Today was an unexpectedly difficult day, with very little warning. I guess life just happens some days and there’s nothing you can do about it but roll with the punches. This is especially true when you have little kids.
In this case, Craig received a phone call from the local pound, informing us that our first pet together, our little grey kitty Rafi, was struck and killed my a car earlier this afternoon. Turns out it was right in front of our house, likely by a speeding driver, since many fly down our residential street, going like forty miles per hour.
Rafi was named after one of my beloved Red Wing players, Rafalski, about a decade ago. He was a rescue that instantly loved having a whole house to himself, having a plentiful amount of food and snuggles, specifically from me. He HATED all the house projects Craig forced him to endure, especially anytime his brother Chris showed up with some power tools, such as new windows and doors in our first house, and when he overcame that obstacle, we got a dog. It took barely any time for him to warm up to our other cat, Rory, and they became fast friends and stayed that way through the years. He was less than impressed at our promotion to triplet parents, even less impressed when that reduced his snuggles and our minimal sitting still for YEARS. Only in the last six months or so have either cat decided it is safe to go near the kids and that sometimes results in petting and snuggles. I’m glad I got a good evening snuggle with him last night, full of purring before I drifted off to sleep.
We decided to be upfront with the girls tonight and tell them the truth. We took them outside with our loved kitty and told them about the accident, that his injury was too bad to fix (even with a bandaid- to their disbelief), and that he was already in heaven. They doubted this until Craig pulled him out and set him on a blanket in a hole in the ground, and then stressed a bit more at a new reality they don’t quite yet understand, especially seeing a bit of blood from the hit. Don’t worry, it wasn’t very graphic or we wouldn’t have shown the girls; and it showed us that it was an instantaneous incident and he didn’t suffer, which is a relief.
Everyone absolutely wanted to put flowers all over him and picked from around the garden (sorry Grandma), laying them gently down and putting handfuls of dirt on him. I have to say, for their age, they did a great job asking questions, trying to understand it and being respectful. Craig did a great job coaching and explaining through it.
The rest of the evening produced a bunch of complicated life questions. Harper keeps repeating that she doesn’t want Rafi to go to heaven; she wants him to stay here. Reagan keeps asking why did my grey kitty die? All three are very concerned about him sleeping outside in the dirt and want him to feel better, questioning why a bandaid can’t fix it. Reagan and Emerie are still asking questions but seem to be okay, while Harper is a bit more sad about the idea and needed a good momma cuddle. At bedtime Reagan kept asking where Rafi went and why. They all want to know where heaven is…and that’s a bit harder to answer off the cuff! When I explained it’s a place full of happiness and no pain, Reagan asked me if it was in Juneau. I’m pretty sure that’s because happiness equals Grandma Sue for her 🙂
It’s a tough reality knowing you can’t permanently protect your kids from some of life’s harsh realities, such as losing a pet or a loved one. Realities no one wants to go through but no one can escape from. I hope we made the right call in our explanations and that the girls will remember our beloved kitty and all our fun times with him.
Prayers for our household tonight as we miss our kitty and learn to work through life without his snuggles and meows.
It’s been six years since I last saw my brother and his family, who live down in Washington. Six years is quite a long time, especially considering four additional kids were added between the two families since we last saw one another, several job changes and a lot more grey hair (or just less hair in general?!). To make up for lost time and no major traveling during the pandemic, we crammed a TON of things into the past week during their Alaska visit; equally quite a whirlwind of fun.
I’ve looked forward to this week for ages. I love that Craig’s family is not only large and full of a lot of spirit (you know who you are), but also the fact that they are close by in other cities in Alaska, and often travel to or through Anchorage so the girls really know their extended family, cousins, grandparents, and so on. My side of the family is not only significantly smaller in comparison, but the few members I do have are far away or have chosen to live their lives apart from ours and not know the girls. It’s never bothered me to have a small family (one brother versus Craig’s seven siblings), because close friends who love you as part of their family is all that’s really needed and we have many of them! It is also a marriage perk to be brought into a big family dynamic. This week definitely warmed my heart, seeing my brother and sis-in-law and nephews, watching all the kiddos interact and get to know one another, and spending time with my side of the family after so long and introducing them to some of Craig’s side.
