Thursday, December 29, 2016

We're changeable

I know, I said we weren't going to find out, that we were ok with not knowing, blah blah blah. But....we (meaning I) felt like it was a good idea to have an actual sonogram to check everything else on the baby since there's already a VSD just to make sure everything else was ok. So on the 20th, we had an actual sonogram. I know, it wasn't even a week after the echo, but we did talk about it quite a bit, I sought opinions and advice from other people who I trust and it was almost all unanimously "go ahead and get a sonogram to double check everything else."

The baby is perfect (besides the VSD). At that appointment, the weight was estimated between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds, which is right on track. I had a baby check up immediately after and everything there was good, too. I'd gained 7 pounds and 5 cm in the previous 4 weeks because of a baby growth spurt (which explained all the aches and pains and feeling like I was practically exploding). I even got a birth kit to keep at home just in case the midwife doesn't make it to the birth and an updated birth list since we changed midwives. And I have everything on the list already, just a week later. I'm on top of this.

We debated being surprised at the birth on the gender, but Austin said "well, if they're checking everything else, might as well check that too so we can be ready." And I agreed. So....are you ready?

We're having another girl!

We're excited. We would have loved a boy just as much, obviously, but I'm excited for Eden to have a sister. Plus I got rid of a ton of boy stuff after she was born so this works out in the shopping department, too. We have so many adorable girl outfits that Eden either wore only once or not at all because there was just. so. much. I try to curb my shopping but it's all adorable!

I think we have a name, but we're keeping it close to our chests again. It's just easier that way. Most of you will remember posts from Eden's pregnancy about people complaining about our picks for boy names, some actually rude comments about them in fact, being our reasoning for keeping her name a secret. Since hers was announced after it was bestowed, we got nothing negative, and that was really a nice change. So we're going to do the same with this one. So stay tuned for that. Coming to a bedroom in Abilene sometime in mid-February to early March, a new Mullins baby girl!

Chubby cheeks! I can't wait to squish them. 

Again, the only time I will intentionally post pictures of my kids' genitals online. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Medical Updates

I'm doing better at this right now!

Medical/family updates:

Last week, the first full week of December, Austin was gone from Tuesday night until late Saturday evening. The kids and I survived (obviously) but Eden had a really hard time letting Austin leave again for work on Monday morning. She collapsed on the floor and cried for a full half hour. He was doing BEST robotics stuff, as many of you saw from his pictures. It seems like his trip was fairly uneventful, aside from misplacing his keys on Saturday and having to call a locksmith to break him into his car where they were sitting in the cup holder under his hotel coffee cup (this is why I throw my trash away).

We at home hibernated through the cold snap that hit on Thursday, ate food, and prepared cookie dough that I then baked on Sunday for teacher gifts to be distributed on Monday. It was a quiet, relatively calm week.

This week has been nuts. Tuesday, I drove to Dallas for the fetal echocardiogram scheduled for Wednesday morning. I only missed one left exit in downtown Dallas, due partly to construction, due partly to I hate left exits. A nice long hot shower without a little girl peeking inside, a yummy room service dinner, and I went to bed.

Wednesday morning, I realized about halfway through breakfast that I wasn't really sure where I was going. That's problematic because Children's is massive. BUT I have a pretty good memory for directions and locations, so I went to the same parking garage and used the same entrance we'd used for Eden's echo last summer and it turned out I was right. I got a little turned around trying to find the elevators but after that everything went pretty smoothly.

The fetal echocardiogram had to be done in Dallas because they don't have the equipment to do it in Abilene. It's stronger than a regular ultrasound machine because it has to go through two bodies. It was basically an ultrasound focused on the baby's heart, and that's what the tech looked at for the full 45 minutes I was there. We chatted about baby names and some of the more ridiculous ones he's encountered in his 20 years of working with children. I gotta say, Yomajesty is now a contender for this baby's name. ;-)

Dr. S came in to do her own scans and when she heard we don't know this baby's gender and haven't had any other ultrasounds, she attempted to find genitals and make a guess. It wasn't conclusive, so we're still not sure and are still picking out names for both genders. We talked Tuesday night and decided we're ok with having a surprise. It's our (hopefully) last baby, so it's now or never.

The baby's heart looks good for the most part, but it does have a small mid-muscular Ventricular Septal Defect, a hole in the wall between the ventricles. It won't close up on it's own before the baby is born because the baby isn't using their lungs so the pressure is equal. I asked if it would get bigger once the baby was born and breathing and she said no. It'll close up naturally after birth, but we're still going to have an echo done on the baby within a month of birth to check on it. I'm assuming that if it hasn't closed up or showed signs of closing at that point, we'll schedule another one and keep an eye on it until it does close. She was positive this would not require surgery.

She also said there wasn't a reason that this would prevent us from having a home birth, which was a relief. I'll still discuss it with the midwife and make sure she feels comfortable delivering a baby with a heart defect. If she doesn't, we'll reassess. Mom is on board. And of course we'll make sure that the pediatrician knows in advance so she's not caught by surprise when we go in for the baby's newborn shots.

So yay for that! I'm honestly not upset about this. I think if I weren't Eden's mom, I might be. I'm not saying that a VSD isn't scary for a parent, but for us, it's kind of old hat at this point. We've already got that echo scheduled for late April, so we'll get everything checked out and that baby is taken care of.

Eden had her cardiology appointment today here in Abilene. When Dr. S realized how we'd scheduled everything, she apologized and said I could have brought Eden with me yesterday to Dallas. Oh well. She would have had to miss her class party and I would have been worried about her getting into EVERYTHING while I was being scanned. It wasn't the most ideal way to spend my week, running all over the place, but it's not the worst.

Eden is still doing great. The cardiothorasic surgeon at Stamford strongly advises we leave her alone and not do surgery until/unless necessary, and I'm fully on board with that. She hasn't changed, heart wise, since her last appointment in June. She is at risk for heart block (abnormal heart beats) but Dr. S said that it's possible, if not likely, that that won't show up until late adolescence. Signs would be more tiredness or passing out during exercise. (She may be able to get out of PE when she's older because of this...lucky girl.) She's wearing a halter EKG machine to do a 24 hour EKG right now, and we'll take it off and return it tomorrow afternoon. She wasn't super thrilled with the echo she had today, but she was still fairly sweet and pleasant to everyone she encountered. She even tried to steal one of the pillows off the table and one of the techs was willing to send it home with her.

Dr. S does want us to make sure Eden sees the dentist on a regular basis. One of her valves is a bi-cuspid instead of a tri-cuspid, which apparently is great for bacteria growth, so we need to make sure she keeps her teeth clean and healthy. I'm not totally 100% sure I get how that all relates, but ok. Our appointment was at 1, we didn't get to the clinic until 1:30 because of some issues in the check-in, and we didn't leave ARMC until after 3, so I was a little distracted with trying to get my kids all gathered together from their various locations.

Tonight is Milsoft's Christmas party and tomorrow is Asher's last day of school and Saturday we've got a special Christmas gift for the kids to do so the dashing around hasn't stopped yet. Then Sunday morning we've got church where Austin's leading Grace Falls worship and Sunday School and our family is lighting the advent candles in the traditional service.

I may sleep all day on Monday. I'm worn out from the first half of this week and there's still some big stuff coming. It's all good, though. We'll have several days of relaxation before Christmas festivities, then a few more before New Year's and Asher's birthday (which he's looking forward to almost as much as Christmas). Austin will have a couple days off, so I'll probably hibernate and try to rest and let him solo parent a bit on those days.

So that's all for now! Everyone is doing great and there are lots of plans in action, with back up plans for most of them. We're truckin' along here, waiting for March and a new baby to shake things up again....but hopefully not TOO much.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Finally some content!

I actually have something of moderate interest to write about!

Asher is smart. He's really smart. I'm not just biased as his mom, I swear. He reads at around a second grade level and can do beyond-Kindergarten-math in his head. We tried to get him into Kindergarten last year, but they wouldn't take him because of his birthday. We didn't push it too much because we felt like the social aspect of Kindergarten was just as important as the stuff he'd be taught.

We were right.

Asher has struggled a lot with social stuff this year. Standing in line, dealing with loud, chaotic environments like the cafeteria, the gym, and music...all of that has resulted in lots of "intervention" from the staff, mostly just pulling him to the side and taking him out of the chaos. We've gotten two calls within the past few weeks from the principals about his hitting another student. We had the parent-teacher conference after the first call and talked a bit about it but didn't go into a lot of detail. I arranged a time to go and observe him in class to see if I noticed anything, and did that last Wednesday, the 30th.

