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.


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


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.