Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on Having Children

While tucking the girls in bed, kissing them good night, and saying prayers, Ambria interrupted my bedtime prayer with this...

Ambria: "I don't want to have kids" (proceeds to shake her head 'no' and stick out her tongue).

Mariah chimes in, "Yeah me either.  Mom, doesn't it stink taking care of us?"

Not sure where or why this fit into the bedtime prayer, but I guess Ambria had something on her mind that she wanted to share.  Thanks Ambria, and no, Mariah, it doesn't stink taking care of you (although it can be challenging at times and I continue to count gray hairs).

Oh the things kids say.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Toilet Training in Less than a Day

Less than a day??  This can't be true!  I was the first skeptic.  I was leery.  I was pessimistic but trying to by optimistic.  I was actually nervous to try it.

When our second daughter, Ambria was 2.5, someone recommended the book Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin.  My husband picked up the $7.99 book at Barnes and Nobles.  I thought I would give it a try with Ambria.  The book was a quick, easy read.  Seemed easy enough.  And guess what...

IT WORKED!!

So I thought, either 1. Ambria was just really ready to be potty trained, 2. we got lucky, or 3. the method in the book worked.

Ashlyn has been showing physical and mental signs of being ready to be potty trained for a few weeks.  She went potty on the big potty a few times and was interested in the "new" potty chair.  She is a month shy of 2.5 years old. 

So, I got out the book again.  I refreshed my memory about the basics of the method and we got to work.

Again, I was nervous for some reason.  It was a bitter sweet moment of our last child in diapers getting ready to become a "big girl."  I followed the method for the most part but Ashlyn pretty much took her own initiative and I only followed the method for the basic ideas and followed Ashlyn's lead.

By mid morning, Ashlyn was telling ME when she needed to go potty.  She stayed dry!  She hasn't worn a diaper since potty training day.  She had a couple "half" accidents on training day where she started to pee and stopped right away and ran to the potty.  I still call that success since she knew what was happening.  The first night, I asked Ashlyn if she wanted to wear a diaper to bed and she said, "um, probably not." (Too cute!)  She stayed dry for her 2.5 hour nap on potty training day and stayed dry during the night (9:00pm to 9:00am!!)  I was actually shocked!!



So, what IS the method??  How can a child learn to potty train in less than four hours and be willing to use the potty without assistance or a reminder??

In short, you reserve ONE day for training and limit all distractions.  There is a lot of repetition, positive reinforcement and no punishments or negative reinforcement.  The book suggests this method for children 20 months of age to 4 years old.  You start with a baby doll that wets to demonstrate and follow the same method with the doll as with the child.  You use a lot of reminders and checking dry/wet pants.  The child pulls their own pants up and down, helps empty potty chair, and helps to clean any messes.

Ashlyn didn't wear pants on training day, just underwear, so it was easy for her to pull them up and down.  We had a lot of different drinks on hand (since training only lasts a few hours, you need the child to have to go potty a lot during that time) and fun cups with straws to drink out of (anything to make the experience a little more fun).  Ashlyn enjoyed her potty chair, whereas Ambria liked the big potty better.  We used high fives, praise, cheering, stickers, small pieces of candy, and band aids (yes, band aids, Ashlyn's favorite) as positive reinforcement.  After a few hours, Ashlyn did not expect, or even ask for, candy.

Going pee was VERY easy of a process for Ashlyn, but I was nervous about the poo.  I knew Ashlyn had to go, but I could tell she was a little scared.  She told me she had to go poop and kept running to her potty chair to sit down but she did not go.  This lasted for HOURS.  I sat on the floor in the bathroom to help distract Ashlyn and to help her relax.  I read books, I acted like I was doing other things like cleaning, I sang, I danced, really anything I could think of.  Despite all these efforts, Ashlyn kept holding it and running to the potty every few minutes.  I was actually doing dishes and Ashlyn ran past me into the bathroom and she pooped on the potty all by herself!!  Again, I was shocked!!  We celebrated!

Of course there will always be accidents here and there, and you use dry/wet checks and reminders for a few days/weeks after training day.

Disclaimer: A few of my friends tried this one day method and it did not work for their children, but I guess it is worth a try and worth $7.99.

All in all, Toilet Training in Less than a Day worked for two of our children!!  I am a little surprised, but now I am a believer in the one day method!

(Side note: Ashlyn has been trained for over a week now.  She hasn't worn any diapers.  She has had less than five "half" pee accidents (just a LITTLE wet), no poo accidents, stays dry for nap and nighttime.  One night she even woke up in the middle of the night to tell me she had to go potty!  Yay!!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Missing Sippy Cup

It is never a good thing when you can't find your child's favorite sippy cup.
And it is REALLY never a good thing when you know that missing sippy cup was filled with MILK.

Friday, November 30, 2012

You Know You're a Mom When...

The Mom Purse

*You buy a purse big enough to fit lots of snacks
*You always carry snacks in your purse
*You have more snack wrappers and used kleenex in your purse than money
*In your purse is your new phone...and the first thing you do with your new iPhone is download kid apps

I am such a mom.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gum Container

You know these gum containers?  Well, they make perfect snack cups for the kiddos!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Farts

Yup, I said it, farts.  We use the word "toots" with the girls, but there is just something about that "noise" that makes kids giggle, even girls.

The girls saw some weird putty at the store and it was only a dollar, so I bought some "noise putty".  Little did I know what exactly that "noise putty" was... (aka: putty that makes fart noises when you push it back into the container).

Let me tell you, that dollar bought LOTS of laughter.  It is just too funny listening to the girls' endless laughter over a silly noise.

Oh girls....

The putty is actually really easy to clean up, it doesn't stick to surfaces or hands, and it is pretty much fragrance free.  All three girls give the "noise putty" two thumbs up!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Pizza

You know the kids are growing when...

A large pizza is hardly enough to feed the whole family.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Growing

You know the kids are growing when...

You have to start folding their pants in thirds instead of halves to fit in the drawers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

In the Mind of a Two Year Old--Blankie

"I hate blankie washing day!  It is the worst day of my life!"


