Lessons from a Stomach Bug

My poor Bo Bear on Day 3 of the stomach bug.

My poor Bo Bear on Day 3 of the stomach bug.

Oh wow! Looking and seeing the last time I posted is just sad...December 6th. Three weeks ago today. I've tried so hard to get into a routine with writing and working on product but unfortunately I can't seem to find a good balance between work and home life. I digress. I envy the lifestyle bloggers who appear to have it altogether with their gorgeous photos, product and whit--I can't promise I will have any of those going for me but what I can promise is I'm going to keep it real. I'm a stay-at-home mom with dreams and passions but my number one priority, above anything I ever can accomplish or succeed at, is my husband and children (second and third only to my faith, of course). So three weeks...a lot can happen in a minute, let alone three weeks. These past weeks have been jam packed with one thing after another, hence, the fact that I've been MIA from our website; my dear sweet friend, Jenn, has an annual holiday market that I've been participating in when I'm available and this year I was able to, thankfully! It was a total success as I sold several candles, two signs and took a handful of pre-orders for miniature candles. This market was by far the most success I've had at one single event so I was definitely a happy camper and left there with a newfound boost in my creative mojo.

The following weekend my mom came up for a visit since she couldn't be here for Christmas. It was so great to see her, however, her visit was overshadowed with a death in Rob's family and the start of what was to become a vicious stomach virus. By the evening of when my mom left to go back to South Carolina, I was hugging the toilet bowl...as were Rob and Bo. Unexpected and not fun. The three of us found ourselves laying around between mine and Rob's bed and the couch bed for the next 2-3 days. I hated seeing Bo so sick--he's a little guy anyway but I felt like he was beginning to look like those sweet babies you see on TV who are skin and bones. I wanted to cry everytime I saw him just in a diaper. At several points during last week, he was lethargic--a limp noodle--just staring into space. Then, last Thursday night, 4 days after the bug hit us, we had to take him to the ER for dehydration. Rob and I had been on the mend for 2 days by then but Bo just couldn't seem to kick the bug. Thankfully it was a matter of giving him an anti-nausea medication so that he could orally rehydrate--after two more days of a bland/BRAT diet, he was back to his normal self. I can't think of any enemies I have but I wouldn't wish that stomach bug on them! Now after a week and a half, it has gone through 5 more family members, including my mom. There was a lesson I learned during the week of spoon feeding my 3 year old, racing said toddler to the bathroom to puke, putting cold wash rags on foreheads and rubbing backs--it was one of total gratitude. I've never been one to be good with people getting sick or anything medical related, I don't even like seeing my own puke, let alone someone else's; however, there was one day last week where Rob went to work so I was left at home with both kids sick and needing my attention. That day I had hoped to get some work done--whether it be sanitizing my house or attempting to make money with working on product...maybe even get a blog post done--but by the time one kid would be settled, the other one needed something. Normally I'd be feeling frustrated and defeated that I couldn't get anything done but that particular day, I just felt the Lord showing me that even though my household was a straight up hot mess, I was doing exactly what He had called me to do. Take care of my babies. My treasures. At the moment I had that realization, I babied my sick, helpless son a little more and held my fussy daughter a little tighter. It didn't matter that I hadn't posted not a single social media post on my business page in several days or that my website was looking like I had fallen off the face of the earth. The fact was my babies were sick and they needed their mama's undivided attention. So that's what they got.

Thankfully the bug came and went by Christmas and we were able to enjoy Callie Jude's first Christmas, without being sick. Every year we switch off holidays with my family--last year they came up for Thanksgiving and we were in South Carolina for Christmas so this year we stayed home for both holidays because of our big road trip back in October and were with Rob's family. I actually bought a tree and decorated it since we were going to be here. Since Bo has been alive, we've never had a legit tree. I wanted to start the tradition of buying a real tree but with us being down south every other Christmas, it didn't happen. Two years ago I actually decorated my art easel to look like a tree. It was made up of lights and garland so my 16-month-old at the time loved it and that's all I cared about. However, this year I decided to get my act together and I erred on the side of our budget and bought an artificial tree for $50. Growing up, I never had a real tree that I can recall so I always said when I grew up and had kids of my own, we'd get a real tree. Rob and I bought a real tree the year before Bo was born and that was the extent of our "real tree tradition"; after a few conversations with some family members this year, I came to the conclusion that I'd save our money by purchasing an artificial tree. I figure it'd be just as special to say that we bought the tree the first Christmas that we were a complete family--CC being here and making us a family of 4--and let the kids pick out an ornament every year. There ya go, our new family tradition! At the end of the day, Christmas isn't about trees, ornaments and all the trimmings but it does give me all the warm and fuzzies to have traditions with my kids that maybe someday they'll pass on to their families.

