Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Looking Back at July!

It's the last day of July! I am not ready for August. Not at all. There is way too much happening, and I am overwhelmed, haha.

I can't even begin to explain the kind of day we had here yesterday. From the moment we woke up in the morning it was one disaster after another. Boy am I thankful that with every sunrise comes a new day and a new start. Hopefully today will be better, and I think it will, because...it's a monthly wrap up day! These days always perk me up a bit. :) It's fun taking a look back and enjoying memories of happy times from the month.


Mr. Reagan

Nine months old! Our little man can now crawl just about anywhere in the house that his little self needs to go. He's pulling up on things, and lately he's been stopping mid-crawl to stick his hiney up in the air Mowgli style. I've done this baby thing enough times now to know what this means. He's trying to figure out how to stand up unsupported on his own in the middle of the room. Once the girls figured out this little trick it wasn't long before they were taking off!

I recently read a quote that I SO agree with and which cracks me up. "Your first child is made of bubbles. Your second child is made of china. Your third child is made of rubber!" Seriously, Reagan gets away with so much more than his sisters ever did, haha. I've been feeding this kid all kinds of things, letting him roam on his own more, laughing at stuff that would have mortified or scared the crap out of me two years ago. Rubber. There's a reason why the babies of the family get away with so much...because their parents are waaaay more laid back by the time they come around. :)

Reagan is becoming even more of a snuggly thing now that he's more mobile. If I lay him down while he's sleepy on one end of the couch and I'm sitting at the other end, he will get up and crawl to me and lay his head down on my lap. UH! SO sweet. Gets me every time. He still flashes his adorable smile and gives those flirty eyebrows that make me melt. But it's not just me who melts. I have never...ever...been stopped so much in public for people to ogle at my baby than I have been with Reagan. Even Eric has started to notice. It's certainly not that our girls didn't get attention, but I swear it's Reagan's baby blues. All of the ladies have to comment on his big eyes. "Let me get a look at that baby!" :)



Gracie

I think in all of the craziness of the month I failed to mention one huge milestone that we've finally hurdled. Grace is 100%, no looking back, potty trained. Woop! We are officially a one-diapered kid family once again, and it has been awesome. We don't really "potty train" our kids. At least we've never had to. No charts, no treats, no running kids to the bathroom. One day I'll hear, "Mom! I'm going on the potty!" coming from the bathroom. I say, "Okay, tell me when you're done!" And that's it. Potty trained. Haha.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of praise and fan-fare involved once they've mastered the skill. We're definitely excited. We just don't do anything, and we let them decide when they're ready for it. I'm sure this parenting style makes some people shiver, but it's worked pretty darn well for us. :D

God was really watching out for our Gracie girl this month. She took a nasty fall from the top of our basement stairs and landed on concrete flooring. I don't mean that she tumbled down the stairs, I mean she fell, one story, from the top of the stairs to the floor. She walked away scraped and bruised...but PRAISE THE LORD that she walked away. It could have been really bad, and I don't even like to think about it. This kid has nine lives, and she's already used a few of them, I swear. We have been holding her a little tighter lately. It's a good thing that she has also turned into a snuggle bunny and loves to give hugs and kisses these days. :) Other than being a love bug, Gracie loves to sing at the top her of lungs - especially songs she learned at Vacation Bible School, her favorite toy continues to be her princess castle - where she acts out elaborate scenarios with all of her toys, and she has recently taken pride in dressing herself and putting on her own shoes. (Hooray! Haha.)


Evelyn

If there is one word to describe my oldest child this month, I think I'd have to call her a "rascal!" I'll tell you what...I have no idea what happened to Evie, but she has been a handful lately. :) It's so hard to get mad at her though, because in one moment she's doing something draw-droppingly disobedient, and in the next moment she's saying outrageous, hilarious things that you would expect to hear from a forty year old, not a four year old. She is nothing but a typical kid who is testing the waters...just hoping this phase passes before I lose my mind. (Whoops...too late!)

