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Since one of my resolutions was to post weekly (at least for the month of January!), it seems sensible to make one of these posts about keeping resolutions — especially as mid-January and the temptation to call it quits approaches.  Here are a few common commitments we tend to make as the New Year dawns, along with my two cents (or “Tuesday Tips”, however you want to look at it!) for how to keep them:

  • Want to save more? Me too! At work, we recently had a Financially Fearless House Party which was well timed and full of good advice, including these three simple ways to save:
    • Put every $5 bill you get in an envelope.  It’s like turbo-charging that jar full of spare change.  One of my colleagues saved over $250 in just a few months!
    • Participate in your company’s 401k plan.  Max it out if you can. Contributing as much pre-tax money as possible not only increases your retirement savings but it decreases your taxable income.
    • College savings keeping you up at night?  Find a 529 plan and get started.  You can contribute as much or as little as you like but knowing your kids will have something to get their schooling started should give you some sweet dreams.
  • Want to exercise more?
    • Find a friend and hold each other accountable.  Meet at the gym, the park, the mall or wherever it is that you plan to work out, run, walk and get that body moving.  If you know a friend is waiting for, you’re much more likely to leave the remote and leap out of the house.
    • Set a goal.  Not one of those “lose five pounds” kind of a goal but one that focuses on fitness – on not just looking better, but feeling better – feeling accomplished.  Maybe it’s a local charity walk or a 5k run.  Maybe it’s a long-distance bike ride or simply showing up for spin class for four consecutive weeks.  Whatever it is, grab your pal, do it together and then go out and celebrate the new healthier you.
  • Want to be more present?  I do.  And a quick look back through this blog shows that I’ve been striving for this for a while now.  In our multi-tasking, always-on culture, it’s not easy but I’m hoping these tips will help… me and you!
    • Tune out the tech and tune in to what’s around you.  When you get home from work (or wherever your day takes you), put your phone away.  Far far away.  And try not to peek until the kids are tucked in.  Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind, as I can attest but it is harder to constantly check your email and texts when your phone is either buried at the bottom of your bag or charging upstairs.
    • Remember you’re not that important.  OK, maybe you are.  To your kids, your spouse, your friends and family.  But not to that beeping, buzzing device that you’re betrothed too… and I am too.  Unless it’s that aforementioned kid, spouse, friend or family member, ignore the buzzing of your phone and be aware of the people in front of you; be with them, really with them.  Give them your full attention.  They are the most important – and the reason why we make resolutions to begin with. Not to mention, it’s hard to tell your kid to put down his phone/iPad/Leapster/whatever he has when you can’t do it yourself!

As for me, I plan to tackle my writing by setting aside time each week.  I scheduled it on my calendar and barring a barfing kid, overload at work or some other unforeseen crisis (Leaky pipe? Dog with an ear infection? Any of these things are possibilities!), I will get it done.  And I hope you’ll tune back in next Tuesday for a topic near and dear to me:  how to YELL less at our children. And my husband.  And… well, you get it.  The following week, I’ll tackle hand-me-downs, a key to our survival and a special request from Britta at Hudson and Hill.

Something you’d like me to share?  Please let me know.  And good luck with those resolutions. I’m signing off and going to tune in to the tots at home!

 

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

Where to begin?  I unwittingly took a “blog break” toward the end of 2013 although, in the big scheme of life, there wasn’t much of a break at all.  Since my last post on October 9th…

  • We celebrated four of our five kids’ birthdays (the 5th was actually October 6th.  Oh, and the dog was Oct. 5th.  And our anniversary was Oct. 12th!).
  • We continued to navigate the homework challenges, social scheduling and daily juggling that hit fever pitch once the triplets hit kindergarten in September.
  • We made strides in conquering the new core curriculum that turned our otherwise confident 2nd and 4th graders into whining ninnies.  And me too.
  • We dealt with leaky pipes, missing storm windows, a minor electrical fire and several other infractions that continue to plague the 100-year old house we bought this summer.
  • We took five kids for physicals and in between dealt with strep throat, ear infections, sinus infections and a nasty rash called Molluscum Contagiosum that I hope you never have to deal with.
  • We hosted 20 people on Christmas Eve and then flew to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family on Christmas Day. In between, Santa even made a visit. With gifts!
  • We showered.  Almost daily.
  • We ate. Daily.
  • We survived.  Five kids, two full time jobs and one big red dog who even got a trip to the vet.
  • We made resolutions — ’tis the season after all, right?

