Two’s Company, Three’s a Big Mess

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By: Aimee Tafreshi

 

I grew up in an All-American family with two children, spaced an ideal three and a half years apart, complete with a loveable Golden Retriever/lab mix. I had time to bond with my parents and didn’t feel threatened by the arrival of my baby sister (other than hiding my mom’s car keys when she went into labor). I gleefully pushed her as a toddler around the living room in a laundry basket. And I tolerated her creating a “tornado” on the Monopoly board when I was in the lead, ending our game.

Despite our idyllic set-up, I secretly admired my friends with large, boisterous families. Everyone in my extended family limited themselves to a practical one to two children, usually of the same gender. I wondered what it would feel like in a family of three to four kids with multiple cousins running around at holidays, too many to count. During a phase as preteens, my sister and I pretended we had a mysterious older brother. His “room” was my dad’s study. We nearly convinced some friends that he existed. At some point I knew that, one day, I would have three children. I also wanted to answer the eternal question—Do middle children live up to their reputation, as, shall we say, a tad odd?

Fast-forward into my 30s and my prophecy has become reality. I have an 8-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 6 and 4, not so neatly spaced at 21 months apart. The biggest rivalry exists, however, not between the two little boys but between the big sister and middle child. I have learned from my husband’s childhood experience, as well as my current situation, that their 2.5 years spacing is perfectly suited for explosive sibling rivalry and constant one-upmanship.

Do I regret having three children? Absolutely not. Is the middle child really as different as they say? Absolutely. I have no regrets about our family make-up, but there are some things you should know if you are considering taking the plunge into three kid-dom.

First, the middle child is a unique individual. I actually used the word “unique” on a class form to describe my son, because I couldn’t think of a third adjective. Was he funny? Not really. Was he super kind? No. I jotted down as many synonyms as I could think of for smart and then threw in “unique.” This kid is going to work for NASA someday. He will be the guy at the computer with a row of empty soda cans and crumpled candy bar wrappers. We secretly refer to him as Pig Pen because he’s always inexplicably covered in dirt. I don’t know if he will get married or not. He will need a wife who will wait on him hand and foot and who has the talent to cook without taking any time to do so. (Yes, his need for instant gratification is probably my fault; plus I’ll blame Minecraft.)

My middle child has been uniquely challenging since he came out of the womb, but as he gets older, I appreciate him more. As a baby, I would feed him around the clock, and he was always hungry. I would load him up on milk before play dates and would then spend the entire gathering feeding him more as he fussed. I used to think we were very different, but now I realize he is a lot like me. Sometimes the children the most like us drive us the craziest. After all, who would want to parent themselves?!

My conclusion: I can’t speak for other middle children, but mine fits the bill as marching to the beat of his own drum. And I love him for that.

Another point to consider—life in a large household is chaotic. Some parents like to use the term “organized chaos,” but let’s face reality; the chaos is often a free for all. One must employ a triage approach—if no one is profusely bleeding or has a broken bone protruding from his skin, then you can carry on with those dishes. Pick-up time in the afternoon is the worst. The kids yell over each other as I drive, screaming about their day, and crying when I choose to listen to one’s story first. I end up screaming the loudest that I’m going to get in a car accident if they don’t put a cork in it, and by the time we pull into the driveway, everyone’s eyes are stained with tears.

Which brings me to the competitive aspect . . . each child will constantly keep tabs on what the others are getting. I have had to tell them to stop counting M&Ms when I hand them out for a treat. Woe to me if one gets 22 little candies and the other receives a meager 21. At Christmas time, the presents were initially allocated so that Santa happened to bring one child a few more gifts than the other two. “You can’t do that,” I screamed to my husband, “they will count the gifts and think Santa is punishing the other two!” He stared at me in disbelief—Do you really think they will count the presents?—and then helped me reclassify the gift giver of the extra packages. Sure enough, the next morning the kids raced up to the table where St. Nick’s gifts sat and exclaimed, “Why did Santa bring us only two gifts each?” I smiled, satisfied that the question was not, “Why did Santa bring him two more gifts than us?!” Crisis averted.

Fights will often ensue about perceived minor issues, like who gets to sit next to Mommy in the restaurant, or who will push the elevator button (the latter is a big source of contention in two-child families as well, to which my sister can attest.) Simple decisions are fraught with peril and the potential for large scale fights to erupt, so parents must anticipate these conflicts and plan for a peaceful conflict resolution.

