Monday, July 20, 2015

An Application to be Excited about!

Busy is the adjective that describes my lifestyle.  I always think the season of busyness will pass, but often find that my schedule fills quickly; I become overwhelmed season after season.

This summer has not been the exception and I have really been lax on my quiet time.   Proverbs 31 Ministries has developed an application for your smart device that I am so excited for and it launched TODAY!!!  It is called First5.

This application includes a wake up alarm that starts a five minute bible lesson/devotion.  It is a great way to start your day with God's word (instead of checking social media or email).  There are also the opportunities to go deeper into the teaching and to share the encouragement on social media.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I like Cupcakes A Latte

My eight year old loves Starbucks. When I was eight I loved the New Kids on the Block. Times are a changing! Olive has a summer birthday so we always take birthday treats at the end of the year. She would have loved to celebrate with Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccinos, but 25 mini fraps would break this mama's budget. So I thought of the next best thing, CUPCAKES!

I really had a lot of fun making these and thought they were easier than regular cupcakes.

First I acquired the paper sample cups from my local Starbucks.

Second I used a standard chocolate cake box mix and filled each cup half full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes and let cool

While the cupcakes baked I melted white chocolate and use green food coloring to make it Starbucks straw green.

I dipped pretzel sticks in the chocolate to make the little straws. (This was an adventure, because the chocolate was thick and I thought they looked like pickles. I will have to work on my chocolatier skills.)

We used bread to hold the pretzels up so they didn't get flat on one side while they cooled.

Once the cupcakes cooled I used the Wilton Dessert Decorator Plus to ice them. I love this tool! Thanks Mom for gifting it to me a few years ago!!

After they were iced we topped them off with chocolate sprinkles.

Lastly we added the pretzel straws.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rainy Day Rehab

Today the rain ruined my plans, but I am very happy it did.  I had a fun morning planned hanging out at the park with a great kiddo and his mama.  Our adventure had to be rescheduled due to dark gray stormy clouds.  I had a couple errands to run so I detoured and found myself around the corner from my favorite store, the Goodwill!  I rarely shop this side of town and with a few extra minutes to spare I couldn't resist.  I braved the rain and dashed in.  I like to start on one end of the store and work my way down every aisle glancing at the shelves. I love nick knacks and trinkets to decorate the bookshelves in my home.  Lately I have found myself gravitating to the furniture section.  Today as my hunt neared an end I discovered a small wooden table stuffed in the corner.  It was short and stubby, maybe that is why it caught my eye.  I sympathize with short and stubby, but it seemed old too.  Its thick legs and rustic appeal drew me in.  I could see that someone had deeply scared the top by scribbling with a red pen. Old, scared and worn have so much potential in my book.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but I had bring it home.
I added it to the collection of furniture finds and other projects in my garage, and headed in for lunch and some work.  My computer however didn't want to cooperate today.  It kept overheating and freezing during some serious Photoshop applications.  My frustration began to mound so I decided to clear my head with some fresh air.  Oh yeah it was raining outside, well out to the garage then.  There in the middle of the floor sat that short frumpy table looking about as worn as I was feeling.  That table top is going to need some serious sanding to smooth those deep puncture wounds and then a coat of paint.  I pulled out the hand sander and began rubbing down the crevasse till they were nearly smooth.  Next I pulled out my faithful Chalk Paint.  It is super easy to make and use.

Now I had a cute table with a gray top, but I wasn't sure I loved it yet.  It was too cute to leave so plain.  It needed something but what.  Stencils or decoupage were suggested by my restoration guru, and fellow junk junky, my mom. I didn't have any of either, and because I am not patient I wanted a solution that wouldn't require leaving the house and spending more money.  I designed what I wanted on the table top and printed it off.  Next a drew with pencil all over the back of the design. When there is a good covering on the back of the desired design I flipped it over and centered it on the table. By firmly tracing the word on the paper will leave a small impression that you can paint over. Once the whole stencil has been traced, you can begin painting the letters. Finally scuff it up and seal it with some wax!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I Found a Better than Free Deal at the Goodwill

I love to decorate my home, but the budget sometimes hinders my creativity. I have become an avid Goodwill shopper. Nearly all the furniture and accessories in my home have been handed down or purchased second hand. If your willing to hunt for the treasures you're sure to find them.

