Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Identity Crisis -- Originally seen on parentsask.com

It’s probably safe to say that in the past two weeks, I’ve been on more planes than in the past two years. On the personal front, I had the good fortune to get away with my husband (just my husband! NO kids!) to attend one of my best friend’s weddings in Palm Springs; on the work front, I’ve been to Chicago twice for client meetings. Whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, leaving home without the kids always prompts a bit of an identity crisis for me. It just doesn’t feel right to head out without an array of diapers, wipes, sippy cups and crayons crammed into my bag… although it is a whole lot easier to get through airport security without taking off a tot’s shoes or trying to cram a stroller on the conveyer belt!

While Des and I were away for the wedding weekend, we found ourselves a bit dumbfounded by the free time we had. It seemed surreal to simply sit by the pool instead of fielding flying tykes in the pool. It seemed unnatural to actually read the paper as opposed to just recycling it the way we often do. We found ourselves up at dawn each day even though our own early risers were thousands of miles away. We had really just allowed ourselves to slip into relaxation mode (we actually read the paper by the pool while having a drink!) when it was time to go home.

Needless to say, when traveling for work, there is no relaxation mode although, there are luxuries that I don’t typically get at home. Room service and an uninterrupted night’s sleep come instantly to mind. Regardless of why I’m away, the absence of our five “Lyons Cubs” is a constant presence in my mind. I am drawn to any new mom desperately shushing a baby on the plane. I smile and nod empathetically as I watch families struggle and juggle their way through security. I graciously step out of the way to let anyone with a stroller stride by. And I do all of this thinking that surely, these folks must know that I’ve been in their shoes. That I am a Mom too and that I have suffered the same travel challenges and indignities. Except that, of course, they don’t. They don’t have a clue who I am or that I’ve left five tots five and under at home. This is where the identity crisis really kicks in. Who am I? SuperMom? Jet-setting working girl? All of the above? Perhaps none of the above? Trading the diaper bag for the carry-on really does a number on my psyche!

As I write this, I’m on a plane headed home. The guy next to me failed to notice my rather impressive (if I do say so myself) screen saver of “Five Cubs in a Tub”. The lady across the aisle doesn’t know that reading Real Simple and eating M&Ms during takeoff was the most indulgent moment I will have this week. Possibly this month. No one realizes that these two hours before the plane touches down in New York represent the only peace and quiet I will know until I take off again on some future date. And they most certainly can’t imagine the scene that waits at home.

There will be a kindergartener who wants to talk about T-Ball. There will be a little lady eager to show me what she made in preschool. There will be one toddler who wants an “uppie”, one who brings me a ball and one who is too busy climbing the bookcases to notice I’m home. There will be a dog who almost knocks me over and a very tired husband who will be happy to have me back. And then there’s me. I will be as content to be back where I belong as I am grateful to occasionally have a break from it all. Now, if I could only figure out who I really am, I’ll be all set!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Demolition Derby

“The babies are coming, the babies are coming!” The urgent call from Liam and Ciara is as sincere and urgent as Paul Revere’s famous warning… because they know that if the babies are coming, destruction can't be far behind. Our “babies” are now truly toddlers and with 19 month old triplets freely roaming around the house, it is officially a demolition derby around here.

As the “babies” race down the hall, Liam and Ciara run to their room and slam the door to protect their Lego creations and dollhouse from disaster. As I yell “Don’t slam the door! Someone will get hurt!” the three tots who’ve been stopped in their tracks erupt into tears. Perhaps their feelings are hurt or possibly they are startled by the loud slam of the door… and then there’s always the chance that someone is missing a finger from the whole incident –it’s hard to tell in the general melee that ensues!

This type of chaos is the new “normal” as we adjust to life with our three man destruction crew. They fill their days by climbing on benches, window sills, chairs and book cases, taking great pride and glee in their newfound abilities. Though I’ve never been to a rainforest, I imagine that the monkeys swinging from the trees are much like my little men swinging from the curtains… cute, but a bit perilous at the same time. One of their greatest joys is dancing on the coffee table. They help each other up – one, two, three - and then, when they’re amply settled, they start waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care. Kind of reminds me of a very late night in a bar many years ago… a scene that I never thought I’d see reenacted by a trio of one year olds… all of whom belong to me!

