Friday, November 30, 2012

I've heard it before ...

My mom once told me she read people had to hear things seven times to truly remember them. I brought this up when I was with her recently and she said, "No it's more than that, like 77." Neither of us could remember the true scientific fact. Ironic. But, hey, either way, our mushy human brains are so full of stuff that we have to hear something over and over and over and over and over and over and over ... and maybe over again ... in order to absorb it.

Since becoming a mom, my brain has become mushier so God uses these two little people in my life to teach me things. They may be little, but the lessons that come from my days with them are big. They're about things that aren't really things, like patience. And control, or lack thereof. And how judgments are pointless.

You know, life changing things that aren't really things.

One "thing" God has been working on in my life right now is realizing not everyone is a planner who works ahead of deadlines and instead of getting frustrated that not everyone operates like I want to, these people have the ability to remind me that God cares about the details and is so much better at orchestrating them than I could ever be.

Truth is, sometimes working at someone else's pace is refreshing and eliminates the stress that I've been known to generate inside myself wondering if something will get done well and on time. The more present I am, the more I learn the goodness often happens on the journey toward the plan. You know, I keep realizing, events and parties and playdates and vacations and dreams and family nights and holidays and adoptions happen even when people don't have the same perfection-driven timeline I have.


Shocking, I know.

I've "heard" this at least seven times, probably even closer to 77, the last few months. And, you know, my life and heart have been better because of it. I'm not deleting my electronic calendar or anything, but, maybe, just maybe, I should have just listened the first time.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crafting Christmas

Mod Podge has long been my friend. So you can imagine how excited I was to introduce my 5 1/2-year-old daughter to Mod Podge. {Really, this day was quite monumental: Cate met Crossword Puzzles and Scrabble Junior the very same day.} So Mod Podge helped Cate and I make some coasters we're including in people's Christmas presents.

{Oh, and, hey, if you're one of my girl's grandmas or aunts, just pretend you're surprised when you open yours ...}

I took pictures throughout the process, which happened in two naptimes. You know, when my curious, messy 3-year-old boy was sleeping ...

If you want to make some easy {and cheap!} coasters, here's what you'll need :
  • Tiles {We made eight seats of four coasters. The tiles cost 30 cents each at Lowe's. $9.60}
  • Mod Podge {I've had my bottle for awhile, but I think it's about $5 at Walmart.}
  • Scrapbook paper {We used a $5 pad of spring colors I'd gotten at Big Lots some time ago.}
  • Felt {We picked three colors for 23 cents a sheet at Walmart. 69 cents.}
  • Acrylic sealer {We used the Mod Podge brand because it was the best deal and was about $6.}
  • Scrissors/X-acto knife
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Ribbon to tie around finished sets of coasters

I cut all the paper into 3.5-inch squares. Cate painted the tiles with Mod Podge before adding the paper and then applying more Mod Podge over the top of the paper. We let those dry for several hours before applying the spray-on acrylic sealer.

I cut the felt into small squares for each corner of each coaster. If you're keeping up, that means I cut 128 squares of felt. We used a few different glues before we figured out using my scrapbooking Xyron sticker maker was the best adhesive. Second best was regular Elmer's glue {like Cate has in the picture above}, if you don't have scrapbooking tools sitting around.

We raided my scrapbooking ribbon supply and used some pinks and blues to tie up the finished sets of coasters. You can see she's proud of our creations, and, truthfully, she did a ton of the work. She even knows which seats she wants to go to each grandma and aunt.

Crafty friends, what Christmas projects do you have going on?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soaking up Slugs & Bugs

I have many ideas. Some of them have never been spoken aloud. Others have been altered as soon as they came out of my mouth. Sometimes these ideas are clearly the nudging of God, so I go with it. I'm learning sometimes all it takes to get an idea rolling is to ask.

So that's what I did with one particular idea in September. I emailed Randall Goodgame with an idea. We emailed back and forth, tweaking and shaping the idea. And part of that idea came to be Sunday with the second Slugs & Bugs concert I've hosted in Murray. {Read about the first here.}

I'm really glad I asked.

My four closest friends here were supportive of my slightly crazy idea from the moment I texted them. A couple of them made sure they were back from their Thanksgiving travels to be at the concert. I had other friends help me brainstorm my fundraising plan and them immediately jump on board with financial contributions.

Last year, my generous church paid for the concert, which was held at a theater on Murray State's campus. This year, I was nudged to make it a community-sponsored event, continuing a unifying work I see God doing in this community among churches and friends. Admittedly, I wondered how I was going to raise the concert fee, but I never doubted it would happen. I probably signed the contract a little sooner than my husband would have liked, but I trusted God was moving.

And He moved.

