The Last Summer

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The last summer

Every Sunday, my husband David and I have a scheduling meeting to go over the week. We often sit down with steaming mugs of coffee to add some comfort to a high-stress meeting. Ha! I grab my hanging wall calendar, he grabs his iphone calendar and we schedule. When I leave, I know what events to RSVP for, what things to cancel if we are overbooked, our date night, what meals we will eat at home, etc.

After our meeting last Sunday, I was paging through the next few months to see about a trip. And suddenly, I saw a date scribbled on the last week of August in green sharpie marker: “Samson’s 1st day of school!”

And my heart missed a beat.

Samson’s first day of kindergarten may not seem like a big deal. But to me, it’s the end of an era. It’s the end of unscheduled little people days. Those beautiful, long days full of mothering and home and no itinerary. We will now always have school. And a schedule. And homework. And deadlines. And we will have all of this until he leaves the house as a grown man.

It’s the end of just me and my babies, day after day. Playdate? Any day of the week. Library story hour? Sure! Park for an hour. Anytime!

And suddenly, the past six years of slow, simple living has flown by. Poof! It’s gone. How I wish I could go back to my frazzled, overwhelmed new-mother self and say a few words. So I will say these words to you, new mama, “ENJOY THIS TIME! YOU WILL NEVER GET IT BACK! ENJOY THIS GIFT FROM ABOVE OF LONG, UNSCHEDULED DAYS FULL OF BABIES, TODDLERS, AND HAPPINESS!”

I look back on the blur of six-years of little people living. In the midst of the diaper blizzard, I remember at times resenting the slow, simple days. I remember resenting the loss of “my old life” and struggling to stay afloat in the storm of constant messes, spills, interruptions, etc.

But now I see those days are a gift. A gift, I say! Do you hear that tired, overwhelmed new mom? A beautiful season that FORCES you to stay in the present, and see the little things in life. “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”

Yes, I know mothering the little years is constant. It is all day and all night long. But never again will you have long, unscheduled days to just be with your little angels. So enjoy them.

I am excited for kindergarten, I really am. But when I swooped up my baby Hannah today, I held her an extra-long time on the couch. She turns one next month. I fingered her pea-sized toes, squished those thighs the size of Texas and stroked her fine baby curls at the nape of her neck. I smelled that baby smell on her neck and we made silly sounds, back and forth. I don’t want to fast-forward this baby chapter of my life, or complain my days away until my kids are older. I want to enjoy this season, and be grateful.

So I stopped right there on my boring brown couch. And I THANKED God for these little years. I THANKED God for my little people. It’s such a privilege to be a mother. (So many women can’t be a mom). It’s such a privilege to be a stay-at-home mother. (Can you believe our “job” each day is to be with these little ones and see life through the eyes of pure, young children?)

There’s only a month and a half of summer left. I am going to cherish these long summer days even more. It’s the last summer of mothering my little people full-time. And I want to savor each day.

“Behold, children are a gift from above.”


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Samson had his first golf lesson last Saturday. Right before we left the house for the lesson, David asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to take him? I know you’ve had a long week and you could stay home with the girls and rest.” It sounded delicious, but then I remembered and responded with iron resolve, “No, I’d really like to take him, if you don’t mind. I need to do something fun with him and have some mom/son time.” And so we did. We had little man conversations on the way over in the ‘ol minivan. I chatted up golf (I grew up on the golf course) and we had fun during the lesson and talking about it for the next week. If we don’t have FUN with our kids, we don’t have FUN memories to carry us through the stresses of parenting. Samson and I are TOTALLY different in our make-up, and we clash a lot. That’s why that little golf lesson was so important. Have fun with your little one this summer! Make some fun memories to offset parenting stresses!

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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.

Esther’s First Ballet Lesson

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When I was a tired mother of a baby and a toddler, I enjoyed reading one chapter of the book “Mitten Strings from God” before I went to sleep each night. Her nostalgic, beautifully written stories of motherhood made me savor my children as gifts, instead of just work all day. So, every now and then, I want to stop and write a little story about my children to keep a right perspective. To slow down and treasure these days with my little people. And hopefully, when you finish this story, you will remember something you did with YOUR little darling that you want to “stop and smell”.

 

Yesterday was another red-letter day for me as a mom. It was my darling baby girl Esther’s first ballet lesson! She just turned three this spring, so she is a bit young. But when my friend found a cute summer class, I said IS THE POPE CATHOLIC? I HAVE A BABY GIRL AND YES I WANT HER TO TAKE BALLET!!!

