Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Because of Nora

I had been hard at the parenting game for six years by the time Nora June came into the world.

At that point, I might have even said I was becoming a bit of an expert. Heck, I had already given birth twice and managed to raise both of those children in a semi-decent manner. Everyone was fed, {mostly} happy, safe and sound. What more was there to learn? In the three and half years that followed since that pivotal July Monday, I found the answer: a LOT. While there is still much to learn when it comes to helping kids move from microscopic cell bundles to card-carrying adults, today I am sharing a few pieces of knowledge that I hold because of my daughter. There's a good chance this is part one in a three-part series, so stay tuned.

Because of Nora, I know...
  • Every single word to every single song in Moana. Yes, I know it's not even out on DVD yet.
  • Exactly how much sweet tea it takes to fill a three-year-old to capacity.
  • The names of the characters on a mind-numbing YouTube cartoon called Oddbods.
  • The subtle differences among all the shades of pink.
  • That bows without fabric over the metal clip better.
  • That curly hair should be wet and brushed before washing and exactly what speed SLOOOW brushing is.
  • That the best lunch at day care is a sandwich that not only has meat and bread, but also cheese!
  • That I could carry a 50-pound sack of potatoes up my long driveway if the situation were to arise.
  • That a pair of pink Crocs and a pair of sparkly pink Crocs are equally necessary.
  • On that note: that sparkly is a color.
  • That Paw Patrol is on for a three-hour block each weekday morning, then repeats again on the western Nick Jr.
  • That early-morning snuggles with a willing participant are the best kind.
  • That Sleeping Beauty's name is Aurora.
  • That stepping on a Shopkin hurts the same as stepping on a Lego.

Happy Tuesday, my friends. Be good to each other and watch out for those Shopkins!

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Friends {Slash} Family

Somewhere out there I know someone has a ruffly pillow with cursive stitches informing readers that "friends are the family you choose."

While I don't have much by way of embroidery skills, boy do I have people who fit that bill. Since I was a kid, I have been blessed with people who aren't related by blood or marriage, but would stand beside me, behind me, and in front of me at the drop of a hat. These people become harder to find, but thanks to the connectivity of the Arkansas Women Bloggers, I have two more family members. I have only known Karen and Alicia for a few years, but the outpouring of support they have shown in the hard times and the hilarity we share in the good place them high on my list.

Last Friday we pointed Karen's minivan in the direction of Hot Springs and burned rubber. This was our second girls' trip to the Spa City, so I think it's safe to call it an annual event. We all live in different towns, so our face-to-face time is limited. That's why we make the most of what we get. We use this mid-February trip to honestly do whatever we feel like... because we can.

This year that meant wandering up and down Bathhouse Row and spending more money than we should have. We also had to eat a cupcake after taking a classic Duck ride through town and hearing all sorts of touristy tidbits we mostly already knew. We lounged in our cabin rental for a while, then headed back downtown to enjoy a chilly evening of live music on the patio at Rolando's. Don't you worry, though, those margaritas warmed us right up. Our evening of debauchery ended at the Oaklawn slot machines. You might remember my first trip, where I decided I was the luckiest girl in Hot Springs. While this round did see me being up 50 bucks at one point, we walked out of there with zero of the dollars with which we began.

You might say this curbed our over-shopping.

After our wait-an-hour-because-it's-that-delicious breakfast at The Pancake Shop, we parted ways a little early because my family is going through a rough time. Rather than be bummed to cut it short, Karen and Alicia happily pointed that minivan the other direction and drove me completely out of the way to North Little Rock. Like I said, not only are these girls sitting on go when it comes to fun, they show their truest colors when I need them most.

The same goes for all of the people my husband and I are lucky to call friends. We know adult friendships are a little different because of life and work and kids, but we pick up right where we left off. Thanks to all who have reached out to us during this hard time. You have no idea how much your friendship means to us. Without going into detail, my family would appreciate your prayers of peace and comfort.

Happy Thursday, y'all. Life gets in the way, but today is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with your friends/family. Give them a call, why don't you?

