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A Triple Treat at the Gunter Home, just in time for the holidays

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Photo by Jackie Charlebois with Jax Creations Photography Photo by Jackie Charlebois with Jax Creations Photography

Plus... a trio of triplets. This is December's Love Notes

It’s hard to miss the prominent black and gold Idaho Vandals banner hanging on the garage door.  And, when Oscar, the resident “guard dog” greets you with a toy in his mouth and a Vandal collar around his neck, you know you’ve entered a “Vandal Zone” at the Gunter home in Sagle, Idaho. 

Inside the house, one must step carefully through an obstacle course of infant car seats, mini beds with pillows for prop-up bottle feeding, and colorful, soft blankets taking up whatever space the regular furniture does not. 

A battery of baby bottles lines the counter between the kitchen and living room.  Three adults, draped with protective shoulder cloths, sit on the couches, holding a bottle with one hand and cradling a tiny baby in the other.   

During my visit last month to this household, it also became evident that these two girls and one boy, all siblings born just a minute apart, are destined to be Vandals in about 18 years.  

“They can choose [their colleges],” their dad, Clint Gunter quips, “but I pay the tab only if they attend the University of Idaho.” 

Clint and Margi Gunter, new parents to triplets born over Labor Day weekend, have not exactly laid out the complete itinerary for their children, but it’s clear the next generation will be encouraged to follow the collegiate path of family elders.

Both Clint and Margi graduated from the University of Idaho. For four years, Clint worked in U of I alumni relations as a program adviser.  The two met while Margi, a native of Hansen, Idaho, was serving on the Student Alumni Relations Board. 

Vandal alums, extending up to four generations, dominate both sides of this couple’s family. In essence, the Gunters expect their children to grow up as good, caring people, contributing citizens to their community and as VANDALS. 

For now, though, Clint and Margi are finding their new role of parenting three infants at once daunting, fulfilling, entertaining, tiring, touching, and, at times, scary.

The couple first learned of their pregnancy, aided by In Vitro Fertilization at Spokane’s Center for Reproductive Health, last February. News of three babies, rather than just one, came during a visit with their Spokane physician, leaving Margi thrilled and Clint temporarily stunned. 

“I don’t think I said three words all the way home,” he recalls. Later, after having some time to process the situation, Clint came home from work at Sandpoint Furniture and said to Margi, “Hon, I think we can do this.”

And, so far, they seem to be adjusting quite well as new parents.  

Genevieve Rae (Vivi), Alissa (Ali) Jean and Vincent (Vince) William arrived at 9:20 and 9:21 pm September 5, via caesarean section at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane.  

Born at 33 weeks, 4 days with birth weights ranging from just under 4 pounds to slightly over 5 pounds, two of the babies came home from the Spokane hospital  October 3.  

Little Ali stayed behind after undergoing surgery at three weeks old to repair a minor heart problem, common to premature babies. She joined her brother, sister and parents in Sagle October 10. 

The triplets will remain somewhat quarantined during the cold and flu months to avoid contracting a contagious lung disease called Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which can lead to permanent complications for infants. 

For the most part, the triplets’ visitors must be healthy adults. Hands must be sanitized before holding the babies. 

With the exception of occasional play dates with another set of young triplets, born earlier this year to Margi’s friends in Coeur d’Alene, other young children will have to wait a few months to meet the Gunter trio of siblings. 

Since Vince, Vivi and Ali came home, Clint and Margi have observed unique qualities in each.  

“Vince is the strongest, but we have to hold him up for bottle feeding because he has severe reflux, which he’ll outgrow,” says Margi. “When Vivi discovers she’s hungry, it’s right now, and, if Ali is crying, you know it’s for a reason.”  

Along with this dramatic new chapter in their lives, Clint and Margi are deeply touched and grateful for support and prayers they have received from family, friends and even strangers.  

As part of a family long known for its ongoing community contributions and generosity, Clint feels more comfortable giving than receiving. At 35, he has enthusiastically embraced all the responsibilities of fatherhood.

With that in mind, he admits to being blown away by the generosity his family has  experienced since community members have learned about their triplets.

For example, Best-Way Tree Service showed up at their home and cleared an area in the yard, where swing sets will some day keep his children entertained.

The list goes on, including in-home visits from their pediatrician, Dr. Joyce Gilbert, who comes just to help out. Dr. Gilbert has also made arrangements for the Gunters to receive monthly supplies of formula for bottle feeding.

