Tuesday, December 9

Tis the Season

Tis the season!

For cookie making, late night shopping, tree picking, prepping and decorating, outdoor light hanging, party planning, schedule keeping, kids Christmas concerts and plays,  family visits, card mailing, extra post office visiting, letters and visits to and from Santa, advent readings and candle lightings, caroling, gift wrapping and everything else in between.

Are you ready?

Get set.


Chances are you're probably already running the Christmas race, or so it feels sometimes.

Every year I find myself simultaneously not wanting it to feel like a crazy race, but realizing that there is so much we hope to fit into such a short period of time that how can we possibly expect it to feel any other way?

I also find myself wondering if Christmas is supposed to be a holiday intended to celebrate and remember something profoundly spiritual, how do we end up so busy that we have no time to be reflective, contemplative or prayerful-- the keys to digging deeper spiritually. 

I find myself desiring to be present, and wanting to meditate on Christ's coming-- the real reason for the celebration--but inevitably become distracted by all of the other hoopla.

Good hoopla. Fun hoopla. But hoopla nonetheless.

I feel like Im straddling two different worlds. The Christmas our culture has created and the Christmas that should be a reminder and celebration of Christ's coming to the world. 

So what do we do? How can we try to stay focused, be reflective and not get to the end of the month feeling tired and spiritually drained, but with hearts that are grateful and souls that feel nourished?

I think the answer is to stop. Stop some of the running. Stop some of the shopping. Stop some of the commitments outside of our homes to stay home and sing Christmas carols around the tree (something we wound up doing on a whim last year and that Ava has been asking to do again!).

We must stop running so that we can start being. Being still. Being silent. Being reflective. Just being with one another sometimes.

I'm not saying I'm good at this or that I even get it right all of the time. We have our fair share of kid commitments, church commitments and all sorts of other craziness in-between. But, in the midst of it all I'm trying to be intentional through advent readings (my own and as a family), journaling (I bought a red journal a couple of years ago that I jot thoughts and notes in as we move through the Christmas season), making time to read Nativity stories with the kids and even watch fun movies.

I'm trying again to stay focused in the midst of the business.

I'm trying not to go so fast through it all.

I'm trying to slow my pace and my heart.

I'm trying to not overcommit.

I'm trying to be very intentional about what I want to do with the kids when and where and how.

I'm trying to make much of the little- the little moments making garland at our kitchen table where the needle and thread become unexpectedly sticky and we all  laugh at what a mess it is to try to string popcorn, cranberries and gumdrops.

It looked so easy in the pictures!

I'm trying to make much of our conversations. The ones where we talk about the importance of giving to others.  I'm trying to teach them that sometimes giving a gift is even more fun than receiving one (or at least just as much fun in their young worlds!). I've helped them pick out some gifts for each other and gave them each a box to hide their special treasures in under their beds.

I will try to make much of the cookie making moments to come (as messy as they are sure to be!), and the gift wrapping extravaganzaas. I vow to wrap with a heart of gratitude for the abundant blessings that we have and say thank  you for the ability to buy each of the many gifts for friends and family members.

I'm trying to make much of the little moments that we try to include daily where we light a candle and read a portion of scripture and a reminder of Jesus' coming from one of several Bible storybooks that we have.

I'm trying to make much of the sweet little nativity set we picked up at Hobby Lobby. I wanted one that the girls could set up and that I would not be overly sad about if something got broke . I settled on this one for $29, and then splurged on the barn/stable piece for another $20.

I won't lie and say everything was silent night and joyfully bright as we set that up though!

The girls fought over who would put baby Jesus in the nativity scene until I had to take baby Jesus away.

"Mommy is putting baby Jesus in the nativity scene!" I  said sternly not knowing how else to end the argument as I tightly held onto baby Jesus lest a fight of epic proportions ensued.

(Yes, this is how Christmas goes in a real, kids-included, non-Pinterest picture, home)

But...when they're not fighting over the pieces, or who will get to lay the straw down ("Girls! There is enough  straw for everyone to put some in the manger! I swear!") I hope they take an extra moment to stare at the angel, and the baby in the manger and Mary's head bowed low in prayer. I hope that image is the one that remains in their minds and in their hearts for a long time to come.
I hope it reminds them, eventually, to take a moment to bow their own heads and thank Jesus for coming and for loving them.

We're trying to make much more of Jesus in our house than the guy in the big red suit-- the world makes enough noise about him that he is sure not to ever get lost in the celebrations.

