Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Playlist

I don't own an iPod, but if I did I would create a playlist with these five songs and keep it on repeat.  The Christmas season makes me want to hear children singing, sing inspiring lyrics, and make associations with fond memories.

1. Christmas Canon by Transiberian Orchestra
This is currently my favorite Christmas song.  It combines the memory of meeting Jesse down the aisle at my wedding with my secret love of boys choirs and Christmas music.  (I also love

2. Better Than a Hallelujah by Amy Grant
These lyrics pretty much sum up my faith.  I love every word of this song.

3. Heal the World by Michael Jackson (FYI, song doesn't begin until 1:05 on video but I love the pictures.)
This is one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs.  It reminds me of my Irwin children who sang this song at their PTA program.  I listen to it with a new perspective now that I work with so many refugee students this year.

4. Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
For the record, I am not obsessed with Amy Grant; her songs just happen to get stuck in my head.  Some of my former youth group members and I did a liturgical dance to this song in front of 1,000 people at Montreat a few years ago.  It was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I've had.  Listening to this song instantly calms me and slows me down.

5. Angels Among Us by Alabama
I cannot hear this song without immediately hearing Mom sing this song.  I vividly picture her wearing a pink robe and going through presents in the spare room across from the guest room.  (The miscellaneous room that also housed the guns, a stationary bike, countless spools of thread, and all other random junk.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stud Muffins

One of Jesse's colleagues gave us a ridiculous car decal last year that says "Stud Muffin on Board".  I am lucky to have two stud muffins in the Harwood home.

I ♥ my boys!

In other news, Jesse used his employee discount and coupon to buy a car seat for my car.  Jackson is so uncomfortable in our infant seat and it is bordering unsafe at this point.  We really couldn't afford another Britax so we settled on the Evenflo Symphony 65 after reading a lot of different reviews.

After a stressful return to work, Jesse and I enjoyed a very relaxing (small) bottle of red wine tonight with our mashed potatoes, green beans, and cube steak.  After dinner we had Jackson laughing so hard from tickling and kisses.  That's what I consider a perfect evening. 


Jesse and I received a promotional coupon for Ikea in the mail quite some time ago.  It expired today and everyone and their mother must have been waiting 'til the last minute like us.  The place was more crowded than the Renaissance Festival!  I wasn't seeking anything in particular and definitely didn't need anything, but I couldn't let a $25 gift card go to waste.

I purchased:
8 hangers
6 small plastic bowls for Jackson
4 handheld brooms/dustpans for my classroom (My students are obsessed!)
2 watering cans (Odd request for a niece.)
9 small, colorful candles (Secret Santa for women of the church Christmas party)
a long, rectangular candle holder
huge Ikea bag
2 hot dogs, bag of chips, a drink
frozen yogurt cone

After the gift card, my total cost was 50 cents!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And The Stockings Were Hung By the Staircase With Care

A few years ago Jesse and I made these very homemade stockings:

While they are fine, I've never been big fans of them.  I wanted to have nicer stockings for Jackson, but nothing too fancy.  I browsed online at embroidered stockings and adorable personalized stockings.  They were way too expensive, so I looked on Etsy to get some ideas of something that required little talent.  I discovered that Hobby Lobby just so happened to have 50% off all Christmas items today.  Off Jackson and I went!

They stocking selection at Hobby Lobby was incredible.  I bought five basic red and green stockings and two packs of white iron-on letters for $15!  (The stockings were so cheap I got two extra for future children so they would all match.)  Jackson supervised me in the jumper while I peeled and ironed the letters onto the stockings.  Here is the finished project:

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

While I wrapped all the presents last night, Jesse put up the Christmas tree.  This is a frustrating task every year, as inevitably the lights don't work, the cats get in the way, and the branches don't quite fluff out right.

After the tree was assembled and the gifts were wrapped, we dug out the ornaments.  Jesse and I each picked one ornament to help Jackson hang.  Jack was so intrigued by the texture of the tree, the bright lights, and the dangling ornaments. 

He seemed to approve of his work.  Love him!

