Sunday, April 29, 2012

Steppin' Out Saturday

On Saturday, the girls and I stepped out for lunch with one of my very best girlfriends, 
Jess, and her son, Cade.  We ate yummy sandwiches and fruit salad and exchanged stories 
in between laughing at the hilarious conversation between the little ones.  After lunch, 
we went back to our house where Jess and I enjoyed a cup of tea on the back porch while 
the kids had popsicles and played in the yard.  Jess and I were treated to very 
sweet, agreeable children that day who played and played for hours, leaving us to catch 
up on our new favorite books, gardening tips, and romantical fanfare.  It was exactly 
the kind of Saturday we needed after the busy last couple of weekends: good friends, 
good food, good conversation.  Nothing better than that.
The girls were too busy chasing after Cade to be bothered with photos so here's 
what Mama wore...

Top, tank, shorts: Old Navy>> Sandals: Roxy>>
Scarf: Fatwoman



pleated poppy

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Week's Favorites

Favorite photo...
I just love when this picture shy fella gives in and holds me like we are at Prom '97...

Favorite quote...
To keep the fire burning brightly there's one easy rule:  Keep the two logs together, 
near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart - about a finger's breadth - 
for breathing room.  Good fire, good marriage, same rule. 
~Marnie Reed Crowell
Favorite recipe...
I made these kebabs while my in-laws were visiting: SO GOOD!

Favorite links...
Vanessa's post on letting go: a struggle we can all relate to.
Your children want you!!!  YES!!!
This birthday party looks like a blast!  I love the idea of setting up canvases for the kids 
to go wild.
This photo gallery of yummy lunchboxes gave me so many ideas!

Caitlin's post touched my heart in so many ways.  I have a husband who works away and
can completely relate to the worry and anxiety she feels.
DIY aloe vera gel: a must for our outdoor loving family.
A blog written by two sisters, one who lives in the country and one who lives in the city.  
I love their two unique perspectives!
I love Erin, her photos, and this sweet day.  
A great post for anyone interested in raising chickens, per my real life friend, 
Favorite moment...
Truth be told, I had a bad week.  On Monday, my in-laws flew home and Shawn left for 
his work trip.  I have felt sad all week and have really missed all the noise and chaos 
of having a house full of people.  Work was stressful and ridiculously busy and I've been 
up late every night catching up on my charting.  Isabelle had a big school project due and 
we were glued to the kitchen table every night working to get it done, making her 
very restless and irritated.  Overall, this week left me feeling tired, overworked, and 
wishing that every weekend was a 4 day weekend like the last.  Last night, I finally 
said screw it, enough is enough.  We finished up Isabelle's project, I put my work 
computer away, turned off the phone, and my girls and I all climbed into bed.  We went 
to sleep very early, all of us feeling exhausted and needing to let our bodies rest.  With a 
girl on each side of me, little hands in my hair and legs strewn about, I felt myself
 clinging tightly to their smells, their relentless love.  I found myself finally relaxing 
and letting go of my sad funk.  It was a bad week, and that's okay.  We all have 
those sometimes.  And when we do, sometimes it's best to just go to bed and cuddle 
and start over tomorrow.
Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Good Talk

