Monday, December 30, 2013

What does "Advent" mean to you?

What a wonderful CHRISTmas season we enjoyed this year. 

We were truly blessed.

As we finished our season of Thanksgiving, and said goodbye to family that visited, we jumped almost immediately into the sacred season of Advent.

Over the last few years, we've enjoyed the series of books by Arnold Ytreeide.

The first book in his three-part series is Jotham's Journey.  

It is a fictional story of a young 10 year-old boy in Biblical times who finds himself separated from his family. His journey takes him to some pretty exciting and dangerous places, but ends as his life intersects with the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.

Each night, we gathered the boys together as Tom read aloud that night's portion of the story and we let them take turns lighting the advent candles. 

It was important to us that they , especially our newest sons , Connor and Cooper, began to understand that advent was a season of preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth.

All our boys, young and old, grew to look forward to that time each night and were disappointed whenever our schedule prohibited the story.  They were very quick to remind us that the next night they were "owed" 2 stories to catch up. 

The story is timed to end on Christmas Day when the white candle is lit representing the Savior, or the "Christ candle".  

This year, we had a special guest with us for our Christmas meal and so he was able to join us for the final reading as well.

We ended our Christmas Day celebrations hearing the amazing story of Christ's birth and watching our children marvel over the incredible gift.

This is the true "magic" of Christmas. Not the lights, or bells, or movies.  It isn't even about the charity or peace on earth that so many think comes from good deeds done in the name of "Christmas spirit". It is simply about the gift of complete freedom that comes from a relationship with that baby, born in a dirty cow stall. A gift we cannot ever earn and thankfully, once received, we cannot ever lose. 
Praise be to God!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The formal living room- my sanctuary!

Now, y'all must understand that I use the term "formal" quite loosely anymore. 

After all, I do have 5 active, rowdy, silly, BOYS.

What is it they say?

The definition of a boy is a noise with dirt on it?

Yep. That's our house.
Pee on the floor, stinky socks 
in the hamper
 stinky socks stuffed into the tennis shoes
 stinky socks under the beds… 
yeah, you get the idea.

So, when I say we have a "formal" living room, that simply means that of all the rooms in the house, this one IS NOT for them.

It is my special room.
It is as "girlie" as this girl's house gets to be.

Upon first glance, this was a well lit room with 3 large windows and plenty of sunlight. 
(A real plus in my book!) 

But, like so many rental houses of old… it was cream. Can I even begin to tell you how sick I am of cream walls? 

So, we knew that this was the first step in its transformation.

We desperately needed some color!

What truly surprised me was that when choosing a color, I kept finding myself being drawn to purple.

This is way out in left field for me. A little "out of the box" for sure. I have nothing against purple, per se, but it hasn't exactly been my favorite color or anything and the last thing I wanted was for my living room to look like an 8 year old girl's bedroom.  But there you have it. Purple was my color.

I began with the cutting in a few weeks before Thanksgiving and Tom finished it off for me the following week.

We both absolutely LOVE it!  
It is a smoky shade, not little girl pastel-ish at all.

Once the walls were complete, we waited for our new furniture. It has been about 13 years since we've gotten a piece of furniture that didn't come from someone's yard sale, so to say that I was excited about a new sofa and chairs may be understating things a little bit.

Our hope was to get them delivered before Thanksgiving and we just made it with a week to spare!

Even though we were unable to get the room totally finished before our company arrived for the Thanksgiving holiday, we were very glad to have the painting and furniture in place.

Once we finally got around to unpacking the Christmas decorations, the room began to take shape.  So, throw in a little Christmas cheer and viola'! 

Our finished Living Room!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another transformation- my health!

Over the past 3 months, you know we've been working on transforming our new house into a home.

Each room has been carefully painted and decorated to make it more our own.

But, the house wasn't the only thing getting a dramatic makeover.

I, too, needed a little work. 
Now, before you get all crazy on me, I'm not talking about just the cosmetic. No nipping and tucking, no botox or liposuction here. 

I'm talking both inside and out. 
A full health makeover.

You see, in September, as we were just moving into our new home, Tom began having chest pains while moving a refrigerator from one house to the other (4 doors away).

He was rushed to the hospital to learn that he had several serious blockages that required immediate catheterization. 

This was plenty scary for me and was, I think, as much of a wake up call to me as it was to my sweet husband.  I knew that my eating habits were that of an overworked, overtired, unhealthy mother of 5. (Read: NOT GOOD)

I have always (let me say that again, always) had weight issues. 
(I should say that I've always had health issues, but until recently, I only saw the weight as the real problem. I never recognized that it stemmed from poor health.)

