Perking up with Healthy Essentials

Disclosure: This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them.

This has got to be the longest winter that I can possibly remember- and I’m sitting down here in Texas. Snow, ice, cold temperatures… what is the point of surviving 120 degree summers if we’re going to have to deal with winter too?

I know, I know, all of you northern and east coast folks are shaking your heads at me. I get it- I grew up in the Northeast, spent a year in Alaska and another in Utah, and y’all have it a lot worse than me. But right now, I am over this crazy season.

The worst part about dealing with this weather is the side effects- the sickies, the dry skin, etc. It’s hard to be motivated to look your best for Valentine’s Day when you’re feeling anything but your best!

Luckily, Rembrandt makes it easy to spruce up your smile without ever having to leave your (warm) home. REMBRANDT® DEEPLY WHITE® + Peroxide Fresh Mint Toothpaste removes surface stains and deeply penetrates to visibly whiten teeth inside and out, all while restoring enamel. In fact, it uses the same enamel-safe whitening ingredient that dentists use. (And psst… Get a printable coupon for $3 off any two REMBRANDT® Whitening Paste or Rinse products at HealthyEssentials.com!”). So while I may not be willing to head on out to the dentist for a whitening treatment in subzero (okay, 40 degree) temperatures, I can certainly dazzle up my smile at home!

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Whatever you’re looking to spruce up – like beautiful, conditioned and volumized lashes to flutter at your Valentine using NEUTROGENA® Healthy Volume® Mascara or kissable lips, thanks to NEUTROGENA® MoistureSmooth Color Sticks, which instantly moisturize lips while continuously conditioning them, check out HealthyEssentials.com so that you can save money while doing it!

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Holiday Traditions {Old School Blogging}

I have loved the excellent Old School Blogging from The Miss Elaine-ous Life. This month, she puts on a Holiday version with the ever fabulous Kir of The Kir Corner (and so many other places too). It’s the perfect way to get into the spirit of the season!

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First things first: 1 Holy Night or 8 Crazy Ones? (Do you Celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, both?)

I grew up Catholic (as did my husband) so we’re Christmas here. My sister’s husband celebrates Hanukkah, so we’re learning a little bit there!

Peppermint or Chocolate?

 Chocolate. Or Peppermint. But my weird quirk? Never together.

Sing us into the Holiday Season, what is your favorite Carol this time of year?

My favorite classics are Walking in a Winter Wonderland and I’ll be Home for Christmas. However, I listen to any and all Christmas music.

Tell us about a Favorite Family or Personal Holiday Tradition.

My father’s family is German, so we always had/have a pickle ornament and see who finds it first! The prizes have ranged from sweet to silly over the years.

C’mon you remember your favorite  (Christmas, Hanukkah) gift, tell us all about it:

When I was young, I had lost my favorite Cabbage Patch doll (and we all know what a big deal that was!). I wasn’t a huge doll fan, but this one was special. Anyway, when I came down on Christmas Morning, she was miraculously found and sitting on a chair in front of the Christmas tree! I knew it was her from the nail polish mark on the back of her head (I don’t remember the story behind that mark…). It of course didn’t occur to me that it was made to look that way and it was a real Christmas miracle to me at the time :) That might be one of my first memories, period.

That magical moment? (Your favorite scene from a Holiday movie…it’s okay if you have 2)

I love all Christmas movies, from classic staples to new sappy ones. I don’t think you can beat It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. And you have to have both each and every  year.

Kissing under the mistletoe?  Who do you hope is standing underneath (We know it’s normally your spouse, if it did not have to be, who would you choose?)

Hmm… Channing Tatum wouldn’t ruin my holiday. Or Matthew McConaughey.

Swans a swimming, lords a leaping, golden rings; which gift of the 12 days of Christmas would you like most?

Well none of the birds; I’m terrified of birds. This song actually leaves me very few choices. I’m thinking the drummers would give me a headache, the leaping would do me no good, dancing ladies are just a no… I think it has to be the rings!

