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Back to One

4 Jun

ME: Days off are hard to come by. I was hoping for a little more fun and relaxation when I put in to take today off for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick and can’t go to school. That’s the way it goes.

ME: I’m not trying to complain, it’s just a bummer. Stuck at a Pediatrician’s office.

CAREY: Well, maybe later this evening we can do something fun.

ME: Really?

CAREY: Yeah. We can all watch a kid’s movie together. Then we can play that owl board game he likes so much.

ME: …

CAREY: What.

ME: Nothing.

CAREY: What.

ME: Well, those things aren’t fun.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick. That’s the way it goes.

 

She’s right. That’s the way it goes these days. When you have a four-year-old living under your roof, your schedule is more or less spoken for.

You know? I should rewind a little.

My triplet blog has become a reliably annual affair. It’s not that I don’t think about it throughout the rest of the year. It comes to mind often. Six years ago today, we met and lost our triplet sons Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar. I think of them every day and even now I’m occasionally hit with a surprise pain, almost no warning. Gut shot in the middle of a meeting or during my morning commute. You grit your teeth and ride the red wave. You get through it.

And even though grief is never really, truly over, a few years ago we made the decision to move ahead to the next thing. We’d try again. We weren’t, as they say, getting any younger.

Admittedly, my heart was only half in it. And maybe nature knew, because, after about a year and a half, it became clear that our prime fertility years were behind us. Specialists assured us we were ideal candidates for all manner of treatments and procedures and Just say the word, you’ll be in Healthy White Baby Country lickety split.

But on that issue I was firm. My personal philosophy was such that expensive, medically heroic measures in the name of fertility were difficult to justify in these troubled times. Literal millions of children are in desperate need of loving homes inside our own borders, not to mention the profound need overseas. Understand, that sentiment isn’t meant to indict or alienate my good friends who have participated in fertility treatments (all great, loving parents). In fact, the vast majority of triplet parents in the world partly owe their full quiver to advancements in fertility science. But for me, personally, I couldn’t do it.

So, then… what? Overseas adoption? Foster care? Maintain our DINK status and run out the clock, insulated by disposable income?

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the months and years of vacillation, the tears, the arguments, the starts and stops. In November, we completed our certification and became foster parents to the coolest kid I’ve ever met, a tow-headed four-year-old. I wish I could share his name, his face and his story, but alas. Here’s the best I can do:

Christopher back of head

Carey and I love him. Truly and honestly. When I looked at the remains of my boys six years ago, I remember my own heartbreak about the fact that they’d never grow to become strong, healthy men with big hearts and wise souls. But I look at this kid each morning and it’s my continual prayer for him. “Create in him a clean heart and renew his spirit.” My biggest priority is helping him become the sincere, confident adult my own boys never had the chance to be.

But here’s the thing, and this shouldn’t go unsaid: when we mention our Foster Parent Adventure to people who know about our story, they’ll often give us a satisfied smile and a knowing nod that seems to say, “Yes. That makes sense.”

I promise. It doesn’t.

This journey is the exact opposite of intuitive. Take two reasonably intelligent adults who met and lost their three children on the same day and offer them the chance to involve themselves in a situation that will almost certainly end in tears and heartbreak. A situation fraught with added stressors in the form of court dates, mysterious behavior issues and government accountability. And that’s not even mentioning the surreal experience of saying the word “yes” on a phone call and, two days later, having a four-year-old you’ve never met with issues and traumas and stories you have no idea about dropped off at your house.

“Thanks for parenting him. We’ll let you know when it’s time to give him back.”

It’s a beautiful and difficult thing. I always wondered what sort of a father I would be and I’m finally finding out.

(On a scale of Awful to Awesome, I’d rank my current dad skills at an “Iffy” with signs of slow improvement.)

Again, though, this kid is amazing. I could go into detail, but to sum up: his life is difficult, but he loves it anyway.

Six years ago, I wondered what my future life would be. Could we find or build a situation that would replace what’s lost, that would fill the hole?

Nope. No dice. But maybe that’s okay. This is a whole other thing. A scary, weird, unnatural, fun, frustrating, exhausting, hilarious, ridiculous other thing.

Places, everyone. Back to one. Let’s change things up a bit, try some improv. Everybody set? Still rolling? Sound speeding. Quiet, please. And:

Action.