So here we are, two days after Christmas and five days before a new year. I'm excited for 2018! Lord knows what the new year will bring but I have that giddy pep in my step that reassures me that He is up to something great. Whether it be business successes, marital blessings, or just the fact that I'm living my dream of being a mom and wife, and that I'm able to stay home with them, and watch them grow and develop--I'm eternally grateful for what He's done thus far in my life and where He is taking our little family. Of course I have tons of dream and plans conjured up in my mind that I will attempt to bring into fruition but after years of struggling with control, I've finally given up in the best way that I can, and that is letting God be God. I'm too busy to try and take that role on anymore.

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PART IV: Caught Between Two Worlds

Many times Bo will randomly ask me to take a picture of whatever toy he has in his hand. This was one of them. I know I'll look back someday and wish my babies could be babies again.  In a million worlds, I'd choose you.

Many times Bo will randomly ask me to take a picture of whatever toy he has in his hand. This was one of them. I know I'll look back someday and wish my babies could be babies again. In a million worlds, I'd choose you.

I've always loved the poem by Robert Frost entitled, "The Road Not Taken". I'm a visual person so every time I've ever read it or thought of the words, I envisioned a fork in the road--one veering left and the other, right. Seven years ago today, I took one of those roads with not a clue where it was going to lead, but me being me, I was willing to take the chance. I chose to pack up all of my earthly belongings to follow love. I was living in sin and I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. Thank God for mercy and grace though! Rob and I started off just wingin' it but together, we got right with God and He has blessed us beyond measure.

Life is about choices--there's no way around them. Good and bad, right and wrong, "do I take this job or that one?", "do I spend little or much?". Our life is consumed with choices. As I mentioned in my first post of this little series (that, by the way, I didn't know what going to be a series until I realized after a while, I probably should cut off my story at some point before I lose and/or bore y'all to tears), the only thing I ever was sure about in life was that I wanted to be a mom and a wife; however, I eventually found my passion in art and design...creating things...and it was then that I really found myself caught between two worlds. Everyday I find myself standing in a wide open field--or in my case, my house with toys, diapers, big boy underwear, two babies I've always wanted, dishes in the sink needing washed, mounds of laundry needing folded, toilet bowls needing scrubbed, a desk of open projects and orders, and an Instagram account that keeps nagging at me to stay on top of posts in order to draw attention to little 'ole me and my business I'm trying to build up--with two paths that I have to choose which to go down. Usually I'm just a hot mess express attempting to barrel down both paths--one foot on each until the paths start to curve a little and I'm almost doing the splits--but that only leads me to being stressed to the max, discombobulated, and unorganized (as a lifetime perfectionist who has really gotten better with having to have eeeeeverything just so, being unorganized really sends me in a tizzy). I always tell myself when I try to do too much that my faith and my family come first but sometimes I just feel like throwing in the towel and giving up on everything that isn't family-related because I feel so mentally overwhelmed. I can't even tell you how many times I've thought about Joanna Gaines, and her and Chip's decision to shut down their shop to raise their kids after she felt God leading her to do so (the story can be found here). I haven't felt the prompting to quit altogether but as Bo gets older and closer to school age, and now that CC is mobile, I wonder what God wants for our family next. Rob and I have had many discussions on homeschooling but is that for us? Do I have the patience? How will I find time to do homeschooling and run a business and keep up with house chores and make quality time with God and make sure my husband's needs are met. Talk about a Proverbs 31 woman! Gracious day!--those few things would make any person's head spin I'm sure. I know as long as I keep giving it all to God, He will direct my steps and lead me down the paths I'm supposed to go but Lord have mercy is He teaching me some mega patience! I'm a "ok, let's do this right now" kind of person but God is a "hold up, wait a second, I need you to learn A, B and C first" kind of God. We butt heads...a lot...that's life though, right? Making the choice whether I'm going to fly by the seat of my own pants or wait for God to lead me. It sure isn't easy but I know it's a lot less bumpy of a ride. I know He didn't bring me to where I am, having blessed me the way He has and shown me visions of possibilities for using my talent and passions, just to leave me stranded. Life is always going to be filled with juggling acts and choices but at the end of the day, I know that as long as He's my Pilot, everything else will just sort of fall into place. 

