- Stoop to their level. Literally. Get down on the floor and look your three year old in the eye when they are misbehaving. Whether they are screaming, crying, yelling, kicking or whatever it may be, they seem to respond well to people on their own level. They seem to appreciate the effort it takes for a “big” person to look them in the face and treat them as an equal, if only for a moment. So get down there, look them in the eye, speak in soft tones and try to have an “adult” conversation. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they quiet down and then eventually climb into your lap. This is your moment. Seize it. Explain what was wrong with the outburst and then hug, cuddle, snuggle and enjoy having this small person in your lap while they still fit there!
- Make ‘em laugh. Whether you’re dealing with a three year old or not, laughter is often the best medicine. Be silly. Show them how to make light of a tough situation. Maybe they are frustrated by a puzzle. Perhaps their Lego tower just crumbled to the ground, taking their sense of achievement down with it. Whatever it may be, silliness and laughter is a great way to create a diversion, to literally turn that frown upside down. Get a giggle out of your tot and before you know it, they’ll be happily on to the next thing.
- Be consistent. I feel like I say this a lot but I truly believe that consistency is the key to success and harmony in a house full of tots! They like to know what to expect and they need to be taught consequences. My guys expect 2 M&Ms every time they poop on the potty and they hold me to it. A few M&Ms seems like a small price to pay to avoid changing poopy diapers!
- Take a break. I am truly blessed because even with five kids and a full time job, I do get to take a break now and again; I think it’s critically important. As the saying goes, a happy mom makes a happy family. Be sure to take time for you and find the time to do what makes you happy — whether it’s a morning run, evening bath, glass of wine, the latest issue of People or a Girls Night Out, just do it. You deserve to take a break and you’ll be a better Mom for it… for the “trying threes” and all the parenting adventures that follow!
- That he be Catholic
- That he be a Yankee Fan
- I want them to be happy, well-adjusted, confident. To accept who they are. To leverage their strengths and acknowledge their weakness. To smile. A lot. From the inside out.
- I want them to be humble and helpful. To be grateful for what they have and to help those who have not.
- I want them to do all the things those cheesy posters say — to laugh loud and laugh often, to dance with abandon, to love with all their hearts.
- I want them to be honest, with me and with others. I want them to treat others with respect and kindness, do the right thing, set a good example.
|Tiny Believers in Santa|
Keeping the magic alive gets harder when the grammar school years arrive. If your kid isn’t a skeptic, they will meet a kid on the bus or playground or classroom who will tell them that “Santa isn’t real” or “only babies believe in Santa.” When your wee one comes home with this news, it will break your heart. Here are a few tips to get (or keep) things back on track — to keep the faith in Santa this year and hopefully, for many more to come!
- Santa has a LOT of helpers. Once they hit a certain age (somewhere between three and six for my little clan of elves), kids will start to question how Santa can be at the mall AND the Christmas tree lot AND on every street corner ringing a bell AND on TV. This tricky line of toddler interrogation can be easily navigated by introducing the notion of Santa’s helpers. I mean really, how is ONE guy supposed to make and deliver all those toys? Read all those letters? Pose for all those pictures? It’s just not possible. Santa has been in business for ages and, like any good businessman, has learned the fine art of delegation. All those pseudo-Santas roaming the streets are his A-team, the front line, the guys who assist him as he makes his list and checks it twice. Given how literal kids of this age can be, they seem to accept that Santa needs helpers. And, may even understand that not all helpers can grow a good beard, which is why some of them are saggy!
- If disbelief continues after the conversation about Santa’s Helpers, it’s time to talk about believing… as in, “if you believe in Santa, he will bring you gifts and if you don’t, he won’t.” It sounds harsh but it’s simple and straight-forward; it’s also remarkably effective because the fear of waking up on Christmas with no gifts under the tree is enough to spur most skeptical tykes into at least a modicum of belief… and that’s all it takes for the magic of Santa to seep back into a doubting heart.
- Show that you believe in Santa too. Write him a letter. Talk about what kind of cookies you liked to leave him when you were a kid. Share the story about the time you tried so hard to stay up all night to see him, only to nod off just as you were sure you heard reindeer on the roof. Kids thrive on these tales… and, they are fun to share. In fact, sharing them could just be a new family tradition that could be as magical as Santa himself.
Truth be told, there’s a small part of me that still believes… not necessarily in a guy with a white beard and a red suit but, in the magic of Christmas, the joy of the season, and the gift of sharing old traditions while creating new ones… like leaving half-eaten carrots on the front porch to convince any would-be naysayers that not only did Santa come and nibble on a few cookies on Christmas Eve but, his reindeer enjoyed a snack as well!
