Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Epic Star Wars Party with Minimal Effort

My kids love Star Wars.  As a parent who was born in the 80s, I love that my kids love Star Wars.  I firmly believe that God gave me three sons so I could referee light saber fights, use "the force" as a way to explain how wind works, and settle arguments based on who can most accurately reenact the scene I've affectionately nicknamed "Luke's Paternity Test."

When it comes to Star Wars, we have a couple house rules.
1.  Episodes IV - VI will always be known as "the first ones" because they were released first and are exceedingly superior movies.  The same truth does not apply to the additional band scene added in Jabba's palace.  Ugh, I fast forward every time. 
2.  The "high ground" rationale for Obi-Wan's victory in Episode III is complete B.S.  Watch the battle with Darth Maul at the end of Episode I for my proof.
3.  Episode II is practically worthless. 
4.  Darth Vader is one of the coolest villains in the history of cinema.  Period.

When my oldest two boys jumped on board for having a double birthday party with a Star Wars theme, I was probably nearly as stoked as they were.  Ok, maybe even a little more.  I scrolled through Pinterest and got some ideas, but I knew my time and budget were limited so I needed to make it easy and low-stress, but still wicked cool.

Do not be intimidated.  This party was super easy to throw together and I've made it even easier for you to borrow my ideas by giving you FREE PRINTABLES to use at your own party!  Woot woot!! 

Let's start with the invitation.  I whipped this baby up in Photoshop Elements and then just emailed it as an attachment to our family and friends.  I didn't even take the time to print 'em and mail 'em because.....well, I'm cheap.

I love how it turned out and it was actually really easy.  My husband was quick to point out that Darth Vader would have had NOTHING to do with inducting new Jedis into the order, but I didn't care.  He looked too B.A. not to use.

Feel free to download this invite and use for your own party! It's a PSD file, so you will be able to edit it with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or you can use to edit the layers to suit your party's needs.

After the invites had been sent and the RSVPs collected, I got to work on the really fun stuff.


I knew I wanted to label the food in a fun way, so I spent a couple hours on the computer one night while catching up on my DVR and I whipped up these labels.  I made them each the size of a 4x6 photo and then just had them printed at the local Walgreens.  I used some index cards and tape to attach them to their respective food items and voila!

I was especially proud of the "Hoth Dogs."  It tickled me every time I saw it.  Please excuse my disgusting Crock Pot.  I did warn you that this was a party of "minimal effort!"

The "Wookiee Cookies" were a huge hit!!!  All I did was whip up a batch of Rice Krispie Treats using two parts regular cereal and one part Cocoa Krispies.  I also stirred in some mini marshmallows and added some chocolate sprinkles to the top for added interest.  Once they were cool, I cut them up and wrapped them individually in plastic wrap before assembling on the serving plate.  These were easily the Home Run in the food department.

I put bottled water and juice boxes in this beverage bucket and dumped some ice on top.  Easy peasy.

Another mega-success came in the form of these "Fruit Sabers."  I made the card and asked my sister-in-law to bring the fruit.  My instructions to her went something like this: "Just stick whatever fruit you want on some skewers and call it good."  She took that ball and ran with it in a big way.  I love how she thought to put the blackberries at the base to make it look like the hilt of a lightsaber.  Genius.

If you'd like to download the food labels as .jpg files, CLICK HERE!  Please enjoy and share!

The last order of business in the food department was the cake.  I have no talent in this department, so I ordered the cake from a local grocery store.

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker came as part of the cake, but I stole R2D2 and C3PO from my kids' toy collection and stuck them on the cake for extra interest.

The boys LOVED their cake and the toys that came with it are now fully integrated into our horde of Star Wars toys.


Yeah, I did very little in this department.  I set up a couple buffet tables in our garage and covered them with Star Wars tablecloths.  I added a couple clusters of balloons to each table and there were forks in Star Wars cups from Target on each table as well.  The life-sized Darth Vader and Chewbacca cut-outs were on loan from my dear friend Julie, the one giving me the stink-eye in the photo above.  (Ha ha Julie!! You got on the blog!!!)

Favors and Games:

I found every single thing you see above, except for the temporary tattoos, in the dollar spot at Target.  The tin banks were perfect for fitting a lightsaber candy, a tattoo, plus a couple more pieces of candy I stole from the bags intended for the trick-or-treaters.  The large tote bags and puzzles were gifts for my young Jedis.

