Thursday, September 19, 2013

Other Mothers: Our Comrades-in-Arms

Did you ever notice how if you get a bunch of moms talking about their birth experiences that the conversation can go on for forever?  The variations are endless:  the length of the labor, what worked, what didn’t work, the crazy things they said, what went as planned, what didn’t go as planned, etc.  Why is this?   I think it’s because giving birth is an intense, crazy, sometimes terrifying, exhilarating, life-changing experience.  To someone who hasn’t been through it, this topic of conversation is probably boring and definitely gross.  To a mom, though, a birth story is a story of adventure, courage, despair, love and triumph.

Parenting young children on a daily basis isn’t always as dramatic as childbirth, but it is nevertheless intense and full of ups and downs.  As moms of young children, we are in the trenches of parenting. Sometimes our children do things that make us feel as if our hearts will burst with love.  Yesterday my son piled a bunch of his toys on the couch and then declared, “I’m a beaver in my den!”  His joy, innocence and enthusiasm were truly a beautiful, precious sight.  This morning he told me, “You’re the best mommy in the world!”  Sometimes I love him so much that it hurts. 

Sometimes, though, I want to pull my hair out when dealing with him.  A couple of weeks ago he literally told me that he could not go to sleep because his fingernails were too long.  Seriously????  He can’t sleep because his fingernails are too long???!!!   I absolutely love his gregarious, joyful personality, but sometimes I just wish he would stop talking for five minutes.  And then there is the meal preparation, the laundry, the doctors appointments, the shuttling to school and activities, the teeth brushing, the baths, the wiping of noses and bottoms and everything else that goes along with caring for a young child.  All of the tasks that are vital to the health and functioning of our families can feel a little monotonous at times.    

So where does friendship with other moms fit into all of this?  What can we get from communing and fellow-shipping with other mothers?  The Bible makes it pretty clear that we are stronger when we find fellowship in one another than when we toil alone.  Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says: 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

God did not intend for us to walk through this world alone, and I don’t believe that he meant for mothers to mother alone.  Only another mother can understand that whether your cranky toddler takes a nap can literally MAKE OR BREAK your day.  Another mother will understand how in the course of a single day you can be overwhelmed with love for your children and later be filled with frustration.  Other mothers are our comrades-in-arms.  Other mothers are the other soldiers in the trenches, our co-workers in parenting, our teammates in this crazy, difficult, wonderful journey.  As Ecclesiastes says, two people are better than one.  When one of us fails, the other can lift us up.  How can one be warm alone?  Mom friends are not a luxury.  Mom friends are our lifeline on the journey of motherhood.

So why MOPS?  MOPS carves a space out of our busy lives for friendship and community.  Moms are busy, and taking time for ourselves and to build friendships requires some planning.  MOPS provides childcare, a regular meeting time, delicious food, thought-provoking speakers, and most importantly, a safe space to create what makes us all better and stronger:  friendship, fellowship and community.  God didn't intend for us to mother alone.  Let’s do it together. 

--Emily Fountain

Books in Abundance--Children's Book Recommendations!

Hello fellow MOPS moms,

If you're like me, then you're concerned about making sure your children get a good head start on their literacy skills, long before they enter formal schooling.  Reading books with your children is one of the best ways to help your children learn to read, and it's also a great way to bond with them too.  As a former children's librarian, children's books are still a passion of mine.  I love sharing great books with other moms and their kids, in the hopes that they will love them as much I did.  You'll probably hear me talk about my son's reading preferences a lot, as he is my live-in guinea pig now.  He is almost 3 years old and thankfully loves to be read to.  For this entry, I am focusing on one of his favorite kind of picture books -- alphabet books.  

Alphabet books are so much more interesting than they were 30+ years ago when they were being read to me as a child.  Authors and illustrators find new and creative ways to make learning beginning alphabet sounds fun and unforgettable.  My latest alphabet book read is called "Alphabet Trucks" by Samantha Vamos and Ryan O'Rourke. Published in 2013, this book is a likely new read for many.  If you have a child who loves cars, trucks and other vehicles, then this alphabet book will catch their attention.  Each letter has a different truck associated with it.  The catchy rhyming text keeps the story flowing along.  The pictures are cute with each truck having its associated letter on or around it in some way.  You can find the book here on Amazon!

The next book is one that I've read so often that I wonder if it will conveniently go missing sometime, but my son absolutely loves it.  "Naughty Little Monkeys" is by Jim Aylesworth and was published in 2006.  The loose plot line is a human mother and father are leaving their 25 monkey "children" home alone, supposedly going to sleep in their beds, while they are going on a fancy date.  While they are gone, each monkey from A to Y has a verse dedicated to the naughty thing that he or she does.  For example, the E monkey is named "Emily" and she is playing with Mommy's earrings.  The illustrations are funny, and the text is rhyming and flows well.  By the end of the book, the parents return home to a disastrously messy house and plenty of guilty monkeys.  They send them all to the zoo the next morning, but are the monkey there to stay or for fun? You can find the book here on Amazon!

The final book I highlight this time is an old old classic.  "Dr. Seuss's ABC" by Dr. Seuss himself, originally published in 1963.  Dr. Seuss' Easy Reader books are so attractive to toddlers and preschoolers because of the great pictures and humorous text.  I think I have read this book to my son so many times that he has half of the alphabet rhymes memorized.  All I have to do is say, "Big A, Little A, What begins with A?"  I'll hear his little voice chanting back, "Aunt Annie's Alligator... A! A! A!"  Of course, my favorite letter in this book is Z, to which Dr. Seuss describes the Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz.  Dr. Seuss never had a problem with creating his own critters to suit his fancy.  You can find the book here on Amazon!

