My Life with Irish Triplets…And Apparently It Sucks

As we entered an elevator this evening, I was asked a question I have heard a thousand times by a nice older gentleman: “Are they triplets?” he said squinting his eyes on my three girls.

“Irish triplets,” my youngest knowingly said, providing the answer we’ve given so often over the years.

“These two are twins, and she is sixteen months younger,” I said with my standard smile.

“Wow, you’ll have your hands full in a few years….I don’t envy you! Three teenage girls, three weddings, three college educations…all at the same time. Wow, I wouldn’t want to do that. Wow. Hope your husband is loaded,” he said.

Fortunately, we were only going to the fourth floor, so I did not have to hear all the ways having my kids close together sucked. Yes, I am terrified about the impending hormones that will hit our house with full force all at the same time. Yes, I have thought about the cost of three weddings and it already gives my husband heart palpitations. Yes, we are really hoping all the soccer training will pay off one day in scholarships since we will have three kids in college all at the same time for several years. But hey, dude, thanks for the reminder. I was enjoying myself and needed to get whipped back into reality.

Obviously this was not the first time I had heard this commentary. My husband and I hear it all the time from random people we don’t know, some speaking with adoration and some with pity. Sometimes I handle it with a smile and endless conversation, other times I have to take deep breaths not to throttle someone.

Any parent of multiples can tell you the whackadoodle things people have said to them.  It ranges from “Are they natural?” (no ma’am, they are genetically modified) to “Are they identical?” (here is your hint….if one kid has blond hair and blue eyes and the other has brown hair and brown eyes, then no, they are not identical.) This stuff is easy to laugh off and take with a grain of salt.

But then you get the people who say things like this: “Better you than me, I could NEVER handle twins!” (well, I thought about sending one back, but I lost my receipt.) Or “Three girls, you are so screwed!” (yeah, I talked to God about setting me up right with the two boys and a girl I asked for, but he must have been focused on something else that day.) These are the comments that often make me bite my tongue in two in order to preserve some sense of decorum.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I regret having my children in the order I did. I feel blessed to have any children, nonetheless three. In fact, after dealing with infertility for nearly three years, I would have been ecstatic if that sweet ultrasound tech told me I had a litter inside me nearly a decade ago.

But having twins is hard. Not doubly hard, but exponentially harder. Then there was getting pregnant with the third, just when I started looking like I wasn’t pregnant from the twins. I can honestly say that I cried almost every day when I found out I was having another baby so soon, including every single time someone told me a story about their cousin’s best friend’s sister who had fertility treatments and them BAM! They got pregnant right after. Because sharing that information with me subsequent to me getting pregnant really helped my mindset.

And when people say to me that my girls are like having triplets, I often respond with: “I would never insult a parent of triplets by saying I could understand what it’s like to have three babies at once.”

There is a lot online about dumb things people have said to parents of multiples. Some are hilarious, some are crass, and some are even defended by the notion that a stranger asking how you breastfed two at once is just polite conversation. As the receiver of these extremely personal questions, it’s hard to read things this way, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

These guys probably are identical. And creepy.

These guys probably are identical. And creepy.

I’ve also read a few articles from parents of multiples that have provided some suggested  “approved” commentary of what you should say to a parent of multiples, most of which I don’t get. This includes:

+ “The more the merrier!” Um, I don’t know about you, but this was not my thought at 2:30 a.m. when my 16 month old twins woke up as I was nursing a newborn. It’s hard enough when one kid wakes you up out of a dead sleep. Adding another one (or two) doesn’t normally help the sleep deprivation.

+ “You are SuperMom!” I know this is meant as a compliment, but I don’t want to be SuperMom. I just want to make it to bedtime with all the kids alive.

+ “God only picks special parents to be moms of multiples.” This is a nice, well-meaning sentiment, but I like to think God has bigger fish to fry than divvying out three kids to me in 16 months. Or he has a really twisted sense of humor.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have one kid, three sets of twins or ten kids spread out over twenty years, it is all hard and we all just want to love our kids and see them happy.

So, the next time you see someone with twins, triplets, quads or a litter, maybe you can just give them a little smile. But just in case you can’t hold your tongue, I made you a little cheat sheet in order to help the conversation:

+ If you hear someone is having multiples, try this: “Congratulations! Let me know how I can help!”

+ If you see a parent of multiples in the grocery store, try this: “They are beautiful! Do you need any help?”

+ If you see a set of kids that look exactly the same at the playground, even if you want to ask all about their genetic make up, breast-feeding history, and sleep patterns, try this: “You have some really cute kids!”

+ And if you see a woman with three beautiful little girls that look like triplets that are acting well-behaved in the elevator, try saying: “Girl, you’ve got this.” And maybe a high-five.

