Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ah, Christmas!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I love the lights, the decorations, the music, and just the magic that seems to fill the air this time of year. I love finding that perfect gift for someone and then watching their expression as they open it. I love the traditions we have started with our children.  I love baking Christmas cookies and candy with them, sipping hot cocoa while we watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and other Christmas classics.  It's just a fun time of year.

It is also a very hypocritical time of year. This thought has occurred to me over the years, but is becoming more apparent because of a certain 8-year-old gremlin.  So many shout about how Christmas' sole purpose is to celebrate Jesus' birth.  They talk about putting the "Christ" back in Christmas.  The sad fact is that most of the people shouting about the "Christ" in Christmas (NOT everyone, but A LOT) are the same ones who have actually removed Christ from the equation with their hypocrisy.  Were you really following Christ's birth you would give to those in need.  You would remember that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish.  Hmmm . . . so would he be celebrating Christmas or, perhaps, Hanakkuh (As you shout about not saying Happy Holidays because it offends you).

You put up Christmas trees in your home, which derives from the Winter Solstice, which is (gasp) a Pagan holiday. Snowmen, reindeer, Santa, elves, gingerbread men, wreaths, Christmas lights . . . all fun, all pretty, and all have absolutely nothing to do with Christ's birth. Taking it a step farther, your church has a Christmas Eve service so that you and your family, (who, don't forget, shout about keeping the Christ in Christmas) can go worship and, dare I say, CELEBRATE Christ's birth.  You don't go, though.  You, instead, take 5 minutes to read the Christmas story and then toss the book aside and say, "Who wants to pass out presents?"

People get loans to pay for things that their children don't need, yet when we see someone who is truly in need, we turn away and claim we can't afford to help.  I once read that if you truly believe that Christmas is about Jesus' birth, then you should be giving a lot away.  If you have two coats give one of them to someone who doesn't have a coat.  We gather with families and set out more food than we can all eat.  Sadly, a lot of that food gets thrown away while so many (in our own communities) are going hungry.

You want Christ to be in Christmas but when people ask you to give you puff out your chest and argue that you work hard for your money and instead of you following Jesus' example and giving, they should just get jobs.  Well, okay, you're entitled to your opinion, but what about that 6-year-old girl who comes home from school and goes to bed hungry because there is no food?  Or that 11-year-old boy who never wears a coat because his mom couldn't afford to buy him one?

We shout about keeping Christ in Christmas, yet we are the first ones to remove him by our selfish actions and comments. To those of you who speak of keeping Christ in Christmas and you give of your time, you give money, you serve, you help and you try to follow Christ's example -- thank you.  To those who shout about keeping Christ in Christmas, yet, you yourself do NOT keep Christ in Christmas, let me just remind you that you are the example for our children . . . WE are the example for our children.

I have an 8-year-old who is very observant and thinks about everything.  He has started asking me why certain people he is around talk about God and giving, but they do the opposite.  He has really made us think -- and notice other's actions. I encourage us all to practice what we preach.  Remember . . . the world is watching.  What is it they see when they look at you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Than Okay

We got out of the van after school and I noticed that my soon-to-be 10-year-old's shoes were untied.  The strings were just waving and bouncing all over the place, just begging to be stepped on so they could trip their wearer.  He started walking towards the building and I said, "Wait!  Your shoes are untied."  He said, "Yeah, I know.  They've been like this all day."  It was one of those moments when I stood there trying to get my "mom brain" to decode what my child was saying.  He stared at me waiting for a response.  Finally, I asked, "Well, why didn't you tie them?"  He rolled his eyes and said, "I don't know how."  I'll admit, I laughed.  I said, "You DO know how to tie your shoes."  He sighed and said, "Yeah, but it's hard."  WHAT? (In his defense, it IS hard, but . . . and I mean this with all the love in my heart . . . SO WHAT!)  I said, "Oh, it's hard.  Okay. So, you're just not going to do it because it isn't easy for you?  When did you start this?"  He shrugged his shoulders, turned away from me and started walking toward the building again.

As a parent, do you ever have days when you realize that you're sighing . . . A LOT?

As we walked my 3-year-old tried to strip.  Lifting her dress and revealing her Ariel pull-ups.  A woman with a perfectly dressed little boy gave me a look of disgust as I walked with my daughter who was practicing her stripping routine and my son who refused to tie his shoes.  She nodded towards Kaitlyn and said, "How old is she?"  I said, "She just turned 3."  The woman said, "Really?  And she's still in pull-ups."  I stopped, forcing Kaitlyn to stop and causing Logan to bump into me.  I looked this mom right in the eyes and said, "Yes, she turned 3 on Friday and sadly turning 3 didn't miraculously make her potty trained."  The woman glared at me.

Why do we, as parents, put so much of our energy into caring about what other parents are doing wrong (or what we think they are doing wrong).  Some days it seems as if we WANT other parents to fail. It's as if we wait for it and then, at their lowest, most overwhelming and exhausted point we jump out, point a finger, and shout, "Ah-ha!"  Some parents actually LOOK for fault in other parents.  Why?  If you have children you KNOW it isn't easy.  Not every family situation is the same and we are all just trying to keep our kids alive and ensure that they make it to adulthood.  So often, instead of encouragement, frazzled and exhausted parents are met with judgement and criticism.

As we walked away her son, who had to have been 5 or 6, pulled a pacifier out of his pocket and plopped it into his mouth. In a flustered voice she snapped, "Put that away until we get home!"  I smiled a Grinch-y smile because, well, it just proved that no matter how great of a parent you think you are, none of us are perfect . . . and our kids aren't perfect either.  We should be encouraging each other, helping each other, and giving each other support.  Let's remember to laugh when our child laughs so hard that he shoots soda out of his nose and then falls to the floor screaming, "It burns!  It burns!" in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  We are all doing the best we can and YOU are doing a great job!  Let's spend more time encouraging each other as parents and less time judging and criticizing.  Our kids are doing okay . . . and we are doing more than okay!  We should remind each other of that from time to time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Selfishness Is Ugly

I listened as a friend shared how she had given up a few things in order to save up money to get a gift for a family member.  She was proud of the gift and couldn't wait to give it.  She later told me that the gift was received with much less excitement than she had hoped and that the person later mentioned that she had asked for something else and was disappointed that she didn't get it.  Sadly, I can remember doing this exact same thing to people as a teenager or in my early 20s.  However, when you're in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s . . . etc. you should be well past this "Me, me, me," mentality. I think back on selfish moments I had as a young adult and I feel embarrassed.  Meanwhile, people twice my age are out there still doing it and not giving it a second thought.  Wow.  I just don't get that!

Where have we, as humans, gone wrong?  So many put so much time and energy into material things and their own selfish nature. Let me state that there are no laws forcing people to give you gifts for any holiday or occasion and there are certainly no laws stating that people are to give you only what you ask for. My heart went out to this friend who had gone without and saved her money to get this gift for someone only to be met with a callous heart and a twisted sense of entitlement.  Sadly, the world is full of people like this.  The above story probably reminded each of you of at least one person you know who behaves in this manner.  We tell our children that they don't get everything they want, yet there are adults who expect to get everything they want.  But wait . . . there's more!  You go out of your way to try and keep these people happy -- to do whatever it is they want (to feed their selfish nature, so to speak) . . . and they don't see it.  Instead, it wasn't EXACTLY what they wanted or exactly the way they wanted it.  They are sure to let you know about it or make you feel bad about it. There is nothing like going out of your way to try and keep another person happy -- putting their feelings before your own -- only to have them be hateful to you and treat you badly because even though you went out of your way FOR THEM, you didn't do it the exact way they wanted it done and therefore, you failed.  It was a waste of your time; a waste of energy.

