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Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Diana

 Ms. "Anne-with-an-e" Shirley--the charming girl with a personality as fiery as her carrot-colored hair--speaks eloquently of friendship in the beloved Anne of Green Gables series.  She says, "I'm so thankful for friendship.  It beautifies life so much."

Isn't that lovely?!

I, too, am thankful for the beauty of friendship.

As a young girl, I would watch Anne of Green Gables and breathlessly await the scene in the film when Diana Barry and Anne Shirley swear an oath to each other, to be bosom friends forever.  The sentimental exchange takes place after the hilarious "botched tea party" scene.  As any "Green Gables fan" may recall, Anne invites Diana to a tea party.  While at the Cuthbert residence, Diana mistakenly drinks three cups of current wine that Anne had presumed to be raspberry cordial.  Anne must take a "very drunk Diana" home to her mother, the dreaded Mrs. Barry.  Outraged by the blunder, Mrs. Barry forbids Diana from being Anne's friend.  The two meet in secret, in the woods beyond the Cuthbert house:

ANNE:  Your mother hasn't relented?
DIANA:  I told her it wasn't your fault, and I cried and cried, but it's no use, Anne.  We can't ever be friends again.
ANNE:  Diana, will you promise never to forget me, no matter what other friends come into your life?
DIANA:  I could never love anyone as much as I love you, Anne.
ANNE:  Do you really love me?
DIANA:  Of course I do.
ANNE:  Nobody's ever loved me for as long as I can remember, except for Matthew and Marilla.  Will you swear to be my secret bosom friend?
DIANA:  But isn't it wicked to swear?  We're in enough trouble already.
ANNE:  Not when you're swearing a vow.  I solemnly swear to remain faithful to my bosom friend, Diana Barry, for as long as the sun and the moon shall endure.  Now you say it.
DIANA:  I solemnly swear to remain faithful to my bosom friend, Anne Shirley, for as long as the sun and the moon--
ANNE:  Shall endure.
DIANA:  Shall endure.  And as long as my mother doesn't find out.

The scene would end with Anne cutting and keeping a small lock of Diana's hair.  I'd dry my eyes (hey!...that scene is tender and I was a sensitive child!) and wish for a bosom friend to cherish; my own kindred spirit.  I wondered when I would meet "my Diana."

Years later--in a new city, with a new baby, and in a new apartment--I found myself praying for a friend who could relate to the challenges I was facing as a new mother.  As a vulnerable (and clueless!) novice, I knew I needed a fellow "mommy comrade" to draw support from.  Simply, I needed a friend. I sent my quiet, whispered prayers to heaven and earnestly hoped that they would be answered.

Shortly after, I met Chantel!

Our connection was immediate, our bond solid from the start.  As bosom friends, we have shared play dates, lunch dates, movie dates, and "pedicure dates."  Together, we've been through pregnancies, births of children, purchasing homes, and moving days.  We've shared joyous moments and have fortified one another in times of despair.  We have laughed together.  We have cried together.   We've helped each other in our roles as young mothers.

Years later--in a new city, and in a new home--"my Diana" finds herself having Rocky Mountain adventures and enjoying her beautiful life in Colorado.  I miss her every day.  I despise the miles that separate us.  I think about how nice it would be to have her closer; I think about how happy I am for her and her husband, that they made the right decision to relocate.  I try not to feel too sad about the fact we live in different states, especially as I recall Anne Shirley's resonant words:

"True friends are always together in spirit."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Roles and Rolls

Are you ready for this?

Today, Little Miss Lil informed me that she knew all about the responsibilities of a mother.  She approached me in the kitchen (and why am I always in the kitchen?) and plainly stated:  "I'm going to be the mom today.  I know what a mom does, and I'm going to do it."

Naturally, I was curious.  If my four-year-old's insight could help me better understand my "role of motherhood," then I would consider that information to be as awesome as solving the energy crisis...or watching a "Whale Wars" marathon on TV.  

And speaking of my "role of motherhood"... (Ready for a tangent?)  If I owned a bakery I would name a big, fat, fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon roll with gobs of ooey-gooey icing, "ROLL of Motherhood."  I would give those rolls to mamas having a bad day, i.e. when their first child decides to paint their second child's face and head with yogurt AFTER spilling a new box of Apple Jacks all over the floor.  I would say, "You need a 'Roll of Motherhood.'  It has healing powers.  It will make you feel better.  Take it.  Free of charge."  Wouldn't that be fantastic?!  Rolls to help us through our roles!  (I may be on to something here...)

But, I digress.

