Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rainbows and Unicorns

Tomorrow, the little lady who made me an Auntie for the very 1st time turns 13!  THIRTEEN! I kind of can't believe that the first baby of the family is now a teenager.  She was actually my parents' only grandchild up until Leeland was born, and she's still the only girl grandchild.

Anyway-- 13 is kind of a big deal, so when she asked for rainbows and unicorns for her birthday cake... I delivered rainbows and unicorns!

So there isn't an actual unicorn on the cake.... sue me.  But rainbows are pretty much unicorns, and sprinkles are little nuggets of pure joy, so there.

I had a great time celebrating tonight with family over the delicious rainbow cake, and now I just have some words of wisdom (or tips) for her as she enters teenage hood.

10 Tips to Survive the Teenage Years:

1.  Listen to your Mother.
((Don't roll your eyes lady))  You might think your Mom doesn't know anything.... but she does!  AND she has your best interest at heart.  Listen to her.  She went through a lot as a teenager, heed to her words of wisdom and advice.

2. Obey the law.
Yup, leave it to the "Po Po's wife" to tell you to obey the law.  But for real.  Obey the law.  We all make dumb decisions and do some really silly stuff that we regret as a teenager, BUT, if it has the risk of you spending the night in jail.... don't do it.

3. Be yourself.
Fads and trends come and go.  What's cool today, won't be cool tomorrow.  Just be yourself, and be confident in the girl that God made you to be.

4. Be a leader.
It's too easy to fall into the trap of just doing what everyone else is doing, but don't.  Stand firm in being the girl that God made you to be.  Stand up for what is right.  Be respectful to everyone and in turn you will gain respect.  Go against the grain when it is necessary and when it is right.  Be a leader.

5.  Keep your grades up.
Build strong study habits and discipline now so that you are prepared for college in the future.  Study hard and keep your grades up and you will go far.  Plus,  student loans are the devil... they really are.... and keeping your grades up will offer opportunities for scholarships!

6. Don't cloud your mind with boys.
Don't waste your teenage years away being glued to boys.  You have a whole lot of years ahead of you, wait for the right person to give your heart to.  Think about a piece of duck tape, the first time you stick it to your sweater, it sticks great.  But remove it and try to stick it to another sweater, and it's not quite as sticky.... remove it and stick it to yet another sweater, and it's even less sticky.... Emotional attachments stick with you for life, and take away from your future spouse.  Save that "sticky" for the right one.

7. Don't grow too fast.
You don't get to do-over your teenage years.  Don't rush yourself to be an adult.  You have the rest of your life to be your adult.  Take your time and savor each and every moment and memory.

8. Surround yourself with good people.
Don't hang out with downers or people who might get you in trouble.  Surround yourself with those who love you, want to be with you, encourage and uplift you.

9. Seek truth.
Truth is found in the word of God.  Read your Bible, study your Bible.  Pray for a thirst for His Word.    He speaks through His word.

Seek Him, praise Him, follow Him, thank Him.  People will fail you in life.  Family will fail you.  Friends will fail you.  Teachers will fail you.... but God, will always be with you.  He loves you more than you will ever understand and He's always got your back.

Happy 13th Birthday Abby!
I love you so much, and truly look forward to many more years of watching you grow. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The day that my husband graduated from the police academy was one of the proudest moments I've ever had as a wife.  It wasn't a profession that he went to school for, or one that he ever imagined going into, but it's a profession that God called him to.  The odds were stacked against him even getting accepted into the academy, and then with a wife and little boy at home (and one little boy on the way), he had to work his butt off in the academy to get to graduation.

I could not have been more proud of him!  I still remember being interviewed over the phone during the application process-- the investigator had called me to ask about how I felt about him being a police officer.  (Along with questions about his strengths and weaknesses.)  The words that immediately left my lips were "proud."  I told her that I thought being a police officer was such a honorable and noble position.

The day of graduation, I had the great honor to be the one to pin his badge to his shirt.  His badge!  That was the first day that he wore his badge, and I held my head so high that day as I pinned it to his shirt for the very first time.  We were proud.

