Tuesday, May 31

All in a Weekend's Work

   It was a wonderfully productive weekend around here (and what momma doesn’t love a little genuine productivity once in a while!)

   The sun has been shining, the girls have been happy (for the most part!) and we have milked every last ounce of summer preparation out of these last three days-- we’ve planted flowers and vegetables, herbs and potted plants, we’ve weeded and mulched, mowed and edged. We’ve exercised our bodies, and our minds and we’ve included the girls in as much of it as possible.

   I LOVE when I can include the girls in our every day goings on, particularly in the garden ( and let me just tell you I am a NOVICE when it comes to gardening...I know little, except that you stick things in the ground and weed and water and HOPE that food pops up!). In the end, if I can get one or both of the girls to participate in what I'm doing it's a win win for everyone. 

   It has only been in our modern culture that we have tried to stimulate children's  learning and growth through "educational" toys (which wind up being a whole lot of expensive pieces of colored plastic if you ask me) instead of bringing them alongside the work and tasks that need to be done, or just letting them play independently with whatever they can find...and therefore being forced to use their imaginations. 

   I have to tell you the more I have tried to incorporate the girls in my days, the happier everyone seems to be and the more they learn to play, on their own accord, or help. It works kind of like this...

   Momma takes on the task of planting vegetables in the garden. The girls realize that I am busy and that they have two choices...
        A) They can help
        B) They can find something to play with nearby, where I can see them, while we are all outside   together

   What ends up happening is that, depending on the moods they are in, I get a mixture of help and play. Each girl will inevitably wander over at some point in the process to ask what I am doing and if they can help. I usually create a "task" for them ( I REALLY need you to shovel some dirt into that bucket) or I actually have them help me dig, or plant or whatever I'm doing. 

   Their help usually lasts for several minutes at which point they often decide to go off and find a stick, or a rock or a swing and entertain themselves...then they may come back 10 or 15 minutes later to "help" again. 

   (Now, when we're inside baking inside it's a whole different game-- they usually engage the entire time for the entire task! It takes longer, but they are learning, it is time well spent, it gives us something fun to focus on for a little while, and we have something yummy to eat at the end.)

   I LOVE that they want to help because we are spending time together, I am getting something done that will benefit the whole family and I feel they are learning in the process...now, I'm not sure exactly what they are learning, but I like to believe that it has something to do with...

   .... realizing that food doesn't just miraculously show up in grocery stores, but that there was work involved and that it is actually pretty cool to see how the things God has created grow and sustain us.

   ....that they too can help to create something through some the combination of initial work and then the ongoing discipline of weeding and watering.

   ....that they are wholly welcomed and encouraged to participate in projects around the house and yard and that all of the work that mommy and daddy do is actually part of a "team" process that I would inevitably like them to participate in because as a family we are a team. I think (hope!) that this early exposure is part of cultivating a helpful, workful spirit in them when they are a bit older and able to do more. 

   ...that life, as fun as it would be, is NOT all about play.

   ...that sometimes mommy and daddy need to get things done and we can either help, or play independently.

Here are a few photos from the weekend of work...

(helping with the plantings...)

(some chives, lavender and mint that came back this year!! whoo hoo!)

(trying lettuce for the first time...I've been told it doesn't like too much heat and our main "garden" is in direct sun all day so I put the lettuce in this container, next to a fence where it will get part sun)

(our "secondary" garden...new this year...on the side of the house...cucumbers need quite a bit of space to grow (which is likely why mine have never done well before-I've always tried to jam them into a tiny space- so we put this bed on the side of our house and are giving our cucumbers all the space they need (it's kind of like raising kids actually...some need more space to grow then others!!))

(our "main" garden where we have beets, green beans, tomatoes, basil, zuchini and peas gorwing)

(alright, I won't lie, I don't think Ella helped a lick this weekend! But she did have some fun "independent" play outside!)

Would love to hear some of the tasks you get your kids involved in at home!

Saturday, May 28

You Know You're a Parent When...

Breakfast consists of making food creatures for your preschool kids...

The dinner table results in a spaghetti sucking contest...it started with Ella who surprised us by sucking a whole piece of spaghetti into her mouth with one big swoop...

