Thursday, June 28, 2012

Give Thanks

I wanted to thank you all for the overwhelming amount of love and support you have so generously given us.  This has been a very enlightening time in our lives, revealing to us the most compassionate and loving side of the people around us.  You learn a lot about yourself during times like these, you learn a lot more about the people you have chosen to surround yourself with.  We are so fortunate to have the friends, family, and community that we do.

Writing has always been a therapeutic process for me.  It has allowed me to express my emotions and process them in a way that encourages growth and healing.  Working through the emotional trauma of Shawn's accident has been a process, one that I am sure will take years to fully comprehend.  Our spirits have remained high and we have trusted in our faith, taking courage in the knowledge that we are never given anything that we can not handle.  Our lives are defined not by what happens to us, but by how we handle those situations and the perspective we gain from them.  That is how we choose to move forward.  We choose to not spend a single second asking why, feeling anger or resentment, feeling regret.  Instead, we choose to believe that this did indeed happen for a reason and that we will emerge stronger, wiser, and more determined than ever.  We choose to take this second chance and make it the most beautiful chapter in our story yet.

Today is our 18th day in the hospital.  Shawn just had his 5th surgery, a skin graft to cover some of the open areas on his arm.  We pray that it will be the last surgery for a while.  Each day brings a new triumph, some big, some small.  Slowly but surely, he is being rebuilt and healing in his mind, body, and soul.  We hope to be out of the hospital and heading back to Louisiana this weekend.  We have a long and uncertain journey ahead of us: numerous consultations and appointments with specialists, physical therapy, nerve conduction studies.  This will be a marathon, not a sprint.  Shawn's injuries to his left arm were extensive and severe.  He is lucky to be alive, even luckier that he still has an arm.  The long term effects of these injuries are unknown, only time will tell.  For now, he has no feeling or movement in his hand, only numbness and tingling.  The doctors are optimistic this will improve.

We ask you all to continue praying for Shawn and our family as a whole.  Isabelle and Brees are home and doing well.  We Skype them several times a day, savoring every moment we get to see their faces and hear their voices.  My blogging is quite limited with only the iPad but I plan to press on regardless.  In an effort to stay connected, I am on instagram now, you can find me @soulsingingliv.  For all the times I have disliked technology and the affect it has had on really connecting with others, I have been so grateful for it over the last few weeks.  I hope to share more of our story soon.  Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Story: Part One

Our plane landed on a Friday afternoon in the midst of a hot summer day.  Shawn and I were ecstatic to finally be on vacation, our work at home done and put away for the next two weeks.  The girls behaved beautifully on the flight and we gave them high fives and big praise to thank them for making the trip so easy.  We left the airport and headed straight to the first leg of our big Arizona adventure: a 3 day camping trip with Shawn's whole family.

Nestled deep inside the mountains was a beautiful piece of property owned by Shawn's uncle, our home for the next few days.  Our first night was spent eating, catching up, and gazing at the thousands of stars in the desert night air.  Laughter, smiles, and the peaceful easy feeling you get when surrounded by loved ones took over.  We were free.

We awoke with the sunrise early the next morning, Shawn making tea while I nursed Brees on the floor of our cabin.  Sweet morning kisses while we planned out our day.  Grandpa made breakfast, we took turns holding new baby cousins, Isabelle and Brees set to work exploring.  We spent the day relaxing, going on short ATV rides through the mountains, playing horse shoes and starting new books.  It was a good day.

Late that afternoon, while the little ones splashed in the baby pool someone so thoughtfully set up, a large group of us decided to go on a longer ride, caravan style, around the mountain.  We would be home before our BBQ dinner, we promised.  We split up into pairs: Shawn and I together, giggling like children as the wind whipped through our hair, marveling over the beauty of this place so unlike our familiar terrain of Louisiana.

The trip was around 20 miles long, 4 pairs of riders on various styles of ATVs.  Halfway through, we stopped for water and typical family style banter.  As we were leaving for the second leg home, Shawn's cousin, Troy, invited me to ride with him instead.  "Come on, Liv! Are you ready for this?", he joked menancingly.  I kissed Shawn on the cheek, put my brave girl face on, and hopped in with Troy, the daredevil.  "See you soon, babe!" Shawn and I called to each other.  See you soon.

After lots of twists and turns and shrieking in the wind, Troy and I made it back to camp first.  I took my radio head set off, the source of communication between our caravan.  Troy kept his around his neck as he unfastened his seatbelt, both of us smiling from ear to ear with all the fun we had just had.  I remember having the deepest feeling of contentment.