Jacob and I often talk about how every person should experience a time in his or her life of being broke.  A time when you manage to pay all of your bills and then try to get that remaining little bit of your paycheck to stretch enough to feed your family until the next paycheck comes through. I think most people have experienced such a time in their lives -- I know we have.  I am thankful for this time.  It is, quite possibly, one of the best things that could have happened to us.  "Why is that?" you ask.  This brings me back to us putting our selfish nature before other people. Humans are selfish; it's just our nature. Put something shiny in front of us and we drool and start calling it, "My precious!" We want what we want and we don't care who we hurt to get it.  Sadly, some people hurt others without even knowing it. They push people away with their selfishness and (here's the funny part) they're too selfish to even notice!  (Some don't even realize this blog is about them! LOL)

I was sitting in a waiting room yesterday with my three gremlins waiting for Logan's glasses to be repaired when Logan and Kaitlyn started fighting over a toy. Alex, growing increasingly annoyed with his siblings, said to Logan, "Just give it to her."  Logan snapped, "I'm making something and I need it."  Alex, after hearing me say this so many times to them, said, "Do you REALLY need it?  You need oxygen.  You need water.  Do you really NEED that toy?"  Logan sighed and said, "No," and handed the toy to Kaitlyn.  We often get what we need and what we want confused.  Logan is an 8-year-old boy, so it's to be expected.  Adults who act in this manner are the ones who baffle me. My kids NEED to eat. My kids NEED clothes and shelter and clean water.  They don't NEED the latest video game system.  They don't NEED a room full of toys.  As an adult I don't NEED a brand new car or a giant house.  When did we lose sight of the difference between need and want?   When did we become so selfish and start putting our own wants before the feelings of others?

Look at the people in your life.  When your day comes to walk through life's exit door what will they say about you?  I am not perfect.  I don't pretend to be perfect.  I am, however, trying diligently to teach my children to put others before themselves. I'm trying to teach my children the difference between what they need and what they want.  I'm also trying to teach them to be caring, loving, understanding, and helpful.  This is what the world needs.  It has met its quota of hateful, selfish, critical people.

Let's all go do something nice for some one else today!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beauty In The Chaos

The house is quiet.  You're sound asleep, exhausted from the day's events.  Suddenly, the silence is shattered by your toddler's cries.  The mommy gene immediately kicks in and you jump out of bed faster than a Cheetah chasing it's dinner. You hurry down the hall to your child's room and she is sitting in her bed crying.  "It's okay, baby," You say in a soothing voice.  "What's wrong?"  In a weepy tone she says, "Chickmunks."  You're "Oh, baby, it's okay," face quickly turns into an "are you kidding me, here, kid?" face.  "No, sweetie, you can't watch the Chipmunks.  It's bed time.  You need to go to sleep."  In a beautiful and perfect world your child would smile at you and say, "Okay, mommy," roll over, and go back to sleep. Let's face it, this world is far from perfect and a toddler awake in the middle of the night rarely equals beautiful.  Her mouth opens wide and you brace yourself for the horrible sound you know is coming. She screams as if you are trying to hurt her, "CHICKMUNKS!"  You sigh and lovingly rub her arm. "No.  It's bedtime," you tell her.  Her screaming quiets and you breathe a prayer of thanks that she has calmed down, hasn't woken up her father or brothers, and is going back to sleep. She looks up at you and in a pitiful little voice says, "Candy?"  Ugh. "No, honey, you can't have candy.  It's 1:00 in the morning.  You need to go to sleep."  Oh no!  Here it comes again.  Her mouth forms a frown and then quickly opens, widening, and suddenly your ears are ringing.  She is screaming again.  "CANDY!"  Really?  "Okay, kiddo. That's it.  You may not watch TV.  You may not have candy.  You MAY, however, go to sleep like a good girl. You can watch Chipmunks tomorrow.  Okay?"  You breathe a sigh of relief as her mouth closes, she wipes her eyes and nods. "Hug and kiss," she says.  You lean down and hug her. "One, two, three," she says.  You say, "Okay, one . . ." (she laughs) "two . . . three!" At three she opens her arms wide, releasing her hug and smiles up at you.  You place her favorite stuffed animal by her side and tuck her in.  Then you hurry back to your own warm bed.

You had just fallen asleep when you hear, "Mom?  Mom!"  You jerk awake and look around the room.  Your son is standing beside you, obviously upset.  You jump out of bed again and quickly lead him out of the room so he doesn't wake his father.  Once you're out of the room you ask him what is wrong.  "I had a bad dream," he says as he cries. You go to the living room, sit on the couch, you hold him and say, "Okay, tell me about it."  He tells you every little detail. When he is finished you explain that it was only a dream and a cow walking around on two feet, breaking into children's rooms, and stealing their piggy banks will never happen. Once he is calmed down and smiling you walk him back to his room, tuck him in, kiss his forehead and say, "I love you,"  He says, "I love you, too, mom," and rolls over to go to sleep.  You walk down the hall to your room, and climb back into your bed again.

Not long after you drift off the alarm goes off.  You sigh and slowly crawl out of bed, like a sloth trying to get out of a tub of peanut butter. You stumble down the hall, past the living room to the coffee bar where you pour yourself a cup of coffee.  The first cup is always the best.  You hold your warm mug in both hands and breathe it in, feeling the steam hit your face.  You take a sip and savor it.  The house is quiet. 

The moment doesn't last.  In the distance is a rumbling sound.  You freeze, listening.  There it is again.  Is that thunder?  Suddenly a loud boom echoes through the sky (and through the house).  All three children are now awake nearly 2 hours before they are supposed to be. The toddler is crying, obviously frightened, and keeps saying, "It's raining!" The middle child asks if he can get in bed with his brother because he's scared.  The oldest child says, "No, let's not do that.  I'm up.  Mom, can we just watch TV in our room?"  You shrug your shoulders.  "Sure,"  The boys run back to their room and you put a movie in for you toddler.  She then requests chocolate milk and a Pop Tart and her blankie, of course. Finally, she is happy.  You hurry back to your coffee and take another sip.  Yup, it's going to be another long day. 

I plan to embrace every minute of it (even the earthquakes)! Here's to all the awesome super moms out there!  Have a SUPER weekend! (Come on!  You KNOW you've earned it!) 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happiness Through Thanksgiving

The older I get the more empathy and thankfulness seem to be dying.

Yesterday morning we heard a man talk about how we should do things without grumbling and complaining.  Wise words!  We all know people who are constantly complaining.  Jacob and I have always taught our children to be thankful for what they have.  No, we don't live in the nicest neighborhood in town (which, honestly, is fine with me). We don't live in a big, fancy house (again  . . . I'm okay with that).  However, we DO have a roof over our heads.  We have food on our table.  We don't sleep on the floor because we have beds; we even have blankets and pillows. My children have clean clothes and shoes.  Indoor plumbing?  Yup, we have that too.  Clean drinking water, fresh air, heating and air conditioning . . . the list goes on and on. We take a lot of things for granted, people!  We have so many things that people in other parts of the world (some right here in our own country) don't have and yet, we pout and complain because we think we deserve more.  Why?  We have what we need and them some!

Children have to be reminded from time to time that not only can they not have EVERYTHING they want, but they also need to stop and take time to be thankful for ALL that they have. I do not want to raise children who expect everything they want and feel depressed when they don't get it. That is no way to live -- and we only have one life. There is so much more to life than the amount of stuff you have! I want my children to look around and see all the things in which they have been blessed. They live in a society that focuses on material gain.  I want my children to be content with what they have and not waste precious time grumbling about what they don't have or grumbling about some one doing something that they didn't like. The truth is that some adults are far worse than children when it comes to this.

Let's stop focusing on what we don't have and start paying more attention to all that we DO have.  Let's stop filling the air around us with constant grumbling and complaining and start finding happiness by being thankful for what we have.  Let's raise a generation of happy children who see what they have instead of what they don't have.

