So, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking off for a week without saying good-bye and also forgive me if you don’t see quite as much of me here. I’m sure I’ll still post at least once, and probably twice a week, but if I should disappear again for a short while, you will know why. It will be because that pendulum has once again swung out of balance and I need to swing it back where it belongs. Either that or this bum thumb has interfered with my typing! Either way, I’ll eventually be back and hope you will too.
My husband is a patient, funny, loving, gentle soul. Of course, he is also a husband and, like many husbands, has on occasion completely forgotten Valentine’s Day and instead professed “every day is Valentine’s Day with you!” I never thought I’d stoop to his level but this year, I have. And, as I’m prone to do far more often today than when we first got married almost a decade ago, I have to admit, he just might be right.
Maybe we should treat every day like Valentine’s day — not in a roses and chocolate kind of way but rather, in the way we treat each other each year when February 14th rolls around — with an extra dose of love and kindness. With an extra sense of care and devotion. With the thoughtfulness and sensitivity we bestow upon new love and forget all too soon as that love grows familiar and comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if on any given Tuesday you reminded your loved ones what you loved most about them? What makes them so special to you? That’s what I’ve decided to do this Valentine’s Day.
I started by writing that card from Target to the dear man I snuggle in with each night and start anew with each morning. I also wrote cards to each of our kids, taking the time to think about what I love most about them, what makes them each unique. This was a great way to remind myself of what matters most — on Valentine’s day and every other day of the year. In short, it is…
- Des’ ability to make me laugh even when I’m tired and grumpy — which lately, is far to often!
- Liam’s willingness to try anything once, his determination to succeed in school and in sports and his wide-eyed innocence that I fear will fade all too soon.
- Ciara’s ability to connect with little kids, old folks and anyone in between and offer a sweet smile or kind word. Her smile brightens days, and often brightens mine.
- Kevin’s innate happiness… the way he climbs out of his crib and into our bed with a huge grin that is just a delicious way to start the day.
- Declan’s infectious laugh and power hugs. The kid has a hug like no other — it can squeeze a bad day right out of you and for me, often has.
- Cormac’s sparkling eyes, alive and aglow with a sense of mischief and disarming charm. It charms me daily and, will surely charm and disarm many other ladies — and Valentine’s — in the years to come.
Perhaps more than anything else, I love this picture, which my handsome hubby drew and I think says it all:
|The O’Connor Sisters, circa 1979|
Except for one little detail. My sister wasn’t happy to be back in New York; as it turns out, she left her heart in San Francisco. And as it turns out, she is there once again. This week, she and her family packed up and moved back to the place she now calls home. A place that is 3,000 miles away. A place she went once before and I believed would temporary. As it turns out, I was wrong. How is it that when this tiny little person arrived on the scene in 1976, I would have given anything to “send her back” and now she occupies such a huge part of my heart that I’d give anything to have her back. If I had to do it all over again, maybe I’d lay off the Bain de Soleil. Or better yet, I’d stick her back in that crib so I could keep her close to home forever.
Do you have nicknames for your kids? We do. Lots of ‘em. So many that I fear they may be causing some issues with our identical triplet boys. But, to be fair, let me start at the beginning.
When Liam, now seven, was born, he was a real snuggle bug. It was the winter of 2004/5 and during those long, cold, dark months, he spent a lot of time snuggling in and scootching up my shoulder in that way only a newborn can. You know about schootching, right? It’s that wiggly way babies nuzzle in, up and over your shoulder; it’s really quite pleasant to experience, especially when the wind is howling and the temperature is falling. This sweet baby maneuver earned Liam the nickname of “Scootie” in addition to an original little ditty we’d sing to him that went something like this: “Ooh, ooh, Scootie, ooh Scootie-Loo. Ooh ooh Scootie. Ooh Ooh, we love you!” Sleep deprivation can do strange things to you and this was definitely one of ours. I’m sure Liam is grateful to have outgrown the Scootie nickname but, the standard was set and his four other siblings are now suffering the consequences.
