Wednesday, December 16

A Vision of Hope: Christ at Christmas

                                        


Here is what I've been thinking about lately...

We need a savior as much, no, maybe more today, than ever before.

We need hope. We need vision. We need truth. Solid, concrete, black and white truth to plant our feet on.

We don't need another politician spouting off extreme ideas to the left or to the right. We don't need another national news anchor asking questions of another "expert" who is trying to form our ideas of what is right or wrong, in their opinion. We don't need another agenda pushing us towards hatred, or some preconceived idea of safety, or what real acceptance means.

While I can't speak for all of you, I know I don't need one more person yelling, tweeting, shouting, blasting, writing, proclaiming, arguing, or debating their truth, all while trying to mold mine.

I want my truth to be founded in something stronger than that. Something more solid. I want my truth to have history, grit and foundation. I want it to be founded on principles that have stood the test of time.  I need something to plant my feet on that doesn't waver with the wind, or some big personality with an agenda who is trying to appease the popular opinion for votes or ratings.

In this crazy, backwards, confusing culture, I am drawing closer and closer to the one and only thing that has made a difference in my life...my faith in Christ. The crazier and more chaotic the world gets, the clearer my vision becomes. With so many voices overwhelming my mind, I need to focus on just one.

And that is what Christmas is all about.

That we are not left alone in the mess, but that Jesus has stepped into with us. More than 2,000 years ago he came as a baby and has been here ever since.

I'm thankful for that because on most days some part of my life is pretty messy.

On the best days, it's just my house...oh could I show you some pictures of that.

On other days it's my heart...my response to people around me, my insecurities about life and direction, my inability to consistently be the woman I want to be, my confusion about how to raise my kids in this culture, or how to just love that difficult neighbor down the street or parent at our child's school.

On all days, it's the world around me, and everything in it that can so easily overwhelm.

But, we do have hope. We can have vision. Truth, real truth, is right at our fingertips. They are all just a prayer away...a prayer sent as a simple invitation to Christ that he is welcomed into your mess.

I know, I know! Inviting someone into the mess seems a little...audacious! We've been taught that we're supposed to clean up the house, ourselves, our attitude, our mess...before we invite others in.

But Jesus, fortunately,  is the countercultural, upside down answer to your deepest questions...He hasn't been doing things the way they were supposed to be done since the moment he arrived.

If your Christmas season is feeling frenzied and chaotic, if you are feeling distracted, discouraged or overwhelmed, if you feel like you've wanted to experience the Advent season in a deeper way, but are feeling like you've failed to do so, it's not too late! There are still 9 days until Christmas and many options for digging deeper.

Start with a simple prayer of invitation, asking Christ to be present in your Christmas preparations and your day to day. Ask him to show you how to go deeper and love better.

You can follow up with a re-reading of  the story of Jesus birth, The Birth of Jesus, Luke 2:1-20 just to help freshen your perspective and center yourself spiritually.

Lastly, there are hundreds of great articles online and devotional books you can buy that help us to slow down and refocus on what really matters...Here are three great articles that I found just this morning to get you started:

What Kind of Christmas Do you Want this Year, by Julie Hildebrand --this article is from the site (in) Courage, a great website for Christian women full of daily inspiration from some great writers.

Free Advent Devotional from Billy Graham-- A free, downloadable advent devotional. The intention was to use this once a week for the four weeks of advent leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth, but I say hey, we have more than 5 days between now and Christmas so it's not to late to start!

Christmas, A Personal Promise  a scripturally based reminder from Reverend Charles Stanley about the promises of Christmas. This website InTouch.org is a great resource all year round and is a place I often turn to for a good devotional or article when I need encouragement or good Biblical perspective. Their ministry also sends a free monthly devotional book that you can sign up to receive and that is very well written.


"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God with us'." Matthew 1:23










Saturday, November 14

Our Thankfulness Tree and Other Family Ramblings

It's a cold, gray and gusty day here in Buffalo. The kind that reminds you that dinners on the patio are a far, far thing of the past, and that mother nature is blowing her big breaths of wind to bid adieu to more temperate fall days and usher forth our blustery winters.

Brrrr.

But, I have a warm cup of coffee in my hands, nowhere to go and am looking forward to the girls getting off the school bus in just a few minutes. We're laying low tonight-- putting away laundry, putting a bookshelf together, and just hanging out in all of its unplanned glory.


