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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Snow-blower Story

This is the story of the time not so long ago that I nearly packed my bag in the middle of the night and ran away to Florida.

For those of you who do not live in the Midwest, let me start by explaining that this winter has been downright brutal.  Every day that has not been bone-chilling cold has had snow falling.  We've had multiple days of schools being closed due to dangerously low wind chills, freezing rain, thunderstorms complete with pouring rain and hail and 50 mph winds.....all within a single month.

It has not been a great time to live in Wisconsin, let me tell you.  The kids haven't even been able to play out in the snow very much due to the awful temperatures, which really erases the most redeeming quality of winter in my opinion.

Anyway, I took the photo above on February 18th.  The day before, we had received about 7 inches of snow.  It was also the first day after Evan had left for China.  Before he flew out, he took me into the garage and showed me how to work the snow-blower, "just in case."  He showed me how to turn the "choke to full" (whatever that means), how to prime the fuel, and finally how to rip the cord to start it and how to turn it off.  He explained how the throttle worked, how to put it in gear, and how to engage the auger.  Basically, he showed me everything I needed to know to be able to operate the snow-blower.  It was really cold as we stood out in the garage that night (duh), so my brain kind of checked out by the end in favor of thinking about the couch and a fluffy blanket.

Fast forward 48 hours and my darling husband is safely landed on the opposite side of the planet and I'm watching the snow fall outside my window for hours and hours and hours.  I put Thomas down for a nap, turned on Spiderman on Netflix for Micah, and hopped in the shower so I could get myself ready for work before I headed out to tackle the snow in the driveway.  My plan was to just clear a quick path behind my car so I could get out and back in easily enough and then finish the rest of the job when I got home from work that night.  No sense busting my butt to do it all at 3:00 when the snow was still coming down really hard, you know?

Hair done, full makeup, work clothes on and covered up by fleece pants and a parka, I told Micah I was going outside to snow-blow for a few minutes and I'd be right back.  I had 30 minutes before the babysitter would be arriving and I would need to leave for work.  Plenty of time, I figured.

Now, every time Evan has cleared the snow, he has pulled the snow-blower out from its parking spot and brought it in between our vehicles in the garage and outside.  When finished, he would push it back into the garage, back between the vehicles, and secure it once again it its place next to our chest freezer.  I had seen him execute this maneuver multiple times with my own eyes.

So....when I walked into the garage that Monday afternoon, I did not for a second believe my experience would be any different.  I grabbed the snow-blower by the handles and began to pull it out, between the vehicles.  I got about halfway down the length of our Honda Accord before a thought jumped into my brain.

"Huh, " I said to myself, "This is going to be a little tight."

No sooner did the message flash across my cerebrum or cerebellum or whatever part of the brain is responsible for my internal monologue, but disaster struck.  You see, the recognition of the thought did not translate to action quick enough and the snow-blower suddenly stopped.

Confused, I looked down and saw that the back tires of the snow-blower were firmly wedged between the back tires of our car and our van.

Well, crap.

I was on a time schedule, people.  I had to leave for work in precisely 26 minutes so I did not have time to dink around with this kind of stuff.  I started to push the snow-blower forward in an attempt to dislodge it, but it didn't work.  Frustrated, I jolted the stupid thing every which way I could, trying to free it from its position, but it only got worse.  After a couple minutes, I realized that the snow-blower was stuck.....really REALLY stuck.

That's when the cursing started.

At this point, the cursed yellow beast was too committed to staying it its vehicular prison to be forced to go forward at all, so my only option was to try to pull it backwards to free it.  I used every ounce of energy I had to yank on that damn thing (yes, I just said damn), but it did no good.  I let out a guttural scream of "Noooooooo!!!!" and Micah popped his little head out the garage door to check on me.

"Mommy?  Are you ok?"

"GETBACKINTHEHOUSERIGHTNOW!!!!!!" I replied ever so calmly.

