Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Tip: A plan for tiny Santa Skeptics

Tiny Believers in Santa
As a mom of many, keeping the mystique of Santa alive and well is a priority for me this Christmas season.  My oldest turns seven today (stay tuned for some thoughts on how those years flew by so quickly!), the next in line is five and the three little fellas pictured above are now three years old.  They all have a healthy curiosity about pretty much everything and, while the bigger two can be skeptical at times, they more often than not believe what I tell them -- especially as it relates to the things they want to believe in, like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and, of course Santa Claus.

Keeping the magic alive gets harder when the grammar school years arrive.  If your kid isn't a skeptic, they will meet a kid on the bus or playground or classroom who will tell them that "Santa isn't real" or "only babies believe in Santa."  When your wee one comes home with this news, it will break your heart.  Here are a few tips to get (or keep) things back on track -- to keep the faith in Santa this year and hopefully, for many more to come!

  1. Santa has a LOT of helpers.  Once they hit a certain age (somewhere between three and six for my little clan of elves), kids will start to question how Santa can be at the mall AND the Christmas tree lot AND on every street corner ringing a bell AND on TV.  This tricky line of toddler interrogation can be easily navigated by introducing the notion of Santa's helpers.  I mean really, how is ONE guy supposed to make and deliver all those toys? Read all those letters?  Pose for all those pictures?  It's just not possible.  Santa has been in business for ages and, like any good businessman, has learned the fine art of delegation.  All those pseudo-Santas roaming the streets are his A-team, the front line, the guys who assist him as he makes his list and checks it twice.  Given how literal kids of this age can be, they seem to accept that Santa needs helpers.  And, may even understand that not all helpers can grow a good beard, which is why some of them are saggy!
  2. If disbelief continues after the conversation about Santa's Helpers, it's time to talk about believing... as in, "if you believe in Santa, he will bring you gifts and if you don't, he won't." It sounds harsh but it's simple and straight-forward; it's also remarkably effective because the fear of waking up on Christmas with no gifts under the tree is enough to spur most skeptical tykes into at least a modicum of belief... and that's all it takes for the magic of Santa to seep back into a doubting heart.
  3. Show that you believe in Santa too.  Write him a letter. Talk about what kind of cookies you liked to leave him when you were a kid. Share the story about the time you tried so hard to stay up all night to see him, only to nod off just as you were sure you heard reindeer on the roof.  Kids thrive on these tales... and, they are fun to share.  In fact, sharing them could just be a new family tradition that could be as magical as Santa himself.
Truth be told, there's a small part of me that still believes... not necessarily in a guy with a white beard and a red suit but, in the magic of Christmas, the joy of the season, and the gift of sharing old traditions while creating new ones... like leaving half-eaten carrots on the front porch to convince any would-be naysayers that not only did Santa come and nibble on a few cookies on Christmas Eve but, his reindeer enjoyed a snack as well! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving, getting and giving thanks

We had a great Thanksgiving.  It was the rare event when two families collided (mine and my husband's) in a truly harmonious manner.  My parents were kind enough to host us ALL... the seven residents of the "Lyons Den"(eight if you count Finnegan, our 90-lb. lab!), my sister with her husband, toddler and newborn, my brother with his girlfriend, my grandparents and my two sister-in-laws with their families.  It had all the ingredients for the fireworks of family events past but, this year, the sparks weren't flying.  We've been through a lot in the past few years and I think we all had a new-found appreciation for how lucky we are, how important family is and how essential it is to pause and give thanks.

In the afterglow of our spectacular feast, the ultimate buzz kill was the omnipresent urges to "Buy now!", "Save 40%!", "Start early!"  I've never been a big fan of Black Friday.  In fact, the idea of spending a gorgeous fall day in a mall goes against my every grain; I'd much rather play outside with the kids, walk the dog or go for a run or family adventure.  Malls in general are just not my thing.  I suppose that's why I do a lot of online shopping but even so, I can't get caught up in the Cyber Monday hype for a few reasons.  For starters, I have a job to do and it doesn't include the free time to make my list, check it twice and check out numerous online retailers offering their deal of the day.  When the work day is done, the job that matters most begins -- tomorrow night I will be making dinner, reading stories, folding laundry, and wrapping birthday presents for my little fella who turns seven on Tuesday.

