Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 Sponsor Gift Guide & Black Friday Deals

Happy Black Friday friends! I hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday and are still feeling FULL of thanks (and turkey) this morning...

Black Friday isn't America's finest hour, you know?  I mean, the irony of the fact that the day after a holiday meant to focus on being grateful for what we have is the greediest day of the year, is not lost on me.  Rest assured. 

Of course, I'm also not judging...  You know I appreciate a good shopping day as much (or more) as the next guy, and for years I got my own little adrenaline rush from braving the crowds and tackling for deals on this day.  Besides, we are mostly shopping for other people anyway, right? :)

Alas, this year, for the first time in - well, EVER - I am actually almost finished with my Christmas shopping already (#callitaChristmasmiracle  #orjustalateThanksgiving), so today will be mostly spent relaxing, decorating, and.... GLUED TO MY LAPTOP FOR ONLINE DEALS!!!

Here are some (of the many) advantages to online shopping in my book:
- Pajamas
- Free coffee
- The ability to "be" in several stores at one time (through the beauty of open tabs, obviously)
- MUCH wider variety than what's available in our local mall
- More original and handmade gifts (which, tend to be, more meaningful ad well-made imho)
- No crowds
- No stroller
- Pajamas
- Free coffee

Have I convinced you that this is the way to go yet?

I LOVE online shopping, and I love finding a good deal, free shipping, or a coupon code even more!  So, today, because I love you (and them), I'm sharing some of my very favorite gift ideas from my very wonderful sponsors WITH some great coupon codes and deals especially for Black Friday and/or E, Myself, and I readers.  Are you ready?!?!

Let's do this...

1/2/3/4
1/2/3/4
1/2/3
And, don't miss these special Black Friday deals!

Lil Sweetie Designs -10% OFF with code EMI10

Ever Arizona -15% OFF with code EMYSELFANDI

Bersama - Buy one scarf, get one HALF OFF in the month of December

One Delightful Button - Everything 35% OFF with code BLACKFRIDAY

Perch Shop - FREE SHIPPING on all knots (only) with code KNOTFREE

Room to Romp - FREE SHIPPING with code EMIFREESHIP

Boy Oh Boy - 25% OFF your purchase of $10 or more with code BLACKFRIDAY through 12/3

Shared Joy - Spend $25, get a FREE headband AND 15% OFF with code THANKYOU


Now... Go pour yourself another cup of coffee and start crossing people off of your list!! :)


P.S. Stay Tuned...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank FULL

Colossians 2: 6-7 (The Message)
 "My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving."

 

Happy Thanksgiving!! 

I hope your day is FULL of rest and time with people you love, 
your belly is FULL of good food, 
and your hearts FULL of thanks.




P.S. Will you please pray for sweet Annie?  She lives  in Nashville right now, but she is from Roanoke and her momma and sister are loyal blog readers.  Monday, she had surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and they found cancer.  They will find out the results of 18+ biopsies on Tuesday so our prayer is that it has NOT spread (#prayforstage1).  Thanks friends!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Midweek Confessions: Thanksgiving Edition


- I specifically wore my very favorite, fresh from the laundry, jeans TODAY to stretch them out for TOMORROW.

- It was my turn to "host" Thanksgiving this year, but I totally obliged when my mom offered to do it instead.  I used to love to host things like that; but, lately, just the thought of all the work to prepare and the clean up afterwards makes me exhausted.  This will also be the first year in four that I am not even decorating a table.  I'm basically just showing up tomorrow with my two pies and my broccoli casserole and calling it a day.  #notsorry #lazy #blameitonthetoddler

- My favorite Thanksgiving food is sauerkraut.  That's really weird for some people, but we eat it every year and smelling it cooking in the crock pot all morning is one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

- I'm eating lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant with my sister today and having a "fondue party" with Jeff's family tonight.  So much for eating light to gear up for turkey.

- If it is too cold tomorrow morning (which it is probably going to be), I'm seriously considering calling the registration fee a gift and skipping the 5K family walk we are all signed up for.

Got confessions? Want to join?  Please link up below!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkeys for Everyone!

Remember a few weeks ago when I became an award winning chef?!?  (I know, it is hard even for me to remember... Thankfully, Jeff put my Food Lion Frugal Cook-off trophy proudly on display in the kitchen to remind me while I'm burning making grilled cheese.)

Well, as I mentioned in this post, part of my prize involved a $250.00 Food Lion gift card for myself and another one to give away.  We do a lot of giveaways here and they are always super fun; but, this time, I really wanted to help someone that NEEDED the prize.  As you know, I put a call out at the end of the post and ended up hearing from Carissa at the local branch of Feeding America - a nationwide network of food banks and other resources committed to ending hunger.

Feeding America Southwest Virginia serves 26 counties in my area and provides food to more than 147,000 people who are food insecure... As you might imagine, the holidays are particularly difficult for many and my $250 could go a long way towards helping make this Thanksgiving a little sweeter for them.

Jeff and I talked and, ultimately, we decided to send all $500.00 to Carissa.  As it turned out, I actually got the original $100 gift card for participating too and - let's be honest - that is ALL I expected to get.  Sure, we could use the $250, but we didn't need it.

So.... Thanksgiving Turkeys for everyone!!!



