Friday, October 25, 2013

Be Still and Know That I Am God Psalms 46:10

My week began as any other week. Declan was feeling better after his first virus/ear infection and I was ready to get out of the house. It was Tuesday and I went to my Mommy Bootcamp at the mall. It was a tough workout too! I was so sore the next day.

The pain seemed to get worse and worse. I felt very uncomfortable and nothing helped. I knew I hadn't done enough to be in this much pain. Little did I know that I wasn't sore from the exercise, but that I had Shingles!! What!?? Someone my age (Ok, I am 36) could get Shingles- the dreaded, painful sickness. Apparently, it is seemingly common these days for someone of any age that has had the chickenpox before (mine I had in 3rd grade I think).

What brings on Shingles you may ask? Well, there isn't really anything that doctors know as a cause, but it is known that extreme stress can cause you to develop them. When you have chickenpox, you develop an immunity to chickenpox, but the virus goes dormant inside your nerves until one day it arises again in the form of Shingles. It is very painful and the blisters that form after the pain are very painful with burning and itching. The only way I can describe it is that for two straight weeks, I have felt that a very strong super villain with the power of fire has had a grip on the right side of my body. And, Superman is no where in site. Nothing really helps the pain either except for sleep if you can sleep.

Okay, enough of the physical and on to the MENTAL. What caused my shingles to surface? I am 99.9% sure it was stress. Many people have asked me what I have been stressed about. Well, I could give my life story over the past 10 years and even some before, but I won't bore you with the gory details. What it boils down to (no pun intended), I have succumbed to Jonesitis (oops, apparently this is a real word that means lazy) keeping up with the Joneses. Not in the way that you think though. I am very happy that God chose us to parent Declan and I love the area we live in and our church. I have a wonderful family and I have the privilege of staying home with our son. I also have some very supportive friends and a loving husband.

What I mean is that I have developed somewhat of an identity crisis (my husband's words). Those of you who have been in the workforce and who are now stay at home mothers will understand what I mean. I have always been someone who set goals for myself. Graduate high school- check; graduate college - check; earn my Master's- check; get married- check; have a job I am successful in- check; have a home- check; finish my design degree - check; have a child- check.

What I didn't do was set goals for after that. I focused so much of my life on getting an education and being successful at my teaching job that it became who I was - my identity. Being a teacher is not a 9-5 job - it is your life. Yes, you are with those kids just during the day, but in the evenings and even at night and on the weekends you are planning for those kids and worrying about how to help those kids and wondering how you are going to complete all of that paperwork. It becomes your life whether you want it to or not. And, in my case, I was without children of my own for so long that those children were my children. I loved them as my own. I shared in their successes and their lives. I was there for them when they had troubles.

When we began our fertility treatments, my mind became consumed with trying to become pregnant while still putting in 110% at my "IDENTITY  JOB." This caused a great deal of stress for me and my husband. We decided together for me to quit my teaching job. You would've thought that would've given me the relief I needed. But, quitting my job also took away my identity. I wasn't a teacher anymore. I also wasn't a mother. I was lost in a way.

We then brought Declan home. It was the best day of my life. I was a mother. Finally, after 8 years I had someone who would call me mom. We were elated.

Sometime after that first few months, when we got into the swing of things was when my stress seemed to begin again. I was going on very little sleep. I was caring for a new baby- something I had never done before. My husband was back at work and it was me against the world (my house). My identity then became WIFE, MOTHER, HOMEMAKER. I again threw myself into my work. I was determined to be the best mother and homemaker. After all, I am an educated woman and I was going to be good at this. I had also had 8 years to watch other parents and know what I was going to do and what I wasn't going to do. I made the baby food, I kept the house clean, I cooked the meals. And, whenever anyone gave me advice on how to care for Declan, I cringed. I took it personally when anyone said I should do something different when it came to his care.

I had lost my identity as a teacher. I didn't have a principal, parent or other teachers coming into my room saying I was doing a good job. I wasn't grading papers and seeing that the kid I had worked so hard with finally made a passing grade. There also wasn't anyone standing over me when I changed Declan's diaper saying, "Yay! Way to go. You changed that diaper in 10 seconds flat."

