Rusty, Chipped, and Repurposed {A Giveaway!}

April 14, 2015

This last weekend, I went just a couple hours north to Prescott to serve at a women's retreat with dear friends. With Joy Retreats was a dream of two of these friends, and I was honored to be chosen to help organize the registration and details of that dream. The weekend was full of life, encouragement, and rest.

I went away feeling tired, worn, burdened and overwhelmed. And I came home feeling lighter and refreshed. But just 24 hours back into the rhythm of real life, I felt the original feelings slowly creep back towards me. 

We can go away and be fed, but it doesn't make life "stuff" go away. We can breathe in fresh air, hear encouraging words, be showered with promises of God (and literally be showered without a two-year-old tugging at the curtain), but it doesn't fix what's waiting down the mountain when we head back home. So we take what we learned and hold tight to the promises and we face that life "stuff" with a refreshed soul. We do this each day, whether we are coming back from a retreat in the mountains or simply heading to bed weary from the day passed.

In that way, our spirits are these rusty, chipped, peeling, vintage, repurposed, and handmade treasures. They are not perfect and they are continuously chipped at. We hurt, so we add a layer of encouragement. We feel lonely, so we add a layer of friendship. Over time, we become these beautiful repurposed treasures created by God. He makes us new each day and His mercies are new every morning. And thank goodness for that.

Front Porch Pickins is a vintage market taking place April 24 and 25 in Peoria. Rusty, chippy, peely, vintage, repurposed, and handmade treasures will be scattered throughout. Founded by three moms, they understand the love of Pinterest projects and junkin' for treasures, but the lack of time to do either. 

Someone can win TWO early entry tickets - valued at $20! (Even if you don't win, look how affordable it is!?)

If you'd like to come peruse the shops with a friend (I will be there, too, and Liam by default), enter the RaffleCopter giveaway below and tell me what your favorite "find" has been. From a vintage market? Goodwill? Garage sale? Wherever you found it, tell me about it! You can also tweet about the giveaway and visit their Facebook page for additional entries.

The contest ends on Sunday night and I will pick a winner at random. Contest open to Arizona friends only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Liam: Two Years

April 09, 2015

{Liam at his two-year appointment}

Growing: At TWO years (how!?), Liam weighs 32 pounds 13 ounces (87th percentile) and is 36 inches tall (91st percentile). He has 16 teeth: 6 top and 6 bottom, and 4 of his molars. The 2-year molars are right on time and starting to pop through, too. (Send coffee.)

Wearing: He's in all 3T clothes (some 4T shirts) and 4T pajamas. He is in size 5 or 6 diapers, and showing every sign that he's ready to potty train. We are just waiting for a break in our busy schedules to focus on it! He wears size 8.5 shoes.

Eating: He eats three meals a day with lots of snacks in between. He takes a cup of milk in the morning, after his afternoon nap, and we are trying to nix the final cup right before bed and move it to dinner. His favorite foods include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese, and granola bars. His ultimate favorites are still bananas and blueberries.

Doing: He is doing everything and anything, especially if it involves climbing, running and moving. He rarely sits down. He also gives great hugs, kisses, high-fives and fist bumps, and says hello to every stranger he sees. (Warning: If you say hello back, he won't stop.) He is chatting up a storm and is saying new words and sentences every day!

Playing: His favorite things to play with are Legos, balls, his toy car and wagon, and puzzles. He loves being outside and has become obsessed with Elmo, Thomas the Train ("Choo choo") and Curious George ("Monkey"). Move over, Daniel Tiger.

Loving: He is obsessed - I repeat, OBSESSED - with garbage trucks, bugs (and ridding of them), planes, collecting rocks, watching Elmo and building with his Legos.

Career: If he had to grow up right this second, he would be a garbage truck driver, exterminator, or engineer. 

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Dear Liam, You are two years old.

April 08, 2015

Dear Liam,

You are two years old. TWO. Two full years have passed since you were born into our lives screaming and crying with a head full of blonde hair. I never expected a blonde baby, but to this day, you have the brightest blonde head of hair I ever did see.

You and I have a special bond. We spend lots and lots of time together, just the two of us, while your daddy is at school and work. We've fallen into a routine and a rhythm and we kind of just go along together. It's a sweet dance.

This season of our lives is crazy and hectic, but I know one day I will look back and be so grateful for this time I had with you. We run back and forth between bedrooms in the morning as I try to get us both dressed for the day. You hand me my brush, I take away my toothbrush, you hand me a pair of shoes you want me to wear, I hand you a piece of trash to throw away to distract you for 2.3 seconds.

