Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lots about Lotte

If you're a newcomer to the Tripped Up Family you may have the idea that all we talk about is triplets and autism. In fact, I heard that same comment from my teen a few months ago. Can you say OUCH?! After that comment, I've been making a conscious effort to minimize the amount of time my teen hears me talk about autism. It's not like there's not plenty to talk about in her little area of the world too.

New York trip
Top of the Rock
Lotte enters her senior year in high school in the fall. My eldest - my only for 12 years - my first baby girl will be heading off on her own very soon. You can imagine all the plans and busy-ness we have going on right now. She is 1/2 way through her driver's license coming of age process, working a summer job, taking the ACT test, auditioning for theater productions, and starting college applications and planning college visits. She just got back from a drama club trip to NYC over Memorial Day weekend and, of course, had a really hard time coming back home. They saw two Broadway shows, Newsies and Once, participated in two Broadway workshops, and enjoyed Manhattan, Chinatown, and more. For the mom who's never been to NYC, I'm still jealous.

Superhero fun
Central Park
Her recent audition earned her the Soupy Sue role in Urinetown the musical playing at RHS on Aug. 15-17. I've collected some photos of what else is up in her world. She's busy enough that sometimes I think she actually lives at school, not at home. I wouldn't change any of it for the world though. (Please visit Gayla's page to see other photography work.)
March Hare in Alice in Wonderland
Credit Gayla Fox Photography
"You enjoyed our singing!"
Credit Gayla Fox Photography

Sweet 16 - A woodland tea party
Footloose - An adult in midst of church scene
Credit Gayla Fox Photography
Cinderella's Mom in Into the Woods
Credit Gayla Fox Photography

Sleeping Beauty in Into the Woods
Credit Gayla Fox Photography







Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wildtree "Get Your Grill On" Freezer Meal Workshop

If you are anything like me, than you're always looking for ways to make getting dinner on the table easier and better for your family. That's why I'd LOVE to have any local West Michigan readers (or those who may be in the area on June 26, 2013) to come and check out Wildtree products with me at a freezer meal workshop/party. It sounds like great fun and what's better than having pre-prepped grilling food in your freezer ready to pull-out for dinner?

What are the meals? I'm glad you asked!

Asian Ginger Beef Tips with Spicy Slaw 
Herb Grilled Chicken and Fire Roasted Veggies
Agave BBQ Country Ribs
Cheddar and Garlic Turkey Burgers
Savory Grilled Tilapia
Rodeo Blue Cheese Burgers with Grilled Onion Strings
Herb Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Angel Hair Pasta
Hickory Grilled Rodeo Chicken
Rancher Grilled Steaks with Blue Cheese "crowns"
Grilled Asian Ginger Chicken Skewers

*These are your dinners - you can make any meat substitutions you wish.

If you're interested at all, then you need to get cracking because registration is due by June 12

Plan ahead and make dinner a breeze. It's so easy! Come on over to my friend Jenna's house in Rockford, Michigan and prep 10 healthy dinners in about 1 1/2 hours that you'll take home and freeze. Pull them out later to thaw and cook whenever you need something for dinner!

What's Wildtree? Wildtree is an organic food company that offers all-natural spice blends and oils free of preservatives, additives and chemicals - all you need for simple, healthy meals in a short amount of time!

Here's how it works. Register and pre-pay $75 by June 12 for a package of Wildtree products. Next, Jenna emails you a quick list of meats and veggies. You do a little advance prep and then head over to Jenna's house on June 26th. Your Wildtree package will be waiting for you along with recipes, instructions, and FUN! You'll go home with 10 meals PLUS products and recipes to make the meals AGAIN!! Each meal is designed to feed 4-6 adults - for under $3 per serving!


Simply RSVP yes to Jenna at (616)883-6060 or jennamichalsky@gmail.com and she will contact you for payment and info. Workshop date: June 26th at 6:30 pm. Just think....you'll have 10 meals ready to go! Why wait? RSVP today and you'll be on your way to simple, healthy meals in minutes!

Registration Deadline: June 12th


*Disclosure: This post is partially sponsored by Jenna Michalsky as I will receive a discount on the Wildtree product required to attend the freezer meal party. Additional discounts will apply if readers of my blog also attend the party.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Little Keeper Sleeper - Review


What the Pinkalicious room is supposed to look like
when trundle is pulled out and 3 girls sleep there.
Notice the lack of "brown art" - it's by design.
I'll never forget the first time it happened. I don't even know what to call it. Diaper exploration at naptime? Brown art? Creative painting? (Actually I've since learned the official word that doctors, therapists, behaviorists, teachers, and others use is smearing).

The problem


Last summer while all 3 of the triplets were off school, I DESPERATELY needed them to take afternoon naps or at least play nicely in their bedroom without my intervention. Maybe even play long enough until they eventually fell asleep for an hour or more. I got used to the idea that "napping" really sounded a whole lot more like jumping on the beds. It didn't matter, I needed the time. What I ended up with was not "naptime,"  however, it was more like playtime at the zoo and left a decidedly barn-like smell and sight. The once pretty pink room, complete with sun bonnet quilts, pink drapes, and all manner of stuffed animals and books, had been streaked indiscriminately with brown - EVERYWHERE.
Angel triplet shows off her flute
to Tripped Up Daddy while wearing
 her cozy Little Keeper Sleeper.

