Thursday, August 27

Crazy, Hazy, Summer Daze-y: What I've Been Doing While I Haven't Been Writing

Well, it's officially been more than two months since my last blog post! Holy summer moly!

That would be my longest unintentional blogging break EVER!

For those of you who are moms who have been home with kids all summer,  you know how this goes.
I know you know, because many of you have told me about all of the things that you really wanted to do this summer; house projects, organization projects, home school planning projects, coffee dates with friends, BBQ's with neighbors...

Yet, somehow, despite very good intentions, you haven't gotten around to any of them!

 I haven't gotten around to many of those things...OR, to writing blog posts!

In all of my good intentions I picked up a book on how to enjoy summer vacation "with kids at home" and read it before school ended in June: It offered suggestions for weekly themes and ideas for structuring your days.  It even offered encouraging Bible verses and prayers that focused on being intentional and graceful and in the moment with your kids.

I really enjoyed that little book...and intended to pray those prayers...

I had a bug week, music week, and an animal week all planned out. We were going to be very casual about it all...seriously. I didn't have lesson plans written, or anything like that. We were going to go to the library and get books on the topic, maybe do a super easy craft, play an easy game, and if time allowed take a casual trip to somewhere like the zoo or a music store.

Mostly, I was searching for some sort of structure to help guide what can feel like very hazy and unstructured days.

We actually did make it to "bug week" ( of all things!). We took some books out of the library that made us all cringe (remember, we're all girls...and not the rough and tumble "I like bugs" kind), I taunted the girls with pictures of centipedes while they chase me around with pictures of spiders (gross!). We made little notebooks, decorated them with bug stickers and went outside on a bug hunt...kicking over rocks, inspecting leaves, digging holes in the ground...we didn't find much, mostly a bunch of ants and potato bugs, but it was fun. We took some notes in our notebooks. We marveled at how many ants hang out in one place.

And that was that...

The rest of the "themes" and structured intentions got lost in the whirlwind of playdates, swim dates, overnights at grandparents houses (including almost a week in Ohio with grandma, aka 'Nanner', for the big girls!), trips that we took as a family, lots of out of town visitors who stopped by on their own trips or to visit family in Buffalo, swim lessons, gymnastics practices and lots of late nights eating ice cream, or staying at places later than we normally would. You know, the normal stuff.

There are many days where we started out with a plan "A", but ended up on plan "Q".

Days that I intended to do A,B and C (ahem, laundry, dishes and more laundry) and wound up doing L, X and P (bike rides, swimming at someone's house, and managing the revolving door of my kids, the neighbor kids, and everyone else in-between).

There have been days when I logged onto Amazon ready to order a legitimate whistle and referree uniform so that I could start whistling loudly in my chidlren's ears to stop fighting, or make their bed (after asking 17 times), or to not leave their underwear or wet bathing suits in the middle of the stinkin' kitchen or bathroom floors!!! For the 1,700 time!

There have been prayers too...but mostly they have sounded like this, "Dear God, please, please, PUL-EAZE give me the patience to make it through the day and help my children to realize that they are sinning when they are being THAT mean to each other and help them to have better attitudes towards each other and towards me and towards life in general."

"Oh yeah, and please help me to have a better attitude too." (;

Haha.

I really did pray...about my summer, and about the kids. Yes, some of the prayers did sound like those above, but I did also pray for other things-- for the world around us, for direction in life, for wisdom in how to shape my girls' hearts towards each other and towards others. For my marriage, for my emotions (thats a BIG prayer sometimes!), and mostly that God would give me the wisdom to get this "parenting" thing as right as humanly possible...and that it might even be better than humanly possibly, if I continually invite Him into it.

I have mixed feelings about "back to school"...

Sure, there are the days when I'm ready to ship everyone off to boarding school for a couple of weeks, but then I would want them all back.  They're too funny, and charming and open my eyes to all sorts of things that I forget to notice when the responsibilities of being an adult make me forget to find ways to enjoy life.

I tell everyone who asks if I'm ready for school to start that I'm really not...I could be ready to send them back for a week or two, just to get the house back to "normal", but then I'd love to have the kids back home...for another 3 or 4 weeks anyways.

The picnics in the park, the lazy mornings in our pjs, the little weekend trips here and there and the fact that I don't have to pack lunches every night is enough to make me want to live in summer for a little while longer...

