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.
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?
Our boy is growing up and I’m not sure I like it. Maybe I do. In fact, I might. But the reality is I’m not sure I’m ready for it. Is anyone ever really ready for it? Ready to say good-bye to the unfaltering adoration of infancy? To the sweet discoveries and fantastic firsts of toddlerhood? To the wonderful wide-eyed innocence of elementary school?
Well, I’m watching it all fade away and, as most parents would agree, it’s happening way too fast. Our firstborn recently turned eight. We’ve long kidded around when his pants are too short or his shoes are too tight that “I told you stop growing! Geez, don’t you ever listen?!” Thankfully, in this case, he doesn’t. He is bigger, smarter and sending some strong signals that he is officially a big kid now. Here are a few of those signals from the past few weeks:
Last Thursday night I walk talking to my parents and boasted, “I think this is the week! Five for five! I think we may actually have all five kids in school for ALL five days for the first time since before Thanksgiving!” Then on Friday morning, our pale eight year old appeared in the kitchen, dropped to the floor, grabbed his stomach and moaned in pain. “It hurts Mom! It really hurts!”
I took his temperature. Nothing. He tried to throw up. Nothing. His tummy just hurt. A lot. But, given the lack of fever and vomit and my hellbent ambition to fulfill my “five for five” week (not to mention my desire to show up to work on time for a change!), I sent him off to school with toast in hand and the reassurance that if it really really hurt, he should go to the nurse and I’d be there to pick him up in a heartbeat. So, at 10:15 the nurse called and I was. So much for “five for five!” And so began yet another weekend where the Lyons Den took on the air of an infirmary.
I’m not one to run to the doctor but even I had to admit defeat last week when my pals at work told me how crappy I looked (even on the day I got all fancy and used tinted moisturizer!) and started to call me “the Germ.” The poor guy who sits down the hall from me was blasting his music just to drown out my sniffling and nose-blowing — which is admittedly un-ladylike and loud. Really loud. Like a foghorn. I finally decided enough was enough and sought medical treatment. It turns out that with a sinus infection, my hardcore “this too shall pass” mentality doesn’t work. Thankfully, antibiotics do!
I share this because it dawned on me on Saturday that one of the triplets has been asking me to take him to the doctor for weeks. Weeks! He does lean toward the dramatic but, when I think back, I realize he was the ONLY kid who didn’t make it to the pediatrician during the long, sick month between Thanksgiving and Christmas – those frenzied four weeks when we had at least two kids home sick from school daily. For real. It was awful. And this poor kid got lost in the fray. Has his nose been running? Sure. Thick green boogers? Sure. Fever? Well, not persistently but perhaps on again, off again. “PLEASE Ma,” he pleaded on Saturday, “please can I go to the doctor?!” And as we ran from errand to errand, to practices and parties, I told him “yes, tomorrow.”
That night, he was a real pest. A major whiner. And he refused to eat his dinner so, like any good parents, we forced him to. As we tucked him that night — his very first night with his brand new “big boy comforter,” he asked again, “tomorrow will you take me the doctor?” And I said yes. Then I got all sappy and sentimental as I looked at our triplets, tucked into their big-boy bunk beds with brand new comforters they could feasibly bring to college. I went to bed pining for the baby days that have passed us by and not quite ready for the wonder years that lie ahead. At some point in my slumber, I heard a muffled sound. “I think someone barfed,” I told my husband who was pretending to sleep.
I listened more closely. There was a cough, a snuffling nose, a quick cry. Then silence. So I rolled over and returned to the Land of Nod. Big mistake. As the sun rose on Sunday morning, I discovered my top-bunk boy bedded down in barf, literally covered with the remains of the dinner we forced him to eat. Unfortunately, it was pasta and meat sauce. Unfortunately, it was all over him and that brand new big boy comforter. I don’t need to describe in detail the odor or how gross it was to clean up the mess in the top bunk; I will suffice it say that I had to shake the sheets out in the yard before washing them. It was that bad.
