From lead poisoning to adventure: our family's got a serious case of wanderlust

October 15 | Guest post by Jessica McCloud
Photos by Jessica.
I'm trying to figure out how to fit all our stuff (and newly acquired stuff) into our little Honda CRV, lil S is running around with the dog and dahma (grandma), and we are about to head out on the open road to see the dad and aunty who are working there. It's funny, really… seven months ago we were in North Carolina, having just moved out of our apartment and finished locking up all our belongings in storage. We traveled down here with our dad/partner who had to leave after a week to venture out for new work opportunities on the West Coast. Back then, I had no idea how everything would work out.

And guess what?

I still don't know how everything is going to work out.

We're still all locked up in storage.

We're still living out of suitcases and carrying around only the basic (cute) essentials and art supplies.

We're still separated from our patriarch.

But now — now I am not scared, frustrated, nor angry.

Okay, I'm still a little angry from time to time when things come up regarding new information from our lawyer (we're dealing with a case of lead poisoning at our former home) and how rotten our ex-landlords are being now. Yes, as new info comes down the email or voicemail pipeline, I get all Hulk Mom Smash, and then I get on with things because I have to. For me, for her, for us.

As I pack all our things up again and try to fit it Tetris style into our SUV and keep a positive outlook for our travel across the Southeastern parts of the US… again… I now have a renewed sense of peace and purpose. Not to say that I lost my purpose along the way, but everything can become really convoluted and confusing when you're trying to bounce around living with family members, make sure that your little is maintaining good health, make sure that you are maintaining good health, and figure out your next moves.

Unlike seven months ago, when the thought of not having full access to all our STUFF and THINGS would have given me hives (like for reals), now I'm working with what we have and living with less. And you know what? You can always have less than what you think you need.

We are definitely fully living in a QUALITY vs QUANTITY mode right now, and it feels great. Now, if you saw how absolutely overstuffed our car is for travel you would think we were more focused on the quantity side, but really that's just because I chose to travel with three pretty large items that take up a lot of room: my large suitcase, her large fancy stroller, and the Pack 'n Play/small suitcase combo. Those three pretty much take up the entire back of our CRV trunk area. Which leaves me to carefully Tetris in the remaining items we travel with: toiletries, shoes, toys, hanging bags of clothes, shoes, games, toys, food stuffs, travel high chair, shoes, toys, books-books-books, electronics, art supplies, bedding, and oh yeah — toys.

We got on the road again and our four and a half hour drive to Nashville took seven. Honestly, I'm surprised it didn't take longer. By the time we got to the hotel I was concerned about our ten-hour drive ahead of us. I really wanted to get us to our family and did not want to stay at another hotel nor wake up to another sunrise without our partner/dad. So in my mind I just kept saying, "Jess, you got this. Just do the whole drive."

I haven't slept this good since before I was pregnant.

The next day we set out. Our drive was pretty uneventful. We did it and we made it to St Louis just in time to see this:

Minus the blurriness of the photo that I pulled over on the side of Kings Highway to take, hows that for a beautiful picture? And this is absolutely no filter of any kind. Those pinks, purples, whites, and blues just punch me in eyeballs with beauty. There's a lot of good things I can say about the Midwest, even with my Negative Nelly 'tude against Chicago, but one of the top things I love about Mid America are the sunsets. They are paintings are they not?

As we made our way through this beautiful sunset and out of St Louis proper, I started feeling the heavy food coma setting in and started thinking, "Hmm, maybe we should stop. Maybe another 5 plus hours in the car isn't a good idea." Then we passed a sign for "Ashleyville." Then we passed not one but two Ashley furniture places. Then I found a drive through coffee and my receipt total was $7.77. Then we hunkered down and took six hours to drive from St Louis to Topeka Kansas and to our partner/dad.

So yes, we made it.

And now we are with our family and we are happy.

And we are sleeping better than ever.

Imagine that.

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  1. What a beautiful story! So often we just put our heads down and go, missing the beauty in the world. Also, Yeah for new adventures!!!!!

    2 agree
    • Thank you so much Stephanie. This is just a snippet of what the past 11 months have been like, but we've stayed strong and focused always putting our daughter's health first. And now we're getting ready to have a home again. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  2. Heyyyy. Awesome ladies, I didn't know if our story would publish after the big presto chango to Offbeat Home, but here it is 🙂 Meep Meep!

    Thanks a bunch.

    And a quick update: just in the past week we have secured full time work back in Chicago, found a great (and healthy) apartment to live in, and are packing up to head on back. I also fell only a week after being in Kansas and have been on crutches here…with a toddler…..and a mate who's working 15 hr shoot days on this show…..but WE ARE GONNA HAVE A HOME AGAIN! Yip yip yippee!

    Now. The next adventure will be fitting all of our stuff into a smaller space…..hmm…

    2 agree
      • Thanks so much Odille.
        It has been quite the journey since Dec 2012 when we found out our daughter was being lead poisoned by our home. But, here we are about to go back and start anew. Woo hoo! Anywayd, thanks for reading.