Another big issue for large families is logistics. As in, there is no way we are participating in winter swim league, spring soccer and Little League in the same season. I have to be judicious with what activities we commit to each year. My youngest son has yet to do much in the way of organized sports, but I’ve heard there are benefits to delaying team sports until children are seven or eight.

Schedules are a consideration for parents who have visions of raising the next Olympic gymnast or swimmer. Either limit yourself to less children or plan on dragging around the others to a ton of meets and practices. I have found endeavors in the arts (like dance and music lessons, theater camp and art classes) to be more forgiving to busy schedules, as you don’t have an added game or meet every week. We are doing swimming AND soccer this spring, and I am scared. I drew the line at tee-ball. My youngest will have to wait another season or two to begin his Major League baseball training.

The result of these logistical nightmares challenges—parents become better than FedEx at delivering their children from Point A to Point B on time. We have become experts at packing like an Apocalypse is coming—no detail is too trivial—and transforming into drill sergeant mode, adept at delivering orders with military like precision. I’m not here to be my child’s friend; I’m here to deliver him to soccer on time.

Another aspect of logistics is the effect on a parent’s personal schedule. I work, albeit remotely, and there are some weeks where there is literally some type of appointment or school commitment on the calendar every day. I feel for the majority of working parents who have a set work schedule because the parenting world is stacked against having an uninterrupted workday.  Which brings me to sick days. No, not for a parent. We’re not allowed to be sick.

With three children, it’s a darn near miracle if someone isn’t nursing a viral or sinus infection on a given day. I can’t count how many times I’ve said in recent months, with great exasperation, “Oh god, his snot is green again; we have to go back to the pediatrician.” (Big sigh.) I mean, can’t the pediatrician just give me carte blanche to call in a prescription when I need one? We all know when the runny nose just isn’t going to get any better, so let’s stop wasting everyone’s time. Because there is no time!!!

The bigger problem with illness is once someone gets sick, we all fall down like a weak house of cards. And Mom and Dad with our old rusty immune systems usually take the brunt of the evil virus. I won’t forget my trip to the ER for dehydration for a lovely sickness my son passed on to me, only to come home to two more barfing children. There’s nothing like doing laundry all night long with a hospital admission band still on your wrist. (My husband was out of the country, so he had a nearly valid excuse for his absence.) I like to remind him of this story a lot.

And finally, the elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about—money! Children cost a ton of money. Every month we hemorrhage cash like Trump drops Tweets. We try to shop for the deals, but all of a sudden a cute and economically priced $20 fleece jumps to $60.00 plus shipping and handling. A restaurant outing to a casual dining place approaches a Benjamin. (And they don’t like McDonald’s or Burger King—where did I go wrong?!) Think you can score at a Kid’s Eat Free night? Guess again! You will still pay for that third child’s meal. The deck is stacked against us.

Want to travel? Better start saving—parents who want a modicum of privacy in the evening know that hotel suites are the way to go. That reasonably priced hotel quickly exceeds a luxury one when you are scouting out the largest suites on the property. Renting a vacation home is the next logical step, but I want the free hotel breakfast and maid service! (Free breakfasts are a must for large families traveling to avoid racking up a massive food bill each morning for half-eaten Cheerios.)

And finally, the one thing I want to leave you with, perhaps the biggest nuisance of them all—homework. Yes, homework. When the three kids are all small and in diapers, parents will dramatically lament having “three under three” or multiple kids in diapers. The stakes get real, however, when the tikes start elementary school. You will spend hours upon hours each night assisting each one with various stages of learning, including teaching “new math” that you never learned. When deciding whether that third child is the right decision for your family, simply do the math. That is, can you handle 13 years of homework times X number of children (adjusted for overlapping school years and volume of homework)? If you can solve that equation, then you might be ready for number three.

Aimee Tafreshi is a freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog once in a blue moon, aimeetafreshi.com. She is also a mother and professional chauffeur to three spirited, young children.

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Baby Boy Part Deux

And the blog writing hiatus continues… The last time I found the energy to sit down and write something other than a grocery list was oh I don’t know, a trimester ago or so? That’s right. I’m preggers. Knocked up. With child and without an ounce of energy, which is compounded by the fact that I have a 14 month old boy who unlike his mama has enough energy to power the great state of Texas.

