Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Tip: A Pull Up is NOT a Swimmie

A few weeks ago we were headed to "opening day" at our pool.  I pulled the beach towels out of the basement, located swim suits and swim shirts that still fit the kids and checked the sunblock for expiration dates.  We seemed to be in pretty good shape until I realized we didn't have any swimmies (a.k.a. swim diapers, water pants, you get the idea) for the triplets. 

I decided we had two choices -- let them go bare bottom, which seemed reasonable enough given that they are 2 1/2 and dabbling in potty training OR put them in pull-ups given that they are just dabbling in potty training and it would be poor form to provide a pool-clearing "floater" or two (or three!) on opening day.  Our choices sparked an interesting conversation between me and Des, a real introspective of the type you might expect to see on 60 Minutes or 20/20.

"What's the difference between a Pull Up and a Swimmie?"  "Is it just the packaging and clever marketing?"  "Are those CPG giants P&G and Kimberly-Clarke out to get us yet again?  Convincing us that we need day diapers and night diapers and pull ups AND swimmies?!"  "Yep.  It's a conspiracy.  They are just preying on the vulnerability of parenthood and have tricked us into thinking we need all this stuff."  "Well, not us!  Screw it!  This summer we're not buying those Swimmies!  At $10 a pack, we'll be bankrupt by Labor Day anyway.  Little guys, go for it... put on your pull ups and hit the pool!"  And so they did.  And this is what happened:

Close up of exploding post-swim swimmie
It may be hard to fully appreciate the impact of the water-logged pull up; this picture doesn't quite do justice to the fluid-filled interior that erupted up and out of the little guys swimsuits, leaving an almost snowy-like trail from the kiddie pool back to our chairs.  As they waddled by, weighted down, confused and embarassed, onlookers couldn't help but laugh.  Ok, I couldn't help but laugh myself.  In fact, Des and I almost wet our pants we were laughing so hard.  The poor little fellas didn't think it was funny though...

"It's not funny.  Could you just buy me some Swimmies?!"
The morale of the story?  There is indeed a difference between a pull-up and a swimmie and good corporate citizens and reasonably competent parents will indulge their children with both! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Concert at the Lyons Den

Tonight was another one of those nights. I left work a few minutes early so I would be home for an important call at 5:30.  I walked in to the typical throngs of little ones looking for an uppie and chattering about their day.  Unfortunately, I promptly dismissed them, ignored their chatter and hid in the bathroom until my call was over at 5:45.  I then reentered the kitchen, kissed them all hello and acted like it was normal to have a mom who is hiding in the bathroom one minute and all love and kisses the next.  My fleeting attention was not lost on them as an unusual evening unfolded.

I had just gotten dinner on the table at 6:00 (gotta love leftover night!) when a few of our neighbors started to filter into the yard.  Then a few more.  "We're here for the concert," they announced.  I had to admit that I had no clue what they were talking about.  Then a few more filtered in.  Then I noticed about ten sippy cups full of water lined up by our back gate and a blue bucket newly and neatly labeled in Liam's handwriting "Money."  I excused myself to go back into the kitchen and ask my five mischievous kids what was brewing.  They erupted into an excited explanation -- "We're having a concert!" "I play drums!" "We made tickets!" "They gave us dollars!" "Gonna sing songs!" "Is dinner over?!"  And so it was that I learned that in the brief window between the last day of school and first day of camp, my five tykes turned into both budding performers and junior extortionists.  

Unsure of how to proceed, I decided that the show must go on.  Dinner could wait.  None of us wanted to disappoint the gathering crowd, each of whom had apparently paid a dollar and was now holding a sippy cup of water.  One of them was wise enough to remark to another "You might not want to drink this, I think it might have come from the hose earlier today."  As Ciara circulated and made sure everyone had "refreshments", Liam was collecting more money while the triplets tottered to and fro.  With an authoritative bang on a pre-school sized drum, the "concert" began -- a cacophony of percussions that included that drum, some maracas, some bells and a good old-fashioned spoon on a Lego box.  It was just the type of "concert" you'd expect from a junior set quintet; it was more noise than music and I was kind of horrified that they had charged folks for the experience.

