Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What a Family of 6 Eats in a Week

It is probably a weird source of entertainment, but I LOVE watching grocery hauls on YouTube, or reading What I Ate posts on blogs. Super random, I know. I always get really good ideas for meals, or just things for my kids to eat! I also really like watching cleaning, so random, but it is so satisfying to watch houses get clean. I realize I am a weirdo. ANYWAY, I get a lot of questions about how much food our family eats. Some friends recently were over and asked if we are buying stock in bananas because we just had so many. Nope, just a regular week for our family of 6! It is funny to me to think back to how much our family used to spend on groceries, and how much our smaller family used to eat. Our grocery budget has more than doubled in the past few years, partly due to growing our family, some of it based on changes in our eating and such. I figured it might be easier to take a video rather than take pictures of every single thing--that could get lengthy! So here is what our family of 6 (2 adults, 1 school aged, 1 preschooler, and 2 toddlers who eat like grown men, not exaggerating) eats in a week!

The total for the week was $145.74. 
Like I said, I love seeing what other people eat, so if you've posted anything lately, let me know! 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

30 Things I've Learned Over the Last 30 Years

In honor of my 30th birthday, I thought I would take some time to think about all that I have learned over the last 30 years. 30 seems like such a big one to me. I feel like I spent a lot of my 20's trying to figure things out, building our family, and waiting on a lot of different things. I am really hopeful for my 30's and think it will be a great decade to enjoy where we are at. Over the last 10 years I have gone from a single college student who was about to meet the love of her life ;) to a wife of almost 9 years and mom of 4. That's a lot of change in 10 short years, and I have learned a lot through all of those experiences. 

1. The older I get, the faster time will go by. There is nothing I can do to stop this, so I just need to embrace it.

2. Self love and self care is extremely important, and is not selfish, so make time for it! 

3. Love is a choice, forgiveness is a choice, joy is a choice.

4. ALL emotions are legitimate, even if they are based on a lie. If we feel a certain way, we feel that way for a reason. 

5. Everybody is weird. We just are. I think we should all just own it and be ok with our weirdness.

6. Jesus can take the most broken, wretched mess, and redeem it. Anything. Things we think are beyond repair and completely hopeless. It never ceases to amaze me. 

7. Many of the things I have spent time dwelling on, or stressing about are things that I completely forget about later on, or don't end up mattering in light of the rest of my life, or eternity. Discerning between what is important and what isn't has become crucial. 

8. If you have a partner who deeply loves and respects you, you are extremely blessed. I think this is something that is more rare than many people realize. (I count myself among those who are blessed by this.) 

9. Children are not resilient. So many of our deeply rooted issues and pains stem from something that occurred when we were children. I hear people saying "they'll be fine. Kids are so resilient" all the time, and it frustrates me. I should blog about this soon, because I think there is a lot more to be said about this. 

10. Manners are really important. They can make or break someone's opinion of you, or how a situation is handled. Using them also just makes people like you more ;) 

11. 90% of the time (totally making that statistic up...) disagreements, hurts, fights, misunderstandings, etc. occur because of miscommunication. Maybe it's not really that often, but so much of the time it's true. Why are we so bad about talking about things? Why are we so easily offended? 

12. Instincts are a really nice thing. Much of the time, if something doesn't feel right, it's probably not. 

13. It is important to have priorities, goals, and dreams. They give you something to work toward and fulfill. 

14. Traveling is really fun, sure, but I've also learned that it's really important. It gives us opportunities to experience new things, people, cultures, and ideas that may be outside of our "bubble". It allows us to spend quality time (no work, no school, no commitments...) with our loved ones. It gives us a break from our every day responsibilities and stressors. It used to be hard sometimes to justify the expense of traveling, but now I see it as such a worthwhile investment. 

15. Life will never stop being confusing. You'll never have it all "figured out". 

16. Education is really important, and I really believe that, BUT now that I'm well past high school age, I can tell all the kids who are wondering "WHEN WILL I EVER USE THIS" that most of the time, the answer is never. Learn it anyway. It will help you learn to do hard things, be determined and problem solve, and those are all invaluable lessons to learn. 

