Thursday, March 27, 2014

A little check in

We've had a busy couple of weeks!  Our yard sale was this past Saturday, and this morning our house showed for the first time.  I think we have a good handle on what to do to get ready for house showings, so I'll share those tips with you next week.

Tomorrow I'm headed out of town for a weekend with my Mom and sisters.  We haven't done something like this in almost eight years, so we're all pretty excited.  As much as I love my children and my husband, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy being away.  Sleep should be uninterrupted.  There will be no diapers to change, schedules to follow or people to feed.  Bliss.

I thought I would share a few pictures with you of things that are going on around here.  Just some tidbits for now.


//We bought two of these plants on clearance at the end of last fall.  Most of the plants in our yard are either transplanted from my in-laws' yard, or clearance plants we've picked up.  This is called quince, and it is beautiful!  The red flowers look gorgeous.  Hopefully the rest of the yard will start blooming soon.

//At the recommendation of one of my favorite bloggers, I tried baking these chocolate chip cookies with cream cheese.  They are delicious.  I'd like to think they're not as fattening as my regular recipe, but I think it's a toss up.

//Bradley is going to be doing a guest post in the near future on some furniture that he's made!  I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with this man.  He works all day, comes home and in just a few hours has an outdoor chair made.  Since he had enough wood to make two, he's documenting the process and will be sharing how to make your own.

//This little girl will be nine months old very soon.  Her hair is coming in blonde and we love it!  Those eyes.

Have a great weekend!  I'll be back in April.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When you wonder what to say :: Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

We had just traveled across the country, I think it was about 9 hours worth of travel time, with our two youngest children.  The baby was just 5 weeks old, and Mason was 17 months old.  Still dealing with postpartum issues and sleepless nights, we were both exhausted and ready to enjoy a few days with good friends in San Diego.

There was a bit of confusion in our rental car arrangements, so we were sitting in the rental car lounge waiting for our vehicle to be ready.

It's not easy to sit anywhere with two very small children and go unnoticed.  People started asking how far apart the two were in age, remarked on the cuteness of our children, and some even wanted to play with Mason.

About fifteen minutes into our wait, we noticed a family walk in.  Dad, Mom, middle school aged son, and a younger daughter.  It didn't take long for us to notice that the son had Down Syndrome.

He was a handsome and quiet guy.  I couldn't help but watch their family interact.  I overheard a little bit of their conversation, and learned that the daughter's name was Genevieve--pretty ironic.

Mason continued to grow louder as I played with him from our seat, and eventually the Mom turned around to see who was causing the commotion.  She smiled at us, turned back around and I saw her say something to her husband.  He turned around as well, and very quickly we had all exchanged knowing glances and smiles.

Instantly there was a bond.  A bond of bearing, holding, loving, learning, grieving, cherishing, and living out life with a child who has Down Syndrome.

Everything in me wanted to run to them,  hug them, and ask them all kinds of questions:  "How did you potty train him?"  "Is he in a regular classroom at school?"  "When did he learn to talk?"  "What advice can you give me?" "How am I supposed to do this?"  "Can we please be friends?"

Since Mason was born, almost two years ago, these have often been my thoughts when I see people in public with someone who has Down Syndrome.  I realize that in most circumstances running up to a complete stranger and bombarding them with these questions would be awkward at the least, and perhaps even inappropriate or offensive.  So, I restrain.  But, I've always wondered what to do and if I should say anything at all.

This family in the rental car lounge that day in San Diego completed their business, got their key, and started to leave the building.  They passed by Bradley on their way out, and the Dad stopped and said to my husband,

"You have a beautiful family."

Five simple words that conveyed acknowledgement, understanding, love, and a desire to reach out.

Now I know what to say to the new mom who holds her baby tightly, hoping no one notices the different features of her baby's face.

"Your baby is beautiful."

I can smile and interact with the little boy running around the store with his tired mom.

"What a happy little boy you have."

I can go out of my way to speak to the young adults I see shopping in Wal-Mart with their caretaker, like I did yesterday:

"How are ya'll doing today?"

And in each of these situations I can connect with people who understand what it's like to live life with Down Syndrome.

Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day, so I want to take a minute to encourage you, whether you are raising a child with Down Syndrome, know someone who is, or just encounter strangers as you go through life.

People with Down Syndrome are longing to connect with you.

