Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving Thanks

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has already come and gone.  I'm still digesting a few too many servings of mashed potatoes and apple pie and I'm not at all ready to trade in the turkey trimmings for tree trimming.  I'd like to pause a bit to just be grateful for all we have before we start making lists of all we want and all we hope that Santa will bring.  In an effort to preserve this fleeting season of thankfulness, we're focusing on what we're thankful for when we say our evening prayers.  

The bedtime prayer in our house is a tradition that started when our oldest, Liam, was about two.  Back then, they went something like this...

Mom and Dad:  "Dear God, Thanks for this great day."
Liam:  "Tomorrow is going to be a new day."
Mom and Dad:  "Thank you for our health and for the roof over our head."
Liam:  "Thank you God for my arm, it's not broke and thank you for the hair on my head."

Needless to say, you gotta love a two year old's perpsective on health and shelter and, we always like to joke that at the time, Liam had barely any hair on his head but, my Dad and grandfather sure were grateful for what little they had left!  In any case, there's nothing like little kids to remind you of what really matters and it is in that spirit -- in their spirit -- that I share a few more things that we're grateful for here in the Lyons Den.

"Thank you God for... cozy beds, cars, dolls, dogs, rain, sun, the stars and the moon, for Murphy (our Golden Retriever who died almost three years ago, as remembered by Ciara, only four!), for birthday cake, for the beach, for swimming pools, for school (an especially astute thanks from our now almost six year old!), for the people in Haiti and the people in Chile (we think they mean to say God Bless them, but thanks will do!), for toothpaste and for little brothers."

Enough said.  We're grateful for all five of our little Cubs, for each other and for the fact there is only one piece of pie left in the fridge.  Tomorrow is indeed a new day and, it just might be the day when the Christmas decorations come out and we transition from the season of Thanks to the season of Giving.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Easy Giving

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I've discovered a nifty new tool be thankful for...

This neat little site makes it easy for you to give, give, give... a weekly allowance for each of your eager-to-earn offspring!  You can create a personalized allowance tracker for each child and one of my favorite features is that when you designate tasks, you can specify whether they are for good behavior (Credit!), bad behavior (Debit!) or extra earned (Bonus!). 

Admittedly, my kids are a bit too young to fully reap the rewards and actually log on and track their own progress but, that day will be here soon enough.  When it comes, they will realize that beyond the importance of learning to do the right thing and contribute to household tasks, there is strong monetary motivation to help with recycling, make their beds and feed the dog.  Likewise, they will see their hard-earned bucks disappear for violations like not listening, not doing homework or needing to be dragged out of bed for school each morning.

As for me, I'm glad to have found a convenient way to track their chores, contributions and occasional missteps -- it's a great way for them to learn from their mistakes and take pride in thier accomplishments.  And, with Thanksgiving upon us, I am officially grateful that our little tots are becoming happy helpers... I always knew there would be benefits to having a big family -- I just didn't realize how quickly they'd extend to not having to take out the trash!  Bonus!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What does a Mama say?

This weekend, I came up with a pretty ingenious game for our two-year old triplets, if I do say so myself!  Now, we all know that it's tons of fun to ask your tiny tot what various animals say...

What does a cow say?  MOO!  What does a lamb say?  BAA!  What does a duck say?  QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!  What does a kitty-cat say?  MEOW!  What does a lion say?  ROAR! What does a rooster say?  COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!  The rooster has really been my favorite until now.  Until my clever new addition to this age-old game of toddler wits:  What does a Mama say?

Now, with a sassy four year old and a savvy six year old in the house, this question could be answered in a number of unfortunate and unflattering ways...

NO!  Stop it!  Did you hear me?!  STOP YELLING!  Hurry up!  Let's go!  NOW!  Finish your breakfast/lunch/dinner!  Put your shoes on.  NOW!  Don't hit/bite/kick your sister/brother!  Go to your room! NO!  Drink your milk.  NO!  How am I supposed to know where your shoes are?  TIME OUT! Clean up!  NOW!

If only I'd thought of this smart little toddler mind-game when my first two were just tots.  But, as I always say, better late than never.  I am quite proud to have three chirping little cherubs at home who will now (and hopefully for quite some time to come!) answer the question "What does a Mama say"  buy enthusiastically responding "I love you!"  And, since there are three of them, I get "I love you, I love you, I love you!"  I know, it is a bit self-serving but really, nothing beats it.  And, if one of them thinks that a pig says neigh and a horse says oink, well, as long as they know what a Mama says, that's good enough for me! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Have you ever seen a "Cub" fly?

It’s official. Our little Lyons Cubs are ready for take-off. The tickets are purchased, the excitement is mounting and my four-year old has already packed her bag -- she seems to have inherited my genes for advance planning!

