A special ‘thanks’ to Take Shape for Life for setting me up on my weight loss journey. Take Shape for Life has provided me with a health coach and all of the products/materials I need to evaluate their program and take this journey toward a healthier, much smaller me. While the products/materials are free to me, that will in no way influence my opinion of the program or any of the information I share with you through this journey. All thoughts and opinions will be mine and they will be honest, good, bad or indifferent.
Holy wow, y’all! I started Take Shape For Life back in May (May 8th, to be exact). Here I am at day 202, about 6-1/2 months in, and I have officially lost 50 pounds. 50 pounds has taken me from a BMI of 32.3 (Obese) to 23.7 (well within Normal range). 50 pounds means I have lost 26.5% of my body weight. 50 lbs means I went from wearing a tight size 12/loose 14 to a size 6!
Has it been a barrel of monkeys? No. Have I stayed 100% on plan the whole time? No. Have I enjoyed all of the food? No. (But I do legitimately enjoy a lot of it, and I can see myself continuing to order some of the bars for quick, on the go options that are tasty!) Has it been hard? Some days.
Has it been worth it? Would I recommend it to someone else? Do I think it can work for anyone who really wants it to work? Do I think it’s a liveable plan?
That picture up there, while it’s not all hanging out for you to see like the picture I shared when I started this journey, shows just how far I’ve come. I’m allowing full body shots now… not those “nothing below the ribcage” pictures that I demanded before. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin than I was 6 months ago. My face, my legs, my everything is slimmer.
As I near my goal weight, I’m getting ready to start the transition phase of Take Shape For Life. I’m committed to staying healthy and never seeing those high numbers on my scale again. How many of you have gone on a weight loss journey of your own? Where did you start and where are you now?
Having a girl born in December, we get hit twice each year with the girly gifts dilemma. Admittedly, things have gotten easier since the girl fell in love with American Girl. It would be no surprise to anyone that know us to see American Girl on the top of our Gift Guide list.
The thing we love about American Girl is how well made the products are in general, and how you can customize a doll to look like your own special little girl. American Girl offers a huge variety of accessories to make your doll the spitting image of your little girl, all the way down to the things that make them special (like braces, hearing aids, and wheelchairs.) American Girl products do get pricey though. There are some more budget-friendly alternatives coming up on the list, but in the meantime we are giving away an American Girl Doll of your choice. You can hop over and enter that giveaway here: Win an American Girl Doll
With an accessory crazed girly girl, sometimes it’s necessary to find a few more budget-friendly alternatives. In addition to the Our Generation Dolls (available at Target), which are a great alternative to American Girl, Our Generation also has a pretty amazing selection of furniture and accessories.
They have a pretty amazing kitchen, some great clothes and doll sized food. Wal-mart also carries a line of similar dolls, as does Toys R Us.
For girls who are more into Barbie (how lucky for me… my daughter loves Barbie too), Barbie keeps coming out with more and more fantastic (although still 99% plastic) toys. On the girl’s list this year? The Barbie Pink Glamour Camper The price is a little steep, but if you have a girl that’s into Barbie, this will wow.
It’s pricey, but this particular set comes with the dolls too. In true Barbie fashion, everything is pink. Warning: This may skew your girly girl’s idea of what camping is all about.
A personal favorite of mine this year is the Nerf Rebelle Pink Crush Blaster . Finally a more girly looking alternative to the typical black, orange and yellow Nerf products. Maybe the kids can both have their own without fighting over which one belongs to who. Then again, the boy likes pink too, so maybe not.
If you’re a child of the 80′s… tell me what these remind you of?
Ding, ding, ding! They remind me of Trollz Dolls! The Zelfs look so much like the little creatures we loved do much (I was always making mine have crazy hair and whatnot.) I adore being able to share things I enjoyed from my childhood with the girl, so on her own wishlist or not, Santa will be bringing her at least one Zelf.
Feeding my girl’s artistic soul is always a challenge. I’ve found that she loves any of the ‘do-it-yourself’ type crafts. If you have an artistic girly girl on your hands and you haven’t bought her one of these bags, you should consider getting her a Shimmer and Sparkle Weekender bag that she can color herself.
Surprisingly, I’ve discovered that no matter what uncoordinated color pallet your girly girl chooses, these bags always come out cute. There is a variety of styles available, but as I love to see the kiddos the kiddos love to head off to grandma’s, the weekender bag seems like a great choice for us.
Another option for the little fashionista, the Fashion Headbands set gives your girly girl a chance to make her own one of a kind headbands.
