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Everything I’ve Learned. . .

. . . I’ve learned from my kids.  Everything.

I’ve learned how to live.  I’ve re-learned how to love.  I’ve learned how to hold my tongue and I’ve learned that sometimes I let my crazy out a little too long.  I’ve learned how to laugh and how to suppress one when they’ve done something “naughty but good Lord that’s hilarious”.  I learned how to hold my face in just the right way so as not to cry when Gabe broke his arm… because momma needed to be tough but gah.  I just wanted to bawl.  I’ve learned that expensive toys are fun.. but blanket fort Fridays are the best.  I’ve learned that they haven’t had all the learning time that I’ve had and that I need to be a little more patient.  How to read a book with at least five different silly voices.  How to sing songs over and over just so they’ll have sweet dreams.  How to be tough.  How to let up.  How to be a mom and how to let my kids be kids… although, that is admittedly a work in process.  That said, I’ve learned more in 5.5 years than I had in 21.  And to say it’s been informative, hectic, and humbling?  That’s putting it lightly.

My kids, man.  They’re nuts.  And they make me nuts.  Like, with the-fire-of-a-thousand-suns crazy.  Or cray.  Or whatever the kids are calling chaos these days.

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I am most definitely not a typical mom.  In fact, I’m the least maternal kind of mom I’ve ever known.  I can be crazy impatient and shockingly distant seeming.  I detest shrill noises (hurts my ears like you wouldn’t believe) and, to be honest, before I had kids I had only met a handful of ankle biters that I genuinely liked.  I love babies in all their sweet little ways and cuddles and coos.  But babies grow into tiny heathens and have more energy than I could ever have.  And it’s not that I don’t like them.  It’s that I don’t know what to do with them.  You know… being the “old soul” that I am, and such.

At any rate… I have these two mad-chaotic little guys who make me nuts and tired.  And just when I think I’m about to lose every ounce of sanity I have left, one of them does something crazy-sweet that makes me fall in love with them all over again.  And harder than I had before.  Love, love, love, love… crazy love.  And I think that’s the beauty of this parenting thing.  I do.  I think parents, even the not-so-great-at-it kind like me, have this innate gift inside of them.  That no matter how disappointed or angry we are at the moment… there’s always the moment after.  Always the reminder.  And it’s not always a fuzzy feeling kind of reminder, either.  No.  Sometimes, it’s a cold, hard fact reminder.  Sometimes, it’s an eye-opener.  Sometimes… sometimes, it’s a blast to the past that reminds us of our own former, and even present, ways.  It is for me, anyway.  I see the kids making the same mistake I very vividly remember making myself occasionally and I scream to myself, “Oh my God… there’s the gene pool.”  And it is.  But in those moments, I eventually find peace and wisdom.  And a little lot of humility.  And I can calm down.. and calm them down.. and reassure them that, “Hey.  I’m a little disappointed.  And that’s okay.  Because you’re mine.  And I’m with you.  And you’re with me.  Always.”

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I ask myself to ask God on a regular basis why.  Why was I given these kids with these particular problem sets?  Why do I never seem to be going in the right direction or doing the right thing?  Why do I stammer over my words and flip-flop around like I’ve no brain at all?  Why???  And before I can even ask him all the why’s… it flies at me.  Because no matter how frustrating or humbling or fearsome parenting can be… it really is a gift.  Every time one of the boys hug me for absolutely nothing at all.  Every hand-print picture (I’ve kept them all.  Every one of them).  Every kiss, every “I need you”, every blessing at dinnertime when Gabe says, “God is grace, God is grace, let us thank him for our food”…. everything.  No matter how horrible I feel.  No matter how enraged I’ve been.  No matter the broken dish or the spilled milk or the fight over the toy.  It all sucks.  But, then again, it’s all good.

I’m hard on my boys.  And I’m hard on them for good reason.  Sometimes, I am too hard.  And I hate it.  I do, truly.  But I want them to grow up capable.  I want them to grow up smart and independent and motivated and determined.  Not scared, like me.  Not timid and bashful and silent like me.  I want them to use their voices; I want them to use their minds and vision.  I expect them to grow up to work for their life — not to make their life, but so they might have one worth living.  To see the world.. to experience and learn, always.  To have a “can do” attitude.  So that one day, they won’t be like their momma.. terrified to walk into a freshman course on their own.  Terrified to speak to a cashier.  Scared to death to move.

