Little People Spills and Messes

Keep perspective with young children interruptions, spills, messes and delays

Last Sunday, I was running around like a crazed madwoman, trying to get my little family ready for church. We were trying to make the 9am service. I popped a scratchy, Sunday dress over Esther’s head and smeared her fine baby hair back with a big bow. I threw on a maternity dress and a pair of silver earrings (no time for make-up today!). Dave slicked Samson’s white hair back like Leave it to Beaver and we hurled everyone downstairs.

I slapped an army of matching plastic bowls on the table, a box of blueberries and then turned to the pantry to grab a box of cereal. It was then that I heard a terrifying noise. Two-year-old Esther had accidentally knocked the gigantic, economy-sized box of blueberries from Costco off the table. Millions of blue balls dribbled all over the kitchen and under the table. Samson and Esther, perched standing on kitchen chairs, looked at me with big eyes.

Samson: “Esser! You made a BIG MESS! SPANK HER, Mama!”

Esther jumped down from her chair and ran toward the towel drawer, popping blueberries under her fat toddler feet as she ran, “I KWEAN, I KWEAN!”

I couldn’t move because anywhere I stepped would produce blueberry wine. Now we were going to be late FOR SURE. I covered my eyes with my hand and softly chanted, “I have small children. I have small children. This is normal.”

Have your children ever created a big mess, especially when you are trying to be somewhere on time? How do you handle that stress? One thing that helps me is to remember a few “big picture” thoughts:

– Nothing is worth yelling at my kids

– Nothing is worth getting angry at my kids

– I would rather be late, than be mean and lose it

– When a mess or spill happens, just take a breath and remember to be PATIENT.

617036_10151272835245309_1824777812_oWe are caring for small, quick-moving, uncoordinated little people. Messes, interruptions and spills are NATURAL. They are a NORMAL part of early parenthood. We will spend most of our time caring for them and cleaning up after them. Small children naturally dominate our time. It’s not right to begrudge or get angry at them for natural child behavior. We are “unproductive” adults during these years because we are caring for little ones – it’s normal!

– If I do lose it (and trust me, I have yelled! I have been VERY angry!), I try to regroup and as soon as I am able, I apologize to all my children. Even the little ones that cannot understand. It’s good for me and good for them to develop a pattern of forgiveness. (I so admired my father growing up because he always apologized to his five children if he ever messed up!)

– And, of course, sometimes if an overtired, overwhelmed mama keeps snapping, you need to take a break. Ask your husband, grandparent or hire a babysitter. We cannot give to our families if we are running on empty. (Yesterday, for example, I asked Dave to watch the kids so I could slip away to do my Bible study alone and uninterrupted in the parking lot before I went in to do grocery shopping).

EVERY MOM struggles with spills and messes. It’s frustrating. It creates more work when you feel overwhelmed at the normal daily duties. It’s challenging to live in a constantly chaotic environment, and then you add another mess – woa! But try to keep perspective: the days are long, but the years are few.

Think about five years from now when you look back at this time.

What type of mama do you want to be right now? Your children are so blessed to call you their mama. Each day you are blooming and growing in patience and kindness. Someday we will be old grannies looking back at the little years and wishing we had little blueberry messes in our neat, boring kitchens again. Keep perspective, and you will keep your cool. If you lose it, apologize and grow. You can do it!

 

Want more stories like this? Pre-order my new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on my site here.

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Emotions Before a New Baby Arrives

Preparing for the New Normal

 

Our baby’s due date is August 7, just six weeks to go. As the days are dropping away in a tornado of to-do’s, Dave and I joined forces to get two-year-old Esther’s big girl “Princess” room ready ASAP so she won’t feel displaced when the baby takes over her nursery.

(Lemme tail yew, as we say in Texas, there is no more endearing sight than returning from errands to discover your man’s man hunter husband teetering on a ladder as he installs a mammoth chandelier in a pink ceiling for his baby girl. THAT HE PICKED OUT HIMSELF. Somebody pinch me. Is this really my life?)

Our nursery is decorated in gender-neutral black and white French toile patterns with grey accents. All of our children have used the same black nursery furniture and décor. The only thing we change is the wall color to reflect the gender. (Samson had blue walls and now the walls are pink for Esther.) We are leaving the nursery pink for now, in case it is a girl. But if it’s a boy, we will repaint blue.

(I CANNOT WAIT TO FIND OUT THE GENDER WHEN THE BABY IS BORN!!!!)

While Dave assembled the white princess furniture, I slowly snaked Hobby Lobby’s aisles for new princess décor, in my oh-so-fine preggo sandals. (AKA the ugliest, most comfortable shoes known to man).

