Art

11 Apr

Alex loves to say,”No.”  Ask him almost any question, and the answer is usually no.  Just because.  So when I asked him the other day if he wanted to paint, I could see the no on the tip of his tongue, but right before he said it, he realized what I’d asked.  An emphatic, “Yes!” came out instead.  He loves to paint.  Part of the thrill is getting to sit at my table in my craft room.  The craft room holds such wonders for him, and he loves to explore, digging through all my drawers, delighting in the things he finds.  I really should be better about taking the time to let him use my materials, but because his art projects usually make a huge mess, I’m too often unwilling to take the time to deal with it.  I need to just get over that.

I changed him into his painting clothes.  He refuses to wear a smock, so he has an outfit I bought super cheap that he wears and can slop paint all over.  Then I set him up with several brushes and paint colors (I let him use my acrylics) and let him go at it.  He gets very serious about his paintings, and I just love watching his little face as he thinks about what colors he wants to use, which brush he needs, and where he’s going to place it on the paper.  I’ve shown him how to use a few things, but beyond that, I let him do whatever he wants without coaching.

Child art is a beautiful thing.

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Grace in the Moment

19 Mar

I found myself chasing after a toddler who was running through the house with a giant bottle of mouthwash sloshing in his hand, as he yelled, “Fish!  Fish!”  Having recently introduced him to Finding Nemo, he’s now highly interested in all things aquatic, and a big bottle of blue mouthwash is obviously the best place in the house to potentially find sea life.

I wish I could say I found his imagination endearing in that moment, but it was the final knot in a string of behaviors for which I had waning patience.  If my patience were a sheet of ice, it was cracked and spidery and threatening to break at any time.  The headache I’d nursed all day wasn’t helping matters.  As desperate as I’ve been for spring after a long winter cooped up inside, I’m miserable with the high pollen alerts we’ve had all week.  When mama doesn’t feel well, every little thing becomes magnified.

It’s in these moments that I find myself breathing deeply, praying for patience, and reminding myself again that he’s 2.  He’s 2.  He’s acting exactly the way God intended 2-year-olds to act.  (Although I’m pretty sure mine is way more dramatic than the average child of his age.)  He’s developmentally exactly where he should be.  This is a good thing.  I just often wish that his development didn’t involve tearing my house apart with curiosity.

I’m not one to place motherhood on a pedestal.  All of life is hard, no matter what your calling is.  Every trial and experience is meant to hone our holiness, draw us closer to God, help us understand the call to be Christ-like.  But I can honestly say that I’ve never understood the concept of dying to self more than I have these last two years of being a mom.  Never before have I been so aware of my own selfishness.  I see it when I’m awakened in the middle of the night by a child crying because something in his room or bed isn’t just right.   Or when he wails because he messed up the shirt he’s wearing, and there isn’t another one like it to change him into, and I don’t understand why it matters so much, so I feel frustrated that I can’t just put any old shirt on him without eliciting a tantrum.  Or when I want to sit and have a moment’s peace, but he wants something from me, whatever that may be, and it’s the Most Important Thing Ever in that moment.

Dying to self looks an awful lot like paying attention to what matters to other people, regardless of what I think.  And then acting, regardless of how I feel.

I’m selfish to the core.  I’d just never noticed it before because I’ve never had to take care of anyone who is helpless.  But here I am, caring for a small person for whom the entire world is brand new, very big, and sometimes scary.  One night, that thing that brings him comfort and security just might be having his kitty blanket covering him instead of his train blanket.  What brings him joy for the day may be wearing a shirt with an animal on it.  (Oh, how my boy loves animals!)  And what makes him feel most loved is having his mommy let him get messy with paints or playing trains or chase or just sitting with him while he watches Cars for the umpteenth time.

The best I can do is ask for grace and strive to show it.  And remind myself that if I don’t look at least a little bit like Jesus in my everyday life, then my child may never know Him.  Most of all, I need to remember that my son is a gift–the gift I never knew I wanted, but God knew I needed, so he saw fit to give him to me.  And I’m grateful, so very grateful, even in the moments that I don’t feel it.  Especially in the moments I don’t feel it, because those are the times that God is growing me, stretching me, teaching me, and turning me into the woman he wants me to be.