I wish I could say that it only happened once or that it only happened with one triplet. Unfortunately, we had different variations of it with both Angel and Princess triplet. Princess tended to smear if she could get to her diaper area, while Angel just wanted to be naked and wasn't getting the idea that a potty chair should be used instead of bed, floor, chair, rug, etc. All attempts to outsmart them were failing, and we still had three weeks before school would start back up again. I thought I would lose my mind. I sought advice from everyone and learned it's not an unusual occurrence for even neurotypical toddlers, but can happen more often and for longer with kiddos who have autism or sensory integration issues.

The solution


Princess: We used a lightweight, footless sleeper put on backwards so the snaps were in back where she couldn't reach.  We were able to find a cute one at The Children's Place. Since she only needed at nap time, we could get away with just one sleeper. (However, after a mishap last night, Princess triplet will most likely be getting at least one Little Keeper Sleeper of her own.)

Angel: The Children's Place sleeper failed with her because she could stretch it out and shimmy out of it. In fact, she never unfastened the tabs on her diaper either, she simply shimmied that down as if it were a pull-up (no matter how tightly they were fastened). We finally broke down and bought two specialized sleepers for her, after a week, we purchased two more.

Back full-length zipper, 3 snaps,
and non-stretch neck

Little Keeper Sleeper


At $25 a pop for a simple sleeper, you might think we're a little free with our cash here in the Tripped Up Castle, but honestly I'd do it all over again - and I have, more than once. The Little Keeper Sleeper is not just a simple sleeper, it's a major stress reliever because of its patented design. The soft jersey knit cotton makes your kiddo comfy and the backside zipper is secure. Topping off the zipper are 3 ingenious snaps, guaranteed to keep even the most masterful child from unfastening it. For me, the best part is its non-stretch neck. With a mechanical genius like Angel triplet, she's learned to shimmy out of almost any clothes at all by simply stretching out the neck. (This is the same child who only recently was still able to squeeze her body through a kitty door and get into an area of the basement that's not child-proofed.)
Cute embroidered bear on left front

The Little Keeper Sleeper is perfect for special needs kiddos like mine who haven't mastered the judgment calls of potty training yet, but have the skills to make a mess. It's offered all the way up to a size 10 and in two different striped colors. They also offer three different styles - long-sleeve, footed; long-sleeve, footless; and short-sleeve, footless.

The feet wore out WAY TOO SOON!
Before you think this review will be nothing but glowing, I do, indeed, have some issues with the Little Keeper Sleeper. First, don't bother purchasing the footed style. We purchased two of that style and within 3 wearings the non-slip grip on the bottom had snagged and with a little more laundering the feet were an absolute mess. I never complained to the company about it because everything else was working great, and I knew how to easily put ankle ribbing on to make them footless sleepers. The other issue I have is while it is a lightweight cotton sleeper, it's still not the greatest option for 80 degree weather, and unfortunately, summertime does not mean an end to the behavior. Even if they offered a shortie version with tight shorts that ended just above the knee it would be helpful for the hot nights. Lastly, although the striped sleepers are cute (and certainly better than the original plain light gray color - can you say convict?), it would be nice to have other color/style choices as well.
White cuffs at ankle
work just fine,
after feet wore out.

For those of you who are saying, "why don't you just potty train your kids, then?" Well, it's not exactly that simple. This is part of a long process. We will be potty training soon, but the process will not be easy or work the same way as with neurotypical children (which, by the way, wasn't at all easy with Sunshine triplet anyway). We're going to need the support of our ABA therapists, OT therapists, speech therapists, and teachers as we work on these daily living activity goals like toilet training. In the meantime, we have to avoid poor judgment situations for our own sanity.

Overall the Little Keeper Sleeper gets a thumbs up from me and if you have a similar struggle I definitely recommend purchasing one or more (just not the footed style). Are there other homemade options out there? Sure, duct-tape the diaper, put diaper on backwards, cut feet off other footed sleepers and put them on backwards, put diaper on backwards then duct tape it, then put a swimsuit bottom over top of it all - there are plenty of ideas. I like this one because it's a streamlined solution made for the problem. And, we NEVER have an issue if Angel triplet is wearing her Little Keeper Sleeper - that's definitely worth it to me.



*Disclosure: Little Keeper Sleeper has not provided me with any money or product for this review. This review is simply my perspective after using a product that's helped make the Tripped Up Castle a little more happy and a lot less stressful.




Saturday, June 1, 2013

Selling extra diapers?!!

Where we are
I recently saw a photo of a big box of diapers for sale on a Facebook post from a local garage sale group. The title was "Selling Extra Diapers - my son potty-trained faster than I expected." Looking closer, I saw they were Pampers and I love a deal, you know. Unfortunately, they were a size 3. A size 3! I haven't seen a size 3 in this house in well over a year. I used to get excited about the Pampers Gifts to Grow program. Now that we're on size 6 diapers, there's nothing much on the reward list we don't already have, so we just get coupons for more diapers, and that's not exactly exciting.

Back to selling diapers. That mom doesn't need any diapers for her son anymore, at all. I almost cried. I am definitely not THAT MOM, and not just because I don't have a son.

I can't even imagine how it must feel to be able to say I don't need diapers anymore. In fact, I'd love to be able to say "she's potty-trained" for any of my triplets and know it means a process that's actually finished. While Sunshine triplet really only has accidents at night now, those accidents often include number 2 just as often as number 2 ends up in the potty. (Okay, I lied, we just had a Number 2 accident and it's in the middle of the day).

Potty training = nightmare


Sunshine triplet's night-time wear
Potty training is an absolute nightmare with triplets, especially when two of the trio have autism and are significantly delayed with milestones. Okay, I lie. I haven't really even tried much with Angel or Princess triplet, just some basic introductory stuff to the potty. My goal has been to get the neurotypical triplet trained which would magically make it easier for me to deal with the other two, right? Potty training my neurotypical triplet has been hell, and I've been afraid of what it will be like to really concentrate on it with my autistic daughters.

