Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grace and Goodness

I've been saying I would write about the miracle that was this charity lunch I chaired this week and now I'm finally doing it.  At the beginning of 2011, I was named chair of the Women's Energy Network biennial charity lunch.  It's been around since the mid-90s and has benefited a variety of Houston area charities. 

When we set out to select the beneficiary for this spring last year, we had 20 nominees, all that undertook worthwhile missions.  But the one that was selected, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse or AVDA, captured my heart and my passion from the day we set foot into their offices.  It's a miracle how much this organization accomplishes for so many families trapped in the vicious cycle of domestic abuse in Harris County with so little.  I was dead set on raising more than $100,000 and having over 300 people attend because it would blow past past lunch records and make a real difference for AVDA.

However, by early March, I had gotten so tied up in all the little details and micro-managing my amazing committee of 34 women, that I'd forgotten why we were doing the work.  I was waking up nights in a cold sweat and getting ulcers in my mouth.  The goals became numbers that I was "personally" failing to achieve without taking into consideration what the numbers were there for and remembering the cause.  The message of why we were raising money was getting lost in the targets and milestones. 

Thank heavens for Beth Moore.  I arrived from the Omni in early March (where we were having the event) to the last night of Beth Moore's spring bible study all worked up because of a contract issue.  I was wound so tightly and ranting to my mom.  Then I listened to Beth's message about God working things together.  A message that we, of course, have to be willing to work - when God brought people into the promised land they had to plant the fields and harvest the grain -but it is through God's miraculous action that we actually have the option of entering into the promise. 

That message so resonated with me, and the timing couldn't have been better.  The next day I had a committee meeting where I was able to say, God is all about what AVDA is doing.  Compassionate generous people are reaching out to people in their darkest hour to rescue them and bring them into a safe place.  There's nothing that I, on my own, can do to make people give to this cause.  But if I just share the message of their work, then I can leave it to God to work in people's hearts to give.

If we were each going out there and sharing that message, and that message alone, I accepted that everything else that happened, no matter how big or small, was the result God desired.  This Wednesday, we had a sold out crowd of 400 people come to hear AVDA's story.  We raised $150,000 to allow AVDA to keep their staff and have a building.  We were at $50,000 in March.  That is God at work.  That is God doing His thing when we get out of the way and let Him work.  That is just another modern day miracle.  God being God in our midst.  What a pleasure it was to be a part of His team on this one.  And what a reminder to me that, "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (I Cor. 10:31)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crashing Off the Mountaintop

Yesterday, I had a big day.  A great day professionally.  I'm planning on writing a separate post about how the event showed how God still does big miracles for people doing His work (not me), but today's post is all about me.  The self-involved prideful me.  There are two of me.  The one who is working hard to stay in the middle of God's will and not be prideful, and the natural me that can be pride-filled. 

God knows pride is one of my biggest struggles, so He made sure to "help me" learn a lesson yesterday.  The charity lunch I chaired for a sold out crowd of 400 was jam-packed with opportunities for pride.  I received compliments on how I looked, how I spoke, how I ran the event, you name it.  Don't misunderstand me - there is NOTHING wrong with receiving and accepting compliments.  There's also nothing wrong with taking satisfaction in job well done.  There's only a problem if you let it run amok. 

I was on SUCH a high after the event.  Everything had been taken down and I'd changed clothes at the hotel and couldn't have planned for a better day.  I had lots of sweet friends and family praying for me, and I couldn't wait to give the happy report.  Plus, Bray and I had planned to go out to dinner as a family to celebrate, so I wouldn't have to cook.  I had just finished sitting next to a CEO and a Senior Vice President of major energy corporations, rubbing elbows with the creme of Houston's energy crop, and now I was headed home to relive the high points. 

It didn't take long for the evening to unravel fast.  Things began with a promising start.  We all piled into the car and got a big booth in the corner of our favorite little Mexican food restaurant where we could keep the kids trapped.  Two minutes into our getting settled, the little lady got sick.  On me.  We'd not yet ordered any food, so I jumped up with her in hand and said, "let's go."  Unfortunately, that led to a little split in the parents united front. Bray felt we should stay because she probably just got choked and we'd be fine to go ahead and have dinner, but I thought she wasn't through.  Because I insisted we go, he was still angry about it this morning.  All in all, it was no fun because it meant I didn't get any dinner (the fridge was a little empty) and I had to go home and COOK for the boys. 

While I cooked, he left to run errands, and we had the next big unraveling of the night.  There were a series of each child needing to go to the "big" potty to do big business.  Unfortunately, the last one (the baby), was apparently having a little stomach problems of his own and there was crap (literally) coming out of his pull ups every which way, including on the carpet, on the tile, on his back, and you get the idea.  So I'm solo, dinner things are strewn all over the kitchen, three bottomless kids are in the bathroom, one in the tub because it was the only way I could tackle the situation, my jeans and shirt are wet and stained, and I'm despondent.  In a matter of less than THREE hours, I went from feeling pretty impressed with myself, having champagne toasts with my team, wearing a gorgeous new suit and coif in tact, to sitting alone on a floor with three toddlers with no clothes on covered in gunk. 

