Friday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

Ending a beautiful and pretty perfect Christmas day...A few minor meltdowns by an over sugared 2 year old, but all in all, we had a wonderfully relaxing morning, the girls had a lot of fun, and it was nice to spend time with family but to be able to return to our home and put our girls into their own beds tonight. This is the first Christmas in nine years that we did not have to travel into Buffalo from Massachusetts, but were already here in Buffalo...and while we miss many things about New England, family ties are wonderful and mean a ton, especially during the holidays. I'll post a few pics in the next couple of laptop is out of commission at the moment, forcing me to write from a basement computer without my pictures.

God Bless you and send you a happy new year! God Bless you and send you a happy new year.

Wednesday, December 23

Angelic Voices! Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Was watching Good Morning America during breakfast a couple of days ago and caught the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" and it put a HUGE smile on my face. If you've read any of my recent posts, you'll have picked up on the fact that I have been searching high and low for ways to feel the Christmas spirit and this choir and their beautiful voices put me RIGHT there! Even my little peanut Ava said, "Mommy this music is pretty" as we danced around the living room. "Yes. Yes, it is," I said to her.

Anchor Robin Roberts described their voices as angelic and I completely agree. They will be back on the air Christmas morning and you should definitely tune into watch. There is a reason they have won multiple Emmy awards for their music. Check them out for a little Christmas spirit lift on Christmas morning!

 Here is a link to the clip from the other day:

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir on GMA

Sunday, December 20

Not About the Presents

I've always been a bit of a sucker for silly cliches and plays on words. Here is one with a bit more reverent of a tone that struck me during church today; It's not about the presents, but about HIS presence.

I feel like I've been having a hard time really "feeling" the Christmas spirit. I'm not sure if it is just because I am older now, and the toll of busy schedules and childcare leaves me feeling like the days are just passing in a whirlwind and it is hard to capture what is happening. Or, if there is something else I need to do in order to feel Christmas. I've tried listening to different CD's, I'm reading a Christmas Carol, I've watched Frosty and Rudolph with Ava. We've sent Christmas cards. I've been shopping. I have decorations up and our tree is lit almost 24/7, but yet I'm having a hard time intrinsically "feeling" what I want to feel.

Until I sat in church today.

Then I felt it. For a few minutes anyways and I realized that was the answer. We need to take more time to be in God's presence to really feel the spirit of Christmas.

During our church services they open up the alter for people who want to come and pray. Of the hundreds of people in the services, a few dozen usually find their way to the front to kneel down and pray at the alter. While the more reserved part of me usually prompts me to pray from my pew (I had determined that going to the alter was for people with really BIG prayer requests!) this morning, for no particular reason and with no particular request, I felt that I needed to kneel at the alter and pray. I prayed for nothing specific, just that God would be near and that I would feel him. I did and I'm thankful for it.

Tonight I took Ava to see her Aunt Caitlyn in a Christmas pagent at their small suburban Presbyterian Church and I feel like I felt God again. There was something really beautiful in the evident heart, soul and effort that the people of this smallish congregation and these children put into this play to tell the story about Jesus birth. It was poingnant, funny, and sweet.

So, back to my silly play on words; it hasn't been about the presents, but about his presence that has helped me feel connected to a true Christmas spirit. A real feeling  that I've been aching for-- a combination of joy, peace and hope that resounds in my soul and reminds me that we are celebrating a beautifully spiritual holiday.

A few words from my favorite Christmas carol, O Holy Night:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

Friday, December 18

Run and Be Thankful

So, after waking up a 4:45 this morning and not being able to fall back to sleep, I figured I should seize my unsleepy state to get the things done that I know I will not feel like doing later when I am running and writing. This is my second blog post of the day. I was feeling antsy this morning, so I wrote a blog earlier and then went out, got a coffee in the frigid, FRIGID 15 degree morning and went to the gym to run.

So now that I've run, wrote and am coffeed I am feeling more grateful and peaceful.

I am thankful for:

- my ability to run. plain and simple. not everyone can.
-the smiles on my children's faces this morning.
-the fact that Ava is pooping in the toilet and sleeping through the night without a diaper, and the money we'll save because of it!
-the fact that we are getting normal nights sleep, most nights, finally!
-the sacrifices our military are making, including my wonderful brother in law, away from their families, especially at the holidays, for our freedom and for a hopefully better world.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Do you ever have one of those nights, or mornings, when you wake up for whatever reason (a crying teething baby, for example) and cannot, no matter what, get back to sleep? You start mulling things you are frustrated about, or anxious about, or angry about...That was me this morning. Ella woke up around 4:45 a.m. quite upset...after 25 minutes, some rocking and a bottle administered by hubby, she finally fell back to sleep. But I didn't.

Christmas is next week, and despite my attempts at really trying to focus on the presence of Jesus and his arrival on earth, I'm flustered because we are trying to figure out family schedules, and who will see who when, and how complicated it gets and how I feel like it's hard to find the downtime I desire to focus on what is really important. I know I am not alone. I think many families find themselves in their own version of this very struggle during holidays, and especially at Christmas.  I think because our lives are SO hectic with the craziness of taking care of our wonderful little girlies, that I start to feel really, really selfish about my time.

So...anyways...The verse above, Psalm 51 is one that I often recite to myself, especially when I am feeling frustrated and very far from who I really want to be as a person. I'm reminding myself that Christmas is a season of giving, and not just monetarily, or materially, but of our time and our energies as well. When I look at it this way, that our time spent with others is a gift that we give, it softens my heart a bit.

"Create in me a clean heart..." For me this is a prayer to help remove the frustration, and selfishness. Sometimes it's a prayer to help remove anger, or bitterness. Whatever is in your heart that is making you less than who you want to be...sometimes I have to pray it over, and over and over again.

"And renew a right spirit within me..." This offers hope...hope for renewal and restoration to a place of peace and balance within my spirit.  David wrote this Psalm after an adulterous affair that ended up in the death of his adulterers husband. When I think about how far away from God he must have been feeling at that moment, and his obvious faith that God would restore his heart regardless of where it had been, I realize that God really does want to meet us where we are and help us get back to where we should be.

Isn't that what Christmas is really about after all? God sending his son, to meet us in this world, to help restore us back to the people that we ought to be.