Continued with our four year old...

And concluded with Daddy showing everyone how it is really done....

Your husband brings home a "Best Mom" ice cream cake for after dinner...(one of the highlights of my week I might add...thanks honey!)...

And then you drive home from Wal-Mart with a plastic pool the size of a UFO on the top of your car...I sat in the front seat, holding a piece of twine that was holding it to the roof...Scott thought it would be funny to tickle me under the arm on several occasions to see if I would let go...these are the kinds of things we do for fun these days...

It's refreshing to have excuses to do all of these crazy things that you can really only get away with if you are a child, or the parent of a child, so for that...Thanks Girls! 

Tuesday, May 24

Rescuing Daddy

Usually it is the man rescuing the woman...I know that is very cliched and anti-feminine of me, but hey, I'm just sayin...

I can't even begin to count the number of times my dear hubby has had to rescue me from any number of unexpected plights; because I had two flat tires in the middle of a grocery store parking lot after hitting a curb, because I was locked out of my car after an interview I had conducted for an article I was writing (I stood in the parking lot next to my car on a cold wintry day pretending to look at my cell phone and hoping no one I had just spoken to would see me), because I have been locked out of the house more times than I can count, because I have run out of gas (not in a long, LONG time, but I do remember at least one time in Cambridge, MA when this happened), and likely many other small occurrences that I'm conveniently forgetting about.

Well, well, well, the tables turned yesterday and me and the girls got to be the heroes...and they enjoyed every minute of it. It was really pretty cute.

Not completely sure what happened to our car, the mechanics are still trying to figure that out, but plain and simply it just died 30 minutes into an hour long drive South while Scott was on his way to a business appointment yesterday. Everything just shut off and Scott was forced to pull over on the side of the road...on a pretty major thruway (the 219 in Hamburg) with cars whizzing by and nowhere to go.

He called to tell me the car had died and I basically told him  to call AAA and then call me back because by the time I would have loaded the girls into the car and drove all the way out to where he was it would be 45 minutes and I had just gotten home with the girls.

I hung up.

Ava, who overheard the entire conversation evidently had more automatic compassion than her dear momma.

"Mooommmm. We HAVE to go pick daddy up. He's STUCK on the side of the ROAD!!!!"

I looked at her and chuckled. Partially because of how emphatically she had said this to me and partially because I knew she was right and it wasn't very nice of me to just leave my husband on the side of the road 35 minutes away from home...I was going to come around to the same conclusion eventually....I swear! It just took me a few more minutes.

"You want to go rescue Daddy?" I asked.

"Yes. Yay. Let's go!"

Both girls started shrieking as they put their shoes on...evidently the thrill of the rescue was so exhilarating they could hardly contain themselves.

For the entirety of the ride out to pick Scott up from the side of the road in Hamburg, N.Y. the two of them alternated between asking questions about where Daddy was and how he got stuck and just shouting out "Yay! We're going to rescue Daddy!"

At one point Ava exclaimed, "Mommy, this is SUCH a fun day!!"

Who knew? After all the crazy craft ideas I try to come up with, and games we try to play, and plastic crap that adorns our house beckoning to be used, and the girls just want to go on a rescue mission...

...it's kind of funny actually.

We finally found our man on the side of the road. The girls screamed in delight and enjoyed every minute of our 20+ minutes sitting in the car waiting for the tow truck to show up. This was an adventure after all.

When the tow truck finally arrived Ava wanted to get out and watch as the driver put our car on the back of his tow bed. Ella was sitting on my lap in the driver's seat saying "Whoosh and WOW!"with wide eyes every time a car went by on the Thruway and shook our car. She was also trying to put my window down and stick her head out of it...I pulled her back in...several times...and finally locked the windows.

Here is Ava watching with awe and wonder as our car gets put on the tow bed.

Here's to being thankful for little munchkins who turn something pretty inconvenient into an adventure!

Tuesday, May 17

Ode to A Busy Mom

     Once upon a time, before I became aware that there was "good" and "bad" poetry (and that "good" poetry typically did not rhyme, had very deep truths to convey, and often read like cryptic riddles),  I could often be found scribbling away in notebooks to create my own bits of rhyming verse that I would bestow on family members or use to fill the pages of homemade books.