What I observed is that yes, he is a little lippy with the teacher, but he generally ignores the other students and does his work in a fraction of the time it takes them to do theirs. His lippiness, while not acceptable, I get. She's asking him to do things he already knows how to do. He's bored and frustrated. So after the second call, which came in on Monday, I set up a meeting with the principals to discuss his behavior and possibly advancing him.

All the teachers I've interacted with of his have had lots of positive things to say about him. They all seem to really, genuinely like him. One today told me he's one of her favorite students. He's sweet, intelligent, goofy, and actually has interesting things to say. Everyone is acknowledging how smart he is, and that he's intellectually at LEAST on a 1st grade level. Socially, however, he's not.

The principals felt like if we moved him to 1st next semester, he'd struggle even more. The 1st graders are more mature and are better at behaving than he is, simply because they're older.

They pointed out that he seems to have some sensory issues, mainly in crowded, loud environments. At times he curls up in a ball or hugs himself saying he's cold, even when it's hot outside. He loses his temper more quickly in those situations and lashes out. Apparently these are some symptoms that he may have a sensory processing disorder of some kind, primarily with noises and crowds.

Once they began talking about the different things he does and what seems to trigger them, looking back I realized he's done this for a while. We've found ways of coping with them at home, and since he's our oldest we're just not that aware that this is necessarily anything out of the ordinary.

So we came up with a plan for Asher. We're sending in a written request to have him evaluated for sensory issues. It's too late in the semester to get it done before break, but they'll do it next month. Then they have a meeting and go over the results and decide if he warrants some special education classes or sessions or something to work with him on coping mechanisms and to see what they can do in the classes where he gets most overwhelmed. Then we'll more than likely have another meeting to get that all put into motion. This could take a couple months. I hope its done before the baby is born, but there's a chance it won't be.

In the meanwhile, we're not waiting to get those results back to work on his intellectual stimulation. Starting on the first day of the new semester, he'll go to a 1st grade classroom for some more challenging classes. We're going to start with reading and possibly add math later. I don't think 1st grade reading is going to be that hard for him, but that's where they'd like to start and they're hesitant to put a Kindergartener with social issues in a 2nd grade class, which I agree with.

At the end of the school year, we'll see how he's done with the 1st grade classes during the day and whatever coping we can work out and have him take an advanced placement test to see if he needs to go to 1st next year or just move on to 2nd.

We're looking into the Threshold Program, a program run at HSU for gifted and talented children over the summer. It's by invitation only, and the children have to be nominated and then take a test to see if they qualify. It's a bit of a process but it sounds like it would be a great thing to get Asher into if we can. There's a fee for it, but it's not that much and if it would help him, it's definitely worth it.

It's a little overwhelming but at the same time, a relief to have some kind of plan in place. We've noticed his issues this year more than before simply because he's been around kids a lot more this year and so the issues have been more visible.

Austin and I feel good about this plan of attack, and hope that the evaluation show that yes, he needs this special attention at school to help him cope with his issues. That or that they can point us in the right direction to get him some help outside of school. We're comfortable with him staying in Kindergarten for the rest of the year with the addition of harder classes to help keep him engaged and interested. We love his teacher so I'm relieved that we don't have to get to know a new teacher so soon.

Starting school for the first time is rough and Asher has actually done fairly well, all things considered. He keeps all the adults entertained, though he does have an arch nemesis in his class (that's a whole weird thing....). He doesn't dread school, which is good, so hopefully if we get some things figured out, we can make it something he really enjoys. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kids and Turkeys...sometimes the kids ARE turkeys.....

Maybe someday I'll be good about updating this, but we're a fairly quiet household without a ton going on that I feel would be of interest to others, and my thoughts aren't usually....public friendly at times. lol

Asher went on his field trip to Cowboy Stadium and enjoyed himself. He got sick on the way up there and threw up on himself but luckily his grandparents were meeting him so they graciously went to Target to get him some clean clothes to wear. He doesn't like to talk about school or the field trips, so it took a while before he finally said anything about it. He enjoyed it and would like to go again, but only if he doesn't get sick again. I've thought for a while now that he has my Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome and nervous stomach, so we'll have to teach him how to control his emotions some for that.

He's doing pretty well in school. The content stuff is a piece of cake. He knows all of it and has all year long. He's reading beyond 2nd grade (he passed the TPRI reading test for 2nd grade with flying colors, spelling "mule" as "maul" and "which" as "witch") and the math stuff is, in his words "so easy."

Where he's struggling is participation in gym and music and his behavior towards his classmates. If he doesn't like an activity, he won't do it. He says that the activities are dumb or stupid and preschool activities.

Honestly, music and gym are not the classes I care about that much. Not doing well in those is not going to hold him back. I do want him to participate, but I really don't care if he doesn't do well in those classes. I never enjoyed PE classes or piano lessons, so it doesn't surprise me that he doesn't either.

I had a parent/teacher conference about a week and a half ago with his teacher and she admitted he knows everything. She gives him the handouts and while she's explaining it to the other kids, he does them. Then he gets to read a couple chapters in a book and go on the computer. Since it's a kindergarten class, the books are easy readers and he's read pretty much all of them, most of them multiple times. So we personally bought some older kid books (Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children, and the Magic Treehouse) and sent them up there so he'd have something more challenging to read. There was talk about trying to get him into a 2nd grade classroom for a part of the day to see if that helps challenge him but so far it hasn't happened.

He says his behavior comes from sometimes just getting angry, so we've talked to him a lot about ways to handle his anger that aren't destructive or harmful. We've had mixed success with that, but we've only been working on it for a couple weeks. I've noticed a difference at home, but we'll see if it sticks.

He's a pretty typical 5-almost-6 year old in his behaviors, but I think being bored in class is also contributing to his behavior issues. So I've set up a time that I'll go observe his class, mainly him, and see what I think. We're really leaning towards pushing to have him moved up to 1st grade next semester. Even if he ends up doing 1st for three semesters, I really feel like he needs to move up soon.

Elijah is so 4 it's not even funny. He's at times crazy and sweet and endearing and lovable and cuddly and at other times you want to pull your hair out. He's doing well at school, too, with his occasional 4-year-old fits of anger. He had some struggles at the beginning of the year but he's doing better. He still has fits of rage at home but he's quit throwing things and instead growls and stomps his foot. It's still annoying, but decidedly less destructive. He frequently comes to me wherever I am and acts like a goofball because he wants to make me laugh. He's usually successful.

Eden is sweet and sassy and so much her own person it's crazy. She's opinionated and bossy and sweet and adorable. I swear, each kid is cuter than the last, but she's going to be hard to top. She loves to poke her head around the doorframe when I'm in my chair in my room and say "Hi!" in this bright cheerful voice and as soon as I respond she says "ok bye!" and leaves. She also loves cheese, almost as much as her older cousin. She saw me grating cheese last night for our Thanksgiving dinner and insisted she get some. I had exactly enough for the recipe so when I finished, I gave her the scraps in the grater. She stood at the bowl until every last morsel was in her mouth.

I'm doing ok. I'm 26 weeks tomorrow, so beginning the 3rd trimester, and definitely feeling it. The round ligament pains are worse every pregnancy and they started about a month ago. I basically can't sleep comfortably. I've also got some indigestion, which I never had before, and a variety of other pregnancy things that aren't fun. I'm already counting down until 37 weeks when I'm full term and safe to deliver at home. I seriously sleep fairly well the night after delivering, mostly because delivering is hard work, but also, I'm not pregnant anymore and some of the pains are gone. It's weird, I know, but what are you gonna do.

Some interesting things have come up with our midwife and based on my previous deliveries, we've made plans to have a birth kit in my house starting at 37 weeks, with Mom agreeing to be my back up baby catcher. I'm not at liberty to discuss the issues (they're not mine) but we did get some resolution today about them. I'm trying to stay positive, but the resolution is making me a little anxious. Someday I'll be able to be less ambiguous, but this is not the forum for that. Rest assured, I'm ok, the baby's ok, everything will be fine in the end.

We're prepping for the annual Walke Thanksgiving trip this week and that is a real chore. Getting five of us packed up to go is hard enough, but throwing in the food we have to prepare, either at home first or there, and all the sundry things we have to bring because we have small children....well, we've been packing and prepping pretty hard core for about three days at my house. And we're not totally done. I'm most looking forward to my birthday dinner at The Melting Pot on Friday with some friends of ours who's wedding we had to bail on in July because of my morning sickness.

We've got lots going on the next few weeks with travels and holidays and doctor visits and I'm so exhausted I just want to take a nap and sleep until New Year's. We'll make it through, though, and then kids will enjoy all the stuff we have going on, so that makes it worth it. Mostly.

