Leading by Example

January 5, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
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I bet you didn’t know you were reading the words of a criminal.

I’m mortified to admit this, but I stole something last week – accidentally. I was in the process of returning a Christmas gift of which we received a duplicate when I noticed a box of my favorite lip balm on the counter. I pulled one out thinking I would purchase it with the store credit I was about to receive. Then the manager notified me that since I did not have a receipt, I could not return the item (I gave up on trying to sort out the gift receipts from the gift wrap and packaging at Christmas). I understood and left the store. I noticed that the manager walked out after me and I thought he must be suspicious of me for trying to return something without a receipt.

This is a receipt I will be keeping for a while

This is a receipt I will be keeping for a while.

The next morning, I found the lip balm in my purse. I must have grabbed it, either forgetting that I had not paid or thinking it was the identical and already used lip balm from my purse. Whatever happened, I felt terrible. I promptly went to the store as soon as it opened to pay for the lip balm and apologize for my mistake. The cashier thanked me for my honesty and even admitted that she (also a mom) had once done something similar.

This lip balm retailed for a few dollars. It probably cost the store pennies. I didn’t have to go back to the store, admit my mistake and face the consequences. I had already “gotten away” with taking the item. But I made a mistake, however innocent it was, and I knew I had to do the right thing, which was go back and pay for the item. The manager who helped me the night before will probably always think I took the item on purpose, but it doesn’t matter.

Growing up, there were countless times my parents made me do the right thing after I had done the wrong thing. Through them, I learned about apologizing for and learning from my mistakes.

I’m not saying I always do the right thing, oh no no no, far from it. Many times I don’t even know what the right thing is, and even when I do I don’t always follow that path. Although a bit embarrassing, it was easy for me to do the right thing in this situation. It won’t always be that way. And now that I am a mother, I have to remember that AJ will watch my actions closely.

So after purchasing my stolen lip balm, I decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to lead by example, and show AJ how to do the right thing when she makes a mistake or does something wrong by trying harder to do the right thing myself. And AJ will eventually make a mistake, because she is human. And even though I will try my hardest, I will continue to make mistakes, because I also am human.

Time Warp

December 31, 2014 by Trina Bartlett
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Tradition demands that every new year, I take time to reminisce about the past 365 days and  look forward to the next 365 days.2015

And so I do.

But what tradition seems to forget is that the older I get, the more quickly the years fly by and lose their distinct identities.

Instead, they blend together into a colorful yet unfinished collage of meaningful, embarrassing, sad, silly, joyful and hopeful moments that comprise my personal history and therefore, whom I am.

Only years of significant life events maintain their autonomy: the year I graduated from high school, the year I got married and the years my children were born are all still etched in my brain. Everything else is marked by “before” and “after.” If  I didn’t have those markers, I think I would lose track of time completely.

Just this past week, I found a wedding invitation from 2010 that caught me completely off guard. I was sure the wedding had been, at most, two years ago. I clearly remembered what I wore, the conversations my husband and friends had and the emotions of the day.  Yet, in my memory, my daughter had been older, I had been younger and the event had much more recent.

After convincing myself that my internal calendar can no longer be relied upon, I also realized how unimportant that really is.

The event itself and the memories it generated are what are truly important. The wedding was memorable and holds a special place in the patchwork of moments that comprise my life.

My children are now starting into that phase when they will be defining their own significant years. In approximately 365 days, as the calendar turns to 2016, my son will be celebrating the year he graduates from high school. I have no doubt that will also be a year that marks “before” and “after” for me as well.

But, unlike the years before I had children, I will now appreciate and celebrate the small and big moments during that year, not that date itself. Moments, not a four digit number, are what define me, my family and my life.

The four digit number just provides that reminder.

Happy 2015. May it be full of memorable moments that make you smile, laugh and treasure your life, those you love and the joy of living.