We have the usual items on the agenda for the weekend; gymnastics, one of the girls has a birthday party, Ella has rehearsal for her Nutcracker performance.  Scott and I are going to a fundraiser tomorrow night for an amazing local organization that is raising awareness and money to build wells for clean drinking water in Sierra Leone, Africa. If you have the time, and have not heard about them, you should check them out online and support their efforts (www.letthemlol.com). It's really an incredible story, down to the husband and wife who started it all in the midst of their own crazy family life (they have 4 children!) and how they just keeping moving and shaking to create big changes one small town at a time in Africa.

It's also mid-November (how did that happen?!), which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I love Thanksgiving for all that it is, and all that it is not. It is a sweet time to be even more intentional than usual about talking to our children about being grateful, about practicing gratitude, about intentionally speaking about our blessings. I also love Thanksgiving because there is not a ton of fanfare and hoopla leading up to it. There are no crazy lights to put up, or extra reasons to shop (except for cranberry sauce and stuffing mix or unless you're one of those crazy black Friday people, which I am very much not!). For the most part it is a relatively low key holiday-- a time to enjoy some good old fashion comfort food and hang out with our families.

Each year we try to practice gratitude around the dinner table in one way or another. In years past I've created a thankfulness tree out of construction paper and have taped it to the glass door next to our kitchen table. Here is a photo of one of our Thankfulness trees from years past...

In the last couple of years, I've gathered all the leaves afterwards, put them together in a  little collage and have laminated it. This way we have a thankfulness record for years to come.

Last year's tree. I must say, I'm quite thankful there is no   s...n...o... (I can't even say it out loud!)
on the ground yet this year! 

This year I decided to try something simpler...it required sticks (that Aubrey and I collected), a vase (that I had in the basement), and a leaf template that I found online (I'm sorry, I can't find the website right now! But, if you look "Thankfulness Tree" up in Pinterest or Google, you'll find lots of ideas/templates!).

Here is our 2016 Thankfulness Tree...






We try to fill out one leaf a day with the things we are grateful for. My favorite response this week is that Aubrey has learned quite quickly that "Jesus" is a good answer for just about any question. So cute! Yesterday at dinner I said, "Aubrey, your turn, what are you thankful for?"

"Jesus!" she said with a huge grin on her face, like she had just answered the jackpot question correctly.

Which, I guess, she kind of had (;


Hoping to share a few more thankfulness posts with you before the month is out.





Tuesday, October 27

Ressurrecting Creativity



Two weeks ago I had the chance to sneak away for a few days to attend a writing conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I try to attend a writing conference at least once a year as a way to continually cultivate my writing life, but as a mom with three young children it can be hard to sneak away. It requires planning, and planning and more planning...and once the planning is done there is often guilt to reckon with-- about leaving your husband with the kids all weekend, about leaving the kids for something that feels so arbitrary. 

But, despite the personally inflicted guilt, I went and it was good. 

So good. 

I started writing this post shortly after the conference, and of course got sidetracked...by homework, and house projects, meal planning and laundry. By the day to day schedule, and all that it holds. 

I hope, if you're a mom and feel an inkling towards creativity in any form-- cooking, drawing, a musical instrument, crafting, sewing, singing, writing, pottery, photography, furniture refinishing-- whatever it may be, that you will be encouraged to steal some small pieces of time from your own schedule to resurrect that thing, that beautiful, wild, creative thing called creativity. (Or, if you don't have a "thing" but have always wanted to be more creative in some way, that you would be courageous enough to take a small step towards that interest.)

I feel a little bit guilty even saying that. I am a woman who is fully committed to raising strong daughters, and never want to pull a momma away from one of her most important roles, but I do also believe that we cannot allow these creative parts of ourselves to die in the process of parenting and that there is a healthy way to integrate both into our lives. 

Perhaps this is a deep issue for me because my own mother never pursued interests or passions of her own. She still doesn't and without getting into too much detail, seems sad because of it. I don't want my girls to struggle in the same way. I want them to know that I love them deeply, that I am completely there for them, but that I also have creative passions that are part of my day to day life. I want to be a healthy role model of how to pursue creative passions in the midst of raising children-- so that they too can do the same thing some day. 

I have much more to say on the topic as a mom who is struggling through her own confusion about how to fit writing into my life in way that does not conflict with my role as a mother, wife, daughter, and friend. 

In the meantime, here is that post on how I struggled to get away, but finally did and was thankful for it...



     Ava raced down the sidewalk on her scooter trying to "beat me" down the street and shouting after the car, "Bye mom!" she shouted! "Love you! Have fun!"

