Thursday, May 23, 2013

On Being the Mom of Boys

In just a few short months, I will be the mom of two little boys. Two of them! How lucky can a girl get? Since finding out that we are expecting our second little boy, we have received an interesting variety of feedback. 

There are the people disappointed that they won't be shopping for pink. There was the woman who told me I must be so disappointed. There are the ones who have told us what a blessing it is. I think my favorite so far was when my ENT yesterday asked if I was going for sainthood. He said that he is one of two boys in his home. He remembers his mom crying when he was a teenager and saying that she wished she had girls. All I could do was laugh.
Once upon a time, I didn't want kids. Not even one of them. There was a long list of very personal reasons that led me to believe my life would be better if I wasn't a mother. I just didn't see a future for me with children. Then I met this great guy. I knew in my heart it would be just awful if he wasn't a dad. And, sometimes, that made me think that I wasn't the right girl for him. 

During the summer of 2004, I finally realized how wrong I was about kids. I took a job working with a family with four young kids. Four young boys! I remember being there to witness the youngest of them taking his first steps and saying his first word. Luckily, his mom was there for both of those moments, too. And sometime over the course of the next year, I fully came to realize that I not only wanted children; I knew who I wanted to have those children with. And I knew that I wanted a big family. And boys? If I could only be so lucky to have a family filled with little boys. 
Because I was so sure I wanted boys, I was equally sure that God would give me girls. Now, don't get me wrong here. We would be happy to have a baby girl in our family. To be just as honest, little girls scare me. I've got the boy thing down. I can handle dirt and dinosaurs and trucks. The drama and glitter and princesses? That would be a whole new world.

I think the most important things that others need to remember is how tough it is to be a mom (or a parent in general). The most difficult criticism I have received has often been from other moms (family, friends and strangers). Whether it was a direct dig at what I was doing with my son, or during pregnancy, or just a general comment. I know my son should have a healthy dinner every night. I also know that, sometimes, it's going to be Easy Mac. I know that some people disagree with me wearing heels while pregnant. I'm almost six months along, and I'm still enjoying my five inch heels on a daily basis. The doctor said it's okay. I said it's okay. Just drop it.

At a wedding a few weeks ago, Cullen was running around like a banshee. I was too tired from the trip to effectively chase him down, so I was pretty much letting it happen. One of the other guests told me that it was nice to see someone let a child act like a child. What a positive thing to say! We all have our battles. We all choose different ones. And isn't the best part of parenthood looking at the children you've raised and seeing them enjoy life in a positive manner?
Harry Potter
And the truth is, we could all use a little support now and then. If it's just a passing comment in Target to tell a mom how cute her baby is. Or maybe it's telling that dad in the park what a great job he's doing. We all need a little reminder every now and then that we're doing the right thing. 

And for moms of boys, it's tough sometimes. In a land full of children that are prepped for kindergarten from birth, it's hard to keep in mind that they're just kids. I absolutely quiz my kid on colors and letters and numbers, but there are also days that we watch Madagascar and play dinosaurs. Because that's just as important when you're helping a child develop into a well-rounded individual. Every child brings their own set of challenges. Boys are rough and tumble. They are loud. They rarely possess an "inside voice." But, if you're really willing to embrace parenthood, boys are also magic. They are the sweetest little hands to hold. They point out the things you might miss. They love you in ways you might never expect. Little girls might do the same. I may never see that same thing with a daughter of my own.
For that, I'm biased. Boys are all I know. They may be all I ever know. But I will never doubt God's decision in giving us boys. Because boys are what I know. They are what I adore. And I don't care to imagine life another way. I choose to be blessed by what I have. Blessed by what I've earned and what I've been given. Blessed beyond measure.

Next time you think about talking down to a mom who is working hard to do her best, remember that we've all got struggles. We're all working hard. We all want to be mom of the year, but most of us will fail from time to time. And that's okay, because our babies are the best things we give to this world and our best is all we can do. 

