Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve is already here!  How??  Yes, I will be out shopping today for some last minute gifts.  Call me crazy, it usually happens every year!!  I learned thought from previous Christmases to not save all the wrapping for today.  I do not want to spend my Christmas Eve wrapping all night. 

What are your Christmas Eve traditions?  We have always spent the night at my parent's house on Christmas Eve after church.  Before we had kids, we usually went to dinner after, watched Christmas Vacation and played games.  With way too many kids amongst my sister and I, it's not so easy to do that anymore.  Now, my mom makes chili and we spend time together watching the kids play and talking.  We have not spent Christmas Eve or Christmas morning at our house.  We ask the kids every year if they want Santa to come to their house and they say no, Coach and Grammy's house is way more fun since there are a lot of people there.  That is the tradition they remember and how they want it to be, so I guess it's not changing!

For the past month, I have taken Christmas pictures for many friends for their Christmas cards.  Yesterday, it was my turn to take pictures of my kids.  We had a fun little photo shoot and here are some of their pictures.

Enjoy your traditions with your family and friends on this Christmas Eve! 


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A little holiday baking

When the kids are out of school, one of the things we always do is some baking. Yesterday, we made something besides our usual cookies - we made Cracker Candy. Have you ever had it? It is so yummy, buttery and rich. When I worked at HP, one of my co-workers brought it in around Christmas time and I couldn't get enough of it!! It tastes much like toffee, one of my favorites! Since Blake is allergic to pecans, we could only have them on one little portion of the pan. It's super easy to make, even Brody had fun helping and licking the spoon.

Here's the recipe:

40 saltines/sleeve of saltine crackers
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1 cup of brown sugar
1 (16oz) package of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a layer of foil in an 11x16 inch pan and layer crackers over foil. In saucepan, bring butter and sugar to a boil (this smells divine)! Boil for 3 minutes. Pour over crackers. Bake 5 minutes or until crackers float. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over top of crackers. When melted, spread chips and sprinkle nuts on tops. Cut into bars when cool.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Last Day of School for 2010

The last day of school before Christmas vacation begins is always a blast.  I have the best memories of my Christmas parties at school.  They were so much fun.  We made handmade crafts and got to eat sugar cookies brought in by the homeroom moms that they baked at home.  We would never hear of that today.  Everything today has to be pre-packaged and they are now called Winter/Holiday Parties-boohoo, I can't stand that!! 

I still have some of the little crafts we made at school.  In first grade, the homeroom mom made tick tac toe boards out of felt and in another grade, we got felt Christmas trees full of 25 peppermints.  Each day we got to take a mint off so we knew how many more days til Christmas.  One year, I made the cutest cookie jar for my mom and I remember getting off the bus with my big bag of goodies to bring home.  I forgot about my cookie jar and swung the bag in the air upside down and out came the jar and it broke all over the ground.  I ran home and cried and cried because I broke the special gift I worked so hard on for my mom.

I love all the handmade gifts the kids make for us.  Especially the little ornaments with their faces, feet and handprints.  We even have a special tree for all their handmade projects.  They are priceless.  Each year, it's amazing to see how they have grown!  This year, I love this little hand and feet reindeer painting that Brody did...

At Blake's school, they have an annual tradition where all the fifth graders create floats and parade around the school for all the other grades and teachers.  They let the kids be creative.  So, Blake and his friend Josh worked together on their float using stuff we had around the house.  They worked so hard and used Brody's wagon to put it all together.

This morning getting the float to school.

Santa leads the way to kickoff the parade!

Blake's Christmas Parade - December 17, 2010 from Shannon Fortunato on Vimeo.

Blake and his friend Josh-he sat on the back of the wagon handing out candy canes.

Santa made a visit to First Grade!

Sydney and her teacher Mrs. Burson

Syd making a snowman on a stick

Today was Blake's last elemantary school Christmas party.  Yes, I got teary-eyed knowing that this stuff won't be considered fun to him anymore in the coming years!!

My only hope is they remember these fun times and these will be lasting memories when they are older.

