Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can't Get it Together

Posted by Mandy at 4:49 PM 1 comments Links to this post
My blogging absence has been due to a lot of things. Mainly lack of time and lack of focus. The holidays means a lot of work for me (hooray!) and it keeps me incredibly busy. The reason people turn to me to board their dogs is because of my commitment  to fulfilling their needs. This means I spend a lot of time in my running shoes!

My lack of focus is from the grief I am still struggling with. In all honesty, I feel like it's fresh and new all over again all of a sudden. I've felt it creeping in over the past couple of days as we begin our Christmas visits. This morning it hit me really hard. I really won't be seeing my dad for Christmas. Can I handle this? Right now I feel like I can't. My heart literally hurts. My head feels foggy, my eyes are constantly watering from the tears I'm fighting. I don't mind having a good cry once the day is over or when I'm alone - but not in front of others and I really don't like my kids seeing me so sad. They just want to make Mommy feel better and they are so helpless. I also feel so very, very helpless.

Christmas shopping has always been such a fun time for me, but this year it's full of sadness. Looking in the men's department for our other family members nearly brought me to my knees last week. I couldn't breathe and I had to run away, back to the safety of the kids' clothing. Seeing all of the things that we ALWAYS got Dad because he loved them (Jelly Belly Jellybeans, Coca~Cola collectables, nice button down shirts...) was just too much for me. Maybe because it's been but one month.. or maybe it will always feel this way. I guess I'll find that out as the years pass.

Here it is nearly Christmas Day and I've not even finished shopping for MY kids. I just cannot get it together. I don't even know what I am going to get them. I want to fill their day with joy but it feels like I'm totally incapable of such a task. I am so behind on everything. Housework, laundry, thank-you cards, ... everything. There is so much to do that it overwhelms me. It overwhelms me so much that sometimes I just give up. I sit down with mindless TV, or I go outside to jog, or I play with the kids to just ignore it. maybe it'll go away if I pretend it isn't there...

I suppose the denial part of this journey is going away. It's hard to be in denial this time of the year.  You know that you'd normally already be planning to spend Christmas with your loved one or you would've already seen them - you can't escape that reality. You can't ignore the fact that there is no gift under your tree that says "to Paw-Paw/ love: the kids" and there will be no gift "from: PawPaw" or "from: Dad" being given. I loved being in denial. I could get through my day without crying in denial. I could make supper in denial. I could do laundry in denial. Now that the denial is leaving, I hate to admit it, but some anger is coming through.

I suppose anger is easier to feel than sadness. I don't even know what I'm angry about or who I'm angry with. When I see other people with their dad's.. I am so jealous. When I see pictures of people with their entire families.. I can't help but ask God why he couldn't give me one more Christmas? Why couldn't I have had some warning? Instead of being so thankful that my dad died so fast, so suddenly, with no suffering, I feel that I deserved some idea that this was coming. I want to know why he died so young. I want to know why I didn't get more time with him. I want to DEMAND that God rewinds life and brings my dad back to me. I want to wake up tomorrow and this be a terrible nightmare. I want to know why a 51yr old man with a fantastic life drops dead with no signs beforehand. Because there are no answers, I'm just left with anger. I don't want to be mad.. I want to just say "God, your will is perfect and I accept it." But, I don't. I want my dad back. I want my life back to the way it was. I don't want to miss him. I don't want to be sad each year at a time that's supposed to be so joyful. I suppose if it were up to us, no one would ever die... but I guess to my small human mind, the natural order of life is you get OLD, then you die. I know this is not the case.. I know so many that have lost children.. that have lost parents much younger.

I don't know why I'm posting this.. I should be posting about the great two Christmas visits we've already had with family. I should be posting how blessed we are to have so much family left. I should be able to just get over myself and move on... but here I sit. Sobbing at my keyboard.

Tonight I will pray, I will read scripture, I will beg God to hold me through this. I will pray for my family, my sister, my stepmom and my brothers. I know they are in pain as well... my stepmom more than any of us. I will pray for comfort and acceptance. I will pray for all of the people that I know that are feeling this exact same way as the holidays are here. I know many of you by name, and my heart aches for you, too. I know three people off of the top of my head that are missing their father's for the first Christmas just like I am this year. I will pray for God's joy to enter all of us. That we will all enjoy Christmas and not feel sadness. That we will know that because of Christmas we can celebrate that we will eternally be with our loved ones as long as we know Christ. There is great comfort in that...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting Out of Debt: Part 3

Posted by Mandy at 4:18 PM 4 comments Links to this post

Back in the summer I posted about our journey to get out of debt. (here and here) We have stuck (pretty much) to our plan and have been consistently paying off credit cards. I am quite proud of the self control we've had! Sure, we could have done a bit better, but compared to where we were, we're rock stars!

We're still debt snowballing Dave-Ramsey-Style and we are seeing changes. Some days I feel really pumped up about where we've gotten, and others I feel so defeated at how far we still have to go. Right now we've pretty much reached the peek of that roller coaster. We just need a little shove to get up and over and we'll be smooth sailing! Amazingly, being so close to having another card paid off is more frustrating to me than exciting. I just wish I could pay it off TODAY. I don't want to make more payments. I don't want to wait. I'm tired of focusing on this darn card... be gone already! (and, for those thinking "umm.. hmm.. that's why WE don't have credit cards!" as you look down your noses... let's evaluate the car you can't afford to drive, the house you can't afford to live in, the other loans you can't pay back... most of us Americans are in this boat together - the boat of DEBT.)  Those of you that are rocking the debt-free (or mostly so) life.. you deserve a medal for your awesome choices!! Share your knowledge with the rest of us and keep us encouraged!

Once this card is paid off... we'll be able to whittle away at the next one a lot easier. It will just be a big weight off of our shoulders and we're so ready to get there. I'm working my booty off, as is Clayton. I keep telling God to keep doing what he's doing to help us out because we know that any money we are able to not only earn, but use towards "our" plan, is totally by his doing. He gives and takes away.. that is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. (at least for me!)

We are talking a lot more now about seriously looking for a house or land. I even went to get a survey of a piece of land we've been eyeing... things are starting to feel more real. Goals feel more reachable. Expanding my business on several acres seems possible. We're so close... so close it almost hurts!

One major setback is that Christmas is here. We've pretty much decided that Christmas will be fun but minimal this year. We refuse to ruin our long-term goals for one day of way too many presents under the tree. It just isn't worth it.

Another set back I see coming is medical bills. After some extensive testing I had done recently.. I'm dreading writing those checks! (that we'll have to pay out.. ugh.. taking away from the money we usually put towards paying off credit cards. Anyone else living this story?!)

So, we're still trucking along. We are determined. We have huge dreams that we know we can accomplish - and that keeps us motivated to just keep doing this. I can't believe it's been 6 months ago when we started this plan.. it seems like it was just a few weeks back. Time flies so fast.. whether you're making wise choices financially or not.

What choices will you make as the New Year approaches? Will you be where you are now 6 months from now or working on moving forward - refusing to let finances hold you back any longer? I'm praying that we'll be somewhere much different. Having a house that we've been able to sell, debt totally paid off, and a house on a perfect amount of acres. God is leading us... and his timing feels painfully slow. I do know that in the end, wherever he's put us will be perfect and I'll be so amazed at how he reveals his timing to us. That's how he works. I think he does it just to drive me crazy...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expanding my Business - Because I'm Insane

Posted by Mandy at 11:03 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE my job? Really... LOVE it. Have I said how amazed I am that God's letting this crazy idea of mine actually work? That I'm my own boss and it's actually profitable? Well, if I haven't - then there ya go.

With training sessions going really well, and client's keeping my book fairly full, I've decided to go out on *another* limb. I'm starting Doggie Daycare. I can't help but see this huge need for it in our area. With no dog parks, no where great to walk dogs, and seeing the hectic lives most of my client's live.. I just figured it makes sense to expand my services to include daycare.

One of the biggest problems with most dogs' behavior that I show up to train is extreme frustration and hyper-activity. This typically comes from not enough exercise. It isn't that their owners don't try, it isn't that they don't really WANT their dogs to run and play to their heart's desire - but where will they get the time?! Enter my crazy idea.

I've had one person already approach me about this before I even made it public knowledge that I was going to start it. Great! We'll see how it goes. I'm guessing slow at first and then hopefully it will build with time.

I used to offer dog walking to try to solve this problem, but it was simply too difficult to travel all around town walking so many dogs. At one point in the summer I was walking about 8 miles a day! I ended up with a painful tendon injury from over doing it. So, this is a great alternative. I can take all of the dogs on the same walks together, play with them in between, train them while I've got them, and then return them to their owners calm and tired. Perfecto! (or so is the theory...)

I never imagined I'd actually succeed in this, but here we go. Taking off! We're seriously looking into our moving options right now to expand the business even more. To make it easier on clients and on myself. Who knows what God has in store for Canine Corrections!

If you'd like any information about Canine Corrections boarding, training, or daycare - visit our website. Also included is a complete price list.

Feeling like a really good friend? Share this website and information with all of your K-9 loving (and owning) friends! :)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Man Killed by Exploding Gum (yes, really..)

Posted by Mandy at 6:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post
I assumed I had read the title of this news story wrong, but sure enough, this really happened.

