Thursday, April 17, 2014

#tbt - I hear this is a thing.

I'm not even going to admit how long it took me to figure out that #tbt on Instagram on Facebook stood for Throwback Thursday.  I'm an embarrassment to the Internets.

Internet.

singular.

From what I gather, the whole concept behind TBT is to post a photo from back in the good 'ole days and then reminisce and smile as you think about how skinny you were back then or what was I even THINKING with that haircut or thank Heaven I didn't end up marrying THAT guy.

Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that last one considering what I am about to write about.  (Evan, that was just an example for other people.  Not me.)

So my friend Jessica decided to start a weekly series on her blog The Mom Creative to share her throwback stories and for others to link up theirs.  I'm always looking for a fun bandwagon to jump on, so let's do this thing.

Travel back with me for a moment to the year 1999.  I was fifteen, I had long hair, and I had recently met my future husband.


Do you see him?  Ignore the loud mouth princess singing in the foreground and take a look at the guy in the wizard hat scowling at her.  Yup, you betcha.  That's the father of my children right there.  Funny thing is that I'm usually the one shooting a similar look his way now.

This was the beginning of my love affair with theater and I suppose it was a part of the beginning of my future marriage as well, unless you count the fact that at the moment this photo was taken I was likely either dating the dude playing the knight who knocks up his (fictional) girlfriend, or the minstrel who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket who ended up taking me to prom, but also ended up cheating on me so I dumped him after the dude in the wizard hat ratted him out and promptly swooped in as my rebound guy and then stuck around year after year until he had convinced me to marry him and bear him three children.

Funny how life works, isn't it?  :)

Can't say I blame him, really.  My waist was teeny tiny and the girls still hadn't felt the cruel effects of gravity and breastfeeding.  The good 'ole days indeed.

Happy #TBT.


Throwback Thursday Stories



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Honest Talk about Stitch Fix


One glimpse at the sidebar to the right and I can see that the most popular posts I have written recently have been my reviews of the personal styling service Stitch Fix.  Now, my purpose in blogging has always been to write about whatever the heck I want to write about with a commitment to authenticity.  I don't want to pretend to be someone I'm not by picking and choosing only the impressive things to share on here.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I want to be honest enough to admit when I've had a bad day, when I'm struggling, when I spend three days straight in my pajama pants, when I've plucked out my fifth grey hair.

Not that I'm counting.

It dawned on me that my Stitch Fix reviews may have been creating an impression among my readers that is not entirely accurate.  If someone were to read those posts and nothing else, they would think that I'm a really style-conscious woman with a hefty disposable income to spend on a brand new box of clothes every month.  I would argue that these posts alone might indicate a certain level of self indulgence, vanity, and disregard for living frugally or perhaps even a sense of superiority over the clearance tag or Goodwill shoppers.

Friends, nothing could be further from the truth.  Truth be told, I definitely fight prideful tendencies every single day and I don't even try to kid myself into thinking that every "selfie" I take isn't a symptom of vanity, but I would like to take this chance to set the record straight about this whole Stitch Fix thing and explain a few "behind the scenes" facts that I hope will clear up my motivations behind my enthusiasm for this service.



Myth #1 - I am blowing a crapload of money on this stuff.

Why beat around the bush?  I am fully aware that this is the top assumption that people make when they see my posts and ask me about Stitch Fix.  It makes perfect sense, after all.  These clothes are not cheap - they aren't made cheaply, the fabric and cuts are on another tier than you would find in the local store where you also buy your tampons and Goldfish crackers, and they were hand-selected for you by a stylist.  The price tag of a typical Stitch Fix box for me runs anywhere from $180 to $300, depending on what items I receive.  Obviously a box with a pair of jeans and a blazer is going to cost more than the box with a pair of earrings and a tank top.

There are three primary ways that I keep Stitch Fix budget-friendly.

First, the "whole box discount."  When you choose to keep every single thing in your box, a 25% discount is applied to each item.  Many times the math works out so that one of the items ends up being free.

Second, keep at least one thing.  Remember, you pay a $20 "styling fee" just to have that box of goodies land on your doorstep.  Find something to keep in each box so you aren't throwing your money away.  I had a couple fixes early on where I only kept the jewelry item I was sent because I wasn't loving any of the clothes enough to drop the coin on them.

Finally, it is primarily the referral credit that allows me to enjoy Stitch Fix as much as I do.  What that means is that I have YOU to thank for helping me stock my closet with nice clothes without even leaving the house.  Every time I try on a box full of clothes, I share the experience with you here on the blog and I make sure to let you know each time I write a post that I use a referral link.  Every time a new person uses my unique referral link to give Stitch Fix a try, I get a $25 credit to my account.  Friends, those add up.

Make no mistake about it.  It is thanks to all of YOU that I get to have as much fun with Stitch Fix as I do.


So if you are a blogger, write about it!  If you have Facebook, share your referral link on your wall!  If you are on Twitter, tweet your referral link when you share the photo of the cute skirt you just scored in your fix.  ONE referral credit pays for the styling fee for your next Fix and two more will likely get you a free item. 

Myth #2 - I'm in cahoots with Stitch Fix and they are compensating me for singing their praises.

Nope.  False.  Straight up wrong.

There is a small contingent of bloggers who were the lucky few who got to be the faces and voices of Stitch Fix when they first launched and I was not among them.  Even those gals weren't "perked" to write about their experience with Stitch Fix other than the referral credits I just mentioned.  To be fair, those bloggers did just get to go visit the Stitch Fix HQ out in San Francisco a few months ago, but that was only after their initial efforts helped create the momentum to make Stitch Fix insanely popular.


