Fall Traditions, Old and New

By Aimee Tafreshi

In August, my family made a cross-country move from a beautiful, pristine island in the northeast corner of Florida to the wide open, dusty spaces of West Texas. We arrived just in time for the beginning of the new school year and hurriedly ordered school uniforms and supplies as our first order of business. Still living in a corporate rental with most of our worldly belongings in storage, we took a triage approach to life, prioritizing the creation of a sense of normalcy while in housing limbo.

When we arrived in Midland, my husband relished the zero humidity heat. He is one of those people who will proclaim that 114 degrees isn’t so bad without the added moisture in the air. While I am inclined to agree, I felt slightly nostalgic for the muggy dampness of the usual southeastern and Central Texas summer and complained that the sun felt more intense here, amplified by the lack of trees.

When we face transitions in life, the world goes on with business as usual; the sun still rises and sets, and the seasons change. It was with some excited anticipation that I awaited the first cold spell in Midland and realized that none of our five children had appropriate winter gear, or even as much as a windbreaker. During our hasty exit from Florida, there was not enough room on the U-Haul for our winter clothes, so they were relegated to storage. Sadly, I didn’t even pack a pair of fall boots, which for any woman who cares much about footwear, is a major fashion dilemma. We might be able to wear socks with flip flops during a “Florida winter,” but here in Midland’s more desert-like climate, it actually gets cold.

As I counted down the days until the temperature would dip into the 30s, I convinced my more fiscally conservative spouse that a shopping trip for fall attire was in order. An upside to living in a larger city is better access to shopping. There isn’t a Nordstrom, but there is a Dillard’s, Old Navy and Banana Republic (Outlet). On Amelia Island, I had to drive over an hour to visit a mall. As I presently walked into various retail stores, I felt overwhelmed by the choices and sheer abundance of clothes. I promptly got over that feeling and put a big dent in my budget at Carter’s and Gymboree so my kids wouldn’t freeze in the unfettered winds of West Texas.

As the cooler temps arrived, I began to feel happiness again. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and it’s not because Starbucks was now offering pumpkin spiced lattes. I love the feel of the breeze on my arms before it’s too cold to wear a t-shirt. Autumn also happily coincides with football season, the perfect excuse to veg out all day Saturday with Game Day and the best match-ups. (Who are we kidding?—we have 5 kids!—but we watch what we can. We’ve managed to turn one into a football fanatic and are working on the others.) My husband and I have taken turns at the local fields watching our 8-year-old son experience his own “Friday Night Lights” during his flag football games. I love just sitting and watching, pausing from life to take a breath and let someone else do the running around.

We’ve also explored the local family-run farm—they seem to have these all over America judging from my friends’ Facebook feeds—where the kids cheer on piglets as they race, play tug of war and roll down the field in a big barrel. There’s something refreshing and freeing about letting your kids run loose on a big tract of land with old-fashioned entertainment, no charger required. We have visited this agricultural wonder three times now and have enjoyed different experiences each visit. My favorite new memory is probably seeing my kindergartner fly down a metal slide sitting on a burlap sack with a look of half terror and half exhilaration on his face. (I had to explain what “burlap” is.) I loved that I could set my 15-month-old twins down and not worry about lack of child proofing or them getting into trouble. Hay, dirt and grass are good for the soul.

This past week was a great example of new traditions paired with some old ones. The week didn’t start off with the highest expectations. I found out my husband would be away on business for the week of Halloween. For some people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, Halloween is one of my top three holidays. The image in my head of the whole fam dressed up as The Incredibles instantly went poof. (We would have been in good company with the fifty percent of American families who dressed up as this brood of superheroes.)

Not one to be deterred, I gamely took the kids to a pop-up Halloween store where they picked out non-coordinating costumes including a character from Harry Potter (I couldn’t tell you her name if I tried) and Dracula (I sadly noted that a duplicate vampire costume collected dust in storage). My oldest son and I originally had big plans for him to dress as a “Zombie businessman,” one of those original ideas that sounds easy until you realize it will take one to two trips to thrift stores, the effort of deconstructing the second-hand clothes into zombie threads and the artful application of make-up (or face paint, as I tell my boys) to achieve the desired ghoulish effect. I love nothing more than playing with face paint, but two lurking toddlers would likely thwart my artistic efforts. So we dialed it in and decided for my second grader to channel Dallas Cowboys’ player Dak Prescott, a costume choice that would require minimal time and effort. I silently thanked my son for choosing this slacker option. A more ambitious mom would have at least zombie-fied the quarterback.

