Visit our special St. Patrick's Day section

Dinnertime just isn’t what it used to be. Come to think of it, with five kids six and under, most meals – in fact, most things! – aren’t what they used to be. My belly and thighs instantly come to mind… along with a messy house, a messier mini-van, snot stained clothes (mine!), mountains of laundry and more strollers than I care to admit. I’ve taken most of these changes (and additions!) in stride but the remarkable overhaul of the meal I so fondly used to anticipate is one of the things I miss the most. Flashback to just five years ago…

As our firstborn sweetly snoozed in his bassinette, we’d enjoy a lovely home-cooked meal with a bottle of wine… it would be salmon with roasted potatoes and asparagus one night and perhaps pork chops with honey mustard sauce the next. Please don’t be misled… I’m not the one who typically prepared these civilized vittles – although, under duress, I’m sure I could. But, more often than not, it was (and still is!) my humble husband, Des, who will cook it… IF I plan it.

That’s really the key – as long as I’ve done the shopping, defrosted the meat, laid out the ingredients and reminded him where we keep the ______ (insert typical daily use item here: olive oil, salt, pepper, flour, butter, you get the idea!), Des will somehow turn it all into a lovely meal. The ambiance, however, has been irrevocably altered. Consider a recent Sunday supper…

We decided to celebrate an early St. Patrick’s Day at home, having learned our lesson the hard way in 2009 when we took the kids – all five kids -- out. It was quite festive for about five minutes until Liam fell off a bar stool and ended up in the ER with ten stitches in his head. It was a defining maternal moment when I had to explain to the ER nurse that my four year old had fallen off a bar stool on St. Patrick’s Day.

In any case, this year was going to be different. We spent the day preparing our feast… the corned beef was boiling away while the Shepherd’s Pie baked in the oven. Irish Soda bread had been made the day before and we had an incredible “pot of gold” cake for dessert. As Van Morrison crooned in the background and the kids bounced around in green hats, Des and I set the table with visions of leprechauns dancing in our heads. Our little leprechauns, to be exact: Liam (6), Ciara (4) and our littlest “Lyons Cubs”, Kevin, Declan and Cormac – identical triplets who are almost two and a half. Look at them, we thought… so cute and so agreeable as we called them to the table. Look at this, we thought, what a lovely spread we’ve created!

And then, as if on cue, it all went to hell in a handbucket. As the candlelight flickered and now the Chieftans picked it up a notch, the kids all kicked it up a notch too. It went something like this “I don’t LIKE corned beef. What is Shepherd’ Pie anyway? How much do I have to eat to get dessert? I have to pee. NOW! I spilled my milk. How many more bites? Liam’s touching me. Ciara’s touching me. I DON’T LIKE CORNED BEEF!!!!!!”

As Des sighed into his Guinness and I ducked to avoid a handful of Shepherd’s Pie that Declan insisted on flinging at me, I once again lamented the loss of dinner as it used to be. The peace, the quiet conversation, the lack of flying food. I wondered for a moment if it might be preferable at some point to be fed to the lions rather than endure another meal in our Lyons Den. But then, as I took in the chaos, I realized that all I needed was to reframe my expectations… when you’ve got five kids and the oldest barely six, you just do what you can to survive. And so it is that dinnertime in our house has now officially been renamed “Feeding Time at the Zoo.”

Visit our special St. Patrick's Day section