We waited a long time for our summer vacation this year and boy, was it ever worth the wait.  The week before Labor Day was a sun and surf filled week away from work, home and our typical daily responsibilities.  As I look back on our blissful getaway, I’m reminded of a few more things that I love about summertime… and, about our “Cubs”…
Outdoor showers — whether it’s the sun or the stars shining down upon you, few things are more freeing than an outdoor shower.  Not to mention, with five sandy kids, it really simplifies the post-beach routine!
Sunsets.  Nothing beats sunset at the beach.  It’s the perfect punctuation mark to a day filled with sun, fun and sandcastles.  And, it is quintessential summertime — the kids are up past their bedtime, they may still have salty, tangled hair… they may eventually just go to bed that way… and, that’s ok!
Relaxing.  And not necessarily in the literal sense of the word since there is little relaxing to be done when you hit the beach with five tots running in five different directions.  But, when we’re on vacation, we tend to relax the rules a bit and, as it turns out, this is good for everyone.  It’s ok if the kids watch some TV before breakfast.  It’s ok if breakfast includes a typically-forbidden sugar cereal and/or donuts.  It’s ok if naps get skipped in favor of lingering a bit longer on the beach.  It’s ok if there’s no veggie with dinner and it’s ok to wait ’til tomorrow to fold the laundry or empty the dishwasher. This is what vacation is all about.
Exploring.  Whether it was searching for seashells or wowing at whales, each day contained some new adventure.  Des tried surfing (braving hurricane force waves in a noble attempt!), I tried paddle boarding and the kids made discoveries big and small… hermit crabs, the aforementioned outdoor shower and one of their Mom’s perennial summer favorites: Sundae School (http://www.sundaeschool.com/store_orleans.asp)
Exhaling.  Literally just letting it all out. Taking deep breaths, inhaling the salt air and exhaling all the angst that builds up each day… each day until we are lucky enough each year to return to the Cape.  To the place we came individually as kids and now come together with a family of our own.  The place we got engaged. The place that we love. 

It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been home for a week — it’s been a whopper of a week… back to work, back to school, and back to reality.  As anticipated, the memories will last a lifetime and the pictures will provide smiles for months — and years — to come.

Day of Rest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Sweet Home

May 17th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in Out and About - (0 Comments)

We recently had the good fortune to get away for a few nights without the kids. I am very much indebted to my friend Jen for getting married and providing the occasion for the getaway and to my parents, who deserve a vacation of their own after spending four nights with our five kids.

When we landed in Palm Springs last Thursday, we realized that the R&R we often yearn for had finally arrived. We picked up our rental car and found ourselves stylin’ in a two-door cherry red Nissan Altima – which, as opposed to a Cheerio-cluttered minivan, was perhaps the ultimate depiction of our temporary reprieve of responsibilities. We were care-free in a car with no car seats, no sippy cups, no sanitizing wipes or tissues. There were no crayons, no sticker books, no race cars or dolls. And so, as we settled into the two-seater, our fun-filled wedding weekend began.

On more than one occasion, people we met commented on how relaxed we seemed; they marveled at how laid back and comfortable we were with our kids 3,000 miles away. The truth is, it was hard NOT to be relaxed; there were no dishes to do, no laundry to fold, no one whining or fighting or tugging at our legs. To the contrary, our days were filled with relative serenity. While Des played golf with the groom, I did yoga with the bride and got my nails done… a luxury that is rare indeed! We happily took advantage of all the outdoorsy options that would not be recommended with the junior set we left at home — including a trip to Joshua Tree National Park where we hiked around boulders and cactus gardens in the 100 degree desert heat and a more adventurous hike up (and down!) some slot canyons … an outing that left me with a few bruises to take home as souvenirs but the view at the top was totally worth it.

The wedding itself had a fairy tale vibe with Hollywood-like scenery ; the desert and mountains glistened in the distance as palm trees swayed softly in the breeze. As our friends prepared to take their vows, the deacon who presided over the ceremony shared a poignant message. “You each have a story to tell and a new chapter begins on the day you get married.” Given how our story has evolved – and continues to – the message really hit home for me and Des. We never imagined that our story would include five kids in seven years of marriage Or that in the same time we’ve experienced life’s greatest joys, we’ve also endured our fair share of tragedy and sadness. It was just so nice to have a break from it all and reflect upon how lucky we really are… and imagine what the next few chapters of our life may have in store.

We returned to the chaos we call home reconnected, reenergized and ready to take on the five tots who were eagerly waiting. We have great memories and a sincere wish for our newlywed friends Jen and Roger; we hope that as they embark on their marital journey, they will always be happy to come home. Even if home is filled to the gills with screaming kids, dirty diapers and a smelly dog, the old cliché is true. Home is where the heart is and I am happy to be back. That said, Mom, Dad, if you’re reading this, we hope you’ll babysit again one day soon!