My phone rang the other day, an unfamiliar number, a nervous voice on the 
other end.
"Hi, Liv.  This is M.  I'm so and so's mom.  I have a couple of questions, I hope they're not 
too personal.  But I've heard you speak about this before and I was wondering if you 
could give me so insight.  I just don't know what to do".
The woman was the mother of a child in Isabelle's class.  We know each by face, 
everyday pleasantries here and there, but we had never really spoken before.  She 
was calling because she was concerned about her child, she's been noticing some 
problems, both academically and socially, but she was scared of the letters: ADD.  She 
was so nervous, very aware of the personal nature of the conversation, not wanting 
to intrude in our family's personal business or offend my in any way.
I opened up to her instantly.  I could hear it in her voice: the guilt, the shame, the 
self-doubt.  She was so worried for her child but was afraid of the possibilities.  I 
understood how she felt because I have felt the same way.  When Isabelle was 
diagnosed with ADD, I felt like I had failed her.  I went over and over it in my 
mind, wondering what I could have done differently.  I blamed myself, Shawn, her 
school.  I felt sad that she would have to work so hard to overcome those three letters: 
ADD.  She would have to learn how to focus, she would have to be so self aware and 
develop efficient study habits: skills that come naturally to most children.  My little 
girl would be faced with social stigmas, she would go through periods of feeling 
inadequate.  My heart felt like it weighed a ton as I imagined all of these scenarios in 
my head, processing her future and how we would overcome this.
But that was just it: we WOULD overcome this.  WE would.  Together.  After a few days 
of epic mama guilt, I pulled my boot straps up and set to work developing a plan of action 
for Isabelle.  Where to start?
First thing's first: form a team.  Isabelle's teacher was the first person we told about 
her diagnosis.  We discussed her medication regimen and how we planned to change 
our routine to create an ideal learning environment at home.  Her teacher was 
immediately on board, giving us immeasurable amounts of encouragement and 
reassurance.  She moved Isabelle to a desk front and center, right next to her desk so
 that she would be available when she needed that little bit of extra attention.  She 
also recommended a private tutor that Isabelle sees once a week to help her with 
concepts she has trouble with in class and needs extra attention on.
Next: behavior modification.  We took a long, hard look at Belle's diet and cut out a lot 
of sugar, carbs, and processed foods.  We bumped her bedtime up an hour to ensure she 
was getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.  We set up a "homework station" 
that was neat and organized and free of distractions to help her stay on task.  We cut 
down on the amount of after school activities she was involved in, limiting her to 3 
activities per week, so that she didn't get overwhelmed and burned out.  And, 
most importantly, we set aside time for her to decompress and just be a wild and free 
kid every day, allowing her the opportunity to burn off the energy that she didn't know 
how to process.
Third: positive reinforcements.  At Belle's doctor's suggestion, we set up a sticker chart 
on the refrigerator with simple, age appropriate tasks for her to complete each day 
and week. Things like making her bed every morning, feeding the dogs, completing 
her homework, setting the table, and taking her bath earned her stickers.  Each week, 
we agree on a goal and a reward for meeting that goal: going out for ice cream, having
 a friend over, movie night, etc.  She LOVES her sticker charts so much and works 
really hard to meet her goal every week.  Not only does it keep her on task, but it 
teaches her responsibility and self sufficiency.  It reinforces a very valuable life lesson: 
hard work truly does pay off.
And last by not least: be realistic.  Our pediatrician told us from day one: your child is 
not perfect, she will not come home with straight As and perfect conduct every week.  
Learn to accept the reality that she is just a kid, no matter what all the parenting books 
and blogs would have you believe otherwise.  As long as she is working hard, doing her
 best, and trying to achieve small, simple goals: praise and reward her.  We are not 
seeking perfection, we are seeking a happy, healthy child.
I told all of this to the mother who called me, reassuring her that ADD will not keep her 
child from succeeding in life, following her dreams, or being exactly who she wants to 
be.  Getting a proper diagnosis and formulating a plan of care, applying interventions 
as early as possible and setting your child up to succeed are what you need to do, not 
beat yourself up or doubt yourself as a parent.  Society tells us things about parenting 
that are unrealistic: no one's life really looks like a page off Pinterest.  We are all just 
working to build happy, memorable moments that fit our own definitions of bliss.  
Hang in there, work hard, and remember to give credit where credit is due.
I connected with this mother who called me that day, I felt like we both benefited from 
our conversation about our children.  She was reassured, ready to move on to the next
 step.  And I was able to recognize how far our family has come, how much Isabelle
 has grown and flourished in so many ways.  
It was a good talk.


Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baby Steps to a Happy Heart v.2