Different churches and their ministries pitched in {Little Hands Story Time at Immanuel Lutheran Church, First Baptist, Christian Community Church, Murray Family Church}. My daughter's private school {New Covenant Christian Academy} joined the effort. Local businesses {Taylor Motors, Dwain Taylor Chevrolet/Toyota of Murray, The Closet Door Consignment, Jenn Hall King Photography, West Kentucky Neurology, Greg Taylor & Associates, Cornerstone Lawn Care, Jarvis Vision Center} helped. My brother-in-law Charles Taylor promoted his upcoming concert. Friend {Mary and John Pettit, Dana and Charles Bramley, and Courtney and Andy French} donated.

Seventeen donations before the event plus some donations at the door paid for the concert fee. And the process reminded me God moves through details so he can be glorified. Plus, it was a fun "professional" project for me and encouraged me to put KHT Promotions out there.

In this end, about 130 people got to praise God through fun songs. Us parents got to see our kids experience joy and learn motions to songs that are the perfect soundtrack to this season of parenting little ones. The dad behind me said, "This is freakin' awesome. My son never sits still, but he's sitting here soaking this up."

That's how it should be. I want my kids to soak up what is true and good. Slugs & Bugs has been the soundtrack to so many ordinary moments in our family's life that I'm glad friends and businesses helped me be able to share that with others, especially the boy sitting behind me. And I'm glad Randall Goodgame didn't mind talking through an idea with a stay-at-home mom who likes to dream.

Parents, if you aren't familiar with Slugs & Bugs, you can check the music out on YouTube, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

{Tiny Prints} 30% off sitewide EXTENDED!

Joyful Joys : Aqua Flat
Holiday Photo Cards
If you didn't get a chance to use Tiny Print's 30% off sitewide coupon earlier this week, you've got some more time.

Tiny Prints is extending its 30% off its entire site so you can finish Christmas shopping. You'll find lovely photo gifts, holiday cards and invitations. This deal is good today and tomorrow. {It expires Thursday, Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific}

Just use the code CB12 at checkout. Get busy making your list and checking it twice!

If you're new to Tiny Prints, you'll love this easy-to-use site. And, trust me, you'll love the products. The Christmas cards I recently ordered are some of my favorite I've made.

{DISCLAIMER: Compensated affiliate link used. But, really, those are some of the Christmas cards I'm mailing soon.}


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{Adoption} It's a journey ...

Mary and her sweet family

You all met my cousin Mary yesterday. Now you get to hear her adoption in her own words. Thanks, Mary, for sharing your journey with us. I'm so grateful the story has the precious ending it does. Your faith getting there encourages me and I believe it will others.
Proverbs 16:9 : “A man makes a plan in His heart, but God directs his path.”

This past weekend my little family of three went to have our first Christmas picture taken. Things have really changed over a year’s time! A year ago, my husband and I were left hoping, praying, and believing that we would become parents.

My daughter, Penny, was born in February of this year and God blessed us with her through the amazing gift of adoption. As soon as I held her I knew everything would be okay and that this is the child had had intended all along for us.

The Journey Begins

Let me back up and tell you briefly about our journey to Penny. Our adoption journey started out as a wonderful whirlwind. After praying about where to start with our adoption journey, God literally led us to Faithful Adoption Consultants (I cannot recommend them enough!) in the fall of 2010. During the span of nine months, starting in January 2011, we matched with four different birthmothers and four baby girls. (We were not gender specific, believe it or not!)

The first baby girl was born and we spent five days in the hospital with her. She was born with a rare multi-system genetic disease. We visited her in the hospital for hours each day during those five days just praying we would be able to come up with a way to provide for her needs. The only other option we had was to walk away from the baby and end that match. After much praying, begging God, and crying the very ugly cry with snot going everywhere for many hours, my husband and I made the decision after asking God for some type answer to walk away.

God revealed to us very clearly through the words and tears of a neurosurgeon that we could not be adequate parents at that time for that little girl. She would have required one of us to stay at home with her 24/7 and at that time, we could not do that and still provide for her financially and responsibly. That was traumatizing, but we knew deep in our hearts we did the right thing. Let me add that God introduced her forever family to her a few days later – praise Him!

The second match (we were matched just a week or two later) I drove down to Florida and met with another birthmom and made the drive back with my husband two weeks later when she had a scheduled C-section. After spending two days with her in the hospital she told us we were not allowed to name the baby the name we had chosen and then shortly after that she stopped answering the calls from the agency. The hospital she used was known to have nurses who were anti-adoption and we witnessed that during our short time there. Even the social worker was anti-adoption which was just really sad considering those particular circumstances. We were crushed and discouraged but made the long drive home once again.

