coming soon: book recommendations

Dear friends, here is a short blog post to say hello and that I am working on an AMAZING blog post that will probably take another week to write (mostly because I only find time to write on Tuesdays!).  I’m compiling a list of book recommendations from my last five years of voracious reading.  It will be awesome … but to hold you over until then, let me just say, read something by Anne Patchett or Anne Tyler … and you will be pretty happy.

See you next week (maybe?) with at least fifty more ideas for you!

I AM a Good Mum (and so are you)!

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Mums! Top of the morning to you!

My absences from the blog have been very, very long. I am indeed sorry for them. But I am also certain that this trend will not be changing in the near future. Rest assured that I think of you often as I keep up with the posts that my fellow mama-bloggers are writing – and most importantly that I take to heart the things that are being written. I am delighted to have the taking-of-things-to-heart in common with you.

I have been trying to focus and narrow what I want to write about…and to (maybe!) possibly…perhaps try and write a shorter post for once. Maybe.  So I tried to look past the moments and experiences and all that we have had going on in life to find the common thread that is weaving through all these things. I found it! It’s mercy.

There is and has been SO MUCH GOING ON this year… last year….so much that I had to yell that just now and cover my ears while yelling it to you. There has been the moving across the country, selling and buying of houses, fixing of these houses, mystery illnesses, school starting, hip replacements for me (one down, one to go), raising of dog with mystery illnesses, work and jobs that keep us apart more than I would like in family life, dangerous situations in our neighborhood, wonderful neighbors and new friends in our neighborhood, long and extended travel for work, travel for fun, funerals, weddings, baptisms, birthdays, enough sleep at times and way not enough sleep most other times. When I think about all that life has been, my eyelids start to get heavy and my memory starts to fuzz. I don’t have the brain space for all of this. And I don’t even have a newborn or an infant that I can point at to say, “this little fat and lovely bundle is why I have gone all fuzzy upstairs!”. Nope. It’s just life for right now.

Are we okay? Absolutely. Is it drudgery? Certainly not. Is it hard and difficult and overwhelming? A thousand times YES! How are we pressing on? Well, it’s certainly not by our own devices. It’s Mercy.

Fr. Hyacinth Woronieki wrote that “…the world owes its very existence to mercy” because “…the act of calling something in being out of non-being is the first and most fundamental act of God’s mercy upon which all his other acts are based.” Therefore, he says, “…mercy exercises a constant vigil over creatures, preserves their being and makes up for their wants; heals their wounds, and supplies new strength.”

Haven’t I struggled enough? Wasn’t last year hard enough? I was surely hoping that this year would be a bit lighter. How can the Lord ask so much of me? Of our family? All these questions and more have passed through my mind at one point or another. Along the way I have realized how unhelpful they are because as my grandmother’s close friend used to say, “Life is struggle”. If I continue to pine after a time where hardship finally lifts then I’m sorely missing out on the Lord and the mercy that he is just waiting to wash over me.

Mercy leads us to wonder – like Mary did at the greeting of the angel. I have found it far less painful and far more helpful to wonder at what the Lord is doing in each situation. Because “the Lord’s plan is wonderful, and it takes far less energy to wonder than to criticize.” ~Pat Gangi

Back to the title of this post. What does this have to do with being a good mum? (is ‘mum’ a cool word or what? I love it. Love.it.) I don’t think I have to stretch your imaginations too far for you to feel what I mean when I say everything we have been going through hits me in my Mum-gut. All the challenges… all the experiences… all of it impacts our daily family life, and in addition to being my husband’s wife, I am my kiddlet’s mum. The challenges in life have been challenging my mothering (probably a better term than mummering….though one could say I have been found to mummer through mothering at times….). And when my motherhood feels challenged, it can be hard for me to actually turn to the Lord and actively rely on his mercy.

Six months ago, thanks to my friend and seasoned mum Beth (thanks Beth!), I encountered the book My Practices of Mothering by Sarah Bessey.  Sarah has a chapter in her 60 page book of delight (I seriously love this book) called The Practice of Speaking Life where she talks about how very much our words matter. The words we speak about ourselves, ours husbands, our children. The words we speak to those very special people in our lives. They matter. She is careful to point out that we can still speak about hard things in a genuine manner – even hard things concerning ourselves and these lovely people in our lives, but we must not label ourselves or them as such. And furthermore, the part that struck me, she calls herself a good mother.

