Seven Quick Takes: Life, in Photos

Dear friends, it’s been awhile!  My three little whirlwinds have been keeping me busy, and also we moved a couple months ago.  I keep thinking it will calm down enough that I will start blogging again, but it hasn’t happened yet.  However, I’ve been admiring other people’s Seven Quick Takes (7QT) posts for years now, so I thought I would throw together one of my own.  No theme to this post except … “seven things I’ve taken photos of over the past month or so.”  Enjoy!

ONE: Our little runner, dancer, climber Rachel has finally had her first serious fall – from a patio chair headfirst onto the stone patio.  Ouch!  She cried pretty hard, but it was nothing that a nursing session and some Tylenol could not solve.  On the left is Rachel on the day of the fall, maybe an hour later.  Pretty bruised-up but happy as a clam!  On the right is a photo of the black eye that she still had more than a week later!  For the record, at this age, big sister Elizabeth was not climbing – she was not even walking yet.

TWO: I ran a race!  It wasn’t my fastest 5K, by a long shot, but it was far from my slowest either.  It wasn’t a great run, but I did my best to enjoy the gorgeous course, all along the St. Joe river in Mishawaka.  Absolutely the best part of the race was my kids.  Pete brought them along and they (1) had a ton of fun playing around the little waterfalls in Buetter Park, (2) gave me a boost during my third mile when I felt like dying, and (3) spent the whole ride home talking about when they would be able to run races.  Be still my heart!

THREE: A friend asked for help making desserts for her son’s graduation party, and I was so happy to have an excuse to make Smitten Kitchen’s confetti cookies for the first time.  Word to the wise, if you make a double batch, you will need two large containers of sprinkles.  (Although I think in PA growing up we called them jimmies …)

FOUR: South Bend recently had a flurry of fun events happening for the “Best Week Ever.”  We were really excited about one event in particular involving bubble-blowing and chamber music, and I was devastated when we got there and realized it had ended early.  If I had been on my own, I would have pursued this excellent course of action: drag my kids around the Century Center looking for someone who could explain why the event had ended early.  Impress upon them how unhappy we were about the event having ended early.  Go home feeling miserable about having missed the event and beating myself up for not having gone earlier.  Instead, thank you Lord, I have an awesome husband who handles such situations much better.  We walked across the river (as I silently grumbled about how hot it was and how I hadn’t planned to take a big walk with the kids so they didn’t have good shoes on and I hadn’t packed enough water), made our way through a mediocre craft fair, and then found our children transfixed by the East Race.  We got to see a number of people tubing or kayaking down the river, including one little boat that capsized (no injuries, thank goodness), and our girls never wanted to leave.  They went home entirely happy, and by the grace of God (and the smarts of my husband) I was pretty happy too.


FIVE: One of the great blessings of life at our new house is that our across-the-street neighbors are now next-door neighbors.  You wouldn’t think it would make that much difference, but our kids are 5, 3, and 1, and theirs are 4 and 2, and pretty much none of them can/should cross the street solo.  What they can do is see each other every time they are playing outside, and ask to play together, and most of the time we say yes.  The girls love Gabe and Silas (“Gaaaaae!  Siya!” Rachel calls whenever we see them) and it’s been awesome to have built-in playmates right next door.


SIX: The Sunburst 10K, half-marathon, and marathon passed directly outside of our house this year.  Pete ran the 10K, and the girls and I had an awesome morning cheering on the runners.  We blasted Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” on repeat through the morning (and somehow I actually never got tired of it), we set up the sprinkler for overheated runners to run through, and we clapped and cheered and blew bubbles as the crowd ran by.  We got a little tired & sunburned by the end of the morning, but it was worth it.

SEVEN: Another highlight of our new home is our sunroom, which has a gorgeous view of the sunrise in the mornings.  One morning Maggie sat at our little kid table next to the windows to enjoy the sunshine with her favorite bear.  The view of Maggie was even better than the view of the sunrise.

Thanks for reading my first 7QT!  There’s a lot more out there if you want to keep reading.  Happy Friday!

Songs & a Sermon for Holy Week

Hello busy mamas! I’ve started a YouTube playlist of excellent Good Friday songs. Particularly Thief by Third Day. I play on listening to this today in the midst of our hustle and bustle. I’ve always found that something like this helps to preserve the solemnity of this particular day.