The Journey Continues

The next match was one that I was never comfortable with from the beginning. The birthmother was only four months pregnant at the time and while I know many people who have gone on to have successful adoptions when matching early like that, I knew that was a long time for the birthmom to have to change her mind, especially considering her family was not on board. Kyle and I flew out to meet the birthmom for lunch one weekend and then a few weeks later, with some help from Google, I found her baby registry online. The birthmom tried to deny it at first and I asked to dissolve the match immediately.

A few months later she had her baby girl and it turns out she lied about a lot of other things and never intended to place. While I felt good about dissolving the match, I was more discouraged than ever. I told my husband if we did not have a baby by our anniversary that fall then I wanted to put our adoption journey on hold because my heart couldn’t take anymore. He agreed and that was our pact. Little did I know, I would quickly learn not to place a time limit on God and His timing

The fourth match that turned into a failed adoption/placement was a very fast match. We got a call on a Tuesday about a birthmother who had a one-month-old baby girl and wanted us to be her parents.

We left that evening and met her the following day. The birthmother was so sweet and fragile – she had really been through a lot during the past year. Her baby was so beautiful and she asked us to keep the name she had given her, Olivia. She signed the appropriate papers on Sunday and we immediately took placement. I remember driving with the baby girl in the car seat and my husband and I just looked at each other and started smiling and saying how we could not believe we were finally parents.

We had that baby girl in our home for 11 weeks and from week two things started to get shaky. The birthfather was contesting the adoption and he and his mother were going to fight for her. The agency told us it wasn’t a big deal at first because there was no way he would be able to gain custody of her given the criminal records that he and his mother had. (They would be living with his mother.) The records were very scary and so we just figured the agency was right. (And please know that I do not blame the agency for what happened … really, it was a strange case and they couldn’t foresee this happening.)

As each week went on we kept getting calls from the agency attorney (who was great, by the way) and the calls kept getting less and less encouraging and hopeful. During week 11 the second hearing was finally set and that’s where the judge did something that baffled everyone, including the attorney who had been practicing adoption law for more 20 years: Custody was granted to the birthfather and we were to return the baby within 48 hours. We returned the baby to the agency within 15 hours and made the trip back home.

I can’t explain how devastating that was, but I think I shocked people when I healed from it extremely quickly, almost immediately. In order to heal, I had to tell myself that it was like a death and that us returning her to the agency was us burying her. God really brought us through that situation and even though it was heartbreaking, I know it was necessary. If we had continued on parenting that baby we would have lived in fear for our safety for the rest of our lives. While Olivia is a pretty name, it never sounded right as my daughter whenever I said her name and I always said that from the beginning.

Lastly, I learned more than anything to truly trust that God does indeed have plans for us and they are definitely not on our timing so I needed to not put time stipulations on anything anymore. Our adoption journey brought Kyle and I closer to God more and more each passing month. Losing that baby made me realize that yes, we were meant to be parents and we would be mighty good parents with God’s help.

That day while driving home, I let the agency know we wanted to continue on and be presented immediately, but we had criteria: We were open to any race and gender. We would not be able to drive or fly down before the birth because of the travel expenses we had incurred that entire year. And the birthfather had to be on board and sign the papers. I knew our wanting the birthfather to sign off could push back our waiting time even more, but we were not willing to go through what we just had again.

The Journey Ends

A few weeks later, which was at the end of last November, we were matched. The baby wasn’t due for another two-and-a-half months, which made me a bit bummed out that it wasn’t sooner, but everything was falling into place beautifully. The birthmother and birthfather were both going to be signing and had picked our profile after seeing the profile of a very wealthy family. She said as soon as she saw the front picture of us and before she even opened our profile book she just knew we were meant to be her baby’s parents. She had such a great feeling in her heart.

This was the first situation that I did not let myself get excited about. I was a little jaded and I just knew at that point that if this was the baby that God intended us to be the parents of then everything would work out. Fast forward to the end of January and I started getting anxious when the due date came and went. The wait was starting to get to me. Two weeks later they induced our daughter’s birthmom and she delivered a beautiful baby girl.

My dad and I made the drive down to meet her and as soon as I went into the hospital nursery and held her I just knew God was telling me, “Mary, this is your daughter. This little life is who I was preparing you for.” 

Papers were signed right after that by everyone and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the birthparents. They were so nice and extremely funny! I enjoyed seeing them interact with each other and with our daughter. From the second I met Penny’s birthmom she made me feel like Penny’s mom – what a dream come true! I was really nervous that she wouldn’t like the name Kyle and I picked out – Penelope Carol … turns out she loved the name!

I finally had my Penny. I finally became a permanent mom.