It took Shingles for me to realize that my identity is not in my role in life. People may see me as a mother, but what matters is that I am a Child of Christ. We need to remember that our identity lies in Him. We aren't here on this Earth to please those around us. We shouldn't seek praise from people. Whatever we do, we should be doing it for Him. Then, and only then will we have peace. Why? Because, He already gave us the A+ we don't deserve. When we have a bad day and our kid is grouchy and bad, we still get an A+ for the day because we tried and gave it our best. God gives a lot of parents children, but he chose Declan for us. I was always to be Declan's mother. He was always to be my son. We are so blessed.

But, the past year, I have been working to please others. I wanted everything to be perfect. If the house was a mess when someone stopped by or if the dishes were still in the sink at night, I felt a failure. I forgot why God gave Declan to us. He gave him to us to bring joy to our lives. He gave us Declan so that we could raise him up as a Godly son and man. That is what is really important now.

So, the next time you mothers out there feel as if you have failed for the day or week or month please remember that you have already received your A+ from the one who made you in His perfect image. Being stressed and not being content where God has you for a season is a sin. You are putting your body at risk of sickness and your mind at risk of focusing on things of this world instead of Him and the things that really matter.

I pray that (and I hope that all of you reading this will also pray) I will remember the pain of this sickness for many months and years to come. I need to remember the sickness that had me flat on my back for weeks. The house hasn't fallen down. My son and husband have not gone hungry. And, I have had time to listen in the quiet.

If any of you are feeling this way, there is a wonderful Bible study that I was able to make 4/6 weeks. The Bible study is for moms. It is called Moms Matter. It was hosted by North Point Community Church here in Georgia, but was begun by a woman named Karen in her non-profit organization called Birds On A Wire.

Here are some Bible Verses that can give hope to all of those struggling mothers out there.

What will I take away from these few weeks of physical pain? I need to remember where my identity lies. I need to remember that although people are looking at me, they are probably not judging me and if they are, it doesn't matter. I also realized that comparing to other people's highlights in their lives does not make me happy. I need to remember my highlights because I have plenty. I also need to remember I am not alone no matter how alone I feel at times. And, most important of all - I need to take time for myself even if it means exercising for an hour alone or going to the grocery store alone so that I can have a coffee and a little quiet.

Now, since I wrote a book and I am now in some pain again - I will go sit on the couch.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Half Bath Spruce Up

Our half bath has not been a focus in our home. For a while, we didn't even use this bathroom because the toilet leaked and ruined our floors. But, don't guests need to use the restroom at times? I would think so even though using the restroom at someone else's house is sometimes uncomfortable. In France, asking to use the restroom in a private home has its own set of etiquette rules. {French Etiquette} Either way, if you gotta go, you gotta go.

I thought I should take a few minutes and restyle this space to make it a little more inviting. Yes, the loo does need to be inviting. Ha! And, it only took a few minutes. Of course, the wreath took 2 hours - long enough for me to watch what I thought would be a good movie that didn't end the way I thought it should. But, I didn't feel my time was as wasted because I did finish this wreath. Did I mention my husband was out of town the weekend I tackled this project? I also completed Declan's Birthday banner this same weekend. {Birthday Banner}

I really don't like the location of our half bath, but ideally it was the only place for it. While in school for design, placing a bathroom so close to the kitchen wasn't such a good idea. Who wants to go to the bathroom as a guest while the host is preparing food right outside?? But, the reality is that we live in suburbia- cookie cutter or Gingerbread Houses as I have heard them called. They are all just alike and have very little charm unless you add it on your own. My goal is to add as much charm as possible so you don't feel you are in your neighbor's house when you walk in.

Well, I guess that is enough from the soap box. On to the restyling.

I was excited to do something in this bathroom. Just a little something - not too much.

The bathroom was already painted - Valspar Oregon Coast 6007-1C. I like this color - neutral enough to change the color scheme often if needed. We also recently had the toilet and floor repaired. Yuck!!

