How two La Quinta (Calif.) mothers balance triplets, a full house, and coaching hoops

Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun

How two La Quinta (Calif.) mothers balance triplets, a full house, and coaching hoops

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How two La Quinta (Calif.) mothers balance triplets, a full house, and coaching hoops

After fastening their three identical pairs of blue Velcro shoes and straightening their matching checked button-up shirts, the Viveros triplet boys are ready for a trip to the park.

In just two minutes, the boys’ emotions rode a tidal wave: elated while dancing to Disney tunes inside their La Quinta, Calif., home, shedding tears when they were told going out the front door didn’t lead to the garage and back to cheesy smiles when loading onto the family’s outdated but still functional green golf cart. Before long, they were plodding along down Calle Monterey, hand-fighting over who got to turn the steering wheel.

After the boys’ attention spans waned from tossing their rubber bouncy balls up and down the curly slide and reacting in surprise when they returned, Luca, Talen and Asher darted off the equipment for the trees and bushes in the corner for some makeshift basketball practice.

While one would toss a ball into the middle of a bush – they call that a “basket” in the world of toddlers – the other two kept their mothers busy. At this age, just short of two years old, picking up rocks, waving palm fronds and tearing apart flowers tickles their fancy.

“I’m a science teacher, and I hate it when my kids destroy plants,” Electra Viveros says. “Most moms get flowers, but I get pieces of flowers.”

Such is life as the mother of three high-energy, curious, active boys. This Mother’s Day will mark Electra’s second with her toddler trio, but she doesn’t celebrate alone. With three bundles of energy running wild around the Viveros’ kitchen, the family benefits from twice the motherly love, intuition and gentle guidance.

Not long ago, Electra and her wife Angela watched as their tiny family of two blossomed from their vision of three into enough to fill the starting five of a rec basketball team coming to gyms in 2030.

As Angela, the dreamer in the family, responded nonchalantly to the idea that she was carrying triplets, Electra remembers she could hardly control herself.

When one panics, the other maintains calm. When one dreams a bit too high, the other pulls her spouse back down to reality. It’s the type of relationship that has turned this household into a well-oiled machine, not unlike the pair’s basketball teams at La Quinta High School.

Two years ago, Electra took over the varsity girls’ basketball reins at her alma mater, with Angela in control of the junior varsity squad. Despite adding three boys into the mix, the family that blurs the lines between hardwood in the gym and hardwood floors at home runs as smoothly as ever in a way neither of them may have ever dreamed.

“She takes me to places I probably wouldn’t go on my own,” Electra said. “She helps me see that some things are truly possible, even if it nearly kills me getting there.”

  Henry Viveros always told his kids not to follow in his footsteps; to do what he said, not what he did. Electra hopes her boys someday will listen to her better than she did her own father.

As the daughter of a teacher and lifelong basketball coach, Electra learned the value of a life with basketball at a young age. She remembers when she was her boys’ age and living afternoons in the Coachella Valley High School gym as her father cut his teeth in the coaching world as the Arabs’ junior varsity coach.

“My wife and I were doing whatever we could to keep our family going financially, so I started teaching, and she was working retail,” Henry said. “That often required me to get my daughters and take them to the gym.

“And they fell in love with it like I did. I used to be like most teenagers, not very confident in myself, but basketball is where I found confidence and wanted to pass that along to my kids.”

It didn’t take much time for Electra to catch the bug. Before long, she and her sister Ashlee spent most of their spare time in the gym putting up shots – a “gym rat”, according to Electra.

There were pros and cons to growing up in the basketball-centric household. There was always someone to rebound during a late-night shooting practice. But as Electra’s basketball acumen grew, so did her competitiveness. She can’t do anything in life 75 percent, and playing basketball in her teens was no different. Living the life of a coach’s daughter didn’t help either.

“I’ve fallen in and out of love with the game many, many times,” she said. “I didn’t cry after my first boyfriend dumped me, but when I lost important games, I’d cry afterwards.”

“As a dad and coach, I sometimes forgot I was the dad first,” Henry said. “There were times when she asked questions and the correct answer wasn’t what I offered.”

After Electra graduated from La Quinta High School in 2001, she continued her athletic career at College of the Desert, where she played two seasons while taking classes. She remained with the Roadrunners the following season in 2003-04 as an assistant coach after her playing career ended when she tore ligaments in one of her ankles.

From there, she pondered transferring to a school in Kansas City to finish her academics – ironically where her future wife was playing – before picking Cal State San Bernardino, which allowed Electra to continue coaching at COD during the 2004-05 season.

After two years on the sidelines instead of between the baselines, Electra realized coaching the game she longed to play was still too raw.

“You can’t be a good coach if you’re still in that ‘I can do it better’ phase,” she said. “It took me years to let go of that.

“At COD, I wasn’t ready. I was still better than anyone there, at least in my head.”

In came Electra’s match, a recently graduated student-athlete from small-town Midwest, who was unafraid to tell her otherwise.

After Electra chose to finish her teaching credential and leave her post at COD during the summer of 2005, she remained in the desert another month to help ease the new coach into her position. Little did she know that, similar to her father who met Electra’s mom at a basketball game, she would meet her future wife Angela, the new COD assistant coach, around a basketball court.

After the COD season ended, the pair gradually started hanging out more and more among a common group of friends. Four months later, a meal out of a box marked their first date.

Electra is adamant she was the one being chased. Still, things started slowly.

