Filling out school forms: painful!

As you know if you are a regular reader, I typically write a “Tuesday Tip.”  People tend to marvel at the way we seemingly breeze through life with our brood of five children and have asked that I share the things that work for us – snack ideas, vacation spots, general discipline tips, etc. – and so I do.  Here’s the thing though – it’s not always a breeze.  In fact, it rarely is.

When the clock struck midnight last night, I was still filling out school forms and realized that I’d literally timed myself out of my typical Tuesday tip.  I thought perhaps I’d share a nugget of “Wednesday wisdom”  but, I fear what you’re going to get here instead is a massive dose of “Wednesday whining.”

At the moment, I’m tapped out of tips. I’m tired. Exhausted, in fact. Ever since summer came to an abrupt close and the school year started, I’ve felt like a rat on a wheel.  Everything in our life seems to be stuck in high gear, in the fast lane.  My job, always fast-paced and challenging, has picked up in intensity.  Our two older kids, now officially first and third graders, are adjusting to a busy school year as we all struggle to get in the groove of wake up/school bus/ homework/ CCD/soccer /wash/rinse/repeat. It’s a never-ending circuit with backpacks, folders and soccer cleats constantly caught in the spin cycle.

Then there are the triplets. Almost four (how did that ever happen so fast?!), they are gearing up for preschool.  Hence the forms I was filling out late last night.  When did they first walk/talk/sit/stand/crawl?  I honestly don’t have a clue.  I was going to make it up but didn’t have the energy.  So, I simply entered “at the normal age of development” on all three forms.  Then I had to explain how our trio of tots differ – after all, they are identical and the school needs a few hints for telling them apart.  Think about that for a minute – I have to create copious notes for anyone who interacts with our three little fellas… teachers, babysitters, heck, even my own parents can’t tell them apart.  It’s not a breeze.

Perhaps most challenging for me the past few weeks has been writing our address on each of the zillion forms that have crossed the threshold – forms for Girl Scouts and soccer, for emergency contacts and basic medical information.  Each and every form requires our address. And each and every time I write it down I want to cry.  Why?  Because we are moving.  In just about six weeks.  Where? Once again, I honestly haven’t a clue.

We sold our house, which was the right thing to do.  We’ve outgrown it.  It has been the perfect “my first house” and now it’s time for the next one.  But where is it? I don’t know. And I’m worried. And scared. And totally freaked out.  I’ve tried to pack but I just can’t do it.  How can I pack if I don’t know where we are going? Will we find a house to rent and need to stick some stuff in storage? Will we find a house to buy and only live in limbo for a few weeks between close dates? Will we be flopping on the floors of friends and therefore only need our clothes? I don’t know. I just don’t know.  And that is why if I need to fill out one more freakin’ form with our current address – our home sweet home — I will, well, I suppose I will keep on keepin’ on. What other choice is there?  I will grin and bear it.  I will hope for the best.  I will try to have faith that it will all work out in the end.  And when it does, I just might share how it did in Tuesday Tip of the future.  Until then, stick with me and forgive me for the Wednesday Whine!

41 and an adult at last

September 6th, 2012 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | parenting - (2 Comments)

Here is the post I wrote on the eve of my 41st birthday.  An evening when I was feeling a bit down and out.  Today, the day after, the day I am 41+, I am feeling just fine. Why? Because of my amazing family and friends and the keen realization that whatever lies ahead, they will be there.  To understand my trepidation about what lies ahead, read on…

Tomorrow I will be 41. It feels so anticlimactic as compared to 40.  When I turned 40, I anticipated an “event.”  And indeed, I got one.  First there was a fancy dinner in the city – a great date that included a moonlit walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.  And then, a week later, just as I thought the notion of being surprised had passed me by, there was a party in the park, complete with our kids, family, friends and lots of cake and balloons.

I was pleased as punch and felt more like a 40 year old child than a middle aged adult.  I still do.  In fact, my own husband remarked just the other day that I was behaving like a child. And not in a good way.

