Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quarantined - 5 Simple Ways to Survive Sick Days Stuck at Home with Kids

I figure you can tell a lot about a mom by the way she responds when a pacifier falls on the ground.

Does she:

A. Assess the terrain where the pacifier landed and do a quick mental calculation of the contamination risk. Landing zone gets a rating on a scale of Freshly Vacuumed Carpet at the Clean Friend's House all the way up to Smokers Lounge and Dog Park at the County Fairgrounds. Responds accordingly.

B. Immediately pull her travel-sized haz-mat suit out of her Lily Jade diaper bag and fly into action, calling for boiling water, hot towels, and sterilized tweezers.

C. Pick up the paci and quickly expel two puffs of air to blow off any large debris, followed by a quick rinse with a faucet (if one is nearby) before popping it back in baby's mouth.

I was always a C Mom with my kids. If that paci dropped, I would grab it, quickly brush it off and pop it right back in. My kids were really pretty healthy as little ones, unless you count that unfortunate staph infection incident, but that had nothing to do with pacifiers and everything to do with a skinned knee and a strong-willed child.

But sometimes, no matter how much we try to do everything right, they get sick. In our case, it was our nanny who dropped a viral bomb on our house that shook up our lives for a few days.

It all started on a Monday afternoon when she texted me to let me know she had a nasty cough and wouldn't be able to come watch the boys the next day because she was going in to the doctor about it. Naturally, I was grateful. My boys had already been coughing pretty good for a couple days, so I certainly didn't need it to get any worse. Evan took a personal day and stayed home with the two younger ones so I could go in to the office.

Thursday rolled around and Nanny texted me again and this time things got a bit more serious.

She had tested positive for pertussis - whooping cough.

Next thing you know, I have people calling me from the health department wanting to know exactly when my kids started coughing, where they go to school, how old they are, where they've been in the last week, how much contact they have with Nanny, and every little detail. We were told we had to keep them all out of school on Friday and to bring them in to be tested. So, I stayed home from work on Friday and had to bring all three to a side entrance at the clinic for their test.

I told them they were spies who were going in a secret entrance, so they had to wear a disguise. It was the only way I could get Thomas to keep the mask on. After they got checked out and their noses got swabbed, we made our way back down the hall to our side door. One little boy caught a glimpse of my masked men as they walked by and turned to his Daddy saying, "Look Daddy! NINJAS!!!"

Made my kids' day.

So we had to keep them quarantined all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Test results weren't scheduled to come back until Monday afternoon, so even though they started on an antibiotic treatment right away, they weren't allowed to have contact with anyone outside our house until we knew for sure if they were positive or negative for pertussis.

I went back to work during the day back in August, so it's been some time since I've had this many full days home alone with all three boys!  They did start to drive me a bit stir-crazy from time to time, but I think we had a good time overall.

Here's how we survived our Quarantine Days at home, y'all.  All packaged up into a nice, neat little list.

1. Provide Dinner and a Show

Look, I know I'm going to catch a little flack for this one, but I am going to be the first to admit that I am not above using the television to keep the kids entertained and corralled in one general area for a short period of time, especially on sick days when they've been TOGETHER CONSTANTLY and are starting to show a little wear around the edges. To make sure I don't feel like a total failure, I like to throw a blanket on the ground and have them eat lunch on it. Call it a "picnic" and suddenly you're a Supermom rather than just the mom who wanted a little peace and quiet for a few minutes.

Bonus points for wearing rollerblades.

2. Dangerous Activities

Lest you think I just plunk my kids in front of the TV all day and retreat to my chaise lounge to drink wine and read trashy novels, I give you the following suggestion - do something (kinda) dangerous! Rollerskate in the house! In pajamas!

Put a bouncy castle in your basement and let your little monsters bounce and flip and flop on one another until someone inevitably starts screaming. It is downright hilarious to watch the boys play these crazy games they've invented for the Bounce House. On Monday afternoon, they made it through two rounds of "Dead Man" and a session of TurboKick Aerobics by Isaiah before Micah was over it and stomped upstairs. They were red-faced and exhausted. Excellent.

3. Read Slightly Inappropriate Books

Fine, fine. Reading ANY books would work just as well here, but there is a wicked side of me that was just tickled when Isaiah brought home these books from the library and would up paging through them while we were stuck at home. I guess it would have been a teeny bit more morbidly inappropriate if they had been books about the Black Plague, but the Disasters book did include a chapter about smallpox, so it totally counts.

4. Play Games and Break the Rules

Raise your hand if you have a rule-follower in your crew. My oldest, the one in the neon shirt in the photo above, is such a rigid rule kid that it sometimes makes me batty. He absolutely MUST follow every rule to the letter, as long as it means HE comes out the winner, of course. You can only imagine the devious fun I had busting out the Scrabble board for them, only to tell my poor child that we were not going to keep score in any way and that he and his brothers could put letters on the board however they wanted. I started them off with the word "MINION" and helped them come up with a few legit words before I stepped away to let them run amok.

5. Make an Enormous Mess

I had gone to my room for a few minutes to try to get some work done (translation: I was checking email and probably scrolling through Pinterest) when one kid blundered in with a tube of paint, asking if I could help him open it. My immediate response was to say, "No freaking way," but I stopped myself and followed him back out the kitchen.

