Friday, December 13, 2013

Letters for Maddie

As some of you know, my friend (and next-door-neighbor) has a bright, spunky, talented, sweet 9-year-old girl who has an aggressive form of lymphomic cancer. She's about six months into her two-year treatment and has shown an amazing amount of courage and patience. Not only is she a little hero, but she's also one of my kids' favorite people. They're like little Maddie Minions. 

Maddie is collecting letters to Santa to give to Macy's. For their Believe campaign, they will donate $1 for every letter to the Make-a-Wish foundation. (That same foundation that turned San Francisco into Gotham City for a kindergartener with cancer.) Make-a-Wish has already started making arrangements for Maddie's wish, a family trip to Disneyworld, which has given Maddie something to look forward to that's fun, exciting, and has nothing to do with spinal taps, poison pills, or overnight stays in the hospital. And now she wants to give back.

If you have time during all the rush of Christmas, please send a letter (or two or a hundred) to Maddie. You can send them to me and I'll walk twenty feet and deliver them to her. I'm such a philanthropist. (I'll gladly email you my address if you don't already have it.) Do you have any contacts with children groups, schools or church groups? Please spread the word. Let's help Maddie have a wonderful Christmas as she turns to helping others in her own hour of need.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mother I Am A

I'm sorry this isn't a blog post w/ cute pictures of the kids. You can find that on Facebook. You're not on Facebook? Embrace the madness. This is yet another post where I try to work something out in my head and my heart. Don't feel obligated to read on. I can't help it. As Jo March says, "Genius burns!"

Okay, one cute pic.

The other night, as I sat next to Eddie's little toddler bed, resting my head on his pillow, I took his hand in mine and had a revelation. Every night, as if it's part of his bedtime routine, he asks me to stay "just five minutes." Sometimes I can bargain him down to one minute, giving him the excuse that I have to go do the dishes (which is a lie, since Adam does them almost every night.) But some nights I agree to the full five minutes. That night, like every other night, I was tired to my core. The dinner/bedtime marathon was almost over, but I knew I had three more kids to go. So I didn't mind sitting still for a few minutes, my face a few inches from Eddie's. I could smell his shampoo. I could hear the tiny sucking sounds from his mouth and thumb. (Those melt me.) I took his hand in mine and that's when it hit me–just how small his hands were. His room was almost completely dark, so I couldn't see his fingers, but I could feel all the tiny little bones. I rubbed my thumb over them. They felt so small, so delicate, so easily broken. And it was a shock. He's such a small child. Not small for his age; he's just small. 

It took me a while to figure out why it was such a shock. Again, it came to me one night like that, when I was sitting again, for "just five minutes," with Eddie in the dark of his room. I realized Eddie's delicate little bones were surprisingly small only when I compared them to mine. It was all about scale. All day, every day, I'd wage these epic battles against the Three Tyrants and their Ring Leader. The frustration, the anger, the tears, the noise, everything going on in the microcosm of our home felt larger than life, especially the kids' personalities. In the dark, quiet room,with only my touch to inform me, Eddie wasn't a force to be reckoned with. He was just a tiny, little person, whose little hand was completely enveloped in mine.

*        *        *

Not long ago, I reposted on Facebook (There it is again. You really should get an account.) a video Adam's college roommates had made of him dancing. It's hilarious. It's awesome. I could watch it all day. And it inevitably gets a lot of attention. Someone suggested I make a response video. I filed the idea away, thinking it would be fun to do. I'm a good dancer. I've got some moves. It'd be nice to be shown a little internet love. So yesterday, I put on makeup, squeezed into some pre-triplets jeans, and set up the camera. I figured a video of just me dancing wouldn't be nearly as fun as a video of me and the kids, so I invited them to join me. When we watched the results, I thought it was a failure and refused to put it online. 

