Monday, February 24, 2014

I Swore I'd Never Do This...

Isn't that what parenting is partially about? Learning to eat your own words and throw out your preconceived ideas of child-rearing? I'm constantly doing just that... It's humbling and liberating at the same time, because I'm reminded yet again that I don't know everything and that I don't HAVE to know everything... And I've also seen the evolution of myself in these situations. This time, I'm shaking my head at myself over not sticking by the "treat all of your children equally" rule... I keep finding myself treating the youngest differently than her older siblings were treated at her age. I never understood how anyone could let their youngest kid, aka "the baby", get away with so much that the older kids didn't. 

The situation that smacked me in the face on this topic happened this morning in the grocery store... And this wasn't the first time I let LLL get away with this... I carry her when she gets tired of sitting in the grocery buggy. And I continue to push the buggy with my other hand. This would have NEVER been allowed when the older Herd Members were younger... I probably would've popped their leg or hand and forced them to calm down and stay seated for the duration of the shopping trip. With her, I just pick her up and keep going... And I'm starting to realize why I allow her to do things like this. One rationalization is that she couldn't really hear until a couple of months ago and is behind her peers in talking (although she's made serious strides in catching up) that makes her more of a baby...right?!? I mean, since she seems younger to me... She's actually like a younger kid.. So giving into her is ok, right?!?

 I know I'm wrong here. I really, really do. I feel guilty over it for several reasons... A) I'm kind of cheating her out of the structured discipline I managed to enforce with some continuity for the other three, and so far it's stood them in good stead behaviorally... B) Seeing the other kids watch her get away with stuff, knowing I wouldn't let them get away with it (sometimes I lie to them.. Saying they DID get away with whatever she's doing). Fostering jealousy and hard feelings between these kids is not what I want to do... Yet I can see it in the Princess' face sometimes when she realizes an injustice. I've come to realize that my treatment of her stems from a couple of things... One of which is that she's a very demanding child and has been high needs since birth. I'm so used anticipating her needs and doing whatever it takes to keep her happy, in order to preserve harmony in our home, that it's become an outdated mode of operation. I've been in no rush to potty train her, even though she's showing signs of readiness. She doesn't always need the allowances I keep making for her... And I realize that the biggest reason I treat her differently is that she's my last baby. As I celebrate each milestone of her accomplishments, I'm inwardly mourning loss of her shrinking babyhood...  And I know that I will never watch one of my children go through whatever stage she's going through. Parenting isn't just about raising children into productive human beings... It's also a realm of growth for the parent... And I keep reminding myself of that when I feel selfish for holding on to her a little too tightly. 

Her experience as a child will be different from her older siblings because she doesn't have another child being born on the heels of her entry into toddlerhood. Her brothers are 14 months apart, Sundance and the Princess are 21 months apart, and LLL and the Princess are 25 months apart.... She's older than 25 months now, I'm not expecting another baby, and more than likely will never do so again... So her position of the youngest in birth order is relatively safe. It kind of scares me to think about there being no babies to raise after her... But I'm trying to focus on the opportunities that having older kids will bring.... And eventually the time High Roller and I will have as a couple. But for now.. I'm just going to enjoy her... And try not to let her turn into a spoiled brat... Even though I'd still love her anyways. She may not have the benefit of tighter structure like the older ones... But she does have the benefit of a more mellowed out mama. 

Naughty Mama

So last night I wore my sleep shirt I got around Christmas-time that says "Naughty Not Nice" on it... It's fromVictoria's  Secret, and makes me feel kind of like a cool love kitten when I wear it, even though I'm really a sleep-deprived mom with bags under my eyes. I walked into our Kitchen to start making breakfasts and lunches, and Butch Cassidy looks at me and kind of laughs in the bck of his throat, and says "I knew it!"... I looked him and said "What? What did you know?"... He said "you're Naughty... Not Nice... " and I was mildly horrified... Trying to figure out how he would even understand what the shirt implies. Then he said "THAT'S why Santa didn't put anything in your stocking! You'd better act better this year I you want him to bring you anything"  I had to laugh... Kind of relieved that he A) had no clue about the kind of Naughty my shirt was referring to and B) That he still has such a strong belief in Santa and that the magic still exists for him.... My babies are all still innocent... And I dread the day that ends. I had been weepy last night about the fact that they're all getting so big so quickly... And this was like a comforting pat on the shoulder reminding me that they're still mine... For awhile.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bumpy Reentry

By: Jessica Azar
This trip to Dallas was absolutely amazing, and was much needed by the High Roller and myself to spend time as a couple and relax. In recent years (since we started having kids, we have usually not ventured far from the hotel when we got to go on a trip like this... Just getting away from the demands of work and constantly caring for children and taking it easy was a fantastic way to spend a weekend... But this time we decided to go adventuring, and it made for a seriously enjoyable, fun-packed weekend.

As soon as we landed, we rented a car and headed to Southfork Ranch in Parker, TX, which is the setting and filming location of the classic TV show Dallas. I've loved and watched the show since I was a kid, and the High Roller has watched all of the new series episodes, so we were very excited to be going there. On our way to SF we stopped off at a random exit and found a locally owned Mexican restaurant for lunch and it was fantastic. It was called Pollo Salsa, and they were grilling large amounts of chicken on an open grill that could be seen from the ordering/dining area, and it smelled wonderful. I ate the Crispy Chicken tacos,  and the aforementioned chicken was delicious in the freshly made crispy corn taco shells. We left there for Southfork, full and happy. Southfork was gorgeous... Over 300 green acres with horses and longhorns everywhere. We got to tour the Ewing mansion, as well as the famous patio balcony and swimming pool, which always makes me think of the scene where JR was shot, which led to the "Who shot JR" cliffhanger. 

It was both surreal and exciting seeing the locations that were so familiar from a show I've watched since I was a child, and nostalgic, too. I can still picture my Dad's foot keeping time with the Dallas theme music from when I would watch it with them. We were excited to see that current episodes of Dallas were being filmed on location while we were there! The stars' acting trailers were on site, and we could see them dashing in and out of white vans to be taken to the filming sites. Before heading to our hotel, we also saw the memorial site they had created for JR and his parents. Very, very cool experience.

Our hotel (at which the High Roller's employers so graciously provided our lodging) was huge, luxurious and very swanky... The Hilton Anatole. After checking in, we went to the room and the very tired High Roller passed out. I went to the spa and had a fabulous pedicure... So fabulous, in fact, that I fell asleep during the foot massage. That evening we had supper at the fine dining steakhouse on the 27th floor of the hotel with another couple who were also there for the Presidents Club awards ceremony. Much verra fine single malt scotch was drank, excellent steaks were eaten and we all had a fantastic time telling stories and socializing. I love meeting new friends.

We got up the next morning, after sleeping like the dead in an amazingly comfortable bed, had breakfast and headed to Dealey Plaza. We went to the 6th Floor Museum at the Texas school book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald famous fired shots at JFK. The museum had amazing displays and memorabilia relating to JFK and the assassination. It also presented evidence for various conspiracy theories surrounding the murder, which were fascinating... We both love conspiracy theories so this was right up our alley. Afterwards we went to the infamous Grassy Knoll and saw the X's that have been placed on the street where JFK was hit by the bullets while riding in the motorcade. I'm a history nerd, and getting to visit places like this is exhilarating for me. We then headed to the Reunion Tower for a fantastic view of downtown Dallas... It's the big Ball in the sky of Dallas' skyline. The GeoDeck observatory allowed us to take in the sights of downtown Dallas, and they had a very helpful interactive, touchscreen to help visitors locate certain landmarks below. We searched and found a landmark restaurant that sounded great to try... Sonny Hutchinson's BBQ. they seriously had some of the best BBQ I've ever eaten... and the beef brisket was so tender it was falling apart. we ate way too much and headed back to the hotel.

