Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gift That Keeps On Giving | Trade for Freedom

I watch from the window of my cozy farmhouse as my girls (ages 10 and 7) walk to the barn. Their blond hair shines in the sun and I am filled with thankfulness for our beautiful life. Sure, I have worries for them. Accidents happen, the girls are building a boat out of rough wood to float down the stream. What if one of them gets hurt by the hammer or poked with a nail? Or what if they forget to be kind to one another and they come home crying because a name was called and feelings are hurt?

In places that seem a million miles away from my own safe farm are mothers with different worries. They worry about what to feed their children and how to make enough money to survive just another day. The distance and different life circumstances can lead me to think I have nothing in common with a woman who lives in Nepal, for instance. Yet, as a mother, I can identify -- we have goals and dreams and we may even have little girls who hold our heart-strings and make us smile with their beauty. 

What if I let myself share the worries of a poverty-stricken mother who lives in Nepal? 

I live in rural America and have never asked myself these questions, but what if I had to?:

"What if someone grabs my beautiful daughters and kidnaps them and forces them into prostitution and I can't find them because there are literally too many corners of the earth to search?" 
"What if I have no money, not a cent, and to feed my other children, my last option is to sell one of my daughters into the sex trade? The income is the difference of her dying a slow death in a horrible life or all of us dying today because we are hungry." 
"What if my daughters grow up to believe that prostitution is the only way to feel value and love from men? What if they choose that life, not knowing how dark and entrapping it really is?" 
"What if my daughter grows up to an empty future without an option for a career and turns to prostitution to support herself and her children?" 

Every year more than 10,000 girls and women are trafficked from Nepal into the sex trade to be prostituted in brothels, in India and around the world. It's a real, huge, and ugly problem. It may feel too far away for me to help, but there is hope. There are compassionate and driven people working to set women free in Nepal by creating businesses that rescue women, give them employment, health care and importantly, Christian counseling that teaches them about freedom in Christ. 

One of these businesses is Beauty For Ashes in Nepal. I first heard about them last Spring when I was approached about helping with graphic design for a promotional card. Sure! I said. This is something real I can do from my home that gets the word out about a business that is giving women freedom, dignity, and hope for tomorrow. The jewelry, scarves and bags they make are beautiful

The idea is this: the more product a business like Beauty For Ashes can sell, the more women can be rescued. That's where Trade for Freedom comes in. Trade for Freedom was born of the desire to make it easier for folks like me and you to have an impact by having access to products ethically manufactured. All Trade for Freedom purchases ensure dignifying employment and Christian discipleship is provided to women and men who have endured extremely difficult circumstances.  Profits are invested in social businesses committed to freedom worldwide.

I started working for Trade for Freedom on their start-up campaign in the summer and I have to say, it's been humbling for me personally to be part of this work. When I quit my photography business, I had no idea how God was going to use my creativity. I am so thankful for the opportunity to design, photograph, and promote with Trade for Freedom

Our first effort was to sell a beautiful little girl's dress made by Fre3 in Nepal. We met our goal and sold 150 dresses and the business was able to hire 2 new women. It is so exciting to know 2 women have the chance to live safe and beautiful lives. Also, the profits from the Christmas dress sales contributed to sponsoring a Daughter Project which teaches Nepali girls about building character, protecting themselves and others from trafficking or abuse, in addition to helping them prepare for their future.

The next project is for a subscription to jewelry handmade in Nepal by Beauty for Ashes. Trade for Freedom is offering an amazing opportunity to receive jewelry each month (6 or 12 months or the whole collection at once) and get the gift that keeps on giving. I have a few of the pieces and they are stunning! I can't wait to see the entire collection, but I will have to live in anticipation like everyone else. This is going to be a fun year! 

