KEEP YOUR HUMOR INTACT (OR AT LEAST GO DOWN SWINGING)

It’s Tuesday morning, post-flu apocalypse of 2011 and I’m packed into my couch like a sardine in the company of two 2-year-olds, a 4-year-old and a brand-new Maltipoo (Simon Samuel P. Davis). Round One of my morning was filled with detoxifying and de-germing various human and canine body fluids from various household surfaces including, but not limited to, floors, countertops and coffee table (I don’t know if it–or I–will ever recover). Amidst my hazmat-like cleaning frenzy, I found myself breaking up twin versus twin fights, twins versus big sister fights, and all aforementioned parties versus Simon Samuel P. Davis. Back to my couch-bound sardine state, taking a break from cleaning fluids and managing fighting, the stirrings of Davis Chaos Round Two were just beginning.

“She push me,” Elizabeth grumbled from my lap.

“She PUSH ME,” her twin Julia rebuked (from the other half of my lap).

“Moooooommmm!” Laura (big sister) screamed– for no other reason than to feel part of the conversation.

“Mmmm, mmm, mmm,” the puppy whimpered as he aggressively attacked one of the girls’ tutus.

“Don’t chew on that, Simon!” I attempted in a half-hearted stern voice. It’s rather hard to tough love a miniature white Ewok.

As Round Two punches few, I couldn’t help but marvel at the (once again) impeccable timing of the Davis’s. As fate would have it, the very day that my husband surprised our family with a fuzzy-britches Maltipoo, the entire household (save for me; see, it could have been worse), was struck with a gruesome case of the stomach flu. For three days, I manically raced around the house placing pots, pans, Tupperware and any other fluid-catching receptacle underneath any orifice of any creature about to expel any liquid. My success rate, unfortunately, was about as good as you might imagine for a family who brings home a new pet on the eve of stomach-flu-fest 2011.

All the while, to embrace and celebrate the humor in what could potentially be a Debbie Downer situation, I posted social network updates such as “Now it’s down to me and the (brand-new) puppy as ‘not barfing our guts out contenders.‘ Poor hubs, JuJu, Bitsy and Laura. I do not feel good about my odds.” To which well-intentioned family and friends replied. “A puppy? Really?” or “Since when do you like dogs?” or “Don’t you have enough on your plate?” My answers to these irritating (but mostly accurate) observations and questions were as follows: “Yes, really,” and “I like dogs since now,” and “I’ve always believed in large plate portions.”

If at any juncture in my life, I stopped to question the insanity of my circumstances whether intentional (puppy) or not (puke flu) I’d be a total wackadoo. The key is, and has remained since the birth of three kids, including two at one time, (and now a dog) is to continue clinging to humor like James Franco did to a cliff in 127 Hours.

For example, as Round Two escalated, I decided that best way to roll with the punches was to create a mental screenplay of the unfolding scenario:

INTERIOR. DAVIS FAMILY ROOM-DAY

The room smells faintly of body fluids and disinfectant. ERIN is seated on couch with twins ELIZABETH and JULIA on her lap, as well as her oldest daughter LAURA. Puffball Maltipoo Simon Samuel P. Davis is wedged between all, gnawing on girls’ tutus.

ELIZABETH: (elbowing JULIA) She push me

JULIA: She PUSH ME!

JULIA and ELIZABETH commence shoving match on ERIN’S lap. SIMON continues to attack tutus.

LAURA: Moooooommmm!

SIMON: Mmmm, mmm, mmm

ERIN: (her beautiful and very clean hair brushing from side-to-side as she speaks in angelic voice) Don’t chew on that Simon!

All are startled by sudden repeated knocks on the front door, followed by the entrance of James Franco in Hazmat suit.

JAMES FRANCO: Hi Erin, I’m here to clean the rest of your house.

ERIN winks at camera. FADE.

No matter what get’s you through your own personal boxing match ,whether it be Starbucks, an improvised screenplay or James Franco, remember to keep your head held high, your humor higher and when inspired, throw a few punches straight into the face of adversity.

~Erin Davis

Sanity Saving Tips for Parents of Multiples

Amelia Bedelia book cover

Are you familiar with the Amelia Bedelia book cover on which Amelia is running (and smiling) with perfectly rosy cheeks, a freshly baked pie in hand, her apron and shoes on, and even a cute hat on her head? (If not, see above!) She appears to have it all together in the midst of what is assumed to be a moment of chaos.

