Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Park Adventures

Summer adventuring is the best! Some of our dear family members made it through a long moving process and are finally near us! It's been so many years with sprinkled visits involving long car rides to see each other, and now we get to just call each other up on a whim and go exploring for an afternoon.

I've been in search of more location options for future photo sessions and I think we found a winner. We hiked a beautiful trail through the woods with wide pathways and majestic tree cover.

We even got to see lots of "Chippy's" along the way.

I have a feeling I will see many more of these moments now that we are just a short car ride away. Here's to long summer days and spontaneous afternoon adventures. :)


Monday, June 8, 2015

And Then There Was Philly

A few weeks ago Andy and I had the opportunity to attend the wedding of one of my good friends in New Jersey, so we seized the chance at a weekend away and spent the next day in Philly. It was quite a stealthy trip, but with just a few hours that afternoon we managed to see several fun spots in the heart of the city.

The Reading Terminal Market was so fun and filled with everything you could possibly imagine. We got some Philly cheese steaks for lunch and bought tons of delicious goodies from different vendors.

The line to see the Liberty Bell was quite long, so we peaked at it from outside, and then walked across the lawn and hung out at Independence Hall.

We also took a stroll through some of the parks nearby and visited the tomb of the unknown soldier, as well as some other historic monuments.

One of our absolute favorite parts was a side street we stumbled upon. The architecture in the city is just so charming and beautiful. We already have a soft spot for old brick buildings, so to walk down these streets and side alleys with gorgeous brick and cobblestone pathways was a highlight for us.

We certainly got our walking in for the day, and by the end of the afternoon I had begged Andy no less than five times to *please pretty please* take a horse and carriage ride around the city. He caved (because he loves me so) and it ended up being one of our favorite experiences.

Our horse's name was Wayne, and the only thing bigger than Wayne was Wayne's attitude. HIL-ARIOUS. I did not realize horses could have such personalities, but he was having none of the traffic, and when that stop light turned green he didn't care if there was a line of cars or not - he was going. Ha! We got to see a bit more of the city that we hadn't hit by walking, and we also had a great tour guide who gave us some of the juicy details on the various buildings and parks.

I did a lot of reflecting during our time away. Our lives are not perfect, our relationship is not perfect, but it really is true when people say you grow to love each other more and more the longer you are together. The day we got married I thought I knew what love was, and in some ways I did. But after almost twelve years together, there has been plenty of sickness and health, rich and poor, good times and bad. And soon a new definition, a deeper definition, of love carved it's way into our lives. The tears, frustration, hope, fear, loss, steadfastness, grief, and faith are where the richness is. I am so very thankful for all of it, and for this guy I have to live it with. May I never take that for granted.

So long Philly. Hopefully we will be back to stay longer someday!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recently I'm...

Becoming giddy that the weather is FINALLY warming up around here. Not only do I see signs of life with flowers popping up and the grass becoming fluorescent green overnight, but people are actually coming out of their houses and socializing. That's hard to do when the wind is whipping and you have frozen ice chunks slapping you in the head. Welcome to spring! Where you can walk outside and the air doesn't immediately hurt your face.

Feeling inspired by my recent closet consultation with Clothe Me. Andy bought this session for me for my birthday and it is so amazing. A friend of mine started her own business and will come into your home and help you look through your closet and pair items and pieces together that you may not have thought of. After an hour I had about 15 or 20 new ways to wear clothing I already owned. So fun! Each morning feels like Christmas. :)

Staying up late to think. Poor Andy - he doesn't always know what to do with me, but I do my best thinking/reflecting late at night. I don't know why. I actually wish I wasn't like this, because I probably wouldn't then require naps. At any rate, these late night thinking sessions are really good for me. They help me process what has gone on that day and also bigger-picture things. This usually looks like me staring at my iPad binge-watching HGTV on Netflix, but the wheels inside my head are moving at lightning speed sorting through all sorts of tiny bits and pieces of life.

Planning for a rather large bathroom project. Even though Andy worked his tail off prepping and preventing the onslaught of ice on our roof this winter, we still had some significant damage. The upstairs bathroom got the brunt of it, and in order to fix what was damaged, half of the bathroom has to come out. Because the bathroom is so very tiny already (and very dated), it actually makes sense (in my mind) to rip the whole thing out and start over. This has been in the works for a few months now, but it looks like we are zeroing in on finalizing a plan where a contractor comes in for the parts we don't know how to do, and then we will pick it up for the finishing touches.

Feeling thankful for our 70lb full-of-personality chocolate lab. Gosh we love her. It has taken almost six years for her to really mold into what we pictured with having a dog. Granted she still has her quirks, but she is such a loyal companion with the sweetest personality. Had I known it would take this long for her shenanigans to subside I may not have signed up for this, but having her around is such a gift. 

