Friday, September 30, 2011

Random acts of mothers and strangers

Have you ever reached the end of a day, looked back, and thought, "OMG, everything I did, all day long, was so random, I have no idea what I actually accomplished?" 

Ummm, "Tripped up," you say, "that's MOTHERHOOD, didn't you get the memo?"

When I stayed home full-time with the triplets for their first 15 months, I really did sense that randomness every day. It was only as I was able to pull away here and there from the constant needs of the baby x3 world, that I could begin to see those random acts adding up to something more, something that could be considered vital, as vital as helping babies to someday become people who can help change the world. (That may be the longest run-on sentence I've ever written in my life, but that's also how those days felt too).

A recent errand Saturday brought up another view of random. It began with a shopping excursion that may seem random, but is actually intentional. It's hard to get our toddlers out and into the world often, especially when we take all 3, but it's important for their development to see new surroundings and have new experiences. It's also important for us to give prime attention to one at a time. So every Saturday I try to take one triplet with me on what we call a "singleton outing." It usually involves the farmer's market, grocery store or other errand and may include lunch out with mom. Saturday's was Sunshine's turn.

A simple trip to the mall to return an item, lunch, and grocery shopping was on the docket. It started out okay in the van. Then a (lunchtime is nearing) start time, toddler slightly battling a cold, and the long ride through a construction zone culminated in some edgy behavior at the second waiting line. As we waited, I did what every mother would when a temper tantrum feels 10 seconds away and she’s just 1 person away from being helped. Talk, distract, hold, smile, sing, tickle, and finally ignore the fists being pounded on the floor in frustration. Two women interacted with me at that time (besides the clerk). The one was clearly full of disdain for a mother who couldn’t control her nearly 3-year-old at noon in a department store waiting line. The other smiled and said, “I have days like that sometimes.” I mentioned this was one of our triplets and was a special outing just her and I, but she seemed a little “off her game today.” It seemed to impress the kinder lady, while solidifying my inability to parent for the other. (Keep in mind, there was never an out and out tantrum, just some frustration from a toddler who would have been completely happy to hold my hand and walk around the store or to be pushed in a moving stroller – JUST DON’T MAKE HER WAIT IN LINE!) We managed to finish the errand in relative short order without irritating too many people and then it was off to Red Robin for lunch.

Sunshine and I truly enjoyed each other at lunch. Get a little food in a hungry toddler's belly and it's amazing how quickly edgy behavior can disappear. We practiced talking, we looked at colors, she ate a very soupy macaroni & cheese meal with a big girl spoon and loved it all - especially the pink balloon at the end. I went to pay for our meal and here's really where random comes in. 

"Actually," the server said, "that's all taken care of."

"What?" I said.

"You don't have to pay, that was taken care of for you," she replied.

"By who? I don't know anyone here," as I looked around, confused. (I don't live in a huge city or anything, but my metro area is too big to always meet a neighbor every time you go out).

"It's a secret," she answered. "Don't question it, just enjoy it, and have a great day."

One of my dear friends, D, who is the most generous woman I know and also has much to share, often feels impressed by God to buy a random stranger's lunch, or something like that. I've seen it happen and it's beautiful, but D was nowhere near that restaurant - I know that. I did think I may have glimpsed that kind lady from the check-out line out of the corner of my eye, but really I'm not sure. I have no idea who bought our lunch that Saturday; I can tell you the gift sure put a smile on my face.

Have you ever been the giver or the recipient of a random act of kindness? Have you ever felt like the random acts of motherhood weigh you down so much that you forget the bigger picture and what you're doing with all the random (cleaning kitchen floor, again, changing dirty diaper that was clean just 5 minutes ago, washing same dirty t-shirt) sort of activities? I'd love to read your stories!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Give toddlers room to grow

and amazing things happen... they start turning into preschoolers right before your very eyes.

When you have triplets, containment can be your best friend, like a fenced-in backyard, a triplet wagon, high chairs, a 12' baby gate, you know, the basics. When you struggle with milestone delays with the same triplet toddlers, containment can also be part of the problem.

Recently Tripped Up Daddy decided it was time to remove the biggest baby gate in our household. I don't know that I was completely ready for that, honestly. It meant little girls running with wild abandon throughout the house and anything not "safely out of reach" would be fair game. Maybe not so scary for those who find it easy to keep a neat house, but unfortunately the Tripped Up Family tends to be more "cluttered" than "spartan" in our decorating techniques. So this new world of "no major gate" was pretty intimidating.