I had to know what my daughter thought about being a mom.  I had to get inside that darling head of hers.  I got down on my knees, looked Ms. Lilly square in the eye, and eagerly asked her,  "What does a mom do?"

She gave me a list:
     *a mom does the dishes
     *a mom "sweeps the floor real good"
     *occasionally a mom "has to leave her kids to go pee-pee"
     *a mom poops in the toilet

WOW!  Guess I had it all wrong.  I mean...WHO KNEW IT WAS THAT EASY?!  Dishes, sweeping, pooping, peeing!  I've got this mom thing in the bag!

*Sigh*  I think I need a cinnamon roll...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Heart Mo

In the delightful world of children's lit, Mo Willems is a rock star!  I have a mad, mad, mad crush on him and his brilliantly creative, whimsical work.  (Don't get me wrong, I am head-over-heels in love with my dreamy, "Slim Jim"...but Mo?  Well...his name IS Mo and he's an artist and he sports a Sean Connery-esque beard and he makes my heart a little giddy over a pigeon.  A PIGEON, for heaven's sake!  The.  Man.  Is.  Talented.)

Mo Willems writes and illustrates the humorous "Elephant and Piggie" books for "early readers"-- proving to the world of children's fiction that an elephant and a pig can be the best of friends.  Their relationship is genuinely sweet.  There are several titles to choose from, with some of my favorites being, "Pigs Make Me Sneeze!" and "We Are In A Book!"

Then there are the "Knuffle Bunny" books.  Oh my, oh my!  I love "Knuffle Bunny; A Cautionary Tale."  I LOVE it with a "makes-my-heart-all-aflutter" kind of love!

Mo (since we should be friends and should be on a first name basis) puts his hand-drawn, cartoon-like characters into actual black and white photographs of streets and parks in a Brooklyn neighborhood.  (There are cool pictures of a laundromat in the book too!)  The end result is an endearing story with pictures that exhibit a truly artistic quality.  It's brilliant!  Everyone should read "Knuffle Bunny."

Mo Willems is also the genius author and illustrator behind the collection of picture books that are all about a pigeon.  They are charming and adorable, and I promise you'll fall in love with the pigeon; the often cheeky, but lovable, hero of every tale.  My favorites to read to Lilly are "Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!" and "The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog!"

In the book, "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog," a pigeon...well...finds a hot dog!  He is ecstatic by his good fortune and looks forward to devouring his tasty discovery.  Suddenly, Duckling shows up and prevents him from eating his hot dog by asking a myriad of questions.  (Like, "What do hot dogs taste like?")  Duckling begins to unnerve Pigeon, sending him into a fit of agitated ranting.  In the end, Duckling procures a solution: share the hot dog.  Pigeon happily agrees, and the book ends with the two of them sitting side-by-side, enjoying equal halves of the hot dog.      

I've been thinking about this book lately, with it's moral about sharing.  I'm certain the principle of sharing was one of the first things many of us were taught as young children.  We heard:  "Share your toys."  "Share your cookie."  "Share the crayons during 'craft time' at the library."  Our parents, guardians, and teachers knew the principle of sharing would be difficult to instill in some of us (I personally have always struggled with sharing a cookie), but additionally, they understood how lifelong essential it was to learn.  I believe that is why we were taught, early in life, that it is more fun to share. 

You know what??  It is!!

It IS more fun to share.  A hotdog.  A book.  A cookie.  Maternity pants.  A box of Twinkies on a play date to the playground.  A hymnal.  Thoughts.  Ideas.  Makeup tips.  A seat on a bus or on a train.  Recipes.  Funny emails.  Common interests.  A laugh.  A hug.     

And blog posts.

It has been more fun for me to share this blog with you than I ever imagined.  I just wanted to THANK YOU for reading.  Thank you for being supportive of my efforts to share my talent.  Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me.  I appreciate it "mo" than you know! 

(Now go read "Knuffle Bunny.")

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mama Bilingual

I've always wanted to learn another language, to be fluent in something besides English.  I did take a couple of years of Espanol in escuela, but all I retained were swear words!  Que mal!!  (I spent most of my time in class flirting with a chico I had a muy, muy grande crush on...instead of conjugating stupid verbs.)  

When I was a bit older, I would dream of learning to speak a romantic and sexy language.  Like Italian.  I'd fantasize about becoming fluent in Italian, moving to breathtaking Florence, and meeting a tall, dark Italian babe named Giovanni.  We would eat gelato and live in his villa and have Italian babes named...Giovanni.  I'd finally learn how to make spaghetti sauce without having to rely on Ragu, and all my little "Giovannis" and I would get chubby on pasta and ciabatta bread.  We'd be happy, living the good life.  *Sigh*

Okay!  So I don't live in Italy and I don't have a Giovanni!  I DO have a dreamboat McHubby, though.  And he's even Irish!  Kilts are snappy!  I don't have little Giovannis running around my villa, but I do have a "full-of-life" Ms. Lilly and a squeezable Cam Man.  If you ask me, that's even better.

