Wednesday, December 22

The Dazzled, Frazzled Christmas Mom, Part 2

Alright, alright, so I guess you want to hear my second frazzled Christmas story...you all know I offer up my deepest, messiest  mothering secrets to make you feel better about your own lives, right?

It's always kind of funny and slightly startling when someone comes up to me at church, or in a store, or at the mall and says, "OMG I can't believe you sent your child to church without underwear OR cleaned them in a park sink OR took your entirely crappy day out on your husband to make you a crappy wife AND mother! OR dropped their Wendy's cheeseburger on the ground and then fed it too them.  THAT was hilarious!"

I always pause for a moment and think, "OMG. How do they know that about me?" 

pause. pause.

"OHHHH. That's right! I share my deepest, darkest, most failed parenting moments on the world wide internet for ALL of the world to read." 

HaHaHa. I'm laughing too. I swear.

That's fine. You can all thank me later.

So, without further adieu, here is my second most frazzled Christmas season moment in the last couple of weeks.

It starts with a picture...the picture tells the story, truly...see if you can guess what is coming when you take a look at this?


Now, I bet you're all wondering if this story has to do with the fact that my wallet is suspiciously sitting in a red shopping cart or the if it has to do with the purple gunk all over the front. 

Well, mostly the shopping cart...but it's kind of about both. See, this wallet is emblematic of my life these days; messy AND disorganized. 

Here's the story...

Yesterday morning, I dropped my girls off at a local church for playschool. I typically like to use the time to get some reading and writing done, but given the length of my to do list this week that felt a little too self-indulgent so I decided to run some errands. 

The morning was going quite well. I stopped into a local liquor store to pick up some last minute bottles of wine and had a lovely conversation with a man who appeared to be the owner of the store about Massachusetts (where he had grown up and I had lived) and the Christian school I used to work at. He told me he LOVED those people at that Christian school and that they always had the prettiest cheerleaders. Totally random, but kind of funny nonetheless. I left hoping that my cheeriness and the reminder of the pretty cheerleaders from the CHRISTIAN school left some sort of positive imprint on his memory...who knows maybe it will remind him to go to church this weekend if he wasn't planning on it already! 

Off I went to Rite Aid and then to Target. 

The sun was shining for the first time in DAYS...maybe weeks...and I was footloose and kid free! 

I bumped into an old high-school friend at Target who actually said she had somehow stumbled upon my blog and enjoyed reading it-- always a LOVELY thing to hear...and a bit of unexpected encouragement. We'll all take that, right?

I scored some super cool stuff for the girls in the $1 section. Found the rest of what I needed, checked out, packed my stuff in the car and drove over to Marshall's to finish my Christmas shopping. 

I was feeling like a pretty on top of it momma at this point. 

I pulled into the Marshall's parking lot and found a great spot right up front. I went to grab my wallet and phone off of the passenger seat, when all of a sudden my eyes got wide and I had an "Oh NO!" moment...

No wallet. Lisa! Where is your wallet?

I rifled through the bags and the box and my purse in the front seat. I checked the door, and the back seat. I got out and opened the trunk and looked to see if I had put it in one of my Target bags.

Nothing. 

Some lady stopped to ask if I was leaving. She wanted my really good parking spot. I nodded a "NO" to her and continued to rifle through my stuff.

Please God, Please. Let me find my wallet. It's got to be here!

I opened the passenger seat door, AGAIN. Nothing. I opened the driver seat door, AGAIN. Nothing. 

You've got to be kidding me. 

A second lady stopped to ask for my very good parking spot. I nodded yes in my moment of resignation and decided I needed to drive back to Target. 

You know the end of the story since you've already seen the picture. I drove BACK to Target, found my cart in the same spot I left it (While God didn't answer my prayer for my wallet to be IN my car, His hand was certainly in the miraculous return of my wallet!), looked down into the car and lo and behold, my wallet sat there, in the front pocket of the cart, just waiting for me to return. 

I grabbed my wallet and sat in my car in stunned silence and rolled my eyes at myself and shook my head. My heavens Lisa, HOW on earth do you live with yourself?

AND then, to make me even crazier, I got back out of the car, placed the wallet back in the cart and took a picture of it with my phone. 

I did ponder the need for medical or psychological intervention when I got back in the car. I mean SERIOUSLY, why does this stuff ALWAYS happen to me. I'm not really into the whole meditation thing but I'm starting to think that maybe I should be because I've GOT to do something about the major disconnect between my hands and my head. 

Just in case you were also wondering about the purple marks on the front of the wallet...the other night, after grocery shopping I picked up a purple Odwalla smoothie because I was feeling like I needed something healthy in my life. I was drinking the smoothie out of small dixie cups in my car and when I got home I somehow thought it would be o.k. to throw the dixie cup into my purse while I carried my groceries into the house. 

OBVIOUSLY not the best idea. 

Again, considering psychological intervention here because that probably should have been common sense. 

Oh well. 

I wanted a new wallet anyway. 

Hope your Christmas preparations are going all and a little less frazzled then mine! 

I'm going to write something really nice and inspiring and relevant and reverential about Christmas before the week is out, I swear. 

Tuesday, December 21

The Dazzled, Frazzled Christmas Mom, Part 1

As I sit in Starbucks for my last 20 kid-free moments this morning (BTW: that is NOT a picture of me...I can only WISH I was cool enough to pull off a bird on my finger, or that my fingers were that nicely manicured, for that matter!) I was pondering a title for this blog post. I didn't want you all to think I was completely losing my frazzled mind.  While all of the Christmastime running around, and cookie baking, and card mailing, and present wrapping, and house cleaning and gray snowy days have perpetuated a couple of very funny (though not at the time!) moments on my behalf (see my stories below), I do also love the festivity of the season. While the running around and hecticness seem to bring about crabbiness in some people, it seems that there are also a lot of extra smiles, and friendly strangers and Merry Christmases as well. And that is where I am...dazzled by the celebratory nature of Christmas and frazzled by the running around.

So let me share with you 2 of my most frazzled moments in the last couple of weeks...

STORY #1: A Botched Cookie Swap


We'll start with my MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) meeting last week!

For those of you who were there and caught a glimpse of my crying in the corner, yes, I was having an official Christmastime meltdown. Here is how the meltdown came about...

While the MOPS Christmas meeting was a lot of fun, you have to laugh at the irony of all of these moms, already schluffing in car seats, toddlers, diaper bags, cups diapers, strollers, jackets, hats, boots, and gloves who were now also carrying decorations for tables, $3 Christmas presents, food for the breakfast buffet and cookies for a cookie swap (if you decided to participate, which I did after my husband agreed to make the cookies the night before!).

SOOO....I was running late, I pulled up to the door, left the car running, pulled the girls out of the car, my gifts, my bags and my cookies, and ran into the church. As I entered the meeting room one of the moms saw the crazed, hurried look on my face, along with my girls at my side and bags hanging from every appendage and said,

"Hey! Can I lighten your load?"
"YESSSS!" "PLEASE!"

I handed her the tray of cookies I had baked for the swap, set my bags down and grabbed my girls to go check them into childcare.

Ella's dropoff was painless...she usually runs away with her coat on without so much as a goodbye.

Ava on the other hand.

Do I even have to tell you....

SCREAMING.

"MOMMY. MOMMY. MOMMY! DON'T LEAVE ME! I WANT TO GO HOME!!!"

as she clings to my neck and wraps her legs around my stomach.

Argh.

The childcare worker holds out her arms. "She'll be fine. It will probably be easier if you just leave."

I hand her off and I leave, though I'm feeling emotional ( PMS induced emotions if you MUST know!) and a bit reluctant.

I run back out to my car which is still idling at the front door of the church, park it and run into the meeting.

As I walk through the back door to the meeting I look down at the cookie exchange table. First of all, ALL of the other cookies are individually packaged by the dozen with printed recipes attached.

Whoops.

SECOND OF ALL....my cookies were not on the table.

CRAP.

I do a quick glance around the room and my eyes land on the breakfast buffet that all of the very hungry mommas are helping themselves too.

My eyes get big. My face drops. CRAP.

Yes. Yes, my friends. My cookie swap cookies landed on the buffet table and were being happily indulged in.

I run over to the buffet, not making eye contact with anyone, swoop my cookies off of the counter, right out from under the reach of a hungry mom and fly into the kitchen with them. I find paper plates and saran wrap and manage to individually, though quite unfestively and certainly without a printed recipe, wrap my hello dollies on 4 separate plates.