I set up the favors on a card table out in the garage and whipped up this little sign to stick next to them.  The kids loved it!

As for games, I kept it very simple.  I blew up about 8 white balloons and used a pumpkin carving template I found online to draw on Stormtrooper faces with a Sharpie.

I tied some ribbon to each balloon and put them in the trees in our backyard.  After turning several Dollar Store pool noodles into light sabers with duct tape, I set the kids loose to go attack the Stormtroopers!

Once the Imperial army was taken care of, they seamlessly transitioned into beating the heck out of one another so my plan worked flawlessly.

The star of the show was the Death Star pinata!

I bought a soccer ball pinata from Party City and used some metallic silver spray paint to make it look more Death Star-ish.  Before spray painting, I filled the pinata with the goodies and then covered up the hole with a few strips of duck tape. Once it was painted, this created the perfect smooth surface for drawing on the trademark weapons system.  As for the strip around the middle, good ole' duck tape to the rescue!

I also spray painted a helmet I got at the Dollar Store to create a blast shield like Luke uses in Episode IV when training with the remote.  It was perfect in place of a blindfold for hitting the pinata!  Of course we used a light saber to whack at it.

As it turns out, Party City makes a very sturdy pinata.

My young Jedis had a blast at this party and I found myself calmly sipping a cup of coffee while I waited for the guests to arrive because everything was so low-stress.  Hopefully you found some of these ideas helpful!

May the force be with you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wide Right.

Have mercy.

This has been a DAY, friends.  It was the kind of day that has left me cursing the fact that my kids haven't gone trick or treating yet because I would love to be raiding their candy bags right about now.

Micah woke up in the middle of the night last night having wet the bed for the second night in a row, something he hasn't done for quite some time.  When I was tucking him back in bed, I noticed he felt really hot and he definitely had a fever when he woke up this morning so I kept him home from school.  He was NOT happy about it, but there wasn't much choice in the matter. 

He barely ate a single bite all day, which is very strange for Micah.  There was just an excess of crankiness up in here.  Micah was feeling yucky and tired, Thomas was in a stinky mood and cried over just about everything, and I was just doing all I could to hold it together and not feel like I had failed entirely at this whole gig. 

I hate it when I misplace the owner's manual to my kids.

When it comes to things outside of "Mommying," I go out of my way to do my research, study the details, and hit the ground running when I am given a new opportunity.  I was recently asked to serve on a committee at church for an upcoming women's conference and be in charge of the social media aspect of things and I think it took me a grand total of about 4 minutes after I hung up the phone to be researching the conference, trying to find out all the information I could, and writing down a list of questions to ask the head of the committee in regards to my responsibilities. 

That's when I got scared and thought about calling her back to tell her to choose someone else. 

I just like to do things well and sometimes I get a little worked up when things don't go the way I had hoped.  Like the time I messed up the boss's table at my new restaurant.....and I cried.
Or the time when my former boss accused me of being selfish and lazy because of a minor mistake....and I cried.
Or how about the time when my middle son told me he hated me.....and I cried.

Letting people down terrifies me.

Days like this make me feel like the field goal kicker who does everything possible to prepare for that game-winning kick.  He practices, meets with the coaches, watches film and takes notes.  But sometimes when the ball is just doesn't work right and the crowd's shoulders sag and they trudge out of the stadium with their heads hung.

I get so frustrated when life doesn't measure up to expectations.  Today was just another example of that.  Micah's icky tummy, feverish head, and squashed dreams of a day playing with his friends combined with a crabby little brother made for a pretty tense environment in here.  Add in the dirty dishes, the overflowing laundry baskets, my piercing headache and the fact that I had yet another run-in with my own failures....and I cried when the kick went wide right.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with my friend and I hope I haven't completely quit on myself by then.  Right now, I'm feeling like I'm barely even qualified to write this ridiculous blog post.  At least Micah finally passed out on the couch despite his screaming protests moments earlier of "But I am NOTTTT SICK!!!!!"