You don't get a crystal award for that.  No one applauds the messy tired mom in the bathroom floor.  Folks don't rush to introduce themselves to the woman scrubbing poop out of the carpet. 

I was pretty miserable, but it was also a great reality check.  I am no better or more talented or ably qualified than anyone.  Whatever I have is a gift from God.  Any talent or skill I draw upon for "success," has been given to me by my generous Heavenly Father.  And when I get too big for my britches, then God is pretty good about giving me a strong dose of reality.  It's no fun, and my shine had gone completely dull by 8 pm last night, but sometimes those reminders are important.  It gives you perspective.  It reminds you of how critical your faith is to your every day life. 

And my day might have gone the exact same way if I hadn't been so puffed up about my big success, but I wonder if things might have been a little less disastrous if I'd been feeling more humble when I came home yesterday afternoon.  I'll never know, but I do know that the next time I have a BIG day, last night will serve as a reminder to me that every good and perfect gift comes from God (and not me). 

Proverbs 16 - All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.  The LORD detests all the proud of heart....Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

James 1 - Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top 10 List for the Getaway

So, as you may have read, I got away this weekend with my husband.  And while it got off to a bit of a rocky start because I pooped out before we really got going Friday night, it turned out to be a perfect weekend after a good night's sleep.  San Antonio hosted gorgeous weather and the hotel was lovely and our dinner with clients on Saturday night was fun even if, as Bray would say, it was with a bunch of lawyers.   Here is my top 10 list of favorite things about getting away with my man:

10. Sleeping in Saturday and Sunday morning.
9.  Having a conversation with my husband.
8.  Having the conversation be: (a) extended, and (b) uninterrupted.
7.  Getting to take a nap on Saturday (sleeping was a recurring theme). 
6.  Not worrying if an eating establishment was kid friendly (and, in fact, AVOIDING kid friendly). 
5.  I'm going to get in trouble for this one, but not having to worry about wearing p.j.s to bed.
4.  Holding hands when walking around town.
3.  Having no schedule.
2.  Room service breakfast.
1.  A weekend alone with my favorite person in the whole world. 

As much as we loved being away, it was great being back too.  Nothing could have been better than the raucous homecoming we received from three very excited, and previously quite forlorn, two year olds that had kisses and hugs and dances for both me and Bray.  This was even amplified when we pulled out little presents.  A million thanks to my mom, nanny, best friend, and babysitter who allowed this precious weekend to happen.  Until next year.............

Friday, April 20, 2012


I am madly in love with my husband.  In a couple weeks we will have been married six years, and together for eight and a half.  I love that God is perfectly okay with me being in lust with my hubby, too.  If that were a sin, I'd be hosed.  Luckily, since we're married, I get the green light.  There are days when I daydream about him like I did when we were first dating. 

Today is one of those days.  Because, in mere hours, we will be staying in San Antonio on the Riverwalk in a gorgeous hotel.  Walking around, holding hands, eating and drinking, and most importantly sleeping in late.  We have had one weekend away together since the kids were born.  This is number two.  It takes a lot of planning, but off we go.  And I am just as excited about sneaking away with my handsome hubby now as I was when we first wed (maybe more so now because it's so rare!).  He's even indulged me a little by letting us stay in a fabulous hotel:

I have a weakness for fancy hotels (and he even let me book a couple's massage!).  I am literally counting down the minutes until I have 40 uninterrupted hours with this amazing man.  If you are feeling a little weary after 2 or 20 years in your marriage, or even if you're in the midst of a fabulous season in your marriage, then try to find a little time away.  It may not be a weekend, normally it is not for us, but we do go out once a month.  It allows us to catch up, because conversation is hard to have sometimes with toddlers around, make out, and reconnect.  I love our date nights.  But I am CRAZY about our weekends.  I hope your weekend is as good as mine, but I doubt it will be!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thank You for Small Things (all three!)

It's been a rocky week since all three of the kids have been sick, one right after the other, so it just dragged on and on.  Last night was the first time I slept through the night in a week.  I can't think of a more perfect time to be going away with Bray for the weekend (more on that tomorrow). 

But through the fevers and late nights, I see and hear the sweetest things:

1.  The kids, especially the boys, have lately wanted us to either pick them up or hold their hand, even just to walk in the other room.  "Hold da hand mommy," "up, up, mommy."  I love their version of words right now.  It has it's own toddler spin and I know those days will be few.  Last night while trying to sneak out of their room, I bumped the baby gate against the door.  Both the boys started repeating, "hiddagate, ding-dong." (Hit the gate for those of you not conversant in toddler-ese.)

