Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tip: The Fall Wardrobe Changover

Last week one of my friends asked how we tackle the change of seasons and corresponding closet changeover.  It's a good question and although I'm still working the kinks out of the system, I've come a long way from a few years ago when poor Liam was still wearing Crocs (with socks!) in November because I'd dropped the ball and forgotten to buy shoes.  So, with the days growing shorter, the nights growing cooler and all five of my kids growing like weeds, here are a few of my tactics for tackling the fall closet changeover... this one's for you Britta!

  1. Keep your hand-me-downs handy and well-organized. While the picture above is admittedly not pretty, it accurately captures my basement bins of hand-me-downs.  They line the shelves, ranging from 3T to Size 6 and organized by season. There's even an "overflow" bin filled with coats, boots and mittens.  The bins have been filled by various sources... our own hand-me-downs from Liam that will one day fit the triplets, the slightly worn garb of neighbors and friends and even a few new items picked up at bargain basement prices... which leads me to  the next tip...
  2. Buy in advance, on sale and online.  Since most of my kids' clothes come from those  basement bins, it is a special treat to buy something new.  And, since I work full-time (and even if I didn't, couldn't stomach a trip to the mall with five tykes in tow!), most of the shopping we do is online.  While it pains me to get those backpack catalogs in July, I've started to pay attention to them.  They offer pre-season sale prices, free shipping and a great selection.  And, if you can afford it, now is a great time to stock up on summer gear for next year... just be sure to store it neatly so you can find it when Memorial Day 2012 rolls around.
  3. Give your kids a choice.  I'm constantly amazed at the strong opinions of our little "Lyons Cubs" and have learned the hard way that some battles just aren't worth the fight.  If someone wants to wear rain boots on a sunny day, fine.  If someone is now boycotting pink, that's fine too; it's just not worth it to start each day arguing about what to wear. One way to avoid the morning mayhem is to involve your kids in any back-to-school shopping you may do.  Let them pick out one special outfit or a few new basics.  In our house, this process includes a stack of the aforementioned catalogs and a marker.  They mark up what they want (often the entire catalog or recently with Ciara, anything that is turquoise!) and then we decide together what they will get.  Making the process collaborative and inclusive goes a long way toward eliminating those early morning battles.
  4. Don't forget the shoes. This is my weakness.  I just can't keep up with how quickly their feet grow and am often surprised to find they only have Crocs in November or boots in May.  Shoes are especially challenging since it's critical to get the sizing right and this can be tough to do from home as I navigate my online options.  That said, I've come across  few tools to ensure the perfect fit right from the comfort of my couch.  For those of you with an ipad, check out the nifty new Pitter-Pad app; for those of you without (like me!), check out the Lands End Fit Chart.  Your kids will be glad you did.
  5. Think snow. Now. While we can't predict the weather, one certainty is that your little ones will want to frolic in those first falling flakes and when they do, they will need a warm coat, snow pants, boots, a hat and gloves.  Now is the time to stock up on these items -- we tend to get ours on sale, from a second hand shop or, fortunately, from friends who have kindly helped us fill those hand-me-down bins!
It's hard to believe that summer is waning and fall is almost upon us but hopefully with these tips in-hand, you'll have a seamless transition while enjoying the best of both seasons.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Spares the Lyons Den

The "little beach" we left behind before Irene hit

It's hard to believe that just yesterday, Hurricane Irene was bearing down upon us with driving wind and torrential rain.  It's also hard to believe that although there is devastation all around us, we have been spared.  The trees didn't fall, our basement didn't flood and we didn't lose power.  While my husband and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as Irene blew out to take her fury further north, our little ones were a bit disappointed.

For starters, they couldn't understand why we had to bail out on our last summer weekend on the Cape.  I was a bit reluctant to head home myself.  Saturday was hazy, hot and humid and we spent the morning on the beach, soaking up the last of summer's rays before heading home ahead of the storm.  Explaining the perils of a pending hurricane is a fool's errand when you have a minivan full of tired tots who'd rather be building sand castles.  

As the sky darkened and the guy on the radio spoke of the storm's impact further south, our kids seemed to get the gist of it.  While our minivan barreled south on 95 toward New York, they seemed to slowly start to understand what was coming.  We spoke of the subway shutting down, of windows boarded up and of the potential loss of power.  It was the loss of power that really caught their interest.  They were intrigued by the notion of living by candlelight and we had a lively conversation about what we might eat if we had no power for a few days... peanut butter and jelly, cereal with milk (as long as the milk lasted), and raisins topped their list.

