Kristy (Cobb) Van Meter always loved acting, participating in school plays from the third grade on and, later, majoring in Drama at Furman University in South Carolina. Little did she realize back then that her life would eventually take on an unusual drama of its own.
Let’s set the stage for what has become a life filled with surprises, joy, humor, and a little craziness; it’s a family drama that’s taken more than a few twists and turns (but the ending’s a happy one).
Kristy and her younger sister, Holly, grew up in Reidsville, N.C. “I have special memories of Sunday dinners at my house, and at my aunt’s and grandma’s houses. All of our extended family living in the area would get together after church. It was always so much fun to be with everyone,” she says.
Then life changed somewhat. When Kristy was in high school, the family moved to Morristown, Tenn. for her father’s job. Kristy remembers that this was a tough move for her and her sister, but “it really strengthened our relationship. We just had each other; we didn’t know anyone else for a while, so we grew much closer.”
Dreaming as little girls do, Kristy remembers picturing herself married and the mother of four children, “two girls and two boys,” she says with a laugh. Her career visions back then were to be a veterinarian, a geologist, or an actress.
Well, the acting aspiration won out. Following high school, Kristy headed back to the Carolinas, this time to S.C., where she attended Furman University. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Drama with a concentration in Psychology, she moved to Ga., attending grad school at the Psychological Studies Institute and Georgia State University and receiving her master’s in Community Counseling with a certificate in Christian Counseling. These college studies would prove to be “so” essential for her later in life.
Following graduation, Kristy counseled at a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents in Dahlonega for three years. During that time she dated and fell in love with a longtime friend, Clay Van Meter. After marrying in 1997, they moved to Senoia in 2000 so Clay could open his insurance business in Peachtree City. Kristy continued working as an in-home counselor for families in crisis.
Then came the first real surprise: shortly after they moved, they found out that Kristy was pregnant with fraternal twins. Kristy carried babies Jackson and Truitt up to 33½ weeks, giving birth by caesarean on December 22, 2000. The babies were fine, but Kristy had developed toxemia and a blood disease, Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP), which put her in intensive care following the delivery. “The nurses gave Clay one-on-one instructions on how to care for the babies, since I wouldn’t be able to do much when we took them home,” she says. “So that was a good thing, and he did a great job.”
She and the babies came home on Christmas Day. “Boy, did our lives change,” she recalls. “We were overwhelmed, but we got a lot of help.”
Out of necessity, Kristy and Clay established a routine for caring for the twins. “We have friends who have twins, and one thing they told us was to get them on a schedule. Feed them at the same time, otherwise they would be waking us up all night. So if one woke up to eat, we would wake up the other one to eat as well,” Kristy explains.
Even with all the support from family and church and great advice, it was sometimes overwhelming to be a stay-at-home mom of twins; there was definitely a learning curve. Once, Kristy took her babies with her to stock up on a diaper sale at the supermarket. “I was carrying one in a sling, and then I carried the car seat into the store for the other one. Well, the car seat wouldn’t even fit in the shopping cart, so here I had one baby I was holding, and carrying the other one in his seat in my other hand, and then I was trying to get a big box of diapers…” She trails off and laughs. “You know, it’s trying to figure out the logistics of it all.”
Once they were mobile, the twins sometimes got into a little mischief together, playing off of each other’s curiosity and adventurousness. But Kristy and Clay remained patient and loving, and soon they began to consider welcoming another child into their family.
The Van Meters consulted with their doctor to see if it was advisable, considering the health complications that had come from Kristy’s pregnancy with the twins. The doctor said that complications were more likely to occur with multiples and first pregnancies, so he thought that chances of complications would decrease with Kristy’s second pregnancy. “He felt it was probably fine to get pregnant again,” Kristy says.
It wasn’t long before Kristy did get pregnant a second time; the couple was thrilled and excited. “I remember thinking, ‘This must be what it is like to have a single pregnancy.’” She pauses and laughs. “Little did we know! During our first ultrasound I immediately saw two sacs, and I uttered a little too loudly, ‘Are we having twins again?’ The doctor replied gently, ‘Right now there are three babies in there.’ Clay got white and real quiet. I started laughing and crying at the same time. Clay kept patting me and saying, ‘Everything’s going to be fine, everything’s going to be fine.’ We were so shocked!”
This, too, was a risky pregnancy. The doctors were very watchful and cautioned Clay and Kristy that they could lose one, two or even all three. “Although we didn’t plan for triplets, once we saw all three heartbeats on the ultrasound screen, we were pulling for each one,” Kristy says.
Kristy, a petite woman, was on bed rest prior to the birth of their identical twin sons, Tyler and Ford, and a daughter, Kate, on January 20, 2004. Again Kristy was in ICU for four days after the triplets’ delivery. This time a heart condition—cardio myopathy, resulting from the way her heart had enlarged during the pregnancy—nearly took her life.
“I almost died after delivery,” she says matter-of-factly, adding lightly, “Clay was very happy I didn’t leave him with all those kids.”
Once more friends, church members and family rallied around this sudden family of seven with support, food, attention. Because Kristy was still healing from her heart issues and couldn’t get out of bed, friends and family contributed time and money, hiring night-sitters and enlisting church members to help stay through the night with the infants. “We were very blessed by that,” Kristy says emphatically.
After she’d healed, Kristy began scaling a new learning curve—this time as the mother of two sets of multiples. For a while when the babies were little, Kristy recalls, she and Clay “just did what we had to do, dealing with whatever was needed at the moment… it was like triage.” And when the babies grew into toddlers, the couple found that the challenges of parenting them evolved, too.
