Getting Ready for the First Day of School

This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

My son, William, started Kindergarten this year. He has been excited since the beginning of the summer. He got a new backpack and school supplies for his birthday, and he’s been dying to use them all.

I’ve been excited for him, too. And scared. Scared that he’ll make friends, that he’ll be successful in class. That the days we homeschool, he’ll actually listen to me. I’ve been scared of all these things and more for a while now, but it didn’t occur to me until just before school started to be worried about the stamina it would take to make it through this new schedule, for me and for him.

This all became extremely apparent on the first day of school.

OH MY GOSH, YOU GUYS. He came home from school acting like a crazy person. He was hyper and over tired and saying silly insane things. He couldn’t control his limbs and was dancing around and laughing uncontrollably. He was EXHAUSTED.

When I finally heard how the day went, turns out he had a “hard time listening.” He got upset about having to sit on the letter G on the carpet in class because, you know, he’s 5. He could NOT recover. As an August birthday, he got to wear a crown while they sang happy birthday, but he was still mad about the “G incident.”  This is his Happy Birthday face.

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School is hard work, physically, emotionally, mentally. I need to take care of my boy, so he can carry on, learn and participate in class, to the best of his ability.

But it’s so super hard.

We barely have time for breakfast in the morning, and then when he comes home from school, I find out that he barely ate lunch! He’s so eager to play at recess, he just gobbles up what he can and ditches the rest. After just a couple weeks, I could tell some things needed to change.

I need to start a lifetime of healthy habits for me and my kids. I need to make sure I start the kids early with healthy habits that will keep them going for years to come. Healthy habits that will give them the energy they need to keep going, keep learning, keep exploring, keep enjoying life. We’ve been eating pretty well and taking multi-vitamins for a while, but with the new pressures on our time and our bodies, I’ve realized how important quality is.

I’m choosing high-quality vitamins and supplements from Nature Made® to start Will’s year on track. No matter how healthy I make his lunch, I can’t force him to eat it at school when he’d rather be playing! But if I start his day with Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies I know he’s getting the essential daily nutritional support he may be lacking, in a delicious, easy-to-chew gummy. Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies come in great-tasting all- natural fruit flavors that Will LOVES, like Orange, Cherry & Mixed Berry. Not only do they taste great, they help fill many of the key nutrient gaps from his diet and support overall health.†

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Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies contain 12 essential nutrients for age-specific nutritional support, including vitamins A, C, D and E, B vitamins, and minerals like iodine and zinc. AND YOU GUYS. You can get them at Target!

After dropping Will off at school, I took the twins for a Target run, picking myself up a latte on the way because, of course. I found the Nature Made® KIDS FIRST® Multivitamin Gummies on the top row in the vitamin aisle right away and had plenty of time to meander around and sip my coffee with my girlies.

I’m so happy starting his day with daily nutritional support, knowing that I’m helping his education and overall health in one easy, delicious, gummie bite. Now, hopefully, he’ll come home a little less wacko. Fingers crossed.

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†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Long Live Summer

This post is sponsored by TessaMae in partnership with Mom It Forward Blogger Network. Though I received product and compensation, all opinions (and enthusiasm) remain my own.

We’ve had weird weather this week.

It’s been hot but rainy, windy but sunny. It’s that weird in between where summer is coming to an end, but fall doesn’t have it’s act together yet. Where I have one foot in each season and really have no idea whether to wear boots or flip flops.

We’re a few weeks deep into the school year, and even though the weather has been funky, we’ve been able to maintain a good portion of our summer fun. Playing in the backyard until almost bedtime. Drawing with sidewalk chalk, sword fighting with spatulas in the evening sun.

In these last few days and weeks, where summer is holding its ground, I’m holding on to the sweet memories and delicious flavors of the season. Watermelon dripping down your chin. Sweet and savory pulled pork. Fresh, light turkey wraps with crisp summer vegetables and sweet potato fries. If I can’t make the weather behave, at least I can control the season represented on my plate. Long live summer.

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I’m not Suzy Homemaker. In fact, I think of myself as more of a HomeFaker. You won’t find me making hundreds, or even a handful, of household or kitchen staples from scratch. But I still want to that homemade flavor. I had the opportunity to test out Tessemae’s organic dressings, marinades, and condiments, and they are the perfect any meal –they use real, whole sourced food ingredients and are now certified USDA organic. Tessemae’s is as close as I’m gonna get to making it from scratch… just already done.

