Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Taming the "witching hour" (a.k.a Surviving Dinnertime with tots)

According to Wikipedia, the witching hour is "the time of day when supernatural creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful."  If you ask me,  it's the window between 5:30 and 6:30pm when our darling children turn into whining witches and demanding demons -- just as any power I have left is officially waning.  And, if you ask them, the kids will probably tell you that when I get home from work, I can be the biggest, baddest witch of all.

It happens to all of us (or so I'd like to think, if only to make myself feel better!)... that time when late afternoon slips into early evening and the pressure mounts to slip something delicious and nutritious onto the table before the wee ones slip off to sleep.  It's a recipe for disaster -- and a really tough time to follow any recipe!  So, how do we handle it here in the Lyons Den?  Some days, better than others.  But on the good days, there are some common themes:
  • Feed the hungry beast. Or, in my case, beasts.  Today, after I changed out of my work clothes and into my comfy clothes, I discovered a few grabbing goblins sneakily snarfing fruit snacks.  This is a major no-no.  I started to shout.  "No! NO fruit snacks before dinner!"  And then I thought of the cute little pack of sweet peppers I'd picked up at Trader Joe's this weekend; faster than Glenda the Good Witch, I snatched the fruit snacks, chopped the peppers, and served them up with a smile.  The moral of the story: offer up a healthy snack to keep your hungry clan occupied while you whip up dinner.
  •  Keep it simple.  I like to cook (which is not to say I am a good cook!) but, weeknight dinners are no time for experimentation.  Stick to the basics and keep the fancy stuff for weekends.  Tonight's dinner plan?  Hot dogs, turkey burgers, corn on the cob and homemade cole slaw, followed by donut peaches for dessert.  Simple, summery and quick. Bye bye goblins and ghouls; hello happy campers! 
  • TV is your friend.  Well, more accurately put, the TV is the kids' friend and your sanity saver when used judiciously!  Take today, for example.  It was 93 degrees and humid when I got home from work.  A game of wiffle ball in the backyard was taking a turn for the worse as the plastic bat was thrown across the yard and our trio of three-year olds started swinging aluminum.  Talk about a recipe for disaster!  Once again, I started to yell, and then I remembered the magic box inside the house -- the one that enchants and yes, one might even say bewitches our brood, bringing quiet and calm to our otherwise raucous and rowdy bunch.  After a half hour of The Smurfs, calm was restored, dinner was ready and the witching hour was over... until a new day begins, a day I hope to keep my patience, tame my inner witch and if all else fails, turn to Papa Smurf to be my savior once again!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Parenting lessons from Jimmy Buffet

Sometimes it’s hard to resist admiring our brood in an admittedly annoying and self-congratulatory way. “They really are GOOD kids,” my husband and I tell each other with more than a hint of self-accomplishment.  And then, just as we start to get a bit too smug, we have a Saturday when we’re all screaming before breakfast followed by a Sunday that has us praying for Monday so we can get back to work and away from our evil spawn!

OMG, did I just call our dear children "evil spawn"?  Well, please forgive me but, last weekend, it really was that bad.  Ask the neighbors.  They will tell you.  They heard it all.  All of the screaming, yelling, crying and whining.  They were also witnesses when I packed up the car Sunday morning and said, “That’s it, we’re outta here!  We have to get OUT OF THIS HOUSE before someone gets hurt!”  Such is a lesson I’ve learned time and again.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  Going outside, that is.

Jimmy Buffet might have put it best when he sang, “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.”  For most parents in the throes of toddler tantrums and general kid rebellion, a change in latitude isn’t necessary but a change in environment will do wonders.  Head to the park, the beach, the aquarium, the pool, the zoo.  If those seem too ambitious a plan, go for a walk around the block.  Really.  A simple change of scenery provides enough of a distraction for heated tempers to cool down.  The world outside is a wondrous place.  There are flowers to smell, birds to watch, clouds that double as creatures and creatures that I might pass by but the kids can’t help but notice… ants, spiders, even squirrels are fodder for the musings of little minds.

Getting out – near or far – opens your eyes and theirs to the world around you.  It’s a neat fix for the flaring tempers that occasionally erupt in all of our homes.  And, I suppose, when all else fails, Jimmy Buffet offers another solution… a little elixir called Margaritaville.  Maybe we’ll try that one next weekend…

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Kids need downtime too!

I've written a lot this summer about creating and following rules and aspiring to raise children who are self sufficient.  Even so, I feel like we've been battling more, I've been nagging more and honestly, that the kids are just driving me crazy!  

Truth be told, we've all been struggling with the rules; the challenge for the kids, of course, has been following them and the challenge for us as parents has been enforcing them. It's not easy to threaten "no ice cream" or "no TV" when I would love some ice cream myself and relish the peace and quiet our kids occasional TV time provides for me!