On a train ride--worst scenery ever, but totally worth it to see Alex's excitement over riding an actual train for the first time

On a train ride–worst scenery ever, but totally worth it to see Alex’s excitement over riding an actual train for the first time

Recovery

10 Feb

Life has been rough lately.  I’ve been sick for the last 7 weeks.  Yes.  SEVEN weeks.  Bronchitis, sinusitis, pleurisy, costochondritis.  We’ve truly been in survival mode.  Alex has watched way too much TV, and I can’t even feel guilty about that because at least he had something to do while Mommy was laid up on the couch, trying not to cry from all the pain.  Alex came down with croup the same week that I ended up at the ER because I thought I’d fractured a rib.  (That was when I was diagnosed with costochondritis, 2 days after being diagnosed with pleurisy.)  And Steven was laid up in bed the entire weekend (of that same week!) with a high fever and just generally feeling awful.

Yep, no guilt that the entire family can pretty much quote all of the movie Cars now.  TV has been my best friend and babysitter through much of this.  Forts help, too.

While all this was going on, we were also having issues with our new kitten, Theo.  While he figured out the litter box in a single night, he wasn’t consistent with it.  He was already treated once for a bladder infection, so the vet thought it was now behavioral.  I wasn’t convinced.  We were cleaning messes off the floor daily, but he was containing them to the same spots, and they weren’t vindictive in nature.  When he peed on the bare tile, that was my opportunity to suck it up in a syringe and take it to the vet’s office for testing.  I was right; it’s medical.  Theo has crystals in his urine, so he and Ninja are now on a prescription diet to take care of the problem.  So far, so good.  Theo is now consistently using his box.   So glad because when you’re already feeling awful, having to clean up feces and urine every day is just lousy.

This week I finally started to feel better.  I’m cooking again, after weeks of takeout and eating from the freezer.  Good thing because all the meals I’d stocked are now gone.  My singing voice still isn’t right, but at least I no longer sound like a 13-year-old boy whose voice is changing when I sing Alex’s night-night song to him every evening.  And while I can’t go outside most days of our unusually-cold winter, we did have one day last week that the temps were high enough not to set off a massive bout of coughing.  Alex was thrilled to get to play in the snow.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup.  I do not look like a proper Dallas girl.  My excuse: I was sick.

Please ignore the complete lack of makeup. I do not look like a proper Dallas girl. My excuse: I was sick.

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And when the weekend rolled around, he got to go back out with his daddy.  They threw snow at each other.  Super fun.

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My autoimmune issues are causing this to be an extra-long ordeal, and I feel as if I’ll never be well again.  But I seem to be past the worst.  I can hold my child again without gasping in pain.  The coughing has subsided greatly.  I haven’t had to bust out the heavy-duty narcotics for over a week.  And I can now run errands again without having Steven along to carry Alex and lift him into a shopping cart.  Struggling to lift my 34-lb. toddler has been the hardest part of this.  Sick and in pain or not, I had to care for my child.  Thankfully, Alex has really been quite good while we’ve been mostly housebound for the past 2 months.  He’s had his moments of practically tearing the house apart from cabin fever, but in general, he’s been wonderfully well behaved and happily entertained by his toys and movies.  Housekeeping fell by the wayside, which made me crazy, but I knew to let some of that go.  When I cleaned the entire house this past week, it felt like victory.

There’s a light at the end of the (ridiculously long) tunnel.

Cardboard Stove

26 Jan

We bought Alex a really cute little cooking set and play food for Christmas.  He enjoys it, but he hasn’t really known how to play with it.  When I cook, I use a stove.  He’s great with imagination, but I realized the cookware would make more sense to him if he had his own little stove for cooking.

What I didn’t want to do is spend money on a play stove.  Alex has so many toys as it is.  I didn’t want to put down cash on even more stuff.  I figured a cardboard box could work nicely, so I searched Pinterest to see if anyone else had had the same idea.  I found several cardboard stoves on there, and used a few different photos for inspiration.

I started with a large moving box.  I did have to buy this, as we got rid of all our moving boxes last year.

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I hot glued the top of the box to keep it closed and give the box its shape while I worked on it.  I used a box cutter to cut out a door for the oven.  I also cut a window into the door and hot glued a piece of clear vinyl over it.  (The vinyl was leftover from one of Steven’s projects.)  For a handle, I used a cabinet pull that I’d bought shortly after we purchased our house.  I’d brought it home to see if I liked it for our cabinets.  I did, but after counting how many we’d have to buy and replace, that project was tabled for a while.

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Ninja and Theo can't resist a box

Ninja and Theo can’t resist a box

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Steven got involved at this point.  He was concerned about the structural integrity of the cardboard.  It’s for a rambunctious 2-year-old, after all, so he figured it should be reinforced.  He grabbed some vinyl slats leftover after he shortened some window blinds and cut them to fit around the door of the oven.  He also fitted slats on the inside of the box around the door so that the door can’t be shoved in.  Additionally, he added a magnet and a small piece of metal to keep the door latched shut.