My experience with potty training in the past is minimal. I used to think it was just perfect experience, now I know better. Lotte was about 3 years old when her dad and I finally started the divorce process. Potty training, while I thought about it briefly, was rejected as not a good thing to pursue until some of the instability of her world disappeared (is that another way of saying I was lazy and didn't have a clue as a first-time mom?)

Anyway, Lotte practically potty-trained herself. She came up to me one day and said, "Mommy, I don't wear diapers anymore." I replied, "Really? Okay then let's go get some big girl panties for you." One trip to the store, 2 packages of brand new underwear, 1 set of training pants with plastic pants for over top and 2 weeks of practice. Potty training was done, finished, complete - EVEN AT NIGHT! Oh, did I tell you that she was in daycare full-time back in those days? Yeah, in retrospect her potty-training had absolutely NOTHING to do with me and EVERYTHING to do with a really fabulous daycare Mama. (Don't ask me how long it took for me to realize that).

Anything and everything


We have 15 pair of training pants
ready to go right now
for Angel and Princess triplets
Back to the trio - Lotte would be so happy if I would quit discussing her potty training after all. I should tell you that we tried absolutely EVERYTHING with Sunshine triplet, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Rewards worked enough to get her to sit on the potty, but honestly I spent over a year just trying to get her to go number 1 in the potty. I have never met anyone with such a bladder of steel. The girl could hold it for 12 hours if she wanted - even with me pushing fluids as much as possible. She would simply wait until she knew she would be wearing a pull-up to go (like at night). School was as frustrated as me, well, maybe not quite, they usually only had to change one diaper/pull-up a day after all. And they certainly don't pay for them.

In the end, what worked for Sunshine, you ask? Well, it was a little meanness and the use of an old summer camp prank that actually did it. Here she was, just before bed, sitting on the potty jiggling her legs and screaming "I want a pull-up," when Tripped Up Daddy said, "tough." "You have to sit and you have to go here. We're staying right here and you're safe, but you have to go on the potty, not in a pull-up." Then he pulled out a dishpan, filled it with warm water and stuck her bare feet in the water. Within seconds, Sunshine triplet surprised herself by going pee in the potty, and not just a little. She had been holding it for hours after all. That was the moment when she finally realized there was nothing to fear about using the potty, at least for number 1. Then within days, she self-initiated bathroom time and she's only had a number 1 accident about 3 times total. That was about two months ago.

The lessons

Church NextStep Toilet Seat

So what have I learned? Well, I wish I would have realized it was fear and not really stubbornness that was the issue with Sunshine. I also realized she had almost been at the same point about 6 months earlier, but I gave in to the frantic screaming and fear by letting her have a pull-up. Had I instead stayed strong, she ultimately would have broken through and succeeded, saving us months of anxiety and frustration. I also wish I had found Potty Training Concepts a whole lot sooner. I think it would have been an invaluable resource. I wish I would have chosen a specific method of potty training that I agreed with and stuck with it. Sunshine triplet enjoys structure, maybe even more than her two triplet sisters with autism. If we had chosen a specific structured approach to the whole process and stuck with it, I think it all would have been easier. Instead, we were way too busy trying everybody's suggestions, the doctor's, mother-in-law's, friends, family members, teachers, etc., that I think it simply confused everyone, especially Sunshine. Last, while potty chairs are fine, I strongly recommend using a potty seat on the actual toilet, like the Church NextStep Toilet Seat.

Where we're headed,
sooner rather than later
we all hope.
What can I apply to the next two triplets for potty-training? Ahhh, now that's an interesting question. At this point, we will be working very closely with the girls' new ABA therapists and OT therapists regarding the process. While I've found many plans out there and even recently went to a seminar specifically for toilet training kiddos with Down syndrome (and other disabilities), I still am not sure what method is the best. Stay tuned, though, I'm sure we'll be learning a lot soon because toilet training is definitely on the goal list for both Angel and Princess triplets.

If you have any advice, I'll sure listen, because like I said, potty training stinks (even for singletons who don't have autism) and obviously I'm no expert on all of this.




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Errands with the kiddos

Even on good days a trip to the grocery store can prove disastrous with kids. When you add in multiples and also special needs, it can be really trying. So trying, in fact, that today I shot out a tweet - almost in fear:



No, not from today, but it is 2 triplets
& they are in a cart.
Don't get so picky about details!
As it turned out, the trip was probably the best we've had in a long time. It was just me with Princess and Angel triplets, and we spent over an hour in the grocery store with absolutely NO meltdowns to speak of, no major challenges at all. The only thing I can identify that may have made it easier was being able to spy one of the big, 3-kid-seat carts in a cart return. Of course I parked the van as close as I could, grabbed it before getting the girls out of the van, and moved them into that directly from the van. That saved us numerous transitions, which I really was worrying about as we were driving into the lot. Beyond that, the free bakery cookies helped, but mostly the girls were just in really great moods. They were pleased to be out of the house and somewhere different and were excited about the sights around them. That doesn't mean the sounds of carts moving around, the electronic alarm going off or the bottle return noise (from 3 aisles away) didn't adversely affect them. We still had fingers in ears & hands over ears even while 3 aisles or more away from the sounds.

They continued the good behavior by playing quietly once we arrived home so I could even unload the groceries in relative peace. Are they getting older? Are they just becoming more used to their surroundings? Maybe, or maybe we were lucky and hit everything right on. In any case, I absolutely know that it could have all gone horribly wrong in 2 minutes or less.