After throwing the kids together into forced friendship and insisting everyone are cousins, we stopped off at the park to get some energy out and let the bonding begin, then loaded up into two vehicles to venture out to the reindeer farm for an afternoon of exploration. The weather turned out perfectly, not too hot or cold with sun by the end, some snacks (for the kids and the reindeer) and fireweed ice cream (hated by the boys but enjoyed by the girls), and horse rides! The kiddos especially liked feeding the reindeer, more so this year because of the fence buffer that kept pushy animals from force feeding themselves. Last year the girls were less than impressed at the frenzy of reindeer excitement around them and more concerned about their safety.
While feeding the moose and reindeer were enjoyable and produced lots of preschool conversations and questions; the big, afternoon hit revolved around horseback rides for all, playing in the big sandbox filled with sand toys and dinosaurs, and climbing in the giant tubing and rolling back and forth. The latter was especially fun for Aunt Jenny, who ended up rolling around with a couple kids in tow and a lot of giggling. Reagan enjoyed the horse rides the least of the group for some reason, especially since she was so excited to do it upon arrival. Everyone else was all smiles, waiting for their turns. I am also happy to report we wrangled a driving nap out of four of the five kiddos on the way home.
Another activity of the week, planned since the canceled 2020 trip, was family photos. My excitement for this has spanned two years and is probably more realistic now that the girls are four. Ate age two, it very very difficult to contain the wildness, let alone get them to focus on a camera and smile. So with five kids under eight, four adults, a lot of mosquitoes, and a million promises of Swedish fish gummies and ice cream bites in return for smiles, we managed to get some good ones.
Family photos are always chaotic, but the end product is absolutely worth the behind-the-scenes effort. It is no small task to match multiple kids, redo hair and clothing, and strive to keep them clean until picture time. This is the first time we didn’t drive out to the valley for our summer session, which was a lot simpler logistically! I also realized after our session that we forgot to do a couple with just the girls together and then just the boys together, but in the chaos of it all, our photographer did a great job capturing some precious moments between our families and even pulled some smiles out of the boys.
If you are curious about our amazing photographer, his website is here!
After pictures Jenny and I took the kids over to the jump park, as promised to the boys for a good photo session; after about thirty minutes the girls were completely over the busy day and maniacs from exhaustion. We ended up going home with everyone crying and doing a quick dinner from Taco King and letting everyone calm down. Busy, busy day!
The next afternoon Craig and I ambitiously trekked down to the Kenai Peninsula sans any other adult entertainers (that sounds wrong!), i.e. Grandma Sue, which greatly helped our survival last summer. We now know the key to prepping and packing for a trip is to drop the girls off at preschool for the morning and packing and loading the car while they burn energy at school. This genius plan allowed us to get everything ready to go, the house cleaned and yard trimmed and watered, and on the road by 1:30 in the afternoon. This, however, did not result in a nap on the drive down. It did result in a LOT of snacks and a movie, and we made it all the way into Sterling without stopping.
While my children are definitely bigger sassers and back-talkers than when we did this trip last year, they are also a bit more responsible than their three-year-old selves, making hanging out much easier than last summer. Even in the midst of the “full moon attitude” never ending this month, they are more content running around the yard, playing with buckets of water and nets on the dock, and even minimal movement activities like coloring at the kitchen counter. It is definitely more manageable now to be away from home for a few days, and really great when additional family members are in tow. It is also a breath of fresh air after some previously difficult outings when they were younger and nice to feel a bit more normal.
We spent an exuberant amount of time playing out on the lake and enjoying the sun, riding the jet-skis and getting pulled behind it on the triple-seated float. The girls started out a little tense and nervous on the first ride with me, but by the end of the day were pros and all asking to ride it again and again. It was quite hilarious to hear their shrieks of joy from all the way across the lake, that turned from fear to bliss throughout the day. The boy cousins joined in too and the adults took turns riding in the float while Craig or Miss Becky drove.
