Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year from the Campbells

I have seriously neglected my blog this semester, but I'm hoping I will resume blogging regularly in 2013!
As I reflect on 2012, I feel a mixture of sadness and excitement as it ends. 2012 was a difficult year, but our little Campbell family experienced so much joy as well. Here is our recap of 2012
In May, Murad passed his licensure exam and is now a licensed master social worker! This was truly an exciting day for him and his hard work paid off tremendously. Since earning his license, Murad switched careers and is now a hospice social worker. Working in palliatative care can be exhausting, but Murad is gifted in his care of individuals and families experiencing this difficult time in life. Murad has also become more active in social and professional groups around Dallas. He enjoys the opportunities given to him to network and volunteer in our community
In May, I also experienced a career change as I left K-12 public school teaching after seven years. While I enjoyed enriching the lives of young folks each year, my passion changed once I became a mom. Not wanting to be far from education, I now teach developmental writing part-time at a community college, and serve as a teaching assistant for an online university. In addition to that, I started a small resume-writing service. Working from home and part-time has allowed me to spend more time at home with Joel while still keeping my foot in the door career-wise.
This year also marked a big change for me as I did the "BIG CHOP!" I had been going natural for almost two years, but having long, curly hair was not for me! I was forunate enough to have the support and encouragement of my husband when I decided to do it!
Well, Joely had an exciting year as well. In February, he was kicked out of daycare. Yes! You read correctly. At first, we were bummed, but we later figured out that his care-providers were not as compotent as we thought. He now is with Rebecca who is wonderful! I had the pleasure of teaching Rebecca's children years ago. Her son Austin is a freshman at Richland College and her daughter Shelby is a freshman at Berkner High School. Shelby often baby-sits for us on date-nights too. Both "kids" are the kind of children who make parents proud! While with Rebecca, Joel has mastered baby-sign language and is now beginning to talk. Rebecca also takes Joely to a preschool program called "Gym Dandies," and he loves it!
In May, we celebrated Joel's first birthday with two birthday parties!!! His New Jersey grandparents hosted a baseball themed party in their home, and we hosted a Sesame Street themed party in our home. Both parties were amazing!
Since entering his 2nd year, we have seen more of Joely's little personality come out--good and bad! He imitates his father, but loves on me! He is obsessed with Sampson & Maya. He imitates their growling, tries to eat their food, gets in the cage with them, kicks them and chases them. Fortunately, they love him too. I think our neglected pups are just glad to get some attention again! Since the weather is cooler, I've started walking with them.
What is in store for 2013? Murad will continue working as a social worker. I will change gears a bit and teach developmental reading for a small, Christian university. Joely will turn two (help!). Sampson and Maya might get a break from Joely once he figures out that he's not a dog! We plan to travel and hopefully do some remodeling on our home. We are looking forward to the new year!
Happy New Year from the Campbells!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

things for which I'm thankful

I think the word "family" gets thrown around loosely. Recently, I've seen how members in my own family have hurt each other. As a result, I have been hurt too by "family." I've seen "family" put their own morals above family. I had a family member who completely shut me out of her life. She refuses to speak to me and I don't know why. I've seen family espouse hate each and everyday. Their statuses, likes and comments on Facebook just scream hatred and ignorance.

Luckily, Murad and I live far away from both of our families, so little Joel isn't exposed to all of that, but it still hurts. What do we tell him about why he doesn't see or talk to those people? I dunno. It's hard to know how to do what's right especially when everyone is doing wrong.

Instead of focusing on that, I want to focus on the good I have in my life and what I get to share with Joely.

1. My parents instilled in Ryan and I a desire to do well for ourselves. Education was so important to them and not going to college wasn't an option. I realize there are many who are not that fortunate. My parents made sure we got good grades and had the resources to complete our school work. My parents worked hard so that we could go to college. I am thankful that Joel will be raised in a home in which both his parents have advanced degrees.
2. I'm thankful for the relationships Murad and I have with our siblings. I hope Joel will be close to his future siblings and that he looks to us to model that with our own siblings. I also hope that he has a good relationship with his sister Abby.
3. I'm thankful that Joel will be raised in a loving faithful, two-parent household. Joel won't ever have to worry about whether or not his parents love each other. I'm thankful he'll have us as models. I'm thankful that I can have a career and stay home with him.
4. I'm thankful that my parents and brother loved the friends I brought to our house. No matter who they were, my parents were accepting of them. As a result, we love everyone in our house. While I'm far from it, I try to be Christ-like in my interactions with others. I always want to offer help rather than hate.
5. I'm thankful for the relationship I have with Jesus. I'm thankful that my parents made sure that we were part of a community of faith. I'm thankful that one year ago, Murad and I vowed to do the same for Joel.

Those are the morals and values I hope to pass on to Joel. Education, Family, Friends and Faith.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

this is love

I'm sick. I hate it. My Sam is sick too. Today was not a good day. Runny nose, headache, etc.

The bright spot in my day happened early and then everything went down hill.

I was Joely's room picking up stuff. He ran over to me, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a big ole' kiss! He's never done that before. He usually pushes me away from him. He must've known I needed that today. It was perfect. It was everything parenting is supposed to be. He really loves me.

this is love.

of course, I proceeded to attack him with hugs and kisses (I hope I didn't get him sick too). Gosh, I love this little boy. Temper tantrums and all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm a model (and you know what I mean!)

"And I do my little turn on the catwalk!"

I know every mom thinks her child is the cutest person ever. I really do think this about Joel. I am pretty obnoxious in how much I love his face, his hands, his everything. Murad and I pretty much marvel everyday at how cute he is, and how he has the ability to look exactly like us and nothing like us at all. Each night, I sneak into his room to watch him sleep. I've never been so in love.

I am and I am not surprised that others find Joel to be as cute as a button. In fact, we've decided to capitalize on it! Okay, that sounds really bad, but it's not. I entered him into a local modeling search back in May. He was called up for his first photo shoot earlier this month. We'll find out soon if he's in the ad. I'm posting some pics from his first shoot. I need to pick 3-4 pictures to make a comp card (think: model business card). If you have opinions, please help! If this whole modeling thing takes off, we plan to only do it for a short time. We really just want to get some more money for college. Plus, one of my former students begged me not to let Joely become a male model. "Mrs. Campbell, please don't let your son become a male model. They're like the biggest douches." I ignored the fact that he used the term douche. Nevertheless, I don't want Joel to be a "douche."

I have really enjoyed watching Joel this summer. Like I mentioned, he finally made it to the big boy car seat. He now weighs 20 lbs and is 29.5 inches in length. His feet reach the foot rest on his high chair. If I put my purse on my shoulder or head towards the back door, he instantly starts w

aving. He's figured out that if he does something bad or has something he's not supposed to, that he should run. He hides behind me if the dogs are playing or up barking, but if they're sleeping on the floor, he pokes and pats them. He's starting to say "thank you," although it's more like "dank koo."

This weekend we headed to Once Upon a Child and for $20 we got 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 shirts and 2 pajamas! We also discovered that daddy's favorite ice place is coming to Plano! Yep! Philly-famous Rita's Italian Ice has a location in Allen, TX and there is one coming to Plano soon. We made two trips to Rita's this past weekend.

We have been doing lots of Olympics-watching as well. I will say that having a kiddo puts a damper on watching the Olympics. Joel will watch a few sports, but he mostly wants to play. That's okay, I need to get up off the couch and play!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Who convinced me to move to Texas? It's so hot! I'm allergic to grass. In fact, I think my allergies have increased since moving here. West Nile mosquitoes are out like crazy!!!

Joel and I have been trying to beat the heat. It was difficult a couple of weeks ago when our air conditioner went out and Miss Rebecca (his sitter) was out of town. We have stayed cool though, and Sonic Happy Hour is mama's BFF!

We love going to the mall play place. Joel really loves to climb the play place blocks. I was surprised that he was able to do that especially since he just started walking last month. He's so active!

We like to go to story time at the local library. At first, Joel did not do too well. All he wanted to do was run around and scream. He quickly changed his tune. He knows to sit right in mama's lap, clap his hands and listen to the songs. He even is starting to recognize some of the barnyard puppets. His favorite thing is the bubble machine at the end. He goes crazy! I love the story time because the families there are so multicultural. We mostly see Asian, Indian, African,Arab and Caucasian families. I am a little bummed that there aren't more African-American and Hispanic families there. I guess that kind of goes with the territory of where we live.

Last week my friend brought over some yummy veggies from her mom's garden. We used the tomatoes to make pasta sauce. We used the potato, green onion, and green pepper to slow cook with chicken, chicken stock and cream of chicken for a yummy soup.

We love summer seasonal veggies. Today I made a pasta bake with whole wheat pasta, cream cheese, pesto, chicken, zucchini, corn and Parmesan, mozzarella and fontina cheeses. So delicious! I think both dishes would go well with the fall weather.