I wasn't the only one in the family that was proud in those days.  Leeland was 2 and knew his daddy was a police officer.  At the age of 2, he knew most of the words to the Cops theme song already... you know the one... "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do??"  He knew that Daddy takes the bad guys to time out and he was proud.  Now as he approaches the age of 5, he and his little brother play around the house and at the park pretending that they are police officers.  (Most days little brother is pretending that he's a police doggy.)  And he says things like "I want to be a police officer like Daddy."  Proud!

As the years have passed since that first time I pinned his badge on, I'm still proud too.  I've had the honor of being by his side watching him receive awards more than once.  I've had the privilege of cheering him on in the morning when he comes in with a good story of the bad guy getting caught.  I've laughed with him over how just plain dumb some criminals are.  And I've been a listening ear when things have gotten tough or frustrating.

But as the years pass, no matter how proud I am, at every award ceremony, and every celebration, I've learned that there's a dark side to being a police family.  I've learned I can't be so proud publicly.  In fact, in many situations, I have to keep it a secret what my husband even does for a living.  "He works for the city," is my response.  Or if I'm feeling really snarky, "He's in waste removal."  Ha!  In all seriousness though, I'm having a hard time understanding when our culture became so twisted!

My children at the age of 4 and 2 understand right and wrong.  They understand that each of their choices come with consequences.  If Leeland hits Hayden, he goes to time out.  Hitting is wrong, we don't hit anyone, not even brothers.  There are consequences for your actions and they get that.  But what I'm learning is that most adults don't get that.

Where does the disconnect happen between childhood and adulthood that suddenly when you do something wrong as an adult, it isn't your responsibility?  It's always someone else's fault.  It's always someone else's pants.  How is it that someone can break the law and fully expect to not have consequences?  But worse than that, not only do most break the law and expect to get away with it, they also blame the police officer.  The only word I have for that is twisted.

I've never seen a profession be so hated.  Sure, you would expect the bad guys to hate the police.... but even our own friends and family make such hateful comments towards law enforcement.  It's just plain twisted.  What was once right and wrong, now has so many gray areas.  Where did the lines get blurred?  Where did personal responsibility get twisted into entitlement?

I don't have the answers to any of these frustrating questions that try to trample on my pride as a wife,  but I DO know a few things about police officers and the work they do:

-- They are men and women who are called to the profession.  It's not "just a job" for them because no one works that hard for such little money for "just a job."  No one becomes a public servant to "just have a job."  These are men and women who do this job because they enjoy it and/or are called to it.

-- Regardless of what your ego may tell you, they aren't out to ruin your day.  Sometimes tickets are part of the job.  They aren't trying to be mean, they aren't trying to meet a quota, they aren't skipping out on "catching the more hardened criminals,".... just doing their jobs.

-- They're real people with real families.  They are sons and daughters, wives and husbands, moms and dads, sisters and brothers.  They are real people and they have real families.  For many of them like in our case, this is how they provide for their family.  And at the end of the day, they're just trying to make it home to their families, because in case you weren't aware, every 58 hours an officer dies in the line of duty.  58 hours.  Every 58 hours, someone goes to work and does NOT come back home to their family.  Just doing their job.

--  They hate the "bad cops" more than you do.  I hear more than I care to about the bad cops in the world.  Are there bad cops out there?  Sure, I bet there are.  No one is in denial of that.  BUT, the good cops far, far, far outweigh the bad cops, AND the good cops hate the bad cops even more than you do because they give all the good cops a bad name and it's just not fair.

-- Most cops don't watch the news.  And I struggle to get through an episode myself.  The news never shares the whole story.  In an effort to be the first and the best, the media often shares the "news" without facts and without research.  This has become especially frustrating in the recent weeks.  When the news became more about taking one side of the story and running with it, I'm not sure, but they can't always be trusted or relied upon.  It's best to form your opinions once investigations are done and the facts have rolled out.

-- In addition to not sharing the whole story, the news also doesn't share every story.  Only stories that are somehow decided as "worthy" (AKA pushes their political agenda).  You'd be shocked to know of some of the stuff that happens in your city, your neighborhood, your streets.... again, the news cannot be relied upon.