17. Raising children is one of the most inexplicably incredible things we can do on this earth. 

18. Kindness really does matter. 

19. Every single person is worthy of love, kindness and acceptance. Whether or not you agree with them, whether or not you even like them. If you can't do those things, find one positive trait they have and dwell on that thing. 

20. Everyone needs their person. The person that will take their secrets to the grave, and who they can call on any time of the day and they will come running. If you don't have one of those, get one. They will enhance your life. 

21. Only what's done for Christ will last. Live with eternity in mind. 

22. Laughter really is great medicine. It is so good for the soul.

23. YOU can make a difference, and if you don't think you can, find a way. Too many people think they can't do great things and so they never do. 

24. Learning how someone prefers or needs to be loved is necessary. We don't all receive love in the same way, and finding out how someone feels most loved can make a world of difference. 

25. Parenting done right in the early years will make everyone's lives more enjoyable in the later years. (Wisdom from my pastor-- do the hard work when they're young and you'll be able to give them more grace and enjoy the teen years because they already know right from wrong.) 

26. Finding something you enjoy can really make life worth living. Hobbies are not a waste of time. 

27. There is a HUGE difference between knowing truth, and truth setting you free. I am learning that difference now and it is life changing.

28. Don't worry too much about what other people are doing. We can drive ourselves crazy with that. At the end of our lives, we are accountable to God for ourselves. 

29. Life really does get better with age. 

30. I am completely undeserving. Chosen by God for eternity, and reaping many blessings from Him here on Earth. I don't know why, but I am forever thankful. 
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Friday, July 7, 2017

What I've Been Reading: Vol. 3

Time to recap what I've been reading for the last few months! I actually didn't read a single book in June, which is weird for me. Life was just busy and crazy and it fell by the wayside. I'm trying to decide what I want to read next so I thought I'd go through and write about what I've read recently! 
For what I read the first few months of 2017, go here, and for some of the books I read in 2016 go here. 
  • Just a Kiss was the final book in Denise Hunter's Summer Harbor series. I loved the whole series so much! It kept me on my toes and they were all sweet romance stories. I love that each book focused on a new main character/couple but we still got to find out about the characters from the other books and how they were doing! I was sad to be ending this sweet series. 
  • Tidewater Inn is the first book in Colleen Coble's Hope Beach series. I loved this book as well. It was kind of a thriller, but not scary, and I had NO idea what was going to happen until right up at the end. The suspense was great in this story! This was one of those books where you really just fall in love with the characters and feel like you know them. 
  • I started Boundaries in early 2016 and only read a few chapters slowly and it was always on the backburner. Not until this year did I pick it back up and zoom right through it. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it really helped me see how setting appropriate boundaries is so necessary in relationships, no matter what the relationship is (personal, romantic, professional, etc.) It also helped me see where I have made some mistakes with setting, or not setting boundaries. I think the reason I didn't love it is because I felt like there should have been a lot more examples on how to actually set those boundaries. There were tons of stories of people setting boundaries and having their lives changed for the better, but I think for people who have struggled with setting boundaries, a big reason why they have may be because they don't actually know how to set them. If there were more practical tips in the book I think it would have been helpful, however, the book was very eye opening and I can see how it could be life changing for a lot of people and I'd consider it a must read for most people!
  • I loved the idea of the book Raising Uncommon Kids, however, it's another one I have mixed feelings about. My husband and I read this one together, and we both felt 'meh' about it. I love the way that she took 12 biblical traits and gave stories, tips and practical ways of teaching them to your kids. I love the importance of we as parents having those traits in ourselves before we can expect our children to model them. But I think maybe just a lot of what she talked about was unrelatable to us. I can't quite pinpoint why I didn't love it. We got some good ideas that we have implemented, and hope to implement, with our kids, but the majority just felt like we couldn't relate to it. I don't know if our family dynamic was just so different from hers or what, but something just didn't click with us. There were also several times where things just plain didn't make sense to us. At the end of one of the chapters, where she gives practical suggestions to make it stick with your kids, the examples she gave made no sense in relation to the chapter we'd just read. We read over them several times and both were at a loss to how it went with that chapter at all. I'd still recommend reading it, since there are some really good suggestions for parenting with a Biblical mindset. 
  • Rosemary Cottage is the 2nd book in the Hope Beach series. I also loved this book. Obviously it was very similar to Tidewater Inn, and featured some of the same characters. This one also kept me on my toes trying to put the pieces together!
  • Seagrass Pier was the final book in the Hope Beach series, and while I liked it, I definitely had a harder time getting through this one than the first 2. This book honestly freaked me out. The first two were suspenseful but not scary. This one scared me. The poor main character in this book is basically trying to keep herself, her young daughter, and her mother who has dementia, safe from a psycho stalker and it just felt too possible and frightening to me to really enjoy it all that much! The ending definitely threw me for a loop when she finds out who the stalker is...I didn't expect it at all.   
  • Another Coble book-Because You're Mine. The book sounded interesting, but I really didn't like it much at all. I felt like I didn't connect with or like the characters at all. I don't know if it was poor character development or what, but it just wasn't there for me. It was also very predictable at some parts, and just ridiculous at other parts. After all of the mysteries were solved, there were still several random things that I felt were unresolved and that was annoying to me. I typically love Colleen Coble but this book fell short and I don't recommend. 
  • Finally, The Hate U Give is the most recent book I've read. This book was powerful. I'll let you click over to read the full description, but I highly recommend this book. As someone who has been trying hard to learn more about systemic racism, and break down some of my own (unintended, but there nonetheless) racial bias, this book was very helpful for me. I think it was a very honest portrayal of many events occurring in our country right now re: an unarmed black male killed by a white police officer. There's so much more I could say about this book, but I'll stop, and tell you to read this book! Reading it helped me further understand how great my white privilege is and gave me some new perspective on racism in America today. 
And that brings me to today! Still trying to decide what I want to read next. Any suggestions?! 
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer 2017...So Far!