In case you missed it, here is Evie's handiwork with the scissors yesterday. We're ending our month with a brand new and drastically different haircut for Evelyn! Oh, my child....

Evelyn really enjoys helping in the kitchen, which is very cute. I love seeing her take pride in something that she has helped to make. And she tries so hard to "babysit" her brother, which is actually terrifying, haha. "His arms don't bend that way! Put him down!" But the point is that she's trying, and I love her for her little mothering ways.

There are so many new things around the corner waiting for Evie, and I'm excited for her and hope to see her thrive as she goes to preschool. I think she is going to do really well with a school schedule, and she needs some time with kids who are on her level. Evelyn enjoys learning, and unfortunately, I can't always sit down one-on-one with her when there are two other needy kids to watch after, too. It's possible she's been acting out because she's bored, so I can only hope that a little more stimulation will do her good! She really is so smart and sweet...and super friendly. What is she looking forward to the most? "Doing projects!" Haha. I can't wait to see some of those projects myself. :)

July has been nothing short of exhausting for me. I started it with a bump on the head and a concussion, and I've never really recovered since, haha. I can't blame it all on a foggy brain, though. VBS took a lot out of me in the beginning, and then with Reagan's sleep regression (which is getting better!) it's been hard for me to catch up on rest. I really do feel like a walking zombie most days. I wish moms could take naps, but well...you've seen and heard the things that happen when I'm AWAKE, I can't imagine the kind of mischief my kids would get into if I were unconscious for 20 minutes.

Still, it amazes me how much we were able to do in a month!

We celebrated our nation's independence....

 ...and we sent my little sister off to bootcamp.

We had a blast during a week of vacation bible school...


...and the girls got to go to the movies for the first time. 

 Gracie potty trained herself!
This is what she does when she needs a little privacy, haha.

 The boys and I were even able to take a fun little day trip.

And we did so much more. Swimming, bike riding, Christmas in July...lots of memories and tons of fun. :)

I'm looking forward to another month of "firsts" and memories in August. I'm really hoping that the sun decides to come out and shine again so that we can enjoy our last weeks of summer vacation. We shall see! Have a great day!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Land of Lincoln

It was so wonderful to leave town with my boys for a little bit last Friday and travel up to the Land of Lincoln for the day! Eric and I have a love for U.S. History, and we especially enjoy visiting anything to do with our past presidents. Last summer we toured the libraries and home of President Truman, and we knew that before this summer was over that we needed to go to Springfield and check out Mr. Lincoln's old haunts.

We toured Lincoln's home, the old capitol building, the Lincoln museum, and we even visited Lincoln's tomb. Add in a stop for lunch and we were gone from about 8:00 in the morning and home around 8:00pm, so if you live near us, this is the perfect day trip! Pardon me if I nerd out a bit today, I just love this stuff. :)


After two hours in the car, our first stop was to explore the area and find some lunch. We had tickets to tour the Lincoln home at 11:40, so we had to find something quickly. We ended up in a little cafe called Z Bistro. (I think, haha.) 



Reagan is such a good traveling baby. He was happy to be out of the car and having a snack. :)

After lunch we walked back to the Lincoln home to wait for our tour time. 


I had butterflies waiting outside of Abraham Lincoln's house. Eeeee - his actual house! Apparently it's now state law for every student in Illinois to visit this place, but that wasn't so when I was in school. I had never been here before. Lincoln is by far my favorite president, and both Eric and I were really excited.



One thing you can't help but notice (and that the tour guide will make sure to point out) is how small the furniture was. Knowing that Lincoln was a tall guy makes it kind of hilarious trying to picture him sitting in the little chairs. :) So it makes sense that his favorite spot in the home was stretching out on the floor in front of the fireplace. 


Reagan was amazed by all of the information we were taking in.

Haha.

The dining room. Either that tour guide needs a nap, or he just encountered Lincoln's ghost.

This is the informal living room where the family would hang out. They had two house cats, and Mr. Lincoln loved them. :)

Upstairs there are five bedrooms - including separate master suites for Abe and Mary. 