Project Life Tuesday - Week 34

The Mom Creative

Welcome to Project Life Tuesday!  Every week I share the layout I've been working on, either in my family's weekly book or my son's baby book.  I started using the Project Life system in 2010, so this will be my fourth full year!  I used to be a very traditional scrapbooker who would spend hours on a single layout to document one or two photos.  Thanks to Project Life, I have become much more practical and I'm able to record a multitude more memories.

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!

Although I am typically use a hybrid style combining digital and traditional elements, project "Get Caught Up on My Album" has officially begun, which is why you see a LOT more digital stuff here than I usually do.  In the name of git 'er done, my mouse and I have been hard at work in Photoshop Elements.  Here's what I have so far!

Left Page:

So, you know how I used the Amy Tan Cut & Paste kit last week in the name of being a bit more girly?  I actually used the exact same kit again this week, but was able to keep it much more dude-friendly by choosing different cards and changing the colors a bit.  For example, I added the yellow stripes to the first 3x4 journal card for a pop of color.  The journal card on the far right represents something I really like to do with my Project Life albums, documenting events that are happening in the news or in popular culture.  When I heard about the acceptance speech that Ashton Kutcher made at the Teen Choice Awards, I was blown away.  I knew I had to put it in my album. 

Right Page:

I monkeyed with a few more things on this page with my limited digital skills.  For the card in the top left spot, I changed the border color to blue and added the arrow with a brush.  I really like how the pops of pink on this page add a burst of color without making the page too feminine.

By the way, am I the only one who has ever let their kids play in gutter water?  Who needs a pool??!!

For a sneak peek of Week 35, click on over to The Mom Creative where I am guest posting today!!

I'll see you next week right back here!  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Amazing Spiderman

All you darling people who scroll through Pinterest and find the most adorable hand-made costumes for your children....I applaud you.

Those of you who actually come up with the original ideas that eventually become the pins that lazy people like me are pinning on have legitimate super powers, my friend.

As for me, I try to work as little as possible at creating an outfit that my kid is only going to wear for twenty minutes while he walks down our cul-de-sac begging for candy before he inevitably decides he's too tired, too hot, too cold, his belly hurts, his hair hurts, or he peed himself and in a blink all that hard work is for naught. 

To me - Halloween costumes are like prom dresses for kids.  I really don't want to put in a ton of time, effort, or money, but they still need to be adorable because the cuter the kid, the more candy for me.

Case in point - The Amazing Spiderman.

Isaiah - 2010
I bought this Spiderman costume for $14 at either Walmart or Target or something of the like in 2010. 

My neighbor was kind enough to let me borrow her son's Spiderman Easter basket to complete the costume and my boy rocked that Webslinger look.

The cheeks!  The eyes!!!  The sucker!! 

Yes, that is a police car in the background.  No, there was no illegal activity taking place at the Trunk or Treat event at the local church where we were collecting candy.  They were there handing out glow sticks, stickers, and some super cute police-themed trading cards. 

And making sure the pastor kept himself in line.  That guy is crazy.  (Miss you Rob!!)

Fast forward a year and Spiderman made his triumphant return.

Isaiah and Micah - 2011
For those of you playing along at home, allow me to break down the math for you.  In the first photos, Isaiah was a month shy of turning 3 years old when he wore the Spiderman costume.  In the photo above, Micah is 23 months old

Have mercy, son.

Let's turn the page on another year, shall we?

Micah - 2012
I squeezed Micah into the costume one more time just so I could take this photo for the invitation to his superhero birthday party.  The mask was difficult enough to get on, but that costume was like trying to squeeze a 10 pound sausage into a 5 pound casing. We got 'er done though!

Thomas - 2013
When it suddenly hit me last week that Halloween was sneaking up on me, I did the laziest thing possible and raided the dress up box I keep in the kids' closet.  I pulled out The Amazing Spiderman and lo and behold, it was time for Thomas to take his turn. 

I'm hoping for a whole bunch of Reeces Peanut Butter Cups and Almond Joys, myself.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Live the Queen

There's just no way around it anymore, friends.  It's best that I just get it out there in the open and embrace the truth.  No more hiding or pretending the facts aren't the facts.

I am the Queen of Mom Fails.

If I tried to sit here and write about all the episodes of epic failure that have taken place on my watch over the past six-ish years, this would probably be the longest blog post ever.  Instead, let's just all gave a good laugh at the things that have happened JUST THIS WEEK to support my claim as the reigning monarch of laughable fails.

