Traveling with Little Ones

8 11 2015

Last week, I had a work conference that took me to The Homestead Resort for 3 days. Last time I went, I traveled with a friend, and we had a great time, so this time, I invited my family along. It was a nice escape from our daily routine, but taking the kids out of that routine throws all of us off! The Homestead is pretty spectacular:

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First off, what should have been a 90-minute drive took us 3 hours. Our little guy screamed for the entire 3 hours, so we were forced to make pit stops in a few places, including a tiny diner halfway there. The boys were all keyed up and definitely entertained the workers – luckily, we were the only ones dining in. E kept swinging his corndog around, yelling about his “horndog.”

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Luckily when we arrived, the valet handled our car and luggage, and our room was ready with a nice Pack n Play already set up. Of course, I wish I could say this was the scene, but he didn’t go to sleep for several more hours:

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Even though it was late, we decided to explore the hotel and easily walked about 7000 steps just by looking around.

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It was a late night followed by an early morning, as I went to early sessions and listened to the keynote speaker of the conference the next day. All of my sessions were SO good this year! I came away with lots of practical ideas and freebies. Meanwhile, my husband spent lots of quality time with the boys – lots of snacking, napping, and trips to the playground and the Village.

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I thought our evenings would be full of dining out, downtime to explore the hotel and the town, a swim in the heated pool or a trip to the gym, but there never ended up being time for that. The conference schedule kept me busy, with receptions lasting until 9 PM. When we did have a break, it would only be for a few minutes here and there. I don’t think we got much sleep because of the boys, and then we would start all over again the next day.

Well, we attempted to dine out twice, but Sage cried almost the whole time both nights.

The second night, we ate at the Casino, right on the property.

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On the third night, just before leaving the resort, we ate at Le Cochon d’Or (The Golden Pig) in the village of Hot Springs. I was late to our dinner reservation because my session ran over, but my family was seated right there in the window and I was able to snap a pic of this happy scene before all the meltdowns started.

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I kept it simple with a French onion soup because I knew the kids weren’t going to last long in there – YUM! So hot and cheesy!

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One of my favorite places in the hotel was the Christmas shop. I picked out this year’s ornament and took lots of pictures of E with the gorgeous tree. At the end of November, The Homestead will ceremoniously bring a real tree into the grand lobby.

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I’m so glad that I was able to show my husband The Homestead, and I’m thankful that he was able to spend real quality time with the kids, but I wouldn’t call it a “vacation” by any means! It was pretty stressful for me to find a balance between being a mommy, spending time with my husband, and still attending all my sessions.

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Normal Day Treasures

6 10 2015

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The sun is back. It’s been a long time since we have caught even a ray of it! Today can pretty much be chalked up to a perfect “normal” day. I thought a lot about how grateful I am to have a generally positive attitude, as I was pulled in a million different directions at work while my sons were away from me at daycare. I began to look for the treasures hidden in the day, reflecting on each one as its own silver lining. I hope to collect these thoughts later in my journal of blessings (inspired by Ann Voskamp).

The fog settling over the valley was so pretty during my drive to work this morning. Stumbling over my words as I tried to explain fog to my 3-year-old.

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My 12-month-old waving goodbye to me from the comfort of his teacher’s arms. A tear-free transition. Finally.

Arriving to work 10 minutes early and using the time to walk a prayer circle behind the school. Still in awe that I get to work in such a beautiful place.

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And feeling blessed that at my new job, I get to be a full-blown counselor. Almost 100% of my time is spent directly with students individually, in small groups, and in the classroom (I log my hours in NoteCounselor after school every day). When I’m not directly with students, I’m talking to their parents or conferencing with their teachers, also direct hours. It makes for busy days, and my principal has begun to exclaim, “You came back!” after some of the most eventful days.

Getting a handwritten card from my principal, just thanking me for being at the school and being a positive light.

Having one of the most respected teachers in the school, the one who never speaks when I teach in her classroom, seek me out in my office later just to say, “Thank you. You have such a calm and soothing voice for the kids, you talk to them in such a way that they have no choice but to want to follow your directions.”

Me: an awe-struck puddle on the floor.

Missing lunch to facilitate the toughest small group of them all, and seeing the boys’ tough exteriors begin to crack as they slowly trust each other. Finding a pocket of 10 minutes afterward to eat a bowl of hot soup and a full-size Hershey bar.

