Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just a Bit of a Brain Dump.

It's been almost two whole weeks since I last posted on my trusty ol' blog. There's really no great explanation, other than to say that summer has pretty much squelched my creative juices, and has left me dry in the energy department since I'm spending most of my days chasing around a 13 month old who thinks he's as old as his two older brothers :)

I do have a few things on my heart, but today didn't seem to be the day to dump a heavy load on the blog before I kind of catch you up with what we've been up to. This will more than likely be completely random and have no semblance to an organized post... because that's pretty much what our summer has been.

Water activities!
Nothing like a good surprise squirt up the ol' nose...
On the days it's not raining (which, let's be honest here-- we've received more than our fair share of rain this summer. I'd normally complain, but we just try to find other activities. At least with rain you're not trapped in your house for days with no escape like we were with the snow this past winter!), we're playing at the pool or splash park. We're so blessed to have neighbors who have pools, and they are gracious enough to allow us to use them from time to time. I haven't been able to get my big girl camera out yet to snap some pics of them playing, but need to soon. The shenanigans that my big boys are up to now when they're swimming are quite hilarious.

Pat Green, Darius Rucker, my love and a Margarita. Doesn't get much better!
Our area recently had a large AMP installed, and it has brought in several big name concerts to the area. Drew recently surprised me with tickets to see Darius Rucker and Pat Green. The concert was great, the people watching even better, and we were also able to meet up with some good friends of ours that we hadn't seen in a while... evening made.
Bug Catching!
If you want to be a boy mom, you have to be able to stomach the moment your son joyfully shares his new pet slug with you. And honestly? My stomach is barely holding on in this moment.
I'm pretty sure one of the best parts of summer to my boys is the fact that all things creepy crawly are out in full force. The other morning I had the screen door open while the boys played on the back porch. I heard Connor exclaim loudly "MOM! Come see my new pet slug!" This is the part that I tell you I went to see, and upon seeing, my stomach churned. I can handle a lot of things as a momma, but this slug was so big that it literally about made me vomit. And they were happily allowing it to crawl all over their arms and hands. GAG. Thankfully, they let "Daddy slug" go back to his family... by releasing it in Daddy's garden. Brayden was HORRIFIED when I told him that slugs would eat all of the plants, and he ran frantically back to the garden to try to find it, but it was too late. We're hoping that Daddy slug might have died under the dirt, where they placed him when he was released. ;)
Last Days!
Just when your kid gets cool and he isn't in the terrible 2s and 3s and you want to hang out with him, he gets ready to go to Kindergarten. Funny how life works like that.
On the way to church this morning I told Drew I was fighting off some pretty bad anxiety about Brayden going to Kindergarten. It's only a few weeks away, and every day I'm reminded that my house will be a little more quiet during the days come August. I've been a lot more sad about it than I ever thought I would be, and have found myself fighting off the voices of other parents as they weigh in their two cents about what's best for kids these days. I've long held the belief that every family needs to do what is best for their particular family, and I still definitely feel that we are called to be in the public school system. Even so, it's hard to second guess yourself when you have others tell you that private school is better for this stage, that homeschooling would really be the best option or that boys really need to be held back a year regardless of where their birthday falls. It's a lot to take in as a momma, and a lot that I can second guess myself over. But as I talked through my anxiety with Drew, I realized that I was spending more time listening to the other voices and not the voice of God. It's so easy to get caught up in the hysteria and craziness of things, that sometimes it's easy to drown out the voice that quietly whispers and directs. I'm STILL sad about my little buddy leaving, but am confident that we're making the right decision for him and for our family. Now we're just soaking in our last couple of weeks with him to ourselves... soon we'll get to share him with a lot of other people and I just know that he will make a huge impact in their lives as he has in ours.

Told Connor to go inside and change since he had gotten his other outfit soaking wet. He came back in this and said "I'm matching!" #greenoverload
Connor has really matured this summer in what he understands and is able to communicate, and it's been fun watching that all happen before our eyes during a time in our lives that's a bit more laid back compared to the school year. He's been big on matching objects, regardless of what they might be. One particular day I had told him to go inside and change since he had gotten himself soaking wet. He came back, excited that he matched. And matched he did. From head to toe he wore green, including Brayden's crocks, which are about 3 sizes too large for him. 3.5 years old has a track record for me of not being a favorite stage, however it does have it's high points of humor, and this matching day was no exception.

