Tuesday, December 10, 2013

5 Tips to Save Your Sanity

Who hasn't felt the insanity during the holidays? Even the most planned and prepared can have their hairy moments!

I'm guest posting over at Modern Alternative Mama today with 5 Tips to Save Your Sanity this holiday season... go check it out!

And remember to stock up on your Baltic Amber or Hazelwood necklaces or bracelets over at InspiredByFinn.com and save 25% using discount code MEGAN25, good through December 23, 2013!  

Why Amber? Read more here or here:
Why Gabe sports a surfer dude necklace
Everything's going my way (scroll to bottom of post)

Monday, December 9, 2013

"everything's going my waaaaaay...."

There was a song sang at the weeklong summer camp I attended every year from 3rd - 12th grade.  It was a camp joke that the early rising senior counselors and staff would go around the campground singing the chorus of the opening song from the musical, Oklahoma:

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,I've got a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way.

And then because campers were witty, and, well, it was a bible camp, someone would then quote Proverbs 27:14: "Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing."

I haven't blogged much this fall because not much has felt like it was falling into place.  It is easy to blog when things are going well and I can easily report on the successes: so and so is doing this, and we're doing that, and man I can't wait for this!  But this fall, with its new experiences and journey into schooling, has left me a bit more deer-in-headlights and hashtagging "mommyfail" more often than I'd like to admit.  (Let's also just mention for a minute that instagramming is much easier than blogging, at the moment, and requires very little involvement or commitment!  But I miss the art of writing and blogging.  FWIW, you can find me on instagram.com/meganesota.)

I knew there would be a learning curve for having a preschooler who attends school twice a week and then has lesson plans we complete at home two other days a week.  I knew I wouldn't find my groove immediately.  I knew, from listening to other moms, there'd be days where I'd be thinking, why am I doing this?  Totally bad idea, "epic fail."  But there have also been some days where the sun was shining, the lesson plans were complete, my kids fed, and there was a plan for dinner.  Can we get a high-five for those days?? Let's be honest, they don't usually occur on Mondays. 

Look at the whole country.
Look how it's purple, gray, and blue.
Then there's us in all shiny and yellow and orange,
burning up.
Welcome to Florida.
Image via @jonacuff on Instagram  
Mondays, I dread.  Every Monday feels like a case of the Mondays.  Until today.  Sometimes I dislike notifications on my phone because before 12pm you can get 487 notifications from various people and apps about things that aren't particularly important, but today I received a reminder there was a playdate at 10am at a nearby park with friends I don't see very often, and I decided to scrap the morning plans (which usually involve homeschool) and go to the play date.  It was hosted by our local consignment sale planners for Jumping Jeans and the kids were able to do a christmas craft. Anything that says craft (Mia) and park (Gabe) is a win-win for my kids. We headed over there and although the weather is unseasonably warm for us Floridians, it bodes pretty well for park play dates.  The kids had a great time playing with their friends and it didn't hurt that Mia's best gal pals were in attendance.  Being outside this time of year and getting some vitamin D has its therapeutic benefits as well, so we all left happy, dirty and ready for phase II of the day.  Which, as of 4pm this afternoon, I can't believe is already over: lunch, naptime, school for Mia, followed by a short quiet time.  We're on to phase III already (dinner prep, dinner, followed closely by bedtime).  This Monday has flown.  But instead of wallowing in the rapidity of the day, I'm thankful we've staved off the grouchies that sometimes plague our Mondays and we just rolled with it.  *Sigh.*  I'm tired.

Gabe sporting some raw amber.
In other news, get a Baltic Amber necklace if you haven't already! These things are great. I've been wearing an amber bracelet the last month to help with wrist/joint pain and it's helped me tremendously.  I can really tell a difference when I take it off.  So, these puppies aren't just helpful for teething babies, they are helpful for adults too.  And for the next two weeks, InspiredByFinn.com has a coupon code "Megan25," that you can use at checkout to save 25%!  This is a great time to buy as a gift for someone this holiday season, or for yourself.  How might it help you?  According to their website
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    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    I Love Target

    If you're a Minnesotan, or a Target lover like myself, then you might appreciate this story.