Play Secret Santa, what inappropriate gift would you love to give this year?

This is a hard question!! I seriously don’t even know…

Martha Stewart or the Grinch? What is your decorating style? (Pictures would be awesome!)

I am not even close to being Martha Stewart but I am definitely not a grinch. I ADORE Christmas, and I usually have my decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving; however, my husband is in Hawaii until next week so there’s only so much decorating I’ve done so far so we can maintain family traditions. (In other news, they will be up until June).

What is ONE WORD that defines the holiday season for you? (Examples: Believe/Wonder/Bah Humbug?)

Family. It’s always just us for Christmas since we live far away from family wherever we are, so the traditions, the moments, the memories… these are so significant and mean the world to us each and every year.

 If Santa could assure its delivery, what’s the first thing on your holiday wish LIST?

I’d like to freeze time and have it slow down a bit. But, since that’s probably out of Santa’s wheelhouse, I’d take new pots and pans. Or some clothes!


2013 Blogging in Review {Extravaganza}

2013 has been an… interesting year. It’s been a long year. There have been so many challenges and ups and downs (and lefts and rights) that I still spinning trying to sort through it all. While time passes way too quickly, I can’t say that I will entirely mind bringing this year to a close.

But, before we do, it’s a great time to look back over the past year- particularly in blog posts! I love this fun idea from a great group of bloggers, and not just for the awesome giveaways they’re including! At the end of the year and into January, it is a great time to evaluate a blog and consider what I want to do- what changes to make, what to do differently, what to keep the same. Looking back through some of the posts and my year at a glance is a great way to think about just that.

January

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In January, we found out we would need to make a move and I would have to leave my beloved Georgia behind for the Great State of Texas. 

I wrote about the emotions and feelings involved in making yet another move- since we don’t do it nearly often enough (ahem). Read my thoughts in Moving on… Again.

At the same time as preparing for a move, packing, and trying to sell a house- with a 3 month in tow- I also was preparing to be my sister’s matron of honor. This year was busy from the start!

February

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My pretty girl turned 4!

My beautiful daughter turned 4 years old… I could cry just thinking about it. (Even crazier is that she’s about to be 5!) Lily turns 4

While we were awaiting our move, life went on… including Valentine’s day. With my son determined to be creative, I had to attempt some craftiness. This is not news-worthy for most people; however, I’m decidedly not crafty. Check out my Valentines for the Uncrafty post to see how I did!

March

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Our first meal stop view while road-trip moving to Texas.

March (and april) were some busy times. We packed up the house and got ready to head out on a (long) road trip to Texas. But, I did take some time out for some fun Old School Blogging!

Why I love football season

The gender stereotypes about women and football have always driven me a bit crazy. I happen to adore football. Many years and lifetimes ago, I was a cheerleader. My parents signed me up for little league, so from flag football days through high school, I spent many, many, many weekends on the sidelines of football games. This is where an interesting divide occurred among my squads over the years; half of the girls would face the field and gossip or complain away the game, while the other half chose to make the best of the situation and watch the game.

I chose the latter half and after many years of watching and learning, coupled with an unfortunate family affection for the Philadelphia Eagles based on where I grew up, my love of football grew. After attending college in the South, my days as a football fan were cemented- and not just for the game.

10 things I love about Football

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The Yummy Food

Is there anything better than football food? Savory dips, delicious nachos, snack mix, potstickers… I could go on and on and on. Game day is a great excuse to cook up some good food (or even to order in some pizza and wings) and enjoy the day.

Pouring Good Drinks

While I’m not personally a huge beer fan, I definitely don’t discriminate against a good cocktail or glass of wine. And? a chilled glass of white wine goes awesome with my beer and cheddar soup (as does an apple cider beer!). It’s also a great time to test out new cocktail recipes with friends.

