Off I go

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I am headed out of town, flying south, on my way to some sunshine (I hope!). The boys and I leave tomorrow for Florida and I can't wait!
I need a break from my reality for a bit. I need to feel the sand in my toes and hear the crash of waves.
Life is a bit crazy right now. Things I thought were good and exciting are turning out to be challenging and confusing. I am trying to sort through my job situation and my living situation and some personal struggles with feeling a bit powerless to change certain things. On top of that, this is Holy Week and I tend to get contemplative about life past and present during this time. It is almost Micah's birthday and I get nervous seeing that come up on the calender.
Put all this together and I am looking forward to some beach therapy.

I am looking forward to sitting in the sand with my boys and watching them grin and dig their toes in. I want to eat my mother's cooking and snack on the cookies that my dad always has around. I want to sleep 'til 8 because my dad is playing with the boys and taking them on adventures on the golf course or in the trees. I need the salty, sandy breeze to make my skin feel sticky but my mind feel clear.

I need some quiet, some perspective... a break. So off I go, to the beach for Easter. Not much better than that.

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Housing Woes

>> Sunday, March 28, 2010

With the current state of the economy, I know that the problem I have is one of affluence. In other words, if I didn't have such a good life I would not have this problem. But that being said, I am going to tell you about my woes anyway.

My family and I live in a 2bedroom townhouse. It has three levels, the basement being the garage and a little office/playroom, with both bedrooms on the top floor. We have a little bit of yard but most of it is shared so we can't fence it in or keep people from walking through it. For about a year now, Hubby and I have been talking about wanting to move: to upgrade to something a bit bigger with more of a yard. Our dog needs a yard and I desperately want the boys to have a place to play. We have been hesitant to put our house on the market for fear that we will take a huge beating and screw ourselves financially. So mostly for that reason, we have stayed put.
Well just recently, we listed our place on Craig's list to try to find renters so that we can in-turn find a place to rent until the market picks up a bit more. We are not having any luck getting leads on our house and it is bumming me out!! I got myself so excited, thinking we were finally getting some momentum in this moving thing. We looked at a couple of rentals, nice houses that would have worked for us. None blew me away or jumped out as the perfect place. But then again, we are in no position to find a place to move into until we find people to move in here.
So here we are, really no further than we have ever been. Except, I really do want to move!!

Here lies the dilemma. I can't figure out if my desire to move is legitimate. I have a roof over my head, my children have beds to sleep in and food to eat and a safe place to live. Should I just be content with that? Should I just be grateful that I don't have to move and take a loss on our place and live here a bit longer until it is more to our advantage to sell?
Or should we keep trying to move into a bigger place in time to enjoy a yard this summer and have more room this winter when we are all stuck inside again?
I really don't know. I struggle at times with contentment anyway. I seem to always have something on the horizon or big ideas for how to make our life "perfect". But I am actually entering a phase of life with not much pending in the future. I will probably not have anymore kids, Hubby is in a good job that he will probably be in for at least a bit longer and I have no idea what will happen with my job. There is the chance Hubby could move up in his field soon and we might move to Texas in the next few years but that is all still a really big "if" right now and nothing we can bank on. I have been working hard on living in the moment, concentrating on the present, and not trying to just get through today to get to tomorrow. Is this just one more lesson or step in that journey?
So, do I fight for what I want.... a yard where the dog and the kids can run and play and have fun. A guest room and a play room and just a little more room to breathe. Or do I simply praise God for the house He has given us for this time and ask humbly that He help us sell it when the time is right and our next step is more clear and/or necessary?
I do love our little home. SO much life has happened here that it would be a bit sad to leave. But, I also really want my boys to have a magical, healthy, amazing childhood. I really want them to run through the grass and play in mud and have room to be free little boys while staying safe and somewhat contained. And selfishly, I would love for the dog and the boys to be able to go outside and get a little exercise without me having to be by their side every moment.
Yet, we are trying to pay down some debt and live within our means and be good stewards of what God had given us. Oh dear! I just don't know what to think about this anymore.

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My Little Light-Giver

>> Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Today, my baby is four years old. Every day, he surprises me with the depth of his tender, loving heart and his curiosity for all around him. I feel incapable of putting into words how I feel about this little boy. He is my heart on the outside. I just simply adore him, and not just because I am his mother and I have to. I truly think he is one of the greatest kids on the planet.
His name means "Giver of Light" and that is exactly what he is. To hear his joyous cry at the culmination of a pregnancy filled with anxiety and fear was indeed like light shining in a dark room and causing the darkness to scatter. He brought light to my soul and continues to do so everyday.

