Thursday, April 29, 2010

Operation KidConnect Thursday!

I'm digging myself out of the elbow-deep pile of sick, pneumatic toddler poo to bring you...

Operation KidConnect!

**********************************
Welcome!!! Operation KidConnect is a little project where I partner with Hallmark cards in an effort to encourage the special kids in my life. I hope you'll take this opportunity to do the same!

If you are new to Operation KidConnect and want to catch up, the introduction is here. If you want to find out some more about the kids I am personally encouraging throughout this project, please click here.
**********************************
Have you ever needed to apologize to a child? THAT will humble you, for sure. On a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, my niece and nephew (K1 and K2) came over for dinner. Unfortunately, tensions were running high in the house, and I ended up in a very large argument with my mother. It was pretty not-nice, and she expressed her regret that it happened while the other children were in the house. So of course, I felt horrible. She was right--they had heard everything, and were likely feeling very tense themselves. I really felt the need to apologize, but I was nervous. It's difficult to swallow that large amount of pride, especially when it stems from an argument, and say that you're sorry (thereby admitting that you were wrong) to two people 15 and 18 years your junior.

But I did it. I apologized to each of them, gave them both a big hug a kiss on the cheek, and asked them to forgive me. It was brief; I was crying and had snot running down my face and they seemed totally unaffected and slightly weirded-out by the whole thing. But I felt a little piece of the hardness in my heart melt away. It's just one more moment that knits us together a little tighter. I love that, don't you?!

Have you ever had to swallow your pride and apologize to a child? How did it affect your relationship?

Last week...well...the last week I did this...which was...well whatever. We're all busy, right?! Okay anyway, I had my dad bring a beautiful card to my niece at her soccer game.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exhaustion takes over...

It's 12:10 a.m. My sweet baby two-year-old is quietly sleeping now, after six long hours in the emergency room.

Zeke's been warm since birth. I mean really, the kid's warm-blooded. He always feels like he has a fever. But yesterday he was much warmer than usual. He refused to let Josh or I touch inside his mouth, so we figured "Ah, the 2-year molars are coming through." We gave him Tylenol and called it a night. At 3:20 a.m. my mom came to our door (we are living with my parents and Zeke sleeps in her room), waking me up to tell me that Zeke was talking in his sleep, breathing fast, and felt very warm. I went in, woke him up, gave him Motrin, sang to him, and put him right back down. When he woke up in the morning, he was fairly warm, but not enough for me to be very worried. My dad had plans for the day involving his car, so Zeke and I were to walk to the drug store next to the neighborhood and get an ear thermometer (have you ever tried to take a rectal temperature on a two year old? Me either, and I'd like to keep it that way). I really didn't think anything would come of me taking his temperature. Honestly, the last few times I've thought he had a fever, they've been completely false alarms.

102.7. Yes, it's my favorite radio station from where I grew up in Southern California, but it's also my sweet baby's temperature this morning after our walk. Again, not overly concerned and very aware that sometimes kids just get fevers, I gave him some Motrin, a chocolate ice cream bar, and he felt much better. When nap time came, I left to vet some day care centers in the area while my dad worked in the front office of the house. Upon my return, Zeke was already awake, which, only 2 and 1/2 hours after going down, is never a good sign. He's a long napper, unless something's wrong.

It was physically uncomfortable to hold him, he was so hot. "Burning up" does not begin to describe it. I immediately took his temperature.

103.5. I remember, as a kid, growing up sick. I had strep throat every 10 days--as soon as the antibiotics were out of my system, I had a new infection. I weighed 25 pounds at 5 years old. My fevers were frequently 104 and 106. And I knew the scared look in my mother's eyes when she read the thermometer. My eyes told the same story today.

Precious Zeke had two attempts at IV's--one in each hand, that failed. He had his temperature taken rectally. He had a bag stuck onto him to catch his urine. There were chest x-rays, one from the front and two from the side with his arms held up--twice because he was screaming too hard the first time. He had to wait and watch American Idol, Glee, AND Parenthood with us while we waited SIX HOURS for test results. His fever broke, he sweated, then it started to rise again. My poor, poor child.