This past weekend I had a hour or so to kill while I waited to pick my daughter up from a birthday party. Since there was a goodwill store near by I knew I could fill the time searching for a great deal. Oh and did I find one.  In the back there sat an incredible antique dresser screaming "you've got to take me home!" But as I approached I saw that it was too late, someone else had purchased it.
I was disappointed, but when I turned around I forgot all about the sorrow felt in the seconds that just past. I thought with a little paint and some new fabric that little arm chair would be great in my living room.
The creative wheels turning in my head. The chair was only $6.99.  I was thinking this would be a great project to test out the homemade chalk paint, but I didn't have any gray (the color imagined my my new chair would be.) So I would have to buy some paint.  I was going to have to purchase fabric to recover the seat, too.  Usually this is where the $$ start adding up in my head and I shrug my shoulders and walk away from a deal.  Sometimes a deal can cost more than my budget allows, and then it's not a deal anymore.

My mom however saved the day.  You see she is the one who passed the "you can make that old thing new again" gene.  She has a way with finding gems in the most unlikely places, giving them a make over, and then finding them new home.  For years she has hunted, sanded, painted, and renewed fabulous finds, and now she is teaming up with three other amazing women to open their own antique boutique called Simply Se-Lah in Louisburg, Kansas.   When I had given up one my idea of this cute arm chair in my living room I sent her a photo of the chairs via text.  She loved them, but they were in Wisconsin, not Kansas.  She suggested that I purchase all the chairs, redo all of them and sell the set of four.  Genius Mom!

Yes it would require some elbow grease and a lot of time, but in the end my chair would be better than free!

In case you are interested in unleashing the potential of adorable dining room chairs here's a little how to.

1. Remove the cushions from the chairs.  For most you will only need a screw driver, but some may require the torque of a power drill. Then set them aside to recovering.
2. Mix up some chalk paint.
3. Paint the chairs.  Chalk paint dries fast so by the time you are done painting your last chair you can move along to step 4.
4. If you like the distressed look then use a fine grit sand paper to rub paint off the raised surfaces like edges and curves.  If you don't like this look skip to step 5.
5. Paint on a finishing wax I used Minwax Finishing Wax
6. Buff chair with a soft cloth.

Now to recover the cushions:
1. Choose a durable fabric. Upholstery fabric can be pricey but you can often get it 1/2 off at local stores like Jo Ann's. You will need to measure your cushion and make sure you have extra to go around the sides. Pay attention to the pattern of the fabric too you might want to get extra to make sure you can center the design.
2. Place your cushion on the fabric, double check your measurements, then cut.
3. Re center the cushion pulling the fabric tightly and staple once in the center of the front and back of the cushion. Turn over the cushion to confirm placement.
4. Continue pulling the fabric tight and stapling around the entire cushion. You will need to pleat the fabric at the corners.
5. Trim excess fabric, especially around the screw holes.
6. Re attach the cushions to the chairs!

5 Chairs $6.99 each (with a 25% coupon & tax) = $28
Fabric $22
Paint $8.00
4 Chairs sold for $100
I have my cute chair and with hard work made $42 

I bet you can guess where I might spend that extra money!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All Natural, Kid Friendly, Homemade Tooth Paste

Our family is always looking for ways to save money and reduce our use of harmful chemicals in lifestyle.  We can usually get tooth paste for free with coupons, but they contain fillers like glycerin and other not so healthy chemicals.  There can even be gluten hidden in the fillers of tooth paste. I have sometimes used baking soda with peroxide, but didn't think that it was practical to ask my children to mix their own paste day and night.
Simple is better when it comes to so I wanted to make a squeezable tooth paste with safe ingredients that my kids would like using.  I wanted to make sure it didn't have gluten for me, and it also had to economic; the Natural tooth paste at the store can be costly.  
By combining some of our household staples we had everything we needed for a safe and healthy alternative to the store bought tooth pastes.

Coconut Oil: It has antimicrobial qualities that are great for fighting bacteria that caused gingivitis and helps prevent tooth decay. It is used in ancient practices like oil pulling.

Baking Soda: Helps prevent the build up of plaque and reduces your risk of gum disease.  It has many other oral benefits like, teeth whitening, soothing mouth ulcers, and fighting bad breath.  Check out for more details.

Stevia: We use it as a zero calorie sweetener for taste and has antimicrobial properties, too.

Peppermint: Often found in over the counter oral care products for flavor and health benefits as well.

