Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Guestbook Update

Today I'm sharing a little update on our guestbook wall over at my friend Carrie's blog, Lovely Etc. She has some pretty fun (and budget friendly!) DIY projects on her blog...you are really going to like her.


I shared the answers to these questions on her blog today. Do chalkboard markers work? What do my kids think of the guestbook wall? Where is my favorite place to sit in the morning before little ones rise? All those questions are answered here. Have a wonderful day friends...my coffee is brewing as we speak. :-)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fake Eyelashes, Culture & True Beauty

I've been reading online how more and more women are trying on fake eyelash extensions. They love them, they hate them, they cost too much, they can be done for less at home, they look amazing, they last for weeks, oh and don't wear them into the ocean if you still want them to be intact when you emerge...

There have been some interesting reads for sure.

Culture seems to shift how it defines beauty over time and in the process beauty products change too...I wonder if we are all going to start dressing like the city folk in The Hunger Games someday.

Can you imagine?!? 


I would be sporting teal hair...just sayin'.

This new trend has unexpectedly stirred up some emotion in me. 

I don't think fake eyelashes are evil. I personally enjoy putting on a bit of makeup. I also love me some nail polish...it is actually one of my favorite things to do at home with my girls. Something that I would imagine decades ago women may have thought of as frivolous and taking away from our natural beauty.

I do however feel a sense of sorrow for women who have begun wearing eye lash extensions and now no longer feel as if their "normal" lashes are long enough...thick enough...pretty enough.

My thoughts probably go deeper on the matter because of a ten year old girl in our family. A daughter who I've only had the privilege of mothering for two and a half years. I feel like we are coming into all new territory when it comes to passing down some pretty important truths about identity and beauty.

For months I've been grappling with how to continue having conversations with her about how her body is a treasure.  About how God created every detail and every function and that none of it is a surprise to Him. In fact, our bodies were created in God's image and are perfect and beautiful in every way...right from the very start. 



I think the importance of it all lies in knowing where our self-worth, beauty and value truly come from...and that it doesn't come from something that can fall off, rub off or chip away after washing a few dishes. 

We've been having conversations lately about finding clothes that fit right, feel great and still look absolutely adorable. I'm excited that she has years ahead of her to do fun facials with her friends, dress up for daddy dates...and eventually boy dates (ya know...in 50 years), do manicures & pedicures and overall enjoy pampering herself and having fun.


Maybe the day will come where she even tries on fake eyelashes...gasp!

And while she is doing all of that and then some I am making it my mission to be intentional in pointing out how absolutely beautiful she is exactly the way that God created her!

I think I've learned that whole being intentional thing from her daddy. He somehow has managed to tell me enough times that I look beautiful even without wearing any of that makeup. He has convinced me enough that I sometimes venture out to the store without any mascara on.

I guess sometimes even us grown-ups have to be reminded of how beautiful we can be just as we are. Because, it turns out, true beauty isn't external and shouldn't be defined by the shifting cultural norms. True beauty flows from the inside out, and can be found, when one knows that they really are a beautiful treasure to God and to those around them...just as they are. If our confidence rides on things that we can add to who we are, then it also falls with things that can be taken away from who we are!

For the record, you are absolutely, positively BEAUTIFUL!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Guest Room Refresh


For the next few weeks our guest room is booked. There is something special about sharing our home with others...especially when it means that we get to see friends that usually live miles away. This space in our home has certainly had the most transformations out of any other room in our house over the past two years.

When we first moved in we updated the basement and turned this nook into a fun space for our kids. Then a little over a year later we turned it into a bedroom for my parents. They lived with us for 10 months and then moved back east in April. The bed that we added to this space during that time used to be on our second floor in a small bedroom that we were using as our guest room. However, that room was turned into an office for Sam and a twin bed now occupies that office/spare room. Since he still uses that space regularly we decided to keep the bigger bed in the basement.

Since this space in the basement continues to get used as a guest room I wanted to do a little room refresh. Basically just look over the room with a fresh set of eyes and see if there was anything that should be removed or added to the room to make it more inviting and useful.

While I was doing my weekly grocery run I came across this door mirror at Aldi for less than $10.


The closest bathroom to this space is up a flight of stairs on our main level so I thought it might be nice for guests to have a mirror in the room.


Thankfully it only took me about 20 seconds to hang since it came with easy over the door hangers...no tools required. 