The subscription is affordable. At only $15 a month ($99 for 6 months or $199 for 12 months), the pieces reflect Nepali beauty and are current with Western fashion. They are custom designed and handcrafted by gifted women. I received an anthropology catolog and was wooed by similar jewelry for over $75 each piece; a necklace like the one pictured on the left was $150! I couldn't believe it! The jewelry featured in the Trade for Freedom collection is every bit as lovely and I will wear it proudly (and give as gifts too), knowing I made a tiny difference in the lives of women in Nepal. 

Beauty for Ashes Nepal is working every day to set women free from sex trafficking and to provide safety to those who are at-risk for becoming a statistic.  When you live in a country that ranks fifth in the world for the population entrapped in sex trafficking per capita, someone needs to provide hope.

This Christmas, Trade for Freedom is partnering with Beauty for Ashes Nepal to help be that hope. They are crafting an exclusive jewelry line and working themselves into a future that has light and life.

Will you join with us?

Will you join with us to gift freedom?

One hundred jewelry subscriptions sold means 5 new women will be employed and become discipled next year. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Free Chalkboard Nameplate Printable

I made some chalkboard nameplates for above the kids' coat hooks. I designed them in photoshop using a few free resources. Here is a blank nameplate for your personalizing pleasure:

Download the nameplate I created here.

I liked it so much, I used the same basic design for a new blog header. 

To make your own, download the original above, open it in a word processing program (I use Photoshop Elements) and add a text box on top and add whatever words or names you want. I made 4 of these with my kids names. 

The original contains freebies from the following:

Frame link here (it is actually a font with a whole bunch of cool frames).
Paper background link here (awesome blog with lots of freebies).

This is one of the nameplates I created for my oldest daughter:

I printed these out on cardstock and then laminated.

I have been working on our back entry-way, spiffing it up and making it more practical. Coming and going with 6 people and all their winter-wear and footwear is a logistical hazard. I try to keep our "stuff" to a minimum, but wow, it gets messy fast.

Realizing that this messy area, along with running late, is one of my mad-mama triggers, I knew I really needed to make some changes so we could keep it picked-up easily. Getting rid of a bunch of stuff helped. Adding more hooks was also a nice addition. The light in that area was really dim, so I had the handyman install a new, bright light. We also got a new door so that it could close easily and quietly without repeated slamming (may have contributed to my frustration just a touch). Then I painted the walls from mint green to lovely grayish/beigeish -- wall color may not be a mood effecter for some, but it is for me. 

Love this new peaceful color. Love.

Here is a before of the mint medley mudroom... Mmmmm....

This is just a regular chalkboard that I got at a garage sale and I used this technique to write the verse.

I'm pretty happy with how my chalkboard nameplates turned out. I hope you are inspired to combine form and function in your home as well!


Friday, January 17, 2014

"If.... Then" Chart for Moms

shared before about my struggles to keep my temper under control and not yell at my kids... that was back in 2010. I never realized I had this particular problem until my first child started testing me and then my second, third and fourth child confirmed it.... thanks kids for helping me see I'm not perfect (delusion was bliss). I made changes and saw some success, so awhile later I gave an update on what my imperfect progress looked like.

Now, 3 and a half years later, do I still struggle? I wish I could say, "I've completely kicked the bad habit and NEVER grow frustrated and yell at my kids!" That would be outlandishly untrue. I fail often. Unfortunately, my children haven't been gracious and given me a free pass with nothing for me to find wildly irritating and anger inciting. It is actually a daily battle to simmer down, take a breath, find peace, and respond in kind. I've see victories in the last 4 years since I read "She's Gonna Blow: real help for mom's dealing with anger." I've seen progress, by the grace of God, although there are still many times that make me so angry I can't see straight.

As I struggle and pray, God has put people in my life to encourage and guide me. I so appreciate those who "get" me, but won't allow my excuses. Sure it is hard. Get over it and change with God's help. Always with God's help.