This morning, I received the following from Carissa:

Thank you, truly, for your gift! We have a program in Abingdon called the “Harvest Home Kitchen” that will be preparing dinners to go ON Thanksgiving Day—we have volunteers who donate their time to provide for over 300 families who would otherwise go hungry on this day of plenty for so many others.  Your gift will directly impact these people, and bring a little joy to the lives of so many who are struggling to get by.  We will be able to purchase enough turkeys to serve the people we expect, as well as plenty of sides and fixin’s to make a wholesome and nutritious dinner for them.

She also shared with me the story of sweet Elizabeth, a widowed grandmother who has taken in her three young grandsons on no income beyond a small pension and received meals from the Feeding America Soup Kitchen in Abington regularly.  This money doesn't just go to a pie in the sky --- it is putting a Thanksgiving meal on the table for Elizabeth, her family, and hundreds of other like her.

Photo Credit


I'm sharing this today because I know there is a lot of talk in the internet world about bloggers receiving compensation for things, about sponsored posts, and people being "sell outs."  Those things are - sadly - sometimes the reality.  BUT, there is another side to that coin too...

I am thankful for Food Lion and the chance to participate in such a fun event and win a great prize.  I am thankful for Feeding America and the work they are doing to care for those in need all over the country.  I am thankful that I have the luxuries of a warm home and too much food this Thanksgiving.  And, I am thankful for this community - for continuing to provide a small space for me to share my life and, hopefully, make a small difference.


Stay warm and get your confessions ready for tomorrow!!!  

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Greedy Grown-up Christmas List

Happy Monday guys! Hope you all had a great weekend... It got REALLY cold here, so much so that even I had to resist the urge to turn on the Christmas music and light up the tree. ;) They are calling for snow and freezing rain tonight; so, maybe my already short week will be even shorter?!?

Anyway... I took a few minutes to put together my own Christmas wish list just for fun and thought I'd share it today in case you wanted to send me something (#TOTALLYkidding)

These are some of the things that have been taunting me on other people's gift guides etc. all month long (and, *hint*hint* you might see a couple of them in my Get and Give Away that will be announced on Monday)!

What's on your wish list? Go ahead, be honest!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Working Mom: Ashley (on Being a SAHM)

I know, maybe that title was a little bit confusing... Allow me to explain:

This is the last official post of the "Working Mom" series we've been running here for the last month or so.  It has been SUCH a blessing to me and - based on the comments and feedback I've received from many of you - an encouraging and much-needed conversation for LOTS of working mommas out there.  I still really believe that this is an area the blog world is lacking in, and I'm thankful for the voices of so many wonderful mommas telling their stories and sharing tips on how they "make it work" for their families every day.

BUT, more than anything, if I've learned one thing through this series, it is that we are ALL working moms.  Whether we spend our days wearing high heels or yoga pants, sitting at a desk or on the floor, or carrying a briefcase or diaper bag - NONE of us ever get to "clock out" from being momma.  I have learned that we are a STRONG community of moms that love their kids something fierce, will do whatever is best for our families, and our BIGGEST tip/trick/tool is EACH OTHER...

With that said, today, I'm welcoming my dear blog friend Ashley to share some thoughts for "working" mommas from her perspective as a Stay at Home Mom... I hope that those of you that work outside of the home will take to heart some of her words and change your "perception" of the life of a SAHM; and, I hope that those of you that don't work outside the home but have faithfully read this series in support of those that do, will feel loved, respected, and understood here too.  We are ALL in this together!! :)

Ok... let's do this:

Hi friends! 


I'm Ashley, a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mama who blogs her life (and lots of really bad pictures) at The Pollock Potluck. Like many of you, I now define myself as a "mama" before anything else. My children have been the biggest blessing in my life and I feel so fulfilled in my role as a stay-at-home mommy.


When E asked me to write a post on behalf of the stay-at-home moms, I felt both honored and overwhelmed. I love E, and the fact that she asked me to write & share with her readers makes me feel like a million bucks. But speaking on a topic that covers such a HUGE realm of the blog world is very intimidating. Yes, I'm a stay-at-home mom to a toddler and another little lady due any day, but I've only done this gig for a little over two years now. I don't even have tenure! However, I have learned a few thing along the way and wanted to share from my perspective. So here we go...

A Note to a Working Mom from a SAHM

I've got mom friends who work part-time, mom friends who work full-time and other mom friends who have chosen to stay home full-time. Though we all define our "work" differently, we each have the common denominator of mama. Yes, we dress very differently for our jobs. Yes, our daily tasks can be worlds apart. And I'm betting your planner looks far different from mine. But you know what? We're actually not that different at all. Here are some truths I think we can all agree on:

1.) The perfectly clean house is an illusion. You'll never get there, so stop while you're ahead. Unless you & the rest of your family spend your waking hours elsewhere and do nothing more than sleep in your home, you'll never have a *perfectly* clean house. Yes, even moms who "stay at home all day" can't keep up with the housework! GIVE IT UP. The spotless windows and crumbless floors are not worth the stress and missed memories.

2.) Motherhood is hard, regardless of where you spend your time. For those who work outside of the home, I imagine you might feel guilty for leaving your precious littles to actually take some "personal time."  For those of us who spend our days at home, it's a daily struggle to find balance between "mom" and "me." We all struggle to find the balance, even though the weights on either end of our balance might vary. Let's stop trying to argue over who has it harder and just wave the white flag together. This mom thing? It's hard!

