Friday, April 11, 2014

Filling in the Gaps

Yes I am WAY overdue for a nice big blog dump update.  But the time has come!  Mainly I realized it's almost time for me to start writing about them turning 2 (!) and I couldn't do that without filling in a little bit.  So, here come the bullets...


  • Zoo!  We've been taking advantage of our zoo membership and the lovely weather lately.  The kids are more and more interested in the animals each time.  And I was brave and let them in the petting zoo.  The dirt and climbing areas were more fun than the goats and I was a little stressed keeping track of them, but it was worth it.  Latest trip they were loving the monkeys and, of course, the ducks.  There's even a lake right outside the zoo with tons of ducks we like to picnic at!  
  • Moody Gardens Aquarium!  Totally worth the hour drive.  The kids LOVED it and had a blast running around looking at everything- especially the penguins and seals.  There were even divers feeding the fish while we were there and they waved to the kids- so cute!
  • Duck feedings- this is now a daily occurrence.  There are lots of ducks around our neighborhood and we start off each walk by checking out the closest fake lake for ducks.  

Sweet Sisters in the car

All these outings are exhausting!

The Kiddos

  • Andrew: completely into trucks, construction, tools, and airplanes.  Loves playing outside and looking for planes.  Points out everything.  Our puzzle whiz.  Still the bully toy stealer.  Quite the dramatic cryer if he doesn't get his way.  
  • Benjamin: super stacker!  Stacks anything and everything and sometimes it works in my favor when cleaning up.  Loves his food- play and real.  Still savoring every. last. bite.  Mr. Stubborn especially when I'm trying to make him talk.  
  • Caroline: no longer failure to thrive!  She's held steady at the 50th percentile for several months now.  She loves to shake her booty and copy dance moves and read.  She's my little caretaker often seen wiping off Leah when she's crying or "dusting" the toys.  She can have some mega mood swings.  Definitely a mama's girl.
  • Leah: Can flip from back to tummy, stand supported for up to 19 sec, hold onto toys for minutes, reach for toys, and push up on her arms when on all 4s!  Has eaten and kept down  minuscule amounts of graham cracker, goldfish, and animal crackers.  Loves Larry the Cucumber and VeggieTales.  Doing awesome with her vision apps on the iPad.  Always surprising us. 
  • Allison: The tattle tale.  Ms. "uh oh" uses the phrase as a warning or to point out what her siblings have done.  Owns her little cuteness with her shoulder shrugs to avoid tasks and giggles.  Loves to dance and copy dance moves.  Enjoys puzzles and coloring and being the center of attention.
  • Levi: completely obsessed with guitars and cleaning tools (mops, swiffers, vacuums...).  We hide them from him most of the time.  He does give us a little musical performance each morning.  Loves hugs and kisses.  Not afraid to hold his own against his bigger siblings. Loves to imitate- especially silly faces. 

  • Overall: We've been working on increasing words and reducing the straw cup fun of dripping milk everywhere.  My "straw cup boot camp" has improved the behavior, but we still need to get extra tough to eliminate it.  Words are slowly, but surely increasing.  They have been signing more, legitimately answering yes/no questions, and learning many animal sounds.
  • With the awesome weather lately we have been outside every afternoon with a picnic snack and just plain playing in the backyard.  One of my favorite activities is to have races across the yard- especially when I take turns running like a different kid.  They each have their own unique run- cute and funny at the same time.  It has been wonderful for all of us!  And it totally wears the kids out :)
backyard picnic

The Rest of Us

  • Maggie was attacked by another dog a month or so ago.  She's fine but we had to call animal control when the dog followed her home and would not leave.  Keep dogs on a leash!
  • Dave had a birthday quite awhile ago now.  He enjoyed sleeping in, eating favorite foods, and a surprise guys night out I coordinated :)  And now he's older than me for a couple of months.
  • Dave went to Thailand for work at the end of March.  The trip was 2 weeks long and thankfully my parents stayed with me to help out.  He really enjoyed it there.  His workshops went well and he loved the food and the scenery and all the touristy things he was able to fit in.
  • Dave also went to Disney World for his brother's wedding.  I stayed home with the kiddos.  Of course he had a great time at Disney!  The wedding was beautiful and the time spent with family and old friends at Magic Kingdom was really great for him.  
  • I was proud of myself/exhausted for handling the house (+ some usual helpers) during the Disney trip.
  • In between the NYC trip and the Thailand we went to Austin for 2 days to visit old friends and family.  Although it was stressful to unpack and repack in such a short time, the break away was much needed!  Everyone had a great time and the kiddos were perfect in the car.  Just what I needed after a rough flight home.
And I leave you with these two cute guys...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Unstoppable Mom Experience

I think a post is due to sum up the whirlwind adventure of the Unstoppable Mom contest!  To refresh the background information, my aunt's friend saw the contest on TV and suggested I be nominated.  My aunt and cousin got Dave and I's approval and hit the ground running!  Since they live in different cities than we do, they contacted regular volunteers and Leah's therapists to get material for the submission letter.  I have since seen everyone's submission material and it literally brought me to tears.  They were so nice and heartfelt and I couldn't believe everyone noticed all the little things I do and would take the time to write about it.  Also, they made me tired because I really don't think about things I do, I just do them!  You can read the letter here.

