chicken soup with rice

There’s a whole series of books devoted to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I’ve never read them but I buy into the hearty goodness of chicken soup.  My grandfather delivered a vat of it when our triplets were born, assuring me that it would not only “wet my whistle” but fill my tummy too.  My husband fetched it for me when I had strep last year and it was like the elixir of the Gods.  The warm steam from the broth alone seems to have healing powers, conjuring up feelings of comfort and joy.  These are the feelings I want to create for my family when I make chicken soup.  Comfort and joy.

We really need it.  It’s been a rough few weeks.  Our triplets just started kindergarten and have been separated for the first time.  Our daughter just started second grade and has been reduced to tears over her math homework.  Our oldest son, a fourth grader, started a new school and is feeling the pressure.  In the midst of it all, I’ve been traveling for work, working long hours when I’m home and struggling with the onslaught of folders and paperwork.  We need comfort and joy.  We need chicken soup.

And so it was that last Sunday, we decided to roast two chickens.  One for dinner, one for soup.  As my husband was prepping the birds, he asked if we should “toss in the giblets” for the broth.  We’ve made soup a dozen times but never with giblets.  I thought my grandfather used the giblets for his famously good soup so I responded “Sure, toss them in the pot!”  And he did.  As we cleaned up the dinner, I added the bones and other remains, filled that pot with water and put it on a slow simmer.  I turned it off before going to bed that night, deciding to finish up the soup on Monday.  Which turned to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday. (more…)

When you conjure up an image of a kindergarten classroom, what do you see?  In my mind, there are ABCs and 123s and primary colors everywhere you look – red apples, yellow buses, blue birds.  Colors are part of the kindergarten core curriculum as four and five year olds navigate their first official school experience, expressing themselves with brightly colored blocks, crayon and PlayDoh.

For our kindergartners, identical triplet boys who have just been separated for the very first time, colors take on a whole new meaning.  We’ve used red, blue and green to tell them apart since birth.  In the early days, we relied on nail polish on each of their big toes.  As they grew, they got sippy cups in their “signature” colors.  We dressed them primarily in their “primary” colors and even today the crocs they wear are red, blue and green.  It only seemed fitting then that as they marched off to kindergarten, their backpacks were, of course, red, blue and green.

We’ve had inklings in the past that perhaps color-coding our children would present some issues.  There was the time that when asked what his name was Declan responded, “I’m blue!”  And truly, of our three little fellas, he’s a bit more “blue”, a bit more melancholy than the rest.

Then there was the time that Kevin proclaimed he is a Red Sox fan – because his color is red.  This one really did a number on my husband, whose only mandates for our children is that they “grow up to be Catholics and Yankee fans.”  Crazy, I know, but still the Red Sox thing really hit him where it hurt.

The latest evidence of what seemed like a smart survival tactic gone awry happened during Cormac’s first week of kindergarten when he was asked to draw his self-portrait.  It was green. ALL green.  Good grief, what have we done?!   His teacher is now committed to ensuring he “likes all colors” before the school year is over.

As for the rest of the others, well, we hope they learn to like all colors too.  And, we’re thinking that maybe some new backpacks wouldn’t be such a bad idea either!


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!

spring sports overload

All winter we wait.  We optimistically think, “This is last snow storm, spring must be right around the corner!”  We put away our heavy coats and sweaters, often prematurely.  We look for the bright yellow and vibrant purple of crocuses peeking out through dirty, grey snow.  We listen for birds chirping in the pre-dawn hours to confirm that spring has arrived.  And then, finally, the wait is over.  Spring arrives.

We have visions of long family walks while the sun warms our backs; of tending to the garden and nurturing new plants to life while our brood frolics around us; of lazy afternoons on the patio soaking up the sun.  And then reality sets in.  As lovely as spring can be, in our house, it’s more like Extreme Parenting, Spring Sports Edition.  In short, it is a nightmare.

For starters, when you’re watching a soccer practice at 9:30 AM or a baseball game at 5:30 PM, what little sun there is lacks the power to warm your back. Or anything else for that matter. It is freezing out!  Especially when your heavy coat and sweaters have been packed away.