And a reminder to the moms who are struggling. Whether you're a mom of boys or girls or both. Just keep swimming. You only get one chance to make today's memories.

xoxo ashley

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Little Bear

This past weekend, we drove up to Waco for Charly's graduation from Baylor. It was so fun to be on campus again, and it's always nice to spend some extra time with family.

We started out with a trip to the bookstore to pick up some new Baylor gear for the upcoming Shuler arrival. Cullen had plenty of things, but most of them are worn out. A little boy born during football season will do that, and we feel like Baby #2 should still get some new things for himself. 

After my whirlwind shopping spree at the bookstore, we headed over to Ninfa's for lunch with the family. We spent lots of time catching up and visiting over Mexican food. What's not to love?
We had a good bit of time to kill between lunch and graduation, so we decided to check on the progress of the new football stadium. It's hard to believe that this sign posted at the building site will be the amazing structure we expect to see in just over a year.
Especially when it looks like this is all there is to the stadium right now. From another angle, we were able to see how deep into the ground everything goes. I look forward to checking it out again in a few months when we're back in town for a game.
Of course, no trip to Waco is complete without a visit to the bear pit. We seem to always get lucky on viewing angles, and I love how pleased Cullen is with the bears. 
This was a little Cullen almost three years ago. He has gotten so big. 
Just look at him! 
Cullen and I had a solo evening last night while James made it home late from a meeting out of town. Cullen ate a huge bowl of Cheerios and an easy mac cup. I always love when he out-eats me at a meal. I love to see my little boy eating like a big boy. I also love his insistence on wearing his blanket as a cape during dinner. He said his arms were cold... 
After being sick too much in the last couple of weeks, we are hoping to lay low a bit for the holiday weekend. We've only made plans for one day, and I'm planning on naps for the other two days. I guess we'll just have to see how it goes!

xoxo ashley

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When You're Having Fun

I am absolutely convinced that three year old's say the best things. They have a wide vocabulary with no filter whatsoever. They say the things that we, as adults, often think of but refuse to say out loud. 

When I was pregnant with Cullen, I stayed with a very dear friend's family for a few weeks. They were so kind to open their home to me, and I will never forget the generosity they showed. The highlight of that time was during a moment of attempted parenting. Alina was standing on the edges of a laundry basket and tipping it back and forth. I told her she probably shouldn't be doing that. She might get hurt. Her response? "You don't get hurt when you're having fun. You get hurt when you're doing stupid stuff." Which is mostly true. And particularly humorous coming from a three year old.

I am now in that same phase with Cullen. Every single day, he tells me something that absolutely floors me. Don't tell him he is a lion. He'll take the mask off to tell you that he just looks like a lion. Oh. My bad.

A couple of days ago he asked why the cranes weren't moving. I told him they were probably sleeping. He told me they couldn't sleep, because they don't have eyes. Obviously.

This morning really took the cake. As Cullen has become more and more aware of body parts, I am making more of an effort to stay dressed in front of him. Cullen came downstairs in a hurry to go to the bathroom, so I put him on the potty before grabbing my clothes for the day. When I came back into the bathroom, Cullen pointed to his chest and told me that his would never be as big as mine. I'm not sure who filled him in on that detail, but it's true, so I agreed with him. Without missing a beat, he told me, "When I get big, my penis will be big like Daddy's." I was literally incapable of a response, so I left the room.

I can't wait to hear what tomorrow will bring.

xoxo ashley

Weekend Fun

Last weekend was pretty low-key for our little family. We squeezed in way too many activities, but it was well worth it. 

