"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

It's nearly Memorial Day weekend.  It's been a good week with lots of sunshine (and you all know how I love the sunshine).
Last Sunday we had our last Community Group of the semester and met for snow cones.  Because, really, who doesn't love a snow cone?  Nobody, that's who.  The 13 kiddos in our group range from not yet born to 13 years old.  Eleanor does play with the few kids her age, but she's really quite sweet on Gabe (I think he's 8 years old).  He likes to act like he doesn't like it, but he's really great with her.  She kept patting him on the back and hugging him so he tried to escape. His sweet smile says how he really feels about the attention :) 
 We have really enjoyed getting to know the people in our Community group over the last 9 months and have made some great new friends that we spend time with in and out of the community group setting.  It's really helped us plug in to our new church and become more involved.  We have fun with these people, but we are also learning and growing together in the word.  A gal from community group is the one that invited me to attend the women's Bible study this past semester and in the fall I will be co-leading a small group on Wednesday mornings.  Drew and one of the guys from our group meet for breakfast before work every other week to have a one on one Bible study.  A couple of months ago we applied for Eleanor to attend the Adventureland children's ministry (much like a Mother's Day Out) two days a week for the 2017-2018 school year.  A couple of weeks ago she got her class assignment and we're super excited for her to have this opportunity (she'll start in August).  Drew and I will also be taking the Discovery class in the fall, which is a great way to learn more about the church, missions, service opportunities, etc. and can be a great path to membership in the church.  We are grateful that we listened when God prodded us to make such a big change last summer.  He's working and it's awesome.
Braeden's last baseball game of the season.  Eleanor & Kayla, these two are quite a pair.  You should have heard the giggles! 
 I can't even tell you how many photos I took before I got one of them both looking at the camera.  It was a fleeting moment and then they were back to being silly and laughing. 
  Braeden pitched and did awesome.  It's really cool to see Kyle coach his son and it gives me flashbacks of Dad coaching the boys so many years ago. 
 Me & Misty, because we're cute :)
 Eleanor planks.  She's such a wiggle worm. 
Post game
 Thursday morning sausage & eggs for breakfast.  She was bursting with excitement.  Please tell me this makes you smile. 

 Eleanor and I bough a memorial spray for Grandma & Grandpa's headstone.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I guess I was thinking that she wouldn't think much of it, actually.  I was wrong.  I told her we were going to put flowers on Grandpa's grave, but she didn't get it.  When we left she cried and cried for Grandpa Whimpy.  I didn't know how to help her understand and my standard explanation of "Grandpa's in heaven, but this is where we come to remember him" just wasn't cutting it.  I finally just had to end the whole thing and move on with our day.  I hadn't realized it would upset her so. 
 She had gone to the cemetery with me the day before to take Alex & Emma's old flowers down and then to Hobby Lobby to buy flowers to make new ones.  She stopped and talked to an elderly woman in the floral section and when the lady asked her who those flowers were for, Eleanor said, "Emma."  She's been quite chatty about them since then.  I made these memorial sprays for the girls and we put them on yesterday. 
 Because the sun was shining and Eleanor had energy to spare, we went to the park to play.  I was having a fantastic hair day and thought you'd all need proof that my big, curly, wild, sassy hair was looking so "Mandy".  Seflie evidence.  

 Bubbling with excitement & energy. 

 The weather this weekend could be iffy, but there should also be some great sunshine and we plan to take advantage of every bit of it.  Please, enjoy your family & friends responsibly and take a moment to remember the service men and women who gave their lives so we could live ours. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Hour

Could someone please explain to Eleanor that a one hour is not an acceptable nap.  Remind her of how yesterday afternoon went after only a one hour nap.  Refresh her memory of the screaming and yelling and crying and general misery experienced by all. 
While you're at it, maybe mention that all this whining and fussing of late is not cool.  It's SO NOT COOL.  Peer pressure her.  Threaten her.  Whatever you have to do... just make the whining and crying and fussing STOP. 

Eleanor has been extra intense this past week and it's exhausting.  I may have shed a few tears over the sheer difficulty of keeping my cool with the irrational toddler of the house.  Toddlers are hard for me, y'all.  Toddler wrangling is not my parenting forte.  It's a good thing we love her so darn much.  Also, she's cute.  Seriously cute. 
Quick pictures before church yesterday.  
The peeking out the front door pictures is becoming a trend around here.  That's because it's sometimes the only way I can get her to stand still long enough for a picture.  But really, look how sweet her little dress is. 
 She had just peed in the potty and gotten a Minnie Mouse sticker for her victory.  She put it on her chin and told me she had a beard. 