      Her younger sisters, who I could see clearly in the rearview mirror,  stood at the top of the driveway, the littlest clinging to dad's shoulder, the other waving frantically, barefoot, in her black and white sundress. She had just squeezed me tight and with big puppy eyes told me I was Not.Allowed.To.Go.

     I must say, if goodbyes are good for anything it is that they serve as a reminder that I am, after all, dearly loved by my wee ones-- you know the same little ones whose complaints about green beans at dinner and groans about bedroom cleaning can leave you wondering at times.

     I was starting out on a 340-mile drive from Buffalo to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Breathe Writers Conference. This marked the 9th year of the conference, and it was my second time attending. It's a wonderful conference organized by a great group of women from Grand Rapids whom I met at a larger writing conference years ago. It is intimate, unintimidating and always inspiring. There is none of the scary, big-shot editor stuff that you might find at larger conferences and attendees are genuinely kind, and in many cases trying to figure out how to get started or improve their own writing craft without competitive edginess about who is getting published where and when and how.

     The  guilt-filled goodbyes to my three precious girls were, by far, the hardest part of the trip...it's good for momma to head out once in a while, but as is the case with almost everything in motherhood you wonder if you are doing the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way.

     Maybe I should be doing these things when they're older?  Are they going to feel like I'm deserting them? Is this good for them? Bad for them? Ahhh! Should I go? Should I stay? I should go...stay...go...stay...go?   

     I knew they were in completely capable hands. More than capable hands. Nanner (which is what we call Scott's mom), was in for the weekend, which meant that there would be lots of cupcake baking, extra kisses, tickle sessions, coloring and lots of cake decorating videos on You Tube. In Ella's words, "Nanner is going to be the Mom this weekend!"

     Nanner loves to come and be the "mom" and Scott and I are so thankful and blessed that she loves it so much. She jumps right into the fray; folding laundry, making funny eggs, coloring pictures, giving baths and changing REALLY stinky diapers! (Thank you, Nanner!)

     In retrospect there is no doubt that it was the right choice to go.  I left home hoping to be re-inspired in my own creative life, and returned brimming with ideas, and renewed motivation.

    At times my writing life and pursuit of creativity can feel like it gets buried at the bottom of the toy bin for months on end, hidden beneath the balls and dolls, the jump ropes and plastic cars that have been thrown on top after a frenzied play session or a string of busy weeks.

     (Other days I swear it's stuck in one of those files, in one of those boxes, down in the cluttered basement...if I could just remember which box...and which file...in which corner of the basement...)

     You get the picture and many of you are living similar lives. You used to do X, Y or Z before you had kids, a house and more family responsibilities than you could have imagined. Whatever it is you used to create, you did it and you loved it and the act of doing it filled you up in some way.

      But somewhere, along the way, the mounting pile of laundry, carpool rides, meal prep, grocery shopping and long domestic to-do list began casting shadows on your creative ideas until you could no longer see them at all.

      Steven James, best selling novelist and author of more than 40 books to date, was the keynote speaker at the conference. He talked about "buried" creativity in his closing keynote speech at the conference and asked a question that will forever stick with me.

      While he didn't talk about it being buried beneath toys or a pile of laundry, his point was compelling and relatable on many levels.

     "What is in your writing graveyard?" he asked. 

     For me it's the stories, book ideas, silly poems I've written but dismissed, essays I've started and deemed not worthwhile, ideas scribbled on scraps of paper or tucked away in a dark corners of my computer, undeveloped and unpersued, some of them lay forgotten for lack of time, others I dismissed because I felt like they were not good...not the product they had been in my mind.

     To expand the dialogue here, What is in your creativity graveyard? 

     What if you pulled those ideas out? What if you started to jot them down? What if the act of writing down the bad ideas, or bad drafts, eventually leads to something better and better? What if, right now, while you're home with your kids you use the cracks of time to just practice your craft...like a musician who must spend hours and hours playing their instrument or the figure skater who spends 50 hours perfecting that complex triple spin jump that eventually looks flawless.

      What if something beautiful could come from your dusty, nearly forgotten ideas? 

       I'm on a new mission to resurrect my own writing life...filtering through old journals, and printing out forgotten essays. I'm going to see where there might be a thread worth following. I'm going to give myself over to the practice even if it will never be published. While I've been doing that to some capacity all along, I must confess, I had lost faith in myself along the way...