Mix 1/3 cup of Coconut Oil
2 Tbs. Baking Soda
1 Tbs. Stevia
5-10 Drops of Peppermint Essential Oil


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wait No More Update

Yesterday started out as our typical Saturday morning with the girls waking early and asking to watch cartoons.  We, sleepy parents asking, "is your bed made?"  Followed by the sound of swift feet returning to their rooms to attend to their daily duty.  Because Matt is the world's greatest husband and daddy, he rolls out of bed and follows his weekly ritual of making chocolate chip pancakes.  The best part is he lets me sleep in!  Ah, he knows my love language!  Saturday mornings usually includes a family outing, but there was a twist to our routine, instead of rummaging or browsing farmer's markets we were in the car arriving at church, early?  Okay we usually attend church on Sundays and always are at least five minutes late.  Today was a special day because today was the Wait No More conference at Elmbrook Church and our whole family was excited to be there.  Even Matt, who speaks few words and shows little emotion despite his sensitive heart.   Several years ago I would have never thought that we would be on the verge of this incredible adventure.  I used to pray, "God if it is your will that I be an adopted mother then change Matt's heart, but if otherwise take the desire away from mine."  When the opportunity arose three years ago with Matt mentioning he'd be open to the idea of fostering a child, my prayer changed.  "God keep changing his heart." Even though Matt had not fully committed to the idea of foster adoption, he didn't take it off the discussion table.  Over the past few years I have pushed, nagged, yelled, cried, sometimes a combination, and finally surrendered it to God. The desire of my heart didn't dissipate, but I was going to have to trust God's plan instead of my own.  Once again God was reminding me of the verse I am sure He wrote just for me, "Be still and know I am God." or in my case "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10.  If I continued to push Matt, one of us would change our minds leaving the other bitter. I wanted this to be a pure untainted decision we made together, and that meant sharing my heart with Matt, praying, and then trusting him to make the right decision for our family.  I would just have to wait for Matt decision...

Waiting is hard for me; waiting for something I desire even harder. There I was waiting, I set my household in order as God designed it and submitted to my husband's leadership.  Matt is the most content man I have ever met, and he is really good at waiting.  So I imagined that I might be waiting a long time.  There is no coincidence that as soon as I surrendered to God's plan, He set it in motion.  Over the past few months I have observed changes in Matt's heart.  At first I was very hesitant to believe what I was hearing, as if I was guarding my heart from disappointment.  I should have know that Matt wouldn't dangle a carrot in front of a race horse.  He knows that when I set my mind on something  charge after it, but this time I would stay a step or two behind him on our journey.  My husband is now leading me in this journey when I thought I would have to strive through it.  And now were were attending Wait No More, because we truly believe God has called us to be some precious gift's forever family.    

Friday, May 15, 2015

Surviving Public Displays of Toddler Tantrums

It was like a scene from the Matrix.  I would place my daughter in the shopping cart, but before I could safely secure her lap belt she'd be out of the buggy, clinging to my head, screaming.  In the back of my mind I kept thinking that I would find some viral display of this epic tantrum on YouTube in a day or two. She was raging, and I was that mother who everyone looked at with judgment or pity.  I tried to keep my composure like a dignified southern bell, but there is no way to gracefully wrangle this rampant child.  
We had just moved to Wisconsin from Arizona, and there were things our family needed, I knew that if I left my passionate child out of the cart, her adventurous personality would find some ciaos to arouse.  Adi didn't cope well with small everyday transitions and this cross country move rocked her world.  We were in the midst of an incredibly stressful season and in order for me to accomplish my shopping mission; she would need to be safely secured in the seat of that red buggy. Repeatedly I would wrestle her into the seat, but as soon as my hands released her to snap the belt, she'd leap from the buggy and grip to whatever part of me she could.  Of course she shrilled, screamed, and cried the entire time, too.  I was at my whits end and so was she.  Several people passed by and offered to help, to bribe my child, or advise me on how to parent her.  Exhausted I sat down in the snack area and rocked her till we both were calm.  We hadn't gotten past the registers yet and there was still some basic needs to be filled in the aisles just feet away.  Her arms and legs were wrapped around my body with a strong grip, while I sat in the snack bar analyzing the situation.  I didn't know whether to cry or rage with anger.  I knew that there would be a similar struggle at the end of the shopping trip when I would try to buckle her into the car seat, and I still needed to do some shopping.  Her little world had been rocked over the past few months, and I was her pillar of stability. She needed to cling to me, but I needed to make sure our household was taken care of including securing a box of diapers from the middle of the store.  If only she would be content for 20 minutes so I could get the shopping done, and then I could hold her the rest of the afternoon, at home.  The comments and piercing looks of disapproval replayed in my head, as I contemplated my next move.  Our debut shopping trip to Target would not earn me this small town's mother of the year award.  I felt like my child’s behavior was a reflection of my parenting, and well what the world saw was not beautiful.  