They have emotions, interests, concerns, insecurities, awkwardness at times, and maybe you won't be able to understand everything they say.  But, you can connect with them.  Just a few simple words to let them know that they are valued.

And, if you can't think of anything to say, just make eye contact and smile.

To read more about World Down Syndrome Day click here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Home

It's official, our home is now on the market.

The sign and lock have been out for almost two weeks now, but due to the MLS site being down last week, our home has officially been listed for six days.

There are certainly plenty of  mixed emotions as we begin the process of saying goodbye to what has been our home for the past 3 plus years.  Just like our first home, this home has provided a place where the unexpected has changed us.

We said goodbye to one precious baby shortly after moving in, and for the first time I understood the grief that so many mothers-to-be face with a miscarriage.

We watched our second daughter take her first steps and learn to talk.

Our hearts rejoiced as we welcomed our third child, our first son.  And with his life came the unexpected journey of Down Syndrome that has forever changed us.  

Our fourth child came home from the hospital to this house, and she's growing and learning here.

We've entertained friends and strangers, praying that their hearts would be encouraged and they would see Jesus in our home.  

My home has been a safe haven for me during some of the most challenging years of my life. These walls have seen my tears, heard my cries, felt my angered footsteps and leaps of joy.

So, I guess I'll be saying goodbye to a friend when I close the door and walk away to begin a new chapter in our journey.

This journey that we're on has taken us to many places, and now we're just three months away from another new place.  There are countless unknowns on the horizon, of which I'm both terrified and excited.

In the midst of it all, though, I'm so thankful that God remains constant.  Walls cannot contain Him.  God is with us, Emmanuel.  He remains steadfast, unshakable, unchanging, always wise, always loving, always good.

It is with confidence, eagerness, and joy that I can embark on the unknown, because I know the One who goes before me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Decorating our home for us & Framed French Words

Our home has been a work in progress over the three years we've lived here.  We moved here from a 700 square foot apartment, so it's taken a while to fill in the rooms and decide how to decorate each space.  During this time, I've also discovered what styles I like and the things that make a house a home, for us.

It's so easy to look at pictures in magazines, on the internet, and even gaze in our friends' homes wanting something that everyone else has, or longing to have our home look like a certain space.  Falling into the trap of comparing and envying is easy to do, and I found that I was looking at too many things, causing me to strive to create a home that reflected other peoples' tastes and interests rather than our family's.

I've discovered that I like cool colors, linen, framed pictures that my children create, simply decorated spaces, Scripture placed where I can see it and be reminded of truth, cozy spots, handmade pieces, and photos of special memories we've created.

I don't need my home to be a place that other people fall in love with; my home should be a place where my family finds comfort and security, and where strangers and friends alike can come to find love and encouragement.  

One of the spaces in our home is our guest room.  We intentionally have our children share rooms so that one bedroom can be saved for guests.  Most of the time this room is vacant, with the exception of laundry and piles of yard sale items, but I strive to keep it ready for grandparents, out of town guests, and the friend at the last minute who needs a place to sleep.

Now that our house is on the market {more about that next week}, I'm finally putting together some of the finishing touches on this room.  I had decided about a year ago to go with a nautical theme {you can check out my Pinterest board}.  My husband is in the Navy, and I thought it appropriate to have one room that sort of reflected his career.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a photo that completely captured what I've been wanting to create in this room.  Below is a picture of the page I tore out of the catalog.

So, slowly, I'm putting together a gallery wall to finish off the space.  Yesterday I hung a 'steering wheel', as Mallory calls it, and framed some Ballard inspired French words.

There are many items I like in the Ballard catalog and it's always fun to try and recreate them for a fraction of the cost.  My inspiration for this art, at a mere $259 :

Cost for mine:  $0.  I had the fabric, the frames, a printer, and some paper.  You could certainly make this as more of a knockoff, closer to the original, but I'm happy with my solution for now.  Down the road, I might change my mind, but for now it's finishing off this space nicely for us.

The quick how to:
Create a document in a word processing program of your choice; I used notepad.  Choose your favorite font and type out your word of choice.  This font is 'Mistral', and I chose two French words, joie = joy, and merci = thanks.

After I typed the word, I just kept increasing the font size until it was as big as it could get in a portrait page setup.  Then, I printed it out, placed it on top of a piece of ticking fabric--cut to the size of my frame--, inserted it into the frame, and hung on the wall.

Total time was about 10 minutes.

And then, my oldest daughter and I had fun taking pictures together of the finished project.