A 25-year old Ukrainian man was found with the bottom part of his face blown off after his relatives heard a loud "pop" come from his room. Apparently this guy had a weird habit of dipping chewing gum in citric acid before chewing it (why??) and must have confused that packet with another "unidentified" substance in a different packet. Obviously, the other packet contained explosive material. Man.. tough mistake!

They're calling in experts to go examine the mystery substance to see what exactly it is. They were afraid to transport it because, well, for obvious reasons.

I'm curious to see what this turns out to be and why on earth he had it sitting in his room in the first place. You would think explosive material would be labeled or packaged so you could know what it is.. and not be able to mistake it for citric acid.

Makes you think twice about opening that pack of gum!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Merry Chris.... umm.. Happy Holidays!

Posted by Mandy at 3:23 PM 3 comments Links to this post
Another wonderful Christmas day is approaching, and stores are full of lights, ornaments, decorations, ribbon, trees, and cheer. One thing you might find missing more and more is the actual word "Christmas." Apparently, we are simply celebrating the "holidays"... which are apparently code for "we don't want to offend anyone by saying Christmas..shhh.."

News story after news story, both online and on TV, I keep reading all kinds of insanity about Christmas bans. Bans on "Christmas" parties at school. Bans on "Christmas" music at "holiday concerts." Bans on nativity scenes, baby Jesus, or posters of pregnant virgins. (okay.. you know the one I'm talking about)

Has the world gone mad? What is all the commotion about?

This story talks all about a school district banning any religious Christmas music from being sang at a Christmas concert. Umm.. yes... a Christmas concert. If Christmas music offends you or your kid... DON'T GO. Much simpler solution than putting an actual BAN on "Silent Night." Like it or not, December 25th is a celebration of the birth of Jesus by the 80ish percent of Americans that say they are Christian. That's most of us.. meaning most of us enjoy singing "O Holy Night."

How about this story where one woman is causing chaos by demanding all religious symbols be taken down from the town square during Christmas. What's even crappier than the war she's waging, is that cities across the great USA are so afraid of being sued by these rare fruit-cakes that they're taking things down WITHOUT A FIGHT! So, everyone but one or two people in your town WANT religious Christmas symbols.. and you cater to the two? I know that in certain times, the law is there to PROTECT the minorities... but what exactly do they need protection from in this instance? How does seeing a nativity scene damage someone? How do the words "Merry  Christmas" actually offend a person? I see less outrage over rap music - which typically offends EVERYONE! Let's get with the program folks.. pick your battles!

 If "we" try to force you to have a Christmas Tree with a shiny star on top and make your child learn about the birth of Christ in public school.. fine.. have a tantrum over that. Not the case. So chill a bit. You don't see me trying to sue our schools b/c they talk about Santa - though we choose NOT to do Santa at our home. I mean.. he's for sure not real! Don't try to convince my kid that Santa is a God-like being that sees him constantly and rewards his good behavior with gifts and treasures and scolds bad behavior with no goodies at all, but lumps of coal instead. Still, I'm NOT offended by Santa.. I just choose to do as I please at my home.

I'm a Christian but wouldn't be offended by someone saying "Happy Hanukah" to me. I mean.. if that's their religious view of choice, then great! I'm honored they want to include me - though it isn't something I celebrate. Thanks for the holiday cheer, Jewish Friend! :) You want to put up a menorah? Fine by me!

There is a friend to those that enjoy Christmas - the Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign is a really cool thing going on. On the site I linked you can see tons of news stories that deal with both victories for  Christians in this insane war we're fighting, and some issues that are ongoing.

Like it or not, Christmas is a FEDERAL holiday. Our kids get out of school in honor of it, you get off of work because of it. That alone should make you celebrate and have Christmas cheer! Let's stand up for what we believe in and not let the government or a few loony toons take the lights off of our streets or the nativity scenes from our town squares. Don't believe that your love of Christ and the one day a year we have a major public celebration in his honor is offensive, wrong, or intolerant. The few that try to ban us from this celebration are the intolerant ones. They are the offensive ones. The law isn't there to protect us FROM religion.. but to protect religion FROM government. Let's keep this straight America!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

This Cannot Be Real

Posted by Mandy at 9:46 AM 4 comments Links to this post
I've never said a phrase more in my life than in the past few days. I bet I've said, "This cannot be real," at least 10 times a day since my dad died. My gosh... even typing the words "dad died" doesn't seem real. How can this be? He was just here... he was fine.. he was happy.. he was amazing.. he was the best.. and now he's gone. Not gone as in not in existence, but gone as in not here with me.

Where was my warning? Where was my time to say goodbye? Where was my last hug? My last time to hear his voice and know it was the last? The last time for my kids to make him laugh and me know it was the last time to hear his wonderfully contagious laugh?

How do I go on the rest of my time here on earth (which God willing will be many many years) and never smell his scent again? My daddy always smelled amazing. How do I go on for so long knowing I'll never feel his big bear hugs again? He gave the best hugs... and he meant them. Both arms totally wrapped around you, squeezing you until you almost couldn't breathe, and he'd have to do that straining groan for exaggeration, too. He'd always end it with a phrase like, "Oh I love you so much, Mandy Beth!" or "I am so proud of you sweetheart!" He never 'just' loved you or was 'just' proud of you... he was SO proud, he loved you SO much.

I keep trying to remember his voice, his scent, his arms around me, his laugh, his smile, his jokes, his tricks, the way he'd raise his eyebrow whenever he was disagreeing politely, or about to pull some kind of hilarious antics. The more I try to grasp onto memories the more I become horrified that I might forget. I prayed for what seemed like hours last night for God to bring memories back to me. All of them. To burn them into my brain. He did. It was too much to sort through. I could remember him teaching me to ride a bike without training wheels, I had a flash of a memory of playing with a balloon with him when I had to be all of 4, I remembered working in the wood shop with him, I remembered cleaning my bicycle as he washed the cars, I remembered watching him eat sardines and holding my nose, I remembered how he never went one single night without hugging and kissing me goodnight, never. He never let a morning pass that he didn't poke his head into my room on his way to work to say goodbye and have a great day. I remembered crying on his shoulder over my first heartbreak, and him crying over my pain. I remembered him taking me fishing, out to shoot guns, and I vividly remember a deer hunting trip that a deer finally showed up and I bawled my eyes out, begging him not to kill it. And.. he let it go. From then on out he'd take me "deer watching" instead of hunting. He was just that kind of dad. I remembered family reunions with him, 4-wheeler riding, decorating Christmas trees, birthday parties, Father's Days, births of my children, and so many more memories that I felt my head would explode. I guess I should've prayed for them to come in a very organized manner.

I wanted to go through pictures to post with this but right now it is just too hard. I hate that seeing my father in pictures sends me into hysterical crying. I hate that thinking of him brings me sadness. I hate that I had to write my dad's obituary. I hate that I didn't get to say goodbye. I hate that God took him. I hate the pain my family is in.

The one thing that is keeping us going is faith. I don't know that I've ever in my life felt so much relief as knowing my dad was a Christian. I KNOW he is with Jesus. I KNOW he is okay. I KNOW he isn't sad and that the only ones in pain is those of us left behind. I KNOW I will see him again. And, as a great friend of mine, Ashlee, said to me as I cried to her over the phone,

"Just remember, your time without him is so much shorter than the time you'll spend with him."

No greater words have ever been spoken. She said she didn't know if they would be comforting or not, well, they were. They are.

When I speak of one friend, I feel the need to list all of you. I have never, ever felt so loved. I have never felt God's hand on me like I have this week. Seeing my friends from high school show up at my dad's visitation and funeral... it was so comforting. Having Stephanie and Jennifer drive from Monticello and surprise me with hugs... amazing. Michael McDaniel coming to the funeral - what a blessing. Seeing my cousin Sarah, that I grew up with my entire life walk through the door of my dad's house... my goodness. I don't know if I've ever flung myself into someone's arms so quickly.. I couldn't stop saying, "Oh my gosh I'm so glad you're here! I'm so glad you're here!" as I soaked her shoulder with tears. Seeing my cousins that I've shared my life with cry over the loss of their uncle, and cry with me, my sister, my brothers, and my stepmother over our pain was like God sending angels in our time of need.

My sister-in-law Abby was an amazing gem. I could devote an entire post to her. To the fact that she did everything she could along with my stepmom, brothers, and their Uncle to save my dad's life until the ambulance arrived... that she literally held her hands in his mouth desperately fighting a losing battle with God himself. She was our rock, our clear thinker, our planner, our comforter, and our consistent person during all of this. My dad loved her dearly.. and she him. I pray that everyone involved the day of his death will be able to forget those last moments they spent with him. That God will take those horrible images from their minds and replace them with beautiful memories.

My family, my I love them. Their love, hugs, words, prayers, and just being near them. I am sooo thankful that my dad has a twin brother. I told my uncle that whenever I miss my dad, I'm so glad that I can look at him and still see his face. No, it isn't the same, but it's a lot more than most people get.

I'm so thankful that God gave me 26 years with my dad. I know so many that would have given anything for that kind of time with their parents. I am so thankful that God blessed us with a great relationship so that there are no regrets. Nothing was left unsaid. I know he loves me, and he knows I love him. I am thankful that God's word is true and one day, we'll be together FOREVER singing praises to our real Father. One day there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or despair. In all honesty, dying doesn't seem as scary when you know you have two amazing Fathers waiting to greet you with open arms.

