Thursday, July 24, 2014

DIY: Shabby Chic Photo Gallery

LadyBug and I have been working (albeit at a decrepit, arthritic snail's pace, I admit) on some inexpensive re-do's in her room to update it and to reflect more of her love of all things vintage. Last fall, she and The Boss turned a solid white, kind of boring bookshelf into great multi-purpose storage for her room.

The first pass of sanding it down.

The finished product.

Pretty, functional and a loooong way toward finishing off her desired look. But we both knew we just weren't done yet. Curtains to replace her former little-girl-esque sheers are STILL not hung. Updated wall hangings have been added slowly over the last 8 months. Storage that is both pretty and functional had already been tackled last summer. I love watching her sense of style unfold and taking our time with this room is proving to be a great way to get to know her better.

There was a huge blank space on the wall above her bed that we just kept meaning to get to. Now that summer is here and both she and The Boss have some extra time on their hands, I put an idea out there for her to consider. She got on board really quickly and we got down to it. I had first seen a similar project using big huge French doors and black and white photos in a DIY design magazines and used the idea of it to inspire LadyBug's creativity after she and I saw something similar on our new favorite DIY show.

My great friend came through with FREE frames to get us going.

What a cutie pie!!!!

After The Boss safely removed all the glass and cleaned up the splinters,
LadyBug painted them both with a light coat of creamy off-white latex
that we already had in storage.
Then LadyBug sanded very strategically and sparingly
to achieve that vintage look she loves.

Shaggy's girlfriend came up for the afternoon
to join in the creative process.
Incidentally, she has her own blog. You should check it out!
Your tummy will thank me, I promise.

The girls flipped the dried and sanded frames over
and used a staple gun to attach chicken wire to the back.

Even BabyBlue Eyes got in on the action.
They used hammers to sink a few of the stubborn staples
and to nestle the ends of the wire more tightly against the frames.

These girls aren't just a pair of pretty faces, my friends!

The Boss hung the frames on the empty wall.

And LadyBug got busy with the clothespins
and cute pics of her BFF's that she's been saving for a while now.
Once she's home from her youth retreat, I'm pretty sure that space
will fill up fast with quotes, more pictures, and other momentos.
I can't wait!

I love the finished look.
It completes that space so perfectly
and is so complementary to the already-existing
cottage-y feel her room has.

BEST of all? This great project only cost us
LESS THAN $20 with materials to spare!!

Now if I could just figure out the curtain dilemma.
But that's another post for another day, my friends.
SO. What crafty things are you doing this summer? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Feel free to even leave a link and I'll come on by.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Good Bye Kitty

It's a super sad day for The Gang. Today, The Boss took our diva kitty girl, Maggie, to be put to sleep.

It's been a long hard road for her these last 10 months. She started having seizures back in September of last year. Each month they've gotten progressively more intense and more difficult from which to recover. Around January or so, she started losing control of her bladder with almost every seizure. And then in March or April, she started to have lingering temporary paralysis of her hindquarters after almost every one. By May we knew we were looking at having to make a pro-active decision about ending her life humanely. In addition to the sadness of the condition and the unsanitary nature of losing control of her faculties, we knew that the increase in frequency during day time hours likely meant she was having seizures at night and when we weren't around to witness them. That's no way for my girl to live.

This week, she had what seemed to be the "mother" of all seizures to date. It was terrifying for us all to watch. And we said, "enough."

But it made it NO easier to actually pack her up into her crate and send The Boss out the door to the local SPCA to carry out our joint decision. In fact, since Tuesday, she's been so "normal" and affectionate and interactive that we really were second-guessing ourselves right up until he walked out the door this morning.

Please indulge me while I take a look back at my diva kitty girl. She was a gift to our little growing family and tolerated the many changes of 17 years with grace. Such a tolerant kitty - two big moves, four additional kids, and countless bonnets, blankets, and stroller rides. She never understood that she was "too big" to be a lap cat and though she permanently stopped lounging in my lap shortly after I got pregnant with LadyBug, she was a regular on The Boss's lap every night after the gang headed off to bed. These last months, she couldn't always make it up to the couch but settled at our feet or on the low ottoman for some late night foot-warming. She will be missed.

 First days home, in June 1997, at only 8 weeks old.

Her favorite perch when "play time" with Shaggy and Dr. D
(almost 3 and 18 mos at the time)
got to be too much stimulation and she needed a kitty nap.

One of her favorite perches in this past year,
tucked away in a corner but still in the middle
of The Gang's activity.

A tearful good-bye for this momma.

Beautiful girl, you will be missed.
April 26, 1997 - July 11, 2014


I can't believe this is what jumpstarted my blogging brain again. But at least SOMETHING has. Man, the drought of coherent thought around here has been a drag. Stay tuned, I have some catching up to do in this "family scrap book" of mine and some give-aways coming up soon, too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Your Mom

"Your Mom" jokes are all the rage here at The Gang's house. Shaggy brought them home with him from his YWAM experience, changing it up to make the "your mom" ending super-hyper spiritual, Christian-ese. They are usually quite funny and creative. However, Li'l Empress hasn't quite gotten the hang of them yet. This happened this morning over breakfast.

