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

So Thankful

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

I know. This post is LONG overdue. But I’m posting it anyway, because we have an awful lot to be thankful for, and because I think I’ll be glad we have a Thanksgiving 2015 post someday.

We spent Thanksgiving in Islip with Grammie’s side of the family, a long-standing tradition for Will (and at this point, for me!), but a first for Henry, Jack, and Sophie. This meant lots of family, lots of food (though let’s be honest, these kiddos just ate mac ‘n cheese like it was any other Thursday), and lots of fresh air and wide open spaces. With the weather as warm as it was, we took full advantage of the immediate access to the outdoors. How different from our city lives!

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If you look closely, you’ll see two kiddos running around on this glorious afternoon. The third one is in the bushes around the corner. I think they were playing Hide-and-Seek. 

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So. Much. Space!

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Islip also offered several toys of the ride-on variety. This ride-in was especially popular. Three Cozy Coupes in our future? Not in this Manhattan apartment!

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Jack loves his “projects.” This one involved moving all the pumpkins he could carry from one spot to another. And no, he didn’t move those big ones on his own, but it wasn’t for lack of trying!

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Surveying his handy work. A job well done.

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Sophie and Mama running around on the lawn.

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A tunnel of trees!

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Thanksgiving is also a great time for family photos and potential Christmas card poses. 

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Some were more successful than others.

Thanksgiving 2015

Does the one at the top look familiar to anyone?

    So, what was I thankful for this Thanksgiving? Well, I can’t imagine this will be an exhaustive list, but here’s a start:

  • I’m thankful for three healthy, happy kiddos who can laugh, run, and play.
  • I’m thankful for my partner-in-crime, Will, who makes this crazy life we live more manageable, more organized, and more enjoyable (almost) every day 🙂
  • I’m thankful for our family and friends who help in more ways than I can count here, in particular, for Grammie who helps out every Thursday; for Aunt Linden, Uncle Scott and Esme who frequently send over the world’s BEST mac ‘n cheese; for Gee and Poppy who entertain Henry, Jack, and Sophie almost weekly, and who saved all of those ride-on toys and other Islip goodies for this generation; for Aunt Addie Rose who FaceTimes with us regularly and often gets us through the witching hour; for Nana (who does the same) and who keeps us entertained with the latest toys and looking sharp in the latest outfits, and who is always there in a pinch for babysitting; for Aunt Hartley for serving as our private on-call physician, and for Noah and Lily who provide endless hours of entertainment through the iPad; for Elizabeth for always asking, “What can I do to help?”; for Karen for her text messages and commiseration about how exhausting it is being a working parent of toddlers; and for Grace for coming every Wednesday, being flexible, and for constantly thinking of these three kiddos (and their parents) even though she’s got a family of her own; and for all of the aunts and uncles (Lizzie, Andrew, Peter, Jen, and Joe–and that’s just one generation!) and the grandpas (Nonno and Grumples) for helping out when we come to visit, and for making our three kids feel like they are special and they are loved whenever they are around. If I missed anyone on this list, please forgive me. The fact that the list is so long speaks to just how much love and support we have in our lives, and we have every bit as much gratitude for the people who bring it to us.
  • I’m thankful for our wonderful nanny, Diana, who loves these three monkeys as much as we do and keeps them fed, clean, and happy whenever we are at work.
  • I’m thankful to work at a place where I feel supported, and to have colleagues and administrators who understand “family first,” and who understand that parenting three toddlers is sometimes unpredictable.
  • And most of all, I am thankful for the laughter. My own, the laughter that surrounds me when I’m in the company of good friends, and the laughter of Henry, Jack, and Sophie, which usually starts at around 6:40 am, and doesn’t stop until bedtime (and sometimes, it doesn’t stop even then).
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Oh, and I’m thankful for sunsets.

2015-11-26 15.04.10Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay tuned for our Christmas adventures…