    Photo Credit: RetailbyRyan95

    I was at Target today by myself because both Gabe & Greg were at home not feeling well & Mia was at school, and so I had a lot of time to peruse and fill up my cart on groceries. Target has an app called Cartwheel (maybe you've used it?) and I was double-checking my items against what was in my "Cartwheel" for coupons, and my phone suddenly died by the butter. Agony of agonies! It wasn't even under 20% battery power. It.just.died. Noooooo!!! The point of Cartwheel is to be able to save and the barcode is on your phone, and I had all these eligible items and it wouldn't work without my phone being on! So I did what any normal person would do, and I walked over to Electronics and I asked the guy behind the counter a "random question": would there be any way he had an iPhone 5 plug that would allow me to plug in my phone to juice up for a few minutes so I could actually use my Target coupons?? He immediately found an iPhone cable (and opened it up, I'm afraid, it was brand new!) and plugged my phone in and stored it in a little cabinet while I finished up my shopping. It amped up to 41% and I was able to checkout and use my cartwheel coupons saving dolla bills, y'all. Another win for Target! It always makes me so happy to flip a package around at Target and see it's from Minneapolis, MN. Yep, it's the little things.

    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    Strange September

    A few years ago Greg and I created alliterations for the fall months...not in order to become a self-fulfilling prophecy but because we thought we noticed a trend. After summer was over, it sometimes just felt like things got harder (usually the back-to-school schedule in graduate school added some challenges).

    Anyway, there was "Sucky September" (offensive, sorry!), "Odd October," and thankfully a reprieve, "Nice November."  Since I have young ones now I try not to use the word "suck," so I'm swapping it out for Strange September.  And this September has been slightly strange only in that it's been a very different September than any other!

    stitches + a sunburn around his eyes = hot mess
    Mainly because we are homeschooling two days a week and Mia goes to school two days a week and our weeks feel busy and full and...different.   And I have a little man who likes to throw wrenches into our homeschool days by falling off a chair the very first day of homeschool, cutting his chin, and requiring 6 stitches (hello, trauma!)  I won't lie, that was a really hard day for this mom as well.  Like, immediate crying in the doctor's office when he told me he would require stitches.  I think it's the mama-bear protection instinct when you just ache inside for your little one.

    The other wrench a little man threw into our advent into homeschooling/schooling was when he came down with a stomach bug the day before we were to have our family pictures taken with my girl Laura Hinely before she MOVED indefinitely to NYC 2 days later (speaking of, anyone needing some photos in the Big Apple should check her out!). That meant scheduling was priority and we wouldn't have many options or really ANY option to reschedule.  As a mom, of course I wanted my little man to feel better just for his own sake, but I also was hopeful he'd feel better for the pictures' sake as I didn't want this opportunity to pass by!

    Well, as I was simultaneously trying to get things ready for our photo shoot and take care of Gabe, I came across the brilliance that is activated charcoal.  I read about activated charcoal on Wellness Mama's blog and how she used it for teeth whitening, and I'll be honest, my pearly whites were more like pearly off-whites.  They needed some love.  Yet I wasn't keen on the Crest White Strips as I tried them before we got married and they made my gums sensitive and felt really chemical-ly.  So I was excited to see that for less than $8, you could buy some 90 capsules to try activated charcoal in order to whiten your teeth! It looks like you have oreos on your teeth at first but it really works.  It's gradual, but it works.
    I assumed activated charcoal had other uses and lo and behold, it can be used for stomach bugs (Gabe's very issue)!  So fascinated about it, I wrote this guest post for Modern Alternative Mama about activated charcoal.  You can read it here:

    And oh yeah, Gabe recovered in 24 hours and we were thankfully able to get those family pictures made.  Can't wait to see the actual files soon! (These are just screenshots from Laura's computer from her iPhone.)

    PS: School has been great for the chiquita!  She's a champ.

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    A tough time

    There is a lot of sadness going around my greater community.
    Just recently I learned of an acquaintance who lost her younger brother-in-law to heat stroke. He was only 19.
    Friends from our congregation are dealing with stage IV stomach cancer & chemo treatments.
    A good family friend's aunt is in her final days battling breast cancer & liver failure.  She is a very special woman, and I've only interacted with her a few times, but those interactions gave me pause, thinking, what did I do to deserve such special treatment from her?  I think that's just the way she is.
    And a young newlywed couple just found out that the husband has an inoperable malignant brain tumor.  They've been married just shy of two months.
    When does it stop? And that's not even touching on local or national news.

    I guess the hard part of being a grown-up is realizing that it doesn't stop.  The world, somehow, keeps turning, and each day we breathe in and out as these lives just slip through our hands.  I still cannot fathom how one minute a person can be here, and the next minute, that person is gone.  As a 30 year old I still grapple with the finality of it.  As a christian, I know there are eternal purposes.  I know their soul still exists, and I know somehow somewhere a piece of them is still operating, manifesting.  But it doesn't mean that for the rest of us here on earth, that the hard news, is any easier to swallow.  It still hurts.

