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chicken soup with rice

There’s a whole series of books devoted to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I’ve never read them but I buy into the hearty goodness of chicken soup.  My grandfather delivered a vat of it when our triplets were born, assuring me that it would not only “wet my whistle” but fill my tummy too.  My husband fetched it for me when I had strep last year and it was like the elixir of the Gods.  The warm steam from the broth alone seems to have healing powers, conjuring up feelings of comfort and joy.  These are the feelings I want to create for my family when I make chicken soup.  Comfort and joy.

We really need it.  It’s been a rough few weeks.  Our triplets just started kindergarten and have been separated for the first time.  Our daughter just started second grade and has been reduced to tears over her math homework.  Our oldest son, a fourth grader, started a new school and is feeling the pressure.  In the midst of it all, I’ve been traveling for work, working long hours when I’m home and struggling with the onslaught of folders and paperwork.  We need comfort and joy.  We need chicken soup.

And so it was that last Sunday, we decided to roast two chickens.  One for dinner, one for soup.  As my husband was prepping the birds, he asked if we should “toss in the giblets” for the broth.  We’ve made soup a dozen times but never with giblets.  I thought my grandfather used the giblets for his famously good soup so I responded “Sure, toss them in the pot!”  And he did.  As we cleaned up the dinner, I added the bones and other remains, filled that pot with water and put it on a slow simmer.  I turned it off before going to bed that night, deciding to finish up the soup on Monday.  Which turned to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday. (more…)

The people I work with often marvel that when I travel for business, my husband isn’t completely overrun by our children when he gets home from work.  They can’t help but wonder how anyone could manage the mayhem of five kids at the witching hour — that charming time from roughly 5 or 6 until 7 or 8 when stomachs rumble, tempers flare and exhaustion ensues.  While it’s not easy, it can be done –even with five kids eight and under.  Even when you’re “home alone.”  How?

  1. Have a plan and stick to it.  Know what’s for dinner before you walk in the door.  In fact, you would ideally know what’s for dinner before you walked out of the door in the morning; that way, you can have much of it prepped and, if the sitter can simply pop it in the oven, that’s all the better!  Tonight I was home alone with all five kids and have to admit, I was the worst offender as it relates to the rumbling belly, short temper and overall exhaustion.  What saved the day?  Knowing that dinner was as easy as warming up left-over pork chops, microwaving some rice and serving up some pepper sticks and carrots.  Was it gourmet?  No. But it did the trick.  It went down in a jiffy and we all made it ’til Tuesday without falling back on mac & cheese or chicken nuggets.  Yay us!
  2. Have a routine and stick to it.  In our house, it’s a quick dash from dinner to pjs.  The quicker they hustle out of their clothes and into their pajamas, the more time we have for reading and snuggling, which is a favorite part of everyone’s day. Here’s our routine:  eat dinner; kids clear their plates; kids with clean plates get dessert; after dessert, kids put on pajamas, put dirty clothes in hamper, brush teeth, pee, read books, pee again and then it’s lights out.  Typically by 8:00.  Is our routine flawless?  Absolutely not!  But, everyone knows what is expected of them and, we all are motivated by the reward of a few extra minutes snuggled up with heads on shoulders and feet entwined as stories are read and tales of the day are shared — which, thankfully are part of the routine!
  3. Put the kids to work.  See bullet #2.  They clear the table. They put the dirty laundry where it goes.  And yes, I nag them.  A lot.  Too much some might say.  But, eventually they get it – a few plates will get broken and clean clothes might end up in the hamper but, it’s a small price to pay for a bunch of kids who pitch in, understand their roles and responsibilities and, perhaps most importantly, take a few things off of your list!

Is it a perfect system? Nope.  But is there anything about parenting — or for that matter, children — that’s perfect?  I don’t think so.  I think we all just do the best we can each and every day.  A plan helps. A routine helps.  Having kids help helps.  When all is said and done, I just hope mine remember the extra moments we spent snuggling more than those angry rants when I first walk in the door from work!  See?  I told you.  Far from perfect.  But, a-ok.  And that’s good enough!

