Bags {giveaway}

Some women love shoes. Some love clothes. Some love jewelry.

I prefer purses and bags. It's not that I don't like shoes, clothes, or jewelry but if there is an item that I tend to "collect" it is bags.  I think my love affair with bags started the semester I worked in the handbag department at Carson Pirie Scott.  My girls seem to have inherited this love as well.

I use bags to help organize things around our house and in the car - beach bag, library bag, purse{s}, dance bag, gym bag, lunch bag, garbage bag, and the list goes on and on.

 A few weeks ago I received an email from Amy who is a consultant with a company called Thirty-One Gifts.  I first saw a Thirty-One catalog around Christmas time and immediately fell in love with all their bags.  My wish list was quite long.  Their items are reasonably priced, cute, and they can be personalized.  My favorite items were the ones with organization in the title :o)

When Amy asked if I would want to do a giveaway I immediately said yes!

Amy offered to send our family a few items to use and review before we hosted the giveaway.  Thanks Amy for the fun things you sent to us!
 Morgan had a cinch sack she was using for her gym bag and it was falling apart so when a new cinch sack arrived she was thrilled!  She loves the extra zippered compartment on the front where she can keep a snack or other items she doesn't want covered in chalk from her grips.  It is lightweight and perfect for her gym bag.  

The flat iron cover is darling and perfect for travel!
 I need to pack Morgan dinner on the go two nights a week.  The thermal tote is perfect.  It is large enough to fit her dinner as well as her water bottle and it doesn't get heavy {could this pattern be any cuter!}.  Morgan loves the bag so much she sometimes takes it to gym just to hold her snack.

I often wish I had a small picnic type blanket in the car for when we are at the park or a ball game.  I love that this blanket rolls up and has a handle for easy carrying.  I know we will put this blanket to good use during the spring and summer.
The utility tote that I keep in the back of my car might be my new favorite tote!  It can fold down but I like to have it up ready to use.  I use this tote often for grocery bags and especially for my Costco items.  When I check out at Costco they ask if I want a box.  I always say no to a box as they get heavy and are awkward to get out of the cart.   This utility tote solves that problem.  I am able to organize my groceries in the car and easily get them in the house to put away.

Amy is giving one of my readers a Spirit Floral Thermal Tote.

To enter the giveaway go visit Amy's site and tell me your favorite item from the catalog.
For extra entries you can follow my blog,
 link to this post for the giveaway, 
facebook or tweet about the giveaway.  
Leave a separate comment for each entry.

If you happen to fall in love with these products like I have and you place an order with Amy of $31 you can purchase a purse for 50% off {starting tomorrow}.  If you host a catalog party you can get a free cosmetic bag as well as the Market Thermal Tote for $10 if your party is over $450.

Head on over to Amys' site, browse the catalog, and tell me your favorite items!

Winner will be randomly drawn and announced on Thursday March 3rd.


The Journey: Month One

When I was in my 20's and even early 30's staying within the weight range I set for myself was easy.

I could give up sweets or soda for a bit or pump up my workouts while the weight would quickly disappear and I could get back to "normal" eating.

To be honest up until the last few years I never had to worry about my weight or watch what I ate on a regular basis.  

This is no longer true.

This first month on my journey has been challenging.  It has been a roller coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs.