“When the triplets came, we actually turned our dining room into a play room, and we gated it off. Well, they would climb the gate. They would even climb over each other to get over the gate,” laughs Kristy. “And we had them in a nursery together—two cribs foot to head, a changing table next to it, and a third crib on the other side of the room. Well, they learned how to climb from crib to crib, and they would use the changing table as a bridge to get into each other’s beds. It was a little crazy.” Kristy and Clay solved that problem by installing crib tents, and later turning the tents backward once the babies figured out how to open them. “You have to get a little creative,” she says with a laugh.
“Creative” also included using duct tape to fasten diapers after the babies figured out how to pull them off, as well as painting one of the twins’ toenails with blue polish to be able to tell him apart from his identical brother.
Despite the challenges, though, having twins before triplets had its advantages. “When you have two kids, you can go man-to-man defense, but when you have more than two, you have to go zone,” Clay jokes. “I think having the twins prepared us to ‘go zone’ with the triplets.”
Parenting two sets of multiples came with other unique challenges, such as managing the individual needs of each child; early on, Kristy recognized that each child must be parented differently. “All of our children are very spirited.” She laughs and adds, “That’s more positive than saying they are strong-willed.” She and Clay balance being strict with being loving and flexible. “Most of our rules fall under respect—respect people, respect property. Show people you value them.”
It’s been nearly a decade since those sometimes-chaotic first years, and life has calmed down; the twins are now 12 years old, and the triplets are nine. “It still requires a lot from us, but the things we need to do are different,” Kristy says, also pointing out that like any other mother, she learns as she goes.
“In grad school I was a nanny for two families, so I thought I knew something about parenting,” she says with a wry smile. “But it is so different when they’re your own children. I thought I’d be a better disciplinarian, and I thought I’d have more energy. Like many families, we have great philosophies behind everything we do for our children, but I often wonder how good we are at implementing them. Parenting is so humbling. I think it is a huge refinement process for me.”
And of course, like all moms, Kristy has her moments. “God gives me the strength for each day and that all sounds very noble,” she says, “but when I’m in the trenches of the day, that is not always my mindset.” When she begins to feel stressed, she might take a personal “timeout” and go to her room, walk outside and take a deep breath, phone a friend, or simply pray.
Although Kristy claims that she’s not as organized as she’d like, her children have an effective routine in place: a designated place for all of their school papers; the routine of having an after-school snack, followed by homework; the habit of having clothes laid out the night before school; and a chore chart that designates each child’s duties to help make the house run smoothly.
However, she says, “Keeping an orderly house is one of my struggles. For a long time, I’d beat myself up if I didn’t have a clean house or felt I wasn’t organized enough. But I’ve learned to say, ‘That’s okay.’ There are just some things I can’t pull off.”
And having an intimate understanding of the struggle to find balance as a mom has given her a unique perspective. “I know that it’s important that I give grace to people because I require so much of it,” Kristy says. “As women and mothers we need to give ourselves a lot of grace and extend it to other women. We can’t do it all.”
Despite her busy life, Kristy still makes the time to reach out and help others; just as she gives so generously to her family, she extends that giving to others outside her home.
Both Carolyn Mayo and Joanne Harman, Kristy’s close friends, can’t say enough about her big-hearted spirit. “Her giving always starts with deep insights into the person and their needs,” says Joanne. “She is always thinking and giving outside of herself.”
Carolyn adds, “She will rearrange her life to help someone and I’ve seen her do it. I think her counseling background has a lot to do with it. People will call her when life is hard. They know she can be trusted.”
“Many of us have good intentions,” Carolyn continues, “but she follows through. She shows up with a box of cupcakes or puts a gift on your doorstep. She is amazing.”
Kristy’s younger sister, Holly Lucenay, agrees that Kristy does a lot for her and others. “She is always looking to the needs of others. She has a heart for everybody and anybody.”
Kristy modestly shrugs it off when asked about her giving spirit. She simply says, “That’s the way we were raised. Our parents were always very generous in serving other people and I think I picked that up from them.”
And then, even more unassumingly, she adds, “Sometimes I think my giving is kind of selfish on my part because it brings me so much joy. It is kind of a break for me. It is something I can do outside of my daily routine.”
With a life filled with family, what in the world does Kristy like to do if she has a rare moment to herself? “I love to read, and I often stay up later than I should reading after everyone else has gone to bed,” she admits.
She also enjoys taking photos of her half-dozen, camera-ready family members in action, capturing precious moments and memories. And, reaffirming her love for others, she says she likes to invest time in her close relationships. “That is very important to me,” Kristy says, “and I want to show people more hospitality by having them to my home—even if it isn’t perfect.”
What does Kristy see in the future for her personally? Eyes twinkling, she quickly notes that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. That said, she envisions using her acting skills in community theater. In addition, when her children are older, she would like to use her counseling background and minister to others. And, she quickly adds, “I’d like to write. My dream is to write fiction, but I don’t know if that will ever come to fruition.”
Whatever the future holds, Kristy’s starring role in her family’s story keeps her life full and happy, and she’ll continue to teach her five understudies how to perform and attain their own places on life’s stages. And by her side is her husband, who never misses an opportunity to give her an ovation.
“No matter how long the day gets, no matter how many sick children she has at one time, no matter how loud the house gets, she remains the loving, genuine, wise, edifying, humble woman she has always been,” says Clay. “I know that other people have even questioned if she is too good to be true… and I am grateful to know and say that she is as ‘real’ and genuine as any person can be.”