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.

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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!

___

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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Oh Man, Spokane

View all of our trip photos here.

With Steven’s increased business travels, and our August anniversary getaway plans canceled last minute earlier this year, we turned his Washington business trip into an extended mini getaway. I’ll tell you what: I certainly bring the entertainment factor when it comes to planning business trips. Steven usually just wings it and “misses out” on so much by not planning ahead. Armed with my travel guide and Groupons, we headed out.

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Our honeymoon to London was Steven’s first airplane experience, and since then, he’s been on countless trips – far surpassing the number of flights I’ve been on. Even being the semi-frequent traveller that he is, he’s never had any issues with major delays, lost luggage or mechanical plane failures. Me, on the other hand, it seems like there’s always an issue. We decided I was bad luck because our flight from Indianapolis was delayed 45 minutes due to the fact the plane from Chicago had mechanical problems and had to be swapped out quickly.

We landed in Denver 10 minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to take off. We knew we wouldn’t make it…we’d have to run the full length of the concourse, not counting the time it takes to taxi and unload. We decided to try, however, because the next flight to Spokane, our final destination, wasn’t for another 8 hours. By some gracious miracle, they held the plane for us as we clambered on, drenched in sweat.

Arriving in Spokane (pronounced Spo-can, pretend the E isn’t there) at 12:30 p.m. local time, it had been nearly 6 hours since we had last eaten and were desperate for food. Note: airlines don’t offer anything more than 6 oz of soda with looooots of ice for domestic flights. Remember the days of full meals and even peanuts and pretzels? Sorry boutcha.

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We were so tired and so hungry, but we gorged ourselves with super-yummy food at a local eatery called Scratch. I had carrot and fennel bisque soup. OMGeeeee. Good.

To walk off our bloated bellies, we toured the streets of downtown, including the beautiful and unique Riverfront Park, which was the site for the 1974 world’s fair expo. It looks like a happening summer destination with a mini amusement park, arena, train ride and gondola skyride over the Spokane Falls. I had a Groupon for the skyride, but alas, it was closed for maintenance. Strike 1.

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The weather apparently had been perfect for weeks leading up to this one, but we brought rain and chill with us from Indy. We headed back to Hotel Ruby, a former old run-down motel renovated into a hip, jazzy hotel with an after-hours public lounge. We decided it was a nice enough place, but we’re too old for the thin walls and neighboring train tracks and late night arrivals from young party-goers. Steven put it bluntly, “This place is for drunks.”

We spent the rest of the evening reading and studying for the next day’s conference presentation – the reason for the trip. It was only 6 p.m. local time, but that translated to 9 p.m. in our minds, and we were lights-out before people were heading to dinner.

The next day, Steven asked me what I would do to keep busy while he was working all day. Oh, did I have a plan!
FIRST: I had breakfast in the hotel lounge and caught up on local happenings.
THEN: I headed to a coffee shop we had found the day before, Atticus, and I enjoyed a latte and read more from my honkin trip book, We Are Not Ourselves (the thing nearly weighs 5 lbs).
AND THEN: I used one of my found Groupons for an hour-long massage. The ladies in the spa loved to hear that I was taking the day for myself.
THEN: I went to the downtown mall near the Falls. I had found a flyer online with a bunch of listed coupons for the shops in the mall and used them frequently. I tried on fancy clothes and ended up buying more than I should have. I had to stop while I was ahead because I had forgotten that I wasn’t in Indianapolis and had to bring everything back with me in a suitcase…

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ALSO: I had thought about going to see a movie, but nothing sparked my interest enough, so I instead popped my head into the mall hair salon and got a quick trim and style. While talking with all the local folks, I got a few recommendations for dinner that night, and was a little too excited about getting my hair done for a simple evening.

After my girlie rendezvous, I headed back to the hotel until Steven was finished. We met up and then walked to a very early dinner among white-haired people at a restaurant called Anthony’s. There’s a plus to eating before the crowds (I mean, keep in mind it was still 8 p.m. in our Eastern Time heads) – we snagged a table with a gorgeous view of Spokane Falls and were able to buy off the earlybird menu. A four-course seafood meal including dessert!

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On Friday, we rented a car to go exploring through Washington countryside and up Mt. Spokane. The landscape is full of valleys in between mountain ranges – lots of browns, dark greens and a few fall yellows mixed in. Everywhere you look, you’ve got a great view of Mt. Spokane and its sister hills.

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Up that high, it’s fun to enter a patch of fog, clear it, and then come across a pair of deer. The mountain was pretty quiet, since it’s just before winter ski season, but we marveled at the beauty of the state park.

