Monday, October 25, 2010

Collegiate Day

Last Saturday was our annual “Collegiate Day”. Collegiate Day is my husband’s opportunity to drag us all down memory lane, to his glory days at Fordham and to experience whatever sporting event may be in progress as we stroll the campus with tots in tow. Previous Collegiate Days have been only minimally successful… one time it was raining, one time there was nowhere to park, almost all the time the Fordham Rams have been brutally defeated in the game du jour. But this time was different.

The sun was shining brightly as we pulled into the lot just after 2:00. The parking lot appeared to be full but after the security guard looked somewhat aghast into our overly-stuffed minivan, he kindly ushered us in. As we rolled out of the car and I went to get the strollers (yes, strollers, plural – we typically hit the road with either a double and a single or two doubles) out of the back, I realized we had a made a rookie mistake. The only stroller we had was a single – a single stroller for 2 year-old triplets at naptime and a barely four year old who had nodded off in the car. Not good. But, as it turned out, not so bad either. They all rose to the occasion and the triplets in particular appeared to feel like Big Men on Campus as they strutted their stuff over to the football stadium.

Upon our arrival sometime during the third quarter, the Rams were losing to the Lafayette Leopards but most of our crew could have cared less about the action on the field; they were far more interested in the “big teddy bears”… the mascots of each team who were in turn terrifying and fascinating to all five of our kids. As they made a game of high-fiving the Leopard and the Ram and then hiding behind my legs, things on the field took a turn for the better; Fordham actually won the game in the last thirty seconds (the first such victory during my almost decade-long participation in Collegiate Day!). As the band played on and the players proudly paraded off the field, it was a real Americana moment… there was a crisp breeze rustling the prime fall foliage, just a few wispy clouds in an otherwise azure sky and a prevailing sense of camaraderie and accomplishment as the crowd pushed its way out of the stadium.

We headed over the quad where the bouncy castle had unfortunately been deflated and packed away but the kids were happy enough to toss a ball around and have a few snacks. As we headed back to the car, we remarked that it was “the best Collegiate Day ever.” And then it got even better.

As we dodged and weaved our way through the dusky lot with our stroller-free roamers trying their best to lose us among the parked cars, we happened upon a tailgate in full swing. This was no ordinary tailgate and it was conveniently located just a few spots away from our car. We paused to take it all in while the kids helped themselves to the beanbag toss.  Then we met Mike and Nicole -- the hosts with the most. The first time they asked us if we wanted a beer we refused, “A beer? Now? With all these kids?! Ha! No, no, that wouldn’t be wise. Nope. No way. No thank you.” I mean, it’s not like we were just lamenting all the keg parties on campus that we hadn’t been invited to that night. It’s not like we were almost desperate to top off our nearly perfect day with a perfectly poured pint or anything. Except for that, of course, we were. So we eventually said yes. And much to our amazement, this amazing group of Fordham alum, spouses and kids included us in their formerly private party.

Before I could say “that’s ok, you don’t need to feed all five of our kids dinner”, they had totally set us up… juice boxes and hot dogs for the kids, beer and chili dogs (Chili Dogs! Yummy yummy chili dogs!) for me and Des. They insisted I sit down (There were chairs at this tailgate! And I did sit down!) and, as the kids played in front of the fire (not too close and don’t worry, Mike is one of New York’s bravest), Des and I enjoyed a beer and a memorable moment… the crackling glow of the fire and the pine-scented smoke, the Fordham flag and the American flag, side by side,  slowing waving in the early evening light, the Direct TV (yep, you got it!  They had TV at this tailgate!)that had broadcast the game for this group of avid fans who may or may not have made it into the stadium (a sign of a really good tailgate!), the super-sized grill which boasted a big pot of expertly spiced chili in addition to enough hot dogs to feed the whole football team, and this group of pals who were bound by such memories and were kind enough to include us in their festivities. They even went so far as to honor us with the “Best Newcomers” award – an honor that would indicate that we just may be invited back next year. This Collegiate Day will be hard to beat but, I’d venture to guess that these folks just might be able to do it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Me and My Pocket Rocket

One of the questions I constantly get asked is “how do you do it?” There seems to be particular fascination, wonder and awe as it relates to ever getting out of the house with so many tiny tots and their associated paraphernalia. Now that my tots are all toddling and bottles have been replaced by sippy cups and water bottles, one answer to the “How do you do it” question is “My Pocket Rocket.”

