by climbing all over the four wheelers

The girls did wonderful on the trek back to the cabin; I was impressed at the great condition of the trail. We slowly moseyed our way back and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and scenery. Mount Denali came out both days and was absolutely gorgeous. While we probably should have packed a few more things to entertain, they did pretty good not completely destroying our host’s cabin. It was highly entertaining to explain that the TV in the corner didn’t work (we didn’t turn on the generator the whole trip) and what a VHS player was. At the end of the trip all three television remotes were missing and where did the girls shove them? Into the VHS player hole. Who knew one could fit THREE remotes in there? Well now we know.

The girls also did a full rearrange of the VHS/DVD shelf- they built towers with them on the tables and were entertained for a good thirty minutes before starting to fight. We four wheeled and occasionally walked down to the open water area that boasted all the views of Denali and the girls threw rocks in the water, muddied their boots and picked blueberries (which are super early to be out and very sour!).

In addition to the fun of the trip, I would be lying if I said there was constant toddler fighting, whining and arguing over entering and exiting the backdoor continuously!! Relaxation is not a word used to describe the weekend, something I look forward to achieving once the girls are older and more self-sufficient. We did manage to get everyone to sleep by about 9 PM that night, after a day with no nap and a lot of excitement, and everyone slept quite well with Craig in the bedroom’s king bed, waking up about 7:30 the next morning. We enjoyed sleeping out in the main living area and I extremely enjoyed the sporadic rainfall hitting the metal roof above us. How I’ve missed that!

I’m glad we spontaneously decided to go, something we haven’t done since the girls joined our family. We left the cabin and trekked back to the car the next day with minimal bug bites, lots of dirt, a lot fewer snacks to pack and another beautiful sunny morning. We made a brief stop in Talkeenta on the return trip for lunch, which the girls didn’t really eat, and once the grumpiness was too much to handle, we drove home. All in all, so glad we went. Getting out into nature is essential to being an Alaskan and we hope to instill that mentality in our kids as they grow up.

Alaska Beach Babies

This is the summer to finally test out Alaskan adventures with the three littles- why put it off any longer…until traveling is easier to handle? While going any distance away from home is minorly daunting, it is way more doable now than the prior few summers. I imagine it’s going to continue to get a bit easier each time and the more we go, the better the littles will do!

Our first (planned) family adventure and fishing trip is noted in the history books as a major success! So great, in fact, that we stayed a third night for more fun. The drive down had many comments of we’re going on a “venture!” and other exclamations of excitement; so much so that they didn’t really want to play at our brief park stop in Girdwood and we loaded back into the car quicker than expected. We brought down plenty of “in-car” entertainment- the girls colored with water pens (an amazing car activity!), played with toys on their lap seats, listened to music and commented on things out the window, watched a few TV shows, and ate their weight in snacks from their backseat snack provider, Grandma.

The first chuckle of the trip occurred prior to arrival. We pulled over at a lake for a quick bathroom break and the girls insisted on checking out these new potties, also known as a no electricity or water hut with a hole in the ground toilet (far better than outside!). All three were CONVINCED this weird bathroom set up had a loud potty, don’t flush it; even after my insistence that was not the case. It’s entertaining to see some of the toddler mentalities when it comes to exciting things like bathrooms! I will also mention the whole four days we only had one kiddo potty accident; which is AMAZING since we were out and about and on the go for most of the trip!

Overall weather for the whole weekend was perfect for both fishing and keeping littles happy and cozy while out in nature. Skies were overcast with brief sun peeking through, no breeze the first day and minimal the second meant hoodies sufficed for staying warm and the rain stayed at bay until we packed everything up the last day to go back to base camp. No bear or moose encounters happened the entire trip! A couple eagles flew overhead throughout the visit and we taught the girls how to chase the seagulls off the beach and fish lines- those are some very cute videos! Rain was timed well with evening and after fish activities and only mild on the return trip.

The girls did FANTASTIC and crashed hard in the car as we drove back to our base camp both days. They acclimated to the concept of a burning fire immediately and relaxed on their lawn chairs around it, eating snacks, chatting and playing with rocks and sand. The sand buckets were a hit, more so the first day than the second, and lots of filled water buckets were toted from the shoreline back up to the play area. Sand throwing was kept to a minimum most of the time; here and there we had to wipe off sandy faces or rinse out angry mouthfuls, but overall they did pretty well. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the triplet wrestling match the second day, with everyone trying to drag each other down and (mostly) laughing.

