Fireman Lewis to the rescue! (Free fire station tour, Sugar Land, Texas)

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A friend of mine mentioned a while ago, that a few years back, SSA Houston organized a visit to a fire station.  After a brief search I found the information, sent out the invite, and, before long, I was making the reservation for a group of forty strong (any more and we’d have had to split it in to two groups, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be looking at this event).

Ok, ok so it’s still pretty hot and sticky out there, and there’s more mosquitoes than you can count but although it wasn’t an indoor in the AC kind of activity, it was shaded, educational, fun and it was enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how the whole thing was set up. Lack of on-site parking aside, when we got to Station 3 in Sugar Land, we were met by an ambulance, a fire engine and a crew of five fire people.  After introductions, warnings and reminders that we are, after all, standing in a live fire house and a little history, they began to talk to us a little about fire safety. Who to call, what to do, where to go etc.  it was equally as educating for the adults as it was for the kids.

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Next at up we learned a little fire procedure.  The suit, the air tank, the number of firemen who go out on a call, how they search for and find any fallen firemen during a fire, what to do if you’re trapped in a room during a fire.

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After the talk (which was interactive, so feel free to ask questions) the kids each got to take turns at sitting in the fire truck.  We all got to pose for photos with the truck and one kind fireman even took a group shot of our crazy gang.

11060005_10155472524550411_4838108004485431527_nThe kids got sent home with fire hats and safety information goodie-bags. It was a great experience for everyone.  I’d highly recommend you visiting your local fire station and meeting some of the bravest men and women in Sugar Land.  For more information on this free tour, go here.

[Breastfeeding buddies] Courtney and Sophia.

Oh! It’s been an age since I got to sit at my surface and type out some blog posts for the masses.  Visitors, a malady plagued house and more visitors have left me with very little ‘down-time’ to churn anything out.  Or even stop for a breath.  I promised a long time ago to share some real-life breastfeeding stories, from my nearest and dearest friends.  I think I’ll restart my blogging kick there.

No better person to start with than this story from my girl Courtney, living in Cali.  Court is one of my very favorite people in the whole wide universe and I miss her face.  We’ve been pen pals for a long time, but she came out to visit us last year for a few days and, in that time, we became BFF’s.  We clicked.  She is AWESOME and she’s a FAB-tactic mama.

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I am going to be upfront with all of you and admit from the start that writing in detail about my breastfeeding journey was extraordinarily hard for me to do. Though, (for the most part) I’ve come to peace with the outcome of it all (SPOILER ALERT: I failed. Miserably.). I have been able to reflect on the experience with a positive outlook, but it was still difficult to find the words to describe everything without going on side tangents. So I will try my hardest, dear reader, to report just the facts and save the rants for another time.

This was my first pregnancy and like all first mothers, I gorged myself with all the baby related reading material I could get my grubby hands on. I was determined to breastfeed my baby. My husband and I went out and bought all the necessary supplies; we got a pump, creams, pads, containers, wipes, ointments, and anything else related to breastfeeding. We even got two of everything so we would be doubly set. I was ready for this!!!

My due date came and went and still no baby. This little girl was in it for the long haul. Finally, two weeks later I had to schedule a C-section.

I should also pause here in the story to note that at the time of my pregnancy, we were living in Wyoming. My husband, not being fond of the health care provided in the state, wanted to have the baby in California where we were from and where we had family. For some reason, still unknown to me, I agreed. Two weeks before the due date and with the Dr.’s blessing we drove to California and scheduled an appointment with a doctor I’d never worked with.

From the get go I was very upfront with my feeding plan. And I have to give credit to the hospital and all their staff for being supportive of my wishes and listening to my requests. I was lucky to have a good breast feeding consultant who ensured that the baby’s latch was good and I found out that she liked to cluster feed. With that knowledge, I took it to be the norm when feedings were lasting up to an hour or more on each breast. Other than that I did not have any other type of training. I felt like I was getting enough nourishment to my baby and from what the staff at the hospital told me, that was the case. During our stay at the hospital there were no issues and the Dr.’s were happy with our daughter’s progress.

Though my baby was a champion during the first week of her life, I was just beginning a free fall plummet to a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to me, postpartum depression was playing a part in all of this, but the biggest push down the hill was the pain medication that was prescribed to me. The side effects of this drug was huge; I was unable to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, nodding off in the middle of texts or on conversations on the phone. The worst of the side effects were the night terrors, they were so dark and twisted even the most creative (or demented) person couldn’t think up the nightmares I was having. A combination all of this was taking a toll on my mental health.

