Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Merry Christmas to all my wonderful friends in the blog world! I hope you have a holiday filled with lots of joy and blessings!!!

Many thanks to Ashley for this cute idea before it became a Pinterest phenomenon.
This will be my last blog post of 2012.  As I type this Sam is literally crawling all over me and attempting to close my laptop.  That's code for: Take a break 'ma! Haha.

In all seriousness, I feel like I've been so behind on so many things lately, and I really want to be able to focus on my family and real-life friends over the break.  I will be back in the new year with lots of cute photos, recaps, and (unrealistic) plans for 2013.

Delivering Christmas gifts to our neighbors yesterday.  Just too cute not to post!
 I love you all!  Merry Christmas!
P.S. If you missed the Get & Give Away winner announcement, be sure to check it out here.

P.S.S. If you feel so inclined, you can vote for our Christmas card in The Paper Mama's 2012 Holiday Photo Challenge reader's choice category here.  We are number 69, and you just have to click 'like'.  Thanks friends!

And the Winner Is...

The first thing I thought about this morning was that TODAY I get to announce the winner of the Get & Give Away!! Of course, the second thing I thought about was that today was supposed to be the day the world ends. Luckily, we are still here; so, I will move on...


First, a very quick word to all of you... THANK YOU for the overwhelming response to my give away.  Seeing so many entries and hearing about SO many wonderful charities has been a huge blessing to me.  I so wish I could donate to every.single.one.of.them... Maybe one day I will be a really big blogger and can give away thousands of dollars; but, in the meantime, can I encourage you to go ahead and make the $100.00 donation anyway? I mean, even if you didn't win.  Based on the number of comments, that would be close to 20,000 dollars donated to charity this season!!  Think about it. :)

And now, I am proud to announce the winner of the 2012 Give & Get Away at E, Myself, and I is...

Congratulations Hollie!!! I can't wait to hear more about your friend's ministry to children in Honduras and mail you these fun goodies!  Look for an email from me soon!  (Ya'll can check out her cute - and hilarious - blog here.  I hope she doesn't mind me sharing.)

Thank you ALL again for supporting this little idea of mine!!

Until next time,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Tour 2012

The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes is probably my favorite link-up each year because I love seeing everyone's houses all "gussied up" and, I really like documenting our own decorations every year (see 2009, 2010, and 2011).  It is fun to look through those posts and see how our collection grows and our style (as well as our lives) change from year to year.

This year, I feel a little behind on pretty much everything, but I thought I'd go ahead and share the little glimpses I have...  So, welcome to our home!

This is Christmas 2012 
(a.k.a. the Christmas we have a toddler who gets into everything)



And, don't forget, today is the last day to enter the Get & Giveaway right here. It will close at midnight, and I will announce the big winner tomorrow.  (I, for one, am absolutely giddy with anticipation!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top 5 Stocking Stuffers for the Practical Minded

***Growing up, the stockings were always where we got the "practical" gifts like deodorant, a new toothbrush, body lotion, etc.  Now that Jeff and I only fill stockings for each other (which, side note, he has taken every single gift that I've put in there for him and began using it immediately), we've shifted to slightly more "fun" things like socks and picture frames; but, I still count on a stocking at my mom and dad's (yes, I know I'm spoiled) to, quite literally, "stock" me up with every day essentials for the next year (or at least month).  What about you?  How do you do stockings in your family?

I was recently asked to review some products from P & G's new eStore, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share my favorite finds...
1. Crest White Strips.  My sister swears by these things - and she has the teeth to back it up.  I love them in stockings because they feel like a "splurge," but they have long-lasting results that make you feel good about yourself! :)

2. CoverGirl LashBlast 24HR Mascara.  I spend the extra money on fancy name-brand face make-up etc.; but, when it comes to mascara, this is my tried and true.  This stuff makes me feel like a super model AND it stays on ALL DAY.  #Whatmorecanyouaskfor?

3. Downy Unstopables in Wash Fresh Scent Booster.  Tell me I'm not the only one who leaves clothes in the washing machine way too long... I'm always happy to find something to help make my laundry smell good!
4. Oral-B Professional Care Toothbrush.  Let's just say... After two not-so-good trips to the dentist in the last two weeks, this is at the TOP of Christmas list. #WishIwaskidding.
5. Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream.  Because, sadly, you can't stay young forever; and, I for one, am already starting to see those ugly wrinkles creeping up under my eyes etc.  Help! Please!
So, there you have it... And, since Christmas is only a few days away and (let's just be honest) these are probably items you could get away with buying any time, be sure to check out P&G's eStore asap!