We have all been in a place where either we observe or experience the difficult struggles of parenting.  Our worldly looking glass reflects a raging child and a fatigued mother as failure.  Like the ugly duckling we suffer this diagnosis, forgetting that a greater work is occurring from the inside out, until the end of the story.  We as mothers were not designed to bear the image of failure, but rather we were created in the image of the Almighty Himself.  It is His Spirit that lives in us and reflects from our faces when we choose to gently love our children through rough stages.  It is by the Spirit that we can rely on strength to not grow weary in doing good.  We are not called to be perfect parents, marching our children through life without defective behavior, rather God calls us to do our best to train and teach our children to know Him.  He has already secured victory for those who love Him, and that is more than comforting for the exasperated mother.   It may not look pretty through the process but you can be sure that when the work God is doing in our hearts is complete our reflection will be of His glory fully matured and beautiful. 

We survived our Target tantrum and the many mall meltdowns that followed.  I thank God for those experiences and that He was my pillar of stability during that season of uncertainty.  He would gently guide me through those moments using other mothers to encourage me in the checkout lines while my child wailed with discontent.  "You're a good mom," "I've been there," and simple smiles were His blessings.  Their words and gestures helped me see past what reflected on the surface, giving me a glimpse of what God radiates on the inside, love.  So dear mother of the young and tantrum prone, you are not alone; there are many of us who know what you are feeling.  Just hang in there, do your best, and rely on Jesus to do the rest.

Tips on how I survived temper tantrum trials:

1. Pray and take a deep breath, in and out; be aware of your body language.  I am a teeth clincher and shoulder stiffener.  You can't control how your child is reacting, but you can control how you do.  Identify how your body reacts and counter it with relaxation techniques. Breath deep, sit down (yep I have sat in many aisles trying to gain my composure), and the most effective PRAY! If you don't know what to pray, simply say Jesus or start with this one, "God give me understanding and the wisdom to calm my child in her distress."  By composing yourself you will be able to parent better than if you are overwhelmed by the stress.
2. Ignore the onlooking judges, their option doesn't count.  Your relationship with your child is far more important than what they think. God is more concerned with the internal battle field than the external worldly misconceptions. Your child's ill temper does disqualify you from parent of the year.
3. Pay close attention to your child's motives.  Many times a fit is an out cry for something your child can't fully communicate. but sometimes it is just a selfish desire for a toy or candy. Identify what triggered the tantrum. You know your child best, and can choose how to handle the situation. All children are special, and some may need more attention than others; God is with you and will equip you to care for your child's heart. 
4. Keep going, though your progress may be slow.  This season will have an end. Your endurance is greater than your toddlers. The example of your self control during frustrating times teaches more than your words.  
5. Don't set yourself up for tantrum throw down.   I know that getting out of the house with little ones is a challenge in itself, but try to plan your day out while your child is happiest and take snacks.  I would find that most of my child's fits occurred when my child was hungry or tiered.  I sometimes joked that they had past her expiration date, even Mommies get "hangry" at times.  
6. Don't define your child by her behavior. Constantly calling your child difficult, or out of control speaks that expectation into their lives.  Unruly behavior needs discipline, but labels can make you forget that your child is a gift.  A good a perfect gift.  Worse yet they have huge impacts on a child's self-esteem.  Discipline, and forgive your child each time they deify the expectations of social etiquette. Speak encouragement into the area they are strong in, then trust God to fill in the gaps.      

Monday, May 11, 2015

Farmer's Market Tips and Treasures!