I had intended to go for a run... but I was so full that I passed out in our room next to the High Roller. We got up in time to get cleaned up for the President's Club awards dinner and set out for the Verandah Club where it was located. I'm so proud of my husband for achieving the honor of being one of the top producing salesmen in his nation-wide, top of the industry company. It's an awesome feeling to see him honored for his hard work, intelligence and salesmanship, as well as his service to customers along with the others in his company on the same level. Our dinner table company was fantastic.. very entertaining people who all had great stories to tell about their lives at home. It's always invigorating to me to be around people who are at the top of their professional game... the competition among them exists, but they are all social and cordial just the same.

Now, as I sit on my flight home typing this, I prepare for re-entry.... I don't mean our plane landing... I mean re-entry into the world of being a full-time Mom, instead of a wife and best friend on a luxurious vacation. The time we spent away together was much needed and so much fun... and it always reminds me of how lucky I am to be married to someone that I enjoy so completely. I want to do everything I can to strengthen and foster a supportive, loving relationship. Stepping back into the managing of the Herd gives me an intense feeling of palpable responsibility... it can be a heavy yoke at times, leaving me weary, as the endless questions and demands for my attention consume my senses... but it's one I wouldn't trade, because with the heft of responsibility comes the flood of hugs and kisses and excitement that we are home at last. And hopefully their first question wont be "what did you bring us?!"....  Now excuse me as I switch my party-ready wife only hat for the hardworking Wife and Mama one...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Packing Up! Going from Mama to Non-stop wife for the weekend

By: Jessica Azar
Packing for a trip with a big family is always an overwhelming task... even if the trip is relatively short and the kids aren't going on the actual trip with the High Roller and me. We are blessed to be going on a weekend getaway to Dallas... completely paid for by the High Roller's company, as a reward for him earning his way into the President's Club nationally for sales. I'm very proud of his hard work and thankful that I have a husband who takes pride in his job. He works hard to be a good provider for the Herd and me (the Herd Manager). But packing for myself isn't difficult... I can create the list in my head and start packing outfits, plus toiletries etc... but packing for the Herd is always a huge undertaking.

For one, things that I clearly remember washing two days ago and had intended to pack for them to wear at their grandparents' house are now either dirty or have escaped to the witness protection program, never to seen or worn again... Or at least until its the wrong season to wear it. And no matter how many pairs of socks or underwear I pack for them, I always forget to pack those for one of the kids, which leaves me looking like a negligent mom who doesn't care if her kid has clean underwear or not. There have even been instances where the kids have taken things out of the bags I have packed for them to put toys or something else in there to take with them, and then we get a call saying that Butch Cassidy has no pants or shorts in his bag to wear for the weekend. Thanks for making me look like a mindless slacker, son... like I needed any help with that. And then there's packing for LLL... she's the one that has me turned into a nervous wreck this time about leaving.

She has slept away from home before, but I was with her... and she has slept at our house with someone staying here to take care of her... but she's never slept away from home without me there. With some kids, I wouldn't worry as much... but she's very attached to me and clingy right now... like a separation anxiety phase. she gets antsy if I walk across the room and she thinks she's getting left behind... so leaving her for two days and nights should be interesting. it makes me feel like a bad mom for leaving her, because I know she will get upset... and when she gets upset, the Earth shakes. I feel bad for her AND my inlaws that will be taking care of her... even though I know she will be in good hands. Hers brothers and sister will also be there, so hopefully that will distract her as well. I can also count on her pouting and taking it out on me for a few days when we come home... but this is when I stop and remind myself that being a mother is NOT my only responsibility or calling in life... I was called to be a wife first, and honoring that relationship with special time is so so so important, and needed. We haven't gotten away together without the kids in almost a year... we are long overdue for some couple time. I always try to remind myself not to take our awesome marriage for granted, and that I want to stay strong with him long after our kids are grown. The kid are a huge part of our lives... but they aren't our lives. I also believe its good for the kids to see us nurturing our marriage, so that they will remember its importance when they're grown.

I cant wait to tell you about all of the awesome adventures we have on our trip... a trip to Southfork Ranch, of Dallas the TV show fame, is planned, and Im sure other stuff will be, too!

Do you have any tips on packing for kids? Anything we should see in Dallas for sure? Any way to make LLL happier while I'm gone?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Random Surprises

By Jessica Azar
Is that title redundant? Oh well! Having kids has led to finding things in places where they shouldn't go frequently... Like on a daily basis. Make that several times a day. Over the years I've become less and less shocked by where I find things... Barbie in the toilet? So, what. Shoe in the freezer? Who cares... Unless I'm trying to fit even more frozen food in there... Then it annoys me that precious freezer space is being wasted. But today, after taking all of the kids except for LLL to school, I found something that cracked me up and made me smile. And it kind of amazed me. On the back of my SUV, on the rear gate handle that you use to open the back up, was a transformer hanging on for dear life. Starscream, to be exact, for you Transformer people out there. Somehow, he had stayed on there, clutching with just his wing, for the entire ride to and from school. With me driving 55 mph, and stopping at a couple of traffic lights... Taking various turns... He still hung on. I guess Sundance had been playing with him outside last night when I called him inside for supper. Hilarious. Never know what will happen next around here! 884c8c758befaa73bf5413992a8ac1175108f93e5a66591c87

Sampling Gluten Free Food... Udi's GF Three Cheese Pizza

By: Jessica Azar
As I have discussed before, eating a gluten-free diet greatly helps my Bipolar symptoms, so I do my best to stick to it... But it can be limiting at times. I miss bread... I miss good pasta... I miss PIZZA! In an attempt to add variety to my meals and break up the monotony of grilled chicken, veggies and almond butter "rut", I've decided to start trying out some convenience gluten-free foods. I know that I am always slightly apprehensive when I buy a new gluten-free product, because I have had some hideous experiences before, and also because special diet foods are expensive!!! I don't want to waste money on things that are going to taste awful... And while there are lots of reviews out there for Gluten Free foods, I've found that the most helpful ones come from blogs written by people in the trenches of time constraints that crave the comfort foods they can no longer have... So I'm going to review gluten-free foods as I buy and try them here on my blog! I hope they will be helpful to others in my boat, and also serve as a reminder for me of which foods I have actually already tried.... My brain is overloaded these days!

In the grocery store yesterday, I was craving I started browsing through the frozen, gluten free pizzas available. I saw this Udi's GF Three Cheese Pizza, and decided it would be the one. While I usually want pizza with more toppings than just cheese, this one just looked especially tasty to me. It cost $5.99 in my Publix grocery store, which I feel like it a little high, compared to regular frozen meals, but I know to expect GF to be a bit pricier. Doesn't mean. I like it.... Food sensitivities are expensive! 

Bought it, brought it home and put it in the oven for the prescribed 12minutes at 400 degrees. It quickly began to fill the kitchen with a yummy pizza aroma, that smelled just like a normal cheesy pizza. Special diet foods that smell different from the traditional foods they're imitating usually taste strange... At least in my experiences... So I was very excited about the great smell. It gets the appetite going too!
When I removed it from the oven, the cheese was beautifully melted, the edges and bottom were crisp (but not burnt) and the aroma of the pizza sauce made me want to dive head first into it. This is a thin crust-style pizza, but most GF pizzas seem to be. The crust had a good flavor, and was still moist when I cut into it... Not dried out.  I sliced it up and started gobbling... With the intention of saving half of it for later. That didn't happen.. I ate the whole thing! The sauce had a great flavor... Very tomatoey.. And a slight hint of sweetness. I'm not a fan of sweet pizza/marinara sauces... I refuse to put sugar in mine when I make it from scratch... But this combination with the basil in it was perfect. 

