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!!


     "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 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... the unexpected ideas.

...the the mess that will come along with it. the uncertainty of whether or not lemonade will actually sell on your dead end street or not. 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 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'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.

Thursday, April 16

Gray Hairs, Sleepless Nights, and Thoughts on Moving Past the Baby Stage

"Hi, my name is Lisa and I gave away my Boppy this week...

If I were an active participant in a live support group for mothers, this is how I would have introduced myself.

"...the pink one with the little purple and white flowers. The one I used to support all three children while I nursed them as infants...just days old. It feels like just yesterday."

"And my changing pad. And a stroller. The first stroller I ever owned. The one my husband painstakingly put together, with the manual by his side, in our first house in Whitinsville, Massachusetts,  months before our daughter was born. The green one with the paisley pattern that matched the pack-n-play that his mom bought for us. It also matched her car seat. The one we brought her home from the hospital in. We spent far too much money on it all. I gave it all away and I want it back. Is that ridiculous?"

Pause. Insert empathetic nods from knowing mommas.

"And clothes. Lots of clothes. I kept some, probably too many, but I've given a ton away. And her high chair. The high chair all three of our children ate all of their first solid food in. The one they whipped potatoes on the floor from. The one I have pictures of them eating their....(insert tears...sniffle...sniffle...wail)...first bite of birthday cake from!!!!"

"I really want to drive back to the crises pregnancy center and re-load it all in my truck. Do you think they would let me have it all back?"

Sympathetic eyes would connect with mine and nod empathetically in reaction to my distress.  

"I'm serious. Do you think they would give it back? I mean, maybe we could build a little baby shrine in our a hall of history to show the girls all of the stuff that formed and shaped the busy days of their first years?"

Oh mommas...

Letting go is hard to do. Isn't it?

Letting go of the baby stuff is hard because it means letting go of the baby days...and years. The ones that have ticked past us at the speed of light. The ones that painstakingly remind us that the child we bought that stroller for is almost as tall as her mother.  The ones that felt so very long, and somehow, like everyone said, wound up being so very short.

The ones we can scarcely believe may be coming to a very real end... yielding their way, of course, to a whole new chapter of homework, friendships, vacations and memories, but wait...wait...I'm not ready yet.

Fortunately, just about the time I find myself reminiscing enough to get me into trouble, we seem to have a night like we had earlier this week.

A night in which our youngest (who will be 2 in less than one month) kept us up for more than three hours wailing and crying simply because she didn't want to sleep. When I finally got her settled down at 5 a.m., the middle and oldest girls woke up telling me that they had had very bad dreams and wanted me to hang out in their room for a while.  Of course I was a little sad for everyone, but I was also too darned tired to be the nurturing type and told everyone they needed to go back to sleep because their father and I were really, really, REALLY tired and desperately NEEDED some stinkin' sleep (Sorry girls, the sympathy for the bad dreams is going to have to wait for a better night!!).

(I did apologize the next morning).

Usually after those nights I can confidently declare that I'm 120% sure that I'm done. Maybe 250% sure. After those night I'm really, really done. Like burnt toast done!

Done being pregnant. Done with the crazy sleep schedules. Done with the food flinging and nursing and tantrumming. Done with the wild messes of stuff that I can't keep up with, or even comprehend half the time. Let's move on to the greener pastures of more sleep (I like to naively believe that there is more sleep in those pastures, but I could be completely mistaken!),  and more rational forms of communication (though I hear the teenage years are a tough bit!), and less crushed cheerio dust in all corners of the house.

But then I walk into the baby's room in the morning and she is smiling at me from over the rail of her bed with a face that says, "Momma!" so big and wide that it competes with the span of the Golden Gate bridge and I melt. It's a face that says, "What's the problem mom? Why do you look so...tired?"

She's far too cute to be mad at, and the affirmative 120% part of me that says I'm done with the baby stage shrinks a little like 96%...

Just enough to nudge that door open a crack and leave me wondering if I made the right decision in giving all of my stuff away, even though I'm pretty sure that I did.

The girls are getting bigger day by day and time is a fast paced race horse that doesn't stop to smell the roses. We have to yank it by the reigns sometimes and force it to stop, just so that we can see more more that we can be in these fastly fading moments more fully.

It's a wild horse of ride, that's for sure, but I'm learning to manage my horse a little bit better these days and it seems to be understanding me.

Aubrey will be 2 very soon, and oh my heavens is she ever acting like it!

She's growing into bigger shoes, literally and figuratively, and learning by leaps and bounds.

Her contagiously happy big blue eyes are enough to stop us in our tracks everyday, and usually enough to make amends for the massive mess she has left in her wake.

Ava will be 8, which always reminds me of my age as a mom...I will be 8 years old as a mom this year, which always offers perspective on how far we've come and how much more we still have to learn--as parents, as a family, as individuals.

And, little miss Ella who turned 6 this year, just read me a story before bed last night...If You Give a Mouse a of our favorites.

"Ella, no one ever reads me bedtime stories. This is such a treat."

She just grins and reads the words as if the whole thing is no big deal, my big little girl who could hardly read a cereal box a year ago.

Scott has more gray hairs, and I'm experimenting with covering mine up. While I would never pay the price, I'm starting to see where a little botox could be appealing.

Our basement and our garage have been bursting at the seams and it was time for a good purge...out with the old, in with the new.

We don't have a need for a high-chair any longer, though after realizing how bittersweet it was to see it go I might have come up with a couple of really good reasons that we coulda, woulda, shoulda, kept it.

But I'm a writer and a reader, so I know that stories are full of chapters. Chapters that must begin, and then end to make way for new chapters. The story must progress, the characters must change and grow. Time, as they say, marches on.

I know that we are writing our family story and that is a beautiful thing.

I just wish it weren't so darned hard to give the Boppy and the high chair away.