Motherhood, mothers day, Uncategorized

Mamas and strawberry lemonade

My mom is genuinely my best friend. My husband jokes about the amount of time I spend with her…but I explained to him how she’s not like “most moms”. How she will stand with me in the pit at a concert drinking wine and dancing or go totally natural with our similar wavy hair or the way she chases adventure and gets me to teach her how to ride horses. I explained to him how she was just nice to be around, a kindred spirit now that I’m older and out of the house. We’re just enough different and just enough similar.

I’m an old soul and my mom and I share a love for antiques and nature. So we both enjoy reading the old timey magazine called Victoria magazine. I saw where I could send in a letter for Mother’s Day explaining what I loved about my mom. I saw this at 8 am and not even 20 minutes later I had written something to send in before work. It was so easy to write and recall all the ways she was a good mother. It got published in the magazine for the May/June issue along with many other women writing about their great mother’s. It was cool to see my mom’s attributes displayed in a magazine we both loved alongside so many other amazing tributes to women’s mother’s. It made me realize how powerful womanhood and motherhood is.

I thought I’d go ahead and share with you what I wrote in honor of Mother’s Day and in remembrance of all the amazing mothers out there who work so hard to cultivate lives full of joy and peace:

“As a child, I would always tiptoe down the stairs in the morning-greeted by the aroma of fresh coffee-to find my mother wrapped in one of her pink or floral robes. Before doing anything else, I would crawl onto her lap and rest my head on her chest. Planting a kiss on my forehead, she would ask me how I slept. She always smelled like peonies, and I think this was because she adored them. I believe that what you love, you in some way become.

Today, newly married, I have a painting hanging in my house of a woman with auburn hair smelling roses. Her eyes are closed, and her head is lifted, as if she is inhaling the best perfume in the world. This portrait reminds me of my mom because it captures her approach to motherhood: soaking it up for all it’s worth and savouring it completely. She cooked heavenly food, cultivated an inviting and orderly home, and loved us with grace and kindness. As I grow older, I realize what a job that was and how she took it on as her purpose.

She raised five women, all of whom have grown and are thriving but still dearly love their mom as a friend and confidant. I notice qualities my sisters inherited from our mother in the way Claire cooks, how Mary loves coffee and can brew the perfect pot, the way Lauren nurtured so tenderly, and how Cate loves to keep things homey and clean. And me? I love flowers. I pray everyday that when I have children, they will see things in me that make them feel safe and warm inside, just like we all feel with mom. But more than anything, I hope I will smell like flowers.”

Here’s a recipe to treat your special mom with a refreshing drink you can make on Mother’s Day. It’s a delicious strawberry lemonade that she will love.

Simply smash in a sieve 4 or 5 fresh, ripe strawberries or frozen, thawed, into a two cup measuring cup. Squeeze two lemons into the cup. Add three teaspoons of sugar or stevia ( I use Pyure) to taste. Fill with water and stir vigorously. Taste and adjust sugar and lemon to suit your taste. Pour into glasses, add ice and garnish with lemon slice and mint.

Serve immediately to your mom!

Xoxo,
Nan
Family Life, foster care

How You Can Support Foster Families

One night this week I was overcome with anxiety. Getting in my car seemed a little dramatic so I left the baby with my husband and ran downstairs to the garage. A room I particularly loathe due to the abundance of camel crickets and lawn equipment.

I crouched down and held onto the side of the old stroller and sobbed. At times my breath came in gasps and I wondered if I was having a panic attack. I remembered how last year I would gag with nausea when things got particularly stressful as a foster parent. We were going through a difficult time with a teenage foster son.

I hadn’t felt nauseous in a while but I did that day after court for our foster baby. And as I sat on my ankles in that damp room, with the stacks of Bob Dylan CD’s and the rows of paint cans, I cried out. God. Don’t forsake me. Don’t hide your face from me. I cried until there were no more tears left.

Then I went back upstairs, got the baby ready for bed and read books with my daughter. I had felt like I couldnt breath but I took the next breath. And so the night went on.