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An Actual Tip

4 Jun

It’s not inconceivable that part of the modest traffic that this blog manages to attract are new and expectant triplet parents. Maybe, like me years ago, you’re trawling the internet, looking for wisdom and advice about how to handle the task of having and raising three individuals at the same time. Well, today I’m going to try something I haven’t attempted in an awful long while: an actual tip, as it were, on triplets.

But since this is TipsOnTriplets and nothing’s easy-breezy, before I get to the advice, I’ll start with a story. I like to call it My Greatest Moment As A Triplet Parent.

Triplet pregnancies are fraught enough, but Carey’s had the added peril of Lupus, a condition she’s lived with since college. Every moment of our boys’ gestation would need close monitoring, which is what took us to Long Beach’s Magella Medical Group, specialists in high-risk pregnancies.

As you might expect, I had a jones to document everything with an eye toward eventually cutting together a highlight video of the pregnancy and eventual birth of the boys. I was on the lookout for odd moments, hopeful moments, important moments… anything that could communicate the nervous frenzy of the time, assuming we’d one day appreciate the look back.

So we arrived at Magella Medical Group for our initial consult and tests, a situation ripe for the video reel. And since the idea of producing a video had only occurred to me a few days prior, this was going to be one of the very first moments of the eventual edited piece. So I got to work grabbing b-roll of the building, the sign, the elevator ride up to the office. I imagined all of this cut together montage-style atop a heart-swelling music bed.

magella-sign

elevator

We entered and I was getting footage of everything, no matter how mundane. Carey signing in. Carey’s blood pressure being taken. No moment too small.

sign-in

We entered an exam room and an office supervisor told us to have a seat. I pulled out my phone to grab a shot or two of Carey getting situated. The office supervisor said, “Just so you know, we unfortunately can’t allow any video taken here in the office.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s one of our rules. I could explain all of the liabilities behind it, but suffice it to say it’s our policy here.”

“What about photos?”

She hesitated. “Photos are ok, maybe just a couple. It’s video we can’t allow. It looked like you were about to record with your phone, so I have to mention it.”

I thought about it for maybe two seconds. It made sense: an office specializing in high-risk pregnancies meant they’d likely seen quite a few pregnancies go badly. Failed pregnancies = angry parents = looking for someone to blame = “evidence” gathering, however legit, however spurious = legal battles = headaches the Magella Medical Group would just as soon avoid. I should also point out that the good people at Magella are as smart and conscientious as they come. It’s a wonderful place and we were lucky to be there. “I get it,” I said.

And that’s when My Greatest Moment As A Triplet Parent happened:

I lied.

“No problem, I won’t take any video. Maybe just a couple of photos.”

As reasonable as the Magella Medical Group’s policy on video capture was, it was a rule I just wasn’t going to follow. Sure, I thought, I could respect the wishes of the office. It’s their space, they get to decide what’s allowed. On the other hand, I pictured myself a decade in the future, me and three 9-year-olds huddled around a laptop. I would play the video their dad shot when they were still in the womb, showing how excited their parents were to meet them, how committed we were to taking every precaution to keep them safe and healthy.

Or I could tell them the story of why we didn’t have any video because we followed a lame f&%#ing liabilities rule.

The office manager left the room and I started shooting. And that’s how the rest of the morning went. I caught some great moments: The doctor telling us how the placentas work. Our hearing their heartbeats for the first time. Poring over ultrasound prints, relating to the camera what we’d just found out about our then-healthy three.

doctor

ultrasound

And stern looks from the staff. “Nope, just lining up a great photo moment,” I’d tell them, video rolling.

Of course, the video I really wanted to make was never made. But I did use the Magella footage in the memorial video I cut together after the boys passed. And you know? It’s not only my favorite moment in the whole memorial video, it’s footage I wouldn’t trade for all the riches in the whole wide world. While it was the postmortem footage of the boys (4:40) that caught the interest of The Daily Beast, BBC World Update and Good Morning America, it’s the Magella material (1:01) that makes my heart the happiest. Because there it is, in full-color, living, breathing, 24 fps shaky glory: two expectant parents who love their children more than anything, full to the eyeballs with excited, terrified, nervous anticipation. That’s the real stuff. That’s where life is.


Ok, that was quite a wind-up to get to the point of this post and the reason we’re all here: a Tip on Triplets. So here it is.

As a triplet parent, nature has already decided to chuck your special ideas about the traditional way of doing things right out the window. You have to wing it, you have to make it up as you go along. And the world is loaded with rules and philosophies about how you’re supposed to handle these three little aberrations.

These triplet children of yours are a messy, imperfect miracle. Listen to what the critics and the experts have to say. Take it in. Consider carefully. But keep in mind:

These children are yours. You make the rules.

