Friday Letters {Insta-recap}

I know I know another recap.  But these are from my new instagram account.  Please if I followed you before of if you followed me and we had a deep connection on Instagram, please find me at @absolute_mommy.  I had to add the underscore.  Please.  I'm missing a boat load of IG peeps and it's just not the same without you all!  Now for some Friday Letters.

 Dear Mom,
That road trip we took to Elevate was amazing.  We actually got to start and finish conversations.  There were no kids yelling from their car seats to change the music or DVDs.  I had a great time with you that weekend.  Just like the old days when it was just the two of us.  We must do it again soon!
 Dear Best Friend and Best Friends Husband,
I'm so excited for you both.  I just got the text that you are at an eight.  When this post publishes, your princess will be here, and most likely still in your arms.  I can't wait to meet her and spoil her rotten like every little girl should be spoiled.  I love you bunches, and your hubbs is ok too.  Just joking BFHubbs, I love ya!

 Dear woman who gave Mackenzie the worst hair cut of her life only second to the one I gave her as a baby,
Never again.  I don't care how much you don't over charge.  I'll happily pay the other place 10 dollars more so that I don't have to go back and have you re cut her hair to fix a mistake and have it look worse when I leave.  No thank you.

 Dear Baby Girl,
So we celebrated your birthday at school on Wednesday.  Because you don't turn 6 until the 26th of June we did it early.  It was wonderful, but a little bittersweet.  I'm not quite ready for you to be a first grader.  I'm not even sure how that's possible.  I want to soak up every bit of this summer, just so that we can cherish that last hurrah of being little.  I have a feeling first grade is going to change everything.

 Dear Hubbs,
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways... 
Oh look there's one reason. 

 Dear Mac,
I love you because you love your baby doll that you swear looks like you (see photo above).  I love you because you continue to ask "are we dere yet" all the way to Salinas.  I love you because for the last 30 minutes of the trip you made farting noises with your hand.  

 Dear makers of blue cupcake frosting,
My kid looks like she ate a smurf.  I'm sure this was your evil plan.  You must all be men, who never have to worry about getting this color out of clothes.  PS. It also stains lips.  

Dear Work,
Are we done yet?  That is all.

Friday letters here.
InstaFriday here.

Taking a step

This was the first year, as a mother myself, that I woke up on Mother's Day morning without my children.  For some, that may not be a big deal, but for me, it was huge.  When I became a mother, I felt like the only way to prove to myself, and the masses, that I was a good mother, was to totally and 100% devote myself to my children.  To their needs.  To their every whim.  Its true for most mothers that the needs of their children take precedence over the needs of their own.  But to what degree?  And for how long?

When is it ok to let out some of the rope?

I ask this question because the Hubbs has just booked a mini vacation to Vegas.  I will be gone 4 days and 3 nights from my kids.  Unheard of.  Seriously unheard of.  As soon as he said he booked out flight, I broke out in a sweat and my heart sank.  Could these kids get by without me?  Was that really possible?

Mac and her bubbles on Mother's Day.

I have friends that have been enjoying Adult only vacations for years.  Taking back little pieces of their lives and their marriages.  Trusting that trips away are good for the independence of the kids and the parents.  I know it's true.  I know it's healthy.  We all need a little space, a little time alone.  But what if they cry?

This brings me back to Mother's Day weekend.  I was so worried to book my ticket to Elevate, knowing that I'd be away the morning of Mother's Day.  What kind of mother does that?  Leaves her kids on the one day of the year that they are reserving just for her.  I was worried they would be mad.  They would ask for me and miss me.  None of that happened.  

Caitlin concentrating on the perfect bubble.

Turns out, good mothers, possibly great mothers know when to take a step back.  Possibly a step forward.  To enjoy solace, a little independence, and if they are lucky a lot of reflection.  To take a few days, even a few minutes away from the kids to recharge is quite possibly the greatest gift we can give ourselves.  We appreciate our children more.  We look forward to the little quirks that drive us crazy.  We even look forward to watching Madagascar for the umpteenth time.

This past Mother's Day, I took that step.  The one that told me my kids would obviously survive a few days without me.  They wouldn't cry the entire time I was gone, whine for me at bedtime, even notice I was gone. I took the step that told me it was ok, finally, to do something for me.  Something possibly on the selfish side.  

Reunited and it felt so good!

On Mother's Day I gave myself the gift of a little freedom.

May Miscellanea {Instagram recap}

Here is how this post came into being.  The Thursday before Elevate, I was laid off from my seasonal job.  I kind of knew it was coming, so I took the Hiatus to make sure that I enjoyed myself and rested up, because I wanted to come back after Elevate, refreshed.  And it's true that Elevate, totally Elevated me, as you could tell by the three Elevate posts I wrote.  I was also waiting for the right inspiration to share all of these photos.  