Li'l Empress sniffed and grimaced while she asked
"What smells like rotten egg in here?"

Baby BlueEyes (oh-so-lovingly) responded quickly,
"You smell like a rotten egg,"

Just as quickly, Li'l Empress started to shoot back,
"Your MOM.... "

And just as quickly, she trailed off in a whisper, looking around uncertainly,
"... is cute."

Do you think this means that the "think before you speak" message is starting to become the rage, too?

One can hope.

One can always hope.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bitter Winds is Available NOW!

By now, you all know that I'm a crazy Kay Bratt fan.
 I love her books. I love her heart for the children of China.
I love being friends with an author. I know, I'm a geek :)
So it's not going to be any surprise to you that I'm happy to share
about her newest release, available as of yesterday,

You can order your own copy HERE!

Bitter Winds is the third in the sequential story line of Benfu and his family. The story this time focuses on the relationship between twins Lily and Ivy. Lily is blind and desperate to prove to her family that she is capable of growing independence befitting her adulthood. This need for independence is most greatly hampered by strong-willed Ivy who, for all intents and purposes, acts as Lily's guide, interpreter, and protector. She, of all the sisters, particularly seems to relish the role of "big sister." As the girls set off on a bit of an adventure, which Ivy is pretty opposed to from the start, things happen that jeopardize not just Lily's independence but ultimately her very freedom and well-being. The misunderstanding sets of a series of events that forces Ivy to face some hard memories and then some hard truths about who she is, who they are as sisters, and where they are "heading" in their lives. I won't ruin the story line for you but I really enjoyed the revelations that they faced about themselves as unique individuals separate from their twin-ship as well as the things they learned and ultimately cherished about their equally unique bond of sisterhood. The way they come back together as strong, independent, and ultimately healthy individuals greatly enhances not just their relationship but that of their whole family, too. That message of strong family ties built amidst hard, heart-wrenching tragedy and self-sacrifice really resonated with me.

Along the way, almost as a back story connecting much of the the details that support the girls' escapades, is woven an expansion of Li Jin's (or Dahlia's) story from Tangled Vines. She's come into Benfu's fold, learning to embrace her role in the new-to-her family that has longed for years to have relationship with her. She brought with her a son and a companion named Sami from the days before she was found by Linnea. But she also brought along a huge heart for serving the disenfranchised and a big vision for creative practical ways to do that. The unfolding of the community that she builds while she is learning to live in this (again) new-to-her expanding family is really well written. On a personal note, I had the privilege of visiting the "complex" or compound of Living Hope International's Beijing home back in April when we adopted our Mei Mei and when I read the descriptions of the shelter that Li Jin creates and crafts into a community, I completely relate to what is happening in her heart and mind. I keep picturing the physical surroundings of the LHI home when I'm reading and it's really a fun way to connect with the story.

Throughout the whole book, Kay does an excellent job of creating vivid pictures with her words. The little glimpses into everyday life in the bustling streets of China. The peeks into lives of street vendors and Benfu's whole "common folk" family. These all are things that keep me reading and make me want MORE of this mysterious land from which my daughters came. Her descriptions and understanding of Chinese culture draw me in to that mystery but also make me acutely aware of the common ground between the regular every day there and the regular every day here. I'm so grateful for what I learn about a culture different than mine when I read these books. But I'm also really thankful for the reminders I get along the way. Family is family, where ever you go. There's pain, there's difficulty, there's hardship. But there's also great joy and love. There's someone who has your back - even if you think you are the strong one who has always had their back. Those lessons are timeless. They are also the biggest reason I find this whole series so meaningful. I can't wait for more stories about Benfu and Callie's beautiful daughters!

*I was provided with a free,
Advance Reader's Copy
in exchange for a fair review of this book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Miss Particular

The control issues that our Mei Mei experiences affect a lot of our daily life. It's exhausting sometimes, but we're taking the philosophy that we're building trust and confidence. So that if she's feeling uncertain and a choice about something small makes her feel more peaceful and secure in our interactions, we give that latitude.

It's bigger than the old adage "choosing your battles" with this kiddo. It's more about helping her feel that her voice matters and that her feelings count. So that when and if we arrive at a bigger issue where there can be no choice, she feels safe and trusts us. More than any other time in my parenting, I feel as if this kiddo has us on a huge learning curve and we're all kind of finding our way together in this particular lesson.

We know how ridiculous her need for choices can get, we all try to make them non-issues when we can. As I sit her typing this, she's "helping" her big brother put away the dishes and he's cracking up because she insists the forks go in the spoon slot. He's really good-natured about it and he knows he'll have to fix it when she tires of the task. We've come a long way, baby.

Thank goodness for this and for the other light-hearted funny moments that make the learning enjoyable along the way. These are the moments that keep us all sane.