Lucas, if you ever read this one day, I just want you to know how deeply, deeply I love you. I love how from the moment you could talk, you have been asking questions and wanting to know everything about your world. "Mommy, talk about mud. Talk about trees. Talk about...." I love watching you learn to read and how you have always been so good at puzzles. God has blessed you with a love and an aptitude for knowledge. You are constantly learning and growing and it is a gift to help you in that journey.
I love your tender heart that feels everything from elation to frustration so intensely. You wear your emotion on your sleeve, both the good and the bad. Any amount of frustration or anger I feel really does melt away when you throw your arms around me and tell me you love me. I would chose to spend time with you and your brother over anyone in this entire world.
Lucas Robert, you bring so much light to me and all who know you. Never lose that spark that sets you apart. You may not be good at everything. You will fail at some things. People will disappoint you and you will do the same to others. I will disappoint you too and fall short at times of the mother you need me to be. But no matter what, you are a precious child of God who is destined for great things. And I commit to you and the One to whom you ultimately belong, that I will seek Him and pray for you and ask for forgiveness when I fall short.
Lucas, my little bringer of light, you are deeply loved! Happy Birthday!


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If You Mess With the Cub...

>> Saturday, March 20, 2010

You get the mama bear. Or so the saying goes...

With some minor exceptions, the weather in Chicagoland this week has been amazing. Sunny, warm enough that a sweatshirt or light coat is all you need, blue skies... perfect park weather. Especially when you have two toddler boys who have been cooped up all winter. So we spent a lot of time at the park the last few days.
During one such outing to the park, I witnessed something for the first, but surely not the last, time. There was a little boy at the park when we got there who quickly came up to Lucas, introduced himself, and wanted to play. Lucas was shy at first but eventually warmed up and the two began chasing each other around the playground, laughing and having tons of fun. The boy was a bit older (6, I think) and his mom was quite a bit older than me (I actually thought she was his grandmother until I heard him call her Mom). This boy seemed happy to have a playmate since, as his mother explained to me, he is an only child and craves social interaction. Lucas and this boy played quite contently together... until.

Until another little girl arrived at the park. She was older too, probably closer to this other boy's age. She came over to the two boys and began playing their game. As soon as she joined in, this other little boy teamed up with her and turned the game on Lucas. Where before, the two boys were playing together, the game now became this boy and his new friend running around to "get away from Lucas." He wasn't that much the wiser. It was still a game of running around and having fun to him. But this mama bear was not happy about the whole situation.
It bothered me to watch these kids gang up on Lucas, even if it was all in play. This boy who was all excited to play with Lucas quickly moved on when a girl more his age arrived on the scene. Several times, I saw Lucas looking around, trying to find his "friends." Then when he would see them, he would say "Hey, I have been looking for you guys" and they would say "He found us!" and run away. Lucas would run after them, squealing and laughing, seeming to still be enjoying the game.
Every fiber of my mama's-heart wanted to go grab this kid by the shirt collar and scold him for being so fickle. Don't trick my baby into thinking you want to play with him only to turn on him when a better playmate comes along!! I kept my mouth shut, barely, and stayed with Caden on the slide no matter how much I wanted to intervene.

This was my first glimpse into a world I cannot control for him. For so long, he has been this shadow by my side. Either I was his playmate or I picked his playmate (ie: the kids of my friends). And now, he is striking up games of tag with random kids at the park and they are not always nice kids. And this time, I don't think he fully realized that he was being excluded or that he was put aside when a better offer came along. But next time he might, and that will break my heart.
I felt sad watching him chase after these kids, like he was being treated unkindly and there was nothing I could do about it. Truthfully, it was all a big game and they were probably not trying to be mean to him. But they weren't exactly trying to include him either. I just wanted to go scoop him up and hug him and tell him what a fabulous kid he is. I wanted to say, "Those kids may not appreciate you but I think you are the greatest person in the whole world." But I didn't. Well, I did when it was time to go. I hugged him and told him I loved him and that I was glad he found some friends to play with at the park. I didn't want my feelings to rub off on him since he was still having fun through it all.

