Archive | October, 2013

Happier

31 Oct

We’ve now lived in Oklahoma for a year and a half.  In that time, I had nothing to call my own.  I was wife and I was mother, and that was all.  That was all.  I’m sure there are those who think that should be enough.  Taking care of my family is important.  It is good and noble and refining.

For me, though, it’s also a tad depressing.  I don’t do well without something to call my own.

It’s why, when my son was a premature newborn under doctor’s orders to stay home for his first 6 weeks of life, my husband let me go to church every single Sunday during that period, instead of trading off Sundays with me, as was the original plan.  He saw how happy getting out of the house made me.  My plan at that time had been to quit singing on the praise team at church for a couple of months.  My hope had been to be back by Christmas Eve service.  I’m not sure I even made it a full month before I was back on stage singing.  I needed music to give me the feeling that I was still me.  I was drowning in mom-ness at that time, and singing on the praise team for those few minutes on Sunday mornings reminded me that I was still in there somewhere.  I didn’t have to give up everything.

Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I did have to give up everything.  Sometimes following God is really, really hard.

I am blessed.  I get to be at home every day.  I know there are many women who would love to be in my shoes.  I do know this is precious time with my son, and I love taking care of my home and family.  But I need something that is just mine.  Something that has nothing to do with my husband or son.

My husband jumped back into working with youth back in the spring.  He took a much-needed year off from ministry, then jumped back in.  He leads a high school boys’ small group.  Alex has been so sick this year that I didn’t think I was going to get to ever do anything, as one parent needs to be home with him when he can’t go to the nursery.  So I did nothing.

As summer came to a close, the assistant youth director said she’d heard that music is my thing, and she asked if I would be willing to help out with the youth praise team.  Once I made it clear that I might be unpredictable due to my son’s frequent bouts with sickness, and she was okay with that, I said yes.  Then amazingly, I was also approached by the children’s director asking me to lead music in AWANA.  The youth and children’s schedules worked so that I would be able to do both, so I said yes to that, too.

Talk about jumping back in with both feet.

After a few weeks, it became clear that doing both is just too much.  I’m running from youth rehearsals to feeding my family (a packed dinner I haul to church with us), to AWANA, and back to youth.  And did I mention I’m co-leading a middle school girls’ group?  The old Sesame Street song comes to mind.  “One of these things is not like the others…”  AWANA has to go.  It’s not just choosing music each week; I have to spend a lot of time on YouTube looking for actions to go with every song.  Because in my inexperience with children, I didn’t have actions for the songs the first night, and it didn’t go well at all.  It’s all just adding an extra level of stress to my Wednesdays, and I’m missing out on some youth stuff while I’m with the children.

But you know what?  Even with the stress and the crazy that is now known as Wednesday, I’m loving it.  It’s amazing how much happier I’ve been since I started doing something outside of my home and family.  It was definitely time.

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The Toddler and My Craft Room

24 Oct

I had a question in the comments of my craft room re-do post about how I keep my toddler from getting into my stuff in my craft room.  Short answer: I don’t.  At least, not completely.  We do have a baby gate over the doorway into the kitchen, and you have to go through the kitchen to get to the craft room. That means Alex doesn’t always have free rein in the house.  However, the craft room is next to the laundry room, and we have to go through the laundry room to get to the garage.  That means that any time we go somewhere, we go through my room.  Alex almost always stops to open a drawer and grab some stuff.  I find my craft things all over the house sometimes.  Or in the car.

I found pipe cleaners in the kitchen.

I found pipe cleaners in the kitchen.

Craft felt strewn about.  You'd be surprised how many times my child insists he has to bring an armful of felt with him when we go somewhere.

Craft felt strewn about. You’d be surprised how many times my child insists he has to bring an armful of felt with him when we go somewhere.

More pipe cleaners, some stuffed animals, and other mess thrown about my work area by the toddler

More pipe cleaners, some stuffed animals, and other mess thrown about my work area by the toddler

I used to get pretty frustrated that he wouldn’t leave my stuff alone.  So, I changed my storage up a bit.  I moved anything dangerous or disastrously messy out of his reach.  Then I put stuff that I don’t mind him messing with in some of the drawers.  He figured out pretty quickly which drawers are his to play in, and he leaves my other drawers alone.  This made things so much more peaceful for both of us, as I don’t constantly have to pry things out of that death grip he has, and he doesn’t end up in frustrated, angry tears because I took stuff away.  He’s a curious toddler, so I figure it’s better to give him things he can dig around in, rather than fight with him every time we’re in that room.  The drawer pictured above with the craft felt?  That’s his.

He likes sponges, so even though I use this stuff, he's allowed to play with it.  And tongue depressors are just super cool--as long as his doctor isn't using one to check his throat for strep.

He likes sponges, so even though I use this stuff, he’s allowed to play with it. And tongue depressors are just super cool–as long as his doctor isn’t using one to check his throat for strep.

And finally, I added a little more hidden storage where I can place things up high and out of his reach.  The door leading into the laundry room is always kept open, as the cats’ litterbox is in there, and they need to have access to it at all times.  It was a great place to keep things hidden–until the toddler started messing with the door one day and discovered this new treasure trove!  I’ve had to move a few more things (hello glue sticks all over my house!), but for the most part, he leaves all that stuff alone.

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This is what’s working for us right now.  I may need to change a few things up in the future, but for now, this is good.