Ok, I admit it. Just a few short weeks ago I was lamenting the loss of Friday nights on the couch and now here I am cheering in unison with a bunch of hyped up 5-year olds, “Go Cubs! Go Blue!” The excitement and anticipation on the kids’ faces is nothing short of infectious. Thus far. there have been two practices and one “game”… the game itself is more of a team-building, morale boosting comedy of errors than any display of athleticism but hey, they are only in kindergarten and it’s really cute.

Game day, as it turns out is a serious affair. The first pitch – or, um, first swing at the T-ball – was scheduled for 6:30. The players were to arrive at 6:10, with a crisp new uniform and can-do attitude. When I got home from work at about 6:03, Des raced by me shouting that we’d have to take two cars because “We can’t be late, there’s a field full of kids waiting for us!” Wow, he’s taking his assistant coach status quite seriously, I thought as he left me in his wake. I looked down to see the triplets staring up at me expectantly as I tottered in my heels and wondered how I would get changed, pack up snacks/diapers/camera/blanket/etc. and be at the field in seven minutes. I looked up to see Des speeding down the street with Liam and Ciara waving out the window and realized that I’d better get my rear in gear because hey, now there was a field full of kids that included mine and I’d better be there!

I haphazardly parked the minivan, unloaded the tots and dragged them across the field just in time to see Liam “Jeter” Lyons at bat… there was no swing and a miss for this guy… he’s been practicing in the backyard and he nailed it! I got to the sidelines just in time to cheer him on as he slid into first. Which, as I learn more about the game in general, I understand is not necessarily advisable or advantageous but man, did it ever look good!

What ensued was about an hour of kids taking turns at bat, tumbling over each other in the field, and providing all the comedic errors you might expect… the ball through the legs, the stunned swing and miss, forgetting to run to base, outfield nose-picking and a lot of high-fiving… which is especially endearing amongst a bunch of five year olds.

So, there you go. In just a week or two, there’s been a remarkable turnaround regarding my T-ball appreciation. Given that I’ve got a LOT more T-Ball years in my future, this is quite a good thing!

I recently took my two “big kids”, Liam (5) and Ciara (3) on a trip to Boston. Our adventure was motivated by the desire to see my sister run the Boston Marathon… an elite race that is, in my opinion, a true testament to human dedication and achievement. My sister is a remarkable person; she has a seven month old son, a high-pressure job in San Francisco and literally flew in to Boston from a two-week business trip in Brazil to run 26.2 miles. So, I figured, if she could pull this all off, the very least I could do is be there to cheer her on.

Here’s the thing though… our trip was preceded by our own marathon of sorts. Our weekends are typically busy but this one was especially so. On Thursday night, my husband left for a conference in Florida, leaving me home alone with our five tots five and under. Which is fine. I’ve always said, “We made them, it’s up to us to take care of them!” However, on this occasion, I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery. The first day I was even allowed to pick up any of our kids was Friday. Given this, I hoped for a quiet, peaceful Thursday night. No such luck.

Poor Ciara woke up at 11:00 with a bad case of the barfs. Believe me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of vomit but this time, I was really impressed. She somehow managed to take out her entire bed, the wall, the rug and best of all, a bookcase… and all of its contents. Then, as I was testing out the “bedding” setting on our new washing machine (at midnight!), I heard a blood curdling scream and found my poor little lady hurling INTO her sleeping bag. Unfortunately, I had taken the lazy way out and instead of changing her sheets, I simply popped her into her sleeping bag and, paid the price!

As Friday morning dawned, I thought about our weekend plans. Saturday was our town’s Earth Day celebration and I was hoping to drag all five kids to the farmers market and other festivities. Sunday was my grandfather’s 90th birthday… and, birthday party – an extended family extravaganza that promised to be both fun and frenzied. The plan was for Des to fly home from Florida and meet me at the birthday bash. I would then hand over our one-year old triplets, pack Liam and Ciara into the car and head to the train station where we’d hop on a train to Boston and go to the marathon on Monday. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, that’s pretty much the way it went down and I must say, it was!

As I hustled the kids onto the Amtrak to Boston, numerous people remarked “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” And quite literally, I did. I was juggling and jostling my way through the narrow aisle with a double stroller I had to collapse and carry, two kids, each of whom had their own cute little bag they refused to carry, my overnight bag and my bag full of Mama Magic – a.k.a. enough snacks and activities to keep the kids occupied on the three and a half hour ride! By the time we met my sister in her hotel room, I was a wreck. She, on the other hand, was the picture of calm as she laid out her marathon clothes and tucked in for the night.

