Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last day as a mother

What if today was your last day as a mother? Huh? How does that work?

You know those universal existential moments when you ask the deep questions about life? For some reason I always get into that mode right before April Fool’s Day.

Weird, right? Is this some sort of uncanny reference back to when my ancestors were reportedly court jesters? Although no one’s shown me any documentation to indicate that story has any measure of truth. Perhaps it’s a subconscious way of saying something as wise as King Solomon, you know the “all is vanity” stuff from Ecclesiastes. I don’t know, I just know it happens every year.

This year’s angst seems somehow deeper. I’m sad today, although most of my coworkers would be unaware of it, and my family probably won’t notice it much either. Tragedy has hit my world, but since it’s outside my door - maybe even down the street a little - it almost makes it easy to ignore, almost.

A woman a few years younger than me, pregnant with her third child and mother of identical twins under 2-years-old, died unexpectedly this March. She was far enough along so the doctors could deliver her baby, but after a week or so in critical condition the baby died as well. A father is now left alone - alone to grieve the loss of his wife and newborn - alone with the inconceivable task of raising his twins by himself while hoping he can provide them with some knowledge of their mother.

I don’t know this family at all really. I only know of the story because the mother and I happened to both be members of a local mother of multiples group. She and I had never met. Yet, here I am, unable to shake my sorrow and grief for this family. I’ve begun to hold my daughters a little tighter. Those mother/teen conversations sometimes taken for granted have greater meaning lately. Even casual comments between Tripped Up Daddy and me about mundane things seem to hold more value right now.

Then come the practical “what if” questions and before you ask, yes, we will be getting the guardian/will stuff in order (the stuff we’ve talked about but never really followed through on).

Right after the practical questions, come all the other deep questions. If for some reason my parenting stopped today, would I be satisfied with what I’ve instilled in my girls so far? Tough question, but maybe one worth asking. It makes me evaluate the moment more - makes me look more seriously at priorities. That’s the personal, our family stuff, the “am I representing my faith well,” the “do my kids know I love them,” type of questions.

Then I get more global. Recently, I read an essay that indicated a U.S. woman giving birth today has a greater chance of dying than her mother did. It was a new thought for me. I don’t know how accurate the information is, but it sure made me think.

Then I thought about all the cuts going on in Congress and how that will affect mothers and children - especially those currently in poverty or on the edge of it. Sometimes I get tired and disillusioned when I look at all the issues in the world - from Japan’s tragedy to failing states, from world issues of poverty and corruption to the people who can’t find work right here in my own state. Sometimes it just seems like way too much for anyone to handle and it makes me want to run and hide (or maybe just live in denial).

Then I remember that I’m not responsible for changing the world. I am responsible for taking action and for training my children to love well and live in the present moment with compassion. But God never asked me to do more than take one step at a time.

I’m in the midst of a Lenten prayer experiment - praying for a dream, praying for a big dream that I believe God wants me to pursue. Not exactly sure what that means yet, but mostly I think it means being willing to take a step - a step toward helping others and a step toward Jesus at the same time.

So maybe that’s my answer - it’s Lent, and I’m reflective. Here’s hoping my deep questions bring some action that will help others - one step at a time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let’s talk favorites

In the past week or so the Twittersphere and Mommyblog world has been all a twitter about an article on in which a Mom posted that she thought she maybe loved her son more than her daughter. The backlash was huge and the author herself posted an explanatory post the next day. I read her explanatory post first, and a couple other Mommy blogs with responses, and then finally the original article, as well as the comments.

I’m not going to debate whether or not she should have written the article, the merits of everyone’s comments, or the other blog posts it inspired. I think it may have already been talked, posted, or commented to death by now.

However, the situation prompted a very interesting conversation between me and my 14-year-old daughter. First, I had to describe the post and explain the “Sophie’s Choice” reference. That in and of itself was a worthy conversation. While Lotte had already seen “Schindler’s List” in school, that particular horror of the Holocaust was unknown to her and led to a different layer of discussion. Not that I relish discussing those types of horrors with my daughter, I did appreciate the opening to reaffirm how important it is to live with love and not hate.

Once the Sophie’s Choice reference had been explained, I marveled at the continuing conversation that we had, regarding motherhood and guilt and expectations. I asked her what her thoughts of the whole thing were and was intrigued by the emotion and wisdom that came from a teenager.

“If you wrote an article like that about me, I would run away.”

“Really?” I asked and was internally happy that she felt close enough to me to say exactly what she thought.

“Well, I think I’d walk to my dad’s house and I don’t know when I’d come back home. Or, maybe I’d go to a friend’s and stay for a really long time,” she said.

Then it got even more interesting, because she started talking about whether or not this Mom who did write the post should even be judged by others at all. I paraphrased her comments below:

“I don’t think people should get too upset with her. I think she already knows that it’s not okay to have a favorite kid - that’s why she wrote about it to begin with. She’s probably a really good Mom, but just needs a little help being a mom to one of her kids. Maybe her daughter’s more difficult than her son.”

