Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Letters



My friend, Deidre, writes a letter to her family every Sunday. I love this idea so much that when she invited her readers to join her, I was more than willing to throw my self-imposed "No Blogging On Sunday" rule out the window.

Here we go.

Dear Abbey,
(Sounds like I'm writing a letter to a newspaper columnist. Giggle.)
I'm so sorry you've been sick this weekend. You were excited to get to spend the night with your favorite friend on Friday and were so disappointed when you had to leave school early because you weren't feeling great. It would have been your VERY first time to sleep over at a friend's house. We'll make it up to you, sweetie. I promise.


Dear Sarah,
I had a fun time with you yesterday afternoon. Love that you talked my head off in the car. Love that you wanted to look at every single thing in Ulta. I also love that you told me I was your favorite Mommy. Maybe that was because I took you to Starbucks after we did some shopping, but I really just think you enjoy the one-on-one time with me as much as I enjoy it with you. You are so sweet to always say "Thank you" whenever we help you or do something for you. And your generous heart is a blessing to everyone around you.

Dear Will,
You came home from church today and put your pjs back on...that made me smile so big. You love to be at home, but "weekend" plans with friends are becoming more and more the norm for you. That makes me both happy and sad. I like your friends--you've made wise choices in regard to who you spend your time with--and I'm proud of you for that. I just love it best when we're all home together! Every afternoon for the last couple of weeks, you've gotten in the van after school and asked about my friend, Joanne. Your concern and compassion has been so genuine and so touching. I love you, buddy. This week we'll be heading to the high school to get you registered for your freshman year. I don't know if you saw my tears last night when we were discussing your schedule/classes, but they were there...and they were real. Denial doesn't seem to be working for me.


Dear John,
(Giggling again. This time it sounds like I'm writing a "good-bye" letter.)
I know you're under enormous stress right now because of the projects you're juggling. Thank you for working so hard for me, for us. I probably don't say that enough.

Thank you also for always being so quick to forgive and seek restoration when our relationship is challenged. After two "discussions" this week,  you came to me, apologized, and asked forgiveness. I think we both know that I was the one who should have initiated the apology. You continually set an amazing example of humility, sacrifice, and compassion--both for me and for our children. I love you!

I'm also sorry that I missed the class you were teaching at church this past week. I think you know how much I wanted to be there and how torn I was. Thank you for releasing me from guilt and sending me off with your blessing (and your Visa gift card!)

------------------------------------------

Deidre would love for you to join her in writing Sunday Letters to your family. More details here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Five Lumped Into One!

This should probably be about five different posts but I'm feeling a tiny bit sassy right now so I'm going to lump it all into one. Five for one. What a deal. It's your lucky Saturday.

First, a big thanks to Stephanie for her guest post on Tips for Starting a Blog. I know from a little survey I did back in the fall that there are lots of you who read blogs regularly but don't keep a blog of your very own. What are you waiting for? Please don't tell me that you have nothing to say or that your life is dull. If that were your excuse then you must not read my blog very often. I mean, really, I blog about things like hairdryer lint.

Moving on...

It has been G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S here the last few days. Yesterday the high was close to 70 degrees. In January. In Colorado. Crazy, but amazing! I hiked with some friends yesterday and was sorta surprised by all the snow on the trail. It hasn't snowed much at all this winter, and the trail by my house that I hiked the day before was dry as a bone. The difference between dry and snowy trails is altitude. It was really more ice than snow since it had melted and re-frozen many times. I'm just thankful I didn't bust it going up...or coming down...though I did lose my footing a few times.
(I don't usually like to post pics of others without permission but you can barely even tell there are people in this photo. I think that's me and my friend, Molly!)

ANYWAY, before we hit the trail I stood at my car and had a little debate with myself about whether or not to carry my cell phone. I didn't have pockets so I decided to leave it. Especially since the other five moms with me had theirs. I *always always always* take it with me because I worry that the school(s) might need me in an emergency, but I knew John was at home working so I decided to leave it. And OF COURSE, the school nurse did call. Abbey had a fever and needed to come home. I'm thankful John was able to go get her, but I felt bad that I didn't have my phone with me. Lesson learned.

She's feeling a little bit better today but she had a pretty significant temperature most of yesterday. She still has fever and a yucky cough and sore throat but popsicles and Wizards of Waverly Place are keeping her happy.

We had a really good week. Full and somewhat busy, but overall really good.

I have one really big thing I want to tell you about and I was going to include it in this post but I think I'm going to sign off for now. I really want to (finally) finish reading my book (with the aid of the new reading glasses I bought this week)(at Walgreens). And get outside and enjoy this weather before the snow blows in. I'm grateful for snow...I really am...and I desperately want some...but they're not predicting much...and after several days of gorgeous weather, I'm afraid I have a touch of spring fever!!!