But Jesus...I fear Jesus gets lost in the noise sometimes and that makes this momma sad. So we read lots of stories about the stable, and I try to be intentional about many of my decorations.

The girls still think Santa is real. Or so I think they do. And we even have a roaming Elf on the Shelf that was gifted to us several years ago. Yes, the girls think she flies back to Santa every night to report on life in the Littlewood household.  We leave cookies out and a couple of their presents will say "From  Santa".

Sometimes I feel a little conflicted about it all, but we're trying to have some fun with them while keeping the focus on the real reason for celebration. I never believed in Santa as a kid and while I understand where my parents where coming from I do think there is some innocent fun to be had with the whole thing. I was the one going up to the 5 and 6 year old kids telling them boldly, "Santa isn't real you idiot! Your parents bring all of the presents!"

Um, yeah. That was super, duper Christian of me wasn't it?!!

Sorry if you were one of those kids ): I wish I could take that back!

All that to say...I'm trying, in this busy season of parenting, in a culture that is always on the move, to find ways to be slower and more present. This morning while Aubrey is in play school for two hours I felt a restlessness and an urge to go run, run, run. There is wrapping paper to buy and dinner to make, and really good sales to hit up!

But instead I've grabbed my computer, my Bible, a great book on parenting, my journal and I'm sitting. Quietly. In the church foyer where I dropped Aubrey off. The only thing I can hear is the sound of the ventilation system and the lack of distraction feels very good for my soul.

I'm saying a prayer of thanks for the moment and asking God to help me be intentional as I move through the rest of the day and all that it holds (which is quite a lot!). I've prayed that these words would find their ways to the right hearts and that they would somehow be an encouragement to you. I'm praying that you and I would both have a fun and celebratory Christmas that is strengthened by some quiet moments and purposeful prayer. 

I hope to get around to blogging at least one more time before Christmas, but I'm not making any promises (;  I might be too busy singing Christmas carols with my kids or sitting in a quiet corner somewhere!

Monday, November 24

When Parenting Doesn't Go Exactly As Planned

Joining my friend Amelia over on her blog this week for a super cool project that she has been working on called Pray A-Z. Read more about the project and download the free A-Z prayer cards over on her site. Let's join her in praying for people in our communities in very specific ways.  

You can read the beginning of my honest post on parenting here...and then head on over to her site to read the rest (; 
Pray A to Z

A few nights ago, my husband and I stood in the kitchen tired and a feeling a little bit wrung out. It was 9:45 p.m., and we were still cleaning dishes and picking up toys. All we wanted to do was crash on the couch and read a book or watch a few minutes of television, but there would be no time for that. It had been a busy day in the way that days are busy with young children (you can have absolutely nothing planned and still feel like you ran a marathon by bedtime!).
“I never pictured it to be like this,” my husband said.
“I know babe, I’m tired too. It’s never-ending. It’s really hard. It’s a season. We’ll get through it,” was my response.
He knew that. I knew that. But we’ve hit a rough patch recently, a string of days and weeks that simply leave you tired and discouraged.
I had been pretty emotional earlier in the day because I was feeling disheartened by the sheer magnitude of it all and we ended up in a tense discussion about why, even after 18 months of being parents to three children, I was still feeling utterly overwhelmed almost every day.
While the answer to that question may be a whole other story all together, I share this moment with you because it is a picture of parenthood that is often not included in those books you read during pregnancy. It is the part of parenthood that you don’t expect—the relentless flurry of demands on your time, energy, and resources and how it can, in all of its normalcy, become hard and overwhelming at times.
If parenting (an experience begun with that first set of tiny blue lines) has taught me one thing it is that I need Jesus way more than I ever knew (and trust me, I knew I needed him deeply before becoming a mom!). I’ve come to the conclusion that parenting is actually an integral part of the cosmic plan for our own spiritual transformation and reconciliation.

Monday, November 17

Sleepless Nights and Thankfulness (But Not Always At the Same Time!)

I have written six blog posts in the last several weeks and have not posted one of them.

That's right...I've sat, and thought and spent upwards of six plus hours writing a combined total of more than 5,000 words and have not posted a single one of them on my blog. 

I just perused them all in my blog post manager tool in hopes that one of them might be fodder for  nice snowy November day like today.

Not so much.

Every time I read through one of them I think...Ugh...too dreary, too boring, too blah, blah, blah...

Maybe this is what they call writers block. Or maybe I'm not wanting to be completely transparent about all of the things that are making parenting life feel a little bit crazy right now.