Most of the first day was spent outside before the girls actually went into the cold water; in fact, cousins Corbin and Elliot, who don’t live in Alaska, jumped off the dock long before the girls even dipped their feet in. By the end of the afternoon everyone was walking around in it, with Elliot running in circles and jumping off the dock. Harper was quite content reorganizing the rope on the dock and tying knots around things while Reagan and Emerie filled buckets of water from the lake and played with the mesh nets. Cousin Corbin mastered catching the tiny fish around the dock and showing them to everyone before re-submerging them; Elliot was happily jumping off the dock into the water on repeat. Aunt Jenny showed everyone how to direct the kayak (with a rope connected so the water didn’t take anyone way!) and the adults even managed some relaxation while the kids played. It was a really nice, normal afternoon that resulted in tired and tanned kiddos!
Everyone then hung out for family dinner at Jaren and Savaya’s house down the road. The kids mostly played around the yard or demanded to run circles around the fire pit…at least until Emerie fell into it. All in all, it was a wonderful, fun filled day, catching up with family and enjoying the midnight sun.
Our only hiccup that night was Reagan’s puffy eye, which resulted from her full on crash into the bathroom doorknob. It probably deserved some icing, but it happened right as everyone was headed to bed and we didn’t realize it was such a hit until the next morning. That or she just wanted to match Emerie’s left eye, which is still slightly droopy from her May surgery.
The next day we adventured over to a beach in Kenai to play with sand and collect pretty rocks, which were plentiful. The boys wandered down the coastline without a care in the world, checking things out and living the dream. Eventually Keegan ended up catching up to them to bring them back while Jenny and I found some really cool looking rocks. Since the fishing trip was a no go this year and we spent most of our time on the beach least year with great, family survival rates, we made sure to visit at least once over the weekend. Turns out it wasn’t sunny across the peninsula like at our weekend home base, and the girls weren’t quite as thrilled to play in the blowing wind and cold. After additional layers of hoodies and pants from the car, they collected pretty rocks and buckets of sand, flew kites, and picked the wildflowers. Emerie even picked a beautiful purple bouquet for Tyler.
After the beach adventure, lunch and some chocolate ice cream from the place with the giant cone that we kept driving by, the kids and I loaded into the boat and took a few turns around the lake with our host Joe. Elliot insisted he was having fun as long as he had a strong, death grip on both of my hands and I didn’t move. The highlight on the excursion, which likely looked ridiculous from the shore, was spinning in a few circles, trying to grab a squeegee that fell into the water. No children were injured in its retrieval and the girls thought it was hilarious when it took multiple tries to grab it. Harper then gave it a bunch of licks afterwards and “washed” the front windows as we rode back to the dock. Gross.
Through my normal torture methods, we ended our weekend adventure forcing the family into matching family T-shirts. Becky humored me and snapped some photos with her nice camera and after a week, I finally figured out a bribery candy the boys actually like…gummy worms!
It felt amazing to get out of town and a break from the mundane for a few days. It was also a much overdo family hang out with almost all of the girls’ cousins; we were missing cousin Chatum! The trip demonstrated that each year traveling gets much easier and less stressful than prior years. It’s about damn time!
We ended our vacation week at the Scottish Highland Games festival out in Palmer. Spending nearly six hours out in the sun, it is definitely our longest festival time since the girls were born and getting much easier to explore, entertain and contain the littles without complete parental burnout by the end of the excursion.
The girls sampled half the food at the event, eating dipping dots ice cream, several shaved ice flavors, hot dogs and French fries, and a ton of lemonade. They walked around the entire event, since we didn’t bring the wagon, and were quite the hit in their kilts, which matched Craig’s. We stopped at the bathroom about a thousand times, taking those kilts on and off and on and off. At one point I even dropped my phone in the toilet; after giving it (and my hands) a solid soap scrub, Emerie made sure to announce to the entire festival my mishap. Silly girl.
Harper and Emerie put a fire out at the fire truck with Dad while Reagan watched and all three climbed into the truck, asking the firefighter a ton of questions about switches and buttons inside the rig. I had to force them back out; they didn’t want to get down. We checked out the ax throwing booth, Craig’s favorite, and the girls looked at all the custom made axes. We watched the local dance groups for a few minutes, something that brought out major excitement in Harper, who asked the rest of the afternoon to go back and see them.
