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Since one of my resolutions was to post weekly (at least for the month of January!), it seems sensible to make one of these posts about keeping resolutions — especially as mid-January and the temptation to call it quits approaches.  Here are a few common commitments we tend to make as the New Year dawns, along with my two cents (or “Tuesday Tips”, however you want to look at it!) for how to keep them:

  • Want to save more? Me too! At work, we recently had a Financially Fearless House Party which was well timed and full of good advice, including these three simple ways to save:
    • Put every $5 bill you get in an envelope.  It’s like turbo-charging that jar full of spare change.  One of my colleagues saved over $250 in just a few months!
    • Participate in your company’s 401k plan.  Max it out if you can. Contributing as much pre-tax money as possible not only increases your retirement savings but it decreases your taxable income.
    • College savings keeping you up at night?  Find a 529 plan and get started.  You can contribute as much or as little as you like but knowing your kids will have something to get their schooling started should give you some sweet dreams.
  • Want to exercise more?
    • Find a friend and hold each other accountable.  Meet at the gym, the park, the mall or wherever it is that you plan to work out, run, walk and get that body moving.  If you know a friend is waiting for, you’re much more likely to leave the remote and leap out of the house.
    • Set a goal.  Not one of those “lose five pounds” kind of a goal but one that focuses on fitness – on not just looking better, but feeling better – feeling accomplished.  Maybe it’s a local charity walk or a 5k run.  Maybe it’s a long-distance bike ride or simply showing up for spin class for four consecutive weeks.  Whatever it is, grab your pal, do it together and then go out and celebrate the new healthier you.
  • Want to be more present?  I do.  And a quick look back through this blog shows that I’ve been striving for this for a while now.  In our multi-tasking, always-on culture, it’s not easy but I’m hoping these tips will help… me and you!
    • Tune out the tech and tune in to what’s around you.  When you get home from work (or wherever your day takes you), put your phone away.  Far far away.  And try not to peek until the kids are tucked in.  Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind, as I can attest but it is harder to constantly check your email and texts when your phone is either buried at the bottom of your bag or charging upstairs.
    • Remember you’re not that important.  OK, maybe you are.  To your kids, your spouse, your friends and family.  But not to that beeping, buzzing device that you’re betrothed too… and I am too.  Unless it’s that aforementioned kid, spouse, friend or family member, ignore the buzzing of your phone and be aware of the people in front of you; be with them, really with them.  Give them your full attention.  They are the most important – and the reason why we make resolutions to begin with. Not to mention, it’s hard to tell your kid to put down his phone/iPad/Leapster/whatever he has when you can’t do it yourself!

As for me, I plan to tackle my writing by setting aside time each week.  I scheduled it on my calendar and barring a barfing kid, overload at work or some other unforeseen crisis (Leaky pipe? Dog with an ear infection? Any of these things are possibilities!), I will get it done.  And I hope you’ll tune back in next Tuesday for a topic near and dear to me:  how to YELL less at our children. And my husband.  And… well, you get it.  The following week, I’ll tackle hand-me-downs, a key to our survival and a special request from Britta at Hudson and Hill.

Something you’d like me to share?  Please let me know.  And good luck with those resolutions. I’m signing off and going to tune in to the tots at home!

 

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

A new year, a new reason to celebrate: small successes!

Where to begin?  I unwittingly took a “blog break” toward the end of 2013 although, in the big scheme of life, there wasn’t much of a break at all.  Since my last post on October 9th…

  • We celebrated four of our five kids’ birthdays (the 5th was actually October 6th.  Oh, and the dog was Oct. 5th.  And our anniversary was Oct. 12th!).
  • We continued to navigate the homework challenges, social scheduling and daily juggling that hit fever pitch once the triplets hit kindergarten in September.
  • We made strides in conquering the new core curriculum that turned our otherwise confident 2nd and 4th graders into whining ninnies.  And me too.
  • We dealt with leaky pipes, missing storm windows, a minor electrical fire and several other infractions that continue to plague the 100-year old house we bought this summer.
  • We took five kids for physicals and in between dealt with strep throat, ear infections, sinus infections and a nasty rash called Molluscum Contagiosum that I hope you never have to deal with.
  • We hosted 20 people on Christmas Eve and then flew to San Francisco to visit my sister and her family on Christmas Day. In between, Santa even made a visit. With gifts!
  • We showered.  Almost daily.
  • We ate. Daily.
  • We survived.  Five kids, two full time jobs and one big red dog who even got a trip to the vet.
  • We made resolutions — ’tis the season after all, right?