Myth #3 - My Fixes are always fantastic.  

Do I love it every time my doorbell rings and I see that beautiful teal seal on the box?  You betcha.  I enjoy the heck out of opening the box like it's Christmas morning and the opportunity to shop these beautiful items from the comfort of my own home.  But it's not always perfect.  I would direct your attention to the Tarzan Sack Dress and Ugly Shirt of Fix #4, the Tribal Bathrobe of Fix #10, and the Funnel Coat of Fix #8 to name a few.  They aren't always perfect, but they are always a blast!


Myth #4 - Modeling Stitch Fix clothes is the perfect excuse to take self-indulgent selfies.

Well, yeah.  Part of showing you all the clothes I get in each Fix is taking pictures of how they look on me, but believe me when I tell you that I am an awkward freak every time I get ready for these pictures.  I have been known to answer the door in my dirty PJ pants I've been wearing for the last two days straight, wipe the crusties out of the corners of my eyes so I can focus enough to see that my latest Stitch Fix box has arrived.  Usually I get the baby down for a nap and then plunk the four year old down either in front of a movie or with the iPad in his lap so I can shower, put on makeup and do my hair so I feel like slightly less of a lunatic when I set up the tripod on my back porch to take photos of myself where I squirm around like an idiot trying to figure out why I keep turning my leg at a goofy angle or why I can't seem to put my arm in the right place.

And let's face it - cellphone selfies open up a whole new world of problems.  

 
I'm not a Big Blogger, you guys.  I'm nothing special.  I'm just a mom who rarely gets to go pee by herself, let alone go shopping for clothes.  I still drop my son off for preschool in pajama pants 80% of the time and a good deal of the time I still default to the jeans I found at Plato's Closet and my favorite Target t-shirt.

I'm also an authentic believer in Stitch Fix.  Thanks to this service, the referral program, and this blog my clothing budget has been relieved of a significant burden.  I will never know who the wonderful folks are who clicked my link and got their Fix on, but I am grateful to each and every one of them for continuing to support me and my attempts to live life on a budget, but with enough style that I don't embarrass my children too badly in public.


Please laugh with me as I continue to snap awkward selfies and share my Stitch Fix story.  I love reading your comments and critiques of the items I receive and I cheer with you every time I hear that someone just got the Holy Grail in their latest box.  It's awesome.



StitchFix

Ready to give Stitch Fix a try? I'd love to hear about it and thank you so much for using my link.  One of my favorite parts is that it is NOT a subscription service where you are charged every month.  You can get one Fix and be done or not get another one for several months if you choose.  Or....you can choose to get a box of goodies every month.  It's your call!  CLICK HERE to get started!

Disclosure:  I was not paid by Stitch Fix to write this or any of my other reviews and all opinions are my own.  I do use a referral link so I get a credit to my Stitch Fix account when new folks get their Fix on!  Thank you for supporting this blog (and for helping keep my clothing budget under control)! 

 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

That Time I Put Them to Bed

There was a good deal of crying and yelling at bedtime tonight.

Since I work most nights, I don't often get to do the whole "put the kids to bed" thing and sometimes my attempt to run that little circus show makes me feel like an amateur at this whole parenting thing.  As I sit here now in the fourteen minutes of quiet I get to enjoy before Evan gets home from Bible study, I find myself wryly smiling as I think back on all the things that happened during my attempt at a bedtime routine that is usually executed with military-like precision.


First Thomas wanted to wear his Thomas the Train PJs.  At least, I assumed he wanted to wear his Thomas the Train PJs because those are the PJs that he pulled out his drawer with a flourish before announcing, "Deees!!! Deeees PJs!!!"  Imagine his horror when I started to then remove the Curious George shirt with the two gaping holes ripped in the front in an attempt to actually force him to wear the most horrible PJs on the face of the planet, you know....the ones he picked.  The tears fell quickly and he threw himself face down on the carpet in protest to such an affront to his dignity.  Mothers are such tyrants.  Eventually he went to bed wearing the exact same shirt he had worn all day, but I did manage to get him into comfy pants instead of his toddler Levis.  I'm gonna call that one a victory right there.

Victory was short-lived after said toddler came to the traumatizing realization that it was not, in fact, his turn to pick the book and that we would NOT be reading Curious George Rides a Bike for the eighth time today.  He sobbed and hollered, "George read!!!  George read!!! Biiiiiikkkkeeeeee!!!!" the entire time I read the story of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her hair and anointing him with perfume.  Apparently Thomas didn't get the memo that this is Holy Week.

As for the older and wiser brothers, their task was to clean up their room after they had gotten their PJs on and instead opted to spend their time whacking each other with swords, pulling on the other one's earlobe, and pretending that pushing the toys off to the side of the room is the same as "cleaning up."

While his brothers were already brushing their teeth, Isaiah was sitting on the floor of his room crying because he had tied a jump rope around his ankles and now he couldn't get free.

Micah seemed to think that "time to pray" is a synonym for "time to twirl Mommy's hair and ramble on about Legos and sniffing butts and asking for stupid things for my birthday."  When I reprimanded him and explained that we are talking to God right now and to focus pleaseandthankyou, he starting blowing raspberries and babbling in baby talk.  When I stood up and moved on to pray with his big brother, Micah started howling and screaming, "I sooooo coooooollllldddd!!!"

