Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Forest's Art Party

Forest turned 3 exactly a month ago today and I am just now posting about his birthday party! Three-years ago Laine is rolling in her grave right now. One excuse is that we've just been so busy I haven't had the time and the second reason is that my mom was the official photographer and I forgot to download the pictures onto my computer. I took a few myself so that will have to do for blog purposes! 

I wanted to do an art themed birthday party for his second birthday but we ended up having so much going on that we opted for a low key celebration with his very best buds instead. When we moved to The Woodlands we went to a playdate held at Paint and Bubbles Studio which is an art studio for littles (and grown ups too). Forest was obsessed with all the different art stations there and when I found out they did birthday parties I immediately asked if his birthday was available. *Spoiler Alert* It was!!!

Forest is the artist of the family. Momma tried.
The flat fee covered up to 12 participating guests and I figured we’d come in way under that number since we’d just moved here. However, Forest had a great turn out from his preschool buddies, plus a few friends we've met from around town who came to celebrate with us. We ended up with exactly 12 kiddos and they all seemed to have a blast. It warmed my heart to see Forest thriving with all of his buddies around. 

The studio definitely catered it to a 3 year old boy and many of the art stations featured dinosaurs and trucks. They’ll happily do a theme if you have one in mind but since our “theme” was art itself, I told them just to feature various “boy” things and they delivered! They had a station where the kids could dip the wheels of a truck into metallic paint and then drive it over black construction paper and all the kiddos were so enamored with this that they hardly could hardly be enticed to do anything else! 
They also had a dinosaur/fossil station where they had a special kind of play doh made with coffee grounds that looked and felt exactly like mud. 
Once he was convinced to leave behind the trucks, this is where Forest spent the most time. He liked it so much that the owner gave me the recipe and we’ve since made it at home. It’s a great ‘sick day’ project.

There was also a giant coloring sheet which all the kiddos colored on and we got to take home as a keepsake, a handprint stegosaurus craft, a monster craft, pumpkin masks, foam pumpkins with letter stickers for kids to decorate with their names, and  a ‘make a truck’ glue and construction paper project. 

Plenty of activities to keep twelve 2-5 year olds busy for 2 hours. 

Since the shin-dig was from 3-5 PM, we kept the party food simple with fruit, veggie, and sandwich trays and we had a cookie cake from Nestle Tollhouse. 

Forest racked up on gifts too. 

My strategy is to give him one new toy a week which should last him at least until Christmas and then we’ll start the process all over again. 
Spoiled rotten.

But y'all, the party was such a success and I plan on holding all future birthday parties there. Or at least I've resolved to never have another one at home. It was so nice to show up with food and just leave the mess behind 2 hours later. Thanks Paint and Bubbles and everyone who came to celebrate the birthday boy! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I remember the post I wrote last year around this time about how easy it is to be thankful when our lives are exactly how we want them to be. How I hoped that should a harder season of life come to call that I would still find joy in the Lord. I think even the most gracious of us need a healthy dose of perspective now and then. 

Oh, you spent your Sunday morning in an urgent care clinic where your toddler was diagnosed with staph infection? How about being grateful for urgent care, and insurance, and anti-biotics? Oh your kid got sick the day your husband left for a month long business trip and will miss a week of very expensive preschool ,meaning you forfeit your alone time to instead wipe snotty noses and rock pitiful toddlers back to sleep? How about being grateful for the fact that your husband has a job, a good paying one that affords you the right to stay home and still pay for expensive preschool and the only thing that you’ll lose from your kid being mildly sick is a little bit of time to write a blog about gratitude? For example. 

Y’all I know I have it good. And yet gratitude can still be hard to come by. When I pause and think about my boundless blessings, then of course I am grateful, but I’m frustrated with myself that it doesn’t come more naturally to me. That I have to be reminded how good I have it. That thankfulness isn’t my default setting as it should be. 

My favorite passage of the bible which I repeat like a mantra is this: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  

More than anything, this is the sort of Christian example I would like to be. I want to be one of those people is who always joyful. I don’t want to get discouraged by too little sleep, not enough time alone and the redundancy of disciplining a strong-willed toddler. I want to be able to look at my complaints and correctly re-label them as blessings. 