How about you?

By this time last year I was completely, totally and utterly done. So if that's where you are, I get that too!! I could feel that way again next summer...each season comes with it's own ups and downs and feelings of tension or chaos, exhaustion and joy.

And, someday I will be a more consistent blogger and writer.  I will. I will. I WILL. I swear.

But, for now, I have a few more picnics to attend...

In the meantime here are a few photos of what summer has looked like for us...

Lots of trips to the park and monkey bar swinging 

4th of July Parade


Akron Falls hike where the girls and their cousins decided it would be more fun to be IN the water than walk alongside the water! 


Lots of bike rides with this kid who LOVES her rain boots and her sunglasses.

A trip to Lake Chautauqua where some amazingly generous friends let us crash at their house AND use their boat for a few days! 

Dinner in Chautauqua (we're working on getting everyone's eyes open at the same time for photos!)

A trip to Panama Rocks near Chautauqua Lake. What a cool place!


Panama Rocks. 

Panama Rocks...this is a terrible picture, but it was so cool to be able to squeeze between these crevices that I had to include it!

Lots of picnic table lunches at parks and other places. 

My very favorite summer picture....there is actually a rather long story behind this, but it is Ava and one of her friends who moved out of state this summer. We went for ice cream shortly before they left...There is so much more I could say, but basically the picture reminds me of simple, innocent, summer friendships when life is easy and hugs are good (: 



I hope you enjoy every moment of the rest of your summer!!




Monday, June 15

Let Them Sell Their Lemonade!



"Mom, mom, mom!! We're going to go outside and set up a lemonade stand!"  Ava proclaimed, as she and Madison, the neighbor girl, stood in the kitchen staring at me and waiting for a response.

     "Uh..." my mouth dropped and no words came out as I processed the newly formed and unexpected plan for the afternoon.

    I was carefully and quickly attempting to edit the freight train of "No!" thoughts going through my mind.

     We live on a dead end street! I don't have a table to put outside. I don't even think we have lemonade in the house. Mommy doesn't have a plan for this. And if you don't have a plan...well...then...You can't just open a lemonade stand on a random Saturday afternoon on a whim. You just can't. 

     Oh, but you can....

     Despite my wanting to say, "No", something in my spirit knew better than to do so. Better than to squash their innocent idea when I really had no legitimate grounds for snuffing it out.

     "I have a sign and my mom has lemonade," Madison chimed in, perhaps interpreting some of the hesitation in my lack of response.

     "But girls," (I'm embarrassed to admit that I even said this, I should have been their cheerleader, but quite frankly didn't have the energy to engage in a lemonade stand at the moment), "We live on a dead end street. No one even comes down here!"

     "Oh well, we'll see!" They said, "See you later!"

     I let them run outside with their bundle of enthusiasm. They bounded next door, where they gathered supplies and 'set up shop'.

     Kudos to Julia (Madison's mom), who jumped in with a more cooperative spirit than her naysaying neighbor (though, she did later admit that she was a wee bit skeptical as well). She found Madison's sign, pulled out a green plastic tupperware bucket to use as a table, and made a pitcher of lemonade, which the girls decided they were going to sell for...brace yourselves... $1 per cup!!

     Bahahahahaha!

     "Girls!" I said (not learning to keep my mouth shut yet!), "$1 a cup? That's quite steep isn't it?!"

     "We don't have any change...and...they're big cups," Madison confidently explained.

      I handed them their first $1 and a pouch to keep their money in.

       Then...well, I said nothing more. I helped them situate their chairs and the sign and bid them good luck as I went back into the house to finish cleaning the kitchen, and feign innocence when they started haggling the neighbors for $1 per plastic cup of lemonade.

     I called my sister...

     "Katie! Ava's outside with the neighbor jumping up and down with a lemonade sign and listening to crazy music. They're trying to sell lemonade for $1!"

     I know, I know...I'm such a mom...

     "Lisa, let it go. Let them be kids," my sister wisely told me.

      I let it go. I let them be kids. They sold their lemonade for two hours and you want to know what?!

     They made twenty eight stinkin' dollars.

     Yes, you read that right...$28!

     The mailman gave them  $5, every car that wound up turning around at the end of our dead end street bought a cup of lemonade, and several of the neighbors supported their efforts as well.

