Role Play

Over the last few weeks, Wes has enjoyed playing “Put Mama to Bed” before his own bedtime rolls around. This consists of him insisting that I lay down on the couch and close my eyes and assuring me not to be afraid because there are no monsters in the room. I then recite all of his pre-sleep stalling tactics – more stories, a drink of water, being scared, more songs, etc etc, and he gleefully plays along.

Tonight I asked him to sing me a few songs, and he participated by singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and a few others. He then prayed for me and told me to go to sleep, got up, and left the couch. I pretended to sob and beg for a story. Trying to hide a pleased smile, he came up with this little bit:

Once upon a time there was a little girl. And she was a princess and played dress up. And she was really pretty. She’s you! The End

And then – biggest, sweetest grin you ever saw! I told him I could sleep all night after that cute little story. He followed up by telling silly stories of Steven, then one of Jake and Lucy.

He’s the best.

Posted: March 2nd, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Bedtime Banter

Our child has the “oh, please, Mom” look DOWN. Every night he and I have a little conversation that goes a little something like what I captured on video this evening.

Sometimes there’s a little more reading aloud than chatting, and sometimes there’s a little more cuddling, but I love that he cooperated enough to show a glimpse of his budding personality – part ham, part sly, part smart (in both aspects of the word). And through it all, you can still see his sweetness.

PS – Wes corrected me later that we forgot 1 & 2 Timothy.

 

Posted: February 9th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Conversations with Wes: Clammy Foot

Post-bedtime whimpering coming from Wes’ bedroom. Instead of rolling my eyes, I just went with it tonight.

Wes: Moooooooomaaaaa
Me: What is it, sweetie?
Wes: Mama…(unintelligable whining)
Me: I can’t understand you, babe. What’s wrong?
Wes: I…my toe hurts.
Me: Your toe hurts?
Wes: Yeah. (whimpering)
Me: I’m sorry. Is that what’s keeping you awake?
Wes: Uh huh.
Me: Can you show me? If I kiss it, will it feel better?
Wes: Yeah.

Wes lifts his sweaty foot out of the covers and holds it to my nose. There’s clearly nothing wrong with it, but I leaned in and kissed his clammy foot anyway.

Me: There now. You can go back to bed.
Wes: Okay, Mama. I love you.
Me: I love you, too. If it still feels hurt in the morning, we’ll put a bandaid on it in the morning.
Wes: Okay, Mama. You’re my best girl.
Me: Goodnight, my boy. I’ll see you at breakfast.
Wes: Night, night.

We’re going through another disobedient phase, and I admit that I’ve been quickly irritated when Wes hasn’t followed directions or stopped to listen.

But, sometimes he just needs a little more time with me before he nods off to sleep. And if I remember this as I enter his room, instead of being annoyed that he isn’t yet asleep, I’ll usually experience a wonderfully loving moment with my son.

Soon followed by loud snores.

Posted: February 2nd, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Work + Play = Magic

We successfully made my work trip into a family excursion! Nervously, I left my boys to fend for themselves for a day and a half while I traveled with my coworkers. Steven sent me text messages while I was in breakout sessions for the Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit conference throughout the day, giving me updates about their airport experience.

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I was super bummed not to be able to witness his first airplane experience, but Steven caught the whole takeoff on video.

He’s the best.

My coworkers and I were at Epcot during the time they arrived. I don’t remember a thing about this park when I was last there at age 5. The place is amazing, and it’s spectacular to walk around at night. Our group ended up in “Italy” for some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Perhaps because that’s Disney magic, or maybe because it was just that good.

I was greeted by the guys in our hotel room, Wes excitedly telling me about his plane, train (shuttle) and bus rides over the last few hours – I mean, seriously, a little boy’s dream! We somehow slept that night and woke up to another beautiful, cloudless day in Orlando.

The pool at the Marriott World Center is breathtaking. I was able to join them outside in between my conference sessions, watching Wes wreck havoc on his knees and feet from playing so hard in the splash area. I loved knowing that my family was just a few yards away, even though my sessions were fun and encouraging. Basically I was on Cloud 9.