At car rider duty, a parent sincerely telling me, “It’s so nice to see a smiling face every single day. Thank you.”

Staying after school to coach a running club, running alongside a new coworker who is exactly my pace, and finding out we grew up in the same hometown.

My 3-year-old, after spotting me at daycare, running toward the gate with open arms, not yet too cool for such affection over Mommy or for falling head over heels to hug me.

Finding a free book for the boys in our mailbox: “Llama Llama and the Bully Goat.”

Wolfing down leftover Greek dinner my husband made last night before leaving the house one last time for the evening.

Driving through my favorite canopy of trees today…

…six different times.

The first and sixth trips with cups of hot coffee.

Opting to let my hairdresser straighten my hair before I left. (I ALWAYS leave the salon with wet curly hair.) Laughing with her about the 3 wiry white hairs I found on my head this week.

Teaching my 3-year-old how to play a board game before bed. How to roll a die. How to take turns and play fairly.

Watching his excitement as he taught his daddy how to play the same game while I watched, nursing the baby to sleep.

Trying on pretty Stitch Fix items, debating what to keep and what to send back.

Finding quiet time to blog and do laundry.

Grateful for my decision to cloth diaper as I hung them to dry. Looking forward to having a new friend over next week who wants to learn about cloth diapers.

Thinking about the 5 cute little cloth diaper pails, lined up all in a row at daycare.

Being able to answer my toddler when he asked, “Mommy, are you coming to the pumpkin patch with me and my class?”

“Yes, Mommy is coming.”

I’d rearrange the world for you. 





Five on Friday

20 03 2015

Linking up for Five on Friday with DarciChristinaApril, and Natasha, and oh hey, Friday with Karli and Amy.

one | We spent time with friends this weekend, and had the most gorgeous scenic drive to their house!

IMG_2061 two | We took a second road trip to my in-laws’ to work on plans for an upcoming bridal shower. While we were there, we scoped out the next big DIY project on our plates… or should I say, under them.

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My in-laws live near a Trader Joe’s, so I picked up some treats for my coworkers after we finally submitted the yearbook we designed!

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three | St. Patrick’s Day was a fun day to dress up and reminisce about the time I spent gallivanting around Ireland with my college roomie.

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That same day, I dropped off 115 baby items to sell at a local kids’ consignment sale that sets up shop twice a year. While out and about, I redeemed some freebies at the mall and tried on a few jackets for spring. (I was taking pictures to compare jackets from 3 different stores – I don’t usually take mirror selfies!) It was sooo weird to be shopping sans kids, like a dream. I would have pinched myself, but I was wearing green.

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four | School pictures came back! While I only bought their class group photos and none of the ones pictured below, a couple of their poses were cute!

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five | As Sage gets old enough to really interact more and more with his big brother, I’m so grateful that I wanted them close together in age. I love that E loves having a baby brother.

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Five on Friday | oh hey, spring?

13 03 2015

Linking up for Five on Friday with DarciChristinaApril, and Natasha, and oh hey, Friday with Karli and Amy.

one | Spring is trying to squeeze its way in between the snow and the ice… we’ve had several clear days to play outside this week!
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two| …but we’ve also had some snow days, so we busted out “Just Dance” on the Wii. I can’t believe I have a child old enough to dance with, now that we’ve turned it on for the first time in 3 years. (Easy hack: you can play this on YouTube, like I do with my students.)

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three | Snowy and rainy days called painting with shaving cream!

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four | It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday I love. I stayed a few weeks at my college roomie’s house in Ireland! This onesie was actually the first thing I bought for Sage:

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five | We are all in panic-mode at work lately, and on top of my normal duties,  I’m planning a Career Day and designing the school yearbook, which gets submitted TODAY. It has been difficult with missed time due to snow, plus our internet has been really spotty at work for a few weeks. I bought some combination locks to help our 5th graders feel more confident about transitioning to middle school! I’m taking the kids on a field trip there in a couple weeks. I thought they made a pretty picture as I tested and recorded all the combinations!

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Happy Friday! Today is a mixed bag of emotions for me – that post will be up later today. I’m excited to try a new recipe this weekend while we head to our friends’ house for a long-overdue visit.