Tessemae’s makes 25 different dressings, marinades, and condiments – all USDA organic certified, Whole30 approved, and contain no added sugar, thickeners, or additives – unlike most salad dressings on the market. I even spotted them at my local Whole Foods. All products are also available for purchase directly from Tessemae’s at www.tessemaes.com

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A little scoop of Tessemae’s mayonnaise and mustard were the perfect accompaniment to my new favorite: turkey wraps. A quick, simple, summer-fresh lunch. Organic whole wheat wrap, turkey deli slices, spinach, red bell peppers, and of course, Tessemae’s mayo and mustard. Long live summer indeed.

But I can’t keep all the goodness to myself. I whipped up this delicious pulled pork in the crockpot. It couldn’t have been more simple or flavorful. I’m sure you are going to love it, and your taste buds will say: Long Live Summer.

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Tessemae’s BBQ Pulled Pork

Ingredients-

  • 2 pound pork loin
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 1 bottle Tessemae’s BBQ sauce

Put all ingredients in crockpot. Set on low for 6-8 hours, until pork pulls apart easily with a fork. Serve over fresh bread or on buns with pickles.

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How to Survive Your Independent Toddler

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

My Emma is EXTREMELY independent. She reminds me of it several times per day. She’ll push my hand away and go, “I can do it to myself.”

Fine. Whatever, kid. I’ll be waiting in the other room when you come to the realization that you are too short to reach pretty much anything. Just give me a call when you determine that you actually have no idea how to put your fitted sheet back on your bed (because I barely do). I want you to grow up to stand up for yourself and blaze your own trail, but today is not that day. Today, I just need you to chill out and let me buckle you in to your car seat.

She starts first thing in the morning and never lets up. She wants to open all the doors herself, change her own diaper, get her own clothes out of the top drawer, make her own breakfast, and the list goes on. If I get just a little too busy with the other two kids, she takes matters into her own hands. I’ll turn around and find she’s brought the step stool from the bathroom into the kitchen and is attempting to pull the jug of milk off the top shelf of the fridge. Geez, girl.

The level of tears and tantrums I deal with on the daily, because she wants to “do it to herself,” borders on the ridiculous. When you’re two, and you have two siblings, there is only so much you are able to do and only so much your mom can allow you to do and only so much independence your mom can deal with before losing her ever-loving mind. Lately, the battles have been escalating beyond my threshold of sanity, so I’ve adopted a few tactics to help me get through these independent toddler days.

Read More →

How to Move Without Breaking a Sweat

This is a sponsored post written in partnership with HireAHelper. Though I was provided with discounted services in exchange for my review, all opinions remain my own.

I have a superpower.

Every single time we move, I barely break a sweat. In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I’d share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness expertise.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Tip #1 – Have a major scheduling conflict

2004: First apartment

When we got married, I moved into our first apartment a month before the wedding. It just so happened that our move-in date conflicted with my bridal shower. OOPS! My soon-to-be husband did all the moving for me with one of his buddies because I was simply unavailable.

Sorry, babe. I’m too busy eating finger sandwiches and ripping through gift wrap to move furniture.

2007: Move in with the in-laws

Before we moved to L.A. for Nathan’s business school program, we moved in with my in-laws for a couple months. I was still working full-time, while my hubby was not, so… OOPS!.. he had to do most of the grunt work while I made all the Benjamins. 

2007: Move to Los Angeles

Nathan and I had committed to lead a short-term mission trip to South Africa late that summer which overlapped with moving into our L.A. apartment. Enter Nathan’s amazing L.A. cousins. They jumped in and coordinated with some friends in San Diego to drive our moving truck to L.A. and move-in for us while we were ministering on another continent. Serving the Lord overseas is a very handy way of getting others to organize your kitchen for you.

Tip #2 – Have a pathetically ill or injured spouse

2009: Move in with in-laws

We moved in with my in-laws again after Nathan finished school. This time, I benefited from two tactics: 1) I had a major scheduling conflict due to the fact that I was working full-time far from our apartment while he was not, and 2) Nathan threw out his back which required outside assistance. Our friends felt so bad hearing about our pathetic circumstances, that they jumped into action, coming to take orders from Nathan as he lay on the floor in pain.