I get cranky when I get tired. I get really cranky when I get hungry.  I get pissy when I don’t get my own way. Which is often, as it is for all parents. The needs of five kids seven and under simply must come first.

Even so, I still like birthday cake and presents. And parties.  I also like puppies and kittens and trips to the zoo.  And the aquarium.  Oh how I love a good aquarium!  I like sprinkles on ice cream and milk with cookies.  Sunshine makes me happy although, despite many a bad burn, I still hate to put on sunblock.

My childlike tendencies go on and on.  I believe people are good.  A small part of me still believes in Santa Claus.  I love Christmas, just like I love birthdays. But somehow, this birthday is different.

It’s not just my birthday.  It is my oldest son’s first day of third grade and the day our only daughter will become a first grader. It is a monumental day in their lives.  And that makes the fact that I am turning yet another year older seem pretty insignificant. Forty one. Big whoop.

As the date of my birth gets closer by the minute, it occurs to me that I am no longer that 40 year-old child.  I have great angst about the choices and changes that loom ahead.  As the kids start a new year in school, we are faced with momentous, life-changing decisions.  Do we sell our charming “my first house” or stay put a few more years? Do we move to a new neighborhood in pursuit of more space to stretch out or stay put because it is comfortable and easy and, well, practically perfect in every way?  What about childcare?  Our triplets are starting pre-school and their needs are changing. But what to do about it? Where is the guidebook? And what if all this change isn’t for the better?!

These are the questions that keep me up at night on the eve of my birthday. Before a new day dawns.  A day of new beginnings.  A day filled with the promise of a new school year and freshly sharpened pencils. A day filled with questions.  Big questions. And worries.  Big worries. And fear.  Fear of the changes ahead and the decisions we have to make.  A day that I still hope will bring birthday cake. And, with a bit of luck, wishes that will come true.  A day that is my birthday. But is certainly not all about me. A day that I think I am last ready to admit I am an adult. A 41 year old adult.  Hopefully, in a good way.

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!

Nields_the band
This week I am feeling lucky once again thanks to a sneak preview of The Nield’s new album, The Full Catastrophe.  The thirteen songs swing from soulful ballads to upbeat, catchy tunes as The Nield’s, led by the powerful vocals of Nerissa and Katryna, share the trials and tribulations of motherhood and parenting in general.  Listening to this album is like having your favorite mommy blogs set to music – great music with a hint of folk, a smidge of country twang and a whole lot of honesty in lyrics you can’t help but sing along to.
I have to say, they had me at song one.  “Ten Year Tin” hits close to home since my husband and I will celebrate our ten year anniversary this October.  There are parts of this song that I – and in fact, most of us – might have written ourselves… “Things do not always go according to our plans” for instance or “We’ll save up for a trip across the sea; leave the kids, it’ll be just you and me.”  Isn’t that we all think on the day we say “I do”?  We think we’ve got it all figured out; we think, as the title track notes, “When I met you, I thought the journey was over.”  But, as we all know in retrospect, the journey had only just begun – and, there is nothing like motherhood to remind you that things often don’t go according to plan!
Our plan was to have two or three kids; we ended up with five thanks to #3 arriving as a trio of identical little fellas who will forever be our babies; our precious miracles who beat the odds and arrived at almost full term, in perfect health, and cute to boot!  When I look at our sweet angels snoozing in their cribs and then check in on their brother and sister down the hall, I have a burning desire to savor these times, to keep them close, keep them safe, keep the world at bay.  It is this emotion that comes through loud and clear in “Choose this Era” – yet another song on this album that comes from the heart and touches the heart.  “There’s danger in the paper, on the radio; I want to put my arms around you, will not let you go.”  What mom hasn’t felt this way?  I know I do.  Every day.
Last but not least, there is the fantastically funny last tune that you will play again and again.  It’s called “#1 Reason Parents are Cranky.”  Want to venture a guess?  Yep, you got it – they don’t get enough sleep!  It’s not the teething or the tantrums; it is the sleep deprivation that gets us every time.  I for one have long been advocating that the “world would be a better place if we all took naps and got eight hours of sleep!”
Parenting just might be a “full catastrophe” but you’ll get through it with your toes tapping and fingers snapping if you let The Nield’s be your guide.  To buy their new album, visit:  http://bulletproofartists.com/onlinestore/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=209   You’ll be glad you did!

