Monday, April 20, 2015

Hand-written addresses and the beauty of memories!

We sat at the cutest little table in the middle of the American Girl store making one last childhood memory before my beautiful daughter (and her adorable brothers) turned 18 the next day. We had giggled, taken pictures and dressed baby dolls in the course of our morning. It was a day etched in my memory as practically perfect!

During our lunch, the AG Cafe provided a little box of questions for us to answer about ourselves. We were having a ball -- this is the sort of thing that Claire, Cate and I adore! We had laughed so much as we simultaneously responded to "If you owned a store, what would you sell?" BOOKS, we had practically screamed in unison!

And then Little Red asked which we prefer, email or getting letters in a mailbox? Oh goodness. We had quite a discussion amongst three young (indulge me...sitting in the American Girl store, I DID indeed feel young!) ladies with vastly different introductions to email.

I love email, I exclaimed! It has been a lifeline for me to friends near and far as we have moved around the continent. I told the girls about the "dark ages" when long-distance phone calls took far more money than we had, and waiting on a letter letter seemed to take decades!

Claire loves to get a letter in the mailbox. She considers it very charming and as such spends a good amount of time sending letters herself in the hopes of blessing someone with a postage stamp!

Cate was torn. She doesn't have her own email -- and she DOES love to check the mailbox -- but the concept of having her own email and Facebook is so romantic to her right now that she was struggling to remember how much she enjoys getting a letter.

Today, I am storing these memories in my heart as I hand address the triplets' graduation invitations. Now, I was tempted to bulk print the labels until my Mother -- queen of all etiquette -- implored me to hand-write them. I may have grumbled a smidge.

But the truth is, I LOVE handwriting these addresses. I see the name and am instantly full of memories: Neighbors from three moves ago. Members of Wade and my Newlywed Sunday School class more than two decades ago. Friends from high school, college, medical school...

I addressed one of Wade's medical school friends and instantly remembered laying in a hospital bed on the Labor and Delivery Floor at the University of Chicago where the nurses were so busy they usually forgot to bring food to the bedridden woman praying NOT to deliver any time soon. Dear dear Blaine would stop by the UofC cafeteria on Wednesdays and bring me a $1 milkshake.  He and his family are so dear to us. Addressing their envelope made me smile.

I turn the page in my address book and tear up. The next three addresses are the trio's NICU nurses. Oh, how I want these ladies to celebrate this graduation with us. I almost rip the envelope I am bearing down so hard with excitement and eagerness to share a milestone I know we would never have reached without the gentle, tender care of Laura, Tricia, and Diane! I know the ladies who taught ME to celebrate every single gram gained, will be filled with joy about this news.

I write more -- giving thanks for friends and family that have prayed for these babies of mine since the day we learned there were three. Oh, I am so grateful for our prayer warriors!!

And then I choke up again. There is her name -- Susan. The boys' first Occupational Therapist. Susan gave birth to her firstborn the same day the triplets were born. When at nine months the boys began seeing her for therapy, she became a gift from God! "Why does Benjamin need to reach for those beads?" I would naively ask. She would explain how she was trying to teach him to reach across mid-line, a very necessary developmental skill and I would cry. And she would cry. And then we would wipe our tears and get back to work.

She taught me how to encourage and push the boys while STILL realizing how amazing they were. She never once treated them as if they WOULD BE amazing if ONLY they could learn the skills she was presenting. No. She treated them -- and me -- as though they were already perfect, she was just trying to help make them even better. It was enormous for a young mama who had no idea how to navigate the waters of Cerebral Palsy. (And she never once reprimanded a teeny tiny Claire who didn't need therapy but surely loved the beads the boys had to reach for so much we often found them um, hiding in her clothing when we got home!)

And so I continue to address these announcements that celebrate my trio. I am beaming with pride. I am shouting my gratitude to God. I am praying for the young adults that are achieving this HUGE milestone in their life. And I am thanking God for each and every person on our list -- for the impact they have made on my life, on Benjamin's life, on Mason's and Claire's lives. I am thankful for each prayer offered on our behalf, for each note sent, email read and Facebook friend add. I am thankful for the prayer warriors that made this graduation announcement possible.