You can allow her to let her imagination soar, and make a functional fashion accessory she can show off. My girly loves herself some headbands, so I’m pretty sure this is a gift that will not only be fun, but very functional.
Unless you live under a rock, you already know what the Rainbow Loom is, and you probably already have one.
If you don’t have one, go ahead and bite the bullet. I haven’t come across a single kid yet that doesn’t have one because they don’t want one. This things are all the rage right now, for kids and parents alike. There are about a million options when it comes to bands (glow in the dark, solids, tie-dye, sparkly, etc) and you can get some pretty cool charms to put on the bracelets as well. If you have no idea how this thing works, don’t fret. Just hop over to Youtube. There are plenty of 7 and 8 year olds who have videos that do a great job of giving detailed instructions.
Privacy has become a big thing for us in the last few years, and now that the girl has learned to write real sentences on her own, she’s been keeping journals. Granted, I’m a snoopy mom and I know there’s not much in them aside from “I asked mom for pizza for dinner.”, she’s very, very determined to keep her brother who is only 4 and can’t read out of her journals.
Apparently, the days of lock and key are gone. Now there is the Password Journal to take their place. She wants this and she wants it in a bad way. Of all of her interests I don’t ever want her to lose, writing is one of them. If giving her a special journal makes that happen, well, I’m sure Santa will handle it.
And finally, as if our house isn’t littered with enough of these tiny little feet killers, the girl wants more Lego blocks. Specifically more of the Lego Friends sets.
We’ve got a few of the smaller sets around already, but girly really, really wants one of the larger houses. The thing I love about Lego blocks, aside from being another of those ‘from my childhood things’, is that they are another of those toys that allow her to be creative and free-play. I really want her to remain as imaginative as she is now for the rest of her life. Life without imagination is so boring.
Are any of these on your girly girl’s list this year? If not, what are they hoping to see under the tree on Christmas morning?
A day late and a dollar short… isn’t that the saying? I know that Veterans Day was on the 11th and I know that the anniversary of JFK’s death was yesterday. I’m perpetually behind. What can I say? Aside from having two young children and a job that all need my attention, part of my drag from the last week or so has been recovering from a quick trip north to visit our nations capital, Washington, DC.
A friend of mine and I had been talking about taking a short ‘girl’s weekend’ trip the next time we found a great deal on flights. As it happened, I had signed up for emails from Southwest Airlines as part of some contest or another that they were running, and it wasn’t long before a fare sale email showed up in my inbox. We had 4 choices… Orlando, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore. With Baltimore being $59 each way (a total steal!), we knew we were going to Washington. This wouldn’t be my first trip to Washington… I’d taken a trip once before. I was in 8th grade, so around 14 years old. I remember being amazed by everything then, and I can say now that as an adult, it’s still just as amazing.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks before our departure that we realized we’d be in Washington for Veterans Day. Where better to spend the day than at Arlington National Cemetery? On even the least notable day of the year, Arlington is nothing short of breathtaking. On Veterans Day, it will awe you into silence.
This is only a handful of the hundreds of images I shot at Arlington National Cemetery, and while it is a tiny sampling of what we saw, I hope they evoke the emotion of Arlington to you…
(*Pretty, pretty, pretty please don’t steal my images. You can pin them, you can share this post, but if you’d like to use them for something else, please email me at email@example.com – Thank you!)
I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric community. I have been compensated to share my experience with you by Collective Bias and their client, MasterCard.
My sweet little boy and his Papaw (my grandpa, his great-grandpa)… they are an inseparable pair. Given the choice, the boy would stay with his Papaw all day, everyday, and dig dirt from sunrise to sunset. See, Papaw has always had tractors and excavators around, even when I was a little girl. I remember riding on his green John Deere tractor, going up and down the road. I remember riding a bulldozer up the dam of our pond, pushing down trees and digging holes. These are the things my son will remember about his childhood too. He won’t remember how much time mommy spent online shopping for the perfect gift for his birthday.
The boy has developed Pawpaw’s love of all things “heavy equipment”. To a ridiculous level. Our playroom looks like a tiny equipment dealership. The boy has been collecting his stash for about 3 years now, and it’s to the point that there are no “heavy equipment” toys at Target or Wal-mart that he doesn’t already have. I suppose he should be fulfilled, alas, when asked what he wants for his birthday, for Christmas, for any reason… a tractor.