The diagnosis, which you know if you are a friend of mine on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, was Pneumonia. He had no symptoms and has even been on antibiotics for 10 days due to an ear infection, but he has Pneumonia.

I wrote that last night. Really, this morning. He was feeling well when he woke up for about 15 minutes, but it's been downhill from there. He's now sleeping peacefully in his crib, which is a welcome sight and sound.

We are ALL exhausted.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Operation KidConnect Thursday!

My apologies to all of you who came here expecting some amazing revelations regarding connecting and deepening you relationships with the children in your lives.

*insert sound of crickets chirping here*

I'm taking a break this week. My "baby" boy turned TWO yesterday, and I've been very busy trying to keep on top of all the Birthday madness, as well as managing the beginning of my counseling internship and a new worry: child care for my sweet boy until my sister is done with the school year (she works in the public school system) and is able to watch him for the Summer. You see, I will begin said internship on Thursday May 6, and she doesn't get done until the middle of June. I just realized that this morning. So I'm a little bit stressed right now, to say the least.

Please pray that we can navigate this and get things figured out soon. I'm drowning just a little bit, but keeping my head above water, for now.

I'll be back next week.

Love to you all!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How did this happen???



How did you go from this...
To this...



To THIS?:

Dear Ezekiel,

I am ever amazed by you. Right now you are playing quietly with your "new" train set on our makeshift train table, grandma and grandpa's coffee table. You are discovering new things as I type. Every once in a while I will hear you shout, "Blue one train!," letting me know that you know the color of your new trains. You are SO smart.
Your obsession with trains has reached epic proportions. Yesterday you ran away from me at the park, only looking back to tell me that you heard a train in the distance. "Chooo Choooooo!" you shouted, breathless, with a look of sheer delight on your face.

Music is another love of yours, and you eagerly await the days we can go to a Mr. Richard show nearby. It helps if he's at a Chick-Fil-A. Yesterday you were invited to come up and play your new guitar with him, and you got nervous so you just wandered around. I think you walked away every time he looked at you. But I could tell you felt special. I felt special FOR you.

You can spot a playground a mile away, and can't wait to play on the toys. Yesterday you climbed on the big boy toy all by yourself. I looked over and there you were, feet completely off the ground: I could hardly believe my eyes.

As you embark on this new journey of "two," I remember the hard times we've faced, and how you have loved me through it all. As far as I know, you have not been affected by my nightmare. I thank God for that. I also thank God, in a way, for my Postpartum Depression. Because through it I have FOUGHT to love you. And I have won!
You are turning out to be an amazing little human being, with the funniest little quirks. Your daddy's sense of humor, your mommy's need to have everything....just SO. And the creativity. My goodness, the creativity.

So, baby boy, today I wish you a happy SECOND birthday! Right now I don't care if you suck your thumb forever. You are still my sweet baby boy. Your daddy and I love you always, no matter who you turn out to be.

Will you please leave a comment with a Happy Birthday wish for my baby? THANK YOU!

Friday, April 16, 2010

How about THEM apples?!

My heart is racing.

My pits are a little sweaty.
My hands are shaking.

No, I didn't just see my husband walk by (although trust me, he produces the same effects)... I just finished eating a delicious treat. I am now on sugar overload, but it was worth every minute of shaking, sweaty-ness.

You see last week, this caramel confection from Mrs. Prindable's landed itself in my mailbox. When I opened the US Postal Service box to find the rich purple box tied with a gold ribbon, I felt really special! The beautiful box built a sense of expectation, like I was about to open a gift fit for a queen. I held my breath as I released the ribbon, and found my apple, perfectly wrapped in cellophane and tied. The apple held up remarkably well during its trip to Florida and subsequent overnight stay in my local post office. There were only a few stray shards of white chocolate in the wrapper. Did I mention that this sucker was HUGE? You can find an "actual size" picture of a jumbo apple, which was the size sent to me, here. Mine was every bit as big as that picture, if not bigger. As soon as it was out of the box, into the refrigerator it went, just as the directions said. Of course, I attached a note alerting my family to my *ahem* journalistic endeavors regarding said delicious apple, so they wouldn't gobble it up for themselves.