(Side note: Read a previous post about Security Blankets)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Favorites

My favorite color is blue, then the girls must like blue too.  My favorite food is pizza, then the girls' favorite food is probably pizza too.

Of course not, but it took me a while to realize this.  Just because something is my "favorite" doesn't mean the girls have to like it---a little or AT ALL.

This is what makes each girl an individual.
Mariah likes purple, Ambria likes pink, Ashlyn likes owls.
Mariah like peanut butter and honey, Ambria likes cheeseburgers, and Ashlyn likes macaroni and cheese.  Mariah loves fruit and vegetables, Ambria doesn't, and Ashlyn chews them up and spits them out.
Mariah likes wearing socks to bed, Ambria doesn't, and Ashlyn doesn't care.
Mariah likes drinking warm water, Ambria likes cold water, and Ashlyn likes juice.
Mariah likes to read, Ambria likes to draw, and Ashlyn likes to write in books.

I could go on and on, but what I love is what makes each daughter unique!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In the Mind of a Two Year Old--Syrup

"While mom is on the phone, I'm going to sneak this bottle of stuff out of the kitchen cupboard, the same stuff that mom pours on my waffles and pancakes.  Oh, look, I can open the cap!  Bonus!  I see mom turn the bottle upside down and the stuff comes out so I will do that too!  Oh, look, some spilled on the living room floor and it made a cool design!  Let me make more fun designs!!  Let me try to pour some on the table, more, more, more!  This is sooo fun and sticky!  Ok, the bottle is almost gone so I must move on to the dining room floor to make a design, and now on to the kitchen.  A little dab here, a little dab here, a line here, a puddle there, wahoo, it like a new kind of paint brush or marker!!  Oh no!!!  Mom just saw me!!  I'm caught!  She is chasing me....!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cheerleading

Mariah is in her second season of cheerleading and she absolutely LOVES it!  She really excels in cheerleading, she enjoys going to practice, making new friends, making up new cheers, and of course cheering in front of the crowd.


I was not a cheerleader.  It really isn't in my blood, but when Mariah said she wanted to try it (and do it for a second year), we agreed to it, even though it is a huge commitment for us as well (practice three times a week for two hours and games on Saturdays and a big competition).

Mariah has learned so many lessons from cheerleading, like following through on a commitment, self confidence, team spirit, humbling winning, accepting losing, and so much more!

I'm glad that Mariah has found an extracurricular activity that she loves, and little does she know that she is learning so much from it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Displacing Blame

I went to the store to buy some curtain rods for our house, I had my list in my hand of the sizes and kinds of curtain rods that I needed.  Checked that off the list and went home to put up the curtain rods in the basement, kitchen, and bedrooms.

I got home, and there was one less curtain rod than I needed!  Ugh!  I counted again and again, and yup, I was one short.  Darn!  Without even thinking, I blamed the girls and thought, they must have dropped one out of the cart, they put it back on the shelf, etc.

I blamed the girls first, not myself.

I wonder how often I do that, when in reality, it was MY fault.  The girls had nothing to do with MY mistake.

I'm going to try to pay closer attention in whom I place my blame and try not to jump to conclusions and think that if something went wrong, it is the girls' fault.  That isn't fair to the girls.

So, even though I had to go back to the store to get another curtain rod, I learned a valuable lesson.

Friday, September 21, 2012

In the Mind of a Two Year Old--Miscommunication

"I cannot understand why my mom doesn't know what 'ki at' means!!  I keep yelling 'ki at, ki at, ki at' while driving in the car and she keeps guessing all these absurd things.  No, it doesn't mean, music or snack or water or toy!  'Ki at!!' And then she keeps guessing and she is STILL wrong!  Since I am strapped in my car seat, I can't get up and show her what 'ki at' is but gosh darnit, I MEAN IT 'ki at!'  Fine, I will just settle for the crackers that mom is trying to hand me to try to help calm me down.  She wins."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sugar!

Not a picture of health, but a picture of a happy child.


No, this doesn't happen all the time, but friends kept giving Ashlyn goodies and she kept accepting.  She only had one sip of Mountain Dew and a few licks of the sucker. :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bad Mom Award

Hoping that I can be a better mother today than yesterday!

I felt like I kept snapping at the girls and losing my patience with them.  I'm glad tomorrow is a new day!

Friday, September 14, 2012

In the Mind of a Two Year Old--Chewing Gum

"While I was walking around the store with my mom, my gum jumped out of my mouth and landed on the floor.  Mom was yelling something like 'eeww, NOOO, gross' but before she could intercept the gum, I quickly peeled it off the floor and put it back into my mouth.  Mom said 'oh oh oh, no, no, no' but I said 'mmmmm.'  I was so happy to have my gum back!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

In the Mind of a Two Year Old--Lollipop

I've been inspired since my last post about the Terrible Two's, and I'm going to start a new feature on this blog called "In the Mind of a Two Year Old."  Every now and then, I will write about what might POSSIBLY be going through my child's mind.

So, I will start with this:

"While mom is driving, I will take this sucker and rub it all over my hair.  I'm not sure why mom keeps telling me to stop and that the sucker belongs in my mouth.  I know it belongs there, but I want to keep rubbing it all over my face.  Now I will rub it all over my hands too.  The funny thing is that mom can't do anything about it because she is driving and her arm isn't long enough to reach me.  She is trying to trick me to give her the sucker because she said she wants a lick, but I won't hand it over.  Oh boy, mom is starting to get really upset.  I will just keep rubbing this awesome stickiness all over, because I want to."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Terrible Two's

The Terrible Two's are out in full force.  All my parenting experience and skills are out the window.

One minute, Ashlyn is being absolutely adorable, the next, screaming for some absurd reason that I'm unaware of.

One minute, Ashlyn is laughing, the next, having an all out tantrum.

One minute, Ashlyn wants crackers, the next, she wants raisins.  Then she decides NEITHER and then screams.

OH MY WORD!!

One minute, I am laughing with her, the next, I am almost in tears with frustration.