Resolution number one?  Rather than focus on what we haven’t achieved, focus on what we have (see above!).  The big (Birthdays! Report cards! Articles published!) and small (A shower! A roast chicken! An attempt to make chicken soup! Yay!).

I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep but, my good friend Britta must have sensed that I’m tempted by a good challenge so, for at least the month of January, I’m going to resolve to get back in the habit of a weekly post.  I hope you’ll check back in, share your thoughts and let me know what type of musings on motherhood & life in general you’d like to read about.  In the meantime, you should check out Britta’s blog too… as the mom of four under four, well, she’s a hero, and as real as it gets.

Happy New Year and whatever you resolve to do, good luck sticking with it.  And if you don’t, give yourself and break and remember to celebrate your successes, however small or short-lived they may be!

The Kindergarten Basics

The Kindergarten Basics

“For those of you who are sending your child to kindergarten for the first time, we understand the trepidation.  For those of you who are going through this for the second, or possibly the last time, congratulations on getting another one out of the house!”  So began kindergarten orientation on a muggy night in May in a room filled with (mostly) nervous parents of four and five year olds about to leave Pre-K for the big K.

This September is the last time I will send a little one off to kindergarten… times three! Our triplets (my “babies”) are leaving the roost and, like most Moms, the notion of sending them off to school leaves me with mixed emotions.  If you feel the mix of anxiety and excitement, these tips should help to ease the transition… for everyone involved! (more…)

Even the teacher has a lot to learn when the school year begins

 

Even the teacher has a lot to learn when the school year begins

Whether your school year has already begun or is just about to, you and your children are embarking on a journey with many new beginnings.  For our family, our identical triplet boys will be starting kindergarten, our six year old daughter will be starting second grade and our eight year old will be entering fourth grade at a new school.  All of them will have new bus monitors, new classrooms, new experiences and new teachers.  One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that teachers experience a lot of new things as well – not the least of which is about twenty new smiling (hopefully!) faces staring back at them as the school year begins.

As it turns out, teachers need and appreciate a little assistance in getting to know your little one.  As the school year kicks off, send an email or schedule a brief conference to share the specifics you think they should know; the better they know your child, the better the school year will be. For everyone!  Here are a few considerations to get you started:

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Home-sweet-home


Where did the month of July go?  It marks the longest stretch I’ve gone without sharing our trials and triumphs here at the “Lyons Den” and here’s why — this month has been a hot, hard, horrid disaster!  As my friends and family know all too well, when the the going gets tough, well, I’m not that tough; I go radio silent.  And the past few weeks have been really tough. Why?  Because we moved.  And believe me, even though we are beyond thrilled to have found our “forever house”, it hasn’t been easy.

According to answers.com, moving is one of the “top five most stressful things in life;” the other four are debt, work, relationship troubles and loneliness.  Which is kind of ironic because, if you ask me, moving brings them all together.  The reality is that this move has put us in greater debt; we missed days of work to move and settle in; our relationship has been repeatedly tested as we bickered about what furniture goes where, which pictures should finally find their place on the curb and how much to spend to renovate the kitchen.  Thankfully, loneliness has not yet been an issue but if all of this keeps up, I can see how it could be.

According to the article I read on wiki answers, “the very thought of moving can fill people with dread – and experts say that as the most expensive and life-changing financial transaction most people ever undertake, it’s probably also one of the most stressful.”  I can attest this is true — and, if you add five kids, one “big red dog”, and an average temperatures of 95 degrees with 100% humidity to the mix, it’s all the more stressful.

