I find myself angry…

It is a struggle to accurately convey my feelings over the past month into words on a page (or screen). I’ve never been great at displaying emotion, especially extremely fresh ones, but find myself wanting to get my thoughts out in an attempt to understand and comprehend those feelings.

Craig’s older brother Chris passed away in a motorcycle accident the night as Emerie’s eye surgery. This prompted an unplanned family trip to Juneau, an emotional week for all of us, our first plane ride with the kids, and a big shift in our strict daily routine. Not a lot of time was left for processing it all once we decided to make the trip south, but we are glad we could celebrate Chris’ life and spend time with family.

Quick visit when the girls were about 7 months old and still fit in one lap!

I find myself angry at this turn of events, because life can be really unfair sometimes. While this is not the first time I’ve felt angry with death, with someone being taken away from this world much sooner than they should have, it still provides a similar sting and ache in my heart. There’s never a good explanation for why these things happen, and I think that makes it even harder to process. I also know that if I’m feeling this way, there are many more family members and close friends that feel this ache even more deeply, and I try to stay mindful of that.

My anger is a little different since having the girls. I feel like so many amazing, future stories and memories were stolen from us in one, terrible moment. The girls absolutely adored their uncle; it was plain as day each time he visited or even through a Face Time call. He could get them to giggle and laugh and smile, crossing the bridge from “that uncle that lives out of town” into “the favorite uncle” in a matter of seconds. In fact, when he visit last March, about a week before the girls’ first birthday, he won over all three so quickly that they refused to let him get up off the floor and insisted on immediate baby wrestling and playtime, for a good hour!

Not everyone is a baby whisperer, but I can confidently say both Douglas boys certainly maintain the skill. It is always wonderful to witness, whether it is with my kiddos or someone else’s!

Hawaiian dresses from Uncle Chris’ trip to Hawaii earlier that year. He found three matching ones in their colors ❤

I find myself angry that the girls won’t get to know their Uncle Chris, see their Dad and Uncle’s playful banter when working on a house project, won’t get to ride four wheelers or dirt bikes and get into (monitored) shenanigans with him as they grow older. It surprised me how much impact this thought had on me, because I always counted on the fact it would happen. It never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t, and so much has changed the past month.

What can we do about it? While the ache remains and will for a while for everyone, we can remind the girls as they grow about their uncle, and how much he loved them as well as his family, friends and community. I see how strong my husband is each day, dealing with his sadness while continuing to get up and go to work, raise three growing babies, and make a positive daily impact on all our lives, even when it’s really hard and you just want to give up.

We can tell the girls stories, and boy, there are so many stories! I like to think if you compared the girls’ personalities to Chris and Craig’s childhood shenanigans (the ones that I know about anyway), Emerie would be the troublemaker (Chris!) and Reagan the behaved kiddo (Craig), with Harper more-or-less a combination of the two- willing to get into trouble but also willing to let her sister(s) go down for it (hehe).

While our trip caused a major disrupt in our daily routine, it was great to see everyone as well as extended family I hadn’t met yet! We packed up (a LOT of stuff) and made the trek down to Juneau with the girls and my Mom in tow, knowing the trip would be equally as hard as it would be emotional; both which proved true. Craig’s parents were right- babies do help heal wounds, especially ones wide open, deep, fresh and heartfelt. Hugging on a cuddly Harper, a tiny Emerie or a giggling Reagan certainly helped me heal a bit, and I know I’m not the only one.

We had a couple of fun adventures during the visit, but otherwise laid pretty low (if anything with three toddlers can be considered “laying low”). With Aunt Tami’s and Papa Cliff’s help we explored the local indoor water park, with a short walk over from our residence for the week, and played in the warm water with the girls and their cousins Gabe and Chatum. It was a nice break to have a little fun for an hour.

It was also entertaining to see the boys trying to push the triple stroller down the sidewalk. It is pretty big, especially when full of three wiggling toddlers, and that caused a little problem driving straight, but the boys figured it out!

The girls greatly enjoyed the water and it was the perfect setting for them to do a little walking around as well as floating with us around the lazy river. Because the adults outnumbered the kids for once, we didn’t put life jackets on anyone: having two arms per kid is pretty useful! Everyone thought the slide was exciting, even though they sometimes looked less than thrilled about it, as well as the small kid-sized water works and fountains. This experience also taught me my phone is waterproof, as I went down the slide with it in my shorts. Even fully submerged, it came out okay. Whew!