I showed it to Adam, (who later insisted on uploading it to YouTube) and watched with growing agitation as he watched. He laughed at Elizabeth as she lip sang and twitched her hips. It was really funny—her expressions were so exaggerated and she was obviously enjoying herself. I laughed a little, in spite of myself, but that only made my heart feel harder, and by the end, I was stone-faced and giving Adam the Look of Death. He, understandably, was utterly confused. Why was I so upset? All he saw was us having a dance party, and Elizabeth acting goofy. What did I see? Mr. Photoshop helps us peer into my twisted mind:

Seeing the video in Emily-Vision

But that wasn't all. As I watched Elizabeth upstaging me (literally and figuratively), I knew the only appeal a video like this would have would be her and the kids. Because, the little shoulder devil said with red, hot pokers in my heart, the only good thing about you is your kids. That's all you do. That's all you are. 

I remember a conversation I had with a kind soul when the babies were just a few months old. It had finally dawned on me, as I sat in her car peering out at rows of night-dark trees, that I was from now on going to be known as "The Triplets' Mom." I struggled like all first-time mothers with my new identity when Elizabeth was born. Heck, it almost sent me over the edge. But I emerged with me intact. Having three more kids (not to mention at once) has almost wiped me out. Wiped me out—made me tired, but wiped me out—dry erase board. And what hasn't been wiped out has been changed almost beyond recognition. I have scowl lines between my eyebrows. My abdomen looks like a war zone. Ever heard of twin skin? Nothing short of surgery will ever take it away. And my eyes look tired and puffy all. the. time. Sometimes I do a good job of looking at the acres of stretch marks and thinking about them as battle scars, or my Badges of Awesomeness, or something sunshiney-barfy like that. But sometimes I just cry and want to hide. That night, watching Adam watch the video, I felt so angry and impotent. 

I left the office and went to the dining table where I'd laid out some tools, a bead board, and an assortment of beads. I got to work, and an hour later, I'd made two pair of earrings. When I went to show Adam, I felt almost giddy. (The poor man must suffer from whiplash with my mood swings.) "I made these!" I told him. "ME!" It felt really, really good.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Island

The Island, by A.A. Milne

If I had a ship,
I'd sail my ship
I'd sail my ship
Through Eastern seas;
Down to a beach where the slow waves thunder -
The green curls over and the white falls under -
Boom! Boom! Boom!
On the sun-bright sand.
Then I'd leave my ship and I'd land,
And climb the steep white sand,
And climb to the trees
The six dark trees,
The coco-nut trees on the cliff's green crown -
Hands and knees
To the coco-nut trees,
Face to the cliff as the stones patter down,
Up, up, up, staggering, stumbling,
Round the corner where the rock is crumbling,
Round this shoulder,
Over this boulder,
Up to the top where the six trees stand....

And there I would rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of the sand below,
And the green waves curling slow
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky....

And I'd say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea:
"There's nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breaking the Tenth Commandment

I have several more fun posts to write, cute pics of the kids to share, and all that good happy stuff. But I'm gonna take five minutes to keep it real.

We went to Michigan for a family trip a few weeks ago and coming back from that has been really, really hard. When we lived in Brooklyn and would take trips to see family (and escape the city), I'd always be filled with a feeling of dread on the ride home. As the years passed, the feeling lessened. And when we lived in Rutherford, I noticed I was eager to get home after some time away. But this time, our first trip while living in our apartment in Fair Lawn, the feeling came back with a vengeance on the ten hour ride home. (For the backstory on why we left our house in Rutherford and moved to an apartment in Fair Lawn, click here.) It was probably exacerbated by my having to continually climb back and forth between the front seat and the back row to cater to my children's every whim, but it couldn't have been all of it. (Any advice on that one? I can't reach the two kids in the back two seats and they're strapped down in their seats so tight they can't reach anything on their own.)

Once we got back, I started having problems with insomnia again. I don't think I've had a good night sleep since. Adam has done his best to help me sleep better by getting up with the kids and letting me sleep in on Saturdays. And he's always trying to tidy up our bedroom because he knows that contributes to my anxiety. But I still can't seem to just fall asleep, no matter how early or late I go to bed. 