So, who knows. Maybe those comforters won’t make it to college after all. But, that boy sure did make it to the doctor. At long last! In considering the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time at the pediatrician than in my bed and more money on doctor’s visits and prescriptions than groceries. My pals at work have wondered aloud, “how do you do it?!” And I resort to my standard answer, my North Star, “one day at a time.” And then I remind myself that this too shall pass. And quickly. This winter is long but this year, like those before it, will undoubtedly pass far too fast. And when it does, I won’t miss the barf-covered bunks or sobbing sick children but, I’m sure the day will come when I do miss feeling so needed, so necessary and so vital to their well-being. That’s a feeling I’d like to hold on to — one that I hope will never pass.
I’m not much for making resolutions, mostly because I’m not one for keeping resolutions. With that said, one thing I’d like to do more of in 2013 is spend individual time with each of our children. It used to be as easy as a walk around the block or even a trip to the pediatrician — there’s nothing like an ear infection to encourage a bit of bonding when you have five tiny tykes! As they get older though (they are now 8, 6 4, 4 and 4!), quality time together is tougher to come by. And let’s face it, a trip to the pediatrician is not the stuff memories are made of! Memories, I think, are forged through shared experiences and, if they happen to be new experiences, all the better!
I was lucky to have one such experience with my little lady in December. We took a break from the basketball games, cookie baking and Christmas shopping to spend a Sunday in the city at the Broadway Edge Annie workshop. From the look on her face, I think it’s fair to say she really liked it…
Ciara happens to be our only daughter. She also happens to be a bit of a drama queen… who wouldn’t with four brothers to fend off on a daily basis?! We don’t get a lot of “girl time” but our afternoon at Broadway Edge was a day I hope to repeat for a few reasons, none of which have to do with her theatrical ambitions or, truth be told, lack thereof! While our little lady is full of drama at home, when offered the chance to channel that drama in front of an audience, she became timid and shy, as many of the children in attendance did. But, they were quickly drawn out of their shells by the pros at Broadway Edge, who literally got down on their level to instill comfort and confidence.
In just a few hours, a somewhat timid group of kids — including Ciara — was transformed into a confident group of “orphans”, singing and dancing to “It’s a hard knock life.” Were they perfect? No. Do I envision her on a Broadway stage? No. But what she – and the rest of the group – discovered that day were enduring life skills:
- Confidence: if these kids can sing and dance in public, public speaking later in life will be a piece of cake!
- Camaraderie: they arrived strangers and left with a new-found sense of empathy and teamwork.
- Gratitude: they all realized just how lucky they are that they don’t scrub the floors at home… yet!
What did I learn? That nothing beats a day with my girl. That she can tackle anything she sets her mind to. And, that I love the music from Annie as much today as I did when I was six!
So, with 2013 just kicking off, my goal is to have another such day with my lady and to share a similar cultural experience with each of my sons. As I recently told a friend, we used to have a cleaning lady and now we don’t so, every time I scrub a toilet, floor, shower or tub, I am going to pay myself. And I am going to use that money to fund our excursions, expand our horizons and create memories that I hope will last a lifetime. For the record, I do see the irony in scrubbing floors to get back to Broadway (it’s a hard knock life!) but, I think the effort to give our kids an edge — a cultural edge — will be well worth it!
If you’d like to check out Broadway Edge for your budding brood, the next weekend audition intensive will be March 2nd-3rd, and right now, they are offering a special discount code. Sign up by February 4th and enjoy $50 off using code MBLOG.
A few weeks have flown by with nary a post from me and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. Last year, I was full of tips for holiday sanity savers and this year, I almost lost my sanity! As you may know, we moved at the end of October — and, it really threw me for a loop! Then there was Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy that thankfully had minimal impact on us but nonetheless, caused some major disruptions and additional chaos. Then I had a few business trips which, while a welcome excuse for a full night’s sleep, always seem to put things in a tailspin at home. Suddenly, it was the week before Christmas and not a present was purchased, not a gift was wrapped and the cookies that had been baked had all been eaten! To top things off, between Thanksgiving and, well, yesterday, we consistently had at least one of our five children home sick from school. It hasn’t been easy. But I’m not sharing this to create a pity party, I’m sharing so you understand why in the midst of it all, I had to focus more on our family and less on my writing and sharing our escapades. And, needless to say, there were few escapades worth sharing during the past few snot-infused weeks!
