Friday, April 30

A Poem on Parenting by Mary Karr

I'm not typically a big poetry person. I won't lie, it can tend to make me feel a little stupid-- like I missed the boat somewhere. Or, at least missed the English classes on how to understand ambiguous phrasings of words meant to lead to higher understandings of life.

After all, I was an English major and have a master's degree in a writing related field, aren't I supposed to just get these sorts of things?

Frankly, the truth likely lies in the fact that I'm not a very patient person either. I want my dose of information straight up-- let's not beat around the bush. As you've likely picked up from my blogging, I'm a pretty honest cat. No fuss, just the honest guts. It gets me in trouble sometimes, but it's who I am.

So anyway, I was quite pleasantly surprised when I really found myself enjoying a collection of poetry recently.

The collection is called Sinners Welcome by writer Mary Karr. I borrowed this book as well as her recent memoir Lit from the library prior to the Festival of Faith and Writing. I hadn't read anything by Karr and wanted to see what she was all about before hearing her speak at the festival.

Karr had an incredibly difficult and crazy childhood; all the horrible things you might imagine that would make a childhood hard, plus some. Her first memoir, Liar's Club, recounts many of these stories. I started to read it, but as the sensitive mother of two small children found it too difficult. Lit is about her later years, college and early parenthood-- I find it easier to read about adults inflicting bad decisions on themselves rather than adults hurting children, and have enjoyed the memoir so far.

Her collection of poetry seems to capture many of the raw emotions from her life experiences in short soundbites. They do not come across as archaic and ambiguous to me, just real, and deep and well put. The way I like poetry.

Here is my new favorite poem by Karr. It has appeared in the New Yorker among other well known publications.  It seems to capture the grit and grace of parenthood, the beauty and the chaos, the fact that we cannot control our children's every move,  just try our best to guide them in the ways they should go and hopefully, someone will someday say, "Nice kid."

Let me know what you think!


I have this son who assembled inside me
during Hurricane Gloria. In a flash, he appeared,
in a heartbeat. Outside, pines toppled.

Phone lines snapped and hissed like cobras.
Inside, he was a raw pearl: microscopic, luminous.
Look at the muscled obelisk of him now

pawing through the icebox for more grapes.
Sixteen years and not a bone broken,
not a single stitch. By his age,

I was marked more ways, and small.
He's a slouching six foot three,
with implausible blue eyes, which settle

on the pages of Emerson's "Self Reliance"
with profound belligerence.
A girl with a navel ring

could make his cell phone go brr,
or an Afro'd boy leaning on a mop at Taco Bell --
creatures strange as dragons or eels.

Balanced on a kitchen stool, each gives counsel
arcane as any oracle's. Bruce claims school
is harshing my mellow. Case longs to date

a tattooed girl, becase he wants a woman
willing to do stuff she'll regret.
They've come to lead my son

into his broadening spiral.
Someday soon, the tether
will snap. I birthed my own mom

into oblivion. The night my son smashed
the car fender, then rode home
in the rain-streaked cop car, he asked, Did you

and Dad screw up so much?
He'd let me tuck him in,
my grandmother's wedding quilt

from 1912 drawn to his goateed chin. Don't
blame us
, I said. You're your own
idiot now.
 At which he grinned.

The cop said the girl in the crimped Chevy
took it hard. He'd found my son
awkwardly holding her in the canted headlights,

where he'd draped his own coat
over her shaking shoulders. My fault,
he'd confessed right off.

Nice kid, said the cop.

--Mary Karr 

Thursday, April 29

Morning Shenanigans

Had to recount the morning here quickly:
Ella and Ava are in their chairs. They are supposed to be eating breakfast. Ava is telling me about how she suddenly doesn’t like bananas. Ella if flinging every bite of her food on the floor. AGAIN. 
The other evening Scott smacked her hand for doing this and said, “NO” quite loudly. Enough to make her cry, which I guess was good. This is becoming a bad habit, at every meal, and something needed to be done. 
Here is what happened when I tried the same tact this morning: 
I say to Ella, sternly, “NO. We do NOT throw our food on the floor.” 
She looks at me, laughs and throws her cup down for emphasis. 
I walk over to her, look her straight in the eyes, smack her hand and say, “NO. We do not do that.”
She looks at her hand and laughs again.
I walk away to ignore her. 
Ava from her chair says, “Mommy, Ella is throwing her food again.”
I walk over, smack her hand, “Ella. NO!” 
She laughs again. 
Ava is laughing at Ella from behind me. 
“Ava, don’t laugh at her she is being bad!”
I walk away. 
Two minutes later Ava says, “MOOOOMMMMYY. Ella is throwing her food again.” 
I do what my sister effectively did when her son was going through the same stage, decide to remove her from the room. I put her entire high chair in the mud room and close the door. 
She laughs. 
Ava says, “Mommy why is Ella in the mudroom?”
“Because she was bad,” I say.
“Well, can I laugh now?” she asks. 
To which I have no response and begin laughing myself. 
I go to the fridge to find something to eat myself (finally). A small leftover container of chicken noodle soup from Panera falls out of the fridge and spills all over my which I let out a loud exasperated gasp. 
“Mommy, what happened?” Ava asks.
“I spilled soup on my foot.”
“Can I see?” she wants to know. 
Sure. I walk over and show her my foot with the noodles stuck between my toes.
She laughs again. 
I post on facebook that I just spilled cold soup on my foot and don’t like the way the morning is going. 
Hoping that’s the end of it! 
Someone please tell me life with two children 20 months apart gets easier than this?!

P.S. I just went to put my shoes on in the mudroom and walked right onto the rest of Ella's jelly sandwich, in pieces, thrown on the floor. 

Tuesday, April 27

Apple Peelers and McDonald's Lunches

I just woke up from a much needed 50 minute nap. A hard, sound asleep, wake up and wonder where you are and what time it is kind of nap.

I nap just about every day. Some days it's short, like 20 minutes in which I don't so much fall asleep, I just close my eyes and rest my brain. Some days, like today, it's long and deep.

I like to think of my naps as a rebooting of my system. By 2:30ish every day the girls have run me long and hard and I need to shut the system down and let it reboot, otherwise it starts acting a little wacky and gets slow and unproductive. Just like a computer.

