Lesson One: Insects have six legs

Lesson One: Insects have six legs

This week I had the pleasure of accompanying my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a field trip to our local Audubon Society. I’m pretty sure it was all the more pleasurable because I got to ride in my own car (aka Swagger Wagon) drinking coffee rather than bouncing along in the school bus belching up breakfast.

Transportation issues aside, I learned a lot in my few hours at the Audubon with twenty five-year olds. For starters, I really learned a lot about bugs. While I might have preferred to focus more on flora and fauna, insects were the topic du jour. Did you know, for instance, that an insect by definition has six legs? Or that monarch butterflies (technically not insects!) only lay eggs on milkweed? Or that treasure troves of creepy, crawly bugs live under rocks and fallen branches? That one wasn’t a total newsflash to me but some of the other tidbits most certainly were.


I had a great day on Mother’s Day.  In fact, in my seven years of motherhood, it was hands-down the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.  Maybe it’s because the sun was shining, it was unseasonably warm and we went to the beach — one of my all-time favorite places.  Maybe it’s because I went for a run with a good friend that morning and returned feeling energized and optimistic.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because after several years of succumbing to the myth of Mother’s Day, I’ve finally gotten wise to the commercial hype and colossal disappointments.  I’ve finally recognized that every day is Mother’s Day and Moms really don’t get a day off.  And, after seven years, I am finally ok with that.

Sometimes the best gifts come in hand-painted pots

Sometimes the best gifts come in hand-painted pots

Most moms don’t get to sleep late, skip the laundry, overlook the dishes, or have three meals served up on a platter.  But, we do get incredible homemade cards and homegrown plants — small seedlings in hand-painted pots designed by the same little hands that like to hold ours. These cards, plants and other pieces of handiwork are precious gifts, just like motherhood itself.  Sure it’s messy, noisy, crazy, expensive, exhausting and at times, completely overwhelming.  That’s why a one-day celebration could never do it justice.  After all, motherhood is a lifelong pursuit, an evolving practice, an enduring responsibility.  With that in mind, here are some tips to dispel the myth and embrace Mother’s Day — each and every day of the year.


I’ve been on the road a lot lately. And, since I’ve had an almost year-long hiatus from business travel (and flying solo in general!), it took a few adjustments at home to get the gang I left behind geared up for a few days sans the Mama. Here’s how we made it work and, should the need arise, you can too:


Tonight I read Goodnight Moon for the one millionth time.  Give or take a few.  It feels like a million times but, I still love it.  I love the rapt attention it holds — over our two year old triplets today and our four and six year old before them.  One of my favorite things is reading one page and letting them fill in what follows… 
ME:  Goodnight comb, goodnight brush…
THEM:  Goodnight old lady whispering HUSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Try as we might, none of our kids ever really got the hang of the “hush.” As we were reading tonight, I had three little guys sprawled across my legs, finishing the sentences and looking up at me in wide-eyed wonder.  I realized then that it won’t be long before they move on.  Before our tattered copy of Goodnight Moon ends up on the back of the bookshelf with other “baby” books like Guess How Much I Love YouThe Very Hungry Caterpillar and other kiddie classics. 

I love the sweet innocence of these family favorites.  They will forever represent a time in our lives that is flying by far too fast.  

Tonight as I tucked my little fellas and “big kids” in, I thought about the many minor milestones we’ve passed — the little things that may not be in a baby book but are etched forever in my heart.  Things like…

  •  The sweet, funny, mixed-up things they say, like “Is me going to work with you Mommy?” or “I love the sunset moon!”
  • Squeezing all five kids in the tub together — this actually has been captured on film and typically elicits the response, “You need a bigger tub!”
  • The way they all used to sleep with their rumps up in the air; now they lie sprawled out like drunken frat boys.
  • Pot bellies.  Those big, round, post-meal bellies that provide a visual display confirming their tummies are full.  (If only this stayed cute as we grew older… like 40 years older!)
  • Fascination with dump trucks, garbage trucks, firetrucks, any sort of construction equipment and “worker guys.” 

I was once in a car with my boss and commented on a cool front-end loader; I couldn’t resist, I am now just wired to notice the things my kids adore. While that incident was admittedly a bit embarrassing, it’s amazing how these little people change the way we view the world.  I am so grateful for the ability to see things through their eyes.  And, I am equally grateful that all those little eyes are now closed… lulled to sleep by the melodic ending of Goodnight Moon — in their words “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, good night noises all over the place.”  Sweet dreams indeed.

