Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful For Life's Blessings

So many people on Facebook are taking time each day to list what they are thankful for this month. I haven't jumped on that bandwagon, and the month is almost over, but each day I am reminded of how blessed I am. Blessed to have a healthy family. Blessed to have a precious little boy. Blessed to have enough to provide for our family. Blessed to have amazing friends that will stay at home with my son while I am out battling Black Friday hell to get him the coolest Christmas present ever. Just blessed.

The past weekend has been incredibly busy, but I have just had the best time with it. James was out of town hunting with clients for the weekend, and Cullen and I had a surplus of time to spend together. It was a tiring four days, but I really enjoyed the fact that Cullen wanted to cuddle and play and read books together.

Recently, Cullen has decided that he has to sleep with a laundry list of items. We have the dog pillow (thanks Tera!), the panda pillow pet (thanks Dana!), the blue silky pillow that probably isn't meant for sleeping on (thanks Jess!), his "Pets" blanket (thanks Peg!), his Carter's blanket (thanks Janet!), and his lovey of choice (thanks Ruthie!). More things to be thankful for. Anyhow, Cullen likes to bring everything downstairs and try to take it to school. Everyday, I hope that he will drop items on the walk through the house, and there will be fewer things to argue about in the car. I'm only mildly worried about attachment issues.
A further example of Cullen's attachment. Sunday night bath required his mouse lovey (thanks Peg!) and his blue blanket. Of course, they got wet, so they had to "sleep" in the bathtub. i.e. I washed them while Cullen slept. It was beyond ridiculous, but he was so happy while they were floating around with him.
Earlier this week, our first box of Christmas presents arrived. My amazingly prepared sister in law sent over our gifts from Japan, and there were a couple of great little birthday presents for Cullen included. We told Cullen his little shirt had a dragon on it. He told us it was a dog. We read the card. He was right. There was also this awesome wooden 3D puzzle of a pig. Cullen has been carting it around the house with him. So precious! Thanks to Chris, Jess, Ben & Claire!
Last night (as with each of the past several nights), we were eating leftovers so I could fulfill another Scout order. When Cullen eats a decent amount of healthy food for dinner, we usually let him have a treat for dessert like a few bites of ice cream, a Hershey kiss, or a few mini marshmallows. Last night, James must have put 20 marshmallows on the table. Cullen shoved as many as possible into his mouth and kept the last few in his tightly clenched little fist before James even put the bag away. James kept trying to get Cullen to say, "Love you, Mommy" with all those marshmallows in his mouth. His very own game of chubby bunny. 
Yesterday, I managed to order our Christmas cards. By the time I combined our Costco discount with a couple of coupon codes, I was able to get the price down to something that didn't make me want to cry, and I paid a little extra for two-day delivery. They will be in the mail to friends and family on Friday. I can't wait to hold them in my hot little hands!

The day before Cullen's birthday, we scheduled family photos with Robin Maxwell over at Life In Bloom Studios. Robin is an amazing photographer, and we are in love with her work. When I was in middle school, Robin was my "coach." I put it in quotation marks, because she honestly just let me be the manager of the basketball team so I wouldn't have to take P.E. I reminded her of this the last time we were there, and she laughed. She told me I didn't belong in P.E. Truth be told, I don't belong anywhere near any sports when I am more than a spectator. Someone could get hurt.

I don't want to ruin the surprise of our awesome card, but this one below is a little sneak peek of her work. It is actually one part of a progression of pictures. As soon as I have the prints in, I am heading straight to Hobby Lobby for a frame. Yay for more Christmas decor! 
Today, both of our offices are supposed to be closing early, so I'll be heading to pick Cullen up from school early (he is one of the 9 students there, down from the normal 65), and we'll be going to the zoo. I'm so excited to have family time!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving with my parents, and tomorrow night our amazing friends, Lee and Megan, will be coming over to help keep an eye on Cullen while James and I head out in the middle of the night to collect discounted gifts for Cullen. Cullen is really excited about the Christmas tree and presents, and that just thrills me. Last weekend, I tried to explain Baby Jesus. He did not care. We'll just keep sharing that story. Someday, it will mean to him what it means to me.

Love to all and Happy Thanksgiving!

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me It Was November?

It is seriously November. As in Thanksgiving is next week. How did that happen? I know Cullen's birthday is in November, but I completely missed the holidays sneaking up on me. Maybe it's because Hobby Lobby put out their Christmas decor in June. I adore Christmas, but I can't think of any other way that I'm just now realizing how close it is.

