Wednesday, May 30

A Photo Re-Cap: Graduation and Turtles

As promised here are the highlights of last week (namely, Ava's preschool graduation and our garden visitor!)....

Me with the girls right before Ava's preschool graduation. Oh look, Ella is smiling nicely! 

Dad with Ava

Grandpa (Scott's dad), Aunt KK (Scott's sister Caitlyn), Ella and myself waiting for graduation to start

The graduates on stage! Those hats were the cutest darned things...white plastic bowls, glued to cardboard that the kids decorated with paint and then red yarn tassels added to the fronts. 

One of several songs. This one about being a "star"! 

Ella, Aunt KK and Ava

Remember I told you that Ella has an aversion to smiling nicely for pictures...In case you needed more proof! 

About as good a "family photo" as we get these days!!! I look tired,  Scott looks very serious and at least one of the girls is making a crazy face! 

The turtle.   I looked out my window on Sunday morning, and though my eye sight was not great because I had yet to insert my contacts  I could tell there was something in the garden from our second story bedroom window...Low and behold, this was the something!!! 

Brave Scott pulling it out of the garden...Look at that mouth! I think he was part dinosaur!! 

The hole left where carrots were supposed to grow! 

A close up! 

His "ride" back to the retention pond. 

A final close up! 

An evening at the local driving range...Scott got to hit golf balls and the girls and I got ice cream! This is one of my favorite recent pictures.

Hope you enjoyed a sneak peak into our recent lives...Hoping to post an update about my brother and his baby before the end of the week. 


Sunday, May 27

Graduations, Turtles and the Stuff of Life

My oldest child graduated from preschool this week!

Small stuff in some respects, I mean, after all, I didn't even go to preschool...and thus did not receive the pomp and circumstance (hats and all) followed by a cookie reception, gifts, cards and flowers from parents and grandparents, videos, photographs, curled hair and new shoes.

( that I mention it, I kinda wish I HAD gone to preschool!)

It was a fun, delightful, glorious time. The kids were adorable and Ava shined brightly in her yellow dress (the pictures are not uploaded yet, but I promise to share them soon!). Come to think about it, she started the year with a gray and yellow dress... there must be something about yellow...I think it's her blond her and smile that fill the room with sunshiny brightness that prompts me, when I'm shopping, to pick yellow dresses for her...

This was her first day of school. She was timid, nervous, unsure what to expect. If you remember me telling you, she has always been my clinger. Not wanting to part ways, crying through the first six weeks of preschool at 3 years old (at which point I pulled her out), crying in nurseries, staying by my side at play dates...

Until this year that is. It's amazing how far we've come, how much a young child can change, grow and mature in one year. 

At the beginning of the year she clung a little more tightly to my neck when I dropped her off, cried many days when we had to go to MOPS at church (because I had to leave her with the kids in the nursery), and was not a huge fan of Sunday School.

By the end of the year she easily let go of my neck in favor of the huge hugs her teachers were waiting to give her when she walked through the door (THANK you Miss Jean and Miss Lynn-- I couldn't have asked for better, more loving teachers for my timid girl this year!), by the end of the year at MOPS she was hi-fiving the childcare workers, and well, she still doesn't LOVE Sunday School, but it's not as much of a struggle anymore.

Blessings in my life, accomplishments in hers. Thankful for them all. 

She has few qualms about starting school in the fall (though THAT is completely different story for mommy!), and is a pretty confident kid who seems ready to take on her 5 year old world.

Truly, if I could share one word of advice to any mom who is fretting about their child's social readiness, struggling with them not wanting to be dropped off in nurseries, or in which preschool has been a struggle...I can now, with full confidence, say give it time-- three months, six months, a  year. SO much changes in a year.

Sometimes the things we think we can fix in our children in all actuality do not need fixing...they need waiting...they need patience. Patience on our part in which we accept them wholly for who they are and give them space to grow, socialize, and mature at THEIR pace.

The truth is, they have their own internal timelines...points in which they will blossom, become confident and be ready to march into the milestones in their lives. Pushing them too hard, too soon causes unnecessary struggle and tension in their lives and yours. While they are cultivating confidence in their lives, we need to be cultivating patience in our own (one of my BIGGEST mommy struggles).

It has been a big year for Ava...If you have a chance to talk to her in the near future, she will likely tell you about the very long Tangled (Rapunzel) wig that she purchased with the Toys R Us gift card she got from Grandpa for graduation (a wig that is already full of snarls and irritating mommy...but that's another story!) and then she just might go on to say...

