An Attitude of Gratitude

This has been a wild and crazy fall. The sweet, sandy days of summer are long behind us, and the frantic pace of September’s start-of-school hasn’t let up yet, despite the fact that we are closing in on December. The transition from September to October was so busy that we forgot to update our calendar for a full week. It’s a wonder anyone got to where they were supposed to be. But if I’m being honest, that fact is a wonder most days. Even with a carefully crafted calendar (or three).

For a long time, the simple logistics of going anywhere with three toddlers (much less going in different directions) was too much to navigate. But now, in the height of preschoolerhood, we can count ninja class, sports class, and musical theater class among our ever-growing list of activities. Because, you know, it’s important for little people to individuate. And when you have three little people, that means three individual activities. Add in swimming (an essential life skill if you’re going to spend your summers on Long Island at Nana’s) and soccer (because…have you met their dad?) for everyone, and suddenly, we are one of those Upper East Side families whose preschoolers’ schedules are more complicated (okay, not really…) than their parents’.

 

 

Top that with a Manhattan kindergarten admissions process times three, and well, I probably don’t need to say much more.

Amidst our busy schedules, we’ve had a fair amount of heartbreak and stress this season. In the past three months we’ve lost two people near and dear to our hearts. In the past two weeks, we’ve spent two nights in the hospital. We’ve managed two terrible cases of croup (when will they grow out of this?!?!), two x-rays and one broken arm. We’ve been to the pulmonologist, the endocrinologist, and the allergist. And we’ve endured an awful lot of poking and prodding for flu shots, blood draws, and IV medications. Not to mention about a thousand colds.

But we’ve also had about a thousand adventures. I can’t describe them all here or even post all the pictures, and I doubt you’d have the patience to scroll through them all anyway. Perhaps I should try to be a bit more regular about this whole blogging thing? But here’s just a taste (seriously, this doesn’t even begin to cover it!) of all the adventures we’ve been lucky enough to have over the past few crazy busy months.

We’ve fed the animas at the Bronx Zoo, seen the Statue of Liberty up close, and explored the many exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History.

We’ve run around just about every playground in Manhattan, chased bubbles in Central Park, and spent countless hours at the New York Public Library.

We’ve eaten a ton of cheeseburgers and two tons of French fries.

And we’ve located nut-free donuts. Only two subway rides away from home.

We’ve played a hundred board games and done a thousand crafts.

We’ve enjoyed getting lost in the ball pit at The Color Factory, trying on witch hats at “The Craft Store,” and watching the trains race by at Grand Central. And most of all, we’ve enjoyed each other.

And then every night (okay, not every night…see our crazy schedules above) when we sit around the dinner table together, we each list two things: 1) Our favorite part of the day and 2) One thing we are grateful for.

In the midst of all that is crazy and busy and hard and sad, we insist on an attitude of gratitude. You may already know I’m a bit of a gratitude fanatic. You may have seen my Friday Five social media posts. You may know that I force my sixth grade homeroom students to partake in the Friday Five practice on a weekly basis.

What you may not know is that this attitude of gratitude does not come naturally to me. I’m a glass half-empty kind of gal. I’m an “expect the worst, hope for the best” kind of worrier. My childhood drama teacher used to have to beg me to smile when I got on stage to play the ingenue. “I’ll smile on opening night,” I’d say.” And then, I wouldn’t really. (Sorry, Helene)! My tennis instructor used to call me “Smiley Gillespie,” his tone tongue-in-cheek, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.

It turns out, even for those of us who have a million reasons to be grateful every day, this gratitude business is pretty difficult. One of my students asked the other day, “Can we list the things we’re not grateful for instead?” “Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “Because it’s easier.”

Yeah, kid, you’re right. It IS easier to recite our long list of gripes each day. To dig into all that is frustrating, exhausting, unpleasant, or even downright miserable. To complain or whine or wallow. But that’s the point of a gratitude practice, isn’t it? To retrain your brain to see the bright side? To look for the silver linings among the cloudy skies?

