Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide-MNC Photography

It seems like every time I log onto Facebook I am seeing someone’s beautiful, professional, flawless photo session. And it makes me start to wonder when our family will be able to do a family photo shoot again; because, let’s be honest, professional photo shoots are expensive! And for good reason. The professionals know what they are doing, and they make us look good.

Luckily, one fortunate reader will win a one hour photo session and an 11x14 framed print; a value of $200, with Megan Casteel of MNCPhotography. MNC Photography is a small photo business based out of Charles Town, WV. It is owned by freelance photographer, Megan Casteel, who studied and earned her degree in photography from Shepherd University. She is experienced in many types of photography and has been freelancing for years.
This prize would be great for you or you could even give it as a gift to someone you love.

This giveaway is only open to entrants who live within an hour radius of MNC Photography, which is located in Charles Town, WV.

You can contact Megan for any future photography needs via her Facebook page, phone (304) 657-0962 or email.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide-Ribbon Gift Collection

We all have that one person in our life that is so hard to buy a gift for. You know the one, they don’t seem to have any hobbies or clear interests. The items in their home seem to be a random assortment that don’t offer you any gift buying clues. So you end up buying them soap gift baskets or ties; every year.

Well, this year will be different. This is the year you discover Ribbon:The Gift of ChoiceToday’s giveaway is a $30 gift card for the Ribbon Gift Collection. Each Ribbon Gift Collection features top products from brands you know and love and includes a Gift Card with space for a special message.

This gift is so unique. The recipient of this Gift Card simply goes to the My Ribbon Gift website and enters their gift card number. They are then presented with an entire catalog of gifts to choose from, and their gift card will buy them anything in it! Such an interesting concept.

 Some great benefits of the Ribbon Gift Card: Free shipping – for you and your recipient, an unbeatable180-day Satisfaction Guarantee on Gift Cards and gift items, and the promise that Ribbon Gift Cards never expire or lose value.

Meet Stephanie Lane, a passionate Rep for Ribbon. 
Stephanie is excited about life and giving people a great guaranteed product that helps families save time and money! She will be adding a new addition to her family this coming February and is excited to see what the future holds.

Enter today for your chance to win! Good luck!

Contact Stephanie Lane at 814-317-6678 or today for purchase and/or questions.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide-Tastefully Simple

Tastefully Simple…Just the name elicits rumbles from my stomach. What woman can resist good tastes that are simple to create? Not me. I love Tastefully Simple’s vast array of products, for myself of course, but also to give as gifts. Their products make gifts that you can be sure will be used. Their prices are affordable too, ranging from around $5+

With Christmas right around the corner, I am sure you all, just like me, are looking for a great gift…why not the gift of taste? Today’s giveaway is an 11oz container of Tastefully Simple’s Juicy Watermelon Non-Alcoholic Margarita Mix. Traditionally margaritas are an alcoholic drink, but this mix can be made and enjoyed without alcohol. This mix would be perfect for a ladies night in or a holiday gathering and is so well priced at $10; but it can be yours for free if you win!

Enter below for your chance to win. Good luck!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide- Scentsy

Don’t you just love walking into a home that envelops you in a welcoming fragrance, like fresh baked cookies, pumpkin spice, apple cobbler….well, thanks to Scentsy, you can have all of these fragrances and more without ever having to bake.  Scentsy offers unique warming units that melt small wax squares and fill your home with festive fragrance!

We are going to be giving away a beautiful Hatteras Deluxe Scentsy Warmer and one bar of Christmas scent! Great for the holidays, or any day! This item is provided by
Amarillis Velez, an Independent Consultant for Scentsy. She is happy to fulfill all your sales needs as well as answer any questions you may have via her contact information below.

Scentsy started out small in the Thompson home and has grown into something huge that you can still access in the warmth of your own home by selling Scentsy as an Independent Consultant, or by hosting a fun Scentsy party with your friends. Scentsy warming sources come in many options, such as the traditional ceramic warmer, powered by a single light bulb, the plug in warmers which are perfect for the bathroom because they double as a night light, to their new element warmers. The new element warmer uses a hidden, safe, warming element so as not to project light.

