Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Greatest Legacy of All

Everyone has before-and-afters in life. Little did I know, in spring of 2014, my life would be defined by two before-and-afters that occurred in the span of one month.

In March 2014, my Dad died unexpectedly. I rushed home to my family, including my Mom and five siblings, where we all sat and grieved together. Days passed in a blur, and then it was time to say a final goodbye at his funeral. As my husband and I loaded our three young girls into the car, we heard Somewhere Over the Rainbow blasting on the radio. My husband asked me if I had put it on; I had not. I smiled a sad, tired smile at him and felt like it was a sign from my Dad.

A month or so after his death, I discovered I was pregnant with baby #4. Then, at my first ultrasound appointment, we learned that baby #4 was in fact babies #4, #5, and #6. That’s right, we were having spontaneous TRIPLETS! Nothing could’ve prepared us for the shock. I laughed and cried, as my husband held my hand, and my doctor gave me a pep talk: “You can do this. You were meant to do this.”

Soon after that, I learned that two of my sisters-in-law had also conceived babies, including one “rainbow baby,” during the weeks after my Dad’s death. Amazingly, my siblings and I were expecting FIVE new babies within a few weeks of each other, which would be grandchildren #13-17 for my parents.

After a high risk pregnancy that included two months of bedrest, my triplets roared into the world on a sunny Sunday morning at 30 weeks, 4 days gestation. They were tiny, but they were healthy. I was shocked. I was elated. I was happy to finally be able to breathe and move again. As I sat in my hospital room talking with my sisters, we looked out the window and saw a fleeting rainstorm. It passed quickly, and then my three girls bounded into the room, overjoyed to see me and ready to meet their three baby sisters. “We saw THREE RAINBOWS on the way here, Mom! THREE RAINBOWS!” In that moment, I knew it was my Dad, and I felt him smiling down at us, full of baby joy for these three precious new lives. It was so bittersweet.

In the weeks that followed, my sisters-in-law had their babies, too. We began to call the five babies the “Frederick Five,” in memory of my Dad.

Over the last three years, those babies have brought so much joy and laughter to our lives, at a time when we needed it most. They have been such a bright spot of happiness through some days that have otherwise been all clouds and rain.

The “Frederick Five” is now two-and-a-half, and, as you imagine, they’re busy, playful toddlers who keep us on our toes.

When our family comes together with the 17 kids, there’s always so much laughter and fun. We recently went spent a long weekend together at the beach, where my sister-in-law (and mom of numbers #8, #11, and #17) took this photo of the grandkids.

I’ve been asked how we got the youngest ones to cooperate, but, the truth is, they were overjoyed to be a part of the fun. Each of the kids, when we called out their numbers to line up, proudly marched to their spots, beaming ear-to-ear. They were happy to be part of something bigger than themselves, happy to be part of this big, happy family.

I know that all of us, when we see the 17 grandkids together, are thinking about my Dad. We know how proud he would’ve been to see them all together, laughing and having fun. Even more, we know he’d be so proud that all those kids are such kind, thoughtful, and generous people, thanks in large part to my parents’ lessons and love. I cannot think of a greater legacy than that—one of love and kindness, that will only continue to grow as our family does, too. We will continue to honor his memory, and the love he gave us, through them, and the love we have for each other. I can’t think of anything more bittersweet.

Photo Credit: Annabelle Rose Photography: bellerosephoto/

Saturday, June 24, 2017

This Is Age Two. And This Is Age Two with Three.

This Is Age Two.

Two is big wet open-mouth kisses.  Two is dancing to Elmo and Mickey Mouse.  Two is shouting, “I can’t like it!” when you don’t like something, as if you’re incapable of liking it.  Two is saying “I love you, mama.”  Two is discovering chocolate.  Two is asking for piggy tails.  Two is refusing piggy tails.  Two is big, tight hugs around your neck.  Two is demanding to go to the playground.  Two is loving her big sisters deeply and asking for them when Mom doesn’t give her what she wants.  Two is asking to brush her teeth.  Two is refusing to eat dinner.  Two is gobbling up your dinner and asking for more.  Two is newfound words and independence.  Two is making sure Mom is right around the corner.  Two is asking for the blue cup, and having a massive tantrum if it can't be found. Two is learning to sleep in a toddler bed but ending up in my bed during the night.  Two is potty training accidents on the living room floor.  Two is changing clothes 37 times every day.  Two is a tiny, high pitched voice with the best, most contagious laugh.