For today, I will try to put up my  Christmas tree with my family. I will turn on Christmas music and hide the tears as each song brings back memories of my dad. I will smile. I will love. I will praise God for his many blessings and each day he gives me on earth with the ones that I love. I will thank him for taking care of my dad, and I will beg him to keep his hands on all of us as we go through the hardest time of our lives. I will hold my children tighter, my husband closer, and I will continue to live a life that makes both my Heavenly and Earthly father proud. I will close my eyes, feel my daddy's arms squeezing me, and I will remember his smell, and I will hear his voice still saying,

 "MMMMM... mmm... I love you SO much, Mandy Beth."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Potty Train a Toddler

Posted by Mandy at 9:01 AM 1 comments Links to this post

When you first have a baby, changing diapers is strangly part of the sweet experience of having a tiny newborn. As the months, and years, pass... the experience morphs into a job. Then it changes into a job that you cannot wait to quit.

I am in your shoes. I have a two year old, and I am done - DONE - changing diapers. Not just changing diapers, but buying diapers. Thankfully, this isn't my first rodeo. With my little man being #3 toddler to go through potty training with, I've learned a few basic skills that do work. I've also learned a few things that definitely do not work. Oh boy.. have I.

Potty Training Tip #1: Wait Until They're Ready

In my personal experiences, this is the hardest step to follow. When you hear of so-and-so's toddler being out of diapers at age 1.5, it can make you look at your kid and think,

"Well, if SHE can potty, YOU can too!"

Surprise! Not the case. Each child is completely different. Children within the same family will likely potty train at different ages, and each will probably take different lengths of time to be totally out of diapers.

General ages of potty training readiness can vary greatly - anywhere from 18 months up to 3 years old for beginners. I know.. you're freaking out at the 3 years old age. Just know that it is true for many children. Three is a very common age for kids, especially boys, to potty train. If you can accept the fact that you can't make your child ready to potty train any earlier than he or she will naturally be able, then you will save you and your child mucho stress.

*How Will I Know When my Child is Ready to Potty Train?

There are several things to watch for to determine if your child is ready to begin potty training:

  • Able to stay dry for long periods of time - typically 1-2 hours.
  • Wakes up dry from naps
  • Asks for diaper to be changed
  • Understands typical 'potty' words and uses them
  • Interested in using the potty
  • Able to pull own pants up and down
  • Becomes increasingly unhappy with soiled or wet diapers
Even if your child shows all of these signs, they may still not be 100% ready to train. It isn't just physical, but mental maturity.

Potty Training Tip #2: Encourage - Avoid Scolding

Shouting "hooray!" and having a party everytime your tot goes potty will go a long way in potty training success. Scolding for accidents can immediately negatively hinder any progress. When pressure is put on a toddler to do anything, especially potty train, it can create defiance or simply stress about the experience. Making it one of no stress and lots of praise is proven to be the best approach.

Personally, I've done sticker charts for going potty and even bribed with M&M's... one for pee, two for poop. It has always worked for me... but again, only when the child is READY.

Potty Training Tip #3: Know When to Call it Quits With Pull-Ups

Some toddlers think of training pants as underwear and are afraid to use the bathroom in them. My children, however, always knew they were just fancy diapers. No matter how I tried to convince them that they were just like their other pairs of underwear, they knew better. If you have a child like mine, and are feeling brave, then bite the bullet. Toss the training pants and stick with real underwear.

Potty Training Tip #4: Know When to Call it Quits

I'm not sure which tip is harder, this one or the first one.

Many times toddler will do GREAT potty training for many, many  months only to later regress. They'll stop making it to the potty in time, or they'll simply not even get up to go potty anymore. How frustrating. I have also lived this. This is where it became hard for me to not scold for accidents.

"But, you KNOW how to go potty! Why didn't you go?!"

As hard as it is, when this happens, the best method is often to stick them back in diapers or pull ups. Yes, I know, it feels awful. You think if you go back they'll always be in diapers.

Remember how we talked about no stress? Here you go. Just allow the regression phase to come and go without ruining your carpet and furniture. I promise that you can start again soon and they'll likely take up with it easily and this time, they'll really have it.

Potty training can be incredibly simple or incredibly stressful. It all depends on each child and each parent. Put the ball in their court (because it really already is anyway) and you might be surprised that one day, without you freaking out about it, your toddler will magically be potty trained. No wand required.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dog Pound Woes

Posted by Mandy at 9:40 AM 1 comments Links to this post
One of my greatest passions in life is animal rescue. It's something that God pushed into my soul from the time I was born. We're all here for different jobs, and this is definitely one of mine.

One way I am able to help animals is by working with the Humane Society and organizing adoptions of dogs from our local dog pound. Like many 'shelters' it is a kill shelter. Once there for "too long," no matter how much space is available, the dogs are killed. Can I just whine a minute?

Once again, the euthanasias are about to occur. Monday morning many dogs will be loaded into a cage on the back of the dog catcher's truck and taken to the vet. They will be held down and injected with medication that kills them. Why? Because no one will help them. No one will foster them. No one will adopt them. These are amazing dogs - especially this particular group. From Boxers to labs... they are beautiful dogs that anyone should be proud to own. Knowing that the next time I go to visit them, they might all be dead.. well, it's draining. It's depressing. It makes me ridiculously sad.

I've had people tell me that they can't even stand to look at our website because it breaks their hearts. Good. It should. I get to see these dogs in person. I get to love on them, give them treats, walk them, and then put them back into their jail cells in hopes that someone will see them as worthy to live as I do. That someone will choose to adopt rather than purchase a pedigree dog. Then, I have to write "soon to be euthanized" in bright red letters over their pictures on our website - praying it will push someone right on the edge to adopt. Usually, I then have to go back and change it to a bright red "euthanized" once they've been killed. Does anyone else care? What else can I possibly do?

We need foster homes like crazy. We need adoptive homes as well. We need our city to stand up and stop letting dogs leave the pound without being spayed and neutered. We need people to stop breeding irresponsibly. We need more dogs in this town like we need more mosquitoes. We need our city to rally together and say "enough!" No more loveable, healthy, social dogs being killed. These animals did not choose to be brought into this world. They did not choose to grow up bigger than what their owner thought they would grow to be, or choose to be a barker, or choose to be a digger. They did not choose to be abused, neglected, and dumped. Yet, they are the ones that pay the price. Not their owners - for we typically never know who they were. Not the city - for what's not seen is forgotten. Just them.

I just had to have a vent fest. I am so frustrated. No matter how much we do, it is just never enough. Until people wise up and start taking advantage of our FREE spay and neuter program and stop letting unwanted litters of puppies be created, then it will just always be this way. It will always be an uphill battle. We have to PREVENT. Euthanizing dogs should not be our means of pet population control. Adoption is not the answer, either. Prevention is.

If you are in Drew County or surrounding areas and you want a free spay or neuter, PLEASE, call Ruby Burton at 367-3377. Let us help you! We would LOVE to!

I do want to make a quick plug for how awesome so many people have been. I have soo many friends that have chosen adoption when they could MORE than afford to buy whatever dog they want. Recently, Hank and Susan Hollinger chose to adopt when their hearts were yearning for another cuttie-pie Jack Russell. I've had many friends adopt NUMEROUS dogs from the pound or from my selection of foster dogs. Amazing, amazing people. :)

 There are purebreds being euthanized EVERY SINGLE DAY. I know.. I rescue many of them. Whatever dog you could possibly want, we can find it for you. You can then not only get the breed you want, but the amazing peace that comes from rescue. Give it a try! Let me help!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Secret to a Happy Marriage?

Posted by Mandy at 9:08 AM 0 comments Links to this post
I love this month... good old November. One reason is because the harsh summer's heat has officially gone bye-bye, the dry air makes for some awesome hair-days, the leaves changing on the trees is B-E-A-Utiful, and... last but not least.. it's the month of my wedding anniversary! (our wedding anniversary) On the 25th of this great month we shall celebrate 9 years of wedded bliss... well, mostly bliss. Everyone has their moments - who am I kidding?

Getting married as teens, most people just knew we were doomed. I suppose if we'd have had any sense we might have understood their points of view. However, being so young, in love, and in the whirlwind of life - we flung ourselves confidently into marriage. Doom and gloom speeches and all - we were sure we'd be different. We always root for the underdog.

Here we sit, almost 9 years later. Truly, happily married. I am one of those disgusting people that honestly LOVES being married. Having an incredible husband definitely helps in this area. (more mushy stuff about him to come... why do it before the actual anniversary, right?)

One thing I've been pondering over the past few weeks is why we've made it. Why are we so happy when so many are so unhappy? How have we beat the odds?

I think the number one reason, for sure, is God. He is the absolute center of our marriage. Our marriage is structured in a Biblical way and when you have a Christian man and woman married, living for God, I just really think there's nothing that can break you. It does take two, though.

What about everything else? What makes a happy marriage?

I think it's actually REALLY simple. I mean.. laughably simple.

The best thing I ever read after we were married was a book by Joyce Meyer called, Help Me, I'm Married! I've recommended it to every newly wedded couple that I know since. The best sentence I took away from the whole book:

"If you wake up each day and ask yourself, "How can I make my spouse the happiest husband/wife today?" and act on those ideas... you will have a successful marriage."

