Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Post: Fighting My Inner Worst Critic

Sweet Jen sent me an email when I first asked for guest bloggers with this piece from her personal journal.  She wrote this (for herself only) when her little girl was only a few months old and she was at "new-mom rock bottom."  I immediately felt privileged that she would share such a vulnerable piece of herself with me (and you); and, I recognized the place she wrote about.  I've been there too.  I know it.  Today, her baby is eight months old and Jen says, "When I read this now, only three months later, I'm amazed at how (mostly) at peace I am with the teeter-totter lifestyle of a working mom. Go figure: I quit beating myself up about the things no one else cares about and now I'm in a better place." I am so honored to share this beautiful message for new moms today...

Why I'm Breaking
Fighting My Inner Worst Critic

We do This, and it really sucks that we do This.  I do This when:

I look in the mirror five months after having a baby and think I should look like I looked before I got pregnant - before I got pregnant when I was hardcore working out at 5:30 a.m. every weekday.

I have stacks of things everywhere -- stacks of ungraded papers, stacks of unfolded laundry, stacks of unfiled bills and unshredded important papers -- and I think, "Oh my gosh, I am the worst fill-in-the-blank ever."  My life is defined by stacks.

I look at other moms and think they have their crap together, that they really have this working mom thing figured out because they do things like workout on a regular basis, make their own babyfood, have their kids dressed in something other than a white onesie, decorate their house for, and get their kid to sleep through the night.

Josh is working weekends, and I drop Anna Lynn off at church nursery not so I can attend the service and be spiritually fed, but rather so someone else can spend an hour with her because frankly, she's getting a little needy and mama's tired.  Sorry God.

Why is that God has more than enough grace for every person who has ever lived, and I don't even have enough grace for me?

I am my own worst critic.  No one else cares if I breastfeed or don't, if my clothes are wrinkled, if my house looks like Pinterest threw up, or if I can grade 60 essays in a week.  So why do I care?  Why am I in an abusive relationship with myself?

Why I used to watch Oprah or Dr. Phil episodes focusing on abusive relationships, I always adamantly proclaimed that I would leave.  I would leave that SOB in a heartbeat.  No one would ever lay a hand on me or talk to me that way.

So, that's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to leave my abusive relationship.  It won't happen overnight.  It'll be more like Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy or Jennifer Lopez in Enough.  I will carefully plot my exit, teaching myself what to do if I ever run into This again.

Starting now, I will teach myself to love me the way me deserves to be loved.  The way that God loves me.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Post: Helicopter Parenting

Heather has been a loyal reader and blog-friend for a while now.  We actually live in the same town, but have never met in person!!  This summer, I'm hoping to change that because we both are going to BLOGHER in Chicago.  (Sad that we have to go to Chicago to meet!)  Anyway, I appreciate Heather's writing style and the wisdom she has gained from a few more years of parenting than me...  Also, as a teacher, I admit that I'm sometimes quick to think of "Helicopter Parenting" as a negative thing.  I love the new perspective she brings to the table... Enjoy!

Why I'm Breaking
I'm very excited to be a E, Myself, and I today and am slightly thankful eternally grateful that God told E to give up her blog for Lent and didn't have that same message for me. Seriously. He told me I had to be nicer to my husband. It's quite possible that E got the easier of the requests. :) I kid... kinda.

I know that E is in the throws of parenting and learning how to raise Sam in the best way that she knows how. So I thought that I would address an area of parenting that I've recently encountered and my feelings on it -- Helicopter parenting. Have you heard of this? I think I heard the term once on a blog and then not again until I stumbled upon a blog in which she proudly proclaimed being "helicopter mom." She stood by her parenting stance but welcomed the advice of others. I didn't mean to write a blog post within her comments section, but I found myself writing... and writing...and writing. I had NO idea I had such an opinion on a term that I really hadn't heard of.

By definition (and by definition, I mean what Wikipedia says) a helicopter parent "is a colloquial term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions." states "Helicopter parents are accused of being obsessed with their children's education, safety, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of their children's lives.

Before I go any further, let me state that I don't judge your parenting style. I just don't. Unless your parenting style involves neglect and then? I attempt to suppress every ounce of judgement that I'm feeling because reality? I don't know your story. On the flip side? You don't know mine. That's not said to be mean, just a long way to say, "We don't have to agree with each other's parenting style but let's agree to respect each other... m'kay?"

Wouldn't it be nice if they created a book and just TOLD us how to parent? Which schools would produce the best students, the punishment that would have the greatest effect on our offspring, and how we can be better parents? The term helicopter parent has such a negative connotation in all the research that I've done. But I've been left to wonder if I am, in fact, a helicopter mom. Because, y'all? I am all up in their bizzzznesss....

I know where they are. I know what they are doing. I'm reading their cell phone messages. I'm reading their Facebook messages. I have their passwords. I check their grades daily, their homework daily, and I ask them about their day. I'm questioning what they are registering for in high school and making sure it ties in with what they want to do in life. In fact, I know when most all of my kids pooped last. (Although, it's so much easier to track the bowel movements of the boys because they announce it and compare the stink! What? Your boys don't yell "Fire in the hole!" prior to smelling up the joint?) So, by definition - not that knowing the last BM of your child is a requirement to earn the title - I AM a helicopter parent. 