And then I saw a look cross over Troy's face, a darkness took over, fear in his eyes.  He hurridely put his headset back on, listening intently.  Pete, a family friend, was yelling for us to come back.  Someone was hurt.  It was bad.

Troy and I looked at each other, both of us scared, fear of the unknown.  In seconds we had our seatbelts back on, the vehicle heading back onto the road, the campsite left behind.  Should we call 911?  No, let's just get there.  I prayed and prayed and prayed as sweat poured down my face.  I knew, in my heart I knew it was Shawn.  Please, God, just get me to him.

Only three miles away from the campsite we found them.  The ATV was on its side, Shawn pinned underneath it, his face lifeless.  His cousin Craig's girlfriend, Z, his riding partner after I had switched vehicles and jumped in with Troy, was sitting next to him with her arms wrapped around her knees, rocking back and forth, crying hysterically.  Troy raced to her side to move her away from the vehicle. Sandy, a family friend who was in the vehicle right behind Shawn, came running around the corner with a bottle of water and a level head on her shoulders.  She told me that her husband, Pete,who used to work in search and rescue, was in the process of calling 911 and directing the rescue team in how to find us.  She told me that she and Pete drove up to the scene of the accident and saw Z running up the hill, searching for help.  She told me that she had been trying to hold Shawn's head steady, afraid he had broken his neck.  I looked at this woman and knew that she was here for a reason, she was here to keep me calm.

I looked down at Shawn, gave him a quick slap on his cheek, and yelled for him to WAKE UP!  And he did.  I had Sandy hold my watch as I assessed his pulse and respirations, all of which were reasonably normal.  But the blood, the blood was everywhere.  It covered the ground, it covered Shawn, there was so much blood.  I began a head to toe assessment, looking searching feeling.  Sandy left us and sat next to Z, giving her water and calming her down.  From what we could visibly tell, Z had a bruise on her eye but otherwise appeared unharmed.  She would later say that she remembers waking up and being on top of Shawn.  He broke her fall.  Overall, she was in shock but appeared to be in stable condition.  Thank God.

My attention was on the blood.  Where was all of this blood coming from?  I saw two large lacerations on Shawn's head and forehead.  His right ear was hanging off the side of his head.  But there was too much blood.  I had to find the source.  Both legs were fine, right arm good.  His left arm was pinned underneath him.  I gently pulled it out and nearly screamed at what I saw: on the front of his elbow, a hole.  I could see the artery, severed, blood shooting from it like a geyser.  On the back of his elbow, another hole.  This one had a bone sticking out of it.  Blood.  Blood was everywhere.  His arm felt unnatural.  It was literally in pieces.  This was bad, every fiber of my being knew that I had to take action.  Now.

I started calling out orders.  Everyone stay calm.  Breath.  Keep talking to me, Shawn.  Don't close your eyes.  Sandy handed me a handkerchief.  I tied it firmly around his elbow.  I then used Troy's t-shirt as a pressure dressing to cover the two holes in Shawn's arm, my left hand putting pressure on the front side, my right hand putting pressure on the back.  Every time he moved, every time I adjusted my own body weight, I could feel his arm and how disfigured it was, I could hear the bones creaking, felt the blood gushing.  The sights and sounds and smells would give me nightmares for weeks.  But he had a palpable pulse, he could wiggle his fingers, they were warm, he could squeeze our hands.  I crouched next to him, gravel rocks digging into my legs, holding pressure, the blood covering me.  I positioned my foot next to his hand so that I could feel his fingers, made sure they stayed warm, made sure they were moving.

Troy led us in prayer, standing over us and calling out to God.  Sandy and I continued speaking words of encouragement to both Shawn and Z, reassuring them that help was on the way, deep breathes, keep talking, keep your eyes open.  Inside, I secretly wondered if help would actually come.

Throughout all of this, Shawn remained awake and alert.  He was disoriented, begging us for something to drink, begging us for a pillow,screaming at me to let go of his arm, you are hurting me babe let go please let go this hurts so bad I love you why is this happening let go!

Keep talking, keep yelling, just please don't close your eyes.

Uncle Gary and cousin Craig arrived, shock on their faces as they assessed this nightmare.  I instructed Craig to sit by Z's side, tell her you love her, hold her hand.  They both started crying when the saw each other, their love is still so new.  I watched them over my shoulder, a young couple facing their first crisis.