My daughter came in the kitchen wanting a bite, and even though this was my super special pizza, which she knows, I let her try some. She LOVED it, and wanted more! I told her no, and she wasn't happy, but she knows I can't have all of the goodies she can have, so she let it go. This little girl loves pizza, so you know that if she liked it, I'm betting your pizza-loving kids would too... Especially if they have a gluten allergy and don't get pizza often. 
Overall, I would rate this pizza a 9 out of 10... With 10 being the best pizza imaginable. I will definitely buy it again, and look forward to sampling more Udi's products!!! 

***This post was not sponsored by Udi's. I received no compensation or free product for writing it***

Monday, February 17, 2014

How Going Gluten Free Combats my Bipolar Symptoms

By: Jessica Azar
A lot of people have asked about which dietary changes have had a positive impact on my Bipolar symptoms, and how I discovered them, so I'm going to write a little bit about that. I've always been a big believer in the fact that food is medicine... What we eat directly affects everything about our physical makeup... Which in turn greatly affects our mental state. Several years ago, a friend of mine that suffers from two auto-immune diseases, Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis suggested that I should try dropping gluten from my diet, just to see if it helped me... She suffered from depression issues like I do, and dropping gluten had made a huge difference in her mental condition. For those of you that aren't familiar, Gluten is in anything containing Wheat, Barley or Rye. Yep. That means no Beer and a lot of liquors! Thankfully Single Malt Scotch, one of my favorite things on Earth, loses the gluten in its distillation process. Safe there! So I set about researching what foods contained gluten, and I was horrified to find that gluten was in... Well... Seemingly everything I enjoyed eating. I've always been a carbivore at heart... Loving French fries, bread, cookies, pasta, cakes etc had been a lifelong relationship for me. Quitting these things cold turkey seemed barbaric and harsh...but once I figured out what I COULD eat, and focused on that instead, I was able to see a glimmer of hope. I stripped gluten from my diet... And soon I started seeing amazing changes in my body. First of all, I dropped five pounds. Boom. Gone. I also noticed that a natural bloat in my lower abdomen that I had always had was no longer there... It was a thing I was so used to that I didn't know it COULD go away. I stopped having the occasional IBS (irritable bowel) episodes that plagued me... My mental state was much clearer (less brain fog) and TA-DA my moods were better! I was more stable... Anxiety wasn't nearly as bad... And I felt more cheerful. It was truly amazing. Then.... A few weeks later, I started slacking off. I started allowing gluten back into my diet, and the old ugly symptoms crept back in. I kind of resigned myself to them and forgot about how great going Gluten Free had made me feel... Until last Summer, June of 2013. In dealing with hideous, debilitating brain fog, depression that kept me on the couch daily, and fatigue that left me without energy to do ANYTHING, I started evaluating any potential tactics that might help me pull myself out of the ditch. I cut out gluten! once again! and all of the amazing changes I had experienced before came back! The diet switch didn't completely rid me of the troubling symptoms, but they were FAR less intense, and much more manageable. Like I've said, treating and managing Bipolar take a combination of strategies.... Not just one thing will fix all of the problems. I also learned the hard way that even a Little gluten is too much for me.... If I decided to have a cupcake at a birthday party, or accidentally are something with gluten in it, I knew I had made a big mistake within about 15 minutes of consuming the offending food. A headache hit me out of the blue... Brain fog started descending... I started feeling sluggish and tired... My body basically would revolt against the allegens from the treat and leave me in a state of "Ill never do this AGAIN!". I've also found that taking a product known as Gluten Cutter when I eat something that might have gluten in it or, if I realize my mistake after eating something that I shouldn't have helps to lessen the symptoms. I don't intentionally eat gluten though with the intention of taking it, though.... It's only for backup. Have any dietary changes helped your mental illness or autoimmune symptoms?! Please share! 

Coming Out... The Scoop (or some of it) on being a Bipolar Mom

By: Jessica Azar

I talk about it publicly... It's no secret... But I haven't really addressed my experience as a stay at home mom living with Bipolar disorder in writing.. Or here on this blog.  Having been inspired recently by another blogger who has "come out" publicly about being Bipolar, I feel it's time to discuss my experiences here with a series of posts. Hopefully, it will be easier to understand what it feels like to deal with this... To be in my shoes. Maybe it will help someone else going through the same things, to know that they're not alone, or help others to understand those in their lives enduring the battle. I seek to erase the stigma of having a mental illness, which usually stems from a lack of understanding, and the lack of realistic depictions of people living with them. Those battling Bipolar need a support system and coping skills.... Not to feel isolated and ostracized for something they can't change.

Although I may refer to myself as being "Bipolar", I am actually Diagnosed as Bipolar II. As a BP II, I typically do not have true "manias"... You know.... the "ups" characterized by erratic behaviors like impulsive shopping, risky choices etcetera. I don't experience the "woo hoo" rush of adrenaline and "feeling good"... I instead typically have Hypomania. Hypomania sucks... Really. It consists of being insanely irritable, wanting to clean/organize everything, going on two hours of sleep (intense energy and insomnia) and being easily frustrated... It's Kind of like being on Speed. Then, unless something helps to stop the cycle, I plunge into the deepest, ugliest depression you can imagine. Bipolar II depressions are actually considered to be more severe than those of someone diagnosed with Bipolar I... And because of it, there is a higher suicide rate associated with BP II. My depression usually consists of: Crying at bedtime because I don't want to get up the next day (Not in a suicidal sense... But that I just can't bear the thought of having to get up and do everything all over again the next day that must be done) or heck, crying a day long, never knowing when the depressive quicksand will let go of me and let me emerge (it can be a week or 3 months), combined with endless exhaustion/fatigue and a complete loss of motivation. I only do what I can force myself to do that MUST be done... Keeping the Herd fed and clothed... Taking them to places where they HAVE to go... Holding our lives together with duck tape rather than tidy stitches of competence.

 Sometimes I feel like my "illness" provides them with an extra special mom... When they get to experience my creativity and high energy. It is then that they get to enjoy the "benefits" of my condition. If you do a quick Google search, you will see a list of tons of amazing people throughout history who have personally battled Bipolar Disorder... And usually they are amazingly creative types. It's a constant struggle, but having Bipolar Disorder is not without some benefits. When I'm not depressed, I have bouts of being extremely inspired and creative... Whether I'm writing, or making something with the kids, I fuel my energies into being productive and accomplishing goals just to accomplish them. This compulsion has led me to embark on many goal oriented quests, and I'm not sure that I would feel those urges if my brain chemistry weren't ordered in the way of a Bipolar mind.

Mostly, I try to convince myself that I'm not screwing them up too badly, and that they are having happy childhoods that will be remembered fondly... And hoping that they won't remember too much about the summer when Mommy only wanted to sit on the couch and never go anywhere. And cried. A lot. Or that they will think of me as yelling a lot and having no patience (thank you Hypomania)... Or as being aloof and thinking I'm uninterested in them... When exactly the opposite is true. The Guilt is incredibly strong... Compounded by the usual "Mommy guilt" that most mothers endure. 