A little TV can be some quality downtime - for kids & parents!
Why oh why has this summer been so hard?  I think, perhaps, we are ALL hot and bothered.  And tired.  Really tired.  Why?  Well, let's consider what tomorrow will bring... the triplets (now 3 1/2 years old) will walk all over town -- to the library, the park, a friend's house and home again in ninety degree heat.  Our two older kids, now seven and five, will start their day at 7:00, be hustled out the door at 7:45 and find themselves in a pool for swim team practice at 8:00.  At 8:45, they will be dragged out to quickly change clothes before being delivered to day camp, where it is really big, much anticipated day; they are headed to Rye Playland, for some fun in the hot sweltering sun until they are brought back to camp for 3:00 pickup... which gives them just about an hour for a snack, changing clothes again and piling into the car to get to a swim meet which will last from roughly 5:00-7:30.  I am tired just thinking about it.  And I am 40, not under 10.  And, I will spend the bulk of my day working in air conditioning while they are out in the heat and humidity!

So, why can't they follow the rules?  Why are we so often at our wits end, yelling and nagging?  Perhaps because our kids are exhausted.  And whose fault is that?  Mine.  Mine for succumbing to the barrage of "What are you doing this summer?" questions that started before the snow even melted.  Well, ok, this year we didn't have much snow but, you get the idea! 

Society, it seems, has decided that those hazy, lazy days of summer I recall so clearly and fondly -- days I spent reading books in a tree (for real!), swimming with friends, or simply lazing about -- are for the weak. Or unambitious.  Not true.  Not true at all and, shame on me for not realizing it sooner!

Our local day camp ends in early August.  The whole town is abuzz with making plans, filling days and structuring every moment for our children.  Not me. Not this time.  For August, at least, I'm going to let my kids be kids.  I'm going to try to take a few days off of  work to just be with them.  Not "do", but "be" -- relax, see where the day takes us, be content if it takes us nowhere at all.  This "being" vs. "doing" does not come naturally to me but, I think it's worth a try.  And, while it may or may not improve the general respect for rules around here, I'm pretty sure it will dispense with some of the nagging and yelling and hopefully, ensure that we're all far less hot, bothered and tired when the school year begins once more. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Establishing (and keeping!) ground rules for kids

School’s out for summer and there has been an unauthorized, not so subtle shift of power here in the Lyons Den.  In the blink of an eye and a few hot, muggy days, the kids seem to be ruling the roost and I don't like it. Not one little bit.

There are shoes strewn across the living room, clothes all over the bedrooms, popsicle sticks on the porch and lollipop sticks on the dining room rug.  On the rug!  To make things worse, my demands to pick up and clean up either fall upon deaf ears or are met with some combination of "No.", "Not now Mom!" or perhaps most infuriatingly, "What?  What Mom? WHAT? Did you say something?"

Well kids, yes, I have something to say: I hope you enjoyed your brief reign of power because it is over. Over!  And how, you might wonder, do I plan to reign them in?  By putting them to work for me. By having them think about, articulate, write and enforce our house rules. That's my plan and here they are:  

To begin, I had a quiet, one on one meeting with our seven year old, the leader of the pack.  I had a few things in mind. For starters, I know I'm always more prone to remember things if I write them down so, I had him jot down our family rules after a nice, calm discussion about why they are so important to the happy, healthy functioning of our household.  And, knowing that our little ones think he walks on air (and, in fairness, they've been playing a really great ongoing game of "school" where he is the teacher), I decided that he would be the one to present the rules to rest of the kids. Truth be told, we did it together to ensure there wasn't an uprising and, it's really too soon to tell if this approach is working but I have to say, we're off to a good start.  I didn't trip over any wayward shoes or misplaced toys as I settled in to write this and that, my friends, is progress.  Should you wish to read the specifics of our rules or perhaps adopt a few as your own,please read on...
  • No jumping on beds:  Well, if you ask the kids to help write the rules, it's no wonder this is at the top of this list. They hear it a lot. Especially since our three-year old triplets recently made the move from cribs to beds and have been unofficially dubbed the "mattress monkeys."  For the record, it is "jumping" not "juping" but again, if you ask the kids to write the rules, you have to expect a few spelling errors! 
  • No balls in house:  Pretty self explanatory, right? This is another one they hear a lot and I'm hoping they finally start paying attention to!  
  • Be a good listener:  This is perhaps my #1 gripe.  They just don't listen.  But, in fairness, they pointed out that I'm not such a great listener myself. Looks like we’ll be working together to improve our listening skills for the rest of the summer. 
  • Put away your laundry.  They can do this.  At 3, 5 and 7 years old, they are well equipped to put their laundry in their drawers. It saves me time, gives them a sense of accomplishment and is good for all of us! 
  • Make your bed every day. See above. This is an age-appropriate task they can all tackle.  Especially since the triplets’ “beds” are actually crib mattresses on the floor.   
  • No yelling.  If you look closely, this might be read as “Mo” yelling but, that is most definitely not the intention. I suspect “no” yelling is going to be a tough one – especially since I was reminded that I am guilty of excessive yelling myself. One more area of improvement for all of us!
  • No hurting others (including feelings).  This was born from the premise that “hands are not for hitting”, “teeth are not for biting”, etc.  But, I applaud our little ones for recognizing that words can hurt too -- and that it’s important to consider and respect other people’s feelings.  Gee, it seems like maybe they are listening… sometimes, anyway!  
  • Eat your meals.  If your house is anything like ours, you’re familiar with the whole “am I finished yet?”/“do I have to eat that?” routine.  Our response is consistently “you are finished when your tummy is full and there is no food left on your plate” and “yes, you have to eat it. It’s what we’re serving for breakfast/lunch/dinner and there are no substitutes.” Which, I’m kind of glad to see translates to “eat your meals.” If I could add “without complaining”, I would but, beggars can’t be choosers! 
  • Put your dishes in the dishwasher.  Ok, they don’t load the dishwasher like I do but, let’s face it, NO ONE loads the dishwasher like I do. I have to remind myself of that and just be grateful they are clearing their places!
  •  Don’t ask for more.  This is apparently how they translated “be grateful for what you have.”  We talk a lot about gratitude – for the roof over heads, the food on our plate, our family, our friends and our health.  I hope that one day it sinks in a bit more deeply than “don’t ask for more” but for now, I’ll take it! 
  • Say your Ps and Qs.  Or, put another way, “please” and “thank yous.”  As in, “Kids, if you will please pay attention to these rules, I will listen more, yell less and promise to thank you for making your bed, putting the laundry away, loading the dishwasher and more importantly, treating each other and all you meet with kindness and respect."  