I go back out into the meeting room, set my cookies down and my friend Rose comes over to ask how I'm doing.

I burst into tears.

"It's not about the cookies," I blubber. Snif. Snif. "REally. I'm just tired. And the cookies. And the girls."

Rose just smiles and give me a hug. It's all I really needed. I was on the verge of tears for the rest of the day.

Please don't' feel sad for me. It's kind of funny now that I"m not PMSing anymore.



Alright...mommy free time is up....if you want to hear silly story #2 you'll have to read tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 15

Looking for Inspiration...

I feel that I am lacking in blog inspiration these day...I blame it on the following facts:

1. It gets dark by 5!!! GRRRR!! Is there anywhere in the world that it stays light until at least 7 ALL year round?! I'm moving there! Next week!

2. I am buried, did I say BURIED in snow!!! Seriously people, somehow the real estate agent forgot to tell us that we are right on the border of the friggin' Lake Erie snow belt and that at time you will get BLASTED with snow! Like the 3+ feet we received about two weeks ago (when bordering towns got less than one inch!), and the flurries that keep coming to pile on top of it! Here are a couple of pictures!








3. I am on my 3RD STINKIN cold of the season! I have been jacked up on DayQuil and NightQuil around the clock for the last 48 hours because I'm sick of being SICK and it's REALLY hard to take care of toddlers when all you feel like doing is eating instant bowls of soup on a couch in front of the television...the medication helps with that just slightly!

4. Because it gets dark at 5!!! I'm BURIED in snow, and have my 3rd cold of the season, I have not been running or doing much exercise lately which makes me a little NUTS!

If I sound a little bitter...well...you might be on to something there...

If ya'll know of a place where it stays light later and it is warm all year round, please, please, PUHLEEZZE tell me because I'm ready to move.

In the meantime here are some random thoughts peddling themselves around in my mind these days...

1. I'm turning into an uncool middle aged lady! Fortunately I'm not wearing "mom-jeans" (for the benefit of those who read THAT post!) BUT I do listen to classical music and jazz in my car because it's much less chaotic than the NOISE that is on the popular radio stations. Did I just say that? My mom used to say that. AND I do things like go to pampered chef, candle and make-up parties as a NIGHT OUT! AND...I cut coupons in my spare time.

Oh boy.

2. I'm quite thankful for Facebook! In the world of stay at home momminess, AND being enveloped into my house by mounds of arctic snow, the world of Facebook allows me to live vicariously through the MUCH cooler people I know. It also helps me to realize that I'm not the only one who gets pulled off the treadmill after getting into a sweat inducing run to take my toddler to the bathroom. Thanks Dana!

3. I'm trying to stay sane during the Christmas season because I KNOW that I am not supposed to get wrapped up in the shenanigans, BUT I just spent another $100 at the grocery store today!!! Partly on food, but partly on stuff to make cookies and candy, lightbulbs for our Christmas lights, tissue paper, cards, etc. I think we've almost reached a FULL mortgage payment on Christmas expenditures AND THAT my friends is definitely not in any Dave Ramsey or Suzie Orman book!

That's all I got for ya my friends...send me some well wishes to perk up my spirits over here!

Thursday, December 9

When Dirty Diapers Turn into Fights

A not so magical thing happened here earlier this week...

One of Ella's full, dirty, needs to be changed, stinky diapers, somehow turned itself into one big ole fight between Scott and I for the whole gosh darned day.

Yes, you heard that right; 1 Diaper = Major Argument ALL DAY LONG.

Pretty mature, huh?!

It got me thinking though...I bet we're not the only couple ever to fight over a diaper full of poop and whose responsibility it is to change it.

And, for those who don't have kids, or who are past diapers, the very same fight can often erupt over dishes left in a sink, trash left in a can, toilet paper unchanged or beds unmade.

It's all about the distribution of responsibilities around a house...a tension that has likely been going on as long as humans have walked this earth...but probably even more so in modern society. It's a a distribution battle that tends to make each person feel like they are in the right, like they deserve to be heard, like they have perhaps pulled the "shorter stick" (so to speak) or have the tougher job. It's an issue that seems to rear it's ugly head even more when things are crazy  and stressful in each others lives.

It's no wonder that quick online search yielded these two very interesting and aptly appropriate facts:

1.  Housework is one of the top 5 things couples argue about (along with work, sex, children and money.)

And

2. Housework is bad for your sex life (according to THIS article anyway! I don't know about you, but I believe it! I read the article with relief thinking "So THAT"S the problem!").

So how did said dirty diaper turn into spousal uproar? The dirty details looked like this...

Scott and I had both gotten up around 7:30...we both spent time reading our bibles (good start, right?!), and drinking some coffee. Around 8 I spun into major mom mode- getting juice cups, prepping breakfast and turning t.v. on for the girls. I heard Scott playing his guitar in the basement for a couple of minutes. A totally fine thing for him to be doing UNTIL...

...he wandered up the stairs, passed the kitchen, without so much as a "hello", shouted  "Ella has a poopy diaper" from the upstairs and the proceeded to head into the shower.

"That's not cool," I thought.  Grouchy wife wanted him to know just how uncool it was.

I marched up the stairs into the bathroom and came out with "both guns blazing" as Scott likes to say.

"If Ella has a poopy diaper don't you think you could have at least changed it before you went upstairs?!"

There were sighs and defensive gruffs and a "Lis, I have a job to get started on."

(Ha. You know the mommy soapbox is coming....I'm not exactly sure what I said, but it sounded something like this....)

"I KNOW YOU HAVE A JOB TO DO. I HAVE A JOB TO DO TOO!!! ONE THAT NEVER ENDS!!! ONE THAT I DO 24/7. ONE THAT WAS CREATED BY NOT ME ALONE, BUT BY YOU AS WELL. IT'S CALLED BEING A PARENT AND IT NEVER...EVER...EVER... ENDS!!! AND IF YOU HAVE TIME TO PLAY YOUR GUITAR YOU HAVE TIME TO CHANGE A DIAPER."

(I told you it was really mature...a shining moment for me, really.)

Alright, in retrospect, I KNOW Scott has a job to do (he does a lot of his work from home so the boundaries can become especially blurry sometimes), and I KNOW a less selfish person, wife, mother, would have just changed the diaper and went on with her day, but the diaper became WAY bigger than the diaper.

The diaper epitomized the struggle that Scott and I deal with on a daily basis, and which seemed to be rearing it's ugly head even more so this particular week (or perhaps month with the end of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the craziness of December... and being stuck inside with a lot of snow and shorter days!)

The diaper become symbolic of the struggle to manage life as parents...to manage our time...the house...the all consuming work it takes to take care of a house (when you cannot afford nannies and cleaning ladies and people to cut your grass or plow your lawn)...the struggle that I feel to selfishly fight for "my" space, "my" time...the tedium that builds up, particularly for stay at home moms of very young children, but also for single moms, and military moms and all others who spend the lions share of time taking care of their children.

I'm not saying Scott is not helpful. He is an INCREDIBLY caring, attentive and helpful father...particularly compared to other men out there who I've heard stories about...who sit and veg in front of the television, or work around the clock, or hunt all the time, or golf all the time...you name it...

That said, it doesn't mean we don't struggle. Just like a lot of you probably have incredibly wonderful husbands with whom you find yourselves fighting...and think, "Man, how did we get HERE?!"

So how, after being curt and snippy with each other all day, did we finally resolve the fight?

The true answer is WE didn't...

All I can say is that as incredibly mind blowingly busy as life with children can be, and as incredibly hard as it is to be on the same page as your spouse all the time, as incredibly crazy as it feels to fend for your own time, interests and needs...as a Christian couple Scott and I have an INCREDIBLY large advantage over couples who are not...we have the knowledge, and if we choose, the intercession, of an INCREDIBLY large God who teaches us to submit to one another, to seek others needs before our own, who teaches us about grace and forgiveness and not going to sleep without resolution.

And boy oh boy do we need it on MANY days.

It is God, who at the end of the day when Scott (being the better Christian at this point) stepped into say, "Let's pray," changes all bets, all values and all hearts. And for that I am INCREDIBLY thankful.

Last night I was hanging out with a couple of good friends...just chatting about life. They mentioned that some friends of theirs, our age, seem to be on the brink of divorce. And while I didn't say it, I was thinking, "Man, they need Jesus. I don't know how ANYONE stays married without Jesus."