Here are just some of the perks of shopping there (aside from the obvious - being able to shop from your sofa in your sweats):
- 15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA
- Free Shipping on orders over $25
- Free Samples with every order

  
What are you waiting for?!?! Go shopping here!


Don't forget: There are only two more days to enter my Get & Giveaway here for a chance to win prizes for YOU and money for your favorite charity!  :)




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God IS in Schools

I have been struggling with this blog in the wake of  Friday's tragedy.  I'm going to be honest and admit that I've felt stressed because I had planned to post an update on my weekend with my sister, my Christmas card photo, my Christmas house tour, and a sponsored review this week.  The fact that I would even worry about that those things might fall off schedule is just further reminder of how selfish I can be and how small my little world is.  I am ashamed that it takes something like what happened in Newtown last week to show me that it isn't all about me and my plans.  Plans change.  

I will re-adjust my schedule.  I'll back-date my Christmas card post and publish my house tour a few days late.  I can do that.  But, there are 26 families that don't have the option to just "re-adjust" today.  For those 26 families, nothing will ever be the same again.  Their plans have been changed forever.

Today, I will remember.  I will remember, and I will pray, and - in some small way -  I will look for the good in the world.



Here's what's been on my mind the last few days, where my heart is right now:

After something as horrible and devastating as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary last week, we want to point fingers.  It is our human nature to ask the why question and find someone or something to blame.  Gun laws?  Mental health?  God's wrath?

Don't get me wrong, I'm as guilty as the next person.  I want answers too; I want to know how something like this could happen.  But, so far?  I've got nothing.  Nothing is good enough.  Nothing makes those 26 lives less precious?  Nothing makes even just one of those little lives lost OK.

With that said, here's what I know the answer is NOT.

This did not happen because we took prayer out of schools or because teachers don't read the Bible with their classes.  This did not happen because we've "systematically removed God from our schools."

Because, I am in the schools every day; and, if I know nothing else, I know this... God IS in schools.

He is in the special education teacher who used her body to shield bullets from her class.
He is in the first-grade teacher who locked her students in a closet and gave up her own life.
He is in the third-grade teacher  who gave her life shielding her students from bullets and the kindergarten teacher who read books to her students as they hid in cubbies.  (Source)

He is in the teachers, all over the world, who love their students and offer them hope and stability when no one else does.  The teachers who pray for their students by name and over their classrooms before leaving in the afternoon.

He is in the students not afraid to love the "outcast" or share scripture with a hurting friend.  The Young Life leaders who bring lunch to lost students and show up at their volleyball games.

God IS in schools.

Sure, as a public school teacher, I don't preach from my podium, lead prayers for the class, or write Bible verses on my blackboard.  I don't "share" my faith in many of the outward ways we tend to associate with having God in schools; but, I assure you, I share him.  

When I was leading Young Life years ago, one of my favorite adages was, "you might be the only Jesus someone sees today," and I try to remember that when I wake up early and walk into a sea of bleary eyed teenagers every morning.

It is a privilege really.  I'm not bound by words or promises; instead,  I get to show my students every day who Jesus is, by loving them and showing up.  By really caring.  By smiling. By believing in them.

And I see Him in them too.  Every.single.day. 


So, I will mourn.  I will remember.  I will cry for the 26 and the broken world we live in.  But I will not let evil steal my joy.  I will choose to find hope in the good.  I will look for light in the glimpses of Jesus all around us.  And, now, more than ever, I will celebrate the season and be thankful for the birth of a child in a stable all those years ago who came, ultimately, to save us from that evil.


 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5 (ESV)

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Favorite Thing: This Will Change Your Life

Seriously, I've been wanting to write this blog post for a long time now, but I worried that you might not appreciate it or would think it is boring... THEN, I saw that The Nester is hosting a "Favorite Things Party" today, and I decided this was the perfect opportunity.  (I also sort-of tried to trick you into reading this post by not exactly disclosing what the "thing" is in the title. Did it work?)

Anyway, prepare to have your lives (or at least your handwriting) changed, and allow me to introduce... My favorite pen in the whole world:
The VBall Grip (Extra Fine) by Pilot

Yes, at first glance, you might think "well, that is a funny thing to be so passionate about," but let me assure you... I am VERY serious about this.  I might even go so far as to say that this is one of the products I am most passionate about in my life. In fact, aside from Diet Coke (which, even that has been known to be substituted with Diet Dr. Pepper from time to time), I don't think I am more loyal to any one product in the world.

My love affair with the Vball Grip Extra Fine began my first year of teaching (2007ish).  In a mad dash around Staples buying everything in sight all the supplies I needed for the start of the school year, I picked up a three pack of these pens.  And, I'm being 100% sincere, there was NO going back.