The musical entertainment that afternoon consisted of two sets of unrelated twins: the Harptwins and the Volfgang Twins. It was so random! We wandered over to the stadium before the show and took a photo of everyone- the girls were shy and unsure about adults that look identical. I’m not sure I’ve ever met identical adults that dressed the same and it was a fun experience. I mean come on, how cute is this picture!
After spending the whole afternoon in direct sunlight, the girls didn’t fight sitting and watching the Harptwins’ show. Camille and Kennerly, on their second visit to the Highland Games, had a set full of twin jokes and sarcasm that was quite entertaining. They joked they mixed up who stood where on the set and that the audience didn’t appreciate all that effort…since you clearly can’t tell them apart. Harper was happy to sit on my lap and watch them in action on their harps; Emerie and Reagan eventually wandered off for another potty break and then face painting.
It was the first time I sat through any type of show since becoming a mom and much overdue and welcomed. The Volfgang Twins came out for the last several songs and the girls made it back with fancy face paint to watch them play on the big drums. By the end of the show we were all tired and loaded up and went home.
All in all, a great week of memories with family, friends, and adventure ❤
The girls continue to live in an “attitude funk” the past week or two and it is incredibly exhausting for mom and dad. It feels like the parenting full moon cycle is stuck and never ending (you all know what I mean by that!), with tired, grumpy girls every night that constantly bicker, refuse to listen, continue to name call and sass you, and have a hard time settling down. While boundary pushing is nothing new in any house with kiddos and has occurred for a while now, the attitude shift and blatant disobedience is very wearing and frustrating.
The girls’ funk is occurring at home and at school, with evenings a special treat and you can’t anticipate if everyone will be pleasant or over-tired rage monsters. This week Emerie missed out on the entire bike day activity at preschool. Her teacher noted that not only did she express her inner vampire and take a chunk out of Reagan, but she refused to listen or obey any instructions given, so missing out on the fun and spending time in the office was her repercussion. After reading the daily report about it and forcibly extricating everyone from the playground and into the car that night (not fun for me!); everyone had quite the screaming meltdown, most of all Emerie. Needless to say, my blood pressure skyrocketed before I even made it home for the night.
Once the screaming and crying decreased, we had quite a group discussion on the drive home about what happens when you are naughty and when you are nice, when you listen and when you don’t. Emerie owned up to her office visit and Reagan and Harper were happy to point out that she was in trouble and they were still able to ride their bikes. They also pitched in some opinions, noting that the office isn’t any fun and you just have to sit there. Emerie did point out she was well behaved and did indeed sit there; just not in time to participate in the activity.
I am personally glad she missed out on the activity and seemed to learn that her bad behavior was the main contributor. I can’t say this revelation improved her attitude the following nights or at pickup other days this week- at one point I had to chase her across the parking lot and manually load her into the car seat, kicking, screaming, and trying to bite me. This was after I wrangled the other two in, with a semi-cooperative Harper and somewhat resistant Reagan. It’s a lovely thought at the spectacle we become on nights like this and I try to block that thought out or it induces more mom stress. These moments also remind me that in so many ways the girls being older is a thousand times easier, and in other ways it’s just the same as the age-two-and-run-three-directions stage.
For the most part we skipped the Tiny Vampire Club when the girls were younger, with some occasional biting during toddler disagreements, but nothing that we “couldn’t nip in the bud” (pun intended!). It seems that we haven’t escaped it altogether in the preschool age and are currently smack in the middle of the attitude, with Emerie as club leader and entrepreneur. To give her some credit, it can’t be easy to bite your flailing four-year-old sister on the rib cage, through her t-shirt, and leave a full outline (top and bottom teeth!), without some real effort, dedication and gusto! Reagan certainly did not appreciate this at all and is still sporting quite the bruise from it, several days later.
So yes, the Tiny Vampires Club is brought to you by #realmomtalk. Who knows what next week’s club will be?!
The Douglas household was fully embracing summer by the middle of May. A little optimistic, maybe, but also a nice break from the dreary and cold winter and spring. Harper’s obsession of shorts and dresses has passed to the other two and everyone now strongly demands such attire each day, regardless of the weather outlook. Fancy dresses were worn during gardening and throughout the long, sunny weekend.
