Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books By Bloggers: My Reviews

I've mentioned before that I've been on a reading kick lately, and it seems my main "genre of choice" has been blogger memoirs and the like (go figure).  It is quite a blogging trend these days to make the move into the printed word; and, since I am nothing if not addicted to blogging - it is an obvious choice for me. (Yes, I read three of these during my "blog break."  Some may consider that cheating.  I call it creative.)

Below are my thoughts on the four I've read in the last couple of months.  I listed them in order of my preference; but, I genuinely enjoyed each one.  I thought all four were great, and I think each of their writer's are incredibly talented with words and storytelling. Their stories made me inspired to write my own book (one day), made me laugh, and - at times - made me cry.  I would (honestly) recommend any of them without a single bit of hesitancy.

*Also, just in case you care... No one paid me (or even asked me, for that matter) to read these books or write about them.  These are all my own opinions.  I did, however, recently sign up to be an Amazon Affiliate, so if you happen to buy something from one of these links (or the links in my sidebar) I get a teeny tiny portion of that sale.  Just keeping it real.

Here we go...

I'll be honest and say that this was the last book I read, and I read it more because there was so much hype than because I really thought it would be good.  Glennon can be a bit much for me at times, but her book surprised me (in a good way).  She is a superstar when it comes to "keeping it real," and - although it took me a while to get used to the essay format (as opposed to a story really), it ended up being my favorite of the blogger-genre so far.  It is the kind of book that made me laugh out loud and, as a result, end up reading big passages aloud to my husband.  She did a great job of moving seamlessly between hilarious stories and real, deep thoughts about major issues (like marriage, faith, homosexuality, parenting, and body image).  I like a book that makes me think while simultaneously making me relax a bit and be comfortable with me.   This is a book I would order twenty of and mail to all my best friends (if I was rich).

I've been following Stephanie's blog for a while now, but I admit that it isn't really one of my "regular reads."  Her book changed that.  I love Stephanie and her adorable family (especially Mr. Nielson) and found myself Googling everything I could about her incredible story and recovery. (She and her husband were in a terrible plane crash in 2008 that left her in a coma for four months and with more than 80% of her body burned. This book, which chronicles her immediately before and in the year following the accident, is an honest and vulnerable account of her experience overcoming hardship, accepting change, and remaining faithful.

I do have to say that she almost lost me at the very beginning --- She paints a picture of her life before the crash that seemed a little bit too full of "butterflies and rainbows," and it was hard for me to trust her.  BUT, once I got over that, I found that the book was a great reminder to look for the good in even the mundane things of motherhood like giving Sam a bath or simply being able to pick him up when he cries.  Stephanie has a powerful story and a unique perspective on life that I found very encouraging and inspiring.

3. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle of Big Mama

Melanie is hilarious!  I love her storytelling voice and her ability to relate to her readers that is evident on her blog and in her book. This story, mostly about her personal journey into motherhood, is a quick & easy, light read - perfect for a new mom during those sleep-deprived first months.  I giggled my way through the whole thing in only a couple of days.  She doesn't sugar-coat things; but, she doesn't take anything too seriously either... This was a great "we are all in this together" book about being a first-time mother. (My only complaint?  I kept saying - "She stole my story!"  Seriously, it was like she took the words right out of my mouth... If I was every going to write a book, it would probably be almost plagiarism of this one. Consider yourself warned.)

Although I was not familiar with Claire's blog before, her memoir came very highly recommended to me by several of my blog-friends.  It is the VERY well written story of her life facing cancer diagnoses of both parents as a teenager, losing her mom is college, her father as a young adult, and the very hard road in between. She is one of the most honest and authentic writers I have ever read, and the story was actually suspenseful enough to keep me turning pages long past my bedtime.  

The only reason I didn't rank this one higher is because I couldn't really relate to most of it (which, obviously, doesn't make it bad).  I also tend to be one who wants things wrapped up neatly with a "happy ending" and that wasn't developed quite as much as I would have liked... However, since beginning to follow she and her precious daughters via her blog & Instagram,  - I see that the true happy ending is in the life full of hope and happiness and healing she is living today despite - and even because of - her hardship.

** I just realized that this list is also in reverse order of the way I read the books.  Maybe it isn't so much my preference, as much as just my memory?  Take the "rank" with a grain of salt please. :)

Have you read any of these? What did you think?  What's your favorite "blogger book"?

Up next... I'm going to take a break from blog-books and revisit Beth Moore's So Long Insecurity.  I started it when Sam was itty-bitty, and I've been thinking about some of her words a lot lately.  What are you reading?

P.S. Another Midweek Confessions linky tomorrow! Get your posts ready!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blog Gems Etc.

Hi friends! Hope you've had a good weekend.  Yesterday was super busy with a mock AP exam for my students in the morning, an afternoon volunteering for our local Garden Tour (funny, I know), and dinner with family.  On top of all that, Sam's been hit with some pretty major allergies/cold, so today is going to be full of cuddles and Dinosaur Train.  (Do your kids watch that?  It's Sam's favorite.)  

Here are a few of my favorite reads from the web this week... Hope your day is relaxing and happy!

"30 Things I Hope to Do After 30" by Lori Fradkin for The Huffington Post
A very good reminder that life doesn't end at 30 (duh!) and it's really OK if I don't accomplish every life goal in the next year. ;)

"How to Focus in an Age of Distraction: 10 Things to Do Before You Click" from Ann Voskamp
Wow.  She is SO GOOD.  This is a free printable (please go to her site to download it) followed by some great thoughts... I needed this.

"Dear House" on Clover Lane
You know my relationship with my house... I love this.