What are YOU thankful for today?

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” 
― Harry A. Ironside

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Life Is a Sitcom

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling exhausted, which isn't the norm for me.  I thought nothing of it, drank my coffee and dived head first into my day (because, hey, I have three kids and you seriously just have to dive in).  We did the usual hustle and bustle of breakfast and getting ready for school and once the boys were at school I came home and knocked a couple of things off my to do list. I played with Kaitlyn for a bit and then put her down for a nap.

Shortly after putting her down I started to feel really fatigued again. I did what most people do.  I shrugged my shoulders and kept doing what I was doing.  Shortly after my chest started hurting.  "It has to be heartburn or something," I thought.  I took some medicine and texted Jacob at work.  Not too long after the chest pains started my right arm started to feel weird.  It felt numb and achy and tingly all at once.  This was definitely not normal.  I texted Jacob again.  I laid on the bed and actually thought, "Am I having a heart attack?"

Jacob, now concerned, called from work.  "Do you need to go to the ER?"  he asked.  I have been to the ER so many times this year that it is really just ridiculous.  I refused to go unless I absolutely had to.  I told him that I didn't think I was having a heart attack, but something wasn't right.  I told him to just go back to work and maybe it would go away.  He was all dressed up and preparing to give a presentation and we made jokes about how it was probably just indigestion.  Not too long after he called I started feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and short of breath.  I texted Jacob again and said, "You know, this isn't right.  Maybe I should get it checked out."  He said, "I'll take you in."

And he did.  I learned that if you walk into the ER and say, "I have chest pains and my left arm feels weird," they move really quickly!  They had me hooked up to 50 different things within minutes. They took X-rays and did lab work.  My blood pressure was low, so they gave me fluids via an IV. One of the RN's came in and asked what my name was, when I told him he said, "Astley?  Like Rick Astley!" and started singing a Rick Astley song.  (It's official.  My life is a sitcom.  Sadly, I'm okay with that! LOL)  After an hour or so the doctor came back in and said, "Your heart is wonderfully healthy."  I sighed in relief.  I mean, come on!  We walk around in these bodies that we are constantly told to take care of and you never know when something is just suddenly going to go horribly wrong.

(The radiologic tech had a speech impairment.  She was sweet and very cool.  I couldn't help but think of my sweet Alex and remind myself that he really CAN do anything he wants when he grows up. He has more than speech to struggle with every day, but he is strong and determined and I KNOW he can be whatever he wants to be! I really enjoyed meeting her!)

I had a sinus infection a few weeks ago which turned into pneumonia.  Apparently, the pneumonia caused inflammation around my heart. The medical term for this is "Pericarditis."  He said that sometimes it can be so inflamed that the heart has trouble beating because it's hitting the inflamed areas, but other than that it isn't too big of a concern.  He reassured me, again, that my heart and everything else was perfectly healthy and told me what to do and what medications to take until this problem goes away.

Jacob got to spend a little extra time with Kaitlyn. We learned a new medical term and learned about a medical condition we had never heard of and I, once again, added a little excitement to our already busy and exciting lives.  This is just how we roll, people. ;)

Last night after dinner Jacob said to the kids, "Your mother is taking the whole 'in sickness and health' thing really seriously."  All I could do was try not to laugh because it was just so funny.  He should get some kind of award for having to put up with me DAILY!  He is awesome and I am so thankful to have him in my life.

Now, on to new adventures!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Diet" Is A Dirty Word!

    Well, hello there, happy eaters! I have had so many people ask me about my diet.  First of all, let me just say that in our house we don't use the term "diet."  Diet is one of those evil words that just gets people into trouble.  When you diet you cut out bad foods and eat healthy foods for a short period of time.  You get to a point where you can't stand it anymore and you binge.  It's not about dieting.  It's about a life style change. Secondly, I'm not posting this to brag, many have asked about the changes we have made in our diet and it's easier to write it in a blog than to share with each person individually. Thirdly, and quite possibly most important, I'm not judging anyone. It is not my mission to try and get others to eat better or exercise.  To each his own.  This is just a chapter in my story that I thought I'd share since so many have asked about it.

     In our house, Jacob took the lead in healthy eating last fall.  I informed him that I wasn't doing it until after Christmas because there is GOOD food around Christmastime and I didn't want to miss it.  He said, "Okay."  I enjoyed my unhealthy good food all December long and then in January it was time to get serious.  Since Jacob and I decided to make life style changes together it is much easier.  We rarely eat processed meats.  Sadly, things like bacon and deli meat are loaded with fat, salt and nitrates.  We eat meats high in protein but lower in fat--meats that are unprocessed.  We eat whole grain pasta instead of regular pasta. Bye bye white rice . . . hello whole grain rice.  We also said goodbye to salad dressings which are high in fat and calories and offer very little nutritional value. We no longer drink sodas or juice, with the exception of vegetable juice.  We go through 3 or 4 dozen eggs a week (protein, people). We eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and we have cut out cheese.  GASP!  (Did I really just say that?)  Yes, cutting out cheese, which is full of fat AND cutting out salt was one of the healthier choices we made.  NOW, we DO eat cheese from time to time, maybe once every couple of weeks, but that's it.  We get our calcium and vitamin C from other dairy products as well as vegetables. We no longer eat chips or anything that is processed (with the exception of Goldfish crackers we give to our children, of course--I can no longer stand to eat them because they taste, well, processed).  We completely changed how we eat.  We still eat out from time to time and we'll grill burgers and have fries but not every week.  These changes have not only helped us to lose weight in a healthy way, given us more energy and made us feel healthier, but it has also brought us to a point where we can't stand processed food.  Yes, it's true.  We have become "those" people. It all just tastes weird now.  Even eating out isn't as fun as it once was because everything just tastes greasy or salty.  Jacob has been doing it since October and I have been doing it since January--it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change.  Those foods I just knew I'd miss?  Yeah, I don't miss them at all.

    Along with these healthier eating habits we exercise every day. I'm up by 5:30 and I exercise.   Cardio kickboxing, jumping rope, jumping jacks, chin ups, push ups, riding the exercise bike, lifting weights--it is a stress reliever and it helps wake me up before the day starts.  I now really enjoy it.  I mean, I feel healthier . . . what's not to love.  An added bonus is that our kids are learning to eat healthy and exercise through our example.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Think Happy Thoughts

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert

      Our lives, our decisions, the very thread of our being are ruled by our emotions.  Too often the good emotions are overlooked and the negative emotions tend to control us.  When things are going well we tend to pay no attention to it; yet, when the sidewalk starts to crumble beneath our feet and the sky opens up with cold, sharp rocks of hail that sting with each forceful hit, we come to appreciate those happy times. We long for them.  We cry out and beg to have those sunshine filled days returned to us.  Life presents itself in cycles--waves of good and bad.  Each one taking it's turn--back and forth, back and forth.  We get knocked down and sometimes we feel overwhelmed as wave after wave hits us. Eventually, the waves seem to shrink and we can, once again, laugh and play in small, gentler (dare I say, "happy") waves. 

       This past year has hit my family with wave after wave. Good waves followed by bad waves--back and forth (and so goes the pattern).  We have been covered by waves of relief and happiness and then knocked down by waves of sadness and stress.  There were times when we just wanted to lean back, let the waves pull us under and give up. Life IS hard, but our negative emotions tend to make things seem even worse. Over the past year we have learned just how strong we really are. Kaitlyn had surgery and then had to have a second surgery to fix an issue with the first surgery. Jacob has lost two grandparents in the past year (well, a little over a year). Alex saw even more specialists and had some tests run by a neurologist. We received a diagnosis that we already (sort of) knew about, but it still stung when we got that phone call breathing life into our fears and concerns.  My body was feeling left out so it started having issues of it's own.  I had surgery, have been in and out of the hospital, have had many tests (with more on the way).  The medical stuff is stressful and tiring, then you get the news that everything looks okay and you breathe a sigh of relief.  The relief is short-lived when the bills start rolling in and you're struggling to budget everything in a way that will make it all work.  The list goes on and on. What a year it has been! 