The entire art tub had been emptied all over the kitchen table. Papers were strewn about and other tubes of paint had already been opened. Fingers were already smearing into said paint. Anarchy. Utter anarchy.

And three grinning faces.

So, I let it happen. I opened the paint and let the mess happen. And they loved it.

They also loved it when I let them bring every stuffed animal, blanket, and pillow we own up onto my bed where they wrestled and kicked one another while playing a rousing game of "Saber Tooth Tiger." This eventually stressed me out enough that I had to kick them out and clean it up before I got a migraine, but it was fun while it lasted. The good news is that we got word that all three tested negative for pertussis, so we were officially in the clear!

I think everyone is good and ready to get back to our normal routines of school and work, but we did get to enjoy being even crazier than usual for a few days. What fun sick day strategies do you turn to at times like this?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Huge Shoe Sale! Kids Shoes at 70% off!

On any given day, there are probably at least 9 shoes laying around my living room. At least two pairs of kids' shoes, usually one or two pairs of Daddy shoes, and maybe an extra one just for fun. No matter how hard I try, I cannot keep the shoes contained in one place. 

The other thing that bugs me about kid shoes is that kid feet grow so freaky fast that I can't keep up. And shoes are EXPENSIVE. One of my favorite places to get shoes has quickly become Zulily. They often run sales on brands like Stride Rite, TOMS and Crocs. Nearly every time these brands pop up, I get at couple pairs for the boys. Right now Isaiah and Micah are both rocking a pair of Star Wars Stride Rite sneakers and I am always impressed at how much they stand up to the abuse my kids dish out. 

So, I'm really excited about this sale.

This is a Zulily Private Event, with deals on spring and summer shoes at discounts of up to 70%! This is a private sale, which means it will not be visible or able to accessed from the normal homepage. I can tell you about it here because it has been made exclusively available to Zulily affiliates.

Which brings me to my next point....

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links 

Stock up on spring and summer footwear for your kids with the zulily 'Fun in the Sun Kids Shoes' event! Starting today, zulily is featuring a huge selection of footwear for both boys and girls, up to 70% off! This is a private zulily event that can ONLY be accessed through the shopping links below:

Girls Private Event - Up to 70% off Girls Spring/Summer Shoes - Shop Now!
Boys Private Event - Up to 70% off Boys Spring/Summer Shoes - Shop Now!

Make sure to head on over to zulily right away and take advantage of the amazing savings... because this sale ends on 4/30 at 8AM CST. Take a look at some of the featured items on sale:

Pink Metallic Flower Sandal

Light Pink & Green Polka Dot Boat Shoe

Purple Mesh Water Shoe

Blue & Black Water Shoe

Camo Green Marble Clog

Black & Gray Double-Strap Sandal


There are many more styles to choose from, so hurry to check it out. We all know that kids grow through shoes crazy fast, so getting a good shoe at a great price is like striking gold! Happy shopping! 

Now I just need my sister to hurry up and have her baby so I know if I need to shop for a niece or a nephew! :) 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finding Awesome

When is the last time you got so excited about something you couldn’t even think straight? Suddenly there is inspiration everywhere you look and you are irrationally bothered by the things that should come naturally, like eating and paying bills on time. Pinterest boards take on a life of their own and overnight you realize you've turned into one of those weirdos you sometimes see at Starbucks is always hogging the good chair while they sip on their Earl Grey tea and stare at random stacks of multi-colored index cards, frequently muttering things like "where can I buy a roll of caution tape" or "no, Dumbledore wouldn't be caught dead in a vest."

Inside all of us is a corner of our heart where our passions lie, just waiting for something to jolt it awake with an intensity that cannot be ignored. When we finally get a little glimpse of what that secret place might hold, it ignites a fire that races straight to our brain, causing us to go into overload with ALL THE THINGS. All the glorious ideas and resources and dreams that are suddenly coming into view. Vision gets cloudy and remarkably clear all at the same time. We feel exhilarated yet sick to our stomach with fear.

When we are the brink of finding our Awesome, it consumes our entire being. It's getting a taste of the thing that we were put on this earth to do and our soul explodes with the possibilities that lie ahead.

I can't help but wonder if it might be a little like how Peter felt when he cast his nets into deep water that day after the teacher from Nazareth had climbed into his boat. He had been awake all night, entrenched in the hard labor of fishing and coming up empty. Exhausted and disappointed, he cleaned his nets and got ready to pack it up for the day so he could try again that evening. But then he approached, the man who had healed his mother-in-law's fever, who was rumored to be able to do the impossible. Now this very man was climbing into his boat. Despite his fatigue, Peter agrees to put his boat out on the water so his teaching would be heard better by the people on the shore. 

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
(Luke 5:4 ESV)

Ok, letting you hang out in my boat is one thing, but this is another entirely. This is not how it is done!! Everyone knows that fishing in the Sea of Galilee is done at night, in the shallows by the shore, certainly not in the light of day in deep waters! This is pointless, crazy, useless. It doesn't make sense. It's a waste of time and energy, and I'm running pretty low on both at the moment, thank you very much.

From the shore, Awesome seems impossible. But when it is the Master leading us to deep waters, everything changes.