And for a good laugh, I can always count on Jill...
"Look Into My Crystal Ball, Expecting Moms" on Baby Rabies

Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

2nd Awkward Stage

One of the highlights of my job (most of the time) is listening to side conversations that go on between teenagers when I'm "not listening."  (I think it goes without saying that these conversations can sometimes be frightening/disturbing/disgusting as well; but, for the most part, I teach good kids...)  Anyway, this morning they actually invited me in to one of their conversations about moms.  It went something like this:

STUDENT A: "Is Joe's* mom a cute mom?"

STUDENT B: "I don't think any mom of kids our age is cute."

ME: "WHAT?!?!  There are lots of cute moms of teenagers.  You should see my mom, she is adorable!" (It's true.  And, yes, I realize I am not a teenager.)

STUDENT B: "It is a weird phase between being a cute young mom and a cute old mom."

STUDENT A: "Yea, like the second awkward stage of life."

So... There you have it.  There is such a thing as a SECOND AWKWARD STAGE.  Great news for all of us just finally starting to feel comfortable in our own skin - sun spots, stretchmarks, and all...

At first I thought my mom totally disproved this theory (she is really super cute; and, I have her genes - so, surely, I'm in the clear); BUT, then I remembered the 1990s.  If anyone escaped that era without looking at least a little bit awkward and uncute, I'd like to know about it. Sorry Mom, but those weren't your finest years. ;)

Now, I'm panicking a little bit.  Naturally.

What stage am I in now? Am I (have I?) fully embracing the cute young mom stage? How long will this stage last? Does my skin care and exercise routine now directly correlate to my cute old mom status? Will Sam's future friends refer to me as being in my "second awkward stage"?

This is almost too much for me to bear.

Tell me... What do you think?  Is there such a thing as a "second awkward stage"?  If so (oh geez) what will you do to prepare?  OR, how did you survive and come out on the cute side of old?  Haha!

Anyway, happy Friday! Obviously I'll be getting Botox, liposuction, and a dye job this weekend - with Sam's best interests in mind, of course
*Name changed to protect the innocent (and his mom)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Midweek Confessions + Linky

First things first... It was SO good to hear from so many of you and find your blogs on Monday (and the comments keep trickling in)... I'm a little slow, but I'm making my way to each and every one as quickly as possible.  Thank you!  Also, it is looking like a little Roanoke/New River Valley get-together is in order!  I am going to try to plan something (maybe picnic and park in Salem - in between) for early June when school gets out.  Locals, stay tuned for details. I can't wait.

Now, on to today's confessions:

- Last week, when Jeff was out of town, I went to Target FOUR times.  (He was gone three days.)

- I "oversleep" every.single.morning.

- We are working on being more consistent about getting Sam to bed by 9PM every night.  This is late by virtually every other parent I know standards, but it is early (or at least reasonable) for us.  Oops.

- I bought new "skinny" black pants to wear to a family reunion/birthday party on Saturday. They ripped right up the back within two minutes of me putting them on. #notsoskinny (For the record, it really wasn't noticeable, so I hedged my bets and wore them anyway.)

- Not one, not two, but THREE people contacted me on Monday to inform me of Reese Witherspoon's arrest over the weekend.  (Hadn't heard? Allow me...) I think this is proof that a. I might have been slightly overly obsessed with her in college, and b. my friends/family have very little confidence in my maturity since then. ;) #shewentdownhillafterryanphillipe #istilllikeher

- When I was at Chickfila with Ashley last week, one of the workers recognized me and our conversation made that very obvious.  (He usually works at a different Chickfila, and I usually go to that one, so we were surprised to see each other at this one.)  It was awkward - mainly because I was with a "new" friend, and I obviously go to Chickfila way too often.

- Jeff and I committed to making this week "meatless" and trying to really load up on lots of veggies.  I made a delicious roasted veggie medley on Sunday and Monday nights, and we were feeling quite good about ourselves.  Then, last night, I got tired of cooking (two nights in a row is a lot for me), and our neighbors invited us over for lasagna.  So, clearly, we had to go.  We lasted two nights being meatless.  Tonight we are having hotdogs.

I'd love to have you join in the fun today!!  Share your confessions on your blog & then link up the post below - pretty please?!?!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Search of Motivation

Y'all, I am struggling to find my motivation these days in every area of life.  Nothing is bad, I just would rather read blogs, play at the park, and go shopping than do very necessary things like clean my house, cook dinner, put away laundry, and grade essays.  It is BAD.

Usually if I have a few days (or even a week) like this, I write it off.  Stuff will get done, eventually. But, I'm in week three now, and my life is starting to reek of disorganization and frazzle.  To make matters worse, I've reached that place where just the idea of trying to catch up stresses me out so much that I need a nap.  Not good at all.

Yesterday, I ordered a new planner (that I can't WAIT to share with you guys when it comes in), but it doesn't start until May and I'm VERY tempted to just write off the rest of April.  Unfortunately, there are AP tests to prepare for, wedding showers to plan, toilets to scrub, and bedrooms to re-decorate in the meantime.  
How do you find your motivation?  Seriously, I need tips.  Even excessive caffeine consumption and loud music doesn't seem to be doing the trick!
P.S. Get your posts ready for Midweek Confessions tomorrow.  I will have the linky up around noon!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blog Friends & Roanoke Meet-up

Sam & I with Ashley and Luke on Friday
As I mentioned on Friday, this past week I got to meet my blog-friend Ashley (from The Pollock Potluck) and her little guy Luke for this first time in real life.  It was so fun and so easy - truly, it felt like we were just regular old friends who have known each other forever meeting for lunch and a play-date.  I loved it!

