I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about what things were like this time last year (pictured above).  I'll be the first to admit that I live a stupendously blessed life.  I do complain, but I know that in reality I have nothing to complain about.  That being said, the holidays last year were pretty rough.

When I was about 38 weeks pregnant with baby girl, I noticed a weird bump on my cheekbone.  After trying antibiotics, we realized it wasn't an infection and I was sent to the ENT.  He took a look at it and said "It's something in the bone, we need a CT scan, call me after the baby's born."  As in - don't worry, it's probably not serious and certainly don't make yourself crazy looking things up on WebMD.  Riiiiight.  Baby girl was born the day before Thanksgiving and I found myself smack in the middle of newborn care, holidays with family and, suddenly, medical stuff. 

After the scan the doctor said such things as "It's probably just a harmless condition, but we'd like to do a biopsy just in case" - what he meant was "just in case it's sarcoma" - but he didn't come right out with it at first.  So with a 3 week old baby, I found myself in the operating room.  And then trying to recover amidst night nursings.  And then battling an infection from surgery.  And then sick from antibiotics.  Not to mention my nasty little case of post-partum depression. 

To put things in perspective, it turned out to be nothing at all (something called fibrous displacia - aka random and unexplained bone growth).  My sweet parents dropped everything to stay a whole month to help with the newborn, then help with all the kids while I had my surgery.  My husband was a star about keeping the house cleaned and the kids fed and everything humming along while I was either bedridden or too 'sad' to get things done.  My precious babies are all healthy and happy and growing likes weeds.  The P.P.D faded around the time my kids all finally learned to sleep through the night.  So far, in general, we're all doing just fine this holiday. 

But I can't help thinking back to sitting in that doctor's office, reading between the lines and wondering if it were going to be my very last holiday with my babies.  And it made me think - none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow here on Earth.  We need to be making the most of every single day we've been blessed with. 

SO - that's my super long way of saying, I'm giving myself this holiday season off from the blog.  I have one more giveaway that I'll be posting shortly, and I'll keep up the regular posts this week - but starting next weekend I'll be gone until January.  Keep an eye out on the facebook page - I'll probably still update now and then with deals, sponsor posts (I have some great ones coming), and links, but I won't be posting regularly until the new year.

I hope that you all have a very blessed holiday, and for those of you who are having a rough time this holiday, please accept a most sincere *hug* from me.  See you all in 2012!
 

Ornament Swap

11/7/2011

 
Do you love hand-made ornaments?  I know I do!  They always seem to make my tree feel just a little more special.  Do you make hand-made ornaments?  Do you know someone who does?  Then join in the swap!  Head on over to

to sign up to participate.  You can either send an ornament you've made yourself, or purchase a hand-made ornament.  Easy peasy.  Head on over to read more details and link up.  Someone will be receiving one of my Frosty ornaments - will it be you?
 
 
I can't believe it's November already!  Where has 2011 gone?  And yet, somehow, I'm a little surprised it isn't Christmas already.  I think I was ready for Halloween in August, and on Halloween I was thinking about snow and presents already.  Whew.  Fortunately, I did remember to take the kids trick-or-treating and even squeezed in some ghostly cookie baking as well.
Yum yum!  Of course, my kids had more fun making those ghosts disappear than they did stirring them up.

All day the kids have been asking "go trick-or-treat?  get candy?"  This is only the second trick-or-treating experience for the boys (and very first for baby girl!) so they were still super excited - and needed lots of reminders to take only one piece of candy and to say "thank you" as they left.  Big Brother even took a cue from the homeowners and started shouting "Have fun!" as he left each house. 
Here are our little cowboy, lady bug and penguin - aren't they adorable?  Poor little brother got stuck in a hand-me-down costume, but he didn't seem to mind.  It was a warm enough day that he couldn't wait to get out of that hot suit, though (crazy, huh?  I hear some of you had snow storms tonight).  And I probably have the only kids on the planet who were excited that we were handing out raisins at our house.  Each of the boys got to pick 3 pieces of candy to eat tonight and the rest is going to work with Daddy in the morning (or, um, hiding somewhere secret just for Mommy).  I know, it's kinda mean, but the last thing my little boys need is more sugar in their diets to make them hyper - they have plenty of energy all on their own, thank you :)