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While the rest of my coworkers hung out that evening, Steven needed to get away from the hotel and his babysitting duty. We headed to Downtown Disney (soon-to-be Disney Springs) for the LEGO store and street music and entertainment. I had gone for dinner there a few nights before, so I had scoped out areas that I thought Wes would enjoy.

IMG_8360 - EditedHe was busy building a car to race when I met up with long-time mentor, teacher and friend, Lisa Meharry. She has been living in Orlando for several years, and it’s been just about that long since I had seen her last. Lisa taught me how to read music and eventually how to play the clarinet. She helped me navigate some of the rough patches of adolescence and into college transition. She’s been a prayer warrior for me and many of my peers, and I know it’s because of the example she and two other women demonstrated during my “who am I?” phase of life that I have come out ahead. It was so refreshing to see her again.

The following morning was the day we had been waiting for…Magic Kingdom!

Wes woke up very excited, but not really knowing what to expect. Packing everything we could think of, we set off and took a taxi into the park. Hey, did you know that you can instead be dropped off at the Polynesian Resort and take the monorail, free of charge, directly into Magic Kingdom? It avoids the $17 gate fee as well as parking.

We walked right into a Main Street performance to the Muppet Movie’s “Life’s A Happy Song,” got Wes’ 1st visit button at City Hall and THEN

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MARY POPPINS stooped down and talked to him in a British accent for, like, 3 minutes. He was super shy, and I was super starstruck. It was great.

He ooh and ahhed at Cinderella’s castle and was quickly ready to move on. We headed directly to Fantasyland and hopped onto It’s A Small World instantly – no line. His expressions were priceless. He was amazed at the boat and the building and the characters and everything happening all at once.

We had FastPasses for Peter Pan’s Flight and Winnie the Pooh and saw/rode a few other things before the day turned into a chore. Partly because he was tired from the day before, partly because lunch plans weren’t until 2:30, Wes was done with Disney within the next hour. I’d say we had a solid, good 3 hours, but it wasn’t really what I had anticipated.

I did try to enter the day with low expectations, but going to Disney World with two homebodies who prefer the quiet comforts of home over swarming crowds, coupled with bouts of “hangriness” (even my packed crackers, fruit snacks and granola bars weren’t good enough) made the day a little bland.

Not to say we didn’t have any fun. After venturing around Adventureland and Frontierland, we showed up for our reservation at the Crystal Palace for a late buffet lunch with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. I’m pretty sure I melted when I saw Wes’ eyes sparkle at the first sight of Tigger, his current favorite-of-all-characters.

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I mean, look at that face! Unfortunately, Tigger was busy hugging the other side of the restaurant, but we were able to converse with the other guys until we finally stalked him on our way out the door.

To see all of our photos from Magic Kingdom and beyond, click here.

By this point, we resigned ourselves to leaving the park well before any fun night parades; he just wouldn’t make it. And we probably couldn’t, either, with all the handling of cranky-kid and all. Before we left, however, we made sure to pay Mickey Mouse a visit, and it was perhaps the best part of the day.

2044578-719078_20130624_001DID YOU KNOW THAT MICKEY MOUSE TALKS TO YOU?! Wes, a fan of Nintendo’s Kingdom Hearts, had really wanted to run into Sora and, disappointed, couldn’t find him in the park (duh). Steven suggested he ask Mickey Mouse about it when we saw him. Though he was too shy to ask, we still stumped Mickey on that question, and it led into a slightly awkward “hey, let’s instead pretend we’re trains!”

 

Mickey said the right word and captured Wes’ heart. It was a terrific way to end our day, though short, at Disney World.

We headed back to the hotel before the sun went down. Wes was just as excited, if not more, to swim in the massive pool as he was to do anything Disney. At first I was irritated, but later realized he was happy to spend time with us in a quieter place. We stuck our legs in the heated pool and warmed up by the outdoor fireplace before ordering Giordano’s pizza and watching a movie. Despite our change in plans, it was a good day, and we were all ready to head home.