     I LOVED writing those "poems"...there was fun in the game of finding phrases that sang and words that rhymed. It wasn't always metered correctly and there usually was no deeper meaning or mystery to figure out...it was just me, having fun with words and trying to capture some of the joy of life in the process.

     In celebration of those days when my ignorance allowed me to believe that there were no "rules" to writing poems, that it was just about having fun, I have written a little poem for all of my fellow mommas.

 Ode to the Busy Mom
By Lisa Littlewood

Perhaps you think you've gone plain crazy, 
Or if not mad, than simply lazy
For you used to keep a house so clean,
And now a polished floor, well that's a dream. 

There are crumbs that cover every piece
Of linoleum floor and then there is grease
Stuck to the burners upon the stove
and Cheerio dust that will stick to your toes.

Laundry piles near the washer so high
that it shocks your own mother, she responds with "Oh My!"
"Are you sick?" she asks. "Is everything alright?
You should never have more laundry than you can do in one night."

"Oh mother," you say, as you roll your eyes.
"It's about the quality of life not the laundry pile size."
But even as you say it you wonder inside, 
Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right?

Motherhood is a journey wrought with doubt
Whether all you are doing will ever amount
To anything important, to anything dear
Or will we all just end up in a therapist's chair?!

Chin up fellow mommas, sisters in life
My house is also a mess, my children, they fight. 
It is simply a part of the road me must travel
Even though it can feel like it all might unravel. 

For when you love and serve from a place that cares
Does it really matter if your sink prompts stares?
Does it really matter if your shelves are dusty 
Or if your refrigerator smells just a little musty?

A day will come when your floor will be clean. 
Your dishes put away, your house again pristine. 
When that day comes it will be quiet inside
For your children will be off living their lives. 

Lives of their own and their mess you will miss. 
So for now ignore the laundry and give them a kiss. 

p.s. My own dear mother would never say that to me about the laundry (she'd jump right in and get it done) but I know some mothers of mommas my age who would say such things!!! So to you all, just roll your eyes and laugh...no condemnation allowed! Besides, my pile is probably higher than yours!

p.p.s This is the poem that I burned the meatballs for! Scott said it was worthwhile because he likes the poem so much (thanks honey!) so I think that means I'm forgiven! 

Saturday, May 14

Sorry About the Meatballs

Have you ever harped on your husband about not being a good enough multi-tasker?

I certainly have never, ever, ever, EVER done such a thing...I was just thinking some of you may have...

Well, for those of you who have harped on your husbands about their seemingly inability to process more than one task at once (not my husband...he is ABNORMAL...he tackles multiple jobs at a time better than any woman I have ever met! wink. wink.), I wanted to tell you that this lack of multi-tasking ability is actually completely normal...

It is so normal, in fact, that I recently read a book titled "Men are Life Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti".

Here is the quick gist- men think in boxes, like those in a waffle. They can only process information in one box at a time, like hopping from waffle groove, to waffle groove...that's how they're wired.

Us women on the other hand, well, we think like "spaghetti"...our thoughts all intertwined and wrapping around each other, one leading to the next without seemingly having moved away from the first...

It is supposedly why were are MUCH better multi-taskers than our dear spouses... and why the poor guys can't follow our train of thought or our conversations sometimes!

Well...now I have another quick story, it has to do with a spaghetti dinner, of all things!

My sweet husband stopped home while on lunch break from his worship conference this afternoon. We are going to a concert tonight and my brother is coming over to babysit so we wanted to make him a home cooked meal-- spaghetti and meatballs!

My sweet husband spent his time off (and actually missed a session) making meatballs and sauce from scratch in the hour and a half that he was home so that I wouldn't have to do it later on. The only thing I needed to do was put the meatballs (all prepped on a pan in the refrigerator) in the oven to cook for about 25 minutes and then place them into the sauce.

What a great guy, right?!

Well, things didn't go quite as planned (there seems to be a theme here if you read my blog post yesterday!).