Well last week that inspiration gave me a good bitch slap.  I was one of those people whose Instagram accounts was temporary disabled.  You can read about it, but just so you know, I've tried every trick to bring my old account back to life.  It's dead y'all.  Dead, dead, totally dead.  I've submitted my user name and email twice.  I have tried to reset my password on my PC a million times (seriously, not an exaggeration), I have tried to delete and reinstall the app.  Nothing has worked.  So the original @absolutemommy Instagram account is dead.  I'm now @absolute(underscore)mommy.  Find me so I can follow you back.  I was following so many of my friends there and I'm so sad I haven't got them all back!!!

I can't believe it's the 28th and I haven't dumped all my Instagrams on you!

I wore this to Elevate.  Now when I see pictures I'm not so sure, but let me tell you how comfy it was.  Even with the temps soaring.  There is something so easy about a maxi skirt.  And would you even guess that this is a maternity skirt.  I for the record AM NOT PREGNANT, but who could pass up this skirt.  Secret:  Old Navy has the cutest maternity clothes and if you order them in a size smaller than what you are, no one, and I mean no ONE, will know.  Promise!

This is the picture I snapped just to commemorate that I had finally made it to Newport the night before Elevate.  Let's see, we left Fresno at 1:30 p.m. and we pulled into the parking lot of the Residence Inn about 7:30 p.m.  Yeah, it was a little crazy.  The traffic, I could go on for days about the traffic, but it was also a one hour stop in Bakersfield for the worst customer service I have ever experienced, that really took the cake.  Let me tell you when you order a salad and the chicken on the said salad is still raw... Yeah.  Then the manager fights with you about your order... So there was that.

Here are some last minute cuddles before I left for my trip.  On Mother's Day weekend.  Let me tell you how I wrestled with the guilt on this one.  Would my girls be sad that I wasn't there on Mother's Day morning when they woke up?  I decided that they were really too young to know the difference and did something for myself.  Which is super rare for me.  It was totally worth it as you already know, and they were just as happy to see me when I got to them!

It's pretty safe to say that one of the perks to being a little sister is getting to go to school with big sister on doughnut day.  The parents of Caitlin's kindergarten class chipped in for a doughnut and coffee breakfast the Friday of Teacher Appreciation week.  So Mac got to tag along for donuts and 15 minutes of free play on the school playground.  She was a happy girl.  And Caitlin was a proud big sister because everyone wanted to play with Mac!

This has to be one of my favorites from May.  This is Caitlin at her school carnival going down the big inflatable slide.  If you have been a reader around these parts for awhile then you know that this is a huge step.  Caitlin has been terrified of anything up high, any places that are loud or crowded, anything outside her comfort zone.  But suddenly, after a year in kindergarten, she is brave and outgoing, and obviously having the time of her life.

Mac got an arm tattoo at said carnival, because tough girls always have forearm tats.  For the record I still want a forearm tat.

Caitlin and her 'stache courtesy of Bubbas Basics.  These were included with their business cards.  Caitlin couldn't resist!

This is the dress that lit up my Instagram feed.  I asked the question "Yeah or Nay?", and boy did that leave me wide open, and apparently wide in general.  I got some maybes, as in maybe it's not that flattering on you.  And I expected that because I don't think it's the most flattering either, but here is why I bought it anyway.  First, it's the softest most comfy thing I have ever put on my body.  It's like a night gown.  Second, it's from the girls department at Target, so it isn't too long.  Can't say no to that.  So I'll wear it until it falls apart, or if some one asks me how far along I am.

Kristine at Elevate.  I love this picture because I almost snapped one of her eating, and if looks could kill... She loves me anyway and like a good blogger, knows how to pull it together for a "look at me I've got a cookie", shot.  You wouldn't even know that seconds before she was noshing on a glitter doughnut.  Oh you know, just some blogger shenanigans.  I love this picture.  It's so poised, and 110% Foley attitude!

 She wouldn't let me take this pic, so I was a little sneaky and took it anyway.  Thank God there were no shots at the check up.  I was prepared with lollies and peanut butter cups.  You know like a good mom would. 

New dance costume.  I know, it's out of control pink.  But see that look on her face?  She loves it!  It also means that I have to curl her hair.  Last recital day it took half a can of hairspray, continues Rachel Berry Glee videos on Youtube, and an hour and a half I will never get back.  I'm not joking!

This isn't all of my May Miscellanea either, and yes, I had to Google how to spell miscellanea.  Those pictures will have to wait.  I don't want you to feel like they are slides from my family vacation!  To say that the last three weeks were a blur is an understatement.  But here is the really crazy thing.  I was only laid off for a week.  Last Tuesday I went back to my job, full time for what they tell me will be about 5 weeks.  So much for my grand return to blogging.  I'll try to keep up best as I can, but I've to to tell you, there is so much life to live.  And thankfully, I'm blessed to have a full one.

