Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Everyday: Volume 12...

It's been another good week on the home front :)

Our Easter plants are growing (and might be tossed soon)...

but the grass on the other side of the window is not!

We made a few desserts for a Church function: German Chocolate Upside Down Cake, Hello Dollies, and Chocolate Chip cookies!

The boys didn't disappoint...

 and a new one joined the club...

Then it was 80 degrees yesterday and we played outside all.day.long.

However, Peter was a bit apprehensive (the sprinkler was attacking him).

 John Paul enjoyed it...

And the older two helped me start getting the garden ready to plant.

Finding some old carrots (and feeding them to Sugarfoot!).

Carter slept through naps and nights for three nights and he got to go pick out some balloons with Daddy.

I'm not sure if there is anything that brings this boy as much joy as a balloon!

Peter ended his day with a piece of strawberry pie (or two) from Aunt Sammie.

He was in Heaven...

and literally licked his plate.

A close-up of the battle wound from a fall on the road.

We've been moving cattle, praying for rain, enjoying the warmth and loving life!  Thankful for these days :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

The What Ifs...

Do you ever wonder, "What If..."?

I've found myself thinking about the past a lot lately.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I decided to go to college in MA rather than run for National FFA office.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed in DC a bit longer.  Sometimes I wonder what I would be doing now had I taken grad school a bit more seriously.  I even wonder if I would have liked Norman, OK more had I not been working for a child abuse response center.

I will never know.   I didn't go to Harvard.  I left DC before I'd even been there a year.  During the first semester of grad school, my grandfather passed away and I never could quite get back into the swing of things.  After seeing child after child who had been physically or sexually abused (some four years old and younger), I couldn't trust anyone in that new town.

I don't think back and wish my life would have taken a different route.  And, rarely do I regret any decisions made.  However, what I often wish is that I could replay some of the events...not to choose something other than what I did, but more so, to respond to life in a different way.  I feel like in every situation mentioned (and many others unmentioned), I have been planning for a new day instead of living in that very day.

I couldn't really choose a college path until I knew what was going to happen with National FFA office.  Why get really involved with school if I was just going to have to take a year off to serve with FFA?  I stayed in my dorm, almost the entire first semester, preparing to run for office (when I wasn't in class) instead of getting involved in all that Texas A&M had to offer.  When November rolled around, I wasn't elected.  And, I came back to a school of 40,000+ where I really hadn't made a place.  The future I was living for didn't come to pass, and I seemed to have wasted a lot of the present along with an opportunity to establish a good start my first semester away from home.
In DC, I loved most every minute.  I worked long hours and stayed out with friends many nights of the week.  If I wasn't giving tours, I was going to neat events, and being in awe of my surroundings.  However, I quickly began to see the environment in which I worked (where children new their au pairs better than their mamas) wasn't one I wanted to be in forever.  I could see myself getting "addicted" to the thrills of The District life and suddenly thought, "I better get out" because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  At 23, I left DC, without a real plan, without a boyfriend, and without a true reason.  When I could have stayed on a bit longer, enjoying an opportunity of a lifetime, I convinced myself that I needed to "get out while I could."

Grad school...I basically gave up.  I got through the classes and graduated in an average position.  There again, I didn't know what I was going to do with a master's in public administration.  I thought the nonprofit world would be interesting, but I was buying time until I could be a mom (something I didn't know was for certain).  I went to class and then home to study.  I rarely interacted with many of my classmates.  I didn't take advantage of the unbelievable speaker series hosted by the school.  I did what I needed to do in order to get by fairly well.  Sure, some classes I put more effort into, thus getting more out of.  However, I did it half-way.  I wasn't me and who I knew I needed to be...but a lazy, unhappy version of myself.