We've actually had a somewhat eventful weekend, and I've managed to snap several pictures, so I'll be sure to share soon with you what we've done as a precursor to the 4th of July. I hope that yall have had a great weekend, and have a great week this week celebrating our nations freedoms!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Visit to the Audubon Aquarium

Well, my blogging train completely derailed last week with all of the sickies. I'm crossing my fingers that I won't jinx us by saying that we're all better and are hopefully sicky free for the rest of the summer. Being sick in general is no fun, but in the summer it seems like extra torture. Why is that???

Anyways, back to blogging.

I knew when I decided to up and drive 12 hours to Louisiana by myself with the boys, that I wasn't going to waste the opportunity to visit some of my favorite childhood landmarks. Growing up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, we visited the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium quite frequently. I didn't really realize how much we'd been spoiled till we moved to Arkansas. There really isn't a decent zoo close to us, and the closest aquarium is in Tulsa, and let's just say that I left realizing that there's no comparison to Audubon when we last visited Tulsa.

We had actually planned on going to the zoo, but with a forecast of rain, decided to take the safe route and just do the aquarium. The boys were SO excited once we finally got there (traveler tip: don't rely on the GPS to get you around New Orleans. We ended up getting off of the interstate too soon, and then had to drive around till we found another on-ramp).
Ty was less than amused that he had to sit in the stroller for the first several minutes. This is him making his opinion known about not being able to get up close and personal with the fish.
the older two would not hold still for a picture, so this is the best I could do with this awesome display. Fish just amaze me.
the Audubon aquarium is set up by different climates. The Amazon climate is really neat, and has a little tree house that you can go through. The boys loved it and thought it was like Swiss Family Robinson (they even had a real anaconda. Y'all. I already don't do snakes well. But that thing just about made me pass out. So nasty!).
towards the entrance to the Mississippi River/Gulf section, they had fishing boats set up so that kids can pretend like they're driving. This was probably my boys favorite spot the whole day. A few of the boats have huge LCD televisions set up with video of the Gulf, so it looks like you're driving through some of the swamp/marshlands in Louisiana. Connor thought that part was awesome, and kept telling me "hold on mom, I'm taking you to Baton Rouge!"
Connor getting ready to cast the nets
When we went to the Tulsa aquarium, the boys fed the sting rays, but it was really just putting a small bite of food on a stick and then feeding the rays via stick. The New Orleans aquarium actually gives you the fish to hold, and then you have to submerge your hand under the water for the rays to swim over and eat. Brayden wasn't so sure about the entire feeding thing, but Connor LOVED it. Connor ran up to me after it was done and said "that was so awesome! And they didn't even bite my fingers off!" ha!
another favorite... the kids thought it was SO cool to be able to "stick their head" in the water.
this picture cracks me up. It was the best attempt at a pic of the boys with the grands. Tyler was clearly not amused, Brayden had his "mean shark face" and Connor was in a rare sweet moment.

The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that we weren't there on the day that they fed the sharks. On the shark feeding days they will feed them, and also have a diver in the large shark tank, which is really neat to see. The boys did enjoy seeing the sharks, in addition to the GIANT manta-rays and the large sea turtles.

We ended up spending the entire day at the aquarium, and then highlighted the evening with a quick stop for some seafood poboys. It was such a fun day, and I'm so thankful that we took the time to venture down there. I'm hoping next time we go that the boys will be a little older so that we can also explore the city (and maybe get a bite of beignets!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garlic Cilantro Lime Mexican Chicken.

Sick baby.  :-( Well, just when I thought we'd recovered from our trip to Louisiana, I have a kid come down with what I believe to be hand,foot, mouth. After a scary day on Tuesday where his fever spiked to 106.5, we spent an afternoon in the pediatricians office finding out it's "just a virus" and to go home and push liquids. Thankfully we seem to be rounding a corner today, and I am crossing my fingers we'll be free to leave the confines of our home tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a little recipe I concocted a few weeks ago in an effort to appease my Mexican food loving palette.

I am, unashamedly, a Mexican food lover. As in, if anyone were to ever ask me what I would eat as my last meal here on earth, it would probably include some Mexican entree, served with a heaping side of chips and salsa. Thankfully my children have followed suite, and so this whole Mexican food thing is a family affair.