Waking up at 7:30 the next morning – this morning, Steven saw that we could bump our flight from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. and be home before the worst of the predicted weather hit. I agreed and we were in a taxi within 30 minutes. We’ve spent today in our own home and with our own stuff. We weren’t due to land in Indianapolis until late tonight, but instead, I’m lounging on the couch with the dogs. It feels good to be home.

mickeymouseHere are the lessons I learned: there’s not much magic in Disney World with a cranky, testy preschooler. Sometimes the hotel pool provides the magic. For all you prepare in advance, the attitudes of your party are not in your control. (Save your money and wait until your child is at least 4, unless he or she shares your love of Disney or is a big fan of Disney princesses.)

AND probably the best lesson learned: Who cares where you are? To quote Mary Poppins, “You FIND the fun…and SNAP!” It can be anywhere. The trip itself – the plane ride, the hotel stay, having the guys nearby during my conference – was indescribably wonderful. We had an amazing opportunity to be together in an otherwise unlikely situation, and we even had a little Disney fun on the side. It wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, but it was a good trip and it is good to be home.

Posted: February 1st, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Looking Forward, Looking Ahead

When you mourn for someone, there’s no telling how long it will ache. This month has been a rough start to the year; saying goodbye to my grandmother and mourning for my friend who lost her baby, I’ve been in a numbing, limbo state of mind over the last few weeks. I’m fine for a few days, and then waterworks.

When you mourn with someone, you usually feel helpless. There’s nothing you can do except pray and offer encouraging words. And just listen. Giving advice can come later when that person is seeking it.

When you mourn for some time, you need someone or something to pull you out of the rut. That person has been my dedicated husband. Steven has shown the most patience and comfort that I’ve ever known and has offered an equal amount of push toward healing.

Looking Forward

Once I finally managed to assemble myself together, I started a project. Research projects give me something to look forward to and feel accomplished. This project is rather exciting…

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In a few days I’m heading with my coworkers to Orlando for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit for breakout sessions and keynote speakers to address updates on Alzheimer’s disease, our organization’s strategic goals and how chapters can implement tactics. The conference will be held at the Marriott World Center, which just happens to be a stone’s throw from Lake Buena Vista, the home of Walt Disney World.

The boys are flying down to meet me there for a couple days. They’ll be on their own for a few hours at a time, but the hotel is a kid’s paradise. They won’t be bored with all the swimming pools and arcades. And heck, they could venture to Gaterland for an afternoon if they so choose. And then! Saturday is Magic Kingdom.

I’ve been able to spend the last week or so plotting where to reserve our FastPass selections at Magic Kingdom, managing to snag a lunch reservation at Crystal Palace, since Wes loves Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. Of course, we’ll have to meet Mickey (that’s one of the only things I remember about my trip to WDW as a 6-year-old), and I’ve already planned ahead for light-up toys to bring with us as night descends on the park.

Wes seems most excited about our lunch plans at T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney the day after. To him, this seems more thrilling than anything Magic Kingdom could offer, but he’s in for a big surprise.

There’s something wonderful about nostalgia and being able to share it with your own children. I’m looking forward a great, though short, trip, filled with magic and wonder and giggles.

Looking Ahead

Having a tentative plan in place for the remainder of the year helps me “deal” with spontaneity pretty well. Too much sporadic and hasty planning drives me nuts. Therefore, it’s usually up to me to get any summer or large plans in place.

Months ago, I had booked a stay at Pokagon State Park for the long Presidents’ Day weekend in February. The park has an amazing toboggan run for the winter months and beautiful grounds to explore. I’m looking forward to another mini vacation in the weeks ahead.

We like going away for a long summer vacation every year, and though expensive, WDW likely won’t stop us from taking one. (I would probably have cabin fever if we didn’t.) It might be a little less than what we had originally planned, but I’m still looking into options. Right now the winning bid is Gulf Shores, AL.

– – –

And. Though it gives me anxiety to think about, Wes is reaching an age where we need to think about schools before he reaches Kindergarten. My other non-vacation project has been to research our school choices and options for the next 3 years.

In fact, it goes a little deeper than that. We love our home on the near east side, but we have decided not to enroll Wes in the Indianapolis Public School district – even the charter school options. This means that we will either send him to a private school and/or move.