I wrote the above last summer on my blog when we were going through a particularly difficult season as foster parents and I never published it. Maybe I didn’t want anyone to think I was losing my mind, though those closest to me knew how greatly the court case was affecting me. How much I cared for this little baby and what happened to him. I wanted him to be safe and I didn’t have that control. It’s a hard place to be and it can feel all-consuming.

As I write this today our foster baby is still with us and his case has greatly improved. So it feels like we are in a much better place. But for the past few years it’s been tough trying to fulfill this calling to help children in need.

Maybe you’ve thought about being a foster parent but you aren’t in that place right now. You might know how great the need is and want to help but aren’t sure how you can. I wanted to share three ways you can support foster families. Hopefully these ideas will give you a little insight into what a family in your group of friends, church or community might need.

1) Throw A Shower

Often foster families are licensed for more than one child or have decided they are open to receiving placements of different ages. So it’s nearly impossible to plan for every child who may come into your home. Often children arrive with nothing but a trash bag of clothes and sometimes they come without anything. We picked up our baby from the hospital and went home with only the outfit he was wearing and a bag full of blankets hospital volunteers had donated. We spent over $1000 that first week just getting basic things we needed. I was SO grateful for friends who gave me bags of baby clothes from their attics or sweet relatives who sent clothes or dropped by with an outfit or bottle warmer. We had less than 6 hours from the time we got the call to the time we brought baby home. So that’s not a lot of time to prepare.

Yes, maybe it feels strange to throw a shower for a child who could leave at any time. But foster parents are required to send anything bought for the child with the child if they leave- so not only are you helping a foster family but you are also helping a biological family in need. And, the stipend for foster care is low. Many assume it covers everything and foster families are set. Families who want to truly provide for the child in their home end up spending A LOT of their own money. As you do with your kids. And when kids are coming and going this can really tax a budget.

And isn’t every child worth celebrating? Hosting a quick get together is such a sweet and supportive way to show you care and are ready to embrace this new child. Don’t know the family well enough to give a party? Handing them a gift card is also a wonderful way to show your support. And is so appreciated.

2. Treat a New Placement like a New Baby

When your sister had a new baby you probably brought over a meal. Or maybe offered to babysit her other kids so she could get some rest. No matter what the age of the new foster child coming into the home, foster parents could use some help. Between trauma the child has experienced and getting no sleep because a child is scared of their new bed to signing up for new schools, going to new doctor appointments and navigating home visits, bio parent visits, shared parenting- all in the span of the first week- foster parents are exhausted. We had a couple from our church that we didn’t know well drop off a pot of soup and salad one night after we brought our foster baby home. We so appreciated the effort and thought. Can you become a respite babysitter? Often it just takes a background check and you are approved to babysit so the foster parents can take an evening off.

A call or text means so much and instead of saying, let me know how I can help (we’ll never let you know – it’s too awkward!) just say, I’m thinking of dropping off a pizza tonight in case ya’ll could use a break, is that ok? And this is also appreciated even when the child has been in our home for months. Sometimes that’s when a lot of foster parents can get burnt out trying to care for children from hard places. It often gets better- children get more settled, routines get established- but sometimes it gets worse.

Kids who are now in a safe place step out of survival mode and then the difficult behaviors start up. We’ve all navigated the tantrums in the store- but magnify that by 100 when trauma is involved. It can be hard and we need to know we are doing a good job. Once my sister mailed me a care package with the essential oil Valor in it. Just that name made me tear up. I wasn’t feeling brave- I was scared that foster care was becoming too hard. And her sending that made all the difference.