I was so engrossed in a blog post I was writing...(It's a REALLY fun blog post I might add, with original poetry from yours truly, and it will be posted in the very near future)...that all of a sudden I looked up and realized that Oh CRAP, the meatballs had been in the oven for 65 minutes!

I didn't take a picture of the meatballs but here is the cookie sheet I scraped them off of...


I put those lovely little meatballs into some sauce right away hoping to soften them up...

I'm feeling really badly because it's one thing if you burn your own meatballs, it's another if you burn your husbands!

I'm thinking he's going to say I wasn't thinking like spaghetti!

The only thing I could think to do (besides trying to soften them in the sauce) was to write this quick blog post telling you all what a wonderful person my husband is!!!

You're WONDERFUL honey! Thanks for all you do...

...Sorry about the meatballs!

Love, Your Wifey

Friday, May 13

A Lesson in Time Management (or Perhaps in Not Attempting to Manage It)

     I was going to be so super duper, very, very productive this morning. The babysitter was scheduled to arrive at 8:45, I was going to be dressed and ready to head out the door, go to a Zumba class and then have all of my writing stuff packed and in the car so that I could find a nice, quiet place to sit and read and write for 2 hours before heading back home.

     …the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry...

     I remember that little bit of wisdom from my days of teaching high school English. I also remember other things—like the importance of having a lesson plan, of planning your time wisely, of structuring your classroom and your days to make the most of your class periods and to be able to offer your students the best that you have.

     Those very useful skills don't always translate into my role as a mother very well. Being a mother is a high level lesson in flexibility and you may find mothering quite counterintuitive to all you had learned from any previous position or job held. The award, on many days, does not go to the mom who has the best plans, but to the mom who did the best job of letting go of those very plans when things were evidently heading in another direction... this seems to happen a LOT! 
    Motherhood is a constant lesson in reconvening, recalibrating, and recalculating your route. You must continually try to make the most of your journey in the midst of all of that restructuring. It’s like being on a road trip and starting out each day with directions and a plan that you will follow to get to your next destination, but then, somehow, you find yourself lost...Every.Stinkin.Day.  And, every gosh darned day you need to figure out where you are, find your way back to the original route, or find a new route and make the most of it.

    As a mom you find that  very often you have the best darned intentions and then.... and then you get a text message from your babysitter saying that she actually doesn’t have a car because hers broke down...Of course you get this very important piece of information at 8:53 a.m. when you go to call her because she should have arrived by now and find a text message from her (sent at 10:45 the night before) telling you that she is, in fact, not on her way.


     Zumba now starts in 22 minutes and you are quickly realizing that the directions you have for your little road trip today are not going to be very useful...your child is bare bummed (because you’re trying to entice her to pee on the potty by offering her freezie pops at 8:30 in the morning and her unfinished breakfast is on the counter), and running around like a wild monkey, crawling on furniture, which you hope she won’t pee on, so making it to the gym on time with her is out of the question. 

     Alright. Recalibrate.

     You call the babysitter and she is happy to still come over you just need to pick her up.  (Please don’t misunderstand, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my babysitter, but this is just typical stuff that happens in the life of planned motherhood!!!).  So, you resolve to take your gym clothes off, throw your jeans and flip flops on, dress the bare bummed child, put her in the car and go pick up the babysitter. 

     This all before 9:15 and all so you can have a little “free” time...free time that was supposed to be productive but which is feeling like such a monumental task at this point that you begin to wonder if it is even worth it. 

     You eventually concede to picking up the babysitter and then to calling your sister to see if she wants to hit up a garge sale with you. A good bargain always makes up for foiled plans, right? 

     She drives twenty minutes to meet you at this "mega" neighborhood garage sale and the two of you spend 1 ½ hours driving and walking through the mob scene where other SAHM’s and old people have descended like vultures to pick through what turns out to be a whole lotta crap. 

     An hour and a half later, your sister walks away with a $7 kids guitar and you have two plastic bags filled with 4 kids videos, a pair of suede kids boots, an Ariel bathing suit, 3 puzzles, and 8 books…all for the very low price of $15…

     Despite the fullness of your bags your wallet is now empty of the money you were supposed to use to pay the babysitter and you are feelling frustrated…you call your sister while you are on your way home and have a conversation that goes like this:



     “We’re not doing that anymore!”

