Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Friday, August 16, 2013

Family, Money, or Youth: The 2 vs. 3 Kids Question

Some days I catch myself half-hoping I'll just become pregnant again accidentally - and then I freak out that I am losing my mind!  Other days I remind myself that I might not even be fertile for a 3rd child, and I'm actually kinda thrilled at the thought.  I usually leave decision making to my husband not because he's the guy, but just because I hate it.  My OCD nature makes even the smallest decision insanely laborious ... I once spent nearly three hours researching measuring cups before deciding on my new set ... and I'm pretty proud to have the top-rated review for the set, with 350 people finding my review helpful.  But this is one decision I cannot abdicate... so if you've got a "review" for me on this topic, send it this way, please!

My husband and I always thought we'd have three kids.  It just seemed so classic and picture-perfect... just enough kids to round out an all-American family, but not so many as to "have a big family" per se.  But there were other things we "always thought" too, when we envisioned the life we thought we were creating for ourselves.  We "always thought" his career would be private practice medicine, which pays about 230% of what he'll make doing the medical research in which he's found his true passion.  We "always thought" I'd go back to work part-time eventually... but that's increasingly impossible (decreasingly possible?) in the legal market and we've discovered we both really like me being at home.  We "always thought" we'd end up wherever we wanted to end up... but his research can best be done in St. Louis, Missouri, 5+ hours away from any family.  We (I) "always thought" I'd start having kids in my late-twenties, not my early-thirties.  So yeah.  "Always thought" pretty much got left in the dust, about 7 major life decisions ago.

Now we're having to reevaluate.  If we want to evenly space our kids, that means getting pregnant again this winter.  ?!  I can't even imagine that.  I still average 5-6 hours of sleep per night between Matthew going down late (wants to see his dad), Claire getting up early (she's lucky she's so cute, I tell ya!), and wanting needing to have a couple of hours each day to unwind by watching a show, emailing, facebooking, or blogging.  I mean really, is a couple of hours too much to ask?  It is, actually.  By the time everyone's in bed and everything is clean it's at least 9:00 if not 10:00.  And Claire gets up at 6.  I'm sure many of you can relate!

This past week was particularly brutal.  While I was already barely staying on the at-home-parent-treadmill, I got completely thrown off of it last Sunday.  Claire had what we now know was a febrile seizure (benign... but terrifying... especially since she didn't appear sick beforehand) and we spent 5+ hours in the Emergency Room getting test after test, catheter, x-ray, etc.  It was emotionally exhausting, I was already exhausted, and 4 nights later she's still not sleeping though the night anymore (quite the contrary).  All this is to say, I couldn't be pregnant right now (voluntarily).  And adding another baby into this mix... even an easy one... would really take me from crazy-but-I-love-it-and-it-goes-by-too-fast-anyway to okay-I-need-help-I-Literally-Can't-Keep-Up.  In an attempt to evaluate the "three kid question" objectively, my friend and I started making a list of pro's and con's.  But really, what we concluded it comes down to (for us) is that to have three kids and be happy doing it, we really we'd need at least one of these things:
  1. Youth.  We really do just feel too old and too exhausted to handle another pregnancy, especially while chasing after TWO very young children.  I mean my back is already sore just doing what I do now.  And as my friend likes to say, pregnancy and childbirth will seriously make you doubt both evolution and "intelligent" design.  
  2. Money.  And by that I mean fewer logistical headaches.  More space than a 2-bedroom apartment, a minivan (or something else that non-crazily fits 3 car seats), a glimmer of hope of sending our kids even to state schools for college.  The ability to buy a new set of measuring cups (etc.) without spending time obsessing over every.  single.  purchase.
  3. Family.  As my friend put it, parenting without family nearby is a "whole other species" of parenting.  I barely squeaked by hauling my 1 year old to all my prenatal visits and praying that the office was running on time so that we could get in and out before a melt down over my not allowing him to play with the water cooler.  Pretty sure I couldn't swing that with a 1 year old and a 3 year old.  And that's just one small way in which it's really a lot harder to parent without family nearby.  Add a crazy-busy husband and I mean a lot of the time it is all on me... not sure I want three kids for that.  What happens if I get really sick??  AND it really is a double whammy - not only do you lack any real local support but on top that you spend a lot of your vacation time and energy hauling your family cross-country to visit said family, or hosting them  - both of which are exhausting.
And then yeah, there's that whole timing thing.  Girls mature faster than boys, about two years (I've read) and it seems like we really lucked out with the two that we have, Claire being two years younger than Matthew.  If these two end up somewhat on par during childhood... and thinking even about possibly starting Claire a year early with her October birthday so they'd be in consecutive grades... I worry that adding a third to the mix who was three years+ younger would leave us with an odd man out.  And three years is really the minimum.  I cannot fathom being pregnant this winter or having a family of 5 in our two-bedroom apartment for any longer than a year or so.

