Free School Supplies, Anyone? It's almost BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

Ok, don't run away at that title! If you're much like me you haven't gotten NEARLY enough fun and sun this summer, so the phrase "back-to-school" is likely to send cold shivers from the tippy top of your sunglasses down to your flip-flopped toes.

Me too, friend, me too!

But, we are only about a month out from the start of a brand new school year with all it's promise and excitement, and I know many of you will head back to school even sooner.

For my teacher friends, that means getting your classrooms together, making those amazing name tags (I mean, when did they teach you to write so nicely? I must have missed that course somewhere), decorating bulletin boards, writing lesson plans, and collecting all the things you'll need to be successful for the year.

And by collecting I mean "buying things out of your own pocket."

Not quite as fun as collecting, is it? For those of us who aren't teachers, did you guys know that each year a teacher can spend up to $1000 of their OWN money on school supplies?

Ouch.

And I'll personally have THREE kiddos in some version of school this year mooching off the teacher for new glue sticks and sharp pencils and food at snack time when their mom forgets to send food (wait, what?).

So with that in mind, I thought I'd share a pretty awesome opportunity for us to help a mother out...and help a teacher out...and help a kid out.

Helps all around!

That's right, Great Clips is teaming up with Adopt a Classroom.org to provide much needed funding to our teachers so they can get supplies without digging into their own wallets. The second best part of this scenario is that YOU can win up to $100 worth of school supplies delivered to your home, and they pick a new winner every day until September 5, 2014!

Just imagine with me, won't you? 

You've gone to the Great Clips site and entered to win the #GreatList contest by uploading your school supply list. 

Then you relax by the pool while someone brings you fruity drinks served in coconuts. All the while someone else is fighting the back-to-school shopping traffic in your minivan, and digging through bins for the write (get it, write?) sized pencil, and waiting in that long line to check-out whilst entertaining your climbing toddlers, and driving your four screaming children home with the loot. Breathe deep. Enjoy your "me" time.

And no, you cannot borrow my husband to shop for you. Or bring you fruity drinks. But you COULD win those supplies and save yourself the hassle and last minute rush.

I've already entered (check my nifty screen shot!).


So what are you waiting for?  Head over to the site, where you can upload your list, download a free Great Clips app to your phone (we've used it for several years and LOVE it for skipping out on the wait. Especially the hubby, who really hates to wait for haircuts with squirming toddlers!), and get your $2 coupon for that back-to-school hair cut too! 

There's a great video on the site showing real teachers getting real classroom makeovers (dare you not to cry). 

AND for each downloaded app, Great Clips donates money to Adopt a Classroom.org.  Every day a new individual winner is picked for those free, shipped-to-your-house-whilst-you-bask-supplies, and then errrrrrrbody wins, y'all. Errbody.

So click here to get started! 

Also, do any of my teacher friends mind to share your stories of collecting resources and supplies for your classroom? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

{A special thanks to Great Clips for this AWESOME program, for supporting our teachers, and for sponsoring this post. You guys rock in so many ways!}

My One-Year Weight Loss Journey: Part 1

If you guys have been around these parts for a while, well, really from the beginning since I've only been at this gig a mere eight months, you'll know that I've been working hard to get healthy again since packing on some serious poundage after baby #4 (Mr. M) and #5 (my dissertation, which should really count as twins...or quads).

Here are some fun (?) phrases that describe how I felt about myself last year, illustrated by hideous pictures. Just scroll on down (like I will) if you can't handle the ugly truth. 

I felt...

...miserable...

...unattractive (even though my husband told me otherwise)...

...frustrated with my wardrobe and how clothing fit me, especially in the mid-section...

...like the camera was my enemy and I had to hide from it...

...unable to enjoy important moments because I was so self-conscious... 

...DONE with hating myself and my strong, capable, baby-producing body.

I started this journey exactly one year ago this month by meeting with a trainer (much love Ms. K!) and getting to work on my fitness level and diet. My first post on the subject showed off those killer not-abs I had going.

Not my finest physical moment in life to date, but I've made some progress since then.

It's been a long year.

I say that because I've gone through quite a few ups and downs in this process. I made some really great progress going into the holiday season, but then the full on winter hibernation mode set in (plus cookies, and cakes and pies, oh my!) and I lost some ground and then went completely scale stagnate. 

Come May I was frustrated--I was stronger than ever but stuck with the weight loss process. Fortunately June brought some happy changes including a new group fitness program (lead by the same trainer and including some great new friends) and I was feeling motivated and excited. Then that whole gluten-free challenge thing went down and really helped me focus on my diet and eating healthfully.

Which brings me to the present, specifically a wedding we attended last weekend (remember those flights?) in which I wore a dress I haven't been in since 2006--and that was the only time I ever wore it because it was really already too tight. 

Wanna see the blurry iPhone pic?

Side note: We packed the good camera to take pics, and I had hoped to get a shot of me to share with you guys, but we literally never took the camera out of the bag a single time on the trip. I blame my four little muses for that one.

