Freedom // thoughts on my daughter’s new-found independence

My baby has learned to crawl.

It’s funny, she has always been very strong – she was planting her feet and standing when I held her up as soon as she was born – she has wanted to take off for awhile.  Some of our friends’ babies who were born within a week of her were crawling a couple of months ago, and I was anxiously awaiting Eloise’s takeoff.  I wondered when she would finally crawl on her own, and yesterday she began.  Today, she has been doing it consistently.  In fact, right now she has embarked on our dining room for the very first time venturing outside of the living room where she’s been safely planted for the past 8 months of play time.

It comes as no surprise to me that today happened to also be one of her happiest days, as well.  She hasn’t cried hardly at all, she has been smiley, “talkative”, and bouncy.  

A friend of ours who has a daughter who, like Eloise, is very strong-willed and driven, gave me some very good advice early on: “She will be happier with each step toward independence she takes.” Already, this has proven true – from sitting, bouncing on her own in her jumperoo, and now to crawling – my baby who was so fussy and frustrated for months is blissfully happy as she rejoices in her ability to take control over this small piece of her life.

When you think about having a baby, you imagine a little creature with your husband’s eyes, your hair, his sense of humor, your strong opinions… you have this irrational idea that you have control over who they are, who they will become.  Then, you find out their gender and you gleefully celebrate this, the first piece of information about your little wonder, as you realize that you never had an ounce of control, all you can do is guide them.  

Today, I am celebrating who our Eloise is – a joyful, funny, driven, smart, strong, independent, little girl with a personality much bigger than her tiny body.  I’m celebrating with her as she is relishing her first steps away from me and into this world she will discover for herself, beginning with our dining room.

Marriage ≠ Settling // a response to “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged…”

This morning, I read this blog post that has since gone viral on my newsfeed.

Marriage

After reading it a few times, I feel decisively sad for the post’s author.  In summary, the author writes a post proudly proclaiming her “happiness” as a twenty-something single and criticizes her peers’ decisions to “settle down” by age 23 –

“I can’t help but feel like a lot of these unions are a cop-out.
It is a way for young people to hide behind a significant other instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows on their own. It’s a safety blanket. It’s an admission that the world is just too big and scary to deal with it on your own; thus, you now have someone that is legally obligated to support you till one of you dies or files for divorce.”

These criticisms are followed by a list of suggestions for things to do before age 23, such as “Make out with a stranger,” “Adopt a pet,” “Accomplish a Pinterest project,” and many other trite bucket list experiences the author considers greater than being in a committed relationship at a young age.

My problem is the author’s complete misunderstanding of marriage.  My husband and I dated for five and a half years before we got married – we were engaged for 1 1/2 of those.  He was 26, I was 24 on our wedding day.  At that time, I had completed several of the items on that list already, even in my limited scope as an Ohioan living in a very small town.  Even so, most of the greatest, most adventurous things I have done in my life have been with my husband — our marriage was not an ending, but the beginning of a life with someone who has expanded my world.

I have often felt stifled by the views of marriage portrayed in media – and not just the sexist ones.  My husband makes me a better person, and I make him a better person too (I struggle to identify even one television show or movie that demonstrates a healthy marriage).  We have moved to different cities, different states, traveled, tasted, listened, experienced – together.  I have also traveled, tasted, listened, and experienced things alone… and in those times, I have longed for him.  Not because I am so dependent on my husband, but because I love him and want to know his opinions, laugh at his wit and marvel at his intelligence (and of course there were other things about him I missed when we were apart).

If a jar of Nutella (and don’t get me wrong… I adore Nutella) is considered a bucket list item – shouldn’t married life have a shot at such a list?  I mean it when I say, you haven’t lived unless you’ve spent a weekend in the car racing to be the first to answer the questions on your trivia podcasts and eating crappy gas station food with the smartest, funniest guy you have ever known –  or spent a day marveling at the fact that this tiny little being you both brought into the world can now do miraculous things like use her hands or sit up — these are the happiest and most incredible moments of my life.  These are the things not to be missed – and, frankly, bring me so much more joy than any of the “top 23” ever did, or ever could.

