The Value in Writing Thank-you Notes – even as a busy mom!

When I was 12-years-old, I loved stationary and hand-writing thank-you notes. I loved opening my drawer to find the perfect card for the recipient. I had all the time in the world, and had fun trying new ways to swirl letters. I tried to be witty and heartfelt in my LONG thank-you notes. Later, I became a professional writer and even taught a class on writing good thank-you notes!

Then I had multiple young children. Ha!

(I have a six-year-old white-haired boy, four-year-old darling girl, one-year-old busy toddler and I’m pregnant with our fourth baby.)

Today when I hand-write a thank-you note, I’m slapping a stamp on with caffeinated, shaking fingers. I’m scribbling as fast as I can with horrible penmanship because I’m ALWAYS in a terrible hurry. And I’m usually writing them at 10pm at night, or 6am before anyone is up.

Everyone tells me, “Oh, Leah! You don’t need to write thank-you notes anymore! You don’t have the time – look at your life season.”

They’re right. I don’t have to.

But I’ve discovered something along my 30-something years in life. I WANT to make time to practice gratitude, even in our fast-paced society. I WANT to cultivate a grateful outlook. I WANT to view life from a thankful perspective.

I believe, with all my tired mother’s heart, that taking the time to hand write thank-you notes is important. I believe that writing thank-you notes is almost more important for YOU – the sender – than it is for the receiver.

Something happens when I start scribbling thanks. It slams the brakes on my selfish mom-caretaking day. It forces me to think, really think, about the kindness in others. The more I scribble my thanks, the more grateful I become. The more grateful I become, the happier I get. When I finish, my whole mom world is brighter. What kind people I have in my life!

For example, this morning – at 6am – I composed two brief hand-written thank you notes. One to my mother, and one to my mother-in-law. They were to thank them for each hosting an Easter dinner for our family. The more I wrote, the more it slowed me down to think of how truly kind they were! THANK YOU for taking the time to organize a play of the resurrection of Christ – it made the story come alive! Thank you for the cute wooden Easter birdhouses you had for the kids to paint! Thank you for making a delicious homemade dinner I didn’t have to cook – what a blessing! Thank you for making a “big deal” out of holidays to stop and remind us all of what is important in life – God and family!

I wouldn’t have had all these thoughts had I not stopped and slowed down to write a thank you note.

Have you ever heard the saying that, “A mother is the heart of the home”? I believe the very act of writing thank-you notes makes moms grateful and happier. This, in turn, creates a culture in our homes of gratitude and joy. Now, isn’t it worth the few minutes for that?

Proverbs 15:23 (NAS) A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!



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Facing Fear when you are a Christian

Facing fear.

13 weeks. That’s when I miscarried our second baby.

My husband David and I had gone in for a routine OBGYN visit and ultrasound at week 10. The large black screen mounted on the wall showed a beautiful baby that was still at the bottom of my uterus. Instead of the reassuring THUD, THUD, THUD of a heartbeat and a flickering light, the sonographer turned up the eerie, horrific empty sound of pure static on full volume. I ripped my eyes off the screen.

They called in another doctor to confirm the “missed miscarriage.” A term I had never heard of until that day. It meant my body was attempting to sustain a baby that was no longer living. The doctor gave me three options: go in for a D & C surgery to remove the baby, take pills to induce labor, or wait up to four weeks to see if my body would naturally pass the baby on it’s own. We chose the last option.

We walked out to the waiting room full of a sea of pregnant women with live babies in the stomachs. The receptionist, who obviously didn’t know what just happened, called after me to schedule my next prenatal appointment. Dave said we would call later and opened the glass door.

We entered the elevator to go downstairs. A mom with three beautiful, living children got on, too. I smashed my back against the elevator, my mind screaming the same two questions, “What did I do to cause this? Why did you allow this to happen, God?”

It took us a full year after the miscarriage to get pregnant again. And though I wanted to be happy, that pregnancy was rife with fear of a repeat miscarriage. Any spotting. Any cramping. I was a wreck, though I prayed Scripture and tried to surround myself with truth. But after nine long months of anguish, God graciously gave us a beautiful dark-haired baby GIRL – Esther. And after, that, He in His unmeasured goodness and mercy, gave us another gift: smiley Hannah.