Year-long story short, I dropped about 40 pounds this year. That's one Puddins! And let me tell you, that boy is heavy! A three-year-old, people.

I lost a three-year-old!

No, no I didn't lose him, just his body weight. Off my own body.

And more importantly for me, I dropped enough dress sizes to clothe a couple of models--4 dress sizes gone! And half my closet full of clothing. And 3/4 of the clothes in my dresser. I wear only workout clothes now because very few of my other pieces fit. Yes, that's the only reason I look like a slob on the daily. Is it time to go shopping yet?

Ok, I know what you're thinking (perhaps)--"that's all well and good but how did you do it?" So here's the skinny on getting, well, skinnier: 1) Stop putting junk in your face all day everyday, 2) Lift weights and feed your muscles some protein so they'll make little baby muscles, 3) Have cheat meals so you don't lose your ever-loving mind with all the clean eating, 4) Stop making excuses. Like right now, if you have goals to lose weight, then make up your mind and do it.

Cause only you can stop forest fires, or melt fat off your body, or some such. You get the gist.

But that's just part one of my journey. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon to a screen near you! Or don't, but I kind of like you so, maybe come back?

...Hello?

Tips for Air Travel with Small Children

This past weekend we flew to Savannah, Georgia to watch some dear friends get married. Our very own Mr. A and BabyGirl were part of the festivities and I had the honor of singing during a special prayer time--which I couldn't actually watch for fear of breaking down in tears at the beauty of a group of special loved ones huddled around the bride and groom, laying on hands, saying silent prayers. So very cool.

So the wedding was awesome, but let me back up a second and tell you about how we got there. Due to time constraints we decided to fly our family instead of driving. This was absolutely the right decision given the circumstances and I didn't regret it once.

Okay, maybe once when kids 1, 3, and 4, (yeah, the BOYS), were all melting down at the same time, but other than that it was smooth sailing.  We took some measures during the packing routine to ensure that each kid would be set up for success in the skies.

Don't take that to mean our trips to and from went off without a hitch, but we did our best. So here are my top five tips for surviving air travel with the Crazies.

1) Hit up the $1 item bins at the front of your local Target. They have activities galore and are so cheap it won't matter that you bought the contents of an entire bin just to appease the masses (i.e. your small children). Once you've cleaned those out, head back to the snack department and load up on crackers and granola bars and animal cookies. Any individually packed items you can get your paws on should be invited into your little cart. (Ok, put the candy bars back...maybe not "any" items. Sugar+small spaces+30,000 feet=no bueno).

2) Receive a magical care package from your sister and brother-in-law the day before you leave, which through no doing on your part, includes amazingly perfect coloring books, crayons, activities, toys, etc for the trip. Add them to your hoard of items. Text said in-laws and thank them with profuseness.
  
3) Grab a back pack or bag for each kiddo (they get so proud when they have their own stuff, don't they?) and divide your hoard among them. Include a variety of coloring books, games, reading books and snacks. Just make sure you don't load it down too much--those things get heavy quick! And save some new items for your checked baggage--you'll want some "fresh" items for the flights home.
The Puddins refused to remove his special back pack.
4) Gather all electronic devices in your home. Run an extension cord connected to a power strip, plug them all in at once, pop a bag of popcorn, and sit watching the charge bars on each device increase so you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have actually charged them (uncharged items+small spaces+30,000 feet=cursing. Also no bueno).

Then, check each device to ensure you have some sort of activity/game/app that does NOT require the interwebs to run/play/occupy small children who keep kicking the seat in front of them. Skip this step and you will cause massive meltdowns with your little pink (useless) iPhone. Ask me how I know.

Repeat number 4 prior to leaving your destination for that return trip home (mmmm popcorn).

5) Book flights between 8 pm and 12 am with the hopes that your kids will sleep peacefully for the entire flight, you perfect planner you.  Then get seats assigned in front of the ONLY two people on the ENTIRE plane who decide to read a paperback book via that calming fluorescent overhead light at 11 pm (three words: Backlit. Kindle. Fire.). Then, because you are TEACHING KINDNESS, DARN-IT TO HADES, refrain from snatching said books from their hands and smacking their light button to the off position with it. And then smacking them in the head with their books. It's NOT NICE to hit strangers.

We could have been sleeping.  Instead, this was the perfect time for the aforementioned melt downs by the male members of our little family. How sweet.

And when you FINALLY arrive at your destination, wait for the captain to turn off the seatbelt sign, and then swipe those goldfish cracker crumbs from your seat into the floor with nary a care in the world for your mottled state or the smear of cookie sludge on your shirt or the puddle of apple juice your baby girl doused you with during drink service an hour ago. Because you have survived air travel not once, but twice with four small children and managed to maintain some semblance of sanity. And iPhone photos to prove it.
I'm sitting in a puddle of apple juice right now. Cheese!! 
So go get you a well-deserved and hard-earned cocktail. At home. Wait until you get home.
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