Troy needed a job, he paced anxiously back and forth, so I sent him back to camp to get my purse.  We would need our IDs and insurance cards.  Uncle Gary stood over us and prayed.  I prayed.  Shawn yelled.  No crying.  There was no time for tears.  The bleeding had slowed thanks to my hands, my hands that were holding his arm together, my hands that were soaked in his blood.  Keep breathing.

And then I saw the dust approaching, the first rescue vehicle arrived.  Things started to move quickly.  After roughly 45 minutes of screaming, bleeding, praying, waiting: help was finally coming.  I started to feel a deep sense of hope and relief, help was finally here.  First a sheriff, then paramedics, and then the helicopter.  My eyes had been scanning the sky for what felt like an eternity, mistaking every movement for the helicopter.  But, finally, it was here.  They're here, babe, they're here!  You're going to make it!  Everything will be fine!

They tried to move me but I quickly informed them that I was a nurse, giving them a full report of his injuries.  They listened.  No one tried to move me again.  I kept my hands wrapped around his arm until the stretcher was prepared and they were ready to take over.  They very gently moved me to the side.  I love you I love you I love you, we both called out.

As the paramedics got to work, I ran to the side of the sheriff's car and vomited.  The sights and sounds and smells: I couldn't contain myself any longer.  Sandy ran to me and hugged me close.  Don't fall apart now, you've been so strong, you are amazing.  She was an angel to me that day.

I ran back over to the scene, gave them a brief health history, contact information, allergies, blood type.  Shawn would be transported to a hospital in Las Vegas, I was not allowed to accompany him in the helicopter.  I helped them lift him onto the stretcher, helped them carry him onto the bird.  I touched his hand until the minute they closed the doors, watched as they took flight and prayed that I would see him again soon.  Please, God, let me see him again.

As I turned around and looked back at the scene, reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  The ATV still on its side, the blood stained ground, the panic stricken faces.  The last hour felt like a dream, the kind of dream you fear and hope will never come true.  But there was no time to dwell, we had to move.

We drove back to camp, all of us armed with assignments.  The family stood in a quiet circle, awaiting our return, unsure of the details surrounding the last hour.  Isabelle stood solid, brave, looking at me anxiously and waiting for my cue on how to react.  How do you even begin to explain to your children what just happened?  How do you shield them from such trauma?  What could I possibly say that could mend their worried hearts?  I pulled her into my arms, don't cry, daddy will be fine.  I took her into our cabin where Brees played quietly in her bed.  I explained that there had been an accident, daddy was at the hospital, mama was going to meet him.  Their sweet brown eyes never left mine, they didn't cry, they just listened.  We packed a bag, I jumped into the shower to wash off the blood.  My husband's blood on the bathroom tile.  We hugged and prayed and I held them so close.  The only thing I could do for my children in that moment was to be strong for them, to reassure them through my faith and love.  It was the most difficult moment I have ever faced as a mother.

When the girls and I emerged from the cabin, the family stood ready and strong.  The girls would head back to Shawn's grandparents' house for the night.  Shawn's mom, Aunt Lisa, Troy and I would make the 2 hour drive to Las Vegas.  Another group would head to the nearby hospital where Z had been transported for a routine assessment.  Another group would search for Uncle Scott who, in the midst of this crisis, had gotten lost along the ride and was somewhere in the desert, alone.  We were all scared, pretending to be brave, hoping for the best.  I kissed my girls, turned around.

Let's go.

To be continued...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Our New Day

Two weeks ago, I imagined myself writing my first post vacation post: a reflection of the time our family spent together away from the stress and exhaustion of everyday life, imagined photos of us sunbathing on the banks of the Colorado River, stories of our girls exploring the desert and mountainous terrain.  I imagined the memories we would make as a family on our first real vacation in years.

Sadly, none of those things happened.  On the second day of our trip, Shawn was involved in an accident and sustained life threatening injuries.  I arrived at the scene of the accident to find my worst nightmare come true: Shawn, the strongest, bravest, most powerful soul I have ever known, fighting for his life.  With my heart in my throat and my hands shaking from fear, I used every ounce of my strength and my years of nursing experience to save his life and keep him stable.  Help arrived after what seemed like an eternity, a helicopter landed in the middle of the desert like an angel soaring through the sky.  Against all odds, the man I love with every fiber of my being made it through the night, the longest night of our lives.