Left to our own devices we are SO human; selfish, prideful, argumentative, angry. Several weeks ago at a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) meeting at our church a dad was speaking and said, "Naturally, we were not created to last in marriage... It is why so many marriages fail...we are flawed humans. BUT, when our relationships are grounded in God, we have the SUPERNATURAL to help us along the way."

Amen to that.

In closing, I seem to be thinking about all of my life through the lens of the soon to be upon us Christmas holiday...But this situation inparticular, a poopy diaper, reminded me about how much I need Christ and how thankful I truly am, on a super practical level, that he was born into this world, as Immanuel, or "God WITH us." How grateful that I am, that as many times as Scott and I are not on the same page about the issues of life...the we are on one major same page together; the importance of our faith in the midst of life and how much of a priority it needs to be to survive.

What an incredible gift THAT is. How lucky I am to be pondering such a savior this month...Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 4

"Mom" Jeans and Other Unfortunate Things

A while back I caught an episode of Oprah in which they were giving several moms total makeovers. They did one of those hidden camera stints where they followed her around, and lo and behold (!) she was caught wearing dreadful things; leggings, t-shirts, uncombed hair, bad jeans, bad shoes and even pajamas!

I won't lie, I look around furtively on some days to see if such a camera is following me. Like last night, when I NEEDED to get out of the house for an hour and ran to TJ Maxx. I didn't think twice about what I was wearing...I simply ran from the upheaval in the house as quickly as I could ( upturned dishes, a whining 2 year old, dinner smattered on the counter and table and floor, you know!)

As it turns out I had on very light washed, loose fit, jeans (that I had purchased on a mega sale rack at Ann Taylor Loft for like 7.99 earlier this year), my big brown down coat and my tattered looking black dansko clogs that are quite comfortable (you know those clogs that chefs and nurses wear), but seem to have been much more widely accepted in Cambridge, MA (where EVERYONE had them!) then in Buffalo (where I get dirty looks for wearing them!). 

By the time I actually made it to the store, recovered my senses, and caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I almost gasped in horror! Who let me out of the house like that?

 I was feeling, well, frumpy, to say the least. 

FRUMPY. FRUMPY. FRUMPY. 

I promise this isn't a pity party, because as entirely frumpy as I felt and as much as I may have wished, just a tinsy bit,  to be looking more trendy, or posh, or sleek, there was another part of me that entirely could have cared less because I was truly just grateful to have made it through the day and to have gotten out of the house. 

And that is how you end up on the Oprah show in need of a makeover. 

And now I totally get it. 

And, Oprah, if you're reading this, SIGN me UP! because seriously, for me to look good at this stage of the game someone else is going to have to pay for it! 

And, truly, that is what it comes down too. Despite not having the time to pamper, and wax (Oi, you should see my eyebrows right now-- they are a sight to behold!) and nail polish, and hot iron myself before leaving the house, my money gets spent on so many other things these days, I can hardly keep up; diapers, baby food, pajamas for the girls, shoes for the girls, Christmas presents, gymnastics classes, mittens, hats and boots (x2!), coloring books, play dough, Dora videos...shall I go on?

Seriously, that $65 I might have spent on myself without a thought before children, on random sweaters or t-shirts or jewelry or shoes, well, there are new demands on it...it doesn't exist anymore. I saw a purse at TJ Maxx last night that I liked...nice soft leather...big hobo style...$198 price tag! 

I blinked, my mouth dropped, my eyes opened wide! $198?!!! Who pays that much for a purse?!

 You see, I'd like all of those people who are judging my bad clogs and whitewashed jeans to know that I actually DO have good taste...watch me pick up this purse that I really DO like...and then watch me put it back down, because despite having good taste, I also have a WHOLE lot of common sense these days. I have to. It comes with the territory or you don't survive. 

(And, can I just add an aside here, if I DID have extra money, I still wouldn't spend THAT much on a PURSE. People, there are homeless moms and children in our very own city who could be fed and housed for 1/2 of that! Someone please tell me that I'm not the only one who find it stark, raving mad that a purse would cost that much?!)

So, as I left the store with my $180 in purchases, which included a traveling coffee mug (ours all diappeared), some non-"granny" (as my husband calls them!) undies (mostly for the benefit of my poor husband, but that's another story!), socks (that I found on sale for $1.00), Christmas presents for 4 people, two knit hats for hubby to wrap for me for Christmas, and a really cute memo board for our kitchen, I have absolutely nothing (outer appearance wise) to show for my shopping...I glanced at two women in line donning trendy leggings, and leather boots, and cute belted sweaters and thought, "Someday"... 

Or not. Because there will be college, and weddings, and then grandchildren. 

But, HA! I'm really coming to terms with it. It is just another way that I empathize with my own mother even more now. A mom who I recall buying her own clothing at Amvets, so that she could afford our sneakers for school from K-Mart. A mom whose luxury was a $6.99 tube of lipstick from the grocery store. A mom, who by all accounts always looked great (and still does!), but who very often probably felt "frumpy" because she was buying school clothes and food for me and my three siblings. 

LOVE YOU MOM! And thank you for all you sacrificed, emotionally, and materially, so that we could have! I'm sorry for all the times I wanted more, envied the other kids, or whined that I didn't have enough. You gave us all that you could and I SOOO get that now...and while my girls aren't whining about it yet, they ARE girls and I'm sure the time is coming....I'll take great comfort in knowing that they too, will understand, finally, when they have kids of their own.


P.S. for the fun of it, I pulled this off of urbandictionary.com...


jeans highlighting the flat curvature of the 40+ buttocks. Similies: upside-down-heart shaped-butt. Commonly seen aacompained with front butt. Extremly high waist, and always a crappy shade of blue or black. Usually found in Kohl's or Mervyn's.
mom jeans images
Mom Jeans: High waisted and tapered. Nobody looks good in these type of jeans. Angelina Jolie would look like a pile of crap in Mom Jeans.



P.P.S. Despite my apparent frumpiness, please DO tell me if I've crossed the line and end up attending a MOPS meeting or grocery store in jeans THIS bad!! 

Tuesday, November 30

The Gift of Snuggles and Flowered Tights


Today was one of those days when I was completely enamored with my children; by the miracle of birth, and of how they grow, how they become their own little people with hilarious and sensitive, stubborn and persuasive personalities.

Two moments in particular stand out to me. The first was a short walk we took after lunch this afternoon. The weather, though windy, was relatively warm and given the snow in the forecast later this week I figure it was best to get some fresh air while we can without boots and gloves and hats and snowsuits!

Just before we were about to leave the house Ava came wandering down the stairs in a self-chosen outfit; a  busy, patterned dress in blue/green/purple hues and thick pink tights dotted with green, blue and red flowers.


"Ava, did you pick that out yourself?"
"Yup!"
"Great job honey. Is that what you're going to wear on our walk?"
"Yup!"
"Alright, let's put some shoes on."

There was no point in explaining the appropriateness of what I perceived as good "walking" clothes and not so good walking clothes. If she wanted to walk down the street in a tights and dress in all facets of coloring, so be it.

She hopped on her bike and was riding in front of Ella and I (I was pushing Ella in a Little Tikes push car) and she suddenly looked so old to me! It was her calf muscles, which seem to be getting more muscular, accentuated by the pink tights with flowers and pushing the pedals of her bike, faster and faster down the sidewalk.

And I had one of those moments, those thoughts, that "THESE are the things I will remember. THESE are the things that I will miss when they are both grown up and in school all day."

It was her carefreeness to not be worried about what others thought of her clothing choice, it was the freedom to ride her bike in the middle of the day, it was her laughter and yet the hesitation to not travel too far ahead of me, or out of my sight. I laughed because I realized that prior to this age I chose her clothing based on what I thought others  might think, as she grows she will start to pick clothing based on what others think, but today, for now, she was simply wearing items she liked in the purest and truest sense!

(Sorry if I'm boring you with my detailed account of a silly moment...I'm recording this more for my benefit...down the road...when the details of these days, the cherished moments, seem blurry!)

The other moment that captured my heart today was later in the afternoon. I had just sat on the couch reading books to Ava for a half hour or so and ran upstairs to wake Ella up from her nap. Her room was dark, she was groggy and so I grabbed the fleece blanket out of her bed to wrap her in while I carried her downstairs. She snuggled into my shoulder, sucking her binky and wanted for nothing.