Thankfully I am feeling more energetic with every passing day. The first trimester was brutal. The past couple of weeks have evolved into doable. It’s no coincidence that my little fire cracker has found himself in mother’s day out twice a week despite the fact that I resigned from my teaching job in June to stay home with my growing boy.

And how is the stay-at-home life treating me, you ask? It’s hard. Really hard. I seemed to have had way more time on my hands when I was teaching, which probably doesn’t reflect positively on my role as an educator, but come on… I taught fourth grade. Those kids are independent. They could work quietly at their desks for hours on end while I worked quietly at my desk for hours on end. And by “worked quietly” I obviously mean trolled Pinterest for recipes I’d never find the time to cook and outfits I’d never find an opportunity to wear. But that’s neither here nor there now. My days of leisurely trolling Pinterest (or leisure in general for that matter) are long gone.

It’s funny how different the second pregnancy is than the first. Other than a closet full of clothes that don’t fit, I really don’t feel pregnant. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a whole lot of time to focus on this baby like I did when I was pregnant with Jack. Most weeks I can’t even remember how far along I am (15 weeks I think?), and don’t even ask about fruit-size comparisons.

I am happy to report that I have managed to remember prenatal vitamins each night, but I have been wayyyy more lax in every other regard when it comes to this pregnancy. With Jack, I didn’t drink any coffee during the first trimester and throughout the remainder of my pregnancy I would have one cup per day.

These days, a cup of one coffee is absolutely necessary to function within the loosest definition of mother, and most days it requires a second. I haven’t made the plunge into three cups daily, but I often wonder if that would propel me into good wife and homemaker status, as well. Guess we’ll never know…

During my last pregnancy, I avoided cokes (Southern for soft drinks) like the plague as I normally do in everyday life, but the past few weeks, a late afternoon Diet Dr. Pepper has become somewhat of a daily ritual. That ritual may or may not also involve a bean burrito from Taco Bell.

It has to stop.

Jack, the product of my perfectly executed first pregnancy, is pretty dang flawless in my opinion. Sure he’s strong-willed (stubborn) and the pickiest eater around (aside from myself), but other than that we’ve got ourselves a golden boy on our hands. I’m worried that my less than ideal habits with baby boy #2 (yes, it’s a boy) may equate to a less stellar version of baby boy #1.

I’ve got to turn this pregnancy around.

No more late afternoon Taco Bell runs. No more ordering pizza multiple nights in a row. More walking. Less chemicals.

Starting tomorrow, of course.

In my previous post I shared some photos from the first half of our summer. Below you will find pictures from the second half of summer, which include Jack’s first birthday and a trip to Florida, as well. Hope you are enjoying some cooler temperatures this weekend. We are loving this late summer cold-front here in Texas!

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Not interested in his smash cake AT. ALL.

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Not really interested in the beach either. Boo.

Bitty Baby Box

I have finally made it to my last week of school… Ever.

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I’m going to miss (most of) my kids and all of the ladies on the 4th grade team who I’ve been so fortunate to work with, but I can pretty much guarantee a happy dance as I walk out of my classroom for the last time on Friday. Gone will be the days of endless grading, the pressure of statewide testing, unnecessary meetings, high-maintenance parents, and bureaucratic crapola in general.

I can permanently delete my five o’clock alarm, say goodbye to eating breakfast in the car, and possibly even find the time to make dinner… Possibly. Jack will get me at my best now instead of twelve hours deep into my day when I am mentally spent. Checked out. Basically brain dead. Twenty-four 4th graders can do that to you. But then again so can a 10-month-old… Maybe things won’t be so different after all?

The past few days we’ve been hinting about our latest endeavor on the LWO Facebook page… The Bitty Baby Box. I am so excited about our monthly subscription box which will consist of organic products from home and abroad, such as food samples, articles of clothing, and other baby necessities that we can’t wait to share with you. We are starting small and offering only twelve subscriptions for our first shipment mid-July. Here is the age/gender availability breakdown:

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0-6 months- 3 boxes

6-12 months- 3 boxes

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0-6 months- 3 boxes

6-12 months- 3 boxes

A one-month subscription will cost $30/box including shipping. Checkout our Facebook page to peek into our July box! If you would like to reserve your spot for the month of July, fill out a registration form here.

 

Paranoid & Pregnant

Anxiety is a natural consequence of pregnancy; at least that’s my theory. If you aren’t experiencing some form of anxiety leading up to the birth of your little nugget, then you’re either delusional or drugged… Maybe even both.