It’s been about two weeks since last I wrote.  For me, that’s a really long time.  If you’re a regular reader and I’ve disappointed you with my lack of Tuesday Tips and typical light-hearted fare, I apologize.  The reality is, it’s been a rough few weeks.  In the past three weeks, I went to Chicago on business (good, but stressful), moved (very stressful), experienced the wrath and ensuing chaos of Hurricane Sandy (very bad and very stressful!), and went to Vegas on business (good, but stressful — and, exhausting!).  My good friends know that if I don’t have anything positive to say, I often won’t say anything at all.  I go silent.  Lately, I’ve been so overwhelmed that I’ve gone silent.  And, since some readers say they wish I’d share more of the hardships and challenges I face, well, here they are.  I am breaking my silence with a confession.  And here it is.

Motherhood is hard.  I tend to be a glass half full kind of a person but the reality is that this whole mommy thing is just really freakin’ hard.  No one said it would be easy, but I never expected it to be quite so challenging — in every way imaginable.

Physically, motherhood is grueling.  It starts at the very beginning, with the morning sickness when egg meets sperm. I thought it ended with the final push and first cry but, I was wrong.  With a son who is almost eight, a daughter who just turned six and four year old triplets, motherhood is as physically challenging as ever.  The triplets still need to be buckled into the back of the minivan – a daily task that includes twists and turns and seems to require a level of flexibility I no longer have. Not to mention, my pre-partum ass would have been a much easier fit into the third row!  My oldest son expects me to wrestle, rough house and play soccer, football, lacrosse, and baseball.  I grew up taking ballet classes and never played a team sport. Last summer he told me with more of a hint of disappointment, “Mom, you just weren’t meant to play baseball.” And he was right.

My daughter tends to challenge me more emotionally, though all the kids do in some way.  The emotional challenges of motherhood were also unanticipated.  I wasn’t prepared for how lonely it can be when you’re never actually alone but your constant companion is a newborn – often, a screaming newborn that you have no clue how to calm.  I was completely unprepared for how early the mother-daughter drama begins; the battle of wills over things I know don’t matter (for instance, the removal of every barrette/headband/elastic I’ve ever put in her hair!), yet still I engage in battle.  Then there’s the heartache – the gut-wrenching heartache – you experience when one of  your children is made fun of or another is chosen last for a team.  And once a year, there are those sharp needles that pierce their tender skin at the annual physicals. Ouch.  It’s physical for them, emotional for me.  And the emotional roller-coaster is ongoing.

Then there are the financial challenges of raising children.  Our grocery bills are outrageous.  I mean I’m thrilled they like fresh fruit but at this rate, it would be cheaper to buy an orchard. Or two!  Clothes aren’t cheap either. I tend to buy on sale and welcome hand-me-downs but when five kids need new shoes, well, let’s just say this mama’s not getting a brand new bag!  Another thing no one ever warned me about is extracurricular activities – they really add up! Just think about all the aforementioned sports plus hip-hop classes – and, all the equipment /outfits/uniforms they require!  I suppose it’s a good thing the kids are well-outfitted because at this point, I am not… and at this rate, I’m not sure I ever will be… though I’m grateful I once was – I suspect it was my formerly cute, sassy self that attracted a nice man and got me into this marvelous mess called motherhood in the first place!

There’s much more of course… in my life, there’s the struggle of the juggle as a working mom; the strain on a marriage with so many kids and so little time for each other; the challenge of maintaining friendships, finding time to exercise or, for that matter, finding time to sleep!

Nope, it’s not easy.  And sometimes it helps just to admit it.  So I’ll say it again.  It’s not easy. It’s really really hard.  But, being that glass half-full kind of a gal, I can’t linger on the hardships for long.  The reality is, no matter how hard it is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Although, if anyone has an “easy button” that can be applied to the mega-job called motherhood, please let me know.  And Santa, if you’re out there, consider that “easy button” on the top of my list!

This week we are moving. The countdown is on. Just three days to go.  Rather than packing and organizing and preparing for our new life in a new home, I’m at a conference in Chicago as the clock ticks down our last days in our first home.  Crazy, right?

