No wonder Moms need downtime!
No wonder Moms need downtime!

No wonder Moms need downtime!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here in over a year. Sure, I’ve shared some tips on vacation rentals with Budget Travel and musings on motherhood with the Huffington Post but this ittle blog has been woefully neglected for the past year plus. Why?

Well, if you look at my last post, which was all about surviving the spring sports season, it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write!  I even started wishing for rain, just so that instead of the mad dash out the door on a Saturday morning, we could enjoy a little family time.  Down time. But the reality is this:  if I thought last spring was bad, this one nearly broke me. For real.

In addition to balancing (or is it juggling? or perhaps flailing?!) a full time job and a house full of kids, four of those five kids had their tonsils out this spring. And I decided to chair our church’s Spring Fundraiser. And we got a new babysitter. And a new puppy! And, and, AND! Until one recent day I woke up with an eye twitch and a frozen shoulder. For real.

I was hoping the eye twitch wasn’t noticeable; it was. My boss told me so. So did my husband. And my sister. Apparently the cause was stress and fatigue. It was for real.

The so-called “frozen shoulder” was intensely painful, causing over a week of sleepless nights (and I thought they were behind us!) and limiting my ability to do everything from unload the dishwasher to load up on caffeine; I could barely lift a glass to my mouth. Wine glass included!

Clearly there was a problem – and I think the root of it was stress (duh!) and the need for downtime – or at least the permission to give myself a break. Last year, I gave myself a break from this blog. I thought that might help. It didn’t. I enjoy writing and hope/aspire/plan to do more of it. For real.

I’ve realized that “a break” can come in many forms – for me, it might be napping on the train, opting out of an early morning run or skipping a party, no excuse required. Sometimes, you need to just take time for you… a topic that I’ve ironically written about before!

In the end, I suspect we’re all pretty much alike — busy moms trying to do our best each and every day – at home, at work and everywhere in between. That’s why I’m going to try harder to give myself a break this summer – because the better rested, less stressed, more present I am, the better it is for those kiddos we do it all for. Not to mention, that eye twitch looked really weird and the shoulder issue was a royal bummer!  This summer, I hope to squeeze in as much downtime as possible.  And I hope that you do too. For real!

Have a tip? Please share it!

You may recall that one of my goals for the year is to yell less.  I’ve realized over the past month that if I’m going to achieve that goal, I really need to choose my battles.  This, like most things, is much easier said than done.  I’d like to think of myself as a lover, not a fighter but the reality is, with my Type A personality, I find it hard to resist a good challenge and I’m wired to want to win — even if that “challenge” comes in the form of a five year old who doesn’t want to wear his mittens.

This is not something to be proud of, this innate sense of wanting to control another person simply because “I said so.” Granted, as it relates to the mittens, it is cold outside but the reality is, after explaining the frigid weather to my wide-eyed tyke, it really boils down to “I want you to wear those mittens because I TOLD YOU TO!!!”  And there you have it.  I’m yelling again.

We made a pact a few weeks ago.  All five kids and me.  We agreed that we wouldn’t argue about wearing coats/hats/mittens/boots/etc. until March.  We agreed that it was cold outside and that it was in their best interest to stay warm.  We made a deal. No more arguing, no more yelling, no more being late to the bus due to quibbling about outerwear.  And that was that.

But of course, that wasn’t that at all.  Because life isn’t that simple and children aren’t that agreeable.  And frankly, the majority of mine don’t know what month it is even if they do know it’s noble to honor a promise.  Just a few days later, I found myself asking my oldest, a fourth-grader with a beaming grin and good intentions, “do you know what month it is?”  “Um, February?”  “Yep.  And do you remember what that means?!”  “I’m supposed to wear a coat?”  “Yep!”  “But Mom, I’m not cold!”

He’s not cold?  It’s freezing out.  Literally.  Icicles hang from every roof and mountains of snow surround us.  But apparently, it’s not cold to him.  I felt the yell start, deep inside.  An insatiable urge to show him the thermometer, to PROVE to him that it is indeed cold.  He is wrong; I am right.  So there.  And then I caught my husband’s eye.  “Give the kid a break”, he said without saying a word.  And so I did.  And I’ve been trying to ever since.

