Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Join Me For Coffee @ Groundswell

Ya'll know that I love chatting with friends over a warm drink. In fact, many times I have wished that there was a way to put faces to names. Since the very beginning of this blog I considered doing a local "meet up" but always thought...

"Will people think that is weird?" 

"What will we talk about?"

"Will there be awkward silence?"

"Would anyone come?"

Sometimes you just need a reason to do something that you have always wanted to do.

So I found a reason...let's talk about my new favorite thing, essential oils. It gives us something to talk about, a reason to leave the house and hangout with other ladies and ya'll their coffee bar is WAY better than mine. :-) 

join me for coffee @ Groundswell

I think you will find the class really helpful and I'll let you know some great ways that you can get started using the oils.

If you don't live in the Twin Cities, no worries. I have a surprise for you too coming soon. We may or may not have filmed a class so that you can learn about these crazy oils too. As far as meeting up and seeing if there are awkward silences, well...I'll be sharing more about some upcoming opportunities that involve getting together and talking about other topics that are near and dear to my heart. More on that soon!

RSVP - You don't need to sign up, (I know sometimes I never know what my final plans are until the date gets closer) however it would help me grab enough seats if you let me know that you might be coming. You can shoot me over an email at aninvitinghome@gmail.com and my little planner's heart will skip a beat. 

Let the countdown begin...I can't wait to meet YOU!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why I'm Celebrating My First "First Day of Kindergarten"

It seems unlikely that I've never sent a child to their first day of kindergarten given the fact that this fall we have one child going into 4th grade, one going into 3rd and TWO going into kindergarten. However, two and a half years ago our three oldest children came to live with us and school was in full swing. I was "initiated," so to speak, into what it's like to have kids in school without ever getting to start at the beginning. Kind of like jumping into a game that's already going without knowing all the rules...which led to some funny stories

Now we are gearing up for "back to school" and for the very first time we are sending not one but two children to kindergarten. Just making sure that they are all clothed, supplied and prepped for this experience has taken its toll. I've tried to make it a pleasant experience and yet my house is layered with school supplies and I only have a few hours to track down extra pillows and blankets to send along with these cute kindergarteners.

Can I be honest? Two and a half years ago when our family grew I saw this as a major milestone that was a "long way off." The thought of having our "twins" begin school seemed so far away that I wondered if we would all make it there alive!  :-)

Right before this picture was taken our family consisted of a one and almost three year old. At that point I thought parenting toddlers was a mystery. Did I have any clue what it would be like for two three year olds to become siblings? That is one giant, NO! That first year following our adoption was not only difficult but life transforming. I was determined to not just survive but to thrive! Sometimes thriving looked like everyone brushing their teeth that day or going 10 minutes without breaking up an argument instead of 5.

Now these two are off to kindergarten today. As in right now, this present moment, this is the DAY!

Ya'll...WE ARE GOING TO CELEBRATE! As in mom planned out a new recipe to cook tonight (something that hasn't happened in 2.5 years...I kid you not!) and there are treats in the freezer. 

I know that there will be tears as I get ready to walk them into school for the first time. I'm sure they will be fine...I will be the one crying! They couldn't be more excited about what is to come. 

Perhaps some of you find yourselves in the same boat this year. You are packing up your babies and sending them off into the great big world.

Here is why I think we should ALL celebrate!

1) We survived those crazy, middle of the night/how do I do this?/everything is new/I haven't slept in months infant years. I still remember typing the words "small, crusty flakes on infants head...cancer?" into google late one night. No one had ever mentioned the words "cradle cap" to me before.

2) Those terrible twos...you ROCKED them! So much so that you vaguely remember what took place during that crazy year. If you were like me, you sat your child down on the potty on their second birthday and declared TODAY IS THE DAY THAT YOU WILL BE POTTY TRAINED! Only to give up 1.2 days later when you decided that the whole when they are ready method sounded completely and utterly delightful.

3) Your darling made it to age 3 and you have taught them well, trained them in vast knowledge and truth. At this point they may be potty trained or they may not...you don't really care. Instead you run after your fearless little one where every interaction is a teachable moment. You've also discovered that while no longer having to buy diapers seemed like gaining an extra paycheck each month, you now feel slightly disappointed that your date nights still include red box and microwave popcorn due to the rising cost of pull-ups for the overnights.

4) Year 4...preschool! You get to take a shower again. Year 4.3...the lady at the grocery store tells you to enjoy every moment and you smile and nod and learn how to be polite in ALL circumstances. Year 4.5...you see an old picture on facebook of your little darlings and can't believe how quickly the time has gone. Year 4.7 you start brainstorming how you can freeze this moment in time and keep them little forever. Year 4.9 you start counting down the months until you launch them into the world. Year 4.95 you count down the weeks. Year 4.98 you count down the hours.

5) Then they are five and you can't believe how big they have gotten! You cry and cry and cry and feel like you started all the way back at the beginning again. Only this time you are stepping into new territory. You begin asking a whole new set of questions and experiencing a whole set of new unknowns. My only advice is to make sure you have the school's phone number on speed dial.

