Friday, April 25, 2014

Texas Bluebonnet Photo Shoot

I decided this year that I was going to take Wesley's photos in a bluebonnet field. There's something beautiful about getting a chaotic toddler to sit on the ground near a busy street in order to capture perfect photos that express only negative memories. And yet, I was convinced I'd do it.

On Good Friday, after Jarrod went up to church, I set off on a walk with Wesley. I saw a field of bluebonnets near a park by our house and thought it would be the perfect backdrop for our photo shoot. The sun was setting so the lighting was perfect. I changed Wesley into a cute outfit (that I got out of the dirty hamper) and we set out for the park.

The park was a lot farther away than I thought. Things in the car seem so much closer than they do on foot with a stroller! We walked for about 40 minutes but Wesley was a champion. When we arrived it was the perfect place to take pictures. We were far enough away from the street and there was a pretty walking trail right next to the bluebonnets.

At first Wesley wouldn't sit down in the flowers. He said he was scared. But then I nabbed this beauty.
After that, the real fun started.
He loved sitting IN his Easter basket. (I made his Easter basket. The tutorial is available here!)
But then he took off running. The path was no where near the street so I allowed him to run off some energy.




 Bye, Mama! 


Right before we needed to leave I asked him to sit down again. I got him to sit so that the setting sun was behind me to capture his beautiful eyes. 




Sorry for the overload of pictures, but I just couldn't decide. I took about 70 pictures and had 15 that I loved enough to edit. I give literally all the credit for any half decent pictures of Wesley to Better Mom Shots. Monica taught me everything I know about capturing good pictures of my sweet boy. I couldn't be happier with how they turned out.  

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Our 2 year old - Update of all things Wesley

Wesley turned 2 in January and has continued to astound us with the incredible things he's learned. His temper tantrums, independence, and strong-willed nature make our life a struggle, but the amazing things make it all worth it.

About a month ago I was wearing a leadership t-shirt. It had a cross on it and Wesley pointed to it and said, "Jesus!" I don't know where he learned that, but I was so proud! Since then we will talk about Jesus and tell him about Jesus. Of course we were doing that before, but now he seems to know what we're talking about. We got a new children's Bible - Spark Story Bible - the best one I have ever seen! We read it to Wesley and tell him about Jesus. He points to pictures of Jesus and says Jesus in the cutest little voice. It's really opened us up to have more conversations with Wesley about what we believe. The other day on our way to church he said, "Jesus is strong!" It was adorable.

Wesley loves to sing. He's always has a love of music, but recently started singing. With passion. I catch him singing his fave - Twinkle, Twinkle - in the backseat on our way home from school. He was too shy to sing in front of people for a while, but it wasn't until recently that he would perform. His favorites are the ABCs, Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle, Jingle Bells, and Jesus Loves me.

I'm not sure what is cuter. :-)

I wrote about how Wesley is now potty trained. We still have an accident now and then, usually when he's playing too hard to remember to go potty, but he's doing a great job.We tell him all the time how proud of him we are. It's not perfect - on Sunday he peed on his shoes in the nursery at church. I had to carry him 7 miles to the car in the rain to rush home to get new shoes in time to come back for the end of church and the Easter Egg hunt. Awesome. But he's trying and is 95% potty trained, which is as good as I can expect of just about anyone, right?

Wesley counts. The first time I noticed it was about 6-7 months ago. I figured it was time for him to learn to count and while I was taking his shoes off I said, "One..." His response? "TWO!!!" I guess he learned to count at school! Since then counting has become a huge part of our lives. We count all the time. Wesley typically counts like this, "One Two Three Seven Nine Ten Twelve One Three!" Exactly.

I know there are different opinions about correcting the silly little things kids say, but I'm all for keeping it cute as long as possible. No one will go to college saying "Chickmonk" or "up slide down". (I won't say who I know that has said those things...) Wesley's first word like that is "Gasket ball." He can say his Bs, but he doesn't at the beginning of basket. It's adorable and I'll never correct him. Someday he will start saying Basketball and I might shed a little tear.

There's our update. He's opinionated, stubborn, moved 100 miles/hour during every waking moment, and is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Carry On, Warrior - Giveaway!

Last week I share my story about battling anxiety. Today I'm giving you a chance to win your own copy of a hugely influential book - Carry On, Warrior. If you aren't familiar with Glennon, you need to stop everything and head over to Momastery right now.

