I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…

Ask forgiveness, not permission. ♥

I am nothing if not determined.

As many of you may know, I happen to live in Texas. Central Texas, to be more exact. In saying that, you can probably understand that surviving the brutally hot and humid summertime months is challenging, at best. However, we seem to have been granted a temporary respite from the blazing inferno that is the month of August. Which is why, this year, I’m having a hard time cruelly labeling August as the Armpit of the Calendar Year. The reason for this is quite simple: OH MY HECK IT’S CURRENTLY ONLY 65 DEGREES OUTSIDE.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yesterday was August 1 and do you know what the high temperature was? 89 FREAKING DEGREES! Do you know what the average high temperature is on August 1, in the Austin-ish, Texas area? NOT 89 DEGREES! The average temp is actually damn near 100!

Do you know what this means? OF COURSE NOT! SO LEMME TELL YOU. This means that it would be absolutely CRIMINAL to not take FULL advantage of this witchcraft and sorcery by running my ass off (literally!).

So, that’s my plan. I’m going to run as much as possible until the inevitable August heat returns (much sooner than later, I am certain). Yesterday, I got my butt out of bed at around 6:30 a.m. to pound the pavement. This morning, I ventured out at around 5:45 a.m. to do the same thing (even though I only managed about 3.5 hours of sleep last night – UGH).

This month, my mantra is “NO EXCUSES.” I have decided that I’m going to push myself really hard this month, if only to see just how much I can accomplish over a span of exactly 31 days. And I FULLY intend on keeping track of what progress may come. This is going to be hard, interesting, and probably a little fun. So watch out, y’all. I’m coming through!

How does she do it?

The majority of my mom friends only have one or two children. So whenever we get together and/or have a chance to talk, it’s inevitable that they remark about how much more I have to handle and deal with.

And it’s true. Having 5 children certainly does make for more chaos! I just brush these comments off though because little do they know that I have a handful of secrets to manage the stress. Most moms with less than 2 or 3 children will not understand these methods, and that’s OK. Moms of 4 (or more) will totally get this. There are numerous issues I encounter while trying to get through my day. These issues include:

    1. Idle hands spend time doing terrible toddler things (e.g., picking their nose, putting their hands in their diaper, dumping cat food into the cats’ water bowl).
    1. When toddlers step out of line, the punishment must be swift and harsh.
    1. When toddlers do good work, the reward must also be swift (and sometimes harsh).
  • The following are 4 of my secrets for getting through the day without beginning to drink at 8:45 a.m.

    Secret #1: Your 2-year-old is more capable than you think:
    Put their incessant energy to good use by making them perform the household chores that you hate. For example, let your toddler wash their own bottles. In addition, have them finish up the leftover dishes from the previous night’s dinner.

    Also, cleanliness is next to godliness, so have them wash their hands repeatedly. This is a double bonus, because they will have relatively clean hands (for a couple of minutes) and they find this exercise enjoyable.

    Secret #2: 2-year-olds are excellent at doing laundry:
    Here you can see Coraline cleaning out the lint filter. Another double bonus, because the lint problem gets taken care of and thoroughly punishes the toddler who has just spent 20 minutes washing her hands.

    Secret #3: Your 1-year-old is more capable than you think:
    For example, Halsey does an excellent job of (re)formatting his father’s Kindle.

    Also, they say a 1-year-old’s mouth is cleaner than a dog’s, so let him disinfect those germ-ridden game controllers.

    When your 1-year-old does his chores appropriately, a suitable reward is letting him play with plastic bags.

    However, when your 1-year-old tries to run from helping fold laundry…

    Suitable punishments include making him smash his own fingers in the kitchen hand towel drawer:

    Locking him in a dark bathroom:

    Making him watch TV from outside of the family room gate:

    One item of importance is making sure your 2-year-old doesn’t get lazy. You’ve got to make her sharpen her incredible gymnastic skills.

    Also, you can’t let your toddler get too comfortable. A good way to keep them in line is making them nap without their favourite blanket. Note the look of glee on my 2-year-old’s face. She clearly enjoys my creative methods for compliance.

    Secret #4: Your cat can actually be helpful:

    Here is Lieutenant Clawhugs reporting for duty.

    He helps by using his entire furry body to dust off the kitchen table.

    Cats are also excellent inspectors.

    In fact, cats are very thorough inspectors.

    Once your cat is done inspecting your toddler’s work, he’ll likely want to take a break by laying on a clean kitchen towel. (This is because cats are notoriously lazy.)

    At least he makes up for his laziness by voicing his complaints. (Cats hate the paparazzi.)

    CPS – Round 1

    There isn’t much that I won’t write about or at least share my point of view on; however, one very serious issue that I’ve chosen not to publicly voice is our family’s involvement with the Texas Department of Child Protective Services. The reasons for this are plentiful, but the primary reason I’ve not posted anything about this boils down to one issue: shame.

    Well, I’m tired of feeling ashamed. So here goes.