I hope she won't write me off as a total creeper friend for saying this, but even though we had never officially "met," before Friday, I have considered Ashley one of my good friends for a while.  (Let me be honest for a second, if you would have told me three years ago that I would consider someone I only knew via the internet a good friend - I would have laughed in your face and made fun of people "like that." Things change.) 

Anyway, Ashley was one of the very first "strangers" to start reading (and commenting) on my blog (I think she found it through a friend of a friend sometime in early 2010).  Subsequently, I started reading her blog, and we immediately connected because we were both teachers, "newlyweds," and fur-baby parents. ;)  

Our friendship went to a new level of closeness in the winter of 2011 when we both announced we were pregnant with our first baby (I vividly remember the day she announced it - I was SO excited), and then again when we both became "boy moms" less than three weeks apart that summer... 

Our boys hit it off right away
As I've said before, I don't have a lot of mom-friends in this area; so, the blogging community has served a very important function as an outlet and support-system for me in the almost two years since Sam was born.  Ashley is one of the first people I think about when I realize I how grateful I am for that community.  Not only do we know tons about each other because we both over share blog, but we also email regularly and stay in touch that way too.  Of course our journeys through these first years of motherhood have not been exactly the same, but I have appreciated SO much having someone who can relate to some of my struggles, answer questions, and offer encouragement along the way. 

All that to say, again, I LOVE this place.  I feel like I have real friendships with so many of you guys!! And, honestly, I wonder sometimes how I ever would have survived the transition to motherhood without this community.

It was such a treat to get to meet Ashley and Luke and - finally - get to watch our boys play together.  I hope it will be the first of many visits to come! (We're pretty much going to be the next Sherry & Katie or Erin & Nina.  You ok with that Ashley? Haha!)  

In conclusion, I'd love to get to meet more of you in real life!!!  In fact, I'm going to get crazy here for a minute...

If you live in the Roanoke/ SW Virginia area, would you consider coming to a little blogger meet-up if I planned it?  (Heck, even if you don't live in the area!)  If so, leave a comment or shoot me an email!  Let's make this thing happen!

I'm thinking we all meet at the Target snack bar, buy our kids lots of junk food, and stroll the aisles aimlessly for six+ hours.... Or just come to my house for wine and cheese! Either one.

What do you think?

One more thing: Whether you are local or not, I really do want to KNOW you too.  It really isn't fair for you to know all my deep dark secrets and I only know your avatar photo. ;)   Anyway, if you have a blog, will you please leave your web address below for me too?  Thanks friends!

I love you all!

P.S. Midweek Confessions link-up on Wednesday?  (Another great way to meet new blog-friends!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Do You Have a Crutch Word?

I've been talking to my students this week about developing "voice" as a writer, which is basically just "the way you sound on paper."  One of our activities involved looking at our own writing and asking our friends etc. to describe how we speak in real life, then, comparing the two.

(Side note: The conversation made me think about this place. Blogging has been the single most important thing I have ever done to develop my voice as a writer. When I finally get around to writing that book one day, I will be a MUCH stronger writer because of the exercise of putting words on paper - figuratively - here every day.  If you want to write, WRITE.  That's the advice I give my students and what I practice in my own life.)

Anyway... I asked my students to describe my "voice" and they brought to my attention that I have two "crutch words" if you will.

Crutch words (according to this article from The Atlantic Wire back in September) are "those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason. Quite often, they do little to add meaning, though. Sometimes we even use them incorrectly. Almost always, we don't need them at all, which doesn't mean we won't persist in using them" (Doll 2012).

So, according to my students my crutch words/phrases in the classroom are:

"Hilarious" -- I really do use this A LOT.  Basically, if someone says something that is funny, I don't always laugh.  Instead, I just say "hilarious" in a very distinct tone.  It has kind-of become an addiction, and now I'm afraid that people think I'm a little bit rude with it.  I hope not.  (Apparently, some of my students have even taken to calling it a "Mrs. Chapman" when someone says "hilarious" in conversation.)

And, "Does that make sense?" -- I say this probably 100 times day, no exaggeration.  I use it pretty much at the end of every single "teaching" statement. Sometimes I pause for a response, sometimes I just roll right on with it. I must be very annoying to listen to.

This got me thinking about my crutch words in blogging.  I think one of them is "literally," and another is "awesome."  I also over use ellipses (which, by the way, did you know you are supposed to have a space between each period? Like this: . . .  I NEVER do that!).  I'm not sure what else, but I'm sure there are more.

Do you have a crutch word?  Are you aware of it?  It's kind-of an interesting activity to ask someone to describe the way you speak -- or even just to look back over your own writing for trends.

Just something to do this weekend; you know, to avoid house and yard work. ;)

P.S. In just about an hour, I am officially going to meet one of my very first & best blog friends, Ashley from The Pollock Potluck and her little man Luke. We are going to Chickfila (obviously) so we can drink unlimited Diet Coke and let our kids share germs play in the playland.  To say I am excited would be a major understatement - it is creepy really.  ;) Look for pictures to come on Instagram.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Natural Make-Up for Freckle Faces

Alternately Titled: My (New & Improved) Make-up Routine

Well, you guys responded so well to yesterday's post about my hair, that I've just decided to become a full time Beauty-Blogger from here on out!!

HA.  Not a fat chance, don't worry!