But am I? For now, maybe... But my job, I feel, as a parent is to hover a little less as they get older. Because guess what? I'm not going to be around forever... There comes a time when they need to live for themselves. They need to know how to talk to their teachers. They need to ask questions about why they were or were not recommended for a certain class or program. They need to know how to apply for a job, how to follow up for an interview, and how to dress for the interview. Do they need help with these things? Yes! But they need to have the confidence to know that when they are out on their own, they will know how to take care of themselves without mom. I'm still going to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, guiding them in their class selection, and knowing who they are hanging out with AND meeting their friends' parents before hand. They need someone hovering now. When they are 30 with a spouse and family of their own they don't. (Trust me!) 

So how about you? How do you define your parenting skills? Until next time....    

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest Post: Called to Haiti

One of the best parts of this self-imposed blog break has been getting to know so many of you and read some awesome stories... When Rhyan offered to post for me and told me a tiny bit of her story, I couldn't WAIT to share it.  She is truly an inspiration!!

Why I'm Breaking

“I didn’t know that I had just received the first injection of a potent and disarmingly seductive drug. I would become dependent on it, an addict to Haiti for the rest of my life.”
-Susan Scott Krabacher, Angels Of A Lower Flight

This April it will be 5 years since Jesus captured my life. 5 years since I stepped off of an airplane and into the shoes of a person that I never could have imagined being.

5 years ago I was a 22 year old girl who had no idea about anything outside of my backyard. I'd seen the commercials on late night tv, you know the ones of the starving kids eating out of garbage dumps, they did nothing for me. Nothing broke my selfish heart in a way that made me want to change the world, I just wanted to hold babies. My first trip to Haiti was born out of that selfish desire. It wasn't with a Christian agenda, it wasn't to do any good. It was because I saw a house full of little brown babies and the idea of holding them in my arms sounded like "fun". I had no idea...

5 years ago I caught my first whiff of a smell that I can only describe as “Haiti.”

5 years ago the photos that I had seen finally captured my heart and came to life.

5 years ago I saw a skeleton of a child drinking from a green, fetid puddle of water on the side of the road in a city called Port Au Prince.

5 years ago I saw a man with wild hair and wild eyes, sitting naked and alone in the middle of a busy street.

5 years ago I watched the sun set behind a backdrop of mountains and palm trees, awe of the beauty that is this place engulfed me.

5 years ago I entered into a struggle of seeing beauty, despite ugly pain.

5 years ago, God capture my heart, shattered it into a million pieces and scattered them across this foreign land.

In these years everything I thought I knew about life, love, wealth and God has changed. I have learned what heartbreaking sorrow, immeasurable joy and reckless faith look like. I have been on top of the mountain and in the pits of hell on earth. I have had much and I have wanted much. I have laughed until I cried and cried until I had nothing left to cling to but Him. I have met my truest and dearest friends and I have become a Mother.

There is nothing about me that hasn’t changed since that April day in 2008. I wish I could say that I embraced the journey every step of the way but that just isn’t true. Many times I have balked, fought and argued against my calling. Many times I have run away from the things that are just too hard. Many times I have begged God to give this purpose to someone else. But, after every sleepless night the sun has risen again and His promise remains. For every superficial relationship that has faded away with time and distance, His voice has whispered close. For every moment of panic over resources that just weren’t there, a miraculous provision has been sure to follow.

In 5 years God hasn’t used me to “save” Haiti. I haven’t done great and wonderful things for this county, full of so much need. I have done very few even minor things to make this a better place. On paper you wouldn’t see my 5 years amount to much, not for lack of trying but rather because that’s just not why I am here. God’s purpose for capturing my life really has very little to do with what He needs to do through me and a whole lot to do with what He needs to do in me.

If you had told me 5 years ago that I would hold babies during their first moments on earth, and their last… If you had told me that 5 years from then, I would crave this place with everything in me, while always knowing that I am a visitor in this land… If I had known that just 21 months later my world would be rocked by a devastating earthquake and I would face the hardest and most gut wrenching disaster I could imagine…If you had told me that I would have a brother, a son and a daughter because of this place… If you had told me that I would learn to love God’s plans even when they were the exact opposite of mine… If I had known what lie ahead…. I might have just turned and run away. If I had known, I can imagine I would have been terrified.

Oh, but how much better He knows this weak and human heart. God brought me here as a naive, stupid child because He knew how very easily I could have missed out on all the blessings that He had in store. Blessings in the moment that a first cry is uttered of tiny lungs. The blessing of seeing what lies ahead, in the visions so evident as life prepares to end. I could have missed the joy that a 5 year old little boy has brought into our family and the wonder of a tiny little girl who holds my heart. I could have missed the blessing of being so heartbroken that I could literally feel myself being swept lovingly into my Abba Daddy’s arms. If I had only known I could have missed it all.

There are still days where I stand back in awe over what God has chosen for me, I pray that there always will be. This afternoon, as I look around at this cement house that I now call home and the baby that I call mine, as I see the faces of all the others that have evolved, from strangers, to neighbors and now dear friends, as I sweat and complain and wish for a break, as I see myself go back and forth, moment by moment between my selfish desires and embracing all He has commanded of me, I realize I am still, just as I was 5 years ago. Somewhere between who I was and who He’s making me.

