A neat part about writing a blog, is having companies and products ask to review them.  I usually tend to lean away from these, but in this case I fell so in love with a product that I contacted the seller to ask her if I could write a review.
     Her name is Alli and she's an artist in North Carolina.  She wonderfully manages to create the most beautiful and perfect hand made signs that are as charming as they are full of love.  
     I ordered one for the boys that looked like this...
    ...and a version of this sign for our daughter's room.
    The sign for our little girl was done in pink and lavender instead - and that's the beauty of her business.  The signs aren't some pre-made fabrications that you have to order and accept.  Alli listens to your ideas, thoughts and ideas until she knows what you want...and it's amazing.  She has endless color combinations and styles to chose from...
    ...and her prices are fabulous.  
     With Spring here and summer quickly approaching, Alli's artwork is perfect for graduations, weddings, babies, birthdays, or something pretty for your home.
     There are SO many more designs from Alli's company, Art and Soul - and you can find them on her Etsy website:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheArtAndSoulShop?ref=l2-shopheader-name
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    One of my favorite questions is when somebody asks, "How do you get such good pictures of the kids?"  
     The thing is, that for every one photo that you do see - there are about twenty more that you don't.
     Those are the "real" pictures though and they're usually the best kind.  Here are just a few...
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    Ten years ago.  It's been ten years since my husband rushed us to the hospital, checked us in and began the horrible and wonderful waiting game.
    Ten years ago today, nurses and a doctor went round and round with whether to wait or do a C-section.
    It's been ten years since a baby was so nestled and snug that he didn't want to come out, no matter what anyone did or tried.
    Ten years and twelve hours later, a doctor decided that the only way he would be born, was with a cesarian.  It wasn't how our first son was born, so fear quickly overpowered excitement. 
     Ten years ago tonight, there were countless prayers and discussions about what to do.  Things seemed to swirl around as it felt like the best laid "plans" were spinning out of our hands.  
     In ten years, the memory is still vivid of being pulled in a hospital bed down the all white halls.  Rushing past nurses stations and wandering strangers, tears began to fall as any sense of control felt swept away under the passing of each set of lights.  
     Ten years ago, we had to let go and trust that it would be alright.  Going into an unfamiliar cold and sterile room with a team ready, I shut my eyes and held my husband's hand until the sound of a newborn's cry came into the room.  
     The sweetest music filled my heart and imprinted my soul.
     Ten tiny fingers were kissed and toes were nuzzled.  Little yawns were adored with arms and legs getting tucked in tight. 
     Ten years seems like so long ago and yet feels like minutes.  
     Happy Birthday to our Sweet Boy who came into this world with quite a bit of excitement...and has filled it with Love ever since.  We Love You Ethan!  Happy 10th!  XOXO
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    Last month, our little girl had her birthday.  The only thing she wanted, was to get a pet hamster...and name it 'Cupcake'.
     We knew better.  
     The last thing we needed, was to have something else to take care of, feed, water, clean...
     Even worse, the thing stays up ALL. NIGHT. LONG running around in his obnoxious little wheel.  His paws scurry nonstop until morning light, like a little frat house mouse, throwing a wild party. 
     We finally told Lauren Elizabeth that having her very own pet, meant she had to take care of it too.  Everyday, we told her that she needs to check his water and make sure there's enough food. 
     The past week has almost been enjoyable.  The morning routine begins...kids, dog, cat...and now...Lauren's hamster.
     "Did you feed Cupcake?"
     "Does he have water?"
     "Is he awake today?"  (Codeword for 'alive'.)
     There you have it.  All was right with the world.
     Then one morning Lauren returned with this..."Oh!  One other thing, we need more hamster food."
     "Hamster food?  Baby, there's a whole big bag of it.  It's brand new!"
     "Nope.  It's gone."
     (Ohhhhhhhh no.)
     Running to her room, our jaws dropped as poor Cupcake's cage was completely, and I mean, completely covered in hamster food.  She lined the whole thing with an entire bag of food, so much so, that the little guy looked like a stuffed shrimp lying in the middle with his belly all fluffy and full.  He just needed a recliner to kick back in with a remote control, tall glass of sweet tea and he'd be good to go. 
     He was still alive, but I was fully preparing myself to have to Google 'How to Give CPR to a Hamster" within the next 20 minutes.
     Grabbing his cage, we pulled Cupcake out and cleaned everything immediately.
     He's doing fine now, but it's probably just a matter of time before the next adventure takes place.