I also worry that my children may have inherited my issues... And I wouldn't wish the hellish parts of being bipolar on anyone... Especially the jewels of my heart. I even had a doctor suggest that I not have any more children (I already had our first two children when I was first correctly diagnosed)... Both to keep from passing the predisposition on to them and to make life more manageable for me. Sleep disturbance (which kids usually cause) can disrupt bipolar mood cycles. Part of me also felt like I shouldn't subject more kids to dealing with a bipolar Mom. When I did get pregnant with our last two herd members, it was a difficult leap of faith, because I had to quit taking all of my medicines (for the safety of the baby)... cold turkey. Withdrawal threw me into the pits of hell depression (where I usually wind up when I'm not pregnant and have been taken off of my meds).. All while taking care of TWO (or THREE with the last pregnancy) small children AND simultaneously battling the ills of early pregnancy, like morning sickness and exhaustion. Pregnancy exhaustion plus Depression exhaustion is evil, and not for the weak! Part of me feels like I cheated them out of having my complete focus and attention because of our choices, but at the same time I know that the best gifts that I can give my children are my love and siblings. They will always have each other, and if nothing lose, can commiserate about their crazy mom. 

The unpredictability of knowing how my moods and mindset will be at a future time makes it very difficult to plan things and make big decisions... Like whether to homeschool or not... We had intended to homeschool my oldest this last Fall... And I had a bit of a nervous breakdown due to me piling WAY too much on my plate, and that plan had to changed at the last minute. It makes me worried about signing on for additional responsibilities or taking risks, and then my body not being able to cash the check I wrote. Finding a balance between living up to my potential and overbooking myself is a tough process... And it's ongoing. 

Pharmaceuticals aren't and shouldn't be the only tool in the toolbox of managing mental illness, but they are an important part of treatment for many people, myself included. I have been through many different "cocktails" of meds... Never knowing if it would work that time or if it would take a few weeks to see a difference.... there isn't a one size fits all treatment or medicine for Bipolar patients.... Many times a drug change can (and has, in my case) made matters infinitely worse. At one point, my well-meaning doctor thought I had too much serotonin, and yanked my anti-depressant out from under me. When that happened, the world turned upside down... I had a nervous breakdown (at this time I had three kids) and I cried nonstop. Could NOT make myself stop.... Could NOT control my own thoughts. I was never suicidal, in that I realized that I only felt the way that I did because of my meds being so out of whack. The doctor was an eyelash away from hospitalizing me, which is one of my biggest fears in life. It took me going away for a mini-vacation with my a Mom for a weekend and being out on some Heavy Meds (Depakote being one of them) to throw my body into neutral. It worked, but I felt numb.... Like a zombie. Thankfully, that feeling wore off, and I was slowly, over time, able to wean myself off the heavy meds and back on to my usual medicines. Although I was thankful to have my medicines righted and sanity back, I gained 15 pounds as a side effect of the heavy meds.... And I began looking for something to lose the weight. 

It was by God's grace that my sister-in-law mentioned the beginning runner's Couch to 5k program to me. I had always thought that I couldn't be a runner... I was dancer in my younger years and never played sports, but I love a challenge... And I also needed something for ME. One of the hardest things about being a Bipolar Mom is that you NEED to take extra care of yourself... But that rarely happens. We, as moms in general, are always worried about taking care of our families, and typically put our own needs dead last. So running, one of my most valuable Bipolar Management tools, entered the picture. It gave me a goal to focus on (at that point, completing a 5k), time for myself, stress relief (needed for my anxiety AND in managing a Herd of demanding kids) PLUS endorphins!!! The endorphins and energy from the exercise did wonders for my depression... And now if I slack off on my running, my moods reflect it. The biggest problem I have is that when I do go into a depression, it's hard for me to get motivated to run, even though I know it will cure what ails me. Running has become so vital to my mental health that I decided to keep running during my fourth pregnancy... Partially because I didn't want to lose the progress I had made (running my first half marathon) and mainly because I knew it would help me to battle my Bipolar symptoms while I couldn't take my medicines. With my ObGyn's guidance, I ran until I was 35 weeks pregnant, and completed a half marathon at 32 weeks. That dare to dream/romance of possibility that Bipolar gives me yielded another accomplishment that I treasure. I will be discussing the relationship between running and my bipolar 

In addition to running, another major lifestyle modification that has helped my symptoms in a HUGE way is changing my diet. Removing Gluten completely and reducing Dairy has had a profound impact of my life... I will be blogging more on this later in the series. 

So all of this being said, being Bipolar and a mother of four small children is hard... But worth it. Even though I have to remind myself of it quite frequently, I am a good mom, my kids are blessed to have me and even though the battle is tough, I wouldn't trade my mind for someone else's. I seek to appreciate myself as I am... And hope others can do the same. 

I will be posting more things about my experiences as a BP mom, but I felt like giving y'all some background would help with understanding the current things I encounter and discuss. In future posts I will also discuss more directly how being Bipolar affects my day to day life with the Herd.

Let me know your thoughts!!! I feel a little naked in putting all of this out here for the world to see, but I think it's important... I hope you can gain something from it, and if you know of someone who could benefit from it, please share this post with them. Comments and questions are welcome!

Updated Herd Introduction

Allow me to update you on  the Herd! So much has changed since I began this blog two years ago...

My name is Jessica, and I'm the crazy stay at home mom who manages the Herd. I love being home with my kids, even when things are insanely stressful and hectic.... And I know that I'm doing what I was called to do! Running, Yoga, Reading, Writing (this blog and other things), drinking Single Malt Scotch, classic rock, knitting and learning Gaelic in my "free time" are things that I enjoy. 

I have been married to my amazing husband The High Roller for nearly 9 years, and we've had some amazing adventures.... Some travel related.. But overwhelmingly kid-related. When we had our first child, Butch Cassidy, it took two of us to figure out how to change a diaper. Seriously. But now that we've accepted that we control nothing in this house we are rocking along quite nicely with four kids in our care. We just have to maintain the ILLUSION of control.... Or we really will be in trouble. He's in sales, and plays a lot of cards, and I dig him. A lot.

Butch Cassidy is our wild 7-year old son. He's tall and lanky, headstrong, defiant, very mechanically inclined, extremely affectionate and loving. Although he may be a handful, and likes to drive his siblings to madness, he's the first to defend and take care of them if need arises.

Sundance is our second son that's 6-years old and smart as a whip. Very witty and calculating.... But he's also his brother's partner in crime. They're 14 months apart, and have kept me pulling my hair out for their lifetimes. Sundance is very verbally gifted, and I think he may have some of my OCD tendencies. 

The Princess is our 4 year old daughter, who's sweet as can be but tough as nails. With those outlaws for big brothers, she has to be strong. She started taking slides head-on at 18 months old, and is still a thrill-seeker. She loves doing ballet and any kind of dance, and is the best snuggled I've ever met. 

LLL, Lucky Little Lady, is 2 years old, and has been hell on wheels since she was born. Extremely sweet, adorable and loving, she also tests my patience nonstop. She loves to dance and is passionate about Johnny Rivers' music, blueberries and yogurt.

Blowing the Whistle is Heriditary... I Guess

By: Jessica Azar
It's one of those funny things that all parents witness from time to time... where you see one or all of your kids do something or act a certain way that you acted as a child.  I get smacked in the face with it frequently around here! My oldest child, Butch Cassidy, does this to me a lot.

