Friday, September 30, 2011

My Good Things List

American writer, E. B. White (of Charlotte's Web fame), once said, "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day."

Isn't that terrific?!

Lately, I have been making more of an effort to "enjoy the world."  I've been looking for the joy in my life; acknowledging to the heavens that I am blessed with good and wondrous things.  All of us have good things in our lives, and the good things make us happy.

Though life can be challenging and painful, it can be beautiful too.  And as a truly extraordinary man once said, "Happiness is the object and design of our existence..."  It's a big part of who we are and why we are here.  We are meant to be happy.    We are joy! 

I've decided to more fully enjoy my little corner of the world by recognizing and appreciating "the good things" in it.  Here's what made me happy this week; my good things:

--Singing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" with McHubby, totally impromptu and off key.  (It wasn't pretty!)


--Having my hair colored the day after I discovered six white hairs atop my head.  (SIX honest-to-goodness old lady hairs, people!!  Eek!)
--Emails from Aussies and cool chicks in Phoenixville, PA.
--Pepsi Max, on the rocks, with a slice of lime.
--Talking on the phone with my cutie pie brother, Tyler, on his birthday.


--My new Halloween candy bowl, with vintage "horror flick" posters printed on it.  (AWESOME!)
--Dancing to Maroon 5's, "Moves Like Jagger," in my kitchen...and making Cam laugh while doing it!
--Lots of hugs and kisses from the McKiddos.  

What about you?  What made your "good things list" this week?

(Remember to enjoy the world, lovely people, wherever you are!)


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Church and "Cats"

Ah, Sunday.

A "day of rest" that always seems a bit chaotic (and "unrestful?") for my little family.  We are often rushing to get to church.  Someone (of the "under four feet tall" variety) is usually taking their church clothes off right as we're about to walk out the door.  Someone needs to poop, someone needs a snack.  Someone needs their hair combed, and someone throws a fit.  (Uh...okay, that would actually be me throwing the fit.)  By the time we slide into a pew I'm already upper-lip sweating.

Something strange happens the moment we say "amen" to the opening prayer:  my little tots turn into apes.

Then, my juggling act begins!  I juggle sippy cups, coloring books, and finger puppets in a resolute attempt to keep order in the Lord's house.  I juggle animal crackers, sticker books, and toy cars; tools used in an effort to maintain some semblance of reverence.  Unfortunately, my children's attention spans are a short as Tom Cruise.

The madness doesn't end when our church services do.  Once we get home, clothes need to be changed, lunches need to be made, and Cam needs to be put down for his nap.  I do all of this with lightening-fast speed, since everyone's sanity seems to go kaput at this point.

Today, I was in the middle of changing my clothes, hunting for Cam's nap time blankie, and getting Lilly more milk, when I trotted into the kitchen.  McHubby was there--quickly eating before leaving for a brief church assignment.

McHubby:  Are you going to wear that?
Me:  What?  What do you mean?
McHubby:  I mean, is that your outfit?  Are you going to wear that for the rest of the day?

I looked down and saw my favorite Beatles t-shirt, coupled with my black leggings.  (Side note:  I wore a terrific red dress to church today; accented with black and white polka dot trim.  I wore leggings underneath the dress.  The same leggings I was wearing in the kitchen, with my shirt that barely touched my hips.)

Me, a little surprised and laughing:  Oh my gosh!  I was in the middle of changing my clothes and I got distracted by the kids.  I didn't change my bottom half!
McHubby, smiling:  I wondered.
Me:  You know how I feel about leggings.  They are NOT a substitution for pants!
McHubby:  Yea, well...you look like you're auditioning for Cats.

I watched his face as he began to laugh.  The way his eyes crinkled and shut.  The way he let an occasional snort slip out.  The way his shoulders shook just a bit.  Encouraged, I twirled around the kitchen and tried out some nifty ballet moves.  (That were not ballet at all!)  James chuckled and grinned, and I became keenly aware of how much I adore him...of how much I love him.


