Part II – “Not As Much Success”

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Yes, I’ve been super busy in my little world – so much that I’ve spent the first part of this week just catching up on reading my friends’ blogs.  I’m always thankful that many of you haven’t posted in several weeks like me!

What have I been up to?  We have been up to our eyeballs in paint, ceiling scraping, and general home improvements in an effort to sell our house soon. Anyone interested in a wonderful 3 bedroom , 1.5 bath house that is full of great memories? In one month’s time, we have completed some huge tasks as well as finished up about 5 or more projects that were 90% done, but still needed that last coat of paint, or a few more knobs put on, a little touch-up here or there. 

I’ve come away from this improvement adventure with two things:                                                                                                                                   1. Why do I wait so long to do these things? I procrastinate terribly thinking the projects will take forever, but the reality is that each project took so little time (well beside scraping ceiling and repainting livingroom, hall, and kitchen) that I should not have put them off for so long. I keep saying: I want this to develop a new mindset to just get things done.

   2. Why do I get 90% done and never seem to finish up? Of course, with 4 kids, life has to keep moving so the finish-up sometimes comes a while after the initial start, but now I hope to have adopted another mindset which is to finish one project fully BEFORE starting a new one. We’ll see if these new ways of thinking stick!

Okay, so on to Part II  – the “Not So Much Success” part of the story, well in a minute. This story has to do with my Brooklyn.  I thought since, I focused on Jocelin in the last post, I would do a post focusing on each child and give you a little insight into the sweet people who make up our family. So join me on a side-bar about my third-born. Keep reading, I’ll get to the story, I promise!

My little Brooklyn: she is the most unique combination of personalities. I’d need a book to explain just how complex she is, but I’ll try to give a hint of what she’s like.

I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her. Baby 3 was so fabulous for me; I didn’t have all the apprehensions that come with Baby 1, mainly, how in the world do I raise a child. Or the apprehensions that come with Baby 2: how do I raise another child, I hope they like each other, etc. So Baby 3 was pure enjoyment for me. I knew what to expect with late nights, nursing, sleeping, etc. Brooklyn’s first months were such a blessing to me; I drank her in. Looking back, I can see how the Lord was knitting my heart to hers then, because I was going to need it for her toddler years!!

To sum it up: Brooklyn is very strong-willed (it’s a mystery where that came from!). Most of the tricks to deal with toddlers and the developmental quirks that come at that age do not work with this gal. I knew this before she was even 1-year-old. For example, all my kids got to a point where they would fuss when I was changing their diaper and getting them dressed.  Thanks to my Mom’s elaborate tool-belt, I knew that singing always helps; you know, “One foot in and then the other,” … “This is the way we put on our clothes”… “It’s time to change a diapey” (to the tune of Veggie Tales, “Oh Where Is My Hairbrush,” a Bradley original!).

Well before most kids even know how to throw a fit, Brooklyn would start fussing on the changing table, I’d start singing and she would arch her back, stiffen that body and scream, scream, scream. The more I sang, the louder she got. It was like she was saying, “Listen lady, that distraction biz will not work on me. Too bad, so sad.” Honestly, I eventually began to sing, usually the first worship song I could think of (or just the name of Jesus), just to keep my sanity. I was no longer singing for her, instead it was just for me so the screaming wouldn’t get to me as bad!

If I give Brooklyn the choice of A or B (a great tool for helping a toddler with their need for independence) she will always choose C – even if she really wants B; she’ll choose C because she will not fall for any of my pansy-parenting tricks. She requires the Big-Guns Tool Belt!

Can I be honest here for a minute – just keepin’ it real – I literally didn’t like to be around Brooklyn for most of a year (or more). My Mom would have her for a few days and tell me how sweet, adorable, and fabulous she was.

This is the version Nana always sees!

Really, I couldn’t believe it; we had to be talking about two different people. Then two Christmas’s ago – I saw it. My family was with us for several days in my home and Brooklyn was an angel: super sweet and a total cutie pie. I could not believe my eyes. At that point, I thought that side of her personality was a myth. Now I realize I’m being funny about it now, but that’s really how I felt then.

This is more like the Brooklyn I was with!