I've already perfected spicing up a can of black beans to serve as a side. Still don't have that recipe up on the blog, but when I do you'll love it. Even if it does look a little less than appealing in pictures, I assure you they are amazing.

The other night I needed to whip up dinner in a pinch, and had a few of the staples for a good Mexican recipe: lime juice (bought in the little plastic concentrated bottle of juice, because Holy Moly Batman... Limes are out of control expensive right now, y'all!), Cilantro, and of course, fresh garlic. I'm a recent fresh garlic convert. For the longest time, I had just bought the jar of pre-minced garlic. But I'm here to tell you that fresh is the way to go. Yes, it's slightly more labor intensive than the jarred stuff, but it's OH SO MUCH BETTER. Trust me on this.

Anyways, back to the fact that I was in a pinch and needed to whip something up fast. Basically I opened up a large ziplock baggy, poured the following ingredients in, mixed it around and then tossed the chicken breasts in there to soak for a few hours. I just baked the chicken breasts like I normally do (at 350 for about 30 minutes-- or until they get to an internal temperature of 165 degrees). I also think this recipe would work really well if you grilled the chicken instead of baking it. Considering that by the time dinner needs to be prepared I have at least one child clinging to my legs, the grill is left to the grill master of the family (and I am most definitely NOT the grill master).

So, next time you are craving a good Mexican dish, give this a try! It won't leave you disappointed, and it makes great leftovers served cold over a bed of lettuce for a yummy Mexican salad the next day!

Cilantro Lime Garlic Mexican Chicken
5 large chicken breasts
1 bushel cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 c lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients (except for the chicken) in a large ziplock bag. Gently mix the ingredients together by massaging the bag. Once the ingredients are mixed well, add the chicken. Let the chicken soak in the bag for several hours in the refrigerator, turning the bag at least once. To cook, simply pour everything out into a 9x13 pan, baking for about 30 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve alongside rice (I made Skinny Taste's Cilantro Lime Rice and it was delicious) and beans for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Monday, June 9, 2014

That Time My Kids Put Holes in My Moms Sheetrock.

I thought about showing you the pictures of the aquarium, which are still floating, in unedited glory, on my hard drive.

But I felt like I would be remiss if I didn't tell you a little story. A story of two little boys who are more curious than George, and tend to get into exorbitant amounts of trouble anytime we're somewhere new.

It was 10:30pm and we were all about ready to hit the hay. I had successfully completed a twelve hour trip with all three boys by myself, and no one imploded or pooped on themselves during the entire twelve hours, so if I am honest, then I would tell you that I was feeling a little bit proud of my achievements for that day.

Of course, as most prideful moments do, it all ended with a bang. Or a thud. I'm not really sure how to describe it, but it definitely was a loud noise, followed by some crying of Tyler. Which could only mean one thing at 10:30 at night: my two older boys were most definitely not asleep and had managed to also wake up little brother. And judging by the pitch of the cry, little brother wasn't all that happy about what was happening.

I rushed up the stairs and rounded the corner to the room that all four of us (me and the boys) were sharing for the week. A light was on. I creeped in and I'm certain horror was written all over my face. Both of the bigs were marked with an unknown marker, Tyler had an exorbitant amount of crap thrown in, around and on top of him in his little pack-n-play. Crap like lamps, old art projects, a pair of my sisters old cowboy boots... just to name a few. I stepped in something sticky on the carpet, and turned around to find a glue stick that had had unmentionable things done to it. Some of the mentionable things that were done to it included chunks being put on the carpet, and most of it being thoroughly smashed, swiped and smothered onto my brothers old desk. Which used to be my Dad's old desk. Which means IT'S AN ANTIQUE.


At this point the fruits of the Spirit were far from my mind. I yelled some things. And shooed everyone out as I got down on my hands and knees to pick glue stick clumps out of carpet. (I guess I should interject and tell you that I've really been trying to work on my reactions with the kids. As Brayden gets older I am realizing that he often reacts in anger. And angry faces. Which is only fair to assume that he has had his fair share of lessons from his momma. {Sigh}.).

