Friday, March 15

Place: A Five Minute Friday Reflection

There is often a great expanse of space between the "place" that I want to be and the place that I am...

This is currently the case for me professionally, personally,  and well...domestically.

Listen, I have aspirations for our house...the place where we do life...really, I do!

But, alas...I seem to be perpetually domestically challenged,  and so we all end up in this funny 'place' emotionally and literally with this place we call home.  This place we do life together.

I'd like this place that we intertwine as a family--where we share ideas, work through struggles--those we hold within, and the ones that stretch out, mingling with the moods and thoughts of all of the other family members-- I would like the place in which that all happens on a daily basis to feel more be a lovely landscape for the happy and the hard. To not feel like it's adding to the chaos, but to feel like a balm to the busy. 

Our place, our home, does not currently feel like a balm to the busy. It feels like a busy bomb of life has scattered itself e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. 

Queue the's o.k. Laughing is better than my opinion anyway.

I honestly thought, with the advent of my youngest of three daughters heading off to school this year that our place would finally feel al little more settled-- that I would find more time to clean, more brain space to organize and order the stuff of our lives, that there would be more intentionality focused on making our place feel  like the "home" that I'd like it to be...the "home" in the pictures of my mind.

Candles lit, cool art and home decorations that reflect our "style", laundry nicely folded and ready to be put away, a spice cabinet that doesn't assault me with plastic bottles of cumin when I open the know...the little things.

And yet, it still looks like this...

Alright, to be fair...the first two pictures were taken the week we had our rugs replaced in our entire upstairs three weeks the entire upstairs had to be carried downstairs, and then back upstairs again...which was lots of fun (and sounds like a premise for a Dr. Seuss book!).

(By the way, did you spot the dog in the first picture...a friend of my suggested we start an IG hashtag titled  #whereisTanner)

And the third picture...well, that's how my ADD brain gets me into trouble during holidays like Valentine's Day with 3 kids, who all requested different cards and when I volunteer to do crafts in my daughter's kindergarten classroom...

Which was also fun...but, messy..

But whether we're installing rugs or not, these picture do depict our "place" on a pretty regular basis (albeit a wee bit exaggerated here!): Our menagerie of life lived, ideas in process, and everything in between.

This is our place in life right now; busy, messy, trying to be more organized, and trying to love one another well in the process, despite the mess.

This post was inspired by Five Minute Fridays, a place where a whole bunch folks write about one word, for five minutes,  and then link up their ideas.

It's lots of fun, you should check it out! 

Monday, March 11

Thoughts On My Years as a Mom

On Saturday afternoon I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote this at the top: 
“My Life As a SAHM”   (SAHM= Stay at Home Mom)
I intended to brainstorm some quick thoughts and ideas that would succinctly summarize my experience as a mom over the last twelve years.
I’m not sure what naïve part of me thought that such an assignment would be quick or succinct—that I would be able to adequately describe the experience, journey, growth, challenges, struggle, and blessings that the last 12 years have been.
These are some of the words I wrote down:
Identity defining
Only possible by faith
Deeper reliance on God
Emotional healing

Maybe, I thought after jotting these down, it’s un-summarizable, these last 11 years of life.
And yet don’t we all, in some way, want to take stock of our days—of our experiences? Especially when some piece of our lives, some season, has been so soul defining that you realize you are a completely different person than when you began?
A completely different person, with the same name: Mom.
In the process of trying to write this post, I also tried starting three different times. 
The first attempt shared the story of a resume I sent to a potential freelance client last week. Given that my primary job description for 11 years now has been “Mom” my resume felt poorly outdated and strangely irrelevant. 
How could sending a list of bulleted “professional” experiences, mostly from over a decade ago, really communicate who I am and what my current strengths are?
I wanted to send a cover letter that said—“Let me tell you what lies between the lines: Between the lines of that last formal teaching job in 2007 and my life today in 2019. I promise you it’s far more interesting than what is actually printed on the page.”
I scrapped that post and started another one—I thought I could start at the beginning—the day Scott and I found ourselves driving to the hospital to give birth to Ava in June of 2007. How it was a week before my due date, and my “birth plan” went right out the window…and how quickly you realize that very little about parenting every really goes as planned.
But, that was going to be a l-o-n-g post, and I wasn’t sure where to stop—there was no way to draw a straight line from there to here…today.
I decided against that one too.  
I complained to Scott. “Babe, I wanted to write this post," I told him,  "but there’s no way to write about 12 years of motherhood in one post.” 
“Of course there isn’t,” he said.  
Of course there isn’t.
So here we are. 

