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Party of Five: The World is Different When You Have 3 Kids

fathers dayWhen we had our first child, life was simple. We went out to eat, and pulled up a high chair.  When we traveled, we brought our pack ‘n’ play, piled stuff in our SUV, and off we went.  We even flew a few times since our son flew for free the first 2 years.  As he got older, we enjoyed activities with kids prices, or perhaps a child was free with adult purchase.  And hotels were simple:  either get 2 beds, or get a room that had a bed for us and a pullout couch for our son.

Then everything changed. We got pregnant.  We were so excited, and our son really wanted a sibling (ok, he really wanted a brother).   The day we went to the doctor to hear the heartbeat, we were nervous, hoping everything would be fine with the baby.   When the doctor said, “there’s the heartbeat,” and we saw the flashing on the screen, we were overcome with joy!  Then, the doctor said, “aaaand…there’s the other heartbeat!”  Wait, what? Two hearbeats?!  Now we were overcome with…fear, panic, shock, concern…and, oh yeah, more joy!

We went out to dinner that night, and my wife and I sat quietly in the restaurant eating. You could hear the clinking of silverware on our plates as we were both deep in thought, digesting our new reality.  Then suddenly, I looked up and said, “Frank, party of five, your table is now ready.”

Everything Changes With 3 Kids

Everything changes when you have 3 kids instead of 2. We didn’t realize at the time the extent, but over the past nearly 6 years, we have discovered it first hand!  To everyone out there who has 3 kids, you know all-too-well what I’m talking about!  It’s more than just one extra mouth to feed, one more body to clothe, or one more opinion to consider.  Having 3 kids has ramifications you don’t think about until you experience it!


Let’s start with restaurants. Some of you with two kids may not think it’s a big deal.  But having that third child often adds 20 minutes onto your wait for a table!  Anyone who has experience in the restaurant business can tell you there are plenty of “4-tops” as well as “2-tops” that can be put together.  But 5-tops?  That’s a whole different situation.  Now you need to wait for one of the 2 or 3 round-tops in the restaurant.  Or you need to add a 2-top to a 4-top (no big deal right? Except you need to wait for those to open up next to each other!).  And you can probably eliminate all the booths unless they are bigger.  Sometimes, you can just put a chair at the end of a booth…as long as it doesn’t block an aisle or create a fire hazard!  And in the early days with twins, good luck finding two high chairs!  We found many restaurants that only had maybe 3 high chairs to begin with.  If there was more than one kid in the place, we had no shot.  When we did get our 2 high chairs, we proceeded to rearrange everything around us to configure ourselves comfortably.  But eventually we would be seated!  Now on to the menu.  When you have a family of five, it’s great when you find a good restaurant where kids eat free.  But it’s maddening when it’s “kids eat free with purchase of an adult entrée.”  We are two adults…with three kids!  It just doesn’t work out.


Then there’s travel. Oh, the joys of traveling with 3 kids!  It starts with your vehicle.  When we had 1 child, we had a 4-door sedan and an SUV.  We used the SUV for our long trips, and that worked great.  We figured with a second child the SUV would still do the job.  But when we found out we were having twins, we had to take that one leap we thought we’d never take:  we bought a minivan.  With 3 kids, all of a sudden a long weekend involved piling 2 pack ‘n’ plays in the car along with multiple suitcases, etc.  Even standard trips around the neighborhood required 2 child seats…which meant our older son was relegated to the third row (he created his own fortress back there on trips).  Of course we could always just fly.  Yeah right!  We have not even bothered to attempt the 3-child shuffle through security yet!

Once we arrived at our destination, we had to check into a hotel. Again, those who have 3 kids know our dilemma!  A simple room with 2 beds, or 1 bed and a sofa bed, was no longer enough.  We had to either find a room with 2 beds AND a sofa (very rare, and if you get one, the beds are doubles, not queens), or go with 2 beds and pay extra for a rollaway (assuming there’s room to squeeze it in).  Regardless, you’ve got 5 people tripping over each other and a rollaway or pull-out sofa.  Don’t even ask me where to put the suitcases.  There is never enough drawers for a family of five, and usually only 1 suitcase stand.  So it’s pure chaos.  The only other solution is to pay more, and get a suite.