On Christmas night, we will be flying the friendly skies from New York to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family. The only thing is, as you may have noticed, the "friendly” skies are gone. The have been replaced by hostile skies filled with haughty flight attendants, hungry passengers and, from what I hear is the worst case scenario, BABIES! Yep, you got it, just when you thought air travel couldn't get any worse, it did. You’ve gotten used to standing in long security lines and paying to check a bag, but children? Messy, noisy, tantrum-prone children?! They apparently represent the next wave of indignity.

Don't believe me? Just check out this article from last weekend's New York Times Travel section ( Passengers Push for Child-Free Flights. If these ornery folks have anything to with it, you probably never will see a "Cub" fly… unless, of course, you happen to be on our flight this Christmas… in which case, consider yourself warned!
 Are you an advocate or opponent of tot-free air travel? All thoughts welcome!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five Tips for Surviving the Season of Sniffles

With a first-grader, a preschooler and three toddlers, our house is rampant with runny noses, shared stomach bugs and whatever the illness du jour may be… Coxsackie virus? Strep throat? Fifth’s disease? We’ve had them all and, survived them all thanks to our following five must-haves:

1. Paper products and lots of ‘em. In our house, noses run like faucets and there’s a box of tissues in every room. Even so, we sometimes run out and then there’s a roll of toilet paper or paper towels in every room. Classy, right? What can I say? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Especially when a virus suddenly spreads from noses to bellies and we find ourselves short on T.P. just when we need it. The morale of this story? Don’t wait ‘til the kids get sick – stock up now and when you think you have enough tissues, toilet paper and paper towels to survive the season, buy a few more. Then you should be all set.

2. Surprizzles. What is a surprizzle, you say? A surprizzle is a small, unexpected little treat. A modestly-sized surprise. Something that evokes a room-brightening smile on even the darkest of days. I’ve learned to make our dark days brighter by keeping a few surprizzles on hand at all times. Kid has a fever and you want them to chill out in the tub? Give them some cool tub crayons to keep ‘em busy… and, as an added perk, teach them to clean the tub afterwards! Can’t stand to hear “I’m bored” one more time? Whip out that new video that you nabbed for $4.99 the last time you were at Costco. Got a little fella who needs a pick me up? A matchbox car almost always does the trick. And, for a little lady who’s feeling sick and blue, a nice new coloring book will give her something to do. Keep a few surprizzles on hand and I guarantee that your sick days will be a bit less dreary.

3. Caffeine. No joke. A sick day is almost always preceded by a sick night. The kind of night when you just might have run out of tissues, toilet paper and paper towels. The kind of night when you may have done three loads of laundry after midnight. The kind of night where your tiny tot slept in fitful feverish bouts while you watched over them wrenching your worried hands. When the sun finally rises, your sweet little sickie will likely snooze ‘til ten but you still have to get someone else to school, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog and have your best Florence Nightingale act perfected for when your Sleeping Sickie rises. So, do yourself a favor and the next time you’re at Costco or wherever you go, in addition to that cheap DVD for the surprizzle stock, buy the super-sized bag of coffee or another case of Diet Coke or whatever it is you are into. You’ll be glad that you did.

4. The basics. I make an annual trek to CVS and stock up on Tylenol, Motrin, and pretty much anything else that catches my eye in the jam-packed kids medicine aisle… Benadryl, bacetracin, calamine lotion, hydrogen peroxide, band-aids of all shapes, sizes and Disney characters, you get the picture. And, cleaning out is as important as stocking up… I recently had to clear out the tiny tots cold/cough medicine (looks like the FDA or the AAP changed their mind on that one!), all the stuff that Johnson & Johnson recalled this summer and a slew of old expired bottles. Believe me, you don’t want to be looking for this stuff in the middle of the night. You’ll sleep soundly knowing that you’ve got the goods in place for the times you really need it.

5. A back up plan. Someone to take your big kid to soccer if the little ones are sick. Someone who will cover for you at work when you have to run to the pediatrician. A friend you can call who’s seen it all before. Someone who might come over just long enough for you to take a shower… and, possibly make you that cup of coffee you will surely need.

With these things in place I know I can handle the cold and flu season that looms ahead of us… now, if someone would just bring us some nice home-made chicken soup, we’d be all set!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Run Mom Run!

It came, it lingered, it kind of kicked our ass, and now it’s just a memory. The 2010 ING New York Marathon. Sunday was the big day. My husband Des ran like a rock star. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right analogy but, you get the gist of it. He ran 26.2 miles and crossed the coveted finish line with a smile. Not that I saw it, mind you -- I was running down Central Park West, bobbing and weaving my way through weary marathoners and their families in a desperate attempt to see my man cross the finish line. My day was a marathon of sorts in its own right and it went something like this…

5:30AM: Husband wakes me from snuggly slumber; informs me it's time to drive him to the bus that will deliver him to the starting line in Staten Island

6:15 AM: Kids wake up.  All five of them. Thanks Daylight Savings time, that’s just what I needed!

