Who takes care of Mama?

I’m just learning the answer to this somewhat rhetorical question – usually the mama needs to take care of mama.

It looks different for different people in different seasons of life.  But I believe one thing is for certain regardless of where you’re at: if you aren’t being deliberate about caring for yourself in some very basic ways, you won’t be able to sustain caring for a home, a husband, some children and every other random thing that might be under your stewardship.

In order to know what you need and how to make sure you can make it for the very long haul of homemaking, child raising/teaching and husband-loving, time needs to be spent pondering what fills your cup.  If the things that fill your cup are…coffee, sugar, shopping and nightly TV/movies maybe some healthier long-term options would be worth thinking about.  Whatever they may be, I think there are depths to draw from when we choose to carve out some time for what will help enable us to keep moving forward.  There will always be normal roadblocks and sometimes monumental ones, that make life hard.  And if we don’t have a plan in place that helps nourish us, it’s pretty easy to derail.

Does it sound like maybe I speak from experience?  Indeed I do and am still on the learning journey.  There was a time when I was pretty sure I could work part time, lead a ministry at church, support a husband who was pastoring, maintain a home, raise children and still manage to do my hair, feel rested and balanced and sane.  Sometime in that year after our second was born and I was juggling all those things, post-partum depression gripped me and all my plates came crashing.  Nothing was working well.  And I was convinced I was the only one who was having such a hard time with it all.

So experience and failure and life have taught me many things.  I still forget them, but in general they stay pretty close to the surface.  For me, these things are keys to life survival right now:

  • going out with a close friend to a movie every couple weeks/month – this totally meets our common need to ‘check out’ for a couple hours and especially not watching TV or anything, I really need my mind to chill out sometimes
  • making the drive to meet my kindred spirit, life long best friend for face to face (kid free) talk time – we never cover everything but I feel like my cup is brimming every time we say goodbye
  • going to all the work to have a date night every month or so – I really wish it were more but with 4 young kids, it’s hard to make it happen (I would love for my friend Kim to write about her ‘in home dates’ that she and her hubby enjoy!)
  • getting up early (6 AM these days!) to encounter peace, stillness and Jesus before my day starts – I’ve struggled with this all my life but see a desperate need for it in order for my life to feel more centered
  • building up my supplement repertoire to full capacity – this has take a while, they are expensive, but the difference in my energy and capacity is very significant, especially being pregnant – aloe vera juice, undiluted cranberry juice, whole food calcium and prenatals, vitamin D, liquid iron/herbs, high potency probiotics and Omega fatty acids are all on the current list
  • exercise in some form, even just a walk, does wonders for my whole self
  • making reading a priority, sometimes just pure, fun, fiction

I’d love to hear any more ideas or things that you’ve found helpful in navigating motherhood!

**PS**After I posted this, I noticed below the post that I wrote another post about this back in Nov 2009…and the way that I was ‘taking care of mama’ was by registering  to attend a Mom Heart conference with some dear friends who’d moved away.  My the things that have transpired since then, I didn’t get to attend the conference but God has still been ever faithful to care for me through what has been quite a year.

Caramel Apple Dip-perfect fall treat

My beloved college friend Shauna sent me home from our breakfast date over the weekend with homemade caramel apple dip.  It smelled divine and tasted as even better.  I was careful not to ask for the recipe until after we’d eaten the whole jar in a day!  I knew it couldn’t be any sort of healthy, but for a special thing it would be fun.  So I must share since apple season is in full swing here…

1 cup butter (that’s why it’s so good!)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 brown sugar
1/4 corn syrup

Combine in a small pot and heat over med. heat until butter is melted, and sugar is dissolved (about 5 min)….Make sure you are continually stirring so as not to burn the brown sugar. Whisking it helps to emulsify the ingredients together. Mixture does not need to boil, just be thoroughly mixed. Remove from heat, and add 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp vanilla. Enjoy with apple slices!

Scrumptious Teriyaki Sauce in 20 minutes

This was too tasty and too easy not to share.  My memory lapse on forgetting to buy teriyaki sauce at the store last time I went may have been a good thing!  I skipped the weekly grocery run last night because I was too exhausted and opted to rummage around the cupboards all week instead.  I set out to make teriyaki chicken and rice for dinner but quickly realized we had no sauce.  I briefly thought about going to the store but didn’t feel up to it.  So I read a few recipes, most called for mirin  (sweet Japanese cooking wine), which I didn’t have.  But I did have four common ingredients and felt brave, so I combined all I had read and started out to make some sauce, this is roughly what I did:

2 cups shoyu (just because I’d bought a bottle of it at a local specialty store a while back)
1 cup brown sugar (because I’m almost out of honey)
2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled
5 large fresh garlic cloves

I decided to blend first then cook.  So I tossed the sugar and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) in the blender.  I pushed the garlic through a crusher, grated the ginger both straight into my blender.  I let it go on high for maybe 30 seconds then poured it into a saucepan on medium heat.  I simmered for a few minutes, then tasted.  Crazy salty.  Too strong for my kids.  But incredible flavor.  And not thick.  So I mixed 3 heaping TBS of cornstarch in at least another cup of water.  Poured that in and let it bubble and thicken to the perfect consistency.  It was still a little sharp on flavor so I added the last little bit of honey I had, maybe 1/3 cup I’d say.