Moving…seems like a distant reality. We tried selling our house before and then thought about listing it again a few years later. It was never the right time. The time is now on the horizon. We’re looking at spring 2016 as our “moving target.” There’s a lot of planning to be done within the next 1.5 years, but with a date set, it’s becoming more real.

Call it distraction, sure, but having some things to look forward to help keep my day-to-day thoughts better organized. I’m able to move past the sorrow and mourning and see that life goes on. And that it can be filled with goodness and anticipation.

Posted: January 24th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Saying Goodbye

IMG_8233What do you think heaven is like? I like my mom’s answer the best, “I can picture thousands of choirs singing in every language.” Wouldn’t it be great to be a member of that choir, being able to sing praises in every tongue and language since the beginning of time? My grandma is the newest recruit, and how she loved to sing on earth! I bet she’s the loudest one up front.

Just 3 days before she died, Wes and I joined my parents in visiting both of my mom’s parents. I’ve always bragged about their independence; they’ve lived in a condo in an assisted living complex for over 10 years. But just before Christmas, Grandma developed a blood infection and cellosis and was in the hospital for a little over a week before beating that and spending the next couple weeks in a rehab facility.

While she was in rehab, Grandpa had a strange episode of weakness and slight confusion (we now think it could have been the flu or an infection. His MRI was normal.) and ended up in his own main-building room for a few days. We had visited while Grandma was in the hospital, but we knew we should see them again now that they were both unstable.

Saturday’s visit was great fun. The rain wouldn’t let up, but we brought games, movies and, of course, Wes’ camera. We exchanged belated Christmas gifts, laughed and were positive about Grandma’s recovery. She was anticipating her discharge date.

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Wes’ photo of Grandma while in rehab

 

And then it all changed. In the next 48 hours, she developed the flu, pneumonia in both lungs and her kidneys began to fail. She went to be with Jesus at 10:31 a.m. on January 6, 2015.

I lost my paternal grandparents while in high school and college, and still grieve for them today. But I only vaguely remember my pain and mourning at the time of their passings. I must have blocked it out of my memory, perhaps like parents “forget” the pain of childbirth and pregnancy after it’s all done.

Losing Grandma has been much more painful than I expected. The funeral was lovely; my sister and cousins spoke at her service, we led a congregational singing of How Great Thou Art – which was the most beautiful rendition I have ever heard – and we finally realized why it was so difficult to absorb her death. Grandma & Grandpa were all of our (there’s 10 of us first cousins) only living grandparents. And we have been very blessed to know them all of our 30+ years, and well. They loved our kids, too, and were very active in our lives. Grandpa is our last living grandparent; it’s hard to imagine a life without grandparents.

It’s been two weeks since Grandma’s funeral. Life is beginning to normalize again, but she is missed. My mom and her siblings still have a few loose ends to tie with Grandpa’s move into a facility apartment, and we will eventually need to sort through furniture and items. Grandpa seems to be alright, but it’s a major adjustment.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support and sympathy from family and friends through cards, flowers and emails. My mom and cousins have said similar things – it’s wonderful to know how loved Grandma was and is and how generous and kind our network of support has been.

Grandma, sing loud in heaven! I’ll see you again one day.

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Obituary:
RICHMOND, Ind. – Maxine V. Ashbaugh, age 86, of Richmond, died Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at Reid Hospital. Born May 17, 1928, in Darke County, Ohio, to Melvin and Hannah Deaton Rust, Maxine was a 1946 graduate of Gratis High School in Gratis, Ohio. She attended Manchester College. Maxine lived in Richmond since 1949. She was a receptionist for Delynn W. Stults, D.D.S. for ten years, a teacher for two years in Lewisburg, Ohio, and a teacher’s aide at Holy Family Catholic School for four years. Maxine was a charter member of the Northside Church of Christ, where she taught Sunday School, held several offices at the church, sang in the choir, and sang solos. She was a member of Gingham Gals Home Economics. Maxine enjoyed spending time with her family. Survivors include her husband of 65 years, Donald Floyd Ashbaugh, to whom she was married on August 27, 1949; children, Jenny (Ron) Fernsler of Indianapolis, Indiana, Keith E. (Dee) Ashbaugh of Franklin, Ohio, David (Patty) Ashbaugh of New Whiteland, Indiana, and Julie (Michael) Chitwood of Franklin, Indiana; ten grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; sisters, Louise Blickenstaff of Greenville, Ohio, and Margaret Ann Justice of Lebanon, Ohio; nieces; nephews; cousins; and many friends. She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters, Geneve Rust and Fern Brestel Carter; and brothers, Rev. Glenn C. Rust and Dr. Cecil F. Rust. Visitation for Maxine V. Ashbaugh will be from 4 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, January 9, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home, 790 National Road West, Richmond. Funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 10, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home with Pastor Christian Penrod officiating. Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to: Northside Church of Christ, 1962 Chester Boulevard, Richmond, IN 47374 or Riley Children’s Foundation, Attn: Gift Processing, 30 South Meridian Street, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204-3509. Condolences may be sent to the family via the guest book at www.doanmillsfuneralhome.com.

