Thursday, September 24, 2015

The case against a minivan!

Over two years ago now when we found out we were expecting triplets at least two-thirds of people we told about it asked us if we were getting a minivan.  Our resounding answer to that question was always a firm NO!!  We even had friends telling us "I never wanted to drive a minivan either, but now I LOVE my minivan!"  Others tried to sell us on specific features like the sliding doors that open with a push of a button and make it easier to get kids in the car in tight parking lots.  And through all of it, we remained firmly in the "no minivan!" camp. In fact, for almost the entire first year with the kiddos we remained a one car family, which is not particularly easy to do when you live in a house with a very low "walkability" score. When we did decide we needed two cars a minivan was never on our list of considerations.  So what car did we buy?  A used Prius.  And because if you haven't been reading our blog all along you are probably thinking "how the heck do you fit triplets in a Prius?!"  I will tell you that yes, in fact, you can fit three convertible car seats rear facing in the back of a Prius.  And if you are an economical packer and plan ahead you can even take that car on road trips.  And in a pinch you can even take your dog too!
one Radian & two Coccoros in the Prius
Three R100s in the Rav4
("We're driving how long Mommy?!" -Ellie)

So for all those expecting mothers and fathers of multiples out there who don't see themselves as minivan drivers but are feeling social pressure to get one, I have this to say to you "Don't do it! Stay strong!"  In fact, here is a quick reference list for you to combat the social pressure!

1) Loading infant seats in the back seat of a minivan is an Olympic worthy event! We have borrowed or rented a minivan three times while traveling with the triplets.  After every loading or unloading I found that I was sweating and what little energy I had for the day was shot.  When they were in infant seats I found it ridiculously challenging to maneuver my own body into the minivan while carrying an infant seat (which is NOT light when there's a baby in it!), not to mention the challenge of squeezing it between the captains chairs to get to the back seat.  It is hard enough for me to get myself back there nevermind the big clunky infant seat!  I know a lot of triplet moms opt to load the back seat baby (or babies) through the back hatch, but that is no small feat either!  When I tried that I had to climb into the back of the van, which was also a pain!

2) When you are flying solo loading/unloading is faster and safer in a small car or SUV.  If you are a stay at home parent (even part time) and don't have another adult around to talk to I can almost guarantee that there will come a time when you simply can't stand being cooped up at home with all (or both) of the babies for one more minute and desperately need to interact with another adult. That desperation will help you finally overcome the paralyzing fear of taking them all out by yourself, (Don't worry, that's a totally normal!) If you have a small car or SUV you will get to your friends house, coffee shop, or Target and after you park the car you can pop around the back to grab the stroller and set it up next to the car door.  Then you pop child #1 into the stroller and lean in to snag child #2 who also goes in the stroller before rolling around to the other side to get child #3 out an into a baby carrier (or have your toddler/older kiddo walk).  Easy and pretty quick and you never have to leave a child unattended in the stroller in a parking lot.  And if it's raining or snowing you can just pop them in their seats without buckling to get everyone out of the rain and then go back to buckle them.  Now think about the logistics of doing this with a minivan.  Sure if you have twins and have an infant seat in each of the captains chair and an older kiddo who can get themselves in and out of their car seat independently that's pretty doable.  I have heard, though, that it can be tricky for the older kids to squeeze past a rear facing car seat so many people elect to put the little ones in the back.  Now this is where the logistics get tricky until your kiddos are walking, especially with triplets. How do you load/unload the infant seat(s) in the back without leaving a child unattended in the stroller?  I honestly wasn't sure so I polled our triplet group on Facebook and got a couple of different answers.   A lot of people climbed into the trunk/back hatch of the van and loaded up and over the back seat leaving the stroller parked behind the van.  One mom told me she physically couldn't do that so she never went anywhere alone!  A handful of other triplet moms shared what seems to me to be the best solution: they removed one of the captains chairs and used that space as a loading zone.  (So if you decide on a van even after reading this post, remember this option!)

3) $$$$  Minivans are not cheap!  And you'll be hard pressed to find a van that gets more than a hair over 20mpg.  You'll be spending plenty of money having triplets (think no sibling hand-me-downs, classes & activities x3, etc) that if you can fill up your gas tank a little less why not do it!  We can do a 500 mile road trip on just about $30 worth of gas in our Prius.  The Diono Radian car seats we bought are pretty expensive compared to other car seats, but an extra $300 spent on car seats was WAY cheaper than buying a minivan or large SUV!

4) Less "stuff" is not a bad thing!  When you have triplets it is easy to get carried away thinking about all the "stuff" you need every time you leave the house, nevermind when you go away for a weekend.  Having the Prius and taking it on road trips over the past year has forced us to economize in our packing and drop a couple of the "just in case" things we might have packed if we had more space.  We have had to be resourceful and have asked friends and family to scrounge up pack-n-plays for us at our destination so we didn't have to pack three, but I really think we could have if we needed to.  Heck, on our trip to Chicago this summer we managed to save enough room in the back of the Prius to bring our 60lb boxer with us! Think of it as an exercise in minimalism!

