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Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Trimming The Tree

Nothing raises my blood pressure like trying to set up my ugly, artificial Christmas tree.

I am not calling my tree ugly because I'm ornery.  No, no.  It really is just...ugly.  It's very old, smells weird, tilts to the left, has uneven and ratty branches, and is a PAIN to set up.  By the time I have fluffed the last branch, I'm "sweating like a sinner in church."

I suppose my contempt for putting up my tree stems from a couple of reasons:

1.) Putting up the tree with spastic children around is equivalent to waging war with chimps.  Why, oh why, do I bother?  The tree comes out of it's box and something strange happens to my kids (and me)...

"Cam, stop whipping the Christmas lights around!  They are NOT a weapon!"
"Lilly, if you dance around the tree like that you'll knock it over!"
"Camren!  If you keep throwing those ornaments they will break!"
"Lilly, stop hitting your brother with the candy canes!"
"Why are you jumping off the couches?"
  "You broke ANOTHER ornament!?!  What did I tell you?!"
2.) I expect perfection to the point of stress, which is dumb, I know.  I want my children to behave beautifully.  I want there to be peace in my home while we celebrate a family tradition.  I want the ornaments to be evenly spaced apart.  I want the tree to stay in an upright position.  I want the big hole on the left side of the tree to disappear.  I WANT THE STINKIN' LIGHTS TO WORK!  Every year, I want it to be just perfect...and naturally, every year it's chaos.

Last night, in the midst of the tree trimming, it dawned on me that it will never be perfect.  Life's not like that.  The reality is that ornaments break, children fight, and old artificial trees smell weird.  Lights will stop working as soon as you put them up, and "holly jolly" crooners on the radio will occasionally annoy you.  It is okay.

Because ultimately, that stuff doesn't matter.  This is what matters:

And this:

I don't need a perfect night, decorating a perfectly ugly tree.
I just need them.      

Sunday, November 25, 2012

At The Nutcracker

If you take your darling six-year-old to a production of "The Nutcracker"--in an effort to expose her to the wonder and the beauty of "the arts"--you may be delighted by her enthusiasm, thrilled by her enjoyment.

You may also be surprised by the number of questions you hear throughout the performance; questions shouted at you to compete with the swell of the live orchestra.  Questions like:

*Why does my seat have a number on it?
*Why are we watching, "The Nutcracker?"  Is it "Nutcracker Day?"
*Can I have something to eat?
*Who are those people and what are they doing?

*Is Clara's uncle a magician?  Is he a bad guy?
*I'm thirsty, can I have a drink?
*Where is the nutcracker taking Clara?  Do they go to candy land so the mice won't kill her?
*Where is that music coming from?  Oh my gosh, why are people playing instruments in that big hole!?!
*Why does the nutcracker have a beard?

*Those snow princesses are pretty, and they're dancing in snow...but is that snow real?
*Where are the prince's pants?  And why is he wearing tights?
*If she's supposed to be the Sugar Plum Fairy, then where are her wings?
*Dewdrop Fairies?!  They're called Dewdrop Fairies?  That's funny because "do" is one of my sight words.

And the crowd favorite:

*Why is that man dancing like a girl?

Seriously guys, being Lilly's mother is a zippy adventure.  She keeps me on my toes, makes me need regular afternoon naps, and drives me to drink my beloved Diet Coke.  She's funny and exhausting...and absolutely wonderful.

Happy Nutcracker Day!  Hope it's crackin'!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude and...You've Got Mail?

Today, I'm thankful for...

Dear friends, thoughtful text messages, Diet Coke, nice comments, supportive readers, bubble baths, berry lip gloss, pumpkin bagels, modern medicine, good books, antibiotics, clean sheets, hugs and kisses, a washing machine, my children, warm chocolate chip cookies, prayer, creativity, inspiration, kindness, love, God, courage, talents, perseverance, compassion, humor, and laughter. 

Today, I'm thankful for...