It was through a friend that I was reminded about If/Then charts. I've often heard of If/Then behavioral charts for kids. I saw one that had an unacceptable action (i.e lying), how the child would be disciplined (loss of a privilage), and then a Bible verse (Psalms 119:163 "I hate and abhor lying: but your law do I love"). It is a good way to be consistent and provide clarity if perhaps the situation is too stressful to think straight (I know what that is like). I was always going to make one for my kids, but when I realized I first needed to get a handle on my own behavior, I set out to make one for myself.

As I gave some honest, prayerful thought on this subject, I realized that it is the same things I am getting mad about... over and over again. The kids aren't pulling new tricks, I'm just responding the same way (when I respond badly) to variations of the same frustrating scenarios.

I will share my chart here, it might come in handy for others. Feel free to click on it and make it larger so you can print it. You could also use the idea and make a customized chart.

I've used the chart for about 2 months now. It is on my fridge in plain sight. For me, all my anger inciting scenarios really fit into these categories. Just knowing what the source of the problem is has been immensely helpful (I've since cleaned up the shoes, installed new hooks for coats by the back door, and purged a bunch of winter wear to make #1 and #3 less of an issue). Meditating on the verses and prayerfully asking God for help is key.

How I do not want the above picture to describe me. Can I find real, lasting change? I don't need to be Mary Poppins. I just need to be the person God created me to be... perfection? No. Having a better reaction next time (and there will be a next time)? Yes.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

"Not Just ANY Green Englishman" by Glenn Skeldon, book review

"Not Just ANY Green Englishman" is written by Glenn Skeldon, who happens to be the father of a dear friend of mine. I was curious to see how his book turned out and I started the book thinking I was being kind. Instead, my interest was peaked on the first page! I got to know Fred and the other characters who color this book and  I was pleasantly entertained, page after page.

I first met the author when I visited my friend's family home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on a break from college in the Fall of 1998. I remember Amanda showing me the house and peaking in a crowded office and she told me that it was where her dad worked on his book, a biography of his grandfather. My own self-involvement kept me from asking anything about this herculean project. I wish I got his first-hand accounts then, it would have made the story even richer.

My disinterest as an 18 year old has changed over the years. Living a convenient life with modern technology makes me marvel at those who settled North America and raised families with huge hardships. I deeply admire the folks who came before us and tamed the wild unknowns with just a dream and prayer. Although I am not Canadian, my great grandmother's family homesteaded in Saskatchewan. She left when she was a child, but had not-too-fond memories of that difficult time. When I told her I was going to college in Saskatchewan, she said, "Why would you DO that?"

My family history made me fascinated with the stories in "Not Just ANY Green Englishman." How did Fred end up in the middle of the Canadian Prairies? How does someone who knows nothing about farming begin a homestead in such a challenging place? How do you raise 14 kids during the Great Depressions? I was intrigued thanks to Glenn's witty writing style. Glenn has a way of telling about calamity in a humorous way that makes one feel amused and also identify with the character. This book is rich with stories and description that had me laughing out loud at times and in tears at other times.

Story after funny story reminded me of episodes in a wholesome show like Leave it to Beaver... only much colder. My favorites were when young Fred got caught skinny dipping by the neighborhood policeman; or when Fred and his brother hunkered down in their root cellar to get out of the blizzard creeping in to their little shack only to be frightened by an unknown, beady-eyed rodent; or when Fred's nightdress froze to the wall of his bedroom in the night; or a chimney obstruction cleared by a hand grenade. Glenn brought the stories to life and I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the life my great grandmother undoubtably remembered from her childhood in the Prairies.

I know from my contact with the family that "Not Just ANY Green Englishman" started as a labor of love. Even back in 1998, Glenn was steadfastly working on this book. Collecting stories, writing them out, and then combining them into a 400+ page book isn't an easy process. Honestly, even if the book was a disaster, it would be an effort worth admiring. I am not writing this review as a favor or out of obligation. On the contrary, Glenn's first book is a superb read. One would assume the author has written many books as his vocation. He is a very talented writer, who kept me intrigued until the end (the short description of the family members at the end and all the pictures are so interesting!).