Do you know what else I have?  Something that occurred to me just today?


It's true!  It's true!  I am bilingual.  I speak the language of my children, and THAT is really something!  Let me illustrate this newly-found wonderment with an example of a conversation I had with them today: 

Ms. Lilly:  Mom, when can I have a Mario?  (NO!  THIS IS NOT PART OF THE ITALIAN FANTASY, PEOPLE!  Just roll with me for a minute...)
Mama Leisha:  When you've finished your lunch.
Cam Man:  Ba ba ba!
Ms. Lilly:  Can I have two Marios?
Mama Leisha:  Nope, one.
Cam Man:  Ba ba!
Ms. Lilly:  I think he wants his bottle.
Mama Leisha:  No, his blanket.  He calls his blanket, "ba ba."  (I get Cam's fuzzy, blue blanket.  I drape a corner across his shoulder and wrap the rest around his waist to prevent him from tripping on it while he motors about the kitchen.)
Ms. Lilly:  Can I wear my blanket like that?  Like an antenna?  Like Cam?
Mama Leisha:  An antenna??  Oh! mean TOGA!  You want to wear your blanket like a toga?
Ms. Lilly, exasperated:  Yes, Mom!  And eat a Mario.
Mama Leisha:  Wait!  How do you even know what a toga is?
Miss Lilly, sighing:  "The Backyardigans," Mom.
Cam Man:  Daa daa?  Daa daa?
Ms. Lilly:  Does he want Daddy?
Mama Leisha:  No...will you hand me that toy car, Lil?  Cam wants his car.
Cam Man (now with car), happily squealing:  "Daa daa daa daa!"
Ms. Lilly:  Look, Mom!  My sandwich is all gone!  NOW can I have a Mario?
Mama Leisha:  Yes!  You bet!  NOW you may have an Oreo.

See?  I am a language master, capable of interpreting the most ridiculously cute babble!  I am brilliant, knowing exactly what my preschooler is saying when no one else does!  I.  Have.  A.  Gift. 

I am "Mama Bilingual" and me encanta mi vida loca!!  

*(Translation:  I love my crazy life!  At least...I THINK that's what I wrote!)*

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sunshine To My Soul

It was author, Jim Hayes, who once wrote:  "An old friend will help you move.  A good friend will help you move a dead body."

Cue my friend, Sunshine!  She would not only help a friend move a body, she'd treat that friend to cheesecake and a makeover in her bathroom after "the dirty work" was done!  She is THAT good of a friend.

I met Sunshine (and you bet, that's her real name) three years ago and have been in love with her ever since.  She is the epitome of radiance; her namesake as perfect a fit as the silver, metallic-colored heels she sometimes wears to church.  (Sling-backs with a peep toe...ha-cha-cha!)

A FEW (out of a bazillion) reasons why I love Ms. Sunny:

--She can rock a red lipstick.
--She cries when she laughs.
--That girl loves shoes and books as much as I do.
--She tells me my big nose looks "Grecian" and therefore...exotic????
--She ALWAYS pours me a diet soda when I drop by her home.  She NEVER forgets the slice of lime. 
--She remembers to text me about the really important stuff.  Example:  "New Sweet Fiesta Starbursts at Wal-Mart" or "Must check out Sephora's lip gloss."
--When I host a "Thriller" Halloween party, she shows up dressed like Michael Jackson.
--She stays faithful and prayerful when faced with adversity.
--When doctors told her she wouldn't be able to have children, she said, "No, I WILL be a mother."
--She has known the anxiety, sadness, and despair of enduring fertility treatments; she has known the unequivocal joy of hearing her babies' heartbeats in utero, during an ultrasound.
--She is an extraordinary mother to a five-year-old and two-year-old twins.

Sunshine and I have an exceptional friendship that was initially established via a terrific and quirky email correspondence.  This past week, I opened my "Sunny!" folder in my email and laughed and cried as I reread some of our written exchanges.  In that beloved folder, I have roughly one hundred and eighty saved email messages from Mama Sun!  They read like a "Friends" episode, or a zany "Thelma and Louise"-like novel.