We also had a neat little chat about what it meant to "hunker down". According to dictionary.com, to "hunker down" is to squat on one's heels; to hide, hide out or take shelter.  This notion was especially intriguing to them as we discussed the possibility of all hunkering down and sleeping together in our living room... Mom and Dad would get the pull out couch, Liam and Ciara would snuggle in their sleeping bags and Kevin, Declan and Cormac could camp out in their pack & plays.  We would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by candlelight, perhaps while singing songs and telling stories.

Now, if that's not an idealized view of hurricane preparation, I don't know what is.  It's really a blessing to see the world (including natural disasters!) through the eyes of a child... or, in my case, five of them.  It's also a blessing that Hurricane Irene was kind to us.  And, for all those who are suffering the after-effects, I wish them the best and hope they might find some sort of a silver lining... something our kids are always prone to see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Summer I did hard time... Potty time

When I look back on the summer of 2011, many memories will be of the hard time I spent in potty time -- "tile time" as my good friend Jill calls it.  Call it what you will, it's hard and it's not fun.  Don't get me wrong, I know it's time well spent; the last thing I want to be is the mom of triplets who go to college in diapers but really, since that's unlikely (both the diaper part and the ability to pay for college!), I can't help but lament the hours I've spent in bathrooms this summer. 

I've spent so much time in our bathrooms at home (no, we don't have three of them, only 1.5!) that I think there's now a dent in the "big potty" seats I've spent hours perched upon.  I've spent so much time in restaurant bathrooms, that I think I've lost a few pounds  -- admittedly, this is the potential upside to being held hostage in a public bathroom by three two-year tyrants waving their willies everywhere but IN the actual potty!  I've spent many a sunny afternoon in the bat-cave like bathrooms you're prone to find at pools and beaches; again, eager to find the bright side (in this case, literally) I suppose I should be grateful for less of those damaging rays and subsequent wrinkles.  I've also spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom at church which, on the one hand, gives new meaning to "praying to the porcelain God" but, hasn't done much for my spirituality... other than, of course, repeated prayers that Kevin, Declan and Cormac finally get the swing of it (for lack of a better term!) so we can put these potty-training days behind us.

Truthfully, it's getting old.  And I'm out of PullUps.  And I'm loathe to buy more.  My little guys really seem to be getting it.  Or so it seems until I find a turd on a chair (as I did during dinner one night this week) or sail across their bedroom on a pool of pee on the floor (as I did this evening).  One step forward, two steps back.  I suppose that's how it goes.  Try, try again.  As much as I want this phase to be behind me, I also have a keen appreciation for the fact that when it's gone, it's gone.  Much like the bottles and onesies and highchairs, diapers and pull-ups will soon be gone.  Already, my sweet babes look like big boys as their shorts sag behind them in the space the diapers once filled but "training pants" don't.  By the way, has anyone else experienced these training pants?  If not, don't bother -- if they worked, I wouldn't have experienced a Slip n' Slide of pee earlier tonight!

In any case, I know that this too shall pass. And when it does, I will be proud of my guys for figuring it out.  And I will be glad that my house no longer smells like a urinal. And I will be just a little sad about those saggy shorts for I know they represent the next phase and I'm not 100% convinced that I'm ready for my babies to become "big boys".

Grocery shopping with the kids? Be prepared to get more than you bargained for!

I'm not sure how or why this happened but when I got home from work last night, I ended up grocery shopping with four of our five kids.  Somehow my husband got to stay home and man the grill with Liam, our six year old while I descended upon the local Stop & Shop with a four year old and three overtired, very hungry two year olds. 

My anxiety level was rising as I pulled into the lot.  How would I wrangle them?  What if I lost one?  Why oh why did they end up in the minivan instead of the backyard?!  Then Ciara sighted one of those nifty carts with a "car" upfront and suddenly I knew it would all be ok.  Who needs DisneyLand when you have these kinds of carts at the supermarket?!  You should have heard the squeals of joy.  It was awesome.  Yep, I said it.  Grocery shopping with four kids four and under on a Tuesday evening after a long day at work was awesome.

