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CONTEST: Have Your Photos Painted for Free

photocontestAs many of you already know, I have an ETSY shop. Up to this point I’ve mostly sold printables but was thinking of branching out. I’ve always loved painting, but I’ve put it on the backburner for awhile until this past Christmas when my super awesome husband bought me art supplies: a tabletop easel, new paintbrushes, pencils.  It reignited my passion for painting. I wanted to be able to start selling some of these paintings in my shop. That’s where you come in.

I decided to have contest. Here’s how it will work: I want photos in three categories: 1) animals/pets 2) children (preferably closer up) 3)portraits (also preferably closer up. If I choose your photo two things will happen: 1) I will paint the picture then send you the original (a $100 value) and 2) sell prints of your painted photo in my shop (this is something you are agreeing to if you submit a photo). If you are interested, you can go to my Facebook page and like my page for further details and updates. I will be announcing winners March first.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

xo

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Dollar Store Paris Inspired Mirror

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Hi. My name is Courtney and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

It’s been 12 hours since I last pinned a recipe, funny cat photo or tutorial about making a mosaic with broken pottery. I have at least 762 of making doily curtains, 32 about reupholstering your furniture the lazy way, and how to cheaply decorate every room of your house.

My latest obsession, though, is Paris. Well….the idea of Paris.

My girls love, love, LOVE things Paris related. After we spent a day in “Paris” at home, they have had a wanderlust to visit Paris in their imaginations any time of day or night.  They might take after their mom a bit.

This fall they turn nine (boo-hoo!!) and for their birthdays I wanted to try to redecorate their room to be a Paris theme. Something girlie, fun, romantic and a bit more sophisticated for preteen girls (sniffle*).

I plan to put flower boxes on their windows, turn their closet into a boutique, making a light up Eiffel Tower behind an old window, paint a rug to look like cobble stones, making a biSTRO IN THEIR ROOM, PUT AWNINGS OVER THEIR WINDOWS!! Can you tell I’m excited?!! I plan to make myself a little sitting corner in the “Café” part of the room so I can take a little trip to Paris myself sometimes!

It’s safe to say I’ve had Paris room on the brain. So naturally when I was at the Dollar Tree this past week I was inspired. This whole project cost me three dollars. Yeperooski. Just three measly dollars.

I will admit, though, that I already had the glass paint from another project, but that is still just a couple of dollars. So, without further ado….

Supplies:

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-Dollar store mirror

-Dollar store scrapbook flowers (6 for one stinkin’ dollar! Holla!!)

-Martha Stewart Frost Glass paint

-Scrapbook Letter Stickers (I also had but they have these at the Dollar Tree as well)

 

So, if you’ve followed this blog at all you know I like to do easy projects. This is one of those, people! So super easy!

I started by sticking the letters to the mirror. Rocket science, right?

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Then, take the mirror out of the frame and paint over the whole thing, letters and all, with the glass paint. Leave it sit for an hour to dry.

In the meantime you can decorate your frame. Can you pause a moment, though, and just admire these paper beauties? These delicate flowers are even paler in person. They are small and adorable.

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They have a sticker on the back, but I hot glued them around the frame for durability.  After the mirror has dried take stickers off (you may have to do some touch up because mine peeled off a little of the paint). Then put it in a cool oven to bake(don’t preheat). Then turn oven to 350 degrees and bake it for a half hour. Check on it periodically, though, because mine turned a little yellowish. Poo.

Turn oven off and let cool off before removing it. Once it’s cooled, pop it back into the frame and voila! A masterpiece.

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Here is some other loot I’ve collected already (mostly from Goodwill). That Paris flea market sign is from the Dollar Tree!

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I’ve also started painting some of my own watercolors to add to the ambiance. Oui, oui.

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I’d love to hear more ideas if you’ve got ’em!

Bonjour!

xo

 

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Easy Snowman Art Project

easy art

So it’s that time of year again: snowman building time!!

I don’t know how it is where you live, but here winter just kind of came on all at once! Even though it’s only been snowing for the last week or so, I’m already experiencing some winter blues. It didn’t get above ten this morning! Blah.

BUT, never fear! There’s always fun things to do in the winter! When it’s too cold to build a snowman outside, there are lots of ways to make them inside!

