In the days leading up to Christmas, people often said things like “It must be great to have all those kids on Christmas!” Or, “Wow, Christmas in your house must really be something!”  It is great to have “all those kids” on Christmas (and the other 364 days of the year!) and this year, our Christmas really was something.  Something like this.
It started at 5:15AM because little Mac couldn’t find his “Wawa” and was wailing like a madman.  That smelly, soggy “Wawa”, as it turns out, was right underneath him the whole time.  With that crisis solved, we sighed, rolled over and said a prayer that we would fall back asleep until sunrise.  No such luck.
At 5:30, Liam appeared in our room. You might think he was there because of the excitement of Christmas and anticipation of opening his gifts but alas, that was not the case.  As it turned out, the reason for his pre-dawn appearance was a bloody nose. A very bloody nose.  
It was about 6:00 when that nose stopped bleeding and Ciara got up to pee… and ask if it was time to open presents yet.  This reminded Liam that it was indeed Christmas and started the frenzied repetition of “Did Santa come? Can we go downstairs? Did Santa come? Can we go downstairs? Did Santa come?” You get the idea.
We managed to hold them at bay until about 7:30, which was no easy task.  Liam and Ciara took a peek downstairs and scampered back up announcing, as if with a megaphone, that “Santa came! Santa CAME!  SANTA CAME!”  These whoops of joy awoke the triplets — all of whom, until then, had been peacefully slumbering with their respective WaWas.  
What happened in the next two hours is unclear.  Perhaps because my husband and I were so tired, we couldn’t see straight — not to mention the fact that it was especially hard to see through the flying gift wrap, bubble wrap, boxes and tissue paper that blew across our living room much like last year’s Christmas blizzard blew across the Northeast.  It is also possible that our memories of the gargantuan gift opening are vague because our camera batteries died at roughly 7:32, just as the kids were coming down the stairs. I’m not sure how it happened, but Christmas Day dawned without a single AA battery to be found in the Lyons Den; next year, I’m putting batteries on my list for Santa!
At around 10:00, we were putting away dishes from our Christmas Eve dinner and getting ready for breakfast; as I reached up to get the silver chest out of a cabinet, a stack of dessert plates came careening down onto my head, shattering on the floor around me.  Needless to say, this just about shattered my Christmas spirit.  And, my scalp.
With that mess cleaned up and pancakes and bacon on the table, we all enjoyed a merry breakfast.  All of us except Ciara, who suddenly looked flushed, dazed and confused.  Out of nowhere, the poor girl spiked a fever of 102 and was whisked off to bed.  Where she slept for two hours.  Leaving me to wonder, “any chance I could spike a fever and get a two hour nap out of the deal?!”
By around 1:30, Ciara was up (and pumped up with Tylenol) and we went over the river and through the woods (well, over the river, anyway!), to my parents house, where we had a truly wonderful time.  It was a remarkable, memorable and magical Christmas with generations of family visiting and exchanging gifts.  It was really very Norman Rockwell.  The fire was crackling, the music was playing, the kids weren’t fighting, it was all good.  Very good. And very much the way Christmas should be.
Of course, this little reverie was abruptly broken when we returned home; Declan had a fit because he couldn’t find his Hexbugs, Kevin peed on the rug and a quick glance in the mirror informed me that I received a zit the size of Texas for Christmas.  Oh well.  Such is life.  And I will take it.  All of it.  The good, the bad, and the merry.  Because really, on Christmas and every other day of the year, life with “all those kids” will undoubtedly have ample bits of good, bad and merry.  And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Girls Day Out

December 17th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in aunts | family | MaMa Moments | motherhood | Out and About - (0 Comments)

Today was a delight of a day.  I managed to take it off and spend it exclusively with my little lady and one of my favorite aunts.  Just the girls.  No big brother, no little brothers, no one to steal the spotlight from my four year-old princess (or alternatively, drama queen!) in training.  Today was just for us and I must say, it was stellar. 

We took the train to the city and walked over to Lord & Taylor to see the windows and meet my aunt.  This aunt is the kind of aunt you wish for — she’s the one who let me play with her makeup, helped me through my teenage angst,  and got me a CB jacket for Christmas circa 1984.  If you were in eighth grade in the 80s and leaned toward the Preppy Hand Book side of life, you know just how cool that CB jacket was… it was the perfect complement my matching Bermuda bag and headband.  But, I digress… 

Today we marveled at the windows, strolled through the windy city streets and bonded over lunch.  If you were to ask Ciara about her favorite part of the day, it wasn’t the train ride or the Rockefeller Center tree or the windows at Saks or the huge plate of cookies she devoured with hot chocolate; it was “having lunch with Auntie Pat when she gave me my special bracelet.”