It is amazing how someone so small can control MY mood.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

School Project?

You know that school project I wrote about??

Note to self: Keep school projects out of younger sister's reach.

Deep breath, thankfully, it was only pencil, but I still had a minor heart attack.




Friday, September 7, 2012

School Project

Mariah, our 3rd grader, completed her first big school project.  We went out and got a big poster board and it took everything I had to not try to do the project for her.  I wanted to do the project one way and she wanted to do it her own way.  True, it is HER project.

I took a step back.

I coached Mariah into completing her first project by telling her to write in pencil first, then marker, spell everything correctly, write big, etc.

Well, she wrote small, spelled a word incorrectly, glued things in place where they didn't fit, used ugly colors...

I held my breath and my tongue.

This is HER project.

Other than a few tips, I allowed Mariah to do HER project, HER way.

I was proud her Mariah and her first project, and even better, Mariah was proud of herself!

One down, ALOT more to go!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Missing Bubble Gum

Ashlyn has a new addiction: GUM.  It is the FIRST word out of her mouth in the morning.  She usually only gets a small piece when we get in the car (or if she sneaks a piece without my knowing).  She has been doing a really good job of chewing her gum and we are teaching her to either give the chewed up gum to us or throw it in the trash.

It doesn't always make it to the trash.

I found a small wad of pink gum in the middle of our kitchen floor.  I know who to blame.

On another day, Ashlyn was chewing a piece of gum and I put Ashlyn in the ERGO carrier (you know where this is going) and we walked around for about an hour, talking to people, etc.  I just randomly looked at our reflection in a window....

WHAT THE HECK WAS ON MY NECK??!!

I had on a v-neck shirt and a blob of pink gum was stuck to my skin!!  NICE.

I guess it could have been worse, it could have been stuck in my hair.

Laugh it off...


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chiari Malformation Awareness

Our lives forever changed seven months ago when we got that dreaded phone call from the doctor explaining that Ashlyn had an incurable brain malformation called Chiari Malformation (in short, her brain was sinking down into her spinal cord) and that she was being referred to a neurosurgeon.  I will always remember that day and the feeling of my heart sinking as tears streamed down my dismayed face.

Ashlyn had brain surgery 5 months ago to help open her skull and remove her top vertebrae to make more room for her brain.  I remember our time spent at Duke Children's Hospital all too well.  I remember the doctors and the nurses who cared for Ashlyn, I remember Ashlyn's swollen face, screams of pain and tender incision in the back of her head.  I remember the sleepless nights, I remember crying out to God.

It was a tough journey, but Ashlyn has made GREAT strides!!  We choose to focus on the positive, on her reaching new milestones, her laughter, and her developing personality.

CHIARI will forever be a part of our vocabulary and our life now, as it is INCURABLE, but that won't stop Ashlyn!  She is our little miracle.

You can read more about Ashlyn's Chiari journey on my other blog called Chiari Hope.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Child's Play?

I'm taking a risk here, but to tell you the truth, I don't like to "play."  I don't enjoy pretending with Barbies or playing house or playing school.  I can do it for a few minutes but that is the extent of my "play" with those kinds of imaginative activities.

Bad mom? Maybe.

I don't mind making train tracks, creating marble runs, building forts, or playing outside.  Those activities are more my style, and I can do that for hours.  Maybe this is because I enjoyed such activites when I was a child.  I wasn't into Barbies much or playing make believe. 

I hope I'm not a bad mom, but I let the girls play "make believe" on their own time.

I don't know if I am alone here or not, or if some other moms out there feel the same way.  Sometimes I feel guilty like I don't "play" enough with my girls, and a bunch of negative thoughts creep in.

I want to be a good mom, but I just am not good at playing "make believe."  I'll have to make an effort to work on it, but no promises.

Ahh, motherhood.  It is a journey.

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Day of School

The girls were up early, super excited, and quickly got dressed in their new clothes.  They found special notes on the counter from daddy and they ate "Back To School" muffins.  The two could hardly wait to get out the door.  First, a few pictures....




And then the little one felt left out and wanted to get in a pic.  I spy an extra pair of piggy toes...
The girls still held my hand as we walked into the school.  It was a mixture of emotions for all of us.

Mariah and Ambria, I am soooo proud of you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Indoor Camp Out

One of the things the girls wanted to do this summer was have an indoor camp out on our porch/four seasons room/entry way.  

Wa-la!


Complete with tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, pretend campfire with sticks and battery operated candles, "roasting" marshmallows, and campfire stories.

And an added bonus, no bugs!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Nap Mat

One of the items on Ambria's Kindergarten school supply list was a KinderMat for nap time.  For the first half of the school year, the students have rest time after lunch.

And of ALL the fun school supplies that Ambria got, which was her favorite??

Yup, the mat for nap time!  No joke.

She is already "practicing" with her mat and has asked if they will have blankets for her to use.  That is Ambria, our little sleeper.

(Hmmm, I love naps too.  I wonder where she gets it from??).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Back to School Shopping

A Poem of Sorts

'Tis that time of year again...

Off I go,
with three girls in tow (definitely outnumbered).
Supply lists in hand,
each girl has their own special demand.
(Pink scissors, purple folders, glitter crayons, and Ashlyn gets bored so in the cart she stands).
Youngest screams, snacks go flying,
I am audibly sighing,
and my tongue I am tying,
and if I said this was fun, I would by lying.
(Side note: Most of the time, I love shopping with the girls, I was just stressed and unfocused and Ashlyn was crabby.  Ok, side note over, back to poem). 
Stores were pretty busy,
parents frantic and in a tizzy.
Shopping cart full,
the experience has taken its toll (on me and the bank account).
Lists complete,
and I need to get off my feet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Juice Box

I'm not exactly sure why, but each time the girls ask for a juice box (which is usually just on vacations or days away from the house), I open it and take a BIG drink.