Here I am. 

Offering a list of words, a few sentences… telling you it’s been a long, good, complex, often overwhelming, soul-defining journey, but not giving you anything specific.
I can, however,  tell you a few things I've learned about parenting in general...

I can tell you that I have become far more confident in my parenting decisions in the last few years. I know that I’m the mom, and that I know what’s best for my kids, especially when I’ve been praying about it. 
I can tell you that Scott and I realize we are creating a legacy.  That we are sowing seeds of character, courage, faith and a worldview into our girl’s hearts and lives, and that it isn’t a responsibility we take lightly.
I can tell you that there are some days I feel like I know so much more about how to be a good parent- what I should be doing, where I should be intentional, what the goals and vision should and can be.
But, I can also tell you that there are the days when I fall flat on my face because I’m tired, frustrated, or discouraged. On those days it feels like nothing I'm doing is amounting to anything the way I thought it would…and while I know this is a feat of perseverance and commitment, sometimes I just want someone else to be in charge for a little while.
I can tell you that I have legitimately locked myself in the bathroom and have hidden in the basement—ignoring the calls for “Mom”—and thought, Can someone else just be the mom today? I’m so done momming right now! 
But then…
Ahhh, but then…
A picture comes up on my Facebook feed that causes a huge lump to form in my throat. A picture of Aubrey just 3 years ago, sitting in the backseat with two binkies in her mouth, a huge winter coat smooshed into the car seat buckles, and her socks and shoes stripped off.
I laugh and remember how it used to drive me C-R-A-Z-Y that she took her stinkin’ shoes off every time we got in the car because it meant that we were going to have to take five minutes to put them back on before we went into the store (or, wherever we were going). Yet, looking at her chubby 3-year-old feet in that picture makes me think I would do it ALLL over again…I just wouldn’t let it drive me so crazy.
And the pictures of Ava and Ella—when they were in 1stand 3rdgrade and I used to pick them up from school and we’d go straight to Tim Horton’s for a snack because Ava needed to go to gymnastics and Ella needed to go to dance, and it became this weekly “thing”. 

You know, the ways things become “things”. 
They’re both wearing fleece hats and sucking on their smoothie straws, faces right next to each other, smiling with all of the joy possible in their sweet little worlds.  
They were all such sweet moments and there are hundreds of pictures to remind of how very sweet they were…thousands, actually. (I-cloud verified that there are 7,665 current photos as a matter of fact…and that’s not all of them!)

So, on the days when I feel like I can’t remember what we did last week, or what it felt like to hold a baby, or push a toddler in a stroller through Disney World, on the weeks when I feel like it’s all a hard, uphill battle, it does me good to look at those photos…because they communicate something to me.  They remind me of something that is sometimes hard to put into words.
They remind me of the beauty. The blessing. The joy. The thrills. The laughter. The love. The reasons we do all that we do—even when we’re tired, poured out, and feeling like we don’t want to “mom” for one more minute.
We are creating a legacy, after all.
We are writing a story.
It's actually a more beautiful story than I sometimes like to believe when the girls are complaining about cleaning their rooms, or about the chewy chicken I attempted to cook in the crock-pot.
Would I do it all over again? The sleepless nights, the toddler years with two kids 19-months apart who were always driving each other crazy, the commitment to stay at home full time with them until they all started school? 
Ha! Maybe…Maybe if someone promised me I’d get a little bit more sleep and that a free maid came with the deal. Then, I would definitely do it all over again.
Only, you know what I would change?
I would change my attitude about it all…I would do it with more joy. More appreciation for the small moments. More patience and intentionality.
It’s why all of those little old ladies stopped me in the grocery store to tell me the same thing over and over again, “Honey, it goes so fast. Enjoy the moments.”
I am quickly on my way to becoming one of those ladies.
In the meantime, I’m going to finish writing that long story—the one that starts at the very beginning, almost 12 years ago—with Scott and I, naively, driving to the hospital, understanding that we were at the starting line of something big, but having absolutely no way of knowing just how big and complex it would actually be.
And, how not knowing, it turns out, was probably a VERY good thing. 

Thursday, March 7

Getting Back Into the Blogging Swing of Things!

It's been a while since I've blogged consistently--

Honestly, it feels like it's been a while since I've done anything consistently-- clean my house, take library books back on time, make my bed.