Posted: January 24th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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2015: A real, raw Resolution

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Christmas Eve 2014

Another year has gone by, and I’m reflecting on the year of 2014 while my son naps on this New Year’s Eve afternoon. It was a good year – many rejoices with friends and family over accomplishments, new life celebrations and new jobs. And it was a good year for our family, too – Wes’ continual learning has been evident, we have less debt and more savings, etc.

I’m not very good at typical New Year resolutions. I’m terrible at keeping a planned commitment together, so weight loss and reading schedules are out the window by week 2. It’s discouraging to set a resolution like that because I get irritated with my “lazy” self and inability to follow through.

Last year, I resolved to be a more attentive mother. I can proudly say that 2014 has been a year of many romps around the house, read-aloud book time, kitchen experiments, day-trips and excursions. We have had a truly fun and fulfilling year with our preschooler. Making that resolution wasn’t just for Wes, it was for all of us. Paying more attention to our family has brought us closer than ever, and there is a sense of joy felt when we’re all 3 together.

So, for 2015, I want to piggyback off that joyful feeling and apply it to the rest of my life, our lives. I know I blog about this topic often, but I so, so desire to be content, and it is a daily struggle that seems to only have gotten more difficult.

A few days ago, a local mother posted in our neighborhood’s “baby mamas” Facebook page. She was desperately looking for other women who were mothers of only children. I commented on this post, offering to talk, and we ended up sharing via Facebook message for the next two days.

Her experiences are very different than mine – after her third miscarriage on Christmas Eve, she was ready to stop trying for a second child completely and wanted to know (and confirm her decision) about the benefits of a 1-child family.

Over the summer I blogged about our trio family, and I still receive comments and questions about that post, even today. What might have been hidden between the lines was my despair. I have worked very hard over the last year to be at peace with our decision, and it has been most difficult. Granted, I haven’t been very consistent with praying about my contentment; many times my prayers have been only to take the pain away or distract me somehow.

I reached out to this mother because I have felt alone. It’s been a very difficult journey because it’s tough to know how and who to open up to. As much as I love Steven, he cannot understand my mourning for a child that doesn’t exist. And I hate to bring it up (as much as it’s on my mind) because it stirs up emotions that could eventually turn into fights disagreements. I don’t want him to feel like he’s “wrong” and I’m “right,” because that’s simply not true. It’s what we have decided, though it was a much more painful pill for me to swallow than for him. My yearning doesn’t do an ounce of good for our relationship.

My mom is sad for me and shares tears, and sometimes that’s helpful, but it’s draining and I can’t see that it will help for healing if it continues forever. My sister is a great listening ear and also shares my sorrow, but again, I feel the need to limit my open vomiting of sadness. My friends are great, but many are expecting or have had new babies, and it just makes for sometimes awkward conversation with a very large elephant residing in the room. And those that ask about our family planning open up a very raw conversation that is very strange – no, I will not sacrifice my marriage for another child. (I will not have an “accidental” pregnancy.)

I wanted her to know that when she feels lonely, there are other women like her and they can mourn with her. I was also truthful: that days can be tough – especially after wonderful, quiet moments with your existing child. While you’re loving that present moment, it’s bittersweet in that it’s the only child with whom you’ll be able to experience it. Every laugh with Wes, every sporadic ice cream trip – nearly all great things about this year have been shadowed with a dreadful black thought – this is it.