I'll try to post more regularly as things happen. Nothing super exciting is happening for about three weeks, so we'll see how I do.

We were the Mario family for Halloween: Toad, Mario, Bowser, Princess Peach, and Luigi

Me last week. I'm looking rather bulbous here. I'm in the "cute" phase currently. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another boring update on our lives

It occurred to me last night as I was trying to fall asleep that I haven't posted in a while, so here's a long overdue update.

Not much is going on. Asher has been enjoying school for the most part, we think. He doesn't like to talk about it. The most we typically get is that he had a good day. Occasionally we'll get other little nuggets, but not often. We don't push it, because we figure eventually he'll talk.

He had a fundraiser at school a few weeks ago and he sold enough items to earn a free trip to Cowboy Stadium for a day, which he's super excited about. Luckily our family is big enough that we didn't have to hit up people outside it to sell items. lol That field trip is next week, so I'll try to report back on that.

Elijah is now officially 4! And still having some behavioral issues on occasion. I'm beginning to wonder if its some misdirected anger about the baby or something. He's had occasional rage issues for the last couple of years, since Eden was born, but they had tapered off for a long time. Then a month ago they started back up. The kids are always worse behaved after a trip or a visit from grandparents, but this was beyond any of that. He's slowly calming down, though we had visitors this past weekend so this week has already been a little tricky. He's so funny, because he gets angry so fast and then calms down just as fast. He's definitely got my temper. Most of the time he's a pretty sweet kid, though.

Eden is the same old same old. Cute, sassy, opinionated, independent, doing great. She was sick for a week, but didn't have much in the way of symptoms other than lethargy and reduced appetite, so we didn't call a doctor (other than my mom). She bounced back and is totally back to normal.

Austin is enjoying work and the extra-curricular activities he's involved in (church music worship leadership, which is technically a job, a band that he's involved in, BEST robotics, etc).

I'm doing well, too. The baby is growing, so I am too. I'm trying to watch my weight, but I'm not dieting or anything, so don't worry on that front. I just started this pregnancy about as heavy as I finished the other three, so I'm trying to keep my weight under control.I know I should exercise more but ugh. I get tired and just want to sleep.

Because of the position of my uterus and my placenta, I don't really feel the baby move that much. It's weird to be nearly 21 weeks pregnant and know I should be feeling lots of kicks and flutters and hiccups and feel only a little tap occasionally, like at the very beginning of a pregnancy, and even though it's not always clear if it's baby or body. Everything is good, though. We're measuring right on target, so nothing to worry about. I just hope my placenta shifts so I can feel stuff soon.

Coming up is the craft fair, some field trips, fall fest, and an open house for TLCA, Halloween, stuff for church, the annual Walke Thanksgiving trip, BEST robotics, trips to DFW for the echo, a Christmas gift from Aunt Cari, and then we're into Christmas and Asher's birthday. It's getting busy and I'm not just loving that. I like my quiet boring days and weeks. My calendar being crowded isn't my favorite thing

Oh well, it keeps life interesting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Q&A Time

We may have lost our minds, but hey, life's more interesting this way anyway.

We're pregnant! Again! For the last time! Most definitely! At least I hope so. I'm due March 1,2017 so we're anticipating a mid-late February birth.

Here are answers to your burning questions:

1. You do know how that happens, right?
Yes, actually, we do. Apparently we're pretty good at it, too, seeing as how this is the fourth time in six years. Or is that a question? Do you not know? Do you need me to explain it to you?

2. Was this planned?
Absolutely. I know how babies are made (see #1) and we planned every one of our children.

3. Is this the last one?
I really hope so. Surprisingly since I have so many planned kids, I hate being pregnant. Each child is basically a dedicated year of my life to misery and discomfort. And that's before we include all the breastfeeding. I figured out at one point that at the end of this pregnancy, over the preceding 7 years I will have been pregnant, post-partum, or breastfeeding for 4.5. I think that's enough. We'll take permanent measures next summer.

4. Are you hoping for another girl?
Honestly, yes, but another boy would be just as loved and welcomed.

5. You're probably going to move now, right? Your house is so small!
It's actually not. It's 2500 square feet. People forget we have a huge room upstairs that's mostly storage. We haven't quite figured out how things will be shuffled, but they will be. Asher spends most nights in a different room than Eden and Elijah anyway, and the baby will sleep in our room until he/she is probably about 4 months old. Plus I really hate moving. I did it a lot between 2001 and 2010 in various ways (into and out of dorms, switching rooms in Mom's house, moving into and out of houses and apartments) and there's nothing quite like being downtown at this stage of our lives. There's a house I love about a block away that was recently for sale, but at $300k, it's a teensy bit out of our price range. Plus, I hate the thought of ANYONE else living in this house. My current plan is to move out of it in a body bag.

6. Do you know what you're having?
People. I'm 12 weeks pregnant. No.

7. Will you find out?
Yes. In about 8 weeks or so.
Edited: We've decided to wait until our 29 week fetal echocardiogram to find out for various reasons. We don't fault anyone for having as many ultrasounds as they or their doctors want, but reading a few things online make us a little concerned about overexposure and since the fetal echo (see question 13) will be about an hour long procedure, we've decided to skip the 20 week gender ultrasound. All that said, if a reason arises and an additional ultrasound is deemed necessary, we'll do it. 

8. Will you tell us the name?
Nope. It was actually kind of fun not telling anyone what we had decided on and NO ONE COMPLAINED ABOUT EDEN'S NAME! It was great. We'll redo that.

9. Really? Not even family or close friends or ...?
I mean, you might get it out of my kids, but that's playing dirty. (And there's no guarantee they'll tell you the real one. Elijah has some doozies of suggestions.) We did tell a select handful of close friends and family with Eden, because we loved the name so much, but sadly, not everyone is on the list of close people we trust not to rain on our parade.

10. Do you have a name picked out yet?
Not really. We have a list of names we like, but it's hard to focus and narrow it down until we know a gender.

11. Will you have a shower?
Well, my Abilene baby showers have a notoriously low turn out, which is disappointing and embarrassing, especially since the wonderful people who have thrown me these showers have put so much effort into them. Plus this is my 4th baby in 6 years. I've pretty much got everything I need. We may have a diaper shower (a friend asked about doing that for me early next year) but we'll see. It feels greedy and uncomfortable to me to have another shower when I had three for Asher and one for Eden.

12. Are you having another home birth or a hospital birth?
We're planning for a home birth. I've seen the midwife twice, once for an establishing visit and then once to hear the baby's heartbeat. She couldn't find it at the first appointment because it wasn't quite 10 weeks yet, but the second time we heard it clearly and strong at 150.
Edited: this may change. We'll keep you posted. 

13. So Eden's heart didn't scare you off more kids? almost did. But Eden's doing so incredibly well it almost feels like her whole situation was a fake out. She does have a serious heart condition and we do have to keep an eye on it and her growth and development,'s so mundane after the first few months of insanity its almost like it's nothing, if that makes sense. All that said, because of her heart, this baby has a 3% chance of having a heart condition as well, instead of a .009% chance every other baby has. That means we need to have a fetal echocardiogram between 25 and 31 weeks (during the holiday season) to check the baby's heart. We're still figuring out the ordering and scheduling of all that but once it's worked out, I'll report back. We're choosing to look at it not as 3% chance something is wrong, but 97% chance everything is perfect. Those are pretty great odds.
Edited: a fetal echocardiogram has been schedule for December 14, when I'm 29 weeks. I'll have to drive to Dallas the night before and stay in a hotel (woe is me) for the appointment at 930 in the morning. It'll take about an hour for the echo, then another hour or two for evaluation and the doctor's consultation with me. Luckily, we get our favorite cardiologist, Eden's primary cardiologist, to do the exam. Woo!

14. How are the other kids taking it?
I think for Asher it's old hat at this point. Elijah keeps suggesting weird names. 19 months old. She doesn't know.

15. Have you felt the baby kick?
Well, since I'm only 12 weeks, not really. I've felt a few little weird flutters that could just be gas, but might also be baby making him/herself known. I'll definitely start feeling stuff in the next few weeks. I'm already showing (of course, I started this pregnancy looking about 3 months pregnant, so people may not really notice for a while) and I'll just get bigger and bigger and more uncomfortable as the weeks go by.

That's all I can think of for now. If you have any questions I haven't answered, feel free to post them. ;-)

We're adding another book worm!

Edited to add: 

16: What's this baby's animal going to be? 
Well, we've got a bird, a mammal, and an insect. I suppose we should go with reptile or amphibian, but we're leaning towards another insect, a bee. It's gender neutral, which we like, and kinda sorta raises awareness that we need to save the there's that. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Not-so-Baby Boy

Asher is at a fun age. He has a lot of thoughts and opinions and questions and generally speaking, we can answer his questions. His favorite way to pose these questions is "Mommy, I have a question about life." Rarely does he ask something that isn't actually worth asking.

