The Basic Package

It's almost 4 AM.  I need someone to call Samuel L. Jackson and have him come read a very particular (albeit an inappropriate) book to my eight month old.

What's the problem?

Apparently he thinks Mama's nighttime services run like a day-spa where he can choose from a menu selection and I have to perform to his whim.

And he wants the Platinum Plus package where I have to stand with feet spread shoulders width apart and pivot at the waist (absolutely NO rocking or bouncing is allowed) while patting his bottom in 6/8 time at a moderate tempo and allowing him to slap me in the face so that he can keep himself awake.  And no putting him back in the crib. With the Platinum Plus package you're not allowed to lay him down, you must continue on for either the entirety of the night or until he decides he's tired of being held.  You'll know this by the board-straight plank he'll do as he shrieks at you.

You want the Platinum Plus package, kid?  Fork over a few weeks of uninterrupted sleep to work off the sleep debt you've created and I'll give you the Platinum Plus package with a contented smile.

Otherwise you get the Basic Package which consists of me sitting in the rocker holding you and giving you an occasional pat on the bottom as needed.  No face slapping, no shrieking, and no planking because the service is unacceptable.  Oh and once you're back to sleep, you sleep in the crib and not on me.

There's a phrase your brother brought home when he was younger:
"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

Learn it.  You'll be hearing it a lot while you live with me.

#ThisIsMyStory | In His Arms

When I was in college I heard a sermon preached out of Psalms 57.  That chapter of Psalms is a song of David from when he had fled from Saul and hid in a cave.  He was in this cave fearing for his life and his future and he cried out to God.  His cries to God turned into praise for God.

During this sermon, the preacher made the statement that no matter who you are, this Psalm applies to your life.  You're either going into a cave, you're in a cave, or you're coming out of a cave.

Everyone has at least one cave or "dark time" in their lives. Some of us have several. And sometimes we have really dark times; these are usually the ones that change your life. Not just in how you live your life, but how you remember it. It divides time into what happened before and what happened after.

A Tale of a Thousand X-Rays

Shortly after I heard this sermon preached, I entered into the Frequent Flyer Program at my Doctor's Office (my apologies to the nurses at Ty's schools, it would seem he comes by it honestly).  I can't remember the order that my injuries or ailments happened, but I remember that it all began in November of 2001.  One visit was for a shoulder that I had hurt in horseplay with friends.  Another was for a cold turned infection.  And then one morning when I was rolling over to turn off my alarm clock, I experienced a loud pop and a shock of pain in my chest, just above my heart.

I had several doctor visits including x-rays but there was some trouble getting a good view on the issue.  Thankfully my Doctor wasn't a doctor that was content to give his best guess, you could tell that he wanted to make sure that he knew what the issue was.  On February 27th of that year, my grandfather's birthday, I had a bone-scan that revealed a bright, vibrant unknown something in the same area that I had experienced the pain and popping.  Right over my heart.

I asked the tech what that was usually indicative of.  If he said anything other than the word 'tumor', I never heard it.  I spent the rest of the day and that night in a terrible emotional state.  There were tears and prayers and prayers and tears.  It was the most alone I had ever felt.  I knew God was hearing my prayers, but I need confirmation that he was listening.

The following day, on my sister's birthday, my doctor called me personally to let me know that it wasn't a tumor, it was arthritis.  Apparently one side of my ribs had grown slightly longer than the other side which left my sternum off-set at an angle.  The loud popping noise I felt when I had rolled over to turn off my alarm clock was one of my ribs dislocating.  He also advised me that this may be an issue I might deal with in the future as well, and he was right.  The area that showed up on the bone-scan was arthritis surrounding the dislocated rib.

And that day, with a much lighter heart, I cried and I prayed and I prayed and I cried.  And I was grateful that I wouldn't have to shave my head or lose my hair.  (It would seem that one's mind tends to get carried away in these situations...)

I thought my Doctors' visits were finally coming to a conclusion, but in March I had a four-wheeler roll back on me as I was crossing a creek that had been rutted up pretty badly.  The next day my left hand was several glove-sizes bigger and the skin was a variety of colors, so off to the Doctor I went.  Problem was, I had another doctor appointment that day with a back specialist in the opposite direction.  I was examined, x-rayed, and eventually casted just in time to leave there, go home, and get in the car with my mom who was taking me to the other doctor appointment.

That doctor, upon checking out my brand new blue cast and viewing my recent history and issues, recommended that I be locked into a padded room for my own protection.

A Life Changed

Just as my own medical problems started to subside, we received a phone call early one Sunday morning.  My cousin Jerrid, who was my age, had been in a wreck and had been life-flighted to Wichita, KS.  As information would unfold, he had been driving too fast in a souped up car and less-than-ideal road conditions.  When he lost control the vehicle vaulted end-over-end numerous times.  He was ejected onto the hood of the car as it had vaulted.  His back was broken, we knew this, but we didn't know what the long-term result of that injury would be but we were hopeful.

Since we were two states away, we waited anxiously for phone calls and updates.  While fearing for his life, I also began to fear for Jerrid's future.  What would life look like for him on the other side of this?  His life was irrevocably changed.  And then we got a call that gave hope to the situation.

"Jerrid was saved."

My precious grandmother sat down with him and was able to lead him to The Lord.

Once Jerrid was in more stable condition, I was able to talk to him on the phone.  We hadn't talked in ages.  Though we were close in age and enjoyed each other on the occasions that we were both at our grandparents house for the holidays at the same time (something that happened less and less often as we got older), we had never maintained a closeness.

Thankfully, that would change.

A Cousin is a Forever Friend

Following his wreck, we talked on the phone daily.  He would tell me about his day at the hospital and what flavors of yogurt he had that day.  Cherry was his favorite.  He promised me that when we made it up to see him he would save a cup of cherry yogurt just for me, I didn't tell him that I hated yogurt.  It was during this time that he started calling me 'Turbo'.  Daily he would tell me he loved me, and I the same.  The weekend after his wreck, we were able to drive from south-central Arkansas through Oklahoma and up to Wichita.  When we got there I was given the biggest smile, a strained hug...and a cup of cherry yogurt that I ate with a happy heart and without complaint.