People have asked her her name before and she would just stare at them.  Yesterday she patted her chest and said, "Name Eleanor".  (You have to know she's saying Eleanor to understand that's what she's saying, but it's still adorable.  It sounds more like "Nenore" when she says it.)  When she patted me and asked, "Name?" I just said "Mommy".  Drew said, "That's not your name."  To her it is!  She called her Daddy "Drew" the other day and my jaw dropped.  I swear, if this kid starts calling me Mandy then I may lose my mind.  I have a hard enough time when she just calls me Mom.  It's Mommy.  Call me Mommy.  You're a toddler.  You call me Mommy. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017


It's been a weird week for me.  I thought I had a bit of a camping hangover on Monday because I just had a really hard time getting going and getting anything done all day.  Eleanor was out of sorts and I was grumpy and it was just weird.  Then I realized it was only partially about readjusting after a 5 day camping trip.  It was mainly a Mother's Day thing.  It's a weird day for me.  There are just so many emotions that don't necessarily jive and fit into the "I love my kids, look at my pretty bouquet of flowers" commercial Mother's Day box. 
I have three children.  The first two died. The third was birthed by another woman. 
I miss Alex & Emma at strange times and it's not always on the days you would suspect.  Mother's Day makes my heart hurt in intimate ways that I can't really express in words.  I miss them something awful.  That's all I can say about it. 
Of course, I'm over the top grateful for Eleanor.  She is mine and my heart overflows with joy and love for this child, but I can't experience those feelings without acknowledging her birth mom.  It's a big, heavy, overwhelming emotion that I suppose I will carry for the rest of my life. 

"A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy & the depth of that privilege are not lost on me."  -Jody Landers

So, yeah, it's been a weird week of emotions for me.  That's about as vulnerable as I can be right now. 

As I browsed through the photos on my phone from this week, I see that the week has mainly been about food.  I'm so exciting. 
Two weeks ago we took Eleanor off of dairy to see if that would help her constipation problems.  I think it's still too soon to say if it's working.  What I can tell you is that the child loves cheese and continues to ask for it.  Soy cheese?  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  I can't blame her there, it smells like butt.  I couldn't handle it either.  Almond milk?  Nope.  Vanilla almond milk?  Nope.  Soy milk?  Nope.  Not gonna drink any of that and she thinks it's a mean joke to make her try.  (She was drinking pediasure, but that has milk proteins so she can't have it right now.)  I was getting concerned about her getting the nutrients she needs, but I found these non-dairy yogurts.  She really likes them, they have protein & calcium & other good stuff, and if I add chia seeds then that's just more good stuff. 

As for me and my food... my weight has been pretty stable for the last few years.  I'm technically a bit over where "they" say I should be, but my body has been pretty happy there.  I pretty well eat what I want, stay active, and keep an eye on my weight.  Recently I started creeping up the scales a bit and decided I best get back on track before that 5 pounds becomes 25 pounds.  I just want to feel good, be happy, and enjoy doing awesome stuff with my family & friends... so I pay attention and try to stay in a good place for my body.  Weight Watchers has really helped Drew & I in the past, so I signed back up for a short stint of Weight Watchers and we're giving it a go.  For the record, I am allotted 30 points a day.  (Drew isn't officially doing the program, he's just eating what I give him.) 
These protein shakes have been fantastic for Drew & I because they are low calorie & low carb, but high protein (for WW followers, that means that one shake is only 2 points and that's TOTALLY a good thing).  They really help keep me full for longer and keep me from over eating during the day.  I'm a grazer, so I need all the help I can get.  Wet get ours at Sam's Club and they are about $16 for a 12 pack, but I think you can buy 4 packs in the nutrition/supplement section of Walmart or Target. 
I do still eat throughout the day (because, hello, I like to eat), but I'm trying super hard to make better decisions.  My favorite lunch this week has been a roll up with two slices of hickory turkey, a bit of mayo, and a handful of spinach with a gala apple on the side.  The whole plate = 2 points.  Tip that I had forgotten but am employing again: use a smaller plate.  You can fill up a smaller plate and your eyes will tell you that you have a full meal.  If I had put this on a full size plate, my eyes would have said, "Yeah, but where's the rest of it?"  

 I had a hair appointment Thursday and, since I was by myself, I treated myself to Panda Express on the way home.  I wanted to make a better selection, so I looked up my choices & point values before I got there.  I don't even want to tell you what my normal selection would have cost me.  A lot.  Tons.  Like, can't eat for the next 2 days kind of points.  Not worth it.  So I ordered a small broccoli beef and patted myself on the back for making such a great decision.  I actually laughed out loud when they handed it to me.  Y'all, this little box fit in the palm of my hand.  I suppose that it's a normal sized portion, but it's a fraction of what I would normally have eaten.  I must admit, though, that I felt satisfied with this small portion and one egg roll that totaled 11 points. 
 Other things I'm doing with my diet (for my own reference down the road when I need a refresher):
  • eat lots of fruits & veggies (they are 0 points and often satisfy my need to just eat something)
  • drink lots of water
  • flavored coffee creamer isn't worth it & I can survive without coffee
  • protein helps keep me full so that I don't crave as much of the starchy carbs that I mindlessly snack on
Eleanor is a decent eater, but it's hit and miss.  I got a bit over confident when she was younger because she was such a great eater.  Now she's pickier and I sometimes struggle to think of new things that I can feed her and how to give her all she needs (especially without dairy).  One thing I absolutely don't want to do is get into a food battle with her.  If I know anything about my daughter, it's that telling her she has to do something is just a really great way to guarantee that she won't do it.  (She's is her mother's daughter.)  I read an article the other day that claims these words as the simple solution.  "You don't have to eat it."  Article HERE