And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
(Luke 5:5-6 ESV)

From no fish at all to a catch so big the boat begins to sink and the nets begin to break. Jesus is leading us toward an Awesome so incredible that all our assumptions are overwhelmed and all we can do to respond is to worship and follow Him.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

(Luke 5:8, 11 ESV)

Finding our Awesome means paying attention when the Master shows up and gives his instructions.
It means being willing to do that crazy thing that makes absolutely no sense.
It means silencing the voices that threaten to keep us on the shore and hear only the voice of Truth.
In spite of exhaustion, failure, rationality, and fear….we will find our Awesome just as He prepared it for us.

Go out into deep waters and at His word, find your Awesome. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

How NOT to Remove a Tick During Breakfast

There are a few things I have learned from being a Mommy for the last seven years and one of them is that you absolutely cannot trust those space-monkeys to give you the full extent of the information that you need at any given moment. We've been in the middle of watching a movie only to have the five year old announce that he pooped his pants a long time ago. My first-grader has decided to enlighten me to the fact that he needs to bring treats for his entire classroom. Today. And they need to be dairy free, gluten free, soy free, peanut free and fully organic. 

Ok, that last part was just for me. 

The other morning, I had overslept. My alarm and I have a very tumultuous relationship, given that it lives on my iPhone. I love my iPhone, but I loathe that alarm with every ounce of my soul. I set multiple alarms to go off every morning and my subconscious brain will make my arm reach out and swipe that sucker off immediately. Over and over again, we do this. Finally my husband will get annoyed enough to wake me up and ever-so-lovingly remind me that I need to get my lazy butt up out of bed and do something with my life. Well, on this particular morning he was apparently also feeling slightly lethargic so his typical zeal to disrupt my slumber did not appear. Instead, we both shot awake with that panicky feeling of your stomach in your throat and threw off the covers. 

He quickly left for work and me and I ran my tongue over the surfaces of my still-scummy teeth while I threw peanut butter and cinnamon on toasted blueberry bagels and called it Breakfast. While Isaiah was chomping away on his bagel and I was entrenched in the dreaded Prometheus Lunch Bag Assembly Torture (really should be considered as an alternative to water-boarding in my humble opinion. Just make suspected terrorists assemble school lunches over and over again only to have them returned half-eaten and see how long it takes 'em to give up the goods and beg for mercy). 

In between bites, my darling oldest child says to me - Mom, by the way, I need you to check me for ticks.

I'm sorry.

What's that now? 

After staring at my boy for a solid 30 seconds with my mouth agape and my tongue malfunctioning, I regained my ability to speak.

Sweetheart, I replied, Why on earth do I need to check you for ticks?

He wiped the peanut butter off his face with the sleeve of his shirt despite the fact I had given him a perfectly good paper towel at the beginning of his meal, and responded. 

Our teacher said that there might be ticks on us from our field trip yesterday and that we need to have our parents check us to see if there are any. So can you check me?

His class had gone on a little field trip to nature preservation area in our city the previous day, but it had been so cold that the kids had to wear winter boots, mittens, hats, the whole Wisconsin body of armor. Never in a million years did I think that ticks would be a concern. I silently grumbled that now Isaiah had this crazy idea of ticks in his head and that I wouldn't be able to get him to let it go until I had checked him. 

But the lunches weren't finished, the kids weren't dressed, the dishes were all over the place, the dog still had to go out, and I needed to brush my teeth (as we've already established). Plus, the kid was still chomping through that bagel.

Given my utmost knowledge of such things and my candidacy for Mother of the Year, I did the only logical thing. I told him to wait.

Buddy, I'm really busy right now with lunches and you're still eating and everything, so I'll just check you quick after breakfast, ok? 

He slammed the rest of his bagel and ran into his room. A few minutes later, he came bounding into the room all dressed and ready for school and reminded me it was Tick Checking Time!

I sighed and relented, annoyed at the futility of this activity on an April morning that felt more like February. While I combed my fingers through his hair, I prattled some nonsense about his math homework, hollered at Micah not to pick his nose while eating breakfast, and reminded Thomas that we don't lick the syrup off the plate. I was really only slightly paying attention to the task in front of me until I suddenly encountered something under my son's hair that made my own hair stand on end. 

Please tell me that's a mole.

My brain held out hope until I saw that the mole had legs and was moving. 

I did what any rational, mature adult would do in that situation. 

I called my Mommy.

Commanding Isaiah to stand still, I ran for my phone and tapped her name, all the while trying desperately not to think about the fact that this nasty little parasite had been feasting on my child's head all afternoon the previous day and the entire night while he slept until he finally got it into his dopey little brain to tell me what his teacher had said about ticks. DON'T THEY KNOW IT'S CLEARLY TICK SEASON???!!!

As the phone rang in my ear, I assembled what I was assuming would be the necessary tick removal supplies - tweezers, rubbing alcohol, Vaseline, cotton pads, a lighter, hydrogen peroxide. Considering that it was 7:30 in the morning, I assumed that a stiff cocktail didn't qualify as a necessary supply.

Mom, I breathed, I'm sorry to call you so early in the morning, but I don't know what else to do. Isaiah has a TICK on his head. Like, it is freaking ATTACHED to his head and it has been there overnight and I'm sure he's probably sucked Isaiah's brain out by now.