I promise you I try every day to restructure my thoughts and pray for God to help me let go of my control so that I can rest in Him and just take joy in where He’s placed me in my life. I guess admitting your weaknesses is the first step in transformation. Because, y’all, life right now for me has some pretty hard moments. 

There is no singular thing that I have to complain about but it’s just this heaviness I feel constantly when Jonathan is away. I’m stumbling under the weight of being the sole person responsible for Forest. My anxiety has returned and is running amuck. For the most part I’m able to keep an attitude of gratitude but it’s currently a fragile state. I’m so easily side-swiped out of that mentality into fear and discouragement. 

I am grateful, truly. But I’m also lonely, homesick (is that the right word?) and anxious. I try to focus on the positive but this Thanksgiving, it just wouldn’t be honest to solely gush about all the things I’m happy about. This year feels like a huge downgrade from last year in many ways. 

I miss my friends and the California landscape. I miss my husband being home at 4:30 every day and his office being just down the road if I ever needed him. Or just sharing a time zone so if Forest got into the liquid Benadryl at 7 pm I could call him freaking out instead of sending him an email about it long after I’d already called poison control and done hourly checks on him in bed all night long. For example. 

But luckily this holiday forces us to take stock of our blessings. That’s why I love it. It’s a day where we pause and reframe our mindset to take stock of the things that bring us joy and comfort even in the harder times. So here are *just a few*of the things I’m thankful for: 

My health. Gosh, what a big blessing that I take for granted all the time. I know friends and mommas battling chronic illnesses who still manage to do it all with a smile on their face. They inspire me and remind me that my health is such a gift. 

My child. I know many are praying and longing for a child this holiday season. That grief of infertility is still fresh in my heart and in the moments when I feel frustrated or run-down raising Forest, I remember those 3 years of fervent longing and try to remind myself that this is EXACTLY what I prayed for. 

My husband’s job. The oilfield is slow going these days and I’m very thankful that we’ve never been afraid that he might lose his employment. Though working in Angola 28/28 is certainly a sacrifice, I know many people who would jump at the chance for the same opportunity. 

Being closer to family. Y’all, I just saw my sister for the first time in over a year. She had a baby and got pregnant with another one in the time since I’d last seen her. That’s just not right. Even though she still lives about 11 hours away, it’s much closer than California or Scotland. In general, we’ve gotten to see our extended family more in the past 4 months than we did in the past 4 years so yay for Houston. 

Ps did you know it's actually impossible to get a picture of 4 boys looking at the camera? Or to have all 5 cousins available for a photo op? 

My husband. Though sometimes I feel like I’m parenting solo, I’m not a single mom. When Jonathan is home he is with us 24/7 which is a big support and makes life much simpler. Plus he’s a hunk and he cooks bacon every morning. So there’s that too. 

Samson. He’s having some issues getting around these days but he’s still the cutest and sweetest pup I ever knew and I try to remind myself of this when I’m carrying him to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. 

Well, that’s about all I have time to document at the moment but I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of fellowship with people who bring you joy. I plan on feasting with some of my favorite Louisianans, playing Mahjong and seeing the new Disney flick with Forest so I’m pretty stoked.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Disney Day 3: Animal Kingdom

For our final day in Disney we planned to hit Animal Kingdom early and if Forest caught a nap in the stroller while we were there then we would extend our day by either hopping over to another park or staying at AK all day depending on how we felt. If he didn’t nap then we’d probably just stay at AK til 2/3 and then call it a trip. We had gone pretty hard for 2 days and we wanted to avoid Disney burn out by pushing it too hard if we were tuckered out. 

We got to Animal Kingdom about 20 minutes before it opened, and like at Magic Kingdom, they let everyone into the park early. Our plan was to rush to Kilimanjaro Safari ride and then ride it again with a fastpass after 9:50. However, unlike Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom let’s you in early but they rope off everything but the main entrances to the park until 9 so there was a bit of a mob behind us waiting for them to drop the rope. 