       Faith in myself that I have anything worth saying, worth writing, worth creating.

       But, if there was one big take away for me at this little faith-filled writing conference on a beautiful fall weekend in western Michigan, it was a reminder that creativity isn't actually just about faith in yourself...it's about faith in something bigger than your self.

       It's about faith in a creative God who breathed a yearning for creativity into our souls. That our words, pictures, music, and art can be reflections of Him in a world that desperately needs life, light and joy breathed into it. 

       So go forth and resurrect your own buried stories, songs, drawings and dreams. Give yourself over to the process, and permission to engage in the first place. Even if you're not quite sure where it's all supposed to go, let's take the next step and start trusting that God will divinely illuminate the way.





Thursday, September 17

Conversations with God: Pruning Flowers

   


The woman stood nonchalantly on her front porch, calmly and innocently pruning her potted flowers (which looked beautiful, I might add) as I ran past the house on my morning jog.

     They were lovely flowers, all perky and overflowing out of the pots. Brimming with buds and vibrant petals they stood, in my mind, in stark contrast to the ones on my front porch looking parched from the sun and sullenly deserted.

     Scott and I have joked over the last few years, that that spot on our porch must just be killer for flower pots. Too much sun? Too little? Who knows? Maybe it's the fault of the concrete or the spider lurking behind the front door with his webs connected to the pots that they seem to wilt and die every year.

     (Or, ahem, the fact that we can't manage to water them consistently. Pruning? Isn't that a fruit?) 

     Whatever the case, something about that unassuming woman having time to prune her flowers ignited something not so nice in me...Poor woman!

     (My request for forgiveness comes later in the post, don't worry!)

     Must be nice to have time to prune your flowers, I found myself thinking.

     The plants on my own porch desperately needed pruning. Our vegetable garden has been overtaken by tall grass and weeds this year, and we never even got around to mulching our small flower beds. Our swing set is half stained, the tarp piece that covers the top 'playhouse' component fell apart and blew off over a year ago,  and the most hidden corner of our backyard is beginning to look, well, very..."white trashy" for lack of a better explanation,  with its stash of plastic pools, old toys and a copious number of tall, gnarly weeds.

     My irritation drove deeper than flowers (obviously!).  It stemmed from the fact that there are so many areas of our house and lives that feel like they need our attention these days that we just can't keep up. Scott and I, individually and collectively, often don't know where to begin and can feel like we're failing more than flourishing in the areas that are most important to us (quality family time, how we're living out our faith, exercise/healthy eating, investing in our marriage) as well as areas that are less important, but still need attention, like the yard and house management.

     The flowers, on that morning, were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg (perhaps a fruit/root analogy would be more fitting, but we'll stick with icebergs for now!)

     The truth is I don't care that much about the flowers on my front porch. Sure, I'd like them to stay alive, and to keep blooming, at least until autumn when they're replaced by mums and pumpkins, but my discouragement was not really about the flowers. Or the dying tomatoes. Or the trash/stash in our back yard (lol!).

     The real challenge is that I feel like our day to day lives have become so full of domestic responsibilities that it can be hard to intentionally put time behind the things that really matter-- carving out time to spiritually nourish and "prune" our own hearts, investing more deeply in our children's personal and spiritual lives, finding ways to serve others in the community, or even just connecting more deeply with our neighbors.

     I want to be able to do it all...not in a compulsive and perfectionist way, just in a way that allows me to feel like I'm fully being who I am supposed to be. Who God created me to be; wife, mother, daughter, friend, good neighbor, church member, carpooler, writer, thinker, ...whatever else happens to be on my "plate".

     But, sometimes the plate just feels "too full", and like "too much", and like even though I'd like to eat all that food that is piled on there (or manage all those tasks!), it seems virtually impossible. And, it probably is.

     Sometimes I stand back and observe other families that seem to have figured it out; they're managing the chaos, walking through it with grace, and somehow finding time to serve others, be connected to each other and go on cool trips and adventures, all while pruning their flowers with a smile on their face.

     There are times when it feels like we're the only ones. Like everyone else somehow has their act together, the lawn cut and their flowers pruned while we stand there scratching our heads trying to diffuse the latest argument between the kids over who gets the pink bowl and who gets the blue.

     I just want to pull the shutters down on my front windows..."No, don't look in here! No, there aren't kids screaming, and toys everywhere. Oh no, that house project hasn't been going on for two years now! We just started that yesterday...I swear! Sure, you can come over for a lovely chicken dinner, with the table nicely set. No, no.  That's not my child standing on the kitchen counter...gulp...naked....with a mouth full of chocolate chips!"

