We Made Cupcakes

Author’s note

Let me tell you  I have just  written  my first blog post  using  the WordPress app  and the voice to text feature  on my phone . I wrote this blog post while nursing a baby. Have mercy on me and ignore all typos

It was a morning that was not very typical for me. I decided not to go somewhere outside the house this particular morning. Instead I decided to have the baby take a good nap in his crib. The baby went down after two tries. I was pretty happy with this and then realized I had a decision to make at that moment. My three-year-old son I was anxiously awaiting me to return to the downstairs after putting his brother to sleep. I was tempted to immediately begin some housework. There was plenty to do. My options were endless. Dishes laundry cleaning picking up Etc. But I took a moment and realized this may be one of the Limited moments during the day when I can with him one-on-one. Instead of jumping in to the chores  the first thing that popped into my mind was to ask him a simple question. Do you want to play with me? Yes! He answered and said that he wanted to play trains. Just be honest with you I don’t like playing trains. So I made another suggestion let’s bake together. And so we did. We made yellow cake mix cupcakes cupcakes with pink frosting and some with green frosting. He loved it. And the funny thing was it seems like I got more chores done yesterday because I found ways for him to be involved. He sat on my bed and played while I folded clothes. I put away dishes while he ate lunch and he was very understanding. I managed to sneak in a load of laundry between nursing the baby. It was a fine day. Of course not perfect. But I won’t get into that part. My point is that all too many times I am so focused on what I have to get done that I miss what’s really going on in front of me. Theres 2 little brown haired boys who need me to be present to them today. I still remember my mother-in-law’s advice when I was expecting my first baby. She said number one  sleep when the baby sleeps and number 2 chores can wait. Unfortunately with two kids now I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps if my toddler isn’t sleeping too but the second one always applies. Chores can wait.

Pray the Ninja Way

Alternate title to this post is: The Steal, Sneak around, and Hunker Down Prayer Hack Method for Moms.

Sheila posted a fantastic entry and asked some salient questions regarding prayer. And it’s just the perfect timing, since I have been thinking about this subject for quite some time, and also since I had writer’s block until she posted on Tuesday!

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Getting a regular prayer time in is indeed a challenge. We all know what’s individually keeping us from prayer, whether it’s illness, tiredness, interruptions, or lack of scheduling prowess. Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve been almost constantly trying to get back to the one and only routine that has ever worked for me: wake up x number of minutes earlier than normal, use that amount of time to make coffee and pray, and then continue as normal with the day’s schedule, whatever that may be. Continue reading

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

 

What the Psalms are Teaching Me about Mission

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“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,

Love,

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?

Frumpy Friday Summer Summary

Dear people,

I have missed you. Hope you are well. Every time I see fantastic posts coming in regarding vacationing as a parent, a mom’s musings, and summer meal prep, I get a little twinge of guilt that I’ve been off the posting bandwagon for a bit. There’s no pressure to write. We’ve all let each other be very free. What a gift! But I have some posts in the works that take a ton of work. And in the humidity we’ve been experiencing, the water weight of that “ton” is roughly doubled. So I’ve been sludgy. And, most nap times, when I used to write, I’ve been getting some house projects done.

I do enjoy keeping in touch with you all. So I’ve thrown off the guilt and the expectations – that I have of myself – and decided to ramble a list of the things we’ve been up to and struggled over. This is a real blog by real people. Why not have posts that reflect the reality of our life right now? The reality is: we’re jumping from one thing to the next as a family and barely finishing most projects.

So without further ado, some summary:

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This photo may be my favorite of the two kiddos to date. Such happy little stinkers. And, the little guy finally began to take regular naps on June 1, 80% of the time. Yes it’s a big deal.  Yes, it is written down on our calendar.

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Here, you see a lot of what we’ve been doing, actually! 1) It’s in the porch, and there’s the reflection of an old school picnic table cloth. We’ve been enjoying most meals out here. It is so, so pleasant. Definitely one of the biggest blessings of our new home. You see, I have found since graduating from college that Fall arrives, and I feel all sad that Summer never really happened. I struggled as a working single to vacation well and use the seasons. This porch redeems that – we feel we are outside, yet we can remain in our jammies. 2) The white monstrosity is a $10 damaged kitchen cabinet that I am transforming into a bench. I need to gather the top and bottom pieces (ideally for free!) before continuing. Pray I can find those today! We may go garage-saling 3) Isn’t “garage-saling” a word? Here in Minnesota, it is a word. So why does spell check yell at me? 4) Also reflected above is a set of green shutters. I spent about $3 on them at a garage sale, then attached them to the wall over a large old mail slot. It took several weeks to complete. Now it’s a little surprise opening to do whatever we want with, and the kids haven’t torn off the doors, and it’s a completed project using wood (I LOVE wood!). So it’s a raving success. 5) The trowel on the ledge proves that we’ve done some gardening. 6) The subtle haze over everything betrays that I haven’t figured out how to clean. Yet. We’ve been in the house less than a year, people! Give me a break! A year long break, please. 🙂

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Also in the porch, I painted this table before it completely disintegrated.