I confess this is my THIRD snowman project I have done so far this year with my elementary art students and I have a few more up my sleeve. There’s just something so cheery about snowmen, don’t you think?

This was one of the easiest projects thus far. This was one of those ones where I threw open my closet (completely unprepared for class) and started pulling things off of shelves. Those always end up being the best projects!

Here are the supplies, folks:

-white finger/tempera paint

-blue or gray cardstock

-scrapbook/construction paper

-buttons, jewels, sequins, etc (anything to give your snowman a little bling)

I started out by cutting out mittens, scarves and hats with different patterns for each child to make their project unique. I also punched holes from black construction paper for the eyes and mouths. I cut little triangles for carrot noses and strips of brown paper for arms.  If time allows, you can have your students do this themselves but my classes aren’t very long and I’ve found that having little details like this prepped before class helps a lot. I gave them a piece of paper and told them to create a snowman on it with the white paint using their fingers. For the younger kids I demonstrated how to do this creating three circles on top of each other, but for most of them little guidance was needed. They went to town. Some anchored them to the paper by making a snow-covered ground, others made falling flakes.  After they had the body created, I let them choose the items they wanted to use to decorate their snowman and some glue and that was it! It was simple and they loved it! Any time you can incorporate finger painting, my students are happy!

 

Here are some more examples:

Happy crafting and stay warm!

xo

 

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Meaningful Questions to Ask at the Dinnertable

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I don’t know how things go in your family, but in ours between homework, ministries, meetings, guitar lessons, coffee dates, soccer games and just plain old everyday commitments, it can be stinkin’ hard to connect as a family. When Sam and I were first married we lived on his family farm which meant our lives and meal schedule revolved around the milking schedule. This meant that often times we weren’t eating dinner until nine o’clock and beyond. During this time we got into the nasty habit of eating in front of the TV before crawing into bed. This habit carried into the early years of raising our girls as well when it sounded so much nicer to eat and veg out once my two hooligans were tucked safely into bed and I could just relax. As they have gotten older, though, we realized we were missing valuable time to connect with our kids, sometimes the only time we actually got. We still some weeks only eat together as a family four or five nights out of seven, but that time is still vital for us to be connected in each other’s worlds. When we first started eating as a family I found myself often scolding the girls for fooling around or interrupting while their dad and I were trying to have a conversation, one that often excluded them and was above their comprehension. This was no good.

I searched Pinterest (ever the helpful resource) and find this idea of just adding each other questions during dinner.  I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try.  Two years ago I jotted down some questions and threw them in a jar. They ranged from “if you could be a dog for a day, what would you do?” To “if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” These questions are great because they help us to dream together and be imaginative. As they have gotten older, though, every once in awhile I will throw in a new one that is more meaningful. I’ve been amazed to hear the answers the girls can come up with. These questions help them think and grow, but they’ve also challenged me as well! So here are a few examples:

1.Who is someone you can encourage tomorrow and how can you do that?

2. Name three things you are thankful for.

3. Name something you love about the person on your left.

4. What is something God has been teaching you.

5. Who is someone we can be praying for?

6. Who is someone you can talk to about Jesus this week?

7. What is something you can rejoice in today?

Then, of course, there are the sillier ones like this:

1. If you could be a zookeeper for the day, what would that look like?

2. Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

3. If you could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?

4. If you could be a polar bear for the day, what would you do?

5. If you could be anything, what would you be and why? (Nora told us one time she’d like to be a unicorn in a uniform, my favorite answer ever!).

Those are just a few of ours. What about you? What questions would you ask? What do you do to connect as a family?? I’d love to know on the comments!:)

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A Trip To Paris At Home

trip

Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

paristicket

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An Apology Letter to My Husband

 

 letter

My dearest husband,

I want to apologize for so many things, I’m not even sure where to start.

I want to apologize for the many days you come home and I give you less than a backwards glance and grudging kiss, barely acknowledging the quickly diminishing smile on your face.  I want to apologize for the days you walk in the door after a grueling day of caring for other people’s needs and I unload on you all that has gone wrong during the day, forgetting to even ask about your own.  I’m sorry for sharing every burden of my heart, real and conjured up and somehow expect you to fix them all with the right look, the proper words I rehearsed for you in my head, the perfectly timed solutions that I have prepared in my own heart for you to do. I want to apologize to you for the expectations that I tie around your back on any given day that no man should be expected to bear.