What is a Pocket Rocket, you say? Ah, it is a nifty wonder of a water-proof, well designed tote that comes in an array of cute colors and patterns. And, it is aptly named because the Pocket Rocket has SIX pockets – and that’s not even counting the ones on the inside, which create the perfect home for my cell phone, lip balm and the snot-soaked tissues that I don’t want free-floating among the array of snacks I must constantly pack.  So...

Diapers and sunblock and plentiful wipes,
Surprises to soothe all sorts of gripes.
Raisins and Goldfish and Cheerios galore,
My fab Pocket Rocket holds all of it and more!
So my dear pals should you need a bag to get about,
I'd highly recommend a Pocket Rocket from Scout!

To get a Pocket Rocket of your own, visit:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Practically Perfect is Good Enough

I suffer a bit from being a perfectionist. Ok, a lot. Or, perhaps it’s not me, but the people around me who suffer most. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that even though I know it’s insane, I will reorganize the dishwasher so that it’s done my way, which, of course, is the right way and therefore, the only way. On the odd occasion that my husband puts the kids' laundry away, instead of simply saying thank you, I’m prone to point out where things should have gone. I encourage all five kids to line up their shoes in perfect pairs and at times, can't resist laying out matching socks and underwear with their outfits -- just as I liked to wear mine when I was a kid… perhaps that’s where this all began.

I thought that having triplets would cause me to loosen up, to let go a little, to lower my standards or perhaps more aptly put, become a lot less anal!  But, alas, it’s not to be. The triplets and the daily challenge of juggling five kids five and under have really just upped the ante on my naturally perfectionist streak. I aspire to be like Mary Poppins – “practically perfect in every way.” I’ve even been known to sing “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!” and say “Spit spot!” with a kind (although admittedly forced!) Mary Poppins smile as I hurry my kids along.

All that said, I know my yearning for perfection is extreme and has a fair share of downsides. I didn’t quite realize it until we went on our annual quest for the perfect pumpkin last weekend … an annual quest that is the traditional warm-up for the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. As we ambled about the pumpkin patch with the camera clicking on a crisp fall day, I overheard some other insane Mom say to her kid “Put that one back. It’s all dented and dirty.” To which the kid whined back “but Mom, it doesn’t have to be perfect!”

So perfectly said and so absolutely true. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Whatever "it" may be. I let my Imperfect Poppins relax a bit after hearing that and, while I know it won’t last, I want to remember that kid’s voice in my ear because it could well be the voice of one of my own children. “Mom, it doesn’t need to be perfect.”

It was with this in mind that I went to bed last night before straightening the rug on the living room floor and with Legos still strewn on the coffee table. This morning, I tried not to flinch when my daughter rejected the matchy-matchy outfit I laid out and went with a funky look of her own. And when my oldest pleaded, “but Mom, I don’t WANT A shirt with a collar”, I said ok. Ok.

While my perfectionist, uptight ways are good for keeping everyone on a schedule, clothes in the right drawers and getting us out the door on time (most of the time!), I also know they can be overwhelming and overly controlling. And, I know that I really don’t want to hear my kids making public pleas for imperfection. So, I’m going to resolve to be better about accepting "good enough" versus  uncompromising perfection and, as a starting point, I have several very lop-sided pumpkins on the porch to prove it!

(NOTE: We picked our pumpkins at Stuart's Farm in Granite Springs, NY, about an hour north of NYC and highly recommended for family fun and, great donuts!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Top Ten Tips for Surviving Tots Under Two

Our family just experienced a major milestone – well, in fact, several of them. On 10.10.10, our identical triplet boys turned two and we celebrated the fact that we have all survived these sleep-deprived, chaos-filled first two years; two years that have been made all the more intense, challenging and yes, even fun by our three little guys and their big sister and brother, who are four and five years old.

We’ve juggled a lot in the Lyons Den as we’ve struggled with how to feed three newborns while entertaining two toddlers, finding a car that can safely and comfortably accommodate five car seats (Hello Swagger Wagon!), and eventually figured out how to get out of the house in less than two hours (hint: don’t bring it all with you!). In reflecting on what have been the busiest (and possibly blurriest!) two years of my life, I realize there were a few keys to our surviving – and at times even thriving – this remarkable time with five tots under five:

1. Don’t forget the “me” in Mommy. I’m a firm believer that a happy mom is the key to a happy family. “Me time” is essential and, as my husband and kids will attest, everyone benefits from it. I love my early morning runs, my occasional yoga classes, my book club and the rare girl’s night out. These things are all a part of the me I was pre-kids and that me still exists. Remember the “me” in you and you’ll be a better Mommy too – I guarantee it.

