Friday, April 30, 2010

The Mama Marathon

I recently took my two “big kids”, Liam (5) and Ciara (3) on a trip to Boston. Our adventure was motivated by the desire to see my sister run the Boston Marathon… an elite race that is, in my opinion, a true testament to human dedication and achievement. My sister is a remarkable person; she has a seven month old son, a high-pressure job in San Francisco and literally flew in to Boston from a two-week business trip in Brazil to run 26.2 miles. So, I figured, if she could pull this all off, the very least I could do is be there to cheer her on.

Here’s the thing though… our trip was preceded by our own marathon of sorts. Our weekends are typically busy but this one was especially so. On Thursday night, my husband left for a conference in Florida, leaving me home alone with our five tots five and under. Which is fine. I’ve always said, “We made them, it’s up to us to take care of them!” However, on this occasion, I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery. The first day I was even allowed to pick up any of our kids was Friday. Given this, I hoped for a quiet, peaceful Thursday night. No such luck.

Poor Ciara woke up at 11:00 with a bad case of the barfs. Believe me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of vomit but this time, I was really impressed. She somehow managed to take out her entire bed, the wall, the rug and best of all, a bookcase… and all of its contents. Then, as I was testing out the “bedding” setting on our new washing machine (at midnight!), I heard a blood curdling scream and found my poor little lady hurling INTO her sleeping bag. Unfortunately, I had taken the lazy way out and instead of changing her sheets, I simply popped her into her sleeping bag and, paid the price!

As Friday morning dawned, I thought about our weekend plans. Saturday was our town’s Earth Day celebration and I was hoping to drag all five kids to the farmers market and other festivities. Sunday was my grandfather’s 90th birthday… and, birthday party – an extended family extravaganza that promised to be both fun and frenzied. The plan was for Des to fly home from Florida and meet me at the birthday bash. I would then hand over our one-year old triplets, pack Liam and Ciara into the car and head to the train station where we’d hop on a train to Boston and go to the marathon on Monday. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, that’s pretty much the way it went down and I must say, it was!

As I hustled the kids onto the Amtrak to Boston, numerous people remarked “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” And quite literally, I did. I was juggling and jostling my way through the narrow aisle with a double stroller I had to collapse and carry, two kids, each of whom had their own cute little bag they refused to carry, my overnight bag and my bag full of Mama Magic – a.k.a. enough snacks and activities to keep the kids occupied on the three and a half hour ride! By the time we met my sister in her hotel room, I was a wreck. She, on the other hand, was the picture of calm as she laid out her marathon clothes and tucked in for the night.

On Monday morning, the sun was shining as our cheering committee headed out to root for the runners. By Monday afternoon however, the clouds had thickened and a chilly breeze arrived with gusto. After about 24 hours with their primary sustenance consisting of Goldfish, Kix and raisins, my poor kids started to whine with gusto… “We’re cold. We’re hungry. We’re TIRED.” And you know how I responded? “Oh yeah, well your Aunt Kristin is cold, hungry and tired too! And you don’t see her quitting, do you?!”

Needless to say, I don’t think the marathon itself is going to be the fondest of memories for Liam and Ciara -- even though we did see my sister fly by as she finished with gusto at 3:44 -- an amazing time for anyone but even more so for a jet-lagged new mom! In any case, rather than boasting about Aunt Kristin’s accomplishments, my “big kids” are much more likely to recall the thrill of the conductor yelling “ALL ABOARD” as we hopped on the train home. Sometimes it feels like every day is a marathon but as I watched the kids gaze out the window with awe, it reminded me once again that life is as much about the journey as the destination.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

T-Ball Season Begins

T-Ball Season. It has officially begun. It started on Friday night at 6:15 when I found myself in the middle of a field rather than on the couch enjoying our weekly "pizza and movie night."  I'm not sure if Des or Liam was more excited about our family's offical entry into organized sports but I can assure you, it wasn't me! I admit it's selfish, but I've been doing my best to avoid our town's sporting agenda for at least two years now. And, as a reminder, Liam is only five!  They really start 'em young around here -- as they do just about everywhere else, I'm told.  But, I have a hard time giving up our dinner time and our family time in the name of soccer, basketball or baseball.  I know it's bound to happen eventually, I just wish it didn't have to happen so soon.