I stepped back and tried to slow my pounding heart and excessive rage that was started to cloud my thinking and ability to not throw things and go on a murderous rampage.  Defeated, I realized there was only one thing I could do.  I grabbed my keys and started to hop into the drivers seat of the van and the car, moving each one every so slightly every time in an attempt to free up even an inch of room.  Girding my loins, I grabbed the handlebars once again and I started to pray.

Father, I really did something epically stupid here.  I could really REALLY use your help in getting out of this mess.  I know what's about to happen and it isn't going to be pretty.  Please God, let this work.  And please, Lord.  Give Evan a very VERY forgiving heart when I finally work up the nerve to tell him about this.  Let's do this thing.  Amen.

Then I started pulling.  And pulling.  The sound I heard was a combination between a crowbar being drawn across a chalkboard and a cash register ringing up a whole lot of dollar signs.  It was excruciating to listen to.  I could see the yellow paint transfer almost immediately, but there was progress being made.  Just a little further..... 

I checked the clock on my phone and realized I had a mere 15 minutes left before I had to be on my way to work.  That's when I started taking photos, as any rational person would do.

Then I made a phone call to my place of employment and asked to talk to the manager on duty.

"Hello, Joe.  It's Sarah.  Yeah.....I am so sorry, but I'm not sure if I'm going to make it in on time today or even at all.  See, I um..........crap.  I can't get my car out of the garage because I have the snow-blower stuck between it and my van and I can't seem to move any of them. I have the photos so I can Tweet them to you so you know I'm not making this up."

I hung my head as I listened to the laughter on the other end of the phone.

Then I tweeted the photo above and the following photo to my boss:

Talk about a humbling moment.

With all pride erased, I got back to work.  Suddenly, in a glorious moment of triumph, it came free.  Victorious, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and shot a thank you up to Heaven.

Then I looked at the car.

I took this photo, said hello to the babysitter as she strolled up the driveway, and pulled the car out of the garage and put the snow-blower in its place.  Then I said goodbye to the kids, and tweeted the final photo to my boss with the message, "I'm on my way."

Oh how I wish that were the end of the story.

With seven inches of fresh, barely plowed snow on the roads, my drive to work threatened to kill me at every moment.  By the grace of God, I arrived alive.  Unfortunately, as you may imagine, most sane people do not go out to eat in the middle of a nasty snowstorm, so I ended up only having one table of two people before I was cut.  I earned $10, drove home, and paid my babysitter $40.  I donned my snowblowing gear once again, and waved to her with a big mittened hand as she walked down our street back to her house.

Following Evan's instructions to the letter, I fired up the snow-blower and got to work.  I had about a third of our driveway done when all of a sudden, something snapped.

And the snow-blower stopped working.  In a cruel twist of fate, a little hook on the end of a spring that was nowhere near any of the areas that had been involved in the craziness that had taken place hours earlier, had snapped the "eff" off and now there was nothing that could be done to engage the auger.

After all that the snow-blower wouldn't blow snow.

Faced with a busted snow-blower and an even more busted spirit, I had no choice but to grab the snow shovel and get to work at moving seven inches of snow from our driveway and all the sidewalks surrounding our corner lot.

It took me just over two hours and I felt like I had been hit by a bus.

I trudged into the garage and hung the shovel back on the wall, pulled the car out of the garage and pushed the now worthless snow-blower back into its parking space, then moved the car back inside the garage.  Closing the garage door, I shuffled into the house and collapsed onto the couch with a glass of red wine and a really bad attitude.

When I spoke to my darling husband about the whole debacle, I cried and yelled all in the same breath.  My anger, frustration, and wrath came exploding out with terrible force.

"I just don't understand!" I yelled.  "I have SEEN you pull the snow-blower out between the cars and push it back in the same way!  Why should I have any reason to believe it wouldn't work the same for me?"

After a short pause, my husband replied.

"What you haven't seen is that every time, I pull the car out of the garage and drive it back in, parking significantly closer to the wall than normal." 

It took every ounce of energy I had left not to immediately book a ticket on the next red-eye to Florida and get the heck outta dodge.