Really though, I've been wanting to tell you about my amazing sister my new make-up routine thanks to my amazing sister.  Maybe, if you are beauty-product challenged like me and/or have an adult face with both freckles AND wrinkles (which is an awesome combination, really), you will learn something or be introduced to a new product here.  If not, well, hopefully you will tolerate my very long post on something I know very little about. ;)

Anyway, as you probably know, my sister is my beauty coach.  Seriously, she is.  I absolutely DO NOT buy any beauty products without consulting her first, and when she occasionally directs me to a particular product, I get it immediately.  She is a beauty product junkie, but I'm thankful for her addiction because I get lots of hand-me-downs (which is actually kind-of gross when you think about it) and she really does keep me (at least most of the time) in style.

Moving on... You might also remember that one of my 30 Before 30 items was to get a make-over and buy the make-up...WELL, consider it crossed off folks! (Only 24 more things to do in approximately in 11 months.  #Nobigdeal.)

A little background info before I show you my new face make-up...

My makeup routine (up until recently) took all of FIVE minutes (I'm not exaggerating) and involved: loose powder, bronzer (which I used all over my face and on my eyelids), blush, and cheap mascara.  And, although I'm quite proud of how "low maintence" I am, I have to admit that it was usually done sloppily and Jeff often had to "clean me up" in the car on our way out.  So, in an effort to not be a clown-mom that all of Sam's friends make fun of one day, I decided it really was time for a more grown-up face.  (My mom always said she was going to "put on her face" which we thought was hilarious because she clearly had a face without makeup.  Then one day I spent the night with a girlfriend who's mom happened to be a beauty queen and saw her sans makeup the next morning.  It turns out, she really did have to "put on" her face.  Anyway, I digress..)

For the last ten years or so, I've been a loyal Bare Escentuals user, but recently I had heard from several people that powder-based make-up like that actually isn't good for dry skin. (And, let me tell you, my skin is nothing if not DRY.)  I've also been more aware in the last year or so that my skin is beginning to show some age (at one point I thought I might look 8 forever) and I need to treat it well with moisturizer, SPF, and (maybe) washing it before bed.   

Enter Kathryn, Beauty Coach Extraordinaire.

Over Spring Break, when Sam and I visited her in Fredericksburg, Kathryn took me to Ulta and got to work.  I went without a stitch of make-up on and, thanks to the hard work of my sister and one of the "cosmetologists" (is that what you call them?) there, I left feeling like a beauty queen!  Or, at least like a prettier version of myself, which is really what I wanted. ;)

My only requirements were that the new make-up routine look natural, work with my freckles (I decided long ago to stop fighting them), and be relatively easy to put on (Mama needs her sleep in the morning!).

This is what my beauty coach came up with:
Natural Makeup for Freckle Faces

1. The Radiance Renewer Cleansing Gellee by Garnier (what is a Gellee?)
2. Laura Geller Spackle under make-up primer (I have it in Champagne)
3. Benefit Oxygen Hello Flawless liquid foundation (I have it in Ivory)
4. Benefit CORALista blush
5. Naked Basics palette by Urban Decay
6. NYX Slim Eye Pencil in Cafe
7. Stila Forever Your Curl Mascara (black - always, according to K)
8. NYX Born to Glow liquid illuminator
9. NYX Dewy Finish make-up setting spray
10. Garnier Soothing Remover Cleansing Towelettes (to use real quickly before bed)

A little (very awkward) Before/After action:
#Ipromisethereismoredifferenceinreallife #Samcouldnotcareless #supermodelpose #awkwardselfie
 And, finally... A few lessons I learned from my coach:

- Some items (like primer, foundation, and blush) are worth splurging on, while others (eyeliner, glimmer cream, etc.) are just fine in the cheapy drug-store variety.

- It is fine to mix and match brands of make-up.  Benefit is known for their skin/coverage products; while Stila has a great reputation for eyes.

- Liquid foundation really does make a difference in terms of how smooth and even your skin looks.  Also, a lot of progress has been made on this front since the last time I tried it out (which was approximately 1999 - no exaggeration) - it is light and natural looking.

- Applying liquid foundation with a brush (I use the same one I had from my Bare Minerals) is easy and gives an "airbrushed" look - which I guess is good

- Bronzer every day is not natural, neither is too much blush; a little bit of each goes a long way.

- For a natural looking eye, use a light color for all-over, highlight with one shade darker in the outer-corner crease, and use LIGHT eyeliner

In conclusion, I have been using my new products for about two weeks now.  I really like all of them, but especially the foundation, the blush, and the eyeliner.  Overall, it doesn't take that much longer than my old routine, and the make-up does seem to last a little bit longer on my face.  Also, I've gotten several compliments (mostly from my parents and Jeff), so it must be working out alright. :)

Ok... that is absolutely all I have on this subject. Thanks for sticking with me!
P.S. If you are in the Fredericksburg area, Kathryn offers beauty consultations for a small fee. (Kidding! Unless you really are in the area and want her to, then I'm not really kidding.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Use Hot Rollers

I straighten my hair every single morning (or at least six out of seven days - on the other day, I look like a squirrel).  It has taken me approximately ten years to master this, and I'm still working on blow-drying while holding a round brush... Baby steps.

In the meantime, the trend seems to be shifting back (go figure) towards fuller hair with big, loose curls these days. Think: Hollywood Glam; Country Music Awards; Disney Princesses.

While I have several friends with curly hair worth coveting, I've never actually met anyone with natural "big, loose, curls."  Enter: hot rollers.

My sister in law rolls her hair all the time, and my my mom & sis pull it off quite regularly.  I love the look - I think it is classy and romantic without being too "overdone." Something about a woman with a head full of rollers seems very "sophisticated" and "grown-up" to me - like something every girl should definitely know how to do by the time they are, say, 30.