Good health, a strong body, toddler giggles, a roof overhead, clothes to wear, SHOES, family, a quiet afternoon, kindred spirits, an income, blue nail polish, a patient husband, the mountains, fluffy clouds, the smell of pine, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, a working vehicle, loaded pizzas, messy cheeseburgers, sincere smiles, compliments, selfless hearts, pebble ice, clean drinking water, spirituality, living in a free country, knowing who I am, liking who I am, this blog...

And you.

"Happy Thanksgiving back, my darlings!"   

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hands and Feet Make Turkeys!

Every year, my little family makes turkeys out of brightly colored construction paper.  And every year it makes me a little weird.  As in, sentimental.  Or, weepy.

You see, in order to make these cry-worthy turkeys you need to trace your children's hands.  These will be the turkey's feathers.

Next, you need to trace your children's feet.  The feet will be the turkey's body.  (Glue the feet together at the heel, with the toes pointing out.)

Glue the hands and feet pieces together to resemble turkeys.  Cut orange beaks and red, "nasty things" (aka waddles) out of construction paper.  Glue them on your turkeys.  With a marker, add eyes and legs and feet.

Ta-da!  All finished and adorable!  (And so easy to make, too.)  We display ours on our pantry door.

Every year, the paper hands and the paper feet get bigger.  And every year, as I trace them, I hate it.  My children are getting bigger!  Their turkeys are getting bigger!  It's a reminder to me that they are growing up, that they won't stay little forever.  I guess it makes me a teensy bit sad.

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving dinner this week.  I'm sure the gravy and the stuffing will ease my pain! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Look At Me"

My dearest Camren,

You were busily driving your trucks across the hearth of the stone fireplace.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  You stopped in the middle of your playing and your varoom-varooming to look for me; I watched you scan the room for my face.  You turned your head, and your brown eyes met mine, and you said...

"Mommy!  Look at me, look at me, look at me!"

I laughed and thought, Oh Camren, if you only knew!  Not only do I look at you, I see you.

I see your large hands--like puppy-dog paws--and the way you love to suck your thumb.  I see your prominent, dark eyelashes and your oddly-shaped big toes, that remind me so much of your dad's.  I see your grin and the light in your face, whenever you share a joke with your sister.  I see you "swim" in the bathtub and play in your cereal.  I see you run through the snow and pick up rocks.  I see you search for muddy puddles.  I see you get excited about a cookie.  (I'm so proud!)  I see you get frustrated when I forget to zip up your coat.  I see you bop and bounce to music in the kitchen.

When I look at you, I see you--the loveable and rowdy boy that you are, and the man I know you can be.  When I look at you, I see your daddy-- and it makes me remember why I love him.   When I look at you, I see a little bit of myself...

I see why I treasure motherhood.

With love always,
your Mama Leisha

Monday, November 12, 2012

You'll Want To Meet Lindsay! (A Guest Post)

Hi friends of Mama Leisha! My name is Lindsay and I blog over at You Are The Roots. I'm a born-and-raised Floridian married to my high school sweetheart. Together we have four spoiled rotten cats and one sweet-as-can-be 16 month old little boy, Ethan. That's him all decked out in his finest Risky Business Tom Cruise attire on Halloween for our family picture -- I swear, he truly does wear pants sometimes!

Being a mother has taught me a lot. I think I have a new "a-ha!" moment every day. You know, like "if you turn your back for a second to grab a ringing phone, the TV remote will end up in the toilet" or "so that's why you should always pack your baby an extra set of clothing!"

I think my greatest realization upon becoming a mother was that you can't plan anything. This was something huge, gigantic, massive for someone like me who has always been a planner, down to the day. Before I had Ethan, you could have asked me for my five year plan and I probably could have recited it all down to the grocery lists. Certain things would just be because I planned them that way, and that expectation didn't lend itself kindly to my tumultuous (but planned -- of course!) pregnancy. It was a wake-up call that day in my doctor's office that my dear, sweet doctor expressed concern for the first time. Preeclampsia wasn't gradual for me, it was a "oh, hey, guess what? You're on bedrest!" surprise that was accompanied by ankles so swollen I literally couldn't walk, not even to the restroom, and the fact I had to see my doctor every other day with my hospital bags in tow, waiting to hear if that day would be my baby's birthday.