"And I can hula hoop (for like 5 minutes straight- no lie!), braid hair, balance a book on my head, ride my bike without training wheels and go back and forth across with monkey bars all by MYSELF!"

She wouldn't be making any of that up... and it's all happened within her 4th year.

Great job kiddo!

She will be 5 in less than two weeks (ACK!) and I can hardly wait to see what is around the corner. What will her "I can do it all by myself" list look like 365 days from now...I can only imagine and I am patiently (at least trying!) anticipating it.

Speaking of birthdays, here she is on the second last day of preschool when the teacher held a birthday celebration for all of the summer girl birthdays (boys were the week before!). We have a family birthday party planned next weekend and princess party planned the week after that!

More to come on tomorrow, hopefully tomorrow, (and including pictures!) on the crazy week we've just come out of...funny things, like finding a huge snapping turtle burrowed into my vegetable garden bed this more sober things, like finding out my brother's baby girl has a very serious illness... So serious that she is being put on a wait list for a liver transplant and she is only 3 months old. 

The hard and the happy all happening within minutes of each other...all the time it seems. Thankful for a God who can handle the hard and the happy all at once even when I'm not sure I have the capacity to do so. 

Blessings to you all. 

Happy Memorial Day!!! 

Friday, May 18

Unfinished Business


  There is a lot of unfinished business in my life. You?

     Unfinished books (LOTS of them), 1/2 written blog posts, partially filled notebooks full of writing ideas, lists of movies I should see and books I want to buy, photo albums started, delicate laundry intended to be washed with the Woolite I need to buy, basement and garage organizing projects begun  and recipe binders stuffed with colorfully photographed dinners pulled from magazines and intended to be filed. How about the house projects we started on a feverish whim well over a year ago and somehow haven't been able to get back to since.

     Unfinished business drives me peck, peck, pecks at the back of my brain demanding some attention. I keep trying to throw it some treats, to quiet it down, but nothing seems to work... it follows me around like a stray cat hoping to be appeased with some milk...I keep shooing it away. 

     When it gets really irritable it starts to throw not so nice criticisms my way...

      If you were more organized...

      If you structured your life differently...
      If you could just get your act together...

     If you were a better mom, wife, friend, sister...

    And then I get crabby. And discouraged. And frustrated.

      If you just had a better attitude about it plods on.

  That's about when I pick up a shoe from the pile (and I do mean PILE) in our disorganized mudroom to throw at it...At the animal of unfinished business who likes to taunt me with its lies.

    It's funny, as much as the "stuff" that tends to lie around our house drives my husband nuts (you know, the craft supplies, shoes, discarded children's clothing items, magazines, coupons...etc. etc.) he typically is WAY better at perspective. You know the perspective needed to say, "Hey, what's really important here?"

    So like yesterday (and today) when I started in on the "Yadda, yadda, yadda," and the "Yadda, yadda, yadda" and oh did I mention the "Yadda, yadda, yadda."

    (Poor guy!)

    He raises his eyebrows like I do with the girls when they've gone on far to long about something insignificant and says, "Lis, what do you expect. It sounds like you had a great day with the girls. You went for a walk with them and read books to them and spent some great time with them. Is the rest of this stuff really important?" 

    "Well, um, yes...I albums and paint colors and delicate laundry and (big stab to the gut here) blog posts...Of course they're more important than bonding with my children!"

    (That last bit was sarcasm...just in case you missed that!)

    Of course that stuff isn't as important. Of course it can wait for another day. Or year.  Or decade!

    Of course it's also easy to believe that iota of truth on a practical level, but living it out, being peaceful about where you are and how much "unfinished business" you may have in your life on any given day while you are raising children, well, that's a lot harder to do. 

    So friends, here's the only encouragement I can offer you today...If you're frustrated by all that you are not getting done...try to list the things you have done.

     If you're thinking you're the only one not getting it all assured that my basement is probably WAY messier than yours, my fridge WAY more disgusting, and the noticeable dust in my living room WAY more obvious.

   If you feel like you are a perpetual "to-do" list creator, but not finisher...I'm right there with you.

   And for the REST OF YOU! Throw us a bone here! If you're reading this thinking...Oh, poor thing...if she just alphabetized her spices, and labeled her drawers and sorted her baskets everything would just fall into place! You are the women I envy...PLEASE leave your best organizing/time-managment/ how to handle the stuff of life with small kids around suggestions in the comments section below.




Tuesday, May 15

Giveaway Winner and the Beauty of Honesty

Morning Friends,

     Hope you all are well in whatever neck of the woods you hail from! Buffalo is sunny and warm and birds are chirping everywhere today...a good day to tackle life.

