Thursday, November 22

Holiday Hiatus

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

It's 10:30 p.m....My belly is still full, the kids are asleep, Scott is trying to figure out why only half of our extra large outdoor wreath is lighting up and watching the last of Thanksgiving day football on television. It's been a good day. A busy day. We've been watching parades, making pies, cleaning bedrooms, squeezing in pre-turkey eating workouts and many other minor details and kid management moments. 

So as the day winds down and this pregnant momma gets ready to find her way to bed I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope yours was joyful and blessed and full of good food and smiles. I’ve decided to take a holiday blogging hiatus, so this will be my last post for a while. I'm going to spend the next few weeks reading some books I've wanted to read, focusing on my Christmas shopping and preparations and mostly just spending some extra time focusing on the girls, the house and enjoying the Christmas season together. 

I'll leave you with a few photos of our Thanksgiving crafts and preparations...

Ella's preschool turkey creation #1

preschool turkey creation #2

our favorite t-shirt the last 3 weeks

LOVE seasonal foam crafts from Michaels!

Our "Thankfulness" ribbon strung across the kitchen window/doorway

We tried to add leaves to this during dinner as many nights as possible...we'll probably continue for another week or so, just to fill it in! 

Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year...I'll be back in early 2013! 

Saturday, November 17

Momma Said There Would be Days Like This...A Really Long Post About the Hole in My Kitchen Sink

There is a hole in my kitchen sink.

That's right...I'm not referring to the drain or the garbage disposal here, but a hole put there, accidentally (sort of), by me.

It's small, the size of the tip of a pen (or a pair of...ahem...scissors), but a hole in the kitchen sink is no good no matter what size it is.

 "How did you wind up with a hole in your kitchen sink dear Lisa?"

That's what you are asking, isn't it?! It's a good question, really. Though the answer is a little bit embarrassing.

So, before I get around to telling you why there is a hole in my kitchen sink, I'm going to take you back 20+ years to tell you another quick story. A story about...Atari! 

Do any of you remember Atari? I was never a big "gamer" per se, but do clearly remember stretches of hours devoted to Atari!

My brother and I received that Atari on a Christmas morning in 1988 or 89. The system came with one game, Pole Position-- a racing game. It's actually the only game I really remember playing.  I spent hours playing Pole Position. Never enough time to really advance to upper levels, or be incredibly competitive, but it was a personal challenge to try to beat my own race times and complete the harder routes.

I'm sure we had other games and I'm sure my brother spent much more time playing them than I did, but I was happy with Pole Position (and maybe Donkey Kong) and piddled away good daylight hours staring at a television trying to beat other cars in a simulated road race. 

The other thing I remember clearly about that Atari and that game is the frustration that seemed to emerge from deep depths when a race started out poorly or I knew I was not doing well despite my best efforts. Want to know what I did in those moments?! 

Ha! I pressed the restart button. Over and over and over sometimes. "You CAN'T do that, my brother would's not how you play!" 


For the record I'm sure he did his share of restarting when I was not looking. 

Could I have just continued on in the game, knowing I wasn't going to place very well? I could have, but at 11 years old  it seemed like a big waste of time. Why would I just keep plodding away in a race I was destined to lose? 

Because, my inner conscience should have told me, it will be a lesson in keeping on when the days are not going as expected. It will be your training ground for motherhood in 20 years! 

Who cares about motherhood and life lessons when you are 10?! 

I didn't care at the time, but maybe I should have. Here I am, 24 years later, wishing some days were an Atari game with a restart button...Do you ever have days like that? 

So, back to the hole and how it found its way into my sink...

 About three weeks ago I was having a bad day. I was crabby, tired, impatient and oh, did I mention I'm pregnant? While the pregnancy has yet to wreak too much havoc on me physically, the emotional impact is another story!

On that day, three weeks ago, there was a period of 16 hours or so where I put a hole in my kitchen sink with a pair of scissors, cried blubbery, slobbery, tired, self-pitying tears in front of my children not once but TWICE! and made my husband late for work on the 2nd of the two mornings because he was kind enough to sit through the second act of my two-day Emmy award winning performance for craziest pregnant wife on the face of the PLANET.

...alright, maybe just Western New York, but you get the idea. 

