The Importance Of Writing Down Your Love (sponsored by Hallmark)

I’ve paid $6 to park my car for an hour. I’ve paid $6 to get on an airplane faster. I’ve paid $6 for a substandard burrito and I’ve even paid $6 for a bottle of water. As I look around my house there are very few things still around that I paid $6 for, because while $6 may seem like a lot for some things, $6 will rarely buy you quality or permanence.

I have amassed a collection of Post-It notes from Cody, every once in a while he’ll paper the house with them while I’m asleep. They don’t say anything particularly profound, but I keep every last one, and tuck them away where I can hold them, see his handwriting and know that for however many minutes he was thinking about me and what I’d be doing in a day to find his little notes.

Love Notes and Valentines
Cody isn’t quite as sentimental, but for the last four years he has left a Valentine’s card from me hanging on the fridge. Perhaps it’s because he would have felt guilty throwing away a $6 piece of paper or perhaps he agrees it’s the most accurate card in the world. Whatever the reason, the card has stayed on the side of the fridge where we can both see it. Even when things got really hard last Valentine’s, the card stayed. Even as more and more artwork came home from school, the card stayed.

As far as I’m concerned the card isn’t going anywhere and it will be a centerpiece at our 50th wedding anniversary.

He’s spent money on flowers, I’ve spent money on candy, we’ve both spent money on fancy Valentine’s dinners but none of those things can be hung on the fridge or held in your hand three years later. Suddenly six dollars doesn’t seem like so much money, does it?

There is a line at the end of The Fault In Our Stars that reads “While she was not loved widely, she was loved deeply.” I am loved deeply, I always have been but I have always fought back against Cody’s love because I never truly felt as though I deserved it.

I thought I was in love when I met him, I thought I was in love on our wedding day, I even thought I was in love when I gave him this card four years ago—and I was in love, but it was always guarded. For the last several months I have been all in, it’s scary and thrilling and quite possibly the best feeling in the entire world. I know why we made it through last year, and it is because Cody never, ever gave up on me. Not even for a second. He knew that the girl who was so excited to give him a glittery $6 ketchup card was somewhere inside and he fought like hell to get her back.

hallmark ketchup card

With text messages and email being commonplace now, it’s rare that we have simple, tangible, evidence of sentimentality anymore. If all the computers and phones went away, what words would your loved ones have to literally hold on to? My kids aren’t going to have access to my flirty text messages with their dad in 30 years, but they will someday find a box filled with little love notes, cards and sticky notes between their mom and dad. Greeting cards and love letters, as archaic and outdated as they may seem, still have a very important part in our history as humans. Don’t let them die out in your own relationship because $6 seems like too much money for a piece of paper at the time.

How will you #PutYourHeartToPaper this year?

A special thanks to Hallmark for sponsoring this post.

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NOTHING. JUST KITTIES. (vivi’s christmas list)

I decided to go headfirst into this whole Santa thing, and you know what? I’m SO GLAD I DID. Last year Hallmark sent me a pack of Northpole Magic Mail but I didn’t do it for whatever overwhelming reason. Tonight I pulled it out as a test, I gave the wish list to Addie and asked her to fill it out for the entire family.

“Vivi! What do you want Santa to bring you?”

“KITTIES!”

“What else?”

“NOTHING. JUST KITTIES!”

Addie took that as her cue to fill up the other 27 lines with her requests. She squeezed in a few for Cody, the cats and me at the end as well.

The thing about this paper, you have to put it somewhere cold and a magic message shows up. I wasn’t quite sure how to convince Addie her letter to Santa had to go in the freezer, but I took a deep breath and said “Hey, you know how everyone travels through fireplaces in Harry Potter? Well, Santa is trying out something new this year, he’s using freezers to get his mail this year. So when you’re done you have to put your letter in the freezer and sing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” while knocking on the door.”

She totally did it.

She opened the door immediately and was bummed the letter hadn’t disappeared. I made her wait another minute then open the door.

“It’s still here! It’s not gone!”

“Well, freezer mail is kind of new, there’s probably still some bugs to work out. Does it look any different?”

“No, it’s just my lett…MOM! THERE’S A MESSAGE ON THE BACK! SANTA WROTE BACK!”

christmas card.

In that moment of squealing  joy I’m so glad I didn’t break the news to her, she still wholeheartedly believes. She’s not doing it for me or for Vivi’s benefit, the kid *believes.* Cody looked at me from across the table with a “Uh-huh, who was right on that one?” look.