Yesterday I had a moment of realization that I shared with Scott, "I didn't nap once the entire time I was at the conference in Michigan."

He knew what I was getting at. A statement laced with my weekly dose of "my job is harder than yours while I'm at home taking care of the girls all day. As a matter of fact it's so hard that I crash into bed in the middle of the afternoon. My week away, in which naps were not required to get me to 9 p.m. is a testament to this very fact!"

(Honey, I LOVE YOU! Thanks for putting up with me!)

So what, you ask, brought on such a deep slumber this afternoon?

Well, I'm beginning to think my children are a little wild and crazy and out of control, like more so than other children, is what...Perhaps every mother has that feeling from time to time. I sure hope so. I mean we're not talking Supernanny out of control-- it's not like they're belligerent. They just have a LOT of energy and can be very needy, and now that it is times 2 it seems motherhood may have reached a new level of challenging.

It's things like Ella trying to climb into cupboards and into the fridge. Like the girls pulling all of the cushions off our couch to jump on them. Like Ella trying to climb step stools and stairs and beds and chairs. Like Ava jumping off of chairs and doing somersaults.

It's not so bad at home, but then they try to crawl onto my mother's coffee table and jump on her bed and couch and my father or mother step in to say, "We don't do that here." Or we drive out to drop muffins off to my grandmother and I find Ava in her clean and stately kept family room with all of the cushions off of her couch jumping on them like she is playing leap frog.

Scott joked the other day that Ella is payback for his childhood (he is a twin and boy does his mom have some stories to tell about dressers climbed and windows broke and windows crawled out of for that matter!). Well, I say, if she is payback for your childhood then I'm going to start to send her to work with YOU!

Back to today. I'll share the part about McDonald's because it pretty much encapsulates the rest of life.

I decided to take the girls to McDonald's for lunch today. I used to be anti-McDonalds and will be the first to speak about the denigrating side effects of their food on our bodies, BUT now that I have children and they give away free toys with lunches and have HUGE slides at some locations, McDonald's is not so bad.

While driving by the other day Ava spotted the huge slide which is quite astutely placed in a large open window near the road so as to be spotted by little munchkins who will then ask their parents to take them there. I figured it sounded like a good enough reason to get out of the house and so agreed to her request today.  The hour and a half after we arrived were full of mayhem and frenzy.

My friend Maria (who is older with four grown children, is an author, has almost 20 years of publishing experience under her belt and recently started her own publishing company with her husband here in Buffalo- she offers me hope that ALL things are possible even with children!) stopped by to meet and chat about some work...she ended up helping me pick string cheese and french fries off the floor and bear witness to Ella's shrieking.

Ava got salt on a small cut on her finger and started crying that her boo boo hurt. She got this new boo boo mixed up with the boo boo from late last week when I gave her an apple peeler and proceeded to tell Maria the story of how I gave her an apple peeler and how there was then blood ALL OVER. (She would not be lying. We were making muffins for my grandmother and I gave her an apple peeler and ran to the bathroom for 3 seconds! I came out feeling like the worlds worst mother when I looked down and saw blood gushing from her thumb. She's been telling everyone ever since "mommy gave me an apple peeler and there was blood and it was a VERY bad idea.)

Maria got up to get her some ice as I blew on her finger. She finally settled down and proceeded to eat an eighth of her lunch which she didn't find appealing (for which I'm secretly grateful!). All the while Ella launched onto the floor anything she could find within reach; my keys, her cup, a rattle, an entire string cheese cut up into pieces which I thought she was eating while I was tending to Ava, craisins,  and several french fries.

We finally made it to the playroom where the girls tackled the slides.  Ella, in all of her climbing vigor managed to make it up through the big plastic tubes far enough that I had to crawl in after her to get her out before she hurt herself. She also tried to escape the playroom several times prompting me to need to hold the door shut and leaving her shrieking and nodding her head "no" to my "NO". Finally, as we were about to leave and I was putting Ava's shoes on, Ella ran to the corner of the room and started climbing the high chairs. She was almost inside of  one by the time I caught her!

I pulled her off. She screamed and ran back. I pulled her off again. She screamed and ran back (I'm trying to put Ava's shoes on in the meantime.) I pulled her off, turned the high chairs around so that they were facing the wall. She screamed, ran over to them, attempted to turn them back around and climb up. I finally picked her up and strapped her into one so that I could put Ava's shoes on. She screamed and wretched around like I had inflicted corporal punishment.

A mother with her two older children (6 and 7) and a grandmother with 5 year old twin grandchildren watched sympathetically as their children played independently. The mother proceed to tell me about the time she was at this very McDonald's and a 3 year old girl got stuck in the mesh tunnel up above and proceeded to pee which gushed down like a waterfall onto the floor and room below.

I laughed. That would definitely be worse.

Ella screamed almost the entire way home. She was mad at me.

We finally made it home at 2:30 and I sent everyone straight to bed, including myself.

Perhaps I need to start saying "No" more. Perhaps it is partly the stage of life.

I told Ava, this morning, that we're not allowed to jump on the couch anymore. Maybe that's a start.

Here is what I learned this week:

1. Don't give toddler's apple peelers, no matter how coordinated they seem.

2. Make sure you have your keys in hand before you approach your car when running errands with children or like me you will find yourself crouched on the ground in the parking lot of McDonald's digging through a diaper bag that is filled with an abyss of random things looking for your keys with a toddler at your side and shrieking one year old balanced on your knee.

3. Follow the advice of a wise friend- "don't let  your children do things at home that you don't want them doing at other people's houses." Namely pulling cushions off couches and jumping on furniture!

All in all, if you're reading this, please chime in and let me know if your houses are often a meld of chaos and frenzy, or if your children are calmer because you set better boundaries. I'm serious. I want to know!

Tomorrow I'm planning to post a little photo montage that depicts my girls personalities!

Monday, April 26

1/2 Marathon Monday: Part 7, Back in the Game

I've mentioned before how therapeutic running is for me from a mental health standpoint; the endorphins offer a natural "feel good" high and the act of running actually helps to burn off some of the stress chemicals in your body (like extra adrenaline that hangs around when we get stressed).