“I cooked her Hamburger Helper and tried to pretend I made it from scratch,” Angela said. “For both of us, it was our first female relationship, so I think we were both really apprehensive, like ‘We’re dating, but are we really?’ We were trying to figure it all out. ‘Do I like you? I think I do.’ It was weird.”

They were together five years before revealing that the veil of a friendship they convinced their parents of was something more. Electra remembers going into that conversation apprehensive of the reaction from parents she always wanted to please. She left feeling the same type of unconditional love she tries to show her boys today.

Even better, the familial bond of the Viveros clan grew by one that day.

“I was in shock, but first and foremost you hope you love your kids no matter what. It didn’t change anything,” Henry said. “We just wanted her to be happy, and Angela made her happy.”

“I knew they cared and loved me, but just that affirmation … I was wondering ‘Are they going to hate me or are they going to look at me different’ and it was ‘No, we love you,’ ” Electra said. “They loved Angela when they thought we were best friends until where we are now.

“The fact that she’s made them grandparents has taken that to a whole new level.”

Lawfully-wedded wives — and mothers

In February of 2013, while a battle in the federal courts still wore on in the fight against California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage, the Viveros held their their wedding ceremony at Wiens Family Cellars, a winery in Temecula. Prop 8, which voters passed in November of 2008, had been ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge in 2010, but Californians continued to wait on a final ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though they couldn’t sign the legal papers until the summer of 2013 when the Supreme Court dismissed Prop 8 and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay on same-sex marriages, Electra and Angela wanted to hold a ceremony for their closest friends and family.

“Her family is Catholic and said ‘Okay, come on, you have to have a wedding,’ ” Angela said. “We had talked about it, but we didn’t think it needed to happen.”

“I couldn’t have kids unless I was married,” Electra said.

But after the couple signed their paperwork, a flood of emotions followed. Insurance, emergency hospital scenarios, both being on their future kids’ birth certificates – those issues all worked themselves out and brought a calming sensation they didn’t know they needed.

“It was almost shockingly really important,” Angela said. “I didn’t realize how important it was until we started talking kids.

“I have a friend I played basketball with, and she’s married to her wife, but it wasn’t legal in Michigan at the time, and it was a big deal that she couldn’t be on the birth certificate.”

After a couple years sharing their love of international travel, local hiking and late nights reading to each other, Angela reached a tipping point. Normally not the methodical planner of the two, she gave Electra an ultimatum.

“She reminded me we weren’t getting any younger,” Electra said.

They had decided Angela would have the first of the Viveros kids, and then it would be Electra’s turn. After two, had considered adopting another to finish their family with three kids.

That trip to the doctor a couple months into Angela’s pregnancy squashed those plans.

“I wanted to see what it would look like, but after seeing her pregnant with triplets, I thought ‘Nah, I think I’ll pass,’ ” Electra laughed.

“She was scared, she doesn’t take pain very good,” Angela replied.

“No comment,” Electra quickly chimed in.

Thirty-two weeks in, on June 1, Angela went to the doctor for a routine appointment. At home a few hours later while taking a nap, she awoke with her water broken. The average pregnancy for triplets lasts 34 weeks, their doctor had told them, so Electra continued teaching, ignoring the missed calls piling up on her cell phone.

“My aunt works in the school district, and she rang, which is rare,” Electra said. “She’s screaming at me ‘Why didn’t you answer your phone? Angie’s water broke and she’s in labor and you’re just teaching!’ ”

The basketball fanatic likely never ran a wind sprint as fast as she bounded out the doors of her classroom, nearly forgetting to find a teacher to cover her class.

Not long after, out came three boys totaling nine pounds and four ounces – the three kids they always wanted, all at once.

Soon after dinner one Monday evening, Angela packs up and heads off to the gym to host club basketball practice because, you know, basketball never sleeps.

After her two-year assistant coaching stint at COD from 2003-05, Electra took time away from the game to focus on teaching. After the end of the 2012-13 high school season season, Ty Thomas, her former coach during her Roadrunner days, asked Electra to be part of his staff while he was the La Quinta girls’ varsity coach. She took over as the head junior varsity coach.

“I’d been around basketball since I was two. My life had been consumed by it … and Ty Thomas didn’t want me to let that go,” Electra said. “When he pulled me back in, I was ready.”

Not long before the couple added three bundles of joy into their family, their daily lives changed drastically when Electra was promoted to La Quinta High School girls’ varsity head coach in 2015 after Thomas took over the boys’ program.

Adding three boys to that coaching and teaching lifestyle hasn’t been easy, but both parents say over the last two years, they’ve gotten things down to a science.

Electra wakes up at 5:30 a.m. so that she can try to get to school at 6:30 a.m. Angela starts getting ready around 6 a.m. for her elementary special education teaching job, allowing the boys to sleep in until 6:30 when Angela’s mom, Connie, comes over to help get the boys ready for their days.

School lasts until 2:30 p.m., allowing the pair to return home around 3:45 p.m. when they’re not in the heat of basketball season. Right now, they’re holding high school team practice twice-a-week in the evenings and switching off who leads while the other stays home with the boys and whatever combination of grandparents shows up to help.

Lately, those added pairs of hands and eyes have made all the difference.

“It takes a village, but we have a pretty tight village,” Henry said. “It would be impossible for them to do what they do without a lot of help, and they realize that and appreciate it. We appreciate being able to help as much as we can.”

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