Rob and I took Toby, Eleanor and Callista to see Frozen – their first theater movie – today, and the experience couldn’t have gone much better.
I’m amazed to have learned that, in a world full of technology, ETC were blown away by something as classic as a movie theater. I really shouldn’t be that surprised because if the technology were that obsolete, we wouldn’t fork over all the cash they demand these days. But when I think to the technology of my childhood and compare it with the technology of today, then the movie theaters of my childhood compared with the theaters of today … well, the technology differences are much greater. As far as movie theaters go, the only real change is screen size and stadium seating (plus sound and picture quality, but that’s the sort of thing that muddies in memory over time).
Anyhow. Regardless of our 42-inch flat screen TV at home. Their hands-on, on-demand favorite shows, the two times they’ve watched movies at our friends’ home theater – regardless of all that, I saw magic in my kids’ eyes today.
Toby, who said, “Ooooh!” at the sprinkling of pixie dust over Cinderella’s castle in the familiar Disney logo.
Callista, whose eyes were big, glued to the screen the whole time and completely enamored.
Eleanor, who looked around wondering what was happening outside when she noticed the surround sound, then couldn’t turn back around because she saw the tiny version of the movie shining through the projector window.
I wanted to take pictures of my tiny people in the big, red chairs, but we got there during the opening trailers and waited too long for the lights to finally come up. I settled for a photo next to the movie’s poster outside the theater, realizing the size of my kids compared with the size of the chairs is just another thing that can change, as those chairs weren’t as luxe when I was their size.
It isn’t their size that I wanted to remember, after all. It was the look of joy that I couldn’t quite capture with the darkness of the theater but still glimmered to some extent as they walked out, still giddy from the excitement of such a big, independent experience.
If you’re taking your own tot to their first movie theater experience, here’s what worked for us:
- Eat right before you go. The fuller the belly, the less wiggly.
- Sneak in your own popcorn and snack cups that are easy for holding and refilling. We also brought their water bottles.
- For multiple kids and adults, flank the kids’ seats with your adults so wiggly little ones can get up occasionally (or, you know, test out different seats once or twice) but not escape or bump into anyone unfamiliar.
- Go during the week, during matinee hours. We saved $3.50 per ticket by going on a Thursday. With a family of five, that’s a lot. Plus, there were only two other families in the theater. We were able to distance ourselves so Eleanor’s occasional too-loud question or remark bothered no one and Toby’s five insisted potty breaks during the first 15 minutes didn’t leave me tripping over any strangers’ feet.
- Pick the right movie. Singing – and lots of it – is what ETC love most, so when I heard Frozen was “Broadway-y,” I knew this was the perfect first theater movie for them. They didn’t get bored once.
- Set your expectations low but hope for the best.
This photo is exactly how I first saw Callista, though the screen on my digital camera showing the photo Rob took before she left the operating room for the NICU was much smaller.
Guilt is a tricky thing. It’s something owned only by you, and no one else can touch it. No one else can soothe it, no one else can share it. No one else can talk you into letting it go.
I’m not even sure we can talk ourselves into letting our own guilt go. Just when I think mine has left, it drops by for a visit.
The day my triplets were born is a fog. I don’t remember much about the day, and most factual details I do remember is courtesy of others’ memories they’ve kindly shared. The things I remember are my own feelings.
Fear. I knew my water had broken the second it happen. I knew it even though I’d hoped I was wrong. I knew what it meant.
Pain. I had to focus on not lashing out on the nurse who did her job and kneaded my just-operated-on belly.
Purpose. I asked repeatedly until I was finally introduced to the breast pump. I welcomed my new chore with fervor.
Guilt. It drove everything else. It sprang from the fear. It helped sidestep the pain. It fueled my purpose at the pump.
There are few things I remember saying that day. I joked with Rob about his last chance to offer a suggestion for Toby’s name (he wasn’t sold on Tobias/Toby, but he never could think of anything “better.”), and I spelled out the names we’d chosen so he could share them with doctors/families/whatnot in case I couldn’t (spelling isn’t Rob’s thing). I repeatedly asked during the operation if I was doing okay. I had an overwhelming fear of bleeding out on the table courtesy of the gaping wounds left behind by three missing placentas. I’m not sure if the cause is medically accurate, but I know the bleeding is a thing. I was scared, and I kept asking for reassurance that I wasn’t currently dying. I told the nurse anesthetist that I felt like vomiting during said operation. Not scared-vomit feeling but actual, I’m-about-to-puke feeling.