Because He Called

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Post: Running While Pregnant

One of the things I'm hoping to do while I'm on my "blog break," is spend more time taking care of myself and exercising.  I'm the QUEEN of making excuses, so Amanda's post was a great inspiration to me.  I'm not pregnant (promise), but sometimes I talk myself out of training for the half marathon I vowed to do before 30 because it seems like there is no way I can "fit it in" with another baby some day soonish too.  Amanda just totally ruined that excuse!  Besides, if she can run at nine months pregnant, I'm sure I can handle it when I'm not with child. ;) Enjoy!

Why I'm Breaking

David, my 18-month old son, threw a tantrum during lunch, so I picked him up from his high chair and put him straight in his crib.

Now he's sleeping and I'm sitting here starving, but too tired to get up and fix myself lunch. Moments like this are the reason I don't keep potato chips in my house.

Two days ago, a good friend asked if I'd want to go for a slow, short run this afternoon. It sounded like a great idea, so I said yes. But as the week went on, it started to wear on me. It's Friday and I've already run three times (11 miles) this week, and taken two long walks. Eleven miles isn't much. Just 13 weeks ago I ran a race longer than my total weekly mileage.

But I'm 23 weeks pregnant, and for me, right now, it's a lot. I'm tired.

It was supposed to rain all day, so I thought maybe I could use that as an excuse, but after a rainy morning, it's sunny and actually turning into a beautiful day.

When I think about running, about the process of pulling spandex running pants over my belly, finding socks, tying my shoes, changing David's diaper, putting his jacket on, gathering a snack and drink for him, both of us walking out the door and down the stairs at 18-month old pace, lifting our jogging stroller out of our trunk, chasing David down the sidewalk and strapping him into the stroller. Well, when I think about all of that I feel like I've already been for a run.

This sounds so encouraging, doesn't it? And are you impressed in my fitness and good health?

And did you know that your abdominal muscles separate when you're pregnant? Maybe that seems like a no-brainer, but did you know you can actually feel them separating? I didn't really feel it much during my first pregnancy, but during this pregnancy I feel it, I feel it all the time. And today, my abdominal muscles are separating. I feel it when I bend, when I stand up, when I lift David, kicking and screaming from his high chair and lower him into his crib.

I am tired, and my abdominal muscles are separating, but I'll probably go for a run today. I'll probably go for a run today because if I don't run today, I might not run tomorrow. And if I don't run tomorrow, I might not run all week, or next week, or the week after that.

Every day I get a few more excuses, because every day I get a little more pregnant. But even though I'm tired, I want to run as long as possible, so I'm going to go running today.

When you're pregnant and you go for a run, people who happen to see you give you one of two looks:
  1. Impressed 
  2. Worried 
That's what my running partners tell me anyway. When you're pregnant and out for a run you're too busy concentrating on not peeing on yourself to notice anything else.

I ran through my first pregnancy until I was 37 weeks pregnant, at which point I fell head-first into a pile of Chick-fil-A and Frappuccinos. These days I'm running 3-4 miles about 4 times a week with the occasional 6-mile long run. Running was a great experience the first time around, but this time I'm still in the midst of it and still learning, taking it a day at a time.

I've been a runner for a very long time, since I was 14 years old, so it didn't make sense to me to stop running during pregnancy. Even though I love exercise, and sweating, and pushing myself I want to be clear about one thing: running when you're pregnant is hard. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Now I'm pregnant and pushing my almost-30-pound son in a jogging stroller and guess what? It's even harder.

I hope that's encouraging. I'm the kind of runner that isn't motivated by the sculpted Spandex goddesses. Instead, I'm motivated by knowing that even the people at the front of the pack are struggling, panting, and occasionally want to quit.

If you feel like me while you're exercising, like you're pulling a wagon through quicksand, it's ok. You're not the only one; I feel that way, too. Plus, I have to pee.

Even though running is hard, during pregnancy I actually feel the most like myself while I'm running. I have pretty easy pregnancies, but even the easiest pregnancy is tiring, uncomfortable, and long. My runs are the only time during pregnancy that I feel in control, healthy and strong. I never feel that way while eating Cadbury eggs on the couch watching The Bachelor.

When I'm pregnant I run for the same reason I run when I'm not pregnant: it's good for me, and it makes me feel good. There are lots of other benefits, too. It helps with weight control (another thing that helps with weight control: going easy on the Chick-fil-A and Frappuccinos...), it helps you sleep better, it helps you maintain strength for labor and recovery.