Summer is absolutely flying by, per usual. We have been doing so much and having so much fun! I love how many community events and things to do there are in the summer, so we have been taking full advantage. I need to dump pictures off of my phone, so I figured I may as well blog about our summer so far, before I do that! 
We've been hitting park after park...

Doing lots of projects around the house...
Going to festivals and fairs...
Sleeping hard...
Having lunch dates with Daddy...
Playing at the Children's Museum...

Crushing swimming lessons...

Celebrating our favorite Dad...
Going to late night outdoor movies...
Playing at the Balloon Glow, an annual family favorite...
Hitting up a free summer kid's movie...
Annual church family retreat...

Mastering the 2 wheeled bike...
Doing messy projects...

Getting strep throat (BOO...who gets strep in the summer? Me and my little girl, apparently)
Cooling down at so many splash pads...
Zoo day with Aunt Katie...

Celebrating the 4th! 
We have definitely been squeezing in as much fun as possible. Hard to believe summer is almost 1/2 over. We have a TON more fun things coming up in the next month or so that I can't wait to share! Happy July!! 
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How I Do Laundry for 6 people in One Hour Per Week

I think almost every mom I know dreads laundry. It seems to be never ending, take up so much of our time, and just be a drag. I used to feel that way a lot of the time, but I've come up with a system for laundry that works SO well for our family of 6 and only takes me just under one hour every week! 
Since becoming a mom of 4, I have found that when something is taking up too much of my time (chore wise), or I am completely dreading it or drowning in it, I need to reevaluate how I am doing it and why it is no longer working for me. No one way works for every home, with any chore. I was sick of falling behind with laundry and spending what felt like hours every day folding and putting it away. I used to do laundry by categorizing my laundry by person. Monday I would do mine and my husband's laundry. Tuesday I would do the girls' laundry. Wednesday I would do the boys' laundry, so on and so forth. This meant that every day I was washing about a week's worth of laundry for 2 people. For a long time I preferred doing it this way because it was less sorting. I didn't have to make 20 piles for everyone in our family and go around to each room putting things away. But after adding so many more people to our family, it just wasn't working anymore, so I reevaluated and what I've been doing for the last several months has been working out so well! It's really so simple. 

I wash a load of laundry every week day. I was already doing this, but now I am washing the clothes that were worn the day before by everyone in the family. I don't do laundry on the weekends so on Monday I have 3 days of laundry to wash (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and Tuesday-Friday I am doing one day's worth. Tuesday-Friday it takes me just under 7 minutes to fold all the laundry and put it away. My girls put their own laundry away. I leave it in a pile for them on the couch and they put it away and leave their shirts/dresses on the floor for me to hang since they can't reach. 7 minutes x 4 days a week is 28 minutes. On Monday it takes me about 20 minutes to fold and put everything away. It takes me around 30 seconds to throw a load in the washer or take it out of the dryer, so just a few minutes a week for that. Add in extra loads like towels or sheets here and there throughout the week, which take even less time to fold and I am coming in right around 1 hour a week. 