Violating your Instagram feed {like a boss}

I thought that having my email hacked last summer was the worst thing that could happen in my blogging life. I was certainly wrong as today, Thursday May 23rd, my Instagram account @absolutemommy officially died.  I was just scrolling along, checking out outfits of the day, paleo recipes, and every ones adorable children when BAM.  My screen flashed and took me to the log in screen.  I couldn't log in.  

And then I almost died.

Ok, not really.  First I tried in vain to log in from every available piece of technology I own. By doing so I started to get the following message "Your account has been deleted because you have violated the terms of use policy", or BS similar to that.  So I did what every blogger would do, I cried.  For like 10 minutes and then called a bunch of people to share this personal tragedy.  My mom, because I was devastated, was devastated.  My husband said that I should calm down and then told me that it had to be a fluke and to wait it out.  My best friend asked me how on earth I could have violated a social networking site that allowed me to post photos of my elf on the shelf doing lines and getting drunk in bed with Mereda.  True story.

And that's the moment this blog post was written.

Now as I write this I know that I wasn't the only one.  But it sure felt like it.  Looks like there is a lucky few that got their accounts deleted today for no reason.  And yes, I have read and tried every recovery effort known to Twitter, Facebook, and Google, and none of them work.  Which has convinced me that I have indeed committed some infraction, some violation, on Instagram.  The question is did I violate my feed, or did I violate your feed?  Do you in fact feel violated?

The sad thing is, Instagram is my family's photo album.  It's Mackenzie's baby book.  Literally.  It's a place to connect with so many of my friends, in real life, and in virtual life.  I use Instagram pics for all my blog posts.  Instagram is a HUGE part of my life.  And for a moment I thought it was all gone...

I get it.  I make so many violations on Instagram daily.  Perhaps I'm in violation of posting too many outfit of the day pictures.  Maybe it's too many self indulgent selfies that are the issue.  Could it be all the pictures I post of my kids eating junk food at unheard of hours?  I'm sure I'm in violation of posting too many pictures of my food, or my Starbucks cup.  Could it be the sarcastic and sometimes rated R e-cards that get posted?

Whatever the reason, as of this moment, my original Instagram account is still dead.  
Can I get a moment of silence?

Before the night was over, I had to start a new account.  The idea that I couldn't post pictures at a birthday party tonight just about killed me.  They had a Jurassic Park cake that my neighbor made, people!!  Plus I need to post upcoming outfits of the day, pictures of my kids not sleeping at midnight, and my sink full of dishes.  Because that's what I do.  I'm a blogger, I'm an over share-er.  I'm @absolute_mommy (that's absolute underscore mommy).

And I promise, I don't violate.  Any one.

Every story has a silver lining.  Tonight's silver lining is all of my Instagram friends that have re-followed the new account and have shared on their feed to follow me.  I'm blessed friends.  Tonight I'm thankful for people like Lacey (@lilmissnerdgirl) and @BoldButterBaby.  Who talked me off the ledge via Twitter.  For all the shares and re-tweets I'm so grateful.

Again, when these things happen in my life... What else am I going to do?  These posts write themselves.  Happy Friday dear readers.  Go Instagram something.  Preferably your lunch.

ps: this wasn't the post that was supposed to be published today.
Originally it was an Instagram recap of the last couple of weeks.
Irony is so poetic, am I right?

Elevate: The Message

Sometimes, when blogging takes over your life, when your laundry is piled higher than your five year old, and there is not a single clean fork available, you rethink this blogging thing.  You look at the hours you spend, when your children are awake, when your children are asleep, when your husband is waiting for you in bed, while you slave away at the keyboard, and your think... Is this worth it?  Is pushing myself to the limit time and again worth it?  I struggle with this sometimes as my blogging is a hobby.  It doesn't make me money.  And for a time I was trying to break into the blogging world for the money, but lately, it's more about writing and connecting with people.  With readers, who eventually become friends.  I think that's why Elevate was more to me than a blog conference.  It was more than meeting a few of my blogging idols in person.  It was the simple idea that these women felt very much the same way that I did...

I am doing this right?  And for the right reasons?

Sarah, from Little Penelope Lane had a story of bravery and perseverance.  She talked about raising a child with extras, and giving birth to a small business organically.  But she also talked about using your words for a greater good.  She talked about blogging your story, a story that's important to you, that may be important to someone else.  Trust me when I tell you that Sarah's blog saves lives.  Sarah told the story of a mother, who's baby had been diagnosed, inutero with Spina Bifida, and had wrote on the Baby Central message boards that she had made the decision to terminate.  Others on the site at the time, linked Sarah's blog and a list of others, so she could read that Spina Bifida was not the end of her journey.  Sarah said that she, and the cavalry of other blogging moms sent her IMs and messages.  Then Sarah said she got the message that meant everything, The mom had decided against termination thanks to the cavalry.  One life saved.