The second book Glenn alludes to in the author's description is perhaps made in jest ("Adventures Of The Ex-Lax Kid—And Other Moving Stories"), but I sincerely hope he continues to write! Consider reading "Not Just ANY Green Englishman", I loved every word and you will too.


"Not Just ANY Green Englishman" can be purchased at Or you can get in line  to borrow my copy. :)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Trim Healthy Mama (a year in review)

This post isn't about this years goals or resolutions, it is about last years. Last year I made a quiet resolve to lose the last 25 pounds of the 50 I gained during Tommy's pregnancy. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to get rid of that weight and live healthy along the way.

I knew a thing or two about weight loss since it has been at the forefront of my life for the last 9 years. With 4 babies under my belt, returning to a slim shape was and is priority. After I had Emmaleigh, I waited expectantly for the weight to just "fall off." I heard that breastfeeding is supposed to burn the fat like crazy and I didn't think I would have to work for the weight loss. I grew up hearing stories of how my mom was skinnier AFTER she had the baby than before she got married. I hoped for her genes. But when my baby was 6 month old and I still had 30 pounds to lose, I was discouraged.

Thus began the dreaded life of dieting. My main approach was move more, eat less. It worked really well for me when I actually moved more and ate less, like A LOT of cardio and a very reduced calorie diet (1,400 calories was my normal weight loss zone). When I didn't exert myself 100% or had a few off-the-wagon kind of days, my weight would go up. So I would have a lot of "lose 2 pounds, gain back 1" months. It was discouraging and it took me 18 months to finally lose the weight after baby #1.

Thankfully I could maintain my weightloss between pregnancies by staying active and eating wisely, but the same cycle continued after trying to lose weight after baby #2, #3, and #4. Gaining about 50 pounds per pregnancy came on quickly, but came off ridiculously slow. I felt like I was chiseling each and every pound off. I was so deprived and hungry. Also, reducing calories in my "eat less" approach made my milk supply plumit. Every. Single. Time.

So that led me to baby #4 and those pesky 25 extra pounds, size 14 pants and a very desperate view of myself. I was really uncomfortable in my skin, I hated looking in the mirror and avoided the camera (the "before" pictures below in the meadow were taken on a fieldtrip with fellow photographers and I wasn't happy about how I looked). I was discouraged, but determined I wouldn't live my whole life hating my body.

I knew if I jumped into the cardio route and reduced my calories, I could lose the weight slowly but surely, but I would essentially be giving up on nursing. Maybe not such a bad idea for any of my other babies who loved bottle feeding and easily weaned. But Tommy wouldn't even be in the same room with a bottle, a picky little guy. He had severe milk allergies so I would have to give him soy formula and that is a whole other argument for another day.

The perfect timing for my next adventure in weight loss was when a friend introduced me to Trim Healthy Mama right before Christmas 2012. This friend was breastfeeding her baby and I knew she had constant milk supply issues in the past and she told me, "This plan will actually INCREASE your supply while you lose weight. Oh, and balance your hormones so you feel human, and you'll be able to feed your whole family without suffering yourself."

Her recommendation was enough for me, I got the book online. I devoured its 640 pages and everything the authors said clicked with me. They took science, explained it in a way I could understand, gave credit to the Creator, and also gave practical advice on how to actually make it work for the whole family.

The authors are sisters and come at the topic of nutrition in a refreshing way. They are smart and sassy and make healthy living seem easy. They even disagree about some stuff, like about packaged convenience foods, fast food, and Earth Milk (a controversial -- because it isn't very tasty -- recipe). I found their perspectives and banter very refreshing! Most thing I've read about diet in the past said, "Do it exactly like this or it won't work." These ladies,  Pearl and Serene, give multiple ways to make the plan fit my normal life.

