We have five children. The oldest is seven.  Clearly, we’ve had a fair amount of sex – although, perhaps not quite as much as you’d suspect given that A. I’m pretty much Fertile Myrtle and B. our last three came as a package deal. When identical triplets were revealed on an early sonogram, I nearly fell off the table.  And pretty much swore to never have sex again.
As they say, “never say never” but it took me a really long time to “get my sexy back.”  Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure it isback.  Or that I ever really had it at all.  I have curly hair, freckly skin and a big smile.  On a good day, I might be cute.  But sexy?  I’m not so sure.  Sexy women usually have sleek hair, smooth skin and a sultry stare.  Or maybe that’s just what the media would have us believe.  Maybe sexy really does come in all shapes and sizes.  And maybe, just maybe, cute is my kind of sexy. 
Knowing as I do from a whole lot of candid girl-talk, I’m not the only one who has struggled to “get my sexy back” after having children so, having been inspired by the good folks at ParentsConnect and, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few things that actually do make me feel sexy – in a confident, sassy, cute kind of a way.  And, a few that most definitely don’t. (more…)
Today is the first day of Spring.  This is usually cause for great celebration here in the Northeast but, since we had a winter so warm it was worrisome and the daffodils all bloomed last week, the change of season feels a bit anti-climactic compared to years past.  Even so, it’s time to change over the closets, do some spring cleaning and lighten up a bit — in spirit, in fashion and yes, even in diaper bags or however you define your tote of choice.
I’ve never really been a diaper bag kind of a gal myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent the past seven years of my life with an overstuffed satchel of sorts hanging off my shoulder and various kiddie items hanging out of that bag.  I tried the traditional diaper bags but none of them ever really worked for me — especially with triplets!  As I’m faced with a milestone that no one seems to mention (that being the end of the diaper bag!), I’m faced with a dilemma about what to take along to tote our necessities when we’re out and about.  I no longer need to pack up formula, bottles, diapers and onesies but when we’re headed out for a long day, I still need to lug along water bottles, juice boxes, a few Pull Ups and wipes — which thankfully are now used most often for sticky hands and faces rather than stinky bottoms!  The point is, I need a bag.  And I’m sure many of you do too so, for today’s “Tuesday Tip”, I thought I’d share a few that work for me… and, I’d love to hear any that work for you.  After all, spring is here and Mama needs a new bag!
The Lucky Girl Personal Shopper, by Bella Bags
This Bella Bag by Toss comes in eight pretty patterns and several sensible styles so whether you need a refrigerated compartment for milk and yogurt or a basic carry-all, there’s an option for you.  My sister got me this bag a few years ago and it’s one of my favorites.  It can be personalized with your initial and the bright colors and fun patterns are great at hiding the dirt and grime that are inevitable after a few trips to the park.
The “Lock It Pocket Rocket”, by Scout
This is not the first time I’ve extolled the virtues of the Pocket Rocket .  This bag has seen me through thick and thin and many a bottle — ranging from baby bottles to wine bottles, depending on the occasion!  As spring turns to summer and you migrate from the sandbox to a sandy beach, this will be a great bag to have in tow.  With six outside pockets, one inside pocket and an interior roomy enough for snacks and sunblock, this is one of my all-time faves.  As an added bonus, it’s water-resistant so it can easily be wiped clean and won’t damaged by splashes and spills.  Last but not least, the newest version (pictured above) has a lock-it feature so it can be easily strapped to your stroller for a handy hands-free option.
L.L. Bean Boat & Tote Bag
The LL Bean boat bag is a classic and has been a staple in our family for years.  We must have almost a dozen of them by now.  Each kid has one with their name on it which is their “go bag” for all our adventures; whether it’s a weekend visit to my parents or our annual week at the beach, each kid gets one bag and one bag only.  If it doesn’t fit in the “Bean Bag”, it gets left behind.  In addition to proving their worth for little road warriors, these bags are perfect for the pool or beach.  I have a large one that fits seven beach towels and enough sunblock to keep us covered until Labor Day.  If you’re not yet convinced that the Bean Bag is a must-have, consider this — they also make for great storage… one for blocks, one for trains and so on.  It’s an ideal way to tote playthings from room to room or up and down stairs.  My husband will occasionally wish we had those nifty new zip top tote bags so if he happens to take a turn too fast the beach towels don’t go flying but, for lugging loads to and fro, if you ask me, this is a bag that’s hard to beat.

