Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 Goals Recap

Each year I make goals. Several years ago I was very good at documenting our goals for the world. It was a great measurement and helped hold me accountable. Life has gotten busier and I've scaled back on my goals. This past year we set very specific goals as a family and had them up in the kitchen all year long. It was different than previous years because I didn't update you each month. However, I did take stock every day when I got dinner ready because they were staring at me!
My word for the year was obedient and Jarrod's was open. We did not complete each goal, but only because many of them changed! Here's our recap...

1. We did NOT complete the foster process, but probably would have had we not had a baby dropped into our laps. This goal probably should have been more bold and said, "adopt a baby". We nailed that goal!

2. We did not meet with an investment expert in March. We were a little behind on our financial goals in March and pushed it off until April. And then we got the call that we were going to adopt and put everything on hold to save funds for the adoption! Thank goodness! We now have retirement and kids college going but were thankful to be able to put that goal on hold to fund our adoption.

3. Scheduling intentional fun time as a couple and a family was crucial this year because of the chaos we experienced. We weren't exceptional at it, but we did do it and were mindful of it even in the most difficult of seasons. I'd say we did have one fun family day/time each month and probably about that for couple time too. We did have one weekend away without the kids, one night away without the kids, and one week of family vacation this year. Add to that multiple trips to the zoo, a few outdoor concerts, food trucks, and some movie nights at home, and I'd said it was a very fun year!

4. We challenged ourselves to meet each week to go over the budget, calendar, adoption forms, and schedule fun. We didn't do this EVERY week, but we did do it most weeks and it was incredibly helpful. Some weeks were more challenging but we did have on the calendar once a week to meet. We added in going over the menu plan at this meeting, which was incredibly beneficial after adding a second child with Jarrod in school!

Jarrod's Goals
1. He's taking 9 hours during the semester, took 6 over the summer, and 3 during this January term. He's on point to graduate in May of 2016! We had to have a come to Jesus meeting about this, but it happened and lit a fire under him!

2. Jarrod wanted to get good grades. He takes school (this time around) very seriously. However, when our daughter was born right in the middle of him taking 6 hours of class, we re-evaluated his desire to get straight As. Getting good grades is important, learning and taking this seriously is important, however, getting straight As cannot be the goal. Graduating and still having a healthy family relationship needs to be the goal. We re-evaluated this goal and he STILL got straight As last semester!

Leanne's Goals
1. I did walk most days. I probably walked 350 days this past year, but I didn't track it. This year I plan to make the same goal and track it using the Way of Life app. I'm already obsessed with it. I've walked at least 2 miles every day of 2015 so far!

2. I fundraised by MAY thanks to incredible donations from incredible people. It was SUCH a relief to have the fundraising done when we were focusing on bringing our daughter home. An incredible blessing!

3. Figuring out my next journey wasn't clear at the time. I wasn't sure if that meant quitting my job, adopting a child, picking up a new hobby, or adding in a new routine. I felt stuck and needed to get unstuck. Adding our daughter to our family got me unstuck in so many ways. I got a new job, have new routines, and have created a new rhythm for life that feels much more healthy. Life is still crazy, but in different ways.

I look forward to sharing our goals for 2015 soon!
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Friday, January 9, 2015

Baptism Invitations and ideas!

I've intentionally kept Sister's name off the blog for privacy's sake. However, today I'm going to share - Sister's name is Eloise Catherine. We call her Ellie, Sister, Ellie Cake, Ellie Cate, and Eloise, said in a very sing-songy voice. That has nothing to do with today's post...

When we were expecting Eloise, we knew that scheduling her baptism would be a challenge. I work in one church and work on Sunday mornings. Jarrod works at another church and works on Sunday mornings. Our dear friend and baby match-maker is a pastor and also works on Sundays at a 3rd church. Eloise's birth family is dedicated to a church and are busy on Sunday mornings. Baptizing our baby on a Sunday morning seemed impossible.

However, as United Methodists, we believe in baptism done in corporate worship. It is a sacrament meant to be done in community. It is not intended to be a private or secret event, but rather is a covenant between a community and a family. We firmly believe in being surrounded by friends and family as we commit to raising our child in the church. We love the liturgy that creates a covenant between the community and the family that together we will support each other to raise that baby to know Christ.

