Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DIY Winter Branches with Epsom Salts!

Today, I'm going to share a tutorial that I'm super excited about!

As I shared before, I am not the best at interior decorating...I LOVE it, but I'm not that great at it!  

When I was making my snowy wine bottles, I was trying to figure out what to put IN them. The tutorial I saw had some pretty silver ferns in them, but I didn't feel like purchasing anything new.  So I decided to follow a similar process as I did with the wine bottles, but with branches from my front yard!

So I took the kids outside and we started collecting :)

I really love what the end result was, and here's how you can make them too!

What you'll need:
  • branches from your yard
  • spray paint in white or silver
  • Mod Podge or spray adhesive
  • Epsom salts
  • white or silver glitter
  • acrylic sealer spray

Step 1.
Collect branches of any size and shape - the sturdier, the better!  Avoid the teeny thin branches that bend over when you hold them up.
Let them dry out if they are moist.

Step 2.
Spray paint the branches silver or white. Cheap paint is fine!  Let them dry completely on each side after spraying.

Step 3.
While your branches are drying, mix Epsom salts with glitter.  I used the same ratio that I used with my wine bottles - 1/2 C salts and 1/2 tsp of glitter.

Step 4.
Once they are dry, paint Mod Podge onto the branches (or spray with adhesive if you're using a spray).  Make sure to get every inch covered!

Step 5.
While the Mod Podge is still wet, lay the branches in the salts and pour more salts on top - press the salts onto the branches if you can, it will help them stick better!
Make sure the branches are completely covered with the salts and glitter.

Step 6.
Lay the branches on a flat surface to dry completely.

Step 7.
Once dry, spray each side of each branch with acrylic sealer.  This needs to be done in a well ventilated area - it STINKS!  Let them all dry for at least a day.

Now you're done!  Enjoy your beautiful wintery branches!!!  Arrange them in your snowy wine bottles if you made them, or any other vase, mason jar, or container you like to have out for decorating during Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

DIY "Snowy Wine Bottle" Christmas Decor

 This year I actually put some of my favorite Pinterest crafts to the test!

I LOVE Pinterest...mostly because it is somewhat fulfilling to "pin" something even though I didn't actually MAKE anything!

Well I have seen Epsom salt crafts for a couple years during Christmas time and this year I decided to try a couple!

Let me tell ya...Epsom salts really DO look like snow!  Or frost...they look wintery :)

So I'll share how I made my Snowy Wine Bottles! (Original tutorial here)

What you'll need for this craft:

  • Wine Bottles (or any bottles you'd like) - the labels must be cleaned off.  I like to use lemon essential oil to help get them off.
  • White or silver spray paint
  • Epsom Salts
  • White or silver glitter
  • Mod Podge
  • Acrylic Sealer
Again, for my crafts this year, I didn't take pictures of each step...so sorry!

Step 1. After washing and drying the bottles, spray paint them white or silver.  Apply a few coats and let dry overnight.

Step 2. Mix your Epsom salts and glitter.  You can add as much as you want, I added a 1/2 tsp or so of glitter to about 1/2 cup of salts.  Make sure you have enough salts for the bottles to roll in!

Step 3. Brush Mod Podge onto the area of your bottle you want to be "snowy."

Step 4. While Mod Podge is still wet, roll bottle in Epsom salts, making sure it is covered in salts.  Once all Mod Podge is covered with salts/glitter mixture, set aside to dry overnight (or several hours)

Step 5. Once Mod Podge is completely dry, carefully spray "snowy" area with a few coats of acrylic sealant. Let dry overnight.  If you skip this step, you'll have salts falling off your bottles pretty quick!

Step 6. Once acrylic sealant has dried, they're done!  Now you can decide what to fill them with!  They look awesome on a mantle or as a centerpiece too!

Enjoy your beautiful snowy AND glittery bottles!  I used wine bottles and a few iced coffee bottles and I really like the variety of shapes and sizes.

Stay tuned to see what I filled my bottles with - DIY snowy branches!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

DIY Christmas Advent Activity Calendar

It's that time!!!




Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the Christmas season!  While the absolute most important thing to remember is our precious gift of our Savior Jesus, I truly love everything else that comes with it (aside from all the materialistic mumbo jumbo).

One thing I'm obsessed with is Christmas decorating...my husband can attest to the fact that ever since we've been married, I've spent hours decorating our house for Christmas during the week of Thanksgiving.