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PART I: Caught Between Two Worlds

Me holding Bo at 4 days old.

Me holding Bo at 4 days old.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I remember having a baby doll glued to my hip from about the age of 5. My favorite doll was one of those shiver newborn babies from the early 90’s—it never shivered but I didn’t want my mom to return it to the store because I loved it so much—it was perfect to me. She was perfect to me. I named her Christy and Christy went wherever I went. Through my schools years and onto college I still dreamed of the cookie cutter life: husband, kids, nice house, nice things. I never had a specific passion or drive aside from being a mom and wife someday, but I developed a love for art in high school and never felt I was overly great at it but it was fun to me. I majored in Fine Arts right out of high school just because I knew I wanted to do something creative...just didn’t know what exactly. I spent my spring freshman semester abroad, studying in Caen, France; I was the first freshman from my university who had ever participated in the study abroad program. Upon my return from Europe, I transferred to art school in Charlotte, North Carolina to study Fashion Marketing and Management, thinking it’d be cool to work in the fashion industry because I always loved fashion. That lasted all of 7 months and I’m still paying for those short 7 months today, 12 years later. Lesson earned, right? When I dropped out of art school, I went and got my Associates in Paralegal Studies. Where that big career field jump came from is still a mystery to me but I was determined to finish school, albeit an associates degree, when I had spent enough time in school that I could have received a Bachelors, but whatever. I earned many degrees in the school of Lesson Learning and Life Living. Those "degrees" weren't always fun earning but they were experiences that were added into my book of life and have added to what made me who I am today. I made a lot of bad mistakes, I got caught up in an unhealthy relationship and so on, but by golly I worked while in college, lived on my own, and did was I set out to do—get a degree. I moved back to my hometown in South Carolina after I graduated and landed my first job at a law firm, and that is what I did for about 4 years, even after I moved here to New York. I had put art on the back burner and didn’t pick up a paint brush again until I moved back to South Carolina. It’s crazy how God works. I remember being in a season of loneliness and emptiness and I don’t know what prompted me to go and purchase some canvases but I did. I used the same brushes and paint that I had leftover from one of my college art classes and I just painted some random stuff. Nothing earth shatteringly amazing but it was just what was coming out of my head.

Eventually I moved here to New York where I continued to work in law and then the year after Rob and I got married, a job opportunity presented itself for me to be the assistant for a CEO of an internet startup company. The job was nothing like I had been led to believe but the company was, in a sense, graphic art-related and it helped pay the bills so I tried to ride it out as long as I could. I was pretty miserable there and extremely bored but I truly feel God had me there for a season to learn specific things and I don’t regret leaving law to go there. Being there got my creative juices flowing again and I started dreaming again—dreaming of much more than I could picture for myself but the dreams felt so real and there was a point that they were nagging at me. I felt trapped inside four walls, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer with my own dreams in my head and heart but having to do busy work for someone who I felt was unappreciative and wasn't using me to my potential.