The only issue was the list.  I am a big believer in lists, grocery and otherwise.  Here's what was on my list last night: 
  • Milk (4 gallons/2%, 2 gallons/skim)
  • Eggs (2 dozen)
  • Bread (2 loaves)
  • Crackers
  • Cereal
  • Fruit
That's it.  Here's what else ended up in my cart, after only the subtlest of urging from my surprisingly pleasant pit crew:
  • Fruit snacks (Cars/Toy Story.  Rationale:  on sale 2 for $4)
  • Dole Fruit Cups (2 of them.  Rationale: new 'all natural' variety and on sale)
  • Applesauce (2 of them.  Again, on sale 2 for $4)
  • CheezIts (3 boxes!  THREE boxes!  Rationale:  on sale 3 for $6)
  • English muffins (Buy one, get one free!)
  • Chobani yogurt (nutritious, delicious, on sale for 10 for $10!)
  • M&Ms (admittedly not on sale but, great motivation for the potty trainers in the cart!)
I have to say, I got a lot more than I bargained for on this trip to the supermarket.  In addition to the snacks that I'd usually pass by, I realized that I can tackle pretty much anything with lots of tots in tow.  And, it was a good reminder that taking a few kids along for the ride can make the most mundane of tasks a whole lot more fun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Dining out with children

I have a confession.  I’m not a good cook.  Fortunately, I’m a decent meal planner and my husband Des is a great cook.  Put another way, if I plan it, he will cook it.  But sometimes, I just don’t have a plan.  Or groceries.  Or the willpower to plan the meal, serve it up, cut it up and clean it up.  Sometimes, I just want to go out for Mexican or a burger.  And like it or not, the kids are coming along for the ride.
When we show up at a restaurant, we are rarely met with a warm welcome.  Although we’ve just about outgrown the need for a table with three highchairs, we do require a table for seven, five of whom are under four feet tall and prefer a side of crayons with their nuggets.  I’ve grown accustomed to the raised eyebrows, skeptical glances and hushed tones as we amble along to a table that needs to be immediately scoured of extra glasses, knives and salt and pepper shakers.  People observe us with a sense of horror and humor as they wonder why we’ve dragged our entourage out to dinner. They say things like “Wow, you’re brave!” or “Wouldn’t it just be easier to have dinner at home?” 
Actually, I’m not so brave and while it might be easier in some regards to have dinner at home, it is delightful on occasion to have someone else play the role of chef, waitress and dishwasher.  The truth of the matter is that with five kids six and under, nothing is easy.  But that hasn’t stopped us from doing what we love and one of the things we love is eating out.  How do we make it manageable and even enjoyable with so many tots in tow?
1.     Mama’s Magic Bag of Tricks.  I never leave home without it.  It contains everything I need to keep little hands busy and little minds occupied pre and post dinner.  My staples include a few story books, sticker books, coloring books, crayons and perhaps a Ziploc bag full of Legos or blocks.  Like any good bag of tricks, I rotate the items so there’s always something fun and new to keep them entertained and out of trouble.
2.     Know their limits.  This rule applies to where we go, what we order and when we go.  We naturally avoid white tablecloth (really, any tablecloth!) restaurants and never order five meals for our five kids because we know they simply can’t/won’t eat a full-sized portion.  So, we usually order two to three meals for them to share and leave room for dessert.  We also know that if we’re actually going to enjoy our meal and each other’s company, we have to go on the early side.  I’m starting to think the early bird special was made for us. Sad, but true!
3.     Pack Snacks..  And sippy cups too.  Des thinks I’m kinda crazy for bringing snacks when we go out to eat but believe me when I tell you it’s a good idea.  You never know how the long the wait will be – especially when you need a table for seven!  You also don’t know how long it will take for dinner to arrive at the table after you order; if there’s a bottomless bread basket, you’re all set but if not, you’ll be glad you grabbed a snack-pack full of raisins and Goldfish to address the dramatic whines of “I’m STARVING”  that are likely to escalate if the wait is longer than a few minutes.  Which it usually is.
When we were up on the Cape for our annual summer vacation, we ate out frequently.  And,  we discovered that an added perk of taking the clan out to eat is that they actually learn how to behave in a restaurant.  While our kids certainly have their moments, more often than not, they rise to the occasion and stun the folks that gave us those wayward glances with their good manners and inside voices.  At The Outer Bar and Grille at The Wequasset in Chatham (a scenic spot that I’d highly recommend), we were commended for having the “best kids we’ve seen all summer.” And that, if you ask me, is not only a great compliment but, the perfect ending to a great meal. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Case of the Absent Tooth Fairy

Liam in simpler times: after the loss of tooth #1

The tooth fairy has officially visited our home five times.  Our six year old has officially lost six teeth.  As you may have noticed, there is a discrepancy here.  As far as I can tell, the issue was the loss of tooth #5.