But that’s not all.  Let me share a bit more about what’s been stressing me out over the past few weeks — with a warning:  you may not believe it’s true.  If I’ve seen or talked to you lately, I probably mentioned that “when I finally get the chance to write about this, I”m sure folks will think I’m making it up.”  Well, I’m not.  Here’s a rundown of life in the Lyons Den for the past few weeks…

  • July 2nd:  Triplet A discovered on living room rug in a pool of barf upon our arrival home from work. The summer stomach virus has arrived.
  • July 3rd:  Our oldest complains of a tooth-ache at dinner but, as Triplet B starts to burn with fever, he is ignored.
  • July 4th:  We pause on the packing to enjoy a great day with my sister and her family, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Triplets A&B are kept comfortable with Tylenol & Advil. Fevers run amok but vomiting has ceased.
  • July 5th:  Tooth ache complaints continue. We call the dentist. They are closed for the July 4th weekend; the message cites a number to call in case of emergency.  We decide it’s not an emergency and spend the day packing.
  • July 6th: 3AM:  We are awakened by our sobbing 8 year old moaning with pain.  Sh*t!! It turns out that tooth is an emergency!  9AM:  Movers arrive to take the outdoor furniture, contents of garage and all packed boxes. Mayhem ensues as we track down our dentist, find an endodontist who is working on the Saturday of July 4th weekend and try to keep the kids from being trampled by the movers. 1 PM:  Poor kid has an emergency root canal.  Ugh.
  • July 7th:  It’s 100 degrees and we spend the day cleaning the new house (which does NOT have air conditioning) and packing up the old one. I want, I NEED to have our new kitchen in working order before we make the final move.  I scrub the counters, line the shelves, stock the pantry.  I have convinced myself that if only I have the means and space to feed our family, it will all be fine. Of note, Triplet C spends the day intermittently sweating, drooling and napping on a hardwood floor as his fever spikes.  He (and three other kids) have also picked up a nasty case of poison ivy.  Things are not looking good. Literally.
  • July 8th: It’s Monday. I go to work and try to act like everything is under control. It’s not. At 10:00PM we make a run to the new house to stock the fridge. We notice a drip over the stove. It’s coming from the ceiling. Run for cover! The ceiling collapses. And so too does my morale, my sense of control, my ability to feed our family!
  • July 9th: Moving Day.  It’s 94 degrees.  We still have four kids with poison ivy, one recovering from a root canal and one complaining of a sore throat.  We shuttle between the new and old house answering questions of movers and plumbers alike.  “Put that there. No, there!”  “What? Did I turn off the water on the third floor?  No. But I’m flattered you think I’d know how to!”  8PM that night: “Emergency!!! Mom, MOM!!!!! Come quick! There’s water everywhere!!!”

And then, I think I kind of blacked out for a few weeks.  There were more plumbers and an electrician.  There were numerous trips to the pediatrician.  Sinus infections. Strep throat. Poison ivy. There were numerous trips to the dentist.  There were busy days at work and long nights unpacking.  There were (and are) boxes, boxes everywhere.  There is a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling and just today, it “rained” inside — to be exact, the bathtub water from upstairs rained into the spaghetti pot on the stove.  Bon appetit?!

It seems we are now the proud, tired, broke owners of the “money pit.”  But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because in the blur of the past few weeks, between the endless sweat, exhausted tears and consistent sense of being completely overwhelmed, there have been neighbors on the porch, friends in the kitchen, family checking in and more friends hanging out.  Despite leaky plumbing, sick kids and horrid heat, we’ve managed to make this place our home.  And while it’s far from perfect, it’s still very sweet.  And with that spirit rediscovered, I look forward to sharing more tales, tips and quips in the weeks and months ahead… and maybe, just maybe, we will finally get these boxes unpacked.  But if not, well, c’mon by anyway… turns out a box is a mighty fine place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine!

1st day of school_on steps

1st day of school... how can the last be here already?!