Carry On, Warrior has been out in hardcover for a while. I read it in about 3 days. It was amazing. I cried. I read a lot of it out loud to my (very supportive and forgiving) husband. I was moved to do hard things. I quote it at least once a week, rarely giving credit where it is due. (Sorry, Glennon!)

Last week the book came out in soft cover. Seriously, how amazing is that? I adore soft cover books. They are easier to toss in my purse. They are cheaper. They are less pretentious than their hard-cover counterparts. They are just better. Right?

If you haven't read Carry On, Warrior, now is your chance. I'm giving away one soft cover copy of the new book.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

This giveaway will run from 4/15-22. I was provided a copy of this book to use for the giveaway. I was not compensated in any other way.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Anxiety and Me - My Messy Beautiful

After a post like the one I wrote about potty training, I think there's a need for transparency in my truly messy life. I love Glennon and Momastery. She's raw and honest in a way I wish I could be. My sister first received the word that they were looking for bloggers and warriors to write about their messy, beautiful life. I knew I wanted to be part of it.

Today I'm pulling down the veil and writing about some tough stuff.
I know it's a nerdy picture - it's intentional. 

I've written a little bit about my fight with anxiety before, but I've never been brave enough to really delve into my struggle. I've fought anxiety my entire life. As a little girl I had panic attacks at night. My mom would read Psalm 23 to me or a book about fire fighters. I have very firm memories of the panic and fear that would consume me. I was 5 years old.

My anxiety continued through middle school and high school. My parents divorced after years of being unhappy when I was 16 years old. It was terrible. I struggled and didn't know how to be honest or authentic. My adolescent years are a blur because I spent so much time fighting myself, trying not to drown in fear, and feeling inadequate. I know many teens feel this way from time to time. I felt anxious 95% of the time - not situationally, but generally. From the outside, I had friends and probably seemed adjusted, but inside I was a complete mess. I felt very alone.

A big problem with this was that it took me such a long time to be comfortable in my own skin. After I graduated from college I began to figure out who I was but still struggled with fear in severe ways. I worked hard for everything and ended up pleasing no one. I wasn't happy with who I was and those around me weren't all that thrilled either. I saw a counselor as a teen, in college, and beyond. For every one that I found helpful, there was 2 that were completely out of touch and not helpful at all.

Through my early 20s I began to play the "worst case scenario" game. For example, if someone called and said they had something to discuss with me and needed me to call them back, I would spiral out of control. What could they possibly want to talk about? Why couldn't they leave it on the message? I'd assume it was something terrible. To calm myself down, I'd think about what the worst, yet realistic, thing they could be calling to discuss. This helped bring me back to reality.

One day, when I was about to turn 25, my boss asked to visit with me in the morning. I panicked, of course, but calmed myself down saying that the worst thing that could happen was that I'd lose my job. I could survive that. I don't know how I found peace in that, but at the time, it worked. And the next morning I was asked to resign from a job that defined me. On the outside I was (moderately) strong, but, I broke into a million pieces and the next few weeks were some of the most difficult in my life. But the worst thing that I thought could happen happened and I survived. Fear loomed over the next few months. I relied on dear friends, exercise, and a little sleep aid occasionally just to get enough sleep to function. I woke up in the middle of the night with sheer panic every few nights. I saw a counselor that helped incredibly. I felt stronger than ever. Still, fear was around every.single.corner.

About a year later I was living with friends, saving money, working hard, and in a relationship. Between semesters in seminary, I got dumped. It was terrible. I didn't have the routine of school to keep me sane and I (almost) lost it. It felt like my chest was ripping open several times a day. Friends suggested that it was stress. How could it be stress? I wasn't working a stressful job and wasn't in school. It couldn't be stress!
I actually went to the doctor because I thought that I was having heart problems. Yeah, that was embarrassing. I had a chest x-ray that came back clear. (Because nothing was wrong with my heart!)
 Finally a friend asked me if perhaps it was anxiety. I'd struggled with feelings of anxiety for more than 25 years but never had the language to articulate my feelings. Anxiety! YES! That's it!! I made (ANOTHER) appointment with my doctor and told her I thought I had anxiety. She asked me if I was open to medication. I was. That day I began my journey of fighting back against the fear that tried to define me.