Christmas will, no doubt, be more than special for Clint and Margi this year and for many years to come as they enjoy the precious gift of their three babies.

“Whatever we were given,” says Clint, “we’re going to be thankful to God that we were so blessed.”

Gunter triplets

Ali, Vince and Vivi. Photo by Margi Gunter

Below, Margi shares a few thoughts about their experience thus far. 

Describe the outpouring of attention you’ve received from friends, family, etc.  We’re very blessed to have so many family and friends who love and support us. My mom stayed with us for a month and my aunt for another couple weeks to help us get some sleep and take care of household tasks. We’ve also received visits and meals from family and friends, which is awesome since we have zero time to cook. It’s been amazing the amount of support we’ve received!

What routines are you establishing for sleep, care, feeding and other general care?  The babies eat every 3 to 4 hours during the day, and all three are fed at once. Otherwise we’d be feeding babies constantly. They take turns napping during the day but sleep pretty well at night, only waking once to eat.

Who are your general helpers? My mom was here for a month and then my aunt for two weeks. Now we’ll rely on Clint’s mom and other family members to help. We also are paying two other girls to watch them while I work.

What kinds of unique attention have you received or stories have you experienced since their birth? Lots of calls and congratulations but since we can’t be in public, no real comments there. At least not since my giant belly was last seen in public.

What are the difficulties/challenges you’ve faced so far? Lack of sleep! While they only wake up once at night, we might get six hours of total sleep. I went back to work [in-home job as a project manager for Northwest Farm Credit Services] and it’s much harder to stay focused being this sleepy. Clint has managed it since we brought them home though.

Also, Vince has reflux and needs to be held upright a lot. Then we feel a little neglectful of the girls, especially Ali.

Describe special moments of joy: Bringing them home and especially their smiles now. We love their facial expressions and constantly talk about the people they’ll grow up to be and what they’ll look like.

How do you view this situation of having three babies at once? We’re certain it’s harder but we don’t know any different. I’m jealous of the parents of singletons who can take them anywhere. We really have to plan our trips out and the gear it requires. Hard to go anywhere by yourself, not that we’re really allowed to.

What child-rearing strategies will you adhere to, considering the multiple aspect? We absolutely have to be organized and on a schedule. We’re also going to make sure we give each child individual attention.

Can we expect to see these kids’ pictures in Sandpoint Furniture/Idaho Vandal promotions... or anything else? If the kids want to work in the business one day, they’ll certainly be added, but I don’t foresee anything right now.

What are your plans for Christmas this year? My parents are coming up this year and we’ll host Christmas brunch at our house. I’m excited for future years as the kids discover the magic of the holiday.

 

OTHER TRIPLETS WITH LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Besides Clint and Margi Gunter’s children, two other sets of triplets have extensive Sandpoint roots.  

Reynolds Triplets: On March 12, 1962, Dr. W.C. Hayden delivered triplets Karen, Brian and Kevin at Bonner General Hospital to Doris and Don Reynolds of Kootenai. 

The weekly Sandpoint News Bulletin reported at the time that the Reynolds triplets were the first-ever born at the local hospital and possibly the first born in the Sandpoint area. They joined an older sister Kathy, who was 4 years old. She now lives in Stirling, Alberta.

Kevin Donald lives in rural Sandpoint and works as facilities manager at the Seasons at Sandpoint. He also owns and operates Summit Taxidermy. In his free time, Kevin enjoys playing with his grandbabies, hunting, fishing, archery and riding his horse Kitty.

Meanwhile, Brian David is employed by Bonner County Road and Bridge as a truck driver and mechanic. He and his wife Dawna live at Sagle. He enjoys both rifle and archery hunting. 

Karen Daunice Reynolds Bradford resides in Maple Valley, Wash., with her husband Scott and son Cody. She works as an office assistant/manager of a small company and enjoys family, friends, cooking, Bible studies, reading, shooting and her dog Gabby.

Reynolds triplets plus one

Reynolds triplets plus one

The Reynolds triplets, at a family wedding in 2006, along with their sister Kathy (far right).

Laumatia Triplets:  Jacob, Justine and Grace Laumatia, 8-year-old triplets from Plummer, spend a lot of time in Sandpoint where numerous relatives, including their great-grandmothers, Helen Thompson and Virginia Tibbs, live.  

The Laumatia triplets were born in Pago Pago, Samoa, April 9, 2002. They are third graders in Plummer and active young athletes. 