But hey, it’s all worth it when you’re taking the kids to Disney World, right? I mean, that one other kid only requires one extra ticket.  And at Disney, you get to buy a child ticket for a whopping $5 less than an adult ticket!  And of course, what’s an extra meal several times when you’re at the happiest place on earth.  Once you get there, there are numerous wonderful rides where people are paired up…yes, the wonderful two-seaters.  So…someone in the family gets separated so they can ride with a stranger.  Not a huge deal, but one more little annoyance that those of us with 3 kids experience.

Ultimately, you can always go with the staycation. Every city has some great options, from aquariums to amusement parks to museums to zoos.  And most of them have family memberships, which is fantastic.  Unless your family has 5 people!  Many standard family memberships are good for 2 adults and 2 children.  There’s no break for a third child.  You have to buy an extra individual membership. Similarly, many events, including ice shows, sporting events, concerts, and circuses, will offer “family deals.”  Usually, these include 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 drinks (or something similar).  Oh, you have 5?  Good luck finding a single ticket located next to your 4-pack!

Maybe I’ll just stay home. After all, have you ever tried to get out of the house with 3 kids?!

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Do you have 3 kids? What experiences have you had that are unique for a party of five?  I’d love to hear from you!  And those of you in business, what can you do to make your company more five-friendly?




Positive Words And Tone Can Help Your Toddler Eat Better!


Our 12-Year-Old Tries Escargot!

It can be a daily struggle for so many parents: getting your toddler (or toddlers in my case with twins) to eat healthy foods. “Eat your broccoli!” “Finish your spinach!” “Just try the Brussel sprouts, you might like them!” “Fish is good for you, eat your salmon and you can have ice cream for dessert!” Many parents of young children are at their wits end trying to make their kids eat vegetables. Some put veggies in a blender and “hide them” in a smoothie. Others sneak them into other foods. Nothing wrong with either of those strategies. But ultimately, we want our kids to develop a palate for good food. So how do you get kids to eat healthy foods?

Too often, parents bribe their kids, promising cookies, candy, ice cream or other treats if they eat their veggies. Or they just declare that “you can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate.” Neither of these strategies are wise. We don’t want to train our kids to complain about certain foods knowing that it will lead to a treat when they eventually eat them. Plus, these tactics reinforce the child’s thought that the food actually isn’t good. It’s like saying, “I know those Brussel sprouts are gross, but if you can just force them down, you’ll get some cake.” No, that’s not the message we want to send. So, what’s a parent to do?

Change your words. And change your tone. Present the foods in a positive way, and your children will have a positive association! It also helps to be sure you have a tasty recipe, of course. It would be a shame for your positivity to be effective in getting your kids to try something, only to have them hate it because your recipe wasn’t good. (Kids will dislike some foods regardless, and that’s ok). So find ways to prepare tasty vegetables, fish, and other foods, and then put your positive words and tone into action! Below are some real-life example we use with our 3 kids.

Our oldest is 12, and he has an incredible palate! He’s been eating shrimp, crab, mahi mahi, sea bass, salmon, broccoli, spinach, onions, squash, black olives, tomatoes, salad, eggplant and more since he was a very young toddler. He recently tried escargot (loved it!), octopus (“it was ok”) and beef carpaccio (“I love how the shaved parmesan brings the flavor out,” he said). Our other two kids are 5-year-old twins. They LOVE black olives, broccoli, salad, various fish, spinach soufflé and even lox on a bagel. Tonight they had a salad with goat cheese, cranberry, & almonds topped with a crabcake! All of this great eating started with positivity.

When we began offering broccoli to our kids, we didn’t just say, “Here, try some broccoli. If you eat it you can have some ice cream.” Instead, we offered them “yummy broccoli! It looks like small trees!” We made it fun and positive. When my wife made mashed cauliflower, we called them clouds (and in fairness, our twin daughter loved them, but our twin son did not…but he tried them!). When it was time to introduce them to salad, we would cut up the various ingredients (carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, turkey, ham, black olives, cheese) and called it “twin salad.” They LOVED that! They even began to request “twin salad” for dinner. When we then started adding lettuce, we found that they liked some of the more firm pieces of iceberg, which we called “crunchy lettuce.”

