May 25, 2013

How to be a Good Mother

Dear Readers,

Today I have the pleasure of introducing my daughter Spice to you, by way of a guest post written by her.  She has been collecting ideas on how to be a good mother, and writing them down in her journal, in order to be able to consult them when she is in the position of raising children herself.  Spice has generously allowed me to not only read her list (asterisked tips to my special attention - I'll let you guess which ones!), but has also agreed to share them with you here.

Without further ado, I present to you:

Spice's Tips on How to Be a Good Mother:

Tip #1 - Always be sympathetic, not ever cross or stern.

Tip #2 - Always make sure that your child is actually sorry.

Tip #3 - Only give children punishments that you know are helping.

Tip #4 - If a child does something wrong, do something kind to them and they will be sorry.

Tip #5 - Never scold, explain things gently and only if the child still rebels or is mean, scold or punish.

Tip #6 - Explain how you feel to your children, if they know how you feel they may try to act better.

Tip #7 - Ask your children what they think.

Tip #8 - Make sure your children (or child) know that you understand their side of the problem.

Tip #9 - If your child is whiny, gently tell them the options, then if they are still whiny give them the punishment.

Pretty good, aren't they?  I'll keep you updated when she has more for us ....

May 21, 2013

uncharted waters

 (or, "in search of a growth chart")

I was lying on our bed this evening, cooling off after supper in the relative quiet of the upstairs, out of earshot of my two dishwashers pretending to be a rather chatty Mary & Laura Ingalls, waiting for my Farmer to emerge from a post-work, pre-board-meeting shower, thinking restless and unhappy thoughts.

I usually fill the gaps in my day, I realized, cramming them full of facebook and email and virtual community, stuffing my brain with Christian how-to books, or even the Bible.  As I lay there, waiting, gaps wide open for once, all this agitated discontent began oozing out from where I had pushed it beneath the surface.

I'm still hungry, but nothing appeals to me,  I thought.  I've got no motivation, and nothing I want to do anyway.  I'm wasting my life.  I could almost hear the subliminal whining:  "I'm booooored."

I don't know what's expected of me, exactly, but I'm pretty sure I'm not measuring up.

Did I do enough today?  I saw the optometrist this morning, meted out chores & played trains, listened to a sermon and a TED talk, baked cornbread (from scratch, because boxes don't get points, do they?), cleaned out the inbox, weeded a couple of flowerbeds, mailed a package at the post office, baked tilapia & boiled green beans ..... is this enough?  What's enough?

Does eating superfluous chocolate (and is there really any other kind?) cancel out the "from scratch" points?  Does spending time on facebook delete my weeding points?  How does it work?  How will I know if I'm doing it right??

Granted, a coughing Lil' Snip has kept me from getting much sleep the past few nights.  So my thinking might be the slightest bit warped.

But I'm lonely.  Unsatisfied with how I've "turned out" so far.  Aching to know that I matter, somewhere.


Awhile back I started a post I titled "DIY disease" in which I began to enumerate my many "from scratch" loves, from cooking to gardening to pottery.  I love to create, so much so that it's often hard for me to purchase something because the idea of making it myself is so tantalizing .... !

And then, too, there's the "should" element:  if I could make it myself .... then I should make it myself.

It was beginning to occur to me that my DIY fever didn't end with home decor and baked goods.  It had become invasive, encroaching even into my spiritual life:  It was crowding out grace.

I never finished that post.  I didn't know how.  There's been no neat ending in my life, and none in sight now.  I re-read my own words on grace, and perfectionism, and I sigh and nod, and still haven't conquered it.  Will I ever, this side of heaven?

So there's no growth chart for this, for these uncharted waters I swim through, no way to measure my progress.  I grew up on grades and "good job" and I don't know how to be enough, just being loved.  (am I?  I want to ask, am I?)

Other writers I love write of courage and positive action (showing up, doing the next right thing) and I despise my wallowing and still I wallow.

Where's the way out??

Just today, on facebook of all places, a friend reminded me of the words of one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, on writing out her God-gifts:  "Because the picking up of a pen isn't painful and ink can be cheap medicine.  And I just might live."