A moment in time… our 5 “cubs” no longer fit in this tub!

    We just got back from a week on the Cape.  A lovely, sunny, laid back, relaxing week where we did little more than hit the beach and then hit our beds shortly thereafter.  It was awesome.  As you might have noticed if you’re a regular reader, I totally unplugged.  I took my own advice and although it was tough the first few days, by mid-week I was blissfully free of my usual blogging, tweeting, and checking in (and checking people out!) on facebook. 

    Now it’s back to reality.  It’s not yet dinnertime and I’ve unpacked everything, done about five loads of laundry and reorganized the basement; the basement really wasn’t on the agenda for the day but, since I spent so much time down there with the laundry, I just couldn’t stand tripping over the bins of hand-me-downs and had to do something about it.  As I reached the height of my organizational frenzy, Liam wandered down and asked me to play with him.  When I said I was busy, he whined “But Mom, why don’t you ever play with me at home?!”  Which made me realize that I learned a lot over the course of our week away and first day home.

    1. My kids like to play with me.  And I like to play with them too.  And I really need to do it more often, not just when we’re on vacation.  While we were away, I made sand castles, went on walks (without my phone!), and totally tuned in to the five tots that I’m too often tuning out.  It’s so easy to use the “busy” excuse but it’s amazing how appreciative they are when I slow down, pay attention and really focus on these amazing little people we’re so blessed to have.  There was one night when Ciara just wanted me to sit and snuggle and watch Peter Pan.  And I did.  And she was thrilled.  And so was I.  Let’s face it, pretty much any kid activity (sand castles, coloring, bubbles, reading, you name it) is going to be more fun that whatever usually keeps me so busy (laundry, dishes, frantic organizing, email, etc!).  That’s why I am going to try harder to actually play with my kids — and ideally, do so with undivided attention as I keep my phone and email at bay!
    2. I need at least eight hours of sleep. While we were away we were routinely in bed by ten or eleven o’clock and slept until the first tot toddled in — usually between 7:30 and 8:30.  That’s a LOT more sleep than the five or six hours I typically get and I have to say, I think I was more pleasant as result!  Of course, the blue skies, beautiful beaches and call of the ocean always perk me up but, I can honestly say that I drank less coffee, awoke less cranky and felt a whole lot better with a few extra hours of shut-eye.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to maintain the eight-hour average as the responsibilities of home and work kick back into high gear but I’m going to try!
    3. I like my husband.  A lot.  So often we just go through the motions, the “I love you” routinely muttered before we roll over and sack out, exhausted from the constant action here in the Lyons Den.  Vacation was, and always is, a great reminder that this guy I too often bombard with “to-dos” and “why didn’t yous” is a great guy.  A guy I once swooned over and thought “this will be the father of my children.”  A guy who is a great dad, who always knows the value of playtime and who has always encouraged me to get more sleep.  This is a guy worth listening to more often, who deserves more of my undivided attention and who proved once again while we were away that we make a great team.

    It’s not easy to load up five kids for a six hour ride, to load up three pack and plays and all our gear.  But, it’s well worth it.  I learned more about my kids, my husband and myself in a week away than I do in a few months at home.  Just a simple break in the routine is all takes to bring us all closer together.  I’m going try hard to hold onto this loving feeling but know it’s likely to fade, as it always does when the stress of our daily lives inevitably mounts.  When it does, I’m going to reread this post, take a look at this picture and remind myself of just how lucky I am.

