Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thinking Beyond Self

Today's post is about our precious little boy. No, not Carson, our other precious little boy, Kennedy. Kennedy lives in Kenya and is 8 years old. Kennedy lives in a village with his mother and father, 2 brothers and a sister. He loves reading, jumping rope, eating meat, and his favorite Bible story is all about Moses. Kennedy is so much like me when I was in school :: his highest scores are in math, creative arts, and reading, while his lowest are in social studies. And he wants to be a driver when he grows up.

Kennedy's favorite color is blue, he likes to sing in Sunday school, and at home he helps his mom to fetch water. Have you ever had to fetch water? Sometimes I'll ask Marc to "fetch" me some water...but please make sure it's filtered and has ice. And maybe a straw.

When we were first introduced to the idea of child sponsorship through Compassion, our thoughts were that there was no way we could afford an extra $38 a month. That doesn't sound like a lot, but we were broke. We kept telling Paige (who just happens to be a Child Advocate for Compassion) that we would look at it when we paid off some bill or maybe if I started making more money baking cakes or something like that.

There was no (or not a lot of, anyway) pressure coming from Paige, but because she's my best friend, the opportunity kept presenting itself. So we prayed. And one day, I looked closely at the budget and said maybe, just maybe we could swing this. I wasn't sure how, exactly. I mean there were no "eating out" meals that we could cut out...we didn't even have the money for that. But I guess it was a weird, unexplainable, peaceful faith that came over me.

Not a month has gone by that we haven't had enough to cover our sweet Kennedy. And what does it say about us, or him, or America, or Kenya, that $38 a month is all it takes? Or that we thought we couldn't afford it? On paper, we couldn't. I still can't tell you exactly how it happened. But it did. Can you imagine living on $38 a month?

We love Kennedy so much. We have built a relationship through our letters, and hopefully one day we will get to meet him. We have his picture on our refrigerator and all the mirrors in our home, so that when we are looking at and thinking about ourselves, we will see him and be reminded to think beyond ourselves. We pray for him and talk about him to Carson. Carson will hold his picture and jabber away to him, and I could swear he knows him.

Be a blessing to someone today. I am not promising that if you sponsor a child that your world will be filled with sunshine and roses. I'm not saying it may not be a struggle for you. But I can assure you that God will provide the $38 a month that you need to become a sponsor. Paige has 15 children at her house, and at least one is waiting on you. Say the word and I'll snag one for you. Will you choose today to begin thinking beyond yourself?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beach on St. Patty's Day

We spent St. Patrick's Day 2011 at the most gorgeous beach I've ever seen. And we are lucky enough to live only an hour from said beach. I am inclined to think the sand is whiter and the water is the prettiest , blue/green color that I've seen it in a long time. Maybe it's from all the cleaning they've done since the oil spill. I don't know...but we'll be spending lots of time there this summer!

Carson's first time to really be able to enjoy the beach. The past times we've taken him, it was either too cold or he was too little to know what to do. 

 His daddy dug a little hole with a seat in it, we covered it with an umbrella, and this is where Carson played the entire time we were there. 

 Telling mommy how much he loves the sand. :)

 Learning to use his new beach toys. 

 He catches on pretty quickly. 

 Mommy and Daddy love the beach too!

 My sunscreen babe.

 The boys playing in the sand. Daddy would build it and Carson would tear it down. 

 Telling his shovel what he needs it to do to cooperate. 

 The most handsome man I know. And not to mention best husband and father too.

Watching some other kids playing and...
...telling me he wants to go play too.

 "Here, Mommy. Want some sand?"

 "I'm SO excited to be at the beach!!!" At least that's what I'm assuming those joyful squeals meant. 

 Daddy buried Carson's legs -- he wanted to bury him up to his neck, but Mommy said no. Haha.

We had such a fun beach day! Carson did eat one handful of sand, and I did nothing about it. Oh well, he'll learn. Thankfully he's not in the habit of eating it every time we go. 