Today the story brings the same tears as it did that day.  No one knows how their story will affect another, until we try.  Until we write our story, share our story, and hopefully inspire others.  At the end of Sarah's session, her message was simple, "Use your words.  Tell your story.  Make a difference".

Erin's session was fun and inspiring.  You can't be around Erin without taking on some of her energy.  And even though she says she blogs about nothing, she does blog about something.  Happiness.  Erin encouraged us to blog with purpose.  To really know the Why.  Why do we blog?  Why do we take the time away from other things in our lives to do this?  What is important about this?  She asked some of us to share our "why". So of course I did, after writing it in my notebook.  Yes, I took notes, ok, I'm a nerd!  My "why" was simply, "To save mothers from themselves".  I stand by that.  I've had emails from mothers, thanking me for my honesty.  Mother's thanking me for telling my story, as rough as it may have been.  Thanking me for making them feel normal, or in fact a good mother.  That my friends is my "why".  It truly is the only reason I need.  If I can connect with one mom a day, to take away her guilt, to take away some pain, or just let her know that she is not alone, then this blog has been worth every sacrifice.

Kimmie, oh, Kimmie.  She started out with, "You are so much bigger than your blog".  Thank you Kimmie. Because don't we forget sometimes?  When our followers box stays and hovers at the same number?  When a few followers on Facebook drop off daily?  Why does any of this matter?  It really doesn't.  We are so much bigger than this.  I am really bigger than my blog.  My blog is only a piece of me, and while I'm always happy to over share, it's not all of me.  I have a life outside of this.  I have to remember that.  This message couldn't have been more appropriate since I had just announced a Hiatus.  

Kimmie's message.  Elise's artwork.

The picuture above was part 2 of Kimmie's message.  She said that someone can only call you the "c word" so many times before you break.  Let me just say that knowing that someone could think that of her makes me sick, and sad.  Kimmie, with her story and spirit, are inspiring.  She is right. My worth is not defined by what others think.  I've had my share of negative anonymous comments.  I'm sure there are lists of people and readers who do not like my brand of blogging, and that has to be ok.  I don't blog for them.  I blog for me, and sometimes for you.  So that we can connect on a deeper level.  Sounds lame, but it's really true.  We must not forget that we aren't defined by negative comments or a drop in followers.  We are define ourselves.  What's in our hearts.  And we can't allow others to take that from us!

Ashely's message to me, was simple and directly for me.  I am blogging for the right reason.  Her overlying theme: Ask why, set goals, define success.  How I define success, may be different from how you define success.  That's a good thing.  When I started this blog I just wanted a place to feature and practice my craft, writing.  I didn't set out to be the next Little Miss Momma, Sugar and Dots, or Living in Yellow.  I set out to share my opinions on motherhood with the world... Or so I thought.  Somewhere along the way, I felt like my writing wasn't enough.  I needed crafts, and recipes, sponsors, and giveaways.  And I got lost.  My writing took a backseat, and the blog began to feel like a job and not so much as a hobby.  So recently I took it all back.  I looked at what I really wanted, and what I really want is to write.  A book, a magazine feature, a newspaper article.  To have my work published in print is how I'm defining my success.  That's the path that I'm on.  

Ashley had so many great ideas and blogging truths to share.  Find your voice, and your niche.  Be consistent in your voice.  I liked that, because while your blog can always adapt to your life, your voice, who you are should never change.  She started her session with the quote, "That which is most personal is most universal".  Always be you on your blog, don't paint a picture of someone you want to be, or someone else entirely.  It's really true.  The times that I'm raw, honest, and sometimes letting you in on my horrible days, are the posts that get the most feedback.  So it's important to be personal (within your comfort zone) and be honest.  I can tell you that Ashley is 100% the person she is on her blog, which is really refreshing and kind of exciting. She also talked about setting boundaries with your time.  Knowing that you can do anything but not everything.  That is an important takeaway for every blogger.  Also she said that when you feel like you need to pull the plug, quit the blogging world, delete your blog, take a moment to think about why you feel that way.  Are you quitting for the right reasons?  Take a look at what is getting you at that moment and reevaluate your goals.  Wow, right?  This was seriously like blogging 101.

I had some major takeaways burned in my brain from Ashley's session.  The first:

Comparison is the thief of joy

This is not a competition.  We are not competing for readers.  Even if it seems that way.  We are not.  Readers come here for something entirely different than what they find other places.  That's good, in fact it's great.  Who wants to read similar content everywhere they go.  No one wants to read Pride and Prejudice written by me, or Stephanie Meyer.  They want to read it by Ms. Austen herself.  So why would we go to blog after blog to read the same content?  We wouldn't.  So we have to stop competing with each other.  Our blogs are ours.  If we blog it, they will come.

