Easy Giving

November 24th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in kids allowance | parenting | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve discovered a nifty new tool be thankful for… http://www.allowancemanager.com/

This neat little site makes it easy for you to give, give, give… a weekly allowance for each of your eager-to-earn offspring!  You can create a personalized allowance tracker for each child and one of my favorite features is that when you designate tasks, you can specify whether they are for good behavior (Credit!), bad behavior (Debit!) or extra earned (Bonus!). 

Admittedly, my kids are a bit too young to fully reap the rewards and actually log on and track their own progress but, that day will be here soon enough.  When it comes, they will realize that beyond the importance of learning to do the right thing and contribute to household tasks, there is strong monetary motivation to help with recycling, make their beds and feed the dog.  Likewise, they will see their hard-earned bucks disappear for violations like not listening, not doing homework or needing to be dragged out of bed for school each morning.

As for me, I’m glad to have found a convenient way to track their chores, contributions and occasional missteps — it’s a great way for them to learn from their mistakes and take pride in thier accomplishments.  And, with Thanksgiving upon us, I am officially grateful that our little tots are becoming happy helpers… I always knew there would be benefits to having a big family — I just didn’t realize how quickly they’d extend to not having to take out the trash!  Bonus!

I’m not convinced that my little Lyons Cubs had a happy Halloween. And, the more I think about it, the more I realize that until kids are three or four, Halloween is really more for the parents than for them. Personally, I’ve taken great joy in dressing mine up in ways that I find amusing and entertaining because, hey, they really can’t talk back yet and it makes for a good (FUNNY!) photo op.

This year, while my five-year old fluctuated between being Derek Jeter and an astronaut, it was easy enough to humor him and let him be both; he had a strong opinion, there were no dollars attached to creating the Jeter uniform and he made a good argument – he didn’t want to preview his “real” Halloween costume at school on Friday. Fair enough.

Our four year old decided to be a dragon. We found ourselves in TJ Maxx a few weeks ago and were drawn to the costumes near checkout. I was proud of her for switching up the princess theme from last year, for shunning the stereotypical costume for something a bit more unexpected. Although, I’d be remiss to not mention that at times, her behavior would peg her as a dragon – no costume required! To her credit, she was a very nice, very cute dragon; as she put it, “I am Puff the Magic Dragon and my fire will only kill you if you’re mean to me.” Yep. Lesson learned – don’t be mean to this little lady!

Then there are the triplets. They just turned two a few weeks ago and as far as I’m concerned, have no say in Halloween. Which is why I turned them into the Lyons Cubs. Just one look tells you that they weren’t thrilled with my choice – especially since I turned their day upside down in my attempts to have everyone well rested for the town parade, which started at 2:15, right in the middle of naptime!  A smarter, kinder mom may have skipped the parade. Perhaps she would have suggested that Dad take the two big kids while I stay home with our napping Cubs. Nope, not me. Here’s what I did:

I stuck them in their cribs after church, just a bit past noon. Though they were confused and saying “Lunch mama, need lunch mama”, I said “Nope, you need a nap! You need a nap NOW so that you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the big parade!” In fairness, they had a large, late breakfast and I don’t think they were starving but still, as they murmured something about cheese and crackers, I slammed the door and went to dig out the lion costumes. When I went to get them up at 1:30, it was clear that they never slept and were now quite drowsy and quite possibly hungry as well. So, I did what any sane Mom trying to be punctual to the parade would do, I stuffed them in their costumes, told them they could have a snack later and hurried them out the door.

From what I can tell, my tiny trio of Lyons must think that Halloween is a day when you get put in your crib without lunch, taken out when you’re on the verge of sleep and extreme hunger, stuffed into a too small, scratchy outfit, are subjected to ridicule, bright flashes and the oohs and aahs of an endless stream of strangers and then, just when you’ve gotten the hang of a bizarre ritual called “trick or treat” — when you’re finally allowed to climb the neighbor’s stairs and, better yet, there is a lollipop waiting at the top — Mom whisks you away, takes your pop, force feeds you some dinner and plunks you back into your crib. And we wonder that little kids are scared by Halloween?!