As if that wasn’t enough options,  Scentsy also offers room sprays, scent circles for the car, sent filled paks, sent tins, gifts for children and so much more! There is a scent option to meet every need. This beautiful giveaway of the Hatteras model and a Christmas scent bar is reasonable priced at $35, but one lucky reader will win this combo!

Contact Amarillis for all of your Scentsy needs! You can order via email, website, Facebook, telephone (571-225-4042) or by having a fun filled Scentsy party in your home! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide- Koala Pals for Kids

Before I became a mom my favorite products shared two main components: great scent and the cheapest price. I never once thought to check the label to see what sort of chemicals/harmful ingredients were in them. If it was on sale and smelled good I bought it. Now that I am a mother (of twins) I have suddenly become much more conscious of the products that I bring into our home. I of course want to avoid putting harmful chemicals onto and into my babies’ bodies, but I also steer clear of using these harmful products in my home. Now I look for natural products that have a nice scent and a great price.

I recently came across some products that fulfill both of my new criteria, plus these products are safe and affordable .These products are sold by Robin Gallagher, a Marketing Executive for Healthy Products Healthy Lives

She offers safe, "green" household cleaners, children’s products, shampoos/conditioners, stain removers, pet supplies, vitamins, gluten free and more!

This give away will focus on the Koala Pals children’s line. They have bath time covered; just bring the towel and pajama's (oh and the kids). Healthy Products Healthy Lives is giving away a bottle of Koala Pals Hair Wash and the Koala Pals Dental Pack.

While it is unlikely that your kids will care about all the nourishing botanicals and vitamins packed into Koala Pals Hair Wash and they probably won’t notice how healthy and shiny their hair looks, they’ll definitely notice all the sweetly scented, tear-free suds that leave them with tangle-free locks, while you appreciate a gentle formula made just to keep kids smiling and happy. This great product is fun and super affordable at just $5.37!

The Koala Pals Dental Pack offers great oral care for kids! It meets all of their at home dental needs, providing gentle but effective products, delicious tastes, and lots of fun. This Koala Pals Dental Care Pack has it all; delicious tooth gels, colorful flossers, and a fun blue toothbrush. They have made brushing and flossing something your kid wants to do! Your kid will love the brightly colored, easy-to-hold toothbrush and flossers, which are made just for little hands and mouths. This pack includes Berrylicious Tooth Gel for children ages 2 and up (also available in Training Tooth Gel), made with delicious flavors and natural sweeteners, and filled with the tooth-cleaning power of baking soda. Best yet, with the Koala Pals Dental Pack, you’ll save more than 20% over buying the products separately. This is quite a value at $6. 76!

If you think these products are great, make sure you check out their entire Koala line, made just for kids, which includes items such as tooth paste, tooth brush, soap, lotion, and bath play body paints, multivitamins and more!

You can contact Robin for sales and more information:
Phone: 301-395-9185

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holiday Guide 2013- 5 Days of Giveaways!

Hi everyone! I know it has been a few days since I posted, sorry about that. I have been gearing up and getting ready for this upcoming week. Started this Monday, 11/25/13, our blog will be hosting 5 days of giveaways for the holidays! 

So starting this Monday, Nov. 25th, we will be posting one giveaway each day for 5 straight days! So check in daily and enter to win! Make sure to tell your friends and family. Our giveaways would be great for you or great given as a gift this holiday season! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

How I Saved $165

Life is expensive. In case you somehow forget this someday, the gas pump, the grocery bill and medical expenses will surely remind you. We live in a society that seems to operate under the thought, “How much can I charge for as little as I can offer?” Oh, and there is always something else that we must have to survive. New and improved versions of things seem to pop up every day! I won’t even get started on baby products. (That is a market driven by fear, targeting new parents…different rant for a different day.)

I just feel like everywhere I go I have to pay someone something, and a lot of that time I feel like I am getting nothing in return. But that is just the way it is and I have to do it. Take health care for example. You go to your primary doctor; pay $20. She refers you to a specialist; pay $35. They do lab work and send it to a non-covered lab; pay $35-$250. The specialist writes you a prescription, and hopefully, doesn’t require you to take brand name; pay $10-$65. But wait, what if you require a medication that your insurance will not pay for?