What are your house rules?  I'd love know -- especially since I know this is an imperfect and incomplete list... like most parts of parenting, setting (and sticking to!) the rules is a work in progress! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parenting lessons from a trip to the vet

Finnegan, our "rejected" Guiding Eyes for the Blind "glab" (part Golden/part Lab!)
It was a hot, HOT Friday.  The thermometer on the car read 105.  I returned from work to discover our dog with an oozing head wound.  The kids were hot and bothered.  So was the dog.  So was I.  The husband was nowhere to be found.  Apparently his golf game ran long.  I wasn’t sure if I should pity him for being out in the horrid heat or be pissed that he was somewhere, anywhere but home, leaving me to deal with four whining kids (thankfully one was on a playdate!) and one injured dog.

A quick consult with a neighbor and call to the vet confirmed my suspicions; our loving family pet Finn was in need of some medical attention.  So, while the sun beat down and the kids whined on, I loaded three 3-year olds, one five year old and one ninety pound dog into the minivan and over to the vet.

There we stayed for almost two hours.  TWO hours!  Admittedly, that is inclusive of transport time but still, I spent 5:30-7:30 Friday evening surrounded by furry things and clingy children rather than enjoying the cool glass of wine I had envisioned on the porch.  You know what though?  It actually wasn’t so bad.  In fact, it was kinda fun. 

I love furry things.  I love our kids.  And, I don’t often afford them the opportunity to be clingy.  I was totally surprised, as I often am, by the twists and turns of motherhood.  For a night that started out hot and bothered, it ended with the realization that these unexpected detours are often a good thing.  A very good thing.  Here’s why if it happened all over again, I just might choose the trip to the vet over that glass of wine…

  • The vet has air conditioning. Our porch does not.  For that matter, neither does our house.
  • There are dogs at the vet. I love dogs. My kids love dogs. My dog loves dogs. The vet is actually is fun for all!
  • There are cats, fish and a bird at the vet.  All provide ongoing entertainment for the kids and none will have a place in our home anytime soon; a visit to the vet is a great way for everyone to get their "fix" of other creatures - creatures that I am very fond of but just can't care for at the moment!
  • I get to brag about Finn at the vet. “What a beautiful dog,” they say. “And so good with kids! Where did you get him?”  This is a story I like to tell.  Finn is a reject from the Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  They “rejected” him at eight weeks, claiming he lacked confidence.  I’ve always thought he just didn’t want to work for a living.  He seems extremely confident when he jumps on our bed every morning! And, lounges on the couch, as pictured above!
  • Perhaps most significantly, I got to see and appreciate just how good my kids really are.  They ask before petting other people’s pets.  They listen when they are told to stop tapping on the fish tank or heckling the bird.  They want to know what the vet is doing. Why? Why? Why? They ask.  And as their questions are answered, I find that I learn something too… I learn once again how precious the time with our kids actually is and that there is delight to be found in even the most mundane of tasks – including taking the dog to the vet!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Moving your child from a crib to a bed

I'm pretty sure this picture was taken yesterday:

Newborn triplets: Kev, Dec and Mac snuggle up together

But, it wasn't.  As it turns out, this picture was taken over three and a half years ago, when Kevin, Declan and Cormac first came home from the hospital.  They were four days old.  They shared a crib.  For months.  And, in what feels like the blink of the eye, they now sleep here:

"Big Boy Beds" aka crib mattresses on floor!
They made the big move last weekend and I have to say, it was a long time coming.  Not in the literal sense -- it's not like I spent months prepping them for the big move, reading books about the transition or frankly, designing the ideal sleep space or investing in the perfect bedroom set (as the picture will clearly attest!). When I say it was "a long time coming", I mean that our little fellas have been climbing out of their beds for a long time.  They have been asking for beds. They told us they were ready and finally, we listened.