Day in the Life | Mommy – School Counselor

7 02 2015

I recently posted a day in the life while I was home on maternity leave. I read a post about how we should capture pictures of everyday life so that one day, when our kids grow up, we’ll remember things like what we looked like sitting around the dinner table. How my son’s bedroom is arranged, since it changes often. Things I think I’ll remember, but I probably won’t. So here’s a snapshot of how differently things look now that I’m back to a different kind of work – this was Wednesday, February 4, 2015. E is 2.5 years old, and Sage is 4 months. (My husband and I are both 30.)

Sage typically wakes up between 4:30 and 5 AM to nurse, weekday or not. Today, I nursed him at 5 and showered at 5:30. By 6, I woke up big brother E, packed pump parts and bottles (they dry overnight) for pumping milk at work, and grabbed several cloth diapers out of the dryer to pack in the baby’s diaper bag, since those were also not dry last night. E is required to wear Pull-Ups to school now that he’s in a potty-training class, so I only had to pack them for Sage. At 6:30, I changed Sage’s diaper, got him dressed, and finished bagging up the 40 Valentines we had to take to school for the kids’ Valentines parties Friday. (The glue on them had become ineffective, so I had to put them in Ziploc bags last-minute). 6:40 meant time to fire up the Keurig and nurse the baby while eating my cereal. I aim to leave the house by 6:45 to get to work by 7:40 before I’m late and the buses arrive, blocking the parking lot.

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I like to pretend I have Starbucks every day. It’s the little things.

We are already running late b/c of the Valentines, so at 6:50 I quickly loaded up the car and the kids and drove to daycare. To get both boys and all their stuff inside, I wear Sage in my Boba 3G, carry his diaper bag on my shoulder, carry a separate bag that contains baby milk, E’s water bottle, a cloth diaper wet bag, and E’s lunchbox – all things that go to different places once at school. Elijah usually carries his homework, and today he carried his Valentines and the juice boxes for his class party. I have to leave daycare by 7:20 to get to work on time, so I hurriedly dropped off E with his stuff for the day, kissed him goodbye, and headed to the nursery with Sage. I hung up his diaper bag, put the wet bag in his cubby, put his 4 bottles of breastmilk in his tub in the fridge, and fill out a BabyGram about how his morning has gone so far, noting when he woke up, ate, and got his diaper changed, and any other instructions for the day. All of this happens in separate parts of a room with lots of baby gates, so I open and close at least 8 baby gates to get everything and everyone situated.

Back in the car, I took my first sip of coffee at 7:20 and listen to my favorite Christian radio station – the commute to and from work is my only quiet time during the day, weaving in and out of tractor-trailors on busy interstates.

7:40 – I arrived at work, bypassing the donuts a local church had set out for teachers. My hubby and I pinky-swore that we would go a whole year without eating a donut. LOL! Today, teachers got free FitBit Zips in our boxes. This never happens. So excited to use mine.

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My office was a mess with school supplies someone dropped off for our students – I’m so grateful for the community support we have, and I love opening new school supplies and distributing them! I think it was from the donut people, but I sent a quick email to our secretary to be sure, so I can mail a thank-you note.

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I had sidewalk duty at 7:45, spoke on the announcements because it was National School Counseling Week, and prepared for the day. The morning flew by with teaching all my classes, and by lunchtime I was more-than-ready to pump – 5 hours after I last fed the baby. I had to wait so long that I overfilled one bottle and spilled. After spending my own lunchtime pumping, I had cafeteria duty.

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After 40 minutes of opening sticky food containers for kids and managing the overall volume of the cafeteria, the rest of my day is spent putting out small fires – meeting about students, meeting with parents, counseling students, making phone calls, and facilitating small groups. We have lots of other projects on our plate, like designing the school yearbook, coordinating Career Fair, organizing parent volunteers, etc., but I enjoy all of those tasks. Every day is truly different.

I carve a few minutes in my afternoon to pump once more. I don’t have any staff coverage, so my pumping schedule varies every day, and I get interrupted every now and then mid-session despite my efforts of locking the door and hanging a “Do not disturb” sign COVERING the door handle and lock. I normally have to ask my coworker to leave the room, but on Wednesdays he works at another school. After a frigid car duty outside, I pack up my things to leave – school bag (nautical), pump bag (stripes), lunch bag, and some lesson plan materials.

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This was the first Wednesday I didn’t have an after-school meeting, so at 3:40, I left work and was finally able to eat a snack in the car. Nursing makes me so hungry! Chick-fil-a is doing a free coffee promotion all this month, so I swung by at 3:58 and picked up an iced vanilla coffee from the drive-thru before getting my kids. Four minutes out of the way for me-time before our marathon afternoon.

