Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! I'm super excited about taking Emma to trick or treat tonight, because this is the first year she is really excited about it! She keeps telling me, "Mommy, I can't wait to get some treats!" Seriously. It's not candy to her, it's "treats"...thanks, Nick Jr.!

So, what are your Halloween plans? Just the usual?! Oh, the joys of motherhood, huh?!

Well, I got to indulge myself in a little grown-up fun this weekend when I attended my very first costume party with my sister, Randi! We really did have a great time, except that the music was lame! (Seriously, did I really get all dressed up to sit at a table and listen to bluegrass/"Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?" music? Awesome.) Yeah, I don't know if I'll ever go back to that bar when that band is playing. I REALLY wasn't a fan! But I will say that if it wouldn't of been for the amazing people I was with, the costume party would of been a total bust! I have some pretty awesome friends!

Anyway, I wanted to share a few of the pictures with all of you!

My sister a.k.a The Tootsie Roll won 2nd place in the costume contest! She lost to Barrack Obama...of course! ;) She won a $20 gift certificate and we were able to put that to good use right away;) I have to admit, that despite the music, it was a fun night and I'm glad I went!

Okay, well I want to leave you with one last picture! I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

Happy Halloween from my little ladybug!

{Disclaimer: YES, for all you haters out there, my husband DID KNOW about my costume. He saw me leave the house when I kissed him goodbye. So, in case you were wondering, we actually TRUST each other and don't have any secrets. If you were planning on using any of these pictures to paint a false image of me, then you need to get a life. Just sayin'...}

Friday, October 28, 2011

Date Night

Tonight my husband and I leave for our little overnight getaway. This is exciting for me, because usually when we do date night, we just get a sitter and stay at home. But, this time I wanted to do something special, because this month has been RIDICULOUSLY busy for us. I have been out of town almost every weekend this month, and he has been gone most evenings during the week remodeling the camper he and his friends bought for duck season...which starts next weekend. I feel like we have hardly seen each other, and when we are together, it's late at night and we are both exhausted.

Last weekend when I was in Branson with my mom it hit me, "I miss my husband. Like a lot." And with that I knew what had to be done...we needed to get out of town for a while, even if it was just for the night. I wish we had the money to take a real vacation together. I would love to spend a week alone with my husband! But, I will settle for one night. One night away from this town. One night away from our friends. One night where we don't have to rush to pick our daughter up the next morning or take the babysitter back home. Just one night. I think one night will do...for now.

We don't have anything planned, which is EXACTLY how I wanted it. I got us a nice room and I would like to have a nice dinner. That's it. That's all I have planned, because for once, everything else doesn't matter. Tonight is about us...just us. Tonight we aren't parents and all our worries will be forgotten. It will be balm for our hearts and souls. It will be just what we need to warm us in the days and nights ahead. It will be perfect.

The Medicine For My Soul

You know you've read a good book
when you turn the last page

and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.

~Paul Sweeney

Ever since I was a kid, I have been a voracious reader. It all started in 3rd grade when my mother bought me my first Great Illustrated Classics book, Great Expectations. I fell madly in love with it, and several other books from the Great Illustrated Classics series followed: Oliver Twist, The Wizard of Oz, Around The World In 80 Days, David Copperfield, Heidi, and Black Beauty. I loved those books, the classics, more than any others. I devoured every page and my mother could hardly keep up! I wouldn't realize until I was older that those books were the beginning of my love for historical fiction, and who knows where they are now. I cast them aside for fictional romance novels at the age of 14, and now I wish my mother would of kept them. Because, if I still had them, they would be situated neatly on my bookshelf waiting for Emma to ask me if she can read them.

My love for historical fiction has since married my love for fictional romance, and now my favorite kinds of novels are fictional historical romance novels. Nope, no modern day fairy tales for this girl! Give me Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice any day. Although, I will admit to my Twilight love affair that took place during my pregnancy with Emma. I read all 4 books in a month and half! I still love them, but I have been immune to the hype of the Twilight movies. I have found all of them VERY disappointing, and I watch them, because I feel like I HAVE too. I HAVE to be the one who watches them with a critical eye instead of making goo-goo eyes at Edward and Jacob....but, that's a side street. Another story for another time.

Anyway, I decided that it was high time that this bookworm released what she's been reading over the last year! I mean, I know you've all been DYING to know! But, no really, if you are as avid of a reader as I am, you are ALWAYS looking for something new to read, because it won't be long until you turn the last page of your current read and you will find yourself, well, a little lost. Well, have no fear! I seven fantastic books you must add to your book list, because I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I prefer fictional historical romance novels by Christian authors. No skin bearing bedroom scenes for this girl! ;) But, a few of these books are not Christian books, but they do have a more subdued romance tone than some secular romantic fiction.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran: My mother bought this for me for my birthday, and I literally JUST finished it like an hour ago . If you're a history buff like me, ancient Egypt is a fascinating mystery. Like Rome and England, this great country was once a great world empire reigned by men and women whom were thought of more like gods than simply royalty. The author definitely did her research in order to write this novel, and she paints a beautiful picture of one of Egypt's only female Pharoah's and her rise to power. It chronicles her life through the eyes of her sister, Mutnodjmet. This book had me captivated from page one and I had a hard time putting it down once I started. I actually finished it in just a few weeks, which is record time around here with an active two year-old.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert: This is a beautiful book about Hawaii's leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. It follows the life of Rachel Kalama who is sent to the settlement at the age of 7. I found this book extremely moving and fascinating! Did you know Hawaii used to have a leprosy colony or that the disease was so rampant in that state during the late 1800's and early 1900's? Me either! I seriously loved this book! Get it!

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs: Liz Curtis Higgs is one of my favorite Christian authors. In high school I read her Lowlands of Scotland Series, which is a beautiful re-telling of the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah set in Scotland in the late 1700's. Here Burns My Candle take us back to Scotland in 1745. It is the dramatic re-telling of the story of Ruth through the life of Lady Elisabeth Kerr. This book took me a little while to get into, but once I started reading it, I could not put it down. Higgs is an amazing story teller, who has spent a lot of time in Scotland researching the people and settings for her novels.