And so I offer my hand-addressed invitation as a completely inadequate thank you note to so many. I offer it as a meager attempt at thanking you for loving us, for praying for us and for being so supportive in the last 18 years.

And to answer the question in the AG Cafe, I LOVE hand-written mail! Don't you?

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Triplets' Golden Birthday!!! 18 on the 18th!

The biggest boy had ripped the tube from his throat within hours of his birth. At 2 lbs. and 15 ounces, Benjamin was showing the world that he was the strong firstborn. He didn't want the tube, didn't want the machine with the purpose of helping him breathe. He was opinionated and would spend his entire stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit letting us know what he wanted. He plowed the road for me as a mother because what he wanted was me. Always. When his heart was racing and the nurse said I could not hold him -- he showed her by stabilizing when I simply touched his little bitty back. He didn't even think about stabilizing when the nurse touched him instead. He was shouting at me that he knew exactly who I was -- a first-time, never-done-this-before Mommy but HIS mommy.

The teeny tiniest baby of them all -- barely 2 lbs. was the namesake of my precious Daddy. I was eager to see if this little boy would live up to the great big honor we had bestowed upon him by naming him Mason. But in those first days, I just held him skin to skin willing, and begging, and praying, him to health. I can tell you that I was terrified this little piece of my Daddy would not survive those earliest days.

And the little girl baby -- all two and a half pounds of her -- would bat her long eyelashes, and push her hand over her eyes, as if to say, "You are completely disturbing my beauty sleep, but here, love on me if you must." Claire was so breathtaking lying in that isolette that even without the adorable bow her nurse made her, everyone KNEW she was the girl! And let me tell you that her every action screamed to the world that she would be running the show as soon as the trio broke out of the NICU! 

First Birthday x 3.

Second birthday x 3.

Tomorrow my trio turn 18. Actually, in a couple of hours, we will hit the 18 year mark....18 years since those bitty babies made me a Mommy.  We have been celebrating all week. I have an enormous love of birthdays and celebrating the birth of my amazing kiddos brings me such joy!

But this 18th birthday is a big deal, right? Claire keeps referring to her last days of childhood. And just now Mason joked that the next time I see him he will be a man.


Oh goodness, I need to sigh.

I have assumed for months -- ok, probably years -- that this day would make me sad. I imagined that I would be super emotional and anticipated a lot of tears.

But honestly, I love the character of these 18 year olds. I love the young adults I see emerging and the hopes and dreams they are cultivating. Oh, they are going to make the world a better place. And so I am not sad to celebrate 18 years of loving them, of watching them grow.

But still....

The triplets were on their third day of kindergarten when Mason got into our van crying crocodile tears. "I can't play with my friends on the playground because it is down a hill that I can't walk down," he wept.

I didn't even hesitate before I put the car in park, hugged that boy tight and assured him that I would FIX it. I marched right into the principal's office and offered to spend the year organizing, campaigning and raising money for an accessible playground! And thanks to a beautiful team of people, we built that playground before first grade started!

When school just flat out stopped working for us -- the teacher-student ratio was too much, the equipment needs not met, and the aide support for Benjamin unsustainable -- I told the kids I would do my best to FIX it. I pulled them out of school and we did this very hard, very awesome, very extreme thing of homeschooling for the next seven years.

When the doctors said surgery this summer for you, surgery next summer for you, surgery.....I worked to make the isolation bearable. I worked to entertain us all during the long long days of back-to-back emotional, painful surgery-recovering summers. I tried to FIX it.

Please hear my heart. I am not bragging. In truth, I have never FIXED a single thing in my life without  God stepping in and doing the heavy work. But I do recognize that my mode of operation as a mother has been to try to fix it -- to knock down the barriers, to build the ramps, to find the way into the apparently unaccessible building. And tonight, as I sit here pondering this monumental birthday, I can not help but wonder if my fixing days are done. Tomorrow, when we wake to three adults where my little bitty babies used to be, will I be past the fixing days? I mean, I am almost certain that they will still need me a little bit (oh please, still need me!) but I am equally certain that with the passage into adulthood comes a lot less needing of me, and more than that really, turning 18 might mean there will be a lot less that I am able to FIX.