I also recognize that my lifestyle is not one that everyone desires, will live, or even should.  I simply wish to say that it is rare that I see anyone talk about the good that comes with a good marriage.  So, if you can’t identify with this post because your life has not led you down the same path as mine, I honor that too and hope that you are living fully and finding your joy with the love you have in your life.

I am not promoting marrying young – I am promoting marriages that are full of life and full of variety. My husband and I are far from “settled,” even if it might look settled on the surface when you see our almost 5 year marriage, our house, and our baby.  We are only beginning to live!  My wish for you, dear reader, is that you live a full, joyful life on whatever path you’re on.

{Thanks for reading!}

Being a Mom Makes You Tough // more thoughts on healthcare

I’m a klutz.  Certified, tried and true — I am reliably injuring myself in some emergency room-worthy way at least once a year.  Someday, if you should hear I have tragically died, be sure to get the story because it’s bound to be something dumb like me running into a doorway or something silly like that (of course, I hope that doesn’t happen, but let’s just say if it did, I wouldn’t be surprised).

So today, in an effort to take an epic photo of the baby in a pumpkin (thank you, Pinterest, for raising the standard so high that this was my #1 priority today), I sliced my left index finger nice and deep.  [sidenote: I’m currently marveling at my ability to type with 9 fingers… outstanding!]  I realized a few things over the past few hours that seem blog-worthy:

  1. Being a mom has made me way less of a wimp than I used to be.  Having been a life-long klutz, this is not the first time I’ve sliced my finger with a knife.  Every other time something like this has happened, I have been a hysterical mess.  The reality is, it’s usually not the pain that sends me into hysterics, it’s the shock of seeing my body opened up and bleeding.  When I was 19, I got stitches for a similar cut and cried for nearly a day over the ordeal.  This time, however, I haven’t shed a tear and handled it like a pro – a big step for me.  This calm rationale has swept over me telling me, “The body heals.  You’ve been through way worse than this and have come out just fine.  It looks bad now, but this is the worst it will be.”  I guess after healing from childbirth, a cut just seems like no big deal.  Cool.
  2. I probably need stitches, but I’m not getting them.  For me to go to the ER and get stitches will mean at minimum a couple hundred bucks, and that’s with our terrible private insurance.  So, I went to the CVS on the corner and bought some butterfly closures and first aid tape, cleaned the wound and closed it up.  I chose to avoid the hospital in order to save the money.  In this case, probably not a big deal – if the wound doesn’t start looking better in a couple of days, I’ll go to the doctor… but I think decisions like this are the motivation behind healthcare reform, but on a much bigger level.  When someone like me, who could probably find the money to pay the outrageous bill for a few stitches, chooses to avoid seeking medical care because of an exorbitant expense, this is the system failing.  Why should stitches cost hundreds of dollars to get?  Why should health care ever be cost-prohibitive?  Doesn’t that seem evil and wrong?  Shouldn’t we place such a high value on human life that health care is something we just get as citizens?  If a privatized system is resulting in people choosing less-than-adequate healthcare in order to avoid financial collapse, we have a big problem.  (For more of my thoughts on this, read my post about my friend Ron).

Anyway, I hope that when the baby wakes from her nap I can ultimately get that epic pumpkin photo, but for now I feel tough and a little bit angry.

EDIT: Totally not worth it, but the photo is hilarious.

hysterical, but not worth it.
hysterical, but not worth it.

Thoughts on Momma-hood

Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) Colleen Shawk
Photo by We Love Your Love Photography, (c) 2013 – Colleen Shawk

I haven’t blogged since before Eloise was born.  In the meantime, the blog has gotten over 4000+ hits thanks to the post on the nursery’s chevron wall!  How nuts is that?

So, since the last post, we have continued to re-do the house, one room at a time.  We are nearly finished with our sun room.  I haven’t been taking “before” photos, because I don’t want to remember the ugly wallpaper when it’s all done!  But, I’ll write a post showing the different elements of my new voice studio/sunroom.

