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Last day of preschool

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in MaMa Moments | triplets - (0 Comments)
1st day of school_on steps

1st day of school... how can the last be here already?!

When you have identical twins or triplets, the life you lead is different.   You are stopped on the street.  You are asked “are they identical?!” time and again.  When they were first born, you probably couldn’t tell your own babies apart.  And as they get older, you realize other people probably never will.  You find tips and tricks to identify them to the outside world – different colors, a freckle here, a scar there.   You want the world to know that while they look identical, they couldn’t be more different.  And you find yourself explaining this again and again.

Today our identical triplets “graduate” from preschool.  Today is a day I know I will cry – tears of joy that they are happy, healthy and moving on; tears of sadness that this phase in my life – in their lives – is over.  No more preschool.  No more babies.  Just big kids.  Big kids who are eager to get out into that big world and show their differences.  It’s my job to help them.   It’s my job to explain what sets them apart.  I do it time and again and today, I thought I’d share a few excerpts of the note I sent to preschool on day one:

  • Physical factors:  Much to our own surprise (and against all odds!), all three of them crawled, sat, walked, talked, potty trained, etc. at the normal ages of development.  We think all three are right-handed although, apparently with identicals, one is bound to be a lefty so, keep an eye out for that!  (Note: it’s still unclear if this is true or which little fella may be a leftie!)
  • Play & Social Experiences:  They play well with each other, with their brother and sister and other little buddies.  Caution: if someone picks on one of them, the other two are prone to defend their brother — not in a violent way, but enough to make their presence known. You’ve been warned!
  • Goals: Basic algebra and conversational French. Gotcha!  We just want them to have a happy, healthy, positive classroom experience that sets them up nicely for kindergarten. 

Ok, now for what you really wanted to know — their differences/nuances/how to tell them apart:

  • Kevin: Stick with me here — his nickname is KooKoo Bear.  Don’t ask. It just happened.  So, if you hear the other guys call him KooKoo, that’s why.  His color is red; his crocs are orange.  He has two parallel freckles on the bridge of his nose. He is sweet, easy going, laid back and very helpful. When in need of a haircut, he can be identified by a little twist on the nape of his neck. He’s a big talker with a lot to say.
  • Declan: His nickname is Little Duck. Also called Duckling. Again, embarrassing but true and you may hear the other kids call him this. His color is blue; his crocs are turquoise. He is the most “attached” to his color.  He once got so mad when we gave him a red sippy cup that he threw it at us and said “I’m BLUE!”  He is super smart.  He was the first to do everything — walking, talking, sitting, etc.  We think he will go to Princeton. (Ha! Gotcha again!)
  • Cormac:  This one got off easy with the nicknames — we call him Mac, or MacMac. On occasion we call him Mac&Cheese but I don’t think that will come up.  His color is green, his crocs are too.  He has a freckle on his left eyelid and a sparkle in his eyes.  He can be a bit mischievous but responds well to reminders about right choices.  He wakes up giddy — bouncing off the walls jolly. The kid is a pleasure to be around.  Unless he is really tired, in which case, he is not. Hopefully this won’t happen at school!

Ok, well, I hope I haven’t scared you.  They are all truly a joy to behold — happy, curious and sweet with just enough mischief to keep ‘em real.  They love stories and music and we know they will love preschool.  And we hope you will love them. 

“We hope you love them,” I said.  They did.  They loved them. They taught them.  They learned to tell them apart.  They discovered their differences and delighted in their similarities.  Just like we do.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Extreme Parenting: Spring Sports Edition was the last post I wrote — over a month ago… the longest lapse in my posting to this blog since the triplets were born.  Yep, it would seem that this spring’s schedule is more of a challenge for me than juggling three newborns with two toddlers… at least they all napped and the weekends belonged to us, not Little League!

Over the past month, I’ve actually started several posts that never got completed.  Titles included “Why Little League Moms Pray For Rain” and “I Don’t Think She Can Do It.”  These have more a negative tenor than I usually take and I suspect have remained incomplete because I eventually got some sleep, a big cup of coffee and my usual sunny outlook back.  But I’m not gonna lie — it’s been a busy, challenging time here in the Lyons Den.