LyonsDenMom on the “Red Carpet”

My hair was done.  My makeup was done.  I was wearing a brand new dress with beautiful shoes and fancy jewels borrowed from my sister.  Why?  To attend the movie premiere of The Lucky Onebased on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.  With a woman I never met before.

Her name is Julia Rose and it was work that brought us together.  I work for  House Party, a social media marketing company that drives consumer recommendations to build brands and drive sales.  In this case, the “brand” was Nicholas Sparks and the conversations and recommendations that our social media campaigns generate will result in movie ticket and book sales.
Julia is one of House Party’s most passionate brand advocates.  She created a six minute music video to demonstrate her enthusiastic adoration of all things Nicholas Sparks.  She wrote a catchy tune that weaves together the romantic twists and turns of all seventeen Sparks novels and her sister, Deborah Crawford, captured it all on film.  The House Party team rewarded their efforts by ensuring Julia Rose was one of the 1,000 lucky consumers (from a pool of tens of thousands applicants) selected to host a Nicholas Sparks Potluck House Party.
When the Sparks team at Grand Central Publishing (Nick’s publisher) and Warner Brothers (which produced the movie) heard the word, they did us one better.  They gave Julia two tickets to the premiere.  House Party responded in kind by providing airfare and hotel.  And that is how I ended up on the red carpet (to be accurate, it was a faux green lawn!) next to Julia Rose at a big-time Hollywood movie premiere. 

I didn’t know what to expect of Julia, who hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is known around town as one half of the busking duo Gladys and Maybelle.  The other half is her sister Deb, who joined us on the red carpet/green lawn. “Would they be weird?  Would we get along? Were they crazed Nicholas Sparks stalkers?” I wondered as I travelled to LA and pondered my 24 hours with Julia Rose and her sister Deb.
Julia and Deb (aka Gladys & Maybelle) at The Lucky One Premiere with Nicholas Sparks
As I returned to New York, I knew the answers were “No. Yes. Absolutely not.”  As it turns out, I have more in common than I would have thought with these two lovely Texan blondes.  As we got to know each other, I shared stories of the five feisty children and one semi-frazzled husband I left behind; this is one of my constant struggles as a working mom – leaving my family behind.  Not between the usual hours of 9 to 5 but when work spills over into family time, as business travel occasionally necessitates, I really struggle with the juggle.
I want to be a good mom. A present mom.  A mom who rules the roost but inspires her children to follow their dreams, know their limits and be true to themselves.  Well, as it turns out, Julia and Deb, a.k.a. Gladys and Maybelle, share my sentiments.  As it turns out, they named their band Gladys and Maybelle for Gladys Presley (perhaps you’ve heard of her son, Elvis?) and Mother Maybelle, the maternal in-law powerhouse behind a certain Johnny Cash.  These two women who joined me in a fairy tale evening of Hollywood glam were actually a lot like me.  We share dreams for our children; we were dazzled by the stars; and we shared a true Cinderella moment as the light bulbs flashed, the theater lights dimmed, and the story of The Lucky One swept us away.
Now that the proverbial clock has struck midnight, it’s back to reality.  My sleekly styled hair has returned to its typically curly locks.  The dress is in the closet and the sexy heels have been replaced by my signature flats. The kids are screaming, my inbox is overflowing and my to-do list is growing.  But I am content.  I am home. 
I will forever cherish the memory of the night I walked the green grass carpet with two amazing women who reminded me of the power of a great Mom and inspired me to try harder to be one each and every day.  Thank you Gladys and Maybelle.  Thank you for reminding me that every day I return home to five smiling (and potentially snot-nosed) kids and one sweet, patient husband, I am “the lucky one.”