1.  I secretly ate leftover birthday cake for breakfast after forcing the kids to sit at the table until they finished their oatmeal.

After celebrating with an epic Star Wars birthday party (blog post to come soon!) where the kids were allowed to overdose on frosting, Cheetos, Doritos, and Rice Krispie Treats (arguably Mom Fail #1.5), I figured I really should step it up in the nutrition department on the days that followed.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the time energy motivation to go grocery shopping Sunday night after the Packer game, so I decided to just feed them whatever I had for breakfast in the morning.  Isaiah hates oatmeal, so he had cold cereal, but the younger two boys were still plugging away at their whole grains when I started poking around for something to eat myself.  While Isaiah's whining about not being able to play video games before school were ringing in my ears and I realized Thomas had rubbed more oatmeal on his head than he had put in his mouth, my eyes fell on the slices of leftover birthday cake.  Before I could even exert any kind of control, my hands had maneuvered that frosting covered hunk-o-sugar onto my plate and poured myself a cup of coffee.

I made sure the kids weren't looking, added a dollop of whipped cream to my coffee, took a photo for Instagram, and then turned my back to shove it all in my mouth without getting caught. 

2.  I spilled raw chicken juice all over my kitchen.  

No, I do not have a photo of this little gem.  I was preparing dinner on the one night during the week that we actually get to eat together as a family.  Again, the shelves were looking pretty bare because I still hadn't gone grocery shopping, so it was a "use what you've got" kind of night for dinner.  I thawed out some chicken breast in the microwave, cut up some broccoli and tossed it in the steamer, and cooked up some frozen french fries in the oven.  Evan got home just as I was finished up breading the chicken in some whole grain bread crumbs because I'm all about being super-healthy, you know.  (see first Mom Fail) He grabbed a couple of the Star Wars cups I got for 87 cents at Target and turned to me to express his delight that these cheap cups would definitely get their money's worth of use in this house!  I was apparently distracted by Darth Vader's light saber or maybe it was Darth Maul's horns, but in that second I lost my focus and moved far too quickly for someone holding a plate full of raw chicken drippings and I set the entire plate full of salmonella goo splattering all over the counter.  The floor.  Down my arm.  Up the sleeve of my sweater.  I stood there listening to the horrific "sploosh" sounds as they landed all over the kitchen that my kids run around in bare feet and I froze.  I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't speak.  Finally I shouted at my beloved, "Would you HELP me please!!??  I'm dripping in chicken juice!!!"

3. I refused to button my son's pants so he walked around with his fly open.

First of all, we were at home so it's not like I was letting this boy run around Target with his pants at his ankles.  Micah has not really mastered the art of buttoning and zipping his pants and there are days when I feel like I just can't hear the cry of "Mommmmmyyyy!!!!!! Come button my PAAAAAANTS!!!" come booming out of the bathroom one more time without losing my mind.  On this particular afternoon, the baby had finally fallen asleep for his nap and I had completed all the absolutely crucial homemaking tasks for the moment.  No, the laundry wasn't folded.  No, the floors weren't swept.  No, dinner wasn't arranged.  But the coffee was fresh and I was caught up on my Instagram feed.  I sat down on the couch for what promised to be a blissful 20 minutes of semi-quiet before I had to get ready for work.  That's when Micah stuck his hands down the back of his pants, which is his not-so-subtle signal that he needs to go to the bathroom.  I sent him on his way and the usual holler came from the bathroom not 5 minutes later.

I was comfy.  I didn't want to get up.  I told him to button his own pants.  I reminded him that big boys button their own pants.  He didn't want to and neither did I.  So, I read my book for 15 minutes while he played with Legos with the barn door swinging wide open.

Quite honestly, I have no idea how long he stayed like that because I left for work an hour later.  

4.  I forced my son to go play.  Outside.  With his brother.

On a day when I had all three boys home all day due to a teacher development day that infringed on my favorite form of babysitting - aka "Kindergarten" - the weather was actually pretty decent for an October day and I suggested, horror of all horrors, that Isaiah go outside and play with his brother.  Micah raced right outside and grabbed one of the leftover pool noodles turned light sabers from last weekend's birthday party and armed himself for battle.  Meanwhile, Isaiah stood outside the front door, pressed his face to the glass, and wailed.  Judging by his reaction, you'd think that "go outside and play with your brother" was code for "hold still because you're about to be water-boarded."  So, I ummmm.....I locked the door. 