A big random list of what i learned this past month:
* i enjoy a cup of hot tea in the mornings. i am not a coffee drinker but like something warm in the mornings especially in the winter.  i dropped hot chocolate for tea and i am learning to like it. i never thought i would be a tea drinker but any minty flavor is perfect for me.
* i do well with following my plan as long as we are at home but it is more difficult to follow my plan when we are traveling.  i am trying to keep some healthy snack options in my purse for times when we are running errands and gone longer than expected or i just get hungry.  
* i do okay with water but definitely need to drink more on a regular basis
* i need to be more consistent with keeping a food journal.  i think i can remember what i ate but my post three children brain doesn't always accurately remember.  the weeks i had the biggest losses was when i would journal my food.
* even though i haven't noticed a big loss in the last month i am seeing that my body is changing and some of my clothes are fitting differently.
* i love the recipe builder option on ww.  you can input your ingredients, it divides it by the number of servings and you get a point value per serving.
* i did not like learning that my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies are 6 points... ugh!
* reporting to my accountability partner has been a great source of support, encouragement, and sharing of ideas, recipes, and snacks. it also forces me to stick to my eating and exercise plan when i have to report to someone each week.
* getting back into the exercise routine has been a bit of a challenge.  it takes a conscious effort each day to work out.  i feel like i can push myself at home most of my workout happens on the elliptical or spin bike and i wasn't getting much weight bearing exercise in on a regular basis.  i have been trying to get to the gym a few times a week to use the step mill {love} and run/walk. my favorite workout for working on strength and flexibility is physique 57 so i have been trying to incorporate that at least 2 times a week.
* i love the ww app on my phone. it makes it easy to figure out point values on food/snacks while grocery shopping or eating out.
* as long as i plan for it i can still enjoy my favorites like chocolate chip cookie or fountain soda.
* while in seattle our friends introduced us to cherry coke zero.  i am not a huge fan of diet type sodas.  i have tried regular coke zero and well gag... gross aroo {as mauryn would say}.  the cherry coke zero was actually pretty good.
* the ww candy bar ice cream bars are delicious.  i have one almost every day. love them!
* eggs and turkey bacon is my new favorite breakfast.  i am usually a cereal type girl for breakfast but i have totally been craving protein in the mornings. 

Weight: 146.3 lbs
Loss: 3.5 lbs
Goals: to exercise at least 4 days a week - try to get to the gym 2 days a week, incorporate strength training 2 days a week
to follow ww plan
drink 8 glasses of water per day
to be consistent in keeping a food journal
eat enough fruits and vegetables each day


Finding Joy - Week 7

The joys:

* waking up to snow covered yard
* saying yes to playing in the snow in the morning and waiting to get school done in the afternoon {good thing as the snow was all melted by lunch time}
* landon's project from church on wednesday night... the face with the tongue.  i can't help but smile
* plugging in my camera to upload pictures and finding this picture of mauryn and
this video that landon created

* licking a beater before breakfast
* mauryn's breakfast choice... bagel pizza
* casey {one of teens is home from college} and mauryn sharing secrets
* my kids' excitement about casey being home from college for the weekend
* mauryn telling me how she is casey's special "little" girl
* sunday afternoon naps
* mauryn wanting to hold my hand while we take a nap
* meeting baby elliot via skype... isn't she precious. i just wish canada were closer so i could snuggle that new babe!
* landon isn't a fan of school. it cuts into his playtime.  landon and i created a chart where after 5 days of completing his school work without whining or complaining he would earn a small reward such as going to a movie at the dollar theater, lunch at mcdonalds, a trip to an indoor play center, etc...  last week his first row was completed so he and his dad had a movie date
* morgan and i had a saturday date.  we went to lunch and to see a local production of joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat.
* sunny days and afternoons outside
* my two littles creative games involving many stuffed animals and forts
* four year old speak: eye balls for light bulbs
 popcoom for popcorn,
fo for four,
alligator for escalator and elevator,
hanimatizer for hand sanitizer,
and the list goes on and on  i don't want it to go away!

what were your joys this week?



When we got a list of meets for Morgan to compete in this year we knew right away that we would attend the meet in Tacoma, Washington.  Lance's sister and her family as well as Lance's cousin and his family live in the area so it was a great opportunity to visit family.

Little did we know when we decided to take the trip in August that our dear friends would be moving to the Seattle area in November.

Thanks to a great deal from Southwest Airlines, we were able to fly and spend an extra day visiting our family and friends {yeah for not driving 8 hours although i love road trips!}.

We arrived in Seattle on Thursday evening and headed to our friends home.  The excitement from an almost 7 year old boy to see his best buddy was hard to contain!  Their reunion was priceless.  