The neighborhood will often witness three princesses biking down the street, in full-length princess dresses, heels (although they are learning heels are hard to bike in!) and bike helmets. Harper led the charge on the peddle bikes and training wheels and had the process completely down in about two days. For the most part her understanding of breaking is learned, other than when stressing down a “big” hill, freaking out and slamming into a curb. Reagan was right behind her and picked up the peddling a few days later. Her stuffed panda is mandatory for all rides. Emerie has no desire to climb on the bigger bike and races around her sisters on the pink balance bike. Occasionally Reagan will opt to ride hers and fly down the street with her legs out, balancing! We plan to let Emerie decide when she wants to transition to peddles, especially considering her balance is still off a bit from her recent surgery.
In addition to the almost daily neighborhood bike rides, we are back to the constant water play. With dandelions in bloom, custom versions of dandelion soup and tea are the hits of the house. Every time you turn around you find dandelion parts, water, and flower petals. The girls designed some great food off the fallen petals on the floor of Bells Nursery this week. And those are free! A number of bouquet deliveries have also occurred and I can confidently say that our lot has no growing dandelions at the moment.
Another really cute moment during a bike ride last week; Emerie found a field of seeding dandelions on a nearby neighbor’s lot and abandoned her bike to collect them. By the time we caught up to her, she was hollering she found a bunch of wishes! So cute.
Reagan already mastered the art of swinging and while she knows how to do it, she still wants to be pushed sometimes. Harper and Emerie study their sister’s new skill and are starting to do it themselves too. New types of swings continue to pop up on our property thanks to Craig’s creativity and we now have a front tire swing and normal swing, and three regular swings, a trapeze bar and a fancy sun seat in the backyard. This week the girls all learned how to do a back flip holding the trapeze and are so thrilled to show it to everyone.
The Douglas family is also growing again (calm down, not THAT) with the arrival of baby chicks. As shouted at me when arriving home from work to them, we got Easter eggs! We briefly tried adopting some last year but quickly learned the girls weren’t quite ready to be gentle with them (and I might have threatened Craig’s life if we kept them). This time around is going much better. Craig told me he showed all three how to gently help the babies drink water while I was at work; Emerie’s first attempt was more like a shove-the-entire-chick-into-the-water type of “help,” but she will learn. Reagan and Harper are quite gentle with them but enjoy petting their heads more than feeling the scaly feet on their hands. A few have definitely tried to learn to fly in the moment from getting thrown by a stressed out preschooler; none of them have died yet either! When asked what everyone is named, the quick consensus was all names starting with ballerina (Ballerina Emerie, Ballerina Harper, Ballerina Grandma, Ballerina Tyler) or Ling-Fong. Yes, we will work on better names as they get bigger.
We are almost three weeks out from Emerie’s surgery and her eye is straightening nicely. Unfortunately this improvement is tied to a very droopy left eyelid (like her first procedure) and now that she’s a bit older, she has more opinions on it and tells people her eye is closed or that it won’t stay open. She asks to go to Dr. Winkle to fix it too. Her patching and wearing of glasses continues to be a daily battle; she is such a trooper while patched and distracted with an activity and while a bit less balanced, still works really hard to do everything her sisters do while wearing it. I’m thoroughly impressed at how well she handles her wobbles and continues having fun and try to give her credit and praise when it goes well.
A few more girls nights have occurred over the past month and I feel as though they are getting easier to navigate by myself. Maybe it’s because we are getting into a groove; more likely it’s due to the yummy food and ability to chow down on dinner with a movie in the living room, which we don’t do any other time. This week elevated temperatures resulted in a granted ice cream request to kick off girls night before dinner, and went really well.
The three day daycare closure and holiday weekend meant a solid six days with the kiddos home. While exhausting and very stimulating, the girls slept in later than normal due to efforts to tire them out all day, no naps and direct sun beaming down through most activities. Reagan even slept until 9:30 one morning! I’m guessing a growth spurt is right around the corner.