5.  While I write this blog post, it is nearly lunch time and two of out the four of us are still in our pajamas.

And I still haven't gone grocery shopping.  Mac and Cheese it is, boys!!!

All hail the Queen!!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I don't know about you, but I feel surrounded by a chorus of should.  Everywhere we turn, there is another voice whispering to us about how things should be, how we should be acting, how much money we should be making, or what leading an effective life should look like.

I should be able to meal plan an for an entire week's worth of dinners like she does.   Feeding my kids PB&J four times a week is probably not considered "balanced."

Maybe I should actually make the kids' birthday cakes from scratch this year instead of ordering one from Walmart.  Is it true they hire endangered gorillas and only pay them twenty-five cents an hour to make the birthday cakes and donuts?

Everyone seems to be "going green" with their cleaning products now.  Maybe I should do that.  Maybe I should actually start cleaning my house.  Do I even own Windex?

I really should limit my kids' screen time.  In fact, they should have none at all.  I'm pretty sure the smarty-pants people at the American Pediatrics Brigade (or whatever the heck they're called) say that any kid who is exposed to more than 30 seconds of Cailou immediately develops a twitch in their left eyebrow.  Any video game use leads to unexpected rants in Swedish.  Yup, I should throw the TV and Wii out the window.  I definitely don't want twitchy Swedes for kids.

The shoulds can be suffocating.  I know I'm making light of it here, but I think it is especially important to think about how our idea of Should compares to God's idea of Should.

If we think back to the garden in the first chapters of Genesis, we get a glimpse of what should have been.  Interaction and relationship with God.  Freedom.  Trust.  No sniping or passive aggressive comments on Facebook about how "somebody" really should learn to mind their own business or be a better parent.  No crushing feelings of inadequacy when the glow stick craft you attempted to re-create from that board on Pinterest turned out to be an epic failure and now your kitchen floor looks like a murder scene from CSI under a black light.

Let's imagine just for a moment that SHOULD doesn't exist.  What would happen if we could close our eyes, click our heels, and suddenly all the expectations of the men and women around us were erased and replaced by the calling of our Lord?  How would we live our lives differently?  Can you feel the weight lifting off your shoulders?

Harvestfest Promo from Elmbrook Church on Vimeo.

As many of you know, I go right from my day job of being a full-time mama of three boys to work as a server at a self-deemed "foodie" restaurant.  The other night, despite the fact that I'm still very new at this particular establishment, I was told that I would be waiting on the owner of the company.....and his Bible study group.  I freaked out a little because I knew that they were very particular and I wanted everything to be PERFECT.  I knew how this table should go, how every step had to be done with precision for it to be pulled off successfully. 

And I messed it up.  I got so worked up about the should that I forgot to be myself, to relax, and to trust that I knew what I was doing.  I let my fear cripple me and I made a mistake at this table that left me mortified and on the edge of tears.  Struggling to hold it together, I approached the owner at the end of the meal and sincerely apologized for my mistake and claimed full responsibility for their meal not proceeding as it should have.

He turned to me with a look of confusion and asked, "What mistake?"

You guys.  I completely forgot that the owner of my restaurant is a Christ-follower and that the whole table was filled with his Bible study group.  My mistake really wasn't that big of a deal, but I turned it into an epic failure, something that they certainly couldn't forgive me for.  

We do this in motherhood.  We do this in our marriages.  We do this in our friendships, our family relationships, our jobs, and every other realm of our life. 

So I'm working on it.  I'm working on letting go of the "shoulds" that surround me and instead I am learning to re-imagine the roles to which God has called me.

He has called me to be a mother. 
He has called me to be a wife.
He has called me to serve and encourage women.
He has called me to be a writer and story-teller.

Instead of seeking out my mistakes and wallowing in the Should, I want to work more and more at re-imagining what my calling should look like and spend more time smiling at my children as they play and welcoming them as they run into my arms. 

But right now....I really should start dinner or it's PB& J again! 