And that's the story of why I will never EVER touch that cursed machine again. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Project Life Tuesday - Week 41

The Mom Creative

Making progress on last year's album, little by little.  This week I'm sharing the layout for our trip to Grand Rapids last fall for my cousin's wedding.  That was such a dominant feature of that week that I just focused on it for the entire thing.  I really didn't take many other photos that week anyway.

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 41:  I used the Dear Lizzy Neapolitan Kit for this week and I love how it really played off the colors of the wedding and the overall happy vibe of the photos.

The left page features our drive to Michigan, the rehearsal dinner, our visit to Founder's Brewery, and our evening spent with The Petersons.  No offense to my family, but hanging out with Sara and her husband Dan was probably the highlight of the trip for me.  I won't embarrass Sara by repeating what Dan said that made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants, but Sara wasn't nearly as amused as I was.  :) 

Next I added a Design D insert to go in between the Design A pages.

Nothing too fancy for the first side, just photos and a journalling card.

Oh, this just cracks me up.  While the actual photographer was taking family photos, there were a couple dozen unofficial photographers snapping away right behind her, myself included.  I love this family.  And how cute are those little girls?  Little sweet pea in the bottom left corner was just fascinated by my red shoes.    Yeah, and I suppose the bride and groom are looking pretty good too.  :) 

And finally, the right side.  Mostly photos and just a little bit of journaling.  I love how this page really gives a great little glimpse into the fun group that is this family.  I can't wait to get back to Grand Rapids again soon to see so many of my favorite people again.

The Mom Creative

Thus ends another edition of Project Life Tuesday!  With any luck, I'll see you back again next time!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway - Chasing God by Angie Smith

The kids were fighting with one another over who got to play with the LEGO Iron Man.  For some strange reason, all three boys suddenly had this overwhelming urge to play with that particular mini-figure of Tony Stark’s alter ego at the exact same moment.  Sharing was apparently not an option, so they had resorted to kicking, pushing, and screaming.  After what had already been a tough day, this was the breaking point for me and I started yelling.  I hollered at all of them and my words were not at all coming from a place of love.  When the tears started to erupt and the lower lips popped forward, I stomped off to my room and slammed the door behind me.  Fuming with both anger and regret, I hit my knees by my bed…and prayed.

Prayer has always been a struggle for me and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on exactly why.  In this particular moment, I felt so broken and desperate that I just cried out to God for rescue.   

Help me, I begged.  I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, like I’m doing everything wrong.  How can I claim to know and love you, but still feel so lost?  You once felt so close and now I find myself erupting in anger.  How can I find you, God?  Show me what I have to do to fix this.  Am I even doing anything right?  

Out of clear blue sky, I checked my email one day and found a message asking if I would be willing to read and review Angie Smith’s latest book.  When I say that Chasing God arriving at my door was an answer to prayer, it is not an exaggeration.  Flipping to the back cover, the first words I see written in a flowing script are, “Am I doing this right?”

Before I even opened to the first page, I knew this would be the book that could help me.  The one that would finally answer the questions I had about why I felt like all my striving was in vain.  You can imagine my amusement when I realized that Smith’s book is all about how we need to cease with our striving, reading all the right books, and doing all of the things in an effort to chase after God.  

Well played, Lord.  Well played.

Divided up into sections that address key theological issues such as salvation, prayer, doubt, scripture, and free will, Smith brilliantly weaves her theme throughout the book while simultaneously balancing personal experience and confession with entertaining anecdotes and scholarly references.  Turning each page was like watching an elaborate dance, anticipating what spin or movement would make me catch my breath next.

I underlined sentences like “What I do want to encourage is an approach to your Christian walk that is based more on Scripture than an emotional high or stellar sermon series” and then wrote Is this what I’ve been doing….USING God? in the margin.  Moments of self-realization like that are often uncomfortable, so I love that the author continues with a reassuring tone and an image of her falling in public.  It’s this tone that made this book so special.  It felt like I was reading a letter from a dear friend who, speaking to me from a place of love and concern, to help me identify the issue and discuss her experience with the same struggle.  