Well, in fairness, this is business travel, not a frivolous getaway and, Marketing to Moms is a really good conference.  Although the notion of moving has me totally FREAKED OUT, I have convinced myself that getting away for a few days will help me be better prepared to enter the fray when I return.  Even though my days here are long and filled with working and networking, it’s still a break from the chaos, stress and pressure of juggling a job, five kids and a pending move.  I’ve decided that there are some distinct advantages to this admittedly untimely trip…

I feel appreciated.  In the 8 hours since I’ve left home, I’ve fielded texts and calls seeking the whereabouts of:

  • CCD homework (my oldest son)
  • Thank you notes (my daughter)
  • Dinner (my husband! Even though I left food in the fridge and a message on the white board in the kitchen!)

I feel accomplished.  Not only did I advise (accurately!) on the whereabouts of the aforementioned items but I also found a few minutes to make a few calls that are mission critical to our move…

  • The movers (no doubt we need them!)
  • The mortgage company (one of the more important details for a closing, I now understand!)
  • The school bus company (which will be a key requirement for my grammar schoolers on Monday morning at 7:30!)

I’ve had a few opportunities I rarely get at home…

  • The chance to have dinner with a great friend who lives in Chicago and I haven’t seen in far too long – as evidenced by her greeting: “Wow!  Look how much lighter your hair is!”  By “lighter”, she meant “grey.”  Note to self: must see her more often and/or do a better job with hair color!
  • Shopping! My 7 year old has been walking around in pants that suggest he has either A. Survived or is B. Anticipating the great flood.  This kid’s pants are so short, he’s at risk for frostbite on his ankles.  And shins. The boy needs pants.  And, since I had the good fortune of walking by Old Navy (which would never happen at home!), now he has them.  And can look forward to warm ankles. And shins. Amen.
  • Sleep! No middle of the night visitors — no one who has to pee, feels compelled to tell me they peed in the potty or alert me to the unfortunate fact that their bed is wet.  And, though I love him, there is no furry four-legged friend trying to jump on the bed in the middle of the night… his own way of telling me that he has to pee!

Before signing off to indulge in some of that rare and elusive shut-eye, I have to mention one other benefit of this trip – and of business travel in general.  It is a chance to mix and mingle and be motivated and inspired by other working moms.  You know who you are.  You too have left sweet, needy children and husbands who can’t find their dinner at home.  You too have struggled with the juggle, the pressure, the quest for balance.  And, from what I’ve seen, you have succeeded.  And, given me the confidence that I will too!  Now, sweet dreams – this mama needs to get some rest so I return home ready for this move!

It’s hard to believe it’s already October.  Summer is over, school is in full swing and the busiest month of the year is upon us.  Why is October the busiest month of the year? Well, four of our five children were born in October.  And it’s our anniversary.  And then, just when you think it’s over, there’s Halloween!  All of these things require thoughtfulness and planning above and beyond the already challenging task of juggling an active family of seven and a full-time job.

Oh, and just to spice things up a bit, this October, we’re MOVING… which means that in addition to everything else, there is packing and cleaning and phone calls and planning to add to my daily routine.  Lest I should forget, there is also a 3-day conference in Chicago that will take me away from that routine just two days before our move.  Are you stressed out yet?  I sure am!

As I look at the calendar, I am reminded that our triplets turn four on Wednesday (tomorrow!) and our 10th Anniversary is on Friday.  The triplets are in pretty good shape; there is no party planned (yet!) but there are gifts to be wrapped and a cake to be baked.  My husband, on the other hand, is not so lucky; there is a card to be written but thus far, no gifts to be had.  Which leads me to the point.

As I look at the calendar, I am completely overwhelmed.  Completely and utterly overwhelmed.  How will I get it all done?!  There aren’t enough hours in the day!  So, to avoid a total mental meltdown (my family and friends might say that a partial meltdown is already progress), I have decided to take it just one day at a time and so far, it’s working pretty well.   Take a look at last weekend as an example…

Our daughter turned six on Saturday so, we made cupcakes Friday night and Saturday truly was “all about her” – she had her first big party, complete with dancing and goodie bags.  She had her first sleepover, complete with popcorn and a movie.  And we went to bed that night delighted that our only little lady had “the best birthday ever.”

