Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back to School: Inspiration for Organization!

With Back to School just around the corner, I’ve been inspired to get organized. To get REALLY organized. My “big boy” will be starting first grade in a few weeks, my little lady will be starting preschool, and God only knows what’s in store for the triplets this fall. As my work schedule grows ever more challenging and our home life grows busier by the day, I find I am increasingly driven to control the controllables.

The past few weeks in the Lyons Den have been like nesting on steroids. I think it all began when one of my friends got one of those nifty label makers. It was barely out of the box before I was on the doorstep asking (possibly begging) to borrow it and admiring her handiwork as evidenced by a drawer full of neatly labeled spices and kitchen staples. With the coveted label-maker in hand, I spent several nights staying up until 1AM organizing our basement full of hand-me-downs… 2T Fall/Winter, 2T Outerwear, 2T Spring/Summer, 3T Fall/Winter… you get the picture. And, I must say, it is now a very nice, neat looking picture in an otherwise cluttered basement!

With the hand-me-downs under control and a clear sense of what the kids need for fall (not much!), the next item on the agenda was Project Paper Control. I hadn’t realized that my piles of paper (in the kitchen, in the dining room, on my desk, etc.) were a problem until one evening, while watching a Yankee game rerun (which is another problem altogether!), Liam called me in to watch an infomercial for something I think was called a “FileMe.” He excitedly yelled, “Look Mom, you gotta watch this! This is JUST what you need so you can find what you’re looking for!” Really? He’d picked up on this? The fact that I can often be spotted shuffling around, muttering to myself “where is the form for soccer sign up?” or “did they really send a school calendar?!” or “Dammit! How did I miss Silly Hat day again?!” At only five years old, the kid had keenly identified the kink in my otherwise well-organized chain. Paper.

Paper! It enters our home in droves – it arrives in the mail, sneaks in backpacks, springs forth from our printer and I swear, on occasion has even sailed through the window disguised as an airplane. What to do with it all?! Clearly, my neatly stacked piles scattered throughout the house weren’t working – as my charming five year old so astutely pointed out. Since I didn’t catch the end of the FileMe ad (it was rudely interrupted by a BiteMe episode courtesy of the triplets), I was quite pleased to be the lucky recipient of some new filing products from Smead : a Stadium File Folder and set of Super Tab Folders. With these items (and that label maker which I have yet to return!) in hand, I gleefully tackled Project Paper Control – and did so with great success, if I do say so myself!

In the kitchen corner that used to house an overflowing basket of last year’s birthday cards, Candyland directions, Exersaucer warrantees, recipes torn from magazines, an outdated sanitation calendar and a handful of Snake tattoos (not mine!), there is now a neat looking filing system that I think would meet with even Liam’s approval – for he, as the oldest “Cub” in our “Den” has the most to benefit from a well-organized Mom. He now stands a fighting chance of actually getting his soccer uniform, not going to school on Columbus Day and arriving at Sunday School on the right day… which, oddly enough, isn’t Sunday!

With my new Smead file system in place, there is finally a home for the many papers that periodically pile up. There’s a file for bills (Pay Me), 401K statements (File Me), Harvest Festival announcements (Remember Me) and that 20% off Hannah Anderson coupon (Redeem Me!). Additionally, Liam and Ciara have files for school and, as with any good system, there is room to grow. Should this be the fall that Kevin, Declan and Cormac actually sign up for story time at the library or take a toddler music class, there will be a place for their paperwork – and it won’t be in a pile on the dining room table.

Thank you to the kind folks at Smead for providing me with these superb samples... and, a $20 Target gift card that I'll likely use to buy more! With my new system in place, we’re all looking forward to a successful school year – especially since I now have a fighting chance to remember Silly Hat Day, Pajama Day, Friendship Salad Day or whatever else they come up with to send some paper home and keep busy moms on their toes!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Age Matters

After a few recent adventures, it dawned on me that age really does matter. A lot. Particularly when you’re talking about juggling an assortment of activities for five kids who are five, three and one. Simply deciding on which playground to visit can mean the difference between my tiny tykes climbing, sliding and swinging to their heart’s content or perilously dangling from too high monkey bars and threatening to give their mother – and any innocent onlookers – a heart attack.

We’ve learned this, and many other age-appropriate lessons the hard way. We’ve spent Saturdays at the park where the “big kids” are bored (just shoot me if they say it again!) because they are too old to be satisfied by a sandbox. We’ve spent Sunday afternoons scouring the floor for LiteBrite pegs and little Lego pieces and praying that the triplets didn’t ingest them while we weren’t looking – because, let’s face it – we can’t always be looking! We’ve purchased birthday gifts and Christmas presents that are clearly marked for “ages 4 and up” or “ages 6 and up” and looked on befuddled as our junior wonders sucked on their washable markers instead of creating fine works of art. I suppose I’ve finally learned that age restrictions – or suggestions -- exist for a reason. And, we’re happier parents with happier kids when we elect to respect them rather than defy them… even though we both have a fairly healthy defiant streak!