After our hospital stay, we went back to my husband’s parent’s house. To their credit, they were very hospitable and made every effort to make our stay comfortable. My husband was going through his own adjustments and was very distant as he processed the emotions and change of being a new dad. I was in my own mental state of crisis with the pain meds messing with my head and dealing with postpartum. Staying at the house with a new baby was just plain rough. Everything else made for the perfect storm for failure and despite it all, I was trying my best trying to breast feed our daughter.

Feeding was getting extremely difficult and unimaginably painful. One does not realize the love a mother has for their baby until they are experiencing excruciating pain in their breasts. True love is, despite all impulses and instinct to throw their baby across the room to make the hurt stop, when you keep breastfeeding and holding on to your baby. I was cracking, chapped, bleeding, red, and sore. No amount of cream or ointment was going to heal me. I decided to switch to pumping to try and give myself a chance to heal.

Pumping in its own self was an adventure. While I had read everything about breastfeeding and the consultant at hospital guided me on breast feeding, never did it once occur to me to learn the logistics about pumping! So I did what any first time mother not in her right mind did, I just winged it. On the fly pumping, if you will. I mean honestly how hard could it be? You just hook them up to your milk dispensers and it ends up in the little containers! Working mothers did this every day, sauntering into the barn and letting the farmer hook up the pumps to their utters. If cows could be milked this way, why couldn’t I?!

I found out that, though in theory pumping is very easy, in practice it is not. I sat on my In-Law’s couch for hours in vain and only coming up with a few ounces of liquid gold in each breast. My journey into breastfeeding was looking very dismal. We were leaving back to Cheyenne in a few days so my mind (which was doing better after getting off the meds that were making loopy) was focused on the trip and I felt like finding a breast feeding consultant in a town we would be leaving was pointless. Supplementing with formula was our only option at that time, which we took because at the end of it all our baby needed to be fed.

I worked very hard at processing this failure in a positive way. It was not easy, as my first inclination was to beat myself up for failing my baby, being a mother, and in some ways a woman. But I was able to excuse my shortcomings at the time with the understanding that not all people were cut out for it (my mom was not able to produce enough milk as well) and at the very least my baby was able to get the most nourishing part (though all parts of breastfeeding are important) from the colostrum.

So there you have it, my breastfeeding journey. It was a difficult, though short lived trial, and it was ok for me to fail. The best way to handle that failure for me was to learn from it. Breastfeeding is challenging if you are not properly prepared for it. Despite my failures, my daughter is strong, smart, and healthy. My experiences and short comings have made me better prepared for our next child. To be honest, now that I am a little wiser, I am looking forward to trying breastfeeding all over again.

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My first ever Busy Bag Swap!

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Being an avid Pinterest-er (yes, I may have made up a word) I can safely say that I was overwhelmingly curious when I stumbled upon a pin about a ‘Busy Bag’.  I liked the concept, it was simple.

What is a busy bag? A ‘busy bag’ is a simple activity, that typically fits inside a Ziploc bag. It’s designed to keep your little ones entertained, teach them about things (shapes/colors/numbers/fine motor skill), but also be cheap (the aim is to make them around $1-$2 each), and fun.

The idea, is so simple, in fact, that you can reduce it to a five-point-plan.

Step 1:  Pick a date (leave enough time for your attendees to buy supplies and create their bags).

Step 2: Invite mums.  I invited about 20-25 mums.  The more mums that attend, the more bags you get.

Step 3: Chose a bag to make – this could take a while.  There are any number of bag ideas on Pinterest, Google searches etc.  Consider the age of the children attending, and try to pick something age appropriate, or something they will ‘grow in to’ before long.  I made two bags, as I wanted to receive two full sets of bags.

Step 4: Make one of your bags for each mum in attendance.  Make an extra one or two in case you have any last-minute additions to the guest list.

Step 5: Get together and swap your bags.

It’s THAT simple.

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We ended up with eleven bags, and we kind of turned the swap in to an impromptu play date.  It was during the day, each mama brought shareable snacks, their kids, and we spent the morning having fun, explaining how to work our bags and eating good food – what more could you want from a morning?

Our Bags:

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Top Row: Paper chain, personalized door handle, create your own caterpillar

Bottom row: Thread straws on yarn, put pipe cleaners into a container (both fine motor skill)

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Build your own pizza and learn shapes with car tracks.

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Counting and colors (pegs, buttons and pompoms)

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Aren’t they FAB bags? I had a lot of fun, and I’m already planning the next busy bag swap for our group – there are hundreds of bags out there for us to make ;) and you can be sure these little ones all slept well that night too!