Mine Is The Night by Liz Curtis Higgs: The sequel to Here Burns My Candle. It follows Lady Elisabeth Kerr and her mother-in-law back to her mother-in-law's hometown. This is book completes the re-telling of the book of Ruth in a beautiful way. I was super sad there was only two books in this series, but Higgs ended it the perfect way.

Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser: This is book is the amazing story of Martha Washington. It follows her from the time she meets George, their engagement and wedding, and their life together as the first President and First Lady of the United States. While this is a Christian novel, I really feel that Moser did a great job of sticking to the historical aspects of Martha Washington's life. She is a fantastic writer, and I just purchased a new book by her, Just Jane about the life of Jane Eyre, that I can't wait to read!

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
: Think Gossip Girl only set in 1899! Yeah, this book is fantastic! It follows the beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland as they rule Manhattan's social scene. This is probably one of the most risque books I have ever read! It has lots of gossip, dark secrets, and scandalous hook-ups...enough to make you blush for sure :) It really is a well-written novel that will have you hooked from the first page. Don't say I didn't warn you! ;)

Rumors: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen: Things get juicier and juicier in the sequel to The Luxe which continues the story of Elizabeth and Diana Holland. You'll seriously think your watching a season of Gossip Girl as you read each one of these books. There is actually a third and fourth book, Envy and Splendor, which I would love to have to complete the collection. It's been over a year since I read the first two books, so I would probably have to re-read them before I could complete the series. I really did enjoy them the first time around though, so I don't think reading them a second time will be a problem :)

Since I'm on a roll, here is a list of some other books I would recommend:

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
The Truth About Forever by Sara Dessen
This Lullaby by Sara Dessen
Someone Like You by Sara Dessen
Just Listen by Sara Dessen
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (love, love, LOVE! Hands down this is my favorite book!)
Thorn In My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs
Fair Is The Rose by Liz Curtis Higgs
Whence Came A Prince by Liz Curtis Higgs
Grace In Thine Eyes by Liz Curtis Higgs
Michal by Jill Eileen Smith

I have not read all of these books recently, but I have read them and I would recommend every one of them. I hope that you find a few that you would like to add to your book list! :)

If you have suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them! Like I said, I am always looking for something new to read!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's Your Song?!

It cold and dreary here and I finally have a day I can spend at home with my girl doing important stuff like laundry, vacuuming, and allowing her to get better. Emma has been battling a nasty cold that came complete with an awful cough. For the last 5 or 6 nights, she and I were running on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep because she was up coughing so much. Poor little thing! After torching my family in the hotel room over the weekend with her coughing fits, I called the pediatrician back on Monday, and she finally agreed to give her some antibiotics after a little kicking and screaming.

She's been on the antibiotics since Tuesday and I can already tell a huge difference! Like last night: she actually slept! She slept for 8 precious hours! It was wonderful...oh, so wonderful! Of course, she woke up at 6:00 AM with another terrible coughing fit that lasted around an hour, but at least she and I both got some of the rest we needed. I'm looking forward to a good nap today and just chillin' at home in our comfy clothes :)

And for me, chillin' at home in my comfy clothes means that today is the perfect day to find some new music! So today, I will be linking up with Amber over at Goodnight Moon for her amazing What's Your Song Link-Up.

Today I want to share with you this amazing cover I found thanks to Stumble Upon and my sister, Randi :) As many of you know, I'm obsessed with Adele and her new album, especially the song, "Someone Like You", which I loved before it became ridiculously popular. Anyway, I found this super amazing cover of the song, and you guys just HAVE to hear it!

See?! Wasn't that beautiful?! Didn't you kind of get goosebumps?! I did! Sheesh! Those two sound AH-mazing together!

I also have a quick announcement: I am officially a college student again! I have enrolled in a nearby university with the hope of finishing my bachelor's degree within 3 years! :) I met with an amazing campus adviser yesterday, and he really made me feel at ease about the whole transition. He helped me pick a degree that will work great for me, and he helped me get all set up to enroll in 3 online classes on Nov. 9th! I will be blogging more about all of this later, probably tomorrow, but I definitely wanted to share the happy news with you all. I'm really excited!

I hope you all are having a beautiful Thursday, even if you have to spend it at home! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I'd Wear Wednesday

Halloween is on Monday! Are you ready?! I'm not a HUGE fan of Halloween, probably because I was never allowed to participate in it as a child due to religious reasons. But, ever since I became an adult and a mom, I've decided that maybe Halloween isn't as evil as my mother thought it was. I'm not blind. I believe that there really are witches and I believe that Halloween is a sacred day to them. But, I also think that just because I allow my daughter to dress up in a lady bug costume and go to the "Trunk or Treat" at a local church doesn't mean that we support the negative things that happen on October 31st. But, this is just my opinion.

With that said, we do participate in Halloween. I will be taking Emma, in her new lady bug costume, to the "Trunk or Treat" on Monday just like we did last year. I am also excited to announce that I received an invitation to my first REAL costume party on Saturday! I'm super excited, and I think it's going to be tons of fun! I hope it works out that I get to go with my sister, Randi! I've been needing me some sister fun time! :)

What will I be wearing?! Well, I'm so glad you asked! ;) I will be wearing the costume I purchased last year for my cousin's Halloween themed bachelorette party because it cost $50 and I'm poor! I actually really like my costume and I'll probably wear it every year until me and everyone else gets tired of it! :)

What about you?

What are you going to be for Halloween?

That's me, on the left, in the lady bug costume!

Do you want to play along? Then download my "What I'd Wear Wednesday" button and let me know where I can find out what you'll be wearing for Halloween! You can also design your dream costume at Polyvore if you'll be staying in this year!