Did I mention I am pregnant?  I figure that knowledge is at least worth at least a small reduction in points on the parenting/wife infractions I've incurred.  

I'm telling you all of this in my confessional here because I'm hoping you have really bad days like this too... Days where you feel unglued, undone and overwhelmed. 

 I figure that if you do ever had a day like that you'll hopefully, after reading this,  know that A) You're not alone. There is at least one other person in the world (me!) who understands, and  B) God is bigger than it all and full of FORGIVENESS and grace so big that even a hole in a kitchen sink is covered...

Ironically (or maybe not so much so!) I currently happen to be reading Lysa Terkeurst's really great book about emotions right now. It's called Unglued: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Raw Emotions. 

I'm only about 2/3 of the way through the book (and was only on Chapter 3 when I put a hole in our sink!), so I have a ways to go...Perhaps in more ways than just the literal reading!

The beauty of reading this book, (despite the fact that I'm not fixed yet!) is that it is making me aware of the areas I need to work on and that it is O.K. that I'm an "unfinished product"...we all are in one way or another. 

In Chapter 2 Terkeurst anecdotally talks about the sculpture that we all know today as David by Michelangelo. It's one of my favorite moments in the book. What I didn't know is that the David we know today was first started by one artist who began sculpting the legs, feet and torso but eventually abandoned the work. Another artist picked it up 10 years later, but also never completed the work. 

Terkeurst says, 
 "It was nearly twenty-five years before Michelangelo, just twenty-six, picked up a chisel and dared to believe he could complete a masterpiece...When at last the seventeen foot David emerged, Michelangelo is reported to have said "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." When asked how he made his statue, Michelangelo is reported to have said, "It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David."

Think about that for a moment. What would it look like to chip away that pieces of your  life that don't look like you....or at least the you-- the mom, the wife, the friend-- that you really want to be. You know, if time, or money, or EMOTIONS didn't do their part at getting in the way. 

Listen to what Terkeurst says's SO beautiful...
"God doesn't allow the unglued moments of our lives to happen so we'll label ourselves and stay stuck. He allows the unglued moments to make us aware of the chiseling that needs to be done. So instead of condemning myself with statements like, I'm such a mess, I could say, Let God chisel. Let Him work on my hard places so I can leave the dark places of being stuck and come into the light of who He designed me to be." 

I find that comforting and encouraging and full of know that despite my feeling stuck in the mess that God has a more beautiful and chiseled plan.

So, how did the hole end up in the sink you still want to know? 

It was 6 p.m. and I was hungry and trying to put dinner on the table. The girls were being GREAT but had destroyed the playroom (it looked like they just had a 4 hour frat party in 15 minutes!)...I wasn't so much upset about the mess as I was overwhelmed that there is ALWAYS a mess. That despite my best, tireless efforts to clean and organize and put things back in their place the house seems to always look like I never clean or organize or put anything back in its place! 

I was overwhelmed by the fact that I would have little time to write, or read or relax that evening (after they went to bed) because I needed to pick up some groceries and go through backpacks and pick up not just the mess in the playroom, but several other messes around the house that I won't bore you with describing at the moment. 


I know, I know, I KNOW! Leave the messes, or skip the grocery store, or just come to terms with the fact that this is what motherhood is all about. 

I know all of those things...but you also know how it try and try and try and...some days you do leave the mess, but some days you just must pick it up. 

AND, on that very day your (poor, unsuspecting) husband walks upstairs at the end of the day from working in his office and the supportive wife you want to be gets buried beneath the toys and scattered papers and glue sticks and scissors and craziness in the playroom...

You start blah, blah, blahing about getting dinner on the table and the stinkin' mess in the playroom...

And he says, "At least the girls are having fun!" 

And you think, WRONG ANSWER. 

"They're having fun and NO ONE (implication the poor guy standing across from you) else in this house EVER picks up the toys. Or at least when they do, no one else in this house ever puts ANYTHING away where it is supposed to go!"

(For the record I had also just found several random games and puzzles jammed into a small storage chest with all of the pieces spilling out and completely disorganized...probably the work of my very messy 3 year old...)

He got upset and defensive...naturally...and started saying something about not having time for this. 