Non-covered prescriptions can cost any amount of money. Recently, I had a doctor prescribe a medication for me that my insurance would not cover. The cost was over $200 per fill. I was more than a little surprised! Well, I needed the medication, so I said okay, and I paid the bill.

I just happened to have picked up two different “prescription discount cards” at my doctor’s office a few months ago. I had seen these types of cards displayed at various medical locations and always ignored them. I’m not really sure what made me grab them this time. However, when I ordered my costly medications I forgot about the discount cards. When I remembered them, I called the pharmacy and asked if they could re-process my order using these discount cards. No one there knew what I was talking about and said they would have someone return my call.

Weeks went by and I heard nothing. So I called back. This time someone took the information off of the cards and said she would try to take care of it and call me if she had any questions. More time went by and still nothing. I called a third time; the lady who answered couldn’t find any record of these calls or anyone trying to run the discount cards. However, I persisted, and she finally offered to “run the cards” for me. After being on hold for a while, she got back on the line and informed me that those discount cards saved me $165 and that they would credit it to my account. Oh, and that I could use them each time I refilled the medication. Now, my $200+ medication would only cost me $40 some dollars!

It just irritates me that this pharmacy didn’t ask me if I had any discount cards or offer me any other sort of “self-pay” discount when they realized my situation. No one was concerned that I would have to pay so much money (and I guess they shouldn’t have to be). But I am thankful that they were willing to process those cards for me on a previously submitted order. So next time you see those prescription discount cards grab some, they may just save you some money, or a lot of money!

 **I did speak to another pharmacy and they told me that many pharmacies do not like to accept those discount cards because the companies that offer them charge the pharmacies a hefty fee. This may be a reason your pharmacy isn’t suggesting you use them**

Remember to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and love on a daily basis and you will start to see life as a Mama on the Bright Side

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being In a Bad Mood is a Choice

        I learned something about myself recently, and it wasn’t pretty. When I have a lack of sleep, and thus wakeup with a splitting headache and burning, gritty eyes, I am in a bad mood. No, that isn’t the revelation. I am in a bad mood and I feel entitled. I feel like I have been robbed of comfort and I deserve a nap, some peace and quiet, or to just close my eyes. And then the twins both start crying and reality hits; I may never nap again.

        The ugly part isn’t that I wake up in a bad mood; it is the fact that I make the decision, the choice, to carry that bad mood with me throughout the day. It is like a heavy rain cloud or loaded backpack that I trudge around with, weighing me down. And I make sure that anyone around me knows about it. They must know how saintly I am, what a martyr I am for getting up with my baby(s) at night and then managing to get up in the morning (as if I am the only mother ever to do this.) Hey, I am just being honest.

        When I caught myself in this behavior early last week I was appalled at myself. It was as if I was seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes God does that for me; it is like He allows me to see myself through His eyes. Sometimes it is good behavior, and sometime it is the brutal truth of my wicked heart. So as I was looking at myself plodding through my day, it was almost comical. I saw just how silly my behavior was. Just because I had a rough night does not mean that my whole day has to be darkened.

        The core issue behind this behavior of mine is selfishness. I didn’t get a full night’s sleep. I am tired. I have a headache. I want a nap. There is a whole lot of self and “I” going on there. Where does that leave my husband, my children? They get moody mama…and nobody likes moody mama. And that is not okay. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. And Philippians 2:14a tells us to “do all things without grumbling” (NIV).

Wow, that means I am doing the exact opposite of what the Bible says to do. Therein lies my revelation; I have a choice. I can choose to be moody mama all day…OR, I can choose to try and apply the Bible to my life and value others above myself, not look to my own interests, and do things without complaining. So yes, I may be exhausted and have a headache, but I will choose to be obedient to God’s Word. And you know what? God has a way of turning my obedience, even obedience that starts out grudgingly, into a blessing.

So what choice will you make today? Even if you started out this day as a moody mama you still have a chance to turn things around!