The 2nd takeaway is just personal to me.  Ashley was answering questions about comments.  It seems that comments are on the decline.  With a million ways to show love on Twitter and Facebook, comments on actual blog posts have been taking a back seat.  So Ashley was asking about comments, and talking about how they are the best feedback.  She also talked about anonymous comments.  Her tip for ANON comments, Kindness.  Yup, kindness.  I'm going to have to try that.  But at the end she said that SILENCE is the worst.  Not a single comment on a post.  And that shot me right in the heart.  As she said, "silence hurts too".  She is so right.  After putting my heart and soul into a post, to have it met with silence is killer.  I'm not saying that to invoke a commenting frenzy here, I'm just sharing, because as writers and blogger, your feedback means everything.  And as a blogger, this makes me want to take the time to comment more. To let the blogger know, hey, I love this!  Kindness people.  At every turn.

This post was way longer than expected, so I apologize.  If you haven't noticed Elevate did just what it said it would, Elevate me to the next level.  It confirmed that I'm doing this for all the right reasons.  It showed me that I can use my words and tell my story.  It proved that I am bigger than this blog, and sometimes that means stepping away for a moment.  It inspired me to never forget my why, to always remember my goals, and to always define success on my terms.  

Like I said last Friday, I'm Elevated and ready to rock!

Elevate: The Speakers

There is no way to properly introduce the speakers of Elevate that will do their presence at the event justice. So here it goes.

Kimmie, Sarah, Ashley, Erin
I know, right?  Dying.

photo by Lora Knight

I'm going to go ahead and be honest with you all.  I was completely starstruck by these women.  I hadn't been at the venue 10 minutes when Erin strolled up.  I admit that I squealed.  Loudly.  I was just so damn excited to meet her.  To follow her is to love her.  So I'm sure she was well aware of all the stalker love she was going to receive that day.  I was one of those stalkers.  She is just as gorgeous in person.  She is also warm, and quick to jump in the conversation.  She wasn't worried about finding her friends, or the event coordinators.  She was wholly in the moment, and ready to party.  As if there was any doubt.  Here is the picture I snapped of her, because I had to Instagram proof that she was indeed at Elevate, in the flesh!  Also as a side and very personal note, when we were talking at dinner, she asked how old I was.  Of course I told her that I was such an old lady at 35... To which she exclaimed, NO WAY, and that I looked fabulous.  Well, if I didn't love her already...

When it was Erin's time to present, of course she got us all ready with the Cupid Shuffle.  I had no idea what that was or what it meant, but of course Kristine taught me the basics.  After a little dance party she got down to business.  She gave us the history of Living in Yellow, but also presented us with the question of Why?  What is the why?  Why do you blog?  Tough question when you really get down to it, am I right?  What I loved about Erin's session was her commitment to her blog, and it's underlying theme of inspiring happiness.  She told us that no matter what happens in her life, she wants to be able to laugh about it.  That's why she will most likely blog the good, bad and embarrassing, all in an effort to make us and herself laugh about it.  What started out as a 365 Gratitude Journal is now Living in Yellow.

photo by Lora Knight

This is Sarah, of Little Penelope Lane.  To say that this woman is inspiring is an understatement.  This is a woman who took what most scared her in the world and is currently using it to save lives.  Sarah's daughter was born with Spina Bifida.  She was told, while pregnant, that her daughter may or may not survive.  That she may have one of a dozen side effects and birth defects.  And yet, Sarah, with her faith, push forward.  Her story, along with her daughters is one of determination and discovery.  With a desire to find out what it was like to live with a child with Spina Bifida, she took it upon herself to share that story with her readers.  Her blog is one of the leading blogs detailing life with a child with "extras", as Sarah would say.  

As a mother, this alone is a source of great inspiration.  But it's the business that Sarah has grown, literally in her own home that struck me most.  Sarah started making bows when her daughters were little.  Tired of paying someone else, she took it upon herself to make her own creations.  Then as she shared them on her blog, people were interested, and offered her money for them.  That turned into trunk shows in her home and in the homes of her friends.  Other friends with homemade businesses started joining in, and before she knew it there was a line wrapped around the blog.  Today Sarah and her mother run one of Southern California's leading Handmade boutiques.  All while living with and mothering, three children.  

photo by Lora Knight

This is Kimmie.  Kimmie was so nervous, she warned us that she may or may not black out.  She shared her story of miscarriage and loss, but the story was about so much more.  She actually read the actual post from her blog, and it was beautiful.  Beautifully written, in prose that made you feel like you were there.  In the exam room, in the hospital waiting room, in the bathroom at 6 am when her precious Riley was born, too early to survive.  There was not a dry eye in the place.  I'll share her message in my next post, but she made me really think about me vs. my blog.  Not just the whys and why not, but the me.  The me that I pour into this blog.  Her story is one I will never forget, but that's not the only reason that I love her.  I love her, because when she handed me her business card, it reads:  Kimmie: Wife.  Mother.  Rockstar.  Fitting her perfectly.