According to thebump.com, these are ten of the most common pregnancy fears:

1. Laying on my belly (and squashing the baby)

2. My face changing.

3. Eating something that would harm baby.

4. Losing the baby.

5. Baby will be deformed.

6. That the baby weight will never. Go. Away.

7. My water breaking in public.

8. Going into preterm labor.

9. Peeing my pants in public.

10. Being able to care for a newborn.

Without a doubt, my biggest fear throughout pregnancy was losing the baby. At my second prenatal checkup, it took the nurse f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to find little J’s heartbeat. After what felt like an eternity, the hollow swishing sound emitted from the doppler transformed into proof of life… We had a heartbeat.

Of course the paranoia didn’t stop there. As I approached the end of my first trimester, the nausea subsided sending me into complete panic mode, and once I could finally feel the baby moving, I would freak when there were any prolonged periods of stillness.

These are all rather common fears that pregnant mamas experience, and rightfully so. In addition to the normal, everyday worries associated with pregnancy, I dealt with the following, as well.

1. baths– I love a good, long soak in a bathtub- Especially when I am tired and/or not feeling well (hello 1st trimester!). While pregnant, I held off on baths for as long as I possibly could in fear of boiling my baby. That’s right. I was certain that the hot bath water would cook Jack’s brain and lead to permanent brain damage. My aching body trumped my fear during the third trimester however, and as it turns out Jack is pretty dang smart… At least in my completely *biased* opinion.

2. green tea damage– Did you know that green tea can inhibit the absorption of folic acid in your body leading to possible neural tube defects in a developing embryo? I learned this after I spent months on end guzzling green tea in hopes of neutralizing free radicals (whatever that means) in a quest to achieve optimal health. I wasn’t planning on getting pregnant and consequently didn’t know that I was pregnant until five weeks in… After realizing, “Holy crap I’m pregnant,” I turned to the internet and concluded that my five week old fetus was indeed screwed. Green tea, booze, baths, more booze, no prenatal vitamin. If only I had would’ve known! Luckily I was on a vegan kick at the time, and my normally subpar diet was replaced with a smorgasbord of super foods, like avocado, lentils, and sweet potato. Miraculously, Baby J made it out unscathed.

3. living near a highway– About halfway through my pregnancy, I came across a study claiming that children who lived near highways at birth had twice the risk of autism as those who live farther away. And guess who lives near one of Austin’s busiest highways? This girl.

4. maternal trauma– I can’t remember the exact study, but I am fairly certain that it linked maternal trauma during the third trimester of pregnancy to fetal brain damage. Coincidentally, I experienced some serious mental distress during my third trimester from a rather unusual source: squirrels. It all began when a hole was sealed near my neighbor’s roof (we live in a townhouse and share a wall) leaving a happy little squirrel family trapped inside.

Two of the baby squirrels made their way over to our house, and my heart sank a little deeper each time I heard them scratching and thumping against the wall in a desperate attempt to escape. After days of listening to the squirrels suffer, I convinced my husband to cut into the wall and rescue the helpless little creatures. Up until that point, I could barely eat or sleep because I was so upset about the whole situation. Then I read the trauma study, which only amplified my anguish. Luckily the squirrels made it out alive (barely), and I was able to find my zen once more.

What did you worry about during your pregnancy? Did you have any irrational fears?

***

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged… Between teaching, LWO, and a 9 month old baby boy who is in to EVERYTHING, my hands have been quite full! Here are a few pictures from the past month.

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For all of you non-Texans, it is somewhat of a tradition to take family pictures in the bluebonnets each year. 

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Sans baby at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year party. 

To Induce, or Not to Induce…

Over the weekend, a “Facebook friend” of mine gave birth to an adorable baby girl named Katherine. On Tuesday of last week, said friend posted something along the lines of this: “Today’s my due date! Took a long walk around the neighborhood last night… Hoping to meet Baby K soon!!”

This of course elicited a long string of responses. Some of the replies were words of encouragement and congratulations for making it to forty weeks; others included personal anecdotes on how to trigger labor.

Naturally, I felt compelled to add my own two cents and suggested Evening Primrose Oil and Organic Pregnancy Tea to move things along. Around 39 weeks, I tried just about everything to encourage Baby J to release his death grip on my womb. I bounced on a yoga ball for hours on end and drank pineapple smoothies ’til I was blue in the face (pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that supposedly induces labor naturally).