All that aside, yes, I’m grateful. I adore my little family and am truly blessed with my boys and dogs. Our life is full of silliness and experiences, and it’s better than anything I ever imagined. This Facebook mother was also grateful to hear these things, even though she very well understood black days…possibly even more than I will ever know. To know a life within you, and then lose it – I don’t know that I could fully recover on this earth.

I’m thankful that she publicly sought help. I guess that’s kinda what I’m doing now, by being real on this silly little family blog. Keeping it bottled inside isn’t allowing for contentment. Life is full of disappointments and sadness. But it’s also what makes JOY so amazing and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think joy = happiness. But joy is a different sort of peace. It exists in my heart, but it needs to be more present.

I don’t ever want Steven or Wesley to think that they aren’t enough – they make my heart beat and burst to fulfilling levels. Heck, all we TRULY NEED is Jesus, and I already have him in my life and heart, so honestly, I am complete. Yet, we are fallible humans and my lack of trust in the Lord is a constant struggle.

So, 2015. Here we come. I realize I will fail some days, but overall, I am doing my best to be content with everything I have and need. These verses from Paul will be my yearly reminder:

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)

Posted: December 31st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Kindness Challenge: Spike & the Kindness Poster

Yesterday afternoon I received a Facebook message from a local TV reporter who is a friend of mine on social media channels. She indicated that she had seen my post about our first Acts of Kindness challenge and was so intrigued with the idea of Promise Monsters that she invited them to the station for a segment!

Isn’t that great? I’m so glad this local company is getting more attention.

The funny thing is – about 5 minutes after I received the Facebook message, our postal worker, Mr. Jason (who’s great, by the way), delivered our next Promise Monster to our doorstep! Talk about timely.

Meet Spike. Spike is a mess – but in the best of ways! He’s very creative and good at expressing himself, and has no fears.

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Wes was ecstatic to meet Spike. He loved his quirky shape instantly. He asked me to open the mission card immediately to find out what Spike had challenged us to do. Hurriedly, we learned that we were to create a kindness poster that would surprise and spread happiness to those that saw it.

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Me: “What do you want to create on your poster? What makes you happy that you think will make other people smile?”
Wes: “I think rainbows, Mama!”
Me: “What a great idea. Do you want to hang it in a public place like a grocery store or maybe at someone’s house?”
Wes: (jumping up and down) “I want to make it for Grandma and Grandpa! And put it in their house!”

Getting excited, we headed to the basement to find our materials for Spike’s kindness poster. Locating stickers, scrapbook paper, crayons and markers, we gathered around the kitchen table to start our project.

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We thought about what would make Grandma and Grandpa happy and decided to make coupon tear-offs to redeem for a free hug from Wesley. He thought that was pretty clever and then decorated the poster with rainbows. Since it’s Thanksgiving time, we found some season-appropriate stickers to add to the poster and talked about what we were thankful for in both grandparents.

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I like Grandpa because:
– “he has food to eat”
– “because I do”
– “he plays trains with me”

I like Grandma because:
- “she likes Grandpa”
- “she plays with me”
- “she likes to close doors with me” (this was followed by many giggles)

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He was excited to surprise his grandparents with Spike’s kindness poster. We had already made plans to drop Wes off at my parents’ house that evening anyway, so we knew we could surprise them in the very near future. Once we arrived, Wes promptly walked into their kitchen and hung it up on their refrigerator.

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And boy, were they ever surprised!
“What do you have there, Wesley?”
“It’s Spike’s poster!”

At this point, I had to explain the premise and the purpose of the project, and they instantly loved it. They crouched down to look at it more closely and oohed and ahhed at Wes’ creation.

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Wes was so pleased to see his grandparents so happy. And he knew that the kindness would continue for days – every time they see the poster and every time they “redeem” a coupon. It brought a huge smile to all faces in the room. Thanks, Spike, for a great idea!

Obviously, this project was adapted for a 3-year-old’s small social circle and abilities. But even then, his efforts were well received and appreciated. I’d call that a mission: accomplished!