Besides these physical benefits I've always found running to offer helpful analogies to life...For example, if I'm running and it's windy or my body is feeling tired I find myself comparing this feeling to life; life is not always easy, sometimes it feels like forces are actually acting against you, blowing you back, but the important thing is to keep going. That is what running teaches me to do; to keep going when things get hard.

Perhaps that is why after almost five weeks of not training because of a sprained ankle, and almost convincing myself that it was probably not a good idea to run this half marathon at the end of May because I really wanted my ankle to heal fully, I find myself back in the game.

I was out running one night last week, having a really great run, and felt this drive to recommit to the race...I think partially for all of the reasons I started in the first place, the most important of them being there are SO many things as a mother that I start and simply do not have the time to finish (house projects, photo albums, organizational projects, writing ideas, etc.) that I don't want this to be another thing to add to the list.

I also found myself laughing when I realized that this training process has become analogous to my life. As a mother it seems that almost EVERYTHING I do comes at a slower pace than I'd like these days because interruptions of some sort always surface-- unexpected doctor's appointments, sick children, teething and bad days all throw wrenches into my set plans.

In the same way, the ankle thing came up and threw a pause into my training. In some ways I need to find the momentum that I lost...I feel like I'm making slower progress than I would have liked...but at this stage of life it's not about how long it takes to get there it's about the finished product, or race in this case!

So, I'm recommitting. At a bit of a slower pace, but recommitting nonetheless.

My training for the last week has been as follows:

Tue: cross trainer: 35 min.
Wed: 3miles
Thur: 4.5 miles
Fri: rest
Sat: 7.2 miles
Sun: 45 min. cross trainer
Mon: 4.5 miles

Wednesday, April 21

Foiled Free Time

Please bear with me for a moment as I offer you this somewhat cliched analogy. First, let me say, having children quickly relegates free time to new heights as a precious, PRECIOUS commodity. Here is the analogy-- it has become such a precious commodity that I often feel like a woman walking through a very hot desert, parched and tired and searching for water...when I finally arrive at the free time (or the water!) I guzzle, gulp, slug it down and try to relish it for as long as I can because the next drink might be a very long ways away.

Life is really not quite that bad, but free time most certainly does feel that way. Free time typically comes in the following forms; early morning rising on my part, nap time (between 2-4 most days) and after the girls go to bed, which lately has been around 9 (late, I know! but that's a whole other story).  When it doesn't come as expected or it is shorter than expected I become a little cranky and very disappointed.

Like yesterday afternoon and then again this morning. Ella has been on a bit of a sleep strike.

Yesterday she napped for about an hour instead of her usual two (she and Ava usually nap at the same time) and this morning she was up at 6:30 instead of 7:15.

First of all, I do realize how lucky I am that they a) both nap at the same time and b) that Ella usually sleeps past 7. But, despite my being lucky about those things, when you get used to a given schedule you begin to set expectations according to that very schedule.

I know. Big Mistake. Rule #2 for mothers of small children (which comes after Rule #1 Always, ALWAYS, expect a mess) is Never, EVER set expectations.

Not setting expectations is SO much easier said than done. I mean I'm human. I have desires. Sometimes they're selfish, but sometimes they're just me wanting to still be ME and not just mommy all the time. Things like reading, writing, and pursuing the eons of ideas floating around in my mind on a daily basis.

So yesterday Ella woke up just as I started to drink my coffee and type this blog, and this morning she woke up just as I was about to get up, make some coffee and spend some time praying, thinking and planning my day.

It's hard when your head is full of ideas.  You start to feel like you're finally beginning to jive with your role as writer/reader/creative person AND mother and then your 1 year old decides that your new ideas about when you're going to explore your ideas is not really going to jive with HER schedule...and again her needs take precedence.


Perhaps it's the angels of patience and peacefulness testing me. After all, I have been feeling awfully peaceful and grateful and thankful this week. For life, for the girls, for the sun, for the wonderful conference I attended last week, for my husband, our home, all the big things.

"Will you still be grateful and cheery if we throw this little monkey wrench into your afternoon and morning?" they want to know.

It's just a little thing. The quiet time. But it's a big thing to mommies.

Argh. I'm smiling back at those angels with gritted teeth. "I'll smile, but I'm not happy about it," I say to them.

My coping mechanism yesterday was to go for a run as soon as my husband was done with work. Actually, if I'm totally honest, he was finishing some work up from his home office in the basement when I opened the door and yelled down the stairs at 5:45 that I was going out of my mind and that he didn't have to be done but that I just wanted to know when I could expect a helping hand so that I could roughly plan out the rest of my evening...including the run I desperately needed before bible study at 7.

It wasn't my most shining moment. It's what happens when my free time is foiled. I get a little cranky.

He came upstairs shortly thereafter and I left the house running. Literally.

It wasn't my best run. I was tired. It was windy.  I was letting the frustration eek out of my shoes... every time I wanted to stop I pushed harder because for the first time all day I was in control of something I was doing.

When I first started to write this post yesterday I found myself wanting to find some nice clean way to wrap it up. Some epiphanal moment in which the sun started to shine over my little world and the angelic chorus sang as I came into some new understanding of myself or reacted in a completely selfless way towards my family.

But, that's not really what happened.

I recall the therapist I was seeing before we left Massachusetts saying to me, "You may always struggle a bit with motherhood; with your role as a mother and your desires to do and be so many other things."

I think she was right. It may be unrealistic to think I'm going to reach some euphoric acceptance of motherhood in which I'm SO completely enamored with being a mother that I don't care about anything else; writing, reading, learning, pursuing freelance opportunities, running, thinking, journaling, blogging-- all of the other things that make me me.

There are days when the two me's jive and others where they simply fight each siblings...who love each other deeply but who just cannot seem to get along on some days because they are into each other's stuff.  In as much as I'd love the girls to just get along for the next 18 years while they live under the same roof together, it's not such a realistic notion.