The question I asked so many times – “Why?” – throughout our journey finally made sense. Penny is why. Penny and her birthparents are why we had to wait so long. God was making her and preparing us for her all along. Penny was more than worth the wait. I would do it all over again just for her. All of the heartache and heartbreak and tears of pain and sorrow we experienced during our adoption journey all made sense and all disappeared. Meeting Penny just felt so natural. Parenting Penny feels so natural. My little girl brings so much joy and laughter to our home and families and just so much happiness to everyone who meets her.

I am so thankful and grateful for God’s perfect plan and the promises He has for us. His faithfulness sure is sweet. 

This is the eighth in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, November 26, 2012

{Adoption} Making friends

Growing up I sometimes I saw my cousins from Atlanta for whichever holiday my dad's extended family made plans to get together, usually in Louisville, where two of the three adult siblings lived. But, really, I didn't know these two girl cousins very well.

I certainly had no idea that trusting God to grow our family through adoption would help me become friends with my cousin Mary, who had settled with her husband near her suburban Atlanta hometown. We went to her wedding when Cate, our first adoption story in the flesh, was just five months old. But, really, it wasn't until Facebook helped us stay connected and swap adoption stories and questions and emotions that we bonded.

Since then, my family has traveled through Atlanta on our way to or from Hilton Head or Charleston, S.C., a few times. The northern Atlanta suburb where Mary and her family live is about halfway to that coast for us, so it's a natural pit stop. Plus, we can stop there and catch up with Mary in person. Sometimes her parents {my aunt and uncle} or her sister {my other Atlanta cousin Ginny} join her, depending on whose schedule works with ours. The last couple times we've met at Chick-fil-A so my kids can burn off some energy before I strap them back into the mini van.

The location isn't important. What matters is this friendship for which I'm thankful. We've been cousins our whole life, but it's been as adults we've become friends. Mary and her husband, Kyle, had some heart breaks along their adoption journey. I'm thankful she trusted me with her story, even when I know it was hard to tell. And now they're the parents to a beautiful 9-month-old named Penny. That's Penny between my kids in the picture at the top. They're all three precious kids, and they're each testimonies to how God works good in all things when we trust him to do so.

This is the seventh in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

{Tiny Prints} 30% off sitewide

Joyful Joys : Aqua Flat Holiday Photo Cards

I'm not much of a post-Thanksgiving, crowded-malls shopper. Plus, well, I live in a small town where no mall exists. I do love a good deal on things I'm likely to buy anyway, especially when using it is possible while I'm still in my pajamas. So, if you're like me, and you want a good deal on this Monday after Thanksgiving dubbed Cyber Monday, then you've come to the right place.

Tiny Prints is offering 30% off its entire site just in time for you finish Christmas shopping. You'll find lovely photo gifts, holiday cards and invitations. This deal is good through tomorrow {Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific} with the code CB12 at checkout. Get busy making your list and checking it twice.

If you're new to Tiny Prints, you'll love this easy-to-use site. And, trust me, you'll love the products. The Christmas cards I recently ordered are some of my favorite I've made.

Have a happy Cyber Monday, or whatever you want to call today. 

{DISCLAIMER: Compensated affiliate link used. But, really, those are some of the Christmas cards I'm mailing soon.}

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

{Road trip} The Numbers

 In the first 32 hours of our trip, I asked my kids to ride five hours then sleep in a hotel before riding six more hour to watch basketball for 5 1/2 hours one evening.

668 miles from our house in Murray, Ky., to Charleston, S.C. The party of eight included my family of four, my mom, my mother-in-law, and my aunt and uncle. Together we rooted for two teams -- Murray State and St. John's -- who played each other once.

And this was our second trip there in five months.

Two trips to the Charleston City Market. Several Christmas present purchased.

Two delicious seafood meals -- one at Hyman's Seafood and the other at Charleston Crab House, both of which have UH-MA-ZING hush puppies.

 Two victories for Murray State and one loss for a second-place finish in the Charleston Classic.

One night in a hotel, three nights in a vacation rental house and one night at my aunt and uncle's house on a lake.

Zero days of sunshine.

 One day spent at Lake Murray, S.C., where my aunt and uncle live. One boat ride included.

More photos are posted on Facebook. You can read all my Charleston-inspired posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

{Road trip} Kids sharing space

Pardon the poor quality, I wasn't turning on the lights ...
Hey, mommas, so, really, how do you get two young kids who are used to sleeping in their own dark rooms to sleep in a shared bed in a hotel room when they are excited? 
Yeah, I don't have the answer either. I just have a recent experience to which other moms and dads may be able to relate.

Really, I guess the best answer is: It just takes time. And separation until the youngest is asleep. Maybe Greg and I should have just sat out in the hallway. I usually only bring my kids to a two-room suite room. That division is a life saver. 