If you're a runner, or pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, or wondering about that pregnant girl you always see on the treadmill at they gym, here are some things you might not know about running for two:
  1. Before you start, talk to your doctor. Once you get an ok from your doctor, educate yourself about pregnancy and running, and tune into your body. Remember: this is a great time to continue running, not start running. It is definitely a great time to be active and healthy, whether it's running or swimming or walking.
  2. Realign your goals. When I'm not pregnant I run to stay fit, get fast, run races, and maintain my weight. When I am pregnant the only priority is the health of my baby (even if you are training for a race). I ran until running became uncomfortable and stopped feeling good. Run for your baby, not to be hardcore, to prove something to yourself or impress your mother in law. I ran until 37 weeks the first time, but I might only make it to 25 weeks this time. That'd be ok, too.
  3. Be prepared to make a few pitstops. I have to pee every step of every run. Even if I pee the moment before I leave, I'll have to go again by the time I make it to the end of the block. Even if I duck into an alley to relieve myself, I'll have to pee again moments later.
  4. You don't really need to spend lots of money on maternity running clothes. I run in my shirts until they start to stretch or ride up, and do the same with shorts until my thighs start getting pregnant and I can't put them on either. I like full-panel maternity, so I have a pair of maternity running shorts that I wear in the final months. (This might not be true if all your workout clothes are super-cute and fitted. I run in old t-shirts from high school.)
  5. ...But you might need to upgrade your shoes. Especially in the later months, your knees and hips will feel the extra weight you're carrying. Give them a break with some nice new shoes.
  6. Get a running partner. I owe almost every finish line to a great training partner. My most recent half marathon was great because of one who kept me on a training plan, and I'm consistently running now because of one who texts me almost every day and asks if I want to walk or run. A running/exercise friend will keep you consistent, motivated, and moving.
  7. Prepare to slow down. A few years ago, Runners' World did an article with Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe, two world-class runners, and they talked about their pregnancies. They lamented running slow 7:10 miles and talked about tossing medicine balls around the gym. That's great for them, but a more "normal" runner will have to slow down, take walk breaks, and more rest days. 
My second pregnancy started off with a running bang. I ran my fastest half marathon ever when I was 10 weeks pregnant (and after I finished, I went home, took a 30-minute shower, collapsed on the couch and then ate five enchiladas).

When I was in the throes of both my first trimester, and training for the race, I remember telling my husband that I couldn't wait for the race to be over so I could just focus on being pregnant. I wouldn't have to worry about what I ate before a long run, or getting enough sleep, or staying hydrated.

The weird thing is, even though the race was three months ago, all those things still matter, because the same things that keep you healthy for running keep you healthy in general.

Which is just another reason to get out there and move, even when I might not feel like it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Post: 10 Lies About Babies

Well ladies, this will kick off my series of guest posts while I'm on my little blog break.  Today, you get to hear from  a momma after my own heart... In her witty and authentic style, Bridget isn't afraid to laugh at herself as she navigates the new road of motherhood.  I love this, and I know you will too!

Why I'm Breaking

Lies I Was Told About Babies

10. Even with fifteen kids, it's possible to retain your sense of self - False.  My entire existence can be summed up by just one screaming three month old.

9. A baby is simply a happy addition to the family - See Lie #10.  A baby thinks it is the center of the universe; YOU are a happy and necessary addition to your baby's life.

8. Being a stay at home mom is easier than going back to work - If I had a job (other than mommy hood), I'd have an excuse for not getting the dishes done or being too tired to walk the dog.  As a stay-at-home-mom your job doesn't end at five o'clock. There are no scheduled coffee breaks, only the sacred "nap time" where you feel guilty sitting and watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when there's a mountain of laundry whispering (ok, screaming) your name.

7. You can get plenty of sleep, just nap when the baby does - I've heard of this mythical nap time where your infant goes for two hours and all is quiet.  Not only does my child fight sleep with a vengeance, but even when she does finally pass out from exhaustion, there's work to be done - laundry to be cleaned, hair to be washed, or more realistically... mommy needs a minute.  Those precious moments when the house is filled only with soft snored are like gold in my home.

6. Sleeping babies are so adorable you will find yourself sitting and staring at them for hours! - Yes, you will. But not because of how beautiful they look (of course they do).  You're checking to make sure she's breathing.  With SIDS being a hot topic these days, I find myself obsessively checking on my adorable sleeping baby to make sure her blanket isn't near her face, that she hasn't rolled on to her tummy, that she's breathing, that she can be woken up and hasn't fallen in to a coma, that he face hasn't turned down into the mattress... so much for doing the dishes.

5. You'll be so in love you won't be able to put her down - If my daughter had her way, I would never let her out of my arms.  What no one tells you is that the screaming back aches and the necessity of two hands will you begging someone else to hold her... just for a minute.

4. Family and friends will be there to help. -  As wonderful as they are for trying, most help becomes a hindrance.  Between trying to be a good hostess, the constant parenting advice, and the fact that the baby usually just wants its mama, you'll often have too many cooks in the kitchen.

3. Everyone loves babies! - My bank didn't seem too enthused about her when she cried for the entire hour we were there.  Nor did the other patrons at the restaurant when she screamed during dinner.  People love quiet babies.

2. Breastfeeding is so much easier than buying formula and making bottles.  - Suddenly, my biggest enemy has become my breasts.  God Milk?  That slogan will haunt you! Am I producing enough? Do I need to "pump and dump" after that glass of wine?  Wasting that much precious breast milk almost makes you want to say no alcohol all together... almost.  And now matter how much milk you have, your baby will always want more. She grows and grows every day.  I love the health benefits and saving money, but what I wouldn't give for a keg of breast milk in the kitchen and a bottle to put it in.

1. Babies smell like rainbows. - They don't.  They smell like poop... and feet... and sour milk.  Sure, toss them in the bath and lather them up with lotion and they smell like heaven.  Give it ten minutes.  They fart, they drool, the slobber milk down their pretty little faces and hide it deep in the wrinkles of their neck.