Battleship Texas (15 things to do in Houston for under $15)

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“Commissioned in 1914 as the most powerful weapon in the world, the Battleship Texas is credited with the introduction and innovation of advances in gunnery, aviation and radar.  She is the last surviving Dreadnought as well as the only battleship in existence today that fought in both World War I and World War II… In 1948 the Battleship Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the United States.”

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The USS Texas is our third adventure aboard a WWII ship, and, if I’m honest, I think the USS Kidd (Baton Rouge) and the USS Lexington (Corpus Christi) have her beaten.  That said, it was still a very enjoyable trip aboard.

Time and nature have taken a serious toll on this poor Dreadnought, she needs some serious repairs (and some kind of shield from the harsh Texas sunshine!), the deck is rotting and the wood is coming up in places, I believe they’ve submitted a request for a rather large sum of money to do some fixing.  It’s needed.

Open 10am – 5pm daily, and at $12 per person entrance fee for anyone over 12 years old, it could get expensive to take your whole family.  It makes me wonder what the entrance fee is used for, if not to improve and repair the ship?

Anyways, my mum and I went on board for a nosy, in April, and it was HOT.  Especially in those lower decks.  Top deck has any amount of weaponry on display – some of which you can even climb up on to and pretend to aim and shoot.  If, like me, you have limited upper body strength, it’ll make you wonder just how strong and fit the sailors of the War’s were – those suckers take a LOT of work to turn!

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You can climb pretty high up too, my mum was sad she couldn’t go all the way to the top, but she loved the climb and view from up in the rafters.

One deck below, they have a deck dedicated to the sailors lives, how they lived, ate, what they did in their spare time.

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The deck below that, is the engine room deck, where you can get a real good look at the innards of this beautiful ship though, embarrassingly, neither of us went to that deck, we were both too hot and the ship was quite busy.  We opted to go back on shore and get some water!

My mum, who has never been on board a ship like this before, was very impressed and said it was worth every penny to visit.  We had good fun poking around, I’ll be excited to see her after her (hopefully soon) restoration.

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Lewis’ ‘Time Flies’ first birthday airplane party.

The theme for this blog post, guys and gals, is ‘OTT’.  No, no really.

11010629_10155279509765411_8605921233011560039_nBut he’s super cute – and I just couldn’t help myself!

It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest party person. I love event planning, hosting parties and crafting up a storm to make for an amazing party. Having helped my BFF out for the last five years on my nieces birthday parties, I felt confident that I could take doing one for Lewis by myself.

With the help of our photographer, we narrowed down a theme (I’ll probably use the runner up for next year!)  Airplanes.  She mentioned that she had happened upon a cute plane prop and could totally make an amazing set around that theme.  So we ran with it.

Invitations

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I had bought him a cute flight jacket at a local Just Between Friends consignment sale, wayyyyyy before he was born (Col thought it was cute) and after having gone to the Galveston Flight Museum (and Amazon), I grabbed some patches and send the whole thing down to my trusty seamstress, who turned out a FAB jacket for our lil guy.

His first birthday photo shoot was one of my faves, he was a lot more mobile than before, he was curious and yet hesitant to pick things up, so gave us unsure little looks, to make sure he could pick up the planes and letters around.

I ordered them (and the thank-you cards) from Tiny Prints (photo above was the one I used!), I had a coupon for a huge discount, but needed urgent shipping cause I stupidly left it too late.  Tip: schedule your pictures early, and order your invitations early.  BE EARLY! LOL!

Party bags

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I went with brown paper bag ‘suitcases’, in keeping with the travelling/flying theme.  I got the bags and brown card for accents in Michaels.  The vintage travel stickers, and the thank-you tags came from Amazon, and the pilots wings I got from eBay.

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Inside each bag, kids got a little aviator duck, a ‘grab bag’ from Target (either a Planes one, or a Minions one), mini bubbles, Disney Planes/Cars tummies, a foam glider, half a sheet of stickers (I couldn’t get a sheet each, Target was cleared!!) and some white chocolate covered pretzels.

Photo booth

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I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and this OTT first birthday party, was the perfect excuse ;) I decided to go with a fabric back drop.  I ordered a photographers stand from EBay for $30, it came in a little fold away bag for easy storage, it’s easy to step up and take down (if I can do it anyone can) and it worked out being cheaper, or at least as cheap as making a plastic pipe one from piping from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

For the back ground itself, I wanted a sky-theme, I had grand plans of making a cardboard plane for Lewis and his friends to sit on, in front of it, so I bought two yards of four different colors of fabric, which Col and I tore into 2″ strips one night while watching NCIS.  The clouds are made from $1 clearance tulle Pompoms from Michaels and fish wire/clear thread.