I'm so grateful for my man; that "Tom Cat" that makes me "purr."  ("Memory, all alone in the moonlight...")  I'm grateful for a partner who helps me laugh through our CRAZY, sweet, beautiful Sundays...and every day. 

I'm glad he's the one I get to share a pew with.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scary


And to think...

One day this young, awkward, painfully dorky, frizzy-haired, "eyebrows like Peter Gallagher," fifteen-year-old girl (wearing a shirt with cows on it???  looking like a zombie from "Night of the Living Dead???") will be charged with the bearing, nurturing, and raising of the future generation...

Scary.


(But not as scary as those brows, right?!  Yikers!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

LillyBob Birthday Bash, Pt. Deux

Ode To Lilly
(By her mother, Aleisha)

My little girl has big, brown eyes
and a beautiful, goofy grin.
Spend one afternoon with her
and your heart she will surely win.

She has a silly laugh.
She has an adorable nose.
She wants golden hair like Rapunzel.
She prances through the house on her toes.

Dora the Explorer is pretty nice,
all the Disney princesses are swell.
But if you ask her what she'd like to watch,
“SpongeBob SquarePants” is what she'll yell!

You won't catch her eating green beans,
she'll refuse a tomato too.
Want to know her favorite food?
Tacos! They make her swoon.

She adores her grandmas and grandpas,
she thinks rowdy boys are weird.
She enjoys playing in the bathtub,
she makes the coolest bubble beard!

She's a very good big sister
to baby brother, Cam.
She makes us laugh with her funny antics,
she really is quite the ham.

She enjoys visiting the playground,
and Squinkies are her favorite toy.
She is like blue skies and sunshine to us,
and she brings our family joy.
 
I'm blessed to have her in my life,
Without her, what would I do?!
And so, today,
I'll stop and say,
Lilly Mae, I LOVE YOU!



Friday, September 16, 2011

A Playground Comparison


It was a beautiful day--pristine blue skies, warm sunshine, and enough "chill" in the air to make me think of pumpkin bread, apple cinnamon tea, and my autumn wreath that's buried somewhere in my basement's storage closet.  I knew it was a perfect day to take Ms. Lilly and the Cam Man to the playground near our house.

When we got to Millrace park, there were only two children on the playground;  handsome boys (perhaps a little younger than Lilly) chasing each other around the jungle gym.  They were adorable brothers--polo shirts tucked into little khaki shorts, hair parted and gelled.  The older of the two flashed dimples when he smiled, dreamy enough to melt any woman's heart.

As I pushed Cam on the swing, I couldn't help but watch their mother from behind my dark sunglasses.  She was lovely, with a sprinkling of tan freckles across the bridge of her nose.  I watched as she chased the two boys through the wood chips, then scooped them into her arms with gusto.  When her boys began to crawl through the playground's yellow tunnel, she became the "monster" at the end of it--waiting with her "tickle claws" to snatch them from their plastic sanctuary.  They would scream as she tried to snatch, snatch, snatch.  And when she let them go free, they would take off running and giggling hysterically.  She would emerge from behind the tunnel--red faced and laughing. 

Her eyes sparkled when she looked at her boys.  She was luminous--radiating love from her pretty, pearly-white smile.  She was not only filled with an obvious joy for her calling as a mother--clearly embracing it on the small playground, on a September afternoon--she was joy.

And then I did something bad.  I compared myself to her.     

My playground excursion had been quite different from hers.  I had chased away bees, that were chasing after Cam!  I had picked wood chips out of Lilly's teeth (literally!) after she fell from a slide's ladder.  (Right on her head!)  Cam spilled his chocolate milk all over himself (and ME!), and I didn't have ONE napkin on hand!  (How is that even possible?  I'm a mom!  And no, old receipts found in the bottom of your purse DO NOT work as napkins!)  I wondered if I was having as much fun at the playground as the other mom was.

"Clearly, she must be a better mother than I am," I thought to myself.

AAAH!  Why do we do that?  As mothers?  As women?  Why do we compare ourselves to each other?  Nothing good comes from it.  More often than not, discouragement, anger, and/or sadness follows such comparative thoughts.