My mother, bless her heart, kept her cool when I clearly could not. Here are the steps she calmly walked me through while my hands trembled, shivers traveled up and down my spine, and my kid complied with my commands because even he understood that he was seriously up a creek at the moment considering there was a writhing, disgusting parasite attached to his skull.

  1. Soak a Rag in Rubbing Alcohol to Coax the Tick Out - My mom said that the alcohol should make the tick loosen its fangs and back out of the entry point. I used a janky old dish rag and saturated the corner in the rubbing alcohol, holding it right up against that cursed little beast. It wiggled and kicked and flailed about, but considering that Isaiah had let him feast on his for nearly 24 hours, he was so comfortable that he was reluctant to disengage. This method ultimately failed me.
  2. Vaseline - Isaiah was screaming something about Vaseline that his teacher must have said to them, but I was so focused on trying to give his new pet alcohol poisoning that I didn't even register what he was saying. In hindsight, I'm thinking I probably should have listened, but too late now!
  3. Tweeze the Sucker - When the alcohol didn't work, my mother recommended I use a tweezer to try to "encourage" the tick to let my kid go. While simultaneously vowing never to tweeze my eyebrows with those tweezers again, I grabbed on to the wiggling body while continuing to drown it in rubbing alcohol. At the point, my baby was starting to whimper just a bit. I knew enough from listening to idiots in my daily life that I didn't just want to yank on the sucker and break off its little fang parts, leaving them behind in Isaiah's scalp. A more delicate touch was needed. Only he still wouldn't move.
  4. Bring Fire - When all the previous methods failed, my mother suggested we bring out the big guns. I reached into our junk drawer and grabbed the lighter I usually use for delightfully scented candles. When Isaiah saw me push the button, sending flame spewing out the end and into the metal tip of the tweezers that he knew was about to come in contact with his head, well…..that's when he started to cry. Meanwhile, Micah decided to chime in from his spot at the dinner table with super-helpful quips like, "Stop Mommy!" and "Don't set my brother on fire!" I heated the end of the tweezers, got a good grip on the tick, and gently pulled until it finally, mercifully released its hold.

I quickly scanned the rest of Isaiah's head to make sure that the horrid little critter hadn't invited any of his little friends and he came up clean. Grateful and stinking of rubbing alcohol, he ran off to finish getting ready for school and I stood there at the kitchen counter with a charred tweezers in my hand, surveying the carcass of the Breakfast Tick. No idea if I did it right or if I need to start monitoring my kid for symptoms of Lyme Disease, but all I cared about in the moment was that the icky tick was dead. 

Thanking my mother profusely and trying to shake off the feeling of creepy crawlies running up and down my arms, I cleared the breakfast table and had a conversation with a rather clueless child about why he really needs to tell us about these kinds of things right way rather than waiting for a "by the way" moment the next morning.

I sent my dopey, tick-free kid off to school, said a quick prayer that he wouldn't contract Lyme Disease, and we went about our morning.

I could feel that stupid tick crawling on me all day long. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Spirit, lead me." - A Lifer's Prayer

The other day I came to the realization that I have been working in food service for 20 years.



For those of you doing the math at home, you are asking yourself a very legitimate question right now. "Wait just a hot second," your smart little brain is chirping, "I thought she was only 29!"

First of all, bless your heart. If anyone out there actually thought I was only 29, consider your faces cyber-kissed. Nah, I crossed into the next decade a while back and I will be turning 32 this summer. So yeah. I started working in food service when I was 12....which is technically illegal. I guess.

But when your super-cool, slightly older than you friend helps out at a catering company owned by a family friend and asks if you want to come along and you really desperately want this friend to keep hanging out with you, you go to work! I remember coming home from one of my first days at the catering company and being absolutely beside myself with pride - "Mom!" I yelled, "I only worked for one day and she paid me TWENTY whole dollars! Cash money, baby!"

I probably didn't say "cash money baby" to my mother in 1995, but you get the picture. Just like that, I was bringing home the bacon whenever I could. I worked at that catering company off and on for years. Catering evolved into fast food which eventually led me to waiting tables at a BBQ joint as soon as I got to college. Ribs led to lobster which led to pancakes and homemade pie and after a move to the big city, it became spaghetti and lasagna which led to veal and farm suppers.

20 years. 14 of those years have been spent as a server in a restaurant.

There are plenty of stories to tell from those years (it will likely be a whole chapter in my book one day), but I can honestly tell you that I feel like those years are beginning to wane. I've been wanting to take a step back from serving for a while now, but I really hit that breaking point last week when I realized how I had become a "Lifer."

Now, a Lifer is a person who works in a restaurant who has been waiting tables longer than many of her co-workers have been alive. She's the one who knows all the regulars by what their typical order is, how they like their eggs cooked, which booth they like to sit in, and the names of all their children and grandchildren. She's the one know exactly how she likes to do things and will get a little salty if someone tries to tell her differently. Little Miss Lifer will have a short fuse trying to train someone because she's likely to get frustrated if her trainee isn't ready to rock and roll after five minutes as her apprentice. She walks fast, she talks fast. Her feet hurt, her back hurts, and I promise you that she was ready to quit doing this years ago, but she couldn't really see any other way. What else is she supposed to do? There's nothing else out there for her where she could replace her server's income and still give herself a breather. Instead, she picks up shifts when the young guy would rather go to a concert than work. More money for me, she mutters, as she ties her apron strings once again.