Or perhaps twelve loaves of zucchini bread......

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Project Life Tuesday - Week 33

The Mom Creative

Welcome to Project Life Tuesday!  Every week I share photos of a layout I've been working on, either in my family's weekly book or my son's baby book.  I started using the Project Life system in 2010, so this will be my fourth full year!  I used to be a very traditional scrapbooker who would spend hours on a single layout to document one or two photos.  Thanks to Project Life, I have become much more practical and I'm able to record a multitude more memories.

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!

Project "Get Caught Up on My Album" has officially begun, which is why you see a LOT more digital stuff here than I usually do.  In the name of git 'er done, my mouse and I have been hard at work in Photoshop Elements.  Here's what I have so far!

Since this week featured my 30th birthday, I decided to go a little more GIRLY than I usually would.  I used pops of pink and florals to give these pages of feminine touch.

Left page:

I used the Amy Tan Cut & Paste kit for this layout and I love how the teals and subtle neutrals played off the colors in my photos.   And can we please talk about how cute my baby is with those balloons???

Insert H:

I added a Design H insert (which is basically a Design A cut in half) to this week to capture the photos from two different events - our rain check zoo date with some friends and the day when my children got to meet Baby Gabbie for the first time.

Nothing really overly complicated here, folks.  Just photos and a journaling card!

I really went for it and played with the pink on the flip side of this insert.  I mean, how often do I get to use PINK in my scrapbooking?  After Gabriella was settled into her new home, I brought over the lasagna I made for Mom and Dad and introduced her to my three her three solid options for a future husband.  They are all so different and uniquely wonderful so I am confident she will be able to choose one of them to marry someday so this precious girl will be my daughter-in-law.

Just kidding.


It would be kind of cool, though.

Right Page: 

This page is all about my birthday!!!  My co-workers were kind enough to treat me to an evening of dessert fondue at The Melting Pot on my special day.  Plus, I got more Project Life goodies as a gift!!  Go me!!!  The last couple photos are from a visit to my parents' house the next day where I got to see my sister and snuggle My Prize.  I sure miss that darling baby!!

So, this is about as far as I am caught up right now and I have exactly ZERO free time to scrapbook soon.  I hope to be back on PL Tuesday again next week, but I guess we will see!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Turning the Corner

Yeah, so that big truck sitting in my driveway was carrying our new furnace.  We tried to turn on the heat Monday morning when I woke up chilly and it didn't kick on.  We tried the typical quick fixes like flipping the circuit breaker and then Evan called in a tech from a local heating company to come check it out.

He broke it down for me like this, "I could trick your furnace into turning on for you, but your home would fill with carbon monoxide."

Well, crap.

So, we could either fix the part that was busted or pay a couple hundred more dollars and replace the whole thing.  Considering the furnace was installed in 1993, it was a pretty clear choice to make.  The only problem was that we didn't have the money.  Like, not in the "we don't want to spend this kind of money but I guess we will if we have to" kind of way, but in the "there is not enough money in our bank account to pay for this" kind of way.

We worked so hard to get our finances under control, eliminate our consumer debt, and save up the money to pay for things like a new roof and a minivan in cash.  The last year has just be so tough.  The relocation cost us a lot of money and then things just kept coming, one after the other.  The plan this year was to start working on the remodel of our basement and we had to stop those plans dead in their tracks.  We've been trying to hard to stay ahead of our budget and to be good stewards of the income we have been blessed with, but this one was so hard to swallow and I was left feeling stuck.

But here's the best part, friends. 

I didn't freak out.

I remember when I was 15 weeks pregnant with Thomas, we found out that our previous house needed a new roof.  Faced with spending nearly $10,000, I remember sobbing and shaking in our kitchen as I crumbled into an anxiety attack.

So there I stood this week, dealing with the necessity of buying a furnace and not having the funds to do so, I was actually able to breathe in and out, hold my hands steady, smile, and keep calm.  Evan was actually flabbergasted that I wasn't losing my mind over this whole situation.

