What does a good day look like?

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Nap in front of the fire?  Now THAT is a good day.

Last week, I had one near-perfect day.  Everything I did throughout the day turned out well!  In the morning we had a crazy-fun time hosting nine four-year-olds at our house for a preschool session about how God created each of us.  Afterwards the girls and I recovered with lunch, naps, and reading books together; then the girls played while I cleaned up a bit.  I was delighted to realize we had enough time in our afternoon to make a quick delivery to a good friend on the other side of town, and even more delighted that we were able to visit with her & her kiddos for twenty minutes before heading home.  I managed, shockingly, to make a quick & nutritious dinner that nobody complained about.  At the end of the day, Pete walked in with roses for me (the next day was our anniversary), and since the girls had actually eaten their fill during “first dinner,” they played happily in the living room while Pete & I enjoyed a peaceful dinner together.  When we told Maggie she had ten more minutes until bedtime, she asked if we could have family prayer together before bed.  I couldn’t have been happier about our fun, productive, wildly successful day … and then it all unraveled. Continue reading

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The Wobbly Stability of Becoming a Parent & of Life in General

If you want to know how I feel right now, take this journey with me. I think it’s a path we are all on, at some point in our lives.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing in a dirty, unpaved street that’s mostly populated with retired people – always at home – who no doubt see what a mess you are. You and your old glasses, greasy-nosed, unwashed-slightly-white-hair head have just gracelessly slipped into the mud. You are dizzy, and also feeling very pudgy (and you silently for the 237th time resolve to disabuse the entire world of the notion that breastfeeding produces pregnancy weight loss).  Continue reading

Whims and Decisions

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Mama, what is that you’re eating?  Can I have some?

Recently I told a small group of friends about the daily challenge of Curious George.  CG (or “Curious,” as Maggie calls it) is my daughter’s video of choice these days, and I immensely value the time it gives me to write an email, pack the diaper bag for an outing, or cook dinner uninterrupted.  The girls get to watch two CG’s per day, sometimes three (and oh goodness, it was five or six during the month of sickness) – the problem is deciding when they get to watch them.  As soon as they want to (i.e., 6 AM)?  Or at a time that optimizes the video’s usefulness for Mama?

We’ve pretty much nixed the idea of 6 AM videos, except on weekends, so the question got moved up to lunchtime.  Maggie gets out of preschool at 11:30, and her first two questions to me at pickup were always: (1) What are we having for lunch today?, and (2) Can I watch a Curious?

I was always torn.  Lunch is a tough time of day for me – after being up taking care of kiddos for six hours, pregnant Mama is worn out and needing a break; and the girls are always plenty tired by then too.  Putting on a video provided us with a much-needed break before the battles of naptime.  But, using up one CG at lunch would mean I would only have one more to use during the afternoon.  These videos are only 20-25 minutes, and that is not enough time to cook dinner.

So what would I tell Maggie?  Could she watch a Curious during lunch?  It came down to mood and circumstances.  Exactly how tired and in need of a break was I?  Were we having leftovers for dinner or something I needed to put more time into?   Did we have any other plans for the afternoon?  How confident was I that we’d be able to make it through the afternoon post-naps with only one CG?

As I explained all this to my friends (what a kind, patient group they are, listening to my dissertation on the Curious George problem), I realized that “mood and circumstances” could more concisely be described as … a whim.

And a whim was not fair to Maggie.

Now, I don’t think authority is unfair, even authority over arbitrary issues.  There are many, many arbitrary issues during the day that simply have to be decided, and someone has to be in charge, and that someone is me.  I’m OK with that!

But the Curious George problem wasn’t really arbitrary.  It was a question coming up daily, and a question that was important to my daughter, and it was reasonable for her to be upset when my whim didn’t satisfy her wishes.  She needed the lunchtime break as much as I did, but more importantly, she needed to know what to expect!  So finally I decided, yes, you can watch a Curious during lunch.

And you know what?  It’s been great.  I don’t get anxious at lunchtime trying to figure out the CG question; I just put it on and enjoy reading a book for 20 minutes.  And Maggie doesn’t get anxious at lunchtime either, because she knows what to expect, and isn’t having her four-year-old hopes dashed by her mama’s whims.  (She still gives me grief over “what are we having for lunch” sometimes, but we’re working on that, and watching a Curious always makes her feel better about what non-favorite food she is eating.)

“Just make a decision” is a rule of thumb I’ve alluded to before, but it’s easy to forget, particularly considering the dizzying array of requests Maggie makes of me daily.  Can I have a piece of candy for my afternoon snack?  Can I borrow one of your pens?  Can I play with the Scotch tape?  Can I have a sip of your soda?  Can I get out the play-doh?  I think it’s OK to decide some of these things on the fly.  I can’t possibly keep track of, let alone anticipate & make a prudent decision about, half the things she asks me every day.

