Going to Great Wolf Lodge – aka The Scream!

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Going to Great Wolf Lodge – aka The Scream!

Crack out of the ol’ tired caretaker mom – have fun with your darlings!

We decided, last minute, to go to Great Wolf Lodge. It’s a kid-friendly resort with a gigantic indoor water park.

(Or as my witty mom friend calls it: The Scream. Aka 10,000 kids yelling, water roaring, and it’s all trapped indoors, echoing and bouncing off the enclosed walls).

Each day before our trip, we reminded the kids of our upcoming vacation. We popped open my laptop to let them see the different water slides online, excitedly explained to two-year-old Esther that she would sleep in a new bed at “The Wolf Hotel”, and quizzed Samson on HOW MANY MORE DAYS.

Finally, Dave and I gasped, “GUYS! GUESS WHAT DAY IT IS?!?!? GUESS WHERE WE ARE GOING TODAY?!?!?!” They exploded in squeals and giggles of delight. Esther started chanting, “WUFF HOTEW! WUFF HOTEW!”

(Real parenthood: Dave and I stopped for drive-through coffee on the way so we would have energy for a 24-hour indoor waterpark – LOL!)

We snaked our SWEET Grey minivan into a parking spot next to five-million other minivans. The kids’ eyes ballooned when they saw the waterpark, while Dave and I downed the rest of our coffee.

We popped open the door to our very normal hotel room. Samson and Esther bolted in front of us to explore. And these are the moments that make parenting the little years so delicious. “MOM! WOOK!” yelled Samson at the top of his lungs. “IT HAS A BATHROOM!!!” I dropped the heavy suitcases down and gasped, “WHAT?!?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?” Samson, delighted, “YEAH! AAAAND MOM! There’s even a SHOWER!!!!” Me: “WHAT?!?!? That’s AWESOME!!!” (Suddenly all the mom stress/effort for a family vacation was 110% worth it.)

We pulled open “the magic bed” – the pull-out couch. But at the end of the day, it was Esther’s turn to try the magic bed, and Samson slipped under the white comforter of one of the queen beds. After we turned out the light, Samson peeped in the darkness, “Mom, I so excited.” Me whispering back, “why?” Samson: “Because ‘dis is ‘da first time I swept in a hotel bed all by myself.”

The kids dominated the colossal breakfast buffet. They tried everything, but especially enjoyed “forbidden sugar cereal”, like Fruity Pebbles and drinking hot cocoa AND chocolate milk.

(That’s one thing I love about Dave’s family: When the Spina’s vacation, THE SPINA’S VACATION. You sleep in, you buy presents, and you always eat sugar. Because, c’mon, you are on VACATION.)

But my favorite part of the trip? Going down all the big water slides with my Samboy.

Samson is five-years-old. He has stark white hair, blue eyes and he loves to laugh. But he’s also been a highly active, strong-willed boy since birth. Lately, I feel I’ve sometimes been more frustrated with him than before because: a) he often requires more parenting than his siblings because he’s strong-willed b) Samson’s normal “big boy” energy is harder to swallow, when I’m trying to simultaneously care for a baby and a toddler. In short, there has been a lot of, “Please STOP, Samson!” and “Please settle down, Samson!” since the baby has arrived.

This is why it’s so important for us moms to make fun memories with our kids. We get in this tired, overwhelmed caretaking mode. We even start to view our little darlings – our gifts from God – as irritating and annoying. But fun memories are a game changer. Not only do we have a great time, but we return to the daily duties of motherhood with fresh laughs and happy memories to carry us through the stressful moments.

After changing into our swim suits faster than a hiccup, we entered the roaring waterpark. After we did some family swimming, I asked David to take Esther to the little kid area. Then I turned to my five-year-old son literally shaking from excitement. “Samboy!” I shouted over the noise. “Wanna ride some BIG SLIDES with me?!?!”

He face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he smiled up at me in his sopping Batman swim shorts. “Yeah!”

We purposely booked our stay during a weekday school-in-session time to avoid lines. So we had the slides to ourselves: a thirty-something mom in a red swimsuit with a six-months-post-baby body lugging a big yellow figure-eight intertube up 50,000 WET WOODEN STEPS with a laughing tow-headed sopping-wet boy in tow. Over and over we went. My legs and knees were hurting, but I couldn’t stop. All those mean, tired phrases I have said to Samson in frustration over the past six months since Hannah arrived just disappeared with each new slide.