The fridge still sucks and we're hoping to get a new one when the Labor Day sales come around. The neighbors downstairs still smoke like chimneys, outside AND inside their apartment. And Tot Lot and Elizabeth's "free" swim lessons are over so now the summer perks of our neighborhood are all but over and gone. So all I'm left with is this deep and persistent despising of where we live. Up until a few days ago, I've been really, seriously pissed off at God for telling me we were "supposed" to live here. And I've gone through the whole rigamarole of wondering if he ever really did, or if it was just my imagination, and if so if every spiritual witness I've ever felt wasn't real, and if so then my testimony is invalid and I should leave the church and turn in my temple recommend and give God the one-fingered salute. 

But those feelings finally passed. I'm okay with not knowing why I felt like we should live here. I'm trying to be more humble and put it on the shelf. But I'm still far from peace. And this is why:

Lately, there are times when I'll walk through the neighborhood, or drive around town, and every house I see fills me with this overwhelming hatred, anger, and jealousy. It's crazy. And awful. But it's true. I literally hate the person, whoever they are, who owns and lives in that house. I hate them because they have a big, beautiful house and I don't. I hate them because they can afford it and I can't. I don't think those words consciously, but I've started to recognize the feeling when it comes. On the bright side, at least I've been able to step back and look at the feelings and go, "Huh. That's weird." But that's as far as I've gotten.

Thou shalt not covet, the Lord commands us. And I firmly believe he doesn't give commandments just to be bossy, but to help us be happy. And there's nothing happy about coveting. 

So what do I do?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer Fun

July was hot, hot, hot. But that didn't stop us from having a lot of fun. Here is a re-cap of our month in pictures. Aunt Megan came to stay with us for almost the whole month. But for some strange reason, we got very few pictures of her. But she was a joy to have in our home and, as I said in my last post, she wins Aunt of the Year for helping me potty train the triplets. 

Okay, picture time. 

Fourth of July Parade. Our friends and now next-door neighbors, the Pascuals, invited us to watch the Glen Rock parade with us. Glen Rock is the town just north of ours. North Jersey is filled with towns, or boroughs as they call them, all packed tightly together but each one has their own small-town feel. There are only a hand full of actual "cities." The boroughs/townships each have their own school systems, usually just one high school, and their own police and fire force.

Anyway, here are some pics:

We're having so much fun.

That hair.

Waiting for the fun to begin.
 My friend, who is also named Emily, also is a mother of multiples. She has a 9-year-old girl and 7-year-old twin boys. Elizabeth is currently in love with one of the twins, though she'd be hard-pressed to tell you which one.

The best part of the parade for the kids was all the candy the paraders threw at the crowds. We were at the very front of the parade so the kids got a ton. Emily's kids knew from experience to come prepared, and each walked home with a grocery bag full.

When Tot Lot (the neighborhood drop-off playgroup) started at the beginning of the summer, the only way I could convince Eddie to go was to let him bring his blankie. Now it goes with him wherever he goes. Even during a heat wave, he sports it like a scarf. It's also been a cape, a shawl, a turban, and a whip. He's turning into a regular Linus.

Finishing a lollipop, wearing his favorite accessory.
Here's that blankie again. He's also started doing this really adorable side smile whenever we tell him to smile for the camera. This was at the branch president's house where they hosted a BBQ. 

That night, Megan was good enough to stay home and babysit so Adam and I could go see fireworks. (She got to see some the following Sunday. Basically every town in NJ does fireworks on a different night so you can spend the whole week of Independence Day going to fireworks. Awesome.) This was in Leonia near Overpeck County Park, home of the best playground in the world.

One of the best parts about our new neighborhood is the Radburn Association. Besides a whole summer of Tot Lot and swimming lessons, they do a Family Day with everything from carnival games to pie-eating contests. It was very hot and muggy that day, but we brought lots of water, stayed in the shade, and had a lot of fun.

Charlie asked for a butterfly. 
The finished product.