     All in all, I firmly believe in raising your kids with responsibilities and the love of pets and animals...I'm just not too sure that Cupcake would agree with that notion. 
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    I should begin by saying that my husband is the most handsome man I've ever seen.  When I met him, my heart skipped a beat.  We were young and in our twenties - and he looked like this...
    Four kids and sixteen years later, and our young and carefree days are long gone.
     The stress of daily life can get you down, so we've learned to steal away any chance that we can to be silly or romantic.
     Take the other night for instance.  My parents watched the kids, so we could go on a date.  After dinner and a movie, we did what any other wild married couple would do...we went to the grocery store.
     Instead of chasing the kids around and putting things back on shelves, the shopping experience was one of peace and harmony.  Reading labels and deciding which item to buy was actually part of a thought process, rather than a knee jerk reaction in the survival of the fittest. 
     Going through the checkout aisle brought the same reprieve.  Adam and I were able to stand in line while birds sang and no little hands grabbed for candy bars or trinkets on the shelves.
     One thing got in the way of the tranquility though...we were stuck behind...the "coupon lady".  It would've taken a lot to burst our harmonious bubble of solace, but I'll be darned if she didn't do it.  Digging through her purse and arguing with the cashier, she fussed and fought her way until a line of impatient people grew behind us.  We were two behind her when I told Adam that I'd move a few lanes down to hold another spot in case she inevitably demanded assistance from a manager.
     Moving three or four aisles away, I found a lane that had only one woman in front of me.  Standing behind her, I looked down the way to see Adam, growing more and more frustrated.  Rolling his eyes, I couldn't help but smile.
     Adam shook his head and smiled back, realizing that no matter how obnoxious the 'coupon lady' was, at least we weren't chasing the kids down.
     As we waited, I giggled when he raised his eyebrows and winked, pretending to flirt like we were strangers.  I winked back and nodded, and he put his hand up, pretending to call.  It was funny to tease since we rarely get the chance to focus on each other.     
    Suddenly, out of nowhere, Adam's eyes grew huge as he began to shake his head saying, "No, no, no!"
    Having no idea what was happening, I turned to look behind me.  Seeing nothing in particular, I came back around to question Adam.  He was still shaking his head and was now pointing at me.  He was repeating, "Her, her, her..." as he pointed in my direction.
     Realizing that a woman between us must have misinterpreted his gestures as being directed towards her, I covered my mouth and grinned.  It wasn't until a man from the aisle in front of me turned around to find me, that I realized HE was the one who thought Adam was making a pass.  The man's expression was stunned with complete horror.  When he located me, it was as though relief covered him and he said, "Oh thank God.  I thought he was saying all that to me and I didn't know what to do!"
     Falling over, I laughed until I could apologize.  Raising his hands, he shook his head, "No, no," he said, "It's okay.  Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
     I laughed even harder as Adam died of embarrassment.  He's since sworn off flirting in public with strangers around.  
     Yes, he's the cutest thing I've ever seen and he still makes my heart skip a beat to this day.  Sometimes I'll admit it's from laughter, but it skips a beat all the same.
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    There are three kinds of people in this world.  Those who are early, those who are on time...and those who are late.  I, unfortunately, am in the third category. 
     I shouldn't be this way and I know that.  My dad is a Navy brat and raised me with the motto, "If you're early - you're on time, if you're on time - you're late, and if you're late - then don't bother." 
     Somehow this never sank in though.  Just ask the dear woman who works at the front desk of our school.  I always feel like I should bring her breakfast (or lunch) for all that she does as I scurry in late to school with the kids like a wild herd.  I say, "I", because my tardiness has nothing to do with my husband.  He was born and raised in the military too and absolutely can't STAND being late.  (Are you seeing the dilemma here?) 
     Besides growing up with my dad being furious with me half the time, it wasn't until my senior year of college when I moved in with one of my best friends on earth.  Her name is Pam, and we couldn't be more opposite - and I couldn't adore her more.  Her favorite color is black, mine's pink, her favorite music is Country, mine's anything but, she's always on time and was very studious...and well...you get the picture.  
     It wasn't uncommon for any given Thursday night as we sat on our couch with our pals Ben and Jerry watching "Friends", that our conversation during a commercial break would run like this, "You have that assignment done for tomorrow, right?"
     (Gulp)  "What assignment?"
     "Beatty!  Our class assignment is due TOMORROW!  PLEASE tell me you have yours done."
     "Ummmm...I've been thinking about it."
     "Bea, you've had the whole semester.  Have you started working on it?"
