How We Got through the Winter, Sort of

Last April, a visiting friend asked, “So, how did you survive the winter?” I didn’t have the guts to tell the whole truth, which is that, “we didn’t.” I mean, we’re still alive and all, but the winter of 2014-2015 was really, really hard. We handled it poorly. As summer was coming to a close this year, I was already tensly anti-anticipating the cold and isolation, knowing that I hadn’t really recovered from last winter.  I’m going to tell you this story to help with hope. There is hope! (And please, don’t pitty me. I do that plenty for both of us. Plus, pity is futile, so I’ve stopped that. I’m trying to stop that. I’m sort-of stopping that. ;))

By Thanksgiving of 2014, the situation was this: we had a very new (to us) home that wasn’t homey, an even newer baby, a toddler who was waking at o’dark thirty every night, several home issues including one which kicked us out of the house for 2 weeks, a crazy new diet for this nursing mom that seemed medically necessary yet impossible, and a baby who screamed – ear shatteringly – every time I put him down. 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.

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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

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


The Small Success of the Week

I made sweet potato wedges on the fly, without planning, without a recipe, without any ingredients (other than the sweet potatoes, of course!). And they turned out!


Sometimes, when I am busy and anxious about many things (nothing too serious, just everything piling up in life), it’s really helpful to focus on something, any thing, even a very small thing, that is working. In this case, something I tried without knowing what I was doing, turned out just fine, and required only approximately 5 minutes of work total. And now, I have something to feed the beast (my 11 month old). That’s saying something, because of the grocery dearth we’ve been experiencing all week.


Bonus Round! The beast. I’ve been admiring our son’s long, long, jealousy-inducing long eyelashes, and I can’t seem to capture them well on my camera, but I got a hilarious shot that sort of shows them off! Enjoy!

2nd Bonus Round! “Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord…When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94: 12 & 19, RSV)

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. Hope your labors are fulfilling and fruitful.

Mary Clare

The 34 Years of Goodbyes Part 1

This is an evolving story written in present tense over several weeks.


The house we all grew up in is going to belong to someone else very soon. My mom made a heroic effort to get it on the market, and it sold in less than 2 weeks. It is a fantastic house. I’ve loved it as a home for many years. I have no idea how to say goodbye to it. Spaces are very important to me, and I believe this is in large part due to how lovely and functional this house is. It’s got the best natural light of any home I’ve been in, along with everything else current home buyers desire: large lot, large kitchen, open living/dining area, natural wood floors and trim, built in buffet and linen closet, tall ceilings, bonus rooms, grand staircase.

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I confess that the thought of not being able to run over to St. Paul to visit “Grammy” (as my toddler calls her) and plunder in the attic for home goods is a little depressing. And, oh my, was that place ever the epitome of “Grandma’s Attic”. A large steamer trunk filled with old wedding dresses and baptism gowns, old maps, cast off clothing making perfect dress–up wear, old kitchen gadgets, Christmas decorations, the 50ish year old luggage issued to my Mom from the Peace Corp that is marked to Kathmandu, Nepal(!); and a library of the art, projects and readings of 6 school kids, plus whatever my parents kept in order to have on hand. When my coffee carafe broke, I got a perfect match for my coffee pot from this attic.

I suppose I’ve been saying goodbye to the home for several years. I’ve certainly not distanced myself from it intentionally, but I have noticed since getting married and becoming a mom that the house doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. They say your body changes after childbirth. It’s like the house changed too. I don’t know how else to put it. Yes, it helped define me, but I am a different person now. I was a vivacious toddler in this home, and now I bring mine to it with completely different feelings. It doesn’t fit to be the awkward teenager, running down the stairs and stubbing my toe as I round the corner to the kitchen. (I’m clumsy in other ways, now).


People are now “up-cycling” chandeliers like the one in the dining room. But I love it just the way it is! I don’t remember why I took this – relatively recent – photo. But it probably has something to do with the babies, and managing to hold two at once. Wait! I Remember! I wanted to capture sweet Evie interacting with her new, little-er, cousin.


This chair is new, but it’s just like it’s predecessor in style. A chair so well-used that in about 4th grade my girls scout troop made a special visit just to sit down and see how far in they could sink. Can we say “broken springs”? I often wonder which furniture our own kids will mock.


Mom with my baby in the living room.


Our little sweetie on the steps. I used to grab the lace curtain and make believe it was a wedding veil as I processed down the stairs. The only trouble was that it was fixed to the wall and I wasn’t. Here, I’ll show you:


Like this re-enactment. The flair was lost when the veil tore from the brides head as she descended the stairs. Other than that, it was just like a really classy wedding. 😉


Our haul this past year from St. Nick. At our home. We don’t have stockings or a buffet on which to hang them, but the basic tradition lives! I wonder if my mom ever forgot to acknowledge St. Nick’s day.


How many family photos have been taken from this angle? I’m guessing hundreds.


This photo of various types of feet in the home reminds me of the time my sisters and I went around the house with some mirrors that were bigger than our heads. We held them like trays and looked in to them and tried to walk around. It’s pretty hard – and hilarious – because you see the ceiling, and so you step over arched doorways that aren’t in the way of your feet, and stumble over coffee tables that are in the way. Also, that Christmas tree skirt just sings Perfect Christmas Tree Skirt to me. I’m not sure another will ever measure up.


I walk through the sun room that was my childhood bedroom (shared with 2 sisters). I remember my mom’s offer to build a window seat into it when I was an awkward pre-teen. She was trying to help me and being so kind. But I looked the gift horse in the mouth and declined. Stepping in there today, turning, finding the perfect spot for a window seat, remembering my lifelong dream to have a window seat, a dream that’s still unrealized, I apologize to the room for not letting my parents build in it a window seat. Really, I am apologizing to myself.

Now that the closing is imminent for the 3rd time, I am sneaking out of the house before my kids wake to say goodby one last time. I resolve, this time, to wait to draw out the camera until I’ve been present long enough in each area to reminisce a little, and to reflect. Maybe to pray. The Lord really surprised me this day, a Friday not long ago…

Tune in next time for the sequel of this stunning series! More home walk through ruminations, and perhaps, if there is not another cliff hanger, the final revelation/resolution. 🙂