Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tears in a Bottle

"You have kept count of my tossings; 
put my tears in a bottle."  
Psalm 56:8

In one room, the polar bear nightlight glows as he eats from a bottle he probably shouldn't still need at the age of eighteen months.  He curls his fingers around his blankee, winding his little knuckles into the gaps in the knitting until he finds his favorite corner so he can be ready to chew on it when he is finally put to bed.  If his nose stays as snotty as it has been all week, that blankee will likely be a pretty gnarly shade of disgusting come morning when I will have to pry it out of his vice grip while he shrieks at me so I can toss it in the washing machine for a quick cycle wash....just as I've had to do nearly every day this week. But then I will get to enjoy once again the gleeful grin that hits his face when it emerges fresh, clean, and warm from the dryer and I toss it to him. 

In the room across the hall, the big boys have been tucked in and chosen their cuddle partners of the evening.  Micah was torn between Mouse and Care Bear, so he has one on each side of him.  His prayer tonight thanked the Lord for pasta, Spiderman, and brushing teeth.  As for Isaiah, he has swapped out his regular pillow for his brother's bumblebee Pillow Pet and he is snuggling with Curious George....also his brother's.  He praised God for making everything and thanked Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins, but I know his little five year old mind doesn't yet grasp what that really means. 

If I was being honest, I would admit that my 29 year old mind still can't fully fathom what that really means.  Because, if Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin so we could be reunited in relationship with the God who created us and loves us beyond our understanding, how can it be that there is so much suffering inflicted upon those children? 

How can it be that my children can be nestled into their beds so securely and comfortably when I get a phone call that something terrible has happened?  In my house, my sweet boys are safe and sound.  But many many miles away, my cousin is mourning the sudden loss of his six week old daughter.


She died in the car.

That baby had just been to the doctor for her checkup and they found her to be perfectly fine.  A bit of a sniffle, but nothing to be concerned about, they said.  Her mama packed her up in the car to drive to visit Grandma and Grandpa four hours away.  They visited.  They snuggled.  They smiled.  They likely took photos with that beautiful baby.  Then her mama loaded the car back up, snapped her darling baby back into her car seat, and got behind the wheel.

While driving down the highway, her "mommy alarm" started going off and she felt something was wrong.  She hadn't heard her baby girl make any noise in a while, not even the deep breathing newborns are apt to make while they are in a state of slumber.  She pulled over to the side of the road and opened the door to the back seat.

The baby wasn't breathing.  She frantically began trying to save her daughter's life and in between rounds of infant CPR, she tried to flag down a passerby to dial 911.  Someone did stop and help her, but by the time the paramedics arrived, there was nothing they could do to bring her back.

She was gone.

Just like that.

My mother called me with this news not 30 minutes after I had put my boys to bed.  It felt like an anvil being dropped in my belly.  How does a baby just DIE while riding in her car seat?  This isn't supposed to happen!  It's so easy for me to sit here in my warm home while me kids sleep soundly nearby to talk about trusting God and believing he loves us and knowing that he has a plan to prosper us and bring about our good, but when something like this happens....it just gets hard.

I've been listening to a message series on trials by James MacDonald called "When Life is Hard."  I will tell you what, I found such encouragement and comfort in the wisdom that James communicated from God's Word. 

The world is broken.  It doesn't work right because of sin.  In God's perfect world, no six week old baby would die as she rode home from her grandparents' house.  Sin runs rampant in this world and its effects are more terrible, more devastating, and more far-reaching than we will ever understand.  The trials brought about by sin are not discriminating.  They do not only afflict those who do not put their faith in Jesus Christ, but instead they attack everyone in varying degrees.  But what James pointed out that I never thought about before was that trials are a way of showing the superiority of a life lived in Christ.  Horrible things happen to us all, difficulties will come, tragedies will strike.  But when we put our hope in Jesus Christ and share in his suffering through our trial, we can come forth through the pain...transformed. 