But, as usual, I'm a bit behind on the curve... I struggle with rollers and seem to always end up with straight ends and burned fingers  (not to mention a bad mood).

It turned out OK here, but still not great; and, it was a lot of work.  I am lazy.
Can you relate?  (Please tell me I'm not alone!)  If so, you will probably enjoy this great tutorial video from Olay on "How to Use Hot Rollers." (And, if not, you should still watch to find out details about winning $$$ anyway*.)

Take a look:

Seems easy enough, right?  Perhaps I will give it another go this weekend...

Do you roll your hair?  Straighten?  What is your go-to do?

*Details on sweepstakes here and official rules here.
** I am receiving compensation for this post, but all opinions are exclusively mine. FYI.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

32 Things I Am Thankful For

It has been six years since the shooting at Virginia Tech (which is less than a hour from my house and Jeff's alma mater).  In some ways, it feels like just yesterday; but, in others, if it feels like a lifetime ago... I wish I could write that our world is better today, that I believe we have made strides against violence and moved towards love; but, especially in the shadows of yesterday's bombing in Boston and the Newtown shooting in December, it is hard to find a positive spin.  There is still so much hurting and so many unanswered questions.

Still, in the past six years... I have started my first teaching job, gotten married, raised a puppy, bought a house, earned my Master's degree, driven across the country, and become a mom.  My life has been full and covered in joy. 

I say my prayers and I try to be grateful everyday, but the truth is that sometimes I do get caught up in what feels "hard" to me and focus on the "messes" and the not great things in my life.  I can be such a brat.

But, rather than feeling guilty, I am choosing, today, to pause to remember that even on my "bad" days, I have SO much that others do not. 

I have been thinking about how I want to honor the victims of that day, and decided this morning (actually on the advice of our local radio DJs) that the best thing I can do is to be THANKFUL.

So, today, as a tribute to the 32 people that died in Blacksburg six years ago, I am remembering 32 things I am thankful for:

1. An amazing husband that is my perfect match and best friend

2. My silly little boy, who has taught me to love like I never knew I could and makes me smile a hundred times each day

3. Incredible parents who have given me a million opportunities, supported everything I've ever done,  and taught me the importance of family and fun in all things

4. A close close friendship with my sister - my first (and closest) friend, my beauty coach, my "first call" in good or bad

5. An "second" family in Jeff's parents, brother, and sister-in-law that I adore and feel wholly a part of

6.  My eleven college girlfriends - "my people," regardless of time or distance apart

7. Amanda - my oldest friend; a constant through all of life's changes

8. Our neighbors and the opportunities Sam has to live in community and play with kids his age

9. Sam's babysitter, Jennifer - who loves my boy so well and makes me feel confident going to work every morning

10. A house full of toys and dog hair

11. Addy - the best darn dog EVER

12. A job that I genuinely like and students that I love

13. Our church and the wide net of prayers and support from fellow Believers

14.  My blog, the beautiful people I have come to know and love here, and the freedom to write

15. Warm water to bathe Sam in every night and take a shower every morning

16. Unlimited cell phone minutes and internet access to make the world seem small

17. My lifelong relationship with my Poppy - and his 4PM visits with a tangerine for Sam

18. Chickfila sandwiches and playlands

19. Coffee and sweet creamer

20. The park right behind our house

21. Target and the freedom I have to waste time (and money) there

22. My health

23. Good books and time to read them

24.  Sam's ever-growing vocabulary

25. Fresh berries & diet soda in the fridge

26. Music class on Monday nights and the look on my boy's face when he plays the drums

27. Watching Sam dance

28. The opportunity to travel and see beautiful parts of the world

29. My education

30. More laundry than I can keep up with

31. Four beautiful seasons

32. Hope in God's grace and the knowledge that I am loved

Will you join me in this as a tribute and reminder?  What are you thankful for?   (If you make your own list of 32 things, please leave a link the comments so I can visit.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little Boy Shoes on GroopDealz - Hurry!

I don't do this very often, but I had to share this great deal on GroopDealz today:

In case you don't keep up with the latest toddler fashion trends*, these things are the much-cooler cousin to Crocs (which, everyone hates until they have a toddler boy - am I right?). I ordered Sam a pair of lime green and a pair of red.  I can't wait to see his chubby little feet in them!

*Ok, in all fairness, I didn't know a thing about these shoes until a few weeks ago when AP wrote this post on boy-shoes. I might have even thought they looked dorky, but AP has great style - so, you know.  Plus, since then, I've seen these all over the trendy-toddler world. ;) Apparently, there is a much more expensive name brand of these things, but I'm all about a knock-off bargain. 

There are only five hours left on the sale, and lots of colors and sizes are already sold out - but at $11 a pop - you gotta check it out

Don't have a little boy? Fear not! GroopDealz is my absolute FAVORITE spot for inexpensive trendy jewelry like these bubble necklaces on sale for $8.95 & free shipping.  I know... You can thank me later!

 PS. No one paid me - or even gave me a discount - to write any of this. Promise.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blog Gems 4/7 - 4/13

Hey, thanks for your comments yesterday.  They all make me smile, and feel normal (at least mostly - ha), and want to invite you all over to my house for cupcakes or something.  Anyway, I love you guys.  Yesterday was better, and today it is the weekend.  I will take it. :)

Who doesn't love chubby, grass-stained little feet?