We all had a very busy Black Friday!  The boys were off their sleep schedule and getting increasingly cranky.  Jesse and I finished decorating downstairs after we put Jackson to bed.  It wasn't too much longer before Jesse went to bed while I listened to Christmas music and admired the tree.  I recall sitting in the living room with my mother with all the lights off doing the same thing.  There is something very peaceful and happy about these memories.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Have a Productive Black Friday

For someone who dislikes shopping, I sure do love Black Friday.  I wasn't 100% sure whether or not I would brave the crowds this year with Jackson.  Now that Jesse works retail, his shift was from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. so I knew I would be on my own with Jack.  All in all, we had another GREAT day full of productivity.  Here's how we are able to have a successful Black Friday year after year:

1. Have a list. 
With a big family you have to be organized.  My siblings pass around a spreadsheet where we write in three different gift ideas for each our our children.  I literally print the list and cross out names once I put items in the shopping cart.

2. Shop early, but not too early.
Unless you're buying a laptop or TV, I see no reason to shop at 5 a.m.  Most sales last until at least 11 a.m.  Jackson and I naturally awoke around 7 this morning, so we were at Toys-R-Us by 7:30.  There was plenty of merchandise without the huge crowds.  (Yes, I made a random woman take a picture of us.)

3. Take advantage of sales and additional discounts.
Jesse and I used to shop at Wal-Mart or Target so we could take advantage of employee discounts or gift cards.  This year I obviously chose to shop at Toys-R-Us.  Not only does Jesse get a discount at Toys-R-Us/Babies-R-Us, but I get my own Spouse Discount Card.  Score!

4. Have fun!
I put Jackson in the Ergo and made the most of my morning meticulously looking up and down each aisle before I even put anything in the cart.  I always like to check everything out before I decided what to get for each child.

5. Do a price check for each item to make sure you stay within your budget.
I scanned each item and had to exchange one item that wasn't the price I thought it was.  I am happy to report that I found a lot of good deals and were able to make ALL family purchases $2 under budget.

6. Make a gift tag for each gift as soon as you wrap it.
One year I wasn't even thinking and got a couple of gifts mixed up.  I had to unwrap two of them to figure out who they were for, then wrap it again!  Everything went smoothly tonight and I have wrapped every single gift (14 kids, 2 adults) and placed them in the attic.  Jesse put up the Christmas tree while I wrapped presents.  Jackson supervised from the bouncy seat.

Who's ready for Christmas???

Much to Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving proved to be a busy day.  It was the first day I had an appetite, which was great since we had not one, but two feasts to devour.  We enjoyed lunch at 1 pm with my side of the family in Gastonia before traveling an hour to Rockwell for a 5 pm dinner with Jesse's side of the family.  Here is our lunch spread, minus the desserts:

Jackson sampled almost every single thing.  He had a couple of bites (size of my thumbnail) of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, turkey, bread, baked beans, and noodles. 

One of my goals for the day was to get a picture taken of all three of us.  I take absurd amounts of photos of Jackson, yet have very few family pictures with Jesse and I.  Despite Jackson's lack of a smile, I thought this was a cute picture taken by my 8-year-old niece.

After our meal, my sisters and I went for a walk around the neighborhood with some of our children.  Oh my, am I out of shape!  My niece joined Girls on the Run and wanted to me to jog with her.  Now keep in mind I have jogged 3.1 miles dozens of times and even a half marathon, but that was nearly two years ago.  A very short jog left my heart pounding!

Jesse and Jackson played on the floor before Jackson's exhaustion kicked in.  I love my boys!

Before we knew it we were headed off to our second family for round two.  My brother-in-law/sister-in-law are wonderful hosts forThanksgiving dinner.  Still recovering from the stomach virus and having eaten a full plate at lunch already, I couldn't eat much at all.  Jackson, on the other hand, was ready for more.  He sampled everything except dessert.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On Monday my principal placed a journal in each of the teacher's boxes and challenged us to maintain a gratitude journal.  She suggested listing 5+ things we are thankful for each day.  I use to keep a gratitude journal years ago after watching an episode of Oprah. 

On Sunday the pastor's sermon was about living a life of gratitude.  He showed us a number line with the words "grumbling" and "grateful" on opposite ends.  He asked us to rate ourselves on where we fall between spectrums.  My once grateful attitude has nearly diminished.  So...I'll start my gratitude journal publicly today by catching up on the highlights of the past few months. 