Well, I do know why. (Most things I do have a reason behind it). 
1.  I am thirsty
2.  I like juice boxes
3.  The less the juice in the box, the less amount that the kids can squeeze out and spill everywhere

It is so nice of the girls to share with mom.  No, actually they scold me for drinking out of their juice boxes. :)  Please and thank you.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Operation Playhouse Update

A few weeks ago, we started renovating an old garden shed behind our house.  The older girls had an idea to turn the shed into a playhouse, which we thought was a great idea.

We bought supplies and cleaned the inside and outside of the shed.  We raked around the shed and pulled old weeds.  We sprayed for bees and wasps.  My husband and the girls painted a little on the inside.

We stopped renovations there because we went on vacation for almost two weeks.  When we returned, we found our backyard all torn up due to a new septic system.  Argh.  The nice grass all around the playhouse has been turned into mud.  So, I guess Operation Playhouse is on hold until some grass grows back.

Bummer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kid Spa


I have had to use some creative ideas the past few days, lots of rain, and we've attempted going to the pool twice this week but have been rained out.  This leads disappointed girls and cabin fever. 

Bring on the KID SPA!!

I told the girls to wait in the kitchen while I prepared for their appointment at the "spa" (aka, the living room floor).  I put on some soothing music and lit a fragrant candle.  They were each adorned with a warm robe and a towel head wrap.  The received a face cleanse, and cucumbers on their eyes (which Ashlyn found very tasty).  I also did manicures and pedicures.

SO FUN!!  I don't know who enjoyed this day more, me or the girls.  Either way, it was a great way to spend a rainy day!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tap Shoes

In the recent exchange of Hand Me Downs, from oldest sister to middle sister, Ambria found Mariah's beloved TAP SHOES.  (Mariah never took dance, nor has Ambria.  These were a garage sale find years ago--bonus!)

Ambria was ecstatic about her "new" shoes.  Mariah, not so much.

Mariah had a difficult time watching her sister prance, dance, and tap all around the house in her new found treasure.  Mariah's jealousy grew but after a few days, the emotions surrounding the shoes subsided.

Ambria hasn't taken the tap shoes off her feet in days!  I made the mistake and allowed her to wear the tap shoes to a store and a restaurant.
My bad.
Horrible decision.
Ambria had a blast creating her own dance routines in the store aisles and beside our restaurant booth, but my face grew red.

Our quiet, timid Ambria was being LOUD.  She wasn't ashamed.  She was proud.  She didn't want to quiet down.  She was beaming!  I'm sure half of it was her having fun, and the other half was her trying to make Mariah more jealous.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Germs

I'm not a fan of germs.  I'm not a complete germaphobe, but a moderate one.  I wash hands, use hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, etc.  (Oh, and I don't like raw meat, hate the germs, and have only touched raw meat maybe five times in my life.  Eww, gross).

My kids have been known to eat things that have fallen on the floor in public places.  I cringe.  They survive.

Flu germs give me major anxiety.

I am getting better at coping with other kids' snotty noses.  Colds are one thing, flu is another.

The other day, I reminded Ambria to wash her hands.  Her response:
"I don't want to wash my hands. I want to be covered in germs."

Sigh.

I made her wash them anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hand Me Downs

Love them.  Definitely a benefit of having three girls.

I decided to be ambitious this week and go through the girls Fall and Winter clothes (yes, I know it is only July).  With Back to School shopping right around the corner, I make a mental list of items the girls need and clothes they have out grown.

Well, Ambria's Back to School shopping occurred in our basement, in BIN #5 Size 5 and in BOX #2 Shoes.

Awesome.

Boom, done with one kid.

That is what I call Smart Shopping!


(I added the label "Product Reviews" to this post because I give Hand Me Downs Two Thumbs Up!  Haha).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

More Stories from the Grocery Store

Every time I take the three girls grocery shopping with me, I end up regretting it.  This time was no different.

I got one of those HUGE shopping carts with two extra seats attached, the kind that I can hardly push and can't see over.

First is the argument of who is going to sit where.
Ashlyn immediately starts asking for a snack.
Ashlyn doesn't like the snack option.
I pull out emergency snack.
All three girls want it.
Mariah disappears.
Ashlyn wants to switch seats.
Ambria starts climbing all over the cart like a circus.
Ashlyn wants another snack.
Ashlyn doesn't like snack option and starts screaming.
I don't have any other snacks so Ashlyn keeps screaming.
People look at me because Ashlyn is screaming.
I get Ashlyn out of the cart and hold her.
I attempt to push the HUGE cart while holding Ashlyn.
I am regretting taking the kids to the grocery store.
Mariah starts pushing the cart and knocks over 105 bottles of water in the aisle!! (No joke)
I stop to pick them up as they roll everywhere.
Ashlyn wants to walk.
Ashlyn knocks a jar of pickles off the shelf (and I held my breath hoping the jar wouldn't break-it didn't, phew).
Ambria's sandals fall off at the end of the aisle.  Must go back.
Ashlyn wants to grab all the tomatoes out of the bin.
Ambria wants to cool off by opening all the freezer doors.
Mariah doesn't want to push the cart anymore.
Ambria's sandals fall off again.

THEN, the forever long checkout line where the girls take just about everything off the shelf while they try to wait patiently...and I start to pull out my hair.

Shopping complete but all my hair is gone.


(I love my girls dearly, but man, is it difficult to go grocery shopping with all of them!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Reason to Celebrate

Ashlyn turns TWO today!!  Happy Birthday sweet baby girl!


Wow, what a year!  We are celebrating Ashlyn's birthday with praise and thanksgiving and hoping and praying for a better upcoming year.  We are grateful for God's grace and His hand along the way, as He has shown Himself strong throughout Ashlyn's journey.  This year has really brought home the meaning of Ashlyn's middle name: HOPE.

Happy Birthday to our little miracle.  Stay strong and keep fighting!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Portrait

Last year was the first year that I decided to get a picture taken of the three girls together for a Father's Day gift.  So, I started a tradition and had it done again this year.  The photographer literally had a few seconds to get a shot before Ashlyn started crying.  Luckily, the very first picture she took, turned out.  Phew.

