MANATEE COUNTY — The Almy triplets always seem to turn heads.
Whether it’s cruising in side-by-side car seats in the back of the family’s 1969 Cadillac convertible with the top down, riding in their Step2 train at the zoo or even making a trip to Sam’s Club, Zoey, Abigail and Katrina, 15 months, are a sight to behold.
However, as fascinating as multiples can be, the triplets are only part of mother Alison Almy’s tale. Before the girls — 22 years before, to be exact — Alison had a son, Josh Zawacki.
“I was 22 when I had him,” Alison says. “And the girls came right before my 44th birthday.”
Today, Josh is busy with his coursework at the University of Central Florida, while his sisters are busy toddling around their East County home. And although the large age gap means Alison’s time raising kids will span more than four decades, she couldn’t imagine a more perfect scenario.
“I am so blessed,” she says. “I never thought life could be so good.”
Alison had been married to her first husband for nine months when she found out she was pregnant. She welcomed Josh into the world on Aug. 14, 1987, but soon discovered her husband didn’t want kids.
Two weeks before Josh’s second birthday, his father left.
“It was easier after the divorce,” Alison says. “He never helped; that was one less mouth to feed.”
As a single mother, Alison worked multiple jobs to pay for raising Josh. Her parents both died by the time Josh was 5. She later remarried, and in addition to Josh, helped raise her second husband’s three children.
“My son was my world, and he knows he is loved,” Alison says. “From the minute he was born, I would tell him, ‘Joshua, someday I’ll give you a little brother or sister. His whole life, I told him I wanted to have more children.”
But the timing was never right. And even though her second marriage lasted 13 years, Alison knew it wasn’t ideal. Alison wondered if the timing ever was going to be right for more children. And she had just about given up when she met Ryan Almy.
“I was so not looking to meet anybody,” Alison says. “But when I met Ryan — he’s such an incredible person. And when I saw him with kids — he was so good with kids, and he deserved to be a father.”
The two went on their first date on May 6, 2006 — with Alison giving full disclosure from the beginning.
“I told him, ‘If you love me, you love my son, too’” she remembers. “And he does. He treats him as if he were one of his own.”
Alison and Ryan married in July 2007 and immediately began trying for a baby. On their first anniversary, the doctor told them they were having twins. Two weeks later, the day before Josh turned 21, they learned one of the eggs had split.
“They turned the (ultrasound) monitor around, and we saw all three,” Alison says. “My husband was just in shock.
“It’s hard to describe, but it felt as though God was truly wanting to bless us,” she says. “God knows the desires of your heart, and He was blessing it with these miracles.”
The next day, the couple sat Josh down to give him the birthday present of a lifetime.
“We told him he no longer was going to be an only child,” Alison remembers. “He said, ‘Are you adopting?’ And we said, ‘No …’ He said, ‘Really?!’
“Then, we said, ‘It gets better.’”
Alison and Ryan just smiled.
Zoey Lin (4 pounds, 1 ounce and 17 inches) was the first to arrive at 11:42 a.m., Jan. 31, 2009. Sister Abigail Morgan (3 pounds, 15 ounces and 16-and-one-half inches) was second two minutes later, and Katrina Dee (3 pounds, 14 ounces and 17-and-one-half inches) was last at 11:45 a.m.
THREE TIMES THE CHARM
Now at 15 months, the Almy triplets are happy toddlers with their own personalities.
The daredevil of the group, Zoey, has earned the nickname “RJ” — Ryan Junior — because of her outgoing and adventurous nature, while Katrina is the peacemaker.
“When she was a baby, she pulled the lion and lamb toys together,” Alison says.
Abigail is the nurturer of the group — always concerned when one of her sisters is crying.
Alison, a former photographer, now is able to be a full-time mother while Ryan runs the family business, an automotive parts supplier. Their home is a maze of safety gates, toys and books, and dozens of family photos decorate each wall. The Almys also maintain a blog, almytriplets.blogspot.com, to keep family and friends updated on the girls’ adventures.
And because of the age gap, Josh is enjoying a truly unique relationship with his sisters.
“When he was home for Easter, I thought Josh would want to spend time with his friends,” Alison says. “But he wanted to spend time with his sisters. He was out there pulling them in their wagon and changing diapers.
“His Christmas present to us was a night out while he took care of his sisters,” she says. “It warms my heart. He knows the qualities he needs to be a good husband and father because he knows what he didn’t have growing up.”
For Alison, the perfect Mother’s Day has nothing to do with a spa retreat or daylong shopping excursion sans kids. Rather, it’s being surrounded by her family.
“I used to always cry on Mother’s Day,” she says. “At our old church, people always used to stand up and talk about how great their mothers were. I didn’t know what that was like.
“Now, I have tears on Mother’s Day, but they’re different,” she says. “I have everything I possibly could want. I have a wonderful son and three daughters who I can show what it’s like to have a mom. Maybe someday they’ll stand up in church and talk about the great relationship we have on Mother’s Day.”
For more information about photographer Gigi O'Dea, visit her Web site.
Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].
ADVICE FROM ALISON
What’s it like raising triplets? Mother Alison Almy gives some quick tips on keeping them happy — and keeping parents sane.
• Keep plastic cups from fast-food restaurants. When filled with hot water, they are able to transfer heat much more quickly for warming bottles.
• Use coffee pots set on timers so you always have hot water available.
• It is possible for one parent to feed all three babies at once. Use pillows and couch arms to help prop up the babies and your arms.
• Make shopping lists and plans before leaving the house. You have only a limited amount of time; use it wisely.
• Take the time to remember your spouse. Lean on eager family members as baby sitters to enjoy a night out once in a while.