That’s how I was until I held my boys.  Scared of the world.  Scared to live.  Until I held their little bodies in my arms.  And all that fear hit me and then began to fade away.  When the boys took their first breath, they gave me a life I never knew.  Each gave me a key to my whole new life.  And so every morning I wake up.  I roll out of bed and begin the monotony that is adult life.  Not out of obligation.  But out of desire.  So they can hold their dreams… not just wish for them.  And I’ll be the first to tell you, 5 A.M. sucks.  It blows.  And so does rush hour.  And people who melt chocolate into their copiers (yep. that happened).  And temper tantrums.  And blow-out diapers.  And eating dinner at 8 o’clock.  And the list goes on, and on, and on.  But my life would suck all the more if I did not have my crazies.  If I didn’t have someone to come home to every night.  If I didn’t have someone who needed me so hard.  I waited a long time for someone to need me… not knowing that was what needed.

So, all you tired and exasperated mommas out there thinking you cannot possibly handle one more tantrum in Target or one more blow-out at the self check out?  Or, “Why on earth are the fish sticks sticking to the non-stick pan and could you please, please, please stop whining?!”  I’m with you.  A hundred and ten percent.  But you’re doing fine.  And, hey — therapy might not even be a thing in eighteen years.  So just hang in there.  Do your best.  Say you’re sorry when you should and hold firm when they need it.  And when the clock strikes bedtime, pour yourself a drink and know that I’m downing one, too.  Only one, though… because my kids have all the grace of a peg-legged goat on ice.  But that’s alright…. because they’re worth it.  Every last bit.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Whistle While You Work

So on the last post I was talking about monthly menus.  I actually just made up our May menu.  Have a look-see:

We’ll stick to that unless something unexpected happens.  This month, we have Mother’s Day, mine & Evan’s birthdays, and in a few Tuesdays I’m taking the kiddos to see my parents.  Those nights (and days!) we’ll wing it.  Other than that, this is what we’ve got.  You probably noticed that Thursdays are kind of lazy days.  You’d be right.  Gabe has speech and occupational therapy on Thursdays and I’ve started walking with a friend.  So on those days, quick and easy trumps most anything else.  The kids love breakfast for dinner, so Wednesday is our designated day for “dinfasts” (I’m working on a better name, I swear).  Some of the meals you see are family favorites and I’ll be sure to put the links at the bottom of the post if you’re so inclined to take a gander.

Anyway.  A few Fridays back I searched for a chore chart that I really liked for our little family.  For now, anyway.  We’re relatively fluid people, so this may change.  But for now this, from the Vintage Mother‘s blog, works great.  Gabe’s been doing this ever since and has been doing a fantastic job with it — hopefully it won’t backfire.  He’s five, after all — almost six! — and it’s time for him to hunker down and help out around the house.  He’s always been helpful, but because of time and other factors I’ve never taken the time to set up a chore schedule.  Now when he gets home, he knows he has homework, then playtime while I start dinner, chores, and dinner.  He can have 30 minutes of TV while I’m giving Connor his bath, and then it’s bath time for the Gabester, story-time, and finally (finally, finally) bed.  His chores are not super extensive or time-consuming, but what little he does saves me between 35 minutes to an hour depending on the kind of day we’ve all had.

Apologies for the shoddy picture.  It’ll do for the time being, I suppose:

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On Saturdays he has what I call “Wildcard Saturday”.  In addition to the chores he already has (excluding bathroom trash), he has to pick three more easy to moderate chores from our chore jar.  The chores can be anything ranging to helping me put up clothes, pulling weeds outside, wiping down counters, helping clean the yard, etc.  If he completes all of his chores at the end of each day, he gets a token for being a good helper.  Those tokens can be used for one-less a chore (to be used only on Saturdays), earn something special from the prize box, or pick a meal for the monthly menu.  At the end of the week, he gets a few quarters if he’s done all of his chores well without complaint.  And at the end of every month, he gets a special pizza night (hooray for a no cook night!).  Since it’s a new system, I’m sure I’ll do some tweaking at some point.  But for now it’s working and it’s been nice not to have to run around the house making sure everything is done by midnight every evening.