Our family just experienced a major milestone – well, in fact, several of them. On 10.10.10, our identical triplet boys turned two and we celebrated the fact that we have all survived these sleep-deprived, chaos-filled first two years; two years that have been made all the more intense, challenging and yes, even fun by our three little guys and their big sister and brother, who are four and five years old.

We’ve juggled a lot in the Lyons Den as we’ve struggled with how to feed three newborns while entertaining two toddlers, finding a car that can safely and comfortably accommodate five car seats (Hello Swagger Wagon!), and eventually figured out how to get out of the house in less than two hours (hint: don’t bring it all with you!). In reflecting on what have been the busiest (and possibly blurriest!) two years of my life, I realize there were a few keys to our surviving – and at times even thriving – this remarkable time with five tots under five:

1. Don’t forget the “me” in Mommy. I’m a firm believer that a happy mom is the key to a happy family. “Me time” is essential and, as my husband and kids will attest, everyone benefits from it. I love my early morning runs, my occasional yoga classes, my book club and the rare girl’s night out. These things are all a part of the me I was pre-kids and that me still exists. Remember the “me” in you and you’ll be a better Mommy too – I guarantee it.

2. God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt. Or put another way, babies don’t need baths every day and dirty binkies are A-OK! Trust me, this is true and will make your life much easier. In the winter months especially, one can argue that frequent bathing can dry out tender newborn skin so, if you’re as wary of a slippery baby as I was, relieve that stress by limiting bath time to just 2-3 days a week. As for that dirty binkie –or bottle, or blankie, or biscuit or whatever – well, we have a 5-second rule… which has kind of evolved into a 10-15 second rule… if it’s on the ground for just a (relatively!) short while, it’s fair game to be picked up, brushed off and popped right back into the kid’s mouth… unless, of course, your dog gets it first in which case, a good rinse or replacement may be required!

3. Baby Proofing is good but rules reign supreme. I marvel that there are folks out there who make a living “baby proofing.” Don’t get me wrong, certain things are absolutely essential; we don’t leave cords from blinds dangling where tots can reach them and we keep medicine out of reach. We have a gate at the top of our stairs and are big believers in outlet covers. But the rest of the stuff they try to sell you on? Toilet seat locks and stove knob covers and all the rest? Save yourself the money and set some rules instead. Rules are good. Kids actually like to know what the boundaries are and are astute enough to respect them far sooner than you think. Don’t be afraid to scream “HOT!!” or “OUCHIE!” or even a good old-fashioned “NO!!!” They will get it, they will learn from it and you will be grateful that when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night, the potty is not in lock-down.

4. Out and about beats in and insane. All our kids were born in the fall in the Northeast. The time of year when the leaves fall, the wind blows and the temperature plummets. I remember taking my firstborn to the pediatrician on one such blustery day and asking if it was ok to take him out for a walk. Her response: “Do you think people in Siberia never leave the house?! Of course you can take him out! Just bundle him up and you’ll both be fine.” And we were. The fresh air did us both good and I wholeheartedly believe it tires tots out. So, if perchance you’re interested in exhausting your newborn in the hopes of four to five hours of uninterrupted overnight sleep, this is a good way to go. No matter how long it takes to get out of the house (and I know firsthand that it can take a while!), just do it. Pack up and go. You and your tot will both be glad you did.

5. Just say yes. Being of rather proud and stoic Irish descent, I’m not one to ask for help and my husband wouldn’t think of it. When the triplets came home from the hospital, 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. It turns out that when people offer to help, they mean it. So do yourself a favor and just say yes — and don’t be afraid to be specific about the help you need. Take it from me, it will be much easier – and a lot more fun – to survive the first two years with a little help from your friends.

6. Trust your gut. It recently expanded to provide you with the little bundle (or bundles!) of joy that it seems everyone including the mailman has something to say about. Bottle or breast. Work or stay home. Binkie or blankie. Organic or not. Whatever it is, do not believe everything you read or hear and do take it all with a grain of salt. Just do what feels right to you. After all, there is a reason for the old adage that “mother knows best.” You do.