He was totally right.

The message disappears completely after being outside the freezer for a minute or two, so the rest of the evening was spent with our two little girls putting their letter in and out of the freezer, out of their minds with excitement.

If you have little kids you need to get some of this stuff, and you can totally use my freezer mail story because it’s brilliant. We have last year’s version, which means I’m going to be getting this year’s version so I’m all caught up for next year. $7.95, seriously.

While I’m all high on Christmas spirit, decorating our tree the other night with Vivi was the absolute best. She’s old enough now that she doesn’t just throw the ornaments at the tree hoping they’ll stick. The John Elway ornament I bought Cody our first month together always goes on first, front and center. Addie has amassed quite the collection of ornaments over the last 10 years (she chose Elsa this year, normally our tradition is to go into Hallmark the day after Thanksgiving and pick out our annual ornaments but when I saw the pre-order option back in July, I jumped on that.) Vivi chose Olaf this year and if you come over she’ll probably make you give him a warm hug.

Christmas Photo Attempt 2013

Vivi puts our nativity to bed every night and each day Addie explains how many days until Christmas (and her birthday) are remaining.

I’m excited for this year, and I have Cody and your comments to thank for that. So thank you, sometimes we think our comments go unnoticed on the blogs we read, but I assure you every one gets read and they really do matter. It may sound stupid, but Addie still believes in Santa because people spoke up and told me I was wrong.

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two wii u to two of you

UPDATE: Congrats to Meredith S. and Matt W. for winning the two Wii U Bundles!

Another product post, sorry, but when Nintendo asked if me if I wanted to give away two Wii U bundles to you guys I couldn’t say no.

Addie was asked to be a part of the Nintendo Kids reviewer program several months ago and she’s been taking her job very seriously.

Originally I set her up to write a portion of this giveaway but her little blurb contained so many ALL CAPS DECLARATIONS FOLLOWED WITH WAY TOO MANY !!!!!!!!! I figured I’d bottle her enthusiasm for another project that we’re working on.

I have always been partial to Nintendo as they don’t offer bloody, nasty games where you could run over prostitutes with cars, or gut pirates with your bare hands.

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coloring your hair at home has come an awfully long way.

My friend Heather is a self-proclaimed $7 box of at-home hair color kind of girl, but after today she may very well be spending $20 more on her hair color while I may end up saving $70.

We’re both in love with the Madison Reed at-home hair color I tried on her today. (Full disclosure, I spend a lot on my hair and I’m very loyal to my hairstylist, so I didn’t want to risk messing up all her hard work with some mail order hair color which is why I enlisted Heather, because $25 hair color was a huge step up from $7 drugstore hair color, she agreed.)

Finding a color for her was easy using online recommendations, the packaging was gorgeous (which really shouldn’t matter, but it does) and Madison Reed solves all the problems I hated about at-home hair color from before. Every kit includes two pairs of gloves, barrier cream to keep color off your skin, a cap to keep color-drenched hair under control, a wipe to clean off any stray color as well as enough shampoo and conditioner to last for several washes. It also smells spectacular, absolutely no gross chemical smell and the directions are clearly printed inside the box.

MadisonReed-2

If you have a whole bunch of hair there’s even an option to add an additional color bottle for $10 at checkout. Brilliant.

Since Heather came to my house with some pretty sweet roots, some grays, and her hair previously colored we balanced out the timing leaving the color on her roots for about ten minutes before applying the rest and leaving it on for around 20 minutes. Another huge bonus? Once we rinsed out her hair her skin was free from hair color and her scalp wasn’t dyed a strange color.

This is where we let the before and afters do the talking. Because I can’t tell you anything you can’t see right here:

Madison Reed Before After

GORGEOUS, RIGHT?

We used Sardinia Red – 6NCG and it was the exact color Heather dreams of. She admitted to hoping she would be apathetic about the results so she wouldn’t feel the need to spend any more than $7 on her hair. She’s been converted. I think I have been too (sorry Kristine! I promise I’ll never let anyone else cut my hair! So there’s that?)

Madison Reed Information

Want 50% off your first order? Use code Better4U at checkout. You’ll also have the option to have your color automatically delivered every 4-10 weeks (you choose!) or make a one-time color purchase.

One more before and after because I can’t get over how gorgeous this color is on her (if you’ve ever gone red then you’ll know how hard it can be to get red right.)