I am thankful for:
1. My marriage (one of the only aspects of my life that I never question)
2. Being able to deliver Jackson according to my birth plan
3. Regular conversations with my sisters
4. Being able to spend the first 4 months home with Jack
5. Being recognized as an effective teacher
6. Somehow being able to pay the bills each month
7. Random Facebook messages and texts from friends
8. Supportive in-laws
9. A fulfilling Bible study with members of my church family
10. A reliable car that is almost paid off

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sam's Club and Playmat

Jesse, Jackson, and I were able to go to Sam's Club this morning together.  I've been trying to get a membership card but Jesse never added me to the household.  We needed to pick up some formula and rolls for Thanksgiving dinner anyway.  Jackson looked tiny in the giant buggy.  I think I'll just have to do a lot of Sam's shopping when we have another child.

One of the free "samples" given out was yogurt.  Ever curious Jackson saw me eat it, became fascinated, and ended up taking it from me.  I gave him a few bites and he loved it!  I'm afraid he has a sweet tooth just like his mama.
I love seeing Jackson's reaction to different things.  He has always been so observant and seems to be a sponge absorbing his surroundings.  He liked to look at the books, feel the stuffed animals, and try and take the food samples away.  He got so excited when Jesse showed him the Gerber puffs; he clearly knew what they were!
Once home, I dug out a puzzle piece floor mat that we were given before Jackson was born.  I realized that Jackson doesn't like to be on his tummy because he is quite foreful when rolling over and ends up slamming his head on the hardwood floors.  He is much better upstairs on the carpet.  Jackson was really active and content for quite a while--until he wiggled off the playmat and thumped his head on the hardwood.  Oh well...

Jesse and I still don't have much of an appetite, but hopefully we will tomorrow.  So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Stomach Bug from Hell

Last Friday Jackson spent the day at the Apple's house.  Apparently he (and 12 others) caught the plague.  His symptoms didn't show until Sunday after church, where he began vomiting profusely.  That "big boy breakfast" I blogged about came back in a big, bad way.  Both Jackson and I went through multiple baths and wardrobe changes.  At one point we both just sat naked together with a towel around us because there was no point getting dressed again.  While holding Jackson, I could actually feel his tiny body convulsing with each retching.  Shockingly, he just smiled and babbled after each session.  After the vomiting ceased once and for all, Jack passed out on the floor.  (He was clearly exhausted since he never falls asleep on the floor like this!)

I am a total hypochondriac when it comes to throwing up or stomach bugs.  I took every precaution by stripping the sheets, bleaching the floors, and lysoling the couch--though I knew our fate.  I placed mint gum and pepto bismal on the bathroom counter and lined the trashcans in preparations for my turn with the virus from hell.  To my relief, I felt fine Sunday night and all day Monday. 

Silly me thought I had somehow escaped the plague, despite literally being covered in Jackson's vomit multiple times.  Then at 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, all hell broke loose.  Stubborn me still thought I could go to work.  Afterall, stomach bugs are known for passing quickly and I have an assistant from 8:30-10:30 every morning.  Unfortunately I had to pull over off the interstate twice before actually making it to school.  I got sick every 15-20 minutes while at school, but still thought I might make it.  My principal saw me while making copies and actually told me to go home.  One of my colleagues brought me a Bojangles biscuit and just the smell of it sent me running back to the bathroom.  I always welcome my students at the door and greet them by name.  Yesterday my students came up to me with my head down on my desk asking if I was okay. 

I got home close to 10 a.m. and felt miserable.  Jackson was in the exersaucer and gave me the absolute biggest smile when he saw me.  I walked right past him and started up the stairs.  Poor guy started wailing when I ignored him.  I felt so bad.  I tried to pick Jackson up but I swear he weighed 500 lbs.  Jesse had to drop Jackson off with my sisters because I was not a functioning human. 

I spent the entire day in bed.  The actual stomach portion of the virus didn't last as long as the fever/sweating/shaking/aching part.  My fever spiked to 102.  In 38 hours I had 1/2 a glass of water and half a bag of popcorn.  I somehow managed to pick Jackson up from my sister's house before crashing again. 

Jesse caught a milder version last night.  While he still felt miserable, thankfully it only lasted a few hours and wasn't accompanied by a fever.  Praise God this virus has passed and we are able to enjoy time off work and Thanksgiving together.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Boy Breakfast

Jackson's breakfast consisted of 6 oz of formula, 1/2 a banana, and lots of puffs. 