 

My kind mother enrolled my sister and me in ballet. Not when we were three, but probably around age 10. I remember feeling so proud when my mom would slick back my hair into a tight bun. Then she would douse us in a cloud of hair spray to keep it in place. We went to a Christian ballet school where we wore modest recital costumes and danced to worship music. I feel ballet teaches girls confidence, poise (we are southern, y’all!), good posture, and, of course, it’s a lot of fun.

 

Esther’s ballet class was in the late afternoon. I had meticulously planned the day out so she could nap before the class, and then we would leave baby Hannah and Samson with a babysitter for our special “big girl” date. But my tiny ballerina did not sleep a wink because she was too excited.

FINALLY, I pulled her out of her princess bed to get ready and leave. We had been talking about this day for months. “Esther! It’s time to go to ballet class! Let’s get your tights on!”

 

And that was the moment. That was the moment that hit me like a train. God gave me this precious baby GIRL, and we were about to go to her first ballet class.

 

Is this my real life? Somebody pinch me. How blessed I am! I can’t believe God made me a mama! I can’t believe he gave me a darling GIRL! Thank you, Lord, for this little gift from above! I do not take it for granted!

 

I sat her down in my lap to put her tights on. (I didn’t know how else to do it – ha!) Then slowly yanked up the “sparkly pink” tights over her tan toddler legs. Next we pushed her arms through the black leotard, that showed off her little girl pot-belly. SO CUTE!!!!

 

And of course, I savored each hairbrush stroke, pulling her scratchy post-swimming blonde hair into her first ballet bun.

 

The babysitter arrived, but as Esther and I were about to leave, Samson unexpectedly jumped up from playing Transformers. “Mom, I want to go! I want to cheer Esther at her ballet class!” What? He started pulling on flip flops. I looked at his mismatched outfit that he had chosen, thought about the possibility of him getting bored for an hour class. But when he and Esther were both looking up at me with big eyes, how could I say “no” to a big brother who asked to “cheer” his little sister at her first ballet class.

When we arrived, her teacher immediately stuffed Esther’s ballet shoe strings inside her shoes like all the other girls (my bad) and then asked Esther to go spit out her gum in the trash can (my bad again – real classy ballet mom here). *Newbie Ballet Mom alert.*

 

The teacher instructed the girls to sit in a circle. The miniature dancers were all age three or four. Esther called out across the room to me, in front of everyone, “Mama! I HOPE I WIN!!!!”

 

(What can I say. We play a lot of sports.)

 

Esther had a glorious time. She listened intently with big Precious Moments doll eyes to all the instructions. She gave me a thumbs up across the room. And I gave her one back. Her cheeks were bright red and she felt so proud. Just as I did, when I danced.

 

And, three times, her six-year-old, white-haired older brother in the mismatched outfit beside me chanted, “GO ESTHER! GO ESTHER! GO ESTHER!”

 

After the class, I took them for a special treat smoothie under the blazing Texas summer sun on the way home. At a stop light, I turned around and looked at my tiny dancer in her car seat in our grey minivan, quietly sucking her smoothie from a red straw.

 

And I thought, I AM SO BLESSED. Thank you, God, for the gift of children.

 

 “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Ps. 127:3

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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.

Perspective in the little years

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During the girls’ naptime, Samson’s imagination and independent play run wild. Today he created an elaborate party, complete with kid snacks at each of our places at our wooden kitchen table, games like “bobbing for apples” set out (my stainless steel mixing bowl full of water on the kitchen floor with a lone apple floating, etc. so sweet!)

When I walked upstairs, I asked him about these five pictures. Samson said they were our family – the “guests” invited to the party – “this is dad, this is you, this is me, this is Esther, and this is baby Hannah.”

We don’t have a perfect family by any means. I yell at the kids. We have a lot of crying. Samson and Esther fight every day. LOL! But family is something wonderful. Family is our foundation, even from a young age. Samson draws pictures of our family often. Three-year-old Esther draws pictures of our family often, as well.

I don’t think it is by coincidence. I think children feel secure and safe in a family. So maybe you messed up a little bit today parenting. Don’t worry. Your children are going to be fine. They know they are smack dab in the middle of the family where they belong. And belonging to a family that loves you is one of the greatest gifts you can offer your child.