On the weekends, I try to sleep in as long as possible until I hear your voice, "Mama? Mama?" We wake up and ideally do a lot of nothing except stay in our pajamas and sit and drink our respective cup of milk and coffee. I try to watch Good Morning America and you request a rotation of Elmo, Choo-Choo (Thomas), and Monkey (Curious George). I pretend like I don't hear because there's a news story coming up I want to see, but I eventually give into your demands and we settle into watching the same episode we watched over and over already. You cuddle up with me on the couch and there is nothing else I want to do.

I try my best to be extremely intentional with you. Maybe it's a bit of working mom guilt, or maybe it's just plain mom guilt, but I try to make memories with you as often as I can. And yes, memories can be made up of back-to-back-to-back episodes of Elmo and eating breakfast together while Face-timing family, but I also want those memories that say, We did that together.

So we go to the zoo. And friends' houses. And parks. And more parks. We sneak away for ice cream sometimes right after school, and we go on a donut breakfast date on Saturday morning because it's cheap and it gets us going for the day. We take trips to see family and I've lost count of how many plane rides you've been on. 20? Give or a take a few.

I took you to Easter service this last weekend. I was excited to get dressed in our Sunday best and have this special time with you. The pastor spoke of how Jesus goes before us, all of us. I couldn't help but think how He goes and stands before me and you on our weekends together, before the busy weeks where we are running in circles around each other, before months that whiz by, and before years where I am hopeful for dreams and changes coming to fruition. It fills me with such hope and faith knowing that our God is way ahead of us as we try and figure out this life together - you and your two years of experience walking this planet, and me with my two years of experience raising a little human with a precious soul.

And when I mess up, you give me grace. And when you mess up, you say, "I'm sorry, Mama." And you hug me and kiss me immediately. You are a picture of the grace I need to give myself and others, straight from my very being and played out in front of my very eyes.

I look forward to more memories we will continue to make, the snuggles you so openly give me, the moments of grace we give one another.

Thank you for the privilege and trust of being your mama.

Love you,

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Moxie Jean: Shop Your Heart Out

April 06, 2015

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Moxie Jean.

Before Liam was born, we didn't know if he was a boy or a girl, so we bought a few neutral items here and there. But once he was born, and we determined he was all boy, we were gifted boy clothes and were free to shop our heart out. Our big boy, however, grew out of his clothes at a rapid pace and went from newborn size to 24 months in his first year. Needless to say, it was hard to afford his constant need for a new wardrobe.

During his first year, I found a few great ways to save money on clothes. I would take some of his used clothes and items that I knew we didn't want to save for future kids - it wasn't really our style, it didn't fit him well, it was out of season - to consignment shops. I would then get store credit so I could use it towards new-to-us clothes for him. 

I also perused eBay to look for items at a great deal - Toms shoes, Carters shirts and shorts, jeans, pajamas. We're talking pajamas for $2 or Toms for $10. 

But with a busy schedule of working full-time and flying solo on the weekends, it's not always easy to sort through clothes to consign (and then take a two-year-old into the shop) or to pay close attention to eBay.

I recently stumbled upon Moxie Jean - an upscale, online resale shop for kids. It's just like shopping online for clothes, but at a much better deal. 

On my first go-around, I found the cutest tank:

...and fell in love with these cuffed jean shorts:

After my purchase, they were in my mailbox within just a couple of days and they fit perfectly! I was nervous the shorts wouldn't fit, but they have money-back guarantee - so I bought them and crossed my fingers. They worked!

This outfit cost me a total of $8 - and the Vans shoes were found at a resale shop, too.

(Notice the scuffed elbow: all boy.)

They even have bags they will send to you so you can fill them and receive store credit. It makes it super easy to get rid of unwanted clothes without waiting in line at a resale shop.

If you want to check out all they have for babies, kids and even maternity, you can shop around here!

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The 5 C's of Choosing a Daycare

March 02, 2015

When I found out I was pregnant with Liam, I had just started a new job. After the first day, I got into my car, called Chris and immediately started bawling as I cried, "But how can I do this job and be a mom and work and what am I supposed to do?"

It was all a bit overwhelming to say the least. (And I still say that to myself often, because it is hard.)

As my pregnancy progressed, we went back and forth with the idea of me continuing to work or not. During that time, Chris decided that he would return to school for nursing while we have just one kid in the picture, so that solidified our decision pretty quickly that I would indeed continue to work.

We toured five different daycare facilities before making our decision. Being completely new to the process, we were learning as we went along. 

Almost two years later, we could not be happier with the place Liam calls home during the day. He is thriving and learning, and it is amazing to see and hear what he has learned each day. I love that he runs into his class each morning and rarely looks back. In fact, there has only been two times since he was three months old where he has cried at my leaving. This is so assuring to me that he truly loves his school, teachers, and friends.