Eddie asked for Batman. Didn't think he knew who that was. I still don't.


Rainbow II!

Train ride!

Megan was the one who figured out it was just a dressed up lawn mower.

Feeding a calf.

Here's Elizabeth mourning the loss of this duck's dignity and freedom.

Free snow cone!

Elizabeth concentrated on perfecting her bounce, while Charlie gloried in the fleeting elation of being airborne like his totem, the butterfly.

Another great date night was our concert down in central NJ to see Guster, Ben Folds Five, and Barenaked Ladies. 

Guster was amazing. BF5 was good, though disappointing that he didn't play a single song from the one album I have, and we left before Barenaked Ladies because, well, beating traffic and getting home at a decent hour totally beat sticking around and listening to songs that were overplayed in the 90s. Adam has wanted to see Guster live as long as I've known him, so this was a real treat. They didn't play long enough for our liking, though. Just 45 minutes. But after BF5, on a bathroom break, I heard a song that sounded familiar. And live. I wandered over to a small crowd and couldn't believe my eyes/ears. Guster was doing an extra set out there next to the merch booths. I ran and got Adam and we got back in time to hear a few more songs. We were just feet away from them. It was epic.

We ended the month with our branch's Pioneer Day celebration. We got a surprise visit from some former members of the branch who'd moved away almost a year ago. Their daughter, Callie, was our first mother's helper when we moved to New Jersey. She is still remembered and beloved by our children. 

"Stop talking, Mommy."

Let's hear it for old school.
For those of you unacquainted with Pioneer Day celebrations, it usually involves some kind of bicycle parade for the kids in the ward (congregation.) If my childhood memories of growing up in Utah are accurate, kids usually decorate their bikes and even dress up in pioneer costumes. I think in a nod to that tradition, our branch has a bike parade. Or, in our case, a scooter parade.

Yes, it was a hot but fun July. And to end the post, the best pic ever of the best branch president ever, President Nick Bria:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Potty Training X 3

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to potty train three two-year-olds, a decent respect for the enormity of the task requires that the trainer should declare just how on earth such a thing was accomplished. And maybe just toot her own horn. Just a little. 

I'd put it off so long. For months I'd felt they were ready. For weeks, Charlie had been putting himself on the potty. But then we had to move. Then we had the wedding trip. Then the kids got sick. And then the excuses ran out and it was time. Time to potty train times three. I knew it'd be hard. I knew it'd be exhausting. But I knew we'd all survive, somehow. Plus, I had back-up, in the form of my sister-in-law Megan. She's 14. How many teenagers do you know would help potty-train three toddlers? Yeah, she's amazing. 

Day One. 
After breakfast, we gathered for a family meeting. I told them what was going to happen, we sang a "Bye Bye Diaper" song, then it was off with the diapers and on with the big-kid underwear. I spread a big ol' blanket over the one nice rug we have. I pulled out the three potties we'd been storing forever. Filled the sippy cups with juice and water. Here we go. Every fifteen minutes, I'd put the kids on the potty and reset the timer. Sometimes they went, mostly they didn't. Lucy especially seemed to never need to go. Until she wasn't on the potty. It was so mindnumbingly boring. But I made it to nap time and was so very grateful when I got to put diapers on them and take a break. By the end of the day, they were starting to go when I'd put them on the potties. But man, was I tired. 

Day Two. 
Same routine, except set the timer for every half hour. We still stayed at home and I started to feel major cabin fever. And wish we had easy access to a nice, fenced-in yard. Or didn't live in a tropical jungle. Yes, New Jersey (at least this summer) is in the tropics. The kids were doing better at making it to the potty on time. At least, I thought they were. Then we had the first poop-in-pants incident. . 

And I thought changing poopy diapers was bad! Why did I ever start this??? 