As much as I enjoy a good deal, I just don't have the time (or money!) to participate in shopping as a sport.  And, being a bit of an idealist (in case you hadn't noticed!), I'd rather focus on the "Thanks" and the "Giving" for the entire holiday season rather than on just one Thursday.  The notion of "giving" seems to have been replaced by the ambition of "getting" -- getting a deal, getting more, getting up early for the super-saver discounts, getting, getting, getting.  

I admit it, I love to get as much as I live to give.  I love finding the perfect gift for my sister, my mom, my husband, my kids.  But, as Thanksgiving demonstrated once again, sometimes the best gift of all is time spent together.  And that's something I'm going to put on my list this holiday season. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Teaching Gratitude to Tykes

 It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again.  The “holiday season” has arrived. It snuck in under the cover of darkness, taking over radio stations with “holiday classics” and replacing pumpkin-strewn windows with twinkly lights and mistletoe.  It seems to me that we have a retail-driven tendency to fast forward through the month of November in favor of the merriment and frenzied consumption of December. 

The problem (in my humble opinion) is that we gloss over one of the days that matters most.  A day that isn’t mired in trick or treating or gift-giving or even religious obligation but rather, a day that is all about gratitude.  About giving thanks. About taking a moment to pause with family and friends and reflect upon all we have to be grateful for.  As a parent, it’s tough to hit the pause button between Halloween and Christmas and teach our kids to truly give thanks on Thanksgiving.  It’s far too easy to get caught up in the Black Friday mania, in making a list and checking it twice, in the cookie-baking, Christmas-card making and general shopping-centric hysteria of the season. 

My hope is that I -- that we -- don’t get too caught up in it all.  That I find a way to impress upon our five kids just how lucky we are.  A recent poll of the Lyons Den would suggest I still have work to do.  Upon asking one of our three-year old triplets what we celebrate on Thursday and why it’s important, he replied enthusiastically “Chicken!”  Yep, it would appear I have a LOT of work to do with that one!

Liam and Ciara, now in kindergarten and second grade had better answers.  One said “On Thanksgiving it’s important to be thankful for our family,” and the other noted “Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for the roof over our head and food on our plate.”  As lovely as these answers are, they sounded fairly well rehearsed; while I am grateful our local grammar school is doing such a good job instilling these lessons, I think we can do even better as a family.

I don’t actually have a set of prescriptive tips for teaching gratitude at home; if I did, I’m pretty sure that one little fella wouldn’t have mentioned chicken.  Although, who knows, the kid is a huge fan of chicken nuggets so perhaps he has coined his own unique way of giving thanks.  As for the rest of them, I think the best we can do is lead by example. To show gratitude each and every day. To express how we are feeling in clear, simple terms the kids can understand.  To let them know how eternally grateful we are for healthy happy children, a supportive family, amazing friends, rewarding jobs and yes, of course, the roof over our head and the food on our plates. 

In addition to talking about gratitude throughout the year (not just on the third Thursday of November), there are a few other things I think go a long way toward helping our children realize just how fortunate we are.  We can donate toys and clothes to the needy; bake brownies for a local shelter; make cards for nursing home residents.  These are all things we can do now and I hope to do before Santa comes down our chimney.

When our kids are older, I hope to volunteer in a soup kitchen as a family; to deliver food to the sick and elderly as a family.  If we start now, while they’re young, they just might think it’s cool to spend a day with Mom and Dad helping those who really need it.  As for me, I will always be grateful for the time we spend together as a family -- for those days are truly the best days of my life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A (working) mom's quest for sleep

This week I spent two nights away from home for business.  I only travel occasionally for work so, on the rare occasions I do, it's a bit of a respite.  The preparation is brutal - leaving five kids, a dog and a sweet, tired husband behind for 48 hours is no easy task.  There are meals to be planned, playdates to be confirmed, backpack notes to be written and lists to be made.  But, when all is done and I find myself at 30,000 feet, I have to admit, it's kind of nice to get away.  And the number one reason why is SLEEP.  Hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The way I see it, I've been sleep deprived since I first found out I was pregnant in March 2004.  Back then I couldn't sleep because my (extremely small, in fact, completely flat-chested!) boobs hurt.  A habitual stomach-sleeper, I was in total agony and truly stunned that at just a few weeks preggo, I was being robbed of one of my favorite pastimes.  Sleep.  As weeks turned to months, my formerly peaceful slumber was routinely interrupted by trips to the bathroom and extreme discomfort -- between my sore boobs, full bladder and swollen belly, there was no rest for the weary.  And that, of course, was just the beginning.