That experience was so helpful to me. No, she didn’t stop exhibiting her will all over me, but I knew she wasn’t broken – that I hadn’t screwed her up, ruined her for life to be destined to tell everyone off, only have things her way, etc. (Note: all those who know me well can see the irony in the previous statement. Yes I do like things my way and I don’t mind expressing my mind, but hopefully I’ve learned a little tact and balance over the years!?)

I say all these things to encourage those of you with an uuber-strong-willed babe! If you don’t have a strong-willed child, you will probably be rolling your eyes and not believing that a mom would actually admit these things about her own child. If you have one of these challengers in your brood, you totally get what I’m saying. Take heart, they can be parented, they don’t stay like this forever, and they really will make great adults.

Now, just because Brooklyn is challenging, doesn’t mean she isn’t the greatest thing ever. The way I began to make it through was to count the blessings of her uniqueness:

So this little gal, who wants things her way or the highway, will, at random, do things like put herself down for nap. Literally, she will potty, get a book or two and her blankie, hop up on sister’s bed, read for a few minutes, and be asleep before I know it. Now this is not the norm, but on a Sunday afternoon when we are all vegged out on the couch, she’ll go back and do her own nap time. It is awesome.  None of my other kids ever did this.

She loves to clean – and is good at it. Usually anytime she asks to help, I’ll let her because she actually helps – you know instead of making even more mess to clean up. 

She has the softest skin in the whole wide world (that’s what I always say to her). I guess the way my genes combine with Bradley’s, we produced 3 out of 4 kids that have bumps on their arms, legs, and cheeks: the kind many people have on their upper arms that are harmless but make the skin feel bumpy. Well, Brooklyn is the exception to this inherited feature and her arms, cheeks and legs are like velvet! 

She has the cutest laugh where she breathes out and sucks in, giving her laugh a donkey-like flavor. I tell Bradley often that I hope she laughs this way all her life; it is awesome and always makes us laugh too!

She is beautiful. The Lord has gifted her with gorgeous eyes, the longest eyelashes, silky blonde hair, and a twinkly smile.  We will have to teach her to use her beauty for His glory and not her own, and get Bradley a very large bat for her teen years to keep her admires at bay!

She already has a great sense of style and can put together a cute outfit that matches.

She has some great words: Rabinoli (ravioli), Stawberry Cortcake, Santha, ABCDEFGHIKK, eleventeen

She answers to the following nick-names: Brook-a-look, Br-br, Brookn Danielle, Sister, and Sissy – per Emerson, Pip-em-Squeek-ems (she was our smallest baby at birth, so little and dainty, so I immediately called her a pip-squeek, Bradley has since adapted the name to its current status).

Okay, so now onto the story when my parenting missed the mark – you still with me?

Let me set this up … We had been really working with Emerson (the 18 month-old at the time) not to say, “Oh my gosh” because it is so close to “Oh my God”. I can remember that phrase as a child was one of the ultimate no-no’s for my Mom, the other being the word, “fart”- ick. My mom hated that word, and now I do too! So, we have passed these teachings along to our babes.

The other thing we work on, all the time, is to not tattle. Well a few months ago, Brooklyn ran to me while I was in the garage changing laundry and said, 

“Mom, Emerson said that word she’s not supposed to say.”

To which, I replied, “Brooklyn, it is not your job to tell on her. If she is not in danger, you don’t need to tell me.”

“But Mom, she’s not supposed to say that.”

“I know Brooklyn, I’ll correct her when I hear her say it, you don’t have to come tell me when she says it.  The thing you can do is to not repeat it.” Good job Shawn, excellent explanation: you told her what not to do and since she wants to be involved, you told her what she could do to help. Nice work.

So, as I head back into the house, laundry in tow, I see Brooklyn whispering in Emerson’s ear and get close enough to hear that she’s saying, “Emerson, say, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Now let’s take a moment here to acknowledge how absolutely clever this is. Her thought process might have been: Okay I’m not supposed to tell Mom when she says this word, Mom just told me that she will get onto Emerson only when Mom hears Emerson saying it, I love justice and don’t like for other people to get away with breaking the rules either, so, if I can get Emerson to say “those words” in front of Mom, then it will be a victory for everyone. Great idea, let’s put this into action.