We've had lots of visitors the summers and some people move to North Texas. We've had lots of changes, but we've made it through them. Right now we're dealing with my grandmother and her health. Without disclosing too much, but please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

As August approaches, I remind myself how lucky I am not to have to return to traditional work this fall. I try to take time to remind myself of this when I get frustrated with Joel or I'm feeling less independent.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cooking for a toddler

Like most toddlers, Joel absolutely loves finger foods. If I'd let him, he'd eat Cheerios all day. The only food he'll eat spoon-fed is yogurt. I'm so thankful for The Baby & Toddler Cookbook. It really is a book that the entire family can use.

Yesterday I made Lasagna Roll-ups and Tomato-Veggie Sauce. I've never seen Joel eat so many! I had to cut them into small pieces for him. Warning: eating them can be a little messy! (or a lot messy!)

Tomato Veggie sauce

1 small carrot (chopped)
1 small zucchini (finely chopped)
1/2 small red bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
1/2 yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup of Veggie Stock (or Chicken Stock)

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small roast pan combine carrot, zucchini and bell pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 table spoon of Olive Oil Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender 20-25 minutes

while vegetables are roasting, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. add tomatoes and broth, stir to mix well and simmer gently uncovered until the sauce thickens slightly 15-20 minutes. Add roasted veggies to the sauce.

Let the sauce cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor or blender. Process to a smooth or coarse puree (depending on your toddler)

Lasagna Roll-ups
6 dried whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive Oil for greasing
1 cup Tomato-Veggie sauce, warmed
MAKES 12 roll-ups

preheat broiler. Bring a large pot 3/4 of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente (8 minutes) Transfer to a colander and rinse under cool water. Lay flat on kitchen towel to drain and cool
add the spinach to the boiling water and cook until wilted. Drain in the colander and then squeeze spinach to remove as much water. chop coarsely. in a large bowl combine spinach ricotta and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.
lightly oil an 8 inch flame-proof baking dish. cut lasagna in half crosswise. Place 1 lasagna noodle half on a clean work space. Spread thin layer of spinach-ricotta mixture evenly over the noodle. Roll up noodle to enclose the filling, then place, seam side in the prepared baking dish. repeat with remaining noodles, placing the roll-ups snugly together.
Sprinkle remainder of mozzarella cheese onto the roll-ups. Broil until cheese on top is melted and the filling and noodles are heated through (3-5 minutes).

Click here

for a Weight Watcher's version

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oh, Joel!

I really think one is the new two, or two is really, really bad! Joel started walking on Tuesday (yay!). The bad part was that Murad was out of town on business and missed it. Fortunately, we drove up to OKC to see him, and my parents met us there as well. It was too hot to really do anything, but my parents were satisfied with watching their grandson play.

Joel is becoming quite his own person in good ways and in bad. He's definitely testing our limits and challenging us. Murad has to remind me not to overeact to his behavior because he'll learn that negative behavior receives attention. So, I've been trying to change my reactions. Instead of saying no when he grabs something he's not supposed to have, I reach for it and say, "thank you." He really likes that. Instead of screaming no when I see him putting dog food in his mouth, I've taught him to "feed" the dogs.

Joel also loves to fall out on the floor when he doesn't get his way. Sometimes he even puts his hands over his face. It's quite amusing and super annoying at the same time. This kid, man. I tell ya!

The cutest and scariest thing he did was on Friday. I let the dogs back in the house from going to the bathroom. Joel saw this and raced out the door to climb in the baby pool. I see why they warn people to gate their "big" pools. He was so determined and made it there. Anytime we walk past that darn pool, Joel looks at it longingly. I feel like he's plotting little ways to jump out of my arms and make his way to the pool. The kid has no fear, I tell ya!

I will say that Joel's listening during storytime has improved. Yesterday we read a book about Ernie and Joel sat through the entire 3 minutes and listened. After that, he pulled out every book from the book bin. Fun times, right?

Tomorrow we are heading to Joel's first modeling shoot! I signed up for one of those model searches back in May. Joel took some pretty good, but I hadn't heard back from them, so I just figured I'd wasted $40. Well, we got an email on Thursday for a fall/Halloween shoot. We'll see how he does!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Debbie's Sugar Cookies

I know it's hotter than Hades outside, but who doesn't love homemade sugar cookies? Murad is out of town, so I whipped up a batch to bring to him. Joel and I are going to meet him there (OKC) and meet up with Nana and Papa (my parents) for lunch! How fun will that be?

Here's the recipe:
2 eggs (cage-free)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of shortening (I substituted with coconut oil)
1 bag of Debbie's Sugar cookie mix

I switched from using traditional shortening to coconut oil after reading up on it on Food Babe's website.
Coconut oil is the star of these cookies. Coconut oil was deemed horrible for you and your heart years ago when scientists didn’t understand how this saturated fat worked in the body. Since then, they now understand that coconut oil is made up of “medium chain” fatty acids and contain lauric acid that actually prevent your body from absorbing the cholesterol from the fat and actually help improve cholesterol levels already in the body. These also play a huge role in improving your metabolism (i.e. weight loss!) by removing stress from the pancreas and promote better digestion by helping your gut fight bacteria and fungus.

I love Debbie's stuff, especially her Dr. Pepper cake mix. She is in Dublin, TX, where the world-famous Dr. Pepper Museum is located, but I've found most of her stuff at local farmer's markets. Definitely need to have the DP cake if you haven't already!

Monday, June 25, 2012

some updates

I realize I have not uploaded pictures from Joel's 2nd 1st birthday party, but I promise I will soon! Things have been rather busy around here. After his 2nd birthday party, we discovered that we have a leak in our toilet that will cost around $300 to fix. Murad left the following weekend for his little brother's high school graduation (little brother will attend Dodge City (KS) Community College this fall) in North Carolina. While Murad was gone Joel not only got strep throat, but he also had hand, foot and mouth! Not fun! In fact, it sucked because I had a ton of mother/son stuff planned that we could not do. We were basically quarantined.

The following weekend wasn't too busy, but Joel was running a fever (teething)and basically causing himself to vomit because he was chewing on his fingers too hard. Thankfully, we have a possible cure for this teething mess. Ugh! Besides that, we had a sitter Saturday night so that we could attend a surprise wedding. On Sunday, we went to the farmer's market to get some fruit and veggies for the juicer. That's all Murad wanted was fruit and veggies to make juice. Most of my friends' husbands want to brew beer, but my husband wants to make juice! We also grilled the yummy steaks Murad got from the butcher shop and I served them with red potatoes and squash
This past weekend we dog-sat for Murad's coworker. It was nice to have a little dog around the house, especially a cuddler! We also celebrated my friend's daughter's 4th birthday. She goes to the same sitter as Joel and they're pretty much like brother and sister.
I think I've gotten out of my post-job depression. I think I was just worried about finances and the reality that I will probably never work in the traditional sense again. People keep asking/suggesting that I'll return to teaching, but I actually like this new life. While I worry about finances, God has shown us some amazing things in the past few weeks that let me know I made the right decision. Joining my moms group at the hospital has helped tremendously, as has meeting up with other moms. I make it a point to get out of the house each and every day. For now, the plan is to still send Joel to the sitter twice a week. I think it's important for him to still go there and it's a nice break (yeah, right) for me. I usually spend the time working on resumes, cover letters and other things for Ashlea Campbell Writing. I just signed up to be part of a scriptwriting crew for a movie, so I know I'll definitely need those two days.