Babies Smell Like Rainbows

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Confessions, Bachelor Gossip, & Cuteness for the Next 40 Days

*This is a long one, you may just want to read it in parts over the next 40 days.  Just saying.

I don't even know what to say about The Bachelor last night.  Sean has slowly been sending home all my favorites (Tierra excluded from that list, obvi), and I'm getting kind-of annoyed with him.  Really, Lesley?  She may not have found love on this season, but I'm pretty sure she'll have plenty opportunities come from this show.  Girl somehow made a mini skirt with flowing flaps and a white spaghetti strap shirt look like the most fashionable thing ever.  I normally would have hated that outfit, but she totally pulled it off.  Everybody and their sister's BFF is Googling that skirt today. :)

Goodbye Bachelor fashion... It was fun.

What more is there to say about Tierra?  I DIED when she said "That's my face. I can't control my eyebrow."  Seriously, died.  I hate to be a jerk, but she's got a lot bigger issues than just her eyebrow... Like, her fashion sense for starters.  The outfits these girls are selecting for their dates, I can't even.  Jorts?

And, was it just me or were there entirely too many belly shirts on this episode too?

Not that I wouldn't wear a belly shirt at all times if I had a stomach like AshLee's.

Speaking of AshLee, I think she is cute and seems very genuine; but, she take one step forward for me, and two steps back.  The blindfold two weeks ago - weird, but I was willing to look over it.  The screaming this week? Just.too.much. 

I did like her yellow dress at the rose ceremony though.

(Have I mentioned how ridiculously impossible it is to find photos from these episodes?)

Lindsey is, by far, the biggest mystery on this show.  I just don't get it - she must be ONE HECKUVA kisser, that's all I can say.  (Also, Sean's sis seems to be giving good advice... I think she needs to have a little chat with him next about trying to actually 'talk' to all of the girls and not just fall in love with the ones that make-out the most.  No?)

Sadly, I'm finding that I'm not really "cheering" for anyone right now; which is unfortunate.  It is a lot more fun when I get all caught up in the unrealistic expectations of a couple that meets on reality TV, gets engaged in nine weeks, and then must survive four months "in hiding" immediately followed by the public broadcasting of one partner's "journey to love" with 24 other women.  :)

Anyway, all that said, the previews made the next week's hometown visits look EPIC.  I can't even begin to express my sadness over not being able to follow Twitter during next week's episode (or blog about it after the fact).  But, not to fear, I will try not to leave you high and dry... Do yourselves a favor and follow Arie (from Emily's season) and The Possessionista on Twitter before next Monday.  You will NOT regret it.  Here's a little sampling of what you can expect:

Moving along...
- Today is "Fat Tuesday."  As you know, I'm giving up social media for Lent; not any kind of food/drink.  (Although we all know that would be a good idea too.)  Regardless, I felt obligated to "celebrate" by having a fast food feast for lunch followed by Mexican food for dinner.  What can I say? I make it a rule never to pass up a reason to feast. :)

- On Saturday night, my sister threw her boyfriend a surprise birthday party.  Seizing the opportunity to wear a "going out" outfit, I got all gussied up in a new top and jewelry from my (much more fashionable) sister for Christmas and, I was feeling pretty darn good if I do say so myself.  Not to worry though, before the guest of honor even arrived one male guest was politely handing me a napkin to wipe ranch dressing off of my chest and another was pointing out that I had "just a little something green" in my teeth.  You can dress her up...

- My child might have been the one climbing under tables and playing on the floor at a restaurant Sunday night.  That would make me the one you judged and talked about when you left.  Maybe.

- I use the dryer as my iron 95% of the time.

- I use my laundry room as my closet 98% of the time.

And, finally, to leave you with a smile...

I'll see you after Easter!

Beginning at midnight tonight, I will be logging off of Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter for 40 days and 40 nights in observance of Lent.  While I'm gone, I have FOURTEEN awesome guest posts to share with you from some of my lovely readers.  I am so excited to introduce you, and I'm confident that you will treat them well!  If you are so inclined, I would love for you to pray for me during this time - that it would be an intimate time with the Lord, meaningful time with my family, and an opportunity for me to practice surrender, self-control, and time-management.  I'm honestly looking forward to this "break," but I will definitely miss this space A LOT! Please don't leave me!! I'll be back... I promise!! :) 

*If you need me, I can be reached by email at during my break

Monday, February 11, 2013

Me on a Monday

First this... Do you remember when Kathryn went to the Grammy's?  Hahaha!  I put that quality post together in the much earlier days of this blog when no one was reading but my mom and sister anyway; but, we had SO much fun with this one.  I only watched a little last night, but I had a good laugh remembering 2010.

So... I'm feeling a little pressure to write something really "quality" before I embark on my 40 day blog-break (I have been calling it a "fast", but I stopped because I feel guilty calling it that and then talking about it so much - so very Pharisee of me), but I really don't have much to say.  I've spent the last three days in a total "Fat Tuesday" fog blogging myself crazy trying to get all the (awesome) guest posts set up and ready to go for you while I'm gone.  Believe me, they are GOOD. You guys really are an amazing community.  I am sincerely honored to introduce you all to these great women and to give each of them a new forum to share a small part of their story.  You will not want to miss any of them.  Really.