I’m sorry for agonizing about what you think of me.  You have never even hinted that you weren’t content in who I am, despite my flaws in person and appearance.  I’m sorry for filling the blanks in in my own head assuming you think things you don’t. I’m sorry for all of the times I took offense so easily because love, true love, doesn’t do that.

Please forgive me, my sweet husband.

Because do you remember, my love? Do you remember how thirteen years ago I panicked? I could barely get out of bed let alone walk down an aisle where you would be waiting for me. Fear gripped me and wrapped around my heart, debilitating and cruel. I didn’t want to go through with it. Do you remember how I worried that I wasn’t and never would be good enough for you? Of course you do, because I still worry. The fear still clings to me and refuses to let go. Because you see, perfect love casts out fear. If I loved you more; true, honest, sacrificial love that seeks not it’s own, love that has no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit,  and worshipped you less, then maybe the fear would dispel.

And that is my greatest regret: I worship you. I love you as I didn’t know I could love another person.  You are better than my greatest dream of who you would be. I admire and respect you more greatly than anyone I have ever known. When I see you worship our God, when I hear you speak words of wisdom, grace and compassion, and when I think of your faithfulness to me and to God, I am in wonder again as to how God put us together. As your wife, I am ridiculously proud of you and to be the one who stands beside you until death parts us. I am so very blessed in you.

Still, I’m so sorry. I have put a weight on you that was never intended to be yours to bear.  We have said it often in our home and remind each other of it frequently, still I somehow missed it all this time in relation to you and me: we worship our way into sin and we have to worship our way out of it.

I have made you an idol. I have asked too much of you, forgetting where my true worship needs to be directed. In you, I too often worship the creation more than the Creator.

The other night, under a glorious sky sprinkled with stars standing on a blanket of fresh snow, I missed it.  I missed the glory of God all around me.  I missed an opportunity to take a breath, fall to my knees and worship my Creator and author of salvation because I was looking to you.  You were innocently doing your own thing and I was sinfully cursing you for forgetting me. And I missed it. I missed an opportunity to bask in the glory of God displayed in all of His creation, including you and the girls.  All of His creation should inspire worship of God and Him alone. It was never intended to be an object of worship.

So, my love, please forgive me. Forgive me for putting you in a position you never asked for or desired.  Forgive me for looking to you to meet all of my needs because that’s not what God ever intended in marriage.  Our marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His perfect love; love that casts out all fear: fear of punishment, wrath, of death. We are to help each other, encourage each other and constantly be pointing each other to Christ, not replacing Him with each other. I have done that and regret it greatly.

I ask your forgiveness.  All the times I’ve manipulated or thrown a pity party or just a tantrum, protected myself and pushed you away, it was all because I’ve been worshipping you.  So I’m asking you to forgive me and that in this life God has sewn together for us, this wonderful, chaotic, beautiful life, that in our home, in our marriage, we would be committed together to worshipping God and God alone.

I love you.

Me

“…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15)

 

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Parenting with Grace

 

 

parenting

“Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry,” Nora must have said it for the umpteenth time just since she got home from school.  This time I caught her in bed combing her hair with a Barbie brush long after she should have been asleep. I didn’t yell at her or even act upset because I wasn’t, I just took it calmly, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and said goodnight again. Earlier in the day she came to me with that solemn expression on her face and uttered the same words. When I asked her what exactly she was sorry for, she shrugged and said, “I can’t remember,” quite pitifully.

This has become quite an issue in our house. The words “I’m sorry” are slung about so flippantly that it’s as common as saying “hello”. It’s just something that we say.  Some of you might be asking why this is an issue.  Just a couple of years ago I was lamenting about how Nora especially never apologized for anything even when threatened with no ice cream and other such “wise” parenting strategies  until she made things right with the offended party.  She would forego many, many things before her ego would let her admit to any wrongdoing. Now, two years later, I’m wondering how we have gotten here, to the point where the words have become meaningless.