Company

A great football game is the perfect excuse to get together and hang out- without having to stress too much about entertaining. All you need is the aforementioned snack food and drinks at the ready, and it’s a perfect way to spend your day. Or..

Enjoying an Escape

Football lets you escape all the busy trappings of a weekend and immerse yourself into the game. Whether your focusing on some great plays or the refs making some horrific calls, you can focus completely on the game (and maybe a little on the kids too).

Watching with my kids

Speaking of my kids, my oldest LOVES football. He loves to watch a lot of sports, so watching a game that I love with him is a ton of fun, especially as he learns more and more about the game. All the kids love the snacks, so it’s a win-win all around.

Sensing the Season

With the first kickoff comes the promise of fall, and it’s such an amazing season- even in the south. Cooler temperatures are promised, humidity is dropping, and you know an amazing season is on its way.

Something’s always on TV

This is particularly true in that end-of-summer, pre-fall premiere time. Television programming just gets slow, so while it’s a good time to turn off the tv, sometimes you want something to watch. Between the NFL network, ESPN recaps and broadcasted games, there’s always a chance to catch a little football.

Nostalgia

After growing up watching so many games with friends and family, it’s nice to think back to some of the memories. Remembering a life-long rivalry between family members, thinking about some of the fun parties held, and the first game I ever attended all make watching it now that much sweeter.

The Food

What? This one’s my favorite, so it gets to go on twice :) Truly, though, there’s nothing better than filling your home with the sumptuous scents of game day food and snacks. If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I’ll often throw in some fall baking too, and we end the night with some apple crisp while watching the last game of the day.

Are you a fan of football? Or any other sports?

 

This post is linked up to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshops using the prompt: 10 things you love about football 

Mama’s Losin’ It

I can be a really bad friend

I love my friends. While this is something I always know to be true, it’s not always something i focus on, especially with a baby in tow.

Recently, my husband and I took a little drive since two of our three kids conked out in the car. While we driving, our conversation veered towards friends of ours who live out of state. It was one of those windy conversations, where one random discussion made way for another. This ultimately led to bringing up yet another person, and my husband asked how long since I had spoken with her. As I fell silent, he glanced at me in question.

A question I couldn’t even answer.

Because I can be such a bad friend.

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Not because I didn’t want to- rather, because I could not recall. I had absolutely no idea the last time I sat on the phone with her. Which led to thinking about another friend and then yet another. Obviously long, involved conversations are not a consistent part of my routine with a baby at home, two other kids, and work to keep me swamped, but there were still times that I could have set aside.

But to be honest, I don’t always make the phone call. I want to make the phone call. I want to catch up and share and know what’s going on. However, I have to admit that with as easy as Facebook makes it to keep tabs on people, the urgency to pick up the phone and call isn’t quite as persistent as it once was. After an entirely too-long day of changing diapers, running from this activity to that, squeezing in meeting calls and answering a bajillion emails, I just.can’t.do.it.

And that’s a shame. Friendships need to be cultivated. They need time, attention, affection. They need more than a few quick Facebook messages and wall posts. Because when you have a true friendship? It’s what gets you through everything else. It supports you through five hundred moves and twenty locations later. It helps you survive the middle of the night feedings and the zombie days of early motherhood. It helps you put one foot in front of the other when all you want to do is fall down.

I’m lucky to have some good, strong, and committed people in my life to call friends. They don’t let me slip away, they do the heavy lifting of checking in when I let it drop. Most importantly, when I finally find myself with my head above water and able to spend the time to check in, to be more consistent, to be more present– they’re there waiting and we can resume as always. They’ve been down in the trenches too, and that’s okay. We get it, we’ll continue to get it, and we’re all better for it.

But the friendships that got lost along the way? I feel sad. I feel like I didn’t do enough and that I let people down. I feel as if I was a bad friend.

Have you ever been there?
 

Matron of Honor

What do you do in between having a baby, putting your house up for sale (with three kids & a dog in tow), moving to Texas and buying a new home?

