My heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself.
Psalm 131:1-2a NLT
Antique White or Ivory Lace? Do you realize how many various shades of white paint you can choose from? I brought home at least 15 different swatches to find the perfect shade for our living room. This will be the third color the walls have seen since we moved in six years ago. You know what’s funny? The walls were white – or Bone Satin – when we bought the place. I can’t seem to find the right “aura” for this particular room. Yellow was short lived, and the current brown is just so dark. I need light, airy space in there…I think.
I’m not going to pretend that I follow the ancient psalm above. My resolutions for 2013 weren’t publicly announced, though I did tell myself that I would practice being content with my life. I’ve been a worrier for as long as I remember, and trusting the Lord has always been a difficult task. So when I poorly jerryrigged a new rod and set of curtains above our big living room window today, I nearly broke down with shame when Steven came home to find my disastrous attempt. He was able to pull them directly off the wall, and they clattered to the floor. I was so ready for a new look that I didn’t care to make sure it was safe.
Here’s the thing. I like our house, but it’s certainly not my dream house. It’s been a wonderful place for us as a newly married couple with furry friends. Sometimes a tiny kitchen is cozy and quaint, and original hardwoods, glass tile and Formica are sought-after in certain markets. While I love the features of our home, I’ve struggled over the years with being happy about its layout. Entertaining people in a small house can be a challenge, and add a toddler to the mix… you get the idea. So small updates, like my curtain and paint idea, have been my go-to remedy for rekindling that first house love.
Sure, you can tell me that it’s all good, I was just excited about decorating, right? Right. I am. And don’t get me wrong, we will install them (properly) soon enough, and we probably will get a wall color picked out eventually. But the point is this: my focus isn’t aligned. I’m not practicing contentedness.
I could easily put the blame to Pinterest or other social media. Everyone posts happy news because they want to celebrate with others, and why not? I do it, too. “Yay! I just saved $173849128374 on my grocery bill!” or “Hooray! Look at these before and after photos of my closet organization!” Some friends have good baby news, some are building a new house, some are going on vacation or bought a new car. While I am happy and rejoice along with them, I know that I’ve taken it to heart in a negative way. I’ve been downright jealous.
Surrounded by family and friends, a wonderful job, a sturdy roof over my head and reliable car to drive, I still long for more. Once the curtains are hung in a newly painted living room, the sting will likely lessen for a while. Then, inevitably, it will creep back. I’ve got to get a handle on this contentedness thing before it consumes. What kind of example will I be for Wes if he sees my unhappiness? Will he think that his love isn’t enough? That things are good for only a little while?
Oh, dear. I guess I’ll start small – like, with the living room. If it doesn’t turn out like a photo on houzz.com, it will be alright. After all, the whole goal for my white wall haven is to provide a feeling of calm and quiet. For Pete’s sake, be still, Leah.
I generally try to keep this blog positive and non-complain-y, but I have to break the rules occasionally. After all, what is the point of journaling (face it, I don’t blog for money or recognition, so therefore this is my public journal) if it doesn’t act as a release of some sort?
It’s been a tough week of Mom Guilt. And you know what else I’ve realized? I really suck at homemaking.
My job doesn’t typically include grant writing, but occasionally I assist here and there, and one of my proposals is due this coming Monday. It’s done and just needs to be printed and copied multiple times, and I am certainly grateful that I started working on it three weeks ago. But sometimes deadlines press so hard on me that I can’t think. I press onward to beat the deadline… like several days before, if I can. If not, I stress out about all the kajillion things that could stand in my way and make me miss the deadline. Ugghhh my brain!
Enter yet another Wes sickness. This time it’s just a low grade fever and runny nose, but I actually got annoyed at my son for being sick. As if he meant to get in the way of my deadline! And then… it hits.
I have it bad. I feel torn between work and home life. What’s the boundary? If I’m not in the office, or heaven forbid, miss the proposal deadline, what will happen? Will I be needed? YES. Of course I will. That’s why I have a job.
If I’m not at home to comfort my feverish child who just wants his mom, what will happen? Will I be needed? YES. Will I be missed? DOUBLE YES.