I imagine the quality and kind of soy sauce you use would radically alter the taste, saltiness and flavor.  Tamari would maybe have been even better, because it is even more robust in flavor.  What I used was certainly nicer brand that I usually have and it was close to going to waste in my pantry!

After making dinner I had about two thirds of a quart jar left, a couple more meals worth for certain.  I’m not sure how long it will last in the fridge  but after watching the kids inhale the rice sprinkled with the sauce and the chicken cooked in it….it won’t be a problem!  I’m not sure how the cost compares to buying sauce at the store but there are no preservatives which is certainly great, and at least in my opinion the flavor is beyond comparison.

And yes, for the record I know I spelled it wrong.  But I’m pretty darn stingy with my label maker tape so I wasn’t about to reprint it.

Short is better than not

I believe that a short thankful list is better than none so…

#237 – watching someone else’s miracle unfold

#238 – a day off my mama job to fill up very empty me

#239 – receiving homemade caramel sauce for apples, how could something be so good?

#240 – a new week, a new start, another chance to look up and choose joy

#241 – choosing sleep over a full fridge=to bed at 8:30 for me!

Gratitude when life bites

Part of the choice to find things to be thankful for is that life sucks sometimes and making your list gets a little harder.  Sometimes a week goes by and all the best laid plans fall to pieces and you miss some showers, raise your voice when you didn’t want to, serve things for dinner that really don’t qualify, miss your hard-working husband like crazy but act like you don’t care since that hurts less and say goodbye to pets that you adore because for this little season their home can’t be with you…yes, some weeks and truly some whole months or years burst with hard things and seem to never end.

But part of the beauty of gratitude is still writing your list when you’ve cried every day for a week and you don’t feel like the list could be worth writing…

#226 – friends who help carry the load when you can’t

#227 – being a receiver of generous compassion

#228 – sharing real life with my children, even when life doesn’t feel nice

#229 – clean sheets

#230 – what a $25 gallon of paint can do to a little kitchen in 4 hours

#231 – hearing a two year old try to say “Guatemala” over and over

#232 – hearing her older sibling pray on her behalf for her new Compassion child

#233 – spontaneous fun

#234 – sacrifice-in all its incomprehensible beauty

#235 – the mystery of homeopathy and the difference it can make in the life of a child

#236 – warm feet on a rainy day

An experiment in greens

Eating leafy greens (besides the occasional salad) aren’t a strong suit here in our home.  I don’t mind them sauteed and wilted with onion and garlic.  But the kids don’t dig it.  And between the six of us a half gallon of raw farm milk last over a week…so I’ve long been aware that we need to boost our calcium intake elsewhere.  Leafy greens are a great source of many wonderful things, including calcium.

My mom was at a farm stand and was on the phone with me describing the produce and I had her get me a bunch each of mustard greens, red chard, beets (with their lovely greens attached) and kale.  Now I just had to figure out what to do with them!

After a good deal of reading online, I put together my plan:

Enjoy the lovely beet tops – they really are beautiful!

Finely chop greens in food processor

Place into snack sized tiny ziplocs without any air inside OR freeze into ice cubes

The ice cubes are primarily to use for smoothies, which we enjoy very often and I sneak all sorts of things into and the baggie sized servings are to toss into soups.  For our family those are the two foreseeable ways we will all enjoy some leafy dark greens!  I did this with the red chard, the beet tops and kale (which I blanched very quickly first since it’s so tough).  I didn’t do the mustard greens because I plan to have them myself.  Fresh foods are the name of the game this pregnancy for me, I can’t get enough.  So I intend to do my best at eating them!  I will let you know how this little experiment pans out in the next couple weeks…

The gift of together time

We booked a campsite many weeks ago and it wasn’t refundable, so when the weather forecast turned to rain, we went back and forth about going or not.   Since we’ve talked for several years about camping in the San Juan Islands and had never done it, we opted to call it adventure and go for it.   There is so much that I used to take for granted when Chris worked at his old job.  One of the biggest was simply time together.

Nearly two years into his new position, family time is now of utmost value.  It is a little sad it took the loss of it for us to realize how precious it is.  But better than not at all.  It’s all part of the journey, I know.