In the same way I'm learning to accept that these parts of myself may just need to agree to disagree on some days...sometimes it's not about the day to day, the day to day can get ugly. Sometimes it's about the bigger picture.  When you look at the smaller details of a painting (like the one to the left) some of the strokes are dark, jagged, unclear, messy, but if you step back and look at the whole thing you begin to realize that it is the entirety of all of the colors, all of the strokes, all of the pieces that make it beautiful.

Here's to jagged edges and beautiful pictures.

Monday, April 19

Crazy With Some New Scenery

Getting back into the swing of things is never easy for me.

I feel like a walking paradox sometimes; I love adventure, I love to change things up a bit, and I love to take trips, but these very things always end up piquing my anxiety, getting it churning and leaving me feeling a little unsteady. Returning from trips always leaves me wondering if I should try to lead a more predictable, controlled lifestyle that doesn't include the nuttiness, but then I get bored and need to shake things up again.

My friend Sara and I returned from Michigan last night...well, I returned to Buffalo-- she is most likely finishing the last few hours of her road trip to Massachusetts as I write this. This is what Sara said to me this morning as her two girls 1 and 3, and my two girls almost 3 and 1 were all meandering around our house this morning, taking turns in the drama department, she said, "Well, Lisa, this has certainly been an adventure!"

It had been.

She drove from Massachusetts to Buffalo last Tuesday after teaching her college writing class that morning. She left at 3 and arrived around 11. The trip can take as little as six hours, except when you are one momma and have two little children in the car and then it gets to be dinner time and bedtime. She ended up sleeping at my in-laws house that night because Ella threw up that morning after my sister had called me to tell me that her son had thrown up all night and Ella and Noah had been together the day before. Follow?

So after driving all day, and sleeping at my in-laws, we did let our two older girls play outside together for a couple of hours the next morning (Ella seemed to be doing better) and then packed everything into her new, and now fully mommy and child christened mini van, and drove eight hours to Hudsonville, Michigan. We stayed with her in-laws Wednesday night, left the next morning for Calvin College (40 minutes away in Grand Rapids) to attend the first day of the Festival of Faith and Writing and then spent the night at her sister's apartment (while her children were still with the in-laws). Her sister picked her girls up on Friday afternoon and did a wonderful job playing with them and watching them Friday and Saturday while we attended the rest of the conference.

Sara and I had a wonderful time attending 3 days of lectures, talking and reading and looking at books. What could be more fun for a couple of word lovin' English majors?

In the midst of all of this Sara spilled her youngest daughter's antibiotics on her sister's white rug, leaving her sister's rug kinda pink and needing to drive all the way across Grand Rapids on Sunday morning before we left to pick up a new bottle of antibiotics. Then we started our trek back to Buffalo.

We arrived at 6:30. My girls were quite happy to see me and I to see them and the next 2 1/2 hours until all children were in bed were an absolute circus.

My husband and lovely mother in-law, bless their hearts, painted the entire kitchen while I was gone and then started into painting the kitchen cabinets-- a project that went wrong in more ways than they were anticipating and therefore went on much longer than they had hoped.

Sara and I walked in with two hungry girls, one of whom eventually had an overdue meltdown (she had been SOOO good the entire trip, but finally got a little homesick), to two girls who had deeply missed their mother and a crazy, messy kitchen. We threw food at everyone, managed to eek in bathes, console several more meltdowns from all four girls it seemed, one at a time, and finally sat down with some wine at 9:30 after we cleaned out the gunky, gunky mess of her van.

We all got up early this morning. Nancy (my mother in-law) had an early flight, Ava crawled into our bed at 6:30 and both of Sara's girls foiled any hopes she might have had of sleeping in.

We all fixed breakfast. Our girls danced in princess dresses. And, Sara, the poor momma, had another 410 miles to go. She, by far, gets the MVP award for this particular trip. They left around 10, I showered, took the girls outside and made a few meager attempts at unpacking and cleaning.

I'm finally sitting here taking a deep breath. Scott just came upstairs and said, "Welcome home. Sorry things are a little crazy." To which I replied, "That's o.k. it's giving me something to blog about." So much has happened in the last six days-- my mind has been bent, and  crazed, stimulated and encouraged, saddened by  missing my girls, and thrilled to return to them and my husband again.

It's true when they say time apart strengthens the heart. I feel so happy and peaceful to be back with Scott and Ava and Ella. I feel like I'm right where I should be physically and emotionally. I feel affirmed in my desire to write and peaceful about my season right now.

While I don't feel like I'm "swinging" to my usual rhythm quite yet again, I do know that I will be.

I'm glad I took the trip. I'm grateful to have spent some time with one of my favorite friends. I feel priviledged to have heard discussions and lectures from some incredibly talented people and I'm relishing in the sweetness of home sweet home.

I'm going to spend a little time putting a book reading recommendation post together over the next couple of days based on authors that I heard from at the conference.

What's my point in all of this? Hmmm...If you're restless and fearing doing something you think is going to cause you anxiety, but you know will likely be fun, like a family trip, or a weekend away with some friends, or signing up for a class, or conference, I recommend that you think about it no further. Just do it!

 There will likely be a zillion reasons you can think of to not go (Sara and I had a LONG list), but letting them overshadow the potential enjoyment would be a mistake. As Sara said to me before we left (I'm paraphrasing), "Life is going to be crazy here with the girls anyway, so why not let it be crazy with some new scenery."

Glad to have experienced crazy with some new scenery over the last several days and also glad to be back to the old scenery...well, except with differently colored kitchen walls and doorless, almost painted cabinets!

Saturday, April 17

Missing My Girls

I have to tell you, there are times when, as much as I felt like I wanted and needed a vacation, as much as I yearned to have a little bit of space from the constant mommy life, that there was a little fear, a little voice that said, "What if you go on vacation, or go away for a few days and you don't miss the girls? What kind of mother would that make you?"

Well, I can happily report that I don't have to answer that question because I miss them like crazy! Alright, maybe not like crazy all the time, I am enjoying the break (just a little bit!), but I do miss them a lot. It's weird, it's like all the other mom's have always said, it's like there is a little piece of my heart that I'm walking around without this weekend and it makes me feel just a little lonely.

I want to kiss Ella's head and belly and legs. I want to hug Ava and smell her hair. While I'm at it, (and just in case Scott is reading!), I do miss you too honey! But missing him is different than missing them. Perhaps because they are and were literally part of me.