2009: Move to Illinois

I planned a surprise birthday/going away party for Nathan a couple days before all our stuff was being shipped to Illinois. The problem was, he got SUPER sick. He was so sick that the going away party turned into a “load up the shipping crate” party since he was likely out of commission for the next couple days. He laid in his parent’s guest room while our friends loaded furniture at his command. Bless.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Tip #3 – Get Pregnant or Have a Newborn

2011 & 2013

Nothing makes people insist upon helping you like seeing you struggle with new parenthood OR hearing you are pregnant with twins. Believe me. When we had a 5-week-old baby and were preparing to move across the country, we couldn’t get our friends to stop showing up with dinner, ready to pack some boxes. When I was entering my second trimester with twins and chasing around a toddler, you better believe our family and friends came to the rescue. In general, no one feels good about a brand new mom or super pregnant friend sweating over a move without offering, or insisting upon, assistance.

Tip #4 – Get Desperate

2009: Unpacking in Illinois

When we moved to Illinois, we didn’t know a soul. Remember how I mentioned in tip#2 that my husband had both thrown out his back AND gotten ridiculously ill during TWO moves in the SAME year? Yup. So now we found ourselves preparing to unload a giant shipping crate full of furniture with just the two of us. In winter. In Illinois. I got desperate. I e-mailed a local church that we were checking out and asked if they had any young married small groups willing to help us unload. They did. Fourteen of the very best, kindest, most hilarious and wonderful people I have ever met showed up at my new home on a Sunday after church and completely set up our home for us. And became our best friends for two years. Actually, forever.

Tip #5 – Hire Help

Present Day

You guys. We’ve done this enough times to know we aren’t spring chickens. Nathan keeps getting sick and throwing his back out. I have THREE children under the age of 5 to wrangle while packing boxes. We are in our 30’s and so are our friends, with their own brood to look after. No amount of beer or pizza is going to bribe a 30-something dad to throw his back out with his buddy who will also throw his back out when at this point in life they need their backs to not be out because of the diaper changing and LEGO building responsibilities at home. And we moms have enough messes and nonsense to deal with without lugging boxes and furniture. We are, after all, responsible for keep our children from crushing themselves under the weight of the china you got 12 years ago but have never used.

Since I’m not getting pregnant anytime soon, and hopefully Nathan isn’t throwing his back out or getting sick, and I had no scheduling conflicts to speak of, we decided to make the reasonable choice and hire help. HireAHelper to be exact.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

Praise Jesus and His Holy Name for HireAHelper.

Can I tell you how glorious this was? Wait. First, let me clarify. We are not like Scrooge McDuck, swimming in our vault full of gold coins. We have three money-sucking young children. We do not have Benjamins just lying around begging to be spent, so we needed to make a wise FINANCIAL choice when we moved.

HireAHelper is so worth every penny, and actually, didn’t cost that many pennies. Here’s how it goes down. You rent a truck, then use HireAHelper to book local movers to load and unload for you. WAY cheaper than traditional full-service moving companies, and still seriously amazing.

Three very respectful and responsible young men (geez, I sound old) showed up in matching shirts and CARRIED ALL OF THE THINGS. They quickly and efficiently loaded up our moving truck, carefully protecting our obviously precious furniture, what with the juice box stains and Mac N’ Cheese fingerprints. (We are very fancy.)

They DISASSEMBLED OUR DINING ROOM TABLE for us, you guys! AND. AND!!! Brought all the heavy bedroom furniture downstairs over baby gates and everything without crashing to their death.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise.

When we showed up at our new place, they hustled like nobody’s business to unload that truck, REASSEMBLE a bunch of furniture, put everything where we wanted (and even move a few things when we changed our minds), all the while with politeness and professionalism. They called me “Ma’am” and Nathan “Sir.” Seriously.

The best part. The very very best part was that when they left, we still had the energy to put stuff away and set up our home. We were legitimately moved in the very first day while barely breaking a sweat. MY STREAK IS ALIVE, FRIENDS! No need for pregnancy or untimely illness! Just HireAHelper!

I have to say I highly recommend using HireAHelper for your next move. Definitely check them out, especially if Tips #1-4 ain’t workin’ for ya.

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise. (Photo credit: Nicolas Huk/Flickr)

In 12 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (I KNOW!), and every single one has been hardly any work at all. I thought I'd share some tips on how to move without breaking a sweat, so others can benefit from my laziness/expertise. (Photo Credit: Guy Kilroy/Flickr)

Our Father

Did you ever watch Mad Men?

There’s a scene where Betty Draper is watching TV. President Kennedy had just been shot. The country and the characters on the show are still reeling from his assassination. Everyone is glued to their televisions, watching follow-up stories and trying to make sense of it all, including Betty.