“Often as mothers, we will tell you everything wonderful about our tinies but     ourselves? No way. We think we aren’t good at this… We’re quick to see our failings, slow to see our victories… I believe I have these tinies on purpose. They have been given to me – on loan – to raise up to love God and love people. So clearly, I have some spiritual authority here and I am learning to walk that out…I am their mother and therefor the best mother for them. So I can turn to God to cry out for wisdom, for understanding, listening intently to my own instincts and honouring my gut feelings…I can need a break and admit when I screwed up…but it doesn’t change the core truth that I have settled in my heart of hearts: I am a good mum.”

So when life gets tough and challenging  wonderful….and stays wonderful….and you are navigating by mercy and you start to question how the challenges are impacting you and your kiddlets and how you relate to those sweet little ones…Join me in speaking life and knowing that you are a good mother. Go ahead, say it to yourself right now. I just did🙂

And for fun, have a listen to this here song.

Until we meet again,

MD

PS-down the line I would like to think and write about joy. You see, I really can’t seem to wrap my mind around joy. I get happiness…but I can’t seem to grasp joy, especially amidst suffering. Recently I’ve read things about joy that got me to thinking. I don’t even have written down who said the following quote, but it ties in well with mercy. “Mercy is an expression of God’s love and…only love can make sacrifice easy and perfect love makes it joy.” I’m also suspicious that joy has something (or a lot) to do with suffering well, which is another thing I would like to dig into down the road.

A lawn mower, a random play date, and hangry-ness.

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Feeling quite discouraged about being a light to my neighbors, I hurried to church with our almost two year old. (Ask me sometime about the beached whale style dive I made into my car instead of introducing myself to the new family on the block. And other graceful stories.) Back to the current story: we walk the block and a half to get there, and we are always late. He stopped to check out a lawnmower on the sidewalk, and as he fascinates over it the owner comes up, apologizes, asks if we are going to church (yes), asks what I think of it (I like it. They have a cry room, and they are welcoming), and says he’s been getting an itch to maybe start going back. Turns out he was a lifelong, faithful churchgoer until his dad died.

Felt encouraged that I was there to talk with the guy. As a friend put it, “I think the Lord meets us where we are at.”

This morning upon waking, I felt incapable of carrying out the plan of working in the house: folding laundry, miscellaneous ordering of items, then taking a walk before lunch, blog after lunch. I thought “I want to run off to a friend’s house for a play date instead. I wonder who’s available.” Got a text (late) from a random friend who asked if they could come over for a play date. They arrived just before I finished washing the kitchen floor and giving the other floors on the main level their 23rd consecutive “lick and a promise”.

Then a wonderful brother in the Lord stopped by to look at our oven again. It’s on the fritz. I had thought the night before about trying to teach the kids something about mechanics. He did instead.

 

Then we were late getting lunch into our bodies which, of course, puts naps in jeopardy. And I screamed at one of the kids when they mentioned the dinosaur sandwich cutout that I was looking for. And I thought to myself “no one in this despicable state can in good faith write a blog post.”

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(I felt just as clean and calm as this, which is the current state of our silverware drawer. And, no, none of our silverware is currently in there. It was with my sanity.)

And then I remembered the lawn mower guy and my friend who came with her toddler and our friend who came for the stove (because, “we’re family”), and I decided to tell you about it.

There. I’ve told you about it.

Here. Here is the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Love, MMC

resting with my children

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The house was quiet … well, not totally.  My number one chatterbox was at my side, but the seven-month-old and the drama-queen toddler were down for naps, so the house was relatively peaceful.  I could have taken a nap, I could have worked on dinner, I could have cleaned the bathroom, but instead I sat at the dining room table helping Maggie cut out flower petals.

She had done the same craft the day before, and had done an excellent job.  Preschool last year gave her some great cutting and pasting skills!  But she wanted it to be a little better … and more than that, she wanted me to do it with her.  Not just because I can cut out a more intricate flower than she can, but also because she just wanted me.

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee wrote a beautiful post a few days ago about “The Motherly Art of Rest” – go read that, and then come back here – and she hit the nail on the head: rest is necessary and makes us better mothers.  The catch is, how can I get that rest when there’s perpetually someone needing me?