I slept on the floor of the hospital room that night.  If you could say I slept.  He had a scare earlier that day before we got there.  His lungs had filled with fluid and one of his chest tubes had come out and it had obviously been a serious situation.  There was a little device on the side of the bed next to where I was sleeping that was measuring the fluid being pulled from his lungs.  I stared at it all night long and listened for the sound of his breathing.  When he got quiet, I got worried.

We spent the weekend at the hospital with him and I was grateful to see him smile and laugh and put on a brave face.  But it was challenging to leave.

We continued to talk almost daily and my plans began to change around how I could help him.  He was eventually released from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility that taught him the ins and outs of his life after the wreck in his new Kawasaki Green wheelchair (his favorite color).  He was focused on getting back on the right path.  He had never completed high school and so he set his hopes on getting his GED and wanted to go to college after that.  He just wasn't sure what he wanted to do.  My major was Computer Information Systems and he really started to think in that direction.  His whole life he had been taking things apart just to see how they worked, he was innately curious. More than once he mentioned me coming to Kansas.  He would be finishing his GED around the same time I finished college.  I could work on my Masters at the same time that he earned a degree and then we could go into business together.

That conversation kept coming up.  The closer I got to graduation, the more I considered it.  It would be a great new adventure for me out on my own, but it would also help him.  It would give him some independence while still having family to help him.

A Summer of Memories

In the summer of 2003, I made a decision that was so unlike me.  Little Miss Responsible quit her job, gave up her apartment, and drove to Kansas for the summer.  It was one of the best decisions that I'll never regret.  My aunt and uncle will never know how deeply I appreciate and how grateful I am to them that they allowed me to stay with them that summer.  As a self-focused twenty-something I never took the time to adequately express my gratitude to them.  Now I'll never be able to put words to it.

The trip was around 550 miles, one-way.  If I remember right, it took somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 or 12 hours at that time.  In the weeks leading up to my summer adventure I had burned more than a dozen CDs of music.  I made the drive with my music turned up almost as loudly as I was singing.  I was within two hours of my destination when I started to think about what I wanted that summer to mean to me.  I wanted to change lives.  I wanted everyone I met to feel like they were a better person because they met me.  I wanted to add value to the lives of others.

I don't know that I was successful because I was the recipient of those things.  Through my family I made friends with people throughout the community.  I spent hours just driving around Kansas and falling in love with the openness and the beauty of where they lived.  I was able to spend valuable time with my aunt, my uncle, and my cousins.  I made memories that I would never have had otherwise.  I had intended, when I started planning the trip, to go to Kansas and explore the idea of Grad School and helping Jerrid through the next phase of his life.  By the end of summer, I could tell that Jerrid would be just fine whether I was there or not.  He had friends and he had a girlfriend and he had a support system.  I could still consider Grad School (I still had another year left to complete my degree), but it wasn't a decision I would have to make right then.

Some Unexpected News

As I came back to Arkansas and started back to school, Jerrid and I still kept in contact regularly.  He started college and seemed to be making new friends.  We both seemed to be getting busier and busier with college.  Instead of talking a few times a week, it was often once a week.  And then it was every few weeks.  And then it was December and it had been a month since I'd last talked to Jerrid.  I was driving home from visiting a college friend that had graduated earlier that year.  It was an ungodly hour and I kept thinking about Jerrid.  I needed to call him.  I was tempted to call him right then.  It had been too long since we talked and the last time I had talked to him he was devastated because his girlfriend had broken up with him.  I almost called him in the middle of the night.  I knew there was a good chance he would still be awake (he was very much a night owl) and on the off chance that I woke him up, I was sure he would forgive me.  But I didn't.  I didn't want to chance waking him up.

The next morning, on Sunday, December 14, 2003, I got up and was getting ready for church like I always do.  My parents had been up and around.  I didn't realize at the time that they weren't getting ready for church.  It would have struck me as odd if I'd realized it.  When I came downstairs my Daddy stopped me and with a serious face told me he needed to talk to me.

Now this did strike me as odd.  My fun-loving Daddy is seldom serious, which is why I initially suspected that he was about to pull some joke or prank on me.  When he told me that Jerrid had killed himself, it took a moment for it to sink in.  My initial thought was, 'That's not funny, why would he joke about that!'  And then I knew he would never joke about that.

The Great Divide

And my heart stopped and my blood stilled and a dividing line was written across the pages of my life.

That was a moment that separated time.

Everything that happened before that moment wasn't just in a different chapter in my life, suddenly it felt like it was a different book.  That was all before Jerrid died.  I don't fully remember what happened in those particular moments almost twelve years ago.  What I do remember, and what this entire story has been all about, is what happened in the moments after my initial shock and response.

The Calm in the Storm

When I went back upstairs and into my room, I shut the door and I knelt at a chest that was at the foot of my bed.  I closed my eyes and I laid my head down on the chest and I wept.  There were no words.  I couldn't express any thoughts even in my head and so I just opened my heart up to God.  And in the silence and the depth of pain, I very clearly and very physically felt arms around me.  I'll never be able to explain the experience in any way that does it justice.  I was in His lap.  Had I opened my eyes at that moment, I would have fully expected to find myself in the lap of God with His arms wrapped around me.  As the hurt poured out of my heart, a comfort was being poured into it, too.

The year before when I cried and prayed and prayed and cried I had longed to know that God was listening to my words.  Here, in that moment, I had no words but there was absolutely no room for doubt that God heard everything my soul was pouring out to Him.

By grace alone, I composed myself and dressed in a t-shirt I had made and gotten signed by my Kansas friends and I went to church.  I couldn't tell you what that sermon was about that day.  I just remember the hugs and the hands held and the love and support given to me.  It was God's embrace in human form.

The Aftermath

It's been almost twelve years since we said goodbye to Jerrid.

I sobbed through the service.  My thoughtful aunt gave me one of his sweatshirts to hold and hug.  I slept with it almost every night for many years.  

There are some songs that I can't hear because it just hurts to think of everything Jerrid missed out on. All the promise and potential that he had ahead of him is gone.  And that hurts.  