Also, tomorrow, I’m looking forward to meditating on the Holy Saturday sermon that I posted last year.

Have a blessed remainder of this Holy Week.



Potty Talk

We are potty training our 4 year old, and I want to share about it, being careful to stick to the mothering side of it, and to speak well of her. She could be reading this in a couple of years!

A couple quick observations, as this is all we have time for:

  1. Dedicating time to this is of course essential. I had to decide to be willing to sit with her for up to an hour at a time, reading, singing, waiting, encouraging, etc.
  2. This is my Lenten penance. And I keep telling myself that it isn’t petty or choosing the “easy”, “obvious” thing. Choosing love in ordinary circumstances is harder, for me, than choosing some heroic deprivation that isn’t related to my friends and relations.
  3. The Holy Spirit is awesome on the subject of potty training. For instance, I prayed/yelped out to the Lord several weeks ago: ‘I have NO IDEA what to do! The date to start is coming and I’m FREAKING out!!! This will be the hardest child to train IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!’ And, behold, The One Day Method popped into my mind. From the little I had heard, I suddenly realized that it would be perfect for the personality of our daughter. More planning/prep for me, but perfect. I didn’t think of it until I prayed, and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to choose it (procrastinator that I am), if it hadn’t been presented through prayer.
  4. Day 3, I penciled in a visit to friends if ‘things were going well’. The day before, I sent that mama a text saying we were good to go. Day of, that didn’t seem to be the case (I’ll spare you the details), but, again, I thought it had been an inspiration of the Holy Spirit the day before to decide to go, so after waffling for 3 hours that morning, I went ahead and got us out the door. It turned out to be helpful to my social butterfly, even though getting out of the house on day 3 does not strictly follow the method.
  5. The Spirit blows where it wills.

Gotta run. Pray for us, as we are praying for you!

Happy Lent!

Mary Clare


the hungry jacket, and other toddler tricks

In my last post, I mentioned I’d found a new parenting book that was immediately effective for me.  Honestly, it’s been so helpful that I feel like the Holy Spirit put it right in front of me so I couldn’t miss it – so of course I have to share it with you here.

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen is written by the daughters of the women who wrote the parenting classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  I skimmed that older book a few years ago, and didn’t find it helpful for my kids at that time; but this new book has been stunningly relevant and effective for me.  Before I was halfway finished reading my library copy, I ordered a paperback from Amazon because I knew I would be consulting it over and over for years to come.

I’m not going to write an entire book review here, but I wanted to share a few quick stories.   First, in their discussion of rewards and punishments, the authors suggest using rewards for your kids in the same way you use them for yourself.  You promise yourself a piece of chocolate after doing the dishes, or a few minutes of leisure reading after evening chores, as something to look forward to.  It’s less of a bribe and more truly a reward.

So the next time I was having my kids pick up the basement playroom, I worded things differently.  Instead of “if you clean up the whole basement you can watch a video,” I told them, “At 5:00 I’m going to put on your favorite show.  But it’s only 4:15 now, so you might even get some extra TV time, because we’ll turn on the TV as soon as we’re all finished cleaning up the basement.”  I was delighted to see that they started cleaning up without the usual tantrums – and they didn’t even rush upstairs to the TV when we were done, but stayed in the basement for a few minutes to enjoy how clean it was.  (Specifically, to roll around on the clean carpet.  Ha!)

Another trick I’ve been having major, major success with is to use playfulness to elicit cooperation.  When I need my two-year-old to get her jacket on to leave a friend’s house, I put the sleeve in front of my face and say in a funny voice, “I’m so hungry!  Please feed me a hand!  Oh, pleeeeease, pleeease, can I eat Elizabeth’s hand?”  I cannot get over how effective this is.  Not only does she put her coat on, she is smiling as she does it (probably because I continue with “Yum yum yum yum yum, this hand is deliiiiiicious!”)

Playfulness got us out of playgroup and into the car last week, too.   This suggestion was straight from the book: “How should we walk to the car?  Should we take big steps or little tiny steps?  OK, tiny ones – look, here are my little tiny tiptoe steps!  We’re tiptoeing to the car!”  (Another version that I haven’t used yet is, “What kind of animal should we be, walking to the car?  Should we be tigers or elephants?”