The girls are so blessed to have a father who loves them like he does and teaches them about Grace, Faith, and Hope (their middle names).


Father's Day 2012


Father's Day 2011

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little Swimmers

I was a competitive swimmer from the ages of 6 to 18.  The scent of chlorine flowed through my pores.  My hair was green.  I lived in the water year round.  I was just shy of growing webbed feet.  

Mariah learned how to swim two years ago and Ambria learned how to swim just a few months ago.  It makes me so proud to watch my girls swim!  I don't know if they will be interested in competitive swimming, but I am glad that they have learned this important skill.

Today, while at the community pool near our home, both girls swam in the deep end AND went down the water slide with no life jacket!  Until now, they would go down the slide but with an inner tube (for security purposes).  

Both girls were so proud of themselves today, as was I!  I love watching their confidence grow!


And I love seeing little pieces of me in the girls.  (I think they inherited some of my swimming genes).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Picture Taking Experience

I attempt to take each daughter to get their picture taken at yearly milestones (3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, etc).  Even though I photograph the girls often, I still like to take them to a studio, pay $8 and get a package of pictures that I can send out to family members.

Seems easy enough.

Yeah right.

Picture day nightmares.

Mariah and Ambria were pretty easy.  Ashlyn, not so much.

Even when Ashlyn was a few months old, she hated the studio.  I'm not sure if it was the strange photographer, the small room, lights, or what, but it was never a pretty scene.  On most occasions, the photographer was able to get less than FIVE shots of Ashlyn.

Yesterday was no different.  Ashlyn will be turning TWO this month (oh my!!) so I had a spur of the moment idea to get her pictures taken when we were at the mall.  I packed an extra outfit, a comb for her hair, a sucker for bribing.

Ashlyn was skeptical the moment we walked into the studio.  She wouldn't stand or sit on the X and then she started to run away, cry, and resist.

Ugh.

I was stressed.  Ashlyn wasn't happy.  The photographer got TWO shots, one of Ashlyn starting to run away, and the other of Ashlyn looking scared.  Nice.

Well, that didn't work.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Free Flow of Emotions

Not sure what started it, but...

I was watching an episode of Full House with the girls a few weeks ago, the episode when Danny proposes to Vicki at Disney.  I got all teary eyed.  (Go ahead, you can laugh at me, I did).


And then add this...

and all the emotions that accompany a major surgery.  I keep getting teary eyed when I think of what Ashlyn went through and then I get teary again when I go re-read all the encouraging facebook messages.


And then I start missing my family in Michigan even more...




And then randomly, I get all emotional again when he started crying...




And then another milestone as Ambria finished preschool, yup, tears again...



Oh dear me.  Some legit teariness, and some not.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Project: Operation Playhouse

Last week, Mariah, our 8 year old, came to us with an idea to turn the old garden shed in our backyard into a playhouse.  Both me and my husband thought it was a great idea!!

So, the brainstorming has begun.  We have done a little shopping to get cleaning supplies and a few things to get started.  My husband bought some packets of seeds to plant a little garden outside the playhouse and some paint.  Mariah can hardly sleep!  She is sooo excited!!

During one of our shopping trips, Mariah kept brainstorming as she saw items in the store.  
Some good ideas, some, not so much.  
An idea that I had to dismiss was Mariah's idea to put LOTS of toilet paper on the floor to make it soft.  I laughed and said that I thought we could come up with a better idea.

I'm really trying to allow the girls to come up with ideas for the playhouse so they can take ownership (but I guess I will have to draw the line at toilet paper on the floor).  Who knows if the girls will even play in the house a few weeks after it is complete, but it will be the process that will be fun and exciting.

So, let the garden shed makeover begin!

Here are some BEFORE pictures...



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Gifts

Each of the girls gave me a special gift for Mother's Day:

Ambria (5 years old) decorated a plate for me at preschool and made me a card with a rainbow on it.  So darn cute.

Ashlyn (22 months old) inadvertently tie dyed my shirt by spilling juice on it, and then added to her gift by filling her diaper.

Mariah (8 years old) wrote me a poem:
You're kind, you're sweet
like my heartbeat.  Cotton candy in my
mouth.  chocolate ice cream melting all around.
at night, at play you're there every
day.  No one can take my mom away.


Love you girls!  Thank you for making this a wonderful Mother's Day!!  I am blessed!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Not My Favorite Morning

A few mornings ago, I was sleeping peacefully in my warm, comfy bed, and I was awakened by the two older girls at an "they should NOT be up this early" hour of the morning.  I thought I was dreaming as I heard them starting to argue.  I thought their voices were intertwined in my dream.  Nope.

Ambria was crying/screaming.

I stumbled out of bed at the "they should NOT be up this early" hour.  I wasn't too happy.  I tried to quickly quiet Ambria because I knew she would wake up Ashlyn with her out of control screaming.  It was WAY too early for Ashlyn to wake up.

Ashlyn woke up crying due to the unnecessary noise.  OH MY GOSH.

Now I was really not happy.

Three girls (four, including me) up too early and crabby.

So, what were to two older girls arguing about?  Ambria wanted to sit where Mariah was sitting and Mariah wouldn't move.  OH MY GOSH!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Box

Never under estimate the power of a child's imagination and a big cardboard box.

Open the box and your child's creative side!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thirst

Have you ever been soooo thirsty, and you look around, and all that can be found is this???......








Oh yes, I have been there.
Yes, I have drank out of my kids' sippy cups.  
So what.  :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cool Mom

I've accepted the fact that I drive a mini van. It's ok. It is convenient for our family of five and the various road trips that we take each year. I've accepted this and I can't be THAT cool because of this vehicle.

So, the other day, I was driving in my rockin' mini van, listening to some tunes on the radio. (Give me credit, at least I wasn't listening to a Barney CD). The DJ came on and said something like, "thanks for listening to our LIGHT ROCK radio station."

Hold it right there!

LIGHT ROCK??!!

Crap, my mom listens to light rock. What does that make me??!!

I will succumbe to this strike against my coolness, but I did immediately change the radio station.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Do You Want to Be?