Don't get me wrong, I would have made them return those dollars even if the performance had been stellar but, I think the kids have a few lessons to learn from their performance art endeavors...

  1. Don't take money from friends and neighbors.
  2. Practice makes perfect.  
  3. Water does not a refreshment make.
  4. A mom that hides in the bathroom instead of saying hello when she gets home from work isn't all bad.
In fact, that very same Mom might let you leave your dinner on the table, chuckle at your concert, and then offer up a stroll to town for ice cream.  All because these days between school and camp and summer days in general are far too fleeting and deserve to be enjoyed.  God only knows what tomorrow will bring but for now, I think I've nipped my petite extortionists in the bud. I'd keep your dollars in your pocket though, just to be sure... 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Last Day of School

I'm not proud to admit it but I woke up this morning with tears in my eyes.  In fairness, there were several possible causes -- severe allergies, which i do indeed have and severe sleep deprivation, which I do indeed suffer from! While the pollen count was high and my hours of sleep thus far this week are low, there was another reason for those tears.  Today was Liam's last day of first grade.

I'm not sure why it had such an impact on me but, it did.  When he wandered into our room just before 7:00 with his toothless grin, I recalled the toothless baby he was seemingly yesterday.  As I walked him to the bus, I thought about September, when I will be waving good-bye to a second-grader and kindergartener. How can this be?  Ciara in kindergarten?  But she was just a rosebud of a bitsy baby last week!  I swear!

The school schedule this week has been especially taxing for working moms and today was no exception.  School ended for the day, and the year, at 9:30.  No, that's not a typo.  The duration of today's "school day" was an hour and a half.  So, I figured I would go to work a bit late and pick my little man up.  Make the last day special for him.  Since this was a last-minute decision, I didn't have the chance to put a note in his backpack --  the same backpack that seemed far too large last fall but now seems to suit him perfectly.  

As soon as I got back from the bus stop, I called the school to let them know I'd be there to pick Liam up.  No one answered, which struck me as odd, but I left a message and went on auto-pilot as I got ready for work, got the triplets and Ciara fed and dressed and piled everyone into the minivan for the last day of school pick up.  I was so excited to be there for him.  To see his little face.  To say good-bye and thank you to his teacher.  To scoop him up and tell him how much I loved this little second grader in training.  It didn't work out that way though.

When I got to his school, he wasn't there.  My heart sank and those tears welled up once more.  My precious guy with the toothless grin was on the bus, headed home toward an empty house.  This is not the way it was supposed to be. This is not how I wanted my first grader to remember his last day of school.  I tried so hard to get there, to be there for him, to hustle the rest of the kids out of the house, leaving their cereal bowls half empty.  Just for this moment.  The moment when Liam was supposed to leap into my arms with joy but was instead alone on the bus.

Fortunately, friends and neighbors came to the rescue.  One tried to chase down the bus while another wrangled Ciara and the triplets and yet another welcomed my slightly frightened and extremely confused little guy into her home.  By the time I got there, he was happily playing in the basement, completely unaware of how deeply I was feeling my failing, of how sorry I was to have missed him.  To have left him alone.  In true kid fashion, he ignored my arrival and disputed our departure.  "But Mom, I'm having fun, I want to stay here!"  I was reminded once again that our kids are not nearly as harsh on us as we are on ourselves.  And, they are really good at forgiving and forgetting.  I'm not sure if that's something he learned in first grade but, he seems to have mastered a few life lessons and is definitely ready to move on.  Perhaps not surprisingly, far more ready than I am!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Car sick kid + violent storms = Road trip from hell!

I have to thank our neighbor for coining the term "rolling vomitorium."  This is what our minvan (a.k.a. "Swagger Wagon") turned into last Friday afternoon as we traveled to Long Island to spend the weekend with my aunt.  

We got off to a pretty good start.  We were able to leave work a few hours early and had the car packed and ready to roll at 3:00.  By the time we cruised around town borrowing pack & plays, gassing up and stopping for iced coffee, it was closer to 3:30 by the time we actually left.  About two minutes later, the skies opened up, the thunder boomed and the lightening started a stellar performance that would last for hours.  As the weather roared outside, the kids roared inside. "I want a snack! I want a drink! Can we watch a movie? He's kicking me! She pinched me!  Why can't I have a snack?  How long does it take to get there?!" Mind you, this all erupted before we even hit the highway so I should have known it was going to be a long trip.