Don't get me wrong.  They weren't unhappy in their cribs. Quite to the contrary, they loved them.  They had all their stuffed animal "friends" in there -- many of whom they played catch with from crib to crib.  They would climb out in the morning, enjoying the independence and freedom to get their own Cheerios but, much to our surprise (and delight!), they never climbed out at night.  When they were in, they were in for the night.  And we all had sweet dreams.

Then, on Saturday night, everything changed.  We set them free.  We broke down those cribs, made their "beds" with new sheets and pillows, said a prayer, and hoped for the best.  This is what happened:

If you watched the video, I hope it gave you the laugh out loud it gives me every time I look at it.  And if you didn't, you may want to.  It is pure joy.  Three little fellas, 3 1/2 years old, pushing the limits as little fellas are prone to do. They are free and they are happy.  There is no doubt they have outgrown their cribs and are ready for beds.  Just as there is no doubt that for the next week or so (or possibly more!), the bedtime "routine" will be anything but.  On Sunday night, they were so tired that they were all sweetly snoozing by 8:00.  Last night, I had to shut down a rather rowdy game that was a cross between Hopscotch and Three Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed at 9:00.  So, I suppose if I have a few tips to share on the overall transition from cribs to beds, they would be:
  1. Listen to your children, they will tell you when they are ready. (Note: this same nugget of wisdom will work for potty training as well!)
  2. Don't stress out about it.  If you do, they will.  And if you don't, well, did the fellas in the video look stressed out?
  3. Anticipate - and embrace - a change in your bedtime routine.  Just as you did that night long long ago when your wee one first came home from the hospital and looked oh so small in that great big crib.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What I learned on my summer vacation

Main Beach, East Hampton: My Happy Place
 We recently spent a glorious week on the beach.  Was it relaxing?  No.  But, given that we have five kids seven and under and were away with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and aunt, relaxation was never one of my expectations.  And, neither were any of the following observations and insights that just happened along the way --  in the midst of lazy, hazy days filled with sand, sun and newly hatched freckles on our fair-skinned flock…

  1. Few things in life are more pleasurable than walking on the beach holding hands – be they the small sandy hands of a toddler or the strong, supportive hands of a spouse.
  2. There is still much to be learned from my Dad – including, surprisingly, the ability to boogie board. Yes, at the age of 40, I finally caught a wave. And, it was amazing.
  3. Showers are overrated.  As are baths, soap, shampoo, razors, combs and brushes.  For better or worse, we abandoned many of these personal care items for the better part of a week and emerged no worse for the wear.  Smellier and hairier perhaps but truly, no worse for the wear! (Outdoor showers, on the other hand, should be right up there with the seven wonders of the world!)
  4. My sister is a great mom.  Whereas I ran my kids until they stopped, dropped and rolled (over!), she dutifully left the beach for naptime and did her best to serve dinner before dark.  Well done little sis!
  5. Mother Nature must be respected; consider her the Mother of all mothers and obey or risk her scorn – which, while we were away, took the form of a violent storm and waves that threatened to wipe us away.  Mother Nature, I hear you and I will obey.  Now, if only the kids would treat me with the same courtesy! 
  6. Ice cream and Italian ice aren’t just for dessert anymore.  If you ask my amazing Aunt, they are for breakfast too.  And if you ask my kids, they will enthusiastically agree.
  7. Collecting seashells never grows old.  And decorating seashells – with markers, glitter glue and other small treasures from the sea – can keep kids entertained for hours.  This should be a “must do” on any summer “to do” list!
  8. I belong by the sea.  When I see the ocean, my mood lifts, my head clears, and my troubles fade away.  I now know where I want to be when I am old (or frankly, anytime between now and than since I am officially on the brink!) – by the sea. In a rocker. Perhaps with a blanket and some lemonade. Ah, bliss… 
  9. A rainy vacation day is a great excuse to go to the movies. Enough said! 
  10. My mom, who is far more flip and funny than saccharine and sentimental perfectly summed up our family vacation with a rare display of nostalgia -- “All that matters is that we are together.”  And she was right.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Packing the family for summer vacation

I just realized that I haven't posted in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!  Why?  Well, I suppose one week was so chock full of end of school activities that I hardly had time to breathe (let alone write!) and the following week, our family took a much needed and totally unplugged week off.  Totally unplugged. I was so unplugged that when I returned to work today, the universal greeting seemed to be, "Wow, you really took the week off!  You weren't even on email!" Comments like these completely validated my need for a vacation -- and just might inspire me to start planning the next one.  But, before I do, I thought I'd share some packing tips to help you bring what you need -- and leave behind what you don't -- on your family's summer getaway.