Another thing he can attest to...I'm not awesome at decorating.  

There are SO many things that I love, but I'm never able to combine all my decorations into a cohesive theme...except...all sorts of Christmas...stuff!

Well this year I was DETERMINED to do better!  And I think I did...it also took me alot longer to put it all together ;)

I won't even consider showing pictures of different parts of our house...because when I say it's "better,"  I mean it's "better" than it WAS.  Nothing close to other mommy blogs!  haha

A few new things I made this year I'm really excited about and I'd like to share how you can make them yourselves!

Today, I'll share our Advent Calendar.

We've made one every year, and put it together in different ways, but this year I finally made one that can be reused next year!

I got my inspiration and basic instructions from this blog.

We love our advent calendars because it's a really cool way for the family to do a bunch of fun stuff together!  Some activities are simple, some are special and a big surprise!  Others are about giving to others and we always have opportunity to share what Christmas is REALLY about!

If you'd like to make a calendar like this, here's what you'll need:

  • Foam Poster Board
  • 6" scrapbook paper in desired pattern (any size will work, but this size is easiest to fold into the 4" pockets!)
  • Tags or labels for countdown numbers on each slot! 
  • Letters for "Days Until Christmas" at the top
  • Activity "tags" tied with ribbon
  • Staples or thumbtacks
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue stick
I apologize for not taking pictures of each step!  It's actually pretty simple though :)

Here it goes.

Step 1. Fold 24 pieces of 6" paper into 4" pockets.  This is done by folding in three sides, gluing them, and leaving the top open.
**You don't have to worry about the pockets being usable.  When you attach the "pockets" to the board, you'll just slide your tags in against the board.  You can glue down those three sides completely to keep it flat.
  • You can also cut regular size scrapbook paper into 4 squares, and proceed with the folding from there.

Step 2.  Attach appropriate numbers to outside of pockets with a glue stick.  I used these labels, and you can fill in the numbers before printing!

Step 3.  Prepare your desired title and letters.  This could EASILY be done with vinyl if you have a cricut machine, I used some cool glitter letters that I've had FOREVER and never used.  I happened to have some cute matching decorative pieces to add as well.  I attached the letters with a glue gun.

Step 4.  Align your pockets on your board, making sure you have enough room for them all!  I like starting at the bottom of the board with #24 and working our way up.  I suggest setting them up tentatively before attaching them.

Step 5.  Attach your pockets.  I used a stapler, the tutorial I saw suggested thumbtacks.  I didn't have any, so a stapler it was!  It actually looks really subtle.

Step 6. Add any embellishments that you'd like!  I had some stickers and used some fun glitter embellishments.

Step 7. Make your activity list!  I make my list of ideas, then get my regular calendar out and schedule each activity.  Keep your list so you can reference it before the kids take their tag out each day!

Step 8. Write out or print activities on tags.  I actually typed them on small labels, then glued them to my tags that I cut out with a tag shaped cutter.  You can easily just write them out as well!

Step 9. Punch a hole in each tag and tie a ribbon, yarn, or twine through each one and put in appropriate pocket!

You'll be left with your own version of this!

Enjoy your calendar that can be used year after year with new activities each year!

If you need ideas for activities, here's what we have planned for this year:
  • Go see Christmas lights
  • Make a Christmas countdown chain
  • Pick some toys to donate
  • Take change to Salvation Army bell ringers
  • Go to the MALL!
  • Surprise movie night - watch Santa Clause 3 (for surprise movie night, we don't tell them it's movie night until they're IN bed.  It's a fun surprise and we only do it a few times each year)
  • Dress up like a princess for dinner
  • Make Christmas cards for relatives
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Take Christmas cookies to mail lady and trash man
  • Eat dinner by candlelight
  • Help mom with some homemade gifts
  • Open Christmas Jammies on Christmas Eve!
  • Help mom wrap Christmas gifts
  • Google how people celebrate Christmas in other countries
  • Make a bed in the living room at watch Polar Express
  • Make a Christmas card and gift for Daddy
  • Roast marshmallows!
  • Rent Charlie Brown Christmas (they've never seen it!)
  • Fill Daddy's stocking
  • Take a trip to the store to pick out a special treat
  • Read the story of Jesus's birth on Christmas morning
Google "advent activities" and you'll get a lot more options!