Ahhh, mom life...the land of a bazillion tasks, unexpected crises that must be taken care of (big and small), and time that flies by faster than you can say, "Wait, stop! I wasn't ready for you to be asking me about razors and Snapchat! Can we just go back to story time at the library?!"

We're at the (hopefully) tail end up a bitterly cold winter. My January and February were full of so many unexpected snow days,  sick days, half days for a myriad of reasons, winter break, a 10 year old birthday celebration, and a couple of "small" house projects that turned so "big" that as of earlier this week I wasn't sure which way was North.

But, I'm here, at Starbucks, with my day planner, lots of paper, my colored ink jet pens and lots of ideas-- for life, books, blogposts and re-visiting my goals for the coming year...

I'm ready to jump back in-- back into posting here once a week-- on Mondays. I'm not sure that I've ever done that consistently...go figure (LOL!)...but, I'm here to try again...

In theory, I should be able to follow through this time because all of my kiddos are in school for the first time this year. In theory, that should mean that I have lots of extra time...

In theory...

But, somehow, the days get filled just as fast, and my "theory" of feeling like I would suddenly have a steady handle on life once the 'kids went to school' doesn't seem to be holding as true as I would have thought...

I'm planning to blog about that one of these Mondays (;

So, to hold myself responsible I'm posting my blogging schedule for the next four weeks-- I do follow through when I have a formal assignment or commitment- so here it is, my commitment to you, my loyal 3 dozen readers (;

Since I'll be writing about about motherhood for the next month, I'm planning to give away one of my favorite books about motherhood each week. You'll have to stop back to read the posts to find out what they are and how you can win a free copy!

Monday, 3/11 Thoughts on Being a SAHM for More than a Decade

Monday 3/18 The "Theory" of Goal Setting in the Land of Motherhood

Monday 3/25  Finding the ME in Mommy

Monday 4/1 How to Follow Your Dreams While You're Changing Diapers

Leave me a comment if you know how-- it's always nice to know who is stopping by. If you can't leave one here, feel free to leave it on my Lisa Littlewood-Writer Facebook page

Sunday, February 17

7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues!

Friends, I have good news for you…
There are 32 days until Spring!
Someone please queue the marching band and let's sing that from the rooftops!
If you don’t live in the Northeast let me just tell you, it is bitter, bitter cold in these parts. It’s gray, windy, slushy, dreary, and just plain miserable to walk even from your car into the grocery store. The runner in me is longing for slightly warmer, less windy days, to get out on the roads, and a friend of mine in Michigan recently told me her kids were on their 9th snow day! Ack! 
By the end of last winter I ended up buying a light lamp on Amazon- I'd set that little thing up on my countertops in the kitchen while I was cooking dinner, or in my office if I was working on a project. I can't say I saw a huge difference, but I also can't say I used it as consistently as recommended. We've since had recessed lighting added to our living and to my office--"If I'm going to live in Buffalo," I told my husband, "We're going to install lights ALL over the house!"

And, so we have.

While this winter continues to be cold and gray, my moods have been steadier, which I'm thankful for. I credit this to several things-- more light in the house, my awareness of how the gray can affect me, and my intentionality to do things to combat how the gray affects me. 
I should also be honest about one big piece of the puzzle here—all three of my kids are in school this year!

As a woman who can speak from the experience of being a full-time stay at home mom for 11 years, Northeast winters at home with toddlers in the house can be hard, hard, HARD.  So, for you mommas out there at home with your little ones, and to my homeschooling friends—I’m sending extra amounts of love and hugs your way! It's no easy gig- I get it. 
So, while I live under no illusion that March 20thwill actually bring about warm temperatures and flower buds here in Buffalo (it usually just means gray, rainy days for another month), just the idea that there are only 35 more days of winter inspires some hope in my cold, winter-weary soul. 
In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you my own personal “winter survival kit”, or 7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues:

1. Seek Beauty
I know I’ve been winter bashing a little bit here, but we all have to agree—there are pieces of the winter landscape that are breathtakingly beautiful. My family tries to get out skiing several times during the season, and while I’m not the best skier  I LOVE being outside with the kids, and I really love the chair lift.

Laugh all you want, but the fresh air, the time to sit and observe the landscape, and eating gummy bears with my 10 and 11 year old (a chairlift tradition they started), these things always help me to enjoy my winter days. (Hint: Learn how to ski just enough to make it down an easy hill, and simply ride the chairlift with your kids all day!)