Wait, I just remembered two important things...

1. Joanne is improving! Today she is moving to a long term acute care facility where she'll continue her recovery process. I've been encouraged so much by her progress in the last week. Thank you again for your prayers for her!

2. If you read my blog in a reader, click over and see my new design. I'm still tweaking things and still have some content to add to the tabs in the navbar at the top but I really love that it's clean and fresh...and the header pictures make "Lifeat7000Feet" so punny. Lots of you have already noticed the change and I appreciate the compliments you've sent my way but all the credit goes to Jackie at Memories by Design. Thank you, Jackie. It's perfection!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tips for Starting a Blog :: Guest Post

Guest post by Stephanie from Stephanie's Mommy Brain.  

I recently shared with my readers about an opportunity to speak about blogging to a local MOPs group.  When that event was canceled Meredith asked me to share the information with her readers.

My Blogging Story

Summer 2006 brought two things to my home in New England - blazing heat and the 3rd trimester of my 3rd pregnancy.  In an effort to escape the heat, while  keeping down my electric bill, I sought refuge in my cool finished basement.  My two toddlers built block towers on one side of the room and I surfed the internet on the other side of the room.

While surfing, I occasionally read Lisa Whelchel's Coffee Talk. One week she linked to the blog of her friend, Sarah. I followed the link and was hooked. From Sarah I found all sorts of blogs. Mommy blogs. Decorating blogs. Organizing blogs. Even Beth Moore has a blog (which is how I met Meredith)!

That's how I discovered blogging. Why I started blogging a year later is a pretty common story.  All of my family, and the majority of my friends, live at least 1000 miles away.  I thought a blog might help me stay in touch. It did that and so much more!

In the last three and a half years, blogging has provided me with a creative outlet, friends I would have never met otherwise (like Meredith!), an online scrapbook of my growing family, free products and a part-time job, and lots of fun!

Blogging has been such a positive experience for me that I'd love to help everyone start a blog!  So here are a few things I've learned about blogging in the last three years.

Decide Why You Blog

There are several main reasons to begin a blog.  You might want to keep up with family and friends, practice your writing skills, share information on a topic you're passionate about, or earn an income.  Or it could be a combination of all of them.

Knowing the reason you are blogging helps you make decisions about your blog - from topics to write about to accepting offers from PR companies to how often you publish a post.

While it's good to know your purpose, it's also possible for your reasons to change over time.  Just be sure to let your readers know when your purpose changes and how that will affect your blog.

Set Up Your Blog

I recommend new bloggers sign up with Blogger.  It's free and the easiest format to learn to use.  Once you decide on a blog name, set up your account and purchase the domain through Blogger for $10 a year.

I also recommend setting up a new email account through gmail.  It's free and can be forwarded to any other email account.  I used my blog title (Stephanie's Mommy Brain) as the address so I can keep my blog life separate from my family life.

You'll also want a stat counter of some kind installed on your blog.  Google Analytics is a popular program.  I've used StatCounter since the beginning and have been satisfied.  You may not care how many 'unique visitors' or 'pageloads' you have but you DO want to keep tabs on the google searches that bring visitors to your blog.

In my first year I wrote a harmless post that inadvertently contained several key words for some icky searches.  I DON'T want those kind of readers coming to my blog so I went into the post and changed the words.  Without StatCounter I would have had no idea that those people were visiting!

Along those same lines, you need to decide how much personal information to give out.  I use our real first names and state (Rhode Island) but never tell the city or our last names.  I'm comfortable with that level of information.  You might decide to use pseudonyms for your family or never show their faces in a photo.  Just remember, once the info is out there you can't take it back.

Learn Blogging Etiquette

Every hobby and profession has it's own, largely unspoken, etiquette.  Blogging also has its own polite rules.  Here are a few:
  1. Don't copy and paste large passages from another blog without getting permission first!  (This is legally plagiarism and a no-no.)
  2. Link.  Link.  Link.  It's OK to have another blog spark an idea, inspire a post, or even quote a sentence or two;  when that happens, be sure to link to the specific post and tell your readers the name of the blog that you read.
  3. Appreciate your commenters.  You can do this by replying to the comment by email, responding in another comment on your post or both.  I like to do both.  The email ensures the commenter sees my response, while a comment by me helps other readers see the continuing conversation.  If you never respond to your readers, they will eventually stop commenting and reading your blog.
  4. Read other blogs and leave substantive comments.  "Great post" doesn't add a whole lot to the conversation and a link to an off topic post on your blog is more like spam than talking with a friend.  It's OK to do these occasionally on blogs where you regularly comment, but don't let it be a habit.
  5. Never blog a negative story about your husband, friends, family, distant relatives, neighbors, kids' teachers, etc.  Sure venting about a fight you had with your husband's aunt might feel good at the time, but you NEVER know who is reading!  Aunt Jo might be a long time reader and you just destroyed the relationship with her in one blog post.  Always remember:  once it's on the internet you can never take it back.
Those are just a few lessons I've learned in three years of blogging.  I hope you find the information useful!  I've enjoyed sharing with you and want to thank Meredith for the opportunity to guest post.  It's been fun!