     Maybe some other families do have their acts together better than we do...

     Or maybe they just hide it really well that they don't...

     Or maybe they just don't write blog posts about it all (;

     Whatever the case, comparisons are rarely, if at all helpful. Especially when you're comparing your "insides" (what is really going on), to someone else's "outsides" (the "image" they want you to see, not what is actually going on).

     When I consider the families that I do know more intimately, the ones who also have young children, I realize that the reality of their lives is much more similar to our own. They're living some version of the same, young family life craziness--busy schedules, breaking up fights, maneuvering the idiosyncrasies of kids wants, desires and attitudes, all while trying to cultivate something meaningful.

    They're tired too. Sometimes their lawns get cut and the flowers get pruned and sometimes they don't.  They fight and make up. Their kids fight and make up. They have days when their patience is thin and  the voices get loud, and others where they are praying with their kids and teaching lessons like the parenting champions that they are (sometimes all in the same breath!)

    Several hours later, I was thinking about that lady again and the more I thought about her the more my heart went out to her. I have no idea what was going on in her life: She might have been struggling with her marriage, or working through the issues of a hard relationship, or dealing with job loss, or illness in some capacity.

     She might have looked at me and thought, Must be nice to be able to get out and go for a run. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was  glad she had a chance to prune her flowers that morning. It might have been the one moment in her day that allowed her to focus on the beauty of life, rather than the hard parts. 

     Later that day I said a prayer...

     Sorry God. I know...bad attitude. What's the deal? What do you want to show me? 

     Well, there might be some areas of your heart that need a little pruning. The places you are not trusting me. The places where you are giving into discouragement rather than standing on hope and peace about your own life, and the season you are in.

     Ugh. Yes, you're right. Is there more?

     Your flowers,  literally and figuratively, could be pruned in five or ten minutes a day. You can read a book with Ava, color a picture with Ella and throw a ball with Aubrey in the same amount of time.  Do what you can, give what you can, be who you can in the short bits of time and it will add up to something bigger in the long run.

    Really, God. Really? It will?

     It will. I promise. Now trust me, and go water your flowers.


God has been teaching me, for months now,  to not become so overwhelmed by the many tasks, but to focus on what I can do in a given day, and to then give the rest to Him (and then "rest" in Him...love that intentional play on words!). That while the enormity of our responsibilities can feel like too much, that if we pray about our vision, ask Him to guide our priorities and help us to see more clearly where and how to use our time, that He is faithful to answer those prayers.

      So, go do that small thing and trust God with the big picture!

Matthew 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.










Friday, September 11

Back in the School Swing of Things


It's Friday of back to school week in these parts.

Oh, what a summer it was.

     It felt fast and furious. A hustle and bustle of some planned and LOTS of unplanned activity.  Days that required little more of the kids than to venture outside to draw chalk murals on the sidewalk, or wait for one of the neighbor kids to invite them to play (or better yet, swim in their big-people pools! Our backyard is so small that we can only fit one of these unsightly blue blow-up pools that wiggle like a bowl full of jello every time the kids splash around in it!).


     There is some gladness in the back to school rhythm. It's fun to don shiny new aqua blue sneakers to gym class (shoes with actual shoelaces to tie in Ella's case!), and see old friends.

     It is fun to use new crayons, and sharpen pencils with the anticipation of using them in crisp writing journals and new math workbooks.  It has been fun to meet new teachers, and swing by to say hello to the old, being grateful for familiar faces, yet very aware of a new level of maturity: that each child has graduated to the next phase, stage, classroom of life.

     It's a delight to watch them, and walk alongside them as they experience all of this change and newness and then to hear their response to it...

     "Mom," my 1st grader said, "I saw the kindergarteners today and they looked so small! Was I that small?"

     "Yes, honey," I say with a smile. "Yes you were."

     "Wow!" She says as I pull up a picture still on my i-phone from the first day of school last year.

     "Yeah mom," my third grader chimes in, "I felt so old today!"

     I smile again and nod my head. She is "old" by her standards...the oldest in her elementary school now (which only goes up to third grade).

     Here is last year's picture...


     And this year's...




     I was a total cheeseball and decorated the door from our garage into the mudroom with a "Welcome Home" sign and balloons. We also had a cake (purchased from Wegmans) that said "Happy First Day of School" for dessert.