3.) Being a stay-at-home mom comes with a huge basket of UNREALISTIC expectations. Whether it's society, history, family, whatever, everyone has a certain stigma of the stay-at-home-mom. They think she can do it all, while still making homemade pies and welcoming guests to a perfectly tidy house at the drop of a hat. I'm here to tell you that if you drop by my house unexpectedly, I'll probably either (a) hide and pretend like nobody's home or (b) open the door to reveal a hot mess of a house. But most likely option (a). We all try to fit the molds set before us but the truth is no one mama perfectly fits those molds. Yes, I stay home with my son all day. No, I don't wear pjs and eat bon bons every day. Just like not everyone who wears a suit to work does the same thing, not all stay-at-home moms fit the same mold. Throw out your expectations of what you think your role "should" look like and begin to craft the one that works best for you.

4.) Not all stay-at-home moms "have it all." I often hear other moms say, "oh I wish I could stay home with my son/daughter/children but we just can't afford it." Newsflash? I'm a stay-at-home mom who "can't afford it." My husband and I have made huge sacrifices to live off just his income and it's not easy. It's hard for me to see so many of my fellow stay-at-home-mom friends building new houses, wearing the latest Target trends and drinking Starbucks every week. I'm not in their shoes but that doesn't mean that I don't "have it all." Know that staying home to raise a family isn't just a choice; it's also a calling. And sometimes that calling trumps all the other voices of circumstance and reason.

5.) God specifically designed each one of us to meet the unique needs of our families. Your family may need you to supply a second income by working outside of the home. My family needs me to be at home to best meet their needs. Regardless of where we "work," we were all created to be mamas, and that is the most important role we will ever fill.
To the working mom, know that those of us in the "stay-at-home mom" category respect you and your decisions. And quite often, if we're really honest, we wish we could switch places with you! There's no judgement on our part as to the kind of mama you are based on where you spend your days. We're all in this mom thing together. 

And now a little Q&A with E because I didn't ramble enough already ;) 

E: What do you think is the biggest misconception that working moms have of SAHMs? 
A: I guess it's the simple notion that what I do isn't "work." Have you seen this ecard that's all over Pinterest and Facebook?  It says "I hear you.  Raising kids and running a house keep me busy, too.  I also have this little gig on the side called a full time job." Ugh. Talk about a slap in the face. I get so angry when I see these little quotes that throw another log onto the  fire we call the 'mommy wars'. To the working mom, I don't doubt that you have a TON on your plate, managing a home, a family and a job outside of the home. Similarly, please don't discredit what I do all day. Staying home is a job that can be ugly & miserable and beautifully wonderful all in the same day.  Yes, my job has the perks of a flexible schedule, occasional naptimes, & an 'anything goes' wardrobe.  But, your job probably has perks as well, including bonuses, vacation time, and healthcare just to name a few.  Staying home to raise a family is most definitely a "job" in and of itself. 

E: What do you wish working moms knew about your role as a SAHM? 
A: That it's hard. For me personally, staying home full-time is the hardest job I'll ever have. Prior to staying home I was an inclusion kindergarten teacher. I taught 45 kindergarteners (two classes, each half-day), many of which were students with special needs. I was used to 11 hours workdays, rarely got more than 15 minutes for a lunch break and saw little recognition for all the time, sweat & tears I invested. But compared with staying home all day? It was cake. Don't get me wrong: I love staying home to raise my children, but I can't quite put into words well enough the challenges of staying home all day. The days are long. There are days on end where I don't have any adult interaction from 7am-6pm. My performance-oriented personality type struggles with the fact that days, and even weeks can go by with little fruit to show for my "work." It's been a humbling experience to stay home the past two years but I've learned so much about myself and my heart.

E:  What words of encouragement do you have for working mommas? 
A: YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB. True, I probably don't know you, but I applaud those of you who manage to keep it all together both inside and outside of the home. I can't even get to the library on time, let alone imagine getting myself and my family out the door on time for a 9-5 job everyday. Stop questioning if you're doing "enough." Stop feeling bad that you don't have the time to make every Pinterest crafts. You were created to be both a coworker and a mom. Embrace it! And remember that nobody can fill the role of mama as well as you. God set you apart specifically for your children. 

E: What insecurities come up in you when you talking to/ spending time with a mom in a different working situation from yours? 
A: I love this question. When I first drafted this post, I sent it to E and asked, "Does this post sound like an apology letter?!" In all honestly, I often feel like I have to defend my role as a stay-at-home mom. I know some of my working mom friends think that I have it so easy and just don't understand the rigors of a working mom. Just last night I read the Facebook status of a friend who posted that she was going crazy with her two-year-old son who was having 'one of those days' and she couldn't believe her husband had left her alone with said son for two whole hours. I couldn't help but laugh. Two hours? Try being left alone with the screaming monster for 11 hours with no relief. I wish there was less of a battle between who has it harder and more of an understanding that we both "work" equally as hard, just in different capacities. 

E: What do you wish a working mom would say to you?  How could she encourage you? 
A: Honestly? A simple "Let's go get coffee" or "Want to hang out?" I'm not looking for sympathy or recognition for the job that I do. Just like you, it's one that I chose and I do it because I love it. Instead, I wish we could toss out  all the different "working" adjectives that preface moms and just be moms.