So, wherever your heart is today, if it is less than  you want it to be, God can take it and reshape it, you just have to ask.

Wednesday, December 16

Baking on the Counter

I had a brief moment of hesitation before posting this picture. I figured people would think one of two things when they saw it:

1. "My God, her child is on the counter, what the heck kind of house is she running over there?"


2. "Thank God, her child is on the counter. I'm not the only one."

So think what you want, but Ava was on the counter while we were baking cookies today, and quite frankly it doesn't bother me. I have these moments from time to time, wondering if I am ruining my daughter at such a young age. Is she going to be a rampant, rebellious teenager who listens to nothing I say and feels the desire to give into impulses to do whatever she wants? Or, as I like to tell myself, is this just a stage? And so what if she wants to sit on the counter from now until when she is a teenager, I find it somewhat endearing.

I have these thoughts from time to time when my mother comes over. The one day, Ava was jumping off the couch. As I watched from the kitchen at my mother who was smirking at Ava jumping off the couch I thought, "Is she wondering what in the world I'm doing? Is she thinking I have no control and I'm never going to be able to tame my daughter? After all, we certainly  never jumped off of our couch when we were younger. We were well behaved children."

In the end I decided that it didn't really matter. My mom tells me all the time that I'm doing a wonderful job as a mother, and I'm pretty sure she is being sincere about it. At the end of the day, we as mothers need to figure out our mothering personalities and come to terms with being ok with them. It's easy to second guess our decisions and our rules and the boundries we set, but the beauty of life is that we are INDIVIDUALS raising children who will have their own personalities partially shaped by our personalities. As long as we are trying our trying to do our best with what we have, our children will be ok. Maybe Ava will end up being a tightrope walker in the circus, or a very creative pastery chef because I let her express her energetic and creative impulses at home. Whatever she becomes I will enjoy watching her come into herself as she grows, and in the meantime if she wants to jump off my couch onto all of the cushions on the floor while I get the dishes done...well, I'm ok with that!

By the way, the cookies were pretty good. They were called Chocolate Pudding White Chocolate Chunk cookies! Here is the recipe:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup  packed brown sugar
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
2   eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups  flour
1 pkg. (6 squares) BAKER'S White Chocolate, chopped 
HEAT oven to 350°F.
BEAT butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add dry pudding mix; beat until well blended. Add eggs and baking soda; mix well. Gradually add flour, beating after each addition until well blended. Stir in chocolate.
DROP tablespoons of dough, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets.
BAKE 10 to 12 min. or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 min. on baking sheets; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.
(©2009 S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Tuesday, December 15

coming up for air

My sister's baby was 11 days old yesterday when she called to ask me the following question while taking care of her 19 mo.old toddler and the baby for the first time alone:

Her: Hey
Me: Hey
Her: So, why is that I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water?
Me: Because you are barely keeping your head above water.
Her: Thanks
Me: Sure

This was of course a light-hearted conversation attempting to alleviate the often overwhelming feelings of taking care of two small children, both under 2. My own girls are 20 months apart, and Katie has heard my sometimes daily diatribes about wanting to check myself into a hospital or even a prison, anywhere that my meals are made for me and my space stays as clean as I'd like it to for as long as I'd like it to.

The fact of the matter is, taking care of two young children is HARD work! I don't know a woman who would say differently. I don't want to downplay the challenges of taking care of children who have more of an age gap between them, because I'm sure they are many, but taking care of of a child who is 2 and a baby at the same time can at times feel like a pre-requisite to at least partial insanity.

But, that is not the point of this entry.

The point is to say that it is important, as moms, to figure out what makes you feel like you are coming up for air, at least for a couple of hours a week; this is KEY to our sanity. The truth is, on most days, I feel like I am barely treading water. That I am just making it. The house is never clean, just sometimes picked up, our belongings never feel organized, just sometimes easier to find than others, and our car is never void of crushed crackers, and spilled milk. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

All that said, I do the best I can to make it through most days, and if I lower my expectations about cleanliness and order enough, to actual enjoy many of them. But, I do need mommy time-- this is the time when I come up for air for more than just a few seconds, and actually feel like maybe, just maybe, I can keep swimming, and maybe just maybe I can do it gracefully for a short period of time.

While each woman is different (and man, for that matter- we need to help our husbands figure out how they can feel like they are able to breathe deeply as well!) coming up for air is a benefit of making time for yourself. Here are some ways I've done this:
  • Right now I'm sitting a Panera, drinking coffee, watching the snow fall softly, listening to soft jazz and utilizing the free wi-fi to blog away, distraction free-- this is like HEAVEN to me! I pay a babysitter every Tuesday, from 2:30-5:30 to come watch the girls. I prefer to do some writing and/or reading, but often run errands as well. It hasn't always been this way. I've tried a lot of different things, occasional babysitters, mommy's helpers, etc. but this has been the best situation; a lovely 20 year old girl, that lives a couple miles from my house, is a local college student and has a pretty flexible schedule. For me I like being able to look forward to this period of time every week, rather than just doing it occasionally. 
  • There is a local pre-school that has a playschool program- it's drop-off babysitting at a trusted church for $5 an hour. I take Ava there pretty regularly for two hours. Ella sleeps and I clean the house! 
  • Sometimes, either after the girls go to bed, or just before I'll grab a book and head off to Starbucks. It helps to get out of the house, because I'm there all day. It is more refreshing than just sitting at home on the couch watching t.v..although that certainly holds merits on some days! 
  • Taking the kids to the gym with me. I don't do this often because it is a bit of a hassle, and last time I took them both I was 22 minutes into a 30 minute interval run on the treadmill when I was notified that Ava needed to pee and I needed to take her! But, occasionally, I do put them in the nursery at the gym and feel excited to have accomplished a workout early in the day.
While there are other ways to find mommy time outs, I'll leave you with these and hope it inspires other moms to find time to breathe, to come up for air-- you need it, deserve it and will be a better mom for it!

Monday, December 14

Is Santa Claus Coming to Town?

Christmas is 11 days away and I still have mixed feelings about Santa Claus. Perhaps I always will. Here's the thing; Santa was never a part of my life growing up and so I feel a) unsure how to do the whole Santa thing, and b)my parents told me that they never did Santa because they didn't want us to feel like they lied to us so now I feel like I'm lying to my little girl! Ahhh, the challenges of motherhood!

