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!

Moms Rule

September 16th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in friendship | motherhood | support system | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)

I recently attended my local Mothers of Multiples monthly meeting. Truth be told, I didn’t want to go. I never want to go; I think I’ve only made it to two meetings in two years – although, of course, the five kids under five could have something to do with my poor attendance record. In any case, I was worn out from a long day at work and the typical chaos of our dinner and bedtime routine. I was wearing old leggings and a crappy t-shirt and would have been more content settling in for the night than driving 20 minutes away to mingle with a group of women who I barely knew and wasn’t sure if I’d have much more in common with than the admittedly bizarre fact our uteruses (uteri?!) happened to host more than one baby at a time.

 But, I figured, as I often do, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, I slapped on some lipstick, threw on a cute pair of flats (courtesy of my sister, as with most cute things I own!), tossed on a sweater and headed out the door. And boy, am I ever glad I did. After just a few short hours with a bunch of women I hardly knew, here’s what I’ve concluded: Moms Rule.

 Not just the “Moms of Multiples” who I had the pleasure of spending the evening with, but all Moms. I realized that we are united by far more than our expanding and contracting uteruses – or, for that matter, by our saggy boobs, baggy bellies and bags under our eyes. We are united in that we are warm, welcoming people – whether it’s a knowing smile to a nervous expectant Mom or one last hug before the bus comes, we are wired to make those around us feel better. To feel confident. To know they can tackle the task at hand – whether it’s surviving the first year with a newborn (or two, or three!) or surviving the first day of school, we support everyone around us. We tend to be funny and real and often, the combination of the two is when we’re at our best.

We are the consummate multi-taskers – we buy groceries, cook meals, clean houses, change diapers, plan parties, organize play dates, pay bills, upload photos, plan vacations, write thank you notes and remember the in-law’s birthdays. We help with homework, do the laundry, kiss the boo-boos, cheer at the soccer games, drive to ballet class and return the library books.

 We pride ourselves and artfully juggle our roles as mothers, daughters, friends, sisters, neighbors and colleagues. We support each other, laugh together, cry together, bitch together and intuitively pick each other up just when it’s needed most. We do all this for one – or two, or three or five or more – reasons. We love those little people that come out of our oversized uterus; we want to make them happy and we want the world they grow up in to be a better place. We want to inspire them to make it a greater place. And we’re wise enough to know that we can’t do it alone. We need the help and support of other Moms and thankfully, find that they are there just when we need them most. Much like our own Moms. So, if you haven’t done so recently, take a moment to pass this on to all the many Moms in your life and remind of this simple truth: Moms Rule.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/

All Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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