    Given that today started with 6-year old Liam telling me I was his servant (not to worry, we’ve fixed that grave misconception!), it’s no wonder that it should end with a fair amount of eyebrow raising moments.  I’m fairly used to the routine swings from good, to bad to ugly and back again here in the Lyons Den but what surprised me tonight is just how many of these moments were squeezed into roughly 6:15-8:15!
    1. I got home from work at 6:12.  The sitter left at 6:13.  By 6:14, I was literally under attack.  Liam took a running leap to greet me that knocked me over, causing me to land on Ciara who let out a scream so loud you might have heard it.  This incited a small riot among Kevin, Declan and Cormac, each of whom doesn’t quite seem to get the time-honored tradition of “don’t kick a man (or Mom!) when he’s (or she’s!) down.”  Starting the evening from a “down” position is never a good sign!
    2. 6:30: Tilapia, broccoli and some leftover pasta with a hefty side order of moaning, groaning, whining and fighting.  Is it really possible that I’ve been home for less than a half hour?!  Calgon take me away!
    3. 7:00  Lollipop bribery works.  Dinner is consumed. Things are looking up.
    4. 7:01. Lollipop bribery breaks down.  Fighting over flavors ensues among sticky fingers.  Things are looking down. Again.
    5. 7:10  Highchairs are clean.  Kids are not.  Lolli’s are now in hair.  Time to jump ship!
    6. 7:25  Quick walk with five kids and one large dog.  Fresh air does us all a world of good.  Rain has stopped. Sun is setting.  Kids are smiling.  I am too.  Life is good.
    7. 7:45  Back home for the bedtime scramble.  There are more bare bottoms than I care to count.  Big kids are fighting.  Little guys are fighting for potty time.  Losers pee on floor.  What happened to my so-called life?!
    8. 7:55  Liam has a tooth ache?!  Was it the lollipop?  The tooth that fell out?  Are too many lollipops causing his teeth to fall out?!  Not knowing what to do, I opt for Tylenol.  They say it’s for  aches and pains and my kid has aches and pains.  Now, if only those geniuses at the pharma companies could create a cup with measurments I can acutally READ!  What’s up with that?!  Not sure if I gave him two tablespoons or a half of tablespoon.  God only knows how I’ve misdosed them in the middle of the night!  Please, big Pharma companies, if you are reading this, FIX THOSE LITTLE CUPS YOU INCLUDE WITH TYLENOL, MOTRIN, ADVIL AND OTHER KIDS MEDS! 
    9. 8:05  Triplets are tucked in; Liam and Ciara are quietly reading in bed.  Things are looking up. Again.
    10. 8:15  “I have poo poo!” “I have POO POO!”  So goes the gleeful exclamation of ALL THREE triplets.  Why oh why do they pee on the floor and poo in their pants?  And where is that Calgon to take me away?!

    Now though, all is quiet.  I can’t help but smile, a really big, from the heart kind of smile — because they melt my heart kind of a smile.  Now, they slumber, sweetly snoozing and snuggled into their cribs and beds.  Tomorrow, it will begin again.   The good, the bad and the ugly.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I just hope that I too will soon be sweetly snoozing — ideally for at least six hours without someone shouting with pride “I have poo poo!” 

    On Friday night, I had the privilege of attending a small business awards dinner.  I mention that it was a privilege for a few reasons…

    1. It gave me the opportunity to have a pint after work for the first time in a long time
    2. It gave us the opportunity to have a date night for the first time in a long time
    3. It provided the opportunity to mix and mingle with inspiring and accomplished people — which isn’t to say that our little “Lyons Cubs” aren’t both inspiring and accomplished but they do have their limitations…

    One of the night’s honorees was a psychiatrist, who in accepting his award recalled three life lessons from his father that I think are memorable and worth sharing:

    1. Work hard — as in harder than anyone else.  As in don’t do the bare minimum to get the job done, give it your all — every job, big or small.  Give it your all.
    2. Respect others – as in be nice!  Be nice to people.  As in everyone from the mailman to the boss.  Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, whether you think of them as big or small.  In fact, whether they actually are big or small!
    3. Don’t take yourself too seriously – as in, don’t ever get an inflated sense of self-importance and always remember to have fun. 

    Sounds pretty simple, right?  I think these are great words to live by. I’d like to think I do a pretty good job with the first two… most folks would say I work hard and I think they’d say that I’m nice.  The area I’d like to work on is #3 — not taking myself so seriously and trying to have some more fun. Lighten things up a little bit.  Yell less and laugh more.  Squint less and smile more.  I am generally good-humored but I know I have a tendency to get wrapped up in and stressed out by things that just don’t matter in the big scheme of life… like organizing the hand-me-downs by season, size and color, for example! 