But he's in God's Arms now.  And there is peace there and there is comfort there and there is love there. I know this. I've experienced this. I am both forever grateful for and forever changed by this.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone.

You are not broken.  You are not a burden.  You are a valuable, wonderful person.  And each and every person has a future ahead of them that is worth living.  Life is hard and life hurts.  But it gets better.  It gets SO much better.

We want you there, in your future, to see that.  We want to share our joys with you and we want you to know that you will also have joys to share with us.  You don't have to suffer alone, we can share this together.

#ThisIsMyStory | Setting the Stage

For the most part, ever since I started blogging I've been an open book.  I don't often candy-coat or filter what I post on these pages, I am who I am, my life is my life, and my family is my family.  I don't measure any of it up to anyone else's standards.  I'm a real person and it's important to me that everyone know that I live a real life, not some illusion where my life seems more perfect than it actually is.  A perfect life is a boring life.

Mine has been far from boring.

I've been challenged to share my story.  The series that we're covering at church right now is called "This is My Story" and in it, we're studying others in scripture who have shared their story of how Christ changed their lives.  In this series we're being challenged to share our story and how Christ has worked in and changed our lives.

This presents a couple of problems for me.

Problem #1

There's not just one story where Christ has worked in or changed my life.  His fingerprints are on my whole life.  I was raised in a Christian home, so the path that lead me to The Lord began long before my own life began.

Problem #2

I'm not really a narrow-it-down kind of girl.  If I'm going to tell a story, I'm going to tell the whole story.  Which is why my original Life Story (Learning to Live With Me) was 15 pages long and more than 7,500 words.  If you read that blog before, pretend you haven't because there's probably going to be a bit of plagiarism going on in some parts of this.  (Hey, it's my work, I can steal it if I want to!)

Problem #3

I've not really 'put myself out there' in a big way in the past five years.  And while I've never written about it directly, I know that in order to accurately tell parts of my life story, at some point I will need to include details about this.  Like it or not—it's now a part of my story.  It will just take a great deal of thought and prayer to be able to put the old hurt into words that don't cause new hurt.  

So while this is something I've been convicted to do for the past few is also something that will take some time and some thought and definitely some prayer.  And I'm going to try to keep my words and heart open because it's not always the events or stories that we expect God to use that actually resonate with others in a way that benefits His plans.

My intention is to post 'chapters' of My Story, likely out of order, as I feel lead to.  The first one I have felt compelled to write is a very painful story for me.  Which is part of why I keep putting it off, that post will be authored with many tears.  But I know that God uses the darkness in our lives to illuminate the bright.  And that's why I'll be sharing that story soon.

Stay tuned...

The Great Escape

Do you ever have one of those moments where you stop and think, "Did that really just happen?  Really?"

One of those moments when you wonder if you're in a TV sitcom and basically the whole world forgot to tell you?

That feels like my life more often than not.

Especially last night.  And I've been told that I owe the world a blog with the details that surround this little Facebook post from 2:30 this morning.

I'm pretty sure that when Jason answered his cell phone at 1:30 AM, the last thing he was expecting me to say on the other end was "Come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."
Posted by Ashley Harris on Sunday, October 25, 2015

It all started at midnight when I got up with the baby.  I'm not sure what's going on but this kid has gone from sleeping through the night with no problems (as long as he's not teething, congested, or dealing with an earache) to being up every two hours.  Last night was my night to get up first so I got up with him at 10:30 briefly and then again at midnight.  This one was not brief.  By 1:30 AM I had rocked the baby to sleep and laid him down four times.  And all four times he immediately woke up.  So I'm nearing my wits end when I hear what I suspect is my husband creeping down the hall.  Except he's being MUCH quieter than normal.  And except he never showed up.  So I continued to rock.  And then I heard footsteps in the hall again.  Much lighter this time so I wondered if it was Ty trying to keep from waking his brother.

The only problem with either scenario is that neither of my boys are this quiet.  And neither boy showed up at the door.  So, again, I continue to rock.

And then I heard a sound that I became all too familiar with last fall.  We had rodents of some sort that moved into the attic during the cold months last year.  Apparently when you keep gerbil food in the attic and the rodents looking for a warm place to bed down for the winter, your attic gets 5 star reviews from local pests.  I cringed as I heard what was obviously a rodent, whether squirrel or rat or whatever.  And then it dawned on me that the noise wasn't coming from above me, it was much nearer to the ground.

Obviously they must be in the walls because Link, the cat, is not a good host to any other type of animal in his home.  Which is why our recent addition, Sebastian, is kept behind closed doors when we're not home in a room that the cat is not allowed to go into.

But then I heard it again and it very distinctly sounded like it was coming from under the twin bed in Beckett's room.

I slowly crept up out of the rocking chair with the baby still in my arms and turned the flashlight on my cell phone on so that I could peek under the bed.

And then I saw them.

Two little eyes.

They stopped and looked at me.

"Well crud," I thought to myself.  My night just got a whole lot more complicated.  And it was much bigger than a small little field mouse that I would have considered the lesser of evils.  Obviously this was a rat.

And then it stood up on its back legs and I realized it wasn't a rat, and it wasn't just any rodent.  It was Sebastian.

"Double crud," I thought.  Letting the cat solve the problem obviously wasn't going to be a solution.  I would have to catch it.

I held the my phone with the light still on the hamster (who was doing a fantastic "deer in the headlights" impersonation) and dialed up The Husband.

"Hey Baby," he answered, "what's wrong?"

"I need you to come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."

"Wait, what?" he responded.

I didn't know how to be clearer.  "I need you to come hold the baby so I can catch the hamster."

A minute later he came in the baby's room to find me crouched on the floor with the baby in my arms and my cell phone aimed under the bed.

"Take him in the living room and close the door," I told him.  I had this.  I knew I had this.  I've caught many a rodent in my day.  But I was sure hoping it wouldn't take an hour.  Fortunately, I had a terrified little hamster in my hands in just a matter of about five minutes.  And a wide-awake baby back in my arms in less than ten.

When I went to return Sebastian to his cage (which was on the top of a chest of drawers) I found the door to the cage wide open.  Either we have a Hamster Houdini on our hands or we have a little boy that wasn't careful to make sure the cage wasn't latched well.