The girls enjoyed riding on the pull behind trailer that could fit all the kids and two adults without getting stuck! A few joy rides were given and a circle track made- a loop the kids ended up chasing one another around on for a good amount of time. Emerie favored the rides the least (she appears to be more hesitant like me on some of the craziness) while Harper and Reagan enjoyed the bouncing and speed. They also played in the “poop hole,” as the men coined it; and could impressively climb out of it like nobody’s business. It’s handy to use the chest of a fellow sibling as leverage to push oneself up…I’m sure there are some fun toys buried in there for someone in the future to find.

I should mention that we did actually fish during this excursion, setting nets out in the water based on the tides and letting them do the work for us. Craig went down the first night to help the guys while Grandma Sue and I played with the kids, Grandma bathed them while I had quick jet-ski ride on the lake, and then everyone settled and went to bed. Sleeping arrangements went better than planned; likely due to Grandma herding the sleepy cattle into one big bed (after melatonin) and convincing everyone to sleep near each other without fighting. The next two mornings were spent on the beach, setting the nets and hanging out doing all things beach related. The girls did surprisingly well at entertaining themselves and tagging along to watch the boys accomplish actual fishing. The kids also threw rocks in the water and collected uniquely colored ones- the laundry later proved that. Tiny shells were also at random down the way; Emerie especially has a good eye for finding them. They helped pick up sticks for the fire and pulled grass to help get it going.

A reel expert can tackle anything

Unknown

The assembly line method worked quite well once the nets were pulled and fish were ready for “processing.” The girls wandered around, providing comments at the spectacle while each adult did their job of de-tangling the fish from the net, throwing them in the big trashcans, cutting fillets, washing off the fish cuts, or throwing them in the freezer. We had it down to a science in no time! The kids particularly enjoyed opening and closing the cooler lid as new cuts were thrown onto the ice.

Everyone was willing to poke at the fish, especially the eyeballs, but no one would hold one. The girls were very curious and watched the experience for a bit, not getting too close. Craig convinced Harper and Emerie to give the fishies a kiss; under no circumstance was Reagan about to do it.

All three kiddos helped chase the seagulls off at the end of each day and really enjoyed hollering at them to get off the beach. We walked down the beach and chased them away- something the girls thought was hilarious. An impressive amount of birds will congregate once any amount of fish guts are out and while a little daunting, they all bravely ran toward them and watched them fly off.

We ended up with a good amount of red salmon to stock up the freezer and send home with Grandma and have already decided another trip next year is absolutely warranted. Our first three night adventure taught us that A) the girls do pretty well out of normal routine when it’s planned, B) overnight set up is very important to the success of the trip and happy kiddos (and parents) and C), having fun is actually doable! We are so thankful for Becky, who opened her house to us and let the kiddos run wild and to my boss and his family for extending the fishing invitation, kids and all. It was a really great few days and I’m glad we ventured out to have some fun. Once the weather turned, we were able to have dinner and some jump park fun with family before we returned home and catch up too.

One of the other best parts of this past weekend? I forgot about the existence of COVID- in other words, we weren’t surrounded by masks, social distancing, and paranoia. We were able to enjoy nature, being outside in our beautiful state, and socializing with with others like we did prior to 2020 (and kids). It was refreshing to get back to how things should be and our new normal with kiddos in tow. Planning for more trips is already underway, now that we know we survival is plausible for a couple days away!

Trash Truck

Thursday mornings are a popular day of week for my animated tots- this is likely due to the morning spectacle of the trash or recycling trucks taking away our leftover weekly goodies. So it comes as no surprise that one of this week’s toddler highlights was a visit to Blue Arctic Waste Solutions to meet a real life trash man and see his truck!

We hyped it up for a few days prior and then trekked across the city to their office. It was a beautiful day out and the girls were already demanding to see Bill from the time we buckled them in car seats to the time we parked the car. I’m happy to report they were total charmers throughout entire visit and didn’t try to steal a truck (although I’m sure they thought about it!).