        • How exactly was your daughter being "lead poisoned by [y]our home"? Lead doesn't emit fumes unless it's being heated to extreme temperatures. She'd have to eat lead paint in large quantities in order to get sick. Unless the plumbing still consisted of lead pipes?

          Sorry if it's a rude question, but I grew up helping my parents restore our Victorian home, and then we helped extended family as well. I was scraping and stripping lead paint from the age of 4 to about 11, without ever getting lead poisoning. So I'm kinda curious.

          • Kids may absorb more lead in their GI tract than adults. And it's not only through eating paint chips- those paint chips break down into dust over time which is in the air, carpet, cracks in the floorboards, etc. Even if you clean well! So you can inhale the dust, and babies probably gets more exposure from doing normal baby things like crawling and putting everything in their mouths. And I'm pretty sure that any time there is lead paint removal, especially with sanding, you should wear a mask to avoid inhaling the lead dust.
            There is a difference between acute lead poisoning, which is a high dose at one time, which I believe is rare. The more common form of lead poisoning is chronic exposure to lower levels, but the lead accumulates in your body. A lot of lead poisonings cases are determined by blood levels, rather than symptoms. I don't know what type of lead poisoning her daughter had.

            2 agree
          • Firstly, it's not rude at all for you to ask. If you seem to have a different type of experience with a similar subject, then I think it's totally great to be curious.

            Secondly, lead poisoning is way, way, way on the rise now. I was not aware of this till our own situation occurred. Every major US city has some type of 'healthy homes' initiative with regards to lead.

            Thirdly, you don't get lead poisoning by eating paint chips. That's a fallacy that was created by the paint industry so that they could shirk responsibility. If you go to leadsafeamerica.org you will see exactly what I'm talking about.

            To make this short, because I know you're not asking for our life story here, I lived in a "vintage gut rehab" in Chicago for 6 years. At my daughter's one year wellness visit they tested for lead content in her blood (because of all the old buildings in Chicago they automatically test for this now). Her BLL came back at a 15 which is 3 times the highest amount the CDC allows for a child to have in their bloodstream. She did not have any 'signs' of lead poisoning up to that checkup, she was fully walking by 10 months and seeming to develop as normal although a bit on the small side.

            This high level triggered a case with the City of Chicago and health authorities. And after private inspectors and city inspectors inspected our home, there was lead paint and VARNISH everywhere. The worst areas were our back and front porches, but we were shocked to find that lead was also in all that beautiful old woodwork.

            Additionally, our entire basement was lead paint and our gas forced furnace was down there, so we'd been breathing it in for years along with all the other particulates of having brick duct work that had not been rehabbed with the apartment.

            All this was in our big, beautiful, gut rehabbed, pretty pricey, nice two flat in a decent neighborhood of Chicago. And now,we know what to look for as we are heading back there next month.

  3. Way to go! Happy to see the update in the comments too.

    Two questions:
    1) the feminist in me is curious about "partner/patriarch". By definition, wouldn't patriarch preclude partner?

    2) I've always wondered why people blur out their license plates in photos (even including when selling cars, as an aside, when in California the plates stay on the car)! Could you explain what you felt the risk was in having the actual plate # on the post?

    I know these are tangential but hey, Ariel said to treat the site as if it is a forum 🙂

    2 agree
    • Morgan,

      Happy to answer questions.
      Re. Patriarch/Partner

      Honestly, I have a whole bag full of terms I call Ashley and I. We aren't married but have been friends for 20 years andwhen I say "Ashley my partner" people assume I'm a lesbian (no worries there) but then I have to explain how HE is Scout's dad and how Ashley is originally a male name and blah blah blah. In this specific post (which is longer on my site) I was delerious from traveling and wanted a weirdo grandiose title to be funny more than trying to confuse people between patriarch and partner. We joke around about patriarch and matriarch etc.. unfortunately it didn't translate (sad trombone).

      Re. License Plate, I was asked to do that because I'm here on location while Ash works on this tv show and we have to keep a "low profile" Also…we're on the lamb from the cops. Nah, j/k. 🙂

      2 agree
      • We use 'patriarch' and 'man-of-the-house' a lot, too.

        It's 99.9% jokey, since everyone knows who wears the pants in this family ifyouknowwhatI'msaying.

        That being said, if I get to be the proud mama/matriarch of our little family, there's no reason he shouldn't get to be the proud papa/patriarch.

        I don't see why the word patriarch has to be a synonym for opression and male dominance.

        …Plus we live in Indonesia, which *is* a cultural patriarchy. I enjoy shirking off unpleasant duties to him by declaring that he's the man of the house, so it's more culturally appropriate if he does it. You know, when in Rome… 😉

        1 agrees
        • That's exactly the point: "everyone knows who wears the pants in this family". I don't know the author and neither do 99.9% of the readers on this site (to borrow your statistic).