So there's the way out, or at least through, once again:  to list them, all the day's joy-moments and eye-brighteners and spirit-lifters, to just write them all down after the post that doesn't end neatly no matter what, to just give thanks:

for healthy eyes, despite innocently overworn contacts

for my Farmer, who does know how to just be

for all those blue glass yardsale jars, washed so eagerly by Nice

for the wind outside, blowing my hair, cooling my skin

for the weeds, yanked out so cleanly and easily with
     those colorful new gloves

for a simple supper we always love

for sisters happy to play with each other and Lil' Snip

for hope, somehow peeking through

for God, patient in His all-knowing

for those tiny kittens, handful of helpless fur

for tea

for toast
(and yes, for chocolate)

for you, who read my words and care enough to come back

for those I know who mourn, that it will be turned to joy (Lord, let it be soon)

for all the ways God speaks to me ...
      in music, 
      in the creative process, 
      in beauty,
      in His creation,
      in His Word, and the words of His children

for air to breathe

for a wealth of flowers, His perennial gift to me

"But you, 
             O Lord, 
                       are a shield around me, 
          my glory, 
                      and the lifter of my head."
                                                                                                                Psalm 3:3

May 20, 2013

common bush afire

Someone asked me, recently, what I write on my blog.  I wasn't sure how to answer:  recipes?  accounts of rural mundanity?  mid-life angst?  I read one of my posts to her, and she answered her own question:  "You make the ordinary holy," she told me.  And I thought of this poem:

Earth's crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

And only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I want to be one of the ones who sees, and takes off her shoes, knowing the ground I am on (mundane though it may seem) is holy, afire with God.

I pray to see the fire, and not miss it for the commonness of the bush.

May 11, 2013

to be a mother

crocheted white lace placemat.
aqua glass of white-bell'd lily-of-the-valley.
homemade cards.
"'oooh' over MINE, Mommy!"
eggs they made, and toast, and coffee.

the gift of 'go.'
a parking-lot pause, to breathe.
sun-filled car & friend.
drumbeats, goatskin under palms.
mushroom and goat cheese and spinach between bread.
coffee again, and calories just because.
fingering all that beauty - beads & cloth & stone & wood.
talking lost & found, conflict & surrender.

breathe in.
gingerbread pig dough and supper soup to make, and letting them stir.
bed made up with fresh sheets, by daughters.
ducks outside (mostly) where they belong.
piano music to Spanish crooning.


I am a mother.  Somehow, they love me, those little people whose lives depend on mine for so much.  Somehow they forgive my faults, and - oh God! - forget them, besides.  They say I'm fun, and cheerful, and pretty and they truly see that in me.  These are gifts I never deserved, never thought to ask for.  

I've learned about God's love by watching Him form it in me for those little ones, growing so fast into what He made them to be.  What I didn't know was that He's also teaching me about His love .... by loving me through them.

and to top it all off, a rainbow after supper, interrupting dishes and baths-to-be.

Happy Mothers' Day 
to all of you who mother.

May 10, 2013

spicy chicken dip, "slow food" style

A while back, my sister-in-law made some ridiculously delicious buffalo chicken dip, and when I asked her for the recipe, she was happy to share it.  However, she cooks like I do - a little of this and a little of that, to taste.  Still, I had her basic ingredients.  It involved bottles, however, and while I have absolutely no qualms about consuming food made from a bottle of this and a package of that, the DIY disease I have unfortunately prevents me from actually making anything like that once I've been given the recipe.

The World Wide Web came to my rescue and offered up various 5-star-reviewed ways to substitute for a bottle of this and a bottle of that.  Here are the results, approved by my family (actually, the children would prefer it a little less spicy, but this way there's more for my Farmer and me):

Spicy Chicken Dip
1 1/2 pint cooked chicken (about a pound; I used breast meat)
2 8-oz. packages of neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. each dried parsley and dill
1/4 cup minced onion
2 T Tabasco chipotle hot sauce (or to taste)
6 shakes of powdered cayenne (1/4 tsp?)

Mix it all up gently, heat in a saucepan or in the oven till bubbly, say, 30 minutes on medium-low, or 300F.  Traditionally served with celery, but also delicious with crackers or by the spoonful.  [note:  once it was heated, I sprinkled more shredded cheddar on top for looks]

(and a photo, for Little Sister, who pinned it)

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