In true kid style, we made it all the way through the water park without any mishaps or incidences, until of course, we rinsed them off without their swim diapers on…I will leave that one up to your imaginations (refer to a couple blogs back if you are unclear…).

We also took the girls to a cute park, that wasn’t completely toddler friendly, but still workable with three adults to herd them around. The whole trip was so hot, in Alaska standards anyway, so we kept the midday outings for the fair skinned kiddos to a minimum. Realistically, I think the adults were just as hot!

We barbecued at Papa Cliff’s house a couple times, with the girls (and myself!) meeting extended family up visiting from down south, the kids and their friends, a big group! We also made it out to dinner with the family as well and they behaved perfectly, other than the major mess of rice left on the restaurant floor. They certainly enjoyed being passed around and mingling with everyone.

The girls especially loved Papa Cliff’s entryway closet doors. Who knew mirrors could be so very fun and bring some smiles to the room. Here’s a video to bring a smile to your face too 🙂

Giving kisses to the mirrors

Chris’ celebration of life was our last night in town and held at the beach. I’d never visited Auke Rec in Juneau before, and it was a great place to reminisce. What a beautiful view, even with the forest fire smoke in the distance. So many people showed up and it was really a testimony to how many lives Chris touched. He certainly impacted ours! Craig and I handed the kids off to many different people to say hello. It was their first visit to the beach and first time trying Rhonda’s delicious scones.I’m pretty sure they were mostly excited about eating the seashells- not so much the cold water, although Emerie didn’t seem to mind it so much.

As the days continue to pass, I am constantly reminded of Chris’ impact on our lives; in fact, it is all over my house! The windows, my beautiful, rounded third story loft window that the boys gave me so much grief over, the new pantry he installed on his spring visit to Anchorage, even all the tools used by the boys in the garage over the years. It still makes me smile that he shot a hole in one of the heater pipes, putting up trim in the family room, and yet when we discovered it and called and told him later that week, he blamed it on me because I wanted to paint and have new trim! Fair enough. While the reminders bring a sense of sadness with them, they also bring good memories. Chris and I became friends through these projects, as they often brought him up to visit us, and I remember the brothers hard at work for a weekend, arguing about trim cutting and decor…and just being brothers.

In closing, a quote I heard that seems appropriate:

A family is a circle of love, not broken by a loss, but made stronger by the memories.

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So please, I ask all of you reading this that knew Chris- please continue to tell us, and the girls as they get older, stories of all the shenanigans the Douglas boys got themselves into! I only know a drop in the bucket of all the good ones…and sharing these memories will help the girls know their uncle.

Chris teaching Harper to hold her bottle with a great photo of him and Craig on the table next to him.

Let there be climbing

Settling back into our previous routine after traveling is both easy and difficult! The girls took a great nap after we arrived home from the airport on Sunday, about two hours earlier than they normally go down. Unfortunately those zzzz’s only made up for the missed sleep from going to the airport at six AM, so we had a couple of hot tempered grumps for the afternoon. While my Mom and Craig ran errands, we had a mini dance party with the girls down in the family room (coolest room in the house right now) and thankfully Aunt Kerstin came over later and played with everyone!

Sleepy babies headed to the airport

In the past week the girls are picking up new traits (again!). Everyone is morphing farther into the biting stage; biting Mom, and Dad, Grandma, even the nanny! Thankfully there isn’t much biting of each other, unless fingers go into someone’s mouth intentionally. Emerie believes she can pull herself up on anything better if her front teeth are involved. It doesn’t matter if it is the couch, a chair, or your leg! I have a tiny tooth marked bruise to prove it!

Everyone’s first molar is through their gums. The weird thing is that all three are getting the back, top left molar at the same time. So far on the teeth adventure they are holding to their identical triplet status quite nicely, with everyone having the front top and bottom four teeth and now the same molar on the way. It will be interesting to see how this saga continues to play out!

Harper showing off those teeth

This video is a great example of the newfound trait of climbing on everything. Learning to walk wasn’t as stressful as I expected it to be with three. Learning to climb? Definitely stressful and back to having to keep an eye out every second to ensure they aren’t getting hurt. They improve this skill daily and we now let them try to see how many things they can actually pull up to. I brilliantly discovered we can keep them off the couch for another week or two (optimistically) by moving the couch pillows to the edge of the cushions- so far that is deterring climbing in the family room.

Because our heating system is baseboard, the girls figured out standing on top of the baseboards and pulling themselves into the window frames or on the end tables, with the only way to stop them to move the furniture or block it off entirely. They are so very proud when they get up there, until they can’t figure out how to get back down.