I look forward to seeing everyone's costumes! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Emma's 1st Time Under The Big Top

Two weekends ago, the Kelly Miller Circus came to our town! They were only going to be in town for one night, and ONE night only, so my mother and father-in-law called and asked if they could take Emma. We, of course, readily agreed and decided to make it a big family outing! I mean, after all, Randy and I knew we couldn't miss Emma's 1st time under the big top!

I wasn't as picture happy as SOME parents! I didn't bother to take pictures of any of the acts, because pretty much everyone I knew was there and I didn't want to bore my readers with something they'd probably already seen before. So, I only have 4 pictures for you all! Be excited!

See that wasn't so bad?! :) Overall, Emma had a fun time, but it did run a little late: 2 hours is a little long to ask a 2 year old to sit still and pay attention to something...even the circus :) There wasn't anything special or jaw dropping about this circus (I'm getting harder to please in my old age) and there wasn't a lot of lighting and sound effects that are usually required to keep small children entertained. Plus we didn't have THE BEST seats, so it was hard to see a lot of it. She got tired of sitting and a little bored, but she did like it.

Emma's favorite part of the whole circus was riding the elephant with her Aunt Mandy and riding the ponies. My mother was shocked that I let her ride the elephant, but they were in a very small area and there were several people in the small arena leading them and guiding them, so I wasn't afraid that things might get out of hand. I think the pony ride scared me the most, because she had to do that all by herself! I was afraid she wouldn't hang on and would fall off the pony and get trampled :( But, she showed Mommy that she is such a big girl now and did it all by herself! She was all smiles the entire time! :)

I love getting to spend these important "firsts" with my daughter! It warms my heart to watch her experience things like the circus, play dough, a ride at an amusement park, classic Disney movies, and games like "hide and seek" and "duck, duck, goose" for the first time. I never knew how special her childhood memories would be to me. I just feel so blessed that God allowed her to call me, "Mommy".

Fall Branson Trip

This past weekend, we went to Branson with my mom, my grandma, two of my sisters: Randi and Faith, two of my cousins, and my nephew. We have had this weekend planned for a few months, so we were excited to finally get to go...especially Emma! She had been talking about going on a "vacation" with Grandma Kelly all month, because she always enjoys spending time with my mom.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but because of my mom's nursing career, she works tons and tons of hours, so she doesn't get to see Emma or my nephew very much! Plus my sister, Faith, still lives at home, so when my mom gets off work, she has to go home and help Faith with all of her homework. She's definitely a busy lady! So, anytime we get to spend with her is definitely very special.

Anyway, we had a great time in Branson! The kids got the swim at the hotel's indoor waterpark and we enjoyed a beautiful day at Silver Dollar City on Saturday. Sunday we got up and did a little shopping and I got several new books that I can't wait to read from my favorite $5 Christian Bookstore at the Branson Landing.

Probably, the best part of the whole weekend was "sneaking out" with my sister, Randi to get some drinks down at the Landing. It's pretty bad that we are in our mid-20's and we still have to "sneak out", but it was fun! We found a great local bar with a fun crowd, and it was fun to hang out with her and enjoy some great live music.

Here are a few pics from the weekend (the unedited versions, because I'm lazy today!) :

Ready for the pool!
Noah, Mya, and Emma

Train ride at a nearby kiddie amusement park!

Will she EVER be able to take a decent picture with me?!

My mom and Grandma with Noah and Emma.

My sister and I getting ready to "sneak out"!

It was fun weekend, but Emma and I were both glad to get home to our own beds. She has been battling a terrible cough and congestion for almost two weeks, and spending the entire weekend sharing a bed with her in the hotel room was miserable not only for me, but for everyone else in the room (Sorry, Aunt Randi!)! She and I are both going on night #6 of hardly any sleep, and unfortunately my compassion is wearing thin, because I'm so exhausted. Her pediatrician FINALLY decided to listen to me, and called her in some antibiotics last night, so I can't wait to pick those up this afternoon. Hopefully, a good round of antibiotics will help her get over this nastiness before the cough can get any worse...if that's even possible :(

I hope all of you are having a great Tuesday, and I hope to have a post up about our trip to the circus the weekend before last either tonight or tomorrow! So, be sure to come back!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's Your Song?!

Hey, girls! I'm BACK! It's been a while, but things have finally settled down around here after this and THIS! So, I just wanted to swing by and share one of my current favorite feel good songs :)

I think my obsession with this song increased after I saw her in concert this month, and I currently have this song as well as a few others from her new album on loop on my iPod. I think I'm going to have to break down and buy the whole album!

So what are you doing on this lovely Thursday?! Why not head over and link-up with Goodnight Moon and her fabulous What's Your Song link-up?! You won't be disappointed and you might even discover your new favorite feel good song!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I'd Wear Wednesday

It's getting chillier around here, and all of this colder weather has me on the hunt for cozy essentials and sweaters to wear during those dreary days spent at home. I actually scored a few long tees last week at Charlotte Russe to wear with my legging, and yesterday I paired one of those with my leggings and my comfy sweater socks! It was the perfect at home outfit! I also love to do things like give myself a pedicure or a at-home facial on the days Emma and I are just lounging around at home. Those cold, dreary days don't have to be a bummer! You can turn them into the perfect day to pamper yourself!

What are some of your favorite at home essentials?

There's No Place Like Home

Want to share your style with me? Then go here and create your own look! Be sure to let me know where I can check it out!

I hope everyone has a great Wednesday! I'm on my way to take my sick kid to the doctor. She and I were both up ALL night listening to her cough. Poor girl! :( Do yourself a favor and stay inside as much as possible. This crude that is going around is NO fun!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our Non-Foodie Diary: Food Wars

My daughter has ALWAYS been a picky eater. It seems like from the first day we introduced baby food we have been fighting with her non-stop about food. I shared our struggles in this post and this one, and I even shared some of my "tips of the trade" for overcoming picky eating in this post.