-- An officers job is to uphold the law and charge accordingly but the justice system, in my opinion, is flawed.  In the age of political correctness, fairness for the criminal and the best lawyer that money can buy, murderers walk the streets freely, the boyfriend goes back to continue to beat his girlfriend and the drunk will continue to be allowed to get behind the wheel over and over and over.  The justice system should be used as a sword for the righteous, but instead has become a shield for the guilty.

It's not an easy walk that we walk.  That my husband walks daily when he puts on the uniform everyday not knowing what his night will have in store for him.  It's not easy as me and the boys shower him in kisses and lift up a prayer for his safety as we wave goodbye at the door. It's not easy to hear your own family make snarky and negative comments about police work, recent cases, or what cops should or shouldn't do when they know nothing of the job.  It's not easy driving the long way to get through town to avoid your husband's beat so that there's no chance that your car can be identified by some thug he's arrested.  It's not easy walking through a store as a family and hearing a parent tell their child, "Behave, he's gonna come arrest you."  (P.S. Don't tell your kids that!)  Nope, not easy.  But it's the walk we walk every single day, and the only ones who will understand any of it... are the ones who walk this walk each day too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pumpkin Recipe Round Up (And Giveaway!)

I know it's only August, but Starbucks has recently announced that they will be releasing the pumpkin spice latte EARLY this year!  August 25th to be exact, and I couldn't be more excited. In fact, we're reaching that time of year where it's socially acceptable to put pumpkin in pretty much anything.  I love that when I show up to MOPS meetings in September and October that there's always a full spread of pumpkin loaf, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin dip.... everyone has their own favorite pumpkin recipes and everyone has their own spin on how to make them "the right way."
I know that we all have pumpkin boards on Pinterest these days that are full of thousands of things that you can do with a pumpkin, but today I'm going to save you some time and share with you some of my favorites.  Because, don't get me wrong, some of those recipes on Pinterest are absolutely wonderful..... BUT, have you ever looked around at some of the Pinterest fails?  So, here's some recipes that are tried and true.  The testing has already been done for you and I can confirm that it turns out lovely every single time.  Some recipes are my own that I've honed over the years, and some are from here and there around the web... so hold on tight!

We'll start with a classic, my recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

This doesn't have real pumpkin in it (although pumpkin candy corns should count, right?), but another Fall favorite is this Cheerio Candy Mix.

Putting pumpkin in an entree is going to sound weird to most, but you have GOT to give this Pumpkin Patch Pasta a try!  Stuffed shells with chicken and spinach, and a delicious pumpkin sauce.  I don't have a photo for you, but trust me that it's delicious. 

The most delicious Pumpkin Scones with maple-cinnamon glaze.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread, you really can't go wrong when you match pumpkin and cream cheese.  It will ALWAYS be amazing. 

And last but certainly not least are these super cute and super easy Baked Pumpkin Wontons, my only critique to this recipe is that some of my edges ended up burnt while the middles were still cooking.  I think next time I'll try them at a lower temperature. 

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?  Do you like Pumpkin Spice Lattes?  Do you want to go grab a latte with a friend soon?  Well here's your chance to win a $10 Starbucks gift card so that you can get the pumpkin season started off right.  Simply fill out the rafflecopter below.  

*Giveaway open to US residents only.  (Sorry international friends)  And you must be 18 or older to win.  Winner will be contacted via email and will have 72 hours to respond, at which point their prize will be forfeited and a NEW winner will be drawn.  Giveaway is open until September 1, 2014.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

.... And the QALO winner is.

And now it's time for the post you all have been waiting for, but first I want to thank our super awesome sponsors QALO for allowing me to host this giveaway!  I also want to thank you guys for participating, interacting with the blog, entering the contest and making it such a good time.  My hope is that I will have many more fun giveaways in the future for all of my wonderful readers.

But without further ado, the winner has been drawn..... drumroll....

Congratulations LeAnn!  I hope that you enjoy your QALO ring just as much as we have enjoyed ours.  Be on the lookout for an email from me.  