7. Plan ahead. Anticipation goes a long way toward prevention and this holds especially true when it comes to tiny tykes who are prone to melt down when they are tired, hungry, overwhelmed, or all of the above. I often tend to push myself – and my tots – far past the breaking point and the result is always the same… simply put, not good! My advice would be to keep your bag packed with sippy cups, yummy snacks and wipes aplenty. Plan activities for times when you – and your offspring – will be at your best. And, while you’re planning, plan to cut yourself some slack because no matter how much you anticipate, there will be days when things go awry – as in the time when one of my kids puked so many times at the doctor’s office that I had to drive him home in a pumpkin costume. It wasn’t part of the plan but, it makes for a good story!

8. Just say no. This is as important as learning to just say yes. While “no” will be a word you undoubtedly (and at times, regrettably) overuse with your little one/s, you need to incorporate it freely and guiltlessly to requests like “could you host Thanksgiving dinner?” or “can you bake four dozen cupcakes for the school fundraiser?” or “can I drop Biting Billy over for a play date?” No, no and no! You don’t need to do it all – and you’ll be happier if you don’t. Please don’t misunderstand – feel free to host a holiday dinner or volunteer for the bake sale or have a nightmare kid at your house if it makes you feel good and won’t drive you crazy. But please, do not under any circumstances say yes when something deep down inside is urging you to take a pass. At these times, refer to # 6 – trust your gut AND just say no!

9. Create a routine. Say what you will but when it comes to your tiny tyke, routine is good. It’s good for both of you. You need your coffee. Your baby needs a bottle. You both get grumpy if you don’t get what you want when you want it. Fair enough, right? Babies – and kids of all ages– thrive on routine. They are simple sweet souls who will respond well to simply knowing when to expect a bottle, a bath, a meal, a walk, a snack or a story. Routine has been the key to survival for us, especially during those first few crazy months at home. Think about it – we had three babies who ate eight times a day… not to mention, two toddlers who required a fair amount of care and feeding, a dog who needed a walk, and a mountain of laundry always waiting to be done. The only way to tackle it all was with a routine. It worked for us and should work for you too!

10. Laugh. There is such tenderness and such humor in these first two years. Allow yourself the opportunity to pause and appreciate it as much as you possibly can. Laugh loud and laugh often and your baby will too. That belly laugh will be one of your fondest memories. If you could bottle it, you would. There is no better feeling. And God knows, after what you’ve endured to bring a baby into this world, you deserve a good laugh!

It’s hard to believe that our babies are babies no more. I know in my heart that these amazing little fellas will always be my babies but I see with my eyes that they are already little boys – and yearning to be big kids, just like their brother and sister. I am grateful for the love they give, the laughs they provide and the knowledge that if we’ve survived these first two years – and indeed, we have – we will survive whatever comes next. Bring it on!

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.

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.

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.

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.

When we were first married, I wasn’t so sure why people actually take the plunge and decide to have kids. What’s the point? Our lives seemed so full – and relatively speaking, so were our bank accounts thanks to two full time jobs and relatively low expenses, our bellies thanks to frequently dining out and our one bedroom apartment, thanks to two ninety pound dogs. I was really on the fence and decided to dig for an answer from one of my best girlfriends. “Why?” I asked her. “Why do people have kids? Is it just a rite of passage? Is it just the assumed next step? I just don’t get the allure. Kids have dirty diapers, sticky fingers, they’re expensive and from what my Mom still tells me, they always talk back!”
“Ah, true, but that’s only part of it” she told me. “Kids are entertaining! They’re funny. They have a fresh perspective on things and they let you see the world through their eyes. It’s like you get to be a kid again! Plus,” she said coyly, “you can make them unload the dishwasher, take out the trash and walk the dog.”

Well, seven years and five kids later, I’ve clearly put my reservations aside and fully embraced this whole kid thing. And, I can honestly say that they make me – they make us — happy. Furthermore, it turns out that my good friend Audrey was right… our five year old actually does walk the dog, our three year old happily unloads the dishwasher and there are few things more entertaining than watching our one-year old triplets dance. DANCE, I say! And, they do. Very entertaining and very funny indeed.

Last week, we had a more poignant reminder of why we have kids. Last week, we lost my brother-in-law to lung cancer. His battle, like his life, was spirited and far too short. Just five months after diagnosis, he succumbed to the horror of this disease. I think it’s fair to say that the past five months have been rough on all of us – the kids included. But, they have shown us time and again just what incredible little beings they are.

