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. Continue reading

If You Do Just One Thing Today

“If you do just one thing…” It’s a phrase I’ve taken great comfort in ever since reading the marvelous column about this in Real Simple magazine, back in the day when I was a devotee of the mag. At the time, it just really helped me to focus my swirling mental list of stuff that I was stressed about accomplishing, whether it be in the apartment, my social/family life, or at work, and usually, all of the above at once. I could grab one task out of the chaos, focus on it, finish it, and move on to the next one.

It was quite a transition to go from working woman to mother, and a stay at home mom, at that, especially because it happened quite suddenly in my case. Two and a half months after getting hitched, we learned that we were expecting. And within 2 weeks of that, I was on bed rest until our little honey was full term. Given my pre-term labor, all I could do was “nothing”. Except, that is, cerebrally prepare for motherhood. But for whatever reason, I seemed incapable of even mentally preparing for a baby, much less adapting gracefully to this sudden new stage in our life. I didn’t have that 7-9 month transition period to bid farewell to the working world, ease into marriage, and work out the logistics of welcoming new life. When a discerning friend later empathized, “you didn’t have the mental energy. You were exhausted even as you lay there.” I was greatly comforted because then suddenly what seemed like 7 months of slovenly-ness was clarified into a very simple state of letting my body rest so that we could have a healthy baby. Nothing more, but also nothing less. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit Inspires Us to Greater Elephants

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We are on day 3 of pacifier detox!!!!! And it is totally the Lord. I mean, man, do I ever get a surprise every time we attempt this. I didn’t learn the first time that my ways are not His ways, so naturally I was hemming and hawing and stressing and guilting over still letting our son have a nuk for naps and at night. The plotting and scheming for the Great Detoxification Event can only be described as a category 10 mental furry.  The deadline of having to go in for his 18 month appointment – and face the doctor’s questions – has only made me more anxious, because we are going in 1.5 months late, and at his 15 month appointment we were already supposed to have weaned him of it, apparently, which means I am even more of a lazy looser. I was convinced it would be supremely difficult for our first, and then I was convinced it would be astronomically more difficult than that, for little man, for many reasons that were very logical and based in objective observation.

Then there’s this elephant (see above). This darn elephant has been my faithful companion for over 3 years. I have kept it in the diaper bag for use at a moment’s notice. I have found it hidden in the diaper bag and dutifully repatriated it for my little teething honeys. I have coaxed, encouraged, ordered them to use the darn thing. And they act like it doesn’t exist. Both the little stinkers. Despite my best efforts. Until a couple days ago. We were in the basement (miracle #1, since I dislike basements), and all the sudden little man is gnawing on that blessed elephant as if his life depends on it. It looked to me like “the beginning of a lifelong romance” (name that movie!), but I decided not to get my hopes up. It went to bed with him, and him without his pacifier, but he howled for over 15 minutes, and we caved because Daddy was feeling sick and I was feeling crazy.

But we tried again yesterday, when things were more calm for all. He had no paci, he had that darn elephant. And he only woke once. I found his new friend, and he went right back down to sleep!

…[just a little more saga here, folks! I do have a point. Hang in there!]…

This morning was tough on all of us, mostly because my temper flares so easily over the slightest issue, and our friends, due to visit, were an eternity away from rescuing me. But as I put little man down for his nap, I couldn’t help but note that he was being so very dear, giving me hugs and acting like I was doing him a big favor by letting him sleep. And I couldn’t help but flash my camera at him to capture the moment of blessed pacifier freedom, now so ingrained as habit that I am calling it a success.

And I saw the Holy Spirit. He reminded me how truly easy this process has been. He suggested that maybe he was involved from the beginning, inspiring Joshy to find the thing in the basement, and finally take to the thing! He thereby comforted and calmed me from the tornadoes of the past few days. I thought, “well, it isn’t all bad”, and “I haven’t totally screwed up everything“. “See? He’s successfully weaned from his paci. Thank you Lord!”