Two's company?
Anyway, because I find myself irrationally hesitant to sell our baby gear I've been keeping a list of all the reasons I should NOT have another baby.  It's called "JUST SAY NO to a 3rd KID" and it cracked my husband up when he randomly discovered it on my desk top.  It's 31 bullet points long even though most of my bullet point-inspiring situations don't exactly leave my hands free to write anything down.  I recently told a CBC (childless by choice) friend that there are a million reasons not to have a child but that just that one, sweet, miraculous face can blow each one of them away.  If ever that happens to me, I'm sure I'll delete this blog entry.  But at least for now, I'm not letting myself think about that face.  Either that or I'm going for trick candles.  Or something.

* Because several of you asked for the list, here it is.
  • An extra plane ticket forevermore.
  • A minivan.
  • Even really moderate sleep-training is pretty miserable with neighbors below, even if they swear they can't hear it.
  • So is traveling with any kid under 2 who doesn't sleep in new places.
  • In the house by 7:00 for at least a year because your youngest can't stay out to get ice cream or do anything else with older kids.
  • Along those lines, I'm told - parents end up splitting up more with 3 kids so the older kids can do activities the younger one can't.
  • 2-3 more months nauseated to the point of depression.
  • More varicose veins.
  • For at least 1.5 years, too fat to wear any of your favorite stuff.
  • An extra nap time during travel for at least 3 more years.  
  • Less room to host parents.
  • Less ability to travel to see parents.  Or anybody else, including good friends.
  • Less ability to do any ambitious trips at all.  Financially and logistically.
  • Have to limit the lessons they can be involved in or entire life will be spent in the car.  (according to my list serve).
  • According to my list serve... parents of 3 seem to spend more time on logistics and less time on enjoyment.  "Moms of 3 are better at throwing meals together and getting stuff done... moms of 2 are able to have more intimate relationships with their kids."  
  • Cannot cook as good food.  Good food eaten faster.
  • Restaurants too expensive.
  • Cannot bank on healthy kid.  No resources for unhealthy kid.
  • College... college... college... 
  • Space to host all 3 kids and their families at the holidays?
  • Back problems
  • Neck problems
  • Knee problems
  • Not just during pregnancy but for 3 years after while you lug them around.
  • Cold and flu season with babies and toddlers is THE WORST.  EVER EVER EVER.
  • Can't go out on a date while nursing (because it's not worth it for me to pump and do bottles regularly).
  • Can't go on a vacation without kids until they're all older.
  • Need more time to enjoy our neglected marriage post-residency and fellowship. 
  • Want to feel like me again... able to schedule a doctor's or hair appointment without dealing with the hassle and expense of a baby-sitter .
  • Want time to blog.  Time to watch a TV show with my husband without having that be the only thing I can do on any given night.
  • Feeling that our family is complete.  Worried that all my dreams already came true with each child.
  • Going to the gym is close to impossible until they drop the morning nap.
  • So is doing anything really fun for the older kid.
  • Might want to eventually go back to work in some capacity.
  • Right now I feel like I spend quality time with each kid every day - a lot of reading to Claire before Matthew wakes up, or to him after she goes to bed.  But I already feel like I have to then choose between any quality time for just me, or with my husband, OR adequate sleep.

Here are the Pro's, FWIW:

  • Another miracle.
  • One of my children would have a same-sex sibling.
  • My husband reports that it's much better to have more than 2 kids when your health starts failing, based on what he sees.
  • More fun at family gatherings.
  • More fun in general(?)
  • Another reason to find steals and then resell cute baby clothes, which has become a hobby for me.
  • Baby days last longer.  Of course that is also a con... lol.

Destination Play-Dates: No Thank You!

WARNING:  This is the most boring thing I have ever written.  Read at your own risk.

A few weeks back we had two very different experiences at the same awesome location, the Artesani Wading Pool.  Alas, they confirmed something I'd been kind of trying to deny to myself ever since I had a second child:  We're done with destination play-dates, at least for now.

When I had just one child, destination play-dates were about the best thing ever (until the "time to go home" tantrum, anyway).  Bringing Matthew to a cool new place like Boston Children's Museum or The Aquarium hit all the marks:  It exposed him to new things, he had a blast, it took up a lot of time, and it tired him out for a long nap.  And I got to chat with a friend, albeit in that constantly disrupted, fragmented conversation to which managing toddlers lends itself.

