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

Dance Like No One Is Watching

This girl. She dances like no one is watching, she sings like no one is listening (although I think she secretly hopes we all are), and she carries joy in her heart and spreads it wherever she goes.

After several blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep, and just hours before our road trip to VA to visit the cousins, her coughing began. In the grand scheme of things, last night’s breathing battles were pretty minimal. No albuterol needed (until 5AM this morning, that is), no trip to the hospital, no oxygen mask. But a sleepless night is a sleepless night, and a persistent and wheezy cough for a kid with asthma is always a bit unsettling.

Still, this girl jumped out of bed at 5AM, a smile on her face and only one concern: “If I go to Noah and Lily’s and I’m sick there, I will give Noah and Lily my germs.”

I am inspired by her concern for others, her ability to choose joy in the face of her frustrations, and her incredible zest for life.

Her latest catch phrase is, “This is going to be SO great.” This adventure, this Magna-Tile house, this waffle, you name it. Whatever it is, it’s going to be SO great. Especially if Sophie has anything to do with it. We are t-minus two hours from the cousins’ house, albuterol and inhaler in hand, and I can already tell: it’s going to be SO great.

The Miracles of Modern Medicine

The past ten days have been rough. It started last Tuesday night with a midnight trip to the ER, a dose of racemic epinephrine, and a round of steroids. Jack had wandered into our room, gasping for breath, a nasty bout of croup with stridor having developed in the few hours since he’d fallen asleep.

By Monday, we’d added a trip to Urgent Care plus four rapid strep tests (all negative, thank goodness!), and one pretty sick mama.

Wednesday brought with it three fevers (and no school), and one sleepless night for Sophie, Mom, and Dad. By Thursday, I’d lost my voice (and pretty much all of my energy), and we rounded out the day with a trip to the pediatrician to rule out strep (again) and an ear infection.

There is still a lot of snot and a lot of coughing in our household, and not a lot of sleep. The fevers keep coming and going, and I don’t think anyone has eaten a square meal in over a week.

BUT (and this is a VERY big but), if coughs, and colds, and fevers, and runny noses, and yes, even a trip to the ER for croup is our worst week…then I cannot help but count us all very lucky.

Our road to parenthood was not an easy one. The before, during, and after of my pregnancy involved a lot of doctors, a lot of medicine, and a lot of hope. The photos below are a constant reminder of how far these little people have come, and the fact that their little bodies are strong enough to fend off these viruses makes me one very grateful mama.

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On the top left there is Henry, still eleven weeks before a baby is supposed to be out in this world on his own, barely two pounds, and working to breathe with a collapsed lung.

And then there’s Jack, working hard just to open his eyes a few days after being born.

And finally Sophie. Rocking her shades from the from her phototherapy treatment for jaundice.

It would be days before we held Henry, weeks before the three of them were reunited with each other, and months before they came home.

So I’ll take the sniffles, the sleepless nights, and the multiple trips to the doctor if it means I get to have these three happy humans in my arms, at home, every night. It was a long time coming, and I am just so very grateful that they are here.

 

March 2017

I know, I know. I am still playing catch up. But I’ll be darned (the kids might read this one day, right?) if we hit our big milestone tomorrow afternoon (starting a new school!) and we are still in the land of two-year-olds on the blog. So here goes nothing. I can always sleep tomorrow, right?

Recovering from a bout of breathing battles and our first overnight in the hospital since the NICU:聽

Thanks for all the thoughts and well wishes for Miss Soph. We are still here, working on weaning the oxygen and waiting for the pulmonologist. I think she’s ready to go home, but then, I’m not a medical professional聽馃檪

She is feeling and doing much better though. Especially considering the 11PM, 2AM, and 5AM wake up calls for neb treatments. First thing she said this morning was, “Where’s the boys?”
#missingherbrothers#alsosecretlyenjoyingtheoneononetime#sameclothessinceyesterday#finallygotmycoffee

Reunited, and it feels so good!

Last night was the first night since before they were born that these three little people did not share a room. I am too tired to remember all of the adorable things they did and said when they were apart and then back together again, but I know we will always be so grateful that they have each other. Family is everything.

#triplets#bedsharing#Sophiedefinitelystaedbedtimebyofferingextrahugstonight
#havetowakeherupintwohoursforanotherbreathingtreatment

 

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Eleanor Strumolo

March 6路聽

This was Saturday. Perhaps we should have seen it coming? My money would have been on Jack for the ER trip though.
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One day of medication for Sophie. Yes, we are bribing her. No, it isn’t really working. If you’d like to see sheer crazy sauce, come by around 1AM or 5AM to see just how loud a tiny toddler can get. Bring you ear plugs and your neck guard!
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March 10聽路聽

They say sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I’m not sure what information our children are trying to get out of us, but they can have it. I give in.

March 19聽路聽

Reunited with my jogging stroller and my littlest running buddy. We may have just found the sanity-saving solution to Sophie’s refusal to nap. Thanks to my better half for suggesting it. Why did it take us 8 months to think of it?
#Thinkofallthemilesicouldhavelogged
#barelyekedout3
#shemayonlyweigh21poundsbuthowheavyisthisjoggingstroller
#rememberwhenweconsideredbuyingatriplejoggingstroller#whatarethechancesshellsleepghroughatriptothegrocerystore#whatarethechsncesillfitthroughthedooratthegrocerystore#justkeeprunning

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March 21聽路聽

So rarely get a moment, much less an entire morning, alone with one of my kiddos. Had an adventure with H today, and it was amazing (and SO easy). Long for more of these days.

March 26聽路聽

As soon as we get back these kids start planning their own trip to Puerto Rico. Don’t worry, they’ll “be back in a few minutes.”

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March 28聽路聽

3-year check-up? Nailed it. When did they get so big?!?

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March 31聽路聽

Because everyone starts crafting at 6:30am, right?

#whydonttheysleep#theyusedtosleep#weusedtosleep

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