We spent the early part of Friday morning catching up and letting the kids play.  I know if I had these windows and this view I would probably not get much done each day.  Even with Seattle cloudiness there was something peaceful and relaxing about those big open windows.
By mid morning we were ready to head out and do a little site seeing.  We went downtown Seattle to see the Space Needle and walk in the surrounding area.  
We decided to skip the $20 trip per person to the top and just enjoyed walking around it, trying to get pictures, and visiting the gift shop.
We took a trip on the monorail down to the mall area.  Of course a pit stop at Starbucks was necessary.  
After getting our coffee/hot chocolate, we walked across the street to the see a waterfall where the kids could run through it.  Landon was brave enough to run through it and got pretty wet. Morgan opted to just get her picture taken in front of it.
The boys loved watching these men play chess in the courtyard.  Landon has been watching/learning chess at our co op on Mondays.  He thought this large chess board was great!
After our afternoon in Seattle we met up with Lance's sister and cousins for dinner.  It was a relaxing evening filled with many stories, laughter, and adult conversation without interruption while the kids played.  

We got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to drive to Morgan's meet.  I was so nervous for her since this would be the first time she really had a crowd to watch her compete and it was her first competition back after hurting her arm pit.  Morgan did great.  Before each meet she sets goals and at this meet she met all of her goals.  She was focused and competed with confidence.  She placed on every event, finished in the top half of her age group, and had her highest all around of the season.  
After her meet we headed to watch cousin Logan play in his basketball game.  It was fun to be there to watch him play ball.  We were all starving after a long morning so we headed out to linner {lunch/dinner}.  We spent the rest of the evening enjoying some intense Just Dance 2 competitions.  {after i got home i realized i didn't get any pics of the cousins.  we were so busy chatting and relaxing i didn't even think to get pics}

We had a wonderfully relaxing Sunday.  We enjoyed hearing our friend Todd preach at his new church in the morning and a trip to Trader Joe's in the afternoon while the dads took the kids to play at the park.

We were at the airport at the crack of dawn for our flight home.  The early morning was worth a heart filled full of fun, relaxation, and love.  Thanks Pucketts, Grahams, and Curnows for a great weekend in Seattle.  


Finding Joy - Week 6

 The joys:

* singing, dancing performance put on by my two littlest kiddos
* napping Chloe 
 * prepping and planning for a boys upcoming lego themed birthday
 * mauryn's excitement about flying. she has flown many times before but didn't remember any of those flights. when we were taking off she would yell "blast off!" she loved looking out the window and kept us all entertained.
 * seeing this sweet boy.  he is full of joy and after not seeing me for 3 months... he remembered me. melt my heart! i love him
 * morgan's gymnastics meet.  she missed her meet last weekend because she had pulled/strained something in her arm pit... strange but true.   she was still having some soreness but pushed through to compete.  she did great having her best meet of the season placing in all events and finishing in the top half of her age group
 * seeing Landon reunited with one of his best buddies.  they were so thrilled to see each other.  it was wonderful to see them just delight in each other
 * family dinner with lance's sister and her kids, his cousin and his family, and his aunt.  kids running, playing, laughing, and enjoying each other
* story sharing among siblings
* an afternoon spent exploring downtown Seattle {more on our trip later}
* mauryn running and laughing... she is so exuberant and joyful
 * spending a weekend with our wonderful friends, the pucketts.  easy conversation, quiet mornings, laughter, life sharing, and the comfort of treasured friendship
 * snuggles and stories with aunt maureen {the kids' great aunt}
 * just dance 2 competition between the cousins... and maybe a few adults :o)
* ice cream sundaes
 *swinging at the park while singing... always singing
 * a quiet sunday afternoon watching a movie and taking care of baby addie {addie's twin, who was left at home is named eli after this sweet young boy}
 * maiden voyage to trader joe's... it might be good there isn't one here
* candy cane joe-joe's... love!
*sneaking away from the chaos of work being done on the floor{and putting school away} to take the kids to an indoor play center
 * my sweet blog friend sara having her baby this week... isn't her family beautiful.  our kids have become friends over skype and we are looking forward to a skype date to meet baby elliot soon. skype will have to do when all i want to do is get my hands on that sweet girl.  someday, someday!
What were your joys this week?



I am a "my house has to be spotless for people to come over"  and " i can't leave for vacation if my house isn't clean" type of person.  

I know it shouldn't be true {and probably isn't true} but I feel like the state of my house is a reflection of me and my ability to be a home schooling/stay at home mom.   I mean, I am home all day I should be able to have a clean, organized house.  

