No wonder Moms need downtime!
No wonder Moms need downtime!

No wonder Moms need downtime!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here in over a year. Sure, I’ve shared some tips on vacation rentals with Budget Travel and musings on motherhood with the Huffington Post but this ittle blog has been woefully neglected for the past year plus. Why?

Well, if you look at my last post, which was all about surviving the spring sports season, it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write!  I even started wishing for rain, just so that instead of the mad dash out the door on a Saturday morning, we could enjoy a little family time.  Down time. But the reality is this:  if I thought last spring was bad, this one nearly broke me. For real.

In addition to balancing (or is it juggling? or perhaps flailing?!) a full time job and a house full of kids, four of those five kids had their tonsils out this spring. And I decided to chair our church’s Spring Fundraiser. And we got a new babysitter. And a new puppy! And, and, AND! Until one recent day I woke up with an eye twitch and a frozen shoulder. For real.

I was hoping the eye twitch wasn’t noticeable; it was. My boss told me so. So did my husband. And my sister. Apparently the cause was stress and fatigue. It was for real.

The so-called “frozen shoulder” was intensely painful, causing over a week of sleepless nights (and I thought they were behind us!) and limiting my ability to do everything from unload the dishwasher to load up on caffeine; I could barely lift a glass to my mouth. Wine glass included!

Clearly there was a problem – and I think the root of it was stress (duh!) and the need for downtime – or at least the permission to give myself a break. Last year, I gave myself a break from this blog. I thought that might help. It didn’t. I enjoy writing and hope/aspire/plan to do more of it. For real.

I’ve realized that “a break” can come in many forms – for me, it might be napping on the train, opting out of an early morning run or skipping a party, no excuse required. Sometimes, you need to just take time for you… a topic that I’ve ironically written about before!

In the end, I suspect we’re all pretty much alike — busy moms trying to do our best each and every day – at home, at work and everywhere in between. That’s why I’m going to try harder to give myself a break this summer – because the better rested, less stressed, more present I am, the better it is for those kiddos we do it all for. Not to mention, that eye twitch looked really weird and the shoulder issue was a royal bummer!  This summer, I hope to squeeze in as much downtime as possible.  And I hope that you do too. For real!

Have a tip? Please share it!

Tonight was one of those nights.  It started with a mad dash from work to pick up my oldest from baseball practice.  No, it’s not spring yet and yes, the season here has already started.  And yes, I am just a little bitter about it.  Especially since signing our son up for this league was my husband’s idea but he can’t pick our fella up tonight because he is working late. Again.

In fairness, he rarely works late but for the past three weeks, he’s had a big project that has left me consistently home alone.  Well, not truly alone but, alone with our five kids on hectic weeknights and busy weekends.  I think I”m burning out and if tonight is any indication, our kids are too.  This is how it unfolded…

The baseball pick up was seamless.  I was on time and we were on our way home in no time at all.  Then the gas light went on.  No, we didn’t run out of gas but yes, it was another pitstop on the way home to my four other children, all of whom greeting me at the door like this:


OMG, I thought to myself, this is going to be a doozie.  My daughter was coming down the steps bawling that she had just “bashed” her head into the wall.  One triplet was screaming and holding his hand out.  It revealed a very swollen finger that had apparently been slammed in a door by the young lady with the head wound.  With my coat still on, I went to the kitchen for ice packs.  When I opened the freezer, another triplet demanded frozen berries.  When I said “No, sorry buddy, we have fresh berries so let’s eat them first and save the frozen ones for another day,” he went off the deep end.  “I WANT FROZEN BERRIES!  FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES!”, he wailed, adding to cacaphony of the wounded with ice packs.

At that point, my oldest asked (again), if he could go play basketball.  He hadn’t had dinner, hadn’t taken a shower, hadn’t finished his homework and had already asked twice and been told no.  I felt like screaming at him but knew that if I joined in the din, things would only get worse.  So, I said yes, under the logic that having one less kid in the house during this most witching of all hours would only be a good thing.  So he left. And then there were four.  And me.

