Friday, June 26, 2015

Week In Pictures: June 15th-21st

Although school has been out for a few weeks, this week felt like the first week of Summer.  We kicked off our Summer activities with a week of Vacation Bible School for Hannah.
Each morning I dropped Hannah off at 8:45 and picked her up at noon smiling and happy.  
Each day she'd meet me with a bag full of arts and crafts, and singing beautiful new songs she'd learned.  
Each evening we read the day's bible verse and talked about the lesson she'd learned that day at VBS.  It was awesome to hear her asking these thought provoking questions about the story of Elijah.


The last day of VBS was Crazy Hair day, and although I did exactly what Hannah asked, she declared it 'Too Cute to be Crazy' and considered it a failure - but cute.


While Hannah was busy with VBS each day, William and I had a lot of time together.  One day he spent some time with his buddy, Chase, at the playground.  William is a year younger than this little boy, but they are finally at the age where they can play as peers.

William's current favorite show is Little Einstein's, followed closely by Super Why.  For months he was obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so this is a nice change of pace with more educational shows.  He's become very interested in Letters lately so he particularly likes that about Super Why.


I still don't think William understands that there is an actual baby in my tummy (34 weeks this week), but he finally relented and attempted to feel and listen for the baby.  I'm pretty sure he's convinced I just ate too much ice cream and am making the whole 'baby' thing up.  His world is going to be rocked in July...

I'm a huge fan of Instagram now.  I find it to be an efficient way to follow brands and people that I love.  One brand I follow is Milk Makers, and recently they had a huge sale on their pregnancy cookies (which I saw during snack time) so I bought the 3 box bundle.  I can't recommend these cookies enough if you're pregnant.  They're so tasty, huge, and perfect to keep in your purse when you're hit with a craving.  My sweet tooth has been intense this week, so these were a lifesaver!


My birthday was earlier this month and I'm signed up for just about every birthday club that exists.  I'm cool with free burgers and ice cream.  I snapped this picture of Hannah and William while waiting for my Teriyaki Chicken Burger and Freckled Lemonade at Red Robin.  I order that every time I go and it's so, so, good.


On Saturday Kohl's sponsored a car seat check.  This was my first time having my car seats officially checked and it was a great learning experience.  I was able to pick the technician's brain about different layouts to accommodate foster children, and I was told that my car seats were the best installed they saw all day!!  We had to remove a headrest, and we switched Hannah to a seat belt install since she had just hit the weight limit for LATCH.  (I knew that she was getting close but waited to switch it until we had the seat professionally installed.)  She also helped me install the infant car seat base, so we're all ready for baby!  

Well, the minivan is ready for baby.  I still have some newborn laundry to do.

I can't get over how old William looks in this picture.  
My little boy is getting so big! (He turned 27 months this week.)

The week ended with Father's Day.  I snapped this picture at our Go To restaurant choice - Sweet Tomatoes.  Seriously, I love this place.  They have an extensive salad bar that the kids go crazy for, and everything is already bite sized, so when we get to our table I don't have to cut everything up for them.  Moms know - this is huge.  They also have these tiny little ice cream cones which the kids beg for.  Tiny dessert that appeases toddlers?  Winner.  I've signed up for their Club Veg and regularly get a coupon for 2 adult dinners with beverage for $19.99.  Hannah is a couple dollars and William is free.  Family dinner at a restaurant for under $25!  

I love this face.


Mother's Day and Father's Day are very laid back at our house.  There's no footprint art or ugly neckties given as gifts.  Instead we usually start the day with a great breakfast and go to church.  All day you are not the PIC - Parent in Charge.  No diaper duty, no mediating bickering kids, no bedtime duty.  You just get to enjoy your family and then when they throw a tantrum your partner takes over.  It's awesome.  Plus dinner is your choice.  

Overall this was a great week.  We were busy in the mornings, but spent a lot of quality time together in the evenings.

Note - This Summer is going to get crazy once the baby arrives in late July.  If you haven't already added me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter make sure you do!  I update each of those platforms on a near daily basis.