And then he wailed again. No way?! WAY! I thought from the sound of the cries that he was probably not, after all, ready to give up the paci. Luckily, having just experienced the above, I had the presence of mind to look at my watch so that I could time it and figure out what to do – later – based on scientific measurements of length of wailing. And in the meantime I decided to make peace with my daughter, and offered that we read together. And while we were reading together, at some point, the wailing ceased. They are now both, blessedly, slumbering, and I am again claiming full nuk detox.

Thank the Lord. He cares about paci detox!  And the Holy Spirit knows about neglected elephants who are well qualified for the job! Can I get an Amen?

Amen!

 

 

Filling the Love Cup

Reuben turns 2, birthday party, Ingrid and Balloons-2
Patiently awaiting for those who fill her love cup 🙂

I am deciding today to just dive into this post with where we are at as a family right now. I thought about delaying the post and writing when I had more stories, evidence, conclusions…more time….(are you laughing at me? Because I am laughing at myself!).

Let’s just plunge into this post, shall we?

Where are we right now: We moved half way across the country just days shy of 9 months ago. We have been living with wonderful friends (family, actually, because the bond we have all formed is thicker than blood) who have done nothing short of laying down their lives for us. We barely knew these spectacular people when we moved in with them (a story for another time…that I think might become a book some day). We are still working with the Lord to find a house get into the house under which we have a contract…(more long stories that involve us learning far more than we ever wanted to about the inner workings of city permits, gas and DOT companies and much, much more…). We never could have imagined the challenges that this move would bring, and the process is definitely not over. Our daughter, Sweet Girl, just turned 5 (someone please pick my jaw up from the floor and explain to me how babies turn 5 the say after they are born???) and is in her first year of school. Our son, Little Man, is 2 and lives outdoors in the chicken coop whenever possible.

Before moving we were very far from family and had very few, but very close friends. We didn’t have Sweet Girl in school because we suspected a move might be on the horizon and we knew it would like come in the middle of the year. Life was in one sense a lot simpler, mostly because we had very few commitments, but it was also very challenging because our support system was hundreds of miles away.

The last year before the move was particularly challenging for me because we hit the end of the 3s and the beginning of the 4s with Sweet Girl. There is a series of books by Louise Bates Ames that covers each age/stage that children go through, highlighting where they are in terms of growth, how they have changed in the past year, what is unique to their current age and gives advice on how to handle the changing and growing. As with any book on parenting, I don’t agree with every word written but I find these books really helpful developmentally speaking, and I find that they demystify things for me. They help me to feel less frustrated about the changes that come and go in my children because I find myself less caught off guard. I was, as a wise mom-before-me put it, finding myself outside of the honeymoon phase of parenting Sweet Girl. She recommended Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful. I knew just by the title that this was a must-read for me, and it really helped me make it through the gap of time where we could not put our daughter in school even though she was more than ready. In other words, it helped cut the negativity that I felt was starting to color our relationship and helped me to fill her love cup.

Filling the love cup/tank is a phrase that I have run across a number of times now in articles, posts, etc. It refers to a child’s emotional fuel tank. “Their emotional fuel is the attention, connection, and nurturing they receive from the people they love.” – Pam Leo. Pam, from the Natural Child Project, highlights how attention is good and helpful, but connection happens through truly engaging children which then strengthens emotional bonds. I have seen this to be true time and time again with Sweet Girl. And I am no expert. Nor do I feel like I accomplish the filling of the cup the way I wish I could on a daily basis. But that’s where you, people of our life (!), come in 🙂

Since moving we have gained the family mentioned above, which means my kids gained an extra sibling in an instant that I did not have to birth (fist pump!)…but given that we are 9 months into this adventure and all its challenges, I sometime wonder if birthing might have been easier…ha!                                                                                                         My husband and I have gained the opportunity to go out more than once in a blue moon because we now have an arsenal of babysitters at our finger tips We have gained a small, tight-knit school family that we are getting to know and love very much, and a city that has so much to do we will never exhaust all that is available even if we live here for the rest of our lives.

People! Love cups are being filled left and right and it’s not all on me! Do I hear an Alleluia chorus?? Can I get an AMEN?!

Babysitters fill love cups when they play the exact game with the exact rules that Sweet Girl invents on the spot, and they do so with even more excitement and enthusiasm than Sweet Girl. I am telling you, I cannot fill that portion of the cup.