Tonight I shared it with my family after sitting it on the counter to reach room temperature. Although Mrs. Prindable's says to cut it into 10-12 pieces, it was difficult to get the knife through the chocolate and cut it smaller. Oh well, bigger pieces for little me (we ended up with two big pieces and four little ones)! A lot of the outer chocolate drizzle came off during the cutting process, which was a bit disappointing, but I ate the casualties afterward, so it's all good. We dove into our apple slices and.....
OMG. We loved it. The Granny Smith apple was really crisp and tart. The dark chocolate was amazing, but my family's consensus was that the CARAMEL was the main attraction. I have a tremendous sweet tooth, but I don't like my sweet to be TOO sweet. The caramel was perfect, almost salty. And against the crisp apple, was a delicious compliment. My dad proclaimed after his first bite, "There goes my diet!" But hey, it has dark chocolate, so antioxidants, yes?! I ate the most out of everyone--one big piece and one smaller piece. Then I may or may not have eaten the thick caramel off the bottom of all the leftover pieces. I'll never tell.

Mrs. Prindable's, thank you for your delicious apple, and the sugar-high it brought me! After 25 years in the business, you'd think I would have heard about you by now--I AM 27, after all. One of these should have been at my second birthday, for sure. I don't care if you genetically engineer these enormous behemoths in a lab--they are tasty. Possibly the juiciest, crispest apple I've had in a long time, if I've ever had one CLOSE. Thank you, thank you, for making me feel special, and for helping me forget about my troubles as they melted away into a delicious river of caramel and chocolate. If you don't mind, I'd like to make a suggestion. Would you consider making and selling a special apple cutter for your customers? There is an apple store in my mall (which I now know is a knockoff of Mrs. Prindable's, who are the originators of the chocolate/caramel apple) and they cut the apples if you want, right when you buy them. I believe it is a rounded blade with a straight handle on the top. I'm thinking if you offer the cutter with the apple for an additional charge, customers could be sure to get the even pieces they desire. Just a thought!

If you, dear reader, would like to follow Mrs. Prindable's on Facebook, click here. If you become a fan, you could win an apple by answering a question on their Facebook page! That's a pretty sweet deal!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to drink a gallon of water to cleanse myself of this yummy goodness.

**Disclosure: Mrs. Prindable's provided me with an enormous, gorgeous, delicious apple for free. I was not required to post this review, and my opinions are my own (and my family's. But they mostly said "mmmmm" and "yummmmm."**

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Operation KidConnect Thursday!

Welcome to Operation KidConnect, where I partner with Hallmark cards in an effort to encourage the special kids in my life. I hope you'll take this opportunity to do the same!

If you are new to Operation KidConnect and want to catch up, the introduction is here. If you want to find out some more about the kids I am personally encouraging throughout this project, please click here.

Last week I wrote about sending one card to all of the kids. Connecting with ANYONE in your life requires a certain amount of vulnerability. As I slid the envelope into the mail slot, I felt a little bit silly. Here I was sending a card to my niece and nephew and their stepbrothers I barely know, and attempting to be "cool aunt Rachel" when I may ultimately be making a total dweeb out of myself. And using the word "dweeb?" That just seals the deal.

You may be surprised to find out that I am a bit shy. According to the Myer's-Briggs personality test, I am an introvert, even though I act like an extrovert. Don't get me wrong, I love the stage, I love performing, and I am thrilled that I teach group fitness. But all of that stuff, while it's extremely fun, is all part of my exterior. On the inside, it exhausts me and I'm afraid I'll be rejected. Don't lie, you're the same way. So because of my introverted nature, I haven't asked my sister how the kids liked the card. I know, I know, I'm a dweeb. BUT, I did get a chance to go to their soccer games this past Saturday, and just KNOWING that I sent a card to them helped me open up. One of the boys, A, was playing with my son for the majority of the morning and I felt more comfortable talking to him because I knew I had already reached out in a less-threatening way.