Do you have any questions about blogging that I didn't cover?  I'll do my best to answer them in the comments or point you to someone who can answer.  For you blogging experts, do you have a tip that I didn't include?  Please share it in the comments!
__________________________________________________________

Stephanie is a stay at home(schooling) mom of four under the age of 7.  Despite growing up in Northeast Arkansas (like Meredith), having relatives in Northwest Arkansas (like Meredith) and graduating from OBU (like Meredith's husband), she has not yet met Meredith in real life.  However, she holds out hope that one day they will meet and swap blogging stories face-to-face.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Abbey B, Girl Detective

This is Abbey's reading log from last week.

Can I just tell you how H-A-P-P-Y I am that she is reading Nancy Drew? It makes me grin from ear to ear. I loved Nancy Drew books when I was younger. LOVED them.

Her older sister, Sarah, the girl who has a voracious appetite for the written word and who claims her sport is Xtreme reading has never gotten into Nancy Drew. She tried. Tried again even. But it just wasn't something she wanted to pursue. I probably didn't contain my disappointment well.

One morning, around the first of the year, Abbey went with me to the grocery store. We were talking about her beautiful chestnut-colored hair and I said: Hey, you know who has hair the color of yours? NANCY DREW!

She loved that, so I started telling her all about the characters in Nancy Drew novels--Bess, George, Ned, Hannah. She knew a little bit from seeing the movie, but I told her the books were VERY different from the movie. She was intrigued. She told me she thought she might want to try reading the first book because she loved solving mysteries. An hour or so later she helped me find black beans at the grocery store and she pulled my ear close so she could whisper: See, I found the beans for you. I'm sort of a mystery solver. Soooooooooo adorable. 

The next thing I knew she came home from the school library with the first two books in the series. Last week Sarah helped her find a bunch of books that were in a chest in the basement...most of these are ones that my mom found at "Friends of the Library" sales. Abbey has big plans to read them all!
She walked into the kitchen this morning and the first thing she said to me was: Mom, I had to turn my light out last night JUST when Nancy was about to find the will.

She ate breakfast and got dressed in record time this morning so she could keep reading.
I have no words...
It's pure happiness for my mama-heart!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday: Blowing Hot Air

Brace yourself. This is riveting stuff, folks.

I want to tell you about the discovery I made about my hair dryer.

I'm tough on hair dryers. My hair is very thick and can take a sweet forever to dry. I can't tell you how many hairdryers I've blown through (punny--ha ha!) over the years because I've burned up the motor in them. Four or five years ago, I splurged and bought this one (with a coupon and my Ulta rewards because y'all know I'm cheap, right?)

This hair dryer has been very good to me. Not only has it lasted 4-5x longer than the kind I used to buy, it dries my hair super fast and it leaves it ultra smooth.

But last fall I noticed that it was taking longer for my hair to get dry. And my hair dryer felt super slow and draggy. (Is draggy a word?) I figured it was probably about to die and I should start thinking about a replacement.

At Thanksgiving, my sister let me use her new hairdryer that was similar. Honestly, I was jealous. Pea green with envy. Hers was super fast, super light, and left my hair looking and feeling great. I wasn't happy when I had to leave her house and return to using my slow, draggy one.

Not long after that, I walked in my bathroom and noticed that the end piece on my hair dryer had come off. And then I saw how filthy it was--inside and out. I picked it up and completely washed every single piece. I got that thing cleaner than clean.
And guess what?

It's like I have a brand new hair dryer! I think my sister would be jealous of MINE now. Ha!

I'm sure some of you clean yours regularly. It's probably the same few of you that knew to sear your meat. (Smile). But if you're slow on the uptake like me, try cleaning your filters (like the manual suggests) to preserve the life of your hair dryer and keep it working well!

It really was an "A-ha!" realization for me. I probably could have saved myself a LOT of needless hair dryer purchases over the years if I'd simply taken less than five minutes to do this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A New Day, A New Week

FOR TODAY...