This past year of school both girls have been caught numerous times stealing. They have taken things out of desks, classrooms, and most notoriously out of lunch bags. Their teacher is constantly sending me texts and notes about their deviant behavior. Being that they are in the same class, they give her a run for her money.  Today, when some items from the classroom went missing, suspicion immediately fell upon our girls. Short of shining a light in their faces and poking them with pins, we interrogated them thoroughly, but no one was copping to it. Their teacher texted me well into the evening to find out if I had gotten anywhere with them. Sadly, still, I have not.

Ask me how our day went.

Well, even if you aren’t asking, I’m telling.  They were sent to bed for afternoon naps without books or a movie to watch (yeah-I know-harsh) because they had both talked back to the teacher during the day. When they got up, I got the note about the stolen items. I interrogated and got blank stares and denials, each one throwing the other under the bus. I was calm. I was collected. I was seething internally. Then apology letters needed to be written for talking back. Then came the abundance of tears. For an hour. Letters were done, more texts were sent. I searched backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets, pockets, under the bed, even the booster seats and came up with nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. More texts. All the time, the frustration and suspicion are building. I can’t prove it, but even as I write I am sure that one of my girls took the said items and stashed them at the school.

When I tucked the girls into bed tonight, reassuring their teacher again (an incredibly patient woman!) that I would try to get to the bottom of things, I wanted to cry myself as another, “I’m sorry, Mom” was flung my way. The poor child didn’t know what she was sorry for, she just knew I was disappointed and she wanted to make it right.

I have a hard time trusting anyone, not just my girls, who have a reputation for getting into trouble and stealing. I fear I too often live by this creed: “Accuse first, ask questions later.” See, if I just don’t trust them now, then I won’t be disappointed later. Makes sense, right?  So it begs the question-if I don’t trust anyone, will anyone ever be trustworthy? If I always expect my kids are going to be the ones who steal something, will they always be the ones who steal?

These are the questions that keep me up late at night. These are the questions that spill onto my cheeks as I’m hiding in the bathroom with a bar of chocolate. These are the questions that torture me as I look into their faces searching long and hard for some truth.

Recently a very wise friend made this very profound statement: “I have never regretted showing grace, but I have often regretted not showing it.”

Then I remember. It is a taste of sweet freedom, a drink of water in a desert: Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).

Showing mercy and grace is always better than condemning. With parenting, especially, it’s a difficult balance, because they need to be disciplined in love. My children need to learn that they can’t steal because not only does it harm the ones they are stealing from, but eventually their sins will catch up to them and they will live with the harsh consequences of them. I MUST discipline them because I love them. I must teach them that they can’t choose to harm someone else for their own selfish gain, which will, in the end, end up harming them as well. Still, I can still discipline with grace not judgment, right?

Judgment says, “How dare you?!” where grace says, “I’ve been there.”

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Isn’t it true, though? Isn’t that what, as humans, we are saying when we extend grace? We are releasing them and saying” I’ve been there. I understand. I know the temptations you wrestle with. I get it. I’m here to help.” And in that, we offer them freedom; freedom from guilt, freedom from condemnation, freedom from wrath. Because, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we don’t offer grace aren’t we forgetting the grace we are given each and every day? Aren’t we forgetting the freedom that is so willingly and abundantly given us each moment of each day with each breath that we take? And when we cling to the Truth of grace, the Truth we find in our salvation in Christ, it will truly set us free. (John 8:32)

And if you don’t know Christ as your Savior, if you have never tasted that freedom found in the grace of God alone I encourage you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the (FREE!) gift of God is eternal life through in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

 

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Identity Theft: Being a Wife and Mom

identitytheft I stood beside my husband trying hard to maintain eye contact with the speaker with two little hands wriggling for freedom in mine. I had given them the speech before we went in: though I understood the temptation, they were not to ask for candy and needed to understand we were not there for them. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to cry but knew it was important that I be there. So as I waited in one of those rooms, filled with mourners and smelling almost nauseatingly of chrysanthemums, we stood in line with others who came to pay their respects to the family of the man from our church who had recently passed away. I had never even actually met him because we haven’t been at our church all that long and for a lot of our time there he has been sick and unable to come. Still, I had spoken with his daughters and wanted them to feel loved and supported. I scanned the room and smiled, but as I saw the people approaching I inwardly groaned, because by now, I was well acquainted with this routine. People walked up to our girls and gushed over how beautiful they were and, “oh my, look at those dimples.” While I tried my very best to concentrate on what people were saying, the girls whined about when we were going to leave. My husband was introduced over and over to family from out of town as the associate pastor and father of these two charming and delightful children. I waited patiently.  Anytime now, surely someone would acknowledge me. But as I stood them, smiling politely, I was no more than a footnote on a page. When I was acknowledged at all, it was to be told what a wonderful husband I had and how blessed I was to be his wife. If introduced at all, I was nameless. Just an accessory, really, on my husband’s arm. I felt as important as the tie he was wearing. “This is his wife and his lovely yellow tie.” His wife. Pastor Sam’s wife and Evie and Nora’s mom. Nameless. Faceless.