Last week, I took off Friday to go to the Nutcracker Market. Even though I didn't sleep in, it was still a great morning to spend time with Cullen and really enjoy how much he's grown. We spent a lot of time that morning cuddling on the chair and talking about trains.
Cullen's self portrait.
I have to love the yellow bruise
on his forehead from when he
head-butted James last week.

Cullen made it a short day at school by being dropped off right before lunch and being picked up by nap time. Lucky kid. Then Tera and I headed over to the Nutcracker Market. Words cannot even describe my excitement for this. Tera and I were joined at the hip in Round Rock, and no distance will cut that. We can go weeks without having time to talk, but we fall back in like nothing was missed. You just don't find a whole lot of friends like that in life, and I feel truly blessed to know that I have a few.

Back to the Nutcracker Market. I had two tickets to the fashion show. We were late. Parking was hell. Lunch was still available. There was a cheese plate, people. A cheese plate. And we all know I love cheese. I plowed right through lunch and made it to this precious dessert. I hardly ate any of it, but it was darn cute.
After our awesome lunch, Tera and I hit the floor for some shopping. I spent less than my budgeted amount (barely), and most of my Christmas shopping is done. We made a few different trips out to the car to drop off our goodies and head back in for more shopping. We covered every booth, every snack, and every sample. As if I hadn't eaten enough lunch. The day was planned to end a little early to allow for a pedicure before Tera headed home, but we didn't even get back to the house until almost nine. Our nails will wait for another day. I couldn't be happier with how the day went. Perfect!

All day Saturday (and some of Friday night) were spent with the pit. James takes this so seriously, and I am taking the task of making new leftovers seriously. Last night, I used smoked turkey to make a goat cheese macaroni dish. Let's be honest. I've been looking for an extra reason to eat goat cheese. So yummy. Needless to say, I will be all turkied out by next Thursday.

On Saturday morning, James made the traditional "butter log" he uses for poultry. I find it incredibly impressive. Somehow he makes four sticks of butter and a bunch of parsley, rosemary, etc into the thing you see on the right. Disgusting and delicious all at once. 
Saturday dinner was so fun with more friends over. We laughed so much, and it was nice to have a relatively laid back night at home.

Sunday was a slow, easy day. I got my nails done, took a nap, had dinner with friends, and got a self portrait done. James drew this picture of me with Cullen's Thomas Etch-A-Sketch. I was only mildly offended until Cullen pointed at it and exclaimed, "MOMMY!" I really need to put forth some more effort, apparently. It's hard to say, but (according to the picture), it may be time to get my braces off.
In an unusual twist, I received flowers at the office yesterday. For those keeping count, that is twice in less than a week. I was hesitant to open the card, as I was expecting news that the house might have burned down with an apology from James. Why else could I possibly be getting flowers? They actually were from a client of mine who sent flowers as a thank you for all of my hard work. My job can be stressful and irritating, and I am rarely thanked for for my efforts. It was a really awesome feeling to know that someone noticed the work I do. Even if it wasn't my boss.

Tonight, I'll be making apple pie cookies as a way to de-stress. They will make a huge mess of the kitchen my maid is cleaning as we speak, but Cullen and I are going to have so much fun. And those are the moments I look forward to most!

xoxo ashley

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Suburban Babies and Long Commutes

 I think Cullen has been given the opportunity to be a very patient baby. Poor kid. Every single day, he has to deal with a morning commute and crummy rush hour on the way home. I keep a basket full of books and small toys in the car to keep him occupied. I don't know why, but it struck me yesterday how much that has to be helping with his level of patience. Plus, it gives us time to sing songs and talk. I look forward to the day when we don't have the commute, but it sure is easier to make him talk to me when he's strapped to a seat.

Scout (my little bakery) has really been thriving. Last week, I was busy making goodies for Cullen's birthday party and an office baby shower. Cullen seemed to really enjoy my cookie making mess, so I gave him a hunk of cookie dough and his own cutter. What he "made" was not edible, but it sure was fun to spend that time with him! I wound up making cookies, brownies, and cupcakes for the baby shower and cookies and cupcakes for Cullen's birthday. It was a busy kitchen!
Cullen's birthday party has been deemed a success by me. We wound up with 47 guests. It was a bit overwhelming, but I am so grateful for each and every one of those guests. It is so awesome to know how blessed our little boy is!