Outside my window... The sun is shining on the bright, white snow that we woke up to. It was quite unexpected, but quite welcome!

I am thinking... about the activities of the week. It's already feeling full.

I am thankful for... a husband and friend who drive kids to school when it's snowy and cold. And for some hopeful news about Joanne

I am wearing... plaid pajama pants and my dad's Arkansas sweatshirt. 

I am remembering... that last Monday morning our beagle was wearing a cone and recovering from an unfortunate situation. Jack-the-beagle had a follow-up appointment earlier this morning and things are healing but he needs another round of antibiotics to fully clear things up. He actually didn't have to wear his cone for very long. The vet let us take it off since he's overweight and there's no possible way he could reach "back there" because of his size. We're working on getting his weight down. 

I am going... to meet a friend for coffee later today before I begin my carpool rounds. It's the perfect day for it.

I am currently reading... Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I am hoping... to finally meet Amber this week. More on that later.

On my mind... I need to schedule a doctor's appointment for some "issues" that keep cropping up.

Noticing that... the calendar indicates that my son will be fourteen in a couple of weeks. And he wants some kind of party with his friends to celebrate. Guess I need to get it in gear. 

Pondering these words... "on the third day". Bible study last week piqued my interest in this phrase and I noticed it again yesterday while saying the creed in church. Would love to do a little digging around in the Word for more instances of it's use and all that it means. Anyone have some extra time they can lend me?

In the kitchen... Well, so far this morning I've cleaned out my refrigerator, prepped all the meat for the meals on my menu plan, and figured out what we're having for dinner. Was thinking about making a batch of refrigerator bran muffins but I think I'll wait until tomorrow. 

Around the house... Mondays are usually my designated domestic day. Seems I need this day to bring order back to our home after everyone being at home all weekend. I'll be cleaning bathrooms, mopping, dusting, vacuuming, etc. Lucky me. 

One of my favorite things... Well, one of my new favorite things is this bath pillow I bought last week. Makes reading in the tub so much more enjoyable, not to mention COMFORTABLE! 

From my picture journal... This was taken around Thanksgiving...when Will's hair was still long. Man, I love these guys.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday...

I am soooooooooooooo thankful that today is Friday and I am soooooooooooooo ready for a low-key weekend.

As much as I love short weeks (we were off Monday for MLK Day) they have a tendency to feel long and this short week was no exception.

Last night we took the kids to the mall to get a few things they needed. You know I'm not a mall girl, right? I don't know that I darkened the doors even once in December. I just don't like the place. Last night was pretty painless though. Evidently, Thursday night is the time to go shopping if you despise crowds--the place was almost empty! We found what we needed pretty quickly and most of it was on sale. Hooray! I stumbled across a store I've never seen before called Crazy 8. It's a children's clothing store and it's owned by Gymboree. Y'all heard of it? Their stuff was CUTE and very reasonably priced. I could have bought a lot more (for Abbey, not the tween or teen) but I had a budget to stick to. Anyway, thought I'd pass that fun find on to the rest of you. Sometimes it's nice to have options. :)

Speaking of fun finds, do any of you live in a test market for Chick-Fil-A? If so then you really really really need to try their spicy chicken nuggets. We stopped at a Chick-Fil-A just north of here on our way back from Winter Park. I ordered them, loved them, and have been craving them ever since. I was out and about one day last week around lunch time and decided that I must have some more of those nuggets (they're sorta like boneless buffalo wings--very spicy) and decided that my craving was worth the nightmarish drive-thru line at my Chick-Fil-A. I was beyond disappointed when I ordered them and was told that they're only available in test markets at this time. Evidently Denver is a test market and Colorado Springs is NOT! Booooo. My craving is still unfulfilled, so if you are able to enjoy them, please do. I'm hoping they had amazing response and will begin offering them to the the rest of the US soon.

Yes, I really just wrote an entire paragraph about Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken nuggets.

I'm about to head out for my huge bi-weekly grocery shopping trip. I want to get all of my domestic chores finished today so that I can relax and enjoy the weekend. Hope yours is a great one.

Please continue to keep Joanne in your prayers. She's been taken off the meds that induced her coma. Hopefully she'll begin "waking up" soon and they can then determine what her recovery might look like. Toben has been great at keeping her blog updated with news of progress and ways we can all pray.

Thanks you guys. Hope you have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sharing some "INGS"

PrayING for Joanne, her girlies, her husband and her family. Praying she wakes up, for peace in the waiting, and for her mind and body to be fully restored.