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At 4:05, I arrived at daycare. I’m getting much more organized about pickup now that I have a system, and by 4:25, I am heading home. By 4:40, we arrive home with everyone and everything unloaded from the car. That has to be a record – usually it’s around 5 or later.

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BREATHE. For a split second, we’re all safely inside.

And then the NEEDS begin.

Both kids are usually crying at this point from NEEDS. Daycare sent a full bottle home, so I gave that to Sage at 5:04 – he crushed it (E insisted on helping), then comfort-nursed at 5:11, which was good for both of us.

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While we nursed, E hid  in the bathroom upstairs while he was supposed to be picking out a diaper because he poops his pants as soon as we arrive home. Every day. Like clockwork. I changed both boys’ diapers and made it funny for E this time by cramming both of them together in the pack ‘n play.

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I started the process of unloading all of our bags, just to wash everything and get them reloaded for tomorrow. I fill up four new bottles for tomorrow from bottles I pumped previously. I always aim to send 16 ounces to school. Luckily, Sage took to simple Avent bottles, which are easier to wash than the Playtex VentAire bottles E used.

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I folded more diapers from this morning’s laundry, and my husband came home and started dinner at 5:45. Sage fell asleep at 6. I unpacked his dirty diapers from the wet bag and started a load of laundry – that whole process took less than 5 minutes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at this time, I sneak in a run on the treadmill.

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We ate dinner together – lots of getting up from the table –  and Sage spit up at least five times from the milk overdose. E doesn’t eat much dinner and read books beside the table despite our best efforts to entice him back to his food.

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I nursed Sage again at 7:00 and gave him a bath while my husband washed baby bottles and used pump parts downstairs. At 7:30, I set out the boys’ clothes for tomorrow and enlisted E’s help in cleaning the mess he made the night before.

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I zipped Sage into his HannaJams and played with him while my husband gave E a bath.

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At 7:50, I nursed Sage again and finished folding the morning’s laundry. Sage was asleep at 8:25 in his rock n’ play sleeper beside our bed. I finished snapping all the diapers and repacked the diaper bag for tomorrow. At 8:45, I went in E’s room to get him to sleep, and he fell asleep at 9:45, when I finally snuck out.

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At 10 pm, I responded to some emails that were desperately overdue, ordered a birthday gift for our nephew (thank you, Amazon Prime, because the party is Sunday), setup my new FitBit to use the next day, and paid some bills – another task that I sometimes do during my lunchtime at work. I’m usually in bed between 11 and 12, and tonight it was 11. Small victory!

I am so blessed with my two sweet boys and my amazing husband. I hope that this post will help me to remember that the days are long, but the years are short.





10 ways to transition from maternity leave

4 01 2015

So there’s a post in the queue tomorrow about heading back to work, but after I cried 3 times today at church about returning to work, I decided to reflect on what I’ve done to make the transition something to look forward to:

one | Daily inspiration.  I found a giant pack of Starbucks travel cups at our local warehouse for a few dollars. I wrote myself encouraging, inspiring, and funny messages for each morning that I’m grabbing my coffee and heading out the door. Yes, they are disposable, but if it’s one less thing to carry home amidst 2 kids, 2 diaper bags, my school bag, lunch, purse, diapers, wet bags, wipes, water bottles, my pump, infant car seat, jackets, kids’ lunches and bottles, and whatever else I’m sure to forget,* then it’s worth it to me. And one less cup to wash between pump parts and a zillion tiny bottle parts. Judge away. I’ll be washing cloth diapers. 🙂

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two | Random acts of kindness. I’ve planned a few random acts of kindness for my coworkers, which I’m excited about delivering. Do good, feel good.

three | Organizing clutter. In a quest to simplify before life spirals out of control, I decluttered my bedroom and office space. I used the “to do, to read, to file” method of sorting mounds of papers.

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four | Simplifying and notes of encouragement. I bought Emily Ley‘s weekly edition of her Simplified Planner and chose some pretty wallpapers with encouraging messages for my phone’s lock screen. I also put a fun background on my desktop at home.