Truth be told, many days I feel like Amelia. However, I’m in sweats, my hair is disheveled, I’m makeup-free, barefoot, and carrying a bowl of Raisin Bran above my head so my dogs don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if the kind of woman Amelia Bedelia represents truly exists. Never mind–if she does, I don’t want to know about it.

Luckily, there are several products and habits that will make life as a busy mom easier to manage, and, at a minimum, make us feel as though we’ve got it under control.

A Headset Phone
This is a very important staple. As a busy mom, you will want to have conversations with other adults (possibly even telemarketers) just to keep in touch with the outside world. I always thought all those people driving their cars wearing cell phone headsets looked extremely silly. However, I will readily admit that they figured out a secret to surviving the madness earlier than I did.

They can do whatever they are doing (in their case, driving) and talk on the phone at the same time. It’s a beautiful thing. The headset phone allows you to talk while you cook, clean, change diapers, make bottles–you name it! Your neck will thank you, trust me. Invest in a headset for your current phone or get a headset phone altogether if your current phone will not accommodate a headset attachment.

Chocolate
If you ever feel guilty about consuming this heavenly delight that can improve even the worst of moods, consider this: Chocolate is actually a vegetable. That’s right, folks. Think of it this way: Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean and bean equals vegetable, right? Sugar is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets, both of which are plants–in the vegetable family. Thus, chocolate is a vegetable (plus, chocolate bars contain dairy, which is good for your bones). Need I say more?

A Soothing Paint Color in Your Primary Work Area
Color therapy was likely first practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, who shone sunlight through colored gems onto those who sought healing. Today, this therapy is used in many of the nation’s premier spas as a way to soothe the frazzled mind and assist with meditation.

Tones of blue have been shown to encourage relaxation and tranquility as well as inspire patience and calming thoughts. If it works with the neighboring rooms’ décor, why not paint your primary work area a shade of blue? If blue simply will not work, know that greens and purples are also calming colors. Reds, yellows, and oranges, however, are stimulating. Try to avoid these colors in those areas where you spend a great deal of time. As I’m sure you’re well aware, neither moms nor their kids need to be any more stimulated than they already are by 5:30PM.

14,000 Things to be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer
I love this book. It is impossible not to find something on nearly every page of it that will evoke a fond or funny memory and make you smile even in your worst hour. I actually highlighted (way back when I had free time) my favorites so I could find them quickly. Some personal favorites: The Electric Company (the TV show), funnel cakes, and shorty skis. By the way, what ever happened to The Electric Company? (or 3-2-1 Contact for that matter!)

30-Day Gourmet
Are you as tired as I am of what I now refer to as the “4:00 panic?” This is when you stop to think, oftentimes out loud, “OK, what are we going to have for dinner tonight?” (It’s also usually about the same time your husband calls and asks the same question.) Until recently, five out of seven nights a week, that question was answered at my house with the word “cereal” or “pancakes.” No longer. And not because I’ve suddenly become a devoted cook.

I found out about a fabulous site product: 30 Day Gourmet. Their site allows you to download and test out for thirty days–and then order–a cookbook that will allow you to bake 30 nights’ worth of meals in one “lazy Sunday afternoon” (as if such a thing exists anymore)! It can be modified, of course. Bake enough meals for two weeks if that’s all you need. I am simply so pleased to be able to announce that “Tonight, we’ll be having Chicken in a Pot” (even though my four-year-old often responds with “Can’t we just have pancakes?”) Look for the link to their site from my Sanity Savers page.

A Good Chiropractor
What is the most common physical complaint of moms? Low back pain. In a two-year study completed in 1990 by Britain’s Medical Research Council, chiropractic treatment was found more effective than hospital out-patient care for low back pain. Now, I realize that the image many of us get when thinking about getting a chiropractic adjustment is that of Madonna lying on a table having her neck whipped around in that Truth or Dare documentary of her Blind Ambition Tour, but I have become a firm believer in this alternative form of medicine. I don’t trust it to cure disease just yet, but in terms of helping my ever-aching back and neck, it’s a godsend.