This week, I'll be sending a special card to my sweet niece, K2. I love this card because it has a little token on the front that she can take out and stick in her pocket if she wants to. It also talks about angels, and I'm constantly praying for angels to protect these kids. Here's the outside of the card:

And here's the inside:
I'm excited to write a little note inside and send it off. She is so sweet, and being the only girl amongst THREE boys, she needs a little bit of extra attention.

So, how about you? What did you do LAST week that helped you connect with the wee ones in your life? Did you send a card? You know, you really have no excuse not to, since you can get a FREE CARD at HALLMARK GOLD CROWN STORES until 5/30/10!! Do you have any questions you'd like to discuss about connecting with your loved ones? I'd love to help. Instead of the MckLinky we had last week, I invite you to just share in the comments. No need to write a whole blog post about it. I'd just like to know what you think. I'd also like to know what your plan is for this week!

Go on, spread some love!

**Disclosure: Hallmark provided me with the cards for Operation KidConnect. The opinions about the cards I've expressed in my blog posts are my own. I wasn't paid. But, you know, if I was, it would be cool :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Operation KidConnect!!!

Hi everyone!!!

What is Operation KidConnect, you ask?!

If you need an INTRODUCTION to the project, click here.

Now that you know about it, you're probably wondering WHO THE KIDS ARE! Click here.

Great! Welcome back! I'm so glad you're up to speed!

Last week Operation KidConnect launched on Wednesday, and I've decided to play around with it a bit. This week I want to try it on Thursday. Why? Because it's my blog and my project, and I want to see what day works best for it! Some days are better than others, so let's try Thursday this week!

Since last Wednesday, were you able to connect with some of the kids in your life? What were some of the things you did to intentionally connect with a child? And what are your ideas for this week?

Hold those thoughts, and share them tomorrow! See you back here for Operation KidConnect!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fear and Loathing In...

*****I've been writing this in pieces for the past few weeks, but until now haven't written down. Bear with me on these posts. I need to get some stuff out...but it comes in bits and pieces, sometimes without making much sense.*****


End of February

it looked hopeful

excited, daydreaming about a future of freedom

ready to move forward, grow, change, stretch, move

discomfort unavoidable but beneficial in an established institution.

he comes home from the meeting earlier than expected.

the door closes behind as the baby starts to cry, up from his nap earlier than expected.

enters the bedroom.

air draws out of space as he opens his mouth to tell the tale.

i hear the sound, but as if i'm above looking down

as if i'm already a thousand miles away back home

or watching a movie.

i hear the sound, the guttural cry.

it's not the baby, up from his nap earlier than expected

it's me.

and that moment is all it takes.

God is scary again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ultimate Blog Party Like It's 1999

Ultimate Blog Party 2010


Hi! If you're here from the Ultimate Blog Party, thanks for stopping by! If you're not and you have no idea what the Ultimate Blog Party is, click on that text or on the button in my right-hand sidebar. So, whether or not you're here because of the par-tay, please stay for a little while and get to know me!

My name is Rachel. Nice to meet you!

I grew up in Southern California (Mission Viejo, to be exact) and then moved to the Orlando, Florida area when I was about 11 years old. My early life is fairly boring. Mission Viejo was a GREAT place to grow up, and I did so with very little incident.

Random Fact #1: With the exception of a recent period of 6 months (which you'll get to hear about later) I have never lived more than 30 minutes away from a Disney park.

My family has remained in Florida since then. School happened in Central Florida, too. I attended Stetson University for my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies, and am currently still a student there, pursuing my Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Random Fact #2: I went to Stetson on a music scholarship and ended up switching majors my freshman year, although I played piano and sang throughout my time there, to keep my scholarship. I even gave a (not-so-good) senior recital. I danced too, Ballet, until about four months before I had my son.

During my last undergraduate semester at Stetson, I was employed full-time as the Music Admissions Counselor. I left in 2006, shortly after I got married. Then I was a case manager for a social services agency until I had my son in 2008. Now, I'm a mom. And a group fitness instructor.

