Lesson One: Insects have six legs

Lesson One: Insects have six legs

This week I had the pleasure of accompanying my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a field trip to our local Audubon Society. I’m pretty sure it was all the more pleasurable because I got to ride in my own car (aka Swagger Wagon) drinking coffee rather than bouncing along in the school bus belching up breakfast.

Transportation issues aside, I learned a lot in my few hours at the Audubon with twenty five-year olds. For starters, I really learned a lot about bugs. While I might have preferred to focus more on flora and fauna, insects were the topic du jour. Did you know, for instance, that an insect by definition has six legs? Or that monarch butterflies (technically not insects!) only lay eggs on milkweed? Or that treasure troves of creepy, crawly bugs live under rocks and fallen branches? That one wasn’t a total newsflash to me but some of the other tidbits most certainly were.


I had a great day on Mother’s Day.  In fact, in my seven years of motherhood, it was hands-down the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.  Maybe it’s because the sun was shining, it was unseasonably warm and we went to the beach — one of my all-time favorite places.  Maybe it’s because I went for a run with a good friend that morning and returned feeling energized and optimistic.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because after several years of succumbing to the myth of Mother’s Day, I’ve finally gotten wise to the commercial hype and colossal disappointments.  I’ve finally recognized that every day is Mother’s Day and Moms really don’t get a day off.  And, after seven years, I am finally ok with that.

Sometimes the best gifts come in hand-painted pots

Sometimes the best gifts come in hand-painted pots

Most moms don’t get to sleep late, skip the laundry, overlook the dishes, or have three meals served up on a platter.  But, we do get incredible homemade cards and homegrown plants — small seedlings in hand-painted pots designed by the same little hands that like to hold ours. These cards, plants and other pieces of handiwork are precious gifts, just like motherhood itself.  Sure it’s messy, noisy, crazy, expensive, exhausting and at times, completely overwhelming.  That’s why a one-day celebration could never do it justice.  After all, motherhood is a lifelong pursuit, an evolving practice, an enduring responsibility.  With that in mind, here are some tips to dispel the myth and embrace Mother’s Day — each and every day of the year.


I’ve been on the road a lot lately. And, since I’ve had an almost year-long hiatus from business travel (and flying solo in general!), it took a few adjustments at home to get the gang I left behind geared up for a few days sans the Mama. Here’s how we made it work and, should the need arise, you can too:


We have five children. The oldest is seven.  Clearly, we’ve had a fair amount of sex – although, perhaps not quite as much as you’d suspect given that A. I’m pretty much Fertile Myrtle and B. our last three came as a package deal. When identical triplets were revealed on an early sonogram, I nearly fell off the table.  And pretty much swore to never have sex again.
As they say, “never say never” but it took me a really long time to “get my sexy back.”  Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure it isback.  Or that I ever really had it at all.  I have curly hair, freckly skin and a big smile.  On a good day, I might be cute.  But sexy?  I’m not so sure.  Sexy women usually have sleek hair, smooth skin and a sultry stare.  Or maybe that’s just what the media would have us believe.  Maybe sexy really does come in all shapes and sizes.  And maybe, just maybe, cute is my kind of sexy. 
Knowing as I do from a whole lot of candid girl-talk, I’m not the only one who has struggled to “get my sexy back” after having children so, having been inspired by the good folks at ParentsConnect and, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few things that actually do make me feel sexy – in a confident, sassy, cute kind of a way.  And, a few that most definitely don’t. (more…)
Nields_the band
This week I am feeling lucky once again thanks to a sneak preview of The Nield’s new album, The Full Catastrophe.  The thirteen songs swing from soulful ballads to upbeat, catchy tunes as The Nield’s, led by the powerful vocals of Nerissa and Katryna, share the trials and tribulations of motherhood and parenting in general.  Listening to this album is like having your favorite mommy blogs set to music – great music with a hint of folk, a smidge of country twang and a whole lot of honesty in lyrics you can’t help but sing along to.
I have to say, they had me at song one.  “Ten Year Tin” hits close to home since my husband and I will celebrate our ten year anniversary this October.  There are parts of this song that I – and in fact, most of us – might have written ourselves… “Things do not always go according to our plans” for instance or “We’ll save up for a trip across the sea; leave the kids, it’ll be just you and me.”  Isn’t that we all think on the day we say “I do”?  We think we’ve got it all figured out; we think, as the title track notes, “When I met you, I thought the journey was over.”  But, as we all know in retrospect, the journey had only just begun – and, there is nothing like motherhood to remind you that things often don’t go according to plan!
Our plan was to have two or three kids; we ended up with five thanks to #3 arriving as a trio of identical little fellas who will forever be our babies; our precious miracles who beat the odds and arrived at almost full term, in perfect health, and cute to boot!  When I look at our sweet angels snoozing in their cribs and then check in on their brother and sister down the hall, I have a burning desire to savor these times, to keep them close, keep them safe, keep the world at bay.  It is this emotion that comes through loud and clear in “Choose this Era” – yet another song on this album that comes from the heart and touches the heart.  “There’s danger in the paper, on the radio; I want to put my arms around you, will not let you go.”  What mom hasn’t felt this way?  I know I do.  Every day.
Last but not least, there is the fantastically funny last tune that you will play again and again.  It’s called “#1 Reason Parents are Cranky.”  Want to venture a guess?  Yep, you got it – they don’t get enough sleep!  It’s not the teething or the tantrums; it is the sleep deprivation that gets us every time.  I for one have long been advocating that the “world would be a better place if we all took naps and got eight hours of sleep!”
Parenting just might be a “full catastrophe” but you’ll get through it with your toes tapping and fingers snapping if you let The Nield’s be your guide.  To buy their new album, visit:  http://bulletproofartists.com/onlinestore/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=209   You’ll be glad you did!