    I wish I had some enlightened thought here, but I really don't.  All I know is:
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

    gifts from above
    God does not change (thank you, God!!) The days we have with our loved ones are gifts.  The loved ones are gifts.  The hugs we get from our friends.  The teachings we receive from the older, wiser. The food we eat.  The "American dreams" we live...if any of it is good, it's from the Father above.
    So I'm leaving this part of the day a little depressed, a little thankful, and a lot contemplative.  My heart goes out to all those hurting and I pray there is comfort for these families soon.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Back to School and the Forgotten Blog

    haircuts & starbucks!
    Sounds the title of an amazing book, right?  It's coming out in September.

    Totes joking.

    While I've sat contemplating how sad my blog's existence as been as of late, I've felt the need to update it yet feel the words escape me as soon as I put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, as it were. It's ever so cliche to say "we are busy!" and I really mean it this time (like I do every other time), and so it's true (like it is every other time), but it's becoming busier in another new way.  I feel like we go through mini growth spurts every few months, as individuals, families, and in our roles in those families, and then it seems as if we go through major growth spurts every couple years.  It's been a couple of years now and this next major growth spurt is that our oldest is big enough for school now!  She's going to be a student! The mind explodes.

    all smiles at the dentist
    {MUCH improved from the 1st visit}
    For real, though, our family is feeling the stretch that will come as we Mia starts a community school preschool, where she'll go to school two days a week, and homeschool two days a week.  And Fridays are optional enrichment.  To say the least, this will be life changing. It almost feels like having another kid, the amount of thought and preparation (and total winging it, lemme be honest here!) that will go on.

    The the curriculum's been assigned, the books procured, the lesson plans have already been emailed out, and the uniforms have been purchased.  Back to school haircuts and dentist appointments too.  We want to make sure we're ready to go!!  We are in a for a new ride, and we can't wait to see what is in store for Miss Mia, official preschooler as of next week!

    We are trying to make the most of our last few days of summer around here.  I know some things will stay the same, but a lot will be changing, so I'm doing what I do where I cling to what I know is good and comfy, all the while getting ready for the next thing.  Getting Older.  It's not for the faint of heart!!

    Saturday, July 20, 2013

    Living Life Unplugged

    Original Photo by MTSOfan on Flickr
    About a month ago, I was struggling with my attitude. I wasn't getting the necessary things done around the house I normally accomplished, I was distracted with my kids, and I was feeling guilty and depressed about how I was using my time. I realized it was time to take a Facebook fast. Greg had taken an extended twitter break since May, so I knew I could break some ties with another social media giant. I deleted the Facebook app off my iPhone (horrors!!) and if I needed to check something on there, I'd get on my laptop (which is "more work," which meant if I'm feeling lazy, the extra steps to plug in laptop and point browser to Facebook wasn't always worth it).

    Photo by Sparky on Flickr
    The fast lasted about two weeks, and then I added the Facebook app back onto my phone.  I also put the Facebook on a different screen and not my homepage, so that it wouldn't be the first thing I'd see when I looked at my phone.

    Since the fast, I've thought about what it means to purposefully unplug. I love to be connected to others digitally or in real life so putting down the phone can be a real challenge at times, but you can read my guest post at Modern Alternative Mama about 4 ways to mindfully unplug here.

    What are your thoughts on intentional breaks and fasts?

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Fútbol prodigy

    Don't worry, the video frame will correct itself once you press the play button!

    Fútbol prodigy from Megan Ciampa on Vimeo.
    Young Gabriel showing off some soccer skills

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Puppies, Cats, Fish, Oh My!

    Married with [siblings'] children
    We just got back from the Hoosier State - we spent some time up there with family before and after my younger brother tied the knot. He is now a married man!

    Getting to be in the Midwest, out in the country, running in the grass, jumping in the pond, reconnecting with the earth -- all those good things -- was good for all of us.  The weather is still quite nice, breezy and sunny, so it was easy to spend almost the entire day outside (when we weren't in Indianapolis for wedding festivities).  Mia & Gabe had a fantastic time outdoors and eventually warmed up to Mommo & Papa Jack's new dogs, Gunnar, a rat terrier, and Greta, a rottweiler.

    "I'm in a boat!"

    Greta loved Gabe (and Gabe's food scraps)

    Rides in the Mule are exhausting (shirts optional)

    On our end, everything went smoothly for Jackson & Ashleigh's wedding too.  The kids cooperated and all my fears of wrestling with a squealing toddler were put to rest as Gabe managed to actually sit still and be quiet (yay)!