Back into the cage he went and back to the rocking chair I went.

Finally at close to 2:30 I was able to get the baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.  But by that time my brain was wide awake.  I got back in the bed and my husband looked at me as if he was trying to decide if the whole hamster thing had been a dream.  I chatted away, speculating as to if the cage wasn't shut at all or if the latch just didn't get secured well.  The more I thought of it, and the more I heard Link's little jingle bell zooming around the room, the more I began to worry.  A cat is not a merciful creature when it has a live toy to play with.  They are also not worried about mess, either.  So I started worrying about how I was going to secure the cage.

I finally decided that if I had a clasp, I could put it around the door and the cage so that if it came unlatched, it couldn't swing open to allow the hamster out.  But where would I get one of those at almost 3:00 a.m.

And then I thought of the dog leash.  So up I was, and out to the garage I went.  I had just seen the leash a few days ago so I knew it was out there somewhere.  After searching everywhere I could, I snuck back into the house.

"Jason," I whispered.

"What is it?" he asked groggily.

"Where's the dog leash?"

"What?"  He was still groggy.

"Where's the dog leash?" I repeated.

"Why do you need the dog leash?" he asked.

"For the hamster."

He almost questioned it again.  Either he was too tired or he realized who he was talking to, he climbed out of bed and went out to the garage and retrieved the leash for me.  I then took it to Ty's room where I secured the gate closed.

I finally made it back to sleep at around 3:30.  And soon-after Jason was getting up with the baby.  Fortunately for him, his shift is never quite as exciting as mine.  But hey, I guess we at least got a story out of it.

Sebastian and The Great Escape.

#BeckettDean | Seven Months

I have completely and utterly failed as a Pinterest Mom.

I'm sure that's not surprise to those of you who actually know me.  I'm not one of those showcase moms whose pictures of her children are always these perfectly staged little masterpieces with unique backgrounds, perfect lighting, and no spitup or drool in sight.  That is not my life and I'll never pretend that it is.

In fact, in most of my pictures you can see stacks of laundry or random miscellany that needs to be put away.  That's about as mindful as I get when it comes to the pictures I take and post.  "If I shoot from this angle, you can't see that we haven't put laundry away in three days." 

That's my life. That's how we roll.

Which is probably why I am so terrible at taking the monthly pictures with the stickers.  There's just SO much that goes into them.  First, you have to find a space in your house that is clean.  Or you have to clear a space so that it at least appears that way.  Then you have to catch the baby at the right time of day and in the right mood.  Preferably after a nap but before a bottle (thus helping with the spit-up issue).  Then you've got to figure out how to set up the picture.  What do you want for a background, is the lighting tolerable, and how far back do I have to sit before I'm not casting a shadow on him?

And at 7 months, you throw into the mix the fact that the baby is no longer under any illusions that the sticker is just a part of his shirt.  To him it's a rare delicacy that must be sampled and gnawed on.  Except that you can't let him gnaw on it because it takes about 150 pictures to get 2-3 decent shots where there are no shadows and as little blurring as possible.  So you have to repeatedly take the sticker away, but you can't do it in a way that would make him mad because in the ideal picture you'd have a smile that showcased all four of his little teeth.

Oh yeah, and it's also helpful if he's looking at you.  And not licking the refrigerator.

So that was fun.

Which was when I went to tweak the brightness & contrast on the photos, I just decided to run a few effects on them to punch them up because (to me) there was a lot of humor in trying to get the pictures...and for memory's sake, I think it should show that.

So without further adieu, my 7 month old (for a few more days at least) little monkey.

30 Day Challenge | Abs

I finally reached that point.  It's been more than 7 months since I had the baby and while I've technically lost all of my baby weight...I am certainly not in the shape that I need to be in to wear my pre-baby clothes.  And even pre-baby, there were many items in my closet that I wasn't in good enough shape to wear without being self-conscious.

Last week I decided that I needed to challenge myself.  I wandered over to to see what they had and sent some to my husband for his input.  I was at a tossup between the 30 day Abs Challenge and the 30 day Ab & Squat Challenge; the husband recommended I start with what I was most unhappy with, so the ab challenge it was.

Last week I started the challenge and The Husband decided that he'd do it along with me since he's been dropping weight like it's something he just does for a hobby.  Days one and two were so simple that I did them once in the morning and once in the evening.  On day three I made the mistake of checking out what I was working towards.

If you think you might do one of these challenges, I wouldn't recommend looking at Day 30 until you're on Day 29.  Just don't do that to yourself.  Don't even look at it now.  I know you want to, but it's a disaster waiting to happen and you'll just give up on the whole thing altogether.  

Don't.  Do.  It.


But I did.  The only saving grace was that Day 4 was a rest day.  And the fact that The Husband was doing the challenge along with me and my competitiveness won't let me quit it while he perseveres on and continues to get his body in better shape than mine is in.

Smart guy, he knew what he was doing when he "just decided" to participate along with me.

Today, we're on Day 7.  I'm both looking forward to it and not looking forward to it.  Following Day 7 is rest day, so that's nice.  But the thing I like about this challenge is that if I can push through the sit-ups, I feel like the rest of the exercise is a downhill coast.  I can't do very many situps, but I can handle the crunches and the leg raises and the planks.  So when I start to struggle with the sit-ups, I first remember what I went through while getting dressed that morning (and yesterday was a particularly bad day in the getting dressed department), and then I remember that once I'm done with the sit-ups, I'm basically done with the worst part of the workout (in my opinion.)

I've not seen any physical benefits from the challenge yet, I'm still at the same weight and fitting all my clothes in the same way, but one week isn't really a point in which I would start to see progress.  I consider this the warm-up period.  I think I will take some pictures tonight so that I can compare them to Day 30.

I've decided that after this challenge I'll do another one.  It'll be a good way to get myself into the shape I feel I need to be in, especially through the winter months when it's all too tempting to just sit on the couch and enjoy a book in my fleece footie PJs.

If you're interested in joining in, check back in a few weeks and I'll try to post what my next challenge will be.  We can do it together!  (I'm also game for suggestions, so check out and let me know where you'd like to see some results for yourself!)