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five | Preparing our family for change. *I dropped off a ton of stuff at my kids’ school/daycare so there’d be less to carry and/or forget tomorrow when we’re rushing. I also talked to the nursery teachers, asked a million questions, and let E see his old teachers from September to get him back in school-mode. He got a new lunchbox for Christmas, which I’m sure he’ll be proud of.

six | Getting back in teacher mode. I spent a bit of time last night reacquainting myself with my office, which I’ve only visited a few times in 13 weeks. I planned lessons for Monday that I’m excited about and read through all the notes my sub left me. I unpacked a ton of stuff and hung up new photo magnets of my kids. And we went out to dinner afterwards… so it felt more like a date, less like work.

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Maybe no one will notice if I keep the baby in there all day??

seven | Looking the part. On Friday, my kids simultaneously took 4-hour-naps. Of course it would happen on the last day of my maternity leave! I used the time to try on work clothes that I haven’t worn since before I was pregnant – over a year ago! I have been wearing pajamas for the last 3 months! I put together several outfits that still fit, took pictures of them, and made a quick-reference cheat sheet (now taped in my closet) that I can use to quickly choose an outfit each day.

eight | Changes for E. We had store credit accumulated 5 years ago at a local furniture store, so we used it to buy E a big-boy bed! We’ll put it together this week – I’m really looking forward to this new change!

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nine | Wedding! My baby brother gets married this week! So it’s really not even a full work week back for me!

ten | Snuggles. Lots and lots of baby snuggles and prayer. Let’s be honest, that’s mostly what I’ve been doing.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow morning!





{Five on Friday}

16 05 2014

Congrats to 2 of the hostesses of Five on Friday, Christina and April, who just welcomed their new baby girls! Linking up with Natasha for {Five on Friday!}. This week has been such a roller coaster of emotions and events. It’s hard to narrow it down to 5 things!

{one} My first season coaching “Girls on the Run” with 13 elementary school girls wrapped up Saturday with a regional 5k race – recap here! I am looking forward to a pool party with the team to celebrate soon. One of the amazing parents put together a coach/teacher gift for me – a purse, bath goodies, a reusable tote, and free local gelato! She and her daughters are always so thoughtful. 🙂

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{two} Speaking of end of an era, my long-time friend, co-counselor, and co-coach had her last day working with me yesterday. For years, her position has been split between 2 schools, but she’ll wrap up the year at her other school and is being hired full-time there next year. She and I laugh SO much, which is necessary in our line of work where it’s easy to burn out. We sent her off with some funny parting gifts, a decorated office, a cake, and group dinner plans next week. We submitted a proposal to present at a conference together this fall, so we’re crossing our fingers that it gets accepted!

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GOTR 5k… {21 weeks pregnant}. We’ve run a lot of races together! 

{three} We celebrated my husband’s birthday alongside both of our families on Saturday night. The 80s theme was so much fun to plan, and I hope to recap it soon! We even awarded prizes for best 80s costumes.

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{four} My anatomy ultrasound was conveniently bumped up a week early (before the party) when I switched practices, which meant that we could do a gender reveal in person with everyone there instead of making lots of phone calls. We filled balloons with free helium from my husband’s work, stuffed them in a box, and disguised the box as a birthday present. Of course, the helium ran out in less than 24 hours, so we had to buy new balloons and go fill them again the next day, but it was so worth it!

It’s a boy!! I am so outnumbered.

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{five} We dedicated our son at church on Sunday and hosted a brunch afterward at our house before heading out-of-town for Mother’s Day. Full recap here!

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Happy Friday!

 





{Five on Friday!}

24 01 2014

Happy Friday! Link up with Darci here for {Five on Friday!}

Also, the first of my two guest posts on the Running at Disney blog was published Wednesday, check out my runDisney 10k recap here!

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{one} We’ve had four snow days this week! We’ve played in the snow, enjoyed hot chocolate, and made snow cream, something my mom always made for us on snow days growing up! When we needed to get out of the house, we walked around Target to find a baby shower gift and had a free lunch at Chick-fil-a! The cashier at Target was sweet to load my cart up for me since I had a toddler with me, but he forgot a bag, so I had to go back to Target to retrieve it later. We also celebrated a lot of family birthdays on Thursday night at my in-laws’ house after my chiropractor appointment.

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{two} E had his routine 18-month checkup Wednesday. Because of our snow days at work, I didn’t have to use a sick day to take him after all! They forgot to document our appointment in their computer, so our doctor wasn’t there, but they let us see another doctor and we really liked him, too! My little man is about 50th percentile for height and weight but is still holding strong at 97th percentile for head circumference. In addition to his 6 teeth, he has 2 top molars coming in. Because he did such a great job at his appointment, I gave him a sticker, which he shredded up in the car on the way home.