Now, another good week in the blogosphere (and other places)... Here are some of my favorites:

"On Passing Down Faith: An Unofficial Guide by Amanda on A Deeper Story

"Simple Home, Simple Life?" by Simple Mom

"What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health" on A Holy Experience

"Top Ten Ways I Was a Perfect Mom Until I Had Kids" by Carrie Goldman for The Huffington Post

"What I Didn't Expect to Feel after Chidbirth" by Christie O. Tate for The Huffington Post
(How good is Huff Post, btw?)

"5 Ways to Cultivate Friendships" on Allume

And a great post on staying because God said so from Courtney Digman for On the Heights

Also, while we are on the subject of really good blogging, I've nominated my friend Erika's powerful "Letter to New Moms on Infertility" for Blogher's 2013 Voices of the Year.  First, if you haven't already, you must go read the post.  It is life-changing, or at the very least, heart-changing.  Then, please take a second and go vote for her right here.  Thank you!!!  (If you are member of Blogher - and anyone can sign up - be sure to nominate your favorite/best posts too here.  I'd LOVE to see you in Chicago in July!!)

Have a great weekend!

P.S. When do you read blogs?  I've realized since my break that reading blogs is one of the great time sucks for me.  I love it, but it can be sooo bad too.  I'm considering only allowing it on the weekends, and just using that time to browse, catch up, etc. but I have major FOMO (fear of missing out).  Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Deep Thoughts on a Thursday Night (not really)

Disclaimer: I feel the need to apologize in advance for this post. It has been one of those days, and I'm currently sitting in Starbucks drinking iced coffee (my body hardly even reacts to caffeine anymore, in case you are wondering) because my husband is amazing; and, I'm feeling a little scattered and a lot like just writing tonight. So bear with me... This is going to be a lot of words to get to some (not very) deep thoughts...

Today started out on a high note because I didn't have to fly out of bed at 6AM to run around the house like a chicken with my head cut off trying to at least pick up my dirty socks and put away the remnants of the previous night's dinner before the babysitter arrived.  (It is worth noting here that the reason I didn't have remnants to pick up is because we had a family date night at the local Sam's Club snack bar for dinner Wednesday night.  Yes, I just admitted that.) Anyway, instead, I slept in until  6:30 and then ran around like a chicken with my head cut-off in order to be teaching by 7:30.  Either way, I actually blow-dried my hair and wore a decently cute outfit (which is an accomplishment these days), so I deemed it a success.

Work was good too.  Have I mentioned lately that I love my job?  I'm teaching Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade which, truly, brings out the full-on English teacher nerd in me.  I love teaching it.  (Don't be confused though, I'm no Shakespeare aficionado - I've just been refining my lesson plan for this unit since my student teaching days, and it is pretty darn good ifidosaysomyself). Also, my tenth graders started this book today - which had them really interested and involved and (thanks to our all-sorts-of-mixed-up-weather) we got to sprawl out on the lawn and read in the 80 degree sunshine. Not a bad way to bring home the bacon. ;)

Later in the day, after Sam's nap, we took a walk in his wagon with our friends down the street, which was nice... until one of the other neighbors stopped us to congratulate me on my pregnancy.  (#notpregnant) In her defense, there are four of us young moms in one block on our street - and two of them are pregnant; but still... Just never do that, ok?

When I got home, I had a sudden burst of energy and decided (perhaps motivated by the pregnancy comment) to make a healthy dinner for us tonight.  I had salmon filets in the freezer (first mistake), a maple-dijon glaze recipe I'd been wanting to try for a while, and a new Barney video on Amazon Prime for Sam.  Anyway, I worked really hard on it; but, the fish turned out pale and slimy, Sam got bored of Barney and extra whiney, and Jeff was late coming home from work...  End result: We  picked at our plates for a while and then agreed that cereal was probably a better option.  Sam's Club one night and cereal the next - just call me Susie Homemaker. ;)

After "dinner," I announced that I needed some me time and headed to Target alone. Dream.

I had a fleeting low moment when I got there and realized my yoga pants were literally covered in dirty little hand prints; but, I got over that and quickly found my mo-jo again when I witnessed a mom go through the Target doors with her two little boys and head directly to the snack-bar where she purchased a large popcorn and Hawaiian punch to, presumably, sedate her kids while she shopped.  I think this is kind-of pathetic of me, but simply seeing that made me SO happy.  I love being in the mama club.  I love that we can "fake" it all we want, but we are all just doing the best we can. (Luckily for her, I busied myself in the jewelry section and resisted the urge to run up and hug her and say something along the lines of "I fed my son an unwashed strawberry yesterday, AND I've been wondering how young was too young to eat Target popcorn! Thank you!"  Self.control.) 

I browsed for over an hour, spent too much money (who has ever left Target without doing that?), and felt guilty.  But, I did get this cute shirt and some fun gifts for some friends about to have babies... So, I didn't feel that bad.

And, now, here I am at Starbucks...  When I bought my drink, I could have sworn I gave the man a 10 for my $4.00 bill (which may or may not have included a chocolate cake-pop #andiwonderwhypeoplethinkiampregnant), but he swore I gave him a 5.  We went back and forth for a few seconds, and it was awkward; but, in the end, I let him win... Then, I sat down at my table and checked my Target receipt and - well - it turns out there was absolutely no way I gave the guy a ten dollar bill.  I was wrong all along.  Worst... So, I had to go back and apologize and, for some reason,   it made me want to burst into tears.  #Whatiswrongwithme? #IpromiseIamnotpregnant!