On a lighter note, we learned many good things camping with four little people.   Like “EZ setup” might mean nearly two hours of hard work and the use of bandaids to hold poles together….and that a big pot of chili is not the best camping fare when all six share one tent…and that the term “quiet hours” doesn’t apply at some campgrounds.

Since it’s Monday here is the continuation of my list of 1000 gifts joining the gratitude community combined with some shots from our trip:

#211 – the delight of memory-making

#212 – surprising Daddy with birthday brownies while we camped on his special day

#213 – learning yet again that so much of life is all about how you look at it

#214 – hiking/climbing the kids’ first mountain, Turtleback Mountain on a spectacular sunny day

#215 – long ferry rides and trying to explain what archipelago means

#216 – being windblown

#217 – being up so early together that clouds were still sitting on many of the islands!

#218 – boys who don’t always like eachother but can sure act like it sometimes

#219 – four imperfect children who continue to refine and change us

#220 – coming ‘home’ from our great hike to see this fella in our campsite – incredible!

#221 – sleeping snug and dry while rain poured all night over our tent

#222 – the end of belly sleeping for mama till springtime

#223 – how it feels to do something you’ve so long wanted to do

#224 – the way I was able to breathe again after calling to cancel a certain 4 year old’s attendance at preschool

#225 – the massive challenge and blessing of homeschool

Family culture

While I attended a leadership training weekend in Colorado early August, one of my (many) favorite phrases that I heard from Sally Clarkson was how they had worked in their family to define a family culture.  It wasn’t a focal point of her teaching but the phrase has been mulling around in my head for weeks.  In a society where “family” isn’t even a value and often people’s schedules are crazy full and crazy busy, there is little time to define family.

When we married just two years out of high school, we adopted many family traditions of our families (which is wonderful).  But it wasn’t until at least 6 years later that we realized we might want some traditions and things of our own that made us…us.  It felt weird to try and forge new things and some didn’t fly.  Some were awkward and forced.  But the ones that actually flowed from our collective hearts, hung around.  And now, 11 1/2 years into our totally unique, one-of-a-kind family, we’re continuing the journey.

Only it’s more intentional now and we’re a little older.  So if we seem weird or the way we roll doesn’t make sense, it’s okay with us.  Normal was never our goal but we certainly lacked the courage to go against the flow quite so much in our earlier years.

This week it meant cutting down a bit more on our weekly activities.  To be honest, for a little while I felt like if we could afford more activities, then we should do them.  Why not?  But in some lengthy quiet moments these past weeks and hours spent reading on global poverty and looking at hundreds of sweet faces on the Compassion website, sitting weeping at my computer (3 times this week)…maybe one more activity isn’t actually worth it.  Maybe that doesn’t even line up with what we say our priorities are.  I’ve always prayed that God would give me glimpses of His heart and let me love even a little bit like Him.  If these past weeks are a glimpse, then I think He cares more for the poor and marginalized than I have.   And that truth has stung.  A lot.

All I really want is say to yes to Jesus and to actually live out my faith in a way that means something.  Still figuring that out.  I want our family to do our part to make Jesus look good by the way we love people.  It’s pretty simple actually, I just complicate it – all the time!  With saying yes to a large family too, it means saying no to other things.  We believe wholeheartedly that the trade off is more than worth it.  But that’s just us.  Like I said, not normal (grin).  As we purposefully limit spendy fun things for us and our kids, I think the other places our money is meant for will quickly rise to the surface.  And as we wonder together “What is our family culture?  What makes us…US?”, especially this weekend as we go camping (IN THE RAIN!), I am totally looking forward to the continuing conversation.

I think I have (a lot) more to say and ponder about this topic.  So you might here from me again on it!

Kittens anyone?

This is going to be so hard for our kids but they knew it was part of the deal.  These two little sweet girls will be available to excellent homes on Sept 17.  Let me know if you are interested.  They are 7 weeks old this week and they must be the most socialized kittens on the planet.  They’ve been loved and held and played with all day, every day, for weeks!

Still counting…

#192 – free blackberries and finding all sorts of excuses to enjoy them

#193 – feeling first tiny baby flutters inside

#194 – Haggen Daz…daily for three days

#195 – a son who wants to be a mama just so he can eat “Mama popsicles” (aka Haggen Daz)

#196 – finishing canning till October

#197 – a new group of women to share motherhood with

#198 – a husband who fixes things and works on his day off

#199 – girl giggles

#200 – painting giggle girls toenails

#201 – being loved well

#202 – a good planner that makes sense of my days for me

#203 – having sisters

#204 – seeing my husband passionate about something

#205 – the joy of sharing

#206 – a night with a husband I adore, great friends and our favorite musician

#207 – the constant finding and keeping of common ground

#208 – a humble apology

#209 – a wonderful first week of homeschool

#210 – living with hope. every single day.  despite constant bad news, sad stories and brokenness.  Hope.