But the thing I most strongly remember and the thing I know I said the most that day was “I’m sorry.” It tumbled out when I heard they were admitting me and beginning delivery preparations.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
At 28 weeks gestation, there’s an 80 percent chance of survival. Statistics say one thing, but experience says another. I’d mourned the loss of a friend’s 28-weeker just months earlier. Statistics didn’t mean anything to me that morning – that perfect, beautiful boy did.
Even if they survived, what life sentence had I just handed them with my failure to stay pregnant? What health issues would prematurity cause? What social issues? What if one were healthy and the others weren’t? What if one wasn’t healthy and the others were? How would my failure to carry them further affect their relationships with each other?
The births came four hours later, and the fears started being ticked away. They survived their actual births. Each fair (and later, good) health report in the days that followed helped ease some of the fear and guilt. Then each poor health report stoked the flames. For weeks, I was continually
surprised amazed by their survival. For months, I feared developmental standstills or setbacks. I still fear ADHD or ADD caused by premature birth.
I’ve let go most of my guilt. Looking back, I can’t see where I could have done better while pregnant. I honestly did my best to safely carry them. Once that ended, I did my best to make up for where my previous best fell short. In truth, I don’t know that I’ll ever give up that mission.
I don’t know what to say when I encounter other mothers with guilt over their own infertility/miscarriage/pregnancy/birth-related traumas. I don’t know what to say because I’ve tasted my own guilt, first with infertility and two early miscarriages then later with premature birth, and I know the uncontrollable urge to apologize, confess and own my role in what happened. My own guilt was eased and lessened with time thanks to good health, and I thankfully don’t know how it would have been different with different outcomes. Our guilt is personal, though, and while I know my own, I don’t know anyone else’s. So while I can’t say, “I know how you feel,” the best I can offer is “I know how I feel,” and turning the spotlight on yourself isn’t exactly proper etiquette when supporting a hurting person.
So I write this here, hoping my words might reach someone who would find camaraderie in my words, advice in being a friend or just extra empathy for humans in general.
Tobias, Eleanor and Callista, my loves,
Isn’t it strange how we measure our age? You’re three years old, but today marks the start of your fourth year. You’ll celebrate your fourth Thanksgiving next week, and we’ll start preparing for your fourth Christmas after that. Technically, this is even your fourth birthday, if we include your actual birth day.
Let’s just stick to 3 for now, okay?
So much has changed in the last year that I don’t even know where to start. You have certainly discovered your independence, and we all have strengthened our patience because of it – you included since you all like to try to help one another but don’t always like to receive help. One of your top requests lately is to say, “I want to do a helper,” which means you want to help me with something. You hover about my feet constantly, begging tasks off me. It can be great, but I always have to come up with three tasks so everyone has something to do, lest I am forced to break up a triplet-traffic accident as you all race to do the thing that was requested. We sometimes have individual, whispered “helper” jobs to
save my sanity sprinkle in the occasional individual activity.
I was taking one of you on a solo date once or twice a week earlier in your year, but these last six months have been ultra competitive, if that’s even the right word. Whatever it is, you aren’t happy unless you get to do the same thing(s) as each other pretty much rightthissecond. There’s often no convincing you that you’ll have a turn next week or that one experience is equal to them all. I always say I’ll try going back to solo dates (sorry, singleton parents – taking one 2-year-old in public is So! Easy!), but you continually shut it down. Maybe next time, right?
You love to talk about when you were tiny babies in the MICU (that’s right, it’s mick, like the mouse), but I think your time progression knowledge is skewed, since you like to tell me you’ll hold me when I’m a tiny baby in the MICU. You also tell me you’re going to cook dinner for me when you’re bigger, so not all future talk is wonky.
I’ve shared less of you with the world this year in some ways, writing only a little of your lives here, but I think I’ve done a fair job recording you in pictures and video. I just hope those can tell the stories I’ve been too busy to record or just too selfish to share. You’re my only babies, this is my only shot, and I hope I don’t have any regrets with balancing your privacy and my accounts.
Toby, you love: dancing, singing (you sing along to anything, even if you don’t know the words), hopping/jumping, coloring, reading, cuddles, your blankie (which has become my doctor, “Talk to Dr. Blankie, Mama.”), writing letters – especially T, stealing sips from any forbidden drink (fortunately no alcohol yet, but no coffee is safe), waving to people in public, any electronic device, “Doing work with my tools,” aka tapping/grabbing/touching things with your plastic hammer/wrench/pliers set, playing catch and playing pretend (school, going to the library/Ikea/Best Buy/Trader Joe’s). Your favorite foods are oatmeal and spaghetti (fa-deddy), and you’ll pretty much do anything for a treat, whether it’s fruit, candy or frozen yogurt tubes. You don’t like when I count or set timers in order to complete a task – you panic and get anxious – and you really don’t like being disciplined – it both makes you angry and sad.