We have spent the last 12 days in a trauma unit at a hospital in Nevada. During his accident, Shawn sustained an open compound fracture of the humerous bone in his left arm, a severed brachial artery, a nondisplaced fracture in the first vertebrae of his spine, a detached right ear, and multiple lacerations and abrasions on his head and face.  I have stood by his side as he lay in ICU in critical condition, held his hand as he took his first steps down the long hospital hallway after days in bed, fed him and bathed him, cleaning the blood and battle wounds that marked his whole body.  We have laughed and rejoiced in the simple fact that he is alive, cried over the uncertainty of our future and his prognosis, prayed for strength and the ability to make it out of this situation as better people.

Our girls were cared for lovingly by Shawn's mother while we have taken up residence in the hospital.  Due to the very high risk of infection and the extreme contamination of his wounds by the dirt and rocks at the site of the accident, the doctors recommended they not step foot inside the hospital, even to visit their daddy. I was able to spend time with them several times this week, soaking in every ounce of their love and allowing their little girl hugs to heal my soul.  This afternoon, with Shawn's hospital stay looming on into next week, we made the very difficult decision to send our daughters home to Louisiana with my mother.  They need their home, the stability of their familiar environment.  I brought them to the airport and kissed them a million times on their sweet little cheeks, tears filling my eyes as Isabelle whispered, "Be strong, mama".

And so, here we are, 12 days in, our lives completely changed in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Shawn's recovery has stunned every doctor, nurse, and passerby.  His will and determination have carried us through some of our darkest hours.  During the first night, I prayed for him to live.  And he did.  During the first week, I prayed for him to keep his arm.  And he did.  Now, we anxiously await his fourth surgery since the accident, hoping to repair some of the nerve damage he has suffered.  Now, I am praying that he continues to heal and remains free from infection, that he will regain full use of his arm and hand and continue living this life with the spirit of a warrior.  I know he will.

Our vacation may not have been the journey we anticipated, but it has been a life changing journey regardless. People have always complimented Shawn and I for our positive attitudes, for our ability to see life for what it truly is.  Those qualities have never been more relevant to us than they are now.  This is living: one day at a time, being thankful for each breathe.  We had a glimpse of what life could be and it has shaken us to our core, allowed us to come together in ways we never knew existed.  After 13 years of life together, I can tell you that I know now more than ever what love really is.  In sickness and in health, we are here, together.  We are surviving.

I promise to share more of our story soon.  I am still processing so much of what has happened and want to record as much of it as possible.  We ask you all to keep Shawn and our family in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Hilary

Sweet Liv asked me to blogsit for her today while she's off on a summer vacation adventure with her 
family, and I couldn't be more pleased to make myself at home in her online space!  I blog over 
at BabyMooHoo, mostly about my chubby-cheeked toddler and the challenges and joys of being
 her parent.  Feel free to stop by and say hi! 

Liv suggested that the joys of summertime be a guide in writing a little something for her readers, so I 
thought I'd share some of the things on our lengthy summer bucket list that might inspire some hot 
weather fun in your own families.  I'm recently unemployed (but don't cry for me, Argentina--I'm 
totally soaking up every second of this sudden gift of a summer vacation with my teacher-husband
 and daughter), so we're planning a lot of our upcoming activities on a very limited budget.  I've tried 
to organize them here based on what's free to do at home, what's cheap to do in the community, and 
what we feel is worth the occasional splurge.  I've linked back to lots of other blogs (mostly found
 via Pinterest!  Find me under MooHooVille!) to give credit to all the creative mamas who have inspired
 my ideas, and to hopefully provide you with even more resources for your summer planning. 

First things first:  Stuff to do in your own backyard!


- Have fun with water at any opportunity.  Our summer fun is pretty much based around all forms of 
water (we're lucky to live on the coast, so the beach is an easy morning outing), including something 
as simple as a sprinkler or an oversized plastic storage container or cheapie kiddie pool filled to 
overflowing.  Throw some cut-up sponges in and make a water fight of it.  Use warm water and bubbles
 and treat your kid to an outdoor bath time as the sun goes down.  If a rainy day has you down, shake 
off the crankies by embracing the wet:  put you and your kiddo in wellies and count how many puddles 
you can jump in.  Make a game of tracking down the biggest ones you can find, and award applause 
& points for the person who creates the biggest splash.


- Dust off your camping gear and set up a tent in the backyard.  We have never taken Natalie 
camping (shhh, don't tell our fellow Mainers!), and are going to do a test-run in the backyard this 
summer.  We plan on going big, and so should you:  campfire dinner, flashlight shadow puppets, the 
whole nine.  Plus, if it's a disaster we can always just cry uncle and make our way inside to the comfort
 of our own beds.