When it comes to fish, kids can be picky. Especially if it has a stronger odor. So we started them on mild fish like tilapia & flounder, then moved to salmon. It was always “yummy fish” or “tasty salmon” or we would put “delish fish on your dish.” I know, it’s corny, but it came from Dr. Seuss and it made them laugh! Once, we served spinach soufflé, and our twin son asked, “Is that broccoli?” So we started calling it “soft broccoli.” (We have since switched and called it spinach soufflé). We started chopping fresh spinach and putting it into scrambled eggs or mixing it in with rice. When asked what it was, we called it flavor! At this point, our kids will try just about anything. Some things they like, some they don’t. One twin likes Brussel sprouts (“russels”), the other likes cauliflower. He likes walnuts in his yogurt, she doesn’t. They both love shrimp, crab, lobster, green beans, pork tenderloin, most fruits, most cheeses (yes, including blue cheese, brie and other stronger cheeses), edamame, and eggs benedict.

It’s not perfect, by any means. They can have their picky moments. They all have their likes and dislikes, including the oldest. Tastes change. But using positive and fun descriptions, introducing new foods often, and always with a smile, will lead to a more open mind and open palate! I hope you will try it and tell us how it goes! What tricks have you tried? What fun food descriptions have you used? We’d love to hear about it!

Song Pairing:  “I Love Myself” (click sample to the right)


Win Or Lose, It’s Ok To Keep Score

084Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone gets a participation ribbon. There are no losers, everyone is a winner! We must be careful to protect our kids from any disappointment, right? WRONG!! Enough already with this protective approach to competition. I’m not saying we need 4-year-olds to compete hard core. But the reality in life is that you win some, you lose some. Do the best you can. If you lose, but you can say, “I did everything I could possibly do and tried my best,” then you can walk away with your head held high.  Feeling positive!

The first time I experienced this protectionist “nobody loses” approach was when my son was 6. He was playing soccer, and his team was pretty darn good. They basically won every game…if we were keeping score. You see, his coach, and the coaches in his league, didn’t keep score. Obviously, all the parents were sharp enough to know what the score was. And as they all told their kids the score doesn’t matter, they knew darn well whether their kid had won or lost!

On this particular day, my son’s team was dominant. Most of the game was being played on one side of the field, and we had put the ball in the other teams net quite a few times. The other team had barely mustered a shot, and certainly had not scored. And they were not having any fun.  At half time, we gathered our team (I was the Assistant Coach) and told them they were playing great.

Then, one of the boys asked, “Coach, what’s the score?”

The coach replied, “it doesn’t matter, you guys are playing great!”

The boy persisted, “But Coach, what’s the score??”

The coach again tried to deflect the young boy’s competitive spirit. “We’re not keeping score.”

And then it happened. I just couldn’t contain my self. I spoke before I thought:

“But if we WERE keeping score, it would be 8 to nothing.” There. I said it.

The coach looked at me in disbelief, just saying, “Dude!”

As if I had just revealed some huge secret. As if they thought it was a close game. I mean really. It was pretty clear that our team had put the ball in the other team’s net a lot. And the other team had not put the ball in our net at all. So we can’t tell them it’s 8-0? I then suggested we mix the teams up evenly and play a fun, more competitive second half. We did, and the kids had a LOT of fun! In fact, our kids went out of their way to pass to the “other” kids that were now on their team, and when one of those “other” kids scored a goal, the whole place went crazy! The parents, and all the players on both teams, were so excited you’d think we told them they were all going to Disney World! It was a great lesson in sportsmanship.

So let’s stop this nonsense. Stop hiding from reality and protecting kids from experiencing a little disappointment. They can handle it! Kids are smart. You can tell them the score. You can tell them who wins and who loses. You might as well. They already know!

Song Pairing:  “Positive Thinking” (click sample to the right)

Dining Out With Toddlers…WITHOUT an iPad!!