Just as we sat down, Auntie Pat presented Ciara with what can only be called big-girl bling… a silver charm bracelet with a little angel because, as she put it, Ciara is her angel.  While my little lady seemed rather unimpressed with the beautiful gift upon tearing it open (instantly remarking “why isn’t the pizza ready yet?”), just a few hours later, it stood out in her mind as the highlight of a day filled with highlights.  It’s the first thing she told her Dad about and the last thing she took off before bed.  It has a special place in her room just as the memories of this day will forever have a special place in my heart. 

Today was an excellent reminder of just how good (and perhaps even necessary!) it is to take a day off to bond with your little ones… as I’m told repeatedly and am starting to see firsthand, they really do grow up so fast.  So, why not treat yourself to some quality time with them and enjoy it while it lasts?!

Boys Will Be Boys

September 25th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in boys | family | kids sports | Laughter and Disaster - (0 Comments)

My poor daughter and I are surrounded by boys in every sense of the word. Even our dog is a boy. And even our dog seems to revel in the primal pleasure of burping and farting in a way that I’m certain I will never understand.

In our house, while I’d like to think that I rule the roost, I am woefully outnumbered and consistently amazed and slightly horrified by just how much boys will be boys and how young it all starts. I remember when our firstborn was about one and a half, he looked at me with outright glee and said ‘FART!”. I instantly shot my husband a stern look that clearly said “where the hell did he learn that and do you really think it’s appropriate for a kid under two to be joyfully exclaiming FART?!” and then I sweetly looked at my little lad and said “No, no. Not fart. Toot.” And then he and my husband roared with laughter as if to say “is she serious?! What a loser! Guys don’t TOOT, we FART!” And so it began.

Our triplets are just about the age our first guy was when he discovered the joy of flatulation. And they are equally exuberant. I sometimes feel like a poo-poo prisoner because though they are not yet two, they have figured out the one way to get Mom’s undivided attention is to shout with all their might “Poo Poo Potty!!! POO POO POTTY!!!!!” So, I take them, one by one to sit on the potty. They hold me hostage as I rub their back, sing them songs, tell stories and urge them to poop or pee or do something other than hold me against my will in our dirty bathroom. And you know what my reward is? The occasional fart! The stinky fart (most certainly NOT a tender toot!) has become the first inking of potential success with the poo-poo potty training. Ah, the irony of it all.

And then there are the sports. Our oldest is in first grade and just started soccer. In addition to the identity issues this creates for me (am I now a “soccer mom”? what does that even mean?!), it frankly destroys our weekends. Practice on Saturday, games on Sunday. My five year old races energetically down the field while my husband plays the role of assistant coach and I tear up the field in my own way while trying to corral our other four kids and keep them off the field/out of the goal/away from the ball. It’s the same kind of fun I had when T-ball started in the spring except that now my kids are bigger and faster and it’s harder to catch them!

The triplets love to get in the game – any game. They are obsessed with balls. … soccer balls, soft balls, baseballs, tennis balls, footballs, beach balls, golf balls, lacrosse balls, you name it, they love it. They’re even starting to enjoy their own personal sets, if you know what I mean. Their limited vocabulary is fairly fluent in the language of sport – “pass”, “catch”, “out”, “my turn” are a part of their daily vernacular. And regrettably “NO BALLS IN THE HOUSE” has become part of mine.

Of course, beyond playing sports, watching them has become a favorite pastime. While the triplets are already chanting “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, JETS!,” our five year old cries when bedtime arrives before the Yankee game ends and then demands to watch Sports Center when he wakes up. Heaven help me and my little lady… especially since, much to my dismay, all my little fellas seem to enjoy watching any sort of ball game while clutching their own. My husband assures me this is all normal (as he asks me to move so he can see the score of the game) and utters with an admittance and acceptance that I’m starting to understand, “Boys will be boys.”