An ongoing list of steps I'm building to nurture a happy heart...
3.  Get moving...
I go through phases with exercise.  Some weeks I love it, feeling energized and 
renewed after I work up a sweat.  At other times, I feel drained before I even step foot 
in the gym, arguing with my subconscious about why I should NOT have to exercise 
today.  But I keep trying, every single week, I try to get moving.  Even on those days 
when all I want to do is get home from work and curl up into a ball and sleep for just a 
few minutes, I try to get moving.  Because the reality is that exercise is good for me,
 it makes me feel better and keeps my body healthy.  Stretching, running, lifting 
weights, yoga, dancing: it all leads to a stronger, happier version of me.  Three times a 
week, one hour at a time, I go to the gym and spend time strengthening and toning my 
body.  With a full time job and a family depending on me, those three days sometimes 
feel like a big sacrifice.  But it's a commitment that I feel resolved to, knowing the feeling 
I get as soon as those endorphins kick in.  No matter how much I might dread walking
 into that gym, I know how awesome I will feel once I get there.  On the other days of 
the week, I try to get moving at home with my family: bike rides, hiking, frisbee in the 
yard, anything to get us all moving together.  Burning energy in a healthy way keeps us 
all a little more sane, and that is a good thing.
4.  Go outside...
I am a born and raised country girl and feel most at home with my bare feet in the grass 
and the sun on my face.  The love for the great outdoors that Shawn and I share is 
the reason we moved home to our little town on the bayou after Isabelle was born: 
we wanted our babies to have the room to run wild.  We wanted the opportunity to have 
home with a big open yard, we wanted the space to grow a garden or two or three, 
we wanted to spend time in nature appreciating the beauty that surrounds us.  Most 
days, you'll find this little family outside, reluctantly packing up our things and heading 
into the house only as the sun sets.  Being outdoors is medicine for my soul, lifting my 
mood and filling my heart with positive feelings.  When I am feeling sad or overwhelmed 
or tired or stressed,  I grab my gardening gloves and head outside to my flowers and 
herbs.  I strap Brees on the back of my bike and ride.  I sit on my back porch with a cup
 of tea and a good book.  After an hour or two of fresh air and sunshine, my troubles
 usually don't seem as big as they did before.  Being outdoors, with the birds in my ears 
and the trees blowing their branches in tune with the wind, life seems to take on a 
much more simple, beautiful form.
A few photos from this last weekend with my in-laws in which we moved and played and 
sat outside for hours, making all of our hearts so happy...





Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Special Sunday

On Sunday, Isabelle made her first Communion, a very special day in a little Catholic's 
life.  She and her second grade class have been preparing all year: studying their 
Catechism and learning their prayers.  At only eight years old, she is at the very beginning 
of her spiritual life, laying down the foundation and developing a very young 
understanding of what it means to know and serve something larger than herself.  As 
her mother, that has been a very powerful journey for me to witness.  Her innocent 
and loving heart inspires me to view the world differently, gives me a great sense 
of responsibility to live my life knowing that she is watching and molding her ways to 
match mine.  
Our priest gave the children a piece of advice during mass on Sunday: from this day 
forward, live each day with the enthusiasm you feel right now.  The joy and excitement 
you are feeling for this moment: let it fill your soul during even the everyday 
moments.  Such a beautiful and simple reminder: to live each day big and bold and 
full of possibility.  I have thought of those words many times since, held onto them 
because they touched my heart in such a powerful way.  
It was a beautiful weekend and Isabelle was blessed to be surrounded by her whole 
family, including Shawn's parents who flew in from Arizona.  Shawn and I cooked 
all weekend and spoiled our precious house guests to no end.  We watched old home 
movies and made new ones, stayed up late into the night talking, had a girls' only 
shopping trip and played outside until sunset.  
It was a weekend I don't think I'll ever forget.

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steppin' Out Sunday: First Communion

This Sunday, we stepped out for a very special occasion: Isabelle's first Communion.  
She was surrounded by her whole family, including Shawn's parents who flew in 
from Arizona just to witness this most blessed event.  We dressed our little girl up in 
a traditional white dress and veil, cried tears of joy as she and her classmates received 
their sacrament.  It was a beautiful day filled with love, giving us all a deep, 
spiritual fulfillment.  I can not wait to share more photos and stories with all of you from 
this most glorious day.  I hope that you are all having an amazing weekend!

pleated poppy

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Friday, April 20, 2012

This Week's Favorites

Favorite photo...

Favorite recipe...
Favorite links...
Are you as devastated by the end of Picnik as I am?  Check out iPiccy.  It has most of 
the same, easy to use features as Picnik and makes me feel a tad bit better about losing 
one of my favorite websites.
A list of mosquito repelling plants: very useful as summer quickly approaches!  I put 
this article to good use this week and filled three large planters full of these plants.  
If anything, our patio is looking green and beautiful!
A list of ways to build your daughter's self esteem.
An amazing adventure to celebrate the great outdoors.  If anyone would like to take 
this challenge on, email or comment me and we can embark on this journey together!
An insightful, practical post on how to lose the baby weight, or any weight for that 
matter.  Words to live by: "The human body will take care of itself, if you take care 
of the body".
Two blogs I am loving at the moment here and here.
Favorite moment...
On Wednesday, I was able to finish my workday by noon.  Belle was at school, Shawn 
was working, and our babysitter texted me to say that Brees had just gone down for her 
nap after a cranky morning.  I decided to blow off a few hours before picking the girls 
up, skipping my afternoon workout and instead grabbing a chai tea latte and a new
 book.  After sitting outside and enjoying a few chapters, I headed to my favorite nursery 
and walked around, admiring the beautiful plants, talking to the sweet little old lady who 
runs the register, comparing notes with the other costumers about our gardens so far.  I 
took my sweet time, picking up an aloe vera plant and some extra mulch.  After 
browsing through each and every aisle, I sat on the swing outside the nursery and caught 
up on a few phone calls, chatting with my girlfriends, catching up on life.  It was such a 
nice afternoon, so lazy and slow, so simple.  I drove home with my windows down, 
Of Monsters and Men blaring on the stereo.  I was so refreshed and excited to get home 
to my family.  And so thankful for a quiet, peaceful afternoon to myself.    