Last weekend. four out of five weren’t wearing underwear, but they were wearing pants.  As the temperature hovered near fifty and the snow began to melt, they took off those pants and put on shorts.  And short sleeved shirts.  And went OUTSIDE!  It was freezing, though no longer literally.  I wanted to yell. To win. To force them to put on pants, sweatshirts, heck, even some underwear!  But I didn’t.  Because you have to choose your battles and you can’t win them all,  I figure I might as well save the good fight for the ones that really matter.

Rules.  As parents, we remind our children daily to follow them –  or at least we do here in the “Lyons Den.”  We have to. With five kids and no rules, chaos would prevail.  Where would we find the homework folders?  Where would they find their mittens?  How would we ever get out of the house?  We need rules.  They are guideposts, guidelines, our guide for daily living.  They remind us that homework folders get lined up on the table for easy review by Mom and Dad when we get home from work and that mittens go in each kid’s respective little cubby.  Rules help us get out the door each day. They minimize the inevitable chaos of our lives.  They teach responsibility and ownership.  And they can be really really hard to follow.  Even for us.

One rule is to eat your dinner.  No complaints and no made-to-order meals here.  As we sat down tonight, one little “Lyons Cub” snarled at me and pronounced he  “hated” his dinner.  That’s a major no-no in our house for several reasons, not the least of which is to be grateful for what we have.  So, I gave him three warnings and told him that if we got to #3, he’d have to go to bed without dinner.  Not five minutes later, he shouted as he pouted for the 3rd time “I DON’T LIKE THIS DINNER!!!!!”   I sighed as I looked down at my own plate.  I did like this dinner.  In fact, I like almost all dinners.  Dinner is my favorite meal and the one time during the day I actually get to sit down and enjoy my food.  And my family.  I love to loiter over dinner as we share tales of our day and ponder what might be for dessert.  Putting this surly little Lyon to bed would mean missing that.  My dinner would be cold when I returned and dinnertime — family time — would be over.

Did I have to do it?  Did I have to get up to put this pint-sized pesky person to bed?  I really really didn’t want to.  But I had to.  I had no choice.  I made the rule and if I didn’t follow it through, how could I expect them to?  How could I hold them accountable?  What sort of example would I be setting?

So I did it.  As four other sets of wide pint-sized eyes observed (five, if you count my husband, whose look revealed an odd mix of humor and pity), I got up, hugged him tight and nudged him up the stairs.  “It’s over buddy,” I told him.  “Tomorrow is a new day, you can start over.”  As he kicked and cried and resisted, I continued to nudge him upwards.  After brushing teeth and settling in with a book he looked me in the eye and said, “Sorry Mom, I don’t feel good. I don’t want dinner. I’m sorry.”  And kind of like the Grinch on Christmas, I felt my heart grow three times in that moment.

It would seem our rules are working.  This little fella understood he was wrong – and he had a good reason for it.  He didn’t feel well, he was tired.  And that’s ok.  I’m tired too.  But I sure am glad I got up and followed the rules.  They get it. Deep down, kids actually like rules.  Maybe we all do. They provide structure and set expectations.  And though they are made to be broken, in the end, they give us all a chance to shine… and if we’re lucky, maybe even get out of the house on time.

labels for organizing hand me downsI’ve always been a bit of a frugal fannie… keeping (and eating) leftovers a few days past their prime, squeezing every last bit out of the toothpaste tube and collecting coupons and discount offers like it’s a sport (one of the few I’m actually good at!).  It should come as no surprise then, that I am quite handy with hand-me-downs.

I saved our firstborn’s clothes for our second and even though #1 was a boy and #2 was a girl, she wore his pajamas, snow pants and other gender-neutral essentials.  When we found out that #3 was going to be triplets, my hand-me-down instinct kicked into high gear and that’s where it’s been ever since.  Here’s how I handle the bins, bags, and boxes that keep our clan of five covered, clothed and warm.