Finally, it was time to show two-year-old Esther her new “big girl” room. She toddled in, blonde pigtails dancing, and BEAMED. Hurrah!

She needed no coaxing the first night in her big girl room. We flipped on a princess nightlight, prayed for her and kissed those delicious fat cheeks. She looked so tiny in a twin-sized bed! Like a live baby doll in a human bed. (We took out the wooden planks and just laid the mattress directly on the floor with the bed frame surrounding it so she could learn not to fall off.) Dave and I shut her bedroom door and walked by the now vacant nursery on the way to our room.

It was then my heart skipped a beat.

Oh, the impending change of a new baby arriving!

leah 40+2 print-5147When Samson, our first child, was about to arrive, I remember worrying that it would never be just David and me anymore. Would our marriage suffer? Would our life be as happy and sweet, with this big permanent change about to explode?

When I was pregnant with Esther, I remember like it was yesterday when we showed Samson his new big boy room with a red plastic car bed, gigantic Lighting McQueen car stickers on the walls and black and white checkered curtains that I had sewed myself at eight-months-pregnant on my hands and knees. I was terrified he would feel displaced by the new baby. I was nervous that it would never be just Samson and me, my little buddy and daily companion, anymore.

Now I watch David and my marriage relationship blossom to new depths through the trails of parenthood. We’ve weathered a lot of all-nighters with teething babies, changed a million diapers and shared so many laughs over our two little munchkins. Instead of hurting our marriage, children have enriched it!

I watch Samson and Esther play for hours on end around the house, laughing their heads off as they chase each other from room to room. No one prepared me the delights of sibling love. Instead of handicapping my only-child relationship with Samson, our darling baby girl Esther makes each day 10,000x better for both of us! A sibling best friend for Samson and a delightful daughter for our family! (And God forbid I forget to put a bow on that head! “Mama! MY BOW!!!!” with a puppy dog frown).

Even with these experiences, though, I wonder at this next season of three children. Last night on our brown leather couch, I awkwardly cradled my long, big baby boy Samson. “Honey,” I fiercely whispered in his ear. “Do you know that even if we have another boy, you will always be my first-born son and I will always love you to the moon and back, forever and ever, for always and a day, with all my heart.” Samson sighed, “Yes, mama.”

When Esther asked me to, “Hold you!” today, I swooped her up in an instant, even though it hurts my pregnant back. I clutch her to my heart and finger her little pigtails. I worry she will no longer be the baby of the family, but the middle child. Will she feel displaced or lost when the new baby arrives? My first baby girl! And when I swim with Samson and Esther, I wonder how much the baby’s needs will pull me away from these delicious times.

It will be our new normal, but I can’t see it right now.

I remind myself that, despite these lost months of pregnancy sickness, my children will gain a sibling. I tell myself that they will learn new character and new patience. My Samson will learn to be mama’s helper and Esther will be my tiny assistant. And we will all delight with the common happiness that is a new baby in our home.

But that empty nursery and new big girl room still make me emotional.

Life keeps going, even if we want to slam on the brakes. I love the ages of my children and the life we live right now. I truly cannot imagine being any happier than we are at this very moment. I simultaneously cannot wait for the new baby, but I also cannot wait for tomorrow, for just a few more moments of 100%-focused Samson and Esther delight.

Oh, parenthood. I will never figure you out. You are ripping away all my single-girl controlling ways and birthing (no pun intended) a smiling mother that is learning to ride the tide.

And I kind of like this new me and new life, even if I don’t have it all figured out. C’mon, baby. We cannot wait to meet YOU and our New Normal.

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Want more stories like this? Pre-order my new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on my site here.

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The Waiting Infant Car Seat

Don’t forget the Gift of Parenthood

 

We finally got a new, tiny infant carseat for the new baby. I pulled it out of the back of my car and laid it in the center of our garage floor. It looks miniscule in comparison to Esther’s pink two-year-old carseat or Samson’s big boy seat.

 

(I just CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE GOING TO LOOK BACK IN OUR CAR AND SEE THREE CARSEATS. THREE CHILDREN.)

 

I preggo-waddled into our house to fetch Dave. I wanted to show him the new, foreign, tiny infant carseat, so he could store it somewhere he knows, in case I go into labor early.

(Slim chance, darlin’, but every blonde southern girl can hope.)

(I was 10 days late with Samson, three days late with Esther. Pretty sure I will go full-term).