Last thing, all you beach lovers out there. Someone shared on facebook last year the best beach tip I've heard in a long time...I think it was my college friend Lena, but I can't remember. To whomever it was I am forever grateful! Here it is :: baby powder removes sand from the skin. True story. I'll never go to the beach without it again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I May Have Created a Monster

You remember my cleaning escapades, don't you? Well I'm certainly not as clean as I should or could be, but that contest really helped me learn to clean. And I try to stick as closely to the schedule as possible so that once a week, everything gets done :: floors, bathrooms, laundry, etc. On top of that, I try daily to clean the kitchen and straighten the toys in the living room. It doesn't always happen, but I know how much Marc likes for it to be clean, so I try.

In my efforts to keep a tidy home, I may have created a monster. All babies have whiney days, right? And all moms know the list of possible remedies to help the situation (change diaper, feed the child, give them something to drink, time for nap - a few of the "book" helpers). Carson has added one more to that list. One day several months ago, he was extremely fussy - just whining no matter what I did, if I held him, put him down, gave him milk, gave him a snack - nothing worked. So I started to kindly ignore his ranting and began to move about the room, picking up his toys and putting them away.

When I was done, I looked at him, and he had stopped whining. Just like that. I'm serious y'all. I thought it was just a fluke, but he next time he was inexplicably whiny, I cleaned the living room. Same results. A completely different child. When I mentioned this phenomenon to Paige, asking if all children act this way, she burst into laughter and told me that's what I get for cleaning so much! Then she implored me to try it again by messing up his play area to see if he fusses. And every time, same results.

Which brings us to today. I was just about to pull my hair out from the constant whines and cries that came from the sweetest little boy on earth, when I remembered...clean the living room! As I started to pick up his toys, he occupied himself with his stacking cups. As soon as all of his toys were put away, he quit fussing and just went to playing. How did this happen? Have I really created a "clean" monster? Or are all children this way? Thoughts. Go.

And....he's off!

Okay, so I realize it's been a while since my last post and I apologize to anyone reading. Been busy, but such is life. I'll do my best to keep this post short, and save each "update" we might have for separate posts. Sound good?

Well, we officially have a walker in our house. Exactly one week before Carson's first birthday, he took his first unassisted few steps. I had no idea it would be such a slow-going process! I thought as soon as he branched out with those first ones, he would be running by the end of the week. Not so much. It wasn't until his 13 month birthday (this past Saturday) that he took off and made it all the way across the living room. Now he tries to walk everywhere at home, but if he falls, he's still content to crawl. And in the church nursery yesterday, the teacher said he wasn't ready to move to the full time walkers class because the most walking he did was to walk across the room when we dropped him off, and then again across the room when we picked him up. She said the rest of the time he crawled.

I need to know from my other mommy friends what it looked like when your little one started walking. Was it this drawn out of a learning process? And one might assume that maybe he's just scared of falling. Not true...he's a climber! I tried to get a picture of that today, but as soon as the camera comes out, he's coming to try to snag it. But he climbs onto his little name puzzle stool and then onto the fireplace, and he climbs into his wooden chair and tries to get on the coffee table. Today he even attempted (and almost achieved!) climbing on top of his box of blocks...which would have been the highest point he'd gotten on if he'd have kept trying. So he's pretty fearless.

I guess there doesn't have to be a reasoning behind why he has taken his sweet time with the walking phase. But just look at how precious he is walking: 

I just find this kid adorable. Look at that concentration. And he moves his whole body with each step, not just those chunky legs and feet. :)Okay, there's our walking world in a nutshell. Tell me your walking stories! Tomorrow, I'll tell you about our beach days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Want a Love Like That!

March 18, 1948, almost 63 years ago, at the young age of 18, my grandfather and grandmother went to the courthouse and got married. My dad's parents have always been the most kind, loving, caring people I knew...I've even had to ask my father if he ever got in trouble growing up, or if Grandpa ever lost his temper with him. That is just how patient and kind these 2 people are.

Every time we would make the long haul up to Ohio, Grandma would make sure to have our favorite meal waiting for us when we walked in the matter what time of day or night it was. Jeremiah would have chili, and I would have chicken and dumplings. Homemade dumplings at that. From scratch. She made a divine blackberry cobbler - in fact anything she made was divine. She would have breakfast cooked when we woke up; as soon as we were done eating that, she'd clean the kitchen and start lunch; and shortly after lunch she cleaned and cooked an elaborate dinner. We never went hungry at Grandma's house. And she never ran out of hugs and kisses.