What do you do when you're at the end of your rope?

The last few days have been trying. As a mom, as a wife, as an individual.

And I'm sure if Beckett could talk, he would agree that they were especially difficult as a baby, too. 

Last night, after three nights of little-to-no sleep and three days of having another body physically attached to mine, I felt like I was at the end of my rope.  This precious, wonderful little baby was fighting an ear infection and all he wanted was his Mama to make it better.  And Mama was at the point that all she wanted was a good night's sleep in her own bed without anyone touching her.

I was laying in bed listening to Jason try to get Beckett to sleep (for the fourth time) through the baby monitor and I was crying as I typed the following Facebook Status.

These babies will never understand the sacrifices of a mom. We give up our hearts for them the second we know they...
Posted by Ashley Harris on Monday, October 19, 2015

I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  My shoulders, back, and neck were killing me from three days and three nights of sleep loss and stress. And I knew I was looking down the barrel of a fourth night. I had already put him down twice and Jason had put him down once. Each time he woke up almost instantly, even though he had been snoring heavily only moments before. The only thing I could think to do was to cry.

And then I felt bad for crying, because I was also so grateful. Sure, he'd been fussy and clingy, but he was clinging to me. When he would throw his head back in tears, he would then turn his face to me and curl up into me because he knew I would hold him and comfort him. This wasn't his 'normal', this wasn't how it would always be, this was just how it is for now. And then I thought about it from his little perspective. For as tired and torn down as I felt, I can only imagine what he must have been feeling. At least I knew what was wrong with him, at least I knew there was an end in sight. Realizing that made it a little easier for me to tug on my big girl panties.

The last few days have been trying. Last night was no better than the three before it. I was and am at the end of my rope. But I realized last night that when you get to the end of your rope, you have two choices. Let go, or tie a knot.

It's easier to hang in there if you tie a knot.


Our family got one family member bigger last night.

Ty's school is participating in #onebookonedistrict, where grades K-5th are all reading The World According to Humphrey, a cute little book about a Hamster who finds new friends and adventures as the class pet in Room 26.

Just as every other child in our school district has been doing, Ty has been asking for a pet hamster since the day we started this book.  And last night I let him spend some of his birthday money to get one.  We already had the cage, the ball, the food bowl, and the water bottle.  We just needed some fresh food and a hamster.  So, on the way home from our search for the perfect pumpkin for his storybook pumpkin project, we came home with a hamster instead of a pumpkin.

Funny how that works, right?  My husband thought it was especially funny....

On the way home, Ty and I were discussing names.  His initial choices were Blake or Fiona, but he really liked Sebastian an Amadeus which were the names of some beagles that he had when he was younger.  He dismissed them, though, because we'd already used them.

"Why not name it Sebastian or Amadeus?" I asked him, "If you loved them, what better honor could you give them than to name another pet after them?".

I guess Ty thought it was a 'one and done' kind of thing.  A name could only ever be used once, which is a good rule when naming children but didn't seem overly necessary to me with pets whose timelines didn't overlap.

"Which one was the one that barked all night long and kept me awake?" Ty asked me.

"That was Amadeus." I told him.

"Okay," he responded, "Sebastian it is!"

We got Sebastian home and got the old gerbil cage out of the attic and cleaned it out, added some fresh bedding, fresh water, and a bowl-full of food.  When his home was finally clean and ready, Ty introduced Sebastian to his new home.

He quickly climbed up into the enclosure at the top of his cage and then down to his food bowl and water bottle.  After a few minutes, he discovered his wheel and went for a quick spin.

We put the cat away (no worries, the cat isn't allowed in the boys rooms so Sebastian should be safe in Ty's room as long as he doesn't become an escape-artist like Humphrey!) and put his cage in the living room so that we could watch him for a little bit.

At bedtime, we moved him to the top of the chest of drawers in Ty's room, which is where his cage will likely stay.

This morning Ty came into the bathroom, acting a little more tired than usual.

"How did Sebastian do last night?" I asked him.

"We should have named him Amadeus," Ty told me, sleepily.

Apparently his new hamster was a 'little rat' that spent the evening celebrating his new home on his new wheel!

And so begins the adventure!

Bring back the Man's Man

I was skimming through Instagram this morning and came across a post that made me so confused.

"Toss your hair in a bun,
drink some coffee,
put on some gangsta rap
and handle it."

What's confusing about it?

I read it and immediately coudln't decide if it was intended for a man or for a woman.  Men are wearing buns more often these days than women.  Men have prettier hair these days than I do!  This bothers me!

And down the rabbit hole I went.

Because it also bothers me that we've embraced a culture where men transform themselves into a "Ladies Man" so they can get women...but what a Lady actually wants is a Man's Man.

And a Man's Man is an endangered species these day.

Ask the men!  My husband would agree, when it comes to connecting with other men, he's more drawn to a "Man's Man" kind-of-guy.  But those men seems to be becoming the exception and not the rule.

I would love to see the return of the Man's Man.  I would love to see the return of Manhood in itself.

Let's ditch the man bun, give the skinny jeans back to the women, and trim down or shave off those ridiculous beards!  A beard doesn't make you a man, being a man makes you a man!  And while we're at it, let's throw "Swag" out the window and bring back class.

The 2020's are coming up, we can ditch "Men's Fashion" and go back to "Men's Style".  We'd be doing everyone a favor.  Get your hair cut, clean up that face, and get an outfit that fits you properly.  Not too loose and not too tight.  Can we do that?


Our family visited the local library this past weekend.  They've redesigned the Children's Library since I was last there so I wanted to walk through to see what they'd done with the place.

As we were there I found a book that I couldn't simply walk past.

Because, I swear, my oldest son wrote this book.

Sure, it says that it was written by Leslie Patricelli....but that's obviously the name that Ty authored it under.  He is only ten.  It wouldn't be safe for him to author a book under his real name.

Every page I turned reminded me more and more of this wonderful, crazy, gas-filled boy that I adore.

It's just him.

And I think it'll make the perfect Christmas present for him to give his little brother this year.

The Empty Child

We have a Whovian baby today!