I don't sort clothes by color (we don't wear much white aside from socks or under shirts anyway) or type (jeans, sweaters, etc.) but I wasn't doing that before either and have NEVER had a problem washing all the clothes together. I have 1 laundry basket in the hall way and when everyone changes into their pajamas before bed, they throw their clothes from the day into the laundry basket, and in the morning after they get dressed, they throw their pajamas in and then I start the laundry right away in the morning, and fold it during the kids nap/rest time. 
I have no idea why it takes so much less time. It should be the same amount of clothes in a week, right? It doesn't make sense and I have no explanation, but it goes so much faster and my loads are so much smaller each day. 
The best part about it is that I never feel like I am behind on laundry. I have the system and routine down pat now and knowing that it only takes me a few minutes per day makes me looking forward to just getting it done! Last week I was sick on Monday, and recouping on Tuesday so I didn't get around to the weekend's laundry until Wednesday so I had to do 5 days worth of laundry for 6 people in that one day and it took me FOREVER. It really solidified for me that this system is working out SO well for me and I'm so glad I switched! 
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Homeschool Curriculum Choices: Kindergarten

I actually can't believe I'm writing this post. My baby is starting Kindergarten in the fall. I guess I'll skip over all the mushy stuff because if you're a parent you know how it is-she was just born, can't possibly be this old, it's so fun to watch her grow, but so sad it's going so fast, etc. ;) 
As a former teacher, I've been thinking ahead to the school years pretty much since my kids were conceived. I really cherished their young years, and I think a lot will change in their school years since a lot of our life will be about school now, but I am looking forward to that, too. 
So this year, my biggest girl will officially be a kindergartner. She will be 6 in a few months (her birthday is just a few days after the cut off). My girls are pretty much attached at the hip, and my 4 1/2 year old daughter is actually probably even more ready in some ways for certain subjects, so I am going to do a lot of things with both of them. If my younger daughter is ready to learn to read, and I'm teaching the older one anyway, why not just teach them both, together? I think it'll make things easier long term, as well. So technically my oldest will be in Kinder this year, but except for math, my younger kind of will be too, if that makes sense. 
So, without anymore jabber, here is what I've chosen for our curriculum for 2017-2018. 
Language Arts:
Right now, this is our biggest focus. Both of my girls are really ready to read and I got a little lazy about it this last year. They know all of their letters, all consonant sounds and some vowel sounds, and can somewhat write most of their letters (some are formed incorrectly...) I was kind of picky about the program I chose for several reasons. One reason was that I didn't want to be picking out 5 different curriculums. I see a lot of homeschoolers choosing separate curriculum for reading, grammar, spelling, handwriting, etc. and I just didn't want to deal with that for this year. Another thing I was looking for was a really solid program. I want my kids to be excellent readers, because it is such a valuable life skill, and just so crucial. I also wanted a program that wouldn't be overly repetitive. Some repetition is okay, but when each week is the exact same activities with a different letter, we all get bored. SO, after lots and LOTS of research, the program I chose is Logic of English: Foundations. I had actually never heard anyone mention this curriculum before, and I usually look into programs I've seen recommended, so this one was totally foreign to me, but I think we are going to love it. It is multisensory, which the girls will love, and covers phonics, reading, handwriting, and spelling. They have a big focus on phonics rules, and explain that actually almost everything has a rule or reason, where so many of us sometimes feel like English is so random and doesn't always make sense. I think this will really help them to understand how our language works, and give them a lot of tools for proper usage. Foundations has 4 levels. I have ordered levels A and B so far. I am not 100% sure how fast we are going to work this year. We will do school 4 days a week (more about that later), and each level has 48 lessons. So, we could be through it with quite a few weeks to spare, and I may order level C depending on how it's going and how well we like the program. I don't want to push it too much this first year, so I'm not going to plan the entire year out in a rigid schedule this time, and am going to go more at their pace and take time to slow down if we need to. Foundations will be the biggest part of our Kindergarten year. 
This is everything that comes with Foundations A & B, for 2 students.
For math, I am planning to order Math U See Primer. I have heard of tons of homeschoolers using this program, and loving it, so we are going to start with this. I am really hoping it works out well for my kids so we can just use it year after year! Only my oldest will start on this program this year. I haven't purchased it yet, so I'm not completely familiar with it, but my understanding is that there is a video lesson each week which introduces a new concept, and then those 5 days it builds on that same concept. I believe there's a review/assessment on the 5th day. I like this because it really makes sure that kiddos understand a concept fully before moving onto the next, and I think that the curriculum builds off of each concept. I remember teaching some math curriculums before where it was one 30 minute math lesson and a first grader was supposed to have mastered that concept completely. No wonder so many kids are frustrated by math! It comes with a manipulative set that is used throughout each level in the program. I know my daughter will really enjoy using that to learn. 
We are starting Bible out with Bible Study Guide for All Ages. I always have a really hard time choosing Bible curriculums. I want to make sure they're theologically sound, and also that my kids will enjoy them and they'll make sense and be relevant. It's surprisingly hard to find good ones, I feel like! Because I've had such a hard time finding ones we all like, I only ordered the first set of lesson pages (26 lessons). I want to try it out for a little while and make sure we like it, before committing to a whole year of it. We will see! I think it'll be engaging for my girls because it's really interactive. I really like that they have the same lessons at different levels, so that in the future, if we stick with this one, we can teach all of the kids but have them each doing age appropriate activities. 