By and large, though, our lives have been completely centered around this beautiful little creature who has entered our lives.  We are captivated by her every moment – what a miracle she is!  It has been incredible seeing how much she can change day to day, and how much she has changed me.  Since we got our house and had our baby, I have been shocked by how obsessed I am with keeping our house clean!  In the past, cleaning was never on the top of my priority list, I’m embarrassed to say.  But knowing that she will be healthier and happier in a clean environment, not to mention that we’ve had many more visitors over since she was born, I am constantly cleaning!

I’m also staggered by how much just HAPPENS.  Like, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to nurse the baby because I had no frame of reference for my body producing milk.  And I worried I wouldn’t love her, because I was just meeting her.  And I worried I wouldn’t be able to function on so little sleep.  And a million other things — and it’s amazing because, everything just happened.  Just the way she was formed in my womb – these things were entirely outside of my control.

I have lots of posts I’d like to write soon about craft projects I’ve taken on, redecorating our almost century-old house, marriage, and motherhood, but I really felt that Eloise was due a post first since I’ve been long overdue to write.  So, expect more coming soon!

The Official Guide to Painting a Chevron Wall // In 6 Simple Steps!

Did you just get home after a long day of work and have 20 minutes to kill?  If you answered yes, you should probably stop because this is not a good idea for you.  Otherwise, go on.

Did you just get a new place or are you in the mood to redecorate?  If the answer is yes, keep reading.

I have envisioned a gray & white chevron nursery for months – I think even before I got pregnant.  I mentioned it to my husband who, rather than flip out on me, embraced the idea.  And we then quickly recruited my bestie’s graphic designer husband to help (this is a wise choice).  Yesterday, they tasked themselves to this while we shopped for nursery decor.  They photo-chronicled the process so that you can recreate.

PHOTO GUIDE TO CREATING A CHEVRON WALL

Step 1: Paint the wall one of the two colors you intend in your chevron and let it completely dry (this may take 2 coats).

Step 2:  Grid off your wall using chalk.  Your grid should be the exact width you want your lines to be – I wanted 7 inch lines, so they made 7 inch boxes.

Step 2: Grid off your wall with chalk
Step 2: Grid off your wall with chalk

 

Step 3: Cut painter’s tape to approximately the lengths you want, at a 45 degree angle and apply to grid.  You place the tape corner to corner, staying outside the boundaries of the new color.

Painter's tape applied to grid creating 45 degree angles
Painter’s tape applied to grid creating 45 degree angles

 

Painter's tape

Step 4: Paint the stripes between the tape lines.  Allow time for drying and then paint second coat (if needed… probably needed)

Step 4: Paint the chevron between the tape lines IMG_20130602_201201_256

Step 5: Remove painter’s tape before it is completely dry, so as to not flake the chevron, and touch up as needed.

Remove the painter's tape and touch up any spots as needed (in this case, the tape took some chips of paint off the wall)
Remove the painter’s tape and touch up any spots as needed (in this case, the tape took some chips of paint off the wall)

 

Step 6: Bask in your awesomeness while you allow the paint to fully dry and then come back in a day or two and wash the grid off the wall with a soft cloth and lightly soapy water.

Enjoy it while it dries - you just did something awesome!  Then in a day or two, wash off the chalk grid with a soft cloth and soapy water.
Enjoy it while it dries – you just did something awesome! Then in a day or two, wash off the chalk grid with a soft cloth and soapy water.

 

HUGE thanks to my incredible husband and our friend Steve on this one – I am so thrilled that this is the room where we will welcome our baby girl home!

 

Grateful // remember these things

Image
New, clean, fresh cloth diapers. Definitely the best they will ever look/smell!

 

I’ve been feeling down the last few days.  Pregnancy has been getting harder on my body – I’m past the point of “cute baby bump” and into the “are you sure there’s only one in there?”-swollen feet-waddle-walk phase where everyone thinks I’ll go into labor at the drop of a pin (sidebar: why do random strangers think it’s ever okay to comment on how large a pregnant woman’s belly is!?).  Additionally, we still have not closed on our house which we were supposed to close on over a month ago.  As a ticking time bomb, so to speak, this has been very frustrating to me and my nesting urges are misplaced in this apartment which is too small, but we may still be living in primarily when Baby Girl makes her appearance.