If there is anyone who fully understands the agony, the heartbreak, the excruciating pain of losing a child.....wouldn't it be our Heavenly Father?  Who else could better identify with the feeling of having to stand by as a precious, perfect child suffers and ultimately succumbs to the grips of death?  Who else other than He could provide comfort and hope in the face of such things? 

But that particular perfect child has won the victory over death.  He emerged from the tomb in radiant glory, declaring once and for all that death has no power over those who have been redeemed.  He has overcome the grave.  

So I will praise Him for the snotty nose getting rubbed all over the blankee.  I will praise Him for the chapped lips on the boy who refuses to stop licking the chap stick off.  I will praise Him for the snarky attitude from the mouth of the one who thought having cookies as a snack at 8:30 am would honestly fly.

Because they are not truly mine, because I only get to borrow them for but a moment, and because I need to remember to cherish every single day I have with them. 

"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as GOLD."  Job 23:10

(P.S.  The other Scriptures that Pastor James used in his series were as follows:  2 Corinthians 12, Hebrews 12, James 1, and 1 Peter 4.)

We have since learned that they are saying that darling baby died of pneumonia.  Would you please join me in praying for my cousin and his family as they grieve and enter into a time of a terrible trial.  My cousin's name is Nathan and his wife's name is Shayla.  Their precious daughter who now is held by her heavenly Father was named Brandy Lynn.  May the Holy Spirit rush into their hearts and descend on their family, covering them with comfort and holding them as they grieve.  For we serve a God who is the Great Comforter, who feels our pain with us and keeps our tears in a bottle.  We can and we must trust that he will use every trial he allows in this world to shape us for our ultimate good, as painful as bearing up under that trial might be.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."  Revelation 21:4

Come, Lord Jesus.  We anxiously await that glorious day.  


I Would Be Rich

If I had a dollar for every time I've said....

Micah!  Get your finger out of your nose!

Thomas, no babies on the table!


No Micah! Please don't eat things you pick up in the parking lot!

Micah, quit playing with your penis!

Thomas, NO BUTTONS!!


Where did you find THAT? Under the couch.

Micah, why are you always WET?


Sorry honey, no babies in the dishwasher.

Micah, don't touch the poopy!

Isaiah, please eat your food.

Isaiah, how do we sit on a chair?

Pick up the LEGOS!

.....I'd be rich.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Dresses! In Winter!

Bear with me while I geek out a little bit because the idea of being able to wear dresses in the winter....in WISCONSIN was something I always thought to be impossible.  Oh, the things I have learned thanks to Pinterest, Instagram and What I Wore Wednesday!  Yes, I am a social media junkie.

On with the dresses!

Maxi Dress - Old Navy, Red belt - The Limited, Brown floral scarf - (so sorry. I have no clue.), b.o.c. boots - Gift from Mother in Law

I wore this outfit to my grandmother's funeral.  I wanted to be dressed up, but still comfortable and not entirely....sad.  We had a terrible snowstorm that day so with tights under my maxi dress and my calf-high boots, I was warm and was able to stomp through the snow pretty easily!


Secret:  I pinned my scarf like that with safety pins.  Not ashamed to admit it.  And yes, if you are a very careful observer, you can see in this photo that my middle finger on my right hand is freakishly crooked.  It's a funny story that involves a stupid kid, a jump rope, and a keyboarding class.

 Dress - Old Navy, Cardigan - LOFT, Leggins - Assets by SPANX, Black flats - Payless, Black belt - The Limited, Feather Necklace - Lisa Leonard Designs

This outfit was so comfy.  I felt like I was wearing pajamas.  I'm still learning this whole leggings trend and I'm trying to learn the rules of this strange nottightsyetnotpants phenomenon.  