Ava is 2 1/2 this year and she gets everything; there is no pulling one over on this toddler! That said, I feel like it is time to start establishing Christmas traditions and being the overly sensitive and heady person I can tend to be I have of course been mulling this over for weeks. It feels strange for me to tell her a story about some fat man in a red suit sneaking into our house at night to leave gifts. It is, in fact, a lie. However, I also feel the cultural pressure to create this magical Christmas facade for her, perhaps because fantasy is part of being a child, right?

So besides feeling like I'm lying, my other major issue is that as a Christian it feels, at times, as if Santa has hijacked Christmas. I know Christmas will be what WE choose to make of it, but the media, the ads, the malls; there is so much chaos surrounding the holiday, that the celebration of Jesus birth is completely overshadowed. At the end of the day I'm not really against the story of St. Nick, or the excitement of Santa, I just want the REAL meaning of Christmas to be very true and very prevalent in our family.

Before anyone goes thinking I'm a big fuddy duddy about all of this, we have talked about Santa around the house, she sat in his lap at a brunch last week, and recognizes Santa in pictures.I do plan to let her believe that Santa filled her stocking and brought her a couple of gifts (the others will be from her mom and dad). We'll probably leave cookies out and read The Night Before Christmas as well. But, on Christmas morning I also plan to read her her picture book about Jesus' birth, and talk about the gifts the wise men brought for Jesus. We've also created sticker collages of the nativity, have read books about Jesus birth and she can readily identify Jesus, Joseph and Mary.  In the future, I hope to instill values of giving by volunteering time to wrap gifts for less fortunate families, or donating to other children. In a world so convoluted with our culture's noise, I think we sometimes need to be quite deliberate about the messages we want our children to hear. I think my questioning is a form of figuring out the message I want my children to receive and making sure it is heard.

I posted a question to an online mothers forum that I subscribe to and got 33 responses(as opposed to the usual 7 or 8 about most mundane baby issues)! Most people said, How can you not? Some said that I need to do what feels most right...And many other mothers said they have also asked themselves the same questions and feel like they have found a good balance between playing up the fun of Santa, but still emphasizing the importance of Jesus.

We will do something of the same; find a balance between the Santa story and the real story. One woman who responded to my question asked me an interesting question; she asked, "Was there ever a small part of you that wished that maybe your parents had let you believe in Santa, even for a while?" And quite frankly, the answer is yes, I do. I'm glad for the strong moral foundation my parents emphasized and I'm thankful for their commitment to Christian values, but yes, just for a time, I would have liked to set aside reality to believe in some magic for the few years that it was still ok to believe in magic. 

And, for that reason, I suppose Santa will be coming to our town this Christmas...

Thursday, December 10

One on One Time

Today was a blizzardy day here in Buffalo. Drafty, windy, snowy, cold...downright miserable outside. For many kids this meant a snow day, including Ava's Aunt Caitlyn, who is 13. She called this morning as she was dancing around her kitchen because she was SO excited and wanted to make a snowman with Ava!

All that to say, Grandma Connie and Aunt Caitlyn came to pick Ava up this morning leaving me with just one child!! I hate to sound so excited about this, but after having two kids, taking care of one is a piece of cake!! Not to mention the cleaning I was able to get done around the house while Ella napped. It was a small moment of euphoria to have all, let me repeat, ALL of my clean laundry folded and put away, stew in the crockpot and the entire house vacuumed by 2:00 p.m.!

But here is what else I found; it is really, really nice sometimes to just be able to focus on one child purely because you are so much more easily able to connect to that child in those moments. I imagine this changes as they get older and we can all do more together, but on a day to day basis, poor little 10 mo. old Ella pretty much gets the shaft around here sometimes.

She's so content, bless her heart, to sit in the middle of the living room floor and play with a cap to a jar of baby food for 25 minutes, while her 2 1/2 year old sister is dragging my tired behind around the house to wipe her spilled water, spilled milk or rescue her from some other household trouble she's gotten herself into. I just don't have the time to focus on Ella that I used to with Ava.

So I got to focus on Ella for a little while today; on her beautiful gummy smile, on her laughter as I tickled her, on the smell of her yummy baby head, on feeding her, on helping her walk around the living room, on rolling balls with her-- the little stuff that little ones like. It was delightful and as much as I LOVE having two girls, I LOVE one on one time with them individually sometimes too. Besides my loving it, it's so obvious that they love it, and I think it is really important to do.

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

While I put off renting this movie because I had heard that it was “long” and “tedious” and “strange,” I finally gave into my curiousities about it and was glad that I did. While there is no denying that the movie is long, it is 160 minutes, I didn’t find its length to be a deterrent to my enjoyment of the movie. 

The movie, as most people know, is about a man aging backwards. This sounded like a pretty far-fetched thing for a movie to be able to capture in any elegant way, but the director, David Fincher (also director of Fight Club, among other movies) does an excellent job of weaving this tale in a sort of fantastical, fairy tale sort of way, as to make it believably unbelievable, if that makes any sense. It feels as if it should start with “once upon a time” and you never feel as if you are being forced to believe something completely unrealistic, but rather are glad to be along for the ride for as long as the story lasts. 

While I was hoping to be struck with some obvious metaphorical meaning, I’m not sure that happened. I’ll admit, prior to seeing the movie I had made guesses as to what I was supposed to learn from such a story; that if we approach life as we age with the same vigor that we do when we're young that we'll find more fulfillment.  In the end though, I don’t know that I was really struck by one meaning or another. I found myself thinking about it for the hour before I went to bed and then again the next morning, which I like for a movie to prompt me to do. And, even though my husband seemed disinterested in watching the movie with me, he too got hooked, watched most of it with me, and was talking about it the next morning as well, which I also like.

The two “lessons” I gleaned from the movie:

1.      It is a story about love on many different levels. Loving people despite their outward appearance like Benjamin’s black mother does when she finds him on her doorstep as an unsightly baby, childhood love that grows into adulthood and eventually becomes an intimate lifelong relationship, and love despite awkward and challenging circumstances, especially on Anna’s (Cate Blanchet) part when she, as an older lady cares for the confused teenager and then toddling child and finally an infant who had once been her lover. At times the movie does get strange, like when Benjamin as an old man loves Anna as a young girl and vice versa, but these “weird” attractions are unintentional consequences of a mystical story and need to be merely pushed aside to enjoy the story.