There is simply no time for walks or gardening or soaking in the sunshine when you look at the calendar for Saturday and need to determine how you can be at the Girl Scout Cookie pick-up at 9:00, soccer at 9:30, hip-hop at 9:30 and baseball at… 9:30!  Reality check: you can’t!  And your kids can’t either. For ages you’ve known that a clone would be a good thing for you. For all moms.  In fact, I’ve even suggested the notion of a “sister wife” to my husband — just another gal around the house who would be my pal around the house and help out as needed — car pools, laundry, shuttling kids and equipment to and fro… and if she occasionally “helped” my husband out too well, that’s fine by me because the reality is, this spring schedule is exhausting!  But I digress…

The spring sports schedule has me thinking that even our kids need clones.  How else can they be at the baseball practice and soccer game?  At lacrosse and hip-hop?  It’s just not right.  I’ve always prided myself on “just saying no” and not overscheduling our children but I fear this spring has done me in — so much so that I am already looking forward to next winter, when the days are short, the activities are few and I dream of curling up by the fire… a fire which, for the record, we only lounged by a handful of times this past winter but even so, a girl’s gotta dream.  I just never thought those dreams would include a sister wife and a fireplace!

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?


Last Thursday night I walk talking to my parents and boasted, “I think this is the week!  Five for five!  I think we may actually have all five kids in school for ALL five days for the first time since before Thanksgiving!”  Then on Friday morning, our pale eight year old appeared in the kitchen, dropped to the floor, grabbed his stomach and moaned in pain. “It hurts Mom! It really hurts!”

I took his temperature. Nothing. He tried to throw up. Nothing. His tummy just hurt.  A lot.  But, given the lack of fever and vomit and my hellbent ambition to fulfill my “five for five” week (not to mention my desire to show up to work on time for a change!), I sent him off to school with toast in hand and the reassurance that if it really really hurt, he should go to the nurse and I’d be there to pick him up in a heartbeat. So, at 10:15 the nurse called and I was. So much for “five for five!”  And so began yet another weekend where the Lyons Den took on the air of an infirmary.

I’m not one to run to the doctor but even I had to admit defeat last week when my pals at work told me how crappy I looked (even on the day I got all fancy and used tinted moisturizer!) and started to call me “the Germ.”  The poor guy who sits down the hall from me was blasting his music just to drown out my  sniffling and nose-blowing — which is admittedly un-ladylike and loud. Really loud. Like a foghorn.  I finally decided enough was enough and sought medical treatment. It turns out that with a sinus infection, my hardcore “this too shall pass” mentality doesn’t work.  Thankfully, antibiotics do!

I share this because it dawned on me on Saturday that one of the triplets has been asking me to take him to the doctor for weeks.  Weeks!  He does lean toward the dramatic but, when I think back, I realize he was the ONLY kid who didn’t make it to the pediatrician during the long, sick month between Thanksgiving and Christmas –  those frenzied four weeks when we had at least two kids home sick from school daily. For real.  It was awful.  And this poor kid got lost in the fray. Has his nose been running? Sure. Thick green boogers? Sure. Fever? Well, not persistently but perhaps on again, off again.  “PLEASE Ma,” he pleaded on Saturday, “please can I go to the doctor?!”  And as we ran from errand to errand, to practices and parties, I told him “yes, tomorrow.”

That night, he was a real pest. A major whiner. And he refused to eat his dinner so, like any good parents, we forced him to.  As we tucked him that night — his very first night with his  brand new “big boy comforter,” he asked again, “tomorrow will you take me the doctor?” And I said yes. Then I got all sappy and sentimental as I looked at our triplets, tucked into their big-boy bunk beds with brand new comforters they could feasibly bring to college.  I went to bed pining for the baby days that have passed us by and not quite ready for the wonder years that lie ahead.  At some point in my slumber, I heard a muffled sound. “I think someone barfed,” I told my husband who was pretending to sleep.

I listened more closely. There was a cough, a snuffling nose, a quick cry. Then silence. So I rolled over and returned to the Land of Nod. Big mistake.  As the sun rose on Sunday morning, I discovered my top-bunk boy bedded down in barf, literally covered with the remains of the dinner we forced him to eat. Unfortunately, it was pasta and meat sauce.  Unfortunately, it was all over him and that brand new big boy comforter.  I don’t need to describe in detail the odor or how gross it was to clean up the mess in the top bunk; I will suffice it say that I had to shake the sheets out in the yard before washing them. It was that bad.

So, who knows.  Maybe those comforters won’t make it to college after all.  But, that boy sure did make it to the doctor. At long last!  In considering the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time at the pediatrician than in my bed and more money on doctor’s visits and prescriptions than groceries.  My pals at work have wondered aloud, “how do you do it?!”  And I resort to my standard answer, my North Star, “one day at a time.”  And then I remind myself that this too shall pass. And quickly.  This winter is long but this year, like those before it, will undoubtedly pass far too fast.  And when it does, I won’t miss the barf-covered bunks or sobbing sick children but, I’m sure the day will come when I do miss feeling so needed, so necessary and so vital to their well-being.  That’s a feeling I’d like to hold on to — one that I hope will never pass.