My baby, my shadow, is turning 4 this week. Aside from a brief issue (which is quickly resolving) at karate, I think it is really me that has the separation anxiety. I am afraid to set him off into this crazy world that I cannot control and that may not always treat him as I think he should be treated. I am concerned for his tender heart and for my own. But as much as I want to keep him under the shelter of my mama-bear's paw, I know I have to let him be his own little cub. That being said, if those kids had actually said anything mean or taken their little game any further, you better believe they would have felt the wrath of this mama bear. It was all I could do to contain myself as it was. But, somewhere deep down I knew I had to let him play the game and just keep a watchful-eye from close by. Something tells me that is going to be my role for awhile: the mama bear, watching from the near-by bush, letting the cub explore and learn about his world on his own. But always close enough to pounce in danger or scoop him up when needed.

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A Couple Firsts

>> Thursday, March 18, 2010

We recently signed Lucas up for Karate classes. We had been talking about the idea for awhile and wanted him to have some sort of physical outlet. I like the idea of Karate because of the self-discipline and the mental focus it teaches the kids. And I kinda like that he would be able to defend himself if anyone ever tried to hurt him. But mostly, he needs an outlet for all the energy and this seemed like a good fit. The first class went great. It was a private lesson with the head instructor and Lucas loved it so we signed him up. Well, his first time in the big class went not-so-well. He was scared and nervous and wouldn't let me leave his side. Hubby (and me too) was worried that maybe this wasn't his thing. But he did better the second class and the third class was even better. He has even progressed so much that they gave him his first belt!! Now, to be fair, they give every kid this belt who gets a good home report card (being obedient, etc...) and participates in class. But after how stressful the first group class was, I wasn't sure we would get even to there. I couldn't be prouder of my little Karate-Kid! I am proud of him for sticking to it even when it was scary and hard. Watching him do the little kicks and punches and other exercises in class brings a huge grin to my face. Just look at that sweet little face!!

His first karate belt!! (Doesn't he kinda look like Luke Skywalker in this picture?)
His teacher presenting him with his belt

Another first... Caden got his first haircut today. I had trimmed it a bit myself but he had never had an actual cut... until today. He sat still for a few minutes but then I had to keep him distracted so she could finish the cut. The result... my baby doesn't look much like a baby anymore. He is getting so big so fast.
What a sweet little baby toddler!

And one more first.... I have started running. Well, I guess I should use the word "running" loosely. I am doing the Couch-to-5K training program, trying really hard to keep motivated and stay on track. I am on week 3 and so far am pretty proud of how I am sticking to it. I have a bad record with things like this, so somewhere deep down I don't expect myself to finish this (another reason I wanted Lucas to stick it out with Karate and learn that le. But I have registered and paid for a 5K on June5th so hopefully that will keep me motivated. I am really trying to do this, people! I am planning to wean Caden this summer (bye-bye breastfeeding calorie-burning!) and I have seen the poundage already start to creep up and I am not happy with it. I gotta do something!

So there you have it... a couple key firsts for all of us. :)

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Babywearing Safety Means Staying Connected

>> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm sure you have all heard by now of the plethora of news articles this week about the safety concerns regarding slings. I had about a half-dozen friends send me links to different articles where "experts" on both sides of the story share their views about how safe or unsafe babywearing can be. And before I throw my opinion into the mix, let me just say that this is certainly one of those topics that we as mothers have to take in all the information available and put it to the "commen sense test" as we digest all that is being thrown at us.

I would consider myself somewhat of a babywearing aficionado, maybe even a sling snob. I have tried almost everything out there and certainly have my favorites and carriers that I am not a huge fan of. For me, babywearing is all about keeping your baby close and being in tune with your baby's needs. It is about having rhythm between you and your baby, knowing their needs and having them know that you are there to meet them. It is certainly about the convenience of having your hands free to do other things while still keeping your baby close and content. But ultimately, wearing your baby in a sling is about you and your precious little one continuing that priceless connectedness that started the moment he or she was conceived. When your baby is in a sling (or anything else for that matter- crib, stroller, bouncy seat, etc...) you have to stay connected. You have to check on them, make sure they are positioned well and safe. That is, above all else, the most important thing. If you do that, you will be able to assess the safety of any product or gear you use with your baby.