    Obligatory dressed-up family pic

    Wiley Cousins
    Gabe, the dapper little dude and Greg, the usher
    We had a great time away and traveling and the kids picked up a few new skills (Gabe, how to overcome fear of dogs; Mia, how to fish)...and Greg and I added another set of stories to tell about the time our kids navigated travel, rehearsals, weddings, and overnight stays in hotels.  

    This about sums up how we felt coming home!

    Thursday, May 30, 2013


    This Florida sky!
    Things always heat up in the summers down here in Florida, literally and figuratively-speaking.
    It is starting to get feisty-hot outside, and you can tell that the summer storms are beginning to move their way into our afternoons to relieve the almost constant humidity.  Thus far, though, some of the humidity that marks our Florida summers has been kept at bay, so we have been enjoying the outdoors as much as we can until it literally becomes unbearable!

    Our family life has recently become much busier as well.  It seems schedules can change quite quickly, and so they have.

    Just a few weeks ago, at the suggestion of a friend, I was encouraged to look into my guidance counseling certificate renewal requirements, as I knew my FL state certificate would expire this summer.  I kind of brushed it off initially, thinking, Ah well, if it expires, it expires.  I don't think I'll be working anytime soon, so what's the rush?  but something caught my attention again that made me think, I should really look into this!
    So, I contacted the Department of Education and after a few clarifying phone calls, I figured out what the requirements were.  Which then required a few calls to institutions of higher learning, such as my alma mater, USF.  Within a matter of days I had submitted my non-degree seeking application to USF, signed up for a class and completed a few checklists to make sure my online course in Anthropology (whaaat!?) would count towards my certification renewal.  According to Courtney at FL DOE, it does :D  So, in addition to this online course I'm taking, I have to retake a professional subject exam for the state in guidance counseling, and I plan to take that soon after some intense spurts of studying.
    I learned that if I let my certificate lapse and expire, it would be about twice the amount of work to reinstate it as it would to renew it, and I just felt it would be the wiser route to go.

    I'm actually enjoying hitting the books again and it is requiring that I add a bit more structure into my day-to-day for the next few weeks, which I invite at the moment.
    These children!

    Not only am I exercising my brain, but Greg and I collectively are exercising our hearts & brains right now as well as we have started a parenting class with a small group from our congregation. We are studying a parenting curriculum that is bible-based and is focused on getting at the heart of our children in training and discipline. We have only had 2 meetings so far (next one is tonight)! but we are already gleaning a lot from it.  I'm thankful we have this opportunity to grow and learn and to also study it alongside an older couple with older children, as well as a few of our peers who are in similar family stages such as us.  I've had several friends go through this curriculum as well and they have only said good things about the results it produces, so we are excited about that.  Sometimes growth is hard, but I'm feeling good about growth that improves our family dynamics! It can only benefit :)

    That was a whole lot of information about me and Greg, but that's been part of the reason we've very much been MIA (missing in action) the last little while.  Things will only get busier over the next little while as we travel to Indiana for my younger brother's wedding (ahh! the final child will be married off!) and spend some time with the fam.  We are looking forward to the trip but I won't lie, I'm a little nervous about my youngest child's behavior, as he has entered the squirmy-worm, temper-tantrum phase that so often plagues the little ones.  We are doing the best we can to communicate with him, show proper boundaries, and work with him, and sometimes it is just a guessing game.  Fingers crossed he makes it through the wedding ceremony!  With that said...

    We'll catch you on the flip side.

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Turning 4, Going to Disney

    Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Mia's birthday of turning 4.  It was a fun day with family at home & a swim in our community pool in the morning, followed by a small family party at our house that night.  Aunt Allison, cousin McKaber, Uncle Brian, Aunt Amanda and cousins Braden & Abby joined us. We had an impromptu Disney princess/female character theme (Tinkerbell, Belle, etc.) with strawberry cupcakes for all.  We have typically done a big party at our neighborhood park/community center in years past but this year we kept it a bit closer to home (literally).  Mia didn't believe she officially turned 4 until we sung her happy birthday and she had her cake.  Here she is at the moment of "officially turning 4":
    a bit bashful now that everyone is singing to her

    recap of Mia's 4th birthday
    Keeping it low-key that day was the way to go, because a few days later we packed up several belongings, a cooler of food, our double stroller, and headed to Disney!  This was our first family Disney trip EVER (Greg & I haven't gone since college days) and Mia was more than thrilled about visiting the "happiest place on earth."  We took advantage of the FL Resident 3-day pass and stayed overnight at a nearby timeshare, which worked out super well.  All props for trip-planning to to Greg.  He really made sure we had a fun time and that all the essentials were taken care of.  