Having Liam really threw me for a loop.  I'm not a night owl; I'm a morning person.  Liam was the opposite.  Like many newborns, he had his days and nights mixed up... and before I knew it, I did too.  I was a basket case, a walking zombie.  And it only got worse when Ciara was born.  I remember one morning, I went to pick up the dry cleaning and they asked for my phone number.  I stood there, racking my brain, searching in the deepest corners of my mind and could not for the life of me remember my phone number.  When I finally blurted something out, I had to rescind it as I proclaimed with embarrassment, "Oh wait, that's my friend Steph's number!"  

Then came the triplets. Believe me when I tell you, sleep is elusive when you have three babies growing in your belly and a one and three year old still routinely howling in the middle of the night.  As my belly grew bigger, the nights grew longer.  I would wait for sunrise, only to nod off as Liam and Ciara, active toddlers at the time, started clamoring for breakfast.  Perhaps not surprisingly, when the triplets were born, it only got worse.  We were feeding three babies every three hours around the clock while doing our best to provide Liam and Ciara with three square meals a day.  I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that I didn't get more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a pop for at least three months.

That was three years ago.  Now the triplets are three, Ciara just turned five and Liam is on the verge of turning seven.  They are great kids.  They are great sleepers. But they are still kids.  And there are five of them.  The odds of at least two waking up in the night because "I have to pee," "I lost my WaWa," "My tummy hurts," "I'm thirsty," or "I had a bad dream." is about 100%.  This is why my husband and I now play a little game in the middle of the night.  A little game called "Playing Dead." We are both wide awake, listening to the cries, the sniffles, the coughing, the whining, whatever it may be.  And we lie very very still.  Pretending to sleep.  Keeping our breath shallow and low.  Hoping, praying, yearning for the other one to get up and tend to the tots.  Is this wrong?  This game of Playing Dead? I don't know.  I suspect there are other overtired parents out there who play dead too.  Because they are tired.  Really, really tired.  And that is why, every once in a while, it is really nice to travel for work.  Because I don't need to play dead in the middle of the night.  I am dead. Dead asleep! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Age appropriate chores for tots six and under

Last week my six year old, Liam, asked me what happened to his allowance... which prompted me to ask him what happened to making his bed and putting his dirty laundry in the basket!  In our house, an allowance has to be earned and, while our savvy six-year old is slowly but surely beginning to understand that if he wants a new Hexbug or more baseball cards, he needs to save up for them, everyone in our house understands the need to pitch in and pick up.  

I'm a strong believer that it's never too early to teach good habits and put the peanuts to work.  I suppose it's the way I was raised.  I remember making my bed every day before school and washing the dishes every night after dinner... yep, I'm that old.  We didn't even have a dishwasher.  Well, I suppose we did; it was me. In any case, I know I moaned and groaned about doing my chores just as my kids do today and generations of kids did long before me.  But, I think there's great merit to teaching kids to making a contribution in the home, now matter how small. I'd like to think that by creating responsible citizens here in the Lyons Den, I'm creating a mindset that will lead them on to be good world citizens, good corporate citizens and one day, instill the same morals and work ethic in their own offspring.  Gee, that sounds pretty grand for making a bed, doesn't it?!  