          The word 'patriarch' has a connotation to it because it is a word that has been used to describe oppression and male dominance for thousands of years, and only very recently has it changed meaning to sometimes mean something jokey as in the way you use it. And for some people, many people actually, and probably many in Indonesia as well, the word "patriarchy" still retains its original context. People often think words can be removed from their histories and their contexts; I had students to whom I gave detentions for disdainfully saying, "that's so gay" use the excuse that "well I clearly didn't mean 'homosexual' and I didn't mean it as an insult to homosexuals, so that's not what the word means. I get to use it however I want." Although we may wish language worked like that, it doesn't. Words, particularly old words, gain contexts and connotations through time. We can't pick and choose which parts of a word's meaning we like and use them like that.

          Proud mama and matriarch are not the same. Proud papa and patriarch are not the same. Those words, matriarchy and patriarchy, imply singular dominance and privilege for one person or one sex (regardless of how we feel like using those words, their historical and even present-day context indicates this is so).

          I'm not saying it's not ok to joke about such things. I simply asked a question about why she chose the word, and she explained it as a joke that may have fallen flat for people who don't know her. Your joke, similarly, is for people who know you and for people in your culture who appreciate a dominant male figure as head of the household. And the rest of what I wrote above helps people see why words with contexts do matter- they don't have to be "synonyms for oppression", but they do have history that can't be separated from their meaning.

          Language is something we can all be responsible for.

          3 agree
          • Thanks Morgan.
            Everything you wrote above is spot on.
            And honestly, had I had a chance to to preview this very edited down version of my piece I would of changed a number of things and seen that the 'joke' didn't work especially in this context. But I didn't, so there you go. And the real root of me using patriarch in this piece at all comes from us being separated as a family for 20 weeks and ready to hand over the toddler-care to the dad so I could take a friggin nap already. Again, joke didn't work, you guys don't know me, and I'm glad you asked the question 🙂

            1 agrees
        • Thanks Samantha for getting the joke, even though it wasn't clear. Indonesia?! Wow, how is it living over there? How long are you all going to stay there? Like forever ever? Do you have other mom friends there? Wow lady, that must be such an adventure for you all.

          I only ask all the nosy questions because since all this lead business started and we left our home and have been bouncing around, it can be very isolating and I'm still in the same country as a lot of my friends and family. Anyways, thanks for reading this little snippet 🙂

          1 agrees
          • Hi, Jess!

            We've been in Indonesia for around five years now — we did a couple of guest posts about our life here for OBH&L: http://offbeathome.com/tag/indonesia (Those are all me, except for the pangsit one.)

            Basically we're here for the … forseeable future. It won't be forever — at some point we'll repatriate (or move somewhere else) but we're pretty comfortable here for the time being!

            We have our own little business (Percolate Galactic!) and the cost of living is *so* much cheaper than in the States, so unless something shifts in the American economy to make us believe we'd have a better quality of life there than we do here … we'll stay here!

            We moved here knowing no one, but now we have a great circle of friends/chosen family, a group made up of a pretty even mix of American expats, expats from other countries around the world, and local Indonesians.

            It's weird — we are very rarely homesick for the States (that passed long ago). Now we're at the point where when we visit the States, we feel homesick for Indonesia! …Perpetually stuck between two places, I guess.

            Oh, and I'm not a 'real' mom — just mom to two stray dogs and one stray cat that were rescued by this kick-ass animal rescue organization called Jakarta Animal Aid Network.

            We're in the (very slooooow!) process of considering an Indonesian adoption, and that's something that would also probably trigger a move back to the States…

            The quality of education and health care is so much better in the States — it's not a huge issue for me as a healthy 32-year-old woman, but we'd want to make sure that our (hypothetical) child had the best health care and education possible, so that would probably necessitate a move back to the States… or somewhere else with more modern infrastructure. But that's a whole different blog post! 🙂

            Anyways, I'm always happy to answer any questions people have — I know lots of people are curious about living abroad and stuff, so don't be shy — feel free to ask away!

            Sam

          • Wow Sam, that's awesome! Good for you guys. And IMO, a mama to furry babies is still a mama, granted you can leave them alone more than a human child but I've seen some maternal love stronger for animals than people's own children (geeze that sounds kinda depressing) but you get my point.

            And I understand about the adoption thing, not for us personally but some good friends moved to Vietnam about 2 years ago so they could start the process and eventually come back here to the states. They said its about a 5-7 year process. So, I wish you two all the luck in the world if/when you start on that path.

            I read and commented on your butt hose post too, hilarious. The whole post (which I know is from like forever ago) and all the comments had me thoroughly entertained whilst I was trapped under a sleeping teething toddler, so thanks for the direction to read it!

            Yeah, we have dreams to pack it all in and sail around the world with our family. Luckily, Ash is a sailor and I'm good at organizing a lot of stuff into small spaces. Right now though we are heading back to Chicago for his three year contract with a TV show there, which is great especially given our very wonky past 11 months but I also was really ready to be done with Chicago. Ahhh life. You just gotta roll with it. The most important thing is that our little girl is getting healthier and her lead levels have dropped dramatically since we left our old place. And she's doing great, no real signs of being effected by the lead exposure, and we only hope that continues 🙂

            Do you keep a blog too or just post here on Offbeat?

            1 agrees

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