Random Fact #3: My husband Josh and I met, started dating, got engaged, and got married all within a year. Why so soon? We believe in an enormous God who wanted us to be married. So why would we wait?

I just moved back to my home town, in fact, my old HOME, with my parents, after being in Missouri for six months. Why only six months? Someday I'll be ready to talk about it more, but for now let's just leave it at that. If you hang around long enough you'll find I reference it because I am deep into the healing process from things that happened. But I do so in my own way. That's the power of blogging--it's a chance to have therapy on your own terms.

Random Fact #4: I am incredibly proud of my husband and all he has accomplished for his 25 years. Right now we are taking a break from full-time ministry, though he is an ordained pastor. We are growing A LOT.

So, why do I blog? That's probably what you're wondering.

I love to write. In High School I was a correspondent for our newspaper's youth section, and I loved it. I fancied myself a journalist, and constantly had my nose buried in a notebook, pen in hand. Actually, marker. I always wrote my stories with a lilac thin-tip Crayola marker. I was rad like that.

My blog is a mash-up of my life. Sometimes I write very directly, like I am right now--everything concrete. Sometimes I get a little bit poetic and vague because it protects the ones I love while giving me an outlet for the....junk. Most of the time there's a dash of humor SOMEWHERE in here.

I also do lots of fun things, like Operation KidConnect which is a really neat project I just launched using Hallmark cards to encourage the children in our lives. I also do some product reviews every once in a while. I'll be reviewing a Mrs. Prindable's apple soon...as soon as I can sink my teeth into it!!

You must be wondering, what's with the title--"Not Just A..."

Well aren't YOU "Not Just A...?"

I'm Not Just A....
wife
mother
academic
counselor
encourager
group fitness instructor
strong woman
"good girl"
Christian
advocate
.....and the list goes on.

I'm Not Just any of these, but all of them mix and mingle to make me.

What makes you YOU? Is it the things you are Not Just, or is it the things you Aren't Yet?

:) Something to ponder.

It was great to have you here! Please leave a comment so I know who you are and can visit your blog, too! I can't wait to get to know more people in this great community. What a party it's going to be!!!

***********************
Now down to business: I'm supposed to write about what prizes I'd like if I win anything from the random drawings going on during the Ultimate Blog Party.

My top 3 are:

USC 17: $200 gift card for Apple from CmomGo!
This is definitely my #1!!


USC 3: $50.00 Target GiftCard from Peggy Gorman

US76: Sentimental Sweethearts Necklace from Sentimental Silver

The other ones I'd like are:

US32

US107

USC15

US40

USC63

USC60

Ultimate Blog Party Like It's 1999

Ultimate Blog Party 2010


Hi! If you're here from the Ultimate Blog Party, thanks for stopping by! If you're not and you have no idea what the Ultimate Blog Party is, click on that text or on the button in my right-hand sidebar. So, whether or not you're here because of the par-tay, please stay for a little while and get to know me!

My name is Rachel. Nice to meet you!

I grew up in Southern California (Mission Viejo, to be exact) and then moved to the Orlando, Florida area when I was about 11 years old. My early life is fairly boring. Mission Viejo was a GREAT place to grow up, and I did so with very little incident.

Random Fact #1: With the exception of a recent period of 6 months (which you'll get to hear about later) I have never lived more than 30 minutes away from a Disney park.

My family has remained in Florida since then. School happened in Central Florida, too. I attended Stetson University for my undergraduate degree in Communication Studies, and am currently still a student there, pursuing my Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Random Fact #2: I went to Stetson on a music scholarship and ended up switching majors my freshman year, although I played piano and sang throughout my time there, to keep my scholarship. I even gave a (not-so-good) senior recital. I danced too, Ballet, until about four months before I had my son.

During my last undergraduate semester at Stetson, I was employed full-time as the Music Admissions Counselor. I left in 2006, shortly after I got married. Then I was a case manager for a social services agency until I had my son in 2008. Now, I'm a mom. And a group fitness instructor.