      Waves of happiness exist in this scene as well. We have been met with so many good things: a new town filled with amazing new people who have accepted us as their own, befriended us, encouraged us, prayed for us, loved us, and helped us when we have needed it.  We watched Alex come to life, in a sense, over this past year. We had no rough mornings, no begging not to go to school.  We watched him thrive. We watched his personality grow and we watched him become more outgoing and more sure of himself.  I watched my husband thrive at a higher paying job at a bigger university. 

      The really cool thing I've learned is that you don't have to be a slave to your emotions (the bad ones in any case). Sure we have a ton of medical bills we're having to make payments on and money is tight. There is medical stuff going on and other things as well (such is life). It's a stressful situation and I could sit around and worry, make myself sick over it and just feel sorry for myself. What good does that do, though?  Every storm ends--things won't always be this way. but we have enough to make ends meet--enough to feed our kids.  All of our needs are met. We're healthy.  We have a roof over our heads.  We can pay our bills. Once we learn to see the positive OVER the negative, those sunshine filled days we have been longing for can come back.  

      Focus on those bright spots--big or small.  Sure, bad things happen, but let's not forget to be thankful for the many blessings in our lives! Elizabeth Gilbert said, "Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts . . . "  So, it's simple.  Think happy thoughts, people! ;)  Here's to happy lives! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Attention Friends

One thing I have learned over the past few years is that relationships change over time (as time becomes less and less available). We are in the same boat--running around like crazy people trying to keep up with life. Most are understanding, supportive and encouraging.  However there are a few who often say hurtful things or become annoyed because you (the friend) aren't contacting them enough (or you contact them one way, trying to make an effort and they get mad that you didn't contact them another way). I'm nice.  It takes a lot to make me no longer want to be nice to you.  Our lives may be the same or we may live in two completely different worlds.  I have a kid who can't play sports, who is still learning to do things that kids his age already know how to do, I have a schedule full of doctor's appointments, therapists, specialists and at home therapy work that keeps me hopping.  Not only this, but I have two other children who also need love and attention and I make sure they get that . . . each and every day. On top of this is the every day life stuff, you know, laundry, shopping, errands, cooking, cleaning and at the end of the day I get to sit with my husband for 30 minutes to an hour before we go to bed.  The next morning, the alarm goes off at 5:30 and we get up to do it all over again. I rarely get time to myself, much less talking to my friends every day. Not only this, but here are a few other things that I would like to share.

Please don't tell me that my son is a reminder that you have been blessed with "perfectly healthy" children.  I know people think that, but you don't say it out loud!  Alex IS perfect just the way he is--and he is an awesome blessing!

Also, don't accuse me of being a bad friend because I can't sit and shoot the breeze all the time.  We all have lives and I don't get annoyed at you when I don't hear from you (or when I DO hear from you all I hear is how busy you are), so please extend the same courtesy to me. I'm not snubbing you or ignoring you, I just have two hands that are very full at the moment and we are just trying to survive!

And, while I'm at it, please don't tell me you're tired of hearing me talk about "special needs."  You talk about your child playing sports, school, losing teeth and winning awards.  That is your world . . . special needs is mine. The older Alex gets the more issues arise and the more things we have to deal with. If you can talk about your child passing gas in the car or laughing so hard that milk comes out her nose, why can't I talk about my child's struggles and accomplishments?  I didn't know that I wasn't allowed to talk about him or that I was supposed to put a paper sack over his head and hide him away somewhere.

All children are blessings.  All parents have their own parenting issues, triumphs and failures to deal with, and we all have busy, crazy lives.  Don't get annoyed at people for not being who you think they need to be--maybe they're just trying to trudge through the muck of life right now and don't need you tossing mud balls at their head while they do it! I never said I was a perfect friend . . . or parent for that matter (Newsflash!  None of us are!). . . so please don't expect me to be!

Most of you will read this and KNOW it doesn't pertain to you. ;)  Yay!  One person said something to me and, well, here we are.  You knew when we became friends that my world was a crazy one, but that doesn't make me any less of a friend.

Oh, and one last thing . . . we're too old for this, man!  Come on!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You See Crazy (Or Strange), I See FUN!

I get a lot of comments on our house. I have been told we're "brave" to decorate it the way we do (because home decor is the true measure of bravery--who knew!)  I have been told by numerous people that they like it but could never do it in their own home.  I have been told that it's interesting, strange, crazy.  Some love it, some hate it.  We love art.  We love old stuff.  We love literature.  We encourage creativity, individuality and, well . . . FUN . . . in our home. My gremlins have told me time and time again how much they like their home.  "It's fun."  "It's cool."  "It's not boring!"  In my opinion, if those living there like it that is all that matters.  Our interests are part of what makes us who we are.  This crazy mix of things in our home illustrates part of who we are and we like it . . . just the way it is. ;) 
So, here's to creativity, individuality and FUN!  Embrace it! 

                      A few of Kaitlyn's MANY books as you enter the living room. 

                               The bar.  This is the gremlins' favorite breakfast spot. 

                                                           The living room.  

                                               More of the living room! 

                                                       Our dining room.

                                                           Kitchen sink

Coffee Bar!!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Be Thankful!

The gremlins ate a very healthy lunch of Chef Boyardee ravioli today.  When it was ready I placed Kaitlyn in her booster seat and told the boys it was time to eat. Logan smiled and said, "I'm glad ravioli was created."

These kids never cease to amaze me.  Logan especially has a big heart for others and is always thankful for what he has.  Sure, he has moments like the rest of us where he wishes he had something he doesn't have (We as adults do it, he's an 8-year-old boy, of course he's going to do it), but most of the time he is happy to eat whatever I serve him, he's happy to have shoes and clothes, even if they're hand-me-downs. He's just happy. He's also thankful. It occurred to me today that we could learn a lot from him.

We live in a society that judges people by the homes they live in, the cars they drive, the things they have, the clothes they wear, or how much money they have.  It can be a hard world to raise your children in.  Jacob and I have tried to teach our children from day one to be thankful for what they have, we try to teach them not to be wasteful, and most importantly, we try to teach them to get to know someone and make opinions about them based on their personality, not based on what they're wearing of where they live. Logan is at a really cool age because he really doesn't see a lot of differences between himself and others.

It is so easy to look at some one or meet some one for the first time and quickly make judgments and assumptions about them.  It's easy to get caught up in the money game and become engulfed with the "I wants" but we all need to be reminded from time to time to take a look around and be thankful for what we have.  This includes relationships with people--if you want to nurture important relationships, then treat that person with kindness and respect. It is hard to keep a healthy relationship if you are constantly criticizing and making negative comments.  This is why people say real relationships are few and far between.  Be thankful for those relationships that make you feel encouraged and loved. See?  We have a lot to be thankful for. ;)

Some day, when my timeline on earth stops, I don't want people to remember me as being selfish or critical.  I don't want people to remember me as being snobbish or acting superior.  I don't want people to remember me as being hateful or cruel. I don't want people to remember me as being controlling, bossy or pushy.  I want people to remember me as being kind. I want people to remember me as having a positive attitude and never making anyone feel bad about themselves. I want people to remember me as being accepting, loving, helpful, encouraging and thankful for all I have--whether it's a little or a lot, it's always enough.

Surely, if an 8-year-old boy can be thankful for Chef Boyardee Ravioli, we as adults can be thankful for so much more.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Kind of Parent Are You?

