Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Simple Joys of Summertime

When I got up this morning, I realized that August is almost upon us. How can this possibly be?! I have noticed that it’s getting dark a bit earlier and there is an abundance of “back to school” catalogs in my mailbox but even so, I find it hard to believe that we only have a month left of true, school-free, care-free summertime. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my thoughts on summer’s Top 10 most enjoyable aspects…

1. Getting kids dressed in shorts, t-shirts and crocs. No messing around with socks, sweaters, jackets, hats, gloves or boots. Although, lest you were wondering, we do still stick to the standards like undies or diapers… hopefully not much longer on the diapers though!

2. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Fresh, flavorful and enjoyed by all. Enough said!

3. Fireflies. Or, as the triplets so joyfully exclaim, “Fy-Fies! Fy-Fies! Fy-Fies!” I think they can really relate to the “catch me if you can attitude” since it’s one of their favorite games to play with me.

4. Thunderstorms. The good ones with lots of lightening and big loud booms. They can be enjoyed in equal measure on the front porch with a glass of wine or hiding under the covers, comforting any one (or five!) of our little “Cubs.”

5. Easy entertaining… wanna come over? Great – let’s see what’s in the fridge… Burgers? Dogs? Beer? Lemonade? It’s a party! And it really is just that easy.

6. Sun, sand, salt water, swimming pools. Splendid!

7. Vacation anticipation. We’re not going away until almost Labor Day but, I’ve been day- dreaming about lazy days on the Cape for a while now… when the going gets tough, my mind goes to Cape Cod and is calmed by the knowledge that a full week of work-free fun-filled days lie ahead. I can’t wait. And, I know there will be memories to power me through the year ahead as I await the next break from the daily grind.

8. Iced tea, iced coffee, ice cream, ice pops, Italian ice… and, the perfect photo ops that they create with five sloppy, sticky, satisfied, smiling faces.

9. Sundresses. Comfortable, cute, cool and versatile. Dress it up, dress it down. You’re good to go!

10. The ability to take it all outside. Walking, running, biking, and yoga. Reading, writing, even working. Eating, drinking, socializing, sitting, sometimes even sleeping. The constant opportunity to enjoy life al fresco is a gift that I’m especially grateful for after the long cold snowy winter that is an increasingly distant memory yet I know will soon be replayed.

So, with August about to begin and school days looming not far behind, I’m looking forward to enjoying another month of all that summer has to offer... and hope that you do too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TGFFF (Thank God For Friends and Family)!

It’s been a rough few weeks in the Lyons Den. In fact, it’s been a challenging couple of years as we’ve adjusted to life with the triplets and the untimely death of my brother-in-law, who recently lost his battle with lung cancer. To provide a bit more context, our daughter had just turned two the week our triplets were born and our oldest was not yet four – which gave us five kids under four to tend to and trust me, at times it wasn’t pretty! Trying to feed, change and acclimate to life with three newborns while still finding time to shower their big brother and sister with attention and affection wasn’t always easy. And, when my brother-in-law got sick earlier this year, not surprisingly, life got a bit more challenging once again.

My husband and I both work full time; when we arrive home, our second – and arguably more important – full time job begins: the care and feeding of all our little Lyons Cubs. This is a job we love – except, of course, for the times we don’t… like when there are five kids whining for dinner or arguing over a ball and creating at decibels that really requires those fancy noise-canceling headphones. In any case, when Conor got sick, my husband was often the first in line to tend to him, leaving me to tend to our five tots at home. Of course, this was as it should be but, it was hard, as life occasionally is.

 Being of rather proud and stoic Irish descent, I’m not one to ask for help and my husband most certainly wouldn’t think of it! We are strong, we are optimistic, we can be tough and at times, we can be downright obstinate. When the triplets came home from the hospital (all together, without spending a day in the NICU! So much for the “phased rollout” I had planned on!), there were many offers of help. “Just tell us what we can do” said countless family and friends. “Oh no, we’re FINE” I’d reply as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and staggered by them in a daze. Fine? Really? No way! We were so NOT fine. We were exhausted and overwhelmed and it took getting a nasty case of bronchitis when the babies were six weeks old for me to finally “cave in” and accept the kindness and assistance that had so readily been offered. I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long.

Before we knew what hit us, there were neighbors bringing dinner, friends feeding babies and weekend visits from family that allowed us to occasionally get out of the house and leave the kids behind. Conor continued the task he started when Ciara was born and walked our dog Finnegan each and every day. Slowly but surely, we started to rely on our newfound extended support system and eased into the daily routine of juggling life, work and play with five tykes under five. Today, we’d be lost without these folks – especially since we are now so keenly feeling the loss of Conor. Let me share a snapshot of life in the Lyons Den one day last week…

At 5:45AM, I rolled out of bed to meet two of my neighbors and friends for our morning run. On this run, I know I can vent, stew or simply stay silent; they support me through thick and thin and have heard more than their fair share as the miles go by. Home by 7:00, I find another neighbor on the front porch, offering to take Finny for a walk; he knows he is filling part of the void Conor left behind and knows we are truly grateful. At 8:30, yet another neighbor shows up, offering to take the kids to camp so I’m not late for work. Again! As I run for the car at 9:15 (late despite it all!), I’m stopped by two other neighbors – one who offers to make us dinner that night and another who mentions that they picked up diapers for us and will drop them by later.