At age 15, we went to Ohio to celebrate G&G's 50th wedding anniversary. They were so sweet and in love even then. They both came from big families - Grandpa was one of 7, and Grandma was one of 19...yep, that's not a typo, nineteen! So I can only assume they had their share of baggage and difficulties. When my dad and his siblings ask anything about their past and heritage, Grandpa gives vague answers, explaining that they "might find out something they don't want to know." What a smart man!

Shortly after the 50th celebration, Grandma began to get Alzheimer's disease. I'm not sure exactly the timing, but I know she was significantly struggling with memory loss at my brother's wedding almost 10 years ago. She also is a diabetic and has glaucoma, which has led to blindness in both eyes. Grandpa has been beside her every day, through every trial that she has gone through. He cared for her at home until he absolutely could no longer do so. She was at home in a hospital bed, and he dressed her, kept her fed, helped her to the bathroom, everything. Until one day he had a heartattack, and at that point it was decided that Grandma could best be cared for in a nursing home.

When she was admitted, the doctors explained that the next step in her progression of the disease was refusal to eat, and that she likely wouldn't be there for long. That was nearly 7 years ago. She's still there hanging on. And you know what? Not a day goes by that Grandpa doesn't go down to the nursing home to be with her. He wakes up everyday, takes care of things at the house, and goes at 10:30 to be with his bride. He's there til they put her to bed at 9 pm. She doesn't remember anyone, but I have a feeling she knows him. He'll say as he leans in to kiss her forehead, "How long ya been my baby?" and she'll respond in almost unrecognizable words, "Long time." He feeds her everyday, talks to her, and kisses her face many, many times. It's the sweetest thing I've ever had the opportunity to witness.

We were in town visiting this past weekend, and dad cooked lunch Sunday afternoon. Grandpa had been to church, then he came to the house to eat dinner with us and my Aunt Sharon, Uncle Gary, cousin Chuck and his fiance, Stacey. We were eating, talking, catching up, having a good soon as Grandpa got done eating, he quietly and politely excused himself from the table, and said, "Well, I gotta get down to be with momma. Thanks for lunch." with a little chuckle. And that's that :: no matter who's there or what we're doing, he's gonna be with his bride. She is the most important person in the world to him.
"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part."
They said it 63 years ago, and they meant every word. Happy (soon-to-be) Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa! Thank you for being an awesome example of true love, and for devoting your lives to one another. What a blessing you have always been to me.

All my love,
Your Grand-daughter

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The birthday party (part 2)

So yesterday I shared some tips that really helped me with planning and executing Carson's party. One thing I forgot to mention was how important it is to solicit help where you may need it. For instance, I asked our parents to help in areas that I was lacking: we only eat ketchup, mustard and mayo on our burgers and dogs, so I asked my M-I-L to bring a condiment platter with things the rest of the world eats (e.g. lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, relish, etc.); we don't eat coleslaw, but my dad and step-mom make excellent slaw, so they brought that; and I had lots of fun ideas for decorating, but not the best execution plan, so I asked my mom -the organization queen- to come and help me setup.

Now for pictures and their sites of inspiration.

This cupcake stand I made courtesy of a tutorial on a blog called Simple Bliss. The cupcakes and smash cake were my idea for keeping it "baseball" themed. 

 These banners were hand-made, thanks to ideas gathered from Beth Kruse's blog. In fact, inspiration for most of the decorations came from her blog.

I designed the baseballs in Microsoft Word (please excuse the fact that my laces are wrong, I didn't catch that til everything was printed and cut out.) The gloves started out as scalloped edges all the way around, but as I was cutting, I just saw gloves. I can't really explain it.
Balloons and pinata came from Party City. 

 This was probably one of my favorite decoration areas at the party: the concession table. Granted not many partook in the eating of yummy concession stand junk food, but I just love how it turned out. And Carson has a precious keepsake ball signed by most. And those baseballs were on sale at Academy...thankfully it's baseball season. :)
The ballpark style food was so yummy!