    It's a good thing too, because I needed an extra boost today. Ever feel like the stuff of life is just coming at you left and right?!  I was talking to an older mom at a women's dinner at our church last night. She was recalling life when her kids were younger (they're in their 30's now) and said,

    "Boy, some days, the pace, I felt like I was almost hyperventilating"

     Yes. Yes. Yes!  Thanks for being honest!

     That's what I love about honest stories from honest moms about their real lives.

     That's why I always try to be pretty honest here...

     So yes, between family get togethers and Ava getting sick (the flu which turned into an ear infection, pneumonia and a trip to urgent care where the poor kid got stuck with an IV (and mommy almost passed out!), on top of a busy season in which I spent many hours on a devotional project for our church (which turned out beautifully and was handed out to 2,000 women on Mother's Day...something I could have never done without the support of such a great church!), all added to a husband's busy job, Bible studies, spring yard clean up and the other stuff of life...

     Phew...I'm ready for a trip to the tropics and a big frozen strawberry beverage with an umbrella and a straw handed to me by wait staff (Not happening any time soon...a woman can dream, can't she?!).

     But, as I mentioned in my last post as I was talking about Tracey Bianchi's book Mom Connection, I think so many of us our in this same boat together...the marathon of motherhood! I don't know about you, but I've only run 1/2 a marathon and I was tired, but exhilarated at the end.

     I think the same thing goes for our's hard work, it's hard to breathe sometimes, we want to check out of the race and into tropical paradise, but we must keep pressing on and it will be worth it in the end. 

     And, as the book says, it's important we slow down enough to make deep connections in the process...something I'm consciously working on after having read that.

     Which leads me to my next thought...a winner for the giveaway!

     You should know this winner was picked VERY scientifically...

     I wrote everyone's name on scraps of paper, multiple times for those of you who followed me on google, or FB or twitter, I put all of the pieces of paper in one of our Dollar Store popcorn buckets and viola...

     Ava picked Amelia Rhodes!!! 

     Congrats Amelia! Sending the book your way! 

     Thanks to the rest of you for taking the time to leave comments...and, I had so much fun with this giveaway that I picked up a few other fun prizes to give away in the weeks to come....keep a look out!

     Hugs to you all on your marathons of motherhood!!

      Keep up the's the only thing that keeps us all (or me, anyways!) sane!!!

Friday, May 11

Mom Connection-- Book Review and Giveaway!


Do you ever think back to the days when friendships seemed easy?

Alright, maybe they were never completely easy, we are women after all...but, perhaps a bit easier.  Easier to tend to, to spend time on, to invest in...all making the friendships inherently more intimate and rich components of our lives.

Those were the days...the days before full-time jobs and kids and family obligations. The days when you could spend an entire afternoon at the beach reading a book (ahhh....sounds nice!), go see a movie on a whim, or spend frivolously on trendy clothing items or a fancy restaurant bills with your girlfriends at your side.

We had the time to invest in our friendships...Relationships become deeper for many reasons, but when all is said and done, it is time together, invested, that helped to grow the relationships.

In our roles as mothers and wives it is often hard to give to other relationships when all of our other giving is done at the end of the day. Even our poor spouses can tend to bear the brunt of our busy lives.

And while I hadn't put a lot of thought and energy into how things might look differently in this area of my own life (I've merely continued on at the rapid pace of life I've been engaged in), I found it refreshing and encouraging to recently come across Mom Connection: Creating Vibrant Relationships in the Midst of Motherhood by Tracey Bianchi.

You can read Tracey's bio below, but all you really need to know is that she is a mom with three kids who gets where we are coming from. She gets the craziness, the multi-tasking, the challenges inherent, the distractions and all of the other reasons that we give for not investing more deeply in the relationships in our lives.

She also understands that despite all of those things it is the friendships, our marriages and connections within our communities that are incredibly important to making our lives deeper, not just wider.

Early on in the book she talks about identifying the natural rhythms in our lives-- and either embracing them or simplifying them in order to focus more intently on the world around us.

Should frantic be the norm? She asks.

No! I wanted to yell. Please tell me how to make it not feel frantic!

She says...
Mom Connection will take you on a journey toward celebrating and discovering the underlying rhythm of your life and how that rhythm pulls you into vibrant relationships. I hope you will discover that your unique situation and the details of your mothering journey can be lived in freedom, opening your life to relationships and transforming formerly lonely places. Gracefully engaging the people who cross your path rather than viewing them as tasks on a list. Investing in your community, fostering healthy marriages, and finding out that ultimately you are connected to a bigger dance (page 22). 
As idealistic as all that sounds, Bianchi manages to push the reader in that direction through her stories, humor and suggestions.