It was interesting to see that she could allow grace for this parent out there as long as it wasn’t her own mom who did the writing. As she talked, she was able to give this unknown mother more and more understanding. At 14, Lotte’s already getting a detailed look at parenthood. Perhaps watching her mom and step-dad parent her triplet sisters is teaching her more than I ever imagined. You see, she knows her triplet sisters have very different personalities and often require different types of interaction and discipline. Lotte, a girl who spent her first 12 years of life as an only child, seems to have a clear understanding, right now anyway, that parenting differently doesn’t mean loving children more or less.

From my perspective, on a purely selfish level, I’m kind of glad this playing favorites firestorm happened in the twittersphere/blogging world. I got to talk to my teenager and I got to see how cool she is. And that makes a good day for any mom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

You’re getting very sleepy...

Sleep is always a popular topic for parents with young children, right? Maybe because there’s so little of it. If you could hypnotize your kids at night for a full 8 hours of sleep, would you do it? I’d be really tempted personally.

Our Angel triplet recently instituted the “I hate my crib and will only cry when you put me there” rule. Every night, every nap, same story. Sleep became a priceless commodity for me and Tripped Up Daddy, but even worse, all the other girls began to have interrupted sleep patterns. Not good for Lotte, who was facing exams at school, and nobody likes to see Sunshine without proper sleep, trust me.

It finally culminated with Angel climbing out of her crib and dropping to the floor because she was so angry with being left there to go to sleep. After rescuing her and determining that she hadn’t hurt herself, we realized the expected crib tent purchase just moved to right this minute.

Once the crib tent came and we set it up, I started feeling like we would be putting poor Angel in a jail or cage. Bad enough we put our kids in cribs with bars anyway, but now a screened in tent? Bad Mom Guilt reared its ugly head quickly and threatened to take over all the peaceful “my child is at least safe” emotions.

First nap time, we put Angel in her new Crib Tent bed, and she laughs. She loves the feeling of tent and she skips the 15 minute cry time before falling asleep. She simply looks up at me as I put her down and smiles while I zip up the enclosure. Tripped Up Daddy and I have no real answer for why Angel suddenly decides her crib is a pleasant place to sleep again, we just enjoy the new reality.

And then - we accidentally leave Angel’s lovey, “Pookie,” at the church nursery yesterday. Nap time is okay, but the race is on to find “backup Pookie” before nighttime. We fail. We try the backup lovey recently purchased for Sunshine. It fails. Tripped Up Daddy makes an emergency run to the store for a replacement that might work. It fails. It’s midnight, and we’ve looked everywhere, well, everywhere except under our own bed in the master bedroom. We’ve tried leaving her in the crib and let her work it out 3 times now and she’s cried so hard she’s awakened both sisters by now. So, we’re in our room, I’m holding Angel, attempting to sing sweet songs about the new lovey to encourage acceptance as she shoves it and my hand away.

Finally, it’s Tripped Up Daddy to the rescue. He trips over something near the edge of our bed and there it is, the Back-up Pookie that we use whenever Pookie needs to be washed. The tears end immediately, the whimpering is done and suddenly bedtime is again possible.

I think we need a chain for Pookie - or a beeper. I don’t know if our household can handle putting another APB out for a missing lovey anytime soon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Romantic getaway

I should be packing. Instead I'm at the desk, and I find it hard to do anything but listen to the jabbering that floats down the hall from the triplets' bedroom. Princess is still awake. The jabber doesn't add up to real words yet, but it does give me a clue what her voice will be like in a conversation someday. Someday soon, I hope.

Tripped Up Daddy and I are going away tomorrow after work. Thanks to a getaway package that I won from another blogsite - and her sponsor, Experience GR. We have the opportunity to leave our home for a whole night, and we've chosen NOT to take the girls. This night in a local hotel will be our first overnight away from the little girls ever. The last time we had a evening like this at all was during our 2nd anniversary. Since I was already pregnant with multiples, and we were there for medical reasons, I can't say "romance" was top on our list.

In June this year, we'll celebrate our 5th anniversary. As you can see, a night away - it's been a long time coming. So, why am I not packing? Why am I not rushing around getting ready to go on a date? Why am I instead, sitting here, listening to more of that "jabber" that keeps floating down the hall?

It's not because I don't want to go. I'm definitely excited about even this smallest getaway when we can actually enjoy each other's company without fear of interuption. It's not because I worry about leaving the girls. I do that every day for work, and our wonderful nanny will be here taking care of the girls amazingly well.

I think it's that time alone with Tripped Up Daddy just seems too good to be true. I'm waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop - one of the little girls to start coughing or spike a fever. Somebody might fall down and get hurt badly enough to have to cancel. It's not that I WANT these things to happen, it's just that I half expect it to.

The jabbering has stopped - perhaps she's finally dropping off to sleep. Maybe I can let my guard down too and trust that this getaway opportunity is really going to happen.

And did I mention we get to sleep in?