     “I KNOW. I’m so mad at myself. I have so many things to do at home.”

     “Me too. What's wrong with us? We just spent an hour and a half walking around looking at other people’s shit, while I’m paying a babysitter to watch my child and have a billion, zillion things to do.”

     “I know. We’re done. No more garage sales.”

     Too bad we’ll both probably be at another one next weekend. I think we need to attend a garage salers anonymous meeting.

     This is SO not how I thought my day was going to go. 

      Alright, lesson learned; spend one’s time doing things that are more meaningful than shopping for crap, especially when one is paying a babysitter.

     Sorry if I sound disgruntled. It’s actually a GORGEOUS day. It’s just that us mommas have so little free time that when you find you've squandered even a little bit of it you start to feel like you have just given away your valuables for free, or burned money on your stove.

     So then…I finally get to a Tim Hortons (kind of like Dunkin’ Donuts for those of you who don’t live near Buffalo) and order an iced tea and a chicken salad wrap.

    “Sorry, we’re out of chicken salad.” I look at her kind of confused...


    “Nope. None of that either.”

     I am told that I can have a turkey sandwich. Fine. I don't have the energy to argue. 

      "You have Wi-Fi, right?” If I haven’t gotten anything done this morning I’m at LEAST going  to blog about it…



     I contemplate taking my iced tea and sandwich into the car and driving to the next local place that has wi-fi so that I can blog, with my already purchased food, from their parking lot (by  picking up their wi-fi signal), but the air conditioning in our car is broke and it is quite warm today. I'm feelin' kind of crabby at this point. 

     I concede to make the most of the situation, find a quiet table at Tim Hortons and type this blog post into a word document. I know I will have to struggle with formatting it into blogger later…but hey, that's the plan and I'm sticking to it. 

For now, anyway...

Monday, May 9

Our Princess, Her Frog and the Drama that Ensued

     I think the major drug companies that keep peddling all of their miracle cures should start to work on some form of parenting prozac...

     maybe it would be more like xanax...you know, kind of a situational thing...prozac takes too long to get into the system. I need something in the moment, right away, after I feel like I've been riding an emotional roller coaster with my children for several hours, to calm my poor nervous system...I'm not sure I can take one more bruised knee, emergency neosporin application on a large blister, or an almost dead frog that prompted tears from both of the little people in our house and severe shock to the mother of the little people earlier today.

     It has been an eventful day and it is only 2:30, though the major issues that I will relate have all taken place in the last 2 hours and before I take a nap to sleep it off (my alternative to the parenting xanax I don't have) I will relate the story to you.

     It is a beautiful day here in Buffalo-- a very welcomed blessing after the long winter we have had. The girls and I were outside for most of the late morning and early afternoon. I was cutting the grass (yes ladies, sometimes I actually cut the grass! I figure if I'm outside with the girls anyway I might as well get it done. If left to Scott to do later he'd need me to watch the girls so that he could do it, so I'd rather do it earlier in the day so that he can hang with the girls later and I can do something more exciting...like run off the big pile of homemade mac & cheese that I couldn't control myself around at lunch time today!).

     The girls were swinging and running and sliding down their slide, quite happy for the most part. Ava had stopped crying about her blister (for which I had changed the band-aids 3 separate times already...one in response to a curdling scream that nearly took the breath out of me while I was trying to fix the girls lunch. She had new band-aids on, socks I demanded she not take off and momentarily seemed to have forgotten about the threatening wound). We eventually brought Elmo outside to also swing and somehow that seems to be where all of the drama started...

     I had cut the grass in the backyard before lunch and was going to venture out front to finish the job afterwards. Ava was happily swinging, I helped Ella put a corduroy polka dotted vest on Elmo because she insisted he would be cold otherwise and off she went to swing him.