The Before (this bathroom has changed several times)

Art by Me and Panel from
Candle Holders (A Gift)

Drapery (Made by Me) 

New Art (I sold the other painting)

It was bare and with only the essentials. It really needed something since our guests do use this bathroom when they visit.

The After

Wreath (see note about why it isn't hung yet)
  • New hand towels to bring in some more color (Home Goods at $6 each). I liked the gunmetal grey in these towels. Notice the mixing of patterns- stripe and graphic with a few of the same colors represented. 
  • Two candle holders and candles that were moved from our Master Bath to our Bedroom and now to this bathroom (Had already) The candles bring in the golden color from the art and new towels.
  • A green glass bowl bought on one or our trips (it is for planting, but I filled it with stones and used it to hold the soap) I also had the stones already. The soap came from Home Goods. It is all Organic Lavender. (See note below on the soap)
  • Coffee Filter Wreath {Inspiration} I followed her basic instructions, but I used straight pens instead of the hot glue gun. This made the individual filters less permanent so I could move them around or change them out if I wanted to later. I used a 14" straw wreath form that was $3.99 at Hobby Lobby. I still need to hang this. I am looking for that perfect width and color of the gunmetal grey ribbon to tie it up with and haven't had any luck finding it yet : ( And, on second thought, I should've used all white with a few natural and colored filters. The natural against the wall color seems to blend too much. But, I may add more white later. This wreath took a complete pack of brown filters (200) from Publix. And, some white ones. 
  • The rug is a bamboo rug with a brown border (because of our two dogs, this was a nice choice and it is natural) $14.99 at Home Goods, but I have had it for a while
  • Art from Home Goods $30
SIDE NOTE ON SOAP: In our home, not only because we were faced with infertility as well as some health issues with me, we have slowly tried to eliminate chemicals and other environmental pollutants from our home. You will notice the candles have never been burned. I don't burn candles anymore unless they are wax only that will not release chemicals (I haven't gotten around to doing the research and replacing these candles : ( But, the soap was a steal at Home Goods (I love this store). It was $2.99. 

The soap brand is: Earth Friendly Products
This is their website: or 

This is what is on the label: "Free of Formaldehyde, Petrochemicals, GMOs, Phosphates, Chlorine, Ammonia, Biodegradable, and pH Neutral". It also carries the following seals: Recyclable, No animal ingredients, U.S EPA (Recognized for Safer Chemistry). It is also septic safe - greywater system safe ( I had to look this one up?). {What is Greywater?}

What this space still needs: 
  • Blinds on the windows (I feel uncomfortable using the bathroom here and always release the drapery panel while in there)
  • Possibly new window treatments with more color and pattern ( I like the fabric below) 

  • A new Mirror either with edging to the current mirror or a new mirror found from a store such as Home Goods. The only thing keeping me from replacing the mirror completely is the disaster that can and will be caused to the drywall from removing the current mirror. {Tutorial}
From House of Smiths (see link above) 

Well, that is it for now. I will post another photo of the whole bathroom after I get the wreath hung. hopefully soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Declan Turns One - What a Year it Has Been!!

It was not that long ago - it seems- that I was woken from a fevered sleep (I had the FLU!!) to a phone call from our son's biological grandmother. She was calling us to let us know that our birth mother was at the hospital and things were moving along quickly. I ran downstairs to tell Gary and we both were immediately full of so many emotions. I was so excited and very upset at the same time that I was sick. We were told we would hear something again as soon as the doctor let them know.

Even with the flu, I got up and threw some things together in our suitcases. I had a feeling I should be prepared so a friend of mine had come over earlier in the week to help me get things packed for Declan. (You were a lifesaver, Carrie!!) I was so glad I listened to my gut feelings. I did as much as I could while feeling so sick and then went back to bed. Gary handled getting the flights and hotel rooms booked. The next day, we were on a plane flying to see our son!!

Fast forward to today and it has been almost a year. It has flown by so fast. Declan had actually outgrown some of his newborn clothes by the time we came back home with him. The growing hasn't stopped and neither has the curiosity.