He's really into video games, so everything with him is percentages: his thirst is at 3%, his anger is at 100%, his interest is at 40%, etc. This makes for some interesting exclamations from him.

I have a very sensitive startle reflex. Like...if I'm asleep (I rarely get very deep asleep and even when I do if someone comes near I immediately wake up) and someone gets close, I gasp loudly (LOUDLY) and sometimes flail. It drove my college housemate nuts because we shared a bathroom and it was in my room, so she'd come in early in the mornings before I was awake and EVERY TIME I gasped and started. I don't actually always remember these events. The boys have learned to jump back when waking me up so I don't smack them. About a month ago, I was taking a nap and Asher ran up and poked me in the stomach. I gasped and flailed, smacking him in the face (not hard). He yelped in surprise and I asked what was wrong. After it was established that his hunger was at 4% (very hungry), I sat up and started to get my bearings to get him a snack. He asked me why I hit him. I said I didn't mean to, he just surprised me. He responded "yeah, I probably shouldn't punch you in the stomach when you're sleeping." Or ever, really.

When talking about getting ready for school, I'll ask him what he's looking forward to and his answer is always "playing on the playground." After Meet the Teacher tonight, it might be the computer room.

Meet the Teacher night tonight was interesting. I don't remember doing anything like that as a kid, but then all my teachers until 8th grade were my friends' moms and women I'd known a huge part of my life. So it didn't make a lot of sense. We stood in line to get into the cafeteria to get some paperwork we needed to fill out regarding pick up, then we went to his classroom and found his desk and filled out some papers for the teacher. One question was "What motivates your child?" I have no idea. Maybe she can find something, because I really haven't. Another was "What is your child's favorite school subject?" Asher answered "Playing."

After we filled out our papers, he explored the classroom and found some legos with letters on them to form words and settled in for some educational play. He abandoned the legos pretty quickly for puzzles. I approached the teacher. She needed a warning about Asher.

I started off with "I know a lot of parents think this, but Asher is really smart. He's been reading on a second grade level for about a year now. He can do some basic fractiony type math in his head. He's read The Invention of Hugo Cabret to himself several times this year. He started Harry Potter but gave up because there weren't enough pictures. It wasn't that it was too hard, he just likes pictures. He's very smart and so he sometimes gets a little bored and obnoxious and smart assy. So brace yourself. If you're reading something and he can see it, he will correct you if you skip a word or mis-say something. He'll read for the other kids and he'll read ahead."

She literally sat down and stared at me.

I also pointed out that he loves computers and he is literally the closest kid to the classroom computers. I said she'd probably have to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn't just get up and get on them. She might even want to move him across the room.

She said she'd find stuff for him to do, that this was going to be an interesting year. I sure hope so.

On the way home, I asked him if he was excited about school.
"Not that much."
"I said not that much....I'm 45% excited."
"Do you think that number will get higher or lower over the next five days?"
"Probably higher."

I'm not a super sentimental mom. I didn't cry when I left him at the church nursery or at MDO the first times. I wasn't super upset the first night I spent away from him when he was 18 months old or the first night he spent away from me when he was 4 or 5. I haven't felt that way about any of the kids. I think being a SAHM who's also an introvert who doesn't really like being touched or touching, having that time away from my children who are all extremely touchy was just a relief. Plus, the people taking care of my children were people I knew and trusted completely and who sent me pictures and texts during the day and communicated with me at every pick up and drop off.

The closer we get to his first day of actual school, the more sentimental I get. Buying his school supplies and getting his uniforms and figuring out how to communicate with everyone at his school has taken my mind off the fact but still. Periodically I look at him and am just astounded that the tiny baby who drove me INSANE his first few weeks of life is now this gangly nearly 6 year old with all this attitude and opinions who is about to start actual school, not just MDO. He'll be spending 7 hours a day 5 days a week away from me and I won't know as much about what's going on as I've been able to in the past.

This is just what life is going to be like, I suppose. I'll adapt, but man. I didn't think this would hit me so hard. I mean, I'll still have two at home driving me nuts for the 4 weeks until CCF starts. I have a feeling I'll feel a little sentimental when Elijah goes off to school and more so when Eden does.

The early years of a child's life are SO hard in so many ways, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready for the next part. Though I am kind of ready to be done with the hard part, at least a little of it anyway. (And yes, I know each new stage brings new challenges. We'll deal with them as they come.)

New Baby Asher

Doing puzzles in his kindergarten classroom. He's 45% excited about it.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I'm terrible at updating.


It's been a while. I know. Sorry.

We've been doing stuff. We had a wedding in Austin in late July and had a lovely weekend, relaxing at the beautiful Via Libre and visiting great restaurants and Deep Eddy Pool, as well as seeing some good friends get married. The kids did ok at the wedding, but it was Catholic, so fairly long. They ended up in a different part of the church with Austin while I witnessed the wedding. At least there was a room just for kids at the reception, and you know they had a good time because Elijah went home with a black

We've been trying to get things together for Asher starting school soon. We have him enrolled at the Charter School, TLCA, which is just a few blocks away from us. Not being able to find any information online, I assumed they followed the AISD schedule so we were planning around that. Turns out that they don't follow AISD. They start six days earlier, so their Meet the Teacher night is a week earlier. And the school supplies list from last year is slightly different this year, so all the pre planning and shopping I attempted was for naught. Well, not all, but some. So we had to return some school supplies and get others. We also had to get his uniforms, a mesh backpack, and appropriate shoes (no characters). I THINK we have it all, but I have no idea how he's going to carry it all on the first day. My plan is to hopefully be able to go with him his first day, both to walk him in for the first time and to help carry in all his stuff (y'all it's so much).

Elijah is seriously bummed he can't go to school. He keeps telling people "I'm 5" because he knows you have to be 5 to go to school. The school secretary believed him at first because he and Asher are just a few inches and pounds apart. Unfortunately he'll have about three weeks before his school starts, so I'll try to do something special so he doesn't feel so left out. I've let him get a few school supplies just because it takes a little of the sting out.

He's going to miss his brother when Asher is at school. They play together all day and keep each other entertained so I don't have to. The family dynamic during the day is going to change a LOT.

Eden is 18 months old now and has entered the clingy stage where Mommy and Daddy are pretty much the only acceptable people. She talks ALL. THE. TIME. but I have no clue what she's saying. She's pretty earnest about it, though. For some reason, their room is super hot these days so she's frequently wandering the house in nothing but a diaper. She'll occasionally find her shoes, though, and bring them to me to put on. She doesn't care about wearing clothes, but if she can she wants to wear shoes.

Austin's doing well at work. Nothing too exciting to post there. He's got an interior office, so frequently he doesn't get my texts, so once in a while when we try to meet up for lunch or want him to bring something home, he doesn't see it until he's leaving for the day.

For now, we're mostly trying to just get by to the end of the summer. It's hot, I'm drained, the kids are a little crazy. We're keeping out fingers crossed that things will change for the better once school starts back up and we get into the swing of things again.

Then again, they might get crazier when we're trying to get a kid up and off to school every day by 8am and then picking him up at 3pm and keeping two others entertained in the interim. I'll try to report back in in less than a month but I make no promises. :-)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hot Summer Days

Its hard to believe that the summer is already halfway over. School starts in about six weeks and we've still got shopping for that and two out of town weddings ahead, but we've been busy so far.

The boys have enjoyed a total of three VBS's (and there's at least one more coming) and Asher went to Kindercamp at the Grace, where he did some art projects for a couple days. We've been to the splash pad and swimming in friends' pools. We've had multiple picnics in my room and watched lots of movies, a couple even at actual theaters. We did CALF and went to play miniature golf and went to friends' birthday parties and played at the park and playgrounds and did art projects.

Mama's tired.

I'm digging that the favorite activity seems to be picnic in Mommy's room. I spread an old blanket on the floor and get out sliced cheese, juice pouches, grapes, salami, crackers, and whatever else tickles our fancy, and they sit and eat and watch a movie while I eat and then nap or read a book or whatever. It's pretty great. Of course, currently the tv show is being ignored for wrestling but hey. Boys need to expend their energy sometimes.

We've been keeping busy, but nothing too extraordinary has happened, so there hasn't been tons to report. Eden's cardio appointment went well, as I noted in my last update. Austin's jobs are going well. The kids are happy and active though of course they still have to complain sometimes about silly things (like the ice cream is too cold and the pizza is too hot).