Our first snafu?  A certain young man who obviously disregarded his mother's strong urging to pee before we left the house.  As we crawled along in the Friday traffic, slowly navigating the flooded roads, poor Liam started squirming in the third row... "I REALLY have to go!" he pleaded with such urgency there were tears in his eyes.  Unfortunately, we were on a highway with no rest stops and not even a shoulder to safely and sneakily pee upon.  Additionally, he was so crammed in the back that exiting the car required climbing over one pack & play, one large dog and his sister.  Since it seemed to be a legitimate emergency and the notion of spending the next few hours in a car full of urine was unappealing, we risked life and limb to let the little man out to relieve himself.  We got back in the car soaked by the rain but, figured it beat being soaked in pee and away we went! 

Shortly thereafter, the fun really started.  Declan was sitting behind the driver's seat in the car seat previously known as the "Barf Chair."  We'd gone through a period last summer when whatever kid sat there inevitably hurled.  We thought we'd fixed that problem by adjusting the seat.  We thought wrong.  "I'm not feeling very well," Declan announced in a matter of fact manner.  Then his sweet face turned from rosy pink to ghostly white to a frightening shade of grey/green.  Then he threw up what appeared to be about ten pounds of watermelon.  Pink fruit-strewn stinky barf was all over him, all over that car seat and, ready for this?  All over our DOG!  Poor Finnegan gave me a look as if to say "Really?  First you jam me in this car between kids and pack & plays and bags and now this?!"  

Our next move was pulling over for the second time to strip Declan down, clean out the seat and do our best to remove the watermelon chunks from Finny's fur.  This was no easy task on the side of the LIE with the rain pouring down and the lightening continuing its show -- especially since when I opened the trunk, I was nearly killed by the bags that tumbled out, bouncing off my head on the way to the ground.  Not good.  On the upside though, we were prepared -- a quick change of clothes, a swift cleansing with wipes and a hearty dose of Purell and we were on our way once more.

Until he threw up again.  On Finny.  Again.  This time we had the good fortune to pull over under a bridge so at least we weren't pummeled by the rain as we stripped the kid down.  This time I could feel the eyes of onlookers as they crawled by in the miserable rush hour traffic.  I suspect the other Swagger Wagon drivers understood; they had a sense of "been there, done that."  The swank sports cars seemed to scoff, as if to suggest "I would never allow that to happen is this sleek performance machine!"  And then there were the sympathetic old folks in oversized sedans, one of whom actually pulled over to say "is everything ok?  I saw the naked baby on the side of the road and was worried."  Well, kind sir, thank you.  To tell you the truth, we were worried too but, once again, all's well that ends well.  

We put Declan in his PJs, put on a movie, passed out some pretzels and continued on our journey.  As the kids laughed at something clever from the Clifford video, Des and I laughed in the front seat... we knew we had hours to go, the car smelled like puke and the dog looked like hell but really, what else could we do?  Our traveling family circus keeps us entertained in all kinds of weather and when we woke up to a blue sky and bright sun the next morning, we knew it was well worth the trip. Even if it was the trip from hell! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Getting out of the house in 30 minutes or less

