Sleep Struggles in Baby’s First Year: an Evolving Story

PicMonkey Collage sleep

Good evening! For the first time in several months (and possibly ever – I don’t remember!), I put the baby down to bed without nursing him first. He is 11 months old, and since birth has woken up every 3 hours at night, give or take an hour. By the time he was 9 months old, I felt this was getting, well, old. We started weening our first (pictured on the left of the collage) from night time feedings at 10 months old, and we probably could have done that sooner. So I expected that as we got into the 4th quarter with Joshy, we could really start to expect some decrease in nursing.

As we got to his bedroom, he was more interested in Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown than in anything else in the whole world, and I reflected that what my husband had done in getting him to drink cow’s milk from a sippy cup tonight, just might work in place of nursing. So, we read the book, I said a quick prayer with him like we normally do, said how much I love him and ” ‘nigh’nigh “, put him down, and left the room uttering our custom “shush shush shush” soundtrack.

That was 6 weeks ago, and since then the little rascal has played around in all sorts of unpredictable ways with the morning nap, turned one year old, had back to back double ear infections, a couple of URIs, gotten to be a fiend for climbing, danced quite a bit, has not weened or been weened, and in general has been a delight and an enigma and a little “fuss bucket”, as from time to time we affectionately call him.


And wouldn’t you know it! There he goes, sticking his tongue out at us as we speak. What a rascal! A love of a rascal!

So as you have probably guessed, my plan to finally get his sleep under control, ergo to sleep a little myself at night, completely backfired. Come to think of it, all my plans for all types of sleep for all of us have backfired over the last year. So you won’t be surprised to learn I’ve been complaining about it! My general view is that we gotta get into “normal” very soon, and at the latest it SHOULD have happened 10 months ago. Wouldn’t you know, I complained so much that folks took pity on me, and they must be praying, because we’ve gone from 3-4 wakings overnight to 1-2. Wahoo! I can’t think of any other explaination.


I wrote the above roughly 4 weeks ago. This is the beginning of a series, an evolving story. Maybe you have some ideas for us? Let me know. Maybe you struggle with some of the same? Hope some comradery helps.

PS: the one on the left in my top photo is our champion sleeper. I’m beginning to think her little brother is not competitive in the area of sleep. Can you see him grimacing in his sleep? It’s like he does it only reluctantly.


Gifts during sickness

The family and I have been sick for the past two weeks now.  Not all at the same time – it’s been in waves and remissions and relapses – but we’ve each been sick for long, extended periods of time.  Nothing serious, but it’s been a long haul! Continue reading

Housekeeping Joke of the Day

So, I’ve had “go through piles” on my list of things to do for about 3 months now. These “piles” include, well, I don’t know what. They are black holes and history lessons. They are vestiges of lives in other homes and lives bejeweled with parties, 3 minutes before which parties I stow the black hole under the bed, in a corner, or above the refrigerator cabinets, and most of my brain forgets about them except that tiny portion of the medulla oblongata that controls feelings of peace and contentment. So, finally, about 3 months ago, I put “go through piles” on my short list of long projects. I figured that by the end of this coming winter, I really OUGHT to have some time to go through them, and my medulla oblongata would surely thank me. Win-win.

That was 3 months ago, give or take 2 months.WP_20151017_21_05_04_Pro

Then this beautiful china cabinet came into our lives since we accidentally went to Art Crawl in St. Paul. So, naturally, we had to make room for it. In so doing, our office became again a Walk at Your Own Risk zone. So, un-naturaly, I set my mind to going through boxes. Boxes of books came out to play in the bookcase that had been where the new old china cabinet now resides. Boxes of files were consolidated. Except that one black hole in one filing box was large and in charge. It wasn’t sharing it’s space nicely with my files from 2 jobs ago, so I said “what IS this?”, couldn’t find a label (which is very un-like me), yanked it out, and began going through it.

