Thursday, December 1, 2016

Elf on the Shelf Nutshell Style!

If the Elf is not your cup of cocoa, then feel free to move on, no feelings hurt.  But if it IS, here are a few ideas my partner in crime hubby and I came up with last year.  Feel free to steal!

In which the Elf defaces the family pictures:

In Which the Elf Plays GO FISH with some friendly toys:

In which the Elf gets his comeuppance: 

 In which the Elf gets revenge the next day: 
(some of our best elf setups were easy peasy two-parters)

 In which the Elf calls in the Cavalry to save him from himself:

 In which the Elf takes a bath in marshmallows:

In which the Elf is Batman:
(We found these fun cutouts here!)

 In which the Elf steals everyone's Kindles and takes a million selfies:

In which the Elf takes the lookout in our kitchen chandelier: 

In which the Elf goes bananas for Minions:
(I totally stole this idea from here!)

And the crowning glory of our Elf on Shelf season:

In which the Elf delivers the Christmas PJ's on Christmas Eve morning in true 101st Airborne Style!! 

If you use any of these or have some awesome ideas WE can steal from YOU this year, PLEASE post us some pictures on the 7 Nuts in the Nutshell Facebook Page!

Merry Christmas and Happy Elfing! 

PS Some other ideas we did but didn't get pictures of:

-We had the Elf hanging from a string looking totally cool in the middle of the school room...
-The next day we had him tangled up in the same string, like he was trying to get off but messed up.
-One morning we had him on the Christmas Tree and had covered the tree in candy canes and put a little note that said he felt the tree needed Sweetening Up!
-Once he got touched so we took two days doing this project.  (What happened when the elf lost his magic!!)

UPDATE!!!  This is how our Elf made his grand entrance this morning: (Got idea here!)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In Which the Baby Wears a HUSH Hat

I feel so incredibly blessed to have 5 healthy and strong boys!  But I have to tell you, this little one is one cute pumpkin baby!  I can hardly stand keeping my hands and lips to myself every time I see this precious little face!

This little guy is the happiest baby I have ever had.  And I have to give it to him, it would be hard to be such a little man in a house full of crazy.  Being the youngest of 5 boys can't be easy... even at only 10 months old.

Boys are so LOUD!

It's a wonder little man can even nap.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I got an email asking me if I wanted to review a HUSH Hat.  A what?!  A HUSH hat!  A little hat with ear pads for little ears to help them have some quiet.  I LOVE this idea!!  And I jumped on the chance.

Two days latter, and I kid you not, they have super speedy delivery, I got my Hush Hat.

How stinking cute is he?

Did it work?


Sleep the whole way home from our trip to Nashville the next day.

We love our Hush Hat!

You can buy your own at their website or at Target Online! (Note: Cutest Baby in the world not included)


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ramadi Declassified: A Book Review

It's been a while since I have agreed to do a book review, and it isn't for lack of material.  I literally receive at least one request per day to review a new book or two -- but truth of the matter is, I just don't have a lot of time.  To say things are a little crazy around here is a massive understatement.  Between the 5 boys, the ADHD that runs through their veins, the dog, the toddler, and the baby... then throw in homeschool, chores, church responsibilities, Army stress, and everything else... you get out of control chaos.  In fact, my husband had a four day weekend these last few days and he told me he couldn't wait to go back to work to get a "break" from the stresses of our household.  And he's a rear-detachment commander.  What does that say about this place?

I try to maintain some level of order.  I really do.  And when I can't, I put on my headphones, put on an audio book and ignore everyone.  So I DO get a long of reading in... just not technically "reading".  Audio is my thing these days.  My only way to escape this circus of my own making and still get some housework done.

I love being a mom.  I really do.

Anyway, about a month ago, I got another request to review a new novel called Ramadi Declassified, by Colonel Anthony E. Deane.  I almost skipped right past it, because you know, the time issue.  But I read the brief synopsis and decided I would try to give it a go.  I am really glad I did!