LyonsDenMom on the “Red Carpet”

My hair was done.  My makeup was done.  I was wearing a brand new dress with beautiful shoes and fancy jewels borrowed from my sister.  Why?  To attend the movie premiere of The Lucky Onebased on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.  With a woman I never met before.

Her name is Julia Rose and it was work that brought us together.  I work for  House Party, a social media marketing company that drives consumer recommendations to build brands and drive sales.  In this case, the “brand” was Nicholas Sparks and the conversations and recommendations that our social media campaigns generate will result in movie ticket and book sales.
Julia is one of House Party’s most passionate brand advocates.  She created a six minute music video to demonstrate her enthusiastic adoration of all things Nicholas Sparks.  She wrote a catchy tune that weaves together the romantic twists and turns of all seventeen Sparks novels and her sister, Deborah Crawford, captured it all on film.  The House Party team rewarded their efforts by ensuring Julia Rose was one of the 1,000 lucky consumers (from a pool of tens of thousands applicants) selected to host a Nicholas Sparks Potluck House Party.
When the Sparks team at Grand Central Publishing (Nick’s publisher) and Warner Brothers (which produced the movie) heard the word, they did us one better.  They gave Julia two tickets to the premiere.  House Party responded in kind by providing airfare and hotel.  And that is how I ended up on the red carpet (to be accurate, it was a faux green lawn!) next to Julia Rose at a big-time Hollywood movie premiere. 