- Encourage your child's inner explorer and artist.  The best toy we have probably ever bought Natalie is
 a magnifying glass, and we have loved it even more now that the weather is warm enough to explore 
with it outside.  A little cheap one can provide tons of entertainment as you investigate your yard, looking 
for flowers or hunting for bugs or discovering what lives underneath rocks.  If your kid loves to draw, 
make your own sidewalk chalk and unleash your little artist on the pavement to create illustrations or just
 to play games.

No or Low Cost Fun:

- Take advantage of what your community has going on for free.  Parades, weekly story hour at the
 library, public pools and beaches, hiking trails, school playgrounds, or searching out geocaches make 
really easy, free, fun days with your kids.  Check out your community calendar for information on 
when otherwise pricey places (children's museums, zoos, science centers, etc.) offer special free 
events, which happens pretty frequently in our area.

- Be a tourist for a day or a weekend, and visit the historical and socially significant stuff you otherwise
 don't really notice in your community.  For us, that's lighthouses, for you it might be forts or battlefields. 
 If a nearby town has an annual festival (we'll be lucky enough to hit up Lobster Festival,
  Blues Festival, Summer Solstice, and Potato Blossom Festival this year!), pack up the kids and go. 
 Most festivals of this type are either free to get in, or offer lowered admission rates for families 
on certain days.


- Give each of your kids a small amount of cash and visit a local Farmer's Market together.  They 
can each spend their allotment and then you can all take it on a picnic or back home to cook together.


- Some other low-cost stuff on our summer bucket list this year includes taking Natalie to her first movie
 at the theater, going mini-golfing (under $10 for our family of three), bowling, and berry picking


Stuff that's Worth the Splurge:

I think it's worth budgeting for a couple of special, pricey summer activities, even if the rest of your 
summer is on the cheap.  For us, paying to get into a National Park or go to a concert or hitting up a 
special kids' show like Yo Gabba Gabba live, would be worth the splurge.  Other things that might be
 worth the extra cost for your family would be sporting events (even the minor league or triple A teams), 
a unique museum exhibit, a water park on a hot day, and more.  Having something extra special to 
look forward to in the summer is super fun, so take the time to pick out a "splurge!"

And if it rains...

- Crafts, crafts, crafts.  Make bird feeders to hang later, create hand-print or thumb-print art, or make 
your own playdough.

- Build a fort out of sheets and stay in your pj's all day while you watch movies and eat the special 
snacks your kids only get to have once in a while.  A full summer of rainy days would make this one get 
old, quick, but a special snuggly day in front of the television can make some of the best
 memories ever.

- Use it as a chance to do some community service:  bake cookies for your local soup kitchen to 
serve at dessert, felt some cat toys for the animal shelter, make cards or tissue paper flower centerpieces
 for an area nursing home.

I hope some of these ideas have inspired a bit of summer bucket list planning for your families!  I couldn't 
be more excited that the sunshine has finally made its way to the Northeast, and I plan on cramming as 
much fun into our days as possible before the Maine winter has us hibernating again.  Please share some 
of your own favorite summer activities & vacation ideas!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Caitlin

Hi everyone!  My name is Caitlin and I blog over at To Make Love Stay. I live in New Mexico with
 my wildland firefighter husband Rob and our beastie, Cypress.  I work from home as a software 
consultant (with some intermittent traveling) and I also blog about our life, marriage, fire season, anxiety 
and depression, tattoos, photography, and other random fun things I come across.

Summer is my absolute favorite season and for that reason I am always down to write about it, so thanks 
to Liv for giving me this opportunity.

For my guest post today I'm going to talk about how summer and what it means to me has really 
changed over the past year.

Rob and I grew up in eastern Maine and aside from various months spent in Wisconsin, Alaska, Iraq,
 and Moscow between the two of us, we spent most of our summers there.  Summers in Maine 
meant mosquitoes, badass July 4th celebrations, swimming, barbecues, bonfires, ice cream, and lots 
of lobster.




When we moved into our first apartment together four years ago, we lived in Western Maine; same 
number of bugs, less ocean, basically.  We'd spend our days by the river with our dog, getting 
sunburned and swatting at deer flies.



Last October, Rob informed me that he wanted to become a Hotshot, or a Wildland Firefighter, out 
west.  My job is (fortunately) pretty flexible, requiring only an airport for the aforementioned traveling, 
so I told him that I'd go wherever he went.  He applied and by February of this year we found ourselves
 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For this reason, summer is totally different this year.  Not bad different, just...different. Whereas I've 
always looked forward to summer as a time to spend with Rob and my family and enjoy the
 beautiful weather, this year we probably won't see too much of each other until September or 
October when the fires die down and I'm 3600 miles away from any family. As a result I find myself 
having to find new and different ways to enjoy myself in a vastly different culture and climate.