I read (or listen) to A LOT of military books.  I may not be a service member myself (I actually almost enlisted when I was in college, but I couldn't get my run in because of my breathing -- which I later discovered was asthma and they probably wouldn't have taken me anyway... ), BUT I have always loved everything about the military and the lifestyle.  So I live vicariously though my husband, our community, and educating myself through literature and keeping up with current events through military publications.

The majority of the military books I have read have been written by previously enlisted men.  They love to write about the adventure, the thrills, the dangers, and the unbreakable bonds of friendship and brotherhood they find among the amazing men they serve with.  Also, they don't particularly like the majority of officers and their leadership, for the most part, and have no qualms about letting the world know that fact. Being the wife of an officer myself, I get a little tired of reading about poor leadership... not because I don't believe them, but because I DO! "Toxic leaders" are a HUGE pet peeve of mine and it makes me REALLY angry! And it's not only because it's in a book and I am relating to their story, but because to me, it's personal, it's part of our life too.  I can't tell you how many times I want to march right over to my husband's office and tell off some Captain D-Bag or Major Jerk for being so horrible.  But I don't.  I may be a little crazy, but I'm still classy... I just tell them off from a distance, where they can't hear me.


Moving on....

Now, books actually written by officers are few and far between.  I don't know why, they just are.  Of all the military books I have read, only FOUR were written by officers.  Two of them, were so full of self-righteousness and self-praise I could hardly stomach all the wonderfulness of these men.  It was so off-putting.  However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the other two were some of the best military books I have ever read.  Ramadi Declassified, is one of those two.

Ramadi Declassified: A Roadmap to Peace in the Most Dangerous City in Iraq, is the first hand account of Colonel Anthony E. Deane, who is now retired, and his experiences, thoughts, and insights of what happened in Ramadi back in 2006.  This book is not only well written and composed, but the narrative is top notch.  I really felt like I was being taken along for a ride in this real-life scary adventure.  What impressed me the most was Col. Deane's humility.  He took very little credit for anything, but at the same time, the reader knew very well he was the one in charge.  He made sure the men serving with him got the credit they deserved for their heroism, bravery, ideas, and their deeds. He didn't have to tell me how wonderful he was, I could tell by the way he serves and cares for others that he truly is a good man.

Col. Deane, was and is an amazing leader with a great sense of humor.  He shares so much wisdom and insight, I actually read the book with a highlighter and shared a ton of stuff with my husband.  And often times, I found myself laughing out loud at some of his subtle one-liners. He also has a great love and respect for the men and women he served with and it reflects in the way he talks about them in his story.  He has a deep understanding that we are only as good and awesome as those around us, the people we love and work with everyday. That if we want to rise above and be a great leader, it is only truly accomplished by raising up those around us as well.

You know, they say that the Military family lives in a relatively a small world.  And the more years go by the more I realize how true that is.  We met people all the time that we have mutual friends with, or we run into people who know my husband's Dad or his brother. It's actually pretty cool and a lot of fun.  This is, however, the first time, I have sat down to read a book and have someone I KNOW pop up in the story!

Those of you who attended ROTC with my husband, one of our beloved Utah State ROTC cadre stars in this book.  I'm not telling who though!  You have to buy the book and read it to find out who.  But I'll give you a hint, despite being one of the scariest, he was also one of the cadet's favorites and most beloved.  My husband still talks about the time he smoked the Utah State's Girl's Volleyball team... good times.  Needless to say, I was absolutely THRILLED to read about his pre-ROTC cavalry adventures.

Col. Deane included LOTS of background and history to his narrative which helps the reader not only understand what is going on in the middle east, but WHY it is going on and WHY they do the things the do.  Which is the most important information to know when trying to win this war.  Know thy enemy, and all that.  What I really liked is that I felt I was reading a history book, but at the same time seeing history through the eyes of someone who was there and living it.  The book was thrilling, and exciting, and stressful (Military books always stress me out) but at the same time teaching history on a personal level and drawing conclusions based on personal experience and facts.

There is a saying that I hear a lot in the military community: "We fight not because we love war, we fight because we love peace."  Col. Deane's narrative is not a man who loves the hunt and a good shoot up.  Col. Deane is a man who fights for peace -- not just for us, but for those people over in Iraq who can't fight for themselves without the help of those who are stronger and better trained. He believes in good.  He believes that with understanding of the past and present, it is possible for a better future for the people of Iraq and other areas there in the middle east.  I love his optimism and attitude.