When I was 19, my great-grandfather (who was my hero, mind you) was passing away. At his bedside, I promised him that one day I'd have a child named after him. His heart was broken that he'd never live to see my children. He was in and out of a comatose state but told me before he passed that I would have a boy and to not worry, that it'd be okay, and that he would be with me and I would somehow know it. Well, when I was 36 weeks pregnant, it was time to have my baby. As the doctors introduced me to the NICU staff and tried to teach me about the potential problems with breathing my son could have, I cried that it wasn't fair, I didn't plan for it to be this way. And then my son came screaming into this world, his lungs booming -- on my great-grandfather's birthday. Just like he promised, he let me know he was there -- and it was all okay. That day, I threw my need to plan every last detail out the window.

Motherhood is an adventure. Sometimes I don't wash my hair for a few days, sometimes I'm guilty of slipping on the same pair of dirty leggings I've pulled out of the hamper, and maybe that's not the way I planned it when I was pregnant and insisting I'd be the most glamorous new mom this side of town had ever seen. There wouldn't be a day I wouldn't wake up early to put on some fresh make-up, you see. The reality is, sometimes I have stains on my clothing from applesauce that Ethan has flung at me and sometimes the only make-up I wear is diaper cream smudged on my cheek. And the truth is, I couldn't have imagined how glamorous I still feel when my little boy smiles at me and plants a slobbery, toddler kiss on my cheek.

***Thank you so much to Lindsay for guest posting for me today.  She was one of my sponsors last month, and is a really lovely person.  Our email correspondence has been like sunshine in my inbox!  I'm glad to call her my new friend.  Please stop by her fabulous blog and show her some love.  And have a happy Monday!***

Friday, November 9, 2012

"BRAVE" Giveaway...HOORAY!

Are you brave?

Honestly, I've never considered myself a brave person.  Case in point:  I'm deathly afraid of spiders.  (Just typing the word "spiders" is giving me the heebie jeebies!)  I still run up the stairs when I leave a dark basement.  (What is with that?!  It's as if I'm afraid some monstrous thing is going to snatch my ankle at the last minute and drag me back down.)  I'm terrified of the dark.  (McHubby can vouch for that one.  It's why I am always leaving the lights on...which, he hates!)

Despite my fears, I have to recognize the moments of bravery in my life.  I was brave when I encountered a cockroach the size of my head, in China.  I was brave when I moved to a new city--not knowing anyone, or how to get around without getting lost.  I was brave when I gave birth to my babies.  And, I suppose I have to be a little brave everyday, as I face the challenges of motherhood.

In Disney Pixar's beautiful film, Brave, the heroine, Merida, exhibits bravery as she stands up for what she believes in, faces the challenges of complicated relationships, and fights to help and protect her mother.  What's not to love about her strong character?  (I doubt she would run from dark basements!) 

The characters are endearing, the cinematography is lovely, and the Scottish lilts are charming.  The Highland folklore makes for a unique and interesting viewing experience.  (And then there's Merida's wild, fiery red hair, which is pretty awesome!)

If you would like to win the Ultimate Collector's Edition of BRAVE, simply:

1.) Like Mama Leisha on Facebook(If you don't already!)

2.) Follow "The Mama" on GFC.  (Again, if you don't already!)
3.) Leave a comment telling me you've done steps one and two...AND...if you'd like, tell me about a time YOU were brave!
BONUS ENTRY:  I just started tweeting!  What the heck does that even mean?!  HA!  Earn a bonus entry by following my "twits" on Twitter.  (You'll want to; they're funny.)  Click here.

Winner will be notified SUNDAY night, November 11th.  THANK YOU and GOOD LUCK!

"Our fate lives in us.  You only have to be brave enough to see it."  --Merida

***Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this film to review.  All opinions are my own.***   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Because It's Election Day...