A Baby Changes Everything

December 26, 2014 by Kelly Weikle
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The lights were dimmed; the house was quiet. The presents were opened, the turkey carved, the cookies eaten. We were home after a long and joyous day of Christmas festivities. As I slowly rocked AJ to sleep, I started singing one last Christmas carol. “A Baby Changes Everything” (Faith Hill) was the song I couldn’t get out of my head.

Last Christmas, I was newly pregnant and even though I had been dreaming and hoping for a baby, I was scared. I took a new interest in the Christmas story, for now I was looking at it from Mary’s point of view. How scared she must have been! I drew courage from her courage. I knew my life would change, but I didn’t know how it would change.

A baby does change everything. This Christmas season was unlike any I’ve had before. It started out extra hectic. Holiday traditions like decorating the home and baking mass quantities of cookies are a tad more difficult with a baby around; and I’m sure almost impossible with a toddler. Shopping with a stroller takes serious skills, skills I do not yet have, and so this season I quickly gained a new appreciation for online shopping.

Our Christmas Eve was different too. No late night parties or midnight church service for us this year. We spent our evening watching It’s A Wonderful Life, and I was so exhausted I didn’t even make it to the end of the movie.

Christmas Day was spent as usual with our families (we are lucky to have both sets of grandparents close). As expected, most of the gifts we received were for AJ and not for Chris or me. Baby clothes replaced adult clothes; toys replaced gadgets. And that was exactly how I wanted it to be.

This Christmas, we started forging new traditions, traditions that include the newest member of our family and our greatest gift yet. As I put AJ in her crib and said goodnight, I thought about how I will experience the wonder of Christmas through her eyes in the years to come. We still have a few Christmases to go before AJ can appreciate the magic and excitement of it all, but I’m already looking forward to how different every Christmas will be as she grows year to year. A baby changes everything, in wonderful and unexpected ways.

The Charity Case

December 24, 2014 by Trina Bartlett
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I was ready to shut down my computer, turn out the lights and leave my office for a much-needed holiday break.

Then, our office doorbell rang, and I knew I had to answer it. With less than 36 hours before Christmas, I also knew I wouldn’t be able to help whomever was at the door. The Christmas donations had been distributed, our emergency assistance dollars were expended, the case manager was gone until Monday and the immigration attorney, who fills limitless roles, was on her way out the door with me.

I answered the door anyway.

To my surprise, the person ringing the bell wasn’t a client. Instead, it was Kathy, a volunteer who was working with a homeless woman who had no place to go for Christmas.

Fortunately, I was able to help Kathy access the necessary resources so the woman would have a warm room for the holiday. With that done, I was once again ready to leave my office. That’s when Kathy asked in a rather off-hand manner if I knew a man named “Ed.” When I said his name was familiar, she gave me a knowing smile.

She described a homeless man who wanders through our community wearing open-toed shoes even in winter.

“He’s living in a barn,” she said. She described his circumstances, I expressed my concerns and we parted ways.

Only when I was driving home did I appreciate what she had told me. There is a homeless man walking around my community wearing open-toed shoes, living in a barn and teaching people like me a lesson.

I needed that lesson.

I spent the last few weeks looking forward to the holidays not because they remind me of the blessings of charity and love but because I’m exhausted and ready for some time off work. I’ve told myself that I’ve made a career of charity and therefore deserve a break. I’ve been ignoring the fact that, for the most part, my life has been one big break.

For some people, a break isn’t the luxury of a few days of sleeping in, the opportunity to curl up with a good book or time with family.

For some people, a break is a hot meal, a warm bed or a kind soul who spends time listening.

For some people, a break is help paying an electric bill so the power isn’t shut off during the holidays.

And for some people, a break is an opportunity to pay it forward.

People who pay it forward are the reason I even have a job.

Just a few weeks ago, a check arrived from a man who received assistance from Catholic Charities WV (where I work) when he was down on his luck. The check was for the exact amount we had helped with his electric bill.

There was no note attached. His check said everything.

It said that charity is rooted in the words “to love,” and  that love demands that we share our gifts with others.