School fills love cups because teachers are Sweet Girl’s heroes and they love her no matter what every.single.day. They see things in her that I don’t see. She let’s them see things about her that don’t come alive at home because the teachers bring new life from her wild and wonderful little self. School, by definition to Sweet Girl, is “a big building full of the most friends of her entire life”. She could never spend too much time at school. She hopes, with all her love-gushing-heart to marry two of her classmates and her favorite part of the day is lunch (without fail. every.single.day). Overflowing love cup, right here folks!

Time with mom, or as Sweet Girl calls it, Mommy-Sweet Girl time definitely fills the love cup in a special way. I also find it the hardest thing to accomplish on a daily basis with school, Little Man, naps, meals to cook, cleaning, and all the things that happen in a day that you all are oh-so familiar with. This is definitely cherished time, and often happens when Little Man naps. When I finally realized that I (personally, this may not be for you) needed to give that time to Sweet Girl and stop trying to reserve it for myself (at least some days of the week), we both (almost instantly) became happier, more loving, more cooperative – yes, both of us. I realized I was either making the time to spend together (because she doesn’t need to make the time – she is ALWAYS ready!) or we were left dealing with the emotions of a cup unfilled.

Arts and crafts fill Sweet Girl’s love cup. This could be at school, during mommy time, babysitter time, or sometimes even on her own if I set things up for her. She has a lot of favorite things she likes to do. In fact, life is her favorite. She will tell you that everything about her days are great and wonderful. But if I could highlight something that really fills her cup in a day, with the exception of being with friends, it’s being creative. Now if she gets to be with friends and be creative, well then the cup overflows!

Daddy Dates. These excursions and adventures fill the love cup in a unique way that I really can’t put into words. I fell in love with my husband in part because of his amazing left-field humor. Laughing, especially in this family, is a very powerful way of connecting. And no one can pull this off better than Daddy. My husband tries to take Sweet Girl out on his own more than a few times a year. They often go out for breakfast and then to a book store. Reading is one of “their things”. The latest adventures in reading include comic books, especially Calvin and Hobbes and Star Wars. If Daddy loves it, Sweet Girl loves it more. For this we fill up a whole case of love cups, no problem.

I could go on and on with examples of how I have seen the love cups filled, and I am sure we are just scratching the surface. The love that others have for my child helps me to help her to fill her cup. W

I say cheers (clink!) to filling the love cup one (or one thousand!) connection(s) at a time!

How does your family fill love cups? I wanna know!

Finally, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors, Lemony Snicket. This is for you, Sweet Girl!

“…I will love you until the bird hates a nest and the worm hates an apple, and until the apple hates a tree and the tree hates a nest, and until a bird hates a tree and an apple hates a nest, although honestly I cannot imagine that last occurrence no matter how hard I try. I will love you as we grow older, which has just happened, and has happened again, and happened several days ago, continuously, and then several years before that, and will continue to happen as the spinning hands of every clock and the flipping pages of every calendar mark the passage of time, except for the clocks that people have forgotten to wind and the calendars that people have forgotten to place in a highly visible area…”

Cheers!

MD

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

What it’s Like with Two (Kids) II

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Enjoy!

Our friend Tess is over for dinner and next to the table there’s a toy storage bench that doesn’t quite fit snugly against the wall because your home is 100 years old and has beautiful, thick deep and high baseboards. The only “game” your 2 year old has occupied herself with lately is launching all manner of toys down the crack between the bench and the wall – similar to how you load a washing machine. You wonder if she’s figured out that she won’t need to clean up the toys if they are hidden in this way.

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As you discuss birthday parties and the delectable treats her mom creates you vaguely hear the toddler calling out “Miss Tess! Miss Tess! Want to put Josh down the hole too.” Swiveling around, your husband sees her tugging on the baby’s arm as Miss Tess tries to interpret what she, an innocent bystander, just heard and realizes she is being asked to help with this naughty plot. You note that you, the authority figures, are not being asked for help, as if this way you won’t object to it.

More shenanigans.
More shenanigans.