Prayers finally said.
Lullaby (aka "Let it Go" from Frozen) finally sung.
Blankets finally tucked in.



Over an hour later, they are quiet and there is an Oatmeal Stout with my name on it.  But what a fun, fun night.  My heart is full.




Friday, April 11, 2014

Shingles, Smoothies, and Sun Screens

My kitchen smells like burnt plastic and metal.

But I'll get to that in a second.

Last night a customer was gracious enough to inform me that I "need to get a new job."  He didn't mean that in a you're far more amazing that people realize kind of way, but more in a you are absolutely useless kind of way.  After a couple weeks where it was just one thing after another knocking me down, it wasn't exactly the warm fuzzies I needed.

As you know, the boys and I were in a car accident two weeks ago that totaled our van.  Pretty much every spare moment I have had in the last two weeks has seen me glued to my computer searching the listings on Autotrader and CarGurus, on the phone asking about vehicles, and talking to insurance agents and claim adjusters.  In fact, we were already in the process of an insurance claim for our roof so there has been that to wade through as well and Wells Fargo hasn't exactly been very helpful with that whole process.  What was really fun was when the doorbell rang at 7:30 in the morning on Tuesday and we opened the door to find a roofing crew all set and ready to rip off our roof and slap on a new one.  Of course, this was the very day we were minutes away from leaving for Illinois to go shop for a van, leaving a slew of babysitters behind to take care of our kids. 

I left a Post-It on the counter that read, "Surprise!  New roof getting put on today!"  I also sent them all text messages to be cautious when entering the house and to keep the kids inside so they didn't get hit by debris or step on a nail. 


Alas, I don't have any funny stories to tell about this round of Van Shopping, unlike last time when we encountered such characters as "Toothless Terry" who removed the teeth from his mouth and cleaned them while he tried to sell us a van.  Evan and I did enjoy reminiscing about that little gem though.

We arrived home Tuesday night with the keys and registration to a new-to-us van, but we weren't able to drive the van home because there was a hinge in the front door that we wanted repaired first.  So, we packed up all three boys Wednesday afternoon and drove an hour and a half back down to Illinois to pick it up.  Really, the kids were as good as we could've expected on a long drive except for that brief moment when we had to pull over and help Micah fix his seat-belt because the little stinker was messing with it.  They entertained themselves with a game of "Red Car, Blue Truck" that Evan and I ended up getting in on.  We promptly started debating the point values that ought to be attributed to purple vehicles since they are technically a combination of red and blue and whether or not maroon counts as red or purple.    

Eventually, we made it back down to Libertyville and picked up our van with newly repaired door hinge.


By the time we pulled into our driveway at bedtime that night, Micah had already ripped the sunshade off the back window and the motor was making a goofy "flappa flappa" sound that we hadn't heard on the lot or on the test drive.  We found out the next morning that there is a leak in an exhaust pipe that needs to be replaced, so we will be getting that replaced soon in addition to repairing the scratches left behind on our other car by the Snowblower Incident.  If you are ever in the market to buy a vehicle, do yourself a favor and do not let my husband or I be involved in the process in any way because apparently we are cursed.

After two weeks of taking my anxiety out on my diet and having cookies for breakfast and Gino's East pizza for dinner, I decided to get off on a better foot this morning and whip up a healthy berry smoothie for breakfast complete with power greens and protein powder.  After a minute or two of blending, the motor started growling and I smelled burnt plastic and metal.  Before the berries and kale had even been fully pulverized, my blender threw up the white flag.

So I had a cookie.


 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just Metal and Paint

When things happen that are outside of my control, I panic a bit.  My head starts swimming, my heart races, logic jumps ship, and I inevitably launch myself into panic mode.  And that's just in the first five minutes.

I'm working on it, really I am.  My husband insists that I have made huge improvements in this area over the past couple years, but sometimes things happen that are so unexpected that I can't help but feel a bit shaken.

I think this counts.


I was driving to church last Wednesday morning to meet up with my wonderful ladies in the Mom's ministry I attend.  Two of my three sons were in the van with me, happily singing along to the Frozen soundtrack.  We made a left turn onto the street the church is on and soon after the turn, the right lane was closed off due to construction.  I was in the left lane, but there were two cars over in that right lane with their turn signals on beginning to make their move to merge into my lane.  I hit my brake to slow down to allow them in and I immediately felt the impact as a pickup truck slammed into the back of our van.  Thankfully the cars in front of me were not so close as to create a domino effect, but the noise combined with the force of the collision had scared the living daylights out of the kids.

Praise God the kids were only frightened and not hurt.
Praise God that I was uninjured as well.
Praise God that the driver of the truck was uninjured, kind, apologetic, concerned and amiable.
Praise God for the quick response of the police and fire department whose primary concern was the well-being of my children.
Praise God for my friends from church who drove by the accident and launched into action to come rescue my kids from the van, bring me coffee, and pass around a card of encouragement.

It's only metal and paint and that's all that was lost.  Praise God for his protection on that morning.

As you can imagine, it's been a frustrating week since the accident.  Dealing with the insurance claim, initiating the estimate and repair, obtaining the rental vehicle, waiting for the estimate and then negotiating with the claims office once the van was deemed "totaled," the pressure of starting to shop for a new van when our budget was really not expecting it.

It's a lot.

So please bear with me as things are a bit quiet over here.  I'm elbow-deep in printouts from Autotrader and CarGurus.com since we have about a week to find and purchase a van.  It's also taking a ton of energy for me to keep my anxiety from taking over and to try to keep my anger from flaring.