I also appreciate his honesty.  He tells it how it is.  Sadly, the majority of American's have NO IDEA what is going on over there.  They read their Facebook feed of their favorite biased news, and tout they have "done their research" and everyone else is ignorant.  If one really wants to know the truth, they need to pick up first accounts like Ramadi Declassified and read about the men and women that were there, that know what is going one.  That have seen things so horrific the news stations refuse to cover it.

Col. Deane understands politics and how they work to the benefits of those in power.  Staying classy all the way, he describes how politics are deeply influencing and in most cases causing many of the problems the military faces.  He also offers up his own ideas and some solutions.

Ramadi Declassified is a must read for everyone who seeks some understanding and truth about what's going on in the world.  We can only hope for a better future when we come to understand the hard truths of the past. I think everyone who seeks to be a better leader politically or militarily needs to pick up this book and read it as well... like me, with a highlighter.

Ramadi Declassified is thrilling, suspenseful, at times funny, and as an Army wife I found it very personal and at times tragic and sad.  But I feel smarter and more informed for having read it, and as soon as I can find it on Audiobook, I am having my husband read it too.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some proverbial whip-cracking to do in the next room... Kids Gone Wild is in full swing in the living room and there is a ton of work still to be done today!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Dog

I know, I know, it's been a while.

Two words: Five Boys.

Seriously, between a baby, a toddler, a 5 year old, and a 9 and 10 year old, life is just simply crazy.  Add in summer vacation, 6 very longs days stuck in a van driving, doctor appointments, church responsibilities, homeschooling, keeping a house decent, and now add a dog... yes, you read that right, we the crazy family got a dog... and you get chaos.

I haven't been on Facebook much, I only check my email once a week if I am on top of things, and trying to post a blog page... just isn't happening often.  What?  You want to know how I managed this?  Well, the 3 big boys are working on school work, the toddler is the play pin, baby is on a play-mat, and the dog is out in the backyard digging holes in my garden.

I have a few minutes to get down some thoughts.

About 3 weeks ago, Ben and I had this brilliant idea that maybe it was time to get the boys a dog.  We both knew there were things that a pet could teach them, that we couldn't.  Like learning to care for someone other than one's self, and what it's like to have important responsibilities, even more important than household chores... but only slightly so.

So we took the boys to the animal shelter and let them pick out a dog.

Meet Lego (Short for Legolas):
Cutest little German Shepard mix you'll ever see... those ears, right?!

Don't be fooled.

He is a little beast.

I wanted the old geezer dogs that just lay around all day.  But the boys, heck no!  They wanted the big puppy.  That bites. A lot.

He was only home a minute when the kids discovered his trickery.  He was so sweet at the shelter, then he gets through the door and becomes Satan's minion.

We realize he is a puppy and there is a learning curve for everyone involved.  So we decided to work with him the best we could, and give him some time to adjust.

All the boys, except Jojo (the fearless toddler) became terrified of him.  No one would play with him.  Ben and I became all scabbed up from being repeatedly bitten.  But we were determined to get through this and have a great dog.  As most of you know, we aren't quitters!

The boys and I started taking him for long walks:

We been using all the training methods we could find online and in support groups, we even checked out the Pet Smart classes.  But Lego is just so naughty.

Last Friday, Ben took him running and afterwards as he was letting him the backyard to do his business, Lego full on attacked him and bit his leg pretty bad.  After a long week, we had had enough.
The boys weren't sad at all, as they said their goodbyes to Lego.  He had to go back.  We couldn't have a biting dog around the babies.  Nipping and puppy bites were one thing, but full out biting is a HUGE no go.

So Ben took him back to the shelter and they wouldn't accept him.  Not only were they super rude to my husband, but they told him he could only bring him in on certain days and certain times -- all times he had to work and they didn't care.  Now, I understand that there are jerks that take their pets to shelters because of dumb reasons, I get that.  But don't we want to discourage people from abandoning their pets on the streets?  A shelter is a much safer place and people should feel like they are understanding no matter the situation.  In our case, the dog was a danger to our babies.  Shouldn't that warrant some kindness and understanding??