We went down to the couch and turned Little Bear on. She sat snuggled on my lap, burying her head in my chest and sitting quietly while we watched t.v. Ava came over to the couch and sat next to us and put her head on my shoulder and I thought, "It doesn't get ANY better than this."

I needed to get up and get dinner started. I was only going to sit there for 10 minutes, but it turned into 20 because I couldn't pull myself away from the moment, didn't want to deprive Ella of the snuggles and thought THIS is why I have put any sort of career on hold for now...because I wouldn't have it any other way right now. I wouldn't have wanted to miss this simple moment and I wouldn't have given up the opportunity for my girls to feel connected, safe and loved for those extra minutes. It was a true blessing.

And, while I didn't really think about the Christmas season today, I have been thinking about it a lot lately-- about how I want to be in the moment and appreciate the small details, and not allow the next 3 weeks to fly by in a frenzied blur.  I suppose I'm off to a good start without having realized it-- it's about making the moment, being in the moment, staying in the moment and connecting with those you love on a deeper level in those moments. They are blessings. They are our gifts to ourselves throughout this gift-giving season...and they are gifts to those we are sharing them with.

Tuesday, November 16

Bye Bye Modesty and Decency

My husband and I joke, or at least I like to tease him, that our children are payback for HIS childhood not mine! I like to remind him of this on days that things are particularly hairy and we both wonder if there are several invisible children running around our house adding to the chaos because it is simply not possible that just two little girls can cause THIS much trouble.

See, I was a quiet child. My parents have told me this many times. They swear/joke that it's why my brother and I are exactly one year and four days apart, because I was SO easy! I used to sit and read books and play with dolls. I colored nicely. I tended to stuffed animals. I sat quietly and watched television. All the things I have preconceived notions that my girls should WANT to do.

Not so much. Before I get to them, let me give you a little summary from the tidbits I've heard about Scott's childhood:

He is a twin. Both boys weighed over 7 lbs each AT BIRTH!!! Therefore causing trouble right from the beginning. The used to help each other out of their crib, sleep on their closet floor, attempt to climb dressers, attempt to climb out windows, attempt to crawl into parked cars and start them (I actually think there is a story in which their mother came home and found them on the roof and another where they managed to roll a parked car into the street...all before they were 5!). They used to crawl on floors, under pews, in CHURCH! The did NOT stop moving. (Scott still has a hard time sitting still!).

So, as you can see, not my genes that these crazy girls get their activity level from...So, it comes as no surprise to me any longer when I take them somewhere for lunch and swear people are giving me "the eye" the entire time I'm there.

You know "the eye". The one that says, "I was SO hoping to have a nice peaceful lunch here at this fine fast food establishment this afternoon until THAT lady walked in with THOSE toddlers."

Yes. Yes. We went to Wendy's this afternoon, in part because I did not want to clean up my kitchen from one more meal and in part because Ava had acquired a "free" frosty coupon from somewhere.

Here is how the visit went:

Before we even walk in Ava announces she has to pee. Instead of getting in line I carry Ella, and hold Ava's hand and drag them both into the bathroom. The girls insist on inspecting BOTH stalls before choosing the one that would be best for peeing. Seriously. At my prompting we chose the handicap stall because it was the biggest.

"Wow Mommy! This is the biggest bathroom EVER!" Ava announces as they both simultaneously crouch down to peer under the wall as Ava announces loudly, "There is someone in that one now!"

yes honey. yes there is...and even though modesty is not part of our experience here, we're going to try to allow it to be part of hers.

As I put toilet paper on the toilet for Ava and help her up, I glance up and see Ella hanging, literally, hanging, as if it were the monkey bars, from the long, stainless handicap assistant bar that runs next to the toilet. She keeps pulling her feet up off the ground to see how long she can hang and says, "Look mommy!"

yes, yes, that's great honey.

Ava pees and I figure I better go while we're in the restroom because I'm NOT bringing them in here again...I swear to you, they both stood at the back of the toilet watching my every move with Ella announcing "Pee. Pee.Pee" while I went.

(Sorry if that is too much information...but as I said, modesty is GONE here!)

Somehow I manage to get both of their hands washed before we head out to order food. Of course there is a line 7 or 8 deep in front of us and of course the girls insist on climbing on the metal bars that section off the line while we wait. When we finally get up to the cashier to order I swear she gave me like 5 dirty looks! One when Ella coughed, one when I told her I had a coupon and proceeded to pull out diapers, plastic bags, bottles, binky's and an extra t-shirt all onto the counter in order to retrieve my wallet from the bottom of my purse and one as Ava told us VERY loudly that she wanted chocolate ice cream and NO PICKLES on her sandwich.

Once we got to the table Ella and Ava both climbed up and stood on top of their chairs (my hands are FULL!) before I can explain to them (for the 756th time!) that our bums not our feet belong on chairs! Ava manages to grab the burger wrapper sending the entire thing flying to the floor while Ella tries to stick her fingers in the frosty.

Against my better judgement I quickly picked the burger off the floor...and I'm still cringing at this and waiting for child services to show up...but there were 7 NEW people in line so I picked the burger up as quickly as I could, brushed it off and fed it to my children!!! EWWWWW. I know.

Scott decided to show up just as we were leaving. When I told the girls daddy had just arrived, they climbed back to their feet on the chairs and both proceeded to bang on the window screaming "DADDY" before I could stop them. And at that point all I could do was laugh...it had me thinking to the days, prior to children, when we would show up for dinner in a restaurant and Scott would ask the hostess to move us to a different table if she had seated us near a table of children.

HA. How things change.

Friday, November 12

Miscellaneous Meanderings

Funny what you'll do for a little free time after you become a parent.  Like this morning, when I woke up at 5 a.m. to tend to Ella who was crying, and then found myself tossing and turning and thinking about all sorts of things...and then it dawned on me, "if you get up right now you will have a quiet house to drink coffee in and read and write for potentially two hours (even though you'll be REALLY tired later because you went to bed at midnight!)"

Now in the world of pre-k (pre-kids) the idea of getting out of bed before 6 a.m. without reason would have struck me as completely ridiculous...I would have tossed and turned myself right back to sleep, especially given that I went to bed so late last night-- but these days all sleep bets are off...quiet "free" time trumps sleep in this world!

So now, instead of letting things churn in my head, you get to hear them here...as I drink a really big cup of freshly brewed Starbucks Verona (my favorite...hint.hint) with eggnog and vanilla creamer.

If you've ever attended a Franklin Covey seminar you would have heard their analogy (and perhaps seen the classic video, which I've posted on my blog for you to watch-- see the post titled "Big Rocks First") about trying to fit the important things in your life in...you have to put the big rocks in your container first and then fill in with the little stuff, i.e. make time for the things that are truly important and let all the little stuff "fill in" the space around them.

So, without saying much more about big and little rocks (watch the video!), I'm offering a run-down of three of my big rocks right now (faith, writing, organizing my house) and what I'm thinking in regards to them.

1. My faith...a constant journey...a figuring out...a discovery process that is sometimes very confusing, but at all times incredibly encouraging and gives me reason for hope and guidance for my days.

One way I've decided to strengthen my  current "faith muscles" is to read through the entire Bible in one year. I've been in church all of my life, and no, I've never read the entire Bible. I know all the "important" stories and can certainly talk the talk of a long-standing lady whose been in the church, but lately I've been thinking that seeing as the Bible is God's inspired word given to us I should read the whole thing.

There is a pretty cool line of Bibles that you can buy called the One Year Bible (published by Tyndale) that includes all of the required readings in order for you, broken down into 365 days. My sister recently told me about the chronological reading list that you can print right from their website, which is what I've decided to use.

My readings have been kind of eye opening this week...they've also prompted a LOT of questions and I'm only on day 4! Here are a couple of examples...

Eye-Opening: In my reading yesterday I found out that shortly after Noah got off of the arc he got really drunk in his vineyard one night and passed out...NAKED! ONe of his sons told the other two, who eventually dragged him into a tent and covered him up. When he found out he was so mad at the first son that he put a curse on him!

What is THAT all about?!!

Which brings me to my questions....as I'm reading through I wish I had a theologian sitting right next to me because obviously there is some backstory to the above story...I mean I feel kind of bad for the son who was cursed...I mean, didn't Noah sort of bring the whole thing on himself?!