And here I am again. Pregnant. With each pregnancy, it seemed the old miscarriage fears were fading. The joy was building. The happiness was even exponentially bigger because of the loss. But nothing prepared me for what happened at my 12-week appointment a week ago.

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I don’t know how other women handle announcing their pregnancies after experiencing a miscarriage. But I am just a bit more private about it until we are out of the first trimester. It’s not that I am living in fear, it’s just that I want to walk that faith hand in hand with God, my husband and our closest friends and family that are our prayer warriors. And, in my mind, passing that fated 13-week mark makes me take a breath of peace. I’m really pregnant. I’m not going to miscarry. This is going to be a healthy, real-live baby.

So we had only told family and a few close friends before my 12-week – end of the first trimester – appointment. I casually mentioned to Dave that I had an appointment for the 12-week mark to hear the heartbeat, but “you don’t have to come, Honey. I’m sure everything will be fine.” Dave grabbed my shoulder in our kitchen, “Everything will be just fine, honey. I have a business appointment, but really, it will be fine.

On the drive over, Fear started to unleash. “What if you don’t hear the heartbeat? You may have heard the heartbeat at week eight – but they measured your miscarried baby to be nine-weeks when it stopped growing. What if???? What if??”

I looked down at my hanging wall calendar in the passenger seat behind me. I brought it so I could schedule my next appointment. But would they find a heartbeat. Would I even need it?

I HATE FEAR.

I grabbed my phone and started blaring worship music in my car to drown out Fear. I was embarrassed at my lack of faith. Here I was – a Christian my whole life, a mom of three beautiful healthy living children, battling fear in my 30’s. C’mon, Leah. Get it together.

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I parked my trusty hotttttt minivan and walked in the waiting room, white as a sheet from morning sickness and on heavy medication for nausea. They were unusually busy that day and I sat for almost an hour in the waiting room with my pregnant comrades waiting for my name to be called. I started to get more sick from lack of food, and the waiting induced more Fear. They finally called my name, took my blood pressure (I wondered if my pounding heart battling fear would register), my weight and then led me back to a room.

The nurse was shutting the door when she said, “No need to undress. He’ll just be using a Doppler for the heartbeat. No sonogram today.” I tried to act casual, “Oh, so do they usually find the heartbeat easily with a Doppler at 12-weeks?” “Oh, yes. Unless the patient is heavy, and you are not, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

I laid down on the bed and waiting another long time, staring at the wall. I was so sick with nausea, but my fear was trumping my sickness. Finally, the polite knock sounded. And my heart started racing. “Please, God. Please let us hear the heartbeat.”

He squirted cold gel on my bare stomach and started the searching. And searching. And searching. “No, no. That’s your heartbeat.” He kept muttering, pushing the wand to a new location. As time passed slowly, I started to feel terror. No heartbeat. Just like last time. No live baby.

“Leah, it’s probably nothing, but it looks like I will need to do a sonogram since I’m having difficulty finding the heartbeat. Again, don’t worry – you are early and there’s probably nothing wrong. The nurse will be in shortly to show you to the sonogram room.”

I picked up my purse with shaking hands. The nurse echoed “Don’t worry” and led me to the empty sonogram room and told me the doctor would be right in. She handed me a worn washcloth to use to wipe off the gel. She shut the door behind her and left me alone.

I laid down on the sonogram chair and the towel dropped off my stomach onto the floor. I was so upset I didn’t pick it up. I felt like I was about to vomit from the morning sickness and stress. When a few minutes went by, I popped out of my chair, jabbed my ice cold hand in my purse to fish out my phone. I quickly texted my mom, sister and husband with trembling fingers, “Couldn’t find the heartbeat. Going in for a sonogram.” Then I threw the phone back in my purse like it was on fire, because I was trying to act casual. I didn’t want the nurse and doctor to know how scared I was. Oh, fear.

