We recently spent a glorious week on the beach.  Was it relaxing?  No.  But, given that we have five kids seven and under and were away with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and aunt, relaxation was never one of my expectations.  And, neither were any of the following observations and insights that just happened along the way –  in the midst of lazy, hazy days filled with sand, sun and newly hatched freckles on our fair-skinned flock…


It’s official. Our little Lyons Cubs are ready for take-off. The tickets are purchased, the excitement is mounting and my four-year old has already packed her bag — she seems to have inherited my genes for advance planning!

On Christmas night, we will be flying the friendly skies from New York to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family. The only thing is, as you may have noticed, the “friendly” skies are gone. The have been replaced by hostile skies filled with haughty flight attendants, hungry passengers and, from what I hear is the worst case scenario, BABIES! Yep, you got it, just when you thought air travel couldn’t get any worse, it did. You’ve gotten used to standing in long security lines and paying to check a bag, but children? Messy, noisy, tantrum-prone children?! They apparently represent the next wave of indignity.

Don’t believe me? Just check out this article from last weekend’s New York Times Travel section (http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/travel/14babies-journeys.html): Passengers Push for Child-Free Flights. If these ornery folks have anything to with it, you probably never will see a “Cub” fly… unless, of course, you happen to be on our flight this Christmas… in which case, consider yourself warned!
 Are you an advocate or opponent of tot-free air travel? All thoughts welcome!

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

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

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

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