So how was Halloween for you all?  What did your little ones dress as?  Were you able to make the rounds, or did you get snowed in?  What's the policy on candy in your household?  And remember - only 54 more shopping days till Christmas! (woah.  still need gifts?  I've got some cute stuff here ;)).
 
 
Fall is my favorite season of the year.  I like spring - after a long winter it's wonderful to get out into nature again.  But there's something about fall that just awakens me.  Maybe it's the holidays - I've always loved a reason to celebrate.  But here are a few more reasons I love fall!
Apple picking.  It's our family's favorite fall activity.  Not only do we get to enjoy a gorgeous day in nature together, but we get to enjoy months of delicious pies, apple sauce and juice afterward.  And who doesn't love a sweet baby amongst the apples?
Our second favorite fall activity is heading to the pumpkin patch.  The kids love to ride the slides and the barrel rides and the tractor rides and the swings.  Not to mention all the snacks.  And decorating the pumpkins when we get home keeps them occupied long enough for Mommy to make supper!
And last (but certainly not least) I love fall for sweet babies in footie jammies, silly stocking caps and cozy gloves.  (Find those amazing hats here).

I'm all set for the cold - I've got cocoa in my pantry and all the fixins for a delicious chicken-pot-pie in my freezer.  We've harvested the fall vegetables and pulled out the flannel sheets.  And I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgiving when we'll get to spend time with family, eat lots of super-decadent food and -best of all - celebrate baby girl's first birthday!  My oh my how time flies. 

Those are our treasured fall traditions.  What are some of yours?

Linking up with
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So yesterday was a crazy day and I just had to post.  I've been really excited that the holidays and my birthday are coming up because I might finally get a few of the silly little 'wants' on my wishlist that would make me feel so spoiled I could be a serious tightwad with my own money for a while. As most parents know, when you have kids, the first financial thing to go is the fun little splurges for Mom and Dad.  Which is totally fine - but then birthdays feel extra special.  ANYway, as it turns out, now the only thing that is on my birthday (and Christmas and every holiday for the next two years) wishlist is this:
A freezer-on-the-bottom fridge. (I especially love the snack drawer).  And why, might you ask?  Well, because my 3.5 year old has finally figured out how to open the baby gate on the kitchen.  And he gets hungry a lot.  And he likes to forage.  And he can reach every single shelf in our fridge even though he's still knee-height.  And yesterday I left the room for a moment to take a phonecall and returned to see this:
Yup - those are raw eggs.  On my couch.  Whah!?  Turns out the boys were feeling snack-ish and they LOVE hard-boiled eggs.  They just haven't learned the difference between a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg until they've started to peel them.  You'd think they'd have gotten the hint after the first egg or two, but nope, they went for the whole dozen.  And Mommy spent 40 minutes trying to salmonella-proof the living room.  And immediately scrapped the old wishlist and replaced it with the new.  Despite the mess I feel incredibly blessed that this is what I consider a rough afternoon.  In the grand scheme of things it means nothing.  I wasn't even mad at the boys - they were just as upset about not finding any boiled eggs as I was about the mess.  And it makes an excellent story for the baby books :)  So that was our afternoon - how was yours?
 