I didn’t know what to expect of Julia, who hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is known around town as one half of the busking duo Gladys and Maybelle.  The other half is her sister Deb, who joined us on the red carpet/green lawn. “Would they be weird?  Would we get along? Were they crazed Nicholas Sparks stalkers?” I wondered as I travelled to LA and pondered my 24 hours with Julia Rose and her sister Deb.
Julia and Deb (aka Gladys & Maybelle) at The Lucky One Premiere with Nicholas Sparks
As I returned to New York, I knew the answers were “No. Yes. Absolutely not.”  As it turns out, I have more in common than I would have thought with these two lovely Texan blondes.  As we got to know each other, I shared stories of the five feisty children and one semi-frazzled husband I left behind; this is one of my constant struggles as a working mom – leaving my family behind.  Not between the usual hours of 9 to 5 but when work spills over into family time, as business travel occasionally necessitates, I really struggle with the juggle.
I want to be a good mom. A present mom.  A mom who rules the roost but inspires her children to follow their dreams, know their limits and be true to themselves.  Well, as it turns out, Julia and Deb, a.k.a. Gladys and Maybelle, share my sentiments.  As it turns out, they named their band Gladys and Maybelle for Gladys Presley (perhaps you’ve heard of her son, Elvis?) and Mother Maybelle, the maternal in-law powerhouse behind a certain Johnny Cash.  These two women who joined me in a fairy tale evening of Hollywood glam were actually a lot like me.  We share dreams for our children; we were dazzled by the stars; and we shared a true Cinderella moment as the light bulbs flashed, the theater lights dimmed, and the story of The Lucky One swept us away.
Now that the proverbial clock has struck midnight, it’s back to reality.  My sleekly styled hair has returned to its typically curly locks.  The dress is in the closet and the sexy heels have been replaced by my signature flats. The kids are screaming, my inbox is overflowing and my to-do list is growing.  But I am content.  I am home. 
I will forever cherish the memory of the night I walked the green grass carpet with two amazing women who reminded me of the power of a great Mom and inspired me to try harder to be one each and every day.  Thank you Gladys and Maybelle.  Thank you for reminding me that every day I return home to five smiling (and potentially snot-nosed) kids and one sweet, patient husband, I am “the lucky one.”
I’ve been away for a few days now, living out my own “Lucky One” adventure while my dear husband has been manning the fort — quite literally, I suppose — since I left on Friday afternoon, artfully juggling five kids, their weekend activities and his responsibilities at work.  Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve kept in touch from afar:  sometimes, Daddy knows best. And oftentimes, Mommy makes things more complicated than they need to be.  Here are three great examples:
  1. Let them wear what they want.  The weather in the Northeast has hit unseasonable, record highs in the days I’ve been gone.  And from the photos I’ve seen, the kids have been thrilled to wear shorts and flip-flops.  And pajamas without tops. Knowing myself as I do, I suspect I would have started a battle about the flip-flops, making the rational argument that it’s hard to run/play soccer/get from Point A to Point B when you’re a three-year old in flip flops.  And, I would have urged them to wear shirts with their pajamas, for fear they’d catch a chill in the middle of the night. As it turns out, in both cases, I would have been wrong, causing yet another unnecessary fuss.  As it turns out, they wore their flip-flops and lived to tell about it and slept as snug as bugs in a rug, with or without shirts.  Score one for Dad.
  2. Leave the luggage at home.  Here’s what I usually take a for a typical Saturday involving soccer, baseball and birthday parties:  5 juice boxes, 5 water bottles, about 25 snacks, a change of clothes in case a three-year old triplet piddles in his pants, sunblock, wipes, tissues, Purell and a few BandAids, just in case.  Here’s what the Dad packed for his weekend adventures with our tykes: nothing.  Nothing!  Ok, maybe a water bottle for the kid playing soccer but that’s pretty much it.  And you know what? They all survived! Score two for Dad. 
  3. Roll with it.  Before the breakfast is cleared away, I start to fret about what we’ll have for lunch and dinner. Before my coffee is consumed, my mind has planned the minutes of our day — every day.  The Dad does not work this way.  This can sometimes infuriate this Mom.  But, with some distance between us, I see once again the magic of his ways, the delight of a few unscripted days.  There was impromptu pizza for lunch and a late nap at 4:00.  There was no dinner plan but somehow it all came together.  The kids were happy, clean and fed.  Perhaps not on “my” schedule or in “my” way but, at the end of the day, well, they had a great day.  Several of them in fact. Score three for Dad!

I’ve learned once again that “my” way isn’t necessarily the only way or at times even the “right” way.  This Dad really knows what he’s doing.  So much so that this Mom just might start planning her next trip!

I am leaving my husband and five children (aged seven and under!) behind for five days; five days and nights that will combine work and pleasure as I combine a business trip to LA with a visit to my sister and her family in San Francisco.  I am nervous about leaving my family behind.  And that fact that I’m leaving on Friday the 13th isn’t helping matters!