Fear is not of the Lord. He says, “Fear not for I am with you.” Fear and faith cannot live simultaneously.

After what felt like an eternity, the polite knock came. I did not look at the screen on the wall. I never look at sonogram screens until they detect the heartbeat. I always just study the sonographer’s face. My doctor’s face was concerned at first, because the machine wasn’t set up or turned on. He apologized with a wrinkled brow as he attempted to get the right settings. Finally it popped on.

“Ok,” he sighed, looking at the screen through his glasses.

After a few seconds, that felt like the longest seconds of my life, I muttered, “Is there a heartbeat?”

He turned on the sound, but my ears were deaf. “Is there a heartbeat? I asked again. He turned to me with a smile, the loud THUMP THUMP THUMP in the background, “Yes. Hear that?”

Oh, that joyous magical sound of life! I couldn’t help it. I don’t care if I’m in my 30’s and have been a Christian my whole life. I was a pregnant mother that desperately wanted this baby to be alive and I burst out crying, tears streaming down my cheeks. “I’m so sorry that this upset you, I’m sorry we didn’t find it sooner,” the doctor kept saying. I put my hand out, while ugly sobbing, “Oh, no. Don’t worry. I’m. Just. Glad. There’s. A. Heartbeat.”

He took more photos of the baby. The baby measured a perfect 12-weeks. He pointed out a tiny arm near the sweet little head of MY BABY. My living baby. It was all surreal from that point. I remember saying good-bye to him as he left the room. I remember tying up my turquoise converse tennis shoes. I remember picking up my phone, trying to type with wobbly fingers, “FOUND HEARTBEAT! PRAISE THE LORD!!!!”

Right above my text, was my precious husband’s text: “On my way.”

Now, ladies. I don’t know what you perceive as romantic. I don’t know what you perceive as chivalrous. But I know that text blew all my fears right out the window: my husband was on his way. Wherever he was, he was canceling and driving to me as fast as he could when he heard the news.

I will never forget that text until the day I die.

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I walked out to the scheduling room. My phone vibrated with another text from my knight in shining armor, “I’m downstairs in the lobby.” I texted him that I was making an appointment and would be right out. But when I opened the door to the waiting room, there he was. He jumped off his chair like a hot potato, and rushed to my side. “Are you ok?” he asked, grabbing my shoulders. “Yes,” I muttered. “There’s a heartbeat.”

I was then reminded how shook up I was physically, emotionally and spiritually. “Ma’am?” a lady called out. “You forgot your purse.”

Everyone in the waiting room tried not to smirk as I laughed nervously, “Oh, thank you. Ah, must be pregnancy brain.”

But really it was the surreal high of God deciding to give this baby LIFE. I couldn’t focus on much else.

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My story ends on a good note. I’ve passed the 13-week anniversary of that horrible miscarriage with a living baby. We found out last Saturday – through an amazing big gender reveal party – that this baby is a boy. A MANCHILD. (My thoughtful mother-in-law filled a piñata with blue bubble gum cigars that my husband burst in front of all the guests – so fun to celebrate LIFE and God’s GOODNESS).

But there are others – maybe you – that are facing fear with unknown outcomes right now. I am praying for you as I type. My eyes fill with sympathetic tears. I wish I could write a happy ending for everyone facing fear. I can’t. But I can tell you to cling to God, as David did through the Psalms. Even when he didn’t understand – even when he was angry with God – he kept the communication going. Keep praying. Wrestle with God, as Jacob wrestled with the angel. Surround yourself with truth and those that will point you to the God of all comfort. Go to church. Listen to worship music.

And when you walk in to hear your own personal “heartbeat” – your diagnosis – know that He is right there beside you. He is not against you. He loves you. No matter the circumstance, God is for you.


Want more stories like this? Check out Leah Spina’s Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years on Amazon or click this image.

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Finding out we were pregnant with baby #4!

How we found out we were pregnant with baby number four!

FINDING OUT

“Honey!” I whispered, shaking Dave’s sleeping form in the dark room at 6:45 am. “HONEY! I just took a pregnancy test and there is a faint line. I think I might be pregnant. But I also think I don’t know.”