Not all of the furniture in the home is original, but this piece is. Mr. Lincoln spent many late nights up at this desk. Have you ever missed someone you've never even met? I have. I miss this guy. Sigh....


Here's a peek into the boy's room. Do you see the marbles in the bottom right of the photo?


Those are actual marbles that the Lincoln boys played with - amazing! They were all dug up in the back yard, haha, and guess where they were found? Near the out house. According to archeologists, some of the BEST stuff that is ever dug up is found around out houses, which I think is really funny.

The Lincoln boys were typical little kids - very mischievous! Just outside of this window there is a balcony, and the boys used to sneak out there to play. One day they broke a piece of the railing outside, and no one ever repaired it. Their mama was not a happy camper abut that. :)


Back down the stairs is a tiny kitchen. This stove is original to the house and was purchased by Mary while the family lived here. 

It was at this point in the tour that the guides shared that living in this house was probably the highlight of the Lincoln's family lives. Once Mr. Lincoln won the presidency and moved to the White House, it was nothing but tragedy for them. The war, losing another child, and all of the stressors that came with being president made for some very hard final years of Lincoln's life. Abraham and Mary probably looked back on the years they spent with their family in this home with great fondness. Made me tear up a little bit. :)

Part of the tour included a trip outside to the fenced in backyard. Most yards were fenced in to keep roaming critters out. Wild animals were often found out in the streets!


On the back of the home you can see the pipes that ran down from the gutters and went underground. This was where rainwater was collected for the family to use for washing things, bathing, animals, etc. On the other side of the home there was a separate well for drinking water.

Eric and I had to sneak around to the side of the house to see if we could find the broken railing on the balcony. We found it! :)



 A few sad, but many happy memories for the Lincoln's in this home. I can't wait to take our whole family back someday, but Eric and I were both glad that we decided the girls should sit this trip out after we were informed that alarms would go off if anyone touched anything or stepped off of a certain carpet, haha. Gracie and Evelyn would have been everywhere!

We actually spent most of our day at the Lincoln museum, but you can't take any pictures there.


If you haven't been, go! :)

Next was a stroll to the old state capitol building where Mr. Lincoln spent a lot of his time working before becoming president. A top hat marks where he sat. 




We were actually able to park our car once and walk to each of these places, which was really nice! Most of Springfield was contained in about four city blocks in Lincoln's time, so everything was very close for us.

We couldn't leave, though, without a trip to visit Lincoln's tomb, the final resting place where he, Mary, and three of their four sons are laid. 



We went inside where a tour guide was sharing a story about the night that criminals tried to steal Lincoln's body. From that day on his tomb was guarded until his body was re-buried 10 feet under in concrete to make sure it never happened again. Crazy!

I love Abraham Lincoln for the principle's he stood for as president. The civil war was a bloody war, and he wasn't always beloved for it, as most war-time presidents are not. But he was a firm leader who made real, good changes in this country. In addition to that, he was a man of sound faith, whose adult life was led by a relationship with God. But this wasn't always the case. Abraham Lincoln was a well read and learned man, and even in today's society many intelligent individuals have a hard time with faith. There is an "I have to see it believe it" sort of mentality that many people seem to struggle with.

It wasn't until Lincoln lost the first of his sons that his wife began attending a church and Lincoln really started to take a look at scriptures closely for himself. After speaking with other very intelligent and learned men who also had a faith in God, Lincoln realized that faith and intelligence are not in conflict. :) From that point on, all of his decisions were God-led and entered into prayerfully. Walking around Lincoln's tomb was a little sad, but it made me smile at the same time. He's fine and free from the life of tragedies he experienced in 56 years on this earth. I can't wait to meet him someday.

