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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Something that excites me and fills me with joy (Week 15)

If you're hoping for something deep like, "my faith!" or "my children!" or "my career!," then you're going to be very disappointed with this post. I, however, think this week's topic could not have been more perfectly timed because TOMORROW we are leaving for our first kid-free getaway, and that, my friends, excites me and fills me with joy.

I know it's a no-no to inform the internet when you're going out of town, but our children, house, and dogs are all going to be under the loving and attentive care of my in-laws, so I think we're safe. And speaking of those children, the only thing distracting me from my joy is knowing how much I'm going to miss them while we're gone. I know we'll have fun on our trip and that they'll have a blast with Mimi and Granddaddy, but missing out on 4 days with them breaks this mama's heart a little.

Nonetheless, let's focus on the fun things we have to look forward to...

Views like these:


Weather like this: 


And food like this:

I know this is strange, but one of the things I am most looking forward to eating there is pimento cheese. While Brian dines on vast quantities of sea food and fried chicken, I will be eating my weight in this stuff.

So yeah, I think we'll survive. If you have any Charleston tips, please do share!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Weekending

As you might have learned from Allison, we played hooky* from our respective parenting/working duties last Thursday and spent the day shopping at the outlet mall. We quite literally shopped until we dropped, breaking only for a really glamorous 10-minute lunch in the food court: kids' meals from Burger King. 

See? Totally fancy. Also, pickles = ew.

*Don't worry, I took an approved vacation day. If you thought I was bold enough to straight up skip out on work and bold enough to then admit it on the internet, then you do not know me at all :)

The only other photographical evidence I have of our excursion is this picture of Clara modeling the suede fringe boots I bought for her... whilst sporting her new Halloween jammies, of course:


I also took some time that morning to listen attentively to the Pope's speech on TV decorate the house for Fall, so pretty much it was the greatest day ever (minus the BK kid's meal, if we're being honest).

Any guesses as to how many of these cute little woodland creatures will be maimed by toddlers before the season's end?

After a grueling 4 hours back at work on Friday, it was time for the weekend to begin! It was another whirlwind weekend of family togetherness, full of playing, eating, football-watching, and hanging out with the cousins. Those little nuts wear me out, but I'd be lying if I said I wanted it any other way.

I tried to force an early morning photo shoot before daycare on Friday, and that went about as well as you might have guessed. I do appreciate that this one showcases Colby's hoarding tendencies. These 3 emergency vehicles + his Star Wars book = a winning (and popular) combo for him

I also got some rare playtime alone with him on Friday evening while Clara bonded with Daddy. He is so talkative these days and it was entertaining to have him narrate the happenings of the Little People farm to me.

On Saturday morning, we headed out to the soccer fields to watch cousin, Davis, play in his first game! I use the term "watch" very loosely, because with 3 toddlers in tow, there were ample distractions.

Colby practicing for when it's his turn to take the fields

And Clara taking a break from socializing with Avery to do the same

Veteran moms: shoot me straight... how long can I count on them liking each other this much?

After watching the Aggies (barely) pull off a win on Saturday evening and 3 hours at church on Sunday morning, we were all thankful for a restful nap time on Sunday afternoon. Once the twins woke up, we headed over to my grandparents' assisted living home nearby for a visit. Pretty sure the facility had never experienced that much noise and activity, but hey, at least the visitors were cute?


And to close, allow me to share the pose Clara struck when my grandmother pulled out the camera and we all told her to say, "cheese!"

Please join me in praying she finds a new signature pose prior to becoming a teenager!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Relationship to food (Week 14)

It probably says a lot about the topic at hand that I think this would be more aptly described as my relationship with food, ha!

Like any honest female would tell you, my relationship to/with food is complicated. I love it as much as I hate it and I spend as much time thinking about it as I do trying to convince myself not to think about it.


With that said, I'll attempt to highlight some of the more defining attributes of said relationship:

- I'm a big believer in "everything in moderation": I think depriving yourself of all indulgences is cruel and life's too short for that, but I also don't go majorly off the deep end when I do indulge.

- Relatedly, I make it a priority to exercise regularly so that I can eat some of the things that I might otherwise resist eating. I'm looking at you, chocolate chip cookies.

- I have never gone on a "diet" and really have no interest in doing so. For me, committing to a certain diet (read: restrictions on what I can and cannot eat) would only cause undue obsessing about the things I can't eat. Instead, what seems to work for me is portion control. You may think I'm crazy for counting out my crackers or measuring my cereal, but I call it forced self-control that I otherwise would not have!