It was also a reminder that each of us, at some point in our lives, is a  charity case.

Some of us might be homeless.

Some of us might need help with our electric bills.

And some of us might get so caught up in the demands of daily living that we  forget how fortunate we  really are.

Thankfully, all of us, no matter what are resources or circumstances, are just as capable of giving and receiving charity.

This holiday season, I wish everyone that joy.

Time to Deck the Halls….and Childproof Them

December 19, 2014 by carissamcburney
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The other night as I grabbed my laptop to catch up on emails and gather more Christmas ideas on Pinterest, my 17-month-old son, Eli, picked up my laptop cord and tried plugging it in our nearest outlet. Thank goodness for outlet covers!
Most parents with little children have childproofed homes, but have we all followed through with childproofing our holiday decorations?

Last Christmas, Eli could barely sit up on his own. This year he is walking…no, running…everywhere, which makes decorating our home much different from last year. We want this season to be a time of joy and magic for our family, not a time of danger. So, we are taking extra measures to ensure our decorating is also childproofed. Thank goodness for baby gates!
The best way I have found to childproof is to look at our home from Eli’s level, whether that be crawling, pulling up, or walking. Within a few days, a child’s perspective and the things a child can reach may completely change. As I looked around our home at every stage, I found things that could be a problem for Eli.
My most recent attempt at childproofing began as we started decorating for the holidays. Last year Eli couldn’t reach any table, much less the corner of our dining room table. While putting ornaments on our tree, I looked down and saw my once “little” boy wrap his hand around the handle of a fresh cup of coffee. Luckily Eli has already learned the word “hot,” but this momma learned a big lesson: I now have a big boy who can reach big things.
Last Christmas was all about watching the lights of the season for Eli. This year, Eli’s fascination has been with our Christmas tree ornaments. I quickly learned that all ornaments within his reach should be large and non-breakable. He hasn’t tried to eat any decorations yet, but we have had several ornaments launched through our house. Childproofing Christmas trees might be a great use for a baby gate!
Another thing that has changed this year is my use of candles and scented oils. I love the way these scents make my home smell, especially during the holidays. Candles and scented plug-ins once littered my home, but now they are absent from anyplace Eli could possibly reach.
Finally, since having Eli, I have started paying great attention to items that are brought into our home. Could someone have something with them that could hurt him? What has button batteries in them? A greeting card? A car remote? Does someone keep their medicine in their purse? One of Eli’s favorite things is going through bags. When hosting holiday visitors, make sure nothing dangerous is stored in their suitcases or purses where children may go exploring.
Although we can take precautions and childproof our homes, lives are not accident proof. So, I am thankful we have the West Virginia Poison Center to call and speak with medical experts in poison information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even during the holidays. Program their number into your phone (1-800-222-1222)—it may save a life.

Carissa McBurney is a community outreach coordinator at the West Virginia Poison Center and momma of a 17-month-old.

A Week of Firsts

December 19, 2014 by Kelly Weikle
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On Monday, I spent my first night away from AJ.

An early morning flight required a 4:30 a.m. alarm, so naturally AJ woke up at 3:00 a.m. to eat, leaving me about a half hour in between when I got her back to sleep and when my alarm was set to ring. Night 384 of terrible sleep marked off the calendar (okay, I know it hasn’t been that long since I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, but sometimes it feels like it).

Traveling while breastfeeding requires a significant amount of planning and preparation, and the main theme of my travel seemed to be pumping, since that is what it felt like I was doing most of the time.

Most of my worrying happened before I actually left, while I was trying to build up my supply to make sure she would have enough milk for while I was away, taking into consideration that I may experience flight delays.

I had to call my hotel in advance to make sure I could get a mini fridge put into my room, and was pleased to learn that not only could I have a mini fridge, but in the event that none were available, the hotel had a special fridge for breastfeeding mothers to store their milk. It’s always a pleasant surprise when accommodations are available for pregnant women or mothers.