I have not navigated this road before. So I really have no idea. But rest assured, Benjamin, Mason and Claire, I am here. I am always here. If you need me to scoop you up and take you for ice cream, you are never too old. If I need to hug away a hurt, my arms are waiting. If I need to knock down a barrier, I am standing by.

But I also trust you to knock down a lot of your own barriers; to plow roads for yourself and those coming behind you; to offer hugs and help to others in need. You are amazing adults and I am delighted to move from fixer to friend.

Can we have cake??

Happy birthday Benjamin, Mason and Claire (birth order, always always birth order)!!! I love you so!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, April 10, 2015

Liar, Liar....

The bell rang and as the students filed out of the kindergarten classroom I couldn't help but notice Mason had something around his neck. But the thing that really drew my attention was his smile -- it was from ear to ear!

"I lost my first tooth!" Mason exclaimed when he was close enough for me to hear him. My face obviously betrayed my emotions -- I was not ready for this rite-of-passage moment -- because the next words out of his mouth were, "Don't worry, Mama. I promise not to grow up too fast."

But in eight days that adorable 5-year-old -- and his triplet siblings -- will turn 18. 18. And really, it is taking everything I have, not to torment him repeatedly with a refrain of "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

And once I again, I fear my face betrays my emotions because today my dear Mason asked me if I was really sad about them turning 18 next week.


In full disclosure, I should tell you that I probably sighed three times deeply before answering:

"Well, if you can not be four, then I am excited about you being 18."


That is the absolute truth. I would turn that clock back in a minute to those precious preschool days. I know I am romanticizing it in my head this month, I know. But oh, these three were a delight and our days, though busy, were also so very joyful.

I left Mason believing that I just wanted to turn the clock back, but honestly, it isn't that. I wish we could go back in time with all we know today, with the wisdom of years, and the peace of acceptance.

Can you sit on that with me? I wish I could go back to those fleeting preschool years with the peace of acceptance. 

I wasted an obscene amount of time worrying. I wasted an inordinate amount of energy fretting. And I wasted an awful amount of emotion obsessing over what the boys would and would not be able to do with their future.

Today Mason had to have an MRI for this ongoing hip pain. I feel weepy in my heart for his challenges and the Mama-bear wants to go head to toe with Cerebral Palsy right now, giving it a couple of punches that only a Mama-bear in full-on-protect-her-cubs-mode can deliver.

But honestly, the thing I really want to punch CP for is the joy it robbed. Oh don't feel sad for me -- I am far too stubborn to have allowed all our joy to be robbed. I didn't do that ever. But still, I long for the minutes wasted in worry. I long for the hours obsessing on the what-ifs. And I long long for the days given over to sadness because of the hard road.

So hear me young mamas, I am yelling at you in the best possible way today: Live in hope for the future of your young ones, celebrate every single milestone and cheer like a crazy woman as they tackle obstacles that others might find easy. 

But find peace in loving them well. Find strength in carving out days for their childhood -- days that consist of super-hero capes and ice cream cones, days where you don't disguise therapy as play, you just actually PLAY. Find what makes their heart smile and make sure you have days filled with that!

Because here, at the eve of adulthood, two of my trio still have Cerebral Palsy. The hours of worry and fret did not cure them. The obsessing about their futures did not take about the obstacles they have to overcome. The joy robbed can not be replaced.

And yet, here we are, at this huge milestone, celebrating THREE lives that contribute mightily to every endeavor they attempt. They will graduate high school next month. They will set off for colleges of their choosing a few months down the road. And they will continue to do what they have always done so very very well: overcome any obstacle in their path as they seek to accomplish their life dreams and life goals.

And the truth is I am tickled as punch with who they are at 18. I love them to pieces and still enjoy our joy-filled time! And I could not be more excited to see what the coming months hold for them -- we exchanged fretting over all the little things with celebrating like mad all the big things!

We'll be here celebrating if you need us. (and cake...there will be cake!)

Carol - The Blessings Counter