It was emotional, or would have been if I had let it. It was EOBs and medical claim forms from my time on bed rest that I never really handled correctly, random home insurance and (hopefully) paid energy bills, etc. All of it from before we bought our home. I bore up and sorted through the entire huge thing, most of it going in the burn pile but some into recycling. Having come to the end of the contents I flipped the folder over thinking that it had held up pretty nicely for all the emotional junk it had been carrying around for years, and THEN, only then, did I see the label “recycling” (ie: burn all of this it has already been gone through). I had already gone through the darn thing, probably with the same but heightened emotions, right before we moved, and stowed it away because we had no time to burn things back then.

So, I went through a pile! Only to find out it was a pile that had already been gone through. I’m going to go-ahead and make myself feel better by saying that if a pile has been re-piled and fed to the gods of the black hole, then it still counts as organizing if you go through it a second time.

Also, on Sunday I moved 5 random screws from 5 random things-they-had-fallen-out-of from my dresser top to these nifty see-through screw-together hardware organizers that we got at Menards for $0.49 each.

So, naturally, we’re making progress in going through piles.


Thank you, china cabinet.

And welcome to the family.


Mary Clare

testing, spoiling, and manipulating: parenting language and how it affects us

Seriously Mama … what DO you mean by “don’t climb the stairs”?

“She’s just testing you.”

“You can’t spoil a baby.”

“She’s using that behavior to manipulate you.”

We have to be careful with our words.


A couple years ago, I was struggling with my oldest child’s misbehavior.  She was just an innocent toddler, doing innocent toddler things that drove me nuts.  She would hit me, pull my hair, kick me during diaper changes; I struggled not to take it personally.  And whatever I asked or told her to do, she would usually do the opposite.  I heard from friends and family, and read in parenting books: “She’s just testing the boundaries.”  Or, “She’s just testing you to see what you’ll do.” Continue reading

What the Psalms are Teaching Me about Mission


“We’re on a mission from GOD”.

Name that movie!

Okay, I’ll spill the answer. It’s from The Blues Brothers, which we watched a few days back and enjoyed immensely. And, while some of the actions of these bros are unmentionable, the very fact that they are on a  “mission from GOD” is enviable. (Don’t you find it so? Maybe it’s just so for me.) As I wrote about on my personal blog, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for [never mind the fact – that I’m even looking – is rather strange]. You see, I am looking for a mission, a research project, some big goals, or ANYTHING and any NUMBER of things that are important, that I can focus on. It’s somehow an integral part of my worldview. I suspect it has to do with wanting to BE important.  And so I have become really good at focusing on big projects, dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”. In short, in obsessing over the mission.

As you may know, I’ve been reading the Psalms this summer [What? It’s no longer summer? Nevermind]. I’m up to Psalm 127:

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3 Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.

5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Sitting in our lovely sleeping porch one morning recently, I read this Psalm. And between wondering whether the kids were awake and, if so, whether they were getting themselves undressed, or, if not, whether they were getting out of their cribs, or, horror of horrors, both, I re-iterated to God that I don’t know what to do with myself. What’s MY mission? What should I focus on? The options for God to choose from in answering my question, as I see it, are the following: home projects such as organizing/unpacking/redecorating, learning how to repair approximately 20 holes in our plaster ceiling and walls, sewing, blogging like a banshee (ie: more and better), having people over for dinner, doing stuff with youth, outdoor projects (ie: winterizing), the battle of the bulges (ie: excercise), cook good meals regularly, getting our neighbors to like me (ie: baking for them), go on a mission trip and figure out how to leave the kids here so that I can go.

When my list circled back to something related to the kids (albeit it had to do with leaving them), I thought of their smiles. Both are exceptionally smiley. I thought, “hmmm, I definitely see the Lord in my kids. Do I see the Lord clearly in any of the other options? No. That’s odd. And what about my husband? He is supposed to come ahead of the kids in my priorities. Do I see the Lord clearly in him? Oh, yes. Yes I do!” As a matter of fact, I could think of several examples just in the last 2 weeks when Erik really shone with the Lord’s light. But, you know, I think this Psalm is calling me to put my work into where the Lord is, and I am not convinced he’s behind that lengthy laundry list above. So, I will focus on my husband and children. That’s obvious.