Eden had her annual eye exam today. Her doctor said she has no problem seeing Eden here until time for her eye surgery and then referring her to a pediatric ophthalmologist in Dallas for the surgery. She recommends we wait until Eden is 4 or 5, about time for school, to do the surgery. The bigger her face, the better the results. Her vision isn't being affected by her ptosis so there's no need to do anything sooner. I'm good with that.

It'll be an out patient procedure, which I like, and they'll basically cut a bit out of her eyelid muscle then attach it to a different muscle so that it doesn't droop. Currently, the muscle is stretched out and it won't get better on its own.

Eden was a trooper at the doctor. She complained about the eye drops but otherwise was cheerful and sweet like she always is. The doctor commented on how good she was.

The next couple weeks will be busy for traveling reasons and then we'll be busy for school reasons. I'm looking forward to a nice stretch of time off sometime in September maybe? lol

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hunka hunka burnin' ..... plastic?

Y'all. Raising boys. What. the. hell.

It's been a long couple of weeks, what with CALF (awesome and exhausting...doing it solo with three kids is no joke) and Austin traveling, and it being summer and Eden being a little sick (teething sucks for everyone) and having a regular cardio appointment today....those were the "normal" things. Then there was Austin managing to SHATTER a pyrex dish in the sink and now the garbage disposal doesn't work. Then Elijah got mad and kicked his foot through a window (he's fine, the window was not). Then today with the appointment just exhausted me and I laid down to take a little nap, the boys telling me they'd be ok for an hour. (I don't deep sleep, they still come and go).

Waking up to the smell of burning plastic and little boys shouting "fire! fire!" is never a good thing. Ever.

The best I can figure, because they sure aren't explaining it, is they wanted Easy Mac and couldn't figure out how to do it. The fourth cup they attempted lit on fire. Literally. There were flames in the microwave visible from across the room and smellable from all over the house and probably three blocks away. Plus the contents of the previous three cups were in the sink. Where the garbage disposal doesn't work.

Jesus has to like these boys for me right now.

Uncle/Big Brother John is going to come and look at it later this evening and we'll see if it's salvagable or if we need to make a trip to Lowe's or Home Depot tonight or tomorrow. We don't use the microwave every day, but we use it frequently to reheat leftovers.

But hey, at least I got the broken window fixed today! Only cost about $200! Add this cost to that (and for all the other stuff they've broken over the past couple years) and the boys are going to owe me their first paychecks out of college. No student loans, but Mom Letting Me Live fees.

As for Eden:

Her appointment was great. We were there for three and a half hours because of who knows what, a problem with the computers, over booking, whatever. We waited for over an hour for her echo, then that took a while, then we saw the doctor for about 15-20 minutes. We got home around 2 from her 11:30 appointment.

Her numbers are all good, upper 80's and lower 90's for pulse ox, her weight is good, her length is good (she's 30 inches....she might be a tall woman). She was so tired by the time they did the echo, she just laid there perfectly still for them and they got great images, so that means we don't need to schedule a sedated echo in Dallas later this year. Yay!

The main thing the doctors are keeping an eye on in her echos is the tricuspid valve. It's a valve between the top and bottom of the right side chambers of the heart. It opens and closes, allowing blood to flow from top to bottom but not bottom to top. Since Eden's pulmonary artery and aorta are switched and the right ventricle works harder than normal, this puts more strain on the triscuspid valve. If it starts to show signs of leaking or not working well, that's when we'll revisit surgery. Her tricuspid has a mild leak currently, which is to be expected, but nothing so serious that we're doing anything anytime soon.

In fact, they don't need to see us for another six months, unless Eden starts to show signs of distress.

Six months, you guys! That's awesome! I'm certainly thrilled not to have to go up there more often. She's heavy and there's several things I have to take, plus each visit costs about $3000. Our out of pocket is $3000, so we only pay for one, but still. (This is why we have her medical fund set up. Thank you to all who donated and continue to do so. It'll go towards her heart stuff, not the busted microwave, I swear.)

Austin came home from work and took the boys to VBS for the last night at Broadview (seriously an awesome VBS) and I'm at home with the girl child. I'm exhausted from the past few weeks and THERE'S STILL MORE SUMMER TO GO! We still have two trips for weddings coming up, two more VBS's, and summer activities planned in town. I'm gonna need a vacation at the end of this summer.

At the end of the day, we're all ok, the house is still standing, though it is a little smokey and smelly. We're out some money, but that's all. It could have been so much worse.

I may never nap again without confining children to cages or something. Lawdy.

First three failed attempts. 

No idea what happened here. 

Mac and cheese anyone?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

(Don't) Be Our Guest

Every once in a while, I miss my "career"...but then I remember how much I hated 95% of it and come to my senses.

Eleven years ago this week, I moved to Austin, TX, a freshly made college graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management from Texas Tech. I was petrified.

My last semester of college was stressful. I took something like 21 hours to get everything in, I had a falling out with one of my best friends and house mates over the Christmas break, my grandmother died in Illinois right before Fall Finals (literally right before: I came home from the funeral and had a final at like 7 am the next day or something) and I couldn't decide whether or not to go to the funeral and ended up going last minute, I had a part-time job, and I went on job interview after job interview and NO ONE wanted to hire me. So when White Lodging called me up and offered me a job, I jumped on it. I was asked where I wanted to go and I said Austin, because I had family there. My friends were going every which way, though the majority of them were in Lubbock for a couple more years. I tried to get a job in Lubbock because I knew me going to Austin would be the death knell for that relationship and I wasn't ready to give it up. (I didn't until October, when he finally said things were done.)

I took my best friend on a fabulous trip to Hawaii then had about a week to pack up everything in Abilene and Lubbock and drive it down to Austin so I could have a week before my first day, June 14.

I worked at the SpringHill Suites Austin North on Parmer Lane, just a couple miles south of Pflugerville. I lived about 15 minutes south of that, on 183 where it's called East Anderson Lane. I had a Super Walmart two minutes from my apartment and an actual grocery store about 5. My brother and his family were about 6. I was in a small nook of a big and scary city and I really didn't leave it much.

Three months after I moved there, my brother and his family moved back to Abilene and left me alone.

I spent two years in Austin and didn't make any friends outside of work, and we all know how deep and lasting work friendships can be. We still keep up with each other on Facebook, but I haven't spoken to any of them in person or heard their voices on the phone in over 8 years.

Leaving Austin wasn't that hard to do. Austin the boy applied to UT for the PHD program and was rejected, so he was going to Dallas to work for TI. I told my boss I was going to Dallas, with or without White Lodging, and he reluctantly let me go. WLS liked me enough that they created a position for me at their lone DFW property, Courtyard Mesquite. I kind of sort of pushed another person out of her job (sorry Julie) but it worked out because by the end of the summer, she left to be with the man she's now married to.

Dallas was a little better, because we had some college friends in the area, plus Austin was there....eventually. I made another group of work friends and some of the guests and I got close. Probably closer than is ok, but I'd done that in Austin, too. Austin guests were long term stay and repeat travelers, men and women who were doing a job in Austin but didn't want to stay over the weekends. They'd check in on Sunday or Monday night and leave Friday mornings every week for six months. One guest cried on his last stay when he said goodbye to us. I sent him a wedding invitation.

Mesquite was different. It was a hot, wet summer, my internet wasn't working well so I couldn't really talk to Austin, it was stressful because the hotel had a LOT of problems that the previous management had tried to sweep under the rug, and again, I was essentially alone in a big, scary city. I hated it.

After we got engaged, the wedding planning started (as it does) and that's when things at the hotel got worse. I'm not a great manager. I'm not good with people. And I kept hiring the WRONG people. I had people calling off thirty minutes before shift, quitting two hours into a shift, hating that I was the new manager and just no call no showing, I had to cancel plans multiple times for trips to Abilene to plan the wedding or to visit my future in-laws in Arlington (about an hour away). I tried to take it all in stride because at least I had evenings off, something I hadn't had in my two years in Austin, but it was wearing me down. WHen I had my performance review and my boss told me I'd done nothing to deserve a raise, I was done.

I didn't deal with the people well, I'll admit that. I wasn't given an adequate picture of what my job WAS or who I was in charge of until my performance review. But I did manage to get over $10,000 worth of unpaid billing paid and paid another several thousand dollars in unpaid bills, convincing our vendors not to cut us off and make us a cash only account. I spent months on that. I felt like that was worthy of note, but my boss did not. He wouldn't even answer his phone if he wasn't "on the clock", so when the alarms went off at 4 am an the fire department wanted to speak to the General Manager, I was the one they dealt with instead. I got reprimanded for being at work in jeans and a t-shirt once when he got there at 6:30am and I'd been there since 3am dealing with a fire alarm that wouldn't go off because it had been broken when some idiot pulled it.