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My props, aside from Lewis’ flight jacket, and a pilot hat from Amazon, were hand-held wooden props that I got from Michaels and painted one evening (glasses, mustaches, crowns, top hats) that were all $1-$1.50 each, but are so versatile that I can use them every year, regardless of the theme of the party!

I ran out of time (and thought I’d have more hands to help) so I ordered an inflatable red airplane from Amazon.

Décor

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Using my ‘old faithful’ cricut, I cut two different banners – out of regular, 12×12 card stock from Michaels.  In their ‘discount bins’, I got some matching twine and in their scrapbooking aisles, I picked up some coordinating clothes pegs, to make my lovely ‘Time Flies’ banner.  The intention was to have a plane pulling the banner, but it just didn’t get done.

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The other, was a Happy Birthday Lewis banner – pretty simple, but cute!

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I picked up 48 WWII foam gliders on Amazon for $8, I didn’t realize there was 48 when I bought them, but, after putting one in each party bag, I didn’t want to waste the leftovers, so decided to do a hall of gliders – stringing them up onto fish wire was pretty bad, considering the string is INVISIBLE, but I think the hall looked cute.

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Even now, weeks later, Lewis LOVES our hall of gliders.  Every morning we go downstairs and from the very top step, you’ll hear him exclaim ‘wow!’ They amaze him!

Cake

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I considered having a cake made by a local bakery, but, in a moment of stupidity, decided to do it myself.  I usually HATE boxed cakes, but, I haven’t find a white/vanilla cake recipe that I love better than the box (I will NEVER buy a chocolate box mix, for example) – if you have one, please feel free to share!

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I went with a five layer orange ombre cake, covered in a light ‘sky’ blue butter cream, buttercream clouds and topped with a Sesame street cake topper (from Amazon).  It was pretty tasty – if I do say so myself, but, unfortunately, most of our guests were seemingly health conscious, and I was left with well over half of the cake! (This totally wouldn’t have happened in my home country!!)

Food and drinks

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The ‘in-flight service’ savoury menu, was pretty simple.  I went with two crock pots of ‘mains’, I had BBQ pulled chicken in one, and meatballs and smokies in a BBQ-tomato sauce in the other.  I had burger buns, with cheese, onions and lettuce on the side.

The sides were a veggie plate, crisps from home, chips and salsa and caprese bites (mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar – I should have made more of those, they went very well!).

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I even put together some cutlery/silverware packets, with Lewis Air labels that my BFF designed for me.

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IMG_4749The ‘in-flight beverage’ drinks table,  had some orange punch (Hawaiian punch and sprite zero), Koolaid drinks and small bottles of water (with personalized labels).

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Our dessert table, was fun! I had my sister pick up a bunch of kiddies sweets from home, my best friend baked some Airplane cookies, I dipped some Oreos and made propellers from M&M’s and Jelly Beans and had some jars of color coordinated M&M’s and Jelly beans.

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I’m very proud of this party, not least of all cause I did it myself, but also cause it came together very well.  I’ve already given thought to his next birthday party theme, and will be keeping my eye out for ‘stuff’ to stock pile for it! ;)

What was the theme for your little one’s first birthday party?

Saint Arnolds Brewing Company Tour (15 things to do in Houston for under $15)

Being Irish, it’s almost a rite of passage to tour the Guinness brewery in Dublin.  You pay money, go through the factory, watch the whole process – from creation, to bottling, and at the end, you get a pint of beer (or soda).  Disclaimer: I always get the soda, I don’t drink beer (or stout) but I love watching the process and learning about the company.

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I expected something similar here, at St. Arnolds Brewery.  Taps open at 2pm on week days, the tour is at 3.30pm and taps close at 4.15pm.  The tour is $10 per person over 15 years old, you get a free souvenir glass and four beer tokens (or root beer).  They have a small parking area, and there’s public parking just around the corner/facing the brewery.  Grab a drink as soon as you get there, you can take it/them with you throughout the tour, and it’s hot, so you’ll need it!  That said, since I don’t like beer, or Root Beer, I had water.  My brother is THRILLED that he will get my tokens when he’s in town!

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The tour starts in a room with huge silver pot-type things.  If any of them are on, wave goodbye to actually *HEARING* the tour.  In a room akin to a furnace, full of thirty-odd people, a sweaty bearded dude giving the tour (while simultaneously aerating out his manly bits by shaking his shorts) I wanted to cry.  Between the heat, the loud noise and the fact that this part of the tour could *easily* have been given just outside the door to the hot, loud hellish room of silver pots and spoken at a normal, non-shouting level of communication.  I held out hope that the tour would be rockin’ and we’d see interesting things about how their beer was made and packaged for stores.