Thursday, June 4, 2015

Preschool Graduation & the Kindergarten Decision

Hannah is officially a Preschool graduate!  We had a big decision to make in regards to PreK or Kindergarten this fall, and have gone back and forth for months.  We finally came to an agreement and I think everyone is happy.

Although Hannah was due on September 1st (which happens to be the admission cutoff for Kindergarten), she wasn't born until the 19th.  Upon first calculating her due date I remember realizing that if I went even ONE day overdue that she would miss the cut off.  Apparently I didn't knock on wood and instead she went 18 days over.  But I digress...


Shortly before Hannah turned three she began a 3 year old preschool program, and just completed the 4 year old program this Spring.  With two years of 'school' under her belt she knows how to conduct herself in a classroom, and continues to improve her social skills.
Her teacher (pictured above) did a wonderful job of teaching the children phonics, and Hannah has begun reading Bob Books and easily sounds out basic words.
After months of Hannah begging to go to Kindergarten at the 'Big Kid's School', in March we contacted our district's elementary school and spoke with the Principle about early entry.  Chris was the oldest in his class and I was one of the youngest in mine, so we had many discussions about the pros and cons of both.  Ultimately we realized that if Hannah was excited about it and the testing would show if she was ready for it, then we should at least let her try.
In May Hannah sat down for an academic test with the school's Kindergarten teacher, and last week Hannah sat in on a Kindergarten class while the school counselor observed her.
This morning we spoke with the Principle and found out that Hannah did very well on both evaluations.  We ultimately decided to let Hannah begin Kindergarten in September, and if after two months we felt that she wasn't ready, then we'd have the option of switching her to a PreK program instead.  I think this is a great compromise and Hannah agrees.  She's also VERY excited.

Part of me expected to have another year before having a Kindergarten student, but a bigger part of me knows that Hannah is independent and determined and will thrive in school.

Hannah was so proud of her graduation ceremony, but I think she was most excited to wear her new rainbow heart dress and cutout hooded sandals from Fabkids.  "I look like a Kindergartner in this outfit!"  Yes, Yes she does...

In case you aren’t familiar, they are a subscription service that offers you a complete outfit for $29.95 a month. Every outfit includes 2 pieces — so you can get a fabulous dress, paired with leggings OR a top and a bottom, etc.  They make girls and boys clothing with a wide range of sizes.  Hannah is wearing a Medium (6/7) in these pictures and it's nice and roomy.  (The Small (4/5) just became a little too tight.)   They carry XXS (2T - which William has just started wearing!) up to XL (12).

Thanks to FabKids for providing Hannah's outfit for review.  
We've been working with FabKids for over a year and I'm very 
impressed with the quality (and cuteness!) of their clothing.  
I highly recommend them.  See disclosure for details.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hannah's New Church Dress

Hannah is officially 4.5 years old and although she says she wants to live at home with her mom and dad forever, I'm pretty sure her current career aspiration is to be a fashion designer.

Every day she wants to pick out her own outfit - complete with accessories, shoes, and purse - and then upon coming back home she asks to play dress up and change into something completely different.

This is why her favorite package that the postman delivers is the bright pink bag from Fabkids.

In case you aren’t familiar, they are a subscription service that offers you a complete outfit for $29.95 a month. Every outfit includes 2 pieces — so you can get a fabulous dress, paired with leggings OR a top and a bottom, etc.  They make girls and boys clothing with a wide range of sizes.  Hannah is wearing a Small (4/5) in this video, but I'll be moving her up to a Medium (6/7) soon.   They carry XXS (2T - which William has just started wearing!) up to XL (12).

Here is her unboxing video for April's outfit.  I love her reaction!


Thanks to FabKids for providing Hannah's outfit for review.  
We've been working with FabKids for over a year and I'm very 
impressed with the quality (and cuteness!) of their clothing.  
I highly recommend them.  See disclosure for details.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Six years ago Chris and I were on our Honeymoon and dreaming about the life and family that was to come.  We were sitting poolside in Mexico drinking from coconuts, zip lining through the rainforest, parasailing over the ocean.
That's me parasailing!