And you wonder if, with 3, kids skip the step of asking-for-help-of-inocent-non-parent-bystanders and go straight for stuffing their younger siblings into 2 inch deep cracks on their own. Then you wonder which is preferable. Then you thank God that either a) you are not yet expecting #3 (and we’re not, thank you Lord!) or b) you have some time to prepare for #3, mentally, spiritually, and physically. And you make a mental note to teach the baby to stand up for himself so as not to get put into holes.

Happy weekend!

MC

What It’s Like with Two (Kids) I

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An early photo of one of us with two.

Whether conceiving your second child was long awaited or is a big surprise, you’re likely wondering how exactly it is going to go, and how well it is going to go, for all of you, when the new baby arrives. Several friends are expecting their seconds this year. So: Matt and Mary, Mike and Sarah, Pete and Christine, this one’s for you.

Your toddler is two and in her Sounds Phase because when you were descending the stairs together and she brushed against a heat register she liked the sound and you had read How to be a Great Parent by Dr. Nancy S. Buck when she was a baby because that’s when you had time or rather energy, and you don’t any more so even though the register is falling off the wall you let her make sounds and delay going downstairs because Dr. Buck encourages parents in the book to not say no so often because the kid’s desires are ok and it might even express a need for fun or freedom, so she plays it like an instrument and enjoys the sound until you entice her down the stairs with promises of a yummy snack likely containing sugar, but the concept of listening to the different sounds that things make when banged on has taken root.

And she is running around with a red heart shaped measuring cup that you got at a cute bridal shower long before she existed, doing who knows what because she is two and a child of you, and the baby is sitting between the dining room and the kitchen playing with something or other on the floor and you are just trying to get dinner done before Daddy gets home. It’s all about survival at this point and not burning the house down. As you ‘stir the gumbo’ you vaguely hear the baby squawk and see him reach as his older sister walks by and you slightly sternly adjoin him to calm down because he is okay because he doesn’t need the red heart shaped measuring cup because Rebecca had it first and he has other toys right there, and then you turn back to the ‘gumbo’ only a few minutes later to hear a more insistent squawking and this time as you half turn your attention towards that general direction you see said sister dashing off, this time with a slightly more guilty gate while brandishing said red plastic heart shaped measuring cup and you realize that in fact she is the one you ought to scold because in both incidences of squawking it is she who caused the hubub. She is using the read heart shaped plastic measuring cup to bang on brother’s head to hear and learn what sound it makes. But she is already out of sight when you finally put the pieces together, brother is half pacified since the concert disturbance has ceased, and daddy’s arrival is imminent, you really really, really hope, in fact why isn’t he home yet? And you can hardly keep from laughing your dupa off out loud because I guess any very young human would wonder what sound a red plastic heart shaped measuring cup makes on a smaller young human head, and you totally missed this interesting phenomenon the first time and it must have been fun for her, because she took the trouble to circle back and make the sound a second time.  So you vaguely say something in the general direction of the dining room to the two year old who has fled about not hitting her brother and you again tell said brother that he is okay all the while wondering why he trusts you after another instance of failing to protect him and then telling him the same thing regardless of responsibility about his okay state once the truth of his innocence is discovered.

And as you review the entire last 7.53 minutes or so you have no idea actually how long it was because every 5 minute interval between 3pm and 6:03 pm until Daddy gets home feel like 48 minutes and you think desperately again that if your spouse doesn’t walk through the door finally, finally –  late – at that exact minute you really will go crazy because you will forget to tell him about it and laugh about it after they go to bed if he doesn’t walk in that very next second but actually if the dinner burns in that next second you will forget to tell him even if he does come right away. So you review it again in your mind and think about dashing to the dining room to get the quote book to write it down but dinner might burn and the culprit might hear you laughing and think that banging on her brother’s head with a red heart shaped measuring cup is funny and therefore sanctioned so you review it again in your mind to remember it better to tell people about it and then you have to stop reviewing it in your mind because you laugh every time you think about it and if she catches you laughing she will think that banging on brother’s head not only makes an interesting sound, but is something Mommy enjoys which in fact you do enjoy but only in the company of adults as a story of What It’s Like with Two.