...Ellyn Satter’s groundbreaking 2000 book Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, and it was literally a life-changing read. Satter, a registered dietitian nutritionist and family therapist, promotes a “division of responsibility” for meals: the parent decides when to eat, what to serve, and where to serve it, and the child decides whether and how much to eat

I've sort of taken that approach with Eleanor anyway, but I'm being a big more mindful about it this week.  So even if I'm pretty sure she won't like something, I put it on her plate anyway.  When she protests I just say, "You don't have to eat it".  That wasn't quite enough for her and she wanted it completely out of her area, so I just showed her that if she doesn't like it then she can put it "right here" (the cup holder of her tray).  She was satisfied with that option and took the time to separate the things she does like from the things she doesn't.  There wasn't a fuss and no food was thrown on the floor.  She never did chow down on the blueberries or the green beans, but when it became a non-issue I caught her take a bit of each.  She didn't like it and didn't continue, but she tried and it that's good enough for me right now. 

 Our Ft. Smith friends Stacey & Punky and their youngest son stayed at our house last night.  It was fun to visit with them and just hang out.  I didn't take a single photo, but Stacey took this photo of Eleanor this morning because I'm so impressed with the portrait setting on the new iPhone 7plus camera.  Ain't she pretty? 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Buffalo Point: Part 2

Saturday's weather was beautiful and we did a ton of hiking.  I had thought that we'd spread these two or three small hikes over a couple of days, but we would up doing it all in one day and going farther than I had expected.  (Drew's a great motivator and it was all so beautiful.) 
We drove to the Rush Historic District for our first hike.  In the late 1800's they discovered zinc mines and the town (and the demand for zinc) was at its peak during World War 1.  As the zinc and demand for zinc fizzled, the town fizzled.  The last resident officially left in the 1950's and what remains is a pretty amazing stamp from history.  A few buildings have been left standing for people like us to see and learn from, many other structures have been reclaimed by the forest. 
 Smelter.  In the beginning of the mining in this area, somebody thought they found silver, so they built a smelter.  Turns out it wasn't silver and the smelter was never needed.  Oops.  It's still really cool to see. 

 This tree was pretty awesome.  It was obviously injured at some point in its life, but it kept growing.  The tree broke, but it somehow healed and kept growing.  It's branches are growing up to the sky.  I'm certain that there is a life lesson here. 
 The hike along the mine level is pretty cool because you can see some of the mine entrances. 

 The hike at Rush was awesome and fairly short.  Don't get me wrong, I got my heart pumping a bit, but it was only about a mile hike and not a ton of elevation change.  When we got back in the truck, Eleanor fell asleep!  We took the opportunity to just drive and explore the area.  What beautiful country!  She slept about 45 minutes then popped her head up, opened her eyes, and said, "I LOVE YOU!"  We drove back to Buffalo Point where I wanted to hike the first part of Indian Rockhouse Trail.  The entire loop is about 3 miles with about a 500 foot elevation change, so I thought we'd just hike the first stretch to the waterfall and then turn around.  I mean, we're fairly new to the hiking thing and we have a toddler in tow. 
We had some other hikers not far behind us, so we asked them to take our picture when we stopped to enjoy the waterfall.  Look!  It's me in a picture! 
 Then Drew said, "We may as well keep going."  Eleanor was having a great time and didn't want out, so we just kept hiking.  We stopped about half way at the Natural Bathtub to let Eleanor get out and stretch, explore this smallish cave and catch our breath.  I only fell down once.  True story.  The rock was wet.  My feet flew right out from under me and I landed square on my rear.  Good thing I have some padding back there.  I was not holding Eleanor and, as last time, the only thing injured was my pride.  