I distinctly remember a time I overheard Lilly playing with her dolls.  She was three-years-old and just discovering the wonders of "pretend play."  I could hear her tiny voice--quiet and sweet--playing the parts of both the mommy doll and the daddy doll:

"Alright baby, it's time for your nap."

"Let's put you in your crib."

I peeked into her room and saw her gingerly lay the plastic, Fisher Price baby doll into her pink cradle.  She was playing with her dollhouse, and had set up all the accompanying furniture.  I watched as she positioned the mommy and daddy dolls around the kitchen table.  I couldn't resist; I had to ask:

"Lilly, what will the mommy and daddy do now that the baby is asleep?"

She paused for only a moment before replying:

"Now they will have peace!"

I can't begin to describe in words how big my smile was when she said that.  Nor could I accurately convey the love and lightness felt in my heart, that such a witty comment invoked.  I remember how I giggled and giggled for days afterward.

Beneath the endearing quality of this experience--and my daughter's brilliant response and charm--lies a substantial idea.  Our homes should be peaceful places.  This inspires a number of questions:

Are our homes safe havens for our children and family members?  Are they our sanctuaries in an otherwise frightening and tumultuous world?  Does peace reside there?  Are we striving to extinguish anger and avoid contention?

Barbara Bush, wife of former president George Bush, spoke to the graduates of Wellesley College.  In her speech she said, "Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside YOUR house."  What is happening inside your house?  Is peace happening?  Is kindness happening?  Is forgiveness happening?  Is love?

The election is an important cause--it gives rise to action, it is what makes democracy great.  We are blessed to be able to cast our ballots.  But while I'm voting today, I'm going to remember that the most important cause of my lifetime is protecting the home.

The most important cause of my lifetime is my family.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mama Leisha's Super Duper Bracelet Tutorial!

I love accessories.

No, really.  I loooove them.  I "L-O-V-E" love them.  I love them like crazy.  I love them like a love song!  I love them like I love Diet Coke.  (WOW!  Huge.)  I ADORE adornment.  Give me some big, dangly earrings and I'm a happy girl.  Give me a bright-colored, chunky necklace, and I'm in heaven.  Give me some animal print bangles and a "blinged out" ring and I'll pretty much worship the ground you walk on until the day I die.

Not only do I love accessories, I love to make them too.  IT'S SO MUCH FUN!  My most favorite accessory to make lately is an embellished cuff bracelet.  These bracelets rock my world with their gorgeousness!  Want to know how I do it?

Step 1--You need a plain, metal cuff.  (Check the jewelry sections at the craft stores.)  You will also need a yard and a half of ribbon.  Hot glue the end of the ribbon to the end of the cuff.

Step 2--Wrap the ribbon around the entire cuff--periodically gluing it down.  Wrap and glue and wrap and glue and wrap and glue!

Step 3--Next, you'll need some fabric scraps for making yo-yos.  If you are unsure of how to make a yo-yo, I HIGHLY recommend the tutorial on this website.  I made six for my bracelet.  Each circle was two inches in diameter.

Step 4--Once your yo-yos are finished, hot glue them onto your cuff bracelet.  Like this:

Step 5--My FAVORITE step!!  Embellishing!  Blinging!  Bedazzling!  You can have oodles of creative fun with this step.  Think of all the embellishments you could use on your bracelet.  Buttons!  Beads!  Grandma's old costume jewelry!  Sequins!  Feathers!  Pearls!  Rhinestones!  So many possibilites.  It's a riot!

Several years ago, I inherited all of my grandma's costume jewelry.  A box full of mismatched clip-on earrings has sat on my dresser for forever...  Until one day, I realized I could break the backs off of them and use them on my bracelets.  A stroke of genius, people!  Look at the pretty end result:

Use a hot glue gun to glue your buttons, beads, jewels, etc. to the top of your yo-yos. have a pretty, unique, eye catching piece of jewelry.

(Here's an Instagram pic of a bracelet I made for a friend, for her birthday.)

Wouldn't these make the most fantastic Christmas gifts for your girlfriends?  You could make them as different as your friends are, and to fit their various personalities.  But then again, why give them away when you can keep them for yourself!?