2.  They each tell me what they want to pray for before meal times.  The little lady never ceases to start with "mommy work, daddy work, Mimi work" - she dutifully prays us off to work each day.  Ahhh.  Ever since Easter with the whole family, we often need to list each cousin and aunt and uncle by name.  And of course the bulls and cows every single prayer.  Lately we've added Doo-Dah. 

3.  I've started making up stories as I prepare dinner to keep them engaged (and out of trouble).  So they come into the kitchen and sit in their chairs and I ask them three favorite things and make a story up out of it - yesterday the favorite things were animal, color, and friend.  The eldest's were giraffe, blue, and John (his uncle!), the girly-girl's were bull, pink, and Emmy (from school), and the baby's were elephant, green, and Doo-Dah (the duck).  So we had an whole story about the kids sailing on a ship to a magic island where there was a blue giraffe named John that could swim and a green elephant named Doo-Dah that could fly and a pink bull named Emmy that could play music out of his horns.  They were entranced. 

4.  They are BIG fans of naked.  The past few nights we've let them run around between changing for bed.  So the pull ups and clothes come off and around and around they go.  I swear, shedding those few items of clothing makes them Olympic runners.  They run like the wind.  And laugh and scream about being naked.  Once one of them is naked, the other two are ripping off clothes and pull-ups like mad people.  Laughing the whole time.  It's the devil trying to get their pajamas on after that though because they're so ecstatic to be free of their threads. 

5.  Even though they're 2 1/2, they still love to hug and kiss.  We still getting running greetings at the door, and up they go, arms and legs wrapped around my whole body, in a full body welcome wrap.  Utter delight. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gymastics Tumble

The three children pictured here were setting off to go to their first "trial" gymnastics class.  Don't they look sweet and innocent?  That would be a grossly inappropriate assumption to make about these three maniacs.

It started off innocently enough.  I have been trying to find a music or gymnastics class that my nanny could take the kids to this summer since they won't have their little two day a week "school" program.  That sounds easy enough.  However, most programs require one adult per one child for classes where children are under three.  That's never going to happen in our lifetime (hence me feeling like a guilty mom for my kids not ever doing Mommy & Me classes).  We found a wonderful gym near our house that offered to take them on and suggested we come for a trial class last week (you're just now getting to laugh at our travails because I was preoccupied with the Easter mayhem). 

The kids were thrilled.  They talked about it all day.  They couldn't wait to go - you can see the eager anticipation on their faces before heading out the door.  Bray met us at the gym a few moments into the class, already descending into unmitigated disaster territory. It's a 45 minute lesson and, thankfully, that day there were only two other poor toddlers that had to endure our invasion.  They would NOT listen to Coach Butch (I kid you not, our two year old gymnastics coach was called "Butch," it's like Napoleon driving a Ferrari).  Understandably, they were on sensory overload.  This is one of those massive gyms that has wall to wall mats and uneven bars and balance beams and ball pits and there were kids aged two to twenty training from one end to the other.  In addition to ignoring ANYTHING that Coach Butch told them or tried to get them to do, when they would attempt something, they would cut the other kids off to run to do the fun part.  For example, there was a toddler obstacle course and if you did everything correctly, at the end, you got to jump on a trampoline into a ball pit.  One child on the trampoline at a time.  I am so sure.  Maybe none of these kids have siblings, but we've not mastered the one at a time concept around here.  If we get lucky, we're two at a time.  That's if somebody naps late.  So they kept circumventing the "obstacles" to all go pell-mell onto the trampoline regardless of whether it was their turn.  The straw that broke the camel's back, and nearly a talented tween gymnast's back to boot, was the careening about the gym that then began.  Tired with the toddler area and cutting off unsuspecting wee ones (because we were far and away the largest two year olds in the class), they moved on to investigating other areas despite loud and repeated imploring by Bray and me.  At one point, while I held the wriggling baby under one arm against his wishes, Bray ran off to recover the little lady dodging in and out of the balance beams and uneven bars that were IN USE. 

We carried them out, against their will, and to the very loud protestations of the little lady who was the most smitten with the big girl gymnasts.  Screams were bouncing off of the walls around us, and we were quite the red-faced spectacle.  It was very possibly their most disobedient display to date. 

The most frustrating thing, besides being unable to resurface at this particular gym in the next two years, is that I really DO want them to have a class to go to this summer.  We have swimming lessons coming to us once a week, but I want them to be able to go out and DO something fun.  I'm desperate for ideas, but maybe it's just that I have to wait one more year until they are older...........if you do happen to have any suggestions, I am all ears.  Although after this story, I'm sure you won't be recommending any place that your family frequents!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wacky Women Stuff

First, I'll start off admitting I'm a little wacky.  I have weird ticks and very specific ways I like to do things.  Despite all my idiosyncrasies, I've been fortunate my whole life to have close female friends.  I've written before about both the sense of loneliness I experienced after having the babies because there was no time for those relationships and also about how those friendships have sustained me and encouraged me when I was in a rough spot.  Because of all these positive relationships, I've also been fortunate to get along well with most women.  I had a rocky work relationship once with a challenging female and I had a falling out with a friend once when we were in very different places in our lives, but those tough times have been few and far between. 

