Thursday, February 27, 2014

Midweekish Confessions

Good morning! I slept about 11 hours last night after driving to the mountains, snow tubing for less than an hour and driving back. It was MUCH needed rest and I feel much more refreshed today. My whole family slept on the car ride home and since I'm the "rallier" of the family, I drove back, the whole time jealous of their sweet slumber. Who knew snow tubing for about 45 minutes would be so exhausting?

Lets do some confessing!

1. A random lady walked up to Avery and I at Old Navy the other week and asked if she could use Avery for a photoshoot for her photography business media pieces. She was super nice so I gave her my information. She touched based with me and in my excitement about springy pictures, I sent her endlessly long FB messages about ideas, outfits etc... Hi my name is Taylor and I like to wildly overwhelm people.  It took her about 2 weeks to respond to me and she thanked me for my "shocking enthusiasm." Whoops.

2. While I got ready this morning to take the kids to preschool, Avery self served a super healthy breakfast of a fudgesicle. I have obviously instilled very healthy eating habits into my children.

3. I had a clean clothes pile waiting to be folded and a dirty clothes pile in my room. They have merged and now I'm not sure which is which.... so I've done nothing instead. I am mostly writing this blog to avoid said laundry.

4. You have to be 3 to go snow tubing so we taught Avery that when people ask her how old she is, she needs to say "3." I know... stellar parenting. Fortunately, she usually answers "8" because LEGO junior builder boxes say ages 4-8 and Parker says he's 4 and Avery can be 8 so she can play too. That way, my 2 year old isn't lying about her age, her 29 year old mother is. SO much better.

5. I bought Parker Avenger bed sheets the other day (something I said I'd NEVER DO!) because when I wash his sheets, I have to put them back on the top bunk before bed and without Daniel, that's SUPER difficult. I literally fell backwards into the LEGO table last week while Daniel was out of town trying to put clean sheets on this darn bed. Parker was SO excited about his Avenger sheets that he asked to go to bed an hour before bedtime. I'm going to try it with Avery. I don't even care what the sheets look like if it gets that child to go to bed an hour early and with enthusiasm.

And the winner is...
6. I had my hair cut at a salon called "Pretty Little Thang" this morning. You see, my split ends were getting out of control so this morning after preschool drop off, I went to my usual hair place (and by usual I mean, I go there 3 times a year because I don't properly take care of my hair and wait until it is downright awful to be cut). I walked in, sat down and started looking at hair magazines but they weren't the look I was going for.  Bless my obivilous heart. I was called to the chair and this SUPER friendly older gentleman asked me how I wanted my hair done. I told him just a nice trim to get the dead ends off and he looked confused but rolled with it. He immediately began talking to me and we chatted it up for a while about his son, the state of Montana and how Indian Trail was once goat fields. I don't have a clue about any of those 3 subjects so I smiled and listened. He was SO friendly!

It took me a solid 30 minutes to realize that every station had those super hot curlers, that he was brushing my hair with a pick and that all of the pictures on the wall were featuring different braiding and styling techniques.

That is correct my friends, I had my hair cut at "Pretty Little Thang" the neighborhood African American braiding and styling salon. At the end he told me "I don't have this kind of cut on my menu so how does $15 sound?" Umm... it sounds great thank you very much. Despite some unusual techniques and his lack of a curling iron that wouldn't burn my hair off, I actually REALLY like the cut. He was super friendly and for the price of Great Clips, I just may be his only 3 times a year white client.

Who's got some confessing to do today?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Birthdays, Balloons and Butts

1 week ago we were covered in 12 inches of snow and yesterday I wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I LOVE living in North Carolina! Today the windows are cracked, the doors are open and I'm soaking in the musty post thunderstorm smell. Our local weather man forecasted more cold weather next week but I'm choosing to not believe him. 

My Goddaughter, Makenna's, 2nd birthday is just around the corner and yesterday morning was her 2 year photoshoot. Her mom had a bunch of balloons blown up for the pictures so yesterday afternoon, we decided to take the kids to a local neighborhood clubhouse and snap more pictures of the kids playing with the balloons because we were gonna get her $20 out of those balloon gosh darn it. Helium is expensive these days, y'all! 

The birthday girl. Isn't she the cutest?!
As soon as Tabitha told me what colors the balloons were, I knew exactly what outfit Avery could wear to coordinate! A girl's gotta coordinate with her friend's birthday color scheme, right?!
Really mom, we're taking MORE pictures? I don't know how I feel about this...
Toddlers and Tiaras are calling... they want their pose back. Why she poses like this, I do not know but it's hilarious.
Love her!
Parker had a blast climbing the rocks and taunting me with coming as close as he could to falling in the pond. 
I kept asking him to turn around so I could get a picture of his face and not is hiney. He thought that was hilarious so I got about 15 pictures like this:
How fitting is it that this photo sequence is to commemorate turning 2?