For those that don't know, I'm in Grand Rapids Michigan this weekend. One of my closest friends Sarah and I are attending the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. She has family here and so the trip was as follows; Sarah drove from Massachusetts to Buffalo (a trip that took her 8 hours by herself, the brave girl!), she spent the night in Buffalo (at my in-laws of all things, because Ella had a bug and we didn't want to chance passing it on), and then we drove from Buffalo to Grand Rapids on Wednesday. The conference started Thursday.

It was been a wonderful trip. The conference has been encouraging and inspiring. Like a little pep talk to the artistic sides of both of our souls that can get a little thirsty and frustrated in the midst of mothering.

I have heard some wonderful writers speak; Eugene Peterson remains one of the most moving so far (he is the writer of "The Message" among many other works). I've also heard Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie),  Sara Zarr (a young adult author), and yesterday I met Steve McCurry the photographer most people know best for that amazingly beautiful picture from National Geographic of the beautiful, young Afghani girl with the incredible blue/green eyes.

It is a privledge to meet these people and hear them speak. They are role models, in some ways, in artistic pursuit. And as much as I miss the girls and that part of my heart feels a little lonely, the writer part of my heart is being nourished this weekend, and it needed to be.

I've had moments where I've wondered if I'll leave here feeling frustrated that I can't go home and jump, with full force, into all the writing that I want to do. But mostly I feel peaceful. I feel peaceful that God has me right where he wants me. That he KNOWS me so much better than I know myself and that he SEES my passions to write and to reach others.

I am peaceful that because he knows and sees and that because he most likely placed the desire in my heart in the first place, that he has an ultimate plan for it. I am content with where I am now because I feel as it is part of the journey that I am on and I need to experience this part of the journey, with the challenge of finding time to write, in as much as I'll hopefully someday experience other parts of the journey in which I have much more time to write and maybe even more published words to my name.

Eugene Peterson is a humble, faith filled, incredibly spiritual man who is nearing 80. He has journeyed through a lot of life. And though all of his words were meaningful the thing that stuck with me the most was his references to his wife and his family; crucially important parts of his journey. He talked about certain writing and teaching dreams that he let go of at a young age to become a better husband and eventually pastor, and the teaching dreams and ideas his wife gave up to become a pastors wife. It seemed as if there is/was a give and take in their relationship. A sacrificing of some things for the betterment of others- like being a good husband and father, mother and wife.

In the end, as I said, this trip has left me peaceful about the WHOLE person that I am...a mother, and a wife, and a writer and a daughter of God, on a journey.

There are times in our lives when the focus has to be more on one of these things than the others. Right now the mothering, but it doesn't mean the other parts need to cease existing. They are all inherent to who I am and they will all come to fruition in larger ways at different seasons in my life.

Today is the last day of the conference and I am looking forward to the rest of the pep talk. I am grateful to have been here and peaceful about my place in life. I'm ready to go home and see my girls and my husband and I'm content in my season.

I know I may not be feeling that way when the girls are screaming at each other Monday morning while I'm trying to make scrambled eggs and tripping over dirty diapers, but I am glad to have had the realization and feel like it has added a layer to my life, that despite up and down emotions, is now a new layer woven into who I am.

Tuesday, April 13

After Hours

I remember the first time I thought about my "after hours" life-- you know, the life that you lead while your children are asleep at night, the things you do that they have NO idea about.

I'm not talking about anything racy here...maybe that's going on in YOUR house, but here, things are probably more "G" rated in the after hours than my husband would like!

I'm talking about the moments when you watch t.v. shows you like (not Little Bear or Curious George), read magazines that YOU like, read a few pages in a book (that doesn't have pictures in it), blog, or, if you're really motivated scrub floors, or refrigerators, which is what inspired this post in the first place...

The first time I thought about it I was on a treadmill at 9:15 at night, after Ava was in bed (Ella was not born yet) and the thought dawned on me, "I have an entire life, a version of my old life actually, apart from my daughter and it takes place while she is asleep."

I know that doesn't sound terribly profound, at it's really not (the really profound thoughts only come when I'm well slept, coffeed and have oodles of free-time to do some deep breathing, good reading, and think about all of the philisophical things in the, basically, never!), but in these early years of being a mom it feels as if your ENTIRE life is about your child; what they need, how they are feeling, where they are, what they are doing...and for the most part, almost the entirety of your life is about your child, EXCEPT for those few moments in the after hours...

Now that Ava is almost 3 and Ella is 1 I feel like the separation between the mommy me and the old me are more unified...I'm more of one person now...not fighting like a frustrated toddler, throwing my hands in the air that things are not going MY way, the way I thought they were supposed to go after you have children; easy, peaceful, nothing has changed except that a quiet, beautiful baby is on the scene to survey everything going on.

Ha! Jokes on me right?

Anyway, so the moment that began all this thinking about my after hours life was last night, at about 11:30 when I was cleaning my fridge. FINALLY.

My sister, can testify that my fridge (Katie, if you're reading, please do comment) looked like something out of a frat house. It was DISGUSTING. Every shelf caked with crumbs and goo. I'm not kidding when I say goo. Something, something and something spilled in there over the last six weeks (I honestly don't remember when I gave it a good cleaning last) and then got smeared around over and over again by the bottoms of jars and jugs and cans that have been sitting on top of it.

Two of the shelves smelled like beer. Even after I washed them with soap and water! And there were unidentifiable gooey orange drips of something oozing down the back.

You ask, how in the world did you fridge get THAT disgusting...'s been on my to-do list to hit up in the after hours for weeks now...but really, ladies, television or fridge cleaning? a good book or fridge cleaning? shopping for spring clothes or fridge cleaning? Blogging or fridge cleaning?

That's exactly how it got that disgusting.

So anyway, here is what my status on Facebook said today:

Lisa Littlewood

has a new appreciation for all of the things I never knew my mom was doing while I was staying up until midnight to clean the fridge because otherwise there would be inches of gook growing in it! I love that being a mom makes me appreciate my own even more...