STOP AND SMELL: I think it is SO IMPORTANT for us moms, right in the midst of the busy little years, to find moments to ENJOY our children. We need to break out of that cranky, overtired mom mindset and savor the gift of parenthood. So many women would love to be moms, but can’t. So many other moms would love to be able to stay at home with their children instead of work, but they can’t. Don’t just endure the young years, enjoy them!

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Two-year-old Esther talks to her baby sister Hannah ALLDAYLONG. Sooooo cute. ? Mama, maybe you are overwhelmed with a baby and a toddler. Giiiirl, it is a lot of work! BUT listen to this for perspective: when I complained to my dad about how much work it was with a baby and a toddler, he reminded me that it’s a few short years of hard work, but then you have a lifetime of close-in-age friends. Siblings are often the longest friendship a person will enjoy in their lifetime. They will likely know their sibling longer than any friend, spouse or parent. It may be hard now, but remember what you were doing. You are gifting a lifelong friendship – my grandmother and her sister enjoyed a friendship of over 80 years. Maybe my Hannah and my Esther will do the same. Keep up the work, Mama. You are creating a lifetime friendship. Xo ???#sisters

Want more like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.

The power of singing bedtime songs to your children

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Scripture Bedtime Songs

The power of a mama’s bedtime singing!

I am the oldest of five children. I grew up in a Fort Worth, Texas suburb in a red brick home. I don’t remember everything from my childhood. But I distinctly remember my mother’s bedtime singing when I was a little girl.

I shared a bedroom with my sister. We had matching twin beds with matching My Little Pony comforters. Next door, my three brothers shared a room with a set of wooden bunkbeds.

(Want to hear something funny? My mom found the easiest way for them to keep their beds made was to just let them sleep in sleeping bags on their beds. No sheets. No comforter. Just straighten the sack and go, my friends. So for years, my brothers woke up and just yanked the ‘ol sleeping bag flat. Perhaps the most brilliant move of my mother’s parenthood career ever. Just zip. AND GO.)

ANYWAYS. My mother wisely felt that music transcends the mind and goes straight to the spirit. So she purposely sang us songs about Jesus that had Scripture at bedtime. We fell asleep to the Bible being sung over us, instead of racing childhood imaginations that could morph into bad dreams.

I still remember her silhouette in the dark. My mom had that perfect shoulder-length 80’s perm, with bangs. She slowly rocked in a rocking chair, back and forth, back and forth, as she sang. She stationed the chair in the hallway so she could be heard by both bedrooms. She often folded her tired hands on her lap. I even remember when she was pregnant with my youngest brother, and rested them on top of her growing round pregnant belly while she sang.
I remember thinking, as she sang in the dark, “She sounds like an angel. There must be no other sound as beautiful as my mother’s voice.”

Later, my sister and I started singing and formerly studying voice. (My parents made all five of their children take two full years of piano. Period. No questions. No complaining. Then if we wanted to pursue music we could. But we were all made to have a music foundation and know how to read music. Mom and Dad, if I can introduce my children to a third of the things you introduced us to, I would consider myself a parenting success. THANK. YOU.)

My sister and I ended up taking an interest in voice. After singing in several church choirs growing up we took advanced private voice lessons on a masters level at SWBTS, studied opera, performed with the Fort Worth Oratorio Chorus at the Bass Hall, sang the national anthem at a Rangers Game, blahblahblah. All that to say, we sang a lot, and learned a lot about singing. And sometimes we asked my mom to sing with us.

After studying so much about singing, I normally analyzed tone and clarity when anyone sang. But when my mama sang, I heard only one thing. (And now I must stop typing to wipe the tears welling up in my eyes as I write this next sentence). When she sang, I only heard her pure, sweet bedtime voice singing to me as a little girl.

Today my mother no longer has that rockin’ 80’s perm. She has beautiful blonde hair with tiny bursts of cheery grey. It’s cut a bit shorter and styled like the cutest Texas grandma you ever did see. These days she answers to “Grandmommy” a lot more than “Mother”, with nine grandchildren, age five and under. And I rarely sing with her anymore, or hear her sing.

But when I do, on rare occasions when we are side by side at a church service or an event, I still only hear one thing: my mother singing bedtime songs to me as a little girl. My adult mind reels back to those soft nights: full of my mother’s angelic voice, comforting me in my My Little Pony bed. I immediately feel safe, secure and loved.

So here I am, five years into my parenthood career. I am a mama of three young children. I am tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, blahblahblah. And frankly, as much as I purposed to sing bedtime songs to my children, I had no energy for the past few years.