Yesterday, while The Boss was getting a plate for her strawberries, he was grumbling a little bit about how picky she is and how a bowl would be just as good as a plate, even though all the bigger kids had plates with their berries. He walked back over to the cupboard and pulled out a plate and walked back to Mei Mei.

When he set the plate full of berries on the island for her, he said, "I'm going to change your name to Miss Particular, Mei Mei."

Without skipping a beat, Li'l Empress piped up (in her cheery, eager-to-please voice), "I am gonna keep my name the same, right Daddy?"

Monday, April 7, 2014

12 Months of Mei Mei

Come on in and enjoy the stroll down memory lane 
as we celebrate a year of life with our Mei Mei...
It's never boring, it's not often easy (as of late),
but it's always, always full of love and joy.
We can't imagine life without her!

Our first morning home together with all the Gang!

Her first Mother's Day.

Uh Oh. Ya caught me!

This sassy girl loves her some accessories!

Sweet sisters snuggling.

She also loves her some Minnie Mouse!

This is one of my faves - those chubby cheeks
just kill me!

No first trip to the mall
is complete without a first taste of
CFA, am I right?!

Such a rough month for our girl.
First surgery, sleepless nights, and more.

They love being my little baking buddies together!

 Our little fashionista

 Her favorite new thing is to yell, "Cheese!"
and be on the "taking" side of the camera these days.

Good Morning and Happy Forever!
Today is a beautiful, happy day to look back
and to thank God for the gift she is.
{April 7, 2014}

(She celebrated by eating strawberries with
her breakfast. That's a HUGE milestone in and of itself!!!!)

Happy One Year Mei Mei!
We are so grateful you are ours and we are yours.
You have changed our family in beautiful and necessary ways.
We love you, bunches and bunches and bunches!!!!!!

For a look back at our
adoption trip to China,
(particularly for my newer readers)
you should start by clicking on 
this link: "We Are Here!"
Happy Reading :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There's a First Time for Everything

The mood here this morning started out sunny and happy. As it does many mornings. Everyone was up within minutes of each other and Mei Mei was toddling around giving her morning hugs and kisses to the big siblings.

Suh-weet.... a good start is always appreciated here, as they don't happen as a matter of course.

Then Li'l Empress started the downhill slide with sadness about going to school. Sigh. She was home yesterday with the other gang members while they recovered from a nasty stomach bug. We were kind of on the fence about her showing symptoms so we just kept her home. Backfired into big alligator tears for the first 12 minutes of the day. That was resolved quickly and matter-of-factly (man, you canNOT show this kid too much sympathy for her plight or she miiiiiilks it outta ya!)

I sent the gang downstairs to start breakfast and got Mei Mei going with a clean diaper and let her pick a shirt to start getting dressed for the day (man, you HAVE to give that kid some "choice" in most of the inconsequential decisions of the day or ya get NOWHERE with the big stuff later!).

I settled Mei Mei at the table with the kids, got them all moving on cereal and excused myself to run up and finish my hair with BBE overseeing the whole process. Sounds easy, right?!

Heh. Nope, it's never that easy.

We still don't know WHAT set her off, but Mei Mei was in full freak out mode by the time I turned off the hair dryer and flew back down the stairs. Poor BBE, this was supposed to be so easy - she was buckled in, eating, and chatting happily with Lil E. What could go wrong over wheat flakes and apples?


That freak out turned into a time-in on the stairs, which escalated and became a THING that drove her mood through the big kids all leaving. Through Mommy's breakfast. Not even her beloved 12 minute short movie of minions broke the mood. Oh, man, I wasn't feeling hopeful about the morning's trajectory. Not that she was still in full freak out, thank goodness. But the mood. OH, the MOOD!!!!!
(To be fair, this time span only covered about 90 minutes of fast paced busy activity but it felt like 9 hours by the time I got all the kids off to school and Mei Mei settled enough to open the door for speech therapy.)
Then, mercifully, she put her mood on hold for sweet Miss Lauri. They had a lovely, productive session of PlayDoh time together. But as soon as Miss Lauri walked out that door, the dark cloud of MOOD resettled on her face.

So I did something that I've never ever done before. Not ever, in almost 20 years of parenting.

I bundled us both up, pulled out the dolly stroller and took Mei Mei on a long brisk walk. Nothing unusal about that, right?

EXCEPT. It was very cold. VERY breezy. And it was raining. Spitting, I believe they say in some parts.

Yeah. Me. Hater of all things cold. And all weather wet.

I didn't even care that my toes (and likely hers!) were numb with the cold. Or that it would take all afternoon for that stroller to dry out from the dampness.

There's a first time for everything.

It worked. Her mood shifted. She chattered and laughed and fussed like a little mother hen over her baby doll. And smiled. She smiled all the way around the neighborhood circle and all the way home.

We returned home, happily, to hot soup, more chattering, and finally some quiet snuggles in the rocking chair before nap time.

Sweet, sweet nap time.