As a parent you tend to notice how other parents treat their children.  I often watch other parents and think, "I hope I never treat my children that way."  For some reason I have encountered a lot of critical parents lately.  Sometimes I can't help but think about how these parents can be the worst kind.  They give their children everything they need, they even love their children, but they invest so much time and energy into making comments, criticizing and pointing out their children's flaws.  If your parents don't love you unconditionally then who will?  It just makes me sad for those children who just want to feel loved by their parents, but instead feel like they do nothing right because they are constantly met with negativity.  You are an adult.  You were given this child to love.  They should feel encouraged.  They should feel special.  They should feel as if they are making you proud.  To watch a child's happiness completely disappear and be replaced with an expression of hurt because of something their parents said to them is heartbreaking.  You can smile and act sweet around your friends.  You can post about what a great mother you are on social networks, you can even throw some religion in there for good measure, but if you are tearing down your child instead of lifting them up then there is something wrong with you.  I have encountered so many parents who are far from perfect, but expect perfection from their children.  It's not going to happen and making them feel bad about themselves is not going to give you the relationship you hope to have with them someday when they're an adult.  It is only going to push them away.

I'm talking to that mother in the waiting room who looks at her teenage son disapprovingly and says, "Why is your face so broken out?"  The kid glares at her, his face clouded with hurt and he slumps down in his chair. I'm talking to the parent who makes comments about his child's weight . . . to his child.  I'm talking about the parent who makes comments about their adult children when they see them and criticize them, whether they realize it or not.  Parents who question everything their children do and believe that pointing out areas that need improvement will help them be better people, when really you're just chiseling away a little bit of their happiness and bruising their self esteem with each comment or criticism they're met with.

I am not a perfect parent and I'm not raising perfect children.  I do my best, though.  Jacob and I both encourage our children every chance we get.  We don't point out imperfections or say anything that will make them feel bad about themselves.  We always try to focus on their positive qualities . . . and let me tell you, there are so many!  I pray I am still this mom when my children are older.  I pray I never make them feel bad about themselves through commenting on things in a negative way or through criticizing.  Even when I'm old I want to be a positive parent.  Children want relationships with positive parents who make them feel loved.  I never want to make any of my children feel bad about any part of themselves . . . that's what the world is for, not parents. There are days when I cannot believe the number of parents, especially those in the waiting room with their special needs children, who criticize their children.  We're here to love them and love them unconditionally (whether your child is 2, 15 or 40). Seeing these parents treat their children this way is a good reminder of how not to treat my children.

What kind of parent are you?  What kind of parent would your children say you are?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What If You Could Live In Your Bathtub?

It is funny how we grow and change over the years.  I recently came across some writing assignments I did for a creative writing course I took while in college. As I read some of the short stories and other pieces that I wrote for some of my classes I couldn't help but feel embarrassed, laugh and shake my head.  On a couple of them I actually thought, "This is so horrible!"  It happens.  Hopefully my writing is no longer "So horrible."  It is nice, however, to see that I have grown and mistakes I made back then (stupid mistakes) are no longer being made.

I came across one assignment that I did for a college course that is so ridiculous that it made me laugh.  The image of people living in their bathtubs, putting accessories on tubs as if they were cars to make them lazier, just made me laugh.  I thought I'd share it with you:

                       What If . . . You Could Live In Your Bathtub

    It has been said that many people prefer their bathtub as a place to relax. Some would live in their bathtubs if given the opportunity.  What if you could live in your bathtub? Instead of relaxing only when you found the time, you could relax permanently, and maybe go down in history as the laziest person alive.  As long as the bathtub brings happiness, who cares, right?
    The major problem with living in your bathtub is location. No one wants to spend too much time in the bathroom (for obvious reasons). The answer to this problem is wheels.  Wheels would allow you to move freely around your house and enjoy the comfort of your bathtub. How would you move it, though? A remote controlled device with a motor could be installed so you could get from point A to point B smoothly.
    Some extensions will need to be added to the bathtub.  They would allow you to lift and lower the tub in order to reach counters, cabinets, shelves, etc. This would allow you to do the laundry, cook dinner and perform other tasks without leaving the comfort of your bathtub. Think about how great it would be!  You could have as many relaxing bubble baths as you want and still manage to get things accomplished.  What a life!
    The bathtub won't make the most comfortable bed, though. Remember, the goal is to live in your bathtub. This means you will be sleeping in it as well. In order to make the tub comfortable enough for sleeping simply have the tub padded with some soft, waterproof padding in the color of your choice. Pillows could be added as well. This not only adds comfort, but style. Throw in a cup holder and a tray that can be brought up when eating or writing and you will have one swell living space.
    Once a "home tub" is discovered, its owner will never want to leave it. Eventually, they will have to leave the house. What to do then?  Place the tub's motor in turbo mode (bet you're glad you invested in that motor and remote control system) and it will work as well as any vehicle.  It would, however, require that mirrors, lights, a horn, and brakes were installed as well.  A cover of some sort might also be a good investment. You never know when it's going to rain.
   Not only can your tub now get you to and from the grocery store, but it's big enough to serve as your shopping cart. Do you like to fish?  Well, then, make that tub float and take yourself fishing.  There is no limit to what the tub can do.  A final thought, though, and probably the most important one: How would you go to the bathroom while living in your bathtub?
     You're on your own with that one!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Collect Moments Not Things

They were seated at the table next to ours.  Two little chubby-faced kids stood happily waiting for their parents to help them into their chairs.  They each held a little gift sack.  Once they were seated and their drinks had been ordered the little boy eagerly held up his gift sack for the older woman to take.  A huge smile spread across his little face.

"Here, grandma! I made it all by myself!"  The little girl sitting across from him said, "Nuh, uh!" Her voice echoed through the restaurant and her mother shushed her with a smile. "Well," the boy said hesitantly, "Mom helped a little."

The grandmother opened each gift with a smile and said, "Oh, this is lovely."  Two little sets of brown eyes beamed up at her as they watched, so happy she liked what they had worked so hard to make for her.  "Thank you," she said to them.

She then turned to the children's mother and said, "Where are the rest of my gifts?"  The woman looked confused and said, "Those are your gifts, mom."  Her mother looked offended.

"I don't understand," She said.  "It's Mother's Day."

Her daughter forced a smile and said, "Yes, it IS Mother's Day and the kids worked hard to make you something special."

The grandmother smiled at her grandchildren who were still smiling up at her. She leaned closer to her daughter and said, "When I was your age I made sure to get my mother something good for Mother's Day.  I mean, I'm paying for all of your meals and all I get are some cheap crafts made by my grandchildren?"

A look of hurt spread across the daughter's face.  She looked her mother in the eye and said, "Mom, you know Ben isn't working right now and I'm only working part time.  I'm not even getting anything for Mother's Day. We're just thankful we can make ends meet for now.  I'm sorry you don't like your gifts. We did think of you.  The kids worked hard on these gifts."

She turned to her kids and said, "Come on, guys, let's go."  The children began to protest and she said, "Well, we can't afford it and we don't want to make grandma pay for our meals."  As she walked away she turned to her mother and said, "Happy Mother's Day," as tears filled her eyes.

Our society puts too much emphasis on material things.  We see it every day.  People say, "Well, it's easy for people to say they don't need money if they don't have it.  They don't know what they're missing."  Sure, it's great to have nice things, but those nice things shouldn't define our character.  They shouldn't overshadow who we are and we certainly shouldn't expect them. We should be happy that people think enough of us to do something nice, not get offended because we feel they didn't spend enough money on us.

I recently saw pictures from another country where people had very little.  Their children had one, maybe two toys, they were living in filth and yet, in the pictures, they were smiling.  Sure, money gets tight from time to time, but things could be so much worse. When money gets tight it seems more stressful just because, in our world, money is your measure of success.  It's sad, really.