And last week, when everything melted and then froze, and the tree branches were encapsulated by ice, it was stunning. I stopped and took photos with my I-phone, thankful for the incredible display of God’s artistry.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” says Psalm 19:1.

2. Practice Gratitude
It sounds so cliché, I know, but it’s true and it works. When I am intentional about thanking God for my blessings, my heart changes.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp depicts this so poignantly: 
“I cut extra squares of chocolate-melt bars in half and the knife slides clean straight through. A ladybug walks the windowsill, spring stroll all in parade of red and black dots. Her back parts into wing, then shies. I jot her down, 366. I slow time! It’s ridiculous how much joy a moment can hold.”
Isn’t that the truth? It’s ridiculoushow much joy a moment can hold! 
It’s ridiculous how much joy is in those moments on the chairlift eating gummy bears with my girls. It’s ridiculous how much joy comes from watching my 5-year-old cackle when her big sister makes a silly face at her. It’s ridiculous how much joy there is in stopping to observe iced over branches.
The joy filled moments are there, waiting to be observed, felt, held, noticed…redeemed. They're ready to capture your soul, and remind you that life is good. 
Two ways I've learned to practice intentionality in  noticing these moments is to take pictures on my I-phone and journal regularly (even if I just jot down some bullet points from the day).  I find that capturing the moments, even a few of them, in a concrete way like writing or taking a picture helps to secure them in my mind and is a concrete way to combat the winter blues.

3. Worship
A friend once told me that she turns worship music on in her house daily as a way to fill the air with God’s goodness.
Isn’t that a beautiful way of putting it?
She swears it decreases fighting, and increases positive attitudes in her family of six!
I say it’s worth a try!
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been anxious, overwhelmed, discouraged, and weary and have tuned into a worship station on Spotify—within minutes my heart is moving in a different direction.
Worship doesn’t have to be accomplished through playing music on the radio, though it can be. Worship can be a prayer walk outdoors, a song sung in your car, it can be writing your gratitude list down on paper.  Worship can be going around the table at dinnertime and having everyone name a blessing in their life. 
Any act that shows reverence and adoration towards God is an act of worship.

4. Get Out of the House! 
I know you might not feel like it, but it’s good to get out! Even if you just bundle up and drive to Wegmans for some eggs, milk and dark chocolate bar with sea salt (c’mon, there’s got to be something fun!) it helps to get you out of the funk that you can find yourself in when we hibernate all winter.
Go for a 20-minute walk if it’s not too cold. Take your kids sledding, even just for an hour. Throw everyone in the car and grab hot-cocoa and Timbits from the Tim Horton’s drive through. Anything will do, but I promise fresh air, and seeing other human beings is actually good for you. 

5. Take a Nap
Give yourself permission…it’s ok. It is winter and it is cold. A nap can do a lot for the spirit! I'm a short napper and find a way to integrate this practice into my schedule almost daily. I simply set a timer on my phone for 15-20 minutes, close my eyes, and let me body re-set (I've even done this in the backseat of my minivan if I'm out running errands or carpooling that day).

I've heard friends say they can't do this because they're groggy afterwards- that doesn't happen to me, but it's probably because I don't actually fall asleep. I'm just letting my body and mind rest.

I do have a friend with a newborn who takes longer naps because she's so stinkin' tired and I say that's ok to! Our bodies need rest-- sometimes just a little rest in the middle of the day- so, again, give yourself permission. 

6. Make Soup
Last winter I took half a dozen cookbooks out of the library and researched soup cookbooks on Amazon. I LOVE soup, but was bored with my recipes. Even just the act of looking through the pictures in the cookbooks cheered me up! There is a reason that comfort food has earned the title "comfort food".

If you need a place to start, here are two of my favorite winter soup recipes:

7. Send a GIF
The humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”
Ain't that the truth.

Did I mention that I was home full-time with my kiddos for 11 years?  Let’s just say there were a bazillion moments that I learned to laugh, otherwise I might have cried…a LOT!
All that to say, Erma is on to something here.

My Buffalo friends and I, we send each other links, and images and GIFS on a regular basis. You should have seen the L-O-N-G text message string that 4 of my girlfriends and I had going the day I figured out how to use the GIF tool on my I-phone. It STILL cracks me up just to think about it! 
So, send a friend a GIF about motherhood, or the crazy weather—either way, it will get you both laughing, and, as they say, Laughter IS the best medicine—even for the winter blues.

This is SOOOOO true! Bahahaha! 

I LOVE this sign! Lol! 

Leave a comment about your best tips for getting through the winter!