I’ve been very lucky to have an oldest child who still naps, even as she approaches her fifth birthday.  But she goes through phases of not-napping, and those have been hard for me.  I’ve tried to get through it by enforcing “Mama’s quiet time,” giving her activities to do while I do my own thing – but it’s not usually very successful.  Attempting to enforce quiet time really means fruitlessly pursuing my own quiet activity (nap or prayer or reading or computer work), and snapping at my poor sweet oldest child whenever she interrupts me.  Which is … all the time.  By the end of “quiet time” I am more tired and tapped out than when we’d begun – and Maggie is feeling unhappy and rejected.

Recently, though, my eyes have been opened to the ways that I can rest with my children.  Setting up a very, very simple craft for Maggie, and then sitting with her while she works on it.  Folding laundry in whatever room my kids are using to play pretend, so they can chat with me and tell me all about their imaginary world while I am sorting socks.  Reading stories while I finish my coffee, or pushing someone on the swing with one hand while I hold my beer in the other.  And of course there’s also the sweet gift of pausing in the middle of a hectic day to sit down with the baby for a quiet nursing session.

I think the trick is to plan on these oases of rest with my kids – to plan for it to be with them.  If my plan is to fold laundry while listening to a podcast, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.  Praying, reading, or blogging are likewise ill-advised when there’s a child needing my attention.  Those are not bad things to do, and I still take whatever opportunity I can to do them!  But when my kids need me, the most restful and peaceful thing I can do for them and myself is to rest together.  To choose a quiet activity and intentionally open my heart to my daughters.  When I can let go of all the other things I want to do, we are both filled up by the time we spend together.

The “Our Father” Counts as Prayer

Phew! Somehow a “lazy summer” has gotten busy! I’ve missed checking in here the last couple of weeks.

And, now, I hear some little tykes beginning to wake, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. For all my attempts at a regular, half hour, peaceful prayer time, every day, I learned this summer that when that fails, it totally counts to pause and pray the Lord’s Prayer in pajamas while ascending the steep steps to get the kids out of bed.

One day during our painting extravaganza I did just that. And it totally worked. I was amazed how every phrase in the prayer had true implications for our life at that moment, and vice versa. The Lord and I took care of praise (which is the most important part!), thanksgiving, worries, concerns, intentions, spiritual battle, and every other thing on my mind. I even was able to remember to mention a couple of things that weren’t at top of mind. And it took roughly 45 seconds! Amazing. Totally prayer. Totally do-able.

I started to write down the “Mary Clare in the Moment Lord’s Prayer”, because it’s a super interesting translation, and I want to remember the Lord’s kindness in showing me how wonderful his prayer is. But I haven’t finished it yet. Maybe one day I will post it here.

In the meantime, farewell! God bless you! Gotta run get kids. I may pause on the steps to breathe a quick prayer, though. No shame in having the kids wait for that.🙂

MMC

 

I Gave Nursing a Second Chance

For the first part of my oldest son’s life, I lived a fog of tiredness. I was sleep deprived and the transition to motherhood was hard. Before “O” was born I dreamed about how much a would love nursing my baby. We went to a birth class and they had us practice holding up fake babies into nursing positions. It all seemed easy and I looked forward to it until…
My baby couldn’t nurse.
Unfamiliar with “normal” nursing, I thought it was my fault, and that something was wrong with my body or that I just wasn’t good enough at it.  When he was born my baby had difficulty latching, and then they gave me a shield to help him latch, and they said he would eventually latch on his own, but he never did.
I met with lactation consultants, friends with experience breastfeeding, my doctor, and even went to breastfeeding support groups, but I still couldn’t feed him without a nursing shield.  I still disliked breastfeeding greatly, and it caused me a lot of stress.  They were concerned about “O’s” weight gain  for a while.
He was a fussy baby because he was always hungry, and he never was able to get enough milk. I thought my supply was low, so I took supplements and ate all the right things, but it never seemed to work. He would take forever at each feeding. Usually, a full feeding would take about an hour. At night, he would wake frequently. I remember at one time in his life, he would sleep two hours, wake up, and I would nurse for an hour and then it would take another hour to calm him back down. That’s two hours alternating asleep and awake each night.  I dreaded nighttime because I would feel so alone and anxious about nursing.
After many attempts at increasing his weight, we supplemented with formula. As difficult as it was to give him any formula, it was the best choice at the time. We also consulted with an ENT (ear/nose/throat dr) and discovered he did have a tongue tie but at that point he was adjusting fine to our new formula routine and the tongue tie was loosening on its own. My milk supply was lower at this point as well. I was also soon to go back to working full-time, and he would be bottle fed with a combination of pumped breast milk and also formula.