Last but not least, there’s the basic backpack.  It served you well in school and will still do the trick now that you’re a busy mom — quite possibly with more kids than hands, making the hands-free nature of this one all the more appealing!  As you may know, we took the kids into the city for the St. Patrick’s Day parade last weekend and my trusty old backpack got us through the day.  It easily contained nine juice-boxes, fruit snacks, granola bars, clementines, wipes, tissues, and one complete change of clothes (and Pull Ups) in case a tired three-year old triplet piddled in his pants. Lest I should forget, there were a few items for me too: my phone, a few dollars, a credit card and lip gloss. On the downside, of the roughly twenty pounds strapped to my back that day, less than two were actually for me but, on the upside, I was able to meet every whining request for a snack and, best of all, never needed to pull out those Pull Ups!

One of my little fellas who always pauses to smell the flowers
If you live in the Northeast, you know that our “un-winter” is just about over; with the unusual warmth this week combined with the extended daylight hours, it’s really beginning to look — and feel — a lot like spring.

Spring is typically a time of year when our already over-filled lives grow even fuller.  As we say so-long to basketball, we find ourselves in the midst of soccer, baseball, t-ball, lacrosse clinics and, in just one civilized respite, a ballet recital.  Suddenly the winter hours we spent in a chilly gym seem minimal in contrast to the hours we’ll spend on the grassy sidelines this spring.  The good news is that the dawn of spring and advent of summer allow us longer days and the occasional permission to linger… the time to stop and smell the roses, as they say.

Today I did just that.  Not in the literal sense; despite the warm winter and early spring, the roses have yet to bloom… although, many crocuses have come up to meet the sun and a few daffodils are in full bloom.  I witnessed them firsthand as I left my desk behind and took my lunch to a local park.  A local park where I knew the triplets would be playing and that just a few moments with them would brighten my busy day even more than the sunny skies.  It helps that they were thrilled to see me; at three years old, they are almost always thrilled to see me — and with a five and seven year old who are at times now slightly less enamoured, I want to treasure every moment that they treasure me.  And today I did.

I took off my shoes and played in the sandbox. I yelled “Ready, Set, GO!” as I raced them down the slide.  I walked them home and timed it just perfectly as the school bus pulled up and my two “big kids” hopped off the bus and into my arms.  It turns out they are happy to see me after all.  We bought lollipops at the corner store to make the stroll home a bit sweeter. Then I left them with our sitter and returned to the office less than an hour after I left; an hour that I will forever cherish and is a great reminder that spring is the perfect time to take at time-out and enjoy the beauty around you, wherever you find it.  For me, today’s beauty was captured in blue skies, purple and yellow flowers and five smiling faces sticky with lollipops.