I’ve also used playfulness in a few different ways to get the girls up the stairs at bedtime.  In the past I’ve tried “Who can get upstairs the fastest” games, with only modest success, but recently I modified it to “First one up the stairs gets the first five hugs!  Second one up the stairs gets … the second five hugs!”  Worked like a charm.  Then last night when only the two-year-old was refusing to go upstairs, I paused and pretended to listen.  “Wait.  Do you hear that?  It’s your bedtime bunny.  I think he’s crying!  We’d better go check on him.”  She scampered upstairs without a second thought.

Well, the baby is crying so I’d better go.  But you don’t need any more description from me anyway.  Go to the library or go to Amazon.  Get the book, read it, try it, then come back and tell us all YOUR stories!

motherhood is not impossible

img_5902A few weeks ago I was surprisingly encouraged by an article that told me to stop whining.  Although the headline is a little overdone and the author is, I think, overly harsh toward her fellow mothers, I thought her diagnosis of modern motherhood was spot-on.  First, she pointed out that we’ve managed to make motherhood “simultaneously insignificant but also impossibly hard.”  YES!  And then she went on to say, basically, it is hard work that we don’t know how to do well; so it seems impossible; so we give up.

They do not know how to get their toddler to come when called. Therefore, toddlers aren’t controllable. They do not know how to stay caught up with the laundry and the grocery shopping. Therefore, the life of a mom is inherently a crazy cycle of unfair drudgery. They have tried—perhaps tried hard—and given up. They have decided that, like labor and delivery, all of motherhood is something to be waited out.

Mussman’s radical proposal is that instead of giving up and suffering through motherhood, we learn to do it better.  Genius, right? Continue reading

Where in the World

…have I been? Well, so distracted that I don’t remember if I told you all that I have started working outside the home. And by “working”, I mean 4-7 hours per week. Sound do-able? I thought so too! I mean, that’s really not a lot of time. It was a fascinating and strange process to discern whether to do this.

Here’re some rambling observations…maybe there are others out there with similar experience…

  • The job is for Marriage in Christ, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Attend a seminar!
  • We did one 3 years ago, and the fruit just goes on and on. For instance, I have [nearly] ceased [almost] all of my Erik Improvement Projects. If you have ever thought that you knew what your husband should be doing or should be like, you know what I mean. It is slow and subtle personal poison.
  • Priorities: God comes first, our spouse second, kids third, and then everything else comes after that.
  • So, what’s a gal to do when a job is for God? Does that make it a #4 or a #1 priority?!
  • In fact, even if you are not working directly for a religion-based program/church…isn’t everything we do missional?
  • Isn’t “missional” a word? Spell check is yelling at me right now.
  • Even at only 5 hours a week, and even if I do most of it while they nap, I still feel divided. My attention is divided. The kids are affected by this.
  • Exactly a week ago plus 2.18 hours [this means dinner prep time and is also known as
    “the witching hour”. Anyone with young kids knows what I mean.], I was helping my daughter tape something, but all I could think about was washing lettuce for dinner. When I finally headed into the kitchen I just HAD to call our babysitter’s mother first to set something up for Monday. She happened to ring me at that second, and we talked about Monday and 2 other things (by the way, about Monday I had to call her TWO more times to clarify because I was so distracted by unwashed lettuce the first time), and all the sudden I look down, and one of the kids is whining loudly and hitting me.

    • For how long had they been hitting me?
    • For how long had they been whining?
    • I don’t know.
    • In what other occupation can a person be abused, and not even notice it?

Motherhood is interesting.

The end, and God bless you!


life with my asthmatic child

img_5806My two-year-old knows how to say “nebulizer” and is a pro at taking medication.  My five-year-old keeps us on our toes, making sure her sister gets her twice-daily breathing treatment and her evening pill.  I carry an inhaler in my diaper bag, I’ve made space in the closet for storing extra asthma equipment, and I’ve finally learned how to pronounce “budesonide.”  But we still haven’t quite learned how to live with asthma.

Our first trip to the hospital was almost a year ago.  Elizabeth had a cold, and she was wheezing.  It had happened before, but it seemed like it might be getting worse, and I was beginning to worry.  I took her in to urgent care so they could have a look.  To my surprise, they sent us to the ER, and she stayed there overnight.  It was the first of four hospital trips during 2016; four ER visits, two overnight stays, one pneumonia diagnosis, two diagnoses of reactive airway disease, and then, eventually, they finally said she has asthma.