I always mash up the banana, but I held the whole banana up to Jackson this morning just to see what he would do.  He grabbed the whole thing from me and started nibbling away.  I was surprised (and relieved) that he didn't jam the whole thing in his mouth.  He just took small bites from it like a grown up would.  It was a battle getting the banana back, though! 

Jackson was unsatisfied from his bottle and banana, so we put the tray on the high chair for the first time and sprinkled puffs on the tray.  Jackson was all over them.  He loves eating them, but hasn't quite had the coordination to put them in his mouth until the past day or so.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Favorite Toy

Jackson has a new favorite toy, courtesy of his Aunt Katie.  While he still isn't crawling, this wobbling monkey keeps him engaged during tummy time.  He will roll around and shimmy along the floor to chase this toy.

Cowbell, the Patient Cat

We were so worried about how the cats would react once we brought Jackson home from the hospital.  If you recall, Cowbell hissed and clawed at Jackson in the first week.  She scratched him on his head and toes, drawing blood.  Since then, Cowbell has been so patient and an object of infatuation for Jack.  He literally pulls out handfuls of fur and tugs at her tail while she just purrs.  (We don't encourage this behavior!)  Here is proof of how much Jackson loves Cowbell, and how patient she is with him:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A T-shirt and Jeans Kind of Day

Jesse has two consecutive days off, which is a rare treat in the retail business.  My boys had a lazy day napping and watching movies, in addition to grocery shopping.  He increased Jackson's 6-ounce bottles to 8-ounce bottles today.  Jackson ate like a champ.  Here's our sweet, tired boy in his adorable t-shirt and jeans (literally taken 10 minutes before bedtime). 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Realizations From the Church Potluck

I have been quite contemplative today.  Jesse is at work and Jackson is not feeling well.  He slept on my chest for over two hours after church today.  Here are some of the realizations I have made today after our monthly church potluck:

1. I will always be better at baking than cooking.  I whipped up a three layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting just as easy as could be.  When it came time to make mac-n-cheese, however, I managed to brown the butter and scald the milk before even adding any cheese.  (The sad part is that this was a box mix!)  It turned out less than mediocre, but the cake was delicious.  
2.  I am in awe of single mothers.  Lately I have felt like a single mother, at least when it comes to Wednesday night Bible study and church on Sunday.  This morning I had to drop off the food at the fellowship hall before taking Jackson and his accessories (i.e. stroller and diaper bag) to the nursery before actually going to the sanctuary for the service.  After the service I had to get Jackson, make a bottle, change his diaper, and get in line for food.  Naturally Jackson kept tugging on the plastic tablecloth, pulling everyone elses food along with it!  None of this was a big deal at all, but it was such a small example of how the mundane things become more challenging when you have a baby by yourself.  I am in no way complaining, I just didn't have enough hands.

3. I have completely let myself go with food...again.  I won't even list all of my indulgences at lunch, but some of them included pot pie, corn pudding, brunswick stew, pumpkin cheesecake, banana pudding, and cake.  I used to laugh when one of my favorite Weight Watchers leaders said she was a "repeat offender".  Unfortunately, it's not such a funny reality.  I get mad at myself for eating so much.  I have no excuse.  I'm not pregnant or breastfeeding anymore, and yet I'm eating more now than when I was.  I don't care enough to do anything about it.  I know myself well enough to know that when I truly want to change, I will.  I just worry how much more it will take before I care enough to control my diet.

4. Jesse and I will be the most important influences on Jackson's faith--definitely in his early years and likely in his later years as well.  It is a daunting, but exciting task to serve as role models for him.  Our congregation was honoring an older gentleman with the title of "elder emeritus" today (basically a Lifetime Achievement Award in the church).  Though they are not members of our church, the older man's children and grandchildren attended the service and lunch today.  A dozen or more people spoke on what generous contributions of time and talent the man had given over the years.  While I have frequently reflected on what God would think of my actions, today was the first time I thought about what Jackson would think.  In fifty years, will Jackson be able to speak with pride of the contributions Jesse and I have made to the church and community? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why the Renaissance Festival Was a Bad Idea

I decided to take Jackson to the Renaissance Festival for our weekend adventure.  It was not one of our better outings.  Here is why:

1.  Parking was absurd!  Luckily I had the foresight to count the rows so I could find my car again.  I parked 23 rows past the fork in the road.  (It was probably another 20 more rows to get to the park entrance.)