     I managed to cut two long strips of grass on the side of the house when I saw Elmo's swing and Ava's swing simultaneously come back and mange to knock Ella to the ground. I ran to her, picked her up, calmed her down, wiped her tears and convinced her everything was o.k. I went back to the lawn mower...several more strips into lawn cutting I saw something move in front of me and let out a loud shriek as a rather large frog hopped in front of the mower startling the momma who doesn't like bugs or frogs or other outdoor thingy's with legs to be near me.

     The girls heard my scream and came running. Ella seemed a bit startled by the sight of the hopping reptile but Ava, who has been attempting to prove her bravery about things like worms and frogs tried to catch him. She finally did. She was petting him and holding him and it was really pretty cute. I was so gosh darned proud of her because I don't think I've ever so much as come close to even touching a frog with one finger in my life. I ran inside to grab the camera and managed to snap this shot of her trying to pick him up again.

(alright, I know the frog doesn't look very big here, but I swear he was in like the 75th percentile as far as local yard frogs go.)

     Next thing you know little miss Ella looks down, takes her chunky brown shoe and faster than I could stop her picks up her foot and stomps on the poor little guy right in front of Ava!!!

     My mouth dropped in shocked silence and my eyes must have been as wide as anything as I stood gapping and then screamed at Ella that that was "Bad. Bad. Bad!!!"

     Ava, of course, broke into a fit of weeping tears right away. I think I've mentioned she is the most sensitive child on the face of the planet.

     Through tears and sobs she starts screaming, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. He was a nice little frog and....sniffle, sniffle, sob, sob... and I was having fun with him and Ella just STOMPED him!!!"

     She was so angry and so sad-- the poor thing.

    Ava is just standing next to the poor frog and wants me to go pick her up, but I'm standing like 8 feet away and won't go any closer because I'm afraid there are frog guts all over the grass and I don't want to see the poor smooshed frog.

     I beckon her to come to me and she finally does. All the while, Ella sneaks behind me and goes back to pushing Elmo.

    "Look mommy. I pushing Elmo," she says with a grin, hoping I will be impressed enough to forget what she has just done to the frog.

     I'm pretty upset and sad for Ava and yell at her and tell her to go inside and up to her room.

     Now she starts sobbing and Ava is still sobbing and I run in the house and open the basement door and beckon my poor husband from his work because I don't think I can handle the situation alone anymore.

     I quickly fill him in and tell him to go outside and inspect the scene of the accident. He willingly obliges with Ava trailing behind him.

     Well, as it turns out, this little frog must have some serious connections up above or the guardian angel that trails Ella around to keep her out of trouble must have interceded because Scott went out with Ava and that poor little guy was still in the grass and able to hop.


     I went inside and upstairs to find that Ella had crawled into her crib in her dark bedroom (the blinds were all down and the lights off). She's just standing in her crib crying that she is tired. "Mommy, I tired. I tired. I tired." over and over again. 

    You think you're tired? is what I wanted to say. 

    Instead,  I washed her hands  and we had a nice little talk about how you don't stomp on little animals. That it, plain and simple, is not very nice.

   " You wouldn't like it very much if someone just stomped on your stuffed ladybug there, would you?" I asked, hoping to make a connection. 

    "You mean like this?" She says to me as she proceeds to step on it. 

     Oh boy.

     "Yes, Ella, like that."

      "No mommy." 

      I'm not sure I really believe her. 

       I then made her apologize to her sister and told her no more stomping on small animals.

   Ava needed me to console her a bit more, needed to know that I had spoken to Ella about the whole thing and then needed me to tickle her arms and face to help her get to sleep.

    I am finally in bed, staring at a mountain of clothes at the foot of my bed, and ready to fall asleep as I come to terms with the fact that perhaps the clothes will get picked up someday when the girls are in school and I'm not dealing with almost fatal frog situations.

   The lawnmower is just sitting on the side of our house in a very obviously uncut patch of grass. Hopefully Mr. Froggy has hopped to safety.

    Off to sleep off the emotional turmoil...hoping the second half of our day is less eventful than the first.

Thursday, May 5

Momma for Hire: Works for Weeds

Ava has been picking dandelions by the bouquetfull lately. Scott thinks I don't want to treat our lawn with fertilizer because I don't want the chemicals around the kids...the real reason, I'm thinking, is that there is no other free activity that I could conjure up that would keep her quite as content or give her the self-satisifaction that I find all over her face every time she ventures outside and spends 15 uninterrupted minutes picking 'flowers'...if you know my children you'd realize that this is actually a pretty big deal (that they would spend that much time focusing on one task!).  