So that was our trip! It was so much fun, I wish we could do it all over again. Eric and I had been looking forward to it for weeks, planning out everything we would see and do. We both really love Abraham Lincoln and consider him the very top of our "top 5" presidents, haha. And...if we are ever blessed with another son...betcha can't guess what his name is gonna be. ;)

Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Letters from Bootcamp


It has finally happened. After a couple of weeks of silence and uncertainty and wondering "What the heck is Shannon doing, and just how traumatized is she right now??" the letters have started rolling in. Whew.

Have you ever heard of the idea that you need to be completely broken down to be built back up again as a better, stronger person than you were before? I think that's probably the best way to describe the first week(s) of bootcamp. It's a total shock from the comforts of home to a totally new reality, and purposefully so. Obviously I am not talking from experience, only from what other people have told me. Trust me, I am not Marine material, haha.

No one was expecting Shannon's first letter home to be daisies and rainbows. But it's still hard to finally get that letter and read it for yourself. Shannon's first words weren't super comforting, especially to my poor mother who is a terrible worry wart, anyway. (Love ya, mom!)

She was tired and she was hungry. Shannon was miserable from lack of a shower, and the extreme humidity of July in South Carolina was/is nothing short of oppressing. While Shannon was having no problems at all following orders and performing tasks set before her, the same could not be said for the rest of her platoon. In her words, the platoon she was put in "sucked." Haha. According to her, none of the drill sergeants liked her at all, because they never had anything to yell at her about. I don't want to share every detail of personal letters, but hearing someone you love say that all they want to do every day is breakdown and cry...that is hard to swallow. Yes, it was a letter to be expected, but a tough one nonetheless. Every time we would step out into the heat, eat a meal, take a shower...we couldn't help but think about the struggles that Shannon was experiencing right then.

We started writing letters back immediately, but before ours could even reach her, more were coming in from Shannon. And what a difference a few days can make. :) My sister...is awesome. Yes, I said it.


She wrote back with some really incredible news. My baby sister was given the leadership position over 70+ girls in her platoon as a Lay Reader. What is a Lay Reader? In Shannon's words, "Basically, if the girls are broken I am supposed to help them out spiritually. Which is totally awesome!"

Shannon will be working with the chaplains as someone who can counsel and help other struggling young girls in her platoon. The Lay Reader also leads prayer for their platoon, among other things. This is a job that requires a recommendation and has to be approved by her leaders, which means that obviously they have seen something in Shannon that makes her stand out. By taking this position, she is automatically held to a higher standard than the rest of her comrades, but it is a job she is excited to take. "I am loving every minute of it! :)" I can't even express how proud I am of her!

From the beginning Shannon mentioned that many other girls had commented on how "together" and confident she was. She had already established herself as someone that others looked up to, which makes me even MORE proud of her. And to add to it, there was more good news.

"I have bruises and bug bites everywhere, but they actually let us shower for real (kind of ) today!" - Haha, I bet she felt like a new woman.

"My platoon is getting pretty good at drill with our rifles. :) AND we learned how to stab people with them today!" :D Ha!

The fact that she is in blistering hellish heat and still signing her letters with hearts and smiley faces let's me know that she's surviving and in a good place right now. Or at least, as good as it gets! :)

Still, she is begging and pleading for letters and pictures from home. "I need all of the motivation and reassurance from back home that I can get!" So please, if you think of her, drop Shannon a postcard, send her a letter, take a picture of yourself and hold up a sign that says, "Hello!" haha. ANYTHING.

RCT FELDT, SHANNON MARIE
4TH RTBT PLT 4033 CON
PO BOX 16425
PARRIS ISLAND, SC 29905-6445



On training day 4 Shannon IT'd twice in a row, meaning that she did something wrong and she had "intensive training" for it. In other words, she was punished. I had to google "IT'd" to make sure I knew what it meant, and the gist is that it's some really grueling exercises for about 90 seconds while someone is yelling in your face. You know, typical Marine stuff. What struck me about it was how little Shannon actually dwelled on that in her letter, and part of me can't help but think she didn't mind it that much, baha. That's Shannon. :)

I can't wait to receive more letters from my sister and hear all about how God is using her with the new leadership position she has been given. Seriously, what an awesome opportunity. You know, there were a lot of setbacks for her leading up to this point. Shannon didn't end up leaving when she was supposed to because of various issues outside of her control. So many disappointments and obstacles stood in her way. She could have ended up in a completely different platoon with an entirely different set of girls if she had gone on her original date.