All this is welcome help at a time when we’ve really needed it; all this assistance has quite literally arrived on our doorstep because we finally learned a simple life lesson: just say yes. When someone offers to help, don’t hesitate, just say yes! Sure, life has its ups and downs and it isn’t always easy but, it’s a whole lot easier when you just say yes to a little help from your friends.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why have kids anyway?!

When we were first married, I wasn’t so sure why people actually take the plunge and decide to have kids. What’s the point? Our lives seemed so full – and relatively speaking, so were our bank accounts thanks to two full time jobs and relatively low expenses, our bellies thanks to frequently dining out and our one bedroom apartment, thanks to two ninety pound dogs. I was really on the fence and decided to dig for an answer from one of my best girlfriends. “Why?” I asked her. “Why do people have kids? Is it just a rite of passage? Is it just the assumed next step? I just don’t get the allure. Kids have dirty diapers, sticky fingers, they’re expensive and from what my Mom still tells me, they always talk back!”
“Ah, true, but that’s only part of it” she told me. “Kids are entertaining! They’re funny. They have a fresh perspective on things and they let you see the world through their eyes. It’s like you get to be a kid again! Plus,” she said coyly, “you can make them unload the dishwasher, take out the trash and walk the dog.”

Well, seven years and five kids later, I’ve clearly put my reservations aside and fully embraced this whole kid thing. And, I can honestly say that they make me – they make us -- happy. Furthermore, it turns out that my good friend Audrey was right… our five year old actually does walk the dog, our three year old happily unloads the dishwasher and there are few things more entertaining than watching our one-year old triplets dance. DANCE, I say! And, they do. Very entertaining and very funny indeed.

Last week, we had a more poignant reminder of why we have kids. Last week, we lost my brother-in-law to lung cancer. His battle, like his life, was spirited and far too short. Just five months after diagnosis, he succumbed to the horror of this disease. I think it’s fair to say that the past five months have been rough on all of us – the kids included. But, they have shown us time and again just what incredible little beings they are.

• They are resilient; they might have been disappointed that their Dad missed the 4th of July but they knew he was taking care of their amazing uncle so it was all ok.

• They are flexible; one day we were headed to the pool and then did an abrupt about-face to head to the hospital, dumping them at a friend’s house on the way. Instead of disappointed, they were delighted.

• They are smart, gentle and kind; not all the time, of course, but we witnessed such tenderness when our three year old blew off some dandelion blossoms, made a wish and told us she wished for Uncle Conor to get better.

• Last but not least, they are incredibly intuitive; last Tuesday, Liam, our five year old, and I were talking and I said “you know, little buddy, I really don’t think Uncle Conor is going to get better.” And he said, “I know Mom. I think he’s going to go today.” To which I responded “where?” and he said “To heaven.” And, he was right.

Our kids have lifted us up time and again. They provide joy, love and laughter and seem to know just when we need it most – as we have this past week. So, although our bank accounts are less full, our bellies miss all those dinners out and our three bedroom house is more crowded than that one bedroom apartment ever was, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This post originally appeared at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Land of No

If you ask my kids where they live, it’s quite possible they’ll tell you they hail from “The Land of No.” If you ask them what life is like in the “Land of No”, they will likely tell you that this strange land is ruled by a wild-eyed, crazy-haired witch who at times resembles their Mom but at times is almost unrecognizable as she bombards them with a barrage of “no, No, NOs!!!!!”

Some of the “NOs” I so freely administer are well-founded; they support a safety-first kind of an attitude… “No biting. No hitting. No standing on the furniture. No jumping on the bed. No playing on the stairs!” Some of them lay down the basic (and not necessarily unreasonable) laws of the land… “No lollipops before breakfast. No dessert until you finish your dinner. No bike riding before 7AM. No TV before your homework is finished. No talking back!”

Some of my NO’s are uttered – or, more likely, barked, screamed or snarled – before the poor kids can even get the words out… “Mom, can I have a… NO!” “Mom, can we…. NO!” “Mom, could I… NO!” NO, NO, NO! These unfounded and uninformed NOs are usually offered up on a day when I am especially tired, cranky and rundown… a state that I seem to be in far more often than I (and they!) would like.

One day last week, I found myself working from home. Our sitter needed the day off but that didn’t change the fact that I still had a ton of work to do. Needless to say, it is a bit difficult to focus when one year old triplets are chirping from their cribs, a three year old is refusing to nap and a five year old thinks you are the play date for the day. This is the just the type of scenario that brings out the residing witch of the Land of No. She showed up so abruptly and with such force that even I was a bit surprised when the words flew out of my mouth… “What are you doing?! Why are you doing that?! NO! NO! NO!"