Of course, work has been beyond crazy this week, so I haven't even had a chance to look at our pictures. The only two I have are credited to James' Aunt Peg. The other 200+ were taken by Lee and Megan. Thank goodness for them! They took photos and videos, and Megan helped me set up for the party. I couldn't have done it so effortlessly without her help!
My most proud moment was when Cullen didn't cry during the happy birthday song. During the last few birthday parties, we have actually had to remove Cullen during the singing to keep him from flipping out. The morning of his birthday, he told James, "Daddy, don't do that!" when James sang to him. During the party, Cullen smiled, clapped, and blew out his candles. Big kid style.
One of Cullen's favorite gifts is the three foot tall T-Rex he got from Shadow. Here's a picture of Cullen giving "dinosaur hugs." I never thought I would see a tender moment shared with a dinosaur.
Today is mine and James' 9 year anniversary. Nine years ago, we had the DTR conversation, and here we are. And here are the flowers I got today. Because he's just that good.
Tomorrow morning, I get to go to the Macy's fashion show at the Nutcracker Market and spend the day with Tera. I don't know what I'm most excited about. Fashion show? Shopping? Tera? Pedicures? It's too exciting to even think about.

On a really cool note, a good friend of mine from Baylor and also in the blogging world is hosting a giveaway, because she has reached 200 followers. I think I have 3. Hint hint. If you want to enter the giveaway, please visit Ashleigh's blog. It is time well spent.

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Almost Two

My little baby is almost two. He isn't such a baby anymore. He acts like a big boy with occasional tantrums. He is more and more vocal every day. He asks for the things he wants. Sometimes he wants the windows rolled down, sometimes he wants you to sit down, sometimes he wants his vitamin. Rest assured, he will let you know. Unfortunately, he regularly changes his mind before you complete the initial request. We're working on that one.

Last weekend, I took my car through one of those drive through car washes at a gas station. I had single-handedly lowered the Harris County bug population, and this was my quick fix. After pulling into the wash, James and I realized that Cullen had never been through the car wash before. He kept going back and forth between getting upset and pretending to be brave. He was not a fan of the high pressure rinse cycle.
On Sunday morning, a good friend of mine asked to take pictures of Cullen for her portfolio. She has so much talent, and you can tell she really enjoys what she's doing. If you need photos in the Katy area, get in touch with me, or look for Laughery Photography. Desiree is precious and great with kids! 
On Monday morning, my iPhone decided that it didn't feel like saving photos anymore. Perfect timing for Halloween. This picture of Cullen in his costume is from a few weeks ago when I first got it. I guess I'll have to dress Cullen up again later for a mock session. The only picture James got has me in it, and that is not going on the blog. Cullen got the hang of trick or treating after two stops, but that's also when he realized that he could just say thank you and still get candy. We made four stops total and headed home. 
This Sunday is Cullen's birthday. His second birthday. We have quite a few people coming over to celebrate, and we're really looking forward to it. How could you not look forward to a child's birthday? Between Cullen's birthday and other Scout orders, I will be making 6 dozen cupcakes, 8 dozen cookies, and 2 dozen brownies over the next four days. I'm exhilarated and worn out all at once. My main goal is to make it through Friday. If I can get to Saturday morning, we'll be fine.

On a less positive note, I wanted to share a little parenting gripe. Last Friday, I sent Cullen to school with a little sweatshirt to wear during outside play time. James picked Cullen up from school, and his sweatshirt was nowhere to be found.

I check Cullen's bag before we take anything home each day to make sure that we have all of Cullen's things and only Cullen's things. Not all parents do this. More than once, something of Cullen's has gone home with someone else. Each time, it shows back up the next morning. It's the decent thing to do. You bring back the things that don't belong to you. This time, the sweatshirt didn't reappear.

So here we are on Wednesday, still with no shirt. I'm cheap. I own that. I had only planned on buying Cullen one sweatshirt this fall and planned to carry it between home and school until he grows out of it. We all know that won't take long. Not only has the school posted a sign about the missing shirt, Cullen's teacher asked each of the parents if they had seen it. One of those parents lied when they said they hadn't seen it.

I'll be the first to admit that I am really ticked off to be buying him a new sweatshirt today. They aren't expensive, but I'm a coupon gal, and I have no coupons for this one. You see, we have a cold front blowing in this afternoon, and Cullen will need a sweatshirt at school tomorrow. I'll also admit that I will totally remove a sweatshirt from a kid tomorrow if I drop Cullen off at school and see someone else wearing it. His name is on the tag, and he is the only Cullen Shuler at that school. I honestly hope it happens. I want that parent to be so embarrassed, because I will throw them under the bus. Then I will give them the evil eye.

All that being said to remind parents with kids in school to pay attention to what they take home. It might be handy to not have to buy a sweatshirt for your kid, but it's quite the inconvenience for the other parent. And that other parent might be me. And I might be tired and cranky. And I will totally call you out on it.

xoxo ashley