 
But last fall, I gave a talk to a Dallas MOPS group about “Little Ways to Show God to Little People.” One of the ways I cited was singing Scripture to your children. When I drove home, I purposed all over again to start singing Scripture songs regularly at bedtime. No matter how tired I was.

And so I did.

I pull Esther’s pink princess wooden stool that she uses to climb into her bed out in the carpeted hallway. I set it on the smack dab between Samson and Esther’s bedroom doors, just as my mother did. And I sing the same songs that my mother sang me.

Some strange things happened that I didn’t see coming.

  1. It has turned into a welcome, and much needed, respite of worship for me. As I sing for them, I my tired mama spiritual soul is filled with God’s word. As I sing truth and Scripture, I am reminded of an eternal perspective in the diaper blizzard.
  2. My children, after a few weeks, started singing all the songs with me – without any invitation or prompting. I couldn’t believe it. They sing off key, pretty monotone. But they sing the words as naturally as if they are breathing. I love it!!!! They are hiding God’s word in their little hearts without even trying.
  3. If I ever forget, they come bouncing out of their bedrooms, “Mama! Singing! You forgot to sing!” It’s their favorite routine of the day.
  4. It is so nice to “shut off my brain” as a tired mom and just sing Scripture at the end of a full day. It is relaxing to just “be” together, in simple songs, of simple truth.

Try singing to your little ones at the end of the day. It will refresh you spiritually, and it will bless them for years to come.

These are the simple songs I sing – they are all from my mother’s bedtime singing in my childhood:

  • Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)
  • When (insert child’s name) lies down, his sleep will be sweet. (Pr. 3:24)
  • I love you (insert child’s name), oh yes I do. I love you (insert child’s name), it’s true. I really love them, I do! Oh (insert child’s name), I love you.
  • “As the deer….” (Psalms 42)

(I made a short video below of these songs in case you wish to learn the tune to sing to your darlings. Here it is:Scripture Songs video)

STOP AND SMELL: Oh, Esther! She shattered my iPhone screen twice in two months, drew all over the walls with Sharpie permanent markers (we’ve tried every suggestion, and now have to repaint because nothing worked to remove it), and then last night we found her cleaning the entire house with a bar of deodorant. And yesterday, we found she had decided to share her chocolate lollipop with her baby sister. Oh age two. When I was a new mom, I was overwhelmed at all the messes. But now, most days, I realize it’s a short season. Someday the house will be clean and I will no longer have little destructive darlings. But right now, when I find chocolate all over the baby, I laugh and smile. The days are long but the years are short. Remember the little things in life, for one day we will look back and discover they were the big things.

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Want more like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.

Biblical Analogy Walks with Little Children

 

Hey there sweet mama of little ones,

 

Are you tired and overwhelmed? Try a walk with your tiny darlings to refresh! Nature calms the fussiest of babies, the toddler/preschooler can get their energy out, and YOU will return a new woman. Getting outdoors rejuvenates me as a mom of little ones. I sometimes need it more than my kids!

 

My sweet mom, mother of five and grandmother of nine, encourages young moms to “take a walk once a day” because she feels it’s so important. (She STILL takes a walk each day!)

 

Kick those winter blues away the next time the weather is nice. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink, grab the stroller, and make some fun memories with your darlings!

 

BIBLICAL ANALOGY WALKS

 

One of my favorite “Mom Motto” Bible verses is Deut. 6: 6, 7:

 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

 

To me, that means we moms just naturally talk about God AS WE GO about our busy days parenting young children. Here’s an idea you can try. Teach your children about God the next time you take them on a little walk. Use biblical analogy Scriptures as you spot things in nature to help them understand their Heavenly Father. This is very effective with little ones who may have difficulty wrapping their little minds around an “invisible” God.

 

Here’s some Scriptures you might like to incorporate on your next walk to teach your little ones about God:

 

  • Use creation examples – like when you stop to observe the vastness of the night sky tell them about Gods greatness, and remind them that He creates the sky and the weather and the sunset/sunrise!
  • When they feel the wind tell them how that is what God is like. “You can feel him but you can’t see him.”
  • If you see a bird, remind them how God cares for them, yet cares for his children even more! Matt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
  • When you see flowers or grass, remind them that God clothes them even more beautifully! Matt. 6:28-30 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
  • If you see a chicken, remind about how baby chicks run under their mother’s wing, and say that’s how God takes care of you and protects you.
  • Hide behind a rock and talk about how God hides us like a refuge and a hiding place.
  • Talk about how God created the seasons: winter, summer, fall, spring. Ask them what is their favorite season is, and why.
  • Tell the Bible story about the little children coming to Jesus and how the disciples tried to stop them. Act this story out as a play with your kids. My mom says you can’t emphasize God’s love enough and that story is one of the best illustrations for children. (Matt 19:13-Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.)
  • Remind them that God created all the things they see. 1 (He created darkness/light, sky/water (when you pass a creek or pond), land and plants (stop to look at the trees and remind them of their God!), sun, moon, stars (depends on what time you walk – ha!), birds/fish, animals/people (as you pass other walkers with their dogs!).