But we picked a Fairfield Suites in Knoxville, Tenn., based on location as our pit stop on our way to Charleston, S.C. And, well, its one-room suite with the little half wall divider that really is useless when the kids can see our bed and light from their bed. Still, I have no doubt it was better than the Motel 6 that was across the parking lot. 
My boy, who turns 3 this week, wouldn't stop talking to his 5-year-old sister long enough to give into sleep so Cate came to sit with us while Ben was ignored long enough to be still and quiet. 

Then not long after Ben fell asleep, we told Cate to quietly get in bed with him. She was asleep five minutes later and snoring after three more minutes. Then Greg and I broke out the Nerds and Nestlé Crunch from the snack bag. I continued to edit my friend's book and play Words with Friends with several people, including my husband to whom I kept whispering even though he was sitting right next to me. Thankfully, for the rest of our trip the kids were separated in different bedrooms.

Of course, road trips mean time on the road. Often Cate will sit in her booster seat in the third row in our mini van while Ben is in the middle in his car seat. We had both grandmas along for this trip, so both kids were delegated to the very back so adults could have the middle captain's seats {and more leg room ...}. Ben was so excited to sit back there with Cate, so much so he slept far less while riding than he usually does. Having them back there together was another chance for them to share a smaller-than-usual space. 

I heard many "He's touching me ..." comments, but, thankfully, there was some laughter too. On the way home, one of my all-time favorite sibling conversations took place: 
Cate to Ben: "Stop touching my hair!" 
Ben, sweetly: "It's so cute." {Much laughter in car.
Cate to Ben: "Your hands are sticky!" 
Me: "Ben, stop touching her hair, even if you think it's cute." 
Ben, loudly with a growl: "I love her!"
Traveling with kids always makes for entertaining stories. What stories do you have about sharing hotel rooms or other small spaces with kids while away from home?

More photos are posted on Facebook. You can read all my Charleston-inspired posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy birthday, Ben!

Three seems so old for you, my boy. But, honestly, I'm happy we're here. I say that every year, but, it's true. Watching you grow up as been an adventure all its own.

You're my Thanksgiving baby, but we celebrated your 3rd birthday a couple weeks early. From day one, you've kept me on my toes, challenged me in ways nobody else has, brought joy and exhaustion in the same moment with your constant energy, made me laugh, and reminded me God is faithful. I'm thankful for you, Ben.

You've always loved to be on the move. And you do still. You're curious, adventurous, fearless, messy and determined. You like sticks and rocks and dinosaurs and fire trucks and balls and movies. You were excited to go to preschool this year like your sister. You adore her, but she doesn't always understand that's why you're in her space and all over her plans. You rejoice when your daddy comes home, always including "Thank you Daddy come home" in your dinnertime and bedtime prayers that you insist upon praying. Learn from him, son. Your daddy is the best man I know.

Sure, some days are hard. But I'm glad all my days include you. You make friends quickly, laugh easily with the best laugh I know, love deeply and play hard. I've learned much from you and I'm certain you're going to impact the world around you for years to come. Being with you is always a fun ride.

I love you, Benjamin.

Read more about Ben: 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months,9 months, 10 months, 11 months, 1 year, 15 months, 16 1/2 months, 18 months, 23 months, 30 months and 2 years. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy to give thanks!

On a boat in 55-degree weather on Lake Murray, S.C., last week.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be filled with adventure with the people you love. Perhaps you can even take a nap or at least cuddle with those you adore. We have much for which to thank God.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

{Road trip} Melting down

Post melt down, sleep came.
I held him as huge tears rolled down his cheeks. He took a breath in a coughed up all the snot that had multiplied. He swung his arms in frustration and muttered dramatic words about Daddy leaving without giving him a kiss.

We were at a basketball game that was getting ready to start well past his usual 7 p.m. bedtime that he created for himself when he was tiny. Daddy had just left for the bathroom; I had no doubt he'd be back.

But when you're tired, the little problems seem like natural disasters. I know about this because even at 33 years old this still happens to me. I knew my {nearly} 3-year-old boy was exhausted from five days with little napping and vacation fun that kept him up late.

So I held his hands, even though he yelled, "You're hurting me!" I was thankful to be surrounded by people who knew I wasn't hurting him. I firmly, yet gently held him close. I reminded him Daddy was coming.

And I didn't let go.

My uncle was sitting next to me and didn't speak until my boy had stopped crying: "A lesser woman would have given up." By this time, Daddy had returned and now held a calm, almost asleep boy.

I handled this one. I didn't give up. Not this time. 

But there have been other meltdowns that I responded to with overreacting emotions. I've yelled when I should have soothed. I've ignored when I should have embraced. I've said yes when I should have said no and no when I should have said yes. I gave in when I should have remained stubborn.

