It’s hard to believe that the summer has gone so quickly. I remember thinking over Memorial Day Weekend that this summer would likely be recalled as the “Summer of Peril.”  What other way was there to consider the hazy, hot, humid days that streteched ahead through Labor Day… days that would be filled with poolside ventures , backyard barbecues and beachy weekends attended by my own personal set of Backyardigans – a full set of five that included only one swimmer (which is a flattering description of Liam ‘s ability though fortunately, he does keep himself afloat!), one pink-Croc wearing sprinter, and three toddlers, in the most literal sense of the word. As I look back on Summer 2010, I realize (once again) just how lucky we are.

To provide you with just a quick rundown… there were consistently little Lyons Cubs running into the street as we chased them shouting “No, no! No, no, no!” … which, of course, they interpreted as “GAME ON!” and ran all the faster. Then there were the backyard barbecues… “HOT!” we’d yell as they approached the fiery grill with outstretched hands. And we can’t overlook the stairs, inside and out, that were tumbled down repeatedly, resulting in lumps and bumps and frequent use of the “Boo Boo Bunny.” There were snack drawer invasions, toilet bowl fishing expeditions, crib climbing and table dancing. There were falls from bikes and trikes and trips from tree roots and uneven sidewalks. There was one impressive bee sting, millions of mosquito bites, a case of strep throat, a few ear infections and the realization that one of our car seats has a curse – whoever sits in it inevitably pukes. So, of course, to keep things fair, we rotate the kids in that seat so that everyone gets their fair share of puking. Thoughtful, right?

Then there’s the challenge that the pool and beach present. We made it to Labor Day with nary a scare despite the triplets tottering at the water’s edge for months. And then it happened. On the unoffical last day of summer, we let our guard down. In the blink of an eye, two of our tots ended up in the deep end of my parents’ pool, bringing all our fears of the Summer of Peril front and center. Thank God that in the next blink of an eye my Dad and brother-in-law fished them out. Thank God that they were only shaken up and not physically harmed. And, thank God that the Summer of Peril is finally behind us!

I am so ready to put away the Crocs and pull out the sneakers. Needless to say, I’ve already packed away the swimsuits and located the snowsuits. I’m really looking forward to Fall adventures that I hope will include apple picking and pumpkin carving and who knows, maybe even lighting a fire in the fireplace… although, maybe that should wait just a bit longer… I don’t think my nerves are ready for an Autumn of Peril; instead, I’m hoping for a Fall with few falls, frequent laughs and a continued sense of gratitude for our mischievous little Cubs.

With Back to School just around the corner, I’ve been inspired to get organized. To get REALLY organized. My “big boy” will be starting first grade in a few weeks, my little lady will be starting preschool, and God only knows what’s in store for the triplets this fall. As my work schedule grows ever more challenging and our home life grows busier by the day, I find I am increasingly driven to control the controllables.

The past few weeks in the Lyons Den have been like nesting on steroids. I think it all began when one of my friends got one of those nifty label makers. It was barely out of the box before I was on the doorstep asking (possibly begging) to borrow it and admiring her handiwork as evidenced by a drawer full of neatly labeled spices and kitchen staples. With the coveted label-maker in hand, I spent several nights staying up until 1AM organizing our basement full of hand-me-downs… 2T Fall/Winter, 2T Outerwear, 2T Spring/Summer, 3T Fall/Winter… you get the picture. And, I must say, it is now a very nice, neat looking picture in an otherwise cluttered basement!

With the hand-me-downs under control and a clear sense of what the kids need for fall (not much!), the next item on the agenda was Project Paper Control. I hadn’t realized that my piles of paper (in the kitchen, in the dining room, on my desk, etc.) were a problem until one evening, while watching a Yankee game rerun (which is another problem altogether!), Liam called me in to watch an infomercial for something I think was called a “FileMe.” He excitedly yelled, “Look Mom, you gotta watch this! This is JUST what you need so you can find what you’re looking for!” Really? He’d picked up on this? The fact that I can often be spotted shuffling around, muttering to myself “where is the form for soccer sign up?” or “did they really send a school calendar?!” or “Dammit! How did I miss Silly Hat day again?!” At only five years old, the kid had keenly identified the kink in my otherwise well-organized chain. Paper.