Remember to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and love on a daily basis and you will start to see life as a Mama on the Bright Side.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Adoption Awareness Month

 November is Adoption Awareness Month and I have asked Illona Roman of Bethany Christian Services to give us some insight into adoption and the need that our nation's children face. Please read her contribution as follows: 

November is Adoption Awareness Month, a time set aside to promote the many orphans around the world who need forever families. On any given day in West Virginia, there are 1,000 children who are ready to be adopted out of the foster care system. Ready to be adopted means their mothers and fathers have had their parental rights either relinquished or terminated. These children are waiting for a forever family.

Then there are women and men who are facing a crisis pregnancy. For whatever reason, these individuals are not ready to care for a child. They can be teenagers, young people, married, divorced, or single. They can be of any race, religion, culture, ethnicity or economic situation. They can be supported by family, friends, or completely alone. These babies need to find a family who is ready to parent them, and help them grow into adulthood. Individuals that place their babies for adoption are not uncaring, unloving or cruel. They are normal people who realize that caring for a child is a great responsibility, a responsibility that they may not be ready to take on. They love their child so much that they not only choose life for them, they also choose a bright future, one they are unable to provide. Some choose to have a completely closed adoption, while others choose a completely open adoption, but most choose what is called a semi-open adoption. These birth parents get the privilege of seeing their children grow up through pictures and letters. This is a blessing that has not always been available.

There is an estimated 153 million children around the world who have either lost one or both of their parents (UNICEF). In many countries, children are forced to leave the orphanage at a certain age due to overcrowding and a lack of resources. Many children end up in the slave trade, child labor or other horrific lifestyles. 100,000 to 300,000 American kids are victims of sex trafficking annually.

James 1:27 says Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress… NIV. Throughout the Old Testament, “orphans” and “the fatherless” are mentioned forty-one times.  Deuteronomy 27:19 Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. NIV

Adoption is not an option for every family, but there are children who need those families who have never given adoption a thought to pray about what they can do. Bethany Christian Services (BCS) has been helping children find families for almost seventy years. BCS works with domestic adoption, children who are placed for adoption by their parents within the United States, international adoption from 12+ countries, and foster care adoption, where children find forever families. BCS also works with independent adoption, and embryo adoption.

If you would like to find out how you can help an orphan find a forever family, please call our office at 304-620-2695. BCS has monthly information meetings; please call to register and/or to request an information packet. Bethany Christian Services manifests the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services. Visit our website for more information. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Twin Difference

Baby B      Baby A 
Apparently, twins are different people. Seems like an obvious statement right? Well, babies in general, and especially twins, have been a real learning curve for me. When I was pregnant with the twins we knew they were fraternal, not identical. This should have been my first clue. In the womb, my son, baby B, was very active. He was constantly flipping around, kicking, and changing his position. My daughter, baby A (the lower baby), however, was not as active. She stayed in the same position most of my pregnancy. And she was shy. When the sonographer tried to take photos, my son was ready for his close up. My daughter was camera shy. She almost always hid her face from us.

I always wondered to myself, and often out loud, if their in-utero behavior was indicative of their personalities. People would regularly tell me that baby A is usually feisty, especially if it is a girl, as was our case. So I expected my baby girl to be, well, feisty. Towards the end of my pregnancy baby girl developed what is known as asymmetrical growth syndrome. This is when a developing baby becomes undernourished (which often happens with multiples) and begins to direct the majority of nourishment and energy to the growth of vital organs, like their brain and heart, at the expense of the liver, muscle and fat. In our situation, our son was taking most of the nourishment, so their growth became incongruent. He was beginning to get bigger than her. Her growth had basically stopped.

So when the twins were born, my daughter was born first (by one minute) and she was 4lbs 3oz. My son was a whopping 4lbs 13oz; which doesn’t seem like much, but in premature terms a 10oz difference is a big deal. Our baby girl didn’t seem to have an ounce of fat on her body. She was all skin and bones, literally. To be honest, it was scary. Ever since then, she has been behind our son in physical development. However, she has always been the better eater. Even in the NICU, she chugged her bottle while my son ended up with a feeding tube in his nose due to him eating slow. Now, she has surpassed her brother by almost 2lbs. She is so chubby and I couldn’t be happier. I just remember how skeletal she looked for months, and I am so pleased that she now has rounded cheeks and chubby thighs. 