I've discovered though lately, maybe because I have so much going on and a lower threshold for frustrations, that I can get annoyed at someone over something fairly inconsequential.  These someones are usually women and, again, it is still rare, but when it happens you would think the sky was falling.  One such occurrence happened this week.  I am planning an event that is huge and will reflect significantly on me as a career professional, for good or for bad.  I, as you might imagine, have a very specific vision for the event and a very specific way I want to handle some things.  I have been insanely lucky that I have this amazing group of women volunteering to make this thing come off flawlessly and I will forever be in their debt. 

However....(you knew that was coming), there is one woman who is not volunteering but is in a position to have "input."  Her input has been driving me UP THE WALL!  I have, until this week, verbally responded with thoughtful consideration of her suggestions, but it has slowly and steadily been crawling under my skin.  I have even had a few volunteers comment on this individual's "fly in the ointment" situation (this is not a good thing to do because it just gives me more steam to be irrational).  Well, when handed yet another "suggestion" late one night, I flew off the handle.  I immediately emailed back a fairly curt no, my first, and then laid in the bed next to my husband pounding my hands and hollering about this madness.  I am sure he was second-guessing his choice in life-long partners at that moment and thinking if there were any madness then it was all me.  This one little thing just sent me shrieking off the edge.  It was a LITTLE thing. 

Have you ever done that?  Responded completely and utterly irrationally over something or someone that did not at all deserve it.  Break down in tears over someone asking you to pass the ketchup only because it was the 100th thing you had to do.  The tears were not over the KETCHUP, but just the ketchup's cumulative effect.  This was that email.  The rant and ensuing head spinning was not over the email request, it was the cumulative effect.  The fact that I'd spent a year of my life on this project that was going to have a significant effect in my life.  I'm going to write this week about the miracle that God has performed to make everything that has happened happen, but needless to say, I was wound so tight over making sure everything was perfect that I couldn't process anything that was not exactly in my "vision" or that might taint it.  Silly.  So silly. 

If you're crying over ketchup today, or shrieking about an email, then maybe it's time to take a step back with me.  Release whatever it is you're holding so tightly.  We're going to end up with ulcers if we don't (and gray hair and nervous husbands).  You may be holding the weight of the world on your shoulders, or jugging two dozen balls, but in either event, we're right in the middle of the palm of God's big hand.  And if that weight falls off, or the balls go rolling, He's right there to catch them.  So pass the ketchup, delete the email, and treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream.

(Oh, and by the way, when I emailed one of my volunteers the "suggestion" the next day, she similarly thought it was insane and that I was entitled to my rant.  It's really cool that God gives us female friends to "get" us when our hubbies think we're nuts.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Alternative Ending

I had two blog posts for yesterday.  One on the horror of gymnastics class and one on weird women encounters.  Then life happened and I got nothing up yesterday.  Then kids happened, I refocused for today.  The other stuff will get posted, but this is what I wanted to say today. 

My baby has asthma.  We've known that for a while, and he has this little preventative Flo-Vent he's on, but we've never really had a severe asthma attack.  He takes longer to get over colds and the like and his coughs, when he gets them, always sound terrible.  Well, he just had his first severe asthma attack.  Mind you, I didn't know what it was at the time, just that I was scared.  His nose started running Wednesday night, but by last night he was coughing and running a fever and struggling with his breathing.  I gave him his inhaler and some ibuprofen.  He "slept" with Bray and I so I could monitor him, but none of us really slept.  His labored breathing had me up in the middle of the night debating whether to go to the ER.  I was on WebMD dreaming up all these terrible possibilities - one included that he'd contracted the bird flu from Doo-Dah (you laugh, but I was in a panic).  I got someone last minute to cover my deposition today and rushed him to the doctor this morning (they said they couldn't see me til 10:45 but you mommas know when you won't take no for an answer - I said someone has to see him now and I was at their office by 8:45).  The doctor took his shirt off and showed me his chest pulsing in and out, contracting like crazy, and said, "this is what a severe asthma attack looks like."   She gave him breathing treatments and oral steroids and took his pulse-ox.  His oxygen levels were at 91% (instead of 100%), and the doctor said if the numbers were in the 80s he would have to go to the hospital.  We waited there, got his numbers up, and took another breathing treatment.  He has new meds to get him better, and I now know what to look for when he gets sick. 

All this said, it just refocused me.  When I had to run into work after the doctor visit, the baby was grief-stricken.  This little time with them, it is so precious.  It is hard.  I'm not saying it's not hard - it is SO hard.  But it is precious.  And everything should be prioritized around that.  Not to your detriment, of course, but I I must be mindful that a lot of the mayhem going around right now is of my own making and my kids are going to suffer if I don't regroup a little bit. 

