Monday, December 31, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas

Another Christmas is in the books!  On Christmas Eve, I feel like I'm a high school student frantically finishing up a test, quickly marking the last few rectangles on my Scantron and hoping it turns out okay.  It's a great feeling, though, when you can just simply celebrate Christ's birth with your extended family.  No more shopping or baking or cleaning...just enjoying.  So here are some snapshots from our family's Christmas celebration.  

Two days before Christmas, we had the Olsons and Moores over at our house for some hot chocolate and goodies.  Calvin and his cousin, Nolan, enjoyed videos on the computer.  I love this picture!
The next day, we enjoyed Christmas Eve Mass at Little Flower, then headed over to the home of Perry's sister, Carolyn, for a fantastic meal and lots of unwrapping of presents.  

Here is my handsome little guy, Calvin.  I cannot believe how grown up he is.  I long for the days when he was a baby, but I truly LOVE this age.  He is so entertaining!
Perry was in charge of photo-taking on this night.  He didn't take many pictures...sorry!  Here is Calvin opening the present that sat under our tree for a LOOOOONG time.  He wanted to open that present so badly.  It's a Hot Wheels race track and garage that he has played with nonstop since we got home.

Grandpa Jim looks on while the gifts are opened. pictures of Natalie from that night!  Luckily, every Olson is armed with a camera at all times, so there are many pictures out there, just not on my computer at the moment.

So, that night, we packed up the van and headed north to Sherwood to celebrate Christmas Day with the Millers.  

That morning, Calvin discovered his new kitchen left behind by Mr. Claus.  He loved it, but the most coveted gift of all was a xylophone left for his cousin, Stella.  Typical.  

Ahhhh, Christmas morning in Sherwood.  It's hard for me to imagine not being there every year.  After a few minutes of playing with the "Santa toys," Calvin, Stella, and Harper ran in to Grandma and Papa's room, yelling and shining a flashlight in their faces.  They should know better than to try and sleep in on Christmas morning.

Finally!  A picture of Natalie, who made out like a bandit on always.  

My favorite gift for her is this beautiful little pearl necklace that was given to my mom when she was a little girl by her Aunt Elsie.  It fits Natalie's tiny little neck perfectly.  Natalie looks half asleep, but it's just because I always seem to get pictures of her with her eyes mid-blink.  No matter how many pictures I take, 80% of them turn out like this!

More gift opening with Daddy...

I love Harper's hair in this picture.  She is such a little sweetheart!

Play food for Calvin's kitchen set.  I now regret purchasing a set with 125 pieces.

Calvin's new nighttime buddy, Biscuit.  He's in love.

Harper and her daddy (my brother, Steve).

Apparently, my dad likes booze.  He's stocked up for a good two weeks now.  Just kidding, Dad.

Calvin ate approximately 16 pieces of banana bread before breakfast even began.

Cars...Calvin's one true love.

My favorite part of the day...Christmas Day breakfast.  My mom is the best cook in the world.  Seriously.

Post-unwrapping rest time.  Being in Sherwood is great because Daddy is with us ALL work and no refereeing.

That night, the kids were all about playing with the new kitchen set.  

Brother and sister, enjoying Christmas Day together.  Next year, we'll have a 9 month old to add to the pictures.  That seems so strange to me!  Life just keeps getting better every day.

Merry Christmas from the Olsons!  
Our Christmas tree, 2012.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mommy Guilt

I think every parent...mommies especially...wrestles with guilt.  It's the guilt of feeling you're not there enough for your child, or that you're not doing enough to educate your child, or that you're not providing your child with enough fun experiences.  Warranted or not, feeling this guilt is part of being a parent.

Beyond this typical guilt, I tackle many more fears of inadequacy...and I know I'm not alone.  Being the parent of a special needs child is not easy.  There have been many studies conducted regarding the divorce rates among parents of children with disabilities.  Some may be exaggerated, but there's no doubt that raising a special needs child is stressful on a marriage.  It can either drive you apart or bring you closer than you ever could have been before that child was born.  Luckily, Perry and I fall into the latter category.

It's easy to look at Natalie's beautiful smile and be so thankful that she has brought so many wonderful things into our lives.
What's not so easy is remembering the circumstances of her birth, and wondering if I could have done more to keep her inside for longer than 28 weeks.  
Maybe if I hadn't walked from the bed to the bathroom so much while on bed rest, the cervical stitch would have held longer.  Maybe I was the one who passed on the virus that caused her to get so deathly ill in the NICU.
And maybe I should have been more aware that the cervical stitch wasn't the cure for us after losing our first child.