As I drove to the airport, I thought about the weekend ahead – the weekend at home, not the weekend that awaited me in San Francisco.  I thought about the responsibilities I was leaving behind — dinner times, bath times, soccer practice, baseball practice, birthday parties — all the weekend activities you’d expect from a busy family with five kids, topped off by several showings of our house, which is on the market.
Our weekends provide little down-time and are virtually devoid of R&R; if anything, I relish the return to work on Monday mornings because it gives me a chance to sit down!  So, as I embark on the flight that will take me 3,000 miles away from the mayhem of a typical weekend at home, I can’t help but think about the dear man I am leaving behind and wonder how he will do it.  It is the question I am constantly asked “How do you do it?! “ And my answer often relies heavily on “my other half” — the supportive, funny, level-headed fella who is now home alone with five feisty tykes.
He’s been fretting my pending departure for weeks, telling neighbors, family, friends and pretty much anyone who will listen that I’m leaving him — that I’m leaving him “all alone” with our five kids for five full days.  Honestly, his stress was seriously stressing me out.  So, I did what any Type A, aspirational SuperMom suffering from a bad case of guilt would do, I offered up a slew of solutions.  “I’ll create a daily meal plan.  I’ll organize rides for the birthday parties and car pools for soccer practice.  I’ll tell the realtor we can’t show the house while I’m away.  I’ll pre-pack the backpacks and lunches for Monday and Tuesday. “ And so on.  Initially, he was all for my organizational gusto.  “Yep, let’s not show the house while you’re away, it will be a mess,” he admitted.  “And a meal plan sounds great,” he concurred. 
And then, in the 48 hours leading up to my departure, something incredible happened.  My stressed out other half turned into an uber-confident SuperDad.  I, for one, always knew he had it in him but even so, was shocked when he said something to effect of “Screw the meal plan! I can feed our kids.  And if they’re hungry, they can just have a glass of milk!”  He went on to say, “And, let’s show the house.  I may not make the beds like you, but I can make a bed. I’ll even plant some pansies to increase the ‘curb appeal’.”  What?  Pansies?  Really?  Wow!
As I write this, I am hovering at 30,000 feet, barreling toward the West Coast and the adventures that await.  It was hard to say good-bye to the sweet, smiling faces that slobbered me with wet, snotty kisses; for the record, they came from my children, not my husband.  His kiss was sweeter, and seemed to linger longer than the usual perfunctory peck.  As hard as it was for me to leave, I know it will be much harder for him over the next few days.  And, I am reminded once again that I am one lucky gal — which seems especially fitting given that the work portion of my trip will include a walk on the red carpet for the premiere of the movie  The Lucky One. I am very lucky indeed. 
As for the kids, well, if all they get is milk for the next few days, they may not be quite so lucky.  But, I have a feeling that Dad is going to pull this off with flying colors when he does, I will be the first in line to ask how he did it.
Our sweet Kevin enjoying a sweet treat at an early age
With the confluence of Easter and Passover last weekend, the sugar level of our nation’s children must have hit an unprecedented high.  Between the Easter baskets and Passover treats, goodies were everywhere.  In our house, we had three rounds of sugar highs. 
The first occurred on Saturday morning, during our neighborhood egg hunt.  In what has become an annual tradition, my friend Cate magically transforms her yard into an Easter wonderland that is inevitably pillaged by a dozen egg-seeking children on a sugar mission.  These lovely children, all the best of friends, turn into egg-crazed enemies as they scramble to see who can gather the most. Of course, it’s not all bad — in fact, it’s really not back at all.  The big kids help the little kids; the grown ups mix and mingle over coffee and a few treats of our own; and on a sunny spring Saturday, it’s a Norman Rockwellian kick-off to our Easter weekend.
The second sugar-fueled frenzy occurred at a family affair on Saturday evening.  This time, cousins turned against each other in an effort to find the most yellow eggs — ah yes, the yellow eggs had the most coveted treasure of all.  Each of them contained that rarest of treats that can only be found once a year — the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Egg.  This, and this alone, was enough to turn our tiny tots into mighty warriors as they wrestled each other to the ground in search of this seasonal delight.
Last but not least, there was the Easter morning scramble as our kids jumped out of beds, climbed out of cribs, raced down the stairs and squealed with delight upon discovering that the Easter Bunny had indeed made a visit to the Lyons Den, delivering five baskets filled to the brim with more tasty treats — jelly beans, chocolate eggs, Peeps, and of course, a chocolate bunny. As ten shining eyes looked up at me and one tiny voice asked “Ma, can I have one?  Can I have a jelly bean?”  I said yes. 