Yesterday morning, the eldest and I got to cuddle for a while in bed as he was the first one up.  He would say, "no kisses!," and I of course would smother him with tons of kisses and say, "LITTLE kisses!"  He would shout back, "BIG kisses," whereupon we would just smack each other all over with big slobbery kisses.  I tear up writing about it.  Last night, when the baby was sick, I laid in bed next to him until he fell asleep, and he laid there holding my hand and just rubbing his thumb back and forth over the top of my hand.  Heart. Melting.  Sweet precious sick baby rubbing my hand.  These wee ones need us so much.  Try to make sure you make sweet intimate positive treasured moments happen every single day.  The days are flying by.  


Monday, April 9, 2012

Triplets and A Duck

This post was originally entitled Easter Extravaganza.  But then I got an email today, and I couldn't resist using the punch line as my post title.  I was emailing a colleague about how nuts life is and mentioned our new baby duck (see more below), and she wrote back, "I can't even imagine … I have enough to manage just with myself let alone with triplets and a duck ;)"

Well, it really was a wonderful Easter!  I've written about how I truly love this holiday.  It's a chance to celebrate the central tenant of my faith and also spend time with friends and family.  Because of my love of the holiday, I have historically hosted family Easter lunches at our house.  I took a year off when the kids were infants, but I jumped back into hosting last year.  However, my hostessing talents were rusty and reduced, and while I'm not back 100% this year, I have made great strides in getting my entertaining groove back. 

I love love love to host events.  However, these events are usually EITHER kids events or adult events.  They are not kid-adult combo events.  But this Easter was most definitely a combo event - 11 children and 11 adults.  So tried to (a) mix up the decor so there was a little something for everyone, (b) do pot luck so I wasn't stuck roasting a lamb for four hours, (c) loosen up the schedule. 

First things first, before we all got gussied up and out the door for church (see here),
we kicked off the morning with Easter egg baskets and a pajama-ed up Easter egg hunt for just our kiddos (from the backyard to the garage with a grand finale in front). 

After wrapping up hunting and breakfast and cleaning up, we all arrived at church early and in time to get seats.  It was after church that the planned chaos ensued.  Here was the "adult" table decorated before everyone's arrivals (the place card crosses were decorated with input and help from the trio and the Easter lanterns hanging lit up):
We were fortunate that Bray's entire family could attend - both his parents, all three of his siblings and spouses, and all 11 Vincent grand kids.  My mom was able to be there as well and after my dad heard there were 11 kids there he said he wasn't all that sorry he missed!  We did have an additional uninvited, but quite welcome, guest.  A baby duck!  My niece received one from the Easter bunny and he waddled in to our celebration (outdoors of course).  The kids were smitten.  We filled the baby pool with a little water and it was all we could do to rip them away for lunch (note the duck in the front). 

After a hearty lunch, delicious because of the variety of contributors, one of my older nieces pitched in to help me hide OVER 150 eggs in our front yard.  With promises of buckets of eggs and cupcakes upon return, 9 of the 11 kiddos, ages 1 to 11, barrelled out into the front yard to collide with each other in the Great Vincent Egg Hunt of 2012.  It was a huge success, save an 11 year old's disappointment at finding some goldfish in an egg, and even involved a few recycled eggs to hunt to prolong the festivities.

The biggest surprise of the day was that my sister-in-law did not want to return to Austin with their new baby Easter duck.  This was met with great delight from my children, but possibly less so from me.  It is cute, but it is also pretty darn messy and a little co-dependent to boot.  Nevertheless, we now are the proud owners of Doo-Dah the Duck.  Hence my earlier email conversation.  Bray's building the little fellow a home.  How is it that the man that won't let us get a dog has very easily settled into us having a duck as a pet?  So I introduce to you, Doo-Dah Vincent: 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Madness, Part 2

As promised, here's the second installment in the Easter enchilada I've experienced this time around with toddlers.  Now that you have an intimate experience of Easter egg stuffing, let me direct you to the more Martha Stewart-y portions of the festivities. 

My two closest encounters came in the form of: Easter bonnets and rice krispie treat eggs.  I have a bit of Martha Stewart in me when it comes to entertaining.  Before children, I was actually quite the hostess.  I love stationary and spend hours designing invitations with color schemes and fonts (even now I do that with the kids party invites).  I love china and collect napkin rings and appreciate my wedding crystal and linens.  I do up the house for everything from my mom's 60th birthday party to an Easter lunch.  However, this all was put away when the trio arrived.  (We'll return to what this Sunday's Easter lunch will look like momentarily.) 