Given recent events, I can't help but think there was a reason she is with this particular group. Someone, or several someones, are going to be counseled by her, and it's Shannon's job to share the love of God with them. I don't believe in coincidences. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a reason that Shannon is where she is right now, at the time she is there, and with the people she is with. I am thankful that while bootcamp feels nothing short of "hell on earth" that God is still very much with her, guiding and directing her. No screaming drill sergeants, no blankets of humidity, and no amount of hunger and exhaustion stands between her and Him. He hears and answers prayers everywhere. Praise God for that!

I hope that whatever Shannon is doing right now, she is totally rocking it and making the most of the time she is given. Her enthusiasm has been catching. And goodness me, after her last few letters, I hope my mama is sleeping a little better at night! ;)



Thank you for all of the kind words of support you have already given to my sister. I know most of you don't even know her at all, which makes it even more incredible to have your encouragement. What a great group of friends we have. Hope you all have a wonderful day!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Two Awful Words

What have I been doing with my life?

Two words: Sleep regression
Oh, and two more words: Yard Sale

Before I had kids I had never heard of the term "sleep regression." In fact, even after I had a kid I still hadn't heard of it, even though I did, in fact, experience it. Sleep regression is when a perfectly happy, awesome-sleeping baby (who has spoiled their parents) starts learning a lot of new stuff all at once and suddenly wakes up 345689485 times a night.

It sucks.

Regressions are common around 4 months and again between 8-10 months when huge milestones like crawling, pulling up, and maybe even walking occur. The best way I've ever had it described to me is that it's like a baby's brain is constantly firing away, and they just can't shut it off. It annoys them just as much as mom and dad when they can't stay asleep and have a hard time falling back asleep. Kind of like what happens to adults when they are up worrying about something or too excited to fall asleep.

All three of my kids skipped the four month regression and hit the second one - bam - like clockwork at eight months old. With Evelyn I was clueless, and her regression started the beginning of co-sleeping with her, because it was the ONLY way any of us could get any rest. I would later learn not to start any habits with your baby that you don't want them to carry on after a regression, as regressions don't last forever.

So when it happened with Gracie less than two years later, I started doing a little research. Turned out our little "problem" had a name, and it was super common. Armed with new information I was able to deal with the regression, though it lasted a loooong time with Gracie girl.

Fast-forward to baby number three. I was waiting for it. Hoping, of course, that maybe we would get lucky and skip it all together. But that fateful night a week ago when I heard unfamiliar squawking coming from my baby boy in the middle of the night...I knew. Here we go.

It has been a long week. Long, long week. I am literally running on about four broken hours of sleep per night, and on Saturday I was lucky to get two or three. I don't drink coffee, but Dr. Pepper and sweet tea are my best friends right now. I am cranky and short tempered. This is not a time to mess with mommy. :)


In the midst of it all, we did have a fun day swimming the other day!


The Chester pool is underrated. The water was the perfect temperature, hardly anyone was there, and kids five and under get in FREE. Red Bud, take notes. It was worth the drive!


Despite how it looks, Reagan did have a good time. :)

We didn't do a lot over the weekend, as I have also been preparing for a yard sale. We need to unleash the beast that is our basement in a really bad way, and I would like to get the kids some Fall clothes without breaking the bank. Going through all of our stuff, especially the girls' clothing, has been a monumental undertaking. Somebody's kids are going to be SET, haha.

In other news, today I register my first born for school. AAAAAHHHH!! Help me, Lord. Actually, I'm really excited about it. :)

And we're planning a possible day trip to visit one of our favorite deceased presidents later this week. We'll see if Eric's work schedule allows us to go.