Praise God for a mother-in-law who sends me a text at the very moment I need it, encouraging me to read Psalm 37.

We are safe.
It's just a van.

And we are so thankful.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Project Life Tuesday - Week 42




The Mom CreativeI had hoped to have more recent stuff to share with you today, but life has just really gotten in the way of plunking my butt down and scrapbooking lately.  It's so rude of life, isn't it?  At some point here I am just going to have to say to heck with it and blow everything else off so I can power through and finish up 2013 and then maybe I can start on this calendar year!  Wouldn't that just be a hoot?!

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

Week 42: Coral Kit

 
I love how the teals, yellows and oranges look with these photos.  I thought this kit was going to be really "girly" at first, but it ended up working out really well.  And yes, I did have to document that I cleaned the bathroom.  That is a really big deal for me.

Can we please talk about my baby sitting on the couch wearing a Curious George t-shirt and sitting next to his Curious George monkey while eating a banana?  The cute is killing me.  And do you spy George in the photo above that too?  The one where he is on his tippy tippy toes to get a drink from the bubbler?  Love.

Yes, I call it a "bubbler."  I live in Wisconsin and I am a Badger alum so it is indeed a "bubbler."  Google it and you will know I speak truth.


Lots happening on this right page.  I finished turning a soccer ball pinata into a Death Star for the boys' epic Star Wars birthday party, Isaiah finished out his soccer season, and our furnace got replaced.  For the record, I never actually use the phrase "For Reals," but the card worked so nicely with the photo and QR code that I used it anyway.


The Mom Creative

Thus ends another edition of Project Life Tuesday!  See you next time and I swear I will have a bunch of new stuff to share!



Friday, March 28, 2014

The Stitch Fix Review Where I Take Awkward Selfies in my Messy Bedroom

It's been a while since I wrote a Stitch Fix Review, but that doesn't mean they haven't been happening!  Right before Evan left on his latest trip to China a box of goodies arrived at my doorstep and I had just enough time to try everything on and get his opinion on them before he hopped on an airplane to the other side of the planet.  I did not, however, have time for him to help me take photos of said items until he flew away so instead I give you......


That's right, friends!  Lest you believe that those of us who get these fancy Stitch Fix boxes are some sort of fancy pants crew, I am armed today with a collection of cringe-worthy selfies snapped in my disheveled bedroom that I didn't even bother to pick up before I started snapping shots.

And this is all ok.  Because Stitch Fix isn't for just the fancy pants people.  It's for real people with unmade beds and intrusive toddlers.  It's for women with hand prints on their mirrors and piles of unfolded clothes.  It's for women like me who like to wear Real Pants on occasion, but don't necessarily want to drag an entourage of toddlers into dressing rooms to make it happen.   

(P.S.  If you're reading this and wondering what the heck this whole Stitch Fix thing is that I'm talking about, I invite you to check out my previous reviews for the more detailed run-down.)

Super Quick Recap of Stitch Fix:
  • Sign up and get on the Waiting List (this usually moves pretty quickly)
  • Fill out your detailed Style Profile
  • Schedule your first "Fix" and work yourself up into a frenzy as your stylist chooses some great clothes for you to try on
  • Pay your $20 styling fee and wait for the goodies to arrive on your doorstep
  • Receive a box full of items hand-picked by a personal stylist, just for you, based on your profile
  • Try everything on, keep what you want, send back what you don't. (The $20 styling fee comes off the price of anything you choose to keep and if you buy all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!)
First Impressions:  Beautiful colors!  The saturated blue top caught my eye right away and I loved the pattern I saw peeking out from the lighter green item.  And pink?  Bright pink?  You have my attention, Margaret.


I loved everything about this top.  It was loose fitting enough to hide my trouble areas, but still body skimming enough to be flattering.  I could see it under a blazer for sure, but I liked how it looked on its own too.  The color is dreamy and the neckline adds a nice touch of interest.


If Evan hadn't been in China over Valentine's Day, I probably would have worn this dress out to dinner.  I think I'll need to put a tank top under it just to make sure the plunging neckline isn't showing off too much of the goods, but a pretty white cami with lace at the top would be lovely under this dress.  I loved the detailing on the sleeves and the the length was super cute.  Please ignore my white knees.  The brutal winter here in Wisconsin has done a real number on my already dry skin.  It's getting ugly up in here.


Scarves are my jam.  This lightweight patterned infinity scarf instantly took my favorite grey t-shirt and took it up a notch.  The teals, oranges, yellows, and blues in this scarf make it so versatile!


I paired the last two items together and I was very pleased with the combination.  The white striped tank top definitely needs a cami underneath because it is very, very see-through, but that really isn't a big deal to me.  It's slightly longer in the back for a little booty coverage (LOVE) and the lightweight navy cardigan was the perfect compliment.  I can see wearing that cardigan with so many other items in my closet!

And do you see how I labelled all the embarrassing items in the photo?  Nice.  Welcome to my world!

Before I reveal what I decided to keep, let me remind you of one of the fabulous features of Stitch Fix.  If you keep all FIVE items in your box, you get a 25% discount right off the top of everything

**STITCH FIX TIP!!**
Think about how the items your stylist sends fit into your existing wardrobe and evaluate how likely you are to wear it.  Look for versatile pieces that can play along nicely with the clothes you already have and love wearing!