Yet, she is not the feisty one. My daughter is quiet and observant. She is patient and easy to please. She can play alone and not fuss about it. She is gentle and joyful. She will nap when you need her to and she just goes with the flow. My son on the other hand is very active. Since birth, he has been our crier. He is a very particular napper. He wants attention, all the time. He needs to be entertained. He is not patient, but he is a joy. He is laughing and smiling most of the time, and so is baby girl. So they have stayed true to their womb behavior. She is calm and quiet (when she isn’t laughing and babbling.) He is on the go, into everything, and the center of attention.

I still catch myself comparing them to each other; expecting them to develop the same, sleep the same, and have the same needs. I forget that they are two different people, with different needs and personalities. This may prove to be a challenge when it comes to learning and discipline. I must remember that they are different, and will need differing parenting techniques; although they are the same age. The differing genders and personalities will present unique challenges. Although I am a little nervous about this motherhood thing, I am also excited to watch these two children develop and grow into little people; with their own thoughts and idiosyncrasies.

One of my biggest concerns is me. Because my son demands so much attention, and the fact that he is the only baby who is mobile, I regularly end up holding him or trying to soothe him. While holding him, I often look over and see his twin sister watching us. And I have this horrible feeling that she is going to grow up feeling neglected or looked over due to me tending to her brother so much. I worry that she won’t feel as valuable or loved; and I criticize myself and worry. But the moment I turn my back, my son has a mouth full, literally, of dog food…or has found and is trying to chew a dirty diaper…and then I criticize myself again. The truth is, I love both of my babies so much. They are special in their own ways. They each bring joy to me in different ways. I try to remember that they are very different, while at the same time sharing so many similarities. And I try to divide my time. When my husband is home, I try to always tend to my daughter to try and balance how much time my son needed during the day. I hope that I am doing the right thing. I try to do my best; sometimes I fail. I take comfort in the fact that God’s mercies are new every day; even for me.

Remember to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and love on a daily basis and you will start to see life as a Mama on the Bright Side.

Next Step Baby Monitors

*I was not compensated for this review, but all opinions are my own.*

If there is one must have baby item in our house, it would definitely be our Next Step Baby Monitor. We were fortunate enough to receive, the Next Step IP Pro monitor, a little over a year ago and we still love it so much! You can read my full review here

Next Step is a family owned and operated business based in Southern California, founded in 2004. This is a company that truly cares about their customers. When we were installing our monitor, we had a few questions and we were able to call directly in to speak to someone who was very eager to help us get it right. This was so beneficial and made us feel very valued. Working with a company like this is so important to us.

In case you don't head over to read my full review, let me tell you just a little about the Next Step IP Monitor. This monitor provides anywhere baby monitoring from your iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac or PC. You are able to view while at home or away! We love this feature, whether its in the middle of the night or we are away on a date, we can peek in at our little one's! It makes us all feel extra safe. Also...what good would a great monitor like this be if you couldn't use it for a little fun? When our kids have friends over, we love watching them on the monitor and going back and saying something like "hey, good job building that tower!!". The look on their faces as they wander " did they know I just built a tower"..priceless!!

The NextStep IP also has a pan tilt motion that can be activated from whatever device you're watching from, night vision , 2 way audio and more! For just a little more $ you can purchase the Next Step IP Pro (this is the model we have) this has a few extra features like upgraded audio, audio detection alert and a sleek new design.

The Next Step IP can be purchased for 99.99 and the IP Pro can be yours for 129.99! What better gift for any parent, that the gift of security? One of you will win your choice of an IP or $100 store credit so you can purchase the IP Pro for just $29.99! Please fill out the entry form below for your chance to win. This giveaway will end on Friday Nov. 22nd. Good Luck!

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Brylane Home-Digit​al Double Deep Fryer

When it comes to gift giving, there really isn't anyone much harder to buy for than the men in my life. Whether its my Hubs or my Dad, I am always stumped. It's not really that they are picky...but they're men! They either want it and have it, or they don't have it and don't want it. I am thrilled to share a few great items this Christmas season that the men are going to love!