That's life right now. Just surviving! Praying this regression is over quickly and that life can get back to normal soon. Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Enjoying the Fruits of Nature

...and my mom and dad's manual labor. Haha.

If there is one thing we really love about summertime, it's all of the fresh fruits and veggies we get to eat that come from my parent's house! We've been enjoying lots of salads and organic vegetables and fruits for the past few weeks. Yesterday the kids and I visited my parents, and we came home with some more goodies of our own. :)


My parents aren't farmers and they don't live in the country; in fact, they live right in the middle of town. But they do have an awesome garden, a strawberry patch, blueberry bushes, peach tree, and several apple trees. My mom obviously possesses some kind of green thumb that I simply do not have, haha. 

I couldn't even tell you all of the things that are growing in that garden. From your typical green beans, lettuce, squash, and tomatoes, to a variety of melons and more. When we're ready for dinner at my mom and dad's, my mom literally walks outside and picks something for us to eat. It's all fresh and chemical free, which I love. 


Reagan can't eat all of the foods that we do just yet, but he sure does love swinging in front of the garden, haha. He never wants to be taken out of that swing!


The peach tree yielded a lot of fruit this year, and after my mom worked up and froze a bunch herself, she sent over a big bowl for us, too. I needed a way to use some of them up, so the girls and I made a dessert this morning. We can't wait for Eric to get home tonight so that we can EAT it!

Fruit crisps are probably my favorite dessert. Better than cake, better than pie. Mmm...just love them. And peach crisp is my favorite of all. We combined a couple of recipes this morning to make (what I hope to be) a really yummy treat.


If you score and blanch the peaches for one minute in boiling water it makes them super easy to peel. It also brings out the flavor in any slightly under-ripe peaches. Dunk them in some ice water for just a minute and then peel away!



Ignore the groceries on the counter, I just wanted to show you how much I love the topping, haha. I doubled the recipe, because it's my favorite part. :)

And yes, we do eat Ramen. If I let her, Evelyn would eat "squiggly noodles" every day for lunch, haha.

When the fruit starts bubbling through the top, you know it's almost done. Here is how ours turned out.


Since I'm not 100% sure of the recipe, I'm going to wait until we get to sample it before I share what we did. I'll put it here tomorrow if anyone is interested. And if this doesn't taste like dirt. Dear Lord, don't let this taste like dirt!

I can't wait to chop up some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers for a garden fresh salad tonight. Mmm...keep it coming!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bikes and Cake

^^ Because I am really tired, and I can't think of a title. :)

Hey friends! Checking in. I got really side-tracked yesterday with a project. Do you want to know the true test of whether or not you've decided once and for all, for SURE that you don't plan to have any more kids? Have a yard sale, haha. It forces you to really think. To sell it or not to sell it? That is the question.

I am 80% sure I'm done having kids. I was probably more like 90% sure until I walked into the basement and could NOT bring myself to part with the baby gear. What if?? I just can't commit one way or the other yet. :) (I have no desire whatsoever to be pregnant, for the record, and my heart feels plenty full. There is no baby ache. I just don't want to close any doors at 27 years old. Every time I make a plan, God changes it!)

In other news, here are some photos from our Sunday afternoon: the girls riding bikes in their church clothes. Haha.




I tried to take a picture of Reagan, too, but we were a little close. :)



After bike riding and lunch that afternoon, we all enjoyed a piece of Evie's prize cake! My child was so proud of herself for winning a cake on her first try at the Catholic picnic the night before. She chose this one all by herself. 


It looked a little melty by then, but it tasted great. :)

She got the biggest kick out of asking each of us if we wanted some cake. Love her.

It's a lazy week after one of complete chaos around here. Sigh...I will take it! I have some plans...we'll see if they happen. If they do, awesome. If they don't...cool. It's all whatever. I'm making lunch, and then I might take a shower. Sometimes this stay at home mom gig isn't so bad; though, it might not make for a very interesting week in blogging. Tomorrow's title might be, "Pajamas and Channel Surfing." We'll see. :)

Peace out.


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