These are just a few I am jotting down from the top of my overtired mom brain. I’m sure you can think of many more and I’d love to hear some other ones to use!

Let’s get some exercise and teach our little ones about our God!

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(See Samson way ahead of us on his bike? We had a blast!)

 

Spills happen at our house all day long, even right after Dave or I say, “DON’T spill it!” ? Sometimes I definitely get frustrated because it adds to the existing non-stop work that is caring for young children. But this is a great reminder to keep a good perspective in the diaper chaos. Xo

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This is my biggest baby, and my littlest baby. I love that quote “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ???

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Want more like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.

Buying new post-baby clothes

The nitty, gritty story

I needed to buy some new “professional” clothes to speak in for this spring. I have a lovely tribe of dresses hanging in my closet this minute that would work well. But, unfortunately, they do not fit my post-third-baby body the way they used to.
So, I naively went to buy some new clothes. I hired a babysitter, grabbed a drive-thru coffee at Starbucks on the way, and enjoyed my quiet, uninterrupted drive to the store.
But I was in for a surprise. The sweet young girl working in the dressing room asked my size, and I just said, “Uhhhhhhhhhhh, well I USED to be a size X, but I have no idea right now because I just had a baby…..”
She popped open the wooden dressing room door, then brought a stack of pencil skirts in my old size, and one stack in a bigger size, “just in case.”
Well, turns out I am NOT the same size I was before Hannah. I tried to make light of it, “Ma’am, I guess I’m going to need that other size.” (I couldn’t bear to even say the number). My Single Skinny Helper kindly takes the reject size, and hands me a stack of skirts in the other size. With respectful downcast eyes, she pipes, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I believe those run on the smaller side.”
God bless you, sister.
I even (STUPIDLY) tried on a swim suit that was on sale. I literally burst out laughing at my reflection. Then, when I quit laughing, I took one more horrific look at my post-baby figure in white spandex. I promptly yanked it off like it was on fire, and threw it on the floor in the corner so I wouldn’t have to “deal.”
But as I tried on more and more clothes, I had to “deal”. I told myself these were “temporary” clothes so I wouldn’t start crying in the unforgiving mirror. (And, let me tell you, it’s embarrassing to be speaking in front of a lot of people, all alone on a stage, when you don’t feel like you look your best.) But, I bought some versatile pieces to get me through the spring and I feel a lot better in them, then trying to make old clothes work.
(Brought back memories after birthing my first child, and David saying “just buy some new clothes” when I complained about my post-baby figure….and snapping back at him, “I don’t WANT new clothes! I want to wear MY OLD CLOTHES!” Oh, motherhood).
About halfway through trying on clothes, and coming to grips with the fact that I was trying on clothes one size up, I stopped. I looked at my mommy figure long and hard – the soft curves that were never there before children. The matronly figure that birthed three children in five years. I thought long and hard about the fact that motherhood is a selfless act, day and night, with young children. We even put our figures on the line for the wee baby.
Well, I drove my SWEET grey minivan home with my new stack of “bigger” clothes. I walked in the door and there was baby Hannah having tummy time on the living room rug. As soon as she saw me, she broke into a gigantic, toothless gummy grin. I threw my new clothes on the counter, and scooped up my chubby-cheeked baby, pressing her cheek against my cheek.
And suddenly, that bigger “temporary” size was worth it.

 

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I never want to take the gift of parenthood for granted. I know there are hundreds of women that would love to be able to birth a baby and have a “post-baby” squishy body like mine. How can I complain about the aftermath of one of God’s greatest gifts: a child.
Thank you, Lord, for my sweet baby Hannah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is hands-down one of my most favorite quotes to remember while parenting the little years. Each night, after our three young children are tucked in bed, David and I try to tell each other something cute one of the kids did to keep a fresh, positive perspective in the middle of a lot of work and diapers! I believe with all my heart that it’s the small ordinary extraordinary moments that we share each day with our children that are some of the best moments of our life! We just have to keep a good perspective to discover them! What’s something cute YOUR little darling did today? Focus on THAT instead of the mess and stress! We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can ALWAYS change our outlook and attitude.

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Want more like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.