Okay... seriously - how simple does that sound? In all honesty, it's much harder to make happen than one might think. Sometimes the things that make your spouse happy really annoy you. Sometimes they seem silly to you. Sometimes it's just tough for you to make that stuff happen.

One example for us would be breakfast. Oh my. Clayton LOVES breakfast. Not the typical pancakes or waffles I feed the kids, either. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, throw in some peppers, and maybe a steak if I can find one. Perhaps I should even get up extra early to kill and skin a deer to add to the mix...  This would be heaven for him.

I, on the other hand, hate breakfast. The last thing I want to do is get up EXTRA early to cook a ton of food that I won't be ready to eat until around 9:00am, at 6:15am. So, in all honesty, I rarely do this. When I do, he appreciates it. I know he probably wishes I'd do it more... and now that everyone in our house sleeps all night long, I have no more excuses not to. So, challenge to myself - make a big breakfast at least once a week (to start) just because it makes my man happy. See.. simple. (ugh...)

I have to say that Clayton is an expert at doing those little things that make me sooo happy. A spontaneous foot or back rub, cleaning (anything...), doing stuff without me ever having to ask, taking care of the screaming 2 year old, even though he just walked in from work, so that I can have a break, taking care of all of the kids so I can go on a jog all alone with my dogs... I could go on and on. He knows that saying, "If Mamma ain't happy, ain't no one happy," and he makes sure that it never applies to this house.

There's another weapon of mass destruction that can make or break a marriage. This one is not for the kiddies... but we all know it's true. SEX. Yep.. I said it. (sorry Mom..)

One of the funniest, and saddest, things I ever heard someone say (can't recall who) on TV about the lack of sex in a marriage was, "You don't want to have sex with me.. and you don't want me to have sex with anyone else... so you've sentenced me to celibacy." Harsh, right? Oh, but so so true.

Each marriage is going to have its ups and downs when it comes to sex. If I may be frank (and you all know I will be whether you want me to or not) the times when we had a new baby in the house were extremely tough for us. All of my focus was on the new baby, on trying to sleep, on trying to SURVIVE. It is really a 24/7, never-ending, always exhausting, though amazing and awesome, experience. I didn't want hugs as much from my dear husband because I had someone literally attached to my body for hours and hours each day and night. If he acted like he wanted some "after the kids go to bed" fun... oh wow.. it felt like another job on my to-do list. I just had no energy. None.

Here is where the problems can begin. Problem is, many times new parents get so used to this routine of just taking care of kids, being exhausted, and living for the little people in the house, that their intimacy together totally goes away. Poof.. in the blink of an eye. Gone.

Babies do eventually sleep... and even if you're sooo tired... you've got to pay attention to your man. Listen to me mommies... trust me here. Your happy little family can depend on it. I'm not talking about when your baby is 6 weeks old here.. but months down the road. Make it a priority to get back into the groove of life with your husband. Think about things from where he sits. The amazing thing is, YOU'LL feel better about yourself, too. You'll feel closer with your man, and your family will be more stable. If I had time I'd research some facts about this whole sex and marriage thing... but trust me, it's true. The more sex that's in a marriage, the happier that marriage tends to be. Especially years down the road. (everyone has that crazy honeymoon sex... that's easy. I'm talking 7 years later... keep that crazy honeymoon sex going!)

Here's the one that's gonna get me in trouble. You can't let yourself go. Not permanently.

Trust me... after three pregnancies and three csections - I've had my ups and downs physically. Oh boy. I had times that I felt sorry for my husband for having to look at me, as sad as that is. It's just true! Having 8 pounders when you're only 5'3" does a number on ya!

As hard as it is, and always has been for me, I have committed to keeping myself in pretty good shape. I've been able to get back down to my prepregnany weight after each baby, and let me tell you, it was super hard after the third. I don't just love to exercise, I don't love not eating all of the yummy foods that I crave, but you know what I love less? Being a woman that I'm not sure my husband enjoys looking at. That is a horrible feeling. Even though Clayton has always been the type to tell me how amazing, beautiful, and sexy I am (even at 9 months pg.. the liar) I want to feel that for myself. I want to walk into a room with him and him be so proud that he's with me. I'm not the best thing since sliced bread by any means... but I do what I can.

He is the same. He works out several times a week, eats healthy, and lets me know that he wants to look good FOR ME. Now, that is quite the compliment. And, I appreciate it! I know he's tired after working his crazy hours.. but he still manages to put himself on the to-do list. We women have to do the same... we struggle with that much more than men do it seems.

Last, but not least - KEEP DATING.

One thing that I love about my man is that he is still Mr. Romantic after all of these years. Romance used to mean flowers, now he knows all I want is my kitchen to be clean when I come home. Nothing is sexier than a man loading a dishwasher or pushing a vacuum. A date night for us might just mean putting the kids to bed a bit early and having popcorn with a movie that we rented from Redbox. Works for us!

Other times, we leave the kids (and dogs!) with my mom (who we appreciate soo much) and hit the town running. We stay out late, we laugh until we hurt, and we stay the night away. Waking up with no one immediately demanding food or drink is oh-so-nice. Try it! We always say after a weekend like that how we still feel like kids dating. Even after all of this time.

Again, our marriage isn't perfect - but we do love each other and love being together. I cannot imagine myself without my husband. He is such a part of me.

What are the secrets to YOUR happy marriage? What keeps you going strong?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fattest States in America

Posted by Mandy at 11:32 AM 1 comments Links to this post
I heard a news report on the radio this morning that mentioned the fattest, and fittest, states in America. What a shocker! As usual, our good ole southern states are overall the most unhealthy and the most obese. *that's an award I could do without* The fattest state of all, again, was Mississippi. This is the fifth year in a row this state has miserably failed in this area, with 32.5% of adults being obese. (I take the report to mean that this percentage doesn't even calculate people that are simply overweight.)

My home state, Arkansas, was #10 in having the most obese adults. According to this report:

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2009 - Arkansas has the 10th highest rate of adult obesity in the nation, at 28.6 percent and the second highest of overweight youths (ages 10-17) at 37.5 percent, according to a new report by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

To see how your state ranks, check here.

Colorado is, once again, the #1 fittest state. Go Buffaloes! Only 18.9% of their adults are obese. You guys should be proud! (notice the "you guys" and not y'all...) I have family up and over that way, and yes, they look great! I don't see how with  Aunt Gena's cooking.. but they do.

This makes me wonder, "What do they got that we ain't got?" in good CO? Besides mountains, hiking trails, bike paths everywhere, and leaders of their state that give a hoo about health and fitness... oh wait... maybe that's it?

I look around my city, that I do love, and shake my head. As many families as we have here - there is almost nothing here to cater to us. Our city park is okay, but the "walking trail" is a big joke. It's way too narrow, it floods in parts, and it isn't smooth in the least. No way can kids safely bike or roller blade there... much less adults. 

Our one really nice track is open to the public but is property of the school district. No wheels of any kind (no strollers, bikes, wagons, skates, etc) and no pets. So, if you want to walk your dog - not there. If you want to push your stroller on a non-flooded, smooth surface - sorry. Some of our busiest streets have incomplete or no sidewalks. The options are pretty much drive or get run over. You pick.

It's really no wonder we southerners are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to competitions of health and fitness.

Fast food here is pretty much your typical circle of grease on a bun. Fast-food companies have tried to trick us into thinking they care about healthy by including salads on their menus - but have you taken the time to look at the nutrition labels? Most of them are WORSE than ordering yourself a box of happiness like your kids.

Food prices are insane right now. The poorest of people suffer the most here.

The Government LOVES being in the middle of everything.. but they haven't yet figured out a way for food stamps to not cover Hot Pockets and other foods that are full of fat, calories, and offer almost nothing in the way of nutrition? Wouldn't showing people that the Government supports "these" healthy foods likely go a long way in helping people learn about the better choices? It isn't always easy to pick the right foods! Where's the support and direction?

Now that I've taken some time to blame Big Brother for our fatness... let's take another minute to put the blame back on ourselves.

Yes, food prices are crazy - but fresh fruits and veggies really still are not that expensive. Bananas, apples, celery, carrots, cucumbers, fresh green beans, and lettuce are pretty darn cheap. I can buy organic celery for less than I can buy each of my kids a candy at the check-out line. Spending my money on produce means I avoid buying pre-made or packaged foods like frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and any other microwavable meals. It's a trade-off.

 Am I the only one that thinks all of the constant talk about why we're all so fat is just talk? Where's the ACTION? What's really being done to stop this epidemic? Where's the public fear of our children dying at much younger ages than any generation before due to unhealthy weight and eating? Where is the realization that this is a very serious problem and it hits us not just on the health front, but the financial front as well with skyrocketing insurance costs?

Is it really the Governments responcibility at all to make us be healthy - or are we passing the buck to avoid taking the blame ourselves?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sick Kids and Doctors Appointments

Posted by Mandy at 7:07 AM 1 comments Links to this post
I have spent more time and money at some sort of doctor's office (human and animal) over the past two weeks than I  normally do in 6 months time. Why not keep this record going, right?