     They earned some money and mommy earned a lesson for the day.

      I learned that there are times when my big person thinking can limit my little people's ideas. 

     Times when my "responsible", structured, adult perspective stands starkly in the way of my little people's enthusiasm and creativity.

     Times when I  just need to keep my mouth closed and let my kiddos run with their idea.  To let them see where it will lead. To let them realize their own successes, failures and everything else that they will experience in-between.

      Funny thing is that I am the first one to claim that I want them to follow their dreams, and passions and good ideas. I want them to put effort behind their inspirations. I want them to try. And try. And try.

      Trying is how we learn to live. Trying...sometimes with a structured plan, and sometimes without...is how we learn to run, walk, leap and fly.

     On one hand I say I want them to try...

     On the other hand I'm saying...

     Anything except setting up a lemonade stand. Or, painting messily at the kitchen table. Or, pulling all of the cushions off the couch to make a fort. Or, pulling all of the play dough out...again. Or...Or...Or...Y

       You can try as long as it is neat and orderly...and NOT MESSY!  is what I can tend to communicate sometimes.  
    
     We all have our list. Our list that reflects our limits of what we feel like we can handle on a given day or what we have the energy for.

     But what if? 

    What if,  with the summer months just about here, and many of us at home more often with our kids, we lift the limits. 

    What if we just say yes...

...to the unexpected ideas.

...the the mess that will come along with it.

...to the uncertainty of whether or not lemonade will actually sell on your dead end street or not.

...Yes...to the ideas that may be unruly, and unstructured and messy, but aren't really hurting anyone...



Except, some small part of our kids spirits when we, in our big people thinking, end up saying "No." 


      Hey there momma...I know how you feel...I know it might even make you cringe a little bit inside, but listen...


Let them sell their lemonade!!!





Friday, May 15

Lost Ice Cube Trays and Other Musings from the Mommy Trenches







I've lost my ice cube trays.

Both of them.

The super awesome ones that came in the freezer, that came with the house, when we bought it six years ago. They made 40 little ice cubes per tray, rather than the traditional 12 or so large ones. I didn't even know I preferred little ice cubes to big ones until I came upon those trays in the freezer when we moved in.

I loved those ice cube trays.

I know. I know. Most people lose their marbles. I lose my ice cube trays.

Or maybe the loss of my marbles preceded the ice cube trays...

But that might be another story entirely.

I have no idea where they could have gone! It's kind of how everything feels around here lately. One big, shifting house full of lots of stuff blown by the daily winds of young family life to unexpected places.

 My hunch is that I took them out of the freezer to make ice cubes...like a week ago...put them in a basket somewhere while I was saving Aubrey from jumping off of a counter (or some other similar shenanigan), got distracted by the girls coming home from school and all that that entailed, completely forgot about the trays, which were buried beneath old clothes, or jackets that got relegated to the basement during the switch of seasons, and several days later when I realized I wanted an ice cube again...well, they were gone!

That's about how things proceed in these parts.

Alright, so to make things even funnier. I've lost my ice cube trays AND found poop on my window seat this afternoon....

(I'm feeling a little punchy today. Sorry, you should stop reading this post if it is too much ridiculousness for you...)

So, yes. You read that right...Poop. On. The. Window. Seat.

At least I can explain that one (the ice cube trays are a total mystery!)...

I walked outside for 90 seconds earlier today while Aubrey was sitting nicely on Scott's lap finishing her lunch. All pretty, with a pink and purple bow in her hair. Beautiful. Sweet. Cherubic. Our cute little girl sitting nicely on Dad's lap. It was picturesque, really.

And then...

I walked out the door to grab my computer bag from the car thinking how adorable she was. When I walked back in, seconds later, Scott was carrying Aubrey who had undiapered herself, under his arms to the bathroom.

All I heard was a disgruntled..."Lisa..."

Good gracious, what happened now?

Aubrey is every bit of two that people who talk about two-year olds talk about. Desiring to be independent. Exhibiting her will. Undiapering herself on whims...just because she knows how to.

 So when I hear a screamed "NO!!!" from someone else in the house, or a frustrated holler for "MOOOOMMMM!!!" from one of the girls, or a disgruntled, "Lis..." meaning "I have to get back to work and wasn't anticipating a poop show before I went..."