Obviously, the time has come to take our baby-proofing a bit more seriously. With our first two kids, some simple rules accompanied by outlet plugs and a gate at the top of the stairs pretty much did the trick but these guys seem to need some more stringent baby barriers. They swing on the gate, have been known to remove (and then teeth on) the outlet covers and have unfortunately discovered the joy of playing in the toilet bowl and twirling the knobs on the stove. Sending them out to the yard doesn’t help – at any given moment, they may be teetering on top of the slide, picnic table or steps.

A few months ago, we had a bunch of friends over for dinner and upon noticing our numerous book cases and lack of obvious baby barricades, one of them remarked “Aren’t you brave?! I can’t imagine having so many kids around so many books and breakables!” Well, we would have been wise to heed the hint back then and take this baby-proofing stuff a bit more seriously. In retrospect, we’re most certainly not brave, just a bit naïve and perhaps even foolish! With the “terrible twos” looming in our future, I just hope we all survive that long. I suspect we will, likely with the help of a bit more baby-proofing and hopefully without a trip to the emergency room!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We recently had the good fortune to get away for a few nights without the kids. I am very much indebted to my friend Jen for getting married and providing the occasion for the getaway and to my parents, who deserve a vacation of their own after spending four nights with our five kids.

When we landed in Palm Springs last Thursday, we realized that the R&R we often yearn for had finally arrived. We picked up our rental car and found ourselves stylin’ in a two-door cherry red Nissan Altima – which, as opposed to a Cheerio-cluttered minivan, was perhaps the ultimate depiction of our temporary reprieve of responsibilities. We were care-free in a car with no car seats, no sippy cups, no sanitizing wipes or tissues. There were no crayons, no sticker books, no race cars or dolls. And so, as we settled into the two-seater, our fun-filled wedding weekend began.

On more than one occasion, people we met commented on how relaxed we seemed; they marveled at how laid back and comfortable we were with our kids 3,000 miles away. The truth is, it was hard NOT to be relaxed; there were no dishes to do, no laundry to fold, no one whining or fighting or tugging at our legs. To the contrary, our days were filled with relative serenity. While Des played golf with the groom, I did yoga with the bride and got my nails done… a luxury that is rare indeed! We happily took advantage of all the outdoorsy options that would not be recommended with the junior set we left at home -- including a trip to Joshua Tree National Park where we hiked around boulders and cactus gardens in the 100 degree desert heat and a more adventurous hike up (and down!) some slot canyons … an outing that left me with a few bruises to take home as souvenirs but the view at the top was totally worth it.

The wedding itself had a fairy tale vibe with Hollywood-like scenery ; the desert and mountains glistened in the distance as palm trees swayed softly in the breeze. As our friends prepared to take their vows, the deacon who presided over the ceremony shared a poignant message. “You each have a story to tell and a new chapter begins on the day you get married.” Given how our story has evolved – and continues to – the message really hit home for me and Des. We never imagined that our story would include five kids in seven years of marriage Or that in the same time we’ve experienced life’s greatest joys, we’ve also endured our fair share of tragedy and sadness. It was just so nice to have a break from it all and reflect upon how lucky we really are… and imagine what the next few chapters of our life may have in store.

We returned to the chaos we call home reconnected, reenergized and ready to take on the five tots who were eagerly waiting. We have great memories and a sincere wish for our newlywed friends Jen and Roger; we hope that as they embark on their marital journey, they will always be happy to come home. Even if home is filled to the gills with screaming kids, dirty diapers and a smelly dog, the old cliché is true. Home is where the heart is and I am happy to be back. That said, Mom, Dad, if you’re reading this, we hope you’ll babysit again one day soon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Myth of Mother's Day

Long before we were married, Des forgot Valentine’s Day. I don’t know how he missed the hearts in the store windows, the repetitive diamond commercials or the red roses that beckoned on every Manhattan street corner but somehow, he did. When he arrived home to find me in a disgruntled and disappointed snit, he gave me a big hug and kiss and said “I’m so sorry but, with you, every day is Valentine’s Day.” Cheesy, right? But here’s the thing, I fell for it. Because it’s kinda true. Since then, we haven’t gone out on Valentine’s Day – which is not to say that we don’t celebrate it -- we most certainly do, but on our own terms. Rather than battle overcrowded restaurants with overpriced meals, we now put the kids to bed and enjoy a nice meal and bottle of wine at home. I daresay that Valentine’s Day 2008 just might be the cause of our identical triplets… which leads me to Mother’s Day.
I’m not sure why, but I consistently seem to fall for the Mother’s Day hype. I fell especially hard last year when we had five kids under five. People would stop me on the street to tell me how great my Mother’s Day was going to be. “This is your year” they said. “This Mother’s Day will be all about you.” “Don’t you dare lift a finger Dear, this is the one day a year that you get to relax.” I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I fell victim to this flawed thinking on multiple fronts.