Lifers smell like french fries.
It's hard to go out to eat with a Lifer because when we look at our server, it's like looking in the mirror. We are uber-critical, but laced with a lot of grace. If it comes down to a conflict between the server and the person we are dining with, we will take the server. Every time.
Lifers secretly toss an extra $5 on the table when someone else pays the bill.

And the really scandalous secret? Lifers love what they do.

We love interacting with so many people. We love the fast pace and the mental challenge of having to multi-task at a constant pace. We love making people happy. We love talking. We love being on the move and efficiency. It's fun, really fun.

But it gets to be tough when you become a Lifer. You start to ask those "what if?" questions and it gets downright frustrating when you ask you co-workers where they were when they heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and the response is, "I dunno. I was three."

At one point or another, that still small voice starts to whisper of bigger things. Adventures that may exist out there without apron strings or free refills. True Lifers will hear that voice whispering time and time again only to turn a deaf ear and keep on keeping on. Someone has to pay the bills, after all. Dreams don't buy the groceries, son.

But that voice doesn't relent. It only grows stronger while the Lifer's knees grow weaker. And then that day comes when a twelve hour shift ends with the realization that it is finally time. Time to listen to what that voice has to say and really consider the crazy schemes it whispers about. Listening becomes praying and praying leads to bold requests for others to join you in your search for a new adventure.

So now this Lifer will listen a little harder to that still small voice. I have a lot of exciting possibilities that are beginning to show up and to be honest, it is overwhelming an scary. Serving has always been my safety net, but is is crystal clear to me that soon that safety net will need to be pulled and I will need to step out in complete and total faith that the path laid before me is the one the Lord has set out for me.

The closing song at church yesterday was Oceans by Hillsong United. Many of you know it. With all this stuff swimming around in  my heart, it was all I could do not to crumple at these words:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, 
let me walk upon the waters 
wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.

I still have so many questions, doubts, and hesitations. I am afraid to close that door, try something new, and fail. My prayer is that I will let go of that fear and grab hold tight to the hand of my Savior, listening closely for his voice so that I can step safely out on to the waters with confidence. Only then will any efforts of mine amount to anything.

Friday, April 17, 2015


There is a viral movement sweeping the Internet right now called #iwishmyteacherknew. You can read all about it here, but the basic story is that a third grade teacher wanted to get to know her students a little better and wanted to actively cultivate an environment of trust in her classroom. It was as simple as a stack of Post-It Notes and a question - What do you wish your teacher knew?

The responses she got were powerful and sometimes heartbreaking. Kids who admitted they didn't have pencils at home to do their homework, feelings of loneliness because they didn't have any friends to play with, struggles with abandonment and missing a father who was deported when the child was a toddler.

What was at first a simple classroom activity has caught fire and exploded into a movement where kids are using the hashtag #whatiwishmyteacherknew to fess up about personal struggles, barriers to their learning, difficult home situations, bullying, and more. It's given adults the opportunity to thank their previous teachers for the impact they had on their lives, whether it was for pushing them to be their best and never settle or that word of encouragement when everyone else had quit. Of course, there are always going to be the exceptions to the rule who jump at the chance to let their chemistry teacher know that they always have lipstick on their teeth, but in general the response to this seems positive and uplifting.

This got me thinking.

What would I have written on that Post-It note if it had been me? I don't remember much of third grade, but as a former middle and high school teacher, I can't help but wonder how powerful it would be to do with that age group. What if it had been me? At certain point, my answers obviously would be much different than others, but the question remains.

What would I have written? Would I have signed it or left it anonymous, a decision that this teacher left up to her students.

Would I have been authentic or would I have been more interested in pleasing my teacher and maintaining my goody-goody reputation? In all honesty, I'm pretty sure I would have chosen the latter. I don't think I would have had the guts to write the brave things:

  • I wish my teacher knew that I try so hard in school because I'm desperate for others to like me.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I barely get any sleep because I work a job after school and then stay up until 3 am doing homework.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I have a bottle of diet pills in my backpack. I swallow those instead of eating because I am so sick of feeling fat.
  • I wish my teacher knew that anything less than perfection feels like failure.

High school is hard, isn't it? But that's a post for another day.

As an adult who actually went into education, my current post would look very different.

  • I wish my teacher knew that what they do matters. It is life-changing, soul-draining, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, awe-inspiring work. You are brave and awesome.

How about you? What is your #whatiwishmyteacherknew moment? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Star of the Week

Ugh, you guys! I am over here lamenting because Micah's Star of the Week Poster is due on Monday. It's this huge poster that goes into all kinds of detail about his favorite movie, favorite food, favorite book and the like. He gets to hold it up in front of the class and talk all about himself and what makes him so special.

So, his fancy poster is due Monday and we're not done with it yet. There is still coloring to be completed, photos to be printed and glued in place, and apple juice to be purchased. Oh yeah, the Star of the Week is responsible for bringing in three jugs of apple juice for the class. See how they get ya?

