Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Meet my Mattie:

Hilarious kid. Such a sweetheart. Smarter than her Mama already. A heart of gold beats in her chest. Wittier at four than most adults. Such a clown. Thinks she has to pose if a camera is pointed in her direction, and that pink gloves complete any outfit. My beloved firstborn, who I'm absolutely crazy over.

So imagine my dismay last week when her preschool teacher walked her out to my my car as I waited in the pickup line to tell me that Mattie had not had a good day. She went on to describe some pretty bad behavior, that had not only been going on that day, but for sometime leading up to that point. Apparently that day had just been the breaking point in what had been a steady escalation of behavior issues. I was stunned and very caught off guard, but I can't say I was too surprised. We had been seeing and dealing with the same escalation at home for sometime, but I never considered that it would carry over to school. Mattie has always been a teacher pleaser...eager to earn favor and be the "pet", so I was shocked to hear of her disobedience in the classroom.

Among her offenses were things like bossiness, being whiny or falling apart when not getting her way, lots of unnecessary tattle-telling on her friends, but most of all, ignoring her teacher or having to be told three or four times to do something. Blatant disobedience. And like I said, we had been having some of the same issues at home...having to tell her several times to do something, whining when she doesn't get her way, falling apart over the least little thing. A huge departure from the kid we had known up to this point.

After finding this out, Matthew and I talked about it and came up with what we thought were some appropriate punishments for her. We had a very stern talk with her about what was going on, exactly why she was being punished, exactly what was expected of her at home and in the classroom, and what would happen if the bad behavior continued. And honestly, we thought that would be the end of it.

So, imagine my even greater surprise later in the week when I had a message from her preschool teacher to please call her that night. Because not only had Mattie not corrected her behavior, it had gotten worse. If you've never had such a message from your own child's teacher, let me tell you that the anxiety you will feel upon hearing said message will possibly cause you some degree of gastrointestinal upset.

I am not a cryer. I hold it together well, under most circumstances. It takes a lot to get me upset. But this phone conversation left me in tears. The way she described my child to me, the problems she was having with Mattie, the way she described Mattie's friends not even wanting to play with her because she was so awful...the picture she painted of my sweet Mattie left me in a puddle of tears. How? How did the sweet girl I knew get to this point? Where had Matthew and I failed in our parenting to let this happen? Was there any hope in correcting and redirecting her at this point or was this our new "normal"? The most frustrating thing to me is that I KNOW Mattie knows better. I KNOW she's capable of better.

Matthew and I had another very lengthy discussion. We were both so dismayed...I don't think we're under any dilusions about having a perfect child. Clearly we don't. But we were both so shocked and saddened by this. We came up with some even sterner punishments, even worse consequences, and planned to talk to Mattie in the morning since my conversation with her teacher took place after she was already in bed that night. I went into her room that night and cried as I prayed over her. Father, please show me how to shape her.

The next morning I informed Mattie that I had spoken on the phone with her teacher, much to her shock, and that I was very aware of what had gone on at school. We went on to talk about her new punishments and consequences, and when I told her that her teacher now had Mommy's cell phone and would be calling me the moment she got out of line again so I could come to the school and discipline her, she fell apart. She was absolutely broken, and just fell into my arms and wept and wept and wept. It was like something finally clicked with her that this was serious. I gently reminded her that Mommy and Daddy still love her, even when her behavior is not great, that there are ALWAYS second chances with us, and that we KNEW she would do better from now on.

I am so struck by the parallels between this situation and my relationship with my Heavenly Father. How many times has he looked at me in frustration and thought "I KNOW she knows better than this". How many times have my actions disappointed Him? How many times have I fallen short of His expectations for me? And yet there are alway second chances with Him. I try very hard to remember God's grace to me as I parent my little loves, particulary in these tougher situations. And in the same way that we are moving on from this with Mattie and not holding it over her head, the same is true with God...there is no record of wrongs. Only boundless grace, endless mercy, tender love and complete forgiveness. How thankful I am for that.

I am happy to say that we have seen a dramatic turnaround in Mattie's behavior, at home and at school. Her teacher's exact words to me were that she has made a 180 degree turn in her behavior, and that the child we have sent to school the past few days has been a delight. Exactly what we wanted to hear. Something we said or did must have gotten through to her, praise Jesus.

Interestingly, someone told my sister that preemies tend to display these behaviors more because they start out life as little fighters. At five weeks early, she was no micro-preemie, but she did do her share of fighting in her early weeks. Should I be surprised that this girl is now somewhat headstrong? Perhaps not?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Worth Reading

I love the metaphor laid out in this post, and think it's so true. I wish I had the ability to put words to thoughts as well as this writer does.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"I Love" (a 10 point list)

I Love:

1. That an entire cabinet in my kitchen is dedicated to nothing but bottles and sippy cups.

2. The smell of Johnson's Baby Lotion.

3. That I can't fit much on the backseat of my car because its full of carseats.

4. That my arms are frequently sore from carrying my 27lb baby around.

5. That I rarely leave my house without a sippy cup.

6. That in my purse, at all times, there are crayons, at least one pacifier, wet wipes, and usually some sort of snack food.