The girls began to really get antsy, as little girls do in a funeral parlor filled with nothing to do but to try to wriggle free from their mother’s iron fist grip. After twenty minutes of “your husband is the best thing since cherry pie” and “oh. You are so lucky to have been blessed with such a husband and children. Count your lucky stars the heavens were smiling down on such a person (I’m sorry. What’s your name again? Yes. Yes. That’s right. Sam’s wife)” I gave up and let go of their hands. Before I knew it, they were trying to race each other down the hallway all the while I was trying to keep my attention on the funeral director who was shooting jokes at my husband left and right. I told them they needed to sit, which to them translated into jumping violently on the couch. The elder of the two smirked at me, knowing full well that my blood pressure was rising, which meant her fun was just starting. Through gritted teeth and a plaster smile I told them to sit quietly in chairs within arms reach of me. Once they had done so, the older one began to bounce in the chair, again to try to see if she could crack me. I really think this girl has a future in interrogation some day.  At this point, my head was throbbing, my feet were screaming, and my heart was drumming in my ears. I shot the girls that look that only mothers can give that says something like, “I love you but if you choose to cross me again I will sell you to the circus and make sure they give you a terrible job like cleaning up elephant poop and scraping gum off of bleachers and brushing the lion’s teeth…” A man from our church chose that moment to mosey on over to us and tell my girls how good they were and how sweet and charming and pretty they looked. Again, I was acknowledged only by a conspiratorial smile as if I would readily agree how well behaved they had been. The elder of the two flashed me her dimpled, smug grin that I know translates to her, “I win”. At that point I think my smile must have looked akin to one someone must have when they are sent to an insane asylum because her smile faded quickly. The gentleman from our church must have seen it, too, because he chose that moment, the first time I had been acknowledged as an individual the whole evening to say chidingly as he walked away over his shoulder to,” enjoy the journey. ”

Then I screamed. I did. I yelled that I, too, was trying to be thoughtful and considerate by being there and that it had been by my choice, not obligation. I shrieked that I did, in fact, have a name. When I was born to my two, lovely parents they did not put on the birth certificate “Sam’s wife”. I stomped my feet a little, threw some really poetic insults at the condescending comment, and stormed out of there, wives and moms around the world applauding me, my oldest daughter gawking at me and my husband giving a great speech to everyone about how I was the love of his life and what he, in fact, would be without me

…… In my head. That whole, lovely scene only played out in my head. What actually happened was I smiled again, politely, not really dignifying the comment with a response, then grabbed the girls by their hands, ushered them outside, put them in the van and lamented to my husband about how I have lost all identity as a mom and wife, how no one seemed to even see or acknowledge that I was even there, other than to scold me for not ” enjoying the journey “. I may as well have a name tag that says ” Hi. My name is wife and mom. ”