...I never  really know what I'm getting myself into.

I won't go into detail because writing about poop is one thing, but going into detail about it is another thing that not even I can bear to put typed words too...

But Scott NEEDED to carry her to the bathroom and implored me to look at the window seat.

Ah yes.

I laughed.

I rolled my eyes.

I got paper towels.

Fortunately, it was just one small piece...The rest was well, with her.

And that is pretty much how life is going over here these days. One never knows what to expect at any given moment. It feels a little bit like a poop show sometimes, for lack of a better description (;

I must confess, I had lost my parenting sense of humor for a while. It used to be, years ago, when I started recording my adventures in motherhood on this blog, that in the midst of the chaos I had the ability to laugh at it all. Myself. The kids. The craziness.

I'd write posts about taking the kids to the bathroom in the grocery store, Ella stomping on frogs, and me losing my mind at a playground...

Just because...laughing about it all helped me to see it for what it really was.

...and then I stopped writing about those mundane silly moments. In part because they ceased feeling funny for a while and I was a little grumpy. And tired. And grumpy. And tired...Also, in part because life has gotten so busy with three kids that there hasn't been much time.


But, this afternoon, while I should be folding laundry...I grabbed my computer and decided to sit in a chair, with my feet propped up on a plastic school bus, with a cup of coffee at my side. The laundry is staring me in the face, as are the screens that were intended to be placed into the windows days ago, and I'm doing what I used to do during nap time...oh, sweet, quiet nap time. I'm writing a ridiculous post about poop and lost ice cube trays because someday I want to look back at all of this and howl with laughter.

I want to laugh right now too.

Things have gotten too serious around here. Scott and I were talking about that this morning. About how it feels like all we do is clean up, and harp on the girls to clean up, and bark about unmade beds, and unhung coats, and the clothes everyone throws in the middle of their floors instead of properly putting away...ahem.

So today we will laugh. About lost ice cube trays. And poop on the window seat. And how on many days of raising young children the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.

I am liberating myself from the laundry for these few minutes and enjoying every bit of it.

Because life is too short to fold laundry every day. And what good is a lost ice cube tray and a good poop story if you can't laugh about it?

If you can't let others laugh with you.

 I hope you had a good chuckle at our expense. I hope that you are finding things to laugh about in the middle of your chaos. And, I hope that you can let the laundry stare you in the face for a few minutes some afternoon, or late evening and say, "Not right now you ever present pile! I have funny stories to jot down!" or at least a cup of coffee to drink.

And I hope you re-discover some laughter in the middle of it all.







Tuesday, April 28

Blessed to Be Home...Sometimes I Just Need a Reminder

I waved to my neighbor from our driveway as I loaded Aubrey into her green plastic wagon. The neighbor's belly loomed round and ready in front of her. She was 39 weeks pregnant and ready to be done with the pregnancy, ready to introduce their sweet little girl to her brother, the one who was so handsomely sitting in their own wagon waiting for a ride.

We talked about the weather. I mean obviously, after the winter we just had, one always talks about the weather when they live in Buffalo.

We talked about our birth stories.

We talked about our ob/gyn (we see the same doctor), where to buy girl clothes, and how much fun that whole thing is.

We talked about her maternity leave, which had just started the day before.

She was relieved to not have to manage business phone calls that day, to not have to report somewhere at a designated time, to not have to put on the professional face, or the professional clothes. She was relieved to just have the time to walk her pregnant self down the street, pulling a wagon behind her with her almost two year old son in tow.

She was thrilled to be able to do things I do on many days. Things I can tend to take for granted after being home with my kids for so long.

"You're so lucky to be able to stay home with your girls," she said sweetly and sincerely.

I laughed. Out loud. Not a sarcastic or condescending laugh. More of a chuckle at the timing of her comment. A comment coming just hours after  I had been contemplating how much I missed the professional world, and a more structured sense of "work".

I wasn't sure what to say. A series of mental photographs flashed through my mind...

The one where I try to unload the dishwasher as Aubrey pulls every single piece of silverware out of the kitchen drawer and dumps it on the counter. I just want to finish one task. Just one, I think, as I clean it all up.

The one where I try to fill a sippy cup with juice and discover her with her tongue on the garbage can, her hands inside, pulling things out and distributing them like treasures onto the kitchen floor.