And now -  the CrAzInEsS of Christmas Break begins!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch

Several weeks ago, Sydney's little Girl Scout group (Daisies) had an evening trip to the pumpkin patch. 

I was so excited to get my annual pictures, but almost right after we got there, I was juggling so much in my hands and dropped my baby aka my Canon Rebel on the ground.  I had my big lens on it and when I went to take a picture, I noticed the view finder was all distorted and blurry although it still takes pictures.  The timing was lousy and I'm SOOO sad as much as I take pictures.  My camera is like my 4th baby!! 

We took an evening hay ride under a full moon, roasted hot dogs in the firepit, made smores, fed the cows hay and played on the playground.  The girls wore their Halloween costumes and they all looked so cute!  Brody had so much fun playing with all the pumpkins and wagons.  Blake had a baseball game that night or else he would have loved to be there. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

14 Years!!!

Fourteen years ago today, I married my love, my best friend, the most selfless and caring man and the best daddy to my babies that a girl could ask for!

Happy Anniversary T! Here's to many more and I look forward to sharing another great year with you! I love you!!!
XoXo, Shannon

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Girl

My girl Sydney.  Love her!  From the time she was able to talk and walk, we knew she was little Miss Bubbly, Miss Personality, Miss Chatterbox, Miss Larger-than-Life, the list could go on an on.  Everyone knows crazy Sydney, she shines! 

Through the years we have butted heads.  She is so strong-willed.  So not shy - the way I was growing up.  She has always wanted to do her own thing.  Last year, Sydney started Kindergarten and I was worried for her because of her talking.   Luckily Blake's second grade teacher and my friend was now her teacher.  She began e-mailing me that she was really concerned about Sydney.  Here is a post from last year.  I received contstant e-mails about her behaviors and we tried everything for positive reinforcement to see if it helped and nothing did.

Now, we are almost three months into First grade.  It has started out to be a difficult year for us but today, I am one proud momma!  I got the most wonderful news!!

October 16, 2010 was the day that Sydney's doctor told us she had Attention Defecit Disorder (ADD).  It was not news to us but just official according to surveys that Tim, her teacher and I had taken on Sydney's behaviors.  She scored a 7/9 for hyper-activity and 9/9 for lack of focus.  It was not a slight case of ADD, but severe with scores like that.  Her doctor said it is not common in six-year old girls.

I knew we were in trouble after getting a call home the second week of school.  I was worried about her talking and that wasn't even the issue.  I was so saddened to hear her teacher describe that Sydney was in a whole different zone when she was teaching.  Staring into space as she put it.  I wanted to cry.  I felt so bad for my baby girl. 

When she mentioned that her grades were beginning to suffer, I knew it was something we couldn't ignore.   I waited two more weeks hoping there would be a change.  I was in denial even after many discussions and disagreements with Tim.  

Benignus was on my phone calling me again...cringe...what report was I going to get this time?

"Hi Mrs. Fortunato" on the other end from her very caring and sweet teacher, Mrs. Burson.  My heart raced as I thought, "What is she going to tell me this time?"  I hoped that she would say that Sydney was magically doing much better in class.  No.  Not the case.

She had a 27 on a math paper and a 55 on another paper
She has to do redos in order to get her grades higher
She is reading below grade level
She did not listen to a bit of instruction on two-part math problems
She does not focus
She is more worried about her classmates and what they are doing
She is so very distracted by her pencils and erasers

After that call, I could not waste any more time.  We needed to do something to help our sweet, energetic, strong-willed girl.  This decision took over a year to make and lots and lots of cries in my closet.  I called the doctor's office immediately and scheduled a consultation.  My hand was shaking the whole time.  I hung up the phone once the appointment was made and I broke down.  I cried almost the entire afternoon.  It ruined my day.  This stuff happens to other people, not us.

What were we about to do?  Would Sydney's spirit be broken?  Would she be a completely different child?  Would there be long-term side effects?  These were all the questions running through my mind. 

Not to mention - guilt - what could we have done different?  Shame - for those that will judge us for our decision to medicate our child.  I realize so many people think parents throw their kids on it for an easy solution.   But it wasn't easy.  It was the hardest decision I have had to make as a parent.  Fear - that one day we will find out that her medication will cause some other ailment that could have been avoided if she did not take it at all.