     Somehow I started this cake and door decorating tradition on Ava's first day of kindergarten (because she was my first to go off to school and I was all emotional and over the top. Ha!), and then felt like I HAD to do it for Ella's first day of kindergarten (before she adds any more fodder to her "middle child plight" file), and then it just kind of became a fun thing we do...

     I did find myself apologizing to the girls for my cheesiness. Are they too old for this? I thought momentarily.

     But their smiles at my cheesy door and cake efforts reaffirmed my silly intentions to try to make the first day of school fun and celebratory, rather than something sad or disappointing.

     "We love it mom," they said.

     And really, who doesn't love store bought chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting? I mean it makes my day a little sweeter too (:

     (Please note! You are not allowed to read any of this and feel guilty! Sometimes I hesitate to share things because I don't want other moms to "see" something I do and feel like they should do those things too. That is the downside of our Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook culture...and while I love sharing about my life as a mom, I never want to add to the "comparison chaos" that we can find ourselves in! Please know that on most days I feel like it's about all I can do to get my act together, get places on time and brush my hair before I leave the house! And, seriously, I found those balloons in the junk drawer!)

     So...the structure is a welcome break from the sometimes too unstructured days (for mommy anyways!) of summer. I hate to say it, but it's nice to clean up the kitchen after breakfast and know that it will not be trashed again in 45 minutes.

     I can also say our house is finally a itsy, bitsy, bit cleaner as a whole...which feels very good! Summer days can leave me feeling like a hurricane blew through the house for 12 hours straight.  I'm then often left to pull the pieces back together at night before the wind starts blowing furiously all over again the next day.

    It's nice to feel like the wind has died down a little bit...

     I do, however,  miss the connection and time with the kids (when they weren't driving my bonkers!). When they come home at the end of the day it always feels strange to ask them what they've done for the last six hours and get a 60-90 second answer that feels like the smallest sliver of insight into their whole day experience.

     Tell me more! Tell me more! I want to know everything, I want to demand.

     Instead I prod them with a few more questions, offer them another Triscuit and cheese, and realize that this, to some degree, is the way it goes as our kids grow up and are away from us for longer stretches of time (Can't I just secretly install a camera on their backpacks?!)

     And while there was much we did, there was also much we didn't do. Unfulfilled intentions seems to linger all around the house as I clean up from the summer fun.

     There were books I wanted to read with them, and crafts I wanted to do. I pulled their memory books out that have been collecting dust all year with intentions of working on them together-- somehow many of these things never happened.

     I think mostly, while I wanted to "read" or work on memory books, what I really wanted were moments to sit and connect. Moments that felt fewer than what I had hoped for at the end of June when summer vacation was budding with expectation.

    I found, with a two-year old on the scene, that it is very hard to focus on...well, anything. I'd start something with the big girls and Aubrey would, naturally,  start ripping pages, or pouring glue, or let the hamster out of the cage...again.

     In the end, I mostly tried to keep her out of trouble, or out of her sisters' hair, while they worked on games or projects and played with friends. It's part of three-child dynamics that I'm still adjusting too... I did plan some big girls breakfasts, and tried to do some one-on-one bike rides, or moments together in a quiet spot on the couch. Often it's a divide and conquer mentality...one parent is "on" Aubrey, while the other does something with the older girls (again, older mommas! insight here would be great!!! LOL!).

     So anyways, the swing of things looks like lunch boxes back on the counter and copious amounts of paper coming home from school!  It's mommy trying to figure out who likes peanut butter and who likes ham, and why the heck the Pirate's Booty that I packed yesterday morning is littered like confetti all over the inside of my oldest daughter's lunch box.

     There are paper's to sign, and homework coming home...

    This morning, after all the kids were off to school (and Aubrey was settled into playschool for the morning), I had a chance to sweep the kitchen floor, vacuum the rug and put some laundry away.

     And Wow! Can I just tell you? I felt like I had dislodged a popcorn kernel that had been stuck in my teeth for days! It was such a relief to clean something up without simultaneously anticipating the next mess that was going to go down!

     Then to sit down to write this blog post...that was like a sigh of relief too. For those of you who process life through writing or even just journaling, you'll completely understand this. It was like I had been holding my breath for weeks and was finally able to let it all out...

     Ahhhhh....

     Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy writing...or running...or reading ...(3 of my favorite things!)...even cleaning (occasionally, when I can do it by myself!) and then I have the chance to get back into them. It feels, momentarily, like I know who I am again. Like I'm living from my real, authentic, God- made self. But now I'm getting deep, and introspective, and all of that is enough fodder for a whole other blog post! So, I'll stop there (;

     We're looking forward to a warm weekend with the kids at home. While September marks the beginning of a new school year, it also marks the beginning of cooler weather and shorter days (bah!)...so, we're making the most of the warmth while it lasts!

     Blessings to you in all of your own back to school, getting-into-the-swing-of-things adventures.



"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun."  Ecclesiastes 3:1





Thursday, August 27

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

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

That would be my longest unintentional blogging break EVER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was that...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haha.

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?

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

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

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

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

Lots of trips to the park and monkey bar swinging 

4th of July Parade


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


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

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

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

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


Panama Rocks. 

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

Lots of picnic table lunches at parks and other places. 

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



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




Monday, June 15

Let Them Sell Their Lemonade!



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

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

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

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

     Oh, but you can....

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Bahahahahaha!

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

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

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

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

     I called my sister...

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

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

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

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

     They made twenty eight stinkin' dollars.

     Yes, you read that right...$28!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     On the other hand I'm saying...

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

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

     But what if? 

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

    What if we just say yes...

...to the unexpected ideas.

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

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

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



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


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


Let them sell their lemonade!!!





Friday, May 15

Lost Ice Cube Trays and Other Musings from the Mommy Trenches







I've lost my ice cube trays.

Both of them.

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

I loved those ice cube trays.

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

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

But that might be another story entirely.

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

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

That's about how things proceed in these parts.

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

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

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

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

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

And then...

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

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

Good gracious, what happened now?

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

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

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

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

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

Ah yes.

I laughed.

I rolled my eyes.

I got paper towels.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I want to laugh right now too.

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

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

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

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

If you can't let others laugh with you.

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

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







Tuesday, April 28

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

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

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

We talked about our birth stories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, stay at home motherhood...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I just need a reminder.



Thursday, April 16

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



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

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

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

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

Pause. Insert empathetic nods from knowing mommas.

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

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

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

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

Oh mommas...

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

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

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

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

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

(I did apologize the next morning).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 2

A Writing and Planning Kind of Day


The sun is shining!

Easter is this weekend!

And I'm holed up in a hotel room, all by myself, writing, reading and planning for a few hours this afternoon....and I'm completely giddy about it all!

I'm a thinker who feels most centered when I can find quiet places to contemplate and work through life on paper. As you know (either because you're a busy mom, or because you've heard me say it before!) finding "quiet" time can sometimes feel like looking for a watering hole in the middle of a dessert...you keep seeing water off in the distance, but as you get closer it just keeps disappearing. Until, eventually,  you find yourself really, really thirsty...at which point you usually just snuggle up to share a juice box with one of the wee ones along for the ride and call it a day.

All that to say, quiet time is in short supply so when I do have a few minutes, I treasure them deeply.

So here I am, in a hotel in Syracuse, New York, while my husband is running business meetings and my mother in law (who is a saint!!!) is hanging with the girlies this afternoon and evening.

As a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor I was invited to attend a regional event at Syracuse University this evening-- a panel discussion on non-fiction writing in general, and the mission behind the Chicken Soup brand, followed by a dinner with the Publisher and several other contributors from the region.  Since I don't know a soul I almost turned the invitation down, but then realized my hubby had business in Syracuse anyway, offering a chance for him and I to travel together and for me to meet some new, local, writing comrades.

I've brought books and notebooks, file folders and scraps of paper. I have my calendar, notepads, computers, and I-phone. I'm not completely sure where to start, or what to focus on...I'm hoping focus is something that comes out of this time.



Has that ever happened to you?! You have so much that you need to do, and even aspire to do, and then you finally have the house to yourself, or the babysitter shows up, or you find yourself all alone in a hotel room, and you just stand there dumbfounded? "What do I now?! I have no idea!"

I'm currently working on several projects...two separate "books"-- one a spiritual memoir, and one a collection of reflections on motherhood. I have a half dozen ideas for other books, and oodles of blog posts I'd  love to write if time allowed. Today I'm throwing many of those ideas down on paper to save for the future, when the time and season allow...but for today I'm just thankful for this quiet time.

I've found a lot of internal peace about my writing lately (the writing I am able to do, and more importantly the writing I am unable to do right now). There was a long season where I found myself frustrated by how seldom I was able to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), and would get discouraged and irritable about it all...but lately...well, I guess God is doing work in my heart. Truly.