Since that day I've taken a few different types of medications. I eventually found the right fit for me - a very lose dose of Zoloft. I weened myself off when I got pregnant with Wesley, but went back on (with the approval of my doctor) because the anxiety came back with a vengeance. I tried all natural options several times and got so frustrated with my husband (and life) that I immediately went back on pills. I failed at natural and hated that.

My anxiety is not situational, but all the time. It gets worse situationally, but is always sitting right under the surface, waiting to consume me. Medication has helped take the edge off my anxiety. It doesn't numb me, but reduces my anxiety to a more manageable level. I am proud of myself because I am strong. I am proud that I am finally comfortable in my own skin. I still have fear, rational and irrational, but it doesn't consume me.

While I firmly believe in medication to treat anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other things, our foster agency does not. With the help of a doctor, I've been off medication for about 2 months. I've had a lot of success using natural techniques coupled with exercise, healthy eating, and seeing a counselor regularly.

It's hard to talk about our weaknesses. This is a huge weakness in my life. My anxiety leads to feelings of inadequacy, depression, and stress. My family suffers because of my anxiety and I'm working hard to get a better handle on it.

Don't forget to check out the other Messy, Beautiful lives at Momastery this week. And be sure to check back tomorrow - there's going to be a giveaway right here!

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training

When I was in seminary, years before I ever imagined having children of my own, I lived with a wonderful family in beautiful paradise. I spent a whole month in Puerto Rico enjoying the beach, rain forest, and learning what it means to be a family. I learned some of the best parenting lessons that summer.

One of the most important things I learned was the art of potty training.

The month I lived there, a sweet little man turned 2 years old. His mama, my friend, potty trained her daughter via Toilet Training in Less Than a Day and the day after little man's 2nd birthday, she used the same model. I witnessed the magic and became convinced this was the way to train my kid.

That was nearly 6 years ago, but I never forgot. My friend made potty training look easy and I'm all about easy! I bought the book a few months ago, scheduled a weekend where I could be home with Wesley, and spoke with his teachers at school. Speaking with Wesley's teachers was crucial because he's there 4-5 days a week. I knew whatever we did at home would have to work with them. Thankfully, they were completely on board!

Last Monday Wesley started practicing on the potty. His teachers took him to the potty a few times during the day. This got him used to the idea and introduced him to pottying. He has friends in his class who are potty training so the concept wasn't completely foreign for him. We did the same thing at home, practicing with his little potty chair on the potty near his bedroom.

Friday was P-Day and I picked Wes up from school early. We were home by 2:30pm and he was in big boy pants. We packed up the diapers and talked about how big boys keep their pants dry. He drank water while we played. Ever 15 minutes or so we made trips to the bathroom to try. He wasn't excited about leaving his toys to sit on the potty, but he seemed to understand what was happening.

We had one accident around 3:30pm. Following the advice in Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, we immediately began potty practices. This is where you practice what should have happened to prevent the wet pants. "Wesley has wet pants. Wesley needs to practice going potty because he needs to keep his pants dry!" We did 5-6 practices, all while he was crying and wearing his wet pants. He got the message. Wet pants are uncomfortable and yucky. That was the last accident on Friday!

Saturday morning we woke up ready to take the day! Jarrod and I decided to split our time - Wesley gets tired of us, so we opted to take 90 minute shifts with him. He had an accident or two in the morning, but quickly got the hang of it. We discovered he's perfectly capable of holding his pee! We forced juice, water, smoothies, and milk all day and rewarded peeing on the potty with m&ms and cookies - HUGE treats for Wesley!

By bedtime he'd been accident-free since before lunch. Because we were watching him closely, monitoring his liquid intake, and making him at least sit on the potty every 20-30 minutes, he was successful.

By bedtime Jarrod and I were EXHAUSTED. It was one of the longest and most exhausting days we've had in a long time. We were patient through fits and ignored things we normally wouldn't because we were focused on pottying. We had our eye on the prize.

We are now several days into a diaper-free lifestyle and are loving it. It's still really hard work, but Wesley is doing GREAT. We have stuck to our guns and he hasn't been in a diaper since we started that Friday afternoon. (He does wear them to bed - we aren't nighttime trained yet!) This means he's not wearing diapers for his naps either - and has been dry!

It's impossibly hard. It's insane and has necessitated a glass of wine often after Wesley goes to bed. But we are starting to reap the rewards of persistence! I cannot believe we're a diaper-free family!
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