The first item geared towards the guys, is coming from Brylane Home. If you have been a long time follower, you will know that over the past year this is a company my family has truly fallen in love with! From everything to home goods, outdoor decor and organizational needs; Brylane Home has it all. You also might know that in the past, Brylane Home's products have been meeting my wants; so what might they have that my Hubs would go crazy for?? I'm glad you asked!

Hubs , loves to help me in the kitchen....if he has a cool gadget to use. Ya know, a waffle maker or a high end blender. Yeah...that's when he gets down and dirty , helping make a buttery waffle or a green smoothie! So I knew he would just flip over the Brylane Home Digital Double Deep Fryer. What guy doesn't enjoy a good deep fried food? When you can make them at home, well that's even better! 

When our Deep Fryer arrived, I was thrilled to see that it was already put together. It took me just a few minutes to remove all of the plastic & cardboard from the packaging , then we were ready to go. Immediately I noticed some great features about the Deep Fryer, it has see through windows, digital easy to use controls, and two 12 cup fryers. 

The first thing we chose to make with our fryer was some Pumpkin Funnel was the weekend before Halloween, my in-laws were in to visit , it was the perfect evening treat after carving pumpkins! So, I really thought Hubs would be the first to use this, but he was enjoying some time outdoors with the kids and his parents & the night was slipping away so I decided to give it a go!

I will have to admit, I was a little nervous. I LOVE being in the kitchen, but hot oil scares me! So, trust me when I say this was a piece of cake to use! The push button controls are very easy to use, and the oil heated up quickly. Once it was ready to go, I dropped the wire basket into the oil for just a few minutes, flipping the funnel cakes over half way through. Once they were done frying, I simply pulled the fry basket out and hooked it on the drying rest.  Then, as you would with any funnel cake, we topped them with powdered sugar and they were delicious! Then, clean up was just as easy as the set up.

We've used the Digital Deep Fryer several times since we've received it. We've also made donuts and chicken nuggets so far. Everything has been so easy to prepare and delicious! Hubs has made both the donuts and the chicken and he's been so proud of himself ;-) Even the kiddos just love how fun the Deep Fryer is (not that they use it, but they get to enjoy the goodies it creates). 

The Brylane Home Digital Deep Fryer retails for $149.99, but right now its on sale for just $89.99! This is a Christmas Gift that is a win - win for everyone! Your Hubs will be eager to use it and you'll get a break from the kitchen. One of you will win one of your own. Please fill out the entry form below for your chance to win. This giveaway ends on Thursday 11/21, Good Luck!

          If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Living On Sensory Overdrive: Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder?

Hey Ya'll. I would like to introduce a friend and fellow mommy blogger. Melissa is a mother of 3, one of whom has "Sensory Processing Disorder" or SPD. SPD is not something that is commonly diagnosed and can seem like "typical rough boy's behavior," when in fact it could be something that needs more attention. I am sharing this blog because I think many parents can benefit from this information as she also posts very helpful information to help with many behavioral issues. It may shed some light into your life. 

So please take a moment and read this blog post from Melissa @  Living On Sensory Overdrive

Sensory Mommy

This is the phrase that kept me from seeking additional support the first couple of years of Crash's life. In my eyes he was just a "rough and tough" boy with an adventurous spirit. That couldn't be in the same room with his brother if his brother didn't have a helmet on. That didn't interact with other kids. That enjoyed climbing on top of our couch at age two to jump into a pile of huge legos bruising himself in the process but LOVING IT. That ran full speed through locked baby gates ON PURPOSE. That dove into his brother's pack n play landing on his head every time because he liked the way it felt. That had to follow a strict, self imposed routine each day or FLIPPED OUT. That spun in circles for a few minutes each morning after waking up. That preferred cold baths. That ate only yogurt and soft hot dogs. You know, boys will be boys kind of stuff.

It's normal.

It wasn't Crash's behavior that led me to call "Birth to Three", an early intervention program, for the first time. It was his poor speech. Make that lack of speech. Other kids his age were forming short sentences and he was silent. S-I-L-E-N-T. Sheer silence didn't match up with his... energy level.