I didn’t know what to do.  Three were screaming and one was scheming, whispering to the Berry Boy that he should just go ahead and help himself to those frozen berries.  I was exhausted; they were out of control.  It was 6:47.  “It’s time for bed,” I said, not knowing what else to do.  The wailing persisted as we went upstairs but quieted down as the library books came out and we read about baby bears, a platypus and a mouse named Geronimo Stilton.  At one point, as I was getting their toothbrushes, I looked out at the setting sun and thought “this too shall pass” as I took a deep breath.  And it did.  Thank God!

By 8:00, four of them were in bed and sound asleep.  My big guy was back from basketball, showered and together we ate dinner.  We talked about his day and he revealed that he’d gotten his report card.  We took a look together and it was good.  Very good.  He’s a good kid.  They are all good kids.  And, like all of us, they have bad moments and we have bad days. And nights.

Tonight was the exception, not the rule.  Our house, like most, I believe, is like that old nursery rhyme, “When it’s good, it’s very very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.”  Tonight was horrid.  But it’s over.  Tomorrow the sun will rise again and a new day will begin.  And, like most days, I suspect it will be very very good.

When you have tired, hungry kids to feed, dinner time can start to feel like a real drag.  Especially since it typically coincides with the “witching hour” — that hour (or two), when your kids whine, you long for wine and the notion of #winning is replaced by a dreaded sense of #fail.  Well, fail no more my friends.  Dinnertime, like most things that involve the kids, is always better when you have a plan.  Since coming up with the plan is the hard part, I thought I’d share a few of our go-to weeknight dinners.  I’m even throwing in a few bonus Sunday Suppers for good measure because if you start planning on Sunday, you’ll have some leftovers to power you through Manic Monday and all the days that follow.  Without further ado, here’s what we’re serving on any given night in the Lyons Den:

Sunday Supper:  Sundays are ideal for roasts.  This “fix it and forget it” approach lets you pop dinner in the oven early in the afternoon so you can go enjoy the day/watch the game/carpool to the birthday party/cheer from the sidelines/take care of the kids while dinner takes care of itself. The best part is how easy this is.  I’m not including or linking to recipes here because you really don’t need them.  Rub your pork loin with olive oil and put some sliced garlic and herbs on top.  Treat the chicken the same way.  Or maybe add some rosemary and pop a few lemons or onions inside.  You really can’t go wrong.  And that’s what makes these two choices sinfully easy:

  • Roast pork loin with roasted potatoes and kale
  • Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts

Meatless Monday:  Mondays are tough.  It’s not easy to drag the kids out of bed and your butt back to work. Or wherever your day takes you.  Knowing the day will be hard, dinner should be easy.  Our picks are yummy, speedy and crowed pleasing.  After all, after a long day back at the grind, the last thing you need is that annoying chorus of “I don’t like it!”  Try these — they’ll like it!

  • Veggie quiche (make or buy over the weekend — store bought is a.ok!) with roasted (or grilled, if you prefer) asparagus
  • Cheese Tortellini with pesto sauce (also ideally made or purchased over the weekend) & spinach sauteed with garlic and oil

Tuesday Taco Night:  It’s Tuesday. Two days down, three to go.  Why not celebrate with a hands-on meal that makes mouths happy?  You’ll be happy too given that tacos are super fast, super fun, super easy and can incorporate your leftovers from that Sunday Supper.

  • Chicken tacos: toss in some frozen corn when you heat up the meat and serve with avocado for extra nutritional punch
  • Pork tacos (or fajitas) served with peppers (roasted or raw — whichever meets the least resistance!) and a side salad

Wacky Wednesday:  They call it “hump day” for a reason and the good news is that you’re almost over the hump!  Mix things up with a perennial kid favorite: Breakfast for dinner.  And I’ll be darned if the notion of pancakes at 6:00 pm doesn’t put a smile on your face too.