Random Fact #3: My husband Josh and I met, started dating, got engaged, and got married all within a year. Why so soon? We believe in an enormous God who wanted us to be married. So why would we wait?

I just moved back to my home town, in fact, my old HOME, with my parents, after being in Missouri for six months. Why only six months? Someday I'll be ready to talk about it more, but for now let's just leave it at that. If you hang around long enough you'll find I reference it because I am deep into the healing process from things that happened. But I do so in my own way. That's the power of blogging--it's a chance to have therapy on your own terms.

Random Fact #4: I am incredibly proud of my husband and all he has accomplished for his 25 years. Right now we are taking a break from full-time ministry, though he is an ordained pastor. We are growing A LOT.

So, why do I blog? That's probably what you're wondering.

I love to write. In High School I was a correspondent for our newspaper's youth section, and I loved it. I fancied myself a journalist, and constantly had my nose buried in a notebook, pen in hand. Actually, marker. I always wrote my stories with a lilac thin-tip Crayola marker. I was rad like that.

My blog is a mash-up of my life. Sometimes I write very directly, like I am right now--everything concrete. Sometimes I get a little bit poetic and vague because it protects the ones I love while giving me an outlet for the....junk. Most of the time there's a dash of humor SOMEWHERE in here.

I also do lots of fun things, like Operation KidConnect which is a really neat project I just launched using Hallmark cards to encourage the children in our lives. I also do some product reviews every once in a while. I'll be reviewing a Mrs. Prindable's apple soon...as soon as I can sink my teeth into it!!

You must be wondering, what's with the title--"Not Just A..."

Well aren't YOU "Not Just A...?"

I'm Not Just A....
wife
mother
academic
counselor
encourager
group fitness instructor
strong woman
"good girl"
Christian
advocate
.....and the list goes on.

I'm Not Just any of these, but all of them mix and mingle to make me.

What makes you YOU? Is it the things you are Not Just, or is it the things you Aren't Yet?

:) Something to ponder.

It was great to have you here! Please leave a comment so I know who you are and can visit your blog, too! I can't wait to get to know more people in this great community. What a party it's going to be!!!

***********************
Now down to business: I'm supposed to write about what prizes I'd like if I win anything from the random drawings going on during the Ultimate Blog Party.

Holy Smokes there are a lot of prizes! I'm going to leave this part blank and edit it to add my list of prizes. I have until April 16th :)

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

HOW am I just finding out about this?! I am SO out of the loop!

Tomorrow I'll be posting my very first "party post" for 5 Minutes For Mom's Ultimate Blog Party 2010!

It's not too late! You can join in too! Just click on that link right up there or on the button in my sidebar and find out how to introduce yourself and hop from blog to blog during the week of April 9-16!

Can't wait to meet everyone!

Oh, and if you tweet about it, use the hashtag #ubp10! That's how we'll find each other!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

3...2...1...Blastoff!!


I am so excited to OFFICIALLY launch Operation KidConnect today on "Not Just A..."

In case you missed my INTRODUCTION to the project, click here.
If you missed finding out WHO THE KIDS ARE, click here.

There! Now that you're all caught up, we can begin.

Operation KidConnect was formed out of my desire for stronger relationships and connections with the kids in my life. Kids need a lot of encouragement, and here are just a few reasons why:

* According to SafeYouth.org, almost 30% of youth (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both.

* We've all heard the statistic: "50% of American marriages end in divorce." While widely disputed (and I'm not at ALL sure about the validity of the claim), no one would dispute the fact that divorce is prevalent in our society, and it involves children. There are custody issues, visitations, and other stressful things that are now a part of children's lives at a much earlier age.

* According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the THIRD leading cause of death for young people 10 to 19 years old in 2000. In that year alone, 1921 young people ages 10 to 19 took their own lives.