Then an even more surprising thing happened. Meijer replied:



How do you like that? One of my regular grocery stores wants to know how they can help make a sometimes very challenging experience better for my daughters. I'd say that's good customer service! Since it was only a day after a huge firestorm erupted after word got out about a Kalamazoo salon owner berating a customer for not controlling her autistic son as he received a haircut, I'd say Meijer looked pretty family friendly and proactive today. And trust me, I don't always give them credit for those two things.

Anyway, the question, "how can we help you," prompted me to wonder exactly how to answer back. It also made me wonder what other folks like me do with the basic errands of life. You know, people like you. How do you involve your autistic (or special needs) children without feeling too much apprehension? How do you plan for a great time? Or is it simply beyond our ability to control and we just take what we can get, smiling when it's good, crying when it's bad? I asked for feedback on my newly created Trippeduplife.com Facebook page too and am waiting for responses. I'd love to get some feedback that I could actually give to Meijer. How could they make it easier for kids with autism to feel comfortable in the shopping experience? With 1 in 88 kids being diagnosed with autism, it's worth knowing. Besides, I think it's important to reward companies when they start asking the right questions.

So stop by the Facebook page, like it & reply. Or, just comment below. Let's get some answers out there, because somebody wants to help, and I don't know about you, but I don't always feel that kind of love when I'm out with my autistic kiddos.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Healthy meals made simple with Wildtree freezer meals

I've written about the classic question "What's for dinner?" before, and at the Tripped Up Castle the answer always seems to vacillate between two opposites. It means either being really organized and pre-planning menus for weeks and weeks ahead of time or getting super creative with whatever's in the house. 

In my various attempts to make mealtimes easier, especially dinner, I've always been intrigued by the logic of freezer meals. It's like they're a mixture of the two ends of the organization spectrum. I love the relative ease of pulling out a partially prepared, frozen meal out in the morning and having minimal work to do for dinner that night. This suits my hectic lifestyle.

So, when a friend invited me to a Wildtree party event where we'd prepare 10 freezer meals using organic spice and seasoning mixes, I was all about it. In fact, the more I thought about the idea, the more I thought it would suit others, like my blog readers, too. 


What is Wildtree? 



Wildtree is a company that helps you answer these questions: What's for dinner? How can I make it healthy for my family? How can I make it in a short amount of time? How can I plan simple, quick meals and save money? Why and how can healthy food be delicious? It's a food company founded on the premise that food should be all natural, nutritious, delicious, and easy to prepare all at the same time. Wildtree products are made of all natural ingredients and have low or no sodium. They have no MSG, no high fructose corn syrup, and no trans fats. 

According to the Wildtree website: "Most of us do not cook from scratch anymore and let's face it - we are a sauce from a jar, soup from a can, chicken shaking generation. Packaged foods do make our life easier, but they are also expensive, loaded with fats, salts, and preservatives, and just not as tasty as homemade. Why not rediscover cooking & healthy eating the Wildtree way?"

The products range from taco seasoning packets to grape seed oil for cooking. You'll find spice rubs and blends that work together to make it easy to make any meal. At the upcoming party, I expect to taste some delicious food and learn new ways to make mealtimes easier in my house, like the "bag/freeze/marinate" method of one pot meals.


Can Wildtree help you?



If you live in West Michigan, or are going to be in the area on June 26, 2013, why not plan to join me, my friend, and others at a Wildtree party? We'll have a great time getting 10 freezer meals together and walk away with enough product to do another set of 10 meals on our own. (Not including the meat & vegetables that you bring with you to the event). In order to be part of the event, please visit my friend's website, click on email me, then tell her you want to be part of the June 26 Freezer Meal Event. It costs $75 for the product and you need to have that in place by June 12 to be included in the event.

I promise to attend the Wildtree Freezer Meal party and let you know what I think. I'll taste test the food there and then family test it later. You'll see at least one or two reviews of meals on the blog and of course I promise to tell the absolute truth - it either works for us or it doesn't. It still seems to be processed food, however, it seems like it's healthier processed food. So, you get the ease, convenience, and lower costs without the guilt of feeding your family unhealthy and artificial food. This could be good for the Tripped Up Castle - stay tuned.


*Disclosure: This post is partially sponsored by Jenna Michalsky as I will receive a discount on the Wildtree product required to attend the freezer meal party. Additional discounts will apply if readers of my blog also attend the party.





Monday, May 20, 2013

Time for Tears

Today many in the autism and special needs community are honoring the memory of Mikaela Lynch
by publishing supportive blog posts for her family. Mikaela wandered from her home on May 12, Mother's Day, and her body was found on May 15 near a creek where she drowned. Mikaela had autism and the family, like many others in the autism community, struggled with autism elopement and various sensory concerns with their daughter.

My heart goes out to the Lynch family. I have two daughters with autism and I understand the constant fear of "what if they wander?" I understand the constant struggle to keep clothing on children who struggle to feel okay in their own skin, let alone skin that's covered with clothing. The Lynch family had Mikaela to love for nine short years, it was too short and they are grieving a horrible loss that no parent ever wants to face. Unfortunately, they've also had to face a lack of understanding from the media from day one in this horrible chain of events.

I am reminded constantly today of a song that I love, by Charlie Peacock - Now is the Time for Tears.