That’s really it. You get to decide. If you need to go rogue, man, go rogue. This isn’t twin parenting and lord knows it sure as hell isn’t singleton parenting. It’s a whole other thing that demands reserves that John and Jane Q. Public don’t fully understand.

If you need to shoot the video, god’s sake, SHOOT THE VIDEO.

Go nuts. It’s up to you. The status quo was miles back, do your own thing.

That’s all.

(But, you know, within reason. Vaccinate your kids. I mean what are you, a bunch of toothless hill people?)

Happy Whatever Day

21 Jun

Happy Avoiding Facebook Day.

Happy Rehearsing Your Response to ‘Happy Father’s Day’ Day.

Happy Uncomfortable Pauses That End With ‘How’s Your Wife Holding Up?’ Day.

Happy Getting Your Story Straight When Asked If You Have Any Kids Day.

Happy Politely Declining The Father’s Day Gift/Special/Award At Stores/Restaurants/Church Day.

Happy Nodding And Shrugging When Loved Ones Tell You What A Great Father You Are/Were/Would’ve Been Day.

Happy Being Happy For Other Fathers Day.

Happy One-Year-Til-Next-Father’s-Day Day.

Happy Avoiding Patronizing Articles And Blog Entries Like This One Day.


A fast note to other dads who have lost, because, damn it, this is our day too: you’re on my mind. If you’re anything like me, Father’s Day isn’t something you look forward to, it’s something you sort of wait out. You don’t want to abolish the day altogether, you just want to cue the music and flash the Oscar speech sign because it’s running long: WRAP IT UP.

Maybe you’ve just lost your child or children and this is your first Father’s Day and all you see is ocean in every direction.

Maybe you lost your child decades ago, but you find yourself stealing a minute alone for the one who should be here but isn’t.

Maybe you have other living children and you love them fiercely and you love this day, but it still stings.

Maybe it’s not a child you lost, but rather a wife or a parent or a sibling and the whole Father’s Day idea seems sort of off, particularly this year.

To you: Happy Whatever Day. On a lonely day like today, I’m glad you’re in the world because it means someone else knows how I feel. Maybe that’s a selfish way to look at it, but I’m going to cut myself some slack because, eh, it’s Whatever Day and we all deserve a break.

35

12 May

Just a quick one before I head off to bed:

Today I turned 35.  I”m not entirely sure when “mid-life” begins, but, for me, I hope it’s not yet because I’ve way too much to do and way too much to look forward to.  It was a good day, which I was able to spend surrounded by good friends and a wife I clearly don’t deserve.

I’ve received a few nice gifts and a few fun birthday wishes from various loved ones, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my very favorite gift of all: three little nameless someones who I’m eager to meet later this year.

Thanks for reading.   If you follow this spot regularly, I deeply appreciate your indulging my rants and rambles and I’m grateful you’re taking this hugely weird journey with my wife and me.

“Mid-life”?  Psh.

Baby, I’m just getting started.

– Jeremy, 2011

A Better World

1 May

Carey has wanted to have a child for several years and I’ll admit openly here that I was the holdout. I had grand ideas about the ethics of bringing children into this world, contributing to the imbalance of wealth and resources. Maybe I’ll get into more of that in a later post, but suffice it to say, I felt burdened about whether or not having children of our own was the “right” thing to do.

And, of course, I had serious doubts about my own parenting abilities.  I’ve already talked about that a good bit and I’m sure there’ll be loads of posts to come on the topic.

But the third big reason for hesitating was pretty straightforward and, let’s face it, as common as crabgrass: I looked at the world around me and thought, “do I really want to throw an innocent child into this mess?”

Less than an hour ago, I read the news and listened to our President give an address: Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Does it mean a better world, a safer world?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  It’s not the sort of thing I understand as well as I should, so it would be silly for me to offer too many opinions on it.  As a rule, I avoid most political discussions because, while my feelings on political matters are fairly strong, I usually regret spouting off about them.

But I will say this: Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead.  And that makes me feel a little better about bringing our three boys into this world.

I’m proud of my country and I’m happy and grateful to be an American citizen.  I know it’s not hip to say something like that and there’s nothing more out-of-style than patriotism in these troubled times, but I can’t help it.  I do love the United States and, at this moment, I’m proud of our military for employing the skill, courage and intelligence to do what they did today.  One day I’ll tell my sons what happened when they were still in their mommy’s tummy and how fortunate they are to be defended by such brave men and women.