• They are resilient; they might have been disappointed that their Dad missed the 4th of July but they knew he was taking care of their amazing uncle so it was all ok.

• They are flexible; one day we were headed to the pool and then did an abrupt about-face to head to the hospital, dumping them at a friend’s house on the way. Instead of disappointed, they were delighted.

• They are smart, gentle and kind; not all the time, of course, but we witnessed such tenderness when our three year old blew off some dandelion blossoms, made a wish and told us she wished for Uncle Conor to get better.

• Last but not least, they are incredibly intuitive; last Tuesday, Liam, our five year old, and I were talking and I said “you know, little buddy, I really don’t think Uncle Conor is going to get better.” And he said, “I know Mom. I think he’s going to go today.” To which I responded “where?” and he said “To heaven.” And, he was right.

Our kids have lifted us up time and again. They provide joy, love and laughter and seem to know just when we need it most – as we have this past week. So, although our bank accounts are less full, our bellies miss all those dinners out and our three bedroom house is more crowded than that one bedroom apartment ever was, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This post originally appeared at http://www.parentsask.com/

The Land of No

July 21st, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | parenting - (0 Comments)

If you ask my kids where they live, it’s quite possible they’ll tell you they hail from “The Land of No.” If you ask them what life is like in the “Land of No”, they will likely tell you that this strange land is ruled by a wild-eyed, crazy-haired witch who at times resembles their Mom but at times is almost unrecognizable as she bombards them with a barrage of “no, No, NOs!!!!!”

Some of the “NOs” I so freely administer are well-founded; they support a safety-first kind of an attitude… “No biting. No hitting. No standing on the furniture. No jumping on the bed. No playing on the stairs!” Some of them lay down the basic (and not necessarily unreasonable) laws of the land… “No lollipops before breakfast. No dessert until you finish your dinner. No bike riding before 7AM. No TV before your homework is finished. No talking back!”

Some of my NO’s are uttered – or, more likely, barked, screamed or snarled – before the poor kids can even get the words out… “Mom, can I have a… NO!” “Mom, can we…. NO!” “Mom, could I… NO!” NO, NO, NO! These unfounded and uninformed NOs are usually offered up on a day when I am especially tired, cranky and rundown… a state that I seem to be in far more often than I (and they!) would like.

One day last week, I found myself working from home. Our sitter needed the day off but that didn’t change the fact that I still had a ton of work to do. Needless to say, it is a bit difficult to focus when one year old triplets are chirping from their cribs, a three year old is refusing to nap and a five year old thinks you are the play date for the day. This is the just the type of scenario that brings out the residing witch of the Land of No. She showed up so abruptly and with such force that even I was a bit surprised when the words flew out of my mouth… “What are you doing?! Why are you doing that?! NO! NO! NO!”

My stunned kids stopped in their tracks and just looked at me with their eyes and mouths wide open. “But Mom” they replied in unison “we want to fill up the kiddie pool and you said we couldn’t turn on the hose. So, we decided to fill it up with sippy cups.” Really? This is what I flipped out and screamed NO about?! What is wrong with me? What could be more sweet, innocent (and frankly, quiet and time consuming!) than a three and five year old working together to fill up a pool one cup at a time? What a great idea! This was nothing to freak out about and it was most certainly not a good use of my overused NO. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, it was too late. My sweet kids were sulking in the yard while my mind wandered back to my laptop and email and other less meaningful things than the two disappointed tots out back.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my time in the Land of No. I’ve learned that the NO must be used with discretion. I’ve learned that I would do well to recall the words of Liam’s kindergarten teacher, “Stop, Look and Listen”, before I simply start shouting “no, No, NO!” I tried this approach a few nights ago when the triplets ran into the street – which, of course, is a major no-no. However, they weren’t bolting into oncoming traffic; they had spotted an inviting puddle just over the curb and apparently, needed to splash around a bit. Rather than go to my default “NO!” I just watched them. Closely. Their grins spread from ear to ear. They were holding hands and jumping up and down and squealing with glee. They weren’t in danger. They weren’t hurting anyone. They were simply having fun. And, I must admit, so was I. Now that I’ve been reminded of the pleasantries of life beyond the Land of No, I’m hoping to spend a lot more time there… and, I can assure you, the kids are too!

Note: This post originally appeared at www.parentsask.com

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?