For Ciara, it’s not that bad. When she was first born, we called her “Bitsy” because she seemed so itsy-bitsy compared to her big brother Liam, who was almost two at the time. As the months passed, she turned into “Little Bitsy Burps A Lot” because, well, she burped a lot and it sounded like a cute doll name and she seemed like a cute little doll. When she started to talk, she couldn’t say “Ciara” and it came out like this “Ciaga” — pronounced like this: “Key-Ga.” Somehow, that one stuck. We all call her Ciaga. Which has line extensions including: Ciaga-Loo, C.Loo, Lucy Loo, and LuLuLemon. Don’t ask. It just happened. Sleep deprivation still reigns supreme. The bad news is that as this five year old hops on the bus and heads to kindergarten, we are waving good-bye to our sweet Ciaga-Loo. The good news is that the kids at school all call her Ciara; she can say it, spell it and knows without a shadow of a doubt that Mom and Dad’s silly nicknames stay at home.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said of our identical triplets who, at three years old seem to already have some identity issues brewing. We consistently dress Kevin, Declan and Cormac in red, blue and green to help folks tell them apart; this backfired rather dramatically when Declan started to tell people his name is “Blue” . You would think given the challenges that these guys face, walking around town with identical little faces, we would stay true to the names we gave them. But alas, that is not the case. I find nicknames just too irresistible and as such, Kevin has become KooKoo Bear, Declan is Duckling and Cormac is MacMac. But wait, it doesn’t end there, there’s more!
For Kevin, KooKoo Bear has several iterations, our favorite of which includes pretending to page him, like those announcements you hear in the airport. “Mr. Bear? Is there a Mr. Koo Koo Bear in the house?” He thinks it’s hilarious and so do we. Our little Duckling (formerly known as “Blue”) tends to take things relatively in stride, including the occasions when we quack at him, assuming that he must speak Duck. For the record, he does not and seems to find our antics and quacking less amusing by the day. Last but not least, there is MacMac. He was born last and came into the world as “Baby Mac.” Not to be outdone by his identical siblings, he was a chow hound from day one and clearly committed to becoming “Big Mac” on the fast track… which of course led us to all sorts of fun including the occasional “Mac Snack Attack”, “Mac & Cheese” and the final grand evolution to “Macaroni” which, of course, culminated in our admittedly absurd paging game: “Mr. Roni? Is there a Mr. Mac A. Roni in the house?”
Is it sleep deprivation? Are we insane? Do all parents have numerous strange nicknames for their kids? I don’t know. All I know is that yesterday, Kevin came home from preschool with some “artwork” that said “KooKoo” on the back. Apparently the teacher tried to write “Kevin” and he indignantly insisted “my name is NOT Kevin. I am Koo Koo Bear!” Um, Houston, I think we have a problem. I hope it’s one he outgrows. But if not, I beg you not to make fun of my Koo Koo Bear. If you do, prepare for the wrath of his loyal back-up unit because if there’s one thing I can say about Scootie, Ciaga, Duckling and MacMac and KooKoo, it’s that they stick up for each other… which, I suppose, is at least one thing we’ve gotten right in this hazardous, sleep deprived world of parenting!
This year, as I teeter on the edge of 40 and ponder what 2011 may hold, I’ve decided to rethink my resolutions. I’ve decided that since there’s an undeniable pattern in my annual goals (exercise more, save more money, find time for date nights!), why limit them to a calendar year? Why not think of resolutions as long-term ambitions? Maybe it’s a cop out. Maybe I’m letting myself off the hook by lifting the 12.31.11 deadline but, on the other hand, maybe I’m giving myself the chance to truly be a better person and lead a better life. It is with this hope, intention and optimism in mind that I share with you my goals for 2011… and beyond.
I would like to yell less and listen more. I’d like to really listen, to actually hear what my children and my husband have to say. To take the time to digest and respond to their comments, thoughts and requests with more than my typically breezy “yup, uh-huh, sure” or “what’d ya say, hon?”
I’d like to be more present and less distracted. To live in the moment. To savor the moment. To recognize that it’s not always necessary (or productive!) to fold the laundry while helping with homework and assisting with puzzles and Lego creations. To realize that the homework, puzzles and Legos matter far more than neatly folded towels! To remember that multi-tasking has its limits and ultimately, gets in the way of really listening, being present and living in the moment.
I’d like to be more grateful for what I do have rather than longing for what I do not. I’d like to truly appreciate the little things that matter and stop yearning for the big things that don’t. I’d like to start each day with a smile and end it the same way. I’d like to be a better wife and more patient parent. I’d like to instill my children with a sense of confidence in themselves and respect for others.
I’d like to set a good example – something I’m not always prone to do, especially toward the end of the day when I’m as tired and hungry as my five little “Cubs”; I’ve been known to try to outshout them just to be heard and trust me, this doesn’t work. Not to mention, it does nothing for your esteem to know that you’ve stooped to the level of a pre-schooler!