I can’t recall where or when it fell out and neither can Liam, the aforementioned gap-toothed six year old.  The fact he can’t even remember the details of this little tooth makes me feel a bit better about my own vague recollection. I do recall that when it came out, it eventually ended up in a little “treasure chest” – one of those Melissa & Doug hand-painted projects which, for some reason, ended up on top of our entertainment center (yep, we still have one of those!) several weeks back.  That’s when my mind goes blank.

Fast forward to this morning, when I got home from walking our dog to find a pouty gap-toothed Liam sulking on the front porch.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  “Daddy moved my pillow last night and the tooth fairy never came!”  Hmmm.  I had to think quickly on this one.  Had tooth #7 fallen out last night?  Did I have amnesia?  What exactly happened and how could I respond glibly while keeping his faith in that apparently dim-witted fairy? 

A career in advertising has left me relatively quick on my feet, good with a retort and polished in the arts of ambiguity and empathy, which I can conjure up as needed.  Without dissing the tooth fairy or the Dad, I was able to discern that at some point last night, Liam found that treasure chest with tooth #5; it had slipped behind the TV and was discovered during a search for a Tom & Jerry video (yes, we do let our kids watch them and if you haven’t seen Tom or Jerry in a while, I’d highly suggest that you revisit them!). 

Like any other 2nd grade believer, Liam assumed the tooth fairy must have radar and would intuitively know when a small boy places a toothy treasure under his pillow.  With this in mind, Liam had slid the treasure box under the pillow without uttering a word about it to me or the Dad.  When he woke up this morning and found the tooth and treasure chest under his bed, he reached the reasonable conclusion that when Dad did the final late night tuck-in, he must have knocked the treasure chest under the bed, thereby sending the tooth fairy off course.

This was a lot to take in so early in the morning but, grateful for the large cup of coffee I'd consumed, I explained that Liam was right.  Of course the tooth fairy’s radar doesn’t work under little boys beds; it is only effective under pillows!  That answer seemed satisfactory and so it is that tonight, tooth #5 (and the fairy!) will be getting a second chance.  Having reviewed the contents of my own treasure chest of Liam's teeth (yep, I save them... gross, right?), I came across these little gems from a few months ago.  I can't help but think that my little guy's initial excitement when he wakes up and discovers that the absent tooth fairy finally reappeared might be diminished when he realizes she only left $2.00...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tip: When toddlers say no-no to naptime

People always seem to marvel when I tell them our kids still take naps.  Not all of them, of course.  At six years old, Liam is hard-pressed to sit still let alone lie down during the day but even so, our family frequently enjoys "quiet time" on weekends; Liam will read, Ciara (now almost five) will still take an occasional nap and at 2 1/2, Kevin, Declan and Cormac still take a 2 1/2 hour nap on most afternoons. 

How?  Why?  I suppose because in our house, NOT napping was NEVER an option.  I confess that we are blessed with naturally good sleepers; we've been extremely lucky in that regard.  However, even good sleepers will occasionally engage in a "survival of the sleepiest" battle at naptime and our house is no exception.  When the battle begins, we armor up and agree to never surrender.  We just can't give in to a trio of toddlers throwing a tantrum.  If we do, chaos will reign, they will take over and be swinging from the chandelier before I can say "back to bed!"  That's my fear, anyway.  And I think my fear has a lot to do with my good nappers.