Another one with this same dress:

Dress - Old Navy, Scarf - Target, Brown sweater - Target, Boot Socks - Target, b.o.c. boots - gift

I wore this outfit to church and was again surprised at how comfy and warm I was.  Loving these leggings!  This outfit ended up being a little more "boho chic" than I tend to go, but I still felt like it worked.  I only know this because I tweeted this photo to double check that I looked acceptable for public consumption.

Dress - Target, Boot socks - Target

This is kind of conglomeration of the first outfit and the last one I posted.  I based it on the maxi dress outfit, but subbed that dress out for a shorter one and added the brown sweater.  Another church-going outfit.

  Dress - LOFT, Tights - SPANX

Date night!  My husband and I got last-minute (wonderful) seats to see Clybourne Park at the Milwaukee Rep and I wanted to dress up a little bit but still be slightly casual.  This dress from LOFT really fit the bill because I was comfortable and yet it still made my husband's eyeballs pop out of his head when I walked out of the bedroom.


Linking up once again over at The Pleated Poppy for some amazing fashion inspiration!



P.S.  Have you seen what I got in my first Stitch Fix?  Check it out HERE!

StitchFix


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Project Life Tuesday - Week 4

The Mom CreativeWelcome to Project Life Tuesday!

I started using the Project Life system in 2010, so this will be my fourth full year!  Wowza. 

Just so we're clear here, folks...I am not a "fancy scrapbooker."  There are so many people out there doing some very impressive things with their Project Life albums that involve a combination of digital skills, pretty embellishments, and other fancy-pants techniques.  I'm not one of those.  I keep it pretty simple so that I know I can keep up and avoid becoming overwhelmed.  To me, it's more important to keep the memories than it is to make them look like they came out of a magazine.  I'm totally fine with it if my layouts feature more iPhone photos than DSLR shots and Instagram is my friend.

I do like to have fun with it though.  :)

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

Week 4:

This week used two regular Design A pages plus a Design C in the middle.

I'm really trying to remind myself to include more of the everyday little snippets this year rather than just the "big events," but it is really nice to be able to devote an entire page to the extra special stuff. too.

Left Page:
 

How cool is that Quotes journal card from the Seafoam Kit?!  I love it.  It's going to get a lot of use because my kids say crazy things.



Sometimes I finish a layout and I look back at the journaling I wrote and think, "That sounds so stupid."  But, I'm too lazy to go back and change it, so it's just going to have to stay that way.

Design C:

I used this insert to document our annual Christmas celebration with our friends on the front and a birthday part on the back.  For the title card in the top left spot, I used some Seafoam cardstock, a couple strips of washi tape, and a kraft style Martha Stewart label with a random rub-on I found in a box full of a hodge-podge of scrapbooking supplies.  Total luck that it worked with this page!


 
Both journaling cards here are borrowed from the digital Baby Edition for Him and then just printed right along with the photo next to it on a 4x6 canvas.


And....on the flip side:


Please read the story on the journaling card below.  If you caught the screenshot about my Micah from Week 2, this will give you just that much more insight into the personality of my middle child.


Right Page:


This page is special to me.  It documents the death of my grandmother, a milestone moment in my baby's life, and some special photos of my boys with their Daddy.  I just love it.


The journal card above came straight out of the Seafoam kit.  I added the yellow chevron washi tape (LOVE!!!) and then stuck on a old dimensional sticker from my stash.  I'm sorry, but it no longer had the packaging with it, so I can't even tell you what brand it is.  Blogger fail.


The 3x4 journal card about my grandmother is a screen shot I took of my blog with my phone with a little washi and a journaling sticker at the top.  The two journal spots to the right were created with templates by Cathy Z.

So, there is my Week 4.  I have started to work on Thomas' baby book (and all Sarah's readers said: "FINALLY!!!") and I'm thrilled with how it is turning out.  I went digital with this project, so it has definitely been a different creative experience than I am used to. 

Did you see that Becky Higgins herself linked on Facebook to Part One of Thomas' Baby Book?  You gotta check it out!  