In any case, it’s not always easy to find the right park/playground/toy/game for all five of our kids – and I now realize that’s ok. It's ok to divide and conquer and it's ok at times to make sacrifices for the good of the greater group… which in our case, as a family of seven, is quite sizeable! On occasion, Liam and Ciara may be stuck watching a Baby Einstein video instead of their preferred Backyardigans or, God help me, Sports Center. (Yes, at only five years old, Liam has become a Sports Center enthusiast. We clearly have his avid sports fan Dad to thank for that!) On occasion, the triplets have to sit on the sidelines while Liam and Ciara go for a swim in the “big pool” or tackle the waves at the beach. And, on occasion, we will all enjoy the universal appeal of building a sand castle or reading a good book together.

As the summer passes by and birthdays loom ever closer – all of our kids were born in October or November… heck, even I will mark the passing of another year this September -- it’s good to remember to enjoy the time that we have and not wish it away. One day – sooner that I care to imagine -- they will all be swinging from those too high monkey bars, creating fine art in whatever form they define it, and leaving Baby Einstein and the Backyardigans behind. I’ve found that it’s a lot less stressful – and a lot more fun – to enjoy the ages we all are today.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Barbershop Triplet

Last week, I once again suffered the "woe is me" travails of a working mom. As usual, I tried my best to be buttoned up before I left, especially since it was a longer than usual trip for me – three nights away from home and a whirlwind tour of the Midwest: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Milwaukee in less than 72 hours. In preparation, I left the laundry clean, the fridge stocked, the dinners planned and notes about camp activities posted on the bulletin board. Even so, Ciara showed up with only a ponytail for “silly hat day” and Liam was sporting his typical shorts and t-shirt for “pajama day”… who thinks of these things anyway?! It wasn’t the lack of hats and PJs that got to me though – it was missing the triplets first haircut that really put me in a tailspin.

In fairness, Des and I had talked about it. I had become unusually attached to the sweet ringlets draping down their necks and the surfer dude bangs that hung over their eyes. Even my grandmother – their great-grandmother – remarked that they looked a bit like girls and a haircut was long overdue. This was the last bit of ammunition Des needed to sharpen the scissors (actually, to buy a professional grade barber set!) and plan a cutting party in my absence.

When I called home on Tuesday night, the soundtrack on the other end of the line wasn’t exactly reassuring. Don’t get me wrong – everyone sounded jolly enough and my Mom and Dad had even showed up for the grand clipping. It was when my Dad said “don’t worry, we improved with each job!” that I really started to get concerned. “Did you take the Flip video?”, I asked. “Um, well, we tried, but, um, I don’t think it came out, I mean it didn’t really work, um, we have some good video of them afterwards, I think.” my Dad said rather sheepishly. “Did you take pictures?! Are there any pictures?!” I asked desperately. Then Des got on the phone. “Well hon, we thought you’d be able to pull the pictures from the Flip and well, that didn’t really work out so well. Trust me though, they look much better – and, like your Dad said, we really did get better with each kid!”

So, as I sat alone in a hotel room in Milwaukee wondering if my dear sweet babies now looked like skinheads, I had not a single photo to assuage my fears. To the contrary, I had mounting dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs. I hated their haircuts and I hadn’t even seen them yet. I just knew I didn’t like them. How could I? I had wrapped up a fairly formidable amount of emotional baggage in those reddish-blonde ringlets.

For starters, I was frankly just pissed that I was once again away for work and missing something – anything – in our kids’ lives. Silly hat day, pajama day, woke up on the wrong side of bed day, whatever. Things were happening and I was missing out. And it ticked me off. Far more substantially though, is the passage of time that the ringlet removal marks. This is it. Simply put, these guys are the end of the line for me – there will be no more babies and there will be no more first haircuts. Those sweet little curls have somehow grown (far too long, ok, I admit it!) to represent the last days of baby-dom. As go the curls, so too goes the ability to truly call them babies. They are now officially toddlers, tykes, little boys. And, while this in many ways represents a triumphant turn (we’ve survived!), it is also bittersweet. Bye bye babies and hello little fellas. So long snugglers and welcome wayward wanderers. Such is life, I suppose, And, it’s not necessarily a bad thing; I realized when I finally got home that it’s not so bad at all. Those babies have turned into little guys that sit up in their cribs and squeal “MAMA, MaMa, Mama!!!!” with delight. And, I must say, with the new haircuts and all, I am equally delighted to see them.

NOTE:  For reasons that are obvious if you've just read this post, the pictures above are the "before"... stay tuned... the "after" pics will surely follow...