THE KEEPERS

There was nothing in this box that I didn't like and couldn't see myself wearing, so this is another instance where I kept the whole box! That 25% discount is such a great perk!


StitchFix

Ready to give Stitch Fix a try?  I have really enjoyed using this styling service as a way to mix things up in the wardrobe department.  It's so fun to see what my stylist has chosen!  My favorite part is that it is NOT a subscription service where you are charged every month.  You can get one Fix and be done or not get another one for several months if you choose.  Or....you can choose to get a box of goodies every month.  It's your call!  CLICK HERE to get started for free!

Disclosure:  I was not paid by Stitch Fix to write this or any of my other reviews and all opinions are my own.  I do use a referral link so I get a credit to my Stitch Fix account when new folks get their Fix on!  Thank you for supporting this blog (and for helping keep my clothing budget under control)! 

Linking up once again over at The Pleated Poppy for some amazing fashion inspiration!





Thursday, March 27, 2014

Catching Up and Catching the Light

First of all, thank you so very much for all the encouraging comments on Monday's post.  It means so much to know that you all don't think I'm completely nuts for giving this a shot!  I promise to keep you updated when I find out anything.  

Today I am editing a ton of photos so I can whip up blog posts about my last two boxes from Stitch Fix before my next box shows up in two weeks.  How did I let myself get so behind?  Probably the same way I let myself get so behind in my Project Life album.  Which reminds me, after I get these Stitch Fix posts done I am bound and determined to dive into the photos from October of 2013 and get back to work on finishing that album!

The best laid plans, right?

In the process of dumping all the photos off my memory card into the computer I came across a few shots I took of the boys on a recent rare day where the sun was actually shining in through our patio door.  Granted, it was probably about 4 degrees outside, but at least the light was nice.


*Gulp*  Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a shot from your senior photos from high school?  I look at this and I can totally see my baby as a 17 year old.  I highly doubt he will be holding his Curious George when he gets those photos taken, but you get the idea.

A couple more of my favorites:



Have mercy, I love that kid. 





Monday, March 24, 2014

Never Too Late to Start Over

Nearly three years have passed since I last stood in front of a classroom as a teacher. 

A co-worker was recently bemoaning the upcoming Shakespeare unit in his college English class and I overheard his lack of enthusiasm for having to read Othello and try to understand what the heck was going on.  It was like someone had instantly hooked me up to an IV full of Red Bull because my mouth was suddenly moving a mile a minute and I chattered away about the imagery of light and dark, the use of verse and prose, the role of race, and the way Shakespeare expertly corrupts Othello's language as Iago efficiently poisons his mind.  Words like motif and soliloquy came flying out and before I knew it my hands were flapping all over the place, as they tend to do when I am talking about something I am really really excited about.

Shakespeare does that to me.

Teaching does that to me.

Never mind that this poor guy was staring back at me with his mouth agape like a guppy.  I didn't care.  I felt alive.  Without even giving him a chance to object, I announced I would go home and that very night dig through the Trove of Unknown Objects (otherwise known as my basement) until I found the box containing my teaching binders.  I would find the one containing the materials from when I taught a unit on Othello to a class of AP English Literature students and I would use it to make this guy the unofficial expert of The Moor of Venice in his freshman lit class.

I plopped that binder down on the tray with a thud and he and I started flipping the pages.  One page protector after another held notes, worksheets, quizzes, tests, and answer keys.  In hindsight, I feel kind of bad for this guy because I basically tried to cram a couple week's worth of material into about a two minute lecture being given in the server area of a restaurant.  Sure, the threat of getting ketchup on my overheads was a bit foreboding, but it was exhilarating! 

He took the binder home with the promise to take good care of it and I couldn't help but feel a little like I had just handed over my first born child to be taken care of by a babysitter for the very first time.  While that binder was gone, I dug through the rest of the box and unearthed all the material I had poured my heart into all those years ago. 

Flipping through those pages awoke something in me that had been sleeping.  I smiled as I scanned my marked-up pages of The Crucible, the student discussions about The Great Gatsby, and the study guide I wrote about Oedipus Rex and the Greek theater.  I thought about the hours I spent in rehearsal with my students, running lines, changing blocking, freaking out that the show was going to flop only to have them totally rock it just in time.

Radium Girls - Sauk Prairie High School, 2010

Oh my goodness, friends.  I had almost forgotten how much I loved it.

Theater gets inside you and takes residence.  It grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go.  It's the only way I know of to really walk in another person's shoes and explore what it is really like to be human and to FEEL it all the way in your gut.  I remembered watching my students just crush their opening night performance of the play above and I got shivers up my spine during scenes where their emotions came pouring out of them and the lines weren't just words they memorized, but became a very real and living thing.

It was one of the proudest moments in my teaching career.  And it came while I sat in a dark booth, wearing a headset, and watching my students on stage.

Somehow I just know that jumping right back into the role of public school English teacher isn't right for me anymore.  There have been significant changes in the landscape of teaching since I stepped away to stay home with the kids and the climate is completely different now.  The buzzwords are different.  Heck, I'm not even sure what "Common Core" is....let alone how to teach it.  But more than that, I have had an increasingly stronger feeling over the last year or so that the future of my career might take me back through the public school system, but it's not going to be the destination. 

There's something else out there for me.  Something that will incorporate my education, my experience, my gifts, and my passions. 