WaitING for snow. It's snowing hard at this very moment but we're not expecting much accumulation. I'm sad about that because we need some moisture. I read somewhere that we're 60% behind our normal snow totals this year.

LovING the cords I found at the Eddie Bauer outlet last weekend for $10. Sorta wish I had gotten another pair in a different color. Also wish I'd had a $5 EB Rewards coupon like my friend, Jennifer, did. She scored a pair for $5. Lucky.

Also lovING this smoothie recipe from my January issue of Everyday Food. I can't find a link to it, but it's easy: Add 1 orange (peeled), 1 banana, 1 cup frozen berries (any kind), 1 cup pomegranate juice (I like this brand), and a handful of ice to the blender and blend until smooth. YUM!

ReadING The Hunger Games for book club. Actually I finished it early this morning and I thought it was very good. I borrowed the second book today and I am anxious to start it. Have y'all read it? What did you think?

CookING. I've tried some really good recipes lately. This one for "the easiest spaghetti and meatballs" was delicious and definitely lives up to it's name. This soup (pasta fagioli) was also super yummy.

StudyING Esther. I gotta be honest, I'm not a Beth Moore "devotee" like so many of my friends are but this study is really, really, REALLY good. I've learned tons and much of the material has been so relevant to what's going on in my life. I know that's not a coincidence. The last session was on fear and this morning's session was on timing/waiting...very, very timely stuff for me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tell About it Tuesday: Searing

Okay, this might not seem like a life-changing thing to you, but it was to me.

Sear your meat before you put it in the crock-pot or oven. 

Honestly, my mom has suggested I do that for years. I've been married for twenty years and that's probably how long she's been telling me that.

One night during Thanksgiving week, my mom made pot roast for all of us. I've eaten a lot of pot roast in my day but her pot roast was to die for. My sister and I both commented that our roast never tastes that delicious or tender. And of course, my mom said that the secret was to sear the meat.

I came home from Thanksgiving and decided to try it. Twenty years later I decided to listen. No, I'm not the least bit stubborn. Why do you ask?

Guess what? My mom was right! Searing is the key to tender, fall-apart meat.

Perhaps you've known this for awhile but humor me because I'm just now realizing that I can make delicious roast too!

I mentioned yesterday that we had friends over for dinner the other night. I made shredded beef tacos (really easy and really good!) and of course I seared the meat and of course they were delicious and tender.

Here's the nitty gritty:

Pour some oil in a heavy skillet or stock-pot and let it get really hot.

Add your meat.

Let it get nice and brown on every side. I use my tongs to help me hold it at weird angles to get the sides nice and brown too.

Then transfer the meat to your crock-pot or oven to finish cooking.

See how simple that is? It's a tiny bit messy but very worth it!

Confession: I put the ingredients for beef stew in the crock-pot a few minutes ago and I didn't sear the stew meat. Gasp. I didn't sear it mainly because I enjoy irony, but also because it wasn't completely thawed and I was in a hurry. It will still be good, but it would be better if I had seared it first.

Don't be a stubborn, slow learner like I was. SEAR your meat!!!

Thank you, mom!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coney Dog

Well, our weekend was certainly interesting.

See our coney dog? John quipped on Facebook last night that Jack was wearing one expensive cone of shame.

It's kind of a long (and gross) story and I'll spare you the detailed version. Ultimately, this happened, (DO NOT click that link if you're easily disgusted) and it was super, duper gross.

Of course it happened after I'd steam cleaned our carpets. Twice.

Of course it happened about one hour before we had ELEVEN guests arriving for dinner.

Of course it happened after hours and on a weekend and our vet clinic that is one mile down the road was closed.

So of course John had to take him to the 24-Hour Emergency Pet Hospital that's not just one mile down the road.

Of course he was there with Jack for almost five hours. And of course, John missed our entire dinner party. Because of a dog's rear end. Sigh.

I've got to find some kind of doggie diaper for Jack today because of course he still has some (ahem) leakage. And did I mention I've steam cleaned my carpets twice since all of this started happening?

Remember when I blogged about needing to loosen my grip on control? Yeah, this weekend I was in intensive Letting Go of Control 101. 

On a side note, Jack is getting lots of TLC and I do feel really sorry for him. He has to wear the cone until his hind quarter heals which could be a week or more. It's really sad, but also a bit comical. He tried to scratch his ear last night and kept scratching the cone in frustration. He bumps into walls and furniture and doorways. Every time he goes outside he puts his nose to the ground to sniff, unintentionally scoops a coneful of snow, then gets it all in his face when he raises his head up. See? Comical. And sad. And just a part of life.