So today I'm thankful for all of the things my mom (and dad- I should have Scott write that post) in their after hours lives while I was a kids. The things I never knew even needed to be done, but that they did because they loved us, because they wanted the best for us, because they were responsible and caring parents who wanted to provide a loving home for their four children to grow up in.

Thanks mom and dad!

Would love to hear what ya'll do in the after hours! Leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, April 10

Blog Changes and Fun with the Girls!

For those of you who visit often you'll notice the change to my blog background!

Blogger added a handful of new templates and a new design program that allows you to play around with them. The inner artist in me couldn't resist. I've been playing around with different templates on and off for a couple of weeks, but thought that this background was bright and cheery, which makes me happy, so hopefully it makes my readers happy too! I'll be working on my header next.

I don't feel very full of words this morning, but have a bunch of pictures from my outing with the girls yesterday. We went to a fun little play spot called Explore & More in East Aurora, N.Y. and had a blast!

My friend Melinda (one of my bestest high-school friends!) was planning to go, and her friend Megan was planning to meet her. So there we were, 3 mommas, 6 children, and 1 grand-momma (Melinda's mom- whose extras hands we were quite glad to have!) and we all just played for a good two hours!

It was one of those mornings that I was truly content to be a SAHM (stay at home mom). Really. I had this thought, even as we were walking out the door in the morning, that I wouldn't have things any other way. I can't imagine not being able to share these experiences with my girls while they are young and I wouldn't trade anything for it, not even the best writing job at say the New York Times or Vanity Fair or even Better Homes and Gardens (or one of those other girlie magazines!).

Two years ago I'm not sure I would have said that. I was really struggling with wanting to continue my career in a more concrete I am content. Content to be able to pursue writing projects from home and happy to give my girls shared experiences with me while they still want to share experiences with me!

Being a SAHM (stay at home mom) is a sacrifice. I am sacrificing furthering my writing career at a faster pace. I am sacrificing the experience of potential full-time writing jobs with great organizations and publications. But it is worth it. I can't imagine not giving this time to my girls-- there is SO much happiness and contentment and relationship building that I am offering them that quite simply they would not have if I were working full-time.

I know that it is not possible for everyone. I have friends who have to work full-time because their job is the job that pays the bills and offers the insurance. I empathize with them because I think, mostly, they would truly like to have more time at home.

That said, if you are in a job, just to work, not because you need the money, or the insurance, but because you are afraid to lose your professional self to the daily and sometimes tedious tasks of taking care of children, I would challenge you to re-think what you are giving up. It took me three years of being at home to figure it out, but I'm grateful I did.

I know many moms who have made similar sacrifices and are grateful. My friend Melinda, who I met yesterday morning, has passed up management promotions so that she could be more part-time. My friend Maria who is starting a very cool children's book publishing company here in Buffalo has sacrificed fast-tracking the growth of her company so that she can be home when her daughter, who is now a junior in high-school, comes home (along with her other children). Her daughter came home one day several weeks ago completely distraught over an attempted suicide by a classmate. Maria wouldn't have traded the ability to be there for her daughter for any amount of professional growth.

So anyways, just something to think about if you are on the fence about a decision that will allow you more or less time with your children.

Here are a few of our photos from yesterday!

Wednesday, April 7


Have you ever experienced something so profound, so outside your box, so humbling that you're not sure you can put words to it?

I know, I'm the writer...where are the words?

Bear with me for a few minutes as I process my experience this morning through the writing of this post...

Let me give you a little backstory. Several months ago, Scott sold a 401K plan to a medical practice in Buffalo's inner city. I mean INNER city. A recent stat I read from the census bureau ranked Buffalo as the 2nd poorest city per capita in the country! This particular medical practice resides in a zip code that is the 3rd poorest of all of Buffalo's 17 zip codes.

When Scott came home to tell me about this medical practice and the ministry (Jericho Road Ministries) that had branched off of it, my heart was moved to find out more. It was also inspired.

In that moment I decided that I wanted to begin writing profiles of non-profits in the Buffalo area. I felt like there were probably many non-profit organizations in the area doing amazing work for the city that residents didn't know about, or hadn't heard about. I felt that if you could spread the word, particularly to people in the outlying suburbs that perhaps it would inspire others to donate, or volunteer or connect to these organizations in some way and therefore help to promote and meet some of their needs.

  I thought that the Buffalo News would be a great place for these profiles, but they didn't show much interest when I mentioned the idea. A couple of weeks later I was introduced to one of the founders of an  online publication called Buffalo Rising and he said he'd be more than happy to publish the articles.

I set out to start my first profile on Jericho Road Family Practice and the ministries connected to them. Check them out online here.

They are a ministry that primarily serves refugees who have been resettled in Buffalo, N.Y. The word "serves" seems too small, too simple to describe what they are doing.  Their outreach is striving to do so much, for so many, in rather challenging circumstances, that it is mind blowing.

Let me just tell you, I drove down to one of the poorest sections of this poor city and met some of it's hardest pressed residents this morning and I have nothing to say except that I am truly humbled. By how much I have, by all the blessings in my life, by the fact that we live in a country that doesn't oppress us like the Burmese women I met this morning.

Some of these men and women were forced out of their homes because their governments burned down their villages merely to force these people to continue to live in fear. Some of them ended up in refugee camps for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years! Being pregnant, trying to find food for themselves and their children, trying to take care of health concerns, from tents they had set up.

Eventually, when all options for remaining in their own countries are diminished, the UN tells them they are going to be resettled into a more developed country. They have no choice where they are going to end up.  Some of them end up in Buffalo, N.Y.

Can you imagine?

I can't wrap my head around it.

Two of the women I met this morning, both pregnant, have been living in the U.S. since last summer. This past winter was the first time they had ever seen snow. One of them spoke VERY little English, the other is now working as a translator.

The one who spoke very little English admitted this morning to being suicidal several months ago; so depressed and so afraid of all that she was bringing her baby into that she felt like it would be better for her and her baby to not exist in the world. She had no job, she didn't speak English, she didn't know how to make her way in this place she was forced to go after experiencing awful traumas in her own country.

She felt hopeless until she found HOPE, literally. HOPE Refugee Services and Jericho Road Ministries merged last year to help people exactly like her. They have brought hope into the lives of so many resettled refugees in Buffalo that people living in refugee camps halfway around the world have heard about them.