When you have identical twins or triplets, the life you lead is different.   You are stopped on the street.  You are asked “are they identical?!” time and again.  When they were first born, you probably couldn’t tell your own babies apart.  And as they get older, you realize other people probably never will.  You find tips and tricks to identify them to the outside world – different colors, a freckle here, a scar there.   You want the world to know that while they look identical, they couldn’t be more different.  And you find yourself explaining this again and again.

Today our identical triplets “graduate” from preschool.  Today is a day I know I will cry – tears of joy that they are happy, healthy and moving on; tears of sadness that this phase in my life – in their lives – is over.  No more preschool.  No more babies.  Just big kids.  Big kids who are eager to get out into that big world and show their differences.  It’s my job to help them.   It’s my job to explain what sets them apart.  I do it time and again and today, I thought I’d share a few excerpts of the note I sent to preschool on day one:

  • Physical factors:  Much to our own surprise (and against all odds!), all three of them crawled, sat, walked, talked, potty trained, etc. at the normal ages of development.  We think all three are right-handed although, apparently with identicals, one is bound to be a lefty so, keep an eye out for that!  (Note: it’s still unclear if this is true or which little fella may be a leftie!)
  • Play & Social Experiences:  They play well with each other, with their brother and sister and other little buddies.  Caution: if someone picks on one of them, the other two are prone to defend their brother — not in a violent way, but enough to make their presence known. You’ve been warned!
  • Goals: Basic algebra and conversational French. Gotcha!  We just want them to have a happy, healthy, positive classroom experience that sets them up nicely for kindergarten. 

Ok, now for what you really wanted to know — their differences/nuances/how to tell them apart:

  • Kevin: Stick with me here — his nickname is KooKoo Bear.  Don’t ask. It just happened.  So, if you hear the other guys call him KooKoo, that’s why.  His color is red; his crocs are orange.  He has two parallel freckles on the bridge of his nose. He is sweet, easy going, laid back and very helpful. When in need of a haircut, he can be identified by a little twist on the nape of his neck. He’s a big talker with a lot to say.
  • Declan: His nickname is Little Duck. Also called Duckling. Again, embarrassing but true and you may hear the other kids call him this. His color is blue; his crocs are turquoise. He is the most “attached” to his color.  He once got so mad when we gave him a red sippy cup that he threw it at us and said “I’m BLUE!”  He is super smart.  He was the first to do everything — walking, talking, sitting, etc.  We think he will go to Princeton. (Ha! Gotcha again!)
  • Cormac:  This one got off easy with the nicknames — we call him Mac, or MacMac. On occasion we call him Mac&Cheese but I don’t think that will come up.  His color is green, his crocs are too.  He has a freckle on his left eyelid and a sparkle in his eyes.  He can be a bit mischievous but responds well to reminders about right choices.  He wakes up giddy — bouncing off the walls jolly. The kid is a pleasure to be around.  Unless he is really tired, in which case, he is not. Hopefully this won’t happen at school!

Ok, well, I hope I haven’t scared you.  They are all truly a joy to behold — happy, curious and sweet with just enough mischief to keep ‘em real.  They love stories and music and we know they will love preschool.  And we hope you will love them. 

“We hope you love them,” I said.  They did.  They loved them. They taught them.  They learned to tell them apart.  They discovered their differences and delighted in their similarities.  Just like we do.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Extreme Parenting: Spring Sports Edition was the last post I wrote — over a month ago… the longest lapse in my posting to this blog since the triplets were born.  Yep, it would seem that this spring’s schedule is more of a challenge for me than juggling three newborns with two toddlers… at least they all napped and the weekends belonged to us, not Little League!

Over the past month, I’ve actually started several posts that never got completed.  Titles included “Why Little League Moms Pray For Rain” and “I Don’t Think She Can Do It.”  These have more a negative tenor than I usually take and I suspect have remained incomplete because I eventually got some sleep, a big cup of coffee and my usual sunny outlook back.  But I’m not gonna lie — it’s been a busy, challenging time here in the Lyons Den.