In an effort to not completely embarrass my children when they someday read these blogs, I believe Reagan may be figuring out how to unclasp her diaper. This is still a hunch, but so far we’ve had two incidences in two days, with her specifically, and diapers halfway on her or falling off. Trust me, you don’t want to know the full details of this, just that bath time definitely occurred with the first one. This could also simply be because they are wearing dresses more frequently and not pants or onesies that mostly cover the diaper. We shall see what today brings on that front!

Miss Reagan testing her limits

Emerie’s eye is improving by the day. The dilation drop, that we did twice a day for a week post surgery, was definitely the least favorite and she is very glad it is over. We have a couple more weeks of the other two drops a number of times per day. Craig is definitely tired of giving them to her, probably about as tired as she is receiving them. Eyelid swelling continues to go down and with each passing day her eye is a bit less droopy. She isn’t rubbing it anymore either, meaning it’s less irritated!

With everything that occurred last week, we really slacked on the goal of two hours of good eye patching per day. This was partially since we were out of our element in a different city and in a bit of chaos from that, but also, even when attempted she immediately pried it off the moment you take your eyes off of her…literally in seconds. She is fast!

Nanny Chris reached expert level this week on a way to solve this. Emerie knows she can get the patch off herself as soon the opportunity hits; so, she creatively put band-aids around it. Since band-aids adhere better than the patches do, she is unable to pry it off, much to her dismay. This genius plan is going to improve her eyesight greatly! Hopefully it won’t peel off her eyebrows though (hehe).

Having survived our first air travel experience with the girls, I’ve been mentally reminding myself of the things I’d do differently as I have time to plan for the next trip (a long time from now). Since I won’t remember these things for very long, I’d better write them all down:

  1. Follow up with the airline prior to travel day: we didn’t anticipate that Alaska Air would mess up our reservations so royally. They are generally really great to travel with. We now know reservations must be verified ahead of time to ensure our tickets are accurate in the system. I am not a toddler! 🙂
  2. Bring a portable playpen: this one is a biggie and would have made our week a lot easier. We would have used it where we stayed as well as for outings around town and the park! It is much easier to corral babies at the park when you have a safe spot to set one down and pick up the next one, especially when babies outnumber adults.
  3. Bring three portable highchairs: I really wish I had brought two more of them. We have one small, fold up version that fits in a suitcase and can secure to a normal dining chair. Having two more of them would have been helpful for meals as well as eating out with friends. The other option would be the portable chairs with trays (like the ones for camping), since they are portable and easy to use. In fact, we just purchased a set this week from another local triplet mom! Having a place that contains the girls and helps them focus on food, even for a few minutes, is really helpful.
  4. Scope out parks ahead of time: toddler friendly parks are few and far between, since most park design is aimed at children better established in their mobility than a 15-month old. We managed to find a few fenced ones, but knowing locations ahead of time would have been helpful. Bringing an amazing sister in law is also recommended for such adventures!
  1. Check out the weather report: Alaska is unusually warm this month, and I can’t remember the last time we had any rain. Because it is WAY hotter than typical (record breaking!) and no one up here has air conditioning, looking at the projected temperatures in Juneau when packing would have told me to bring more shorts and tanks for the girls than I did. The girls didn’t wear a single long sleeve outfit the entire trip other than during the airplane ride. We compensated for this by doing lots of laundry!
Summer 4th of July rompers and see that hair??

A few essentials that we would not have survived the trip without (that I must remember for next time!) are:

  1. Baby monitor camera
  2. White noise machine
  3. Three pack and plays (luckily we didn’t have to bring our own)/pea pods will work in the future once everyone is a bit bigger. They are far more portable!
  4. A few familiar toys for the girls to play with
  5. The triple stroller
  6. SNACKS

I am still wrapping my head around the past couple of weeks, but happy getting back to the normal routine and (almost) sleep schedule.

Summer playtime with Grandma Anne and Aunt Janelle and Paris

Triplet Time Airplane Style

We decided to do an impromptu airplane trip for the whole family, including the girls. As many of you know, Craig’s older brother Chris unexpectedly passed away last week. He is very dear to our hearts and adored by the girls. Bringing them down to Juneau for some family cuddles, playing, and general baby loving will hopefully bring a little cheer to the family during a very tough time.

The trip down was a little more chaotic than I was hoping for, so here are the logistics of traveling with three very mobile, fifteen month olds.