Keeping in mind that our triplets just turned three, Ciara just turned five and Liam is on the brink of seven, here are a few of their routine chores... that frankly, if they would do more routinely, they would get that allowance after all!
  • Put dirty laundry in the hamper; this is one all five are capable of but, since I still pick up my husband's dirty socks, well, let's just say it's a work in progress!
  • Set the table.While it wouldn't meet with the Miss Manners rules of etiquette, it gets done.  I may eat dinner with a cake fork and they might scoop it up with a soup spoon but still, it gets done!
  • Clear the table. Liam and Ciara scrape their plates and put them in the dishwasher and the three little ones just put plates on the counter... typically dropping a few scraps for the (very happy) dog along the way!
  • Make the bed.  The triplets are still in cribs (and I fear the day they get out) but Liam and Ciara are perfectly capable of making their beds... granted, not the way I would make them (even my husband struggles with the "hospital corners" that I was taught) but, they can pull up sheets, toss on the comforter and pile on the stuffed animals.  And that's good enough for now.  As an FYI, this doesn't typically happen in the Monday-Friday morning on mayhem but on weekends, it's a requirement. 
  • "Carry in, Carry out."  The National Parks made it famous and I've made it my own.  This simple rule can relate to bookshelves, toy chests, the art box, the backyard, the front porch and even the mini-van.  You carry it in, you carry it out.  Or put another way, you take it out, you put it away... Legos, puzzles, Candy Land, Lite Brite, you name it.  All five kids understand this one.  It requires daily reminders but it's well worth the effort.  Even though there's almost always an errant Lego or Matchbox car that ends up under my bare foot eliciting a primal howl of pain, it still beats playing 52 pick up by myself late at night!
Beyond these basics, they also like to help with yard work which, depending on the season, may include watering plants, raking leaves or shoveling.  They aspire to help with laundry but for now seem to get more of a kick from playing in the laundry baskets.  They would love to "help" in the kitchen and when time permits, I let them... they can quickly unload a bag of groceries and Liam and Ciara have even been known to crack an egg now and again -- a source of great pride for them.  Which, at the end of the day, is another great lesson to be learned from a few simple chores -- taking pride in the work that you do, no matter how big or small.  And, if you can earn a few bucks doing it, well then that's all the better!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Traveling abroad with kids? Learn from our mistakes!

I recently had lunch with a friend who I last saw before our trip to Ireland.  She wanted to know how it was.  She really wanted to know how it was… not just the glorious green scenery and fabulous family time but the nitty gritty of how we managed to fly overseas and spend ten days in a hotel with five children aged six and under.  And so I told her.  It was HARD!

It was much harder and much more expensive than we anticipated. The logistics of navigating a city – not just Dublin, but any city – with two strollers and five jet-legged kids (not to mention two exhausted parents with short tempers!) was hard. She asked me how Liam, our six-year old, held up while the other four were pushed in strollers.  She assumed we had brought two double strollers with us which, if I had to do it all over again, I would.  But, we didn’t. We had a double and a single stroller, which enabled our trio of two-year olds to ride like kings and left our four and six year old whining, moaning and groaning in our wake. 

In sharing our adventures with my friend, I suddenly recalled a dark moment my mind must have blocked out:  the image of our four year old melting into the worst sort of “MY LEGS WON’T GO, I’M TOO TIRED” tantrum as the doors of Dublin looked down on us and the rains of Ireland fell upon us. 

We were at least a mile away from our hotel with no cab in sight and darkness moving in – in every sense of the word. The solution required our typical all hands on deck approach --  I pushed the double stroller, we put our overtired six year old in charge of the single stroller and my husband put our tired and tormented daughter on his shoulders as the rain poured down and the triplets cried “Rain on me!  Wanna go home NOW!” 

It was ugly.  It was about as far from a Kodak moment as you could possibly get. That said, we did have plenty of true Kodak moments that I will forever cherish and I learned a few things for the next time... if there is a next time!

1.     Rent an apartment; don’t stay in a hotel.  Aside from the cramped quarters, the downside of the hotel was, well, breakfast, lunch and dinner – all of which had to be consumed in a restaurant or the hotel lobby.  Neither is a great option with a jet-lagged clan of tots and, it gets very pricey very quickly. While the upside of a hotel is someone who makes your bed in the morning, there’s another significant downside: no washer and no dryer.  Let’s just say that with a trio of potty-training tots, one really needs to be able to do laundry!  So, the next time, the Lyons Den will be staying in a short –term rental with kitchen and laundry included!
2.     Kids under five needs strollers.  Heck, kids over five might even need strollers if your sight-seeing plans are as aggressive as ours! We literally covered miles each day.  My legs were tired.  In retrospect, it’s really no surprise that our four and six year old were exhausted and miserable… and really, when one thinks of a vacation, “exhausted and miserable” shouldn’t be the descriptors!  Poor kids!  Next time, strollers all around!
3.     Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  We tend to cram a lot in a day.  Sometimes it’s a fact of life with five kids.  Sometimes it’s just plain foolish.  We were looking at pictures from our trip the other night  and as we reminisced about the National History Museum, double decker bus tour and Guinness factory, we realized we had done it ALL in ONE day!  Now that is just plain crazy with five small tots in tow! No wonder they were exhausted and miserable… not mention, wet – from both the rain and the potty-training setbacks! I think “less is more” will be my approach for our next family adventure, wherever that may be.