  • The Egg-cellent Option – Whip up an omelet, scramble them or serve them over easy.  Add some whole wheat toast, fruit and milk and there you have it — a dinner of champions that will make Mom a big winner. a
  • The Sweet Option — Pancakes, waffles, or french toast served up with some yogurt and fruit.  Syrup mandatory, whipped cream optional.

Pasta Thursday:  Now you’re in the homestretch, just a hop, skip and dinner left before Friday arrives and the weekend begins. Why not plan a pasta night to carbo load you and the kids through the remainder of the week?  Again, it’s quick, easy and almost objection-free when it comes to the junior set.  Our top picks:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs; make them yourself or let Trader Joe/Giotto do the trick; with both beef and turkey varieties in the frozen section, it makes this weekend dinner a snap!
  • Penne with sausage and broccoli.  Enough said, right?  Yum!

As for the weekends, Friday night is almost always pizza night in our house.  It gives us all something to look forward to — especially when accompanied by Family Movie night, which gives us  the much-needed opportunity to cuddle, snuggle and unwind after a long week.   Saturday night is really a free for all – maybe we go out, maybe it’s take out, maybe it’s time to empty out the fridge for what we (rather unfortunately) call “Garbage night” — a great way to use up any remaining leftovers so you can start anew again on Sunday… bon appetit!

You may recall that one of my goals for the year is to yell less.  I’ve realized over the past month that if I’m going to achieve that goal, I really need to choose my battles.  This, like most things, is much easier said than done.  I’d like to think of myself as a lover, not a fighter but the reality is, with my Type A personality, I find it hard to resist a good challenge and I’m wired to want to win — even if that “challenge” comes in the form of a five year old who doesn’t want to wear his mittens.

This is not something to be proud of, this innate sense of wanting to control another person simply because “I said so.” Granted, as it relates to the mittens, it is cold outside but the reality is, after explaining the frigid weather to my wide-eyed tyke, it really boils down to “I want you to wear those mittens because I TOLD YOU TO!!!”  And there you have it.  I’m yelling again.

We made a pact a few weeks ago.  All five kids and me.  We agreed that we wouldn’t argue about wearing coats/hats/mittens/boots/etc. until March.  We agreed that it was cold outside and that it was in their best interest to stay warm.  We made a deal. No more arguing, no more yelling, no more being late to the bus due to quibbling about outerwear.  And that was that.

But of course, that wasn’t that at all.  Because life isn’t that simple and children aren’t that agreeable.  And frankly, the majority of mine don’t know what month it is even if they do know it’s noble to honor a promise.  Just a few days later, I found myself asking my oldest, a fourth-grader with a beaming grin and good intentions, “do you know what month it is?”  “Um, February?”  “Yep.  And do you remember what that means?!”  “I’m supposed to wear a coat?”  “Yep!”  “But Mom, I’m not cold!”

He’s not cold?  It’s freezing out.  Literally.  Icicles hang from every roof and mountains of snow surround us.  But apparently, it’s not cold to him.  I felt the yell start, deep inside.  An insatiable urge to show him the thermometer, to PROVE to him that it is indeed cold.  He is wrong; I am right.  So there.  And then I caught my husband’s eye.  “Give the kid a break”, he said without saying a word.  And so I did.  And I’ve been trying to ever since.

Last weekend. four out of five weren’t wearing underwear, but they were wearing pants.  As the temperature hovered near fifty and the snow began to melt, they took off those pants and put on shorts.  And short sleeved shirts.  And went OUTSIDE!  It was freezing, though no longer literally.  I wanted to yell. To win. To force them to put on pants, sweatshirts, heck, even some underwear!  But I didn’t.  Because you have to choose your battles and you can’t win them all,  I figure I might as well save the good fight for the ones that really matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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