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The tour was mostly spoken, took place in two rooms, the hellish hot room and a warehouse-y type room.  But you don’t see much of the process, you don’t see the bottling process or any of that.  I was disappointed and most certainly expected more.  My dad tried one beer, my mum tried two, but they agreed that it wasn’t really worth the trip up from Missouri City and braving the rush hour traffic home.

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Maybe if we were all hard-core beer lovers, we’d have been more happy with the four drinks tokens, and not cared about the tour, but we were more interested in the tour and it fell a bit flat.

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If you’re in the Houston area and know of a brewery who does a more extensive tour – please, let me know!

Brazos Bend State Park (15 things to do in Houston for under $15)

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Alright, so, my parents came to town a few weeks ago, and they wanted to do EVERYTHING that this great city had to offer.  I tried telling them that we couldn’t quite fit EVERYTHING into a small two-week window, I would, however, give it my best shot.

This has inevitably resulted in me putting together a series of blog posts about various things to do here in Houston.  Some I’ve done before (and perhaps just not blogged about), and some that are new for me to share with y’all.

I made a very specific itinerary, each day was packed full of something to do, and we even managed to try a few ‘new places’, that neither Col, nor I, had ever been to before.  One such place, was the state park, Brazos Bend.

Having heard good things about this place, most notably from my bird watching friend Adrienne, I was excited to take my parents to the ‘alligator park’.

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After a false-start in one of the smaller loop trails, we came back to the entrance of the park and went to the 40 acre lake – read the information sheet that you get when you arrive, we didn’t, the best place to see gators, is right here, at one of the first trails you pass when you come in – and we were not disappointed.

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We saw close to a dozen or more alligators, ranging from about a foot long itty bitty little gators, to some pretty large, fully grown gators.  Passing a couple, within only a few feet.  It was simply amazing.

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The loop around the lake isn’t all that long, but there is enough to keep you busy and interested, from fish and ducks, to the most beautiful selection of birds.  We spent our afternoon watching cardinals, and, what I was told at the park, a rare American Bitten (or three) catching their lunch.

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As this is a park, you can always bring your bikes along with you.  We brought a picnic of sandwiches, drinks and snacks to enjoy under the shade of the trees.  If the weather is right, this place is a glorious spot to spend a day.  If the weather is ‘Texas summer’, then you can easily get cooked to a crisp, eaten by mosquitoes and dehydrated.

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Bring water (lots if its a hot day), sun cream, bug spray, a hat, comfortable shoes, your favorite camera (you will see a LOT that you want to shoot).

The park is open daily (gates lock at 10pm) the office is open Sunday – Thursday 8am – 4.30pm and Fri/Sat 8am – 9.30pm.  Entry fees are (as of April 2015) $7 Adult, children under 12 are free.

My brother arrives in just over six weeks, Brazos Bend state park has been put on his itinerary too, as long as it’s not too hot.  But it’s definitely an amazing place, even for someone (like me!) who isn’t a big outdoors-y person, who hates the sunshine and heat, and isn’t very active.  If I can go, walk and enjoy it – anyone can!

I woke up one morning, and my baby was suddenly a toddler!

Well, it happened.  I turned 30.

Whilst I was momentarily afraid to face the big 3.0, I quickly realized that I’m more terrified of Lewis turning one, than I am of me turning thirty.

I think it helps that I’m the younger one in our marriage, Col hits all the landmarks before I do.  That helps.

But, upon closer inspection, and reflection, I quickly saw, that actually, I’ve achieved a lot by the time I hit 30.  So, really, it ain’t all that bad.

Right??

Let’s recap: I graduated college (huge personal achievement), I met Col, moved to Houston, volunteered (for four and a half years so far), helping other expats here, got married, travelled to some amazing, bucket-list kinda places, and after a three year battle with infertility, we had Lewis.