Now is the time for tears
Don't speak
Save your words
There's nothing you could say
To take this pain away
Don't try so hard
You can just simply be
Cry with me don't try to fix me friend
That's how you'll comfort me

Heavenly Father cover this child with mercy
You are my helper through this time of trial and pain
Silence the lips of the people with all of the answers
Gently show them now is the time
Now is the time
Now is the time for tears

I don't know the Lynch family. I don't know their religious beliefs or even if they have any. I do know that the last 8 days have been the worst days in their lives and the media hasn't helped. Today, I cry with them. Today, I support them in their love for their daughter and in this debilitating blow that is their worst nightmare come to life. I do think they'd appreciate the comfort of simple tears, simple support, simple hugs, simple love - and I hope they receive that all today and for many, many days to come.

I've also learned of two other children with autism who wandered from safety this week and were found later dead. Autism elopement is a real issue and as a parent of autistic children, I'm astounded by how little we talk about this issue in the community, in the press, even in the therapy office. I think I've been hoping my two little girls will simply "grow out of " their desire to wander, but I'm beginning to understand this type of constant vigilance may simply be my life.

I also learned that there are tools out there that may help parents like the Lynches and like myself with this important safety issue. If you worry about your special needs child wandering then you may want to sign up for a Big Red Safety Box to help you.  If you don't have a child with special needs, but would like to help others who struggle with the wandering or running issues, you can help by making a donation to the Big Red Safety Box grant program. Today is the day for our communities to come together and support families who struggle with these kinds of safety issues every single day.

No one should ever have to endure the type of Mother's Day the Lynches did this year. Mikaela Lynch was loved, of that I am sure. Mikaela Lynch's death was a tragedy, and I weep for her family. Now is indeed the time for tears.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Dream and Wave Bye-Bye

As I walked out the door of Sunshine and Princess triplets' bedroom, Sunshine did her typical closing of the day statements.

Sunshine: "Good night, Mommy"
Me: "Good night"
Sunshine: "Happy Dream"
Me: "Happy Dream"

Sunshine repeats these closing statements again and again as you walk out the door, all the way until the door clicks shut for the night. We think it's partially because she has to have the last word in everything. It's a ritual she began a few months ago. And, every night I still hold my breath, waiting and hoping.

Princess triplet on her first day of school 2012-13
You see, once, out of the blue, as I was saying good night and only expecting a response back from Sunshine triplet, I heard a second "Happy Dream" from Princess triplet's bed. My mostly non-verbal child was wishing me a happy night just like her sister. Of course, I rushed back into the room, kissed Princess all over again and insisted that she too have a happy dream of her own.

It seems a small event, and yet, to any mother of a child with speech or milestone delays, a moment like that makes your throat catch and brings tears to your eyes. It's not just the moment in itself, it's the uncertainty of whether the moment will repeat itself at all or with any regularity. It's a moment you simply may not get again. It's a moment to treasure.

Angel triplet loves riding the bus but hates photo shoots
Every school day I stand by the bus as Princess and Angel triplets get buckled into their seats. I wait and I wave, every single day. When Grandma is there she watches me and says something like, "Do they see you?" or "I don't think they care about waving today" and I never answer those statements. I wave goodbye every day until the bus turns left and they can't see me waving.

Triplets wear "I'm the Litttle Sister" shirts to school.
Have my two autistic daughters ever waved goodbye back? No, not yet, but I still keep waving, because I'm mom and that's what moms do. They wave bye-bye to kids who stare back, sometimes without seeming recognition. Because one day, they will wave back, one day, bye-bye will be part of their social world. Or, because one day there will be another moment, like when Angel triplet looked directly into my eyes with recognition and pushed her tiny hand against the bus window as I waved. She kept her hand on the window until the bus turned left and I couldn't see her anymore. So, yes, I wave. I wave every day.

Today's post is my Mother's Day gift to all mothers of children with milestone delays or delayed development. We strive every day to teach our children, to presume competence, to hold our expectations high enough, to embrace our child's differences and yet carefully recognize the fact that it could take up to 2000 repetitions for our child with special needs to learn something that a typical child will likely learn by 200 repetitions. We balance expectations every day - not too low, not too high and realize that in addition to being mom, we get to play therapist to our very special children. Sometimes there are those days when we'd give almost anything to just be a parent, a simple, run-of-the-mill parent with "typical" expectations. The one whose kid says "You're not my best friend anymore, Mommy" on the day right before Mother's Day - the typical kid stuff - the stuff that makes you smile. Then without warning, we get a moment. A "Happy Dream" moment, a "Wave Bye-Bye" moment and all of a sudden nothing else matters but that moment. That moment when you absolutely, positively know how lucky you are to have this special child who shows you what LIFE and LOVE and JOY really are, because before that moment you know for sure you've only seen a shadow of those things.
Lotte - still too cool for school :-)

Happy Mother's Day to my fellow "special needs" Mamas. I hope you have a moment tomorrow with your very special child, but even if you don't, think back to a recent one and look forward to the one you will have in the future. You are LOVED and there's no doubt in my mind that God made you and your child especially just for each other - no other mother would do, no other child would do. You are perfectly suited for each other and tomorrow, please breathe that knowledge in all day long.

Happy Mother's Day All!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Tripped Up Life celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013

Today I'm participating in the Autism Positivity Project Flash Blog by celebrating two of the most "ausome" parts of my world: Angel and Princess triplets. This flash blog is about showing the world the positive side of autism, the acceptance part of autism. And, on the last day of Autism Awareness month, I felt it was important to participate in - even though I'm really late in the day.

Here is a description from the author of The Third Glance blog, who is one of the major organizers in this effort. I couldn't have explained it any better than this: Last year hundreds of bloggers came together in a show of support and solidarity in response to an anonymous person’s Google search “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers”. The posts that came flooding in from all over the world were a beautiful example of the power of strength in numbers. With so much negativity still surrounding Autism and the misinformation and misconceptions that continue to abound, we invite each of you to share one, or two, or more “Ausome” things! 