To me, this foray into bat and ball represents something far more significant.  It is a sign that my little man, my first born, is growing up.  He's going to be part of a team and though his t-ball team just happens to be the Cubs, it's not the Lyons Den Cubs.  When Liam is on my team, there's a decent chance he won't get hit in the head with a ball or teased for swinging and missing.  Although, should either event occur, I'd be quick to get the 'boo boo baseball' or discipline the person responsible for the taunting.  Out on the big field though, all I can do watch.  In theory, anyway.  The reality is that on Friday night, I didn't get to watch much.  Since Des is one of the assistant coaches, I found myself running a few bases of my own as I chased Kevin, Declan and Cormac while occasionally pausing long enough to ensure that Ciara hadn't wandered off. I recall glancing up once to see Liam with a batting helmet on and another time I saw him rounding first out of the corner of my eye.  In all though, I didn't catch much of what was going on and that, I suppose, just confirmed one of my fears.  This is it Mom -- welcome to the outfield. 

I didn't play organized sports as a kid.  My mom wasn't a "soccer mom."  I took ballet until I got to college and then running became my physical outlet.  Admittedly, neither is a team sport.  So, I really don't have a good understanding (or appreciation for) most sports. I like the Superbowl because of the commercials and an annual excuse to eat a lot of junk food. I kind of get basketball because I went to Villanova, very much a basketball-focused school.  I've grown to at least understand baseball thanks to the fact that Des is a fanatical Yankee fan.  Soccer still totally escapes me.  As T-Ball season kicks off, so too begins a whole new phase in our lives... rallying our "Cubs" to root for Liam's Cubs and doing my best to understand and appreciate the many team sports that are bound to fill our days (and nights!) for years to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oops, I did it again!

I’ve got a lot of mommy moments I’m not exactly proud of. In fact, I’ve got my fair share of pre-K (pre-Kid) moments I’m not especially proud of either. One of them involved a ski weekend and a late night in a house with no heat, a lot of beer and a karaoke machine. The result: me, channeling my best Britney Spears as I gyrated in front of the fireplace to “Oops, I did it again!” While the memory conjures up some good chuckles and it’s a story told time and again among a certain circle of friends, it is not necessarily what I want to be remembered by. The same could be said of some recent manic mama moments that I suspect just might sound familiar to you.

Consider one recent evening… the kids are all hollering, whining, or moaning and the noise is truly intolerable. My two oldest are arguing over who has more grapes while the triplets are having a heated tug-of-war over their favorite “Buzzy Bee” toy… of which, unfortunately, we have only one. I just walked in from work, my husband isn’t home yet and I’m trying to cook dinner in the midst of the din while still wearing my too-tight skirt. When I finally can’t stand it anymore, I scream at the top of my lungs “STOP YELLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! STOP, STOP STOP YELLING!!!!!!” There is then a moment of silence while the big kids look suddenly scared of the freak they call Mom and the little ones lips start quivering as they sit stunned, wondering whatever came over their Mama. This is just pathetic, I think to myself. This is downright wrong! How will I ever lead by example when, in a heated moment, I instantly regress to the level of a five year old… or a three year old… or a trio of 18 month olds! I must do better, I tell myself as I try to regain control by whispering “Sorry about that kids. Please could we all try to just take it down a notch?”

Not surprisingly, only a few minutes pass before it’s on to the next event – the “big kids” grabbing some blocks away from the little ones… which, of course, results in a whole lot more yelling. Since I’m newly committed to quiet reprimands (for the rest of the evening at least), I try my best pre-school teacher imitation and sweetly sing “No grabbing, please… no grabbing , no grabbing, no grabbing, please.” When this kinder, gentler approach is blatantly ignored, well, what’s a mom to do? Naturally, I GRABBED the blocks from the big kids and returned them to the little ones! That’s right, in less than ten minutes, I’ve now screamed at five kids to STOP YELLING and literally swiped blocks out of their little hands while reminding them that there is NO GRABBING allowed.