In the meantime, I'm working on an album with hundreds of smiling Kodak moments that will forever be a reminder of our trip... it may not have been a typical vacation but it was still a pretty stellar trip!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Be Nice to your Husband

Sometimes I struggle to come up with a meaningful tip to share.  Sometimes I feel out of tips and like I could use a few myself.  Sometimes I'm so tired or so overwhelmed with work that I'm not tuned in to the tots around me to take in the daily observations that turn into weekly tips.  This is one of those times.  As I sat here wondering what to write, I turned to my husband and said "Hey hon, help!  I need a tip!" And he responded in jest "Always be nice to your husband."  He meant it as a joke but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is perhaps one of the best tips of all.

Be nice to your husband.  It sounds so simple and yet it's not always easy to do.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm routinely or deliberately not nice to my husband but, I'll be the first to admit that I could be a whole lot nicer.  I don't think I'm alone in confessing that when the going gets tough, the fella to whom I said "I do" can sometimes be made to feel like a great big "I don't."  Not in a I don't love you type of a way but, in a I don't have time for you, I don't have energy for you, I can hardly even muster up a smile for you and I at would rather fall into bed (by myself!) than talk to you. Now that's not good, is it?!  This is not at all what we envision when we stand at the end of the aisle waiting for our fairy tale to begin.

The reality, as we all know, is that a good marriage takes work.  And, raising kids is hard work.  And, with two working parents... well, it can lead to all work and no play. So a part of this week's tip is to make time to play -- not just with your kids but with your husband too.  An official playdate.  What the hell, make it an official date.  And try to do it frequently.  Like many couples, we have an ebb and flow, a feast or famine approach to finding time for each other; when we sense that famine approaching, we're quick to make amends and find some quality time together that isn't focused on paying bills, yard work, scheduling or meal planning.  And yes, my guy helps with all of that stuff, which is yet another reason why I should always be nice to him!

It sounds corny (and ok, I guess it IS corny), but knowing how hard (and expensive!) it can be to find a sitter and how precious our time together is, we've been known to squeeze in some quality time and a good laugh in the most unexpected ways -- for instance, there was the mid-day, mid-week trip to Costco, where simply tackling this dreaded chore together and sans kids made it more fun.  There are the nights we tuck the tots in early and try out a new recipe together -- something that was routine when we were dating and reminds us of those carefree days.  Once in a while, we pull out our old photo albums and a bottle of wine... just looking back at the fun we had and adventures we shared is a great way to ease the tension of the daily pressures we have today.

I suppose being nice is about much more than date nights and quality time though.  It's about thoughtfulness and caring.  I hate to admit it but in our house, my husband often comes last.  When I come home from work in a tizzy and get tackled by five crazy kids (and one 90 pound dog!), I sometimes forget the guy who made them and the amazing life we lead all possible.  The guy who is my rock.  Who reminds me not to sweat the small stuff.  Who makes me laugh.  Who makes me dinner!  This is a guy who deserves the best of me, not the leftovers.  So, with this in mind, I hope to live into this week's tip for many weeks, months and years to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Halloween Hangover

I don’t know about you, but this week was a rough one in the Lyons Den and I attribute a lot of it to what I’m coining the “Halloween Hangover.”  It’s not pretty.  It can be scary.  It is the aftermath of the sugar-induced carnage we call Halloween… ironically enough, the Catholic Church recognizes November 1st as All Saints Day but inside our humble abode, our offspring have turned to demons.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween.  I definitely liked it as a kid… except for the year that my Mom decided I should be a “Jar of Jellybeans.”  How?  By putting one of those plastic dry-cleaning bags over my head and filling it up with balloons.  Today, she’d probably end up in jail for such a thing; back then, the greatest offense was that I literally popped on the way to school, had to walk home full of deflated balloons and then was sent back as Miss New Jersey – a title that was never exactly aspirational and was next to impossible to pull off as a fifth grader with glasses and a retainer.  But I digress…

Halloween is a big deal in our town.  A very big deal.  There are jack-o-lanterns aplenty and a big parade; it almost feels like Christmas except that the lights are orange and Santa has been replaced with the fire department handing out treats.  There’s a lot of pressure – pressure to create your own personal haunted house, to turn out tasty Halloween treats and to come up with crafty, creative costume ideas.  None of these are my strong points.  In fact, given that our family has four birthdays (five if you count the dog!) and our wedding anniversary between October 5th and 12th, I really don’t have the mental energy to consider Halloween until the week before.