In the beginning it was simply that she was picky. She wouldn't try ANYTHING and she gagged on EVERYTHING! I cleaned up a lot of puke in those early days. When I finally switched her from baby food to our strictly "real" food diet, I had to stick to my guns for many, many weeks before she finally understood that she was required to TRY everything on her plate and that these foods were here to stay. That persistence paid off, and now she will try just about anything and there is only a handful of things she really doesn't like such as spaghetti, tomatoes, yogurt, and mushrooms. She has also blossomed into a pretty diverse eater. She likes Mexican, Chinese, and Italian foods. I feel totally comfortable taking her to a restaurant and knowing that I can share what I'm having with her. She will even eat things like chili and Hamburger Helper. Except for our eating schedule, things seemed to be well on their way to normal. NOT.

Yes, Emma has a weird eating schedule: late breakfast, snack-type lunch in the late afternoon, and dinner. For us, dinner is the only meal that she eats with my husband and I, and it's really the only meal that we strictly enforce. She is required to try and eat most of her dinner every night. It is also the only meal right now where she usually gets a veggie. I'm pretty strict about veggies with dinner. Breakfast and lunch are more laid back. For breakfast, we usually do a fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples) and a grain (pancakes with no syrup, or whole grain toast with butter) or a protein (eggs or bacon). Since Emma still naps during lunch, she usually doesn't eat until later in the afternoon around 3:00 or 4:00 PM. Because it's so close to dinner time, lunch usually ends up being a healthy snack such as cheese, fruit, pretzels, or even a peanut butter sandwich. After breakfast, I usually set out a bowl of pretzels or crackers for her to munch on throughout the day and right now, because she doesn't really like juice, we are doing at least 32 oz. of whole milk and about 6 oz. of tea everyday. The truth is that milk is the ONLY thing Emma ever asks for. She hardly ever asks for food or tells you that she is hungry. She's not big on sweets, but she does occasionally ask for a zebra cake or a package of gummies. That's it. I'm convinced she would starve if I never offered her food, so it turn, I am constantly offering her food and despite my husband's opinion, I have decided not to cut back on her milk intake, because that is her primary source of liquids and it makes up most of her calorie intake.

Now that you know her schedule and her diversion to food in general, you can see the source of my newest dilemma: Emma is food hoarder. No, she doesn't hide food in her room or in strange places "for later". No, instead, she packs every bite into her cheek and refuses to swallow her food. I have noticed that this problem is worse with foods she doesn't particularly like such as Hamburger Helper and with some meats. I always cut her food up into small pieces, and she has no problem chewing her food, because by the time I force her to swallow it, it's mush anyway. I don't know if it's her sensitive gag reflex or what, but I seriously spend at least an hour EVERY night getting her to eat and swallow her food. It's exhausting! Last night, I spent over an hour fighting with her and she only ate 5 bites. 5 BITES! Ugh. This is seriously the most challenging thing I have ever experienced as a far. I mean, this is WAY worse than bottle weening or trying to get her to sleep in her own bed, and to be honest, my husband and I are simply at a lose.

She is to young for time limits, because at 2 1/2, she really has no concept of time or what I mean by, "Emma you only 5 minutes to eat your dinner or you go to time-out". We want to punish her, but we feel like every time we spank her or put her in time out she is winning our war of wills, because she is getting what SHE wanted: down from the table without having to eat all of her dinner. Spanking also results in a lot of crying which just increases the amount of time we are at the dinner table, instead of hurrying it up, so this is one of the few instances where spanking is not really an option for us.

We feel like we have tried EVERYTHING and I seriously feel like I age at least 5 years EVERY time I feed her. My patience is wearing thin and I am desperate for advice. I plan to spend nap time browsing Google and other bloggers for tips, but I'm sure I will encounter the same piece of "advice" I've heard from my "mom friends": this to shall pass. Really?! Ugh. So helpful.

So, for now I'm stumped, unless some of my lovely readers has some advice they would LOVE to share. Trust me, I'm all ears!

Happy Tuesday!

{click picture for source}

When Your Heart Has No Words

Sunday afternoon a friend of mine lost her baby. She was 8 months pregnant. I can not explain how devastated and heartbroken I am for her. While Jackie and I aren't very close anymore, I keep up with her via Facebook and I was making plans to attend her baby shower in just two short weeks. Just last week, I was sharing with her my extensive knowledge on maternity jeans and reading with joy her Facebook status that said, "8 month pregnant today! Woohoo!". Everything seemed well, until Sunday night when I got the text with the earth shattering news. She was 8 months pregnant...8 months! I just can't believe it and a part of me still doesn't want too.

I believe a miscarriage is always devastating no matter when it happens. I have fortunately never suffered through something like that, but I think there would be something especially traumatic about losing your child so close to your due date. I mean by 8 months, you are definitely feeling your baby moving and growing inside of you. You have long since bonded with your child, and you find yourself counting the weeks, days, and moments until your precious one arrives. By 8 months, I already had my daughter's nursery painted, the furniture in place, and I was waiting to fill it with all the precious things I knew I would receive at my baby shower. I had already started my daughter's baby book. I had filled it with my thoughts and all of her ultrasound pictures. I already had a head start on her perfectly girly wardrobe. I was ready. So, I can only imagine how devastated I would of been had that all be taken away from me. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Wow.

If you have a moment today, I would ask that you please say a prayer for my friend, Jackie and her husband, Stephen, who is in the army. Please pray first and foremost for comfort. If you have experienced a miscarriage then you will know how to pray more specifically for Jackie and I ask that you please do that.

I know that all I really have to offer her is my prayers and the knowledge that she is ever present in my heart and mind. I know that is not much, but for somethings your heart cannot form the words you need to truly offer comfort...probably because there are none. So, today I am speechless. Heartachingly speechless.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Attitude Check Revisited

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about how discouraged I was for not being selected for a 6 week teaching position at the Christian school where I substitute teach and volunteer. I wrote about how while I was hurt by the administrations decision, I was convicted about my attitude toward the situation and reminded that I do not volunteer for myself or for recognition, I do it for the Lord. Period. End of story. Getting it all out there in that post really put things into perspective for me and I went about my business.