Oh, and like I said, this room is usually vacant.

Just keeping it real, folks; I'm getting ready for our neighborhood yard sale next week.

If you have a little time this weekend, and want to create an easy craft/project for your home, this one might fit the bill.  But, make sure that it's what fits into your family's style and function.  

Make your home a place where those who live in it are secure and where those who visit it are loved.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reading Lately

Each year I have a pile of books that I want to read, and as the year progresses, I add more to the list and tend to put off some of the older ones.  This year I've been trying to read books that I already own {with the exception of two}, before purchasing any new ones.  There are quite a few that I'd love to have copies of, but I'm sticking to my plan, and so far it's going quite well.

Here's what I've been reading lately:

//Grace Based Parenting, Tim Kimmel.  An excellent read for any parent or grandparent.  And it's not all about forgetting discipline and structure in your home.  This book is full of practical and philosophical information on how to have a home that is centered around God's grace.  Living, teaching, and exemplifying grace to my kids is tough; this definitely challenged and encouraged me.

//Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  My mom gave me this for Christmas, and it truly helped my attitude at the beginning of the year.  I was struggling with anger and discontentment, and as the Lord worked in my heart, teaching me to be thankful in everything {again--I just can't seem to get this!}, I started seeing my day-to-day challenges not as negative but as good.

//Radical, David Platt.  This book took me almost an entire year to read.  I felt convicted and challenged.  My dad heard that I was reading it and jokingly said, "Don't read that one!  It will mess you up!"  Mess you up in a good way, that is, to think of life in a way that contradicts our American norm.  If you are comfortable with your life, then you should probably read this book.

//Don't Make Me Count to Three, Ginger Plowman.  I've had this book on my stack every year since I became a mom in 2008.  And, I've read the first half of it about 5 times.  I finally finished it.  The main lesson I learned from this book was the importance of Scripture in training our children.  It takes time, energy, and a lot of thought -- which are running low in my life -- but if I want my kids to really understand how to live life in relationship with God, then they need to know how Scripture applies to the situations they encounter everyday.

//A Praying Life, Paul Miller.  One of the best books I've ever read.  And it is transforming my prayer life.  I was mostly challenged to pray big and not to overspiritualize my prayers.  If you're not sure what I mean by that, read the book :).

//Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, Crystal Paine.  This book caught my eye while in Barnes & Noble one day.  I promptly went home and bought it online {much cheaper}, and loved it.  Some of the principles Crystal shares have helped me in practical ways over the past month or so.  For example, I believed that myth that all good homemakers had a 'laundry day'.  And it drove me nuts!  Crystal suggests doing one load of laundry every day, and it really has transformed my outlook on this overwhelming task.  I'm still working to get my loads folded and put away before the next day arrives, but it's coming.

//Hope for the Weary Mom, Where God Meets You in Your Mess, Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin.   I've been asked to share some of my story with a group of women who are going through this study, so I thought it would be helpful to read  it first.  As a woman who often feels like things are a mess, I appreciated so much the biblical reminders and practical advice.

My current read is Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb.  We shouldn't be surprised by challenges and trials, but when they come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways, it can really shake us.  I can't give a full report on this one yet, but I will say that I wish I could take a few days and read it cover to cover, soaking in everything he says; there's a lot to digest.

Stepping Heavenward -- I've started this one, but haven't gotten very far.  It's going on my nightstand for my bedtime reading.   

What are you reading right now?  Do you have any recommendations for me?

Friday, March 7, 2014

DIY Embellished Flour Sack Towels

Did you know that March is National Craft Month?  I didn't until the other day when I got my JoAnn's flier in the mail.

In light of this event, I thought I'd try to share a simple craft with you each week this month that would be something easy to do over the weekend {or during a nap time if that's all you have}.  I realize crafting is not for everyone, and more often than not my crafts end up as 'failed' projects, so don't be fooled by this into thinking that I am a crafting guru!  Every once in awhile I get inspired, and once I carve out some time I get a bit of fulfillment by using some creativity and working with my hands.  It's a nice break from sweeping, folding laundry, and scrubbing toilets.

Most of my kitchen towels are looking pretty ragged these days, so after seeing some pretty flour sack towels for sale in the store, I decided to embellish my own, for a portion of the cost.  This project is easy, it's inexpensive, and it's practical--all things that are perfect for me when choosing a craft.