Day Three:
After a pep talk with my friend/expert Lindsay, I was ready for Day Three. The plan was to send Charlie with Elizabeth to Tot Lot (the neighborhood drop-off playgroup) since he'd been doing the best, and keep Eddie and Lucy home, still reminding them to go every half hour or so. They were learning really quickly, but I'd learned on Day Two that they still needed a lot of reinforcement. Adam came home early that day, as he does every friday in the summer (best thing ever) and we all went to the pool. He also mentioned that he noticed the IHOP on his bus ride home had a sign that said kids eat free on Fridays. I took that to mean he wanted to take us out for a pancake dinner. I sold him on it by calling it a celebratory dinner. I think the reward system definitely needs to be extended to the adults doing the potty training. We had a great time and no accidents!

Day Four: 
I don't remember much of this day except that they had a LOT of accidents. Well, Charlie and Lucy did. I think this is when Eddie pretty much pole-vaulted past his siblings to the position he currently occupies of the least accident prone. But of course, all I could see was the failures and I was pretty discouraged. And Sunday, with our three hour church schedule, was looming in the distance.

Day Five:
Sunday morning, during the frantic eating, dressing, gathering, bickering, panicking that is getting ready for 9 AM church, Adam and I didn't even have time to come up with a game plan for church. At the last minute, we just packed a change of underwear for each kid and said a prayer. Little did we know, the kids had entered the stage of "every little twinge means I have to go." I swear they each asked to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. And not at the same time. Yeah, we didn't attend much of our Sunday services. But we also didn't need our back-up underpants. Boo-yah. 

Days and Days:
Starting Monday, I felt like we'd left full-blown potty training mode. They were staying dry, even during their naps. But the poop. The POOP! I made the mistake of thinking we could handle a trip to IKEA. We all had been eagerly awaiting the day when the triplets were potty trained so the kids could all go to Smalland together. We even got to the store 10 minutes before it opened. But when Charlie, Eddie, and Lucy stepped up to give the worker their shoes, she looked at them, pulled out the measuring stick, and said they were too short . . . by an eighth of an inch. The rest of the trip went downhill from there. Three accidents later (two of them #2 and none of them Eddie), we were all ready to go home and cry. Then there was Charlie and his inability to control his bowels whenever he got into the pool. Poor guy missed a lot of fun in the sun last week. I felt bad, but it was pathological. The minute he was submerged in water, boom! Time to chlorine shock the kiddie pool. How long will this go on, I kept asking myself. It was driving me crazy.

And then, and then . . . 

They got it. The pooping in the pants stopped. The wetting their underwear stopped. Cue angelic choir.

It's been almost two weeks since we started and I feel like I can say without hesitation that THE TRIPLETS ARE POTTY TRAINED. They are asking to go when they need to, or better yet, going by themselves. I've gotten rid of all but one of the little potties and they all prefer to use the real toilet. Only Eddie, bless his little heart, still asks for "sticker and treat!" every time he goes. I still make a big deal out of pooping in the toilet, especially for the previous repeat offenders. And—Hallelujah!—Charlie has stopped crapping in the pool. (Sorry, but that's really the only word that conveys the disgustingness that is poop in a public pool. I deleted my previous word choice.) I still put him in a reusable swim diaper, though. And I'm sure we'll still have accidents from time to time. Don't we all? (Don't we? Am I the only adult out there?) 

But let's just say it all together now:


I feel like I need one of those "I survived..." t-shirts.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Preschool "Graduation"

Elizabeth's first year of preschool ended in May. The local high school had a child-development class that offered preschool three days a week, for an hour and a half. The teacher taught the students, and then the students would create lesson plans and run the preschool. It was the perfect introduction for Elizabeth to school. And it was free!

She loved school. She loved her teacher, Mr. Williams, and all her "high schoolers" (especially the pretty blond girls. Kids are shallow like that.) Every school day when we'd pick her up, she'd jump into the mini-van and her siblings would demand to see what awesome craft she'd made that day. The curriculum was basically playtime, crafts, and snacks, which was fine by me. 