2. God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. Or put another way, babies don’t need baths every day and dirty binkies are A-OK! Trust me, this is true and will make your life much easier. In the winter months especially, one can argue that frequent bathing can dry out tender newborn skin so, if you’re as wary of a slippery baby as I was, relieve that stress by limiting bath time to just 2-3 days a week. As for that dirty binkie –or bottle, or blankie, or biscuit or whatever – well, we have a 5-second rule… which has kind of evolved into a 10-15 second rule… if it’s on the ground for just a (relatively!) short while, it’s fair game to be picked up, brushed off and popped right back into the kid’s mouth… unless, of course, your dog gets it first in which case, a good rinse or replacement may be required!

3. Baby Proofing is good but rules reign supreme. I marvel that there are folks out there who make a living “baby proofing.” Don’t get me wrong, certain things are absolutely essential; we don’t leave cords from blinds dangling where tots can reach them and we keep medicine out of reach. We have a gate at the top of our stairs and are big believers in outlet covers. But the rest of the stuff they try to sell you on? Toilet seat locks and stove knob covers and all the rest? Save yourself the money and set some rules instead. Rules are good. Kids actually like to know what the boundaries are and are astute enough to respect them far sooner than you think. Don’t be afraid to scream “HOT!!” or “OUCHIE!” or even a good old-fashioned “NO!!!” They will get it, they will learn from it and you will be grateful that when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night, the potty is not in lock-down.

4. Out and about beats in and insane. All our kids were born in the fall in the Northeast. The time of year when the leaves fall, the wind blows and the temperature plummets. I remember taking my firstborn to the pediatrician on one such blustery day and asking if it was ok to take him out for a walk. Her response: “Do you think people in Siberia never leave the house?! Of course you can take him out! Just bundle him up and you’ll both be fine.” And we were. The fresh air did us both good and I wholeheartedly believe it tires tots out. So, if perchance you’re interested in exhausting your newborn in the hopes of four to five hours of uninterrupted overnight sleep, this is a good way to go. No matter how long it takes to get out of the house (and I know firsthand that it can take a while!), just do it. Pack up and go. You and your tot will both be glad you did.

5. Just say yes. Being of rather proud and stoic Irish descent, I’m not one to ask for help and my husband wouldn’t think of it. When the triplets came home from the hospital, 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. It turns out that when people offer to help, they mean it. So do yourself a favor and just say yes -- and don’t be afraid to be specific about the help you need. Take it from me, it will be much easier – and a lot more fun - to survive the first two years with a little help from your friends.

6. Trust your gut. It recently expanded to provide you with the little bundle (or bundles!) of joy that it seems everyone including the mailman has something to say about. Bottle or breast. Work or stay home. Binkie or blankie. Organic or not. Whatever it is, do not believe everything you read or hear and do take it all with a grain of salt. Just do what feels right to you. After all, there is a reason for the old adage that “mother knows best.” You do.

7. Plan ahead. Anticipation goes a long way toward prevention and this holds especially true when it comes to tiny tykes who are prone to melt down when they are tired, hungry, overwhelmed, or all of the above. I often tend to push myself – and my tots – far past the breaking point and the result is always the same… simply put, not good! My advice would be to keep your bag packed with sippy cups, yummy snacks and wipes aplenty. Plan activities for times when you – and your offspring – will be at your best. And, while you’re planning, plan to cut yourself some slack because no matter how much you anticipate, there will be days when things go awry – as in the time when one of my kids puked so many times at the doctor’s office that I had to drive him home in a pumpkin costume. It wasn’t part of the plan but, it makes for a good story!

8. Just say no. This is as important as learning to just say yes. While “no” will be a word you undoubtedly (and at times, regrettably) overuse with your little one/s, you need to incorporate it freely and guiltlessly to requests like “could you host Thanksgiving dinner?” or “can you bake four dozen cupcakes for the school fundraiser?” or “can I drop Biting Billy over for a play date?” No, no and no! You don’t need to do it all – and you’ll be happier if you don’t. Please don’t misunderstand – feel free to host a holiday dinner or volunteer for the bake sale or have a nightmare kid at your house if it makes you feel good and won’t drive you crazy. But please, do not under any circumstances say yes when something deep down inside is urging you to take a pass. At these times, refer to # 6 – trust your gut AND just say no!