Another of my main worries was traveling back on the plane with my breast milk. But again, I was surprised with how easy it was. I read the TSA policy on traveling with breast milk in advance, so I knew that I was allowed to carry it on the plane, but may be asked to go through an extra security check. But I zipped through security without incident or delay; in fact I would say they might have been nicer to me than usual.

I didn’t worry about AJ while I was away, because I knew she was in good hands with her daddy. I showed all my coworkers at least fifteen more pictures than they wanted to see, and thanks to technology I was able to Facetime with AJ and Chris before her bedtime.

I wasn’t able to take advantage of the much-looked-forward-to opportunity to sleep a full night; I woke up in pain and needed to pump. (Night 385…check.)

I returned to town Tuesday morning, and that evening AJ came down with a nasty cold. She had one cold before, but it didn’t warrant a visit to the doctor. This one did. A congested cough and a stuffy nose kept her from sleeping, which kept us up all night with her. (I’m not counting nights anymore.)

So Wednesday we had our first sick visit to the doctor. Luckily, they ruled out any infections or congestion in her lungs. Not-so-luckily, there is not much that can be done for babies with a cold. Humidifiers, snot suckers and saline drops are the prescribed remedies, so that has been the make up of our bedtime routine this week.

AJ and I are both running on fumes from our big week, but we’ve gotten some of the not-so-fun firsts out of the way. Both were events I long worried about handling as a new mother, and both were less dramatic than I anticipated.

Time Travel

December 17, 2014 by Trina Bartlett
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I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

This Too Shall Pass

December 12, 2014 by Kelly Weikle
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“This too shall pass” – a well-known adage and my new life motto.

The saying is often used when referring to a hardship or struggle, but its true meaning is twofold, and that’s how I use it. I say it to myself when I’m having a rough day or when AJ is going through a phase that is hard on mommy, and I use it as a reminder that the good times will pass just as quickly as the hard times.

When AJ was a newborn and we couldn’t stop her cries, I told myself, “This too shall pass,” and it did.

When I was dealing with the baby blues and hormones that come after having a baby, I knew it would pass. It did.

This week, we had one glorious full night of sleep, followed by four nights of not-so-good sleep. This too shall pass.

The toothless smile, the surprise on her face when she makes a new noise for the first time, those will pass too.

The good and the bad that comes with raising a baby, it all goes by too quickly. At lunch this week, some of my coworkers were talking about being baseball coaches, serving on school committees, carpooling kids and traveling for extracurricular activities. Before I know it, those days will be upon us. The days of AJ being a baby will pass and she will grow.

I know AJ is only four months old, but as we approach our first Christmas, I’m feeling the passage of time oh so strongly. This time last year, I had just found out I was expecting. It felt like forever until I would spend Christmas with my baby, and yet here we are, and I feel like I barely blinked.

We aren’t able to fast-forward through the rough parts and press “pause” on the easy parts. And for good reason; the hard times make us appreciate the good and the two are often intertwined. When I’m up at 4 a.m. feeding AJ, I get to see her sweet face and hold her tiny body. She won’t stay tiny for long and she won’t be eating at 4 a.m. forever.

This too shall pass – a silent prayer of strength, and a constant reminder to enjoy this time as much as possible.

The Naked Christmas Tree

December 10, 2014 by Trina Bartlett
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There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now. Well, it’s not completely naked. A  few lights  are strung around its fragrant limbs, but the lights aren’t on so the tree looks much the same as it did on a hilly farm only days agochristmas tree

My family hasn’t had time to decorate. We barely even found the time together to get the tree. Our days of leisurely trips to the tree farm are long gone. Choosing the tree has become a mission that must be executed with precision to insure we all make our next appointment or activity.

Every time I pass by the living room, the naked tree serves as a reminder of life as it is today: more things to do than we have time to do, the energy and opportunity to do them and an appreciation that the fullness of each and every day.