2. It is a story about having the energy and courage to start over when things don’t quite go as we think they should. Benjamin says at one point that he hopes his daughter will have the courage to start over…it is a line that was ripe with meaning to an audience who likely has something in common—that we often find ourselves in ruts and stay there because it’s easier to stay with what you know than to start over sometimes- the movie encourages us to go against the grain under such circumstances.

In closing, I can’t say I would watch the movie again, because it is quite long, but I’m glad I saw it once—it was a worthwhile story and better than many of my other rental choices on a cold winter evening!

NOTE** Here is a link to one of my favorite movie databases; the International Movie Database. When I'm looking for reviews, summaries or information I've found this to be a GREAT web site. Also, I'm not one that likes violence, etc. and if you click on the "parents guide" it gives you a VERY detailed summary of what you're getting into with any given movie.

Wednesday, December 9

PJ Day

It's 7:05 p.m and Ava and I are still in our pajamas...I emphasize still because we have been in the same pajamas since we woke up at 7:30 this morning (as opposed to having already put them on for the evening, which is what normal people do!). I know moms always joke about this sort of thing...not changing their clothes, but I have to admit in 2 1/2 years this is the first time I've actually ended up in them ALL day. Fortunately I'm meeting a friend for a margarita tonight or I fear I might not find the energy to change at all!

The best part is that when Scott called me on his way home from work at 6:15 and I told  him Ava and  I still had our pj's on he said, "Oh wow. I took Ava's pajamas out of the dirty laundry last night and wiped egg off of them."


So why are we still in our pajamas? It's been a nutty day. Kids crying, sugar spilled all over the floor, and a hopeful attempt at a gingerbread house that ended up in a bag by the garbage can after the roof slid off and the walls collapsed.

And why do I bother sharing this? Just in case some other poor momma, who has been in her pajamas all day, and is thinking, "Really, is this what it has come to?"  reads this and finds an answer to her question."Yes, this is what it has come to, but no you are not alone!"

Movie Review: Four Christmases

Ok, this one will be short and sweet. I’m embarrassed to admit that I watched this at all, but alas, I’ll admit, I’m not a very sophisticated movie watcher at times and this movie fits the “cheap thrill” audience looking for something light. It starred Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and while I don't find Vaughn to be a great actor, he can be entertaining, and Witherspoon is usually charming.

I’m probably pretty generous to give this movie a 3 out of 5, but it exceeded my expectations…I thought it would be really bad, but found it to hold my interest on a very superficial level while I worked on a grocery list and did a little internet hopping for Christmas presents.

In summary, the movie wasn’t too trashy, and pretty well summed up, if not over exaggerated on a comical level, the family dynamics at many of our family holiday gatherings; strained relationships, obnoxious extended family, the desire for our families to share embarrassing details about our childhood with our significant other. It also played up some pretty funny socio-economic stereotypes, like sister in-laws who offer cheese whiz on Ritz cracker appetizers. In the end, I can’t recommend renting it because there probably are, in fact, better things to do with your time…but if you’re really needing something superficial to veg out on the couch with, I’ve seen worse!

Saturday, December 5

Celebrating Advent

It seems that most of spend the end of November and most of December in a flurry of activity that often leaves us feeling flustered and wondering if we really achieved all that we set out to do. We buy and decorate and buy and bake and buy and wrap and buy and buy and buy and at the end of December can end up feeling a bit depleted emotionally and physically.

Sure, Christmas is a happy and joyous time, but so often my expectations are that it will be blissful, momentous and peaceful, when in the end, and especially with children, it can sometimes just feel like numerous days of semi-organized chaos.

This year I was considering the upcoming Christmas season and how I could practice being more "in" the moment and really striving to relish what the season is supposed to be about. How can I allow Christ to permeate my Christmas? As I began thinking about it I was remembering the advent wreath and candle lighting that took place every Sunday at my church growing up. I started asking myself, "What is advent?" What does it actually mean? What is it's purpose in the Christmas season and could it be a practice that would help me to slow down and focus on what is really important?

There are many websites and resources about what advent is historically, how it can be celebrated, and how to integrate it into our lives. On a basic level the term advent is latin for coming or arrival. It is a time of spiritual reflection and anticipation about God's arrival in our world through a baby named Jesus. One website ( puts it this way, "This is a time to get ready by rejoicing that our God is not far away and unfamiliar with the struggles of human life...The bigger Christmas became the more it swallowed up Advent...practicing Advent as a religious season man help recover Christmas."

So as much as I can I am trying to approach this time in a more spiritual way than I have in the past. From my own experience and others I have read about here are some ways to help you focus your mind on the truer meanings of Christmas:

1. Get Quiet: Grab a cup of tea or coffee, turn the Christmas lights on, light a candle and simply be quiet and in the moment. Consider Christmases of the past, traditions that have prodded joy and peace for you, and think about ways you can help to bring more of that into this Christmas season. I love Psalm 46:10, "Be STILL and know that I am God." How often do we allow ourselves to be still these days?

2. Do some reading. A friend of mine gave me an Advent devotional put out by our church, which is a wonderful book of reflections for the Advent season. Here is a link to a wonderful website sponsored by Reverend Charles Stanley ministries. They put out a free monthly magazine full of encouraging stories and reflections. Their December issue is a wonderful resource for focusing your energy spiritually during Christmas:

3. Write About It. I'm big on journaling. Writing down my thoughts helps to make them more concrete. Perhaps you start a journal that you use only a Christmas time. You could pack it away with your Christmas things and bring it out each year, allowing it to be a seasonal reflection. Or, if you keep a journal regularly, jot some thoughts down about your experiences, thoughts and desires for the Christmas season. 

4. Sing!! Pick up a book of Christmas music, or pull up songs online and sing them with your family. If that is too cheesy, put in your favorite CD, but be sure to sing along! I made Scott bring our keyboard up from the basement and have been rehashing old piano lessons by trying to play Christmas songs. Silly as it sounds, it has been fun, the girls love it, and it has brought me a measure of joy unexpected! Some of the more spiritual Christmas songs, in particular, are really beautiful when you really consider the words.