    Our first round with CPS in the state of Texas stemmed from my induction with Halsey. I was originally scheduled to be induced with him on March 28, 2012, and upon my admittance to Cedar Park Regional Medical Center I was given a drug test. Of course, they didn’t tell me that the urine sample they requested was being used for this purpose (not that I had anything to hide). You see, I took copious amounts of narcotics for the majority of my pregnancy (as well as with my two prior pregnancies) due to a relatively uncommon pregnancy issue called Pubic Symphysis Diastasis. Make no mistake – my OBGYN, as well as my pain management doctor were well aware of my narcotics usage. In fact, they were the doctors who prescribed said narcotics. So, it makes sense that I would come up “dirty” for opioids. Only, I came up “dirty” for amphetamines as well. When the nurse asked me why that would be, I couldn’t explain it. Until we started going over every. single. pill. I had ingested in the last week. And that’s when we figured it out. The culprit? Completely legal, no prescription required, 12-hour Sudafed. A medication my OBGYN said was perfect acceptable to take, especially since it was springtime in Central Texas. No harm, no foul, right? So, when I went in for my second induction attempt (the original induction obviously did not go as planned), I made damn sure to let them know that I had taken Sudafed so we could bypass that whole issue when my urine was tested upon my second admittance. And not a word was said about it. Until 48 or so hours later, as I was holding my newborn son in the NICU of another hospital, when CPS came knocking (literally) on the door to his NICU room.

    My son was born perfectly healthy, mind you. But because I was on (legally prescribed) narcotics during my pregnancy, they decided to transfer him to another hospital (CPRMC did not have a NICU at that time) for “observation” for neonatal abstinence syndrome. The reasons the hospital staff gave us varied due to whomever happened to be on shift but we were told it was because he “seemed fussier than most babies” and because he sneezed “a lot.” Needless to say, my husband and I disagreed wholeheartedly, but we were forced to have him placed in the NICU because we were warned that we “didn’t want CPS to get involved.” Yet, CPS came knocking anyway. There are a handful of times that a new mother is at her weakest, and I’d venture to say that immediately after giving birth is one of them. So we did the only thing we could think of and complied 100% with the investigation. This meant answering their questions for several hours while being forcibly detained in the hospital’s NICU, agreeing to allow CPS to interview our other children in our home, allowing CPS to photograph our newborn and 1-year-old, allowing CPS to photograph our home, and agreeing to the release of medical records for myself and all of our children. The reason we were given for why we were being investigated? My positive drug test for “amphetamines.”

    Then, we waited. For almost 2 months we heard nothing, until I received a phone call from the CPS worker (Christine Smith) who called to let me know that she was “wrapping up” the investigation but wanted to ask me “a few more questions” about the medications I was currently on. Specifically, she wanted to know whether I was still taking narcotics since I was no longer pregnant. When I answered her honestly and told her that I was, she questioned why since the condition I was taking it for “should have resolved itself.” By that point, I had to seriously bite my tongue and not begin to question the medical degree she did not possess because I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the closure of our investigation. She concluded our phone call by asking me to take another drug test “prior to closing the case.” At this point we had done everything CPS had asked of us; however, for me it was the last straw. It’s hard enough to accept having to take pain medication while pregnant, but for this holier-than-thou case worker to make me feel like I was doing something wrong…something illegal was enough for me. Closing the case be damned, I politely refused. I was tired of feeling persecuted for pursuing professional help for my medical needs. Further, I failed to see how my taking narcotics had anything to do with the investigation, since the reason we were given for the investigation in the first place was my positive drug test for “amphetamines.”

    A few weeks later I received a letter in the mail from CPS with the results of the investigation. All allegations, each and every one of them were completely ruled out. This conclusion means that CPS has

    “determined that it is reasonable to conclude that the abuse or neglect has not occurred based on the information that is available.”

    This also means that based on the outcome of the investigation, I have the legal right to request the disposal of the records; however, they can (and will! – more about that in Part 3) keep the records on file for up to 18 months. If anyone is interested in reading the case worker’s report (rife with outright lies), you can see it here.

    And that, was that. Until CPS came knocking again.

    This Is Love ♥

    (From left to right: the Middle, a Little, and a Biggle)

    Better late than never.

    My oldest boy turned 12 years old (born on the 4th of July!), the other day. Rather than just slapping on a normal gift tag, I decided to create one, specially for him. I went through hundreds of pictures in order to add a picture from every single birthiversary he’s had so far.

    Sadly, I realized that I have zero pictures from his 4th birthday (because his 4th birthiversary just so happened to be celebrated while he lived in England with his father, so naturally, I never received any pictures – if there even were any). Sidenote: Additionally, I found that for his 5th birthiversary celebration (also, while he lived with his father in England), I received a total of 3 pictures of his celebration, and (again), zero pictures of this 6th birthiversary. (If you guessed it was because he was still living with his father, you’d be absolutely correct.) /sidenote.

    Regardless of this, I still managed to create this, something that I, myself, was proud of. I’m happy to report that Todd really enjoyed it too. So much so, that he wants me to reprint it so I can frame it and hang it in his room.