She only has it when she has a cold, but she catches colds frequently, and the ensuing asthma attacks are both fierce and stubborn – they take her into serious wheezing, and her oxygen saturation dips, and she doesn’t always respond quickly enough to the albuterol we give her when it happens.  Once, her breathing declined so precipitously that the ER even gave her oxygen.

I have never been scared that she would stop breathing – the worry I’ve felt when she begins to decline is more vague than that, just a gut-level knowledge that she needs help, this is not OK.  I am grateful that we live so close to the hospital, and grateful for the ER staff who each time have treated our wheezing child right away.

I’ve found myself somewhat bewildered by this new world of chronic illness.  Oh, it is so mild compared to what many other families have experienced!  I have not even an inkling of what parents experience when their child has a life-threatening disease.  But still – it has been quite an experience.

One flash point for me was when, after Elizabeth’s most recent attack, her doctor decided to add a pill to her daily preventative medicine regimen.  I looked up the medication online to learn more about it, and was stunned by the list of possible side effects.  I was grieved at the thought that my baby might get headaches from her medicine – would she even know how to tell me about it? – and alarmed that the medicine could cause mood changes or aggressive behavior.  What if I lose my sweet baby girl?  Of course those side effects are rare, and she’s been on the new med for weeks now without any trouble, praise God.  But just the possibility of all that woke me up to the seriousness of the situation.  Is she really so sick that we must risk all this?

As our journey with asthma has progressed, we’ve become more and more wary of germs.  I quit going to the Y months ago so Elizabeth wouldn’t be playing with sick kids in childcare there.  More recently, we’ve gone to fewer and fewer playgroups, and called off multiple playdates due to friends’ kids having colds.  We don’t use the cry room at church anymore or send Elizabeth to childcare at People of Praise meetings.  When we bring the girls to an event with other kids, I am on high alert the whole time, wincing at the sound of a nearby cough, rushing Elizabeth to the bathroom to wash her hands when I catch her playing with a runny-nosed friend.

Often we need to simply stay at home by ourselves for awhile.  Elizabeth is more susceptible to infection when she’s already recovering from a cold; so when she gets sick, first we stay home to keep other people healthy, and then we stay home to keep Elizabeth healthy.  And then we stay home because I simply forget to start going out again.  Or we schedule a playdate, but it gets called off, because little kids just get sick a lot!  One way or another, it’s common for weeks to go by when I don’t take my younger girls anywhere but preschool pickup and grocery shopping.

I am grateful that Elizabeth is a peaceful, contented little homebody.  She is easy to be with and easy to take care of.  She loves to help me bake, and is very good at it for her age.  She loves to color, and to play with toys, and she can play independently for most of the morning while keeping up some low-key chatter with me.  Although she enjoys her friends, she has yet to complain about how infrequently we see them, or to be sad that we miss playgroup so often.

But I know the way we are living right now is not sustainable long-term.  Hopefully, it will not be necessary to live like this long-term.  Maybe the asthma attacks will become less serious as she gets older, and we won’t need to keep her away from every germ; or maybe the new medication will prove its worth and she won’t have any serious attacks anymore.

I haven’t written this post to share wisdom about how awesomely we handle this challenge, and I haven’t really written it to ask for your prayers either, although prayers are always welcome.  I mostly just wanted to share with you, my friends, what our life has looked like lately – and maybe to clarify why those of you in town haven’t seen us around at playgroup much!  This is our life.  I hope it won’t look like this for very long, but this is where we are right now.

Best Home Hacks of 2016


Ladies (and gentlemen), I am thrilled to pieces over this kitchen hack:  (I found it first through this article, through Pinterest.)

No more hand shredding of chicken!!! It totally works to get it all nicely shredded in your stand mixer using this paddle attachment, and I used the same method for pulled pork last week. The above tip advises that the chicken be still warm when you let it whirl. I have found over the last year that barely warm is best, or else too much steam escapes and the chicken gets dry.

Oh, and I know you’re wondering if it’s worth hauling out and cleaning your Kitchen Aid simply to shred chicken. For me, it totally is. I am the world’s slowest shredder, and also prone to carpel tunnel syndrome. This trick accomplishes the same thing in 5 minutes (including cleaning time), without the ache and hand damage.