Paper! It enters our home in droves – it arrives in the mail, sneaks in backpacks, springs forth from our printer and I swear, on occasion has even sailed through the window disguised as an airplane. What to do with it all?! Clearly, my neatly stacked piles scattered throughout the house weren’t working – as my charming five year old so astutely pointed out. Since I didn’t catch the end of the FileMe ad (it was rudely interrupted by a BiteMe episode courtesy of the triplets), I was quite pleased to be the lucky recipient of some new filing products from Smead : a Stadium File Folder and set of Super Tab Folders. With these items (and that label maker which I have yet to return!) in hand, I gleefully tackled Project Paper Control – and did so with great success, if I do say so myself!

In the kitchen corner that used to house an overflowing basket of last year’s birthday cards, Candyland directions, Exersaucer warrantees, recipes torn from magazines, an outdated sanitation calendar and a handful of Snake tattoos (not mine!), there is now a neat looking filing system that I think would meet with even Liam’s approval – for he, as the oldest “Cub” in our “Den” has the most to benefit from a well-organized Mom. He now stands a fighting chance of actually getting his soccer uniform, not going to school on Columbus Day and arriving at Sunday School on the right day… which, oddly enough, isn’t Sunday!

With my new Smead file system in place, there is finally a home for the many papers that periodically pile up. There’s a file for bills (Pay Me), 401K statements (File Me), Harvest Festival announcements (Remember Me) and that 20% off Hannah Anderson coupon (Redeem Me!). Additionally, Liam and Ciara have files for school and, as with any good system, there is room to grow. Should this be the fall that Kevin, Declan and Cormac actually sign up for story time at the library or take a toddler music class, there will be a place for their paperwork – and it won’t be in a pile on the dining room table.

Thank you to the kind folks at Smead for providing me with these superb samples… and, a $20 Target gift card that I’ll likely use to buy more! With my new system in place, we’re all looking forward to a successful school year – especially since I now have a fighting chance to remember Silly Hat Day, Pajama Day, Friendship Salad Day or whatever else they come up with to send some paper home and keep busy moms on their toes!

After a few recent adventures, it dawned on me that age really does matter. A lot. Particularly when you’re talking about juggling an assortment of activities for five kids who are five, three and one. Simply deciding on which playground to visit can mean the difference between my tiny tykes climbing, sliding and swinging to their heart’s content or perilously dangling from too high monkey bars and threatening to give their mother – and any innocent onlookers – a heart attack.

We’ve learned this, and many other age-appropriate lessons the hard way. We’ve spent Saturdays at the park where the “big kids” are bored (just shoot me if they say it again!) because they are too old to be satisfied by a sandbox. We’ve spent Sunday afternoons scouring the floor for LiteBrite pegs and little Lego pieces and praying that the triplets didn’t ingest them while we weren’t looking – because, let’s face it – we can’t always be looking! We’ve purchased birthday gifts and Christmas presents that are clearly marked for “ages 4 and up” or “ages 6 and up” and looked on befuddled as our junior wonders sucked on their washable markers instead of creating fine works of art. I suppose I’ve finally learned that age restrictions – or suggestions — exist for a reason. And, we’re happier parents with happier kids when we elect to respect them rather than defy them… even though we both have a fairly healthy defiant streak!

In any case, it’s not always easy to find the right park/playground/toy/game for all five of our kids – and I now realize that’s ok. It’s ok to divide and conquer and it’s ok at times to make sacrifices for the good of the greater group… which in our case, as a family of seven, is quite sizeable! On occasion, Liam and Ciara may be stuck watching a Baby Einstein video instead of their preferred Backyardigans or, God help me, Sports Center. (Yes, at only five years old, Liam has become a Sports Center enthusiast. We clearly have his avid sports fan Dad to thank for that!) On occasion, the triplets have to sit on the sidelines while Liam and Ciara go for a swim in the “big pool” or tackle the waves at the beach. And, on occasion, we will all enjoy the universal appeal of building a sand castle or reading a good book together.

As the summer passes by and birthdays loom ever closer – all of our kids were born in October or November… heck, even I will mark the passing of another year this September — it’s good to remember to enjoy the time that we have and not wish it away. One day – sooner that I care to imagine — they will all be swinging from those too high monkey bars, creating fine art in whatever form they define it, and leaving Baby Einstein and the Backyardigans behind. I’ve found that it’s a lot less stressful – and a lot more fun – to enjoy the ages we all are today.