This is our third week now.  What a difference her medicine has made.  Sydney hops in the car after school and is so excited to tell me that she gets tickets instead of time outs.  Time outs have ended.  If she has a good day, tickets can be saved up to buy things from the treasure box.

Reassurance came for me today.  I AM doing the right thing and I can finally feel good about our decision although it still will take some time.  We are helping Sydney be the best she can be in class and in her sports.

This morning, I was at my Moms group at church and one of the topics we discussed was measuring success for our children.   Not that it had to be anything grand, but just something short-term.   I chose Sydney and shared with my group the struggles we have had with her.  My measure was for her to get a good Tuesday folder with positive marks.

Within 10 minutes of sharing my story with the group, my phone rang.  It was Mrs. Burson.  "Mrs. Fortunato", in a very cheery voice!  She was calling to tell me what a wonderful job Sydney was doing in class.  Her reading has improved, she is getting math and completing her work.  She's focusing and paying attention.  Her eyes and attention are not on her classmates.  Her grades have improved.

I lost it and broke down crying to her teacher.  I told her how much that call meant to me.  It was the call I have been waiting for.  We DID make the right decision. 

God's timing could not have been more perfect.  It was His way of telling me it's ok!  :-)

Finally, some even better news...Sydney's tumbling coach promoted her tonight to the advanced class since she is doing so well.  Running round-off back-hand springs here we come!!

I'm so proud of my girl!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

About Me...

Here I go again with the same song and dance.  I need to blog more, it's been another month.  Brody is napping and yes, instead of cleaning or folding laundry, I'm doing something more fun.  Thanks to Mama Kat for the writing prompt!

Mama's Losin' It

I recently updated my About Us (Me) page on my website. 

Hi Y'all, I'm Shannon and I am the owner of Texas-based Lavish Bliss Boutique - your source for funky, fabulous and oh-so-fun products for the girly-girl in your life! I am married to my high school sweetheart, Tim and we have three beautiful mini-me's: Blake (10), Sydney (6) and Brody (22 months). From a very young age, I can remember having an interest in all things girly! I loved to play with dress-up clothes, my little plastic high-heel shoes, jewelry, purses, make-up, dolls and I loved watching Miss USA! Fast-forward to many years later, I am still very much interested in fashion, accessories, the latest must-haves and finding unique items.

In college, I chose to major in Marketing and worked for Compaq/Hewlett-Packard for 10 years. During that time, I always dreamed of having my own business (thanks to my dad's advice and his entrepreneurial spirit that rubbed off on me)! In October of 2006, I decided it was time for a change. My babies were growing up way too fast and I knew I would never get the time back with them. At work, our group was going through another round of layoffs and I knew this was my time to go! I volunteered to leave, so I took the package and ran!! It was a tough decision to walk away, but one that I will never regret!

I learned from an early age how to be crafty and creative from my mom. She made my sister Stephanie and I all kinds of cute things as kids. After I stopped working full-time, I soon found that I once again had time for projects that were put off for years. I started making things for my daughter. Friends and family took notice and asked for me to make girly goodies for them. It turned into a passion and what better way to turn your passion into a business! That's when Lavish Bliss Boutique was born! Sydney is the inspiration for all my designs. It's so fun to have my own girly-girl!!

tHiNgS ThAt MaKe mE HaPpY: My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my family and friends, crisp Autumn days, cupcakes, Target, decorating, the color pink, traveling, gardening, blue skies, photography, Mexican food, cooking and baking, lip gloss, Halloween, Christmas, anything with leopard print, The Young and the Restless, Pumpkin Spice lattes, baseball, jazz music, a good pedicure, sugar cookie and spice candles, Sonic Strawberry Limeades, Anthropologie, Black House White Market, reading trash mags, my glitter and hot glue gun, a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer.....what about you?