PS! For those of you always looking for new books to add to your list, you will love Karen's blog. She is a book reviewer and posts her thoughts a few times a week. I bet she could add to your wish list. Find her at Ting's Mom Books. Also, any dog lovers out there should go ahead and add her newest blog to your reader, too. She recently got a cute little Jack Russell pup and she's sharing these adventures from his point of view. See what I'm talking about at Dak the Jack. As for Alicia, her blog is all things crafty, food, and garden. She's a lifestyle blogger who shares all of her hobbies and gives you ideas to try, as well. Click and see what Simple Words By A has to offer.

Okay, I'm really done now.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day: Then + Now

Eleven years ago Jonathan and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together.

Sitting on the couch in a tiny one-room apartment that cost us less than $400 a month {you read that right}, I watched him cook in our meager kitchen. We were engaged and counting down to our June wedding, blissfully unaware of how easy life was.

He put his finishing touches on the romantic pork chop dinner he prepared, and carried two plates to the coffee table that held tall, flickering candles. Once he set the plates down and I commented on how good it looked, I prepared myself to chow down. I settled into the couch, lifted my leg to cross it over the other, and kicked my plate. The pork chop and potatoes went flying onto the low-grade carpet, and I immediately started crying.

At this point I assume we picked up the pork chop and blew the dust off, because what else are you going to do? I don't remember much more other than my husband-to-be holding me tight and letting me know it's okay when things aren't perfect. And for eleven years after that night, he's been reminding me. Our relationship has continued this trend of imperfections, and we're constantly learning to either move around the flaws or welcome them.

Valentine's Day 2017 was a little different. After a busy day of work, rushing to make the kindergarten party on time, and a crazy afternoon of fielding questions from three voices that never stop, I heard his truck. I peered through the window to see Jonathan step onto the gravel drive holding beautiful red roses. I gasped and asked the kid closest if he could see what his dad was holding. Owen's answer? "Your butt." Yes, things are different now.

Jonathan's cooking skills have greatly improved since the Great Pork Chop Incident {though I can't say the same for my clumsiness}. Last night he treated me to a plate of linguine with shrimp scampi {Ina Garten's recipe is here}. However, this time he made three plates, plus two extras for those not feeling the lemony noodles. It was an incredible meal and much better than anything a local restaurant could have offered. After taking Nathan to piano lessons, cleaning up the kitchen and kids, and collecting about 342 candy wrappers, it was once again just us.

My husband loves everything about me, imperfections and all, and he has spent eleven years helping me do the same. I won't get a five-star meal or floral surprises every night, but I love him for being a constant source of support, reassurance, and care. I love the amazing guy who first noticed me at the softball game and the incredible husband who shares my life. Last night we laughed like we've known each other a lifetime and we talked like we'd just met.

Thanks for a sweet Valentine's Day and a sweet every day, Jonathan. Also, the dinner wasn't half-bad.

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

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Friday, February 10, 2017

What We Love

Ahhh, February. Love is in the air {and on every aisle at Wal-Mart}.

As we edge closer to one of my favorite holidays, I thought today called for an extra dose of mush. I'm sure all the parents out there will spend their weekend carefully etching out the class list names onto Star Wars and Batman cards, but why don't you take a break now and let us do some sharing? Today's post is all about what my kids love. I asked them for the things, people, and places they love, and below are their answers. You'll quickly learn that my kids are definitely related to me.

Beneath each section, I also added a description of what I love about each of them. 'Tis the season for mushy mom stuff, right? And you know what, I love you, too! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I hope your weekend is full of romance, excitement, or at least something decadent/chocolate.


Three Things: "My iPad, my desk because I can draw and read there, and the piano because I love making music."
Three People: "My mom because she's very nice, my dad because he likes to play with me, and my brother because he's fun to play with and he's funny."
Three Places: "Chick-fil-A {the kid knows what's up}, my Nana's house, and my Grammy and Poppy's house."

Mom's Take: I love Nathan because he's unashamedly himself. He's intelligent, crazy creative, oozing with talent, and learning more each day that he should be proud to let that shine. While he marches to his own beat, I love that Nathan is also in tune with the feelings and needs of others. I love that he makes sure to tell me goodbye every morning, and that he happily explains entire book plots to me after school. I love the way his whole face smiles when something cracks him up, and I love that he's always willing to help. Even if it means standing outside the bathroom door while Nora pees.


