Friday, September 28, 2018

Current Faves: Pumpkin Spice Edition

Hello and Happy Fall! 

If you've read any of my last few posts, you know that life has gotten a little heavy for us as of late.
It's definitely felt like a lot to face and deal with all at once, but God has been so good and so faithful to carry us through it.
And we've also officially entered the best season of the calendar year, which seems like a timely reminder to enjoy some of the beauty of life in the midst of the storm.

I'm writing this from Colorado, while I help take care of my mom after the hysterectomy she had a couple days ago and to make sure that my dad doesn't starve to death.
Even though cancer isn't anyone's preferred reason to make travel plans, it's already been so great to spend time with my family and take in the stunning mountain scenery again. The timing couldn't be more perfect to have a quiet weekend away to take a breath and recharge.

And while I'm doing so, I wanted to share some of the most recent things that have been bringing me joy, even amidst all the craziness:

1.) My new Shark DuoClean Vacuum

Confession: The vacuum that Luke and I had been using for our entire marriage was one that he had gotten as a housewarming gift DURING COLLEGE. Just to give you an approximate time frame of how long ago my husband was 19 years old, this was pretty much The Original Vacuum Cleaner. It was huge and heavy and dirty and barely sucked anything up. After years of lugging this thing around my house, I had so much resentment in my heart towards it that it was time to finally upgrade.

We went with a Shark, because of how many friends and family have and absolutely rave about them. And let me just say- they were not wrong! I LOVE THIS THING.
Here's why:
-It's super lightweight (under 10 pounds)
-The suction and cleaning power is incredible, it actually pulls you forward a little bit when you have it on the highest setting, which is impressive for something so compact.
-The swivel head makes it very easy to maneuver around and underneath furniture.
-The duo brush system vacuums every surface, so between the two power levels it offers, I basically do my entire house in one fell swoop- including the hardwood floors, linoleum, tile, rugs, and high pile carpets.
-It has a quart-sized dirt bin, which could not be any easier to remove, empty, and put back. Which I do often, because it sucks SO much dirt up.
-It easily detaches from the floor pedal and the stick, and becomes a handheld vacuum- working great for ceilings, upholstery, and curtains.
-It's quiet and has LED lights in front to highlight any unseen dirt and particles on the floor.

I am absolutely smitten with this vacuum and will pretty much find any excuse to use it.
 I feel like someone who has come out of a really horrible relationship, but who has a new found love that makes me feel good about myself and life again. Swoon.

And YOU TOO can dump your bad vacuum boyfriend and find true love again!
Get it on Amazon HERE.

2.) Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Meet my new Netflix obsession.

Jerry Seinfeld hosts this amazingly original series which is sort of a hybrid of a talk show, that almost has a 'Making Of' Featurette feel to it, with a little bit of Top Gear thrown in.

In each episode (which range anywhere from 10-30 minutes, there's pretty much no consistency) Jerry picks out a classic car (that usually pairs with the personality of whoever his guest is), picks them up in it and they drive around and go get coffee.
That's it.
They do anything and talk about anything they want! They get serious, they joke around, they connect over food and movies and family and the life of comedy- nothing is off limits or predictable.
It just has this whimsically unscripted and weirdly down-to-earth feel, that I find so charming and appealing.

I was never really a watcher of Seinfeld, nor have I seen his stand-up, but after this show-I am just a huge fan of Jerry Seinfeld. He is so good at connecting with and having fun with all of these fellow actors and comedians, I think partially because this is his own little project, so he only has guests on that he actually likes and finds interesting! So there's this factor of authenticity that you just rarely see in any sort of talk show.
You can tell that he has so much respect and appreciation for all different types of comedy and characters, and is so good at perceiving and encouraging others in their specific talents.
One of my favorite things about him is how hyper-observant he is to all of the tiny little nuances and details that make for being funny. He's so genuinely entertained by all of his guests, that the laughter and fun they have together is just contagious.
So while I don't think that this is one of those shows that's going to necessarily be everyone's cup of tea, I think if you appreciate those things, you'll love it as much as I do.

Some of my favorite episodes were the ones with Will Ferrel, Tina Fey, Jim Gaffigan, John Mulaney, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Stephan Colbert, Norm Macdonald.... gosh there's just so many. 

Watch some of those and get back to me. I don't think you'll regret it.

4.) My New Kitchen Shelves

A year or two ago, I went over to my friend Stephanie's house, where she showed me an entire wall in her upstairs loft that she had turned into a library with huge industrial pipe shelving. Yes, the library itself was all very wonderful, blah blah blah, but what I became immediately obsessed with were the incredibly cool shelves that all of these books were on. I started dreaming and planning where I could incorporate shelves like that into my house, and decided that the big wall in my kitchen would be perfect.