Laumatia triplets

Grace, Jacob and Justine of Plummer, Idaho. Photo by Laura Laumatia

 

SOME INSIGHTS ON TRIPLET LIFE

Q & A with Triplet Mom Laura Laumatia

Give me a quick rundown on you and Sefo, age, how and where you met, what you each do now? Sefo is just about to turn 39, and I’m about to turn 37.  We met in Samoa when I was a Peace Corps trainee, and staying with his brother and his family.

Sefo is a stay-at-home dad and student, and I am the University of Idaho Extension Educator for the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

When did you learn you were having triplets and what did you do to prepare? I learned when I was about 12 weeks along.  I immediately got online and researched everything I could find related to multiple births.  

The best source I found was a website called “The Triplet Connection.” I was able to find books, articles, chatboards, and discussions that helped me prepare for what we were about to get into.

From your own experience over the past eight years, what are the general pluses involved with triplets? The challenges? The great stories associated with those people who generally around the triplets?

The pluses:  My children have each other all the time.  The challenge:  My children have each other all the time.  

I have loved seeing them grow up together, and it is nice for them to always have a built-in playmate.  Since they are fraternal, we haven’t had the identity issues that some identical twins and triplets talk about experiencing.  

However, I think one of the hardest things about being a multiple is the battle for Mom and Dad’s attention.  I have tried to remedy that by making occasional “dates” with each one of them where they get all of my attention, but on a day-to-day basis, that’s definitely my biggest challenge!

I don’t have any specific stories about them, but I think that people who have watched them grow up would probably comment about how different they have been from day one.  

They couldn’t be three more different little personalities, and now their physical differences mean that they are rarely recognized as being triplets in public (Justine is the tallest girl ((and I think maybe the tallest kid)) in her class; Grace is the shortest).   

This past spring I coached their basketball team.  At first, they were all on one team. It didn’t go well.  Justine ended every practice in tears or angry or both, and I was tearing my hair out.  I moved her to the other team, and left Jacob and Grace on my team. 

Justine ended up blossoming away from me and playing hard against her siblings, and turned from being the kid who couldn’t finish a game to a high-point scorer in her last two games.  

Her teacher last year also told me that when she would do reading assessments, she always have to do Justine first, because if she tried to test her after Grace and Jacob, she’d be so obsessed with the other two scores that she wouldn’t be able to focus on hers.  

When she made the adjustment, Justine did wonderfully, and never worried about the other two.  Oddly enough, Grace and Jacob don’t have the same competitive feelings towards Justine!

What are the guidelines for day-to-day planning for three children the same age----as babies, as toddlers, as pre-schoolers and as 8 year-olds? Everyone told me, “Get them on a schedule.”  

That wasn’t really my style, and so we were never on some rock-solid schedule.  That probably would have helped a little bit, but we survived anyway.  We learned which baby had the most patience, and who needed to eat first, and accommodated accordingly.  

Frankly, those first few years are almost a blur. I should have done a better job writing things down, but I didn’t. 

As eight-year olds, it’s the same thing on a larger scale. One child needs extra time in the morning; one gets super cranky at bedtime.  In that respect, life probably isn’t much different now than for a family of three kids at different ages.  

Now that we have their activities every day (soccer, dance, after-school program), it’s just the madness of trying to keep up with everyone’s busy schedule.

What kinds of help have you received over the years to make your job easier? My husband’s two sisters and his brother-in-law lived with us when the kids were infants and toddlers.  They were such an amazing amount of help. Having them to grab a baby, help with housework, etc. is what kept us sane.  It also helped us get more one-on-one time with each child.  

We moved up here when the kids were two-and-a-half, and it was an adjustment.  At the same time, it helped our nuclear family establish a routine.  

We have close friends in the community, however, who have always been willing to take on one, two or all three of the kids for an afternoon or a night so that we can have a break.  We reciprocate a lot with that, and it makes all of our lives better.

How do your triplets get along with each other, and how do they generally interact with others? Justine and Jacob are in a battling routine right now, but overall they get along fairly well.  The girls enjoy playing together, but they squabble like most sisters.  Grace and Jacob also seem to enjoy spending time together. 

I think things work slightly differently when I’m not there.  At school, they tend to have the same core group of friends. 

Jacob definitely is needing more “boy time” than in earlier years.  He has a group of boys in the neighborhood that come over a lot to skateboard, play basketball, etc., and I think he enjoys the break from his sisters!  

Having said that, when one of them is gone for even a night, the others miss that one quite a bit. 