 
I've learned several things the hard way over the last few days/weeks.  We all make mistakes, we all do things we regret, and we all fail now and then.  The important thing is that we do learn.  Here are some of the things I've taught myself recently:

1) Never (ever ever ever) attempt to go to the grocery store with 3 kids under 4.  I will turn into a nagging screaming mess, and the kids will turn into whining screaming messes and sometimes the groceries will be abandoned as I flee to the car before someone else decides to discipline my kids.  I don't care if we're out of milk, or bread, or formula, or even if our cupboards are bare.  I CAN wait until Daddy gets home or until I find a sitter or until someone invents drive-through groceries.  Ooooof.
2) Planning is everything.  It is totally worth my time to plan out a week of meals, a detailed grocery list, a precise schedule of activities and how I'm going to stick to my weekly budget.  Even better if I have a back-up plan in case church runs over and I can't get to the grocery when I intend to, etc.  Making lunch the night before saves me from the "I'm exhausted and the kids are screaming let's just get Panda Express" lunchtime budget-blowers.  Keeping a frozen home-made meal in the freezer saves me from "I'm too tired to cook so we'll have cereal for dinner" nights.  And having some coloring books and crayons on hand saves me from, well, just about everything! ('Cause, hey, coloring can be therapeutic for everyone).
3) Besides taking the time to plan plan plan, just about everything else non-kid-related is an unessential time-sucker.  I don't need to do that craft project.  I don't need to read that blog.  I don't need  to get caught up on my Mt. Everest of magazines.  I don't even need to scrub the kitchen floor (we're just going to drop spaghetti on it again tonight anyway, right?)  But I do need  to cuddle my babies.  I need to read them stories, to sit in their pretend train caboose, to take them outside to run, to give them some extra time to chat at bedtime.  I need to help them learn to paint, to build elaborate railroad tracks, to let them stir the cookie dough even if all the chips end up in one place.  And I absolutely need to spend my quiet hour doing just that - being quiet.  In my bed.  Asleep.  So that I am recharged and ready to be sweet to my precious babies for the rest of the afternoon. 

Slowly, too slowly, I'm learning where my priorities need to be.  Not every mother is so blessed to be able to stay home with her children and I cannot take it for granted.  I need to remember that behind God and my husband, my kids are my top priority and I need to do whatever it takes to treasure them and make them feel treasured.   I have this little poem taped to my fridge - it's a wonderful reminder for me on the days that I'm too tempted to say "Not now, honey, mommy's busy cleaning (or blogging or reading or cooking or...)."


Song for a Fifth Child
Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look!  Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.  Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby.  Babies don’t keep.

1958   Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

 
 
    Before we had kids, I had a plan.  I knew exactly how far apart my kids were going to be.  I knew what schools they were going to go to.  I had a long list of lunches I'd lovingly pack, and songs I'd sing and activities I'd shuttle them between.  I knew exactly how they should be disciplined and I dreamed about family dinners with neatly scrubbed children sitting primly at the table devouring all the wholesome foods I made for them.
    And then our kids were born.  They were not 4 years apart, as I'd dreamed, but rather 17 months apart (yes, both sets).  I spent hours researching preschools, rarely have a plan for lunch, sing 'Skinamarinkadink' on repeat between all the playgroups and Kindermusic classes and little gym activites.  And my very loud, very dirty children rarely sit at the table long enough to get in a square meal.  I have become "that mom."

    I am the mom who is eternally running out the door 5 minutes late, with one shoe on and someone else's oatmeal on my shirt. 
    I am the mom who's hair is in a ponytail so often it's starting to fall out in clumps.
    I am the mom who's kids are throwing blocks at the library and shouting as they chase each other through the aisles of books.
    I am the mom whom strangers tell "Oh you're so brave!" or "Oh, you are crazy!" on every public outing with the children. 
    I am the mom who cries over commercials, magazine articles and a sweet afternoon at the park, but doesn't even wince when run over with a tricycle. 
    I am the mom whose kids eat food off the floor (or the lawn) yet are, remarkably, rarely ill.
    I am the mom who finds her car keys in the dryer and plastic dinosaurs in the fridge and someone's left shoe in the diaper pail.
    I am the mom whose life turned out 'all wrong,' and yet it could not be more right. 
    I am the mom who is greatly greatly blessed.