The Day I was a Perfect Parent

It's all over the news and Social Media these days.  Imperfect Parents making mistakes.  It makes me thankful that I had that one day that I was completely and totally the perfect parent.

Because of that one day, I can sit in judgment of other imperfect parents.

Because of that one day, I can declare myself as above those mistakes because for one day I was exactly that.

I can't tell you the exact date that I was a perfect parent.  But I know that it must have happened.

Baby Brain has run rampant on me the last few months so I doubt it would have been since Beckett was born, no offense to that Happy Little Boy.  Actually, I know it couldn't have been since Beckett was born because his whole life he's either slept in my arms in bed with me, or in a crib that has (prepare yourselves, this is super scary) a bumper pad.

Maybe it was when Ty was a baby.  He was a pretty easy baby, too, so maybe that day of Perfect Parenting happened then.  Except that we had a quilt under the sheet of his crib to help soften the hard mattress.  That's definitely not acceptable Perfect Parent behavior.  Nor was the night that I put him in the car-seat and put the car-seat in the crib so that I could finally get some sleep.

Oh, and I didn't breast-feed him (or Beckett for that matter).  Being a mother that doesn't breast feed means that you don't care about your baby, their brain development, or their overall well being.  So that means it couldn't have been during his first year when he was taking formula.  I'm sure it must have been after that.

Darn.  I didn't keep him rear-facing until he was two-years-old, as is suggested.  Obviously I wasn't a good parent if I didn't do that.  So maybe after he was two.  Surely my perfect day of parenting happened then.  He did have that phase where he basically just wanted Vienna Sausages and Crackers for supper, so it couldn't have been on a night when I let him indulge because a perfect parent would have provided three square meals a day, perfectly balanced with cute and crafty little snacks in between.

Man.  That really narrows it down.  But I'm sure that happened at some point.

It definitely wouldn't have been on a day when I had him vaccinated because even though science has proven the benefits of a vaccine far outweigh any negative side-effects, Society tells me that I should believe some Blogger Mom who cites unreliable sources from the Internet.  I mean sure, those sources came back and said that their studies were fallible but they wouldn't have published them if they didn't really believe them.  And belief counts for something in the face of actual scientific research and medical evidence, right?

There was also that time that he got the (thankfully near-empty) bottle of Tylenol out of the diaper bag and went all bottoms-up with it.  (Sidenote:  The Poison Control Hotline asks for an uncomfortable amount of information before they actually provide you any assistance...pretty sure I've got a red-flag by my name somewhere.)  It definitely was not that day.  A Perfect Parent would have been watching their kids and interacting with them at all times.

It would have been on a day that I drove perfectly, too.  Not a mile above or below the speed limit.  I came to a full stop at every stop sign and was 100% aware of all things going on around me at all times.  But never distracted.  Which means my cell phone would have been put away, my music would have been at a reasonable level, and Ty would probably have been asleep in the age, weight, and height-approved car-seat.  It certainly wasn't that time that he was throwing the mother of all tantrums and I was swatting blindly in the back of the car trying to connect with any part of him that I could reach.  That was definitely not perfect parent material.

Nor was the time that I showed him I could scream louder than him and was therefore the winner of the fit-throwing contest.

And it would have to have been a day that I wasn't distracted by cell phones or television shows or the Internet.  I must have spent the day snuggled up with him or playing games with him.  Maybe it was the day that I built the giant tent in the living room and we watched movies together.  Except that I had pop-corn and cotton candy and all sorts of sweets set out for him to snack on in lieu of supper.  So nix that.

I'm still better than the parents that I see at Walmart.  I've never-ever had to raise my voice at my child or tell them "Stop running!", "Put that back where you got it", "Quit touching stuff", "Get out of the clothes rack and off of the floor", or "For the last time, I am NOT getting you a toy today!  You've got a birthday in two weeks!"

Actually I'm pretty sure I've said all of those.  So on my day of Perfect Parenting, we obviously didn't go shopping.

I'm starting to wonder if I even spent the day with him at all...maybe he was away at Nana & PaPaws and I spent the perfectly allotted and acceptable amount of time missing him and thinking of him while still getting some much needed "Me Time".  Because "Me Time" is important to moms, too.  So that's probably it.  He was away with his grandparents.  And I didn't forget to call him before bedtime.

See!  There you go!  I was a perfect parent one day!  I didn't do any actual parenting on that day, but it still counts.  I'm sure of it!

And because I was the perfect parent, I can sneer and make ugly comments at other parents when they make mistakes.  Sure, I've made those mistakes before.  Or I could very possibly make the same mistake in the same set of circumstances.  But I'm above that.  I have the Perfect Parent trophy from that one day that I wasn't really a parent at all.

DIY: Trampoline Redo

This week I've used muscles that I don't believe I have ever used before in the history of me.


I hurt in places that I didn't know there were muscles that could hurt.

For instance, when putting deodorant on this morning I discovered that there are very obviously muscles in ones armpits. And mine were screaming at me!

When attempting to tuck a shirt in this morning I realized just how many different places that different muscles are located in your upper arms (LOTS). I abandoned that shirt very quickly in favor of one that didn't have to be tucked in.

And while writing down a phone message earlier, I learned that there are muscles all around your fingers and throughout your hands that are obviously not used in any strenuous capacity throughout a normal day's work.

Speaking of fingers....the finger tips of both pointer fingers and both thumbs are so swollen that my iPhone can't identify my fingerprints for my Touch ID.

What's got me all bent out of shape (quite literally)?

In a nut-shell it would be candidly honest to just say that I got my butt off the couch. But more specifically, I've been putting together a trampoline for The Boy.

On Monday evening, The Husband and I got the trampoline out of the attic where it's been in storage for 3-4 years now (thanks to Destructi-Dog's destructive tendencies....) That evening while The Husband tended to The Baby, I assembled the trampoline and attached as many springs as I could do on my own (about half of them). The Husband then came out to help me with the last few and then we moved the trampoline across the yard and we called it a night.

Yesterday evening, part two commenced after purchasing some pool noodles and some textured Rustoleoum spray paint. Again, The Husband watched The Baby (and cooked supper) while I spray-painted the frame and springs of the trampoline. I let that dry while I had supper and dissected pool noodles into 6" sections. Then I went back out and removed the springs one at a time and slide them into the pool noodle sections before reconnecting them to the frame.