Whenever I’m out and about with our brood, people can’t help but ask “how do you do it?!” While I often interpret the question as one that relates to our daily struggles and working mom juggles, I realized once again this weekend that sometimes what people really mean is “how do you ever even get out of your house with all those kids?!” The answer, of course, is that it's not easy but since I'm not a sit at home type of a gal, I've developed a routine that more often than not gets us out of the house in 30 minutes or less. Here's my little cheat sheet...
  1. Keep the diaper bag stocked.  As my kids have gotten older, the stock has changed.  Baby formula and extra bottles have been replaced by crayons and coloring books. Diaperes and wipes remain a constant, as do sippy cups, water bottles, a ziploc bag of snacks and depending on the season, sunblock and/or hats. I do my best to restock the bag when we return home and I keep it by the front door so we're always ready to roll.
  2. Keep extra essentials in the car -- this way if your diaper bag gets depleted, you won't be caught empty-handed.  A few supplies always on-hand in our "Swagger Wagon" include wipes, Purell, sunblock, paper towels, tissues and snacks that stand the test of time and extreme temperatures... not that I've sampled them myself but the kids never seem to complain when I uncover a hidden bag of Goldfish or a surprise cereal bar.  Plastic baggies are also good to have handy... as a recent weekend roadtrip reminded me, they are perfect for containing the after effects of any accidents that may occur en route!
  3.  Go to the bathroom before you leave the house! The natural extension of this time-proven rule of the road is to change your little one's diaper (or in my case, diapers!) just before departure.  As you likely know, as soon as you do, they will fill it up with the nastiest of poops, causing you to rinse and repeat but still, better to get it out of the way before you're underway! This is one that your mother always told you and once again, she was right!
  4. Have a plan.  My husband thinks I'm crazy but while we're having breakfast on Sunday morning, I'm already thinking of where we're going after church and what we need to bring.  If we're headed to the pool, I'm creating a mental checklist that includes towels, swimmies and juice boxes.  If it's out to lunch, I'm checking that bag by the door for extra crayons and tossing in a few Legos to keep the little ones occupied.  The point is, if you start to think about where you're headed with plenty of time to spare, once it's time to actually get going, you'll be halfway out the door while your husband is asking if he needs to bring his swimsuit.   To which you can happily reply, "Got it, hon!  Get in the car, we're ready to roll!" 
  5. Avoid laces at all costs.  With five kids to hustle out of the house, I've learned the hard way that shoelaces are not my friend.  In the summer months, Crocs and flip flops reign supreme while in the winter months it' all about velcro on the sneakers and slip-ons in the way of cozy boots and Merrells.  Am I bummed out that my first grader still can't tie his shoes?  Sure I am.  But, can I swiftly and adeptly get my clan in the car in thirty minutes or less?  You betcha!
Have some tips of your own?  Let me know!  In the meantime, hope these hints help you get your tykes out the door and on your way, with plenty of time to enjoy the day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

End of school = parties & gifts & stress!

If you have kids in school, in sports or just generally involved, you've probably noticed an increase in your calendar entries the past few weeks.  Given that three of our kids are only two, we know the years ahead will only get more hectic; even so, the past few weeks have really given us a run for our money.

Every activity seems to have its own prerequisite end-of-year celebration... ballet class, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse.  Then there was the pre-school party and the first grade picnic.  As if it's not hard enough to simply juggle my job, my life, my kids and these social events, each one also requires just the right gift for the "teacher" which I put in quotes only because I'm not sure if or why the Dads who coach baseball are on the gift list.  Actually, to be frank, they weren't on mine and I felt like a bit putz when I showed up empty-handed!  People also buy gifts for the bus driver, bus monitor and I recently heard someone planning to include the school nurse and librarian in their annual end of school gift blitz.

This is all really stressing me out.  It's kind of hard to be at a meeting for work at 11 and the class picnic at noon.  And it's really hard to find the time to find all those gifts!  Not to mention, our budget for June is now completely shot.  Our credit card company must be thrilled but I, for one, am not!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for celebrating and all for recognizing a job well done.  In fact, I really do like a party as much as the next gal.  I just think it's all gotten a bit out of control.  I've decided to follow the good advice of a girlfriend and just stock up on Dunkin' Donuts gift cards... can't go wrong there, right?  I mean, "America runs on Dunkin'!" ... or, at least I do more often than not!

I think little things really can mean a lot and while I envy the moms who have the time to make crafty, personal gifts, I will never be one of them.  I can write a pretty good, from the heart card filled with gratitude with a little gift card to boot.  And, I do try to attend all of the festivities but, I realized as I arrived at the first class picnic an hour late and huffing and puffing, I really wasn't missed.  My little man was having the time of his life with his pals and I'm not sure that my presence really added to the quality of his day.  Which led me to this conclusion:  just as we must pick our battles in life, we must also pick our parties.  We may not be able to attend them all, but if you make it to the ones that count, well, that may be the best gift of all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Ten reasons to tread lightly and wear your shoes