The lack of sleep hasn't helped.

Did I mention I'm tired?

We've had coughs, and teething and bad dreams and runny noses. When one things seems to resolve itself the entire rotation starts all over agin. All night. For weeks on end.

I once heard a friend of a friend say that after they had their third child sleeping at night started to feel like a game of Whack A Mole (that silly arcade game where you use a mallet to keep bopping the mole heads back down into their little circle!).  I know it's a bit of an aggressive comparison, but hey...if the shoe fits...and oh it does...use the comparison!

It does feel a  little bit like a Whack A Mole game, if I'm honest. You hear one child cry, get up, settle them down (or give them cough medicine or assure them there will be no more bad dreams or that there are no monsters in the house) and just about the time you settle back into your bed and begin to doze off...POP! Someone else starts to cry.

You spend 15 minutes settling that little one down, tuck yourself back into bed under the heavy warmth of your down comforter with your even heavier eyelids closing quickly and then...POP!

You get the picture.

 I wish I were joking about how our nighttimes are going lately, but I'm not. At all.

Therefore, when I sit down to write a blog post these days this is what comes out...I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. What are we having for dinner tonight? Shoot, that permission slip needs to be sent in and book orders are due tomorrow. I'm tired. I'm tired. No one has socks in their drawers. I guess that's better than no underwear. I'm tired.

I wish I were exaggerating...even a wee little bit.

So anyways, instead of lamenting the fact that I have writers blocks and am tired and that it's all building up into large amounts of  un-inspiration in regards to my blogging efforts I figured I'd at last share the titles of those six un posted, half drafted, tired sounding blog posts. After reading the titles myself I realized they will give you a enough insight into life lately without bogging you down with all of the daily details...

So, without further adieu...here are my unposted posts summarized by their titles:
1. It's Been Another Crazy Week in the Littlewood Household 
2. Wanting to Get It Right- The Mommy Thing 
3. Motherhood: The School of Hard Knocks 
4. Helping Your Hope to Fly 
5. Survival Mode Isn't for the Faint of Heart 
6. Working on my Long-Term view 
There you have it. My life in a nutshell of titles.

In other news...the more upbeat kind...I do love thanksgiving and the added opportunity to talk to the girls about being thankful and grateful for the many things that we have. We created our annual "Thanksgiving Tree" on Saturday. I almost purchased a pre-made one from Pottery Barn with some coupons I had, but then realized I love the community effort of making our own.

Plus, as we write our notes of thanks onto leaves and post them on the tree you wind up seeing all of the notes and are able to re-read them throughout the month- unlike some of the pre-made trees I've seen where you stick them inside a pocket and then don't have the benefit of seeing your collective wall of thanks.

Here is a photo of our handmade tree hanging next to the kitchen table on the sliding glass door...

And the girls first "thankfulness" leaves...

Yes, my sweet little Ava wrote down that she was thankful that Jesus had died on the cross...Yes, my dear, me too. And so thankful that that is one of the first things she would think to write down (; 

Blessings to you all from one tired, but thankful momma.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Here's to hoping my blogging inspiration returns with some much needed sleep in the weeks to come (;

Saturday, October 25

The Best Laid Plans of Moms with Kids

Friday night the girls were invited to a two hour birthday party at a local bounce house facility.

This meant two things:

1) They would have an opportunity to run, jump, eat cake and pizza, and then shake their sillies out  before settling down for the evening after a long week at school.

2) I would have an opportunity to run some desperately overdue errands, helping me to shake some of the momma sillies out of my head, which is what happens when too many overdue errands start to pile up in my mind (and in the back of my car!).

The party was for the daughter of a family who we know from church and really love and the mom had sent me a text saying, 'Feel free to stay or head out for a bit'.

A note like that is like a free hall pass that sends all sorts of images of sugarplums and freedom dancing through my head. What book could I read? What errands could be done? Where's my journal, the one with the dusty cover? Shall I sit quietly and write some scattered thoughts?

Oh, the opportunities were endless!

While I temporarily labored over whether to stay or leave, (because that's what we moms do-- spend all of our time on the lookout for a moment to take a deep breath or get a few things done and then when the moment presents itself we feel guilty about it) Ava asked if I was staying (Bah!).

I struck a deal with her since, by this time, I had concocted a plan to run some errands.

Hey babe- how about I'll go in with you girls, make sure you're settled and have someone to play with, stay about half an hour and then run out to the store for an hour.  I'll be back for the end of the party. 