First, it is highly stressful. With it brought a lot of planning and anxiety, but somehow we managed and made it through!

First off, I bought some new toys and made three small play snd snack bags for the plane ride, figuring on the return flight we can simply swap who had what bag. These contain a variety of toddler friendly things: toys, finger snacks, teethers, rattles, etcetera. They worked pretty well for the duration of the flight and we even shared with a fellow toddler in the seat across from Craig, who was less than happy to be confined with her Dad to an airplane seat.

Logistically speaking, we had a one to one ratio of kid versus adult for our hour and a half flight to Juneau, with Grandma Anne providing extra hands on her first trip to Alaskan’s capital city. At the airport we checked three big suitcases and three car seat/bases, carried on a suitcase with supplies in case we needed it, and had the toy and snack bags for each kiddo. We also brought the Zoe triple stroller through the terminal and checked it at the gate right after the last round of diaper changes and splitting up the breastmilk into easily accessible bottles for takeoff.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of Alaska Airlines, having flown on it most of my life. I can say for this particular trip, they severely let us down and I was more than disappointed (and stressed). With a reservation error in their system saying Craig and I were children carrying lap children, it took over an hour for the agent to figure out how to process our seats so the boarding passes would even print. After fixing that error, then it said I had no seat at all! Luckily they were able to fix that eventually and the ticketing agent was doing her best to get us on that flight. Needless to say, we almost missed the flight entirely and boy was I fuming for a few minutes!

The tiny minions insisted on running around while reservations were fixed

Once reservations were fixed, we headed to the TSA line, knowing this was another necessary hurdle to board. We cut in front of quite a long line of people, and after a couple people the TSA agent let us through for the security check. One lady let us in front of her and her husband, obvious that she’d traveled with kids at some point in her life, and it was very nice of her.

Security took longer than it needed to. We had to unload each baby and carry them through while they wanded the stroller, went through our carry ons, and scanned every bottle of milk and article of snack food ONE BY ONE. I about passed out in a fit of rage at that one…but somehow made it through…

After all of that, and about four hours total getting ready, to the airport, checking in, and passing through security; we made it on the plane about 8 minutes before we backed out of the gate and were the last to board on a nearly full flight. My mom was about eight rows in front of me on the left side aisle while Craig was to my left and up one row with an empty middle seat! They gave me a middle seat (because why not, the day was going so well so far…); fortunately the young man sitting in the aisle voluntarily scooted over. I’m pretty sure I would have bursted into tears right there if he hadn’t done that and he could tell.

The flight was relatively uneventful. Thank goodness it was smooth; my anxiety could not have handled the usual Juneau bumps and I was so glad for minimal wind and mostly clear skies.

Harper fidgeted on my lap the entire flight but didn’t cry with any pressure changes and drank her bottles. She tore up a bunch of napkins and that provided quite the entertainment (sorry cleanup crew). Everything she held ended up on the floor or thrown at the passenger next to me while I attempted to protect his face from the baby snack slingshots. Being in a newer 737 meant she could play with the tray table, phone shelf, and airplane handouts. I finally got smart and clipped a teething necklace to the shelf where she could play but not throw it.

Yes the goose egg on her forehead came from a Harper versus the kitchen table event the day before

Did I wipe everything down beforehand like I insisted needed to be done? No. I really thought I would care enough to do that when I sat down (because airplane are full of soooo many germs) but to no avail. But we did make it on the plane, all babies and parents. Success.

Reagan made friends with the lady sitting in Craig’s row and I could see Emerie farther up with my mom, sitting with the lady in the window seat, completely happy.

What did I learn from this trip? That showing up early to the airport did not make the trip any smoother, and that we probably need to check in the day before (in person) so the airline can accommodate the three infants at once. I also learned traveling is possible, though not fun, with three mobile toddlers. Not sure if I’m willing to attempt Hawaii until they are a little bigger, but this was certainly educational.

Sitting on that airplane, breathing a sigh of relief that we made it on…in that moment I fully questioned if it was really worth all the effort to come down here. Disrupting our everyday routine, figuring out logistics and trying to keep babies happy, especially only six days post surgery for Emerie. As I sit here writing this, in a quiet house with sleeping babies and husband for hopefully a few more minutes, I can say that it was definitely worth the trouble and I’m glad we came down. Is this week hard and full of tough emotions? Yes, but it’s worth it and our little ones are proving to be very resilient, maybe even more than their parents.

Prayers for the family and that our return trip this weekend is a bit smoother!