I spent Monday nights wondering what to write for my “Tuesday Tip” but, after baseball practice, lacrosse practice, late dinner, showers, homework, catching up on the work I missed because I left the office for the aforementioned practices, well, I was out of steam and short on tips.  To give you a glimpse of our lives over the past month, here are a few “lessons learned” along the way… which I share in the hopes that you may learn from our mistakes, missteps and occasional victories — on or off a baseball field!

  • If a child is hit squarely in the nose with a baseball, that nose “in all probability is broken.”  And yes, I can attribute the quote to our pediatrician.  Who, by the way, you should see if you suspect your child may have a broken nose.  Don’t ignore it for 24 hours like we did and send him to school the next day.  Oh, and Tylenol will help to ease the pain… for both of you!
  • If you think your kid has poison ivy, he probably does.  Here’s a tip:  do NOT put him in the bath tub with his siblings.  That, as it turns out, is not a good idea.  A good idea is to treat it liberally with Calamine Lotion, keep it covered to prevent itching (and therefore, spreading!) and offer Benadryl at bedtime to prevent overnight scratching.  Oh, and if it’s oozing, it can still spread.  This was news to me but now you know!
  • If you are traveling on business and see on the morning news that record-setting rain is on the way, skip your meeting and go to the airport.  Pronto.  Get on the next plane before the first drops fall; if you don’t, you may find, as I did, that your business trip will get extended by several days… leaving your spouse to supervise the spring sports schedule solo, which is no easy task!
  • If you are buying a house — especially if you are buying your second house — be prepared for a lot of financial interrogation. As you might imagine, it’s not like it was ten years ago; while mortgage rates are alluring, the approval process is complex and takes time.  Time that might turn your hair grey, as it has mine.  Consider yourself warned!
  • If you are overwhelmed by work and life in general, admit it.  Tell your husband, tell your friends, tell your sister, tell your boss.  I don’t like to admit that sometimes, I can’t “do it all” — and I most certainly can’t do it all well.  Simply saying so seems to light the load.  In my case, my husband hit the grocery store, my friends reminded me that no one can do it all and do it well all the time, my sister offered empathy and advice, having been there herself and my boss suggested I find a few hours a week to get the balance back.

Am I there yet?  No.  But, I’ve written my first post in over a month and that’s a good sign… almost as good as the fact that there are only a handful of Little League games left.  And actually, knowing that summer and a break from the scheduling insanity is right around the corner, I think I might enjoy them!

The people I work with often marvel that when I travel for business, my husband isn’t completely overrun by our children when he gets home from work.  They can’t help but wonder how anyone could manage the mayhem of five kids at the witching hour — that charming time from roughly 5 or 6 until 7 or 8 when stomachs rumble, tempers flare and exhaustion ensues.  While it’s not easy, it can be done –even with five kids eight and under.  Even when you’re “home alone.”  How?

  1. Have a plan and stick to it.  Know what’s for dinner before you walk in the door.  In fact, you would ideally know what’s for dinner before you walked out of the door in the morning; that way, you can have much of it prepped and, if the sitter can simply pop it in the oven, that’s all the better!  Tonight I was home alone with all five kids and have to admit, I was the worst offender as it relates to the rumbling belly, short temper and overall exhaustion.  What saved the day?  Knowing that dinner was as easy as warming up left-over pork chops, microwaving some rice and serving up some pepper sticks and carrots.  Was it gourmet?  No. But it did the trick.  It went down in a jiffy and we all made it ’til Tuesday without falling back on mac & cheese or chicken nuggets.  Yay us!
  2. Have a routine and stick to it.  In our house, it’s a quick dash from dinner to pjs.  The quicker they hustle out of their clothes and into their pajamas, the more time we have for reading and snuggling, which is a favorite part of everyone’s day. Here’s our routine:  eat dinner; kids clear their plates; kids with clean plates get dessert; after dessert, kids put on pajamas, put dirty clothes in hamper, brush teeth, pee, read books, pee again and then it’s lights out.  Typically by 8:00.  Is our routine flawless?  Absolutely not!  But, everyone knows what is expected of them and, we all are motivated by the reward of a few extra minutes snuggled up with heads on shoulders and feet entwined as stories are read and tales of the day are shared — which, thankfully are part of the routine!
  3. Put the kids to work.  See bullet #2.  They clear the table. They put the dirty laundry where it goes.  And yes, I nag them.  A lot.  Too much some might say.  But, eventually they get it – a few plates will get broken and clean clothes might end up in the hamper but, it’s a small price to pay for a bunch of kids who pitch in, understand their roles and responsibilities and, perhaps most importantly, take a few things off of your list!