I spent Monday nights wondering what to write for my “Tuesday Tip” but, after baseball practice, lacrosse practice, late dinner, showers, homework, catching up on the work I missed because I left the office for the aforementioned practices, well, I was out of steam and short on tips.  To give you a glimpse of our lives over the past month, here are a few “lessons learned” along the way… which I share in the hopes that you may learn from our mistakes, missteps and occasional victories — on or off a baseball field!

  • If a child is hit squarely in the nose with a baseball, that nose “in all probability is broken.”  And yes, I can attribute the quote to our pediatrician.  Who, by the way, you should see if you suspect your child may have a broken nose.  Don’t ignore it for 24 hours like we did and send him to school the next day.  Oh, and Tylenol will help to ease the pain… for both of you!
  • If you think your kid has poison ivy, he probably does.  Here’s a tip:  do NOT put him in the bath tub with his siblings.  That, as it turns out, is not a good idea.  A good idea is to treat it liberally with Calamine Lotion, keep it covered to prevent itching (and therefore, spreading!) and offer Benadryl at bedtime to prevent overnight scratching.  Oh, and if it’s oozing, it can still spread.  This was news to me but now you know!
  • If you are traveling on business and see on the morning news that record-setting rain is on the way, skip your meeting and go to the airport.  Pronto.  Get on the next plane before the first drops fall; if you don’t, you may find, as I did, that your business trip will get extended by several days… leaving your spouse to supervise the spring sports schedule solo, which is no easy task!
  • If you are buying a house — especially if you are buying your second house — be prepared for a lot of financial interrogation. As you might imagine, it’s not like it was ten years ago; while mortgage rates are alluring, the approval process is complex and takes time.  Time that might turn your hair grey, as it has mine.  Consider yourself warned!
  • If you are overwhelmed by work and life in general, admit it.  Tell your husband, tell your friends, tell your sister, tell your boss.  I don’t like to admit that sometimes, I can’t “do it all” — and I most certainly can’t do it all well.  Simply saying so seems to light the load.  In my case, my husband hit the grocery store, my friends reminded me that no one can do it all and do it well all the time, my sister offered empathy and advice, having been there herself and my boss suggested I find a few hours a week to get the balance back.

Am I there yet?  No.  But, I’ve written my first post in over a month and that’s a good sign… almost as good as the fact that there are only a handful of Little League games left.  And actually, knowing that summer and a break from the scheduling insanity is right around the corner, I think I might enjoy them!

spring sports overload

All winter we wait.  We optimistically think, “This is last snow storm, spring must be right around the corner!”  We put away our heavy coats and sweaters, often prematurely.  We look for the bright yellow and vibrant purple of crocuses peeking out through dirty, grey snow.  We listen for birds chirping in the pre-dawn hours to confirm that spring has arrived.  And then, finally, the wait is over.  Spring arrives.

We have visions of long family walks while the sun warms our backs; of tending to the garden and nurturing new plants to life while our brood frolics around us; of lazy afternoons on the patio soaking up the sun.  And then reality sets in.  As lovely as spring can be, in our house, it’s more like Extreme Parenting, Spring Sports Edition.  In short, it is a nightmare.

For starters, when you’re watching a soccer practice at 9:30 AM or a baseball game at 5:30 PM, what little sun there is lacks the power to warm your back. Or anything else for that matter. It is freezing out!  Especially when your heavy coat and sweaters have been packed away.

There is simply no time for walks or gardening or soaking in the sunshine when you look at the calendar for Saturday and need to determine how you can be at the Girl Scout Cookie pick-up at 9:00, soccer at 9:30, hip-hop at 9:30 and baseball at… 9:30!  Reality check: you can’t!  And your kids can’t either. For ages you’ve known that a clone would be a good thing for you. For all moms.  In fact, I’ve even suggested the notion of a “sister wife” to my husband — just another gal around the house who would be my pal around the house and help out as needed — car pools, laundry, shuttling kids and equipment to and fro… and if she occasionally “helped” my husband out too well, that’s fine by me because the reality is, this spring schedule is exhausting!  But I digress…

The spring sports schedule has me thinking that even our kids need clones.  How else can they be at the baseball practice and soccer game?  At lacrosse and hip-hop?  It’s just not right.  I’ve always prided myself on “just saying no” and not overscheduling our children but I fear this spring has done me in — so much so that I am already looking forward to next winter, when the days are short, the activities are few and I dream of curling up by the fire… a fire which, for the record, we only lounged by a handful of times this past winter but even so, a girl’s gotta dream.  I just never thought those dreams would include a sister wife and a fireplace!

