Beginning a New Chapter

This new chapter in our lives has been a lonnnngggg time in the making. John starts full time with the post office on May 3! We're in our 11th year waiting, so our house is jumping for joy!

This means we finally get the benefits that come with his job at the post office, which are pretty darn fabulous, like most government jobs. Exciting stuff! Not to mention the pay raise. Hallelujah!

On a not so exciting note, we had another miscarriage this month. I'm beyond the point where we can beat around the bush about things like this. I'm fine, we're fine - It's just part of the journey.  This was another very early miscarriage, and unfortunately or fortunately these become easier and easier to deal with emotionally. I'm more sad that we didn't even really get excited. There are no celebrations when we get positive pregnancy tests anymore. That part kinda stinks, but I also know that it is God's way of guarding my heart.  I would like your prayers, though. This one has been harder on my body. Very draining and achy physically. I haven't even told anyone but John. I just don't like or want to talk about it. (It's WAY more fun to talk about the cute antics of my TWO year old.)  There's no good way to start this conversation. The benefit of living in this generation is taking early pregnancy tests. The downfall is taking early pregnancy tests. Twenty years ago I would have assumed it was just a two-week late period. Like I said, we're fine. Honestly.  Just needed to get that off my chest.

So if you are keeping track, here's what's happened so far:
BFP #1 - EDD March 4, 2011. MC. DNC August 2011.
BFP #2 - EDD March 4, 2012. Arleigh Olivia was born February 15, 2012.
BFP #3 - EDD January 17, 2014. MC at 7 Weeks.
BFP #4 - EDD December 27, 2014. MC at 6 Weeks.

Back to the fun stuff. I am excited about seeing what is next for our family. We've got our three year plan in motion to save, sell the house and make a decision about private or public school for AO. To my surprise, GORDO public high school has higher 11th grade test scores than any of the public city or county schools in Tuscaloosa. (Yes, I'm the nerd who makes spreadsheets from the data on greatschools.org.)  So the big debate of the moment in the Mansell house - do we relocate to Gordo or stay in Tuscaloosa and do private school?

The other option is moving to Gordo is doing PA, where my first two "nieces" Libby and Millie attend.  Lots of decision making and porch night conversations! Gordo is only a 25 minute drive from my office in Northport, which is quicker than the 40 minutes it takes me to get home in Hillcrest. The traffic on 69 south is HORRID! It would be a longer jaunt for Johnboy (40 minutes compared to his current 7), so we're still weighing all the pros and cons.   John would like AO to start and stay at the same school. I'm fine making changes up to about second grade. I'm a little concerned about the future in Gordo, but currently they seem to be doing a fantastic job. OF COURSE I will keep a check on these until we make a decision, but it's exciting to think that we are almost there!

I really have an old fixer-upper in my head, which is pretty much the only options if we head west. Or we can build, but the fixer-upper charm has my pinterest boards on FIRE.  The fact that we would be 45 minutes closer to my family, right near with John's, and about 15 minutes from my Aunt and Danielle, are HUGE factors in my mind. There is something about small town charm that is appealing.  And room for chickens. Who doesn't love chickens!!!!

It's a big time at the Mansells! Now I'm going back to pinning! :-)


Spring Break

We had a ball spring break. As a working Mama, I couldn't take the whole week off, but we made the most of it. I've joked all day that I went back to work for a BREAK!

AO has been in school since she was teee-tiny. I bawled my eyes out when I left her at school the first time. By the end of the first school year, I was CRYING because I didn't want her to leave her teachers. Her teachers were just that great. She's a social, happy kid. She loves, loves, loves school.

Now that she's two, Mama's new job is chief entertaining committee.  I cram every available Mommy & family time into the bits and pieces we get together. Last week for spring break was Camp Arleigh.

Just so you can get a feel for our life - here's what went down.

Sunday - Cooked breakfast (FROM SCRATCH), John and I kept AO's class at church. Came home, fed John's parents pot roast, dill potatoes, deviled eggs, fresh asparagus, carrots, and my new favorite, mashed cauliflower. Homemade strawberry muffins with coconut whipped cream for dessert.  AO played outside, got muddy, took a bath, then we fed my parents the leftovers for supper. AO left with my parents to head to Columbus for a couple of nights.

Monday was a blur - we didn't have AO, so I folded clothes for three hours without a toddler, and John did the three loads of dishes that came with Sunday's homemade cooking and feeding a small army. We did grill out and have a mini date night with no kiddo. AO had Libby, Millie and Alexa for entertainment at O's.

Tuesday - after work, I headed straight to Columbus. No romantic anniversary plans for the Mansell clan.  I Spent the night with Nano and Poppy to start my spring break.