The reality is that last year was not “my” year and it was definitely not all about me. While I would have relished the opportunity to stay in bed until noon and not lift a finger as I’d been advised, I found that by 9AM, I had changed about ten diapers, done two loads of laundry, been spit up on three times and not yet had a cup of coffee. So much for the one day a year I was supposed to relax! I’d fallen hard for the Myth of Mother’s Day and as a result, I spent the day much like that Valentine’s Day long ago – disgruntled and disappointed – with an alarming dose of post-partum tears tossed in for good measure! I sadly succeeded in making that Mother’s Day miserable for myself but, much like that day when Cupid was a no-show, I learned a lot from what we now refer to as “The Mother’s Day Meltdown.”

1. Every day IS Mother’s Day. You can’t turn off your kids or roll over and make them go away. Trust me, I’ve tried. So, on Mother’s Day, it’s best to recall what I think the point actually may be – which isn’t to escape from your kids and responsibilities but to embrace them. To give thanks for the small things we take for granted like ten fingers and ten toes or sloppy wet kisses or someone who wants nothing more than an “Uppie”. And, if someone else does the dishes for you, well, that’s ok too.

2. Moms deserve more than one day a year to relax! And, it’s up to us to make the time to do so. While I dream of long bubble baths with candlelight and a cup of tea, it’s just not happening. Were I to get into the tub, I’m sure I’d be joined by some small tot… or worse, one large dog. So, I’ve found other ways to get in a bit of R&R on a regular basis… a book club and occasional girls night out do the trick for me and give me something to look forward to once or twice a month, rather than some supposed day off that only comes once a year.

3. This day, like most days, really isn’t all about me. What about my Mom? What an interesting dilemma this holiday presents when you become a mom yourself yet still have your own Mom to consider. On this day, like most days, I find it best to defer to Mom’s wishes. This is how I found myself on a Yankee Stadium tour with a two year old and a newborn a few years ago… it wouldn’t have been my top choice but, if you can’t indulge your own Mom on Mother’s Day, well, what’s the point?!

My Mom and I don’t always see eye to eye but I’m so grateful to her for so many things… especially for the ability to see the silver lining in almost any cloud. I guess you could say that thanks to my Mom, I truly believe that every day is Valentine’s Day and I’m proud to have reached the point in life where every day is Mother’s Day.

(This post originally appeared on http://www.parentask.com/ )

Thursday, May 6, 2010

T-Ball... Not so bad after all

Ok, I admit it. Just a few short weeks ago I was lamenting the loss of Friday nights on the couch and now here I am cheering in unison with a bunch of hyped up 5-year olds, “Go Cubs! Go Blue!” The excitement and anticipation on the kids’ faces is nothing short of infectious. Thus far. there have been two practices and one “game”… the game itself is more of a team-building, morale boosting comedy of errors than any display of athleticism but hey, they are only in kindergarten and it’s really cute.

Game day, as it turns out is a serious affair. The first pitch – or, um, first swing at the T-ball – was scheduled for 6:30. The players were to arrive at 6:10, with a crisp new uniform and can-do attitude. When I got home from work at about 6:03, Des raced by me shouting that we’d have to take two cars because “We can’t be late, there’s a field full of kids waiting for us!” Wow, he’s taking his assistant coach status quite seriously, I thought as he left me in his wake. I looked down to see the triplets staring up at me expectantly as I tottered in my heels and wondered how I would get changed, pack up snacks/diapers/camera/blanket/etc. and be at the field in seven minutes. I looked up to see Des speeding down the street with Liam and Ciara waving out the window and realized that I’d better get my rear in gear because hey, now there was a field full of kids that included mine and I’d better be there!