Enjoy!  Stay tuned for how I made our "snowy wine bottles" in the next post!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Topical Steroid Withdrawal {ONE YEAR in!}

I seriously can't believe that I'm sitting here blogging about Noelle being off topical steroids for ONE WHOLE YEAR!

I've noticed a trend in our Topical Steroid Withdrawal online community of others tracking their months into TSW like we track our children's age...23 months in, 47 months in, 94 months in, etc.

Well, I'm already losing track of how many months Noelle has been off steroids and I am taking that as a GOOD SIGN!

I'm pretty sure we hit the one year mark in October, and my last update was a month before that and I was able to share how WELL Noelle's skin was looking!  She had a really amazing several weeks of healing....and then another flare ;)

So, many people would just be utterly discouraged with another flare up after such improvement, but I really wasn't.  Noelle has come SO FAR with her healing and I knew from the experience of others, that she'd have another flare - that TSW wouldn't just disappear, never to return that quickly!

So very shortly after my last post, she started flaring, and it lasted at least a good month-maybe a little more.  Right now, she's much better and everything is trying to heal...which, by the way, often times makes it more ITCHY!

It's frustrating, but just as our sores or wounds that heal start to itch, so does hers.

But this flare really wasn't nearly as bothersome as her others, so I'm very encouraged that even though her journey through this isn't OVER yet, she's most definitely better and on her way!

I've also noticed that her asthma has not been acting up hardly at all this past couple months...not sure if that's related or not.

ANYWAY, here's how her skin is!

Her face has been pretty irritated lately. It's been red and she's itched a couple spots until they've become raw.  If she's around an irritant, like dog hair, we find her face seems to react pretty strongly to it.

Her neck was also very red, bumpy and irritated through this flare, but it's drying up now!  Drying for us, means healing - much better than angry, red, bumpy skin!

Noelle's arms and legs were the worst part of this flare.  Right now her arms look almost normal...except for when she scratched her wrist this morning :(

Her tummy got a little red, but for the most part has remained clear for quite a while now.

Her back stays pretty clear as well, except she gets a lot of irritation where her pull-ups hit her.  She only wears them at night, and I really feel like TSW affects her ability to stay dry at night.  I say this because she was doing GREAT staying dry and then all the sudden she couldn't anymore.  She's actually doing much better, but pull-ups are safer than urine stinging her skin if she has an accident.

So her legs were pretty bad, though not NEARLY as bad as they were before, like in this post.  We didn't have much raw skin, just bumps, tough skin, and it was pretty itchy.  Right now, it is more on the dry side which tells me they're healing too!

Her feet used to be the worst part of her body, like in the post I linked to above.  They were just awful...I think I used to say they looked like they were chewed by piranhas.  And I'm so thankful to say that they really don't seem to bother her at all anymore.  We found that they're still sensitive - like she can't wear certain flip flops without getting irritation between her toes.  But other than that, they're great!

As far as her sleep goes, thankfully it continues to IMPROVE!!!  She wakes up once or twice and usually goes right back to sleep if we just stroke her for a minute.  When I got annoyed at that the other night, I just reflected on what life was like a few months ago...very little sleep like I talked about here.  So thankful that The Lord has brought her this far!!!

We have stopped giving her the homeopathic supplements from her doctor...I'm wanting to learn more about how those are made and what they really do...especially since she's now still improving without them!

The supplements she does take:
  • She still takes CALM magnesium powder at least once a day, sometimes twice.
  • She chews 1/2 pill of melatonin at bedtime as well.
  • We continue to give her probiotics at night and enzymes with her meals (when I remember).
  • She also drinks Cod Liver oil with her NingXia Red (drink from Young Living) and the Kombucha that I brew at home.
  • Also, she still is not eating dairy, gluten, corn, oats, and we do our best to stay away from other processed foods (high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, etc)

The best moisturizer for her is still our lotion bars (recipe here).  It really seems to soothe and help her, although we try to avoid doing it right before bed...for some reason that makes her more itchy?

I think that's enough for now...if you're a parent with a child going through TSW, I am so sorry.  This has been such a hard year for our entire family.  I pray that you will find what works best for your child and that perhaps our experience will help in some way.  I couldn't stop reading about other kids in Noelle's situation when we started this, and that's why I decided to blog about it!  I hope that you find what soothes and assists them getting through this awful experience!

If you are wondering if you have TSW, check out ITSAN.org - it's a wonderful resource dedicated to getting the word out concerning this condition!