Care for a sneak peek of Part Two?


Yup, that's all you get to see for now.

Mean blogger.




Monday, February 25, 2013

The Dunking

I can't remember a time in my life when I've been so thrilled to have my hair look so very bad.

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of having several of my nearest and dearest attend my baptism and it was hands-down one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Back in December, I wrote about why I was choosing to be baptized....again.

Here's the funny thing: I was nervous.  I was rushing around the house in the morning trying to get everything ready for my family that would be coming over after the ceremony, but I think I stressed more over what to wear to the service.  I seriously was fretting over what to wear for a public dunking in a small pool!  Can you believe it?  Talk about sweating the small stuff.

When all was said and done, nobody accidentally stepped backwards into the baptismal pool like George & Mary at the dance, no one tripped on the steps going in, and not a single person came up out of the water unchanged.


I chuckle when I look at the photo above because I was talking with the woman next to me about how easy it would be for any one of us to take a wrong step backwards and fall into the water.  It would be an easy way to expedite the process, to be sure!


As we walked down to the pool, a pastor read an excerpt from our testimony.  Despite of how it looks in the photo, I wasn't laughing at what was being read, but rather just smiling at the excitement on the faces of my family and friends in the congregation. Quite honestly, I couldn't hear a word of what was being read!

 
My three year old, Micah, was perfectly behaved during the service because he just sat there "watching TV."  He got pretty excited when he saw Mommy on TV!


I'm so grateful for the people who came to support me at my baptism.  I want them all to know that it meant the world to me, especially for my parents to be there.  Yesterday's decision marked a poignant moment in my life that I will never forget.  It meant the death of one life and the beginning of a new one.

And it's only through the incredible grace of God that it was possible.  Praise be to the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.




Friday, February 22, 2013

My Fierce Friend Jodi

Indulge me for a moment today while I embarrass the crap out of my friend Jodi. 


I don't think I have ever encountered someone who works as hard as she does.  I swear, if I hear her excitedly exclaim "I got another job!" one more time, I just may have to drive the two hours up to her town so I can firmly grasp her shoulders and shake the daylights out of her.

She is the snarkiest person I know.  Her quick wit paired with her no-nonsense approach to life makes her easy to talk to and even easier to banter with.  She quickly became an institution at our mom & pop style restaurant.  She'd push the homemade pie on you to the point that you feel like if you refuse, you'd be disappointing her and she might come set your house on fire.  In the very next second you would be convinced that you are falling madly in love with her.

Despite having absolutely ZERO free time, she makes an intentional effort to carve out time for the people in her life that matter.  She is a fierce, dedicated friend.  When I was very pregnant and trying to get the house ready for an Open House, so showed up at my house ready to scrub floors on her hands and knees.  

Jodi hates receiving gifts, but is quick to give them out as a way to remind people of how important they are.  At Christmas, she sent me a box stuffed with fluffy socks, homemade peanut butter bonbons and other such sinful indulgences. When my sister had a baby earlier this month, Jodi sent me a "New Auntie" gift in celebration of the arrival of my prize.  Just yesterday, I opened my front door to find a box on my porch from Jodi.  In celebration of my baptism on Sunday, Jodi sent me this box of very special gifts.


She really gets me.  I talk to Jodi nearly every week and I never tire of hearing what's going on her her life and spilling to her what's happening in mine.  We can complain to one another about the struggles at work and get giddy with one another when things go well.  Unfortunately, I really struggle to control my tongue when I'm around Jodi and I have a difficult time curbing my desire to get my gossip girl on! 


Jodi is so delusional as to think I remember a single moment from the Reagan administration.

She has the kiss of death when it comes to any kind of technology.

And I'm so lucky to call her my friend.

Love you Jodi!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The PJ Pants Mystery

Lord, have mercy.  Some days, for no particular reason, are just tough.  From the moment I woke up today, I have been struggling to keep my eyes open.  My temper has been short.  My hair is a hot mess and I certainly overslept my alarm so a shower was quickly off my morning menu.