Dave, half-asleep, “Can we talk about this later?”

Later that morning I showed him a very faint pink line. Dave was suspicious. “Let’s give it some time and test again.”

Oh, ok. I tried to say casually.

I immediately called my sister sheepishly the next day. “Uh, I’ve never had this happen before. But I took a pregnancy test – I am a bit early to be testing – and there was a faint line. So…”

She gushed, “OH YOU ARE TOTALLY PREGNANT.”

Over the next week, I spent Samson’s college fund buying 50-million pregnancy tests. I broke all the rules that said to wait a few days before taking a new test. I took multiple tests each day. This was the first month we had decided “it would be ok if we got pregnant again” – so I was shocked.

I was in disbelief as the line darkened with time.

I finally showed Doubting Dave the legit test results with a maroon red pregnancy line. “Honey, we really are pregnant.” He smiled. “I can’t believe it.” Neither could I.

Because I had a miscarriage after Samson, my doctor had me come in at four weeks to do a HCG and progesterone blood test, in case I needed to supplement with progesterone to decrease miscarriage risk. Thankfully, everything came back perfect.

EIGHT-WEEK SONOGRAM

At eight weeks, I went in for my first OBGYN appointment and sonogram. Because of the last miscarriage where we saw a still baby still at the bottom of my uterus on a mounted screen, I never look at the screen until they say, “There’s the heartbeat.” I just intently study the face of the sonographer.

In this case, it was my dear OBGYN who has been just wonderful for our last three pregnancies. He’s always optimistic, upbeat and kind. Sure enough, he turned up that glorious regular fast “BUMP BUMP BUMP”. He looked from the screen over to me laying on the exam table, “There’s the heartbeat.”

I can never, ever take a strong heartbeat for granted again. I smiled so big my cheeks hurt.

The baby at eight-weeks looks like a little peanut with a flickering white heartbeat. I remember my days as an investigative journalist when I researched and watched the results of sonograms on abortion-minded clients at pregnancy help centers. They said often it was the sound of the heartbeat that changed their minds even more than the sonogram. It showed there was LIFE. A beating heart. And an abortion stopped that life.

As I pushed open the glass doors to leave my doctor’s office, my black and white sonogram pictures fluttered from my hand. I clutched them with joy on the elevator ride downstairs. LIFE!

TELLING THE FAMILY

I cannot tell you how delicious it is to tell little ones they will have a new little sibling. Or to watch your parents light up like a Christmas tree at the news of a grandbaby on the way. I could have pinched myself with joy watching Dave wrestle my plastic tub of maternity clothes down from the attic.

At moments like these, I make myself STOP with gratitude to God. I do not consider children as a normal part of adulthood. I do not consider parenthood an expected experience. Oh, no. Children – each child, each pregnancy – is a gift straight from the arms of our Heavenly Father to us.

And at moments, like the maternity plastic tub wrangling, I think how we never knew if I would use those clothes again. BUT GOD! GOD in His infinite mercy and grace has decided to bless us with another precious little life to enjoy! Another wanted, darling little arrow to our quiver.

And then I think, as I watch my husband pulling down that red plastic bin, of my precious friends that have struggled with infertility or repeat miscarriages. Those that long for babies, but do not have them. My heart breaks for them, and I silently thank God for His unmerited kindness in giving us this gift.

MORNING SICKNESS

Morning sickness hit – as it has for all my other pregnancies – right at week six. Vomiting. All day nausea. Extreme food aversions. My doctor, at week four, wrote me five prescriptions for various morning sickness medications – all with maximum refill quantity. (I battle severe morning sickness). And even as I clutched my old morning sickness friend – the trusty white porcelain toilet in my bathroom – shaking, crying, vomiting… I could not help but think of how many women struggling with infertility would love to take my place. They would love to be vomiting with a healthy pregnancy.

Thank you, God, for this baby.

GENDER

For the first time, we WILL find out the gender before the baby is born this Saturday at a Gender Reveal. I don’t know whether it is a girl or boy. Only my kind mother-in-love knows, who is putting on the party. But I do know that gender is a much bigger thing than just a “perfect” family or our preferred boy or girl. Oh, no – God has such bigger perspective than our futile human minds.