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Baby Steps to a Happy Heart

An ongoing list of steps I'm building to nurture a happy heart...

1. Go to bed...
I've been a night owl my whole life, finding ways to stay up late, spending countless
hours listening to music, reading, watching movies, searching the internet.  It's not that
I've ever had problems sleeping, I've just had problems getting my body to wind down
at a reasonable hour.  Throw in crazy work hours in the military and late night study
sessions in college to make these bad habits seemingly unbreakable.  And then the
babies came and I started making changes in my health habits to accommodate a
healthy, happy lifestyle that gave me the stamina to keep up with kids and a husband
and a career.  The first thing I knew that I had to change: I had to grow from a night owl
into an early bird.  I had to learn to GO TO BED.  It was surprisingly difficult, I literally
had to train my brain to slow down, shut off, and drift off to sleep.  I had to learn how to
NOT hit the snooze button 20 times but to instead bounce out of bed in the morning,
ready to be productive from the get go.  It took some getting used to but eventually
I developed a whole new routine.  Just as I start winding my children down before bed, I
have learned to wind myself down: a hot cup of chamomile tea and a lavender infused
bath, no electronics after a certain time, peace and quiet conversation with my
husband instead.  I've learned to go to bed and I now wake up feeling refreshed and
ready to take on my day, I wake up before everyone else in my house and get a head
start, enjoying a few quiet moments before I take the day on.  It's a simple change but
one that carries a ferocious impact.
2. Clean home, clean heart, clean soul...
I appreciate neat, tidy, organized spaces.  When everything is in its place and I can find
things without hassle, when the rooms of our home are clean and warm and cozy, I feel
more at peace.  My love for cleanliness is a direct result of my parents and their insistence
on a tidy home.  We always had chores growing up, were always expected to pick up
after ourselves and contribute to the overall productivity of the family space.  My
parents taught me to take care of my things and my father always says, "You work hard
for your home.  Take pride in it and in yourself".  It's one of those lessons in life that can
go one of two ways: you can either rebel against all those years of chores and after
school work and embrace a messy, carefree home or you can take on your
parents' philosophies and make them your own.  I chose the latter because I value the
lesson my parents taught me.  It's not about being materialistic or superficial, it's
about respecting the space I am blessed to call my own.  It's about creating an environment
in which my children can grow and flourish in: a kitchen that flows and allows them
 to experiment with their favorite recipes, a family room with organized
bookshelves, bedrooms that invite rest and relaxation.  I work so hard to keep our home
free of clutter, negativity, and distraction.  It's the little things, like being able to find
your shoes as you're rushing off to work in the morning, that make all the difference.

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Belle's Slumber Party Extravaganza

Isabelle had only one wish for her 8th birthday: she wanted to have a good ole' 
fashioned slumber party and invite all of the girls in her second grade class.  She didn't 
want anyone to feel left out which meant we would play hosts to NINE little girls.  Sweet 
baby Jesus.  Shawn and I agreed and got to work planning this special party.  Slumber 
parties are a rite of passage, an event little girls remember into their adulthood.  I 
remember having slumber parties when I was younger, my mom allowing me to have 
as many friends over as I wanted, staying up late into the night, giggling until we lost 
our voices.  I was pretty excited for Isabelle to experience her first sleepover.
I borrowed my aunt's minivan and picked the whole crew up from school on Friday 
afternoon.  The looks on the other moms' faces as I marched through the parking lot with 
9 little girls in tow was priceless: they ranged from humor to sheer horror!!  We arrived 
home in one piece and Isabelle excitedly showed her girlfriends around the house.  After 
they changed out of their school uniforms and had a snack, we decided to let the 
games begin!
First of all, thank you God for Pinterest and all of its infinite wisdom!  I got so many ideas 
for this party through this amazing website.  Our whole night revolved around a bunch 
of balloons: in each balloon was a piece of paper that revealed what we would be doing 
next.  Each girl got to take a turn popping a balloon and reading what the next activity 
would be.  I had a color coded list in my pocket that I used to remind myself of which 
balloon to pop next.  The girls thought this was the most exciting thing ever: "When can 
we pop the next balloon?!".