Micah's teachers gave us this poster at the beginning of the school year, way back in September when the sun was shining and I was naïve and optimistic about the level of parental excellence I was going to achieve. Now that the temperatures have cooled and my expectations have come down to earth, I'm panicking because I still don't have that poster done.

Micah did fill it in once. I got home from work one day and our babysitter said they had worked on it together and it was all done! Sweet, I thought. One less thing for me to do. Did you happen to buy apple juice?

Unfortunately, Micah's idea of "done" meant that the entire poster was covered in a series of red scribbles and he had answered that his favorite movie was "Chicken Little" and his favorite food was something ridiculous like Popsicles. Maybe it was cantaloupe. Either way, the thing was teeming with straight-up lies.

I had to crawl back to Micah's teacher and ask for a new poster, lying though my teeth while I explained that we needed her to find him a new poster because his little brother clearly must have gotten a hold of it because there is no way that a 5 year old under direct, loving supervision would destroy their poster like that. It looked like something that you'd find in the childhood scrapbook of a serial killer.

Micah's teacher ever-so-sweetly reminded me that I could bring in his completed poster as soon as it was done and they would hang on to it until April when it was his turn to be Star of the Week, ensuring that no harm would come to his masterpiece.

That was in November.

Now here we are, mere days away from his big day and the stupid poster isn't done.

I'd like to say I have some sort of fantastic excuse, but I don't. For someone who carries a day planner around with her like a fourth child, you'd think that I would have a good handle on all these little details that need doing around here. If you could be a fly on the wall, you would often see me forgetting permission slips, realizing I didn't pack a lunch and shooing a kid out to the bus while attempting to convince him that the school lunch today will be delicious, signing off on  reading assignments I'm not sure were actually completed, digging through piles of papers for that ONE that listed the date that one of these kids (God only knows which one) will need to bring a sack lunch in an actual sack of some sort and be sure to wear sneakers because we're going on a field trip and by the way, can you chaperone?

No way, Jose. Mama don't chaperone.

They'll be lucky if I remember to buy the juice.

Now where did I put that darn poster?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Creativity Made Simple - Kiwi Crate Sale

The week before Easter, I came home from work to find two glorious pieces of artwork drying on the kitchen counter. Our nanny, bless her heart, had helped the boys use paint and their thumbprints to create these super-cute crosses with beautiful colors and swirls. Right in the middle, both pages proclaimed "Jesus is alive!" Micah and Thomas were so proud of their masterpieces and I did the appropriate fawning all over them for a solid 45 seconds.

Then I threw them away.


Oh, sure.

I tell you all about my anxiety issues and idiotic moments like the snowblower incident, but the second I admit that I'm a "Tosser," I can already feel the backlash coming through my computer screen.

I see how it is

Here's the thing. I don't mind doing crafty things. Heck, deep down I am still a scrapbooker! I have shelves of binders containing the documented memories of our family for years. I used things like glue dots and washi tape. I get it. Call me selfish, but I really only enjoy crafty things when it's for ME.

What I struggle with is doing the Kid Crafts. The things that involve finger paint and glue sticks, glitter and feathers, thumb prints and watercolors, Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. Anything from Oriental Trading.

And googly eyes.

Sweet mercy, save me from the googly eyes.

This is why it is important to us to hire caregivers for our kids who have a high craft tolerance. They need to not only be able to handle to mess and anarchy that crafting creates, but bonus points if they actually seek out said activities and create them on their own. Evan and I came home from a date one time and found that our babysitter (different than the one listed above. Yes, we have more than one. For sure.) had made homemade salt clay with the boys and had led them in a Creation-themed evening that involved making little models of people with their thumbrints on them because we are all made "with the thumbprint of God." After I picked my jaw up off the floor, we tried to convince that darling girl to drop out of high school and just be our babysitter until our kids turned 18.

I'm not a Craft Mom. I'm just not.

If spring break taught me anything, it's that you can't just stand around and stare at your kids for a week wondering what the heck to do with them now that they aren't in school. Rainy days happen, sick days happen, and there are times when being all craftsy sure would come in handy.

That's where Kiwi Crate comes in.

Creativity kits for kids!
I heard about Kiwi Crate a while ago and I love how easy they make it to craft with kids. What really excites me is that they have now branched out beyond the crafts and developed crates for multiple ages and with different focus. There is Koala Crate for ages 3-4, Kiwi Crate for ages 4-8, Tinker Crate for ages 9-14, and Doodle Crate for ages 9-16. What really excites  me is the Tinker Crate, a kit that zeroes in on exploring science and technology. The website shows a sample crate where kids built their own trebuchet. As soon as I saw that the little how-to clip referenced The Lord of the Rings, they had me.

What mom of boys WOULDN'T want to build a working trebuchet with her sons, tell me that one!! I just know Isaiah would love doing this and it looks so fun.

Right now, Kiwi Crate (and the other associated age-appropriate crates) is running a fantastic sale. For ONE WEEK only, join Kiwi Crate and save 25% on your 1st month subscription plus FREE shipping.  Use code KC25 to get this deal.

