Friday, August 9, 2013

The Bummer of a Summer

Soooo, let me just go ahead and say that I've had better summers.  Like, pretty much all of my summers in my whole life have been better than this summer.  And yet, we've still managed to have some good times.

After my brother's wedding, we celebrated the 4 of July on the 3rd with our friends Jonathan and Ashlee at the Mansfield fireworks show, just like we have for the past 4 or 5 years.  It was a great time, and the weather was beautiful.

The next morning, on the actual fourth, we flew out to Wisconsin to visit friends.  Huston's dreams came true when he got to decorate a real flag cookie for dessert.  He was so thrilled, and he loved spending time with his best buddy, Logan.

Clarke and his friends got to live it up, playing wiffle ball, riding jet skis, playing video games, and just generally doing whatever they wanted the whole time.  The women and children also had a great time - I was so happy to get to see Heidi and Katherine and for all of our kids to play together.  Among other things, we had a picnic by the lake, let the kids play on the playground, had frozen custard, went swimming, made s'mores, played in the sprinklers in the backyard, and saw fireworks.

On our last day with our friends, we found a park out by a lake with Josh and Heidi, Sol, and Ian, and had a beautiful late afternoon cookout.  There was even a park right by the picnic tables for the kids to play.  It was an idyllic day whose beauty was marred only by the ending, when Heidi and I took the kids back home and Arden got her pinky finger shut in the bathroom door and the tip of it got severed.  It was probably the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me (even though technically it happened to Arden) and I am so glad to be on this side of things.  After a trip to the emergency room to get her finger stitched back together, antibiotics, and pain medicine, one week bandaged up, followed by two checkups with a doctor here, her finger is now healing, but still black around the edges.  The doctors said that skin should peel off eventually and new, healthy skin will be underneath.  Her fingernail will take awhile to grow back, too.  She's a trooper and has bounced back just fine.

The day after Arden's injury, Clarke and I took the kids to Milwaukee to spend a few days on our own.  We went to an awesome children's museum and to a Brewer's game on our first day in the city.

Our pretty little girl with her bandaged finger (and some bruises on her nose from where a swing smacked her in the face).

While we were in Milwaukee we also went to a fun conservatory called The Domes, saw Monsters University, went to Discovery World, and visited the Milwaukee zoo.  In spite of the traumatic visit to the emergency room, we still had a great time with our friends and as a family, and I'm so glad we took the trip.

Shortly after our trip, I had surgery to have a biopsy on my right breast.  The doctors told me there was a 95% chance that the mass found on the ultrasound was a papilloma, which is a benign nothing.  However, when I went for my follow up on July 29th, we found out it was cancer.  I was shocked and dumbfounded.  The possibility of cancer had never really entered my mind.  Now I'm facing a double mastectomy on August 27th, combined with beginning my new job after I'm healed.

The past weeks have been a blur of emotions and preparations.  I'm having to adjust my expectations for the beginning of the school year, and, really, for the way I thought my life would go.  I'm finding comfort in knowing that God is with me and will be my strength when I am too weak.  This diagnosis was not a surprise to him and I am learning to lean on him and trust him more than ever before.  Although this is not the way I would have chosen for my life to go, I am trusting God that his ways are better than mine.

Thanks for your prayers and for loving our family.  We're grateful for all of you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Ending and a Beginning

School ended way back in May (I can't believe it's already July!) and it was so very hard and emotional for me.  Huston graduated from his sweet preschool, St. Stephen's, and for months leading up to the last day of school, I would cry about it.  Watching the final episodes of The Office especially seemed to trigger my emotions.  Every time there would be a song about saying good-bye or an especially poignant moment on the show, I would cry about Huston graduating from preschool.  I would walk past his room during school and see him happily building block towers with his friends, and just get all teary-eyed about how his preschool years are over and now he's entering big kid school and on and on.  Maybe I got all of my tears out in the days leading up to the end, because I managed to not cry at his actual graduation.  

The end of school was made even more emotional by the fact that I also had to say good-bye to my job at St. Stephen's because I accepted a job at Covenant Classical School teaching kindergarten in the fall.  Huston will be going there, and there are so many reasons it will be amazing and wonderful, but it was incredibly hard to leave a job that I adored and coworkers that I love.  

The last day of school

Our little graduate

Arden with her teachers - me and Ms. Ashleigh!

Post-graduation ice-cream social and picnic

Sweet coworkers and dear friends

This is Huston with his beloved teachers, Ms. Baxley and Ms. Torrieri.  He just adored and loved them so much.  Truly, this past year has been such a joyful one and I am so very grateful for it.