That being said, we began discussing Eloise's baptism before she was even born. We knew we wanted our dear friend to have a significant role. We knew we wanted her birth family to be there, if they desired. We knew we wanted our friends to be there - many of our friends work in churches on Sunday mornings. And we knew we wanted our baby baptized in the local church. We wanted as many folks from the local church to be there. We wanted it to be a big huge worship service, honoring God, and celebrating Eloise.

We scheduled Eloise's baptism for Wesley's birthday weekend in the afternoon. It meant that family that needed to travel could come for just one weekend and get Wesley's birthday and Eloise's baptism all in one shot. It is a time and day that is somewhat convenient for everyone we know that works in the church. It's proving to be a slightly chaotic weekend because Jarrod's in a January semester class this week and next. But we're making it work, even in the midst of the threat of terrible weather.

Following Eloise's baptism we are celebrating with friends and family at a great Methodist tradition - a potluck! We're making chili, corn bread, and will have cakes - one for Wesley's birthday and one for Eloise's baptism. The color scheme for the party is pink and gold. I fell in love with this color palette and created this invitation. I'm incredibly excited about how they turned out! We will decorate with pink and gold balloons, frames with pictures of our family, and cake!



I'm sure I'll share more pictures after the weekend extravaganza is over! Ellie will be wearing our family baptismal gown for the service and changing into something more comfortable for the potluck. Wesley will likely wear a Super Wes t-shirt because I'm picking my battles with him. :-)
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Merry Christmas

Yesterday was Epiphany in the church and the official end to the Christmas season. Advent is the 4 weeks prior to Christmas and helps us prepare for the coming of the Christ-child. We then celebrate Christmastide from Christmas day for the following 12 days. Because Christmas just ended yesterday, this post isn't late at all...


This is the first year that I designed the cards completely from scratch myself. Typically I take the photos and edit them but then use shutterfly.com or zazzle.com. Check out the cards we've done in years past: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. This year I wanted more room for changes and creativity. I designed them and then had them printed at vistaprint.com for like 60% off. I got high quality, matte paper and LOVE LOVE LOVE them! I don't think I'll ever use a company to design my cards again! I also designed Sister's baptism invitations. I'll share those later this week because I'm super excited about how they turned out!
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

December

It was not my intention to go silent for the entire month of December! Things have been busy and I didn't have much to update. Life has been chugging along and we're making it.

January is already proving to be an incredibly busy month! We've already set goals, planned vacations, and have a 3rd birthday and baptism extravaganza this coming weekend! December feels like a world away, but a lot happened! There are plenty of precious pictures of my little ones to share with you!

Here's what happened in December:

  • We had a Christmas party and went to a Christmas parade with our church friends.
 
  • We watched Christmas movies as a family! We saw Rudolph, Elf, Toy Story Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, 

  • I baked a ton of cookies and participated in two cookie exchanges. On a completely unrelated note, we went through 5 pounds (!) of butter this month!
  • We saw Santa! Sister slept through the entire meeting and Wes was skeptical. But it happened! We went to the same place we took Wesley for his first and second Christmases. So this was his 3rd trip to the same Santa! Here's our first experience in 2012
 

  • Jarrod finished his semester with straight As!
  • Jarrod turned 33!
  • We celebrated Christmas Eve Eve at my church as a family.
  • Wesley got a tummy bug and was down for the count on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - it was terribly sad!
  • Wesley was over the tummy bug for about 15 minutes before coming down with the flu. We all got the shot, but he still ended up with flu A. We got him started on meds immediately and he was only sick for 4 days. It was a rough break for Wesley!
  • Eloise began sitting up like a champion! She's not rolling or crawling much, but I imagine as soon as she gets out of her helmet (in the next 2 weeks!) she'll become extremely mobile! 
Overall, it was a wonderful month. The sickness was incredibly rough but I feel very fortunate that no one else caught it. It was very disappointing to have Wesley sick for Christmas eve and Christmas day. We had a lot of beautiful things planned as a family - focusing on experiences rather than physical gifts. But this year we didn't really get to do much by way of experiences the week surrounding Christmas. I think Wesley feels like he completely missed the entire holiday. Hopefully next year will be healthy and even better! 
I already have several posts planned for January, so hopefully I'll be sharing more soon! 
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Monday, December 1, 2014

Frankincense Essential Oil

I am not a medical professional. This is simply my own experiences with essential oils. 
It's been several months since I shared anything about essential oils with you. Today I have one of my absolute favorite oils for you. It's an expensive oil that can be used for EVERY.THING. It's worth the price, but this month you can get it FREE! Read to the bottom to learn more.

