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Poolside Purity & Bikini Battles

Courtney:

Just the other day I listened to my friends have the bikini debate. Truthfully sometimes I dread going to the beach because I know it will be infested with bikini clad beauties who will snag my husband’s attention and make me feel less than in my modest one piece. As a mom of two little girls who at six already want to fit in with their friends and wear what they call a”split” bathing suit (aka bikini) it’s so difficult to teach them modesty in an ever increasingly immodest society. I want to be clear that I don’t want to be legalistic about this and don’t mind tankinis and don’t want to sound like I am condemning anyone who wears a bikini.I just want to address this issue of a sex crazed society. That is why I choose to share this article because it challenges why we feel the need to contribute to this issue and not be a refreshing contrast to it in the way we choose to dress ourselves. (Watch the video attached because it is very enlightening).This is an unavoidable issue in today’s culture of size zero, scantily clad, come hither models. It’s in your face all the time. I recently watched my girls try to pose with pouty lips, narrowed eyes and hand on hips for a picture as if they were posing for a Victoria’s secret catalog mimicking a picture they saw on the magazine rack in passing at Walmart. This article challenged me and gave me hope in raising my girls to see them as God created them: in His image to be used for His glory and defined as beautiful by His standards and not the world’s. Even as their mom I catch myself defining beauty as the world does, trying to keep up with unattainable and shallow standards. Man looks at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. I needed that reminder!

Originally posted on That Preacher Guy:

Here we go again. It’s summer time, which means at any given time, in any number of churches nationwide, pastors, youth pastors and leaders are giving their kids (read: their female students) the “one-piece” talk.

A few years back at our church, some students actually petitioned our pastor to include Tankinis. It was a big win for preteens everywhere. I imagine they sat by the pool that summer in their tankinis and drank virgin daiquiris to celebrate.

We have all been there for that dreaded talk. It’s painful for everyone involved and it smacks of legalism. As one student recently said to me, “It just feels like another instance of the old people at church telling people to behave because you’re at church.” It’s absurd, I know. In case you are unfamiliar with the one-piece talk, it goes something like this:

Ok, ladies, it’s summertime, and we’re going to have a…

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3 Hour Teacher’s Rag Quilt

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Schooooooooooooool’s out for summer!!

How did THAT happen??!!!

Where did the time go???

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was taking these first day of school pictures of our girls and in what seemed like a matter of moments we went…..

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In the meantime, I chopped off about a foot of my hair and the girls grew nearly three inches! I’m also pretty sure in the last nine months these two little angels also gave their teacher an innumerable amount of gray hairs. I am so super duper thankful for their A-MA-ZING teacher! I was often answering texts from her, having chats in the classroom, and often commiserating with her about what a handful our girls are. A blessing, mind you, but a handful none-the-less. So, I wanted to do something special for her. The last few months have been a whirlwind and the end of the year really snuck up on me, so by the time this idea occurred to me, I knew I didn’t have much time to pull it together (two days to be exact). I mention this so you know how easy peasy this was!

I wanted to have each of the kids trace their hands on fabric and write their names on it, then applique them on a quilt square and machine embroider over the names so they were more permanent ,which is exactly what I ended up doing. Sooooooo, without further ado, here is the pattern. It took me only 3 hours to make, beginning to end! I made this according to the class size which only had fourteen students in it. You may have to adjust the pattern according to the size of your classroom.

Supplies:

*1/4 yard each of six fabrics of your choosing (I got all of mine at  Walmart!)

*1.5 yards of flannel for backing

*fabric pen

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Choose fabrics that you want to use for handprints and using a fabric marker trace each student’s hand and have them print their name in their hand. I also cut out a heart for the bottom right hand corner of the quilt to put the teacher’s name in. Choose three fabrics for your smaller squares and cut them into 60  4.5 inch squares. Cut the remaining three fabrics into 15 8 inch squares. With the flannel, cut the same amount of squares (60 4.5″ and 15 8″).

Since this is a rag quilt, it is important to just fringe the edges of all of your squares with a small pair of scissors so just the outer 1/4 inch is snipped. To start appliqueing hands on the squares, I put the flannel piece on the back first and machine appliqued them, then used a free motion foot to embroider the names on. Pretty simple! Once that was all done, I sewed my little squares together in blocks of four, making sure (again, because it is a rag quilt) that I put a flannel piece on the back first (I DID NOT use any sort of batting because the flannel is a little heavier but still kept it pretty lightweight and good for cool summer evening snuggling). So, take two of your pieces (one front and the flannel backing) and put them together, wrong sides and then sew them to another sandwich like this so that your seams are on the outer, front side. I, again, preferring the haphazard look, just sewed fabrics together at random, just making sure the same two weren’t side by side. Once I had all my blocks together (15 total) I then sewed them to my hand blocks, starting in rows horizontally first, then attaching the rows together.

It was pretty simple and sooooooo worth the effort! I snuck in when the kids were having lunch so their teacher didn’t know what I was doing so it was a total surprise to her. She cried and grabbed me in a big bear hug which made it all worth it!

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Here she is with the quilt and kids!

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 We have had so many talks this year we have become good friends!

I am truly going to miss her not being the girls’ teacher (though I’m not so sure she can say the same thing) :)

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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

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It happens every single year.  After the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and everything in between, we usually hit a nice little lull in January and February and sometimes, if we’re lucky, the beginning of March. But by St. Patrick’s Day our calender is marked up with appointments, parties, school programs, Doctor’s appointments and the like. Every single year from March until New Year’s it begins.  It always amazes me how the less we are home the greater the mess we seem to create. How is that possible? It is one of the great mysteries of life like the Bermuda triangle and missing socks.

And every day my poor husband gets to hear my redundant lamenting over how messy the house is. I try to keep some kind of order in my house, but let’s be real for a moment, shall we? There are times when three days worth of dishes are piled on the counter, the laundry is so backed up that we are turning our underwear inside out, and the carpets are so piled with pet dander that they look like shag. Who’s with me?

Just sitting here writing about it is exhausting me. Sometimes, especially when we are busy, it feels insurmountable. But I am here my friends to tell you there is hope! As someone who is easily overwhelmed, here are a few tricks I do to try to keep my brain from exploding in attempting to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean (well, or at least in some kind of order).

1. Keep your cleaning clutter to a minimum by using fewer cleaners (and do some good for the environment while you’re at it). I don’t know about you, but under my sinks can collect some serious clutter, too. I have read so many articles about how household cleaners are not only harmful to the environment but harmful more importantly to you and your kids. So, I keep it simple with three basic cleaners that do the job quite well:

*  bleach water. I use this for the really nasty stuff like the bathroom. You can use vinegar water for those jobs as well because it disinfects well, I just prefer the smell of a bleached clean bathroom.

*  white vinegar water: White vinegar is my cleaning BFF. It can clean windows and mirrors, your hardwood floors, and great to clean walls and baseboard and to dust with among other things. I use it to spray mattresses  and furniture to give it a fresh smell and eliminate odor. I even spray it in the air as an air freshner. It is a disinfectant without being harmful to breath in. It does the job without being harmful to you or your stuff. Some people say that they hate the way it smells, but honestly, I feel like the smell doesn’t linger long.

 *  baking soda. I love baking soda. It is a great abrasive for stubborn things stuck on your counter on tub, and it is a great deodorizer. I sprinkle it on carpets before I vacuum and in toilets before I scrub the bowl. When our pup has a little accident on the carpet, the first thing I do is sprinkle the spot with soda and it will absorb it before it can permeate your carpet. It’s great to put in a load of laundry to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

2. Make a (realistic) chart. When I look at my house as a whole and see what every room needs (i.e. my kitchen needs cupboards scrubbed, fridge cleaned off in and out, decluttered, cleaned in general, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming. Cleaning (especially Spring cleaning) is sort of like going on a diet. If you try to do too much at once, you get overwhelmed and end up giving up altogether. Make a list of what is realistic for your week/day.  For instance, take Monday to tackle the kitchen, but leave the living room till the next day. When it’s broken up, it’s much less intimidating.

3. Make it fun.  I don’t know if anyone is like me, but cleaning is NOT fun to me. My maternal grandmother loves to clean and could make it an Olympic sport. I, sadly, did not inherit those genes. But something that helps me is to give myself little “rewards”. For example, when I need to sort things out like that pile of paperwork that has gathered on the dining room hutch or fold laundry, I take the opportunity to make myself a cup of tea and sit down to watch that new BBC program that just came out on Netflix and do my work then while I watch. In fact, I will look forward to three loads of laundry that need folded just so I have an excuse to get caught up on Downton Abbey. It inspires me to put in those three loads of laundry throughout my morning so that when the girls are down for rest time I can do just that. Also, I have been known to have a chocolate bar on hand and once one thing is checked off my list it is time for me to have a piece of my candy bar. Chocolate is always inspiring!

4.) Set a timer. Okay. Now I know this one sounds cheesey because we aren’t all six. BUT, it really does help me! Just this morning I looked at the kitchen with crumbs everywhere, dishes in the sink, and garbage strewn about from breakfast and wanted to walk away. But, in my head I tried to ask myself how long it would realistically take me if I did everything that needed done. I set a timer for that amount of time (which was only ten minutes, by the way) and it made me work more swiftly because I wanted to be done by the time it went off. In the end, I actually had time to spare.

5). Make lists. Again, with someone who is easily overwhelmed, this helps a ton!! When I look at the house as a whole, I give up before I begin. But, if I sit down and make a list of what needs done in each room it helps me to see what my priorities need to be (the fridge can be cleaned out another day) and I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I can check one off. Am I the only one who likes to put something on the list after I have already accomplished it just so I can check it off?

6). Fill a laundry basket as you go from room to room.  This is another trick that has helped me immensely. We often get clutter at our house because there are things that I have no idea what to do with. So, I have started putting things in a laundry basket and just go from room to room filling it with things that are out of place and when I enter rooms, some things get put in the basket and some things get put back where they belong. If it is my goal to empty the basket, then I find that I really can find a place for everything and sometimes that place is the trash can or box to give away, which brings me to……

7). Keep a giveaway box. Just recently I put a box in the basement for things to give away. We are planning to have a yard sale this summer to raise money to go to our missions trip to Romania. Knowing the box is there and knowing what is going in it is for a good cause helps me to part with things a little easier than I normally would (being the pack rat that I am by nature). Keep a box to donate clothes to your local city mission or items to go to the Salvation Army or outgrown toys to go to needy kids. Having a good cause to donate to is great incentive for decluttering.

8). Involve the kids. Last summer when the kids were home all day, I nearly panicked. I didn’t know what to do with them all day without tearing my hair out! I would plan fun days (girl days or days at the park or days with friends) but I honestly found our very best days were spent…..cleaning!!! I don’t know what it was, but when we started cleaning together it was this bonding time for us. My girls are still young, but I think it was a sense of accomplishment for them. We would make a list, then I would ask who wanted to do what and they have always been eager to volunteer. Then we would put on music while we cleaned and had spontaneous dance parties or make a game of seeing if we could check something simple off our list (like putting away all the books or cleaning off a dresser) by the time a song had ended. It gives them responsibility and if you make it fun and make sure they know how appreciative you are for their efforts, it really is a great time to connect with your kids.

9). Every day, pick up as you go about your day. There is nothing more aggravating than feeling the huge sense of accomplishment of cleaning your house top to bottom only to have it messed up again in a half hour. Again, with busy schedules and little kids, it’s hard to stay on top of things, but I have found it’s easy to do a little every day, even if it’s a crazy day. Some days I find myself taking a potty break and taking 30 seconds to spray and wipe down the sink after I have washed my hands to remove toothpaste and foundation stains and stray hairs. When I am going to fetch my coat from upstairs, I pick things up that need to go upstairs and put them away as I go. I honestly feel like if I didn’t do things like that every day I would end up on one of those shows about people with the disgustingly horrible houses. If I do a little as I am going about my normal routine, it helps to keep the clutter and mess to a minimum.

 

And to help keep things in perspective, I try to remember this

 

thank heaven

 

So, those are some things I do. What tricks do you have for keeping things tidy?

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Quilt Review Review

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I recently had the privilege of meeting Lauren, a client of mine via my Etsy shop, How Dear. In my shop I sell quilts, some of them of my own creation, lots of them baby quilts, most of them custom baby shower quilts that are used in lieu of a guestbook that people can sign and give to the mother-to-be as a keepsake to commemorate the day. Lauren was throwing a shower for a friend (Tim Burton themed) and asked if I could help her out in exchange for a review for my quilt on her lovely blog, Shooting Stars Mag:  where ” We are a group of people who write about the things we love, and the lifestyle that goes with it. “

She wrote a very sweet and flattering article about this quilt I made for her:

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Lauren was so sweet and kind to work with, I wanted to return the favor! When she contacted me, she asked if I could make her a quilt in return for a review. She was so lovely to work with and very gracious, I would recommend checking her out and seeing other items she has reviewed and if she can help support your business. Please check out her blog and the very generous article she wrote about the quilt.

If you are interested in having a quilt made, you can contact me via my Etsy shop. Here are some other samples of ones I have made in the past for clients or that are available now in my shop. 

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Adoption Etiquette

Courtney:

Recently I wrote this article on adoption etiquette and got a much bigger response than I expected and realized that there are so many adoptive families who can relate to what I said. A friend of mine, also an adoptive mom, shared this link with me on adoptions to say and not to say. It was informative but also hilarious and incredibly true. http://vimeo.com/92651492

Originally posted on Make All Things New:

Image It happened. Again.  We were out it public and we stand out like a sore thumb.  Two very white people with two very obviously not white girls who look the same age but not the same like twins.  We always draw attention to ourselves no matter where we go.  For the most part I have to admit it’s good attention, people seeming to want to reassure us how much they accept our family and our part we contribute to society despite our obvious differences from the traditional, American, nuclear family.  Still, people seem to think that because our children are adopted they can ask us any questions they want, personal or not.  So the question was asked (again), “Are your girls sisters?” I knew of course what she was asking, but I just smiled and said politely, “Yes, of course they’re sisters.”  She looked at me blankly, then looked back…

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DIY Shirt Dress

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Recently we had missionaries to Zambia come to our church, John and Janine Chilufya, and tell us about the work they do there with orphaned children. Where they live, in a very poor region, girls uneducated often find themselves forced into marriage with children by age twelve or thirteen. For just $25/year these girls can have a proper education and a brighter future. So, we made up these fliers for the church and offered our congregation a challenge.

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So many people pride themselves on dressing their very best, in new dresses or outfits to church. Though there is nothing wrong with that, we challenged people to consider wearing something that was already in their closet and saving their money to donate toward this very worthy cause. 

And I cheated. I totally cheated. 

I was at Walmart and I saw these women’s shirts on sale for $1 and said, “Hmm…..” and bought two of them, one for each of my girls. We did opt this year not to buy them Easter baskets and are trying to veer away from the message of the Easter bunny and more towards the message of the cross (though, again, we have nothing against Easter baskets or the Bunny! It was just a personal choice for us). Before you think we are the Scrooges of Easter, our girls had a party at school and church and have grandparents, so I don’t think they will go without! 

Anyway, I’m digressing! When I saw these shirts at a steal, I decided they would make super cute t-shirt dresses, so I snatched ‘em up. 

Confession: I am TERRIBLE with a capital T at making clothes. Every attempt I have made has been a colossal failure, so excuse me for how primitive and easy this dress is. It seriously took me all of 30 minutes to make it and it really only took that much time because I was trying to figure out how to keep my model from wiggling when I was “altering” the shirt to fit her.  

So, here it goes. 

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First, I put the shirt on my girls and started pinning and tucking away, making pleats in the neck for a slightly ruffled look and putting a seam in the sleeve so that it puffed out.

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Okay-seriously, that is it! I don’t have a finished picture yet because I was planning to add a flower or belt to it and haven’t gotten to that part yet. But, what I do have done is super cute! Even if I don’t embellish it, I’m thinking with leggings and some boots, she will be adorable. 

If you are interested in any  more information about the Chilufya’s and or are interested in donating to this cause, just comment below and I will be happy to send you more information. 

Happy Good Friday! 

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Freebie Monday: Free Printable for Easter

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Hey all! Last week I went to a conference in Louisville, KY called “Together for the Gospel” and was blown away worshiping our Savior with 7,000 other Christians. Though there were many speakers, one message was clear: God is all sufficient for our needs and should be worshiped as such. So this week, as we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, I wanted to share this printable with you that I made as a reminder that God is sufficient to supply all of our needs, especially and most importantly our salvation. Right click on the image and press “save image as”. Print and share as you desire!

(note: if you do use it for anything other than personal use, please refer credit back to my blog. Thanks!)