That’s why this year, the kids wore musty old costumes from the basement and once again, our amazing neighbors came to the rescue and affixed an eight foot spider to our roof.  This is true; we came home from grocery shopping last Saturday and there it was.  And there is still is.  And there it forever may be.  Because much like the weeks before Halloween, the weeks after don’t provide much of a respite from the treadmill we call life and I have to prioritize…. Plan Liam’s 7th birthday party or remove that spider? Do another load of laundry or remove that spider?  You see where I’m going right?  That spider just might be wearing a wreath, some holly and twinkly white lights before long.

As for the kids, Halloween reckoned them unrecognizable.  And not just because it was hard to tell the triplets apart when they abandoned our color-coding scheme and went all Spiderman, Blues Clues, and Fuzzy Lion on us but, because they literally went so coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs -- or, more accurately stated, for Reese’s, Hershey’s, M&Ms and Starburst -- there wasn’t a trace of the sweet children I know and love.  The sweets they consumed turned them sour and their sugar-fueled antics turned me into the Wicked Witch of the West.  No costume required. 

In the past few days, it’s been impossible to drag them out of bed; they have one track, candy-focused minds; they have opted out of all our family rules and let’s just say that I’m the one left cleaning up the mess that all that sugar has wreaked on their delicate little digestive systems.

I really think they have Halloween Hangovers and sadly, they haven’t had the time to sleep it off. I’m hoping that this weekend will provide the ample rest and sugar detox they all need; until this passes, I will do my best to channel my inner Glenda the Good Witch… and I know that my kids will be as happy to sing “ding dong the witch is dead” as I am!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Surviving the annual physical

In the past two weeks, I've taken four of our five kids for their annual physicals; our daughter Ciara turned five four days before the triplets turned three.  How's that for funky math and a stunning family statistic?!

The month of October is always a hectic one for us and the flurry of physicals can be challenging not only in terms of scheduling logistics (we send the poor pediatrician's office into a tailspin this time each year!) but also in terms of managing the kids, their expectations and their fears.  Here are some of our tactics for tackling the annual trek to the doctor... and the many visits that will surely come in-between...

1.  Be honest.  Even when our kids were newborns, I'd talk to them and let them know what to expect.  They may have been only months old and not had a clue what I was saying but I'd like to think that mama's words are soothing, whether they are understood or not. These days, my kids are old enough to understand what's going on and I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- shots hurt!  But, they don't hurt for long and they are followed by a trip to the treasure chest... not to mention the added perk of a flu-free winter and freedom from a host of nasty diseases.  This is what I tell them.  It is simple and it is true.  Kids like things to be simple and true.  

2.  Be prepared.   I'm not sure if this is sanctioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics or not, but I have a dim recollection of giving our newborns Tylenol as a preemptive strike against the potential nasty side effects of shots. While this may not be recommended, it certainly can't hurt... well, I don't think it can... you may want to check with your pediatrician on that!  Something that certainly won't hurt and most definitely will help is to bring a few of your tot's favorite things to the annual exam -- a blankie, a stuffed animal, a lovey, anything that provides comfort.  Put it in your bag.  You should also be sure to include a bottle or sippy cup since these are sure ways to soothe small sobbing souls. A favorite book can be a good distraction and favorite toy can be a great way to turn their frowns upside down. A few other reminders:  bring diapers, wipes, a change of clothes and all your usual basics.  I once fled the doctor's office with a kid in a pumpkin costume (it was October!) and nothing else; don't let this happen to you! 

3.  Be Proud.  You survived another year of motherhood.  As you note the milestones -- the pounds gained, inches grown, head circumference charting just right, the transition from breast to bottle, from bottle to sippy cup, from crawling to walking, from cooing to talking -- take a moment to consider all YOU have accomplished in the weeks, months, years that have gone by far too fast.  Give yourself a great big hug, a pat on the back, a glass of wine (not 'til you get home though!), whatever makes you feel good.  Because really, raising kids is hard work and the annual physical is as good a time as any to celebrate not only your children's growth, but yours as well.  You did it.  They did it.  And another year will fly by before you know it so, you might as well take a moment to relish in the joy and wonder of it all now.