However, in November of 2013 I went to a women’s retreat with my church and everything changed. It was the next-to-last day of the retreat and our guest speaker, Rita Springer, gave us homework for the day. I can’t remember what exactly the homework was but when we returned that evening after dinner, one of the women in our group, April, said she had heard a Word from God during her quiet time—it was a song that came to her and she didn’t quiet believe it was God speaking to her so she told God that if it was, to let her hear that song again. As she was walking up the back steps to the room our evening service was being held in, there was another church group having worship and they were playing the song she had had in her heart before. She shared this revelation with us and Rita led us into powerful worship. During worship, I remember screaming internally at God to speak to me. I wanted a revelation like he had given to April. I wanted to hear Him audibly. I wanted to know He was speaking to me. There were 3 areas in my life I was pleading with God about—I had been begging Him to get me back home to the South for 3 years by then and nothing was panning out to allow us to move, Rob and I had been trying to get pregnant for more than a year before that retreat and it had come down to me having to decide to start taking medication in order to conceive, and the last thing was that I hated my job and was feeling the pull to quit and pursue my passion of art and creating things. I continued to scream and beg God inside to speak to me during worship that night, “God please, I’m begging you to speak to me! Talk to me!! Give me a sign, SOMETHING!” During my begging session with God, I began to sing the song “Great is thy faithfulness” and I remember asking Him to let me hear it if I was to quit my job. I know, sounds silly, but I was so desperate to hear from Him and know that it was Him, not myself in my mind. I also prayed about getting me out of New York and getting pregnant; when I prayed about the latter, I remember an audible male's voice inside saying, "just a little longer...just wait a little longer." Rita never played the song that night but at some point she started calling out things and speaking over people. She specifically prayed for barren wombs and I lost it. My knees hit the floor quicker than I could realize what was happening and my sister-in-law, Bree was beside me, consoling me because she knew what was happening. I felt heartbroken but also victorious because I think that was the first time in my life that I felt like I had a true; divine appointment with God—that He had a Word specifically for me. I went back to my room that night and got Rob on the phone and told him that I wasn’t going to start the meds that the doctor had recommended I go on to try and conceive. He supported my decision and said, "if God said not to, then I'm not going against that." The next morning was our last morning of the conference and I was still on fire from the night before. Rita had brought a friend, Lisa Corley, who spoke that final morning at the retreat on fear and being catalyzed with fear. She delivered a powerful Word and I left that conference room feeling uplifted and ready for battle. Bree and I had driven together that weekend so after we packed up all of our things and got ready to head back to New York, we decided to pop in to the bookstore they had on the grounds of the place where the retreat was held at. It was a Christian retreat place so we thought we’d be able to find a little momento to bring home from our weekend away. I brought home a lot more than that. We walked in to the little bookstore and the first little trinket I walked into said, “Great is thy faithfulness”. My jaw dropped, my eyes probably bugged out of my head and I stood speechless for a second before brushing the thought away about my begging session with God the night before, I continued to browse the merchandise only to see, “Great is Thy faithfulness” over and over again on more signs and items. I had shared with Bree all that happened the night before so she knew about me asking God to let me hear, “Great is Thy faithfulness”—she was tripped out as much as I was when I grabbed her and reminded her of the song. I purchased a few things and left that little bookstore in Po-Dunk Pennsylvania, feeling on Cloud 9. That was November 17, 2013.

I got home and told Rob all about the retreat and my revelations God had showed me, including the fact that I felt He was telling me to quit my job. Rob was skeptical but supportive and we sat down to go over finances that week—he said that if it was truly God’s Will, we would be ok and he requested that I wait until the new year to put in my notice at work.

On the night before Thanksgiving, almost two weeks after I returned from the retreat, we were heading off the island to North Carolina to be with my family for the holiday and we totaled our truck. Like BAD totaled. As in got clipped by an 18-wheeler on the LIE (I-495) in the pouring rain, spun around, hit a guardrail and bouncing back into oncoming traffic. God was all over us that night. My father-in-law came and got us, took us to LaGuardia airport, we got a rental car and still made it to North Carolina in time for Thanksgiving turkey. About 3 weeks later, we found out I was pregnant with our first child, not knowing that I was likely very very early pregnant when we totaled the truck that night. Not knowing that as Rita Springer sang and spoke on barren wombs to be opened, that she truly was speaking over me. A few weeks after we found out I was pregnant, I quit my job and within two weeks of quitting my job, Rob essentially was laid off of work. I went from Cloud 9 to, “ummmm what just happened?!” I knew God was the One orchestrating the miracles and the calling, but I didn’t know what in the world was going on when Rob came home and said, “there’s no work for a few months”. Any other time I would be in straight panic mode, feeling like I had to fix the issue but I had an overwhelming peace. We were strapped tight financially and for about a month or two, resorted to Food Stamps and WIC. Talk about a humbling reality check! I remember Rob handing me a $100 bill one day and saying, “this is for groceries, make it stretch. It's all we've got.” He was able to find work with a local mechanic, getting paid cash under the table so we could pay the bills and I was steady creating stuff for my little Etsy store. God was so FAITHFUL during that time. By March of that year Rob was back working construction and I continued to do custom orders for people I knew as well as sales here and there on Etsy. We no longer needed assistance and we began to get ready for the arrival of our first child. On August 20, 2014, our son, Bo was born. He was and still is one of the greatest blessings in our life and is truly an answered prayer. 