7. That my iPod has music from "The Sound of Music", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "Annie", "The Wizard of Oz", and all the Disney movies on it because they're my girl's favorites.

8. Wiggle hugs and eskimo kisses.

9. That the glider in my baby's room is showing signs of wear because it has been so heavily used.

10. Being called "Mama" by two of my favorite people in the world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Presley's Party

We had Presley's 1st birthday party this past Saturday. We had a pretty small, low key affair, with mostly family and close friends there to help us celebrate. I have had a tendency in the past to go kind of overboard with Mattie's parties and unnecessarily stress myself out, and I just made up my mind I was not going to do that this time. Not because I love Presley any less, or feel that she's any less deserving of an overdone party, I've just realized it's really not worth it. For a lot of reasons. A baby needs a cake, a few presents, and little else to celebrate. What they don't need is a mama who is so tired and worn out by party time that she barely enjoys it, and she forgets to pass out the cookie favors she stayed up all night working on (oh yes, been there). Y'all, I didn't even buy balloons or streamers this time. And it was still great!

With that said, I decided there were a few details I wanted to to make special, and the rest would kinda fall into place. I decided a few months ago we would do an owl theme, for no other reason than I found a fabric I loved and wanted to use, and it happened to have owls on it. With all the sewing orders I've had stacking up, I knew it was going to be near impossible to squeeze in sewing for my girls, but I decided to just pencil them in on my schedule just like a regular order a few weeks ago, and had it done way before the party. Old Ashley would have waited until the night before. Part of me wanted to applique a big "1" on this outfit, but I decided against it so that she could wear it longer and it not look like just a party outfit.

I was recently asked by one of my favorite pattern makers, Little Lizard King, to test a super cute skirt pattern, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make Mattie something to wear to the party. She LOVED that she got to match Presley for her big day, and she declared days before the party that ONLY people that had owl outfits on could help open presents....clever girl. No other owl outfits showed up!

I ordered Presley's b-day invites from an Etsy shop I found. She designed them, sent me the file, and I printed them at Wal-Mart. If you've never done this, I hightly recommend it. Very inexpensive way to get cute, custom invites without the high cost or hassle of doing them yourself. I even sent her a pic of my fabric, and she matched the colors to our party. Much easier than the handmade invites I've done in the past, and just as cute, I think.

I did make Presley's party hat, and I did wait until the night before to do it. But, super easy, super quick, and she actually wore it!!

I opted to do cupcakes instead of a cake this time. I did these the morning of the party, and I thought they looked great on the cupcake stand:

These cupcake toppers were another Etsy find. I LOVE them, and again they were very reasonably priced, and she matched them to my fabric and they're personalized with Presley's name. Who doesn't love a cupcake?

Here's the party table. We did the party at a beautiful pavillion at our local arboretum, and the weather could not have been more beautiful and perfect. You can't see it well in this picture, but I printed off all of Presley's monthly pictures, and had them on the table.

When we had Mattie's first birthday, she barely touched her "smash" cake. She's always been a girl who didn't like a mess, but I had a feeling Presley would dive right in, and I was right. She knew just what to do, and smash it she did.

Her smash cake was something I threw together very quickly from my leftover cupcake batter and icing. That is to say, it was very, very basic and kinda pitiful looking, but I figured it was a going to be smashed anyway, so who cares? She ate a pretty good portion of it!

I've said here many times, and it's the truth, what a good big sister Mattie has been. This entire year she has gracefully grown into her role of big sister, and we have seen little, if any, jealousy or acting out. Well, it seems that she must have been bottling all those feelings and saving them up to spill forth at Presley's party. We have had issues with Mattie at other birthday parties when it comes time to open presents...she wants to be right up in the middle, with her hands on everything, and has even been so bold at some parties as to tear into gifts before the birthday girl or boy can get to them. She just can't help herself when it comes to the presents, and Presley's party was no exception. We had agreed with her beforehand that she would be allowed to assist Presley, but she would not take over (even if she was wearing an Owl suit!). And about the third or fourth time I had to tell her to stop it or get back, she fell apart. Meltdown fit. Not pretty, not cute, not fun for anybody. I know it had to do with all the attention Presley was getting, and it was sad to watch. I had her remove herself from the party and go sit on a bench outside of the immediate party area, which only made her cry harder, and this went on for a little while until a grandparent took her for a walk to calm down. She even missed singing "Happy Birthday" to Presley and seeing her eat her smash cake, which made me sad because she would have loved it, but it is what it is.