Motherhood is full of surprises. From those first flutters of pregnancy to the wonder of falling in love with a bald-headed baby, the only thing you can really expect is the unexpected.  I’ve grown immune to some of the unanticipated side effects of parenting… sleep deprivation, driving a minivan and the ongoing battle against kid-clutter have all become part of my new norm. Something that continues to surprise me however, is all that's underfoot, in the most literal sense.  Here's my Top 10 list of barefoot surprises... along with a renewed commitment to treading lightly and wearing my shoes!
  1. Legos. Ever step barefoot on a Lego? If so, you can probably relate to the expletives that explode from my mouth each time it happens. I do occasionally apply a child-friendly filter, which now has our 2 1/2 year old triplets using the word “freakin’!” in a most charming way. My barefoot encounters with wayward Legos are so frequent that if I ever get around to writing my memoir, I think I will call it “My Life in (Freakin’!) LegoLand.”
  2. WaWas. You may call it a lovey or woobie or blankie but those beloved soft comfort items are known in our house as “WaWas”. Actually, for Liam it was a “WeeWee” but then Ciara came along and we didn’t want her to be the only little girl on the block with a “WeeWee” so, she mercifully called hers a “WaWa” and this term of endearment is here to stay. As are the Wawas… all five kids have them but the triplets in particular get great joy from sucking on them. When they are in their cribs making those sweet sucking sounds, it is absolutely endearing; when one falls out of the crib and you step on it barefoot in the middle of the night, it is absolutely gross. Soggy, wet, nasty and gross. Enough said!
  3. Soggy Cheerios. I admit it. We rely on our dog Finnegan to do a lot of the post-meal clean up. So much so, in fact, that he’s gained well over ten pounds since the triplets were born. He is so efficient in his efforts that he sometimes even starts the clean up while the little guys are still in their high chairs; the sight of the chairs being nudged around the kitchen by a ninety pound dog is an especially good one if you ever get a chance to see it. In any case, I suppose we’ve become overly reliant on Finnegan and under-reliant on the broom because I now find myself muttering each morning as I dislodge yet another Cheerio from between my toes.
  4. Our dog, Finnegan. He does pretty well for himself at mealtime but any other time of day he’s prone to be tripped over, stepped on or plowed over. This never used to happen but now, it’s fairly routine. He might get knocked out of the way as I chase down a kid or worse yet, stepped on overnight as I go to find one of those darn misplaced Wawas. Either way, that poor dog really takes his blows. 
  5. A bike helmet. Ever wake up in the morning and trip over a kid' bike helmet next to your bed? Me too! I thought this was a rather unusual occurrence but have since heard from other Moms that it’s happened to them too. Not sure why the bike helmets end up in the bedroom instead of on the porch in the neat little basket I’ve put there for the very purpose of bike helmet storage. I guess it’s probably the same reason why my neatly labeled baskets for “Cars”, “Trains”, and “Dolls” now flow over with books, random puzzle pieces and yes, even an occasional Lego.
  6. Big Wheels… and little ones too. Matchbox cars, firetrucks, dump trucks and the like never seem to find their way into those neatly labeled baskets and bins. And, they just may be the death of me one day. I’ve been known to sail half way across the house on a moderately sized “shake and go” car and trust me, the sight of me shaking and going in this way is not one you want to see. Especially since it may also include another inappropriate freakin’ expletive!
  7. Play Dough. Fresh out of the jar, this stuff is squishy and soft. Not something I enjoy between the toes but, it’s preferable to those gummy, soggy Cheerios. Leave it out for a while though and suddenly that Play Dough isn’t so playful. It hardens to teeny, rainbow colored pebbles that I find scattered throughout the house and between my toes. Let me go on record and make it official: I hate Play Dough!
  8. Crayons/Markers: While you may not naturally equate these childhood tools of the trade to the aforementioned big wheels and matchbox cars, they can just as easily propel you across a room if you step on them just so. These are yet another shining example of defiant toys that refuse to reside in their neatly labeled bins. Why, oh why, do I even bother?
  9. The laundry basket. There are two places in my house that I would expect to find the laundry basket – in the basement by the washer/dryer or in my closet brimming over with the days soiled wears. Unfortunately, there are probably 22 places that I might stumble across, over or into that basket. Ok, maybe not quite 22 since our house isn’t that big but, suffice it to say, ever since the triplets decided the laundry basket is their “boat”, I’ve found it docked in the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and everywhere in-between.
  10. Sticks and stones. They say that sticks and stone may break your bones and I am here to tell you this is true! While I haven’t actually broken a bone (yet!), I have stepped on and tripped over many of these “collections” courtesy of any of our five kids. What’s surprising about this isn’t the notion of kids collecting them but rather, using the dining/living/bedroom/kitchen floors as display cases. If only they’d leave their wares outside, I’d be more alert, more apt to watch underfoot for sharp rocks and jagged sticks; I just don’t have that kind of radar up when I’m blindly fumbling for my morning coffee!
So, there you have it. Ten items large and small that I’m still surprised to find underfoot. I suppose the only other thing I should mention is, well, my kids. With so many of them in such a relatively small space, I have been known to literally trip over my own children. Especially when the triplets were in that cute crawling/pull up on your legs phase. I’ve apologized countless times for stepping on tiny fingers and toes; just imagine their shock and surprise when they are repeatedly stepped on by their own Mom! Now that I think about it, maybe all those Legos, Cheerios, Play Dough, sticks and stones I find myself stepping on and tripping over aren’t accidentally left behind. Maybe it’s just my kids trying to tell me in a not-so-subtle way, “Hey Mom, watch where you’re freakin’ going.  And while you're at it, put on a pair of freakin' shoes!!!”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sure signs that summertime has arrived