While the sections about reading Scripture and prayer were especially helpful to me, the most profound moment came at the end of the book when Smith focuses on Thomas, the notorious doubting disciple.  Our youngest son’s name is Thomas and when Smith elucidates some of details about Thomas and his encounter with the risen Christ, I could feel my heart pounding faster.  I have always been a little annoyed that my son’s name would be associated with being a “Doubting Thomas,” but Smith turns that moniker on its heel and uses the story of Thomas to drive home her message of experiencing the living God rather than chasing after him.  

I loved this book and dog-eared many pages not just for its wisdom, but for its ability to speak to my heart and make me remember long lost days of Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers.  While I fully understand that marking up yet another book about God rather than diving head first into the Word of God is just another (ironic) symptom of my tendency to chase God, I am grateful to Angie Smith for writing the book that has helped me change the way I think about my faith and encouraged me to stop and sit still for once.  She has encouraged me to change the way I approach reading the Bible, how I think about prayer, and how I value my relationship with Jesus.  

Chasing after God is exhausting for Type A crazies like me (and Angie....she admits as much).  I would highly recommend Chasing God to anyone who has ever felt like collapsing to their knees and crying out, Help me Lord.  Am I doing this right?  It’s a fantastic first step toward finding the rest in God that he so desperately wants for those he loves.  

Want to win your own copy of Chasing God?  To enter, just LEAVE A COMMENT below in response to this question - 

What's the last book you read that really HIT you? 
(Or, tell me about a book you've read that was just really, REALLY good.) 

**Don't forget to leave your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win!  Giveaway ends Friday, February 28th!**

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  See below for the "official" drawing of the winner! 

(I was provided a free copy of "Chasing God" to read for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.)  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Chinese Food and Farts

I wrote a really fun post this afternoon involving Chuck E Cheese, a green slap bracelet, Jesus, and farts.  I submitted it for a writing contest and one of the rules was that the piece had to be unpublished.  So, sorry.  You don't get to read it just yet.  If I don't end up being picked as one of the winners, I will get that sucker up here stat, don't you worry.  I know you're just chomping at the bit to read a blog post about Jesus and farts.

I'm going to write that little phrase just one more time, just in case some weirdo is out there on Google right now using the search terms "Jesus and farts."  Just guaranteed myself another hit to the blog.


Oh, let's see.  What else can I follow that kind of introduction up with?  Not much, that's what.  Not.  Much.

I'm currently looking at my To Do list for the week and trying not to throw up.  I still need to go drop of our tax documents to get our return started and hear that's kind of a big deal that I really shouldn't keep putting off again and again just because it's "too snowy," "too sunny," or "too annoying" to drive into Milwaukee.  I also need to get Isaiah registered for T-Ball this spring because he won't stop badgering me about it until I actually do it.  Evan's going to be so thrilled to be required to schlep all the kids to weekly sports practices again.  Tee hee for me.

Speaking of Evan, he posted this photo on Instagram earlier today.  

Friends, that is FOOD.

Let's just take a moment to let that soak in, shall we?

I'm particularly horrified by the very phallic appearance of whatever that stuff is in the top left corner.  I was too terrified to ask Evan what it really was.  The things with legs in the front somewhat resemble soft shell crabs, perhaps?  Maybe?

It all looks like something out of that dinner scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Oh, and he got the boys toy guns that make loud obnoxious noises and light up and could very possibly land him in some sort of interrogation room at the Shanghai airport where he will be at the mercy of the Chinese TSA.

It's something I can't really think too much about right now or that "I want to throw up" feeling is going to come right on back. light is off.  Time for zombies. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pillow Jumping and Toy Tossing

Oh, my friends.

It's almost all the forces of chaos just came after me with a vengeance as soon as Evan's airplane took off from the runway.  I have yet to sit down and try to muster up the words to tell this story in a way that gives it the credit it deserves, but I haven't been able to do it yet. 

