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3's a Crowd at Picnic for Multiples

Members of a support group for families with triplets and quads gather at annual event in Simi Valley where the more, the merrier.

August 18, 2003|Karin Grennan | Special to The Times

The 300 or so people gathered at a Simi Valley picnic this weekend are used to standing out in crowds -- but Sunday, they fit right in.

As families with triplets and quadruplets, they can't go out in public without people staring and asking questions. Even parents of twins marvel at them.

So for members of Higher Order Multiples Support Group, the third annual picnic at Houghton Schreiber Park was a chance to be ordinary, just another face in the crowd. Almost all of the 50 families had triplets. One had quadruplets.

"There's something about seeing other sets of triplets and multiples that makes you feel like you're not a celebrity," said group co-founder D'Anne Fraye of Simi Valley. "We can all walk around and look at another mother or father and think we know how they feel."

Fraye, who has 3-year-old triplet sons, and Tracy Lujan, a triplet mom from Lancaster, started the Southern California group three years ago because they felt out of place at twins groups. Parents of twins wanted to know how they functioned with three, but no one could provide them with any advice.

Now the group has 160 member families from San Diego to Santa Barbara who provide emotional and practical support to each other. They hold meetings and lectures throughout the year, but many communicate mainly by phone and e-mail, sharing advice on how to survive bed rest during pregnancy or what bottles work best for feeding three babies at once.

The picnic is a chance to put faces with names, Fraye said.

"I feel at home here, even though I don't know most of these people," said Jill Makuaole of Oxnard.

She joined the club when she was a third of the way through her 28-week pregnancy with Bernard, Mason and McKenzie. She talked to Lujan every other week until she delivered.

After the triplets were born eight months ago, Makuaole started going to meetings. She's gleaned invaluable tips, such as using a crock pot to heat up three bottles at once.

"There's lots of ins and outs you learn about," Makuaole said. "So many [other] people give you advice, and it's so irritating, because they have no idea what they're talking about."

Katie Corley of Simi Valley doesn't go to meetings, but she hasn't missed one of the picnics. She came to the first when Matthew, Carolyn and Rachel were 3 months old. She likes to watch families with older children to get a glimpse of what her future holds. This year, while trying to keep up with her 2 1/2-year-olds as they ran off in different directions, she looked at the 3- and 4-year-old triplets.

"I see where I'm gong to be next year -- with a little more freedom. You can let them run around by themselves more," she said.

Girl Scouts volunteered to assist with the day's activities. Games included a four-legged race and three-way tug of war. Winners got 3 Musketeers candy bars. Prizes were awarded for best decorated stroller, most festive coordinated outfits and cutest multiples during a Triplets & More Parade.

Fraye said the gathering not only shows children there are others like them, but also helps them learn how to deal with the issues of being a multiple. They often get frustrated when other people can't tell them apart, but when faced with other sets of triplets they learn to understand why it can be difficult.

The multiples -- most dressed in matching Hawaiian or red-white-and-blue outfits -- ranged in age from infants to 22 years old .

Twenty-year-old identical triplets Kelsey, Korrie and Kaeli Hansen of Newport Beach took off work to attend the picnic. Being triplets often seemed like a burden when they were younger, they said, but now it is something worth celebrating.

"The older we get, the more we appreciate it," Kelsey Hansen said.

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