I love that there is a Farmer's market on nearly every day of the week in the Milwaukee area. There is so much more to find than plants and produce.
This Saturday I discovered a great cup of joe brewed from freshly roasted beans, by Magellan Coffee Roasters.
 My daughters loved the apple cider donuts just a few booths away at the New Berlin Farmer's Market.  I would too, if they were gluten free.  But the aromatic cup of java thrilled this mama more than the tempting sugar coated dunkers.   
Honey and maple syrup are some of the sweet finds that are staples in our families pantry. As you may recall for my fighting seasonal allergies post, we love our local honey.   Fresh maple syrup is a great compliment to stack of pancakes, and they even have a cinnamon flavor, yum!
 If you are heading our to the local farmer's market here are some tips from the merchants.
1. The early bird gets the worm.  If you are wanting to get the most out of your market experience arrive early.  The best produce goes early.
2. Bags & totes are the in thing.  Bring your own cloth bags.  They are not only eco-friendly, they are more durable and can hold heavier objects like melons.  I am a HUGE fan of the thirty-one large utility totes and light weight thermal coolers.
3. Small bills pay big.  Bring cash in small bills, making change for large bills can clear out a merchant's till.  Most merchants accept credit cards now, but they in turn have to pay a small fee on average 3% of their sale.  Cash doesn't cut into the merchant's already slim profit margin.
4. It's a Family Thing. Children and pets are welcome at most market's.  My children love seeing the variety offered at the market. They see great examples of hard working folk and community comradery.  Many markets even welcome your furry pals, and some merchants have special treats for man's best friend.  But make sure to check the market's rules before including your pet.
5. Try something new every week. There are so many incredible products to choose from and being a family on a budget we try to spend our dollars with a different merchant each week. Though we do have weekly favorites, like apple cider donuts and Kettle corn.
This Saturday was the debut market for Andrea's Sweet Shoppe, and her darling cookies are on my girl's wish list for next week.
     Locally raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats are on my weekly wish list. I definitely will definitely sample some of Wisconsin's finest cheeses from time to time.  I love the muenster pepper cheese from Decatur Dairy.   Each year we love dipping into the flavorful salsas, some are very hot and others not.  If you think you can take the heat, Mark's Secret Stuff is one you must try when you visit the New Berlin Farmer's Market.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Gluten Free Etiquette

Social events have been interesting adventures since I discovered my gluten intolerance.  I completely sympathize with mothers of children who have allergies.  It seems rude or almost tacky to make special dietary requests, but in many cases it is a necessity.   Peanut allergies can be life threatening and something as simple as a play date could send a child to the ER.  Many precautions have to be taken, even if it means stepping on some toes.  Etiquette has never been my strong suite, (for crying out loud why do you need so many forks?)  but being rude is not my style ether. So what are the appropriate social rules that should be followed when dealing with a food allergy?
First of all, if it is life threatening, heck with the rules, but if possible follow these tips:

1. Inform your host when you RSVP.  Let her know when you RSVP that you have special dietary needs.  She should understand, after all it's not your fault.  But don't require a special dish just for you, it's not her fault either.  An allergy is not an entitlement card.
2. Offer to bring a dish.  Many times accommodating a food allergy can be an uncharted territory or added expense for your host,. By offering to bring a dish can help her out and assure there is a safe choice for your consumption.  Gluten for example is hidden in dips and dressings that someone one who doesn't avoid gluten, wouldn't know to look for it.
 3.  Understand that unless it's your party, you may have to take snacks or eat before you go.  I have a friend with a child that can't have egg, nuts, dairy, or wheat.  Those ingredients are in everything and hard to avoid.  I felt so bad when her daughter attended a birthday party that I hosted, and I had nothing her child could eat.  She simply assured me that avoiding these foods have become part of their lifestyle and she didn't require special accommodations for her daughter.  She had brought snacks her daughter could eat while we had cake.  The following year we were sure to have a birthday treat that everyone could eat, including my friend's daughter. 
I received an invitation a couple weeks ago to Muffins with Moms at my daughter's kindergarten class.  A class room mom who has a daughter with a peanut allergy offered to bake all the muffins.  I knew
the muffins would be nut free, but what about gluten free?  I spoke with the teacher and offered to bring nut free and gluten free muffins for the event. I didn't want to sit and watch everyone eat delicious muffins while I had a GF granola bar.  It took a little more time and preparation on my end but in the end was worth it!  The morning was full of songs, sweet hugs and muffins to accommodate all the food allergies in the room.  Thank you Mrs. S. for a great event.  Below is the recipe for my blueberry orange muffins.  I substituted olive oil for the coconut oil just to make sure that there was no accidental exposure.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Day of Prayer