Last week, I once again suffered the “woe is me” travails of a working mom. As usual, I tried my best to be buttoned up before I left, especially since it was a longer than usual trip for me – three nights away from home and a whirlwind tour of the Midwest: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Milwaukee in less than 72 hours. In preparation, I left the laundry clean, the fridge stocked, the dinners planned and notes about camp activities posted on the bulletin board. Even so, Ciara showed up with only a ponytail for “silly hat day” and Liam was sporting his typical shorts and t-shirt for “pajama day”… who thinks of these things anyway?! It wasn’t the lack of hats and PJs that got to me though – it was missing the triplets first haircut that really put me in a tailspin.

In fairness, Des and I had talked about it. I had become unusually attached to the sweet ringlets draping down their necks and the surfer dude bangs that hung over their eyes. Even my grandmother – their great-grandmother – remarked that they looked a bit like girls and a haircut was long overdue. This was the last bit of ammunition Des needed to sharpen the scissors (actually, to buy a professional grade barber set!) and plan a cutting party in my absence.

When I called home on Tuesday night, the soundtrack on the other end of the line wasn’t exactly reassuring. Don’t get me wrong – everyone sounded jolly enough and my Mom and Dad had even showed up for the grand clipping. It was when my Dad said “don’t worry, we improved with each job!” that I really started to get concerned. “Did you take the Flip video?”, I asked. “Um, well, we tried, but, um, I don’t think it came out, I mean it didn’t really work, um, we have some good video of them afterwards, I think.” my Dad said rather sheepishly. “Did you take pictures?! Are there any pictures?!” I asked desperately. Then Des got on the phone. “Well hon, we thought you’d be able to pull the pictures from the Flip and well, that didn’t really work out so well. Trust me though, they look much better – and, like your Dad said, we really did get better with each kid!”

So, as I sat alone in a hotel room in Milwaukee wondering if my dear sweet babies now looked like skinheads, I had not a single photo to assuage my fears. To the contrary, I had mounting dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs. I hated their haircuts and I hadn’t even seen them yet. I just knew I didn’t like them. How could I? I had wrapped up a fairly formidable amount of emotional baggage in those reddish-blonde ringlets.

For starters, I was frankly just pissed that I was once again away for work and missing something – anything – in our kids’ lives. Silly hat day, pajama day, woke up on the wrong side of bed day, whatever. Things were happening and I was missing out. And it ticked me off. Far more substantially though, is the passage of time that the ringlet removal marks. This is it. Simply put, these guys are the end of the line for me – there will be no more babies and there will be no more first haircuts. Those sweet little curls have somehow grown (far too long, ok, I admit it!) to represent the last days of baby-dom. As go the curls, so too goes the ability to truly call them babies. They are now officially toddlers, tykes, little boys. And, while this in many ways represents a triumphant turn (we’ve survived!), it is also bittersweet. Bye bye babies and hello little fellas. So long snugglers and welcome wayward wanderers. Such is life, I suppose, And, it’s not necessarily a bad thing; I realized when I finally got home that it’s not so bad at all. Those babies have turned into little guys that sit up in their cribs and squeal “MAMA, MaMa, Mama!!!!” with delight. And, I must say, with the new haircuts and all, I am equally delighted to see them.

NOTE:  For reasons that are obvious if you’ve just read this post, the pictures above are the “before”… stay tuned… the “after” pics will surely follow…

When I got up this morning, I realized that August is almost upon us. How can this possibly be?! I have noticed that it’s getting dark a bit earlier and there is an abundance of “back to school” catalogs in my mailbox but even so, I find it hard to believe that we only have a month left of true, school-free, care-free summertime. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my thoughts on summer’s Top 10 most enjoyable aspects…

1. Getting kids dressed in shorts, t-shirts and crocs. No messing around with socks, sweaters, jackets, hats, gloves or boots. Although, lest you were wondering, we do still stick to the standards like undies or diapers… hopefully not much longer on the diapers though!

2. Blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Fresh, flavorful and enjoyed by all. Enough said!

3. Fireflies. Or, as the triplets so joyfully exclaim, “Fy-Fies! Fy-Fies! Fy-Fies!” I think they can really relate to the “catch me if you can attitude” since it’s one of their favorite games to play with me.

4. Thunderstorms. The good ones with lots of lightening and big loud booms. They can be enjoyed in equal measure on the front porch with a glass of wine or hiding under the covers, comforting any one (or five!) of our little “Cubs.”