When we were first married, I wasn’t so sure why people actually take the plunge and decide to have kids. What’s the point? Our lives seemed so full – and relatively speaking, so were our bank accounts thanks to two full time jobs and relatively low expenses, our bellies thanks to frequently dining out and our one bedroom apartment, thanks to two ninety pound dogs. I was really on the fence and decided to dig for an answer from one of my best girlfriends. “Why?” I asked her. “Why do people have kids? Is it just a rite of passage? Is it just the assumed next step? I just don’t get the allure. Kids have dirty diapers, sticky fingers, they’re expensive and from what my Mom still tells me, they always talk back!”
“Ah, true, but that’s only part of it” she told me. “Kids are entertaining! They’re funny. They have a fresh perspective on things and they let you see the world through their eyes. It’s like you get to be a kid again! Plus,” she said coyly, “you can make them unload the dishwasher, take out the trash and walk the dog.”

Well, seven years and five kids later, I’ve clearly put my reservations aside and fully embraced this whole kid thing. And, I can honestly say that they make me – they make us — happy. Furthermore, it turns out that my good friend Audrey was right… our five year old actually does walk the dog, our three year old happily unloads the dishwasher and there are few things more entertaining than watching our one-year old triplets dance. DANCE, I say! And, they do. Very entertaining and very funny indeed.

Last week, we had a more poignant reminder of why we have kids. Last week, we lost my brother-in-law to lung cancer. His battle, like his life, was spirited and far too short. Just five months after diagnosis, he succumbed to the horror of this disease. I think it’s fair to say that the past five months have been rough on all of us – the kids included. But, they have shown us time and again just what incredible little beings they are.

• They are resilient; they might have been disappointed that their Dad missed the 4th of July but they knew he was taking care of their amazing uncle so it was all ok.

• They are flexible; one day we were headed to the pool and then did an abrupt about-face to head to the hospital, dumping them at a friend’s house on the way. Instead of disappointed, they were delighted.

• They are smart, gentle and kind; not all the time, of course, but we witnessed such tenderness when our three year old blew off some dandelion blossoms, made a wish and told us she wished for Uncle Conor to get better.

• Last but not least, they are incredibly intuitive; last Tuesday, Liam, our five year old, and I were talking and I said “you know, little buddy, I really don’t think Uncle Conor is going to get better.” And he said, “I know Mom. I think he’s going to go today.” To which I responded “where?” and he said “To heaven.” And, he was right.

Our kids have lifted us up time and again. They provide joy, love and laughter and seem to know just when we need it most – as we have this past week. So, although our bank accounts are less full, our bellies miss all those dinners out and our three bedroom house is more crowded than that one bedroom apartment ever was, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This post originally appeared at http://www.parentsask.com/

Day of Rest?

July 7th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in family | Out and About | parenting - (0 Comments)

Some folks think of Sunday as a day of rest. For better or for worse, I’m not one of them. Consider this recent example…

While I would admittedly enjoy sleeping past 6:30, I set the alarm so I could meet a friend for a run. As hard as it always is to drag my butt out from under the covers, I’m always so glad I did when the morning run is behind me, the endorphins have kicked in and I arrive home ready to take on whatever the day has in store. In this case, as I downed a cup of coffee with my sweet and unsuspecting husband, I outlined an ambitious plan for the day that was rather surprisingly – and successfully, fulfilled.

It started with a short trip to pick up our farm share. We’re new to a local CSA and I’d never been to the pick-up point. When Des delicately suggested that I take a ride up by myself, I would have no part of it. Nope. This was to be a family day! So, with sippy cups and Cheerios in hand, we piled the five kids into the car to retrieve our weekly supply of fruits and veggies – which, as seems to be the norm, included items both foreign and familiar – like kohlrabi and kale. With our farm fresh bounty on board, we then headed to the diner for breakfast. Our hearts sank a bit when we saw the crowded parking lot but somehow they squeezed us in. We had a circular table that comfortably seated our family of seven – four in chairs, three in highchairs and all quite content after feasting on pancakes, waffles and omelets.

The weather was extremely hot, hazy and a bit iffy so, we weren’t quite sure what to do next… head to the pool? Road trip to the beach? Trek into the city to visit a museum? It was pretty much a toss up between being in water and being in air conditioning and, never ones to settle for an either/or scenario, we decided on both. First, a trip to the Norwalk Aquarium, which fairly well delivered on both requirements…. the AC was just right and, while the main attractions were obviously IN the water, we did get our hands wet as we stroked the sting rays and handled the hermit crabs. There was something for everyone… the triplets squealed with delight at the “Fishes! Fishes! Fishes!” while the big kids enjoyed building their own sailboats and shrieking at sharks.