In this particular scene, she’s mesmerized by the screen, shell-shocked from days of grieving over the earth-shattering loss of the president. She’s searching the face of the man on TV, Lee Harvey Oswald, as he’s being transferred to another prison. Her face is fierce yet fragile, obviously shaken by the recent tragedy but also teaming with anger. Then shouts ring out. And she shouts.

“What is going ON?!”

My sentiments exactly. In the shadow of recent events, with my own eyes glued to various screens, the questions I can’t help but repeat is: What is going on?


Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us of our trespasses,
as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

I grew up Catholic. These words are familiar in my mouth, nostalgic and comfortable.

When I accepted Christ in 1998, these words took on new meaning. The were no longer meaningless ritual. They became powerful and precious. They are the words of Christ pulling the veil, providing an open pathway to the Creator of the universe. They represent our ability to approach our Lord through our Savior, to speak directly to our Maker in conversation, worship, gratitude and communion.

Our Father, who art in heaven

I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed with our world. With the tragedies of late and political climate of our country and world. I’m weighed down on all sides by the life directly in front of me (like getting my kids to PUT THEIR FREAKING PANTS ON ALREADY!) and the big, bad world beyond. I find myself moment by moment in need of a Father, a loving Parent, listening, caring, comforting me from on high. I find myself crying out to Him and desiring Him more than ever when everything I can see is nothing short of terrifying.

Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.

In the wake of bathroom controversies, presidential debates, parental criticism, horrendous massacres, we all cry out. The news, social media, conversations overflow with a call for God to come, to bring His kingdom, to step in, here and now. Save us, help us, show UP, Jesus. Rain down on the injustice, atrocities, ignorance, bigotry, just plain sin. Rain down, bring Your kingdom, bring Your peace, bring Your justice, we plead. Bring it here, bring it now.

Give us this day our daily bread,
And deliver us from evil.

We edit this precious prayer of His. I know I do. Unknowingly, unintentionally, or maybe more intentionally than I’d like to admit. Keep me safe, keep me comfortable, make life easy and carefree. Remove the evil that I see around me. In other people, other lifestyles, other choices, other cultures, other beliefs. Remove the judgement and the hate and the stupidity and the opposition to my way of life that surrounds me. But not IN me. In me? For me? Just provide, please. Keep me comfortable and safe and easy breezy. Keep my fridge full, my gas tank full, my weather good, my children good, my home large and clean and cute and cool in the summer months. That’s all, amen.

As mothers are losing their babies to alligators and gunmen. As men and women and children seek refuge from Syria and suburbia alike. As my countrymen gather ’round at hate-filled rallies and form sanctimonious sisterhoods online. As we, all of us, myself included, prove daily our need for forgiveness and regeneration and God’s patience in waiting before He brings the final judgement. In this place, I edit my prayer.

My precious prayer to my gracious Lord.

I forget the Hallowedness of His Name. I forget my need to receive forgiveness. I forget my role as an intercessor on the part of my so-called enemies. We ask for justice and peace and comfort and judgement on this earth, forgetting to whom we speak.

I have no answers for the news. The events of our time seem more gruesome and heartbreaking by the day. The only answer that seems to make any sense ever is the Sunday School one.

Jesus.

And in His instruction to prayer.

A prayer that starts with recognizing our hallowed Lord, giving Him glory and honor and praise. A prayer that includes confession of our sins and intercession on behalf of other sinners, as well.

Sisters. This world is making me sad. The way things are, these last few weeks especially, and this year to come. It’s so easy for me to cry out,

“What in GOING ON?!”

“Where are you? Do something! Go get the bad guys, and don’t forget to keep me safe. I’m worried, Lord, and scared. Bring heaven here. Make this life easy and peaceful. Give me a leader that makes sense. Give me sane neighbors who won’t shoot me. Give me protection from people and predators by land and by sea. I want ease and peace and comfort, oh please. Amen.”

That’s not a BAD prayer, but I know I’m missing out. I know I’m missing real comfort and peace by not praising His name. I’m missing real ease of spirit by not interceding on behalf of crazed gunman and politicians who could use the same forgiveness I receive.

Through my fear for our future as a nation and a culture. Through my fear for my future as a stay-at-home, soon-to-be homeschooling mom, with chronic depression. Through my fear of so many things locally and globally.

Because there will always be sin and injustice in this terrifyingly worrisome world. Because I will always be ill-equipped and unable to control my children or my country.

Through all this, because of all this and more, I need to pray this prayer. This WHOLE prayer. Unedited and unfettered.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are His, not mine. Now and forever. Amen.