THANKS GIRL!

Are you a stay at home mom?  
How would you answer those last questions?  
Let's chat...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Working Mom: Katie (on Working from Home)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)
First, are you SO tired of reading that opening thing?  (I know, you quit reading it a long time ago, but even just looking at it, right?) I'm sorry!  I will know better next time. (And, yes, I could just stop posting it, but the rule-follower/OCD in me won't let me stop midway through. #iknowimafreak)

Second, today you get to hear from my blog-friend Katie.  She is an awesome momma to two adorable little girls, and she also works a full-time job from home. I really want this series to be as all-inclusive as possible, and I think this is a very misunderstood and under-represented group of "working mommas" that need a voice.  So, here we go!

This is not what you think it is. Well, maybe it is. I just promise not to tell you that moms should stay home. Or that moms should go to work. Or that one thing is better than another, or that anyone else knows what's best for your family. Or that childcare is bad for your kids (it's not). Or whatever. Because it's not my thing, nor will I ever debate that because it's exhausting and I truthfully don't care.

But E emailed me asking if I could talk about my experience being a work-from-home mom. Meaning, I have a paying job not just rewarded in cuddles & hugs & disgusting carpets (I have that job, too), but with an actual paycheck and healthcare coverage.


(source)
Let's just first say--it's a blessing. Having the opportunity to work from home is super great and came at just the right time for my little family. I decided to move away from full time teaching to this. There are definitely benefits to it, mainly, not having to shell out half a paycheck for daycare costs. Getting to work from my couch, on my laptop, in my pajamas. Flexibility when it comes to my kids and doing mom-things during the day, being available for field trips, to pick-up from preschool, all of those things, are very, very nice and admittedly, make my gig look like a piece of cake from the outside perspective, I'm sure (I hope to de-bunk this, later).


The basic gist of what I do is this. I write for a corporate blog--about products, sales, happenings around the business, etc. There are a certain number of posts expected from me during the week. So, I'm in the marketing department along with other great people who do web design, print ads, catalog stuff, social media marketing in other forms, run the websites, blah blah. I am expected to come in every Monday morning for a meeting where the entire department meets and discusses the weekly plans and agenda & a few special events here and there, but other than that--I work from home. 

But other work-from-home mom's, they get it. They get that while they feel insanely blessed to be around for all 'the moments', and 'the firsts' with their kids, that they really feel pretty friggin' stressed up to their eyeballs, and also a little bit guilty all the time.

See, there's this full time job on top of that 'real job' (I'm rolling my eyes at this, by the way) called mothering and keeping alive two rowdy children all day long. That means, getting up early, all throughout the night when one kid isn't sleeping well and another has a nightmare. Fixing breakfast, and cleaning up the half of it that ended up on the floor. Opening your work email for the day. Feeling guilty that you're sitting there with a laptop in your face. Get a tug on your shirt and a 'mommy come play wif meeee', and then I get down and play. I hear a ding and new work email comes through, so I sneak back to my laptop because they seem to have forgotten I was there anyway, where I'm sucked into writing another new post for work or brainstorming for future ideas. In between child wrangling, time-outs, getting snacks, refilling sippy cups, unloading and re-loading the dishwasher, I'm working. Albeit from my kitchen table---getting interrupted 934083948 times. Add in the rest of the crazy-chaotic day that comes with having kids, and, well, you get it.

My schedule is different and that's to be expected, I think. When I started doing this gig a few years ago I told them my children came first, but that I'd meet the expectations of the job. Meaning, if there were things I needed to do, places I wanted to be in the mornings, etc--I would do that. But my job would still get done. So that means I get creative and work unusual hours.

With that said, one of the harder things about working from home is there's no clear-cut time boundary when it comes to clocking in and clocking out, per-say. When my kids are napping? That's prime work time for me. I brew a cup of coffee, and pretend that I'm taking a break on the sofa, when really, it's when I can put in a good, solid few hours of uninterrupted work. When Emeline is in preschool and Lucy naps? Also prime-time for me. Right after the kids are in bed, I'm mostly back logged in to work stuff and chugging away on things. Weekends? Yep. I use my nap and after bedtimes on weekends, too. There's also the occasional, S.O.S. to my husband--that goes something like this: I feel behind on workkkkkk. I NEED A FEW HOURS AT PANERA, ALONE. With my laptop, of course. He gets it, and is more than willing to make that happen for me when I feel like I need to catch up/get ahead, etc.

One of the biggest blessings of working from home is the flexibility, though. If it sounds like I'm being contradictory, I guess I kind of am. On one hand I'm saying how not having time-boundaries is hard, on the other hand, I'm grateful for that. It allows me to be around and with my kids, at all the drop-off's and pick-up's, go to the gym at times, or to the park. It's what can make it look like I've got it made when you see my instagram pics hanging out with my kids mid-day. What you don't see is all those little odd-ball times I'm making up for it, writing, brainstorming, and getting my work-time in.

For me? This works. I admit that there are times when I'm on my way into my Monday meeting after I've just dropped my kids off (at my parents)---I have a hot coffee in my hand, and I'm dressed like a human being with my makeup and hair done....and I feel, well, I feel good. I feel sophisticated and like a big girl heading to my job. And I've thought before, Is this something I want to do every day? Could I do this every day? I think for me, now, the answer is no.