Dining Out - June 2014When our twins were 2, we went out to dinner at our favorite local Italian restaurant.  It was a nice place, and fairly quiet, but kid-friendly with a nice kids menu.  Throughout dinner, our kids (including our oldest, who was 9 at the time) were well-behaved.  If they started to bang on the table, or bang their silverware, we quietly reminded them that this was a restaurant and they needed to behave properly.

At one point, the older couple at the table next to us commented as to how well-behaved all 3 kids were.  “We have two grandchildren, and they would never sit that nicely at a restaurant,” said the grandmother.  “Well, not without their iPads!” laughed the grandfather.  They went on to tell us that when their son and daughter-in-law go out to dinner, each of their two kids gets an iPad at the table!!

That seems to have become the norm in our society.  Parents no longer teach their kids about restaurant etiquette or the basics of public behavior.  That takes work.  That takes effort.  That takes patience.  It’s much easier to put an iPad or smartphone in front of them and let them put their head down in the screen.  And once you start that, well, it’s pretty tough to go back!

From day 1, with our oldest, our rule was simple.  No toys and no games in a restaurant.  When we had the twins, the rule did not change!  A child has to learn how to behave in a restaurant setting.  They have to learn the sequence of events:  we may have to wait a few minutes for a table, then sit and decide what to eat, then order and wait for our food, and likely wait after eating while Mommy and Daddy finish eating and relaxing.  How is a child supposed to learn any of this if his/her head is in the latest game app?  Sure, some restaurants have crayons with place mats to color on.  And that’s fine.  The kids are still aware of their surroundings, and we parents can even engage and color with them.  That’s far different from the isolated world of an iPad or smartphone.  Kids will transition more smoothly to nicer restaurants without crayons if they haven’t been conditioned to bury their nose in a video game.

It’s not easy.  It takes tremendous patience.  It takes consistency.  And it takes a commitment.  Sometimes, we even have to threaten with a consequence.  You know, “do you want to go out and wait in the car?”  But remember, you must be ready to carry out the threat or it’s not effective!  We have, in fact, taken a child out to the car and sat there.  Carry out such a threat just once and it will work for a lifetime!  But more on that in a future blog…

Until then, give it a shot.  Take the kids out to dinner.  Leave the electronics at home.  Talk.  Teach.  Eat. Be Patient.  And let them see that dining out can be fun!

Song Pairing:  “It’s Fun To Be Good” (click sample to the right)

Positively Looking Out For Each Other

189As a parent, you always envision your kids being close and looking out for each other. When we had our boy/girl twins, we imagined their big brother Ian (7 years older) keeping an eye on them. If anyone picked on Ryan, Ian would protect his little brother. If Sophia had trouble with kids at school, Ian would step in and help his little sister. And some day, when boys come calling for Sophia, they’d have to get past both Ryan and Ian before they even get to me! But there was one scenario that didn’t jump out at me. And that scenario, as it turns out, was the first to take place.

The twins (age 3) came home from what seemed like a normal pre-school day. But they had a story to tell. According to Ryan, “Faith* was being mean to me.” My wife asked for more details and learned that there was some kind of argument between a couple of kids at school, and somehow Ryan got pulled into it. At that point, Faith was mean to Ryan (it is not clear if she was just verbally mean or did something physical. Toddlers tend to miss a few details!). And that’s when it happened.

Sophia stepped in. “What did you do, Sophia?” asked my wife.

“I yelled at her.”

“Oh! What did you say?” my wife pressed further.

“I said, ‘Stop being mean to my brother,’” replied Sophia, very matter of fact.

So that was it. Sophia, our little girl, came to her twin brother’s defense. The same little girl who won’t hesitate to yell at Ryan, complain that Ryan isn’t sharing, snatch a toy away from him, or point out that she is being a good girl (while Ryan is misbehaving), was actually looking out for him. Almost as if to say, “You can’t be mean to my brother! Only I can be mean to my brother!” We couldn’t help but smile. We asked Ryan what he would do if someone was being mean to Sophia. He said, “I would yell at them.”

Ok, so perhaps we need to refine their strategy for conflict resolution. But the basics are there. They love each other, and they already look out for each other. And they didn’t even need their big brother! I’d say it was a positive kids moment!

*name changed to focus on the positive

Song Pairing:  “These Hands” (click on sample to the right)