And you know what? It really did fit my life. I started January 1, 2013 and lost 5 pounds in the first week doing the Fuel Cycle (that they don't recommend starting until at least week 3). My body had some rough symptoms getting off sugar so close to the holidays, but tiredness, headaches, and some strange sweating were bearable as I saw the numbers on the scale moving DOWN for the first time in months (I was 8 months post pregnancy at this point). Amazingly, my milk supply never dropped  and I was able to completely avoid dairy to keep Tommy happy. After the first week, my energy level went up and the strange symptoms disappeared. My body loves living without refined white sugar.

Losing so much in the first week was absolutely motivating. I continued to lose about 1-2 pounds a week. My goal of losing a total of 25 pounds by April 16th, Tommy's first birthday, was actually feeling attainable. I did it, and honestly, it was the easiest weight I've ever lost. I added up how much weight I've gained during pregnancies and lost in total and it is 180 pounds! I've calorie counted, followed Weight Watchers, tried many exercise routes, and all left me tired and defeated if I didn't do it perfectly. Trim Healthy Mama is a sustainable lifestyle that I am still following and loving a year later. How I wish THM was around 9 years ago! I know I would not have gained so much weight and I could have easily gone back to my healthy body after pregnancies instead of the constant weight loss fight I experienced.

                         August 2012 (before)                           August 2013 (after with my wonderful husband)
                         Photo credits: Jill VanWell

When people ask me what this diet is about, I think a simple summery is that the authors of the Trim Healthy Mama book have figured out how food as fuel effects the body. By educating myself on how my body is using this fuel, I made pretty easy changes at each meal to make them fit the THM recommendations. I wasn't ever hungry, I ate dessert, I enjoyed my food, I never counted calories or any other gram of anything, I learned a ton, and best ever, I lost the weight.

It has been a year since I started THM and I am happily maintaining a healthy weight since mid April of 2013. Many probably want to know what exactly that weight is, but throwing out numbers tends to confuse instead of encourage. I'm tall, my weight doesn't look the same on someone else. That's okay. We're all on a journey to take the best care of our bodies that we can. With THM, I feel like I finally have the knowledge to do just that.

(before)                                                                        (after)


Monday, November 18, 2013

FREE Oh Holy Night Quote Download

I've never done this, but I am going to try to share a file with you that I created. :)

I often design things with Photoshop and use them personally, most the time I don't end up doing anything with them... but it is a huge de-stresser for me. What if someone else could use it too? My hard work could actually be useful!

This is inspired by a quote I saw on Pinterest... my favorite Christmas song. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, maybe a wall hanging with some pallets! I'll let you know.

Find the link for download here.

And here is the chalkboard version:

Find the link for download here.

 Let me know in a comment if you end up using the quote and where your inspiration led.


* My design is loosely based on this original.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Making Use of What I Have: homeschool room

One thing I've been working on lately is making use of what I have. Not wishing for more and pining (or Pinterest-ing) over dreams. From fashion, decor, crafts, recipes, Pinterest is a goldmine of beauty. I want, I want, I want. It is a waste of time and contentedness to long for more since I'm not building a custom dream home, or hiring a nanny so I can go shopping, or able to eat desserts every day and not gain weight.

Contentedness is living with gratitude for what I have.

So when I keep seeing gigantic, perfectly organized school rooms, I think, "I want one of those." And again I say, "Contentedness is gratitude for what I have!" It's just that my school room/home office/craft paradise looks like this:

Let's see what we have going on in here:

  • Bill paying center
  • Brains of a home office for 3 businesses
  • Homeschool curriculum storage
  • Card making stuff
  • Sewing center including necessary mending and "just for fun" projects
  • Storage for 8 throw pillow that I got for incredible deals
  • Piano book storage
  • Scrapbooking central (a hobby I haven't touched in 5 years)
  • Storage for a bunch of sentimental items I don't know what to do with
  • 14 piles of crap
  • 114 unfinished craft projects

Yes, you get the idea and probably want to go hide and cry like I do. There is nothing really functional about this space... like nothing. There is just too much clutter to get anything practical done.