When I have Joel home our days are like this:
6:00am first alarm goes off for me to wake up Murad
6:30am 2nd alarm goes off for me to wake Murad; Joel gets up and starts beating on the wall
7:00am Joel eats breakfast--usually he eats a handful of Cheerios and barley cereal with a fruit smoothie. Today he had Cheerios and eggs. Sometimes he'll eat yogurt. It's just whatever I can get him to eat.
7:30am we get dressed and he "brushes" his teeth
8:00am he plays with his toys for an hour or so or we read (for like 10 minutes)
9:00am we go on a walk
10:00am we go to a mom's group or story time at the library or to the play place at the mall
12:00pm lunch time - the other day we had leftovers (fiesta chicken and rice), crackers and yogurt. Joel usually drinks whole milk or juice too.
1:00pm Joel goes down for a nap and I get some work down
3:00pm Joel wakes up and eats a snack
3:30-5:00pm play time until daddy gets home
5:00-5:30pm play time with daddy
5:30pm -6:00pm daddy feeds Joel (if he'll eat. he's not big on dinner)
6:00pm - bathtime
6:30pm lights out

So, I know weeks ago I was all moping around because Joel is no longer a baby, but I want to share some things that I absolutely love about him in this toddler-phase!
- Joel loves to dance. All you have to do is say the word "dance" and he's ready to go. Today I picked him up from Rebecca's and they were watching Ellen. Mama Becca (his sitter) goes, "we're just trying to learn how to dance." Joel instantly started dancing. his whole face lights up when he dances.
-Joel doesn't like to sit in a wet diaper. He tugs at it when he wants me to change him. He will, however, sit in a shitty diaper if I let him (which I don't). He has no shame in his stinkiness!
-Joel uses his middle finger to point. at. everything. and. everyone.
-Joel has started initiating peek-a-boo. He hides behind a wall and then pops out and looks at one of us. He then does it again and again. His giggle is just so cute when he does it. He seriously has the best belly laugh.
-Joel loves to be chased. I think it's because he thinks he's a dog.
-Joel thinks he's a dog. he tries to eat out of their bowls. He climbs in their cage. he tries to engage them in play. I think this is part of the reason why he isn't walking yet! LOL
-Joel has taken a few steps here and there. It's fun to watch him get all excited about it!
-Joel has smiles just for me. Joel loves, loves, loves to play with his daddy. They're like best buds. He wants to do everything Murad does. Yesterday, I came inside to get a towel while he and Murad were in the baby pool. I just looked out the window and watched them play. Joel kept looking at me in the window. The smile on his face was priceless and it was all for me. it was like he was saying, "look at me, mommy. I'm your big boy!" No matter how big he gets, he'll always be my sweet bub! He's just too precious.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Am I that friend?

Towards the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, I just stopped listening and caring. A lot of it was that had to do with my cousin's death. I had to do it in order to snap out of my depression and prepare for my upcoming wedding. I had to be happy in order to celebrate, what would be at the time, the most important day of my life.

I realize that I sort of continued this today. I noticed that I'm quick to cut people off because I don't want to get too deep. I even do it to my husband sometimes. I get annoyed when people try to confide in me. I hate that I feel that way.

Recently, I discovered that my cousin is getting married towards the end of the month. I guess I just stopped caring enough to miss this one too. What should be the happiest day of her life is being marred by family members and "friends" who don't agree with her lifestyle. When she told me this, I was angry with them all. My cousin reminded me that I shouldn't be angry with them, but to love them. They're our family. She's right. I guess I'm just more mad at myself. I think I was too focused on not getting upset, not getting hurt and not feeling as sad as I did in November of 2008. I avoided it all. I've avoided lots of important people in my life because I want to remain "happy."

I've become that friend. That self-absorbed friend. Well, I'm working on fixing that. I've walked around here for the last week in a funk. I've been depressed. I don't know if it's because Joel is growing up. I don't know if it's because when I resigned from my job, I lost part of my identity. I'm no longer a teacher. Who am I? Murad thinks I put too much energy into being the perfect mother to Joel and that I need to take more time for myself. He's probably right, but I don't think that will solve it all.

Either way, I know that the way to get out of this funk is not to throw a pity party for myself, but support others. I have so many blessings in my life and so much love to share. I need to take time to listen to others and learn from them too. This is my mid-year resolution! I don't want to be that friend! I want to be that awesome wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

There goes my baby...

First, let me state that I love having a toddler. I will say that I did break down and cry most of the afternoon after installing Joel's big boy car seat. I guess that was just the last part of babyness, and now it's gone. I've been celebrating Joely turning one for the past two and a half weeks, so I haven't had much time to reflect on how I'm feeling. With all the traveling and visitors, I've been preoccupied.

I know they all say don't blink, but I really just blinked and Joel turned into this one year old who doesn't need me. I will say that Joel has always been a pretty independent baby. Aside from feeding and changing, he didn't need much. He wasn't colicky and we caught on quickly to everything we taught him. I remember holding him and wondering what his little personality would be like in a year. Well, now we're here and I can't help but miss my bundle of joy.

I wish I could relive the sleepless nights, the nursing, the frustration and confusion. I wish I could smell my son and get that sweet baby smell. I wish I could nurse him. I just want to relive all things baby.

I realize that is impossible, so besides pouring over the millions of pictures and videos I took, I want to focus on all things "right now." I will focus on how Joel giggles when wrestling with his daddy. He always seems so tired, but he goes back for more. Joel really took to whole milk and no longer drinks out of a bottle, and for that I'm thankful. Joel's favorite thing to do is open and close doors. In fact, he's figured out how to unlock and open the dogs' cage. I love that Joely points with his middle finger. It's like he's already giving a big "EFF YOU!" to the world! Joel still loves vegetables. In fact, he loves to eat zucchini like chips. If you're talking on the phone or talking to someone else, Joel will join the conversation. Joel will play with anyone, but he doesn't always realize that he's smaller than kids and way bigger than little babies. He also doesn't really like when other kids take his toys. In fact, he could care less about his toys most days, but let someone else play with them and he gets mad!

See why I love this little guy? Soon this will all be a memory. When that happens I will shed tears just as I did today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Steve & Janell's wedding

We traveled to Philadelphia over Memorial Weekend for Steve and Janell's wedding. They were married on the UPenn Campus right in front of the LOVE sign. The colors were a stunning combination of navy and yellow. Murad served as a groomsman, and me...well, I sort of made the most of the day on my own. I got ready in the bride's room, but instead of heading over in the limo, I tagged along with the photographers who gave me a quick tour of the campus. I got to snap a picture of the Skull and Bones symbol too. I love visiting campuses that are rich in history and this one had history oozing out of each building. While at the reception, Murad and I let loose...It was nice to be baby-free for the evening and get to dance, eat and drink! Woo-hoo!

Joely's first hair cut and NJ 1st birthday party

We traveled back to Philadelphia and NJ for Steve and Janell's wedding. While we were there, Joel received his first haircut at Yusef's Unique Cuts. Yusef is Murad's uncle. Murad's other uncle, Uthman, gave Joely his first haircut! What a special day it was for our family!
While in NJ, Murad's dad and stepmom threw Joely a baseball-themed party. Friends and family in the area gathered to celebrate our son. We all had fun! The atmosphere was lively and the conversation was good. Joely really enjoyed diving into his birthday cupcake! Murad and I got a little choked up at the sight of all these people showing up to celebrate Joel. It truly was a sight!

Joely is ONE! Oh, what fun!

On May 22nd, 2012 my baby boy turned one! I couldn't ask for a more perfect son, but I have to admit that I'm a little sad that he's turned one. I know we've been gone from infancy for a bit, but I do miss those days. I'm probably one of the few people who loved the sleepless nights, breastfeeding, crying and exhaustion. I miss those days of being confused and hopelessly in love with my boy. I miss the baby breath, the way his diapers smelled on his body, his widdle clothes, and his long locks of hair. Despite my resistance to him growing up, I do enjoy seeing more of his personality, witnessing his fearlessness and his curiosity, and watching him grow physically. He has brought so much joy to my life and his father's. We both agree that the best day of our lives so far was the day of his birth. Each day since has been a gift. A gift we don't deserve, but for which we're so thankful.

*Photo disclaimer: This photo was taken May 22nd, 2012 4:34am. His official birthday time!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Motherhood deterrent

I hate when mothers scare non-mothers away from parenthood. Recently, I was reading a friend's blog post and was saddened by what I read. My friend is totally geeked at the possibility of getting her dream Canon. She revealed this to a group of people and one of them, a mother, remarked that big purchases like that go to the side once you have kids....grrr...

I hate when people give such a negative view of motherhood. Now that I'm a mom, I want to share with the world just how great motherhood is. I choose to focus on the many positives rather than focus on the negatives. In fact, I choose to remedy the small negatives when I can.

When I first had Joely, I spent most of my money on him (still do). Recently, I realized that it's okay to spend money on myself. I think it's important to spoil myself with shopping trips for myself by myself.

I also regret putting off girls' trips and romantic getaways because I was nervous about leaving Joel. I know I'll get those opportunities again, but I think I seriously could've benefitted from a little rejuvenation.

I love being a mother. I love waking up to my smiling Joely. I love his little ornery crawl to the places he's not supposed to visit. I love that he thinks he's a dog. I love the way he shakes his little behind when he's naked and getting ready for a bath. I also love the father-son days. I love his nap-time. I love when he sleeps in (rare).

For me becoming a mom wasn't a big eye-opener. My mom was awesome, selfless and AMAZING! I always wanted to be like her. I've always wanted to be a mom. I've always wanted to sacrifice for my children. I've always wanted to give that unconditional love. I think one thing my mom did really well was balance. She was never into traveling, but my mom can shop. She loves to shop for others, but she always made sure to shop for what she loves. I think when we think that everything must go to our children, we lose sight of what's important: being well-rounded, happy mamas!