You know what’s funny? I don’t consider myself stressed out right now. I tell myself I “just have a lot going on,” but when I look at my work load, I realize that I probably am stressing negatively. In fact, I had a near breakdown this evening when I accused myself of dinner failure. You see, during this week of approaching deadline, I found two large bags of potatoes in my pantry. For some crazy reason, I decided they needed to be eaten RIGHT NOW so that I wouldn’t have to throw them away (sprouts were everywhere). The night before I had attempted a new recipe that involved way too many cloves and not enough orange slices and it was pretty much horrible. And then, these potatoes… bah. My attempt two nights in a row was disastrous. WHO can mess up freaking potatoes?! This girl. I’m a hot mess.
And that week-old load of clean laundry that needs to be put away was ignored again today. Somehow denying it my attention serves as punishment. “Nuh uh, you don’t GET to be put away because of that crazy potato incident!” See? It makes sense.
Wes picks up on it. He was cranky today, too. When the sun decided to make a presence, we headed outside and soaked up our Vitamin D and felt tons better. He’s so much like me that way.
Thankfully the proposal is done. I had the day off work today anyway, and it worked in my favor. But I need to remember to reevaluate my priorities. My family comes first and foremost. I need to take a chill pill and relax more. On purpose. Even if I don’t feel stressed out, you know? Be present with myself and my husband and my kid. And heck, I threw out the potatoes anyway.
The last few weeks have been cold, rainy, slushy or snowy. Pretty much terrible weather, but especially bad with a little person anxious to discover the world.
I know many mothers who take their kids to the Y or a gym or art class, but we’re bumbly people who don’t do that sort of thing – or have the extra funds for that matter. Since I’ve been working 4-day work weeks the last month or so, it’s been a fun challenge to entertain my guy during “Mom Friday.” And then there’s the weekend.
Yes, there’s all kinds of crafts and activities we do at home, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house, you know? So here’s a few places we’ve been lately, and with great response. Definitely repeating.
1. The Indianapolis Zoo in February – Total time: 1.5 hours, Total cost: $0
Okay, so I’m getting this one out of the way first because for most people it won’t be free. But since my generous parents get our families memberships to the Children’s Museum for Christmas and the Indianapolis Zoo for Mother’s/Father’s Day, we hold a special key. But let me fill you in on a little secret…no one goes to the zoo in winter, so you get the place pretty much to yourself! On a Saturday afternoon in February, there are no gatekeepers to collect parking money.
Based on Wes’ out-of-body experience at the Shedd Aquarium a few weeks ago, we decided to go specifically for the Oceans exhibit. If you stick to the indoor buildings, you don’t need to bundle up very much. There were, like, 5 other people at the zoo that day, so we let Wes run around in the Oceans building and we took our time looking at the fish, sharks and sea horses. He was thrilled with the sea lions and penguins, and when we got to the polar bear at the end of the exhibit, we just turned around and went back through it. It was probably one of the best ideas we’ve ever had. What a great, cheap way to spend an afternoon.
2. Once Upon a Child – Total time: 45 minutes, Total cost: $0
My mom lives across the street from a second hand children’s retail store. It’s a wonder that I ever buy anything new. They have everything from clothes (separated by color and size), books, strollers & kids’ furniture to toys of all shapes and sizes. There is a play area for the kids to romp and play in while you shop, though I really don’t even need to stick Wes in there as there is plenty to look at and touch within the store itself. We can easily spend a half hour or more just looking around and testing out toys that beep, flash and click.
3. IMCPL Central Library – Total time: 1 hour, Total cost: $1
This morning Wes and I had some time to kill as our house was getting cleaned. (PS – check out my friend Sarah’s Indy Green Queen Cleaning for wonderful, affordable service using her own natural, chemical-free cleaning products!) We headed to the Central Library for an hour of entertainment. I’ve been to this library a dozen times, but I’ve never checked out the children’s area until today. It is fantastic! We’ll be going many many more times. Wes loved the interactive activity wall, bookshelves at his height, oodles of puzzles, blocks and sound-making STUFF.
He was moving the full hour. So much to see and do! For an added piece of fun, we ran into my high school friend, Liesel, and her three children. Wes was fascinated with her 4-month-old daughter, Jemima. He couldn’t get enough of her laughs and smiles.