She's got Ella on the task now too. We went for a short walk this afternoon and every few steps Ella would announce with complete awe and enthusiasm, "Look Mommy, more flowers!" 

We've moved beyond her just picking the heads off too! She is now an expert dandelion picker, picking carefully from the bottom and brining them into the house delicately so I can put them in water. 

What momma would be able to resist this face and those flowers?

I have been giving them the utmost respect and displaying them with all the flair I can muster. Last week we used a clear class vase and floated them in water, yesterday it was a blue plastic cup set gently in the middle of the table, and today, alas, my favorite, a martini glass that I acquired from somewhere. 

Ava gets this look of pure delight on her face upon first seeing them displayed on the table and then I find her reacting throughout the day, "Look Momma, the flowers are still alive!!!" 

And these are the reasons I do not work. Truly. 

When people ask me if I miss working or what the girls and I have been up to on a given day or week...I find it hard to put into words.

We um, pick weeds, and rocks, and make collages out of ripped pieces of paper. We also wander down the street and strike up conversations with old men washing their cars and old ladies who are sweeping their driveways. We admire the sun  (when it is actually out here in sunless Buffalo!) and we notice birds  flying overhead. We also, um, well, the girls put on tutus and dance around the living room and we read library books and, um, practice drawing letters is workbooks I buy from the Dollar Store. 

Of course, that all makes it sound pretty easy and handy dandy...of course every day is a roller coaster ride of emotions and needs, bruised knees or today's blisters that brought on a full fledged melt down of gigantic proportions. There are muddy feet and hands to clean and jackets to put on an zip up. There are meals to make and bums to wipe and messes of ginormous proportions to clean up ALL over my house. 

It's kind of nutty actually. 

But, when prompted with the question of 'do I miss work' and 'will I go back' I can easily answer 'not right now'...even though some days I do miss it immensely and other days I'm ready to throw my kids at the nearest neighbor and go do something much more "career" oriented for a while. But, at the end of the day I find myself realizing I cannot leave them-- not because any one of these moments is monumental in and of itself, but because my girls are formulating their earliest perceptions of the world and I want to be a big part of that perception. 

Just before I had Ava I very distinctly recall a conversation with another mother in which we were discussing the pros and cons of being a working mother. I was contemplating, naively, for I think I was merely pregnant with her at the time, if and when I would go back to work and what that would look like. 

The woman I was talking to, however, said something to the degree of, 

"I can't imagine working while my children are young. There are so many little things that I would miss. Their smiles, the first words, the first steps, all of the little things that happen throughout the day." 

As a young, naive, pregnant woman, I nodded and smiled accordingly, but secretly recall wondering, Really? All those little things outweigh your desire to want to work? They'll take hundreds of steps, say billions of words and smile countless smiles throughout their lives...I'd probably be o.k. missing a few if I had to work.

Oh how little I knew. 

Here I am, just about four years in to this gig as full-time mom and I've gotta tell you, I can't imagine letting someone else get to experience all of the little things that happen throughout the day...someone who wouldn't appreciate them a fraction as much as I do, someone who might not even notice them because there is not the same intimacy in relationship. 

And while there are plenty of people who would argue that continuing to build "myself" is just as important as spending time with my children, I would be left to say that I have plenty of time to build "myself" in the years to come, but that my children will only be enamored by dandelions and worms in their sandbox for a very short period of time. They will only learn how to swing, for the first time once, (like Ava did this spring) and be able to express to me the unfettered joy of their independence at being able to do it in the very moment it is happening. They only have a few short years to nap in their beds, and to watch Curious George in their pajamas and to walk uninhibited down the sidewalk at 12:30 in the afternoon. 

I did not reach this point without emotional struggle. There have been many, MANY days when I have wondered what I'm missing out on on the "other side of the fence". There have been many days I've wondered if anyone will ever take me seriously again if I apply for a "real" job. There have been many days when I would rather be editing a manuscript or writing a newsletter for a large organization than practicing writing the letter "D" in the right direction with a 4 year old. 