Then just a couple weeks ago a friend of mine asked me an incredible question - "What would be your dream job?"  I wasn't surprised to find that "teaching" was not what came out of my mouth, but I was a little surprised when I found myself chatting away about how I would love to work for a professional theater company in the area of education so I could research, write, teach, develop curriculum, and work with students all under the umbrella of theater, where I feel most at home.  If I hadn't been driving at the time, I'm sure I would have started flapping my hands all over the place again.

That conversation kept bugging me, nagging at me in the back of my mind.  What if?  What if a job like that actually exists?

So I found myself on the website for Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  Clicking on "Jobs at the Rep."  Reading the description for the position of "Education Department Intern" and feeling like it was more like a personals ad written just for me.

I have no idea how I would fit it in my schedule or our budget.
I have no idea who would watch the kids.
I have no idea if I'm out of my mind.

But I just sent in my resumé



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maybe This is Why I Need Therapy

My therapist does a killer Tina Fey impression.

Oh yeah, I'm seeing a therapist now.  Try to focus on what's important in the situation though and stay with me.

What makes it so wonderful is that I'm not entirely sure if she is trying to be Fey-esque on purpose or if it is purely coincidental.  The face, the glasses, the voice - all there.

Source - http://fina-tey.tumblr.com/post/68534236269

It's gets to be challenging to focus and take her seriously when she suddenly starts verbalizing a conversation with "Mr. Anxiety" using all the mannerisms of a woman who plays a German soldier in the next Muppet movie.  Or is it Russian?  Now I have to go Google it.


Her name is Nadya and she is a guard at a Russian prison.  Wow, I was way off.

Anyway, I took one of those ridiculous yet highly addicting (and surprisingly accurate) Buzzfeed quizzes about who would play me in the movie version of my life and I was thrilled to cast Mindy Kaling as myself.  She's hilarious, voluptuous, a talented writer and actress, and she has gorgeous hair.  Really, it's the perfect fit except for the fact that she is Indian and I am about as white as the Kleenex on my therapist's desk.

But apart from that I would say Buzzfeed nailed it.

Source - http://www.buzzfeed.com/fox/15-life-tips-according-to-mindy-kaling
It was only after doing the logical thing (sharing my results on Facebook and announcing the national casting call to find the actor to play my husband *ahem* justintimberlake *ahem*) that I realized that the quiz only pertained to actresses and I set out to find the male version so I could try to answer the way my husband would and find out whether Mindy would be swapping "that's what she said" jokes with JT or someone a bit more serious and deep like Ryan Reynolds.  Splitting hairs, really. 

Alas, there was no quiz to be found on Buzzfeed regarding the dudes, so I suppose this can only lead us to assume that only Buzzfeed feels only chicks must feel the need to waste time taking pointless quizzes and sharing them only Facebook only to feel more validated and popular with the new and improved version of ourselves since clearly if we were really a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle we would be Raphael and then......oh yes, then we'd get some respect you betcha!

Before I had time to be offended by this, I was well on my way to learning I am Rex in Toy Story and Hermione in Harry Potter courtesy of another genius quiz site - Zimbio.  Pumping my fist in victory, because let's be honest - I knew all along I was Hermione, I embarked on my quest to discover which character in Mean Girls I was most like and was blind-sighted by my result:  Ms. Norbury who is played by none other than Tina freakin' Fey.

No, no, no....nothing about this makes sense at all!  I hate math!  How could I be a math teacher?  And surely, Zimbio, surely I cannot be both Mindy Kaling AND Tina Fey.  Suddenly I found myself trapped in a Pointless Internet Quiz identity crisis.  Who.  Am.  I?

If I'm being truly honest, I could never do as good of a Tina Fey as my therapist and Mindy clearly has the better bosoms, so it turns out that Buzzfeed was right all along.

The screenplay is still in the works, but I am accepting audition videos for roles yet to be cast.  I will be sure to review them in a timely manner as soon as I'm done drawing the name "Flynn Rider" in hearts all over my notebook because he is the Disney prince who is my one true love, despite the fact that's not actually a prince.  Or real.  But it's true love, dammit.  Because Zimbio said so.   




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Deep Fried Parenting for the Win

Note: I wrote this post a couple weeks back while Evan was away in China.  I submitted it to a contest, so I couldn't publish it until after the results were announced.  Alas, I did not emerge victorious.  So now you get to enjoy my losing post!  :)  

As it turns out, taking three small children to Chuck E Cheese on a Saturday night during tax return season is a very bad idea.

Oh, the hoot I had when I came home late from work this weekend to ask my in-laws how the day had gone with the boys.  Never in a million years would I have ever imagined they would be ambitious enough to bring the kids to that epicenter of anarchy on their own, but they are apparently auditioning for the Craziest Grandparents award.  A very prestigious honor in some circles, I've heard.

They survived the police officer directing traffic in and out of the overflowing parking lot, the line rivaling the queue for the twirling teapots ride at Disney World, and even managed to find a place for them all to sit down to wait for their mediocre pizza to arrive.  The boys actually ate their food (a little bit at least), but I'm pretty sure there wasn't much conversation happening since the decibel level of all the squealing children and the hollering parents was likely deafening.  There was game playing and ticket winning and they even managed to keep track of all three kids for the entire time they were there.  That's more than I can say about the time I took the kids to the Children's Museum so they've got me beat.

With armfuls of tickets in tow, they trotted the boys up to the prize counter so they could pick out whatever random crap they would like to take home with them.  Rather than stand there for five hours and count the tickets and endure the agony of trying to barter with their grand-baby about how he can't have the enormous stuffed unicorn because it costs 750,000 tickets and he only has 200, they went the smart route and just had each kid pick something out of a single area and paid cash.  I loved how my father-in-law described the reaction of the tween girls that he gave all the tickets to.  Have you ever seen a grown man impersonate a gaggle of preteen girls?  Priceless.