Well my husband, being my knight in shining armor he always attempts to be, approached the principal about the situation. Before I knew it, I was in! He came home and proudly proclaimed that I could dry my tears, because he had taken care of "it"! I felt so blessed that he would defend me in that way, and I was excited about the future, until he added the last detail, "Oh, and it's not just 6 weeks, babe. It's 4 months." 4 MONTHS! That stopped me in my tracks. I suddenly felt very ashamed for the initial response I had allowed myself to have toward the situation: hurt, angry, upset. I was ashamed, because if I had known it was going to be 4 months long, I wouldn't of reacted that way at all. I probably would of been relieved.

You see, when I was a little girl I used to think I wanted to be a teacher. But, then I grew up and started substituting to make extra money and I realized there was NO WAY I could spend 40+ hours a weeks educating minds and doing all the preparation that goes into it. Teaching just isn't my calling. I admire everyone who chooses that field, especially those who choose to teach lower elementary grades. I also have a huge amount of respect for EVERY teacher I was blessed with kindergarten through 12th grade. Those extraordinary people made a huge impact on my life, and I will forever be grateful to them. It is because of these people that I know there is a huge difference in becoming an educator and actually living it, and I won't pretend to be capable of either. I just don't have the patience for it and that is reason #1 why teaching for four months straight is out of the question. Trust me, parents, you will thank me.

My #2 reason is probably the most obvious: Emma. At the beginning of the school year when we discussed me substituting for 6 weeks, we talked about placing Emma in the Christian school's K3 program while I worked. This was going to save us a ton of money and it seemed like the right thing to do, especially since she'll only be a few months away from 3 years old when I start the position. But, then when the time frame turned from 6 weeks to 4 months, that's when my heart and my mommy instincts began to step on the brakes! To go from being at home with me all of the time to an extremely structured K3 program for 4 months just seemed like too much, especially for her age.

Now, before all you moms who have to send your children to daycare go calypso on me and give me the "my-kids-are-doing-just-fine-in-daycare" speech, you must understand that our K3 program is NOT a daycare program. Our K3 program is a strict, curriculum based program where the children are introduced to the structure and expectations they will experience in a kindergarten classroom. Our K3 program also reiterates the basics: the alphabet, numbers and counting, colors, and shapes that they will need to know in order to test into any kindergarten classroom. While the K3 children have more free play than our kindergarteners do, they still have the morning hours set aside just for learning and a short hour long nap in the mid-afternoon, that is then followed by free play. As I said, it is a VERY structured program that even some 3 year old's have trouble adjusting to, so I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be for my 2 year old.

In my opinion, it is just WAY too much structure for us TOO soon. I feel like the learning activities, as well as, the discipline and nurturing Emma is getting at home is enough. We really have no interest in putting her in an educational program until she is 4. I would also hate to put her in a program for four months, have her get used to their routine, and then pull her back out of it for summer. It just doesn't seem like a good choice for us, and thankfully the kindergarten teacher/K3-K4 coordinator agrees with me.

I guess when it comes down to it, here's the truth: I quit a job that I loved to STAY AT HOME with Emma. I have no interest in returning to work full-time or even part-time to do something that is not my calling or passion. In my mind, it makes more sense that if I were going to go back to work, because we needed the money or whatever, then I would go back to my old job at the hospital. I feel like I left there on great terms, and I know that my old boss would find something for me to do if I really needed a job. I've always been the type of person who thinks you should do what makes YOU happy, and you shouldn't have to feel trapped in your work place. I never felt that way at the hospital and after almost 3 years, I still miss it every day. That's why if I was going to return to work, I would want to return to the place that made me happy. That made me feel the most productive and "needed". I will also be returning to school in January to finish my bachelor's in Healthcare Management, so in regards to my degree, a job at the hospital would make more sense over the teaching position.

Don't get me wrong, I love helping at the school! And right now, substitute teaching once or twice a month is a blessing to our family. It allows me to stay at home with my daughter, but earn a little extra money here and there. The extra income is definitely why I was on board for the initial six weeks, but in truth, ever since I agreed to the six weeks, I was having anxiety about Emma attending the K3 program. I was hoping to find a way that she could maybe stay with Randy's mom a few days a week, so she wouldn't have to go to K3 everyday. And to be honest, when I found out they had given the position to someone else, a small part of me relieved. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to worry or try to figure anything out. And now in hindsight, before I allowed myself to get upset, I should of tapped into that feeling of relief as the Lord listening to the true desires of this momma's heart. Isn't it awesome how sometimes the Lord gives you exactly what you need, even before you realize that's what you needed? And isn't it ridiculous how so many times we fight Him, and say things like, "Lord, why didn't you give me this?" or "Lord, why didn't you allow this to happen?", because we refuse to admit He was right all along by not allowing it?

Anyway, I talked with the principal Sunday after church and told him that Randy and I had talked and I was no longer interested in the 4 month substitute position. I told him that I had initially thought it would only be 6 weeks, but now that I knew it would be for 4 months, I just felt the Lord leading me away from the position for Emma's sake. He was very understanding. We talked about several scenarios regarding the position, because it has to be filled, and I feel like he left with the understanding that I am not totally unwilling to help, but they need to help me work around my #1 commitment: my daughter.

After we talked, I felt much better about the whole thing, and now we are waiting to see which 1 of the 2 different scenarios will be approved by the school board: #1, they will not ask me to do it at all, because I am one of only two regular substitutes. If I were to commit to the position, that would put them out a substitute teacher, and in all honesty, I am their most reliable substitute. I think they would be up a creek if I were to commit to the 4 month position. #2, I may end up splitting the position with the other substitute they chose. We will each do 6 weeks or we may split it into half days. If we did half days, then I would do the afternoon session, because that is when the K3 class is done with their structured learning program and they spend the afternoon having a nap, eating a snack, and playing. I would feel better about Emma joining in on that part of their day, instead of for the whole day or even the morning session.