This part of the post is going to sound so lame.  And I apologize, but I have to tell you.  Meeting this woman, in the flesh was amazing.  Ashley Stock, is a rockstar.  A celebrity among bloggers.  She inspires me in ways I don't even understand.  I'll share more of her message in another post, because honestly I could go on for days.  For now I will tell you this was the moment it all became real.

Let me back up.  In the summer of 2011, I wanted to make the hottest bakery item on the planet.  Cake pops.  Thanks to my intro to Pinterest, I was on the look out for the recipe.  Most of them were complicated, and called for scratch recipes and numerous steps.  Enter one Google search and BAM!  Little Miss Momma makes the easiest cake pops in the world.  Ingredients:  One box cake mix, one can frosting.  No joke add melting chocolate and done.  But that wasn't the only thing I took away with me that day.  Oh, no.  I got my first taste of what lifestyle blogging was all about.  I was in awe.  I was inspired.  I was obsessed in an almost single white female kind of way.  And that was the time I fell in love with a blog and it's blogger.  I told her that story, and apologized for possibly being a weirdo.  She just laughed and said that her cake pops bring more traffic than any other post.  I told her it's because it's the easiest recipe on the planet.  But still Ashley sorry for being a blog stalker!

Fast forward to Elevate.  I introduced myself and said I'm from Absolute Mommy.  And she said, "I know you", and hugged me.  Later when she handed me her business card, I said, thanks but as I'm sure you know, I already stalk you frequently.  She just laughed and said, "but I love your comments".  Because friends, she is that cool.  That kind, and that person.  The one on her blog.  The one that you wonder if she is really like, well I'm here to tell you... She is.

I was lucky enough to sit at her table.  Have lunch and dinner with her.  And she was kind enough to take a picture with the starstruck blogger that I was.  We shared stories about our hubbies, our kids, our lives.  And it was incredibly cool.  I don't have a better word for it.

Her session was equally motivating and inspiring.  She even had notes for us.  She answered the tough questions.  Questions we could only ask someone who has had success like she has had.  What's funny is she never once acted like she was more successful than any of us.  She spoke to us as if we all had blogs of the same size.  As if we all were ready and poised to take the blogging world by storm.  There was no feeling that what she has done with her blog, is not totally attainable for mine.  

These women are amazing.  What's more amazing are their individual messages, and I apologize for not sharing them here.  But you have to understand that their messages alone, are bigger and deserve more than just a quote.  So that is what is to come.  

Until then, get to know these awesome and awe inspiring women if you don't know them already.  

And get Elevated.

all photos courtesy of Lora Knight Photography

Elevate: The People

From the very beginning, I was excited to attend Elevate for one reason and one reason alone:
The People.
Because I knew there would be bloggers that I had never met, some I had never heard of, and some who I had been tweeting and emailing for the better part of a year.  Since I really dived into the world of blogging, all I've had on my blogging bucket list was to attend a conference.  I toyed around with Creative Estates, Snap, and even for a brief moment Influence.  But it just wasn't the right time, or I didn't have the cash.  Last year, I couldn't attend Elevate, so I had it set, in my mind, that this year I was going.  Nothing was going to stop me.  Not even Mommy guilt knowing that I wouldn't wake up with my babies on Mother's Day.  Let me tell you, there wasn't enough mommy guilt in the world when I woke up Sunday morning that would take the smile off my face.
To be honest about how obsessed I was with Elevate, I will tell you that I set 2 calendar reminders and 2 alarms on my phone for the day tickets went on sale.  By 9:10 am, my ticket was bought and my fate sealed.  I didn't even know who would be speaking, but I didn't care.  Me, in a room full of my peers for a whole day?  Priceless in my book.  That was in January.  The wait had begun.
I will tell you two things about bloggers and what happens when they meet.  One, sometimes they squeal.  Case in point meeting this gal.  She was not even out of the car when I was yelling for her, then we ran to each other and jumped up and down.  You say ridiculous, I say, typical blogger behavior. 

I have a great and unconditional love for Kristine.  We "met" when I linked up a WIW post, I don't even know where, and she commented and then gave me a shout out on her blog.  I had seen her blog around and man was she the cool kid at the popular table.  But the comment and the shout out were just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Soon we were tweeting, facebooking, and stalking each other religiously on Instagram.  We have watched our blogs grow, we have fought off the haters, we have even shared our "ugliness" when it comes to the blogging world.  Meeting her in real life, and being able to hug her like I've wanted to do for over a year was amazing.  It's like we were just 2 old friends at a reunion. 