All seventy-two springs.

At the end of the night, the trampoline looked like it was brand new.

And this morning I felt like I was quite old.

But it will be so worth it to be able to see The Boy having fun in his yard again.  It's been too long, it's time to take our yard back.

Baby's First

Look who made the Dallas Comic Con Facebook page!

How completely cool is that?! And how completely cute is this boy!

More to come later, I just had to share!

Throwback Thursday | Strip Search 101

First thing this morning at work we have an interesting conversation that leads to a throw-back to my days of working at the Sheriff's Office.

And the occasional days of strip-searching female inmates.

Boy am I glad those days are over!  But as a nod to that part of my past, I decided to repost the blog from 2007 that maintained it for posterity.

Strip Search 101 

Okay...I work at the Sheriff's Office. I mainly do the bookkeeping, but every once in a while, I get called on for a 'special' task. One I'd be more than happy to give up. But because of my lack of male genetailia....I get stuck with it.

Female prisoner comes in.....she's gotta be searched before she's stuck in a cell. Guess who gets to do it.

Yep, you guessed it.

Yours truly.

It wouldn't be so bad if all the female prisoners I've ever had to search was about 23 years old, slender, small-of-chest-and neatly trimmed in the undercarriage.  Not because I want something to look at, but because age-wise that puts us on even ground and because the rest of it helps to avoid uncomfortable questions that I'll hit upon later.

I'm not saying every woman has been the picture of disgust and poor hygeine....but overall--my experience searching women has not been pleasant.

And it's always [sarcasm] great [/sarcasm] when they're vulgar, aggressive, or have a sexual orientation other than my own....

At this point, I've only searched about a dozen women. And in those searches....I've learned some basic search procedures.

Keep in mind, I'm not properly trained to search anyone, but I've been given the rundown.

Here's the general rule:

Gloves. First and foremost. GLOVES!! For the love of God! Put some gloves on!

Next...I start at the top...pat out the hair, make sure there's nothing hidden in it anywhere, open your mouth...(note to self: hold breath)...the mouth should be empty.

Shirt off...bra off....

Guys, don't get yourself going...there's nothing fantasy-worthy here. It's work. It's professional. It's as little touching as possible, and what touching IS done, is done out of sheer need for the safety of our facility and our employees.

Okay, arms out.

If her breasts create any folds in must pick up and examine under that fold or around that fold. Check under arms, between breasts, etc.

Put your bra back on...shirt stays off. (Also check shirt and outerwear to make sure nothing is hidden in them or any pockets they might have.)

Shoes off.

Examine each shoe inside and out to make sure there's nothing hidden there.

Socks off. Check each sock to make sure nothing is in it.

Okay...pants down.

And the underoos.

Check pants and pockets. Empty pocket contents of everything, but leave it visible so that they can see nothing is being removed...unless it's a weapon or illicit substance...obviously that goes into an evidence baggie...never had that happen, though.

Okay...and once underwear are removed...the fun part. She has at most a bra on right now....she's uncomfortable...I'm uncomfortable.

But it gets worse.

Some of the women I've had to search exceeded 300 lbs. easily. This is the uncomfortable part.

How do you politely ask someone to lift a roll (or more than one roll) of body fat so that you can check between them?

And as if that's not bad enough...those're glad you have them, because you get to feel between those folds and layers. To top avoid touching in any inappropriate places, there's this technique we utilize.

The "Squat and Cough".

It's always been my frame of mind that if a woman has something hidden in her va-jay-jay or her back door, she can have it. This procedure helps to rule that out.

The woman is simply instructed to squat a little, legs apart...obviously I have to squat some, too, because I have to be where I can visibly ascertain if something peeks out when she coughs.


I don't even look at MYSELF down there so it's just a little less than comfortable for me to stare at another woman, especially since a couple of the women don't just cough (so it's always a good idea to hold your breath at this point in time, too).

Once that's done, and once all clothes and folds of skin have been checked, she gets dressed out and I gather up all pocket contents or finds to turn over to the intake officer to go into the prisoner's property or the money is put on the books for them.

So, that's pretty much it.

Gloves off.  Exhale and take a deep breath of fresh air.

And always remember to wash your hands...gloves or no gloves...just do it.

A High Stress Situation


Eight weeks apart.

But still twins.

That's what I dreamed about last night in one of my all-too-vivid and insanely stressful dreams.

It started simply enough, I was going to the Dr. for a routine postpartum checkup.  As I was standing at the desk to check-in they started to escort me to the hospital.  When I asked what was going on they responded that they needed to get me prepped for my cesarean.

Obviously I was confused.  I'd had my cesarean eight weeks earlier.  This was a follow-up.  There was some mistake.

The nurse acted like I clearly had pregnancy-brain and 'reminded' (aka educated) me that I had been pregnant with fraternal twins.  The little boy was delivered eight weeks earlier but they couldn't deliver the little girl at that time.  This cesarean was to deliver the little girl.

"It's a girl?" I asked repeatedly.

I have clothes for a boy.  I have experience with boys.  I could mentally prepare myself for a boy.  But a girl?  I couldn't get it to sink in.

"It's a girl?"  How could I have still been pregnant and not known it?

After the quickest, most routine (apparently outpatient) cesarean ever I had a daughter in my arms that I was completely unprepared for.  Even more, I had to tell everyone that I now had not just a new son, but a new daughter as well.  The nurses began my discharge paperwork, including a birth certificate completed with the name Ana Clayre, which is a lovely name, but even in my haze it didn't seem quite right.  Should we spell Ana with one N or two...I went to text Jason to let him know he's a Daddy again and to see how he wanted to spell the name when it dawned on me that he would not be game for Ana or Anna at all, we agreed to Amelia and so Amelia it must be.

I let the nurses know that we have to change her name, it can't be Ana, it has to be Amelia.  We erase the name but every time we write the new name down we keep writing Ana instead of Amelia.  Finally we get it right and Amelia and I are released from the hospital.  I walk out knowing that I have to start calling people, beginning with Jason, and letting them know about my little surprise.