I have not bought another type of pen in almost six years.  I have these ALL over my house, my purse, and my classroom.  (My students even know not to borrow them because I am obsessed, and if I see one of them writing with the same type, I will immediately question whether or not it was stolen from me.)  Honest to goodness, I literally cringe when I find myself in the rare situation that requires me to write with another pen. Just yesterday, in fact, I caught myself reaching into my purse for my own pen to sign-in at the dentist's office. (And, yes, in case you are wondering, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing how crazy I must sound,  Hopefully there are at least one of two other crazies out there that will appreciate this.)

So, there you have it.  My favorite thing: The Vball Grip (Extra Fine) pen by Pilot. It will change your life. 

At over $8.00 for a pack of three, they are not cheap.  BUT, I promise you, they are worth it.  So far, I know I have converted my sister, my former co-teacher, and several students at least, but probably many many more.
Snapped this shot of the pens on my school desk with my phone.  Just photographic proof of my obsession.

Are you convinced yet?  If you're ready to take the plunge, you can order them online at Amazon or Pilot.com.  In Roanoke, I have only been able to find them at Staples - and, trust me, I have searched. They come in red, blue, and green too (all of which I use for grading papers sometimes - see above); but, I really just prefer black.  Also, and this is important, you must be sure to get the EXTRA FINE variety; I have tried the others and they just do not compare.

Finally, if and when you DO try these, will you shoot me an email and tell me how much you love them? I will be so proud!

Jeff, Ineedlotsoftheseinmystockingthisyear.  (How's that for subliminal messaging?)

Ok, that's all.  Off to browse other favorite things to see if anyone else is as crazy as me!  Happy Friday!
P.S. I'm headed to Fredericksburg this afternoon for a weekend (sans baby and husband) with my sister.  I'm SO excited!  I'll see you all here on Monday with the reveal of our 2012 Christmas card.  I can't wait to hear what you think!

Oh, and, just to clarify... Pilot and Staples have no idea I'm writing this post.  I've received NO form of compensation at all; but, I'd gladly become their product ambassador if they asked! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - Not Just for Royalty

*For some reason, this post isn't showing up for readers using Internet Explorer.  If you are having trouble, please try viewing the page in another web browser. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Amidst all the excitement and joy surrounding the recent announcement that Kate Middleton is expecting, there has also been some discussion about the darker side of her pregnancy -- a rare  condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  If you are like most people, that isn't a term you were very familiar with prior to the media coverage in the last few weeks.  But, when I heard the news, I immediately thought of our friends Jessica and Jeremy who are all too familiar with HG.  Jessica's two precious girls - Kylie and Ryland (shown below) - are HG survivors, and Jessica is a HERO for living through it not once but TWICE.  It is truly a privilege for me to share this guest post from her today and, hopefully, shed even more light on the reality of this condition...


Let me start off by saying THANK YOU, E for asking me to do this post. This blog provided me with endless hours of reading while I was confined to a recliner in my living room, so to be asked to do this was really an honor for me…Let’s hope with this open forum that I don’t get too long winded! 

Now on to the meat of the matter, hyperemesis is NOT morning sickness! If it were morning sickness, I would have enjoyed my pregnancies! The definition of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) technically means excessive vomiting while pregnant. That’s also an understatement. It’s SO much more than excessive vomiting. It’s throwing up so many times in a day that you can only dry heave and your core muscles are sore.  It’s weight loss, malnourishment, dehydration, and misery. It’s worry, depression, loneliness, resentment, and despair. That’s my definition anyway, and this is my story:

I always wanted several kids, and I wanted them spaced two years apart. My husband and I tried for baby number one for a few months, and to our delight we found out I was pregnant in May 2006. I was so excited, and we began talking about what he or she would look like, what kind of things we’d buy for him or her, how he or she would be raised, etc.  Excitement suddenly turned to sickness during the 6th week. Imagine the worst flu you’ve had and multiply that by ten. Hyperemesis is worse than that; it’s in its own category. I never knew people could be so sick during pregnancy. 

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed. It was one day before my 7th week, and I was in a hospital room hooked up to an IV. The room was dark because the bright lights intensified the sickness. The doctor came in and sat in the corner. He gave a name to the misery I was experiencing – hyperemesis gravidarum.