In her book, "A Quiet Heart," Patricia Holland writes:  "Surely there has not been another time in history in which women have questioned their self-worth as harshly and critically as in the second half of the twentieth-century.  Many women are searching almost frantically for a sense of personal purpose and meaning."  How true!  And yet, we frequently forget that a great deal of "meaning" resides deeply within each one of us.  We are inherently holy.  We are literally divine.  Rather than compare, we should rejoice over all that is good in us.  (I mean, I DID chase those bees away!)

Patricia Holland goes on to say, "We must not feel so frightened; we must not be so threatened and insecure; we must not need to find exact replicas of ourselves in order to feel validated as women of worth."  And that's the point...we ARE women of worth already.  Undeniably.  Equally.  On a good "playground day," or a hectic one.

In God's eyes, our worth is so great it cannot be measured.  When we know that, we begin to see each other as we really are.  We are sisters in womanhood.  We are mothers on the playground.  We are women in the world.  We are all in this together.

(Me and my leetle sis.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

LillyBob Birthday Bash, Pt. One

When your brown-eyed girl (with the small, angel face) sweetly asks you for a SpongeBob birthday party, you are going to have to put aside your distaste for the yellow "Goofy Goober" and start planning a shin-dig.  Bikini Bottom style.


Plywood and a little wood stain goes a looooong way to create a "pineapple under the sea" ambiance; a "Welcome to Bikini Bottom" sign to adorn the front yard.  (And to hide the dying rose bush.)


Add inflatable marine life (found at a party supply store) and a paper palm tree to complete your "outdoor decor."  While climbing the steps to your humble abode, your guests will realize they are about to embark on an exciting, oceanic adventure!


If "nautical nonsense be something you wish," you might want to consider taping blue, plastic table cloths to the walls.  (I found mine at the dollar store!  Hooray!)  Tape bright-colored cutouts of tropical fish to the blue plastic and....viola!  A par-tay under water.  Sort of.  (About this time my McMan was starting to wonder if I had "gone overboard;" taken a "dive into the deep end."  I looked him square in the eye and proudly called it, "bubbling over with creative genius.")

Note:  That IS a SpongeBob table cloth in the second pic.
 
Oh boy howdy (that was for you, Kate), we are not done yet!  Remember the brown-eyed beauty?  With the big, dreamy eyes and the supplications  of  "pretty, pretty please," to the SpongeBob party?!  Well, we MUST NOT disappoint!

Continue to mimic an "under water experience" by hanging blue crepe paper streamers from the ceiling, to resemble waves.


Get your shell on!  Craft stores sell bags of shells (tongue twister?), which are fairly inexpensive.  Glue the shells to some cheap plates.  They make fun platters for veggies and pickles.  (Side note:  Cam seems obsessed with pickles lately.  He loves a Vlasic dill pickle spear.  How crazy is that?!  He hangs from the fridge handle and looks at me imploringly and says, "Pee-kull?  Pee-kull?")  ANYWAY...You can also put shells in small vases you may have lying around.  (I placed mine on an end table, next to a baby picture of the guest of honor.  It was a nice, cute touch.)


Whew!  After decorating for the birthday bash, you may want to "drop on the deck and flop like a fish."  It's a lot of work, and it may be a bit exhausting, BUT...when your cutie pie five-year-old sees what you've done, and starts jumping up and down and twirling circles and screaming, "This is the greatest and the bestest birthday ever"... it's totally worth it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Night Drive

Tonight, we loaded our children into the car and went for a Sunday drive.  We would have preferred a brisk stroll, but our plans were thwarted when the wind ushered charcoal-gray clouds into our side of the valley.  We watched as the sky darkened, threatening rain.  We knew a drive would be a better option.

I frequently have the best conversations with Lilly while we are driving around the city; running errands, going to play dates, visiting the library.  Our chats are often humorous (like the time she told me about the cute boy in her preschool class) or deeply poignant (like the time she told me she watched my wedding from heaven).  Our "transportation talks" (as I like to call them) are quickly becoming one of my favorite pastimes.