Motherhood is my classroom. I've learned much here and I have so much more to figure out. Some days are hard, even {especially?} when you're on vacation to watch your favorite college team play in a tournament in a city you love.

But I've learned days are going to be hard at home and on the road so I might as well embrace the adventure to experience places and moments with my family. I do have to remind myself that means bedtime will come later than usual and nap times could get lost. Even so, wherever we are and however everybody is feeling, I'm not giving up. On them. Or on me. Or on this adventure called life.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be gone, Perfection!

As hard as I try some days, I'm certainly not a perfect mom.

But, really, that's how it's supposed to be. We're supposed to depend on God, our husband, our friends and even our kids to help us through life. Life truly is more authentic -- and far less perfect! -- when we live in community.

For me, one temptation that comes with living in community is every family is different. I'm the only mom who truly knows what I'm feeling on the inside. Yet I have been tempted to compare my emotions to what I perceive of someone else's life. Sure, we probably know the struggles our closest friends are experiencing. We probably can often even relate to how the feel. But comparing how we feel with our perception of anyone else's life is bad news.

The other part of every family being different is our family may not make choices our dearest friends make. Nobody is necessarily right or wrong, but I've experienced the temptation to judge them. Yes, unfortunately, I've been lured into judging the people I adore because they aren't doing life like we are. And I'm sure they've at times wondered why I am hesitant to interrupt naptime, don't care about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, or chose to enroll Cate in kindergarten at a private school. But we talk about these things and choose to respect one another's hearts. That's community at its hardest and finest. And it sure makes for real conversations about choices with my 5-year-old girl.

Truth is: None of us are perfect. But if we moms trust each other with our insecurities while dads commit to lead their families, we'll all be better off. Not perfect. The perfection will come at the end of this life when we're meet Jesus face to face. For now, it's a process. A day-by-day process. And, yes, like any process, there will be kinks and hiccups.

It's for these -- and plenty of other! -- reasons that I'm so excited about Jill Savage's coming-soon book, "No More Perfect Moms." I've read a couple of other books by Jill Savage and am a regular reader of her blog. Her words often encourage me in this adventure of motherhood.

Jill Savage wants to encourage you too. You can learn more about her book, read stories from other imperfect moms, learn about buying the book and special bonus offers if you'll wait until it's released in February, and sign up for the 31-day No More Perfect Moms e-mail challenge that will start with the new year.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To Charleston we go ...

After my girl gets home from school this afternoon, we'll be heading to Charleston, S.C.! It's crazy to me we're headed to this city I love for the second time in five months. But we love road trips and our Racers are playing in the Charleston Classic. Plus my aunt and uncle live just a couple hours from there, so we'll spend some time with them too. And both my mom and my mother-in-law are going with us {hello, mini van ...} so the kids, especially, will soak up time with both grandmas, at the same time.

Truthfully, after three months of full-time school for the first time in our lives, this trip is coming at a good time for us, especially my girl and me. It'll be good to get away, be together, root on our Racers, spend time with family, explore the city, and eat good seafood. It's kind of like a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, except I'm going to eat fish instead of turkey the next few days and we'll watch basketball instead of football. 

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram. There are sure to be pictures of us, at least the kids, as we enjoy our time in Charleston.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

{Adoption} Celebrating kids

While browsing the Compassion International webpage that showed all the sweet faces of the kids who need sponsors, we chose Jean in Ecuador last year because he shares a birthday with Ben. When Ben turns 3 later this month, Jean will turn 11.

So we introduced Jean to our friends at Ben's early birthday party this past weekend. I warned my family and friends this was coming and hoped they'd give less to Ben so Jean could have more. Really I didn't know how to word it, but I went with this on the invitation: Through Compassion International, we sponsor Jean, who lives in Ecuador and shares Ben's birthday. He will turn 11. Please consider blessing him with a monetary gift as you bless us with your company at Ben's party. Some friends gave money that we're passing on to Jean and his family through Compassion International.

This came about because the consumerism associated with birthdays and Christmas overwhelms me. Ironically, gift giving is my love language to others. I like to Christmas shop months before the holiday when I happen upon something that reminds me of a friend or a niece.

So, please, hear me: There is nothing wrong with parties and gifts. I like them. I like to plan parties. I like to go to parties. And I have a closet full of Christmas presents. But I want my kids to realize not everyone's life is like theirs. I want my kids to know we have more than enough and God wants us to share what we have with other kids and families. I want my kids to not be caught up in the consumer trap of making wish lists and expecting to receive without thinking about giving.  