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I’ve been crazy sick lately and on a ton of prescriptions.  That meant that I had a lot of medicine bottles I’ve recently emptied.  I used the lids to make knobs for the stove.  I had some leftover chalkboard spray paint from another project, so I used that to paint the lids, then I used a metallic sharpie to write on them.  Steven drilled holes for me.  Then he figured this would also need reinforcement, so he used more blind slats inside the box where the knobs would go.  This meant he had to use his drill to make holes in the box for the knobs.  For the knobs to spin, they needed washers or nuts or something behind them, and Steven didn’t have any small enough, so that did require another trip to Lowe’s for a 99-cent bag of thingamajigs.

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I saw on Pinterest that several people used CDs for burners on their homemade stoves.  I thought that was brilliant, so Steven dug up some unused CDs for me to hot glue on the top.  I didn’t do anything fancy to the top of the stove, so it’s not terribly impressive with the obvious line across the top, but I’m okay with that.  It’s just a little play stove, and Alex doesn’t care.

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I’m quite pleased with the finished result, and Alex thinks it’s pretty fun, too.

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Of course, the best part about it is getting to climb inside.

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This was a lot of fun to make, and I love that it was so inexpensive.  The total cost was under $3.

Improvements

15 Jan

I’ve found myself in a bit of a nesting phase lately.  Old episodes of House Hunters on Amazon Prime have been high on my watch list. Easy viewing while folding laundry.  It’s been fun for me to watch home shows lately.  I didn’t used to be able to do this.  Living previously in a home with foundation problems that never seemed to be fixed, no matter what we did, made me feel depressed when I watched programs about other people’s nice houses.  Now that I have a house I love and am interested in fixing up to my liking, I enjoy watching.

I do find myself annoyed with some of the people on House Hunters, though.  The ones who walk through beautiful kitchens that just don’t have granite counter tops, so they act annoyed and horrified that a kitchen could be *gasp* granite-less!  Or the shower isn’t redone in that brown, large tile that everyone seems to be installing these days.  I’m noticing that no matter how much home buyers claim they want a house with character, they really just want the interiors done in the exact same materials and bland neutral colors that everyone else has.

And then there are the pretentious buyers.  The ones with super-grand expectations.  I watched one episode where the couple wanted a home that would reflect their level of success.  I automatically disliked them.  It got worse.  As they looked at a master bedroom that was easily 4 times the size of my own, they kept saying that it seemed small.  Same with the master bath, that had to be the size equivalent of the entire upstairs of my house.  Seemed “small.”  That line from The Princess Bride kept going through my head.  “You keep saying that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Which brings me to the subject of my own master bathroom.  It wouldn’t pass muster with the majority of home buyers on that program.  It’s small.  It has a tub/shower combination, and the tub isn’t a garden-sized one.  The cabinetry and counter top are original to the house, which was built in 1980.  The cabinets were painted badly by the former owner.  Sure, I’d love to get a whole new vanity, but it’s not in our current budget, nor do we feel capable of taking on a project of that size at this time in our lives.  I can’t even seem to get my kitchen painted because I can’t figure out how to get it done with a toddler at home and a husband at work all day.  Nap time isn’t long enough.  (Seriously, how do other people do it?!  I see blogs where the writer has small children, and somehow, major, messy projects are accomplished.  I’m baffled.  Do they not sleep?  Because I need sleep.)

When we moved in, I just slapped up my old shower curtain and used all our old towels and bath mats that matched the curtain.  There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t go well with the beige walls, and as I got it as a wedding gift more than 15 years ago, it was time to change things out.  Good-bye, Laura Ashley’s circa 1990s “Bramble.”  Hello, something more contemporary from Target.

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I should confess here that in typical little-sister fashion, I totally copied my big sister with this shower curtain.  I saw the same one hanging in her daughters’ bathroom in their new house when we were in Texas for Thanksgiving.  Loved it, bought it, copy-catted not for the first time in my life.

I bought new towels and floor mats to coordinate.  It all looks nice with the existing wall color, which is good, because the next thing I paint (if I ever get the chance to paint again) will be my kitchen.   I also found this round, swirly metal thing at Hobby Lobby for super cheap.  It dresses up a very boring beige wall.  (Sorry about the bad lighting.  Small bathroom, poor light conditions for photos, especially for someone who doesn’t really know how to use her camera.)