On Monday morning, the sun was shining as our cheering committee headed out to root for the runners. By Monday afternoon however, the clouds had thickened and a chilly breeze arrived with gusto. After about 24 hours with their primary sustenance consisting of Goldfish, Kix and raisins, my poor kids started to whine with gusto… “We’re cold. We’re hungry. We’re TIRED.” And you know how I responded? “Oh yeah, well your Aunt Kristin is cold, hungry and tired too! And you don’t see her quitting, do you?!”

Needless to say, I don’t think the marathon itself is going to be the fondest of memories for Liam and Ciara — even though we did see my sister fly by as she finished with gusto at 3:44 — an amazing time for anyone but even more so for a jet-lagged new mom! In any case, rather than boasting about Aunt Kristin’s accomplishments, my “big kids” are much more likely to recall the thrill of the conductor yelling “ALL ABOARD” as we hopped on the train home. Sometimes it feels like every day is a marathon but as I watched the kids gaze out the window with awe, it reminded me once again that life is as much about the journey as the destination.

Out to Lunch

March 16th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in Dining out with kids | Out and About - (0 Comments)
It is rare that we venture out to lunch or dinner with five tots in tow but over the course of the past month, we’ve actually done both. We went out to lunch for Valentine’s Day – and oh yes, trying to eat a burrito while ducking the flying sippy cups and picking crayons up off the floor was very romantic indeed! Even so, it beat cooking and cleaning up for a change – especially since, let’s face it, burritos are not typically on the lunch menu here at the Lyons Den!

Our dinner outing proved to be even more of an adventure. On a recent Sunday night, we decided to check out a new restaurant in town after we dragged the kids to the 5:00 mass. That’s right, we dragged all five kids to mass. And then, after shushing the big ones and wrestling the little ones for the better part of an hour, we thought it would be a swell idea to take them out in their Sunday best for a fine meal. Um, yeah, right. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine meal indeed – but good grief, what a MESS we left behind! And, given the amount of time I once again spent on the floor – this time picking up Cheerios, oyster crackers, goldfish, fish sticks, French fries, sippy cups, napkins, sticker books, spoons, etc.! – I started to wonder if it’s worth the hassle of dining out with so many kids.

Our fellow diners couldn’t help but make comments like “Wow, you’re very brave. We only had TWO kids and we NEVER ate out!” To which I’d perkily reply “Well, I suppose we are very brave… or possibly just insane… time will tell!” Because, of course, when dining out with kids, it’s really all about the timing… how fast can we order, how quickly can the kitchen whip up (or in the case of the kids, deep fry!) our meal, and how quickly can we shove it in before there is a meltdown of sorts.

Admittedly, this race against the clock doesn’t necessarily sound like a recipe for a fun night out. In retrospect though, we did have a good time. We left with our bellies full and, for better or worse, with someone else to clean up the mess we left behind. And the more I think about it, the more I can’t help but feel sorry for those TWO kids who NEVER ate out. What a shame it would be to simply stay home for fear of that aforementioned meltdown or flying sippy cup. And really, what is dining out if not a lesson for kids in how to behave? To practice their “Ps & Qs” (as in Please and ThankQs) and be justly rewarded for good behavior with a brownie sundae or some other such delight that would never be served at home. At the end of the day, I’m not sure if I am/we are very brave or perhaps slightly insane. But, I do know that the sidelong glances I get whenever we eat out with our five little “cubs” would suggest there are many out there who think that I truly am “out to lunch”… in more ways than one!

Many of you are probably familiar with the story of the “5 Little Ducks”… if so, you may know that the story has an accompanying song. It’s kind of a catchy tune (I’m ashamed to admit!) and if you know it, you should feel free to hum along as you read the following.

As we bundled up for snowbound adventures this past weekend, I couldn’t help but hum to myself…

Five little cubs went out one day
Out in the snow and into their sleigh,
The biggest one said “I want to pull”
And four little cubs were left there still.

Four little cubs went out one day
Into the sled and far away
The little girl cub said “GET OFF ME”
She hopped out and then there were three.

Three little cubs went out one day
Bouncing along in their blue sleigh
The one in back cried boo hoo hoo,
We took him out and then there were two.

Two little cubs went out one day
Slipping and sliding in their sleigh,
They were having so much fun,
‘Til we hit a big bump and then there was one!

One little cub went out one day,
Feeling all alone in his big sleigh,
He waved his arms and he smiled a big grin,
And the four other cubs went running back to him.