I love to sleep. And frankly, I am afraid of the me I become when I don't get a good night's sleep; this is why I would force feed bottles to all of our kids at midnight -- not because I was innately concerned about their nutritional intake but rather, I knew if their bellies were full, this Mama would have a shot at six uninterrupted, blissful hours of shut-eye.    The sleep-deprived me is kind of scary; she is not someone you'd want to leave your five kids alone with. I'm not proud to admit it but when I'm overtired, I act just like an OTT (OverTired Toddler) -- irrational, stubborn, prone to crying, you get the gist.  It is because I know this about myself that I am dedicated to ensuring my kids get the rest they need.  At naptime as at nighttime, their sleep time is my downtime.  Those Sunday afternoons when the whole clan is down are the only moments Des and I have to sit and read the paper... or, perhaps more likely, mow the lawn or chop veggies for the week ahead.  Either way, nap time is time we need and we count on and I think a few simple ground rules have laid the groundwork for our success with sleepers:

  1. Resiliance.  As I mentioned, no nap was never an option here in the Lyons Den.  No matter how intense the whining, the crying, the screaming, the tossing of toys and taking off of sheets and on more than one occasion, the famed Triplet Diaper Toss, we never caved in.  They stayed in their cribs.  They cried it out.  And they eventually tired out.  And went to sleep.  Usually, anyway.  On the days where two hours went by and sleep never came, there was still quiet time.  And even if it wasn't so quiet, it was still two hours that I wasn't tripping over toddlers. Is it always easy?  No way.  But Is it worth it in the end to battle through?  Absolutely.
  2. Rewards.  For now, the triplets are still in their cribs but, it won't be long before they are out and relishing the freedom of a "big boy bed."  When this day comes, I'm sure they will test us in the same ways Liam and Ciara did -- appearing every five minutes in need of a glass of water or another book or another kiss or hug or back rub or... you get the idea!  This one stumped us at first.  And our first attempt to regain control wasn't successful -- the route we initially took was the punishment/deprivation route.  As in "if you get out of bed one more time I will take away your (fill in the blank)" or "you won't be able to watch TV for a week!"  This proved totally ineffective and doubly frustrating as we were met with responses like "I don't like that anymore anyway!" or, worse yet, "I don't care!"  I expected to hear these words from a sullen teen, not a tired toddler.  Far more successful for us has been positive reinforcement.  As in "if you just lie down for an hour, you can watch a half hour of TV when you get up."  More often than not, by the time the hour rolls by, their eyes have rolled back in their heads, they are sweetly snoring and when they wake up quite possibly grumpy because they lost the battle, you'll be glad to offer them their consolation prize -- which in our house, is a half hour of The Backyardigans.
  3. Repetition. When it comes to parenting, we've rarely had success the first time around (see above: force feeding bottles at midnight actually resulted in more spit up than anyone should ever experience!).  That's why we tend to live by the mantra, if at first you don't succeed, try try again!  Don't give up and before you know it, your little tot will be having sweet dreams... and hopefully you will too!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gripes & Grins: an honest account of raising identical triplets... and 2 more

People have a lot to say about motherhood, especially when you're the Mom of five kids six and under, including identical triplets.   The commentary I receive runs the gamut from the obvious (“Are they triplets?!”) to the intrusive (“Was it IVF?”) to the complimentary (“You deserve a LOT of credit!”).  My responses tend to be "Yes" (even though I'd sometimes prefer to say "No, they're cute clones I got on sale at Target!"), "No" (although really it's none of your business!), and "Why?"  Why do I deserve any more credit than any other Mom?  Did I miss the memo where I had a choice to opt out of fulfilling the basic needs of our children?  I don’t think so. Actually, I think I'm just like most Moms in that I try my best every day and will candidly admit that some days are better than others!

Since I am often asked, I always tell people that the trials we face as parents are universal, as are the triumphs.  Whether you have one kid or five of them, you will inevitably be faced with the challenges of sleep deprivation, potty training and discipline and the rewards of those first steps, wet kisses and joyful leaps off the school bus at the end of the day.  There are general life experiences that unite us as parents yet as the years pass with our identical little boys, (who are now 2 ½), I can’t help but notice that there are a few things that actually do set us here at the Lyons Den apart from the rest of the herd.

For starters, there’s the undeniable fact that wherever we go, we always seem to draw a crowd; people are fascinated by our identical little fellas and delighted to ooh and aah over them as they pass by.  For a while, this was a neat little ego-boost; I couldn't help but get slightly caught up in the wonder and remarkable cuteness of these little people we created and thus far, seem to be successfully nurturing.  Yay us!  More recently however, the thrill has started to fade. Since it's rare that I'm out with only the triplets, I am increasingly sensitive to the impact the triplet adoration has on Liam and Ciara. They are often overlooked; at only six and four years old, the big brother and sister get very little of the glory although, they deserve a lot.