I've also always associated summer with swimming, but in a place where water is hard to come by
 (and cactuses are not) I don't find myself in the water nearly as often as I'd like. And did you notice all
 that beautiful green in the photos above?  We don't see a ton of that here.





On the plus side, though, we have some kickass sunsets, no bugs (minus the giant-ass tarantulas 
I'm expecting to find in my bed), and near-constant sunshine.  Most importantly, I'm living out an 
exciting new chapter in our lives with my husband absent, but still always by my side, and for that I 
can't really complain.  

So though I find myself trying to speed summer along so I can get to winter (when Rob has 6 months off 
until next fire season) I'm really trying to stop and enjoy just how unique and different this summer 
is juxtaposed against all the other summers I've had.  I hope you get time to do the same thing over the 
next few months.

Thanks for having me, Liv! I hope you all have a great summer!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Jessica

Hello Soul Singing Liv readers!  My name is Jessica, and I write a little blog called Sweet Green 
Tangerine.  It's mainly about my life as a music loving bookworm raising two boys in the south with my 
Army man.  Liv has asked me to share a post about summer, and I really don't know how to write 
about anything other than books and music so I thought I'd share some summer favorites of ours.

To many, summer time means relaxation and freedom.  Us moms of school-aged kids know 
differently.  Teachers are off the hook, and now it's up to us to entertain our kiddos for the next 3
 months.  That's not a bad thing, of course. This is the time of year when my 6 year old son and I have
 the most fun together.

Jonathan, our little dinosaur boy.

One of the ways we bond is over books and music...naturally.  Normally, I don't really censor my
 music around the kids, (I don't generally listen to anything violent or inappropriate) but since we 
are spending so much time together in the car, I try to pick music that they can also enjoy.  Turns out 
my kids don't appreciate Bon Iver and Radiohead the way I do. Whatever, kids.  Like most 
mini-people, they love music with a quick tempo and repetitive sounds.  And thankfully, kids music has
 really come a long way.  I'm not one of those moms that can sit through Barney and Raffi, so I love 
finding music that I can enjoy along with them.  There's nothing better than singing along at the top of 
our lungs as a family.  That's bonding as it's finest.
Here are a few that we love to listen to on those long summer car trips.

Can't go wrong with The Beatles.  Our favorites: Hey Jude (duh), Get Together, 
Yellow Submarine
For kids who love rock
They have a whole album about science. Our favorite: I am a 
Movie soundtracks
Our favorites: Across the Universe and The Muppets
My kids' current favorite and I have to grows on you.
It doesn't get any better than Three Little Birds

Jude, our little free spirit

As for books, without that school-night bedtime routine, reading together tends to get thrown to 
wayside.  We have to make a conscious effort to make the time to read either together or quietly.

 This is when library trips are the most beneficial.  Most libraries have story times and summer
 reading programs during this time anyway, and hey, they're free!  We also keep a bag of books in the 
car for road trips and our current chapter book in my purse to read while we're out and waiting or being
 lazy in the park.

This summer, we're going to be reading these books together:

I'm very excited. 

Well, that's how we bond during the summertime.  Do you find time to read with your kids during 
the chaos of summer?  Do you have special music you listen to as a family?

 If you happen to be a lover of books like I am, I would love it if you could join us some time for our 
weekly book chat link up.  We discuss everything from our favorite love stories to our favorite endings.

I hope you enjoyed my guest post and I want to thank Liv for thinking of me!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Summer

Hi everyone!  My name is Summer and I blog over at the Crosbie Crew.  My blog is all about the daily 
life of my family of four.  I also like to share funny stories, DIYs, my photography and a few recipes.  I
 hope you stop by sometime to say hi! Today I will be showing you something from my 
"Boys of Summer" series I did last year called sponge balls. Now, water balloons are a fun 
summertime activity but here's the problem, we as parents take forever filling them up and they're 
gone in seconds.  Our kids look at us like that's it?  Fill me up some more mom!  Here is where sponge 
balls come in handy! What you need: -cheap (colorful) sponges, no rough side -scissors -string 
-pen (optional) Take a new sponge and use a pen to mark 4 lines lengthwise down the sponge about 
1/2 inch apart. Cut the strips with your scissors.  Repeat with other sponges. Now make a layer of 4 
strips on your counter. Stack four more on top and again, 4 more on top of those. Take a piece of string 
and carefully tie around the center (to make it a bundle). Pull it pretty tight and you will notice that the
 strips flair out to become a sphere!  It's a sponge ball!