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the unofficial start to summer. The pool opens, the lemonade flows and the sunscreen is plentifully applied. The beach towels are brought out from winter hibernation, as are the buckets and shovels, swimsuits and sandals. Although there are still a few weeks left of school, summer is in the air – especially this week as the heat and humidity provided temperatures well into the nineties. With Memorial Day now a memory, the spirit of summer is here to stay and and I for one couldn't be happier about it.

For starters, the sun is up long before I am. This is such a welcome change from the dark days of winter when my morning runs occurred in darkness and the kids had to be dragged out of bed.

Bedtime slides by a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the day. We might read a book on the front porch as the sun sets or hang out in the backyard as the moon rises. Either way, we’re more lax about the bedtime routine and grateful for those extra moments with our little ones.

Dinner is simpler. In fact, breakfast and lunch are too. I probably shouldn't admit this but some days, we even skip lunch, instead snacking on hearty helpings of watermelon, blueberries and granola bars in between meals. Dinner itself is quickly prepared on the grill or on some evenings, a simple grilled cheese might suffice. And my, isn’t that nice!

Morning prep time is dramatically reduced. It’s amazing how easy it is get out of the house when you don’t need to wrestle and cajole five kids into gloves, hats, coats and boots! It’s just shorts, shirts and crocs and away we go… with time to spare!

Of course, as great as summertime is, it’s not without it’s own unique challenges… like for instance slathering sunblock on five slippery kids or publicy bearing my bod in broad daylight; the stark whiteness of my legs has been known to blind even the mightiest of souls but even so, I’ll take summertime and it’s carefree attitude and relaxed routines for just as long as it lasts… which, based on the current outlook, will be a long time indeed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Time-saving shopping tactics

One of the things I’m often asked is “with that many kids, how do you keep food in the house?"  Followed quickly by, “and what about diapers?! How many diapers do you go through in a day?!” The short answer to the diaper question is that thankfully, our diaper usage has declined from the infancy peak of about 30-35 diapers a day to a diaper/pull up combo of about a dozen a day… possibly a few more or less depending on the day and the success (or lack thereof!) that we’re having with potty training.
 As for keeping food in the house, well, it’s no easy task – especially for our daily staples like milk, fruit. cereal and yogurt. We easily consume seven gallons of milk a week, a box of cereal a day and last week, went through six pints of blueberries in three day.  So, our burn rate on the food front is substantial, which is why I have some time saving shopping tactics that more often than not, keep our cupboards full and diapers stocked.
 First and foremoest, I like to shop online. It’s quick. it's easy and repeat orders are literally as quick as a click of a button. Some of my frequent go-tos include…