For emphasis I added that I needed to run to Wal-Mart for Halloween candy and to look for the white hairspray she was hoping we could find before Friday so that she can spray her hair to match her Elsa costume.

A deal was struck.

Ok Mom. But only because you're going to get candy and hairspray. 

After school we had some snacks, signed the birthday card, wrapped the present, made sure we had our socks on (no bare feet!) and ponytails in (it gets hot in those places!).

Mom had the bag with Dad's too small shirt and my too small sweater to return to Marshalls, the chipped desk organizer to return to TJ Maxx, my coupon for JC Pennies where I needed to pick up a couple of fleece blankets (long story), and the list of things that I needed from Wal-Mart, which mostly consisted of candy and hairspray.

I also threw a book in my purse (because an hour feels like an exponential amount of time in mommy world and I envisioned myself getting all of that done, eating a quick and quiet dinner AND having time to read a page or two in my book!) and we were out the door, feeling completely prepared and ready to go.

I felt completely organized, on top of things and excited about the plan.

We arrived at the party, the girls settled in and connected with some friends and started to bounce away until they could have cared less if I was there or not. I said my goodbyes, checked in with the other mom to make sure it was still ok that I snuck out, and pranced along on my merry way ready to execute my plan.

Oh, the plan.

 I should SO know better by now.

As I drove out of the parking lot a very clear thought presented itself to me, "Your wallet is in the diaper bag that you took to the playdate with Aubrey earlier today. The diaper bag is hanging on a kitchen chair. At home."


I stopped on the side of the road and started fishing through my purse hoping I had been smarter than that.

Nope. Hadn't been smarter than that.

I had all of my returns, receipts, coupons and shopping lists but no wallet.

I sent my husband a text...

                  I left my wallet at home. 

He responded....

                  I feel so sad for you right now. Do you need a hug?

                  Yes. ): 

I did manage to find a very crumpled five dollar bill at the bottom of the purse that I did have. That and my library card and an old used Starbucks card. Neither of which was very helpful at the moment.

I drove to Arby's (the closest fast food restaurant) hoping to find something on their menu for $5 or less since I hadn't eaten dinner and purchased one of the most disgusting salads I had had in a l-o-n-g time.

I took the salad, drove to a parking lot across the street from the bounce house place, and figured since I had the time and had at least packed a book in my purse that I'd eat and read for 20 minutes and then go back into the party.

I turned off the car, but left the keys in the ignition and read a few pages of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (a very interesting and convicting read, I might add), while finishing my gross Arby's salad.

I must have turned the car to the almost off position, and my husband forgot to tell me that the battery in the car was almost dead. So, when I went to turn the keys to start the car to head back to the party...


I laughed out loud. The entire last hour had been so comical that there was nothing left to do but laugh.

I called Scott who was going to strap the baby into one of the girls big car seats and come to my rescue, but fortunately one of the dads at the party had jumper cables and I learned how to jump our truck (Score! I might need the information at some point in the future, right!).

I finally ran back into the party telling the girls that the car was outside and still running and that we better go before (with my luck) someone got in and drove it away!

My sweet friend Sarah (who was throwing the party) told me that maybe I should stop blogging because it is as if all of this ridiculousness keeps presenting itself on purpose as material for my blog posts.

I swear sometimes I wonder if she's right.

But, I probably won't stop blogging because what fun would that be? Foiled plans keep me on my toes and keep reminding me that motherhood is about adjusting, and readjusting and readjusting again.

We continually recalibrate our lives to love more, serve more and stretch ourselves in places we didn't even know we needed stretching...

It's as if God keeps dropping life lessons my way...

Need more patience? How about some lost library books, extra whining,  a burnt dinner and kids who have no desire to go to bed?

More stamina? A very busy day followed by a night with a teething toddler.

More grace? Spilled milk, crushed crackers and an gymnastics leotard that always seems to be MIA 15 minutes before we leave the house.

More flexibility? A night with plans to run errands foiled by a forgotten wallet and a dead car battery.

At the end of the day I realize these are such small problems given the scary state of affairs all over the world.   We are blessed beyond measure and have much to be grateful for.  I also know that  God is growing me into someone stronger, better and more able to cope with a greater capacity to live the life He intends me to live.  One day and one lesson at a time. 

So, in the meantime I will quote Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men aft (often) go awry" only I think it needs a slight alteration to suit this season of life...

The best laid plans of moms with kids always go awry!

That's the motto I'm learning to live by (: