Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Always worth it

Tomorrow marks one year since we took the first step to adopt from foster care.  When we started this journey, we never imagined that it would take so long.  We assumed we'd have our child home by summertime.  The literature given to us at our first training said that it typically takes 3-6 months to be approved.  It's been a year.  At times I get frustrated, at times I get overwhelmed with sadness, and at times I want to give up.

On instagram today, I saw this picture:


"A child's life is always worth the process and is more valuable than the costs."  What a timely reminder to me that my child, all of these children, they are worth the process.  No matter how long, and ridiculous, and unfair the process, my child is worth it.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Breakfast of Champions

Since going back to work 2 months ago, things have been much busier in the mornings around here!  I have to be out the door by 7:25, and I need to have eaten a good breakfast because there's no time for me to snack until I return home 3 hours later.  The rest of the family eats oatmeal most days, but I found that to be too time consuming, both to make and to eat.  So I do breakfast sandwiches - think McDonald's Egg McMuffins.  I make them a dozen at a time and then freeze them until I need them.

Ingredients:
English muffins
Eggs
Ham or Canadian bacon 
Cheese

Directions:
1. Crack the eggs into muffin tins and bake for about 10 minutes @ 325 degrees.
2. If using a whole ham, slice it.  Brown the ham or Canadian bacon in a fry pan over the stove for just a few minutes.
3.  Toast the english muffins
4.  Slice the cheese
5.  Assemble into sandwiches and wrap in foil.  Freeze.  

When it's time to reheat, the best method I have found is to place them in the fridge overnight to defrost and then toast them in a toaster over.  If you forget to defrost, wrap the sandwich in a paper towel and defrost in the microwave before toasting.  If you are really in a hurry, you can do just the microwave, but you might end up super soggy or super crunchy.  

This may not be much of a recipe, but I really do appreciate these sandwiches each morning!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Prayer Request

A few weeks ago when things started to look unlikely with our home study progress, I asked on Facebook for prayers.  The response was overwhelming.  So many friends said they were praying for us.  I am so thankful for those prayers.

Unfortunately things have not progressed at all with our home study.  And the last message from our social worker was less than promising.  And so I was temped to ask for prayers again.  But I felt God saying something different.  I felt God saying to change the focus.  It's not about me and my home study.  It's about the kids.

If the home study never gets completed or if it never gets approved, I will be fine.  Sure, I will be sad and long for the child(ren) I don't have, but I will be fine.  The same can not be said for the kids waiting for families.

The statistics on children who age out of the system are depressing.  Look at this infographic from a recent CNN opinion piece.

This graphic illustrates the outcomes for many children who


Instead of praying for me, will you find a child and pray for them?  It's possible that you will be the only person praying for them.  Go to Adopt US Kids and search for a child or view your state's photo list.  Remember their face and their name.  Pray each day for that child to have hope and to find a family.  Pray for them to feel God's loving presence.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Oceans



I've been playing Oceans on repeat tonight.  John has a dinner meeting and the kids are already asleep and I'm caught up on everything.  And I just feel lost.  I want to understand where God is leading me.

For two years now, I've felt very clearly that God is calling us to adoption.  We've been in the process for almost a year.  And though we are much closer, we are not there.  Where is God calling?  What is He asking of us right now?

A few months ago we discussed abandoning domestic foster adoption in order to host 1 or 2 students from Rwanda.  Ultimately we felt God saying to stay the initial course.  Those students are now in the U.S.; they are someone else's children.

We've prayed for children by name and dreamed that they might one day be a part of our family.  Some of them have found other families.

Psalm 68:6 says that God places the lonely in families.  I'm filled with thanksgiving that these children we have prayed for have been placed in families.  But it is bitter sweet.  When will God place someone in our family?

And what does He want from me now?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Generosity

When we had our home study visit (eons ago, it seems!), our social worker spent much of the time trying to understand our finances.  We make very little money (grad student stipend!) and yet live a comfortable life and are able to still put some away in savings.  How do we do it?  Well, certainly we are thrifty in pretty much every area of our lives, but it goes beyond that - it's really about the generosity of others.

I used to be one of those people who would say no to an offer of help practically before the person had even finished offering.  I didn't need help.  I was plenty capable of doing or obtaining whatever it was on my own.  I also used to be pretty stingy about giving help.  I was quick to say no to requests because I felt I was so busy or I didn't want to lend something because it might come back to me damaged or not at all.

But things have changed since moving here to South Bend.  I was pregnant when we arrived and was about to start my stint as a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  It started with a baby shower from our Christian community.  At first I said no.  I didn't want strangers spending money on me and making me the center of attention.  But then I realized that I was actually offending people by saying no.  They wanted to be generous.  They wanted to share with me.  They wanted to share things, but more importantly, they wanted to share life.  They wanted to be connected with me and our family, interwoven into our joy and our struggles and our successes.  Some gave words of wisdom, some spent a fortune on baby stuff, and some gave gifts of used items from their own houses.  All was given generously and that started me on the path of learning to accept generosity.

And it didn't stop with the shower.  People continued to give us things.  We haven't bought clothing for our children since moving to South Bend.  We haven't bought any shoes.  We have bought very limited toys and games.  Last Christmas our presents to the kids were mostly from things given to us.  People's overwhelming generosity allows us to live well.  And it's not just generosity from people in our Christian community.  We've gotten bags full of clothes and outdoor toys from our next-door neighbor's daughter's family. We got a free Pottery Barn crib, mattress and sheets from a woman on Craigslist who saw my "Want to Buy" post.

The concept of "pay it forward" is based on this idea that generosity is contagious.  The more generous people were to me, the more I started to become generous.  I've given away nearly all of my baby supplies.  Mostly to friends, but also to strangers.  None of my friends needed my crib mattress, so I listed it on Craigslist.  A woman came over to buy it and told us all about how they were adopting and were home study approved and hoping to be matched with an infant in the near future.  I asked her what else she could use for the baby and gave her a baby bathtub, stroller, car seat, blanket, and activity mat.  All for the $20 for the mattress.  The old me would never have done that.  The new me didn't hesitate.

I'm also generous with my time.  If you ask me to do something, I no longer shoot back a quick no.  Most of the time I'm going to say yes.  I'm also quick to volunteer for things I'm good at.  Does it involve students?  I'm in.  Organization?  I'm your girl!

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus says, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."  And there's also one of my all time favorite parables from Matthew 25 with the sheep and the goats where Jesus says that whatever we do for others, we are doing for Him.  I've used that passage to explain why we are adopting, but it's not just applicable in the big choices of life.  I believe that God is just as concerned with our generosity in little, everyday, commonplace things.

I want to end with a passage from my favorite book of the bible - Hebrews.  In the first of his concluding paragraphs, the author says:
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Let us always be generous and hospitable and outward focused.  Let us see with God's eyes.


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On a somewhat related note, I want to share a blog post written by my cousin-in-law about giving to everyone who asks.  He looks into the biblical arguments for giving cash to those who beg on the street.  I strongly encourage you to click here and read it!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Losing Faith

Every month its a new reason why our home study isn't complete and approved.  Over the summer it was paperwork that hadn't come in from Kansas.  In August we heard, it's finally the time!  You are definitely on the docket.  Then we weren't.  But don't worry, we have plenty of time to be prepared for the September meeting.  But then the September meeting wasn't accepting new approvals, just revisiting previous cases.  Now it's October.  I'm losing faith.

I'm losing faith.  Ugh.  I hate to admit that, but it's true.  I told this to John this morning.  He responded later with a verse.  Hebrews 6:10-12.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
I'm trying to remind myself of God's truths.  Trying to remind myself that he is faithful.  Trying to be patient.

John also encouraged me to think of this as a glimpse into how our child feels.  He or she has likely been waiting longer than we have.  He or she is also at the mercy of the broken system.  My frustration and my sadness and my loss of hope is likely only a fraction of what my child feels.

It's so very hard.  Please join us in prayer for our social worker, for the process, for our faith, and especially for our future child and all the children out there waiting for families.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Work Fashion: Sound of Music Style!


Sound of Music is probably my all time favorite movie.  It's certainly the movie I have watched the most times.  Growing up I always wanted to have one of those dresses that Maria makes out of the curtains.  I loved the pattern and the green color.  Fast forward to now... I was browsing Twice when I saw a green and white paisley skirt from J.Crew.  I immediately thought, Sound of Music!  I must have that!  The green color is a bit brighter than the movie and the pattern is not quite as fun, but it makes me happy never the less :)

And, look, my kids are even "popping out to say cuckoo"!



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Game Day Work Fashion!

Tonight the Steelers take on the Ravens on Thursday Night Football.  Although I can't wear my jersey to teach, I can wear black and gold!  I wore an Ann Taylor Loft black tweed skirt with a J.Crew yellow and white stripped button down.  But the jersey came out as soon as I got home ;-)


        

GO STEELERS!

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As I mentioned previously, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Work Fashion: Monday Pop of Color!

As I mentioned previously, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


Happy Monday!  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time dragging myself out of bed on a Monday morning!  Saturday and Sunday we let the kids watch tv first thing so we can take a few extra moments of rest.  So glorious.  But that makes Monday quite an abrupt start!  And now that the days are getting shorter, we're all waking up before the sun!  So to counteract my dragging nature on Monday mornings, I put on my newest skirt.  It's a basic cotton skirt from J.Crew in a happy coral color.  It also happens to be one of my biggest steals - only $7 from Twice thanks to a promo they have for getting 50% off your first order through their new Android app!  I paired it with a classic white button down from Ann Taylor and some super comfy shoes from Easy Spirit that I've had since college!

It was still a crazy morning of teaching even with my stellar outfit, but I made it through and even got to eat a meal worm that one of my students brought in as part of a presentation about edible insects!  Never a dull moment with 8th grade boys!  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Work Fashion & Being Observed

So I've been really slacking around here with my work fashion posts!  All last week I was too tired and frazzled to even remember to take pictures.  This week I'm still pretty tired, but did get in a picture yesterday.

But before we get to that, I just want to say how much I hate being observed!  I mean, I'm observed by lots of students each day and that doesn't bother me, but I cannot stand getting observed by outsiders.  I got a bit more comfortable with it at my last job because visitors were so frequent to my classes then, but now I'm out of practice.  I got an email yesterday afternoon from my principal telling me that he would be coming in today for an observation.  Ever since that email I've been so nervous.  I couldn't even fall asleep last night because I was so nervous!

Now I am a bit consoled to know that my extreme nervousness is actually a typical characteristic of a highly sensitive nature.  One of the questions on the self-test reads, "When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise."  Yes, that is me perfectly.  Today I messed up a math problem on the board.  An easy one.  Terribly messed it up.  And I called my class of all girls, "you guys".  And I nearly ran out of time.  None of which is typical for me.  And I still haven't met with the principal to discuss his observation... who knows what else he will point out?!

But enough about that.  What did I wear for all this?  Today I wore the red dress that I blogged about previously.  I paired it with a navy cardigan because it was chilly this morning.  I know cardigans ruin an outfit, but I haven't invested in a nice blazer yet!  Blazers are a tricky fit on my build, so I haven't felt comfortable ordering one from my usual place - Twice*.  No photo from today, though, too many nerves!  I was out the door way early!

But I do have a photo from yesterday.  I wore one of my new J.Crew button downs and new black tweed skirt.  When I say new, I really mean new-to-me from Twice*.  The skirt is not my favorite, but it has pockets and was less than $15, and when you are building a work wardrobe from scratch, that is good enough!


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* This is a referral link that will get you $10 off!  And if you place an order, I get $10 off as well, which I greatly appreciate :-)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Work Fashion: Friday!

As I mentioned previously, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


I made it through Friday of the first week!  Boy am I exhausted!  Last night the kids all woke up at midnight and so I was dragging a bit today.  As such, I opted for my most comfortable shoes and planned my outfit around that!  

This shirt is the only shirt from my previous teaching days that still fits! It's J.Crew and I've had it for nearly 10 years now!  It fits well and washes well.  I bought 3 more of the same style from Twice because I like it so much!  The skirt is from my very first Twice order and was only $14!  I knew that I wanted some basic skirts.  I narrowed my search to just those from Ann Taylor Loft because the fit works well on my frame.  This one is a brown wool tweed.  I also got another one in a similar style in black.  

Please excuse the weird angle and facial expression - I was telling John to hurry so I could get out the door on time!

Happy Friday, everyone!

P.S.  I highly suggest that everyone catch an insect and observe it!  We did that today in my 8th grade science class and it was fascinating!  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Work Fashion: First Class Day!

As I mentioned previously, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


Today was my first day actually having classes with students!  Yesterday, everyone was in the building, but it was general orientation, so I didn't interact much with students.  But today was a regular class day!  We had the usual 55-minute periods.  I teach 9th grade girls math during first period and 8th grade boys science during 2nd period.  Overall, my classes went very smoothly!  Just two hiccups during the day - first, I found out 5 minutes before morning prayer that one student did not have a math book and that I needed to copy the whole first chapter for her!  I managed to get it copied and only be a tiny bit late to prayer!  Second, I accidentally called myself by my maiden name once!  But I corrected it so quickly that I don't think the guys noticed.  

Today's dress is a black shirt dress from Ann Taylor.  It's a size bigger than I normally wear, but the belt keeps it looking fitted.  Although it's dry clean only, it redeems itself by having very large pockets!  It was a Twice find for $25.  

Speaking of Twice, I was totally bummed to learn yesterday that they are no longer doing free returns!  Returns are now $5 unless you are willing to get your refund in store credit.  Booo :(  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Work Fashion: First Day!

As I mentioned previously, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


Today is the first day for students!  It's simply an orientation day, so I won't actually have my classes, but there are kiddos in the building!  I'm excited and nervous and totally overwhelmed.  I've never been good at handling change and a new school after 2 years off is a whole lot of change!

So what am I wearing today... A red dress from Banana Republic that I scored on Twice for $19.  It's perfect for this hot day in a building with no air conditioning!  I also love this dress because it is machine washable.  I didn't realize at when I first started shopping there, but Twice tells you the care instructions.  Initially I got a few things that were dry clean only (which means I will never clean them!), but now look for only machine washable things.

I love this picture because you can see Blaise sprinting in to give me a hug :-)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Life Verses

Have you read the story of Ben Sauer?  He is a little boy who was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor.  I started following his mom's blog after his diagnosis, but before his death.  Her perspective and faith through it all has been such an inspiration.  Her most recent post talked about life verses - Bible verses that we have committed to memory that we can turn to in times of need.  Verses that are specific to us and to our walk with God.  Today I'll share with you 7 quick takes of my life verses.


1.  As I thought about my life verses, I tried to recall the earliest verse that I had personally chosen to commit to memory.  There were quite a few that we memorized for Sunday school or youth group, but those don't necessarily hold particular meaning for me.  The one that does is:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  ~Proverbs 3:5-6
I remember memorizing this one while at Ligonier camp.  I've mentioned before the importance of Ligonier to my faith formation and I think this verse from Proverbs captured what I realized at Ligonier - that I am not in control, that God is in control, and that surrendering to Him is the way to live.


2. and 3.  There are two more verses from Ligonier that I have committed to memory through song.
So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn.  And He will come, He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.  ~Hosea 6:3
Create in me a clean heart, O God.  And renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence, O Lord.  Take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.  And renew a right spirit within me.  ~Psalm 51:10-12
Both of these have beautiful acoustic guitar melodies that play in my head as I sing them.   I love to sing them over and over again and let my mind drain and just focus on being in the presence of God.


4. and 5.  As a science-minded, logical, concrete person, the concept of faith has always been something I have wrestled with.  I constantly turn to Hebrews to remind myself.  The passage I love begins:
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen ~Hebrews 11:1
Then the author continues with what is often referred to as the "hall of faith".  It's a listing of many many figures from the old testament and examples of their faith.  After listing these, the author summarizes what this all means for us:
Therefor since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  ~Hebrews 12:1-2

6. and 7.  I grew up in a mainline protestant church which taught the ideas of "once saved, always saved" and that we are saved by faith alone.  As I've gotten older, I've wrestled with the concepts because of the inequality I see in the world and the prosperous people I see who are doing very little to advance the work of God.  These next two verses are ones that remind me that true faith is made manifest through actions.
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead.  ~James 2:17
Although this is the portion I have memorized, it is important to read it in context.  In the surrounding verses, James explains how our faith is seen through our actions.  And that faith without actions is what the demons have, even they believe in the existence of God!

Jesus tells a parable that I love that captures the same idea - the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25.  I've blogged about this one before.  The segment I have committed to memory is this:
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~Matthew 25:40

Main Image

I'd love it if you'd share your life verse(s) with me in the comments!  

Also, if you click the photo above, it takes you to a site where other's have shared their own life verses.  (I'm not affiliated with that site in any way and cannot vouch for other aspects of the webpage, I just appreciated the collection of life verses from others.)




7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Two perfect summer meals!

I haven't done a meal plan post in quite some time, and I don't actually know if I will continue with those now that I am heading back to work, but we recently had some very yummy means, so I thought it would be fun to share some ideas!

In the summer we love to grill out for friends.  John makes some great varieties of burgers, but we were having friends over who were gluten free.  We thought chicken, but I wanted to fancy it up a bit, so I made shish kabobs!  I simply cut up peppers, onions, and chicken and fed them onto skewers with some tomatoes from our garden!  John grilled them and added a bit of BBQ sauce at the very end.  I love the flavor combination and how beautiful they look!



We had some leftovers from this meal and wanted to think of something interesting to do with them.  Why not tortillas?!  

     

We shredded the leftover chicken, onions, and peppers and also some cheddar cheese.  John made the tortillas from scratch, but you could buy those pre-made.  John made the salsa primarily from items in our garden.  The trick to salsa is to let is sit for a few hours in the fridge to let the flavors mesh.  John didn't use a set recipe, but here are the ingredients that he used:
  • Black beans (dried, soaked overnight, and cooked for 2 hours, then drained and cooled.  You could also simply use canned black beans, although the flavor and texture isn't quite the same)
  • Corn (we used fresh from cooked corn on the cob, but you could use canned or frozen)
  • Chopped tomatoes (we used cherry but any variety would work)
  • Chopped jalapeno peppers (the seeds are the spiciest part so leave in for hot or take out for mild)
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped basil
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice

Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  

Enjoy!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Work Fashion: Bright shorts


As I mentioned last week, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


Today is a full day of meetings and the school I work at does not have air conditioning.  It was 55 degrees when I left the house, but the high today will be 80.  As such, I needed an outfit with some flexibility.  I love scarves for just such occasions.  Plus they help to make outfits look more pulled together.  For more examples, see my post on mom fashion.

The shorts look somewhat pink in this picture, but they are actually a really fun bright orange color.  I was initially concerned they were too bright, but a friend of mine with great fashion sense said that they looked awesome and were very "J.Crew".  Which is fitting, since they are J.Crew :)

These were a Twice find for only $13!  They retail for over $100 and I'm fairly certain these were never worn - the pockets were still tacked shut and the quality control sticker was still inside!

I'm also loving the pairing of flats with shorts.  I typically wear sandals in the summertime, but have wanted to look a little dressier at work.  I got these flats at Target a few years back and their pewter/metallic color makes them match with nearly everything.  I've also been impressed by how comfortable they have remained and how well they have held up over time, especially for $20 shoes!

Thanks for stopping by.  Happy Wednesday everyone!




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Work Fashion: Casual colored tee

As I mentioned last week, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).


Today is a very laid back day at work for me, so it's hard to even classify this as work fashion, but I am at work and I am wearing it, so it counts!  I love the super soft cotton tees from Ann Taylor Loft.  They are almost always on clearance at the end of the season for between $4 and $10.  But I just haven't had time to go out shopping this year, so I turned to Twice.  The cheapest tees they have are $10, but I happened to have a 25% off coupon, so it was only $7.50.
  
Ann Taylor Loft tees come in a variety of fabrics, so make sure that you are getting what you think you are getting!  Twice gives you that info, so it's easy to pick your faves.  I have a few different fabrics in my closet, but prefer the 100% cotton ones, so I limited my purchases to those.  This may be my new favorite shirt because it is a fun color and so light weight and comfy!  

And of course you should always pair your tee with a snow-boot-wearing toddler!  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Work Fashion: Khaki Shorts

As I mentioned last week, I'm starting a series of posts on work fashion.  Most of the clothes I am featuring come from the online resale shop, Twice (this is a referral link which will get us both $10 off!).

Today is a free work day at my school, so I could be relatively casual.  I opted for khaki shorts and a pink polo.  Please excuse the poor quality photo - it was a rainy day so the lighting is poor and clearly I need a major cleaning of my mirror!

Khaki shorts are one of those elusive items that I have been needing for years.  Last year I found a cute pair at Ann Taylor Loft, but I don't know if I hadn't eaten anything that day or if I shrunk them in the wash, but they never actually fit again after I bought them!

I got this pair at Twice for only $11!  They are Banana Republic, which is a brand I have never tried before.  I appreciate that Twice gives you the measurements of each item so that you have a good sense of whether or not an item will fit.  These are actually a size larger than I wear in other brands, but the measurements match shorts that I already owned and knew fit.  Using the measurements is also helpful even if you are already familiar with a brand because you never know how the first owner treated them - maybe they washed them in hot water or had the waist taken in.

Alright, I should probably wrap this post up since I'm doing it on my lunch break!  I'll be back later this week with some of my casual more finds.  Stay tuned for real work fashion near the end of next week when the students are here!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Work Fashion

I'm headed back to work this year after a 2-year hiatus from classroom teaching.*  My last teaching job was during my continually pregnant years and it was more casual, so I haven't worn most of my dress clothes since 2008!  Needless to say after 6 years and 3 babies only 1 shirt still fit!  Everything else was too tight or not the right length (my hips seem to have descended at least 3 inches!)  So it was time to go shopping!**

I headed to the mall after seeing a dress I loved in the Lands End catalog.  I loved it just as much in person, but the $80 price tag was hard to swallow.  Luckily it was on sale, so at $60, I decided to go for it.  I headed next to Ann Taylor to scour the clearance rack and found a classic white button down in a super soft fabric and great feminine collar for $30.  Sold.  But I'd spent almost one hundred dollars and only had 1.5 outfits to show for it!

Next I tried a consignment shop that had been recommended - Clothes Mentor.  But that place made my head spin!  WAY too many options all crammed together on the rack!

So I turned to online consignment shopping.  I had tried ThredUp in the past for the kids, but I wasn't too pleased with my items and because they charge for returns, I just kept the items.  This time I decided to go for Twice (this is a referral link and will get us both $10 off!).  I initially tried them because they offer free returns.  I have continued to use them because of the quality of the clothes at such reasonable prices.

Over the course of the summer, I've continued to purchase from Twice and have now built up a 2-week work wardrobe and some extra casual pieces for a fraction of what it would have cost me elsewhere!  Over the next few weeks, I'll be photographing myself in the morning and sharing my finds with you!

Today is my first day of work, just a short meeting with my mentor teacher.  I'm wearing J.Crew chino shorts, which retail for over $100, but I got for $19.  The shirt, shoes, and accessories I already owned.  Here's to a great first day!***



* Linking up with Cari for Theme Thursday: PANIC because going back to teaching teenagers after being home with toddlers for two years is terrifying!

**Also linking because I assure you that I panicked big time when I realized that I had a job, but NOTHING TO WEAR!

*** And more panicking today when I realized that my BRAND NEW computer was (and is still) refusing to connect to the internet!  

TT+Button

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Twice, the poor man's Stitch Fix

Some of the bloggers I read do posts about Stitch Fix.  If you haven't heard of it, it is a personal shopping site where for $20 a stylist sends you 5 pieces of clothing and accessories based on a style profile that you fill out.  If you buy something, that $20 counts toward your purchase.  If you buy all 5 pieces, you get a 25% discount.  If you buy nothing, you're out the $20.  Sounds like fun.  Also sounds like a lot of money - the average price of their items is $55.  Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas did a good post recently about whether or not Stitch Fix is for you.  She also has a bunch of cute posts showing the contents of her boxes.

My main reason for not trying Stitch Fix is the cost. Even if they sent me something I loved, it's just cost prohibitive on our budget.  But that is why I love Twice.  I get the fancy name brand clothes I love at a fraction of the cost.  And if you use Twice like I do, it can be just like Stitch Fix.  The trick for me is to buy a variety of clothes and just assume that I will be making a (free!) return.  Plus, you get free shipping if your order is over $50, so I always make sure my order is over $50.  I start with things I know I love, like button down shirts from J.Crew and and skirts from Ann Taylor Loft.  Then I add things from places I've never tried, but always wanted to - like Anthropology and Calvin Klein.

And sometimes I end up with awesome.  Like my new favorite dress, from Anthropology for $25!


If you want to try Twice, use my link and we'll both get $10 off!  Be bold and see what you find!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quick Takes #18

1. Did you realize that my last "Quick Takes" was back in April?! Wow, I've been out of this blogging business for too long! I think that shall all change as I recently got a laptop! I no longer need to use John's giant laptop which totally doesn't fit on my lap OR the 10 year old laptop that can only do one thing at a time and only if it's super simple OR the waste of money tablet that constantly restarts! I also got a pretty laptop bag :-)

 






2. The laptop is mainly because I am going back to teaching in the fall. I'll be at a small private school teaching 8th grade science to a class of all boys and 9th grade math to a class of all girls. It will be my first time in a split gender school (although once I did inadvertently have a class of all boys) and my first time teaching below the high school level. I'm looking forward to the challenges, but am a bit nervous simply because of all the unknowns. I start next week, so I won't have to wonder about the unknowns for much longer!


3.  So what have we been up to all summer?  We started the summer with my cousin's wedding.  It was in Chicago, so just a day trip for us.  Upon return from the wedding, my parents stopped by our house to take Blaise back with them to Pittsburgh for a few days alone with the Grandparents!  The rest of us joined them soon after.  John went to a conference and the kids and I had fun with Grandpa, Grandma, and Uncle Erik.



4.  We went on our first camping trip as a family this summer, for one night to a campground just south of us.  We loved the short drive, the nature center, and the warm man-made lake.  We disliked the RV's and electricity all around us!  It was a good learning experience and we're hoping to squeeze in one last camping trip and a more primitive location before the weather turns cold.

 


5.  In July, we took our big summer vacation to Chincoteague, VA.  It was a family reunion with my mom's side of the family.  The 12 hour drive was painful because we went through the night and Lucy spent most of the time crying.  Thankfully we had my Aunt in the car with us to help manage the chaos!  The 5 days at the beach were full of adventure.  We went swimming and hiking, climbed up a lighthouse and played in the sand on both the ocean and cove side.  The kids preferred the cove which they called the "little waves".



6.  In the midst of our travels, John has been busy working two jobs this summer at Notre Dame as well as working on the many house projects we wanted to tackle!  While our list of projects didn't get completely done, we do now have an over-the-range microwave, a beadboard backsplash, new shelves, a freshly painted kitchen and board and batten in the mud room!  We're still hoping to paint the living room and have a half-bath installed in our basement.

      

      


7.  Also this summer, Blaise took a 6-week dance class.  He LOVED it.  Definitely one of his favorite things ever.
 




7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!




Thursday, July 31, 2014

The end of a season

Today is July 31st.  The end of my time being a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  My part-time teaching contract starts tomorrow.  (I don't actually have any responsibilities scheduled until next Thursday, but something could pop up starting tomorrow).  

Part of me is regretful.  I look back at all I accomplished and think that I should have done so much more.  I never really dove into the preschool curriculum, I never worked with Blaise routinely on his reading, I never did arts and crafts with the kids.  It's easy to see my failings.  But I am thankful for the time.  I know that on most days I really did try my best and accomplished many intangibles.

Part of me is sad.  Lucy is about to turn 2.  Not only am I ending my time as a SAHM, but I'm ending the baby phase of my life.  She can run, she can talk, she can play pretend with her brothers.  Our baby days that I thought I would never survive and would never end are done.  

But a much larger part of me is hopeful.  Hopeful for who are children are now and who they will become.  Hopeful for the new children we will add to our family through foster adoption.  Hopeful for the children I will reach through teaching this year.


 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  ~ Jeremiah 29:11 
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. ~Hebrews 6:19

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WWRW: Some Conversion Stories

It's been a long time since I've taken part in What We're Reading Wednesday, but I have been reading!  In the spring, everyone was talking about Jennifer Fulwiler's book, Something Other Than God.  I had to miss the initially rush because I don't buy books and wait for the library to get it in.  Thankfully Notre Dame decided to buy the book, so my wait was pretty short.

I enjoyed the book and found it engaging.  I didn't necessarily find it compelling for why I'd want to become Catholic.  But as someone's personal conversion story, it was good, maybe 4-star good.

But it did get me thinking and so I checked out a book that was helpful when I first started considering Catholicism many many years ago - Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic.  Although I'm not a fundamentalist, much of the book speaks directly to issues that I have in considering the Catholic church.  Currie writes for the protestant reader, so his arguments are straightforward and use language that is familiar to protestants.  His arguments are also very well researched and laid out.  Although the book does tell his conversion story, it is not really a personal story.  It is based upon intellectual discoveries.

Each chapter addresses a different area of Catholic doctrine that protestants (specifically fundamentalists) have disagreements with.  Currie starts with Communion and the Real Presence.  I've always had the sense that Catholics have it right when it comes to the Eucharist, so this chapter is a good refresher of why that is so, focusing on the scriptural evidence.  His next chapter deals with the idea of "sola scriptura" and how that itself is not scriptural.  He makes a convincing argument against it, which sets the stage for arguing the rest of the points in the book.  Of all the conversion literature I have read, this is by far my favorite and the most convincing.

Since I was enjoying this genre of conversion stories, I decided to get a Scott Hahn book next since he is pretty much the spokesperson for protestants becoming Catholic.  I picked up Rome Sweet Home.  My feeling about this book was just "meh".  I disliked the way it was written with back and forth between Scott and Kimberly.  Although I appreciated getting both of their stories, I thought it made the story more difficult to follow and sometimes things were repeated without adding any additional insights.  Also, I just didn't think Scott and Kimberly did as good of a job explaining their reasoning as Currie did.  Now I know the Hahns have many more books, so perhaps in the future I'll give a different one a try.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Satan sometimes wins

I've been wrestling for quite some time now with the reality that satan sometimes wins.  In fact, he wins a lot.  Sure, God wins overall.  God wins the war.  But satan gets a lot of the battles.  Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of satan.  I used to be that way.  If you are, just sub the word evil, instead.  But however you phrase it, the bad side gets some victories.  What I have to force myself to accept is that even though evil is present, God can and does bring good out of all things.

But it is so hard to live in this broken world.  To live in a world where children have no families and social workers just tell us to have patience.  I see satan all over in the bureaucracy of the foster care system!  And I know that God brings good.  I know that He is teaching us patience and He is teaching us to have even more fire and compassion for the children in the system.  And I pray constantly that He is working in the heart of my son(s) or daughter(s) in the midst of their circumstances.  But really, I'm pissed.  My child is most likely living in a group home (the nice way of saying orphanage here in the U.S.) not knowing that they have a family yearning for them.  Getting another year older without me.  Without being a part of a family.

Sometimes people try to comfort us by saying that it is all in God's timing.  I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that.  How is more time in an orphanage better?  God allows bad things to happen.  I get that.  It's all part of our free will.  But I don't believe that our loving and just and merciful God causes bad things to happen.  And I see so much of this waiting in adoption as a purely bad thing.  And this is not just about my personal adoption.  We have friends who went through the training classes with us.  They are fully approved by the state and yet are still waiting.  There are 100,000 kids in the U.S. waiting.  There are parents waiting.  That is not God.  That is satan.  I trust that God is bringing good into this situation, but it is not God's perfect timing.

Satan wins when people tell us how amazing it is that we are adopting and how they could never do it.  Satan wins when children grow up and age out of the system with no family because people think that it is someone else's calling.

I have more to say, but Lucy has just awoken from her nap.  I guess I just want to say that satan is real and evil is real and if we are not actively working for good and working to be God's hands here on earth, then we are giving satan an even more victories.  It's not just about adoption, obviously.  But just look at these kids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

If not us, then who?

One of my friends shared an article on Facebook entitled, "Adoption From Foster Care - What is it Really Like?"  I would encourage everyone to read it because I think it very succinctly covers some important concerns with foster adoption.  And I also LOVED the way it ends.  The author says:
"I can’t tell you how many people have told my husband and I that they admire what they do, but could never do it. And to each and every person who has said that, my response has been the same: sure you could. Being a foster parent or an adoptive foster parent is, at its core, very simple. Anyone who has ever parented has already done what you need to do. Can you make a kid feel safe? Provide for them? Care for them? Advocate for them?"
It reminds me of a Matthew West song, "Do Something".  I've pasted the lyrics below.  Think about it.  For further reading, I suggest my husband's blog post about the Biblical directive to care for orphans.




I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn't bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing

It's time for us to do something



Sunday, June 22, 2014

The minivan... stepping out in faith

When we got married, John and I both drove little cars, he a Saturn Ion and me a Honda Civic. When Blaise was born we quickly realized that compact cars are not designed to hold rear-facing car seats! So just about a week after he was born, we bought a used Honda CR-V. It had low miles and was in good shape and we assumed it would be our forever car. Although we had talked about adoption, in our minds that was a long way down the road.

 Fast forward a few years to 2012 when we had our third bio child and moved to South Bend. We bought a narrow car seat in order to fit all three in the CR-V, but realized that it was a temporary fix. We also started to hear God's call to adoption more firmly and more as a now thing, rather than something way in our future.


When we started the adoption process in October of 2013, we knew that it would require purchasing a larger vehicle. Being practical, money-saving people, we said that we would wait and buy it after we had completed the home study and been approved by the state. We had always hoped that would be spring of 2014, so that our new child could transition into our home before the school year began in fall 2014. Recently with the delay of our paperwork from Kansas (and many delays and hiccups previous to this), it has become clear that our approval would likely not come until the fall. John will be working full time in the fall and I will be working part-time and we'll both be splitting the childcare duties. Realistically, there won't be any time for car shopping.

So we stepped out in faith.  We believe that God will be faithful to the call he has placed in our hearts.  We believe that despite all the delays and hiccups and frustrations, that approval will come.  We believe that we will be matched.  And so we cleaned out the CR-V and did way more online car shopping and research than I ever wanted to do!  We crunched the numbers and settled on a 2011 Honda Odyssey.


It seats 8.  Room for our family to grow.  When John returned home with it, Blaise immediately counted the seats and said "now, we can have 6 kids!"  I'm believing that through God's provision we will have 4 or 5 before the calendar year is up, maybe even before the school year begins :-)


Friday, May 16, 2014

So many questions...

I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus because everything has just felt so uncertain.  We're still waiting and working to figure out what forms we need to complete our background checks for the adoption.  John has been working furiously to finish up his last semester of coursework.  I've been applying for jobs.  And interviewing for jobs.  And deciding between job offers.  And we just haven't felt much peace about any of these things.  I've accepted a job, but I'm not totally confident in my decision.  So many unknowns and so many questions...

Today I've been praying through singing one of my all time favorite songs - Field of Your Soul by the Sparks.  I'll leave you with the video for a listen:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WWRW: More books about being highly sensitive

A few weeks ago I wrote about the book The Highly Sensitive Person.  I'm certain that I'm an HSP and each of my kids shows signs of being highly sensitive.  Dr. Aron has a questionnaire for parents to determine if their child is highly sensitive.  She also has a book, The Highly Sensitive Child, although I'm still waiting on that one to come in at the library.  In the mean time, I read two other books about highly sensitive children:  Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child by Rosenshein and Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka.

          


Rosenshein's book is short and to the point.  It is written in a very personal style and speaks from the author's own experience as a school social workers.  She helps to explain differences between being highly sensitive and being ADHD.  Though she has many helpful tips, readers might find her to be a bit outside of mainstream, since she readily accepts the idea of Indigo's, which tends to be considered a pseudoscience term for those with more spiritual powers and I believe refers to the color of one's aura.  I still think the book is worth reading if you have a highly sensitive child because it's quick and to the point while still covering a lot of content. 

However, of the two books, I preferred Kurcinka's because of the depth and volume of material.  It's nearly 500 pages and covers many facets of what it means to be highly sensitive.  She describes the spirited child as, "more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, and uncomfortable with change."  The book starts by explaining that these characteristics are part of your child's innate temperament.  She describes these traits in detail and has scales for each to help you identify where your child falls in the spectrum.  As the book goes on, she devotes a chapter to each of these characteristics and has strategies for dealing with them.  Some of the strategies reminded me of things from the book, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, that I reviewed previously.  Again, emphasizing that we give validity and respect to the way a child feels and thinks.  There are also whole chapters devoted to sleep, mealtimes, and getting dressed, which are areas that highly sensitive kids seem to really struggle with.  We're currently struggling with Lucy's sleep, so I jumped first to the chapter on bedtime and night waking.  I was bummed to see that there aren't any quick fixes, but relieved to find that the cry-it-out method doesn't tend to work well for highly sensitive kids - I just couldn't understand why Lucy wasn't ever stopping her crying, but apparently that's just part of her temperament!  Overall this is a great book with so much valuable info - definitely too much to digest all at once, so probably one that I will check out again in a few months!
 
I also picked up another highly sensitive book for myself - The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, by Aron, the same author of The Highly Sensitive Person.  I was a bit disappointed in this book.  To me, it didn't have the same feel as her original book.  It seemed a bit rambling and all over the place, plus it introduced a few too many new concepts, such as attachment style and sensation seeking.  I also felt she used examples from her own life far too often, which made it more difficult for me to read it as a work of science.  I would say it's not worth the read unless you are an HSP struggling in a relationship with a non-HSP.  




Be sure to check out more great books @  Housewifespice!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Home study and a $150 sock

Yesterday was our second and final home study visit!  Our first visit was just a meet and greet and go over the paperwork, low key kind of meeting.  This one was the more intense interview questions and home safety check.  John is uber organized, so things were pretty smooth sailing with the visit.  The meeting  lasted nearly 2.5 hours with a large portion of the time spent discussing our finances.  She asked us to describe in detail all of our budgeting and money saving tactics that allow us to live off of a doctoral student stipend.  She also asked us a lot about our family and work histories.

There is a bit of a hiccup because we have lived in so many different cities in our lives - John has lived in 7 and I've lived in 8.  Our social worker is pretty sure that we need arrest records and jail checks and child protective services checks from each and every one of the places we have ever lived, but she doesn't know what paperwork we need for those or the procedures to follow.  Not only does she not know, but her boss doesn't know, and her liaison within DCS just quit.  So we're at a bit of a standstill until we learn what we need to do. This is really frustrating because we were hoping to be approved in early summer so that we could potentially have a match before the next school year begins.  That likely won't happen now.

After she left, John and I turned our attention to our broken washing machine. After our hours of talking about saving money, you'd have thought we would try to fix the washer ourselves, especially since I was pretty sure it was a stuck baby sock.  But that thought didn't even cross our minds!  Instead we paid $150 to have someone else pull out the sock from the drain pump.  I'm still working to forgive myself for that slip up!  Ugh!



Monday, April 14, 2014

In the home stretch

We have exactly one week until our final home study visit, which means it's crunch time for completing every last bit of paperwork and house prep.  This morning we checked off one more thing - obtaining our arrest/jail records from the city and county police.  In our case, we don't have any records, so we just needed to go in and have someone sign to verify that.  The county and city police are right next to each other, so it should have been a pretty quick trip.

We started with the county sheriff.  Had to go through metal detectors and a bag search with the whole family!  Up to the records office.  There is a big window overlooking the jail.  I can see what the inmates have in their windows.  It overwhelms me with sadness.  I know, they probably did something to deserve being in there, but why?  Having taught high school in inner-city Cleveland I realize that not everyone gets a fair shot at life.  I have such compassion and sorrow for the injustice in our communities.


  
Sign on the window says $5 cash only.  Oh no.  We're not cash people (we use credit cards and pay off in full each month because we love the convenience and the 1-5% cash back!).  John has enough in his wallet for this time, but no more for the city police.  There is a gas station close by, so we swing by there.  ATM is broken.  Someone directs us down the street.  We drive and drive and drive, but nothing.  Pull out my phone and pull out a map and discover that there are no ATM's near us, but they are all clumped in the nicer part of downtown.  Of course they are.  Turn around and 10 minutes later we have cash and are on our way back to the city police.

I've been feeling overwhelmed all day (did I mention that Lucy woke up screaming at 5am?), but at this point, I'm about to break down.  We go in to the city police and right there in the lobby is an ATM.  Go figure.  While we were waiting, a police officer brought out some little plastic police badges for the kids.  Blaise threw his on the ground immediately.  Clearly he gets easily overwhelmed, too, just like his mommy!

Finn, however, loves his badge!
Done.  I start crying as soon as we leave.  Feeling better by the time we get home and I make everyone a lunch of popcorn :-)