For this week’s tip, I don’t have a cohesive theme but rather, a hodge podge of insights and lessons learned from the last week in the Lyons Den. I hope you find them helpful and if not, well, at the very least, I hope you will be amused!
  • You know that old saying “Dance like no one is watching.”  Well, on Saturday night, I did.  And I have to say, I had a blast.  For better or worse, most of my small town was watching since I chose the annual school fundraiser as my venue to “Busta Move.”  You know what though? It was great fun. I’d like to dance more often.  Although, I admit it might be better for all involved if no one was watching! 
  • There’s a reason they sell salty and sweet together at the movies.  Friday night was movie night at our elementary school.  We went for it and got the kids popcorn AND Swedish fish.  When our little lady started moaning that she had popcorn kernels stuck in her teeth, we suggested chewing on a Swedish fish to solve the problem.  And it did. Who needs dental floss?!
  • I’m an avid fan of Real Simple and enjoy their column on new uses for old things.  I’ve enthusiastically adopted their suggestion to use an old tissue box to hold plastic baggies.  I know plastic bags are totally yesterday but, we use them to pick up copious amounts of dog poop so I somehow feel ok when I ask for plastic at the grocery store check-out.  This is not my point though. My point is about baking soda; it’s not just for baking anymore! If you have a tot of potty training age and find that your house and even your washing machine stink of urine, baking soda will be your new best friend.  Sprinkle it on the rug before you vacuum and in the machine before washing those training pants for the umpteenth time. I swear, it works. Times three.
  • Order your groceries online. I usually do but the past few weeks have been so hectic that I’ve fallen out of the routine. As a result, we’ve spent several Sundays grocery shopping. Not fun.  From now on, I’m going back to my original plan and letting my fingers do the walking while my rear rests on the couch!
  • Cook for a crowd and reap the rewards of leftovers. This can be hard to do for a family of seven but last week, we aced it.  On Sunday night, we make flank steaks and sausage on the grill and while it made for a super Sunday supper, it was even better the next few nights as we enjoyed steak sandwiches, steak salad and pasta with sausage… yum!  
  • Use the grill in the winter. See above.  This week we plan to add grilled chicken to the rotation… this can be easily turned into chicken fajitas, chicken and pasta, chicken and broccoli, any number of kid-pleasing, quick weeknight options!
  • Make the time for the things that matter most. As you may have gathered, the new year is off to a galloping start. My job is busier than ever, my kids are busier than ever, I have great aspirations to be more active in our community, to lead a Girl Scout troop, to write more frequently and run another half marathon.  Then a few things happened last week — our close friend and dear neighbor passed away and my best friend and only sister moved back to San Francisco with her family.  What do these things have in common?  They are bold reminders that no matter how busy your calendar or lofty your to-do list, you must put the people you love in life first. And, that my friends, I think is the best tip of all… on Tuesday or any other day of the week!

Tuesday Tip: Keep it Simple

December 28th, 2011 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in parenting | Tuesday Tips - (0 Comments)
With the Christmas spirit still lingering, I am reminded once again of the simplest of tips for dealing with simple little minds. I mean no disrespect to the keen curiosity and growing intellectual capacity of our little crew of kids now seven, five and three (times three!) but, when it comes right down to it, we would all do well to remember these sage words “Keep it simple stupid!”  If you have convinced your kids that “stupid” is a bad word, as I apparently have, well then, “Keep it Simple” will do the trick.
Consider, for instance, Christmas presents.  I struggled, as I have for years now, to find the perfect gifts, in the perfect quantities, carefully wrapped and perfectly presented in stockings and under the tree.  The reality, as any parent knows, is that it’s all over in the blink of an eye  — and the kids don’t care how it’s wrapped, if it has a ribbon or even what’s inside.  While our children have outgrown the days when an empty box would suffice (note to others: this just might be the perfect gift for 12-18 month olds!), they seem to be equally pleased with puzzles and pajamas.  I suppose my oldest, Liam, does aspire for gifts of greater magnitude (like the 3-DS, for example, which he didn’t get but, managed to have a Merry Christmas anyway), but for the most part, they are happy just to have a present.  And small presents are just as good as big ones.
Then there’s Christmas dinner.  I give my Mom and Dad a lot of credit — not only for having us all over (again!) but for creating a crowd-pleasing meal for all ages.  We had a traditional Christmas ham, my Dad’s “famous” potatoes, my sister’s equally famous mac & cheese and a hearty helping of green beans on the side.  I’ve never seen my kids gobble down so much so fast.  Simple, as it turns out, is extremely satisfying!