I love that he's sees me as mom, but I hope someday (when he's out of that self-absorbed stage) he'll see that I'm a person too.

So, all the single ladies (all the single ladies!) Being a mama is pretty darn awesome.

Friday, May 11, 2012

House Updates

We ended up using the new furniture money for other things like our trip to Philadelphia. We also need to buy Joel a new dresser next month, as he has way too many clothes to fit in his small changing table storage center. I still wanted to give the house an inexpensive face lift. Murad organized the our new roof, gutters and siding. That is all done and it looks great! I picked a red roof for our house. The beige one from before wasn't cutting it!

I bought an all-over stencil from Hobby Lobby for $17, used my brother-in-law's leftover Pebble Grey paint and bought some new paint supplies ($15) to paint a new design for the chair-rail/accent wall in the kitchen. It mimics the look of wallpaper, but it was so much easier and less mess. Plus, I can just paint over it in a few years if I get tired of it. I absolutely love it. It adds some pizzazz to that area!

Next week, I'm painting the dark wood paneling (leftover from the 70's) white. I think it will brighten up the family room especially since the only "windows" are the french doors that lead to the patio.

As soon as Joely starts walking, Murad and I are going to rip up the carpet in the family room and put in hardwood flooring. The hardwood will be kind of expensive, but we'll save money DIYing it.

Our New Life

As the school year winds down, I'm busier than ever. My grades for the community college are due Sunday and I have yet to do them. I'm in the middle of a training for one of my part-time jobs (more on that later). Tomorrow we head to a baby modeling casting call so that we can attempt to put some money away for Joel to attend college (don't modeling is not our only mode of saving for college). Our six year anniversary is next week. Joel turns one on the 22nd. We leave for Philadelphia a few days later where we will celebrate one Joel-birthday and friends' wedding. The school year will end and I will not only pack up my classroom for the summer, but I will pack up forever. Family will travel to Texas for Joel's birthday party (his 2nd one). whew. sounds like a lot, right? It is.
This has been our life for the past few months. I think we always have something. Up until May 1st, it was Murad studying, studying, studying, etc. He did a very good job of balancing his parental duties with studying, but I know it was draining. With his new ADHD medication, he was able to be more focused, but it drained him emotionally and physically. Luckily, he was able to find a dosage that works better so that he's not so tired, hungry and grouchy (yes. I said it!) I loved coming home and finding my honey-do list complete! On May 1st, Murad passed his LMSW exam. He is now a licensed master social worker. This means so many things for our family, but it means the most to my husband. It's the validation he needed to feel good about being a social worker. Getting his master's degree was a huge accomplishment, but you really can't do anything with the degree without the license (or at least make a decent living). Now, he has the opportunity to move up at work, take on PRN jobs or just look for a whole new job. He's got so many options and I think that's what he is really excited about, especially now that we have a family. For now, he's comfortable staying at his current job, especially since it is so flexible.

With his licensure, Murad really encouraged and supported me as I turned in my resignation. Prior to him obtaining his license, I felt a little apprehensive about resigning. I kept saying I was 90% sure. My biggest concerns were financial, but Murad kept telling me that we'd be fine no matter what. Over the past five months, we've just been thinking and praying hard on this. I've been unhappy at work for a while and it doesn't seem like things will get any better next fall. Our former daycare situation scarred us and left us feeling that Joel needs to be home with his parents more. We absolutely love his new sitter and feel as though he has grown so much as a result of her care; however, the selfish part of me wants more time with my boy. The mommy part of me thinks he needs to be with me more. Honestly, I just love spending every minute I can with him. Despite this, I know he needs regular interaction with other adults and children, so we plan to send him to his sitter's twice a week (or more).

I am sad about leaving teaching. I think about all the things I'll miss about being around kids all day and it makes me very, very sad. I think about the friends I've made while working, and I feel overwhelmed with sadness. I feel like I'm abandoning them. the students. my friends. When I think about all the fun things Joel and I will do, it makes it worth it. I smile just thinking about the days ahead. So, on Tuesday I told my principal I would not be coming back and today I turned in my resignation forms. My principal was not happy. In fact, I was shocked at how sad he was. I just have to remember that my family needs me and that I will be extremely happy.

We can afford for me to work part-time, so I plan to teach a couple of classes at the local community college in the evening. Despite this, I also signed up to TA at an online university to make some extra money. Of course, I'll still write. In fact, if writing goes well, I'll drop one of the other jobs. I just think with still having an outstanding hospital bill, saving for a new car, and maybe someday having another baby, it would be good to have a cushion. Plus, having a home comes with unexpected financial surprises and we have seriously depleted our vacation fund(this summer, we're leaving Joel with my parents for a couple of nights while we attend a wedding. I told Murad if all goes well, we could go on another cruise for our 4 year anniversary. gotta start saving now!)

I think the funny part is I'm not struggling with finding my new identity. I guess it's because I get to have the best of both worlds. I'll still get to work outside the home which is something I really want to do, but I'll get to experience being a SAHM. Growing up, my parents both worked full-time outside of the home. Because they worked opposite shifts, it never felt as though we were stuck in daycare. My mom was able to spend the mornings and early afternoons with us, while my dad was on evening and bedtime duty. My parents were always "there." This was something I didn't realize or never really thought about. I didn't realize how badly I wanted it for Joel. Thankfully, Murad wants that too. So now, in true Soup fashion, we are creating our own little culture. We're both still going after our career dreams and passions, but we're also shaping our lives around an important little guy: Joel!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Garden Gourmet Mac'n Cheese

Yesterday I went to the market to get some peaches to put in Joel's barley cereal. I try to go twice a month because the veggies are just so good there! My favorites are the sweet carrots, and Murad loves their giant green peppers. I also wanted to pick up some squash to make the dish I'm going to share below. Joely doesn't really eat baby food anymore, but we keep a few pouches on hand for quick lunches. The other day I was feeding him some baby food mac n' cheese. I was looking at the back of the pouch at the ingredients and thought, this would be good for adults to eat if it wasn't blended. His pouch listed squash, onions, cheddar cheese, heavy cream and macaroni as the ingredients. My mom had a recipe that had a yummy cheese sauce made of some of my favorite cheeses. So, I used that (and added canned chicken for my husband) to make the Garden Gourmet Mac n' Cheese! It was so yummy and filling. My husband loved it and asked for seconds. I'm so glad to have found Mac n' Cheese that is yummy and healthy. That means we won't have to rely on Kraft or Velveeta for Joel!

Garden Gourmet Mac n' Cheese
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/4 cup milk (I used plain Almond milk)
1 Tbsp instant minced onion
2 tsp dry mustard
1 lb mix of shredded cheddar cheese, fontina and feta
3 1/3 cups of cooked whole wheat macaroni
2 4.5 oz cans of organic chicken
1 cup of chopped sweet onion
1 1/2 cups of cubed, steamed yellow squash

Melt butter in skillet over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk. Add minced onion and mustard. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add cheese and let melt.

Combine macaroni, cheese sauce, squash, onion, and chicken in 1 1/2 quart greased baking dish. Bake on 350 for 35 minutes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mother Fears