However, since Esther’s labor/delivery was a cool six hours flat – compared to Samson’s 52-hour marathon – we need to be prepared to move fast. Like parent ninjas at the first contraction.

(Buy my book below to read about my hairy-but-fascinating labor and delivery stories. Bwahahaha.)

 

As Dave shadowed my preggo shuffle out from the house and into the garage, it hit me that this was another Parenting Moment. A moment so many would give their right arm to experience.

I think of precious friends that have tried for years, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant.

(Wouldn’t they love to be shopping for a carseat for a baby?)

I think of others that lost their baby through miscarriage or stillborn birth.

(Maybe they bought a carseat like this, too. But instead of holding a baby, it’s emptiness now only holds dashed hope and dreams).

baby image leah edit

 

My parenting heart can never forget them as I go through the “duties” of normal parenthood. Their loss, and my own miscarriage, breed immense gratitude for these small parenting moments. Suddenly ordinary things like buying an infant carseat become extraordinary. A gift to be savored.

When we arrive in the garage, Dave and I stop to examine the tiny carseat on the floor between us. I can’t stop smiling as I look at it, my hands on hips with a swayed back to support my big pregnant belly.

“So,” I began awkwardly, with a sheepish smile to the love of my life. “Here is the baby’s carseat, the carseat bases for the car and the stroller. I thought you, uh, might like to store it in a place you would know. In case I go in labor early so you can grab it when we head to the hospital.”

“Got it, Spina.” Dave returns like a general, with a twinkle in his eye. He is used to my escalating preggo hormones, odd emotional requests and incessant nesting need to get things in order before The New Baby and our New Life arrives.

May we parents never take for granted the gift of parenthood. It is not a normal, expected adulthood experience. Oh, no. It is a incredible blessing from God, the Giver of Life, to be savored each day. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8

 

Want more stories like this? Pre-order my new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on my site here.

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On Maternity Swim Suits

The Pinnacle of Every Fashionista’s Career – hee, hee!

– the tankini maternity swim suit is the best design, hands-down: full-coverage and easy to get on and off (though they should sell the bottoms and tops separately instead of in sets – for example, in later pregnancy, you need a medium top to cover that baby, but the medium bottoms are too big! Lol)

 

– I cannot believe they sell maternity bikinis (maybe it’s because I’m in my third-trimester, but how is that possibly attractive?)

 

– I cannot believe they sell one-piece maternity swim suits (Again, maybe it’s because I’m in my third-trimester, but taking that sucker on and off when you can’t even tie your own shoes?!?!? Misery.)

 

Mamas? Am I right, or am I right.

Maternity SwimSuit

 

Father’s Day with Little Children

Don’t forget your hubby during the diaper blizzard years!

 

Today is Father’s Day. Samson led close-eyed Dave by the hand to our dining room for our “surprise”: a stack of new summer t-shirts, two primitive/scribbled homemade cards by the kids and a gold, sappy store-bought card from me. I tried to write in my card how much Dave means as a dad to our children, since they aren’t old enough to articulate or appreciate their dad. And, also, how excited I am about the future when they will start to realize how blessed they are to call David Spina their father.

 

Our church celebrated Father’s Day today, too. During the worship singing this morning, I reached over and grabbed Dave’s hand. Dave was wearing a starched, collared shirt (he always dresses up for church since the day I met him). His dark Italian hair was meticulously combed. And then, as the song hit the chorus, I noticed his profile. His kind hazel eyes, the shape of his nose and lips that speak truth and love. It is a Profile of Faithfulness.

 

Suddenly, my eyes welled with tears and my heart burst with gratitude and love for this man: our dad. I don’t know about you other fellow moms out there with young children, but for me, it is sometimes so easy to forget my husband in the tornado of multiple little children. My tiny darlings are daily clamoring for help, constant needs and attention. (And rightfully so, because they need a lot of care when they are small and dependent.) But how many days have flown by that I have forgotten to appreciate that Profile of Faithfulness in the aftermath of young children?

He never asks, like my children, for me to “hold him” – but could I stop and give him a big hug just because or a little kiss in the kitchen when he walks through?

He never asks for me to get him water at the dinner table, but could I offer?

He never asks for help getting dressed, or getting buckled in his carseat or for me to play Batman with him, but could I stop during my day to send him a text of appreciation while he is at work?

Or when he returns home, could I stop whatever I am doing to go greet him with a cheerleader grin and stop to ask him about his day? And really listen?