Is it a perfect system? Nope.  But is there anything about parenting — or for that matter, children — that’s perfect?  I don’t think so.  I think we all just do the best we can each and every day.  A plan helps. A routine helps.  Having kids help helps.  When all is said and done, I just hope mine remember the extra moments we spent snuggling more than those angry rants when I first walk in the door from work!  See?  I told you.  Far from perfect.  But, a-ok.  And that’s good enough!

Time to go!

It’s a universal challenge:  getting out of the house in the morning on time — ideally with your children in tow, snacks packed, shoes tied, coats on, teeth brushed and hair combed.  It was hard when we had one tiny tot. It was harder when we had two.  Now that we have five, well, it’s not easy but, we’ve learned from our mistakes and, in the spirit of sharing, hopefully you can too!

  • Wake up earlier.  It’s painful but trust me, it works.  We made two mistakes in this category. First, we often hit snooze until a baby cried and demanded our attention; at that point, it is too late. You’re already behind the 8-ball.  An early rise is critical to the success of our morning mission.  It allows us to literally be one step ahead of the little people — which is where you need to be if you’re going to drag them out the door on time.  The second mistake we made was letting them sleep in; after years of being told “never wake a sleeping baby”, it seems counter-intuitive to do just that but, you must.  They need time that transition time from the land of nod to the day ahead and the more time you allow them, the less hustling and bustling and screaming and yelling there will be. Trust me on this!
  • Prep the night before.  Make the lunches. Pack those snacks. Put out the clothes. Pack the backpacks. Sign the forms.  Write the notes.  Set the shoes by the door. Locate the gloves, hats and mittens.  It’s not fun but it’s a lot less fun to tackle these tasks with whining tots and as tempers rise and the time ticks away in the morning.  And, whatever you do, don’t forget to set the coffee maker!  What the heck – you may even want to pick out an outfit and pack lunch for yourself!
  • Let them “do it self!“  Kids love to help. So, put them to work!  A toddler can find his shoes and put them by the door.  A kindergartener can pop a snack into her backpack.  And a third-grader can and should be responsible for neatly packing up his homework and picking out clothes for the next day.  So, let them.  It will ease the burden on you, make them feel great and teach an important lesson about responsibility along the way.

I suppose last but not least, allow room for error.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans right?   Well, the morning routine is no exception and sometimes you just need to roll with it.  Sometimes you are going to be late.  And that’s ok.  That’s when it’s good to remember one of my mantras, for better or worse, better late than never!


One of the first things I thought upon discovering I was pregnant with triplets was, “OMG! What will we drive?!”  At the time, we had a one and three year old and I just couldn’t envision a vehicle that would accomodate their two car seats plus three more unless it looked like this:

When the triplets were born, we had an Acura MDX — the nicest car I will ever own.  That car was a decision we toiled over for months before we bid adieu to our beloved Jetta and bonjour to Bebe #2 so, saying good-bye was a bit traumatic.  But, six brutal weeks of putting our toddlers in through the trunk while our triplets were jammed into a too-tight second row and our strollers were left on the curb forced our hand.  Bon voyage lovely Acura and bonjour… what? What would we drive?  How would we transport our brood from Point A to Point B with five car seats safely anchored and enough room in the trunk for a double and triple stroller… not to mention the other stuff that often filled our trunk — the pack and plays, portable high chairs, diaper bags, blankies and other assorted necessities of those first few years?

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