According to Dr. Jennifer Wise, Director of the Synergy Institute in Naperville, Illinois, “It has been my experience that integrating the arts of Chiropractic and physical therapy in one setting benefits the patient, allowing them to achieve faster and more complete healing. As a Chiropractor, I work to align the patient’s skeletal structure, while our on-site physical therapist works with the patient’s soft tissues to make the healing process occur more quickly. It is important to train the soft tissues to have memory and endurance so that postural correction is long lasting.”

A Small Wallet
All moms know that given the opportunity, they could fill an L.L. Bean, size Large duffel bag with supplies for a day away from home with their children. The key to not doing that (once you’re truly beyond the “I have to take everything in the house with me” stage) is to ensure that your purse is not big enough to carry much more than the basic necessities. I make sure mine is only large enough to accommodate a wallet, cell phone, antibacterial gel, and Snickers bar.

Same goes for wallets; buy a big one, and you’re going to somehow acquire thirty credit cards (or a variety of Starbucks Buy-Ten-Get-One-Free cards and the like) and the poor contraption will be ready to explode at any moment. Find a wallet that is only large enough for your license, a credit card or two, and some cash. Fossil makes a great one called the Amherst Credit Card Case. It comes in several colors–and fits quite nicely in a very small purse.

Daily Spiritual Quiet Time
Joseph Campbell said, “You must have a…certain hour of the day where you do not know what was in the morning paper…a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be…” This time has become even more important in my daily routine than taking a shower (and many days, trust me, I do trade one for the other!). Life is a journey. Oftentimes, we feel as though we’re lost and the map is missing somewhere under a big pile of toys. Who are we? What are we here for? What will we do with ourselves when our children actually leave the house one day?

Spending some spiritual quiet time each morning and/or evening is invaluable. It can keep you centered and focused, and remind you that there is something so much greater than you at work in your life. That fact allows me to let go of my need to control everything (at least for a moment or two). Three great books to get you started on your journey: Wisdom of the Ages: 60 Days to Enlightenment by Wayne W. Dyer, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth, both by Eckhart Tolle, and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

A Cell Phone
If you don’t have a cell phone by this point–for any reason–I beg you to get one this evening. All women should have one for safety’s sake. I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to have conversations while driving, however, I personally feel quite naked if I get halfway down the block and realize that I’ve forgotten my phone. While out and about, it’s comforting to know you can be reached at any time if one of your children needs you.

Unfortunately, the most life-altering sanity-saver for busy moms has not yet been invented. I envision it as a robot of sorts that does everything from cleaning to cooking to dressing kids for school. One day, perhaps. For now, I’m sticking with low expectations and a Hershey Bar.

What sanity-saving product is part of your arsenal? Please share it with us…please…we beg of you…

~Elizabeth Lyons

*This is the first post in the How to Raise Twins and Multiples and More merge! Many more to come, hope you enjoy them!*

Tips for Keeping your Sanity in the New Year from Elizabeth Lyons

I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Lyons, I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone. From our shared love of Bret Michaels and General Hospital to her sheer ability to tell an amazing story there isn’t much to not love about her. I asked Elizabeth to write a quick post about how to keep your sanity in the new year, I know I needed to read, hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Listen, it’s nothing short of cruel (and highly unacceptable) that the final three weeks of the year are arguably the most insane. Kids run rampant yelling, “School is out; let’s play Wii! That’s my remote! No, that’s MY remote! MOM, SANTA NEEDS TO GET US ANOTHER REMOTE!” Meanwhile, I run in what feels like endless circles doing the bare minimum required to create what I think will create a remotely reasonably enjoyable holiday for these children (which, it turns out, is a lot—and it doesn’t seem to even come close to meeting their bare minimum for a remotely reasonably enjoyable holiday).

I recently saw a mug at Barnes & Noble emblazoned with “Bah Humbug.” I turned to my friend Erin and said, “I don’t like that; it’s so negative.” Three days later I called Erin, and informed her that I simply had to have that mug.

I get it; the season isn’t about me. As I recently proclaimed (loudly), once you’re a mom, the season is no longer yours. I mean, it’s yours—in the sense that you’re responsible for ensuring that it goes off without a hitch, but doing so doesn’t leave much time for you to have your own merry holiday (or moment, for that matter).

I sometimes find myself pleading with Santa in the wee hours to fill my stocking with something extra special. (Yes, I realize that putting a thatched hut that sits on the azure waters of Tahiti and comes with a butler, a masseuse, and a therapist into a stocking is perhaps asking a bit much.)