When I resigned from my teaching position and started my job as a stay at home mom I believed that I would always have a clean house.  Oh, how naive was my belief.  
What I quickly learned was that when you live life in your house on a day to day basis {as well as homeschooling}, it is harder to maintain a clean, organized house.

I waver between the realization that my house won't always be in perfect order and the need to have it in perfect order. My type A personality functions much better with organization and order but there are days when there isn't enough time in the day so I am learning to give myself some grace.

Last week we were leaving out of town for one of Morgan's gymnastics meets.  While we were gone we were having our hardwood floors stripped, sanded, and stained.  On Tuesday night we had to move everything off our hardwood floors.  My house was in shambles.  The stove was in the laundry room, the refrigerator in the living room, the piano in the entryway, and stuff shoved in any space we could find. 
 As the floor guys started to work on Wednesday I realized that besides getting packed for the weekend, there would be no regularly scheduled cleaning happening {yes, i have a schedule for cleaning}.  The kids and I were basically blocked off from many parts of the house so access to the vacuum and other cleaning supplies was not possible.  
Leaving my house in complete disarray was difficult.  It wasn't just that the house wasn't clean but due to the floor project nothing was in its normal place on our main floor.  I know it seems silly but as our weekend away came to a close, I had to work on not getting stressed or anxious about the work that lay ahead at home.  The anxiousness and stress would have been a joy stealer so I had to focus on pushing those thoughts aside.  

As much as I dreaded walking into the mess, I loved walking in to see beautiful shiny hardwood floors.
I am pretty positive that I won't EVER leave my house in that state again but it was worth it to get the floor project completed while we were gone.


Living in the Messy

Shortly after we moved here, we were visiting with some friends after church and they spontaneously invited us over for lunch.  As we walked into their home, I noticed breakfast dishes on the counter and a sink piled with dishes.  I was in shock, not because of the mess, but because our hosts didn't care.    

They welcomed us into their home, mess and all.  They were inviting us to live life with them.  While lunch was prepared, the children played, the husbands visited, and the wives worked side by side with sleeves rolled up cooking and cleaning up.  It was comfortable, relaxed, and real.

There were no excuses made, shame felt, or apologizes given.  There was no need.  This is how life is meant to be lived among real, genuine friends.  We traverse the mess of life together.  We wade through the garbage, pull up the weeds, and nurture the growth and change.  

How often do I let perceptions of others hinder me from living a real life, a good story?  Instead of being real, vulnerable, and a little bit messy, I strive to uphold the perceptions others have about me.  If they knew the "real" would they still love and respect me?  As I have been learning over the last few years and seen in the past month, if you are real and honest it doesn't pull people away but draws them closer into your life.  True, genuine, real friends want to navigate the difficult times as well as celebrate in the joyous times. They want to be your anchor when sinking and your cheerleader when you succeed. There is no shame or embarrassment.  There are no excuses or apologizes.   These friends are there to offer love and grace, things that are often difficult to grant to ourselves. 

I am blessed to have some friends in life to encourage me, support me, laugh with me, challenge me, and love me, messes and all.

do you have friends who will navigate the messy with you?


Pinewood Derby

The week Landon and Mauryn came home with their pinewood derby kits, I could see the wheels turning in Lance's head on how to create the cars.

As derby Sunday approached the excitement level in our house rose.  There was cutting, sanding, painting, and assembling.  Both of the kids had definite ideas on how they wanted their cars to look - Landon's was a bronco theme and Mauryn's was pink of course!
 Lance, Landon, and Mauryn headed up to church to have their cars weighed. 
 After their cars were weighed, they were set off to the side on a table protected by "security" while they waited to race.  There were some very impressive car designs.  I think the bar has been raised for next year.  

The race was set up so there were 3 preliminary heats.  During the preliminary heats, Landon and Mauryn's cars were up against each other.  The little sister beat the big brother and jumped for joy!
 Mauryn's car continued on through quite a few elimination heats.  Her little car made it to the top 18 and she was pleased as punch!
 During the races the kids enjoyed being with their friends and cheering on the cars.
 I love this picture that my neighbor Val captured of the kids watching the races.
It was a fun evening, celebrating the kids' hard work on their cars.

I know I have kids {and a husband} looking forward to next year.  I am pretty sure the planning has already started for the next cars!