Last night my eldest child began complaining that her throat really hurt. I used my wanna-be doctor skills and had her say "ahhhh" as I shined a light into her mouth. I found huge tonsils, red streaks, and the beginnings of white puss pockets. Strep... hooray.
sorry if you're reading this over breakfast.

Immediately, I knew that I had to call this morning to make an appointment to see our doctor. I dreaded the actual appointment before I even knew what time my torture would begin. I just wish that somewhere on our files it read:

"This mom is not psycho and anytime she brings her kids in they really are sick and need meds. Get a soul and just call in antibiotics if she calls and swears her kids have Strep or Pink Eye. Thank you."

Of course, my file does not have this printed anywhere in it. Therefore, I get to waste almost half of a working day just sitting there. A typical time for us to be at the doctor's office is 3 hours. This is WITH an appointment. Then I get to load up my sick and cranky kids and take them to the pharmacy where I could wait an additional 45 minutes. (even with the meds called in... explain this to me..)

Not being in the medical field I try to tell myself that I just don't understand what's going on behind the scenes. However, when I ask the 5 people near me "what doctor are you here to see," and "what time was your appointment" and they all answer the same doctor and the same time as me.. it's hard to not be annoyed.

So, I asked for an appointment with a doctor that I know to be a bit faster than my favorite one in the practice in hopes that I won't have to prepare myself for quite as much hell-on-earth this afternoon. We'll see if my cleverness pays off with us getting out of Dodge before we contract the Swine Flu or the stomach virus on top of our current disease.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're Just Different in the South

Posted by Mandy at 12:28 PM 1 comments Links to this post

In the past couple of years, I have had amazing opportunities to become friends with people from all over - not just all over America, but the world. Hearing their accents, their ideas on kids, marriage, and life, and just learning about their cultures, foods, and families has been so much fun! It has really opened my eyes on how secluded in my little southern town I have been.

Sometimes I feel that I just don't belong in the true South. I hear about how people live in other countries or areas and I think, "I should have been born there... that's so me!"

Something always happens though that makes me realize how much I love being a southern girl.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending my "little" cousin's wedding shower. (and when I say little.. she is now an adult.. but she'll forever remain 7 years old in my brain) A lot of our family and some old friends were there along with some of their children. Watching the interaction of born-and-bred southern women with each other just made me smile. I wonder if women from other areas of America act the way we do, speak the way we do, or if they could possibly be as dramatic, sweet, and catty as we can be.

As soon as someone would walk into the room, squeels of joy from long-lost-friends would erupt, Hug Fest '09 would begin, and words like "Darlin'," "Honey," and "Sugar," would be thrown around, totally interchangeable with names.

Gossip all begins with the same phrase, "Y'all are not gonna believe what I heard..."

No matter how old you are, you answer your elders with "m'am" and no matter how many times the much older ladies have seen you since you were 5, they always have to remind you that they can "remember when you were just 'this' big!"
Why is it that you can't remember them when they were "that" young? Strange, isn't it?

Hair is perfect... as is make-up. Always.

I loved hearing talk about farming, fields, tractors, and harvesting. It's been so long since I've been back to the land -o- fields... it was quite astonishing to see so much totally flat land. I began my sneezing fits as soon as I entered Arkansas County.
How did I manage to grow up here and not have allergies?

Oh yes... the real south. Where fields are abundant, work boots and dirty jeans are on every man that you see, and the women are sweet to you, whether they really like you or not.

One of my favorite things about being southern is hearing the children talk. Country accents.. the cute kind.. not the annoying "hillbilly" kind, coming out of the mouths of pig-tailed girls and rough and tumble boys; that's music to my ears.

Hearing them say "Yes M'am" so effortlessly because that's all they've known since they were born makes me grin. Watching them use those good manners they've been raised with makes me so proud.

These little moments are so precious to me now as an adult. I suppose that is because I've had so much exposure to other ways of living. Not that one way is better than the other -but this is simply the way I have lived. The way I was raised.

I've learned that kids in northern areas aren't required to say "m'am" or "sir" and they find it so strange that we stress it so much as a part of good manners. Our sayings like "y'all" or "fixin' to" make sense only to us. The way we can make a one syllable word draw out into at least three... that is a special skill that only real southerners possess.

I've learned that we're just a bit different down in the south. Men holding doors and tipping their hats (even if they've traded cowboy hats for baseball caps.. it's all the same), women swapping stories and laughing hysterically over the skillets of fried foods in the kitchen, and kids running and playing in the open grass - without a store or a building in site - that's the south that I grew up in.

Where you catch lightening bugs after dark, you can ride your bike to your neighbors house, (which is 1/2 a mile down the road) and you aren't afraid of strangers, because you've never met one... that's the south that I grew up in.

Where you grow up and swear that you can't wait to leave. That there's "nothing to do here." You can't imagine ever going back and looking fondly over the small town in which you grew up. Until you do grow up. And you think back to the laughs with friends, the talks with your brothers that lasted until the wee hours of the morning (because they didn't come in from farming until after 9pm all summer long), and the comfort of simply stopping at a gas station or fast food place and having everyone know you. Yep. That's the south I grew up in. And, I've realized, it's the south that I dearly love.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dog Training - How to stop Barking

Posted by Mandy at 8:26 AM 0 comments Links to this post

I mentioned in this post that the number one reason people call me to train their dogs is from house training issues. The #2 reason they call - "How do I get my dog to stop barking?"

Though each situation is different, the same factors often apply to a dog that barks to the point of really annoying its owner. Those factors include:
*Lack of Exercise
*Lack of Discipline
*Too Much Affection
*Feelings of Being "Pent Up" - Not Leaving the Yard Often Enough.

If you can do the exact opposite of the things listed above, you will likely dramatically decrease not only barking, but other pesky issues like hyper-activity, obsession, and whining.

Steps to Quiet Your Barker

Draining energy from any dog will naturally result in the dog having less energy to do unwanted behaviors, such as barking. However, the way you exercise your dog is very important. A game of fetch or chase in the yard is nice - but it usually involves no real discipline. Instead of games, learn to walk your dog where he is at a heel or following behind you. Please - AVOID RETRACTABLE LEASHES. These are my worst nightmare when dealing with dogs. A good walk involves the dog being focused on the owner as the leader. This drains physical and mental energy and puts the dog in the right mind-set to be obedient in other areas of life.

If you have a super energetic dog, use tools like Dog Backpacks to help you drain their energy and give them a sense of purpose. (Their 'job' is the carry the backpack and its contents. It works!)

Once you master the walk (having the dog walk beside you) then you could even try things like roller blades or bikes to help you move at a pace that your energetic dog will love! Another bonus - when you are faster than they are, it blows their mind! Your speed increases your ranking within the pack.

Leaving your yard for exercise is wonderful for your dog's mental state. Just because you have a super large yard, that doesn't mean it's enough for your dog. Even if you lived in a mansion, would you be content to never leave home?


Discipline within a dog pack is quite simple. It's often calm, quiet, and shocking to humans to see dogs properly discipline each other. The silent closed-mouth, intense stares and the low growls can often be totally unnoticed by us, we simply see the last step - the bite. It often looks like an attack. Growling, mouths open, one dog typically crying out in fear. It ends with one dog the victor - pinning the other to the ground. Amazingly, when it's an act of discipline, there will be no blood. It wasn't an attack - it was a necessary lesson for the lower ranked pack member.

How do we apply this to our dogs? Well, unless you want to actually grab a mouth-full of fur to mimic their natural discipline (and, I don't really recommend that...) then simply use your hand as a pseudo mouth. The goal is not to hurt your dog, but to shock and awe them. The first time you use this they will likely immediately snap out of whatever activity they're doing - from obsessing over birds outside to barking and whining because they heard a car door shut in the driveway.

First you warn - "Hey, quiet!" If they don't respond - you bite. A quick touch, but not a hit, to the neck or hindquarters works amazingly well. No pain, no frustration, and they get it. One rule for this to work - you MUST be calm. Dogs simply do not resond to frustrated, excited, too soft, or too stern energy. They crave balance and only become unbalanced because of us. As Cesar Milan said in a past episode of The Dog Whisperer,

"Humans are the only animals that naturally have stress and anxiety. We then create that for our dogs.. it's unnatural to them. I mean, have you ever gone into the woods and seen an anxious bear?"

Step 3 - Stop the Barking Before it Starts

You probably know what triggers your dogs barking episodes, so use that to your advantage. If hearing a car door shut outside sends him into hysteria (as it commonly does for dogs) then wait for that opportunity to discipline them.

If noise triggers them to run to doors and windows and frantically bark - then first you must get between them and the window or door and make them move away. Simply get your leadership skills together and walk towards them, using your hand to point them back. If they ignore, a gentle "bite" will likely get their attention - them repeat the command, "back."

Show them where they should go when they hear the noises outside. Place them away from the door, and stay there with them until they become CALM. If they are still obsessively looking at the door, they've not finished the exercise. Patience and consistency is the name of the game. If they wine, bark, or anything you disapprove of from their waiting area, IMMEDIATELY correct them with a verbal warning. "No.." "Shh.." "Stop.." Keep your cool.