5) The WOW factor.  Last, but not least, there is definitely a wow factor from other parents when they see you roll up in a Prius and unload triplets. =)  I have had women come up to me at the gas station or the grocery store because they want to see how we managed to get three car seats in the back of a Prius!

Now, the reality is, for some families, the minivan is the best choice.  And maybe, just maybe, in the future it will even be the best choice for our family, but right now it's not.  If we had more than three kiddos (which is NOT in the plans!) then we'd have to look at a larger SUV or minivan, but for now we are perfectly content with our Rav4 and Prius!

If I have managed to convince you that you can still drive a small car, let me save you some time and mention a couple of practical things.  First of all, you are going to have to spend more on car seats to get the narrowest ones.  It is worth it!  I'm a big fan of our Diono Radian R100 seats and would definitely recommend them.  Other Diono seats are great too, but if you are doing three across then stick with the RXT, the R100 or the R120 because the newer models are a touch wider at the top and you might need that half inch!  I like the Combi Coccoros that my sister passed on to us as well, but the kiddos will outgrow those rear facing much sooner than the Radians so we will likely get a couple more Radians sometime in the next six months. I'm also not a fan of the "puzzle harness" and find the deep seat a little harder to get kiddos in and out of.  If you want to go with infant bucket seats in the beginning like we did then the Chicco KeyFit is the way to go.  I did a TON of research on infant seats and had heard other families say they got the Graco Snugride to fit three across, but we tried it and failed despite getting some experts involved!  In the end I wish we'd just gotten the KeyFits from the start because they worked! It's a major bummer that Kohl's no longer accepts coupons for car seats because we got a great deal on our Radians that way!

DC excursion

Wow, how has September just flown by?!  It is September 24th and my first blog post of the month?!  What have we been doing?!  I honestly don't know, but life has felt pretty busy around here lately.  My work caseload has bumped up a bit, which is good, kind of.  I still need to work on my schedule to streamline things a bit more because I have been missing out on too many mornings with the kiddos lately.

This past weekend we took a family trip to DC.  I serve on the national joint committee for the communication needs of persons with severe disabilities (how's that for a mouthful!), also known as the NJC, and this past weekend was the annual face to face meeting.  So I was in meetings all weekend and Michelle and the kiddos had a blast hanging out with one of Michelle's friends from high school that she hasn't seen in probably 15 years who lives outside DC.  Amy and her husband have this great house 20 minutes from DC and were kind enough to host our not-so-low-maintenance family of five for the weekend.  The kids had a blast playing with new friends and new toys and Michelle got to reconnect with an old friend.  Isn't it great when you hang out with an old friend and find that you would still be friends 15 years later?!  It was so comfortable and easy hanging out with them and for the past few days almost every time we get in the car one of the kiddos says "go to Amy's house!"  Avery is particularly sad because the temporary tattoo of a dinosaur that Amy gave her has rubbed off.  =)

the crew
(*sidenote...this is 5 kids under the age of 3.5 & all 5 are potty trained
(well, training might be more accurate)...what are the chances of that?!)
watching the deer from the deck was a highlight!
(They'd put corn out for the deer so they were super excited to watch them eat it)
toddler pizza night!
it was almost 90 degrees on Saturday!
bro hug =)
(Isaiah may have been hugging a little longer than necessary!)
Jeep rides were a big hit too!
After my meetings on Sunday we all met up at the National Harbor because they have a $7 all you can ride carousel and our kiddos are big time carousel lovers ever since the trip to the Brookfield Zoo this summer.  It was funny because Amy's kiddos rode it once and then moved on to play at the park next to the carousel while our kiddos (and therefore Michelle & I) rode it five or six times in a row!  And they would have kept riding but were starting to crash because it was already past dinner time. 

he didn't want to get off, but barely cracked a smile the whole time
happy girl with a goofy smile
Ellie on her favorite horse that she named Sally
Mama & her girls
 Monday I skipped out on the morning meetings to take the kiddos to the zoo.  Our original plan was to go with Amy and borrow a stroller, but then plans changed and we ended up going solo and therefore had no stroller.  It wasn't a big deal because we had carriers, but there were a few times when that meant me wearing one kiddo on my back and carrying a second because the DC zoo is on a hill and really spread out!  So the kiddos did a TON of walking and got pretty wiped out (as you can see in the picture by the seals!)  And then there were the cranky or generally choosing not to listen toddler moments that also necessitated carrying.  By the time we got back to the car we were all exhausted.  The good thing about that was that the kiddos all slept for two of the four hour drive home!

lion watching!  One of them was actually playing with a cardboard box
and not sleeping like they usually are so that was fun!
all the animal statues were a hit too...
Avery hugging the pandas
and checking out the elephant statue 
"Mama, look, belly!" (romper was NOT a good choice for the zoo,
but it was the only pink outfit left and she HAD to wear it!)
hmmm...think maybe they're worn out?
a not so great family pic by the seal statue
yet another animal statue they didn't want to leave
"hug seal"
Post-zoo family selfie