It's like King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."

In this season, I have been called to full-time stay at home motherhood, a job that requires a lot of time and energy...more than I could have ever imagined, actually. And so I find myself fully coming into myself as a mother, bit by bit and day by day, while still trying to integrate time for other parts of my life that I value.

It's the age old dilemma, right? How do we find balance, keep our priorities straight, and make the most of the pieces of our lives in a way that is honorable to ourselves, our families, but most importantly, in a way that is honorable to God? 

We put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, trusting that God will offer wisdom and that the path will become clear. As you get stronger, and learn a little bit more, you start to trot instead of walk, and than jog instead of trot...sooner or later you are running a race that you didn't know you had the stamina to run.

It feels good when you start running and you realize that you are capable of so much more than you thought you were when you first set out. When you realize that you can only do so much in your own strength, but the spiritual refining that happens as we journey through motherhood teaches us a very, very important lesson...we can do so much more and ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

I am incredibly thankful for that truth and hope that you are finding the same to be true in your lives as well.

So, today I am thankful for the life I've been given (all things, people and circumstances included!), the blessing of my family, and a quiet space to think and write for even a short time. I'm hopeful for the future, and all of the adventure it holds. And I'm trusting, that in the right season and at the right time, God will take these scraps of a writing life that I've created and turn them into something meaningful.

Hope you all have a very happy and blessed Easter weekend!




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Saturday, March 28

Some Thoughts on Blogging and Why I Keep Going



Have you ever remodeled or simply repainted a room in your house? Sometimes a fresh coat of paint makes me plain giddy-- the shine, the sheen, the way new paint makes something that was feeling tired look completely new!

That's how this blog space makes me feel today (I'm still relishing in the new colors and design!), like I just remodeled a room in my house. It makes me want to invite you all over to drink coffee,  eat cookies and enjoy the fellowship of each other's company, as we share stories about our families and the day-to-day pursuit of making something beautiful of this adventure called life.

But since that doesn't always work out,  I keep writing these little posts. It's one of my favorite ways to connect with you. Its a way of sharing little pieces of me, even when our schedules or geographical locations don't coincide.

Sure, I've had my share of moments where I've shouted to the hilltops, "I'm done! I don't have time for this! I have four baskets of laundry to fold, the kids are about to get off the school bus, a hurricane apparently ripped through the kitchen,  and a baby chicken just pooped on my floor! Who has time for blog posts when you're cleaning up chicken s***?" (This was all true on Friday afternoon when I started writing this post!)

But, I always come back. Because it's become a part of me that I can't let go of. Because it's part of the way I process my days. Because it's part of the way I capture the moments that are fluttering by with such speedy intensity that I can hardly comprehend how the 3T Nemo underwear I recently found in my kindergarteners top drawer don't fit her any longer.

This post is #408 in my Little Writer Momma blogging journey. That's hard for me to believe!

When I look back at my early posts I am reminded about many things. In the same way that looking through old pictures kicks up pangs of nostalgia and sometimes cringes of embarrassment, reading through old blog posts does the same...Some of the pictures make you say, "Awwww, wasn't that sweet," and some of the pictures make you say, "Ewww! Did I really do that? Did I really wear that?"

Some of my earliest posts allow me to relive funny, candid and cherished memories,  while others leave me cringing and asking serious questions, "Did I really need to talk about poop?" (Yup, that would be this one, right here.)

But, at the end of the day, as I read through the old, and then the recent, I'm reminded that I'm a blessed woman and that I've grown as a parent by leaps and bounds in the last eight years. I'm very thankful for both of those things, and reminded that life is a journey and that it is the process that is important, not some hoped for destination.

As I peruse the last five years of blog posts I realize three things...

How quickly time goes. 

How much they've grown.

How much I've grown in the process of helping them grow. 


I recently came across this quote by writer and humorist Andy Rooney. He said,

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.” 

We are climbing the mountain step by step over here. And, while early on in my parenting I expected to naturally be at the top of the mountain (and often found myself frustrated when I wasn't) on a regular basis (you know, it was supposed to be continuous sweet cuddles, accolades from my children  for my awesome culinary skills at dinner and no whining EVER!), I'm more content these days to just enjoy the journey and to be peaceful right where I am. 

I look forward to continuing to share my Little Momma life with you one blog post at a time..the posts may be fewer and far between these days, but they'll always be honest, and I'll keep coming back. I promise.

Here's to finding ways to enjoy the journey, one precious day at a time!