It ain’t too shabby.
And, after reflecting a little on the last year, I’m slowly coming to realize that Lewis turning a year old, isn’t all that bad.  We tried for three years to conceive. I wanted him so very badly, and I spent my whole pregnancy afraid to go to the bathroom, in case disaster struck.
I wanted him so very badly.
When he was born, I bawled.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and that we could really take him home.  I cried at the smallest thing.  He opened his eyes, I cried, he yawned, I cried, he grabbed Col’s finger and I cried.
He is simply amazing.
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I’ve definitely changed.  This year has changed me.
Motherhood is a juxtaposition.  Fo’ sho’!
I’m more relaxed (baby led weaning and mess), yet more highly strung (danger and injury to my precious cargo) than before.
I’m more calm (trying not to over react to every little bump or fever), yet more emotive (I seriously cry at everything!) than before.
I’m more patient (teaching him things), yet more impatient than before (saying no two hundred times to the same thing).
And I’ve learned.  A lot.
Let’s start with the boobs, if you’d told me, this time last year, that I’d have made it a full year Breastfeeding, I’d have laughed in your face.
FACT.
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This little “leech” stuck to my boob 24-7.  I’d finish one agonizing feed and it would be only a matter of minutes til the next one started (feed every three hours my ass!) The screaming agony of his latch (that no one could fix), that resulted in me crying at every feed for months on end, the bleary eyed night feeds, the leaking, the boob pads, the lansinoh, the panic attacks and stressing when he needed fed and we were out in public, the time spent in the car when I didn’t feel confident nursing in public, the double shirts (pull one up, pull one down), the teething, the fish hooking, the nose poking, the pumping, the pump and dumping (I had an MRI with contrast, and surgery with narcotics and couldn’t feed Lewis for two x twenty four hour periods) and feeling like Daisy the dairy cow.
Its all behind me, and I’m almost mournful that our journey is nearing its conclusion (he’s down to morning and night feeds and is self-weaning).  Almost.  It’ll be nice to have my boobs back to myself, for sure.  But, more so, the sheer pride of getting him to this milestone, when so much didn’t work right from the get-go, I’m thrilled.
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I can’t begin to tell you how your perspective changes when you have a child.  You watch something on TV and you cry. Nay, sob. Because it tugs at heart strings that you never knew existed.  Your whole being becomes about protecting and raising this beautiful slobbery, stinky butted kid, who just has to look at you and your insides turn to goo.
You perceive a whole new level of security and risk.  You’re like a member of the secret service, everywhere you go, checking, double checking and triple checking. Everything. Twice.
You become a multi-tasking genius.  No, really.  You’re keeping the kid on the changing table, who has suddenly morphed into Usain Bolt, while dealing with poop, potential projectile and spontaneous pee, hands that are fascinated with boy parts, changing and dressing him? It should be a bloody Olympic sport.  Fact.  And don’t get me started on people telling you to practice dressing a teddy bear!!
My advice? Practice dressing a 200lb Labrador, while he’s chasing a squirrel down a motorway.  That’ll learn ya!
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And the poop? THE POOP! It’s only poop! It’s only puke (he had reflux so bad that he had to sleep in a swing for six months)! It’s only squished up, two day old Mac and cheese in your hair.  Today, for example, Lewis had a blow out.  They are infrequent, but we needed to change his clothes and in the clean-up process, he kicked out his leg and got poop all over his foot, ankle, calf, knee and thigh, he stuck his hand in it and then grabbed my, already poop-tainted arm. It’s only poop.  Just keep telling yourself that.  It’s only poop!!!!!!!!!!
Showering is a novelty, going to the loo (especially solo) is a novelty and hobbies are a novelty.
But holy shit I’ve never known a love like it.  The love I have in my heart cannot be contained.
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This child can make me cry, just by looking at me.
He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s a sponge.  Watching the cogs turn in his head fascinates me.  When he figures something out, he’ll check to see whether we are watching, and if we aren’t, he’ll do it again.  One night he had started using his walker by himself, the walker was out of reach and dada hadn’t seen his new monkey truck yet, so he started walking around the living room pushing along the basket of laundry.  He’s currently using his daddy’s table as a walker, after having used the nappy bin.  Resourceful kid.
He’s inquisitive, likes exploring and figuring stuff out.  He likes testing boundaries to see just how much mama means the ‘no’ she’s just said three times.  His favorite toys are the unsuspecting ones, a spoon on the tiles, an empty egg carton or one of his plastic plates to bang against the bin.  We should have just returned all these toys people got him and bought eggs.
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He is FULL of love and he’s such a happy kid, he gives smiles generously, he gives kisses unprompted, he waves at, and makes friends with strangers, he loves his daddy (who can’t leave the room without a scream-fest when daddy gets home from work), he claps his hands when I sing, he loves to dance, and he’s just cut his sixth tooth.
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Being a parent has being the biggest blessing I could ever have hoped for, and it is multiplied exponentially, by the fact that we got blessed with such a shamazing little boy! <3
Happy birthday little one, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for our little family <3
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From fat…to less fat.

I haven’t always been fat.

I had a few rare years of dramatic theatre time when I was svelte.  But one tends to remember being fat, more than not.  Especially when fat is the current state.