...Gabe DID ask for a pet the other day...

…Gabe DID ask for a pet the other day…

Connor is not excluded from this new system, although he’s still too little to have his own chart.  He helps me sweep (holding dustpan.. I always have to redo it, but it’s cool); he helps me put clothes in the dryer; and he picks up his own messes.  He even cleans off his own high chair tray after dinner (again, I have to redo it.  but whatever).  Maybe my house won’t look like such a man-cave sooner than I’d hoped!

Look below for recipes from our monthly menu!  Hope you find something you like.  Bon Appetit!
1) Honey BBQ meatloaf, Six Sisters Blog
2) Honey Baked Chicken + Potatoes, Cravings of a Lunatic
3) Sweet ‘n Sour Chicken, Favorite Family Recipes
4) Sausage Pasta Skillet, Dinners & Desserts
5) Chicken Milanese, Kraft Recipes
6) Cheesy Garlic + Brown Sugar Pork Chops, SkinnyMom
7) Chicken Broccoli Pockets, Chef in Training
8) Bacon Cheeseburger Quiche, Cupcakes & Kale Chips
9) French Dips, Yellow Bliss Road, + Homemade Fries, I Heart Naptime
10) Easy Jack Chicken w|Bacon, Oh Sweet Basil
11) Ham & Cheese Pinwheels, Chef This Up
12) Mexican Casserole, Noshing with the Nolands
13) Mississippi Roast + Gravy over Rice, Table for Two  (also great without the rice and on a hoagie)
14) Pork Carnitas, Aldi US
15) Ranch + Cheddar Chicken, Buns in My Oven, + Rolls, Instructables
16) Pepperoni Pizza Pasta, Kevin + Amanda (can be made vegetarian or with any other meat, I’m sure)
17) Rodeo Burgers, Julie’s Eats + Treats
18) Ranch Pork Chops, Hidden Valley

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On Budgeting and Monthly Menus

We’ve been getting our business going at full throttle here lately and because of this we’ve had to do some serious budgeting.  I’m not sure if any of you have ever started a business, but those of you who have know what I’m talking about.  New business = Ramen noodles and cold cuts.  Unless, of course, you were like… born into money.  In which case, send some of that cash-flow over our way.

At any rate, we’ve been cutting back here and there where we can.  I took this as an opportunity to cut back on grocery shopping because: A) I loathe Wal-Mart, but it’s the only grocery store around here that doesn’t price gouge and, B) I’ve been meaning to start a monthly menu that doesn’t completely revolve around grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and applesauce cups (don’t judge… at least I was feeding them.  Right?).

So I seized the day.. er.. Pinterest boards… and we’ve been monthly menu-ing it since February.  Let me just say… I freaking love it.  I go to the store ONCE, that’s right — ONCE, for our “big grocery shopping trip”.  I go with list in hand and buy only what’s on that list.  Nothing else.  The only things I go back for are milk, bread, and weekly produce, which I get on the weekends.  I’m in complete love with this system.  It’s infinitely cheaper (you would not believe how much money we were spending at Wal-Hell) and so much easier for all of us.  I typically go on the last Thursday of the month while Gabe is at OT & speech therapy.  I’m in and out in an hour.  Until February, I believed there was some unspoken law that no one could get out of Wal-Mart alive before his or her two and a half hour time slot.  It was something that I’d do on a Saturday morning, and by morning I mean 3:30.  PM., which would completely ruin the day and moods for all involved.  I’d grocery shop and would pick up take-out because hell no I’m not cooking for you heathens right now.

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Anyway.  It works like a charm and I’m a little embarrassed that I never did this before.  Some days we veer a little off track.  Like a few weeks back we were with the kids at the ER for various sick-ish reasons and I was not cooking Monterey Jack Chicken at midnight.  Sonic really stepped up their game that night.  And, really… who doesn’t love a late-night grilled cheese?  Just me?  Hmm.