I kinda ignored this space, closed the door, peaked in occasionally, cried and closed the door again, did a little computer work that was absolutely necessary, paid bills, sewed a little, for oh, the last 2 years. Then I saw a post on a FB group I belong to (Homeschool Momtogs). It went something like this:

Pottery Barn does the homeschool room
"Do you have a separate area for homeschool? The past two years at our old house we had no room for a special area, now that we've moved I finally have a spot. Looking at ideas on pinterest. "

I saw the post and thought, "Ya right, I wish I could have a school room." No sooner did the thought pass through my head than I remembered, yep, I actually have a room, but I am squandering it with clutter and mis-use.

When someone I've never met commented and said she just finished her school room. Stephanie included a link to the happy place, I drooled.

This is Stephanie's space:
homeschool room

The super wide angle lens makes this room look incredibly large, right? I actually asked her in a comment how big the room was because I was still thinking I COULD NEVER HAVE A ROOM LIKE THIS! It is only 13x10' feet. My squandered space is 10'3"x 9'6", smaller, but not by much.

My real-life dream is to rework the space and make it functional for

a) 2 grade school students + 2 trouble making preschoolers

b) 1 teacher

c) 3 home businesses

d) craft paradise

While I ponder, purge, organize, rearrange, sell, gift, and move EVERYTHING in the room, I'm looking for ideas. Pinterest has some great ones. My homeschool room board.

Some ideas I hope to incorperate:

Little kid desk like this.

Doing this with a globe.

Shelves something like this.

Love these colors.

Curtains similar to these.

Long functional desk maybe that wraps around the corner like this in Oak.

Organization like this.

It's a tall order, but doable I think. May the fun begin!!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Year Accomplished

There was a link to a parenting article floating around last year about dealing with the worst moments with your children. The author talked about how no one could truly enjoy the real hard stuff *in the midst* with small kids (i.e. tantrums in the supermarket line, poop explosions in the clean crib, siblings who fight constantly, vomit in the car... you get the idea). There was talk of smacking well-meaning older folks who say, "Enjoy this, it goes by so fast." How could anyone really enjoy this? The summery was that the success in parenting was often found in looking back and saying, "I made it through."

Initially I read the article and agreed. Horrible, messy, smelly, incidents springing to mind. Ya, no fun! Most days with my crazy brood feels like completing a marathon (which I haven't actually done, but feel like I do every day) and collapsing at the finish line, "I MADE IT!" Not actually relishing the journey, but who cares!

Obviously a lot of other people agreed with the whitty summery because the link was shared by about 90 of my mom friends. I'm not leaving the link because 1), I can't remember the author or title, 2) I don't want to give more publicity to the thinking that we have to simply endure the young years with our little ones.

When I had Tommy last year, the first few weeks were spent barely surviving. I kept thinking, I've got to make it through the first few months then it will be better, then I can enjoy him. He was the hardest baby I've ever dealt with. I know there are harder challenges out there (special needs especially), but for me, he was a whopper of a big deal. Sleep deprived, tested to the limit with other kids, long days and even longer nights, I'm guilty of expressing the "just survive" mentality.

My biggest fear as I walked the floor with Tommy is that my survival-mode would rob me of memories. I wouldn't remember the beauty of my precious fourth child's first days, weeks, and months. Let alone remember the other 3 as they said funny things, warmed me with hugs, grew, changed, and developed into bigger kids. They needed a mom who was actively embracing life.

I can't pinpoint when or how, but lit by the glow of my Bible app on my iPad, it slowly started to seep into my consciousness that God wants to give us more than just survival. He promises in the Bible that he will give enough of everything to live a full life, not just a get-through-it, existing life.