Tonight was no exception.  As the wind whipped around our car, and an occasional raindrop splattered across our windshield, Lilly started reflecting on Jesus.

"Jesus gives us everything," she said.

"That's right," I answered, contentedly, as I laid my head on my seat's headrest.

"He gave us our bodies.  And our house."

"Yes," replied James, from behind the wheel.  "And He gave us our friends."

"And our families!," Lilly said, excitedly.

And thus began a tender, fifteen-minute conversation with Lilly, in which she recounted all the things she has to be grateful for; a "gifts from Jesus" list.  Her glorious list included:

Beds.  Toys.  Oceans.  Trees.   Mountains.  Space.  All the planets.  Ears.  Eyes.  Our hearts.  Feet.  Shoes.  Clothing.  Knees.  Arms.  Cars.  Rain.  Snow.  Clouds.  Sunshine.  Animals.  Strawberry Shortcake.  Our brains.  Food.  Juice boxes.  Toes.  Babies.  Teachers.  Music.  Mouths.  Teeth.  Stars.  Playgrounds.  Roads.  Flowers.  Grass.  The moon.     

With my favorites being:

Nostrils, so we can breathe.  L-Bones (she means "elbows"), so we can bend our arms.

Later, as I prepared to retire to my bed (thank you, Jesus, for my bed...I am a VERY tired mom), I thought about our Sunday drive--our family's uplifting "transportation talk"--and awarded it the "best part of the day."  Ah, the moments when being a mother is so, so, so fulfilling.  The more I pondered, the more I noticed the telltale lump forming at the back of my throat that always precedes the onset of tears.  I felt my heart swell with genuine "mama love," until it felt as though it was about to burst in my chest.  I recognized the spirit of gratitude at my core and--inspired by my daughter--created my own "gifts from Jesus" list:

Lilly.
Camren.

   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day

Would you just look at my baby girl?
Sporting the most adorable plaid dress and a brand new backpack.
All grown up and ready for her first day of preschool.


Would you just look at my baby girl?
Wondering if this "school thing" is really that cool.
Genuinely freaked out and asking, "Do I have to go in there?"


Would you just look at those cinnabuns?
A special treat for me, because sometimes being the mom is hard.
And wonderful.
And a little bit sad.
(Like when I have to drive away from the school, leaving my baby behind.)


Two beautiful cinnabuns.  One to celebrate.  One to cope.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The One In Which I Get My Craft On

I like crafts.

I just wouldn't call myself a super crafty person.  I can't sew.  I don't know how to refurbish old furniture or make a quilt.  I can't cross stitch, and paper mache freaks me out.  To emphasize my lack of craft prowess, I recount an incident I had with Lilly a couple of months ago:

It was a quiet, peaceful Sunday afternoon and I was feeling inspired.  I pulled out my craft bag and my glue gun and went to work on a summertime wreath for the front door.  Lilly wandered into the kitchen and saw me hunched over a large square of burlap.  "What are you doing, Mom?", she asked.

"I am making a craft," I replied.

She was silent for a moment, then said, "I will pray for you."

AAHH!!!  See?!  I am NOT Mama CraftHead--a fact that is not lost on my preschooler.  When working on a challenging project, I spend most of my time cussing!  (Sorry, Mom.)

But, I like crafts.  I DO enjoy making them, as long as they aren't too difficult.  That's the key.

Would you like for me to teach you a craft that isn't hard, that is right up Mama Leisha's alley?  (A little something my friend, Sunshine, taught me.)

First, you will need a messy kitchen to promptly neglect.  (Hey!  I may not be GOOD at crafting, but I know enough to choose "doing a craft" over "doing the dishes.")


Next, you will need a package of Oreo cookies to eat while making this craft.  (If you desire to obtain a level of "crafty greatness," you'll want to go with Double Stuf.  They have magical powers.)


Take any fabric of your choosing, and cut out six circles.  (My circles are 3 inches in diameter.)