I even stepped up my game and made an Excel spreadsheet of item costs.  A little above and beyond, you say?  Did you miss the part about budget?  I’ve allotted us a $350 grocery budget for the month.  And, truth be told, that’s a little extreme.  Because for the four of us for the month, weekend produce/milk/and bread trips included, I’ve been coming in well below that.  Like, ~$200 – $250 kind of below that.  It’s amazing.  If prices change (excluding sale and coupon costs), I simply change the amount on my spreadsheet.  I always know exactly how much I’m going to be out-of-pocket before I even make it to the register.  Seriously, y’all… if you haven’t tried this system, you really ought to give it a look-see.  It’s wonderful.  And for those of you who have been using this method for years?  Why haven’t you helped a girl out?  Secrets don’t make friends, guys.

Because this little venture turned out so beautifully, I’m branching out to other ideas and household organization tools.  This weekend I’m working on a chore chart/reward system for the kids.  Yes, kids.  If Connor, the 1.5 year old, can go put his plate in the trash and clean his tray by himself, then he can do other little things around the house.  Plus, I’m beyond tired of hearing, “Moooooom!  I’m bored!”  Trust me, they’ll never know what hit ’em.  And maybe my baseboards will stay clean.  Hashtag: wishful thinking.

Mommy Porn? More Like Fifty Shades of Red.

I’m a little late to this controversial Fifty Shades discussion.  But, having been referred to earlier this week as a “stupid Christian pro-lifer” because I stated that I didn’t care to see the film, I feel I must defend myself.  And perhaps “defend” is the wrong word choice.  Guess we’ll see.

I am a Christian.  Anyone who has eyes and has read my blog knows that I am staunchly pro-life.  However, I fail to see how either my religious or political/moral stances can vouch for my personal conviction for watching or not watching a movie.  Initially, I found myself somewhat offended by the lady’s remark.  That passed quickly and moved on to agitation.  I was with my oldest for a doctor’s appointment when the statement was made, and I was flabbergasted at how unprofessional and militant her attitude became when she realized that I had not read the books and did not plan on sitting in a cold, dark theater with thirty other lonely women for the movie.

Usually, I do not talk with office staff if for no other reason than they have other things to do than to occupy me.  However, on that particular day, Gabe and I had been in the waiting room for three hours and we were both antsy.  The receptionist turned on TV for Gabe, and since I don’t personally care for Doc McStuffins, I opted to speak to another adult who was literally staring at her desk.  Not paperwork — just her desk.  So we talked.  We talked about The Hobbit and other entertainment news that I actually knew something about.  Enter Fifty Shades.  I should have known better, I guess.  But I didn’t, and proceeded with our formerly pleasant conversation.

When I say the gears changed, I mean they changed faster than you could blink.  She turned hostile, quickly.  According to her, I didn’t know the character back-story (I do, too. But whatever.), and I was basing my opinion off my POLITICAL PARTY’S CONSERVATIVE SPECTRUM.  Um, what?  How many Republican senators, governors, etc. have cheated on their wives and hooked up with prostitutes?  Sexual morality/purity/conservatism has no party.  But instead of allowing myself to deliver an angry response in front of my son and the rest of the waiting room, I smiled and wished her well (through gritted teeth) and we left.  I’ve had some time to think of a rational response, and here is my reason for not watching ‘Fifty Shades of Grey':

I have two little boys.  I have two little boys that I am raising to be kind, sweet, courteous, and gentle, but also tough, masculine, and strong.  I want my little guys to grow up to be good men.  Men who are not stepped on by women, or anyone for that matter, but who are good to women.  I’m bringing up little boys who will hopefully be supportive and not emasculated by a strong mind in women.  I want them to stand their ground and be the man in their future relationships.  However, I do not want them to confuse “being the man” in a relationship with being cruel and vicious, or unsupportive and cold.  I don’t want them confusing “strong man” with sexism and rigidity.  I am “training”, for lack of a better word, my boys to be good men.  I am doing this not only for them and their personal future, but also so that they will in turn find a good woman.