To meet the boy’s insatiable tractor demands, shopping online has become a necessity. I usually bounce around from site to site, checking my options and comparing them against each other, reading reviews and narrowing down my list. After scouring the internet for what feels like an eternity, trying to find the perfect gift, the last thing I want to do is spend 10 minutes trying to check out on the retailer’s site. Thankfully, after finding the gift at Bass Pro Shops, I saw my saving grace… #MasterPass.
I’ve been a loyal MasterCard customer for a long, long time. I was excited to hear that they’ve released their own virtual wallet program, #MasterPass, that allows me to check out quickly and securely at some of my favorite retailers using my MasterCard. I don’t know about you, but my time is incredibly valuable to me. As far as the process of selecting the perfect gift, I see that as time well spent. Though, once I’ve made my selection, I’m ready to move on to the next task on my list. #MasterPass makes that happen a little faster.
If you don’t have #MasterPass, signing up is so ridiculously easy that I don’t even want to waste your time explaining it. Grab your MasterCard, visit the #MasterPass site, and follow the quick, easy steps to get signed up.
You’ll never waste time checking out at your favorite stores again. It will take you about 10 seconds to plug in your phone number and password, and before you know it, your billing and shipping information will all be plugged in for you and you can be on your way. No tracking down your purse or wallet to find your card. No typing the same information over and over again. It’s all right there and you’re ready to move on and conquer you next task, be that marking another gift off your list, or tucking your son back into bed for the 5th time.
My time is precious to me and I like to know that it’s well spent, but I won’t compromise when it comes to gift giving. #MasterPass makes it easy for me to keep the balance.
What do you do to save time during the holiday shopping season?
Yes, I am one of those crazy people. I have been one of those crazy people since 2004-ish. The only year I’ve missed Black Friday Shopping was 2006 and I was in the hospital (and 37 or so weeks preggo), and I’m still upset about it.
For me, Black Friday shopping is about so much more than getting a good deal. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good deal. I also love to give gifts at Christmas. Black Friday deals often make it easier for me to give more, and nicer, gifts at Christmas. I love taking the time to find the right gift for everyone on my list.
What I love most about Black Friday is the downtime I get to spend with my sister. It’s one of the only times all year that we really get to spend uninterrupted time with each other. We both have husbands and young kids, jobs and other family obligations. We live 45 minutes apart. I get to see her for a few minutes here or there, but Black Friday is a 12+ hour immersion in time spent with each other.
Our plan has always been something like this:
1) Pre-planning – Where are we going and what have you found in the sales ads?
2) Meeting – 2-3 hours before the opening of Store #1, we meet up and set up our ‘camp’ for the waiting game.
3) Spend 2-3 hours talking about what the heck ever we want. Uninterrupted by children or husbands.
4) Attack! – Not literally… I will never be one of those crazy stampeding people. But we do execute our plan with ninja like precision. We’re good at what we do.
5) Breakfast – After hitting our first few stores, we rally for nourishment. We talk about the aforementioned adventure or whatever and then…
6) Head back out – There are still deals to find!
Eventually, we are worn out and we return to the original meeting spot to shuffle our hauls and head to our respective homes. It’s usually bittersweet, but I’m also usually exhausted.
When we started this little tradition, I think the earliest any of the stores we were hitting up opened at 4 AM. That meant getting a little sleep after a fun-filled Turkey Day (usually 9 PM to 12 AM or so) and rolling out of the driveway by about 1 AM. As the years have passed, the stores have started opening earlier and earlier. I was ok with watching the stores slowing creep opening closer and closer to midnight. Then they started opening at midnight. Ok, I’m still with you. 12:00 AM = Friday. Yea, Black Friday!
Then it was 10 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Enter: Annoyance.
Last year, I sucked it up. We left an extended family engagement early so we could get me home and back out for Black Thursday Friday shopping.
This year, most stores are opening at 8 PM on Thanksgiving. My kids won’t be in bed at 8 PM. We’ll be lucky to be home by 8 PM. No, just no. Retailers have taken something exciting – something I very much looked forward to – and they’ve squished it for me. That’s not to say I won’t go shopping this year, because I will, but I won’t be out sitting in a line waiting on stores to open at 8 PM on Thanksgiving – a day when people are supposed to be with their families – no thank you.
Today’s post is a guest post from our friend Anna. Anna is the blogger behind paidtwice.com. She most enjoys writing about DIY, personal finance, and her terrible cooking skills.
It’s fall and you know what that means: family pictures. There are three major holidays all a month apart and all require the posing of at least one whole family picture (unless you’re really good at Photoshop). Getting everybody together can be a huge pain and getting everybody to smile at the camera at the same time almost requires magical powers. And yet…calling it off simply isn’t an option.