I wrote "More Than Enough" for Drops during the first few months of being a mommy of 4. I believed it and tried to live it. I desperately clung to God's promise in Phillippians 4:19: "my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." It was at my most depleted state that I saw his riches, I felt them in my bones.

My God is abundant and through the last year, I've seen so many gifts. I tell ya, there were even gifts in the times some would say were impossible to enjoy. Laundry that doesn't stop? Beautiful people who wore clothes and a washing machine to clean them. Baby who won't stop crying? Arms to hold him, strength to feed him (I breastfed for 13 months! 3-6 months longer than all the others), advice from understanding friends, internet research to aid my wisdom (or lack there of). A husband who is works nearly all the time? Precious Sundays off where we soaked up togetherness instead of lamenting time apart. Siblings fighting? An excellent opportunity to talk about love again and again and kindness and memorize beautiful Scriptures.

According to that article that sizzled with alluring justifications, it is impossible and completely ridiculous to see blessings when mostly all is awful. To turn mundane into blessings? That's not the point of life, the author stated -- enjoy the good when things are good and take the bad for what it is and "get through" was the advice.

The Bible's wisdom says it differently, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Living as someone whose God has overcome the world is different. It allows us to find peace in the midst of trouble. It also allows us to believe the wisdom of older folks who say, "Enjoy this, it goes by so fast."

So instead of bemoaning this little guy's long list of troubles, I am praising God for our triumphs. I met God in a new way because of Tommy. Maybe if he was easy-peasy I would have thought it was by my own strengths and skills that I managed a houseful. Thankfully Tommy boy crushed that idea.

His midnight crying jaunts humbled me and brought me to my knees. As I breathed in the scent of baby Tommy I cried to my Father in Heaven, "Let me remember this, don't let me forget his beauty." And I blessedly remember, God gave me more than just those sweet memories of forever nights and crowded days, I also remember the scent of God's goodness whispering through my heart and unlocking the fullness of life.

It's not all rosy, and I guess that's the point. The difficulties give us the challenge of finding the good, the great, AND the extraordinary.

Our Tommy is the diamond in the rough with food allergies that have me catering to his every whim and contemplating a catering company named after the boy (a lot of farm-fresh eggs and absolutely no dairy). The "rough" is the quirks in his physical body that I'm still figuring out, and the "diamond" is a smile and disposition that will stun you with magnificent joy.

Tommy is a charmer, crowd pleaser, clown of a toddler who will do anything for a laugh. The other night at dinner he was putting spaghetti noodles on his head and dancing in his seat while he giggled, his eyes searching out the crowd (his hysterically laughing siblings) to make sure he was getting a reaction! Of course he was, we were all in stitches. And this boy is only 1 year old :). I can't wait to see how his generous personality unfolds.

Happy birthday to our sweet and special Tommy. My heart grew with this special gift, God is so good.

Here's a video I put together of some of Tommy's first steps:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Once Upon A Dressing Room

I'm not the type to make friends with strangers. My lifelong friends have all appeared in my life in more of a natural way... at college, at camp, at church, as part of a moms group. All at the same stage in life in a group that facilitated our meeting.

A little chit-chat with strangers? Sure. Small talk and "have a nice day," is easy enough. But I never expected to meet a kindred spirit because of a short conversation in a swimming pool dressing room.

It never would have happened at all if my girls didn't have a problem staring at naked people. To be honest, they stare at anybody, clothes or no, it is just that naked makes for even more interesting viewing. We were getting out of the pool and I was trying to get them dry and ready to go when 2 cute girls and their cute mom came into the women's dressing room.  They were getting ready to swim. The girls had beautiful matching pink and purple suits and my girls couldn't take their eyes off them.

Our conversation went something like this, "Girls, don't stare, it's not polite. Yes, there swimming suits are so pretty." My little girls continued to stare and the other little girls stared right back. So it was only natural that the other mom and I talked about children's swimwear and few other trivial details.