It was idyllic.  We had no idea that we would soon be facing infertility, that it would take seven cycles of fertility treatments to conceive, or that we would be told that IVF was our only option for a second baby.
Newlyweds

It was a tough journey to get here, but we've also been so blessed along the way.  We got our very first positive pregnancy test on Christmas Eve - hands down the best present ever - and our second child was miraculously conceived naturally while on a break from treatments - much to the shock of all our doctors.  Both of our children are happy and healthy and amazing.  I recognize the struggles, but I choose to focus on the positive.

If it wasn't for my infertility diagnosis I wouldn't have started vlogging 5+ years ago, and I wouldn't have found an amazing group of supportive women that would walk this journey with me.

I love my little corner of the internet.
I love that I can share my struggles and my successes with people that understand.

Have you ever heard the quote "Comparison is the thief of Joy"?
I think it fits really well with my experience in the YouTube and online Mom communities.
Whenever I see someone that makes a fabulous video, or comes up with a really great idea for a vlog topic, I find that I berate myself a bit.  "Why aren't you doing more with your channel?  It's been a week since you vlogged!"  I get so down on myself.

And then William spills a cup of water all over himself because he's still learning how to tilt the cup without falling victim to physics and gravity.
Or Hannah brings me three different colored legos and asks me "What color does orange and red and white make?" so I bust out the paints and we discover that it makes a pretty pinky peach color.
Or I get a phone call at 8am just as I've sat down to edit that day's vlog and it's our caseworker asking if I can bring my foster son to the office for a visit with a family member - in an hour.  So I drop everything and pack a diaper bag.

And then I remind that inner voice to cut me some slack.

Being a mom is a big job. period.

There are so many things I want to do and can never seem to find time for.
I'm in awe of some women that seem to do it all - raise cute kids, edit videos every day, write witty blogs, volunteer at the soup kitchen, refinish Goodwill furniture and still have time to sip a Starbucks coffee with perfect nails and hair - but I've come to terms with the fact that I'm never going to live up if that is the ideal.

So I've made my own ideal for a life well lived.  Well, I'm *making* my own ideal.  It's evolving.
It's also full of a lot of cliches, the first of which is: Comparison is the thief of Joy.

How often have we achieved a goal only to realize someone else has surpassed it, and immediately the victory has turned into a failure?

We can choose to be jealous and turn that negativity on ourselves or others, or we can start training that voice to be positive.  To congratulate them on their success and to learn a thing or two from them, because the thing to remember is - their success doesn't equal your failure.

Their child speaking in French at 20 months doesn't mean you're a failure as a mother.
Their channel reaching 534k subscribers doesn't mean your channel sucks.
Their house being suspiciously devoid of any stray toys while they vlog doesn't mean you're a failure as a SAHM.

It means they are rockin' it.
High five them and move on.
Cut yourself some slack and just do your best.
I promise - it's enough.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lessons From The Playground

Most of you know that Chris and I have recently become foster parents.  I've been discussing this new journey over on my YouTube channel, so if this comes as news you can catch up here (Foster Care Playlist) and hear about our first placement here (1st Placement).  Recently we provided 5 days of Respite Care for a 4 year old boy.
Respite Care: Respite care refers to one foster family caring for another family's foster children for a short amount of time. This allows for the children's original foster family to have a break. This type of foster care is especially helpful when foster children have behaviors such as seen in many therapeutic foster homes.
Before I get too deep into this story I want to tell you about something that happened a few weeks ago.  I took both kids grocery shopping and it was a great outing - they listened, we laughed, they were helpful - I walked out of that store loving my kids and feeling like I had this Mom thing figured out.  I put the groceries in the car while Hannah buckled herself into her car seat, and then I went to put William into his driver's side car seat.