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We decided to have lunch in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which is a quaint and touristy lake resort town. Again, since we’re in between seasons, it was nice to explore without too many people around.

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We hiked around Tubbs Hill and got some wonderful views of lakes and mountains.

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Back in Spokane, we had a little time to kill before checking into our bed & breakfast for the night, so we headed into Manito Park, which is a giant park full of individual flower gardens. It would be easy to get lost in that park, but I honestly don’t think you’d mind. We’ll have to go back someday to see the lilac and rose gardens in full bloom.

Next, I whipped out my last Groupon (this one specifically for Steven), to check out a local craft brewery, River City Brewing Company. It started to fill up quickly, since it was just after the close of the business week. Young and old faces – and many of which brought cards and games to make an evening out of it. It was fun just to witness the community and camaraderie within the small, local hangout.

The Roberts Mansion was just a few blocks down the road, and we got there just before the sun disappeared for a few outdoor photos of the grounds. The innkeeper was chatty and answered all of our questions about Spokane, that particular neighborhood and the history of the families who had lived in the mansion.

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One particular room in the house was full of books and old, garish hats. Naturally, we tried some on.

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Washington is a lovely state and the people of Spokane were very hospitable to us. Indiana isn’t thought of much in the area, so it was entertaining to hear questions about the midwest life. “What’s the weather like in Indiana?” “Ball State? I’ve never heard of it.” “How do you spell Indianapolis?” (Really.)

Talking about home made me ready to come home – and were we ever so glad to see our sleeping son when we finally arrived late last night. Time away is fun, yes, but it also makes you excited and grateful for what you have waiting for you back at home.

Posted: October 26th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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But Man, Age 3…

PollyPandaSept14_1Let me make a disclaimer and say that Wes is a good kid and is generally well-liked. But man, age 3…

…Is Tough
Do I really need to explain? I mean, I knew it was coming; Wes was such a slow, easy-going and lazy infant and toddler. He now needs a ton more attention and activity. I feel like Steven and I are counting down and disciplining left and right for stalling, ignoring tactics, repeat behavior, refusals and – my favorite – potty talk. Three-year-old boys absolutely know what’s edgy enough to say and get away with it, and Wes is nearly always walking that fine line.

…Is Repetitive
Oh was that funny? Let’s do it again for a chuckle. And again. Alright. Ok, it’s a stale joke now. Seriously, it’s not funny anymore. Wesley, stop. STOP! Oh did that gross you out? Let’s do it again! Again! Again!

…Is Wonderful
Right now, I’m his best friend. He tells me nearly every day. Forget the fellow sweaty preschoolers, I win the best hug award! This guy has some major sweetness embedded deep within his heart, and I hope it never fades. The way he cares for people is evident, and he believes babies are life’s best miracle – and heck, he’s so right. I love watching Wes discover the world. His utter amazement – mind blown –  when he connects the dots about a concept. We’re also at an age where we are making memories that he recalls months later, and it’s wonderful to “reminisce” about the past.

…Brings Out the Best and Worst of Me
I’ve had to be creative more than ever. Thinking of ways to keep him occupied so he doesn’t get himself into trouble or break something has been a super challenge. We’re more crafty around here, and we do more hands-on activities. But sometimes I’m just plain tired from a long work day and can’t get myself off the couch. I grow irritable of his loud boy noises, repeated phrases/sounds and nonstop movements. His repetitive disobedience and testing. And then Mama Bear gets mad. I roar and stomp and do terrible irritable-mom things and instantly regret it.

I know Age 3 is full of learning and teachable experiences, but, you know, some days are just bad. Some days you completely skip right over those teachable moments and either brew worry or anger.

However, as cliche as it sounds, I’ve found that a new day presents new chances to learn from each other, and thank goodness for those second and third chances to make things right. I can’t be a perfect wife or mom, but we 3 have morning snuggles down to a science – and it heals any wounds from the day before.

…until we’re running late for school and Mama Bear makes an appearance again. :)

Posted: October 16th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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What Shigellosis Has Taught Me

photo 4 (6)Nine days ago, Wes woke up with a badly soiled pull-up. I thought it was just a fluke – he never has accidents anymore – and told him to let me know when he had to next go to the bathroom. He said, “ok,” and acted mostly normal while we had breakfast and got ready for school. In the car on the way to school, he complained of stomach pains and kept saying, “I have to go poop” over and over again. I turned the car around and headed back home.

Without being too gross about it all, we spent the majority of that day in the bathroom. Thankfully, he’s potty trained and could go by himself, but I had no idea what this thing was and might have been overly cautious about washing his and my hands and everything else in the bathroom. Thank goodness I was careful.