Ok, so, now what? I have to say, things are looking up. We had a wonderful Christmas and a new year always reboots my engine. I’m filled with hope and optimism for the year that lies ahead. I’m relishing the warm, fuzzy memories of my time off with the kids over the holidays and I’m (somewhat!) rested after a break from work. So what’s the plan now? I hope to get back into the routine of sharing Tuesday Tips (or Quips!) on a weekly basis and look forward to continuing to contribute routinely to The Huffington Post and Moonfrye — I hope you’ll come visit me there if you haven’t already!
If you have ideas on “tips and quips” you’d like me to share, please let me know and in the meantime, I hope you’ll continue to follow the adventures of the Lyons Den and hopefully, look forward to a weekly post from yours truly. I also hope your new year is off to a good start and filled with love, laughter, hope, health, happiness and humor!
Do you remember what it was like being pregnant? Whether you loved it or hated it, you probably treated your body like the temple it is. You probably made sure you ate properly, exercised routinely and got plenty of rest. And then your bouncing baby was born and in all likelihood, your dedication to nutrition, exercise and ample sleep went out the window just as your bundle of joy came through the front door. Why is this? Why can’t we continue to give ourselves the care we deserve once motherhood arrives?
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are extremely valid reasons for why we put our own needs on the back burner; we do this, of course, because there is a small new life that requires love, feeding and attention, 24/7. Those first few days, weeks, months are a blur. Your baby mixes up days and nights and, at times, you might too. Sleep as you knew it becomes just a dim, fond memory. Exercise is impossible when energy is low and time is sparse. As for nutrition, well, if you’re anything like me, you start to think that a few cookies and some coffee suffice as a meal. Not good, right?
Then suddenly those months become years. Your kids are sleeping through the night and so are you; although given your daily demands, eight hours of shut-eye are probably a rarity and six hours or less may be the new norm. Why? Because your days – and nights – are busier then ever; there are school conferences, soccer practices, ballet lessons, playdates and bake sales. There’s homework to check, emails to return and forms to fill out. Dinner is often on the go; despite your best efforts, a few nuggets before the game may suffice for what was once a sit-down meal. As for exercise, well, does running to the car count? Honest answer: no. This is all just no good. And recently, the pressure of juggling these ongoing obligations along with an intense job, frequent writing, five feisty (and frequently sick!) kids and the pressure of the holidays really got me down.
I was sick. Physically, I had a nasty upper respiratory infection that migrated to what I think was a strain of the flu; that’s the only explanation I have for why I spent most of Monday in the fetal position battling chills and nausea while my hacking cough prevailed. Emotionally, I was a wreck. Angry. Sad. Overwhelmed. Nasty to my husband. Short-tempered with my kids. Isn’t this supposed to be the “happiest time of the year?” Well, it should be. And, I believe it can be. If we all give ourselves the gift of rest. The permission to say no. The latitude to tuck in early or sleep in late. To skip the bake sale because you’re going to the gym. To just say no to nuggets and make sit-down meals a staple once again. You deserve it. We deserve it. And, just like that time your newborn first slept through the night, you will realize how much better the world looks when you’ve had a full night’s sleep!
I just wanted to thank you for high-jacking our weekend and providing my husband and I with a few hundred more grey hairs. As working parents of five children, we were truly delighted to dedicate our weekend to bunk bed assembly, rather than enjoying quality time together as a family. We were especially thrilled that as the moon rose on Sunday evening, the bunk beds still lay strewn in pieces and we had to farm out our triplets to other rooms of the house in sleeping bags. Do have any idea what kind of disappointment this has been to our trio of four-year olds? Or what that disappointment sounds like? Imagine heartbroken wails, whines and tears; a symphony of agony as our little fellas faced the dark alone on the floor rather than snuggled together in the “big boy beds” they so eagerly and patiently anticipated.