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Mischievous look from number one while number two gazes at number one in admiration.

True Story: a Toddler Learns of God and Creation

Yooking side. (trans. Looking outside).
Yooking side. (trans. Looking outside).

Our toddler wanted a story before nap time. We were all the way upstairs, and mere seconds away from that blissful period, but she wanted a story from the “book. big booook!”, and the baby – for once – wasn’t needy, and her request was sincere, and I figured a one time delay wouldn’t become a habit – horror of horrors!, so I capitulated to the request. We opened to a children’s book version of the creation story, and I wearily began to read.

The words and illustrations call for more than weariness (until the seventh day, that is, and even then only if you’re God – ha!), and so naturally I began putting some expression into them. I even paused a couple of times to wonder aloud with her. ‘Just look around, Rebecca, this room, everything in it, you, everything outside; God made all of it!’ Now, normally I am focused to a fault. If we are reading a story, we are READING THE STORY, no interjections. And if it is nap time, it is NAP TIME, no interruptions. It’s a pretty big deal that I strayed from both tasks.

I am glad that I did, because a couple of days later either during breakfast, second breakfast, snack, 11-sies, or lunch (they all run together both, literally and in my memory), Rebecca was saying something about something outside the window that was next to her.

Rebecca: “Yook! Side.”  Translation: “Look outside!”

Me: “What do you see, Sweetie?”

Rebecca: “Gog!” Translation: “God!”

Yes, Little Honey, God is outside, because he made it. God is here too. Right next to you and right inside you. He even made that tree, right there. And Mommy and Daddy and Brother. And thank you for presenting such immediate and clear proof that a tiny thing I did to connect with you and teach you actually worked. It’s rewarding for me personally, and a fun little praise moment during a meal.

Love to you,

Miss Mary Clare

Joshy Can Now Crawl, and I am Not the Only One Crying about It

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This just cracks me up! I wrote a whole post about not wanting my son to reach a major milestone (crawling – YIKES!!!), but trying to be happy about it regardless. When it actually happened very recently, I was resigned/excited/resigned, but wanted to cry. And yell. And whine. And kick. And stomp, and most of all, to make it stop. And guess who actually cried?! The big boy himself. That’s some sort of poetic justice.

It’s fitting that he gained this independence just in time for the celebration of our country’s Independence Day. And, to be quite honest he is not generally unhappy about his accomplishment. I confess that I made him cry. But it’s my husband’s fault. You see, I took the video that produced the above still at his behest while he was at work. It was only the 2nd time he’d taken his new all fours for a spin, and Erik hadn’t seen it yet. He requested a video. I obliged by taking away the crinkly thing Josh was playing with, and putting it in crawling distance. This is a boy who likes his toys. Oh boy, does he ever. He cried and whined and wanted it back. But I made him crawl to go get it. So he cried some more while crawling.

My conclusion is that I was right! Crawling is no fun.

Actually, I’m really ok with this development. I am happy for him, and even, as I said, a little excited. I think it’s because I love the kid. A friend once pointed out one of the best features of love: ‘it doesn’t stop on a dime’. It compels us to go further and do more than we would otherwise do. In my case, this means that I’m moving past all sorts of fears and hesitations (most of which are based in selfishness or satan – the JERK (and that’s putting it lightly)!), and landing in a place where my emotions are more positive regarding this stage of parenting. This also means that my floors will soon be the clean that they deserve, and I will work off some pounds running after the kid.

Which brings up a burning question. How do you clean floors? We have hardwood, tile, and a rug over hardwood in our main living areas. Seriously, I don’t know how to efficiently clean them, and I actually can’t seem to get spills cleaned up from the wood floor. It’s a small house, so I’d prefer just 1 mop thing-y for the whole shebang. We have little/no storage space for cleaning items. I don’t know what solutions to use, whether there’s a really cool gadget that sweeps AND cleans (please tell me that there is!), etc. It’s like I’ve never cleaned before. Oh, wait, I haven’t. At least not in this house. Just like a baby needs to crawl before they can walk, I need to do the dishes before I can mop.

The end, (but please tell me in the comments how to clean my floors),

Miss Mary Clare