Before having Joel, I didn't realize how scary being a mother would be day in and day out. In fact, I envisioned myself being this carefree mother who would let my baby fall down without worrying. I was determined to be the opposite of my mother.
That quickly changed when I was pregnant. First, I discovered that everything I did could possibly affect Joel. I was extremely careful about what I ate during those first twelve weeks. No turkey sandwiches, no weird cheeses, etc. Joel rarely let me eat my guilty pleasure...Chick-fil-A. Something about it (and most chicken) made him (me) nauseated. Unfortunately, my love for Chick-fil-A did not die after giving birth...
I was also so careful not to lift things. I just really wanted a healthy baby. I thought my worries would be gone after he was born. Boy, oh boy was I wrong. I remember crying in the closet for a week because I thought I was messing him up already. I find myself going through those panicky phases again.
The other day I watched a show on the ID channel. The ID channel is one of my guilty pleasures. I got hooked watching it in the wee hours of the night when nursing my son. Sometimes I would freak myself, but I still watched. Last night I watched an episode in which a mother sacrificed herself so that her kids could get to safety. She was kidnapped, raped and murdered. She did all the right things by leaving clues, calling 911 and screaming for help in public, but the 911 call center and police kind of dropped the ball.
I felt an extreme connection to this mother who I did not know. I would do anything to save Joel; however, I worry about what would happen if he did not have a mother? the woman's husband remarked that it was a blessing that their sons were too young to remember the ordeal, but also that it was a shame that they will not have any concrete memories of their mother. Things like that freak me out. I not only have to worry about his safety, but I also have to make sure I'm safe so that he has a mother.
That's one of the reasons why I'm so picky about what I feed Joel and my family. I know my friends don't understand how the queen of casseroles now prepares hearty, healthy meals. How the person who once bought one veggie once a month, now visits the farmer's market for fruit and veggies. How the person who used to live on Lean Cuisines, can no longer stand them. Yep. that's me. I I think it's great that my family is coming to see things the way I do, especially in regards to soy. Joel's pediatrician wanted us to switch him to soy formula, but we were reluctant. I've read so many bad things about soy and Murad and I have tried to exclude it as much as we can from our diet. I reluctantly put Joel on soy formula. It did not affect his spit-up as we thought. He grew out of the spit-up phase when he started crawling just as his dad did. We immediately put him back on regular formula and I'm so glad we did. It's one of those mother fears that I had and I wish I would've trusted my instincts instead of listening to what others thought was best. We love our pediatrician, so that is not to say that we don't trust her completely. I just think sometimes it's not all scientific.
Murad and I also try to avoid fast food. Of course, we have our weaknesses: Chipotle and Jimmy John's are the two we battle right now! I do not want us to become dependent on them. It makes me sad that fast food is so cheap and so many families have no choice but to rely on it. I feel like our nation does not do a good job of educating poor families on how to eat better.
Finally, GMO and GE foods are also on my list. I feel passionately that the government should provide labels for consumers. Many do not know which foods contain GMO and GE ingredients.
Why is this so important to me? Obviously, I want Joely to eat well, but it is also important for us to do the same. Remember how I said that I want Joel to have a mom (and dad)? This is why! We need to keep our bodies in tip-top condition. Food is one of those things that is easy to control. I want to lead a long, healthy life for myself and my family. I want Joel to know his mother.
My mom started reading The Ugly Truth by Robin O'Brien. I have not read it yet, but I follow her work closely. My mom was astonished by what she read. While we ate extremely healthy as children, my mom couldn't help but think that she made errors. She worries that the allergies we have may have been due to something we ate or that she ate while pregnant. While this may seem extreme, it's not. I've heard countless cases of children having ill effects due to eating McDonald's and soy.
As I learn more about the food industry, I'm sure I'll share more ramblings. Just know that my posts are out of love for my son and love for all children. I want to make all parents aware of food issues. I know I can't, but maybe some parent will stumble across this blog and learn something.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Joel One Year Photo Sneak "Pic"

A few pictures from our photo session with Novella Photography in Wichita, KS! Seriously in love with these photos!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Approaching one year

On Sunday, Joel turns eleven months. That means I will have one month left of babyhood with my bub. He's already showing signs of being a big boy. I find myself longing for the times when he was a sweet sleeping prince. In fact, last week Joel slept in our room while my mother-in-law and brother-in-law visited. We also bunked with him when we went to visit my parents for Easter. During both visits, Joel spent nights in our bed. Even though it was mighty uncomfortable, I was in heaven. He nestled his sweet, snuggly self in between his father and me. It brought me back to the summer when we first brought him in our bed. He wouldn't sleep well in his pack n' play. He'd stop breathing from time-to-time. In our bed, he found his rhythm. He was safe. Having him back here made me feel like he needed us again. He was no longer my independent big boy; he was my needy baby.
While those first few months were pure joy for me (besides the lack of sleep), they were torture for Murad. It took a bit of time for him to develop a strong bond with Joely. Now their bond is as strong as ever. So while I long for the days of infancy, Murad is enjoying this stage of rapid growth.
I find that as we approach one year, people are already asking if we're ready for another one. Even my level-headed dad asked when we were having number two (I think he just wants more grandchildren to spoil, and he knows he's not getting any out of my brother in the near future). The truth is, we don't know. I feel like with Joel we definitely knew we were ready for him. In fact, our desire to have Joel was so strong that we kind of jumped into it without considering all the factors. I wouldn't have it any other way though. I just wonder when that desire will come again. We go back in forth in our desire for another wee one. Three weeks ago we picked out prospective sibling names for Joel. We even discussed how we would make it work financially (something we never did when we decided to have Joel). Last week, we were convinced that we were one and done. We kind of go in cycles like that. Fortunately, our children-wanting cycles are the same. I also kind of feel like I'm being selfish for asking for another blessing. I don't think I fully grasped how wonderful Joel would be. I mean I had NO IDEA that he would be this awesome. I am so fascinated by him. I could sit for hours and watch him explore. I never knew what I was missing before he arrived. Do I deserve to experience another blessing? Am I just missing that new baby feeling? Why does Joel have to share? (I know. Who says that? Murad calls me a brat when I complain about having to share with my brother...and yes. I still complain!) I guess I'll never know. I think in this situation the answer won't be as clear as it was with Joel.
Even though it's not clear if Joel will have a younger sibling, I do know one thing: My little boy is growing up. It is bittersweet to watch him grow. I've never been more proud of his accomplishments and so heartbroken as well. I'll never get this year back. All I have are the thousands of photos and videos, millions of mental movies, and hundreds of tiny used clothes that let me know he was once a baby. Our living room is constantly covered in toys that Joel has thrown across the room. I remind myself that at one point, he could not throw. Each morning, he throws his food on the floor for the dogs; he could not do that before. I constantly look at his birth certificate to remind myself that a six pound baby did exist. As we approach one year, I remind myself that a baby once lived here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We turned 3!

Well, our marriage did! Yep. On Wednesday March 21st, 2012 we celebrated our three year anniversary. I didn't think it was possible to love Murad more than I did on that day 3 years ago, but I do! Sure there have been some bumps along the way, but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed each and every day with him.
In three years he's finally realized how important March Madness is to me. This year he even filled out a bracket and participated. That's love right there!
While being a parent isn't easy, I can honestly say sharing parenting duties with him is awesome. He's such a hands-on dad, and he makes sure I take care of myself. At the first sign of PPD, he was doing what he could to support me and urging me to contact my doctor. Even now, as I try to figure out what I want to be "when I grow up," he's supportive. I worry about finances, and he reminds me that we have a plan and that we'll be okay. He says, "we do things our own way, Ash."
And he's right...and that takes me back to our wedding (you knew I was going to find a way! to talk about that day). We really did do things our own way. I know I brag about doing things on a budget, but the truth is we were so lucky that our parents made generous contributions to make it possible. I think so many times we think we're entitled to a wedding (I know I did!), but I cannot thank my parents enough for hosting our wedding and to his parents for hosting our rehearsal dinner. Because of this, our only expenses were our venue (we splurged for a venue with a view of downtown Dallas), alcohol, and invitations (I wanted to make my own). And while our venue was pricey, it allowed us to do so many things. For example, since we avoided a country club or hotel ballroom, we were able to bring in our own alcohol and catering. This brought down our costs tremendously! We used a local restaurant chain for catering and I bought all the alcohol the day before from a liquor superstore. The convenience of our location meant our out-of-town guests could literally walk to our wedding and to many Dallas landmarks and museums.This was really important to us because we wanted guests to experience our city! I think most people took advantage of what the city has to offer and the night life.
In addition to our venue, I think the things that made our wedding special were the personalized details...homemade invitations, programs and menus, wedding dress made by my mom, signature drink in honor of our pups, guestbook quilt, broom made by mom, etc. They may not have been as important to our guests, but they were and still are important to us. As we prepare play a part in or serve as guests in 5 weddings in 2012 (1 in the spring in Philly, 2 in the summer in DFW, one in the summer in KC, and one in the fall in Dallas), I cannot wait to see how each couple chooses to express their love. I absolutely love this about weddings (that and the food and alcohol and the fact that we'll have a date-night). I look back at our wedding and I do not regret a thing. I loved everything about it! I do not wish we eloped or wish we had a smaller wedding. Ours was perfect for who we were and still represents us today. Happy 3rd anniversary to the love of my life! I love you! I loved our wedding and I am thankful for the marriage we have!

