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.