In the midst of all the stuff with Jack this weekend, I just kept saying over and over and over, "This is NOT a crisis. This is merely an inconvenience." Perspective is everything and right now Joanne's circumstances are giving me perspective at every turn. The latest news is that she is in a deep coma, her brain swelling has started to subside, and she'll probably be in a coma for a while. Again, the best way to get information is to follow Joanne's blog, Janna's blog, or tobenheim on Twitter. And, again, I thank you for praying for my friend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ache

I certainly don't want to sound like a broken record, but my friend Joanne still desperately needs your prayers. Due to some seizures she had yesterday, doctors put her in a medically induced coma to give her brain and body a chance to rest and heal. That's really all I know at this point. Again, the best way to get information is to follow Joanne's blog, Janna's blog, or tobenheim on Twitter.

I can't tell you how much my heart aches for her family. Not just her husband, but her daughters, her parents and her sister too.

I so desperately want to KNOW this is all going to turn out good.

I believe God can heal her and I'm trusting that's His plan, but what I really want is certainty.

It really all boils down to control.

I want to control the outcome. Not just in Joanne's situation but in almost every daily situation I face.

I hate it when I don't feel like I'm in control. I hate it even more when I catch a glimpse of myself striving for it. I'm trying to cast off the need to control and remember that it's a load that I've not been asked to carry. It's harder than it sounds...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A couple of things...

First of all, thank you for praying for my friend, Joanne Heim.  All I know this morning is that she is resting in ICU and her family is just in wait mode. She still desperately needs your prayers. Many of you have asked how to stay updated on her progress. My best suggestions are to keep checking Joanne's blog, Janna's blog, or if you use Twitter, you can follow her husband: tobenheim He's updating when he can.

It seems almost impossible to not let Joanne's situation give perspective to our daily lives.

Hug your kids.

Kiss your husband.

Apologize when you're wrong.

Say "I Love You". And say it often.

Focus on the things that really matter. (Note to self: A perfectly clean house, other people's bad behavior, blog templates and the iPhone 4 don't qualify as things that really matter).

I think you guys can take it from here...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fragile

A couple of years ago, just as summer was ending and school was beginning, I got a phone call from a dear friend informing me that another dear friend was fighting for his life after a terrible, terrible accident. The minutes and hours were critical, but during that time and the days and weeks that followed, literally hundreds of people were praying for my friend. He made a complete and full recovery and is living proof of the power of prayer.

Yesterday was an eerily similar, gut-wrenching day.

Right after Abbey left for school, I got an urgent email message from my friend, Janna, informing me that our sweet friend, Joanne, aka The Simple Wife, was fighting for her life as well. Joanne had a stroke yesterday morning while running on her treadmill. Upon arrival at the hospital, doctors found a blood clot in her brain and she had immediate surgery to dissolve it. She spent the night in ICU but is about to have more surgery to remove part of her skull to alleviate the swelling on her brain. You can read her husband's latest update here.

If you're the praying type, please pray for my sweet friend.

Please pray for her husband.

Please pray for her daughters. My heart is particularly heavy for them. Audrey and Emma are almost the same ages as Sarah and Abbey. Her youngest, Emma, is the one who found her mom unresponsive yesterday morning. She and Audrey had to be very brave and handle some very grown up matters and witness some very intense scenes yesterday. It simply breaks my heart.


Life is so very fragile.


And prayer is so very powerful.

Joanne's family has been reading the prayers and well-wishes that people are posting on her blog and on her Facebook page out loud to her, so post away if you'd like her to add yours. You can also help "wallpaper her room" with scripture.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday: Dry Shampoo

Back before Christmas I wrote a post (in my head) that I titled: Four Things That Will Change Your Life. They changed my life so surely they'll change yours, right?

I decided that claim was a bit dramatic (and the post never moved from my head to my computer) so I moved on. BUT, the truth is that I really have stumbled upon some things that aren't necessarily life-changing but they're too good not to share. So, I'm introducing "Tell About It Tuesday". And I can only guarantee you 3-4 Tuesdays worth of posts. 

Today's topic: Dry Shampoo

I remember a friend mentioning this to me several years ago and while I found the idea intriguing, I couldn't find the product. Last summer, Leslie mentioned dry shampoo in a blog post and reminded me that I wanted to try it! I finally got around to it a mere six months later...

Here is the product that she steered me to buy--Batiste Dry Shampoo

Y'all...this stuff is AMAZING.

I typically wash my hair every day. Not because I want to, but because my scalp is oily. Not only do I wash my hair every day, but I blow dry and straighten it too. You can imagine how dry my ends are in the land of no humidity. I really have tried to go a day between washings because I know it's best for my hair, and I can totally pull it off, but by the end of the second day of unwashed hair, it starts to get gross--oily and *ahem* stinky.