  • Ask.  Yep, you heard me.  Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, cousins and playground pals if they want to swap, share or hand things down.  Many moms will offer but if they don’t, don’t hesitate to ask.  Most people are thrilled to see their tiny favorites worn again by someone else’s little tot and even gladder to see bigger ticket items like highchairs and cribs get “recycled” by people they know.
  • Sort.  I have a good friend—several in fact – who routinely drop off a bag or two of clothes for our clan.  I am grateful for all of it.  But I can’t keep ALL of it.  My daughter just won’t wear frilly dresses (which I’ve finally come to accept!) and thrifty l as I am, I’m not sending my kids to school in torn t.shirts or putting them to bed in stained pajamas (unless they actually created that tear or stain in which case, it’s fine!).  As a general rule, I go through items as they come in and put the “keepers” in clear labeled bins (BOYS 5T SUMMER or  GIRLS SIZE 7 WINTER or COATS/BOOTS – a catch all for seasonal items) and put the “gifts that keep on giving” into a bag for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who I then call to schedule a pick up.
  • Store.  With a house that’s over a hundred years old, closet space is minimal while basement dampness isn’t.  What’s a gal to do?  Put shelves in the basement, run a dehumidifier always, label with care, and put a moisture-wicking packet in each and every bin.  It works, I swear. Oh, and two ideas for labeling — try these adorable free downloadables from ButtonedUp or invest in a label maker and let your inner Type A shine.
  • Just say no.  There will come a point when you may realize, as I recently have, that there can be too much of a good thing.  Remember all those people you asked?  Well, they do too.  Which is lovely.  But there is just no way I will ever need eight pairs of size 5T snow pants or boots.  So, there’s come a time when you may have to just say no.  Don’t be afraid to – I can assure you there’s a mom down the block who would be happy to just say yes!

Last but not least, enjoy… and occasionally splurge!  You know how those cute catalogs arrive in your mailbox each spring and fall?  The ones featuring happy smiling kids with the latest swimwear or snow suits?  Well, they put me in a panic.  “Crap!” I think as I do the mental math on how much it will cost to buy five new bathing suits (and swim shirts to cover their fair skin) or winter coats, boots and gloves times five.  Then I pause, sigh, and head downstairs to the hand me down bins.  More often than not, everything I need is in them.  And if it’s not, well, it feels great to open up one of those catalogs and get everyone something new. With all the money we’ve saved over the years, we deserve it.  They deserve it.  And when they’ve outgrown it, I will be more than happy to hand it down!

A few weeks ago, with resolutions top of mind and a renewed zeal to be a better me this year, I came across a great article on the Huffington Post about yelling.    About why we yell, the negative impact it has on our kids and how to stop yelling so much.  You should check it out.  The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, has a lot more street cred than I do.  She has a Masters in education, is a certified special-ed teacher, an author and I’m sure a whole lot more.  But like me, she is a Mom.  Unlike me, she is a Mom who has found a way to stop yelling.  I’m not there yet.  But I’d like to think that I’m on my way.  It seems that Rachel has crossed the finish line to a yell-free victory party and I’m just approaching the starting line.  But really, what better place to start?

Her article got me seriously thinking.  Why do I yell so much?  Many of the reasons are the ones she cites — we’re about to miss the bus or we’re late for soccer/baseball/basketball/lacrosse/church/the dentist,/the doctor/etc.  Or perhaps the kids opened a gift meant for a birthday party (which happened just last weekend).  Maybe they splashed water out of the tub or spilled a glass of milk/water/juice.  In short, like Rachel, I often yell when our kids are just being kids, doing the goofy, inevitable things kids do.  This is a huge realization for me.  They are just being kids!  And I’m sure yours are too.  Maybe you don’t yell as much as I do, but the next time the eggs hit the floor when a budding baker is just trying to help, I’m going to think twice and remember, “he’s just a kid.”

Of course, it’s not that easy.  If I think about why I really yell, it’s not because I’m mad about the box of Cheerios on the floor or the sopping wet bathroom.  It’s because I am tired.  Exhausted.  Frustrated.  Overwhelmed.  At my wits end.  I’ve been known to stoop down to their level, the level where on a good day, I look them in the eye with empathy and understanding and provide an encouraging word or a hug. But on a bad day, well, it’s really bad.  And I’m not proud of it.  I’m not proud of looking a little person in the eye and yelling with all my might.  It’s not pretty.  It’s ugly.  And it’s scary. And I don’t want my kids to be scared of me.

That was Rachel’s ah-hah moment – the moment she realized she was scaring her daughter.  I know I’ve scared mine.  And my four sons too.  But still I yell.  I do think there are different types of yelling — quite frankly, sometimes I have to yell to simply be heard above the din of our clamoring clan. Although, I’m sure an expert would say that’s no excuse.  And it doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to yell less.

Going cold turkey is unrealistic but a little (and hopefully one day a lot) less yelling is my goal.  I want to stop, for so many reasons.  For starters, it’s mean.  Rotten, mean and nasty.  And generally speaking, I’m not.  Or at least I’d like to think I’m not.   Then, there’s the aftermath of the “Big Yell”.  It’s not over when it’s over.  They remember. I remember.  And we all feel crappy.  I don’t want us to all feel crappy.  Happy beats crappy any day, right?  And last but not least, while the snow blows and wind howls today, in just a few short months, those windows will be open.  And I don’t want to scare the neighbor’s kids either!