I, in my very ungluedness,  felt disrespected because whether I have time for it or not this stuff seems to fill my WHOLE life...and I (Note...Scott is a very helpful husband...the problem with being a busy couple with young, active kids is that there truly is never enough time.) 

So, I took the kitchen scissors in my hand and very aggressively threw them into the sink before storming off to cry in the front office of our house (the only place to close a door, besides the bathroom, downstairs).

Apparently I threw them so hard, Scott reported to me later via cell phone while I was walking through Wal-Mart, that they literally, in his words, "were stuck in the kitchen sink, standing up, like a shovel in dirt." 


He poured some superglue into that hole to temporarily patch up my moment of being unglued. There is some odd irony in that, isn't there?

I wish I could say that was the end of it...

I went to bed with better hopes for tomorrow and after apologizing to Scott and buying him his first carton of egg nog this season (a FAVORITE!) from Wal-Mart as a peace offering. 

And then, the next morning, I got up at 7 a.m. to squeeze in a few minutes of journaling and Bible reading (that I REALLY, obviously needed!). Both girls had been sleeping until at least 7:20 pretty consistently...

...until that morning. 

My quiet moment ended at 7:10 when a sweet faced turned the corner. I was not upset at that sweet face, I was simply discouraged that it seemed IMPOSSIBLE to find time to pray or think or journal on a regular basis. Right after I turned Micky Mouse on for Ella I found myself, in tears, AGAIN, in the office...Scott found me there...

Where does a woman manage to consistently carve out a few minutes of quiet time? I wanted to know. An introspective woman who processes life best by journaling and reading, but most importantly, praying. Where? How? When? NEVER?! Sigh....

Next thing I knew it was 7:55 and the girls hadn't been fed and Scott was going to be late and we were all rushing around the house.  As I drove Ella to school that morning all I could think about was....

And so I looked up at the sky and pondered the beauty of the cloud formations, and the incredible display of fall trees in breathtaking hues. They reminded me of a 4th of July grand finale. 

I talked to Ella about taking a bike ride later and called Scott to apologize (again) that he was going to be late. I figure I couldn't literally re-do the last 16 hours, but I could start by shifting my focus upward, rather than outward and work on being grateful for the beauty that surrounded me. 

I know it sounds simple and trite, but I think Ann Voskamp ( author of One Thousand Gifts) was right on when she implies in her book that the ONLY way out of ingratitude, irritable living and a general frustration about life is to start be thankful for EVERYTHING. So I pressed the internal re-start button and started finding ways to be thankful...for that moment and day at least (it is a daily process). 

 I also realized that after a night and a morning like I had it is not just the "re-set" button that is the answer (though sometimes it helps!). On some days, the answer is simply staying in the game...or the race...that hasn't turned out the way I thought it was going to. A race in which you've crashed your car and have driven off the road. A race in which you might come in last, but where you learn to realize that it's o.k. 

Sometimes, just staying in the race, despite the bumps and crashes and wrong turns, is more important than trying re-start it, so to speak. Perhaps it's in those humble moments that the hardest parts are being chiseled away... and God is faithfully completing the work He has begun. 

So, I now have a daily (the hole!) reminder of what happens when I become unglued...other things in life need to be glued together...but I also can laugh because I know that God has more than superglue to  fix this weary momma's heart and that gives me a whole lot of hope to stay in the race. 

Sunday, November 11

The Demanding Life of 3

I realize that in just a few short months the title of this post will have a completely different relevance and meaning in my life....

Then...I will be living (and probably having no time to write about it!) the family life of five; two adults outnumbered by three children ages 5 and under (for a short time anyway, our oldest turns 6 in June).

Oh my...I get tired just thinking about it!

In the meantime, this post is about the day to day of just one three year old under my roof. The one crazy, busy, mood swingy, often irrational, highly energetic, vivaciously creative and full of spunk three year old that I have the pleasure of hanging out with one on one from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. when her sister finally gets home from school.

When Ava first started school I thought that having just Ella home would be easy peasey compared to having them both home, and on many accounts that was an accurate assumption. She's got the run of the house without anyone threatening to take her toys, boss her around or tell her she's doing just about EVERYTHING incorrectly (poor little sisters!).