“But, Lord, that’s not enough. Can’t I do something more important?” Obvious as it seems, it is taking God some time to convince me that this can be my sole focus.

Enter Psalm 131:

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

[PS: Psalms in the 120s and 130s are short, pithy, and awesome! As I’ve read through the entire book from the beginning, it seems like a distinct segment. And I have to admit that the change is refreshing.]

Getting to be okay with this is an ongoing process. A friends pointed out last week the importance of evangelizing our children. I’ve never thought about raising kids being equivalent to evangelism. It helps to take the long view in this. I like that. Also, I’ve had the sense in prayer and also from our area deliverance prayer that the Lord really wants to focus on love with me. As in He loves me. That’s a huge thing that I’m trying to figure out right now. All the rest is straw, I guess, in comparison.

Today, this afternoon, now that dinner is all ready to go into the oven, I think that I’m okay with this focus. It helps that having to limit my focus in this way is – I hope – temporary. When the kids go down for their naps and I’m wandering around our cluttered house, and the options for what to do are racing through my brain, I stop (metaphorically) and consider whether the emotional and physical needs of my family are being met. If there’s more to do to meet them (such as make dinner), I straight-away decide to do that first. As I get into habits of dinner-making and spiritual-supporting for my family, I can take on other things for the Lord. Along the way, I am learning to submit my desires for these accomplishments to the Lord, and wait for his response as to whether he is interested in doing them with me. And I am well aware that as soon as someone in the house gets sick, all those other things go out the window!  It also helps that I can sneak in some unrelated tasks as I have time. Just now I hung some shelves in my closet sewing room. I hope that’s not cheating. Is that cheating, Lord? Lemme know when you get a chance.

Thank you,


Mary Clare

PS: The photo in this post is what I found one morning this week upon finishing my Psalm prayer time and going to get the kids out of bed. One of those cribs does not belong where it was: squarely in front of the door! How did it get there?

Seeing Pope Francis in Philly!

My friend Janelle (who we traveled with) gets all the credit for this awesome pic. She had a great camera. Thanks Janelle!

How can I possibly put into words the experience I had in Philadelphia two weeks ago for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) and the visit of Pope Francis?  There is so much I could say.  I would like to share what moved my heart while in Philly for the Papal visit.

Why Did I Go?

My husband and I decided to go to the WMOF several months ago because the conference sounded amazing, and it would be a chance to travel with another couple (some friends) that live 500 miles away.  When they were interested too, all that needed to happen was some decent planning.  When we learned Pope Francis would be indeed be Philly too it really made me want to go.  Since I’d seen St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict 16 in my lifetime, it’s been kind of a life goal to see every Pope.  Seeing Francis on America soil seemed the most feasible at this time in my life.  (Although I wouldn’t mind a trip to Rome one of the these days).

What Impacted Me the Most?

I have really enjoyed having Francis as our Pope, so seeing him in person was so moving.  His heart for the people to me really mirrors God’s heart for each of us.  His homily at the closing Mass was given in Spanish, and something was blocking the jumbo screen with the captioned translation.  I was sad that I couldn’t understand what he was saying at first.  Later than evening I read the translation of the homily on my smart phone.  His words spoke to me and encouraged me in my life as a mom.  Prior to the trip I was feeling burnt out and felt as if everything I did was just a routine without much purpose.  The Pope’s words about small actions with love reminded me that the call to motherhood and being a wife is indeed makes a difference.  They are part of building God’s kingdom.  Here is a little bit of the homily:

Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded,” says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion… Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.
Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

I got this portion from Pope Francis’ Homily Transcript

There is more I can say about this trip so maybe I’ll write a part 2. Lastly, I want to say that Philly is truly a city of brotherly (and sisterly) love.  Our host family was so gracious and generous.  The people on the train each day going to their daily places of work were friendly and gave us suggestions about where to walk, what to eat, and what to see.  I appreciated their patience with overcrowded trains, shut down city streets, and a little disruption to their normal lives.