Today, he was playing out back with his brother Sundance and a neighborhood friend, G. G is really more of a friend of Sundance's, but they all play together... even the Princess joins them on occasion. They were all jumping and wrestling on the trampoline out back. I had talked to them beforehand and reminded all of them to play nicely... that I knew there would be wrestling, but to not do anything that would actually hurt someone. G and Sundance pretty well adhere to my guidelines.... they rarely take things too far. Butch Cassidy, on the other hand, seeks to push the limits on anything and everything, anywhere and anytime. I finally had to make Butch come inside and let the others play without him, because he kept hitting a little too hard.... cranking things up a notch or two too high. The other boys had also deserted him, after begging for me to intervene. He came inside reluctantly, dejected, and I talked to him for the millionth time about playing too rough, and I could tell by looking at him that the rough play wasn't just a lack of self control... he was jealous of them. Although he likes them both individually, he can not (this is an ongoing thing) handle playing with them together. he doesn't want to share G's attention with Sundance, and he doesn't want to share his brother and best friend, Sundance, with someone else. He's been used to dictating Sundance's friendships since he was born.... Butch dislikes this lack of control. He gets it from his

It instantly reminded me of the incident known in my family and coined by my parents as "Blowing the Whistle".... "Jessica HAS to Blow the Whistle". Any time in my life from that incident forward when I was being bossy or a control freak about something, this situation always got brought up. I was about Butch Cassidy's age, I had a double play date at my house. My best friend from school, Rebecca, and my cousin, April, who had been the closest thing I had ever had to a sister were both there... and I had no idea how to play with both of them at the same time. So, naturally, heeding my control impulses, I took charge of the situation. I had a whistle... no telling here from... and I decided that I wanted them to do jumping jacks and run when I blew it... and stop when I blew it again. Kind of like a coach, I guess... but I refused to share the whistle and let the other two girls have a turn being in charge. as you can imagine, they quickly got sick of this game, ditched me, and went off to play together... leaving me the odd one out. I was crushed, but it taught me several important life lessons. I found out, and have found out other times in my life that taking charge is a great thing at times, but it won't win you friends in the social realm. Respect, maybe... but not appreciation. Reflecting on it now, I see even more the importance of letting kids play and learn to handle themselves on their own, among their peers, without constant intervention. It's part of growing up, and once again I am thankful that God has given me a Herd of kids, so I cannot helicopter parent them and keep them from learning these lessons on their own. Butch Cassidy just learned a hard lesson, and I know there will be many more to come.

A Talent Shines Forth

As I have illustrated in so many earlier posts, Butch Cassidy's mechanical inclination is a source of frustration for me in out household... He has dissected numerous appliances... Can't control himself when he wants to know how something works... Has boundless curiosity for the consequences of combining substances... But as he gets older, his curiosity and the knowledge he has gained from his lifelong career in experimenting is starting to become beneficial for me! Yesterday, LLL started crying at her door after waking up from her nap. I went to her door to let her out... But somehow she had locked her door from the inside. I ran to my purse to get out a debit card to pick the lock (I've gotten good at doing this over the past few years. Ha!) then back to her door to work it open. LLL was starting to get frantic at this point, and for some reason I was having trouble making it work this time...maybe he banging on the door and screaming were rattling my nerves... When Butch Cassidy walked up and said, "Mama, here... Let me try. A Capri Sun (juice box drink) straw works great". So I stepped back and let him go to work. He inserted the skiing straw into the tiny circular opening on the doorknob, where those pin-shaped keys go... We lost those years ago) and PRESTO! the door instantly popped open. He smiled at me and said "There you go!". I thanked him and praised him for being so creative and smart... He beamed with pride at getting to help. I told him he saved the day, and he's gotten me to recount the incident to everyone we've talked to today, which I gladly did. This situation gave me a glimpse into the future... And reminded me that many things that canbe frustrating often can become a blessing in disguise. I will, however, continue to pray that he chooses to become an engineer and not a criminal with his talents... The world wouldn't know what to do if he went rogue. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Ebbs and Flows- Life of a BPII, Part 2

By: Jessica Azar
One of the things about living with Bipolar that continually challenges me is that it's constantly changing. Certain tools, like running, medicine adjustments etc., can spark an upturn in a descending (depressive) mood cycle or even completely pull a mood that's quagmired in depression back up again.... But these rescues are never lasting... And when turbulence strikes once again, another variable in the endlessly complex puzzle of brain chemistry must be altered.

After battling serious brain fog (cloudy thinking) and the inability to stay focused on what's going on around me, I asked my psychiatrist what I could do to help myself...It was interfering in everything I did daily and had been for some time. She suggested that my Lamictal dosage, which is my mood stabilizer, might be too high, and that the way I was feeling can be a drug side effect.... So she suggested that I half my Lamictal dosage for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  There are times I feel like I am continually choosing which side effects I can endure for the greater good of staying sane... It's a catch-22 and I have to weigh undesirable consequences against one another.... It gets old. Really old. It's so crazy to me that a medicine that has helped me so much for so long must suddenly be changed, because it's now affecting me adversely. It's also evokes a panicky, worried feeling in my gut, because I never know how any change to my regimen or lifestyle will affect everything else... And it can go hideously wrong. 

Because I could not live with and fight through the cognitive issues anymore, (they have been going on since last summer) I decided to take her advice and half the Lamictal dose. As always, I was apprehensive for the first few days... Waiting for the bottom to fall out if was going too... Analyzing my every thought and feeling... But then I started to feel great. Cognitive issues cleared up... Moods improved... More energy... Even lost a few pounds that I wasn't expecting to lose (meds can make me hold weight). It was fantastic, but then a couple of days ago, I started noticing the rapid fluctuation of my moods. Great. 

I kept having feelings of intense energy (strong, forceful compulsions to do things) as well as moods with heightened feeling, by where I feel emotions to my CORE... Even about little things. I get melancholy and nostalgic, and then frustrated and hyper focused on things of lesser importance. When I recognize the swings or alternating moods... They can switch every hour in my case-all BP's don't rapid cycle- and it's truly exhausting. Being that I so recently went through altering my meds, it gives me a feeling of being somewhat defeated... That I will never be able to rest in feeling good and knowing that it will never last. 

As I write this, I'm tearful... And an hour ago I was absolutely elated over the fantastic evening the High Roller and I had last night at the Masker's Ball. Being an emotional yo-yo is no fun. I'm also worried that a mixed state is trying to enter the scene... By where I have depressive symptoms and hypomanic symptoms at the same time. Upping my Lamictal by half will be my first line of action. I think one reason I either may not have noticed the fluctuations as much to begin with or not had them initially could be that I'm running regularly once again... Running helps relieve stress and relax me, but it doesn't solve all of my chemical issues. Fingers crossed this med tweak will work and not affect me adversely. Since tomorrow is a school holiday, I will have all four kids home with me through this adjustment... Praying they behave and that I will be in a state of mind to make it a fun day for them.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day with the Herd... the Good, the Bad, the scary Ugly

There are tons of things that I absolutely adore about Valentine's day... The sweet notes memories that always surface of he years of love I've shared with the High Roller.... The awesome family we have to love... But there are also some things that are less than dreamy... Especially when you're dealing with a Herd of four wild kids. Valentines Day has a way of making me feel incompetent or insecure in some ways... Like contributing to the Valentines school parties, or getting a gift for the High Roller... But I'm getting better at remembering those things aren't what the holiday represents. 