When your dog finally submits and becomes calm, that is not the time to say "good girl" or "that's great" or anything of the sort. Why? Speaking to them, especially praising them, feeds them energy. The goal is to drain energy. Dogs do not need verbal affection.. ever. That's for us. Do you see dogs patting each other on the back or speaking to each other in high-pitched tones to say "good job"? Nahh... they sense the energy from each other. They know when the pack leader is proud of them. Same goes for their human pack leaders. Simply share calm, proud, happy energy with them... see how they respond!

If your dog just won't stop the yapping, it might be a good idea to contact a dog trainer in your area. There are numerous methods that can be used to stop barking in a gentle way - it is definitely worth seeking help.

If you are in southern Arkansas, you can contact me at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Curtis Vance - GUILTY

Posted by Mandy at 9:26 AM 1 comments Links to this post
Our beloved news anchor, Anne Pressly was horribly  murdered last year, and today we celebrate a conviction of the perpetrator. You can read about that here.

This post isn't to rehash the horridness of this crime. I was inspired to post about this because of all of the amazing things people were calling into radio stations to say about Anne. I personally did not know her, but I've yet to hear even one negative remark about her as both a professional and as a friend and person.

She was outwardly stunning... and obviously just as gorgeous in her soul. It was so touching to hear the outpouring of love and support to her memory and to her family as they still grieve their loss.

It's times like these that I stop and think about what my own legacy is. How will people remember me when I die? Of course I hope to live to be 140 years old, but even if I died today - what would people remember? I don't think this to be morbid, rather to inspire myself to always seek God for what I should do each day. I know that if I follow him - I'll be doing the right thing. Wouldn't it be AMAZING to be remembered for nothing other than being an amazing Christian? Not for the "works" you do on earth, but for the spiritual connection you had with your Father?

I think of people that I've loved that have passed and the way I remember them. From my aunt that passed at just 39 years of age that I loved (and still love) so dearly... to my grandmother that passed shortly before that.. to my husband's grandmother that passed several months ago. I can recall so many wonderful things about each of them. Isn't it funny how in death someone almost immediately  morphs into a perfect being in your mind. All wrong they ever did can just disappear in your grief. Have you ever been to a funeral where someone stood up and said,

"Well, he got what he deserved and the world's a better place without his crummy attitude. Rest in peace friend."

Hopefully not.

I suppose a sad truth is that we can really search to find something good in anyone once they've left this earth... why can't we do that while they're still here? What would our cities look like if every single person just went out each day with one goal: Find good in everyone! Can you imagine the love, support, and encouragement that would occur? Wow.. it would change everything! What if all parents did that with their children? Teachers with their students? Husbands with their wives?

What would happen?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Celeb Moms

Posted by Mandy at 8:34 AM 3 comments Links to this post
When I think of celebrity moms like Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie, one of my first thoughts is,

"Man... how on earth do they look that good after babies.. much less twins! I hate her..."

I rarely give much thought to the trials that would be involved in raising children totally in the public eye. My bloggy friend over at The (Un)Experienced Mom had a great post about Katie Holmes and her daughter Suri.. and this news report.

I suddenly had the thought,
"Wow... what if people followed me around constantly just waiting to snap a video or pictures of my kids freaking out... and me freaking out in response?"

I mean.. seriously.. can you imagine?! I had to laugh about what would be plastered all over magazines at check-out lines and videos on You Tube if I were famous.

"Mandy breastfeeds 17 month old in public WITHOUT a blanket!!"

"Moss caught taking kids to school in her PJs!"

"Is husband's police job too stressful for the children?"

"What's REALLY happening to all of those dogs?"

"Two-year-old's tantrum in Wal-Mart captures Mandy's true stress - is husband's job to blame?!"

"Moss's 5-year old son proclaims to his classmates - "There is no Santa" - resulting in hysteria."

"Claiming to eat organic foods - Mandy's seen taking kids to McDonald's!"

"Moss claims to practice attachment parenting - but we caught this!"

Oh geez.. the list would go on and on! If every parenting trial or mistake I ever made was broadcasted for the world to see, it would be really hard to take. Thinking of the spin each different news (if you can call it news) channel would put on it.. that's really scary!

My kids would be dressed in amazing clothes and I'd have a home gym and personal trainer.. but the clothes, fame, money, and even totally flat stomach still wouldn't stop a toddler from having a screaming fit in the worst possible arena. It's good to know that even celebrities deal with this stuff!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dr's Appointment Update

Posted by Mandy at 7:52 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Well, the appointment lasted FOREVER. Two hours in the waiting room and another two hours spent with the doctor. Yes... you can probably guess that two hours spent with your doctor equals that all is not well.

Some of you probably aren't aware that we had quite the struggle conceiving our third child. Surgery, medication.. and lots and lots of prayers finally resulted in our totally healthy blessing, Samuel. Praise God! The reason I was infertile is because of a pesky little condition known as PCOS. Once I delivered Sam I had no problems from the cysts for almost two whole years! I had almost convinced myself that I was a freak of nature and had magically been cured.

Then, about six months ago the pain began again. Fast forward to today - the pain is almost unbearable at times. The best way to describe PCOS pain is that it feels like you have something huge in your entire lower abdominal cavity that isn't supposed to be there.. and it's pressing on everything. It often makes me feel as though I'm getting a UTI just from all of the pressure. Clothes don't fit because of the swelling, exercise becomes impossible because of pain. It really interferes with your daily life.

I spent a few minutes explaining my returning symptoms with my doctor and he ordered an ultrasound to see what he could see. I was shocked at the results. Both ovaries are already covered in cysts, and I'm not even to the mid-way point of my cycle.. which is typically when they are the most severe.

When we were trying to conceive, my ultrasounds always showed cysts on one ovary or the other.. but not on both at the same time. Lovely. I got sent home with a free sample of Seasonique (birth control pills) and orders to start taking them next month and report back if I am unable to tolerate them so we can go to the next treatment option. (which is an insulin dug - Metformin.)

Before the ultrasound I told the doctor that if we could determine that just one ovary was causing all of the trouble that I would jump at the chance to let him just go in and remove it. Unfortunately,  neither of them are functioning properly so.. that's out of the question. If the birth control pills don't work, we'll be doing another lap surgery to try to see if anything else is underlying that needs to be addressed. He would have liked to go ahead and do that.. but I always want to start with the less treatment necessary first and work my way up if I have to. With the 8 viles of blood they took to test for EVERYTHING... if something else needs to be done I'm sure we'll know soon.

I'm praying hard that the Seasonique works and I don't have to do anything further. It's frustrating to have to take birth control and not need it as birth control. My body is its own natural birth control. And, may I make a quick God plug here? I just want people to realize that his plans are ALWAYS so perfect even when they seem insane. Had we not had Madison so young, and Carter also unplanned so young... we likely would have missed our chance at having children. Or, we might have only had one. I never would have expected to be battling infertility starting at age 23... and pretty much be completely unable to ovulate on my own by age 26. I love it when God's plan comes full circle and you have that "Ahh.. now I see" moment. Full of thanks and praise today! He is so good... and so great.

Next on the agenda.. this Friday I have to have a breast ultrasound due to some findings at my breast exam. Never had to do something like this, but in all honesty I feel fine about it. I'm not worried at all. I just sense that everything is fine. My only real concern is how this pap result will come back. I just 'really' don't want to go to the next step if it doesn't come back clean. But, compared to so many others and what they battle each day, it's still small beans. It's always good to keep your troubles in perspective.

I'm just very thankful that no matter what any of the tests show, that I have the comfort of knowing that God is with me. He has me and he always has. Even in the absolute worst case scenarios - he is still in control. Not me, not my body, not doctors, not lab results - HE is. If he can create heaven and earth, the ocean and land, the animals and all people, then I know he surely can handle whatever life throws my way.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Doctor's Appointments with Toddlers in Tow

Posted by Mandy at 7:28 AM 1 comments Links to this post

Don't be fooled.. this face is trouble

I am such a lucky girl. I get to visit the OB/GYN today for another exam... hooray. I am even luckier because I'm taking the two year old with me... oh joy. I probably could have asked several different people to keep him, and they would have, but with his current state-of-two-ness I just decided to lessen the trauma on us both and take him with me and pray for a miraculously fast visit.

Each time I go to the doctor with the kids I can't help but wonder if I'm the only parent that thinks it should be mandatory for EVERY doctors office to be set up with a complete jungle-gym. For the first 20 minutes of waiting, I can usually keep the little one entertained with books, food, and watching videos of himself on my cell phone. After that, the wiggles kick in and he wants to roam. And jump. And run. And tantrum because he can't run and jump. You would think that nurses would have mercy on those of us suffering, and making everyone else in the waiting room suffer, and slide us to the top of the list of those to be seen - but no. I suppose they must be fair. The only relief to be found is if there happens to be a kind-hearted mom in there as well that assures me that she too has a kid that acts like a kid. Of course, I tend to be stuck for hours with people that simply mumble under their breath about how I should "control my child" or give ugly stares from behind their magazines. As if I'M enjoying myself here? Have YOU ever gone out for hours with a toddler and they couldn't do anything?

Couple this with my stress about the actual appointment. Ugh...

I had a cervical cancer scare about a year ago, had the "bad cells" biopsied, and have had to go back every few months for repeat paps to see what happens. So far, the repeat tests have all been clean, Praise God! However, some weird symptoms that I had when I found out I had the abnormal cells are currently presenting again. I'm hoping it's just a coincidence and means nothing. Time will tell.