So what can you do? How can you make taking your family portraits easier?
Hire a Professional
Most kids, once they’ve passed out of toddlerhood, will want to impress the stranger who comes to the house to take your family Christmas portraits. Having someone who is not part of the family helps keep everybody on better behavior than if you were attempting to take the photo with your own camera and the self timer.
Stiff and posed family portraits are a once a year tradition—typically because it’s almost impossible to get everybody standing together, looking in the same direction and smiling at the same time. So why fight nature? Pose everybody in their Halloween costumes before they leave the house to go trick or treating or to the holiday party. Get everybody in the kitchen, covered in flour and spices before you serve the Thanksgiving dinner. Tie everybody together with Christmas lights while you’re decorating for the holiday.
Everyone’s a Comedian
Over at Woman’s Day there is a list of the funniest holiday family portraits (our favorite is the Christmas tree photo). What can your family come up with that’s fun and festive and unique to your senses of humor? It might be hard to get teenagers in on this one so allow them to submit some ideas of their own and maybe even take a few of their ideas and run with them. Maybe this will be the year you send out a variety of photos!
Speaking of a variety, why not let each member of your family choose a family pose for the holiday portrait and then, after each shot is taken group them together in a collage for that year’s portrait? That way each member of the family is represented both in image and in spirit.
You can also take some candid shots as your family gets ready for each holiday and then build them into a collage for that year’s family portrait. Candid shots are better anyway because they capture the humor and spirit of whatever is happening and will be looked at more fondly than the posed versions of photos.
When all else fails you can always bribe your loving family to simply stand still and smile at the camera for a second. A little bit ago I told you about Swagbucks—if you’ve been using the system you likely have a few gift cards or codes in the mail. Use them to get those ungrateful…er, lovely relatives into the spirit of things.
I’m so excited – I was invited by The Charlotte Symphony (along with a few other bloggers local to the Charlotte area) to attend the opening night of The Magic of Christmas on Thursday, December 5th!
If you love music the way I do, or if you’ve enjoyed a night at the symphony yourself, you know how exciting it this is for me. They symphony is magical! Not only do I get to enjoy the beautiful sounds of The Charlotte Symphony for nearly 2 hours, but I get to listen to them play some of my favorite holiday music, and they have Caroline Calouche & Co performing on aerial silks and trapeze choreographed to Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard On High.
Albert-George Schram is conducting (he’s a local favorite) and the show will include a few audience sing-alongs (p.s. I *love* to sing!) The SPX Corporation has sponsored this years event and it is sure to please any music lover in your family, regardless of age. Since I’m heading out to opening night, and that’s a Thursday, the princess is going to sit this one out (she has school the next morning), but I’m sure she and I will land at another Charlotte Symphony performance before the season is over.
If you’re in the Charlotte area, are you attending any of the 5 performances at The Belk Theater? There are shows on Thursday Dec 5, Friday Dec 6, Saturday Dec 7 and Sunday Dec 8.
If you’re not local to the Charlotte area, do you attend symphony performances closer to home?
There is something about music that speaks to us. Music can influence a mood or help us relive a memory. For me, there are songs that instantly transport me back to a time and a place – somewhere distinct or just a phase of my life. I’ve constantly got music going, whether it’s Internet radio or just the background music in my head.
Music is memory.
So, when Older Boy became interested in the band, Bon Jovi, I encouraged him. He spent countless hours listening to their songs and learning about the band and their music. After watching a video on YouTube that included concert footage, he excitedly asked to see them in concert, so I promised that if they came anywhere within driving distance I would take him to see them. It was with much disappointment that we checked their concert schedule and saw they were not coming anywhere near Charlotte.
So, imagine my delight when I got an email announcing that Bon Jovi had added a concert date for North Carolina. Sure, it was on a school night and in Raleigh, but to have the opportunity to make an amazing memory for Older Boy…?
I bought those tickets without a second thought.
Initially, to my dismay, Older Boy was not that excited. But, as the show date neared, he became more and more excited, watching videos over and over again and memorizing lyrics. The day of the show, he asked me repeatedly when I would be picking him up from school. His excitement was contagious, and when the clock hit 2pm, I happily left the office and headed to get him from school. We then picked up my friend, Melissa, and headed off to Raleigh.