I began planning his party early on like most moms do I suppose. I thought of a theme and put everything on paper. It became larger than it needed to be. So, at the advice of a friend who plans meals for large numbers of people on weekly basis, I cut the party down to size. (Thank you, Mandy). We now have mainly family who will be invited and a few close friends. Gary's parents are actually going to be in the states for this special day. We are more than excited about that.

So here is the plan in a nutshell:

Theme: Curious George Goes to the Circus (who knew this book was in print in 1984 and is nearly impossible to find?) I just thought Curious George and Vintage Carnival theme went together and Declan loves George.

Book Signing:When Gary and I were married, we had a frame with a photo of us that people could sign. When I threw a baby shower for a friend of mine, I purchased one for her to have her guest sign. When I thought of Declan's party and I found this idea on Apartment Therapy's website {Book Signing}, I loved it!! 

Invitations:Created by me ( I will post photos when they are complete} Printer ran out of ink. Argh!! My inspiration for the invitation came from here {Invite}

Main Food: Since it will be in November, fall food for cooler temperatures are a must. With a carnival theme, that tends to be a little harder. But, we do live in an area where fairs and craft shows are plentiful this time of year. So, I planned to have food that related to the season as well as carnival type foods. (And, of course foods with a banana theme)

-Hot Dogs: Everyone loves a basic hot dog, but different regions of the States dress theirs differently. I decided on two areas to have fixings for - the South to represent Gary and I and where we have lived (Mississippi and Georgia) and Chicago dogs to represent our little man's home state. {Hot Dog Styles Across America} {How to Build A Chicago Hot Dog}

-Chili: Chili may not be a carnival food, but it goes with hot dogs and with the cooler weather, it will be a good addition.

Drinks: This time of year, apple cider is plentiful as is anything pumpkin spiced. So, with a good many adults at the party, there will be coffee and hot cider as well as water and other drinks for the kids. (with fun straws in bright colors)

Straws: $3.00 at Target for 20 (I purchased these using some leftover Gift Cards from his baby shower) This was a little steep, but aren't they pretty?

Dessert: The go all out planner in me wanted a hot chocolate bar and perhaps a make your own banana pop to go with the Curious George theme, but who needs that many sweets along with cake? Okay - you may, but that would be enough to put some people in a sugar coma - me for example. So, dessert will consist of a Curious George themed cake, cupcakes with banana candy on top (maybe) and maybe some banana/chocolate cake style pops (maybe- I am still debating this) or Apple Nachos (ie simplified caramel apples) {Recipe}

We did recently purchase a mini popsicle maker to help Declan with his teething. You can find it here {Mini Pops}. They are called Zoku Slow Pops: Mini Pops Molds. I didn't realize you could use them to make chocolate banana style pops until I received it in the mail - I was happily surprised!

Frozen Mini Pops 

Other foods:We will also have other munchy type foods like chips if people want nachos and/or veggies. 

Party Favors: Popcorn in gift boxes for older guests and animal crackers for younger guests with a label created by me with a thank you message

Oriental Trading Company
Party City
The best price I found for popcorn bags was the Dollar Store at $1.00 for 10. Other places I looked included Party City. $0.99 for a pack of 5. Of course, when I went shopping they had every color except red/white. They were even out of red/white online. So, I turned to Oriental Trading Company. They were $6.00 for 24 of the popcorn holders. The Dollar Store won.

Party Hats: $1.99 for 8 at Target (I purchased these using some leftover Gift Cards from his baby shower)

Utensils and Plates: I purchased plates at IKEA one day when they were having a sale. I couldn't find them on their website anymore with a price. I am pretty sure it was a seasonal thing for a summer luau. They are called the Sommarfint plate. I purchased the white and yellow ones. The top photo shows the accessories ( I posted this for you Holly since you LOVE flamingos). I also bought the small ones in solid yellow for the cake. And, yellow utensils came from the Dollar Tree at $1.00 for a mixed pack of 48 (16 sets of fork/spoon/knife each)

Napkins: Found on sale at Wal-mart in the Clearance bin - $1.00 each (two different patterns- large dots of blue and green and stripes with lots of colors) {See my upcoming post on wrapping silverware in the decor post}

Happy Birthday Banner: Made by me {Birthday Banner}

A Year in the Life of Banner: Made by me {A Year in the Life of Banner} COMING SOON!!