Ben brought him home.

The kids where like what the heck?!

I asked Ben if he thought maybe it was a sign that we needed to give him another chance.  He said, he thought it was a sign that the shelter people were total dicks.

So we decided to give Lego a second chance.  First thing we did was go to Walmart and get a bark collar.  He was driving us CRAZY barking.  At first, I wasn't for it, because it seemed so cruel.  But let me tell you, he only tested it's power twice and he hasn't barked since.  Woo Hoo!  He has also been much better with the biting.  He is finally learning that we don't like it and he gets in doggy time out when he does... and doggy time out is no fun -- on a leash attached to the banister for a few minutes.

It's getting better, things with a dog.  And I am actually glad we decided to give him another chance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Phat Girl Running

Last year, after I had number 4, I got a heel spur trying to run.  It was so disheartening, so say the least.  Here I was at 285 pounds and unable to exercise at all.  I got depressed.  Then just as I was feeling better and getting ready to go for it again, I found out I was pregnant again and my heel got worse.  My midwife banned me from running for the rest of the pregnancy.

 Slowly my heel healed, and I got the go-ahead to start running again at the 6 week postpartum checkup.  But here I was now at 325... The last time I was able to run at all, I was a good 40 pounds lighter.

Full of hope, I hopped on the treadmill telling myself I wouldn't stop until I did at least a mile!  I mean, come on, I ran a half marathon 3 years ago!  I got this!

 I didn't have it.  Not even close.

 I couldn't even run a quarter of a mile... And even then I thought I was going to die.

 I gave up. Plain and simple.

I was fat and that wasn't going to change unless I could run and I couldn't.  I hate walking.  I just hate it.  Once you start running, walking is ruined forever.  It's so slow and boring.  And my heart and soul longs for the speed and feeling of complete freedom that running gives me.

 So, I've been doing Just Dance and other Wii programs at night to get me going and ready to run again.  It's been okay.  I even challenged the family and kicked butt every time. But my true love is running.

 Today, I had a doctor's appointment and I weighted in at 303... Soooo... Since Doctor scales suck, I am guessing I am just under 300 now, YIPPY!  And even though I am still huge, it gave my spirit a burst of determination.

 When I got home, I put the Littles down to nap, and hooked the Tweedles and the Middie up with a Wii game.  Then I went upstairs to face the treadmill once again.  I dusted off the cobwebs and shoved all the toys over, and got on.  Turning on my jams, I faced the treadmill said a silent prayer, and made a goal.

  Cat, you got this.  Just one mile. Just. One. Mile.  I thought, giving myself a pep talk. I have to do this, I CAN do this, even if I am going a snail's speed.  

Remember: my body is mortal, but my spirit is divine!

I started out with a 3 min warm up walk.  Then I adjusted my treadmill so I had a slight decline, yes, my treadmill does downhill, how cool is that?  Every little advantage helps, anyway.

And I started running.

Okay, so my run right now is the pace that some people can speed walk.  But that doesn't matter right?  Since I am so chunky, to a bystander I look like I am booking it.

I was feeling good as I passed my 1 mile mark and thought, woo hoo! Going strong!  Let's go for 2!

And I did!!!

When I got passed the 2 mile mark, I thought, do I dare?  Do I dare go for the 5K??  I dare!!!

And I did!!!!!

I am a 35 year old mother of 5 and I weigh 303 pounds.  I just RAN a 5K.  Feeling badass.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Confessions, Goals, and Hope for the Future

Typically, I try to keep my articles upbeat and uplifting with a dash of humor and sarcasm... because that's generally me and what I am good at.  But if I am going to be completely honest with myself about some things I am struggling with right now, I need to be upfront and honest to you.

 Additionally, this is a really hard post for me to write.  I'm really putting myself out there today, about something I am combating.  I hope that you will be patient with me, loving, and understanding.