As you might have read, I have officially declared this summer The Summer of Independence.  It's time that our kids started pulling their weight in the most literal sense.  If they want it, they have to carry it.  That's why for our summer vacation, each kid got one bag and one bag only.  One small bag that contained all they needed (and could carry themselves!) for a week at the beach.  In case you're wondering exactly what a kid needs for a week filled with sun and surf, well, it's not much.  This is a lesson I've learned the hard way over many years of overpacking.  Another thing I've learned is that Mother Nature is unpredictable and it's best to have a sweatshirt and jeans or sweatpants (affectionately called "cozy pants" in our house) in addition to the swim basics.  So, in short, here's all you need to know as you plan to pack up and hit the road this summer:
  • Less really is more.  Everything our kids needed for a week fit perfectly into the little bags pictured above:
    • 2 pjs
    • 2 bathing suits
    • 2 swim shirts
    • 3 pairs of shorts
    • 4 t.shirts
    • 5 pairs of underwear
    • 1 sweatshirt and 1 pair of sweatpants
    • 1 foldable rain slicker
    • 1 lovey blanket (or a "WaWa" if you ask us!)
    • 1 pair of sneakers & socks (Crocs were worn in the car and truthfully, the sneakers were never worn but, if my man Liam had been called into a pickup baseball game, he would've been ready!)
    • Toothbrushes/toothpaste/sunblock/shampoo/water bottle (Note: these items were shared -- except the toothbrushes! -- and carried in my bag)
  • Laundry is inevitable.  Between the sand, salt, chlorine, sunblock and the possibility of throw up and/or an accident involving gallons of pee, I accepted long ago that a "vacation" does not include a break from the laundry. And that's ok.  If you approach your getaway with this mindset, you'll avoid the overpacking and perhaps even go home with clean laundry! 
  • Showers are overrated.  What does this have to do with packing, you wonder?  Well, less showering or bathing means more time swimming.  More time swimming means more time in a swimsuit.  More time in a swimsuit means less time in any other type of clothing -- quite possibly eliminating the need for anything else.  But, should Mother Nature decide to grace you with a cold snap or violent storm, you'll be glad you packed those aforementioned change of clothes!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Inspire Independent Children

For today's "Tuesday Tip", I thought I'd share some thoughts that I first published on The Huffington Post on empowering our five kids to be more independent.  With summer upon us, the mere notion of spending the next few months lugging beach towels, beach toys, water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, hats, swim shirts and so on made my (admittedly aging!) back started to ache.  So, I decided that this will be the "summer of independence" -- the summer that the kids take on more so I can (in the most literal sense!) take on less.  Here's how we plan to do it -- think of this as a three-part memo to the little people of the "Lyons Den."
  1. We've dabbled in the past in the genius of the National Parks "Carry In/Carry Out" policy. This summer, we are not dabbling; we are adopting and enforcing it. "Carry In/Carry Out" will apply to any item (think of all the aforementioned items plus baseball cards, Legos, dolls, books, etc.) transported to the minivan, backyard, front porch and all other locales. Should you "carry in" and neglect to "carry out", you will lose the object/s in question indefinitely and be subject to a fine. For real. And not just a penny -- this could be up to a quarter, my dear little people!
  2. You want it? You get it! This mom is a waitress no more! This ground-breaking rule will apply to glasses of water, apples and other approved snack items and beverages. Of note, it will not apply to cookies, chips and ice-cream; they will still require approval (and potentially assistance, since we don't want to lose a kid in the freezer!) and must be approved by management (a.k.a. Mom or Dad).
  3. You need it? You carry it. This just might change the subtle curvature in my spine that has resulted from not only carrying triplets, but carrying their associated stuff and siblings! This summer, if you need a beach towel, it will go in your backpack. If you need to return a library book, you can take it in your book bag. You get the idea. This is about you doing some of the heavy lifting so this mom literally has a lighter load. 
With these tips in mind, I hope you have a lighter summer, in every sense of the word!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Meet the Food Yenta

The Food Yenta's new tote bag is awesome - just like her.
I mentioned earlier in the year that I might be doing less blogging in an effort to be spending more time with my family.  If you noticed I've been MIA the past few weeks, that's probably why -- although, it's also been a busy few weeks at work and I recently had the privilege of writing for the Huffington Post so, needless to say, there hasn't been a lot of spare time!  

In the midst of it all the working, writing and wrangling of wily children, I had the good fortune to enjoy a fun night out with some local bloggers and, as always, I was so impressed and flattered to be in their company.  I'm going to start routinely sharing some of these gal pals with you because, frankly, if you don't know them, you should.  The first is The Food Yenta. She is funny, she is awesome and she is just like you and me -- well, depending on your cooking skills, she may be more like you!  In any case, she is incredible and she shares tasty, quick, easy, family-friendly recipes on her site several days a week.  If I wanted to keep this Tuesday's Tip really short and sweet, I'd simply say "Follow The Food Yenta!" But, since she has some great parenting tips of her own, I thought I'd share them with you here... 
  1. Have patience. When it comes to food or just playing games, we all lose it sometimes and kids really know how to push all of our buttons. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I try to remember that that my kids are newbies at life and everything comes in time.
  2. My mother-in-law gave me very good advice when I was pregnant with my son and freaked out about being a “mom”. Firm, fair and consistent. It’s a rule I live by and gets us through hard times.
  3. Let your kids get dirty. Whether it be a mud puddle or flour, it’s fun. After all, that’s why we have washing machines.
  4. Enjoy your kids, even during the worst of times because they grow up quick. It feels like yesterday my son was born and I was holding him in the hospital. Now…now, he’s graduating kindergarten and entering first grade!
  5. Coconut oil is great for cooking but it is also great for dry skin and eczema.
For more about The Food Yenta, check out her full interview at Mommy Page.  As for me, I aspire to be a better cook... and a better mom... one day at a time.  If I'm here less often, that will be why and, you can always visit me over at Facebook if you want a quick peek at the latest from the Lyons Den!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Second Grade Field Trip to the Bronx Zoo

I am an animal lover.  I adore animals and have since I was a child.  Which is why last week was a truly superb week here in the Lyons Den.  For starters, we had three small chicks sleep over as part of a second grade science project -- little balls of fluffy cuteness that elicited smiles and squeals of delight.  And I'm not just talking about the kids! 