I always felt heavy and ugly and had a pretty unhealthy self image.

Then came a post on fb from a dear fellow adoptive mom and orphan advocate for whom I had a great deal of respect.

She was sharing about how she had gotten healthy with a product called Isagenix. 
Of course, it got my attention that she had lost weight, but what was captivating was the way she described her new found energy levels and vibrant health.

Two things that I have never really had.

So, knowing that something had to change, I finally felt ready to take a leap.

I ordered the Isagenix 30 day system and have not looked back!

Unlike every other weight loss plan I've ever tried (there have been a long list over the years), this one was training me to eat REAL food, while controlling my blood sugars and cravings in healthy ways.

After about day 4 on this plan, and with only a few pounds gone, I felt 15 years younger!  Seriously, it wasn't the weight, though I knew that taking that off was a healthy choice, it was my overall energy levels and stamina.  I really have no words to explain exactly what it was like because I'd never felt that way before!

Waking up on a Saturday morning and being fully rested and ready to tackle the day (without coffee!) was unheard of for me.

What I love best about these products ( and there are many things) is that they are all natural, non-GMO (Genetically modified), no hormones, REAL FOOD products!  

I also loved the support I received from our online group we lovingly call, Adoptagenix!
"AdoptAgenix is a team of mission-minded product users and business builders in the awesome solutions-based company of ISAGENIX. Our goal is to create healthy and prosperous forever families by the use of the most incredible nutrition on the planet and impact the lives of orphans and people globally."
 This amazing group of men and women, most of whom are adoptive parents, foster parents, or orphan care advocates are amazing people with a desire to be as healthy as they can be so that they can offer all they have to caring for their children/families. Many of the over 900 families represented in this group have special needs children.  I have been astounded at the testimonials of significant change experienced in these families and in their children after using Isagenix to start a healthier lifestyle.  Through this group, I've received incredible education and can I just tell you how much I DIDN'T KNOW?  Oh my word. I didn't know the dangers of aspartame, or coffee, or chemically altered foods. The stuff that I had been naively feeding my family for years! 

Here is my first
"before & after"


In my first 30 days, I released 14 pounds and over 27 inches!

But, I was feeling so great that I had no intention of going back. Not only was I loving the meal replacement shakes (think filet mignon, not MCDs!), but I was eating incredible meals that were healthy and filling.

And... are you sitting?

Yes, me!  

Don't believe me?

I have proof!
(Disclaimer: My husband has been the cook in his family for about 60 years and I was THE most spoiled wife and mother ever- never cooked!)

Just look at these colorful and well rounded meals!

Gluten Free Pizza crust with organic pizza sauce (Paul Newman's), chicken breakst, black beans, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella. 

Organic Brown Rice, sautéed mushrooms, wild salmon, heated fresh berries and avocado salad.

The makings of the most delicious venison friend rice dish!

Wild Salmon, Fresh organic green beans, sautéed mushrooms, fresh apple and corn tortilla.

Homemade chicken nuggets and organic salad with feta cheese.

Fresh grilled chicken salad from Cracker Barrell
(I was on the road and had to eat something fast!)

Fresh organic greens with avocado, sunflower seeds and wild salmon.

Wild Salmon burger from Costco (yum!), roasted sweet potatoes, avocado and fresh slices tomatoes.

Quinoa salad with mangos and black beans!

The kids just love helping me in the kitchen, though Tommy (our youngest) still enjoys teasing me about actually cooking meals since his whole life that element has been absent. :-)

Not only is the team at Isagenix teaching me to make healthier choices for myself and my family, but they are doing it in a fun, supportive and non-judgmental way.

I can't tell you how much their support has meant to me during this time of transition.

Now, admittedly, my only real goal when placing my first order was to lose some weight and prove to myself that I didn't have to be unhealthy for the rest of my life. 

But, as I've gotten healthier and had the chance to cheer others on who shared that goal, I realized that I really have fun coaching and mentoring others!  I actually enjoy celebrating their successes as much as my own. And guess what?

I can get paid for it!

That's right. Like other network marketing compensation structures, Isagenix provides an opportunity for associates to sponsor others toward their healthy goals by using the product line to nutritionally cleanse their bodies of the many toxins it is exposed to daily through Nutritional cleansing.  