(PS watching Samson bob for that Apple was the best part of my day – his proud dripping face with a big apple in his mouth. These are the happiest days of my life!) #stopandsmellyourchildren

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So I’m plowing through my day as a mom of three little ones, busy busy busy. Running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, changing a diaper, slapping together a PBJ sandwhich and slicing it into small sandwiches like a ninja warrior mom, wiping a bottom, etc. Real glamorous, this real mom life. But then my mom will say ONE SENTENCE to me in her soft, feminine voice during our daily phone chat and BAM life is jolted back into perspective.

I was cleaning up after we had some friends over, and telling her how happy it made me to have people at my house and see them relaxing and being refreshed. Then she said, “Leah, when you get to be my age, you look back on your life and suddenly you wish you spent your time doing things that mattered. Really mattered in light of eternity. And serving others is something you will never regret. We have so little time on earth, and it’s so easy to spend time being busy with things that don’t really have any eternal significance. But remember, relationships are the only thing you are going to take to heaven.” We made a little chit chat, then I hung up the phone.

I looked out the window at the day that used to be long and dull until Dave got home, but now seemed short and precious. How I hope to live my life eternally-focused, and eternally-driven.

How I hope to be like my mom each day – to see the value in people and service. We have this one life to live. Give us grace, Father, to focus our efforts and time on things that MATTER to YOU.

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I am a mom of three children, age five-and-under. Every day I feel behind. Every day I feel a little overwhelmed. Every day I feel like I didn’t get everything done. BUT, in the chaos, I get to have sweet little companions by my side. Little shadows everywhere I go. Little feet pattering after me if I leave a room. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. ❤️❤️❤️

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If you look closely, this is a special Transformer, created by transforming five different Transformers into one big “Bruticus” Transformer. Samson has wanted him for a long time, but Dave said he had to do certain chores cheerfully, and without being told or reminded, each day. And at the end of each week, he could buy ONE of the five prized Transformers if he did his chores. Today he finally got to go with Dave to snag the final Transformer. ?

We’ve been reading Laura Ingels Wilder’s book Farmer Boy in the afternoons when the girls nap. Samson was inspired by Almonzo’s good work ethic – rising at 5am to work the farm in the cold! I am grateful for books that inspire my children toward good character. I love how Sally Clarkson says if you read stories like this to your children, they will emerge from your home picturing themselves as heroes and heroines in a dark world, doing right when no one is watching.

My favorite part tonight, though, was watching Dave slowly following the 82726251 steps to transform all five into one robot – and there was Samson, with his white hair and blue eyes, silently and intently studying his dad’s every move. It reminded me of a sentence in Farmer Boy we read: “Almonzo was sure that Father was the smartest man in the world, as well as the biggest and strongest.” I love my two daughters something fierce, but a daddy/son relationship is PRECIOUS. I LOVE BEING A PARENT!!!! These are the best days of my life!!! ❤️❤️❤️

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My mom calls these little “love marks” from dirty, fat baby hands clutching their mama while being held on the hip. I will miss these end-of-day “love marks” someday! ???❤️❤️❤️#stopandsmellyourchildren

 


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.

Why I Believe in Vacationing with Kids

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This picture, to me, is what vacations with kids are all about: THE FUN MEMORIES.

My dad’s dad – my grandfather – owned several successful businesses in Pine-tree-dotted small town Magnolia, Arkansas. But unfortunately, he went to be with the Lord at a young age. My mother never even met him. I think that experience made my dad really purpose to create fun memories with his children. He knew life was short, and the only thing you have at the end of life are the memories you shared with those you love. So, he and my mom bravely took all five of their children camping, road tripping, etc – it wasn’t always glamorous, but it was always FUN. We built FUN MEMORIES with our siblings and parents that we still talk about today in adulthood.

I’ve never been a huge spender. But I’m a softie for vacations and memory-making activities. I just don’t think I will ever regret one red cent spent on creating fun moments between me and those I love the most. And if you think about it, if we do nothing, your family can deteriorate to just room mates that exist together vs. fun best friends. THAT’S WHY I LOVE TRAVELING! It helps snap us out of care taking mode and into fun! I.e. Mean Drill Sergeant Mom is suddenly fun hotel roommate in a pillow fight. Bedtime Taskmaster Dad is the one to beat on the hotel hallway races to the elevator. Samson and Esther create FUN memories to talk about for days and weeks to come, “Esser! ‘Member ‘dat CWAZY big BOAT RIDE?!?!?”