Pretty brilliant if it weren’t so cunning.

Immediately, I firmly said, “Brooklyn!” That was enough for us to lock eyes and for her to actually realize what she just did. She was heart-broken, and crying instantly – all the way back to her bed for her own correction.

. . . Well, Shawn, looks like that wasn’t the parenting victory you thought it was, back to the drawing board. . .

Last thing: Brooklyn just got a hair cut and donated her hair to Locks-of-Love





Around Our House

I was at Home Group last night and two of my friends mentioned that they were waiting for my next post. This is probably the last free chance I will have for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d post a few random thoughts concerning Christmas time around our house.

Let me first begin with a tip. (This tip also goes along well with many of the comments from my previous post.) I was with my friend Ana as our three children oohed and aahed over all the pretty ornaments on her tree. She told her sweet Jude, “touch with one finger.” He put his little pointer finger out and gently (and then not so gently) touched the ornaments.

It was one of those moments for me that I was in awe of such a brilliant concept. I mean, how have I raised four kids without knowing this rule? It is just the thing we all need right now as our little ones are desperate to poke and prod every Christmasy thing around. Touching with one finger allows them the ability to touch but not break or pull off or whatever. Emerson and Brooklyn have this down pat now. May your world be revolutionized too! THANK YOU ANA!!!

My Kid-Tree has benefited most greatly from this tip!

Second, as this Christmas rolls around, I have yet another reason to be thankful that I am finished with the birthing/nursing phase of my life.  The last couple of Christmases were pretty intense being super pregnant and then having my 4th baby around. I am really looking forward to actually visiting with family this year, not just parenting my children in someone else’s home. For those of you who are fully immersed in the birthing/nursing/repeat stage, take heart – it won’t be like this forever. My youngest is 22 months and man it just keeps getting easier!

Another noticeable difference, since we are no longer adding to the family, is that this is the first year I am not sewing on a stocking. When Jocelin was born, a sweet lady from my hometown made Jocelin a most fantastic stocking.

It is intricate, cute, and so impressive. Well, along comes Mason and the sweet lady was no longer making stockings for my children, clearly a store-bought just couldn’t compete, so the gigantic task was passed to me.

Now, let me elaborate here because I want you to be impressed, very impressed. I am writing this just to show-off; consider yourself warned!

To make a stocking like this, you have to purchase a kit – for at least $25. Now that $25 does not get you a stocking put together. Instead, it gets you a bag with felt pieces, that you must cut out individually, embroider thread, sequins and beads, and a series of super detailed instructions. Really, with each stocking, I would have to study the directions (because each one was laid out differently) for a good 30 minutes before I could even begin step one.  Each stocking had 60-70 steps and took who knows how many hours – somewhere around 30-50 per stocking – r e a l l y.

But in the end, it is so worth it.

They turn out so sparkly

And detailed

And elaborately fantastic

Yep, I sewed every sequin, pieced together each mitten, ear, hat, buckle, and a jillion other teeny pieces. Countless hours of TV watching and many a hand-cramp and I am proud of these babies. I hope my kids like them, they will use them as long as I am around, even if they are 60! Some day I’ll make one for Bradley and me and then eventually for many grandbabies.

The next random Christmas nugget I have to share with you concern the things I have been pondering over the past few days. My goal over the next 2 weeks: have fun. It’s plain and simple, yet hard for me to accomplish on most days. I used to be a lot of fun and somehow life and its craziness took over. So with the exception of the required laundry and occasional meal, I plan to play whatever my kids want me to, even if I don’t want to play it or I’m not good at it, watch movies, be silly, veg out, enjoy time with extended family and keep my woe-is-me attitude in check!

Since I will be enveloped in all the great times, I will not have time to blog for the next 2 weeks. My heart’s desire is to report back in a few weeks and actually be able to say that I kept my stress level under control and did all the fun things I have set before me.

Lastly, a random Christmas blog would not be complete without me sharing one of my most favorite traditions. I love Christmas music and one of my all-time favorites is Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon a Christmas. Now many old roommates (shout out to Jana, Tamra, Brea, Emily, and Misty) and my husband would say that the continual listening of this CD is most embarrassing (and annoying) tradition I have. What can I say, I just love it. It has every bit of my childhood memories wrapped up in every song. I grew up country and I’m proud of it.