Planning for a weekend away. We have a friend's wedding to go soon so we are making a long weekend out of it. I'm so excited to have this opportunity. Andy and I aren't "get-away" people, but this was the perfect chance to explore a new city and enjoy each other's company. However, we would both tell you that we are pretty terrible at actually being in new cities/environments without getting totally overwhelmed. Like, we both whole-heartedly agree we should NEVER be on Amazing Race together. We would be the couple that would nearly kill each other. Ha! I'm sure we will have some good stories to share. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On Grief: Five Helpful Ways People Have Responded

It's been almost four months since we let our paperwork expire and passively closed the door on our adoption process. I cannot believe the emotions that run through my mind and heart on any given day, but we have been so unbelievably thankful for the grace and love our family and friends have shown us. I wanted to compile a short list of some of the most helpful things that have stood out to me during this time. I certainly do not wish the grieving process on anyone, but I hope I can be half as caring toward someone else as everyone has been toward us.

1. Acknowledge the grief or loss without needing details or explanations. This could alternately be titled, "I'm so sorry for what you are going through, and I don't even have the right words to say, but can I give you a hug?" Yes! Yes you can. This is such a validating thing and at the same time takes the weight off of feeling like I have to explain every step that got us to this point and why it hasn't worked out. There will be times when hashing out the details is extremely therapeutic for me, and other times when just the thought of having to explain it all will bring me to tears. I can't always predict how I will feel on a certain day, so for the general run-of-the-mill public interactions, having someone gently acknowledge and then move on is the best of both worlds for me.

2. Listen without trying to fix. I've heard people say before that good listeners are true gifts, and this is the absolute truth. Some of the best and most helpful interactions I've had with people during this process have been with those that simply listened. Unfortunately, the grieving process cannot be bypassed or fixed with suggestions or ideas. Grief moves in, unpacks it's bags and stays a while, and that's ok. Good listeners sit right on top of those unpacked bags and just let you know they are there.

3. Give me a heads up and/or an out. The other day Andy found out that there was a family in our church who was leaving for another country to finalize their adoption, and that we would be praying for them as a church. I honestly don't remember this happening since we started the adoption process, so that would have really taken me off guard. Having a heads up beforehand was so helpful in managing my emotions. Another time I was out with a friend and she let me know she was there to listen if I wanted to talk but that I could tell her right then if I felt like it or not. She acknowledged the grief (which I so appreciate), but didn't make me feel like I had to open that wound if I didn't want to. I certainly don't expect everyone I encounter to have this kind of sensitivity, but it definitely helps, and keeps me from feeling trapped in a situation I can't get out of.

4. Doing the 'hoping' for us. There are days when it's felt too hard to do the 'hoping' for our future children or family. Hoping can feel like a lot of work, especially when you've spent four years doing it and have ended up grieving the end of a process. The energy and desire to hope will come back (and it already has in a lot of ways), but when we've had people tell us that they are keeping the hope, without expecting us to match that sentiment in the moment, it can feel like such a relief. It's like I can pass the baton for a while and let someone else carry the load.

5. Invitations to spend time doing something fun. I love these! It's so good to get my mind off things and do something fun for an afternoon (that doesn't always involve kids… because that sends me right back to grief with the realization that I don't have them… ha!). It reminds me I'm still human and that fun, light-hearted times can still happen in the midst of deeper emotions.

I am incredibly grateful for all that I am learning during this process. I don't always love the pain, but the fruit of it is good. It is challenging my faith more than I ever thought possible, and yet even in the midst of processing and dealing with unexpected emotions I know that it will be worked together for good. I would love to hear from any of you that have anything else you would add to this list, or lessons in grief you feel are worth sharing.

"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." –Matthew 7:25


Monday, April 6, 2015

Essential Oils: One Year In

It's been about a year since we started using Young Living Essential Oils, so I wanted to sort of recap our experiences with them so far. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that any life change is really something that mostly happens slow and over time. A year ago I barely knew what an essential oil was, and now I have a sense of pride when I can identify the right oil to use when an issue arises.


1. To combat sickness. I used to be a loyal Dayquil and Nyquil user. Those were my go-to's when I felt like I was coming down with a cold or the flu. Several years ago I had a nurse practitioner who was just quirky enough to intrigue me, and just caring enough that I wanted to listen. She was the first to plant the seed in my mind that lots of over the counter cold medicines are filled with nasty stuff and to try and think of preventative measures and natural remedies if I was interested. I haven't seen her in a few years, but I think she would be proud of all that I've learned. ;) I haven't used over the counter cold, allergy, cough, or flu medicines in almost a year. Whenever possible, I use oils.
  • Topically: We alternate using Thieves, Oregano, and most recently Thyme when we feel like we are getting sick. We put a few drops along with olive oil in an empty oil bottle with a roller top and roll it on the bottoms of our feet. 
  • Internally: We put a few drops of Thieves, Oregano, or Thyme with olive oil in a veggie capsule and take internally if we feel we are coming down with something. Because of the purity of this particular brand of essential oils, many of them are safe to take internally.
  • Diffuse: Another way we combat illness is to diffuse the oils. My favorite combination is Purification and Thieves. I also love Purification with a citrus oil like Citrus Fresh or Lemon.