Not to take away from the wonderful care Natalie received at Trinity by an amazing staff, but what if we had elected to have her in Minneapolis instead of Minot from the very beginning?  We would have had quicker access to the treatment that saved her life.  Would that have made a difference?

Then there's the guilt of watching your child go through surgery.  Natalie's NICU roommate in Minneapolis has just finished his 19th surgery in his six years of life.  NINETEEN!  Can you imagine what it must be like for Carter and his parents?  
I am so thankful for the beautiful little girl Natalie is today, but she deals with seizures and spasticity.  It's not easy to witness.

I often think about how different Natalie would look if she were able to walk and talk.  What would her voice sound like?  I CANNOT wait until the day we meet in heaven and I can see her as a child without any disabilities, and she can SEE me.  I want her life to be pain-free.
My current guilt is regarding having another child.  Will this take away from my time with her?  She always has to be my #1 priority in life.  I'm her primary caregiver and likely will be forever.  I'm glad she will have brothers who will be there if something ever happens to me or Perry, but the fact is, she is like a newborn, too.  I just have to keep my head up and believe that this is what is best for her, and we're lucky that we can even have children brought to full term now.  It has all happened for a reason.  

Okay, enough guilt for today.  I'll save the rest for another day!    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hi There, Baby!

Ahhh...I love this view.  I love sitting here at night, when the kids and husband are in bed, and feeling Baby Olson kick and bounce around like crazy.  Being pregnant is awesome.

What's even better is being pregnant again.  I'm about 23 weeks into it now, and I'm almost ashamed to say I haven't purchased a single item for this baby.  Seriously.  Not even a sleeper.  At first, I was waiting to find out the gender, but now that I know...I still haven't found anything that interests me.  Maybe I'm just too busy to worry about stuff like that, or maybe I just realize that babies require far less than we believe they do.

Perry and I have already agreed that the biggest waste of space piece of furniture is a changing table.  That won't re-enter our house this time around.

I am pretty excited to go through all of Calvin's baby clothes.  I'm fairly certain there are a few sleepers that were never used, so I'll make sure to put them on our new baby boy.

I feel like we've gotten the most crucial roadblock out of the way:  we've chosen a name...and even his middle name!  Choosing a name for a boy isn't easy, but this time, we've had many names we both liked.  There is always the possibility that it could change, but I got a strange sign last night that told me we have picked the right name.  I'll tell you what it was after he's born.

My favorite pastime now is watching A Baby Story on TLC.  I mainly like watching it to laugh at first time moms and their lofty expectations of if you really have any control over it.  Ha!

I can tell you right now that I am terrified of the impending C-section.  I remember telling myself after Calvin was born that we wouldn't have another until I could forget how horrible it is to have a C-section.  Yes, there's a baby to be excited about, but C-sections hurt.  It's not fun.  So, I must have forgotten at the time.  I remember now.  Ugh.

Luckily, I have 16 weeks to think about it.  ;)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Cookies

*I posted this on an old blog I used to update, but have since discontinued.  My sister-in-law requested the recipe, so here it is...THE SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE!*

I'm probably best known for my frosted sugar cookies. Let's get one thing straight: the sugar cookies are all about the frosting. The cookie is simply the vehicle for creamy, buttery frosting. I wonder how many sugar cookies I've cut out over the years??? I make pumpkins for Halloween and candy canes, bells, trees, angels, etc. for Christmas. The funny thing is, I never grow tired of it. Maybe it's because I know everyone loves them. That's the wonderful thing about baking...everyone loves makes people happy.
Here are my secrets for irresistible sugar cookies:

1. Roll out the dough THICK. I'd say it's about 1/4 inch. You may make fewer cookies from the batch, but they're better cookies, because they end up being soft and chewy instead of crispy.

2. Take the cookies out BEFORE they start to brown around the edges. They may seem like they're not done, but they are. I always know the cookies are ready to come out of the oven because the dough goes from shiny to dull. The cookies will bake a bit more on the pan outside of the oven before you remove them to a wire rack.

3. Almond extract in the frosting. Forget vanilla. Almond extract makes all the difference in the world.

4. Butter. Do people seriously still use margarine in anything?

Sugar Cookies for Cutouts
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream together:
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine mixtures and roll into two separate balls. Chill for two hours. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. (Every oven is different---take my advice from above for doneness.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Halfway There

We're halfway there!  Are you kidding me?  I've figured out the key to speeding up a pregnancy, and that's by having other children first.  I no longer have all day to think about what's going on in my belly, and if it weren't for that growing belly, I would forget I'm pregnant altogether!