Amazingly enough, it really was the perfect time to allow more freedom to the girls. All 3 of the girls seem to be advancing rapidly in development now (with little to no scary side effects - you know, like broken limbs, cracked heads, or cut fingers). They love the opportunity to roam and chase each other, climb up and downstairs at will, explore the kitchen while we cook, and chase the cats with greater ease. It's been so much fun that just two days after the "wall came down," I said, "let's pull the booster seats out and have the girls sit right up at the table for meals." So we did, and now we feel so much more like a family of 6 instead of a family of 3 and 3. It feels good and in some ways it's easier, and in some ways it's harder.

Raising triplet toddlers seems a lot like gardening. You never are completely sure when it's the ideal time to transplant a houseplant into a bigger pot, but there does come a point when there's no other choice. If you don't move a growing plant to a larger location where it can spread its roots, it will stop growing and could even die. Perhaps it didn't take a public figure like Ronald Reagan to say "tear down this wall" in our home, but I think we do realize the girls were getting a little "root-bound," if you will. Today, they have a lot more freedom to grow.

And yet, if you ask Tripped Up Daddy today, at this very moment, whether he supports his decision or not, you might get a different answer. Today's fun activities included: Princess triplet taking off pj's and dirty diaper in middle of living room while he was gathering clothes for day upstairs (who knows where that tush went), Angel triplet climbing onto top of changing table, then proceeding to pull all the baby wipes out of box and throwing them everywhere while he was making lunch, Princess triplet grabbing all the lunch plates off the counter and throwing them on the floor as Daddy rushed to rescue Angel. I haven't heard anything specific about Sunshine triplet, but there may be stories when I get home.

I think Tripped Up Daddy wants the gate back today. Instead, I think the next step is potty training, in triplicate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's here! It's here!

And we can hardly contain our excitement! But we must. If we open it, we'll put together. If we put together. it will be that much harder to hide for the next 2 months.
It's the major birthday present for the triplets this year. They turn 3 this November. 

No, trust me, it's more than a box. Although, sometimes with the way the triplets play and fight over boxes, that may be an even better present. Certainly much cheaper.

Thanks to Pampers and the Gifts to Grow Rewards program, however, we are adding another Radio Flyer toy to our toy-filled home. It's the Radio Flyer Big Flyer to be exact. We earned the 5075 points needed to order it, all through our purchases of diapers and wipes. Since each wipe refill package is worth 5 points, that gives you an idea how long we've worked, or more realistically, how many diapers and wipes triplets really need.

The next time you see the Radio Flyer Big Flyer on this blog, it will have a HUGE pink bow on it. Maybe even 3 little girls with pigtails looking it over. In the meantime, you'll have to look at it here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - A day to remember

The first thing I said this morning was "Happy Birthday," and I was greeted with a smile.

Today is a day to remember. For me, it's a day to remember one of the best days of my life. Fifteen years ago, I became a mother for the first time. It's also a day to remember the pain of a nation, the horrific loss of lives 10 years ago. A local ski area has been set up as a Healing Fields with 3200 flags to remember those who died that horrible day. My family will not visit those fields - at least not today.

Our family, today, will attempt to act normally. Although we celebrated our eldest daughter's birthday with a special dinner and cake last evening, it is officially her birthday now and I don't want to grieve today. Instead, I give my daughter the freedom to be happy and know that we believe this day brought our world more sunshine, happiness and joy 15 years ago. That means this day is a day of hope for our family anyway.

It is my hope that our small celebrations, a bonfire with friends and smores, will be simple ways to also celebrate all the lives that were lost 10 years ago. If we focus on hope today, isn't that another way of embracing the life of those who had been here? A way of saying we're glad your families had you for the time that they did? Or, we're glad you lived and we hope for a better world where tragic deaths like yours will not happen again?

Another mom blogger, Mom-101, far better and more famous than I, mentioned how she feels 10 years after 9/11 - a day that's also her birthday. She thinks it may be too creepy to celebrate at all. Reading that made me want to cry for her, my daughter and everyone who was born on this day.