Yeah, leaving that job was not hard either. It's really true when they say people don't leave companies, they leave people. I loved WLS and wish they'd had more properties in the metroplex.

I loved not working in hotels for that summer. I loved not having to deal with the everyday headaches and annoyances of hotels and guests. But with time, they all get a bit of a fuzziness to them and it doesn't seem like it could have been THAT bad.

I follow White Lodging on facebook and last night they posted pictures of the updated and renovated Courtyard Mesquite and it looks fantastic. It made me nostalgic for the good parts of hotels, the fun stuff. And almost immediately I remembered the bad parts and everything that I hated.

I don't miss the long hours. As a manager, I was expected to work 10 hours a day 6 days a week. No overtime, because I was salaried, and no perks other than the occasional free room and ability to grab something from the breakfast. I was expected to do Breakfast Buzzard and Lounge Lizard twice a week (standing in the lobby greeting guests during peak times, making sure all their needs are met) and that was a nightmare for this introvert. I was expected to take all phone calls from the hotel, no matter the time of day. I was expected to fill in any and all shifts at the desk when an employee called off. My duties included inventories, scheduling, ordering, paying bills, entering payments, making sure the front desk and housekeeping had everything they needed. I don't miss any of that. I don't miss the guests who couldn't be satisfied no matter what or the guests who were unnecessarily rude and dismissive of me because I was a young woman (21 in Austin, 23 in Dallas) or the guests who had a sense of entitlement (the ones who book through Expedia and the like are the WORST). I don't miss the boss who felt like he dumped on me.

I do miss the boss who was reluctant to let me go. I miss the sales managers who were my friends, one of whom sat me down and asked me if this was REALLY what I wanted and the other took me out for my birthday, the only one really celebrated in Austin. I miss the guests who smiled back and were pleasant and easy to appease. I REALLY miss the ones who became our temporary family. The one who cried, the one who wanted to set me up with his brother, the one who ALWAYS brought whoever was working the desk a piece of dessert from wherever he went for dinner, the ones who we went to movies and rodeos and dinner with (yes, I know that's a bit inappropriate. I always paid for myself and nothing romantic REALLY happened...that's another story though). I was really popular with older men. Someone once explained that I was the kind of girl all men over 40 wished they'd married and hoped their sons would marry. I miss my coworkers who were supportive of what I had to do and employees who didn't blame me when I had to go all manager on them.

I left WLS ten weeks shy of my 3rd anniversary and I never really looked back. I laughed to myself that I'd spent all that time and money on a useless degree. At least now I wouldn't have to explain it to my friends and defend it to my family. RHIM is not, in fact, a degree in housekeeping. It's a management degree with a focus on hospitality. Yes, we have classes on beer and wine. Yes, we do have to clean rooms as part of a lab for a class. We also have to learn about every. single. thing. in your food that can kill you....nothing is safe. NOTHING. I lost weight that semester. We take an animal science class and learn about different cuts of meat and watch a pig get slaughtered. We have fun, actually. No, it's not as hard as other majors. We're cool with that. RHIM is pretty easy going and laid back until the Philosophy majors start taking shots and then all bets are off.

It took a few years for it to kick in that hey, that was actually not the worst degree for a stay-at-home-mom to have. I have to manage my household and I use a surprising number of things I learned in college. I learned how to figure the cost of things, so when I price my meals for Tali's Table, I don't really leave anything out, things other people forget like dishwasher detergent, electricity, TIME (omg time), wear and tear on the utensils, etc. I watched a pig get slaughtered and didn't throw up and stuck my hand in icy, brown tub water to release the drain, so nasty poopy diapers are nothing (unless I'm pregnant), though I still have a really hard time with vomit. Yes, I learned how to make a bed so when necessary, I can do that. It's kind of a life skill EVERYONE should have, though. I learned how to properly set a table, and how to dine in public, not just eat. I learned time management skills, so we're rarely late when we go out. I learned that I can actually handle quite a bit of stress and not break. I learned that my family is always going to be there for me, no matter what, and my friends might not be.

I still don't have a lot of friends. I've talked about it before, so I won't go into that. Now, though, I'm in a familiar place where I feel comfortable. Sure, when we visit DFW or Austin area, I get nostalgic for it, even though I hated it when I lived there. I think how great it would be to live near the places we're visiting but have to remind myself I never went anywhere or did anything while I was there because I was tired and anxious and I lived there and who wants to be a tourist in the place they live?

I'm definitely happier using my degree for my family. Taking care of the kids and Austin is a lot more rewarding and fulfilling than working in the hotel ever was. The benefits are better, too. Yes, there are occasional late night calls, but soothing a crying baby is better than explaining to a guest that no, I will not come and climb into the laundry shoot at 3am to look for your missing stuffed tiger (it was three feet long, I have no clue how they forgot it in the first place). There's bill paying, yes, but it's to keep our family warm, lighted, and fed. There's cleaning, but cleaning after my kids and the evidence of their (hopefully) happy childhood.

I think it was a pretty good trade.

Me and one of my front desk employees with a guest at Halloween. The thing she's squeezing would make the blood pulse across his face. It was kind of awesome. 

We found this belt in a guest room. No one ever called to claim it. This was my favorite GM and breakfast lady at SHS. 

Stocking the sundries shop at SHS

Updating the board at SHS...I didn't realize I was supposed to do this until I'd been there for six months. 

The only "fun" picture I have from Courtyard. We didn't have a lot of fun there. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Summer of Awesome! Or maybe just anxiety and yelling. It's too soon to say.

I hate crowds. Like...seriously hate them. I hate going places alone I've never been, being surrounded by people I don't know, having to put myself out there and do's basically my worst nightmare. Throw in three kids, two of which are go-go-go boys, and it's even worse.

There's no FKO this summer. Kathy is leaving (I'm not a fan of that decision) and the whole program is kind of up in the air as to whether or not it will continue at all. I got us on a waiting list at FBC's MDO program, but haven't heard anything. Plus, since it's Asher's last summer before he starts school, I figured, Hey, I'll keep them home and we'll do stuff! It'll be great!

I may have lost my damn mind.

Doing stuff means going places. Or planning things to do at home (which we all know is not going to happen). It means being in crowds. It means planning at least a little bit what we're doing.

I've spent the past couple of months going over websites for the museums, libraries, universities, theaters and more and creating a comprehensive calendar of EVERYTHING happening all summer long in Abilene for my kids' age range. Ok, not everything, but about 95% of everything.

It's exhausting. And that was just the writing it down part. I even bought a planner just for ease of keeping things straight and then spent a couple of hours over the past couple of days transferring everything into it.

The great thing is, there's tons to do. The Grace has art stuff every week, book readings once a month, random events throughout the summer. The library has about a dozen activities every single week at the three different locations. There's the CALF, various churchs' VBS's, the kids' movie series at the local theaters, the splash pads, the pools, the state park, the regular parks, the zoo, putt-putt golf, the museums...on and on it goes.

Plus there's the "Hey, let's just stay home because Mommy needs a mental health day."

I'm trying to plan 1-2 activities a day for us and so far, we've done ok. Monday we went to Chik-fil-A to play, then to Dollar Tree and Walmart to grab a couple things for Memorial Day weekend. Tuesday was the last day of FKO, so I got a last day to myself. I stayed home and vegged out. Wednesday we had plans but they all fell apart so we ended up at the Used Bookstore, which was great because who doesn't need more books? (Don't look at my shelves full of unread books) Today was the Grace for story time and playing in the morning and back in the evening for an art adventure. Tomorrow is a play date and possibly something else (maybe the library).

We're doing ok so far, but today I was feeling the strain of it.

I know my kids are good kids, I really do, but when I'm out in public with them, I get stressed out by their behavior and the fact that WE'RE IN PUBLIC PLACES AND WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT GET YOUR HANDS OFF THAT CHILD/OUT OF YOUR PANTS/AWAY FROM THAT OBJECT IF YOU HAVE TO PEE WE GO TO THE POTTY and so get snappy. I get anxious and angry and feel like everyone is watching me and judging me based on my kids (which they're totally not, they're trying to keep their own kids from climbing the walls...I mean, I don't judge them based on their kids(ok, some kids I totally do because wow.)) and that makes everything worse and it just spirals out of control. It sometimes takes a day or so to calm me down, and in the meantime there's still snappiness and fussing at people at home to contend with. There may or may not have been tears this morning in a search for shoes (Seriously, if he would just put them away when he gets home instead of kicking them off like a can-can dancer like I've been telling him to for six months he'd be able to find them).