Resolution number one?  Rather than focus on what we haven’t achieved, focus on what we have (see above!).  The big (Birthdays! Report cards! Articles published!) and small (A shower! A roast chicken! An attempt to make chicken soup! Yay!).

I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep but, my good friend Britta must have sensed that I’m tempted by a good challenge so, for at least the month of January, I’m going to resolve to get back in the habit of a weekly post.  I hope you’ll check back in, share your thoughts and let me know what type of musings on motherhood & life in general you’d like to read about.  In the meantime, you should check out Britta’s blog too… as the mom of four under four, well, she’s a hero, and as real as it gets.

Happy New Year and whatever you resolve to do, good luck sticking with it.  And if you don’t, give yourself and break and remember to celebrate your successes, however small or short-lived they may be!

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…)

When you conjure up an image of a kindergarten classroom, what do you see?  In my mind, there are ABCs and 123s and primary colors everywhere you look – red apples, yellow buses, blue birds.  Colors are part of the kindergarten core curriculum as four and five year olds navigate their first official school experience, expressing themselves with brightly colored blocks, crayon and PlayDoh.

For our kindergartners, identical triplet boys who have just been separated for the very first time, colors take on a whole new meaning.  We’ve used red, blue and green to tell them apart since birth.  In the early days, we relied on nail polish on each of their big toes.  As they grew, they got sippy cups in their “signature” colors.  We dressed them primarily in their “primary” colors and even today the crocs they wear are red, blue and green.  It only seemed fitting then that as they marched off to kindergarten, their backpacks were, of course, red, blue and green.

We’ve had inklings in the past that perhaps color-coding our children would present some issues.  There was the time that when asked what his name was Declan responded, “I’m blue!”  And truly, of our three little fellas, he’s a bit more “blue”, a bit more melancholy than the rest.

Then there was the time that Kevin proclaimed he is a Red Sox fan – because his color is red.  This one really did a number on my husband, whose only mandates for our children is that they “grow up to be Catholics and Yankee fans.”  Crazy, I know, but still the Red Sox thing really hit him where it hurt.

The latest evidence of what seemed like a smart survival tactic gone awry happened during Cormac’s first week of kindergarten when he was asked to draw his self-portrait.  It was green. ALL green.  Good grief, what have we done?!   His teacher is now committed to ensuring he “likes all colors” before the school year is over.

As for the rest of the others, well, we hope they learn to like all colors too.  And, we’re thinking that maybe some new backpacks wouldn’t be such a bad idea either!

When I was growing up, we went to Cape Cod every summer.  As a grown up, I’ve continued to go to Cape Cod every summer.  College weekends. Girl’s weekends. Couples weekends.  The weekend I got engaged.

Cape Cod was the first place we took our firstborn.  And second. And our triplets, who came along next.  We’ve frequently made the trek to the Cape with a car loaded to the gills with strollers, pack & plays, high chairs and even the family dog.

Except for last year; last year, we didn’t go.  We were selling our house and our future was uncertain so we skipped our annual pilgrimage and visited friends and family in other places instead.  We had a super summer but it just wasn’t the same.

To get to the Cape, you have to cross a bridge.  I’ve always said that when I cross that bridge, I feel as though my troubles are left behind.  Blue skies and clear water lie ahead. Literally.  The stress and chaos of our hectic lives are replaced by days that flow freely from the beach to the ice cream parlor, from mini-golf to the candy store.  Worries fade as memories are made.  To do lists are simplified:  apply sunscreen, dry beach towels. Repeat.  That’s pretty much it.

The cottage we rented this year didn’t have wireless.  This, as it turns out, was a great gift.  Instead of catching up on work email or posting to my blog, I unplugged.  I had no choice.  I even left my Facebook friends behind for a week.  I read a book. I turned off the light at a decent hour and I slept.  A good, deep sleep.  The kind that comes after long, sun-drenched days on the beach, when your legs are tired from long walks collecting seashells and your skin still feels a little salty.

So, what did I learn on my summer vacation?  I learned that, as suspected, there is truly no place like Cape Cod.  I learned that I need more sleep.  I learned that I still need to wear sunblock on cloudy days.  And that beach towels don’t dry outside overnight as the cool Cape mist settles in.  Perhaps best of all, I learned that a vacation home without wireless is nothing to fret about; it is permission to unplug… and isn’t that what vacations are for?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Moonfrye.