So I continued my nursing journey with “O”, but I would often feel sad when I would have to tell people that I supplemented “O” with formula. I felt like I needed to defend myself, When people made comments about other babies like “Chunky babies are so adorable” or “Look at the rolls on that baby.”, I felt sad. My baby never got these comments.  Had I failed my skinny little baby?
“O” weaned off all breast milk by 7 or 8 months and went to full formula feedings until he was 1. However, when I was pregnant with “L” (born March ’16), I was very anxious and concerned about breastfeeding. I was worried about having another baby that was tongue-tied. I was worried about being up all night and then not being able to nap in the day because of “O” not napping much anymore.  I talked with the midwives and wrote it in my birth plan that I cared a lot about how breastfeeding would go and I wanted it to go better.

So on March 9 at 10:35 pm, baby “L” was born, and I had to decide put aside all my deep hurts about what I thought was a failure to breastfeed “O”.  In that moment I held my new baby “L” and decided to try to nurse him. With the help of my midwife, he latched and nursed skin on skin for a whole hour after delivery.
Since then “L” has proven to be a great nurser. He has shown no signs of tongue tie, and is a bigger baby. He is an efficient feeder and does not keep me awake all hours of the night. He has made nursing enjoyable, which is something I never experienced before.
I went to “L’s” 2 month appointment, and I reminded the doctor of my struggles with “O”, and she really commended me for deciding to nurse this baby. She said a lot of women give up on baby #2 and don’t try to nurse if it’s been a tough go with baby #1. And as I’ve reflected on her comments, I think she’s right on.

With baby “O” I struggled so hard to do everything right that I failed to see the real goal should have been to do everything best for my particular baby. Totally breastfeeding my first may have been what I thought was the right thing, but for that particular baby supplementing him was best.  With baby “L” what has been best for him is breastfeeding, and I’m grateful it has been an enjoyable experience for both of us.   I’m glad I had the courage to give nursing a second chance.  I don’t take this experience for granted knowing how hard nursing can be.

 

 

childcare is an actual job

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baby pulling my hair … all just part of the job

Dear fellow stay-at-home mama, you did good work today.  I did too.

You might not feel like you did good work.  Maybe you think, all I did today was take care of the kids.  But you know what?  That’s work.  It’s good work.

You fed them, you dressed them, you played with them, you cleaned them up, you did all of these things over and over.  That is a full day’s work.

It’s awesome when we can do all of those things for our kids and also accomplish something else like errands, cleaning, cooking, social activities, or house projects.  But we don’t need to feel bad when all we did was take care of our kids.

I don’t mean this in a sentimental, motherhood is the best job in the world! kind of way – I mean it in a very practical way.  Taking care of kids is an actual job.  It’s been helpful for me to remember lately that people do this for a living!  People get paid for this.  I don’t, but it makes me feel much better to remember that the work I have chosen to do during the day is, in fact, work.

If you had one of those days today, be encouraged.  You did good work today and you can be proud of yourself.

Love,

your comrade-in-arms,

Sheila

Frumpy Friday Summer Summary

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I know that it’s summer, and all, but I gotta tell you: I am really enjoying the in-doors these days. It’s a nice spread, above, isn’t it?!  And the grub got even better when my friend brought chocolate! In this Summer Summary, I’m going to break things down into “departments”. The part of me that misses going into the office every day is very much living vicariously through this lingo.

Friendship Department: See above. A friend told me she wanted to get together to “just talk” “without kids”.  And so we did. Totally extravagant (but not really). Totally necessary. Totally worth it. Totally planning to do it again soon, of course.

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Sleep Department: A long time ago, I promised to write a serial story about baby’s sleep in the first year. Now that he’s almost 2, I figure I should write the second installment.😉 Here goes: he began sleeping through the night at 14-16 months old, after weening. He shares a room with big sister. Even at 16 months, roughly twice a week, he still woke around midnight and needed some attention. I tried to stay out of it so as not to heighten his anxiety. Thank goodness for a willing husband! He began sleeping well for afternoon naps at roughly a year and a half. Last month, he started sleeping less than his big sister at nap time. This seemed weird. I wondered if he was over tired, so I began to again put him down earlier, and before big sister. This has worked wonders for length, although I wonder if it’s partly due to a little GI bug that’s going through the house. Continue reading