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See? Painted. I learned, however, that I should believe everything I read when it comes to painting. It says ‘do many thin coats and sand in between’. And, many articles advise a poly finish. I didn’t do either. Now I know I should have, as there is already some chipping.

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On the other hand, I have 2 kids. They can’t always be corralled like they are above. So, 3 thick coats of paint are all we will do. Oh well.

As I may have mentioned, it has been hot and muggy here. I won a bet once with a colleague from Georgia. I bet him that at least one day in the Summer, we here in MN would experience a hotter or more humid day than they would in GA. And I won, handily! But that’s the only time I’ve ever in my life been grateful for this oppressive weather.

Which brings up a major question: to use the AC or to not use the AC. I’m sluggish and downright lazy in my natural humid weather state. But it costs mula and there’s just no enjoying the environment, sludgy as it is, around us when we turn on the AC. I could, I suppose, leave the windows open, take a deep breath, and do the dishes and other chores. I’ve been looking for a way to fast, and this may be it.

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Which brings up prayer. I’ve been sneaking downstairs alone in the early morning (for us – it’s  relative) to pray and open the windows. And, of course, to make coffee. It’s a real treat. A friend recommended to a bunch of us to change it up this summer in our prayer habits. One idea was to read a Psalm a day based on the date. I conveniently began on June 1, and have a 30 day cycle. So today, I added 30 to the date and read Psalm 54. In any month that has 31 days, I get a bonus day at the end to read the Psalm of my choice. It’s fun! The Psalms in the past have been difficult for me. I’ve read them and not really been able to relate to the ‘enemies round about me on every side, waiting to devour me’, and all that dramatic militaristic imagery. I look around me and I don’t seem to have that much trouble. So I think forlorn thoughts about how useless the Psalms are in my life, how I should be more serious so that life is more full of trouble, how weird I must be since other people can relate to the Psalms but I can’t, etc.  After plowing through the first few in this manner, I read Psalm 37. It’s a keeper:

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun….

Now, I read the Psalms as if I am speaking them to God, or he to me. Me and God. I have to turn off my historical imagination, and just let the words be mine alone, for me alone. Some Psalms sink in more deeply than others, but all of them are worth waking up for and sneaking past my semi-sleeping kids. On July 7, the Psalm contained plenty to ponder and resolve in my day to day life and musings.

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How could I forget?! We had a Grammy Visit, and prepped this sleeping porch for her stay.

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It’s now my favorite room in the house. Huge “thank you”s go out to Jeanne O and Erik for helping bring this room from storage with broken electrical units to perfect summer retreat place.

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I grabbed a minute at the end of my prayer/Psalm/coffee time July 4 to rig this up. Happy belated birthday, USA!

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Yes, a very happy birthday.

Best Regards,

Mary Clare

A Parent’s Reflections on being “in survival mode”

A card I found at a shop in Stillwater, MN. By Papyrus.
A card I found at a shop in Stillwater, MN. By Papyrus.

Several months back, a friend said to me, “you’re in survival mode”. At the time, it really helped me. I realized she was correct, and the clarity it brought to my situation also helped me cope with it better, both emotionally and physically. I wish I could describe it clearly, but I don’t remember exactly what we were going through at the time. I think if you’re also in survival mode, you know instinctively what I mean. (For that matter, as I learned in preparation for laboring, one aspect of the fight or flight mechanism is that, once it’s all over, your body’s hormones assist your mind in forgetting the trauma. So It’s natural and good that I don’t remember!)

    ...and...the inside of the same card! Too true/funny to leave on the shelf. Such humor must be shared.
…and…the inside of the same card! Too true/funny to leave on the shelf. Such humor must be shared.

Since that time, another friend has brought it up that I’m in survival mode, and I even wrote a little about it recently, here. But something about being in survival mode is bothering me. Continue reading

May It Never Be Said of Me: “She Has It All together”

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I used to want to “have it all together”. That is: wherever I am to be prepared, well fed, well dressed, well informed, and witty to boot. Further, I wanted to appear to others to “have it all together”. I truly cared what others thought of me, and I wanted it to be based on external appearances. It’s a standard I often hear touted for moms, whether they work outside or inside the home. Without realizing it at the time (from about age 17 into my thirties), I strove like a Pharisee to clean the outside of the cup while assuming the inside would follow suit. Or maybe I thought that if I exhibited “having it all together”, I would gain accolades, and then be happier. Continue reading