The one where I attempt to throw something in the crockpot, early in the day,  eagerly desiring to feel on top of something, while Aubrey manages to get the top off of the hamster cage and dump the sunflower mix all over the floor. In one, swift, fell swoop.

The one where I try to load groceries into the car and Aubrey throws a fit about being strapped into her car seat. I have to pull out some WWF moves to wrestle her into her seat while she screams and kicks her feet, making me feel like an incredibly inept mother.

The one of myself, crying over a container of blueberries that I spilled on the floor. I'm crying because I don't have the energy to pick up ONE MORE MESS...even if it is my own.

(Yes, it's been said, 'don't cry over spilled milk', but I'd like to venture a thought that it is justified to cry over spilled blueberries at 9:30 p.m. when you're finally getting around to putting them away.)

The one where I am still cleaning up the house at 10:00 p.m. because it looks like the aftermath of a frat party and I beat myself up wondering whether my children really just are this messy or my house management skills really are just that bad?!

Oh, stay at home motherhood...

I love you. I can't keep up with you. You are so very different than what I expected you to be.

I realize as I write these moments down that they, in and of themselves, seem ordinary, mundane and not that big of a deal. The challenge for me, as a stay at home mom, is that the domestics are my reality around the clock. Sometimes I feel like I could handle the blueberries if they hadn't been the 87th item that had spilled and needed to be picked up in just that day alone!

I'll be honest, there have been days when I've  thought (maybe naively) about sitting at a desk, with a task-list by my side, where I can tick things off without someone pulling my computer off of the counter, spilling my smoothie on my lap,  or screaming in my ear while I try to make a doctor's appointment.

I realize my "images" of what it looks like to 'get to go to work' are likely just as accurate as some of the ideas working moms have of what I do at home all day. The truth is that both realities have their own challenges, frustrations, and moments of satisfaction. Unless you are actually living the day-to-day of either one it's easy to dream that the other option looks way better at any given moment.

But this isn't a post about comparing one to another...it's merely a reflection of my thoughts and mostly a reminder to myself to be thankful for where I am at this stage of life.

After being home, mostly full-time, with my kids for the last eight years, I probably would enjoy and appreciate many aspects of showing up at a more structured, out of the house job...for a little while anyways.

And my neighbor, after juggling the working life with daycare drop offs and pick-ups, and all of the other challenges of balancing both, probably would enjoy the flexibility that comes with staying at home...for a little while...maybe a long while...I don't know.

She most definitely would enjoy being able to stay in her yoga pants until noon if she so chooses (;

And it is a treat to take your kids on a walk on any given day... to watch the world through their eyes, and share a juice box in the front yard without the pressure of needing to be somewhere.

Just the other day, as I was walking with Aubrey down the street and listening to her compose sentences about the world she was seeing around her; the birds, the trees, the street, the clouds...everything is new and wondrous to her...I looked back at her and thought, "There is no place I'd rather be."

In that moment that was the absolute truth. Suddenly all of my  discouragement that I was somehow missing out on something bigger and better because I'm not working "professionally" dissipated... for the time being anyway.

She and I moved on to collecting small pebbles at the end of the street. As we dug them out of the grit and dirt with our fingers we would hold our prized findings up for the other to see..."Look, Aubrey, look at the rock mommy found."

"Look momma! Look! Rock!" she would respond, proudly displaying her own.

Somehow those small rocks were all we needed to feel content that afternoon. We gathered them up into a pile and put them in a tall white container that had previously held cereal puffs. We put that container on the counter so that she could show her sisters what she had found and I stared at that container while she napped, grateful for the chance to collect rocks with my little girl earlier in the day.

The truth is that staying at home with your kids can feel tedious sometimes. The house gets trashed, you can feel like you never, ever,  ever leave the kitchen, and trying to do anything while simultaneously entertaining a toddler (or two, or three) is a venture in multi-tasking that takes the most extreme forms of patience (of which I am still attempting to develop).

But despite the fact that being a stay at home mom doesn't always feel like my natural inclination (some days I'd rather be "working" in the more professional sense), it is what I feel called to during this season of my life. While I feel ill equipped for the job on many days, and can even tend to take it for granted, God is teaching me things about myself-- namely who I am in His eyes-- one quiet rock collecting day at a time.

Sometimes I just need a reminder.