I love them so much.
They are each 5 feet long and 8 inches deep, giving me a ton of room to hold all of the decor and kitchen accessories that I want.
I bought the wood boards and the pipes from Menards (although they're both available for around the same price at Home Depot too) and spray painted the pipes black to give it the look I wanted.
I stained the wood with Minwax Dark Walnut (which is, in my opinion, the Beyonce of wood stains.)

As far as the decor goes, I got the plant and white pitcher at Ikea and the giant EAT letters from Hobby Lobby.
(Psst! They're actually CARDBOARD letters that I spray painted metallic! It cost less than half of would it would have if I had bought the actual metal ones, which cost around $30 per letter. And I'm giving you permission to be a cheater like me.)

This adorable scale was my present to myself last week from Chip and Jo's line at Target Hearth and Home. It's classic, it's functional, and it's only 15 bucks. Sold!
The cookbook stand that has kitchen conversions on it is actually from the Target Dollar Spot right now! 3 dollars. Yes it is. Go get yourself one.

I just love the versatility of these shelves. I feel like they could work with so many decor styles and different rooms of a house. I actually have a small one in our guest room and am planning on adding one to the bathroom as well. I'll probably need an intervention at some point or they'll be on every wall!

3.) Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake Mix

I was raised in a pancake family.
Pancakes have always been my dad's thing to make, to the point where he's even well known for it outside of our family. He has his own special recipe, always made from scratch, so I don't think I was actually aware that pre-made pancake mixes existed until I was a teenager. (I'll go ahead and pull my 'I was raised in Europe' card for that one too though.)
So obviously there is a little bit of pancake snobbery here that I was always bound to have when raised this way and I prefer them made from scratch.
HAVING SAID THAT, these pumpkin pancakes are amazing. I've actually made pumpkin pancakes from scratch before but prefer this mix. They're thick and fluffy and the perfect blend of spices to enjoy on a fall morning. And if you want to elevate them to an even fancier level, top them with a blend of apple butter and mascarpone cheese. To die for.

A box runs around $1.99 and is now available at Trader Joe's until the season ends, so get them quick!

That's all for now, I hope you can find as much joy in these as I have and that you are loving Fall with wild abandon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fosterhood: Too Attached

Two months ago we met a baby in a hospital.

She had been in the NICU going through withdrawal from all of the drugs she had been exposed to in the womb, but once she was through the worst of it, we were able to take her home.
We have all been totally smitten with this beautiful little girl and have adored every day and sleepless night that we've had with her. We've prayed for her every day, that God would fiercely protect her and that she would come to know Him someday. 
And we prayed that she could be a part of our forever family.

But in the foster system, nothing is for certain and anything can change in an instant. 
A relative of hers came out of the woodwork and wanted to have her. They cleared the background checks and that was that.

Yesterday her social worker came to get her. She left and I probably won't ever see her again.

And as I packed away bins of baby stuff and moved an empty bassinet out of my room, my heart was broken from disappointment. Because I love that baby girl like one of my own. And more than anything, I wanted to be her mom.


People say to me all the time "Oh I could never do foster care, I would get way too attached!"
And what I always gently say is this:

The point is to get too attached.

You SHOULD get too attached.

What these kids need, what ANY OF US need, is for someone to love us with everything in them to the point where it actually hurts. Becoming a foster parent is basically signing up to be that someone for children who desperately need it.
If I could make the decision over again, to say yes or no to taking in this baby who we all fell in love with and who made our hearts hurt like this, I still wouldn't change a thing.

These kids in the foster system, and their parents who are broken and hurting, are made in the image of God and are so, so valuable.

I've shed many tears over this little girl, for fear for her future and sadness that I'll always miss her and that I won't get the memories I thought I would with her. 
Because she is valuable and worth crying tears over.

I've shed many tears over her mother, for what she's already been through so early in life and just imagining the pain of being a post-partum addict out on the streets.
Because she is valuable and worth crying tears over.

And then I think If I care this much about them, how much MORE does God, their maker, care for them? 

As much as I wanted this baby girl to grow up in our home, where I knew she would have a mother who loved her and an amazing dad who would be loving and protective... God will always be a better parent to her than Luke and I could ever dream of being. And unlike us, He will ALWAYS be with her, no matter whose home she is in.

We're trusting God in this, even though it's so hard. It's one of those really confusing times in life where it's so easy and natural to wonder what His plan in this is. How could this be what is best? But faith wouldn't be faith if we could see everything in front of us and knew how it was all going to turn out. 
We are leaning on truths like Romans 8:28 while we wrestle with the uncertainty. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

This will work together for good. And for a purpose. And God's glory will shine brightly in it.