And then there’s this book holder, reversed to hold a tablet that is courtesy of yours truly. My kids can have a little screen time without being couch potatoes, because they have to stand in order to see it. Reversing it accomplishes the needed angle. Also, it is too high for them to reach, which in turn frees up MORE dinner prep time since I don’t have to run in and reverse anything little fingers have accomplished on the tablet. Win. Win. Win. Win.





God bless you all this season. Hope you are closing the year with some real gratitude, some accomplishments under your homemaking belt, etc. If it’s been too tough to think of or do anything (been there!), sneak one of these in before Jan 1, and BAM!, successful 2016. 😀 (I say this somewhat sarcastically, and at the risk of sounding shallow. But really, it has helped me personally to look back at easy things I learned that have made a positive difference in our lives this year. A week or so ago, I couldn’t think of anything. It’s weird how easy it is to forget good things. These here in this post are little things, but still so very helpful, and completely worth celebrating.)


they don’t mean anything by it


Socks in my pockets, socks in my diaper bag, socks scattered all over my house.  Socks anywhere but my baby’s feet.  Colder weather has begun, and I can no longer ignore the fact that my daughter’s bare feet will be cold when we go outside.  Alas, I also cannot control the fact that my daughter’s feet will be bare, and cold, when we go outside.  Babies take socks off; it’s a fact of life.  Yes, you can complicate it for the kiddo by putting shoes on her too, but a determined baby will usually figure out how to pull off her shoes as well.  Such is life.  It doesn’t bother me.

But it does seem to bother all the old ladies at the grocery store.

“Oooh, look at your little cold feet!”

“Oh my goodness, no socks?”

“Aww, look at your little piggies, aren’t you cold?”

I grit my teeth when the grandmothers of the world begin these conversations.  It always seems like they are passing judgement on my fitness to be a parent, and it always puts me on the defensive.  Babies always take their socks off.  You put them back on again, they take them back off again.  Most of these women have raised children – don’t they remember?

The state of my daughter’s feet has begun to be dependent not on the weather, but on the likelihood that someone will see her and comment on her poor cold little feet.  If we’re going to playgroup (where nobody will care), or to pick up her older sister at preschool (where nobody will see her in the car), I don’t bother to put socks on her.  If we’re going for a walk around the block, I definitely won’t put socks on her, because she’ll take them off and drop them on the sidewalk, never to be found again.  But the grocery store?  Definitely socks.  Except I’ll often take her outside barefoot and then put socks on her in the lobby of the grocery store, so as to maximize the amount of time in the grocery store that she will actually still have the socks on her feet.

Sometimes when a bystander comments on the barefoot babe, I’ll whip the socks out of my coat pocket to show them.  “Oh yeah, she had socks on, she just took them off a moment ago, of course I’ll put them back on her before we go outside.”  Other times I will just try to nod and smile or shrug to quietly communicate, “Yup, what can you do?”  And sometimes I’ll smile distractedly while intently surveying the bottles of salad dressing in front of me, in hopes that I won’t actually need to respond.

I came home from a grocery trip a few weeks ago completely flustered by one of these conversations.  The baby and the two-year-old had both been fussing throughout the trip, so by the end of it I was completely drained.  The bystander commentary (a grandpa this time) came 40 minutes into the trip, and it felt like an assault on my character.  But as I relayed the story later to my husband, I finally realized, he didn’t mean anything by it.

None of them ever mean anything by it.

Really – they literally don’t mean anything by it.

It is not a premeditated conversation.  None of these little old ladies are thinking to themselves, “I’d better set that mom straight.  She’s not taking good enough care of her children.”  They’re not even thinking, “She must not realize how cold it is!  I’ll just give her a gentle reminder.”  Instead, “poor little cold feet” is really on par with “Cold enough for you?” or on a rainy day, “Sure is wet out there!”  These little old ladies are not seeking to engage me in conversation about the care of my children.  It’s much more innocent:

They are drawn to my children.

And they simply want to connect.

They are reaching out, with just the first words that come to mind, because they actually love the sight of my beautiful babies.  They loved raising their own babies and it makes them smile to see mine.  If I stop listening and look instead, I’ll see that these grandmothers of the world are usually smiling as they’re looking at my kiddos – not frowning at their bare feet.

It’s still hard, because I often do need to respond, and what do I say?  I have yet to come up with the perfect response; I’m still not sure how to avoid becoming defensive.  But here’s hoping that I can remember, the next time, she doesn’t mean anything by it.  She literally doesn’t mean anything.