Joely is 10 months

Joely started crawling on his 10 month birthday. Crazy, right? I honestly never expected him to crawl. I didn't crawl and he wasn't showing any signs of trying to crawl. Sure, he would get up on all fours, but he wouldn't move. He'd just stay still. However, when we'd stand him at his discovery table, he'd stay and move around.
As I write this, Joely crawled over to Maya to pet her. Maya is pawing him back and just letting him explore her. He's so fascinated by her and she truly loves him. She follows him around to make sure he doesn't stray too far. She licks up his face (a treat for her!). Maya had maternal instincts even before Joely arrived. When I was pregnant she carried around a toy puppy. She wouldn't let any of us touch it, and if we did, she immediately cleaned it off. It was like she was trying to get rid of our germs. She's so sweet.
I am a little proud that he's crawling because his ex-daycare providers voiced their concerns that he wasn't crawling and also told me that crawling was too important of a developmental step to miss. I seriously still cannot believe how uneducated these folks were. I know they had taken child development courses required by the state, but I guess their own theories were more important. Nevertheless, we knew our son (something they tried to downplay since he was there 40 hours a week) and we knew he was normal. Thankfully, they're no longer caring for babies.
One of the things I admire about Joely is that he does everything in his own time. I think all babies are like this and it is one of the things that makes them so special. I should have known that he would be like this when he made his debut three weeks before his due date. I think Joely just wants to be independent. I was bummed when he wouldn't share a June birthday with his Grandpa Joel and Uncle Joel, but I see now that he was just saying, "hey, I'm my own Joel." This was one of the reasons why we gave him a middle name different from either of theirs. Little did we know that he would take the literal meaning of his middle name (morning star) and apply it to his 4:34am birth!
I sometimes feel guilty for being given this little gift of Joel and honored to be in charge of his life. As I watch reports of the Trayvon Martin case, my guilt grows. How can we live in a place where this happens? What do I, as a parent, have to do to save my son from something similar. There are so many ugly truths about life, racism, etc. that I have to share with him. I remember being pregnant with him when the whole Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal hit the news, and I instantly felt that guilt. There are just so many ills . I wonder how I can make him aware without making him scared. How do I tell him that some people will only judge him by the color of his skin? So many things....
I guess this is why I am still hurt by Joel's dismissal from daycare. I have no idea if something bad was done to him. I feel like I trusted them to provide proper care and they did not. I'm thankful that he's young and will not suffer any major scars. In fact, I think he's advancing despite of it. Joel is a happy, unique, curious, and might I add handsome little guy (so handsome that we're going to open casting for baby modeling in May...wish us luck!) I love this little blessing in my life and I'm so thankful for him. Happy 10 months, Joel Tariq! I love you so! Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure. Joely now knows how to pose for the camera. The other day I tried to film him crawling and he just sat there smiling waiting for the flash. See why he is a natural model? He already knows the drill!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What to call a half-sibling?

As you all know, I'm rather intrigued by half-sibling relationships. Even before Joel and Abby arrived in my life, I thought it would) be cool to have a half-sibling (I never wanted a step-sibling, ironically...maybe because you can still call a half-sibling "brother" or "sister" and you really can't with step-siblings.) Since I didn't get to have one, I'm excited that Joel does! We've decided that we'll tell him that Abby is his half-sibling for learning purposes, but he'll refer to her as his sister. I came across this blog post while doing research for an article. I thought I'd share.


Joel is on the move this week...learning new things and laughing at us all the way. Some things I observed while Joel-watching.

*Joel always knows when Murad is in the room or near him. Even if he can't see him, he senses Murad's presence.

*Joel likes to play jokes. Sometimes, he'll throw things and pretend to be mad and then smile at us.

*Nana Babs (my mom) started tapping Joely's mouth when he sings/yells. He's discovered how to do this to himself (except instead of a flat hand, he has a balled-up fist). He also makes us do the same.

*Joel can stand on his own

*Joel has figured out how to stand/squat in his bathtub.

*Joel loves turning the pages on the books we read. Sometimes, he won't let me finish reading the page which means I have to make up most of what we read.

*Joel loves to watch basketball, but hates to watch time-outs. He also loves this show called Yo Gabba Gabba. Murad found it on Nick Jr On Demand and Joel was seriously mesmerized by it. It's probably one of the weirdest shows I've seen, but I like seeing the celebrity guests.

That's our Joely! My mom bought him a cute green KU Jayhawk St. Patrick's Day shirt. I can't wait to put it on him! I'm excited for March Madness to begin! This is precisely why spring is my favorite season. So glad I get to share it with him!

In addition to Joel-watching, I've been doing some more writing this week, experimenting with my hair (pics to come) and Murad and I booked our trip to Philadelphia for over Memorial weekend. Murad is going to be a groomsman in a wedding, so we're heading out there for that. I'm really excited because my in-laws (they live 10 minutes from Philly) will watch Joel most of the weekend, so that Murad and I can enjoy the city, a trolley ride and the other wedding events. Murad and I have 4 weddings to attend/be in this spring and summer. I'm sure attending them will inspire me to pick up my Wedding Wednesday entries. I may move them over to my writing blog though...we'll see!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring is here!

I've included a little picture of my main man Joel! Isn't he the cutest? I'm so glad I get to share my favorite time of year with him. Joel will be a spectator for mommy's crazy basketball loving behavior once March Madness starts! Of course, last week Joel passed out during the KU-Mizzou game!

As you can see in the picture, Joely has two more teeth! Today, I discovered two more are starting to come in as well. He now has six teeth, y'all! SIX! He's eating more and more. As a result, he's relying less on formula. In addition to that, he's not spitting up as much either! We knew this would happen and his pediatrician did too. It's a shame his former daycare providers didn't understand that he'd grow out of it. Yes, that was one of the many things that was wrong with him!

Spring is also the time of year when teachers start making decisions about the fall. Mr. Soup really wants me to pick up more classes at the community college (I can teach 3 and be part-time) and then possibly teach online and write more. His idea makes the most sense, but I still worry about money and insurance. He'd have to add Joely and me to his insurance. Not sure how much that would be. Just for me to add him to mine, it was like $700 a month! We'd save money on childcare and I could be home with Joely more. Since the daycare fiasco, I've wanted to keep Joely close to me. He loves his new placement,and they love him too, but I'm still a little jaded.
I don't know how I feel about working part-time because being a stay at home mom (SAHM) was not part of the plan for me. I always envisioned myself "working." I feel embarrassed to say that I, with tons of help from my amazing hubby, struggle to balance my home and work life. I don't know how my mom, who worked over 40 hours a week as a nurse, found time to keep a clean house, be involved in our schools, sew our clothes, etc. I think our generation of women are not like our mothers' generation. We're cut from a cheaper cloth. Nevertheless, this is my life right now. I'm hoping to continue working full-time, but I have to do what's best for my family.
Murad started studying for his test again hardcore. He joined a study group with one of his co-workers. They have a guy who is assigning readings and quizzes for them. At the end of this month he will take a two-day study seminar. He saw a psychiatrist this week who diagnosed him with ADD. This is something we suspected for a long time, but never thought to have it evaluated. Now that he knows he has it, he feels more empowered. Last night he said to me, "I'm not dumb, Ash." I hate that he ever felt that way. Now we take the knowledge and move forward. I'm happy for him and ready to be there every step of the way as he prepares to take the exam. It's amazing how after three years we lean on each other in times of need. I've had to miss tucking Joely in few nights this week. I know in the long run it doesn't matter who tucks Joely in, as long as it's a parent, but Murad knows it is important to me. He's tried his best to keep Joely up so that I can snuggle him. I'm so blessed to have such a loving, caring husband. My family is so, so beautiful!

Excited for family outings this spring!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I still don't know

Joely turned nine months today. I thought I would be able to post everything that has transpired the past week and a half. Most of you who read this blog know what happened with Joely's former daycare providers. It is still hard for me to put in words. It is still hard for me to accept that Joely was not cared for the way he deserved. I don't know how long it happened. What I do know is that Joely knows he's supposed to be loved. He knows what love looks like, sounds like and feels like. He knew he wasn't getting that there. He let everyone know it! Even though my mommy-heart breaks each time I think of the situation, I feel a sense of relief now that he is in a safe, nurturing environment. My mommy guilt whispers, "I should have known sooner." The irrational part of me wants to home-school Joel and never let him out of my sight. The rational part of me learned that no daycare - licensed, unlicensed, home or center- is good enough for our children. Murad and I decided that Joel will never attend a daycare again. We know our situation is rare and that there are good day-cares out there. Despite this, we feel there are a lot of myths that are told to convince people to send their children to daycare.Until there is longer maternity leave (like at least a year) for women like me who need to work and raise a family and until fathers have more paternity leave, daycares seem necessary. I heard so much about how children gain social skills in daycare and develop better than children of stay-at-home moms. This is so not true. In fact, children learn social skills from their parents!!!
Our ultimate goal is to have me teach in the evening and Murad work during the day. I still really want to work, but I really want to raise Joely. Until that is a reality, we have a sweet deal. My former students' mom is watching Joely and my best friend's three year old. Joel loves it there. He knows he's loved and he loves them back. He's thriving there. He eats more, and he's starting to pick up the baby sign language. He's chatty and squealy again! He's just a happy, happy boy! I just want him to be that way all the time, but I know there are more hard times to come. My dad said things will get better and worse as he grows. I just want to protect him from everything bad and it kills me that I can't. I don't want to end this post on a sad note, so I'll end with the positives: Joely is nine months old and thriving! He is in a place where he is loved and nurtured. He's just about the cutest baby around!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fun Foods!