I die. She even threw in a "no mine!" which makes it even more awesome! Welcome to your 2's, Makenna! No wonder why her parents call her "sassy!" 

Sweet friends
Can you believe Makenna is 10 months younger? They look the same size!
Happy 2nd birthday, sweet Makenna! We are so blessed to live 2 doors down from you and live life with your family!

Friday, February 14, 2014


Happy Valentine's Day, friends! This isn't a holiday we celebrate too much but I do like any excuse to buy myself some grocery store flowers :)

We gave the kids a cupcake and a balloon and you would have thought it was Christmas. It's the simple things, isn't it?

The highlight of my day was leaving the house! After 4 days of being snowed in with 12 inches of snow, I was SO excited to buy groceries and see people. I ran out of Dr. Pepper on day 1, wine on day 2 and ice cream on day 3 so by day 4.... I was running on actually healthy food and very little sugar... it was a sad affair. My 1st stop in Harris Teeter was to the L*O*N*G but oh so worth it Starbucks line. After some straightening up and putting away our bulky snow clothes, I headed out to the mall to hit up the Gymboree sale. 50% off already on sale items for big boys and girls... the baby sale starts Tuesday. Whoop Whoop! We may have snow on the ground but my mind is on 80 degree days ahead! {and a cruise we are seriously considering booking and I might pee my pants I'm so exited!}

We don't get much snow in North Carolina but when we do, our state shuts down. Everyone runs to the store to buy bread, milk, soup and wine. Seriously... it sells out. I stocked up, but obviously not very well, on the essentials and we were ready for the flurries. I was shocked at how fast it accumulated! I don't think I've ever seen this much snow in Charlotte. 
This is the 1st day. We didn't have much snow yet but we couldn't wait to sled!
Avery is slightly obsessed with the movie "Frozen." Message me if you want to know how to watch it! It's leaked online but I don't want to post where in case I get in trouble! I can't tell you how many times she has sang me the line "Do you want to build a snowman?" the last few days. We have made many... and they're all named Olaf.
Snow dog! Ivy wasn't a fan. Poor thing couldn't even walk in it.
Snow bunnies!
Olaf #6... or was it 7?
Snow angels!
This is the "I'm about to chuck this at your face" look.
 Parker really enjoyed sledding and "ice skating" on the sleet. We didn't get any good sledding pictures but I did take this obnoxious mom voice video :)

Avery was the snow princess. She wanted to play in it ALL. DAY. LONG. Parker was content to sled until any part of him got wet or cold. About the only way to get Miss. A in the house was to let her watch Frozen which we may have binged on a bit this week. I'm pretty sure Avery has a future in Broadway singing, no?
We had a blast in the snow but I'm happy to see it melting quickly!

Dear God,

Thank you SO much for the snow. It was truly spectacular. It's beautiful and fun to play in. I now invite you to make it 75+ degrees until September.

Love ya!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cruising with Kids

Before my blog hiatus, I promised a cruising with kids post. We took a 5 night cruise the 1st week of December and had a blast! I read blogs and websites about cruising with young kids before we left... some was good advice.. others not so much. A few friends have told me they're considering cruising this year with their families but were nervous about it so here's my list of tips for enjoying a cruise with young children.

1. Keep to your regular schedule.
We did the same routine every night. After dinner, we came back to our room, put on PJs, let the kids play iPad for 30 mins to an hour and then it was bedtime. They were asleep each night by 8. Yes, that meant I was in the room with them at 7 but I wasn't very interested in the cruise night life. It just isn't my scene. I brought my laptop with movies/TV shows I had downloaded and was very content with room service cheesecake and my shows. Daniel played poker and was back in the room by midnight so we could wake up the next morning and enjoy our day without being sleepy. Sleepy kids=grumpy kids!

2. Don't bring toys.
Some blogs showed pictures of kids with bag packs loaded down with legos, barbies, etc. The point of the cruise is to enjoy the boat, not sit in your room and play toys. We only brought the iPad and it was plenty sufficient. They watched a show on it before bed and sometimes while we got ready for dinner but otherwise, we were out of the room.