Liam and Ciara inherited a lot of responsibility and high expectations when Kevin, Declan and Cormac were born.  Ciara turned two just a few days before they arrived and Liam was not yet four; both were charged with holding bottles, fetching diapers and setting a good example from that day forward.  Though they are truly remarkable kids in their own right, they often go unnoticed while the adoring public fawns over their little brothers.  Truthfully, Liam and Ciara deserve medals for essentially serving as baby nurses for the past two years and I need to try harder to remember that it's not easy to have inherited a trio of identical tots to follow in your footsteps; this is one of my unique challenges as a parent.

Another unique challenge is specific to Kevin, Declan and Cormac.  Though they look exactly alike, I have to constantly remind myself (and others!) that they are not actually three of a kind but three individuals with their own personalities, preferences and, for better or worse, their own primary colors so everyone knows who’s who.  Kevin is “red”, Declan is “blue” and Cormac is “green”.  This color-coding system seemed like a really good way for family, friends and neighbors (and yes, even us in the beginning!) to tell them apart… unfortunately, since Declan has begun to introduce himself to folks as “Blue”, I think this clever tool has backfired but, once again, I was just trying my best.

I suppose that's the universal theme here.  As a new day and new week begins, I know will once again try my best.  I also know that there will be good days and bad days and highs and lows. I know I'll regret the mistakes I'll inevitably make (like last night, when I lost it after Declan peed in Liam's Croc!) and I'll relish the little moments that later turn into major memories (like yesterday morning, when we had them ALL in the tub, basking in bubbles and brimming with grins.)  While there are undoubtedly unique circumstances in raising all of our little "Cubs", we're really just like everyone else in that more often than not, we're just trying to make it through the day and make the most of it! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation

This entry is the perfect follow up to my earlier post "What I learned on my summer vacation."  I learned a lot and, all things considered, we did a lot.  I mentioned that we hit the beach and then hit our beds and while that's true, there were quite a few activities packed in to our amazing, sun-filled, work-free week on the Cape... and many of them were all time "firsts" for Kevin, Declan and Cormac, our 2 1/2 year old triplets.

One first: taking in the view after 1st "big boy pee on the beach"
There was their first boat ride, a seal-watching expedition that departed from Chatham and returned less than two hours later with our little crew wind-blown, awestruck and eager to go back for more.  If you're ever in the area and game for adventure, I'd recommend you take your crew to the sea with the amiable Captain at Beachcomber Seal Watching.  Bonus:  you take a trolley ride to the dock, which for our clan was almost as exciting as the boat ride itself!

There was also the first game of miniature golf for all five kids.  Believe me when I tell you that trekking 18 holes (mini or not!) with five "Cubs with Clubs" is not for the faint of heart!  Our little guys and gal were swinging with all their might, as if they had hockey sticks instead of golf clubs.  There was absolutely no regard for the basic rules of golf -- of which I know very little but, picking up the ball and dropping it in the hole just doesn't seem right.  In any case, fun was had by all, we escaped with minimal damage (to ourselves, others and the course itself) and I'd highly recommend Arnold's mini golf in Eastham -- which, as an added perk, also includes Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar and apparently "world famous hot fudge" which we didn't have the chance to try given that it was 10AM but it sure did look good!

Five Cubs with Clubs practicing their swing

We also made our annual trek to the Beachcomber, a bit of a dive overlooking Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, which is exceptional for several reasons -- the cliffs, the dunes, the waves and the rather notable fact that this is where Des and I got engaged -- exactly ten years ago in August of 2001.  It was after a few drinks at the Beachcomber that we went for a walk on the beach, Des popped the big question and we daydreamed about one day returning with our kids... though we certainly never imagined there would be five of them!

Our five tots at the spot we got engaged... and apparently not all that thrlled about it!

Given that we have some avid baseball fans in our family, we also took in a Cape Cod Summer League game where we rooted for the Orleans Firebirds or, according to the triplets, the "Yankees."  They think all baseball players are Yankees and sometimes refer to them as simply "Super Guys".  It is very very good to be a baseball player (of any stripe!) in the eyes of our 2 1/2 year olds.  They were enraptured by the players handing out raffle tickets but petrified of the team mascot -- a gravelly voiced "Firebird" that even I have to admit was a tad rough around the feathers!