That said, I'm kind-of stuck for something of my own to say... Luckily, Chelsea at The Paper Mama came through for me with an impromptu self-portrait challenge.  I try to avoid taking pictures of just me whenever possible; but, girl needs some content today; and, I am wearing my fox sweater.

Anyway, here you have it:

Me, on a Monday.
I'm in my classroom and the kids just left.  I really really hope no one walked by the door and saw me taking this. ;)  I'm pretty sure my hair isn't that red in real life - it's just the Instagram filter (excellent for faces that eat make-up like mine). Also, pay no attention to the fact that my bulletin board is blank.


Obsessing Over 
How messy my house is.  Usually, Mondays are my days for catching up on things because Sam is with my mother-in-law all day; but, he has an appointment this afternoon so that's a no go.  I've been thinking about how I'm going to squeeze ten hours of housework that NEEDS to be done into an approximate two hour nap time since my eyes opened this morning.  I really should have been more productive this weekend.

Working On
As I said above, I've been spending a lot of time getting my blog in order and all my guest posts scheduled for my break to begin Tuesday.  It has been so much fun to connect with and read stories from so many of my readers, but it is a lot more work than I had accounted for.

Thinking About
How great my ninth graders did with "Twelve Angry Men" this morning.  I love love teaching this little play every year.  It is so simple, but the kids always really get into it, and it is a great lead in to Of Mice and Men.  Today was "jury selection day" and the kids totally got into it.  Mornings like this remind me that I don't just work for the money.

The renewal and re-energizing that will come from my blog break over Lent. Seriously though, this whole thing has made me realize that I'm kind-of a blog addict.  I'm fully prepared to go through a few days (weeks?) of withdraw before falling into a new groove, and I'm definitely worrying a lot about all the things I will miss out on in the social media realm; but, I'm 100% confident that God will honor this time, and that it will be good.  

Also, The Bachelor tonight. :)

Laundry and grading papers (always).


I had actually started my diet back in January (or August, for that matter) when I said I was going to.  UGG... Motivation, please move in on my hips asap.

That's all for today... Go here to enter your own self-portrait post for a chance to win this cutie Instax Mini 8. (The winner is selected randomly, and I think I'm like the second entry - so, odds are good.)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winner, Gems, & Reminder

First, thank you SO much to all of you who took the time to visit my sponsors' shops and facebook pages & entered my first ever Sponsor Giveaway.  It's been a pleasure to "introduce" you to each of them this week; and, I sincerely hope that you will support their businesses.

On that note, I am happy to announce the winner of $25.00 to spend at either Boy Oh Boy, One Delightful Button, Perch, Room to Romp, or Thirty-One is... Kelli C.

Congratulations Kelli!  Look for an email from me today with details about claiming your prize!

Next, here are a few of my favorite things in the blog world this week:

Advice for a First Time Mom from Don't Quote the Raven

What TO Say to Moms from The Orange Rhino on Blogher Moms

Five Things I Want My Boys to Know about Love on MOB Society 

How It Feels to Be Me on Ok BA! - This post caused quite a stir in the community, and some of the comments really made me cringe.  Personally, I applaud BA for not being afraid to talk about the good and the bad.  I love her realness, her vulnerability, and her humor.

Finding God in a Little White Pill on A Deeper Family

Modern Social Media Etiquette on Design Sponge

And, finally, just a quick reminder that I will be taking a blog break beginning on Wednesday (2/13) until March 30th (oh man, on mornings like this when I browse through my reader and make lists like the one above, I'm not sure I can survive this).  I am so thankful that many of you have volunteered to write guest posts for me during that time... I think I'm going to have some great hands to leave you in! *BTW* I have really tried to be good about responding to your emails with questions about posts etc.; however, I'm sure I've missed one or two!  If you are interested in posting, just send me your post - I'm not being picky! :)

I've already received a few posts; but if you haven't gotten yours to me yet, don't forget to submit it by tomorrow so that I have time to get everything set-up by "Fat Tuesday."

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Best and Worst of Both Worlds

This is a post I've been wanting to write a for a while.  I still don't know that I have the words to really do it justice; but with the recent blog discussions about working and stay-at-home moms, I think I'm ready to attempt it...

As you probably know, I have just completed my first semester of teaching part-time.  Just to "set the scene," here's a little look at my (normal) day:

*The four hours in purple are the 2.5 - 3 hours Sam naps each day and 1.5 - 1 hour we have after bedtime each night.  I've included "other" to account for my time in the mornings getting ready for work and the occasional quiet time during the day.  I should also say that my wonderful mother-in-law keeps Sam all day on Mondays, so that allows me a lot of time to do things I can't do on other days and Jeff is amazing in the evenings and on weekends.

Breaking down my day by hours and figuring out how much time I spend doing what to make the above chart was actually a pretty good exercise for me.  Even still, this really doesn't give the full picture. I'll see what I can do...

I am blessed to spend time with awesome 9th, 10th, and 11th graders every morning and time with my sweet boy every afternoon.  In SO many ways, I have the PERFECT situation right now.  I get to do something I love that also brings in a little income for my family.  I also get to do things like take Sam to the park, meet friends for afternoon play dates, and be an active part of his growing and learning every single day.  I often tell people that this is "my dream" and brag about "having the best of both worlds," and that is 100% true. I would not change ANYTHING about my situation right now. This is important: please don't misread the rest of this post and think I'm not grateful for this opportunity. 