Let's celebrate! You SURVIVED, ROCKED, TAUGHT, ENJOYED and LAUNCHED a human being into this very moment! Embrace it with every single emotion that it brings. You have done well, dear momma...you have done WELL!

The BEST is yet to come!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shopping For Kids Shoes In Your Home

With five kids living in this house it means that at any moment one of them is bound to say, "mom, my shoes don't fit." Thankfully with hand-me-downs from siblings and bags of used clothes that we receive from friends we have been able to address the situation...most of the time. When I can't find a size that I'm looking for at home, I'll go to option B: swing by the thrift store. If that was unsuccessful then I move on to option C: Tar-jay.  

There was only one major problem with this system. Our hand me down shoes were in complete chaos. They were in bags and nooks and crannies throughout the house. After getting all the way to option C and bringing home full priced shoes for two of our crew I discovered that we already had the exact sizes we needed! The shoes were hidden in a bag out of sight. 

So one afternoon I tackled the problem and now have a solution to shop for kids shoes in our home ...without going crazy

My mission is to stay sane through my thirties!

shopping for kids shoes in your home

I've showed you our storage room before. Storage like this can be a blessing or a curse. It can become a well organized use of space or a catch all for everything that you don't know what to do with. In our case it is a mix.

organizing kids shoes

A while back I organized the toys in our family room. At the time I purchased some extra plastic bins from the Dollar Tree to have on hand for when the inevitable happened...the toy bins broke. Interestingly enough the bins have lasted and I haven't had to dig into the reserve. 

At some point we also decided to cut back on the number of toy bins that were in the family room. We were swimming in toys and I was determined that the kids could be more creative by finding sticks outside to play with. Plus there really is something to that whole rotating toys thing and kids staying interested. 

I've also been trying to remove items from our storage room that really aren't beneficial to hold on to. A little motivation to have a working shoe system (and save money by not buying shoes we already have) and suddenly I was clearing shelves and pulling down the pile of extra bins to create a system that left me breathing a breath of fresh air.

storing kids shoes in your home

I went for the quickest and easiest label making route. An index card, a sharpie, and good ol' scotch tape. Just like I did with storing our kids' clothing, I created labels that can easily be replaced as the kids grow.

using bins to store kids shoes

I also cleared off a shelf just for boots...a must have when living in Minnesota.

using bins to store kids shoes and boots

Now I can visually see exactly what sizes we have.

storing kids shoes

I'm pretty thrilled with the results. It was also great getting to use items that we already had on hand which made this project super thrifty & super handy.

How do you deal with the chaos of kids shoes? 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Serenity Filled Road Trip

This weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. We attended a picnic on Saturday and then jumped in the van with our crew to drive four hours to a wedding reception. We were packing up our van for the adventure, sleeping bags and all, since we were also going to be staying four nights to visit friends and family. 

I packed my essential oils along for the ride and somehow remembered to grab a bag of cotton balls to throw into the van. I had heard that you could put a few drops of essential oils on a cotton ball and then put the cotton ball half-way into your air vent to diffuse the scent into the air.

This could come in handy, especially on road trips. I decided to try out a blend that was new to me called, serenity. Doterra calls it their, "calming blend."

Can I purchase it by the gallon?!?!

It contains lavender, sweet marjoram, roman chamomile, ylang ylang, sandalwood and vanilla bean extract.

We hopped in our van to begin our road trip and I put a few drops on a cotton ball.

I then stuck the cotton ball into the air vent.

It was only after I started diffusing it that I realized this might not be a good thing for the driver. I mean we did want to arrive safely to our destination all in ONE piece. Sam however assured me that he was ok as he was armed with a caffeinated beverage and was planning on practicing Portuguese on the drive using some cds. All the more reason for me to try to take a nap. ;-)

All I remember after that is waking up a while later and turning around to see that four of the five kids had been napping right along with me. I turned to Sam and said, "we've got to try this again!" Then I gave him a few drops of peppermint to put on his neck just to make sure that he was still extra alert. 

We drive home on Wednesday and I'll be continuing my research. Any guesses on what I will be diffusing? ;-)
Our Serenity Filled Road Trip doTERRA

Monday, August 18, 2014

When Community Changes Your Life

We have a group of friends and neighbors who get together every Thursday night to connect as a community. We take turns hosting with our neighbors so that we host every other week. Neighbors know that they have an open invitation to stop in whenever they are able. These times are great because we get to connect with God by talking and praying with each other, we connect with each other by having game nights and over great conversations, and we connect with our neighboring community by finding different ways to regularly be a blessing to those around us...and EVERY time we eat together.

It is our community and it is one of our family's favorite nights of the week. Regularly the kids ask, "is it potluck tonight???"

This summer we really wanted to do something special for our neighborhood. Many neighbors who we haven't gotten to invite personally have noticed cars outside and people in the yard and will often stop and ask us, "why are there always people in your yard?"