In one email I had written, I lamented to Sunshine about a horrendous all nighter I had survived with Baby Cam.  It had involved several feedings, a bad "blow-out," the Camster peeing on his own head during a diaper change, and NO sleep.  Oye!  Sunshine so wonderfully responded:  "Today I was wrestling with Gunner on the floor and he would shriek with laughter as I chased him, and this in turn caused me to laugh too.  It felt good.  I am resigned to laugh more this week.  I share this with you in part to replay it in my own mind, but also to give you the hope to continue.  Let's face it, when they're not peeing in their own eyes (pee stings by the way, DON'T ask me how I know that) and blowing out diapers and howling at 3:00am, kids are freakin' fun."

One of my most fond memories with Sunshine happened after the Cam Man was born.  The day after I had given birth to him was exquisite.  I was alone in my hospital room with him; watching him sleep in my arms, feeling the comforting weight of his little body beneath my hands.  Rays of sunlight were streaming through the large window at the far end of my room.  It was peaceful, to the point of transcendent.

I heard a quiet knock at the door.  Within seconds of me saying, "Come in," Sunshine's glowing face was peering from the doorway.  She quietly came in and sat at the foot of my bed, like a sister would do.  I handed Cam to her.

I watched as Sunshine lovingly cradled my newborn son in her arms.  I saw a maternal warmth and light in her smile as she cooed at my sweet baby.  I watched as two tears rolled down her beautiful cheeks.  "Oh Lou, he's perfect.  He's just perfect," she whispered.  I felt an abundance of love fill the room.

In that priceless, tender moment I offered a simple prayer to heaven:  "Thank you, Father in Heaven, thank you.  Thank you for my incredible friend."

I continue to be grateful, everyday, for Sunshine--a woman who not only helps me "move a body" (ha, ha) or find the perfect shade of lipstick for my skin tone (Sephora's Rouge Creme lipstick in Cortisane), but a woman who helps me (and inspires me) to truly, truly celebrate motherhood.

As she does. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day To A Mom I Know

Dear Mama Leisha,

I just wanted to let you know what a good mom you are, even though the colossal fit Ms. Lilly had this week in the produce section at Wal-Mart was bad enough to give you a stiff neck and upper-lip sweat.  Just a friendly little reminder:  while handling public displays of insanity from your four-year-old and your one-and-a-half-year old, you should watch the tension in your shoulders.  Really.  The tighter they get, the more you resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And speaking of Notre Dame...

THIS is how you feel about grocery shopping in a very busy Wal-Mart with two very crabby kids--one who is lying on the floor, crying for a Ring Pop; the other who is launching plastic toy trucks at the woman in the Rascal Scooter behind him in the check-out line:

No worries!  You are still a good mom, despite the slimy, regurgitated-banana slobber crusted on your nice throw pillows.  Thanks to Cam's ability to incorporate apple juice into an "art project" you like to call,  "Painting Floor With Sippy Cup," your feet stick to your kitchen floor when you walk across it barefoot.  Who cares?!  You're behind on your laundry and had to put the Cam Man to bed wearing his sister's Tinkerbell pajamas.  No big deal!  A couple of days ago Lilly Mae's outfit consisted of tights, a large sweatshirt, and lady bug antennae from last year's Halloween costume.  So what!?  You let your children eat all the marshmallows out of the box of Lucky Charms, leaving the "crunchy bits" (as Lil likes to call them) for you to eat.  You worry about the nutritional value of a purple mallow shaped like a horseshoe.  But...

You are still a good mom.

Goodness, I know some days are hard.  You walk into the bathroom and find your baby boy cleaning the bathtub with your toothbrush.  Your daughter seems to forget the years you have spent teaching her to draw on blank paper or in coloring books...ONLY paper...ONLY coloring books.  This is evident when she emerges from her bedroom with a face as colorful as a rainbow.  (THANK YOU, Crayola Awesome, for making those markers washable.)

You worry about how much SpongeBob your daughter watches when she walks around the house "cursing" the Bikini Bottom way:  "Barnacles!" and "Tarter sauce!"  You worry about the number of wood chips your son has consumed on the playground, and try to ease your anxiety by calling it "fiber."  And if you lose one more itty-bitty, little-boy athletic sock to the "Hungry Dryer--Eater of Little Boy Athletic Socks," you might scream.  But...

You are still a good mom.

In the midst of all the madness (you longing to ring the bell and shout, "Sanctuary, sanctuary!"), you doubt yourself.  You pray for the "child raising manual" to magically appear in your mailbox even though, deep down, you know there isn't one.  You love your children immensely, but you wonder if you're doing a good enough job as their mother.  You worry.  You long to be a really great mom.