On Sunday, we were up at the crack of dawn, lugging out our wares for our neighborhood’s multi-family tag sale.  We set up toys, books, housewares and the relics of our baby days on the curb, displaying it just so to maximize the appeal for would-be buyers.  Then the rain started.  So we lugged it all on the porch.  Then the hours passed.  And no one came.  So finally, we loaded our gently used items and memorabilia into the minivan… and had a big glass of wine.

The moral of the story?  Take it one day at a time.  If you’d asked me last Friday how I was going to bake cupcakes, wrap gifts, throw a birthday party, have a slumber party and organize a yard sale over the weekend, I would have told you that I had no clue, that it was too overwhelming to even consider! But now it’s Tuesday and despite the rain, our missions were accomplished and we somehow pulled it all off.  One day at a time.  That’s really the only way.

So, when I look at the month of October on the calendar, there is no denying that it is daunting.  But, we made it through the first nine days and will surely survive the next 22 – birthdays, anniversary, work, move and all!   Before I know it, it will be November.  Before I know it, my three year olds will be four, my husband and I will have celebrated a decade together and our family will be in a new house.  And then I’ll be wondering how to juggle unpacking and settling us in, planning our oldest son’s 8th birthday and preparing for the holidays.  When I start to feel overwhelmed (that’s assuming I ever stop!), I think I’ll reread this and remind myself: one day at a time. Everything is possible if you take it just one day at a time.  And have that occasional glass of wine!

LyonsDenMom on the “Red Carpet”

My hair was done.  My makeup was done.  I was wearing a brand new dress with beautiful shoes and fancy jewels borrowed from my sister.  Why?  To attend the movie premiere of The Lucky Onebased on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.  With a woman I never met before.

Her name is Julia Rose and it was work that brought us together.  I work for  House Party, a social media marketing company that drives consumer recommendations to build brands and drive sales.  In this case, the “brand” was Nicholas Sparks and the conversations and recommendations that our social media campaigns generate will result in movie ticket and book sales.
Julia is one of House Party’s most passionate brand advocates.  She created a six minute music video to demonstrate her enthusiastic adoration of all things Nicholas Sparks.  She wrote a catchy tune that weaves together the romantic twists and turns of all seventeen Sparks novels and her sister, Deborah Crawford, captured it all on film.  The House Party team rewarded their efforts by ensuring Julia Rose was one of the 1,000 lucky consumers (from a pool of tens of thousands applicants) selected to host a Nicholas Sparks Potluck House Party.
When the Sparks team at Grand Central Publishing (Nick’s publisher) and Warner Brothers (which produced the movie) heard the word, they did us one better.  They gave Julia two tickets to the premiere.  House Party responded in kind by providing airfare and hotel.  And that is how I ended up on the red carpet (to be accurate, it was a faux green lawn!) next to Julia Rose at a big-time Hollywood movie premiere. 

I didn’t know what to expect of Julia, who hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is known around town as one half of the busking duo Gladys and Maybelle.  The other half is her sister Deb, who joined us on the red carpet/green lawn. “Would they be weird?  Would we get along? Were they crazed Nicholas Sparks stalkers?” I wondered as I travelled to LA and pondered my 24 hours with Julia Rose and her sister Deb.
 