The best part of the library? The green screened “theatre!” Kids can climb onto a stage that projects their image into a changing scene. Wes enjoyed watching the big kids play football, get stuck in a snowstorm and surf. He worked up enough courage at the end to get on the stage himself and then ran around in circles. Adorable.
We made it out with 3 library books, a fun morning and a tired kid for $1 (parking).
What are some of your freebie outing ideas? Is there a place we definitely need to check out?
The three of us took a post-Valentine’s Day mini vacation to Chicago for the weekend. It almost didn’t happen, but I’m glad it did. Some time away with our little family always seems to allow Wes to hit some major milestones.
The plan was to leave midday on Friday, but we had a rough Thursday night and ended up at the pediatrician the following morning with another double ear infection. (That’s four in 6 months, for those of you counting.) Saturday morning’s departure wasn’t so bad – it was one less day of figuring out nap schedules away from home – and we enjoyed a happy-go-lucky kid, especially since we gained an hour driving north.
If you drive along 65 around the Lafayette area, you’ll pass miles of wind turbines. Wes was awestruck with the alien-looking things, and, in reference, he kept signing “star,” which I believe is a pretty close description. We picked up the train to head into Chicago, and again, Wes was amazed to see, hear and ride a real-life train. You better believe he signed “train” and yelled “WHOA” pretty much the entire 45 minute trip. I’m not ashamed to say that my beaming pride was evident as people oohed and aaahed over my adorable son.
After checking into the hotel, we took a quick walk around Magnificent Mile before settling in for naptime. Thankfully the excitement from the morning worked its magic, and Wes knocked out cold within minutes. Steven followed suit. So I got to read in an overly comfortable bed above Chicago while the boys rested. And you know what? One of the absolute best things about 4-star hotels are the hot showers and the complimentary toiletries. Their sleeping allowed me to test out the mini spa treatments in fancy packaging and actually wash my hair.
From the 9th floor of our hotel, Wes loved to watch the cars and busses (and sign accordingly) pass by. He was ecstatic when we hopped on a bus to the LEGO store and later the John Hancock Observatory. (PS – The Observatory is cheaper than Willis/Sears Tower, the lines are totally manageable, there’s a cafe at the top and the views are just as good, if not better.) Stroller riding is fun to an extent, but a wiggly toddler needs to wiggle, and that he did – 100 floors up. We got some meager photos, but the trip was super fun. I didn’t understand until later today, but the incoherent sign that Wes performed all that evening was “night.” Duh. We were up there and looking over all the lights of the city as the sun set.
Today we took a quick trip to Shedd Aquarium. We did have a couple meltdowns prior to seeing any fish, but once we did, Wes was in heaven. He couldn’t get enough. And no matter if it was a snake, eel or stingray. They were all signed as “fish.” He was beside himself with excitement, and I couldn’t help but laugh at him.
A few pieces of advice about Shedd – GO EARLY. We arrived just an hour after it open and the lines were already long. Also, BRING A STROLLER. Even if your child ends up walking the whole trip, having a stroller or wheelchair automatically puts you in the “accessible line,” which is at least 1/3 shorter. For real. And if you bring a 19-month-old? Skip all the extra exhibits and just pay the $8 general admission. You’re saving yourself at least $30 each, and in our case, Wes was done after an hour.
So I know this post is heavy with sign language talk. Maybe you are on the fence about whether to introduce it to your kids. Or maybe you think it’s a damper on language development. Or maybe you just don’t even know that it’s a trend! I was hesitant to keep at it because I’m pretty terrible with follow-through, but it’s worked really well for us. I didn’t know just how well until we came home tonight. Wesley was getting ready for bed and carried on an entire conversation with me with his grunts, few words and limited signs. Without any prompting from me, he signed “fish,” “train,” “bus,” “star” and “car” over and over again. Heavy emphasis on the train. He remembered the whole weekend’s events and wanted to tell me about it!
Some kids are talking more fluently than Wes at his age, but this is the way he is able to communicate right now, and his little face just lights up that he CAN, and that I understand. It’s now a two-way conversation. And golly, if it takes a trip to Chicago to figure this out, well, where to next week?!