For graduation, the families were invited to come to the high school auditorium where the preschoolers would be doing a presentation. They'd been practicing for weeks and every day after school, Mr. Williams would tell me what a little star Elizabeth was—how much she loved being on stage. And then I'd hear another parent told that her son needed to listen to directions better and I'd feel so smug. Of course she's a star. She's my daughter.

The day of the "graduation" ceremony, we dropped Elizabeth off at the usual preschool entrance then went to the auditorium. 

Here we are waiting for it to begin.

Some of us were happy . . .

Some of us, not so much.

And then the curtain came up and this is what we saw.

All the kids waved their little props and did their little actions to the songs, while Elizabeth hung her head and wouldn't move.

After the first song, I went up to the stage and tried to help calm her stage fright, but I think I just made it worse. The teacher didn't know what to do, and it was only when one of her high schoolers volunteered to stand with her, that she went back on stage.

The cheese, apparently, does not stand alone.

Don't look at me.
She wouldn't even look up to get her certificate.

And how did she act as soon as the curtain went down?

Like this:

Ah, Elizabeth. We love you. Stage fright and all. 

And lest you think this is not my typical Emily-bares-her-soul post, I had a really hard time watching Elizabeth act like that on stage. I was embarrassed  I kept looking around. All the little "awws" and "poor things" from the people around me just heightened it. And my embarrassment was only compounded by my ignorance of how to deal with it. Part of me wanted to run up and tell her she could come off the stage. But part of me said, no, you can't rescue her from every hard thing she'll ever face. And of course there was the part of me that was beating myself up for feeling embarrassed in the first place. Anda tiny part of me was really miffed that the little boy who'd goofed off during rehearsals had been the star of the show.

On the walk home, I kept asking Elizabeth why she'd been so afraid. All I could get was that there were just too many people in the audience. Not like rehearsals, I suppose. I told her over and over how proud we were and that we understood she was afraid and that it was okay. I just hoped she didn't catch on to any of the other emotions I was struggling to sort out.  

But you know? This was her day. And after the performance part, which she obviously didn't enjoy, she was laughing and eating refreshments, and taking pictures with her high schoolers, and could care less. And despite my repeated questioning, she seemed completely oblivious that anything less then ideal had happened. And that's something I truly admire. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Easter 2013

It's been a while since I posted some pictures of the kids, so here's a recap of our Easter. It's still May so it's technically still spring. So I'm totally legit.

For the first time ever, I got to make four Easter baskets and get really excited doing them. Elizabeth's special gift was Tinker Bell wall stickers, Lucy got a hair clip to match her (hand me down) Easter dress, and the boys got the ties in the pic above. Thank you, Target dollar bins. 

They all also got nets to catch butterflies, or fairies!

But these are the only things they ever caught . . . 

Even though they'd already done an egg hunt at a friend's birthday party, I still had all this candy and all these eggs, so . . . we did another one!

Charlie took it very seriously . . . 
Can you see the hidden egg?
I found one in there!
Lucy was finding eggs, and looking good doing it.

 And Eddie, after he'd found a few, plopped down and started to eat the candy. 
Elizabeth? I don't have any good pictures of Elizabeth hunting for eggs, and this is why:

The next day, Easter Sunday, we got duded up in our new Easter outfits. 

Handsome Boys

Our sweet Elizabeth
 After church and a nap, we went over to some friends' house for Easter dinner. They have two (now three) of their own, and most of the people they invited had kids, so it was crazy. Fun, but crazy. The kids did ANOTHER egg hunt. And we got them all to do this:

All in all, it was a great Easter weekend. I hope our kids got the message of Easter, through all the candy and eggs and fun. We "read" scriptures (ie. looked at pictures in the Gospel Art Kit) all through the week, going over each day leading up to Resurrection morning. I have no idea how much a 4 or 2-year-old brain can understand things like death and suffering and forgiveness. Even trying to explain the concept of the Resurrection was difficult. But this mama knows it's real and that He lives. And I trust that someday they will, too. So happy Easter/Spring! 

Here comes summer!