Friday, January 24, 2014

George

I desperately wanted to name one of our children George (or Georgia), but my husband just couldn't get behind it. I don't blame him, before the royal baby came along, it wasn't the coolest or most popular name on the charts. My argument was always that with men like George Washington, George Clooney, George Patton and the George Bushes rocking the name, how could our child not rock the hell out of it too?!

There was another reason the name George held a particularly special place in my heart.  My Grandad's name was George, and he embodied everything I could hope for in one of my children.  Kindness, strength, love, faith, intelligence, self discipline,  humor, devotion, perseverance, humility and simplicity (in all the best ways), and I (along with many others) just loved him.  I don't smoke and I'm not a fan of clouds of nicotine, but the smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of him, and I can't hate it, no matter how hard I try.  Smoking was his one bad habit...well, that and bourbon if you count cocktails as a bad habit (which I totally don't).

But there's another George that captured my heart....George Strait. I don't know why, either.  I grew up in a small south Texas town, but it wasn't a farming community or anything. I'm not a cowgirl. I didn't ever own a pair of cowboy boots until this year! That being said, the first dance I learned was the 2-step, and the first music I learned to love was country music.

My grandparents (all 4, including grandad George!) lived in a small town in the panhandle of Texas called Borger.  It was an 11 hour drive from my hometown to there, more if we stopped.  We went without fail every summer I was growing up, and along the way I'd see this great state of Texas in all its lovely forms. From coastal planes, to the pine trees of east texas, to the dusty panhandle, and as I admired the beautiful scenery that was my home state, country music would serenade us through the tape deck.

George was special though...being from Texas, his music somehow sounded more like 'home' that any of the other artists. I would stay with my aunt a lot in the summer growing up, and when his songs would come on the radio, she'd say..."Shhh! It's George!" :) And one of my favorite memories of my baby brother is when he suddenly started singing along to the chorus of "If You're Thinking You Want A Stranger (There's One Coming Home)". My brother was tiny at the time, but it just proved how many times we'd all heard those songs.    

George became immortalized in my heart, though, when my dad was driving back and forth to see his mom before she passed away.  Borger was a little bitty town, so when Grandma was in the hospital, it was in the near-by city of Amarillo. Dad would leave Friday after work and drive all night to get to Amarillo by Saturday morning to be with Grandma over the weekend before heading home.  He did this at least 5 or 6 times before she passed away.  And every time I hear the fiddle solo that opens for the George Strait song "Amarillo by morning" I can't help but picture my dad on those empty roads and the sun coming up over the lonely Texas Panhandle plains as he drove to say, 'goodbye' to his mom.     

After Grandma passed away, we didn't go to Borger as often anymore. Grandad would travel to see us.  But, about that time Dad took me to see George at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  We had gone to the Rodeo several times before...once a year almost, and I had seen tons of people sing, but George was incredible.  He connected with the crowd in a way I'd never experience before, and where most people rode a convertible out of the arena waving to the crowd, he hopped off the stage onto a horse and trotted around the arena.  He was a true Texas cowboy riding away and he embodied everything gracious and kind and simple I loved about my home state and my Dad and my Grandad, and to this day, his music instantly takes me back to my childhood.    

George doesn't tour very often, and about a year ago I had mentioned to Stephen that seeing him in concert one last time before he retired was on my bucket list.  About a week after I made that statement, George announce his farewell tour.  The timing could not have been worse, though.  I was pregnant with our third child, due smack dab in the middle of his first leg through Texas.  We tried 3 or 4 times to make it happen, but it just wasn't possible.  I had all but given up, when Christmas rolled around this year.  I was looking through a stack of cards from family when I came across an envelope with my name written in big bubble letters across the front.  I assumed it was from my little sister, but when I opened it, this is what I saw:


I was shocked!  I couldn't believe my amazing husband, Stephen, got me tickets to see my George!!!!!!!  We're going to his Baton Rouge show, and I CAN. NOT. WAIT!!  And at some point during that concert - probably when he sings "Amarillo by Morning" or "The Cowboy Rides Away" or both - I'm going to cry.  It's going to happen. I'm going to cry big ol' buckets for the summer memories that are getting dusty as I get older, for my Grandad who I miss every day, for the love I have for my Daddy and what George means to him, and for the loss of a simpler time.  I'll get nostalgic and melancholy, and then I'll look at my husband who will grin from ear to ear, and the corners of his eyes will crinkle with the sweet wrinkles of age that I adore.  And I will think of our three incredible babies...none named George, but who are part of his legacy.  I'll be reminded that the past was incredible, but the present is pretty amazing, and the future is full of possibilities.  

George is my past.  Stephen is my present, and together with Carter, Jack and Grace, they are my future.  So here's to George, and one last farewell!!             

Monday, September 16, 2013

Labor of Love - Grace's Nursery

Grace's nursery is finished!  










It all started with this tapestry I bought on sale from Urban Outfitters before our middle child was born.  It's a navy, orange, pink, and light blue illustrated forest scene with a whimsical folk-ish vibe, and I knew it would be perfection in a girl's room. Of course, we had a boy, so the tapestry went into a drawer, and clearly I never got around to getting rid of it. Score one for being a procrastinating pack-rat! As soon as we found out we'd be welcoming a baby girl into this room, I dug it out, put a black out liner on the back and turned it into 3 roman shades. It became a jumping-off point for the rest of the space, and looks like this fantastic fairy tale world is outside her window when the shades are down.

The crib, book shelves, drapes, chair, side table, dresser, mirror and wall color (Behr Urban mist) were all left overs from the room's previous design, and were all either too costly or too time consuming (i.e. I was too lazy) to change.  Still, I wanted to make the room girly, fun, and a smile-worthy space that our daughter would love and could grow into. I'm so happy with how it turned out - I feel like I found a good balance between form and function. And since this is my third and final nursery to decorate, I don't feel bad at all for saying it's my favorite of the three by far! :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

School Daze

As a stay-at-home-mom, the end of summer meant zilch for a while, but this year was different.  All three kiddos started some form of school this year and all three had a big 'first'.

Miss Grace started MDO on Wednesdays this year. I've only had the tiniest bit of regret/remorse/emotion about handing over my 6 month old.  It helps that her teachers are absolutely amazing, but it also helps that I'm so desperate to get stuff done without kids, I pretty much kiss her goodbye and sprint out the door. There's always so much to tackle in those brief 5.5 hours, I barely have time to pee, let alone get emotional.

Jack started his first year of preschool.  It's really a tiny distinction...same building, same hours, but 'preschool' didn't technically start until this year. Biggest changes are they don't take naps and they must be fully potty trained. The no-naps thing was a breeze...unlike Carter, Jack hasn't napped on a regular basis for over a year. In fact, the very first thing he said when I picked him up was, "Mommy, they didn't make us take a nap, so I got to go outside TWO times!!!'  The potty training on the other hand we squeezed in juuuust under the wire. And if he comes out of the bathroom without his pants half as often as he does at home, I'm dreading the first parent-teacher conference.

We also added a kindergartener to the ranks this year - yay Carter!! Leading up to the big day, I felt what any other normal parent of a public school aged child would...relief and excitement that I would have a child in school 5 days a week for FREE.  Surprisingly, though, I found myself getting really nostalgic towards the end of summer.  We even took a last minute family vacation to soak up those last few days with him.  By the time meet-the-teacher rolled around, though, I was so caught up in the logistics of it all, I didn't really stop moving long enough to get emotional.  The school relaxed its visitor policy to allow the parents to walk kids to class, so on the first day, and the second, drop off was a breeze.  Then on day 3 when I had to drop Carter off, and all I saw was that big backpack headed through those big double doors, I officially lost it.  I had to pull over I was crying so hard.  He just looked too little to be going to such a big school.  It was more than that too, from now on, there won't be a school year that goes by that he is home with me during the week...he's at an age I remember so clearly...he's beginning a journey that's going to be filled with ups and downs and things I can't protect him from.  I know my job is far from over, but it was the end of a chapter and the realization hit me hard.  Anyway, it was another reminder that even though the first five years are some of the hardest and most challenging, they are over in the blink of an eye.    

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You are beautiful

There is beauty everywhere in every place. There is beauty in our differences.  There is beauty in your smile, there is beauty in your laugh, there is beauty in your crazy hair, and your chunky thighs and tiny nose.  Self acceptance...that's what I pray for you.  I want you to love yourself my sweet Gracie girl.  I want you to  have confidence in yourself and make yourself laugh. And despite my prayers, I know deep down, you're still going to be plagued by self doubt.  I know this because every female I've ever met suffers from this, even the most beautiful ones.  And believe me sweet girl, I am surrounded by some truly beautiful women.  I hope you surround yourself with beautiful women too.  Take them in and love them and tell them how beautiful they are, on the inside and out.  Women need each other...we gain something from these friendships that is hard to put into words.  And when you are surrounded by these beautiful women, full of flaws they struggle to see past, remind yourself that they don't see your flaws...they see how smart and strong and amazing you are, and cherish your friendship. You may have a few catty women in the bunch, but know they need your love more than the others...they are struggling with self doubt more than the others...love them, but don't listen to them.  Call me instead.  I'll tell you how beautiful you are, and I'll be so frustrated when you don't believe me, or roll your eyes and tell me I have to think that because I'm your mom.  And while it's true, I'm going to always think you are the most beautiful girl in the world, and that no other girl can hold a candle to you, it's not because you are undeserving of this...it's because you. are. beautiful.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Foxy

I wanted something big and bold over the crib in our daughter's nursery.  I spent hours hunting around Etsy, but decided to try my hand at painting something.

I used a 50% off coupon to purchase the biggest, deepest canvas I could find at Michael's (4'x5').  It sat in the nursery for weeks...I felt like those underpants gnomes from Southpark.  Step 1: Buy Giant Canvas.  Step 2: ??????  

I finally found this on Pinterest and figured it looked simple enough.  I grabbed 2 quarts of paint from the hardware store in pink and white, a few paint brushes, and got to work.

Even though I took my time planning and sketching, I messed up my first two attempts.  I was able to paint over my mistakes, but was completely stressed by the experience and began searching around for less intimidating alternatives.  I wound up in my gift wrap closet, and had one of those 'aha!' moments when I saw a pile of red tissue paper.  A quick search on pinterest for 'fox illustrations' revealed some simple geometric designs and I got busy cutting.  

The process is pretty straight forward...cut out the pieces, place them on the canvas, move and trim as needed, then mod podge the pieces down starting with the bottom layer and working your way up.

I loved the freedom of being able to tweak things before committing to a shape or placement.  One downside to this method is the tissue paper can tear if you are not careful..I had to water down the mod podge a little to keep it from pulling the paper too hard.  It's also helpful to have a few extra pieces cut out in case something goes wrong, then you can just peel up the botched layer (while it's still wet) and put another piece down.  Each layer needs to dry for an hour or 2 before moving on to the next, but I found this process worked well with my mom-schedule.  I could pop in and lay down a layer in just a few minutes then walk away for days if I needed to, rather than trying to find a large chunk of time to spend on the project.  
The other speed bump I encountered was how transparent the white tissue paper became once it came in contact with the mod podge.  I ended up doing about five layers of white to get it to show up, and it was still more transparent that I would have liked.  You could save a lot of time by doing one or two layers of white tissue, then going over it with white paint, but after my failed attempts with paint, working with more tissue paper seemed easier to me at the time. 
In the end, I kinda like how the various layers show through...I think it gives it character!  
The gold leaves were a late addition. I didn't plan on doing anything else besides the fox, but he just looked so lonely all by himself, I pulled some inspiration from my original design idea.  Fun fact, that tissue paper is from anthropologie...it's what they used to wrap some purchases I made for the nursery in.  Waste not, want not! :)  

This project probably ended up costing about $90 ($50 of that was for the canvas), but could easily be done for a fraction of the price if working on a smaller canvas.  Time wise, I spread it out over two weekends, but you could knock it out in a weekend or even a day depending on the number of layers your design has.  

I'm thrilled with the outcome, and so is Grace!  She loves the bright colors and contrast and I absolutely love that I was able to create something special and one-of-a-kind for my daughter's nursery.  
  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's not pretty.

Hahahaha....wrote this a while back, so I can say, we're doing better!  But honestly, having a baby is TOUGH!  We were so glad when Grace hit the 6month mark. NO MORE INFANTS IN THE CHILDRESS HOUSE!  WOOO WHOOO!!!


So, we've recently added another human to the house.  She is wonderful, beautiful, adorable, healthy, and everything we prayed for.  And at this moment she is crying herself blue in the other room because she refuses to sleep, and I refuse to feed her AGAIN (to recap, she ate at 7, 9 and 10).  We need a schedule STAT, I am losing my mind.  She cluster feeds 24-7 and never. goes. to. sleep.  I have never felt so resentful towards something the size of a watermelon.  So when you see those soft-focused, black and white pictures of moms gazing lovingly at their precious children, know that it's all an illusion.  REAL motherhood is not pretty.  It's me sitting here in pajamas I had on yesterday, hair that hasn't been washed since last week, teeth that haven't been brushed because I'm guzzling coffee and blogging to keep from crying.

As for going from 2 kids to 3....I wish someone would have warned me!!!!  When I was pregnant with our second, everyone felt the need to tell me just how hard having 2 kids would be.  Granted I was having 2 under 2, but every single mom, grandmother, aunt or postal worker I encountered seemed to feel compelled to let me know how hard the first 6 months would be. Some people said it would take a year to adjust.  The general population had me so terrified of the challenge that the stress I felt anticipating 2 under 2 far outweighed the stress I felt actually raising 2 kids under 2.

When I was pregnant with number 3 however, the only comments I got were, 'Do you know what you  are you having? another boy??'  Seriously, that was it...people just wanted to know if it was a third boy.  No one seemed to feel the need to tell me that my brain was about to explode from levels of exhaustion and stress I didn't think humanly possible.  Maybe people just thought, 'She has two kids already, she knows what she's in for!!'

Um, NO!  Here's the reason, my second child SLEPT!  Don't get me wrong, that kid makes me pull my hair out and pushes my buttons like no other, but for the first six months of his life, he was the perfect child...never cried, never spit up, never pooped (no exaggeration, he only pooped every other week), and he slept all the time.  In fact, he slept so much I would repeatedly ask the pediatrician if he was mentally ok.  We travelled all over, and called him our little hotel baby...when he was hungry, I'd feed him, and the rest of the time he slept.  When he finally did wake up between 4 and 6 months, I was excited about it - it meant a chance to finally interact with him.     

Grace on the other hand never actually slept before she decided between 6 and 8 weeks that she no longer need any sleep at all, and is only happy if she is being fed and/or held, something that is impossible to do 24-7 when you only have 1 child, let alone 3.  And mornings are THE WORST.  For instance, it is 11:30 and she has been awake since 6 AM. This is no special circumstance either, she does this EVERY DAY.  We can't get anywhere in the morning without having to listen to her scream.  I have even started putting her in the car and coming back into the house to get all out stuff ready because it is literally impossible to pack up 3 kids and my haggard self for school, church or whatever without forgetting 20 things when you can't hear yourself think due to the infant SCREAMING in the background.

So needless to say, this momma is tapped out.  And while I know at some point I will regret wishing her childhood away, here's me, throwing handfuls of money into fountains, craning my neck for shooting stars and scrambling for any other opportunity to WISH HER CHILDHOOD AWAY.  I can not WAIT until she sleeps, preferably through the night and is done nursing/bottle feeding.  While we're at it, I'd really like her to be potty trained and in school at least 3 days a week.  

Like I said, it's not pretty.

Happiness

Having a little girl has given me a reason to reflect like never before.  I had a happy childhood and an amazing up-bringing, but I have to admit that I struggle every minute of every day with self-doubt.  I am so incredibly blessed, but even in the face of all we have been graced with, I struggle with finding happiness and contentment, and I often wonder if this is an inherently female trait.  At the end of the day, I have found that happiness is a choice, if not a direct side effect of your choices.  Surrounding myself with positive people, especially women, and choosing to focus on what I DO have instead of what I don't, has become more important to me as life marches on.

I want (all my children, but especially) my daughter, to realize that you don't have to be the smartest, or the best looking or the best dressed in the room to be special.  All you have to do to be special is to make other people feel special.  That's all anyone wants...to feel special.  Don't ever deny anyone the opportunity to feel special...as humans, we need it!  Notice something unique about others and let them know that they are special.  If you think of something nice, SAY IT!  So often we keep compliments to ourselves...out of fear of sounding dumb, out of fear of giving the person we compliment power over us, out of FEAR....that's all it is.  March past that fear and spread love and compliments and  encouragement, and what you will find is happiness.  Give people a moment of relief from their own insecurities, and that will give you joy.

So maybe it is selfish of me to encourage my children to be positive, but I'm ok with that.  I want (all my children, but especially) my daughter to chose to see that glass as half-full, because if you do, you will never be in-need of friends...I learned that from your Daddy! That man is the biggest ray of sunshine God ever put on this earth in the form of a man.   Learn from him and not me!  I love you so much and I will try every day to grow into a woman you would describe as 'confident'.  Until then, look to your amazing daddy and know that you are all incredible, and loved, and because of your blessings, God wants you to bless others!!!!