Princess and Angel triplets
No matter how difficult life can be when raising triplets, two of which have neurological differences which make communication extremely difficult, there's never a day without moments of pure and overwhelming love and pride in my children - all my children, those with autism and those who are neurotypical.

No matter what trouble Angel triplet has started, my heart always melts when she looks up and says, "Hi!" Just like how my heart always skips a beat whenever Princess triplet sings one of her favorite songs.

These are my awesome girls. These are my sweet, strong, and determined girls who work so hard every day just to fit in a world that doesn't really understand them. Every day they make me smile, every day they make me shake my head too, just like my other children. Every day they are my children first and little girls with autism second.

These are my "ausome," positive, hopeful, proud things that I get to shout to the world about. I have the privilege, the honor, (and yes, sometimes the struggle), the responsibility of raising these amazing autistic daughters - for that I am truly blessed.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Yep, she'll eat anything

Brussels Sprout - raw, stolen off counter & gnawed on.
Angel triplet really does put anything in her mouth. She was eating grass in the backyard on the first day of real spring last week. Really.

So, this everything in the mouth issue sometimes has its benefits. Angel triplet likes vegetables, unlike my other two triplets. She likes some vegetables more than anything else at dinner. While she attempts to grab any and all food that may be on the counter and unprotected during meal prep (peanut butter, syrup, raisins, bananas, etc), tonight's snatch was rather interesting. Brussels Sprouts, intended for a pot of boiling water, and nabbed instead by Angel triplet. The remnants of the one she tried to eat is above. I'd say she got pretty far.

Anyway, we ended up having green beans and Angel triplet had thirds on the beans. Maybe that's why she has the "Angel" nickname. In contrast, Sunshine triplet had her own drama at dinner, summarized by this statement amidst tears: "there's a bean in my mouth and I don't like it!" (We required her to eat at least one bean before she could have seconds on grapes, I know, we're cruel).

And Princess? Well, as long as her dinner has tomato sauce in it & lots of spice, she's usually happy with that. Just don't ask her to eat regular veggies alone - raw or cooked, doesn't matter.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

So cute, it almost made me cry!

Pink fabric is rain coat side, brown polka dot is cotton lining.
Those actually were my words. I was in the fabric store for only 10 minutes, I swear, and then I saw this incredibly cute material that would be perfect for a windbreaker/spring jacket for the triplets.

So of course I had to buy it, because why wouldn't I make my own hooded reversible rain/wind jacket with adorable buttons for the cutest kids in the world, right?

Why wouldn't I pay a boatload of money just to get the supplies needed to make a super cute raincoat (with pockets and ruffles, I might add) in triplicate. A ton more money than I would have spent at a regular store, except they don't have this perfect material, and ohhhh these buttons! So thanks Pinterest and Whimsy Couture for the great idea, ahem, ahem, for the EXTRA WORK, yeah, thanks.

Yes, I turned into some ooohhing and ahhhing craft monster and yes, I guess I am SEWING new raincoats for the littles now.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Embracing simplicity

I've had trouble with clutter my whole life. Holding garage sales, donating to charity, or simply throwing things away were difficult tasks for my parents too while I was growing up. I remember once, while helping pack my mom's kitchen for a move, finding a weirdly-shaped serving dish. The ensuing conversation shows how much holding onto too much stuff has been drilled into me.

Me: "Mom, what is this? I've never seen it before. Can we get rid of it?"
Mom: "That's a French bread server."
Me: "A what? Okay, so can we just get rid of it then?"
Mom: "Oh no, that was a wedding gift!"
Me: "Really, but we never use it. Can't we just get rid of it?"
Mom: "I've used it once I'm sure. You can't get rid of a wedding gift."
Me: "I'm sure they wouldn't even care by now Mom, who did you get it from anyway?"
Mom: "Oh, I don't remember.

BEFORE: Main floor play area - mid-day play time
I'll admit as an adult I've had an inner desire for my home to look like those fancy magazine photos or at least like my really organized friends' homes. In reality, it looks like someone vomited toys at my house, that and clutter of all kinds on almost every flat surface. It's not that we really ever wanted it this way, it's just how it seems to end up.

Angel triplet has a propensity to get into everything, pull things apart, and put everything into her mouth. I usually feel like I can't keep ahead of her. She is still a big "dumper" of toys, running from one bin to another to simply dump everything on the floor, without much functional play with any of them. Putting toys away after dumping is quite the challenge for her and usually requires someone to work with her, helping her by doing the activity with her hand over hand. Now add in a stubborn Sunshine triplet who simply doesn't want to either stop playing or needs her one-on-one attention to encourage clean up, plus a Princess triplet who just wants to wander around with various objects twirling them in her typical stimming fashion. When it's a 1 adult to 3 kids ratio, it's really tough to insist on the clean up routine. Often, you find yourself giving up and deciding to clean it up yourself after the kiddos go to bed that night. Unless, of course, you're too exhausted.