I like to fill up a couple of buckets with water and place them around where they will be playing as a 
"fill" station.  One of the best things about these is that they don't hurt when they are thrown at you.  
They also hold a ton of water!

When your kids are all done playing, just make sure to squeeze out the extra water and store them 
some place where they can easily dry.  They will be ready for the next day.

I hope you liked this easy DIY and I hope you all have a fun summer!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Deanna

Hi! I'm Deanna and I blog over at delirious rhapsody. I am a stay at home mama of two crazy little boys. 
While my days are busy playing hot wheels and changing dirty diapers, my evenings are spent crafting, 
baking, and blogging. I'm a bit sarcastic and a lot quirky. I love meeting new people, so stop by and say 
hello sometime!

I was excited when Liv asked me to guest post while she and her family are off on a trip to Arizona. I'm 
here today to share some pictures of one of my very favorite vacations. Enjoy!

When you become a parent, there are many (many) times that you'd just like to get away. But then when 
you finally get the chance, it can be a little bit harder than you anticipated. Well, at least for me it was. 

The Christmas that our oldest son, Gage, was two and a half, my in-laws were nice enough to give me and 
my husband a five day cruise to Cozumel as our gift. We were so stoked. The last time we had gone on a 
real trip together (another cruise) was when I had been four months pregnant with Gage. 

We were so excited! A chance to get away! Our first adventure alone since becoming parents! And then 
my panic set in. Was I really ready to leave our son for a week? He had only been away from us a handful
 of times, and never over 24 hours. And never, ever had we been out of the country! Or on a ship in the middle
of the ocean. What if there was an emergency and they couldn't get in touch with us? What if Gage thought
 we were gone for good and were never coming back? What if I forgot to back something that he 
desperately needed? What if I forgot to tell my parents something important? What if this? What if
 that? Ahhhhhhh! 

Enter an extreme anxiety attack. I'm being honest with you when I tell you I had to pop a couple klonopin 
the night we dropped him off with my parents. I knew he was in more than capable hands, but still, I felt like
 part of my heart was being left behind. This was a really big step for us. 

After the initial pain of leaving Gage, I forced myself to suck it up. We deserved this trip! We had earned this
 time to spend as a married couple. Who knew how long it would be before we got another chance to be 
alone like this. 

And guess what? 

We had a blast! (And so did Gage, for that matter.) I think every parent needs a chance to get away from 
their kids for a while. We ate good food, slept in, and had many wonderful conversations. Alone. We came 
back feeling rested and refreshed. Oh, and I can't tell you how amazing it was not having to be responsible for 
a few days. 

I am so glad we took that trip, because the next month I got pregnant with our second son. Must have 
been something in the water. It's been two and a half years since that trip, and hopefully we can earn some 
more alone parent time sometime soon!

Thanks for letting me take over your blog for the day, Liv! I hope you and your family and having 
awesome adventures and creating wonderful memories together!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Gretchen

I'm thrilled to be popping in while Olivia and her family live it up in Arizona! I'm sure they are having 
a blast in the summer sunshine :) Speaking of summer, something about it literally makes my mouth 
water for Mexican food. Especially salsa. 

This recipe is from my dear friend, Charissa, and is hands-down the ultimate salsa. 
May I introduce ... BLACK BEAN SALSA! Here's what you'll need:
  • 2-15 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1-15 oz can of corn, drained
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, start with that, but you usually need more especially if it sits for awhile
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 chopped red pepper 
  • 1 small chopped red onion
Mix everything together in a large bowl and I promise you won't be disappointed! I highly recommend 
eating it with those bright green guacamole chips if you're going the dipping route or it is also fabulous 
atop burrito bowls or on nachos!
Gretchen blogs over at That Mama Gretchen where she 
shares about her days with a toddler and a bun in the
 oven sprinkled with memos about her attachment 
parenting experience, thrifty finds, crafty projects, and her 
goal of becoming more green. Stop by for a visit! You can also
 find Gretchen on Twitter, Facebook, and her 
favorite, PINTEREST!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Randalin

I probably leave at least four comments a week on Liv's blog asking to join her family and move in. I 
mean, c'mon - it's always warm there, her family is always having these amazing cajun cookouts, and
 her kids are over the top adorable. So when I saw her name pop up in my email box, I thought for sure
 it was going to be a "ok, you're starting to creep me out, please stop with the comments" kind of
 message. But NO! She asked me to guest blog - talk about a kind-hearted woman.