Those of you who have been faithfully reading my craziness these last eight or so years, have followed me though many, MANY adventures!  From student housing (the original Nutshell) to the Army life. From just 2 kiddos to 5.    Y'all followed us across the country from Utah, to Oklahoma and on to Tennessee! You've watched us and cried with us as struggled with our boys' special needs, and you've cheered with us in all their growing successes.  You have been faithfully following us in our daily shenanigans and all our adventures in public school and now homeschool.  You've been with me and supported me through all my weight loss and fitness journeys, from barely being able to walk up a hill to running up mountains and half marathons! You've watched our family grow and laughed with us, weep with us, and celebrated with us. I can never thank you enough, my dear friends, for all your love and support, and I hope that in some small way, our lives have touched yours too.

I have always been up front and honest.  I am not ashamed to admit my failures, my struggles, and my life lessons.  Every time I write things down and share them, I do it for me.  It helps me to put things into words and organize my thoughts. This blog has helped me grow in more ways than I can ever begin to say. So, I am going to start my journey of healing once again by sharing with you some of the things I am going through right now.  I could really use a "You got this, Cat!" or "Praying for you, girl!"

 It is true that I have been very, VERY busy lately with the new baby and all the homeschooling going on.  I feel immensely blessed to have 5 healthy boys, a beautiful home, a loving, hard working, studly husband -- but some times I feel that if I share my struggles and even complain a bit, I am being less than grateful for the wonderful things in my life. This simply isn't true. I want you to know that I am SO grateful for all my many blessings.  I have a good life, and I love it.  And I owe God for all that I have.

 All that aside, the main reason I haven't blogged very much in the last couple years, is that I don't feel good about myself.  In fact, I am so humiliated by the way I look right now, I hardly leave the house. And even the very thought of leaving it makes me panic.

There, I said it.

 I worked very VERY hard to get my weight off originally, then again after I had number 3.  I was able to keep it off and maintain it for 3 years!!  I had no problem doing it.  But I don't know if it was my thyroid, my age, or just the fact that I was having kid number 4, but the weight gain with that baby was almost 100 pounds.  I kid you not.  I ate EXACTLY like I did while I was maintaining.  I ran the WHOLE pregnancy.  In fact, if you remember, I ran myself into labor!  I was absolutely flabbergasted each time I went in to weigh.  The doctors would roll their eyes whenever I told them I was eating right and working out.  They gave me this whole lecture about calories in and calories out until I wanted to punch them in the nose!!  It isn't that easy!  My body has really been through the ringer with these babies and my metabolism and thyroid are shot.  When I found out our surprise baby was on his way, my heart just fell.  Sure I felt very blessed that we were having another even if it wasn't planned.  I know that God knows I can handle it.... Every baby is a blessing and a miracle.... but my selfish side knew I would be packing on more pounds, again.  And I did.  Although, this time I only gained 35... which makes the running total of 135 pounds gained in two years.

 Moment of absolute truth:  When I weighed in AFTER I had baby number 5, I was a DEVASTATING 325 pounds.

Three hundred and twenty-five pounds.

 Let that soak in.

 Less than 3 years ago, I was in the best shape of my life running a half marathon.  Today, I am in the worst I have ever been in.  And I am so ashamed, I can't even look in the mirror.  I don't know that face I see there. Who is that sad person that stares back at me?

When I left Utah, I was at my best, now, next month we are going back to visit family and I am absolutely sick about it.  I love my family and want to see them more than anything, but I am so embarrassed about my appearance. And the most frustrating thing of all, is that I worked harder than I ever have to keep the baby gain down and it was like my body just totally freaked out.  It doesn't seem fair!  And it kills me to think that my family and friends might be judging me for it.... even though I know they love me and probably wouldn't judge me... but I judge myself.  

Sometimes, I think God is letting this happen to me because I took too many selfies when I was feeling good about myself...  Don't say I didn't warn you! Seriously. Now, I won't let anyone take ANY pictures of me. At all. In fact, I can get downright nasty about it.

Now, on the up side.  Those of you who know me, also know that I am not a quitter.  I don't just roll over and take it.  No. I stand up and face my issues and gosh darn it, I do something about it!!! Change begins with US.  This begins with me.