Children face, head-on, more issues than I knew existed when I was their age. They need our encouragement to "Keep Calm and Carry On."
Here's how this is going to work: Hallmark has provided me with some great cards from their new Kids Collection. Every Wednesday I plan to review a card and tell you how I'm going to use it. The following Wednesday I'll give you a follow-up on the previous week's card, as well. You know, opening up and reaching out to children (who may or may not be cooler than you--it's okay, just admit it) is a little bit scary. What if it doesn't work? What if he/she thinks I'm a dweeb? Well I'm here to help you (and me) through those anxieties and encourage us all to connect with these kids. Each week I'll also add a MckLinky so you can follow along with others who want to be more intentional about connecting with the children in their lives. All you have to do is write a post on your blog and enter the address into our MckLinky. Let's all support each other!
So this week, I plan to use this card:
I really like this card and I think it's a good fit for the ages I want to connect with: 9-13. It's culturally relevant, with the whole "ear bud" thing, but it's not TRYING to be cool. The inside message in effect admits that the sender is somewhat old-fashioned. Since my niece and nephews probably hear me say "when I was your age" waaaaay too much, this one will make them laugh.

It will be mailed via pony express, er, I mean, US Postal Service to ALL FOUR of the children (all four of them receiving one single card--let's see if they fight over it! That will be the true test of whether it's cool or not!), and I'll write a personal message on the inside.

So....how about you? How are you going to connect with those special kiddos this week? Also, what are some of your worries or anxieties about making this intentional effort to connect?



**Disclosure: Hallmark gave me the cards and nothing else for this project. The opinions expressed in my review are my own.**

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Introducing....

....The Kids!

These children are really the stars of Operation KidConnect, so I thought you'd like to meet them.

K1: My 12-year-old nephew. He is tall and lanky, like any 12-year-old should be. Born when I was 15, he has been an integral part of my life since then. He loves sports, and is good at any that he's tried. He currently plays soccer, and did a really cool knee-slide to keep the ball inside bounds at a game a couple of weeks ago. When he did it, I said "That was hot!" and he was really embarrassed.

K2: My 9-year-old niece. She just turned 9 on Sunday. Everyone say, "Happy Birthday, K2!" She is sweet and sensitive, but in a house full of boys, the femininity is, well, hidden just a bit. She was born when I was a Freshman in college, and she charmed all of my boyfriends, including my now-husband. K2 LOVES my son, and the feeling is definitely mutual. He won't stop talking about her and asking about her. They have a great relationship already. She also plays sports and just finished up her first cross-country season and is continuing with soccer.

A: A is the K's older step-brother. He is 14 and...well, a 14-year-old boy. He's funny and he really likes racing and monster trucks. I hear he has some girlfriends, as well. He was a "rabbit" for K2's last race. That basically means he ran ahead of the kids to pace them and make sure they ran on the right course. He ran. and ran. and ran. And did a great job! A plays soccer, too and has a lot of natural athletic talent.

D: D is the K's younger step-brother, at 8 years old. He is very funny, and very sweet. He seems to enjoy playing with my son Zeke, and Zeke really likes him (and A) too. D plays soccer and is amazing on a playground. Really, you should see this kid hang from things--he calls himself a monkey, I guess because other people call him a monkey...because I think he actually is one. He has expressed a desire to take gymnastics and I think he'd be really good at it! Soccer is his sport for now, as well as cross country, which he also has in common with K2.

So there they are, the Fearsome, Fabulous Foursome. You probably noticed that I didn't have as much to say about A and D as I did about the K's. That's because they're late-comers to the game. I have not had the opportunity to get to know them like I have the others. That's the challenge in divorced families, is it not?--making everyone feel included in the blended family. I am excited to use Operation KidConnect to help form a stronger relationship with them. I'm not looking for sunshine, rainbows and unicorn poop here, I just want them to know I care.

So tell me, who are the kids you're looking to connect with? How has divorce affected the children you know?

*Disclosure: Hallmark provided me with the greeting cards for Operation KidConnect, but did not otherwise compensate me. Operation KidConnect was my idea, my product reviews reflect my own opinion, and Hallmark is cool.*

Monday, April 5, 2010

Passion and Purpose

Kevin Carroll is an amazing speaker. I was really touched by his personal story when he shared the opening keynote speech at Blissdom in February. His talk was an inspiring reminder to me: "Why do you do what you do?" He challenged all of the ladies (and men, ahem, BusyDadBlog) to live each day with passion, purpose, and intention. So I got to thinking, as I'm sure we all did, WHAT is my passion? WHAT is my purpose? And how can I be intentional about pursuing it?