In some cases, hyperemesis goes away after the first trimester. But in other cases, it lasts the entire time. After being hospitalized three times before my first trimester was over, being stuck a million times for IVs, and having doctors tell me to just wait it out until week 12/16/18 and it’ll go away, I finally had a PICC line put in my arm at 18 weeks.  A PICC is basically a line that goes in the vein and travels all the way up to within inches of the heart. It’s a semi-permanent port to allow easy administration of IVs and anti-nausea medication at home without having to go to the hospital. My husband became well experienced in home care, and he gave meds and IVs as needed all the way up until delivery. The only relief I received from hyperemesis (if you want to call it that) was when he gave me Phenergan at night, which basically knocked me out. Unconsciousness was the only relief I could get. Ridiculous…What was this nightmare I was living?  This was supposed to be the time in my life I had looked forward to for as long as I could remember.

I was miserably sick every day until 37 weeks. On December 28, 2006, Kylie was born. At the moment of delivery, the sickness went away. Just like that, it was gone. Kylie was born, and all was well. 

Two years later, I really wanted another child. Three years later, it became an obsession. I was sad and angry that hyperemesis had ruined my plans.  Kylie was old enough to ask about having a sibling, but it just wasn’t possible at that time. We weren’t at a point financially where I could be out of work and my husband could miss a lot of work to take care of me. This made me very sad. I worried that Kylie would be too old and there would be too much time between her and a sibling.

Five years after Kylie was born, we were finally at a good point financially. If I were plagued by hyperemesis again, we would be okay if just my husband worked.  But how could I miss out on nine months of Kylie’s life? After a lot of thought, conversation, and prayer, we finally decided to try for another one...

A couple months later, I was so excited to find out I was pregnant again! But just like the first time, the sickness came on around 6 weeks.  We were more prepared to handle hyperemesis this time. I had a great doctor who was open to any kind of treatment. I tried a course of steroids that some women had success with, but it didn’t work. Hyperemesis was just as strong as before. I again had to rely on my PICC line (which I got at 7 weeks since my past history showed this was not going to go away) and Phenergan. During the day, when my husband was at work and Kylie was with either my mom or my mother-in-law, I would sit alone in the recliner and question our decision to have another baby.  It sounds terrible, but when I was my sickest, I begged God to make me feel better at all costs.  I told myself and God that I would be able to accept a miscarriage because my sickness would be over. This made me feel very guilty, and I shed many tears over these kinds of thoughts.  Obviously, in my right mind, I would have been totally devastated to have lost my precious baby but this is how HG makes you feel.  This was only November, June seemed like a million years away!   

Hyperemesis continued on until delivery. Rylan was born on June 23, 2012, and the sickness disappeared. Later that day I inhaled six pieces of pizza like I hadn’t eaten in 9 months!  I was so glad to be able to eat like a normal person, but I still had fears of eating certain foods because of bad memories of throwing them up while pregnant.


I now have two kids, and I’ve learned to be content with that. We won’t try for number three because hyperemesis is too much to bear again. I’m so thankful that they’re both healthy and hyperemesis appears to have had no effect on them.

One last thought on my hyperemesis experiences: That kind of sickness is a real test on marriage that some may not survive. I felt lonely and depressed because I was experiencing sickness that no one else could relate to. My husband felt lonely and depressed because there was nothing he could do to stop it.  Hyperemesis is definitely a struggle, and I’m so thankful that it’s over. I’ll never again be plagued by this evil disease!! In the end, HG lost.


As for Kate Middleton, not that I’m happy she has hyperemesis, but I’m happy that so many people now know what it is because of her. But if it turns out that she has a mild case, everyone will continue to think that hyperemesis is just morning sickness. If accurate information comes out because of her sickness, then I think it’s a good thing. I definitely feel for her though.

If you want more information about HG, Jessica recommends http://helpher.org/ and http://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/hyperemesis-gravidarum/ for accurate, helpful info.  Thanks Jessica!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Re-Post: Stuff Teachers Like

Sorry friends, no confessions today. (Although, you should know that Sam somehow managed to open and eat an entire carton of blackberries in the grocery cart yesterday; I casually browsed the store like an idiot while my son sat absolutely covered in berries.  Awesome.)  Anyway...


Instead, in the spirit of school being almost out for break, I am re-posting this oldie but goodie from 2010 (with a few minor changes) to aid in your shopping for teacher gifts this year.  Hope you enjoy!


Stuff Teachers Like
 #1. Embroidered and emblazoned sweaters and vest for EVERY occasion


#2. Apples (Especially of the "this has been in the bottom of my book bag for six days" variety)

#3. Smiley Face Stickers

#4. Motivational Posters
#5. Red Pens

#6. Rubber stamps with super corny slogans


#7. Rolling crates/suitcases/etc.
#8. Denim Jumpers

#9. "#1 Teacher" Goodies
#10. Cut-out letters and ANYTHING bulletin board worthy
Teachers, what did I forget??
Clarification: The above items are STEREOTYPES and actually NOT desirable for most modern-day teachers.  (Except for maybe #1, I always a feel a little "under dressed" around the holidays.)