THAT SAID, I can also sympathize with both sides of the working/stay-at-home mom card; because along with getting many of the benefits of each role, I also experience a lot of the disadvantages too.  

I teach three different "preps" of high school English, which means that I have LOTS of papers to grade and plans to write each week.  Just like a full-time teacher, I have the same expectations to meet for my students and my principals each week.  I still attend meetings and trainings, call parents, write reports, respond to emails, try to be (somewhat) reasonable about returning graded assignments, and attempt to keep my lessons just as exciting and engaging as ever.  I LOVE doing (most of) these things, and I truly believe that they are a part of who God has called me to be. But, in many ways, I don't feel like I only work part-time.  Especially since I also teach two online English classes, I spend a lot of my time outside of school doing school-work.  I feel like I do a full-time job on a part-time schedule (and for part-time pay).

On the other hand, being home in the afternoon (while obviously giving me lots more precious time to be mom) means that I also put certain expectations on myself to keep the house clean, laundry done, and dinner made that I "excused' a little more when I was working full-time.  Plus, although I have more time to get these things done now; I also have a VERY busy toddler and spend a lot more time at home.  This combination means that many of my efforts are often in vain.  (For example, I can literally spend an entire three hour nap time cleaning house only to have it covered in toys and smelling like poop within an hour of Sam waking up.)  In addition, since I'm working in the morning and Sam is with a babysitter (who we absolutely ADORE, by the way), I feel the same "Mom Guilt" that many working mothers do about choosing to spend time loading the dishwasher, going to the gym, or grading papers when Sam is awake.  (And, frankly, I'm exhausted when he goes to bed.)

I worry about not socializing Sam more by sending him to preschool or being able to take him to "classes" and Mother's Morning Outs that (inevitably) are always scheduled for the morning.

I feel bad about not being able to serve and build relationships with my students and co-workers the way I used to when I was around for lunch and after-school activities.

I'm embarrassed that there are still LOTS of mornings that Jeff doesn't have a clean t-shirt to wear to work and nights that we eat cereal or Chickfila for dinner.

I hate that I hardly ever exercise anymore; but, I'd also feel guilty about taking Sam to childcare at the gym when I only get so little time with him in the afternoons.

To be honest, I usually feel like I don't fully fit into either group of moms anymore --- I don't work full time, but I'm also not a full-time SAHM.  I fear that working moms think I have it "too easy," and that I'm not living up to the stay-at-home mom standard of always having a tidy house, creative activities for my toddler, and a craft in progress.  I let myself listen to the little voices that say "you aren't organized enough to be a working mom" or "you aren't nurturing enough to be a stay-at-home mom." (Note: I know these things are stereotypes; I know that neither group has enough time or energy to sit around worrying about what I do or don't do... But, they are still lies that I allow myself to believe in my weaker moments.  Ok?)

You get my gist?

Anyway, the point of this post is this: Being a mom is hard.  It is hard no matter how you do it, and there really is no "easy" or "perfect" solution.  We mess up.  We choose an hour of blogging while our toddler watches a movie or an hour of trashing the kitchen with flour to make playdough while research papers sit ungraded for yet another night.  We do our best.  There is no right or wrong way -- we just love our kids and hope, with all our hearts, that they see in us that it is OK to make sacrifices, to show ourselves grace, to do what makes us happy, and to make mistakes once in a while.  

We need each other.  We need to admit to each other that NO ONE has it easy.  And, we need to stop comparing ourselves to the "snapshots" of perfect mothers we see on Facebook and Pinterest.  That's all.

Thanks for hearing my heart today.  :) I'm off to clean up spilled milk and build a train track.

(P.S. One of my very favorite posts ever on this topic was recently re-posted here.  Read it.)
Last, but not least, have you been to The Perch Shop yet?

Based in Tidwater, Virginia, Ali's awesome Etsy shop sells vintage crates, baskets, and bottles as well as her famous hand-made "knots" perfect for adding character and style to your home without breaking the bank.  Just look at some of these great items for sale now:

This stuff is all the craze in decorating right now; and, Perch makes it easy (and affordable) to achieve, even if you don't have time (or motivation) to spend your weekend scouring thrift shops and yard sales.  Check it out. 

*The Perch Shop is one of the awesome shops participating in my $25.00 Sponsor Giveaway.  For details and to enter, hurry to this post now - TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO ENTER!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Valentine's Wish List of Sorts

I stopped making "lists" for holidays like Christmas etc. a while ago (except last year I asked for a new car, a dishwasher, and a live-in maid - I got none of those things); but, I'm not above posting a "wish list" of sorts on my blog.  My mom has been known (more than once) to buy me treats from it, and Jeff actually booked dinner reservations within mere minutes of my pasting a "deal" on Facebook last week... Valentine's Day isn't typically a big deal in our house (I'm usually pretty happy with a card and fresh tulips), but it's worth a try at least. ;)

Valentine's Day Wishlist

1. Acrylic Monogram Key Chain from MOON and LOLA - I really need a new key chain, and I really like monograms.

2. Gold Love Print from Twine - I saw this on a blog a few weeks ago and declared it a "must have" for my bedroom re-do this year.  So simple, but so stunning too. 