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Next up was new lighting.  I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the old light.  It was slopped with paint (because apparently, the previous owner let a 12-year-old paint the entire house without taping off anything), had rust spots, and mismatched glass globes.  It was a real thing of beauty, let me tell you.  I found a beautiful new light at Lowe’s, and my handy husband installed it in about 15 minutes.  All was well, except for this:

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That would be the improperly-installed medicine cabinet/mirror from our master bath.  The hole in the wall for the lighting is too low for the cabinet/mirror.  The glass globes didn’t even fit over the mirror, much less allow the doors to open.  Whole new problem.  My husband took this mirror/cabinet down, and then we were left with a darker paint color on the wall where it used to hang, as well as no mirror.

Cue the emergency trip to Lowe’s.

We found a new mirror that coordinated well with the light fixture, it was attractive, and more importantly, it was affordable.  The only drawbacks: it doesn’t completely cover that dark paint patch on the wall, and it’s a tad too small, in general.  I can’t see anything below my chest, and my tall husband has to bend at the knees to see his entire head.  Ah, well.  That’s what happens when 1) you have to buy an emergency mirror right away, and 2) you can’t afford to spend $300-$400 on a mirror.  Because that’s just crazy, in my opinion.

So, if you can ignore the ugly paint patch behind the mirror, here’s the new light fixture and mirror.

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A $25 can of paint certainly would have been cheaper, but in addition to wanting new stuff, this room really needed a sprucing up with nicer things that aren’t slopped with paint.  And I came out $15 ahead.  I sold that tacky medicine cabinet on our local Facebook selling group.  I should probably use the cash for a can of color-matched paint to touch up behind the mirror.

Enough

18 Dec

The only parenting book I’ve purchased is this one.  The main premise is that when it comes to raising kids, less is more.  Kids are overwhelmed by too many toys, books, TV, information, etc.  Scale it all back, and kids have an easier time.

For the most part, I’ve found this book to be spot on.  However, I thought the author was nuts to say to keep only about a dozen books out at once for your child.  But even that makes sense to me these days.  Alex keeps going to the same books over and over.  We’ll spend a week devouring The Big Red Barn, Broadway Barks, or I Want to Be an Astronaut.  Over and over and over.  Then he eventually moves on to another few books.

But somehow, we let the toys creep in.  And in and in and in.  Over the summer we noticed that all Alex wanted to do was color.  At first, we thought it was the excitement of his new craft table, but the tantrums ramped up at the same time.  Finally, we figured out that he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of toys.  He had three baskets/boxes of toys in the living room alone, and they were overflowing.  Finding a toy meant digging through the mess, and he just couldn’t handle it.  So he abandoned his toys, and only wanted to color and watch TV.

We culled through the toys, got rid of a few, boxed up a few others to take out at a later date.   It worked.  Alex started playing with his toys again, and the tantrums lessened.

We find ourselves somehow back in the same situation.  Too many toys, too many choices.  And Christmas is coming very, very soon.

See these toys below?

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My little guy is obsessed with trains right now.   Those are the only two he owns, and he loves them.  They’re in constant play, and that little plastic Thomas the Tank Engine is his bed buddy every night and during naps.  While he loves playing with the (better) Thomas trains in the church nursery, truth is, he’d be perfectly happy with just these 2 trains.  He doesn’t know that he’s supposed to want more, at least, according to our culture.

(At this point, I should probably mention that he’s not only getting Thomas trains and tracks for Christmas, but also a Thomas train table.  Grandparents are awesome!)

We came home from Thanksgiving in Texas with a ton of new toys from my husband’s side of the family.  We bought toys while we were in Dallas for Christmas.  And the toys from my side of the family have arrived.   I’m finding myself wondering where we’re going to put everything!  More than that, I’m questioning whether or not we should even give Alex the gifts we bought for him.  For example, we bought him a set of cars and one of those rugs with car tracks on it.  But in light of all the trains, I’m not sure the car stuff will be played with.  I have a strong suspicion our boy will be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff coming his way.

This is the sort of parenting dilemma I never anticipated.

We culled through the toys again last night, and we need to weed out a few more.  I’m trying to take to heart what Simplicity Parenting says about toys.  Our culture, and frankly our parental desires to give our kids things that will make them happy, say that if a kid likes his toy car, then he’ll love a dozen of them.  But instead of loving his one or two cars, he’s overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cars and won’t care much about any of them.

Alex loves Veggie Tales, and his stuffed Bob the Tomato is his best buddy.  Bob goes almost everywhere with us.  We considered buying him Larry the Cucumber to go with his Bob, but then decided against it.  We’d rather have him love Bob, instead of having to divide his attention/affection between the two.  We’ve seen a hierarchy of preference among his stuffed animals, and frankly, he just doesn’t need to add to it.

He has enough.