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Rocky the Racoon

One of the nights we had to summon Rocky.

One of the nights we had to summon Rocky.

Part of the reason I want to try this whole blogging thing out is to document everyday musings of motherhood and, let's face it, ain’t nobody got time to keep up with two baby books! When Bo was born more than 3 years ago, I tried so hard to document little things that I felt would be fun to look back on but as he got more independent and I got into a work/home routine, documenting was few and far between except for the occasional journal entry.

•Side note: I started a leather bound journal for him when I found out I was pregnant with him and I write letters to him every so often. 

Anyway, add another baby to the mix and more milestones, piles of laundry, extra dishes, more messes to clean, etc. and you get the idea...poor CC doesn’t even have a baby book (she does, however, also have a journal that I write in periodically).

ALL that to say, maybe if I can get into this whole blogging thing, Bo and CC can look back someday and read some funny stuff from our everyday life. Including our beloved “Rocky Raccoon”. God love him! Ole Rocky is a game changer with half-eaten meals and toddler defiance. A scare tactic some would argue but hey, as parents to a very set-in-his-ways 3 year old, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. Rocky “joined” our family one recent October evening out of desperation for us to get Bo to eat his vegetables. You see, for as long as he has understood what a snack or dessert is, we have been able to threaten that he wouldn’t get any snack unless he ate his greens (whatever vegetable is served on any particular night) but our boy is too smart for his own good and in the past several months has thought he’d outsmart us by pushing away his plate and announcing in an Eeore tone, “no snack for Bo”. He would commence to getting down from his chair, running to the living room and playing until he’d see us eating our snack later on which would send him into a flying fit because he wanted one. That fit would land me back in the kitchen, supervising him eating his dinner when I could have been doing something else productive. Rob and I caught on to his shenanigans early on and even though we’d try to hide our snickers because—let’s me real, it’s cute but it is annoying—on this particular October night, we proclaimed in unison, “oh no you don’t—get back in your chair and eat your greens”...the rest of the dialogue went a little something like this:

Bo [in a whiny voice]: “But I don’t want ...I don’t like it, it's yucky”, even though he had eaten said vegetable time and time again with no adverse reaction except the fact that it was green so he didn’t want it.

Rob: “If you don’t eat them, I’m putting your baby pumpkins outside.”

A few days prior to this, I had let Bo pick out 3 mini pumpkins at the grocery store to eventually paint. Back at the dinner table, before I even fully thought of what was coming out of my mouth, I followed my husband’s threat with, “yeah and the raccoons will get them so you better eat those vegetables.” 

You could have heard a pin drop. Bo stopped mid-protest, his eyes wide. “What’s that mommy?...the raccoons will get them?” he finally mustered. Both Rob and I saw that we finally were getting his attention so we went with it. Needless to say, Bo proceeded to double fist his vegetables to the point that—while trying not to giggle—I advised him to slow down and chew good, that the pumpkins wouldn’t go outside as long as he finished his dinner. To our delight he cleaned his plate, was rewarded his snack and was able to keep his beloved baby pumpkins inside.

This tactic has worked for weeks now when Bo decides he’s going to put his foot down with one thing or the other and we have to remind him whose boss. We have to draw a line sometimes with “Rocky” though because I don’t want the child to be legit afraid; he knows raccoons are nocturnal so sometimes he’s afraid to walk from the car to the house if we’re out past dark—in those instances I reassure him that Rocky and his friends are in the woods somewhere.

However, as fate would have it, Bo was recently at my in-law’s one evening for dinner and dern if a raccoon didn’t get into their garage and go through their trash?! They said Bo went to the garage door in the house where my father-in-law was standing, saw the raccoon and started freaking out, running back inside into the arms of my sister-in-law. My father-in-law dubbed the raccoon the name “Rocky” so now we have a real life raccoon we can refer to that Bo has actually seen in person.

I promise I had nothing to do with that encounter...but I will ride this gravy train until Bo figures out that we can’t summon the raccoons whenever we want. In the meantime, I will rejoice in clean plates and veggie-filled bellies.

 

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