My mother, who is rather old-school in nature, resorted to the method that folks used back in the good ‘ole days and drove me over every speed bump and railroad track she could find around town (and at alarmingly fast speeds, might I add). She was so certain Baby J would pop out after our joy ride that she considered charging my pregnant friends money in exchange for a labor-inducing tour of Austin. Her plan went up in smoke however, as my little nugget didn’t budge an inch. It really is too bad, as she would make an excellent tour guide. 

I can say with some degree of certainty that the combination of EPO and tea did the trick. Of course a full moon didn’t hurt either. Did you know that the moon’s gravitational pull can affect a woman’s body in the same way it affects the tides? It’s called the lunar effect. Ask any medical professional who works in a hospital and I’m sure they’ll agree; the hospital is inundated with crazies & pregnant women (more crazies?) every full moon. Annnd that’s enough science for one day.

Back to my Facebook friend… I scrolled through the responses others left for her and hesitated when I came across the following question:

Do you have a date that you will get induced by if she’s running late?”

The response?

Saturday!! Reaaaaallly want it to happen naturally before then though!”

My thoughts??

Then let it happen naturally!

Perhaps I am a tad hypocritical, as I was almost seduced into an elective induction myself. When I was in my 39th week of pregnancy, my OBGYN dropped the I-word, and I was intrigued at the prospect of controlling the otherwise great unknown: Labor. With a planned induction, I knew that my doctor would in fact be the one to deliver my baby boy, I could arrange for family member’s travel so that they would be present for J’s birth, and best of all, I would no longer wake up each morning and wonder, “Is today the day?”

What really sealed the deal for me was an off-the-cuff comment made by the nurse while the doctor was out of the examining room. I heard the words “increased risk of stillbirth” and developed tunnel vision instantaneously. Needless to say, I left the appointment with an induction date on the calendar. After a little help from the Google machine, I found that the risks of delivering a stillborn baby at term are negligible. The risks do increase after 42 weeks, however, the increase in risk is not even considered significant until 43 weeks.

Within an hour of arriving home from the doctor’s office I was in tears, hysterical at the prospect of inducing labor. I researched Cytoctec, the controversial induction drug of choice at my hospital, and was horrified to learn that it is not even FDA approved for labor induction. I did not want a c-section and I did not want to cause my sweet little peanut unnecessary stress, both of which are common side effects of labor induction. My intuition was impossible to ignore. I could not go through with an elective induction.

At my 40 week appointment, I shared my concerns with my doctor and she agreed to cancel the induction as long as my amniotic fluid levels were normal… We couldn’t have Baby J drying up in the womb! Unfortunately my fluid levels appeared low, which does in fact warrant a medically necessary induction. A biophysical profile was ordered to get a better look at Jack’s overall movements, breathing, and muscle tone, as well as the amount of amniotic fluid that surrounded him. Thankfully, we passed with flying colors. The fluid levels previously appeared marginal because he was storing more than his fair share of amniotic fluid in his belly. Go figure.

Within twenty-four hours of the biophysical profile I was in active labor, which means that I would have missed true labor by a day or so had I followed through with the original induction date. Thank God for intuition.

The night before her scheduled induction, my Facebook friend posted this:

“Last pre-baby workout! Induction scheduled for tomorrow morning. Tried to encourage nature along with extra squats…would LOVE to go into labor today – prayers appreciated!”

I did not respond other than giving a thumbs-up to the following comment:

“Good luck, I’m surprised they are inducing so soon. See if they can postpone as long as she is healthy. Elle was 9 days “late” – I think babies come when they are ready.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Fortunately, the baby was born healthy and from what I can gather via Facebook, all is well with both parties involved. I am certainly not judging this friend for agreeing to an elective induction, nor would I ever judge a woman for making a choice that is hers to make. My reaction is more so a result of my own personal experience and the tremendous emotional response I grappled with when considering an induction for myself. As patients, we trust our doctors and want to believe that they have our best interest at heart. It is a shame that women aren’t better informed about the risks associated with an induction before signing on the dotted line.

Thankfully, labor is not on my radar at this point in time. Instead of fretting about the birth of a child, I am busy enjoying my family.

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Enjoying beautiful “patio weather” with Baby J over the weekend