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sydney's First Soccer Game

Yesterday was a busy sports day = 8:30-8:30.  Soccer and Baseball. Sydney had her first soccer practice last Monday, what a crazy day!   Bed late Sunday night, gymastics at 4:30-5:30 then soccer practice from 5:30-6:30.  How would I do this for the next ten weeks?!  By the time we got to soccer, Sydney was already exhausted.  Some of the other girls played soccer for several years already and they knew how to play.  Poor little Sydney stood there confused and tired.  The other girls ran, she walked and stood there.  Oh no, this would be interesting.

She was so excited yesterday morning.  We got her all decked out in her gear and she was ready to go.  It was a little slow start for her but then she caught on and did very well!!  She did not like the opposing team to have the ball.  I was so proud of my little athlete.  We ended up losing 6-5.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm Baaack and Mother's Day Out!

Note:  This post was written last week, I just never got around to publishing!

Wow, it's so hard to believe how fast the summer went by and how crazy busy our lives are. I have been such a bad blogger for neglecting my writing.  Blake, Sydney and Brody kept me on my toes for sure this summer.  By the end of the night, I had no energy to do anything except hit the fast forward and play button on the remote to catch up on DVR'd shows.  

What a week this has been.  Bittersweet.  Brody's first week of Mother's Day Out and my first week to be alone during the day in nearly two years.  Brody has been my buddy, my someone to talk to, someone who makes me laugh, my non-napper, my sidekick, my lil' messy man!  He's my first baby to have separation anxiety since he is not a daycare baby like Blake and Sydney were.

I have thought about Mother's Day Out for soooo long.  How would he manage, how would I manage?  I knew it was BEST for both of us.  It would give me a break to run errands, to work on orders, to get a pedicure, to read at Barnes and Noble, to lunch with my mom and sister, to catch up with friends, the list goes on an on.  It would give Brody the chance to socialize with other kids his age, to have fun and to do something different besides watching Yo Gabba Gabba ten times a day.

Last Thursday was Meet the Teacher.  He had so much fun meeting his teachers, Ms. Kelly and Ms. Ali.  They are very sweet.  Ms. Kelly has two kids of her own and very close in age to Brody and Ms. Ali is in college studying to be a elementary teacher and she is also a nanny for triplets on the side.  So, he is in very loving and capable hands.  He played and played with the other little boys.  It turns out that there are 7 boys out of his little class of ten.  Wow!!  He played with the cars and the bubbles and we were actually the last ones to leave, he didn't want to go.

Ms. Ali, Brody, Ms. Kelly

Brody discovering his new classroom!

Tuesday was our first official day of Mother's Day Out.  We had talked about "school", his teachers, his backpack and his new friends for several days.  He was excited to be back when we arrived.  What happened to my little baby,  he looked like such a big boy.                                                                                                                       

When we got to his classroom, he actually reached over the door to go in.  Wow, how nice if it would be this easy every day.  I was able to skedaddle on out really fast while he played.  All I could think of was, what was he going to do when he turned around and realized mommy wasn't there.  I did not cry like I thought I might.  I think I was so excited to be able to go anywhere and do anything I wanted.  My friend Kara also has two little boys who are there.  So, we hung out the entire day.  We shopped, talked, lunched and Starbucked it.  It was such a rainy,cozy and nasty day.  It was perfect to enjoy my first "me" day.  Is that selfish?

Brody's teachers said he did good.  He cried for about 20 minutes after I left and then he had a great day.  When I went to pick him up, he looked at me and studied my face for several long seconds.  The minute he recognized me, he began to let out the sweetest cry of relief.  I grabbed him and he held on to me so tight.  It made me feel so warm and fuzzy.

I feel like I can now be more calm and be a better mommy.  Isn't that crazy what 10 hours alone a week can do for you??  I feel refreshed and renewed!!!!

This morning, well, it was not so good.  B wanted me to hold him tight.  Finally, like I have heard, you can't do the long goodbye.  I just had to walk out as quickly as I could.  It hurt my heart.  As I type this, I have about half an hour left and I can say, all day long, I have had this sick feeling that he thinks I abandoned him.

I know it will get better as time goes on and I shouldn't feel that way.  But this is a big change for both of us and it will just take some time getting used to this.

Here is Brody's first artwork.  I'm so proud of my big boy!!