I have been so blessed in that the Lord has allowed me the honor of working with Lifeline in orphan care ministry, a true passion of my heart. But, it is also a blessing that I can earn additional income helping other dear people realize their own potential!  And my success helps others who are also in this amazing gospel-centered, orphan loving, protect and defend line of work! 

My business directly impacts missionaries in Guatemala who are serving orphans and families in that region. I love that I can have a small role in that! 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can supplement your income or begin your own journey to health and vitality, please message me. 
I'd love to share more with you about how you too can get truly healthy and stay that way!

Finally a little glimpse at some before and after shots that help keep me going. 

The series of pictures above is a collection of "gotcha day" photos. 

What is significant about these is the unhealthy progression of my weight/health throughout the last two years of intense adoption-focused life.

With each successive adoption, I was more and more unhealthy. (Not unlike a natural pregnancy, I gained a lot of weight). 

Here below, I am with a sweet friend in Central Park, NY where we traveled to serve families suffering home damage from Hurricane Sandy.
That's me on the right!
July, 2013
Central Park, NY
To say that this trip was physically taxing for me would be such an understatement.

I was so unhealthy that working out in the 100+ degree heat for 6 hours at a time doing manual labor was almost unbearable.

This one was taken just in October.

With my sweet, sweet friend, Sharon at the Together 4 Adoption Conference
Louisville, KY
October, 2013
Our family before Isagenix

August, 2013
Our family after Isagenix!

December 2013
Not only am I transforming my own health, but what I'm learning is allowing me to impact the health of my husband and children too! 

Thanks for sticking with me on this long post, but I really wanted to share my story in the hopes that some other overworked Mom or Dad could see some light at the end of their tunnel too!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

The heartbeat of the home: The Kitchen!

So if truth be told, this kitchen was my least favorite part of this house when we first looked at it. In fact, it was one of the reasons that I didn't have any interest in this home at first. 

My husband and my mother had an easier time looking past all the cosmetic stuff, but I really struggled with the kitchen.

I hated the cabinets, so I immediately went about the task of pricing new ones. 
Yeah, that didn't end well. :-)

So, realizing that we didn't have an extra $13,000 lying around for new cabinets, we went with plan B: Decorate around them.

Step one: New Paint
If you read the Dining Room post, you already know how I felt about the soft yellow...

So, to offset the darker gray in the dining room, we went with a pale, cool gray (with blue undertones) in the kitchen and laundry.

Step two:New knobs
 Simple was the best plan and since the appliances were stainless, we opted for the brushed nickle knobs.

Step three: New floors
We replaced the older, outdated wood of the foyer, the carpet in the dining room and the roughed up laminate of the kitchen with a gorgeous bamboo flooring.

I really like the consistency of having the same flooring from room to room. 

Step four: New Counters/ Sink
The laminate counter tops were peeling off and around the island it kept grabbing anyone that walked too closely and snapped at them. 
I was very glad to get rid of them, but getting them off the counters was not as easy or intuitive as we thought!

We didn't want to pay any more than absolutely necessary, so we (and by we, I mean Tom and my Dad) took the counters off ourselves.

Then, once the old counters were off, the workmen arrived with our new counters and seamless sink.

They marked the holes for the drains and the faucet and drilled them right in our driveway.

This fine gentleman was our key worker on this project. 

And these two characters... well, they did the heavy "looking on"! 

Tom enjoying his coffee with my Dad as they watched the men work.

But look at how pretty!  

Next step?
 Getting my Dad, our favorite plumber, to install the faucet and hook up the disposal.


Step five: Decorative Tile

So, neither Tom nor I have ever laid tile before. 

But, how hard could it be?

I started my border pattern of stones at the end of the counter and worked my way along...

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
This pattern ended EXACTLY where it needed to! Not off to a bad start, if I do say so myself.

I stopped for the day after getting this border all the way around.

Once the border was all the way around, I started working my way up the wall. 

I was pretty proud of myself since I have never, ever laid tile before!

Once I got all the tiles up on the wall that I could do without cutting, I was at a standstill until we could get a friend over to help.

Thankfully, just such a friend came by after Thanksgiving and blessed us with 6 hours of hard work, cutting each little square one at a time!  He was a true angel!

So, once all the tiles were in their place, it was time to try my hand at grouting!

This was a BIG JOB, but I was up for the challenge! 

It took me about 3 hours, but the grout is finally done!

A little recap of my tile journey!

I have two very, very raw fingers currently in band-aids as I type, but it was worth it!

So, I know this was a longer post, but it was also a more involved room.


and After...
So, come on over already and sit a spell!