But I can do better than I’m doing.  I can try to keep track of the questions that keep coming up, especially if they cause tension.  (Surprisingly, the Scotch Tape Question falls into this category.  Need to make a real decision on that one.)  Whenever possible, I can take a deep breath before answering, try to refocus my mind on Maggie instead of whatever housekeeping task I’m immersed in, and really think about my answer.  I can try to default to “yes” instead of “no.”

I can also be up-front with Maggie about the reasons for my decisions; I don’t believe in trying to reason with a four-year-old, but if there’s a simple explanation, I can give it.  No, sweetheart, we really do have to start naps now, because Mama’s tired.  (Real example, and it really worked.)  No, you can’t have a snack right now, because dinner is in twenty minutes.  And if I don’t have any explanation for her?  Sometimes it’s just too complicated to explain to a four-year old, but sometimes it’s because I’m acting on a whim again.

So it’s a work in progress.  But I do think there’s progress.

 

Books to Read and Share

A few weeks ago when we were all sick, one of the bright spots in life was plenty of time to read to the kids.  I took the opportunity to pull out some old favorites that we hadn’t read in awhile, and I was struck by how much I enjoy reading to the kids when we’re not limited to the latest random princess book that Maggie found at the library!

With Christmas approaching, I realized it would be a great time to share some of my favorites with you all, and my fellow authors jumped at the opportunity too.  If you have little ones in your life to read to, here are some great ideas for you! Continue reading

Happiness Does Not Come in the Form of Square Footage

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My husband and I took a while to pay off our student loans and then start saving for a house.  During this time of waiting, I had to trust that God would provide just the right house at just the right time.  There often was a temptation to feel stuck or discouraged.  After all at times our 900 square foot rental house seemed to be bursting at the seams with well… baby gear!  There was a temptation to not be grateful for the place I called home. “If only I had a bigger house syndrome” would often kick in.  I had to keep reminding myself that simply moving into a new house would not be a source of happiness.  The Lord reminded me that my joy would need to come from something other than simply having a bigger house.  At times this was easy to do, but at other times it was hard and required a decision to trust.  For example, I remember scraping my side (just below the rib cage) on the sharp corner of a dresser that I decided to put in my son’s bedroom.  I was not quite used to the new piece of furniture being in my normal walking path.  Oh, if I just had more space, I thought!

Soon, it became clear that we were ready to look at homes.  The process took about six months from the time we looked at our first house to closing on our home.  In the beginning the process seemed slow, and I feared we wouldn’t find the “perfect home.”  Again, the Lord reminded me that joy and contentment would not be found solely in the perfect home.  I remember going through homes I thought might be “the one” only to find some flaw (or flaws) in them that were deal breakers in my mind. Then, we went through a house that did not fit our complete criteria but looked cute to me and had a lot of features that we hadn’t seen in houses so far.  I remember going through the house and taking my son upstairs to the kid bedroom.  I sat with him on the carpet as he looked at some toys (and put them neatly back, of course).  The sun streamed in through the blinds and the room felt so cozy.  It felt homey.  However, it was determined by us that this was not the right house for a few reasons.

As we continued to look at other houses and that house continued to stay on the market, it kept coming to mind.  I told my husband- we need to look at it one more time. I can’t stop thinking about it.  We scheduled another showing and went through it again (without toddler), and we decided to take that big scary leap and put in an offer.  Throughout the offer process I tried to stay detached in case in didn’t go through, and I got to the point where I was willing to walk away if it didn’t meet our needs.  It was a hard place to be in because I loved the house so much, but had to believe that if it was not the one, there would be something else out there.  I won’t go into the nitty gritty of it all, but in a few days time we had an agreement in place and the countdown to closing began.  I do have to admit it was kind of scary and exciting taking this next step.

So, we moved in to our new house.  I have found that life did not drastically change because of having a new house.  I do enjoy having a bigger space and not running into dressers anymore. 🙂 I’ve realize that indeed joy doesn’t come in the form of square footage, soft water, and ceiling fans, but rather in knowing that God gave us this house as a gift to be shared with others.  It is my hope to share this space with family and friends, and that it be a welcoming space.  The whole process of buying the house and moving in has made me aware of the generosity of others.  Friends helped me pack, watched my son during house appointments, cleaned, moved boxes, unpacked boxes, visited me, and encouraged me through it all.  It is those acts of service and friendship that brought me joy and thankfulness.