    We spent Monday at Magic Kingdom, getting familiar with the park and seeing what our kids would enjoy the most.  Tuesday, we checked out Hollywood Studios and saw a couple of shows, including Disney Jr. Live on Stage, which was embarrassingly fun for all of us.  (If your child watches any popular Disney Jr. shows, then they will most likely highly enjoy that performance!)

    This was actually taken our last day
    at the park at the very end of our stay!  

    Wednesday, we kicked it around our hotel at the pool and took monster naps to catch up on all the fun we were having, and on our last day, Thursday, we went back to Magic Kingdom.

    Mia's favorite parts were the rides.  Gabe's favorite things about Disney were the curbs we let him jump on and off while Mia was on a ride, falling asleep in the stroller everyday, and meeting the Disney princesses (which, surprisingly, was NOT Mia's favorite part)!  

    We brought all our own food to the park or bought it at Publix, and only got ice cream treats while we were there.  This was a major timesaver and advantage in our minds, because there was no waiting in line for food, no wasting of money on food no one really wants to eat, and no headaches from eating something our bodies didn't necessarily like.  Props to Disney on letting you bring your own food to the parks!  We'd highly recommend that.  

    Walking into Magic Kingdom for the 1st time

    Dumbo Ride

    Gabe: Disney? NBD

    Mickey's Philharmagic. Totally cool until the show started.
    Then Gabe was terrified.

    Waiting in line for It's A Small World

    Killin' it on Barnstormer, Mia's favorite Roller Coaster

    Waiting for Disney Jr. Live on Stage to begin

    Mesmerized.  Mickey! Sofia! Doc! Jake!

    Silly moments while we wait for Greg to finish a ride

    Lounging around the pool

    Finding ducks outside the hotels

    In the words of my friend, Erin, "Owning Disney" despite the rain.
    Ponchos didn't disappoint.

    Gabe's feelings about the line for Peter Pan's Flight.

    PeopleMover.  Also a good place to take a break.

    Mia giving Greg a preview of age 15.

    And age 16.

    These princesses were SO nice.  So impressed with their hospitality skills.

    Gabe had a thing for Aurora, Sleeping Beauty.

    If you can't tell, even Greg & I are kinda jazzed.

    We hands-down really enjoyed this trip.  Not coming from a long ancestral line of Disney-freaks, I set the bar kind of low for myself but was blown away by how much fun we all had!  Gabe is still in that meandering place where he doesn't really know what he is missing and gets tired enough that he'll fall asleep, so it worked out well with all that Mia wanted to accomplish.  
    We are so thankful we got to go as a family, not only to semi-celebrate Mia's 4th birthday (!), but to also have a nice, quick getaway that provided good family times and even some relaxation. Hey, I might even call it a real "vacation," and that can be hard to do when traveling with little ones!  +1 for Disney. +1 for good family vacations.  

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Growing Kids...

    Last week both Mia & Gabe had their well-checkups.  Mia, for her 4 year, and Gabe, for his 18-month checkup.  Both kids were lookin' good and all checked out fine.  One of the questions they asked me about Gabe in terms of his developmental milestones were if he could say at least 15-20 words.  I sat there, a little perplexed, trying to remember if he could say 15-20 words.  I thought he could probably say at least 15, so that's what I answered.  I just couldn't think of all of them at the time.

    This past weekend, we were eating breakfast Saturday morning rather leisurely and I got out a pen and paper and started writing down all the words I knew Gabe could say.  It started off with the easy ones, like, "daddy, momma, sis-sis," and before I knew it, it had morphed into a list of over 20 words!  As the weekend wore on, I kept hearing Gabe say other words, or I'd think of other words I knew he could say, and I continued to update the list.  As of this list, I have around 40 words that I know he can say:

    1. daddy
    2. momma
    3. sis-sis
    4. banana ('mana)
    5. apple
    6. Hosanna
    7. no
    8. mh-mmm
    9. snack
    10. milk
    11. help (sounds like "up")
    12. Maddie (mah-eee)
    13. toodles
    14. water
    15. uh-oh
    16. what
    17. look
    18. bird
    19. that
    20. dog
    21. bible
    22. phone
    23. up
    24. down
    25. tickle-tickle
    26. hi
    27. ta-da
    28. socks
    29. shoes
    30. thank you (day-doo)
    31. please (peaz)
    32. hot
    33. eggs
    34. bye-bye
    35. sure (sho')
    36. night-night
    37. stuck
    38. backpack
    39. truck (duck)
    40. hug
    41. potty
    42. Isaac
    43. tacos
    44. song

    Of course, most of these words are most intelligible to his immediate family members, so it might take some interpretation or context to figure out exactly what he's saying, but it usually becomes clear.

    Who knew we'd have two talkers?! :D