Saturday, February 28, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, Jo!

Below is a picture journal of Josie's 3rd birthday. Mad thanks goes out to my photographer/BIL Clarence. You rock at memory catching. 

I'll give you one picture to decide just how obsessed Josie is with Strawberry Shortcake. 
(SPOILER ALERT: It's a.lot.) 

(See what I mean, y'all?) 

Josie was all up in the cake decorating process. She put every single birthday related accoutrement that she could find on top of that cake. It was an over crowed Strawberry Shortcake explosion of awesomeness. 

Also, check out those strawberry shortcake cupcakes. They were completely homemade by my Mom, complete with a fresh strawberry filling. Because my Mom rocks. 

(See what I mean? All.the.things.

Also, please check out the smudged purple border at the bottom left of your screen. Because apparently my kids have inherited my ability to swipe icing from birthday cakes. ::proud sigh::

Family picture. ::heart eyes::

PawPaw and MawMaw! (My awesome parents.)

And Grandma and Paw! (Matt's awesome parents.)

My completely unnecessary obligatory urge to bake homemade birthday cakes for the kids may make me crazy sometimes, but the 47 seconds that they sing in front of it and blow out their candles makes it worth it. 
(I think.) 

 In an effort to avoid being one of those people who uploads 119 pictures of their kids opening presents, I'll condense them down to a couple of the hilights and spare y'all the madness. 

You're welcome. 

She dropped her Minnie Mouse phone a few months before her birthday. (It was a very dark time in her life.) Blessedly, her NeeNee (Matt's sister) tracked one down and restored order to her world. Hallelujah because we can finally put away our black mourning armbands. 

All the presents: OPENED.

We ate pizza and cake and homemade ice cream until we absolutely couldn't eat another bite. Birthdays are celebrations where calories don't count. It's a medical fact. 

Nathan found a new BFF in his cousin, Ashley.

 This is why. 

Josie declared Madison as her favorite cousin. For obvious reasons. 

And Luke kept George occupied outside nearly all afternoon with these shenanigans. 
Bless his heart. 

I officially have the greatest nieces and nephews on the planet. And we were still missing nearly half a dozen at her party. 


Happy birthday, Josie! 

Mom loves you so much, too much, and all the times. 
I pray that you continue to grow in God's grace and favor like you have in these first three years. I can't wait to see how you'll serve Him. 

You make me a blessed Momma, sweet girl. I love you. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Free Cookies ROCK.

I'll admit that I'm a creature of habit. Every week, almost every day is just about the same. We have Bible Class at church on Tuesdays. Wednesdays we meet friends at the park. Friday nights are our Movie Nights. 

You get the picture, right?? 

Well, every.single.Thursday., we grocery shop. I make my list of sale prices and menu plans and special snacks and I pile the four of us into the van after school on Thursday mornings to buy the food and 9 boxes of baby wipes that we will need for the upcoming weekend/week ahead. 

It's not easy. Thankfully, I've finally (mostly) mastered the gigantic blue buggies at WalMart. It wasn't a pretty process, though. Many an end cap were accidentally mowed down during my learning process. The two bigs can ride facing the metal buggy and the baby can sit in the forward facing buggy seat and that still gives me room for all.the.things in the basket section of the buggy. 

But hitting up WalMart once a week with three kids in tow is a pretty daunting task. There have been occasions (like the trip we just took yesterday) when we've become that family with the upset kids and all the tears and sobs and boohooing. Because, when Mom tells you to stay in the buggy, she means stay in the buggy. Standing on the plastic seat of the buggy to reach an item on the top shelf is never a good idea. Just sayin'. We obviously had some natural consequences yesterday in the check out line. It was mortifying. For all of us.

Despite the near fatalities that befall us sometimes, a few years ago I stumbled upon a grocery shopping game changer: FREE COOKIES. I never realized that the bakery handed them out to kids until we spied a little boy and his Mom scoring on the loot while we were buying bananas one day. I sauntered up to the counter and inquired about the deal the previous family had brokered to be told the most angelic news I'd ever heard: They give free cookies to ALL THE KIDS who ask. 