3. ASOS Cardigan with Heart Elbow Patch - My friend Amanda had this sweater on the other night and I immediately fell in love with it.  I love that the hearts are subtle, so this still feels like something you could get a lot of wear out of; and I'm really digging elbow patches these days.  I try not to "steal" looks from my friends, but I might have to make an exception for this beauty. 

4. Heart Umbrella from JCrew - I used to have a really cute umbrella.  People always commented on it.  I kind-of liked rainy days.  I even carried it in a wedding once.  Then, it broke.  Now, I get wet and look like a frizz-fest.  

5. I Love Your Style from Anthropologie - I'm a little obsessed with coffee table(ish) books lately.  Most of mine are about decorating, but I'd love a little guide for "decorating" myself. 

6. Michael Kors Women's Chronograph Bracelet Watch in Tortoise - This has been on my wish list for a long time now; it is a little extravagant, but I'm not really into fancy jewelry so this would be perfect if someone (ahem, Jeff) felt like spoiling me. :)  I'm not holding my breath for this one, but isn't it so classy looking?

7. Pink Loafers from Target - I might have just ordered myself these. How could I resist their $16.99 sale price?  Sometimes a girl has to take matters into her own hands.

So, I think I got a little carried away.... But, this is the cheapest form of shopping I know!  What's on your Valentine's Day Wish List?

Speaking of wish lists, I'd like one of everything from Room to Romp!

Specifically, I am loving Sandy's new adjustable-waist jeans for boys.  These (pictured below) come in lots of different pocket-colors and styles, and are designed to be worn for up to TWO years.  This is HUGE mamas!!  Also, you know I don't love jeans on little ones; but, the details on these make them still look little and sweet. WIN.

I also can't get enough of her cute rompers, graphic (but not in the Abercrombie way) tees, and outfit sets. Everything is so cute and so boy.  

 Teaser: Sandy will be back later this month with a whole post on dressing boys!

*Room to Romp is one of the awesome shops participating in my $25.00 Sponsor Giveaway.  For details and to enter, hurry to this post now - there are only TWO days left!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Midweek Confessions

This will be the last one of these for a while, so I better get it all out now...

- I went to work this morning without taking a shower.  (Yes, I realize that some women do this all the time and can totally get away with it.  When I do it? It shows.)

- All I ever "want" to make for dinner is tacos. 

- The main level of my house has remained relatively straight recently.  Meanwhile, the upstairs looks worse than ever.  I am beginning to accept (and actually even kind-of like) this set-up.

- I've had to have two cavities filled in the last two months.  

- I went to JoAnn's fabric last week and bought all kinds of cute craft supplies because I was feeling ultra motived and excited about "creating."  Those supplies are now sitting in a bag in my car waiting to be returned.  I think I'd rather just order things on Etsy.  #justdon'thaveitinme

- During that same trip to JoAnn's last week, Sam absolutely REFUSED to sit in the cart or be held.  The result was a crazy toddler literally running around the store.  I ended up buying two books that I didn't know were in my cart and having a sales-lady "politely" ask me to keep my kid from breaking things on the glass vase aisle.

- Jeff's brother and his wife hosted a "fry" party for the Superbowl which is - as the name would imply - just an opportunity for people to bring the most unhealthy food they can think of and throw it in a deep fryer of blazing hot grease.  I ate fried pickles, mushrooms (healthy, right?), buffalo chicken, cheese, and oreos.  I also let Sam eat one or two (or five) friend carrots. 

Could have been worse...
While you're here, check out the Feb. special at Thirty-One.

You already know Ashley (one of my BBFs - best blog friends) from her adorable blog The Pollock Potluck. But, you may not know that she recently became a sales rep for Thirty-One gifts - a Christian based organization - to help bring in some extra money for her little family while she plays full-time mom to Luke.

It is REALLY easy for me to recommend Thirty-One products, because I have (and love) SO many of them myself.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

The Large Utility Tote
(1) I keep mine in the car and it is always packed.  I also use it to carry diapers, wipes, toys, and snacks when we travel.  I'd call this a "must have" for moms on the go.

The Market Thermal Tote
(2) This thing is HUGE, and I love using it for picnics, tailgates, etc.  It can fit SO much and really does do a great job of keeping everything cold.  I also have two of the little thermal totes that I use as a lunch box (for me) and to carry snacks and milk cold (for Sam).

The Mini Utility Bin
(3) These are nice because they are flight and easy to move around.  We have one in Sam's closet for his stuffed animals right now, but we have also used it to hold laundry, blankets. etc.

(4) This is my most recent purchase from Thirty-One and I LOVE it.  It is a double-decker, insulated casserole carrier that comes in the adorable new Chevron pattern & includes two sturdy plastic serving spoons.  I have already used this SO many times, and people always compliment it!!  It is also really functional, since I can carry two dishes in one hand (and a baby in the other).  *This item is a hostess exclusive, so see the options below about hosting a party!

If you are interested in hosting a party - and taking advantage of some of the awesome perks - Ashley does home parties in the SE Virginia area and online parties for anyone, anywhere! (Online hostesses reap the same benefits as other hosts, minus the cleaning house and preparing snacks for guests.)
*Thirty-One is one of the awesome shops participating in my $25.00 Sponsor Giveaway.  For details and to enter, hurry to this post now!!

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