After about a week of mulling and stewing, and feeling absolutely certain that I had no purpose in life, I figured that was probably wrong and thought harder. Then it came to me:

My passion is connecting with people, and helping them connect with others. My purpose is to, by connecting with people (or connecting them with others) help them feel better. And I NEED to be more intentional about it. I am an encourager; there are no two ways about it. As much as I try to escape it, I was put on this earth to encourage others.

I feel absolutely drawn, nay, CALLED to go with people into the darkest places in their lives, and help pull them out--sometimes by helping to carry them, and others by cheering them on as they claw and scratch their way free.

Much of my focus in the recent past has been on encouraging children. I volunteered for two years at a wonderful organization, New Hope for Kids, at their Center for Grieving Children. Having been a grieving child, I understood the need for a safe place for children to express their feelings or be silent. I was honored to serve alongside the mother of my friend who died tragically at the age of 16. Through our shared experience we were able to reconnect and help each other and the children we served at New Hope. Children are fragile, yet incredibly resilient beings. They face some of the most difficult problems of life: divorce, death, remarriage, school stress, grades, peer pressure, the sudden end of nap time in Kindergarten. They need us. They need cheerleaders.

So I bet you're wondering what my big announcement is, huh?

I was introduced to the Hallmark Kids Collection at Blissdom, where I also met the fabulous Sarah and Molly, who not only have my dream job (writing for Hallmark) but also are fantastic people. They let us bloggers look through the cards, pick a few we liked, and talk about them on camera. In case you missed my guest post on Blog Conference Newbie and want to see my video interview, click here.

The Kids Collection
really, truly impressed me. I have long been a fan of the written word. There is just something special about receiving a real, handwritten, thoughtful card in the mail, no? You can connect with another person through a written piece of mail on a different level than you can through a quick email--am I right? I think many of you are nodding your heads right now. Well, at least I'm imagining that you are. Maybe I'm even getting an "Amen" at this point.

Well, Hallmark is helping me connect with some VERY important kids in my life--my niece, nephew, and their two step brothers. They have decided to help me out with a project called.......*drumroll*.....

Operation KidConnect!!!!

And here's how it works:
Hallmark has already sent me some FABULOUS cards from the Kids Collection. I plan to use these cards to connect with and form deeper connections with, those special kids in my life--specifically my niece and nephew and their step brothers. Right now I have NINE cards total in my arsenal, and I plan to fire them out at my kin with ninja-like swiftness and precision. Operation KidConnect officially launches on Wednesday, April 7. I can't wait!! Each Wednesday I will review the card or cards I plan to send (or drop off at the front door in a very un-stalker-like fashion) to one (or two, or ALL-whatever I feel like, this is MY project!) of the kids. The following week, I'll provide a follow-up on the "results" of my mission to connect.

Y'all, I am SO excited about this. A HUGE "thank you" goes out to Hallmark and their PR people at Fleishman-Hillard. They have provided me with enough cards to get started, and because they rock, they may send me some more!

Will you join me on this journey?! On Tuesday I will share a little bit about the amazing kids I am going to connect with. I encourage you to pick a special kid (or several!) in your life that could use an extra boost. Is it your kid sister? Your niece or nephew? Your child or grandchild? I'll provide a MckLinky on Wednesday where you can post and link up to share your thoughts about connecting with kids. I want to hear your thoughts, and I want to encourage and help you be more intentional about your connections with the wee ones you love. Or tolerate, if you have teenagers...*ahem*, Vodkamom.

Can't wait to see you on Wednesday!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Something's happening here...

Something very exciting is coming to "Not Just A..."

No, I can't tell you what it is.

Not yet.

You'll find out on Monday.

Hold your horses!

Patience is a virtue!

See you on Monday!

:)