Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Memories and AWESOME Box Subscriptions ~ Random, I know :)

As I await the arrival of Hurricane Isaac...........ummm, wait.  It's no longer coming this way.  Okay, so as I was awaiting his arrival the last few days, it got me thinking about Hurricane Ike.  4 years ago, about a week or so shy of the date, Chandler, Charlee and I were preparing for Hurricane Ike in our Houston home.  While our friends down the road were boarding up their windows, we just made sure we had some food and water stocked up.  Ike was a huge storm, one of the widest ones I've ever remembered seeing on radar, and it ended up being the 2nd costliest hurricane in the US, following Katrina.  We watched on television when the outer bands of the storm came into Galveston.  That place flooded about a day before the rough parts of the storm even came in.  Houses were just washing away.  There would be one house left standing out of 30.  It was CRAZY watching that.  If I remember correctly, Ike was a Cat 2 when it came over our house, and the bad part started in the middle of the night.  We started out in our dining room and Charlee snoozed away in her pack n play (she was only 8 months old).  The lights went out pretty early on.  Our dining room, kitchen and living room were all one big room, and the tall living room windows were shaking, heck, the whole house was shaking, so we got scared and moved into the master closet.  The biggest and best closet I've ever had in my life......Oh how I miss it.......  Anyway, we rolled Charlee in there, brought the dogs with us, and tried to sleep on a pallet we made.  Luckily, Chandler had a power box thing he could run from his cigarette lighter in his truck, so we were able to hook up our fan for air and to drown out the sound of the wind and heavy rain.  This was also when I realized the awesomeness of the iPhone.  I'd only had it for a couple of weeks, but was able to check weather updates, which was very helpful.  I think we had a radio, too.  Can't really remember.  Chan and I didn't sleep much, but Charlee never woke up!  She can sleep through a hurricane.  :)  When the eye went over us, we went outside and it was one of the most awesome things to experience.  It was so calm and lasted SO long because the eye was huge.  We waited for hours for the next side of the storm to come.  It finally did, and it wasn't quite as bad as the North part of the storm was.  Being the daredevils we are (ha!), or maybe idiots, I don't know, we hopped in the truck as soon as the winds died down a little and headed out to survey the damage.  We were extremely lucky to only have had a loss of electricity at our house.  Business signs were twisted, cars were flooded, trees all over, holes in roofs.  All within a mile of us.  We were also lucky that our power was only out for 5 or so days because other sections of our neighborhood had no power for a lot longer than that.  A cold front came through right after the storm, so it wasn't even that hot, thankfully. 

What I'll always remember about the storm is that God completely used it to slow our lives down, stop them rather.  For a week, we couldn't watch tv, use the computer, cook in the microwave or oven, and we didn't have to go to work.  We grilled, played games, spent time with friends, met neighbors we never knew, and had block parties.  :)  We met a sweet older couple who lived directly behind us for the first time (we had both lived there for 2 years).  They let us hook up our refrigerator to their generator, which was awesome because I didn't have to lose all of the liquid gold I had pumped and stored in the freezer.  :)  While the storm was pretty scary, the aftermath (because we didn't have to worry about damage and weren't uncomfortable for too long) was a great memory.  And when that electricity came back on, it was not taken for granted anymore (at least for a few days).  It is a total reminder that God sometimes allows storms in our lives, all kinds of storms, because he wants us to slow down, stop, reassess our perspective, reorganize our priorities, sometimes when we don't even realize we need it.  I'll be honest, I was actually looking forward to a repeat with this storm, but only because I knew the forcast was for a much weaker storm.  I vowed after Ike to never ride out a storm larger than a Cat 2.  We were in North Mississippi for Katrina, but it had weakened a good bit by the time it made it up there.  You folks who rode out and survived Katrina, Rita, Camille close to the coast......whew!  I don't know how you did it.  Ike was the most I'd ever care to experience!  Hoping for some good rain here from Isaac, and praying for the folks right in the middle of it.  That thing sure is moving rather slow.

Okay, on to a few of my favorite things lately.  You're welcome in advance.  I've been waiting to post about these because I wanted to send one as a gift and was afraid my friend would order her own before I could get it to her for her birthday.  :)  My favorite days of the month are the days that my Birchbox and my Bluum come in the mail.  I read about Birchbox on a coupon blog back before Christmas.  It is a monthly subscription that comes in once a month in a cute, pink box and is filled with 5 or 6 high-end beauty samples.  It is SO fun!  I never spend the money on high-end stuff, so it's awesome to be able to sample some of it and you can even get discounts to purchase the full-size products.  The subscription is $10/month, and I think it's totally worth it.  You can gift subscriptions to friends, and they even have a Birchbox for men.  I love it!  If you get friends to sign up, you get points, when you purchase items from the site you get points, and when you gift the box you get points.  Your points add up to free dollars to spend on the site.  I'm including the "invite friends" link if you want to check it out, but you won't hurt my feelings if you'd rather just go to and sign up on your own without giving me credit.  :)