We should all try to collect moments, not things.  How rich our lives would be!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One Act of Kindness

A young woman with a screaming baby watched as the cashier rang up the baby formula. The cashier called out the total and the woman very quietly said, "Oh, I have a coupon for that."  She seemed nervous as she handed the coupon to the cashier.  She reached out and held a pacifier in her baby's mouth and said, "Shhhh," very softly. Her eyes stayed on the cashier as she scanned the coupon.  The cashier told her the price of the formula with the coupon.  The woman's voice shook as she said, "Oh, okay." She began clumsily digging in her purse to find the extra money she needed to cover the cost of the formula to feed her screaming baby.

Two young women stood in line behind her. They shifted their weight from leg to leg.  They sighed loudly in annoyance and one kept shaking her head and rolling her eyes.

The woman with the baby looked up at them, her tired eyes filled with tears and she said, "I'm so sorry."  The two women just glared at her.  One woman said, "Look at what she's wearing."  They both laughed.

She continued to frantically dig in her purse.  "I know I have some change in here, if I could just find it.  I'm sorry."  Her baby continued to scream.

Towards the back of the line was an older man.  He walked up to the woman with the baby and said, "Hi, I would love to help you out.  How much do you need?"  An expression of relief flooded the woman's face and she said, "Well, I only need $1.29 and I thought I had it but I can't find anything in this purse."  The man said, "Oh, is that all?  Don't worry about it."  The woman watched as he paid the remaining amount on the formula.  "There you go," he said.  He touched the baby's little foot and said, "He's all set."

"Thank you so much," She said.  She looked back at the two women in line behind her and said, "I'm so sorry it took so long."  One of them forced a smile and said, "It's okay."

There are so many people in this world whose selfishness really blows my mind at times.  I'm not perfect and I don't pretend to be perfect.  However, judging others by the amount of money they have, by the clothes they wear, by the cars they drive and the homes they reside in could cause you to miss out on knowing someone great . . . or even experiencing a wonderful moment of helping a stranger, or even just being nice to some one.  Shouldn't a person's character be what's important?

I have been in the position of that young mother.  It's not an easy position to be in, but having one person extend a little bit of kindness can be a really big bright spot in your life--or someone else's.  I have been told that I'm too nice to people, especially those who don't deserve it. Maybe that is true, but it's who I am. Perhaps those horrible people who don't deserve some one to be nice to them NEED some one to show them a little kindness.

Who knows, one act of kindness can go a long way!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


We live in a fast-paced world.  There are times when I just can't seem to stay caught up with all that needs to be done.  Every once in a while I wish I had a few more hours in the day because I just didn't get everything done that I wanted.  There are days that go perfectly.  You wake up and the sun is shining through your window.  You start singing like Snow White and birds gather on the window sill to sing with you.  Your children are happy and are listening and doing what is expected of them.  Things just seem to fall into place.

Let's be realistic for a minute. These "perfect" days are very rare.  Most mornings we stumble out of bed in an exhausted haze.  The house is a mess, the laundry is piled up, kids are fighting, and shoes are missing.  We discover that we're out of milk, the toddler doesn't want to leave your side and you find yourself tripping over her as she screams at your feet.  You go to pour more coffee into your mug only to discover the pot is empty (so sad).You pack lunches, tell your kids (for the third time) to brush their teeth.  "You can't find the shoe?  It didn't just walk away!  Look again! It HAS to be somewhere!"  It always turns up in the most random places.  "Hey, mom!  I found it!  It was in the shower."  Umm . . . okay.  We race out the door and get the kids where they need to be and feel a sense of accomplishment when they are dressed, fed and at school on time!

Every family is different.  We live on one income and budgeting is a must.  Money always seems to be tight, but we have what we need and are thankful for that.  It allows me to take the kids to specialists, to be home with them after surgeries or tests and to take Alex to and from therapies.   Our family consists of three children with a bone disease who require surgeries and specialists.  It also consists of a special needs child whose schedule of therapies and specialists keeps me busy.  Sometimes budgeting makes me want to pull out my hair.  Does any one else feel their stress level go up when they look at the shopping list?  Do you feel a panic attack coming on as you watch your husband add to the list?  Well, okay, maybe that is a little extreme, but (in my best little girl voice) budgeting is no fun!

Some moms have to come home after a long day at work and do laundry and get kids to practice or games.  You have to help with that school project and take a sick child to the doctor.  No matter your schedule or your family's routine, we ALL run ourselves ragged doing what needs to be done to make sure everything in our house--in our family--is running as smoothly as we can possibly make it run.

The sun doesn't peacefully shine through the window.  It blinds you, hurting your eyes and causing you to stumble around, stubbing your toe on the dresser and banging your elbow on the door frame.  The birds don't sit on the window sill and sing.  Instead they're outside pooping on your vehicle. "Dude, I bet you can't hit the door handle!" You run around like a crazy person making sure these little people who have been given to you are where they need to be and have everything they need in order to be healthy and happy.  Sometimes we forget about making ourselves healthy and happy.  Sometimes we have days where we wonder if what we're doing really even matters.  Let me just remind you that it does.

Look at your children.  They have everything they need.  Who makes sure they have everything they need?  YOU!  Look at their smiles!  They're healthy and happy.  You had something to do with that, you know.  You may not realize it but your kids DO notice all you do for them.  My two boys have started coming to me with hugs, telling me they love me and thanking me for doing things for them.  It is the greatest form of payment and the sweetest reminder that even though most days are chaotic and crazy, my family DOES notice all I do for them.  Not only that, but what I'm doing actually matters.

You ARE supermom!  Wear your cape proudly.  Just be careful in high winds--the capes tend to attack when the wind gets up.  It's not pretty.  (Edna in The Incredibles knew what she was talking about when she said, "No capes!"  It's not just for entertainment, you know . . . it's also about life lessons.)  You're doing a great job.  I think, sometimes, we all need to be reminded of this.  So, here's a friendly reminder.  You ARE doing a great job!  You ARE a supermom!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Find Your Bright Spots

One of my best friends always tells me to find the bright spots in life.  She told me that sometimes you have to look for them, but they are always there.  How right she is!  I have noticed that there are bright spots in every day--even the bad ones! Life is not a fairy tale. We do not live in a crystal palace.  We don't have servants who wait on us hand and foot and keep us relaxed. Things rarely fall into place.

Jacob and I took turns traveling over the weekend.  He took a gremlin to his parents while I stayed with a sick gremlin and then on Saturday we traded shifts.  Driving nearly 3 hours with a screaming toddler and a 7-year-old who gets car sick and is vomiting in the back of the van is no picnic. It didn't go according to "the plan," but we did it and we enjoyed ourselves.

Yesterday I woke up tired and cranky.  Nothing was going according to "the plan" and the kids were also tired and cranky.  Kaitlyn was into everything, tattooed herself with markers, and was climbing up the furniture like King Kong! The boys had gone momentarily deaf and couldn't hear me when I spoke to them. Miraculously, their hearing returned after I repeated myself (loudly) a third time.  It was one of those mornings where you say, "You need to put on your shoes," and your child just stands there with a confused look on his face.  "Shoes? What are those?"  We were running late for church so I didn't get to spend the usual amount of time on my hair and make up. There was one point where I had an urge to lock myself in the bedroom and just say, "Forget it.  We're staying home."  Nothing was going according to "the plan" so it was safer to just hide out for a while. (Right?) On the drive to church I realized that I also didn't eat breakfast. I turned and looked at my kids all dressed up for Easter, fed and happy and thought, "Well, that's what's really important."

We made it to church and Kaitlyn started fussing.  The boys started acting like crazy people . . . monkeys in a zoo, if you will. I don't pop my boys on the back of their heads and say, "Straighten up," but I won't lie, there are times I imagine it. We got Kaitlyn to the nursery and headed to the sanctuary to find a seat. Eventually one of my favorite people and sweetest friends sat down beside me and gave me the biggest hug.  It was a bright spot to my emotionally crazy morning and she totally made my day. The service was good, as usual, and Jacob and I hung around and talked to a few people afterward.