What crazy things have people said to you about your brood?

 

Five Signs You Need a Girls Weekend

It is that time of the year for me. The time when I eagerly count off days with a giant red marker on the calendar. The time when I have a little bit more of a spring in my step. The time when I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes, my friends, I have a Girls Weekend coming up.

Keep Calm and GIRLS WEEKEND Poster

This year’s trip is a little bit sweeter than others for a variety of reasons. First, I have been holed up in my house for months due to the three Vs: vortex, vomiting and viruses. Second, I recently moved, so I have not been getting as much girl-time as I normally do, and I feel deprived. And lastly, I have not had a proper girls’ weekend for two full years (granted, I went to Italy, but that was with a boy….just not the same.)

I think Girls Weekends (or at the minimum multiple Girls Nights Out) are the most important thing moms can do to be better moms. Seriously. I am not kidding.

When someone whose children are in high school tells me that they have never been on a girls’ trip, it blows my mind. How is that even possible?

And then I usually list all the reasons why I think they are so important, including (but not limited to):

  • Laughing so hard that someone wets their pants because of their bladder control issues from natural child-birth
  • Having the ability to shut the bathroom door in your hotel room and no one actually barging in mid-stream to ask if they can play the iPad
  • Staying up all night, but not because someone is vomiting
  • Ordering that extra fruity drink because you’re not worried your child will wake you up at 6:30 a.m. asking for breakfast
  • Dressing up for a night out without worrying your white pants may get a chocolate hand print on your bottom before you leave and don’t realize it (um, not that this has ever happened to me.)

Yes, it can be hard to leave your kids. Yes, it is hard to trust anyone, nonetheless the man who is supposed to be the other half of your parenting team or a grandparent who raised kids without iPads, to care for your children. And yes, as a working mom you may feel enormous guilt because you think you don’t spend enough time with your kids.

But if you are not getting away because of the reasons above, you’re just plain wrong.

In all honesty, though, Girls Weekends give moms the opportunity to recharge and remember what their life was like B.C. (before children.) It is not about what you do, where you go, or what you spend. The important thing is to get away from the rut that can be parenting and connect with the people who know what it’s like to be in the trenches.

By getting a little piece of yourself back — even for just 48 hours — it’s easier to give your energy to your family again. And doesn’t that make us all a little better at what we do?

So, do you need a girls weekend? Here’s five signs you may need to book one stat!

5. You hear the music from Frozen and your eye starts twitching. You may also start experiencing instant heartburn.

4. You are stepping on Lego pieces in the middle of the night and not even feeling the pain.

3. You yelled at the invisible waiter at your daughter’s tea party because he didn’t get your order right.

2. You actually understand what Minecraft is about.

1. The last time you “got away” was when you locked yourself in the bathroom with a cocktail and People magazine’s Sexiest Man issue.

How many hours until my Girls Weekend starts? 834. But who’s counting?

Have you been able to get away for a girls weekend? Why do you think it’s important?

 

 

Passport to my Dreams

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In order to hone my craft, I am starting to participate in a writing challenge offered by Mama Kat, a blogger and social media expert with more followers and experience than I can fathom at this point. One of the writing prompts she offered this week is: what does the word passport mean to you?

Last year, as the Big 4-0 loomed closer, and the loss of a friend my age from cancer sunk in, it seemed time to start attacking my bucket list. Although I have travelled extensively throughout North America, I had never been abroad.

The timing just never seemed right. I had a new job. My dad was fighting lung cancer, and I didn’t want to leave the country. I was going through fertility treatments, and subsequently had three kids as a result.  Then, who could I leave three toddlers with for eight days?

But I finally felt like the time was right. Or as I looked at it, now or never.

As someone that lives for history, food and wine, Italy seemed like a natural choice for my first adventure overseas. After securing a doting grandmother to watch my children and enlisting an army of friends to taxi them to and fro various activities, it was time to make it happen.

I talked about my trip all the time and tried to garner as much information as possible from people that had travelled to Europe recently. While most people were extremely excited for me, interestingly enough, not everyone seemed as supportive of my trip.

“I could never be away from my kids for that long,” one mom told me. “I just wouldn’t enjoy myself.”

“Don’t you feel bad that you’re not taking your kids,” said another friend.

And my personal favorite: “What if something happens to you while you are over there? What will they tell your kids?”

While all these statements initially provoked some guilt and second guessing (and yes, also made me a little angry), it also helped me realize what type of parent I wanted to be — one that showed my kids that they should follow their dreams, be adventurous, find their passions and live life.

When I was over in Italy, I spoke with a beautiful woman who showed us around a winery. During our conversation, I mentioned that I felt badly because I was over in Italy and my kids were back home with their grandmother.