Yesterday was especially rough – I have been pushing myself harder at work because of the impending leave to be more productive.  I’ve been working extra hours before and after trying to get ahead and be prepared for the baby whenever she shows up.  And we’ve had a lot of shows and events lately that have kept me on my feet on the weekends when I could normally be resting.  So yesterday, I had the day off and I had this mental list of things I wanted to do to prepare the apartment in case the baby arrives early, but I had absolutely no energy to do those things.

I did not communicate this well to my husband, who went to visit his family yesterday after work.  I was particularly and inappropriately cranky with him when he got home because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to and he hadn’t been home to help me.  I knew there was a lot of exhaustion and hormones behind what I was expressing, and so did he, but that doesn’t make it easier on the receiving end.

So this morning when I woke up, several of the items I had listed off to him were done.  When I went to bed at 9:45 last night, he stayed up until 1 am pre-washing cloth diapers and other baby items, doing our laundry, and cleaning up our house.  I woke up so refreshed and thankful for such a caring husband who understood my heart and was so willing to take the load off of me.  I bragged on him all day.

A friend from college had her baby shower today about 45 minutes away from where we live, so my bestie and I spent the afternoon out there and I just walked back into my house.  It was wildly therapeutic to have a little girl time away from the house with her, and in the company of a bunch of other young mommas and soon-to-be-mommas, where I didn’t feel the looming pressure of “where on earth are we going to put this kid” every time I looked around our apartment.

When I walked in the door I noticed some of the furniture boxes were missing out of the living room, so I walked up to the second bedroom which as been the hoarding/storage area for baby stuff.  My sweet, kind, wonderful man spent this day off putting together baby furniture and putting together a make-do nursery to ease my heart.  I don’t even have words for how much this means to me.  The last 24 hours needs to replay in my memory anytime I’m feeling down.  I am so hugely blessed by how well my husband loves me, what a wonderful parent he is already, and how hard he works to settle my heart.  Truly, our daughter will have a very high standard for any man who would ever entertain the thought of being her husband, because she has an incredible dad.

In Giving, We Receive

Yesterday, I came across this article about this 77-year old homeless man who donated $250 to charity.  The man donated what he had begged off the street to give back to a ministry that had been feeding him for nearly two decades.  Stories like this make you think.

As you may already know, my job is in development, which is a non-profit’s way of saying “fundraising.”  I am responsible for the contributed income of my organization through a myriad of methods and campaigns.  Fundraising is about people.  It’s about getting to know people, building relationships, and helping people to know your organization well enough that they realize that what your organization does is important.  When a person attributes value to what you do, they can express that value through becoming a part of what you do.  That can mean volunteering their time, skills, resources… but it can also mean investing financially in what you do.

Mike and I give regularly to several organizations and ministries, despite the fact that our means are limited.  One of the best things about my job is that I get to see the other end of that spectrum: generosity from people who value our organization and have the means to do big things.  This is a huge motivation for achieving financial stability – being able to make a huge impact.

Stories like the one about this man, however, remind me that anytime someone places value on what you do and gives back, it is meaningful and important.

Some lessons I’ve learned about giving:

People give because they value what you do.

People give because they want to be a part of the good work you’re doing.

When someone is motivated to give, it doesn’t always matter what their means are – they will find a way to be a part of something they value.

People don’t give to get – they receive a greater reward from giving (read: In Giving, We Receive).

People are motivated to give when others are giving.  (I bet the charity that received this $250 donation has experienced a major bump in larger gifts after this story hit the press.  When we see someone of lesser means giving more than we are, it convicts us to remember what’s important).

If people aren’t giving, it’s likely because your organization/ministry has not done their job to communicate why it’s valuable, essential, and important.

{{do tell!}}

Why do you give?  Why don’t you give in some cases?