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Too many times the exhaustion and distraction of young children care-taking distracts me. I forget this man that faithfully provides, supports and shepherds our little family.  But not today. When we get home, I gush to Dave how grateful I am for him as a dad. I tell him how thankful I am for the way he single-handedly takes over the kids’ bedtime routine, when my pregnancy nausea peaks. I hold his hand in the car and ask what HE wants to do today. When we get home, I ignore the kids and just lay with him on the couch.

 

Our family didn’t start when we had a child. It started when Dave and I got married. My relationship with David is more important to me than my relationship with my children. (And if you really think about it, a good marriage is one of the best things you can give to your children!) Thank you, Father’s Day, for helping busy moms “stop and smell” our amazing husband dads. They may not be yelling and clamoring like our young children for our attention each day. But may God help us to remember they need love and caretaking, too. Hurrah for dads!

Want more stories like this? Pre-order my new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on my site here.

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Date Your Little People!

Make Fun Memories With Your Child!

 

Last Saturday, I preggo-waddled into David’s garage where he was working on man projects. (Some say it’s not a waddle. It’s PREGNANCY SWAG.) “Honey, do you mind watching baby Esther so I can take Samson to a little class at Home Depot?” Dave agreed and I swooped Samson into his Batman croc shoes out the door. This wasn’t tagging a child onto errands. My sole mission for this trip was to have fun with my little man on our special “date.”

 

As soon as I shut the car door, I took a deep breath and turned around to my white-haired boy in his blue polo shirt. I smiled at my four-year-old baby boy (where has the time gone?) and he grinned back at me in his booster seat, clutching two ninja turtle figures. On our drive over, we chatted about what we hoped we would build today and using hammers and nails.

 

At the store, they scribbled his name in a black sharpie on his tiny orange apron and handed us a kit to make sport book ends. (Eh, c’mon, Home Deopt. What kind of a kid project is this?) But Samson didn’t care and I gasped over it like we were making a rocket ship for the moon, to build excitement. I slowly squatted down on the crinkled drop cloth like an 90-year-old grandma with my big belly to help Samson. I held each nail in place for him to hammer, wincing at him missing and hitting my fingers. We both laughed when he did. (His hit/miss ration was 3:1.)

 

Then we moved to the sea of colors at the painting table. His finished masterpiece looked like a drunk Picasso with every color slapped on but WHO CARES. I shuddered watching some parents correct their little painters, “No! You missed a spot here!” “Why don’t you paint them the same color so it looks symmetrical?” “That won’t match your room – why don’t you use yellow. That will go.”

 

After the class, the kind instructor awarded Samson a bronze pin. My hands were full of purse and drying project, my feet hurt and we had a long walk back to the car. But I stopped. “Want me to pin it on your apron, Samboy?” The Proud Painter nodded. We set everything down, and I squatted like an preggo Indian. Oh, these are the moments life is made of! He fingered his new pin and beamed up at me like it was an Olympic medal. Man, I wouldn’t trade these moments for the world!

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Every since having two children small children, I struggled with how to enjoy my children in all the diaperland work and chaos. One way that helped was to take them, just one-on-one, on a little date solely for fun. Sure, I take them on errands with me, but I mean an activity where we are there just to build relationship and HAVE FUN. It might seem silly since they are only two and four-years-old. But it’s sometimes more for me – the tired mom – than for them. It helps me make a mental mindset shift from caretaker to fun companion. It is a blessed band-aid when we’ve been struggling with obeying. We burst out of the “get dressed, come to eat, finish your fruit, time for bed” routine to just enjoy each other.

 

When I take little two-year-old Esther, we might go to eat somewhere and then to the pet store to mess around. When we go out to eat, I often let her sit in a booth for two, instead of high chair. Her big eyes barely peer over the table at me, but she is so proud to be in a big seat. I stop and sigh at the miniature live doll baby God blessed us with – is she really mine? I don’t get angry or sigh at the lunch mess because this is our DATE. We hold hands and skip next door to the pet store. I follow her frenzied, illogical pace to see all the animals. We pet every kind dog that will let us, peer for only 2.5 seconds at the sleeping rats and tap too loud on the fish tanks. I’m not hurrying her through the parking lot onto the next thing because this is our special time. If she wants to stop and watch a plane fly over, we do. These are the small moments that life is made of.
Try dating your little person. It’s one “long-term relationship” worth investing in, both for them AND for you!

 Want to read more stories like this? Order nt new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on either Amazon here or on my site here!