We all started walking to the door because Jacob and I needed to get Kaitlyn from the nursery and get the boys from Children's church.  Suddenly, I heard a familiar little voice shout, "Mama!"  I looked up and Kaitlyn was running down the hall with a giant smile on her face.  Her curls were flying and bouncing on her shoulders and her arms were out, ready to grab me.  I picked her up and she hugged me.  Another sweet person in our lives had not only brought the boys to us but had gone to the nursery and gotten Kaitlyn as well. (Another bright spot? Yeah, I think so!)

Life rarely goes according to plan.  It would be boring if things went exactly the way we wanted them to go. We get so focused on "the plan" that we forget about the bright spots.  It's good to have a plan, but it's nice to be reminded to stop and look for the bright spots.  Sometimes you have to look for them and other times they are so obvious--like a clown blowing a horn and dancing in your face! You just can't miss them!  Let's make our plans, but let's not get so caught up in them that we miss the clown, er, um . . . bright spots!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Do You Think Your Children Are So Special?

"Why do you post so many pictures of your kids?"

"You talk about your kids too much!"

"Why are you posting so many pictures of yourself with your kids?"

Mothers want to brag about their children. Mothers want to share their children's accomplishments and talk about how proud their children make them.  Every mother wants to share funny stories about their children. Our children are such a huge part of our lives--it's difficult NOT to share them with friends and family.

On New Year's Eve Jacob had to take me to the ER.  After running some tests they discovered an issue with my appendix that could become cancerous and suggested I have it removed.  It was supposed to be a simple procedure--you know the drill, you go in that morning and are home by that evening.  Not a big deal. They ended up having to remove not only my appendix but also some of my colon and some of my small intestine.  I was in the hospital for 4 days and every day the doctor would come in and tell us that he still didn't have the results from the biopsy.  I was sent home and was told I couldn't get the results until my appointment because they wouldn't give that information over the phone. That week was one of the longest weeks of my life. We just wanted to know if it was benign or not.  It was simple.  "What does this have to do with pictures?"  I remember thinking about my children and how you really aren't promised tomorrow and you need to make EVERY second count. We were finally told that it was, in fact, benign. We breathed a sigh of relief and said a prayer of gratitude and felt a little less weight on our shoulders as we left the doctor's office.  I had been challenged to take more pictures of myself with my children--not for me, but for them.  Years from now when I'm gone they will have all these pictures of me with them; reminders of memories from their childhood. Some one once said that if you have memories you don't need to take a lot of pictures.  Look at the expression on an elderly person's face as they look at pictures from their childhood.  Memories are wonderful, but pictures are a pretty good thing to have, in my opinion.

I also post too many pictures of my children and talk about them too much because all three of them have a bone disease.  All three of them have had surgeries and all three of them have more surgeries in their future. I remember Alex, in the first grade, having both arms in casts after his surgery and never complaining.  None of them complained. They took it, they handled it, and they were tough!  I have learned so much from these three gremlins.  All three have gone through so much more than I ever did as a child, that is for sure! They are strong.  They are determined and they are positive.  How could I not be proud and want to share with everyone who loves them?

Not only this, but my sweet Alex is a special needs child.  He has learned to live with Apraxia and Ataxia.  We watch him struggle to do simple things that other children his age (and younger) take for granted.  Sometimes he gets discouraged but for the most part this boy is positive and he rarely lets things get to him.  He never gives up and he always tries his best.  People ask him why he talks funny, why he smiles funny, why he has a hard time tying his shoes or riding a bike, reading, writing. He shrugs his shoulders and says, "This is how I was born."  At the age of 9, he is one of the strongest people I know.  He always tries his best and then he just takes life as it comes, good or bad, with a positive attitude.  I couldn't be prouder of him.  We have watched him come so far over the past 9 years.

I have been asked why I post so many pictures. "Your children aren't anyone special." The truth is, every child is special.  I have been given these three beautiful gremlins who teach me so much about strength and the power of a positive attitude every single day.  May we all learn how to be better people from our children!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Home

I have had quite a few people ask me about how we decorate our home. I know not everyone likes it, but not everyone lives here. ;) What a completely boring world it would be if every house was decorated the same way! We like older stuff, a lot of color and items that you don't find in every home. We also want our home to be a fun and comfortable place for our kids to grow up in.  So, for those who have asked, this blog is for you.

                            My gremlins' hand prints on canvases above our bed.
 Jacob's mom gave this pillow to me with pictures of all of us.  It is one of my favorite things!

                                                   The main bathroom.

                                                       Dining room

                                                      Living room

The boys' favorite hangout spot complete with an arcade game (not pictured)!

Of course, we can't forget about these three gremlins who add so much spice and laughter to our world! Our home certainly wouldn't be complete without them! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Princess Adventure!

I sat in the tiny chair at a tiny table.  I held a tiny pink cup and said, "Thank you," to my 2-year-old daughter as she pretended to pour tea into my cup from the pink tea pitcher.  Her purple tiara resting on top of a bundle of blonde curls as she smiled and said, "There you go, mama."  We pretended to drink our tea and she looked up at me with those big blue eyes.  A smile spread across her little face as she nodded and said, "Mmmm."  I, of course, complimented her pretend tea making and serving skills as I sat under my own sparkling tiara.

When I was a little girl I loved fairy tales. I didn't just love the castles, the knights, the tiaras; I also loved the adventure of it all.  My imagination soared as I ran through the trees in my grandparents' yard pretending I was a princess on a mission.  Princesses didn't just sit in the castle and yell, "Eek!" when they saw a bug.  In my mind, princesses could use a sword and stood up for themselves.  They got to have parties (because saying, "They got to have balls," just doesn't seem to flow like it should!) and tea parties, but they also went on many adventures and even managed to save the day.  There is no limit to the imagination.

Enter adulthood and the real world. Parts of our childhood fairy tales do come true, but it is never as we imagined.  The dungeon is now used as a time out spot for that child who misbehaved.  Tea parties have been replaced with juice boxes and quick snacks as we hop in the carriage and run to the village from one appointment to another. Somewhere along the way the pampering part of being a princess got pushed to the side and the adventure took over.

I sit in this tiny chair and watch my little girl happily have a tea party with me. I can't help but embrace the adventure.  Busy schedules, budgets, sick children . . . a mom's life in 2014!  Adventure is what got us to where we are today.  Adventure is what made us the women we are.  Adventure reminds us that while we ARE princesses, there is more to this gig than sitting on the throne!  We have to get our hands dirty, sacrifice pampering to pay for a child's braces, and trade our glass slippers for sneakers that can get us to all of our appointments comfortably!

To all of my mom friends out there, you ARE princesses!  Never forget that! Let's enjoy this adventure!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wear Your Joy!

I had an interesting encounter today--a reminder of how quickly life goes by and how we should stop focusing on all the negative, stop being hateful to each other, and start enjoying every minute we have.

I was on the dairy aisle of the grocery store.  Kaitlyn was wearing her pink sunglasses, blond curls danging over them, and she was happily chatting away.  I was wearing my pink Chuck Taylors and laughing and chatting right along with her.  Suddenly, I heard a soft voice say, "You remind me of my wife."  I turned around and an elderly man was standing near me.  He was holding a shopping basket and had a few items in it. He smiled politely and pointed at Kaitlyn.  "She is beautiful!"  I smiled and said, "Thank you!"  He smiled at Kaitlyn for a second or two and then turned to me.

"I saw you over here with your short haircut and your pink shoes.  You are so happy just to spend time with your daughter--to be alive . . . " He paused for a moment and his eyes filled with tears.  "You remind me of my wife."  He paused again and looked down at the floor. "She liked for her hair to be short.  She said it was more fun and only the bravest of women would cut off their hair!"  He smiled again. "She liked bright colors and fun clothes.  She liked upbeat music.  She was always so happy."  I smiled and said, "Well, she sounds amazing."