Don't "upper-lip" sweat the small stuff.  One day, your feet won't stick to the kitchen floor.  One day, your grocery shopping trips will be highly uneventful.  One day, you will pour yourself a bowl of Lucky Charms and there will be an abundance of  marshmallows for you to eat.  I bet it will make you a little sad.

Always remember your mantra (from Ms. Picoult):

If you are worried about being a good mom, it means you already are one.

Happy "You Are A Good Mom" Day!
Mama Leisha

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Grandma, Joyce

My grandma was a stunning woman!  Would you just look at her gorgeous peaches-and-cream complexion, her dreamy sweater, and the fact that she's wearing pearls?!  She is absolutely lovely.  Flawless.  Ethereal.  This picture of her takes my breath away for a couple of reasons:

*There is a luminosity in her face and her eyes that I believe is reflective of her inner beauty.  She had admirable strength of character and a compassionate heart.  She loved unconditionally and served others selflessly.  She was a woman of faith.

*It has been years since I have sat at her kitchen table or felt her soft embrace.  It feels as though it has been an immeasurable passage of time since I last heard her say, "I love you, sweetheart."  It makes my heart ache.

I celebrate her this month--the life she lived, the woman she was, the exceptional example of motherhood she has been for me.  She loved her children.  She raised them well.  She taught them moral values.  I'm certain her heart filled with "mother's pride" over their various accomplishments and successes; equally, it broke for them when they suffered discouragement and despair.

She endured monumental trials in her lifetime.  She courageously buried her young adult son; facing a crime against the laws of nature with a bravery I'm not able to comprehend.  She battled cancer with warrior-like will and strength, only to have it return with a vengeance and ravage her body years later.  Admirably, she remained gracious and stalwart.  She died surrounded by the people who mattered the most to her.  Her children.

One of my favorite quotes, by the exemplary Mother Theresa, reminds me of my grandma and her goodness:  "People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.  If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."

Happy Mother's Day to one of the greatest mothers I've had the privilege of grandma, Joyce.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Love Napkins!

I admit I enjoy cleaning out my closets!  I get organized, I throw out my middle school paper mache art projects (call me "Mama Packrat"), and I make piles of stuff to donate.  It's a big job--going through mounds and mounds of my junk--but it's fun work and the end results are always satisfying.

The very best thing about cleaning out a cluttery closet is discovering the wonderful treasures lurking in there:  Chinese money from a trip to Beijing, an old Pez dispenser collection (call me "Mama Dorky"), funny photos of college roomies, and these little gems...


I know they don't look like much...until I turn them over.

Special love notes from my mother, written on napkins and stuffed into the lunches I took to school!

Love napkins at lunchtime! 

While in elementary school and middle school, I frequently brought lunches from home.  My "Mama Jenneice" would lovingly pack a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Cheetos for me almost every day.  Sometimes I'd open my "Popples" lunch box (children of the 1980s, do you remember those?) and find an apple and a bologna sandwich.  Occasionally, Mom would pack a baggie full of cookies for dessert.  (OF COURSE I understood those were to be eaten AFTER my lunch was finished!)

As I got older, and got rid of the Popples lunch box, I would open my brown paper lunch sack and find any one of a variety of sandwiches--turkey and roast beef, tuna fish, ham and cheese on a hoagie.  Sometimes I would find crackers in place of chips.  Sometimes there was a banana in the bottom of the bag, instead of an apple.  Sometimes I discovered a brownie waiting for me, rather than a cookie.  BUT, no matter the contents of my lunch, I ALWAYS found a love napkin.  I remember exactly how I felt every time I received one--they made each day a little brighter, a little more sparkly, a little more special. 

(A side note, since I adore side notes in my blog posts:  Notice the pink napkin.  It reads, "Aleisha, You are great in Math."  That is my mother "pumping me up" and being supportive of me because of a hard math test I had to take that day.  She knew I was worried about failing it; she wanted me to feel that there was no way I would.  And that is exactly what good mothers do.)

The napkins in the photo are easily fifteen to twenty years old.  I have kept them and treasured them for a very long time.


Because they are a symbol of my mother's love for me.  They represent her thoughtfulness, and her willingness to do something extra kind for me.  In their simplicity they convey volumes.  They say:  "I see you.  I care about you.  I am thinking about you.  I'm here for you.  I love you."  They are evidence I was raised by a good woman--one who worked hard to put family first; one who was unwaveringly dedicated to her calling of  "mother."  And most importantly, they now remind me of the kind of mother I want to be like.

Today, I'll be sure to let my mom know I love her.  I'll put it on a napkin.