Madison Reed BA

(I also convinced Heather to give red lipstick a try last month and I’m so happy she listened to me.)

Disclosure: This post sponsored by Madison Reed. Everything said within is my honest opinion, especially since I’m the one with pretty boring hair at the end of the day compared to Heather’s ravishing red. Links are affiliate.

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back to schoola

When I agreed to write about Schoola it was because I really liked the idea behind it.

But I also believe in using the stuff I write about so I went ahead and signed up for my own donation bag and placed a clothing order to see how the process works.

I requested the bag on Thursday, July 31st and it arrived Monday August, 4. I also placed an order for several items July 31st, received a tracking number Saturday, August 2 with delivery a week later.

How Schoola Works

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donations, violins and art as therapy. (sponsored by schoola.)

I’ve turned down a lot of sponsored content lately because, well, it’s hard to tell you about stools to help you poop when I’m all mired down in (figurative) poop myself. But this one, this one struck me as important so bear with me.

miss vivi on a wednesday.

For the last several months I have had three bins full of clothes sitting in the corner of my bedroom. They mean too much to me to simply drop them off at Goodwill but I also haven’t exactly had the energy, dedication and drive to list them for sale online (Because if you’ve ever done this? Damn, it’s a lot of work.) There’s a local pregnancy resource center that lets new moms “shop” through donated baby clothes for free, I really like that idea so the tiny stuff goes there. But what about the rest?

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With back to school happening today (Yes. On a Thursday. In July.) I have had the opportunity to teach Addie even more about second hand shopping. She LOVES Justice (I deal with it) and I gave her a set amount she could spend at the Justice store in the mall. Whew boy was she ticked when her the amount I gave her resulted in a pair of pants and a shirt. (Justice is EXPENSIVE!) But it’s what she wanted and I decided not to fight her on it. We took a separate trip to a second-hand clothing store where she had the same set amount but walked out with three pairs of pants, four shirts, a jacket, and two dresses. (Not to mention several of the second hand items were from Justice.) The kid is now geeked about second hand shopping. Score: Mom.

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Addie is lucky enough to have both an art and music program in her school and she loves music class with all her little sequined heart. While I have a lot of complaints about public school (one recess a day?) I’m grateful a lack of arts funding isn’t one of them. Lately with all the crap I’ve been in, my camera has been a welcome break from everything that is broken in my brain. When I was younger dance was my escape and while I don’t have a single musical bone in my body — music has the most profound and instant calming effect on everyone I live with.

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So here’s how all this ties together. Schoola takes your outgrown kids clothes and sells them online, all you have to do is request a free donation bag, fill it up, and send it on its way. What’s even better is YOU get to choose what school 40% of the profits from your used clothing go to. You can choose your child’s school, the school you grew up attending, a school in your neighborhood, or you can pick one of Schoola’s suggested schools — like the KIPP academy in the Bronx.

Let’s say I send in a bag of clothes that would have just ended up at Goodwill, Schoola takes them and resells them for $100. $40 goes straight to KIPP academy (or any school I choose) and some kid somewhere gets to wear Addie’s super cool second hand clothes. It only takes three donation bags full of your donated clothes to buy a violin for a child at KIPP. It only takes one donation bag to fund a year’s worth of art programming for 5 kids at another school.

That one violin I could fund with the clothes in the corner of my room could be the difference between a kid finding a way to express themselves through music instead of violence or the one thing that keeps them going to school each day.

The clothes your kids no longer wear hold a lot of power.

Request your first donation bag now, maybe tell a friend, maybe tell your child’s whole school and see what outgrown clothing can do for a struggling program in your own neighborhood.

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This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying. (My unique tracking links to the Schoola site are helping KIPP Academy with each click. VIOLINS FOR EVERYONE!)

 

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christmas list: 2013 edition

I’m sure there will be plenty of Christmas list suggestions out there in the coming weeks, I’m sure there’s already plenty out there — but a friend asked me to put mine together again because apparently she and I have similar taste. Mine’s pretty simple, nothing crazy, fancy or super hipster — that’s for sure. There’s a lot of cats as well. Because cats are the best, in fact, this is how Wink slept on my while I made this list, clearly he approves. (By the way, if you have a cat you should get them a Tickle Pickle.)

Things I Would Put On My Christmas List if I Didn’t Already Own Them:

Clarisonic: ($99-$200) Seriously, why don’t you have one of these yet? Mine is almost three years old and there hasn’t been a single moment I’ve regretted buying it.