It involves seven inches of snow, a snow-blower, a whole lot of yelling and mind-swearing, followed by a very difficult phone call with a husband on the other side of the planet. 

I don't know that I've ever felt like more of an idiot than I have this week.  But that's a story for another day and I promise to tell it.

For now, we've been doing a lot of pillow jumping.

And the dishes.  So many dishes.  I really think I need to start buying a whole bunch of paper plates and other disposable utensils and such so that I don't have to do as many dishes while Evan's gone.  Thankfully I do get some help:

Here's a problem that I really am struggling with that I honestly do not know how to handle.  Micah (my four year old) has behavior issues every time his Daddy is gone.  True to his pattern, I have received some rough behavior reports from both his preschool teacher and the teacher in his class that he attends while I'm in my Bible study group. 

Despite talking seriously with him about what good behavior looks like versus what bad behavior looks like, following through on my proposes consequences, and trying to brainstorm with his teachers, we have been dealing with him throwing things across the room, hitting his classmates with various items, pushing kids, and throwing fits.  None of this is too horrifying when graded on the curve of Being a Four Year Old, but it is troubling for me when I have to get pulled aside for one-on-one conferences with multiple teachers in multiple settings to address these issue before he even gets into the public school setting of 4K that is coming up all too quickly. 

I know part of it can be attributed to missing Daddy, but there is definitely more to it than that.  I'm just going to have to wait it out and do my best while he is gone and then we are going to have to really put our heads together to come up with a plan of attack for our sweet Micah.  He has such a darling heart and a sweet soul.  He just sometimes forgets how to take the time to decide if the little voice in his head is whispering good ideas or bad ideas into his ears. 

He is going to be a force to be reckoned with as a teenager, make no mistake about it.  :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Project Life Tuesday - Week 40

The Mom Creative

Someday I am going to be done with my album for 2013.  If I get really lucky, I'll get to start on 2014 before summer.

It's worth it.
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!

Today I am sharing Week 40 with you: I used the Jade Kit for for this week along with a couple stickers from the Just Add Color collection.

I've noticed that the majority of my photos have been coming from my iPhone and I'm really ok with that.  I use the DSLR from time to time at home, but I rarely take it with me except for special occasions.  I love being able to capture photos on the go with my phone because I feel like it creates a more authentic picture of what life is really like.

How cute is my Micah with his "green pumpkin??!!"  Love that kid.  The rest of this page is about my last couple days at my former job.  I'm just waiting for Marissa to send me a text message of fury at me putting her pouty face on the blog.  :)  Ha!  Fun for me.

Next week I will have a really fun layout ready to share with you about my cousin's wedding in Grand Rapids.  It was BEAUTIFUL.

The Mom Creative

Thus ends another edition of Project Life Tuesday!  With any luck, I'll see you back again next week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Evening Plans

Well, here we go again.

Evan is currently on an airplane and I am plunked down in the living room avoiding Twitter because I don't want to accidentally read any spoilers for The Walking Dead or Downton Abbey. 

There's a little red light gleaming on my cable box right now and it is reassuring me that as long as I can hunker down and actually get something accomplished between the Kid Bedtime hour of 8:00 and completion of my favorite TV hour of the week at 9:00, I can pour myself a glass of Malbec and enjoy one show filled with the undead followed by another show filled with the English aristocracy.

Two sides of the same coin, really.

It's only the first day of this installment of Business Trip Widow and I ended up having no clue what to do for dinner.  So I ordered Domino's pizza.  While the kids were glued to the computer watching the little "Order Tracker" screen that shares the pizza creation process in real time....

....I sat down at the table to create a lovely color coded chart for writing down a meal plan for every night the kids will have a babysitter while Evan is away.  Healthy, balanced, simple to prepare meals carefully written in each box.

Then I ate three slices of pizza.

I wrote "Pizza Delivery" in two of those perfectly symmetrical orange boxes on the chart and then vowed to start eating better again tomorrow.  No sense starting immediately since I had big plans for a tryst later with the Crawley family, a bag of OREOS, and a certain dark beauty named Punto Final who has been sitting on my counter for several days now feeling oh so neglected.