After I finished picking up clumps of glue, I went out to handle the big boys. I said things about respecting property and listening and obeying the rules of the house, and other things I don't really remember because it was nearing 11pm. And if there is anything that is true of me on an almost consistent basis, it's that my mind shuts down at 10pm and does not make coherent thoughts past that time. So I am sure that my little speech did a world of good. Connor kept interjecting about the fact that he was so so sticky (this was said in a whiny, three year old voice. Hand motions were involved, and due to the whole inactive brain thing as well as my still high anger levels, this alone about pushed me over the edge). After I finally realized that the claims to stickiness were in fact, a real thing, the anger only escalated. Apparently in his quest for big brother glory, and in addition to drawing on himself and his two brothers, he decided that Connor needed a good layer of glue on his neck and back. And when I say 'good layer' I really mean it. So there I was, 11pm and all, ridding my second son's back of sticky (and thankfully, washable) glue. We all got to bed shortly after I consoled Connor that he wouldn't be sticky forever, and lived till the morning. Only, this wouldn't be the last time that this would happen...

Two nights later, similar incidents occurred. This time, it was only 9pm when we heard a shrill cry from Tyler. All of the lights were on, yet, impressively, Brayden was completely sacked out. The same basket of crap that was dumped on him only a few nights prior was again dumped on Tyler. And any flesh that was not covered by Ty's pjs sported orange streaks thanks to a loose orange highlighter Connor had found. Connor was also graced with the same orange streaks, so it was almost like I had matching highlighter tigers. I picked up all of the basket crap, went through the whole "respect other people's property and your brothers" talk with Connor and then started getting things ready for the two youngest to go back to bed. And then I found it. There on the floor was a small, open pocket knife. I about freaked at this point, as my sister made sure that no one was cut... thankfully no one was cut, so we all went to bed shortly after, because TRAUMA to us all.

The next morning, just when I thought the worst of the trauma was over, I went upstairs to clean things up so that I would have an easier time packing later that evening. And that's when I saw it. Beautiful masterpieces drawn on the walls with the orange highlighter and a crayon they had apparently found but that was lost to me. Horror. Then I looked near the wall by the closet and I noticed small holes. Upon further inspection, these were recent holes. Holes that were drilled. BY A SMALL POCKET KNIFE.

RAGE (and TERROR... because... POCKET KNIFE! What if they had reenacted their Peter Pan skits or decided to be Ninjas??? Bless. Being a boy mom is NOT for the faint of heart, this I assure you).

During a brief interrogation process of both boys, the truth came out that they wanted to use the knife to twist holes in the walls. Both of them participated. One on the closet walls and one on the bedroom walls. Their new Batman coin banks were emptied of all change and monies to pay their Gigi for the damage that was done. It was a sad day for everyone.

I wish I could tell you that I had had the presence of mind to photograph all of these incidents. I have not even one. And I am forever grateful that my mom was able to say "well, at least it wasn't a brother who was cut with the knife." Grace is a good thing in these instances.

As for some questions I am sure I will get: the knife was in my brothers old desk, which had not normally been in that bedroom when we had stayed there before. There was no way of me knowing that it was in there unless I had emptied all of the drawers in the room before we went to bed. Both times I had checked on the boys and they had both seemed like they were asleep... or at least very close to being there. If you're a mom, you'll know this when I say that I can generally tell when my boys have settled down for the nights sleep or if they are going to get up and be ornery. Neither of the times did I feel like the ornery would come out. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Ultimately I'm glad that no one was injured, and that we are all able to laugh about it just a week after it happening. Life with boys is never dull, that is for sure.

I'll be back in a few with pictures of our time at the aquarium. Of which I am happy to report did not include sheet rock destruction or self-marking with markers. You win some, you lose some, right? ;)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Trip to Louisiana.

Greetings from the land of the living dead.

Not really. But kind of. I'm only dead if I don't drink my coffee. And my Sonic Coke. ;)

I'm trying to recuperate from two twelve hour drives by myself with all three kids within a period of 6 days. I really almost felt like I should have gotten a medal; specifically for the skills it takes to use a public restroom while two preschoolers have free reign of the stall and I simultaneously balance a 25 pound one year old on a knee while using said public restroom. And obviously I missed my calling of gymnastics, given my insane ability to hold the large toddler on my hip while pulling up my underwear and shorts back to my waistline. Sorry for the visual, but the skills had to be noted.