I said yes to jelly beans before breakfast.  Just as the day before I’d said yes to lollipops before lunch and M&Ms before dinner.  I figure that if I keep saying yes, maybe next year, the sugar-fueled frenzy will be well, just slightly, less frenzied.  If I keep saying yes, maybe they will learn to enjoy all things in moderation; maybe they will learn it’s not necessary to eat their weight in sweet treats during Easter weekend.  Or Halloween.  Or Christmas.  Or birthdays… which leads me to cake, and the moral of this story.  Let them eat candy; let them eat cake.  Let them be kids and enjoy the simple pleasure of a savory sweet.  And ideally, teach them not to mow down their friends and cousins during next year’s egg hunt! 
Last week we had to get all five kids out of the house by 7:45 not once, but twice.  I realize that for some folks, this wouldn’t be a big deal but around here, we’re used to operating in shifts, especially in the morning.  The first shift belongs to Liam and Ciara and lasts from roughly 6:45-7:30; during this time, they are roused from bed, hastily fed and hustled out the door for the school day ahead.  Shift Two starts at roughly 7:31, when Kevin, Declan and Cormac bounce down the stairs, into their chairs, and demand some cereal with a lot of fanfare.
This two-shift approach works extremely well for us — it’s our solution to managing morning chaos — but last week, on the days we had to get them all up and out for an early school play and class breakfast, all bets were off.  Despite our bad habit of routinely arriving places at least 15 minutes late (see my recent post about the 10:45 mass!), we actually got to the school on time.  In fact, we were even a few minutes early!  As folks straggled in, one after another said something like “OMG! I can’t believe you beat us here! We barely made it out of the house and we only have two kids.  How did you ever get out the door so early with FIVE of them?!”  The answer?
We didn’t feed them.  Well, we fed Liam and Ciara, that seemed only right — especially on the day of the school play.  But our trio of three-year olds didn’t have breakfast.  Sounds crazy, right?  But really, it’s not.  We fed them eventually.  We knew that the 8:00 play would be over by 8:30 and indeed it was.  And our little fellas were at the kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal by 8:45.  Were they hungry?  Sure.  But,I assure you they were no worse for the wear by eating an hour later than usual and, on the upside, we were on time for Liam and Ciara’s big days — a rare occurance which didn’t go unnoticed!
It was these experiences that led me to realize that I’ve lowered my standards.  Just a bit.  I have strong perfectionist tendencies that I actively battle on a daily basis but I think this admission of not feeding our kids breakfast is not only evidence, but potentially good shareable advice.  Relaxing your standards a bit just might make for a happier mom and I think will definitely make for happier kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for having your kids skip meals, I’m pretty sure there’s another mom in the press these days whose cornered the market on that one! (Here’s a bit about that in case you missed it: Mom puts 7-yr. old daugher on diet).  In any case, now that I’m juggling so much at home and at work, I find that I’m accepting things I might not have before and going with the flow a bit more; maybe it’s going too far to say that I’ve truly lowered my standards but, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few more examples I think you’ll relate to and hope will give you a chuckle.
  • Snot on sleeves: ok.  Snot on walls, not so much. To elaborate just a bit, I used to yell at the kids for wiping their noses on their sleeves.  Then they started wiping them on the walls.  Our house doesn’t have a hall of fame; it has a wall of snot.  In retrospect, using a sleeve as tissue seems a pretty good alternative.
  • Better late than never.  This applies to church, most social gatherings and thank you notes.  Speaking of which, I just found a pile of notes Liam wrote after his birthday in November.  If you’re waiting for one of these, well, I’m sorry, you may be waiting a bit longer but I promise to make it to the post office before his next birthday.
  • There are more than four (or five?) basic food groups.  The new one that we’ve embraced (though pre-kids swore we wouldn’t!) is the group that includes chicken nuggets and Mac&Cheese.  This is a staple now and that is a-ok.
  • Bathing is overrated. I’ll give you that on some days, a bath is a requirement — if there is mud, blood or an abundance of the aforementioned snot, a bath is a very good idea.  If not, well, there’s always tomorrow.  And in our house, there’s an excellent chance tomorrow might include mud, blood or snot!
  • Life is not a fashion show. Though it pains me at times, I’ve stopped fighting with the kids over what they wear. So, if you see the triplets in shorts on a cold, blustery day or wonder if Ciara has gone color-blind or Liam only owns Yankee shirts, well, you’ll know that they dressed themselves and I am giving myself a pat on the back for not sweating the small stuff.  Which is probably the best tip of all!