We had a feeling that everyone behind us had the same plan but luckily with Forest in the stroller we were pretty quick! The crew actually let us take our stroller all the way to the safari truck at which point they took it from us and parked it at the exit point. Forest LOVED the safari, especially since the animals were ‘not pretend’. He got most excited about the zebra, wild dogs, hippopotamuses (he exclusively says ‘hippopotamus’ vs hippo which is pretty stinkin cute) and rhino that he spotted. 

Since we finished up our safari so early, we still had a good 30 minutes until our fast pass to ride it again so we did the jungle trek to see some more animals and then caught the train over to Rafiki’s Conservation Station.

Forest loved the train and did not want to deboard. He said he wanted to see the shed where the train slept. Ha!
 We managed to coax him off with the lure of a petting zoo just down the path from the train station. Does Forest love trains or goats more? It’s a toss up. 
Since we were among the first to arrive to the conservation station we also had plenty of time to convince Forest to get Rafiki’s autograph. He insisted I accompany him, but he willingly stood with me for a photo op with Simba’s pal. 

Afterward we took the train back to Africa to re-ride the Safari only to find that the fast pass line was out the door. We had no idea why it was so crowded but since we had already ridden it first thing that morning, we decided to skip it and trade our Fastpasses in for something else. Our turn to skip the line for expedition Everest was upon us so we hiked over to Asia and took turns exploring with Forest (who was a few inches too short to ride) while the other rode the coaster solo. 

We had about an hour until our fast pass to ride the Kali River Rapids so we went to see Finding Nemo the musical which Forest loved. He seemed a bit sleepy eyed towards the end of the show so we tried to get him to nap by power walking him in the stroller for 45 minutes with no luck. When it became apparent that he wasn’t going to nod off we reassessed our plans. We went to Dino Land to check out the boneyard and their rides before heading to the Kali River Rapids to cap off our day. 

Welp, apparently the Rapids had been closed for hours for some mysterious reason and our fastpasses were then transferred to any of the other major park attractions, which explained the heinous line for fastpasses at the safari earlier, especially since DINOSAUR, one of the only 5 major rides at AK was also closed for refurbishment. 

The closure of the two rides and the narrow pathways throughout the park were making us all feel claustrophobic. Despite skipping his nap, Forest seemed in high spirits so we decided to leave AK and check out Hollywood Studios if nothing else than to complete my collection of Disney Park Starbucks mugs. 
However, we got all the way there, saw the jam packed parking lot and just could not bring ourselves to load up the stroller and do more Disney. We gave F the option of more Disney World or the resort pool and he chose the pool so we said goodbye to Disney and headed home. We spent the afternoon swimming and playing on the playground at the resort before eating pizza and hitting the sack for an early bedtime in preparation for a 5:40 AM wake up for our flight the next morning.  

It was a successful first family trip to Disney World. I'm sure we'll be back again someday! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Disney Day 2: Magic Kingdom and Mickey's Backyard BBQ

For our second day at Disney we planned to hit Magic Kingdom early, ride the remainder of our wish list attractions and then head back to the resort for a siesta before heading to the Fort Wilderness resort for the Mickey’s Backyard BBQ character dinner that evening. We got to MK with plenty of time to spare and when the doors opened we rushed to AdventureLand to hop on the first Jungle Cruise out of the docks. 

Forest really loved this ride, so I’m glad we rode it since many sources told me it was "meh". 

Afterward we explored the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse which was another hit with Forest. This area of the park was so empty we basically had it all to ourselves so it was nice to explore at a relaxed pace. 

Afterward we walked right onto The Magic Carpet Ride. 

By 9:17 we had all 3 of these finished. We had a fastpass for 10:15 at Haunted Mansion but since it was still early we decided to see if we could go ahead and tour it with a short wait time and the trade our fast pass in for something else. I’m so glad we did this because we walked right in and Forest was immediately terrified so we had to find a cast member to escort us out. Mom fail #2! But at least we got to do a different fastpass. 

We reserved Tomorrowland Speedway for Jon and F and Space Mountain for me and headed over to Tomorrowland instead. Since our fastpasses weren’t until 10:30 we did the Astro Orbiter (I wish I hadn’t gone but Jon and F had fun) and the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor which was really cute.