Unit Study:
Its probably the early childhood teacher in me, but I love unit studies. This year, we are going to do an ocean life unit. I am kind of obsessed with sea creatures, and my kids really like them, too, so I thought, why not learn a ton about them this year?! I am mostly going to focus on the different ocean animals, but we'll also learn about the different oceans Earth has, the ocean zones, do experiments, and more. I am really looking forward to this, and I know my girls will enjoy it so much! My husband and I have something really fun planned for the very end of the unit/year, too :) I'm not quite sure where we'll fit it into our schedule yet, but for right now I'm thinking twice a week. I made up a page that the girls can make for each animal they learn about, and then we'll bind them into a book at the end. I'll have to share the printables for that later on. I like that we'll be able to incorporate a lot of different subjects into this unit. 
Enrichment Classes: 
I *think* we've officially decided to put my oldest into a homeschool enrichment class. She'll go once a week for about 5 hours and will have art, music, p.e., science, history, lunch and recess with other homeschooled kids (which is why we'll only school 4 days a week at home). I was really back and forth on this, but I think it will end up being really good, and if not, we don't have to continue. I really like that she'll get experiences we just can't do at home (like they have a kiln in the art room and do pottery, they have a science fair, world food fest, music concert, etc.) and I know she will really enjoy going to school.  At least for Kindergarten I'm going to see how much she gets out of science and history with that, and possibly do a little here and there at home. I am not planning to purchase a formal curriculum for science or social studies for this year, though. When I student taught in Kinder and 1st, they only did each of those subjects once a week, so I'm thinking she'll probably be fine with just the enrichment class for those, plus supplementing with our unit study and some science experiments here and there. 
So, that's it! There's our Kindergarten year laid out. I am not planning to plan out the year in advance like I've done it the past, because I want to really get a feel for how quickly or slowly we need to move in some subjects this year. I feel like Kinder is kind of a trial year in some ways. They learn A TON in Kinder, but also have a lot of opportunity to just get a feeling for school and learning before 1st. We are all really looking forward to the year and lots of fun learning opportunities! If you are homeschooling, what curriculum(s) have you chosen for next year?! 
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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Big Bike/Lemonade Stand/Memorial Weekend/Fishing/Friends/Mother's Day

Summer already. I feel like every year I say more and more how fast time is going, but this year is seriously flying by. I feel like it was JUST Christmas, and here we are, halfway back to it almost. We are so excited for summer, though. We've been trying to really take advantage of being outdoors (when it's not rainy) before it gets too hot, humid and miserable.