First, we had a scavenger hunt outside.  Shawn and I had written up a bunch of clues that 
led the girls to different areas around the property: "Run quickly to the tire hanging from 
the tree.  After each girl takes a turn to swing, there your next clue will be!".  They had 
a blast running from one station to the next, completing the different challenges and 
searching for their clues.  At the end of the scavenger hunt, they found a treasure chest 
filled with tiaras and glow in the dark bracelets, which they so proudly modeled for us!

Next, they beat down a candy filled pinata.  This group of girls included a couple of 
athletes with some pretty heavy swings and Shawn had to do a little mending to make 
sure the pinata lasted long enough for each girl to get a turn!
Then it was time for crafting!  Thank you all so much for your very helpful suggestions 
on crafting ideas!  We decided to decorate pillowcases, as suggested by Jessica and 
Deanna.  We set the girls up outside so that they could be as messy as they wanted to, 
gave them each a colorful array of fabric paints and brushes, and let them have at it!  I 
helped them trace their hand prints onto their pillowcases in the shape of a heart, a nice 
way to remember their 8 year old hands later.  We sprayed the pillows down with glitter 
and added glow in the dark polka dots.  This was the most quiet part of the night as the 
girls got  REALLY into their projects, helping each other and complimenting their 
handiwork.  For someone who does not particularly care for such projects, I had a 
really amazing time helping them make special pieces to take home.

After a pizza party for dinner, it was time for cake and ice cream.  Isabelle's smile was as 
big as the sky as her best friends sang to her in the glow of her 8 candles.  She 
opened presents as each girl read their card aloud to her.  Shawn and I stood back and 
giggled at the heart felt sentiments they each expressed.  There was a lot of love in the 
room that night.

With the girls now high on sugar, it was time to burn off some energy and have a full 
blown dance party!!  Shawn blasted the Katy Perry station on Pandora and we all got 
funky, myself included.  

Once the sun went down, we gave them each a glow in the dark necklace and enjoyed 
a firework show in the front yard!  We sat in the grass and oohed and aahed over the 
colorful display, the girls glowing in their festive neon gear.  This was by far my favorite 
part of the night as one little girl screamed, "This is the best night of my LIFE!!!!!".

We all went inside where I proceeded to bathe each and every girl, WHEW!  They 
spread their sleeping bags out in the living room and played a few quiet games before it 
was time for popcorn and a movie.  They took turns braiding my hair, telling funny 
stories, and doing Mad Libs.  They requested that I sleep in the living room with them 
since most of them had never been away from home before and I happily obliged.  At 
1am, with the giggling still in full force and no end in site, we finally turned the lights out 
and wished everyone good night.  We got about 3 hours of sleep before they were all up 
again and for that I was actually grateful.

 The next morning, as their mothers arrived to pick them up, each and every girl hugged 
us and thanked us for "the best night ever".  We spent the remainder of the weekend 
relaxing and enjoying our birthday girl all to ourselves.  The night was a complete success 
and we all had a great time.  This was one of those nights I have dreamed about ever since 
I found out I was going to be the mother of a little girl.  It was exhausting, hilarious, and 
soul fulfilling all at the same time.  We had a blast getting to know each of the girls 
Isabelle talks about so often and witnessing the dynamics between them.  
Call me crazy, but I can't wait to do it again!

****You may be wondering where Brees was in the midst of all this excitement.  Well, I am happy to report that Brees further solidified her angel baby status by going to bed at her normal 6:30 pm bedtime and SLEEPING THROUGH THE ENTIRE PARTY!!  I have no idea how she slept through all of that talking, giggling, music blaring, fireworks display, etc. but she did.  She woke up at 6:30 am all bright eyed and bushy tailed and I gave her a million kisses for making my life that much easier!!!!****

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!