Health permitting, we head to the Windy City for the weekend. Not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous about taking Wesley with us, who is just about 19 months old. Our late summer vacation to Hilton Head Island was perfect, but it was 85 degrees, we had access to both the beach and a pool, we had a condo for a full week, and he was just over a year old.
This mini vacation consists of a) big city traffic/lights/sound/wind, b) FRIGID COLD TEMPS, c) no car (we’re taking the train) and d) a picky eater. That’s right, it’s going to be 24 degrees in Chicago while we’re there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked, but also fairly certain that this could be a bad idea.
Why are we going? We both need a break. We have gone to Chicago a few times, and it usually seems to be around this year. Wait. I should clarify. We went to Chicago in Feb. 2010 and had plans to go again in Feb. 2011, but Steven got terribly sick the day before so we had to cancel the trip. Boo. The hotel rates in February are fantastic, and I happened to score $75 nights at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, right off Magnificent Mile.
(Here’s :60 of our last trip to Chicago.)
Why are we taking Wes? Well, for one, he’s our kid. I think he’ll love all the sights and sounds, museums and pizza. He enjoys excursions and seeing new things. He even is pretty good at spending the night in a hotel. Annnd, I think if he didn’t come with us, we’d miss him like crazy cakes.
Our hotel doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast (FAIL). Wes demands milk FIRST THING each morning. I assume there is a fridge in our room, but can we be certain?
The in-room snacks in a 4-star hotel are priced to the max. We gotta create a distraction.
The weather will be coooold.
I have no idea if there are rules about kids in taxis or city buses. Do we have to walk everywhere?
We’re taking the train into the city. Gotta keep our stuff minimal as we’ll have to walk to the hotel.
So. To alleviate my concerns about snacks and milk, of course, I made a mad Target run today. I’m pretty proud of my finds. Hey, did you know that milk boxes don’t have to be refrigerated?! Score. I stocked up on these for the morning cravings, specifically. I figured I should probably get snacks that were both healthy and provided portability, so I also grabbed some applesauce packets (Wes’ fave), fruit/veggie chews and some Annie’s yumminess. I really doubt Wes will eat or like the freeze dried peas and corn, but it’s worth a shot.
We’re planning to visit a couple museums and perhaps the Willis Tower to stay indoors as much as possible. But, I really want to check out Polar Adventure Day at Northerly Island, so I’m planning to bring lots of layers for the 3 of us. I fully expect to battle colds when we return; let’s hope they are worth it.
Contrary to my plans to bring layers, I’m challenged to pack light. We aren’t bringing the pack n play; instead, we’re borrowing a crib from the hotel. Of course, I’ll have to find room for Wes’ lovie, “Dee Dee,” and his two preferred blankets. Also, diapers, wipes, pjs, clothes… It can be done, right? The hope is to fit everything in two backpacks plus a small diaper bag, my purse and the umbrella stroller. That way we can cram everything into lockers at a museum on the way out of the city to avoid having to go back to the hotel.
I really have no idea about big city public transportation etiquette. I mean, people use taxis to get around everywhere, right? But I assume they have to follow car seat laws, so maybe we’re best going the bus route. “Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA…” Whew. (I guess I knew this, but I didn’t have a kid before!)
It will be a fun weekend. I’m sure of it. Now, if we could just get over this new stomach bug that Wes caught, we’re in good shape. I would hate to have written this ridiculous post in vain if we have to cancel the whole trip.
Oh, and I just found that taxis and commercial vehicles don’t have to follow car seat laws. So put that in your back pocket.
One thing I’ve noticed since Wes has been around is that I don’t play enough. I enjoy quiet, lazy activities, like reading, painting, journaling and catching up on Gilmore Girls (somehow I missed that bandwagon in college). Wes is also a pretty quiet person, but he’s much more active than I am. And what an imagination! Who knew a child less than 2 years old could make believe so well? His interest in discovering the world has taught me several “lessons,” which I’ll outline below.