And then today, during Small Business Saturday, we stopped into Little Green Bean Boutique, an eastside children’s resale clothing shop featuring handmade goods. Guess what we found? A huge display of our favorite little monsters. “Look, it’s Blue Smarshmellow!”

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Once again, Promise Monsters have entered our lives at a very opportune time. At church, we just finished our sermon series, Love Indy, on spreading kindness to our neighbors and community. And now that Thanksgiving has recently past, we have been more aware of our blessings and gratefulness. Spike’s challenge rekindled that special feeling you get when seeing others smile; it helped to make appreciation, gratitude and “paying it forward” more of an occurrence in our lives.

Wes hasn’t yet chosen his reward for completing Spike’s challenge, but from the looks of it, he’s gonna love the choices – Spike’s accessories like socks and stocking cap, to name a few. A small incentive, yes, but well worth the price. Everyone wins!

As we approach the holiday season, I highly recommend a fun gift like Promise Monsters. Watch a little person do something big for someone else. It’s a wonderful experience.

___

Our family has been chosen to blog about our experiences with Promise Monsters, an Indianapolis company creating toys that encourage spreading kindness to others. To view all related posts, click here

Posted: November 29th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Need a Little Christmas

I’m really getting into the holiday spirit this year, and it’s only mid November. I feel sorta bad for Thanksgiving because it’s not getting my full attention – I’m going straight to the fun Christmasy things.

Exhibit A:

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Oh yes. We did an Awkward Family Photo shoot in matching holiday pajamas and corny head gear. It was great fun, and we’ll use some taken for our Christmas card this year. The best part was the photographer’s reaction. She giggled the whole time and kept referring to us as “Where’s Waldo,” which, of course, does resemble our outfits, but that’s totally not the point. She nearly insisted that we put “Where’s Waldo?!” under the “Merry Christmas 2014″ on our free Christmas card prints, and I nearly let her. And then we shopped normally around Target for the next 45 minutes and only got thumbs ups and “Aweseome!” from the fellow shoppers.

Wes is 3, and while the past Christmases have been fun with him, this year seems different because he’s old enough to experience and comment and participate in a way he wasn’t able to before. And, heck, I’m able to relive some of the holiday excitement and wonder that I remember as a child through the eyes of my son.

I’ve been one of those people who didn’t want all the Fisher-Price primary colors and Winnie the Pooh and cutesy baby stuff around our house. I wanted more clean, grow-into-this stuff that didn’t make our house look like a nursery or daycare center. Frankly, I was a little too proud of how Wes didn’t have too much plasticy things and could maintain the same bedroom decor for years to come. No licensed character stuff. (Well, except for super heroes. Somehow that didn’t count.)

It sorta got out of control, though. I would buy/acquire things outside of his age range because apparently that would make him seem “more mature” and unlike other kids his age. (This is another post for another day…why do we feel the need to MAKE our kids different than every one else? Religion and faith is one thing, but do kids really need to be cool or hipster?) My kid would be sophisticated!

And then, well, it dawned on me that I was aging my only child too quickly. Three years isn’t that long, but Wes is already outgrowing his little boyhood. He wants to be independent and desires less and less of mama-snuggles and affection. Though, thankfully, it hasn’t been lost forever yet. There is plenty of time to grow into non-Duplo, regular LEGOs. There is plenty of time to introduce him into Star Wars, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, video games and big kid bikes. There is plenty of time to educate him on green, local goods & services.

As I’ve been Christmas shopping, I’ve kept this in mind. Some of things that I thought we would put under the tree will wait another year because, well, Wes is still 3. He likes Thomas and Friends, Daniel Tiger, Curious George and Clifford. And rockets and dinosaurs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m letting him enjoy what he likes right now, and I’m embracing his interests. They’re HIS presents, right? Not mine.

Exhibit B:

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He’s going to flip out. Who wouldn’t love a Thomas the Train indoor roller coaster?!

I can’t wait to see his face light up when he sees plastic licensed character toys and games – his favorites. All those handmade goods, video games and big kid toys can wait a year or two because we need a little Christmas. (Right this very minute!)