So here I am - Randalin from Harvesting Kale.  My son is two and his name is - you got it - Kale! We 
live in Canada, where it's almost always cold, the closest thing we get to a "cook out" is lighting up the 
BBQ, and my kid is - well, he's over the top adorable too. Something else Liv and I have in common?
 A love of camping!

FACT: My parents took me camping as a newborn. Like, straight from the hospital to a boat to an island
 to a tent.

FACT: I would never, ever attempt this. But I did take my 14 month old camping and lived to blog
 about it.

So here we are - hot tips for camping with a toddler.

Embrace the dirt. 

All the wet wipes in the world will not help you keep a toddler clean when camping in the woods. For a 
few days, forget the bugs, the dirt, the mud, the sand, etc. and just let them get dirty.

Let them be naked. 

Allowing your toddler to embrace the dirt while wearing clothes is just asking to go home with a mountain 
of laundry. Who wants to return from vacation and face that? Instead, make sure you get a campsite 
that's shaded, layer on the sunscreen, and let them be free.

Items to bring when camping with a toddler. 

We got one of those high chairs seats you can clip on to a table, which was perfect for Kale to sit at
 the picnic table with us. We also brought a toddler sized camping chair so he could take a break for
 3.4 seconds, and an inflatable swimming pool so he could cool off and play without having to spend 
the entire day at the beach, chasing him away from the deep waters.

Let them explore so you can relax. 

I know, hard to believe - but it is possible to relax while vacationing with a toddler. Camping was perfect
 for this - there was so much for Kale to explore and take in, that we were actually able to kick our feet
 up and relax.

We had the best time camping with Kale and are so excited to do it again this summer. It's amazing to 
do something that was such a big part of my childhood with my own son and watch him love it as much as
 I did. The great part about camping is that everyone can do it - it doesn't cost a lot (you can always 
borrow equipment from a friend or purchase second hand at a garage sale) and there is a style of
 camping out there for everyone - from cabins to the outback. Don't let having a toddler stop you - 
instead, let it inspire you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Lovin' With Vanessa

15 Things to Do in the Summer Hi there. It's Vanessa of Little Gray Pixel, stepping in for Liv while 
she's taking a well-deserved summer vacay. If we've never met before, it might help you to visualize me, 
the gorgeous gal in pink on the beach below. The one in the middle holding the 16-month-old. Alexa.
 And then there's H, who's not pictured because he's taking the picture. The three of us live in Los 
Angeles, where everything is way too expensive and commuting takes too long. But hey, the weather. 
The weather is nice! 


Speaking of the weather, things are heating up right now. I'm typing this with the window open, a fan 
blowing directly at me and wearing nothing but my birthday suit. I jest. I'm wearing clothes. I'm told this
 is a family blog, wink wink. Anyway, here are 15 things I try to do every summer to commemorate 
my favorite season. Most of them are free or easy or both, so you should try them, too! 
It'll be fun, promise. 
1. Make a summer mix. I'm talking about some Seals & Crofts. Some Beach Boys. Some 
Bob Marley. How about going old school and including some Montel Jordans? Every year since 2007
 I have created a playlist in iTunes of the songs I'm feeling for the summer. I have several years' worth 
of material, so if you are drawing a blank, hit me up. I'll let you know where it's at. 


2. Eat ice cream before it melts. Just do it. 
3. Play miniature golf. It's not summer until you spend 
an evening sweating it out with the putt-putt crowd. Don't keep score. That's lame! 


4. Dig your toes in the sand. If you're brave, you could have someone bury you
5. Do a handstand in a pool. 
6. Drink a cold, sweaty beverage in the shade. 


7. Lie on a grassy knoll and watch the clouds. I see an elephant wearing a tutu. 
8. Start a game of frisbee. Did you know I couldn't throw a frisbee to save my life until just recently? 
I used to send my recipient on a wild goose chase with the trajectories of my tosses. It's amazing I ever 
got asked to play frisbee with a handicap like that. Tip: It's all in the wrist, friends.
 9. Wear flowers in your hair. Weeds, even. 
10. Put some food on the grill and invite people over. 
11. Watch "Independence Day" on the Fourth of July. Only Will Smith can yell at an 
alien like that. 


12. Pack a picnic. 
13. Light up the sparklers. 


14. Get your feet wet.
15. Watch "Dirty Dancing." You carried a watermelon? It's OK. Johnny Castle loves you, 
anyway. What do you think? Anything else we should add to the bucket list?