The balance of what I have going on, while admittedly can stress me out, make me feel guilty, like I'm giving everyone half of me and not all of me, is still better, for my family, right now.

I think that often times working-stay-at-home mom's are in this weird....category? Like, an almost non-existent one. Because you only hear of a working mom and stay at home mom 'debate' (another eye-roll), and often I feel kind of like I just get lumped in as a SAHM--when really I wanna say, "But I have work to do, too!", and I don't mean household things and kid-things, because, yes, those are all work, and I have those to do, too. It's just, different. And a huge schedule balance and time-management balance. All the things ALL of us moms do everyday, in some way, shape or form, whether we stay home, work from home, or work outside the home, or work part-time, etc.

In the end, it works for us, it works for me. It just looks a little different, sometimes it's misunderstood, and I'm alright with that.


Read more from Katie - and see more of her cute girls at her blog, Loves of Life.
THANKS KATIE!

Do you work from home?  What is your daily schedule like?  
What are the struggles and benefits?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Midweek Confessions 11/20

Good morning friends!  I haven't posted Midweek Confessions in a while, but that doesn't mean I don't have plenty to confess... so I decided today was as good as a day as any to start them back up.  I hope you will join in!

- I get kind of jealous and pout-y when several of the "big" bloggers in my feed all "get together" for some kind of give away, link-up, or series.  It is ridiculous really - I don't know any of them - but there's a little bit of middle school girl in me that feels like I "didn't get invited to the cool kids' party."

- For an English teacher, I'm certain that I overuse quotation marks and italics; but, I don't actually know the "rules" for their use (which is the real confession here), so I can't be sure.

- When Jeff is out of town, I act like some kind of "rebel" and eat fast food, keep Sam out too late at Target, skip his bath, and let him sleep in the bed with me.  I'm sure I'm creating some kind of complex or, at the very least, some bad habits for Sam - but, it's a price I'm willing to pay. Ha!

- Unlike, it seems, every other blogger in the world, I don't listen to Christmas music OR decorate my house before Thanksgiving.  (I might leave my decorations up until February 1st though.)

- Have I mentioned before that I am TERRIBLE at gift wrapping?  I mean, terrible.  Usually, I make Jeff do it (he is actually really good); but, this year I'm considering babysitting for my neighbor so she can do all my wrapping because she claims to love it.  

- I have actually bought some Christmas gifts already; and, I'll be honest, I'm feeling kind-of smug about it. ;)

- I have a new obsession with listening to books on tape. This kind-of makes me feel like a cheater, but also sort-of smart and sophisticated too.  (Which is it?) Also, I mostly listen to them on my cell phone while I'm driving, and I may have intentionally driven out of my way one or two or eight times lately to get to the end of a chapter.

- Sam asks to eat "french fries" just about every day.  He doesn't actually eat them every day, but I think the fact that he asks for them is bad enough.  (See my third confession.)

- My only goal for the last two weekends has been to clean up my guest room.  (We have company coming to stay there over Thanksgiving.)  I have successfully managed to NOT accomplish that goal - or anything else because that was my only goal - for two weeks now.  #pleasecallhoarders


Thanks for reading all this random/ hot-messness.  (You like that?)  Now, won't you link-up your confessions below?!



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Working Mom: Sarah (on Working Part Time)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)

I hope you guys have been enjoying this series as much as I have... We are going to be wrapping it up soon, but I wanted to take the last week (or so) to share about the experiences of some "non traditional" working mommas.  Today, my real life friend Sarah (our husbands were roommates in college and now they live way out west in the Seattle area) is talking about her life working as a part-time physical therapist and the full time mommy to one year old Sawyer.

Sarah and I pre-babies in the summer of 2010 eating crab in Seattle when Jeff and I drove cross-country

Like E, I love my job. I'm a physical therapist.  I spent 7 long hard years in college and graduate school earning my doctorate.  I've since earned two additional certifications in orthopedics and manual therapy.  I still have LOTS of student loans to pay off.  I'm lucky that I work for a great company that I've been with my entire career.  I love my clinic and coworkers, I (mostly) love my patients, and I love what I do.

As we thought about starting our family, I knew that I didn't want to quit my job, but I also knew that I didn't want to leave my child in the care of someone else the majority of the week.  I was working 10+ hour days - leaving the house at 7 am and not getting home until 7 pm.  If I kept that schedule, then I would only get to see my child for 30 minutes 4 days of the week.  I knew that I would want and need to cut my hours to feel like I was raising my child but still working the job that I love.  Fortunately for me, the healthcare industry and my company allowed me the flexibility to work 20 hours a week (two 8 hour days and a 4 hour day).

Sidenote: I always ask my patients about their job during my evaluations.  Now, more than ever, I phrase the question "do you work outside the home?" because I know how much WORK being a SAHM is

Here are the reasons why I LOVE working part time:

-Its good for me to get out of the house.  Two and half days of the week I get to be a professional, dress in something other than yoga pants, have adult conversation and not worry about nap schedules.

-Its good for Sawyer to be under the care of another person that isn't mom or dad.  Plus, our nanny has a little boy who is 2 months younger than Sawyer so he gets some socialization with others.

-Sawyer gets to see me leave and come home.  I LOVE the gigantic smile on his face when I walk through the door, and we haven't had any issues with separation anxiety yet (knock on wood!)