Dear Ikea,

I just wanted to thank you for high-jacking our weekend and providing my husband and I with a few hundred more grey hairs.  As working parents of five children, we were truly delighted to dedicate our weekend to bunk bed assembly, rather than enjoying quality time together as a family.  We were especially thrilled that as the moon rose on Sunday evening, the bunk beds still lay strewn in pieces and we had to farm out our triplets to other rooms of the house in sleeping bags.  Do have any idea what kind of disappointment this has been to our trio of four-year olds?  Or what that disappointment sounds like?  Imagine heartbroken wails, whines and tears; a symphony of agony as our little fellas faced the dark alone on the floor rather than snuggled together in the “big boy beds” they so eagerly and patiently anticipated.

With all of this in mind, we’d like to applaud you for astutely recognizing that most bunk bed consumers have large families and busy lives and as such, the luxury of time to labor feverishly over the fourteen thousand pieces you so thoughtfully provided for building the beds.  We especially appreciate the effort you put into creating the user-friendly, simple and intuitive assembly manual.  When we saw the first page – the one with an X through one stick figure and circle around two stick figures — we gave each other a big hug and jumped right in, knowing from the sweet diagram that this was a job for two people in love.  When darkness fell and we were still surrounded by bits of wood and bags of bolts, we swore and snarled at each other and considered burning your manual, having learned from a grueling day that it is woefully deceptive.  Building a bunk bed is not a job for team of two but rather, for a group of at least three, each of whom ideally has an engineering degree.  Next time you update the manual, please consider adding a third stick figure (at a minimum!) and a diploma to the diagram; this will save other harried, time-pressed parents from the frustration and duress we experienced today.

As dusk began to fall, we recognized we needed that third set of hands and called in my Dad in to help.  He was impressed by how you cleverly numbered the wooden dowels, screws and other assorted pieces pictured in the manual; he was far less impressed when he, as we had, searched for the corresponding numbers on the dowels and screws themselves and realized they did not exist.  That was a mean trick.  It literally drove my father to drink.  Not wanting to see a grown man drink alone, we joined him.  Needless to say, this didn’t make the assembly any easier.  What would make it easier would be if you could separate the thousands of pieces and place them in numbered bags that correspond to the numbers in your maddening manual.  Perhaps you were being environmentally conscious by putting approximately 14, 462 pieces into one large bag rather than several small ones? Perhaps you thought it would be fun for parents under pressure to build beds before sundown to revisit the puzzle-solving joy of their youth?  Whatever your intentions, they were wrong. We suggest you buy the baggies, number the parts and save the sanity of parents the world over who, like us, will be wooed by your Swedish design and undeniable affordability.

As for us, two weeks have passed since I first started this note of gratitude.  Though we purchased two sets of bunks, we’ve only built one. It took roughly eighteen hours.  So, here we are, two weeks later, with three boys in one set of beds. How does it work?  There’s one fella up top and two on the bottom.  Which was all well and good until one of the bottom boys barfed this week.  On the bunk, bed and brother. All we can say is that when they grow up and wonder why they shared a bed and why one was the recipient of the other’s regurgitated hot dog, we are telling them to call you. And hoping they will have a better experience than we did with your customer service line!

(not so) Fondly Yours,

The sleep-deprived members of the Lyons Den


Look familiar?

Does this picture look familiar?  With five kids who are now seven, five and three (times three!), this is a look I see all too often.  Like three times a day.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Times five kids.  That’s ten eyeballs rolling to the skies with pretty much every plate we ever place in front of them.

What’s a frustrated (and occasionally pissed off!) Mom to do?  We’ve tried reasoning with them: “Just try it, you might like it.”  We’ve tried pleading with them: “Please? Please eat just one!  Just ONE?!”  We’ve tried bribing them: “Eat your beans and you can have dessert.”  We’ve tried bargaining with them: “Ok, just eat seven beans because you’re seven years old and you can have a cookie.” And, as a last resort, we’ve even stooped to guilting them, just as our parents did to us: “You HAVE to eat it. There are starving children in (insert country here).”

Needless to say, none of these ploys work.  And, my frustration is growing in direct proportion to our growing grocery bills.  I just can’t stand — can NOT stand! — throwing food away.  We work hard for our money; we work hard to provide healthy, well balanced meals.  And, if that’s not enough to persuade our persnickety half-pints, there truly are starving children all around the world — and, for that matter, close to home as well.