Thanks again guys, for making this giveaway so much fun for us! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beautifully Orchestrated

I wouldn't normally start a story with a spoiler, but I don't want to cause anyone any undue stress before they get to the end of the story, so I'll start the story with a spoiler.  I am healthy, I am fine, we all are fine.  I have kept much of the past week's events to myself-- and even lashed out at Daniel for telling people about what was going on because I wanted things to remain private.  But today, I felt the urge to share the story-- not to brag.... not to gloat.... but to give glory to God because this story is beautifully orchestrated, and yet another reminder (like this one) that He loves me, and cares for me beyond my comprehension.

So the story begins on the afternoon of Friday August 8th when I went in for my routine mammogram appointment.  I know it's really weird to many that I have routine mammogram appointments, BUT, my Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 20's and passed away in her early 30's from the disease.  Because of this unusual family history, I began having yearly mammograms at the ripe age of 19.  As weird as it is to you, imagine that it's more awkward to me-- people don't get it, and you get lots of stares in the office coming in that young.

So anyway, though this appointment wasn't a first for me, I will say that I had about a 3 year gap between this appointment and the last due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.  It's the same story each time-- they take around 4-6 images, it goes by very quickly and you're out the door with the "no news is good news" shpeel.

All was well and good until Tuesday August 12th when I received a voicemail from the office requesting that I call them back.  I was told that "the doctor requested more images."  Not many more details than that.  Keep in mind that it isn't a doctor that does the call backs-- it's an appointment person who is ready to schedule your follow-up.  I don't know that the appointment people have access to details, or if they're specifically instructed not to give any details, but when prodded, she didn't give me much to go on.  I was assured that many people were called back each day, and that it could be a number of things.

A few days later I received a letter from the office in the mail.  The first paragraph said something along the lines of "more diagnostic testing is needed..... if you haven't already scheduled a follow-up, please do..."  Then the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs went into detail about a new law requiring them to tell me that my breast tissue is classified as dense.  Though I think the law is new, it's nothing I hadn't heard before.  Part of the density issue is that it makes it hard for mammograms to be read, and a big proponent of the density is my age.  It was suggested that I have a MRI in the past because it would read better.  Based on the contents of this letter, I assumed the density had something to do with the need for more images.  I also know that each year when you go back for a mammogram the doctors are comparing images from the last year, so I also had in mind that there was a 3 year gap between my last mammogram, I had birthed and nursed a child for 18 months since the last one, and I had also lost 40 pounds..... there's a lot of factors there.  So yes, more images.... yes, it could be anything.

My follow up appointment was yesterday morning, August 18th. Pretty routine check-in, chauffeured to a room to change into a smock and then taken in to get my mammogram.  It was explained to me that I would be getting 4 more images done and that this time they would be "magnified", and then the magnified images would be passed on to the doctor right away and then he would come speak with me.   This is unlike the last visit.  The doctor would be looking at my images right away.  In fact, this is the first time I've ever spoken with a doctor since coming there for years.  Remember that normally it's the "no news is good news."  I was happy about this though, because now maybe some of the vagueness of the follow-up and the questions as to why would be answered.

.... The doctor steps in, and explains that there are calcifications in my breasts.  They are small calcifications that are clustered together to make up an area about an inch.  And though a cluster is found in each breast, the cluster in the left is a bit "worse."

At this point, I'm in shock and full of questions... this is not at all what I anticipated the follow-up was about.  I couldn't imagine them "actually finding something."

I was told I needed a biopsy and that they were going to try to squeeze me into the schedule right away if I could stick around..... Fast forward about 30 minutes, and I'm lying face down on a table with a giant hole in it having my left breast smushed, poked, prodded and numbed so that they can take a hollow needle and make a hole to extract some of the suspicious cells or calcifications.  And at the end of the procedure, a small piece of titanium is placed into the spot, "just in case" so that a surgeon can find the spot if there is a need for surgery.