It's so hard for me to go and do stuff with my kids and I know that I don't have to, but at the same time, I don't want them sitting around on the computer or watching tv all summer. I want them doing stuff and enjoying themselves. Most of what we have planned is either super cheap or totally free. If I had to pay more for what we're doing, we for sure wouldn't do it. (I'm cheap like that.) But they enjoy the library, they love the Grace's children's museum, they like story time and the splash pad and art projects. Everything on our list is things they either already enjoy or I'm about 90% sure they will. I just have to get my mind wrapped around the whole "leaving the house" thing.

Either way, it'll be an interesting summer.

The End of the World

In 2010, there were billboards all over Abilene claiming that the end of the world was coming on May 21, 2010. They were there for months. I can't remember the first time I saw them, but we were visiting about once a month or so that spring and so saw them regularly. Some guy had done some math involving the Bible or something and decided that was going to be the day the world ended.

For our family, the month and day were right, but the guy was off by one year.

Most people know, but I've made a few new acquaintances and friends over the past couple of years who don't know. May 21, 2009 was the day my dad died.

Understandably, May 21 is a hard day for us every year. We try to distract ourselves and think about other things, but every time I look at the clock, I remember what I was doing at that time on that day. I remember what I was feeling and what was going on around us and how other people responded, from the painter who got finished in record time to the people who got out of line for me at the gas station to the hospital person who took us to Dad. I remember Grandmother asking me not to go see his body and I remember holding his hand and hugging him one last time. (I have a bunch of these, there's a whole document titled "I Remember...")

Honestly, I'm not sure if May 21, 2009 or January 29, 2015 was the worst day of my life. On one, I lost my dad and on the other, I found out my baby daughter has an incredibly special heart. He's gone forever and she has something hard that she has to deal with her whole life and I can't change or fix either one. She's doing extremely well and is only slightly higher maintenance than a normal baby, but he's still gone forever. Both days suck.

I've processed Dad's death online a lot. There's notes on fb with my thoughts and feelings and a book I've had made with pictures and my family's eulogies and their own processing writings. Some of them I've read many times, some only once or twice. Turns out we Walkes are pretty good writers. And we all really loved John S. Walke.

So if I'm down or a little weepy around May 21, Father's Day, or June 24 (Dad's birthday), then that's probably why. It's a rough 34 days for me.

I know I've posted these pictures before, but they're my favorites. I think they show Dad's loving, comforting, protective, and goofy sides.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

April was quiet

I know I know, I'm terrible about updating. We've been busy living life around here.

It's been the month of doctors' appointments: Eden had a regular check up (she's great, in the 50th percentile for height and weight), I had a regular dental cleaning that revealed me needing another crown, which is automatically two more visits, Austin had an eye exam where he was diagnosed with almost-terrible eye stuff going on, and I have an annual eye exam on Thursday. Plus stuff at church and regular life stuff, like friends' birthday parties and MOPS and FKO and of course bulk cooking. We've been comfortably busy.

There's really nothing new to report. Austin and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today. We went out to dinner without kids on Friday and had Arrowhead deliver dinner tonight. Eden ate some of my green beans (she usually inhales them, but Austin's quinoa was far tastier to her tonight) and Elijah ate probably a good fourth of Austin's salmon. Sometimes I look at these kids and see myself in their faces or mannerisms or expressions or attitudes or preferences....and then they do crazy stuff like gobble down vegetables and salmon and I wonder where they came from. If you want to see a sappy post about Austin, you'll have to look here. Or check out some old notes on my facebook page. We're not sappy people, so I try to limit myself to once or twice a year so it doesn't lose it's potency.

On the family front, Asher is now registered for next fall at TLCA, the charter school a few blocks from the house. The first time he saw the school, he commented that the playground looked good. So....there's that. We bought a board game at a garage sale that involves flying and the person who flew most recently goes first. That's always Austin and Asher has decided he wants to fly in a plane just so he can go first in the game. Priorities.

Elijah is doing pretty great all around. He always wants to go where we're going and tag along with anything happening, so we usually let him. Gives him some one-on-one time that he's never really gotten, at least not like Asher and Eden have. Poor middle kid.

Eden is fabulous. Growing and walking and talking and trying to keep up with her brothers. She has opinions and preferences and attitude and its great. She's constantly got a runny nose from the seasonal junk floating around. Her next appointment is with the cardiologist in June, then she'll see her regular ped for her 18 month check up in July and the pediatric ophthalmologist in July for an annual eye exam to check how her eyes are developing with the ptosis. Fingers crossed that it's still fine.

Austin is still loving his job. He recently had to go out of town for a weekend for stuff with BEST and the kids didn't really have time to miss him, which was nice. He missed us since he had to suffer the silence and solitude of a hotel room in the evenings. Poor him.

I'm doing well, too, other than the crown. At least it didn't turn into a root canal like last time.

The boys like to play outside every day, even if it ends up being for five minutes. They ride their bikes on the patio and play on the seesaw and if they can find it, they write with chalk on the concrete. Eden decided to join them today. She did ok, wandering around with chalk in her fist.

So yes, we're all doing fine. Living, working, playing, growing. If this space isn't updated, it's because there's not much to report, or nothing that gets my writer juices flowing or that I think people are interested to read or comment about. It's nice being a little bit boring. It seems like we don't get much of that around here.

Friday, April 1, 2016

We didn't disappear!

Lawdy it's been a while. We've had stuff going on the past month and for a couple weeks there, I didn't have a computer, so that's my excuse. Here's a quick update:

Austin is doing great at his new job. He enjoys it most of the time and has already had to travel for a few days for it. He's still not home until about 6, but he's actually working in town until 6 so it's not too bad. He's met us for lunch a couple of times and that was fun. He also gets to sleep a little later in the mornings, which I'm sure he enjoys.

Asher is doing great in general. He's so smart and silly and yesterday was in such a goofy great mood it was hard not to laugh. He was making up rhymes about everyone that were mostly funny to him. He's a lot like his dad in that. He loves riding his bike and whenever the weather is nice, he and Elijah go outside and ride for a while after school or in the morning on a non-school day. I stay inside but sit by the door to the backyard that's in our bedroom so I can hear the laughing and shouting and inevitable tears. They come in, tell me what happened, then go back out tear free. All I have to say is "Are you going to survive?" and they figure out they're ok. It's nice having independent kids.

The registration for TLCA, the charter school a few blocks from Mom's house, opened today. I went to pick up paperwork to get a jump on it last week and was told I couldn't get it until today. I asked how many students are in the kindergarten class and she told me 23-24 but that 17-18 spots were already taken. Siblings, I'm assuming. So we have to compete with I don't know how many people for a possible 7 spots. I sent Austin up to the school this morning to be in line around 6. There wasn't a line, so he was able to get in and fill out the form pretty quick. They didn't need the batch of paperwork we'd pulled together (birth certificate, social security number, etc) that I'd been told we'd need (I think they need to get their information straight) but that was ok. We're also not registered, just...applied? We'll find out in a couple weeks if we're accepted or not.

I have no idea what the criteria are, but if it's anything like most government assistance programs, we probably won't qualify. We make too much money, he's a white male child who isn't at risk in any way. Still, we're hopeful we'll get in. It would be so nice to not have to drive past three other schools to take him to school next year (besides the charter school, there's a great private school we can't afford three blocks from our house and a public elementary school a few blocks north of the charter school. Our elementary is like 3 miles away.) Asher is interested in math and science and can do some basic math (addition and subtraction with small numbers) in his head if we help him break it down and on paper nearly always. He's reading on probably a second grade level and wants to learn more about everything. Then the next minute he wants to just sit around all day and watch dvds. He's a really funny mix of me and Austin in that

Elijah is potty trained! At least during the day. He prefers to wear his underwear backwards so if he bends over and you get a sight of some baby butt crack, that's why. He's pretty smart and funny and sweet 99% of the time. Anytime Austin or I go anywhere, he wants to go, too. We usually take him, just so he can have some alone time with a parent. He's at that age where he wants to have control in his life but he just can't for whatever reason. I'm hoping that next year with Asher at school is good for him.

Eden is doing fabulously. She's walking like a pro and even has some recognizable words. She's sweet and adorable but has that streak of sass that I'm probably going to hate in about 13 years. She's my little shadow at home, following me around the house to see what I'm doing and settling nearby whenever I sit down. I was doing bulk cooking last week and every day she would go to the same drawer and pull out everything in it. It's where I keep measuring cups, so I didn't fuss at her too much. When she opened it then proceeded to sneeze all over everything inside, I fussed a little as I loaded everything into the dishwasher.