Small details on adventures should always be pointed out…such as the fact that all the littles demanded to wear their tutus on this excursion without any prompting from Grandma or Mom. That made everything even more adorable!!

Everyone climbed into a few of the trucks under repair and sat in the seats way up high. Bill showed them the truck horn and I’m not sure that really impressed them; Emerie instantly covered both ears as everyone pointed out the obvious…that it was loud. Someday we will get used to noise, but it’s clearly not this month. Believe it or not, but all three can fit on one front seat side and it is quite endearing. The wiggling though, prevents that from being very safe so we got down from that and went back to the most exciting part of the visit in the eyes of the three-year-olds…the green forklift.

Three excited, miniature “trash ladies” climbed right into that forklift and started pushing buttons, pulling levers, pretend driving the steering wheel; all with big smiles and excited conversation and with minimal sisterly pushing. This household may like trash trucks, but we LOVE forklifts.

The second favorite part of the visit was the Blue Arctic Waste goodies Bill pulled out in the office. The girls left with small containers of mints (and a lot of mints found in their laundry the next day!), bubble wands, a coveted chapstick for each, and balloons (that were popped within 20 minutes of being home but well loved in their brief existence). A bag of mini Snickers were also opened in the car as we drove away.

It is wonderful to see the world expand through the eyes of your kiddos. Garbage trucks are not something we think so much about as adults, but to kids? They are amazing and bring exclamation and joy. They scoop up your trash and make it disappear; and then go to the next house and do it again. Their presence involves a good amount of shrieking. The girls still believe all collected trash goes to the dump and is handed off to Wreck-It-Ralph, since well, he lives in the dump, Mom!

Forklifts bring that same sentiment, especially at Costco. It was exciting, to say the least, that the girls had the opportunity to get up close and person with one and it showed in their smiling faces. They made sure everyone later knew I ride a green forklift!

Thank you so much to Bill and Blue Arctic Waste Solutions for letting us explore and see a little of your world. The girls are still talking about it.

The Binkie Fairy

Rather than a visit from the tooth fairy this month, our household was visited by the elusive “binkie fairy!” This fairy came to pick up a single pacifier from each toddler over the course of a few nights.

Obviously this is our creative way to slowly wean off the bedtime binkie obsession the girls have had since birth, something that had to be done prior to Reagan’s tooth pull procedure.

The girls have loved their binkies since the green, newborn ones were provided in the NICU and covered half their faces. The first two years of life were spent with single binkies and animal “wubbanubs” littered across the house and often several within grasp. They were so helpful for soothing the littles throughout the first year, especially when three babies need attention and one only has two arms- and I don’t think we would have survived without them. I can’t remember when we pulled them from daily routine, confining them to only nap time and overnights; that adjustment was disliked by all three but especially Reagan.

Tiny binkie babies

Even after confined to their bedrooms, the girls still tried to sneak them out of the cribs and snuggle with them throughout the evening routine, not often successfully but not for lack of trying. Very few days succeeded and those were limited to very hard days, like the whole family throwing up from the stomach flu, after one of Emerie’s surgeries, or when going on a long drive and getting stuck on the wrong side of an avalanche! I’m pretty sure I could have used one to sooth myself.

The first night no one noticed a binkie vanishing, which goes to show how many backups remained in the beds. I kid you not, for months Reagan would sleep with one in her mouth and one in each hand. We introduced stuffed animals a while back, hoping to replace the hand backups with something to snuggle. This somewhat worked and they all have specific lovies that must join in bed every night. Harper loves her red octopus from our last SeaLife Center visit and usually a princess or Moana’s pig Pua, Reagan must have her Panda and green Lambie or she will ask you for them a million times until they appear, and Emerie still loves her purple monkey, now named Monk, her soft, purple hippo, and for the moment her SeaLife Center spotted turtle. Other friends randomly join on different days as well and for the most part they don’t fight over who has what.

Checking out their new necklaces!