We got together one Thursday, prayed about it, and began by asking the question; what can we do to bless our neighborhood this summer? Ideas started to ignite and we gathered to brainstorm what we could do. We decided that it would be fun to invite families over for a 4 night backyard family festival. Those from our Thursday night community planned the event and broke up into groups to oversee basic areas.

I watched in awe as it all unfolded this past week. Each night more and more neighbors came with beaming smiles and we got to connect with our neighbors and even with kids and families that we've never even seen before.

It was the COOLEST THING EVER to be part of a community that genuinely wanted to bless the neighborhood and then jumped right in by using their unique gifts and talents to make that happen!

Some people used their administrative gifts to plan out the events for each night and to get people the things they needed to lead...

Some people helped setup tables and chairs in the backyard...

Some people led fun songs to sing and teaching times...

Some of the kids helped make the signs and hand out the invitations...

Some people led groups of neighborhood kids through the activities each night...

Some people helped kids with the crafts for the night...

Some people organized games and even created a homemade piñata with the candy hidden in a smaller box inside. :-) It was so indestructible one of the teenagers had to break it (some of our friends brought another piñata for the younger kids too!)

and everyone brought some food to share on the last night.

We all had a blast making new friends and sharing God's love together as a community.

It was an incredibly energizing time and I think that everyone who used their time, gifts, and resources to bless others came away from the week more blessed than those who they were serving. It's so cool to have made new friends in the neighborhood and to have been able to share one of the most important things that we have to share with the neighborhood: the love of God.

I don't know if you have a community like this in your life, but I know that we can't imagine living any other way anymore. In fact, I know that we could not do what we do as a family if it weren't for those who we share life with walking with us. BUT here's the good news if you're not, this really is not that hard to get started. There's no shortcut to community, because it does take time and intentionality, but it can begin by simply inviting people over regularly to eat, pray, connect, and serve. From there it just leads to more and more great things that God can do through a group of people who love each other and use their gifts to love and serve others. Our prayer is that this community would be part of changing the lives of others in the same way that it has changed our lives. If you're interested in some more thoughts on what it takes to experience community here is a great article I read today about community.

Has community changed your life?

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Coffee From Around The World

Sam and I would love to travel the world some day! We have a passion to see the beauty of the different peoples and cultures around the world. Seeing a glimpse of what heaven is really like.

Combine our love for travel, passion for the world, enjoyment of coffee and delight in moments spent with cherished friends and we stumbled upon a unique souvenir, so to speak.

It all started last year when our friends Joel & Beth brought us back a bag of coffee from Ethiopia. We enjoyed every drop of that coffee and I couldn't quite part with the bag so I decided to fill it with stale beans from some previous decor and set it on our living room book shelves. 

One year later and our little collection of international coffee has grown significantly. 

Coffee from around the world

1) Our friends Eirik & Bethany are moving to Hawaii in a month (they are going to be so missed!) On one of their recent trips there they brought us back some Kona coffee to try. 
2) Another couple we know visited Hawaii too and brought back some Macadamia Brittle.
3) The first bag of coffee that started it all...from Ethiopia.
4) While on our ten year anniversary cruise we tracked down this bag of coffee to remind us of our trip. 
5) On our ninth anniversary trip to Seattle, friends of ours from college gave us this bag. I thought it was ironic that it was the anniversary blend. We also got to visit the very first Starbucks on that trip.
6) A one of a kind guy, Jake, recently traveled to Israel and brought us back some coffee. 
7) Our daughter's friend celebrated her birthday at Feed My Starving Children (what a great idea!) I grabbed a bag of coffee to remember the special celebration and such a great organization.
8) Finally some friends of ours sent us a bag of authentic...Turkish Delight! It went perfect with a cup of coffee and was delicious in every way.

This little collection was unexpected but I love that it captures our family so well. They say that you should fill your home with things that you enjoy...I completely agree.

The other days as friends were over we got to enjoy some fresh brewed coffee from Israel...you don't get to do that every day. :-)

Do you collect certain souvenirs to remind you of your travels? Do you have any special collections in your home that help describe the people that live there?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Budgeting For Back To School Supplies

I have no tips for you today. In fact, I'm looking for YOUR advice.

I'm amazed at how early school starts for some in other parts of the country. We still have a few weeks until our crew heads back but I know many of you are already getting into the swing of schedules and new routines. This year we are making a big jump going from having only two kids in school to having FOUR roaming the school halls. (I'll share more on my feelings about all of that in a few weeks.)

Somehow in all of my planning I completely missed one important category. I budgeted ZERO for back to school supplies! I actually don't know what I've done in past years for this category. I'm guessing that with only two kids in school I just snagged a little bit out of our grocery money to buy the supplies. With four now in school I realized first hand that that clearly was not possible this time.

Oh my, how supplies quickly add up!

I searched the house for any supplies we already had on hand. We ended up having about 1/5th of the items needed. Then I took the easy way out, grabbed a coupon and went to Target for one stop shopping.  It added up quick. I still have one more child to shop for so I'm wondering...

With years ahead of us of having school aged children, your knowledge could save us a ton! ;-)

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