So, before winter turns to spring, I’m going to do my best to yell less.  To take a breath. To walk away.  To remember they are just kids.  And they won’t be forever…


Since one of my resolutions was to post weekly (at least for the month of January!), it seems sensible to make one of these posts about keeping resolutions — especially as mid-January and the temptation to call it quits approaches.  Here are a few common commitments we tend to make as the New Year dawns, along with my two cents (or “Tuesday Tips”, however you want to look at it!) for how to keep them:

  • Want to save more? Me too! At work, we recently had a Financially Fearless House Party which was well timed and full of good advice, including these three simple ways to save:
    • Put every $5 bill you get in an envelope.  It’s like turbo-charging that jar full of spare change.  One of my colleagues saved over $250 in just a few months!
    • Participate in your company’s 401k plan.  Max it out if you can. Contributing as much pre-tax money as possible not only increases your retirement savings but it decreases your taxable income.
    • College savings keeping you up at night?  Find a 529 plan and get started.  You can contribute as much or as little as you like but knowing your kids will have something to get their schooling started should give you some sweet dreams.
  • Want to exercise more?
    • Find a friend and hold each other accountable.  Meet at the gym, the park, the mall or wherever it is that you plan to work out, run, walk and get that body moving.  If you know a friend is waiting for, you’re much more likely to leave the remote and leap out of the house.
    • Set a goal.  Not one of those “lose five pounds” kind of a goal but one that focuses on fitness – on not just looking better, but feeling better – feeling accomplished.  Maybe it’s a local charity walk or a 5k run.  Maybe it’s a long-distance bike ride or simply showing up for spin class for four consecutive weeks.  Whatever it is, grab your pal, do it together and then go out and celebrate the new healthier you.
  • Want to be more present?  I do.  And a quick look back through this blog shows that I’ve been striving for this for a while now.  In our multi-tasking, always-on culture, it’s not easy but I’m hoping these tips will help… me and you!
    • Tune out the tech and tune in to what’s around you.  When you get home from work (or wherever your day takes you), put your phone away.  Far far away.  And try not to peek until the kids are tucked in.  Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind, as I can attest but it is harder to constantly check your email and texts when your phone is either buried at the bottom of your bag or charging upstairs.
    • Remember you’re not that important.  OK, maybe you are.  To your kids, your spouse, your friends and family.  But not to that beeping, buzzing device that you’re betrothed too… and I am too.  Unless it’s that aforementioned kid, spouse, friend or family member, ignore the buzzing of your phone and be aware of the people in front of you; be with them, really with them.  Give them your full attention.  They are the most important – and the reason why we make resolutions to begin with. Not to mention, it’s hard to tell your kid to put down his phone/iPad/Leapster/whatever he has when you can’t do it yourself!

As for me, I plan to tackle my writing by setting aside time each week.  I scheduled it on my calendar and barring a barfing kid, overload at work or some other unforeseen crisis (Leaky pipe? Dog with an ear infection? Any of these things are possibilities!), I will get it done.  And I hope you’ll tune back in next Tuesday for a topic near and dear to me:  how to YELL less at our children. And my husband.  And… well, you get it.  The following week, I’ll tackle hand-me-downs, a key to our survival and a special request from Britta at Hudson and Hill.

Something you’d like me to share?  Please let me know.  And good luck with those resolutions. I’m signing off and going to tune in to the tots at home!


Moving Up

June 21st, 2013 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | parenting | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)
It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday was our oldest son Liam’s “Moving Up” ceremony.  He moved up from 3rd grade to 4th and will be entering a new school in the fall.  Like many parents sitting in the hot, crowded auditorium (vying for a seat with a view!), I wondered how this day came so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I put my wide-eyed, innocent not-yet five-year old on a bus for the first time.  I didn’t cry then.  Perhaps because I had other things on my mind — like his little sister who was two and his triplet brothers who were 11 months.  Or perhaps because I knew it would be easier to have four kids under four at home than five under five!  Or perhaps because I knew he was ready. Ready to ride that bus and join the ranks of kindergarteners.