So in the Christmas spirit, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on you.  Let’s hear it, what’s your favorite (and slightly embarrassing) thing you really enjoy at Christmas-time?

I can’t wait to hear about your silly traditions, have a great Christmas!

My Girl is Growing Up

This past weekend was full of milestones for my sweet Jocelin.  On Sunday, she turned 8 years old. With the oldest, each birthday seems like a big deal and always plunges me into reflection:

  • I’ve been parenting for 8 years now
  • 8 years ago, our family looked so different – just Bradley and I, my how this family has changed and grown
  • 8 years old – that means it is time to start studying up on “Tween” life and prepare for the fact that Jocelin will begin moving from little girl stage to pre-puberty stage – holy crow (as my husband would say)

I’ve heard a parenting teacher call the first child, “Learning-child #1” which is certainly true. The first child is the one you learn how to parent with. Each child after that gives you room to tweak your parenting-skill and not just say, “if I had a chance to do it again” but to actually do it again. The first child bears the brunt of the learning curve into parenting.

They are a special, chosen race – the First Borns. My Jocelin handles this role with such grace. She leads the way in this family and God continually confirms to me that He put her first for a reason.

On her birthday weekend, she paved the way of “first in the family” again. On Saturday morning, for her birthday, Jocelin took the plunge and got her ears pierced.  Around here, waiting until you are 8 is pretty late to get your ears pierced, but I’m so thankful she waited: it made it much more of a special right-of-passage as a girl.

The whole concept freaked her out until a few months ago, and then all of a sudden, she wanted to do and that was that. She bravely walked in, chose her light purple cubic-zirconium studs, and sat so still while the sweet Merle Norman lady pierced each ear.  No crying, no complaining (well not until the next day when the soreness set in), just a sweet, proud girl.

Then, Saturday night, she made another huge right-of-passage: Jocelin got baptized!!! A little over a week ago, Jocelin gave her life to Jesus on a Wednesday night at church. She said she felt like she heard God tell her it was time to ask Him to be the Lord of her life, so she talked to one of her teachers and didn’t want to wait any longer. She prayed right then and there!

So this Saturday, Bradley baptized her! Some one asked her at the beginning of church if she was nervous, “No, just excited,” she said. She has been growing in her own personal walk with God and it is so sweet to see her confidence with matters of the Lord.  She has been worshiping Him in our services, hearing Him speak to her, waving a flag in church, and starting the process from God being someone she follows because we do, to learning to love Him on her own. Of course, as a parent, nothing is more beautiful to watch.

So Jocelin boldly walked in the water with her Daddy, told the congregation all about how God called her to Him, and walked out of the water with her Dad and brother!

Our camera is so, so, so lame that all we have is this grainy picture, but it is still worth showing. (we will be buying a new camera soon!)

Dad talking

the baptizing

the wet celebrating!

On a final note, my friend Tamra has a daughter one year older than Jocelin and when Tamra got pregnant with Kailee, I knew I would want to have a child close to her age, and then not too long after, we began our family.  As I watched Tamra with Kailee, I followed in her footsteps in so many ways from the products I bought to the things I did with Jocelin. So I thought it was especially sweet that on Kailee’s birthday a month ago, she was baptized, and now Jocelin did the same thing on her birthday weekend. Tamra, I promise I didn’t put her up to it!

Halloween Fun

My kids have been looking forward to Halloween for many weeks. They planned and prepped for their costumes, choose pumpkins for carving, and waited anxiously for all that CANDY. The day was packed with lots of cuteness and fun.

We almost forgot about carving pumpkins but Jocelin remembered it yesterday. Now, I think you are supposed to plan ahead and not try to carve pumpkins the hour before you have to get costumed up – but we like to live on the wild side around here.

Honestly, I really wanted to skip the carving – I always think of the mess it will make and the time it will involve and it just seems like a lot of work. Thankfully, my sister called about the time we needed to get started on the pumpkins (she had carved 6 fantastic pumpkins the day before) and reminded me how much fun it would be. I know, I know – these activities are where memories are made and tradition is birthed – I know. So I sucked it up and had some fun, by golly.