Too many toys, too much clutter and lots of dumping. It all leads to a great deal of stress. On top of that, the need for structure and organization is high with Princess and Angel triplets, even though it often looks like Angel is bound and determined to wreak as much havoc as possible. Tripped Up Mommy's natural spontaneous personality and overall cluttered approach makes it more difficult for them to order their own brains, body, and ultimately life. This is exactly the moment for intentional parenting - it's time for Mommy to get more disciplined and make things easier for them. Thanks to one of the girls' teachers, who recently spent 4+ hours with me in our house, we've made some HUGE strides in simplifying our upstairs play area. With   help from their teacher and Tripped Up Daddy's entertaining of triplets, we dug in and made a lot of little changes that added up to a huge one.
AFTER: Main floor play area - mid-day play time

Here's what we did:
  1. Grouped like items quickly & put a bin together for odds & ends items that will be sorted later.
  2. Reduced the total number of toys available by about two-thirds.
  3. Purchased and labeled special bins where small toys can be stored.
  4. Planned out new rules for the girls which included no dumping of more than one bin at a time. 
  5. Created a workable plan for addressing toy boredom (switching out the toys within a planned time period).
  6. Reduced the anxiety of "but where do I put all this junk on the top of a cabinet?" question by using a box to store excess clutter with the understanding it will be sorted at a later date.
  7. Set up a plan of action that will make it easy for anyone (including Tripped Up Daddy, Lotte, babysitters, Grandma) to put the room back in working order within 15 minutes.
  8. Took perfectionism out of the mix as much as possible 
After a week and a half of a cleaner slate, I've noticed it's a more child-friendly environment and everyone seems to be calmer. There's also more functional play from Angel and Princess triplets already.Yes, the Tripped Up Castle seems happier and less stressed. Plus, we only bought new bins so it was very economical as well. Who knew something I thought I couldn't do would help the girls so much in such a little amount of time? The re-design made a huge impact and gives me the courage to look at doing more simplifying in other areas of the home. Have you done re-works similar to this in your home or life? How did you do it and what were some of the obstacles you faced?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is why it's difficult to find sitters for our triplets...

Angel triplet? Angel is her nickname? Really? Hmmmm...
This is why Tripped Up Mommy should never, ever, ever use the bathroom when home alone with Angel triplet, especially when the refrigerator door lock has failed and has not been replaced yet.

It's also why we own a steam cleaner and why we have not replaced the yucky carpet that was here when we moved into this house four years ago.

Angel triplet has dumped every breakfast food you can imagine on this carpet now: syrup, butter, jam, juice, peanut butter, and, finally, eggs.

Tripped Up Daddy is bringing home two refrigerator door locks today after work, an extra for the next failure. That and more eggs.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dinner = Whatever's in the house

It's not always easy to get to the grocery store no matter who you are, right? Just add in the child factor for anyone and it's tougher. In the Tripped Up Family's world, we have to add in the triplet and the special needs factors - as you can imagine grocery store trips are never classified as a quick run or anything easy.

So when it comes to the "what's for dinner" question at our house, there are only 2 options - either you get really organized and pre-plan your menus for weeks & weeks ahead of time or you get super creative with whatever's in the house. I vary between those two options frequently, quite frankly, I bet you do too.

On those days when I have to scrounge around and make something from "whatever's in the house," I find myself relying on a recipe I learned from an old cookbook I don't even own anymore. (I'm old enough to have many "previous lives" - you know, the first marriage, various former jobs as a writer, locations I've lived, schools I've attended. This cookbook, A Taste of Oregon, was from one of those previous lives. Actually it was a wedding gift, from one of my first husband's aunts, and I've long since given it back to him). This recipe has been seared into my memory and I use it as a base for any throw-together comfort food casserole that invariably graces our table at least twice a month. I give it to you below as I remember it, as I use it, but I haven't seen the actual cookbook or the recipe itself in well over 13 years.

You can still find this cookbook on Amazon and I think I may be purchasing a new copy for myself again. After all, if I remember right, there was a pretty good Taco Salad recipe in there as well.

Make Your Own Casserole

Use this as a base and make it yours however you want, with whatever's in the house.

INGREDIENTS

1Cup Main ingredient (like browned hamburger, cooked poultry, tuna, or pre-cooked beans)
1Cup second ingredient (like vegetables, a second meat, or another cup of main ingredient)
1 to 2Cups starchy ingredient (like potatoes, pasta, or pre-cooked rice)
1 to 2Cups binder (something that holds all things together like a cream soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, tomato paste)
1/4 to 1/2Cup fun item (like mushrooms, water chestnuts, pimentos, artichoke hearts, olives, whatever you like)
Onions & celery can be used as part of above ingredients or considered spices and added later.
Your favorite spices - be creative here!
Optional add-ins for top
grated cheese (any kind you like), crushed potato chips, bread crumbs

INSTRUCTIONS

1.Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything together into a casserole dish. If it seems dry as you're mixing you can add in some water or milk depending on your taste. Place your chosen topping over all and then bake, covered, about 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Church NextStep Toilet Seat - Review

Like many other parents, we've struggled in the Tripped Up castle with potty training and the feeling that it will never end. Two weeks ago, we decided Spring Break would serve as a Potty Training boot camp, specifically for Sunshine triplet who is neurotypical. This boot camp really was my last ditch effort before calling in any and every expert to deal with the never-ending problem. I'll get into the specifics of all of that in a later post, but today I simply want to share my thoughts on a product we're using that's actually helping during this stressful time. We've had it for a number of months, and we've been very pleased.

Tripped Up Daddy bought our first Church NextStep Toilet Seat from a nearby Lowe's. He installed it in our main floor half bathroom, the main potty training location, in just 10 minutes. After about 5 days using this ingenious product, we purchased an additional one to install in the main kids bathroom upstairs. If you only want to purchase one potty training seat, I'd say this is the one you want.

This toilet seat is great for toddlers and preschoolers to use when they're toilet training. There is a magnet that holds the little seat against the seat cover when the big people need it and it flips down easily so your little tot can be super independent. The size of the seat is the perfect size for little bums and because it's made to fit the big toilet, there's no concern of tipping or falling through, unlike the typical seats that inset into the toilet seat.