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Jean isn't an orphan hoping for a family, but sponsoring a child through Compassion International is a practical way to do something for someone else, thus helping bring God's kingdom near to him. And sponsoring a child doesn't have to be just about the $38 a month that helps with that child's physical, medical, educational and spiritual needs. Yes, that's important. But so is writing them encouraging letters, sending them pictures, and coloring them a celebration that screams, "We're glad God made you!"

My 5 1/2-year-old daughter helped me make that poster pictured above. My son gave up some time at his party to do something for someone else. And I managed to get a bunch of 2- to 8-year-old kids involved by breaking out the craft supplies.

I had dinosaur coloring pages, colored cardstock, stickers and crayons so the kids could make Jean birthday cards. I'm telling you, on a beautiful fall day that had included chasing each other through piles of crunchy leaves, these kids were genuinely excited to make a boy they've never met and mostly just heard about a card. 

They sat there and colored. My daughter tried to learn how to make bubble letters by watching her older cousin. They chose their coloring page as if they knew which one Jean would like best. The girls picked out princess stickers. 

I'm telling you, they took some time out of a birthday party to give to someone who lives on another continent. Really, who doesn't want an all-brown dinosaur colored by a 4-year-old boy? He was diligent. I was impressed with and with the others. And I hope this packet of birthday cards and pictures brings a smile to an 11-year-old boy's face when he sees he was celebrated along with our son.

This is the sixth in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. You can sponsor a child through Compassion International here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Monday, November 12, 2012

{Adoption} Give compassion

Sponsoring kids through Compassion International has opened my eyes to a few things: Poverty is real. I can help do something to change a few kids' daily lives. And my kids can help.

November is National Adoption Awareness month. But there are kids out there who don't need to be adopted, yet their families could still use our help. This way they are given more opportunities to hear about Jesus, better educated, and able to be cared for medically in ways they otherwise wouldn't. This spiritual, educational and medical assistance will give them a better chance at life. Compassion International is one way to help.

I haven't seen Roselyn's Guatemalan home or the countryside Jean knows in Ecuador. But I've read their letters and seen their pictures. It's given me a taste of how different their lives are from what my kids known since the days they were born.

I've also read stories that have softened my heart and inspired me to make adjustments in my comfortable life so I can give. Sometimes giving means money. But giving can also mean writing letters, sending cards and taking the time to care.

A group of writers is going to Peru with Compassion International this week.

You can follow this trip and all their stories. The writers are Shaun Groves, Angie Smith, Jennifer Schmidt, and Kevin and Layla Palmer. You can also follow the group on Twitter. Take some time to read their stories this week.

In Peru, they will witness poverty and the redemption that comes when God's kingdom touches families. They'll meet sponsored kids who are overflowing the joy to put a face with a name that has been signed at the end of a letter. And they'll tell you their stories of what happens when people give compassion.

This is the fifth in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Celebrating Three Years of Ben

Slow down, November. You're getting away from me.

I've known the fall was going to fly by, so I've kept my to-do list close and constantly reminded myself I can't do it all in one day and I shouldn't do it all in one day. Here's the struggle with being busy for me: I spend too much time planning how to make it all happen that I forget to enjoy it. I've tried to prevent that this fall. And, honestly, some days have been a success and others haven't. 

Really, we all need to jump -- or dive, literally, like my boy -- into a pile of leaves. We need to throw the leaves up the in the air. And we need to scream in delight.

Even when our life seems busy.

Thanks to the busyness that is an upcoming five-night trip to Charleston to spend time with family and watch Murray State play basketball followed by Thanksgiving, some more basketball, and a Slugs & Bugs concert I'm hosting, we celebrated Ben's third birthday 13 days early. And, you know, the weather was perfect, the company was dear, and the day was fun.

So who cares that he's confused about whether he's 2 or 3, right? 

It was a dinosaur-themed party. This over-sized toy dinosaur named Koda belongs to Jaclyn's kids and he was the special guest yesterday afternoon. He likes to eat things, apparently. He roars and blinks too.

That's my boy, ever the expressive one. I'm not sure how he knows pirates say "Aaarrrrggghhhh ..." But he does. And he likes to "Aaaarrrrggghhhh" while wearing his new pirate garb. 

We had an egg hunt. You know, a dinosaur egg hunt. Greg called this pile of leaves the dinosaur bone pit. Points for Daddy playing along with the theme! And, hey, Ben told me hunting for eggs was his favorite part of the day. 

The boys were sweetly studying some Lego catalog.

I told you. See that green shirt? Yes, that's my boy. He dived in the leaves like the pile was a pool. Over and over. 

It was a mess of a good time, just like spending the day with people you love, eating cake, throwing leaves, chasing, laughing, and celebrating should be. It was a party worth planning ... and enjoying!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

{Adoption} In song

Kids are like sponges, so I'm careful about what songs we listen to when we're all piled in the mini van. Trust me when I say there is some terrible kids' music out there.