He knows each child’s perfect place in history. He knows each child’s future ministry. He knows each child’s future spouse. He knows the timing of their education, vocation and even THEIR future children. It is so much bigger than we parents thinking what would be “ideal.”

May we always rejoice in God’s perfect ideal for each of our families. And may we never, ever take for granted a pregnancy. Babies are a GIFT from God.

“Oh taste and see that the LORD is good!” Psam 34:8

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Want more stories like this? Check out Leah Spina’s Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years on Amazon or click this image.

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The Power of Ordinary Motherhood

What you are doing MATTERS

 

 

I don’t think you get it, Mom. I don’t think you get it at all.

You think what you do each day is ordinary. Wiping bottoms and noses. Tossing a frozen pizza in your oven. Washing the same pan over and over.

But it’s not ordinary. It’s not ordinary at all.

IT’S EXTRAORDINARY. You are doing something absolutely amazing.

Have you ever stopped to listen to most people’s stories? Have you listened about their childhood?

Have you heard about their non-present father? Their mother that was sexually-abused as a child, then coped in adulthood by abusing alcohol? Did you hear about the things that were said to some when they were little? Horrible things that should never, ever be said to a child? Did you hear how they never had a family dinner, or a holiday together that was “normal”?

Do you hear how all these hurting, broken people are trying to recover and grow from their CHILDHOOD?
That’s where you come in, mom. Dressed in your activewear, with bags under your eyes from sleep deprivation and greasy hair because you put a child before a shower. Again.

I don’t think you realize what you are doing.

YOU ARE CHANGING THE WORLD.

I want you to do something for me. Tomorrow, I want you to stop during breakfast. I want you to look down at the little faces around your kitchen table. Do you realize what you are doing?

You are gifting those children a normal, wonderful childhood. You are gifting them a beautiful start to life. You are gifting them a firm foundation of an ordinary home of love.

And someday, your children and my children will leave our nests. They will go out in the world, but there will be something markedly different about them. Our children will have experienced a normal, beautiful childhood. They will start their careers, their traditions, their marriages and their own families with a clean slate. They won’t be trying to pull themselves out of terrible memories and dark pasts.

They will be operating out of wholeness. They will be reacting out of powerful memories of their mother – you and me. Even though you and I make mistakes, on the whole, we are gifting them a normal childhood.

They will remember what you taught them. They will remember your kind touch. They will remember your goodnight kiss. They will remember your soft hand when they were sick. They will remember three words you said over and over: “I love you!” Do you know some people have NEVER heard those words from their father or mother?

Your children will be rooted in what is eternal and lasting. They will emerge from the love of God poured out of a flawed mother each day.
What you are doing matters, I say. Ordinary motherhood is EXTRAORDINARY.

One of the greatest people I have ever known was my Grandmother: Hazel Driggers. She had a smile as big as Texas, and a soft southern drawl. She lived in pine tree-studded Magnolia, Arkansas. She had four children. And those four children had children, and those children are now having her great-grandchildren. My three children are some of her great-grandchildren.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago, but her legacy lives on. She gifted those four children a strong foundation, who passed that foundation onto the next generation and the next. The women in our great big family often quote my grandmother. She is the rock of our family. She inspires us to this day. We all live in a different way because of her.

Ordinary mothers matter.

 

You are changing the world.

13716132_805272079608596_3015883280757640174_nYou are affecting generations upon generations to come.

Your children, and their children will be blessed because of YOU – the ordinary mother.

Tomorrow, after you stop at breakfast and look at your children, I want you to do something else. I want you to look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a world-changer. When you wipe down your kitchen counter for the thousandth time, remember that you are gifting the next generation something powerful. You are gifting them a normal, extraordinary childhood.

And that, sweet friend, will change the world.

 

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God, may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

– Andy Stanley

 


Want more like this? Buy Leah Spina’s Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years on Amazon today!

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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.

Stop and Smell Your Children – ENJOY parenting!