A common question that parents will ask their children is "what would you like to be when you grow up?" When children are younger, the answers to this question can be quite comical and random. It also isn't unusual for kids to change their answer to this question...they can change their minds every minute, hour, day, week...

Ambria, our 5 year old middle child, has been pretty consistent in her answer to this question and hasn't changed her mind in months.

Her answer:



A MUSKETEER

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Home

We have been home from the hospital for a few days now. It is great being with the older girls and getting little more back to our normal routine. I took some time off work while Ashlyn recovers, so we have been enjoying some extra family time.

(For details on Ashlyn's progress, you can check the Chiari Hope blog).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ashlyn's Surgery Day

Ashlyn had her brain surgery today. You can read all about it on my other blog Chiari Hope. It was a long day and we are all hoping to get some rest tonight.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Sunday Morning Battle

I don't think I am alone in saying that getting ready for church on Sunday morning can be more than a challenge. I have heard many parents say how difficult getting ready for church can be, as the whole family is trying to get fed, dressed, and out the door in a peaceful and orderly manner.

We are not exempt from this.

The IDEAL Sunday morning preparations...
**I can take a shower in peace and quiet, get dressed, hair done, make up done, in an orderly fashion
**Girls eat breakfast peacefully
**Girls get dressed without a fight
**I can do the girls' hair without them screaming about tangles
**Shoes on, into the car with ease
**Calm car ride

ACTUAL Sunday morning experience...
**Girls bust into the bathroom while I am getting ready because they need something or I need to break up a fight
**Girls take half hour to decide what to wear, putting us behind schedule
**Girls scream when I try to do their hair and end up running away altogether
**At this point, I may or may not raise my voice
**Girls take another half hour trying to decide which shoes to wear (REALLY putting us behind schedule and now I am REALLY starting to get upset)
**Baby has poop explosion two minutes before walking out the door
**I realize I forgot to feed the kids and throw them some sort of "take in the car and hurry up snack/breakfast"
**I realize I forgot to finish putting make up on and only have eye liner on ONE eye.
**Running to the car
**Not a peaceful car ride because someone is too hot, too cold, music is too loud, bad music, someone needs a tissue, someone needs a drink, etc...........

So, by the time we arrive at church, we are in a hurry/flurry disaster. Nice.

Of course this doesn't ALWAYS happen, and when we have an IDEAL Sunday morning, we all celebrate!!

(Side note: Then there are special occasions, like Easter, when you want to take pictures before leaving for church. Five words: Good Luck With That One...that is a whole new blog entry).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An Emotional Job

Ambria had kindergarten registration today. Oh my goodness, I am not ready for this! She passed the assessment with flying colors (that's my girl!!) but they said she was soft spoken (no surprise there).

This parenting thing is such an emotional job! I can't believe I will have TWO kids in school!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Blog

I feel like I have been inundating this blog with posts about Ashlyn and her medical condition. Rather than clog this blog with all that info, I started a new blog. A blog to inform family and friends of Ashlyn's journey, and also for fellow Chiarians to find support.

I will still update this blog!

Follow the link to my new blog, Chiari Hope, and then you can become a member and/or follow that blog too. You can also follow by email so you can receive updated posts right to your inbox.

See you there!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chiari Malformation Surgery--Trying to Get Prepared

Ashlyn's surgery date is two weeks away. Each day I am getting more and more nervous. I'm not sure if I can ever be prepared for what is about to happen, but I am trying to stay calm. Calm is a 'relative' term at this point.

I spoke with another mother of a young child that also had Chiari Decompression surgery. It was nice to be able to relate a little through our journey. Unfortunately, this other child had major complications from the surgery. The mother did not want to scare me, but it did a little. I was really protecting my thoughts (with God's help) of not thinking about complications and negative affects that Ashlyn COULD experience. I'm not sure if I am just being naive, but I am only thinking about pre op, the surgery, and recovery, and then will get our Ashlyn back, better than ever.

I'm sad. I'm nervous. I'm scared.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Eating Healthy

Our middle child, also known as Ambria, isn't the healthiest of eaters. She doesn't like fruit or vegetables...AT ALL!

We told her that once she turned 5 (which was last week) she would have to start trying more fruits and vegetables and she agreed to this. So far, she has eaten half a carrot, a bite of broccoli, and a small piece of cucumber. It's a start! We applauded her attempts as she tried to say "I like it" as she raced to the garbage to spit it out.

Ambria decided she likes peanuts and cashews, so I thought maybe I was on to something--trail mix!!

I bought some trail mix and Ambria was more than excited to have it for a snack. Every few seconds she came to me and said:

"Mom, I don't like these big things (as she pointed to the almonds)."
then
"Mom, I don't like these either (as she pointed to the peanuts and cashews)."
then
"Mom, I don't like these (as she pointed to the raisin)."

Yup, you guessed it, that only left the M&M's!!!

That's my Ambria.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Rite of Passage

To be tall enough to ride a big roller coaster!!

This is when you know your kids are getting older...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Birthdays

We celebrate Mariah's birthday AND Ambria's birthday this week! I cannot believe that Mariah is turning 8 and Ambria is 5!! Before you have children, people will say the old cliche of "time flies" but until you have kids, you really cannot comprehend this saying. Wow, it is true! Where has the time gone?

Birthdays mark a special time for a PARENT. As a mother, I reminisce of the days leading up to labor and delivery, the stay in the hospital, and the first few days at home. I also think about what stage of life we were at...8 years ago...and 5 years ago!!

Last week, we spent a much needed family vacation in Florida and we celebrated the girls' birthdays ALL week. They got spoiled. Beach, pool, Legoland, shopping, cake, ice cream, and lots of presents. Happy Birthday girls!! We love you!!





Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ronald McDonald House

You know the little donation boxes that you see at random restaurants and shopping centers for Ronald McDonald House Charities? Well, we have passed these donation boxes many times, threw in some loose change or a few dollars here and there.