Why, be the matron of honor in your baby sister’s wedding of course!

When I can wrap my head around the fact that she’s really getting married, I’m honored to fill this role. My sister and I bickered our way through childhood, cried our way through the teen years, and she was even able to be with me when my youngest baby was born- all the while watching my kids while we were in the hospital (for that one, I’ll omit any bridezilla references. Ahem.)

This May, my younger sister is getting married. They actually have a sweet history and engagement. They dated through college, long-distance while he was in the military and stationed in Iraq, together in Colorado while he finished out his military career and now in Wisconsin, where a new job led them both to purchase their first house (which they’re also doing while planning a wedding. Hey, we like to multitask in this family).

While in Colorado, he took her for a helicopter ride through the mountains. Before they landed at sunset, he proposed (and, um, she said yes).

So sweet, right?

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Anyway, fast forward to 2013, and all of a sudden the wedding is on it’s way. With half the bridal party (and the bride!) out of state, we have had to get rather creative. We have dress fittings, bachelorette parties, and a bridal shower all to get through – and soon.

Whew.

So, in the midst of this:

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And doing this:

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After adding this:

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I’m currently in the middle of planning this:

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In her defense, her wedding was planned first.

What were some fun games you played during bridal showers/bachelorette parties? Help me out!

Pool rules

As we spent a few hours at the pool yesterday, my husband looked over at me and said “wow, talk about blog fodder.

Yes, honey. Yes, indeed.

When we bought this house a year ago, one of our criteria was non-negotiable: we had to be in a swim/tennis community. I could have lived without the tennis but since they tend to go hand in hand, there you go. There HAD to be a pool!

In our subdivision, we are lucky that the pool is not terribly crowded on a regular basis, despite the size of the community. One of the key things we’ve noticed is the difference in the week/weekend crowds. There is no doubt that we prefer the weekday crowds.

3 Pool Rules People Need to Follow

1. Watch your children.

Seems so obvious, no? Apparently, no. The number of parents who flop down and doze in the sun or in some other way completely ignore your children is astounding. I want to share drowning videos with each and every one of them. Also? If your 5 year old is crying in the pool, has to be lifted out of it by the lifeguard and bandaged up all without your notice, there’s an issue. Bigger issue? When the lifeguard comes over to tell you what happened, you don’t even say thank you.

2. Don’t fight with the lifeguard.

You live in a homeowner’s association. There are rules about the length of your grass, so it should not come as a surprise that there are rules to use the pool. The lifeguard, that is paid from your dues, is enforcing the rules enacted BY the HOA and property management company. The college kid cannot change what the rules are, so leave the poor kids alone. While I’m sure it’s a giant inconvenience to you to not be able to drink your beer in the pool or leave it inches from the pool’s edge, this is NOT your private pool. Deal with it.

3. Turn DOWN your radio.

I enjoy music. I like to blast it while I’m cleaning, play it in the kitchen speakers when I’m cooking, belt out some songs in the car. But, I’m willing to bet you don’t want to listen to Kenny Chesney or Aerosmith (Hey, I’m eclectic) while relaxing at the pool- the same goes for your R&B. I repeat, NOT YOUR PERSONAL POOL. Bonus rule: Don’t turn it up, then get in the pool. A, there are 50 other people keeping you from hearing it, and B, there is not enough room to prevent me from having to hear it. Don’t be so rude!

As the swimming months go on, I can see this list growing more and more– and more and more. Tell me: What pool/summer behavior dries you crazy?

Season of Festivals

I always love when the warmer weather comes in Georgia (well, except for the allergies). This time of year means more time outside- always good when you have kids- and that festival season has arrived! Where we live, festivals are not just an indicator that spring is here, they’re a part of life. While we browse vendors, eat way too much food, and the kids bounce away, my favorite detail has to be watching my kids just be together. They’re not bickering, fighting over a toy, or trying to drive the other one crazy.

It’s the time of year I can actually get some pictures!