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One thing I realized, when I was overwhelmed with a baby and a toddler, is that I couldn’t change my circumstances. Every day was chaos. Every day was full of nonstop work. And often working in the night, too! Whew! I felt like a rat on a spinning wheel that couldn’t jump off.

I knew I couldn’t change my circumstances. BUT I could always change my attitude. I could enjoy this season of young children, if I shifted my outlook.

I started reading books, and interviewing mothers and grandmothers that I admired. They helped me change my perspective.

Now I have three children, age 5 and under. I still feel like a rat on a spinning wheel that can’t jump off. BUT, I try my hardest to proactively find ways in my busy days to enjoy my little darlings. And this is one of them.

There is a big mirror hanging in our entryway enclosed in a gold frame. Whenever I am holding baby Hannah, and I pass by that mirror, I stop. I make myself STOP and break out of that mean, caretaking Dragon Mom mindset. I get baby Hannah’s attention by snapping my fingers in front of the mirror. After a few snaps, she focuses on our reflected image, and we silently smile at each other in the mirror.
I try to take a mental snapshot of how happy I am as a mother in that moment. I try to focus on the good (this squishy, two-toothed baby girl is all mine!), and forget about the bad (like a fussy baby at 3:15am last night).

I try to etch these magical parenting moments in my mind. So someday, when I am a big-haired Texas granny, I will look back and remember these glorious, ordinary moments.

Find your moments today. All it takes is shifting your outlook.

“Enjoy the little things in life, because someday you will look back, and realize they were the big things.”

ZOO PERSPECTIVE

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We went to the zoo yesterday, with everyone else in Texas.

My favorite moment was this. Riding brightly-painted plastic horses with my baby girl Esther.

I was horse crazy growing up. I mean HORSE CRAZY. I read every horse book in our local library – i.e. I read horse series like the Black Stallion three times! I didn’t care about boys – I just wanted to be in a saddle with my black velvet helmet and tall riding boots!

My little horsewoman loves horses, too. (I may, or may not, have tried to brainwash her about loving horses from a young age – I think I had bought her at least 10 My Little Pony stuffed ponies by the time she was one, and themed her first birthday ponies, and we even had a real pony at her party. ???).

Back to the zoo. Esther took a long time searching for the perfect horse to ride. Finally she settled on this flat-eared, angry-looking yellow horse. I normally just stand by her, but today it was only Esther and me (Samson and Hannah were at home), so I swung up on the cheery grey mare beside her. (More like awkwardly mounted in my mom activewear – I’m not as nimble after birthing three children in five years).

The ride started and we alternately rose and fell silently on our plastic steeds. (I hadn’t had coffee yet). Suddenly I stopped and looked over at my proud equestrian. She was very intense and took it seriously. “Mom!” She gasped in concern. “Hold BOFF hands!!!” I smiled back and grabbed the gold pole with BOTH hands and sat up, ram rod straight, like my baby girl. Up and down we went, her eyes big and happy.

And I thought about all the stress to get to that moment: Samson had pink eye, Hannah was fussing, it took forever to get out the door, we were running on empty in the minivan so had to stop at a shady gas station, the horrible traffic to the zoo, etc. And I thought, I’m so glad I “dumped” a whole morning to be right here. At this moment. To experience this fleeting happiness with my three-year-old sweetie pie.

In my dream world, someday Esther and I will ride real horses, side by side. But today, I’m savoring each creak of this wooden carousel with my tiny riding partner. These are the happiest days of my life. ❤

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What do you do when your three-year-old daughter wants to wear her scratchy, stiff “beautiful!!!” blue Easter dress every single day? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. #timeflies

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Samson knows it’s not real, but whatever. TONIGHT I GET TO BE A TOOTH FAIRY FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!!! 

ENJOY each parenting “first”!!!!! xoxo

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Sometimes when we are driving home in the minivan, and the tired baby won’t stop screaming no matter what we do, I’ll finally turn to driving Dave and say, “Hon, do you hear anything?”

Dave: “No. Do you?”

Me: “No.

 

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.