Enter Batiste Dry Shampoo. I spray it on my hair (it turns my hair whitish-gray), wait a few minutes, massage it into my scalp, then brush it completely out. My "shampooed" hair is shiny, smells good, and has amazing body with NO residue from the shampoo. It actually looks better on the days I use the dry stuff than it does on the days I go through my whole wash/dry/straighten routine.

I've been using this stuff for about a month and WOW. It really has changed my life morning routine. Now I live for days that I can get ready in fifteen minutes or less!

Seriously...you MUST try this product!!!

Here's what you need to know.
I found it at Sally Beauty Supply, but I *think* it might also be sold at Ulta. I know it's available at Ulta online but I'm going to see if I can find it at my Ulta store because then I can use one of the endless coupons I get from them! You can also buy it from Amazon.

I like the blush scent the best. The original scent is okay, but it's a little funky. I tried that scent first and was glad I also had the blush scent to try. I haven't tried the tropical.

It retails for about $7.50-$8.00 for a 5.5oz can.
I actually bought two smaller (1.5oz) cans instead because they were on clearance and I wanted to try the smaller size before I was "fully" invested. I'll be buying the big one from now on.

I also picked up a can of this at Walmart last week to compare. It's Salon Grafix Dry Shampoo and it's slightly cheaper (around $5 for a can).  I used it over the weekend and didn't love it. It left my hair feeling slightly sticky and like it had (even) more product in it. I think the Batiste shampoo makes it feel cleaner. I will say that the Salon Grafix shampoo smells really good though. I hate to waste things so I'll finish the can and then buy more Batiste!
So, there you have it! Let me know if you've used dry shampoo and if you have another one that you love! I've heard Bumble and Bumble is good (but pricey) and I've heard the one by Tigi is good too. Tigi's is called Dirty Secret. I love how they name their products. I think I like the price tag on the Batiste dry shampoo best though! Let me know if you try it!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hard Habit To Break...

I just realized that today is the 10th.

I don't intend to revive the 10-on-the-10th party, but I do think a list is in order today so get ready for some randomness...

1. Today is a SNOW DAY for us. We got several inches of snow yesterday--our first big snow of 2011 and our first snow day of the school year. I'm happy to be home with my family today. Who doesn't love a three-day weekend?

2. I've enjoyed sleeping in the past three mornings. I feel like a teenager again. It's been years since I've been able to sleep in like that.

3. Parenting teenage boys is HARD. I'm struggling in some big ways right now. To make matters worse, John and I are on completely different sides of the parenting fence. We've had some really tough days and some tougher conversations. Ugh. It almost makes me miss toddlerhood. Almost.

4. I'm thankful for friends who "get" me. I'm thankful for Girls' Night Out and long hikes (through deep snow) and for laughter and free "therapy".

5. I got the information this week about getting Will registered for HIGH SCHOOL next fall. I think I prefer to live in denial than to acknowledge that I have a child entering high school in seven months. Ugh. How did that happen?

6. I think I talk too much.

7. I'm addicted to Sodoku. I even bought a package of pencil-top erasers at Staples last week because of my stupid addiction. I can rarely work one without having to erase and start over.  

8. I keep hearing rumors that Verizon is getting an iPhone in the next few weeks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that those rumors are true.

9. Abbey asked if she could write a thank you note to Santa. Of course I said YES. Her note was super cute, and in it she also thanked Mrs Claus and the elves and the reindeer. I secretly kept it and am going to save it for her to read one day, but it basically said: Thanks, Santa. You rock!!! Santa totally came through for her this year. He gets way too much credit if you ask me. Smile.

10. I'm working on something fun today. More on that later.

Sounds like a lot of you have a snow day today too. Enjoy!!!
Peace out, peeps.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Bowl Full of Love!

One of the things I love the most about December is going to the mailbox each day and pulling out stacks of gorgeous Christmas cards! Sometimes the mailbox love even continues into January, like yesterday when we got FIVE more beautiful cards! Totally made my day!

Our family opted out of sending cards this year. We operate on a cash budget around here, and after sending our middle-schoolers to Wyldlife Snow Camp and repairing our furnace and Christmas and a family ski-trip to Winter Park and a new refrigerator, it just wasn't in the cards for us (that pun was totally intended) in December. If you're thinking that sending a few cards isn't that expensive, you're right, but we've never been able to send "just a few". Our mailing list is ginormous and having a ginormous mailing list means that costs quickly add up.