The next day we went to the pediatrician who ordered a stool culture before any antibiotics or medication would be given. I was sent home with 3 vials, gloves and a toilet seat “hat” collection bucket with a chuckle from the lab nurses. You can imagine the scene there. After FOUR DAYS, we finally got a positive test result confirming Shigella bacteria, or Shigellosis – which is modern-day dysentery.

Since Sunday’s lab result, I’ve talked with the Board of Health, his pediatrician and daycare umpteen times. Antibiotics were finally prescribed after the positive result, and we have to wait until the antibiotics run out (5 days total) until he can go back to school. The difficulty is that it’s now been a week and a half, and his body is fighting this bacteria very well. He’s acting normal and doesn’t even have diarrhea anymore – he hasn’t, actually, since last Friday – four days ago.

Juggling time at home for nearly 2 weeks has been a little workout. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about this experience.

1) If you have a parent in town, thank your lucky stars. And thank THEM. My mom has been a lifesaver, watching Wes many of the days so that Steven and I can work fairly normal schedules. It’s a blessing that she is retired, too. And bonus points for cleaning the inside of the fridge and microwave.

2) Productivity of the work kind is best when the household is asleep. But a great secondary option is to bank on excellent weather and a wireless connection. We’ve spent so many hours outside so that Wes can run off some cooped-up energy while I catch up with email and needed correspondence.

3) A small church family is incredibly supportive. Both Steven and I had obligations early Sunday morning, so we naturally brought Wes with us. We didn’t have a positive test result yet, and I really thought it was just a virus (like his pediatrician also thought) since he was feeling more himself. But, after talking with a few of the leaders, we decided he shouldn’t be around other kids. All of the adults worked around this hiccup and combined classrooms so that he could be in the “quarantine room” and not accidentally infect anyone else. What other church can (and cares enough) to do that for your family? Ok, maybe yours can, too, but I’m grateful for mine!

4) Understanding coworkers makes life easier. I am grateful for the listening ears, flexibility and caring coworkers around me. People genuinely ask about Wes’ health and offer to help – even my coworker who is on maternity leave has offered to stand in as needed! Crazy.

5) You can still have fun when sick. I guess the biggest lesson for me has been to keep each day light and without expectations. Poor Wes truly misses his friends at school and can’t wait to go back. He has been grumpy, bored and irritable on the days where I try to do too much at once. The best remedy? Get on the floor and be goofy with your child. Have a dance party. Bring out toys long forgotten. Snuggle and watch a movie.

_____

Wes has the best little boy humor. He can easily make fun of himself in embarrassing situations, like last week’s crazy bathroom fest. During bedtime stories the other night, he tooted something rancid and giggled at himself for a good 10 minutes.

 

He’s played with trains for days, and he hasn’t gotten sick of them yet. And occasionally, he’ll grab his camera to take some great, blurry photos of trains.

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One day, we found a grasshopper outside and invited him in for dinner. (We released him before the storm came.)

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The great outdoors heals everything. Especially when it’s sunny and 70 without a cloud in the sky.

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Here’s to 2 more days at home with the best sick kid this side of Indianapolis.

Posted: September 23rd, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Rubber Robots

Last winter I found two preschool cameras at Kohl’s on major clearance and snatched them up. I gave one to my nephew for his birthday and saved the other for Wes’ own birthday in July.

He was thrilled to receive his very own camera and snapped photos left and right. We brought it along when walking along the canal with friends and quickly filled up the memory card. We took it with us on vacation, knowing that we’d get some good shots, but I also took the USB cord and cables so that we could clean off the camera once we got to our “vacation house,” as Wes called it.

While driving to our vacation destination (Holland, Michigan), Steven and I thought it would be fun to start an Instagram account to display Wes’ photos. Since, you know, 3G makes car traveling so much less lame, I set it up right then and there. “Westagram” and other variations were all taken, so it launched a conversation about possible clever names.

Eventually we settled on @rubberrobots, in honor of Wes’ newest made-up song, which consists of only those two words sung over and over again while shifting weight back and forth on each leg. It’s quite annoying, actually, and it gets stuck in your head pretty easily. It seemed perfect.

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You might be thinking to yourself, “what parent allows her child to be on social media?” Well, I see what you’re saying there. But truly, Wes isn’t the only kid in his generation that has an uncontrollable presence online. We’ve probably ruined this Gen Z crop for good by constantly posting photos from birth. I know eventually we’ll have to figure out how to educate him on privacy and the like, and it might be a weird conversation since there will already be an online presence of nearly every kid in his class at that point. But at any rate, this Instagram account is just for fun, and if for any reason it becomes a concern, it will be re-evaluted.