With not enough time (or the desire to spend one hundred more dollars), I forwent the Etsy option for the twins and found some cute Bert and Ernie costumes on Amazon. When the day arrived, I realized that I absolutely couldn’t go as myself, as scary as that would be, so I headed to Party City at 8 a.m. and found a budget-friendly witch costume in the young at heart but, let’s face it, middle-aged, soccer mom section. And of course, I needed an authentic looking broom stick (every mom should own one—how did I not have one?), witchy head piece, ‘90s style Goth black choker and classy spider web tights to complete the look. We were finally ready to make our Halloween debut in Midland.

Unfortunately, the perfect mix of summer sunshine and autumnal breeze dancing around earlier in the week made way for its ugly cousin: cold, rainy and dreary. It was Mother Nature’s cruel Halloween parlor trick. When we headed out the door, the thermometer showed 48 degrees, and we lacked layers, outerwear, and most importantly, common sense. After all the work that poured into costuming multiple kiddos, taking bad photos and the resulting EF5 devastation in our too-small temporary home, there was no turning back. As we rounded the block, the babies were too cold to cry, reduced to a look of shock. My timid Dracula deadpanned to an adult, “I want to eat you,” a slight deviation from our rehearsed “I want to suck your blood,” spoken with a vampire accent.

My exuberant sons also attempted to beat the crap out of a jolly adult dressed up as an inflatable T-Rex. I finally had to ruin the Halloween magic and yell, “Stop beating him up! There’s a real human inside that costume!!!” The final dramatic moment occurred when we witnessed an English Bulldog gallop free from his owner and proceed to pee and poop all over the pebbles (we have rocks, not grass, in these parts). The stout fellow then turned his attention toward us, charging me and Dak Prescott, who screamed, “He’s going to attack us now!” I prepared to shield the babies in their stroller, and the pup ran full speed toward me and jumped up on my dress in a flash, aiming his slobbery jaws toward my lips. I simultaneously wondered if there were poopy paw prints all over my new witchy get-up and how I could dognap this slobbery blob of pure love and happiness. Alas, he sprinted back to his amused owner.

After trick-or-treating on two streets, we returned home with frozen limbs and overflowing buckets of candy, just what we needed on a school night. The babies were never happier to be in their cribs, their pale chubby arms felt like cool ice packs, and I hoped they would thaw out overnight. Despite the Arctic blast, the older sons were ecstatic—I think my daughter was too; she was frozen like Audrey from Christmas Vacation and could only nod and grunt.

As I began to clean up the scary mess that was Halloween, I breathed a sigh of relief that another holiday was in the books. Now I could look forward to Thanksgiving, where my dear mother would do most of the cooking and cleaning, thank the Lord. (Sorry Mom!)

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50% Off at Gap- Top Picks for Kids

I love shopping for my littles at Gap, but I rarely purchase items full price because they frequently have great sales and today is no exception. Gap is currently offering 40% off all items with promo code STYLE, and customers can score an extra 10% off with code SHOP.

With the holiday season around the corner and 4 kids who are growing like weeds, I can’t think of a better time to stock up on some festive pieces to carry us through fall and right into winter. Check out my top picks from the Gap In the Family Event below.

Baby Girl (NB-24M)

Gap Holiday Print Sweater One-Piece Gap Ruffle Bunny Fairy Sweater Gap Car Peplum Legging Set GAP UNICORN GARTER HOODIE SWEATER

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Baby Boy (NB-24M)

Gap fox one-piece sweater  Gap fair isle one-piece baby boy  Gap Christmas Sweater Baby Boy Gap Holiday Outfit Set Baby Boy

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Toddler Girl (12M-5Y)

Plaid Ruffle Dress long sleeve dress Fringe Hoodie Poncho Toddler Girl plaid dress

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Toddler Boy (12M-5Y)

holiday tee Gap Plaid Shirt Fair Isle Sweater Gap Toddler Jeans

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I had a hard time narrowing it down to just four pieces per category because there are so many cute options at Gap right now. I highly encourage you to check out the full sale following the affiliate links provided above.

Happy Shopping!