I am not a perfect mom.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  But I do not do things in front of my kids that I wouldn’t want them to do when they’re young or older adults.  I try to not do those things when they’re not around.  If I would or could become embarrassed by my actions if Gabe or Connor walked in and saw me… oh, I don’t know.  Being obliterated-drunk.  Or watching or looking at porn.  Or…. whatever.  If I think I’d be embarrassed or would have to come up with an excuse… I try to avoid doing whatever it is.  I’m not always successful.  They see me overeat.  They hear me swear.  They’ve witnessed my awful road rage.  They’ve seen me do things that aren’t necessarily damning, but they’re things I wouldn’t want them to do.  I don’t dress provocatively or behave inappropriately in front of them, or without them, because I want them to grow up respecting a respectable image.

I’m not bashing anyone for their sexual preferences.  I’m not downing anyone for how they derive pleasure.  That’s none of my business.  You’re into sadomasochism?  Good for you; I’m not.  Obviously, my young kids aren’t either.  While I would never watch that in front of my kids, and I’m pretty sure most parents wouldn’t either, I have a hard time watching it without my kids.  Because I’m a mom.  And because I see my kids both as babies and future young men.  And the image that Christian Grey portrays is not an image that I would ever want my children to imitate.  Mr. Grey is, from what I can tell, a predator towards this specific (virginal) young lady.  The fact that he’s into S&M isn’t an issue for me.  Again, it’s all about preference.  The fact that his “partner” is a young, inexperienced girl… that’s a big issue for me.  And it’s big for me not only because I have two young boys, but it’s an issue for me because I have nieces.  And because I was that young, naive girl at one point.  And because of the on-going issues of sex trafficking and sexual abuse.  To me. . . . the hype of the hit books and movie is a bit of a double standard.  Not because of the sex — but because of the horribly mismatched “partnership”.  Here you have a barely out of adolescence young lady and lurking, sexually charged older guy.  How this has not hit everyone in the face like a brick is beyond me.

I’m not saying the author intended the story to pan out creepy or victimizing — but in my opinion, it’s exactly that.  There are romance novels, and then there’s this.  My point in all of this is not to offend.  My point is that I wish to produce and raise good, upstanding little boys so they will grow into good men.  Decent men.  Who would never raise a hand to a lady, but who won’t back down from their dreams and allow themselves to be stepped on.  If one day my kids are into S&M, fine.  I hope to God that they will be decent enough to not tell their momma.  I also hope that whomever they are involved with is on equal footing with that.. preference.  That’s all I’m saying.  So, out of respect for myself, my boys, and their future spouses — I won’t be watching, or reading, Fifty Shades.  Take it how you will.  This is just my preference.

I See, You See, We… ADHD

Most of you know by now that for a little over a year we’ve been trying to help Gabe get “straightened out” academically.  I say straightened out like it’s a bad thing — it hasn’t been, entirely.  It has been frustrating and at times I’ve felt a complete parental fail.  But it has been a learning process and has gifted our house with a different insight.  So, in short, not entirely bad.

At any rate, Gabe had officially-unofficially been diagnosed with SPD.  After seeing a few, in my momma bear-like opinion, quacks, we finally decided to hear out the “unbelievable” and give God’s hand in this a chance.

Gabe has “officially” been diagnosed with ADHD/ODD.  I have been so admittedly against an ADD/ADHD diagnosis because I believe that it is a “trendy diagnosis”.  Now, don’t get to hating on me, y’all.  I’m not saying ADD/ADHD isn’t a real thing, and I’m not saying some people don’t actually suffer from it.  But I have personally met some parents who have diagnosed his or her kid with that particular source of inattention, when, in fact, it is not always the case.  So, not trying to offend or disregard.  Just another opinion I happen to have.  Moving on.