Look forward to my next blog entry, in which I will explore some popular baby board books that would be great for your littlest people!

--Emily Hawkins

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brave and Strong

I don’t have a lot of miles behind me on this whole mom-hood journey thing. But, as I watched my mom friends post pictures of their littles on their first day of school, tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at my not yet 2 year old and thought—why can’t he just stay this little and innocent forever, right here with me? The world can be harsh, and I just want to keep him in this safe little bubble we've created. As I witness each of his milestones, they are equal parts sweet and bitter because I'm watching him succeed as he inches closer into independence and further away from needing me. 

I may not have a lot of experience, but I know in these past 2 years I've become the strongest and yet, most breakable version of myself I've ever been. There is a process to becoming a parent. Whether it’s going through 9 months of pregnancy to get to the intense pains of labor or whether it's through the emotional sweat, tears and unknowns through an adoption.We are forced to become stronger. Ever heard of mama strength?—when moms lift trucks up with their bare hands to save their children—yea that. We get that when we become mamas. We are unbreakable. 

And yet, we are so very breakable. 

I saw a 5 day old donkey last week who was basically no different than an adult donkey, he was born ready for the world. It made me think, when Jace was born he came out absolutely helpless. It was my job to transport him, feed him, clothe him, bathe him. He was nowhere close to as functional as he will someday be in his adult life. 

His vulnerability has made me vulnerable. I innately care for someone so purely, freely, and selflessly--a love so hard it hurts. Like when something is so hot it's cold or you laugh so hard you cry. This feeling is so intense it can't wholly be contained in one emotion, so it spills out on to the next. I'm so grateful to finally know this part of me, and yet so scared of how exposed it has left me.

Preacher Dean Sherman uses a phrase that I love--  ‘grace cut to fit’. We might not understand how someone else can go through something we aren't, or how we could ever go through something that might be in our future, because we only have grace for each moment as it pertains to us individually--cut to fit. So to my mama friends. Whether you just drove with your baby in the car for the first time or are sending your kid off to college, you have been given ‘grace cut to fit’ and it is making you braver and stronger.  Whether you have one kid or seven kids, you have been given ‘grace cut to fit’ and it is making you braver and stronger. If you work a 9-5 and entrust your babies to someone else, then come home and throw dinner together and help with homework and clean the house, you have been given ‘grace cut to fit’ and it is making you braver and stronger. If you stay at home and being a mom is your full time job where there are no breaks and there doesn't seem to be an adult conversation all day, and you have sacrificed using that college degree you worked so hard for, you have been given ‘grace cut to fit’ and it is making you braver and stronger.

And to the world. We need to be careful with each other. Because no matter how old we are, behind every person is a fragile mama who is pleading for you to be gentle with her exposed heart that is out discovering the world--or, there is a big void where that kind of mama should have been. Either way, we should be taking extra care of each other. 

Because being alive--it's a vulnerable thing.

We're all just learning to be a little braver and stronger.

One day at a time. 

--Lisa Barton--Til Kingdom Come

Kid-Friendly Restaurant Pick!--Anthony's Beach Cafe

I wanted to start out the year with a brief review on a mainstay of dining in the Edmonds area. I've yet to meet a local that hasn't been to the Beach Cafe and just loved it! The location is beautiful as it's set right on the water near all the boats and they have a good-sized amount of outdoor seating during the warmer weather. Another perk when you're eating outside is that your kids can play in the sandboxes they have set up! When dining inside, the restaurant can get a little noisy but you may find this to be a perk if you have little ones. I've also found the kids menu is somewhat limited, especially for those with food allergies but the rockfish tacos (on the adult menu) are to die for and make up for that!

* 4 out of 5 stars

--Emily Hoornstra

Moms and Tots Playdate--9/13

Hi Moms! We decided it's just too long between our last Moms and Tots Beach Play Time and our first MOPS meeting of the year. So why not take advantage of another round of beautiful weather and join us THIS Friday, September 13th, at the Francis Anderson Center Playground from 10am-noon. As always, this play date is open to all Moms and snacks will be provided. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Life-Changing One-Pot Pasta

Heidi found this recipe over at  the blog, Family Bites! Looks super delicious and easy:)
One-Pot Pasta

One-pot Pasta 3

Life-Changing One-Pot Pasta
Adapted from Martha Stewart
  • 1 - 12-14oz. package of spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 cups diced boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock or water
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
Place the pasta in your pot, along with the chicken, peas, and mushrooms. Cover with the stock, olive oil, lemon zest, pepper, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium high but still boiling, and cook, stirring and turning the pasta frequently with tongs to break it up and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the pasta is al dente and the stock is mostly evaporated, about nine minutes.
Remove the pan from the stove and add the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Remove the thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese before serving. 
Updated: The first time I made this dish my package of pasta weighed 14oz. The second time it weighed 12oz. I've adjusted the amount of stock needed as it depends on how much pasta you have. If you use less, and find the liquid is absorbed before the pasta is cooked, just add more. Also, feel free to replace some of the liquid with white wine if desired.