Julia and Deb (aka Gladys & Maybelle) at The Lucky One Premiere with Nicholas Sparks
As I returned to New York, I knew the answers were “No. Yes. Absolutely not.”  As it turns out, I have more in common than I would have thought with these two lovely Texan blondes.  As we got to know each other, I shared stories of the five feisty children and one semi-frazzled husband I left behind; this is one of my constant struggles as a working mom – leaving my family behind.  Not between the usual hours of 9 to 5 but when work spills over into family time, as business travel occasionally necessitates, I really struggle with the juggle.
I want to be a good mom. A present mom.  A mom who rules the roost but inspires her children to follow their dreams, know their limits and be true to themselves.  Well, as it turns out, Julia and Deb, a.k.a. Gladys and Maybelle, share my sentiments.  As it turns out, they named their band Gladys and Maybelle for Gladys Presley (perhaps you’ve heard of her son, Elvis?) and Mother Maybelle, the maternal in-law powerhouse behind a certain Johnny Cash.  These two women who joined me in a fairy tale evening of Hollywood glam were actually a lot like me.  We share dreams for our children; we were dazzled by the stars; and we shared a true Cinderella moment as the light bulbs flashed, the theater lights dimmed, and the story of The Lucky One swept us away.
Now that the proverbial clock has struck midnight, it’s back to reality.  My sleekly styled hair has returned to its typically curly locks.  The dress is in the closet and the sexy heels have been replaced by my signature flats. The kids are screaming, my inbox is overflowing and my to-do list is growing.  But I am content.  I am home. 
I will forever cherish the memory of the night I walked the green grass carpet with two amazing women who reminded me of the power of a great Mom and inspired me to try harder to be one each and every day.  Thank you Gladys and Maybelle.  Thank you for reminding me that every day I return home to five smiling (and potentially snot-nosed) kids and one sweet, patient husband, I am “the lucky one.”
I’ve been away for a few days now, living out my own “Lucky One” adventure while my dear husband has been manning the fort — quite literally, I suppose — since I left on Friday afternoon, artfully juggling five kids, their weekend activities and his responsibilities at work.  Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve kept in touch from afar:  sometimes, Daddy knows best. And oftentimes, Mommy makes things more complicated than they need to be.  Here are three great examples:
  1. Let them wear what they want.  The weather in the Northeast has hit unseasonable, record highs in the days I’ve been gone.  And from the photos I’ve seen, the kids have been thrilled to wear shorts and flip-flops.  And pajamas without tops. Knowing myself as I do, I suspect I would have started a battle about the flip-flops, making the rational argument that it’s hard to run/play soccer/get from Point A to Point B when you’re a three-year old in flip flops.  And, I would have urged them to wear shirts with their pajamas, for fear they’d catch a chill in the middle of the night. As it turns out, in both cases, I would have been wrong, causing yet another unnecessary fuss.  As it turns out, they wore their flip-flops and lived to tell about it and slept as snug as bugs in a rug, with or without shirts.  Score one for Dad.
  2. Leave the luggage at home.  Here’s what I usually take a for a typical Saturday involving soccer, baseball and birthday parties:  5 juice boxes, 5 water bottles, about 25 snacks, a change of clothes in case a three-year old triplet piddles in his pants, sunblock, wipes, tissues, Purell and a few BandAids, just in case.  Here’s what the Dad packed for his weekend adventures with our tykes: nothing.  Nothing!  Ok, maybe a water bottle for the kid playing soccer but that’s pretty much it.  And you know what? They all survived! Score two for Dad. 
  3. Roll with it.  Before the breakfast is cleared away, I start to fret about what we’ll have for lunch and dinner. Before my coffee is consumed, my mind has planned the minutes of our day — every day.  The Dad does not work this way.  This can sometimes infuriate this Mom.  But, with some distance between us, I see once again the magic of his ways, the delight of a few unscripted days.  There was impromptu pizza for lunch and a late nap at 4:00.  There was no dinner plan but somehow it all came together.  The kids were happy, clean and fed.  Perhaps not on “my” schedule or in “my” way but, at the end of the day, well, they had a great day.  Several of them in fact. Score three for Dad!

I’ve learned once again that “my” way isn’t necessarily the only way or at times even the “right” way.  This Dad really knows what he’s doing.  So much so that this Mom just might start planning her next trip!

I am leaving my husband and five children (aged seven and under!) behind for five days; five days and nights that will combine work and pleasure as I combine a business trip to LA with a visit to my sister and her family in San Francisco.  I am nervous about leaving my family behind.  And that fact that I’m leaving on Friday the 13th isn’t helping matters!