Dear God,
We are a broken, stiff necked people.  We can’t see passed our stuff and how we want to live.   We are embodied by definitions of success that matters not in your Eternal perspective.  We cling tightly to ideas and merchandise and ignore the scales that blind our eyes.  Consumption has displaced worship in our lives. Some will say this isn’t me, I go to church and give generously, but only for appearance do you deceive.  Because the flesh though wounded is resilient and covers our selfish intentions.  Dying one day is not enough because the flesh will continue to recover unless you die to the ultimate lover.  Your thirst can not be quenched and your hunger not satisfied, unless each day yourself has died.  We worry instead of warrioring, holding to promise but duty ignoring.  Open our eyes great God that we may see that it is from you we have our victory.  That dying daily brings forth life in promise but not without strife.  Help us understand you offer grace and affection and only through your death can we have resurrection. Today we are a nation on our knees and thank you for your Holy Spirit that carries our pleas.  Heavy weights we place on the shoulders of men, and forget that you died to call them forgiven.  Though there are many leaders to pray for, it is my heart for which I implore. Help me trust your sovereign hand to be the governor of the land of the free.  Because of your love Abba Father our position will be, One Nation under God truly free.  Thank you Jesus that this can be, that you look beyond what men can see.  You know what is good for us and have made it clear that we can boldly love without fear.  Make your presence known and fill our nation, shake our land so our hearts awaken. For we have wondered so very far, but that never changes who you are.  You are constantly and awaiting a stiff necked people’s repentance. In the place where we can throw off self sufficiency and replace it with complete dependency, is where our Nation will find its independence.  Your open arms offer true freedom for those who live for the eternal kingdom.  
Give us wisdom Lord because it is what we lack, we can see this as the nation’s bills stack. I pray that You give us the strength to be brave, to proclaim the good news that can save.  Brave enough to put others first, to offer water to those who thirst.  To see our blessings as gifts to be shared; oh how the world would be changed by a nation that cared. Give us eyes to see each man, woman and child as one created in your very image, understanding our actions toward them is your homage.  Strengthen us for the harvest is plenty, that we can share your love, leaving no cup empty.  Band our voices in these precious days, and our song be only of your praise.  Make Love be our only objective, the defining verb by which we live.  May your will be done in the land of the free, everyday more of you and less of me.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dumpster Diver's Delight

I am  a sucker for discarded items on the side of the road.  I guess you can say I find a lot of truth in that old saying, "one man's trash is another's treasure." My garage is starting to fill with little tables, chairs and more treasures awaiting a chalk paint make over.  I found this little book shelf on the side of the road in my neighborhood.  It was in pretty rough shape, but I imagined in as a distressed white picket fence.
In the past I had spent hours sanding finishes off in order to prime a surface for traditional paint. Recently, I found a new best friend called chalk paint. It allows you to paint over nearly any finish without sanding or priming. Oh yeah this girl loves short cuts!! Chalk paint isn't new or hard to make, but is easy to use. I had purchased some from a local shop called The Chalk Studio.   I can't wait to try out a few recipes, but am always happy to find some quick go to colors on the shelves at the Chalk Studio. I chose a color that was a white with a gray undertone called Shadow for the main color.  I brushed it onto the shelves with random brush strokes making sure that every inch was covered.  I had to work fast because the paint dries quickly.  Once the bookshelf was completely coated in the shadow white. I dry brushed a sage green in random places.  Then dry brushing some shadow white over the green to blend it in.
 Once the entire shelf was painted, I used a block of fine grit sandpaper to distress the corners and edges.  Lastly, I used a stain colored wax to seal the paint and add an aged appearance to the finish.  It also accentuates the distressed characteristics of the piece.  When using a wax with a stain I like to use a rubber glove to protect my fingers from being tinted.  Some people apply the wax with a brush, but I chose to use a cotton cloth to apply and buff the wax on the bookshelf. Just like Mr. Miyagi would say, "Wax on, Wax off." Adi loved her hew bookshelf and I love the way it fits the garden theme in her bedroom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Waiting with My Foot in the Door