The week including Passover and Easter was spring break for many of us here in the Northeast. Our family didn’t have any extravagant plans but, I always relish a simple break from the routine…. especially the respite from making lunches!  The days flew by quickly — too quickly — and suddenly it was back to school, back to business, back to reality.  Just a few days in, I was  TIRED.  Ten days later, I don’t how I’m going to make it to Memorial Day, our next day off which feels eons away.  That week the kids were off from school was simple, easy, more relaxed and oddly enough, even more productive in some ways — I was able to sort through hand-me-downs and pay bills in the pre-dawn hours while the little ones snoozed.  I realize that doesn’t quite sound like a vacation but there was a sense of self-satisfaction that came with making a dent in my monumental to-do list; there was mental clarity in knowing things were organized and tidy; there was a sense of relief when the clock struck 7:00 and I didn’t have grab grumbly kids out of their warm cozy beds.

Here are my Top 5 signs you’re not on vacation anymore — any you’d add?

  • I never thought I’d be glad for a school break because it meant I’d have time to put the laundry away but, it’s true.  Then, our clean clothes were in drawers; now they are in baskets.  And there they will likely stay until they get worn, washed and put back in the basket.  If they get washed at all.  There’s a good chance our clothes  won’t see the inside of a drawer until the next school break.  Good thing for all those hand-me-downs!
  • Dinner is planned before breakfast is consumed.  During the vacation week, we just rolled with it.  One night we had pizza and “make your own sundae” night.  Another, we made a last minute decision to take the crew out for Mexican.  Now, it’s back to defrosting meat before the coffee pot even perks up for the day. It’s hard enough to face my own thighs some mornings but chicken thighs before sunrise can be a tough way to start the day!
  • Bedtime is at 8:00. Sharp!  While the kids were off from school, we hung out well past their usual bedtimes.  There was extra “kid TV”, movie night and a strong likelihood to honor the requests for “one more book!”  Now, it’s a 50 yard dash to the bunk beds as soon as the sun starts to drop in the warm spring sky.  “Brush your teeth! Go to the bathroom! Go to bed! NOW! Good night!!”  And the door is shut, the lights are out, and the work begins — house work, office work, all the things that we let slide while they were on vacation. I have to say, I’m missing the “kid TV” and “one more book!”
  • Activities and Sports and Playdates oh my!  It feels like someone shot the starting gun at about 6AM on April 1st, which was their first day back in school.  It was also the day that lacrosse, baseball, soccer and everything other spring activity you can imagine started in full swing, leaving me to wonder if perhaps I am the April Fool?  What are we doing?!  Racing here, racing there, grab your helmet, where are your cleats, get your water bottle, and on and on.  Truth be told, they seem to thrive on it but I am already ready for a vacation!
  • Rise and Shine has reverted to Rise and Whine.  Need I say more?

We spent the greater part of that week off close to home (and 48 hours in Philly, which I will share highlights of at a later date!) and still the transition back to our regular routine was a tough one.  I imagine it would have been even tougher had we actually really taken a vacation and returned with piles of laundry — see?  With five kids, it’s really all about the laundry!  Speaking of which, I need to go do some!

Last week our two “big” kids got their report cards.  We were a bit nervous about the parent-teacher conferences since it sometimes feels as though it’s not only the students being graded — and, in fairness, when your first grader writes about the day you forgot to pick her up at the bus stop, it’s not the best reflection of your parenting skills!

As we faced their teachers across the pint-sized desks, we were delighted to learn our kids are both doing really well.  Sure he can be a bit sloppy or she could try a little harder but the reality is, they are doing it all — reading, writing and arithmetic.  And, even more importantly, they are kind, respectful and well-liked.  Gotta say, my husband and I were high-fiving each other as we left those little desks and skipped out the door.  Something is working — between the kids, their teachers and us, things seem to be moving along in the right direction and that deserves some recognition and celebration. So, how did we celebrate? (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!

Time to go!