Enough tears now!  On to something happy.  In June my littlest brother, Benji, got married to a sweet, wonderful girl named Tracy.  It was a beautiful day!  The kids were ring bearers and flower girls and could not have looked cuter.  I got to see lots of aunts and uncles that I hadn't seen in forever and it was just so fun.  I'll just share a few of the 400 pictures I took that day. :)

The bride and groom

The cousins

Sweet flower girls

More sweet flower girls

This picture just kills me - he is so adorable

Sweet Arden

Our family

The Pauketats - Mom's family

The Isleys - Dad's family

There was quite a bit of waiting around between getting-ready-time and ceremony-time.  I love this picture of Arden and Huston waiting around in the in-between time.

I promise more catch-up posts soon on the rest of our summer fun!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013



The kids and I are just getting over a round of horrible sickness.  Arden started throwing up Friday night and continued getting sick all night and all day Saturday and even into Saturday night after she fell asleep.  She finally seemed to be better Sunday, but by that evening my stomach felt funny and soon enough I, too, was throwing up.  It was pretty horrible.  Like I thought I might be dying.  I finally was able to make it to bed and felt like the worst was over around 3 in the morning.  I slept for about an hour only to be wakened by Huston's cry, and I rushed him to the bathroom to be sick.  He got sick several more times, but since it was finally Monday and I had seen how awful this stomach bug was, I called his doctor and they called him in some Zofran, which kept the nausea at bay.  He still had a fever and was just lying around, but at least he wasn't throwing up.  We spent Monday just resting and moving very slowly.  He got sick one more time at 2 in the morning, but woke up today perky and peppy and feeling great.  

Soooo... I feel like I've been living in a cave the past few days, just surviving and cleaning and doing laundry.  So. much. laundry.

Today the sun is shining and everyone feels better and I've been doing some more cleaning and laundry and playing with the kids, and I just keep being overcome by these intense feelings of joy and gratitude.  So strong that they make me cry.  I fold their little clothes and think "these clothes are so big, how can they be for my babies?" and also "their clothes will never be this tiny again!"  I keep soaking in their  chatter and trying to absorb the stories they're telling me.  So often I only half listen to all of their talking, but one day I'm going to miss it!

I don't know what is causing the intensity of my emotions today (although I did watch the end of Toy Story 3 with the kids yesterday, which turned me into a weepy mess at the thought of my kids growing up.  That movie should be rated TSFPTW: too sad for parents to watch), but I think Huston could sense something.  Because I hugged him, and he said, "Mommy, I'll always be your baby.  And when I grow up I'll still live here - I won't move far away."  Bless his heart!  I love that boy so much.

I'm so grateful for my sweet Huston who is currently obsessed with flags and is constantly asking for a "printing picture" of the union jack, or the flag with fifteen stars, or the flag with the circle stars, so he can color them.  His room is littered with flag pictures he has colored.  He calls out all the flags he sees as we're driving, and is constantly talking about how some business forgot to put their flag up today, or how it's okay for that flag to be flying in the rain because it's an "all kinds of weather flag" (otherwise known as an all-weather flag).  Lately he's been stripping down to his underwear and running around with a U.S. flag because, as he says, "I just like to feel the flag."  He practices folding the flags, takes his miniature Texas, American, and Fort Worth flags in the car with us and rolls his window down so he can see them wave, tapes his colored pictures of flags to his wall, collects them all together and tells me about the different flags, gets excited when he sees flags on the Rangers games on TV, and wants us to take him to Puerto Rico and Great Britain so he can see their flags in person.

He's also been super interested in two episodes of Mickey Mouse lately: The Quest for the Crystal Mickey, and the Great Clubhouse Hunt.  In both episodes, the clubhouse disappears and reappears, and for some reason that captured his imagination.  He'll draw the entire clubhouse and then cut it apart and make the glove balloon disappear, and the shoe garage disappear, and the gate disappear.  He'll create the clubhouse out of his Magna Tiles, and then make different parts fly away and reappear.  And for awhile he was constantly singing the song from one of the episodes, "The pieces of the clubhouse look a lot like Mickey Mouse, number one...the pants, number two...the shoe, number three... the head, number four... the ears, and number five... the hand!" He does a great imitation of Professor Von Drake's voice.  :)

And I'm so grateful for my little Arden who has an amazing imagination to rival her older brother's.  She got a "seek and find" book from her Mimi while she was sick that she calls her "finding book" and  has turned it into a little game.  She keeps pretending like this:  "My brother who is sixth brother...lost all of his things and I have to find them.  Have you seen his red belt?  I have to follow my map (her "finding book") and go across the river into the dark and spooky forest.  Maybe a fox can help me.  Because sometimes foxes are nice.  I see something orange.  Is it a fox?  No, it's just a squirrel.  But I just don't know how I'm going to cross the river.  I have to go over hill and dale, hill and dale, to find it."  It is incredibly adorable to watch her play!  She is always wrapped up in her imaginary world, which is usually accompanied by a trail of trinkets behind her.  She'll drag out all of her dress up things and pretend that she's getting ready for Easter, or bring her basket of toys she got for Easter and make up some imaginary story with them.  