Three Things: "I love dinosaurs and candy and Trix. But all the flavors taste the same."
Three People: "My friends at school, Mommy because she's nice, and Daddy because he has good snuggles and because he's nice, too."
Three Places: "School because it's fun, Nana's, and Cracker Barrel because you get toys when you're done."

Mom's Take: I love Owen because he tries so hard. Many kids shy away from a challenge, or take time to heal after failing repeatedly, but I love that Owen will always get back in the saddle {still a figure of speech at this point}. He kept trying until he learned to ride a bike, say his "r" sound, throw a baseball perfectly, and remember all 24 sight words. He refuses to give up. I love that Owen includes his sister on all his adventures, even though I can tell he likes her. I love Owen's quick wit and the way I can still find my baby boy in his chocolate eyes. I love his silly voices, his extra-long hugs, and his wild imagination.


Three Things: "Vegetables because I like them to grow. Fruits because they're yummy. Bananas because they're yellow."
Three People: "My friends and Mrs. Keri because I love them and I love Mommy, too, because she always holds me and puts me on the swing."
Three Places: "McDonald's and Sonic and Sucker House {nickname for a Mexican place} because I can put fries in beans."

Mom's Take: I love Nora because she is a bright light in a dark world. Just watching Nora and her bouncing tangle of curls rush into a room is enough to turn my day around {and probably yours, too}. She skips everywhere she goes, she sings her requests for more juice, and she still kisses me on the lips. I love that Nora does things her own way, even if it means batting left-handed with a princess wand while wearing a crown and matching necklace. I love her "Good night, love you, too!" shouted from behind her bedroom door, and the way she talks with both arms. I love the freedom in her spirit and the expression in her eyes.

Happy Weekend, y'all!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pop of Spring

Let's put aside the shock that we saw a gorgeous 80-degree day in February.

We live in Arkansas, for crying out loud. We should be used to this by now. I cranked up the air conditioner and put the coats in the closet, but you and I both know that winter is far from over. Probably. Who even knows. Whatever the case may be, a pop of spring stopped by for a few sunny afternoons this week, and if shorts in February is wrong, I don't want to be right.

The kids used this break in the desolate winter to soak up the sun. Owen saw it as an opportunity to start spring training, and showed his dad that this t-ball season might be a good one. Jonathan is slated to serve as an assistant coach for both spring soccer and t-ball this year, so I'm excited to watch that unfold.

Nathan spent his February reprieve hanging out with a bunch of chicks who follow him around and practically eat out of his hands. Yes, I am talking about chickens. Nathan might be the only kid in our family who doesn't have a mild fear of his feathered friends and he shows that by chasing them into their run each night and making sure their food bowl stays full. He enjoys helping and I enjoy doing none of those things. A win-win!

Although Nora won't hit the age requirement for t-ball this year, she also took a few swings... with her Elsa wand. She also loved finding bright purple flowers in the clover patches spreading in the yard and she happened to notice a flash of hot pink on our tulip tree.

The bare branches and cold night winds remind us that winter's here for a little longer, but like the pink buds beginning to open, these last few days have been a brilliant reminder that spring is coming.

Happy Wednesday, y'all! How have you been enjoying this weather?

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Nathan's New Look

After failing a school eye exam, Nathan was sent home with the dreaded letter...

Fighting back the fear as he climbed into my car, he let me know there was a piece of paper from the school nurse in his backpack. He explained how he struggled to see the board in math now that he sits a few rows back. Even worse, he admitted he couldn't read the smaller print on his Star Wars video game. Nathan's nerves were on high alert, but he knew what had to be done.

Jonathan explained the process of an optometrist visit the night before Nathan's appointment, and his focus shifted to shopping for the perfect pair of specs. The next day, he was given a prescription of -1.00 in one eye and a -1.50 in the other. After trying on several options, the excellent salesperson helped him narrow it down to a cool pair of black frames with yellow detail.