The bottom line, people: Bag slings (the ones that wrap around the parent's neck and cradle the child in a curved or "C-like" position below mom's chest) are NOT safe. They put your baby in an unsafe position with his or her chin too close to their chest which can restrict their airway. Any babywearing fan or connoisseur would be able to tell you that. But that does not mean, DOES NOT MEAN, that babywearing is in any way unsafe. I am extremely sorry that babies have died as a result of being worn in slings. It is truly tragic. And these news articles don't specify the slings involved in those cases, but we can infer that they were probably bag slings. But the hard truth is that babies have also died in unsafe car seats or recalled strollers or cribs. When we hear stories like this, we don't say "I am never going to put my baby in a car seat or a crib or a stroller because they must all be unsafe if that one was unsafe." We have to look at the specific products that are cause for concern, pull them off the market and make sure that the products we do have to use are safe and effective. This story is no different. The lesson from this is that you should know what you are using and HOW TO USE IT before you do anything.
Learn about babywearing and how to do it safely and comfortably for both you and baby. Any product can be dangerous if you don't use it properly and slings are no different. Just like you have to buckle the carseat properly into the car for it to be safe and effective, you have to be aware of the basics of babywearing to get the most out of it and be safe.

Here are some basic babywearing guidelines (as listed in another great post about the topic):
Baby should be close enough to kiss.
Baby should never have his chin resting on his chest. You should be able to put two fingers between baby's chin and their chest.
Baby's head should be above the rest of her body.
Baby's knees should be higher than his bottom.
Baby's face should never be covered by fabric.
Baby's head should always be supported.

Ultimately, I am not upset that this story is getting so much press. I am sure it will strike concern in the hearts of many people and get people asking questions. But that is a good thing. I don't want the governmental regulatory people telling me (or anyone) that all babywearing is bad because of some extremely horrible stories. What I do want, is for these tragic events to cause people to pay attention and listen to those who really do know what they are talking about and can instruct people on how to wear your baby safely and comfortably. I also think the rise of celebrity babywearing and the introduction of slings into mainstream stores has introduced babywearing to people that may have otherwise been unaware and may also be contributing to people buying and using slings without the proper instruction on how to use them safely. So the more opportunities we have to talk about true and safe babywearing and how amazing and awesome it is the better!
Babywearing has changed my life and who I am as a mother. It is an invaluable tool that I seriously can't imagine mothering without. I still daily wear my 18month old in the sling.
Let's not let this press give all babywearing a bad rap. Let's use this as a spring board to talk about babywearing carriers and practices that are safe (and most of them are!) so that moms (and dads) can feel confident using their sling to nurture their little one and reap all the benefits that babywearing has to offer.

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Deceptively Delicious

>> Monday, March 8, 2010

I am having a hard time getting Caden to eat his vegetables lately. He is actually a big eater when it is something he loves, like pasta or fruit or just about any carb. He won't drink any milk (besides his "dursies" which he calls nursing), not even almond milk or Pediasure, so I have to get creative with getting him his calcium too. Lucky for me, he will still eat YoBaby yogurt. I have been re-reading the Jessica Seinfeld book Deceptively Delicious for some ideas on how to sneak in some vegetables into Caden's (and Lucas' diet). I got the book when it first came out, mostly to see what kind of recipes she had to offer since there was so much buzz about it. I have no problem with hiding nutrition in food my kids will eat as long as I am also offering them vegetables that look like vegetables to get them accustomed to eating things that are healthy. But in this stage with Caden when mealtime can be such a battle, I am up for doing just about whatever it takes to make sure he is getting the nutrients his growing body needs. Some of Seinfeld's recipes are pretty easy but most of them require a good amount of prep work with pureeing the vegetables before hand. I just don't have a lot of extra time for that. So when my friend Allison told me her idea of putting shredded carrots into pancakes, I had to try it. And even though you could clearly see the carrots, you couldn't taste them and Caden ate them right up! Three big pancakes to be exact! I loved seeing him shove the "pan-pakes" in his mouth with a smile- him thinking he was getting something super-yummy for breakfast and me thinking I was finally getting some beta-carotene and vitamin A in his little body.
I am now on the hunt for more ideas like this- ways to incorporate hidden nutrients in foods they love without all the prep work of pureeing. I will probably do some of that too, but any other recipes would be greatly appreciated. Anybody have some ideas?

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