And to those in power, particularly those responsible for today: thank you.  On behalf of my family, it means an awful lot that you take our safety so seriously, that you would pursue so doggedly those who want to put an end to us.  There’s a lot we agree on and a lot we don’t, but today I appreciate your wisdom.

God bless.

Dad Catalog

24 Mar

Dad!Baby, I’m a lot of things.  And “cool” ain’t one of ’em.

I’ve been rolling it over and over in my brain for, well, years probably.  “If I ever become a father, what sort of father will I be?”  Options are limitless and I suppose you more or less get to choose up front, don’t you?

Arty Hipster Dad
“Listen, kids: CREATE and EXPERIENCE.  Everything you do is fuel and fodder, dig?  Be fabulous and incandescent.  Leave your mark, wherever you go, whatever you do.  YOU ARE ART.”

Coach Dad
“Gang, it’s 5 AM, get up!  That 10k isn’t going run itself and according to my watch, you’re gonna need to double-time it.  Hustle hustle! Losers sleep in… you’re not losers, are you?”

Churchy Dad
“My concern is that another Wii game will cut into your volunteer time at the shelter.  Have you prayed about this?  By the way, how’s Habakkuk coming?  Tough book!”

Vice Dad
“You’re gonna find that a hearty, red stout mixes well with menthols.  Just a real nice bouquet, know what I mean?  No?  Fine, here’s your pacifier back, y’lightweight.  Ho! S’midnight, let’s see what’s cookin’ on Cinemax.”

Drill Sergeant Dad
“Oh, you want dessert, Mr. A-MINUS?  Do you think MINUSES are reasons to celebrate?  And by the way, you call that a crease?  Google “proper-way-to-iron-a-pair-of-pants”, you dirty-hippie-with-an-A-minus!”

Mushy Softy Dad
“We’re a family, you know?  A family.  We complete each other.  We lift each other up.  Treasure these moments we have, kids.  They’re precious…  THEY’RE ALL PRECIOUS, JUST LIKE ALL OF YOU.”

Tough Love Dad
“I know re-shingling the roof in mid-July with no sunscreen seems like an extreme consequence.  I do, I get it.  But you know the rules about talking without permission after 8:00.  Hey, don’t cry: if we don’t honor our own system, what are we?”

Freebird Dad
“Hey, I’m not here to lecture you like some kind of square.  You want to jump naked into traffic, who am I to stop you?  We make our own consequences, you know?  We’re all just passengers in the Ship O’ Life, kiddo.”

Power Trip Dad
“Because I’m your father, that’s why.  And if you ask me that again, you’re going to experience something horrible and arbitrary.  Also, call me ‘sir’.”

Creepy Buddy Dad
“You guys cool with me tagging along? If you’re thinking R-rated movie, y’know, I can totally get us in.”

Political Pundit Dad
“Hey, I wanted to go to DisneyLand as much as you!  Know why it’s not happening?  Well, it’s a long story, but it has to do with tax breaks and Bill Clinton.  Think I’m wrong?  Go ahead, look it up.  I’ll wait.”

Hands-On Dad
“You’re giving a book report in front of the class tomorrow?  Why didn’t you say anything?  Hang on, let me cancel a couple of meetings.  Is the video camera charged?  What time should I be there?”

Hands-Off Dad
“Heh?  Oh, good, happy birthday, then.  Whatever, just take what you want out of my wallet and have a blast, I don’t know.  Check with your mother.”

Old Salt Dad
“You morons with your LOL and OMG and BBQ and what all.  In my day, we had fax machines and Pac-Man!  And that was plenty!”

But of all of the options on the table, I suppose “Cool Dad” is the one I’m most committed to avoiding.  I don’t really ever remember being cool and I can’t imagine starting anytime soon.  At some point, these kids are going to have friends and I can’t quite imagine overhearing “your dad is so cool!” And if I do, I think I’ll wince a little.

Thing is, thanks to my upbringing, I have concerns.  I don’t know how else to say it: I had great parents.  And, man, that’s a lot of pressure.

My dad?  Co-coached the little league team I was on.  Never missed a game, a school play, a presentation or a parent-teacher conference.  He took the time to teach me what riding a bike was all about and he threw pop-ups to me in the back yard until I wasn’t scared of catching them anymore.  Discipline was fast and appropriate when I was being a moron and when I wasn’t, he trusted me to make good decisions.

Mom?  Same thing.  She was fully available and invested in me and my sisters.  She was fun and wise and hilarious and proud of me.  She reminds me now how many mistakes she made, but I don’t remember any of them.