I did a little dusting and put out a welcome sign with a few other decor items that I had in storage Those weights weren't in storage. I mean, I use them all of the time. Well, some of the time. OK, so I am wanting to use them more. I always think it is nice to have a box of tissues available in every room and there is also a small garbage can in this space.


We have an extra sound machine that the kids aren't using anymore so I tucked that under one of the shelves if someone prefers to use it.


We also saved our pack'n play for when little people are visiting which is tucked under the bed. I highly recommend to hang on to your pack'n play for visitors...that thing has come in handy so many times.


The bath towels are all kept on the second floor where the shower is. Since this space is open to our family room and kids are always roaming I try to keep the contents pretty basic.


I like the fact that it functions as an everyday space for us when guests aren't here (the kids and I walk through this space to get to the laundry baskets) and doesn't require any extra work to get it ready for overnight guests. Well, except maybe picking up a few toys and straightening out the bed that five kids might have jumped on when mommy wasn't looking.


Do you have any visitors staying over soon? What is your favorite part about opening up your home to others?


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Creating An On-Going Rhythm To De-Clutter Your Home

Many times I get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in our home. I long for things to be simple and functional and to be surrounded by beauty. In that type of environment I find that I am inspired, able to be creative and eager to work hard.


However, does every item in our home fit that description? 

No

So how do I work on getting there? How do I keep our home from collecting more and more stuff?

I've always liked the phrase "one thing in, one thing out" in theory anyway. However, my life & schedule don't always work like that. Nonetheless things collect and I'm realizing that life needs an on-going rhythm in which we continue to de-clutter our home.  


A few weeks ago, a family of six stayed with us for a few days. This family is from Seattle and preparing to move to Thailand in September. I was intrigued, to say the least, by how you prepare a family of six to move across the world. They are planning on setting up their new home with local furniture so most of their belongings will be traveling with them in the designated amount of suitcases that they are allowed by the airline.

And here I thought packing up our van for a week at camp was difficult.

As Becky and I talked about the process that they have gone through something that she said really stood out to me. She mentioned that as they began preparing for their move (knowing that it was still a long time out) they began going through their belongings and dwindling things down until they just couldn't possibly get rid of anything else. At that point they still had too much. So about 6 months later they re-visited things and worked on dwindling down their belongings until they couldn't possibly get rid of ANYTHING ELSE. 

Surprisingly enough they continued to find things that they could live without.

Can you guess what they did 6 months later? 

Now their move is just around the corner and they are ready! They also realized how much stuff didn't really matter as much as they had originally thought.

What stood out to me was that they went through a gradual process and little by little they were able to part with more and more stuff to reach their goal. Now they are able to do something that they have been dreaming about...like moving to Thailand, how cool is that?!? 

We aren't planning a move across the world but in my quest to live simply and create a home that is inspiring rather than filled with frustration, I took this concept and ran with it. 

I took a few minutes (ok more like 20) to evaluate my closet. I store all four seasons worth of clothes in my closet and I knew that there were items that I never wear and probably will never wear. And who wants to open up their closet every morning and be faced with so many choices many of which you know you won't pick? 


I kept telling myself that I didn't have to make a decision about every piece of clothing but simply remove the items that I could easily live without. After all, I could always re-visit my closet in 6 months and might find more items that I could live without. 

With just a quick refresh I removed some items and went on with my day. This is what my closet looked like when I was done.


It may not look a whole lot different but I could definitely tell the difference by seeing the pile on my floor with items to give away.  


I guess if I am learning anything about my home & organizing it is that all of it is an on-going journey and by creating rhythms that work for me (like re-visiting my closet every 6 months) I am working towards my goal of living a simpler life. 

Thanks for the inspiration Becky! You can check out more of this awesome family's journey here

Do you have any rhythms for de-cluttering? Do you find it easy or difficult to remove items from your home? 

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Open Adoption Timeline

Some may wonder what walking out an open adoption is like, I've kind of wondered that myself. Every situation is going to be different but sometimes it's just nice to hear what an open adoption looks like for one family. I guess that is really the reason why I write about adoption. I had so many questions, wondered about so many things, felt scared about almost every aspect and it was hearing stories from those who had gone before me that eased many of my fears. 

Our situation isn't an open adoption legally, but we decided that we want our kids to know their biological family so we are slowly working towards reconnecting.

Our open adoption timeline

We waited 14 months before making contact with our oldest three children's birth grandmother. Sam and I met her at a Starbucks and our time together couldn't have gone better. She was thrilled to hear how the kids were doing and relieved to hear how happy they were.