Like I said, I have been staunchly against that particular diagnosis in Gabe, because even though he has shown a handful of symptoms as shown in ADHD kiddos, he definitely doesn’t display even half of them.  And ODD?  Absolutely not.  He may be a lot of things, but he most certainly is not the poster child for conduct disorders of any sort.  I have spent most of his life trying to figure him out — what makes him tick.  Granted, I don’t have a PhD in medicine or child psychiatrics.  But I know my boy like the back of my hand.  And I know that what makes that little brain tick is breathtaking — albeit, exhausting.  But things were not going well for my Gabe.  His inattention grew worse and his frustration with himself was pitiful.  To even look me in the eye, he had to hold both of his little hands up to his face.  Broke my heart every time.  So, I set aside my pride and “parenting skill”.  And it took every ounce of me to sit down, look that quack child psych in the eye, and tell him, “We’ll try a low dosage.  The lowest dosage you have.”

adhdHe’s an older guy, and right off the bat suggested Ritalin.  I’ve heard horror stories of that particular drug, and have even had the opportunity to witness what it’s capable of — regardless of the “1%”.  I swung back and said, “Absolutely no Ritalin.  If that’s all you’ve got, then this is completely off the table.”  There was another stimulant that could take it’s place, and, because I’d conversed with Gabe’s pediatrician previously about the second choice, I agreed.  As his relief shown through as what I’m sure he dubbed “an easy case,” a lump in my throat grew that I hope to never feel again.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t even give my kids Tylenol unless they’re on death’s doorstep.  So, pretty much never.  My kids have been blessed with excellent health, and I’m pretty much anti medicine unless it’s absolutely necessary.  No sense in botching up a perfectly good immune system.  So this medicine really sent me over the edge.  I felt I’d failed Gabe and that I pretty much needed to turn in my momma-card.  We left, and I cried all the way home.  No one could console me, and I wanted no consoling.  Not because I wanted to be pitiful and pathetic.  After all, this wasn’t, AND ISN’T, about me.  But I didn’t want my guilt swept under the rug, either.  I’d let down my boy — and he had no idea.

You’re probably shaking your head thinking I’m a complete idiot.  And you’d be right.  “She’s taking this too seriously.”  Maybe I am.  But maybe not.  Before criticisms begin to take flight, I need you PARENTS to sit down and think about anything you’ve ever done, no matter how petty or seemingly insignificant, to or for your child that afterward left you feeling worthless.  It could be not making it to a tee ball game, or telling your daughter for the fiftieth time, “No!  You cannot wear that to…wherever.”  Or canceling plans because work gets in the way.  Or sickness.  Or whatever.  And no matter how stupid it is to the rest of the world, it’s SOMETHING to you.  It’s not stupid.  It’s not silly.  And it hurts you to your very core.

That’s how I felt about this situation with Gabe.  I’ve sworn never to medicate for the sake of medicating.  I swore never to medicate if there were other options available.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  We absolutely vaccinate our kids.  I feel that is important for my own reasons — reasons that I’m not nearly in the mood to get into right now.  But medicating for the sake of it… giving Tylenol every five seconds for a sneeze?  Nope.  Not my style.

Also not my style?  Not being able to figure things out for my kids on my own.  I’m the momma.  It’s my job to figure things out.  It’s my job to handle up on things.  Because they can’t right now.  And I should be able to.  So telling myself that going gluten-free wasn’t working, and OT heavy work wasn’t working, and running off energy at home wasn’t working, or prize boxes, behavior charts, begging, pleading, crying, removing red-dye… none of it worked.  I’d failed.  I’d crashed, burned, and drowned in failure.  All of my great ideas… they bombed.  As a result, Gabe is exceedingly far behind in kindergarten.  We’re holding him back a year so he can catch up before actual testing begins.  I’ve made some bad choices with good intentions.  And, ultimately, because of my stubborness and fear, I’ve let him down all over again.  Trial after trial.  Error upon error.  I’ve failed him.  And, per usual, it hurts me to my core.  I love that kid.  And I swear, I never meant for this to go on so long.