    So, newly inspired by the accomplished folks I got to mingle with, this week I’m going to try to just lighten up.  To roll with it.  This doesn’t come naturally to me since, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m an uptight Type A personality but, I’m going to give it my best.  I hope that one day, one of my kids (or maybe all five of them?) will be accepting an award and in addition to thanking Dad, they will also thank their Mom.  With a bit of luck (and a lot of hard work!), they will hopefully thank me for:

    1.  Laughing. Often and freely. As in creating a happy home filled with laughter so they know they are loved and they know not to take themselves, or those little things that are inconsequential,too seriously.
    2.  Accepting. As in accepting that you win some and you lose some and that’s ok.   And importantly, for accepting people for who they are.  Type A or not.
    3.  Organizing their hand-me-downs.  Ok, well, this may be a stretch but the day just might come when they are glad that good ole Mom took the time to ensure the bins were properly labeled and they could find that size 6 raincoat on a day they really needed it!

    Man’s Best Friend

    March 5th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

    Meet Finnegan.  Finnegan is a “Glab”… that would be a Golden Retriever/Lab mix, for those of you who were wondering.  Probably much in the same way I was wondering what the hell a “glab” was when I returned home from work one day about six years ago to find this message on our answering machine:  “Hello, this is the Guiding Eyes for the Blind calling to let you know that your Glab is ready for pick up this weekend.”

    Seriously?!  We had put our name on the Guiding Eyes waiting list for “released” dogs just a few months before with the understanding that it typically took years before the perfectly trained dog of our dreams failed the final test and became our ideal second pet.  That’s right, our second pet.  At the time, we lived in a one bedroom apartment in the city with Murphy, an 85-lb. fluffy golden retriever with a heart of gold.  We thought it would be nice for Murph to have a pal around as he entered his golden years but at the same time, we were thinking of starting a family and couldn’t see how we were going to fit Murphy, our baby-to-be and this “Glab” in our overly cozy living quarters.

    When I returned the call, I learned that this Glab was not, in fact, fully trained with the impeccable manners one associates with a guide dog but rather, was an 8 week old clumsy pup that had essentially failed his entrance exam.  He “lacked confidence” they said as they assured me he’d be a great family pet.  Never one to resist the allure of a pudgy pup, I convinced Des that the right thing to do was to go get this Glab. It was meant to be, I said.  There will never be a good time to get a second dog so, why not now?  Plus, if we didn’t rescue this timid creature who was already a failure at only 8 weeks old, who knew what kind of a fate would await him?!

    I’ve often said that I lost more sleep when Finn was a pup than when Liam was a newborn.  He was the puppy from hell.  Once he met us, he became one of the most confident dogs around and we’ve always been convinced that he flunked that Guiding Eyes test on purpose because he didn’t want to work for a living.  He drove poor old Murphy crazy and drove our neighbors crazy too.  When we’d crate him for the night, he’d cry and howl until we set him free.  Once free, he feast on non-edibles that included a pair of brand new  glasses, refrigerator magnets and a ballpoint pen — the pen incident was especially tragic since he left a blue ink trail across our brand new rug and, rather astonishingly, had blue poop for about a week.

    Fast forward to today… Finn is still a bit of a spaz but you couldn’t wish for a better family pet.  When Liam was born, Finn would rest his head on the bassinette watching over him.  When Ciara was born, he’d spend his afternoons snoozing protectively in front of her crib.  And when the triplets were born, well, I think he finally met his match!  These babies have spent last year drooling on him, biting him, pulling his fur out, climbing over him, yanking his tail, “patting” him and trying to ride him.  Finnegan takes it all in stride, calmly accepting the “attention” that’s bestowed upon him. I suppose the babies have a symbiotic relationship with Finn; he tolerates their somewhat abusive behavior they let him eat off their high chairs.  A fact that I’m not necessarily proud of but what can I say, it helps with the clean up!

    Finn seems to have a special kinship with Declan but all five kids adore him.  Liam likes to walk him, Ciara likes to feed him, the babies think he’s one of them and it all just reinforces how lucky we are to have given this “Glab” a home — he has truly lived up to the billing of “man’s best friend” in our little Lyons Den.

    Although they are only a year old, our little Cubs are making their presence known and it is already painfully clear that there are far too many cooks in our kitchen! Dinner at our house, like dinner in most houses, is a chaotic time of the day… especially during the week. Here’s a typical weeknight scenario:

    5:45 I get home from work

    5:46 The babysitter runs for the train… like a bat out of hell, if I do say so myself!

    5:47 I find myself literally pulled to the floor, under attack by five snot-nosed kids, all of whom are tired, hungry and in desperate need of attention. As I try to squeeze all of them onto my lap, they are knocked off by Finny, our very own big red dog, who then plunks his 80-lb rear right onto my dry-clean-only pants. I know I should be completely focused on the tykes before me but, I can’t help but wonder how much it will cost to get the snot, drool and dog hair removed from my work clothes.