And then, while I was reading the whole creation story I couldn't help thinking about all sorts of crazy questions... Where did God come from? If He thought it would be cool to create creatures called humans on this little planet in the mist of an incredibly unfathomably big universe, did he create other life in other places? or just us? How long had God been in existence before he decided he should create "the heavens and the earth?

Perhaps I'll say more about all of this in another post...but pretty crazy stuff and I'm excited to read more.


2. My desires to write and encourage other people (particularly women) in some way....As most of you know, one of my biggest struggles as a stay at home mom has been trying to figure out how to integrate some really big desires and passions in the areas of writing/encouraging/teaching into this crazy mothering life. At times I feel that the integration of the two has been unsuccessful...but then I step back to look at the big picture. While major doors or opportunities have seemingly not opened, a lot of little, one time, writing opportunities have...and I'm learning to be content with that for now (even though I can tend to get as frantically frustrated as an impatient toddler in regards to these things!).

We are an impatient people in a microwave society who want everything NOW! If I saw other people waiting patiently for things perhaps it would be easier! Yet, everywhere I turn I see another book published or mommy freelancer making headway in the vast publishing world.

And that is where my faith MUST come into play...

The funny thing is, lately, when I ask God when my "big chance" is going to come (or if it ever is?!)...want to know what I feel like He's saying back...

"Clean your house."

I'm serious.

Which leads me to my next big rock...

3. Re-organizing my house and my life. If you read my last post (Absent Minded Momma) you have a little big of the backstory on this. A quote I heard once comes to mind when I think about this area of my life, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." In other words, go ahead Lisa, keep on using your same old methods for organizing, running your day and managing your time and you'll keep losing birthday presents, and keys, and important documents and missing or showing up late for appointments, etc. etc. etc.

So, I have an book called Simply Your Life that I'm starting to read and I plan on calling the professional organizer that I have a coupon for. That said, at the end of the day, some of it comes down to basic common sense.

I'm reestablishing habits I used when I was in high-school in college...meaning, I'm starting binders and files for things (Christmas, coupons, important documents, recipes, craft ideas, etc.) as if they were the "subjects" (i.e. math, english, science) in my life. I'm also trying to do simple things like take the two minutes to put away my cosmetics and face wash and toothbrush after I'm done using them instead of leaving said stuff all over the counter until the end of the week when a bazillion other things are added to them and the bathroom starts to look like that of a frat house instead of a family home.

And, as I said earlier, God really did tell me to clean my house. Truly, I've been praying about the writing/professional thing for months and when I ask "When God?" God says, "When you get your act together!"

Not in a mean way...just in a, "Lisa, I love you and I did give you these desires, but seriously, you can't handle anything more or anything bigger until you start to manage what you have. Clean your house. Get you act together. Create a peaceful home for your family and then we can talk."

So, those are the big rocks in my life right now...Obviously continuing to become a better mother, and being a good wife are also big rocks...as is exercise (to burn off the girl scout cookies and pizza that my husband brought into my life yesterday).

Would love to hear from anyone one out there reading this!

Tell me, What are your big rocks? How do you balance them? Have you ever read the entire Bible? Do you have desires outside of parenthood that you find challenging to fit into your life? How do you do it?

You don't have to answer all of those questions, just share a thought or two!

Cyber hugs to all of you! Have a beautiful day.

Do The BIG ROCKS First



Here is the Stephen Covey video on organizing your life that I referred to in my other post today!

Sunday, November 7

The Absent Minded Momma

Alright mommas, I've got another story for you.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Come On Lady? Does this stuff REALLY happen to you? I mean this much silliness in your life? ALL the time?"

And others will rightfully be thinking, "Honey, you NEED to get your act together."

To which I will respond, "Yes. This stuff really does happen to me. I swear I am not making it up merely in a desperate attempt to lure you to my blog."

And...

"Yes, my fellow mommas and ladies...I NEED to get my act together one of these days.!"

Before I tell you my story, the title of this blog post describes quite well my diagnosis of late. I AM absent minded.

Seriously, I walk in the house from the grocery store or from running errands and I lay things like my keys and wallet or other personal belongings down in random places. I do this while I'm greeting my children who come running to me like I've been away on safari on the other side of the world for several months and have neglected their every need in the process...I quickly lay things down and attend to them...and often don't mentally focus on what I'm laying down or where it is.

And then, depending on how many bags I have, I may bring most of them in the house and unload them, or throw them in one of the many baskets in the mudroom. Sometimes things get put in their rightful "home", sometimes (more often) things get put in temporary homes...homes in which I hope to rescue the things from before they become "homeless" or "lost"!

 We also have piles of paper typically stashed all over our counters and table spaces; you know books, mail, magazines, art projects, coupons, random notes to self, that sort of thing...sometimes it helps me find things...more often than not, it makes it more difficult!

For example, I'll write something very important on a very bright post-it note and stick it in a VERY good place (usually while I'm tending to a toddler crises or making lunch or cleaning the kitchen). And then, 2 days later, when I need said post-it note I send myself into a tizzy as I search desperately through the piles of papers and artwork and coupons. Sometimes I find the note, sometimes I don't....the problem is, it doesn't just happen with notes!!! And it's starting to get the best of me!

So, for the fun of it, I decided to do a little self-diagnosis before writing this blog entry and found the following definition for "Absent-mindedness"
"The distraction of attention from the object of focus by irrelevant thoughts or environmental events....Beyond the obvious costs of potential accidents there is lost time, efficiency, personal productivity and quality of life."
Seriously, my photo should be smack dab right next to the definition on Wikipedia!

So here is my most recent "story" the unfortunate result of my "condition"!

I had a birthday party to attend this past weekend-- it was the birthday party for a one-year old girl, daughter to a pretty close friend. Now, as you have heard, I have actually missed birthday parties before (because I wrote the wrong date on my calendar!) and I have also been known to be running around town the day or even several hours before the event looking frantically for the perfect gift.

Not this time! I was on TOP of things.

Now, this friend is a very sweet mom. The kind of mom who bought a very thoughtful birthday gift for my 3 year old this past summer. Her older daughter actually brought a homemade card and they gave Ava a really sweet devotional book designed for pre-school girls. It was a heartfelt gift and I wanted to return the favor.

A full week before the party I made a special trip to our local Christian bookstore because I wanted to return the kindness with just as thoughtful a gift. She had mentioned seeing these books published by Zondervan with Boz the bear.  I brought home a really cute Boz book, and another really cute chunky book on thankfulness with big, colorful pull out pieces-- it was the kind of thing I knew they would appreciate because she is a Christian momma like myself who is always trying to find fun and creative ways to share good values with her girls.

Now, fast forward to this past Saturday...a half hour before the party was supposed to start when I was finally going to get around to wrapping the gifts.

I wake up from a short nap, go into the kitchen to make some coffee and casually saunter into our dining room where I am convinced I left the bag with the books. Nothing.

Crap.

I start rifling through the baskets and the piles and the papers...I mean they're books, they might be piled under the other books, right? Nothing.

Crap.

Mudroom...nothing.
Living room drawers, bins, baskets, under the couch. Nothing.

Crap. Crap. Crap. (I know that doesn't sound very Christian of me but you would have been thinking the SAME thing...I mean, I didn't SAY it aloud in front of my kids or anything!)

I look in my bedroom under piles of clothing. Nothing. I look in our spare room under piles of clothing. NOthing. I check the hallway and the basement and the garage. Then the dining room, again. And the mudroom, again. And my bedroom and the guest room, and the basement. AGAIN.

NOTHING!

Miss Absent Mindedness here evidently came in from her evening out and put those books in a really good spot that was supposed to be very obvious to me when the time came to wrap them. Ahem...too bad I couldn't remember the very good spot.

Alright, by this time I'm thinking plan B. I have a whole bunch of presents in the basement that I had purchased for my girls and my sister's boys ahead of time for Christmas!

I run down there and find big chunky truck and dinosaur puzzles. Furry plastic princess shoes. Princess puzzles with 50 pieces...workbooks for 3 -year olds, clothing items for 2T's and some dress up stuff in size 4T....not so much the perfect gift for a 1 year old.

Alright...I had bought a really cute stuffed elephant at TJ Maxx earlier in the day so that was going to have to be part birthday present...but I needed something else.

I grab my keys, some tissue paper and a gift bag, say goodbye to Scott and head out. The only place not out of my way at this point is Rite Aid.

Great. I go from wanting to be personal and all Christianly moral to the corner drug store! Such IS my life.