And on some days the independent run of the show is enough to keep her happy and humming and satisfied all day long.

On other days...Oi...the other days...

My mother-in-law and I actually have a special name for Ella when she is really grouchy, crabby and sour apples...we call her Elga. It's kind of funny actually and even if she is in one of her most terrible moods, a reference to Elga always cracks the tiniest knowing smile...full knowledge the she is being certifiably, unreasonably, and irrationally a stubborn, crabby 3 year old.

For the record were at Tim Horton's having a donut with her bestest little friend Courtney after dance class on Friday and Courtney's mom told me that Ella taught Courtney how to pout...

"Ella! My Ella? How do you know?"

"Because Courtney came home from play school last year and said,  'Ella taught me how to pout...See!'  And then proceeded to make the grouchiest pouty face possible."

Oh dear...Although I can't say I'm completely surprised. When we're not calling her Elga I have called her the "Queen of Pout"... it looks just like this and it can be turned on in the blink of an eye...

and this...

and this...

So besides the pouting and crab faced shenanigans what else is Ella up to? I'll use this past Thursday as an example because I still happen to remember it...

At lunch time today I asked Ella if she wanted to help me make her sandwich...I, trying to be the 'with it' mom, knows that Ella likes to do these sorts of things and tends to eat better when she has taken part in the process of making her food.

She was so excited and immediately dragged the bar stool over to the counter to help and reported that she would be the peanut butter spreader.

Great! I think. She's cooperating and involved and wants to help with the peanut butter.


Until I explain that I am going to scoop the peanut butter out of the canister and make a pile on her bread that she can then spread (knowing that having her try to get the peanut butter out of the container on her own would result in a stickier, gooier mess than I was willing to clean up.)

"Noooooo! I. WANT. TO. DO. IT. I'm not helping mommy. I don't like mommy."

Since I had already scooped the peanut butter onto her bread the defiance escalated quickly. Once she looked down and realized she was not going to get her way with the peanut butter she practically jumped off the bar stool, ran across the living room screaming and threw herself into a corner with all of the theatrical flair she could muster.

I told her this was all quite ridiculous.

The screaming just got louder.

Finally I told her that if she was going to scream about the peanut butter that she'd need to do it in her room. She stomped her feet right up those stairs.

Lord help me, I prayed. I need wisdom with this one.

I let her pout upstairs for a few minutes while I took the opportunity to pop a few crackers into my mouth in quiet.

Eventually I went up to her room to talk to her about her attitude...

"Ella, we can't scream and carry on about peanut butter. Do you understand?"

She says nothing. Just crosses her arms in front of her chest with a full faced put.

"And further more you can't talk to mommy that way. Do you remember when you told me how you felt in school today when that little boy was not nice and said you couldn't play with him? That's what mean words do, they make people feel bad." I think I'm being all smart and connecting the situation to something real in her life... "That's how you make me feel when you say things like that.."

Guess what her response was?

"Well, Mom, he was not a little boy...He was just a boy."

Good grief!

She finally conceded to an apology and came downstairs to eat her peanut butter sandwich. By the time she was done eating she was bouncing around the kitchen with smiles and songs, as if the other little bit had NEVER happened. Truly, it was like a completely different child had entered the premises. She sent Elga back to her hiding place for a while and sweet Ella was back.

I swear I'm going to need a permanent room reservation in a local hotel if we end up having a third girl...I know people say boys are a handful and I believe that to be true in the physical sense, but girls...GIRLS are an emotional handful for sure.

I like to say it's a good thing she is so cute because it makes up for the mood swings! I suppose my husband has probably said that about me on more occasions than I'd care to maybe it's him that will need that hotel reservation after all!

Wednesday, November 7

Bonding Over Football

Uh Oh. I used the "F" word.

You know, football. 

That word that stirs up all sorts of images of overpaid, hot-headed athletes, scantily dressed women on the sidelines and balding men donned in incredibly expensive suits accented with obnoxious ties who talk about the details of the sport with a seriousness that could accompany diplomatic international policy. Oh, and those poorly written beer commercials that are supposed to connect with....well, I'm not sure...still trying to figure that one out.

Alright, alright...I'll stop.

