Christmas Stars

Fancy shoes and dresses!

The preschool Christmas show this week was nestled between my two very grumpy, “potato sack” (flailing toddler) hauling events. I cringed at the thought the Christmas concert might be a total disaster after the previous night’s fits and downright disobedience from all three but was pleasantly surprised with how it went. They didn’t run off stage or totally melt down during their performance of two Christmas songs.

Everyone cooperated with their Christmas dresses, bows, tights and fancy black boots and while rushing out the door, still managed to get a few princess twirls in and declare they were beautiful! I always question why so many sleeveless Christmas dresses exist (since Christmas = winter in my brain), and while these Costco beauties came with soft black shawls, I still added another long sleeve layer to accommodate for the cold.

Of course, we Douglas’ know how to make an entrance, and it must be in their DNA (is that me or Craig?! Great question!). Of course we had the typical like-their-mother-trip-over-the-camera-on-the-walk-to-the-stage moment, as Emerie turned to look at us and toppled right over. No meltdown though; she just popped right back up!

The Ladybugs class, of which 30% is us, was first up and did two songs. More than anything there was nervous rocking, shout outs to parents and grandparents and a few hand motions here and there- of course all very cute. I’m sure their morning rehearsal had more participation, since they weren’t in front of a gym full of people for it! Reagan ended up making faces at the audience and her classmates and hopping in and out on the rehearsed hand motions. After one part that all three felt inspired to participate on, Harper turned to Emerie and covered her mouth with a laugh. The audience seemed to chuckle at that one.

An actual family photo

Each class took turns performing their two songs, with a curtain and superstar switch out in between each. Everyone then gathered on stage for the finale of Joy to the World. Overall, it was one of the first nights that I really felt like a normal parent, sitting kid-less in a row of chairs, able to relax and talk to other parents without kid interruptions, chasing someone or the constant tripleting (which I now believe is very much a real verb!). It felt almost normal, being able to watch my offspring participate with everyone else, so very grown up in their three years, and laugh and take photos like everyone else without the constant chaos. These moment are few and far between since we became parents, some due to less socializing during the pandemic, some because the girls are still pretty young, and some because it seems like every time we try to plan or do something nice, it ends up being a total triplet shit show, and it’s frustrating.

But I’m not complaining (ish). While this has not been a great week, it was a nice and appreciated 45 minutes of actual life enjoyment, and I’ll take what I can get.

Now please pray the girls get out of the funk that picked right back up Saturday morning and that we are able to enjoy some of planned events and activities this month. Because I’ll tell you, my brain is fried from a disastrous preschool pick up followed by another mess of a dance class, and I don’t have enough wine or sanity for this. I will say the general mom public that witnesses the meltdowns and my attempts to haul three rage monsters in the car without completely losing my head (or my mouth) has been pretty supportive, with a few nice strangers sharing encouragement in the heat of the moment and it is much appreciated. Now if only we could stop having these fun events…

Please enjoy this short clip of the mini beasts at their Christmas show, goofing off to the crowd and each other, in true Douglas (Sykes!) style.

Merry Christmas ❤

Halloween Weekend

This year’s month of October didn’t exactly go according to plan, with some fun fall activities canceled and a two week quarantine with kiddos. It turns out catching the “rona” toward the beginning of the month meant we didn’t miss all Halloween weekend activities and the girls didn’t miss their classroom party and crafts.

Last minute I ran around town to find big pumpkins we could carve while Papa Cliff was here. Megan, Alyssa and the boys joined us for a fun evening spreading pumpkin guts and seeds all over the dining room and corralling toddlers to smile for a couple photos. Harper “helped” Alyssa carve a cool Olaf design into her pumpkin, Reagan and I worked on a bat together, Craig and Megan finished up Emerie’s and the boy’s designs (when they ran off to play). Emerie preferred coming and going to check out our progress but in no way wanted to help, Reagan was happy to sit on the table to put the pumpkin guts into the bowl IF they were handed to her, while Harper was the only kiddo willing to put her whole arm into the pumpkin and get messy. All in all, every design turned out great and the girls all enjoyed putting the fake lit candles inside.

The weekend festivities continued on Saturday, with the girls excitedly wearing princess dresses to dance class that morning. No one else in their class got that memo and we were the only ones dressed up, which was still cute. Harper did amazing for the entire hour and didn’t wander off a single time, while Emerie and Reagan kept switching out who had to take a break and promise to behave. Dance class is rough each week…

Matching Elsa’s!