Each chapter ends with five "Mom-Tested Tips"-- things you can start to do now to foster the practices talked about in each chapter and then perhaps my favorite feature, a list at the end of each chapter called "Books, People, and Other Random Stuff" offering websites, book titles and other resources to help along the way.

And, if you're in MOPS, Mom Connection is next year's theme book-- I'm excited to have gotten a head start on processing some of the information in hopes that it will make next year's MOPS meetings that much more relevant.

To read more reviews or order a copy of the book you can check it out here on amazon...

And, because I've enjoyed the book so much, am a MOPS mom and advocate myself, and would love to pass on the love, I have one copy of this book to give away to one of you!!

To be entered leave a comment below telling us how you try to invest in the relationships in your life.

For extra entries (or just because you love me!) you can...

       -click in the right sidebar to join my google friends network
       -click on the Facebook icon above to like "Little Writer Momma" on Facebook
       -or become a twitter friend  (by clicking the Twitter link above)

Just leave another comment telling me you've done one or ALL of these things.

Not only will this give you an extra shot at the book, but it helps me stay more connected to ya'll!

Comments will close at midnight on Monday...Winner announced Tuesday!

Author BioTracey Bianchi  is an over-caffeinated, thirty-something living in a suburb near Chicago. She’s a sought after communicator and has contributed to a variety of publications and organizations from Sojourners to MOPS International. She is the author of Green Mama and has been an active speaker, writer and participant with MOPS for over seven years. She has three young children, a fabulous husband, and a goldfish named Stinky Pete. They live in the Chicago area where Tracey serves as a ministry leader at Christ Church of Oak Brook and maintains a freelance career that includes speaking and writing for a wide variety of organizations. She earned her M. Div. from Denver Seminary and needs a ton of coffee to make all of this work.

*I received this book from Revell (A division of Baker Publishing Group) in exchange for an honest review! 

Wednesday, May 9

Laughter...the Best Medicine

      The day started out a bit dreary. Ava has had a flulike virus for days, Buffalo weather has been a bit  blah (surprise!) and several night wakings from both girls left me feeling more than a bit slow even after my morning coffee.

     I typically carve out a couple of hours of writing time when the girls go to preschool, but with Ava sick, we didn't make it to school on Monday and my hopes for today were dashed when she slowly descended the stairs groggy and teary-eyed, quite evidently not ready to go back to school just yet.

     After coming to terms with the fact that plan A (school and some coffee time at Starbucks) was out of the question, I reconciled myself to plan B-- a spontaneous muffin making endeavor (it was either that or throw the rotten bananas away), a slower paced breakfast and time to throw some dinner in the crock-pot (not such a bad alternative actually!).

     But perhaps the best part of my morning was the often unexpected guest of some extra time at home; a good ole dose of silliness and laughter from none other than our resident funny person...Ella.

     You need only to encounter Ella for a few moments before you realize just how funny she is...nothing major, just lots and lots of little things making her one of the funniest people I know.

    She sings loudly and haphazardly for all to hear, she runs around in dresses, with frizzy hair shouting made up words. She says things like "bummer" and "aw shucks" at the most appropriate times making said things seem like not such a bummer after all.

    And then there was this morning. She was walking around the kitchen with a thickly pasted purple mustache created by the very deliberate way she drank her fruit shake.  The top to her pajamas, size 24 months and far too small (they should have gotten put away by now, she is 3 after all!) but chosen adamantly before bed last night, inched far above her belly button as she bellowed loudly things like, "poodie doodie poodie! poodie, doodie, poodie!!"

     I have NO idea what that means. I don't think I'm supposed to, but her vivaciousness and the confidence with which she spoke the words seemed to break through the tired malaise of the morning.

     "Ella, what planet are you from?" I asked with a smile.

     "Northland!" she declared confidently and loudly and then stood laughing at herself.

       I looked at Ava, raised my eyebrows and shook my head. She looked at me with a smile and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say "She's just crazy mom."

       Now she had an audience...She continued to wander between the kitchen and the living room, from me to Ava (both of us needing the laughs).

      "I like to lick like a dog po pawg."

      Not sure if that is baby talk or gangster talk...either way, pretty silly coming from a purple lipped 3 year old.

      She continued this kind of silliness for several more minutes until I chased her down for a photo at which point she suddenly became shy and hid behind a chair in our living room. I told her I wanted to show Nanner (her grandmother) a obliged...very briefly.