This Dress From Athleta: ($138) Best. Dress. Ever. Dress it up, dress it down, it looks amazing on every shape, size, color and curve.

Yu Be Lotion: ($24) Once you get over the fairly ugly packaging, this is hands down the best lotion I have EVER found for taking care of rough, dry and cracking skin. I put it on before bed and before I put socks on in the morning and my heels are like baby buttocks.

GlamGlow Super-Mud Mask: ($39-$69) This stuff works better in one application than a month of regular facials. I like the one in the white jar myself. Seriously, best.

This White Balance Lens Cap: ($45-$65) Cody gave me this one in a bigger size, and I can hand hold it over my smaller lenses to achieve white balance nirvana.

Frozen Soundtrack: ($14.99) Bought this yesterday, listened to it on repeat 14 times today. If you’re a Broadway nerd? Idina Menzel. If you’re a Disney nerd? Disney.

Brookstone Nap Blanket: ($39.99 BOGO 50% off) I have two of these and Addie and I fight over them constantly. I could easily replace every blanket, surface and piece of bedding in my house with this fabric. The best.

Kindle Paperwhite: ($119-$139) Tiny, self lit, easy to read in the bright sun, easy to read in the dark, easy to navigate. Love it way more than my Kindle with the buttons at the bottom and prefer reading on it over a Kindle Fire or iPad (but if we’re talking Candy Crush, iPad all the way.)

Bite Beauty Lip Pencil: ($24) Pomegranate is my favorite, and people have been posting pictures of them with their Bite color of choice on Instagram and they all look amazing. The pigment in these pencils is a DREAM. (Plus they’re gluten free, cruelty free and food grade.)

This Jacket from Athleta: (Nevermind, in the time it took me to write this post this jacket sold out. But I swear to you it was magical (clearly, because sold out.))

A Cat: Everyone needs one. I thankfully have two.

Things On My Christmas List This Year:

National Geographic Magazine Subscription: ($15) I want it for the pictures. It’s been too long since I’ve had National Geographic in my hands on a regular basis.

This Book of Mary Blair Art: ($30) I’ve seen actual Mary Blair art at the Animation Research Library twice, and while a book will never come close to the real thing, I’ve never seen something of hers I haven’t loved.

This Cat Hoodie: ($54) Because, duh.

One of These State Pride Necklaces: ($42)How pretty are these? I have a pair of Kris Nations earrings that I love and adore. I’d also take one of their new bracelets. They do good work.

Another Cat: There’s just so many that need homes, and I can’t really cover myself in cats until I have enough to actually cover myself.

Things That Would Be On My Kids’ Christmas Lists if They Didn’t Already Own Them:

(Vivi) Toddler Sized Shopping Cart: ($29.99-$49.99) This thing gets played with daily. Bunny rides in it, she shops for diapers with it, sometimes it even becomes a party wagon for every random animal in the house.

(Addie) Snap Circuits: ($20-$80) Addie found out about these from her cousin last year and they’ve been one of the few toys that holds her attention and teaches basic science, physics and electronics without her even realizing she’s learning everything. Sure, Goldie Blox are getting all the press, but this is something that is good for girls or boys.

Addie is currently obsessed with Legos, the big huge kits with thousands of pieces and full novels in place of simple instructions. Vivi is obsessed with play food and dishes. I can tell you that both their Christmas lists reflect these obsessions this year.

She will make you food, she does not take custom orders, you will say please, you will eat it, and you will say please for more.

I also made this list over at Babble about 20 toddler toys you could buy for a boy OR a girl. No pink powertools here, folks.

My dad is also selling his handmade ornaments again this year, he has a special 4 pack of ornaments for $20. You can get a 20% discount with the code MERRY20.

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I’m quite satisfied with myself to have completed all of my holiday shopping before the calendar even moved into December, which means I can hibernate from now until March with nary a worry (except for food. These people still need to eat, and while I have an impressive collection of freeze-dried and emergency meal rations, I don’t sense them being satisfied with powdered milk and MREs for the next four months.)

If you need a giggle, I present you with these 18 quotes about toddlers that are dangerously accurate. (Lately if Vivi sees me either holding pants or near her dresser she screams “NO. I DON’T WANT TO WEAR PANTS.” and when it’s time to go to bed she yells “NO. I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED. I WANT TO EAT YOGURT.”

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