Sure, I enjoy the outdoors, but it’s WINTER. I dislike winter. Except when it’s snowing and beautiful and the sky is purple, I stay indoors with a cozy blanket and some hot chocolate. Sometimes it’s hard to put down a book or turn off the news in order to romp around on the floor and build a LEGO house that gets destroyed in .08 seconds. But I do it. And I have fun!
One recent day when it snowed, Wes really wanted to be outside. I grudgingly bundled us up and surprised myself at how much fun we had, just walking around and making footprints everywhere.
He reminded me how falling snow is just plain magical. And come on, how cute is he with his sign language?
A few weeks ago I made a big, and somewhat risky purchase. I bought a kitchen tower to keep Wes “contained,” entertained and safe while I work on dinner. It was a tough decision because it’s a little pricey, and this particular model is the runner-up to the even more expensive Learning Tower. I debated for several weeks which one to get for various reasons, but I’m glad I chose the one I did. (For one thing, it collapses and folds up for somewhat portability – this is a necessity for our itty bitty kitchen.) It allows me to have my hip and hands back, and it gives him a feeling of participation as he can see what I’m doing. It’s also great in the bathroom while brushing teeth – he can rinse his own toothbrush! We’ve also discovered just how fun it is to set in the living room and pretend it’s all sorts of things. An airplane! A tree house! Or best yet, a podium for public speaking.
Another lesson learned from my son: You can pretty much do anything or be anyone with the right props.
Wesley has had trouble getting along well with other kids his age. I really think his social skills have improved tremendously since enrollment at school. He has a chance to play alongside other kids, also known as parallel playing. This doesn’t mean that he’s actually participating in the same activity as another child, but he is close by, playing by himself. This still is important because it’s part of a gradual step toward community and sharing. However, I’ve noticed recently that he has been playing extremely well with, and not just beside, his cousins and his bestie Beatrice.
I had to include the above photo of his adorable cousin, Jeremiah. The poor kid rarely has his pants in the right place because he army crawls all over the floor, causing his drawers to fall right off. It’s hilarious. To make it even better, Jer managed to climb and plop himself inside the box of Lincoln Logs to be closer to his cousin, “Baby Weswee.” Also note that this peaceful photo of Wes and Bea was shortly lived. They are pretty much a married couple in 19-month-old bodies.
Lesson learned? You can do your own thing, and by yourself, even, but it’s just so much nicer to do it with someone else.
And lastly, Wes has shown me that life is FUN. Seriously. There’s so much stuff to do, things to see and people to meet. I feel like we get stuck in our own routine and become blinded to the amazing world and creation we live in. Wes has paved a way to open our eyes and rediscover our surroundings.
Some people never leave you, regardless of where they are on the planet (or not on this world). They leave a lasting legacy for you. Their experiences, advice and modeling behavior shape you to be who you become.
Today was one of those mornings that was impossible to get out of bed. I skipped over washing my hair for the 4th day in a row (gross), and picked out a decent looking “fat” shirt to match my mood, but still look somewhat presentable. Pony tail day. You know those.
Not that it was a bad morning, but it was blah, and I developed a headache that wouldn’t go away. My projects at work were taking forever to complete. I started thinking about rounding up a lunch of some sort from the random, dwindling food of mine in the kitchenette when I got a call from our receptionist, “Leah, there’s a Kara Pabon sitting across from me that says she has a hug for you if you’ll accept it.”
Rewind 10 years. An insecure senior in high school. I spent most of my free time in either the “senior lounge” or in Miss Pabon’s office. She taught me to play guitar. She listened to my teenage angst and troubles of life and concerns about my future. My broken heart from a past boyfriend. My wavering faith and my recent trip to Southeast Asia that left me feeling empty and black inside. She gave me a voice through music as my band teacher and impromptu guitar instructor.
My heart grew a million times with her encouragement, and I knew I could face college with her advice and my newly achieved life skills. I owe a lot to Kara Pabon, who was younger than my age now during my high school days. Could I have been a mentor for a young girl at 25? I don’t know. But I should strive to be one now.