“When I was growing up, I spent entire summers with my grandparents and only talked with my parents a few times,” she told me. “I loved every second of it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I bet your kids are loving it too!”

A view of the Chianti countryside.

A view of the Chianti countryside.

I thought about what she said later that day. As Americans, we do put enormous pressure on ourselves to constantly be there for everything when it comes to our kids. We feel guilt if we miss a new milestone or a soccer game, and because of this, we often miss out on doing the things that we love.

I think it is great that as parents we give all of ourselves to our kids, but sometimes I wonder about the cost. We forget about focusing on other things that matter, such as our spouses, health, interests or dreams until sometimes it’s too late. I believe it’s important to grow with your children, not sacrifice yourself because of them.

My new Italian friend was right. My children loved spending time with their grandmother and the extra attention they received from my friends. When we returned home, they were happy to see us, but no worse for the wear. And I found a new passion in traveling abroad that I can’t wait to share with them (after they get a little older!)

My passport helped me take the trip of a lifetime. The word passport, to me, means living life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Did I Just Lie to the DMV?

Recently I went to the DMV to get my new Illinois license. The man behind the counter was extremely chatty for a state worker, and we exchanged pleasantries and conversation while he processed my paperwork. He told me about his wife and his plans to move to Colorado soon, I shared a story about my kids and our recent move from Pittsburgh.

We were simpatico. Until he asked me what my weight was, and I lied right to his face.

Now, I know I’m not the first woman to fudge my numbers a bit, but I have taken great pride in the fact of having a (reasonably) positive body image. I know that I am at a healthy weight, and although I think I could stand to lose a few pounds, I believe I look not-so-bad. So what’s up with the fibbing?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since last week. I’m not normally a good liar. I portray the classic tell-tale signs when I have to tell a fib for whatever reason: no eye contact, shaky voice, stuttering, etc. But I didn’t do that this time. I looked this nice man right in the eyes and said — well, I’m not going to share what I said, but let’s just say it was about five pounds off of what the scale read that morning.

My arch-nemesis.

My arch-nemesis.

A study published in Marie Claire’s UK edition back in 2012 said that women claim they weigh an average of 9 pounds less than they actually do. And they don’t just do it on their driver’s licenses. They lie to their closest friends and spouses in order to boost their confidence.

This gave me something to chew on. I started thinking that I NEVER weigh myself in front of my husband or even my kids. In fact, I avoid it at all costs. Did I really think that any of them would love me any less because of those five pounds that I can’t seem to get rid of for, like, forever?  Was my quest to be a positive role model for body image for my daughters just a pipe dream?

The answers to both questions are obviously no. So why did I do it?

Well, I have been feeling a little frustrated lately. My kids have been sick all winter, so I have not been able to go to the gym as often as I like. Being stuck in the house all day has been testing my will power, and I may or may not have recently had four brownies and a glass of Chardonnay for dinner one night. And despite my best efforts I recently became a year older, and the evidence of that seems to be appearing daily.

Did telling that lie make me feel better? Not really. Would telling my real weight feel worse. I think the answer is probably.

Fortunately, I don’t think I will be facing eternal damnation for this white lie. But in my constant struggle to love myself just as I am, I will try to stop shaving the numbers, because to be honest, I don’t really think the guy at the DMV cared. And I don’t think my husband or kids would either. And I probably don’t need to tell my doctors every time I get on the scale that my own scale had just said I weighed a few pounds less or that I was retaining water. I don’t really think they care either. I think the only person that sometimes doesn’t love me for me is, well, me.

The good news is since that day I’ve dropped a few pounds, and I am very close to being that weight that my license says I am. Hopefully the DMV will forgive me for my moment of weakness, because I am going to forgive myself.

And while I’m not quite ready to post my weight yet, if you ask me, I’ll try to be honest. If it looks like I’m having a bad day, just subtract five.

Here’s to loving yourself today. When have you ever lied about your weight?

Are You Stressing Your Kid Out?

Two travel soccer leagues, piano, gymnastics, horseback, theater and various school activities.   And sometimes a lacrosse clinic. Or basketball. Or we may take a cooking class some place.

Sometimes when I write it all down, it freaks me out a bit, and I ask myself, “Are we doing too much? Do my kids have enough time to play, or breathe?”

And then I forget about it because I haven’t washed a uniform and we have a game the next morning, or I need to order new riding pants, or I have to pick up the next set of piano books.

When our kids are little, it’s easy to put them in a lot of activities because the commitment level is low. Games are just once a week and local, or a session of a class may only be a few weeks long. However, as your child gets older, the intensity and time commitment needed to participate grows exponentially alongside the pressure to have a multitude of extracurricular activities to list on college applications.