5. Find Christ centered activities. There are several drive through Bethlehem scenes in our area. Activities like this are great for teaching our children what Christmas is really about. I've also made a special focus on picking up children's books about baby Jesus and the real Christmas story to read to Ava.  Also, be sure to try to attend church services, not just on Christmas eve, but throughout the month of December. I always find that no matter how flustered I am on a given Sunday morning, or how much I didn't feel like getting everyone ready for church, once I'm sitting and listening to God's word, I realize it is right where I needed to be. 

Would love to hear ideas from others about how you incorporate spiritual reflection into your Christmas season. Leave comments below!

Wednesday, December 2

Snow through a Childs Eyes

One of the things I love most about being a mother is the opportunity to vicariously see life through the eyes of a child all over again.  What a perfect plan...just when we are getting older and more cynical, when our sense of life has become jaded...when we have lost the sense of wonder intrinsic to childhood, along come our children to remind us what life can be about. Their lives are filled with new experiences, the awe of seeing things for the first time...when we see snow as just cold and messy...our children come along to re-ignite our enthusiasm about the little things and remind us that snow is wonderful, magical and exciting.

Yesterday morning we had our first snowfall in Buffalo. Ava was SO excited. We went to sleep on Monday night to dry ground and woke up to a completely snow covered neighborhood. Ava woke up around 7:45, I went up to her room and this is how things went:

Me: Ava, guess what, it snowed last night. Do you want to see?

(I pull open her blinds and lift her out of her crib to look outside)


Truly, I wasn't super pumped about the snow, but her little voice and her wide eyes put a huge smile on my face. We walked downstairs and she was adamant about going out.

Ava: Where are my snowpants? Let's go outside. (Jumping up and down- mind you it's now even 8 a.m.).

Me: Ava, sweetie, I can't go out with you, I need to feed your sister and make breakfast.

Ava: I got out by myself.

Me: Sure.

We put all of her clothes on. Two pairs of socks, leggings, long sleeve shirt, sweater, snowpants, jacket, hat, gloves and her rain boots because I have yet to buy her a new pair of snow boots this year! The picture below pretty much sums it up. She played outside for a good 20 minutes. Packing, walking, sliding down her slide into the snow while Ella and I watched from the kitchen and then she came in for breakfast and asked about a snowman. The snow is melting from yesterday, but more is due this weekend-- we are due to make a snowman and she cannot stop asking to watch the Little Bear episode where he makes one. 

Thank God for children who remind us that there is joy in the little things. And the wet things, and the cold things, and the furry things...

Tuesday, December 1

Making Christmas Ornaments

Made these ornaments with Ava. We picked up the kit (came with materials for two ornaments) at Target for $1.99. They are foam and have adhesive on the back of each piece. Super easy, cute and fun. You could easily copy the design and make these out of cardboard and contruction paper as well. They were the first ornaments we put on our tree. She was so excited!

Friday, November 27

Giving Thanks

So much to be thankful for this year! Here is a partial list:

1. Scott found a job in Buffalo, allowing us to be near family...while we don't always love Buffalo, we do love our family and the relationships our girls are building with them.

2. My brother got married two weeks ago to a great girl. Welcome to the family Dani!

3. My parents celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving. What a beautiful thing. Thank you for your example Mom and Dad.

4. My sister is due with her second son in less than a week. She's feeling great and the baby is growing well.

5. We have a wonderful, warm home to raise our girls in.

6. Our girls are healthy, happy and developing so beautifully. Nothing makes us happier than to see the two of them playing together.

7. Ella is sleeping through the night!!!!

8. We have so many wonderful friends who are a part of our lives; those we've reconnected with in Buffalo, and those we miss and stay connected with in Massachusetts.

9.We have SO many things that we take for granted everyday; t.v's, televisions, dishwashers, warm beds, two cars, plenty of clothes, books, food, DVR and disposable diapers! The list goes on and on.

10. Scott and I have a wonderful marriage, but even more wonderful is our shared faith in God, which forms the foundation of our marriage and offers us tools to navigate through this crazy life together.

Thanking God for the abundant blessings in our life. 

Wednesday, November 25

One of those afternoons...

Here is a funny little mom story for the day. So, Scott and I are in the process of picking out paint colors for our house. We bought the house about 3 months ago, and have really been itching to make it feel more like "ours". Because colors can be so difficult to settle on, I've been buying all of these little paint samples to try around the house. Our two year old thinks it's pretty cool that mommy is painting on the wall so I've been letting her take a few swipes at the wall under my close supervision... (repeating incessantly, "now, Ava, we ONLY do this when MOMMY is with you and says so!")

Well, today, I had her painting on the dining room wall and her little sister (9 mo.) crawled out of the dining room and into the bathroom. While I knew I should have checked on her more quickly, she's usually pretty safe in the bathroom so I let her play for a minute while we finished our small spot on the wall. In the meantime, Ava proceeded to accidentally swing her paintbrush at my favorite black turtleneck leaving a nice big swipe right in the middle. While I ran to rinse my shirt out in the kitchen sink in an attempt to save it, I hear a battle ensuing from the bathroom.

Ava is mostly potty trained, but recently we've been bringing her small training potty up to the bathroom to practice pooping, which she's having a hard time with.  Well, of course, Ava had peed in her training potty earlier in the morning and did not tell me so that I could clean it out (she's supposed to pee on the big potty, so I don't usually check). Ella (9 mo) was in the bathroom, with the lid to the training potty up and shaking the bowl to watch the pee move around. Ava promptly  RAN to the bathroom and proceeded to try to pull the potty (full of pee) out of Ella's hand, saying "My pee, my pee, MYYYYY PEEEE!" So if you can picture the two of them playing tug-o-war with the small bowl that holds the pee to the potty. I enter quickly from the kitchen with only a bra on (I had just taken my paint filled shirt off to wash in the sink) to see what all of the fuss is about and find them fighting over the potty bowl with pee sprinkled around them and the floor. I promptly ban them both from the bathroom in tears and covered in pee and decided it was time for an impromptu bath.

And I wonder why I need a nap when the girls sleep everyday?!