You can choose any type of embellishments you want, I just opted to use some items I had on hand.  They happened to be the right colors for my kitchen {you can't go wrong with black} so other than the $5 I spent for a pack of 4 flour sack towels, I didn't spend any additional money.

First, you'll want to wash and dry your towels, just as you would once they've been used.  I also ironed mine prior to adding the decorative touches.  This isn't necessary, and I certainly don't iron them now that they're being used, but I felt like it was the appropriate way to begin a sewing project.  :)

Then, simply measure your embellishments to fit across the bottom of the towel {or the top, middle, or askew--whichever you prefer}.  I used ric rac, ribbon and some pom pom trim.  Simple stitches of thread in various widths or designs would also be pretty.

At this point you can either measure and pin your ribbon/ric rac/trim, or just eyeball it like I did.

Using either coordinating thread, or a pretty contrasting color, sew a straight stitch to attach the ribbon/ric rac/trim to your towel.

So easy!  This is a great project for beginners, and these would make excellent gifts.

I literally smile when I see these hanging from the handle of my oven.

If you're looking for a quick and practical craft for your weekend, go grab a pack of flour sack towels, take advantage of some of the sales going on right now at your local craft store and whip up some of these beauties.

Linking up to:
Tatertots and Jello

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Instagram and Photography

Over the past seven months I've slowly learned how to use my smart phone.  There's still much to uncover, I'm still trying to add my contacts, but for right now, I'm content being able to check email on the go, see the weather forecast, make out my shopping list, check Facebook {although I'm really trying to limit that one}, and keep up with Instagram. 

Most of you have probably been on Instagram forever, but I have a Windows phone, and until this fall, there wasn't an app on the Windows phone for Instagram.  Now, we have the capability and I'm trying to learn how to better use it for photography. 

Mary Beth, from Annapolis and Company, has a fantastic series, "The Everyday Project", which walks through how to take better photos on your iPhone.  She shares photo tips, some great apps for editing your photos, and you can follow along with others using #theeverydayproject.

There are still some apps that I'm unable to purchase for my phone, but I have found Instagram to be much more enjoyable than Facebook.  

You can follow me on Instagram, if you'd like, just click on the button on the right hand side of my home page.  

Photography has become a fun hobby for me, one that I wish I had more time to develop.  My children are great subjects, although they do move around a lot and don't always want to cooperate when a camera is in their face.  I've been using a Canon Rebel T3, for a little over a year now, and I have loved it!  You might remember this post where I shared about our sweet friends giving us a camera.  

For my birthday last week, my husband got me a new lens!!  I'm so excited to be able to expand my photography skills and get some great shots of my kiddos.  I have a ton to learn, but judging by the 165 pictures I've taken since Monday night, I'm loving it!  It's amazing the difference a  lens can make. Here are some {unedited} pics I've taken so far.  

//The flowers are cut from our winter blooming plant outside.  It's a Camellia, but I'm not sure if that's how you really spell it, and the kids are awake, so I'm not going to take the time to look it up; I need to wrap up this post.  They're gorgeous flowers and I love having fresh cut blooms on these colder days. 

//If you look closely you can see Mason's little hand resting on Jennavieve's arm.  Jennavieve has spit up down her chin, and I just loved the little expression on her face.

//Yes, I took a picture of a chair.  Did you know that the greatest subjects to practice photography on are inanimate objects?  They don't move.  They don't get irritated with you.  Perfect.  My friend, Callie, even suggests using a baby doll propped in different places around your home to know how to find the best lighting for taking photos of your kiddos.  

//We are moving in June, but Bradley is still planting a small garden this year, using up our remaining stash of seeds.  These little guys poked their way through over the weekend.  I'm going to need to find a place to store them once our house is on the market.

//The sweet faces of babies...and the not so sweet faces.  Jennavieve has a bit of a temper, and she is the loudest child I have ever encountered.  They say the fourth is supposed to be chill and go with the flow.  Well, this little lady likes to make herself known!

//You are seeing correctly: Mason's mouth is a little bit purple.  I found him chewing on a very large purple crayon, thankfully before it was swallowed.  

Happy Thursday!  Happy March!  

And, remember that this is the day the Lord has made:  REJOICE!  

Even if you're struggling, your house is a mess, you lack sleep, and just want a minute to yourself.  

Choose to be full of joy.  

Because our joy doesn't come from those things, it comes from Christ in us, the hope of glory.