In preparation for the V-Day parties celebrations at school, I had found some amazing ideas on Pinterest to help the kids make for their friends to give them at the traditional card swap... I really really wanted to get a huge box of silly straws off of and print out these cute cards I found on the evil known as Pinterest... For years I have been too over stretched with responsibilities and time that I have done the bare minimum for the kids' valentines, and I've always felt a pang of guilt when they came home with awesome bags of valentines from their friends that were creative and generous, if not over-the-top at times. Now that LLL is two, and I'm not in crisis survival mode, I decided to do them proud this year.... But when we went to Target to buy the card stock and printer ink, the kids saw the ready-boxed character valentines and went nuts.... They had to have THOSE to take to school! I was slightly disappointed, and dare I say it, embarrassed that they would rather have those than the awesome idea I had found. I kind of tried to persuade them otherwise.... But then I remembered that these were for THEM to give THEIR friends... And if these were what made them happy, then that's what we should do. So we did. We brought them home, and I had them sit at the table, and we diligently began assembling them after they had addressed/signed the sides. 
They were very proud of their work, and we had a blast working on them... It reminded me that things don't have to be complicated for them to be enjoyable and rewarding. Love how much I learn from these people! As you can see, Butch Cassidy chose Batman, Sundance chose Despicable Me minions, and the Princess chose Hello Kitty. They had a fantastic time at their parties, and were proud that their valentines came with a token other than candy that would "last"... Although I'm not vouching for the sturdiness or longevity of the trinkets :) Erasers, temporary tattoos and little bracelets are exciting to kids! The Princess and I also made cupcakes to celebrate... She loves to bake... And LLL was thrilled to sneak one of the Princess' Valentine stamps away to her room... It must've smelled good:

After mentioning the candy... I can't ignore the fact that them bringing home tons of it on Valentine's doesn't ill me out. As a mom of four kids, this creates a nightmarish situation for several days by where people are constantly cracked out from sugar overload, begging me for more candy like a junkie begging for another hit... And if I'm super lucky, finding THIS in their rooms at 7AM on a Saturday :
THAT'S when you know it's going to be a hellish day. Butch Cassidy takes several days to detox from a single cookie... Imagine him after he's crammed a month's worth of carefully spaced out treats all in one sitting.... Kind of makes me think of a meth head or a gremlin that's been fed after midnight. The other kids aren't much better.... Insanely hyper, loud, annoying each other on purpose, disobeying.... It's a mess. I try to make them pour that energy into being productive around the house, because it's somewhat punitive for them and helpful for me, but that's difficult to do when you can't hold their attention longer than 30 seconds. But they're still my minions.... They'll do as I say! ;) 

The kids got sweet cards from my Aunt, along with $5 a piece to spend as they wish! They get so excited about getting mail... And she always sends them a card for holidays :) 
But all in all, it was a fun day. We watched the Charlie Brown Valentine special with them, and then the High Roller grilled us amazing steaks after the Herd went to bed. Wine, steak and laughing in peace with my sweetie makes for a fantastic night.

What did you do for V-Day?! Do your kids get cracked out on the candy too?! How do you handle it? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Funny Valentine

Having gotten all of the kids ready for their Valentine's Day celebrations by helping them with making their Valentine's for friends, I remembered that I hadn't gotten a Valentine's Card yet for the High Roller, and that I needed to do so. Cards with long personal, hand-written messages are worth more to me than gold... So naturally I always try to honor him with a great message of love and appreciation from me on special occasions as well as random days and times.... But this year for Valentines Day I'm going to write a letter about him in this blogpost, so that anyone who takes the time to read this will understand how special he is to me, and why he's all I ever wanted. Here's a picture of us right after we got married:

We met unexpectedly in my Freshman Spring of College, which was his Junior Spring. I had been dating around at college after having gotten out of a hideous abusive and controlling relationship just a few months before, and really was not looking to get into a relationship (isn't that when you always find what you need?). A mutual friend of ours that I had graduated high school with and that the High Roller was playing college baseball with invited me to go to a party/gathering to hangout when I was home from college one weekend... And the party happened to be at the High Roller's parents house. Walking into the house, I only knew the friend who had brought me, but I started to talk to everyone, and then I saw him. The High Roller was (and still is) a big guy... About 6'5 and heavy-framed. He had jet black hair and dark brown eyes, with the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen (until I gave birth to our youngest daughter.. Those eyelashes could break records) and a healthy tan complexion. I instantly took note of him... I was definitely interested in learning more about him. From watching him interact with everyone else there, it was obvious that he was very laid-back and good with people... Very self confident and entertaining, with a great sense of humor, but not pushy or arrogant. And a guy's guy, in the sense that he very obviously liked outdoor sports, hunting, fishing... All important factors for most Southern girls evaluating a guy for dating potential. We talked a bit and I felt a connection... And I knew I wanted to see more of him. 

My friend took me home and I let him know that I was interested in the High Roller.... Or at least in finding out if he was interested in ME.  Started seeing him at more group gatherings... One of which was at our friend's house... They wanted to play cards.. I was sitting across the table from the High Roller and my phone kept ringing... And hanging up. And finally I realized it was him calling me by holding his phone under the table. I figured it out and he was enjoying teasing e and watching me get riled up.... That's still a sport in our household. It's funny to look back at that night, because so many inside jokes that have survived the entirety of our almost 12-year relationship were created then. Makes me smile to think about it. For a couple of weeks later, I kept getting prank phone calls... Nothing rude or mean... Just me answering the phone... Someone saying "Got her" or "Thank You" and hanging up. Didn't take me long to realize it was my friend and the High Roller calling... So I found out the a High Roller's number and started returning the calls in kind... The first time I called him I chose to wake him up at 7ish in the morning... Which is tortuously early for most college students. He's told me that me calling him at that point kind of hooked him... Guess he liked the fact that I would play back and was confident enough to return the prank. This eventually evolved into calling back and forth wars... And finally he said "Whoa! Don't hang up! I want to talk to you"... And so we did. For a long time... And we discovered how much we had in common in terms of both being very traditional, enjoying the same things...and one of the funniest commonalities of our relationship: our fathers had been close friends in high school and consequently, gotten into some interesting scrapes together. We had both grown up hearing each other's Dad's names in stories from their high school days.  We also realized that we knew TONS of the same people and had even been at some of the same parties in high school at the same time and never seen each other... That's God's timing, for sure.... We weren't ready for each other yet. It's hilarious to me that we grew up in a town where there's so much overlap with sports and schools and parents knowing each other, and although we went to two different private schools in the city, we had so many common friends but had never met. Still blows my mind to think of all the times we must've walked past each other and never known. 

He invited me to come over to a gathering at the house he had just moved into with two roommates, where, interestingly enough, a BUNCH of my guy friends from high school were there playing cards. He ended up kissing me outside the house that night before I went home, and we talked on the phone until about 5AM. Excluding a three week period of time the following January (cough, cough High Roller wised up) we have been together ever since. 

We have done so much growing up together (I was 19 when we met, he was barely 21) and had the most fabulous adventures so far... We've conquered college, first jobs, getting engaged then married, and having four stair step kids all together... And I know that I could not have done all of those things successfully and happily with anyone else. I love how extremely smart he is... And in completely different ways from my areas of strength. Which is perfect... Otherwise our finances would be scary... Numbers aren't my strong suit. We balance each other out tremendously... He chills me out and makes me think twice before acting too quickly.... I motivate him (nicely and not so nicely, at times) to get up and do whatever needs to be done. There's a LOT of give and take... Which is far from perfect... But then, wouldn't life be boring if it was perfect? Mainly we have a lot of fun and laugh a lot... And I think the real glue is that we love each other to death... There are times when it's easy to take each other for granted... And I work constantly to not do that... I try to recognize hi. And praise him for the wonderful father, husband and man that he has become, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with him. 

To my husband, I love you more and more everyday, and I am so blessed to have you for my best friend. You can make me laugh harder than anyone else, and you own the keys to my heart. Thank you for loving me through all of my endless craziness, being an amazing provider and head of our family, and for growing with me every step of our journey. I'm forever in awe of all that you do, and will never grow tired of the True Love that I was given at such a young age. I'm yours, whether you like it or not. Can't wait to see you when you get home! 

Love, Me

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Homemade Frosty Time!