Why do I share this? Why not, right? I figure if one of these days you think your day is feeling really really crazy, perhaps you'll think, "well, it's not as bad as pee and paint all over the place!" or maybe it is, but either way we're laughing together, right?!

Sunday, November 22

Chaos and Grocery Lists

Have you ever tried, for like 40 minutes, to write a grocery list, but you can't seem to complete the task because there is Christmas music coming from the living room, a two-year old shrieking as she dances to it, your 9 mo. old crying from the kitchen because she is frustrated that she cannot complete the task of completely emptying the tupperware from your cupboard ( a cupboard she shouldn't be in, but you haven't had the time to put locks on!), there are pieces to a peeled, but uneaten banana on the counter, all of your children's toys are in your living room because you are painting the playroom, and there are dishes and random pieces of food and wrappers from breakfast, lunch and dinner randomly strewn about the kitchen.

Is this just my life? Oh no, it's my husbands too...don't we feel better?! We just looked at each other and laughed out's all we could think to do.

It's 7:16 and here is the rest of our to-do list for the day:

  1. finish washing, drying and folding laundry
  2. clean entire kitchen
  3. finish painting playroom
  4. run to grocery store for groceries for the week
  5. have a glass of wine with husband who I haven't talked to all day
  6. read the Sunday newspaper
  7. write blog
At least I can cross #7 off my list...perhaps I'll write something of more substantial purpose tomorrow...

Friday, November 20

Mommy Faith

"How do I view the challenges in my life right now? Am I looking at them through the perspective of God's ability or my inability?...Faith grows when our eyes are on the Lord and we trust him to do what we cannot do on our own. Fear grows when our eyes are on ourselves and we forget God is with us." (From: "The Power of a Positive Woman", Karol Ladd).

Even though I grew up in a Christian home, and have been supposedly practicing this thing called faith for decades now (that makes me feel old!), I'm still not good at it sometimes. Especially during the times when all of the small things in life are adding up.

It seems that in the big things I remember to go to God. To be prayerful. To ask for help.Things like buying a house, or moving to a different state, or applying to graduate school or for a job. But, being a mom, it's about a whole lot of small things that add up over a whole lot of hours and days. It's the grind of cleaning and preparing meals and cleaning up after the meals, the laundry, the errands that need to be run late at night when we are tired but the kids are in bed, it's the waking in the middle of the night, and early in the morning, not having time to talk to your husband and tripping over mega blocks in the middle of the living room. All that stuff adds up. Somewhere along the line I figured God doesn't want to hear about how tired I am. How tedious this feels. How much patience it can take to get through a day. He has such bigger things to handle then my feelings of being overwhelmed.

I also feel bad praying about it sometimes because I feel as if I shouldn't be allowing myself to feel overwhelmed, or tired, or impatient. I feel like I should be MOM and with the title comes the ability to do it...but like Ladd's words above, I've been looking at the job through my inabilities. I forget sometimes, that God is with me, and think I should be able to handle this on my own. But, I'm learning to grow my mommy faith, to ask for help and to cast ALL of my cares on Him, knowing that He cares for us as we care for our children.

I may be mom, but God is God, and that is a whole lot bigger than I can comprehend and I am thankful for it.

Wednesday, November 18

Messy, messy, messy!

If I could summarize motherhood into one word it would be MESSY!

Right now, we have just finished dinner and here is a round-up of the situation here:

Our nine month old is still sitting in her high-chair, peas smeared all over her face, hands, bib, tray and in her hair, from rubbing her grubby hands there!

There are crayons, unfinished milk, a half-eaten cookie, an old cup of coffee, and dirty placemats on the table.

There is an old bottle, a jacket, one sock and diaper cream on the counter next to the kitchen sink.

There is an upside down car seat (thanks to two-year old play), a vinyl tunnel, an old bottle, a diaper bag and blocks on the floor in the dining room, (in lieu of dining room furniture which perhaps we'll buy when we're not spending over $100 a month on diapers, formula and baby food!)

There is an entire basket of toys (which I picked up before naptime) strewn all over the living floor...again! Along with a book, a CD, a teddy bear, the cover to a DVD, a pillow and a blanket and there is ANOTHER finished bottle laying on the couch.

Leftovers from dinner are still on the stove, dishes still in the sink, and speaker wires running all around the living floor (a project hubby hasn't finished because the evenings get so chaotic.)

My shirt is on inside out.

I won't begin to comment on the situation upstairs in the bedrooms.

And this is relatively clean compared to other nights!

Oh, bless the mess. It's no fun to be clean anyway!

Me, a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM)? Really?

The decision to stay at home or to work outside of the home is one that seems much simpler before you have children. If you had asked me in 2003 B.C.. (before children!), the year I was working as an editorial assistant at Houghton Mifflin in Boston, and living in a great apartment in Cambridge, the year I got married to my boyfriend of 3 years (now husband of 6!), and had time to workout and run 4-5 times a week, and read at my leisure, and, well do anything my whims designed…if you had asked me then I would have told you “of course I will work when I have kids! I don’t know if it will be full-time, but I will definitely work! I’d go crazy if I stayed home all day long!”

Oh, doesn’t perspective change quickly.

Fast-forward four years to 2007 when we had our first daughter. We had moved into our first house about 45 minutes outside of the city (a town closer to my husband’s job), I had just finished a year and a half as a high-school English teacher at a small private school and knew it was not a job I wanted to continue doing full-time with children at home. So, I finished the school year, they found a replacement and in June of 2007 I found myself a full-time SAHM…not on maternity leave, not with the possibility of going back, but full-time SAHM.

I sometimes feel like I more fell into the role than deliberately choosing it. Maybe the timing was meant to be because God knew if I had a job I really loved I might have loved it too much to leave; whatever the case, with mixed emotions I was and have been home pretty much full-time.

I did teach two courses at a local college while I was preggo with baby #2 and loved the balance of working two part-time days and being home three. I’d still love to find a good freelancing gig. I’ve done some writing for smaller newspapers and magazines, and would love to keep doing so—if only I could find the time (that is a whole other post!).