Since we got the okay to decrease formula, we need some more foods to feed this boy. His new fave is kale, spinach, black beans, rice and chicken. I meant to buy some black beans today, but I forgot. I blame my forgetfulness on the fact that I had one cranky, teething boy with me. I usually don't take Joely shopping with me, but he needed to get out of the house. He's easily entertained by all the stuff and loves flirting with the ladies. Despite this, I knew I had to get in and get out before he had another meltdown. So, I forgot the black beans. I decided to try a new recipe. New recipe for today:

Brown Rice and Vegetable Medley

Cooked Brown Rice
Red onion
(I'm not putting no, but basically I put a little of each and add some water, blend)

I know Joel will love this as his favorite veggie is carrot. I know he will love it because I tasted it and loved it. I finished the remaining bit in the blender! I'm a pretty good chef!

Joel likes smoothies. Here's one I came up with:

Joel's Wildberry Smoothie
1 banana
apple juice
2 baby spinach leaves

Okay, so here's a recipe for the adults! It's not alcoholic, so don't get your hopes up!I absolutely love the Genova pizza at Urban Crust. Since I can't eat there everyday, I decided to make my own. I was surprised when it tasted just as good as Urban Crust's. I even brought some to work for my co-workers! Yum!

Ashlea's Urban Crust Pizza
Pizza Dough (homemade or Pillsbury thin crust is just fine!)
Red Sauce (I bought Ragu Pizza Sauce)
Basil Pesto
2 containers of crumbled Goat Cheese

Cook dough for five to ten minutes at 400 degrees
take out dough
spread 2 tablespoons of pesto across dough (crust)
spread 2 table spoons of red sauce on top of pesto spread
sprinkle cheese on top of spread
place eggplant on top of cheese
cook for 7 minutes
add as much argula as desired

*I also added red onion to mine (can you tell it's my favorite?)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Joel Update at 8 months

We made it through January without any ear infections! We're hopeful that this means no tubes for our little man!

We discovered that Joel is lactose intolerant. As a result, we've changed his formula. Not too excited about that, but I'm really sick of having to change his clothes after every feeding and sending multiple outfits to daycare. It made laundry time oh so fun! Joel has always been a spitter-upper, but when we went to exclusively formula feeding, we noticed that he was spitting up a lot more. He was almost throwing up as much as he was taking in, which is not good. Fortunately, switching his formula solved everything! Despite all this at 8 months, Joel is a healthy 16.4 pounds! He's such a big boy!

Dr. Ramirez also told Murad that we need to start giving him more food-food and decreasing his formula feedings. Right now, we're introducing pasta. We've started adding black beans, spinach, and rice to most of his faves. We also let him have little cookies. If we let him, Joel will feed himself (and the dogs who hover near his highchair).

Joel's top two teeth are starting to come in as well. He's putting everything in his mouth and has replaced spit-up with drool!

Joel is perfectly content with playing by himself. He can easily entertain himself with his toys and books and for that I'm thankful. We've noticed that having the TV off really helps his independent playtime. He vies for our attention more when he thinks we're watching TV. When the TV is off, he's content and will let us know (usually with a smile) when he needs some attention.

Even though Joely is crawling or walking yet, he's good at getting where he needs to be. He's mastered the art of scooting and rolling. I'm hoping that the formula change will allow him to be on his belly more, and eventually do some crawling. Then again, he may decide to skip crawling altogether!

Dr. Ramirez said that Joely is the healthiest that she's seen him. She told us to skip his 9 month appointment and come see her when he hits 12 months. Yep! That's right, folks. We're closing in on one year!

Tomorrow is Joely's In/Out Birthday! I don't have any pictures of me at 37 weeks, but I have this cute picture of Joel and me at 37 weeks out (okay it was taken last week, but you catch my drift!) Happy In/Out Birthday, Joely!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dirty 30!

Well, as many of you know, I am now thirty years old! My official birthday was Thursday. I can hear the "womp, womp" in the background as you realize that I was at work on my birthday. Definitely not fun, but my students made it a success. One student brought me a cupcake from Sprinkles, another one brought me a (fake) Gucci scarf, and I received handmade countless posters (including a Jayhawk one). One of my students brought me whole wheat toast with Nutella. This may seem a little weird, but we bonded over our love of whole weat toast and Nutella. I think we are the only ones in the school who eat it for breakfast each day.

When I got home, I spent most of the afternoon returning phone calls. Mr. Soup and Joel showered me with cake and a homemade dinner! I requested no gifts, as Murad shelled out a lot for my push prize (I absolutely love my Galaxy tablet; it's the reason why my Facebook page has a million pics of Joel) and Christmas. After Joel went to bed, we watched a movie and hung out.

On Friday, I went to Happy Hour with my work friends. It was fun and low-key, which was what I needed after a stressful week. We went to Kelly's Eastside Bar in downtown Plano which was convenient for me!

On Saturday, we started our day with a serious talk. I know that seems weird, but it was really needed. Mr. Soup is worried that I'm not getting enough "me-time." I think he's worried because of the stress of my job, motherhood and supporting him after his test. When I went to happy hour on Friday, I called to I check on Joely and he goes, "GO HAVE FUN!" Easier said than done, right? He's right though. I've been guilty of putting Joely first all the time. Since Murad takes Joely to work and I pick him up, Murad is going to pick up Joel twice a week (that's all that his work schedule will allow). I'll have time to go do my "me-time" stuff. Whether it's working out, meeting for coffee or a drink with friends, or whatever, I'll have those two afternoons to myself. I'm really excited about this, but also nervous. Picking up Joel is the highlight of my day and I treasure the time we spend after work; however, I know Murad is really looking forward to getting me back to "me." I know a lot of it has to do with my work situation, but I am thankful to be employed. I also think that I don't always realize how much work it is to be a mom. I used to scoff when people said that being a mom was hard. I LOVE mothering Joel each day. I didn't ever think of it as work, because I enjoy it so, so much. When I step away and realize how much work it is though, I can see why I am a little overwhelmed. So much of who I am is devoted to Joel (as evident by the fact that 99% of my blog entries are devoted to him; I promise that will change!), but I am more than his mommy.

After our big talk, we geared up for my birthday celebration. It was a much needed night out. We left Joel with the sitter who would have been more than happy to keep him overnight, but Murad and I are just not ready to leave him overnight with non-family members. We're getting there though...Anyways, I really wanted to celebrate my birthday in downtown Plano. I know that seems weird to celebrate in a suburb, but Murad and I really love our town. The restaurants and shops in downtown Plano are unique and the nightlife is vibrant. It's becoming more "urban" and we love spending time there. We wanted to share that with our friends, so we headed over to Urban Crust for a pizza dinner. I absolutely love their Genova pizza - eggplant, basil pesto, tomato sauce, goat cheese and argula..YUM! It was great to share good food and drinks with friends. Afterwards, we went upstairs to the rooftop bar to hear the DJ spin. the rooftop bar (called 32 Degrees because they serve all drinks at that temperature) was so much fun. Immediately brought me back to being in college. We had fun drinking, doing silly dances, and people-watching! Such a fun night and I'm so thankful for the people who made it a blast!

We headed over to pick up our little prince who graciously let us sleep in until 8:00am today. I then took a five hour nap while Joel and Murad had some daddy-time. We have been lounging around because our 30 and 31 year old bodies can't handle 3am bed-times. Although I loved the night out, it won't be a regular occurence.

30 is here and I could not be happier. I may not have all the answers, but I'm surrounded by people who love and support me. I'm figuring it out one day at a time. Here's to 30!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Way too many Changes

When it rains it pours...
Joely is going through a clingy phase, which I am totally loving right now. He always wants to hug and love on his dad and me. It's great, especially since I spend my day with 120 kids who don't appreciate me. As a result, he hasn't been much fun at daycare. Abuela and Miss Christy report that he's quiet and not as playful as he used to be. I think Joely is an observer, but I do worry what that means. He's used to silence (we try to keep the TV off when he's up except for 30 minutes in the morning--I know...bad, but he loves Spongebob in the morning), tons of attention and he's used to playing by himself (he won't even share his toys with us). I welcome this clingy stage, but I worry what it means for the future, especially if we have more kids. Would he be a good big brother? If we don't have anymore children, will he develop the social skills he needs? Ah, how my mind works.

We also have to face the reality that he may not be able to go to daycare in the near future. Our daycare status is kind of up in the air with Christy leaving in May, the city enforcing stricter guidelines on the number of kids and Abuela's landlord selling her house. We are hoping and praying that he'll go there for at least another year, but at this point we just don't know. I started looking at other home daycares in the area and I just wasn't happy. All of them had violations from the state. Abuela has zero violations. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but when it's your pride and joy, you think differently. I just can't imagine sending him elsewhere. I just want the best situation possible. We've thrown around some possibilities.