I scan the aisles. I see really cheap princess stuff, Chutes and Ladders, very scary looking plastic dolls, large bins of play dough, light brites....you know...all sorts of stuff TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE for a 1 year old girl. I settle on a Happy Birthday Sesame Street Coloring Book and some chunky crayons. I KNOW she's probably not coloring, but she will be soon...so at least it's practical.

I drive to the party, now an HOUR late with my very impersonal present. Fortunately, there were quite a few guests and quite a few presents, so I'm sure this very sweet one year old's birthday was not very impacted by my absent mindedness...

All that to say...ARE YOU SERIOUS?! Does my life really have to go this way? I was standing in Rite-Aid, staring in disbelief at my options and thinking, "Only me! No other party attendee is standing in their local drugstore at this moment (1/2 an hour after the party had already started) looking for a gift!

Anyway...

I do have intentions of becoming a more organized person...it's actually one of my new years resolutions from last year that OBVIOUSLY did not get resolved.

All that said...don't I get to blame these things on mommy brain at least until my children are in kindergarten. Because, truly, being home full-time with a 3 1/2 year old and a 21 mo. old really is enough to make you batty on most days.

So, to my lovely, thoughtful friend and one of my most dedicated blog readers, "SORRY for the kinda lame birthday gift!" I have a really cute BOZ book sitting on my kitchen table that I am going to bestow on you later this week because as soon as I walked in the door from the party Scott told me he found my bag, with the gifts, under the bed in the guest room....Not really sure how it got there.

On a positive note I recently purchased, at 50% off, 3 hours with a professional organizer....I think I better call her before I lose the voucher and her phone number!


P.S. A mere couple of minutes after finishing this post (at Barnes and Noble) I packed up and was ready to go home and have dinner with the family. I put all my stuff in my bag, put my coat on and go to grab my key. No Key. Nowhere!

I fumble through my purse and pull EVERYTHING out. No key.

I ask the girl at the cafe counter. No key.

I ask the service desk. No key.

I take all of the contents of my bag out again! No key.

I go back to the cafe, check my table and then interrupt a stranger (whose table I had sat at momentarily before I realized there was no plug.) No key!

I go out to the car. Locked.

I go into the store and decide I'm going to shake my bag up and down and hope the key was hiding somewhere...

10 frenzied minutes later it turns up in the pages of the Oprah magazine that I pull out of my bag.

Enough said.

Saturday, November 6

To Chance or To God...Part 2

 I can't tell you how often I write an essay or a blog post and it turns out to be only the very beginning of the idea. It's like a seed planted to germinate, and then all of these other ideas start popping to the surface-- little poppies and daisies and dandelions of ideas--that is the beauty of writing I suppose. 

So anyway, earlier this week I wrote about prayer and how important it is to pray for your children, but also how prayer, in general can be a bit strange sometimes. How it can also be a challenge if you, like most women, have a very busy mind that is constantly reminding you about to-do lists, and forgotten tasks, and children's needs, and meal preparation and who you need birthday presents for and the syrup you forgot to pick up at the grocery store (gosh darnit!). 

And then it hit me, like 36 hours after I wrote that post...the fact that prayer is SO hard sometimes because our brains are so jumpy and busy is EXACTLY why we NEED, let me say that again, NEED, prayer. 

I need prayer because I need guidance; guidance on how to handle all of the swirling thoughts and ideas in my mind, guidance on how to structure my day, guidance on how to best spend my time. Prayer, is one of the only tools I have that actually quiets my mind and therefore helps me to focus. 

Prayer, when practiced regularly, is as effective as meditation in a person's life...mostly because it can often BE a form of meditation. For me, prayer is a time when I sit down, quiet down, and most importantly quiet my brain to hear what God might have to say about all of the craziness in my life. I suppose that is where prayer differs from meditation-- in  most meditation practices you are purposely focusing on the moment and perhaps one word or idea and not allowing other ideas into your mind....whereas with prayer, I sit down, release all that is on my mind and HOPE that God fills my mind with his words, his thoughts, his ideas about my life.

While attending a recent women's retreat through my church the keynote speaker Jan Johnson suggested that meditation on God's word actually become a part of our prayers. I've been putting her suggestions into practice the last couple of weeks and I can tell you that there is a sense of release and of peace that accompanies the practice of meditation in this way. 

For example, she suggested, take the first part of Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides still waters. 
He RESTORES my soul. 

Jan suggested that you close your eyes, and create a mental image of what this would actually look like for you. What would it feel like to truly be in a place where God had provided for ALL of your needs (which in many instances and on many days He has! we just choose to not see it that way)? Once you create a picture of what that means to you, just sit in that place and meditate on that truth, those words, that picture, for as long as you can; 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes--whatever works for you.

Doesn't that feel better than living in the perpetual state of want and need and frenzy that so often feels like the pace of our lives.

So anyway, I just wanted to share that with you. I wanted to say that even though prayer is hard because our minds our noisy, it is also necessary and crucial because our brains our noisy.

I also think the more we practice praying, the easier it becomes. It becomes choppy and impersonal when we are not doing it regularly...kind of like when you haven't talked to a friend in a long time and aren't really sure how to reconnect at first...but then, slowly, and surely,  you pick up right where you left off.

Tuesday, November 2

To Chance or To God...

I have been reading a book called "Professionalizing Motherhood"-- a book recommended to me by my new friend Brandi, an awesome mom from my MOPS group who has a really big heart and recently put her career on hold to stay home with her kids.

It's a good book. A bit simplistic at times, but full of practical, insightful and encouraging information on the life of a stay at home mom. (You should also know, if you go to buy the book, that it was published almost 10 years ago. While that doesn't matter inherently, if you're like me and order a used copy on Amazon, it may come to you a bit yellowed and the cover is a little dated. I DISLIKE yellowed books! I won't lie. I like nice, crisp, white, fresh, pages. All that aside, I decided to read it and it has been encouraging!).

The section I'm reading right now is called "Tools of the Trade". The first, and most important "tool of the trade" that Jill Savage recommends is prayer.

Now, when I first saw the chapter I thought I've heard this before. Yes, of course, we need to pray for our children. 


But, while I've thought that and know that I'll admit that I don't always DO IT! Do you?

Prayer, for me, can be a strange experience sometimes. Prayer, of course, is essential and necessary if you are trying to engage in any sort of relationship with God, but that doesn't mean it isn't a little odd and hard to grasp at times.

Now, I'm going to admit something else that may make me sound a little crazy; there are a LOT of voices going on up in my head! And sometimes all that noise makes it hard to pray!

Maybe it's just me, but my hunch is that it is moms (and women!) in general. We are always trying to manage, and figure out and plan for and remember and organize so many things in our head! I also think that some people (me excluded) are much better at being in the moment and focusing on one thing at a time. My analogy (that I offer my husband to in an attempt to explain my zany brain) is that there are often 16 different television channels going on in my head at once! I can relax if I can get that number down to like 10 or 12!

All that to say, when I start praying, this very intimate conversation going on in my head, sometimes feels like one more voice...and I find myself thinking, "Can God really hear me if I'm not speaking aloud?" "Does He really hear our prayers? Or are these just pleadings and praises and questions bouncing around in my mind that go no further than the space I'm in?"

Well, I can tell you that I pray often and I pray honestly, and though sometimes it just feels like extra noise in my head I do believe and have seen proof of it working in my life.

Here is how Jill Savage puts in in her book:
"As our children grow more and more independent, they spend less and less time with us. Although we cannot accompany  them through all the ups and downs of life, God can. he can be where we cannot be. He can guide when we aren't able to guide. He can protect when we are not present...Prayer is an indispensable tool for the profession of motherhood." 
She goes on in the chapter to ask if we are leaving things, are we leaving our KIDS, to chance or to God?

What a great question! I know, so often, I leave things to chance. I ASSUME God knows my needs and if he wants to meet them, well that would be great! That, I realized, is leaving things to chance. God wants us to ASK.

I'll share one quick story about how this recently played itself out in my life.

Last week I was feeling frustrated that the girls were fighting and whining SO much. Seriously, it seemed like 80% of their waking hours was consumed by some sort of anguished fight, whine, need or call. It was diving me CRAZY.

I mean, if you think about this in terms of any sort of more professional job, if your co-workers or even your students (as a teacher) where whining and complaining and being just plain miserable all day, it would make you miserable too, wouldn't it?!

So one morning, I came downstairs before the girls got up. I try to do this is often as possible to pray and gather my thoughts. On this particular morning, it dawned on me that if I couldn't do anything about it maybe God could!