My frustration reached fever pitch the past few weeks with the return of school — and the associated return of lunchboxes that came home almost as full as when they left.  Each evening, I was faced with room-temperature yogurt, misshapen cheese sticks and soggy sandwiches.  “Why didn’t you eat your lunch?!” I yelled at their little upturned noses.  “It was too warm.” “It was squished.” “It was soggy” I was told.  Of course, that wasn’t quite the truth.  The truth is that they were bored with the same-old options.  In an effort to control my temper and not further frighten my third-grader who was eyeing me like the madwoman I was, I gathered what wits I had left and asked him to write down five things he’d like to have for lunch.  This is what I got:

  • pasta and butter
  • mac and cheese
  • chicken nuggets
  • chicken noodle soup
  • grilled cheese

You know what these things are?  Dinner! Not every night, of course but, these are my lazy working mom’s go-to weeknight standbys.  I panicked.  If I give the kids mac and cheese for lunch, what will I do for dinner?!  And then it hit me.  Sandwiches! Yogurt! Cheese Sticks! Apple slices! Carrots sticks!  And all the other yummy, healthy things that I pack for lunch and unpack at the end of the day.  Yes my friends, that is the solution.  A weapon in your arsenal against picky eaters:  Make lunch the new dinner and vice versa!  It works!

From a kid perspective, it is fun and novel and new — and that is half the battle.  We’ve long enjoyed “breakast for dinner” on busy nights when the fridge can’t cough up more than a few eggs and english muffins but, the notion of “lunch for dinner” or better yet, “dinner for lunch” hadn’t occurred to me. Until now.  And so far, it’s working like a charm.  As for the old line about hungry kids around the world, well, we can’t help them all but we sure hope to help some.  This fall we’re going to bake brownies for a local shelter and deliver food baskets for Thanksgiving.  I’d like to think that we’re doing our (admittedly small) part in stamping out hunger and, selfishly, I will sleep better knowing that my own kids won’t be “starving” in their school cafeteria.

Do you have any tips for picky eaters? Please share — before the novelty of this one wears off for our brood!

It’s only Tuesday and already it’s been a long week.  The kids are still struggling to get in the back to school routine and, well, I am too. It’s exhausting!  Each day starts with dragging them out of bed, forcing them to make those beds and then rather unceremoniously shoving them out the door to the bus.  Each day ends in a frenzy of “Did you do your homework? No, you can’t play the Wii. Why didn’t you eat your lunch? Where is your library book?!” And so on until we shove them back into those nicely made beds.

I decided tonight would be different.  My husband had to stay in the city for a work-related event and I decided to make a concerted effort to be the kind, patient, supportive Mom I want to be rather then the tired, cranky, nagging Mom I often am.  I have to say, it kind of worked.  Not in a gold star kind of a way but in a “greatly improved” kind of a way.

After a quick dinner of “dinner eggs” (see, I told you there would be no gold star!), I ushered my four youngest kids out to the yard so I could have some quality time with my third-grader — the one who is most often on the receiving end of my bedtime barrage of questions.  Instead my typical yelling and accusing as I dash to and fro with pajamas and toothbrushes in hand, I sat down and I listened.  And he talked.  And he told me why sometimes it’s hard to finish all his homework.  And he told me what he would like to eat for lunch.  And it was all very reasonable. And we both felt good.

I then called in the little ones and asked my big guy to curl up with a book while I got them ready for bed.  We actually had fun as we put on PJs, brushed teeth and picked out a story. Separating “big” from “little” worked like a charm. Everyone felt like they got a piece of this tired, stressed-out Mama – and apparently, they like that!

Then I looked at the book they chose.  Want to know what it was?  It was called “Dad is Great.”  I kid you not.  I don’t how or when that propaganda landed on the bookshelf but boy, did it ever burst my bubble!  I mean, of course, their Dad is great but really, do we need to dwell on it tonight of all nights?  Tonight would have been a good night to read “MOM is Great,” is such a book exists.  If not, I’ve changed my mind.  I want that gold star!

What were you doing today at 7AM?  I had just gotten home from a run.  It was a hard run.  I was tired.  I thought that perhaps the kids would still be asleep and I could have a few quiet moments with my coffee on the porch to wake up — and armor up — for the day ahead.  I was wrong.  This is what was going on in our house at 7AM.  And, if you’re wondering where our fifth kid is, he had an early departure for a special day out with Dad.  Leaving me home alone with this:



I’m now on my third cup of coffee and I still don’t have the energy they have.  Which, I suppose, may not be such a bad thing… after all, I wouldn’t look nearly as cute bouncing off the walls and, it might be kind of inappropriate once I get to the office.  Wherever your day takes you, I hope it includes a bit of the energy and a lot of the joy that kids bring into our lives… even if they bring it a little earlier and a lot louder than we might hope for!