5. Easy entertaining… wanna come over? Great – let’s see what’s in the fridge… Burgers? Dogs? Beer? Lemonade? It’s a party! And it really is just that easy.

6. Sun, sand, salt water, swimming pools. Splendid!

7. Vacation anticipation. We’re not going away until almost Labor Day but, I’ve been day- dreaming about lazy days on the Cape for a while now… when the going gets tough, my mind goes to Cape Cod and is calmed by the knowledge that a full week of work-free fun-filled days lie ahead. I can’t wait. And, I know there will be memories to power me through the year ahead as I await the next break from the daily grind.

8. Iced tea, iced coffee, ice cream, ice pops, Italian ice… and, the perfect photo ops that they create with five sloppy, sticky, satisfied, smiling faces.

9. Sundresses. Comfortable, cute, cool and versatile. Dress it up, dress it down. You’re good to go!

10. The ability to take it all outside. Walking, running, biking, and yoga. Reading, writing, even working. Eating, drinking, socializing, sitting, sometimes even sleeping. The constant opportunity to enjoy life al fresco is a gift that I’m especially grateful for after the long cold snowy winter that is an increasingly distant memory yet I know will soon be replayed.

So, with August about to begin and school days looming not far behind, I’m looking forward to enjoying another month of all that summer has to offer… and hope that you do too.

It’s been a rough few weeks in the Lyons Den. In fact, it’s been a challenging couple of years as we’ve adjusted to life with the triplets and the untimely death of my brother-in-law, who recently lost his battle with lung cancer. To provide a bit more context, our daughter had just turned two the week our triplets were born and our oldest was not yet four – which gave us five kids under four to tend to and trust me, at times it wasn’t pretty! Trying to feed, change and acclimate to life with three newborns while still finding time to shower their big brother and sister with attention and affection wasn’t always easy. And, when my brother-in-law got sick earlier this year, not surprisingly, life got a bit more challenging once again.

My husband and I both work full time; when we arrive home, our second – and arguably more important – full time job begins: the care and feeding of all our little Lyons Cubs. This is a job we love – except, of course, for the times we don’t… like when there are five kids whining for dinner or arguing over a ball and creating at decibels that really requires those fancy noise-canceling headphones. In any case, when Conor got sick, my husband was often the first in line to tend to him, leaving me to tend to our five tots at home. Of course, this was as it should be but, it was hard, as life occasionally is.

 Being of rather proud and stoic Irish descent, I’m not one to ask for help and my husband most certainly wouldn’t think of it! We are strong, we are optimistic, we can be tough and at times, we can be downright obstinate. When the triplets came home from the hospital (all together, without spending a day in the NICU! So much for the “phased rollout” I had planned on!), there were many offers of help. “Just tell us what we can do” said countless family and friends. “Oh no, we’re FINE” I’d reply as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and staggered by them in a daze. Fine? Really? No way! We were so NOT fine. We were exhausted and overwhelmed and it took getting a nasty case of bronchitis when the babies were six weeks old for me to finally “cave in” and accept the kindness and assistance that had so readily been offered. I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long.

Before we knew what hit us, there were neighbors bringing dinner, friends feeding babies and weekend visits from family that allowed us to occasionally get out of the house and leave the kids behind. Conor continued the task he started when Ciara was born and walked our dog Finnegan each and every day. Slowly but surely, we started to rely on our newfound extended support system and eased into the daily routine of juggling life, work and play with five tykes under five. Today, we’d be lost without these folks – especially since we are now so keenly feeling the loss of Conor. Let me share a snapshot of life in the Lyons Den one day last week…

At 5:45AM, I rolled out of bed to meet two of my neighbors and friends for our morning run. On this run, I know I can vent, stew or simply stay silent; they support me through thick and thin and have heard more than their fair share as the miles go by. Home by 7:00, I find another neighbor on the front porch, offering to take Finny for a walk; he knows he is filling part of the void Conor left behind and knows we are truly grateful. At 8:30, yet another neighbor shows up, offering to take the kids to camp so I’m not late for work. Again! As I run for the car at 9:15 (late despite it all!), I’m stopped by two other neighbors – one who offers to make us dinner that night and another who mentions that they picked up diapers for us and will drop them by later.