Today, we hit 20 weeks...and this week is a BIG one.  On Wednesday, we finally get to find out if it's a boy or a girl!  Perry and I have never had any desire to wait it out and find out in the operating/delivery room.  I love when people insist that we're spoiling the surprise.  It's a surprise at 20 weeks, just as it is at 39 weeks.  I'm not quite sure why any mother would want to torture herself with wondering about the gender when you don't have to, but that's just my opinion.

At 20 weeks, I'm starting to get some intense cravings...luckily my cravings are typically things that Perry dislikes, so I don't have to worry about him eating it all first.  I'm talking about all of the wonderful things in life, like sauerkraut, horseradish, peanut butter, and pistachio ice cream.

Back to the gender issue...Calvin changes his mind every day about whether it's a boy or a girl.  Perry and I both think boy, but it seems everyone else says girl.  The good thing is, we have a girl and a boy name picked out already.  Boy names are difficult, but I think we've found a winner.  So now we have the problem that one of the names won't be used...and that makes me sad!

We'll find out which name is the winner on Wednesday.

Time for some pistachio ice cream.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tomorrow IS another day...

I'm not going to lie...last night was a very sad night in this household.  I tossed and turned most of the night, and eventually crawled in bed with Calvin just so I could see him.  It's my children whom I worry about the most.  What are we leaving for them?  How much debt will they be in charge of paying back to China?  What kind of lives will they lead?  

But today is another day and the truth is, we must suffer through another four years of a president who is more worried about being the most popular guy in school than actually solving the problem of a scary amount of debt facing our nation.  It's called a budget, Mr. President.  I have to set one for my family, and since you're using our money, we'd appreciate it if you'd attempt something that at least people in your own party could support.

I could go on forever, but here's what bothers me most as I log onto Facebook this morning and see the various status updates.  People who support the president are asking me to support him as well, if only with prayers.  They beg for Republicans to work together with the president to solve the problems of the country.  

Here is what I say:

I will not pray for the president.  I will pray for him to not run this country into the ground.  I will not use my time in prayer to support a man who is ready to trample all over my religious rights and the views of my church in order to make sure every woman in the country has her birth control paid in full.  That is disgusting.  I don't think a man who won his position back by demonizing a good and decent man who has been successful in life because of hard work is one who represents my values.  The public bashing of President Bush has not stopped yet, so I don't think there's any reason for me to grow fond of President Obama anytime soon.

I also don't think it's necessary for a Republican-run House of Representatives to work with President Obama to achieve his socialist goals.  The House of Representatives is a true representation of this country.  California isn't blue, it's blue and red...New York isn't blue, it's blue and red.  It allows citizens everywhere to have more of a say in what happens to this country.  Harry Reid recently said it was "laughable" that democrats would work with a President Romney.  So please don't tell me that democrats are all about reaching across the aisle.  I pray that republicans will stand their ground against the out of control spending that is happening in our country right now.  

I'm sad that our country missed out on a man who has proven himself to be able to FIX things.  He knows business and he knows how to create jobs.  He had no intention of restricting access to birth control or banishing gay people from the military.  I am sad that so many people cannot find jobs across this country and must resort to unemployment checks and food stamps.  No one should live like that.

I'm grateful that I live in a state where our economy and our budget reserves (oil boom or not) are in great shape and have been for a long time.  I wish Washington D.C. would take some pointers from us. I'm grateful that people in my state work hard and provide food for the nation and the world.  

You don't have to agree with my views, I know...but I'm still the same person I've always been, so if you liked me before, I hope you'll like me still.  I have many friends with a liberal point of view, and I respect their beliefs, but I won't compromise my values for the sake of "getting along."  It's just not in me!  

Rubio 2016.  :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Mommy...I'm THREE!"

I love this little boy so much.  
I love him so much, I feel like he's getting annoyed with how often I hug and kiss him.  He's sweet, he's funny, he's playful, and he's loving.  And now...he's THREE!

Calvin loves to go golfing with his daddy, so he was really excited about having a golfing party!  I had fun coming up with some golf-themed cakes.  Calvin approved.  I'm happy.
What a lucky little guy...he got to open up a lot of really fun presents, including a new set of golf clubs. Too bad winter is approaching...or is it here already?  Anyway, summer will be here before we know it.  Perry can't wait to get him back out on the golf course!
Time to blow out the THREE big candles...and EAT CAKE!
So here is what Calvin is like at three years old...

Favorite food (other than chocolate): oatmeal
Favorite TV show:  Doc McStuffins
Favorite sayings:  "Of course."  "Wellll, kinda..."
Favorite song:  (still...ugh)  Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Favorite book:  Everyone Poops and Ice Cream Bear

Calvin loves to talk on the phone, play Disney games on the computer, text Daddy, play any kind of sport, paint pictures, sing, watch Tutitu on YouTube (google it), ride his tricycle, vacuum, ride in his car, read books, and PLAY, PLAY, PLAY.  He's on the go all of the time.  I love his energy.