I do actually know a lot of perfectly normal, well rounded individuals who love husband, mother-in-law and our pastor included.  I don't actually mind watching a few rounds, or innings, or...uh...downs...myself,  especially if someone has offered a dip that contains cheese and salty chips!

All joking aside, I have one quick short story about football from this season: a sweet story about a daughter, her father, and football.

Scott has reignited his love for the sport this year thanks mostly to his sister's husband Dave who encouraged him to join their fantasy football league.  He has been watching the games with a newfound zest that has been been on hiatus since his own days of playing high school football and Sundays in the dorms with pizza in college.

The poor guy meets me and gets married and his football watching somehow goes down the tubes. Despite the fact that his buddies would probably like to blame that on me, I SWEAR I had nothing to do with it! I swear!

So the games have been on more often this year and the girls think it's pretty funny when Dad watches the guys running around the field on t.v. and especially funny when he starts to yell at said men running around the field on t.v.!

They always look at me, partly out of curiosity and partly to check in...I smile and nod as if to say, "Yes girls. It's o.k. This is normal guy stuff!"

(And then there are the times when they take advantage of Dad sitting on the couch and jump off the edge and onto his lap and he declares that "the next one BETTER be a boy!" Although, sorry babe, not sure a 3 year old boy is going to behave any differently when he could be using you as an indoor jungle gym!).

But the cutest darned thing happened several Tuesdays ago--Ava's library day. She always leaves with her two books from the previous week in her backpack in the morning, and her mom, the book lover, waits with eager anticipation to see what she will bring home in the afternoon.

(I must admit the Taylor Swift book last week left me raising my eyebrows...Where is the poetry? Or the good literature sweet girl?! Taylor Swift? I didn't even know you knew who she was?! )

So several weeks ago, when I picked her up, she was so excited to share her library news with me.

"Mom, I got one book for me and one for Daddy! I got a football book for Dad because he likes football"....pause..."I like football too!"

The Football book

What?! I gave birth to a long legged, blue eyed, blonde haired daughter who! Haha, there is great humor in heaven! If you know me, the petite, brunette who would rather read a book than watch sports, you'd see the humor in this. 

During our drive home from lunch this past Sunday Ava also declared that she wanted to watch football with Dad, again! (For the record, the "watching" only lasts 15-20 is the gesture that counts, right?!)

It's quite cute actually. Who knew you could learn so much from your child by observing their kindergarten library book selections?!  Last week (before the football bit) I discovered she liked Taylor Swift because the 3rd grader who lives two doors down from us has a Taylor Swift poster hanging in her room. This week it is football because her Dad likes it.

I will admit...I like the football affection and admiration better than the pop star affinities.

At the end of the day all this football and library book stuff got me thinking... that besides finding this all cute and amusing, there were some big things...soul things...character building things...that are unraveling here:

 1) Kids are SO maleable at this age and that it is INCREDIBLY important that we pour as many positive influences into their lives as possible.  We, as parents, must be careful not to undermine their youth and dismiss them by saying, "they're only in kindergarten or first grade or third grade." They are young and not naive, but formable and impressionable. THESE are life forming years and should be treated with great care!

I'm asking myself the question, more and more, How can I proactively be filling Ava's heart and life with good? With positive moral values? With tools to treat others well and to be a light in an often murky world?

2) Secondly, I'm realizing in concrete terms that Mom and Dad are still a big deal in her life! And I suppose that while we always will be I would be naive to think that there will not come a time when, if strong relationship foundations are not laid now, that friends and other influences will have much more sway.  Now is the time for us to embrace that role and be stronger influences than all the other competing voices likely to come her way!

I don't have the answers, only the commitment that we're striving diligently to do the best job we can.

So, as we navigate the funny, full of new experiences, year of kindergarten, I continue to both enjoy the stories she comes home with and also look for as many teaching opportunities as possible...

We are embracing and taking note of the ways that she reaches out to connect with us and how she shows us she loves us. We are taking notes of her "love languages" and interests so that we can use those to love her right back. Whether those ways include sweetly drawn pictures and notes or library books that include unexpected topics like....Football...we are counting them all as important blessings and are grateful for the connecting moments.  