HOWEVER, I am not "crafty."  I do not own a hot glue gun.  I do not scrapbook.  I don't even understand the crafty process.  So you can imagine my head spinning when I was instructed that this Monday the kids, including the boys, had to come to school with decorated Easter bonnets to parade to chapel.  I really didn't want to be that mom that didn't try, but I was a bit baffled about what to do.  I was even more frightened when the kids' teacher told me, "some of the moms really go all out."  So I went to Target this weekend, because I had to get pull-ups and Annie's bunnies and did not have time for a separate trip to Michael's, and bought hats, Easter stickers, and some silk flowers and green twiggy looking things (I figured if there were flowers on the boys hats, Bray would leave me).  The stickers would not stay stuck, the flowers/twigs wouldn't pin on, and here it was 8 pm on Sunday night before the 9 am Monday morning parade.  Luckily, my same friend who was stuffing eggs with me also jumped in to help me affix items to the hats.  She warily eyed the green berry twigs sprouting forth from the boys hats.  She tentatively inquired, "this isn't what you wanted is it?"  I brightly answered, "yes!"  Because it was.  I thought they'd look like trees.  Here's the hats in the Easter parade, judge for yourself (oh, and I threw in a picture of a random kid whose mother clearly IS crafty so you can see what I was up against): 
The eldest parading - front view

His hat from the back, with classmates

The baby parading - front view
His hat from the back

Little lady heading out of chapel - back hat
Little lady from the front

Ridiculous overachieving moms hats
The chapel parade (click the pics to see bigger view)
Having polished up the harrowing Easter egg stuffing and bonnet making, the following night I was confronted by a new snack challenge.  For every school party the kids have had, I sign up to bring fruit: (a) it doesn't take much time, (b) I do a pretty phenomenal homemade fruit tray (reds & greens for Christmas, etc.).  Well, some mom got to the sign-up sheet SECONDS after it was activated and beat me to the fruit.  Which left me with yogurt and a "treat."  I'd recently seen, and had been shown by both my assistant and mom, where you can make rice krispie treats in empty plastic eggs and then after you extricate the treat from the interior of the egg you hide M&Ms in the middle, put the top & bottom of the treat egg together, and WAALAH, the kids have a surprise in their rice krispie treat egg. 

This is not physically possible.  There was some intense photo shopping involved in the writing/photographing of that article.  My best friend had warned me (when I called her from the grocery store to find out what the ingredients ARE to rice krispie treats - and I knew it involved rice krispies), that they were sticky and that I should use wax paper when pressing the treats into the plastic eggs.  What. Ever.  I had super-glue-like rice krispies stuck all over me before I even GOT to pressing them into the eggs.  And then getting them OUT of the eggs.  I am so sure.  It came out looking like a pile of dung.  So, I did what any self-respecting mother would do.  I spread them out all on a tray.  I pressed little pastel marshmallow ducks or bunnies or something in the middle of the squares once they were cut.  Then I called them "nests."  Here's a shot of me in action (which Bray obligingly took knowing this would make it into a post): 

I'm exhausted.  You probably are too.  I'll write about Easter lunch later.  I'm going to rework my Easter plan next year, this is nuts.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Madness,Part 1

I love Easter.  It is one of my favorite times all year.  Most importantly because of what we have a chance to celebrate.  The whole season culminates with Christ is Risen!  What a wonder that we have time once a year to reflect on the sacrifice Christ made for us and the miracle that followed. 

I also love the spring all around you at Easter time - particularly this year with everyone posting photos of bluebonnets and daisies.  And now that we have toddler triplets, we're in the thick of the Easter bunny/ Easter egg merriment as well. 

However, all that bunny/egg business is one big enchilada.  I had no idea.  It is SUCH a cheesy mess of activities wrapped in a tortilla of Martha Stewart-ness that this post had to be a two-parter so I didn't wear you out in a single post. 

Let's focus for a bit on the eggs.  Weekend before last we had the neighborhood Easter egg hunt.  This is the only hunt (of the five I will write about - I am not kidding, FIVE) that didn't involve me stuffing and bringing eggs.  A relief I thought initially.  Oh. No.  First of all, it was the neighborhood hunt.  One at which we are the only set of triplets and among people that are not our close friends.  I am a tad on the competitive side.  My children MAY have inherited that. 

So off they careened, pell-mell, in opposite directions, scooping up as many eggs as possible in the 1 - 3 year old category (since they were near the top of that age bracket, they had a decided advantage over last year).  After uneven results going to the Easter bunny to thank him for our eggy goodness, we plopped down on the ground to enjoy our bounty.  And what were in the 1-3 year olds eggs you ask?  Jawbreakers.  Lemonheads.  Taffy.  I kid you not.  This is why bringing your own eggs isn't a terrible burden (a little effort versus massive choking hazards).  I figure this is the last year I have where the kids do not obsess over the fact that their candy disappeared (and I gave up sugar for Lent, so they disappeared into the trash can). 