It still takes some effort for me, particularly when we’re having the kind of fall we’ve been having, but at the top of my gratitude list is the fact that my kiddos are learning early that being grateful is going to be the norm in our family. Even if it takes a little effort and reflection.

And then scanning through our photos and looking back on all the memories we made this fall, I’ve found about a hundred other reasons to be grateful.

I am also so very grateful for the friends and family (not pictured here) who have lifted us up and supported us during difficult times. The ones who check in via text twenty times a day to see how we’re hanging in. The ones who reach out in the middle of the night when they see we’re in the hospital and ask what they can do. The ones who stay at our home past midnight, holding down the fort so that Will and I don’t have to divide and conquer for the really hard things. The ones who come by on a Friday with pizza, or wine, or dogs. The ones who ask over and over and over, at work and at home, “How can I help?”

We Strumolos aren’t big on asking for help. All five of us could probably stand to shore up our self-advocacy skills. But what we know is that if we do ask for help, we’ve got an army of people ready and willing to pitch in. And that? Well that’s is pretty freaking awesome.

I am grateful for our family, near and far. And as I type this, I am especially grateful for Nana and Grumples who are hosting our kiddos for Thanksgiving this year, while we fly across the country to surprise the other half of our family. I’m grateful for Henry, Jack, and Sophie who didn’t bat an eyelash when they heard we’d be skipping out on Thanksgiving in Southampton, and went to bed last night saying, “Love you, Mommy. See you Saturday!”‘And I am grateful for the members of Strumolo clan who helped coordinate our surprise trip out to Seattle (and of course for those members who were out in Seattle waiting to be surprised)! I am grateful for the chance to celebrate birthdays and meet our nephews. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m grateful for six hours on a plane to read, to blog, and to soak up a little peace and quiet, even if it is from 35,000 feet up.

It is apropos that I am especially grateful today, but I aim to cultivate an attitude of gratitude daily. So for all of you reading this who have helped make this fall a little more bearable, thank you.

I may not say it enough, but for you, I am

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Skating Party 2017 – Sophie and Henry’s first time on ice skates

Another skating party in the books. Arguably the hardest one to date, but also the most memorable…first time on skates for these kiddos (2 out of 3 at least)!

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Every day I am reminded that as they grow up, some things get easier and some things get harder.

We made it there (and back) in the wagon thanks to some navigational assistance from Google Maps and a trusted colleague.

We only spilled one cup of hot chocolate, and it mostly missed Maggie’s purse.

We ate brownies.

We stayed up way past our bedtime.

And of course, we have no photos of the skating because the child-to-adult-ratio is still a little mismatched for these very wobbly beginners.

On our way home, Henry, Jack, and Sophie marveled at what it was like to be outside “in the middle of the night.”

They shared their observations about the colors of the sky:

“Why is it sort of brown here?…It’s black when we’re at Nana’s and Grammie’s.”

“Look at it now. It’s more blue and purple here.”

They asked a thousand questions:

My favorite was, “Where did the city go?” as we wandered through Central Park.

And they reflected on the best parts of their evening:

“My favorite part was the brownie, and when [Daddy] carried me around.”

“My favorite part was the hot chocolate and the brownie.”

“My favorite part was all of it. Because I loved all of it.”

And because we’re sharing favorite moments, I’ll share mine. As we were making our way out, into Central Park in the “middle of the night,” and we ran into a parent of some former students of mine. “Oh, what a wonderful thing!” she exclaimed. “It’s a wagon full of Strumolos!” And she snapped this quick photo, our only “memory” of the night.

I don’t know how much longer Will and I will be carting along a wagon full of Strumolos, but I know I’ll be glad to look back at this photo and remember what it was like to pile our kids into the back of our Radio Flyer wagon and wander through Central Park in “the middle of the night.”

It was an epic adventure for just a few minutes on the ice, and I was reminded that I can, when necessary (and it was necessary), still carry two of these rascals at a time, ice skates, helmets, and all.