When I make plans, I follow through with them by golly.

See?  Seven minutes to spare until the little red light turns off and Mama Time begins.  I think it's fair to say that writing a blog post counts as "accomplishing something," wouldn't you agree?

I thought you would. 

Here's to hoping none of my favorite characters get killed off this evening.  In either show.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Day and Stuff

Another China trip is imminent.  Not for me, but for him.

That means I have been recruiting babysitters and writing their names on a color-coded chart hung on the refrigerator.  It means I have been attempting to create a meal plan so the babysitter has as little hassle as possible when it comes to feeding my kids. 

It means I've been stocking up on wine for solo Downton Abbey viewing/scrapbooking sessions after the kids go to bed.  It means my stress level has been slowly climbing all week and will continue to do so until he drives away that morning, at which point it will boil over into a full on crazy woman status. 

It means it's been a busy week.

Be prepared for more late night ramblings when I don't feel like going to bed yet because it's going to be freezing in there.  I'll likely do my typical whining about how much I dislike being a single parent who works nights and weekends.

The laundry will not get folded.  At least until my mother gets here.  It drives her crazy, so I'm certain she will do it for me.

If it snows, don't go for a walk past my house because the likelihood that I clear the sidewalks sufficiently will be slim to none.  The snowblower kinda scares me.

But since it's Valentine's Day and I'll be working hard tonight to make it a special night for every other couple as I bring them bottles of wine and plates of surf & turf, I'll just have to give a shout out to my Valentine here.

Happy Valentine's Day to the only fella who could put up with my crazy without wanting to murder me in my sleep.  Or at least, he hasn't acted on it yet.  As far as I know, that urge has been mild enough to be easily repressed without too much danger of action.

Right honey? 

Oh yeah, he totally digs me.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Project Life Tuesday - Weeks 36-39

The Mom Creative

It's Tuesday so that means it's time to share more of what I've been working on in my Project Life album and I am pleased to announce that I have been BUSY!  I've been blowing off things like dishes, laundry, and personal hygiene all in the name of getting caught up on my albums.

So I may be a little stinky, but at least I have a couple weeks worth of layouts to share with you today!

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 37:

I used the Jade digital kit for this week, with a little bit from the Just Add Color collection tossed in there for fun - a week where my middle son turned 4 and my husband was away in China on business. 

We had photo day for my son's soccer team, so I bought a copy of the photos and then scanned them in to include in the album.  I also love that I got to make a more girly card in the bottom right corner when my friend Rachael came over with her baby girl!  Oh, and be sure to check out those stats from the boys' checkups on the left.  I'm not exaggerating when I talk about how big of a dude Micah is, everyone.

Week 38:

I didn't have a ton of photos for this week, so I used more filler cards than usual.  Still, I love how it turned out because I could include a lot of journaling to tell more stories.  This is the Kraft Kit.

I thought the goofy photos of the kids with the crazy hats went well with the mustache date card.  :)

The stickers on the photo of my dirty kitchen and on the photo from Culvers are from the Just Add Color kit.

Want one more?

Sure.  Why not?

Week 39:

I used the Amy Tan Cut & Paste kit for this week and I love how I got to have a couple little girly elements without it becoming too frilly.

SPOILER ALERT!!  If you haven't read the entire Harry Potter series, do NOT look at the right page of this layout closely!!


When Isaiah brought home this dinosaur drawing from a young lady in his Kindergarten class, we got our first indication that he might end up being a very popular dude among the girls.  That has proved to be very, very true.


You've been warned.


See that photo of the back of a car on the far right side?  I found myself driving behind it on my way to work and I had to take a photo because it had very large letters on the back that read, "Snape kills Dumbledore."  So cruel but so funny all at the same time!

The Mom Creative

Thus ends another edition of Project Life Tuesday!  With any luck, I'll see you back again next week!