Last but not least, we had our annual visit to Sundae School which, if you ask me, is where they have the best hot fudge, on the Cape or anywhere else... they also top their sundaes with real, homemade whipped cream and a real black cherry.   Yum.  I started going to Sundae School with my grandfather, Pop-Pop, when I was right around Liam and Ciara's age... and I would cry like bloody hell that I didn't want to go to Sunday school!  Until, of course, we arrived and I was treated to a treat so good that I still crave it and indulge in it annually.  YUM!

A sweet little lady who seems to enjoy ice cream as much as her Mom!

There were other spots we visited along the way that I'd recommend for any family that is Cape-bound toward East Orleans.  For a quick bite (though a long wait!), there's the always reliable, fun and very local Land Ho that has a great bowl of clam chowder; we had dinner here before watching the "Super Guys" play ball.  For pizza, eat-in or take-out, there's Zia Pizza, which is right on the way to or from Nauset Beach, our favorite spot... although, if you asked our little Kevin, he would likely tell you, as he told me that the bayside Skaket Beach "is a better beach for me."  As two year olds often are, he was right!

A happy boy who finally found the beach that's just right

While I returned from vacation as rested and relaxed as one could be from fitting all this in with five kids under six, I do have to admit that it was a bit of a relief to return to work on Monday, sit in a chair for a few hours and daydream about our next trip to the Cape, which can't come soon enough!

My happy place

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Surviving Summer's Last Hurrah

I sense that summer is coming to an end and I have mixed emotions about it.  On the one hand, day camp and swim team have ended, the kids are eternally "bored" and the heat and humidity have pretty much lost their charm. On the other hand, I really love the beach, the pool, our more relaxed summer routine and the longer days that allow me to cram more into my busy life. 

As you may know, last week we were on vacation; our annual trek to Cape Cod included building sand castles, collecting hermit crabs and eating lots of donuts, ice cream and pizza. It occurred to me while we were away that these last weeks of summer are a bit like the last days of disco -- reckless, carefree and full of overindulgence.  As we get back into the swing of things this week, I've created some Lyons Den ground rules for surviving these lingering summer days while maximizing the enjoyment they bring. 

  1. Back to Basics:  Some simple rules that were suspended for summertime are now back in session.  Bedtime is at 8:00, reading time is mandatory and snack time has to include a "healthy" option -- some yogurt, a piece of fruit or maybe some cheese and crackers.  It's been grand playing with the kids long past their bedtime and looking the other way as they stuffed themselves with "fruit" snacks and chocolate chip granola bars but with the start of the school year a month away, now is the time to start the good, healthy habits that will start the year off right.
  2. No More Nos:  I'm at the point where the shrill shriek of my own voice is annoying.  I'm sick of saying NO!  "No running in the house.  No biting. No, that poop did not "just fall out" on the floor!"  Ok, well, that last example may have been oversharing but sometimes potty training triplets has some nasty side effects.  In any case, I'm sure I'm not alone in the overuse of the "NO", especially as summer marches on and the kids seem ever more committed to push us to our limits.  But, with just a few weeks left, I'm doing my best to practice what parenting experts have been preaching for ages and turn these negatives into positives.  As in "Outside would be a great place to run if you want to!"  or "If you feel like biting, here's an apple!" (This is a great way to work in that aforementioned healthy snack!) and "That's great, I'm so glad you didn't poop in your pants!  Next time let's try to make it to the potty though, ok?"
  3. Have fun. I literally wrote this down on our family calendar.  I also wrote down the bedtime reminders, snacking rules and a prompt to locate and read the library books that have gone MIA.  That said, summer isn't over yet and I'm all for sneaking in a few more ice pops, offering lemonade instead of milk with dinner and milking every ounce of enjoyment we can out of the summer of 2011 before it becomes a fond memory.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I learned on my summer vacation

We just got back from a week on the Cape.  A lovely, sunny, laid back, relaxing week where we did little more than hit the beach and then hit our beds shortly thereafter.  It was awesome.  As you might have noticed if you're a regular reader, I totally unplugged.  I took my own advice and although it was tough the first few days, by mid-week I was blissfully free of my usual blogging, tweeting, and checking in (and checking people out!) on facebook. 