By the time we arrived in Holland, enough of our own Instagram followers and friends had caught on to what we began and couldn’t wait to see the thread. But then! The stupid camera broke. FYI – don’t ever ever buy Discovery Kids Digital Camera. It will steal your photos and eat them and then quit working altogether. (To my nephew, I’m sorry. I owe you a new one!)

It hasn’t been until NOW that we got a replacement camera for Wes. So, without further ado, I present Wesley’s photography. You can obviously follow him on Instagram or periodically view photos on his Flickr album page.

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Posted: September 6th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 1 Comment.

Conversations with Wes: Construction Lingo

Wes, like every other little boy it seems, is in love with construction sites and vehicles and tractors. He knows most of them by name and what they do, and he’ll often correct you if you mix up the proper names of the vehicles. Until now, I haven’t given those yellow and orange machines any thought, nor known their official names.

His speech is very clear overall, but we get a kick out of how he manipulates syllables around. I gotta post these pronunciations before I forget them forever.

impacthammer

Impact hammer – “himpack hammer”

cementmixer

Cement mixer – “nixa-nixer”

frontendloader

Front-end loader – “fra-en woah-der”

 

excavator

Excavator – “ex-ator”

 

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Low-loading trailer – “woad trailwer”

And the mostly normal sounding vehicles: Dump truck, backhoe, bulldozer, construction tractor…there’s so many!

Tonight we mixed it up a little and thought up construction vehicle names for relatives: “Cement Mama,” “Wesdozer,” “Impact Daddy,” “Back-Jake” and my favorite, “Low Loading Lucy.”

Posted: August 26th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Mobbies

photo (21)Yesterday our fall intern started her semester with us at the Alzheimer’s Association. My coworker and I took her out to lunch, and because of the lengthy orientation dullness from that morning, we just talked “stuff” to get to know each other better. She asked me, “so, what are your hobbies? What do you like to do for fun?”

It’s a typical icebreaker question, right? I mean, I ask it all the time when conducting volunteer interviews and orientations. Usually I hear back things like gardening, running, some sport, etc etc. When I was asked the same question, it took me a minute to be able to answer.

I used to paint a lot. It was (and still is, when I find the time) a wonderful stress-reliever. I love to read, but it’s getting harder to do in one sitting these days. I’ve dabbled in a variety of things over the years – some weird: pilates, Dance Dance Revolution (I was GOOD), model rocketry, knitting, mountain biking, guitar. But it seems like I don’t really have a consistent personal hobby anymore. Almost everything I do is with Wes or Steven, or both. Something more like a mom-hobby, a “mobby.”

This summer has been so splendid that I haven’t stopped to capture it at all on this blog. We’ve been outside an awful lot doing silly things. In fact, a different coworker who hadn’t seen me in a while remarked how tan I was the other day! Wanna know some of my new mobbies?

Gardening
I’m not much of a green thumb, but I’ve enjoyed spending countless evenings in the front yard pruning, deadheading, weeding and trying to battle pests (grasshoppers, slugs, and my favorite – ‘shrooms) while Wes drives his Little Tykes car all over the driveway and sidewalk. Steven mows the yard while I water our petunias. Wes mows alongside him while I try to figure out how to revive my fungusified dead plants. I’m sure we look like a picture perfect family to neighbors walking by – until they see my hot mess of a garden.

photo (22)Fortmaking
There is an art to making a fort. We haven’t found it yet, but my cool-mom skills are improving. It really doesn’t matter what the fort looks like. In fact, it can just be a blanket over your head. BOOM. Insta-fort. But seriously, for a fun time – watch a Netflix movie under a blanket with a giggling 3-year-old and a couple of nosy dogs. Oh, and add some vanilla wafers slathered with strawberry icing.

Walking
I suppose our family has walked about 20 miles or so in the last couple weeks. It’s best done with another mom friend and her child so that you can vent about mobbies. Or, for a great workout, take two cabin feverish dogs with you. You’ll get yanked along pretty well. And you might discover a new Hawaiian ice food truck that brilliantly stuffs ice cream at the bottom of the bowl, dumps the flavored ice over it, and THEN puts condensed milk all over the top. Whew. It’s like a heavenly creamsicle.