Why I Let My Kids “Get into Everything”

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She pulls the diapers out of the box into the middle of the floor in front of the door and sits on one of the packs. I negatively anticipate her learning how to open the pack, followed by diapers strewn ALL OVER the room, then the hallway, then the stairway, and inevitable leading to one of my worst fears: poop everywhere due to diapers everywhere EXCEPT where you need them during a changing session. But to her, the reality of hauling the diapers out of storage is that they become a truck! Or, something to bounce on! Or! Something-I-will-never-think-of-because-I lack-imagination. But she will think of some fun way to occupy herself by “getting into” something that is not a toy. And if she doesn’t think of something, little brother will!

So, I have decided to get off my high horse and let them get in to things. Listing why:

  • They seem to play better together when I leave them to themselves. This seems to include leaving them to explore, and destroy, our mostly baby proofed home.
  • Because our home is mostly baby proofed, they can’t very easily destroy what they “get in to”.
  • I figure they will “destroy” things, whether I let them mess around with non-toy things, or not.  The reality is, they are children and accidentaly treat everything more roughly than we sophisticated adults.
  • What they play with is just a matter of definitions and semantics.
  • As is the word “destroy”.
  • Similarly, the house will be cluttered whether I let them get into everything or not. It will either be cluttered with toys, no matter what limits I set to what they can use for play.
  • I do truly believe that it increases imagination, creativity, and problem solving.
  • And for sure, it is fun!…
  • …for them…
  • …and it is becoming fun for me, too. It helps to remind myself of the benefits using the above list. 🙂

Happy Friday All!

MMC

Another Frumpy Friday Summer Summary (And I Realize It’s not Friday, nor Summer)

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No, it is no longer summer. It is Autumn. We had a nice, friendly walk with our buddies the other day. If it looks peaceful, soak it all in. And breath. And soak it in some more. Maybe close your eyes and visualize the water and smell the fresh air.

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Okay, now you can open your eyes. For contrast, I left my kitchen like this on Thursday.

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And this.

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And…this.

Sigh.

So the lovely crackly-leaved, brisk air, calming breeze autumn has felt more like this.

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And this. Our “Mud Room”. I don’t know how to use a Mud Room. Can you tell? One of these weeks I’m gonna walk you through the place 360 degrees and get some help from ya’ll for how to handle this porch turned pantry turned dumping ground.

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New couch covering mock-up was a complete fail. I may have to – gasp – BUY fabric! That’s hard to digest.

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Hey! A newly sparkly 100 year old door knob and plate! THAT’S something I left clean when I left the house. I plan to clean all our hardware with lemon juice and baking soda (they’ve never been painted). The living room, especially, needs the added luster. It’s a small, dark room. And I love the purple undertones!

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This is the before shot. Cleaning definitely improved it! (It actually was the best looking, even before cleaning, since it was the inner set of a closet door.) Most of our hardware is much darker due to build up of grime from hands. (Gross. (Sorry.)) In conclusion, yes, I am taking away that “oil rubbed bronze” (ie: old black) look that everyone is now buying to achieve antique-looking, quality hardware. But I think the cavemen would be proud of my move, so I am at peace.

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Brother went straight up to big sister and just had to be near her.

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Man, do I love their little relationship.

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Prep materials for a retreat I’m helping with sit in front of our new washing machine. Wait, no, our dryer is in the background. Anyways, it (the washing machine) was delivered yesterday, and somehow much water appeared during the test cycle. So we’re not out of the woods, er, river, metaphorically speaking.

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Crockpot Greek Chili with many modifications based on the ingredients we had vs. didn’t have and some energy-saving short cuts.

These pictures do speak. To me they say “it’s been a rough few weeks but there’s a small amount of work I have accomplished, I have cooked for dear husband once or twice, and my kids are still alive and stinkin’ cute.” The subtext is, “even if I am ill for the rest of my life and the work and laundry pile up and threaten take over, I know who wins in the end. Jesus. So what I choose to focus on is radical discipleship. I’ll take a deep breath and do my best to kick the ickies to the curb, rest when I need to, and walk on the rest of the time, doing everything I can with our Lord’s help.”

Amen,

MMC

the cookbook I can’t put down: Genius Recipes

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This post goes out to all my fellow cooks: those of us who read through entire cookbooks for fun, who can’t resist a new recipe from Smitten Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated, who consider cooking dinner to be the best chore in the house (or no chore at all.)

A few months ago, I checked out a new cookbook from the library: Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.  It’s a collection from the archives of Food52.com’s Genius Recipes column, which itself is a collection of recipes from all over (from restaurants, cookbooks, and online sources) that present a twist on a classic recipe, or a new way to look at a humdrum ingredient.   Continue reading