We've found this toilet seat also highly encourages the idea that your child is really independent and learning to be grown - up. Our Sunshine triplet loves the fact that she can sit on the same toilet that all the big people in the house do.

The only down sides we've seen so far to this seat is that sometimes it comes unhooked on one side as you're pulling it down to use it. It easily snaps back into place, even Sunshine triplet can do it. I've also noticed some slight bubbling of the paint on the very back of the seat. I don't know if those things are from wear or if our particular seat just didn't wear as well as the one in the upstairs bath.

Overall, I give this product a thumbs-up for sure. We've given away the 2 Dora Explorer inset seats (similar to these), one to Grandma because the Church seat is such a better option. Now don't assume that means we have gotten rid of our more standard potty chairs that sit on the floor - that would be a big NO, but then, we have triplets and sometimes extra potties are really important, right?


*Disclosure: Church & Lowe's have not provided me with any money or product for this review. This review is simply my view after using a product that's helped make the Tripped Up Castle a little more happy and less stressful.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I don't hate your neurotypical child

Really, I don't. Hate him or her, I mean.

Is it HATE? Is it ENVY? Does it even matter?
Have I lost you already with the word neurotypical? I'm sorry, it's all part of my post diagnosis vocabulary, let's call it. Basically it means a person who doesn't have atypical neurology according to Wikipedia. I know I've been incredibly quiet over here since the diagnosis, so you might need a quick refresher on the Tripped Up Family and our unique challenges with our all girl triplets. We've struggled with speech delays and milestone delays with our triplets, noticed by us since they were about a year old and by 18 months old we sought help through our state programming. As we continued to work through the delays and other interesting behavior, it became clear that we were probably dealing with more than just the "they're triplets" and "they were preemies" excuses could account for. We pushed hard for answers and now we know that two of our triplets are on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of classic autism. Today at 4-1/2 years old, Angel and Princess triplets are still mostly non-verbal and show plenty of stereotypical autistic behaviors. You can't miss the diagnosis anymore at all. Meanwhile their neurotypical triplet sister Sunshine has overcome her speech delays (the triplet & preemie explanation is very plausible here) and will be joining a general education class by this fall if all goes well.

Okay, consider yourself caught up.

Let's get back to hatred, or lack thereof. Hatred of neurotypical children, specifically yours. Only I don't, hate, I mean. Right, I don't hate your neurotypical child, after all, I have two neurotypical children of my own right here in the Tripped Up Castle and I love them immensely. I don't hate my kids with autism either, although I think I can safely say I do hate the autism itself. Sorry if I offended anyone in the autism community with that, but there it is, that's the fact.

I hate how every day I see kids learn and grow and say the cutest things and make everyone smile, while two of my triplets struggle with the simplest of communication, like saying "Mommy" or "Daddy" or "I want drink."

I don't begrudge the success of your neurotypical children - I celebrate them! Just like I celebrate the successes of Lotte and Sunshine triplet. I will admit, however, that in every celebration of success there's an inner struggle for me as I wonder, "will my Princess and Angel triplets ever reach that goal or one similar to it?" Will I ever just smile in wonderment with them as they show me some amazing feat they've accomplished? And the answer comes, I just don't know.

According to one of the teachers at the girls' school, a typically developing child has to repeat a skill 1 to 200 times before it becomes a learned behavior. With special needs kids, you can ramp that high number up to 2000 repetitions. And the kicker? We don't know exactly what or when our kids will learn or what or when they'll actually retain. We don't know what skills may always remain elusive for them. We live our lives trying to presume competence, trying to have high enough expectations, knowing that if we don't, then we aren't helping them to reach their full potential. It's a constant struggle, and you feel like you can never let up, otherwise you'll fail your child forever. Trust me, as a parent with special needs kids, I've become an expert at piling up the guilt on myself, been doing it for years now.

Sometimes I really want to let go of the pressure and the strain and just enjoy the marvelous wonder of my children - each and every one of them. I find I can easily do this with Lotte and Sunshine, but it's almost as if I'm afraid to let go with Princess or Angel. It all comes down to a fear of losing ground in the basics of what we have right now. The good stuff that is happening. If I'm not constantly focusing, will she forget how to use a sentence strip? Will she stop reaching out and holding my hand at dinner? Will she stop singing with me? Will she decide stimming is more important than trying to communicate?

I used to be the type of parent who believed strongly in "let kids be kids," let them play and experience, let them set the agenda. It fit my spontaneous personality quite well. As a family with triplets, and two of those triplets with classic autism, spontaneity has disappeared and been replaced by a never-ending structure. Simple parenting has been replaced by a strange mix of guiding/therapy/teaching/hoping/loving that always requires more than you ever thought you had, and you're always worried there isn't enough.

No, I don't hate your neurotypical children. Really, I don't, but in the middle of Autism Awareness Month, I do find myself still grieving the lack of typical neurology that exists for two of my children. Sometimes green eyes are pretty, sometimes they're not, and envious eyes are probably some of the ugliest around. Bear with me as I work through the grief and anger of still coming to terms with this diagnosis and what it means to our whole family.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Tripped Up New Year

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin! 
Watching Rose Parade, ramping up for Badger football, Daddy making enchiladas, Mimosas for Mama, and triplets making a huge mess of the living room. Lotte playing with sisters and managing to watch over the neighbors' dogs too.If we're lucky there will be a nap at about 2 p.m. and the Christmas tree/lights/ornament-laden wall garland will be put away by end of night. This is a true Tripped Up New Year's Day. Happy New Year to you all!