-Working gives me a chance to miss him.  I think that if I was a SAHM I wouldn't appreciate how much I miss him when I am away.

-I don't have to miss out on his milestones and development.  Being home the other four and a half days a week, I haven't missed watching him learn to crawl and walk, knowing his favorite books and foods.  We can do activities like toddler classes and playdates.  We can play peek-a-boo and tickle monster - I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.

-My salary allows us to do the "fun" stuff.  We are blessed that my husband has an excellent job at Microsoft that pays well and offers full benefits.  We would probably be fine on his salary alone.  My income allows us to do things like travel to visit grandparents, pay for my Starbucks habit Stroller Strides classes and toddler groups, and most importantly my Starbucks habit baby sitters so mommy and daddy can have date nights*.

*My husband pointed out that this is a theoretical benefit as we've only had date nights when grandparents have been in town to baby sit.

Sure I have those days when I wish I did one or the other.  There are days when Sawyer is cranky, has had multiple diaper blow outs, pukes on me and refuses to nap when I wish I was at work.  And there are days when I'm overwhelmed with new patients and paperwork when I wish I could just stay at home with my boy.

Life is about finding the right balance.  For me and my family, working part time is the perfect balance.  I know how lucky we are that we even have the option and that I love my jobs - BOTH of them.  Being a mom is hard.  We should celebrate all moms for the job they do whether they work inside or outside the home.  Lets face it, motherhood is much more than a full time job.  There are no coffee breaks or weekends off - just a heavy reliance on the Starbucks drive-through.  


Read more from Sarah (and see more pictures of that cute boy) at her personal blog For the Hall of it.

  THANK YOU SARAH!

Do any of your work outside the home part time? How does it work for you?!

(You probably remember that I did this last year.  Read about my experience here.)


P.S. Get your confessions ready! Midweek Confessions (and link-up) will be back tomorrow!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The 6 Cs of Dressing Little Boys in the Fall/Winter

My sister was in town this weekend so, naturally, we spent some time at the mall.  :)  Jeff and I were incredibly blessed with lots and lots of hand-me-down clothes for Sam's first two years; but, our boy is growing & the hand-me-downs have slowed (my suspicion is that once a boy is two, he is WAY too hard on his clothes to actually get multiple years use of out of them).  As such, this is the first season that we've really had to do any significant shopping for him... NotthatIamcomplaining.

This is a funny stage, because Sam doesn't really fit in baby clothes anymore (even I have given up on the one piece outfits for my 2 year old), but many of the toddler sizes are still too big and/or hideous.  Luckily, I like a good challenge, and (with the help of my mom and sister) was able to find some perfect things for him...

Obviously, the number one C of dressing little boys is CUTE; but, in case you need a little more clear-cut guidance in that area, here are my six staples for dressing a little boy in the fall/winter

Ok, here we go:

Comfort

First and foremost, I'm going to go ahead and say that the toddler years are some of the last that one can actually pull off wearing sweats in public and call it an "outfit."  So, with that in mind, I'm all about sweat pants this time of year!  And, what better to wear with sweatpants than some kind of fleece or Sherpa-lined top?!?  Duh!!   Aside from these, if there is one thing I will splurge on for Sam its comfy jeans.  We waited a full year to introduce these to our guy's wardrobe, but we don't mess around now... Sam wears jeans most days - to school, to play outside, to run errands, etc., so comfort is really really important.  My very favorite are the knit-waist original fit jeans from Baby Gap because, well, we make it a rule around here to wear elastic waists whenever you possibly can! ;)  (P.S. Hello Gap, can you please start making these in my size?!?!)


Color

From my experience teaching teenage boys and being married to a grown-up man, I think color kind-of gets the shaft in the male wardrobe once they hit a certain age.  Sure, I like a good oatmeal or heather gray or navy as much as the next gal, but I LOVE a little boy in bright colors! I especially like to play with color and plaid/flannel shirts - a favorite of my husband's.  It just seems like the perfect way to add a little "boy" to a big, burly, man look.  You know? There are also LOTS of options for colorful pants out there (see #5) and, you know I've never turned down a striped shirt. ;)


Critters

Pretty much if there is a fox or some other woodland creature on it,  we need it.  I just can't get enough.  This is certainly a trend in my own clothing this season, and Sam has not escaped it.  A raccoon going skiing? A bear in a sweater?  I mean, really, who can say no?



Collars

I know that dressing your kid in seventeen layers is all the rage these days, but it just seems so darn uncomfortable.  And, while a turtleneck can be adorable when used appropriately, they usually just look dorky most of the time.  So, how's a momma to keep her little guy's neck warm and still looking stylish?  Enter the one button shawl and zip-up collars... Sweater, sweatshirt... oh how I love these!  I think these are just the cutest darn things ever AND they are warm enough with just a simple undershirt beneath them.  Score!

Corduroy

I don't know what it is, but I just think a little boy in corduroys is just about the cutest thing ever. Something about this look is a little more "little" to me than regular old chinos or dress pants, but they still have a sophisticated and durable look to them too.  Plus, is there really anything more adorable than a sweater, cords, and moccasins? Ok, then.
(This is also another great place to have some fun with color.  There are literally cords in every shade!)

