Friday, January 31, 2014

A Girl and Her Haircut

She's been begging for a chop for awhile now. I was skeptical but am a believer in their hair-their choice (except for my 3-year-old's desire to dye her hair pink). It turned out even cuter than I expected...big props to my friend Heather who's an artist with scissors.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Girl and Her Pony

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cleaning Up My Coffee

I've written many times about how we've spent the past couple of years cleaning up our food. Whole foods in- chemicals out. For us this has been egged on by food allergies and just a simple growing awareness of what we put in our mouths.

But I held hard and fast to one thing...what went into this little cup each morning:
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I take my coffee prep seriously. Very, very seriously. While my hubby has gotten himself to the point that he's content sipping on a quality black coffee, I was still pouring creamers with ingredients I couldn't pronounce and a healthy *cough* dose of aerosol whipped cream on top. A couple of my health-nut girlfriends teased me that while I was so worried about everything else we ate, I turned a blind eye to my daily intake of coffee additives.

I ignore it and them.

I think there's that one food in everyone's life where you feel like Gandalf on the bridge...
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After a couple of years of intentionally not reading the ingredients, I caved and decided it was time to do something. Maybe it was the fact that I finally let the alarm bells go off in my head that my dairy creamer could last for about 2 months in my fridge before going bad. The stuff must have been practically embalmed.

Now don't get me wrong. I haven't turned into such a health snob that I won't touch that stuff when I'm a guest somewhere, the issue is that I was consuming it usually twice a day in my own home.

Then with some recent health issues, I've had to pull sugar almost totally out of my diet. The coffee plot thickened.

So I did some experimenting. Some suggested Stevia- I couldn't bring myself to get over the aftertaste. One girlfriend puts straight maple syrup in her coffee- that didn't work for me. One guy I know uses honey- a little piece of my coffee-diva died.

I'll spare you any more details, but I finally found that little happy place of whole food coffee heaven. It's simple really- organic heavy cream and pure maple syrup are the only two ingredients. Both are whole foods, and real maple syrup is a natural sugar that your body can process easily while having health benefits to boot.

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To make a batch of my "coffee happy place", I add:

  • 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup organic heavy cream

This is totally subjective to your palette and how sweet you like it. You can also add a touch of vanilla or peppermint extract if you want to flavor it.

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I whip it up with my hand mixer until it reaches that beautiful whipped cream consistency, able to make a little peak if lifted.
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Then I add about 2 tablespoons of it to my cup of Joe to make this gorgeousness:
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I take the rest and freeze in an ice cube tray. Then I can just pull out two cubes and pop it in my coffee in the morning.
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Now my coffee is clean and delicious and wonderful and I may run away with it someday.
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And all is well in war and peace.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Book Collage

I have already blogged a how-to on one of my favorite decorating displays- wall collages. But for our family room, I had a more unexpected wall collage in mind. I think books are a decorating staple, so a book collage seemed like just the ticket.

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Since I was actually planning to put nails through the books, I didn't want to use any beloved pieces from our personal library. So the first thing I needed was a stack of books I didn't really care about. Like most of the projects in my home I wanted it to cost very little so I started months ahead looking out for aesthetically pleasing books that were cast-offs to someone else. I raided my kid's school co-op's free pile and a local second-hand bookstore's free bin. I think the most I paid for one of the books was 50 cents at a yard sale.

Some of the books were old and absolutely perfect. But the for the newer ones that I wanted to age, I used a tea staining method you can read about here.

When I finally had enough books, I gathered a few other special pieces for the collage. For mine, I used a fabulously eclectic picture of Steven's great grandmother, a sweet photo of my grandfather as a toddler, a decorative spoon bearing the name of my father's birthplace, an antique wooden sign I picked up in Oregon, and some old water-spigot handles for a random touch.