Huh. I just never thought it would end up this way… with that old “do what I say, not what I do” routine played out with perfection by yours truly. But, I guess that’s part of this whole parenting thing. Try as we might, there is no perfection and fortunately, for all the times we repeat the same mistakes, there’s a snappy theme song to remind us that we’re not alone… “Oops, I did it again… “ Thanks Britney.

Note: This post first appeared at on April 19, 2010... this is a great site for all parents... as they put it, "raising kids raises questions"... and they've got a lot of answers! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Awkward Age

This may come as a surprise to you… in fact, it still comes as kind of a surprise to us but, my husband and I really aren’t baby people. Given that there was a short window where we had five kids under four, you’d think we’d be those schmoopie types that just melt at the sight of a newborn and can’t enough of that new baby scent. The reality is we’ve never gone to extremes to ooh and aah over someone else’s precious new babe and it took us a while to warm up to each of our own. Furthermore, we still don’t know what people mean when they bring up the glory of that new baby smell; all our babies always smelled like spit up and dirty diapers, perhaps with a whiff of sweet potatoes thrown in. Not something to get all nostalgic about, if you ask us!

Although we tend to tolerate more than celebrate the first year of life, we can’t help but admit that the old cliché is true and time flies by far too fast. Our triplets officially turn 18 months this week and can hardly be called babies. They are independent, interesting and at times intolerant little individuals. Their onesies don’t fit and their toes are busting out of their footie pajamas. They’ve taunted us by climbing up and unfortunately, falling down the stairs. While fingers are still their favorite utensils, they’ve experimented (with limited success) with spoons and forks and seem to be trying their best to cultivate some table manners. Their bottles have been history for months – a sure sign that the baby days are behind us and the toddler years have arrived. As I watch them babble, banter, toddle and tumble, I can’t help but reflect that these guys are in the midst of a somewhat awkward age that no one really talks about. Let me share some observations…

They are expert walkers but look like they have two left feet when they try to run. They are not bald yet they still don’t have much hair to speak of; what they do have resides on top of their rather large heads in free-form wisps – at times resembling the comb-over look associated with desperate old men and at times cascading down to the rat-tail look that thankfully went out in the 80s. They have very big bellies that sometimes turn the corner before the rest of their little bods. They have some teeth, but not all of them – a look which was adorable with the first few but now looks like the Tooth Fairy is playing a trick on them. They try to talk but are constantly misunderstood... or so they would lead me to believe!

When it comes to teenagers, we expect and anticipate the “awkward age” but when it comes to babies, well, I for one sure didn’t! And, after seeing how quickly our baby days became simply fodder for photo albums, I know that this funny, strange and endearing phase will pass all too quickly. Before we know it, they’ll be out of their highchairs, deciding to wear what they want to wear and running so fast that I can’t keep up. Which is exactly why I’m going to do my best to just take a deep breath and enjoy this time that I know is both precious and fleeting. Not to mention, as soon as these guys can talk, they just might point out that I’m in an awkward phase too… with my fading highlights, rapidly reproducing grays, a few extra pounds and a severely outdated wardrobe, who am I to pass judgement?!

Note: This post originally appeared on on April 12, 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Welcome to the Vomitorium

Let me give you a rundown of the past ten days or so… and, I apologize that this is a bit lengthy but I implore you to hang in there and read to the end... this is a good one!