While I remember feeling a little sad that I was there at the appointment alone, I also remember feeling at peace.  I was receiving a flood of text messages from family asking questions, saying they were praying for me, and then text messages from Daniel who was totally stressed out, and yet I have such a hard time conveying my feelings in those moments.  I wasn't scared.  A part of me felt a little bad that I wasn't scared.  I remember asking the doctor if I could still workout yesterday, at which he said, "probably no working out for at the minimum 24-48 hours"... and I remember him making a comment/joke to the nurse helping with the procedure, "I think she's more upset about not working out than she is about having a biopsy done today."

The only way that I can explain it, is that I felt incredibly vulnerable, but also incredibly strong at the same time.  And I think it's because God had been preparing my heart for this.  It's such a beautifully orchestrated story of how He has been speaking to me through his Word.  Stories and verses that have  been in my personal reading and in my Bible study over the last few weeks kept coming to mind. Here are just a few of them....

- This specific verse was placed in my path over the last few weeks, in 3 different places and from different people/books.... "Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." -Psalm 25:4-5

- Reading and studying in Deuteronomy in a separate book about God providing and caring for His people.  Specifically the story regarding manna. "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." -Deuteronomy 8:3

- Leeland gave me a rubber bracelet yesterday with this verse on it, "I love you Lord, my strength."
-Psalm 18:1

- I like to take books to the doctor's office, like most probably do, so that I have something to read while I wait.  And I don't think it's a coincidence that the book I am currently reading and have been about half way through is "Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest" by Edward T. Welch and that a portion of the reading that I was enjoying while I waited to have a biopsy was the entirety of Psalm 27.  

.... So apart from God, I can't explain the peace that I found yesterday.  As we laid down to go to bed last night, I knew that I would receive the results of the biopsy today.  Daniel prayed for us and for me, we chatted about the possibilities, and I fell asleep stating "No matter what happens, we praise Him.  Good news, we praise Him.  Bad news, we praise Him."  Words that I couldn't utter in my own strength.  Apart from Him, I can't handle bad news.  

I'm happy to say that today I received the phone call from the doctor with the results from the biopsy and that the cells were negative for cancer and that it's "Fibrocystic tissue."  It's nothing that will go away, and it's something we will keep check on with regular mammograms.  Fibrocystic tissue is not cancerous and will never be cancerous, but it still doesn't mean that I will never ever get breast cancer.  I still have a strong family history, and there are still increased risks from it, increased risks with dense breasts and slightly increased risks when you have fibrocystic tissue.... But yet again, I'm reminded of a verse that was laid in my path this week in another Bible study.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?..... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  -Matthew 6:26-27, 34

God is so good to me!  Today I praise Him.  I praise Him for good news.  I praise Him for comfort and peace.  I praise Him for growing me and teaching me.  I praise Him for His faithfulness and His loving presence in our life.  None of this is my own doing or my own strength, and I share this story for His glory.  

"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.  Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always." -Psalm 105:1-4

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Turbo Fire: 8 Week Update

The 8 week update isn't too much different than the 4 week update, 2/3 of the way through now and again I'm waiting until the end to share the photos and measurements this time around.  This is officially the furthest I have made it through this program-- if you haven't been reading for a while, the first time I started going through Turbo Fire was last Fall, and the Holiday season REALLY got away from me unfortunately.  It was such a struggle, with my eating and also with getting work outs in between bouncing to and from all of the celebrations and festivities.  BUT, this year I feel so much more prepared for the Holidays because of that experience.

In fact, 14 months into this journey, I finally am feeling like I have truly built a lifestyle.  When I first started, it was small goals of just "finishing the program" or "get to the finish line", and my workouts had to be forced.  Along the way I found motivation through results and accomplishments but the workouts still felt somewhat forced.  Fast forward to today though, and this is my life.  The workouts are no longer forced, they are something that I look forward to and something that I want to do.  I love the results I've gotten so far, I'm trying to maintain those results and I'm pushing myself and learning new things about myself and my body each and everyday.