Those are the hardest times.
I can already hear my sister and my coach Taylor, screaming at their screens.  “You are NOT fat! You HAVE fat”, it’s a mindset I’d love to have, and that I’ve vowed to try and adapt, however, for now, I am fat.
I am aware of it, every single minute, or every single day.
I see it every time I look I the mirror, or catch my fat ass reflection in a window, or see my rotund shadow when it’s sunny (which is a lot in Houston).
I see it, always.
I hate it, always.
I’ve written blogs like this, at least once a year.  New beginning, new me.  It trails off.  It flops.  I quit.  And I’m normally not a quitter.  I HATE to quit.
This time it’s different, this time it’s for real.
It never is.  I stay fat.
Since Lewis was born, I’ve lost 33lbs and counting.  It hasn’t been easy, or quick (he’s nearly a year old).  Breastfeeding seems to be hindering, rather than helping and, since January 5th, I’ve been working so hard that I almost expected the weight to fall off me.  But I’ve been here before, I know the drill, sometimes you just have to put your faith in the science.  Eat less, move more and it will happen.  It WILL.
But it’s hard.
I’m trying so hard to eat cleaner, high protein, low carbs, low sugar, and as of this week, no carbs after 3pm.  I’m doing my best, for once, I’m giving it my all.  I really am.  No kidding myself this time.  It’s a struggle every time I open my mouth to eat.  At every meal.  It’s a conscious choice to self improve, to make the better choice, and to inch just a little closer to my goal.
What’s my goal? Well, I started at 268lbs, my first major goal is 180, and I’ll reevaluate the next one, when I get there.  My first interim goal, however, is to lose 30lbs by our wedding anniversary cruise in October.  I want to be 213lbs, (which is the weight I was on my wedding day), for my anniversary.  It’s an achievable goal, theoretically, and bet your ass I’m going to give it my all.
I have an inspirational chart taped to my pantry (aka the infamous pantry penis) that I color in with my Crayola markers every time I lose 1lb.  I have photos from my wedding taped to it, to constantly remind me of my goal.  Where I want to be.  Who I want to be.  So every time I go in to that cupboard for food, I have a choice to make.
What do I want more? The chocolate, or to color in the chart.
What’s my food plan? Like I said above, high protein (lean meats), low carb (100g rice/potato or a tortilla wrap), low sugar (berries rather than citrus).  Three meals (I’m not a breakfast person so this is tough) two to three snacks (nuts, Greek yoghurt, rice cracker, small Apple with peanut butter) and prayers.  ‘Cause, I love my food, I hate any sniff of feeling deprived.  I’m doing my best to feel satisfied and occasionally allowing myself a ‘treat’, cause while although I’m not a dog, it needs to be sustainable for this to work for me.  The odd pizza, or the wings, I still indulge in my diet coke and I’m trying to keep it reasonable, sustainable.  A lifetime thing.
What are my activities? I went back to Body Attack 2-3 times a week for a few weeks, put my back out, got the flu, and got really weak.  So started walking with my boys, and C25K last week, to try and ease back in to working out.  I’ve signed up for not one, but TWO 5k walks/jogs this summer, both at night (oy vey! I couldn’t handle the day time heat!!) with my girl Taylor and I hope to do them in a ‘respectable’ time, but I’ve not yet set a goal, because snails are currently faster than I am.
I’ve stuck to it for fifty days.  5-0.
That’s a record.
What’s my secret weapon? My secret weapon is three-fold.
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Firstly, my crazy sister, she has this knack of ‘bigging me up’ *right* when I need ‘bigging’, sending food suggestions, meal ideas, encouragement and most importantly, she’s always there to kick my ass when I’ve found my way to the wrong side of the tracks, or, often more importantly, to keep me from straying before it happens.  I talk to her daily, not always about food, but she’s there, like a strong silent, rock, waiting to hit me in the face if I go near a pizza ;)
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Secondly I have a great ‘coach’, she helps me set realistic goals, she helps me learn about food, she encourages me when I am feeling weak, she cheers me when I do good and she bucks me up when the scales don’t move.  She gives me exercises to do at home when I can’t get out, or one of us is sick.  She guilts me into taking Lewis for a walk when the weather is glorious and she’s stuck in an office – oh, yeah, did I not mention she has a full time job?
She is nothing short of amazing.
Her name is Taylor, I met her by accident a few years ago when I needed a door prize donation for an SSA event and she is FAB.  I send her photos of all my food, she texts at least once every single day, if I’m wavering, I’ll text her and say ‘I want to eat crap’ and she’ll have a come to Jesus meeting.  She keeps me focused, asks about the progress of my pantry penis and pushes me.  Pushes my limits.  I need it, cause some days I’d be like ‘f*ck it!’ but she reminds me of my goal, and helps me get there.
My most important secret weapon, is my eleven month old little boy – I almost wrote baby – but he’s no longer a baby.  He’s transitioning into ‘toddler mode’ and he’s doing it quickly.  He’s crawling, sure, but he’s also pulling himself up, walking with a walker, moving between objects and as of today, he’s started to stand up solo for a few seconds – this kid will rule the world.
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He will soon be running, chasing, kicking a football, playing sports – and I don’t want to be the lard-ass trudging mother who can’t keep up with her toddler (and beyond).  I don’t want to have to watch him play in the park, wondering why mama can’t chase him, or why she needs to sit down every few minutes.
I want to be healthy, for my boy.  I want to be active for my boy.  I want to be FUN, for my boy.
8lbs down, 22lbs to go by October 30th.
This time I won’t quit.  I can’t quit.  I won’t let my son follow the same path as me, I want to teach him healthy choices, healthy activities and I want him to enjoy family time, walking, cycling, swimming…I want him to have a healthy relationship with food, understand its purpose and eat the right things.  I can’t expect him to do it, if I don’t do it.
The buck stops here.
It’s on, like Donkey Kong*…
…*and if I fall down, Taylor (and a few other people) will drag my ass up off the dirt and help me dust myself off, and start again.  Cause that’s what badasses do.