The following night the girls gave another binkie up and it went into the baby bottle, accompanied by one “fairy” doll to oversee the transaction. As I flipped off the bedroom light I sneakily handed said doll and binkie bottle off to Grandma Sue, who whisked the objects off to babies in need. When the girls woke up the next morning they discovered that same baby bottle was filled with shiny, beaded necklaces in pink, purple and teal. The fairy was kind enough to even leave the tags on! Everyone wore their necklaces on and off throughout the day.

At nap time there was great discussion regarding the remaining (only) two binkies in their cribs. The girls clearly missed that third one but chatted with each other about them going to other babies. That and how much they only have two binkies!

That night two fairies showed up to take another one. The girls each chose one of their two remaining and placed them into the baby bottle. They checked out the two fairies and discussed losing their beloved possessions, getting a bit sidetracked wanting to go home with the fairies. They stopped asking once they understood fairies live in trees and have to go deliver binkies to crying babies who need them. At least that answer seemed to suffice for the night!

The next morning, right on cue, the baby bottle was filled with another goodie, light up squishy lady bugs! These were immediately taken from the plastic bottle and carried around for a bit throughout the morning.

As predicted, the final night giving up the last one was the hardest. It didn’t help that Harper didn’t nap that day and all three had a good amount of afternoon blush from the sun. Anticipating more difficulty we had a night-night nummy (melatonin) to help them become drowsy. Only minimal convincing was needed for each to add their final binkie to the bottle and take a look at all three visiting fairies, their shoes and pretty hair colors. While no one was thrilled at giving them up, everyone agreed the babies needed them. To our astonishment Reagan handled it the best and didn’t even shed a tear, just asked for her ballerina and hugged her panda. Harper, on the other hand, full on cried and didn’t want to lie down with her animals. Emerie did the same but settled after a few more furry friends joined her in the crib.

After lights out everyone flipped. Harper immediately fell asleep, very overtired from the day, and Emerie right behind her. Reagan, on the other hand, stood in her crib and chatted about the “sad snowman” (abominable snowman they watched earlier) and had a hard time settling down. Everyone eventually drifted off to sleep pretty normally and slept most of the night! I popped in and napped for about two hours on the nursery couch; first because Harper was adamant she didn’t want to sleep, I want my binkie! from the confines of her crib and then Emerie followed within the same hour. Otherwise, the night went off without a hitch and I can’t even believe it!

With Reagan’s tooth procedure at 8 AM, a little fairy game-planning occurred after bedtime. Much to my surprise, they all slept pretty well overnight. We woke everyone up before normal wake up time to ensure all three received their present and Reagan didn’t miss out on that excitement. Nap time went easier than expected too, with everyone snuggling with their animals and drifting off to sleep. Waking up early and the dental procedure probably had something to do with that, and coincidentally the fairies left a gift for everyone when they woke up from their first no-binkie nap!

They keep on growing up!

The next night we received a few questions at bedtime about where the binkies were, but overall discussion was pretty limited. The girls later laid in bed and discussed the vanishing act, with Emerie commenting that the little babies need them while Harper insisted the little babies are mean and took my binkies. It is fun to see their understanding of the event and helpful that they are old enough to comprehend giving something away to someone else. While we still have the normal overnight wake ups off and on, I’m happy we are able to settle them even without the use of a pacifier. The third night everyone slept through without a single peep, telling us that in the not too distant future binkies will be all but forgotten and we can continue to move onto the next stage of bedtime (shhh not yet!).

It’s somewhat sad to take away something that gives them comfort, even knowing they are old enough to understand the binkie fairy logic and are more than capable of sleeping without them. Not a single night in three years occurred without them! I keep reminding myself I felt the same way when we stopped using them during the daytime and in the car and we somehow managed those transitions. I felt the same nerves as we transitioned from tight swaddling to arms out to sleep sacks and I’m sure this isn’t the last bedtime change that will give us anxiety and stress! The next step will be big girl beds and I’m definitely not ready to even think about that yet.

After a couple days without them, the fairy dolls showed up one morning for the girls to keep and play with. We still get the occasional question asking where those darn binkies are and that they want them, but only from the comfort of their cribs. All in all, I believe this was a success and went smoother than we anticipated.

For now, if the girls tell you about their fairy visits, you all better praise them for nicely sharing those pacifiers so other babies can use them. Just saying… 🙂