My Friday evening started with sorting through the mail. We regularly get boxes in the mail with hand me down clothes for Cullen. Even better than free kid clothes? Animal print Hammer pants. James wore them out to get breakfast with Cullen on Mother's Day while I slept in. They opted for a drive-thru breakfast at Shipley's.
We spent Saturday afternoon with my parents, so Cullen got in his first swim of the summer. Luckily, my dad heated up the pool. 
Cullen was a little more reluctant than usual to get into the water, but he was happy once he was swimming around. I'm hoping to give him a few more rounds in the water before his independent swim lessons start in June.  
He's always happiest when he's with his daddy. 
Cullen had a good time splashing with Poppie and swimming around.  
And his kicks showed some solid promise. He was swimming so well last summer, but the lengthy break between pool seasons has taken some of the courage out of him. 
On Monday morning, James' truck broke down on the way to work. Cullen was none too pleased to see that not all tow trucks are actually Tow-Mater. Thanks to a fantastic friendship with a higher up at Fred Haas, James' 100K mile truck got fixed at a discounted price while he drove a demo for a couple of days. It's nice to know people. 
This weekend, we're headed up to Waco to watch Charly graduate from Baylor. It's so hard to believe she isn't eleven anymore...

xoxo ashley

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Empanadas, Spiders and Other Assorted Animals

Not too long ago, some of our favorite neighbors decided to put their house on the market to see what would happen. Of course, their house sold within a couple of weeks, and they were due to move last weekend. Since their house is packed up and I'm hardly fit to cook for my own family, we decided to go out for empanadas for our "last supper." Cullen surprised me by asking for a bite of mine. He only had a few bites, but it was still nice to see him try something new. 
After dinner, it was time for Spiderman jammies.  
And catching spiders. 
We made no plans for Saturday and spent most of Sunday at the zoo. It's always so much fun to spend time with the Ernst family, and I love watching the boys run around.

Dana and I have a lot of the same parenting philosophies, so it is generally a pretty easy trip to the zoo. We let the boys kind of lead us around, so we always wind up finding a new and exciting part of the zoo. Like this tunnel through an aquarium. Cullen was hesitant to try it out at first.  
But he was so very proud of himself for making it through. 
So James decided to give it a go.  
And Cullen was happy to follow Daddy. 
Next up were these fun squirrels. I'm not entirely sure what they were, but they were fast enough to slow down a group of boys for a few minutes.  
There was, of course, the obligatory carousel ride. Once again, Cullen refused to get on an animal. 
My favorite part of the zoo is quickly becoming the giraffe feeding part.  
How could you not love this? 
Or this?
Or these teeth? 
Cullen just saw Ice Age for the first time about a week ago. He was pretty excited to see the huge movie poster.  
Noah and Cullen in a tepee. It is so amazing to me how much they've grown over the past few years. They both make so proud, and only one of them is mine! 
And we finished off with some bongos. 
We were all pretty exhausted after that trip, but I'm so glad we got to go. 

Tuesday at Cullen's school was their mother's day tea. Each year, I get a fancy hat made from a coffee filter and a cute picture with Cullen. My absolute favorite is this one.
This year, I got this. Cullen didn't want to take a picture. Love you too, little buddy.
Cullen regularly tells me now that he doesn't love me. He loves Daddy. Sometimes he tells me he loves my arm. He's a thoughtful guy. Maybe I can get a hug from him for Mother's Day. Maybe

xoxo ashley

Thursday, May 2, 2013


This past weekend, we made a long drive to Tennessee. James and I had this brilliant plan to leave at 3am. We figured we would get on the road, and Cullen would probably sleep the first 4-5 hours of the trip. As usual, Cullen chose to prove us wrong. He slept for maybe 45 minutes, woke up, and told us it really was a long drive to Tennessee. In his mind, I'm relatively certain that he actually thought he slept for awhile. 

He watched more movies than I intended, no one got enough sleep, and James drove the entire way. At least we remembered some healthy snacks...
Towards the end of the trip there, Cullen was a bit delirious. He kept telling me he loved my arm and resting his face on my hand.  
We were beyond thrilled to finally arrive in Tullahoma. I always thought I grew up in a small town, but Tullahoma proved me wrong. Cullen couldn't fathom why our phones didn't always work, we couldn't always get to PBS Kids (due to a lack of 3G access), and the satellite radio sometimes cut out even when we were under open skies. We belong in the city. 