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Starbucks Pregnancy Announcement

Or how we found out we were
pregnant with our third child

It was a few days before Thanksgiving. The wind whipped stale leaves down the sidewalk. By the time I put both kids down for bedtime, I plopped down exhausted in front of my laptop. I needed to purchase flights from Dallas to Denver for our upcoming ski trip. But I hovered over the purchase button at the end of the transaction. “Eh, maybe I should take a pregnancy test first, just to make sure,” I thought. If I was pregnant now, I would be too far along to ski by the time of the trip.

The chances were slim – it took us a minimum six months to get pregnant with each of our children. If I was pregnant, it would mean we got pregnant immediately.

But still, I needed to buy those plane tickets.

It was too late to go buy a test that night. Plus, they are most accurate first thing in the morning and I was early to be testing. So, the next morning, I snuck out like a mom undercover soldier before any of my family was stirring to nab a test at Target. I pulled up and parked, but it was so early that Target was closed. (C’mon, Target. Really?) I made a u-turn and jetted into a vacant Wal-mart parking lot. I nabbed ingredients for taco soup and tossed a pregnancy test in the cart right before I checked out.

I’m embarrassed to tell this part of the story, but after the failed Target run I really needed to take the test NOW if I wanted a first-thing-in-the-morning-accurate-result, if you know what I mean. Yes ma’am, I took the test in our local Wal-mart bathroom with my cart of groceries waiting outside.

(I’m real classy like that.)

Lo and behold, two lines faint pink lines started to appear. I held the test with shaking hands as the lines grew stronger. Oh. My. Word. It was positive. I scooped up my plastic grocery bags and performed a slightly awkward mom sprint out of the store.

I’m a former journalist and probably over think everything, including pregnancy tests, so I carefully laid the test on the seat of my car and took a photo with my phone, lest the lines would fade by the time I showed Dave. (Probably why I never wrote for the NY Times.)

How to tell David? I called his cell and tried to act all casual.

“Hey, honey.”

“Hey. Where are you? It’s early!”

“Oh, I just needed some ingredients for dinner. HEY, want me to pick you up a coffee at Starbucks?”

David never refuses that Willy Wonka golden ticket offer. (He religiously orders at least one grande bold coffee a day).

I screamed into our local Starbucks parking lot like a good action movie where the good guy is about to get the bad guy. I was so excited that I got in line without my wallet. (Apparently I had tossed it out on the passenger seat when pawing through my mom purse for my phone to take the FBI Pregnancy Test Validation Photo.) When I reached the counter, I blushed and gushed with a giddy schoolgirl laugh to the annoyed barista, “Oh, I’m sorry, I must have left my wallet in the car. I’ll be right back.” (Except I’m not as cute as a thoughtless schoolgirl. I am a 30-something mom that could use a little Botox.)

I returned, paid and scribbled on the side of the steaming cup of coffee: “PREGNANT! Baby #3 is on the way!”

When I got home, there was my faithful husband relaxing in his favorite leather chair with his Bible.

“Here you go, honey!”

“Thanks, love.”

This was the moment! THEN HE SET THE CUP DOWN ON THE FLOOR. *headplant*

I tried again, “Did they get your order right?”

He picked up the cup to examine the side. A smile the size of Texas broke on his face.

“Really?” he asked. I nodded back like a girl that that has just been proposed to and nods a silent “YES!”. Dave popped up like a jack in the box out of his chair and grabbed me in a bear hug. He held me tight for a long time. (And let me tell you, real-life husband hugs in moments like these trump Hollywood love stories any day in my book). Then he prayed, “Lord, we thank you for this baby and dedicate him or her to you. Thank you for this blessing. Amen.”

We decided to go ahead and tell our immediate families at Thanksgiving in a few days. At each of our family’s Thanksgiving, it’s tradition to go around the table and say what we are thankful for that year. So at Dave’s turn, at both tables full of the family faces we love and cherish, he played around with some normal thanksgiving items then ended with: “And, I’m thankful that Leah’s pregnant.” There was a silent shock then delightful cheers peppered with warm hugs and even tears of joy.

Last week I posted a photo on Facebook of our family holding a sign that said, “Baby #3 Arriving August 7”. As soon as I saw it on my newsfeed, my eyes welled with tears and I caught an unexpected sob in my chest. I was full of gratitude to God, the Giver of Life. I couldn’t believe He was going to bless our family with another child. After Samson was born, we experienced a miscarriage. That experience, coupled with friends that have struggled with miscarriages, stillborn births and infertility, makes me never take a positive pregnancy test for granted. To me it is no longer a routine, expected part of adulthood. Oh, no. It is one of the most amazing gifts God gives. Psalm 34:8 “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Forget skiing. We’re having a BABY!

Our Big news - Baby #3