- I do tend to "reward" myself with food, particularly if I've survived an extra stressful or unpleasant event. Better chocolate than drugs, right? ;)

- I'm not a very adventurous eater and I fully admit to claiming not to like things I've never actually tried. Go ahead and try to coerce me into changing my ways and trying new things, but know that many have tried before you and failed.

- I prefer eating smaller meals and then having snacks in between so I have something to look forward to throughout the day rather than just getting to look forward to three meals. Is that sad?

- My most unhealthy food habit is probably how much sugar I eat. Yes, some of it comes from sweets, but I am a big fan of carbs in general so I know my sugar intake is probably higher than it should be. But then I tell myself that I don't drink soft drinks so how bad can it really be, right? Terrible logic, I know.

- Sugar aside, the most powerful weapon against my self-control = tortilla chips. Sit me in front of a refillable basket of chips at a Mexican restaurant and I will eat all of them... and keep eating all of them until I've ruined my appetite. And if there's queso involved, then it's not unrealistic for me to consume an entire week's worth of calories in one sitting.The Tex Mex struggle is real.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

DIY iPad Holder (Guest post by Brian)

A couple of weeks ago someone asked about our DIY iPad holder for the car, and Amanda, being the good blog hostess she is, made note of it and told me my next guest blog entry had been determined. So here we are! 

First, a little bit of background. Growing up, I was frequently "encouraged" to help my dad with projects around the house. I would say about 50% of the time I was happy to help out and 50% of the time I wished I could have been doing something else. Now I am 100% thankful that I was his helper/shadow. Some of his handiness skills definitely rubbed off on me and I can put it into practice now. 

Second, before I made this, I looked around the web for ideas but wasn't interested in purchasing what was needed or thought they weren't practical enough for me. Either they required me to leave the house and spend money or they would have blocked too much of our access to the backseat.

With that knowledge, the goals were:
1. We wanted the kids to be able to see the iPad equally.
2. We didn't want to hold it the whole time.
3. It couldn't fall over any time we hit the brakes/accelerated.

The first iteration was simply a rubber band wrapped around the magnetic iPad cover and under the console lid. This was kind of ok, but it didn't address problem 3 because it fell over frequently to the frustration of Amanda.

With that knowledge, I knew it needed support on the bottom to keep from flipping backwards and pressure on the sides to keep it from falling forward.

I can't explain how the idea came to me, but I figured if I could find a box that fit in between the seats snugly, it might work. Thanks, baby wipes from Costco, for solving that problem. 

Next, I needed something to hold the iPad. Again, luckily, we had some freezer bags from HEB that were the perfect size. Bonus points for having the ability to zip up enough to keep the iPad in while allowing access to the port for sound. I attached the bag to the box by stapling it to the top. I made sure that there would still be plenty of room for the iPad to fit before I stapled it. 

Finally, I didn't want the box to block the armrest so I cut off enough of the sides to allow for the armrest. I left the bottom panel to make sure it couldn't flop backwards. What resulted was the below:

The finished product. Also of note, you can still use all the touch functions on the iPad through the plastic bag, so you don't need to remove it when picking what to watch.

Note the cord coming out of the bag and into the USB access to the car sound system. You can't use bluetooth effectively because there is a slight delay between video and sound.

The result: entertained children. Success!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five on Monday (Toddler Mom Edition)

Let's start this week off right with a random list of 5 things, shall we?

1. Archer Farms Candy Corn Trail Mix

My SIL's friend posted a picture of this magical creation from Target on Saturday and I have been drooling over  thinking about it ever since. Much to my dismay, I visited my local Target yesterday and was unable to find any. So if you live in the Houston area and come across any, please buy me some and I'll pay you back, k?

No need for them to list the ingredients, really. They should just write, "Trust me, it's awesome."


And speaking of Target, check out this adorable dress I found for Clara this weekend. Once again, there's no shame in my owl game, and once again, I find myself wishing they made some of her items of clothing in adult sizes. They actually didn't have the dress in her size in our Target (that's strike two, if you're paying attention), so I ordered it online and somehow was able to swing free shipping? I think it was a mistake but I'm not going to complain.



3. "Boo!" Book

I'm a sucker for all things holiday-oriented, and that includes reading material for the twinks. Their Mimi gifted this book to them this past weekend and it's already a favorite for all 4 of us!

Spoiler alert: it's not actually that spooky, so don't worry. 


I read on facebook recently that this new playground was opening up near our house, so we decided to go check it out yesterday afternoon. We were the only ones there most of the time and the twins loved it! However, here in the Houston area it's still 800 degrees outside, so we didn't last long before bribing them to go home with promises of eating fruit pouches and watching "Frozen." Oh, the irony.