After seeing a recipe on Pinterest for a homemade version of a Wendy's Frosty several times, I decided on a whim to try it!
We love Frostys, and it only called for three ingredients, plus an ice cream maker... Mission:Accepted. I went in search of the ice cream maker that the High Roller and I received as a wedding present nine years ago.... Still new in the box... Never used. I found it pretty quickly (which is strange around here), set it up and it worked great! Kudos to Cuisinart. The recipe called for a can of sweetened condensed milk, a half gallon of chocolate milk, and a container of cool whip. Mix it up in a pitcher then pour into the ice cream freezer!
20 minutes later, it was ready and these people (especially the High Roller) went crazy for it. Will definitely be doing this again! 20 minutes after that, it was all gone, minus the scrapings in the freezer bowl. Give it a try... You'll love it!

What easy treats have you found on Pinterest that turned out well?! Share the wealth of knowledge... Life gets boring around here! Just kidding... It's never boring... But we always love good treat ideas.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Princess' Big Night Out

Well last night was the big night she's been eagerly awaiting... The Princess went on her first date.... with her Daddy! Her excitement grew as the time to get ready got closer yesterday...finally we dressed her in her ruffled hot pink dress, hot pink shoes, hot pink hair bow and white tights. she requested to wear her special occasion pearls that her great-grandmother, my Mimi, started collecting for her when she was born. While she was getting dressed, her Daddy got dressed in his best suit and the pink tie she chose for him to wear. As you can see here in the pictures, both the High Roller and his Princess were thrilled about the big night out:

They joined Princess' friend Virginia and her daddy, who also just happens to be a good friend of the High Roller's, for supper at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant before the dance. Naturally, I wasn't there to observe things first hand, but the High Roller said the girls giggled and chatted throughout their supper and used very grown up manners... no dresses were harmed during the meal.

Then they were off to the big dance! They did the chicken dance, the YMCA, and they even played the Princess' favorite song, "Tiny Dancer"... She thinks it was written about her, as a budding ballerina, which makes me giggle.  Her daddy, the High Roller, who normally hates to dance and will rarely dance with me at special events, had a blast dancing with her (when she wasn't dancing with all of her little girlfriends who were there) and she was exhausted and ready to come home and go to sleep before he was ready to stop dancing!

She caught a second burst of energy once she got home, however, as she excitedly told me and her siblings about all the fun she had and showed off the beautiful mylar butterfly balloon her daddy let her bring home... and many fights over who can hold the balloon. The committee for the Pike Road Father Daughter Dance did an amazing job of putting this event together, and I am very grateful to them for their time and efforts.

I was so excited for her to get to experience how she should be treated on a fun evening out, and how gentlemen should treat a lady, regardless of her age. She's very lucky to have a daddy that can show her what she should expect and demand in her future relationships... both by his everyday interactions with me as his wife and sweetheart, as well as how special he makes her feel on occasions like this one. This will become a yearly occasion that they will eagerly anticipate, and in a year or two, both of our daughters will get to enjoy this special night. Precious memories were and will be made that we can all treasure... holding on tight to them.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Clean House Lust

Since Pinterest has made me feel completely inept at keeping my house clean with all of those organizational pins and sample To Do lists and pictures of sparkling clean houses, I am going to start a movement to show what the living rooms of real houses with real kids living in them looks like. 
Who's game? It's like when women constantly see pictures of airbrushed models in swimsuits.... We know it can't be completely real, but it still makes us compare ourselves to them and criticize the amazing bodies we do have. This could be a chance to look at what we all really do have.... And might make me look at the carpet stains.... Scribbles on walls... Socks on the floor etc as a way to see the beauty and fun that having a herd of young kids brings... Rather than focusing on the mess. We could even look at each other's pictures and help each other to see the positives that we overlook in our own homes.... 

What do you think? Would you be brave enough to do this? 

The Smell of the Herd

Ok... I've been debating on writing this post, and I've decided it must be done.... I know I cannot possibly be the only mom battling this out there!!! The Herd's obsession with potty language (not cuss words.... Like actual giggling discussions about Number One and Number Two) AND bodily functions is stinking up my house... Figuratively and literally.

I'm at a loss here.... I've always tried to teach them NOT to pass gas in font of other people... And now.... It's a game. Like, a battle of epic proportions. They hold each other down and sit on each other while they do it... They try to sneak SBDs (silent but deadly, for those not in the know) and blame each other while laughing, but them proudly take credit for them... Sometimes even arguing over who did it so they can BRAG about it. They play "Turtle".... Either alone or together... By where they pass gas under a blanket and see who can stand the stench the longest... It's simply awful. And what's even worse is the GIRLS, mainly The Princess, have gotten in on the act. It's not just the BOYS anymore... They've even taught LLL to say "Poot"... And when she does, they all dissolve into fits of hysterical laughter. so she's started saying it in public to strangers and grinning to get a reaction out of them. My car STINKS from their explosions.... More than my car that hauls four kids plus their junk normally stinks... I think the interior is stained. I may have to just leave the windows down indefinitely.... And the house seems like it has a fog that just hangs here... Hideous I know, and now you will never want to come to our house!!! Guests enter at their own risk anyways... no matter how hard I work on cleaning up and make them clean up, toys are still everywhere.

I've tried talking to them about why its impolite to talk about that in public... It's nothing to be ashamed of, for sure, but it's not a pleasant topic for conversation... I've punished them in multiple and various ways... Nothing is helping! While I do realize that this is a completely normal stage... I remember whenmy brother and I went through it... They feed off of each other and I feel like they have mutinied against me.... And I'm not used to losing control of this ship.... Or at least complete control over something. 

For those of you who know me well, it's not that I'm easily grossed out.... I cloth diapered three of the kids from infancy to potty-training, which is NOT for the feint of heart... And I've dealt with an endless stream of disgusting messes from ALL of these people (look up The Worst Diaper Explosion in History to be thoroughly horrified) but for some reason this has sent me over the edge!!! It's constant, and from all sides. And the High Roller does nothing to help in this matter.... He thinks it's hilarious. And it kind of is... For awhile.... But disgusting!!  I mean, I don't like bullying at all.... But I kind of hope they do it at school and some kid embarasses them into submission over it... One of the positives of social peer pressure. 

Have you or ARE you dealing with this in your house right now?!?! What should I do to make them cut it out?!? Save my sanity.... And my nose.

Daddy's Little Girl

When a friend of mine sent me an email a few weeks ago about an upcoming Father-Daughter Dance in our town, I knew that the High Roller just HAD to take the Princess to it. Talk about memories being made... wonderful pictures to be taken and so much fun... but more importantly, I want her to know that she is so very special and should always be treated as such. Having an amazing relationship with her Daddy will do so much for her self-worth and expectations of how other males should treat her in the future. This will be an opportunity to build on the already strong foundation of their relationship... and hopefully she will seek the traits that she loves about him in a husband when she's grown. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see how her sweet face lights up when he comes home from work, or how he melts whenever she asks him for anything. So wonderful.

They will be going to supper before the dance with one of the Princess' friends and HER daddy, and she is so excited. Can you imagine these two little girl, all dressed up, and so excited to be having a special night on the town with their fathers? It's the way things should be... and Im so thankful that my daughters get to have a great Dad to support and love them.

So of course, we needed to find her a party dress to wear for her evening out, and made a special shopping trip this morning, with her grandmother, Gigi (my Mom) and her little sister, LLL, in tow. She was by the excitement of the situation, and she tried on many dresses before selecting the ONE (and its fun to know that there will be many of these dress shopping trips in our future). It's Hot Pink... Perfect for a Valentines themed occasion.
 We then went to another store and she selected hot pink Mary Jane-style shoes... a hot pink bow for her hair... and a hot pink coat to wear over it to stay warm. Yes, that's definitely a LOT of HOT PINK... and if I had been being more practical... and the shoes and coat not been on clearance... I would've steered her towards black shoes and skipped the coat... but they WERE on clearance, and she was utterly delighted.