Sometimes she likes to make me pretend "Ruby and Max" with her (the rabbit characters from some books she likes).  She'll say, "I'm Ruby and you're Max," but then instead of just addressing me as Max, she'll say, "Okay, Max, said Ruby."  She does it every time and it's so funny!  Then she bosses me around like a good Ruby and tells me what to do and, more importantly, what I can't do.  She takes great delight in that!

 Thank you, Lord, for my sweet children.  What a blessing they are!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

February's not a great month anyway

At least that's my excuse for not posting a single thing the whole month of February.  I have a lot of other excuses too, like laziness, but I'll spare you.  Here's a recap of our February.

We had a western dress up day at school.  And I actually got my kids to look semi-western.  Huston even wore boots!  Though he kept expressing over and over that he didn't want to wear "the hat."  Arden did wear "the hat" and the boots too.  Somehow we managed to miss the rodeo this year (I'm not the biggest fan), but the kids did get to go to the Stock Show with Mimi and Grandpa. 


Here's a random picture from February 7th, when the weather was nice and I had what I thought was the awesome idea to set up these two tents in our backyard connected by a tunnel.  I thought the kids would have a blast and would be entertained for hours and I would get so much housework done and it would be a win win.  Yeah...not so much.  Instead I spent 15 minutes setting everything up and hauling all their toys out there, only to have them be bored with it in 5 minutes.  I insisted they stay outside for at least 20 minutes because of all the trouble I had gone to, which lead to Arden crying at the back door, "Mommmmy, I just want to come inside now!  When can I come in?!"  Not the best day.

Here are the kids at school the day before Valentine's day, dressed for their Valentine's parties.  The loved passing out and getting candy from their friends.  For days afterwards, Arden would call from her bedroom, "Can I look at my Valentine's candy?" and then she would dump out her bag and sort through all of her treats and treasures.

So glad I took their pictures in front of a dead bush, instead of one of the beautiful trees in the background, by the way.

I popped down to Huston's class for his party while my class was having their nap.  Can I just say that I am still so in love with the fact that he finally wears these adorable little hats that they make?  For so long he refused to wear anything on his head, and now he happily wears his party gear.  It makes me so happy!  How cute does he look with his little popsicle stick full of glue making a Valentine?!

We had a special little Valentine's dinner at home on Valentine's day.  I set the table and hung up some hearts that Huston and Arden made at school for decorations.  Then I asked Huston to write our names on some red heart cut outs and put them on the plates.  He had so much fun doing that, that he decided to also draw his own hearts and cut them out and write everyone's first initial on them.  Then Arden woke up from her nap and was sad that she didn't get to help decorate, so she put stickers on some pink hearts and put them on everyone's plates.  Huston had so much fun with the whole process, that the very next day he started working on some eggs with our names for our Easter dinner, he said. 

We had a really fun little candlelit dinner and I could leave you with that perfect image and leave out the part about how I made a pasta dish with cream cheese in it, even though I know Clarke doesn't like cream cheese, thinking you wouldn't be able to taste it, and then I tasted it and you totally could taste it, so he ended up having leftovers for our "special" Valentine's dinner, but that wouldn't be honest, would it?  Nothing says "I love you" like cooking food you know your spouse doesn't like.

Here's a funny "Who's on First?" conversation between Huston and Arden a few days ago to end this little recap on high note:

Arden to Huston: "This candy is mines."
Huston: "No, Arden, it's not mines it's mine."
Arden: "It's not yours, it's mines."
Huston: "But Arden, you don't say 'it's mines' you say 'it's mine."
Arden: "Mommy, is this candy mines?"

Friday, January 25, 2013


Well, hello there.  Please excuse my January hibernation and consider this my attempt to peek out from my cave of blankets and hot coffee.

Yesterday I got to hold my sweet nephew, Austin, for the first time.  Huston and Arden were so excited to meet him for the first time, as they hadn't been allowed back in the NICU while he was in the hospital.  He is the CUTEST little thing and I'm so glad I get to be his aunt.  We're so thankful to God for the healing work he has already done in little Austin's life and know He has big plans for him.