     "Oh, look Pammy!  The show's back on!" 
     Most college students spent their nights partying away, I was usually found pulling all nighters trying to get most of my last minute work and studying done.  I made it through though.  I went on to graduate school and then began my PhD before I found out I was preggars.  Not too bad for the world's biggest procrastinator. 
     The one thing I didn't think about through all this though, was that I'd someday have children - and guess what that means?  They pick up all those fun little things you wish they wouldn't.  
     Our second son, Ethan is nine years old.  He has been given several school assignments this year and I've noticed more and more that he's taking closely after me, rather than my husband...or dad...or college roommate.
     Just the other night he approached us, "Mom?  Dad?  My teacher said that I have to turn my assignment in."
     "Okay, buddy.  When's it due?"
     "Um, yesterday."
     "WHAT?  What do you mean, yesterday?"  
     "It was due yesterday.  I wanted you to know, but I can get it done tonight!"
     My husband's eyes made their way toward me and I could read his mind saying, "He's YOUR son".       
     This was the first of many nights I'm sure, that I stayed up until midnight with our fourth grade son, working on his assignment...and yes...he had weeks to complete it.  
     I finally had a taste of my own medicine and it didn't taste good.  Not very good at all. 
     So, to my college roommate Pammy, and my dad...and my husband...I'm sorry.  It's annoying to put things off for tomorrow what you can do today.  I have a bad, bad feeling that I'm going to get paybacks for all those years though...and Pammy...I owe you lots and lots of Ben and Jerry's.  :)   
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    When taking our kids to dinner the other night, we decided to have them go to the bathroom and wash their hands before our food made it out, as opposed to as soon as it reached the table when our younger two inevitably decide it's the best time to go. 
     Something happened this time around though.  The place we were eating was fun and loud with TVs everywhere and sports...and pool tables.
     Gathering the kids, we walked to find the restrooms and I noticed a young 20 something year old girl giggling and tucking her hair behind her ear in the midst of three guys around a pool table.  
     Inwardly smiling, I couldn't help but remember the carefree days of being literally unconscious of the demands of life, or how things were about to change.  Take for instance, the simple act of going to the bathroom...
     Now to a 40 something year old with four kids, it goes a little something like this. (hit it)
     "Okay, guys, come with me and don't touch anything."
     "MOoooooooooom!  That's the GIRL'S bathroom!  We're not going in there!"
      Praying there were no creepy creepsters in the men's bathroom, I reluctantly let the three boys go together.  "Use the buddy system!  And DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!" 
      "Mom, how do we not touch anything?!"
      "Just don't TOUCH ANYTHING!"
      Pulling our daughter's hand, she and I make our way to the women's.
      Meanwhile, 20 something year old girl is still flirting with the guys, and dancing her way backwards to the bathroom door.  I hold it open for her and she saunters by, giggling.
      My boys in the bathroom next door are on my mind and I'm hoping they're alright.  Hearing them yell at each other through the wall reassures me that they are.  
      My daughter begins her routine of wanting to look into every stall to see if they are different.  "Come on honey, we need to hurry."  
      20 something is leaning forward against the bathroom sink, looking into the mirror and fixing her eyeliner with her ring finger.
      "This one mommy!"  
      "Okay, good, let's go."  As we shuffle our way into the stall together, I begin the dance of turning my daughter and holding her body over the toilet, hovering her above so she won't touch the seat.  This leads to the habitual spraying of my feet and legs.
      "Yes honey."
      "I think I have to poopy."
      "Okay baby.  Go ahead."
      My arms begin to shake as I hold the free weight of a child, dangling over a toilet.  I realize how much I have to go and wonder how much it would even matter since I'm already covered in urine.
      Hoping the boys are okay in their bathroom, I try to hurry our daughter along.
      "Are you good honey?"  
      We shuffle around each other so I can have a turn and seeing through the crack of the door, I notice that carefree Barbie is still at the sink, fixing her hair and putting on lipgloss.
      My daughter decides she wants to open the door as she reaches for the latch.  Not wanting to display myself to the world, I stop her, "No honey.  Wait a minute."
      She somehow interrupts this as, don't open the door, I'd rather you crawl under the stall to get out.
      As she gets on all fours and bumps me backwards, I cringe at the petri dish that I'm sure she's wading through. 
      "Baby, get UP!  Don't go under there."
      Finishing before I'm ready, I open the door to let her out, only to find the 20 something now leaning against the wall and smiling at some text she's reading.  Is she even going to use the bathroom?