Boating
This is the second summer of my parents’ pontoon, or best known as “Grandpa’s Boat.” Wes is fascinated with all things that go vroom and zoom, so the boat’s motor is the highlight of every trip to the lake. When we’re not taking a cruise around the small 100 acre lake, we’re sitting in the docked boat. Steven has been known to take naps on the back bench. Wes is usually in the drivers’ seat, turning the wheel to “take us to the library.” And I’m usually just sitting, soaking it all in. There’s also an art to docking the boat itself, which I’m still figuring out. Please don’t trust me to throw or secure the rope to bring the boat in. You’ll likely float away.

Swimming
Wes and I took mommy & me swim classes again this summer. He was the oldest kid in the class, which should have alerted me, but I had successfully dragged a few mom friends and their babies into the class, so I didn’t want to back out. I learned which swimsuits to avoid due to rather large splashes and clingy arms and legs. I think I dunked my head under water once the whole season. By the end of the summer, Wes was a little daredevil.

photo (23)Family dating
It’s a real mobbie! We’ve had so much fun visiting museums, experiencing parks & ballgames, testing out new toys and games, vacationing and relaxing as a family. I’m pretty sure that’s when we’re at our best. I feel whole and complete with I’m actively participating with both of my boys. We’ve also done well at getting together with family, neighbors and friends. Relationships matter to me more than ever, and I’m grateful for wonderful people in my life.

Reading
Okay, so it’s not the same thing as getting lost in a big, thick beach book, but I do enjoy my book time with Wes. Bedtime is usually my favorite part of each day because Wes looks forward to it. He gets special one-on-one time with Steven and I at different times. With me, we get ready for bed, read a handful of books, sing a few songs and pray together. He typically gets stuck in a similar book rotation, but over the summer months, he’s been excited for library books with new-to-him characters and storylines. (His favorites right now are Pete the Cat and His Brand New White Shoes, The Daddy Book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and, as always, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel.) With Steven, I’m not exactly sure what happens, but I hear an awful lot of giggles before lights out.

Summer evenings may be ending sooner, but they’ve been good to us. I feel refreshed and ready for busy fall season to begin.

Posted: August 21st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Only You

photo (18)Most people think of families as 2 kids + parents. I do. But we’re a trio family, and that’s how we’ll likely stay.

Social media are beautiful ways for me to keep tabs on my friends’ growing families, see photos of new babies and glowing parents and reignite that unique, hard-to-describe feeling of joy when a new life is brought into the world. It is a feeling I used to be afraid of, but motherhood has changed me for the better. I feel like I can see the world through the Creator’s eyes better – He views us as children discovering new, exciting things around us every day. And imagine how great it feels to him to have little hands grasp him for strength, for comfort and out of love.

Who wouldn’t want to invite MORE of that into the world through new life?

A friend recently sent me this article about how it’s become “trendy” to have large families. Family size is becoming a status symbol. I guess I do see some of that, too – that others see large families as wealth. Even the Bible states that those with many children are blessed. But I don’t think that’s what the Bible means about “blessed.” It’s a different sort of blessing – one kinda like what I just heart-vomited above.

The article goes on to take the other standpoint – that those with families of 3, a one and only child, are making those decisions on purpose. Sometimes because of finances. Sometimes because of inability to conceive or age. And sometimes, because they just want a comfortable life.

I’ve thought about this piece for several days now. I agree with it one day, and another day, I don’t. I don’t want to be a mom who doesn’t invite additional children into the world “because we got it right the first time,” and I don’t want to be a mom who quietly condemns large families, either. But it IS nice to have a little piece of validation; that “onlies” are not uncommon these days. That Wes won’t be the only kid in school without a sibling.

Here’s the thing: people talk about infertility, people talk about the case for no children, and people certainly talk about (or ask about) additional children. But no one really talks about the desire to have more children, but deciding not to – for any reason. I’m tired of keeping it to myself. It breaks me up inside. I’m tired of mourning for a child and I’m tired of grieving for Wesley’s “lonely household.”

It’s been a long year for me to reconcile my thoughts about expanding our family. My heart has room for one more child, but I think we’re complete. At least, in terms of  blood relation. Who knows what the future holds – I don’t think I’m done being a parent, whatever that means. Will we be foster parents some day? Maybe?

I’m learning to turn my mourning into joy. (I’m no good as a mopey mother!) I’ll think of all the blessings I do have: We’ve had a blast these summer weeks as a small family. We’ve grown close. We’re able to be flexible and splurge and be together. I’m determined to be the best mom to Wes that I can be. Sure, it’s going to be tough some days, but I’ve got a great little family to back me up. And as long as my friends keep reproducing, I’ll be able to hold and snuggle little children, and perhaps even be a part of that village it takes to raise them, for many years yet.

Posted: July 10th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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