However, I can finally say that I find more days now in which I feel blessed to be able to stay home with my girls than wishing I had made a different choice. As a therapist once said to me in my very early mothering days, "Lisa, you may always be a person for whom being home full time is a bit of a struggle, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong decision." 

And so here I sit, rattling off thoughts for my "mommy blog", thinking about next week's playdates, and waiting in hushed silence for my girls to wake up from their naps. I fit all of the cliches and I don't get paid a dime. My payment comes in the form of smiles, scribbled pages and lots and lots of dandelions and for the time being I'm o.k with that. 

Wednesday, May 4

Belly Button Blues

Bathing Suits. Body Image. Post-baby.

Need I say more?

I was causally walking through the mall on Friday afternoon, innocently looking at t-shirts and shorts, flip flops and sunglasses when I was accosted by the most upsetting sight...

this wall...of...well, bathing suits for young teenage girls who have never, ever had a baby and don't know, practically speaking, what a stretch mark is or what it means to have MANY of them OR for the very, very, VERY lucky women my age who have had babies but because of their lucky genetic predisposition (and often their tall slender bodies which leave enough room for a baby to stretch up instead of out during pregnancy) are still able to don a belly baring bikini after their children are born (Ahem. Miss Sara D. in MA whom I love like a sister but don't like very much during bathing suit season!).

You see, even if I had shed all of the baby weight I gained (and fortunately I have shed most of it), my stomach will never see the light of day again unless I want to dish out big bucks for a tuck because, as Scott likes to say about pregnancy and all things related, my tummy "took one for the team" when I carried and brought children into this world.

This is how bad it is. Shortly after we moved here I was looking for a primary care doctor. I saw a number of them in the process. One woman (whom I did not like for a number of reasons but read on to find out the biggie!) who must have never had children, and talked through her nose, said,

"Oh my honey. What happened to your stomach?!"

Are you serious lady? Did you just ask me that?

"Uh. Pregnancy."

"Wow. That's too bad,"

Yes, yes, it is and now if you would just finish my physical before I knock you over with laser beams from my eyeballs we can all just be on our merry way.

Seriously though...it looks pretty bad. There are stretch marks and sag marks and my poor ole belly button looks as if it were the end of a balloon inflated and deflated seventeen times. If I were really hard core I'd take a picture and post it here...but, despite bearing children and having nursed in public and feeling, at times, like all sense of humility and dignity is gone, I have reserved enough self-respect to not post photos of my belly for the whole worldwide web to see.

So what's a stretch marked momma to do?

Well, I could wallow in my misery by eating potato chips and ice cream while flipping through fashion magazines and staring at barely clad, skinny models in bikinis.

Probably not the healthiest option...

OR I could just get on with things and embrace my new body and all of its, well, um, stretches and curves and motherliness (did I mention my boobs sag too?!).

I'm thinking option B is the best I can do.

Besides, if I take this from the superficial to the spiritual in my thinking, I find myself asking, "Lis, what would God have to to say about this?"

Oh dear. Not sure I want to go there.

What I am sure of is that God would prefer I spend my time and energy thinking about more important things than bathing suits and taut belly skin.  And, that even if we did have so much money that a few thousands dollars spent on plastic surgery were not be a big deal, would it actually be the best use of the money?

Thinking God might have something to say about that as well.

So, the next time I find myself staring down the wall of itsy bitsy bathing suits, or enviously eyeing up one of the skinny women looking at the itsy bitsy bathing suits, I will smile approvingly and simply say "well...good for her" (through gritted teeth perhaps!) and then I will force myself to walk away and not spend another moment thinking about bathing suits or my stretchy tummy.

I will force myself to think about all of the ways I am physically fit and healthy; the running, the weight lifting, the Zumba classes, the vegetables I love to eat and am growing in my garden.  I will think too about a gracious God in heaven who has bestowed all of these blessings on my life-- my health, the availability of food, my healthy husband and children and all of the things we have to be thankful for and I will inevitably be forced to say "lucky me."