3) Watch Your Words

This one is hard, because I have had so many well-meaning people say hurtful things. And I know they didn’t mean to be hurtful! So I wanted to tread lightly- but still let you know what’s important to hear and not hear as a foster parent. First, we can’t share details of the bio families. So asking if the baby was born on drugs – or where the parents are- or what they did- it’s best just to avoid these questions. Especially in front of the kids. Even young kids can understand that it’s not normal to not be with their birth families. And questioning the details in front of them makes them feel like THEY aren’t normal. I had someone ask a previous teenage foster son how he liked his “new” parents. Actually, he would much rather have been with his “old” parent, his bio mom, and again- the question made him feel like there was something wrong with him.

I always introduce my foster kids as my sons or daughters. Because at that moment, that’s what they are. So when you are speaking to them or about them, treat them the same way. And let’s avoid the horror stories. The ones about friends who fostered or foster kids you read about in the news. Foster care is nuanced and every case is different. Just because you saw on CNN that a teenage foster child burned down the foster families house does not mean every teenager in foster care would do that.

Another question I get asked all the time is, are you going to adopt so- and- so? The reality of foster care is we often don’t know. And some families are fostering just to foster and not to adopt. Again- saying this in front of the child is a definite no. They know deep down that their futures are up in the air. Some want to be reunited with their birth families and some would like to adopted. But they don’t have a say in the matter and neither do we. So a better question would be, how can I pray for you?

And that leaves me with the last point, which I’ll just leave under this one. Pray! I cannot tell you how thankful I am for ALL the prayer warriors who pray with us and for us. Even people we don’t know well will let us know they are praying for us. It means more than you can know.

Support for foster parents can make all the difference in whether these families continue to foster or give up because it gets too hard. You play such an important role as supporter. I often think of my extended family as a foster family too- because they are helping and encouraging us and that’s a ministry in and of itself.

So thank you!

-Claire

gratefulness, unselfishness, letting God, morning pages, morning ritual,, mornings, Motherhood, Uncategorized

Morning Pages

I’m not a morning person by nature. I’m a two cups of coffee and maybe I’ll talk to you kinda person in the morning. Some days it is three cups and a shot of espresso but whose counting…

Unless I’m on vacation. Then I can’t wait to wake up. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to see what the day holds!

Who doesn’t love waking up to Mickey waffles??

Or when the kiddos wake up before the sun is up but then God puts on this display

Baby Piper

Sunrises over the ocean are worth waking up for

Waffles on the dock at Aylen Lake, Ontario

But everyday mornings, I’d rather hit snooze. Then one day it all changed. As the girls got older, started sleeping better, I started to see I valued my mornings. I learned I love sipping my coffee and watching the sunrise. Reading my devotional and having some alone time before the craziness that is our lives starts.

I read the book, “The Artist Way” last year. The author suggests doing what is called morning pages. You simply write down whatever comes to your mind. Not documenting your life. Not to pass down to your grandkids or to be published. Never to be read again. It’s like brain dumping on paper. The author, Julia Cameron says any thought that causes anxiety that is left in the brain creates chaos and turns off creativity. I have found by simply writing down my thoughts, however dumb to me or petty, it is so relieving. I have come to really enjoy that time. And I leave feeling refreshed. Something that has been bothering me greatly feels less urgent. I can think more clearly about it.

Julia Cameron says, “The morning pages miniaturizes our Censor. The Censor is part of our leftover survival brain. Any original document pretty dangerous to our Censor. Morning pages will allow you to detach from your negative Censor. It may even be going to seem like a grumpy cartoon character. Doing your artist date you are receiving opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.”

Amelia Island Plantation

I have found that taking the time, even if it is five minutes, even on my most stressful crazy days sets the tone for my day. I usually read my devotional, do my morning pages and end in prayer. Just taking that time every morning has been so helpful in maintaining a better stress level and having a clear mind.

You can use any notebook for morning pages. It takes a little bit of time to get used to just writing what comes to your head and not journaling. But once you do, it really is amazing how therapeutic it is. If you are worried about people reading what you write and it is inhibiting how freely you share, take the paper you wrote on and trash it. Ball it up, burn it or tear it to shreds. Remember, the goal isn’t to document but to free your mind. And once that starts to happen, you will start to notice a difference in how you feel about mornings too.