I haphazardly parked the minivan, unloaded the tots and dragged them across the field just in time to see Liam “Jeter” Lyons at bat… there was no swing and a miss for this guy… he’s been practicing in the backyard and he nailed it! I got to the sidelines just in time to cheer him on as he slid into first. Which, as I learn more about the game in general, I understand is not necessarily advisable or advantageous but man, did it ever look good!

What ensued was about an hour of kids taking turns at bat, tumbling over each other in the field, and providing all the comedic errors you might expect… the ball through the legs, the stunned swing and miss, forgetting to run to base, outfield nose-picking and a lot of high-fiving… which is especially endearing amongst a bunch of five year olds.

So, there you go. In just a week or two, there’s been a remarkable turnaround regarding my T-ball appreciation. Given that I’ve got a LOT more T-Ball years in my future, this is quite a good thing!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A routine visit to the pediatrician? Not with these guys!

Last Friday, I took our triplets for their 18-month check up. It was to be a routine appointment… height, weight, maybe a shot or two… or three… all the standard stuff. On the ride over though, it occurred to me there is really no such thing as a “routine” trip to the pediatrician.

I can’t help but recall one of our most eventful visits, when I had all three babies by myself – as I often do. It was last fall and we were going for flu shots. I can’t remember if it was swine flu or seasonal flu or the first dose or second… with so many kids getting so many shots, I kind of lost track… yet another parenting reality that I’m not so proud of but, there it is. In any case, I had raced home from work, thrown the kids in the car and sped away without so much as a wipe along for the ride. Big mistake.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I heard a strange, gurgling noise coming from the back seat and just as I put the car into park, Kevin puked all over himself. No problem, I thought, this is easy. I just whipped him out of the fleece he was fortunately wearing, wiped him down with the inside of a clean sleeve and popped him into the stroller. The double stroller. I have to take the double stroller vs. the triple to the doctor’s office because the triple doesn’t fit in the elevator or through the doors. Which left me single-handedly pushing a double-stroller while lugging along my third one year old. I must say, they didn’t look too happy to see us when we walked through the door fifteen minutes late and smelling like puke.

“How’s everyone feeling today?” the nurse asked with a forced smile. “Oh, fine! Just fine!” I replied. I’d gone down this track before – this was at least our fifth visit for flu shots. We kept going and kept getting denied because someone had a cold or an ear infection or a fever and they refused to give us the damn shot. Vomit hadn’t come up before so, I thought it best to keep it to myself lest be denied the coveted flu vaccine once again. As I rolled the double stroller and dragged my kids into the tight exam room, a different nurse approached us with a thermometer and a glint in her eye. “So, they’re all fine, you say?” “Um, yeah, I think so. I mean, Kevin might have spit up a bit on the way over but I think he’s ok.” And that was it. Out came the thermometer and down went my hopes for ever leaving with three vaccinated kids.

Sure enough, two of three had fevers – and yes, one was Kevin, King of the Back Seat Hurl. So, despite my best efforts, just one kid got just one shot because of course, they were now out of the swine flu vaccine. As I sighed and tried to keep my cool, I realized that I now had several return trips in my future – and the associated scheduling nightmare that goes along with a trio of tots who needs lots of shots.

As I juggled my babies and blackberry to check available dates, someone in the waiting room gasped, a kid screamed “EW! GROSS!” and a kind woman gently pointed and said “One of them just threw up. A lot. Oh you poor dear, you really have your hands full.” Huh. Now what to do? It was Kevin again. And he’d already been stripped of his fleece. And he was soaked to the skin and my only available supplies were the tissues the nice lady kept handing to me. That’s when I noticed the pumpkin costume in the bottom of the stroller and couldn’t help but smile. While the waiting room watched in horror and I kept Cormac and Declan entertained with my wallet and car keys, I stripped Kev down to his diaper, popped him in the pumpkin costume, bid them all adieu and rolled us all out.

So, while last Friday’s visit was certainly no walk in the park and I did have to juggle three babies with three shots each all by myself, it was a relatively routine trip by comparison. I remembered my diaper bag (although I forgot the sippy cups which might have stopped the post-shot screaming) and the nurse with the glint in her eye seemed to have a newfound respect for us. The way I see it, there’s no problem that can’t be solved with a little ingenuity and good humor – even if it means leaving the pediatrician in a pumpkin costume.