6:30-9:30AM: Feed kids, dress kids, make beds, tidy rooms, empty dishwasher, walk dog, pack provisions… LOTS of provisions… granola bars, cereal bars, cheese sticks, yogurts, apples, PB&J sandwiches, water bottles, juice boxes, goldfish, fruit snacks and more!

9:30-10:00: Load tots and provisions into car. Double check for five hats, five pairs of mittens, two double strollers, blankets, camera, posters, change of clothes (and Advil!) for Des post-marathon, change of clothes for kids in case of unforeseen vomit/crap-out/rainstorm or other potential disaster

10:00-10:15: Repeat the Hail Mary as I leave kids double-parked in running car while obtaining three green balloons (our visual marker for Des to locate us on the sidelines)

10:15 – 11:00: Drive into city while trying to explain to five kids under six why they will still see their Dad even though they saw the marathon start on TV and are convinced they already saw him run by; the notion of distance, time, and staggered starts is not making an impression on them; simultaneously explain why I can’t drive on the West Side Highway while administering their typical in-transit snack and beverage service

11:00-11:30 Locate parking garage, ditch car, unload contents as described above, say more Hail Mary’s that my parents arrive before I lose a triplet on Amsterdam Ave.

11:30-12:00: My parents arrived! Load all kids and assorted sundries into two cabs across town, unload once again, assemble strollers, load with supplies and proceed to our first viewing spot: 92nd and 1st

12:15: Panic. "Athlete Alert" informs me that Des is running a 19 minute mile and has an estimated 8 hour/53 minute finish time. Initial thoughts: "OMG, he’s hurt" followed by "Sh*t! I didn’t bring enough to keep them busy for almost 9 hours!"

12:30-1:15: Juggle, struggle, muddle, cuddle, bounce, bop. Anything to keep the kids contained and entertained while we wait for Des to run by. Optimism prevails as murmurs on 1st Ave. confirm that "Athlete Alerts" have gone AWOL.  Faith is restored. My man is on his way.

1:20: He arrives! He looks great!  He's run over 17 miles! As planned, I hop in to run a few with him in hopes of keeping him from "hitting the wall". I abandon my parents on 92nd and 1st with five kids, two strollers, all the crap we’ve lugged in for the day and instructions to meet me at the finish -- 67th and Central Park West. I look back, see the fear on their faces, wish them luck and then I run. I don’t look back again.

1:20-2:20: I run six glorious miles with Des. What fun! Up First Ave., over the Willis Avenue bridge, into the Bronx, out of the Bronx, through Harlem and down Fifth Avenue to Central Park. There are bands, choirs, a cheering crowd and refreshments along the way… this is great! Then it dawns on me.  My mile six is everyone else’s mile 24... and it sucks to be them. And I am imposter!  I chirp to Des that he’s done it, the worst is behind him, that from here on it’s literally just a walk in the park and then, with promises to see him at the finish line, I jump out of the race and into the Park.

2:30 I know it will take Des about 20 minutes to reach the finish line.  The clock is ticking as I battle the crowds. I don’t know where my parents or kids are. I am freezing cold. I realize that in the frenzy of the day, I haven’t had breakfast or lunch and I start to regret that I didn’t take a banana or Goo when the nice people on 5th Ave. offered it!

2:35 I literally stumble across my family while cutting across the Great Lawn. A triplet is gagging and turning blue in his stroller. No one knows why. My four year old mentions he may have been given a gumball. I freak out, pull him out, and pound it out of him. Then I rather curtly inform those closest to my heart that they won’t make it to see Des at the finish but I must try so, once again, good bye!

2:36-2:56 I am alternatively stuck/climbing fences/dodging weary runners and racing down Central Park West to get to the finish. I finally arrive to see a text from a friend “Congrats Des, you did it!” I am too late. I am crushed.

3:00-3:45 I get pushed into the post-marathon runners corrale. I can’t find Des, I can’t get in touch with my parents. I am still cold, tired , hungry and suddenly surrounded by like-minded folks with one teeny exception… they just ran 26.2 miles and have a medal and a warming blanket. I have nothing but a bunch of texts congratulating the husband I can’t find.

4:00 I find him! I hug him. I kiss him. I cry. A lot. It’s over. And, while I missed his photo-finish, I realize that I also missed the point. The point is that he did it. He made it. He achieved his goals – physically, emotionally, even financially. He raised thousands of dollars to fight lung cancer, ran through the five boroughs and crossed the finish line with a smile on his face.

As for me, well, next year I just might make t-shirts that say Run Mom Run because truth be told, I too covered a lot of miles on marathon day!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Run Dad Run

On Sunday, my husband will be running the New York Marathon. While I can kind of take credit for getting him into running, for urging him to accompany me on the routine 5 or 10Ks that we’d run in the city pre-kids, I most certainly can’t take credit for the 26.2 miles he will complete this weekend.