    5:55 I shake myself loose from the pile-up leaving a trail of angry, needy tots in my wake. I head to the kitchen in search of the leftovers I plan to reheat for dinner. Much to my dismay, they have disappeared and while I dig around hopefully searching for Plan B to appear in the Netherlands of the fridge, I feel several small bodies pressing against me, pushing the door open wider. Before anyone can say “what’s for dinner?!”, Kevin, Declan and Cormac have removed the motley collection of jams, mustards, dressings and sauces from the refrigerator door and have begun a jolly game of “Condiment Bowling”.

    6:05 With the refrigerator door stripped bare, my eyes are drawn to the only remaining option for dinner tonight… Dinner Eggs! Again! The kids start whooping with joy at the time-honored family favorite of “breakfast for dinner.” It is at this point that Des gets home from work… wondering, once again, how it is that he ended up with a wife whose only specialty is Dinner Eggs.

    6:15 Dinner is served! Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast (with the jam I have now reclaimed from the babies), bananas and OJ… Bon Appetit!

    As Finny diligently cleans up the crumbs on the floor, I finally exhale. It is now 6:45 and we’ve survived another weeknight dinner. It may not have been a gourmet meal but, in my book, it met all the basic nutritional requirements — with the added bonus of only ten minutes of prep time and the satisfaction of five contenders for the “clean plate club.”

    In our house, dessert is the just reward for a clean plate… and, though it’s rare, the best of all possible desserts is cake! Assuming that you like to have your cake and eat it too, please visit http://www.kelly-confidential.com/ to vote in the Cake OffElectrolux is donating $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every vote so, GO VOTE and urge your pals to do the same! As an FYI, if you log on and send a virtual cake, you will be automatically entered to win an Electrolux Induction Range – which I bet will make dinner simpler, no matter how many cooks you have in your kitchen!


    Simple Pleasures

    February 13th, 2010 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

    Today I took Liam and Ciara to see “Elmo Grows Up” at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.  It was our first foray into the world of live kid’s shows… and, it just might be our last.  Here’s the deal — that fluffy red monster has a voice that could peel paint off walls.  I swear that even Ciara was rolling her eyes through most of it while Liam was just feigning interest so as not to disappoint me as I asked if he was having a great time.  He wasn’t.  She wasn’t.  But even so, they wanted all the trinkets and tchockes that were for sale… cotton candy, popcorn, Elmo ballons, Elmo activity books, Elmo water bottles — you get the picture.  And, it’s not pretty!

    Here’s what I learned from today’s outing:  I learned what my kids really love — they love train rides.  They love adventure — even if the form it takes is ducking through the turnstiles on the subway or holding hands while racing through Grand Central at rush hour.  One of the highlights of the day was following Liam’s suggestion to ride the escalators in the Grand Hyatt.  Why were we in the Grand Hyatt you wonder?  To use the bathroom, of course!  This is actually a great tip for any city-bound day out with the kids… do NOT seek out the restrooms in train stations, gas stations or Starbucks.  DO seek out bathrooms in the pristinely clean and very nice hotels that can be found on virtually any street corner in New York… a few of our favs are at the Waldorf, the Mandarin Oriental and now, thanks to the escalators, the Grand Hyatt.

    In any case, I think what made riding the escalators such an exhilerating experience for them was simply this – it was their idea and I listened to them.  For a change, I followed their suggestion instead of dismissing it with an authoritative “not now, maybe later, no, can’t do it, babies are crying, it’s time for bed, I have to go, you have to go, just can’t do it!” Words can’t do justice to the lovely, simple pleasure it was just to hold their hands and watch them squeal with a combination of joy and nervousness each time we hopped on and off the “magic stairs”.  I think the last time we had such a carefree moment was when I gave in to an ice cream request one day this summer despite the fact that it was “close to dinnertime/going to melt/a bad idea/you’ll get a bellyache,” etc.

    So, should your tots ever see a commerical for “Elmo Grows Up”, “Disney on Ice” or whatever the show du jour is, I suggest you “just say no” — and then hop on a train and see where the day takes you. While you’re at it, listen to what your kids have to say — I’m going to try to do so more often myself.