There are so many things to love about Calvin, but what I've come to love the most is his compassion.  He may be a rough and tumble little boy, but around Natalie, he is the sweetest, gentlest child.

The other day, as I was washing dishes, I turned around to find Calvin sitting on the couch with Natalie...
He had Natalie's hand in his own, helping her do a tracing game on the iPad.  He was so gentle and talked so sweetly to her.  I'm so glad I had the camera close at hand.  He loves to sit next to Nat and put his arm around her.  He hugs and kisses her and talks to her softly.  It's a joy watching them grow up together, and I can't wait to see how adding another child will change the dynamic in our home.

One more thing to add to this long post...

Some of you may know that Natalie was not our first child.  On November 3rd, 2005, our first daughter, Cheryl Lori was born far too early.  She passed away at birth.  It's hard to believe that she would be 7 years old.  I can tell you that not ONE single day has gone by that I haven't thought of her.  There is always something in my day that reminds me of her and brings a smile to my face or a tear to my eye.  I am comforted knowing that she is in the Lord's arms, but I can't wait until the day that I can hold her myself, something I never got to do in the hospital.

Calvin shares his big sister's birthday of November 3rd, turning a sad day into a very happy one for our family.  His due date was November 10th, but we had to schedule the C-section for 39 weeks.  How amazing that it just so happened to be his sister's birthday.

So Happy Birthday to my two beautiful children.  I'm the luckiest mommy on the planet.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from my little astronaut and fairy!

It was good to be back at home this Halloween!  We didn't have a ton of trick-or-treaters, but the few we had made it feel a little bit more like normal around here.  

I have to admit, I was a little worried we wouldn't be able to get Calvin into a costume.  For some strange reason, he at least pretended to be scared of wearing ANY costume on Halloween.  After days of unsuccessfully bribing him with candy, he finally tried on his costume at the request of his beloved cousin, Stella.  

He still wasn't too sure about it.  

But Halloween rolled around, and with the promise of a pail full of candy, he put it on again.  Victory!  

The first order of business was to paint the pumpkins we picked out at the pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago.  Calvin loves to paint---and Natalie had fun, too!

We had planned to go trick-or-treating around our neighborhood, but unfortunately it was just too cold and windy for Natalie.  Luckily, Minot has a great indoor event at the MSU Dome...

Waiting in line with sissy...CHEESE! 
Natalie doesn't look too thrilled, but she loved it!
(It's hard to capture her smiles on camera!)
Calvin wasn't too sure about all of the costumes, but he loved the candy!
Vegetables?  I don't eat vegetables.
Unless they're mashed potatoes.
The best part?  We were home by 6:00 and Calvin got to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters.  He really wanted all of them to come in and play with him in his room, but eventually he learned that his job was to open the door and hand out candy.  

We hope you all had a fun Halloween!

Next up...Calvin's birthday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Birthday Girl!

There she is--our beautiful little six year old!  Natalie turned six years old yesterday, the 22nd of October.  It's impossible to believe it's been six years since she made her quiet little entry into this world.
Six years old seems so...old.  She's not a baby girl anymore, she's my big girl.  So this year, I decided to make a big girl pretty cake for my princess.
Atop her head, you will notice a pretty pink party hat.  That was a gift from Natalie's great grandma Beatrice.  She's worn it every year except for last year, when we hadn't moved back into our house just yet.  I love that hat!
Time to open presents...Natalie got tons of pretty clothes and other gifts.  Lucky girl!

Of course, her FAVORITE thing in the world is her daddy!

But the gifts are pretty nice, too!
Time to blow out the candles, and the kids love that Natalie can't do it on her own.  They're always more than willing to help out! 
At six years old, Natalie has come a long way.  Some people may feel badly about the fact that she doesn't walk or talk and needs complete care from us.  I don't look at it that way at all.  Look at this beautiful face...
Natalie can smile.  She has the most beautiful blue eyes, and although she can't see, I feel like she sees me.  She can express when she's unhappy, too.  I know if she's hungry or needs a new diaper.  I've always felt (quite selfishly) that Natalie, as a handicapped child, is a gift to me from the Lord.  She has made me a better, more selfless person.  I don't sweat the small stuff in life anymore.  Natalie is a constant reminder that it's not all about me.

We're so thankful for the six years we've had with Natalie...when I say she defied all odds to be with us, I'm not kidding.  The odds were always against her...but here she is today, a beautiful young girl who brightens our lives.  Happy Birthday, Natalie Beatrice Olson!