Of eating…

Of waiting to bounce…

And sharing the things they’ve made. 

I love festival season. And I love watching my kids enjoy it even more.

Moving forward

From when I was Waiting, to Looking for answers, Struggling through the questions and when I wore my hair down today, you can catch up on the past crazy year of my life. While there are still some uncertainties, and a lot of doctor visits, there seems to be an end in sight…

After everything I went through, I still remained frustrated. The eventual conclusion was that my birth control had essentially been poisoning me. I had been on mirena, which can stop your cycle (which happened to me for about two years). I had a dangerously high red blood cell count, among other things, that miraculously started improving without any explanation- except the length of time since I had had it removed.

There is no way to prove for sure, but it’s the only explanation some of the top doctors in the nation had left. This, combined with subclinical hyperthyroidism that I am still battling and seeking answers on, ravaged my body. My hair fell out until I looked like the cancer patient I so feared being; my weight continued to drop until my ribs poked out and I was horrifically skeletal. My moods were horrendous, and my emotions were so far out of control I could scarcely recognize the person I had become.

Slowly, I started to feel better. Some of the more intense symptoms started to fade away, and while some of the others remained, I started to feel more human. Not surprisingly, when I returned for my weekly checks, this was in direct correlation to the stabilization of my hormones and dropping off my red blood cell count. I started to breathe a bit easier, no longer fearing for every week to come with more horrifying news than the last; I finally started to believe that this was starting to pass.

The past year has held a lot of emotions. From the time I held clumps and clumps of hair in my hand, to when I walked into the cancer center, the youngest person by decades and yet the recipient of pitying looks, to the gallons of blood I had drawn and endless medical procedures I have had done, I truly felt I had been through it all. From medications to anesthesia, mood swings to breakdowns, I thought I had seen it all.

Until a few weeks later. It seemed life had one more surprise in store…

I just started my second trimester. At 14 weeks, I’m ready to share- unless you’re my family. They will find out when we visit them in person in a few weeks so shhh if you’re a facebook friend!
 

I wore my hair down today

I wore my hair down today.

It’s almost laughable to think that something so seemingly inconsequential is so significant. Last year, I stood in front of the mirror, tears streaming down my face as I pulled clumps after clumps of hair off of my head, slowly displaying large portions my scalp in a tortured reveal. I spent weeks crying as it continued after each shower, each brushing of what was left, each end of the day. So, finally, I put my hair in a ponytail.

And it’s been there ever since.

You just don’t quite realize how much your appearance is a part of you. It is hard to comprehend that removing an element of ourselves that we so often take for granted can have such a profound impact on your every day.

But it does.

You do not like to think that you are preoccupied with your appearance. While you strive to look decent and well put together, it is difficult to imagine that something such as the look of your hair could feel like it affects your very being.

But it does.

When facing challenges you never thought you’d face, experiencing fear unlike that of which you’ve ever known, with the future such an uncertainty, it is hard to believe that looking in the mirror can make you feel like you’re already losing the fight.

But it can.

I am a lucky, lucky woman. With everything that I have experienced this past year, and everything I have to face ahead, I am still here. I am in a position where I no longer have to fear for my life, fear for my tomorrow. But this past year has changed so much of my perspective and has shaken me down to the very core. When something comes your way that affects every part of your life, it is impossible to imagine how much things will change. Even more incomprehensible is the slow fear that wars with hope when you start to notice a change can overwhelm you to the point of exhaustion.

But it can.

I wore my hair down today. While it doesn’t compare to the assurances I have been given, while it doesn’t erase the trepidation and anxiety the past year has consumed me with, while it doesn’t come close to the absolutely stunning things I will still face…

I wore my hair down today.

It still means so much. In a way that may never make much sense to anyone, it still means so much. Tears streamed down my face as I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I started to think it would be okay.

Because I wore my hair down today.

Please excuse the odd picture, but it’s the only one I took of myself yesterday :)