As I drove to the airport, I thought about the weekend ahead – the weekend at home, not the weekend that awaited me in San Francisco.  I thought about the responsibilities I was leaving behind — dinner times, bath times, soccer practice, baseball practice, birthday parties — all the weekend activities you’d expect from a busy family with five kids, topped off by several showings of our house, which is on the market.
Our weekends provide little down-time and are virtually devoid of R&R; if anything, I relish the return to work on Monday mornings because it gives me a chance to sit down!  So, as I embark on the flight that will take me 3,000 miles away from the mayhem of a typical weekend at home, I can’t help but think about the dear man I am leaving behind and wonder how he will do it.  It is the question I am constantly asked “How do you do it?! “ And my answer often relies heavily on “my other half” — the supportive, funny, level-headed fella who is now home alone with five feisty tykes.
He’s been fretting my pending departure for weeks, telling neighbors, family, friends and pretty much anyone who will listen that I’m leaving him — that I’m leaving him “all alone” with our five kids for five full days.  Honestly, his stress was seriously stressing me out.  So, I did what any Type A, aspirational SuperMom suffering from a bad case of guilt would do, I offered up a slew of solutions.  “I’ll create a daily meal plan.  I’ll organize rides for the birthday parties and car pools for soccer practice.  I’ll tell the realtor we can’t show the house while I’m away.  I’ll pre-pack the backpacks and lunches for Monday and Tuesday. “ And so on.  Initially, he was all for my organizational gusto.  “Yep, let’s not show the house while you’re away, it will be a mess,” he admitted.  “And a meal plan sounds great,” he concurred. 
And then, in the 48 hours leading up to my departure, something incredible happened.  My stressed out other half turned into an uber-confident SuperDad.  I, for one, always knew he had it in him but even so, was shocked when he said something to effect of “Screw the meal plan! I can feed our kids.  And if they’re hungry, they can just have a glass of milk!”  He went on to say, “And, let’s show the house.  I may not make the beds like you, but I can make a bed. I’ll even plant some pansies to increase the ‘curb appeal’.”  What?  Pansies?  Really?  Wow!
As I write this, I am hovering at 30,000 feet, barreling toward the West Coast and the adventures that await.  It was hard to say good-bye to the sweet, smiling faces that slobbered me with wet, snotty kisses; for the record, they came from my children, not my husband.  His kiss was sweeter, and seemed to linger longer than the usual perfunctory peck.  As hard as it was for me to leave, I know it will be much harder for him over the next few days.  And, I am reminded once again that I am one lucky gal — which seems especially fitting given that the work portion of my trip will include a walk on the red carpet for the premiere of the movie  The Lucky One. I am very lucky indeed. 
As for the kids, well, if all they get is milk for the next few days, they may not be quite so lucky.  But, I have a feeling that Dad is going to pull this off with flying colors when he does, I will be the first in line to ask how he did it.

This week I spent two nights away from home for business.  I only travel occasionally for work so, on the rare occasions I do, it’s a bit of a respite.  The preparation is brutal – leaving five kids, a dog and a sweet, tired husband behind for 48 hours is no easy task.  There are meals to be planned, playdates to be confirmed, backpack notes to be written and lists to be made.  But, when all is done and I find myself at 30,000 feet, I have to admit, it’s kind of nice to get away.  And the number one reason why is SLEEP.  Hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The way I see it, I’ve been sleep deprived since I first found out I was pregnant in March 2004.  Back then I couldn’t sleep because my (extremely small, in fact, completely flat-chested!) boobs hurt.  A habitual stomach-sleeper, I was in total agony and truly stunned that at just a few weeks preggo, I was being robbed of one of my favorite pastimes.  Sleep.  As weeks turned to months, my formerly peaceful slumber was routinely interrupted by trips to the bathroom and extreme discomfort — between my sore boobs, full bladder and swollen belly, there was no rest for the weary.  And that, of course, was just the beginning.
Having Liam really threw me for a loop.  I’m not a night owl; I’m a morning person.  Liam was the opposite.  Like many newborns, he had his days and nights mixed up… and before I knew it, I did too.  I was a basket case, a walking zombie.  And it only got worse when Ciara was born.  I remember one morning, I went to pick up the dry cleaning and they asked for my phone number.  I stood there, racking my brain, searching in the deepest corners of my mind and could not for the life of me remember my phone number.  When I finally blurted something out, I had to rescind it as I proclaimed with embarrassment, “Oh wait, that’s my friend Steph’s number!”  
Then came the triplets. Believe me when I tell you, sleep is elusive when you have three babies growing in your belly and a one and three year old still routinely howling in the middle of the night.  As my belly grew bigger, the nights grew longer.  I would wait for sunrise, only to nod off as Liam and Ciara, active toddlers at the time, started clamoring for breakfast.  Perhaps not surprisingly, when the triplets were born, it only got worse.  We were feeding three babies every three hours around the clock while doing our best to provide Liam and Ciara with three square meals a day.  I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that I didn’t get more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a pop for at least three months.