Describe each of your children in 25-30 words or so. Who was born first, second, third? Tell when and where they were born, birth weights, any concerns? Justine is our emotional radar, and is attuned to everyone’s feelings.  She senses everyone’s distress, and reacts to it, sometimes helpfully, sometimes not.  She loves to be my helper, and is the same at school.  She is funny and creative, and an avid reader.

Grace is very clever, and quite the fashion diva right now.  She is fiercely competitive, and gets frustrated when she can’t get something right away.  She is quick with a comment, and the shyest of the three.

Jacob is Mr. Mellow. He gets passionate about whatever his current interest is. He’s artistic and very, very kind.  He also has a strong sense of right or wrong.  

What are the joys of having three kids at once?  It’s always an adventure!  

I am glad that I get to enjoy them all at once in their developmental phases, and that I’m not having to worry about missing something because I have another baby to take care of.  

I also am a workaholic, so I’m glad that I don’t have to go through pregnancy and maternity leave again! 

I sometimes feel like I’m the mama duck in Make Way for Ducklings, with my little brood trailing me wherever I go.  And that’s a fun feeling!

Tell me about your association with Margi Gunter. How did you connect, and what are the highlights of what you've discussed and pointers you've sent her way?

We connected after Judy (Thompson)  suggested that she “friend” me on Facebook because of the triplet connection.  We haven’t met face-to-face yet, but we have corresponded a little bit.  

The only pointer I’ve given her is the one I felt the most important:  don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be embarrassed to accept people’s offers of help.  That’s a hard one if you are accustomed to being pretty independent.  

But having three babies at once makes taking any and all help a necessity!

 

Karen Reynolds Bradford Reflects on the Triplet Experience  

Being a triplet, growing up in a small community with lots of family around,  was not unlike [growing up for] any other kid in the area.  

 My parents never made a big deal that we were triplets.  We weren’t dressed the same on a daily basis, only for the exception of pictures when we were younger and when my grandmother made us all matching outfits.  

My parents allowed us to have our own identities, and for us it was not a big deal to be a triplet. They were just my brothers who happened to be the same age and shared the same birth date.  

I just remember the stories that were told about how the local businesses and families showed such generosity in donations and help for my parents when we were born.

People to this day, when told, are in awe and ask what it was like.  Honestly, I don’t see it as being a big deal. 

 I still have a hard time understanding why it is such a big deal and realize it is only because of their reactions that it is something of a “wow” factor.  

I think because after first grade my brothers went to school in town while I continued at Kootenai Elementary, it took a lot of the awe factor out of the picture because we weren’t seen together every day.  Plus, I was a grade ahead of them.  

The only teacher that ever commented on it, that I remember, was Mr. Gee in junior high and that was only because my two best friends would address me as Kevin or Brian when I would walk into his classroom as his T.A. during the period that they were there.  I think our friends made it out to be a bigger deal than our parents or we did.

I know for my brothers it was probably a different story because I know that they did pull a few switches while growing up.

The great thing was that you always had a playmate.  You may be best friends with one and fighting with the other on one day and then just the opposite the next day.  When it came down to anyone picking on you, who wasn’t family,  we always had each other’s backs, no matter what.

I always heard/hear the same response from people regarding Brian and Kevin and how they look alike and what a hard time it is telling them apart.  

I disagree with them because I see them as being as different as night and day.  But as I point out to those people, I have known them nine months longer than anyone else.  

My husband of 20 plus years still needs me to point out a specific feature for each one so that he can tell them apart when we are at any functions where they both are present.  

I am sure that all the attention that the three of us received had its effects on my older sister, but I also know that she loves us.  

I would hope that with these other sets of triplets, people would consider the older or younger siblings when doting on the triplets.  I am sure it was hard for my sister to be in the “background” and or forced to have her identity be attached to “the triplets” all the time. 

I love being a triplet for the fact that I know that there are two people out in the world that I love dearly and have something in common with me that no one else can share. 

 We are unique because our parents didn’t “know” they were having triplets.  We were conceived naturally with no help from any medical professional or treatment.  

In some ways I believe that we have that “bond” that they say twins have where you know when one is hurting or sick, but I don’t know if that is truly because we are triplets or because we are family.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

Tagged as:

Vandals, triplets, Clint Gunter, Margi Gunter, Sandpoint Furniture, in vitro fertilization, Karen Reynolds, Brian Reynolds, Kevin Reynolds, Jacob Laumatia, Justine Laumatia, Grace Laumatia, Helen Thompson, Virginia Tibbs

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