At around 2:30, we loaded the kids into the car and loaded them up with fistfuls of snacks as we headed to our next destination… the pool! By this point, we had dragged five kids five and under to the farm share, the diner and the aquarium and frankly, we were getting kind of tired so, we were sure they would all squeeze in a snooze as soon as we hit the open road. No such luck though. These kids were fired up and ready to go – much the way I was after my run about six hours earlier!

We arrived at the pool and went through the usual drill that we’re now quite adept at… Liam and Ciara have mastered the quick change into their suits while Des and I quick change three babies… out of diapers and into swim pants, swim suits, swim shirts, sun hats and sun block. Before we knew it, we were all in the water, thoroughly enjoying splishing, splashing and a break from the oppressive heat. We were surprised to look up at the setting sun and realize that dinnertime had arrived far too quickly.

With our sense of adventure spurring us on, we decided to go out to dinner. Des’ brother Conor, who has been battling lung cancer, was playing jazz guitar at a local restaurant and going to see him play seemed like the perfect way to end our fun-filled day. And indeed it was. When Conor was playing the guitar, the horror of cancer seemed to fade away. You could see the joy it gave him – and to those who were lucky enough to be there to witness it. It reminded me of why I don’t think of Sunday – or any day – as a day of rest but rather, as a day for living life to it’s to fullest. Because, as we’ve be reminded by watching Conor bravely battle cancer, each day is truly a gift. So, why not make the most of it?

Last week, for the first time since my own childhood, I officially experienced the sensation of “school’s out for summer” – that euphoric feeling associated with long days at the pool and hot nights spent catching fireflies. Since our little guy just finished kindergarten (a fact which still seems hard to believe!), “summer” is now defined by the ten weeks until Labor Day when I won’t need to hustle him out of bed and onto the bus with a peanut-free lunch by 7:30. This alone is cause for celebration and prompted us to look into a last-minute getaway to kick off Summer 2010 in the “Lyons Den.”

We were disappointed to find the numerous beach getaways we explored cost-prohibitive but found ourselves pleasantly surprised by a “staycation” weekend at home. “We are officially on vacation!” we told the kids on Friday morning as we lounged in bed with all five of them. We never get to do that – just stay in our pajamas and snuggle and tickle and do our best to keep the triplets from falling to the floor. We’re usually rushing out the door, nagging the “big kids” to eat their breakfast and telling the babies crying in their cribs that we’ll be there “in a minute.” So, this simple act of bouncing on the bed signaled a shift in spirit. “Yay! Vacation! We LOVE vacation!”

After finally getting dressed, we went to the grocery store, where we filled the cart with items from aisles we typically avoid – a ten-pack of sugar cereals featuring Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam, Doritos, lemonade, iced tea, ice cream, freezer pops, Cool Whip – it’s quite possible that the only items with any true nutritional value were the strawberries (purchased with the sole intent of making strawberry shortcake) and milk (which, with a trio of one year olds in the house is still a requirement!).
With our fridge adequately stocked with treats, we headed to the pool – and found it be a rather resort-like atmosphere at noon on a Friday… especially since I’d opted to leave the cooler at home so that we could indulge in the offerings from the snack bar for lunch. Water-logged and sun-kissed a few hours later, we headed home for happy hour because really, what is vacation without a happy hour?! While the kids enjoyed lemonade and Doritos, we had a beer and, um, Doritos. Yum!
Next up: Dinner. While we do often cook on vacation, we decided to head out instead. As you might imagine, we don’t often dine out with our five kids five and under. As one of our fellow diners observed the other night, “this can not be a very relaxing meal for you.” Indeed, it was not. However, I didn’t cook it and I didn’t clean it up. When we asked who had fun at dinner, five little hands went up in the air – sticky, ice cream covered little hands with matching sticky ice cream smiles. This was really starting to feel like vacation.
We walked home as the sun set and the fireflies lit the way. It was well past bedtime and my daughter asked if she could watch a movie. I said yes. Then our kindergartner – oops, I mean 1st grader! – asked if he could watch the Yankee game. And I said yes. They looked at me at the same time and said “but Mom, you NEVER say yes!!!” I’m not sure that I “NEVER” say yes but I do know that when we’re on vacation, the rules change. So, after we tucked the triplets in for the night, Liam got cozy on the couch with his Dad to cheer on his favorite team while Ciara and I settled in to watch Peter Pan; we were both asleep long before they reached Neverland – quite possibly dreaming of pirates and pixie dust and the fun to be had before you grow up. In all, it was a most excellent way to kick off Summer 2010 and proved to us that a “staycation” just might be as good as a vacation.

(This post originally appeared at www.parentsask.com)