And I knew no one would believe me.

I started snapping pictures of her so that I could send them as evidence but they all looked like Beckett. I knew that no one would believe that the pictures weren't just more pictures of him so I knew that I would have to wait until I was at home and had both of the babies together.

But before I could go home, I had to do what is obviously most important when you've just had a baby that you were completely not expecting.

I had to go shopping.  I had baby clothes at home but not a single one of them had even a stitch of pink on them and in my dream it was Saturday so Amelia had to have a pretty pink dress to wear to church the next day.

I don't remember much of my dream beyond that.  I think it was around that time that Jason & Beckett came back to bed after Beckett's bottle.  However, some things still live on.  As all of this was happening in my dream I had been calculating and trying to figure out how we were going to make this work.  How could we afford daycare for two babies?  Much less formula and diapers and wipes and clothes and everything else that goes along with it!

I feel much better today about the amount of money we've spent on formula in the past eight weeks (a number I was overly focused on yesterday) could SO have been worse!

Forty-Eight Hours

Two days.

That's all we're down to.

Two little bitty days left until Beckett arrives!

Two.  Days.

Life will change irrevocably.

It reminds me of a time a half-a-dozen years ago when I was on the phone with one of my girlfriends just before a certain guy came over to my house for the first time.  The butterflies and the jitters and the questions of how that moment could forever change the rest of your life.

And that's what I talked about with that friend.

"This date could change my life forever."

And it did. two days that same guy and I will have another life-changing day together.

When you come to meet my baby

Beckett Dean will be making his appearance into this world in just a few short weeks.  With his impending arrival, naturally my thoughts have turned to all the ways that our lives are about to change forever.  The added expenses that terrify me, the fragility of one so small and vulnerable, the new nightly chores of sanitizing and preparing bottles for the next day's care...there's so much to think about and our time is growing nearer and nearer to meeting this little boy.

But another little boy has been very heavy on my heart, too.  Because as much as I know how greatly my life is about to change, Ty's life is about to change even more and thus far most people have only pointed out to him all the negatives.

So I'm going to be one of those moms.

When you come to meet my baby, I will have a rule that I hope each of our guests will respect.

There will not be a bottle of hand sanitizer at the door and I will not be doing nose-swabs to check you for the flu.  I will not greet you with expectations of food or gifts as the price of admission into our home.  I will not ask you to help with household chores that have gone undone (who does that?!), though it will be much appreciated if you ignore that they're undone because if you graciously and kindly start to pick up, I'll feel the need to start to pick up and instead of enjoying your visit, I'll wear myself out during it.

What I will ask of you is that you be sensitive to my first baby while you're in our home to meet our newest baby.

Ty has had months and months of everyone telling him how perfectly awful it is going to be to have a little one around the house.  He's heard endless tales of how much the baby will cry and all of the toys and belongings that will be damaged or destroyed by a little one.  He's had dirty diapers figuratively thrown in his face more times than I imagine he will actually change a diaper.  Adults have continually told him all the ways that being a big brother will change his life for the worse....and then they turn around and tell me "what a wonderful big brother Ty will be!".

I want Ty to have the opportunity to be excited about his first days as a big brother!  He deserves to see his brother as a new and wonderful addition to our family just as much as Beckett deserves to be spoken of as more than a noisy and costly inconvenience.

Ty needs to hear how wonderful it will be to have a brother—to have a life-long friend that will be there no matter what.  He needs to be reminded that when Mom & Dad struggle to get a half-hearted giggle out of Beckett, he will be able to elicit a full-belly-laugh out of his brother with ease.  Ty is entitled (and I don't ever throw that word around lightly) to the joy of knowing that he will be somebody's hero for no other reason than the fact that he is Beckett's Big Brother.  He needs to be encouraged that no matter how challenging and tiring these first few weeks with his brother will be...they will be so very worth it in the end.

So when you come to meet my baby, my one and only rule is that each of our guests please respect both of my boys.

Counting Down | Six weeks to go!

Today we are officially 34 weeks pregnant!

Beckett Dean is six weeks away from making his grand entrance and I'd like to say that everything is nice and neat and tidy and just waiting for him.

In all honesty, my house is a mess from recent renovations that have now spilled over into a full scale organization process.  I'm determined to de-clutter and put things away in a proper place, instead of just getting them out of the way and not having to deal with it right now.

I still haven't painted Beckett's room, though I did finally finish our bedroom after buying the paint for it last May.  I have the paint for his room and as soon as my living area is de-cluttered, I will start working on his room.

My goal is to have it all done by the end of the month...but my goal is to also take my time and not over-exert myself, too.  Those two goals have been in competition with one another lately.  We'll see, maybe they'll both be able to win.

All is going well with the pregnancy.  The only concern we've had so far is with my low platelet count.  However, my doctor is optimistic that this won't be an issue.  If it becomes one, they'll err on the side of caution.  It wouldn't be ideal, but it's not in my control so I'm doing my best not to worry about it.

There have been dozens of conversations had around me about individuals having simple surgical procedures and then having blood clots that have cost them their lives or almost cost them their lives.  I would absolutely love it if those conversations went away or were had outside of my earshot, it makes it feel like there's a ticking clock over my head and I could really do without that.

Beckett has been one very active little boy.

I couldn't help but laugh when I got this email from Pampers today.

If anything it feels like Beckett is partying because he knows that  his time on the inside is about to come to an end and he's going to have ROOM to dance!

Next Tuesday we go to the doctor for our 34 week appointment.  I fully expect to have exceeded the "expected 1 lb a week" weight gain the Dr. has advised me I should see.  My legs, feet, and hands have been extraordinarily swollen lately, which is something I dealt with during my pregnancy with Ty.  Along with the swelling, I believe I may have developed a bit of tendinitis in my thumbs, most especially my right thumb.  I've read that this can be common during pregnancy and may persist afterwards as well because I'll be using different muscles and tendons that aren't as well-used while lifting and tending to Beckett.

The joys of motherhood!  But it will be so worth it to FINALLY get to see his little face (which he hid from us in EVERY ultrasound) and to feel his little fingers and toes.

Six more weeks.

We've got this!