That was three years ago.  Now the triplets are three, Ciara just turned five and Liam is on the verge of turning seven.  They are great kids.  They are great sleepers. But they are still kids.  And there are five of them.  The odds of at least two waking up in the night because “I have to pee,” “I lost my WaWa,” “My tummy hurts,” “I’m thirsty,” or “I had a bad dream.” is about 100%.  This is why my husband and I now play a little game in the middle of the night.  A little game called “Playing Dead.” We are both wide awake, listening to the cries, the sniffles, the coughing, the whining, whatever it may be.  And we lie very very still.  Pretending to sleep.  Keeping our breath shallow and low.  Hoping, praying, yearning for the other one to get up and tend to the tots.  Is this wrong?  This game of Playing Dead? I don’t know.  I suspect there are other overtired parents out there who play dead too.  Because they are tired.  Really, really tired.  And that is why, every once in a while, it is really nice to travel for work.  Because I don’t need to play dead in the middle of the night.  I am dead. Dead asleep! 

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on my life as a working mom on the New York Times parenting blog, Motherlode.  Under the headline of How She Does It, I sought to answer the question that I — and many other Moms — are constantly asked: how do you do it? I answered from my perspective which apparently led some readers to believe that I am either A. a single Mom or B. a self-centered wife who gives my amazing husband Des no credit.  Neither is true.  And the mixed commentary caused me to wonder once again if working moms can ever really win. 

Like most moms, I struggle with the juggle and admit to occasionally dropping the ball, as Lisa Belkin noted in her lead-in to my piece.  There are days — in fact, even weeks and months — when I feel like I’m stretched too thin and not doing any of “it” well.  If I’m thriving at work, I’m not spending enough time at home and if my home-life is thriving, then something at work may be sacrificed. While I strive for perfection at home and at work, I’ve learned let go a little bit, to let things slide, to overlook the Legos in the living room or show up for a meeting in a wrinkled, snot-stained shirt.  Most simply put, I do the best I can, at work and at home, each and every day. 

It’s not easy.  We worry about money.  We worry about raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids.  We worry about our marriage, about finding time for each other in the whirlwind of our lives. We’re aware that our role as parents will get tougher as the kids get older.  We hope when that day comes, I’ll have more flexible hours so I can help with homework, shuttle to sports, and truly tune-in to the teenage angst that surely awaits.

But that is then.  This is now.  I work because I have to and feel fortunate that I actually like to.  I can’t spend too much time worrying about tomorrow because frankly, it takes all the energy I have just to get through today.  As many Motherlode readers rightly noticed, I don’t get through the days on my own.  Des and I are a team.  And a good one at that. Much to our own dismay, we sometimes find ourselves humming that annoying Wonder Pets jingle…”How’s it gonna work?  TEAMWORK!” He vacuums, I do the laundry.  I do the grocery shopping, he cooks.  We share childcare duties and are both experts at changing diapers, giving baths, packing snacks, making lunches… the list goes on and on.

Our kids know that they’re part of a team too — and that being on a team requires teamWORK.  They may be young but we want to instill in them a sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic.  That’s why at four and six years old respectively, Ciara and Liam make their beds. And although they are not yet three, Kevin, Declan and Cormac know to clear their plates and put books back on the shelves.  It’s all about teamwork.  As a husband and wife, Des and I make a great team.  As parents, we have great pride in the little team of Lyons Cubs that we get the pleasure of raising.

It should also be noted that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We laugh.  A lot.  I often say that life in the Lyons Den is like that old fable… when it’s good, it’s really really good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.  We have really bad, wicked, screaming, crying, temper tantrum, totally losing it, horrid moments.  Doesn’t everyone have them?  Given the number of kids we have, we probably have more meltdowns more often than most.  But they pass.  And then we laugh.  And we remind ourselves that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how tired we are, we are lucky to have each other and our five kids are a blessing.

They remind us daily of what’s most important. And I know it’s not the time in the office but rather, the time we spend together.  I cherish that time.  And I cherish a break from it as well.  And I suppose that’s why, for now, I am A-OK with being a working mom.