If you really want to know...
  1. I get super giddy about gift-certificates (Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, etc.)
  2. I desperately could use things for my classroom --- mechanical pencils, colored paper, cute post-its, etc.  (My husband swears we don't "break even" on my expenses until about May.)
  3. Plants and flowers are WONDERFUL
  4. And, honestly, the best gift you could give me would be a simple THANK YOU - in email or letter form.  We really get a lot of negatives and very few positives from parents. 
Finally, a friendly reminder... Don't forget the high school teachers!  We love your kids too! :)

P.S. If you haven't entered my Get & Giveaway, do it here.

P.S.S. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for a special guest post from my friend Jessica on her experience with hyperemesis gravidarum/ Kate Middleton's pregnancy condition.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All Over the Place


(I've got lots of little random thoughts about lots of different things that I want to share today; so, bear with me, as this post will be all over the place.)

First, THANK YOU.  Seriously, I have been thrilled with the response to the announcement of my Get and Giveaway yesterday.  It is, truly, something I have been looking forward to for a while now; and you all completely blew my expectations for it out of the water.  I have had SO much fun reading your comments and hearing about all the different charities and organizations that you are passionate about, and especially the personal stories behind some of yours.  THANK YOU for entering and for being excited about getting and giving with me.  I can't wait to bless one of you (and a very deserving charity of your choice) next week!!!  (If you haven't entered yet, it is definitely not too late - just go here.  The contest will be open until midnight on Friday, December 21st.)


Also, while we are on the subject of the giveaway, I thought you might like to see a photo of the cowl scarf Libby made me.  I LOVE IT. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I might wear it every single day this winter - no, really, I've been daydreaming about all the outfit combinations that will go with it! Haha.  One lucky winner is going to get their very own - so we can be twins! BUT, if you just can't leave it to fate, they are totally affordable (around $25.00 + shipping - which is the best I've seen anywhere) and her turnaround time is QUICK (order by Monday and she guarantees delivery by Christmas).  If you want one - for yourself or a gift - email her at libbyryderblog@gmail.com.   You know you wanna...
Sorry the quality is so terrible.  I took this on my phone before the sun came up!

Ok, moving on...

I (along with the rest of the world) am pretty much obsessed with Kate Middleton and her pregnancy.  Are they the most adorable couple ever, or what?  I literally cannot wait to watch her progress through this pregnancy and then into the role of motherhood; but, can you even imagine the pressure she must be under?  Those transitions are hard enough without cameras and journalists and speculation (and, here I am posting photos myself); much less the diagnosis of a very rare condition making pregnancy VERY difficult. 

Source
Later this week, I am going to be sharing a guest post written by my friend Jessica about her own own experience with the same condition (hyperemesis gravidarum) through TWO pregnancies.   It is really insightful and educational, and I am honored to be sharing some quality information about a topic that - up until now - has received very little mainstream attention.  Look for that on Thursday.

Source

Shifting gears again...

It looks like our little man will join the ranks of the "tubes" club next month.  I haven't written much about it on my blog, but he has had a really rough go of it (8+ ear infections in 8 months, to be exact) and with a delay in speech (no words still) too, we finally reached the threshold.  We saw the ENT yesterday and have scheduled the minor surgery for mid-January.  Truly, that date cannot come soon enough!! As much as I hate the idea of him having to be put to sleep, etc. I am SO ready for him to feel good and (hopefully) be able to start communicating with us.  As always, we appreciate your prayers for wisdom and success with that, and I'd love to hear any stories from your own experiences with a similar situation. 
Totally unrelated to tubes, but how lucky am I?

And, finally...

Jeff sent me off on Saturday morning for some "alone time" at the coffee shop.  It was much-needed and SO good for the soul.  :)  On my way, I stopped at our Family Christian Bookstore and picked up two new books:

She's Got Issues by Nicole Unice


and Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky.


From the titles and descriptions, I probably sound like I'm having a breakdown; but, honestly, what woman/mom/human doesn't struggle with control and grace issues sometimes?  I'm really looking forward to spending some time tuning in to those areas and remembering the truths of my faith.  I started the first one this weekend, and so far it is really good.  Have any of you read either of them?


Ok... I think that's enough ramble for one day.  :)  I'm hoping to post some confessions tomorrow... See you then!


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