So, as you sit wherever you are, possibly having an equally as stressful day at work or home, please say a quick prayer on my behalf and on the behalf of my two year old. That he and I both come home healthy and happy.

Friday, November 06, 2009

How to Increase Your Blog Traffic - Today!

Posted by Mandy at 12:37 PM 14 comments Links to this post
Since I am a bit brain-dead today due to boarding 4 dogs (one being an incredibly cute 7 week old puppy that has to go out to potty every 20 minutes on the nose) and having the kids home from school over the past two days - I am going to do a really straight foward, totally non-witty, hope you get some good from this, type of post.

One of the biggest questions I see in Blog Land is "How do you increase your readership?" I was asking myself this very question two months ago. I decided to really give Monetizing my blog a good shot, and the only way to make this work is by vastly expanding who visits my insane ramblings each day.

This is not such a hard feat if you have a website devoted to one thing or another. If you are selling something, a marketing wiz, or something that has succeeded in making serious cash blogging - then people will search for you. If you're like me, and most bloggers, you're a little random. I blog about life, kids, work, dogs, politics, news, fitness, health... whew! Where's the market for THAT blog, hu?

If you're a fellow Mommy Blogger and are looking for a way to get more people to regularly visit, then get ready for some linky love. Here are some of my new favorite websites to help drastically increase your page hits, visits, and regular readers quickly.

1. Blog Carnival - Joining up with blog carnivals are a great way to get more people to come and visit. I've actually found some REALLY amazing blogs that I now follow by searching for specific topics that interest me via Blog Carnival. Make sure to pay special attention to when the next addition is about to launch before you submit any posts to blog carnivals. If it's blank.. skip it and find another carnival that's being updated more regularly. Submitting great writing to a dead carnival does nothing for you.

2. 5 Minutes 4 Moms - Whether you're a business blogger or a mommy blogger, you will almost definitely benefit from this site. I've only been there for a couple of weeks but LOVE it. Great source of friendship, fellow bloggers, and people that have succeeded and are more than willing to give tips. Also found a couple of awesome blogs that I now follow here.

3. Blog Frog - super cool site. Lots of great bloggers that you can link up with. When you comment on someone's blog that has blogfrog, it will also link your website on their mainpage.. it can really boost your readership.

4. Link Referral - Just started this.. totally didn't believe it would work - IT DOES. 100% free. You can choose to upgrade and pay to increase your ratings on their website, and that in turn gets more people to read your blog, but I've not done that and have had about 10-20 people a day visit from Link Referral. The more you do on their site (RE: visiting other people's websites and rating them) the more your ratings increase. The more they increase, the more people you'll see. Truly, started seeing results from this on day 1.

5. Search Engine Optimize - SEO is all the rage in the writing world. If you can't write an article that naturally flows and is packed with words that Google, Yahoo, and all of those other search engines seek out every minute of every day - you'll never get work. Why? Publishers that head up online publications need people to find them. Especially if they're an up and coming company. Same holds true for your blog.

You may write the most beautiful, funny, or informative post - and it won't matter a bit if people can't read it. The basis of SEO is simple. Ask yourself, "How would I search for this topic on a search engine?"

Sometimes simply creating a great SEO title for your posts is all it takes. It works for me! I typically avoid witty, cute, or artistic titles to my posts for this very reason. I want more people to read it - so I try to make it easy to find. According to my stats, tons of folks are finding me on Google - so it does work! Give it a try!

6. Build Relationships with Bloggers - Visiting other people's blogs is great, but if you never give them any comment love, a relationship simply won't develop. A very simple way to increase your blog traffic is to find blogs you honestly enjoy, and comment away. Their readers will notice your remarks, and well written comments often lead to well written blogs. (I've found some of my favorite bloggers via their comments on my blog or on blogs I visit.) One rule - never comment and expect something in return. It will just lead to frustration and burn-out. Hence the part about finding a blog you actually REALLY like.

7. Find Blogs like Yours - Aside from The Blog Frog, 5 Minutes for Moms, Link Referall, and Blog  Carnival, another great place to find blogs is Just try it out... you'll be hooked.

8. Regular Posting - The more often you post, the more you're site will be searched by those great search engines. Also, posting regularly keeps your readers interested. Optimally, you'll be putting up new content 5 or 6 days a week.

I've been following these links and these rules for about a solid month. Since I started, I've almost tripled the hits on my blog a day, and the time people are spending on my blog has also dramatically increased. These steps really do work! Whether you just want to share your information with more people, or want to draw more people in for effective monetization - give these sites a try. Report back! Let me know if they also work for you.

Have your own links to share that have helped you? Drop some link love in the comments!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Today's Woman

Posted by Mandy at 12:13 PM 6 comments Links to this post
In today's times, we women are expected to be know-it-all's, do-it-all's, and don't-need-no-man-all's...

Can I confess something? I am that woman. That woman as in, the woman that feminists just hate. That woman that makes far-left, "God is a woman", women cringe. Oh yes... that's me!

"What makes this true?" You ask. Well, there is a plethora of events and mannerisms I could divulge here.

For one, I'm afraid of bugs. It takes one hearty battle cry to squish even the smallest of crawly things. The big ones? Don't even ask! I have truly asked my 5 year old son to kill spiders that make me scream.

"Honey, that shoe's too small.. grab Daddy's boot. Yes, that one. Okay, now you've got to hit him HARD so he doesn't jump or run away. You're such a big boy! You're so brave!" I scream from the top of the kitchen table. Hey, I'm raising MEN here, aren't I? And, yes, my 8-year old daughter is beside me on the table, learning how to be a real girl.

Secondly, I don't want to be dirty. I'm a tip-toe through the mud, "Get your grubby hands off of my linen skirt", "No, I don't want to sit on the ground... I'll stand," type of gal. I don't mind getting gritty for appropriate times, such as jogging with dogs or a planned outing with the kids - but never spring it one me. I am not spontaneous when I'm in my new kitten heels.

Me having a "You're messing up my hair!" moment.

I don't take out the trash, I don't do anything that requires hammers, nails, or screws. I could definitely hang pictures - but I'd rather just show my husband where they go and let him handle it. I do "need my man."

Putting bait on hooks and touching fish are gross. I WILL scream if the crickets jump on me or near me. I'd rather be pool-side than in a lake. Just sayin'... I'll lay out and catch some rays while you catch supper. Suits me fine.

I like bubble baths, candles, lotions, and long walks on the beach. (at least in my mind...) I can hold a screaming baby, cook supper, and help my kids with homework all at the same time... Oh yes, I am woman. Hear me roar.

I can earn a paycheck and still respect my husband as an awesome provider. I can negotiate with the best of them, have an opinion about EVERYTHING, and have a say in all things and still know that God has given my man the true authority in our home. (I know.. a lot of women hate that sentence...) I can fall on my face and thank God for my Christian husband that rules his home with gentleness and love and respect.

I'm Pro-Life AND Pro-Women's rights... ponder that thought if you will.

I cry at sad movies.. and happy movies. I hide behind my man during scary ones and threaten that I'll divorce him if he tries to jump out and scare me once it's over.

I sleep with a nightlight and when my husband's gone at night, my German Shepherd fills in as protector. Seriously.. I need someone.

I love to meet the girls for lunch, gab about fashion and kids, and then lace up my battle boots to go wrangle a 100 pound aggressive dog that grown men are afraid of. I am woman.

I may not be what feminists think I should be. I may not be what your typical homemaker thinks I should be, but this is me. I love staying home, I love going to work. I love being independant and I love being totally dependant - it depends on the day. I love the having the ability to change my mind... constantly. I LOVE being a woman!

idea inspired after reading a hilarious post by Shannon.

Dog Training - House Breaking

Posted by Mandy at 6:46 AM 0 comments Links to this post

God has blessed me so very much. I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I get to spend my time with amazing people that love, love, LOVE their dogs. They allow me to keep their dogs while they are away, and to come make house calls to fix any behavioral problems that crop up. From big, huge, mean dogs to itty-bitty, hyper-active, yapping dogs... I've had the chance to deal with them all!

I've had a few requests over the past few months to compile some simple dog training basics into a post. I love to write, but writing about dog training can be difficult for me. I'm so used to showing people what do to, that I've not had much opportunity to write it so that people can read what to do. Here's my best shot at it!

Dog Training 101 - Simple Solutions to Common Behavioral Issues
Issue #1 - House Training

Dogs going potty in the house is right up there on the list of reasons I gain new clients each month. New emails with "How to house train this puppy?!" in the subject line come rolling in often. Though each dog is different and may require tweaking of any training techniques, this is my general method of house training dogs - of all ages!

Tools Required - Crate, Leash, TIME AND PATIENCE

This method of house training is called Crate Training, and it is highly effective for most dogs and puppies. I will disclose that I do not recommend serious crate training for dogs until 12 weeks. Though it's good to introduce a crate early, as a place of peace and rest for a puppy. Not as punishment or confinement.