These last few weeks, I have stopped feeling sorry for myself and started working out again.  I know what I can and can't eat, and I have been cracking down harder on my portions than I ever have before.  I have taken into account that my metabolism is slower than it was after having two more kids and have adjusted properly.  I am taking the bull by the horns and getting my life back!

I have finally started getting out more, and try to swallow my humiliation that all my church clothes are ill-fitting and make me look like a sausage.  Instead of hiding on the back row, I force myself to sit up front and comment at least once. I am, as the military calls it, embracing the suck and soldiering on.

 I make myself put makeup on at least twice a week -- allergies permitting.  And I do my hair... Sometimes.

 Baby steps, my friends... baby steps.

 But I got this.  Only I have the power to change my life.  Pull myself out of this dark place I found myself.  Sure, it wasn't all my fault, I tried my best to keep the weight off.  But it WILL be my fault if I don't do something now.  I need to believe in myself again, feel like I am worth it... and you know what?  My boys think I am worth it, and my husband, bless his heart, tells me every day how sexy and beautiful I am, and he thinks I am worth it.  And I know that the Lord loves me, he knows my heart, he knows my pains, and he knows my will to not give up!  With all of their help, I can do this!

 I don't need to be skinny -- I just want to be able to run again and feel healthy and good about myself again.

 Already, I am starting to believe in myself again... and writing this post is my first step to really facing this head on.  I'm going to do this... I know I can!

 So here are my starting goals and I am counting on y'all to hold me to this:

 Run a 5K without walking by the end of June.
 Run a 10 K without walking by the end of Aug.
 Run a Half Marathon by Thanksgiving.

 That's it.  I'm not making any weight loss goals.  In fact, I made Ben hide the scale.  I am focusing only on my fitness... and the weight loss with come with it, I am sure.  I truly believe that if I give it my all, I will be feeling like myself again by Christmas!

 Thanks for being here for me!


 PS:  Just in case you have it in mind to mean well and try to get me to join your Beach Body whatever, the answer is no.  I love you, but no.  I know exactly what I need and how to get it.  And if I don't, my husband is a personal trainer.  I don't want any diet pills or promises of a quick fix.  There are no oils or body wraps to fix me.  It's hard work, exercise, and sacrifice.  Plain and simple.  And when I cross that proverbial finish line, I want the satisfaction of knowing it was all me that got me there.  And I say this with all the love I have and no snappiness intended.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The 3 Flat Brothers Project

Yesterday, I mentioned in my homeschooling update post, that we were going to do a Flat Stanley geography project based on the books by Jeff Brown.

If you have no idea how it works, it's like this:  Flat Stanley is this kid that gets smashed by a bulletin board and becomes flat.  So his family sends him all around the world in an envelope -- why CPS isn't involved is beyond me -- and he has many great adventures.

Many class rooms around the globe for many years have participated in the Flat Stanley project by sending out their own Flat Stanley's or Flat Kids out to friends and family and have them passed around.  I thought it would be GREAT fun for the boys to do it as a year long geography project.  They can follow along with their adventures on a big huge map I have yet to buy.  I decided to take the project a step further and create a Facebook group, The 3 Flat Brothers, for friends and family to follow along on the journey as well.

I couldn't decide how I wanted the boys to make their Flat people.  Well, I could just print out the formula ones on Pintrest.... or I could have them make their own, like a little girl did that sent us one while we were living in Oklahoma:

But I wanted to do something new and original.  So I found a Flat Stanley body on Pintrest that I liked, cropped the head off in Photoshop, and then I sketched my boys' heads in an illustrator program and copied them over onto the bodies.  After I sized them, I printed them out on card-stock and let my boys color them.  Jake, my 5 year old, then refused to give his up, so I let him make another one to keep... little cutie.

I posted on Facebook asking if any of my friends wanted to be the first destination.  I was completely blown away by the responses!!  So off they go into the mail tomorrow!  Can't wait to see where this little journey takes us!

If you would like to follow along on our little Flat Brothers' adventures, come join our Facebook group.

Flat Mama out! (I wish....)