All this is welcome help at a time when we’ve really needed it; all this assistance has quite literally arrived on our doorstep because we finally learned a simple life lesson: just say yes. When someone offers to help, don’t hesitate, just say yes! Sure, life has its ups and downs and it isn’t always easy but, it’s a whole lot easier when you just say yes to a little help from your friends.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s something in the air. Perhaps it’s the pollen that’s been floating around; maybe the yellow dust it leaves on the porch has permeated my brain. Maybe it’s a hormonal flux. Or some sort of lunar phase. Whatever it is, it has moved me to tears more times than I care to admit over the past week.

My daughter Ciara had her last day of gymnastics on Wednesday and when I arrived to observe, she leapt up out of her pike pose, squealed “MaMA!!!!!!!!” with delight and scampered into my lap like a snuggle-bunny. And I started sniffling like a ninny — which almost turned into sobbing like a fool when she got her year-end trophy. A trophy! Not only can my girl do a somersault, she has a trophy to prove it! Sob!

On Thursday, it was her last day of preschool … well, technically, it was just the end of her “3 day 3s” program – she’ll be going back in the fall for the “5 day 4s”… which makes it all the more ridiculous that I was once again moved to tears. Looking at the sweet little photo album she received as a memento of the year was just too much. Similar to the caterpillar to butterfly transformation she has told me so much about, my own little lady has morphed into a real little girl. A real kid. And, from what they told me, a kid who is as fast on the playground as she is in the classroom. It’s admittedly with a fair amount of pride that I thought “yep, that’s my girl!” Sob!

Then there’s my oldest son, Liam, whose last day of kindergarten is rapidly approaching. I had to pick up his first grade school supplies this week – an event that already had me on the verge but, as I strolled through his elementary school, taking in the pictures and poetry that adorned the walls, I just couldn’t help myself. Sniffle. Sniffle. SOB! My little boy is growing up! He’s going to be a FIRST GRADER!!!!!! Oh where oh where does the time go?!

Speaking of time, I found myself cleaning out the triplets’ dresser AGAIN this week. Given that I’ve got three toddlers sharing one dresser, it’s no wonder that rapid turnover is required. I guess I just wasn’t ready for them to outgrow all the 12-18 month stuff so soon! I was overcome with nostalgia as I put the too small onesies in hand-me-down piles for my sister and friends. This is really the end of the onesie for them. At 20 months, frankly, I’d be hard pressed to find a onesie that fits – on their bodies or in their drawers! Even so, saying good bye to the onesies really represents saying good-bye to the baby days… for them and for me. They’ll have no more onesies and I’ll have no more babies. SOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s over. The gymnastics, the “3 day 3s”, kindergarten and onesies. It’s all over and I must say, good byes have never been my strong point. In fact, my husband always starts to hustle me out of any social setting a good half hour before we need to leave because he knows it will take at least that long for me to bid my farewells.

So, in this past week that’s been full of endings, I’ve been full of tears. And while I’d like to chalk it up to something in the air, I suppose I must confess that’s it’s really something in me. Something that simply needs a moment to be nostalgic about the endings before I can embrace the new beginnings. Fortunately, experience has already shown me that as quickly as time does fly by, it just keeps getting better and better. And, come to think of it, I probably won’t miss wrestling three squirmy babies into onesies anyway!

All Mine

June 2nd, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in motherhood | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)

Strangers say the darndest things.  One that I hear quite frequently is “Are they all yours?!”  Sometimes it’s asked with awe, sometimes with simple astonishment and I swear that sometimes, it comes with more than a hint of horror… as in “they couldn’t possibly ALL be yours, could they?!” 

No matter how the question is posed, it strikes me as a bit odd.  I mean really, why would I go through the hassle of lugging so many kids around if they didn’t all belong to me?  And where praytell might I find a bunch of babies who look curiously alike to one I already have?  I mean really people, the triplets are identical!  Of course they all belong to me!

Despite the number of times I’ve fielded this rather obtrusive and bizarre query, I found myself suddenly struck by a similar thought as we took all the kids to the pool for the first time last weekend.  As I observed their jolly splishing and splashing, I couldn’t help but think something like this…

YIKES!!! ALL these kids belong to me! And all five of them are near/in the water!  And only one of them can swim!  We need swim lessons!  We need life jackets!  I need octopus arms!  Oh where oh where did my husband go?! 

My panic subsides as he returns and together we watch our brood frolic poolside.  With a certain smug satisfaction, we look at each other and smile.  Because they are indeed ours.  All ours.  And that makes us pretty darn lucky.