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.
If you regularly check in to see what’s new in the Lyons Den, you probably noticed that I’ve been MIA for over a week.  It struck me that I should have said good-bye; I should have let you know that I was taking a week off to be with my family.  To really be with my family. Last week, we went to Vermont and my computer stayed home. This is an all-time first.  My trusty laptop has accompanied us on adventures far and wide; it’s been to Cape Cod, Ireland, Washington D.C, San Francisco, you name it — if we’ve been there, it has too.  But not this time.  This time I was officially burned out and needed a break.  A real break.  A chance to recharge.  An opportunity to take the short-tempered, over-tired, over-committed Mom that I’d become and leave her behind… in the hopes of rediscovering the even-keeled, level-headed Mom I aspire to be.
Did it work? I’m not sure.  As I prepare to head back to work today, I can honestly say that I do feel better.  Less wired, less tired.  Less stressed and better prepared to tackle what the day, the week, the months ahead have in store. I have great memories of my unplugged week — just the thought of it makes me smile.  It was a wonderful week, filled with many firsts.  Our seven year old skied his first “blue” trail, followed by his first black diamond.  This very thought fills me with fear but, he did it and he is so proud.  And that is awesome.  Our five year old daughter faced fears of her own in ski school and ended the week with her first ride up the chairlift with yours truly.  And that was pretty awesome too.  The triplets took their first trip without bringing along the three pack & plays which have been standard cargo in our minivan for the past three years; they slept in sleeping bags for the very first time.  And, they actually slept!  ALL NIGHT LONG.  It was amazing.  And, I was reminded once again, so are they.  So are all five our incredible kids, who are really very tolerant of their often too tired, too wired, manic Mom.
As for me, well, for the first time in a long time, I finished the book I was reading!  I love to read and last week, I read for at least an hour every night.  It was bliss.  I was in bed in every night hours earlier than usual, allowing me to really catch up on some much-needed shut-eye.  Last but not least, I also took my first major fall skiing since about 1996.  Not surprisingly, it was on the last run of the day; it was a slick black diamond that I’d done numerous times before but this time, it got the best of me.  Before I knew what hit me, I was ass over teakettle (whatever does that mean?!  I’m not sure the origin of that expression but it seems to accurately describe my fall!), sliding down the mountain face-first.  That downward slide seemed to last forever but was really just a few seconds.  A few seconds that thankfully resulted in nothing more serious than a bruised leg and a jammed thumb.  
The thumb is slightly troublesome in that it can’t really grip a pen, open a child-proof bottle of anything or zipper a kid’s coat… or pants… or, for that matter, my own!  But, I am thinking of this thumb as a good reminder.  A good reminder of the downward slide I was on before our rejuvenating week away.  A good reminder to pause, to take a break, to put away the computer and really really be with my family.  A good reminder to stop and recharge when the pendulum of work/life balance gets too swings too far toward work.  A good reminder of what really matters — life.  Family. Friends. 

So, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking off for a week without saying good-bye and also forgive me if you don’t see quite as much of me here.  I’m sure I’ll still post at least once, and probably twice a week, but if I should disappear again for a short while, you will know why.  It will be because that pendulum has once again swung out of balance and I need to swing it back where it belongs.  Either that or this bum thumb has interfered with my typing!  Either way, I’ll eventually be back and hope you will too.

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.