This is the part where I need to admit that sometimes I really miss my "really stressful" college life...  Sometimes, I long to live with all my best friends in a big house and only really have my bedroom to keep neat again.  I miss being able to blow all my month's budget on one shopping trip and not really have to worry about it (except for knowing that I'd have to eat Ramen for a few weeks).  I miss having five hours to sit at Starbucks if I want to and being able to call it "studying."  I miss weighing 130 pounds and thinking that was fat.  It's funny how, in every stage it seems, I think I am so busy and so overwhelmed, and then the next stage makes that one look like a piece of cake (or a cake pop as the case may be).  I wonder if, one day, when I have a house full of teenagers, I will remember the days of only having one baby and working part-time, and think I had it so easy....

Anyway... I'm home now.  And, you know what?  My house is quiet.  Sam has been bathed and put to bed, the kitchen has been cleaned, and Jeff is sitting on the back deck having a beer with one of the neighbors (apparently both were on "dad duty" tonight and our boys had a wild evening of playing with the hose while I was gone).   Yes, my suitcase is still not unpacked from our trip to Fredericksburg almost a week ago, and I spent the entire hour I had at Starbucks blogging and not crossing one single thing off of my to-do list; but, our life is SO good. Despite all the ups and downs in a day, I wouldn't change a single thing about where I am right now.  Really.

Tomorrow is another day... Even better, it is a Friday and I won't have to wake up and frantically clean the kitchen in the morning (for the second day in a row!).  Tomorrow, I will go to a job I love.  Then, I will come home to a house that feels more like a home than I ever could have imagined it would.  I will take Sam to the playground behind us, and we will meet friends on the sidewalk out front.  Jeff will pick up a Little Caesar's deep dish pizza for dinner (because we hear they are really good and we may as well end the week with a bang, right?), and we will watch a movie after Sam goes to bed.

I will crawl into bed in a minute and remember how blessed I am. I will thank God for this life and smile realizing that it is exactly the life I dreamed about when I was in college.  It is good.

The end.  And happy Friday (tomorrow)!

Cavities After Pregnancy

Pregnancy does weird things to you.  I'm talking really weird things - as if anything is weirder than your stomach stretching out to hold a seven pound human being for nine months - like the fact that my hair has gotten darker (and grayer),  I have new freckles/sunspots, and my feet grew a half size.    Over the course of the last two years or so, these lovely little reminders of pregnancy have made their appearance one by one.  Each has prompted some head scratching, and taken some getting used to, but they seem minor enough. (And, I think this goes without saying, but totally worth it.  Duh.)

Anyways, the latest post-pregnancy symptom - however - has been the most inconvenient, costly, and painful (not to mention generally gross/embarrassing): I get a lot more cavities than I used to before being pregnant/having a baby.

Dear Sam,
I have gladly given you my entire mid-section, my feet, my hair, my time, and my sanity --- Could you maybe back off of my teeth?  Trust me when I say you don't want to be the kid who's mom has no teeth! Thanks for your consideration.
Here are the facts:  I've never had a perfect dental track-record; but, before I had Sam I had only I had three cavities EVER (one of which was actually during my pregnancy, come to think of it) But, in the last two years, I've had two MAJOR cavities that almost led to needing root canals and (I'm pretty sure) another one in the making now.  Plus, my latest dental x-rays showed several "dangerous" looking spot.  Weird right?

At first, it never occurred to me that I could actually blame pregnancy for this too.  I figured, reasonably, that it was a result of too much coffee, diet coke, and general sugary foods finally catching up with me.  I scolded myself (silently), and bought Jeff and I both fancy electric toothbrushes for Christmas.   We also bought a water-flosser (very fancy), and I felt hopeful that I could turn that train around.

But, honestly?  It didn't help much.

So, after my second round of major dental work a few months ago... I started Googling (naturally).  And, I was actually shocked to find that some studies suggest there is a legitimate link between pregnancy hormones and dental damage.  WHAaa?

Check out some of these sources:

"The Claim: Gain a Child, Lose a Tooth" (New York Times, 2007)
*Somehow I had never heard that wives tale before.

"Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates" (US News, 2008)

"Why Women Are More Prone to Cavities" (NBC News, 2008)

"Dental Health During Pregnancy" (Mayo Clinic, 2009)

And these don't include the hundreds of dental blogs and mom message boards discussing the topic...

Since I started asking around, I've discovered that actually A LOT of my friends have had similar experiences with their teeth.  It seems that some dentists are open about "blaming" pregnancy for dental problems, while others are still skeptical and say any correlation is more because of pregnancy cravings and bad habits that develop in new moms (like too much coffee and soda).  Either way, it is interesting and worth a thought.

So tell me... Did your pregnancy affect your teeth? What other unusual "symptoms" have you had post-pregnancy?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confession Time

I really should write these "as I go" because I am constantly doing things that make me think "oh, I must confess this," but then my mind always goes blank when I sit down to write!  Either way, there has been plenty of hot mess up in this place lately. ;)

- I frequent the mall playground way more than I care to admit.  This is one of those germ-infested-stinky-sock-smelling places that I absolutely would have turned my nose up at before I became a boy-mom.  Now, we probably go there once every other week so Sam can run, climb, slide, and fall until his heart is content.  Plus, it is an added bonus that Ann Taylor Loft and The Gap are a mere steps away.  Yes, I still think it is pretty gross, but one can only eat play in the play-land at Chickfila so often, and mommy gets desperate on cold yucky days.  Thank goodness spring might finally be making its grand entrance!

- I let my child eat unwashed (gasp) strawberries while I grocery shopped yesterday.  A girl can't win, you know?  My friend - another mama I ran into at the store - let her little one eat Krispy Kreme donuts to keep him quietly seated in the cart; so, I felt that surely I was doing better than that (not that I'm above a sugar-induced coma when the situation calls for it).  But, no.  According to a kind little old lady - who clearly got dressed up in her Sunday-finest for a trip to the local Kroger - "Strawberries are the worst because of all those little pores for pesticides."  And then she added, "I hope your mommy washed that before she gave it to you,  you cute thing" before touching his face (which, I believe, is also kind-of unhealthy) and walking away.  Awesome.