    Happy 12th Birthiversary, Todd. I love you more than you will ever be able to measure. ♥

    Things I Found While Eff’ing Around – Volume 3

    I got this idea after reading a couple of my favourite blogs. It’s really just a list of a handful of websites that I’ve visited on my travel through the internets that I thought you might like. So, without further ado, I present to you…

    Things I Found While Eff’ing Around
    (all links will open in a new window)

    13 Amazing Uses for WD-40

    In 2010 alone, more than 3,400 button battery swallowing cases were reported in the U.S., resulting in 19 serious injuries and in some cases, deaths. Get the facts here.

    Giant bat farts. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re hoping it is.

    The science of storytelling.

    Studies raise questions about the safety of personal lubricants.

    It’s all fun and games until CPS shows up.

    Test your social intelligence. It’s for SCIENCE!

    Mind. Blown.

    A project dedicated to land snails of Texas. Add your own observations here.

    The Honest Toddler

    Don’t get dead out there! Instructions for making a glow stick alarm.

    A narrated App of Sleep. Bonus link to the author’s website here.

    Amazing and stunning works of art that aren’t photographs.

    I’ve always been fascinated by linguistics. In fact, a game I like playing (it makes an especially fun ice-breaker!) starts with compiling a list of 20-30 words that have different pronunciations (depending on what part of the country you’re from). The list is then provided and everyone takes turns saying each word out loud. OK, so when I type it all out like this, it sounds really nerdy and lame. Oh, well.
    22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other.

    Things I Found While Eff’ing Around – Volume 2

    I got this idea after reading a couple of my favourite blogs. It’s really just a list of a handful of websites that I’ve visited on my travel through the internets that I thought you might like. So, without further ado, I present to you…

    Things I Found While Eff’ing Around
    (all links will open in a new window)

    I *LOVE* this and I SO MUCH WANT: Brit Kits!

    Bunny loves his balloon. This is full of TEH CUTENESS! (And of course there’s a remix!)

    One of the best nature specials I’ve seen in a while.

    Henri. Oui. Oui. Oui.

    My husband sent me this link that was originally shared by a family member on Facebook. I’m still very much *not* OK with respect to my labour and delivery experience I had with our last child, Halsey. After reading this, it brought back aLOT of traumatic emotions from that day, but the message needs to be read, understood, and OB/GYNs need to take serious, SERIOUS notice here. (In fact, I’m thinking about emailing it to my former OB/GYN.) Top Ten Signs Your Doctor Is Planning To Perform an Unnecessary Cesarean Section on You.

    Another something from my husband: What is your immediate reaction when you see this? Mine too! I know a certain someone Santa will be leaving this for! (Update: We actually got this for Glynnis as a stocking stuffer this past Christmas.) [;

    And one more item from my husband: Israel, all your base are belong to us.

    And last, but not least, a Calvin and Hobbes search engine.


    Overheard in the Household – Volume 4

    From several weeks ago:
    Logan: Julie, you’re pulling my leg off!

    Another “conversation” later that same day:
    Logan: Julie, you knocked my shirt off.
    Me: Do you mean, you knocked my socks off?
    Logan: (Muttering under his breath as he walked away.) Yeah, you knocked my sock off.

    An Open Letter to Coraline “Jones” Dukes

    Today, you turned 2 years old. I am both astounded and horrified that you’re already another year older.

    Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve had a 2 year old that I wholeheartedly believe that you are an absolute genius. (Or, it may just be because I’m your mother.) Let me list the ways:

    • You know and regularly use close to 200 “signs” (in American Sign Language).
    • You know your colours (although you still get pink and purple confused sometimes) and can sign them all.
    • You can count to 10, both out loud and with sign language.
    • You recognize all of the letters of the alphabet, along with their respective signs.
    • You are already an amazing gymnast. You regularly climb on top of your little car all the way up to the handlebars, then proceed to balance yourself on the handlebars on the tiptoes of ONE FOOT, just to reach things we intentionally try to keep out of your reach. (Like the television remote, wet wipes, vodka, whatever.)
    • You idolize your big brothers. You always walk around the house asking (i.e., yelling) for Todd while he is at school during the day. You get so happy when you see him walk through the door because you know that means it’s time to play. You do the same thing with Logan.
    • You are an incredible climber! More than once I’ve caught you sitting in the middle of the kitchen table because you’ve climbed up onto a dining room chair to reach the table’s surface. (Our kitchen table approximately 4.5 feet tall.)
  • At your party today, you single-handedly astounded Great Papa by counting to 10 out loud. You shocked Papa and Gramom by naming all of the coloured polka dots on the wrapping paper your gift was in. You made Great Grandmama laugh at the way you are so particular sometimes (OK, all the time).

    But here’s the news of today’s heartbreak: When I came to scoop you up out of bed first thing this morning, instead of allowing me to do so, you threw your leg over the bar of your crib and shimmied down to the floor, all on your own. It was gut-wrenching to witness this, but it was also incredible to see how confident you are in all of your amazing, glorious, precocious, 2-year-old self.

    I couldn’t be any prouder or more awestruck at how lucky we are to have you as our daughter.

    I love you fiercely, Coraline Grayson Dukes. Happy 2nd Birthiversary.