I am leaving my husband and five children (aged seven and under!) behind for five days; five days and nights that will combine work and pleasure as I combine a business trip to LA with a visit to my sister and her family in San Francisco.  I am nervous about leaving my family behind.  And that fact that I’m leaving on Friday the 13th isn’t helping matters!

As I drove to the airport, I thought about the weekend ahead – the weekend at home, not the weekend that awaited me in San Francisco.  I thought about the responsibilities I was leaving behind — dinner times, bath times, soccer practice, baseball practice, birthday parties — all the weekend activities you’d expect from a busy family with five kids, topped off by several showings of our house, which is on the market.
Our weekends provide little down-time and are virtually devoid of R&R; if anything, I relish the return to work on Monday mornings because it gives me a chance to sit down!  So, as I embark on the flight that will take me 3,000 miles away from the mayhem of a typical weekend at home, I can’t help but think about the dear man I am leaving behind and wonder how he will do it.  It is the question I am constantly asked “How do you do it?! “ And my answer often relies heavily on “my other half” — the supportive, funny, level-headed fella who is now home alone with five feisty tykes.
He’s been fretting my pending departure for weeks, telling neighbors, family, friends and pretty much anyone who will listen that I’m leaving him — that I’m leaving him “all alone” with our five kids for five full days.  Honestly, his stress was seriously stressing me out.  So, I did what any Type A, aspirational SuperMom suffering from a bad case of guilt would do, I offered up a slew of solutions.  “I’ll create a daily meal plan.  I’ll organize rides for the birthday parties and car pools for soccer practice.  I’ll tell the realtor we can’t show the house while I’m away.  I’ll pre-pack the backpacks and lunches for Monday and Tuesday. “ And so on.  Initially, he was all for my organizational gusto.  “Yep, let’s not show the house while you’re away, it will be a mess,” he admitted.  “And a meal plan sounds great,” he concurred. 
And then, in the 48 hours leading up to my departure, something incredible happened.  My stressed out other half turned into an uber-confident SuperDad.  I, for one, always knew he had it in him but even so, was shocked when he said something to effect of “Screw the meal plan! I can feed our kids.  And if they’re hungry, they can just have a glass of milk!”  He went on to say, “And, let’s show the house.  I may not make the beds like you, but I can make a bed. I’ll even plant some pansies to increase the ‘curb appeal’.”  What?  Pansies?  Really?  Wow!
As I write this, I am hovering at 30,000 feet, barreling toward the West Coast and the adventures that await.  It was hard to say good-bye to the sweet, smiling faces that slobbered me with wet, snotty kisses; for the record, they came from my children, not my husband.  His kiss was sweeter, and seemed to linger longer than the usual perfunctory peck.  As hard as it was for me to leave, I know it will be much harder for him over the next few days.  And, I am reminded once again that I am one lucky gal — which seems especially fitting given that the work portion of my trip will include a walk on the red carpet for the premiere of the movie  The Lucky One. I am very lucky indeed. 
As for the kids, well, if all they get is milk for the next few days, they may not be quite so lucky.  But, I have a feeling that Dad is going to pull this off with flying colors when he does, I will be the first in line to ask how he did it.