It’s a universal challenge:  getting out of the house in the morning on time — ideally with your children in tow, snacks packed, shoes tied, coats on, teeth brushed and hair combed.  It was hard when we had one tiny tot. It was harder when we had two.  Now that we have five, well, it’s not easy but, we’ve learned from our mistakes and, in the spirit of sharing, hopefully you can too!

  • Wake up earlier.  It’s painful but trust me, it works.  We made two mistakes in this category. First, we often hit snooze until a baby cried and demanded our attention; at that point, it is too late. You’re already behind the 8-ball.  An early rise is critical to the success of our morning mission.  It allows us to literally be one step ahead of the little people — which is where you need to be if you’re going to drag them out the door on time.  The second mistake we made was letting them sleep in; after years of being told “never wake a sleeping baby”, it seems counter-intuitive to do just that but, you must.  They need time that transition time from the land of nod to the day ahead and the more time you allow them, the less hustling and bustling and screaming and yelling there will be. Trust me on this!
  • Prep the night before.  Make the lunches. Pack those snacks. Put out the clothes. Pack the backpacks. Sign the forms.  Write the notes.  Set the shoes by the door. Locate the gloves, hats and mittens.  It’s not fun but it’s a lot less fun to tackle these tasks with whining tots and as tempers rise and the time ticks away in the morning.  And, whatever you do, don’t forget to set the coffee maker!  What the heck – you may even want to pick out an outfit and pack lunch for yourself!
  • Let them “do it self!”  Kids love to help. So, put them to work!  A toddler can find his shoes and put them by the door.  A kindergartener can pop a snack into her backpack.  And a third-grader can and should be responsible for neatly packing up his homework and picking out clothes for the next day.  So, let them.  It will ease the burden on you, make them feel great and teach an important lesson about responsibility along the way.

I suppose last but not least, allow room for error.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans right?   Well, the morning routine is no exception and sometimes you just need to roll with it.  Sometimes you are going to be late.  And that’s ok.  That’s when it’s good to remember one of my mantras, for better or worse, better late than never!

I don’t know about you, but I live my life looking forward to the next long weekend… the next respite from the to and fro and back and forth of our hectic lives with five kids, two jobs and one large dog.  President’s Day represents the last long weekend before a bit of a dry spell so, why not plan to make the most of it?  Here are a few family friendly activities to get you started… and, if you can’t squeeze them all in this weekend, well, hopefully there is a Spring Break right around the corner! (more…)

Water makes a body happy... and digestion work!

When I was a little girl, I used to follow (or possibly chase!) my grandparents’ dog around chanting, “Drink your water puppy!  Drink your water puppy!”  I also thought this particular dog — a regal Irish Setter named Barney — was a pony and as such, I would often try to ride him.  That dog hated me.  But, to this day, my parents and grandparents still remind me of my little chant.  I suppose it was memorable.  Or, more likely, extremely annoying!  Now that I’m a parent myself, I’m sure the sing-songy, relentless voice of a kid stuck on repeat saying “Drink your water puppy!” wasn’t exactly music to the ears! With that said, I think I was on to something.  At a very early age, I apparently recognized how important it is to “drink your water” and today, I am singing that same little chant to the little people in our house.  And if I had a puppy, I’m sure I’d remind him too.  Why?  Because I’ve learned the hard way what happens when your children don’t drink enough water.  They don’t poop.  And that, my friends, is no good at all.

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One of the first things I thought upon discovering I was pregnant with triplets was, “OMG! What will we drive?!”  At the time, we had a one and three year old and I just couldn’t envision a vehicle that would accomodate their two car seats plus three more unless it looked like this:

When the triplets were born, we had an Acura MDX — the nicest car I will ever own.  That car was a decision we toiled over for months before we bid adieu to our beloved Jetta and bonjour to Bebe #2 so, saying good-bye was a bit traumatic.  But, six brutal weeks of putting our toddlers in through the trunk while our triplets were jammed into a too-tight second row and our strollers were left on the curb forced our hand.  Bon voyage lovely Acura and bonjour… what? What would we drive?  How would we transport our brood from Point A to Point B with five car seats safely anchored and enough room in the trunk for a double and triple stroller… not to mention the other stuff that often filled our trunk — the pack and plays, portable high chairs, diaper bags, blankies and other assorted necessities of those first few years?

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