Yeah, but who are you really?

Even though I've been writing for a living for as long as I've been out of college (and that's far too long for me to put into years, trust me), this is honestly my very first blog that's not planned to meet a client's marketing or sales need. This blog instead taps into the creative writing side of me, the long lost journalist, the storyteller who writes simply because it must be done or her soul will die.

Since I'm new at this blogging game and I'm writing about my family, I thought it might be wise to lay out a few ground rules.
#1 - I don't expect to state my children's real names, but I will tell you their nicknames fit them really well.
#2 - My intention is not to "market" or "exploit" my family, however, I do believe I have some stories to share that may encourage others in similar situations (or just make you glad you're not me). In either case, it's okay.
#3 - Yes, we have triplets, but we also have a teen daughter who's been here 12 years longer than the little girls. If I ever slide into a "talking only about the triplets" mode, you as my reader, have the license to say: "Hey Tripped Up, what's up with the teen?" It may sting at the moment, but I'll welcome the reminder.

So let me tell you about the girls:

Little Lotte: This is our beautiful 14-year-old girl who loves music and is completely obsessed with Phantom of the Opera. She plays violin, sings and periodically plunks around on the piano - especially when she decides to compose. She loves her sisters, but prefers babysitting when she actually gets paid to do so. The nickname is her choice, is pronounced Lottie, and has something to do with Phantom, don't ask me what.

Angel: Sometimes this little girl can be better described as Pixie (always looking for fun), but because she's fully capable of destroying anything while wearing a completely innocent look, she has become Angel. She loves to climb and has earned first rights to a crib tent - thanks to her recent climb out of the crib as well as a  pack n' play. While she is the smallest of the triplets, she's an absolute dynamo who never stops moving and is persistent in all things.

Princess: Sweetness personified. She's a reflective little girl who doesn't seem to be bothered by sisters who grab toys away. The wind on her face, the color of the sky, trees that blow in the wind - all of these are fascinating to Princess triplet. Like her older sister, she loves music and will begin to sway and dance at the slightest melody she hears.

Sunshine: The first of the triplets to smile and when she does - the whole world brightens. Her drama is easy to see in other ways too - sometimes it gets really loud. If there is a pecking order for triplets, Sunshine believes she's at the top. A born leader, she loves structure and never misses a thing. She loves to color and play with little figurine/action figures - Winnie the Pooh and Toy Story, actually.

So those are the most active players in the family - Tripped Up Mommy & Daddy just try to keep up. And the cats? Well, that would probably be a whole post in its own, and believe it or not, this Tripped Up Mommy is getting tired...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And the winner is...

Ummm… I haven’t decided yet. I know Tripped Up Daddy and I felt like winners today when we walked into the triplets’ school with our relatively new Choo Choo wagon. The moment was brief.
When 2 year olds get a whiff of excitement coming out of a room, like the “gross motor room” where running, bouncing, and jumping is the norm, and then some adult decides we’ll do “circle time” first for you (but not your 2 sisters), well… really, do I need to go much further into explaining the transitional chaos that ensued?
Oh, but I will, because you must understand that the little girl in question was Sunshine triplet.  If there’s anything at all that you should know about Sunshine, it is her complete embodiment of that old nursery rhyme:
“there was a little girl…
and when she was good,
she was very, very good,
and when she was bad,
she was horrid.”
Yeah, I cut out the stuff about the curl on her forehead (Sunshine has no curl, complete embodiment has literary license).
So it was circle time for Sunshine, complete with full-blown tantrum, until it was time to go to the Gross Motor Room. More transition. Then back to the classroom for craft time. Even more transition.
Tripped Up Mommy and Daddy went to playgroup today. Princess triplet actually participated and began to color ON HER OWN during craft time. Angel triplet played with oatmeal in a tub and spread most of it on the floor, but also recognized that Mommy didn’t have to be right next to her for her to be safe (at least for a few moments anyway). For the Tripped Up family these are great baby steps – the things I have to remember as I head back to work where I usually then spend the rest of my Tuesday trying not to compare how far behind we are the “average” 2 year olds (usually singletons, born full-term, who get out far more often).
Playgroup had just five tantrums today, four from one child. All from our triplets. Oh yeah, and did I mention that today was the day two social workers were observing in the room?
A coworker said, “I think as long as you didn’t say ‘where’s my duct tape?’ you’ll be okay.”
What I did say while attempting to put shoes and coats on one girl at a time was, “So after all your observation today…”
The statement back, “You’ve got your hands full, that’s our assessment.” I didn’t tell them that’s #3 on the list of most commonly said phrases to parents of multiples. Not exactly original.
Back to winning… and what was the contest anyway? Let’s call it the “Am I really a good parent to 2- year-olds?” contest. And for today, I think I can say we had three winners, despite the challenges. Three girls received educational experiences and lots of love. (But the oatmeal, glue, and snotty goo all over my dress pants and blouse didn’t seem as “winning” in the office as in the classroom.)