Well, that letter got me into the top 100 moms!  They called to tell my cousin and I the news on a Sunday night. The next day I was doing a phone interview with a producer to fact check/make sure I'm a real person/see if I pass on to the next round.  I passed!  Next up was the day of filming.  A small crew (1 camera guy and 1 producer) were flown here 2 days later to film a day in my life.  Eek!  I was so nervous my stomach hurt.  They filmed from 5am (to get me running- embarrassing!) to 8pm and really got a typical day in my life.  They were nice and did not intrude on our routine.  My cousin, Dave, and I were all interviewed separately.  Dave said he "rocked" his interview.  I suffered through mine.  The kids were curious about the cameras but did really well that day.  The camera hog was definitely Allison. She showed off new words and animal sounds and dance moves we've never seen!  Really, I've never seen her act like she did for that camera.  We had to wait 2 weeks to see if I made the top 15 semi-finalists.  I found out like everyone else- watching it on TV.  

Once named a semi-finalists, the show was calling everyday to set up travel arrangements just in case.  Of course, I had many concerns and questions about bringing our whole crew to NYC.  Dave and I decided then that he and Leah would stay home no matter what.  Her doctors agreed that was best as well.  3 days after being named a semi-finalist, the finalists were announced on air.  My surprise was spoiled by the producers calling me too early (they forgot I was in a different time zone), but it was still exciting!!  I won't lie, that was an intense day.  I thought my phone was going to explode with the texts, calls, emails, etc.  Between the notifications and trying to negotiate the trip and set up fill in help, I was so overwhelmed.  That night my mom and I went out to find  matching outfits for the kids (as requested by the show) and to go "shop" through my friend's closet for my TV wardrobe.  Luckily, both ventures were successful!

I had one day to pack and prep (which I insisted on) then my mom and I were off to NYC.  I will say it was fun to have drivers pick us up and not worry about making any arrangements.  We got to our hotel at 11pm Sunday night.  Monday morning we were picked up at 7am and off to the show.  I went to hair and make up (which was AMAZING) and had a quick coaching session.  I was very glad I had the coaching!  I got to practice my whole segment a few times which helped me because I was SO nervous.  My legs were literally shaking.  They kept everyone separate, so I did not get to meet anyone famous- what you saw on TV was what I saw.  The interview was over before I knew it!  As soon as they cut to commercial, we took pictures with the trophy and I was whisked away back to the hotel.  My mom and I had 2 hours of down time, so we walked around Times Square (where we stayed) and grabbed a quick lunch.  Then it was back to Houston! 
I still can't believe this is a real picture!

The Unstoppable Mom Team- they made me look good!
Had to grab a slice during our quick down time
 I had Tuesday to pack up everyone and mentally prepare for the next leg of the adventure.  The mini bus picked us up at 5am Wednesday morning.  "Us" included me, my parents, my cousin Holly, and all the kids except Leah.  The kids traveled in their jammies which was much easier than messing with complete outfits.  I was able to borrow 2 double strollers and use my single umbrella stroller.  The hotel had 4 pack n plays so I only had to bring one of those.  The worst part was the car seats!  Each kid had their own seat on the airplane and required a car seat.  Lugging those things around was awful- between finding a cart to carry them to figuring out how to properly install them on the airplane and buses to storing them in the hotel room-  But, of course we absolutely needed them.  The crews on our Southwest Airlines flights were wonderful!  So helpful.  Actually the passengers were all nice too!  In the Houston airport the kids were easily entertained by watching planes through the windows.  On the flight they weren't that bad- definitely some fussiness off and on throughout the flight, but nothing horrible.  I had packed books and snacks for entertainment.  I had 2 kids in my row and the other adults had one kid plus a brave stranger.  On the way back they were much worse.  The boys cried the entire flight and Caroline got airsick a few times.  A few of the passengers offered to walk them up and down the aisle, but that doesn't work well once the other kids see the one getting walked.  I felt bad for everyone around us, but we all survived.

While the family was in NYC, my cousin Heather (the official submitter) met us there so we did have an adult per child :)  Unfortunately, the weather was awful so we stayed in the hotel the entire time.  But the kids didn't mind!  They loved being in their jammies, looking out the window or mirror, jumping on the bed, sitting in suitcases, and watching TV.  We even had a play date in our room with a family friend who lives in NYC now- so fun!  The hotel room situation was: my cousins in a room and me, my parents, and my kids all in one room.  We had to stack furniture to fit 5 pack n plays.  The kids could see us at all times, so the sleeping was hit-or-miss to put it nicely.    That Friday morning we were picked up bright and early for the show.  I had hair and make up again (yea!!) and we all hung out in the green room where they had plenty of food for us and even a bubble gun for the kids!  I had a chance to meet the other finalists and they were all wonderful!  Honestly some of the nicest people I've ever met.  As with Monday, the actual show part was super quick.  We all went out there and they announced the winner and took some group pictures and it was over.  I was not surprised I did not win, but I was surprised by the consolation prize!  As soon as the show was over we were whisked back to the hotel, had an hour to pack up, then off to the airport.  The NYC airport was trickier to navigate with our massive amount of stuff and harder to find helpful people, but we eventually made it to the gate.  With plenty of time to kill and no good plane viewing windows, we were singing, walking, reading, and snacking until flight time.  Luckily the people around us found us entertaining and even joined in on the kid songs and games :)  And as I mentioned before, it just went downhill once we were on the plane.  Exhaustion definitely set in for all of us.  We were all glad to be back home that night and say we successfully got 5 toddlers to and from NYC!  And now that I have my trophy at home I am officially an Unstoppable Mom :)
Hotel room fun with Caroline

How the kiddos ate in the hotel room

Voting time for the adults and Mickey Mouse time for kids

Leah and Dave watching from home

Me and my real trophy
I would like to end with sincerely thanking everyone who voted and spread the word about the contest.  Overwhelming would be an understatement.  I thought my phone and facebook would just shut down with the amount of traffic on voting day.  I never dreamed so many people would be so supportive of me and my family.  I am one very blessed lady and I have no doubt about that :)