On March 26th, I had major abdominal surgery -- the details of which I just may share another time but for now, suffice it to say, this operation made the three c-sections I had look like a walk in the park. Things were going relatively well (thanks to Vicodin and my family taking the kids for a few days) until Wednesday, the 31st. That’s when the puking began. It was Declan, Ciara, and Cormac, each of whom seemed to take a 6 hour shift of almost continuous hurling. Declan had the 4PM-10PM shift; Ciara took 9PM – 3AM and Cormac followed up from 1AM-7AM… leading us into Thursday, April 1st. Though it was April Fools Day, it turns out that Des wasn’t kidding when he asked me where we keep the crib sheets. You see, due to that aforementioned surgery, I’m on the disabled list. I’m supposed to be benched -- sitting on the sidelines peacefully recovering from having my insides rearranged. As such, I wasn’t much help with kids overnight or in cleaning up the aftermath… and, not that I’d wish it on him, but a part of me thinks that after 18 months of not knowing where we keep the crib sheets, Des was long overdue to find out!

In any case, much of Thursday passed without much ado. It was just the occasional hurl accompanied by a lot of dirty diapers and sadly, my last little pain pill. As the sitter strode off into the sunset, Des strolled in complaining that his stomach hurt. Rather than any sort of empathetic, kind or loving response, I gave him the “Buck up, Big Boy” speech. It went something like “No it doesn’t. Your stomach doesn’t hurt. It can’t hurt. We need you! We can’t afford to have another man down around here!” Then, he made an odd gurgling sound, ran for the bathroom and slammed the door… proving once again that I am not always right!

Thus began a solid 72 hours of violent vomiting and its equivalent from the other end. I’ve never seen my poor husband so sick in my life and personally, I’ve never experienced such pain! The only thing worse than puking your brains out for days on end is doing it less than a week after abdominal surgery! Ouch!

For the first time in my life, I had to wave the white flag of surrender. I called my parents at 11:00 that night and had to confess that I needed them. Bad. Bless their souls for showing up at 8:30 Friday morning to a putrid stench and horrific scene… Des and I sprawled in bed in a semi-comatose state. Three babies in saggy, leaky overnight diapers filled with diarrhea. A five year old literally asleep on the vomit-covered bathroom floor. And a spunky three year old on the rebound, trying to make herself breakfast.

Over the next few days (including Easter), my parents, sister, brother-in-law and aunt tended to our injured troops like battle-weary commandos. They did laundry, changed sheets, changed diapers and administered doses of Pedialyte, Gatorade and ginger ale. And then, they went down too. First my Dad, followed by my brother-in-law. They went down one by one, running to the bathroom and groaning with a pain I knew all too well.

On Monday, just as we thought the worst was behind us, another valued family member bit the dust. Yes my friends, our mighty Maytag. It might have survived the Swine Flu but the Lyons Virus was just too much. After days upon days of continuous service with no rest and no gratitude for the pounds of nasty puke and crap encrusted garments it dutifully cleaned, the poor thing finally just blew a gasket. Literally.

It happened just as my aunt happened to be passing by and decided to check in on us. As she put it, “timing is everything”… for just as she arrived, a thick black smoke started billowing out of our basement prompting her to call 911 quicker than I could say “Hi Auntie Pat! What are you doing here?!” I slowly made my way downstairs just as the entire fire department, including the fire chief and two police cars pulled in front of the house and started gearing up.

Always one to look on the bright side, here are my key takeaways from our ten days in hell:

1. Avoid puking after abdominal surgery at all costs

2. Give daily thanks for family members who will rescue you when you need it most

3. Try on "skinny pants" as they will surely now fit

4. Thank fire department for providing child-friendly entertainment

5. Appreciate opportunity to buy new energy-efficient washer; I’m told we will save zillions!

So, there you go… though the Lyons Den was briefly renamed the Vomitorium, we are back on track and look forward to meeting our new washing machine one day soon!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

In our house, sibling rivalry is a daily occurence and a true testament to the survival of the fittest.  I recently wrote a bit about it for a great new site I discovered --   Each time I visit, I learn something new... like yesterday, when three little cubs had the WORST case of diaper rash I've ever seen and there were some great remedies that were even news to me... I always assume that with a grand total of five kids that have been/are in diapers, I'd have it figured out by now but, there's always more to learn!  And, if want to learn how we deal with sibling rivalry here in the Lyons Den, please visit: