Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Your 6th Birthday (A Letter to Meridian)

Happy 6th birthday to our ringlet curled, wide-eyed, quiet, plays by herself, sweet with a bit of spunk, dreamer, and snuggle bug Meridian Piper.

Oh my goodness, how in the world are you 6 years old?!? It seem unfathomable to me that the same little baby who came so quickly and unexpectedly into this world is becoming a little girl rather than the baby you once were. I remember so many nights and days walking countless hours trying to get you to sleep. I guess some things don't change being that you were our earliest one to quit napping and you still ask that daddy snuggle with you each night. I'm pretty sure daddy wouldn't have it any other way as all too soon you will be too grown up for snuggles. It doesn't happen as often anymore, but sometimes you come to our bed in the middle of the night, just to snuggle your daddy and mama. You LOVE snuggling and you are the best at finding me during the day just to get a little snuggle, or to give me a kiss and then you go back to playing. You have even nicknamed yourself the kissie monster.

This year you have started copying everything Zoelle does. When Zoelle requested eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon for her birthday breakfast, you requested the same. We were finally able to convince you to try something different, so this morning we enjoyed French Toast Bake with you. Zoelle got to go out to eat for her birthday, so you have to go out to eat for your birthday too. Sometimes I wish your birthday was just a little further apart from Zoelle's so you felt the freedom to do your own thing. I'm sure that will come in time. You have yet to lose a tooth and Zoelle already had by now, so you think you should too.

This past year you have done Kindergarten in homeschool. It has been slow going because you are such a dreamer and sometimes school is hard to do with a little sister around. The main thing you have wanted to learn this year is how to read. You were getting a little sad a few months ago that you hadn't read like Zoelle yet. I decided to let you try Bob books and you were amazed and so proud of yourself that you could actually read! My plan is to work a little more diligently on reading with you this summer. Being in Kindergarten meant that you got to be a part of our local community choir. Most of your concert was spent staring at other kids and when I asked you if you sing pretty during your class, you told me, "Well sometimes I just stare out the window at the trees mama and forget all about singing." That describes you so perfectly I had to laugh! Always my dreamer. You love playing piano and I was surprised at how natural it has come to you. You sit down and practice and remind me to always give you a piano lesson. You also quietly sing through each song you play. Speaking of singing, it seems that is something that just comes naturally to you. You aren't loud, but you listen and I often catch your eye in the car as you sing along to a song on the radio.

At 6, purple is still your favorite color! You still care about every single outfit you wear. Whether that be a play outfit, or a good outfit, you have to pick it out. This year seems to be the year of the dresses. If it isn't a fancy dress, you pout and argue with me to get your way. Sometimes I'm convinced this little side of you comes out just so we can notice you. Being in the middle is hard especially when you are naturally laid back. I often tell daddy how thankful I am for my Meridian in the middle. No matter what, you are calm and quiet. We aren't sure but your eyes may just be turning green, or maybe hazel like daddy's. You have a love for your ringlet curls and take pride in them. Your biggest worry is that someone will cut them off, but I can assure you sweetie that mama will not do that as I love them too. Your favorite food is pizza. You love playing with Lego Friends. You love to use your imagination and I often find you quietly using your imagination to play. You can play for hours by yourself, or you can play nicely with others. That is a good trait to have sweetie.  This year you and Xiomara have become buddies and play together constantly. There are sometimes fights, but most of the time you two are best friends. During Xiomara's naptime, you love to talk to our chickens. You take them on walks through the woods and talk quietly to them the whole time. When you grow up you want to be a nurse and help other people.

I have this vivid memory from a few hours after your birth in which daddy had gone out for breakfast and it was just you and I. We snuggled and I remember you just stared at me while I cooed to you and told you how much I loved you. This past year, I felt that same connection with you again. You have always been a daddy's little girl and I've always felt a bit sad that you didn't want to spend as much time with mama as you did daddy. However, sending Zoelle to school and being home with me helped me connect with you. I love sitting together and snuggling. I love watching you use your imagination as you play. You give the best backrubs ever! My favorite time spent with you Rinnie is in all the little moments put together. You ooze sweetness in everything you do and I love that sweet spirit in you. I love hearing your little scratchy laugh, and the "Uh huh" you answer in a cute little voice. The joy in my day is when you tell me, "I love my mama" and then go on to the rest of your day. Goodness, sweet little girl you melt my heart and I love you!! Please don't grow up too fast this year. Happy 6th birthday!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

On Your 8th Birthday (A Letter to Zoelle)

Happy 8th Birthday to our blue-eyed, blonde hair, kind, hilarious, it has to be fair, passionate, and sensitive Zoelle Grace!

You are 8 today! 8 years ago you were this teeny tiny baby in my arms and we were learning how this whole parenting thing worked, while you were figuring out how this whole world thing worked. Kind of crazy isn't it? You will always hold a special place in my heart as the girl who made me mama. I'm convinced God specifically gave us the middle name of Grace to give to you because you are one of the most gracious, kind, forgiving little girls I know. Being you are our first, we've made a thousand mistakes with you, but you are always willing to extend grace. I love that about you.

This year is the first year you won't be home with mama on your birthday. You looked at the calendar months in advance to figure that out and there were tears shed from both of us when we realized your birthday fell on a Monday. The awesome thing is I get to take you to lunch, and I'm going to pick you up from school because I want to spend every second of your birthday with you that I can! I'm bummed it will be cold and rainy, but we will still have fun.

Zoelle made this in school a few months ago and it perfectly describes her!

This past year I've watched you change into less of a little girl and more into the pre-teen you are soon to be. Instead of that making me sad, I'm super proud of you. While I know you miss me each and everyday, you have really enjoyed going to school and it has helped you become "you" outside of who you are with mama. The kids at school love you and often wait for you in the morning to go into the classroom. You have a confidence about who you are that I hope you never lose. Most of all you treat others with kindness. I'm not sure I've seen a more empathetic and kind heart than yours. I think it is often your sensitive spirit that gives you such a kindness in your heart.

Each day you come home and spend hours curled up on the couch reading. Reading is still definitely your thing. You love to sing and play piano. In fact, we often find hidden videos on our phone of your sweet crystal clear voice singing a song just for us. When you get caught, you just giggle. You have the best giggle. Oh goodness, it makes me smile. You love to make people laugh and so you often tease me, or tell me jokes and I love hearing you laugh and laughing with you. What a joy it is to be your mama. You still take violin lessons but you aren't sure you want to take them next year because violin is hard work and it can be frustrating. I sure do love listening to you play so I'm hoping I can keep you interested still next year. You have your sights set on trying gymnastics this coming year and go around the house doing cartwheels whenever you can.

At 8, you have definitely chosen green to be your favorite color, but you still assure me that you like blue too. Your favorite food is pizza because "Mmmm, pizza is sooooo good mom!". You love to play outside, especially if I play with you too. The trampoline is a favorite of yours. Last summer you were a little fish and swam every second you could. You sometimes like to play with your sisters, but most of the time they just get in your stuff and make you mad. Your favorite thing to do is doing science experiments and you beg me each day to make a mess at the kitchen table just so you can learn more (I need to get better at saying yes to them as I love watching you learn). You like to help cook and bake. Sometime in February of this year, we noticed your hair went from wavy to curly and you aren't sure you like it that way because it is now easily knotted in the back. When you grow up you want to be a doctor, but you aren't exactly sure which kind yet. I always tease you that you would make a great lawyer as you fight for what is fair. Keep fighting for justice sweetheart because you will do great things.

My favorite moments spent with you Z are late at night when you sneak into our room because you just couldn't sleep, or you have me curl up next to you in your bed and we just talk. You LOVE to talk! I could listen to you for hours. You are expressive and I love watching your beautiful eyes light up as you tell me a story. Tonight, I snuggled into you as you read just one more chapter before it was bedtime, and I just watched you. I asked you, "Zoelle will you snuggle me like this when you are 18?" "Yes, of course I will mama", you say. "How about when you are 30?" I ask, and you answer, "I will probably always want to snuggle you and play with your hair mama." You always can sweet girl, you always can.

You are beautiful little girl, on the inside and out. I am so proud of you. I can't wait for the years to come with you, but for now I'll enjoy you still as my little 8 year old girl. Happy birthday sweetie!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

End of the School Year

We are finally in the final countdown of school days. I believe we are somewhere in the teens now as far as number of school days left. That made me realize that I never did an update on how my precious big girl is doing in public school this year.

If you remember, this year we decided to send Zoelle to public school rather than homeschool her. I still am homeschooling the two younger girls. The little girls (as I like to call them) deserve their own post on homeschooling, so this post is just an update on Zoelle only.

After much prayer we decided to send Zoelle to public school this year. It was an extremely difficult decision and one that put me into a bit of a depression. I missed my big girl! I missed her asking me a thousand questions, snuggling up to me as we read a book, and I even missed her fighting either with me or the little girls. :) I especially missed teaching her. That was an incredibly hard part of sending her to school that I was not expecting.

Zoelle has seemingly adjusted well to school. She had a hard first few days in which leaving me was very tough, especially with the girls still here. Her least favorite thing is to ride the bus home. I don't really care for it either, but living out in the country, and having a little one who takes a nap each day, I don't really have another option. After a little bus mishap on the first day in which she was SO quiet the bus driver missed her stop and didn't drop her off until an hour later, all has gone well. It is a long ride, but she has started to bring books with on her ride and she LOVES to read and has told me many times she has almost missed her stop just from getting lost in a book.

Neither she or I are huge fans of test days! In fact today is one of them, and I had a little girl who was nervous all weekend for this huge state test today and Wednesday of this week. Z is a bit of a perfectionist and tends to naturally want to please people, so tests are very important to her. We have worked very hard on not emphasizing the test part, but rather just reminding her to work her very hardest. In fact, in all past tests, she has done completely fine and really has nothing to worry about. The only other thing I don't care for is the amount of papers that come home with Z each day. This isn't homework, but rather class work they have done. I am convinced they could save 1,000 trees per kid with the amount of paper that comes home!

One of my biggest concerns sending her was my own personal worry that I somehow failed her as a mom/teacher and that she wouldn't be caught up with her class. However, my worry was also unnecessary as she has done completely fine. Her strong suites are math and reading, which always were strong at home. She could work on her artistic side a bit, and her handwriting (both things I struggle with too).

The only other thing that I miss her being able to do, is study wholeheartedly whatever comes to her mind. In the past, Zoelle would read something or hear about something and decide she wanted to study it in detail. I LOVED doing that with her and I LOVED how much she learned from studying something she wanted to learn about. While she doesn't get the chance to really do much of that at school, we do try and study as much as we can at home if there is something she is wanting to learn about.

I have had zero complaints about sending her this year. I think in large part that has to do with her amazing teacher! She has been so good for Zoelle and has a perfect balance of knowing when to push her a bit more and when to offer grace. One of Zoelle's biggest fears in going to school is her intolerance of gluten to the point where she breaks out or struggles to breathe if she has had it. Her teacher has been more than willing to work with me and Zoelle and it has relieved a lot of stress for both of us.

Going to school has also helped Zoelle come out of her shell a bit. This isn't to bring up the debate of homeschoolers and lack of socialization. My kids are very well socialized as we attend a number of things such as choir, violin, library time, church, etc. each week. Instead, this has helped Zoelle become her own person apart from me or her sisters. She used to solely rely on me or her sisters while in public, but now willingly talks to people. It has been very fun for me to see her become this strong, confident, young lady.

One of the greatest compliments came to me when I was taking her to school one morning instead of her dad (side note: why is it that anytime I take her to school, I tear up as I drop her off?). One of the school employees stopped me to tell me how incredibly kind, sweet, and respectful Zoelle is to other people each day. She made my day. While I want my kiddos to be smart, up to par with others, etc. more than anything else I want them to treat others with love and respect.

So with all that said, we will for sure be sending Zoelle to school next year, right? Actually, I'm not sure. We have committed each year to take it on a year by year basis and pray about it before we make any decisions. So we will do just that! If you ask Z, she will tell you she wants to be homeschooled. She missed me and it isn't fair the girls get to be home and she doesn't (her exact words). However, she will then tell you she kind of wants to go to school too and she likes the constant learning and schedule (she thrives on schedule). So there you go! I fully believe God will give us an answer in the correct time!

P.S. I was playing around with my camera one day while Z hung out with me and I was able to get all these sweet pictures of my girl. I just love her eyes!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Organic India Review

I'm always on the look out for healthy supplements that I can include in my diet. When I recently was offered to try Organic India from Moms Meet, I decided to give them a try. Organic India's mission is to provide wellness for all by offering 100% organic, pure, and natural products. Organic India also strives to create a sustainable global environment by working with thousands of family farmers in India on tens of thousands of acres of certified organic farmland. The company actively promotes sustainable agriculture and pays these farmers premium prices for their crop. Keeping all that in mind, I was very excited to try a product like this.

I was sent Organic India's Moringa Leaf Powder, Organic India Infusion Bags, and Organic India Capsules to try.

Moringa is considered one of the most complete, nutrient-dense plants on Earth, containing over 90 nutrients, 46 antioxidants, and abundant minerals. Daily use of Moringa as a dietary supplement can help restore nutritional imbalances.

I was probably most hesitant to try the leaf powder as I don't care for tea, perhaps I just don't know how to properly prepare tea in leaf powder form. I always feel it is stronger this way and has more of a bitter taste. I tried it and still didn't care for it that much but didn't think it was awful either.

Next, I tried the 3 different infusion bags I received. I received Tulsi Moringa, which is Stress-Relieving & Nourishing; Tulsi Cinnamon Rose, which is Stress-Relieving & Healing; and I received Tulsi Original, which is Stress-Relieving & Energizing. While not a huge tea drinker, I do enjoy tea but prefer coffee on most days. However, I loved the Cinnamon Rose blend and felt it really uplifted me. This will be something I will regularly drink.

Finally, I decided to try the three different capsule supplements I received. I received Tumeric Formula, which is for healthy inflammation response; Moringa, which is for essential nutrition; and Joy, which lifts mood. I have done a lot of research and learning on the benefits of taking Tumeric  for inflammation each day, or using it in your food. However, I can never seem to handle it that is until I tried the capsule form. This was amazing and I can't wait to continue use of it! While I enjoyed Moringa, I didn't notice a huge difference. I did however, love the Joy one. I've been in a bit of a down slump lately and I felt it really did uplift my spirits.

You can sprinkle Moringa on anything! Soups, smoothies, over salads, etc. This is a real easy and fun way to even get your children to take it! It is also USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher and Halal certified, gluten free, and vegan. Overall, I was pleased with my Organic India products and feel like I could easily recommend them to other people.

To learn more go to Organic India's website, Facebook, or Twitter.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

SweetLeaf Organic Stevia® Sweetener Review

About a year ago I decided to try and start cutting sugar out of my life. I haven't always been the best about it, but I started small (well actually big for me) by cutting it out of my morning coffee. If you know me at all, you know that was a huge thing for me. I tried going to straight black coffee, but I just couldn't do it after training myself for years of drinking coffee with my sugar. So I switched to honey, and amazingly enough it has worked well for me. However, I've been doing a little reading over the past few months about how honey still affects blood sugar and I kept hearing about stevia. I've tried it a little bit here and there, but never fully tried using it.

When I was given a chance to review SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener from Moms Meet, I was excited to see if I would notice a difference at all. I liked that it is a certified organic, zero-calorie sweetener made from high-quality stevia leaves. I've done enough research in the past on stevia to know that this is not always the case. I liked that you can use it to sweeten pretty much anything, hot or cold, even roasted chicken or turkey! Being it contains no artificial ingredients, calories, carbohydrates, or glycemic response, it makes it perfect for managing blood sugar or calorie intake.

I'll admit, I wanted to use it in baking but I just don't make enough sweets and so I never got around to trying it. I did however try it in my beloved coffee. I was super nervous doing so, but was pleasantly surprised that it tasted good. It still probably would not be my first choice, as I feel that stevia has an aftertaste that I cannot seem to get around no matter what. Overall, especially if I was wanting to be more health conscious, I would definitely use it. I'm looking forward to having some time to try it in baking in the future.

Make sure you check out their website and Facebook page for more information, including some great recipes on cooking with SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

When Love Doesn't Look Like the Movies

I'm a hopeless romantic....I can't help it. Once a year, I have to watch Anne of Green Gables and somehow even though I know Anne chooses Gilbert Blythe in the end, I have to see it for myself. The same goes for Pride & Prejudice. I have to watch it just to make sure Elizabeth chooses Mr. Darcy in the end. The part in You've Got Mail in which Joe Fox comes over to a sick Kathleen Kelly's house and helps tuck her into bed, it gets me every single time.

Darn those Hallmark movies around Christmas and Valentine's Day too, because there I am clutching Kleenex in my hand at the oh-so-expected ending of the good guy ending up with the good girl.

Even though I know that each of those movies ends the same way, with the guy kissing the girl, I can't help but smile.

It seems so perfect.

The reality is, the books and movies never tell you what happens after that kiss. They leave you thinking he is perfect for her and that it will all be amazing in the years to come. A part of me always wonders if that is how it really is, but the other part of me already knows.

I know that there are tough times following the wedding. Days in which you wonder if you made the right decision to marry so young, or even to marry him. Nights in which you storm out of the house with your keys in your hand and refuse to answer the phone when he calls looking for you. But that first anniversary comes and you breathe a tiny sigh of relief, you have made it this far, you can probably make it another year, right?

Hollywood doesn't tell you that you won't see each other for four years as you both commit to finishing your college degrees and working on the side. That those times apart will practically rip your marriage right out from you. But that you grow up together through it.

They don't show you a positive pregnancy test that you both are ecstatic and nervous over. They don't show the real hard parts of pregnancy in which the girl throws up for 5 months straight, including once in bed much to your husband's surprise. You don't get to see the hard 24+ hour labor in which your hubby, so overwhelmed and scared, stays in a corner of the room cracking jokes, until the reality that his first baby is about to arrive makes him rush to your side. Fifteen months later you don't see the second positive pregnancy test that causes the girl to cry for fear of change and being sick once again. You don't get to see the hilarity of a husband rushing to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, barely making it in time, and forgetting the camera in the car (which was his only assignment this time around), all to watch baby girl number two enter this world.

Hallmark doesn't tell you about the baby you will lose on a warm March day. They don't show your hubby becoming your rock in that time. They don't show his tears mixing with yours as you grieve together for what may have been. They also don't show you the utter joy and rush of traveling to southern Georgia on a hot July day to add the most beautiful little girl to your family. How you suddenly become a family of 5...just like that.

You don't get to see the financial struggles, business decisions, and everyday battles of trying to raise a family together. You don't get to see the fights on how to discipline your children, who will get up with them when one has a bad dream yet again, and who will clean up the throw up on the carpet (he will in case you are wondering).

The romance stories don't show you how somehow, despite birthing two kids, having a few extra pounds and extra marks on your body, your hubby can get home at the end of a long day and still desire you. How you will laugh with utter abandon at a joke he mumbles, no matter how corny it is. How you will dance in the kitchen together as he sings to you a country love song, country is his thing you know. You don't see the jokes over how cute he thinks Jane Seymour is, or the drawn on Adam Levine picture on your fridge to tease you over your crush on Adam.

The books don't tell you about the heartache that happens in your life in which your hubby's tears run freely with yours as you cry over something that will forever change your family. They don't tell you that he will practically have to force you to eat as you go through a deeper depression than you ever have been in. You don't get to hear the words, "I'm sorry hon, we will get through this together" whispered over the phone as you call him for the thousand time in complete tears not sure how you will make it through another day.

You don't get to see the no-makeup, crazy curly hair, yoga pants, and over sized sweatshirt she wears every single day, and yet he still walks in the door and tells her she is beautiful. You don't get to see the fight over the Valentine candy he brought home for his girls that she doesn't want him to give them because it has food dyes in it, and she is trying to eliminate them from their house. You also don't get to hear the meek, "I'm sorry" whispered later on.

Sigh........those movies and books don't show you much.

They show you the lovey dovey, butterflies in your tummy, new love stage, but they miss all the rest. Which is really too bad, because it is in those horrible, ugly, yet beautiful moments in your marriage, in which true love is born.

They forget that part in the books and movies. I'm glad really. Because no movie can show what true love really is. No book will ever capture completely the journey it takes to get there.

Between all the fights, giggles, heartaches, and utter tiredness, love is born.

Happy Valentine's Day, Christer! Thank you for loving me so well, through the good and the bad. Our love is better than any movie or novel could ever be! I love you!

To learn more of our love story, check out this post celebrating 10 years of marriage.

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