Can I do that?  I don’t know, man, I’m pretty distracted and weird.  Arbitrary crap drives me crazy and I can be an awfully difficult human being to live with.

Which brings me back to “cool”.  If these three are going to be popular and confident people, it’ll be despite their screwball father.  I think I’ll expect a lot of them, maybe too much.  And, at one point or another, I’ll likely be every dad I listed at the start of this post.

And one day a friend of one of my children will be over at our house.  They’ll ask me if it’s okay to do something ridiculous and unsafe and I’ll tell them No Way.

And as I walk away, I’ll hear the friend of one of my children say, “your dad is so lame.”

And I’ll probably grin.  Because, yeah, that’s the stuff.

hrrkkkh

18 Mar

Men!

Listen: your wife is suffering. Do you think she chooses to feel this way? Do you think the glow of one, two or even three babies ripening in her tummy is enough to cancel the pain and anguish of sleepless nights, perpetual sickness and an ever-expanding physique?

It’s possible to dull your own senses!
If the sound of your wife’s explosive vomit in the bathroom near the dinner table is offensive and stomach turning, no worries! After 2-3 straight weeks of repeat performances, you’ll barely notice. Encourage her to spew away to her heart’s content, the pasta Alfredo on the plate in front of you will be no less delicious!

Remember: you did this to her! That’s your seed she’s carrying! Man up and take responsibility! The burden of self-sacrificing, fearless fatherhood does not begin once those little ones glimpse daylight… IT BEGINS NOW.

Too vague? Okay, gents, let’s get practical!

Probably the biggest hurdle of the first trimester is the dreaded demon called Morning Sickness. (Hint: it isn’t just in the morning. In fact, your wife would prefer it if you didn’t refer to it as “Morning Sickness”. In fact, don’t refer to it at all. It’s best to just apologize a lot.)

Here’s how it works: she’s always nauseous. Always. It’s not a question of whether or not she’ll throw up today, it’s a question of how many times. Don’t wonder whether or not she’s sick. She is. If she’s not, she’ll let you know. But don’t hold your breath. She’s sick.

Also, keep in mind that it’s your fault. Oh, the fun you’ll have later, remembering your pitiable little arguments, trying to convince her she’s “being unreasonable” and you “have it tough also”! Ha ha ha! Little man, don’t you understand? This is pregnancy. It’s bigger than you! It’s bigger than all of us! Look at her: she’s swollen with life, bursting with matriarchal potential! Now look at you! G’wan. Look.

Exactly. You’re kind of an asshole.

But good news! You don’t have to be! Your put-upon spouse may be drowning in her own body chemistry, but you can help. Remember four simple words and you’ll effortlessly navigate these choppy waters. That’s all! Just four!

Ready?

Here they are:

  1. Don’t
  2. Be
  3. A
  4. Dick

Sounds easy, right? And, mostly, it is! Let’s dig deeper:

DON’T BE A DICK. The kitchen’s a mess and it’s been that way most of the week. Your wife would like to prepare a nice cup of bread-n-butter pickles for herself, but when she sees dishes in the sink, she gags… Well, don’t be a dick, man! Empty the dishwasher and replace them with the dirty ones. Maybe wipe the counter down a little. After all, she’s hungry. Seriously, dude, come on.

DON’T BE A DICK. If you cut your toenails on the couch, don’t leave them on the coffee table, unless you want her to blow chunks on the spot. She’ll hate you and you’ll hate yourself. And both of you will be right for doing so.

DON’T BE A DICK. She’s going to spend a significant portion of her week with her head in the toilet. Is it too much to ask you to scrub it down and pube-sweep the area? God, man, don’t be a dick.

DON’T BE A DICK. It’s 6:30 and you’re driving home from work, Irvine to Long Beach, which is some kind of haul. She phones you on the way: baby carrots. She has a jones for baby carrots. She knows you’re tired, but will you pick some up? Of course you will! She’s pregnant, numbskull! She’s hungry! This isn’t rocket science. Just do it! WTF

DON’T BE A DICK. No, it’s not traditionally your job to feed the cats, particularly their wet food. But keep in mind, your wife needs about 3,000 calories a day and, if she’s required to feed them herself, she stands a really good chance of losing about 1,200 of those calories right then and there. See what I mean, douchebag? Hello? Is this sinking in??? DON’T BE A DICK.

Good luck, fellas!

And remember: T.O.T. taught ya how!