Does it get cuter than this? FYI, chick three was camera-shy.

As if the chick visitation wasn't enough, we also had Liam's class trip to the Bronx Zoo -- one of my favorite places and, always a joy to see through the eyes of a child... even in the pouring rain.  Here's a brief recap...

I left the house at ten past nine,
With another mom, we were the first in line.
We hoped and hoped it wouldn't rain,
Or be too crowded and totally insane. 

We arrived before the zoo opened at 10,
No kids in sight, it was truly zen.
Then the phone rang, the bus never came,
Our kids were back at their school, stuck at Dows Lane!

No bus, no kids, what are moms to do?
Well, we walked right in and toured the zoo!
Sea lions and polar bears topped our list,
When the second graders arrived,they were kinda pissed.

"No bus! Dirty bus! We're so late!" they exclaimed,
As the skies opened up and it started to rain.
Poor kids, poor teachers, poor parents soaking wet,
But not to be deterred, we went to see birds and didn't fret.

Birds of prey seemed really cool
The kids had learned a lot about them at school.
A snowy owl I learned is a bird of prey,
I really learned a lot that rainy day.

Puffins are cute, the Scarlet Ibis is pretty,
Fifty wet second graders can be fun and witty.
Environmental messages were strong and clear --
If you cut down the trees, the birds will disappear.

As the thunder boomed and the rain came pouring down, 
The teachers decided we had to get out of town,
Bye bye Bronx, bye bye zoo.
So long Aquatic Birds and Birds of Prey too.

Good bye to a day that was almost a disaster,
With a missing school bus and rain falling fast and faster,
But a disaster it was not as the memories will surely tell,
Second graders reflect fondly on a zoo day from hell!

And, for the record, I do too. 
I really was lucky to go to the zoo.
Sure I was hungry and tired and wet,
But a day at the zoo is as good as it gets.

A day with my fella who I can't believe is seven,
Is a great day for me, a little slice of heaven. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Summer Roadtrip Survival Guide

When I mentioned to people that we were headed to Boston to visit friends for Memorial Day weekend, I was met with a consistent chorus of "All of you?!"  I'm not sure if the stunned responses were aimed at us for being brave enough to battle holiday weekend traffic with five kids in a minivan or our friends, for being brave enough to invite the Lyons Family Circus to town.  Again.

These are very very good friends.  We have been visiting them once or twice a year for as long as I can remember -- including those dicey days when we had five kids under five and would roll in with a car full of pack and plays, strollers, high chairs and, more often than not, at least one smelly child who had been sitting in his or her own stink (from either a diaper or projectile vomit or both) for hours in the aforementioned traffic. 

How do we do it?  Well, for starters, we've gotten pretty good at planning and packing -- and, we've learned over the years that rarely do we leave when we plan to, arrive when we hope to or survive any extended road trip without pulling over at least once for a roadside bathroom or vomit break. That's just the way we roll.  Here are a few tips to help you roll to wherever the road takes you in Summer 2012.

  • Pack extra everything.  Or plan to do laundry. Or both.  Perhaps most of all, pack your sense of humor.  You'll need it when you're on the side of 95 with a crying kid peeing on your foot.  Or when the projectile vomit hits the back of your head. Or the bag of snacks in the backseat.  You get the idea. Family road trips aren't pretty but if you leave your sense of humor at home, they will be downright dismal!
  •  Learn to tune them out.  By "them", I mean the kids in the backseat.  Whether you have one of them or five or more, they make a ton of noise.  Ours start to ask for a snack before we turn off our block.  Then it's on to a relentless cacophony of "Are we there yet?" "He's kicking my seat" "She's bothering me" "I have to pee." "I think someone farted.' "Are we there yet?" and so on.  We've discovered it can be really fun to taunt them the way they taunt you.  A few of our favorites are to:
    • A. Put all the windows down when you're doing 65 on the highway so the wind literally knocks them silent or...
    • B.  Blast your favorite classic car tunes (for me it's Don't Stop Believin' by Journey; for my husband it's anything Led Zeppelin) and sing along at the top of your lungs.  They will be momentarily stunned into silence upon realizing that you have a repertoire beyond "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." You can and should use this to your advantage and feel free to keep it up until someone starts to cry - which in our experience is typically well into the last refrain.
  • Reset your expectations.  Remember when a bathroom break took five minutes?  Or when you'd stop for dinner and be back on the road in fifteen minutes?  Well, those days are gone.  If you've ever hit a roadside rest stop with your tots in tow, you know that it takes longer and is a far more menacing place.  Everything is dirty and everyone is a stranger-danger.  You will hold your kids close, your Purell closer and wonder how you lost a half hour of your life in a filthy bathroom. And you may only be a few minutes away from home!
So, it may take longer and there's no doubt that it's messier but, if life is all about the journey, I say go for it and enjoy the ride!  Happy travels! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Savor it!