Although, the question of how or when I’ll work again is an ongoing one in my mind the following quotes from Dr.Kevin Leman’s book, “First Time Mom”, helped to reaffirm why I am making this sacrifice of career to be at home cleaning up cheerios crushed into the rug by my dancing toddler:

“Someday, that child you’re holding is going to be in his fifties…When someone asks him to remember something about his childhood, will he talk about the childcare worker who bandaged his knee? Will he talk about being tied into a line as he and fifteen other two-year-olds walked to the park with the worker—of—the month? Or will he talk about autumn afternoons and drinking a cup of hot chocolate while Mommy read his favorite book? Will your children think of home as a warm place if they are raised in continual daycare?”

Well, for as much as I don’t know, the one thing I do know is that, even though I feel like I am going crazy many days, I want my girls to be thinking of warm cocoa and books. So, for now, I’m going to work on being content and grateful for the opportunity to be able to be at home with them because if there is one thing EVERY mother I’ve ever talked to has said, “The time goes fast. Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Monday, November 16

Just Do It!

There is a good reason Nike coined this slogan. It has a LOT of relevance to our lives-- to everyone's life. They knew how often their own customers don't 'just do it' but wish that they would or had.

Think about it, how often do we put off doing things we know we should do? Sometimes they are things that we know would benefit our lives in someway, like eating better, or forcing ourselves off the couch and into the gym to run or even just walk on the treadmill. Sometimes they are steps towards a goal-- steps that we need to make just one at a time, but that we put off because the entire thing seems overwhelming; like writing a book, or training for a triathalon, or learning a new skill like fishing, or knitting or photography.

Well, I could go on and on about the things that I don't do during the day that I feel like I should, but that isn't my point. My point is that we all feel better, well, I feel better anyways, when I adopt the 'Just Do It' approach and get things done.

Here' s my example. In one of my posts last week I mentioned trying to gather the courage to make a phone call to an editor about freelancing gigs. The truth is, I've had the phone number and have put that phone call off for a good six weeks now. Why? Fear, quite frankly. Fear of rejection, fear of sounding like an idiot on the phone and never getting a writing assignment again, fear of actually getting an assignment and feeling incompetent enough to complete it. Silly, silly fear!

Anyways, one of my closest friends said to me last week, "Lisa, what do you have to lose?" My husband kept saying to me, "Lisa, what do you have to lose? You don't have anything now, so if she gives you nothing, you've lost nothing..." Right. Right. Right.

It takes a LOT of convincing for me sometimes, but this morning I finally said, "Lisa, just do it. You don't have anything to lose." So I did it. I called the editor. And you know what happened? After a slightly awkward start to a conversation that turned out ok in the end, she asked me to send her my resume and some writing samples and she'd let me know.

That's it.

No, "I think you're an idiot and don't think I have anything for you." No, "I don't think I like you so I can't help you." Not even, 'You know Lisa, I'm really too busy to talk to you, I'm sorry." All the things that I was afraid of had nothing to do with what actually happened. And you know what, maybe she's even going to call me with an assignment in the near future.

So, my encouragement is this, "Just do it"; whatever it is that you've been putting off. It probably won't be as bad as you think and it might actually even be good!

Friday, November 13

Mr. Froggy

Doesn't he make you smile?

Maybe this is the real reason I stay home with the girls...I like to make paper bag puppets!

In all seriousness, my 2 1/2 year old put this together earlier this week. It was super simple, and even though I did most of the work, she had a lot of fun watching and playing with the finished project. Now I don't want anyone thinking I'm super crafty mom (that would definitely be giving the wrong impression!), I'm just resourceful-- I picked up this kit at Wal-Mart for $2.00. It's from the "Martha Stewart Create" collection and they have a wide variety of animals-- zoo animals, farm animals, birds, etc. We have a bear and a dalmation yet to create.

The best part, there is no tape or glue or scissors involved! Everything is pre-cut and self-adhesive.

If the girls were older I thought it would be fun for them to have a little puppet show-- create a bunch of them, put a little stage together and prance and dance them around!

Maybe we'll table that for a rainy day...

here is a link to them on amazon...although Wal Mart or a craft store is probably cheaper:

p.s. I almost titled this entry, "What I Did With my College Degree Today" but I figured I'd downplay the sarcasm for now...but really, don't you have those thoughts sometimes?

Thursday, November 12

Letting Go of Expectation

You’d think after two and a half years of being a mother, I’d have embraced two of the most important rules of motherhood: 1.) Don’t set expectations for yourself, 2.) The ONLY thing you can expect during any given day is the unexpected.

Quite frankly, I think I’m dealing with the said unexpected much better these days. I know this because this is how my phone conversation went with my husband earlier today (the poor soul who bears the brunt of my unmet expectation frustration).

Me: Hey

Him: Hey, how’s it going?

Me: I promise this is the last time I’m going to call, I know you have work to do. (It was the 3rd time I’d called him in ½ an hour).

Him: No, really, I don’t have anything to do…(go ahead and laugh, the sarcasm was rising)

Me: Well, I dropped A (our 2 yr. old) off at playschool at 9:30, brought E (9 mo. old) home for her nap at 9:45. She was wide awake in her crib for an hour until I went into her room and she literally laughed at me from her crib. Now the playschool just called and asked me to pick A up because she’s been crying all morning.

Him: Wow. You’re not swearing at me yet.

Me (trying to be a more patient mommy and loving wife): Mmmm. No. Saving that for later.

Him: Can’t wait…

(Just a little backstory. A goes to playschool at a lovely church 10 minutes from our house once a week. I drop her off, E naps. I get 2 hours of free time to clean, write, whatever. The obvious EXPECTATION here: 2 HOURS of free time!)

Oddly enough, I was really doing ok. In the past I’ve called my hubby all gruff, and crabby and bothered. Today I was really glad that at least the sun was shining. I was rolling with the punches.

Never mind the fact that besides wanting to tackle a sky high pile of laundry, clean the pile of clothes off of my bed and wash our filthy kitchen floor that I was just starting to gather the gumption to call an editor I’ve been trying to gather the gumption to call for over a month to see if she had any freelancing gigs.

Maybe I was just glad to have another excuse not to call the editor. Or maybe I’m really learning to let go of expectations.