So that takes me to the "bring your own egg hunts."  From what I can tell, and this is really my first year at it, the rule of thumb is 12 eggs a kid.  The stores should make smaller baskets.  This means, for each bring your own hunt, I'm responsible for 36 stuffed eggs.  The hunt yesterday was for our moms of multiples group.  Because of the multiplier that creates, the hunt areas were divided roughly into one year sub-groupss which made the hunt more competitive but less interesting because the hunting area was SO small.  In this round, after I was up Saturday night prepping eggs, outfits, snacks and the like for the effort, the kids were less about quantity and more about QUALITY.  While I had initially been concerned about the effort it would take to constrain them to 12 eggs, it was all for naught.  They opened each egg they picked up to see if there was something "good" inside.  (Aka, something they could immediately squirrel away in their mouth.)  It was all we could do to get them to 12 eggs before they disappeared - smart kids. 

Last night, my girlfriend Natalie came over and we stuffed MORE eggs.  Thirty-six for today's Easter egg hunt at their school, and then 120 for the Easter egg hunt I'm hosting at our house for the kids and six other nieces and nephews (following roughly the 12 egg rule - and hoping it doesn't get me into trouble).  I didn't realize the sheer QUANTITY of eggs that would be involved in this two week season, so of course I had to pay extra for expedited shipping from the fabulous Oriental Trading this week in order to get an assortment of stuffed animals, rubber ducks/chicks, cross painted Easter eggs (trying to inject a bit of remembrance during this free-for-all), and other assorted stuffing goodies. 

Stick with me Thursday (we'll take a break for Wordless Wednesdays) to see how this saga ends.  It involves making Easter bonnets for boys, a disastrous attempt at egg rice krispie treats, and Easter meal planning for 22.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Triplet Tips

A dear friend of mine emailed me this week and told me her friend was pregnant with triplets.  Then she asked, "have any tips?"  If you're a triplet momma, then you know the floodgates of your mind open up and you think of about a million tips in 60 seconds that you'd give expectant mothers of multiples.  So that made me think I should write it all down and refer those sweet moms whose heads are spinning here when I'm asked next time.  This list is by no way comprehensive, and I welcome comments to supplement it with stuff you moms of multiples found particularly helpful.  The tips below are what stick with me most two-and-a-half years later.

1.  Purchase Must Haves.  Now, you can ask a dozen MOMs, and get a dozen different answers.  There are a few commonalities and these are my favorites:

More burp cloths than you can imagine. My rule of thumb is 10 per baby otherwise you’ll be washing clothes every night. Ditto for bibs (it’s just that the high usage numbers don’t kick in for a few months).
Swings and bouncy seats. We had three of each. For swings, we borrowed one and bought two used. These things are so expensive, good used condition is perfectly acceptable. For bouncies, we were fortunate enough to have three given to us in baby showers (they're a good price point for showers). The babies’ favorite was one called Little Lamb which vibrated, was super soft, and played calming tunes. We also got the infant-to-toddler rocker which they loved as they got a little bit bigger.
Other gear: We had two pack-n-plays, and used one for home and one for travel. The kids napped and slept in their bouncies when they were tiny and in their beds when they were bigger. We used the playyard for an additional changing table and an additional space for them to play. Bumbos - people love or hate these, but we used them all the time because we had late sitters (we never used the trays). And though we didn’t use it for six months, go ahead and register for three of those small high chairs that sit in your kitchen table chairs. They save so much space and we still use ours.
Narrow infant car seats (don’t start with the convertible ones, odds are the babies will be too small to go home in them from the hospital). Then you can fit three across the car. We loved Chicco Key Fit 30. Strollers are a disaster, but our best option was one double and one single Snap-N-Go stroller that we could just sit the Chicco car seats in so as not to wake the babies if we got lucky enough that they fell asleep in the car. These strollers are light-weight and compact, a must when space is at a premium. 
For sleeping, we had convertible cribs. It’s nice because they were adorable for the babies, and now we can still use the same beds for toddlers. Get three sheets per bed, we loved the knit ones, and get a stack of receiving blankets (you’ll use them everywhere you go). Some folks swear by the sheet savers, but we never used them. However, we did love sleep sacks. We started with swaddlers the first few months and then switched to sleep sacks for the next few months. Both are great for baby showers.
For feeding, we had plenty of bottles. We got both 4 and 8 ounce Dr. Brown’s bottles but borrowed a bunch of the four ounce ones because you use them for such a brief period of time. And if you plan to breast feed, plan on renting the double electric breast pump from the hospital - it saves a ton of time. You can get a great handsfree pumping bra from the Motherhood website that’s endorsed by La Leche, and I would sit in front of the babies and pump while I patted them and sang to them in their little bouncy chairs. That bra and pump saved me a million times by allowing me the use of my hands. (If only they also rented an EXTRA hand!)
·        My absolute number one favorite thing of all time – Triplet Calendar.  I would have died without this (I used one for nine months after the babies came home).  Different medicines and amounts for bottles and remembering who had gone to the bathroom, ugh!  I would have never kept it straight had it not been for this gem.  (Plus, if you end up going back to work, you can see how they did during the day).  Also, there are colored rubber “bands” called inchbugs I used on all my bottles to track each child’s bottle.