Posted: November 18th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Acts of Kindness Challenge

I’m so excited to announce that our family was chosen to be Promise Monster Ambassadors for the next several months.

Promise Monsters is a family-run toy company based in Indianapolis, Indiana, (yay for local artisans!) that sells toys and other products that all spread kindness! All of their monsters come with an act of kindness for the receipents to complete. When completed, a reward is mailed to the do-gooder. I have gifted these cute little fuzzy monsters (all designed by childrens’ drawings) to several friends’ kids, as it’s a great way to support a local company and give a present that will pay it forward. It’s fun to see shared stories and photos of completed acts of kindness on their website.

We were chosen to receive a handful of Promise Monsters and blog about our kindness missions. This comes just at the perfect time when our church congregation is embracing the community through our Love Indy sermon series. We are encouraging each other to reach out to those we might not otherwise, pray for opportunities to serve and lend a helping hand with simple acts of kindness.

1 John 3:16-18 — This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Wes is at an age where he understands the importance of helping others and the fulfilling life it leads. If we are to live like Christ did, we should be doing more for others – not out of “duty,” but out of genuine love. Why not start teaching him how to be kind at an early age so that it comes more naturally to him as he gets older?

We received our first Promise Monster yesterday. Meet Blue Smarshmallow! All Promise Monsters are handmade in Indianapolis. Ours was made by artisan Xiomara.

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Blue Smarshmallow is a sentimental guy who cares about people and loves to let everyone know how much he loves them. He had a special mission for us.

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Oh, fun! We were challenged to send a letter to someone and tell them how special they are to us. Wes selected Pa Shattuck, Steven’s dad, as the lucky recipient of happy mail, and we pulled out some paper and crayons.

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While Wes was busy drawing his picture for Pa, I helped him write the letter. “What do you like best about Pa?” “What would you like to tell him?” The result was perfectly cute and bound to bring some joy.

Dear Pa, Happy Birthday! (It’s not his birthday yet, but it’s somewhat timely.) Um, shark. I like you and your M&M’s. I like the color red. You make me happy. I like you. Do you like the color black? Do you like green? I like green. I like Pa! You give good hugs. I like Pa. Do you like red? I made you a sun and thunder – the sun is going down and thunder is coming! – in this picture. With love, Wes.

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I don’t know where “shark” came from, but he giggled about it. Granted, we completed this project just before nap time, so he probably would have put some more thought and detail to this letter and picture if we had picked another time, but he happily worked on his mission, knowing it would bring a smile to his Pa’s face. He also knew that once completed, Wes and I would type in our secret code given to us from Blue Smarshmallow to select his mission-completed reward. The anticipation made the project all the more fun.

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He’s anxious to put the letter in the mail tomorrow and wait for Pa’s surprised reaction. We decided that Blue Smarshmallow would be a welcome addition to nap time (he’s sleeping with him as I write this), as he’s now part of the Shattuck family.

What a fun and simple thing to do. Receiving a special letter from someone really does put a smile on your face, doesn’t it? Especially when sent by a goofy preschooler! Sure, you don’t need a Promise Monster to create “happy mail,” but Blue Smarshmallow brought the idea to our attention when it hadn’t been planted otherwise. And now, perhaps Wes will want to send happy mail to other people, and more often! Knowing how well Wes recalls information, he will likely refer Blue Smarshmallow with the letter written to Pa even months from now, which will be an easy prompt to do it all over again.

I’m looking forward to our next kindness missions and sharing our experiences here. I do hope you’ll consider looking at Promise Monsters for the kids in your life, too. Not only are they adorable fuzzy friends that just happen to be local!, but they also encourage simple acts that we can incorporate into our daily lives to make our community a loving and better place.

Check them out online or at various storefronts like Little Green Bean Boutique, Black Sheep Gifts, Kits and Kaboodle or Imagination Station (more locations are listed here). I’m planning to snag a few for my nieces and nephews for Christmas this year!

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Edit – we just realized the reward for the Smarshmallows is included in the shipment. The rewards for the larger monsters, however – you get to pick (and they’re great, too, like superhero cape accessories for your monster)!

Posted: November 2nd, 2014
Categories: Leah
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