We went to our family night at church that night and I sat in the coffee shop with my Bible and my latte, I read these words in the book my small group is studying right now:

Those who are habitual worriers, whose lives are shrouded in the gray fogs of anxiety, need to recognize the clear command, "Do not be anxious about anything," which precedes Paul's great promise of peace, and act accordingly.  This does not mean that, having spent all their lives worrying, they will suddenly stop, any more than it holds out hope that they will never get depressed and fearful again.  It does mean that in the degree to which people can respond positively, when the anxieties loom large, they will turn the corner and increasingly discover peace permeating mind, emotion, body, and relationships.   (Briscoe 56-58)

I swear to you, I could almost feel God's hand on me, resting on my shoulder and reassuring me that together we are no longer going to let the anxiety win.  By his grace, I am continuing to seek the peace of mind that only He can bring.  It's not going to happen overnight and of course I will never fully be rid of it, but I can already feel the improvements that have taken place over the past several months. 

Through the provision of God and the generosity of a very dear family member, we were able to obtain a loan to pay for the furnace and it was installed the day before we celebrated our big boys' birthdays.  Our home was warm, thanks mostly to the company we were keeping.

But the new furnace didn't hurt. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don't Mess with Mommy Time (Even if You Have to Poop)

When I dropped Micah off in his classroom the other night, I could just sense that something was "off."  He was more wiggly than usual and he kept putting his hand down the back of his pants.  I asked him if he needed to go potty and he just got annoyed with me and blew me off.  Still, I hung back for just a moment as he joined up with the large group of kids as the started their programming.  As the other children's attention turned toward the worship leader, my boy was just as intently focused.....on sneaking his hand back under his waistband to do God knows what to his butt.  I walked right in there and led him out of the room and then muttered under my breath as I impatiently waited for him to finish using the bathroom.

He was cutting in on MY TIME with this foolishness, you see.  I realized later that I wasn't annoyed because he was missing his worship time with his peers or even annoyed because he hadn't told anyone he had to go potty.  What annoyed me was that I was stuck there, waiting outside the boys bathroom for The World's Pokiest Pooper to do his thing when I should have been sipping my latte and listening to Pandora.

But allow me to back up for a moment. 

I have a very hard time saying "no" to people when they ask for my help.  This especially applies to my co-workers asking me to pick up their shift if they have something else going on.  I can't tell you how many times my brain has been screaming at me, "Say NO!!! Say NO!!!" only to hear the word "sure" come out of my mouth. 

I've gotten much better at this over the last year.  That's not to say that I've become more stingy and selfish in how I help out (although I'm sure there are a few who would argue that to be the case), but instead I have developed a higher level of appreciation for my time.  I touched on this a little when I wrote about why I quit my job, but the short version is that I have been learning a lot lately about how I want to really be smart about how I spend my time and who I'm spending it with.  Also, I need to prioritize the little free time that I do have and use in an an intentional manner.

Case in Point - Family Church Night

I have made it very clear to my recent employers, family, and my friends that this particular night is basically off limits.  My days are filled up to the brim with making meals, doing laundry, shuttling a kid to preschool, leading my small group, grocery shopping, and attempting to keep my house in some semblance of order.  Almost immediately after I put Thomas down for his nap, I go change my clothes and get ready to head to my evening job, where I wait tables until ten or eleven at night.  When I get home, I finally get a little while to spend with my husband and that is usually done at the same time that laundry is being folded, lunches are being packed, a blog post is being written, the family budget meeting is taking place, or the toys are being gathered.  By the time I fall into bed, I wonder where the heck the whole day went as I think about all the things left unchecked on my To Do List.

But these nights are different.  We get to eat supper together as a family and then head to church.  Evan goes to his men's group and we check all three kids into the child care at church.  Then I head to the coffee shop, order a pumpkin spice latte and settle into to comfy chair for a solid 1.75 hours of QUIET time with my Bible, my coffee, and my God.

It is absolutely crucial to my well-being.  It is life-giving.  It sustains me.  I do the best I can to get in the Word every day, but I always seem to fail.  It is this time that I rely on to re-connect with the Lord. 

And there I was, tapping my toe and scrolling through Instagram, muttering to myself with annoyance because my boy's bowel movement was infringing on my sacred time.  Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.  I know I should have been more patient and loving in that situation because it's not like he purposely prolonged his pooping to provoke me (see what I did there?).  Honestly, I asked him to forgive me for that.  My point is that I have found that I treasure that time so very much because part of its appeal is that I get to take a break from things like sneaking into the boys' bathroom to wipe a poopy butt.