I did find a job in the nonprofit arena...doing development work for a child abuse response agency in Oklahoma.  It was my job to secure funding.  It started well.  I loved the grant-writing.  Every day got a bit tougher.  I was in a new community, and I was tasked with making myself known in order to gain support for our organization.  With every new child that walked in that door, having been abused, I grew more and more leery of the community.  I began to not trust anyone.  I saw so much more of the evil side of communities/people than I ever knew existed.  While there was so much good to be found, instead of finding it, I stayed in my safe haven of home with my new husband and rarely ventured out for work, much less play.  I failed to do my job well, once again.  Worrying what different situations may arise, I did "good enough" to get by while hoping for a career change in the not-too-distant future.

Blah blah blah.  All of that to say, I'm a wife and mom now.  I get to stay home with my kids!  And, every single one of those experiences helped shape me.  I just wish I could do things a bit differently.  Would I have loved Harvard?  Who knows.  I do know that I grew to love Texas A&M...enough to go back!  And, I have the best friends from my time there.  Would I have stayed in DC longer if I wasn't so future-thinking?  Maybe. I do know I would have enjoyed it more.  Would it have been a better experience at grad school had I graduated at the top of my class?  Probably not.  But, if I would have put just a tiny bit more into it, I would have felt better about it today.  Would I have made it in the nonprofit area of child abuse response?  No.  I am so thankful there are people who are gifted to help others in that way.  I know it wasn't for me, and I'm glad I didn't do it much longer, but I do wish I would have been a better employee while I was there.

Hindsight is 20/20, right?  I can say all of this now and not change a thing.  I can't change where I went to school or a wasted first semester.  I can't change the amount of time I spent in DC.  I can't change the experience of grad school.  And, I cannot re-do my time in Norman.  I can't go back.  In fact, I probably have learned more by the decisions I did make than others I could have made.  More than anything, I can look back to all of these situations and see them for what they're worth today.  They all scream, "Live in the now!"

Yes, it's important to be responsible and to plan for the future.  But, not so much that you completely miss the present.  Right now, I am married to the man of my dreams.  I am living out a vocation that I always hoped for.  I have three babies and each of them are a miracle.  I love my life.  Love it!

If any of those "what ifs" had happened, I might not be where I am right now.  And, I believe I am here for a reason.  That questioning has helped me grow and appreciate my life just as it is now.  Soon, these babies will be grown, and I'll be wishing for days where I am interrupted by tiny voices, laughing with my husband at the thoughts that can only come from a child's mind, and giving anything for a baby to be curled up on my chest.

The "what ifs" prevent us from relishing the now.  Instead, I vow to enjoy today, and all that it brings so that it doesn't soon become a "what if."

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes...

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 214)

1.  I have a love/hate relationship with Jillian Michaels.

I love the shortness of her workouts.  I love the results.  I love the energy it gives me.  I hate "making the time" to do it :)  And, sometimes I lack accountability.  Anyone up for a 30 day challenge, blogger style?

2.  Have you heard this song?  Gives me chills.

3.  The George W. Bush Presidential Library opened yesterday.  

Many of my friends' FB feeds gave updates and fun pictures as they helped in the celebration   It made me remember my times with them, and it made me regret things a bit.  Not that I worked there.  Not that I didn't stay forever.  Instead, that I wasn't more present when I was there.  I definitely lived the life in DC, and I put in my hours, but I didn't make the most of it.  I didn't do everything there was to do in DC.  I didn't live in the moment.  I was often too busy thinking "this isn't the life for me," but I was thinking of the future.  I wasn't thinking of my 23-year-old self.  I was thinking more of my married with kids self, and I didn't want to do that in DC.  However, that wasn't anywhere in sight!  I had no boyfriend at the time.  I had no plans.  I should have lived more in the now, and I would have possibly made more of the opportunities available then. Live and learn :)

4.  My aunt donated a kidney to her cousin three years ago.  

He suffered from severe diabetes, and a kidney was his only hope. Without a second thought, my selfless aunt gave one of hers away.  She gave him hope.  She epitomized selflessness.