Lessons Learned

What is really important is family and friends getting together to celebrate the life of one very special little boy. 

What else did I learn?  A lot more about Photoshop and Dreamweaver and taking photos. 

How did I stay on budget? By shopping at the Dollar Tree. Also, reuse what you already have when you are planning a theme. Coming up with a plan ahead of time may seem like a lot of work and stress, but it does help with time management and saving money. If I had not thought of the theme early, I would not have been on the lookout for Clearance items that would go with the theme. And, I had time to shop around for the best prices. 

Also, if you are planning for a Mickey Mouse themed party, shop now for black streamers, utensils and cups. Halloween things will go on sale right after Halloween and black and orange are key colors out right now. The same goes for Easter and other holidays. If you want to plan a Princess party, shop for items after Easter in pastel colors. After Christmas, shop for red decor and supplies if you want to plan a Mickey Mouse or Superhero party. Planning ahead can save you lots of time and lots of money. 

Stay tuned for photos of the final set up and shots of the party!! COMING SOON!!

A Year in the Life Of Banner {Project #2}

Happy Birthday Banner - Curious George Goes to the Circus {Project 1}

Declan will be 1 in November {WHAT ALREADY???} and we have decided to celebrate his birthday early so that Gary's parents can be here. It has been 4 years since we saw them and they have never been to our home here in Georgia and they have never met Declan in person. Did I mention he is also the first grandchild?

The designer in me had this planned out for a while. Like all first time moms (I hope I can speak for more than just myself on this), I wanted the perfect party to celebrate my little boy turning one. It is even more special that we waited so long for him to join us in our family.

Original Idea: A party focused around a Carnival theme
Why? So we could have Chicago Hot Dogs of course
Why? Because our son was born in Chicago, as if you had to ask : )
What better way to celebrate his birthday than to have a food from his home state at his birthday party?

And, after the Hot Dog idea, we can say the rest was history so to speak. Hot dogs are more of a summer food, but the Carnival theme makes me also think of FALL with candy apples and popcorn. The plan on paper came together and it began to grow and grow until I felt we would go broke throwing this party. So, reluctantly, I began scale it back, shop around for pricing on supplies (ie the Dollar Store is my friend) and make things myself. Being on a strict budget, a lot of things seemed a lot more important than feeding people enough sweets to put them into a com. Ha!

NOTICE: There will not be a "Make Your Own Sunday Bar" AND a "Make Your Own Popcorn Bar" AND a "Make your own"...Oh, you get the idea.

So, the theme is still Carnival, but since Declan LOVES Curious George, it will be Curious George Goes to the Circus (Carnival).

I hunted on all of the websites (Pinterest, Etsy) for Curious George themed items. But, I still love making things myself so here it is.

Project #1: Happy Birthday Banner

Supplies Used:

  • Scissors (already had) 
  • Glue (already had) 
  • Scrapbook Paper: Neptune Blue (12 x 12) and Recollections Red Diagonal Stripes (12 x 12) from Michael's (used 40% coupon) [I used 3 pieces of each for this banner] Note: The red striped paper does have a hint of yellow in it. 
  • Stencil in the shape I liked (already had) 
  • Printed letters in the CIRCUS font (downloaded for FREE) 
  • Circular Template (already had) 
  • Ribbon - pattern Colored Polka Dots. (I used what I had left from another project- $1.99 for a roll of 15' using 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby)
Uh Oh!!
What is wrong with this photo (above)? Look closely. No, look again. Still don't see it? Well...let me tell ya! The stripes are going the "WRONG" way. It didn't really matter. I could have alternated the directions of the stripes, but the OCD side of me was screaming. So, I fixed um, changed it. Do be careful though if you are using stripes or a particular pattern to check the direction of the pattern on the paper before you cut.

Below, you will see the final product. I will be adding additional circles on the end with pictures of George, but my printer ran out of colored ink. Argh! I will come back and add a new final photo when I get more ink.

Stay tuned for Project #2: A Year in the Life of Declan Banner