Fold one of the circles in half.  (Do you like my sparkly, pink nail polish?  It's new.)


Fold it in half again, so it looks like a triangle.


Grab a needle and thread.  Stitch along the bottom of your triangle.  (Sorry about the picture.  Not sure why my fingers look...neon????)


The next step is fun!  Gently pull the thread to gather the fabric.


Pull it tight.  It will look like this:

 
You will do this to all of your fabric circles; folding them, then stitching and pulling them along the thread.  You'll want to pull them tight, but be careful not to break your thread.  When all six are done, bring them together to form a circle.  Stitch the two ends together.


Hooray!  I just made a flower!  Isn't it dreamy?

Use your creativity for the flower's center.  The sky's the limit!  An old brooch from Grandma's jewelry box.  A fabric yo-yo.  A big button.  It's fun to try out different looks.  For my flower I made a yo-yo out of cream fabric, then sewed on a white button.   I took my yo-yo/button combo and hot glued it onto the flower.


The last step is to glue this adorable flower to a headband.  (Or glue it to a pin to make a brooch.  Glue it to a hair clip, an oven mitt, a scarf, or a tote bag.  Whatever you'd like!)  I made this headband for Lilly to wear in her hair, on her first day of preschool.  Such a fun and easy project with a delightful end result.


(Oh!  And don't forget to clean the Oreos from your teeth when you're finished making flowers!)


HAPPY CRAFTING!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Undercover

Things have been a little weird around here.

Undercover police officers have been hanging out in my neighborhood; wearing plain clothes and parking in "unassuming" vehicles.  Apparently, my neighbor's creepy, weirdo son is a "wanted" man.  I'm not sure what he's done, what crimes he has committed, or why he wears the ugliest jeans known to man...I just know that the police have been looking for him.

Earlier this week, as I went to the fridge to get some milk for the kiddos, I happened to glance out my kitchen window.

"Why hello there, handsome," I said, as I looked at the man who was being framed like a portrait by my window pane.  He was in a dress shirt, gray slacks, and a pretty silk tie.  He was talking on his cell phone.  He had a gun in a holster and a sparkly badge on his hip.

"James!", I yelled, "I think there is a federal agent in our backyard!"  Because you see, I am an expert on federal agents.  I go to the movies.  I watch TV.  I can spot one from several yards away...which is about how far away he was from our house, leaning slightly on the fence beneath a tree.  (McMan's response was typical--uninterested and unimpressed.  "Uh...okay," he said.)

Mr. Handsome Agent looked up and noticed me and my kids standing at the window.  We waved cheerfully at him.  No response.  He donned his dark shades (sooo classic) and started to walk towards the front of our house.

Well, shoot!  My curiosity  had been tweaked!   I ran to the front of the house, to the large window in the living room, and looked out at the parking lot.

"Holy shmokes, there's another one!", I yelled.  Equally handsome.  Equally dressed nice.  Equally carrying a gun.  They got into an unmarked car and drove off.

To make a long story short, we have been asked by a local authority to be on the lookout; like a neighborhood watch.  As residents of this nice little community, we are keeping our peepers open!  We are like that dog that takes a bite out of crime.  We are peeking from our blinds and watching for an ugly "low-rider" and a dude who styles his hair like a goober.  (Blech, too much gel.)  It's DEFCON 1 around here, and I'm seriously contemplating camouflage as my new wardrobe staple.  Good people live here!  We are not going to stand for poo-poo-ca-ca on our street.  No, sir!


I'm ready!  You bet I'll help my local officials.  (And those cutie pies who wear silk ties.)  I'll call the authorities at the very appearance of "shadiness"...or bedazzled jeans.  My neighbors and friends can rest easy knowing I will protect our street from all the forces of evil!


And I don't need to know where to go to purchase handcuffs.  Trust me (*wink*), I already have them!



(Note:  There is a "happy" end to this story.  I'm very relieved.  The "ending" came last night, when close to 20 police officers swarmed my neighborhood and made their arrest.  Thankfully, they caught the guy they had been looking for.  I celebrated by eating a doughnut.)