The unpacked brown cardboard boxes and plastic crates that surround the tree serve as reminders of life as it once was. Most of our holidays decorations and ornaments represent a person, an event, a pet, an interest or a special occasion. Collectively, they  have written the history of my family’s life. Almost every object has a story that we read each December, put in a place of honor then pack away for eleven months only to be taken out the next year and read again.

Our new kitten Artemis, who adopted us a couple of months ago, serves as a reminder that life will be different in the years to come.  In fewer than 24 months, Artemis will be a full-grown cat who may or may not be jumping at the limbs of the Christmas tree and poking her pink nose into the boxes of decorations. My son will be in college and may or may not be participating in the family’s annual pilgrimage to get the tree. And I’ll be older and  shaped by circumstances I can’t even begin to predict today.

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now, but it won’t remain naked much longer. Soon, it will be decorated, glowing and the center of celebration. After the presents are opened, the cookies eaten and the holiday meals enjoyed, it will stand in my living room for a few more days, but it won’t receive the attention it once did. If history holds true, we will forget to water the tree, and the needles will dry up and start to fall out.

By New’s Year Day, the ornaments will once again be packed up, the tree will be dragged to the curb and the needles will be vacuumed. All that will remain of this year’s Christmas tree will be photos, a few ornaments and the memories attached to both.

Time marches on, and change is a constant. We can’t hold on to the past, and we shouldn’t try. But we can hold on to traditions. They are the architects of memories and the link between the past and the future. They can also be found anywhere we can find family – even in a naked Christmas tree.

Mommy Fails

December 5, 2014 by Kelly Weikle
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Dear AJ,

Despite what you may think, your mom is not perfect. She is still getting used to this whole motherhood thing. We’ve had some minor bumps in the road, but thankfully they have all been something we can laugh about. I thought you (and my fellow moms and other readers) may enjoy learning about some of my many “mommy fails” from these first few months. Enjoy:

Some days, you go through so many outfits that you end up just hanging out in your diaper. Don’t worry, it’s warm in our house.

Going through an entire bottle of laundry detergent before realizing it was actually fabric softener. At least it was the sensitive skin kind?

Clipping your skin instead of your nail the first time I tried to clip those itty bitty baby fingernails. You didn’t seem to notice. But when I did it again a few weeks later…screams ensued. Maybe we should leave that task to your dad from now on.

Every single voice mail I leave the pediatrician’s office. I’ve made several middle-of-the-night calls that include something along the lines of, “I think…but maybe not…but I read this online…well I just wanted to make sure…I’m sorry I can’t remember…again my name is…” I’m sure they love me. (Side note – The return calls have always been, “She’s fine.”)

Accidentally giving you your acid reflux medicine with day-old leftover milk that I had failed to put in the sink instead of the milk that I got out of the fridge to use. I was a walking zombie at the time and only discovered my mistake after you were finished with the bottle. You weren’t phased.

Always, always forgetting to bring some sort of baby item and then always needing said baby item. Most common items include burp clothes, extra clothes and the entire diaper bag.

Finding out you had not been added to our insurance because I failed to click the final “confirm and submit” button on the online form, which led to many phone calls to make sure you were added and covered and many tears on my part. Apparently extreme sleep deprivation leads to a sharp decline in reading comprehension and computer skills. In the end, everything was resolved and I owe a big thanks to the people who helped me.

Dropping the humidifier into your crib AS YOU ARE SLEEPING in said crib. Luckily I didn’t drop it ON you. Water went everywhere. You were napping and startled awake when the humidifier hit the mattress, but went right back to sleep and didn’t move an inch while the water soaked your entire backside before I could pick you up. Turns out the first time that plastic baby mattress came in handy was because of mommy, not AJ.

And last but not least, you have no clean pajamas or towels at the moment.

As you can see AJ, I’m navigating this new life just like you are. But despite my mishaps, I think we make a pretty good team. And most importantly, please know I am trying my very hardest to be the best mommy to you that I can be!

Love,

Mommy