Being an expat is an endurance sport.

One of the hardest parts of being an expat, for me, is saying goodbye.  People will tell you that it’s more “see you later” than g’bye, but, in reality, it’s often just plain ole g’bye.

And it’s hard. And it hurts. And sometimes, you start all over again. Because you have to. I’ve told this story a million times, and I’ll probably tell it a million more…When I came to Houston almost six years ago, I didn’t know anyone.  I had no kids to meet other parents at school, I had no pets to meet other parents of furries at the dog park, I didn’t work, I didn’t drive, our neighborhood wasn’t the fruit basket for newbies kinda place, and I was alone, save for my then boyfriend, who went off to work every morning.

I was alone.  It’s a horrible feeling.  Being alone, feeling trapped in a house with no escape, in a foreign country, where everything is different and all that you know to be familiar, is five thousand miles away.  It may sound dramatic to those of you who have never been in the situation before, ’cause after all, it’s “just” America, it’s not all that different, right?  But to those of you who have experienced it , you know.

The more you stare at your four, rented, magnolia walls, the more you find wrong with them.  The more you start questioning your decision to move away from “comfortable”. The more you start to question yourself.  I can’t begin to emphasize how important friendships are when you’re an expat.  They form quickly, they strengthen even quicker, and perhaps even form with people you wouldn’t normally form friendships with under ‘normal’ circumstances.

But you’re not under normal circumstances, normal is a loooooong way away.

So you make friends, ignoring the little voice in your head screaming at you not to get too close.  Screaming at you, that, in reality, you’re more than likely making a short-term friendship, that will be intense and amazing for one to three years, and will be, all of a sudden (even though you know it’s coming) surprisingly yanked away from under you, as one of you will be transferred.

It’s a blessed life we live.  We have a gorgeous house, in an amazing city, we have the opportunity to travel and see some great places, bucket list kind of places, we have good friends, our families love to come here and there’s no end in sight to the many, many things to do.

Make no mistake, it’s a blessed life, I know this.

But for those non-expats out there, the people looking in from the outside, they often don’t see the drawbacks, or understand the negatives.  “You live in AMERICA! What could be bad about that?”

But they are there.

And, for me, the worst of the negatives about this lifestyle is, when people, who have become like family to you in those three years, leave.  It’s hard.  When I stood and watched my best friend board a plane with her husband and my Goddaughter, I had my game face on, they were off on a new adventure, to a new place and we’re excited and anxious.  But when I got back to the car, my stomach fell, my heart broke and I cried.

I still cry occasionally, almost two years later (and we’ve seen them a few times since they’ve left).  I miss them terribly, through my fertility, my pregnancy, the birth of Lewis and soon his first birthday, I’ve wanted them to be a mere twenty minute drive away.

“But, it’s the life you choose,” people say.

“People” don’t understand.

Last week, I said “goodbye” to another friend.  She found me just over a year ago via this blog and a Google search.  She said she was coming to Texas, and events unfolded to reveal she was moving a couple miles down the road from me, and that her mister worked for the same company as Col.  Small world, eh?

She came here and we met shortly after Lewis was born, she always helped get the pram out the boot, was always up for anything and didn’t let the fact that I have a baby stall or slow our friendship.  We still got up to all kinds of mischief and often only decided on the mischief, twenty minutes before leaving the house.

Unfortunately, her time here in Houston was cut short and she flew home last week.

She will be missed.  She made a mark on my life here with Lewis and we did lots of fun things together.

She’s moving on to her next adventure.

And I’ll start over.

Again.

Such is the life of a nomad.

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