We received a call last week from the Ronald McDonald House saying that we got referred to them since Ashlyn is having surgery and will be in ICU. Wow! Another surreal moment of "I've heard of Ronald McDonald Houses and seen the donation boxes, now WE will be staying there!"

We will be staying at the Ronald McDonald House for at least three nights, two night before the surgery and then we will stay there as long as Ashlyn is in the ICU, so at least one more night.

Thank you for all that you do for families and children Ronald McDonald House Charities!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Preparing for Chiari Decompression Sugery

The reality of Ashlyn's brain surgery is becoming just that, more of a reality. Her surgery date is exactly a month away and we've been trying to prepare ourselves as much as we can (if that is even possible).

I like to be prepared, as opposed to facing the "unknown." At this point, I am trying to brace myself for what Ashlyn will look like after surgery. I've been watching YouTube videos of kids as they recover from Chiari Decompression surgery.

I know I will feel helpless.

We've been trying to get video footage of Ashlyn so we can remember her "pre" surgery characteristics that make Ashlyn, Ashlyn.

I don't know if I will ever be "ready," but ready or not, it is happening.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chiari Malformation: Surgery is Scheduled

We met with the pediatric neurosurgeon at Duke Children's Hospital this week. We have nothing but wonderful things to say about Dr. Fuchs and his team as he met with us for over an hour explaining Ashlyn's brain condition. He sat there with printouts of her MRI and showed us what Ashlyn's brain looks like and how it is SUPPOSED to look.

Here is a quick summary: Ashlyn's brain is too low and is being squeezed into her spinal cord, which in turn, is starting to block the flow of spinal fluid. The risk of NOT having surgery involves a chance of losing feeling in her arms, hands, legs, and feet, which she will never regain that feeling if she loses it, thus becoming disabled. She was born with this condition and it was not caused by labor and delivery.

After seeing Ashlyn's MRI, the doctor was more than confident that surgery is a must and he has only seen good things come from it. We did not think that her condition was so serious until Dr. Fuchs explained it to us. He did not want to wait even a few months for her surgery. We feel confident in the surgery because the doctor feels confident.

Dr. Fuchs explained the surgery to us, which is technically called a Chiari Decompression. He will make an incision in the back of her head and will remove Ashlyn's first vertebrae and push her brain back up a little so the spinal fluid can get through. Also, the part of her brain that is being squeezed doesn't have much blood flow, so once the doctor releases that pressure, he said he can instantly see that part of the brain start to pulsate again. In essence, the surgery makes more room for the brain.

Ashlyn needs another MRI before surgery to check on a few more things and depending on the results of this, the doctor might have to do a few more procedures in the surgery.

The doctor feels that this will help Ashlyn's coordination and she will be able to catch up physically to other children her age. There will be no long term side affects and she will be able to play sports and jump and run for the rest of her life.

The surgery lasts at least 2 1/2 hours and then Ashlyn will go to the ICU for a day or two followed by a few days in the hospital. She will begin physical therapy in the hospital and then continue when we get home. Recovery is estimated at about four weeks.

It was pretty surreal as I sat there having to schedule my daughter's brain surgery. Never in my life would I have dreamed of this for any of my children. I wish I could take the pain for Ashlyn but we are grateful that she won't remember it. It was difficult to have to explain some of this to the older sisters as they are already concerned for Ashlyn (especially that she has to have some of her hair shaved off). The anxiety and sleepless nights have already begun and we are already praying for Dr. Fuchs and his team. Surgery is scheduled for April 11.

We are humbled by the continuation of prayers and support! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are truly grateful!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New Food Group


Guess what Ashlyn learned?

She can now get into the drawers in the bathroom and UNCAP the deodorant.


Guess what I learned?

Chewed up deodorant is difficult to get out of upholstery.

Nice.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Duke Children's Hospital


Well, we received some good news today (if you want to call it that). Ashlyn got in to see the pediatric neurosurgeon at Duke Children's Hospital NEXT WEEK! I thought for sure it would be a few months out since pediatric neurosurgeons are few and far between. Thank goodness for no waiting list!

So, I will try to get some sleep between now and then but it might be difficult to do.

Birthday Requests

The two older girls have birthdays coming up next month. (Side note: Mariah will be 8 and Ambria will be 5! I feel so old!) I keep asking them what they want for their birthday and they BOTH respond the same way:

A PUPPY or A KITTEN

Well...since both of those are not options, I have had to rephrase my question to them.

The new question is: If I go to Toys R Us, what do you want me to pick out?

Most of the time, they respond with the same absurd request.

This is not working.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fathers: Listen Up

It is so important for fathers to date their daughters! Demonstrate for your girls how a man should treat them. Tell your daughter(s) how unique and beautiful they are. Compliment them inside and out. Be a good role model and remember that you will never have these precious years again!

For Valentine's Day, my husband took the two older girls to a Daddy/Daughter dance. I bought the girls new dresses and shoes (thank you clearance rack!) and we decided not to show daddy the dresses until the night of the actual dance when the girls put them on.

The girls LOVED to get their hair and nails done and put on their fancy dresses, and most of all, they loved the reaction of their daddy's face when they "revealed" their new look. (And I fought back the tears). He surprised them with roses and took them to dinner before the dance.

The girls could hardly walk through the door at the end of the night! They said it was one of the best nights they have EVER had! So precious!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chiari Malformation

We visited the neurosurgeon yesterday in hopes of some answers regarding Ashlyn's brain malformation. I told my husband that we should dress nicely because we were meeting a genius. :)

Going into the appointment, I was prepared for the doctor to say "no surgery," "surgery," or "let's wait and see." I was a nervous wreck and I had butterflies in my stomach all day. Ashlyn looked adorable dressed in pink with her little pigtails and she quickly melted the hearts of other patients and nurses that saw her toddling around.

The surgeon told us that Ashlyn's brain reaches down to her first vertebrae (in other words, it is NOT supposed to be like that). She has a Chiari One Malformation and it is 10mm. He told us the risks of Ashlyn having surgery and the risks of Ashlyn NOT having surgery.