After dance we came home and spent a couple hours playing and driving cars and bikes down the street and back, over and over again. The new John Deer tractor from Papa Cliff is well loved and everyone is now steering (more-or-less) down the street, making it a little easier on whatever adult is chasing them. I’m thoroughly impressed at the improvement on steering, and all three now want to try. Earlier in the summer Emerie was very timid about it while Harper wanted to speed and Reagan wanted to just ride with Kaden or sit behind the steering wheel.

Once everyone warmed up from the blustering afternoon, costumes were donned and we ventured over to the girls’ school parking lot for some trunk or treat fun. Everyone chose their own costume, with Emerie and Harper both Elsa from Frozen and Reagan insisting on Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Since it wasn’t the warmest afternoon they all wore color coordinated hats, gloves and warm pants underneath, in true Alaska style. Luckily the sunlight meant they didn’t have to wear coats the whole time! It took them a few minutes to warm up to the idea of walking up to strangers, but eventually they braved it and enjoyed adding new treats into their buckets. I believe the comfortable atmosphere of their school definitely helped them acclimate. We enjoyed hot apple cider (and spilled it all over the picnic table), watched a few minutes of the Peanuts film on the projector in the gym, and hung out with Rapunzel (Paris) and Auntie Janelle, Megan and the boys, and saw a teacher or two.

On Sunday we spent two hours at the local jump park, which we haven’t visited all summer, staying until everyone was demanding to leave and didn’t want to exhaust any more energy running around. The afternoon was again spent playing on bikes and toy cars, coloring and playing with trains, until it was time to neighborhood trick or treat. Pap Cliff stopped by and then Cousin Tyler, Emily, and Uncle Will joined us, walking around the neighborhood for over an hour with the girls. We had FOUR beautiful princesses with us, including Aurora (Reagan), Frozen’s Anna (Harper) and two beautiful Cinderellas (Emerie and good sport Cousin Tyler).

After a bit the girls were mostly willing to go up to the front doors with Tyler encouraging them on, with the sibling battle of whoever gets there first has the distinguished honor of ringing the doorbell. Our poor neighbors definitely received multiple rings as the adults caught up but no one was snarky about it in the least. One house Emerie ran smack-dab into a driveway reflector and Reagan, resulting in lots of candy on the ground while kid number three kept on running to push the beloved doorbell. It was hilarious. By the end of the hour, the girls were losing steam and ready to head back home. Buckets were overflowing with candy and those poor toddlers insisted we had to carry them all the way back home. Everyone enjoyed a piece (or three) of candy at the kitchen table and immediately fell asleep in their beds afterwards, before Craig even finished reading a bedtime book.

When asked earlier in the week who Craig should be for Halloween, Harper insisted dad needed to be Cinderella and mom Olaf with a carrot on my nose. At that moment she wanted Emerie and Reagan to both be Sven (reindeer) and she wanted to be Mulan. When asked the same question, Emerie responded she wanted Craig to match her as Elsa and her sisters should be Sven. Apparently Craig needs to be a princess with Tyler next year! Reagan was too busy demanding to be Aurora to answer the question for me.

This year the girls loved seeing Halloween and fall decorations, especially ones that light up our neighborhood after dark. Demands on the way to school involved slowing down and stopping at a few choice houses, just so the ooo’s and aahhhh’s from the backseat had time to happen. We now have fighting over who is “allowed” to look out the other’s window at such things, and meltdowns from the middle seater who doesn’t have my own window, awwww, I don’t have a window. They also get very upset when everyone occurs out of one side of the car and not equally on both. I can’t wait to see how they react to the much more beautiful Christmas decorations this year; clearly we will have to place a kid in the back seat for those expeditions so they have their own window for sightseeing.

At Trunk or Treat

A couple other cute observations from this past week. I may be (extremely) biased, but my kids are SMART. We grabbed a super sized sled at Costco the other day and I asked Emerie and Reagan to hold it while I pushed the cart around and collected other items. After a few minutes they weren’t holding it and I realized Reagan had taken the cart seat belt and wrapped it around the handle on the sled and closed the clip, all on her own! Smart I tell you!

As we continue to work on bad words, with somehow seems a little improved this week although I don’t know why, Reagan looked at her sister the other day and said shut your body. When I responded that isn’t very nice to say, she looked me dead in the eyes and said shut your body doesn’t have any bad words. I didn’t say shut your mouth. Smarty PANTS.

Emerie constantly corrects us now with an I’m not Reagan or I’m not Harper, even when we are talking over her and to a sister. It’s hilarious…as of course the toddler believes all things are about them. Silly girl.

And from here we roll into the holiday season!

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

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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!