"Oh, she was!  She was too good for me, I'll tell you that much. It was impossible to stay unhappy when you were with her."  He paused again and then looked me in the eye.  He lifted his hand and pointed at me. "You remind me of her.  You have that same happy glow about you.  It's very inviting."  I said, "Thank you."  He laughed and said, "You know, sometimes you see these women and they just look angry at the world.  I always stay away from them for fear that they may bite!"  He continued laughing as he watched people walk by us.  "I don't know why people have to be that way.  You only get the one life--might as well make it a good one!"

He said, "Well, I don't want to keep you.  I know you probably have some fun stuff planned with that beautiful little girl of yours.  I'm glad I ran into you today. Don't ever let anyone steal your joy. You wear it well!"  He smiled, waved to Kaitlyn and said, "Bye bye, beautiful girl."  Kaitlyn waved back and said, "Bye bye."  He turned to me again and said, "Thank you for taking the time to stop and talk to an old man!"  I said, "I enjoyed it!"  He smiled and said, "Aw, well, thank you again."

He turned and walked away.  What a nice reminder to find the joy in everything in life--not only to find it, but to wear it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Get Healthy

There was a time when I would eat whatever I wanted.  I'd prepare meals that tasted wonderful, but were full of fat or unhealthy ingredients.  I would eat sugary treats every day, telling myself I earned them.  Looking back now, I can't help but roll my eyes, shake my head and think about how stupid it all was.  I was never really obese, but after my surgery I dropped 20 pounds pretty quickly.  I had to be careful what I ate because part of my small intestine was removed and digestion wasn't as easy as it used to be.  I learned that greasy and fatty foods were really hard on my system and at times, even made me violently ill.  I now know that this was the best thing that could possibly happen to me.  It really opened up my eyes. When my 6 weeks of recovery was over I put on my awesome kickboxing gloves and got back into the groove of things. Cardio kickboxing (which I love), hitting the punching bag, riding the exercise bike and even doing a little weight training.  Jacob and I did a complete overhaul of our fridge and pantry contents.  We still buy some goodies for the kids from time to time, but we no longer eat junk and we eat very few processed foods.  We only eat out on rare occasions and we avoid sweets, except for treating ourselves to York Peppermint Patties (my favorite) on the weekends. I have more energy, I feel much healthier than I did before my surgery, and I don't miss all that unhealthy food, at all. In fact, most of it just tastes gross to me now.

I had an appointment with my doctor on Monday and he said my weight was perfect and I was at a "great healthy weight."  He talked about how even if you're a little overweight it is so unhealthy. He talked about all the risk factors and how you might not feel unhealthy but you are. We talked about how if you eat healthy consistently (Life style changes, NOT dieting) and exercise and get rid of the extra weight (and keep it off), you have more energy, you are more alert, and your body will be healthy and you will live longer and be more active in your old age. He talked about all the hidden risks with eating unhealthy food and how people will be overweight but argue that they're not.

I want to be healthy and now that I've had a taste of it, I like it.  This is our new life.  What's even greater is we're teaching our kids to eat healthy and exercise.  Eating in a restaurant or grabbing fast food is now a big treat for my kids because we no longer do it all the time. We feel younger, we feel healthier, we have more energy, all of those risk factors (diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, liver issues, etc) are no longer a concern because I'm no longer overweight.

It's a great feeling.  I don't miss the junk food and I'm happy with our new lifestyle and I LOVE that I have my doctor's support and encouragement!  Here's to a long, happy and very healthy life!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cherish Time

It's currently snowing outside. A scene that brings joy and excitement around Christmastime, but now, in early March, merely brings sighs and a longing for bright, warm Spring days.  We mumble and groan in disapproval, staring out at the gloomy sky from inside our warm homes.  Thick, white flakes of snow drift quickly to the cold ground, covering everything in a frozen powder. 

We missed church again this morning because the two youngest gremlins are not 100% well quite yet.  Kaitlyn was running fever again yesterday, has a horrible cough, is weezy and congested (hello, nebulizer!) and Logan sounds terrible and still complains of a sore throat.  The mom in me didn't have the heart to drag them out in the freezing cold sleet and snow, spreading their germs in the process. 

So, here we all are, like every other family, trying to make the best of it.  Jacob and I grabbed the New Orleans cook book and found a recipe for Chicken and Red Bean Gumbo that we plan to try for dinner. We have also taken advantage of this situation and spent time together as a family.  We stay so busy with the gremlins' schedules, not to mention our own, that sometimes it's nice to just sit and spend time together. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago Alex was a baby.  He is now 9, Logan is 7 and Kaitlyn is 2.  How did that happen?  How did time slip past us so quickly?  One day I will wake up, walk to the bathroom and see an old woman staring back at me from the mirror.  I hope that when I see her she smiles at me, happy with the life she has led--I hope she leaves a positive mark. As for today, I am thankful for freezing temperatures and icy conditions that keep us all inside, spending time together.  I enjoy listening to my children talk about their interests, their dreams.  Alex's dream of becoming a police officer one day in hopes of helping people.  Logan's dream of becoming a scientist in hopes of doing good and changing the world! Watching Kaitlyn walk around in Princess shoes, wearing a belt as a hat, carrying a little purse and wearing 20 different bracelets. "Look, mama.  Is pretty!"  

It is ALL pretty! Cherish every minute of it.

We are spending a lot of time here today--dining room table and living room.  This mom is loving every minute of it! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

It's Always Fun In Astleyland!

Our house is rarely quiet.  We have three children and most of the time we encourage them to express themselves, have fun and be creative.  We turn up fun music and the kids will dance.  The dancing is cute and makes me laugh, but my favorite part is the sound of their laughter filling the house.  Every night Logan draws a picture for me on the Magnadoodle and brings it to me.  He always writes, "To Mom, From Logan.  I love you," somewhere on the picture.  Alex will randomly walk up to me, give me a hug and say, "I love you, mom.  You're the best mom ever."  And Kaitlyn runs to me, hair bouncing, huge smile on her face.  I catch her and she hugs me SO tight and then pats me on the back.  I say, "I love you so much," and she says, "Love you."  The Astleys are a happy bunch who enjoy spending time together.  We just make each other happy!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. We love to have any excuse to do something special for our three gremlins and Valentine's Day is no exception. Jacob and I don't do the traditional flowers, candy, jewelry stuff.  Flowers just die, candy isn't good for you and Jacob says jewelry is expected and he wants to surprise me.  (He buys me jewelry when there is no occasion and DOES surprise me!)  This rule applies to the gremlins as well.  They don't need a lot of candy so we don't buy them candy.  This year the boys received Thunder shirts and brownies (who doesn't love brownies). They have to ask before getting them (unlike candy where they just sneak pieces and eat it all day).  Kaitlyn loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  She got a new DVD of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and was so excited when she opened it.  She held it up and shouted, "It's Mickey!"  
                              Kaitlyn's Mickey and Minnie holding hands!

I love Sara Bareilles.  She is a brilliant pianist and songwriter and she has the most amazing voice!  Jacob gave me the DVD and CD of her live performance at the Variety Playhouse and the sweetest, heartfelt card.  It was perfect and, as usual, he did an awesome job surprising me with something amazing. 

It's nice to go out and do something together--shopping, eating out, seeing a movie.  It's also nice to just sit on the couch together, eating York Peppermint Patties, watching a show we both enjoy and just being together.  We just love being together--whether it's decorating the living room for a fun movie experience, playing board games with the kids, acting out story books, cooking together or dancing around to fun music. I am blessed to have these four amazing people in my life and I thank God for them each and every day! There is never a dull a moment in Astleyland--and I wouldn't want it any other way!