I hope you will all forgive me for not immersing myself in remembrance activities and services today. They're certainly there on the edges of my mind, forming the frame of this day that I still want to be hopeful. Please forgive me if all I really want to say today is "Happy Birthday, Little Lotte"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The advance of the Republic of Babyland

Tripped Up Life was not the first contemplated as the title of this blog. Among the many others was Tripped Up Daddy's favorite, The Republic of Babyland. He seems to often think of raising triplets as fighting a war, and the advancing horde is the trio of babies turned toddler, fast approaching preschool ages.

For a moment or two, let's indulge the militaristic theme. The Republic of Babyland referred to all those areas of the house "owned" or occupied by the babies - that used to be bassinets, cribs, bouncy seats, blankets on the floor, etc. - all of which took up a lot of room, but still seemed somewhat controlled. As the girls grew more mobile, we put baby gates up everywhere to deal with the "baby-proofing" issues. The biggest one was 12' long and divided the kitchen from the rest of the great room. It was a God-send and allowed us some sanity as we cooked meals or just needed a break from the constant "getting into everything" times 3 chaos. It also allowed us to see and respond quickly to any issues.

It's open season in the kitchen now.
Today, the Republic of Babyland (or Toddlerhood by now) advanced. We removed the 12' gate so it can go to another area of the home we're not quite ready to allow the toddlers ready access. That means the kitchen, which used to be a triplets' area "when accompanied only" is now officially part of their ready domain. That means three toddlers will be underfoot and stealing food during meal prep (Princess), will be helping to pay bills at the kitchen desk (Sunshine), and will be regularly attempting to climb onto and stand on the dining room table (Angel). Oh, and did I mention, the stairs will be open to the second floor? Yeah, that's part of this deal too.

All three of our cats are skittish tonight as they walk around the kitchen area. It's been two and a half years since the great room was un-gated. The poor cats will have little retreat area, except for the basement, from screaming toddlers who just want to love them.

It may be time to be afraid - to be very afraid.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"I am not dumb now"

Helen Keller's first full sentence of spoken language: "I am not dumb now!" That's powerful stuff.

Helen Keller, 1880-1968, was an American author, a political activist, and a lecturer who spoke out regularly in support of women gaining the right to vote, the rights of workers and other progressive ideas. As the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, it's not surprising that she also fought for the rights of people with disabilities. Keller lost her sight and hearing through illness at 19 months old and spent much of her early childhood unable to communicate with any clarity at all to those around her, including her parents. As a young child, I read her auto-biography and watched the play/film, "The Miracle Worker," more than half a dozen times. Then, when my eldest daughter was small, I remember introducing her to the amazing story of Helen Keller and her brilliantly dedicated teacher, Anne Sullivan. I have always admired the courage, intelligence and spirit of both women.

As a mother with 3 toddlers who are all speech delayed, one might imagine this story would be inspiring me almost daily during our struggles with delayed milestones. That thought would be wrong, unfortunately. I have spent the last year in battle of these delays and facing discouragement often - that and always some large doses of guilt, worry and frustration. Sure, we've had plenty of success in the past year too, but our girls are still behind their age group, so the focus of helping them catch up remains at the forefront. Never once did the story of Helen Keller ever cross my mind.

That is, until today when a friend posted this YouTube video of a 1930's news story with Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, on her Facebook page. Suddenly, it was as if I was reading the autobiography all over again. My friend, whose daughter faces an autism diagnosis, said she was so very grateful for all special education teachers and particularly Anne Sullivan, probably the most brilliant special ed teacher of all time. With our daughters heading back into their school year regimen of early intervention to help with the delays, the timing was perfect for me to see this video. I really needed this new perspective. It's so easy to get caught up in the "my kids are behind or my kids aren't like other kids" angst. Well, hey, wait a minute! Helen Keller was more than significantly delayed in milestones - she couldn't communicate with anyone, even her closest family for YEARS. Even Anne Sullivan suffered from her own disabilities.

Neither Helen Keller nor Anne Sullivan allowed their disabilities, their "delayed milestones," if you want to put it that way, to stop them from being strong, compassionate, and hard-working women who made a difference in their world. I have three speech-delayed toddlers - and two who also struggle with other delays. Yes, that's the fact today. Today I also realize another fact, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan refused to quit and they did great things. Helen Keller died before I was born, so I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to know such a brave and determined woman. Today, I choose to be inspired by Helen and Anne and to use that inspiration to help me teach my daughters. Tomorrow, I expect them to be strong and compassionate women.