2. To use in homemade skincare products. This has probably been the most fun for me! I've made homemade deodorant, face wash, body butter, bug spray, lip balm, and I'm about to attempt some homemade sunscreen with a friend. I will admit that I do this mostly because it makes me giddy and it's a fun hobby, but I also love that I know what is in what I make, and that they are actually products I love and would recommend. I even made Andy his own (more manly smelling) deodorant the other weekend when he ran out of his store bought kind. He was a little leery, but because he loves me he agreed to let me try it as long as I promised to go to the store and buy him some if he hated it. I'm happy to report we are three weeks in and he's still loving the kind I made him! :)

3. To clean with. This past summer I decided to do a little experiment and pack up all my cleaning supplies in a box and try using Thieves Cleaner for everything. I was getting sick of having a million cleaning products under the sink, and I have also been quite sensitive to the "chemical" smell of some of them. I also recently read a study about how some cleaning products negatively affect our health, so I figured I would give it a try. The Thieves Cleaner comes concentrated, and I just use a capful and add it to a glass spray bottle with water. This cleans our bathrooms, kitchen surfaces, windows, rug spills, you name it. It's a much safer alternative to what we were using and smells amazing. The only cleaner I have not been able to completely ditch is my Comet sink scrub. Gah! I have tried baking soda with Thieves Cleaner and it gets my white sink about 85% sparkly, but not 100%. So I decided to use the Thieves Cleaner the majority of the time, and then once every few weeks we do the sink with the Comet. It greatly cuts down on my exposure to chemicals, but is also a realistic way for me to keep my sink clean right now.

4. To address my hormone migraines. I am so thankful that I am mostly a healthy person. I don't have many health challenges to speak of and I am aware that is rare and quite a gift that I did nothing to deserve. However, I do have some crazy hormone-induced migraines. I've had them most of my adult life and they can be brutal. Besides consuming large amounts of Advil and camping out in a dark room for days, there wasn't much else I could do to help or prevent them. This past summer I learned about Progessence +, which is a serum containing many essential oils as well as wild yam extract which is a natural form of progesterone. I researched this for several months and then stared at a bottle on my nightstand for another 2 months before I decided to use it. This has been a game changer for me. I rub one drop between my wrists every morning when I get out of the shower, much like you would with a perfume (and it smells lovely to boot, so I use it for my perfume now... ha!). For me, this is all it has taken to greatly reduce the intensity of my migraines. They went from a 9 on the pain scale to about a 2 or 3. I just figured out this past month when I felt a headache coming on to rub an extra drop on my neck and another on my temples. This took care of my headache by mid morning without me having to take any Advil at all. I was stunned. This alone makes essential oils worth it for me.

5. For amazing baths. I have always been a "bubble" kind of bath girl. There needs to be a mound of bubbles. Ha! When I realized that many of my bubble bath soaps were filled with ingredients I had no idea how to pronounce I decided to see how I felt about epsom salt baths. It took some adjusting to the no-bubbles thing, but now I love them. I just add about 1/2 cup of epsom salts and 9 drops of essential oils of choice to my bath water and take a nice long soak. I use Lavender for a calming aroma. Or I use Lemon and Peppermint for a more invigorating scent. I've also used Cypress and Lemon before for a more woodsy smell and to help with inflammation. Love these baths! I am officially a bath addict. :)

6. For other health issues. There are so many essential oils and so many uses for various health concerns, but here are some common ones and what we use:
  • Burns: apply Lavender directly on the burn area for instant relief.
  • Cuts: we use Lavender to help heal quicker, and I have Melrose to help stop bleeding.
  • Bug Bites: we use Lavender to stop the itch as well as Peppermint to cool it down.
  • Rashes: we use Lavender and Peppermint to calm the itching/burning and to reduce inflammation
  • Digestion/Bloating/Gas: we have had success with DiGize
  • Cysts: I recently used Frankincense to help reduce a cyst I had, and I have seen many others use this as well for similar issues with great success.
  • Breathing/Asthma: I have been tested for asthma a few times in my life and I've always been told I don't have it, but that I have asthma-like symptoms. Generally during the spring I start having some minor breathing issues, like not being able to take a full breath. This past year I used the Breathe Again Roll-On applied to my chest and neck (where I could smell/inhale it) when I started with the symptoms and it lessened them really quick and helped me breathe much better.
  • Pimples: depending on what I think the cause is, I have used Lavender, Tea Tree, or Frankincense with success on my breakouts.
  • General Pain: I have used PanAway with success.
  • Anxiety and/or Stress: our go-to's are Stress Away, Peace and Calming, Lavender, and Vetiver
  • Sleep: we use Lavender and/or Cedarwood

7. For a great-smelling house. I have started using my oils in the place of candles and they smell wonderful. Depending on what I'm going for, I pick different oils or oil combinations and diffuse in our living room. My current favorite is a blend of Purification + Citrus Fresh. I also love Thieves + Purification for spicy/fresh scent and Lavender + Cedarwood for a calming earthy aroma. 