My little walker:

And that was about it. Matthew and I got Presley a two seater wagon for her gift, and my girls have made me pull them miles and miles in it already. I think this will be my new workout...dragging 70+ lbs of children all over the neighborhood as they lounge comfortably in their wagon seats, eating goldfish and sipping juice while they watch the passing scenery and I huff and puff up hill after hill. Sounds about right.

Happy Birthday, little PK!! You are greatly adored by everyone who knows you, but no one loves you like your mama does ♥

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the Eve of My Little Love's First Birthday

Presley turns one year old tomorrow. I could go on forever about how this just doesn't seem right, how time has flown, how it seems like she should still be a newborn. But, I think I've harped on that enough here. I know I'm not the only mama to feel that way about her babies. But it does seem to have gone faster with my second babe than my first. Maybe that's my own age catching up with me.

The past few days I have been playing "one year ago today" in my head, and replaying all the things I was thinking and feeling as we approached her arrival one year ago.

I've been remembering how big and miserable, and ready to meet Presley I was:

Just before leaving to go to the hospital 10/12/09

I remember Mattie's excitement and how ready she was to meet her baby. Nine months is an incredibly long time to a three year old, and she was just about as tired of that pregnancy as I was. I never really worried about how Mattie would transition to having a baby sister. Her excitement about the impending arrival of baby sister just put me at ease throughout my entire pregnancy. We have spent the past year being so proud and so amazed at how well she has grown into her role as big sister. Presley is a very lucky little girl to have Mattie by her side. For the most part, we have seen no jealousy or resentment from Mattie, (until Presley's birthday party this weekend...separate post forthcoming), and we are so grateful for that. It has been the highlight of my life watching these two girls fall in love with each other:

One of my favorite sister pics, 10-15-09

I remeber worrying some about how I was going to handle a 3 year old and a newborn by myself since I was having Presley right in the middle of football season, and Matthew was absent most of the time due to his coaching duties. I was right to worry about was hard. But thanks to lots of family support and help, we made it. And here it is football season again, and we're breezing right on through it...what a difference a year makes.

I worried about my short maternity leave and going back to work, and again, that was hard as well, and still is.
And although I never worried about whether I would have enough love to share, or enough room in my heart for another baby, nothing, NOTHING, could have prepared me for the way this little girl would seamlessly fit into my heart and make me grateful to be her mama.

Presley and Mama, love at first sight

How I lived this long without her, I'll never know.

Presley and Mama, one year later and still in love

Thursday, October 7, 2010

She Works Hard For Her Money

Do you remember when I mentioned that Mattie really, really, really wanted a pillowpet, but we were making her earn her own money to buy it because it really wasn't something I was interested in spending $19.99 of my own money on, even if it is "As Seen on TV"? Well, the money has been earned, and the pillowpet has been bought.

Although I kind of expected her interest to fizzle as the weeks went on, the pillowpet held her focus, and I have to say she worked hard for it. She has spent the past two months earning money for doing extra little chores, above and beyond what is already expected of her. She has earned a dollar here and a couple dollars there, for doing things like helping Matthew in the yard, unloading the dishwasher, helping Mimi and Poppa on the remodel at their new house, helping me with odd jobs around the house. Finally, after two long months, she had all the money she needed.

She was very, very torn about which one to buy. She really wanted the dolphin, but they didn't have it at our Wal-Mart the night we were there. So, she debated between the penguin and the ladybug, and after a little pushing by me towards the ladybug because the penguin had a white belly that would be dirt covered in no time, she went with the ladybug.

Excited doesn't begin to describe how she felt on the way to get it. Here she is with her cash in her sweaty little fist:

Mattie was very clear in explaining to us that SHE would be the one to give the cashier her money, and she would not need our help with this. She did great:

Pillowpet has been attached to her side since she got has gone everywhere she goes (except school). I think this was a great teaching lesson for her about money and saving for something you want, and finding value in the fact that you worked for it. We will definitely be using this approach with her again in the future. And you know what? Even though I hate and despise stuffed animals, the pillowpet is actually a pretty cute thing. Add Image

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Take It From Me

If you're baby is days away from their first birthday, and you are already a little emotional over that milestone, now is not the time to clean out that baby's drawers and closets and box up tiny little things they have outgrown to go up in the attic.
Because you will run across things like the bonnet they wore home from the hospital:
Or the tiny little newborn cap with their sweet name on it that they wore their first weeks home:
Or all the sweet maryjane tights and socks that your baby practically lived in last winter because is there anything cuter than maryjane tights on a baby girl?

You will run across all these things, and you will become weepy and teary eyed at the thought of putting them away, because in your head, that baby should still be wearing those tiny caps and maryjane tights. The first year shouldn't be over yet. The saddest fact of motherhood is how unforgiving time is.

So, save the cleaning out for another day. Wait until after the birthday has passed and you're settled into toddlerhood with your little one. Beacuse otherwise, those maryjane tights will disolve you to a puddle.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don't Feed the Animals

Or they will beg at your feet anytime you eat, especially if it's ice cream.