Bluum is the same concept, except it is for moms and babies.  So, if you have a baby or are expecting a baby, it is a great sample box as well.  I can't seem to log in to my account right now ~ I think I accidently reset my password ~ so I can't include an "invite friends" link.  You can just go to though to sign up.  The samples from Bluum are usually a mix of baby products and products for mom.  I've only been subscribed to Bluum for 2 or 3 months, but have loved all of the boxes I've received.  If you pay for 3 months at one time, this box is $11/month (so you pay $33).  I had to sign up to be put on the waiting list for Bluum, but I was emailed and added to the list within 24 hours.  Birchbox now says something about being put on their list, but I didn't have to wait at all when I signed up.  I've recently gifted a Birchbox and didn't have to wait either, so not sure about that.  Bluum website says that it is not affiliated with Birchbox, so they are separate companies.

In the last month or so, I've read about other subscription services that sound pretty awesome as well.  One is Kiwi Crate.  This is a box that comes every month filled with 2 or 3 different projects, arts & crafts, activities for kids.  I don't currently have a subscription because it's a little expensive and I'm waiting for Barrett to get a little older so that he and Charlee can both enjoy it.  It is designed for 3-7 year olds, and the boxes include all the parts that you would need to complete the craft or project, even if it's a small tube of glue, etc.  This cool box is $19.95/month, but you have to add on each additional sibling for $7.95.  This would be an AWESOME gift, Christmas maybe?  Grandparents?  (Hint Hint)  :)  Check out the website to see some of the past kiwi crates to get an idea of what comes.  Very neat concept.

And then there's the mack daddy, Babbabox.  It is like the Kiwi Crate, except it has a monthly theme and includes activities, crafts, books, etc. surrounding the theme.  One of the sample boxes on the website is a Gratitude theme ~ very cool.  Check it out.  This is another that I would love to subscribe to, but it is $29.99/month and I can't find any option to add a second child.  My kids might share everything in it, but probably only begrudgingly.  :) 

Maybe I can come up with some type of box subscription to sell.  Such a wonderful idea, these boxes!  I LOVE them!  Let me know if you join one.  I'd love to hear what you think, especially if you get one of the two I don't have.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baby Castle Update

Three posts in a week?  Wow!  Pretty proud of myself.  :)

This one is devoted to Baby Castle and his/her expanding womb.  I'll be 29 weeks this Monday, so we're in the home stretch!  I'm up 35 lbs. and am pretty sure that baby takes up about 29 of those lbs.  That's possible, right?  Ha!  I really don't feel like I weigh that much, but my scale and doc's scale couldn't both be lying.  Oh well, not too worried about it.  50 lbs. is my norm.  Baby has been measuring right on with my dates, and at my next appointment my doc will schedule my c-section.  He plans for 39 weeks, so October 22 or 23.  Barrett came at 38 weeks, though, so we'll see!  Three little pumpkins should be gracing our house by Halloween! 

I took my gestational diabetes test last week and passed with flying colors, so that's good.  All those caramel apples at the beach were good practice for my body's insulin production.  :)  My blood sugar after drinking that "yummy" drink was 93.  Heartburn has been getting worse lately.  I take a Zantac every night, and am probably going to have to increase to the max 2 per day shortly.  Still only taking the regular and not max strength, though.  This baby seems to like the comfort of my bladder, or what's left of it, and has stayed on it most of the pregnancy.  This makes for fun nights of getting up every 2 hours. 

Usually, it's something else that has woken me up, though, like a 4-year-old who is too scared to sleep in her own bed.  :(  Somebody has become very scared of being by herself and says she can't go to sleep because she thinks about witches.  I have no idea where that comes from, but we've had the conversation numerous times that there is no such thing as witches and that God, Mommy, and Daddy are going to protect her.  She prays every night that God would help her to not think about witches and that she would be able to go to sleep very fast.  I can't help but remember when I was 6 or 7 and staying at my Grandma Jo's house when I had a terrible nightmare.  I remember it vividly ~ my mom brought home a sculpture/statue from work and it was basically a coffee mug tree, and on each hook there was a different colored glove.  When everyone went to sleep, the gloves came to life and attacked us all.  I'm sure there is some deep seeded meaning to that dream, but all I know is it scared the ever-living daylights out of me and I was haunted by it for months.  I went and woke my sweet GMJ in the middle of the night, and she came to lay down with me and taught me how to pray.  I'm not saying that no one had taught me to pray before then, I honestly don't remember.  I just know that that particular night stands out in my memory and always will.  She told me to ask God to "help us to dream about Him".  I still to this day say that prayer every night, and now my sweet Charlee Bell does too.  :)  Hopefully we'll get over the witches and start sleeping in our bed all night again before baby comes.  If not, maybe the late-night feedings will drive her back to her own room.  :)