Crate training is quite simple, though it does take a lot of time and patience, depending upon the age, temperament, and energy level of your dog. The general idea is the dog is in her crate when you cannot 100% supervise her. Once you get the dog out, she is taken immediately outside to a designated "potty zone." (leash may be required to keep puppy in the zone) Once she potties, she gets tons of praise, then brought back inside to roam freely. If your dog is a puppy, then this "roaming" time should be fairly brief. Puppies can use the bathroom SEVERAL times each hour. Watch for the classic "I need to potty signs" like walking with her nose constantly to the ground - without showing signs of tracking an object. If you see this behavior, call her to you and have her follow you back outside to the potty zone. When you need to move on with your day, puppy goes back into the crate until you can watch her again. I never recommend puppies be left in a crate longer than one-two hours at a time, with at least 30 minutes to an hour of time out to play in between.

If you have an older dog (age 1+) then house training "should" be more simple. A crate can still be necessary at first, and you would expect an adult dog to hold urine much longer than a puppy - only needing to potty every two hours or so.

Many times people with older dogs call me claiming their 5year old 'baby' is still not house trained. This is rarely what is actually going on. Typically, adult dogs that still potty in the house after years of attempted house breaking are simply exhibiting dominant behaviors and are marking their territory. This cannot be solved with crate training, as the dog will likely potty outside, only to come in and directly pee in the floor. (more to come on that issue in the future.)

Even with consistent crate training, it is likely that your dog or puppy will slip up and have an accident inside. How should you correct accidents in the house?

Rule 1 for Correcting Your Dog - If you didn't see it happen, you cannot scold the dog.

I know, frustrating, isn't it? Dog's have memories of about 5 seconds, so if you find poo in the corner - and you didn't see the offense occur, you might as well get onto your spouse for doing it as opposed to the dog... they'll both understand why you're upset with them on about the same level.

Rule 2 for Correcting Your Dog - Have a consistent "no" word.

When you see Fido about to lift his leg on your plants, having a word that he's accustomed to hearing when he's in trouble will be helpful to stop the behavior immediately. Any word will work just fine. "Hey!" "No!" "Stop!" Whatever you can use in any situation, whether he's watering your ferns or tearing up the trash. One exception - do not use the dog's name during scolding. We want our dogs to come when they hear their names and have positive associations with being called... not thinking they're about to get a paper to the rear.

Rule 3 - Hitting Does Not Help

Dog discipline is actually very simple. In a dog pack - the pack leader has a very simple two-step procedure to disciplining members.

1. Growl
2. Bite

Keep the same rules.

1. Verbal Command/Warning
2. Immediate Consequence

Instead of swatting your dog (and I know that's so tempting!) take a lesson from Cesar Millan and bite him. No, not with your mouth... just create a faux mouth with your hand. Small dogs just require a touch with two fingers. After seeing the Dog Whisperer and reading tons of books and doing online studies, I now teach this same method to my clients. It is, by far, the most effective discipline technique I have ever used.

So, if you see little Princess squatting on the rug, the response would be

1. "No!"
2. A consequence of some kind. For potty accidents I typically simply pick them up and place them outside in the potty zone. Rubbing their noses in the soiled carpet doesn't help them understand the problem.

Your dog will have indoor accidents, and this is where the tools Time and Patience come into play. Just like with potty training a toddler, they just don't typically get it over night. The younger they are, the longer it may take.

Word of Caution - Trying to crate train a very young puppy can back-fire tremendously. Very young puppies have just come from a place where their mother cleaned up after them in the "den." They will have little reason to not potty in the crate at first. If they begin crate training by using the bathroom in the crate very often, they will simply associate the crate with a place to potty - and not their den. As the puppy grows a bit older, he will naturally avoid using the bathroom in his bed. Dogs always avoid going potty where they sleep and where they eat if it is at all possible. This is another reason you cannot effectively crate train a puppy if you will be leaving him in the crate for hours on end. It is simply physically impossible for puppies to hold it for hours and hours at a time all day and all night.

If you find yourself having what you feel is an excessively hard time with house training, there may be other issues at hand such as a dominant puppy or health issues. In times like these I highly advise seeking help from a vet or a trainer. If you are in Arkansas, feel free to email me at if you feel you need some one-on-one time.

I will try to have a weekly Dog Training Tip post. I hope it proves helpful for some of you!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What to Really Expect After You Have a Baby - Days 1 - 3

Posted by Mandy at 3:57 PM 1 comments Links to this post
After posting just a bit of my own experiences with the ups and downs (and the really downs of living beside the potty) of my own pregnancies, I thought I'd follow that up with my experiences with those post partum days.

When I was pregnant, I honestly gave very little thought to how I would feel post-delivery. I worried constantly about the actual delivery, about breastfeeding, and about keeping a 7 pound ball of mush alive with only my husband here to help. Those things were so consuming to me that it just didn't seem like it would be that big of a deal recovering from childbirth. Enter - surprise C-Section!

I think most people can sort of imagine what it would feel like to have a C-Section... I mean, how pleasant can it really be to have your stomach cut open and a human being pulled out of it? The aftermath is expected to be at least a bit painful. But, what about those crazy things that you had no clue you would experience after having a baby? Let's talk about what to expect AFTER expecting.

Though my experiences were all C-Sections, having never tried for a VBAC (vagainal birth after Csection), I can assure you that a lot of the post-pregnancy symptoms I experienced will ring true no matter how the baby made its way from womb to arms.

Day 1 - Delivery Day

Immediately following the birth of my babies, I got to see them, snuggle them, kiss them, rub their heads.. cry at the sight of them - all from the operating table. I was so busy meeting my little ones that I didn't even care what was going on down on the other end. I kept pushing the thoughts of them shoving everything back in and sewing my body back together out of my mind. I mean.... gross.

Hours later I had gotten to nurse for the first time, and was still feeling awesome. Totally numb the entire day thanks to the epidural. No pain... lovely! Peice of cake!

Main symptoms include exhaustion... exhaustion... exhaustion. Cannot. Keep. Eyes. Open.

Nurses keep coming in to "check on my incision" and to see how much urine I'm putting out via the clear bag hanging on the side of the bed. Lovely. Nothing screams "welcome guests!" like a bag of pee, right? I always worried that somehow the cathetar would slip and I'd wind up peeing in the bed. Now, that would be crummy. Never happened, just so you pregnant people don't have to have the same worry in the future.

Lunch and Supper time come and I cannot make myself eat anything. No appetite at all with the first two babies.. the third one was the first that I did want to eat by supper.

Nurses bothering the crap out of me making me do breathing exercising, check my temp, blood pressure... everything. "Hey lady.. could you NOT jab around where I was just cracked open? Thanks!" All night they come in..every two hours to examine me and baby. Annoying.. but necessary. (quick thank you to all nurses.. seriously... you are awesome and make or break hospital experiences! Loved my nurses! Gotta bond quickly with someone looking at your entire body in its worse possible state.)

Day 2 - Epidural Out

Right after lunch was the magic hour in which the mean doctor would order my good drugs to be removed. Within 20 minutes the pain would set in. First just soreness. Then, pain. Horrible pain with my first csection - almost but not horrible pain with the second and third. Thankfully, repeat csections tend to be MUCH less painful than the original.

Catheter is taken out along with the epidural. Peeing hurts. It doesn't burn, but it feels like I'm really bruised. My bladder cramps each time I empty it... I hate it. It hurts when my bladder is full.. feels like bad cramps. It makes my incision hurt. No one warned me about that little side effect

Nurses not bugging me as much - just making me walk around. Fun! Still doing breathing exercises to avoid pnemonia.

Nursing, holding, and taking care of baby much harder once epidural is out. Husband or someone to help me is necessary 24/7. I hate feeling so helpless.

Gas pains begin. What are gas pains? They happen after a lot of abdominal surgeries... air gets in during the operation and then gets trapped. It has no where to go.. so it moves around in huge bubbles. Sometimes you can feel them in your upper back and chest and it feels like you're having a heart attack. Mine were mainly all in my lower abdomen, right under that nice, fesh, incision. Walking is a magic cure!

Still no appetite at all. (except for the third baby)

Day 3 - Going Home From the Hospital with Baby

I was SO blessed. All three of my babies got to come home on day 3 after birth. I remember after my first Csection BEGGING to stay longer - but we had Medicaid at the time and they basically would've only kept me longer had I been on my death bed.

I finally get to shower on this day, too... praise God! (hospital bag tip - take those shower fresh wipes with you just in case!! I used them constantly!) I hesitantly look at myself in the mirror after undressing...

"Oh my gosh..."

What will you see in the mirror 3 days after having a baby? What will your body look like 3 days after having a baby? Well... for me... my boobs were ginormous - like a boob job gone horribly wrong big. My stomach actually looked tiny compared to its 9 month pregnant state. My arms and legs looked amazingly thin. (consider their size compared to the boobs and belly..) Seeing the huge bandages across my wound makes me cringe and makes my teeth hurt for some reason.

"Must pretend that's not there... just shower and get dressed!"

Shower is refreshing yet painful. I feel much better once I'm out, dressed, and back with my baby. People visiting comment how great I look... I am so out of it that I believe them.

Time to go home! The nurse wheeling me to the car manages to hit every bump that is located in the hospital, and I believe took a detour to a particularly horrible rigged walkway just to keep me from ever coming back again. (Fun Fact - after my first child was born and we were heading home, the nurse (who looked all of 14) actually said to me, "Wow, you must've gotten really big..." as she examined my body in the wheelchair. I so pray she wound up pregnant with triplets...)

Coming soon...

What to Expect Post Baby - The First 6 Weeks

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