-Our current one is to continue working our current jobs and look for another home daycare.
-I planned to work part-time and still send Joely to daycare full-time if Murad got his license. Now We're considering working opposite shifts: me part-time teaching at night and him during the day full-time. This would be good except: 1. there is no guarantee with part-time employment, especially with time off if I had another baby. 2. Joel would lose the socialization of daycare. 3. I would lose my "me" time altogether by mommying during the day and teaching at night. 4. Murad and I would rarely see each other. I'm not too worried about this one because my parents worked opposite shifts and made time for date-nights, lunch dates, etc.

Despite not knowing what is going to happen, I delight in this season of change. One of my weaknesses is control and this uncertainty is forcing me to let go and let God. I'm also trusting my husband more. He's been hounding me about getting more me-time. Today I went to happy hour with some friends. I called Murad to see how Joely was doing and he goes, "go have fun!" I don't think he understands how difficult it is to take off the mommy-hat.
Even though things are a little stressful right now with Murad being down, not knowing about our daycare and other things, I'm still extremely thankful for the life I have. I turned 30 yesterday, and for the most part I'm living a dream life that most people would envy. We may not have money, but I am employed, I am healthy, I have a home, I have two great dogs, I'm married to a man who loves me more than anything, and I have the sweetest prince of a son.
While I may not have the answers to what our future holds, I know that as long as Joely and Murad are with me, we'll make the best of it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How do you mend a broken heart?

I wish I could mend my hubby's broken heart. I hate to see him so, so down. I thought he was on the up and up, but Sunday was worse than Friday. We didn't go to the park. We didn't go to downtown Plano. At one time, I saw him closing the blinds on all the windows I had opened. He didn't even realize he was doing it. It was all subconscious. I wish there was a way to let him know he's not a failure.

He is reaching out and I'm thankful for that. I'm also thankful for the smile he gets on his face when Joely squeals with laughter. That boy seriously loves him some daddy. I'm thankful that hearing his daughter's voice cheered him up. Last night she called and he was thrilled. She was too. She genuinely sounded excited to talk to him. Afterwards, he said that Abby was such an inspiration. Her life is a lot harder than most kids. No matter what life throws at her, she is always cheerful, happy and usually smiling a big Campbell grin. I reminded him that she gets that from him.

I've never met a person so passionate about achieving his goals. When I met Murad he had barely graduated from a private college in New Jersey. He was going back to school to get a drug counselor certificate. Before moving here, he decided he wanted to go back to school the right way. He wanted to be a role model for his daughter since she didn't have very many. His first time in college, he was on an athletic scholarship. He also bounced around from college to college before finally graduating. This time, he was determined to do it right. He went back to school and got not only another bachelor's degree, but a master's degree. School wasn't easy for him either. Growing up he was in special ed due to reading problems and was always made to feel dumb when compared to his brother. He never let that get him down. Now, I see those insecurities creeping back in. The "I'm not good enough," is back.

I know that once he gets his license this will all be behind him,
but it is just so hard right now to realize that. He is not only a role model for Abby and Joel, but he's an inspiration to so many people. He's an inspiration to those who were called dumb or told they couldn't do something. I hope that he'll share his story with the world. I love him so much. I'm so lucky that he's my partner in life and the father of my son. He is my hero!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

this weekend

This weekend was not quite the celebratory weekend we envisioned, but it was a good one. I made M get out of the house and join his guy friends for some good ol' fashion video-gaming. Yes, we're nerd-bombers, I know. Tomorrow we plan to head to downtown Plano for some fresh air and to pick up some veggies at the farmer's market.

M also made a plan to practice acceptance find closure about the exam. He's also finding ways to prep himself for the test in April. I am so stinkin' proud of him. As much as it hurts my heart to see him hurting, I'm so proud of him. Today, he goes, "Ash, you working part-time and having more financial freedom would've been an added bonus, but I really, really wanted this license for me and I still do." I'm so glad he hasn't lost his drive. Like I said earlier, he truly is the best social worker out there. I truly believe it is his calling to be a social worker.

Ironically, I had been having panic attacks (not really) about the possibility of working part-time. I guess it's because of the "if you don't work, you don't get paid" thing. Despite having a more flexible schedule, I would miss money if Joel or I got sick. My part-time jobs are so erratic and having researching many, I did not find one that would guarantee a steady paycheck or benefits. We could add Joel and I to Murad's insurance, but what if we have another baby? I would need maternity leave and most part-time jobs don't offer that. So, my goal is to find a job/career that I love as a full-time job or make the best of the job I currently hold. Since teaching at the community college gives me the teaching freedom I so need, I'll probably continue doing that. Ashlea Campbell Writing also provides a creative outlet, so I will of course keep that up. Those part-time jobs give us a little extra cushion for travel and since we're about 80% sure we want to have another baby in the next year or two (Murad 100% sure and me 60% sure), we need to start saving for another car and for me to take unpaid time off (I really wish I would've taken 6 months off with Joely, but I'm determined to do it right with the next one...oh the things you learn!)

Another reason I need to work full-time is because of private school tuition...yep that's right. I finally won the private school debate! Okay, so we compromised. Prior to Joely being born I was pro-public education. As a product of public education, I believed that it was best. Plus, I felt that private school children were always socially awkward and sheltered. Stereotype, I know, but I felt it. Since Murad and I could not afford a home in Dallas and pay private school tuition, we bought a house in Plano where the schools are supposedly superb (we're not balling by any means, but our modest home would have been nearly twice as much as what we paid to live Plano. this is why people fled to suburbs like Plano and Richardson in the 70's and why they're heading to McKinney, Allen and Frisco now)

When Joel arrived, that all went out the window. I just wanted to keep him in a little bubble world. I actually wanted to homeschool him (no lie), but then I realized I would have to teach him math....Math is something I should not be doing, let alone teaching. As a teacher, I see the good and the bad with public education. I will say that some of it is frightening. Despite all my worries, M felt strongly that Joel and any subsequent Soup children needed to attend public schools, especially for the social factors. Well, somehow we stumbled across this article and M changed his mind. Even though the article has traces of racism and classism (it's like a private education "white-flight"), I mostly identified with the statements about students being ignored and the lack of opportunities available, especially at the secondary level. And even though we're not ballin' and we have no idea if me working full-time will help send Joel to school, our goal is to have him attend public school K-8 and private school for high school. Like I said, I don't know if this will work, but it is our goal for him. As an educator and mom, I want him to get the best education possible.

It's weird how my thinking has changed since Joely entered our lives. For the most part, I'm the mother I always envisioned I would be; however, every now and then I find myself becoming so consumed by something that I can hardly concentrate. The private school thing had been weighing my mind ever since Murad said no to it back in June (yes, I realize that he's only a baby, but I'm a planner). Now that we've reached a compromise that I can live with, I feel so, so much better.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sad post

So, M missed passing his social work licensure test by 4 measly points. He had done so well when we studied, but that four hour test killed him. I just don't know what to do or say to make him feel better. He really wanted to get a better job so that I could work part-time. Recently though, I decided that I still want to work full-time (I thrive on getting dressed and going to work each day), but just not at my current job. Maybe this is the motivation I need to find a new job or career.

On a positive note, he plans to take a prep course and take again in April. I'm really impressed with his ability to bounce back. The thing is, I know he is the best social worker out there. That damn piece of paper is the thing keeping him from helping people. The part that really kills me is that his score is passing in other states. All of those who sit for the LMSW exam take the same exam. The state determines the cut-off for passing. I wanna send a big Eff you to the state of Texas. I know when he passes, this will all be behind us. April isn't too far off so please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.I just hate for his heart to hurt like this! I love, love, love him and want this for him so badly. Seriously, he is the BEST social worker!

In other areas of our lives, things are going pretty well. Besides hating my full-time job, I'm loving teaching a new course at the community college. I'm so excited for all the things we're going to do this semester and my students are eager to learn. Ashlea Campbell Writing is taking off! This is truly what I needed! I love writing and the challenge associated with it. I'm gaining more gigs. Since one is a start-up company, I haven't received my dough yet, but they're launching this month!!!! I did my first guest blog entry and although I didn't make any money, it was really therapeutic for me. I wrote about what worked in our blended family. Even though things aren't the same with Abby, it was nice to revisit the good times with our family.

And to end things on a not so depressing note, Mr. Joely is growing, growing, growing! This week, we transitioned into 9 month pants! He's getting so long. As I type this he is rolling and scooting across the living room. For someone who can't walk or crawl he gets around. He's so freaking curious! I love it. I also love how he squeals when Murad walks into his room. He loves, loves, loves his daddy. He also can't stand to be away from me. This is a feeling I can't describe in words. I love feeling needed and wanted by him. I know in 12 years he'll be pushing me away.

Since the weather is nice, we may take a walk in the park. Let's hope I don't get bit by a dog again! And on that, we're outtie!