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Beast Attacks

If you walk by our house at any given moment, it's likely you will hear the growling of a vicious beast.  He bares his teeth at dangerous ruffians as they disembark from what could only be a yellow and black dragon that stops twice each day to nest right outside our front window.

This same beast also likes to attack my children.

What starts off as a hug and a gentle pet on the head quickly escalates to a battle for dominance.

The standoff begins.

Quick as a flash, the predator bursts forward and pounces on his prey, tail moving frenetically as his buries his snout in the underbelly of the unsuspecting victim.  Squeals come pouring fourth as the helpless creature squirms to fight back.

But wait.  

Ever the gentleman, the ruthless blood-lust of our hunter subsides and he steps back to enjoy the thrill of the hunt and relish his conquest once he has admitted his defeat.

His victory dance is a good scratch behind the ears courtesy of his best buddy.

We seriously love this dog.  It drives me crazy when he growls and barks his head off as kids walk by or a squirrel comes too close to the front door, but he loves my kids and guards them with everything he has.  And he is really good at playing Micah's favorite game. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Froggy Valentines with Free Printable

For some reason I can't explain, I decided to get all Pinterest-y with the boys' valentines.  It's sheer lunacy, in my opinion, to suddenly decide a mere 7 days away from Valentine's Day to whip up handmade valentines instead of just running down to Target and snatching up a couple boxes of the nearest cardboard Star Wars cards complete with mini light sabers.  Really, that would have been the smart thing to do.

I've never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box.

So, away to Target we went.  NOT to pick up the pre-made boxes of valentines, but instead to find inspiration for ones I could make.  As my bad luck would have it, my store was already pretty picked over in the valentines section and a lot of the little favors and stickers and stuff were gone.  Except for a whole bunch of pirate erasers.  Pirates just weren't tripping my trigger though.

Then I saw these:

Individually wrapped stretchy frogs?  SOLD, sister.  I bought two bags of these little guys because I had about 36 valentines to make and it never hurts for a Boy Mom to have a few extra stretchy frogs around the house.  You know, for emergencies.

Moving on.

Basically what I did was to take inspiration from two other valentines I found online and merge them into one.  I loved the mason jar look from Jessica's Love Bug valentines and I also liked these Froggy Valentines, but the template from Jessica's were already worded specifically for bugs and the froggy ones were cut from a Silhouette machine.  Yeah, I don't have one of those.

Wop wop wop......sad face.

A quick Google search found me an image of a mason jar I liked and then I just started tweaking it in Photoshop Elements to add some color and the fonts and wording I liked.  When all was said and done, I ended up with this:

This image is sized to fit on a 4x6 canvas, so I put three of them on a 8.5x11 paper for for efficient printing.  If you would like to have this printing sheet as a FREE DOWNLOAD, I have made it available for your use HERE.   Just print on some white cardstock, cut 'em out and the majority of the work is done already.  

If you want to get a little fancy, grab some glitter and add a little sparkle to the mason jar lid.  This tip comes directly from this post - "Tips for Making Love Bug Valentines" from The Mom Creative.

I pulled this little tube of glitter out of my crafting stash and enlisted some slave labor enthusiastic help from my four year old.  Of course, he was actually helping me make his brother's valentines, but that didn't seem to matter that much to him.  Just as Jessica suggested in her post, I put a little line of the glitter along the lid of the mason jar and then just let Micah handle the smearing it around.

After the glitter had dried, I dumped out all the little stretchy frogs and just straightened them a bit in their little froggy bags.  (Ewwww....."froggy bags."  That sounds gross.)  Then it was just a matter of stapling them onto the mason jar.

When all was said and done, I had a pile of really cool valentines for my Kindergartener to address and sign when he gets home from school.  I'm going to have him write the name of the recipient on the front under the frog and then sign his name on the back.

I think he's really going to like them!

Thanks again to Jessica and to this unknown Flickr user for the inspiration for creating these!  I hope you find them useful and feel free to let me know in the comments if you decide to give 'em a whirl.  I'd love to hear about it!

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