{three} We also stopped by a few libraries this week. E is enrolled in a “1000 Books before Kindergarten” program, so we had to get more logs to record all the books we’ve been reading! We also picked out a nice selection of Valentine’s books and started logging hours for the winter reading program.

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{four} I caved and ordered a simplified planner from Emily Ley! I’m excited because it goes right along with my organization goals for 2014 and offers a place to keep a weekly gratitude journal and a meal-planner. I think when I stopped nursing, *some* of that forgetful “mommy brain” finally went away. Or maybe I’ve just tried to be more on-top-of-things and take better care of things since I can now remember where I put them. I keep a binder to manage E’s school papers and artwork, a binder to keep track of our household paperwork, and a few new binders at work to keep track of appointments and daily to-do lists (in addition to software that I use for records). This has helped so much with my memory and organization!

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{five} If we ever go back to work (today is our 4th snow day in a row!), my friend and I are starting up a “Girls on the Run” after-school self-esteem building program for our students. Hopefully we can send home the registration forms soon! I put everything in teachers’ boxes on Monday, but we haven’t been back since! This will be a huge time commitment – coaching 24 after-school sessions over the course of 12 weeks, culminating in a celebration 5k at a college here in Virginia. I’m hoping we have enough girls sign up to make a team!

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A Heart for Service

17 11 2013

I have been searching for a balance lately with how I am serving. My Life Group at church is studying the “Not a Fan” series by Kyle Idleman. In church, our worship series also just finished up overviewing the “Take 3” challenge, where we were challenged to 1) Personal Growth 2) Discipleship Training and 3) Service and Outreach. These 3 tied in nicely with what we were talking about in Sunday School, “5 Things God uses to grow your faith.” We’ve been doing all of these studies for the past 5 months. One of the “5 ways” was #4 – personal ministry, which links to service and outreach.

Then you throw in the “Not a Fan” series, which asks you whether you are a follower or a fan, pointing out that good deeds and an enthusiastic attitude might mean we know about Jesus, but what Jesus really wants is for us to know Him. Idleman stresses that we can’t sit on the sidelines and say we ardently love learning about Jesus, and then not use anything we have been taught to form a relationship with Him. So here’s where my balance comes in. I want to serve, but I also want to KNOW. And I think this weekend, serving felt like my heart was in the right place.

For the past 5 years, a local church (where I don’t know anyone) has given me 50 turkey tickets to distribute to needy families at the school where I am a counselor. We have a Title I school where 48% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. I’ve always had no trouble finding 50 families deserving of these tickets, which are redeemable for a free turkey and box of Thanksgiving sides. And it’s always been something I’ve checked off my work agenda – 50 tickets distributed, done!

This year, something compelled me to call the number on the ticket, that of a complete stranger, and inquire if they’d need help physically handing out the turkeys this year. I was expecting her to say, “no, we’re good, we’ve pretty much gotten it down to a science by now!” After all, they’ve been doing this for at least 5 years. Instead, the voice on the line said, “We need all the help we can get! We usually give out 150 turkeys, and this year, we have 300!” I was excited to see what this was all about. I always like knowing where I’m referring my students and their families.

Still, yesterday rolled around, and I was starting to change my mind. My back has been stiff since last weekend, when my husband ran a race and I carried our toddler on my left hip for nearly 2 hours on my feet. (Something I’m not supposed to do post-spinal fusion surgery.) Surely, I thought, they won’t notice if I don’t show up; they don’t even know me! I can’t possibly stand from 10:30-2:00 passing out frozen turkeys and food boxes – that repetitive leaning-over motion on my back would be brutal! And if I do, how much worse is my back going to feel afterward, when I need to do my long runs for training?

But I had committed, so I found the church, housed in a strip mall, and I walked in that door. Almost everyone in the fellowship hall came running over. “Are you the girl from the school? Oh we’re so excited that you’re here! The pastor told us all about you!”

The pastor gave me a tour, introduced me to everyone, and asked me how I’d like to help. I responded, “wherever you need me the most is fine!” To which he replied, “honestly, we really need someone to help sign people in. It would mean sitting here writing down their names, addresses, and phone numbers as they come in, so we can submit those names to the Food Bank.”