That cousin, Craig Jr., passed away this week.  But, he was given three more years.  Three years to enjoy life, and three years to prepare for death.  He was blessed.  And, we were blessed to be bystanders in this act of love.  God rest his soul.

5.  I ordered these invitations for a shower I'm helping host next month:

Katie made them and got them shipped in two days!!  Check out her site.

6.  The "Anonymous" comments on the blog are driving me crazy :)

7.  I LOVE this talk.
I know it is long, but it is so worth it.

Read the rest of the quick takes over at Jen's blog.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sleeping Like a Baby...

Our good little Carter...
Following some great advice from my cousin, we read Babywise and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child before we had Carter.  And then we've reread it before the other two births.

Some say that it is unnatural or selfish to put your child on a sleep schedule.  I say, "It works for us!"

All three boys have slept 12 hours at night starting at 3-4 months.  And, never was there a night (from birth) without a 4-5 hour stretch.  However, it took some training!

They sleep well at others' homes.  They take great naps (for the most part).  They are happy kids.  I believe it is all a part of them being rested.

Moving on...

Our great little sleeper, Carter, became a not-so-good terrible sleeper a few months ago.  Right before JP was born, he would wake up with nightmares/night terrors.  They subsided about a month later.  Then he started waking up several times a night screaming and running down the hall (past all of the other sleepers) into our room.  He would have to be settled to go back to sleep.  Finally, he started getting out of bed as soon as we'd lay him down AND waking several times a night.

Nothing in his environment had really changed.  I mean, he did have a new brother, and another brother who had dropped his nap so that Carter was never awake alone, BUT, other than those major changes, life was about the same :)  Not a ton of long days, missed naps or late bedtimes.

Also, he's almost three and has been testing boundaries   With that said, the majority of the day, he is a well-behaved kid.  At night, the story changed.  And, then, the naptime story changed.  Let's just say it went from a fairytale to a horror story in a matter of weeks.

I'm getting to the point here...

When nothing else worked ((soothing, disciplining, rewarding, incentivizing (made that up?), you name it)), we called a sleep consultant, from Strong Little Sleepers by the name of Lori Strong.  From the research I did, she seemed to be one who followed the basics of what we'd learned from the books, so we felt comfortable seeking her advice.  She changed our lives.  Literally.  

Without giving away all of her advice, we basically were told to return Carter to bed, without making eye contact, without talking, and with as little of contact as possible, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

The first few days were not great.  Some people said they would just spank him.  Others said he was going to bed too early.  Still others thought he didn't need a nap.  All trying to help the little guy, none of it was working.  It got better for a couple of days, then it got HORRIBLE.  In fact, it went a little something like this...

Naps got worse.  Night got worse.  I guess we fully started everything (without messing up) on Tuesday, the 16th.  It went from 1 hour of wakings, to 45 minutes to 30 minutes, each night.  However, each session was a bit worse in terms of actions (although shorter in time).  Then his naps started to get worse.  He started to do the same things.  Then came Friday.  I had to take the kids to my aunt's house.  My husband had a sweet lady come clean the house (part of a Christmas gift), and really, she can't get anything done when they kids are there because they want to play with her.  So, we went through the whole routine at my aunt's.  And, it was disastrous!  He got out of bed for 1.5 hours, I would say about 160 times.  And, he tried everything.  Screaming, kicking, "needing to poop", being scared, yelling that he was crying, trying to run past me and through their house, opening the bedroom door so hard that it banged the wall, scratching my face (I almost lost it), hanging on to the string on my hoodie so that it broke in half, wrapping his legs around my legs so that I had to peel him off.  Mind you, the entire time I feel terrible that I'm at my aunt's house.  He finally fell asleep for 10 minutes...and then it was time for us to go home.

That Friday night, same thing happened.  At this point in the week, we had taken all TV, candy, his new basketball goal, etc away.  Just to give you an example of his reaction:

Carter: Mom, may I have a piece of candy?
Me: No, Carter, you have to follow your rules to have candy, and you didn't.  You can have an apple.
Carter: An apple????  OH!!  I LOVE apples, thank you!