A few months later Sam and I met our kid's birth mom at a park. I was completely nervous. We chatted for a while, everyone was completely civil and she earnestly just wanted to know how the kids were doing...that was it. We talked about math and reading and how much they were growing and what made each of them smile. I walked away feeling like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and was actually excited to have the kids see their mom again.

A few weeks after that meeting, we took the three kids to see their mom. It was the first time that they were seeing her in over 18 months. We left our younger two with friends and met at a public restaurant. The kids had ice cream which helped break the ice so to speak. I'm not sure that the kids knew what to think but they were all smiles. It is hard to explain but it felt like they walked away from that time knowing just how much they were loved and by SO many people. They didn't seem to be too confused or have any major questions, they were just genuinely happy to see their mom again.

an open adoption

Our next interaction happened through texting to set up a time & place to gather around the holidays. We mentioned that this would be a great time for any additional bio family to come and see the kids if they wanted to. We left our younger two kids at home with family and took our oldest three to meet their family at a restaurant. They loved seeing their cousins, aunt, great-grandma, grandma and mom. They came home telling the little kids all about the fun that they had and showed them some presents that they had each received. 

Our hope was that we could meet again in the summertime. This Saturday marks the day that we will gather again...this time at a park. Our youngest two are also coming along this time and are so excited to meet all of these lovely people that the older kids tell them stories about. 

our open adoption

We celebrated our first gotcha day 2 1/2 years ago (boy, does time FLY!) In total sincerity, our open adoption experience has been great! The bio family has never driven by our house unexpectedly, called uncontrollably or acted uncivil in ANY way (secretly, those were all of my prior fears.)

Their mom sends me a text on their birthday asking me to wish them a happy birthday and give them a great big hug from her. It is a joy to relay the message and give them a gigantic hug! At this point, we hope to continue getting together with the bio family for visits twice a year. We will see what the future holds as the kids grow. This story is only just beginning...

Have you experienced an open adoption? Are you thinking of adopting in the future? 

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Gone Fishing


A scary thing happened at the pool this weekend. A little girl was in the kiddie pool, lost her balance and couldn't get back up. The lifeguard was able to get to her just in time. The little girl's mom was on the other side of the pool with her phone in hand. Honestly, it was just a reminder to me of how quickly things can happen. I thought of the many times that I have pulled out my phone "to check something quick" thinking that the kids were fine. This week our family will be out of town at camp. There will be camp food, friends made, lots of bugs to explore and a giant lake. I'm going hands free for the week. I look forward to being back with you next Monday, July 14th. Enjoy the little moments that make you smile this week!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Life & A Touch of Green

Happy Fourth of July! How is your summer going? The weather here in Minnesota has been beautiful. That is one of the things that I thoroughly enjoy about this part of the country...summers here are awesome!

Each summer we have taken on some pretty big outdoor projects but this summer we aren't adding anything new. My one goal is to stain the playset and enjoy moments around the fire pit. One thing is for sure, I need to desperately squeeze in some outdoor weeding (exhibit A!) Hopefully that will get done after we get back from a week away at kids camp next week. Our oldest two are attending as campers. Our younger three will be tagging along with me at the camp grounds while we try to stay out of trouble. Thankfully daddy will be close by too as he joins the talented team of staff that pour into these kids each year. 

We actually just got back from spending a weekend at the same camp for family camp and had a blast. The miles on the van are racking up along with hopefully some life-long family memories.  


Since I am trying to avoid my outdoor plants until we return, I thought we could take a quick glance at some small changes in the house that involve plants I can't kill...and that don't grow weeds. :-)

I've always liked IKEA's artificial plants. I was recently window shopping there and spotted these that I thought were cute.) They seem to look less fake than normal fake plants...if that makes sense.

The white vases are from IKEA too. I found this seven decal from Shades of Light back when we changed out our dining room light


Even though some versions of their plants clearly look artificial, they still seem to have a fun, modern feel and bonus...no weeding or watering!


Ever since the mason jar incident in the bathroom, I have been looking for another item to add a touch of color and life to the small space. I finally thought to grab an extra plant that wasn't being used. It goes well in the room even without using a ceramic vase and the bonus is that the base it comes with is plastic so no worries about this falling off and shattering like the last thing that occupied this space. 


And I guess that we do have a few plants that actually add to the oxygen levels in the house. The fern in our living room is my favorite...a $5 find at Aldi a few months ago. Oh the things you can find while doing your weekly grocery shopping. 

a fern

Do you have any summer projects you are trying to avoid? How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Any weeding on your to-do list?
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