New Cat

3 Dec

Perhaps it’s wrong of me, but whenever I’ve had an old, sick cat, I’ve found myself thinking ahead to what sort of cat I want to get next.  It’s not that I wanted to get rid of Doogie, or Calvin before him, but I suppose it was just facing the reality of the inevitable.  Pets get old, then they die.  Eventually, we get a new pet.  Circle of life.

For several months, I’ve been wanting an orange tabby.  Our first cat, Calvin, was a brown tabby.  When he passed away, I couldn’t do another tabby.  It was too painful to even look at the tabbies up for adoption at Petsmart.  The rescue led us to the black cats instead, and that’s how our amazing Ninja Cat joined our family.  He’s been perfect for us.

But nearly 3 years after losing Calvin, I’m ready for another tabby.  They’re such amazing cats, and an orange one would just be different enough not to be a painful reminder.

We had a plan to get a new cat after Thanksgiving.  Ninja was lonely without his buddy Doogie to hang out with.  We didn’t want to get a new cat before Thanksgiving because we were leaving for Texas for nearly a week, and we did not want to introduce a new cat, then leave town.  “Bye, guys!  Hope you get along and don’t tear the house apart!”  Yeah…

Exactly one week before Thanksgiving, my MOPS group got together at someone’s house for a play group.  Within moments of arriving, I noticed a little orange tabby kitten at the storm door.  Rather, my son noticed.  He was standing at the door with the hostess’s dog by his side, and this little kitten pawing at the glass door in front of him.  (Alex is so my child.  He didn’t pay much attention to the other kids, but the animals?  He was all about the animals.)  The hostess had never seen this cat before, but he hung out like he belonged.  For the next 2 hours, he alternated between hanging out at the front storm door and the back sliding-glass door.  He sat there meowing and pawing at the door to try to get in.  He even climbed the bricks of the house to grab at the door handle!

Of course, being the sucker for animals that I am, I melted all over the place and wanted to take him home with me.  But seeing as we were leaving town in 5 days, we didn’t know if this cat belonged to a neighbor, etc., I simply left after the play date.  But the hostess and I stayed in touch about him.  She is also a sucker for animals, and the temperature dropped that day quite dramatically.  She let him sleep in her shed and fed him.   And she kept reporting back to me about his friendly and mellow temperament.

I sort of felt like God was saying, “Here.  I know the desires of your heart, and you really want an orange tabby.  Here’s one who needs a home.”

Convincing my husband of this was a whole other matter.  Pretty sure he’s a robot underneath his skin because while I was being all emotional and begging with tears in my eyes to keep this little kitten (“But God brought him to me!”), he was completely rational and logical and saying that we know nothing about this cat.  He was pushing to go to a rescue that knows a bit about their cats, while I begged to keep this little guy who clearly needed a home.

The hostess of the play group offered to keep this cat until we returned from Texas.  (She was so in cahoots with me!)  She also suggested that I bring Steven and Alex over with me to meet this cat.  (Steven kept arguing that we don’t even know if this cat would be good with Alex, who is loud and unpredictable.)  It took a lot of pleading, but Steven agreed to meet the cat.

We went over there, and as soon as I picked up this little orange kitten, he snuggled into me and purred loudly.  He didn’t protest when Alex clumsily petted him.  And when Alex had a screaming, flailing fit right next to him, this cat didn’t even flinch.  That clinched it.  Steven saw how awesome this kitten was, and he said yes to it.

Clearly, the cat was in cahoots with me, too.

I made a vet appointment for the Monday after Thanksgiving.  As long as he passed a feline leukemia test, I was allowed to keep him.  I think Steven might have secretly been hoping that the cat would move on while we were in Texas, but he stuck around at my friend’s house, so he was ready to be picked up on Monday morning.  The vet declared him in good health, he got his shots, and now he’s home with us.  He didn’t know how to use a litter box, so after 2 accidents, we locked him in the laundry room with food, water, a bed, and a litter box.  He figured it out in one night.  He’s a smart little thing!

He’s also amazing with the toddler.  He lets Alex hug him, kiss him, pet him, play with him.  He’ll even stay put if I place him in Alex’s lap.  Alex is in heaven with a cat who doesn’t run away!

Ninja is not quite as happy.  He’s walking around the house growling and hissing and hiding under the bed.  Poor baby doesn’t know what to make of this friendly little kitten who doesn’t act at all intimidated by this tough act Ninja keeps trying to put on.  We figure he’ll come around in a few days, though.  None of our cats have ever taken kindly to a new cat in the house, but they always make friends eventually.

Because I feel like God himself gave me this little cat, we named him Theodore, which means Gift of God.  We’re calling him Theo for short.  He’s made himself right at home.

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