The principal and I both agreed to continue to pray on the matter, and I really feel at peace about the whole thing. My husband and I's decision for me to stay at home with Emma requires us to majorly trust the Lord to provide. I know that I am doing what He wants for MY life by staying at home, and I know that because I am in His will, He will take care of us. Of course, that means I can't be frivolous with our money and I try to pinch our pennies, but at the end of the month all our bills always get paid and my family always has food to eat and gas for our car. The substitute teaching is another way the Lord blesses us, because they always seem to call me when we need the money the most. Yes, staying at home is a leap of faith, but at the end of the day, there is no where I would rather be, and no matter what, I have to keep that in perspective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What I'd Wear Wednesday: Breast Cancer Awareness Edition

Do you have a lot of pink in your closet? I know I don't. I have a few things that have pink in them, but nothing that is straight pink. For me, pink is a hard color to pull off, mostly because it tends to wash me out. But, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I'd be willing to add a few more pink items to my closet, and I've been looking for fun, classy ways to do so.

Luckily, Polyvore is having a great contest called "I Wear Pink For__________". When I started looking through everyone's collections, I noticed that they had this great pair of pink pumps I could design an outfit around, and from there the creative juices just started to flow!

So, what about you?! What do you wear pink for?!

What I'd Wear For Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I know I am one of the few women in the world whose life has not been touched by breast cancer (knock on wood). But, I truly admire all the mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and friends who get up everyday and bravely fight this disease. According to, "1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime and besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women. More than 1 in 4 cancers in women (about 28%) are breast cancer". These statistics are alarming! And that's why we need to do all we can to encourage women over 40 to get their yearly mammograms and be proactive about giving ourselves self-examines. You can go here to learn the 5 Steps of a Breast Self-Exam, and feel free to pass this information along to your friends and bloggy followers.

So, I will ask you again, what do you wear pink for? Why not go here and create your own pink look and let me know where I can check it out!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

One of the BEST Nights of My Life!

As you all know, this past Friday, my cousin and I went to St. Louis to see Sugarland with Sara Bareilles! I can't even begin to express how amazing it was, especially since we got to stand in the pit next to the stage! It was awesome to see two vocalists that I love standing two or three people in front of me while they performed! I just felt so overwhelmed and blessed the whole time we were there, and I loved dancing and singing along to EVERY song with my girl, Taylor. I can think of no one I would of rather shared the experience with, and I appreciate her so much for buying the tickets for me for my birthday. It was seriously the best birthday present this year...probably ever! :)

So without further adieu, here are some of the pictures I promised!

{top left to bottom right: Sara Bareilles performing with Kristian from Sugarland; Sara Bareilles; Sara Bareilles performing with Jennifer Nettles; and Kristian on the guitar}

{top left to bottom right: Taylor and I right before the concert started; our super sweet wristbands! Front row, baby! And pictures of Taylor and I during the concert.}

{These are all pictures of Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland performing!}

I totally idolize Jennifer Nettles are her amazing voice! I wish I had the power and vocal stamina that her voice has! I've decided that when I grow up I want to be just like her, but I'd settle for one day getting to meet her in person. I think we'd be good best friends :)

Anyway, it was a great time and I can't wait for my next concert experience!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dear Broadway, My Schedule Just Cleared Up...

I'm so excited to announce that after nine weeks of giving Bootlegger Idol my sweat, blood, and tears (well, actually, there wasn't any blood, unless, like me, you consider straining your vocal cords to their maximum capacity a "blood sacrifice"), I walked away last night with $1,000 and the title of Bootlegger Idol's 2011 People Choice Winner! I am still on Cloud 9 and I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends and family who came out every week to support me and slip their $$$ into the People's Choice box for me!

In this competition, the People Choice Award is exactly what it sounds like: an award given by the people a.k.a fans. From the very beginning, a box is set out on the judges table. Every week, your fans take their money, usually just $1.00 bills, to the box to vote for you. A lady takes their money, and writes your name on a ticket stub and puts it in the box. At the end of the nine weeks during the grand final, the votes are tallied and the winner gets all the money that people gave when they voted. This year, Bootleggers guaranteed that the pot would be at least $1,000 which made me campaign even harder for it!

Well, I guess all that campaigning and the support of my awesome friends and family paid off, because when she called my name last night, I was in shock! I walked up to the stage in a daze! I just couldn't believe it! I had won something! All of my hard work had been noticed, maybe not by the judges, but certainly by everyone else!

I'm kind of sad I didn't place, but you know, having the people who faithfully come watch the competition every week choose you as their fan favorite is better in a way. After all, that's one of the reasons why I do this, to entertain people; to give them what they are looking for during their evening out after a hard day at work. If I can make one person forget the stress of their life, even for 3 minutes, I've done my job. I truly love performing. I love getting up there, owning that stage, and belting it out for the world to here. It's an exhilarating feeling.

I just want to take a moment and congratulate all of the people who made top 6! Every one of you deserved it, and it was a privilege to compete with you; to even be considered at the same level as some of you. I want to give a BIG shout out to my friends from last round: Matt and Tree. Matt finally took home the first place prize of $2,500 after competing in this competition a total of 6 different times. I told him that he had to be nice to me, if I ever do this again and he judges! :) And my friend, Tree, took home the 2nd place prize of $1,500. He too has competed in this competition several times, and actually walked away with 5th last round. He puts so much thought and time into his performances and it shows. He's an amazing performer and I was so excited that he won 2nd place! Go, Matt and Tree! Remember me when you make it big!

It was a great night, and I cannot say enough how blessed I am! Randy and I will be using my winnings to pay some bills and the rest will go into savings to help get us through the winter. I'm happy to use it for my family, because I could of never done it without them. Randy was so amazing to let me try to do this again and he stayed at home with Emma almost every Thursday so I could go out and compete. He has always been my #1 fan and my biggest cheerleader, and I love that I have a man like him in my life who believes in me and wants me to achieve my dreams.