Oddly enough, Gabe’s speech therapist coaxed me into giving meds a shot.  I trust her implicitly… and Gabe loves Ms. “Anee”.  Other people have suggested the same, and I’ve shot them down for various reasons.  But this kind lady has had many one-on-one meetings with this kiddo.  Some good, some not so great.  And I believe that she, as much as an acquaintance can, loves my boy.  So I took a daunting leap of faith.  And I’m not going to lie — it’s been hard.  Gabe is still adjusting to it all.  His emotions are all over the place for a bit after it leaves his system.  He sleeps a little more restlessly.  But, overall, he is okay.  And, as far as one can tell, he is doing fine.  His grades and attention have improved.  His attitude has taken a turn for better.  And it doesn’t hurt that I’m keeping serious tabs on him by way of his teachers (sorry, ladies!).  And I’m slightly pained to say I was wrong.  I was wrong.  So far.  I’m still watching for things like a hawk — but only because I’ve researched the meds.  And I’m learning new things about my little guy that I’ve never known.. and better yet, relearning things about him, and myself, that I’ve let slip to the bottom.

No, I’m not 100% sold on the diagnosis.  I’m still convinced that it’s an over-used thing because it’s easiest to pinpoint.  But I’m dealing.  And I’m trying to let go of my stubbornness — which is challenging in-and-of-itself. And I’m not nearly happy with my decision.  But I’m coming around.  And I’m enjoying Gabe coming home ecstatic that he received five A+’s in a row.  And, as luck would have it, he still loves his momma.

And Lord Almighty… I love that little boy of mine.

The Unfathomable Gift

It’s Christmastime once again.  Hardly feels that way, though.  Unlike our bitterly cold winter last year, this year has been unseasonably warm for winter’s sake — yet, seasonably normal for Louisiana.  Louisiana Christmas usually equals cool-ish and rainy…. much like today, as a matter of fact.

Also unlike last year, Ev and I have two little guys who are simply Christmas-ravished instead of just Gabe who, last year, could not figure out why Connor was so ambivalent about all the festivities.  Both boys are excited for different reasons;  Connor is in awe of the lights and all the pretties in the house (he’s still pretty blase` about the whole gift thing — you’ve seen one rowdy toy, you’ve seen ’em all), while Gabe has finally set his sights on Santa Claus and gift-getting.  I am pleased to say, though, that he is generous minded and is just as excited about giving gifts as he is receiving.  Every time we pass a Salvation Army bell-ringer he begs to drop a coin in their bright red pail — even if it’s something as small as a penny.  A mere token to most is super-gratifying for him; he beams a shy grin every time he hears, “thank you & merry Christmas!” from whomever is manning the post.

I’m not overly concerned yet that my kids will become so infatuated with gift-getting.  We don’t spoil them throughout the year, and even at Christmas they are not over-whelmed with gifts.  As much as we enjoy doing for them, we know that over-loading would be detrimental to their childlike spirit of Christmas and try to keep everything at a minimum.  We decorate the tree and this year we painted our first advent calendar; there are decorations in the house and lights strung around it; gifts under the tree, Frost on TV and hot cocoa to be had.  We keep it festive, for sure.  But we also keep it real.  Since Gabe is old enough to sort-of comprehend the real meaning of Christmas this year, I’ve really been preaching it even more than Santa Claus.  He’s learned so far that candy canes were originally made to resemble both the “J” of Jesus (ask Gabe what “J” stands for and he’ll gladly yell, “Ummm, JESUS!”) and the shepherd’s staff.  He also learned that the bold red stripes symbolize his blood and the white stripes signify that because of the red stripes, we are washed “white as snow” (he really liked that part).  We watched a kid-friendly movie earlier that (here’s the link if you’re interested) really described all the details put into Christmas… from the origin of Christmas to the reason we use Christmas trees, etc.  He is excited to learn all these new (to him) things, and I’m pretty excited to share them with him.