Whatever the case, E is screaming from her crib because she is on a nap strike today…and so I must go…

Tuesday, November 10

Be Patient and Laugh at Yourself

Several nights ago I sent my 2 ½ year old upstairs to put her pajamas on. She is at the age where she really wants to do things by herself. “I do it, I do it, I DO IT!!” is her mantra and so as often as possible, and as long as her safety is not an issue, I let her do things on her own.

In the temperament of many first-borns (myself included) she can tend to be a little stubborn about things. She often wants to put her own clothes on, buckle her own seat belt, she even insists on cracking her own eggs into a bowl when we are making breakfast (a messy habit that my husband started!) and so I let her do many of these things. The problem is, at 2 ½ she has the desire to do them, but often not the skill set to complete the task properly without becoming frustrated.

On this particular night I watched her walk upstairs and listened carefully to see what would develop. Sure enough, within three minutes I heard, “AHHHHHHHHH. MOMMY. AHHHHHHHHH. Whimper, Whimper, Whimper. ARGHHHHHHHHHH!” In typical 2-year-old fashion she has gone from happy to tantrum in 60 seconds and was screaming and crying at a very high decibel.

“Oh boy,” I said to my husband as I rolled my eyes with a smirk and walked upstairs. Though it sounded as if she were in dire trouble I knew she was really just frustrated about something she couldn’t do.

As I walked into her room I had to hold back my laughter as I found her on the floor. In an attempt to take her shirt off, she had managed to pull the bottom of the shirt over her head and around the back of her neck with both of her arms still in the sleeves. She was screaming at me with her arms locked in her shirt and struggling to pull it off.

I calmly walked over to hear, pulled her towards me and gently helped her get her shirt off. She was still crying.

“Honey, you have to be patient with yourself. You don’t need to cry and get frustrated. Just say, ‘mommy I need some help’ in a nice voice’ and I’ll be right here. Alright?”

“Uh-huh,” she whimpered in her saddest voice.

We finished putting on her pj’s and got her to bed. Even though the situation only lasted a few minutes I found myself wondering, “How do I teach a 2 year old that it is not necessary to get so frustrated so quickly? That there are more reasonable ways of reacting and working through such a situation?”

But as I asked myself the question I knew that part of the answer had to do with modeling such behavior. How often during the day do I get frustrated about small things?

Even when she is not watching, how often do I get frustrated with myself and throw personal temper tantrums about not exercising enough, about not being organized, about not writing more, or cleaning more or being able to find my pediatrician’s phone number or even my car keys instantly. Being a mom of two small children is a period that poses great challenges to my time, to my organizational skills, etc. and yet I tend to be really hard on myself about things I think I should be able to do, but realistically cannot do at this period of my life.

Being a mom leaves me regularly listening to the advice I give my daughter and wondering if my actions are matching up with my words. She may need to learn to be more patient with herself in the small tasks that she is doing, but so do I.

So I’m trying to be a mother to myself. To say, “Lisa, you have to be patient with yourself. You don’t need to cry and get frustrated. Ask for help, but also realize that with the best of intentions come limitations.” So that the next time I have a shirt stuck over my head I can model a more rational response, laughter perhaps, but certainly patience—something that reminds myself and shows my daughter that we need to learn to be nice to ourselves and that acting like a 2 year old doesn’t really get us anywhere!

Monday, November 9

My Pacifier Complex and the Unexpected Blessing of a Runny Nose

We have two daughters, one is 2 ½ and the other is 9 months old today. I have often joked about my role as a paci pusher. Our 2 ½ year old has a love affair with her paci—from the time she was small it would calm her instantly. It was the miracle tool that brought peace to car rides, it was our snooze button on many mornings, and it has been a comfort and security for many falls, bangs and bruises. She still looks forward to her 2 ½ hour-long naps in the afternoon when she can grab paci, ducky and blankie and curl up in bed, away from the worries and chaos of life. Even though I know we should seriously be considering an intervention to go paci free with her sooner rather than later, I enjoy the security of having a way to calm her during some of these moments and so I let it go day after day.

Naturally, when our second daughter came along I offered her a pacifier as well. Knowing the immediate comfort it had brought to her sister(and therefore myself!) so often, I thought for sure she needed one as well. She fought us on it in the beginning—spitting it out or making faces when we tried to put it in. She was colicky in the first couple of months, and during those days of colic I drove from drugstore to drugstore laying down good money for different brands of paci’s with different types of nipples in an effort to find one that would “work” for her. Finally, she took the paci, and it did seem to calm some of her crying. It seemed as if all woes were answered, until…

At eight and a half months the youngest was still not sleeping through the night. Ack! We blamed it on her colic, and then on our move to a new house, and then on teeth, and indigestion and…well, we were out of excuses and about out of our minds from the broken nights. Our oldest slept through the night at 3 ½ months—an amount of time acceptable to the new parent who is expecting to lose some sleep…but by six, seven, eight months…well, for those of you who have been there, you know the frustration. It would be nothing for us to have to go into her room four, five, six, seven times a night to plug her paci back in. Sure, she’d fall right back to sleep, but often we wouldn’t and the toll was beginning to add up.

Finally, just last week, my husband and I were lamenting the long nights that were sure to be ahead when we noticed our daughter’s runny nose. We propped her mattress up, put a humidifier in her room, wiped her nose as well as possible, and ran into her bedroom every half hour to forty-five minutes the first night of her cold—she couldn’t breathe through her nose, so she couldn’t keep her paci in, so she couldn’t sleep! The next day during one of her naps I decided putting her down without her paci to sleep wasn’t any more or less ridiculous than our running into her room every half hour and so I did just that—I put her to sleep without her paci and she slept for 2 straight hours!

That night, we thought we would try again and guess what? She slept the entire night, let me repeat that, the ENTIRE NIGHT without so much as a peep-- and then the next, night and the next night and the next night. She has slept through the night, with a runny nose and not a sound for six nights in a row now and we have finally figured out the culprit of our sleepless nights!!

So while her bigger sister keeps trying to push the paci on her when she cries because she believes it to be the ultimate answer to all of life's woes, at nine months our little one is paci free and we are all sleeping a whole lot better for it. Bye, bye paci. Hello sleep. Amen to that!

Oh, and by the way, today I'm thankful for:
1. Sleep!
2. Sleep!
3. Sleep!
4. And the beautiful and unexpected blue skies and 70 degree weather we have had here in Buffalo.