We made it out for dinner with my college roommate who was kind enough to make the drive in after Cullen's carsickness wore us all a bit thin. It's always so good to see Katie. When we got back to the hotel room, we had this precious basket full of goodies waiting for us. The mother of the groom had gotten together a grab bag of native Tennessee treats. They proved to be great extra snacks during our stay, and it was such a fun treat to find in our room. 
On Friday morning, James got out early to play golf with some of the guys. Cullen and I didn't sleep in, but we didn't do a whole lot either. I spent some time knitting, and Cullen did plenty of coloring.

That evening was the rehearsal dinner. 
The Harrisons did a fantastic job of putting everything together. The event was at a non-functioning mill on the river, and it was really neat to be right on the water. 
There were lots of great speeches, and it was nice to catch up with so many people we hadn't seen in a while.
In an effort to make the most out of the wedding weekend/family vacation, we headed out early to the Jack Daniel Distillery. I had a tough time with some of the smells in there, but it was still a really neat tour. 
The main area before the tour had a lot of neat information. I didn't read up like I meant to, but I think the tour helped us learn what I didn't teach myself.
I loved getting to see this old fire truck. It's an REO Speedwagon. And suddenly that album cover makes all the sense in the world.
Two of my favorite boys taking a look at the fresh spring that starts each drop of Tennessee whiskey.
James with the Jack statue. The tour guide told us that he was only 5'2", so they added a bit of height for posterity and placed the statue on some rocks to make him appear just that much taller. Since Lynchburg is in a dry county and the tour doesn't serve samples, this was our "only chance to get a shot of Jack on the rocks" during our tour.
The grounds were remarkably beautiful. I'm sure we would have enjoyed them a whole lot more if it hadn't been raining the entire time.
I think this is such a great slogan hanging in Jack's original office. How often do we just put in the hours? I want to find a way to make this a bit fancier and put it in the kitchen. It can be applied to my cupcakes or life in general. Every day should be our best. 
The spring running next to one of the barrel houses. 
After the tour and our lunches, we ended up back at the hotel for some play time. Grandpa Wiley helped Cullen build multiple forts. After repeatedly knocking them down, Cullen used the couch cushions to make a train on the floor. There wasn't a spot for me or James, but Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Wiley were willing passengers.  
That night, we attended the wedding reception. It was at a really neat aircraft museum. Cullen has always loved airplanes, but he wasn't too pleased when he saw how big they were up close. This model was much better for him.  
There were so many fantastic food options out for snacking. At the rehearsal dinner, it was revealed that the groom really loved ranch dressing. At the reception, there was an actual ranch fountain. While stocking up on bell pepper, I overheard two women from Tennessee discussing the fountain. 

"I've never seen anything like that before. It must be a Texas thing." Sure thing, lady.
Cullen made himself a pretty solid dinner of graham crackers and marshmallows. James tried to introduce the chocolate fountain to make a modified s'more. Nothing doing for this kid.
Cullen was a good sport about sharing his marshmallows on a stick.
Handsome boys 
Cullen loved watching the bride and groom dance.  
As soon as Cullen recognized a song, he decided it was time to dance with Mommy. It isn't a flattering picture, but it was so fun to be out on the floor with my little man. He had the best time dancing and running around. 
The closest we could get to a family photo... 
The next morning, we got back on the road to head home. The trip home was so much easier than the drive there (said the passenger). We stopped twice for gas, but that was it. It was so nice to be home and back in our own beds. 

I took Monday off of work to get some rest. Instead, I took care of every chore our little household had. Oops. I'm still paying for that one. On an exciting note, I finally found the little brother onesie in a newborn size that matches Cullen's big brother tee. Now all we need are diapers. Or something like that.
As each week passes, we are getting closer and closer to welcoming our sweet baby boy. I feel like I should be doing more to get ready.

xoxo ashley