Wednesday - we picked up breakfast for us, Swayze and Nano and headed to Swayze's for a cousin playdate with Nano and Poppy. Watched Frozen for the first time. Left around lunch time and drove back to Gordo. Picked up AO lunch and she ate at JuJu's and Papa's house. AO helped (entertained) JuJu in her store. Then we went to visit John's grandparents, MawMaw and PawPaw that afternoon. Grocery shopping, then home to crash.

Thursday - we got up early and did the Zoo in Birmingham with NanO and Lib and MC. It's a fantastic zoo. However, I will never make the mistake of a spring break trip again. It was insanely crowded, and I don't think the zoo was prepared for all of the people. We had to wait in massive lines for everything. Even the windows and exhibits were backed up  3-4 people deep. But, AO loved it. She rode the camel with Nano, rode the train and carousel, and got to see the giraffes. She fed birds nectar and got up super close to a tiger. It was a great trip. We had the "big sisters" Libby and Millie as our guides and nannies.  We made a quick stop to California Pizza Kitchen at the Summit for a snack, then went on home. Thursday evening, Lib and MC entertained AO while John grilled us burgers. AO crashed, and we stayed up late watching Frozen. :-) (Catching the pattern?)

Friday morning - after cinnamon rolls, eggs and two packs of smithfield bacon, we watched Frozen again. Who am I kidding? It was on repeat ALL morning!  Then we loaded up at 9:30 and took Clarence to the vet in the pouring rain. After Clarence's check up, we came home and got ready to go to town. We went to Target and the girls helped me gather up AO's Easter basket treats. We ate lunch at Taco Casa, blared our new Frozen soundtrack, and went and ate yogurt at Yogurt in Love. Did a little monogramming, and my Libs and MC headed back to their Mama.

Saturday - I attempted to clean up. My sweet husband spent Thursday, his off day cleaning house, and me and my girls made one BIG mess of his hard work. After lunch, AO and I piled up with Aunt BB to run errands. Michaels, the pet store and Target again. Fun stuff! Can you tell we like shopping? Then we dropped BB (Aunt Beth, our neighbor) at home and out we went again to go grocery shopping. We grilled out Saturday night while AO played in the water and made mud pies. (Yes, I know it was WAY too cold, but I had no luck convincing my toddler of my case.) That night, I killed my first snake at our Moonlight Drive house.

Sunday - we skipped church and got lunch ready for the Sunday lunch with the inlaws. Bacon wrapped grilled pork chops, big salad, baked purple potatoes, asparagus, wheat rolls and fruit salad. Sunday afternoon the boys put together AO's swingset from Santa, and AO & I went shopping with JuJu.  We picked up a few things at Walmart and Dollar Tree, then came home. AO played outside ALL AFTERNOON. Making mud soup and sliding. She had two baths before 5 PM. She had visits from BB, and Brooke & Drew. Then another bath time, a lunchable for supper and straight to bed.

I'm tired just thinking about it all. Somewhere in the middle of all that, we had a sing off complete with microphones, made playdoh princess dresses, had an impromptu baseball game and painted our toe nails.

The reason I list it all is this: I work. But I also work really hard at creating memories for me and my family. We aren't at a point in our life where I could stay home. And truthfully - I wouldn't want to stay home.  But don't knock me for saying it out loud.  When I'm with AO, I'm really WITH her. I may not text you back. I may not answer you call.  It's all the time I get, so we pack it in!  I know we both have our limits. She loves school and her friends. Why in the world would I want to take that away from her? Even if I stayed at home, I would send her to school. Because she needs it. It fits her personality. She's happy and extremely well adjusted.  Of course I have my moments where I want more time.  I have a small slice of me that could stay home and do this around the clock.  Or maybe its' just that I want to have a day where I can stay in my PJs. But that's not us. Not now anyway. She's an on-the-go busybody who never slows down.   My point - love all Mamas. It's a hard call to figure out the juggling life that is family. There's no way it has to be done.  I keep going back to something my daddy-in-law said before we had AO. I was just certain how everything was going to be and how it was going to be done. He said to throw it all out the window. Parenthood is NEVER like you have it imagined in your head. If you just let go and roll with the punches, you will be much happier. Throw all the "have to do it this way" out the window and just let them be kids. Cold water for mud pies doesn't give them a snotty nose, it's a virus. Just let them be kids. Let them get dirty. Don't freak when they bust their lip for the 5th time in a month by jumping off the concrete steps. They'll survive.

The most important think I'm learning - when you need to step away, STEP AWAY. Not just in those seconds where you threaten to beat their hineys black and blue with the spankin' spoon for not listening to their mama. I step away to the real job. To grown up time in a grown up world. It makes me cherish my spring break vacation days that much more. It's a lot sweeter when you know it's all you get.

Just don't say -  "she's not going to remember any of this."  Well guess what folks, I will remember. I'm not sure when this notion started that you make memories for your kids to have and hold. You have kids to make memories for yourself. So if you want to slide, roll in the grass and make mud pies or buy purple potatoes because that's the color of the week, JUST DO IT. :-)