So the workouts over the last 4 weeks,  I'm sad to say that I did in fact miss 3 days over the last 4 weeks.  One day literally got away from me, with appointments and errands galore.  Scheduling that day was pretty much a fail.  And the other 2 days just didn't happen.  No excuse for them other than I'm human.  I've still continued to add the "Abs 10" class to all of my HIIT days and I'm happy to say that I have reached the point of getting through Abs 10, keeping up with every single rep, and making it through the entire workout without groaning and grumbling.  I've also subbed out 4 days and went for 4-4.5 mile runs just to get in some "mommy time" and also make sure that I'm staying race ready for upcoming runs/races that I'm doing in the Fall.

The eating end of things has gotten a lot better since the 4 week update.  I feel like I'm getting a handle on balance and maintenance, although I also feel like I'm eating the same thing over and over week to week.  I need to hop onto pinterest and find some more clean eating inspiration.... But at the end of the day I'm reminding myself that food is fuel. I'm reminded of this image shared by Melissa Locas on Instagram.
So only 4 weeks left to go and it will be time for the results post.  I haven't given a much thought to what's next... I guess I should hop on that!  I have 2 races to run in November, and it's time to start working on a plan for between now and then.

Friday, August 8, 2014

QALO Review and Giveaway!

I have been SO incredibly excited for this post, I felt like I couldn't get it typed up and posted quick enough.  I am beyond thrilled to be writing about such an awesome product and company, but even more than that, I am excited that I had the pleasure of my best friend and husband joining me in this review.
QALO wedding bands! QALO (pronounced Kay-Lo) stands for Quality, Athletics, Love, Outdoors.  They are 100% medical grade silicone wedding bands born out of frustration from discomfort, risk of loss, and how completely impractical it is to where your fancy wedding band when doing things like working out,  hiking, gardening, or if you have a career that involves fire, electricity, tackling criminals, wearing latex gloves...etc.  You get the point, right?

Maybe this video will help.

Without further ado, here are our thoughts and some photos of our QALO rings in action.  It only seems appropriate that my guest, also known as my husband, share his thoughts first....

"My wife 'voluntold' me to participate in a blog this week, which I originally wasn't thrilled about. I normally like to be just the support behind her and her blog.  She is far more intelligent and articulate than me.  Then she told me that she had been allowed to test run these QALO rings and needed me to put them to the test at work and in the gym.  That I could do!  

I have been a Police Officer for 2 and 1/2 years.  I patrol a rough area of town, which is, well......busy.  In the academy they warn us about wearing our wedding rings in fear that they may get lost or cause injury.   There are horror stories about Officers getting their rings caught on fences or other objects effectively de-gloving their ring finger.  For those who don't know what that is, it is pulling all the skin from your finger in a similar fashion to how you would take off a glove.  I have actually had my ring come off my finger on three occasions.  Once in a yard and twice searching vehicles.  Luckily I located it shortly after each time.

I tested the QALO ring during my last work week.  During this week I actually got into a foot pursuit and had to tackle the suspect to place him under arrest with assistance of other Officers.  I additionally searched that vehicle along with one other non related.  The QALO ring never fell off and is very light and flexible.  I didn't even know it was there. Needless to say, it passed with flying colors.  It's safer and more cost efficient if it ever did have to be replaced. All married Police, Fire and Military personnel should consider the benefits to using the QALO ring at least while at work. Im married and proud of being married, I don't want to go to work without wearing a wedding band."
"I spend a lot of my time off at the gym-- the gym is a stress reliever and I enjoy it.  I have been powerlifting since I was 18.  I competed in a couple of Powerlifting competitions after Dana and I got hitched.  Every time I did Deadlift and Bench training I would have to take my wedding ring off. The gym now a days has became a place for fraternizing and flirting and not serious lifting.  I'm no fan of this and like wearing my wedding ring as a natural deterrent for the rare chance that some chick thinks I'm a single man with money. Ha! (Kidding.... Sort of.)  I would have to take my ring off because it reduced my ability to grip the barbell.   I was able to deadlift as seen in the pics below with decent weight for reps without losing my grip or adding pressure to my finger.  The QALO ring never got in the way and again felt like nothing was even there.  The QALO ring passed the weight training test.  QALO is a solid investment for only $15-20.

Thanks Babe! ;) A pleasure to have you as a guest today! 