So I called them.

We made the early intervention appointment when Crash was 2 years old (he is now 4). I was still teaching at the time and had a new baby boy (current middle child, Scarface). Someone came out and asked us a ton of questions. Then a speech pathologist came out and confirmed that, duh, he was behind in speech. She was really nice by the way, and I liked her at lot.

An IEP meeting ensued. I say that so easily like it's normal and like I handled all of the emotions leading up to that day so well.

I didn't.

At that time I was well into my career as a special education teacher. I worked in one of the best school districts in the nation. I was well trained on how to work with kids with special needs, and I was proficient at the legal process regarding IEP meetings. I sometimes chaired these meetings. I went to court over these meetings. Occasionally I taught other teachers in our prestigious county how to run these meetings and write IEPs effectively. All of those years of preparation did not, however, prepare me for how to be the MOTHER on the other side of the table in those meetings.

The sad, nervous, ashamed mother.

Was it all in my head anyway? Was my adventurous, silent child just a late talker? Was this really necessary? Was I jumping the gun here? Was I just on board with getting "free services" for my child simply because I was a special education teacher and knew what I was entitled to if we so happened to fit all of the criterion for the services?

How could I have let this happen anyways?! I was a TEACHER for God's sake! And here I am sitting in an IEP meeting because my kid can't talk?!?!

We wrote Crash's IEP to include speech goals. Because that's all he needed. So I thought, let's just calm down and play it cool here... If he happened to add hundreds of words to his vocabulary to catch him up to his same age peers in the next year, then that would be awesome. I should just focus on that... enormous goal... that I'd been unable to meet despite doing everything I'd ever been taught in college or on the job. And if I just focused on not sucking as a mom then maybe this would all work out rather quickly...

Soon after our IEP meeting, speech services ensued the second I got home from work (around 4:30/ 5:00 pm). That's every person's best time of day right? Tired, hungry.... but who cares! Let's get this early intervention party started! I know you missed me all day at work today, Crash, but GET IT TOGETHER and work on talking RIGHT NOW, OK?

Weeks passed by and Crash started adding a few new words to his vocab! ALRIGHT!!! Then he stopped. Well.... technically we couldn't get him TO STOP... moving, jumping, bouncing, running, crashing... which apparently affects a kid's ability to focus on learning speech and other important stuff.

Crash's speech pathologist started mentioning occupational therapy services every time she came to see us week after week.... I can't tell you how long I just ignored her. Those were for kids that couldn't hold a fork. Or use the bathroom. Or cut with scissors. They were for kids that I TAUGHT in "real" special ed; they weren't for my handsome, normal little BOY. Couldn't she just see that he was being a REGULAR BOY?

Then one day Crash's service provider (different person than the speech pathologist) paid us a routine visit to see how things were going. Crash was there too... doing what he did best... crashing through things, on things, off of things... ya know... doing "boys will be boys" stuff.... After a few screams by the apparently sensitive service provider, she asked me about having an occupational therapist out to evaluate him. What?! Why?! So we can evaluate him for "sensory processing disorder" she said. <Insert my blank stare>.

I thought, "Everyone just needs to calm down here. I don't want to hear this right now." (Actually, what I wanted to do was throw up and cry if she didn't mind).

We scheduled the occupational therapy (OT) evaluation. That day came and our world changed forever.

I'm crying right now just thinking about that day. My hands are shaking a little if I'm being honest.

The sweet occupational therapist asked us a series of questions.... all of which we answered, "Yes"... and with every "yes" the lump in my throat grew bigger, my heart beat faster, and my stomach tossed and turned harder to the point where I just wanted to fall through the floor and smack myself over and over for doing something- or not doing something- to let this happen. I also wanted to accuse this wonderful woman of following us around and writing down everything my child had done since birth. Clearly she was just a stalker.

And she would become my lifeline for the remaining year. She would teach me about my son and save my sanity and my family.

You can read more about SPD and Melissa's journey at Living On Sensory Overdrive

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do Babies Come With a Manual?

     I am a first time mom. I am a first time mom of twins. Each day is a new adventure; I am learning this motherhood thing as I go. I try to read and do research, but most days I wing it.

