A day in the life of triplets.
9:15 AM: Jim loads the dishwasher. Kim sits cross-legged on the carpet, and soon all three girls are on her lap. As Kim gently tries to remove Erin's blanket from Anna's fist, Erin leans in, grasping for a piece of Kim's shirt, and the human pyramid topples into an eight-legged pile.
9:20 AM: Kim puts Erin in the jump seat that hangs between the living room and playroom.
9:21 AM:Erin's rump is about to come down on Anna's shoulder. Throwing herself across the floor on her stomach, Kim pulls Anna -- who bleats in shock -- out of the way with one arm.
Ellie trips on Kim's outstretched foot, and begins to cry. Turning from Anna, Kim hugs Ellie. "You try to stay very calm," she says in her soothing play-by-play voice, a constant running commentary that she directs partly to herself, partly to the girls. Of course, it's early in the day. And when Jim is at work, she's "barely hanging on by her fingernails by dinnertime," she says.
9:45 AM: While Anna and Erin are happily absorbed kicking beach balls, Kim is easing shoes onto Ellie's feet.
10:05 AM: The girls are set -- each with a third of a cookie and a juice cup -- for a ride around their cul-de-sac in an oversize wagon.
11 AM: "They're getting hungry and cranky," says Jim, who's been amusing the girls after their walk by letting them play in the van. Ellie and Anna follow Jim to the deck just off the kitchen, where they kiss and pet the family's two golden retrievers.
Back in the kitchen, Kim cuddles a weeping Erin. "People ask me, 'How do you go places? How do you get them all fed?' " says Kim. "None of that's the hard part. When one of them is cranky or sick, and I'm alone and can't give her 100 percent, that's when I feel so inadequate."
With Erin balanced on her hip, Kim takes a dish of cooked turkey from the fridge to make a very early lunch. Immediately upon arriving home from the grocery store, she saves time by cooking a few things -- like the turkey, which went directly from the grocery bag to the skillet.
11:35 AM: Lunch over, Erin is the first one down for her nap. Usually the girls eat at noon and then sleep at the same time. But the Johnsons don't hold to the schedule when one daughter's needs don't line up with the plan.
11:50 AM: "Ellie, are you getting sleepy?" asks Kim. Hardly. Ellie, the most sleep-resistant of the triplets, sometimes won't even nap at all. To prevent her from keeping her sisters awake, she's been assigned a separate room downstairs, with its own crib, for naptimes.
Noon: After washing down the high chairs, Jim checks the phone messages while Kim puts Anna to bed.
12:20 PM: "Who's getting tired?" Kim asks Ellie. "No, Mommy doesn't need any help changing your diaper. That's right, start thinking sleepy thoughts. Mommy has to mop the kitchen."
1 PM: Ellie finally sleeps. Kim takes bites from her sandwich and mops the floor. Jim has disappeared downstairs to tackle bills.
2:05 PM: Kim gets midway through folding her second load of wash -- she does three a day -- when she hears a voice. "Look who's found her happiness," she says, reappearing with Erin, who's refreshed by an extra half-hour's nap. (The toddlers usually log in a total of 13 1/2 hours of sleep, and 11 1/2 of those are at night.)
Mom and Erin build block towers, and, giggling, Erin knocks them down. Time alone with each girl happens when it happens, or when one really needs it (and the other parent is available to take over).
3:05 PM: Everyone's now awake -- and everyone's slept extra long. Jim suggests they seize the moment, and they decide to head out to the park.