At one point, I heard Mason  say, “This is such a fun Halloween.” Just because we were carving pumpkins. Note to self – don’t be the fun-sucker!

So in an hour’s time, we carved up two pumpkins. Daddy cut them open and Jocelin and I cleaned them out because the boys thought it was too gross. Jocelin and I discussed how strange it was that they can shoot rabbits and birds and deal with all that grossness, but pumpkin seeds and slimy pulp are too much for them.  They both watched us with the funniest “eew” faces!

Jocelin and Mason drew their designs




Daddy did the carving while I toasted the pumpkin seeds, that burned, sadly – 30 minutes of time well spent!

The super-cute finished Jack-o-lanterns

And now, introducing the Graham Fam Trick-or-Treaters

Jocelin – a lovely mermaid (Thank you Nana for making a great costume)

She wanted to pose

and she was very happy that it was “legal” to wear make-up in public

Mason – a fierce Ninja (Thank you Nana for buying the Karate costume)

The complete costume which only lasted for pictures (note the HI-YA motion):

Brooklyn – an adorable Tinkerbell

(Provided by Nana also. I promise, I didn’t ask her for any of these. She offered them from her personal dress-up selection and told Jocelin she would make hers. We are so grateful for Nana!!!)

Did I mention how adorable she is?

Brooklyn’s experience with Halloween was so cute. We had already received treats from Nana (again – thanks to Nana-extraordinaire), and Brooklyn thought that going trick-or-treating meant that she had to take the candy she already had and give it to her friends. She was a little reluctant to that concept, but actually would have done it!

Brooklyn trick-or-treated right alongside the big kids – she was about a house behind, but she climbed many a step to fill her bucket.

After trick-or-treating, we were at a friends house so the kids were a little more unsupervised then they would have been at home with their buckets of candy. I first ran into Brooklyn with a big tootsie-pop in her mouth which she quickly explained, “I accidentally ate this.”

Later, I found her again, with another tootsie-pop and said that sucker had to be her last. As we were gathering up to head home, she came to me again – this time with a dum-dum in her mouth and another sucker in hand. Wow Brooklyn, you must love suckers.  I later realized that the suckers were probably the only candy she could open herself!!

Emerson – a sweet Bunny

I made this costume when Jocelin was a baby and all three girls have worn it now!

(our cute friend in the background)

Emerson was especially clingly last night so I couldn’t get one picture of her where she wasn’t frowning.

These pictures are probably cuter than if she was smiling!

Happy Halloween Emerson

I even tried to take one this morning – just to get a smiling picture for her picture album

Well, I’ll have to wash it and give it another try with the smile. At least I got a picture of the cute tail:

Even though Emerson doesn’t show it, we have a wonderful evening – lots of fun and candy!



Family Fun – Fall Is Here

Well,  now that I can get pictures off my camera, I figured it was time to add some posts that are just for fun about my family.

Actually, this is a lure to keep you reading – I know if I post cute pictures of my sweet little babes that you are more likely to keep scrolling and read some of the other posts!! Just wanted you to know what I was up to from the get go.

And, let’s be honest, who can actually read 400 words about parenting without a little break for fun in between. I mean, the personal stuff is what we all like to know – right?!  So I will begin frequent posts about the many facets of my fam.  I hope you enjoy getting to know us!

Last week, as  I mentioned before, my two little girls were at Nana’s house and while they were gone, Mason said he really wanted to go to a pumpkin patch. Sadly, we have never done the pumpkin patch thing before – I know, what kind of parent am I – so we decided we would load up in our Saturn because we tried to avoid the Mommy-wagon van while we were down to just two kids, thinking that we could up our cool-points for 1 week, and went to the pumpkin patch.

Sadly, I only ended up with 2 pictures; turns out you are supposed to turn your camera off the play mode before you take pictures – duly noted.

Mason and Daddy – note the foxy husband!


Jocelin and Mommy

the final display

Thank you Lord for bright colors, cooler weather, and pretty ornamental food!


and just to wet your appetite for all the sweetness to come:

Emerson + cowboy hat + blankie = one cutie pie

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