All of the oils I've shared with you so far have been blends. They are mixes of different natural oils. This one is a single oil and it's one you've likely heard of before - frankincense. Yes, it's one of the gifts brought to the Christ child, according to the Bible. The more I learn about frankincense, the more it makes sense that kings brought this kind of gift to Jesus. 

Frankincense is useful for absolutely everything. I use it on our little girl and have since birth. It's great to calm her after shots (we haven't used any medicines to help with pain from shots yet because frankincense is so effective!) and have it in a rollerball with coconut oil and lavender for diaper rash. Nothing works better! I use it on my face each night for blemishes and wrinkles. I use it on Wesley for cuts, scrapes, and rashes. It works incredibly. I am convinced that it has helped keep our baby healthy because it's been known to boost immunity.

I love frankincense because it's a catch-all oil. It's safe for use on babies and children, is safe to drink. and can be helpful to fight a variety of ailments. The problem with frankincense is that it retails for $93! This is pricey, even though it's completely worth that price. I'm so excited to share with you that from December 1-31, 2014, you can get a 15ml bottle of frankincense completely free! If you've been waiting to order some oils, now is the time. Place an order before the 31st for 200pv (approximately $200) and you'll earn frankincense for free! This is one of the best deals ever! If you have questions, please shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. Here's more information from doTERRA about this fabulous offer.
If you aren't ready to make such a large order but are interested in getting a few oils this month, let me know! Anyone that places an order directly through me before 12/15 will get a discount of at least 10% and save on shipping! Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail for more information.  
If you already have frankincense or are ordering it (you can do that here!) and want to know how you can use it, consider printing this card and storing it with your bottle of Frankincense!


If you are looking for more information about Frankincense or want to test my skills, check out this website.

If you're interested in reading about other oils, check them out here:
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I want you to know... {Adoption and Fertility}

If you don't read Rage Against the Minivan, I highly encourage you to click over there now. I love the column What I Want You to Know and read it regularly. I recently read one that has stuck with me for two months: What I want you to know when having a family does not come easily. The woman writing shared her heart about infertility, miscarried adoptions, and heart-break.

My heart broke for her and her husband. She was experiencing a pain I didn't know anything about. Somehow I felt part of her pain.
It can be hard to hold in one hand the knowledge that I can never give birth to a child, and then to hold in my other hand those who adopt who can have biological children. I know they feel called too, but sometimes that scary voice of scarcity and lack lies to me and tells me that there will not be a baby for us because all the younger Fertile Myrtles are adopting them up! I never want to begrudge someone their family, but I also want one of my own. Adoption and infertility bring to light lots of places where I have to hold in tension things that feel opposite to me and trust that which I cannot understand. (source)
I am that "younger Fertile Mytrle" that chooses adoption. I've given birth to a biological child and feel called to adopt. I know that voice of scarcity because it speaks to me in the form of guilt. Why did we get a baby when there are lovely, deserving families who cannot have biological children? We are not better parents, more qualified, or somehow deserving. So why us? This question and guilt lives in direct tension with the knowledge that our baby girl is meant to be in our family. I feel so confident in our call to adopt and know that this child was placed with us, but wonder why we were chosen when we could have another child the "traditional" way.

Many stories of adoption are also stories of infertility. It is adoption month and this weekend is National Adoption Day. In honor of that celebration, I wanted to share my feelings about adoption and fertility. Infertility isn't part of our story. I feel guilty because of our successful infant adoption because it means I took a baby from someone who couldn't have one. I feel overwhelmed that we got this precious, perfect baby when other spend years, thousands of dollars, and painful treatments trying to get a baby. It all overwhelms my heart because I really want everyone who wants a baby to get a baby. I want to be like Oprah... "You get a baby! And you get a baby!!"
In the middle of that guilt, is the confident knowledge that Sister was meant to be part of our family. Her birth family was also meant to be part of our family. We needed them in our lives and have a unique relationship with them. The birth family relationship is crucial for us because of our open adoption. This is something I gave a great deal of thought and prayer for years prior to our adoption. I prayed for the family that would experience loss. I prayed we could bring them peace in a difficult and sad situation. I prayed for them specifically, knowing that for us to get a child, a mother would experience intense pain.
In our adoption situation, there are many folks that are affected by our daughter's adoption. Her birth mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, great aunts, friends, cousins, great grandmother, and other family had to change their relationship with this baby. They have experienced loss. They have put their trust in my family to give this baby everything we can. Our baby will always be part of them.