Okay, back to Baby update.  Sorry for the side-tracked mind.  If you read my previous two posts, you know that we had two fun Florida trips recently.  What I didn't include ~ because I wanted to include it in a Baby post instead of a fun, vacation post ~ was that smack dab in between those trips, I landed myself in labor and delivery at the hospital for a "fun" Sunday morning.  We spent an exciting 14 hours at Disney World on Friday, flew home Saturday afternoon, and around 3 in the morning on Sunday I started having contractions.  They woke me up, and I got up, moved around, drank water, everything Google and What to Expect told me to do, and the only thing that was happening is they were getting stronger and closer together.  I have never had any preterm labor signs or even Braxton Hicks, so I was a little (okay, a lot) worried.  I was only 25 1/2 weeks!  Anyway, I woke Chandler up and we called the doc's on-call service.  They connected him to the hospital, where he proceeded to tell them I had been throwing up all night long.  Ummm....I only threw up once, and it was about an hour after contractions started.  Men.  Ha!  Anyway, my mom came over (thank goodness she lives close now) to stay with the sleeping babies, and we headed to the ER.  They admitted me, hooked me to monitors, did a couple of tests, and determined that I wasn't dehydrated, I wasn't dilating, and it must just be caused by a virus.  They hooked me to fluids and gave me a "fun" shot in the hip of phenergan (even though I wasn't nauseus anymore), and after about 4 hours the contractions finally went away.  I still had some sporadic ones over the next few days, but nothing consistent anymore since.  I am still not convinced that it was caused by a virus (I didn't feel at all like I had a virus ~ I think the vomiting was caused by the contractions and all the water I downed, but that's just me), and even though the test showed I wasn't dehydrated, I can't help but believe that the 14 hour day at Disney had something to do with it.  Oh well.  I'm good now, and hopefully we won't be back until THE day.  Luckily, I'm already all registered at the hospital now and won't have to do all that when I go in for delivery.  :)

Now for the belly pics!  There are a couple of weeks in there where I didn't take a picture.  One was the pink eye week and the other was the hospital week.  I'll try to do better this month.  :)

23 weeks

25 weeks

27 weeks

28 weeks

This week I'm leaning towards it being a boy, but boy names are the ones we are having the most difficulty with.  Who am I kidding.....we just have difficulty with names in general!  No doubt we'll be in the hospital on day 3 with name book, white board, and Expo.  :)

I also think it's a boy because I'm really hoping for a girl and that's just the way things usually work out.  I'm a third child (and obviously a girl), and my mom is third child and girl, so I just think it'd be kinda cool for my third to also be a girl.  We'll see!

10 more weeks!!!  (Or less)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Across the Pond.....The MOBILE Pond!

What better way to make up for a summer of sickness than to jam pack two vacations into two weeks?  Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?  That's how we roll here at the Castle house.  No vacations for two years, and then BAM!  Two of 'em back-to-back. :)

We ventured on down to Destin a couple of weeks ago and I was so blessed/ecstatic/overjoyed to be able to meet up with one of my very best friends and favorite families in the world while we were there.  SOOOO glad they drove 14 hours from Houston JUST to see us.  And, I'm sure the beach was a plus for them, too.  :)

I drove down with the kids a day before Chandler, and let me just tell you ~ that minivan sure does come in handy!  I'm starting to get used to it.  It's taken a hold of me.  I know, I know...

When we were driving over the bridge in Mobile, Charlee looked out her window and said, "Look, Barrett!  There's a pond on my side!"  She then looked on his side and said, "You have a pond, too!!"  I could totally hear the British accent she should have had while saying it!  Ha!  "Across the pond"

We got there a few days before Kim and fam, and Chandler was even able to come down for three days, so we got in some good family time full of yummy crab legs, grilled shrimp, sand, and surf.  A little bit of sunburn, too.  Oh ~ and caramel apples!  YUM!  We also met up with another sweet favorite family of mine from Meridian ~ the Shirleys.  :)  Then, we got to have a fun night at Chandler's Uncle Mike's where the kids played, swam, and had a blast.  We had a yummy dinner, then us grown ups played a fun game of cards where yours truly won.  That's right.  I'm a card shark.  Ha!  Totally kidding ~ more like LUCKY!  :)

The last time Charlee was at the beach (when she was 2), she hated going out in the water unless someone was holding her.  Said person could not venture too far out in the water where her feet got wet at all.  The sand was pretty annoying to her too.  Fast forward 2 years, and that girl was jumping waves, making castles, and filling her swim drawers up with sand.  Ha!  Barrett, on the other hand, is 2, and had the same reaction she had when she was his age.  By the end of the week, he was better, though.  Both of them still would rather be in the swimming pool, so they got some time in there as well. 