This idea of identity theft is sort of a recurring theme in my tales of woe, actually. Just yesterday I was crying to him about it again. I have people tell me all the time how incredible my husband is and how lucky I am to have him. Though I usually respond with a very sincere and hearty word of concurrence, it can also be discouraging, because though he has earned every single word of praise, I can’t even be introduced by my name if I’m introduced at all. When I begin my lamenting it usually sounds a little something like this: I feel like a job. I am the packer of lunches, the finder of socks, the kisser of boo boos, the maker of meals, the comforter, the cheerleader, the team mascot, the folder of laundry, the discipliner, the cleaner….. You get the idea. I’m rarely even called by my name. I’m, “Moooooooooooooom!!!!” most of the time. There are so many days when I sit back and wonder how it came to this. How did I lose all sense of who I am as a person and become a job? When did I become so faceless and nameless? When did I become nothing more than arm candy for my husband and a convenience to my children? If I’m honest, some days I can be downright resentful of my family, because, in the spirit of being totally candid, so much time spent being a mom you are undervalued. You are taken for granted and abused. In fact, there can be an attitude that you should be cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and taking them where they need to go. And my husband, who truly is this amazing man and great spouse, can’t meet all of my needs all the time and can get wrapped up in work or coaching soccer, because, despite popular belief, he really is only human and the poor guy can only do so much. So he can’t always see that I am drowning sometimes in loneliness and frustration. I heard once that when people were polled, what they wanted most was to be appreciated. I also read this somewhere: you know you don’t appreciate someone when you think it’s their job to do anything for you.

A pet peeve of mine is to go to a restaurant and see people treat the service there like their own personal slaves. My mom used to be a waitress and I only know a fraction of how hard that really was on her to be on her feet all night, dashing to fill orders, to be hit on by drunken men, to have people yell at her because their steak wasn’t prepared to their liking though it was no fault of her own, to work for crummy tips, all with a smile plastered on her face. But I have been out with friends and witnessed some of them treat our servers in this way, making snarky comments, ignoring them when they check on our table, and not offering any word of gratitude and say something like, “They’re getting paid for it.” As if passing them a lousy tip gives you the right to treat them any way you want.

OK. I digressed a bit. But here is my point: Just because someone has a job it doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as less than human. As a means to an end. A job. Hence my point. As a wife and especially as a mom it so often feels like I have lost all sense of self and feel underappreciated. My children, as I did to my own parents, don’t get how much I sacrifice for them on a daily basis, and honestly, I don’t expect them to until they have kids of their own.

As I have been sitting here writing, I wanted to tie this up with a nice little bow; a word of encouragement and enlightenment to those who are struggling like me, most days just trying to keep my head above water and sanity in tact. So here it is, my incredible words of wisdom: you’re not alone. When I talk to my friends, most of ’em feel the exact same way. Being a mom is tough. Sometimes being a wife, even if you’re married to a really great guy like I am, can be really tough, because all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize that you have lost so much of who you used to be. I think I used to be fun (I think??). I used to be spontaneous and go out swing dancing. I used to hang out with my friends on weekends and NOT talk about kids. I used to be the interesting girl across the room that you wanted to get to know better. I used to have a name.

My mom recently handed me a folder full of all these papers, mementos of things I created as I grew up: report cards, pictures, essays. I came across one essay I had written as an introductory paper for a creative writing class. It was titled “Mirror of my Life.” As I read it,I was reminded of the girl who wrote it. She talked about her dreams and ambitions, her frivolous activities. She talked about making up skits when she was all alone, talking in different accents and dreaming of a life on stage, perhaps.  She talked about her fears and hopes and the world that was wide open before her. At seventeen, anything seemed possible. As I read those words, I missed that girl.  I missed the girl who was carefree and laid back, who spent her free time writing poetry and daydreaming and reading books.  Then as I read further, I caught a truer glimpse of her, reading between the lines: a girl who dreamed of being married and having kids.  She was a girl who prayed for and laid awake at night dreaming of and writing letters to the husband she couldn’t wait to meet.  She was a girl who was at times lonely with the ambition to have her own family someday, lonely in the waiting. Then I was reminded of the girl who just a few years later married a man beyond her dreams when she was so young, but who cried herself to sleep so many nights and sat in lonely corners during the day aching to hold a baby of her own. For years, she sat and prayed and waited, empty in heart and womb. Then I am reminded of the person I am now, living out those very dreams written down on the paper in my hands. After that, I come to pity the girl on the paper because though she may have had much less responsibility, she had much less to be thankful for.

So here it is: my secret to sanity when I feel like I’m fading into absolute oblivion, because, as with all things in life, it usually comes down to perspective. I will take a few thoughtless comments from people who can’t see what I do, though I know I do them. I will take not being introduced properly to so-and-so’s second cousin twice removed who I will never see or remember again in my life.  I will take the forgetfulness, being taken for granted, and yes-being walked on at times, because even on the most exhausting of days I wouldn’t trade this life or what this girl has for anything in the world.