  • For Groceries: Peapod.com for heavy staples (e.g. those seven gallons of milk, big bottles of apple juice, etc.) and FreshDirect.com for produce and prepared meals
  • For Diapers/Wipes and other assorted kid stuff (baby wash, diaper rash cream, sumblock!), nothing beats diapers.com Their prices are competitive, shipping is free when you spend over $50, and your goods arrive in 48 hours or less. Can’t beat that!
  • For kids' birthday gifts, amazon.com works wonders for us. I aspire to keep a closet stocked with gifts for all ages but frankly, our closet space is at a premium so, I let the good folks at amazon take care of the storage until 48-72 hours before the party. With amazonPrime, free shipping is included and for us, it’s well worth it… you name it, they have it and if you don’t know what to get, they have recommendations by age and gender. A little online surfing sure beats an afternoon fighting the masses at Toys R Us if you ask me!  
  • For kids clothes, Lands End gets it right every time. Shoes, mittens, winter coats, shorts, they’ve got it all. The quality is good, the prices are right and if you time it right, they’ll offer free shipping too. Gap/Old Navy/PiperLime also experience frequent logins from yours truly; the one-stop shopping can’t be beat and if you get one of those Friends & Family coupons, the deals can’t be beat either! I recently filled my virtual shopping cart with Crocs in several colors and sizes, summer pjs for the triplets, flip flops for Ciara and shorts for Liam. All on sale and all arriving with free shipping and free returns. Check!  A few more things are now crossed of my list!
Here's another tip: avoid the big box stores. I admit it, I enjoy a trip to Target as much as the next gal but I can’t seem to get out of that place without spending hundreds of dollars on items I didn’t have on my list or didn’t know I needed… perhaps because I don’t actually need them! In any case, as tempting as these excursions can be, do your best to just say no… especially if you have your little ones in tow because I’ve found that they just drive up your total expenditure in a big way!

Since you can’t completely avoid those big box or club stores, go with a plan -- create a detailed list and do your best to stick to it. A critical componet to keeping our cupboards full is a trip to Costco every 6-8 weeks. I have a standard list I use every time so I don’t need to recreate the wheel with each visit. Our Costco family staples include:
  • Laundry detergent/stain lifter/fabric softener/dish & dishwasher detergent
  • Windex/Cleaning supplies/Ziploc bags, as needed
  • Milk, Yogurt, GoGurt, Cheddar Cheese, Goat Cheese, Mozzarella cheese, OJ
  • Cereal, Crackers, Goldfish, School Snacks, Bread, English muffins
  • Chicken, Fish, Pork, any other decent looking, reasonably priced meat or fish
  • Broccoli, spinach, asparagus, baby carrots
  • Bananas, berries, apples, pears, kiwi
In case you didn't notice, I organize my list by store sections so I can be super-efficient as I whiz through the aisles with my oversized cart. I do admit to occasionally straying from the plan and arriving home somewhat confused as to how a Hannah Andersson dress, Carter's pajamas or a value-pack of Nutella got in the cart but, for the most part, it’s a predictable trip that I’ve got down to a science.

So, there you go -- a few insights as to how this family of seven keeps our staples in stock. Frequent online shopping across multiple categories minimizes my visits to the supermarket and big box stores while also ensuring that the kids (usually!) have clothes that fit and (almost always!) arrive at birthday parties with gifts in hand. Carefully calculated trips to Costco keep our pantry full and organized lists of staples make ordering, reordering and shopping a snap. Next up: wag.com – a sister site to Diapers.com that will ensure our sweet pup Finnegan never wakes up without food in his bowl or his favorite biscuits in the treat jar… I think he’s wagging his tail at the very thought! Happy Shopping!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Recuperation, Recovery and... relaxation?!

If you've been following the latest on life in the Lyons Den, you know that I recently had surgery to have an umbilical hernia repaired.  Not fun, in case you were wondering!  The surgery itself was over in less than two hours although, due the fact that anesthesia and I have a historically rocky relationship, I found myself in misery -- oops, I mean recovery -- for almost five hours.  Even so, the outpatient procedure had me home well before dinner that day with firm instructions to rest for a week and avoid heavy lifting and anything other than moderate activity for six weeks.  