My stunned kids stopped in their tracks and just looked at me with their eyes and mouths wide open. “But Mom” they replied in unison “we want to fill up the kiddie pool and you said we couldn’t turn on the hose. So, we decided to fill it up with sippy cups.” Really? This is what I flipped out and screamed NO about?! What is wrong with me? What could be more sweet, innocent (and frankly, quiet and time consuming!) than a three and five year old working together to fill up a pool one cup at a time? What a great idea! This was nothing to freak out about and it was most certainly not a good use of my overused NO. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, it was too late. My sweet kids were sulking in the yard while my mind wandered back to my laptop and email and other less meaningful things than the two disappointed tots out back.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my time in the Land of No. I’ve learned that the NO must be used with discretion. I’ve learned that I would do well to recall the words of Liam’s kindergarten teacher, “Stop, Look and Listen”, before I simply start shouting “no, No, NO!” I tried this approach a few nights ago when the triplets ran into the street – which, of course, is a major no-no. However, they weren’t bolting into oncoming traffic; they had spotted an inviting puddle just over the curb and apparently, needed to splash around a bit. Rather than go to my default “NO!” I just watched them. Closely. Their grins spread from ear to ear. They were holding hands and jumping up and down and squealing with glee. They weren’t in danger. They weren’t hurting anyone. They were simply having fun. And, I must admit, so was I. Now that I’ve been reminded of the pleasantries of life beyond the Land of No, I’m hoping to spend a lot more time there... and, I can assure you, the kids are too!

Note: This post originally appeared at

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day of Rest?

Some folks think of Sunday as a day of rest. For better or for worse, I’m not one of them. Consider this recent example…

While I would admittedly enjoy sleeping past 6:30, I set the alarm so I could meet a friend for a run. As hard as it always is to drag my butt out from under the covers, I’m always so glad I did when the morning run is behind me, the endorphins have kicked in and I arrive home ready to take on whatever the day has in store. In this case, as I downed a cup of coffee with my sweet and unsuspecting husband, I outlined an ambitious plan for the day that was rather surprisingly – and successfully, fulfilled.

It started with a short trip to pick up our farm share. We’re new to a local CSA and I’d never been to the pick-up point. When Des delicately suggested that I take a ride up by myself, I would have no part of it. Nope. This was to be a family day! So, with sippy cups and Cheerios in hand, we piled the five kids into the car to retrieve our weekly supply of fruits and veggies – which, as seems to be the norm, included items both foreign and familiar – like kohlrabi and kale. With our farm fresh bounty on board, we then headed to the diner for breakfast. Our hearts sank a bit when we saw the crowded parking lot but somehow they squeezed us in. We had a circular table that comfortably seated our family of seven – four in chairs, three in highchairs and all quite content after feasting on pancakes, waffles and omelets.

The weather was extremely hot, hazy and a bit iffy so, we weren’t quite sure what to do next… head to the pool? Road trip to the beach? Trek into the city to visit a museum? It was pretty much a toss up between being in water and being in air conditioning and, never ones to settle for an either/or scenario, we decided on both. First, a trip to the Norwalk Aquarium, which fairly well delivered on both requirements…. the AC was just right and, while the main attractions were obviously IN the water, we did get our hands wet as we stroked the sting rays and handled the hermit crabs. There was something for everyone… the triplets squealed with delight at the “Fishes! Fishes! Fishes!” while the big kids enjoyed building their own sailboats and shrieking at sharks.

At around 2:30, we loaded the kids into the car and loaded them up with fistfuls of snacks as we headed to our next destination… the pool! By this point, we had dragged five kids five and under to the farm share, the diner and the aquarium and frankly, we were getting kind of tired so, we were sure they would all squeeze in a snooze as soon as we hit the open road. No such luck though. These kids were fired up and ready to go – much the way I was after my run about six hours earlier!

We arrived at the pool and went through the usual drill that we’re now quite adept at… Liam and Ciara have mastered the quick change into their suits while Des and I quick change three babies… out of diapers and into swim pants, swim suits, swim shirts, sun hats and sun block. Before we knew it, we were all in the water, thoroughly enjoying splishing, splashing and a break from the oppressive heat. We were surprised to look up at the setting sun and realize that dinnertime had arrived far too quickly.

With our sense of adventure spurring us on, we decided to go out to dinner. Des’ brother Conor, who has been battling lung cancer, was playing jazz guitar at a local restaurant and going to see him play seemed like the perfect way to end our fun-filled day. And indeed it was. When Conor was playing the guitar, the horror of cancer seemed to fade away. You could see the joy it gave him – and to those who were lucky enough to be there to witness it. It reminded me of why I don’t think of Sunday – or any day – as a day of rest but rather, as a day for living life to it’s to fullest. Because, as we’ve be reminded by watching Conor bravely battle cancer, each day is truly a gift. So, why not make the most of it?