How about you?  Have you become "that mom?"
 
 
I have finally added a sponsor slot to my blog!  I'm very excited because I know so many great blogs and shops that I would LOVE to share with all my readers.  And I finally learned how to make buttons.  To kick off my new section (see below right) I'm giving away 6 sponsorship slots for the month of October.  If you would like to advertise your blog or shop on our site, shoot me an email on my contact form and we'll get you set up!  First come first served, so sign up now!
 

PPD PSA

9/6/2011

 
I want to share with you an article that really touched me today.  I truly believe that Post Partum Depression affects more women than we realize.  It can be hard for the woman to recognize, and some are even too ashamed to seek help.

I've always had brushes with 'the blues.'  I don't know whether to label it 'depression' or not, because I've never formally sought help.  But I do know that like clockwork (thanks mother nature), I come unglued.  For at least one week a month, I'm cranky, I weep easily, and I hate myself.  I'll snap over nothing at all and I've even contemplated "just walking away from it all" now and again.  It's awful.  I hope this isn't too TMI, but for me any fluctuation in hormones just makes me nuts.  I had to stop taking birth control pills because I was so down I was almost non-functional.  I would spend evenings weeping in the bathroom.  I would sleep nearly all day.  My husband felt like he didn't know me anymore. 

After my first two babies were born, I had the usual frustration and blues that come with sleep deprivation.  Our first had some weight loss issues and I had a LOT of healing to do after his birth - but in general, I was fine and functional again in a few weeks.  After baby #3 came along, though, things weren't ok.  I was overwhelmed dealing with 3 kids under the age of 3, and even though our newborn really was a sweet angel and was very much an 'easy baby,' I still felt out of control.  I became the mom that screamed - really screamed - at my kids.  Every little thing made me crazy.  I felt like I had completely lost my sense of identity and that the last thing I wanted was to be "mommy" for even one more day.  I cried all the time and felt like a terrible mother.  I had days I actually contemplated calling a sitter, packing my bags, and leaving my family to someone who could 'care for them better.'  Around 3.5-4 months post-partum, I actually began to fantasize about hurting myself.  Never suicidal, but I actually dreamed about inflicting pain on myself.  I'd been too afraid to say anything to anyone - I thought they'd tell me I was being silly and that I just needed to 'suck it up.'  I already felt spoiled because we had a part time nanny who gave me a break for 9 hours a week.  And I had good days where I was in control.  I didn't think anything was really wrong.  Until one days it clicked with me.  All the pamphlets I'd read said "if you ever think of hurting your child or yourself, seek professional help." 

I was just about to pick up the phone and find a professional counselor when, seemingly over night, I felt better.  The sun shone again, I felt joy again, life felt almost, well, normal.  I even started to feel good about myself.  I feel SO blessed that things cleared up for me like that.  Sure, I still have a rough day, but overall, I have hope.  However, I do wish that I'd sought counseling as soon as I'd started to despair.  I missed so much time with my daughter (and my older sons) that I will never get back  because I was too sad and despairing to enjoy them.  I don't want ANYone to go through what I went through - and I know I had a pretty mild case. 

So I want to recommend When the Bough Breaks: Ending the Stigma, Shame and Silence of Postpartum Mood Disorders  to everyone.  If this is you now, please seek help.  If you know someone who might have PPD - please reach out to them.  Thanks for taking the time to read my little PSA!
 
 
Like a lot of women, I'll confess to having struggles with weight.  In college I had a brush with an eating disorder, dropping to 95 lbs.  After having 3 babies in 3 years, well, I'm not that thin anymore :p 

I wrote this post this morning after trying on an embarrassing number of outfits before finding something to wear to church that didn't make me feel like a whale.  Thought I'd pass it on as a reminder to us all that it's not about the lumps and bumps, but all about attitude instead! 
 
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