Enjoy the sunrises of life friends! And a good cup of coffee.

-Lauren

Family Life, marriage, empty nesters

After the Children are Gone

Thirty-five years ago, I married my sweet Hart.  Fifteen months later our first daughter was born.  I was immediately thrust into a lifestyle of babies and toddlers, with three kids within five years. Then we had a five year stretch before our last two daughters were born.  This made their ages span from 1-12.  Soon I was teaching my girls from home.  Life was busy and never dull.  And I loved it.

As children do, they grew up.   One by one they left the nest and soon only one was left at home.  Nan chose to go to a local university and to live at home. Therefore, we had the chance to enjoy each other’s company for a while longer.  We loved to walk together and talk, shop and talk, watch our favorite chick flick and talk.  One day in December, my life changed for good when Nan got married.  She was the youngest. Now all my girls are married and living their lives to the fullest and they are all thriving.  I am so thankful and happy for each one of them, truly I am.  It is only right and natural for children to leave home.  But it does change things, for those left behind. 

Like I said, I married my sweet Hart and we had one year together before we started our family, which means we’ve had thirty-four years of children in our home.  Our love and devotion for each other has never wavered.  We love spending time together and even tried to get away when the kids were young and at home.  We went on fun and meaningful anniversary trips.  We had dinners alone, while the kids were at Grandmother’shouse.  We were intentional as we could be with our relationship.  We count each other our best friend, which is good because we get to see a lot of each other these days!

Hart still walks around the house, in the evening, remarking how quiet it is without Nan here.  I miss having her constant chatter, encouraging words and someone who likes to talk girl-talk and watch those cheesy TV shows.  But at the same time, I am treasuring my quiet and FREE days to do what I want to do and need to do. Hart and I each have hobbies and interests of our own.  We can remain busy doing these things.  Yet something was missing.    After I had a small break down, because in spite of it all, I was feeling lonely and without purpose, we sat down and looked at the issue before us.  There were things we could do that would help fill in the gaps we were both experiencing. We both admitted we could make some changes to our lives that would make our relationship more intentional.  As I said we truly do love each other, therefore we desire our marriage to grow and to become even stronger.  We want to enjoy one another and to make our home full of life, even if it’s only the two of us.  So, we came up with ten ways to make a strong marriage even stronger and more interesting.  Some of these we are already doing, others we are still implementing into our marriage.  They are not in any particular order.

1. Appreciate your spouse.  I love this quote by Terri Guillemets, “do not take anything for granted-not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed.”  Smile at your spouse and really look them in the eyes and breathe a prayer of thankfulness that you have this moment together. 

 

2. Deeply admire each other.  Hold your spouse in high esteem and regard.  Admire their abilities and qualities.  Thoughtfully think of them throughout the day and show them every courtesy you’d show a guest in your home. 

 

3.  Have something you enjoy doing together.  Hart and I like going on short day trips to interesting places, passed over by most people.  (The home repairs will keep just fine until you get home.). We also play cards together.  We still keep our TV off except for a Netflix occasionally.  Basically, enjoy each other’s company and be grateful for it.  

 

 

4. Romance each other.  Hold hands in public.. and private.  Give long back rubs and foot massages.  Touch each other.  Let your significant other know they are still the one that makes your heart beat faster!  

 

5. Make conversations lively (or not).  Read up on current events or an interesting topic to share at dinner time.  One reason I loved to homeschool, was I loved to learn.  It was fun to brush up on subjects I learned in school, but also interesting to learn new subjects that my girls pursued.  Hart enjoys researching and has been researching Aylen Lake, Ontario Canada, the place where we like to vacation.  He has discovered so much of its history and enjoys sharing it with me.  But on another note, its also good to enjoy the quietness of each other.  Hart and I are not big talkers or chatterers.  In fact, when we drive together somewhere, it’s not unusual for us to not say a word.  I remarked about this to a friend and she wisely commented, “Oh but isn’t it a most contented silence”.  Just being in each other’s presence is enough at times.