9. Create a routine. Say what you will but when it comes to your tiny tyke, routine is good. It’s good for both of you. You need your coffee. Your baby needs a bottle. You both get grumpy if you don’t get what you want when you want it. Fair enough, right? Babies – and kids of all ages– thrive on routine. They are simple sweet souls who will respond well to simply knowing when to expect a bottle, a bath, a meal, a walk, a snack or a story. Routine has been the key to survival for us, especially during those first few crazy months at home. Think about it – we had three babies who ate eight times a day… not to mention, two toddlers who required a fair amount of care and feeding, a dog who needed a walk, and a mountain of laundry always waiting to be done. The only way to tackle it all was with a routine. It worked for us and should work for you too!

10. Laugh. There is such tenderness and such humor in these first two years. Allow yourself the opportunity to pause and appreciate it as much as you possibly can. Laugh loud and laugh often and your baby will too. That belly laugh will be one of your fondest memories. If you could bottle it, you would. There is no better feeling. And God knows, after what you’ve endured to bring a baby into this world, you deserve a good laugh!

It’s hard to believe that our babies are babies no more. I know in my heart that these amazing little fellas will always be my babies but I see with my eyes that they are already little boys - and yearning to be big kids, just like their brother and sister. I am grateful for the love they give, the laughs they provide and the knowledge that if we’ve survived these first two years – and indeed, we have – we will survive whatever comes next. Bring it on!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Terrible Twos? I Think Not!

We’re coming up on a major milestone here in the Lyons Den. This weekend, on 10.10.10 (an especially appropriate date!) our identical triplets will turn two. This is a significant turning point for us and, while some folks may think of the “twos” as a “terrible” time full of tantrums and tirades, I’d prefer to offer up the possibility that what lies ahead may in fact be the “terrific twos.”
 In considering the past twenty four months, we’ve most certainly had our fair share of ups and downs and there are plenty of things that I’m happy to leave behind… nursing and pumping for three hefty fellas from my two tiny breasts, sleepless nights, ass-blaster diapers – you know the ones, the icky mustard colored poops that leak out the side, typically at 3AM? Formula, formula and more formula followed by gallon after gallon of whole milk. If only we had a yard large enough for a cow, I’m convinced we could put her to good use! Then there were the spit-ups, the throw-ups and the many times we were just plain fed up. There was the cacophony of three screaming newborns harmonized by two fighting toddlers. There were the Boppies, Exersaucers, Bumbos, and play mats that turned our humble home into a hardcore nursery. There were the panic attacks associated with three little people taking their first steps… and subsequently teetering on the top of our extremely steep steps. There was the never-ending mountain of laundry and nights that seemed to never end. But, when I look back, it’s all gone shockingly fast.

When I look back, I can chuckle at all of these “downs” because what I remember far more vividly are all of the “ups”… the toothless grins that were so rapidly replaced by first teeth, the sweetness of the “big” brother and sister helping us juggle three babies and three bottles, the kindness of family and friends who would arrive unasked and unannounced to simply hold a baby, the sense of accomplishment of getting them all loaded into the triple stroller… and the additional bonus of having the physical strength to push that stroller up our very steep Main Street. There were the days at the beach and playground where sand was the snack du jour and the nights when we snuggled in our bed like peas in a pod. There were first baths, first foods, first steps, the first time I could wear pants with a zipper again and all of the other wondrous firsts that accompany these first few years of life.

It is with this sense of wonder that I anticipate the “twos” – knowing, as I do, that there will indeed be some ugly moments – full blown, carpet-kicking tantrums and in all likelihood, more extreme, adamant and repeated use of every two year olds favorite two letter word: NO!  But, there will also be the fun and joy and humor that these little guys bring to our lives each and every day. The humming and singing and chattering and dancing and silliness that can make me instantly forget a bad day at work or yet another sleepless night. So, while some might dread the pending second birthday, I’m ready. And, I’m psyched. And, I’m grateful, overjoyed and yes, at times even a bit stunned to know that we’ve done it. We’ve survived the first two years with “five under five” and look forward to what the future holds.