It was over a decade ago I when walked on the beach of South Africa; I cannot blot out from my memory the young orphan boys begging for spare change. They risked being chased off by local store workers with crops, similar to the ones used in horseback riding, for amounts totaling less than our American dime.  It was there that my heart was broken for those who do not have a mother's love.  There were many opportunities to hear God's whispers on long van rides through the African country side.  His heart is for the orphan, and He has planted the desire of adoptive motherhood in mine.  I get a little over excited when I hear God's calling.  I left Africa with plans to become a successful therapist and to sell all I had to move to South Africa.  I was going buy a house and open my home to children like the ones I had seen on the boardwalk.  However, God had set a different path under my feet and called me to trust His plan over mine.  In a matter of months before my undergrad graduation my heart was captured by a young man, and my self drawn plans were interrupted for a greater purpose.  Greater than selling everything and entering the mission field in Africa?  Yes.  It had been made clear that His purpose for me is in my home. It is where I can be most effective for His kingdom.  My mission field is in the everyday battlefield of raising a family in God's word.
Before we were married, Matt and I spoke of our desires for children.  Matt envisioned two children and didn't feel that adoption was for him.  I, on the other hand, wanted four children and would adopt as many as God would will.  Though our plans couldn't be more different, we were two people who trusted God's plan over our own.  We knew He would bless us with as many children as He had planned.  I accepted Matt's stance on adoption because you can't be kind of committed to adoption; you have to dive in with all your heart.  Parenthood in general isn't for the faint of heart.  It is an all consuming call to bravery, strength, commitment, and relentless love.  It is mission impossible, without Christ.  Though worth every struggle, it is hard to endure even with your own flesh and blood.  We as parents are commissioned with the task of not only equipping our children with necessary skills for survival, but for training them to thrive.  We step onto the battlefield of a broken world everyday, equipped with Sword and Shield, as dedicated warriors with the promise: if we teach and train them in God's word, it will not depart from them.  Adoption means being willing to take on the parenting challenge and carry the extra baggage that has been unfairly packed in a child's heart. Being willing to be vulnerable, even at the risk of heart break to be a mere reflection of Jesus' love.  I couldn't ask Matt to make that sacrifice, only God could.  
We had been married for nearly eight years when we moved to Wisconsin and started attending Elmbrook Church, a mission driven church both globally and locally.  It was Mother's Day three years ago when they played a video about foster care.  After church, we were visiting with friends, and I began sharing my heart with my dear friend. "I would love to foster or adopt, but Matt wouldn't want to."  Matt had overheard my comment in the other room and peeked around the corner and said, "Yes, I would."  I was pleasantly surprised at his statement and saw it as an open door for future conversations.  I made sure to stick my foot in it so that it couldn't close.  Over the next couple of years, opportunities passed where I would bring up my hearts desire, hoping he would share my enthusiasm.  More times than not our conversations would end in frustration, because Matt wanted to process and I wanted action.  I had began to push on that door and he wasn't ready to open it fully.  I knew if I kept pushing I would get my yes, but it would be a bitter yes, instead of a wholehearted, sweet yes.  So I stopped pushing and prayed, "God please either change his heart or help me close this door."  God's answer was for me to be quiet and still.  Ahh, He knows that's not in my DNA, but He didn't tell me to take my foot from the door! So I kept hoping and praying for my chance to adopt.  We are still praying about this life changing decision for our family and Matt's heart has slowly grown open to consider all options.  He has even registered us for a conference called Wait No More, hosted by our church and sponsored by Focus on the Family.  This step is exciting and I pray that God speak clearly to our hearts and that the attending families prayerfully listen to God's calling.  Though exciting, I too have to be ready to accept Matt's decision one way or another.  Regardless of whether we adopt or not, I wholeheartedly feel that I have a little boy in this world that I am called to love and pray for.  I would love for him to be my adopted son, but accept what ever role God gives me in his life.  Here is my letter to him:  

To my little boy,

You're on my heart today, like many days before. My eyes are swollen with tears thinking of where you may be, but my heart is steadfast in knowing you are mine to pray for.  I sometimes wonder if you are still being crafted in those quiet moments when only God knows of your existence or if you have seen hardship in your tender years.  Wherever you are, I know that God has a plan for you and one day I will be part of it.  
I wonder about your personality and what your favorite foods are.  I want to send you to school in the morning with a hug and kiss; bidding you, "Have the best day ever." I want to hold you in my arms and sing, "You are my Sunshine."  I want you to know and experience your mother's passionate love and comfort in times of celebration and in need. 
I know the promises that God has for you and I know that not a moment is wasted, even if we are apart.  I can't wait to speak His promises over you, but for now I will pray them over you.  I pray that God bless you and keep you safe, that your heart and mind be guarded by the Almighty, and you be sheltered by His wings. Be overwhelmed by His presence and aware of His unfailing love.  I pray that you are strengthened in the moments that we are apart, and your heart is kept open to hear the voice of God in your current circumstances. 
I pray that God continue to prepare my heart and your father's, so that we can be a reflection of His love.  May our hearts be filled with His grace and mercy so that they overflow with teaching and encouragement. Where we are lacking, may we rely on Him for wisdom and understanding, because He will provide in abundance.  May you be drawn closer to Him because you see His strength in our human frailty. 
I am not sure when I will be able to hold you in my arms or gaze into your eyes, my precious son, but when that day comes I will rejoice for you are home.  With thanksgiving I will wait for you and continue to pray.