It is with wonder and awe that I’ve watched him train over the past few months. While many start marathon-training in the spring or sooner, Des didn’t start until late this summer, after his brother passed away. We lost Conor to lung cancer at the age of 47; he was diagnosed in February and was gone in July. We watched him suffer and, I can’t help but note that we suffered too. We intimately experienced the horror of this disease and, not surprisingly, it hit Des especially hard.

Conor was his big brother, his best friend, his confidante, his rock. He taught Des how to throw a fastball and field a ground ball; how to throw a football and drive a stick shift. More recently, he was the guy we relied on to walk our dog, help feed the triplets and always appear with a smile on his face and a helping hand.

Des also lost his Dad to lung cancer. His Dad was a genius of a man who, ironically enough, devoted his life to researching the disease. They are now both gone, both far too soon. But, rather than sit around and mope about how unfair life is, rather than wallow in sorrow, rather than turning into a bitter, angry man, my guy has channeled his energy into something positive. He decided to run the marathon to raise money for lung cancer research and, while he's not yet run the race, he's already exceeded his finanical goal.

He has literally pounded pavement and trails near and far, in darkness and light. He’s given up the second glass of wine, late night TV, Saturday morning Ultimate Frisbee and much more, all in the name of reaching this goal. While the spoken goal is completing 26.2 miles and crossing the finish line in Central Park, I think there are unspoken goals as well; I think there is a desire to find some good in the evil of this disease and to find peace after an especially tumultuous time in our lives. With all my heart, I hope he reaches all his goals – those spoken and unsaid. I will be cheering him on and, with five kids in tow, suspect I too will feel like I have run a marathon by the end of the day!

If you wish to make a donation to help fight lung cancer – to help fund research that will fuel early prevention and perhaps one day even find a cure, please visit:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween?!

I’m not convinced that my little Lyons Cubs had a happy Halloween. And, the more I think about it, the more I realize that until kids are three or four, Halloween is really more for the parents than for them. Personally, I’ve taken great joy in dressing mine up in ways that I find amusing and entertaining because, hey, they really can’t talk back yet and it makes for a good (FUNNY!) photo op.

This year, while my five-year old fluctuated between being Derek Jeter and an astronaut, it was easy enough to humor him and let him be both; he had a strong opinion, there were no dollars attached to creating the Jeter uniform and he made a good argument – he didn’t want to preview his “real” Halloween costume at school on Friday. Fair enough.

Our four year old decided to be a dragon. We found ourselves in TJ Maxx a few weeks ago and were drawn to the costumes near checkout. I was proud of her for switching up the princess theme from last year, for shunning the stereotypical costume for something a bit more unexpected. Although, I’d be remiss to not mention that at times, her behavior would peg her as a dragon – no costume required! To her credit, she was a very nice, very cute dragon; as she put it, “I am Puff the Magic Dragon and my fire will only kill you if you’re mean to me.” Yep. Lesson learned – don’t be mean to this little lady!

Then there are the triplets. They just turned two a few weeks ago and as far as I’m concerned, have no say in Halloween. Which is why I turned them into the Lyons Cubs. Just one look tells you that they weren’t thrilled with my choice – especially since I turned their day upside down in my attempts to have everyone well rested for the town parade, which started at 2:15, right in the middle of naptime!  A smarter, kinder mom may have skipped the parade. Perhaps she would have suggested that Dad take the two big kids while I stay home with our napping Cubs. Nope, not me. Here’s what I did:

I stuck them in their cribs after church, just a bit past noon. Though they were confused and saying “Lunch mama, need lunch mama”, I said “Nope, you need a nap! You need a nap NOW so that you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the big parade!” In fairness, they had a large, late breakfast and I don’t think they were starving but still, as they murmured something about cheese and crackers, I slammed the door and went to dig out the lion costumes. When I went to get them up at 1:30, it was clear that they never slept and were now quite drowsy and quite possibly hungry as well. So, I did what any sane Mom trying to be punctual to the parade would do, I stuffed them in their costumes, told them they could have a snack later and hurried them out the door.

From what I can tell, my tiny trio of Lyons must think that Halloween is a day when you get put in your crib without lunch, taken out when you’re on the verge of sleep and extreme hunger, stuffed into a too small, scratchy outfit, are subjected to ridicule, bright flashes and the oohs and aahs of an endless stream of strangers and then, just when you’ve gotten the hang of a bizarre ritual called “trick or treat” -- when you’re finally allowed to climb the neighbor’s stairs and, better yet, there is a lollipop waiting at the top -- Mom whisks you away, takes your pop, force feeds you some dinner and plunks you back into your crib. And we wonder that little kids are scared by Halloween?!