My biggest girl learned how to ride her bike without training wheels a few weeks ago. She had been asking when we could take them off, and one beautiful day we just decided to do it. The first go round, she was really wobbly and my husband ran alongside her and had his hand on her seat the entire time, and then a couple more times up and down the street she was going on her own! I remember when my dad took off my training wheels and it was a long, miserable process, but my girl was ready I guess! She has been crushing it on her bike ever since, and is just about too fast for my husband to keep up on foot. Of course I don't have any pictures of this because I only took video. 

My girls also had their first lemonade stand a few weekends ago! They thought this was pretty much the best thing ever. We are the first house in our neighborhood so they got LOTS of customers! 
Over Memorial weekend, we went to visit some friends a couple hours away. They have moved out of state but were back visiting parents, so we made a little trip out of it and spent about 24 hours at their parents place. They had a fishing lake, 4 wheelers, chickens, etc. The kids all just had a blast and it was so fun to catch up with friends + let our kids all just run around the land. My girl has been asking when she can go fishing for quite awhile now. Her dad isn't really a big fisherman, so it just hasn't been something we've ever done, so this was her first time out. She caught 7 fish the first day and 3 the second! She's been begging for a ninja turtle fishing pole and I haven't ever gotten it since we don't really fish, but I think I'll have to get it for her now. 

My friend Ashley and I met in 7th grade, so we've been friends for almost twenty years! So crazy. It is so fun to see how life progressed and now between our two families we have 8 kiddos running around. The girls are all crazy about each other and I know they'll all be great friends growing up--if only we lived closer. The girls have been calling Norah their "cousin friend". So cute. 
Mother's Day this year (mostly so I can remember it looking back): We had BEAUTIFUL weather. We went to church in the morning, then met my husband's family at a park and picnicked and then played at the playground there. We stayed several hours until everyone was too hot and tired. After naps, we rode bikes to get ice cream. On the way, the trailer got a flat tire. My husband was able to make it the rest of the way there, but me and my riding buddy had to bike home, get the car and come back for the rest of them. It was about 7-8 miles overall, and we accidentally had ice cream for dinner, but it was so fun. I am very thankful I get to be a mom. God has been so gracious to me. These kiddos are my most precious treasures. 

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

No Fear in Love {Foster Care}

One of the most common things we hear from people when they find out we do foster care is some variation of:  "I would love to foster, but I'm scared to love a child and have them leave." I get it, I really do. I used to have the same feelings, but God broke down my walls a few years ago and here we are: loving kids who might leave. The goal of foster care is reunification. Ideally, that's what foster care should accomplish. Families being brought back together. Families healing. Families finding a new way. Families overcoming huge hurdles in their lives so they can be together. Does it always happen? Of course not. But to step into foster care, you really have to be aware that putting families back together is the goal. That you are part of a team working together toward that goal. That there is a pretty good chance that somewhere along the way, you will love a child who will leave. 
I fully understand the fear of becoming attached to a child, loving them like your own, giving them your entire heart, only to have them move on and possibly forget you. I have been knee deep in that reality for the last year and a half. In my opinion, that is proof you would be a wonderful foster parent. Those who attach to kids, love them with their whole heart, and love them unconditionally are the exact kind of people kids who come from hurting places need. I can't imagine any great foster parents start out thinking, "Yeah, I probably wouldn't love these kids very much. Where do I sign up?!" But just because it's scary doesn't mean you shouldn't do it if you're feeling the pull.
Here's how I see it. The first time you started a dating relationship with someone, what did you feel in the beginning? Were you already scared that it might end painfully? Or did you let yourself fall in love and experience the experiences? Did you constantly think "what if this doesn't work out? What if I end up with a broken heart?" Or did you let yourself fall for that person, taking a risk on love? What about subsequent relationships? If you had your heart broken once before, did you swear off love forever? The way I see it, foster care is an opportunity to take a chance on love. Yes, you might get your heart broken. Yes, you will probably get deeply attached to kids and they might not stay with you. Yes, it is risky and scary. But it's also amazing. You also get a chance to learn to love in completely new ways. You get opportunities to show precious children how to attach and show them that there are people who will love them unconditionally, no matter what. Is that worth it, even if they leave? Yes, 100 times over. My personal feeling is that I would much rather my heart be broken than theirs.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are commanded not to live in fear. "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." Would you be willing to walk into a relationship with a child who needs you, not filled with fear of the future, but ready and willing to love? Just like you probably have walked into relationships with significant others, or even with friends, not wondering how or when it would end, but enjoying the time your relationship gets to grow. I don't personally know anyone who has completely sworn off love because of the "what ifs". I don't know anyone who has said "I never want a relationship-it's too risky." Yet, it's the most common reason I hear for not stepping into foster care. I know foster caring is not for everyone. It really isn't. But for the people who truly have a deep desire to step into this place, why haven't you? If it's because of fear of loss, please truly consider what I've said here. There are kids out there who need you. Trust me, I get calls every week for them. It's easy to turn a blind eye to the need when it doesn't personally affect you, but it is there. If you know me personally, you know two of the faces for whom this is reality. Think about those precious faces, as they may be the only ones you know who are affected first hand by this. Consider all that God has done in their young lives. There are many more just like them, right here in our county, who need someone to take a chance on loving them. Take a few minutes, if you will, to let some of the words from the song "No Fear in Love" by Steffany Gretzinger, seep into your soul. 