Ah, the refreshing signs of Fall at the park...

5. Vomit

Save the best for last, right? You're welcome for the fact that I didn't include a picture with this one. We woke up Saturday morning to find that one of the dogs had thrown up in the playroom. Little did we know that it would be the first of 4 barf clean-ups that day, because poor Clara caught some type of bug and tossed her cookies (strawberries, milk, and pirate's booty, actually) on 3 separate occasions- twice in the car (always a fun treat), and once all over me (also always a fun treat).

Thankfully she was back to normal yesterday... "normal" being a relative term:
Yep, looks about right.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The luckiest

I have a confession to make that's kind of embarrassing: the twins have been alive for 2 years, 5 months, and 13 days, and until this past Wednesday, I had not ever done their bath/bedtime routine alone. Not once. I have, on a very small handful of occasions, done the bedtime routine alone, but never including a bath (which isn't all that difficult, but definitely requires some extra work).

I feel like this makes me lose some of my mom cred, but I'm ok with that, because more importantly, it speaks volumes about how involved and helpful Brian is, and I just wanted to take a moment to publicly recognize and thank him for that.

He helps with everything when it comes to the kids, and I literally mean everything: diapers, meal prep, getting them dressed, playtime, baths, bedtime, daycare drop-off/pick-up, discipline, you name it. But more than that? He does it all without complaining. And when he's stuck doing it solo (which admittedly happens to him more often than it happens to me), he handles it like a champ and doesn't ever make me feel guilty for being gone.

I knew I hit the jackpot when I snagged Brian as a husband, but had no idea how thankful I'd one day be to have him as a partner in raising our kids. Colby, Clara, and I are truly the luckiest to have him in our lives.

And in case there is any doubt about just how much influence he has in this house, then consider exhibit A and exhibit B from my solo bedtime duty on Wednesday: Colby and Clara reading their Darth Vader books in bed :)



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Someone(s) I've always wanted to meet (Week 13)

I never have an answer for that "if you could eat dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?" question, so this one was tricky for me. So forgive me, but I'm cheating a little bit. Allow me to present you with a few people that I wouldn't pay exorbitant amounts of money to hang out with, but that I would be excited about meeting:

1 & 2. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

I'm lumping these two together for obvious reasons. They're funny. They're smart. They're cute. They're moms. Why wouldn't I want to meet these two?!

3. Lynne Truss

I'll be honest- I know very little about this person. What I do know, however, is that she wrote one of my favorite books: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It's a satire about grammar and I remember laughing out loud in more than one public place while reading it. I would love to meet her just to complain about the abuse of the apostrophe together... and listening to her British accent would be an added bonus.

Also, a brief look at her website revealed to me that she used to have a pet (albeit a cat) named "Buster," so basically we have everything in common.

4. The cast of Dawson's Creek

This is still one of my favorite shows of all time. Ideally, I'd like to go back to 1998 and meet the cast when the show first started, but in the event that time travel isn't available, I would definitely settle for meeting them today. I would want to include Grams and Dawson's parents, but I could do without most of the other extras, especially from the college years.

So now that I've established little to no depth to my personality, it's your turn to share: who would be on your list?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Can't stop, won't stop moving

As most of you already read about in Allison's post, we did, indeed, spend a few hours in the presence of Taylor Swift last Wednesday evening. The verdict? Although the cheese factor was high, she put on a good show. She mostly sang her new stuff, but did throw back with 3 of my favorites: "Love Story," "Mean," and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."

The guest was Wiz Khalifa, which was admittedly a disappointment, but his appearance was so brief that it didn't take away from the amazingness of the rest of the show. So all in all, my inner 13-year-old is pleased... not to mention very appreciative to Brian and Wade for the tickets/babysitting/chauffeuring!  


We were imitating all of the young girls taking strange selfies but it jut ended up looking like we were trying to take a cameo of that guy behind us... oops.

Loved this song, but also loved that the video showcased the LED bracelets that everyone wore that were programmed to go with the music!

After a couple of days of recovering, it was time to face the weekend and if I'm being honest, we kept ourselves so busy that I still don't think I've had a chance to rest and catch my breath. Good thing I now have the work week to recuperate, right? No.