What I experienced this morning was SO far outside my box that I momentarily thought I was in another country, very far from the place I live. I walked into Jericho's Walk in Center where more than 2 dozen people, speaking probably as many different languages, were all waiting to be helped. Women with babies slung on their backs, children in tow, men waiting to be driven to a doctors appointments or figure out how to get a green card.

I will write more as I learn more, but needed to share this with you today.

We are a VERY, VERY BLESSED people. We have so much and our difficulties are so little in comparison to the lives of other people in this world.

Jericho Road is always looking for donations; adult clothing, baby clothing, they especially need car seats and cribs. They take toys and books for babies. They need diapers. LOTS of diapers! Diapers are expensive and many of these people are trying to figure out how to put food on their tables and don't even own a washer to be able to wash soiled clothing, much less cloth diapers.

They are also looking for mentors for their Pricilla Project; A very cool project that supports pregnant women like the one I met this morning. Her mentee, a young girl in her early 20's, doesn't speak her language, but she takes her grocery shopping, she drove her to and attended her babies ultrasound and she helps her with her ESL work. No words are needed, just a caring heart.

As I mentioned, I'll write more as I learn more, but at the very least if you have things you can donate either check out their web site or contact me and I'll let you know how to get in touch with them.

Blessings to you all on this day. Count your blessings, they are abundant.

Tuesday, April 6

The Great Spousal Debate: Who Has it Harder?!

     Scott and I have an ongoing joke about what he does during the day; he goes to the country club, hangs out with the guys, and has his every need met.

    The conversation started sometime after Ava was born and he came home to tell me about his hard day and I just raised my know the raising of the eyebrows that says, "Don't even get me started and please stop while you're ahead?!"

   So now, anytime I give him "the look" he gives me the "oh, right, I was at the country club all day."

   Please know that I'm writing this post from a place of relative lightheartedness. I do appreciate all that Scott does. He is a very hard worker, a very responsible husband and father and is super hands on with our girls. He is the best husband in my world, and if there were contests for best husbands he would be sure to win awards- I'm sure a lot of you ladies can say the same about your own.

    All that said, I KNOW many of you have thought this before while your husbands get ready for work in the morning, especially if you are a stay at home momma like me. You've thought, "I would love to be taking a shower all by myself right now, putting on nice clean work clothes and going to a place where I can do a task in peace, eat my meals without having children hanging from my ankles, and formulate several logical and intelligent thoughts in a row without interruption."

    Or, on the days when hubby just freely drives to his doctor or dentist appointment; "Hmmm, how nice to be able to just hop in the car and go to an appointment without having to arrange childcare or take a child with you who will sit up on the examining table asking four hundred questions while they rip the paper and beg for lollipops, which you've brought to keep them quiet, but are now feeling guilty about because you're thinking the doctor is judging your parental tactics and the amount of sugar your child is eating."

    Or, my favorite, which happened today, and brought our favorite sarcastic filled conversation back to the forefront:

    "Hmmm, stopped to get a haircut, huh...must be nice to get your haircut."
    "Mmmm. We're going to go there again huh?"
    "I have to say it."
    "Mmm. Great."

    See, because the fact of the matter is, even in order to get a haircut there is this whole matter of figuring out when someone can watch the children, and for how long, and arrangements must be made, and lunch figured out and then you end up showing up at your hair appointment with bushy eyebrows and greasy hair and crooked bangs you cut yourself, and no make-up on because you rushed out of the house, and your hairdresser looks at you like, "I'm good, but not sure I can perform miracles here!"

   Which is pretty close to what happened to me last week. And then I got a bad haircut to top it off.

    So, after coming in from having met some guys out for a "business" breakfast and having stopped to get a haircut and then getting ready to begin a peaceful hour long drive in the car to a meeting while the girls were yelling at each other in the background, I couldn't hold back the following,

   "Really? You're going to tell me you'd rather stay here right now, right? That it would be easier?"Grin. Grin. Grin.

   Ah. The poor guy. I mean what defense does he really have at that point.

   He didn't even try.

    I know this bantering we've begun really accomplishes nothing. It actually makes me feel a little childish. Like I'm in fifth grade and back on the playground and arguing with some freckled face boy about how he has cooties and how much better girls are than boys!

    I also know that a more mature version of myself would work on the snarky comments and replace them with praise and thankfulness for all that my hubby provides; the house, the food, the cars, the clothes, the health insurance...the list goes on and on.

    I'm reading this book right now with my mom and my sister. It's called Becoming the Woman God Wants me to Be, by Donna Partow. The entire book is focused on Proverbs 31 and how the passage has applications for our lives today. Here is verse 1:

"A wife of noble character, who can find. 
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her, and lacks nothing of value."

    I know Scott would say this is true of his life, and he is so sweet for saying such things, but if I could really read his inner thoughts I'm sure there would be a wish in there that I'd stop comparing our roles and instead appreciate each other for all that we BOTH do.

     At the end of the day we both have sometimes hard and very important jobs, but it is why we got married-- it is why God brought us together-- so that neither of us would have to do it all on our own.

    This entry is as much a forum for me to joke about the kinda ugly and snarky, but also a place to proclaim my gratefulness for the wonderful man that God brought into my life to share in this sometimes hard job called parenthood, and how because of God and my hubby, the job is actually so much easier than it would be on my own.

   While I'm sure I will have other days where my envy overshadows my gratefulness, I hope to continue to become a woman who my husband does have full confidence in, and that I can provide a home where he feels valued and not undermined.

   Because I'm not 10 and on the playground anymore, and have hopefully matured to a place where it's not about who is better, but how we can both better each others lives.


Friday, April 2

I AM a good mom!

I know some of you saw that title and were thinking, oh boy 'what is she up to today?'

Or, maybe after some of my other, more "overwhelmed" entries in the last couple of weeks, you're thankful that that slump is over, let's get on to the happy, cheery stuff.

Or, maybe you were thinking she needs a dose of humble pie.

Or, maybe, and this is the one I hope for all of you mommas, you were thinking, that's Damned right. You are and I am too.