2.  Action Must Dos.  I got so caught up in the lists and the tracking because I'm a bit of a control freak.  No one needs to go as overboard as I did, but there are a few things you should definitely incorporate as you prepare. 

Eat a ton of food. Healthy food, but you should allow yourself some mega-calorie intakes. I know so many of us worry about our weight, but I read a lot of books on nutrition and gaining weight in those first two trimesters is key to get the weights of your little ones higher. I gained 100 pounds, and was enormous, but at 32 weeks 5 days all of our babies were over four pounds and went straight to Level 2 NICU (instead of Level 3). FYI, I’d lost all of the weight by their first birthday.
Tour your hospital’s NICU. This is a tough one. We actually had to get our doctor’s order to be admitted. But we toured both Level 2 and Level 3 and I was so glad we had after the babies arrived. Schedule the tour early, in case you’re placed on bedrest, and ask questions. We found out that I wouldn’t be able to see the babies for 12 hours after my c-section, so we know going into my delivery that Bray would leave with the doctors to follow the babies up to the NICU so he could give me a firsthand account. I was prepared for him to leave me in the delivery room, but it would have been hard to make that decision in the moment. We also knew what to expect, what machines looked like, and what those first few hours might contain. We cried after the tour, but in the end it helped prepare us.
Take it easy. Please don’t overdo. We’re busy women with lots to do, but when you are told to rest, rest. Fortunately, I was not put on bed rest until 26 weeks, but once I was, we moved a hospital bed into our living room along with a hospital wheeled-tray. I stayed there all day, worked on my computer or watched t.v., and at night I slept in our bedroom. I had already set up the nursery before my bedrest stint so I knew that things were ready for the trio and I could focus on cooking them. I stayed in the hospital for 10 days before the babies were born and obeyed my doctor. This is not a time to take on extra responsibility or activity.
·        Say yes to help.  I’m pretty independent and have never been crazy about accepting help.  If you’re like me, then make an exception.  Many people offered to help, and I was instructed to tell them yes.  We used the Care Calendar website which my assistant and best friend ran and organized.  Folks signed up for meals or grocery runs or laundry help.  That support system the first couple of months the babies were home helped us survived the transition (and eat). 

3.  Emotional Might Expects.  I realize this is incredibly personal and varies dramatically from mom to mom.  Some higher order multiple moms take all of their babies home when they leave the hospital and some never have the chance to take their babies home.  We are incredibly blessed to have three precocious two year olds, but we were in the NICU with the boys for four weeks and with baby girl for five weeks. We went through two close calls that shaved years off of our lives.  The one real take away is to give yourself permission to feel whatever you're feeling. Don't worry about anyone else beside your little family during this time of pregnancy and the months following the births. 
It’s okay to feel isolated or become isolated. I didn’t speak to anyone besides Bray, and sometimes my mom, during the NICU weeks. Lots of kind people called and tried to help, but I was so worried about the babies. I felt no one could understand what I was going through besides Bray. I leaned very heavily on him during that time and we grew incredibly close as we walked through the dark valley.
It’s okay to feel scared. I’ve written about a few of our near misses, with the baby’s breathing stopping and little girl’s infection, and I was terror stricken. That time can be so completely out of your control and your comfort zone, and it’s unnerving. Take a deep breath and say a prayer.
It’s okay to feel disconnected. I thought I would feel this overwhelming sense of love and connection to the babies the second I laid eyes on them. But when I was wheeled up the NICU and met them, I didn’t immediately connect to each of them. This of course led to terrible guilt because I didn’t turn into a momma bear in a millisecond, but apparently lots of moms run into this. You’ve just been through, what may have been, a rough pregnancy. Possibly a rough delivery. Likely you’re still hopped up on strong pain medicine. The connection comes. So don’t beat yourself up. I sat by their little isolettes each day and pumped milk to give to them, and read them books, and held them against my skin, and the overwhelming unconditional love and gratitude came.
It’s okay to feel like you won the lottery. I think sometimes I felt like I needed to temper our absolute utter delight over these little creatures because not every mother of multiple has been as fortunate as we have. But Bray and I still look at each other and smile and our hearts jump up in our chests over the sheer joy we feel over having these angels in our lives (not all the time mind you, they’re two, but definitely daily). And after all of the above emotions we’ve experienced, this is a perfectly appropriate feeling too.

PS - A couple of great things I remembered after first publishing.  Sock away some money for a night nanny.  Ours saved our lives after the babies came home from the NICU and we weren't going to be using our vacation money any time soon.  Also, get plug in adapters for your battery swings to save some big money on replacing D batteries.