 

#thedaysarelongbuttheyearsareshort

First Day of Group 3

 

It’s here! (Actually, by the time I post this, it’s come and gone), but Henry, Jack, and Sophie’s first day of Group 3 at Episcopal finally arrived. They are SOOOOOO excited! I realize this picture probably doesn’t convey their excitement, but they had been waiting outside for about ten minutes at that point. They were, understandably after all these days, a bit impatient. They literally asked, “Is today the day we are going to school?” Every. Single. Day. Since we got back to NYC.

I’m pretty excited too because a little over three decades ago, I had my first day at Episcopal. Some of my earliest memories are from my classroom and teachers there, and I am so thrilled Henry, Jack, and Sophie will start making their own this year.

There’s is a VERY gradual separation schedule, so it will be a while before the kiddos experience their “full” day of three hours at school (they are SO ready!). In the meantime, they are enjoying meeting their teachers, making new friends, and learning all about Episcopal. Or “Ecispocal,” as Sophie sometimes calls it .

The later start date meant I had extra time to make their “First Day of School” chalkboards. My first instinct was to just purchase these on Etsy, but like everything else times three, it was so dang expensive. So then I thought, I’ll make my own! But that initially proved too complicated and time consuming (mostly because I couldn’t decide on the materials/find what I wanted). But then, after hemming and hawing (and wasting way too much time browsing the internet for the perfect solution…what else is new?) I bit the bullet. And here’s what I came up with:

Pros: I can reuse these every year by just erasing the chalk markers and updating the information. Also, the kids (kind of) helped make them. They chose the colors (and the order of the colors…if I had my way it would all be a lot more coordinated). Then they helped find the stickers I needed. See what I did there? I made a fun craft project with Mom into a lesson in letter recognition and spelling. Always a teacher…

For what it’s worth, the kids also managed to mess up some of the chalk before we took the photos (oh, and they LOST Henry’s board the DAY SCHOOL STARTED). These are NOT small boards, people. How it got LOST in this two bedroom apartment of ours is anybody’s guess, but if you guessed triplet toddlers + tiny apartment + two working parents + start of school = hot mess at the Strumolo abode, you guessed right. We found it later hiding behind a side cabinet.

I guess you could say those were the cons: it can (and probably will) be erased and it can (and probably will) get lost. But that last one is a con for just about everything in this apartment, so it doesn’t really count. The other con is probably that these aren’t as cute and coordinated as the ones on Etsy, but hey, at least they’re homemade, right?

I used these chalkboards, these stickers, and these chalk markers. For a grand total of less than $60. This probably still sounds expensive to most of you, seriously, check Etsy. That stuff is adorable, but boy… Also, I needed chalkboards that would be big enough to fit all of the things I wanted to add. That is harder to find than one might think. Or at least than I might think.

Speaking of fitting all the things I wanted to add, I realize you probably can’t read all those things in the small photos above, so here they are one at a time:

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And because Jack thought it would be important to have a photo altogether, there’s this. It only took about fifty tries, and this is the best we got. #triplets

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First Day of School

September 13. 2016

It is hard to believe that Henry, Jack, and Sophie have started school already. Their transition into the two’s program has been nice and slow. Thirty minutes the first day, forty-five minutes the next, and so on. On Tuesday (October 11), they will have their first “full” day: three hours from 8:45 – 11:45 a.m.

They go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and though they are clearly having a lot of fun there, they are still a little reluctant to say good-bye to Daddy when it’s time to go in.

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Jack’s job is to help Daddy push the stroller (he rides on the boogie board on the back…thanks, Grace!) and Henry’s job is to deliver the empty paper towel rolls to Miss Nancy, Miss Jean, or Miss Alyssa when he arrives. Sophie generally hops from Daddy’s arms to Miss Callie’s or Miss Yvonne’s, but we’re working on it. The babies help.

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A gallery of their artwork over the course of the month shows some common themes.

September 15: 

September 20:

October 4:

In the month of September, they learned all about the color red and celebrated on Red Day in their red threads.

They’ve also learned how to grocery shop, iron, and make dinner, so we’ll be outsourcing most of our household chores to the triplets in the near future.

October is orange and black month which is especially exciting because orange is Jack and Henry’s favorite color. We’re all excited for the Fall Festival next Friday!