Then I added a baby to the equation.  Maybe the best way to elaborate further is a side-by-side comparison of our two Artesani trips.

Leaving the House:  For the play date, SUPER high stress trying to align all the right stars to get out of the house anywhere near the time we were going to meet up.  Honestly, when you have a baby who is nursing (but won't nurse in public), on messy solids, and napping, it's a real challenge to go anywhere.  Add a potty-training toddler and for real, every outing is just assumed to have at least one major mishap.  Trying to "time" all of these things - naps, feedings, preparing food to bring for an entire morning, pottying, etc. - is not conducive to an enjoyable day.  To be clear, the mom I was meeting is a complete sweet heart and she has two similar-aged kids and totally understands - I'm pretty sure I got there first, in spite of my own tardiness.  Still... stressful!

On our own:  A nice, normally-stressful morning as we took our sweet time pushing and prodding those stars to line up so we could get out of the house.

Arriving on the Scene:  The Artisani wading pool cannot be reached without walking past two scorching hot parks.  Torture for any high-energy toddler.  I managed to corral him to the water area where we were meeting, by some miracle.  But it all came back to haunt me when he snuck out the pool gate as someone else was coming in and make a beeline for the park, leaving me, my wet baby, my shoes, and all our stuff at the pool.

On our own:  Happily let my toddler check out the parks on our way in, and conclude on his own that it was way too hot out to play on them.

Experiencing the Playdate:  In accordance with the Natural Laws of Parenting, I ended up setting our camp at the opposite end of the pool from the play date.  Brilliant.  Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with another adult while you are watching your 9 month old at your feet, your toddler who is swimming all over the pool, and your stuff that's across the way?  Multitasking misery.

On our own:  Set up camp right by the shallowest area for Claire to splash in.  She splashed by my feet, I kept an eye on Matthew, and I just sort of ignored our stuff.  Much easier.

Maintaining Semblance of Control:  This is the real kicker.  My sweet toddler boy can be quite the challenge and he knows that my hands are tied in public, with a baby.  The bottom line is that I need to be able to credibly threaten that we leave and go home, and I can't do that if other people have put in the effort to meet us out and about in Boston.  The day we had a playdate, his behavior escalated until finally I had to carry him back to the car, while pushing the stroller, because he was having a flailing tantrum and once that happens there's no turning back (he literally screamed the entire way home in the car, which was a good 20 minutes... that's more incredible than it sounds on paper).  The day it was just us and he started taking off his swim suit as soon as we got there, I simply told him that they don't allow people to use the pool naked and we would have to leave if he couldn't keep his suit on.  That didn't work, but packing up our stuff and starting to walk out did.

So there you have it.  A pretty boring blog entry on why we're through with destination play dates for now.  That only took two months to write!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fresh Meyer Lemon Pudding

... with homemade whipped cream and a dusting of cardamom, of course.

 This dessert was a hit with my husband, who craves what he calls "CCR" (cool, crisp refreshingness) after his long bike commutes home. 

I found the inspiration here (thank you, Pinterest) but my husband and I both agreed that the homemade whipped cream and the dusting of cardamom took it to a whole new level.  Cardamom and citrus... you just can't beat it.

Fresh Meyer Lemon Pudding with Whipped Cream and Cardamom

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
 2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 extra large or 4 regular egg yolks, beaten a big with a fork
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
2 tbsp Meyer lemon zest (took me 2 lemons)*
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (took me 3 lemons, but mine were juicy*
2 tbsp butter, at room temp 

1 carton of heavy whipping cream (small - about 2 cups)
1 tsp of vanilla
Powdered sugar to taste 


* Okay to substitute in some orange zest and juice if you don't quite have enough

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.  Add the milk, egg yolks, zest, and salt and whisk 'till smooth.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first and constantly toward the end, until it thickens (it will be pretty obvious when it thickens - it gets very thick).

Remove from heat and stir in citrus juice and butter.  Pour mixture through a mesh strainer and scrape the sides until only the zest and chunkier parts remain in the strainer; discard.  Cover and refrigerate the remainder - in separate ramekins if you want to be fancy - for at least 3 hours, up to 3 days.

For the whipped cream, simply pour the heavy cream into a mixer, add vanilla and powdered sugar to taste, and mix on high until it thickens.  Your best bet is using a KitchenAid with the whisk attachment.  

Top the pudding with the whipped cream and dust with cardamom.  A mint leaf for garnish is great if you can swing it.

As Baby Claire would say, "MMMMmmm!!!!"