He left the office happy and hopeful and things got even better when we picked the glasses up two days later. This is where I need to admit something: I was filled with anxiety when we got the phone call that his glasses were ready. I didn't want my son to feel self-conscious. I didn't want my son to be scared to face his peers in school. I didn't want my son to get a new label accompanied by a barrage of unpleasant associations. I was pretty scared of this adjustment.

You'd think I would learn by now that Nathan has a way of proving me absolutely wrong.

He looks so handsome in his glasses and he loves them. When he first slipped them on, he was floored by how "crisp and clear!" the world around him looks. He was reading road signs and taking selfies, y'all.

On Day One of going to school with glasses, he said he spent the whole day thanking his classmates and teachers for their compliments on his new look. No one made fun of him {okay, besides Owen} and he no longer strained during long division. Sure, I keep having to remind him to put them on, but he doesn't mind it when I do. Nathan is still getting used to them, but I am so proud of how well he's handling it.

You thought this post was over? Oh no, there's more eye-related news that involves another member of my family.

On the exact day Nathan went to pick up his glasses, Jonathan had cataract surgery that resulted in him no longer having to wear his glasses. It was an odd exchange, and one Nora took a few days to get used to:

If you'll recall, there was a traumatic episode in November 2015 that ended in my husband having emergency surgery to reattach his retina. {Click here if you don't remember.} We were told that procedure would likely result in a need for cataract surgery. However, this step would take the prescription in his right eye from -11.00 to perfect.

This decision was a no-brainer because it meant trading in his thick glasses for a single left-eye contact, but it's still nerve-wracking to think about laser beams in your eyeball. However, he made it through with flying colors {I lost a few points when I almost passed out during IV placement... I know.} When the 20 minutes of surgery were up, I was summoned back to the post-op room and Jonathan blinked in amazement when he saw me. Obviously, I assumed he was seeing my full beauty with his right eye for the first time in his life. Nope.

"Whoa! I can see the wrinkles on your forehead now!"

He tried to blame it on the anesthesia, but the nurse was quick to point out he didn't have any. Like Nathan, Jonathan spent the car ride home amazed at the focus of the world around him. In the days since surgery, his vision is starting to clear up and he's doing great.

I hope y'all had a lovely weekend. We decided that the Kitten Bowl was cuter than the Puppy Bowl and NFL overtime rules are unfair. Happy Monday!

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dear February

It's that time of year again... love is in the air and chocolate turtles are taunting me.

Happy February! We made it through the coldest, darkest month of the year and we're on the other side. Even though the dang groundhog saw his shadow this morning, I have high hopes for this sweet little month. There are plans all over my calendar and a heavy focus on loving others. Judging from my news feed, I think this notion is arriving at the perfect time.

This month I want to embrace love and everything that word means. At our youth group gathering last night, we talked about the way God's love for us is so unconditional. It's a love that knows no limits. No matter your background, your choices, your beliefs, your skin color, whatever: God loves you. I know that's a lofty goal for a mere mortal to shoot for, but I want to love like that. I want to take the love He gives me and spread it as wide as possible. With love on the brain, why don't I share a peek into why I'm so excited about February 2017? Here's what's going on:

Valentine's Day! I don't have any details, but I hear my husband has a sweet surprise date planned, and that has me over the moon. I'm looking forward to some time to ourselves, which is rare and always appreciated. I love my husband a lot and spending time with him is my favorite. Expect more mush.

Galentine's Day! My friends and I haven't tacked this name onto our upcoming girls' night, but I'm making it official here and now. Two of my favorite friends and I are taking on Hot Springs again this year for a kid-free, husband-free time of togetherness. We will eat a lot, we will drink a lot, and we'll probably never stop talking. I am pumped.

Garden Work! This isn't an event on my schedule, but my garden tools are sitting on go. As usual, the end of January came with unseasonable sunshine and warmer temps, and it ignited my spring fever. There's still much patience to practice when it comes to planting, but this month we'll start turning over dirt and making plans. I'm already dreaming about tomatoes. Really.

I am delighted about what February holds for me and my family, what about you? Do you have great big sappy plans this month or are you {also} waiting to take advantage of the mid-month candy markdowns? Let's chat in the comments.
I hope y'all have a terrific Thursday.

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