I turned on the Mass on EWTN because I said no cartoons. 
"Oh Mom, this is the best show!  I love watching this!"

His great-grandma made him his favorite cake, and it was withheld until he could follow the rules.
When we all woke up for breakfast...
"Mom, did you follow your rules?"
Me: Yes.
Carter: You need a piece of cake for breakfast!
He asked everyone, even little brother Peter, and so I set out cake for everyone.  Then he shrugged his shoulders and said:
"I didn't follow the rules, so I don't get any."

Same scenario with everything else taken away.  No fits thrown.  He just adapted (seriously???).  I was pulling my hair out, haha!  I did start to "over reward" other things so that he could see that we would follow through and that he would be rewarded.

Saturday - 10 minutes.
Sunday - 3 wake ups
Monday - 5 minutes
Tuesday - STAYED IN BED!!!! (and it has continued)
Right now he is napping and hasn't gotten up.

So, it took a full week, and then it happened!!  Everyone is amazed.  And, I am so so thankful!!

If any of you have struggled in this area, I would recommend getting in touch with Lori, bolstering up your patience, and following through with this.  Carter is finally back to "sleeping like a baby" and so are we!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Five Favorites...

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

Some of my favorite make-up products (just for fun)...

1.  Urban Decay Naked2 Palette:
Urban Decay - Naked2
What more do you need?

2.  Giorgio Armani Mascara
eyes to kill mascara

A gift from my cousin, and I LOVE it.  It isn't super thick, yet it does the trick!

3.  Smashbox Photo Finish Primer


Makes a world on difference in how smooth your foundation goes on.

4.  MAC Paintpot:

 Paint Pot

I use Painterly as a base and Constructivist almost daily.

5.  Bobbi Brown Lip Balm

I haven't found anything that helps as good as this in our dry environment!

They aren't the least expensive products, and I don't always use all of them, but they are a fun treat!

Head on over to Hallie's blog for more favorites!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Our Everyday: Volume 11...

Our everyday has been a little crazy lately.  Whose hasn't?  In our cooking/baking adventures, I haven't gotten a ton of pictures.  In fact, sometimes I've just gotten a pic of the ingredients, and that's fun ;)  

Regardless, here's what we've been spending part of our days doing...

Those were shared with the cousins. 

Last Sunday, we had Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes, thanks to RoRo and Sean.  Honestly, I wasn't too sure I wanted to try them at first.  But, the bacon was so subtle, and added just the right touch of saltiness...delicious.  

Carter loved making them...

Then we wanted to make one of RoRo's favorite treats for her birthday:  Caramels. (this recipe is from the second and third batch I tried). 

Peter has joined our cooking club...

Carter helping to line the pans (we don't wear pants around here)...

Getting all of the ingredients ready...

Making sure it was getting to the right temp...

and discovering it wasn't!

I didn't realize that altitude affects the temperature you should reach for candy making, and I am sure I did something else wrong too.  The first batch turned out like a Werther's hard candy.  The next like a Sugar Daddy.  The third like a REALLY chewy caramel.  But, all tasted great.  I guess we'll have to try again another day.  We sent the third batch to RoRo.  Any takers on the kinds that might pull a filling out???  We have a ton!

Then it was on to our weekly batch of granola, that I found via Maria...

and a bit of a spill...

before we added the Raisins...
We sent a little batch to our cousins in Colorado.

Then we made some mac n' cheese for a funeral meal...

Peter really wanted to eat the uncooked noodles...

Finally, we had some blue cornbread with some stew on a cold day this week, and the boys were right by my said to whip it up...

I have great little helpers!

We also sold a few cows, went to visit Aunt Schammie (Sammie), helped Aunt Whitney prepare for a new baby and worked on Carter's sleeping issues (holy moly).  Tomorrow we're off to well-checks and then onto a funeral.  Life has been busy and so full.