Saturday, November 3

More in the Mornings

"The Privilege of Morning" by Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Brrr, it's getting cold here in Buffalo! This morning when I woke up to shuffle over to Panera it was
F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G... I had a scarf, down vest AND gloves on and waited impatiently for the heat to kick in while the car seemed to vindictively blow cold air at me!

Alright, technically the car thermometer said 33 degrees, so that is not quite freezing, but it's still cold! It's kind of funny, when you live in a place like Buffalo 33 feels SO cold in October, but by February it's considered "warm"! 

Why do I live here again?! Haha...just joking...kind of...

So here I sit at Panera, a cup of coffee and my computer...This is not my typical Saturday morning routine, but we're giving it a try to see if we like test driving a new car for a week, or trying on a potential pair of shoes.

On most Saturday mornings one of two things happen; if I went to bed before 11 I get up before the girls to journal, pray, and gather my thoughts before the crew comes running downstairs! That's IF I went to bed before 11. 

Otherwise Scott and I both sleep until one or both of the girls coming bounding into our bed (usually by 7:30) and we plead with them over and over again for "5 more minutes!" as they chitter chatter and roll around and continually ask "is it time to get up yet?!" 

Once we do all make it downstairs, there is coffee and cartoons. Scott gets the pancake ingredients out and I typically put my workout stuff on and head to a 9 a.m. Zumba class. 

I have loved my Saturday morning Zumba classes-- in part because they are just plain fun and in part because it's one of the only days during the week when it's easy to get out of the house in the morning to get a workout in (unless I wanted to go really early!).

So why did I give up Zumba this morning for a cup of coffee at Panera?

(I know some of you are thinking...C'mon Lisa, that sounds WAY better anyway!) 

Last week while I was attending the Allume blogging conference I heard several women talking about how they started utilizing their mornings more efficiently, to pray and read their Bibles, to write  and exercise, or whatever else they are passionate about, but have a hard time fitting in. 

One woman, who ran a breakout session titled "How To Use Your Blog to Change the World During Naptime" (great title isn't it!), told us that she gets up every Saturday morning at 5 a.m. to write and work on blog posts until 10 a.m. or so and then she has the rest of the day to devote to her family.

5 a.m.!!!!!!! 

Ironically (or not so much!) Kat's (the 5 a.m. lady!) blog is titled Inspired to's an incredibly encouraging blog and you should definitely pop over and check it out. There is also a tab for "The Hello Morning Challenge", where women from all around the country join to encourage one another on in using their morning more fully and if you sign up to follow her blog you receive a free e-book titled "Maximize Your Mornings"! 

Let me tell you...hearing her say that was definitely inspiring. I am always impressed when someone is so committed to something or passionate about an idea that they make every effort to do that thing, or fit it into their lives, even if the fitting it in means sacrifice of some sort (um, sleep!).  Those men and women who get up early to train for marathons or stay up late writing pages for their novels...I love their stories and they encourage me to look for new ways to do things in my own life! 

So, I'm channeling a little bit of Kat's energy this morning and decided to give up my 9 a.m. Zumba class, set my alarm for 6:30 ( 5 a.m. was a tad too early for me!) and get over to Panera to work on some posts for this week, an on going writing project and do some planning for the week ahead. 

I'll be honest...I didn't want to get up at 6:30 this morning. Saturday is the ONLY consistent morning that I have the luxury of sleeping past 7 a.m. It also meant going to bed early last night and so I diligently found myself turning the t.v. off at 10 p.m. even though I was warm and comfy on the couch and wanted to watch one more episode of Downton Abbey (I'm a little late to the game here, but just discovered the series and am watching Season 1 on Netflix!) 

But sometimes we have to trade good for better. 

What I mean is that while I enjoy those Zumba classes, I fill more fulfilled when I can squeeze some writing or blogging in. The reality is I will easily be able to fit a walk or quick trip to the gym in later, but the writing takes more time...and doesn't always fit into our busy weekends. 

So here I sit, trying something new. Trying to utilize some of the time in which the girls are sleeping anyway and not much is going on around the house so that I can be there later when it is. I'm more of a morning person than a night owl...I don't love getting up in the morning, but I have more mental focus and energy in the morning and so I do it when I can. 

I'll let you know how it goes!