With all of this in mind, we’d like to applaud you for astutely recognizing that most bunk bed consumers have large families and busy lives and as such, the luxury of time to labor feverishly over the fourteen thousand pieces you so thoughtfully provided for building the beds. We especially appreciate the effort you put into creating the user-friendly, simple and intuitive assembly manual. When we saw the first page – the one with an X through one stick figure and circle around two stick figures — we gave each other a big hug and jumped right in, knowing from the sweet diagram that this was a job for two people in love. When darkness fell and we were still surrounded by bits of wood and bags of bolts, we swore and snarled at each other and considered burning your manual, having learned from a grueling day that it is woefully deceptive. Building a bunk bed is not a job for team of two but rather, for a group of at least three, each of whom ideally has an engineering degree. Next time you update the manual, please consider adding a third stick figure (at a minimum!) and a diploma to the diagram; this will save other harried, time-pressed parents from the frustration and duress we experienced today.
As dusk began to fall, we recognized we needed that third set of hands and called in my Dad in to help. He was impressed by how you cleverly numbered the wooden dowels, screws and other assorted pieces pictured in the manual; he was far less impressed when he, as we had, searched for the corresponding numbers on the dowels and screws themselves and realized they did not exist. That was a mean trick. It literally drove my father to drink. Not wanting to see a grown man drink alone, we joined him. Needless to say, this didn’t make the assembly any easier. What would make it easier would be if you could separate the thousands of pieces and place them in numbered bags that correspond to the numbers in your maddening manual. Perhaps you were being environmentally conscious by putting approximately 14, 462 pieces into one large bag rather than several small ones? Perhaps you thought it would be fun for parents under pressure to build beds before sundown to revisit the puzzle-solving joy of their youth? Whatever your intentions, they were wrong. We suggest you buy the baggies, number the parts and save the sanity of parents the world over who, like us, will be wooed by your Swedish design and undeniable affordability.
As for us, two weeks have passed since I first started this note of gratitude. Though we purchased two sets of bunks, we’ve only built one. It took roughly eighteen hours. So, here we are, two weeks later, with three boys in one set of beds. How does it work? There’s one fella up top and two on the bottom. Which was all well and good until one of the bottom boys barfed this week. On the bunk, bed and brother. All we can say is that when they grow up and wonder why they shared a bed and why one was the recipient of the other’s regurgitated hot dog, we are telling them to call you. And hoping they will have a better experience than we did with your customer service line!
(not so) Fondly Yours,
The sleep-deprived members of the Lyons Den
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!
October is a busy month in our house. So busy, in fact, that I am glad it is over! Four of our five children have birthdays crammed into one frenzied week. That week also includes our anniversary – which means that all the residents of our “Lyons Den” (including the dog, who recently celebrated his 9th birthday) have something to celebrate in October. All except one. Our firstborn fella, Liam. That’s why when I was offered the chance to have a “date night” with the oldest of my little men, I leapt at the opportunity.
I have always wanted to take our family to The New Victory Theater but for one reason or another (I recycled the mailer; the triplets were too young; we couldn’t get a sitter; we couldn’t afford to take them all; I missed the date for the show we wanted to see and so on!), we just never made it. Until now. On October 13th, I had the pleasure of my virgin voyage to The New Victory Theater and the thrill of seeing Times Square and an action-packed performance through the eyes of my almost-eight year old. Eyes that had spent the prior week ogling his siblings birthday gifts and occasionally filling with tears as they stole the limelight and he was left in the shadows. Well, on this night, the night we saw Urban (which I described to friends as Cirque du Soleil meets hip-hop), those eyes were literally lit up like Times Square. They were so bright, so fascinated, so engaged. And so was I.
The show was great. Gravity-defying. Captivating. Age appropriate. It even included a moral tale in the midst of the fast-paced action. The performers, all trained members of Circo Para Todos, come from the streets. They are the displaced, disadvantaged youth of Colombia. And the circus is their ticket out. Onward and upward. But the path from poor to prosperous can be paved with greed — such was the cautionary tale seamlessly woven into the aerial feats and acrobatics.
For Liam and I, it was a night to remember and one we hope to repeat. We had time to talk, uninterrupted, as we drove into the city. We learned something new together (juggling!) during the family workshop we participated in before the show. And, we had the chance to truly connect and share a new experience together. Given our busy lives and busier weekends (soccer, basketball, birthday parties, etc!), I know we won’t go back to the The New Victory Theater as often as I’d like. But I do know we will go back. Hopefully soon!
If you’re interested in learning more, here is the schedule of upcoming productions — all of which sound great to me!