Then we split up to cash in our fastpasses and when I got to Space Mountain it was closed! I guess something went awry so I’m glad I wasn’t riding it when it happened, but still, I was disappointed to miss this one. 
I also didn’t know what happened to my fastpass as it just sort of disappeared on the app. I found out later that when this happens you get an email telling you that you can use your FP at one of several other rides instead, but since I didn’t know it at the time I just forgot about it and waited for Forest and Jonathan to finish up at the neighboring race track. To make up for my disappointment, I decided to drown my sorrows in a delicious Dole Whip before heading over to Splash Mountain for our 11:30 fastpass. 

Since you have to be 40” to ride Splash Mountain and Forest is hovering right at 39 ¾ we were unsure as to whether he’d qualify. He just made the cut so we suited him up in his waterproof crocodile coveralls and cut to the front of the line. 

I hypothesized that he’d enjoy this thrilling ride but after so badly misjudging the much more benign Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion I was apprehensive. He did get uncomfortable in the dark and sinister areas especially when the ride broke down for a minute right in the middle of the darkest part, but he loved the coaster aspects and thought the big plunge into the river was awesome. He was all smiles afterward. 
We had about 20 minutes until we could use our final fastpasses at Peter Pan’s flight so stopped to eat our pre-packed picnic lunch nearby. When we parked our stroller at the ride, I noticed Forest grasping at his wrist and then realized that his magic band had fallen off. It had done the same thing while we were eating our ice cream but we noticed right away so secured it back on. This time we had no idea where he’d lost it so retraced our steps back to the lunch table before giving it up for lost. We were about ready to leave the park for the day so didn’t have time to go all the way to the front for a replacement and walk back to Peter Pan so instead Jonathan gave Forest his fastpass and we had a little mommy son date on a flying pirate ship. 

Afterward we went to customer service to see if anyone had turned in a missing magic band or else get his replaced. The worker was kind and gave us a brand new one and got it all set up for us, but Jonathan wore F’s for the remainder of the trip, just in case. 

At this point Forest was so tired he was begging us to nap in his stroller but we really didn’t want to stay at the parks and then have a character dinner with no rest for us so we pushed him to stay away until we got home. This lead to an epic meltdown of him screaming ‘I want to take a nap in my stroller! I want to take a nap in my stroller!’ as we loaded him into the car. It was pretty humorous to hear him saying he wanted to take a nap because I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before. 

Anyhoos, that was the biggest drama of the trip and we ended up successfully getting him home for a 2.5 hour nap in his bed. Bliss. We all felt restored and ready for a dance party with Mickey Mouse!  Rather than waste time in the parks trying to get autographs and pictures with the characters, a friend advised us to try a character dinner. That way we unwind with a meal and get a good chunk of time to meet and interact with some of the big names. We choose Mickey’s Backyard BBQ because it was an all you can eat buffet with endless adult beverages and ice cream included. 

It was held at the Pavillion at the Fort Wilderness Resort which we tucked away in our minds as a potential future vacation spot for us. The grounds were just so spacious and peaceful, like summer camp. Forest loved exploring the mossy grounds and collecting acorns in his water cup. We arrived early to give us time to explore and also to have better seating options once they opened up the buffet area. 

The entertainment was country and western themed and the characters alternated between dancing on delegated dance floors throughout the dance floor and signing autographs. We were seated right next to one of the dance floors and autograph stations so were able to beat the lines when it was game time. Unfortunately we discovered pretty early that Forest was flat out terrified of the characters, especially Goofy. 

Save me from that giant dog, mommy!
With some heavy encouragement from me he handed his autograph book to Chip and Dale and tolerated being hugged by them, but as far as dancing with them- nuh-uh, no way.

I may tolerate those chipmunks hugging me but don't you even try, scary dog thing.

He would barely even give Mickey a high 5, despite the sweet mouse’s persistence in trying to get Forest to engage with him. 
Oh well,  Jonathan and Forest ate their money’s worth of BBQ and ice cream and once we had our fill, we left a bit early to do some more exploring on the resort grounds. 

We had an early morning again the next day as we prepared to take on Animal Kingdom. Stay tuned!