Even in closed adoptions, a relationship exists between the birth family and the adoptive family. There is a forever connection. There is a responsibility. I feel a strong sense of accountability to be the best mom for Sister because I owe her birth mom my very best. A birth family might never know how their child is doing, but the bond is still there. We pray for our birth family, talk about their love and sacrifice, and adore them for blessing our family with our daughter.

The relationship we have with our birth family is unique and I am confident in the fact that God brought us together with purpose. We have an opportunity to share love and grace with a family we might never have known. Our family fits together with their family in a way many others might not. We understand each other, have amazing things in common, and are sensitive to the depth of this situation.

I pray for those mamas who's arms are empty tonight. I pray you are chosen soon. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that God takes messes and makes them beautiful. I believe that God creates purpose out of chaos. I was not meant to give birth to Sister but I'm so thankful many chose our family to give her life.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DFW 3-day for the Cure 2014

This was my 8th 3-day for the Cure in 7 years. I cannot wrap my brain around that. That means I've raised somewhere near $20,000 and have walked literally 10,000 miles training. (That's a rough and probably low estimate!) Each year is different, but this one was the best in several years for many reasons. (And the worst for a very specific reason!)

First things first, I walked with my friend Susan. We walked together last year as well and I was thrilled and honored to have her as my teammate and walking buddy for 60 miles again. My sister, Courtney, did not walk. It was the worst walk ever for that reason. This was the first time in 5 year that we didn't walk together and it just wasn't the same without her. I'm so proud of her for following her dream of becoming a nurse and know she will come back to walking as soon as her schedule allows. Nursing school is HARD!

The weather was insanely gorgeous all weekend. I got some serious sun and Sunday morning was bitter cold, but other than that, I could not have ordered better weather. I thank God each year for such incredible weather. This year was the best I've ever experienced. Walking was delightful. It was a challenge, for sure, but I felt strong and capable nearly every single mile.

Opening Ceremony was awesome. It was very cold, very early, and a little chaotic for my family (wake an almost 3 year old up at 5am, strap him in the car for an hour, and let him out without freedom in the freezing cold...) but it was gorgeous. They've switched things up this year and I really loved all of the changes.
By 7:30am the route was open and we were off! If you've ever read an update from me before, you know that I like to stay towards the front of the pack. Because we were rested and it was cold, we walked fast, getting to lunch by 10:30am or so, still feeling really good. We ate lunch and were off again! The route was really great and the weather was perfect. The chill wore off and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Jarrod was in class all morning, so we hadn't seen any of our family since opening ceremony, but there were 3 cheering stations and lots of people out to support us!


We arrived back to camp around 2:30pm, after finishing just about 22 miles. My family was there and it was great to see them again!


We relaxed, visited the chiropractors, and enjoyed delicious cupcakes and snacks (a new addition to camp this year!). We left camp before dinner because the kids were just about done. We went back to the hotel, checked in, and got things situated. We cleaned up and Jarrod picked up dinner. After dinner, we began the fight of going to bed. We were all exhausted, but someone needed to stay up to feed sister and Wesley wasn't interested in going to sleep in the hotel room. Too bad he couldn't feed sister! :-) Eventually, after a lot of screaming, we all went to sleep around 9:30pm - alarms set for early early the next morning!

Our alarms went off, Wes woke up in a great mood, and we were off to camp! Our hotel was about 2.5 miles from camp, so Jarrod drove us back and forth...because he's awesome. It was much warmer on Saturday morning than we expected, so we left our jackets in the car. It was 50 degrees, not the 40 degrees we expected! We got breakfast and waited in line for the route to open.