As I lifted him out of the shopping cart I noticed a mom and her teenage son walking towards me.  The boy had the start of facial hair and looked sullen with his head down.  I thought nothing of it, in fact he looks pretty much like the typical teenage boy stuck grocery shopping with his mom on a Saturday.  She slowed to open the trunk - turns out they were parked next to me - and put the groceries in her car, but he kept walking.  She called after him and asked him to wait (I was trying to buckle William in at this point and help Hannah adjust her chest clip) but he kept walking and proceeded to open the car door forcefully into my back and got into the passenger seat.

Normally I would have been annoyed.  If I was having a rough day I might have even had a dirty look or a few choice words for the son (and perhaps even the mother if I was really looking for a fight), but I was in a great mood and it didn't phase me.  The mom rushed over apologizing profusely.  "He has autism.  He doesn't even know you're there."

I could see it in her eyes, she was trying to beat me to the punch by explaining, but was braced for judgement.  I smiled.  "No worries.  He's fine.  No harm done."  I tried to convey everything I felt with that smile - not pity, just understanding from one mom to another.

On the drive home I thought about that mom, and since that day I've continued to think about her.  I wonder how many times she's had to apologize like that, how many times she's been met with judgement instead of kindness.  I've never been so thankful to have been in a good mood.  She unknowingly reminded me that we're all just doing the best we can and a smile and some understanding goes a long way.

Fast forward to our respite care placement with Travis* (name changed to protect privacy).  He was fairly new to the foster care system.  He'd been with this family for 6 weeks after he was found wandering the streets in a diaper.  Yes, he's four years old and not potty trained.  He also didn't speak more than a few words.  From what I understand he's on a waitlist for a pediatrician that might give him a diagnosis other than neglect.  I suspect (strongly) that it might be Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Regardless, he was a perfectly sweet little boy.  When you sat with him you could see his deficits: His voice and hands had tremors which made talking and eating difficult.  He could build anything with legos, but couldn't understand interlocking puzzle pieces.  He was friendly and kind, but he also didn't understand personal space and would often get in Hannah's face and wouldn't stop when she asked nicely - or when she yelled not so nicely - for him to back away.

But on the playground he looked like any other 4 year old.
He had limitless energy and loved going down the slide.  He made friends because he was so outgoing and nice.  He ran and played for an hour without the smile leaving his face once.

I took Hannah, William and Travis* to the park and everyone had a great time.  William tired first and so I sat on the bench next to the other moms and he sat on my lap as we watched the big kids play.  Then it happened.

Travis went down the slide and his shirt flipped up in the back.  As he ran around to the ladder his diaper was visible above the waistband of his jeans.

"Is that boy wearing a diaper?!" exclaimed one mom.
"He's not potty trained yet? That's just lazy." muttered another.
"I wonder what's wrong with him.  Maybe he's slow." posed the third.

I was frozen in my seat.  Stunned silent.  Flabbergasted.
I wanted to call them out for their judgments and point out that he's a little boy that's been through hell.
I wanted to ask them if they'd ever changed a 4 year old's dirty diaper.  Honestly, it's gross.  It's much easier to be a 'lazy' parent when your child is potty trained.  I can't remember the last time I put Hannah in a pull up or diaper.  Life after potty training is a breeze comparatively.
I felt so judged as his 'mom'.  I wanted to advocate for him.  I wanted to hug him and protect him from their words even though I knew he hadn't heard them.  I wanted to pause that moment and have time to figure out the best way to handle this situation.
Instead, as calmly as I could I said "His name is Travis, and he's doing the best he can."

I stood and collected the kids and we went home.  Hannah exclaimed "This was the best day ever!" from the backseat and Travis* asked "We go back?" and I told him we could return tomorrow.  Inside I felt defeated, and sad, and slightly proud that I had said something instead of letting their judgement continue.

A week later and I'm still not sure what I should have done.  Travis has since returned to his foster home, but in many ways I'm still back on that playground.  Thinking of those moms, of all the children like Travis*, of the future foster children I'll care for and the judgements they'll receive.

I suppose I wrote this to remind you to smile at the mom, for an ounce of kindness goes a long way, and to be mindful of your words, for they carry more weight than your realize.

“I have learned silence from the talkative, 
toleration from the intolerant, 
and kindness from the unkind.” 
~Khalil Gibran

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