So, what do you look for when searching for the perfect daycare?

1. Cost

It's no secret that the cost of daycare is a kick-in-the-stomach to your budget. We are in that sacred spot where my take-home pay after daycare is still on the positive side and very much needed. But, still, it costs a lot.

Once you figure out how much you can afford a week or month, different places have different rates. Most places we looked at had a weekly rate regardless of how many days you would use. They also required you pay at least half of the weekly rate if you were ever going to be out of town in order to "hold your spot." While this is great if you plan on working five days a week every week, I work on a school calendar (minus all of the long breaks!) where we get random school holidays and I take time off at Christmas.

We ended up choosing a place that offered a daily rate - you just pay as you use it. This definitely saves us money each month and was a huge factor in our decision. Where this really comes into play is if Liam is sick, I don't have to pay for a day of missed daycare and a co-pay at the doctor on top of it. And the two weeks I take off at Christmas can be moved to the Christmas fund without us feeling the hit as much.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What's our budget?
  • How many days a week will we need daycare? 

Questions to ask the daycare:

  • What are your daily/weekly rates?
  • What happens if we miss a day?
  • Do we get an allotment of "sick days" where we don't have to pay if we miss?
  • How often do we have to pay? Weekly? Monthly?

2. Conveniences

So with that cost, what does it include? When it comes to meals and diapers for your child during the day, those are typically a convenience of a daycare and not a requirement. Many daycares provide snacks, but not all of them offer meals.

As we toured, we were sold on the fact that our daycare not only provided breakfast, lunch and snacks each day based on the five food groups, but they also provided diapers. Diapers! This is huge, huge savings for us each month. I literally drop Liam off at school with the clothes on his back and they provide the rest.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have time to make breakfast and lunch in the morning to send to school?
  • Does your child have any specific allergies?

Questions to ask the daycare:

  • What meals and/or snacks do you provide? If not, what are we expected to provide?
  • Do we get a copy of the menu each month? Do you have a menu we could see?
  • How do you handle allergies?
  • Do you provide diapers and wipes? If not, what do we need to bring and how often?

3. Cleanliness

This stood out to Chris much more than me, but now I am appreciative of his keen eye. When we first started Liam in daycare, he was just three months old in the infant room. The first place we toured required that we put on booties to enter the room. It never struck me that we were tracking in our street shoes onto the floor where the babies were rolling and crawling around, so I was glad to see they were cognizant of that. This was good to see, because the next place just invited us in. I was mindful of not walking on the rug at least!

The place we chose has a half door that allows you to pass your baby directly to the teacher without walking into the room. The teachers even have special shoes they wear specifically for the classroom. 

They also send all of the toys to a sanitation center each night, and all of the sheets are washed and used by only one child each day. Mattresses are also sanitized each night.

Obviously, once you get to the toddler age, this is not all as important, but it was helpful to see the expectation of cleanliness they have as early as the infant stage.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What level of clean is important to me?

Questions to ask the daycare:

  • How often do you sanitize the toys?
  • Do you wash the sheets each night? Mattress?
  • Will my child have his/her own set of sheets each day?

4. Curriculum

If Liam is going to be out of my arms for eight hours a day, I want to make sure he is learning and thriving. Each place we visited put a great focus on a specific daily schedule and centers where the kids would learn everything from math to letters to science.

He has a specific schedule they follow each day, which is great to know as working mama. I can look at the clock and know that he's eating or napping or just waking up. What makes it even better is that if we follow that same schedule on the weekends, it works so, so well.

Integrated between meals and naps are times for math, story time, science, art, outside play, songs and so much more. He comes home singing songs and naming objects which just reassures me how much they are teaching him.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my expectations of what he/she should learn?

Questions to ask the daycare:

  • What is the daily schedule?
  • When is nap time? How often do they nap? What do we need to bring for nap time?
  • Are we able to see the curriculum each week?

5. Character

You want to feel like the place your child is at each day is a safe, warm, loving place and you want to feel beyond confident in your choice. Watching the teachers interact with Liam continues to make me more and more confident. They are truly excited to see him come each day, and the staff is always welcoming as well.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What environment do you want your child in?
  • And as you see the facility, how are the teachers interacting with the kids? Each other? Parents?

Questions to ask the daycare:

  • What qualifications do the teachers have?
  • What are their expectations of students in regards to behavior?
  • What is their discipline policy?

Overall, it's a big decision and not one to be taken lightly. It's hard! But beyond all of these questions and options, you'll know when you walk into the right place, that it is the right place. 

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