Caps


Maybe it is different if you have actually have a kid with hair; but, I just adore a little boy in a hat - especially one with ear covers!!  This is the perfect "accessory" for an outfit in my opinion. (Who needs jewelry and handbags?!?)


... And, while we are in the spirit of alliteration, here are three Cs you WON'T see me putting on my boy (yet):

- Characters*
- Camo
- Cross Bones

Like, this, is probably my worst nightmare.  I'm sorry... I.just.can't.

*For full disclosure, I haven't 100% succumbed to the temptation to buy ALL THE THINGS Cars or Thomas related yet; but, I'm probably not all that far away from it... Sam loves those things, and if wearing a shirt with Lighting McQueen plastered across it makes him happy - by golly, who am I to stop him?!?  Luckily, he hasn't really made the connection between his favorite movies and all things commercialized quite yet, but I'm sure it won't be far off.  In the meantime, I won't lie, when I find a cute dinosaur or race car t-shirt (or, better yet, appliqued) at one of my favorite stores, I can't resist knowing how much he will love it (and how much easier it will be to convince him to get dressed in the morning).  I also have to say that many of the big stores like Old Navy, Baby Gap, and even Target have done a super good job lately making even character t-shirts look pretty cool/cute. I think my motto for this will be: everything in moderation.

So, what about you?  How are you dressing your little guy this fall/winter?  What trends do you find yourself drawn to over and over again?  Which ones are you skipping?

(You can see where each item is from my visiting my Polyvore pages here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).  

And, by the way, just in case you thought I'm some kind of fancy blogger now that gets paid by major retailers like Target, H&M, Gap, or Old Navy - I assure you, I am NOT.  None of these are sponsored or affiliate links, just some of my favorite places to shop for my favorite little man. :)
  

P.S. The winner of Pledge FloorCare Prize Pack is SHANNON.  Girl, please email me to claim your prize (you didn't leave an email address in your comment) ASAP! Congrats!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blog Gems 11/16

Source
Y'all, this week has really been a doozy.  Monday, Jeff was sick.  Tuesday, Sam was out for the count.  And (whatdoyouknow), by Wednesday it had hit me.  Then I pretty much just called the week a miss and gave up on Thursday and Friday being any sort of productive.   This weekend I have high hopes of getting myself organized and caught up in all areas of my life.  #yeahright

Anyway, one thing I did make time for this week was reading blogs. ;)  Here are a few of the gems I discovered around the www:


Made me laugh

Made me inspired

Made me smile

Made me remember

Made me sigh


What made you ______________ this week?
P.S. What do you think of this new format for Blog Gems?  Be honest.

P.S.S. Don't forget this this weekend. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Update on the Pledge Challenge + a Prize Pack for YOU

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Pledge. I received a product samples to facilitate my review and promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Pledge-to-Pledge Challenge

Have you been wondering how my 30 day Pledge challenge is going?  ;) I've been using the Pledge FloorCare Wood products for about two weeks now; and, I have to tell you, I really like them!  I'm hesitant to post my before and after pictures (so far) because a photo really doesn't do justice to the difference the Pledge has made.  (Also, it is worth noting that I'm pretty sure the kind people at Pledge had NO idea how bad my floors really were when they asked me to participate in this challenge.)  Regardless, for those of you "visual learners," here's a side by side (or top to bottom) comparison...


See what I mean?  Barring the use of any heavy machinery/ refinishing, there are just some things no product is going to be able to fix (like the crazy amount of scratching we have); BUT, I can still tell a pretty decent difference... Can't you?  

The Pledge FloorCare Wood products, more than anything else, restored the "sparkle and shine" that my floors are usually missing.  I have to admit, I had kind-of gotten used to the idea that we would just never have floors that greeted you when you came in; but Pledge has changed that.  On the days when I use the FloorCare products during nap time, my husband always comments on how great the floors look when he comes home. (He is a good man.) They just have a new "omph" they were missing before. 

In addition to the obvious shine, the products smell REALLY good and do a great job of cleaning up every day messes like dishwasher residue (does that gather on anyone else's floors sometimes?), yogurt, and dirt/dust with ease.  I also love that they can be sprayed on and simply mopped up with a wet mop - no big buckets of disgusting dirty water.

Overall, I really liked using Pledge FloorCare Wood products, and I'd love to share them with you!!! Simply by leaving a comment on this post, you can win your very own Pledge FloorCare Prize Pack which includes one of each of the following Pledge FloorCare products: Wood Squirt & Mop, Wood Spray Cleaner, and Wood Concentrate.

I will leave the contest open until Monday and contact the winner then.  *Please note that it is only open to US Citizens age 18 and up.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Pledge products here.

Good luck & have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working Mom: Lisa (on Breastfeeding/Pumping at Work)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)
This week, we've been talking all about the very earliest challenges of being a working mom - pregnancy, maternity leave, and now... breastfeeding & pumping while working*.  This can be such a hard part of the balancing act; but, it can also be very do-able!  Today, Lisa is sharing a little about what she learned from her experience returning to work as an elementary school teacher when her daughter, Mallory, was five months old and pumping for seven months until summer break... Please join me in welcoming her!