The kids were understandably exhausted and crabby when I woke them up early for church Sunday morning.  Truth be told, I was in a pretty similar state.  After church, I threw Nutrition Caution to the wind and decided to forget that they had dined on lukewarm pizza dough covered in mystery meat and overly processed cheese the night before and brought them to Culver's after church to dine on gluten-coated chicken parts cooked in piping hot liquid fat with a side of crinkle cut simple starch sticks dunked in tomato flavored sugar.

They act like I've just given them a pony every time I announce around mealtime, "Let's go to Culver's!!!"


While we enjoyed our incredibly nutritious lunch, I chatted with the big boys about what they had learned at church that morning.  I shared about how in "Big Church" we had reflected on how Christ is the cornerstone that every spiritual house is built upon and that each of us is a very unique living stone that he has chosen to use to build that house.  Micah shared how he hid behind a chair and flew in a rocket-ship with his friend and informed me that he did NOT want to color, but wanted to be Batman instead.


Isaiah told me about how they had talked about Peter and how he stepped out of the boat to walk on the water toward Jesus.  He discussed how Peter was walking toward Jesus just fine until he looked away and then he started to sink and then Jesus had to rescue him.  When I asked him what that can teach us he responded, "That we need to trust Jesus!"  Solid, kid.  We spoke for a few more minutes about this particular Bible story.  We discussed how Peter showed great faith by even getting out of the boat in the first place even when it must have been so scary, how we can do what seems impossible when we trust in Christ, and how we stumble and start to drown when we take our eyes off of him and begin to doubt.

There was some serious theology being tossed around over those chicken tenders and fries, friends.


As the kids (ok, and me too) were enjoying their frozen custard dessert - because you CAN'T go to Culver's and not get dessert - something amazing happened.  The family that had been sitting in the booth next to us got up and started to leave the restaurant.  The older woman in the group approached our table and leaned in to say something to me.

Here we go, I thought.  She's going to tell me she had three boys too and she knows how crazy it can be.  Or maybe Isaiah's constant turning around and standing up in the booth had bothered her and now she is going to let me have it.  Maybe I have a booger hanging out of my nose and she just doesn't have the heart to let me go on sitting there in public without letting me know.  

"My dear," she began, "I heard you discussing with your sons what they learned in church today and I just wanted to commend you.  So often nowadays we just go to church and go home without giving it a second thought and many never discuss these things in public.  But we need to be bold and speak up more often.  Thank you for encouraging your children to learn about their Savior and for showing them that we should never be afraid to praise Him no matter where we are."

Then she gave my shoulder a little squeeze, smiled at my children, and went on her way.

I had tears in my eyes as I turned my gaze back to the boys and registered that Micah was sucking the last bit of his root beer out of his cup like an infant with his bottle, Isaiah was using his tongue like an iguana to scrape out every drop of chocolate custard from his dish, and Thomas had melted custard and strawberries running all the way down his arm and he was using it to finger paint on the table.

But I didn't care.

I was doing something RIGHT with these kids. As I sit here and type these words, I am debating between serving them chocolate cake or cereal for dinner and the middle boy is sitting on his big brother's head and attempting to muster up a fart, but that encounter reminded me that when it comes to the truly important things, the eternal things....I'm on the right track.  I certainly don't get it right every single time and I think claiming "most of the time" might even be a stretch.  I lose my temper, let my patience wear thin all too quickly, and often rush through bedtime prayers because Downton Abbey will be on in precisely two minutes.

In spite of my imperfection and struggles, I am a good mom. And my kids are starting to really get it.  Praise God for coming up so big where I fall so painfully short.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go give Micah a Time Out for biting his brother's hand in an attempt to steal the neon green Angry Birds slap bracelet Isaiah got from Chuck E Cheese.  While I'm up I should probably preheat the oven for the frozen pizza I'm making for dinner.  



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sick Days and The Last Supper

This crazy thing happened.  I went away to a women's retreat for a couple days and worked my tail off and had a blast.  I came home and sat on the couch.

I didn't get up for about 3 days.



Once I had recovered enough from my illness to shower, dress myself, and go to work I had a lot of catching up to do from being off the grid for so long and before I even realized it, I hadn't blogged in over a week.

So sorry about that.

I'm not really sure there was some sort of bug hanging out in my system that was just waiting for me to stop moving to take its opportunity to strike or what, but I swear to you that it was the very second I arrived home last Sunday that I was immediately hit with whatever hateful thing this was that left me exhausted, nauseous, dizzy, rocking a fever, experiencing some delightful bathroom excursions, and rendering me completely useless to everyone around me.

It was so bad on Monday that just getting up off the couch to move over a load of laundry exhausted me so much that I crashed out for another hour.  My kids watched a LOT of TV that day, let me tell ya.


We basically pushed the "Repeat" button on Tuesday too.  (P.S.  That book you see there in my lap was awesome.  A really good mystery that fed right into my love of fiction involving the English aristocracy at the turn of the century.)

So I really have a lot to tell you about.  I need to write all about the Breakaway retreat - what I did there, what the event was like, what went really well and what went wrong, and all that jazz.  The short version is that it was an incredible weekend of worship, learning, laughing, and working hard.