Also getting a squeal and a hug, Nay.  Of course Nay.  Who gives me the feed back that I need.  Who has a writers heart, who knows that we bleed each time we are at the keyboard.  From the very beginning of Absolute Mommy, Nay has helped me every step of the way.  Like my bloggy fairy god mother, only sassier.  I felt right at home as soon as I saw Nay.

The second thing that happens when you get a bunch of bloggers together is that there are always hugs.  Even if you have only emailed that person, or stalked them relentlessly on Instagram. 

Summer greeted me with open arms.  A huge welcoming hug from a bloggy friend is an amazing feeling.  Summer's blog was the first that invited me to write a guest post.  She taught me how to do that since I was a total rookie.  Over the last year and a half we have become virtual friends.  And I love her fierce, plus her style pregnant or not, is something to aspire to!

Jen, spotted me in the parking lot the night before and called out my name.  My mom (who drove down with me, another story to come) was like, "uh that girl is calling your name over there".  Which I'm sure was her way of saying stranger danger, but as soon as I saw her I knew.  It's Jen!!!  And of course we hugged and she was super concerned about emailing me back, and I was like, girl don't you have a conference to set up in the morning?  Because that's what bloggers do, we worry about emails regarding food, rather than the set up of a major event!

I did a screen shot of this picture of me and Nina.  I will wholeheartedly admit that I have been stalking Nina on Instagram for over a year.  I adore her.  And not in a creepy, single white female way, but in a "I know we would hang out in our jeans and Toms" kind of way.  When I went up and introduced myself to her, she immediately grabbed me into the biggest, tightest hug of my life.  It was amazing.  Then later, I caught her pumping behind a screen, and I said I know that sound, it sounds like a whale.  We cracked up and shared some "mommy" stories, and it was like we had been friends for years.  She also captioned the picture above as "@absolutemommy I die over you".  Right back at you Nina!!

Also hijacked this picture from Megan.  Because the world always needs more Megans.  Megan is my hero for waking up at 4 to drive from Phoenix with her husband all while 8 months preggo.  Again, another situation where it was like we have known each other for years.  When in fact it's been like a year.  I laugh because in her recap she said I ran to her... I in fact did, because I wanted her to know that I was excited to finally hug her!

This is Chrissy.  Chrissy is a breath of fresh air.  Her blog, Let me see you Sparkle, is a gem.  She has a project on her blog called the Happy Mail Mission.  Prior to Elevate I knew nothing about her.  At the end of the day, she is a new friend, and I let her know that I'm stalking her on Instagram.  Check out her and her blog.  She in fact does sparkle and the more you get to know her the more you just want to hug her.  In the picture above she is doing a minute to win it challenge.  Nina and I were on her team.  The object was to pick up a skittle by using the straw.  Nina and I may have sabotaged her by yelling "Suck it Chrissy!!!".  She laughed so hard, she couldn't complete the challenge.  It made me like her even more!

I could in fact go on for days about all the people I met.  Natalee from Eat Nap Play, turned out to be my wife in the celebrity couples game.  I was David Beckham and she was Posh.  
Elise, is an amazing talent, and should be opening a shop soon.  I can't wait, she is beautiful inside and out.  
Nichelle is someone who I've wanted to meet since I thought about going to Creative Estates.  So glad I got to meet her, and I loved when she gave me her business card with a pair of earrings attached and said, "I feel like you need these".  
I sat next to Ashley at dinner and we discussed her easy taco recipe and the fact that our husbands despise gourmet meals and vegetables.  We had a laugh about that, then laughed harder with Little Miss Momma herself interjected that her hubbs was the same way... Hmm.  Celebrities they are just like us!  
I walked up to April of The Gingerbread Blog and said, "I know you because I totally stalk you on Instagram".  I'm not sure how she felt about that!  
Sam, from the Ellison Family Expansion Plan, is gorgeous, and is chronicling bother her weight loss and infertility journey, BEAUTIFULLY, on her blog.  I had to tell her that I didn't recognize her from her blog as it seems she has lost more weight.  Seriously, read this, it will be the best, most beautiful thing you read today.  
Rachel, who is hilarious and fun, and quick to joke and make fun in spite of herself or those around her.  Who became an instant friend over facebook because something just clicked.
Natalie, who is so beautiful in real life, just like in her pictures, but so incredibly normal.  I'm not sure what I expected, but she floated seamlessly between tables, stopping to talk to everyone, and spreading kind words and enthusiasm.  I was totally blown away by her spirit!  She practices exactly what she preaches!

I'm so thankful to Summer, Jen, and Nichole, for their vision, their hard work, and their commitment to excellence.  This was my first conference, but I have a feeling it's going to be hard to beat.  I can't wait until next year... Can I just buy my ticket now????

photo courtesy of Lora Knight Photography

Elevate was an amazing experience for me as a blogger.  This post is only the beginning of my experience.  Elevate really did elevate me to the next level.  Of where I want to be as a blogger, but also what I want in my every day life.  Elevate confirmed what I already knew.  Blogging is one of the best things that I have ever done for myself.  Both selflessly and selfishly. 