- Speaking of sugar-induced comas, Sam threw an absolute fit in a gas station when I attempted to take a half-eaten bag of gummies from his grubby hands to have the man scan the barcode at the register.  Dear son, thank you so much for drawing attention to the frazzled mom in the front who lets her kid eat junk food and has no control over his behavior. I treasure opportunities to be humbled in public.

- Sometimes Jeff and I let Sam sit in the bathtub until the water gets way too cool and then completely forget to actually clean him.  Oops.  (And, don't worry, we are in there with him... We just have so much fun playing with him and catching up with each other during bath time, that our priorities get mixed up sometimes.  We aren't that bad of parents.)

- I am wearing black winter pants with a spring top and spring shoes today. I also did not blow-dry my hair.  #fashionfauxpas #wiww #hideous

-  And, finally, I think this photo that I posted on Instagram Sunday speaks for itself...

Hilarious - and disgusting - right?

So, apparently I need to start monitoring my child's diet a bit more closely... What are your confessions today? Please share them below or post a link to your own Midweek Confessions blog post!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gone Girl

Have you read it?

I don't mess around with claims like this, but this (seriously) is one of the best books I've read ever.  If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and get thee to a book store NOW.

Warning: This book will cause you to become a terrible wife, mother, homemaker, and otherwise functional member of society.  (Just ask Jeff - I read this thing like my life depended on it from cover to cover.)  Also, I should probably say that it isn't exactly a "light" read or a "feel good" kind-of story; but that Gillian Flynn - she is GOOD.

Oh geez Louise, I just saw (when Googling an image for this post) that a movie based on the book starring Reese Witherspoon is already in the works.  Somebody get me some water, I'll never survive until its release date.

That is all.

Confessions tomorrow!

 P.S. I also read memoirs from 3.5 (I'm still working on Carry On, Warrior!) bloggers last month.  Look for a round-up/review of those soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Being the Mama SAM Needs (Repost/Update)

Friends, Sam and I have a it-snows-one-day-and-is-70-degrees-the-next seasonal cold.  That, combined with the end-of-spring-break-blues, makes me rather "blah" today.  BUT, fear not... I have something to share:

Below is a combination re-post/update from my "31 Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Motherhood" series from October 2012.  I was honored to share it on Blog-o-holl*ic back at the end of March as part of Hollie's amazing Month 4 Moms, and I wanted to post it here today.  It is always so good for me to look back and remember how far I have come since those first months of motherhood and be reminded that the whole thing is a journey, not a destination.  Hope you will enjoy!

Ok, confession time (because that's kind-of my specialty): Before I became a mom, I judged other women for not keeping up with their friends after having a baby,  not controlling their crying baby in public, not having their baby on a schedule, or simply not being able to keep their kid from being covered in snot and spit-up all the time.  *I promise, I wasn't a total jerk.  I was just naive and stupid.

Then, I became one of those moms.  Yep, it happens to the best of us.

The truth is, I thought I knew what kind of mom I would be.  Shoot, I'd been babysitting since I was 11, stalking mom blogs for years, and reading parenting books like it was my job for at least nine months.  I subconsciously labeled the mom in front of my at Chick-fila as "good" or "bad" in the ten seconds it took me to observe her lunch order, kids' behavior, and her own personal hygiene.  

Ask me about my birth plan, and I had NO idea.  But, ask me my philosophy on feeding or sleeping or discipline and I was all over it. I could almost see my new life with my wonderful husband, perfectly decorated nursery, and my very own bundle of joy (who would always smell like baby powder, wear all Baby Gap, and eat only organic food).

Instead, my sweet bundle of joy had colic and absolutely NO respect for a schedule - or any of my other plans for that matter. I never slept (much less showered), I drank way too much caffeine for a breastfeeding mom, I let my infant in my bed, he wore (gasp) white Gerber onesies 90% of the time, and my current "best friend" was the pacifier.   After almost having a nervous breakdown at about three weeks in, I realized I could either drive myself CRAZY trying to be the mom I wanted to be thought I was going to be; or, I could just love the baby I was given and become the mama he needed. Thankfully, for all parties involved, I chose the latter (sometimes grudgingly).

At one week.
At nine months.
Now, 20 months into this mothering gig, I am NOTHING like the mom I thought would be. I am messier, and tireder, and a lot less organized. But, I am also more fun, more relaxed, and a lot less judgmental than I was

Eighteen Months

As Sam quickly approaches his second birthday this summer(how is that even possible?), I am so aware of how much I have changed.  Probably the most important (and hardest) lesson I've learned on this journey is to  focus on being the mom your baby needs, NOT the mom you thought you'd be.   The last 21 months have been a process of letting go of some of the hopes, expectations, and "fantasies" I had about being a mom, but it has been so good.  SO good..

I know now that Sam deserves a mom who believes she is good at being his mom. I am not the perfect mom, and I sure as heck won't be writing any manuals anytime soon; but, I am exactly what my boy needs.  Today, I like the mom (and the person) I am SO much more than the mom I thought I was going to be. Today, things are just as they are supposed to be.  Today, Sam is happy and loved, and he has a mom that isn't afraid to dole out healthy doses of grace - to a rebellious little guy, the mom beside her on the park bench, and even to herself.

How are you different from the mom you thought you would be?  Please share below!
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