Following doctor's orders and literally doing nothing other than popping pills and responding to work email (arguably a bad combination!) was easy for the first few days.  Now though, five days post-event, it's getting a bit trickier.  I can actually shower and therefore, am looking and feeling better. I've weaned myself from the pain meds and can get by on just a few Advil every now and then.  I've read all my magazines and watched the last few episodes of Glee.  So... now what?  

Since I've actually "just said yes" to extra hands and a few home-cooked meals, the house has been relatively quiet... almost sadly empty.  I know I must have a major screw loose because rather than sit back, rest, recuperate and relax, well, I'm finding it hard to sit still.  I am compelled to put away the mountains of laundry, clean out the linen closet and reorganize my underwear drawer... I mean really, it is brimming over with tights that have holes in the toes, supersized undies from when I was supersized preggo and large lacey bras that never fit and never will... how is a girl to relax when all of these things are facing me down?!  

Well, I resisted as much as possible since the last thing I wanted to do is blow a stitch and find myself back in the hospital... the very thought was enough to keep me relatively still.  However, being rather industrious (to a fault, some might say!), I found the perfect task to fill my sedentary weekend:  2010, The Year in Pictures.  Yep, I must have sorted through a few thousand photos but it's done.  Our 2010 photo album is complete and I have to say, it was quite a year.  In reality, it was kind of crappy -- my brother in law lost his battle with lung cancer at only 47 years old; my job grew ever more challenging so I ultimately left it in pursuit of a new one; and, we faced the same struggles that all sleep-deprived parents of little people with big demands face.  However, when you look at the pictures, it was an incredible year.  Smiles all around. The hardships we faced didn't slow us down or take the smiles from our faces.  And the struggle I face now is minor compared to so many others.   So, as I face these next few weeks "on the bench", I'm going to do my best to just smile and count my blessings.  For there are many of them.  And here are a few of my favorites...  


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tuesday Tip slides to Thursday as a lesson is learned. Again.

As you may know, I had surgery on Tuesday to repair an umbilical hernia -- just one of many minor malfunctions I now have as a result of having triplets.  Given that I spent much of Tuesday either under anesthesia or recovering from its effects, I was unable to post my typical Tuesday tip.  However, having spent the past few days in a semi-awake trance punctuated only by painkillers and kids wondering why they couldn't have an "uppie", I've had some time to reflect and rediscover a truly useful tip that I myself ignore all too often. Ready?  Here it is.


This is such a simple thing to do and yet something that I find truly difficult.  In fact, I so dislike asking for help that I told very few people that I was even having surgery.  My poor parents found out about ten days before; my sister heard the news from my parents; my boss got confirmation of the big event about a week prior and most of my friends found out on facebook; they didn't even know until after the deed was done.  Leading them all to ask, "are you crazy?!  Why don't you just ask for help?!" 

The honest answer, I suppose, is that I don't like to feel helpless.  To me, asking for help is somehow an admission of ineptitude.  Of tossing in the towel.  Of admitting defeat.  Of accepting the notion of "I can't".  Which is very hard for me to do given that I am hard-wired to think that I can.  Whatever it is, I think I can tackle it.  And often, I do.  This makes it even harder to ask for help and to realize that ultimately, asking for assistance -- and gracefully and gratefully -- receiving it, is by no means a sign of weakness.

What I've learned as I've reclined here relatively helpless for the past 48 hours is that asking for help is not a sign of defeat; rather, it is a wise, honorable, acceptable thing to do. I've learned once again that people are happy to help. I can't believe how quickly I forgot this all-important lesson since it was less than three years ago that neighbors, friends and family flocked to us and helped us survive those first crazy few months home with the triplets.  Now, they are here again.  They have offered playdates and carpools.  Dinners and diaper changing.  And I've said yes.  Hopefully, with both grace and graciousness!  And hopefully, this is a tip that I will remember to call upon time and again because, as one good friend recently reminded me, "Ker, you don't actually need to wait until you have major surgery to ask for help.  We'd be happy to help you anytime."  Now, that's what friends are for!