The Kindergarten Basics

The Kindergarten Basics

“For those of you who are sending your child to kindergarten for the first time, we understand the trepidation.  For those of you who are going through this for the second, or possibly the last time, congratulations on getting another one out of the house!”  So began kindergarten orientation on a muggy night in May in a room filled with (mostly) nervous parents of four and five year olds about to leave Pre-K for the big K.

This September is the last time I will send a little one off to kindergarten… times three! Our triplets (my “babies”) are leaving the roost and, like most Moms, the notion of sending them off to school leaves me with mixed emotions.  If you feel the mix of anxiety and excitement, these tips should help to ease the transition… for everyone involved! (more…)

Even the teacher has a lot to learn when the school year begins

 

Even the teacher has a lot to learn when the school year begins

Whether your school year has already begun or is just about to, you and your children are embarking on a journey with many new beginnings.  For our family, our identical triplet boys will be starting kindergarten, our six year old daughter will be starting second grade and our eight year old will be entering fourth grade at a new school.  All of them will have new bus monitors, new classrooms, new experiences and new teachers.  One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that teachers experience a lot of new things as well – not the least of which is about twenty new smiling (hopefully!) faces staring back at them as the school year begins.

As it turns out, teachers need and appreciate a little assistance in getting to know your little one.  As the school year kicks off, send an email or schedule a brief conference to share the specifics you think they should know; the better they know your child, the better the school year will be. For everyone!  Here are a few considerations to get you started:

(more…)

The simple joy of collecting shells can last long after summer is over

The simple joy of collecting shells can last long after summer is over

The telltale signs are in place.  The sun is setting earlier.  The catalogs in the mailbox are peddling lunchboxes and back to school bargains.  There’s no denying that summer is winding down and busy fall days lie ahead.  Days that will inevitably start with alarm clocks and a race for the bus and end with a scramble to check homework before bed.

Days like that are the only excuse I need to savor days like this… the ones that start when the little ones naturally wake up and end later than they should so that fireflies can be chased.  Here are a few great ways to make the most of the remaining days of summer while creating memories and mementos that will warm you through the cooler days ahead.

Hit the beach – and bring some of it home with you.  Whether you fancy sand or seashells, a little memento of a day at the beach can make you feel warm and fuzzy all winter long.  One of our favorite family activities is taking long walks on the beach and collecting unique, pretty shells and rocks.  These treasures from the sea and sand adorn our house, bringing back happy memories in unexpected places.

  • A simple but supersized clam shell doubles as a soap dish in our bathroom
  • A jam jar full of tiny shells graces a shelf in our kitchen
  • White stones polished smooth by the sea line our garden – and provided an activity that kept the kids busy for hours
  • A collection of conch shells brightens our bookcase
  • Painted scallop shells decorate our kids’ dressers – and provided a perfect rainy day activity

If you’re not in the mood (or proximity!) for a day at the beach, gather in the kitchen – and let summer’s simple bounty guide an afternoon of family fun.

  • Pick (or buy) some strawberries. Or blueberries. Or raspberries.  Get out the blender, add some yogurt, apple juice and ice and voila! Homemade smoothies everyone will enjoy.
  • Gather basil from your garden (or farmers market) and make pesto.  This has become an annual tradition with our kids and my aunt.  They love picking the leaves off the stems, helping to peel the garlic, taking turns pulsing the food processor and best of all, eating the end result for dinner!
  • Make lemonade out of lemons.  Get out a big pitcher, squeeze some lemons, add sugar, water and ice.  Sip and sigh.  This is what summer is all about.

It saddens me to see summer come to a close but taking the time to take it all in provides memories and mementos to keep us warm until the seasons change once again.

NOTE: This post (and many of my other musings on motherhood!) originally appeared on Moonfrye

If you look and feel like this, you probably need a time out!

This is what it means to be a mom -- and why you may need a time out!

It’s no coincidence that this, my first Tuesday Tip in quite some time, is being written and posted on Wednesday — a day late and a dollar short, as my grandfather would say.  But actually, the day late is pretty much the point because as summer sadly starts to wind down, the best tip I have to offer is to take a time out.

This summer, as you may have noticed if you’re a frequent reader, I’ve given myself permission to take a time out. Time off.  Time away.  Why?  Well, if I didn’t, I might have lost my mind.  Completely.

Between a fast-paced, high-pressure job, five fast-paced kids, and moving (which is apparently one of life’s greatest stressors), something had to give.  For me, although I love it, the thing that had to give was writing.  The time I typically devote to typing and sharing was reallocated to packing and unpacking.  But that’s not all.  I realized this week, the first week of the summer that we haven’t been prepping for or recovering from our move and, the first week the kids aren’t racing out the door to camp, we all need a time out.