We enjoyed a couple of fun nights with Kim and fam at their condo and a day at the beach with them, but Barrett was sure to not leave the state without showing them how much of a two-year-old he could really be.  :P  Glad that they were good sports because he was being pretty terrible!  I'm pretty sure it was because he had been running on limited sleep and his daddy had left town, but he was seriously wearing me out.  He sure did miss Cade when we left and is still asking to go back and see him.  Too many miles between us...... :(  So very glad we got to see each other, though, and hope it's not so long before the next visit.  Love you, sweet friend.  :)

And now ~ pictures!

The Shirley and Castle kids :) 

Dressing up in Daddy's clothes 

Got to see sweet Allegra and her fam, too!

Have you ever tried to take a pic of three littles where they're all looking at the camera?  It's pretty much impossible.  They sure did a great job of sitting there for longer than 10 seconds, though!

Kim, Barry, and Cade :)

Miss you :)

Whoa ~ next beach trip will be with THREE littles!  Gonna need to invest in some leashes cuz we'll be totally outnumbered!!!


We were able to strain SOME fun out of July, thank goodness, once the pink eye went away and everyone got better.  Chandler had a convention in Orlando, so we got to tag along.  This momma was still feeling the effects of whatever was wrong with me and I had a migraine nearly the whole time.  Boo.  Luckily, my sweet kiddos are happy with just a hotel room and an occasional dip in a hotel pool.  We did manage to make it to Magic Kingdom one of the last days we were there, and after many prayers throughout the week (most from my sweet Charlee), I was feeling good and ready to do Disney!  One day of it anyways.  We had a blast!  The kids, and Chandler, had such a great first time to Mickey's place.  It WAS July.  It WAS hot.  And I WAS pregnant.  Those three things should probably not be allowed at Disney.  We planned to go at park opening, leave for a nap, then come back late afternoon for parades and fireworks.  By the time we were there, though, we knew we couldn't do everything we wanted if we left, and also knew if we left we would likely not go through the trouble to come back.  So we stayed.  14 hours. 

Some of our favorite things: 
  • meeting Mickey & Minnie
  • the Celebration parade (kids were mesmerized)
  • Goofy's Barnstormer roller coaster (Barrett's favorite ~ the top of his head BARELY hit the bottom of the height marker, but they let him go and he LOVED it.  Charlee wouldn't ride it.)
  • rented double stroller (until time to leave the park at 11 pm, when I would have probably paid an extra $500 if they would've let me take that thing straight to the car.  Instead we traded carrying two very tired little ones.)
  • spray bottle fan (Charlee wanted one thing and one thing only ~ until she got it and then there were hundreds of other things she wished she had chosen ~ the spray bottle fan that I knew I should have bought at Publix the night before for $10 cheaper.  Oh well.  That bad boy got lots of action that day, and lots of refills!  The looooooong trek back to the car was survived because of that thing.  Charlee was nearly sleep-walking but had it right in her face the whole way back.)
  • the water playground (Charlee's favorite where she got SOAKED while Barrett was riding Goofy)
  • waiting to ride Dumbo (They just opened an indoor, air-conditioned playroom where you can go to wait on your turn to ride Dumbo.  Genius!  They give you a buzzer like you get at a restaurant and they page you when it's your turn to ride so your kids can play, in AIR CONDITIONING, and you don't have to stand in line.  My kids did not want to ride the ride ~ they wanted to stay in the playroom.  Barrett pitched a fit!  Much like Taste of Texas ~ Oh, how I miss you ~ where you actually hope there IS a long wait so you can eat all of the free appetizers!)
  • THREE WORDS.....Dole. Pineapple. Float.  (Oh. Heavenly. Wonder.  That thing ~ well, we had more than one that day :) ~ was the most wonderful thing ever!  I never imagined I'd like pineapple juice and ice cream, but it was so delicious and so refreshing.  Mmmmmm.  Wish I had one now!  Definitely topped mine and Chandler's list of favorite things.)
Now for the pictures:

Had to throw that last one in there.  :)  No, he didn't do this the whole time.  Part of the time, but not the whole time.  Ha!  Hey, he's a busy guy.  I'm sure a lot of folks would like to be able to work from anywhere, including Disney World, right??  :)