Since the weather was actually beautiful yesterday, the kids and I ate a snack in the backyard and played for a long time.  Please excuse the trashy look of our back porch in these pictures.  I would say it doesn't normally look like that, but I would be lying.

Huston amused himself by coming up with superhero costumes.  At the end of last year he started playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance with Daddy on the Xbox, and now he loves playing with his Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Iron Man, and Dr. Strange action figures.

When Arden got up from her non-nap to come outside with us, she informed me her name was "Haircut Fananny" (rhymes with 'nanny').  She gave me haircuts with tweezers and blow dried my hair with the bubble gun.  Then she scooped up some mud, which she said was dog food, and fed it to her dogs (who of course live on her feet, where all her imaginary friends live).

After we played I said, "Arden, it's time to come inside and wash your feet."
She said, "You mean Haircut Fananny."
I said, "Haircut Fananny, it's time to wash your feet."
She said, "You mean, my dogs."
So I had to revise, "Haircut Fananny, it's time to wash your dogs."

She is such a crack-up with her character names lately.  A few weeks ago, she wanted me to alternately call her, "Arliss," "Garla," and "Onion."  One day she was "Baby Reindeer" and "Rudolph."

There was a lot of pretending about hospitals while Baby Austin was in the hospital, and Arden would be "Nurse Arden" and Huston's action figures would fly in to visit the babies.

Her imaginary friends, Baby Junior and Mom, are still big players in her life.  She refers to them constantly in everyday conversation.  The above picture is of her brushing Baby Junior's hair with my silicone basting brush.  One day I got her little toy doll house out with all the little people and furniture that go in it.  I heard her and Huston playing with it and turned the corner, expecting to see the toy people inside the doll house.  Instead, I saw her foot propped right up on the second floor because, as she said, "This is Baby Junior's house."  Just a few minutes ago I walked into her room to find her little blankie wrapped around her foot and when I asked her what was going on she said, "Baby Little Blankie just wants his mom."  I said, "Who's his mom?" and of course the answer was "Baby Junior."

Huston's other big interest, besides action figures and drawing (which he does all day long), has been building.  He built constantly with his magna-tiles after we gave him those for his birthday, and still does.  They are one of the best purchases we've ever made for him!  At Christmas he got Lincoln Logs from Mimi and Grandpa, and CitiBlocs from us.  This week while we were running errands he wanted to take the instruction manual from his Lincoln Logs along with us so he could learn how to build the buildings.  He studied it the whole time we were out, and came home and built a really complicated cabin!

The CitiBlocs are a bit trickier because they fall over so easily, but Huston is determined and will rebuild and rebuild until he gets it to work, even if there are a few tears of frustration along the way.  This week Clarke has been helping him build this city, a few buildings at a time, every night.  Aren't they so cute with their heads together, studying the picture to make their city?

Here's a quick brain dump of Huston-related things:

He pulls his pants up constantly and it looks ridiculous and drives me crazy.  He just can't leave them on his hips, he thinks they need to be up to his armpits.  People are going to think I don't buy him the right size pants.

This was probably last month, but we were going to Ridgmar Mall, and he asked, "Why does it have two malls in it?" I was trying to figure out what he meant, like maybe he meant why do we go to two different malls, but he repeated, "No, why is it just called Ridge Mall Mall?"  I cracked up, because I knew he'd been saying it kind of funny all this time, but never knew that's what he'd been saying.

A few days later I was making grilled cheese and he asked, "Why does it have a girl in it?"  This one made sense, as he pronounces it, "gurled cheese."

He says "destroyed-ed" for "destroyed" and it cracks us up.  "Daddy, they destroyed-ed that building!"

He's a deep thinker who always asks questions about things.  He even asked one day, "Why did God make bad people?"  

He's most likely to be found hunched over a drawing on the floor with his markers or in his room pretending with his action figures.

Arden continues to be a book-lover, as she has been since birth, practically.  She's most likely to be found in her bedroom with her door shut, reading on her bed.  She has to ask before every nap and bedtime, "Can I weed in my bed?" and usually has to be told to put her books down before she'll fall asleep.  She can stay up until 10 reading sometimes!

She says, "I fink" for "I think" and all her r's sound like w's.  "Mommy, I weely weely want to weed my books." 

She only takes naps if I go into her room after she's read for awhile and pat her back.  I like those sweet times of putting my baby to sleep.

Here's a few snapshots from our playtime at the park last weekend on another good weather day.  Here's hoping for more spring weather soon!