Eleanor, you love: moving (jumping, skipping (which is more of a gallop, but who am I to take you down a peg?), dancing, running, wiggling, etc.), playing catch, kicking balls, doing somersaults, making noise (I don’t think you’re ever quiet) and sucking your fingers while rubbing your sheet as you fall asleep. You love to be on the go, and I worry that you don’t enjoy the moment because you’re forever asking what we’re doing next. You are the one most often at my feet in the kitchen, and you long for the day when you take over at the stove. You are the leader of your little pack, sometimes bending your knees and clapping your hands while saying, “Come here!” to your brother and sister. You always have ideas of what to do next while playing at home. On the flip side, you admire your sister and like to piggyback her decisions when your own indecisiveness makes us both give up. Whether it’s hair styles or food choices, Callista’s choices are often exactly what you didn’t know you wanted. You don’t like to be told no and will argue for a yes “But I really, really want/need ______”) until the cows come home or we give in, whichever comes first. You’re shy with people who aren’t familiar, and you sometimes refuse to sing or dance because we’re watching – not rudely, just coyly. Your favorite foods are spaghetti, scrambled eggs and any kind of fruit.
Callista, you love: coloring/drawing, singing, dancing, reading, doing things by yourself, playing quietly with dolls or stuffed animals, playing catch, cuddling, telling secrets (you just say, “ssssssss” in our ears), telling us how things are going to pan out (you always finish your presentation with, “all right?”), being at home, building blocks and playing dress-up. You are stubborn and sneaky, and there is no changing your mind. If you truly don’t want to do something, you don’t do it. Ever. You all started dance class this fall, and you cried about going for the first few weeks. You loved it once you were settled in class, but each journey out was full of tears and “I don’t like going to dance class.” You eventually got over the hump and found you loved it from start to finish. I have to nudge you a lot because of your stubborn ways, from dance class to new foods. I’m still able to convince you to try if I can tell you’re actually wavering, but it’s clear when that little foot goes down that my efforts are a lost cause. It must be nice to know yourself so well so early. Your favorite foods are spaghetti and bread – you’re a carb lover just like your mama.
You all are currently obsessed with watching the movie Mamma Mia, and I hear more ABBA music than I care to. I almost have the whole show memorized, and I certainly know the entire soundtrack. I continue to watch and listen, though, because getting those songs stuck in my head for days is worth watching you sing, dance and act out the scenes. You “play” Mamma Mia and often run through the house calling, “Sophie!” and you all have songs you’ve declared as your own – Toby loves Honey, Honey, Eleanor loves Super Trouper, and Callista loves Dancing Queen.
I’d say it’s been a rough year because it’s certainly been my most challenging, but it hasn’t been negative overall. There are days when I threaten to sell you to the circus (“But I don’t want to go to the circus!” – I’ve probably started a complex), but for all the crazy you put out, you squeeze all the love and happiness you can out of life, and I can’t say I’ve gone a day this year without you making me laugh and smile.
Being your mama is the best and biggest challenge I’ve ever received, but the pride in watching you grow and learn is the best and biggest reward I’ve encountered. I wish you a hearty congratulations on conquering three full years of life, and it’s my pleasure to lead you into your fourth and what I hope is the happiest yet.
All my love, forever and ever,
It’s no secret that I love books. If you didn’t already know that, you’re probably new here. Spoiler: I LOVE BOOKS!
I will usually choose to pick up a book before turning on the TV, but sometimes you just need to sit, relax and let the story tell itself to you. This is when books that have been adapted for film are precisely my cup of tea.
I squealed when The Hunger Games came to Netflix. I fell in love with the Swedish films based on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and still haven’t gotten to the books. And have you seen that they added Goosebumps and Baby Sitters Club? Those shows were so totally Jenny, The Middle School Years.
But enough about me. Passing on the love of books is probably in my top five priorities as a parent. (I’m estimating, so if you tick of five vitally important and responsible things, forgive me. I’m a reader – not a mathematician.) Reading to young triplets is no easy task. If I have the attention of all three, we can get through books with relative ease. If one goes astray, it’s likely the other one or two will follow, then distractions take over, and reading is frustratingly impossible.
Books-to-screen, enter stage right. Just as meeting a celebrity is exciting, being able to hold the book or story they’re watching come to life is thrilling for my little readers.
While it isn’t a specific story adaptation, ETC love seeing stories we’ve read become the focus of Super Why episodes.
Books like The Lorax come on the screen in vivid colors and sound, an experience totally different from what I can provide as their Seusstastic-attempting narrator.