This week I spent two nights away from home for business. I only travel occasionally for work so, on the rare occasions I do, it’s a bit of a respite. The preparation is brutal – leaving five kids, a dog and a sweet, tired husband behind for 48 hours is no easy task. There are meals to be planned, playdates to be confirmed, backpack notes to be written and lists to be made. But, when all is done and I find myself at 30,000 feet, I have to admit, it’s kind of nice to get away. And the number one reason why is SLEEP. Hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep.
That was three years ago. Now the triplets are three, Ciara just turned five and Liam is on the verge of turning seven. They are great kids. They are great sleepers. But they are still kids. And there are five of them. The odds of at least two waking up in the night because “I have to pee,” “I lost my WaWa,” “My tummy hurts,” “I’m thirsty,” or “I had a bad dream.” is about 100%. This is why my husband and I now play a little game in the middle of the night. A little game called “Playing Dead.” We are both wide awake, listening to the cries, the sniffles, the coughing, the whining, whatever it may be. And we lie very very still. Pretending to sleep. Keeping our breath shallow and low. Hoping, praying, yearning for the other one to get up and tend to the tots. Is this wrong? This game of Playing Dead? I don’t know. I suspect there are other overtired parents out there who play dead too. Because they are tired. Really, really tired. And that is why, every once in a while, it is really nice to travel for work. Because I don’t need to play dead in the middle of the night. I am dead. Dead asleep!
It’s hard to believe that October is almost upon us. It’s even harder to believe that that in the next two weeks, our princess will turn five, our triplets will turn three and friendly Finnegan, our loyal lab has a birthday too.
Our October is jam-packed. To add to the insanity (oops, did I say that? I meant festivity!), we also celebrate our anniversary in October and this year, will be spending a portion of these notable days in Ireland. I know it’s crazy but we are taking our five fair-skinned, freckle-faced tykes to the land of our origins in the midst of all this birthday bedlam and back to school mayhem.
So, what’s a gal to do? Truth be told, I do kind of feel like my head is spinning and I’m not quite sure how to pack a family of seven for ten days overseas… when I did the math and arrived at 70 pairs of underwear, I mentally shut down and decided to focus on birthdays instead.
Four of our five tots share a birthday week and since three of them share not only their date of birth but also have identical DNA, making everyone feel special is always a bit of a trick. This year, I’ve decided to follow the advice of one of my friend’s Moms. She recently told me that her Mom approached birthdays with common sense and candor — according to her Mom, a birthday is an important date on the calendar but not the only date to make a fuss, to let someone be a prince or princess for a day. From what I gather, her Mom was a pragmatist with a great sense of humor and a grounded sense of reality… all traits that I fear we sometime lose in today’s quest for creating those perfect birthday memories.
All too often we seem to fret about where to hold the party, what to put in the goody bag, how many kids to invite, how to bake the perfect cake… the list goes on and on. Unless, of course, you decide to just say no. To decide that goody bags are unnecessary, kids aren’t cake critics and the only thing that matters is a hearty dose of fun, love and sure, a gift or two as well.
I recently found myself getting caught up in all of this; after all, it’s easier for me to make lists and strive for perfection than it is to pack all that underwear! But really, who needs all this pressure for birthday? Isn’t it supposed to be fun? With this in mind, I ordered a few gifts from Amazon that I have wrapped and ready to take to Ireland for our princess and I have a few more ready for the triplets when we return. I haven’t sent invitations or planned parties… and I’m not sure that I will. At five years old, Ciara would like to celebrate with her friends but at three, the triplets are still making friends and certainly won’t hold it against me (I hope!) if we don’t ring in their third year with a bonanza at Tumblebugs.
The moral of the story? Birthdays are special days and should absolutely be celebrated in a big way. But, what’s big to a tiny tot may not be big to you… some time together, some stuff to unwrap and a messy cupcake will probably do the trick. I’ll give it a whirl and let you know how it works out… and, stay tuned for a recap of our adventures in Ireland… birthday and all!
I sense that summer is coming to an end and I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, day camp and swim team have ended, the kids are eternally “bored” and the heat and humidity have pretty much lost their charm. On the other hand, I really love the beach, the pool, our more relaxed summer routine and the longer days that allow me to cram more into my busy life.
As you may know, last week we were on vacation; our annual trek to Cape Cod included building sand castles, collecting hermit crabs and eating lots of donuts, ice cream and pizza. It occurred to me while we were away that these last weeks of summer are a bit like the last days of disco — reckless, carefree and full of overindulgence. As we get back into the swing of things this week, I’ve created some Lyons Den ground rules for surviving these lingering summer days while maximizing the enjoyment they bring.