Now the only tools I need were:
  • measuring tape
  • level
  • hammer
  • nails
  • photo mounting adhesive (or some other sort of dry adhesive)

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To plan it properly I laid it out on floor to figure out the collage dimensions I wanted. Because I could hold the books in place and literally nail through them, I ditched my usual method for collages. Instead I laid the pieces out on the floor until I decided upon an aesthetically pleasing design, and then simply used a level and measuring tape to figure out where to place the first book. I opened the book in the middle leaving two pages sticking up. Then I began to nail in all four corner approximately 1/2" from the page corners. It is important to leave those two center pages untouched for now since they are going to be what you will use to hide the nails.
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Then I took my dry adhesive making a strip on the outer edge of the nailed pages.
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Once the dry adhesive is on the nailed pages, then simply smoothly those two pages you left in the center onto either side so that they adhere to the nailed pages. Doing this will hide any evidence of how on earth you got those books to stay on the wall like that!
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I made sure to mix sizes and intersperse the other items in a way that didn't look too perfect. Isn't that photo of Steven's great grandma just the neatest thing!?
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Dressing it up for Christmas was as easy as sticking a little wreath on one of the big books. It's now one of my favorite spots in the house.
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The fun of decorating is thinking outside the box...or the bookshelf.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another Pair of Eyes

I've posted my annual "Favorite Photos" contest over on my photography blog. So I'm soliciting your eyes. If you love photography and giving your opinion, head over there to play the judge for a minute. (Clicking on the photo will send you on your way.)

Happy Tuesday, y'all.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I'm Not Here to Write Their Story

I fell into bed completely exhausted from a typical full day. Steven was still brushing his teeth. As I was dozing off, I remember asking him one last question:

"Am I a bad mom?"

The next morning I woke up and thought back to my last words as I fell asleep. I began to consider how often this question is the topic on my brain as I put my head on my pillow.

I rarely ponder if I'm a bad friend, even a bad wife. But somehow when Isaiah arrived into my life nearly 12 years ago, this is the question I wrestle with the most. I know I'm not unique. I would venture to say that most mothers reading this are nodding their heads in agreement.

There is just so much darn pressure. Parenting magazines made me ask if I spent enough time on the floor with my toddler. Blogs made me question if I am stimulating my children's artistic abilities or even presenting their food creatively enough (sorry, peeps, but my kid's sandwich will forever take the shape of a box). In our sane moments, moms realize that their way to much expectation put on motherhood; but the thoughts still nag at the back of our brains.

But it doesn't stop there.

Then there is the world of Christian parenting. This opens a whole new can of parenting worms in my heart. Why isn't my kid obeying me instantly like that parenting book tells me I need to teach them to do? I don't remember any resources touching on what to do when your one son punches the this that normal behavior? Am I doing something wrong? Am I ruining them? What if I never see my child become a Christian? Will they be in therapy in the future because I yelled at them today? What if I have to parent through intense rebellion as a teenager?

What's wrong with every single question I just asked myself? It's all about me. My control, my fears, my image.

Elyse Fitzpatrick said something that hit me hard: "We were never meant to carry the ultimate responsibility for anyone's soul: neither our own nor our children's. Only the Good Shepherd is strong enough to carry a soul- that's his job, not ours. And although this kind of committed parenting appears godly, it is nothing less than works righteousness and idolatry."

I actually started to breathe easier the first time I heard this. I felt like I had been carrying around an unbelievably heavy load, and the Lord was whispering, "That's mine."

I was meant to nurture, love, and preach the gospel to my kids. But it stops there. I was never meant to carry the burden of redeeming their souls.

I think back on my life. Even though I am in the middle of my journey, I can still see the way God has and is writing my story. Do I want that for my children? Do I want to let God write their story or do I want to write it? Who am I to say that a perfectly trained child and a young conversion is the story they should have?

So what can I do? In my brain, I've whittled it down to a few major responsibilities I have. Here are four major ones:

1. I can let them know they have a problem....and a solution
I often tell my kids that the kindest thing I can do for them is help them see that they are slaves to their own sin, and that someone is going to have pay the punishment for sinning against a Holy God. Then I can help them see the mind-blowing truth that God sent His Son take that punishment for them. I can do my make the gospel exciting and attractive. BUT it ends there. I cannot convert them and should not pressure them into conversion but allow the beautiful Savior to woo them to Himself.