That's the day the skies parted and trumpets sounded and I'm pretty sure I saw an angel sitting on a rafter next to a random bird and a dusty, deflated birthday balloon. Before I knew about the free cookie situation, there would be much cajoling and pleading and begging for decent store behavior. There were promises of gummis to be purchased or stickers to be picked out or bubbles that could be blown. And all that was a good idea, but it wasn't immediate gratification for my kids, so it wasn't that motivating for them to earn. Once I upped my arsenal to include the free cookie option: THE GAME WAS FOREVER ALTERED.

Because here is the deal: There is never a downside to getting a free cookie. You would think that glorious, semi-stale, day old confection they pass across the counter to my kids in those magical wax paper squares is the most delicious pastry they've ever eaten. For them, there is something intoxicating about sitting in a buggy seat eating a treat that's wrapped in food storage paper. Getting a free cookie when you walk into a store is great, but what really makes the situation stupendous is when they work so hard to earn it. 

The very thought, the very idea of that mystical free cookie is enough to encourage good buggy/sibling behavior for over an hour for my kids. When the going gets tough, and I've been camped out in the "cold" section too long finding apples without bruises or digging through the frozen food case for the last bag of broccoli florets, the mere mention of earning The Cookie is usually enough to get my kids to refocus their attention and attitudes.

It hasn't always been easy. There have been tear filled bakery counter lessons when one (or two) of the kids hasn't earned The Cookie and has had to watch as the blessed baked confection was handed to a fellow sibling and not to themselves. It was hard to watch, and the tears freely flowed, but once they learned the hard way that The Cookie was meant to be earned and not just handed out, it's reinforcing qualities were only strengthened. 

Now, when we walk into a store to shop, The Cookie is automatically forefront in their minds. They know what waits for them at the end of the list when Mom's buggy is full and her wallet is empty. Working hard to earn a reward is a lesson I'm glad I get the opportunity to teach my kids while we grocery shop. And we've developed a relationship with our cookie lady. We love her! The kids even made Miss Florida a Christmas ornament this year, true story. Because that's how important earning The Cookie is to them. 

I think there's an extra verse about all this that's in my Bible's translation of Deuteronomy 6:6-7:
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up AND WHEN YOU BUY YOUR BOX OF 5 DOZEN EGGS AND APPLE JUICE BY THE BARREL FULL."   
Here's to free bakery cookies: May they always bake them so we can earn them.

Thanks for stopping by, y'all! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I'm Getting… Oilier??

It's happening, y'all. 

I'm getting oily. And crunchy.

And I'm getting oilier and crunchier by the second and there is no end in sight

Essential oils have intrigued me for a few years. I've had friends and family members who have used them and loved them and sung their praises. I always listened intently to their testimonials and silently wondered if they could really be that phenomenal. I debated in my mind if oils really could be all they were cracked up to be or if the users were just crunchy, granola people who didn't use deodorant and and only bathed under the light of the full moon at winter solstice. 

I've written before about how my youngest, Nathan, struggles with eczema. He's my Irish baby for sure and he's got the fair skin and red hair to prove it. Nathan's skin flared up last year and after a visit to our pediatrician, we got a prescription for some steriod creams that cleared it right up. His skin stayed clear for a week or so, then I noticed that his rashes were coming back. I hesitated to slather him up again with the prescription steroid, so I started looking for more natural alternatives to help his symptoms. I found an all natural baby cream made with lavender and chamomille that worked beautifully

His skin stayed clear and I was relived to find that up until a few months ago, his eczema had stayed under control. But during the cold, wet Florida winter that we've had this year, his skin condition flared up. AGAIN. And that's when I decided to dip my toe into the essential oil pool and see if these things really were all they were cracked up to be. 

And, SPOILER ALERT: They're awesome. I love them and love using them and love slathering myself and my kids and my family with them. Any time a new symptom presents itself, my gut reaction is: "Oooh, wait! I bet there's an oil for that!" 

I've been fielding a lot of questions from my friends and family about my newfound oily disposition, so I figured I could take a minute to put (hopefully) all the answers in one place. 