Come to think of it, perhaps I’m resolving to simply stop acting like the many pre-schoolers who inhabit our home. All I need to do is be a better listener, focus on the task at hand and take time to appreciate (rather than sweat!) the small stuff… including, for example, all the arts & crafts projects our little Cubs create. If I’m lucky, this year’s projects will include a few nice birthday cards wishing me a Happy 40th and I’ll be perfectly happy with just that. Although, of course, the party and weekend away would be nice too!
There were several moments this week when I knew the Christmas spirit had officially entered the Lyons Den. Granted, if you were to go by the store windows, the Christmas season actually started the day after Halloween but, we like to take things a bit more slowly around here… or, perhaps better put, we have to take things a bit more slowly. Between birthdays and work days and play dates and sick days, it’s hard to even find the time to trim the tree. And, as I recently discovered, sometimes the spirit of Christmas sneaks into the most unsuspecting of places. Here are my Top 10 signs that it’s officially Christmas in the Lyons Den.
- The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. Well, perhaps not with all that much care but, they are definitely there! All seven of them plus one for the dog that still needs a hook. Hopefully that hook will arrive before Christmas.
- Our porch is glistening with twinkly Christmas lights. I’m a white light gal myself but, after spending the better part of an afternoon searching for the one in a million replacement bulb on our ten year old strand, my poor hubby tossed in the towel, hightailed it to Home Depot and purchased the brightest lights you’ve ever seen. The first night they welcomed me home from work, I thought there was a cop car or disco ball on our porch. So much for a “white” Christmas!
- The kids have all decided what they want from Santa… and the triplets have once again confirmed that “identical” only goes so far. One wants a teddy bear and Pokemon cards (I suspect his big brother planted that seed!), one wants puzzles and much to my husband’s dismay, one wants a “baby and a stroller.” Got it Santa?
- The aroma of Christmas is in the air. In addition to a fondness for white lights, I also have a keen appreciation for Christmas candles; I’ve always loved the welcoming smell of cinnamon and that seasonal sniff of evergreen. I appreciate it even more now that my house is a urinal. With three three-year old whizzers freeing willy whenever and wherever they can, our house typically stinks like a city subway in the summer heat. In a word: piss. Thankfully, eau de pee has been replaced by Mrs. Meyer’s long-burning scents of the season and I for one am thrilled.
- The dog is wearing reindeer antlers. That poor pet whose stocking has yet to be hung has been temporarily transformed into a reindeer. What amazes me most is that he actually puts up with it. I swear he knows we’re laughing at him yet he just hangs his head and tolerates it. If that stocking ever gets hung, it really should be filled with a whole lot of dog treats!
- The kids are wearing Santa hats. Well, two of them are anyway. The other three are miserable because they don’t have Santa hats but, well, Christmas is coming!
- We had — and survived — the annual Christmas tree debate. The whole “it’s too fat/thin/tall/short/crooked” altercation never gets old for us. We just can’t agree on a tree. So this year, we decided to let the kids pick it; this way, if it’s not absolutely perfect, we can blame them. And we did. Our goofy tree is as crooked as can be and looks like someone took a hacksaw to one side. Next year, we pick the tree!
- We had — and survived — the annual family Secret Santa ritual. Needless to say, there are very few secrets but the names have been chosen and the shopping is underway. Credit to my sister for finding this great site if you’re in need of some Secret Santa logistical assistance: www.drawnames.com
- I cried. I don’t what it is about Christmas-time but it makes me super-sentimental. The songs, watching my kids watch the classics of my childhood (Rudolph, Frosty, etc.), it all gets the tears flowing. Fortunately, laughter often follows — especially when my tots ask things like “what we watching for?” in response to the opening line of “Santa Clause is coming to town.” My feisty fella had a point, what are we watching out for anyway?!
- I had a moment when I felt truly blessed and grateful for all I have and, in particular, for my family. And, in particular, for my sister. This is the one that happened in the most unsuspecting of places — a dressing room in the lingerie department of Lord & Taylor while she breastfed her three week old daughter. There we were. Three girls surrounded by bras, just having girl talk. It was that simple. And that awesome.
I was suddenly filled with the spirit of Christmas which, for me, is more than those garish lights that grace our porch or the stockings that grace our mantle or the hats or antlers that grace the heads around me. It’s what’s in those heads that counts. And what’s in mine, for the moment at least, is a sense of wonder for our incredible family. I’m going to enjoy while it lasts because I’m pretty sure this wonder will fade once the house smells like a urinal again!