Curious George is a regular favorite, and the number of available episodes means they’re always watching something “new” because it takes so long to get through the rotation.
Then there’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which we watched, read and did a craft for all on one rainy day. (Use an empty toilet paper roll to stamp out the body of a caterpillar, and have your artists color him in. Bigger kids can add their favorite caterpillar snacks to the masterpiece, but my 2.5-year-olds (at the time) were more than thrilled with making their own caterpillar.)
I thought I struck gold when I stumbled onto a collection of Scholastic children’s book adaptations. Classics like The Snowy Day and Is Your Mama A Llama are available next to new favorites like Click, Clack, Moo, How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?, I Stink! and Bark, George. These short, identical-to-the-book videos are my kids’ absolute favorites, as they can follow along while they’re watching the pictures move on the screen.
Last but not least, The Polar Express is back on Netflix now that we’re approaching the holiday season. While I’m not a big fan of the movie, I can certainly get behind it as a new tradition in our house. The book is magical, and the movie only enhances the experience for new generations of fans. Never mind their curmudgeon mother.
What are some of your favorite books-turned-videos?
p.s. Totally unrelated to books but equally smart and nerdy and amazing, Netflix just added Signing Time to its lineup. ETC started watching Baby Signing Time around 15 months old – later than the program intends – and they easily picked up signs, making our early communications much easier. We’ve continued with Signing Time DVDs we borrow regularly from the library, but Netflix just made my week by adding these, giving us 14 episodes at my fingertips rather than what’s available to borrow from the library. Happy, happy, happy!
As a Netflix Stream Team member, I was provided with a complimentary Apple TV device, and I receive free Netflix instant streaming service in exchange for sharing relevant topics and messages with you and your family. All opinions expressed on ActualJenny.com are 100 percent my own – those cannot be bought!
I’m cracking up at the juxtaposition of “My Mommy’s Milk,” something that always made me smile when filling these bags with breast milk, and the brown liquid I filled them with today, quite obviously not breast milk.
I have several unused bags left over from my 22 months of pumping, and they’ve gone ignored for the most part, tucked away in a cabinet corner and nearly forgotten except for the times I’ve found myself low on storage containers and not thrilled with the idea of gallon-size storage bags.
Like today. Chicken stock fills them today, and I filled two recently with leftover smoothie I couldn’t bare to toss. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?
I'm starting book 67 of 2013, a book recommended by NPR. (I'm short on my 75-book goal. I don't count rereads toward my annual total, but for quantity's sake, I just might break my rule. Cheating? Maybe.)
They get first dibs. #triplets
I had to return 2 library books & accidentally left with another #LibraryHaul to go with the one at home. Oops. Can we say, "addicted?" ❤️
First movie theater experience: check plus plus plus!
Tea, obviously. (I meandered into World Market on Black Friday & ended up being one of the first 100 shoppers. Free mug, huzzah!)
"Come sit on my lap, Buddy!" #triplets #BFF
Real life. My amazing juggling act falters when I'm called to cuddle my sick babies. 2/3 are on the mend, but they're flanking me while I hold the third in my lap. Spot the piles of clean laundry! The forgotten toys! The stalled ornament hanging! The tote
They're impressed with the tree lights. ✨
I found the big-kid ragamuffins wandering the Christmas tree lot, thought they'd look cute in a photo. #latergram #triplets
I might give him a hard time for his Monica Geller approach to life (rubber gloves & perfectly positioned chairs), but Rob does a great job rigging up these lights. I just wonder how creative his swears will be this year.
Jammies, juice, popcorn & movie. Welcome to our weekend. Not pictured: frequent coloring breaks, fevers, occasional vomit & countless boogie wipes.
Before I take my sick self to bed, I have to share the pretty custom necklace I ordered from @meganluvsjewels! Ruby for me, aquamarine for Rob, & citrine for ETC. Merry Christmas to meeeee! #smallbusinesssaturday #smallbizsaturday
They always play like this. #liesalllies #triplets
This magic moment #triplets
I first held Eleanor 3 years ago today. Maybe I shouldn't continue writing about things that happened 3 years ago, but ETC's birthday & #PrematurityAwarenessMonth always make November a month of reflection for me. And to be honest, I still feel the effect
As a kid who sucked her thumb entirely too long, I find Callista's bed-only thumb-sucking habit encouraging. That doesn't mean I don't feel the warm fuzzies when she sneaks in a fix in my view when tired or sick, like today. A mild cold, a sleepy day, a c
"Everybody say, 'Cookies!'" #triplets
Couch snuggs. E in my lap, T at my side, holding my hand.