     Growing up, there were never babies in my life. I never even knew anyone who was pregnant. So of course I knew nothing about babies. I remember asking my husband, right before our twins were born, “is someone going to tell us what to do?” The birthing classes and books tell you how to make sure babies survive, but they don’t tell you any of the in between things. Like what to do at 3 am when two babies are screaming, or what to do with liquid, explosive poopy diapers. They don’t go over the details involved in trying to rush a poo covered child to the sink in order to rinse them off. Wet babies are very slippery!

      My husband had never even changed a diaper before the twins were born. Both of us had a huge learning curve ahead of us. One of the nice things about the twins staying a week in the NICU was that we had a week of nurses teaching us to diaper them, feed them and burp them. There was nothing cuter/funnier than seeing my big husband trying to burp our 4lb baby boy. 
January 2013

     His hand was larger than our baby boy’s whole upper body. I love to watch my husband with the twins. They are so tiny and delicate next to him. It is like a bear trying to cuddle a fluffy duckling
January 2013
     Since the twins are our first children, I don't know any different. I don't know that it is any easier with just one baby; I can only assume. But because I have nothing to compare it to, I can complain less. I just figure out a way to get it done. Like bathing two babies by myself...or feeding two babies by myself. Sometimes you just have to learn tricks. My feet have come in handy. I can pick things up with my toes, re-position and support babies with my feet and even hold bottles with my feet...When babies are screaming in your face survival instinct kicks in and you just make do. 
Whatever Works
No Hands!
   Now fast forward about 8 months. The twins have just turned 10 months old. And they are doing great! They are so big; almost 20lbs each. They are so different from each other already. 
6 months old
     Life is harder now. I am now responsible for the lives of two brand new humans. Yes, I still refer to them as little humans because I am still in awe of the fact that they grew inside my body and now are living, breathing humans...God is so good and so big. Even though life is harder, more busy now, it is also so much richer, entertaining, and more meaningful. 

Remember to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and love on a daily basis and you will start to see life as a Mama on the Bright Side.

Friday, November 1, 2013

We Could All Use a Little Transparency

I think that as mothers, it is important for us to be honest and vulnerable with each other. Usually we just share the positive things; the achievements, the accomplishments. But what if we shared our hearts? What if we shared our fears and insecurities and found that in sharing them we found not only release and grace but also a comrade in arms? Another mother who thought she was alone? Let's all vow to be brave today. When another woman asks you how you are doing, be honest with her. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Be transparent; be everything the world has told you not to be.

To be honest, this morning was a hard morning. Now, normally, I wouldn’t tell you that. I would post to facebook about a great scripture I read, or some other encouragement, and probably attach a smiley face to it. And while what I wrote may be true, it is only surface, because truly I am having a tough day. I was up all night and morning with a baby who was so congested he couldn’t breathe through his nose and had a fever; thus no one slept.

If you announce to the world that you are having a bad day, how does that reflect on you as a mother? As a wife? It is tantamount to admitting defeat in our society, and I know that it can make me feel like a failure. The response to this ugly honesty is often “advice” on how you should handle life instead (you are wrong, let me tell you how I would do it.) Sometimes women can be like sharks circling in the water; the moment we smell blood, we attack the weak, the wounded. How did this come to be? We were not created to be this way.

Thankfully, today, I was reminded of God’s goodness through real women in my life who I decided to be honest with. My Snapchat photos were not of sunrises or my daily devotional, but were instead of my crying, snotty nosed baby boy. And of my bedraggled, tired, bed-headed self, announcing that I was in fact having a rough go of it. And you know what I got in response. Sympathy. Prayer. Encouragement.

Lying and saying I was fine would have gotten me isolation, but being transparent got me life-giving community with other women; which is priceless. Don’t let the world fool you. Not all women are sharks. In fact, most sharky women are actually shy, nervous, unconfident baby seals wearing a shark suit. So take a chance next time you need prayer, encouragement, or just a sympathetic nod. Let’s all give each other the chance to be the women, the friends, we were created to be.

Remember to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and love on a daily basis and you will start to see life as a Mama on the Bright Side.