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DIY Owl Tote

owlbag

Last year, I made this advent calendar counting down until Christmas. Always one to cram extra projects into an already exhaustingly busy month, on day nine I had written, “Make a Christmas present for your teacher.” Blah.

I have a few friends who are teachers and I know they often receive the same gifts. So, I wracked my tired brain for an idea that might be somewhat original, cheap, and also something the girls could make, preferably having to do with owls since their teacher has a fondness for them.

I came up with nothing. HOWEVER, while I was browsing the aisles of Walmart in search of other last minute craft supplies, I stumbled across canvas totes, all under $3. Score. I snatched one up and scurried home, giddy with anticipation and self-congratulations of being so thrifty and clever.

This bag took less than an hour, and if we’re being honest here, it could have taken half that time had I not enlisted the girls to help me out with this. Ah! I love them. They are precious, but heaven help me! Let me get this out of the way because if you read any of my posts you know I like to keep it real, lest you think this was some Hallmark, Kodak moment so when you try this out with your kids you are cursing me and my family for generations to come because I made it seem like this project was sunshine and kittens and lollipops. Sugar and spice and everything nice it was not.

First, I had the girls help me cut out pieces for the wings (I don’t have a pattern, but it was pretty easy to freehand them) and was trying to make sure we all had ten digits on each hand by the time it was all said and done because Ev couldn’t keep her eyes on what she was doing and the dogs were wrestling and bumping into us. I asked Nora to keep an eye on the pieces to give her a “special job” while I was trying to sew pieces on. She lost them. Twice. Poor girl tries so hard, but is slightly absentminded like her Mama. Then I had the girls take turns helping me by pressing down the pedal while I guided the bag through the machine. StrEEEEEEssful!! The dogs kept looping around my legs and under the table, digging in my garbage and stepping on the pedal. Again, fingers were counted after that fiasco. I discovered also, much to my great annoyance, that I had to rip out one side of the bag so I could fit it into my machine, then I stitched it back up when all was said and done.

So, that out of the way, I will tell you how we pulled this together. Let’s start with the supply list, shall we??

-canvas tote

-scrap fabrics for eyes and wings

-large buttons for eyes

-sharpie paint marker

-fabric markers

-glue gun

-sewing machine

We started out by making a wing pattern out of paper and making two, cutting them out along a fold so you have two mirror images. Then I traced something round for the eyes and drew large circles in the middle of large buttons (also found in the craft section at Walmart). I pinned the fabric pieces to the bag (after opening up one side so, as aforementioned it fit better through my machine) and went to work sewing the pieces on. I chose to do a straight stitch because I like the raw edge look, but you might prefer an applique stitch. Once the fabric pieces were on, I stitched the open side back up and hot glued the button eyes on. Once all of that was done, the girls wrote on the back of the tote. Pretty easy peasey, my friends. I think they turned out cute, don’t you? Oh. Yeah. The bag is pretty cute, too. 😉

norawriting girlswithbag eviewriting backbag

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Diy Thanksgiving Plate

turkeyplate

I’m so excited to share this super simple, festive plate for Thanksgiving. I teach art at our small, Christian school and my oldest class only has four girls in it, so I can do fun projects like this with them. So tho do these plates all you need are the following:

*white dinner plates (I got mine for fifty cents each at a secondhand store)

*sharpies

*clear contact paper

*turkey silhouette

I started off by googling a turkey silhouette then drew it freehand on the back of the clear contact paper and cut it out. I then peeled the paper off the back and centered it in the middle of each plate. Then I encouraged the girls to make a pattern around the turkeyturkey with sharpies ( I suggested the dots, but one of my students opted to do stripes instead), then they each wrote a message on the outside border of the plate. Once their patterns were done, we pulled the contact paper off, leaving the turkey silhouette in the middle.IMG_20141117_133910986 IMG_20141117_133954268

Pretty simple, right?  It only took them fifteen-twenty minutes each to finish this project. Then, today, I plan to bake them in the oven at 350f for a half hour. With these sharpie plates, I recommend only using them for decorative purposes because the sharpie will fade and wipe off over time.

IMG_20141118_104817702_HDR IMG_20141118_104826686_HDR

Display on a plate holder or put some wrapped candies in it and enjoy!