In truth, the drive down was actually really good. Aside from Connor asking "are we in Baton Rouge yet?" every 4-6 minutes (and I do mean this quite literally, since I clocked it. And it started 20 minutes into our trip. God bless the person who invented ear plugs), we all did relatively well. The drive back was a bit horrific to say the least, as it involved me almost falling asleep at the wheel, Connor complaining that he was just "so so so tired but can't fall asleep in the car seat!" and Tyler basically saying the same thing, only in loud screams that I am almost certain mirrored that of a large jungle bird screaming for its life while being chased as prey. BUT. We all survived. Which is really all that matters in the end, right?
Our time in Louisiana was good. I was able to see all of my siblings, which is a bit of a miracle these days when you try to coordinate four adult schedules. The boys and my parents and I were able to sneak away to the aquarium in New Orleans (pics to come later this week-- still have to edit those :) ). It was my first time back to New Orleans since 2002. So much has changed, and yet, so much was still as I remembered from when I lived there in junior high. And as much as I am certain that I would never really want to raise a family down there, I do miss the culture. And the food. :)

One of the major reasons I decided on a whim to go down to Baton Rouge was because my sister, Megan, and her two girls agreed to drive in too. So I got to meet my new niece Aubrey! She was the sweetest, and has already perfected her selfie smile.
Uncle Mike and my niece, Aubrey Kate.

We also got the treat of seeing my Great Uncle Mike, Great Aunt Rina and my Grandma, all during the trip. This was Tylers first time to meet all of them.
Grandma with three of her five great-Grandkids.
meeting Great-Grandma
and the two little great-grands.
caught this unposed picture and think it's so sweet.
At first Tyler was pretty apprehensive of Uncle Mike. But after nap he seemed to have remembered meeting him, and warmed up to him enough to get a few smiles out of him.
of course, it doesn't help when Gigi is helping get some smiles ;)
I debated whether or not to put this picture up. But it's real life. People's eyes are closed, Connor is trying desperately to escape... but I love it anyways.
Zoe finished her cake and was asking for more. She knew she had a soft spot from Great-Grandma. ;)

In addition to getting to spend time with relatives, we also did a lot of hanging outside. My parents have a pond in their backyard, so it's perfect for the boys to go fishing, which is what we found Brayden doing a lot of the time.
Uncle Jacob gave the boys a few pointers on the skateboard.
and even raced Brayden on his bike!
the boys had a BLAST on the slip-n-slide...we may need to invest in one of these soon!
Tyler enjoyed the chalk art. And the chalk buffet ;)

I'm so grateful I took a break from our schedule and decided to go for an adventure. It's something I'm not used to doing, and even though there were a few bumps in the road it really did end up being a ton of fun. And since Louisiana didn't want to leave me quickly, I am now left with the memories and 48217583 mosquito bites. Until next time, Louisiana....

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Assessments & Graduations.

Sorry for the brief sabbatical. Last week, on a whim, I decided to drive 12 hours by myself, with all three boys, to visit my family in Baton Rouge. The drive down exceeded my expectations, the visit with my family was great, and the drive back was brutal to say the least. Apparently we bat 50% with how Tyler will do in the car seat for 12 straight hours. Now I'm in the throws of our summer schedule, catching up on laundry and housework and sifting through massive amounts of pictures of the boys with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In the meantime, here's a post I had thought I would have to time to post while I was down South :)

As if having the last day of Preschool wasn't enough for one day, Brayden's Kindergarten assessment and graduation happened on the same day too. It was almost too much for this momma to handle ;)
On the way into the building for assessment, Brayden sheepishly told me "I'm not sure I'm going to like Kindergarten. There are going to be so many kids!" I feel for him... new situations always overwhelm me, and he's seemed to have inherited that trait to some extent. We're already praying that he will adjust well and that his new teacher this fall will be someone who creates a learning environment that Brayden will thrive in.
And for the record, he did great at assessment. The teachers all seemed really sweet, and even if there is a little apprehension involved, we both left the school pretty excited for August to get here.

Thankfully this year at graduation we had no stage fright, and he sang every single song that they were supposed to sing. He was so proud of himself in his cap and gown.
I could just die from the cuteness. Can he graduate every year until 12th grade? ;)
he got to help lead the prayer
I feel like this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of Ms. Amber. This is Brayden's first little crush, as evidenced by the GINORMOUS smile he's wearing ;)
We love Mrs. Debbie and Mrs. Angie! They have done such a good job preparing Brayden for Kindergarten.
We love you Brayden, and can't wait to see all of the places you'll go!

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