chocolate + paper + scissors


Shaping their world

I am the mother of a girl and a boy; a kindergartener and a toddler; an intense, always-in-charge big sister and an easy-going, just-happy-to-be-here-with-my-sister baby brother (unless she takes one of his toy cars – then everything breaks loose).

And when I’m having a day when I’m not quite feeling like myself, when I’ve had a late night, or when I feel more drained than usual, it’s not just me who is affected. It’s my babies. My sweet, impressionable sponge-like babies, five and two, who absorb every word and bit of energy I exude, be it negative or positive.

This is the part of parenthood I was not prepared for.

When my children were tiny babies, and I was a bit tired, I could shuffle it away for a while. But, now are they are a little older and are more aware of the world. My sweet, fair-skinned girl is a wise, independent force to be reckoned with who has a calendar busier than mine, and my little boy is a gentle soul who is exploring the world of demanding, bossy toddlers. Some days, as much as I love spending time with them, I’ve found myself more drained than ever. When my energy is low, I feel like I can’t be the mother I need to be.

I'm reminded that I need to take care of myself and refill my cup - which takes discipline sometimes!

For me, refilling my cup can only come through prayer and self-care. I have to love myself - take care of myself - so that I can love these children with my words, actions and my listening. So I can be truly present with them. So I can show them what it means to be a good listener and an unconditionally loving mommy. And an encourager in a sometimes critical, hurried world.

I’ve also found it’s important to take time as a parent to reflect on our children and their beautiful qualities, all unique to each child. Otherwise, I find I tend to focus only on what my challenges were for the day, be it discipline issues, manners (or lack thereof), messiness, nap protesting, screaming in the house (or in my ear), pestering a sibling, etc.

A few things I like to do:

Marvel at their photos and wonder - who are these sweet souls?

Wonder who will they become as adults...

Think about what about them I adore or admire...

Recall how they made me smile or laugh...

Or, find something I learned from them.

On days when I feel distant, I try to pull myself back into their world by looking at the world with their precious, new eyes. The bus my daughter rides to school seems like any other bus I’ve seen, but this morning, when I knelt down to kiss her goodbye, I noticed how giant the yellow bus really is. And how huge the towering tree above the bus stop is.

When you’re only five and two, this world is giant – and I feel like it’s my job to lead them through this busy world with rose-colored glasses – to see the beauty and magic and mystery we are given – and not the negative, the tired, the hurried, or the grumpy.

We're not perfect - we're parents. And this journey is a work in progress!

How do you like to bring color to your child's world?


Half-birthdays + whole chocolate cakes

Last week we had an extra-special day: Wednesday was our son’s official half-birthday! He is officially on his way to turning three in October, which is hard for me to digest, given I still think of him as our tiny baby boy. I told someone the other day that I think I will still be carrying him on my hip when he’s fourteen.

I hope I will never forget the constant plea of “Mama, ho me up! Ho me up!"

My daughter, who is five and a half (who may have a future in event planning), said upon returning from school that afternoon, “Mommy! We need to bake him a cake. Let’s do chocolate!” And, we fixed the kid’s favorite dinner – meatballs + mashed potatoes. Total comfort food. Yum.

After we got the cake in the oven, sweet girl agreed to help clean up the playroom (also our den) while I cooked dinner. And before I knew it, the playroom was spotless, there were name tags on placemats, fun plates at the table and bubbles at each place setting. It was a perfect way to celebrate our Bubby.

Following dinner: “Cake! Cake!”

I give King Arthur full credit for this Devil’s Food Cake recipe. I’ve made this several times already – but this time I baked it in a 9x13 pan and didn’t use icing to keep things simple.

This is such an easy recipe – there is no need for a box cake when you can put this together so quickly! We had some canned icing in the fridge, so everyone got a schmear of icing on their slice – but I liked that we could control the portion of the icing (since my husband and daughter would really prefer to eat a can of icing, sans cake). Although I prefer homemade icing, personally, convenience wins some days.

It works well as a snack cake, too, without the icing, and even – yes, a breakfast bread. Adding chocolate chips before warming up a slice adds a nice dimension, too.

I made this for my birthday last year and for our son’s second birthday this year. I suppose this is becoming a family staple recipe, which I love.

"Does a half birthday mean a half slice of cake?," Sister asked.



Spring Art at the Park:

A perfect Saturday afternoon: sunshine, precious little hands crafting creations, beautiful artists, people-watching, art and life imitating each other like old friends.