And here are my thoughts on the QALO ring--  It is SO comfortable!  I haven't taken it off of my finger since it arrived a week ago because I love it that much.  Don't get me wrong, I also love my wedding set, but I haven't been wearing my wedding set for a couple months now.  I feel terrible about that, but that's the stage of life that I have found myself.  For one, I'm a Mom.  Not only am I changing diapers and lifting my own kids in and out of car seats and up and down from my lap every single day, but I also care for other people's children in my home and at church.  Let's be real, how many times have you left a giant scratch on your kid from your engagement ring when all you were trying to do was change their diaper?  Those things are dangerous!  
On top of my motherly duties, I work out 6 days a week.  I'm talking quite literally sweating my tush off 6 days a week, whether it be putting the miles on my sneakers around the neighborhood, lifting weights, giving my Beach Body DVD's a little action in the living room or hitting the gym with Daniel.  In case you weren't aware, getting those diamonds cleaned on your wedding sets-- it's expensive!  And imagine, if you lose one of those precious little diamonds on your band... that's expensive too!  I've been there.  Add that to the fact that my set is white gold, and due to wear has to be periodically "re-dipped" and you have run up quite the bill at the jewelry store.  So why should I wear that fancy set when I'm working out?  Why add more damage than necessary? The QALO wedding band couldn't be more perfect.  I don't want to go to the gym without a ring on my finger,  I couldn't be more proud to be married and I couldn't be more proud of my husband, but like I said, I also don't want to completely ruin my wedding set either.  I mean, it is the most expensive accessory I own and will ever own.  

I cannot sing enough praises about my new QALO wedding band.  It is such a great product, and the company is so friendly and has excellent customer service.  The QALO wedding band comes in a few different colors for both men and women, along with plenty of sizes to fit most people.  I've been rocking the grey, and I'm dying to order a purple for myself also.  

If you are interested in ordering a QALO band, use the coupon code "Krohsnest" for 15% off your order on the QALO site! And if you're feeling lucky, fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win yourself a QALO wedding band, the winner will be drawn in a week! 

**While our QALO rings were provided to us by the company, all opinions are our own and are honest and true.  Once contacted via email, the winner will have 72 hours to respond and if I receive no response, a new winner will be drawn. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Plum Paper Designs Review and Coupon Code

I'm not quite sure when our life got so busy-- I guess I could say that it was after we had kids, but we were also incredibly busy before kids as well.  Just a different kind of busy.  I'm so appreciative that Daniel and I both have work (mine of course varies), and that we have a wide range of extra curricular activities for the boys and for the 4 of us, but it can be a whole lot to keep up with!  Enter our new "family planner" from Plum Paper Designs.  I think I might be in love with it!  Finally a calendar that is not only customized, but is able to completely meet our needs so that we all know what's coming up and we can all be on the same page.  Don't get me wrong, I love our Chick-Fil-A calendar that hangs in the kitchen... I love it mostly for the free coupons, but those little boxes get so crazy, especially with a husband who has a rotating schedule!

So today I'm going to share with you some photos of our new family planner, give you an idea of how each section will be used by our family, share some cute accessories I've found, and if you stick around to the end, I'll have a coupon code for you so that you can order your very own Plum Paper Designs planner!

Here are some pictures of the front and back covers-- there is a wide variety of covers to choose from, and all colors can be customized with a simple message to the seller.  I chose this super cute bunting print and had "The Kroh's Nest" printed on the front cover.  There's also the option to have a photo added, which I will definitely consider for next year.  The cover is a solid card stock and is protected by a frosted plastic piece on both the front and back so here are photos with and without the frosted cover.
Once you open it up to the front after that, there is a space to fill in your personal information should it be lost.
And after that page is a layout of the full year in calendar form.  My planner has 4 pages total to cover both 2014 and 2015 because my planner runs through both years.  When you order, you get to choose your start date for your planner (mine will begin in September), and the default is to order 12 months, which is what mine is, but you can order up to 18 months. So my planner runs from September 2014 to August 2015.
Once you flip past those year views, you get to your first divider page for your first month.  Again mine is September, and then also each month includes a note page at the beginning so once you flip past the divider, you will see a lined note page. I plan to use this note page to Dave Ramsey it up!  We are finally getting back on our Financial Peace plan and so I want to use this page to keep us on track and on the same page as far as what is being spent, bills being paid, and checking off our "baby steps".  Each month will be updated and include information for that particular month. 
Flip another page and you get to the full view of the month, which has US holidays already pre-typed in.  And the left margin includes spaces for "birthdays", "events" and "notes".