Now it's back to reality.  It's not yet dinnertime and I've unpacked everything, done about five loads of laundry and reorganized the basement; the basement really wasn't on the agenda for the day but, since I spent so much time down there with the laundry, I just couldn't stand tripping over the bins of hand-me-downs and had to do something about it.  As I reached the height of my organizational frenzy, Liam wandered down and asked me to play with him.  When I said I was busy, he whined "But Mom, why don't you ever play with me at home?!"  Which made me realize that I learned a lot over the course of our week away and first day home.

  1. My kids like to play with me.  And I like to play with them too.  And I really need to do it more often, not just when we're on vacation.  While we were away, I made sand castles, went on walks (without my phone!), and totally tuned in to the five tots that I'm too often tuning out.  It's so easy to use the "busy" excuse but it's amazing how appreciative they are when I slow down, pay attention and really focus on these amazing little people we're so blessed to have.  There was one night when Ciara just wanted me to sit and snuggle and watch Peter Pan.  And I did.  And she was thrilled.  And so was I.  Let's face it, pretty much any kid activity (sand castles, coloring, bubbles, reading, you name it) is going to be more fun that whatever usually keeps me so busy (laundry, dishes, frantic organizing, email, etc!).  That's why I am going to try harder to actually play with my kids -- and ideally, do so with undivided attention as I keep my phone and email at bay!
  2. I need at least eight hours of sleep. While we were away we were routinely in bed by ten or eleven o'clock and slept until the first tot toddled in -- usually between 7:30 and 8:30.  That's a LOT more sleep than the five or six hours I typically get and I have to say, I think I was more pleasant as result!  Of course, the blue skies, beautiful beaches and call of the ocean always perk me up but, I can honestly say that I drank less coffee, awoke less cranky and felt a whole lot better with a few extra hours of shut-eye.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to maintain the eight-hour average as the responsibilities of home and work kick back into high gear but I'm going to try!
  3. I like my husband.  A lot.  So often we just go through the motions, the "I love you" routinely muttered before we roll over and sack out, exhausted from the constant action here in the Lyons Den.  Vacation was, and always is, a great reminder that this guy I too often bombard with "to-dos" and "why didn't yous" is a great guy.  A guy I once swooned over and thought "this will be the father of my children."  A guy who is a great dad, who always knows the value of playtime and who has always encouraged me to get more sleep.  This is a guy worth listening to more often, who deserves more of my undivided attention and who proved once again while we were away that we make a great team.
It's not easy to load up five kids for a six hour ride, to load up three pack and plays and all our gear.  But, it's well worth it.  I learned more about my kids, my husband and myself in a week away than I do in a few months at home.  Just a simple break in the routine is all takes to bring us all closer together.  I'm going try hard to hold onto this loving feeling but know it's likely to fade, as it always does when the stress of our daily lives inevitably mounts.  When it does, I'm going to reread this post, take a look at this picture and remind myself of just how lucky I am.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Take time to unplug

This week's tip comes a day early and I'm going to keep it short and sweet.  On the heels of last week's post about the many minor milestones of childhood, it occurred to me again how quickly the time passes.  It's amazing that in a matter of months, the newborn that was attached to your breast is suddenly nibbling on a grilled cheese.  Or that the one year old taking those tentative first steps is suddenly bolting down the street, full steam ahead. 

Full steam ahead.  That's the way our life flies by.  The days are often a blur of routine and accumulated exhaustion.  Our lives end up on a constant cycle of wash, rinse, repeat.  We do our best to savor the small moments, the everyday victories but too often, they pass us by in the controlled chaos that has become routine.  

This week, we're taking a break.  Some time off. It's been delicious so far, in more ways than one.  There were cupcakes for breakfast and sandy hands at lunch.  While I couldn't escape doing a bit of laundry, I resisted making the beds (no small feat for my control freak self!) and relished making sand castles.  There was an outdoor shower at the beach that may or may not have removed all the sunscreen, sand and salt water.  And that's ok.  

This week is for savoring our time together, for rediscovering the joy in our children and in our lives.  This week is for unplugging.  For taking a collective time out.  For letting email pile up and perhaps even the dishes too.  This week is for realizing just how lucky we are and appreciating the time we have together.  For this week, like life in general, is sure to fly by far too fast and I for one, want to enjoy every moment. 

That's why I'm going to be the first to follow this Tuesday Tip as I unplug, unwind and as the great song goes "love the ones I'm with!"   Be back next week, hopefully relaxed, recharged and ready to jump back into our fast-paced, full steam ahead lives.