2. I can let them know I'm ready to walk with them through the muck.
Let me give an example to this: Steven and I talked to the boys in honest terms about pornography. My gut instinct would be to simply tell them "don't you dare!", but that would just be opening the door to secret sin and shame. Instead we when we discussed it, though we did talk about the dangerous trap that it is, our emphasis was letting us walk with them through these waters. We told them that they are welcome to freely share what they've seen with no angry parent response. We promised them that we would do our best to walk through their temptations with them. Sin is most poisonous when it is in the dark. Are we will to help them walk in the light by being willing to get down in the dirty waters with them instead of simply standing a those waters edge and shouting at them to get out?

3. I can let them know they can't lose my love.
No matter what stage I have been at in my life, my parent's home has always been a safe haven. I know I will encounter love and acceptance. There were times they didn't accept my attitude or my choices, but I knew they accepted me and the fact that I was part of the family God knit together in their home. I want that for my kids. I want home to be safe, a place to be honest without fear of rejection.

4. I can pray. And then pray some more.
I need to really let that sink in. I have access to the God who has the king's heart as a stream of water in His hands. That is no light thing. Don't underestimate getting on your knees beside your bed and pouring your heart for your kids out to your own Father.

So I'm asking God to position my heart to take a backseat to His story writing. Will His version include a young person impassioned for eternity or will it include a teenage pregnancy? I'm praying that He gives me the grace to mother lovingly regardless, but I have to tell you it feels freeing not to be weighed down with having to figure it out myself.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Obligatory Snow Pictures

When it snows in Virginia, you're supposed to act like it's a really big deal and post pictures.

So here you go.

You're welcome.

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Making snowmen with Auntie...
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Instead of snowmen, this mommy plays with iPhones and her own breath...
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And you're even more welcome for not posting a thermometer photo.

Stay warm, y'all.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Cry

The Good-

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And this...
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We got to spend time with both of our families, basking in loving support systems that make us feel rich as kings.

After the fullness of prepping for Christmas, there is nothing like soaking up time with family, nieces and nephews, and peaceful moments...
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In fact like all of the best times, it was so good that I hardly thought of picking up my camera. So there the photos end. Christmas break y'all.

The Bad:

I was at an excellent little coffee shop with some of my family, chatting and laughing and instagraming this photo...

When I saw on my iPhone some news that felt like a sucker-punch to the gut. Ethiopia, my beloved Ethiopia, was in the midst of discussion that included talk of shutting down international adoption. I felt like I could hardly breathe.

Part of me was overcome by the memories of the faces of all of the orphans I met on our trip in July. Memories of newborn babies being fed with a cup since they didn't have the manpower to take the time to give them a bottle. Thoughts of those little faces being deprived of forever families.

The other side of the coin was personal. Though I've never seen her face, I've fallen madly in love with our future adoptive daughter. In our home she is part of regular conversation, we pray for her daily, and are already noticing how she has affected our family for good. The thought of not bringing her home is excruciating for all of us. I found this amongst my 7 year old daughter's things after the news broke:
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The Ugly Cry:

In my younger days, one of my idiosyncrasies was that I despised letting people see me cry. If I was going to truly cry, I would lock myself in the bathroom since I couldn't even handle the thought of someone viewing my tears. But for the most part, I just avoided crying in its entirety.

Then I became a wife and parent. And some piece of my heart that I didn't even know existed cracked open.

Enter the ugly cry.

For me it seemed the deeper I loved, the deeper I could cry. And that was Friday night for me. Suddenly I felt like a pregnant woman who had been told she should spend the rest of her pregnancy with the very real possibility of losing her baby. Those heaving sobs somehow validated how thoroughly God had allowed my mother's heart to be opened to this little one who was to be my fifth child.

We don't know how this will all play out. We have been told this all may be political talk with no real threat behind it. We have been told it may not.

Right now God is giving us the strength to "bow [our] knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named." (Eph. 3:14-15)