One of life's simple pleasures: Puddle Jumping!

I tend to find myself feeling a bit, well, schmoopy, this time of year.   As the seasons change and class picnics and school concerts fill the calendar, I am reminded daily of how fleeting this time with our children is; of how today's hardships provide tomorrow's humor and how, in the blink of an eye, these little ones who needed us move on, move up and move out.  

Ok, technically, with our oldest only seven, I know that no one is moving out any time soon but, I can't help but be struck by the fact that our seven and five year old are pretty much over me.  Sure, they still need me in some ways but, I'm no longer the center of their world.  Whereas they once thought I could do no wrong, they now know that I can and do.  They are smart, independent and savvy.  And that's the way it should be.

On the other hand, our trio of identical three-year olds still worship the ground I walk on.  They still occasionally cry when I go to work and routinely run to the door and jump into my arms when I come home.  They greet me each morning with a smile, filled with anticipation for the day ahead and asking as they rub the sleep from their eyes "Is today a Mommy day?"  Of course, every day is a Mommy day but in their world, a "Mommy Day" is a day I don't work.  Today, we had a "Mommy morning" and it made me realize how important it is not sweat the small stuff, but to embrace it.  Today, instead of yelling at them for jumping in puddles, I joined them.  Instead of stopping them from splashing in the tub, I simply shut the shower curtain and let them have at it.  And you know what?  It was awesome.  Small stuff; little moments; daily routines; shared secrets -- these are the wonders of parenthood.  And, as far as I'm concerned, they are passing by far too quickly. That's why I plan to seize every chance I get to...
  • Hold hands
  • Jump in puddles
  • Look at bugs
  • Snuggle and cuddle
  • Sing silly songs
  • Eat ice cream
  • Yell less and smile more

These are the things that make Mommy Days memorable -- and the reasons why it's just not worth it to sweat the small stuff.  In the end, the small stuff will be forgotten, your small ones will be big and we'll realize that little did we know, it was some of these small things that mean the most.  Hopefully, like the day that I took the morning off to splash in puddles!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lessons Learned on a Kindergarten Field Trip

Lesson One: Insects have six legs

This week I had the pleasure of accompanying my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a field trip to our local Audubon Society.  I’m pretty sure it was all the more pleasurable because I got to ride in my own car (aka Swagger Wagon) drinking coffee rather than bouncing along in the school bus belching up breakfast. 

Transportation issues aside, I learned a lot in my few hours at the Audubon with twenty five-year olds.  For starters, I really learned a lot about bugs.  While I might have preferred to focus more on flora and fauna, insects were the topic du jour.  Did you know, for instance, that an insect by definition has six legs?  Or that monarch butterflies (technically not insects!) only lay eggs on milkweed?  Or that treasure troves of creepy, crawly bugs live under rocks and fallen branches?  That one wasn’t a total newsflash to me but some of the other tidbits most certainly were.

I happily picked up a neat new catch phrase for avoiding poison ivy (“Leaves of three, let it be.”) and rather reluctantly laid eyes on spittlebugs for the very first time. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this unique species for the past oh, forty years but, once you know what you’re looking for (hint: they look like nasty piles of spit on a plant stem), they are really hard to miss.

When I got back to office, I shared my newfound knowledge with my co-workers, all of whom seemed either A. grossed out; B. confused by my enthusiasm; or C. questioned why my mind was retaining such detail.  “Where are you ever going to use that nugget about monarch butterflies?” I was asked.

Where?  Well, for starters, beyond the little lady who I was lucky to accompany on this adventure, there are four boys at home, all eager for information and all amply impressed when I shared this truism: “You know, if you pick up a frog, it really will pee on you.”  Ok, so a frog isn’t a bug and that pee may be a mucous discharge that acts as a defense mechanism but still, this an impressive nugget of knowledge! 

Perhaps most importantly, I learned how important it is to simply show up.  To take a few hours off of work, leave the phone in the Swagger Wagon and focus -- completely focus -- on my little girl.  Hold her hand. Jump over puddles. Leap over logs. Peek under rocks.  Tune out everything but her… well, her and the poison ivy which is apparently prolific this time of year! 