With summer coming up (someday, right?), this would make a fantastic gift for a grandchild, niece, or nephew. This 25% off sale is just the right opportunity I've been waiting for to give Kiwi Crate a try! Who knows? I might become "crafty" after all.

But I still can't promise I will save masterpieces like this for longer than 10 minutes.

Baby steps.

Have you ever tried Kiwi Crate? Are you a Crafty Mom or do you struggle like I do? What are some of your favorite crafts or building-centered activities to do with your kids?

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. This post is not sponsored by Kiwi Crate in any way. I really am craft-challenged and I really do want to build a trebuchet. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

That Time I Was Kind of a Big Deal.

In the span of just over a week, I stood on stage with a microphone twice and spoke to a grand total of about 5,000 people. I brushed elbows with speakers, authors, musicians, and other such VIPs.

It was freaking awesome.

Here's how it all went down.

My friend Marnia is pretty much the coolest person I know. As in, she can break her foot, give birth, host a dinner party and hold a garage sale all in the same week. Honestly, I've never seen anything like this chick. We were walking together to a meeting one morning when she decided to let me know that the committee for our upcoming women's conference had decided that I was going to emcee the event with her.  Surprise!

So Marnia and I launched into planning mode, which drove her absolutely nuts. I wanted to write everything out first and do on-stage rehearsals of our openers, holding drum sticks as our microphones so I could get used to talking with one hand occupied. She humored me, bless her heart, knowing full well that I was going to have to roll with it when it all changed at the last minute.

I arrived at about 6:15 am on the day of the conference and the first words I heard were, "Did you check your email? EVERYTHING changed."

So basically, I grabbed that microphone and rolled with it. With just shy of 2,000 women watching.

I love how this photo gives you a glimpse into one of the biggest differences between Marnia and I. You can just tell how much more uptight I am than her. There I am in my skinny jeans and leopard flats and she's up there in pink tights and slippers. Basically, she can host an event for a couple thousand women in her pajamas like it ain't no thang.


My other gig at this conference was to be the social media stalker so I got to run all over the place with my face buried in my phone. This allowed me access to people and places I might not otherwise have been able to get at.


Annie. Downs.

Oh hey, Annie. I know you're just chilling in the speaker lounge with Heather Kopp, but remember how you tweeted me at like 11;00 last night? That was awesome. Can I take your photo?

Can I just say something about Annie for a second? She is absolutely, 100% the REAL DEAL. Annie barely even made it to Wisconsin thanks to some Nashville weather that can only be interpreted as a sign of the apocalypse, but despite multiple cancelled flights and her books being MIA, she was all smiles and glitter the second she arrived. She had to step on our stage immediately after Janet Pope had recited the entire book of 1 Peter by memory (Yeah. I know, RIGHT??!!) and believe you me, that is a tough act to follow. She had my heart the second she admitted that she didn't have any books of the Bible memorized, but she did know the entire plot of Gilmore Girls. All seven seasons.

Oh hey, new BFF.

At one point, I was chatting with Annie while we walked to the speaker lounge and my phone made that dopamine-inducing sound to alert me that someone had retweeted me. Y'all, Annie was retweeting me at the same time we were walking next to one another and having a conversation. 

This is what I like to call speaking my love language.

Of course I had to take a selfie with my new best friend before she left us. And of course our photographer had to take a photo of us taking a selfie so I can see exactly how ridiculous I look while taking a selfie.

Apparently these things happen when you're kind of a big deal.

(Seriously, where is that sarcasm font when I need it?)

Then I helped Annie tear the ever loving heck out of her banner carrying bag and then wrap it up with duct tape because we are both super classy like that.

Now, here's a really fun little tangent.

When I first introduced myself to Annie in the morning, I made sure to point out that we had a mutual friend in Jessica Turner, blogger at The Mom Creative and author of The Fringe Hours.

Only a few days later, Jessica herself was in town visiting family and promoting her book so she sent me a text and asked if I might be interested in meeting for lunch.

Ummm.....yes, please.

I've known Jessica for a while through the magic of the Internet, but we had never actually met in the flesh. So I'm sitting there at Noodles and in walks this woman I have admired for several years. Right next to her is her daughter, who I have watched grow up through my computer screen since she was still in her mama's belly. (Adeline, that constant vomiting she endured was a little excessive, my dear.) We talked about blogging, our Stitch Fix stylists, her beautiful newborn baby, and what it's like to parent a "threenager."

I kicked myself for not bringing my copy of The Fringe Hours for her to sign! And Jessica, if you read this, I want to say thank you again for taking time out of your crazy busy schedule to be intentional and genuine with me. And next time, I'll crouch so you don't have to go up on your tip-toes.

Make friends with a superstar author and speaker? Check.
Meet your blogger mentor and brand new almost NYT best selling author? Check.

May as well round it out with a super famous rock band from your childhood.

I don't know that I've ever sent my mother-in-law into a frenzy faster than when I told her that I was going to get to introduce the Newsboys on stage at their concert that night.

This is my excited face.

While we waited backstage, there were guys running all over the place doing any number of last minute jobs before show time. At one point, a guy smiled at me and walked on stage. Pastor Tom (who was going to be doing the intro with me) asked me, "Is he with one of the bands?"

"Of course," I replied, "He's wearing black skinny jeans."