Last but not least, there was today’s adventure into the city to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and their two tiny tots.  My husband had to work so I was flying so solo and admit to being slightly intimidated by the notion of dragging our five tykes across town, downtown and through the park to the Central Park Zoo.  In the rain.  So we came up with Plan B.  We would go to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.  Also in the rain.  And farther away.  So then there was Plan C.  Gymboree had “free play” until 3:00.  But it was already 1:30 and would be hardly worth our while once we got there.  So, Plan D was a trip to Barnes & Noble on East 86th Street, which has a great children’s reading area.  You know what ended up happening?  Plan E.  Staying put and hanging out in my sister’s apartment, where we read books, played trains and Legos, and  ate more of her famous mac & cheese.  The kids were thrilled… and warm and dry too. 

The morale of the story?  When it comes to tots, simple truly is better.

Whenever I’m out and about with our brood, people can’t help but ask “how do you do it?!” While I often interpret the question as one that relates to our daily struggles and working mom juggles, I realized once again this weekend that sometimes what people really mean is “how do you ever even get out of your house with all those kids?!” The answer, of course, is that it’s not easy but since I’m not a sit at home type of a gal, I’ve developed a routine that more often than not gets us out of the house in 30 minutes or less. Here’s my little cheat sheet…

  1. Keep the diaper bag stocked.  As my kids have gotten older, the stock has changed.  Baby formula and extra bottles have been replaced by crayons and coloring books. Diaperes and wipes remain a constant, as do sippy cups, water bottles, a ziploc bag of snacks and depending on the season, sunblock and/or hats. I do my best to restock the bag when we return home and I keep it by the front door so we’re always ready to roll.
  2. Keep extra essentials in the car — this way if your diaper bag gets depleted, you won’t be caught empty-handed.  A few supplies always on-hand in our “Swagger Wagon” include wipes, Purell, sunblock, paper towels, tissues and snacks that stand the test of time and extreme temperatures… not that I’ve sampled them myself but the kids never seem to complain when I uncover a hidden bag of Goldfish or a surprise cereal bar.  Plastic baggies are also good to have handy… as a recent weekend roadtrip reminded me, they are perfect for containing the after effects of any accidents that may occur en route!
  3.  Go to the bathroom before you leave the house! The natural extension of this time-proven rule of the road is to change your little one’s diaper (or in my case, diapers!) just before departure.  As you likely know, as soon as you do, they will fill it up with the nastiest of poops, causing you to rinse and repeat but still, better to get it out of the way before you’re underway! This is one that your mother always told you and once again, she was right!
  4. Have a plan.  My husband thinks I’m crazy but while we’re having breakfast on Sunday morning, I’m already thinking of where we’re going after church and what we need to bring.  If we’re headed to the pool, I’m creating a mental checklist that includes towels, swimmies and juice boxes.  If it’s out to lunch, I’m checking that bag by the door for extra crayons and tossing in a few Legos to keep the little ones occupied.  The point is, if you start to think about where you’re headed with plenty of time to spare, once it’s time to actually get going, you’ll be halfway out the door while your husband is asking if he needs to bring his swimsuit.   To which you can happily reply, “Got it, hon!  Get in the car, we’re ready to roll!” 
  5. Avoid laces at all costs.  With five kids to hustle out of the house, I’ve learned the hard way that shoelaces are not my friend.  In the summer months, Crocs and flip flops reign supreme while in the winter months it’ all about velcro on the sneakers and slip-ons in the way of cozy boots and Merrells.  Am I bummed out that my first grader still can’t tie his shoes?  Sure I am.  But, can I swiftly and adeptly get my clan in the car in thirty minutes or less?  You betcha!

Have some tips of your own?  Let me know!  In the meantime, hope these hints help you get your tykes out the door and on your way, with plenty of time to enjoy the day!