I made Marc's and my shirts from this tutorial* from my crafty college friend, Jill. She's pretty much amazing. I've been planning to use this technique for a while on something for Carson, but was excited for this to be my first project. They turned out really cute! Carson's shirt came from this shop on Etsy.

*My only tip to deviate from Jill's blogpost: I tried the Heat 'n' Bond LITE that her friend suggested, and although it worked great, it doesn't fuse to the shirt like the Wonder Under that Jill uses. I may have bought the wrong thing, but it was the only Heat n Bond Lite available at JoAnn's Fabrics. Looks to me like Wonder Under might be better since I had to pin my design to the shirt to sew as opposed to it being ironed in place already, and just stitching for decoration. Make sense?

Remember those kid friendly activities I was telling you about in yesterday's post? Well, here they are. We got bats with balls and bubbles and wands from the dollar store. Seriously. Worth. It. The kids really enjoyed themselves...see the pictures below if you need proof. ;)

Can you see the joy on their faces? Carson (the birthday boy in the first pic) enjoying bubble wands, Maddox and Jax (second pic) having fun playing ball with their mom, and Laura Katherine (third pic) toting bat sets all over the place. So important to have immediate and fun activities for all the kids to do, and that don't have to be organized.

The most important thing for us is that my baby boy had such a fun day. And THAT makes this mama a happy girl. So, share your party ideas with me!! I want to hear what you've done so I can steal your ideas for next year! ;)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The birthday party

Well, my little boy turned ONE on Saturday, February 26th. It was not really an emotional day, probably because I was so busy with the party, but I did tear up singing "happy birthday" to our little man. In this post, I'll tell you about decorations, inspirations, and any tips I gathered along the way. This is by no means an absolute party-planning guide - cause I am by no means a party planner. This post is NOT about Carson turning 1 and who came and how much fun we had at the party. Although it was mostly family and we did have loads of fun! :)

Okay, so some tips for those of you planning a party, take 'em or leave 'em:
  • Hire a photographer for the big day. This is my #1 tip because I am a picture fanatic. I was so worried that I would have to tote my camera on my shoulder all day and would miss sweet little shots of Carson's face or have to view the party through a lens. So I hired a friend of mine who's starting a business and she was fabulous! I never took out my camera and didn't miss a memory. You can check out my pics on facebook (we have to be friends though), where you can also find her business, Michelle Taulbee Photography.
  • Start planning early. I am a procrastinator at heart, so I can't stress to you enough how much starting early and having a plan will really help you. I gave myself little deadlines along the way, that way if I procrastinated to that deadline, it still got done in plenty of time and I wasn't stressing the day, or even the week, of the party. I knew that the Wednesday before the party, ALL of my decorations and shopping had to be completely done, because Thursday and Friday were cake days, and Saturday I didn't want to have to do anything but set-up. It was a breeze. 
  • Plan activities for the children (or whomever your audience may be.) For us, I knew there would be 10 children ranging in ages from 1-9. We had to have games and activities that they all could participate in. I went to the dollar store and got lots of bubbles, some bases for a baseball game, bats with balls for each child (it was supposed to be their take-home gift, but they played with it at the party and most left it behind), and we also picked up a pinata from Party City. There was never a dull moment!
  • Keep your birthday babe on their own schedule. Since we fed everyone burgers and dogs, my hubby asked me later why I didn't plan the party closer to lunch time instead of from 3-5. The answer is simple: Carson still takes 2 naps, and they are spaced 2 hours after waking for each one. After his second nap, from which he wakes up around 2:30, he is awake for the longest and happiest time of the day. I did it for his sake, because I wanted a happy party baby.
  • Try not to stress and just enjoy your day! Words of wisdom from Carson's doctor - "Do whatever you want to do and tell everyone else to shove it. This day is really for YOU, not the baby." Yes, C's doctor really said those words to me. And while I didn't tell anyone to "shove it", I appreciate the thought behind it. It was definitely a "Because I said so" kind of day. Careful planning will help you to truly relax and enjoy your party day. After Carson's party, I was thinking of how much I'd love to do that every weekend. Exhausted, yes, but oh so much fun! And that makes me smile. :)
Okay this post has gotten kind of long, so I'll cut it short here and give you party decorations and inspirations tomorrow. Sound good? What about you? What are your party tips for everyone??

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