Baby Bennett’s Birth Story

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By Lacey Appolito

Three weeks ago, I delivered my fourth baby (second girl) with my most favorite OB and I couldn’t be more thrilled that my family is now complete. Two boys. Two girls. Lots of chaos. No shortage of love.

I have a weird habit of reading birth stories on my phone while taking a bath during my last month of pregnancy. As each week passes, I change my Google search… 36 week birth stories. 37 week birth stories. 38 week birth stories… You get the idea.

The final few weeks of pregnancy are filled with anticipation. Every cramp is scrutinized. Each trip to the bathroom is a quest for a lost mucous plug. It is fascinating to read how different women experience labor and birth, and exciting to imagine how your own will play out.

My first son Jack was born on a full moon, at 40+3 weeks after days of false labor. I was induced with my second son William at 41 weeks, and my daughter Evie’s birth was almost identical to what I experienced with Jack. It was a full moon and I endured several days of inconsistent but strong contractions before she was born at 39+5 weeks.

I thought for sure that my fourth baby Bennett would come early and fast since my body had birthed so many times before. And even though I know that how dilated you are doesn’t mean much in terms of when you will deliver, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when I was barely a finger tip dilated and baby was very high at every single appointment leading up to my 40th week of pregnancy.

I was confident that a fourth baby would more or less fall out of my body, but it wasn’t looking like that would be the case at all. So, with the full support of my husband and OB, I scheduled an elective induction for Baby Bennett’s due date, and unlike my induction with William, I didn’t fret over my choice to induce at all.

In comparison to my spontaneous labors, William’s birth was less painful and more controlled. It really was an easy birth, and after a fast labor with Evie, I was worried that Bennett would be born in our car on the way to the hospital, which I wanted to avoid at all costs obviously.

Fast forward to my due date, September 14th, 2018. My husband and I checked into the hospital at 5AM. I quickly changed into my hospital gown and we rested while the nurse set up the Pitocin. Soon after the IV was placed, I felt a few mild contractions and about an hour later my OB came in to check my cervix, break my water, and insert an internal catheter to keep a closer eye on my contractions.

After my OB broke my water, which I have never experienced pre-epidural by the way 😳,  the Pitocin was cranked up and my body started to respond. I dilated from about one centimeter to five centimeters relatively quickly, and I felt confident that I would have a fast labor, after all.

Prior to my induction, I toyed with the idea of a natural birth. Of course I didn’t share this plan with anyone but my husband (who laughed because he knows me so well), so once I reached five centimeters the nurse started talking epidural.

I wasn’t in excruciating pain yet, but I also knew I did not want to feel the pain I felt with Evie, when I was eight centimeters dilated and clenching on to the side of the hospital bed for dear life, cussing and crying, begging for an epidural to take the pain away… So I agreed.

And then everything stopped.

For two hours I remained a little more than five centimeters dilated, but suddenly the situation changed. I started to feel the pain of each contraction again, and despite pressing the epidural button over and over again, the pain only intensified.

It wasn’t pressure I was feeling. It was the familiar stabbing sensation of labor. And it hurt like a mother.

The nurse checked my cervix and I was seven centimeters dilated. The pain continued, moving lower with each passing contraction.

“I’m feeling pressure!” I moaned to my nurse through clenched teeth, who decided to call my doctor up to check me again. Less than thirty minutes had passed and I was now nine centimeters dilated. The doctor wanted anesthesia to come push more medicine through my IV before birth, as the pain was unbearable at that point.

So we waited… briefly. Anesthesia never made it, as I was ten centimeters and ready to push within a couple of minutes.

My doctor returned, and sweet Bennett was born almost immediately. I pushed through two contractions and in an instant she was there! They placed her gooey body on my chest and she peed all over me, but I didn’t care. I was captivated by the moment. In awe of life and its miraculous ways.

It was a bittersweet moment in time, and one that I will cherish forever. My last pregnancy. My last birth story. My last time to experience the surreal feeling of bringing a child into the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s Birthday Disaster

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by Aimee Tafreshi

August is the worst month for a birthday. It’s hotter than hell. In most states, kids go back to school in August. Goodbye sleeping in, hello pre-dawn wake-ups. My younger sister sometimes showed up for the first day of school on her birthday. My mom usually had to delay her birthday party so they would be able to invite children from her class. If you have a child with an August birthday, you may have to grapple with the issue of “redshirting” him for kindergarten, or starting on time, making him the youngest in the class. My husband and I debated the August birthday/redshirt issue at length before we even had children. For various reasons, August is a month fraught with issues.