Lisa and Mallory at Mallory's first birthday party and the celebration of one year of breastfeeding!
Before I begin, I have to give a little disclaimer... Breastfeeding can be a touchy subject, one where mamas can seem all preachy. I don’t want to be one of those moms who pushes breastfeeding on you. I had a good experience and sincerely just wish other mamas can have one too if breastfeeding is their plan. That said, it was not easy, and I know many mamas have even more challenging situations than I did. Whether you nurse or don’t, you are a good mama making sure your child is getting what he or she needs. So, here’s just a bit of my story, a few tips, and a wish that you can confidently trust yourself and do what(ever) works for you and your little one.

I wasn’t breastfed as a child and honestly knew nothing about it. But, in the end, I found so many advantages in breastfeeding - the bonding, the benefits for my little girl - and, once I got the hang of it, I found nursing easier than making and washing bottles. Nursing became easy and convenient wherever we happened to be. But then, just as I was getting comfortable, I was taunted by the approach of the inevitable date when I would return to work. I started planning my pumping schedule probably three months before I went back. Looking back, I laugh at my Type A planning and how motherhood has taught me to go with the flow. Dropping my plan and grabbing a go with the flow approach seemed to be the key to what helped me make it all work. For 7 months, my little pumping tote was my constant work companion, and I completely accepted the fact that I would have milk on my shirt and be a bit of a mess trying to manage work, pumping, and the rest of my life. Those things aside, being able to continue to breastfeed was one of the things that helped me go back to work as hard as it was to separate from my five month old. Being able to leave those bottles for her each morning and to still nurse in the morning and night got me through. So, here are a few things that helped me, and I hope they may help you, too.

Halloween 2012 - just before returning from maternity leave
Try not to stress. Yes, stress affects your supply. I stressed. I stressed even before I started pumping planning how it would go. There were times my supply would dip, and I would panic that I would not produce enough milk. I’d stuff my face with lactation cookies and tea and worry. I had times I had to push back a pumping time or had to skip one altogether, but despite the ups and downs and supply dips, I had enough. Trust your body will make what you need, and I always told myself if I needed to supplement I would. 

If making it work is your goal, try not to supplement. Okay, so yes, I always kept it in the back of my mind I could and would supplement with formula if I needed to (and I didn’t hold any negative thoughts about formula), but I never did. I think an effort to avoid supplementing helped me keep my milk supply up. If your supply is down, nurse as much as you can when you are with your baby and avoid supplementing. Remember milk production works on supply and demand.

Use any time savers you can find. I quickly started to find time savers that made a big difference for me... a hands free double pumping bra with the bottles set up and ready to pump in the morning with all of the parts as ready to go as possible. In between pumping sessions at work, I put the pieces in a plastic bag in a fridge so that I did not need to wash them in between sessions. I threw everything into a giant bowl in the sink to wash all of the parts in soapy water quickly once I got home. Clothes that make pumping faster like an easy to unhook nursing tank under a button down dress shirt also help. Find what works for you.

Eat and drink! I could tell a huge difference in my pumping sessions when I was eating enough calories and drinking a lot. Keep a box of granola bars in your car and have easy to eat snacks ready to go. Even if you do not think about it during the rest of your busy day at work, have a snack and drink packed in your bag to eat while you pump. I also saw a difference when I ate the oatmeal cookies and drank the lactation teas. (Maybe it was just because my stress level went down when I felt I was doing something that helped my milk production!)

Do what works for you. I can’t tell you that what worked for me will work for you. At some point after countless texts to breastfeeding friends (“Am I doing this right?,” “Is she getting enough?”), Googling “increasing milk supply,” making schedules, and questioning my choices, I realized that there is no right way. Looking back now, I’d tell myself to stop questioning myself. In fact, I’d yell at myself to stop questioning yourself! Trust your gut. Do what works for you whether it be to keep going or to stop. You know what makes a happy and healthy mama and baby.

Watching as I leave for work... So hard to drive off!
I was driving to work the other day thinking about how it felt to walk out the door without my trusty pumping tote, without going through my pumping times for that day in my head, and it felt good. At the same time, I felt a nostalgia...  At the time, it felt like an eternity, a perpetuity of the daily pumping schedule, but after trucking through, here I am looking back in what feels like a blink of the eye. My confidence as a mama has grown leaps and bounds, which is a good thing as there will always be the next mama challenges.  I still am nursing in the morning and at night and working on weaning, potty training will be here soon, and of course... the list will go on.

Summer 2013
*As Lisa mentioned, I realize that the topic of breastfeeding can some times be controversial among moms or draw up insecurities in some of us.  I was able to exclusively breastfeed Sam and work full time only until he was six months old.  At that point, I am not ashamed to admit that we began supplmenting with formula during the day to help ease some of the pressure/anxiety I was feeling and make both of us happier.  I continued to breastfeed in the mornings and evenings until Sam was 10 months old, and then we switched the formula all the time.  It was 100% the right decision for our family.  Ultimately, that's all we are responsible for - you know? - making the right decision for our family.

From my limited experience (I pumped for about three months at work), I second Lisa's recommendation of getting a hands-free bra (this is a MUST HAVE even though it looks absolutely ridiculous) and storing bottles in the fridge between pumping sessions.  I also would recommend a nice little "DO NOT DISTURB" note to put on your office/classroom door for when you are a pumping, a decent "back up supply" of milk in the freezer, and always - always - a spare shirt in your car.  :)

THANK YOU LISA!

Those of you that have worked and pumped, how did you make it work?  
What advice do you have for other moms trying to do it?


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