      Did you know that laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body? That it increases the antibody reducing cells, thus strengthening your immune system? (It does all this and more according to Elizabeth Scott at  Who knew?

       I haven't had a chance to blog much lately, I haven't cleaned much this week, there are piles of wrinkled clean laundry jammed into baskets in the middle of my living room. I haven't called the people I need to call, or mailed checks I've needed to mail because Ava has been sick and life has been busy.

      I was feeling a little down about all I hadn't gotten done...and then I laughed. 

     Suddenly, despite all of those things still needing to be done, the mood was lifted. I think Ava felt a little better as well...We laughed and we felt better.

      I guess what they say is true...Laughter IS the best medicine. 

      Fortunately we have a little laughter medicine woman living right in our house.

(both photos/images borrowed from google images)

Wednesday, May 2

Firsts and Lasts: A Mother's Song

      I was tucking my oldest daughter into bed tonight; we said prayers, I tickled her arm, we talked about the events of the day and briefly touched on what we would be doing tomorrow... the usual bedtime stuff.

     "We have MOPS tomorrow sweetie."

     "We do?"

     There was a time, earlier this year, when that would have stirred up a bit of commotion. Earlier this year she did not like going to MOPS. She cried when I dropped her off. She cried so much so that I ended up in tears on one particularly emotionally charged morning when she clung to my neck like I was leaving her for years instead of hours and cried crocodile tears for all onlookers to see.

     I snarffled and sniffled my way through a conversation with the head childcare worker as she diplomatically tried to tell me that it was not in my daughter's best interest to stay in the room with the 2 year olds (where her sister was and she wanted to be) and stared at me with a look that said, "No wonder your daughter is so emotional."

     (My only saving grace is that my 2-year-old is so tough that we joke that she just might be a linebacker or a drill sergeant some day. No joke. Her presence in my life is what reminds me that while some of our children's characteristics are the inevitable result of our own personalities and nurture, others are simply God given personality traits completely independent of any of my influence.  THANK. GOODNESS.)

    All that said, Ava, my oldest has come a l-o-n-g way in just a few months. She bounds into her classroom at MOPS these days, comes home singing songs and hugs every one of her teachers on the way out with a huge, light up the room kind of smile.

     So, it was with some sadness, that the next words I said to Ava as I put her to bed were, "Yup. And you know what? It's your last one?"


    "Well...yes. You'll be in school next year and won't have to come with me."

     "Awwwww," she said as she stuck her lower lip out in a mock pout.

     "I know," I grinned and gave her a big hug. "You'll have a great time in school though!"

      As I walked out of her room I immediately considered our brief conversation.

     How had that happened so fast? How could this be the last time she will go to MOPS with me?

     I know all of you older moms are laughing hysterically at me right now. I know that this blog post rings FULL of the sentimental mush that accompanies first-time moms feeding their babies peas for the first time and thinking it is the most monumental moment in the universe.

     I know. I know.

     I just didn't know it would all happened so fast. SO fast. 

     I still recall those first months after Ava was born. We lived in Central, Massachusetts and I was struggling emotionally. Call it post-partum depression, or shock, or adjustment to a major life change-- whatever you will, but I was on the verge of tears all. the time.

     Ava would have been about four months old when I attended my first Mom to Mom meetings there. She cried when I dropped her off at the nursery. I cried when I dropped her off at the nursery. (Things haven't changed much, have they?!).

     At one of the early fall meetings I finally got there (late), and dropped her off in the nursery (late), and snuck in the back door to the meeting (late), I remember sitting down staring at all of the other moms thinking how in heavens name did they get there (on time!), get their kids dropped off (on time), find a seat and look so nicely polished and put together. I was tired, sweaty, my hair was greasy and I was frankly on the verge of constant tears.

    Oh how far we have all come.

    My dear sweet girl will be 5 next month. 5!

     She will have 5 years experience in this thing called life...and I will have 5 years of experience in this thing called motherhood. 

     We are on the verge of SO many firsts...we are on the verge of many lasts...firsts and lasts, firsts and lasts...the cadence of life as a parent.

     She rode her bike without training wheels for the first time several weeks ago. The last day of preschool is right around the corner. She's hoping to ride some of the bigger amusement park rides for the first time this year. These are the last few months where she'll be home with me to play till her heart's content with whatever she fancies all day long.

     It's as this poem says...
The greatest poem ever known  
Is one all poets have outgrown: 
The poetry, innate, untold, 
Of being only four years old.      ~Christopher Morley, To a Child

     So moms, seasoned and young, I would love to hear whether or not you think about these things, all of the firsts and lasts, and how you try to capture these moments as best as you can.