The doctor was very nice BUT he treats more adult patients than children. He only sees Chiari Malformation in children 5-6 times a year and does 1-2 surgeries for those children. (Which we didn't think was a very high rate). The doctor referred us to a pediatric neurosurgeon at Duke who knows more about Chiari and sees it more often. We are hoping to have more of our questions answered there.

Now we get to wait some more...


Thursday, February 9, 2012

MRI Results

Ring, ring

Me: Hello?

Nurse: Hi Jamie. This is the nurse from the doctor's office. We have Ashlyn's MRI results. It seems that she has a condition called Chiari Malformations in her brain. The bottom part of her brain is lower than it should be. The doctor is going to refer Ashlyn to a neurologist and a neurosurgeon to see if they want to do surgery or not. It is a mild case, but the doctor still needs to refer her out to have her brain looked at more.

Me: Silence.

That was not the result we were expecting. I slowly dropped to the floor, covered my mouth in shock, and tears rolled down my face. I was at work so I called my husband with the unfortunate news and tried to speak slowly and clearly between sobs. I could hear his silence as tears streamed down his face.

*************

Here is a brief description of Chiari Malformation: (from kidshealth.org)

Chiari (pronounced key-are-ee) malformation is a brain abnormality that causes the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and muscle movement, to protrude into the space normally occupied by the spinal cord. Some children are born with the condition, and others develop it as they grow.

Chiari malformation sometimes happens because the space at the back of the skull, where the cerebellum sits above the spine, is too small or is unusually shaped. These "cramped quarters" squeeze the cerebellum and even part of the brain stem, which controls the nerves in the face and neck, down through the foramen magnum (a funnel-like hole below the skull through which only the spinal cord usually passes).


The pressure caused by Chiari malformation on the cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cord can keep them from working correctly. It can also block the movement of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and protects them from injury. When CSF doesn't flow properly, it can build up in the brain and spinal cord and block communication of the brain's messages to the body.
***********************

It took a while for the initial shock to wear off, and now we seem to be going through different stages of grief, denial, acceptance, more grief etc. Our hearts are so heavy and we grieve for our little Ashlyn. We now await more doctor appointments with the pediatric neurologist and the neurosurgeon. She has an appointment next week with a neurosurgeon so we will know more then. We have hundreds of questions for the doctors as we try to make the best decisions we can for the best outcome.

We are humbled by the outpouring of love and support! I will try to post on this blog as we get new information to keep friends and family updated.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MRI Day

Ashlyn went for her MRI early Monday morning. She was all smiles walking through the hospital, saying hello to everyone and melting their hearts.

She hated getting the IV and really fought the anesthetic so they actually had to give her more drugs to knock her out. She is a tough one!

Afterward, she was a little groggy but bounced back quickly. We are glad the MRI is over!

Here is a picture of Ashlyn BEFORE the IV.


And just for the fun of it, here is a picture of MARIAH before a surgery that she had when she was the same age as Ashlyn. Umm, can you say, sisters!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Few Steps Forward

A few steps forward:

**Ashlyn is walking!! She is 19 1/2 months now and has been exploring her new skill. (She can walk straight too, unlike the video where she just wanted to walk in circles). We are excited to celebrate this milestone with Ashlyn and the older sisters are so proud of her!
video

**She also went back to her specialist (the doctor that diagnosed her with Global Developmental Delays) and he said she has progressed two months in development! She is now at a 11/12 month level. We also celebrate this, as she is making progress with her development!
**She is really starting to exercise her language and baby babble. It is too darn cute to hear her try to repeat sounds. I am still waiting to hear "mama."

A few steps back:

**Ashlyn's strabismus (eye crossing) has reappeared so she is back on eye drops to help correct the problem.
**One of her doctors also found some deformity in her toes. We are not sure at this time about this new found issue. It could correct itself, or not.
**Despite Ashlyn's progress, three out of three of her doctors still have some concerns so they are recommending her to get an MRI. Ashlyn favors her left side, which just could mean she is a lefty or there is more of an underlying problem. The doctors want to see if she had a stroke, either in the womb or after delivery. They want to make sure there was not a brain hemorrhage. She is scheduled to get her MRI next week. Am I scared? A little. Am I worried? A little.

Her little cutie patootie smile and expressions keep us upbeat, and we are grateful for her progress thus far! Ashlyn is such a blessing to our family!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Parent Reflexes

I don't think I am alone in saying that my heart jumps a little when.....



I am changing a dirty diaper and the Velcro on the diaper gets stuck on the kid's sock and then the kid won't stay still while the dirty diaper is flying around still stuck to their sock!!! This calls for quick parent reflexes!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Bathroom

I found myself saying this sentence today:

"Yes, I am in here, and no you cannot come in."

Then all I had to do was ignore the knock, knock, knock, mommmm, knock, knock, knock, mommmmm, knock, knock, knock, knock, mommmmmm, knock, knock, knock, mommmmm, knock, mommmm, knock, KNOCK, KNOCK, MOMMMM!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tales from the Garbage Pail

It is never good when Ashlyn's sweet curiosity leads her the garbage. There is just something about "what's in here?" that gets the best of every child, and Ashlyn is not exempt.

Now that Ashlyn is tall enough (on her tip toes) to reach the kitchen trash can, she enjoys exploring this area a few times a day.

First I hear Ashlyn crawling on the tile floor, pound, pound, pound, pound, making her way to her new found love.

But then I hear this, "Mmmmm."

Then you will hear me running across the tile floor and raising my voice, "Oh Ashlyn! Gross!"


Friday, January 20, 2012

Rice Krispie Treats

What you won't find in this blog post is a fun, new Rice Krispie Treat recipe or me examining the lack of nutritional value in this "All American" dessert.

What you will find in this blog post is me challenging the directions on the recipe card. At the end of the traditional Rice Krispie Treat recipe, it reads: COOL, CUT, AND ENJOY.

Why do they have to cool? And why do you need to cut them?!

MY NEW RECIPE:

Get a spoon, scoop directly from the warm bowl, AND ENJOY!