This is the shot I took right after I walked on stage to a crowd of 3,000 strong after showing the opening act guy (John Tibbs) where to find the bathroom and turned around and walked right by Michael Tait in all his black skinny jeans and red jacket splendor.

That glowing blob is me telling the buzzing crowd where to find the bathrooms because apparently I'm really good at that.

And that was it. I went to my seat and enjoyed the show, relishing my 45 seconds on stage telling the folks where to tinkle before Pastor Tom led us in prayer. 

But Michael and I will always have that moment backstage where I walked by him and nearly swallowed my tongue. 

And that's the story of the time I was kind of a big deal. To my mom. For like, five seconds. 

P.S. Remember that book that Jessica wrote? You can buy it here. It's really REALLY good and I know you'll love it! (affiliate link used)

P.P.S. Annie wrote some pretty stinkin' good books too and you can find those here: 
(affiliate link used)

Annie F. Downs - Let's All Be Brave

Monday, April 6, 2015

April Stitch Fix Review

I feel like it's been so long since I've done a Stitch Fix review that I probably need to start all over and explain everything, but for the sake of time let's agree on a couple of things. First, I'm about to copy and paste from a previous post. Second, you are welcome to keep on scrolling down to the good stuff is this is all familiar and you just wanna see what goodies were in that beautiful box already!!!


Here's the other thing. Since my last Stitch Fix post, I have purchased a new computer and soon after had to have said new computer's hard drive wiped clean and restored to its original factory settings because I got lucky enough to have a virus completely destroy my computer before I even had a chance to mess it up on my own. I lost my photos and all my software.

That means no photo editing software is currently at my disposal, man.

I used a free Windows 8 app to tinker with these a little, but there are nothing like what I'm used to being able to give ya. Forgive me?

Here we go.

Super Quick Recap of Stitch Fix:

  • Sign up and get excited because you DON'T have to go to mall to shop for clothes! 
  • Fill out your detailed Style Profile. Be very, VERY honest. 
  • Start a Pinterest board dedicated to your personal style and include a link to it in your Style Profile. This is invaluable information for you stylist to chose the best items for you! 
  • Schedule your first "Fix" and work yourself up into a frenzy as your personal 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 and your requests. 
  • 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!)

P.S. If you see anything pictured here that you would like your stylist to try out on you, PIN IT to that Pinterest board you share with your stylist. Make notes on the Pin about why you like it - the fit, the style, the color, whatever! The more info, the better your Fix. Swearsies.

41Hawthorn McQue Solid Lace Sleeve Blouse - $48.00
Kensie Rebekah Contrast Detail Blazer - $88.00
Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48.00

Here is a perfect example of why that Pinterest board is such a good idea. I saw this top on Pinterest in someone else's Fix and I immediately put it on my own board with a very subtle hint to my stylist. Pretty sure it was something like "PRETTY. MAMA WANT."

Well, Mama got it.

The lace sleeves on this blouse are just dreamy. It covers enough of my upper arm that I don't feel like I'm waving twice when greeting a friend and just makes me feel all classy and stuff. My stylist, Patrice, also sent this fabulous blazer because I'm pretty sure I wrote the word "blazer" about 14 times in my notes to her.

Side Note: I absolutely cannot read the name "Patrice" without growling it like Robin from HIMYM. So sorry, Patrice. I'm sure you're delightful.

Here are these three items together - the lace sleeve top, the blazer, and the reversible tote. Now, the sleeves on the blazer are a little short for me, but I decided to suck it up and keep it anyway because blazers are my jam and everything else fit so nice.

Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48.00

Just so you can get a feel for this bag, check out how much it holds. That's a 15.6" laptop, friends. I also have a Bible, a notebook, my wallet that was likely overflowing with pennies and Culver's tokens, and a bag of pens in there. Now, I wouldn't call it big enough or rugged enough to be a full-time laptop bag, but it works in a pinch. I love using it as a work tote though!

Can I please hashtag this photo? #ItsFuntobeSmart

Kensie Rebekah Contrast Detail Blazer - $88.00
Street Level Parvin Reversible Hang Tag Detail Tote - $48

Here is the blazer and bag with another outfit. I'm willing to fork over a little cheddar for a blazer because they are magic.

 Pixley Yaiza Printed Wrap Dress - $78.00

When I first pulled this dress out of the box, I wasn't so sure about it. The print threw me off a bit. When I tried to actually put it on, I was straight up confused. It was like trying to solve a puzzle box or something. Once I realized how to actually work a wrap dress and got it on, I LOVED IT. I wore it with leggings and black riding boots and I was so comfortable. It really creates a nice waistline.

Market & Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top - $48.00

I wish you could feel how soft this top is. It's sooooo comfy. I love that it is really long so I can tuck it in if I want, but it leaves me enough room to cover my trouble zones and my booty if needed. I wear this probably more than any other item I got in this Fix.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, I did keep all five items in this fix which means.......25% discount! 

Want to look back through my previous Stitch Fix boxes to get a better idea of what this is all about? Click on over this way, friend. It's my favorite way to not shop for clothes and the idea of having to go back to the mall to shop straight up terrifies me.

Ready to get started?

I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have been sharing the love long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be telling you about it if I didn't love it. 

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