After outfitting her entirely, she reminded me that she wanted to choose a matching tie for her Daddy... so off to the Men's Big and Tall department we went. They had the perfect tie in, you guessed it, Hot Pink (but respectably and attractively so) with a blue diagonal stripe pattern on it. They will look fantastic... but I cannot wait to hear all about their special evening and see the looks on their faces as they head off for a memorable night of fun.

The Princess was very concerned that her Poppy (my Dad and husband of Gigi) was not taking me, his little girl to the Dance. I explained to her that Poppy has taken me to many special things during my lifetime, and that I would be just fine. It did remind me though, that a relationship between a Dad and Daughter needs to be tended and grown even when everyone has grown up... its a relationship that shouldn't just stop once you start having kids of your own. Even if it was a distant relationship or a strained one, that can be worked on, as long as you both want to make time for it. and we should... and I will. Think I may see about setting up a date with Poppy very soon.

What are some ways you are helping your daughter have a great relationship with her father? What are your favorite memories of time spent with your dad growing up?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Running Gives Me Direction

I didn't get to run over the weekend due to some crazy nausea I was dealing with... My own and a couple of my kids. I didn't think running while I felt pukalicious was a hot idea, so I wanted until last night for my next running excursion. Had to really cling to that firm sense of resolve to get myself out the door... Had a long and tiring day, plus I had to wait until much later in the evening to head out than usual because my husband had to go get our deer meat to be put in our freezer.... These people eat a lot and getting an entire deer or two will last us a couple of months. Although I knew it was a necessary errand, it put me farther behind, growing more tired and less motivated by the moment. To keep myself from copping out. I splurged and bought myself a couple of new songs off of iTunes for my running playlist and started brainstorming about what races I want to set my sights on to train for this year.
I finally knew it was time to set a goal, and use that as direction to keep me focused on training.
An email popped up in my mailbox about that time reminding me that registration for The Bear Run had opened that day! I took that as a sign, and registered. The Bear Run is, in my opinion, the toughest race I've ever run.... Including Marine Corps Marathon.  
Never have I wanted to quit a race THAT badly.... Brutal... but the most amazing scenery for a race... Remember the hairpin turn in Forrest Gump when he's running in the mountains? Yep. I got to run that. Would rival what I got to see when I ran the Barrathon in Scotland. And THAT was beyond amazing. The long sleeve tech shirts we got for running it (long sleeve in July, you say?! We NEEDED it at the top of that windy mountain after the race!) plus the Bear Medallion finishing medal were enough to make me forget the pain. Sort of. The Bear Run takes place every year during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC... Near Boone, NC. We also attend the Games, so I wore my Clan MacNeil running kilt for the run. The race goes (literally) straight up Grandfather Mountain... A climb of 1535 feet in just 5 miles. Honestly, between the sick, never ending steepness and altitude, I don't think there is truly a great way to train for this race, living where I live... But I'm going to work my hardest. Lots of treadmill incline work and strength training for my legs will be coming. One perk of this race is that it's usually around 60 degrees F in the middle of July, so that's a huge treat to this Southern runner. For more info on the race, look here! 
Last night, I finally headed out to do 3 miles, and was really enjoying myself... Legs felt pretty good, energy and breathing weren't bad. In the midst of my mental unwinding process and listening to Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy", I decided that I want to shoot for running two Half Marathons this year, plus a The Bear Run. One of those Halfs will probably be the Montgomery Half in October, and I'm still thinking on the other. 
Ran 2 miles in 21:05... Didn't get the third mile in because I stopped to talk with a neighbor friend who witnessed a crazy driver in a car we didn't know drive into the cul de sac (where I was running and my friend was taking out trash) like a bat out of hell and fly around the cul de sac twice. Freaked both of us out.... Finally we realized it was a girl that stays at one of the houses ever so often... Normally I carry a self defense item with me, but didn't last night  I didn't... Glad it wasn't some creeper out to get me. If I see that girl in the daylight I will give her a piece of my mind... Probably with a few kids in tow.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Groundhog Season?

So, by now you may have realized that my second child, Sundance, has a very biting wit... And the intelligent observations he makes add a growny or sophisticated edge to his comments. Quite honestly, he probably gets away with a lot of stuff that he shouldn't, because I share the same sense of humor. He also knows how to disarm me with it when I'm mad at him... I've got to teach him to temper it before he gets into serious trouble with another kid or authority figure.

ANYWAYS... He made a comment this morning on the way to school that seriously cracked me up.

Sundance: Mama, what's today? 
Me: Monday
S: No, no... The actual date
Me: February 3rd
S: What?! So Groundhog's Day was YESTERDAY?! (We actually made a point of telling the herd yesterday that it was GDAY)
Me: Yes.... We told you!
S: Ugh... Well so what did he say?!?!? Is it going to be an early spring?
Me: Actually, Phil said that we will have six more weeks of winter
S: WHAT?! They need to get a new Groundhog... This is ridiculous. 

I'm kind of smirking to myself at this point, and I hear him speak up again a few minutes later...

S: Mom, do people hunt Groundhog? 
Me: Huh?! I don't know... (I already knew where he was going with this)
S:If they do, there might be a new groundhog next year. Just sayin'.

My kid wants to knock off the groundhog so he can get a better weather report!!!! What am I going to do with these people? Besides laugh at them until I wet my pants?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Consigning My Life Away

Whew. It's been an action-packed weekend... Not necessarily fun, but satisfying and productive, at least! To begin with, I finished preparing tons of outgrown clothes for the Sweet Repeats Consignment Sale. If you're not familiar with children's clothing consignment, allow me to enlighten you. 

You take all of the seasonally appropriate clothing (in this case, Spring/Summer clothing) that haven been outgrown by your children and are still in good shape (no stains, tears, not too worn) to be placed in the sale for other parents to shop from and hopefully buy. After sorting through and cleaning the clothes, I label each of them with notecards with size and brand information, pin it on and hang it. As a reward for being a consigner, I get to shop for new-to-me clothing for my kids before non-consigners do. The consignment organizers take a small fee ($15 this time) plus a percentage of the sales from your clothes that others buy. My goal is to make enough only from selling old clothes to offset what I spend at the Sale on clothes that fit. The growing problem with this strategy is that the clothes currently being used by the Herd are getting too worn out to resell by the time two boys or two girls have outgrown them..... So this time I had to force myself to do the unthinkable.... Clean out and sort the baby clothes... A task that I had been putting off indefinitely. Not only is it an overwhelming, time-consuming job, it's a very emotional one for me as well.... To relive all of the mental images I have of each child wearing various pieces of clothing is wonderful but bittersweet... They seem to get growing faster everyday. So for a sentimental person like myself, this was a mentally AND physically draining project... But much needed. I needed the space in the closets... I needed the money to buy more clothes for the herd... And I needed to come to terms with the fact that I no longer have a baby, and that's really difficult when you've had four kids in the past seven years. So I began the process of dragging out 10+ plastic bags and containers of old clothing and the memories hit me like waves of the ocean. I decided to save special pieces of clothing for each child that had special memories attached to them, or have their names/initials monogrammed on them.... I think I will have a quilt made from them at some point... So I can literally cover myself with memories when I get melancholy about them getting older. Even though I may sound all mopey, I still look at it as a huge blessing that I've gotten to watch all four of them get older each day. 

I'm happy to report that I got 7 gorgeous, high end outfits apiece for each girl, and a pair of shoes for each boy for $200! Hopefully the sales from my consigned items will cover that and more.... Still have to get spring and summer clothes for the boys! Some of the new girls clothing is pictured here... I was lucky enough to find some pieces with the girls' first initials on them! How do you save money on kids' clothes? Have you ever found any amazing consignment deals?