Yes and no. Yes, a bottle of Thieves may be more expensive than a pack of Dayquil/Nyquil capsules, but there are about 250 drops in a 15ml bottle and we only use a few drops at a time. There are also tons of different uses for different oils, so we use Thieves not only for sickness, but to clean, for our bug spray, and to diffuse. Young Living oils are also pure, therapeutic grade oils, which means that because they are grown and harvested in the best way possible, their quality is unmatched and the results are worth it and an investment in our health. I can get on board with paying more for something that is going to be the best quality and really work. In addition, starting with a kit made me a wholesale member, so I get reduced/wholesale pricing as opposed to retail. That helps make them more affordable as well.


One of my best friends is the Essential Oil Reference Guide. I read for a year about oils before I started using them (because I thought that the idea was insane and that I would smell like a shady herb store I had visited once). This guide is packed full of information from the origin of essential oils, the chemistry of essential oils and why they work, a detailed guide on each oil including what it's made from and what to use it for, and an index of tons of health issues and what oils to use. I recommend this to anyone that asks me about oils because it's one thing to buy a few bottles, but then it's easy to just stare at them and wonder what the heck to do. This guide is super helpful.

Our Community Facebook Page.  I belong to a local group of 'oilers' and we have a Facebook group where we can all ask questions, read research, and learn. I would be happy to add anyone that is interested.

Google. I googled my fingers off for a year just because I was curious and also because I'm stubborn. I learned a lot from the inter-nets. :)


Whew! That was a bit long, but I wanted to write it all out and have it in one place, even for myself to look back on. This has been a really fun journey for me. I've mostly done it at my own pace and just learned as I went, but I also have a few friends who have been so helpful and who know more than I do. I began with a small starter kit of about 10 sample-sized bottles of the most common oils, and then just branched off from there. I'm not a doctor, or someone who claims to be able to treat, diagnose, or prevent diseases, nor am I against anyone who doesn't use oils or prefers Nyquil. But I have learned a lot in the last year and like to use them when I can as a natural alternative.

So what are you diggin' lately?! Anything fun or new or exciting? I want to hear it! :)


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Knit Mittens by Lauren

A little while ago I showed you my awesome knit hat by Lauren, and I wanted to show you the mittens she made for me to match! This post could alternately be titled, "The time I dressed my mom up and dragged her through three feet of snow into the woods while holding a purse." She's such a good sport :) Midway through taking the photos, and while I was concentrating on various details, I hear her exclaim, "Ouuu! These mittens are so niiiice. They're so warrrrm. I think I'll keep them!" What?! No mom, you can't have my mittens! Although I suppose that is a perfect testimony to how amazing Lauren is at what she does.

I am so grateful to have these hand-crafted beauties, and with how long winter stays around here, they will be put to good use for a really long time! Thank you Lauren, they are absolutely amazing. And I suppose I should keep a close watch, since mom has made it perfectly clear that she wants them. ;)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Living in the Tundra // Butterfly Garden

Andy and I had grandiose Valentines plans that included a trip to a butterfly garden so I could practice using my macro lens. When Valentines Day came the weather was so terrible that we decided to postpone. Thankfully, just a couple days later we both had the day off and decided to take a trip up there.

The visits inside the garden are timed, so we only got to spend 15 minutes in there, but it was still such a welcome relief from the cold. The atmosphere is set up to mimic a tropical environment, so as soon as you walk in you feel a wall of warm wet air and it was SO WONDERFUL!

What we didn't think about is that everyone and their sister would come to the butterfly garden on their day off as well. When we walked in the museum was PACKED with families and their kids. It made butterfly viewing extra hysterical, because just as I would get my lens focused on a butterfly, a small pudgy toddler finger would enter my frame wanting to poke it's wings. Ha! That made for some challenging situations (and lots of fleeing butterflies), but we still got a few good shots and I was thankful we were able to go.

Excursions like this make living in sub-zero temperatures a lot more bearable for me. That reminds me... the orchid show must be coming up soon again, right mom? We should go to that again too :)

What do you do to survive the long dreaded cold? There might be some more butterfly 'poking' in my future...


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