I’m so glad that he is beginning to understand that, while it’s okay to believe in Santa and have holiday fun, the true meaning of Christmas was a gift so unfathomable to us all.  Something that, even as Christians, we cannot fully comprehend.  I, for one, could not imagine allowing one of my kids to die for a world that most definitely would not do likewise for one of them.  And I most selfishly could not give one of them up for my own good — I carried them in my body nine months.  I carried them in my arms when they could not walk — and still do when they are tired or sad.  I will carry them in my heart until it ceases to beat.  I could not and would not give them to a world who, I feel, does not deserve their innocence.  So it is hard for me to understand why Mary — or, greater still, God — gave their Son to die a death so undeserved to him.  Why he would feel every pain and every dark moment from the time he was put on the cross and to times far beyond that.  I cannot understand.  And, frankly, I don’t want to.  Some things are better left alone.  Right?

Anyway.  I heard something on the radio this morning that I want to share with you guys, and then I’m going to jet.  There is a passage in John 8:1 – 30 that tells of a woman brought before Jesus for adultery.  By Old Testament law, she was to be stoned for her crimes — an experience I’m afraid she would have endured if the Pharisees would have had their way.  The Pharisees said, “…this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  And do you know what he said?  He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And it hit me right there in my car like a brick to the face.  Not one of the Pharisees could cast stones; they were not without blame.  But there was one there blameless.  One who had a right to cast stones.  But he did not.  Instead, he forgave her by saying this, “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, right?  Hang in there.

Her not being stoned is not exactly our greatest gift.  But right there, in that very moment, she experienced her own greatest moment of Grace.  She was pardoned.  She was set free.  And of course she would go forth and sin — she was human.  But at that moment, she was set free.  Really, she had been set free the day of his birth.  We all were.  Christmas is a day of giving.  We were given the ultimate and unfathomable gift of new life from a little one who would do no harm — who would commit no wrong.  It’s a beautiful story that I am proud to tell my kids.  It’s a story that I hope, one day, they will tell their own children.  We celebrate Christmas (or Christ’s Mass) for the most incomparable gift that can never be returned and that always fits: Hope.manger-to-the-cross

Merry Christmas, y’all.  And in case I’m not back in touch before January, Happy New Year.

Pocket Protein Kidz — and a Promo Code!

Recently, I was contacted by Pocket Protein to help launch their new campaign: Pocket Protein Kidz — a convenient, great tasting protein drink.  An added plus for our family?  It is also gluten and lactose free.

You may or may not know that our oldest, Gabe, has Sensory Processing Disorder.  We have decided to go a natural-route to help put at bay the “side-effects” of SPD, and one of the more obvious natural remedies is to cancel out gluten products from his diet.  We have seen significant changes in his behavior, and even his speech, so we are pretty pumped to keep him on the diet.  There are food choices available that any five year old loves (gluten-free chicken nuggets, for example), but sometimes the prices can be substantially more expensive or the products are just hard to find.  GF products are relatively hard to find around this area, so I’m beyond excited to have this opportunity to dish on a snack food that is not only healthy, but also gluten-free!

We received our “for adults” test product  last night and I was so pumpedDSC_0210 to try it out.  Gabe was, too, because it’s not often I let him snack before dinner.  He loved it — and begged me for another!  The taste is great — not overly protein-y tasting (it has 15g of protein!) and the pouch design is ideal for Gabe’s lunchbox or even just a snack on the go.  Bonus points: it’s only 60 calories.  Hear that, moms?  60 calories!

Pocket Protein Kidz has 7g of protein and only 15 calories!  Perfect for post-sporting event and after school snacks.  Additionally, Pocket Protein Kidz is never sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  Instead, it is made with real apple juice and all-natural sweeteners: stevia and erythritol.pack-fruit

The makers at Pocket Protein are so excited to launch this new, healthy product that they have given me a special promo code for a 15% discount*!  Just click on the following ling and use promo code MOMMA while placing your order!

What are you waiting for?  Give your kids an added boost in school and a pep in their step on the soccer field.  Plus, with the cool packaging and great taste, you’ll be the coolest mom around!  Remember — Pocket Protein is not only healthy and protein packed, but it’s also gluten, lactose, and nut free!  Finally, a snack that all kiddos (and their mommas!) can agree on.

*THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: RECEIVE 20% OFF USING PROMO CODE, MOMMA.

**Plus, buy six, donate six; all pre-orders help a needy child and you will be entered to win a $500 Visa giftcard.  Click here.

-Sarah