“The Lyons Den”… a.k.a. “Home Sweet Home”
When we first discovered we were going to have triplets, bringing our tally of children to five tykes under four, I was absolutely stunned.  Shocked.  So much so that my initial response was “where we will we live?!”  I couldn’t envision how we’d fit five small children in our tiny three-bedroom house.  Of course, once the reality of the high-risk pregnancy set in, I became far more concerned with their health (and mine!) than our housing logistics.
Fast forward four years.  We are blessed to have five spunky, healthy children aged seven and under.  We survived the arrival of the triplets, many sleep deprived nights and the arrival and departure of baby items that simplified our lives and cluttered our cozy home – for instance, a triple set of bouncy seats, high chairs and pack & plays.  These have been handed down while our tots have been growing up.
Today, our seven-year old “big guy” and five year old “princess” share a room (and a dresser!) and the triplets do too.  As they get bigger, my stoic approach that “each kid only needs one drawer!” is getting harder and harder to hold on to;  you can fit many more onesies and baby clothes in a drawer than you can size 3T pants and shirts!
It is this crowding of the drawers and overcrowding of our house that led us – at long last – to put it on the market.  We’ve always known we needed more space. Over the past few years, we’ve flirted with other homes, longing for their master bedroom suites and spacious playrooms.  We’ve been so bold as to put offers on a few, only to wake up the next day wondering what we had done and scrambling to undo it.  We weren’t ready to make a move.  And now, I suppose, we are.  But the very notion summons up such nostalgia, I’m not sure I’ll ever really be ready to leave this house behind. 
We arrived here seven years ago and it was the perfect “my first house.”  Even so, I hated it.  We moved in on a Friday and I went back to work the next Monday, leaving my 3-month old firstborn son behind as I rode the train to the city.  The city was my home; I knew my way around and was surrounded by friends and family.  It was really difficult for me to make the transition to our bucolic little home in the suburbs but now, seven years and four more children later, I love it.   It’s hard to imagine saying good-bye to this humble abode that has truly become our “Home Sweet Home.”
I relished giving all five of our children bottles on our front porch.  Watching them play in the backyard.  Helping them climb up the stairs, out of their cribs and into my arms.  In the seven years we’ve lived here, our babies have become children and we’ve all grown older and wiser.  It’s time to move on.  But it’s so hard to go.  Especially when I don’t know where the road will lead us.  I can only hope that when we find our next house, it too will quickly become a home as sweet as this.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, the Lyons Den is abuzz with activity.  There is Irish Soda bread to be baked, a hearty stew to be made and, time permitting, a lovely Pot of Gold cake to be picked up at the Riviera Bakehouse – a gem of a bakeshop should you ever be in the neighborhood!

When I asked our seven-year old, Liam, what St. Patrick’s Day was all about, he responded without hesitation, “It’s about being together as a family and remembering Ireland” – which I thought was a pretty astute answer for a second-grader; after all, I’ve never shared the story of St. Patrick chasing the snakes out of Ireland so it’s only fitting that he thinks the day is about family, togetherness and remembering our Irish roots.
It’s worth noting that while Liam was having his moment in the spotlight, his little sister Ciara and little brothers Kevin, Declan and Cormac (identical triplets and a stroke of Irish luck if ever there was one!) were all nodding in accordance.  “Family.” “Together.” “Family.”  In a rare occurrence, we found a topic to which we all could agree.
Now, as you might have surmised from the impressive roster of Irish names for our brood, we’ve got a lot o’green in our blood and a fair amount of Irish pride that flows along with it.  My maiden name was O’Connor; my mother’s maiden name was O’Brien.  Frankly, when I married a guy with the last name Lyons, I thought we should compromise and become the “O’Lyons.”  Needless to say, that didn’t work.  As a first generation Irish American whose Dad hailed from County Cork, my husband Des was far too proud to change his name – and, almost a decade later, I can’t say I blame him.
We had the privilege of our taking our clan (yes, we flew to Ireland with five children then six and under!) to Ireland this fall.  We caught up with friends in Dublin, visited family in Bray, drove through the rolling hills of Wicklow, kissed the  Blarney Stone and toured County Cork, sharing the magic of Kinsale and other seaside villages with our kids.  It was a whirlwind of a trip and at times a challenge to juggle five (jet-lagged!) children as we saw the sights but it was well worth it.  While I still recall the screaming banshee I became at the end of a few especially long days, the kids recall a magical, mystical fairy tale of a trip. 
The 2-year old triplets gave us some precious sound bites, one of my favorites of which was “If this is Barney Castle, where he at?” Ciara celebrated her fifth birthday at the Dublin Zoo, a must-see if ever you make the journey and Liam, the oldest of our crew, fell in love with the Emerald Isle. He is reading Yeats, seems to have absorbed the significance of the 1916 Easter Uprising and, in true seven year old form, naturally assumes that we’ll be heading back to Ireland this fall. 
For the record, we won’t – but, if time and money weren’t an issue, we’d go back in a heartbeat.  Ireland is truly the land of a hundred thousand welcomes; not everyone welcomes a family of seven (with a few of them possibly wet – from either the unpredictable weather or an “accident”!) but all over Ireland, we were welcomed with open arms. With big smiles.  With warm tea or a cold pint.  It is that spirit – that welcome, that zest for life, for story-telling, for music, for dance, that I hope our children embody as they grow up — on St. Patrick’s Day and every other day of the year.  I hope they embrace life experiences and the people they encounter along the way with Cead Mile Failte. A hundred thousand welcomes.
One of my little fellas who always pauses to smell the flowers
If you live in the Northeast, you know that our “un-winter” is just about over; with the unusual warmth this week combined with the extended daylight hours, it’s really beginning to look — and feel — a lot like spring.