While we waited, something delightful happened. One of my favorite parts of the 3-day is meeting new people and sharing stories.
On Saturday morning I was standing at the very front of the line with a delightful older woman. As we are chatting, I notice a button on her lanyard that says, "Everyone deserves a grandma!" I comment that I love that, thinking to myself how appropriate that is as I walk for a grandma I never met. As I'm looking at her button I catch her credential, the barcode we wear all weekend. It shows her name. Shirley. Tears well up in my eyes. My grandma's name was Shirley. I tell her this, share a picture of my Grandma Shirley, and we hug. We talk about her own battle with cancer and celebrate her two year cancer-anniversary, just two days prior. It was a holy moment. It was inspirational and all the reason I needed to keep walking all 21 miles that day. It reminded me that I walk so that I can be someone's grandma. And so that my daughter can know her grandbabies.  



We hit the trail and enjoyed a delightful morning walk. Jarrod and the kids met us at the first cheering station...with Aunt Courtney and Uncle Philip! It was seriously exciting to se my sister cheering and I know my kids loved having them around... I know Jarrod appreciated the help too! They followed us from cheering stations to lunch and it was great to look forward to seeing them again. We walked through a gorgeous park with a lake. The weather couldn't have been better. We were hurting, but it was gorgeous. We just kept walking.


Again we arrived back to camp around 2:30pm and rested. The chiropractor tent was absolutely incredible on Day 2. My hips were hurting and I wasn't sure how to make them better. I had a lot of trouble with my hips the year before (and every year since I walked when I was pregnant!) but hadn't found a good solution. This chiropractor was a miracle worker! He worked my my hips and neck and I left feeling better than I had all day! 

We visited with Courtney and Philip at camp before they took off and went back home. Jarrod and the kids met up with us and we ate dinner. After a delicious dinner, it was time to go back to the hotel. Once we got back, it was time for everyone to get cleaned up. Jarrod had to go to a party, so he left the kids with Susan and I. Thanks to technology, we were able to worship with my church family online. After that and a little Veggie Tales, we were off to bed! Daddy got home just in time to put to bed a very tired Wesley, feed a sleepy sister, and go to bed himself!

Sunday morning we took our things down to the car to help Jarrod out. He dropped us at camp and we grabbed breakfast before getting in line for the bus. On day 3 we are bused to a different location to begin the walk. It was incredibly cold and not very pleasant waiting for the bus. But we did it, got on the first bus, and got in line again to wait for the trail to open.

Once we were off, I walked fast. I was so cold that walking faster felt better than keeping a slower, more appropriate pace for 40+ miles in! After an hour or so I began to warm up and slow down. We were both hurting, but nothing compared to previous years, so we kept up a good pace. We stuck at 30-60 people from the front for the majority of the weekend. It was a great pace and we met some wonderful people. It also was fantastic because things weren't as crowded as they can be further back in the crowd.

We walked through North Dallas and into Downtown Dallas. The route changed slightly this year and I enjoyed the changes. We got to lunch and enjoyed time resting our feet. We were just about 5 miles to closing at lunch and knew we could make it!

Right around 1pm, we arrived at Fair Park, the location of closing ceremony! 60 miles DONE! We felt good - sore but really good. We rested, cheered in walkers, and even got to witness a proposal!
We had a chance to rest briefly before my family met up with us! My husband hasn't been to closing worship in several years and he's never been there early enough to visit with me before walking in. It was so great to relax with them for a little while. Our teammates made it back as well and we were so excited to visit with them. Sadly, we missed our opportunity for a team picture! Our feet were too sore to make that much effort. :-)
Closing Ceremony was especially moving for me this year. Adding a daughter to my family has changed my perspective. I know men get breast cancer too, but the odds are better for women to get it... After having Wesley, I thought about his wife while I walked. (If he chooses to marry a woman!) I prayed she'd never know breast cancer. I pray she'll know her grandchildren. Now I make that prayer for Eloise. I never knew my grandmother and she never knew my kids. Everyone deserves a grandma and I missed out on one. I'll keep walking for my babies, my babies' babies, and their babies too.

I'm already signed up to walk again next year. Team Walkin' Sista-tas is registered and ready to go. If you've ever considered walking, I encourage you to sign up today. Registration is just $35 until 12/4/14. If you register today, you'll have a whole year to fundraise the minimum $2,300 - that's less than $200/month! Don't want to walk? Consider making a donation today to help me meet my fundraising goal. Every little bit helps. I'll continue to walk so that everyone can have a grandma.
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