So it makes perfect sense that I would marry someone with a late August birthday. I am drawn to this punishing month for whatever reason. My husband has not been spared from the wrath of August. Many of his birthdays have been spent on a cold submarine in the middle of the ocean, but that circumstance could have happened during a more reasonable month. Two of his birthdays immediately followed the birth of our second son and boy/girl twins (all born in late July). During those postpartum times, I was self-sequestered at home in a permanent state of disheveledness and recovering from two tough c-sections. Luckily, my mother-in-law saved the day last year, buying thoughtful gifts, wrapping them beautifully, and picking up a quality cake from a great bakery. Despite the chaos of newborn twins, my husband Alex seemed to enjoy his celebration, especially with his mother visiting from afar. The day felt special and a brief respite from the pool we were drowning in daily, caring for newborn twins.

This year I had no excuses (well, other than two demanding 12-month-old babies). We had just moved cross country to Midland, Texas, and with the older children in school and the little ones in care while I worked remotely, I could venture outside the home, buy gifts and even balloons! This year would be the one to make up for the past birthday failures. We had only been in our new home about two weeks when I started buying presents I thought he would enjoy—Texas Longhorn fan gear—a car decal for his new truck, a Texas shirt, a ball cap for the field, a bottle of quality bourbon, a nice pair of Longhorn dress socks. I got a recommendation from a local for a quality bakery and placed my order for a birthday Bundt cake, something unique and new to try. This birthday would be one for the books!

The big day for my husband arrived, and I began to complete the final touches. I had the children sign (and decorate) a heartfelt card for their father, and I found a humorous one that seemed to match our current state of chaos. I picked up a bouquet of balloons from the store, a family tradition. I decided on a restaurant for dinner, which did not accept reservations, but I figured if we arrived early enough, we should be able to get a table, as it was mid-week.

The day trudged on, and finally it was time to celebrate. I could tell Alex liked the balloons, and the tidy array of tastefully decorated gift bags and cards looked festive on our kitchen table. We gathered up our large brood and called the restaurant to inquire about a potential wait. They informed us that there wasn’t currently a wait, and a large table was open. So far, so good!

We arrived at the dinner spot, a place we had been dying to try on advice of our realtor since arriving in West Texas. I could almost taste the tequila of the margarita in my mouth. We approached the hostess stand where we learned that there would now be a 30 to 40 minute wait. Apparently others had showed up in the last 15 minutes. Okay, that’s just Midland, we thought, and amiably took a seat in the warm glassed-in waiting area. The kids were holding up okay, some on their electronics, and we fed the babies some puffs. After about half an hour, I sauntered back over to the hostess stand, where a host told me that the wait would be at least another 30 to 45 minutes. “But we’ve already been waiting 40 minutes,” I protested lightly, “and I saw a six top table available.” The host informed me that the table must have been for someone else. “Is it because we have children with us?” I asked somewhat rhetorically. “I don’t know,” he responded, “I’m new.” Huh?? So you’re saying we may possibly never get a table because we have children in tow? Couldn’t they have told us that from the get go and saved us all a lot of time?

I marched back to the waiting area and informed Alex of the latest development. “We may never get a table,” I lamented, “They’re going to make us wait until we just give up!” Alex, not one to take things sitting down, returned to the new employee to discuss things further. He returned a few minutes later and abruptly said, “Let’s go.” Apparently he’d christened the new host with a few choice words, and the next time we visit the restaurant, Alex will need to wear a disguise for us to get a table.

Not willing to give up, we headed back to our car and pulled up Yelp. I found another Mexican restaurant with excellent reviews—all 5 star!—and we headed to our new destination. We drove through downtown, across the highway, and found ourselves next to a junkyard. And here our new dining location stood. “Oh wow, it’s a junkyard,” the kids exclaimed, either sarcastically or with genuine excitement, I’m not sure which. I hope this restaurant has a liquor license, I thought, not wanting a “wine-a-rita” style drink. “It looks small,” another helpful child chimed in.