And lastly, if you are ever in Philadelphia you need to try Steve’s Prince of Steak for Philly cheese steaks. Only problem- I now have pregnancy cravings for them and I can’t get Steve’s cheese steaks here.

Frumpy Friday Summer Summary (Again)

3/4 of us have mild fevers this week, and the ENT we saw last week was not at all concerned about his lip tie, but he had a double ear infection, with teething, following a cold, and followed up by a cold, which we noticed on his birthday, and checked again for ear infection on Monday but didn’t find it, which we found out today has become another double ear infection, despite being on a strong antibiotic for the first double ear infection the entire time. Confused? Me too.

So, let’s simplify and let the photos speak, in no particular order:


This is my kids playing with new toys from Josh’s 1st birthday party. Balloons, Duplos, a hand-made stuffed bee puzzle toy, instruments: what could be better?! We haven’t played with old toys all week. To come downstairs and see this was, for me, super rewarding. Kinda like being a kid at Christmas.

Which brings up a burning question: why won’t our 2 year old play with the toy food and range that she’s had since Christmas?

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I am not in a habit of doing this. “This”, here, includes: turning the camera on myself, washing my hair (the results of which you see in the hairstyle), sitting in front of our sleeping porch windows while my family eats dinner, almost falling out the window, being seen by multiple neighbors. I have no explanation.

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The light, especially the shiny yellows from the above-mentioned perch, were lovely.  This gives only a hint, but enjoy!


There they are. The two men in my life. Love ’em. Even though one (I won’t mention who to protect their privacy) has begun to crawl up our very steep stairs all by his big self. Many times a day. Very quickly. And he doesn’t know how to climb down.

I have an unrelated question: how will I ever get anything done around here given this development?

And here’s an unrelated observation: until the climbing started, for the sake of sanity, I placidly brushed off those things people tell you when they hear you will have two who are close in age (ie: “you’ll be busy”). Now, one year on, I understand.


I could always find obliging smile-ers at our party for the little rascal.


Yep. Great smiles. Great folks.


And now, for the food! We grew most of the carrots you see above. Thanks to the inspiration of Pinterest, they are arranged kinda interestingly and seasonally. Please tell me you recognize the shape.


I have a question. Can you guess what this is? Love handles and all? (Other than “deliciousness”?)


I may be despairing of her ever playing with the kitchen toys, but I needn’t have despaired of her drumming on a bucket, even though I did despair of it! Not only has it happened (once), but I have proof. So at least we’re half normal.


Nose + cheek + upper lip + little hanies (hands) + fat foot with pointed toe bottoms = too much!


The above two pictures were taken at a Touch a Truck event. She’s tentatively excited about the police cruiser. Which gives you 1/100th of an idea of her level of interest when she saw cupcakes at the same event.


I love that my mother in law lets her wear her real necklaces.


Room Re-arrangement of the Month Club, view A. The pirate corner has been dispersed, and I’m slightly in mourning about it.


Room Re-arrangement of the Month Club, view B.


Making clutter and the We-Still-Haven’t-Finished-Moving-In style look sorta intentional. It’s important. To me. Probably none of our 18 guests noticed. Regardless, this photo brings peace to a corner of my soul (when I can ignore the bespeckled-with-mess carpet).


The light + those lovely faces + toddlers fat hands + dimples + remembering my mom’s beautiful hands holding her as a newborn! = contentment.


Here. This is what I mean. She left in a hurry after the birth to see to my ailing father, then showed up unanounced that night to hold her. Those hands have cared more and worked harder than any I’ve had the privilege of knowing.


He goes around the house pushing a car like a big boy. It surprises and delights me. I didn’t know they did this at such a young age!


I like to think that they both have Irish Twinkle Eyes. This’s a thing, right? Because if it isn’t, it should be. The world is a better place for it/them/twinkley eyes.

Love to you all,

Mary Clare