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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…)

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.

Home-sweet-home


Where did the month of July go?  It marks the longest stretch I’ve gone without sharing our trials and triumphs here at the “Lyons Den” and here’s why — this month has been a hot, hard, horrid disaster!  As my friends and family know all too well, when the the going gets tough, well, I’m not that tough; I go radio silent.  And the past few weeks have been really tough. Why?  Because we moved.  And believe me, even though we are beyond thrilled to have found our “forever house”, it hasn’t been easy.

According to answers.com, moving is one of the “top five most stressful things in life;” the other four are debt, work, relationship troubles and loneliness.  Which is kind of ironic because, if you ask me, moving brings them all together.  The reality is that this move has put us in greater debt; we missed days of work to move and settle in; our relationship has been repeatedly tested as we bickered about what furniture goes where, which pictures should finally find their place on the curb and how much to spend to renovate the kitchen.  Thankfully, loneliness has not yet been an issue but if all of this keeps up, I can see how it could be.

According to the article I read on wiki answers, “the very thought of moving can fill people with dread – and experts say that as the most expensive and life-changing financial transaction most people ever undertake, it’s probably also one of the most stressful.”  I can attest this is true — and, if you add five kids, one “big red dog”, and an average temperatures of 95 degrees with 100% humidity to the mix, it’s all the more stressful.

But that’s not all.  Let me share a bit more about what’s been stressing me out over the past few weeks — with a warning:  you may not believe it’s true.  If I’ve seen or talked to you lately, I probably mentioned that “when I finally get the chance to write about this, I”m sure folks will think I’m making it up.”  Well, I’m not.  Here’s a rundown of life in the Lyons Den for the past few weeks…

  • July 2nd:  Triplet A discovered on living room rug in a pool of barf upon our arrival home from work. The summer stomach virus has arrived.
  • July 3rd:  Our oldest complains of a tooth-ache at dinner but, as Triplet B starts to burn with fever, he is ignored.
  • July 4th:  We pause on the packing to enjoy a great day with my sister and her family, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Triplets A&B are kept comfortable with Tylenol & Advil. Fevers run amok but vomiting has ceased.
  • July 5th:  Tooth ache complaints continue. We call the dentist. They are closed for the July 4th weekend; the message cites a number to call in case of emergency.  We decide it’s not an emergency and spend the day packing.
  • July 6th: 3AM:  We are awakened by our sobbing 8 year old moaning with pain.  Sh*t!! It turns out that tooth is an emergency!  9AM:  Movers arrive to take the outdoor furniture, contents of garage and all packed boxes. Mayhem ensues as we track down our dentist, find an endodontist who is working on the Saturday of July 4th weekend and try to keep the kids from being trampled by the movers. 1 PM:  Poor kid has an emergency root canal.  Ugh.
  • July 7th:  It’s 100 degrees and we spend the day cleaning the new house (which does NOT have air conditioning) and packing up the old one. I want, I NEED to have our new kitchen in working order before we make the final move.  I scrub the counters, line the shelves, stock the pantry.  I have convinced myself that if only I have the means and space to feed our family, it will all be fine. Of note, Triplet C spends the day intermittently sweating, drooling and napping on a hardwood floor as his fever spikes.  He (and three other kids) have also picked up a nasty case of poison ivy.  Things are not looking good. Literally.
  • July 8th: It’s Monday. I go to work and try to act like everything is under control. It’s not. At 10:00PM we make a run to the new house to stock the fridge. We notice a drip over the stove. It’s coming from the ceiling. Run for cover! The ceiling collapses. And so too does my morale, my sense of control, my ability to feed our family!
  • July 9th: Moving Day.  It’s 94 degrees.  We still have four kids with poison ivy, one recovering from a root canal and one complaining of a sore throat.  We shuttle between the new and old house answering questions of movers and plumbers alike.  “Put that there. No, there!”  “What? Did I turn off the water on the third floor?  No. But I’m flattered you think I’d know how to!”  8PM that night: “Emergency!!! Mom, MOM!!!!! Come quick! There’s water everywhere!!!”

And then, I think I kind of blacked out for a few weeks.  There were more plumbers and an electrician.  There were numerous trips to the pediatrician.  Sinus infections. Strep throat. Poison ivy. There were numerous trips to the dentist.  There were busy days at work and long nights unpacking.  There were (and are) boxes, boxes everywhere.  There is a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling and just today, it “rained” inside — to be exact, the bathtub water from upstairs rained into the spaghetti pot on the stove.  Bon appetit?!

It seems we are now the proud, tired, broke owners of the “money pit.”  But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because in the blur of the past few weeks, between the endless sweat, exhausted tears and consistent sense of being completely overwhelmed, there have been neighbors on the porch, friends in the kitchen, family checking in and more friends hanging out.  Despite leaky plumbing, sick kids and horrid heat, we’ve managed to make this place our home.  And while it’s far from perfect, it’s still very sweet.  And with that spirit rediscovered, I look forward to sharing more tales, tips and quips in the weeks and months ahead… and maybe, just maybe, we will finally get these boxes unpacked.  But if not, well, c’mon by anyway… turns out a box is a mighty fine place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine!

Moving Up

June 21st, 2013 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | parenting | Tips and Quips - (0 Comments)
It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

It was this realization that brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday was our oldest son Liam’s “Moving Up” ceremony.  He moved up from 3rd grade to 4th and will be entering a new school in the fall.  Like many parents sitting in the hot, crowded auditorium (vying for a seat with a view!), I wondered how this day came so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I put my wide-eyed, innocent not-yet five-year old on a bus for the first time.  I didn’t cry then.  Perhaps because I had other things on my mind — like his little sister who was two and his triplet brothers who were 11 months.  Or perhaps because I knew it would be easier to have four kids under four at home than five under five!  Or perhaps because I knew he was ready. Ready to ride that bus and join the ranks of kindergarteners.

This week, as I sat in that sweaty gym, looking up at the beaming faces onstage, I wondered, is he ready?  For  4th grade? For a new school?  For all the life lessons that lie ahead?  My mind immediately jumped to life lessons vs. school lessons the moment his class marched dutifully onto the stage and I saw their shirts emblazoned with “Class of 2022.”  That’s when I cried.  That’s when it really hit me.  Today, 3rd grade graduation; tomorrow, high school graduation!  I don’t know if it was the notion of my firstborn graduating and leaving home (I know, I know, I am getting WAY ahead of myself here!) or the realization that many of the life lessons he will encounter between now and then will be hard ones.

By the time 2022 rolls around, he will have likely had — and lost — his first love; he will be on a losing and learn that it’s only in Little League that everyone gets a trophy; he may be bullied — or worse yet, be a bully; he will experiment with many things and he may be left out, left behind or left for lost.  Lost in text books that are complicated and relationships that are even more so.  He will grow up.  And that’s what makes me cry.

These lessons, like many good ones and all the ones that can’t be taught from a book lie before this little boy who is my first… and who is not so little anymore.  He is too “cool” to wave to me from the stage; he only barely makes eye contact a I weep in that overheated, overcrowded gym.

I pulled myself together to pay attention as his classmates shared their memories — memories of the nervousness in kindergarten, the smiling faces and warm welcome in first grade, the trip to the zoo in second grade and their combined efforts to make a new third grader from Japan feel at home. This show of 3rd grade compassion and empathy yielded even more tears.  Then, they recited a touching poem in unison that concluded with these words:

“When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

More tears.  And a reminder that they, our children, are always looking. He will look to me to help him navigate those tough life lessons that inevitably lie ahead.  And I will be there.  I will be looking.  Just like I was when the bus pulled away that first day of kindergarten… and every day since.