Fast forward back to this afternoon. I quickly glanced in the mirror to make sure I look not-dead before heading downstairs to greet my old confidante, Miss Kara Pabon. She looks the same since I last saw her at least six years ago. Same warm smile with eyes that see the best qualities in every single person. Kara is just in town today as she is heading back to China tomorrow where she has lived for the last several years. She just happened to see Joy’s House on her way to lunch with a friend and recognized it from my posts on Facebook. On a whim, she stopped in to see me.
So touched. Suddenly my dirty hair and headache don’t seem to matter. I just got transported back to my happy, go-get-em memories as a 19-year-old.
Kara is a living example of what I hope to become. What a fantastic surprise to my day, and a gentle reminder to reach out to those you care about. Keep in touch.
At first it was scary and troubling, then it became so frequent that it was comical. Now I’m dealing with anguish and frustration and just plain old annoyance. Wes woke up with snotty nose #27894589234 of his life yesterday morning, and it’s turned into a full, blown-out cold today.
Okay, sure, it’s not the flu or RSV or pneumonia, or even a fever. But I’m about to throw in the towel. Not even kidding – we have maybe a week of health before something else sets in. Every. Single. Time. We just finished antibiotics for an ear infection. Before that, conjunctivitis. And since August, we’ve dealt with impetigo, croup, asthma and respiratory complications, other ear infections and a whole slew of snot noses.
This kid never had such a bad immune system until he started being around more kids (and germs) at daycare. I love the social interactions and learning experiences he has, don’t get me wrong. But for real? Please tell me it gets better.
What can I do? This child is a toy chewer and touches his face constantly. I do try to keep his hands clean, but I feel like I’m failing here. There’s nothing worse than witnessing a miserable toddler unable to sleep because he can’t breathe. He hates neb treatments, and don’t expect to wipe his nose or suck out any snot without a fight.
I find myself apologizing to Wes on a regular basis. Dark circles are making a permanent home under his eyes. He doesn’t understand why I have to force nasty liquid down his throat or hold a mask over his face, and he just cries and sobs, making my heart break a little more. I just want to snap my fingers and be a magical mom.
I’m sorry, Wes. I’m pretty sure you will eventually grow out of this stage, but it’s hard right now, and I’m hurting, too.
My recent blog posts have been pretty down-to-the-core, so why stop there? I hesitate to write this particular post because it admits my feelings and it ruffles feathers that are comfortable where they’re at, thankyouverymuch. So here goes.
We’ve been married half a decade. We have a not-so-baby. People ask us, (well, who knows if they ask Steven. That seems weird.) and quite regularly, “When are you having another baby?” I know it’s not meant for bad, and most people are truly interested, but it’s a strange question. Isn’t that kind of personal business? I guess there’s a slight difference between “ARE you having another baby” versus “WHEN are you,” but it’s really the same question.
So, are we?
I have trouble answering this question myself. People get thrown off when we answer, truthfully, that Wes may be it. We have loved getting to know our son, grow as a family and learn about each other in ways we didn’t think possible. He wasn’t colicky, he wasn’t too difficult to care for as an infant, and the birth of him was ridiculously simple. I know for a fact that Wes was not an “accident,” even if he entered our lives in a surprising way. God knew my paranoias of pregnancy, birthing, parenting and everything else I was too scared to face and provided the perfect balanced child for me and Steven.
If you asked me the above question even just 6 months ago, I would have flat out answered, NO. (And if you ask Steven today, he would tell you a firm denial.)
But. These dang hormones are working their magic within me. It doesn’t help that many of my friends have had or are soon to have babies, so I am around little tiny people a lot these days. I used to cringe hearing pregnancy rants and stories about motherhood. Now I welcome it. Wesley has allowed my heart to morph and soften and grow to love things Past Leah certainly wouldn’t approve of.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve witnessed mourning of all kinds and have wept with those who are aching for healthy children. Perhaps it’s because I’ve held fresh, new babies and have rejoiced with parents. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen how Wes lights up around littler people than him. Whatever the reason, I won’t deny any longer that I think about another child for our family. And sometimes those thoughts involve adoption.
We know that family “building” is sort of out of our control. It’s a higher decision than ours. And since we’re not quite on the same wavelength, I know that it’s not the right time to talk about next steps. But thinking (and dreaming) are free and never have time limits!