We've been taking her pulse ox twice a week and the numbers are great for her. The doctors were all concerned that once she started walking, she'd get bluer, or have more difficulty with her oxygen levels. In contrast, her numbers have been a little higher than they were before. Her feet are also warmer on a regular basis (which could be because we usually have shoes on her to protect her feet, but even without shoes her feet stay warm). Her cyanosis (the blood spring back when you press on her foot) is even better. It's crazy. Her next specialist appointment is in June for her eye and two weeks later will be a cardio appointment. I'm interested to see how all that is going and what the doctors will have to say.

As for me, I've been keeping things running as best I can. We took dinner to a friend who lost a family member one week, then to the friend that had the baby in my last post we took dinner once a week for four weeks. If the excited texts are any indication, the food was a hit with their family. The boys had a playdate with them a couple of times and I got to snuggle the new baby a couple of times. She even smiled at me once (shut up, she totally did). Eden was a little curious why I was holding a baby but it didn't seem to bother her that much. I spent a week bulk cooking to restock our freezer. I spent two weeks without a computer (which was interesting). I cross stitched a couple of pieces and framed a couple...not necessarily the same ones. I have five pieces needing frames and four in "temporary" frames (which they've been in for about 5 years). I finished up some photo books for the past couple of years in our family life. I started planning our summer and looking forward to next fall and getting things ready for Asher at school. I did a couple little "making it a home" projects around the house that the boys had to point out to Austin. We had our front porch replaced and a pipe under the house repaired. We attempted to buy a car for Austin but by the time we got financing, the car was gone so now we're looking for another one.

In other words, it's been life as usual around here. Children growing and learning and playing and adults.....adulting. We have a couple projects in mind for this summer that we'll see how far we actually get on. Everything around here is pretty good. Let's hope it stays that way for a while. We're due a quiet year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tali’s Table Freezer Cooking

Tali’s Table Freezer Cooking


Perini’s Hominy Casserole – Small: $7.50 Large: $10.00
Cheesy hominy casserole with green chilies and bacon.


Sour Cream Cornbread - $5/$7.50
Yummy cornbread. Pairs perfectly with the beef chili
Garlic Bread $5
Loaf of grocery store French bread cut lengthwise and spread generously with butter then sprinkled with seasonings and cheese
Assorted Bread - $5
I can make a variety of breads from scratch. The most popular ones are Garlic Parmesan, Peasant, Italian, French Honey, and English Muffin.


Apple Pie Filling - $5/$7.50
My grandmother’s recipe. So delicious. Lower price is for filling only, higher price is full pie
Texas Sheet Cake - $7.50/$10
Delicious chocolate cake topped with chocolate icing (all homemade) that’s kind of a cross between brownies and cake.
Crumb Cake - $7.50/$10
Yummy white cake with a cinnamon crumb topping. Similar in texture to a dense coffee cake.


Cinnamon Bread Souffle – $12.50/$10
Very similar in taste and texture to bread pudding. Cinnamon bread with a cream cheese topping.
Bacon and Egg Strata – $10/$7.50
Bacon, eggs, cheese, milk, and bread.


Lemonade Concentrate - $5/quart
Homemade lemonade without all the squeezing


Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti – $15/$10
The classic favorite with all real ingredients. No Velveeta, no cream soups.
White Chicken Chili - $5/quart
Made with home cooked, seasoned chicken, beans, chilies, and seasonings, delicious.
Chicken Tetrazzini - $12.50/$20
Creamy pasta dish made with home cooked, seasoned chicken, peas, and lots of cheese and cream.
Chicken Bacon Alfredo - $12.50/$20
Rich creamy dish made with artichokes, bacon, home cooked, seasoned chicken, and Alfredo sauce (Please note: Alfredo does have a tendency to separate a little when frozen. It still tastes good.)
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas - $7.50/$10
Home cooked seasoned chicken, chilies, lots of cheese, sour cream, flour tortillas
Garlic Bread Chicken Nuggets - $7.50/$10
Crunchy chicken nuggets in a yummy garlic breading. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Parmesan Garlic Chicken - $10/$12.50
Chicken with parmesan, garlic, and Italian herbs and spices. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Baked Lemon Garlic Chicken - $7.50/$10
Chicken with lots of garlic and pepper and a subtle tang of lemon. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Rosemary Garlic Chicken - $7.50/$10
Rosemary and garlic are a great combo with this chicken. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Kick’n Chicken - $7.50/$10
Special seasoning blend from Sam’s. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Garlic Herb Chicken - $7.50/$10
Special seasoning blend from Sam’s. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.
Ranch Chicken Fingers - $7.50/$10
Crunchy chicken fingers with a nice ranch flavoring. Frozen raw for cooking at time of serving.


Beef Stew – $7.50/quart
Yummy stew meat cooked long and slow. You add veggies upon serving.
Beef Chili - $5/quart
Beefy chili with lots of tomatoes and seasonings. Mild so you can make it as spicy as you can handle.
Telluride Black Bean Bake - $7.50/$10
Slightly spicy beef and tomato sauce over tortillas spread with chilies and cream cheese.
Spaghetti Sauce - $7.50/quart
The Tucker-Walke-Mullins spaghetti meat sauce. It’s never the same twice but it’s always good.
Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce - $7.50/$10
Swedish meatballs crossed with beef stroganoff. Cooks in the crock pot. Homemade meatballs.
Baked Spaghetti - $35/$20
Think the love child of spaghetti carbonara, lasagna, and spaghetti with meat sauce.
Daddy’s Favorite Meatloaf - $7.50/$10
Kind of like a hamburger with the fries inside. It’s delicious and will have you coming back for seconds.
Parmesan Meatballs - $7.50/$10
Homemade meatballs with cheese and Italian seasonings. 
Beef Stroganoff - $15/$20
Delicious stroganoff made with sour cream. Mushrooms optional.


Stromboli - $12.50
Typically made with Italian sausage and pepperoni, but you can pick other fillings if you’d like.
Ham and Cheese Sandwiches – $2/each
Ham and Cheese poppy seed sandwiches. Perfect for a lunch on the go. Individually wrapped and sold.
Muffalettas – $3.50/each
Ciabatta bun layered with olive salad, salami, turkey, provolone, and Swiss and topped with honey mustard.
Slow Cooker Parmesan Pork Loin - $12.50/$15

Pork loin in a marinade of soy, honey, herbs, and Parmesan to be cooked in a crock-pot. Frozen raw. 

Meat Free

Marinara - $5/quart
Homemade marinara. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, lots of spices.
Pesto - $5/pint
Fresh basil, lots of garlic and Parmesan. No pine nuts.
Stuffed Shells - $7.50/$10
Ricotta and Parmesan filling. Typically I use manicotti shells. Topped with some of the homemade marinara.

A small serving will typically feed 2-4, depending on appetite (it feeds our family just fine with very few leftovers). A large will serve a minimum of 6, up to 10 on some dishes. I cook with whole fat ingredients (real cream, regular cream cheese and sour cream and cheeses, etc) and I buy meats and cheeses in bulk whenever possible. All of the above have been tried and approved by my family. If there’s something you’d like to see, let me know and I’ll find a recipe and give it a shot! If you want me to pick up the extras to make a complete meal (pasta for sauces, bag of frozen broccoli or some rice, etc) I’m happy to do so at cost.

I know the prices seem a little high for some things, but nearly everything is homemade. I used canned tomatoes and canned beans, but I buy all raw meats and they’re expensive these days. I do it all myself in my home kitchen and keep it in one of my three home freezers, two which are part of a refrigerator. If you want to provide some of the ingredients, I’ll definitely give you a discount (I know some people who prefer venison to beef as its essentially free, and others who have their own bountiful amounts of veggies and fresh herbs). If you have any questions or have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, let me know and I’ll see if I can make something work for you. I have lots more recipes that I haven’t tried but am definitely willing to give a shot for anyone who’s interested. I’ve got two cookbooks full of recipes and if you’d like to look through them, just let me know. I’ll have to price ingredients, but that shouldn’t take very long.

Freezer cooking has been a tremendous thing for my family. I hate cooking and never would think ahead to make sure I had all the ingredients I needed, so we frequently ate fast food or sandwiches (when we had the right fixings) or lots of frozen mass produced entrees. Freezer cooking means I just have to sit down on Saturday or Sunday and plan out about four meals for the coming week (the other days are leftovers or someone else cooking) and get those dishes out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw. Then figure out a side for each meal and put that on my grocery list, if needed. Day of, everything is there and ready to go. I know so many people who are so busy with their daily lives because of work and children and this is something I’d recommend to everyone. And if you don’t have the time, I’m happy to do it for you.

I look forward to hearing from you!