No matter what anyone tells you about blogging, know this, it's the people, the bloggers who make the difference.  It's their friendship and their loyalty.  It's the fact that they have your virtual back before they have your actual back.  It's the community that we share, the community that I am so blessed and honored to be a part of. 
This is my Elevate re-cap part 1.
Check out all the Instagram madness using #elevateconf.
Check out the event here.

It's Getting Hot in here {and my kids are crazy}

This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are all my own.

It's not even June and yet, Fresno has blessed us with some 100 degree days.  And while I'm sure there are some mid west and east coast friends that are shaking their head as I already begin to complain, let me tell you a little about Fresno summers.  This is only the beginning.  Soon, the temps will reach well over 100, and leaving the house to do anything will become my least favorite chore.  Trying to wrangle 2 kids under 5 in 100 degree temps?  Well lets just say I have friends with more than 2 that are my own personal heroes. 

So what can we do in 100 degree plus temps.  Well we can swim, which we do a lot at my momma's and my father in laws.  We can pay out the nose for play centers and indoor trampoline centers.  Or we can roll the dice and take a chance at the play center in the mall, or McDonalds where the plague is ready to take down your entire house hold.  Seriously just thinking about it makes me sick!

Or, we can just stay home.  And by doing that, we worry about the hours in front of the TV, the iPad, or the computer.  The heat makes both my littles crazy.  Especially if they can't go play outside, which is like their most favorite thing in the world.  Then they drive me crazy, because honestly, I hate sitting in 100 plus degree weather unless there is a pool nearby.  The first summer Caitlin was old enough to be bored with her toys, I got yarn, penne pasta, and markers to make necklaces.  It was a really poor attempt at crafting.  This was way before I started a blog, and before the birth of Pinterest, so I was a lost soul with my cranky and bored 2 year old.  I'm embarrassed to even share that!  But it's the truth.  Now as I have an almost 6 year old and a 3 year old, what else can we do, besides eat ice cream for every meal while watching Finding Nemo for the gazillionth time?
Enter Babaa Box.
A monthly subscription of activities for your little ones to survive the summer.  Delivered to your door, or digitally so you can print out activities and DIY ideas.  If you choose to have it delivered to your door, you will get books, puzzles, science projects, and games.  The possibilities are endless.
Fishing game for Summer fun
So what makes Babba Box different?
Two things make BabbaBox different from all these other kids products and subscription services.

1) Solutions built to fit your life…
The BabbaBox is designed by parents who understand that different situations call for different solutions.  While sitting down and spending an hour doing a project with your kids is fun, the reality is sometimes you are juggling dinner and need something they can do relatively independently.  

Each BabbaBox includes solutions specifically designed for four different occasions that are part of all parents’ routines: TV Free Mornings, Sanity Saving Weeknight Activities, Purposeful Weekend Plan, and Story time.

2) Have fun while building critical thinking skills…
The BabbaBox is about so much more than just arts & crafts.  Each month includes a different combination of hands on projects, books, games, sensory activities, kid-friendly science, imaginative play and more.  And everything included is designed by BabbaCo’s early childhood experts to develop important critical thinking skills – of course while having a ton of fun in the process.
There are also 3 super fun themes to help you survive the summer.  And they will be equally fun for both boys and girls.  Participating in a Babba Box subscription just may make you the cool mom on the block.  I can totally see the entire neighborhood wanting to join in the fun.  Which is fine as long as they bring their own snacks...  Check out the 3 themes that will help you survive whatever early summer mornings or late summer nights throw at you!
June: Deep Sea
Take a voyage to the bottom of the sea, enjoy a colorful book about some of our favorite creatures, make and plan an adorable fishing game, plus so many oceany activities. 

July: Camouflage Animals
Where’d who go? Not only is camouflage on animals totally cool, but it also services a purpose – to help protect them. This month we will learn about all the amazing kinds of camouflage, play a little hide and seek ourselves and other well disguised fun! 

August: Pirate Treasure
Bring your sea legs! This will be arguably our most fun theme yet, as we set out on an adventure, pirate-style. We will sing songs, meet famous pirates through an amazing book and become experts in life on the high seas!
Check out Babba Box and if you like what you see, use “SURVIVE” at checkout to save 10% on any Summer Survival Pack.  
In this house there are only 14 days left of school, and the temps keep climbing.  No more novice penne pasta crafting in this house.  This year we are going to survive summer with Babba Box!
This post is part of the Surviving Summer Break with Babba Box campaign.
This is a sponsored post, but all my opinions are my own.
Content on the Babba Box subscription and campaign provided by Linqia.