I've been asked to pick up shifts for people at work and I have said no....over and over and over again.  Once, I overheard a co-worker talking about how she really needed someone to work for her that night and someone brought up my name as a suggestion.  She promptly shook her head and said, "Nope.  She's got CHURCH." 

I smiled a little because I was glad to be spared the requirement of turning her down.

And next week I'm going to make Micah go potty before we leave the house or I'm going to make Evan drop him off.  :) 

Don't mess with Mommy Time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stitch Fix Review - My Quest for the Holy Grail

If you've ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you know that there are some treasures worth pursuing to the ends of the earth and there is something so thrilling about when a Holy Grail of Clothing lands on your doorstep in a beautifully packaged Stitch Fix box. 

(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:
I was nervous because I had a new stylist - Catherine.  My usual stylist wasn't styling with Stitch Fix anymore so I had a fresh set of hands working on picking out items for me.  I was super impressed how Catherine described how she studied my previous fixes and comments as well as my Pinterest board before choosing my items.  Also, I was excited to see a fall coat that I had requested! 

I love this color blue!  This top was light and flowy without being overly billowy. 

I tried it on with a pair of dress pants in a tweed brown with brown heels and then went for a casual look with jeans and leopard print flats.  The slightly puffed up shoulder really created a nice look.  I thought the price on this top was a little high and I felt it was slightly short, but it was still a great piece.

Please forgive the creasing and wrinkles in this photo, but there isn't much I could do about since I don't know how to work our iron.  I'm not kidding.

This sleeveless top was a pretty burgundy color that my camera struggled to capture accurately and I really liked the length.

It looked alright with my long brown cardigan, but it was pretty clear the fit was a little off.  The arms were far too loose and it sagged low in the front as well.

I'm sorry.  Is that a dress with an A-line chevron skirt??  I flipped out a little when I saw this in the box and practically RAN to the bedroom to try it on.  I was saying a little prayer the whole time I was squeezing into my SPANX that this one would fit me. 

HAPPY DANCE!!!  I took a cue from the styling card and tried this dress with a jean jacket and flip flops to make it more casual, but I think it worked best paired with black heels.  And it has pockets.  POCKETS.  Sorry if your eyes are hurting from the glare coming off my pasty pale legs, but as the founding member of the "Embrace the Pale" movement, it's my responsibility to represent our paleness proudly. 

The specific thing I requested for this Fix was a "fall jacket" because I really don't have one that fits anymore and that denim jacket you see above doesn't really work very well for super-chilly nights or dressier outfits.  I was really interested to see what I would be sent and this coat was definitely an unexpected choice.

Yeah, this just didn't work at all.  The coat was really cute on the hanger, but it was all wrong for my body type.  First of all, it was much too small.  I could barely button it over my chest and the collar just left me feeling awkward and confused.  Not for me.

I squealed out loud when I saw this top.  The breath caught in my throat and my jaw dropped to the floor.  Really, I didn't even have to try it on to know that it was PERFECT for me.

The deep emerald color and the cut of this top made it super flattering, but the icing on the cake was the stud detail.  I felt comfortable in this blouse the moment I tried it on and I thought I was going to have to arm wrestle my mother-in-law to keep her from stealing it from me. 

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

Be very, very specific in your feedback about the pieces in your Fix.  I had a brand new stylist this time, but she was able to use my feedback about how previous items had suited me to choose some really great options for me right out of the gate.

So what did I keep?


As you can imagine, I just had to have the emerald green 41 Hawthorn top.  I now affectionately refer to it is "The Holy Grail of Tops."  I spilled my Pumpkin Spice Latte on it while riding in the back of a bumpy van last weekend and I nearly cried out of worry for my new favorite shirt.  Don't worry.  She was fine.

This chevron dress was a great choice to wear to my cousin's wedding last weekend!  Sure, I already had a dress on hand that had come in a previous Stitch Fix box, but when I pictured this dress styled with red shoes....I couldn't resist.  I found the shoes at Target and the necklace at Charming Charlie.  I got so many compliments on this dress at the wedding and when people asked me where I got it, I loved being able to say, "My personal stylist chose it for me!"

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Stitch Fix??!!


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. 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)! 

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

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