Flip another page and you get to your weekly layouts.  The weekly layouts are dated at the top from left to right.  The left margin includes a small glance at the month, a weekly checklist, and a notes section.  I plan to use the notes section to write in my weekly Bible memory verse.  And then since, I got the family planner, for each day of the week, I have 7 fully customized rows!  No other calendar/planner (at least that I'm aware of) offers this and I absolutely love it!  So I have a section for each of us (Daniel, Dana, Leeland and Hayden) and then I have a section for "Events" which will include all of us, a section for "Fitness" to keep track of work-outs, and a section entitled "Dinner" for meal planning. 

Customized planner is pretty cool, huh?  Once you flip through all of your weekly layouts for whatever month you are in, you get back to another divider page for the next month and another note page.  Again, my planner contains 12 months.  Each month has a different color theme to it (this part of the planner cannot be customized, the colors of the months are standard.)
... And lastly once you get to the very back of the planner, there are a couple blank note pages, a page to write in "special dates", a "contacts" page, a page of "US Holidays", a single page of 2016, and a little card stock folder that has pockets on both the front and back.
Now for the fun part-- the accessories!  People are crazy about their life planners.  I had no idea what I was walking into when I began researching these family planners.  A lot of people scrapbook their planners and turn them into sort of like a "Smashbook."  It's very cool!  I don't know the extent of decorating I will be able to do, or how practical it will be for this current stage in my life, but I definitely wanted to get just a few cute things for my planner, so this is what I've got so far. 

The most adorable sticky notes ever, which came from Pikwahchan on Etsy.  She included the little squirrels and apples as a freebie in my order which was such a sweet surprise!  And do you see the donuts-- the donuts are actually 2 sticky notes, you can write on the donut and then cover it with the frosting!  Leave it to the po-po family to enjoy the donut sticky notes! ;)  The yellow dotted and the aqua floral washi-tape are from Pretty Tape on Etsy and the mustache washi tape is from Office Depot, along with the Wite Out.  The binder clips that have attached dividers are from Wal-Mart and will be used to keep my spot in my planner, and lastly the post-it pockets.  I picked up the post-it pockets from Office Depot.  I have attached one to the inside front cover and one to the inside back cover.  The front cover pocket contains my sticky notes for now, and the back pocket is currently holding my coil clips and I plan to get some cardboard embroidery bobbins to wrap small samples of washi on so that I can keep some washi tape in that back pocket as well. 
Lastly is the coil clips.  For those not familiar with the world of life planners, coil clips are used to attach loose papers into the coil of your planner.  They are sold here and there on the internet, but I got thrifty and made my own coil clips using this DIY Coil Clip YouTube video.  I do not own an "EC ruler" so I just used my Fiskar hole punch, the divider tabs by post-it which I picked up from Office Depot, a pair of embroidery scissors that I already had and I used the coil from my planner as my template to mark where the holes needed to be.  Slightly tedious marking and punching the holes, but really easy and they hold surprisingly well.  I went ahead and punched out 25 of the 50 tabs and have them stored and ready to use in my post-it pocket in the back.
And that's it!

I feel like I just threw a whole lot of information at you, so your treat for sticking around is a 10% off coupon code to use in the Plum Paper Store on Etsy.  Just use the code DANA10 which will be valid until September 15, 2014.  

I am super thrilled with this planner, I LOVE the way that it turned out, very impressed with the quality of paper and card stock, and like I said, it is customized to meet your needs and that is just super cool if you ask me!  I can definitely see a planner like this carrying us through the years, and I even see it being perfect for lesson planning for our homeschool as the boys get older as well. Now I just get to anxiously wait for September so that I can really start putting it to work!