Yes, vacations are a lot of work with little kids. (My friends call the family TRIPS, not VACATIONS). Esther did puke all over her carsear from carsickness, bless her heart. (Such a nice smell while driving in an enclosed area for five hours.) And no three-year-old can pack themselves. But the memories? PRICELESS.

And what you don’t see in this picture is the weeks of tough parenting Samson and I have been battling. (We’ve really been working on respectful, cheerful obedience when I tell him to do something – and I thought a strong-willed toddler was exhausting ?).

But when a tickle game started, this is exactly what frustrated mom vs. defiant six-year-old boy needed. A laugh over a $3 custard vacation sundae.

That’s why I love vacations.

“Take vacations. Go as many places as you can. You can always make money. You can’t always make memories.”

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Why are hotels so magical to kids? I don’t know. The novelty, I guess. I never tire of them bursting in the door of a very normal hotel room and gasping, “MOM! WOOK! It has TOWELS! It has a TOILET! MOM!!!! It even has a SHOWER!!!” I love experiencing life through little eyes!#stopandsmellyourchildren

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.

Working Out Post-Children

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I went running for the first time since having Hannah this week. (Because, what better time to start than at THE BEACH, right?!??)

When I was single, I used to run three times a week – even ran a few 5k and 10k races. (Light stuff compared to my sister that runs marathans, my brother that does Ironman competitions and my other two brothers that compete in body building competitions – WOA NELLIE).

Anyway, I threw on my shoes and headphones, blaring music and hit the beach before any of my tiny darlings were awake. Well. LEMME TAIL YEW, my ‘ol running bod is not the same since having my third child. I felt slow, weak, flabby and my knee hurt. And boy, was I out of breath quick.

(However, my husband just completed and WON a biathlon where he carried 30 pounds of heavy gear while running hills for 5+ miles and he NEVER walked so I was not about to stop LOL!)
After I finished my run (my old running coach told us to always sprint the final 1/4 mile – whew!), I was sweating hard. (Er, someone told me “ladies don’t sweat. They glow.” GLOWING. Whatever.)

I was mad at how out of shape I was, and more upset over how much my joints and tendons hurt with sharp pain.

Where was the old hard-core athlete me??? I felt – and looked – like an out-of-shape squishy mom.

I opened the beach condo door, and I scooped up my big-cheeked baby Hannah. I thought about this new mom body of mine.

Well, it’s only been 10-months since I birthed an almost 10-pound baby. (No wonder I’m breathing so hard). I’ve had three children in five years. (Hello Mump. Aka “mom bump” on the belly.) I’ve been pregnant a total of 30 months. (No wonder my knees are so messed up carrying all that weight.) And I’ve been hoisting and carrying fat babies and heavy toddlers for the past six years. Yes, I’m not what I used to be.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade my three sweetie pies for the world.

I’m not going to give up on working out. But I’m not going to be angry at motherhood for changing my body. Because I know too many women that are unable to bear children that would love to have a post-baby body. And I also do not easily forget how grateful I am to be able to run – and not puking every day from morning sickness. Perspective. It really does change everything.

(But just between you and me, when some hardcore running chick passes me on the beach with her washboard abs and tiny waist, everything in me wants to yell, “Hey! I had a baby 10-months ago and I’M AWESOME JUST TRYING TO RUN AGAIN!!!”
But, then again, I’m so out-of-breath I can’t say anything.)

To all the moms working out again post-baby, YOU ROCK!!!

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This picture CRACKS ME UP. Why?

It is a well-known rule in the Spina household that you may not, under any circumstances, hit anyone! You get major consequences! No excuses tolerated! We have a ZERO HITTING TOLERANCE.

(I mean, do Dave and I demonstrate physical force conflict resolution??? “Honey, did you take my iPhone charger!?!?” PUNCH TO THE SHOULDER.

? Seriously. So many times in public I want to yell out, “I DID NOT MODEL THIS TYPE OF BEHAVIOR. I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY GOT IT.”

Anyway, hitting is a big, fat no-no at our house. So my clever little darlings often resort to other forms of physical force, in hopes of smaller consequence.

So when I was trying to snap a candid shot of Esther watching Dolphins, a little boy apparently got too close to her liking.

So, naturally, mid-photo, she hip-whacked him hard.

He stared bawling. And I started apologizing profusely, while trying to stifle my wicked laughing.

Do anyone else’s kids attempt to physically resolve conflict?!??? SO EMBARRASSING.

BEWARE my sweet baby girl, THE HIP WHACKER!

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.