Spirits were high and we were making good time until we entered Raleigh and hit the traffic caused by several accidents and by concertgoers. The hour cushion I had allotted for traffic quickly was used up and we were faced with the likelihood that the concert would start before we parked. Much negativity came out of the backseat, as Older Boy insisted we were going to miss the whole concert. Finally, in a fit of non-cool momness, I imposed quiet time on the whole car. Well, at least I didn’t say I was going to turn the car around, right?
By the time we reached the arena, Older Boy had fallen asleep in the back. Throwing him on my hip, Melissa and I power walked to the arena and were happily surprised to find out that the show had not yet started. As we attempted to find our seats, the lights dimmed and the band took the stage.
And my promise to Older Boy was redeemed.
Concert tickets = $80
Hours traveling round-trip = 9 hours
The look on Older Boy’s face as he’s Living on a Prayer = Priceless.
We try to make Sundays ‘lazy’. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t do anything, but rather that we try to stick close to home most of the day and accomplish all of the things that get neglected around here the rest of the week (and believe me, that list is long!)
The kids bounce back and forth between being homebodies and social butterflies. That is to say, if we are home – they complain that they want to go somewhere, if we have somewhere to go – they complain that they want to be at home. Needless to say, ‘lazy’ Sundays also become ‘I’m bored’ Sundays very quickly. By 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning, the parental units in this abode are generally tired of hearing it. One thing I’ve found that can shut down their wound up little psyches is family movie time.
I try to get a decent breakfast in everyone so that I don’t feel bad about loading them up with popcorn (and yes, a little candy) at 11 AM, but popcorn really isn’t that bad and they do still have lunch, just a little closer to 2 PM than 12 PM. Plus, it shuts down the ‘I’m bored’ and gets us all sitting down together.
The kids both take very different approaches to watching movies. The boy wants to sit with his popcorn (and candy) and get lost in the movie. He just wants someone to snuggle up with him while he does is. The girl, she’s the opposite. She wants to talk about the movie the entire way through. The dogs… well, they just hope someone spills their popcorn.
With the impending release of The Smurfs 2, Connect Your Home sent us a BluRay copy of The Smurfs for us to enjoy during one of our movie sit downs. Today, it seemed like a perfect choice.
The kids love the wacky antics of the little blue Smurfs – and of course the girl loves Smurfette (what girl wouldn’t?) I love sharing something with them that was a part of my childhood. I have pictures of me as a little girl standing in Smurf Village on Smurf Island, part of a local theme park. I miss Smurf Island.
I’m sure that Santa will be stuffing a stocking with The Smurfs 2 (since it comes out DVD/BluRay December 3rd). The girl saw it at the theatre over the summer and loved it (I knew she would) and the boy will be thrilled to see it tumble out of a stocking on Christmas morning.
Were the Smurfs popular when you were young? Are they something you’re sharing with your children from your own childhood?
*I got nada (other than the epub version of the book) to share this with you guys today. If I had thought it stunk, I wouldn’t have shared, but it didn’t stink. It was, in fact, pretty darn amazing. So, just to recap, I got a free epub version of the book and nothing else. All opinions are my own.
The Mother of All Meltdowns. We’ve all been there. Well, maybe you haven’t, but you will. I promise. There will come a day when you (and everyone around you) is pretty sure your head might actually explode. Hopefully it really won’t because that would be messy, and chances are, there is probably some sort of mess already (thus the mommy’s head going boom thing) and who needs more to deal with?
I remember my meltdown. It happened early in motherhood. I was still pregnant with our daughter and battling a nasty, nasty beast called Hyperemesis. If you think morning sickness sucked, you have no idea. I couldn’t eat. I literally couldn’t eat. For someone who loves food, that was near torture. Add to it that I spent 75% of my day hunched over the toilet… well, I was a pleasant companion for sure. I’ll stop there because really, this isn’t a ‘fun’ meltdown story. Lets just say that there was one particular afternoon with a lot of tear, begging for a trip to the hospital and pretty much a complete meltdown.
Then I got this book. It’s full of stories such as mine (but funnier) that 30 amazing bloggers compiled to create the book The Mother of All Meltdowns.
The Mother of All Meltdowns literally had me in tears – the good kind – in the airport earlier this week. I was reading the stories aloud for my flying companions, while we took turns gasping for air between chuckles and sobs. This is a book you can curl up with, along with a glass of wine or cup of coffee, and really let yourself relax with. This is a book that will make you feel like the craziness in your life is just a little more the norm than you thought it was.
Do you have your own meltdown story you’d like to tell? Share it with us in the comments or on our Facebook page. Too long for a comment? Email me and maybe you can write a guest post for Mama.Mommy.Mom. to share your story!