We also drank wine in the hallway and reenacted Bible stories using Joanna's hair as a beard.


So there's that.

Yup, lots to tell you about.  For now we are getting ready to attend the baptism of my husband's goddaughter after we cut the boys' hair, clean up the five superhero and Star Wars puzzles that are all over the kitchen table, and brew another pot of coffee because Mama is TIRED!

We'll chat soon.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Breakaway


After surviving one of the most difficult weeks with Evan away in China I can remember, I am off on a well-deserved little getaway. 

I'm hanging out with about 700 of my closest lady friends at a resort and spa, flitting about and tweeting and posting to Instagram like crazy about the platform speakers, breakout sessions, Glow Run, and other such activities. 

But there is also going to be an hour where I sneak away for a massage, a whole lot of late night snacks, and probably more than a glass for two of wine while laughing until my stomach hurts with my roommates.

Follow along if you'd like to see a little glimpse into how hundreds of Christian women like to party.

See you next week! 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Do Something.

Yesterday I walked around all day with a Red X drawn on the back of my hand.  I wish I would have encountered more people, but as a stay at home mom that wasn't really in the cards during the day.

But I do have a night job.


Why was I heading in to wait tables with a ginormous Red X on my hand?  I think this video does a better job explaining it than I can.




Before I moved to the Milwaukee area, I was blissfully ignorant of issues like human trafficking.  Since arriving here, getting plugged in to our church, and speaking to the incredible women I have the privilege of calling friends, I was shocked to find out how much of a huge issue this is.

The fact of it is that Milwaukee has a slavery problem.  And it's not just Milwaukee, but it's places like Whitewater, Janesville, and other "regular" towns where children and young women are hidden in the shadows, held captive in seemingly safe communities as sold as commodities on Craigslist.

Only a few weeks ago, a 13 year old girl walking down the street was kidnapped and held for a week against her will.  Forced into sex acts by her captor, she was hidden in an upstairs apartment and made to "work the streets" at night.  When police came knocking on the door looking for her, she was forced to hid and her life was threatened if she showed herself.   

In July of 2013, there was a huge trafficking sting in Milwaukee that led to 10 girls being rescued from sex slavery and the arrest of 100 people.   These are people, children, being bought and sold as slaves and forced to do the unthinkable.

Heck, there's even an app for that!  Apps like Tinder are solid gold for human traffickers since they show the precise location and photo of any user with a smartphone that has installed the app on their phone.  They can give a "thumbs up" to the young girl's photo and then schedule a meet-up.  The girl may think she's going to meet the cute 17 year old boy she saw on her smartphone, but end up being taken prisoner by the 52 year old sex trafficker.

Not a movie.  Real life.  And in my backyard.

But what can be done?

My friend Jessie is very passionate about this issue and she works closely with Exploit No More, an organization based in Milwaukee that is committed to ending child sex trafficking.  As they explain on their website, "Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies."

Now that sounds like something I can get behind.

So when I heard about the End It Movement and how February 27th was going to be a day to shine a light on slavery, I knew it was my chance to really do something, even if it was only in a small way.  So I drew the X on my hand and I went to work.  I decided that for every table that asked me about the huge X on my hand, I would donate the entire gratuity I earned from that table to Exploit No More.  In addition, I would explain to that table why I was wearing the X, what it represented, and what I planned to do about it.

The Bad News - I had a rough night at work where I wasn't able to turn my tables thanks to a whole lot of people being "sitters," so I ended up only having my very first table inquire about the X.

The Good News - That table left a tip of $32 which has already been donated to Exploit No More.

The Better News - Nearly every person I worked with last night asked me why I had a huge red X on my hand.  I got to tell the story of the 27 million people around the world who are still enslaved in some way.  I got to shine a light on the countless young girls who are being held in the shadows and forced to service 30 men a night, wondering if they will ever be free again.  I got to open some eyes to the fact that slavery still exists, that is more prevalent than ever before in human history, and that it is happening right here and right now.  One of my co-workers got goosebumps as I talked and started writing down the information I was telling her because she has a passion for advocacy and is currently in school working toward a career fighting against issues just like this. 


I don't know about you, but when I look around and see issues like slavery, poverty, homelessness, addictions, and the countless other problems our world is infected with, I feel powerless.  I feel like my influence is so small that nothing I can do could possibly make even the slightest bit of difference.

But I'm learning that doing SOMETHING is far better than standing by and doing NOTHING.  It might not be a huge donation, but it can still be a gift from the heart.  What would happen if everyone did their own small something?  Knowing what God can do, can you even imagine what might result?

So I spoke.  I shared.  I gave what I committed to give.  It's small, but it may end up to be very significant.

Because what if that woman currently waiting tables in the section next to me had a fire lit in her heart last night?  What if she graduates and gets a job and someday down the line goes to war for those girls?  What if she saves even one life?

Wouldn't that be worth it?

I'm in it to END IT.


  

If not us, then who?  If not now, then when?  It's time for us to do something


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Under My Skin

Some boys were teasing me at work last night and they were doing a great job getting under my skin.  Not being mean at all, but just expertly pushing my buttons so that I could feel my fists clenching at my sides. 

It made me miss my husband.

Nobody knows how to find the sore spot and poke it better than him.  He is the master at aggravating me to the point where I can't even speak.  I usually a pretty quick-witted person, but there are times when he just gets me so freaking mad that my brain just stops working and I can't come up with a single retort or smart response. 

Ugh, I hate that.

And I miss it so so much.





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