The funny thing was that John and I were both super sad about not sending them. Especially as we began to hear from friend after friend after friend. I know we could have sent a free electronic card but to me there is no comparison between looking at something on a screen and holding the real deal in your hand. (Which is why I don't think I could ever really love a Kindle or a Nook.)

It didn't take us long to decide we'd send cards (Valentine's Day or Happy Easter or May Day) once our cash reserve recovers from the last month. If you missed our photo card and letter this year, please know we didn't drop you from our list. We'd never do that. We're just a little late, and late is better than never, right?

I took all of our cards down this morning and counted them...our rate of return on the number of cards we send is amazing! 

My kitchen table has looked so bare after putting our Advent wreath away so on impulse I put all of our cards in my favorite wooden bowl and made a new centerpiece--one of family and friends! It's a bowl full of love, really. We're so thankful for each and every one of you that is a part of our lives. We are abundantly blessed.
* I don't usually choose favorites, but my favorite photo card this year was from my friend, Kendall. Her husband is one of the coaches for a certain Big 12 team and ESPN's Game Day chose to broadcast from their campus back in the late fall. The pic they sent is of their beautiful family behind the Game Day desk. I love it because it's so unique! And so perfect for that football family!!! 

*I'm not a pack-rat. I am extremely particular with the memorabilia I save, but I have a super hard time throwing away old Christmas cards!!! Anyone else?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Flat

I feel so flat today. Most of it has to do with Arkansas' heartbreaking loss to Ohio State last night. It was so disappointing...and downright painful to watch. The best line from Facebook last night? I think I just watched the SUGAR-FREE Bowl because that really wasn't very sweet at all. 

Ugh.  I still love the Razorbacks though; I wasn't raised to be a fickle fan. I'll still continue to cheer them on and I'll still continue to wear this kind of crazy get-up on game days. 
Flattering, eh? Oink oink.

I think I also feel a little flat because this is the first day that I've been truly alone since mid-December. The kids went back to school yesterday but John worked from home so I had someone to keep me company. It's a little too quiet here today. I sorta thought I might enjoy the lack of noise, but I've decided I prefer the sounds of family at home.

I'm actually supposed to be at Bible study this morning but I skipped out. I can't seem to get my body clock back on the school schedule. I'm normally an early riser but I've been sleeping VERY late these days and I must admit it's really been nice. I slept in a little too long this morning and woke up feeling really "off". I realized I couldn't make it to Bible study on time so I let myself off the hook. I already regret it. Almost as much as I regret not doing ANY of my homework over Christmas break. I've got some catching up to do!

This post is boring me to death so I think I'll go fold some laundry...or clean bathrooms...or check on the (darn) beagle who pulled a half-pound of deli turkey off the counter and ATE all of it plus most of the packaging while I was driving the kids to school this morning. 

I may feel flat today but life is truly never dull around here. 

Monday, January 03, 2011

One more day of break...

I absolutely love that our district doesn't resume class until the Tuesday after New Year's Day.

That means that today is our last day of our holiday break. Sadly, John had to go back to work today but his last words to me this morning were "Mer, this is the kids' last day of break. Take it easy and be lazy."

Well, okay then. Permission to laze around? I'll take it.

We do have to get out and run a few errands...and write some thank you notes...and some friends invited us over to try out their new Kinect, but other than that we have little else on the agenda and that makes me happy.

Know what else makes me happy?

I won my fantasy football league's championship!!! I was SO jazzed last evening when my final matchup ended because I was playing for the championship and I clinched it!!! I had a great roster (I let the computer auto-draft my team and I ended up with some of the best players in the NFL) and honestly, I haven't enjoyed something that much in a long time. It was crazy fun! I think my husband might be glad it's over because all I've done every Sunday afternoon for the last few months is sit on the couch and switch back and forth between NFL RedZone and whatever games I'm most interested in watching.

Here are a few more pics from our time in Winter Park.




John and I want to take our kids skiing one or two more times before the season is over so they don't forget what they learned. Thankfully, lift tickets are MUCH less expensive in January/February/March than they are the week between Christmas and New Years. 

Sledding on the hill outside our condo. The snow was almost too deep for sledding!

It was SUPER cold the last two days we were there. The actual temperature on the day we went tubing was -5. That might not have been our smartest decision but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We took breaks and followed up our tubing adventure with some Starbucks. That warmed us right up!





My sister in law bought party hats and horns for the kids on New Year's Eve. They entertained us with song and dance and poetry readings. I don't think any of us made it to the stroke of midnight though. 
I don't know if this video clip will work or not, but it's Sarah performing one of the selections from her Reader's Theater group. I tried to upload more videos but this is the only one that would load. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
video
Happy New Year, everyone!