At first I thought "This is silly. I can't pray that God change my children's behavior. Don't they have to do that on their own? Don't I need to teach them biblical principles to help the grow, etc. etc." But as I started praying I prayed that God would give them a sense of compassion and love for one another...that He would warm their hearts towards each other.

I swear to you, I have NEVER seen a day (and haven't seen one since!) in which Ava was SO stinkin' nice to her sister! She greeted her when she woke up (instead of grumbling at her), she was giving her hugs and sharing her juice and cheerios with her (instead of yelling that Ella was trying to take them from her), she helped her with her breakfast, she asked me to put music on the radio that Ella would like, she was offering her toys instead of taking them away-- the list goes on and on. Truly, ALL DAY, Ava was a completely different person!

Now, I'm not expecting this to happen all the time, but I do know that God was showing me something that day. He was answering my prayer-- reminding me and encouraging me that prayer works AND that he does care about our needs-- even the ones that seem small and unimportant in the grand scheme of life. He also cares about our kids and is there to guide them (and perhaps even change their hearts) when we have exhausted all options.

So, if something is going on in your life that you are frustrated about, give it a try. If your kids are driving you crazy, pray for them! Pray about that thing specifically that is making you nuts and see what happens! I don't mean to make this sound like a game because it is SO much bigger than that, but God likes to surprise us and even more importantly he likes to hear from us. If you take some time to break from the other voices in your head and start a conversation that has eternal reach, rather than just causing more internal noise, I promise you that that very conversation will go further than the walls of your house and  God may do a little something to let you know He's hanging out in your home as well!

Tuesday, October 26

Preschool Woes!

Oh man, the decision making process was hard enough when I was just trying to make decisions for myself-- situations based on my life, and my abilities and what I thought was best for me. Add a couple of kids into the mix and I think I may need a little "Decision Making 101" course to help me along this road!

I'm referring to our decision regarding Ava and preschool here. Who knew, right?! Who knew I would spend countless hours, zillions of braincells (or so it has felt) and a WHOLE lot of emotional energy pondering the value of preschool versus no preschool for my 3-year old.

But she is my kiddo, and she is very emotional and she is hard to figure out (can you say "female"!?!) sometimes!

So let's not beat around the bush here. Today was Ava's last day of formal pre-school for the year. We are going to attend the class field trip on Friday (seeing as it sounds like fun and I get to go we figured we might as well end on a positive note!) to a local farm for a hay ride and pumpkin picking and whatnot, and that's going to be the end of it.

I have had oodles of people tell me why I am wrong to pull her out; that I'm giving in, that she needs to "learn", that she needs to socialize, that if she is having this much trouble now won't it be worse next year, that we're setting some sort of precedent...yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have had my closest friends (thank you Sarah and Sara) and my lovely sister (thank you!) agree with me that the whole thing is seemingly causing WAY more stress than it is worth.

Scott is going to vomit if I bring the subject up one more time because we ladies, well, we mommies, sometimes obsess about things a little bit. Sometimes. And our poor husbands get to be on the listening end of all things obsessed about.

And, in the end, I had to make a decision that wasn't super clear....

For those of you who don't know the backstory here, Ava HATES being dropped off at school. Still. Seven weeks into this whole thing. All of the other kids have either settled in, or dropped out long ago and I seem to be the only one whose kid is digging in her heels (literally today!) and screaming when I drop her off.

She is happy as a clam when I pick her up. Sometimes singing and showing me what she made. Often quite chatty. It's why we've kept going as long as we have...at first I thought it was a separation anxiety thing (and it may be a little bit), but I've dropped her off at the nursery in the gym, I've left her with babysitters, etc. etc. and she is totally fine.

Apparently she stops crying within minutes of my leaving, but she CLINGS to the teacher all day. The teacher has been a saint about the whole thing, but she does have 15 other kids to take care of! Ava apparently also doesn't engage other kids in the class-- she mostly only talks to them if they talk to her. When I ask her why she hates school her answer is "There are too many kids!"

So anyway, I won't get into my whole analysis of what I think is going on...it doesn't really matter. What matters is that we had to make a decision that was best for our family.

At the end of the day I do feel our society is a bit pushy on our children...there is an expectation that they start school earlier and earlier...if they don't like it, tough...there are a lot of things in life they won't like.

My take is, she's 3! I'm home. If she is a child who has anxiety, especially caused by large groups of people, why force her to deal with it now? Perhaps by this time next year she'll be in a different place emotionally, and, if she's not, then that's o.k. In my book, if she's not enjoying school and I'm home anyway, why not let her enjoy one more comfortable, unstructured year home with me and her sister. She'll have the rest of her life to run around structured and scheduled and forced to deal with groups of people she doesn't like!

I'm a little sad about the whole thing. I loved the songs she was coming home singing, and the cute little crafts, and was looking forward to the Thanksgiving potluck and the Christmas show the kids were going to put on. I enjoyed doing her "homework" with her and and ordering books from the scholastic book form. However, I realize she'll have MANY more years to do all of those things as well.

We have her in gymnastics, I take her to music classes and I'm hoping she'll start going back to Sunday school (she started putting up a fit about that when school started...too much school for her all at once!)

At the end of the day, each child is different and we need to take it as it comes. Ella is usually running into the preschool and sitting herself in one of the chairs while Ava is fighting me at the door!

All that said, it wasn't an easy or clear decision, even in the end. But, as Scott said, "Lis, when you make decisions they often come with good results and bad. You have to determine which good and which bad you want." In this case, the stress it was causing her (and our entire family on school mornings!) isn't worth it.

Alright. Enough said. I think my brain hurts!

Would love to hear about your decisiveness or indecisiveness in regards to parenting your children! That way I won't feel so crazy!

Wednesday, October 20

"Yes. Yes Indeed."

Oh my goodness, kids say the funniest things...mostly when you're least expecting them to, which it probably why they sound so funny. Here is my funny kid saying story for the day...

So, for whatever reason (you know those days!) the girls were driving me batty today. Request, whine, whine, request, fight, whine, fight, whine, request, clean up mess, whine, clean up mess, request...you get the picture.

Ella seemed to not be feeling well and clung to my leg all morning while I was knee deep in a stew making project (and then shaking my head at myself for getting into a stew making project in the first place!) and trying to clean up the kitchen from breakfast.

Ava was FULL of it this morning. She is mostly a polite child, but this morning it was 'get me this', 'get me that,' 'I don't want this', 'I want that', to which I would redirect her and help her to come up with a more appropriate way of asking her mother for help on things (like "please'" and "may I"!)...but, after you do that, I don't know, 22 times or so, your patience starts to wear thin.

Needless to say, by lunch time my patience were shot! I was tired. I was counting down the minutes until nap time...the girls and mine! I had finally gotten Ella to bed and was about to take Ava upstairs when she says, "Mommy, I'm stilllllll hungry" in her whiniest voice.

ACK!

 I swear to you Scott and I go through this every day. The child, I swear, eats all day long. All she must think about is food. I kid you not, we had just finished lunch not 23 minutes prior to this moment. She ate a full bowl of noodles, tomatoes, carrots and hummus and then both the girls had jello (a treat!). Prior to that she had snacked on graham crackers and almonds in the car while we ran a couple of errands. Obviously we need to try to get her to eat more at meals...but that is besides the point right now!

"The kitchen is closed Ava...you JUST ate!"
"But mommmyyy, I'm stillllllll hungry."

I mean seriously, when your talkin' to a momma that hates to be hungry...

"Fine Ava. You can have peanut butter and jelly, but that's it!"

(Patience pretty much shot at this point...not so much about the food...just the whole morning).

While she is eating her sandwich at the counter I pour some vita-water for myself...

"Can I have some?" she asks.

Yes. Yes, of course she wants some.

"Yes, honey. Of course you can."

I go to take my vitamins out of the cupboard.

"Mommy, I didn't have my vitamins this morning. Can you get me my vitamins?"

I don't know why this was the tipping point...but it was...

"Ava Katherine! You have been asking me questions all morning! I love you a whole lot but NO! You cannot have vitamins right now. I am not opening one more cupboard. I am not getting out ONE MORE THING! Please eat your sandwich and then we're taking a nap!"

I look at her with wide eyes and then smile with a sarcastic smile so that she knows that I'm frustrated but  not in an angry way (I didn't want to make her feel bad, I was just TIRED!).