      I scurry my daughter to the sink and scrub her hands well enough to make a surgeon proud, as I pull a paper towel out to use in shutting the faucet off like every kindergarten teacher has taught them to do.
      Not having time to look in the mirror, I rush after our daughter who is already heading for the door.  I hope the boys will be done and waiting as I realize the 20 something is moving towards the door while now typing a text.  She hasn't looked up, she's just walking slowly in our direction.  
     Holding the door so she doesn't run into it, my daughter flies by to meet up with her brothers who are pushing each other outside of our bathroom.  As the 20 something floats by, immune to it all, she sees her guy friends still at the pool table and begins her mating ritual again of head tilts and giggling hair tucks.  
     The kids and I find our way back to our table where my husband has all the drinks and says he's placed our order. 
     I sit with the realization of it all and smile at the fact that I used to be 20 something without a care in the world.  I had no idea of how the simple act of going to the bathroom would ever become such a madhouse.  
     Looking across the restaurant and seeing her have fun was a reminder of those days.  Fast forwarding 20 years later though, as our kids fought over the blue crayon, I sank back and smiled at my husband.  Returning my smile, he had the unspoken mix of confusion and understanding that we've come to know all too well. 
     I'm glad we used to have those days, of worry free fun and carefree lives.  As nice as those years were though, I wouldn't trade these days for anything in the world.  (giggle, hair tuck.)
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    My husband and I typically feel like we're shuffling ducklings around when we walk from any given store out to the parking lot for our car.
    Between the four kids, we have a son who's the "fast one", running and darting between every shopping cart he can find, jumping over shrubs or bushes with imaginary swords for any dragons in his path.  Then there's the dawdler, who slowly humdrums far behind us, without a worry in the world.  We have the antagonizing one, who teases his two other brothers, pushing them or pulling them to get in their way.  Finally, there's the princess ballerina who pirouettes her way from car to car, spinning along as she goes.
     It's hard to keep up and have them stay together.  Just yesterday, as we stepped out of a store with our shopping cart, a car sped by.  It was loud and obnoxious and we quickly pulled the four kids back.  "See guys, that's why you have to stay close.  You never know when some car will go by too fast and we need to be able to reach you." 
     Feeling somewhat angry as the car sped away, we felt that at least we used it as a teachable moment from the potentially dangerous event.
    Crossing the street, the four stayed close by as Adam and I raised our eyebrows at each other with those unspoken words that are so often shared between years of familiarity.  
     Just then, between a first and second fairy princess spin, came the most pronounced and clear proclamation from our little girl, "That was one BITCHIN' car!"       
    Stopping dead in my tracks, I stood frozen in the middle of the road.  A woman walking by, shuddered as she glared at us in horror.
    "What did you just say?!" I managed.
    "That was one bitchin' car?"  Her spins became a little less enthusiastic.  
     An approaching car slowed, reminding me that we needed to move.  My husband and three boys evidently had the same reaction, as all five of us stood in disbelief...the boys of course...were giggling.
     "Lauren Elizabeth!  Where did you hear that?"  I haven't heard that word since the 80's so I was anxious to hear her response.  I watched as her little face changed from happy and carefree, to uncertainty.  "I don't know... TV maybe?  What does it mean?"
     "Oooooooooh Lauuuuuren!  You said a cuss word!"  The boys teased and chanted.
     "Guys, stop."  My husband interjected.  "Lauren, let's not say that again, okay?"
     "Okay, daddy." As her spins began again.
     Yes, it's like shuffling ducks anytime we go out.  Some are fast, some slow, some carefree...and others, evidently...are totally bitchin'.          You Vote - I'll Write!  XO  
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     Moving to North Carolina from my home in Ohio was a scary thing to do alone.  My parents said to go to church and meet good people.
     Sixteen years ago today, on Palm Sunday, I met one in particular.  He was cute and handsome and impossible to ignore.
      My parents were visiting to make sure I was settling in, when this cute boy asked my mom to pin a cross made out of a palm onto his shirt during the church service.  
      Little did I know that after dating him for the years that followed, I'd learn that he'd saved the cross the whole time, because it was from the first day that we'd met.  
      Sixteen years later, that same cute and handsome man looked over and smiled as one of our boys walked up to us at church and handed me this...
      It took me back to how it all began and how it's been ever since.  
      It's nice to see God's little reminders of how His plan unfolds before our eyes.  I'll always be thankful for that one fine day, sixteen years ago, when one cute boy on Palm Sunday, happened to me.
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