The past few mornings have been blissful.  As too have the evenings.  We all ate together in our new backyard; we let bedtimes slide so fireflies could be caught. I changed the alarm to wake me up at 6:27 instead of 5:42 (yes, I wake up at odd times!) because I finally admitted it: I am tired.

Tired of the rat race. Tired of packing and unpacking. Tired of saying  “ the new house is great!” even though there are cracks in the ceiling, leaks in the plumbing and boxes, boxes everywhere.  I’m tired of shuttling sick kids to the pediatrician; we’ve been making weekly visits for the past six weeks thanks to sinus infections, strep, ear infections, swimmers ear, an emergency root canal and several nasty cases of poison ivy – from head to toe and everywhere in between!  I’m also tired of making lunches, applying sunscreen, and hustling half-asleep kids out the door to camp.  As it turns out, they are tired too.  This lull between camp ending and school starting is just the antidote we all needed.  Because when I am tired, I’m not nice.  And neither are the kids.  Just in case you’re wondering, here are three signs you need a “time out.”  And, a “Tuesday tip” to encourage you to take it.  You’ll be glad you did.  And so will everyone around you.

If you look and feel like this, you probably need a time out!

Top 3 Signs Mom needs A Time Out

  1. You answer “no” routinely before the kids can even get the question out of their mouths.   This is a really bummer when the question, much to your surprise was “Can I help?”  To this you should always just say yes.  Even if it’s coming from a four-year old likely to make a bigger mess of things!
  2. You look in the mirror and are frightened by the crazy woman staring back at you. She has bags under her eyes, grays in her hair and a sallow skin tone.  Take that lady out for some fresh air, give her a good night’s sleep and before you know it, she just may be smiling at you in the mirror. Especially if as part of her time out you treat her to a long overdue mani-pedi.
  3. You ask your husband when your sweet charming children turned into “evil f*ckers.”   Enough said, right? It’s time for a time out!

 

 

Finnegan: a very happy dog whose day was SO GOOD thanks to IAMS

This week I was treated to a unique experience, a trip to the city with my four-legged friend Finnegan, courtesy of IAMS.

En route to the IAMS SO GOOD event

On our way to the IAMS SO GOOD event in NY

For the first time in years, I spent my morning with our dog rather than at my desk or with our kids… although, I kind of think of Finnegan as our sixth kid… or perhaps more aptly put, as our first child.  We LOVE this dog.  He is a released golden retriever/lab mix from the Guiding Eyes for the Blind and he is amazing.  Always so happy to see us, so gentle with our kids, and so eager to love.  And…

Really really itchy!

There have been nights — rare nights — that all five of our kids are sound asleep.  “At last!”, we think to ourselves, we are ALL going to sleep through the night!  And then it begins. Finnegan scratch, scratch, scratches, with his collar jingle, jingle, jingling and there we lie, wide awake, tossing and turning.  Something is keeping him up.  And that something is keeping us up.  And that’s no good at all. Believing that “something” is very likely found in his food, I was game to give the new IAMS SO GOOD! brand a try — I’ll give anything a try if it will help me (and Finn!) sleep through the night!

Our family is a firm believer that “you are what you eat.”  We do our best to eat locally-sourced foods and splurge on organic fruits and veggies when we can; we belong to a CSA and enjoy family trips to our farmers market on Wednesday evenings.  My husband is a hater of high-fructose corn syrup and we try to stay away from processed foods.  Don’t get me wrong – we’re not health nuts.  We do enjoy the occasional Doritos, Oreos and other “junk” food.  But we try to avoid it.  And, as it turns out, perhaps Finn should too.

While at this IAMS event, my eyes were opened to just how much “junk” is really in some dog food.  Added sugars, dyes and artificial preservatives. It kinda makes me itchy just thinking about it!

 

Ew. These nasty things could be in your dog's bowl. And Finn's too!

The new SO GOOD! dog food leaves out that bad stuff and fills the bowl with good stuff — natural stuff like chicken, veggies and fruit.

IAMS SO GOOD only has wholesome ingredients, like these

They even had Oprah’s former chef, Art Smith on board, talking about the value of wholesome foods.  As he put it earlier this week, “the more wholesome, the better.”  I couldn’t agree more.  For people and for pets too.

 

Finnegan: a very happy dog whose day was SO GOOD thanks to IAMS

NOTE: This is a sponsored post for IAMS.