 There is a point where the trail that leads you to the rockhouse meets up with the trail that heads back to the trailhead.  We chose to take that and shave about a mile off of our hike and I'm glad we did.  Y'all, the climb back up made me feel like a fat girl on The Biggest Loser.   My heart was pumping and my thighs were screaming.  Drew was a great encourager, especially considering that he was hauling 25 pounds of Eleanor in backpack that weighs about 7 pounds.  Eleanor was AWESOME.  She did the whole thing like a rock star.  A rock star that didn't have to do the physical part, but didn't complain about going along for the ride.  At one point, as I was struggling my way up the hill, Drew said, "Eleanor is playing with my neck sweat."  I doubled over in laughter.  When we reached the top we felt like champions of the world.  Drew and Eleanor were humming the Rocky theme song with their arms up in the air.  I barely caught their victory pose. 
 Back to the campsite.  The rain from previous days meant the river had gone back up some and was awfully muddy again, so we filled up a bucket with water, put Eleanor's swim suit on, and we just let her play & splash.  It was ADORABLE.  Drew was giving her things to throw in the water to see if they would sink or float.  Best picture from the whole trip...

It turned out to be a really great trip, we had fun exploring, and I'm glad we went.  That being said, I don't think we would want to make the trip to the lower Buffalo again.  The upper Buffalo River is much closer if we wanted the river experience.  Since we aren't floating the river with a toddler, I think there are plenty of other places that we'd rather visit in the future.  We are going to the White River, just below Beaver Dam in a couple of weeks and that will be our 5th place to camp this year.  Neither of us have camped there since we were teenagers and we're looking forward to it.  After that, we will start revisiting some of our favorite places to camper camp with a little one.  We are both looking forward to revisiting Roaring River and Devil's Den this summer. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Buffalo Point: Part 1

On Wednesday we packed up and headed out for what was to be our longest (and farthest from home) camping trip to date: Buffalo Point on the lower Buffalo River. 
Drew & I were pumped.  The look on Eleanor's face pretty much sums up her excitement over the 3 hour ride in the truck.  It's no secret that she's not the best car rider and the trip to the lower Buffalo was no exception, but we made it. 
 Hot and steamy weather for day 1.  Eleanor + cup of ice = happy, filthy toddler

 Our truck was struggling a bit on the way down to the campground and ultimately Drew decided that it was best to not try to pull the camper home through the hills until it was tended to, so... on Thursday we left the camper and made the one hour drive back to Harrison to the Ford dealership for some work that should have been done a long time ago.  They were great to work us in on no notice, but 5 hours is a long time in the dealership waiting room. 
 Shame on us for not paying attention to those few things much earlier, but praise be to God that we were able to find a place to fix the problem when it became necessary.  Rotors, brakes, a new belt, alignment, and a tire sensor later... we were out a large chunk of money and headed back to the river.  It's definitely not how I wanted to spend the first full day of our  vacation or what I wanted to do with that much money, but the truth is that it all worked out, the work was done properly, the truck is pulling the camper great now, and we had the money to pay for it.  God is good. 
Also, this is noteworthy.  The toddler that doesn't sleep in the car... sleeping in the car!  Somehow, the multiple extended trips in the truck seem to have broken her car riding difficulties.  Knock on wood, we may have figured out a few tricks and crossed the line into more tolerable toddler travel. 
 We made it back to the campground in time for the rain to arrive. 
 Daddy showed her how to reach out and play in the water running off the awning.  She was tickled pink. 
Rain, rain, rain.  Thank goodness for movies in the camper. 
 Friday.  Still raining.  Drew cooked breakfast under the awning and then we decided that we could either sit around all day or we could go find something fun to do. 
 We've driven by the signs for Mystic Caverns hundreds of times in our lives, but neither of us could ever remember going.  So, we went.  We made the nearly hour drive back to the caverns. 
 Waiting for the tour. 

 I haven't really worn Eleanor in quite a while, since she's getting so big and is much more interested in walking (and running and jumping and climbing) these days. But this time, I was glad I had put it in the truck.  We tried a new hip carry and it worked pretty great for a situation in which she absolutely wouldn't have been safe on her own two feet. This picture was between tours (there are two caverns) and she just wanted down, hence the blah expression on her face. 

 The caverns were really beautiful and gave us something fun and unexpected to explore on our rainy vacation day.  I only fell once.  True story.  No mommies or toddlers were harmed during the touring of the damp and slick caverns.  Well, my pride was hurt a bit, but nothing else.
Back to the river and by evening it finally stopped raining.  Drew got the fire going to make dinner and Eleanor and I walked down to the river.  She was happy to be on her own feet and exploring a bit. 

 Dinner, y'all.  We're getting better at this camp cooking business. 
After dinner we walked back down to the river with Daddy for a bit of fishing and splashing.   She's becoming quite the daddy's girl and I love it. 

 Sticking close to Daddy.
 Contemplating the water and rocks. 
 In the water, throwing rocks, and squealing for more. 

Crying because Mommy won't carry her around now that she's soaked from the waist down.  
Back to the camp site and into dry clothes... and obviously delirious from the fun and excitement of the day. 
Stay tuned for "Buffalo Point: Part 2", also known as "the part of our vacation without rain and truck troubles.