  1. Where'd you get them? I asked around and got several good recommendations. I decided to go with the line of essential oils put out by Eden's Garden. Not because the other suggestions weren't good ones, but because EG was available for immediate purchase online and because their line of oils fit better into my budget. 
  2. Are they expensive? It depends on what you buy. I spent around $75 for everything I purchased, and that included shipping. You can pick and choose different sets and blends depending on your budget and your symptom treatment needs. 
  3. Which ones did you buy? I got a starter oil set, a few lagniappe oils, and some organic, cold pressed coconut oil when I was getting started. 
  4. Which ones should I buy? If you wanted to just buy one bottle of essential oil to try- I'd have to say, HANDS DOWN, to start with lavender. I use it at bedtime with my 3 year old and it helps settle her down like nobody's business. It's uses and treatments don't end there, either. Google it and find out for yourself! 
  5. What do you use them for? Anything and everything. My initial aim was to treat Nathan's eczema. His skin cleared up so well that I started to look into other symptoms that essential oils could help treat. So far, I've treated eczema, sinus headaches, growing pains, restless sleep, migraines, runny noses, teething and a whole slew of other things with my oils. 
  6. How do you know how to use them? I ask a lot of questions. I Google everything. I'm addicted to Pinterest. And it's a lot of trial and error. Before I've given anything to my kids, I've tried it on myself first. I've had some really good experiences with my oils and I've had some miserable failures. (I'll have to write one day about how NOT to use Peppermint oil. Tip: It doesn't take much. A little dab'll do ya.) I'm excited to see the benefits that are coming from switching out some of our traditional medicinal treatments to these natural alternatives. Especially if it'll be able to keep me from having to slather my baby in steroids for the next 17 years. 
  7. Are you still wearing deodorant? YES. While I've come across several EO recipes for homemade, natural deodorant, I think I'll be sticking to my Dove for the time being. I'm getting crunchy sure, but just not that crunchy. Yet. 
  8. Do you bathe under the light of a full moon? Ha! Well, the only thing I have planned to do underneath the light of a full moon is TO SLEEP. Because, behind oiling my family with all the things for all the reasons, sleeping is right there at the top of my favorite hobbies list. 
I hope this has answered some of your questions. But, if you have anymore, comment below and I'll get back to you. 

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!  

Monday, February 2, 2015

{Monday Prayers}

I love Mondays. 

I love the fresh start they signify. The blank slate of a new week that awaits me. The renewed energy I get when I look at my freshly-turned planner page and review our lesson plans and library plans and supper plans and play date plans. I get a week's worth of new chances to love my husband and teach my kids and grow my faith when I flip that page over. There are no hastily scribbled phone messages or canceled plans or forgotten appointments to mar the pages yet. 

It's a fresh set of unspoiled opportunities, and there are days, especially days like today, when I need that new start

Because,y'all: YESTERDAY STUNK. 

From the minute that the big kids rolled out of their bedrooms in the morning to the last time I went in to tuck them in at night- everything about yesterday was HARD. 

Breakfast was hard: I boiled over our oatmeal on my freshly scrubbed stovetop while I was trying to iron church clothes and fix potatoes for lunch. 
Church was hard: I had to take BOTH the bigs out during worship for FOR REAL discipline because they just.couldn' 
Naps were hard: They were late and tear filled and about 90 minutes too short
The rest of the afternoon/evening followed suit with a marginally improved evening worship performance by the kids but was rounded out with a prayer time/bed time/snuggle time charade that dragged out approximately 279 minutes longer than it ever should have. 

When I finally shut the door to the bigs' bedroom for the LAST TIME last night, my Momma heart fell apart. Like a dry leaf you find on the ground in the fall- it crushed into a thousand tiny pieces and drifted away as I shut down the house last night. As I picked up toys and folded blankets, and fixed the coffee pot and turned on the dishwasher, as I straightened bookshelves and emptied trashcans, my Momma heart just shattered from stress and frustration and exhaustion and tears. 

And, this morning, after a good night's sleep and with two really strong cups of coffee- I sat down with Jeremiah. I read his tear filled lament for Israel in Lamentations 3 and I cried, too. I felt his emptiness. His despair. His brokenness. 

But, more importantly, I felt his hope
"Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him."  -Jeremiah, Lamentations 3:19-25 [ESV, emphasis mine] 
Through Jeremiah's writing, I renewed myself for this new week. I read about his hope filled cry for God's mercy and I cried for it, too. I left Lamentations with a renewed promise of new mercies and steadfast love and the never ending lovingkindness that I know I'll need for this week. 

I prayed for a new week this morning. I prayed for a fresh set of unmarred planner pages and unsoiled opportunities and renewed strength of heart. I prayed for new mercies this morning.

And that's what I have.