These karaoke competitions are definitely checks on my bucket list, and I think I'm ready to add a musical to my repertoire! So, Broadway, I'm ready for my casting call anytime, my schedule just cleared! ;) Actually, I was thinking of starting small first, maybe I'll audition to perform with one of the local theaters in the spring. I think that would be fun, and it would be something that would continue to help me grow as a performer. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm off to get ready for the awesome Sugarland/Sara Bareilles concert I'm leaving for in T-1 hour!! 7:30 PM cannot come soon enough! I promise to take lots of pictures!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Top 5: Sugarland Concert Edition

I promised you yesterday in this post that if you were unfamiliar with Sugarland, I would let you listen to 5 of their songs that I love, love, LOVE! I realize that not a lot of people like country music, but Sugarland has a different sound and her voice is really unique. That's what I love about them! I also love their lyrics. They are phenomenal writers, and they produce songs that really connect with their audience.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these songs I've picked! I can't believe the concert is tomorrow!

And just for fun, since Sara Bareilles will be there in concert too. Here are a few of my favorite songs by her!

Since this is my first BIG concert, I would love for all of you concert pros out there to give me any tips and suggestions about going. Like what shoes to wear or not wear? How early to arrive? Any tips for standing in the pit? I'll take any and all advice!

I hope you are all have a beautiful Thursday! Wish me luck tonight! I'm gonna need it!

Praying, Wishing, Hoping

The past 8 weeks have come down to tonight. Tonight at 8:00 PM, I will sing my heart out and hope that 5 people who hardly know me notice. Right now, I know how those kids on American Idol must feel: fear of the unknown, anticipation of what's to come, gratitude for having made it this far, and what it means to have all your hopes laying in the palms of strangers. It's so overwhelming. All of it.

As I sit here, I think over the past few weeks and in truth I am so proud of myself. I'm proud that I put myself out there, and that I've given this competition all I've got. I am proud of the fact that I made the top 12 out of 28 contestants! And this time, more than last, I feel so privileged to be competing with these people. Every single one of them deserves to be in the top 12, which makes this time around so much more competitive and nerve racking. It really is anyone's game at this point.

I have chewed my fingers raw this week with worry. Worry over what new song to sing and what to wear. I worry that I will mess it up. I worry that I will fall flat on my face. I worry that I will continue to fall short in the judges eyes. I hate feeling like all my hard work is going unnoticed and that for some reason I don't seem to shine as brightly as the other stars. I have so many people who believe in me and who come out EVERY week to cheer for me. They build me up, they share my triumphs and my disappointments, and they give me the courage I need to take that stage every single week. I feel so blessed to have each one of them in my life. And because of that, part of me just wants to grab a hold of every single judge, look them straight in the eye, and say, "See?! THEY believe in me, why don't you?!".

I know, that in getting this off my chest, I must sound so self-centered and prideful, like I'm the next Beyonce or whoever. But, that's not the case. The truth is, I actually don't think I deserve first place! Not by a long shot! There are so many talented people in this round, and I can think of at least 4 who deserve it WAY more than I do. I would totally be happy with 5th, or even 6th place. Just something that says they were paying attention and that all of this hard work, time, and effort wasn't in vain. Even 6th place, to me, would be the ultimate pat on the back. It would give me the courage I need to keep trying. To keep reaching for my goals. To keep dreaming those big ole' Ashley dreams.

I also think of ALL the things I could do with the money. $1000 would really help us get through this winter. Randy goes on unemployment every year, and that cuts our income in half. We would probably save most of it just for that. And maybe I could put some of it away towards that plane ticket to the Virgin Islands. There's a girl there I want to see. So, yes, it's true that I don't need the money for college or to get me to Nashville so I can make it big like half of the contestants do. Nope, I need the money for boring things like my car insurance, propane, and pull-ups. Because at the end of the night, when the 3 coats of make-up comes off and my perfectly styled hair makes it's way up into a pony tail, I'm just a mom and a wife. And the truth is, I like her and her life. I'm the girl who has dance parties with her two year old every afternoon, and whose day revolves around running errands, laundry, and what I'm going to make for dinner. I'm a t-shirt, blue jeans, and bare feet. I'm the girl who makes a fool out of herself at the stoplight singing to the radio. Girls night out and Diet Dr. Pepper are the luxuries of my life. I have a small town life and big Broadway dreams. And that's okay, I don't mind if all I ever do is dream, because I'm not looking for $1000 to get out of this town. I'm looking for $1000 to make my life in this town a little easier for my family and I.

But, for now, I wait for 8:00 PM. I will rehearse. I will perfect my outfit. I will allow my sister to give me a make over (Yikes!). And when it's my turn, I WILL shine. I WILL turn heads. I WILL be heard. I WILL prove to them that Ashley didn't make it this far just to fill the ballot. I WILL NOT back down. I WILL NOT let fear win. I WILL be brave, because I deserve to be here, on that stage, with every single one of them. Tonight I'm here to play. Tonight I will give it absolutely all I've got to give. That way, if I do walk away empty handed, I will know that I did my very best.

I plan to spend my afternoon watching Glee, because Lea Michele empowers me. She gives me the courage I need to go on, because like me, she's a tiny girl with a big voice. A big voice that is all the better to hear me with.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I'd Wear Wednesday: Sugarland Concert Edition

To a concert of your favorite music artist.

I'm excited to be attending my very first BIG concert on Friday: SUGARLAND with SARA BAREILLES! I have attended several music festivals here where I live, but I have never driven almost 4 hours to see a big name concert until Friday. It's ridiculous how excited I am.

I have been dreaming of seeing Sugarland in concert since they released their first album, and my cousin, Taylor, made me one happy birthday girl when she told me she wanted to buy us tickets to go see them! Not only did she buy us tickets, but we are in the pit next to the stage! O.M.G! It's going to be amazing!