Really, rather, I should say: We've discovered some awesome kids' music, meaning it is geared toward kids but doesn't make the adults in the vehicle cringe.

I've found one of my favorite songs on "Slugs & Bugs: Under Where?" {Say that out loud ...} "I'm Adopted" makes me want to dance with joy {and, people, I don't dance ...}, snap my fingers {which I'm not even that good at doing ...}, and thank Randall Goodgame for summing up the gospel in one children's song. Plus, you know, when you have two adopted kids like I do, you're a sucker for anyone who make such a meaningful, emotional experience into a song of celebration.

Love had a plan for me in a great, big family. I'm adopted. ... Love came and found me, wrapped arms around me. ... And love has a plan for me in a great, big family. I'm adopted. ... Love made right the wrong. Now I know where I belong. ... Once I was a stranger to my God and king but he saw me there from his throne above and he sought me and bought me and now I sing of a brand new life and his endless love and how love had a plan for me. {From "I'm Adopted" by Randall Goodgame}

Oh, I know, you want to hear it now. Well, you can. Here. And while you're there, read the story behind the song.

This is the fourth in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Giving thanks

You probably know I'm not much on Pinterest. In fact, I deleted my account the second time I logged on. But, hey, that doesn't mean I'm not a sucker for an arts and crafts project every now and then. I saw this Thanksgiving wreath idea on another blog. Foam wreath immediately went on my shopping list.

But, well, you know, I live in a small town where my shopping options are limited. Walmart and Big Lots didn't have a foam wreath, but I found the wicker {Is that even the right word?} wreath shown above at The Dollar Tree. Yes, that means it was just $1. I got two bags of leaves there too. Really, I could have probably made do with one bag, but I wanted the variety of colors. Sucker, I tell you. So, if you're keeping track, that's $3 plus the 18 cents for tax for my wreath supplies.

I have a jar with the leaves and some narrow ribbon I already had from an impulsive dollar-bin purchase at Target some time ago. You know, a time when I was in a town with a Target. Anyway, the leaves and ribbon sit on my counter and for the next couple weeks we're going to talk about what we are thankful for. We meaning the kids too. Yes, even my boy, who isn't quite 3, has contributed. So what if he's thankful for movies and that Daddy comes home for dinner? Hey, some days I'm thankful for movies and Daddy coming home too.

Usually as I'm in the kitchen making dinner or cleaning up after dinner, we talk about our days and write down something for which we're thankful. Honestly, I do most of the writing for various: My son can't be trusted with a marker, much less a permanent one. My husband's handwriting would be illegible with the way the marker ink spreads on the leaves. My 5 1/2-year-old daughter is second in line for the Sharpie, but even some days her thing of thanks is too wordy to fit on a leave so she asks me write it, which I then abbreviate.

But it's the spirit of the activity, folks. And I'm looking forward to hanging it up. Yes, I may have leaves hanging in my house during December. But, again, it's about cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving and not so much about winning a crafty, home decor contest.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

{Tiny Prints} FREE Christmas cards!

Free is always a good price! And who doesn't love Christmas cards?!

I've long been a fan of Tiny Prints products and I'm glad I finally made some of my own. I took our fall-colored photo and used a black-and-white version to coordinate with the wintry, blue-colored card for something different than I usually do. Typically, I match the card to the colors in the photo, but I thought I'd flip that this time around!

You want to try something new too? Well, even if you want to stick to what you're used to, anyone can get 10 FREE holiday cards {$24 value!} with the code HOLIDAYCHEER. This deal expires Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. PT.

UPDATED on Nov. 12: Tiny Prints just added another deal to the same code! If you purchase other items in addition to the free cards and spend more than $50, you'll get free shipping

This one-time-use deal applies to flat cards only. You can add options, such as rounded corners, paper choices, and different envelopes, for an additional cost. Shipping charges {regularly $3.50 in United States} will also apply.

DISCLOSURE: Compensated affiliate link used. But, just wait, some of you really will receive that card in your mailbox next month.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

{Paper Coterie} Save on Christmas cards!

'Tis the season for Christmas card deals!

My strategy this year is to have various Christmas photo cards to send to family and friends because there are so many fantastic deals on quality products. Consider this the first with more to come.

First up, Paper Coterie has become a favorite photo gift site of mine, as I've mentioned before. This week I received my bundle of three dozen photo cards {see photo above, although my actual cards have a lovely scalloped edge}. And, hey, I love them.

Right now you can save 50% off holiday cards throughout November with the code holidaycards2012. They have beautiful designs from which you can choose.

Be Merry. Indeed.

DISCLOSURE: Compensated affiliate link used. But I seriously love these products. And some of you really will receive that card in your mailbox next month.

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