I nearly hugged him. “That sounds perfect!”

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And the experience was very humbling. To see these families line up 30 minutes before we opened and come through the line, most of them SO gracious, and talk to them outside of school. I knew many of the families that came and called them by name, and I spoke to everyone. I wanted to serve, but not from some lofty vantage point. I hugged my kids and talked to them about their weekends, full of trips to the public library and time with family. I encouraged people to make a chili dog and sit right there in the middle of the room and have lunch with their families – I may or may not have eaten 2 chili dogs myself. 😉 Most of my students were so surprised to see their teacher outside of school, and maybe they didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but none of them were embarrassed to be there seeking help. To see elderly people come in connected to breathing tubes or in wheelchairs, to know these were the families I was serving. To know there was a teacher at my school who offered to cook a turkey for one of her students whose parent did not have the means to himself.

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This is the spirit of service I want to seek, even if it means sacrificing weekend time with my family. It’s hard being a working mommy – I have a lot of mom guilt from only seeing my toddler each day for about couple hours before his bedtime, and most of that time consists of dinner and bathtime. But I’m trying to look for opportunities to serve in the time that I am given, so that my heart naturally becomes more that of a follower instead of a fan.

I’ve taken more advantage of little opportunities here and there – as the site liaison for the Girl Scouts program at my school, I was asked to cancel last week’s session when their leader was sick, but instead I just said, “send me the lessons. I’ll do them!” My family joyfully packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child this year, and I am co-starting a girls’ self-esteem-building running program in the spring that will consist of 24 after-school sessions. It is also inspiring to see how my husband has been driven to serve and give and help with relief in the Philippines, and it was interesting today how our pastor addressed the men specifically about these things, and I love how his messages open up conversations between me and my husband about faith and service more naturally now.

We switched churches when we started to feel complacent, and I think these messages were what we needed to hear – not to make us feel more comfortable in a place, but actually to get us OUT of our comfort zone and devoting our time to become better followers.





Getaway at The Homestead

10 11 2013

This year, our annual fall Virginia Counselors Association conference got a facelift… we met at The Homestead Resort and Spa in Hot Springs, Virginia. My friend and I split a room for just one night of the conference to save money, but we have different plans for when the conference returns to The Homestead in 2015!

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So let’s talk about our suite. And our star treatment. First off, there was free valet parking. Self-park wasn’t an option. The bell hop, Keswick, carried our luggage up to the 14th floor. What a name!

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Our first session was interesting – dealing with subpoenas – the speaker said “quash” so many times that we could have made a game of it. We then went to a session on how to use yoga techniques in the classroom – calling them “brain breaks” or breathing/stretching exercises.

Our keynote was phenomenal. He’s famous in the School Counseling world – Trevor Romain. I use many of his materials in my lessons, but I had no idea what a engaging, motivational speaker he is. He has had so many experiences, working with orphans in the Congo, loving on children with cancer, and facing his own insecurities as a child. Listening to him was a roller coaster of emotions. One second, we’d be laughing, another, we’d be wiping away heavy tears. We spent most of the conference with our “Trev-dar” on.

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We scoped out our suite ~

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This was our balcony. The fall leaves were stunning! Our suite connected a bedroom, parlor, bathroom, closet, and patio.

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Of course we had to check out the spa, like ASAP, but had no time to enjoy it – yet – before heading back out to the conference!

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At Sam Snead’s golf-themed pub, we had a sub-par (under par? not a hole-in-one? rough?) experience. The hostess was rude to me after THEY lost my reservation, and they initially refused to seat us in the then-empty restaurant. I showed them my phone record from calling them to no avail. Finally they just said, “just give them that little table behind the bar.” Still, I had a yummy, salty pot pie, Irish coffee, and a fancy brownie dessert.

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Dinner was followed by a series of progressive networking receptions, 11 in all, that took place on the top six floors of the hotel. Cue Trev-Dar.

The next morning, I was up before dawn to take advantage of the fitness facilities – running on a nice treadmill overlooking the pool, drooling over the ballet barre, and swimming laps in the indoor heated pool, where steam rose off the water. This was followed by a quick catered breakfast, more sessions, and an awards banquet luncheon. We had plenty of time for more sessions, networking, and lots of adventures on the drive home. Then it was back home to unpack and repack before heading on a race weekend trip to my hometown for the Virginia Running Festival!