 

6. Pray for one another and pray together.  Seek God together, as well as separately.  We have a prayer journal and pray together before Hart leaves for work, but I also spend time praying for him alone.  We enjoy reading aloud to each other spiritual books that draw us both closer to God.  This also makes for good conservation.

 

 

7. Continue to grow as a couple, to learn from each other and other couples you admire.  How easy is it for the older sect to get set in their ways!  With the ever-changing landscape of technology, we must stay up to date or get left behind. Then how can we understand the younger generation of our children and grandchildren?  Try new things and get out of your comfort zone.  

 

8. Cultivate couple friendships.  We both have friends of our own, but we really enjoy getting together with other couples to have a meal together, to laugh together and to do fun activities together.  We want to do this more often.

 

 

9. Motivate and inspire each other in the endeavors each of you undertake.  A few encouraging words go a long way. Hart wants to write a book and with his love of researching, I know he can do it.  I want to encourage him as he works to reach this goal.

 

10. Get rid of useless arguing.  It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, or who started it or who wins, does it?  In most cases, we let pettiness take the place of the greater good.  If the outcome doesn’t really matter, then why continue or even start a fight?  I am trying to major in the significant issues of life and minor in the unimportant issues.  Does it really matter if he said it happened yesterday, but you know it was really two days ago?  No, it does not and no one listening to you cares either.  I think this goes back to being respectful of each other.  And we’ve seen enough bickering couples to know we don’t want to be like them!  Concede to each other graciously.  Romans 12:18 says it plainly, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (or your wife or your husband). 

 

 

I know there are so many other ways to improve relationships in marriage, but these ten are important to us as empty nesters.  No one has a perfect marriage, but we can come pretty close if we truly desire it and give it our all.

 

What other advice do you have for married couples?  What advice to you have for empty nesters?  Leave a comment, we love to read what you think

Family Life, wedding

The Magical Wedding

It’s come and gone. After months of planning and buying and preparing and agonizing over the weather, it’s over. December 8th is a day we will never forget. A day of witnessing and celebrating the marriage of two very special people. Nan and Perrin got married on a cold day right before a major snowstorm hit North Carolina.

The wedding was truly a family affair. Hart and I prepared all of the food, down to the wedding cake. Our guests were our immediate family and my wonderful friends helped us set up and served the food for the wedding dinner.

Nan’s sister, Cate wrote the music for the processional and to this day I can’t listen to it without tears. It is so moving. Her sisters and best friends were her bridesmaids and honorary bridesmaids.

The bride and her entourage got dressed at our house , the only home Nan had known. It was a crazy time with people every where . The videographer was in and out as was the photographer. The children were running around and lots of cooking was going on in the kitchen!

All of Nan’s nieces were her flower girls. They had their own fairy table at the reception with jars of fairy dust, coloring books and glow sticks to amuse themselves. At the bonfire they roasted marshmallows and lit sparklers. A few of the little girls wore their fairy wings and by the fire in the dark, looked like angels running around.

Perrin’s brother was his best man. His two best friends and his future brother-in-law’s were groomsmen. God provided a lovely day for this event. It was cold but not raining and the big snow came during the night. Thankfully, because we got 18″!

It was a magical night with a beautiful ceremony. Nan’s sister, Lauren read a poem called Grow Old With Me and her brother-in-law, Witt shared a special message to the couple and those attending. The music was played by two very talented musicians,who are sisters, and the sisters of our son-in-law, Gabe. The photographer was his cousin. Before the father- daughter dance , Nan’s sister, Claire read a poignant letter that Nan had written for her dad. That’s where the tears started for me.

Bayberry Farm has always been a place of joy for Nan, as it was one of her first jobs, caring for the horses there. The owner, Lori, calls Nan her farm daughter. She has taught her so much! Horses are one of her loves and are what her future holds, as a Therapeutic Recreation major. The farm is where she wanted to get married. I’m so happy we could make it happen.