I also cannot think of anyone I would rather go with! Taylor is one of my dearest friends, and I'm really looking forward to spending some one on one time with her, since I hardly get to see her now that she's an old married lady! ;) I promise to wear my cowboy boots and take lots of pictures!

If you're not familiar with Sugarland, come back tomorrow, I'll be posting my top 5 favorite songs by them! Who knows, you might just end up loving them too!

If you wanna join my "What I'd Wear Wednesday" blog hop. Just go here, create your dream concert look, and let me know where I can check it out :)

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Recap

This past weekend my husband and I went with my dad and his girlfriend, Angie, to the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Festival in Fayetteville, AR. After a great ride down there in the morning, we checked into our hotel around 3:00 PM.

Since this was our first time at BBBQ, we knew this year would be a learning experience for us, I guess we just didn't realize how much! We had to learn where to stay, where to eat, and our way around Fayetteville, which is a lot bigger than you think! We spent a lot of time lost, and I, of course, managed to pick the roach motel of all roach motels in the ghetto of Rogers, which means I got A LOT of crap about it all weekend. We ended up staying there, because as gross as it was, it was still sleepable and after all, that's all we were going to be doing in our room...sleeping. We just left our socks on most of the time and Randy and my dad got up frequently throughout the night to check on their motorcycles which were parked right outside. We also learned that Rogers is about a 45 minute ride from Fayetteville ON THE INTERSTATE, which is way too much interstate. We usually try to stick to back roads, because it makes for a better ride, so we will definitely be getting a closer motel next year.

Actually, we will be staying at the Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs next year. A friend of ours, Chris and his wife have stayed there the last three years, and they invited us up Saturday night to have dinner with them and play the slots. It was like heaven compared to where we were staying! The buffet at the casino is super cheap, and the rooms are WAY nicer for the same price as my roach motel! Yeah. I was totally beating my head against the wall after that. Chris has already reserved 4 rooms for next year, and he said we could have one. So, we are officially excited about our next BBBQ!

Overall, it was a great trip! We had a lot of fun and it was nice to spend some one on one time with Randy and my dad. I was sad that my grandpa wasn't able to go with us. He had been really looking forward to this trip. But, I'm glad that we still went and we spent the weekend talking about all the things he would of loved and hated about it. He was really missed a lot this weekend.

Anyway, I will leave you with some pictures of the weekend!

Monday, October 3, 2011

There She Goes

Yesterday a piece of my heart got on a plane to the Virgin Islands. She's off to bigger and better things, but I'm still going to miss her. It's odd for me to think of us, Randi and I, without her. For as long as I can remember, it has always been the three of us. Sure we have BIG fights and often disagree, but at the end of the day, we always love each other. We always support each other. We're always there for each other. Not only are we sisters, but Randi and Kasie are seriously my best friends. We do everything together: clothes shopping, random trips to Wal-Mart, karaoke, afternoons spent at the Lake, and girls night out. We steal share everything. We are sisters. Sometimes we say things we shouldn't, and make bad choices, but I know that no matter what we are still sisters. Eventually we will forgive each other and it will be as if nothing ever happened. We've been doing this for the last 20 years, and I cannot imagine my life without them...except now.

Now my life will take a boring turn without Kasie and all of her drama. I will miss Kasie's over the top stories and the way EVERYTHING is a big deal. I will miss her at my karaoke competitions, because she is the one who ALWAYS comes. I will miss her coming over just to use my internet. I will miss our lunch dates and our spur of the moment trips to the mall to spend money we don't have. I will miss her fearlessness. I will the miss the fact that she is no longer just a phone call and 15 minute drive away.

Yes, things are changing. I know it's for the better, but that doesn't change the ache in my heart. It's just like watching the leaves turn: you are excited for the beauty of fall, but a part of you still wants to hold onto summer. I feel like the summer of our sisterhood is turning into fall: beautiful and mature. We are all growing and moving forward, and while we are excited for the beauty and promise of it, in our hearts we know that things will never be the same.

I know that unless you have a sister that you are incredibly close to, you may not understand how difficult this change has been for the three of us. But, in truth, I feel like Annie Bananie's best friend who had to say goodbye. I feel helpless and insecure, but I know that the memories of what has been and the excitement of what is to come will keep us together and see us through. So, Kasie, in the words of Annie Bananie's best friend,

"Don't you cry, even best friends say good-bye.
Make some new friends, try to write.
And when you are in bed at night, Remember:
You will never, ever, ever find a friend whose half as clever.
You will never, ever find someone's who's as sweet and kind.
No, you'll never, ever, ever.
Never, ever, ever, never
find another friend like me.
Will you?"

Thanks for the tears, the smiles, and the laughs. Thanks for the lessons learned and for driving me insane. Thanks for being you. But, most of all, thanks for the summer. I love you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adieu To My Sister

My sister, Kasie
is moving to the U.S. Virgin Islands today :(

I'm very sad to see her go,
and even more sad that she flew out the same weekend
I am out of town with my husband,
but I am excited to see
where this adventure takes her.
I know that the next few months
are going to be a huge growing experience for her,
and I'm so proud of her for being brave
and doing something for herself.

I hope she knows how much I love her,
and I can't wait to go visit her!
Because I AM going to visit her!
I promised myself
I would start saving money
as soon as I get back from Arkansas!
But, you know,
if I place at Bootleggers on Thursday,
then I can go see her even sooner!

Anyway, in honor of my little sister's big adventure,
here is the video I made for her to take to the Islands.
I wanted her to be able to take a piece of all of us with her.
The ones who love her,
who will miss her,
and who will always be here for her.
See you soon, Kas :)

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I do not receive monetary compensation from any of the products, companies, or organizations I promote through my blog, unless otherwise specified during a giveaway or promotion. I am just your average mom trying to share products that I enjoy with other moms, as well as organizations and charities I believe in.