We headed inside to a cute mom and pop type restaurant with red and white checked table cloths. It was charming in a kind of minimalist, Dollar Tree sort of way. A kind woman greeted us and directed us to our table, right under the window AC unit. She cranked it up to dispel the heavy heat surrounding us. Getting right to the important stuff, I asked if they served margaritas. “Oh no,” she said, crushing my soul, “we don’t sell alcohol.” I helpfully offered to Alex that we could buy margarita supplies on the way home from the drive through liquor store. “Well, we have a table and no wait!” I said cheerfully, “These ‘hole in the wall’ places are the best!” The nice lady brought menus with photos of food and no prices. I ordered the mole enchiladas, and they were honestly some of the tastiest I’d ever had. The mole was perfect and probably an old passed down family recipe. At the end of our meal, the waitress brought Alex a slice of cake, and we, and a few other patrons, joined in to sing Happy Birthday. Things were looking up!

After a satisfying meal, we gathered our belongings, and Alex went to pick up our baby boy, Rhett, from his high chair. Unfortunately Rhett was covered with a gooey brown substance, but it wasn’t chocolate. I’m not sure how it ended up all of over the front of his clothes, so we hoisted him up, held him at arm’s length, and made a mad dash for the car. With the junkyard as a fitting backdrop and the blazing hot sun melting us, we spent the next 15 minutes changing Rhett and cleaning him in the back of our car. We were exhausted and beat down. We couldn’t even muster the energy to hit up the drive through liquor store. We finally arrived home, and Alex collapsed onto the couch. He was too tired to eat cake or open presents. We would have to save them for tomorrow. “I’m sorry it was so terrible,” I told him, feeling awful that an evening with such good intentions and effort failed so miserably. I added, “My father always had a saying ‘When a day starts like this it’s all uphill from here.’” (A little gem from Zach Galifianakis in Due Date.)

The next day, we devoured the chocolate chip Bundt cake, and Alex opened up his Longhorn curated gifts and read the thoughtful cards. He seemed genuinely happy, and I didn’t even mind the cream cheese icing (too much). We laughed at the irony of the Facebook picture I had posted for his birthday of him wearing a sombrero and imbibing a huge margarita with a big grin on his face. “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” someone had commented. “Enjoy the margarita!” another had said. Well Facebook is a big fat liar. That huge margarita was consumed months ago in Florida! Alex has (half) joked before that he’s the lowest in priority on the totem pole—behind the kids and the dogs—but this super dad deserves a birthday for the books. I’m already planning next year’s. What could go wrong in Vegas?!

The Dog Days of Summer

by Lacey Appolito

Being a parent is a rollercoaster. Every day is different, though it can feel like ground hog day, and some days are better than others. This summer has been particularly challenging for me as a parent (and really as a functional adult, too).

For those of you who don’t know, I am a work from home mom. I own and operate an e-commerce business out of my home, but I also wear the hat of stay at home mom. My three kids, who are currently 5, 3, and 2 years old, attend a mother’s day out program for 20 hours per week during the school year, and I really do have a pretty sweet gig when school is in session.

BUT school ended May 18th, and summertime has been a little rocky to say the least. Caring for three children under the age of six is a full-time job. Every minute brings new demands for snacks, more milk, potty help, diaper changes, attention, redirecting, and SO. MUCH. REFEREEING.

On top of the daily grind, I am trying to run a business. When my kids are home for the summer, it is difficult to work on growing or improving Little World Organics. I do what I can to get by and then it is back to my kiddos, because they need me almost all of the time.

Now here is where things get really interesting… I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with my fourth child. I am tired. I am uncomfortable. And most days the temperature is over 100 degrees, making our much needed outside time pretty freaking miserable.

So what is a super pregnant, stay at home/work from home mama to do?

Do better. I have to do better.

Better for my kids. Better for my business. Better for myself.

My little tribe and I have exactly one month until school resumes for the fall semester 🙌, and six weeks until our family grows by one, which will inevitably change our family dynamic forever.

During the dog days of summer, when all I really want to do is curl up with some Netflix in a very cold, dark room, I vow to:

  • practice patience
  • find time to work on my business while the kids are sleeping
  • be present when they are awake
  • exude love
  • minimize exasperation
  • play more

We’ve had a rough couple of days around here, and it is time to turn it around. Despite the enormous amount of energy it takes to pack up three little ones and take them to the neighborhood pool alone, I am going to do it. They need it. I need it. It’s time to breathe some fresh air into our summer routine. I am ready for a change.

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Snack time at the pool!