Two is love.  Two is overwhelming.  Two is overwhelming love. 

This Is Age Two with Three.  

Two with three means constantly shouting “where’d the third one go?!”  Two with three is figuring out who bit whom.  Two with three is a connection so deep they don’t know where they end and the others begin.  Two with three is playing ring around the rosie and all falling down together, laughing hysterically, and doing it all over again.  Two with three is savoring the moments when I can rock just one.  Two with three is kissing each other’s real and imaginary bo-bos in an effort to “make it all better.”  Two with three is waking up to a toddler on your belly and one on either side of you, too.  Two with three is three lovies, which must be found before bedtime.  Two with three is more fighting than you could imagine.  Two with three is never doing a quick errand, because quick errands aren’t possible with three two-year-olds.  Two with three means asking where their sisters are when they’re not all together.   Two with three is not having enough hands to hold everyone at the same time when they’re all crying and want you.  Two with three is never-ending conversations with each other and with you.  Two with three means always having three extra people in the shower.  Two with three means cheering each other on when using the baby potties.  Two with three means three toddlers inspecting said results in the potties.  Two with three is hearing them shout to each other, "no, you go to time out!  That’s NOT! NICE!”  Two with three means hours of time spent strapping three toddlers into carseats.  Two with three is being touched out at the end of every day.  Two with three is chorus of high pitched laughter that makes your heart swell even when you’re tired and frazzled.  

Two with three is love.  Two with three is overwhelming.  Two with three is overwhelming love.  

Two with three is different than two with one, but it's also the same--the love, the tantrums, the joy, and the infectious laughter are all the same.  Here's to surviving and savoring AGE TWO, whether you have one, two, or three.  

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Monday, June 12, 2017

What I Love about Car Dates

Car dates.  They’re a thing.  At least for me and my husband.  You, too, can experience glorious car dates with just a few easy steps.  Here’s how: 

When you realize that bedtime is going to be a complete disaster, quickly text your babysitters and ask who’s free later that day.  Britney, babysitter extraordinaire, you’re free? Great!  We’ll see you at 5:30 then.  Babysitter arrives just in time for all the kids to fall apart.  (That part isn’t really necessary per se, but it is a possible side effect of car dates.)  You and your husband sprint to the car, carefully peeling off any toddlers who may be dangling off of you.  

Can you smell that?  I can, friends.  It smells like SWEET FREEDOM.  FREEDOM within the confines of those car doors, where no little hands can touch you.  Freedom from the bedtime grind, freedom from the witching hours.  Blessed is the silence, y’all. 

Next step, where should you go?  You’re not hungry because you snacked on the kids’ dinner.  It wasn’t even that good but you were frazzled and hungry so you somehow gobbled up a handful of nuggets, fruit, and mac n cheese.  Do either of you have any errands to run?  Not really.  Should you get some fruit from the fruit stand?  Nope, you covered that earlier in the day with a Costco trip.  Want to check out that cool new restaurant downtown? No... don't feel like looking presentable or finding parking.  

There’s only one thing left to do: sit in the car and have a car date.

We’ve done this a lot lately, and I've come to love it.  Sometimes we grab coffee and sit in the car, or, on one occasion we to went the fancy grocery store, got some nice wine, and drank it out of a tiny paper cup used for store samples. Another time, we sat in the grocery store parking lot and did all our Christmas shopping in one fell swoop while talking and staring at our phones in the dark. 

On car dates, you can talk freely and without interruption, because there’s not a single distraction.  It’s just you, your husband, and paper cups of wine or coffee.  And it’s pretty awesome.

Between kids, work, and everything else, it often feels like my husband and I are working different shifts, and car dates give us a time to really catch up, laugh, see what we have going on in the upcoming weeks, talk about anything going on with our kids, question when it will get easier with said kids, and dream about a trip to Napa.  We talk, we laugh, we just exist… together.  Existing together, without distraction or interruption, reminds me of who we were before we had half a dozen kids; it brings our relationship back to the forefront, if only for a few hours.

So the next time you see us sitting in a grocery store parking lot, just throw us a wave because, no, we’re not getting out of the car.  We’re staying in the car, on our car date.

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