Spring is typically a time of year when our already over-filled lives grow even fuller.  As we say so-long to basketball, we find ourselves in the midst of soccer, baseball, t-ball, lacrosse clinics and, in just one civilized respite, a ballet recital.  Suddenly the winter hours we spent in a chilly gym seem minimal in contrast to the hours we’ll spend on the grassy sidelines this spring.  The good news is that the dawn of spring and advent of summer allow us longer days and the occasional permission to linger… the time to stop and smell the roses, as they say.

Today I did just that.  Not in the literal sense; despite the warm winter and early spring, the roses have yet to bloom… although, many crocuses have come up to meet the sun and a few daffodils are in full bloom.  I witnessed them firsthand as I left my desk behind and took my lunch to a local park.  A local park where I knew the triplets would be playing and that just a few moments with them would brighten my busy day even more than the sunny skies.  It helps that they were thrilled to see me; at three years old, they are almost always thrilled to see me — and with a five and seven year old who are at times now slightly less enamoured, I want to treasure every moment that they treasure me.  And today I did.

I took off my shoes and played in the sandbox. I yelled “Ready, Set, GO!” as I raced them down the slide.  I walked them home and timed it just perfectly as the school bus pulled up and my two “big kids” hopped off the bus and into my arms.  It turns out they are happy to see me after all.  We bought lollipops at the corner store to make the stroll home a bit sweeter. Then I left them with our sitter and returned to the office less than an hour after I left; an hour that I will forever cherish and is a great reminder that spring is the perfect time to take at time-out and enjoy the beauty around you, wherever you find it.  For me, today’s beauty was captured in blue skies, purple and yellow flowers and five smiling faces sticky with lollipops.

Twas the week before St. Patty’s Day

And the excitement is a’brewin’
For on the 17th of March,
We know just what we’ll be doin’.
We’ll be taking an early train,
Down to New York City
Where we’ll take in the Parade, 
With bands and dancers oh so pretty.
We’ll join family and friends 
As we sing the songs of old
And our Irish Eyes will be smilin’ 
Whether the weather’s warm or cold.
We’ll be wearing our green 
And our Irish sweaters too,
We’ll be bravin’ the crowds 
With our rather sizable crew.
On the Cathedral steps we will be
As the parade goes marching by
We’ll be burstin’ with our Irish pride
As the tri-color flag waves in the sky.
We’ll be missing our loved ones 
Who won’t be there to share the day,
They will be in our hearts 
As to the music we will sway.
We’ll be grateful for the family and friends 
With whom we’ll celebrate,
We’ll be on that train back home again
Before it gets too late.
We’ll smile down upon the freckled faces 
That bring us so much joy,
As we thank God that we are Irish
And have one sweet girl and four sweet boys.