We kicked the weekend off with Mexican food with the Olivers (such a rarity, I know) and shoe-shopping for the little ones. Clara was totally pumped about this idea and gleefully danced through the aisles exclaiming, "My shoes!" Colby... well... didn't. He was angry every time we took a pair of shoes off and angry every time we put a pair of shoes on. And since that's pretty much how shoe-shopping works, he wasn't a happy camper. He was, however, excited to run into his new pal, Chewbacca, at Target:


And I was excited to find that StrideRite has a line of kids' shoes at Target - who knew? But as a side note, misspelling your product name does not make me think you are credible. "Surprize"? Really? As in, "Surprize! We can't spell accurately so we probably don't do other things accurately either!"?

Other side note: we were in two separate cars so we moved Colby's car seat into Brian's truck and Clara rode around in the car with me. We've never actually done this before and after the 5-minute drive from Target to the first store, we got out of the cars and when Clara spotted Colby, she yelled across the parking lot, "I MISS YOU, BUBBY!" And I died right there of the sweetness.

Speaking of sweetness, we ate a lot of donut holes this weekend. Random, yes, but also awesome. Here are the twins on our stroll to Shipley's (because again, if you walk somewhere to get food, the calories do not count):

Pre-donut holes

Mid-donut holes

Brian and I ditched the twinkies on Saturday night and joined some friends for dinner, dessert, and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. It was a fun night away but someone didn't think it was the best idea ever:


Fortunately, she got over it before we left and as always, ended up enjoying her time (and more donut holes) with Mimi and Granddaddy (and Colby, of course). Meanwhile, Brian and I made sure to document the rare occasion that we were both well-groomed outside of working hours:

Sporting our maroon for game day, duh

Sunday was spent churching, napping, enjoying the excellent change in weather (peace out, humidity, see you again never in a day or so), and for Brian, watching the Texans play. When we first turned the game on, Colby looked at the screen and said, "I wanna see Aggieland!" And that is how we know we're succeeding as Aggie parents (though we obviously still want to make sure and instill a love of NFL football as well).






I don't know about you, but I definitely wouldn't want to run into this shady biker gang (still dressed in their Sunday school attire) in a dark alley...

Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Someone I miss (Week 12)

I think the real reason this whole writing challenge has been an actual challenge for me is not so much that I have to come up with new content, but that I have to do so on a weekly basis in order to meet my weekly (arbitrary and imaginary) "deadline." I realize I could let it slide a week if needed, but if you think that's something I could do and still be able to sleep at night, then it's clear that you don't know me very well.

Onto the topic at hand: someone I miss. I'm skipping over family members because I feel like it's a given that I miss the ones that I don't get to see very often (although don't hold me to that when this topic comes back again for week 18). Instead, I opted to share about a friend that's near and dear to me even though I very rarely get to see her anymore: my friend, Kaimey.

Kaimey and I met waaaay back during Spring Break in 2004. Kaimey was an intern with the student ministry (youth group) at my home church at the time, and was one of the leaders on the middle school mission trip to Corpus Christi that week.  I was still in college at the time and had agreed to come on the trip as a volunteer.

I remember being nervous because aside from the Youth Minister, I knew none of the other leaders or students that would be going on the trip. In case you didn't know, middle-schoolers can be intimidatingly awkward and unwelcoming, so I was hoping that if they were too cool for me, that at least the other leaders would make me feel welcome.

In the end, I was surprised when I became close to a handful of 7th grade girls (with whom I still keep up with today), but didn't so much make a connection with the other leaders, Kaimey included. She had already graduated from college and had established relationships with the students and other leaders, and truth be told, even though she was nice, she intimidated the heck out of me!

The leaders posing for a pic- don't be fooled by the fact that we're standing next to each other- we weren't big pals yet (although I was obviously big(ger) then ;)

Fast forward a year and at the same time I was starting my first post-college job as a National Consultant for my sorority, I had agreed to serve in an internship with that same student ministry during the time I would be at home. I soon came to find out that Kaimey had converted to a permanent position on staff and would be working there, too. Once again, I was intimidated, but hopeful that we would become friends.

Though we certainly had our differences (she was an avid Texas Tech fan and I a loyal Aggie, for one), we quickly came to realize how much we had in common. We both had an eye for detail that drove our co-workers crazy. We were both passionate about using appropriate grammar. We were both fluent in sarcasm. We both very much loved the students we worked with, but also wanted to sometimes lock them in the youth room and throw away the key.

Four of the female staff members at our tacky Christmas party in 2005 (L-R: Me, Jen, Kaimey, Beth)

One trait we also shared was a willingness to be honest. Like me, Kaimey was not one to dance around the truth, so I appreciated that I could always count on her to call a spade a spade and tell me if I was being ridiculous (which never happened, of course). She kept me in line, which is a feat few people in life have been able to accomplish.