As we were leaving to go on to the next activity and they were going in to swim, I said to Other Mom (I didn't know her name yet), "It would have been fun to go swimming at the same time, looks like our girls could be good playmates." And she replied, "We'll be swimming tomorrow about 10:30, if you want to come then."

And so it we did. We met up and swam at the same time the next day, us moms chatting at the edge of the pool while the kids played for an hour. We had a lot in common and had easy conversation over the noisy pool theatrics. Her two girls and son and my two girls and Rem are similar in ages.

I felt like I was taking a monumental step when I asked for her name so I could find her on facebook. Introverts make a BIG deal about such things (mentally of course). Little did I know that I would take "monumental" to a new level when I later asked these stranger friends to stay at our house for the night, but that's for later in the story.

Come to find out, neither of us are the "make friends with strangers" type of people. Both our husbands were shocked. "What, you made friends with someone in the dressing room, that's not like you"?!!?! That's what her husband said. And mine was also intrigued. Two introverts building a lifelong friendship with one, hour long conversation (not to mention the half-clothed part)? Impossible. Our husbands and sons had also been in the men's dressing room at the same time, but held to social protocol and didn't strike up a conversation.

When we got home, we found each other online and the girls sent letters to each other via real mail. They've exchanged 3 letter back and forth in the last 2 months. Mandy asked when we could have her friends over. Oh man, it's not that easy. Their family is from beautiful British Columbia (that's in Canada, eh).

Rem and his new friend
Well an opportunity arose where we could have their whole family over. They were at Disney Land for a family vacation and were passing through on Monday. They planned on staying at a hotel in a nearby city, but why settle for 4 stars, when you could sleep in our basement playroom and share a bathroom with 11 people? Exactly.

Mandy and Kristin

It was really fun (and I'm not just saying that because she has found my blog). Our families clicked, conversation was easy, their children delightful, and all were gracious guests. We found we have TONS in common, including religious beliefs, parenting methods, similar hobbies, and a love for portable video devices to entertain children for long car rides.

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This whole experience makes me think of this verse: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:8. This verse was refering to actual divine beings, but I think we were blessed in a divine way by genuine, kind people.

Whether coincidence or providence, I'm thankful for our chance, awkward meeting in the dressing room. You never know where a "hello, sorry my kids are staring at you" will lead. We're already plotting a BC excursion to visit our no-longer-stranger friends. God is good and knows what we need (although I would beg to differ with this family's 7+ hour driving distance away, next door would be better).


Friday, March 08, 2013

Better Off Desk

I was searching for a small desk for Mandy. It HAD to have drawers. Emma's desk has drawers and so Mandy needed drawers. I took pity on her little-sister woes (I'm a little sister myself).

Finding a small desk (with drawers) for a small price didn't seem like a tall order.

I kept my eye out all summer at our frequent garage sale adventures, but no luck.
HEMNES Desk IKEA Cable shelf under the table top keeps power strips and cables out of sight and the work surface clear.
I was looking for something like the desk above (it's $300 from ikea).

I didn't mind a fixer-upper and my budget was under $20.

I found several that fit the bill for $40 at a consignment shop, but they would still need paint. I knew we could do better and we finally found the gem in this beauty.....

I truly wish I had a picture of my husband's face when he saw it.

He said, "You paid money for that?"

I did actually, I paid $7.50 at a local thrift store. The guy taking my money looked a little guilty about the price so I was able to talk him down from $10.

It's solid and perfectly functional, so it just needed a little TLC. The contact paper came off pretty easy and then I sanded, primed and painted. And some paint that I found on the "oops" shelf for $3.

And look, it's a drawer (x4)!

Mandy is happy and only had to ask about her desk for roughly 8 months.

The drawers are currently full of paper and craft supplies, she's quite the little busy worker.