This week, as I sat in that sweaty gym, looking up at the beaming faces onstage, I wondered, is he ready?  For  4th grade? For a new school?  For all the life lessons that lie ahead?  My mind immediately jumped to life lessons vs. school lessons the moment his class marched dutifully onto the stage and I saw their shirts emblazoned with “Class of 2022.”  That’s when I cried.  That’s when it really hit me.  Today, 3rd grade graduation; tomorrow, high school graduation!  I don’t know if it was the notion of my firstborn graduating and leaving home (I know, I know, I am getting WAY ahead of myself here!) or the realization that many of the life lessons he will encounter between now and then will be hard ones.

By the time 2022 rolls around, he will have likely had — and lost — his first love; he will be on a losing and learn that it’s only in Little League that everyone gets a trophy; he may be bullied — or worse yet, be a bully; he will experiment with many things and he may be left out, left behind or left for lost.  Lost in text books that are complicated and relationships that are even more so.  He will grow up.  And that’s what makes me cry.

These lessons, like many good ones and all the ones that can’t be taught from a book lie before this little boy who is my first… and who is not so little anymore.  He is too “cool” to wave to me from the stage; he only barely makes eye contact a I weep in that overheated, overcrowded gym.

I pulled myself together to pay attention as his classmates shared their memories — memories of the nervousness in kindergarten, the smiling faces and warm welcome in first grade, the trip to the zoo in second grade and their combined efforts to make a new third grader from Japan feel at home. This show of 3rd grade compassion and empathy yielded even more tears.  Then, they recited a touching poem in unison that concluded with these words:

“When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

More tears.  And a reminder that they, our children, are always looking. He will look to me to help him navigate those tough life lessons that inevitably lie ahead.  And I will be there.  I will be looking.  Just like I was when the bus pulled away that first day of kindergarten… and every day since.

spring sports overload

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

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

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

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

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

The people I work with often marvel that when I travel for business, my husband isn’t completely overrun by our children when he gets home from work.  They can’t help but wonder how anyone could manage the mayhem of five kids at the witching hour — that charming time from roughly 5 or 6 until 7 or 8 when stomachs rumble, tempers flare and exhaustion ensues.  While it’s not easy, it can be done –even with five kids eight and under.  Even when you’re “home alone.”  How?

  1. Have a plan and stick to it.  Know what’s for dinner before you walk in the door.  In fact, you would ideally know what’s for dinner before you walked out of the door in the morning; that way, you can have much of it prepped and, if the sitter can simply pop it in the oven, that’s all the better!  Tonight I was home alone with all five kids and have to admit, I was the worst offender as it relates to the rumbling belly, short temper and overall exhaustion.  What saved the day?  Knowing that dinner was as easy as warming up left-over pork chops, microwaving some rice and serving up some pepper sticks and carrots.  Was it gourmet?  No. But it did the trick.  It went down in a jiffy and we all made it ’til Tuesday without falling back on mac & cheese or chicken nuggets.  Yay us!
  2. Have a routine and stick to it.  In our house, it’s a quick dash from dinner to pjs.  The quicker they hustle out of their clothes and into their pajamas, the more time we have for reading and snuggling, which is a favorite part of everyone’s day. Here’s our routine:  eat dinner; kids clear their plates; kids with clean plates get dessert; after dessert, kids put on pajamas, put dirty clothes in hamper, brush teeth, pee, read books, pee again and then it’s lights out.  Typically by 8:00.  Is our routine flawless?  Absolutely not!  But, everyone knows what is expected of them and, we all are motivated by the reward of a few extra minutes snuggled up with heads on shoulders and feet entwined as stories are read and tales of the day are shared — which, thankfully are part of the routine!
  3. Put the kids to work.  See bullet #2.  They clear the table. They put the dirty laundry where it goes.  And yes, I nag them.  A lot.  Too much some might say.  But, eventually they get it – a few plates will get broken and clean clothes might end up in the hamper but, it’s a small price to pay for a bunch of kids who pitch in, understand their roles and responsibilities and, perhaps most importantly, take a few things off of your list!

Is it a perfect system? Nope.  But is there anything about parenting — or for that matter, children — that’s perfect?  I don’t think so.  I think we all just do the best we can each and every day.  A plan helps. A routine helps.  Having kids help helps.  When all is said and done, I just hope mine remember the extra moments we spent snuggling more than those angry rants when I first walk in the door from work!  See?  I told you.  Far from perfect.  But, a-ok.  And that’s good enough!

Dear Ikea,

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

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

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

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

(not so) Fondly Yours,

The sleep-deprived members of the Lyons Den