"Mommy," she says in a slightly smaller sheepish voice. "What lot of questions have I been asking all morning?"

"Ava! You've been asking for sandwiches, and blankets and to watch Little Bear, and for lunch and snacks and jello, and to turn the t.v. louder, and then for peanut butter and jelly and water and now for your vitamins!"

(Here comes the funny part....)

She looks at me with a grin on her face...pauses for the longest moment (I'm feeling a little bad for making her feel bad and anticipating what she might say).

"Yes. Yes INDEED. That is lots of questions!!" she says emphatically.

I just started laughing out loud. Maybe that doesn't sound funny to you, but I've never heard her say such a thing before (the "yes, indeed" part) and the timing on it was impeccable!

Two minutes later...."Mommy, are you going to go straight to your bed and take a nap because I've been asking you lots of questions all morning?"

Oh dear child...you crack me up.

"Yes. Yes indeed I am Ava."

So, thank heaven for naps and for little people who say funny things. For the sunshine today and the coffee I'm drinking right now...and the pot I'm brewing because the cup I'm drinking was a packet of instant and it's just not cutting it! Thank heaven for all of those things...the things that keep you going on the days when you just want to sleep and have a housekeeper hired full-time, but you can't do either.

Monday, October 11

No Expectations

I am writing this post a bit bleary eyed and tired this morning. I expected to get more sleep than I did last night...Ella woke up once and Ava twice (around 1 and then 6:30)... Ella is easy, you find her binky, hand it back and she goes back to sleep.

Ava. Not so much.

She is going through this stage where she wakes up shrieking. High-pitched cries for mommy and daddy. Sometimes to just lay next to her for a couple of minutes, sometimes because her leg hurts (she is in the stage of growing pains). Last night it was one of each.

But that is besides the point. The point is that I expected to sleep for 7 1/2 hours or so and that did not happen.

What did happen though is that as I lay in bed (after getting Ava back to sleep) at about 6:55 debating whether to come downstairs to a quiet living room and pray and then blog, or just sleep until the girls woke up, I had a momentary epiphany. I realized that one of the hardest parts of motherhood (for me anyway) is that you have to lay aside a LOT of expectation and that it's sometimes hard to do.

For example:

  • I can't always expect to get a good night's sleep, because even if I go to bed early in hopes of getting 8 hours a child may wake up from a bad dream, or a lost binky, or an aching leg...and the more children you have the greater the chance you may have to get up...often on multiple occasions in one night.
  • As much as I enjoy writing and want to do more of it and have been trying to get up early to do it (like 6:45), unless I get up at like 4 a.m. I can't set out to say "I WILL have an hour of writing time today" because I could get up at 6:45 and one of the girls may decide that this is the morning they want to get up at 7:05 and that's the end of that!


Here are some other things I shouldn't expect but sometimes I do...(which only leads to frustration and disappointment)...


  • I expect the house to stay clean
  • I expect to get a shower in...peacefully, without a fight or a scream
  • I expect the girls to eat what I make for them
  • I expect the day to go smoothly...and for the girls not to whine or fight with each other!
  • I expect to make it to church, or gymnastics, or the doctors on time...and then someone's diaper needs to be changed.
  • I expect to get a run or workout in...and then the day has been so long, and I'm so tired...that I can hardly lift myself up off the couch, much less put myself on a cross training machine at the gym...


HaHa, you may be saying. You STILL expect any of those things!

Well, no, not really, not all the time. But we are human, and we get these little ideas in our heads. And prior to becoming a parent I had a LOT more control over whether or not these things actually came to fruition...the more little people you become responsible for the less control you have...

Several years before I became a mom I bumped into an acquantaince at a work related function. He had always been a bit of a quirky guy and Scott and I had never completely connected with him, but I had heard that he and his wife had just had a baby and so I asked him how it was going. His response, which I thought strange at the time,  makes WAY more sense to me now. He said:

           "Having children makes you realize how selfish you are."

            Alrighty then, I thought to myself. 

In my little naive, pre-parenting world I was expecting a, 
         "Oh, it's wonderful. We LOVE being parents. Our child is the cutest thing on the face of the   planet and we stare in his face and coo at him and each other all day long." 

I wasn't really expecting a curt, removed answer about selfishness (I think I may have blogged about this encounter once before...if so, sorry to be repetitive...it obviously struck a chord!). 

This morning...bleary eyed from a choppy nights sleep...and with Ella (at this very moment) calling my name from upstairs (even though she NEVER gets up before 8 and Ava finally fell back to sleep!) I can honestly say I GET it. 

I am selfish. I'm working on it. It's one of the big things I really feel God working on in me. 

When we become parents, in our selfish little minds, we think it is for US. That we were blessed with these children to bring US satisfaction. And while they are a blessing it couldn't be further from the truth that they are here to solely bring us joy! 

God places them in our lives to take care of them. To raise them. To help them. To mold their lives. And, in the process of all that I think God blesses us with them to mold our lives...not in the ways we expect...but in ways outside of our control, ways we were not expecting. He refines us into less selfish people. He pushes us to places in which we have to give of ourselves when we don't feel like we want to give any more. He shows us how to love. Unconditionally. Without expectation. 

The same way HE loves us. 

WHOA...I think my epiphany just expanded....

Off to lay down my expectations and discover what God has for us today. 




Wednesday, October 6

A Day in the Life...

Since the creative juices aren't flowin' verbally today I decided I'd treat you to a visual "day in the life".  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Scott and I seem to ponder daily how it seems virtually impossible, when left alone with both girls, to get ANYTHING, accomplished. Seriously. How do two tiny human beings have that much power to distract you from ALL things "productive"?

Last night I attended week 3 of a 4 week writing class that takes place on Tuesday nights...Scott was predictably a bit tense when I got home.

"Dude. Really? You thought you were going to get something done?" I wanted to say.

I opted for, "Tough night?"

He growled.

"Seriously Lis. After picking up after them all night I thought for just 4 minutes I might be able to strum a few chords on my guitar while they were in the bathtub..."

I raised my eyebrows, Really, you did? they said.

"Sorry hun," I know.


So, by 9 a.m. this morning, after Ella had pooped on the floor (literally! I took her diaper off because she was SOAKED through from the night and she ran away from me for two minutes...next thing I know I look over and...well...I'll spare you the details...) and dumped an entire bowl of cheerios on the kitchen floor while I was making breakfast, I decided to just take pictures of the whole darn thing since I knew I wasn't going to have the energy to write anything creative, or poignant by the time I got around to writing a blog post. So here goes!



When I came downstairs at 6:45 (after falling asleep at 11:45 and Ava crawling into my bed at 6:00 am.) I found this sitting on the counter...Ava has a band-aid compulsion lately...


While I was prepping breakfast Ella dumped an entire bowl of Cherrios on the floor ...it does't look so bad here, but there were quite a few... Big sister Ava helped pick them up. 


Finally I got breakfast in front of the girls at 9 a.m. Scrambled eggs and french toast! 

Big sister feeding little sister...

While they were eating breakfast I started on the dishes...yes, that is a doll you see in our dishrack...Ava decided to "bathe" Dora last night and since she is battery operated she needed to dry out...not sure if she still works...


Ava pulled out the play-dough (which crumbled in many little pieces all over the kitchen floor!) while I finished cleaning the dishes. 


The girls hanging out on Ava's bed while I attempt to put my contacts in...Ella's diaper is full...and stinky...it had been for like 10 minutes by the time I took this picture and then I changed it....this was an hour after the poop situation I mentioned above...


Perhaps my favorite moment of the day...Ava's hair in pigtails before music class! 

and my second favorite moment...their matching sneakers! 


Ella found her way into music instructors lap during class...sitting still is not really her forte...I just let her wander...

Lunch time at the Littlewood household...


Finally I get them both down for naps and need to take a pee and I find that someone, at some point during our crazy morning, had so kindly prepped the toilet for me...

After naps we make applesauce...



Then we take Pooh Bear and Elmo for a walk...(Ava is way ahead of us with pooh!)



Then we finish the day with hotdogs and french fries...well, except for me...I had a veggie burger and french fries...

And so, that currently leaves us (at 6:30) with a trashed house, and Scott is off to band practice until 9:30...and since it's been a busy day already I'm going to pretend I don't see all that is trashed around the house, drop the girls off at my moms for an hour and run like heck on the treadmill! 

Hope you enjoyed my photojournalism!