- Back to Basics: Some simple rules that were suspended for summertime are now back in session. Bedtime is at 8:00, reading time is mandatory and snack time has to include a “healthy” option — some yogurt, a piece of fruit or maybe some cheese and crackers. It’s been grand playing with the kids long past their bedtime and looking the other way as they stuffed themselves with “fruit” snacks and chocolate chip granola bars but with the start of the school year a month away, now is the time to start the good, healthy habits that will start the year off right.
- No More Nos: I’m at the point where the shrill shriek of my own voice is annoying. I’m sick of saying NO! “No running in the house. No biting. No, that poop did not “just fall out” on the floor!” Ok, well, that last example may have been oversharing but sometimes potty training triplets has some nasty side effects. In any case, I’m sure I’m not alone in the overuse of the “NO”, especially as summer marches on and the kids seem ever more committed to push us to our limits. But, with just a few weeks left, I’m doing my best to practice what parenting experts have been preaching for ages and turn these negatives into positives. As in “Outside would be a great place to run if you want to!” or “If you feel like biting, here’s an apple!” (This is a great way to work in that aforementioned healthy snack!) and “That’s great, I’m so glad you didn’t poop in your pants! Next time let’s try to make it to the potty though, ok?”
- Have fun. I literally wrote this down on our family calendar. I also wrote down the bedtime reminders, snacking rules and a prompt to locate and read the library books that have gone MIA. That said, summer isn’t over yet and I’m all for sneaking in a few more ice pops, offering lemonade instead of milk with dinner and milking every ounce of enjoyment we can out of the summer of 2011 before it becomes a fond memory.
|Happy little “princess” after some quality time with Dad|
If more than one munchkin is calling you Mom, you know how hard it can be to fit in quality one to one time. This is true as it relates to your husband, your sister, your Mom or your best friend. It is especially true when it comes to your kids and naturally, this is the area that tends to give us all the most guilt and anxiety. As a working mom of five kids six and under (including identical two-year old triplets), I really feel the squeeze but over time, have found that little things really do mean a lot. Thankfully, finding a few moments to share with each of my children individually is easier than I thought.
Quality time with your tots need not involve elaborate planning, great expense or even a huge time commitment. I’ve seen the faces of my own little tykes light up like a Christmas tree by suggestions as simple as “who wants to come walk the dog?” or “I’m going out to get milk, anyone want to join me?” or even “I need to move the car – want to go for a ride?” These minor moments offer the opportunity to share some quality time and the kids always appreciate it, even if it’s as simple as a walk to the corner — which, sadly, on some days, is all our poor dog gets (his one to one time is pretty much gone!).
One day last summer, I took one of the triplets (who was 18 months at the time) with me to get a present for an upcoming birthday party. Truth be told, it was (and still is!) rare that I get one of the triplets out on his own but, it is so gratifying whenever I do that I am committed to doing so more often. On this particular day, as I walked up Main Street with Declan, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a funny little guy he is; I found that there are few things more endearing than the stream of consciousness observations that only a one and a half year old can provide: “Flower. Plane. Bye Bye! Hello! Bug. Bee. BUS! Big bus! Hello! Sky? Moon? HELLO!” And then, when we entered the toy store and he set his eyes upon a stuffed bear the size of his Dad, “Wow! WOW, WOW, WOW!”
The reality is that I enjoy our “alone time” as much as the kids do. My husband Des and I do our best to create quality time out of routine tasks… picking up Friday night take-out has become my daughter’s date night with Dad; all it takes is fifteen minutes and a Shirley temple and my feisty four year old returns a new little lady. We also try to plan a special day out for each our kids – it might be an annual trip to Yankee Stadium for my six year old, a trip to the zoo with my daughter and time will tell what we come up with for the triplets. For now, they are content when their one to one time is a trip to the pediatrician for an ear infection; given how low their standards are, we have nowhere to go but up! Or, perhaps, we have nowhere to go at all… a recent Sunday afternoon with just one little fella in a bubble bath proved to be, well, in his mind, a real splash!
So, if you struggle like I do with finding time to squeeze it all in, just remember that the little things matter most. Your kids will be grateful for any window of time you give them… and, hopefully, your husband, sister, Mom and best friend will realize that for now, they just may have to wait!
2011 has officially arrived. Much to my own disbelief, this is the year that Liam will turn seven (yikes!), our princess Ciara will turn 5 (and go to KINDERGARTEN!!!) and the triplets will turn three (however can that be?!). This is also the year that I will turn 40. I have to say, I’m kind of looking forward to it. Maybe we’ll have a big party. Or perhaps find a way to finagle a weekend away from all of these kids… a girl’s gotta dream, right? For me, hope springs eternal about what the future will hold and, never more so than at this time of year.
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!