I really did learn a lot from her, and I don't know that I ever told her as much (good thing she's going to see it on the blog!). In addition to the everyday ways she would challenge and encourage my faith, she also taught me a lot about relationships, which was extra important since Brian and I were then navigating the bumpy road of long-distance dating.

It's safe to say that in between mission trips, lock-ins, retreats, and all the highs and lows of "doing life" with middle and high school students, we had a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, and countless memories. And when the internship wrapped up in August 2006 and I made the decision to relocate to College Station in hopes of convincing my boyfriend to propose to live near Brian, she was one of several co-workers-turned-friends that I was sad to leave behind.

I'm thankful that our story didn't end there. In the years that followed, Kaimey and her husband, Scott, battled infertility and ultimately ended up with a set of boy/girl twins as a result of IVF. During that time, I prayed for her and was sad to hear about their struggle/excited to hear about their new additions, but of course had no real idea what they were going through.


Me meeting Harper & Hudson for the first time in December 2008

And because God is God and knew exactly what he was doing when He sent me on that mission trip back in college, you can guess who my first phone call was to when Brian and I were referred to a fertility specialist. And as those years came to pass, Kaimey was always there to pray, listen, and give advice as we trudged forward and eventually decided to give IVF a go.

And again, when we learned that we were expecting twins, though she was 2.5 hours away and in the middle of trying to once again grow her family, Kaimey was always ready and willing to answer questions about how to (sanely) gestate and then raise two humans at one time.

Kaimey, Harper, and Hudson meeting Colby & Clara for the first time in May 2013 (husbands present but not pictured!)

So here we are, 11 years after first meeting, now raising our own respective children instead of hanging out with the youth group kids. She and her family live in Austin, and now that I don't have family there, we rarely make it back that way.

Kaimey, I want you to know that I miss you, but I also appreciate you and all the ways you have provided support, encouragement, and love over the years, regardless of the distance. Thank you, friend!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day 2015

Activities that occurred in extra high volume during the long Labor Day weekend:

Family togetherness
My parents came to visit and so we spent the majority of our waking ours with them and the Olivers (6 adults and 4 children in total). In between meals and naps, we hung around at our house, did some shopping (sans-children), and even squeezed in a trip to the zoo!


Can you tell Clara likes having the extra hands around to hold? And relatedly, why does she insist on me carrying her but will willingly walk and hold their hands?!

My dad fell asleep in the play room while the twins were playing and ended up with an unexpected napping companion.

Notice all of the toys on the kitchen table? Clara kindly brought those to Franny - one by one - as she ate her breakfast.

Avery + Clara at the zoo

Watching Aggie football
I guess you could say this occurred in extra high volume considering it was the first game of the season and we hadn't done it in several months? I use the term "watch" very loosely for some of us, however, considering the kids went to bed an hour into the game and Allison and I didn't exactly stay glued to the screen. BUT we were all wearing maroon, so surely we get credit for that.


Clara heard girls dress up for game day now, so she's trying to keep up...

See? Totally focused on the game.
Steps
I'm ashamed to admit how desperate I am to impress my Fitbit (as if it is an actual being that has the ability to be impressed). But seriously, I got 17K+ steps on Saturday and 15K+ steps on Sunday and I have to believe that my Fitbit was crying tears of pride and joy... or maybe that was my sweat. And on that note:

Sweating
I hate to be a negative Nelly, but this weekend was the most disgusting weather that I remember experiencing in quite some time. Really hot, really humid, really unpleasant. Consider this as proof: I thought about taking the kids to our neighborhood pool yesterday since it was the last day that it was open, but it was TOO HOT TO GO SWIMMING.

Cruising along on a walk with me and my mom in the 100% humidity

Eating
If you take the first one into account, then you should know that this is a given. This was all fine and good except (a) it kept me miserably and uncomfortably full, and (b) dealing with two 2.5-year-olds in restaurant settings almost made me lose my will to live. 

Colby's pouting skills are second to none, especially when his seat is facing the kitchen and he can't understand why every dish being brought out can't be HIS quesadilla. Unfortunately he spent much of the weekend with this look on his face, which is why you'll notice Clara appearing in more of the pics :o/


We decided to take a break from eating out and chefs Brian and Wade prepared dinner at home on Sunday night. If only I had taken video footage of the 4 little ones running amuck in the house... your ears can thank me for forgetting ;)

Recovering
After all of that fun, we were thankful to have yesterday to rest and recover. I hesitate to even share the following pictures, for fear of making all of you jealous about how exciting our Labor Day was, but I'm going to anyway.


Looks like a Christmas card 2015 contender to me! What do you think??