Your Forever Mommy

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Simple and Cute Cash Envelopes - Free Pattern and Instructions

Nearly a year and a half ago my husband and I committed to a cash envelope system and we are so happy we did! I like spending money and my husband does not.  Before the envelope system, he would keep tabs on the bank balance while I went around my domestic duties: buying groceries, keeping up the household, and clothing shopping for our two growing children.  I was an expert at using coupons, shopping clearance and finding rock bottom deals. What I was not good at was keeping track of my spending.  Matt would tell me when we were nearing "broke" for the month. AHHHH!  I would be frustrated with myself for over spending, and filled with buyers remorse over all the fab deals I scored.  It would frustrate him that I couldn't stick to our budget when using the debit card.  I have the same problem with calories, I consume more than I should unless I keep track of them.
We had read The The Total Money Makeover and were applying a few of his principles, but hadn't tried the cash envelopes.  After several months of going over budget, we decided that we had to use the cash system to stay on track.  Paying down debt was important to us and not overspending was crucial.  We evaluated our spending, set realistic goals, and recalculated our monthly budget.
We now utilize the cash envelope system and online bill pay to keep our budget in check.  We try to use a Zero Balance budget meaning our income-bills-expenses=0.  Matt pays bills like the mortgage, utilities, and phone online.  We take out $600 in cash every month: $400 for grocery/dining out, $100 for household, $50 for clothing, and $50 for misc. spending.  We use our debit card for gas mainly because pay at the pump is convenient, but still have set a budget and stick to it.  We usually are under budget for gas and that allows us to pay more towards what we owe.
It is a great feeling when you pay off credit cards and pay down debt.  Using cash envelopes has been a liberating experience.  At first I felt humbled when I would have to tell a friend that I couldn't go out to eat because it didn't fit into our budget, but most people understood.  It took a few months and some creative planing to be able to stretch our money through the month.  Matt and I usually go out to eat 2-3 time per month for date night and strive to spend $25 or less, including tip.  We often frequent a local Mexican restaurant and order from the a la cart menu. Ordering off the a la cart menu helps keep our bill and calorie intake low.  We never leave hungry.  We also eat well at home utilizing coupons and stocking up during sales.  My Milwaukee Mommy is a great resource for a coupon/ad match up. She also posts great online shopping deals.  If we purchase items online we remove the money from the envelope as if it were spent and redeposit it into the account.  This practice also applies to the Target Red Debit Card which we use because it saves us an extra 5% on our purchases at Target.  We have become very efficient with our cash system and have had a few months when there was surplus.  Clothing is the only envelope that we let accumulate, if there is a $20 surplus in household from March we only withdraw $580 for April. Then we apply the $20 March surplus to our efforts to pay down debt.  At first it can seem impossible, but with hard work and dedication, I promise it does get easier.

There are many tools to help you organize your cash system.

1. A Plastic File Folder

2. Dave Ramsey's Deluxe Executive Envelope System

3. The Trendy Savvycents

4. Crafty and Cute

The choices were a little overwhelming and I wanted a combination between Crafty and Trendy but didn't want to spend a lot of money.  So I decided to make my own and here is how:
Choose your fabrics and interface.  Cut two 7.25" squares of fabric and one square of iron on interface per envelope.

Fuse the interface to the back side of one fabric square.  This will stiffen your fabric so that it keeps its shape.

With the right sides together, sew around the edges using the edge of the presser foot as your guide, leaving an inch open for turning your envelope right side out,

Cut the corners off, do not cut the into the seem. Then turn your envelope right sides out.

Press your envelope with an iron tucking the open edge.

Sew a top stitch along the opening of your envelope.  Fold edges together and sew along the side being careful to tuck in the open edge. 

Press your final envelope.

I created labels for my first set of envelopes.  You can make them buy cutting 0.5" by 1.5" strips of fabric and sewing them on before your close your sides.  I have chosen to go with Avery No-Iron Clothing Labels this time.  I plan on making a matching wallet too!