The majority of Memorial Day weekend was spent outside with lots of adventuring and activities. We played at the beach (an Alaskan beach with dry, cold sand!), played with the water slide and pool in the back yard, ran the sprinkler, destroyed the back deck with smashed orso balls, shopped for and planted flowers and vegetables, had play dates with friends, went to the park, explored Saturday market carnival rides, and so much more. The girls continue to be fearless and went down a three tiered slide for the first time. Emerie bonked her forehead on the second trip down and was less than impressed and Megan nearly broke her leg (again) at the same time. Everyone loved the carousel and boasted big smiles throughout several rides. All five kiddos joined Megan on a spinning apple ride and no tears or screaming occurred, much to my surprise. It is very likely all three will be fans of fair rides in the future and that state fair this year will probably cause us bankruptcy; here I was thinking they’d be nervous or hesitant (well Emerie and Reagan anyway- Harper has always had a need for speed!).
Now that summer is here, a few trips are in the planning stages and I look forward to trekking to a couple other towns on the road system this summer. I will certainly have three extremely tanned and super blonde girls in tow for most of it…and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans we get into.
The latest in the saga of eye appointments; we opted to take all three at once for their annual eye check. Harper and Reagan haven’t had a check in about a year while Emerie sees her beloved Doctor Winkle every few months.
Everyone was overly excited to go visit Dr. Winkle and not go straight to school in the morning. Harper even brought him a custom colored picture, but was shy to hand it to him. Emerie hung out like it was a normal appointment and held still for her pre-op check like a pro.
Harper and Reagan fought the dilation drops to the death, resulting in Craig and I both holding them down while the nurse snuck a drop in each side. As Harper received hers, Reagan tried to hide behind the equipment as to “escape” her turn. Luckily Emerie didn’t require them on this visit, since she gets really great eye checks while unconscious and under the knife.
We are happy to report that both girls received good news, with no signs of any cataracts in their eyes, and that by now since no anomalies have appeared, they are in the clear. This also tells us that Emerie’s pediatric issue is not genetic; rather it is likely environmental, and happened specifically to her and not her siblings sometime during early development.
Today we went to the surgery center for Emerie’s third Botox procedure- the first successfully aligned her eye for a few months and the second didn’t seem to help so much; we are hoping this third one will!
As usual, Emerie dressed up in her fancy Tangled Princess nighty specifically for her time with Dr. Winkle. She insisted on wearing it throughout all the pre-op checks and didn’t don the gown until after he came in to say hello and mark the correct eye. At this point she was also completely loopy and shy.
She conned the charge nurse into additional fanciness and several “fall risk” bright yellow bracelets on her arm and leg and a blanket for her stuffed animal.
The grape flavored versed was gobbled down and immediately took affect, prompting her irritation once again that she couldn’t grab the images off her book pages. She loudly screamed and disrupted the entire room at the sight of a beach ball on one page. This is always my favorite part of the process. By the time they whisked her away on the rolling bed, she was completely chill with her monkey and just going for a ride. I forget how much easier this process is now that she’s older and been through it a handful of times. Watching the other toddlers in the room today; Emerie is definitely a pro and takes it all in stride. She even cooperated on the finger oxygen tracker, much more than usual, and was flying it around as a helicopter and making me try it on.
Today’s procedure was the same Botox injection into her eye muscle, which is less invasive than cutting it to adjust its elasticity, in hopes of straightening out the eye. This procedure is our last ditch effort before we go back to more invasive and there’s no way to guess which way it’ll end up. If it does straighten the eye, then we will do it again later this fall. The effects usually wear off by about three months.
I barely sat down in the waiting room before Dr. Winkle came through the doors and was completely done! He noted that a bit more of the “magic dust” was mixed today to try to be more effective and I entirely plan on telling her he gave her magic fairy dust in her sleep! Such a quick procedure meant no IV and only has gas anesthesia.
Of course, afterwards the first thing she always wants is a popsicle and some juice. The nurse received strict instructions beforehand that she wanted a purple popsicle and her second choice of flavor was also purple (this kid I tell you!). She came out of the anesthesia perfectly and after her snack, insisted she wanted to go home.
The rest of the day has been uneventful and full of a loopy but happy Emerie Faye.
Thanks for all the prayers! Let’s hope this one works!