3. Choose the flex dining or early dining plan
You might me tempted to want the 8pm dinner so you have more daylight on the lido deck but that makes for a long day. We opted for flex dining so we didn't have the same waiter every night but we could eat when we wanted from 5-7pm. Most nights, we were there at 5 and our kids were fabulous at dinner. They weren't over tired or over hungry. You do have to wait sometimes for a while and that wait with hungry, tired kids would be miserable. By getting there at 5, we also got to request the waitress we liked and got our preference of tables. Please don't bring an iPad to dinner. It's inconsiderate. Try talking to your kids or coloring. Our cruise provided menus with games and crayons.

4. Utilize Childcare
We didn't get to utilize the childcare facility as much as we had planned to because Avery spiked random fevers but Parker went and really enjoyed it. Sometimes during the day, he would request to go play for a while. At first I was nervous to hand my kids off to people I didn't know on a boat in the middle of the ocean, but I really liked that they would give you cell phones if you requested one. This gave me piece of mind that they could contact me when he was ready for me to get him or if there was a problem. On the other hand, you're on a family vacation... don't leave your kids there all day! We limited it to 2-3 hours per day. Make sure to research the age requirements for each cruiseline. They are not all the same and some have potty training requirements.

5. Reconsider cruising if your kids are not potty trained
All cruise lines, including Disney, require for all children to be potty trained to get in the pools. They cannot wear swim diapers or plastic pants. Most cruise lines also won't keep diapered children in the kids club. That means that you will not have a break from your baby and cannot take him/her in the water unless you're off the boat and at a beach. For some people on our last cruise, they were fine with that and took turns chasing their 1 year old all over the boat but some other parents looked downright miserable. Little ones also have a hard time sitting that long at dinners. Screaming kids at a nice dinner is just rude to other paying customers, in my opinion. We take our kids to Mexican restaurants and not Morton's for a reason, it you know what I mean.

6. Pack half of what you think you'll need
I packed a swim suit, a play outfit and a nice outfit for each of us for each day. We had a lot of luggage and a lot of clean clothes when we got home. It was too much. We put on bathing suits 1st thing in the morning with cover ups and wore them all day until dinner. I did like having 1 outfit per dinner because they inevitably got food on their nice clothes. Next cruise, I'll pack half as many play clothes.

7. Prepare your kids
When we 1st boarded the boat, Parker was overwhelmed. We showed him YouTube videos for weeks before our cruise but it still didn't prepare him for how loud the muster stations would be and how busy the lido deck would be when everyone was boarding. I can't imagine how out of sorts he would have been if we didn't talk about it a lot and let him know what to expect.

8. Don't rush off the boat on the last day
We left the boat at our leisure after our debarkation was called. We had a nice sit down breakfast in the formal dining hall so that when we got in the car, we could drive a long stretch before needing to stop for food. It was also nice to not start our 8 hour drive home rushing. Enjoy that last breakfast... you paid for it!

9. Be mindful of the time of year you cruise
We cruised in December and I don't think I would do it again. The ocean was already pretty chilly in the Bahamas and the pool was freezing. Everyone was packed into the hot tubs! Also, think about the time of year in relation to the people who will be on the boat. We went in December when school was still in session and thus we cruised with TONS of geriatrics and a few toddlers. The entertainment was geared towards older people and there weren't many kids to play with. Whereas, if you cruised in the summer or spring break, it would be a kid haven! The water would be warmer, but the childcare facility would also be busier. So weigh whats most important to you and think about your cruise in relation to weather and school schedule.

10. Let it go
We went on this cruise with very little expectations of how it would go. We choose a less expensive cruise for our 1st time so that if it was a total bust, we wouldn't feel so upset we wasted a bunch of $. Now that we know they loved it, we feel more comfortable spending $ to go to the ports we really want to go to. While we did stick to our normal schedule, we let a lot go. They ate what they wanted, because we did too. Frozen yogurt was consumed at every meal. We played more putt putt than I ever cared to play. We let go of our expectations and just lived in the moment and that made for a stress-free, enjoyable family vacation.

I hope that helps you plan (or not plan!) your next family cruise! We are hoping to book another one in the near future! :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Perfectly Imperfect Family of 4

I've missed my little space. This blog is *my space.* When you have kids, not much is yours anymore. My bed usually has a 4am pigtailed visitor, my showers usually have Avengers rescuing Thomas the train from the suds, my drinks and meals are always shared and I no longer understand the concept of personal space. But this blog is my space. It may be full of pictures of my kids and stories of our days at the park but they're memories I choose to share with my own words.

When I  reread that paragraph, I realize that my 2 year old is rubbing off on me with the excessive use of the word "my."