I left the Audubon thinking about how happy it makes me to hold her little hand.  And, that I don’t hold it nearly enough.  My hands are often over capacity trying to hold the hands of her triplet little brothers as we cross streets, navigate stores and maneuver our way through the world around us.   Thanks to this field trip, I’m going to be holding her hand more often and, I see once again the wisdom in that adage, “everything you need to know you learned in Kindergarten.”  I’d put holding hands at the top of that list. Although, if those hands recently handled spittlebugs, I’d much prefer they were washed first!  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Debunking the Mother's Day myth

Sometimes the best gifts come in hand-painted pots

I had a great day on Mother's Day.  In fact, in my seven years of motherhood, it was hands-down the best Mother's Day I've ever had.  Maybe it's because the sun was shining, it was unseasonably warm and we went to the beach -- one of my all-time favorite places.  Maybe it's because I went for a run with a good friend that morning and returned feeling energized and optimistic.  Or maybe, just maybe, it's because after several years of succumbing to the myth of Mother's Day, I've finally gotten wise to the commercial hype and colossal disappointments.  I've finally recognized that every day is Mother's Day and Moms really don't get a day off.  And, after seven years, I am finally ok with that.

Most moms don't get to sleep late, skip the laundry, overlook the dishes, or have three meals served up on a platter.  But, we do get incredible homemade cards and homegrown plants -- small seedlings in hand-painted pots designed by the same little hands that like to hold ours. These cards, plants and other pieces of handiwork are precious gifts, just like motherhood itself.  Sure it's messy, noisy, crazy, expensive, exhausting and at times, completely overwhelming.  That's why a one-day celebration could never do it justice.  After all, motherhood is a lifelong pursuit, an evolving practice, an enduring responsibility.  With that in mind, here are some tips to dispel the myth and embrace Mother's Day -- each and every day of the year. 
  • Accept that every day is Mother’s Day. You can’t turn off your kids or roll over and make them go away. Trust me, I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. So, on Mother’s Day (and other days as well!), I think it’s best to recall what the point really is… which is not to escape from your children and responsibilities but to embrace them. To give thanks for the small things we take for granted -- like ten fingers and ten toes or sloppy wet kisses or someone small who wants nothing more than an “Uppie”. And, if someone else offers to bring you breakfast in bed, well, that’s ok too – just don’t count on it... and remember, that any given Sunday is a good excuse for someone else to brew the coffee! 
  • Recognize that you deserve more than one day a year to relax. And, it’s up to you to make it happen. While I dream of long bubble baths with candlelight and a cup of tea (or better yet, a glass of wine!), it’s just not happening. If I were ever so lucky to find myself in a warm, sudsy tub, I’m sure I’d be joined by at least one small tot… or worse, one very large dog. So, I’ve found other ways to get in a bit of R&R on a regular basis -- a book club and occasional girls night out do the trick for me; they give me something to look forward to once or twice a month, rather than some mythical day off that only comes once a year.

This year, I didn't get to see my Mom -- you know why?  She was away with my Dad, enjoying one of their favorite places... a sunny beach.  As it turns out, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree and, with my new, improved "myth-free Mother's Day" attitude, I'm looking forward to a "Girls Day" with my Mom in the next few weeks.  It will be our way to celebrate mothers, daughters, friendship and life -- and we have every intention of doing it several times before Mother's Day returns again.  Might I suggest that you do too?


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Tip: A Working Mom's Guide to Business Travel

I’ve been on the road a lot lately.  And, since I’ve had an almost year-long hiatus from business travel (and flying solo in general!), it took a few adjustments at home to get the gang I left behind geared up for a few days sans the Mama.  Here’s how we made it work and, should the need arise, you can too:

·      Ladies and gentleman, synch your calendars!  Organizing the comings and goings of a family of seven is never an easy task but never is it more critical then when Mom is out of town.  To make sure that the right kid ends up at the right party/soccer field/baseball game, I send my better half (that would be my husband Des, in case you were wondering!) calendar invites with all of the details.  For example:  "Sunday, April 29th.  12:30-2:00.  Ciara: Maya’s 6th Birthday Party.  Gift wrapped in home office. Car pool confirmed. Address as follows.”  No detail is left out, reminders are set and everyone ends up where they belong. Mission accomplished!
·      Take the easy way out.  Our typical dinners are homemade but when I’m not home, well, they are made elsewhere.  Like in the frozen pizza factory.  Or local burger joint.  Dinner in our house is mayhem on a good day but, with only one parent ruling the roost, it can be pure chaos.  These are the days when rotisserie chicken reigns supreme and pizza might prevail.  And that’s ok.  Stock the freezer, pack the pantry and away you go!
·      Love ‘em and leave ‘em.  It’s not easy to say good-bye to my five (relatively) tiny tots and one uber-patient, supportive, loving husband.  But, drawn out good-byes don’t do any of us any good.  What does us good is a lot of hugs, kisses and open communication about where I’m going, why I’m going and when I’ll be back.  Time permitting, I’ll leave a note on our whiteboard or a sticky note someplace unexpected (bathroom mirror!) with a simple “I love you” and constant reminder that though this Mama might occasionally leave ‘em, she always loves ‘em and always has ‘em on her mind and in her heart.

The kids know that my current trip to Chicago is the last one I’ll be taking for a while.  And they know that next week their dear Dad is headed to Atlanta.  And they know that we are all eagerly awaiting the month of June, when the business travel subsides and a family trip awaits. 

The trips we take together are the highlights of my life. And the trips I take alone remind me of how lucky I am to be so in love with the family I have and the life I lead… not to mention, provide a few moments to read a magazine without anyone climbing in my lap!