2. The huge crowds made pushing a stroller around next to impossible.  I debated between the Ergo and the jogging stroller but decided the stroller would be better so Jackson could see out.  I'm not so sure that was the right choice.  Despite having to use the bathroom immensely, I never did because I refused to leave Jackson outside the portapotty and I sure wasn't going to take him inside with me.  The stroller also prohibited me from joining lines, going up stairs to the amphitheaters, or easily navigating the crowds.

3. My favorite part of the Renaissance Festival turns out to be Jackson's least favorite.  We had great seats on the front row for jousting.  Apparently heckling drunkards, cheering crowds, and stampeding horses is too much excitement for a baby.  (He wasn't scared or crying, just apathetic and tired.)

4. Jackson has been working through a cold the past few days.  He was especially congested after being outside all afternoon.  I continued to clean his nose, much to his disliking.  While waiting for the joust he projectile vomited a mixture of formula and mucous.  After the joust he was so tired and cranky he was teary eyed and coughing.  Jackson's afternoon nap was definitely interrupted.  Not the best timing...

5. The biggest and most obvious reason why the afternoon wasn't the best plan is because Jackson is only seven months old!  One day he will want to walk around with a sword, dressed as a pirate.  One day he will enjoy throwing tomatoes at the jester, riding camels, eating turkey legs, and watching a sword swallower.  Today was not that day.   

With all that said, Jackson absolutely LOVED the petting zoo.  I can't imagine what it was like for him to be at eye level with such large animals.  He was able to touch goats, sheep, and a horse.  His love for animals makes him absolutely light up!  (Notice how high his cheeks are from smiling in the second photo.)

Here's to next year...

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Day Off

Today was the first day in a long time that Jesse and I have both had the day off from work.  Our whole family slept past 8 a.m.  We enjoyed a very leisurely, slow-paced morning watching TV, eating breakfast (Jackson ate 1/2 a banana in addition to his bottle), playing, and showering.  Jackson and I even took a nap before lunch...just because we could.
After lunch at home the three of us headed to Wal Mart.  We needed to pick up a prescription and some baking items so I can bake a cake for our monthly church potluck on Sunday.  We decided to bring the shopping cart cover in hopes that Jackson would actually sit in the cart.  His first time sitting at the front of the buggy was a huge success.  He was so alert and happy to be able to look around.  He liked grabbing everything we put in the cart and dangling his feet back and forth.  He was especially entranced by the electronics section.

Once home, Jackson crashed on Jesse's chest for a nice long nap while we watched TV/surfed the web.  After he awoke I gathered craft supplies to make our first turkeys.  My oldest sister started this Thanksgiving tradition with her family when her son was very young.  The body of the turkey is made from our footprints and the feathers are made from our handprints.  Here is our happy family of turkeys:
Jesse had been craving barbecue so we went to our favorite barbecue restaurant, R&R, for dinner.  Jesse enjoyed beef brisket, mac-n-cheese, and BBQ slaw.  I indulged in BBQ chicken, potatoes, and Brunswick stew.  We moved to all out binging by taking advantage of Jesse's buy one get one free blizzard coupon at Dairy Queen.  Despite being very tired, Jackson stared down the ice cream and continued to grab the cup and spoon.  I let him sample some of the soft serve.  Jackson's love for ice cream confirms that he is my son.    
Jesse and I put Jackson to bed, which is something that we rarely get to do together anymore.  Once Jackson was asleep, Jesse and I were able to enjoy some much needed time to connect.  All in all, it's been a great day with the family!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Favorite Faces~Happy Seven Months!

Jackson Lee is seven months old today.  I've been very nostalgic this week thinking back on how much has changed.  Sometimes it feels like Jackson should already be in preschool; other times it's hard to believe he's already seven months old.  I re-read my blog from his first two weeks and I have been looking at the hundreds of photographs from the past seven months.  I have loved seeing Jack's big personality emerge and reflecting on how Jesse and I have evolved as parents.  I can't wait to watch Jackson grow and develop. 

Here are some of my all time favorite photos of Jackson's sweet and silly faces:

One week old

One month old (first smile on camera)

Two months old

Three months old

Four months old

Five months old

Six months old