The problem is, I pride myself in this blog being honest. It's light-hearted and fun but at it's core, it's a memoir of our lives. It's a time stamp. A way to freeze time so we can always go back and reminisce. That said, I haven't blogged in forever because I haven't wanted to share how I feel or what's really up. I've done a pretty world class job sweeping it under a rug... a pretty one I'm sure... probably with a trellis pattern... I really like those.

I've sat down to write a few times but the only thing I really want to write about... the only thing that would be genuine... is to write about Liam and how we feel since. It's scary to write about because there is a line I have to draw for his sake. His parents feelings, I no longer care about to be completely honest but for Liam's sake, I've suppressed my voice... many times over and will continue to do so, in part, for his privacy and well being.

So, that said. Back in October, we were moving forward with adopting Liam. Long story short, family stepped in who had not been involved in his life up until word got out that his parents had abandoned him and were putting his unborn brother up for adoption. At the time, we were confused. Why had God laid adoption on my heart years ago and even worked in Daniel's heart to being on the same page? Liam was literally brought to our door step and then he was taken away? I just didn't understand.

My initial feelings ran the gamut from confused to sad to even relieved. He was not an easy child and he really threw Parker (who has sensory processing issues) for a loop. Over time, I began to see that God put Liam in our lives for a period of time for a very distinct purpose.  We truly believe it was to change the course of his life. I still, 3 months later, find myself sad sometimes that his future won't be with us, but I take comfort in the fact that he is safe and hopefully treasured as he should be.

Even though Liam was difficult, I really enjoyed being a mom of 3. It was chaotic and busy but overall, I found purpose in caring for 3 little ones, especially one that I felt needed me so badly. Having 3 forced me to be more intentional with my time which I realize I could make myself be now but I didn't have a choice with 3! If I have a choice, I will choose to snooze the alarm or put off laundry... or any chore for that matter. Going back to 2 children left me feeling less complete. Time is healing that and I am finding purpose in getting more involved with Parker's OT, school redistricting meetings and the neighborhood board but I'd be lying if I said they're nearly as fulfilling as tucking in a 3rd child. Liam will always have a piece of my heart though I doubt he'll ever know I exist.

After the confusion and sadness subsided, the anger set in. Never at God but at his parents for putting Liam and my family in this position in the 1st place.  I can't say I'm fully past that phase. I look at my children and can't imagine not seeing what a blessing they are. I feel angry for my friends who ache for children when people who don't deserve them can procreate like gerbils. I bite my tongue at the occupational therapist when a mom snaps at her children every. single. week. If the last 6 months have taught me anything, it's how incredibly blessed I am and what a gift my children are.

After we lost Liam, Daniel and I gave ourselves some time to think and pray then had "the talk."  We both felt that me carrying a 3rd child is dangerous and wouldn't be fair to Parker and Avery to put my life at risk to have a sibling that they don't want... we asked! We could foster or adopt but that would be challenging for Parker and I'm not sure I could emotionally handle going through something like that again. Ultimately, we decided to be a family of 4. It is absolutely the right decision for us, even though sometimes I still grieve the loss of our family of 5... whether that 5th was Liam or another child.

I ate a lot of Doritos, binged watched Scandal and was downright lazy for a solid two weeks after he went to live with family. My feelings really surprised me because I didn't realize how much I loved him and being a mom of 3 until he was gone. I was disappointed in myself for not living more in the moment. I complained too much about how much he cried, how he never napped, how he never listened, how he preferred running in the opposite direction of where we were going, how he painted with his poop.... the list goes on but when it was over... I missed it. I missed him. (well not the poop painting... that was just downright gross).

These feelings have given me a real heart check about how I feel in tough moments with Parker and Avery. My house has never been dirtier but I've also never snuggled Avery as much as I do now. I've memorized her smell and how soft her cheeks up against mine are. I know every Avenger and villain. I can build Lego sets without the instructions and I know exactly which Lego piece out of the thousands we have that Parker means when he says he's looking for "lefty." When Avery has a meltdown, I tend to laugh more than get frustrated because it's gonna pass. When Parker wants to read another Iron Man story in my lap, dinner gets pushed back 10 minutes because he's not going to sit in my lap much longer. "I love yous" are said more than ever and they're meant twice as much. It's sad that it took loosing Liam to fully understand what gifts each moment soaking in my kid's childhood means but it's the truth.

While my house may be chaotic and in full floor renovation mode, my emotional rug is now clean. There you have it. I'm struggling with contentment and sometimes I'm downright mad but I've also never seen more clearly how blessed I am to have Parker, Avery and Daniel as my perfectly imperfect family of 4.

Now, back to pictures of play dates and snow days! :)