Stir in me a love that's deep
A love that's wide
A love that's sweet
And help me Lord to never keep it to myself 

Has God given you enough love in your heart to share with someone who really needs it? Someone who is deeply worth it? If you're feeling the pull, ask Him to show you how you can share that deep, wide, sweet love that He has stirred up in your heart.
If my babes leave, will I be devastated after having loved them to the best of my ability for so long? Absolutely. Will I regret having experienced the joy of loving them, and having them love me in return? Not a chance. 

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Front Porch Makeover

Last week, I got an itch to work on our front porch a little. We have a nice little porch area that has a beautiful view off to the side, and is a good size, but I've just never done anything with it. Besides a wreath and some furniture, it has been completely neglected since we moved in 3 years ago. It was time to change that! I should have taken a before picture, but basically it was just a giant messy pile of outdoor furniture. We had 2 chairs, a little table, and a bench, and then last year my mom gave us these 2 cute little rockers she had. I liked all of it, but it was too much to make work and just looked messy. 
My first step was deciding which furniture I wanted to keep and messing around with some arrangements. 
Once I had that figured out, I made a mental list of things I wanted for the porch--a couple of pillows for the bench to cozy it up a little, some kind of stand or table in the corner, and a wreath. Not a whole lot! I also later thought of the idea to hang string lights out there, and now I'm obsessed with them! I have always wanted some in our backyard but we really have nowhere to hang them back there, so I'm glad I thought of this and that it worked out! 

When I was out shopping, I couldn't find just the right thing to put in the corner. I had something in mind and am completely blanking what its called right now. It's a metal thing that can be decor, or also a little seat. About knee height. For the life of me I cannot come up with the name for it--someone help me out here!! Anyway, I only saw a couple of them in stores and they were about $90 which is way more than I wanted to spend. Finally, at TJ Maxx, they had a cute little yellow table and I almost bought it, but then realized I could just spray paint the table I already had that I was planning to get rid of, and use that instead, so I did! I threw a little plant from TJ Maxx on top and called it good.
The pillows were a little bit tricky. I couldn't find anything I loved until I came upon this hello pillow at Hobby Lobby. But I couldn't find anything to go with it. I bought it anyway, thinking if I couldn't find anything else I'd return it. 
Then I found this bike pillow at Kirkland's and loved it, too. I wasn't sure how well they'd go together.
 At first, I didn't like them together because the whites aren't exactly the same and the bike pillow is a little bigger, but then I decided that I love both the pillows so I'm keeping them both, even if I'm committing some kind of decorating faux pas. 
I got the wreath at Kirkland's also. I just wanted something simple that could work for spring or summer. I think this would probably work for fall, as well! I have several holiday wreaths that I switch out, but I didn't have a very versatile one. I have made my own in the past but was going for easy this time, however I really didn't want to spend the $60+ that most of the wreaths at Hobby Lobby were, so I was glad to find this one! 
I got the lights at Target. I had no idea how many we'd need, so I just got 3 and it ended up being perfect. The pictures don't do justice for how cozy it feels out there at night. I see many nights after the kids go to bed with a cold beverage and book, or long talks with my honey. 
It's not a whole lot, but it's amazing how just a few little things can make a big impact! I feel like we are all ready for spring and summer now! 

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