Really, if you're a mom, stop reading this right now and just say to yourself, I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

How did that feel?

I know it made me feel better when I forced myself to say it this morning!

It all started with a conversation I had with Scott last night. After I told him the 5 things I appreciated about him (see my last entry), he first asked me why I was being so nice (ha!), and then decided he wanted to tell me five things he appreciated about me.

Not sure if this one totally counts, but one of them was...

"I appreciate what a responsible mother you are."
"Well, what does that mean?" I asked.
"Well, you don't go out and get drunk or smoke cigarettes or get tattos."

I'm laughing as I write that because it is what he really said. I mean aren't those things a GIVEN?!

He did go on to expand about my thoughtfulness about their constant needs, and feeding them, and making sure their clothes fit, etc. And, I thought, "Hmm, he's right. I am constantly thinking about their needs. I do try to take good care of them. I play with them and read them books. I've made sacrifices in my own personal life so that they can have a wonderful start to their life."

We do take these things for granted--all that we do for our children. It all becomes so routine that it doesn't seem out of the ordinary-- it just seems like part of life. But it is these routine, daily things that make their lives what they are and that make them feel loved. Because our children are not old enough to understand or say that they appreciate these things, I'm here today to tell you that they do and that you ARE a good mother for all that you do.

We need to say that more often to ourselves. I know I spend a lot of my days, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed, thinking about all of the ways I am failing as a mother and wife. But I NEVER sit down and think about the ways I'm excelling as a mother and a wife-- and there are just as many!

Philippians 1:6 says, "He who began a good work in  you will be faithful to complete it."

I was struck this week with how that verse applies to motherhood. God, who literally began this work within us (the physical growth of our children within us), will continue teaching us how to be good mothers to them.

I find myself, so often, thinking of the 40 or 50 something year old mom, whose entire house is in order, who has her organizational systems down, who seems to have a great balance, as my model for motherhood. But, the truth is, that women is a wonderful mother, but she is in a completely different season than I am! I may be that mother too in 10 or 15 years. It's as if when I was working as an entry level editorial assistant at a publishing company having wished I was CEO! It doesn't happen that way.

Motherhood is a new role, a new job and it takes YEARS to reach that level, that season!

So today I'm doing two things,

1. Celebrating what I have done right and where I am now.
2. Being hopeful for the woman and mother and wife that I will continue to become as God is faithful to complete his work in me.

Have a blessed weekend and a Happy Easter. I'm putting my computer away for as much of the rest of the weekend as I can!

Thursday, April 1


      Can I just tell you, nothing makes me happier than to see Ava loving her little sister just because she wants to love her. Not because I told her to be nice, or to say hello to her, or to read her a book. 

    Typically, if I tell her to do it, it doesn’t last very long and is not very authentic. But, this morning, I was giving Ella her bottle and Ava came over and started kissing her head, and kissing her feet, and giving her a small stuffed bunny, over and over again. Then she asked me to put Ella on her lap and started giving her sips of juice from her own cup...This, my friends, is like motherhood utopia-- I wish it were like this ALL the time. 
    I don’t know that I can take any real credit, because I lot of this depends on Ava’s moods (isn’t that the way with us women!), but I do hold it as one of our houses highest commandments-- you ALWAYS need to love your sister, because she is a very important part of your life. 
    I try to implement this daily. If Ava pushes Ella I often put her in time-out and when time-out is over I make her apologize to Ella and then give her a nice kiss on her head. I try to enforce Ava saying good morning to Ella when they wake up, because Ava is often crabby about it and doesn’t want too- but I feel like it’s important. Just like it’s important for mommy to say good morning and I love you to daddy whether I’m in the mood to or not. You have to be intentional about these things, or else the time just slides by. 
   That brings me to a point I mentioned I would talk about this week-- intentionality. 

   I'm not sure if that is even a real world, but, even if I made it up, it is a concept that I'm am attempting to integrate into my life. It's about being proactive about your life and your day instead of reactive. 

   We all know what reactive looks like. When we sleep in and allow the children to wake us up, and then rush to start tending to their needs, and give into our every emotion, happy or crabby, bitter or sweet. It's a roller coaster is what it is. Sometimes high, sometimes low and as much as I like the excitement of a good amusement park ride, I don't so much like my life to feel that way. 

   Intentionality is the concept of living in such a way as to choose the way things are going to go, and then to be disciplined about following through. Here are some places that I try to work on being intentional:

   1. In my relationship towards my husband. If we don't set a date to spend time together, we don't do it. If we don't determine a plan of how a given Saturday is going to go, and who is going to watch the kids when so that we can each accomplish some of our own things, the day turns to chaos and we both get frustrated. 

   Sometimes it comes down to asking myself on a given day, "What could I do today that would bless Scott?" It might be keeping my frustrations about childcare to myself when he walks in the door, or leaving a sweet note for him on a post-it on the counter, or sometimes just deliberately sending him a quick email (he always checks his blackberry) about how grateful I am for him. 

   2. My day. I'm realizing if I don't get up before the girls I tend to be reactive for most of the day instead of proactive. I've been trying to get up at least 1/2 an hour before them. I spend time praying, reading my bible and then in the spirit of the quietness I write down what needs to be done that day, a brief and flexible schedule for when it will get done, and try to include some things I think would be fun for the girls...for example, I write down "play play dough with Ava", or "take the girls for a walk"...there is a lot of spontanaeity in our day as well, but sometimes I can get consumed with what I want to accomplish around the house or for myself and feel as if I'm neglecting what they'd like to do. 

   There are many more things in my life that I'm trying to be intentional and disciplined about; exercise, eating habits, sometimes even things like turning my computer off and forcing myself to not open it for several hours. 

    At the end of the day, while we can all often cringe to think about doing things we don't want to do, life flows better when we are intentional about doing what we need to do...that way, it almost makes you feel like you wanted to do it all know, like cleaning out your fridge...mine is a disgusting mess, but it's on my to do list for the day and I'm going to be intentional about getting to it! 

Hope that made some sense to someone else but me! At the very least, force yourself to tell your husband 5 wonderful things he does for you when he gets home from work today-- it will change the mood of the entire evening!