From stressing over the list of Who’s Getting What to decorating the house, figuring out what we’ll eat for our major holiday meals, acquiring Secret Santa and teacher gifts and, of course, tweeting and blogging about it all in an effort to share my accomplishments with those who will actually identify with my hard work, I am left, on January 3rd, wondering how the ho-ho-ho of my own holiday got lost (again).

I’ve made a vow, folks. Every month from January to December of 2011, I will put away a bit of money so that next January (2012), I can take a night (or three) away to celebrate getting through another 365 days, relax, reassess, and set my intention for the new year.

But since I have a year before I instill that tradition, here are some strategies I suggest we take on in January to ensure that we’re able to start the new year off on a (mostly) balanced foot.

1. Identify an afternoon (or an entire day if possible) during which you’ll do nothing but quietly contemplate the coming year. What do you want to do, learn, see, read, accomplish? Write it down. Be sure that what you’re choosing is realistic. If you want to hike the Alps, learn Mandarin, see the Eiffel Tower (in person), read War and Peace, and create constant happiness in your home, you may be setting yourself up for a bit of disappointment. At this point in our lives, the “resolutions,” if you will, don’t have to be grandiose. They can be as simple as, “read a book that has nothing to do with parenting,” take a cake decorating class, organize one month’s worth of photos (from the last umpteen years of photos you have in your closet), or clean out your closet.

2. Identify one item to take off of your to-do list in 2011. Were you in charge of a large event in 2010 that wasn’t fun to be in charge of but that you took on because you felt that you should? Or you worried what people might think if you didn’t? Vow not to chair it this next year. Are you the one who curses the universe as you unload the dishwasher ever morning? Ask your spouse if you can trade him for something he’s perhaps tired of doing.

3. Get out your 2011 calendar and write down the word “NOTHING” in one 1-hour slot per week. If possible, do this to one 2-hour slot. Stick to it. Don’t schedule appointments, meetings, laundry or anything else during that time. When that time arrives, ask yourself what YOU want to do during that time and do it. Whether it’s nap, read, knit, stare at the grass, whatever!

4. Practice saying “No.” When you’re asked to do something, take a moment and think about whether or not that activity is a good use of your time. If you need some time to contemplate it, ask for a few hours (or days) to check with your schedule. Saying “No” to things that won’t fill you up spiritually offers the opportunity to say “Yes” to those that will!

5. Be in the present moment. It’s hard to be bogged down by the enormity of your to-do list when you’re living in the present.

6. Be aware of when you say, “I should…” or “I’ve got to…” Nothing terribly self nurturing typically follows those intros, and if you’re saying them a lot it likely means your days are filled with to-dos that you aren’t terribly interested in doing (and that stress you out to think about doing!). If this is the case, refer back to #4.

7. Remember this question: Will it matter in a year? If it won’t, don’t stress over it quite so much. Sometimes, when my to-do list gets so long that I think I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I look at the items on it and think about which ones are most likely to have a long-term effect on my sanity, family, or health. Those are the ones I focus on first and foremost.

8. Speaking of to-do lists, limit yours to 10 items. You simply may not add #11 until one is crossed off. Period. I’ve been doing this for the better part of a year and it works wonders!

9. Take a “no technology” day once a week. For some, Sunday works best, and for others (who enjoy spending Sunday in front of TV with a laptop nearby), Monday or Thursday is a better option. Or change it up each week depending on what that week looks like. On this day, don’t check e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. Even limit your phone calls as much as possible. Use this time to focus on yourself, your family, the laundry, or whatever else you feel like doing that day.

10. Know what it feels like to be “off balance” so that you can do what you need to do to get back in balance before you’re curled up in a ball in the corner sucking your own thumb! Pay attention to the way your body feels when you’re overwhelmed. How does your chest feel? Your head? Your limbs? Mine feel very heavy and weighed down. If you can feel this imbalance coming on, it makes it easier to head it off before it overtakes you. As you get more and more practice doing this, you’ll be more adept at knowing what you need and when to keep yourself in a more balanced state.

Elizabeth Lyons’ is an author and inspirational humorist. Her most recent book is You Cannot Be Serious: and 32 Other Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom. Visit her website at www.ElizabethLyons.com