For example, in our house travel soccer is year round without breaks. Games can be as early as 6:15 a.m. and practices are two to three times a week. My friends that do competitive cheerleading and hockey spend their weekends traveling across the country for their competitions. Marching bands practice all of August and then take trips to Disney or even Europe. I even had a friend’s daughter that went to a state competition for her high school’s Speech team. The group practiced for two hours four days a week for a month. It’s all pretty intense.

But how do we know if we are enriching our kids’ lives, or just plain stressing them out?

The Chicago Tribune discussed this issue earlier this year. In the article, Tiffany Sanders, a certified adult and school psychologist, talks about how too many activities can overwhelm a child, leading to a host of other disorders, such as anxiety or ADD.

“Some parents need to ask themselves, ‘Is this what my child wants to do, or is it something I always wanted (him or her) to do?'” Sanders said. “There are some parents who believe that ‘this is going to get us our next big break’ or that their child is going to be a star athlete. And most kids will do what they can to please their parents.”

Sanders said it can be especially difficult for younger children because they might not know how to express feeling overwhelmed. She said a common indicator in younger children is when they often complain about feeling sick before going to particular activities.

On the other hand, older children and teenagers may not speak up because they feel they are obligated to be overachievers like their parents, Sanders said. (source: “Are kids involved in too many activities? – Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-01/news/ct-x-over-scheduled-kids-0101-20140101_1_helicopter-parents-activities-kids.)

If you are enrolling your kids in activities just to keep them from sitting around or because you think they may miss out on something that other kids are doing, you may want to just talk to your kids about it to see how they feel. Ask yourself: Is your child already doing something they love, but you think sitting idle two days a week is a waste? Are you making your child play a sport just because you never were able to fulfill your dream of playing varsity football? Did your two year old learn how to swim and you see a future Olympian?

This is a tough one for me. I am a joiner. I love to be busy and have always looked at these activities as an opportunity to be social. Two of my daughters are the same and have never met an activity that they didn’t love. The third, not so much.

We decided to reduce the amount of extracurricular activities for her to two that only meet once a week (unless you count performances or competitions, which aren’t often.) One had to be a “sport” because we think fitness is important (horseback riding….I know, it’s a tough life for her), and another one had to be creative (theater.) She could choose what she wanted to participate in, as long as it was accessible and affordable. Although it was heartbreaking to me, she elected to not partake in piano lessons anymore.

At the end of the day, I had to realize that it was my dream to have all my girls play the piano, something I always wanted to learn, but never did. But it certainly wasn’t my daughter’s dream, and I think we’re all a little happier now that we don’t have to fight about practicing.

And sometimes I just have to say no. My youngest begged me to take gymnastics, but I just didn’t think we could handle it last year. We were completely over-scheduled and when some carpools fell through, I did not feel like it would fit. Fortunately, our soccer schedules this year are more flexible, so I signed her up, and she’s loving it. I don’t think you’ll see her at the Olympics, but I’m happy that she’s enjoying it — for now.

For me, it’s about understanding each individual kid, and then understanding how that fits what’s best for our family. As my girls get older, I envision cutting our activities back to two each maximum. Between my husband’s hectic work schedule, the academic demands of school, and the growing travel commitments of competitive sports, I think any more than that would break us as a family. Although I love watching my kids tear it up on the soccer field or perform well in a play more than anyone, I like spending quality time with my husband and kids more, and think it’s critical to keeping our family unit solid.

Even more importantly, I don’t want my kids to do things just to be busy. As a parent, my job is to help them find their passions and develop a sense of character that will help them succeed in life. I think sports, music and other activities can bring a lot of joy and life lessons to a child; however, I also think kids need time just to be. Time to play with their friends, watch a movie, or just relax in whatever way they choose. Since scaling back on activities, my one daughter now reads a lot more (albeit due to the fact that we are often at the soccer fields or her sisters’ piano lessons, but she’s reading) or plays with other kids waiting for their siblings. She definitely needs more downtime, and I’m glad we were able to recognize that early on before school became more challenging for her.

As parents, I think we all know how it feels to be pulled in a million different directions — to feel over scheduled and too busy to do anything well. While I think (some of us) adults are emotionally equipped to deal with that pressure, it is crazy to think that tweens and teens can handle those same demands.

Yes, some kids thrive in situations like these. They can be elite students, president of the student body and an award-winning athlete. But for most, it’s a little much.

And honestly, it’s a little too much for me, as well. I have three kids roughly the same age, so a multitude of activities it’s just the price we pay as a family. Even two activities per child equal out to about 10-12 runs in the minivan per week. But I don’t feel too over-scheduled just yet.

Ask me again in a few more years….

Are you concerned your child may be too busy? Here is a great article from Kids Health on signs your kid may be over scheduled and suggestions for a busy family. I would also love to hear how you deal with this issue? Please share your comments below!