And for those of you who have prayed for Noelle's healing and our family's sanity during this time, we thank you!  If you're close to our family, you know how much Noelle has improved and started becoming more and more like herself :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He's Still Not Home

Posts like these are hard for me to write.
I so badly want to share with you all that Tobias is on his way home...but that's just not the case.

That has made it really difficult for me to update on our adoption at all.

But here's where we stand.

You'll remember that I took a trip to Washington D.C. several months back to meet with our lawmakers and urge them to become involved in the efforts of bringing our children home from Congo. 

The trip was great, and we were successful - it didn't get our kids out right away, but we got MANY members of the Senate and House on our side..some of them passionately advocating for us after meeting families face to face and hearing of our situations.  My favorite video Both Ends Burning has made of the trip and some of the outcome can be viewed here

Well much has happened behind the scenes since our trip and more lines of communication have been opened between the Congolese government and ours.  However, the children are still not being issued exit letters.  

A delegation comprised of different members of the Department of State just came back from a trip to the DRC.  They met with different officials and offices and we are waiting to hear the outcome.  Their goal was to advocate for the exit letters for our waiting children so we are praying that it was effective.

We will hear more about their trip next week in a conference call.

As you may remember, Tobias got his U.S. Visa in March, but they are only good for 6 months so it expired this summer.  When exit letters start being issued, he'll need a valid Visa in order to enter the United States.  

So right now they are preparing Tobias and a few other little guys to take another trip to Kinshasa in order to get this accomplished.  

Here is where we have some very specific prayer requests.

They will be leaving the end of December. 

This is Tobi's second big trip, and I really hate the idea of him going through this and not knowing how much of it he understands. So we're praying that The Lord would grant peace to his little heart.

We are praying that the exit letters will be issued VERY soon for a few reasons.

  1. We would like Tobias to NOT have to return to the orphanage again.  If the suspension lifts relatively soon after his Visa is renewed, he can just wait for us there in Kinshasa.
  2. This new Visa is also only valid for 6 months.  If the suspension lasts longer than that, it will require him to return to the orphanage, then come BACK to Kinshasa yet again to renew a 3rd time.
  3. Our next baby is due the beginning of June.  We are pretty sure that I won't be traveling while pregnant, but Chris's trip will be very hard on the family if it happens close to the time that the baby is born...we're praying we have a few months with Tobi before the baby comes!
  4. We have all waited a LONG time.  Tobias has been our son for over 2 years now - we saw his precious face in October of 2012.  Never in a million years did we think he wouldn't be home by now, but The Lord knew and He has provided what's necessary to get through this!  I just don't want Tobi to have to wait any longer...it's getting harder and harder to hear the girls ask why he can't come home and have them tell me how sad they are that he's still not here.  We're all sad, and just want to hold him!
So we ask that you keep these things in prayer as you remember our little guy.  He's growing before our eyes in pictures and it's so bittersweet.  It's painful to see him change from afar, yet we're so thankful that he's a strong healthy young boy.  

I will be sure to update as SOON as we have anything else to share.  The support we've received from family and friends has been overwhelming the last couple years.  It will be such a joy to share welcome home pictures with y'all someday :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hello Again :)

Well hello there...to anyone that actually reads my little mommy blog :)

Life has been quite busy lately and it has just made it difficult to sit down and blog.  I think it's mostly because there is SO much that has changed, so much that I WISH had changed, but hasn't, and so much that has physically kept me from blogging!

I'll make this a quick update, and hopefully have much more regular posts from hereon out.

#1.  Noelle is now 13 months into her TSW journey (if you haven't read about that, you can read my most recent post here).  We are just coming through a month long flare and we're glad to see her skin calming down again.

#2. Tobias still isn't home and I still don't have much more information to share on that subject.  I really wish I did.  But The Lord has this in His hands and we are trusting Him!

#3. I am expecting again!  Right now I am just in my second trimester...meaning the last couple months have hit me pretty hard!  Praise The Lord, my first trimester wasn't nearly as bad as it was with my other pregnancies, but I was nauseous, zapped of all energy, and just wanted to curl up on the couch all day!  Blogging really wasn't appealing ;)

I wish I had a belly picture to share, but we haven't got around to taking one!  But let me tell ya....this pregnancy is DIFFERENT!  I couldn't hide it by the time I was 6 weeks pregnant!

Well there's a brief update, and I really hope to be sharing much more frequently now!  I'm feeling great (most of the day...until I crash) and I'm excited about my second trimester!
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