Being a foster parent isn't just about being willing to share your time and money, it is just as much about being willing to share your heart and soul.
It's beautiful and painful and will wreck your life.
But I truly believe that it wrecks our lives for the better.

When we are giving each one of these kids a piece of our own heart, it is basically an exchange- we hurt more so that they can hurt a little less. 
And there is nothing that represents God and His love for us more than that. He IS that one who has loved us so much that it actually hurt.
There is no one who has shed these tears or felt this pain more than Him, who gave up HIS OWN SON to bleed out and die for us, so that we could be His children too.

We NEED Him for this job, because it's only when our heart is so overflowing with His love and His grace and His strength that we are able to share it with others, let alone hurting kids and broken families.
We love because He first loved us.
And we hope because He has promised to redeem all of it.

Luke and I are both so incredibly thankful that we got these past couple months with this beautiful baby girl. We gave her up knowing that she has had such a good start to life (in spite of her initial rough circumstances), being held and fed and changed and sang to and prayed for and loved on. 
It can be easy to take for granted how developmentally important all of those basic ways of nurturing are, until you've been around kids who didn't get that as babies.


I woke up this morning, after my first night in two months of not having to get up for feedings.
I stayed in bed for a while, snuggling with my kids and staring at the wall that I want to paint.
When I got up and looked around my weirdly empty house, I felt a peace that I wasn't expecting to feel instead of sadness.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and helped August get some cereal.

It's going to be a good day.

Friday, September 7, 2018

My Mom has Cancer

I was outside, trying to busy myself with gardening, when I got the call I had been waiting for.

"It's Stage II. Cervical cancer."

Even though I had been expecting to hear exactly that, it still felt like a punch in the gut.

My mommy has cancer.
My pretty, petite, active, healthy, social, hard-working mother has cervical cancer.
I was able to go and visit my parents in Colorado just a few weeks ago, and as soon as I got there she shared with me that something wasn't right. Heavy bleeding and severe pelvic pain for a good while had led her to go see a doctor, who immediately started running tests and gave her some very honest possibilities of what it likely was, and none of them were great.

Then a few days after I came home from my trip, the biopsy came back and confirmed what we all figured it probably was.

We shed tears, because this is terrifying and surreal.
And then we talked about all the hope in it, how incredible it is that they caught it this early and of the good possibility that they could get all of it with surgery.
She'll be getting a full hysterectomy and they'll also be taking some lymph nodes out, and they really won't be able to know how far the cancer has spread until they biopsy those.

I'm so proud of my mom for how well she has taken this.
Yes, she has hope and is choosing to put her trust in God in each step of this hard journey.
But she has also had the courage to healthily grieve this.
Cancer is scary. People die from it every day.
And when you're told in your mid-fifties that you've joined the Cancer Club and you're given statistics of the likelihood you'll survive it... your life just turned upside down.

She's fought our natural human tendency to immediately put our Pollyanna faces, so that we can "stay strong" for others or ourselves.
She hasn't avoided facing the fear and the pain in the attempt to look or feel strong.
Because you know what takes actual strength? Vulnerability.
Feeling completely out of control, and relying on nothing but God for peace and hope.

The way that my mom has walked this balance every day since the news has been humbling and inspiring.
And as her daughter, who tends to be a little over-protective of her, I'm so thankful that so many friends and family have met her vulnerable circumstances with compassion and love and just being there. Instead of with all of their own fear or denial or hyper-positivity or a list of cancer horror stories (NO THANKS!)

So thank you to all of the people who have loved and supported her and my dad and me and my brothers so well these past few weeks and continue to do so. It really means more than you'll ever know.

And please be praying.

Pray for her surgery that is scheduled for the end of this month, which I'll be going back to Colorado for. That it would all go smoothly, and that they find that the cancer hasn't spread into her lymph system and she wouldn't need radiation treatment.
(As a side note, pray that my daughter and I are protected from this disease, considering it's genetic.)

Pray for her recovery process, that she can rest well for the 6 weeks needed until full recovery.

Pray for the financial aspect. My parents moved back to Colorado less than two years ago, and because of their careers at a non-profit and being self-employed, they've been planning on getting their own health insurance for a while, but in between all the busy-ness of life, it fell through the cracks and now it's too late with her pre-existing condition. But God is faithful and has always been our best provider, and He won't stop now.

And please pray that this would draw us closer to each other and to Jesus.
There really is nothing like feeling scared and out of control, that brings us more on our knees in front of the Lord, crying out to God that He would be near us in the darkness.

And the beautiful thing about darkness is that that's where His light shines brightest.