Craft Room Re-do

20 Oct

The previous owner of our house decided to paint the entire interior a neutral color.  Instead of being all HGTV, it comes off as dingy and depressing in many of the rooms.  My plans all along were to paint the kitchen and adjoining breakfast room, which serves as my craft room, a combination of pink and white.  Non-traditional for sure, but it works well with the green and white tile floor.  More importantly, it makes me happy.  I’d hoped to get the painting done before we moved in, but our house was given to us in a filthy state, so I had to spend the time prior to move-in cleaning like a madwoman.  Painting didn’t happen.

I also learned how impossible it is to get extra, nonessential projects done when you have a baby to look after.  Somehow, it always seems more important to cook dinner and do the laundry and cleaning during nap time.

I finally got fed up and decided to paint.  I pulled meals from the freezer for our dinners and got to work.  My husband (wisely) advised me to do only the craft room and not the kitchen at that time.  I was annoyed, but he was right.  It was too much work and mess to have done it all at once.  But the bad thing is that the kitchen is still ugly-dingy.

The horrible before pictures:

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During the painting process:

While I'm proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help.  He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

While I’m proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help. He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

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Painting is finished:

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This was all done back in May.  I’m finally posting about it in October because I just finished putting the room together.  All the furniture was moved back in right after we cleaned up all the painting mess, but I wanted to get stuff on the walls and clean up my other mess before I took completed photos.

This is the view if you're standing in the kitchen.

This is the view if you’re standing in the kitchen.

My craft table

My craft table

Storage

Storage

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

More storage

More storage

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall.  You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter.  Oops.

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall. You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter. Oops.

I was so happy to finally have all this put together that I made some stuff last night.  It’s so nice to have a functional and cheerful space again.  The only problem is that this room has now made the kitchen look even more dingy and drab than it did before!

Christmas Ornaments

8 Oct

I had another wedding shower to send a gift to.  (My attendance would have required a trip to Texas, something I would have loved to do, but it’s inconvenient and expensive.)  In addition to sending a regular gift, I made a Christmas ornament for the couple’s first Christmas tree.  Like last time, I went for a bluebird of happiness, but I changed things up a bit.  First, this shower was for the sister of the young man I previously made an ornament for.  I didn’t want to do something identical.  Second, this one fits the recipient better than the first one would have.  Third, it turns out that I like this one better.

I used the same technique of gluing my design to a piece of acetate, which is then rolled up and placed inside a glass ornament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I purchased iridescent glass rather than clear glass until it was too late.  So the photos are not as clear as I would like.  I used the initial of the couple’s soon-to-be joint last name, added a punched-out bluebird, and voila!

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While I was at it, I made an ornament for my own tree.  I either buy or make an ornament each year for my husband and me.  Since having Alex, I now do the same for him so that he’ll have a collection of ornaments to take with him when he’s all grown up and leaves home.  Because coloring has become one of his favorite pastimes, I wanted to preserve some of his early artwork in some way.  But let’s be honest; a toddler’s scribbles aren’t exactly frame-worthy.  However, they are definitely ornament worthy.

I punched several heart shapes out of one of his drawings.  I folded each heart in half, then glued the hearts to each other, essentially making a bit of a fan.  I then glued the hearts to a piece of acetate and rolled it all up and put it into an ornament.  Add ribbon, and it’s done.  Beautifully preserved artwork from my favorite little person.

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This one is mine, but I’m going to make a second one for Alex’s collection, as I think it well sums up the thing he has been most into in 2013: crayons!

Two

3 Oct

Our handsome little Matthew Alexander turned two recently.  Unlike his first birthday, I didn’t go all out with a theme or decor or a color scheme.  I didn’t really do anything besides make one of his favorite meals, bake a cake, and buy him presents.  I think if he were a girl, he might someday look back at the pictures and wonder why I didn’t have a color-coordinated candy bar and decorated water bottles, not to mention practically everyone we know in attendance.  But  he’s a boy, and I suspect he won’t care in the slightest.  And that’s assuming he ever goes back and looks at the pictures.

Score one for boys being easier!   Granted, we haven’t tried potty training yet, so I may eat those words in the future.

We didn’t even invite anyone other than my parents, who drove in from Texas to celebrate with us.  And dinner was nothing more than homemade macaroni and cheese, peas, and carrots.  Humble, for sure.  But I had a very happy boy, as he got to eat a favorite meal with some of his favorite people in the world.  What more could a little boy ask for?

Well, maybe a tricycle.

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And getting to ride facing forward in the car for the first time.

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And a super-awesome playset for the backyard, complete with assembly by Grandpa and Daddy.

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(They weren’t able to get it done, but Steven has since gotten the playset several steps closer to finished.)

Homemade cake with a bad icing job made Alex quite happy.  He’s such a big boy that he’s now able to blow out candles.  He got practice ahead of time at church with his new job.  He’s now the unofficial candle-blower-outer.  He takes his job very seriously and scans the sanctuary for every lit candle in the place.  Apparently, getting to blow out candles is a Big Deal when you’re two.

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His favorite gift of all, though?  Helium balloons.  Steven brought them home while Alex was napping, and you’d have thought the kid hit the jackpot when he woke up and found them downstairs.  Open presents?  Why?!  There are balloons, people!

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Once the balloons lost their helium, his new toys became interesting.  Bob the Tomato goes everywhere with us now, and Alex shows off his new bubble mower to any neighbor he sees.  He even showed it off to the dogs next door.  Because dogs care about these things, you know.

Life is good when you’re two.