My sleep was very restless last night.  I tossed and turned a lot and I know that remember having several dreams, though I can't remember what any of them were.

When I climbed into bed last night, I remarked to my husband how cold I was and he recoiled at the ice cold touch of my foot.  But just to illustrate how "off" my day has been from the beginning, I will tell you that I woke up this morning without my pajama pants on.

I have no recollection whatsoever of taking my PJ pants off and my husband swears up and down that he had nothing to do with it.  It was very symbolic of my entire day so far though. 

So now I'm drinking caffeine like it's my job so I can make it through my actual job this evening without crashing and burning before closing time.  It's days like this that make me wish I didn't have to work evening and I could just recharge a bit tonight.

Also on my mind is my good friend Julie's son who goes to get his tonsils and adenoids taken out today so I am praying for a quick and smooth surgery and a recovery for the little man that involves chocolate malts and lots of lazy time!

I'm fighting the urge to toss a tray of cookies in the oven.  Chocolate chip cookies always seem like a great idea when I'm tired, cold, and crabby.

Tuesday night was "Crazy Hair Night" at church so we decided to do something wild to Isaiah's hair:


This could be the sleep deprived brain talking, but I actually kind of like a Mohawk on this kid.  I also love that he's making the sign for "I Love You" rather than some bad-boy devil horns symbol of some sort.

Perhaps yesterday's activities have something to do with my lethargy today.  Hard to say.

 
Have you filed your taxes yet?  We are dragging our feet a bit on that task because we want to find someone to do them for us this year because all the messy moving stuff last year is going to complicate things.  It's always a challenge to go in and get something like this done because that means that we have to haul all three boys with us and I always feel stressed when I have my entire wrecking crew with me in an office setting of some sort.  Nothing fun for them to do plus the requirement of reasonable volume plus parents needing to actually accomplish something is almost always a recipe for disaster.

Micah just started whining that "He's huuuuunnnngry!!!" even though we just got back from going out for lunch with Daddy.  That boy.

Did you see what happened yesterday?  Yesterday was a very exciting day around Arena Five because I ended up getting more than 4,600 hits to the blog!  I know that doesn't sound very impressive, but it's a pretty big deal for a teeny little blog like mine.  It's far and away the busiest day Arena Five has had!  How did this happen?  Fix your eyes on the screenshot that explains it all:
 

Yup, Becky Higgins herself linked to my blog on her Facebook page and within two hours I saw my traffic spike like crazy!  For those of you who are entrenched in the Project Life community as I am, you can understand why I was geeking out pretty intensely when my friend Sarah sent me this text while I was out picking up Isaiah from preschool:


Crazy!!!  It just goes to show how much of a dork I am because I was taking all these screenshots and stuff in anticipation of documenting her recognizing my work in my weekly Project Life album.  Thank you again to everyone who stopped by to offer compliments, congratulations, and to ask questions.  I felt like a mini celebrity for a couple hours!

I'm going to go snuggle with the boys on the couch and try not to fall asleep.  I promise to be perkier tomorrow!  :)

And I really wish I could remember taking off my PJ pants.  I was FREEZING this morning!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WIWW - My First "Fix" Edition

Eeeeek!  I've been so excited to share this with you guys!  It's Stitch Fix Review time!!!  Quick recap for those of you just joining us:

1.  I am decisionally challenged when it comes to shopping for clothes.
2.  It's my fault you have to wait 20 minutes for a dressing room because I am taking forever to send the attendant for more clothes, try them on, take photos and post to Twitter, and wait for responses from Twitter to help me make my purchasing decisions.
3.  It's no mystery why Stitch Fix appealed to me.


So, I may have emitted a little "Squee!" when this arrived on my doorstep.  I will readily admit that I immediately hollered, "Boys!  Want to watch Ultimate Spiderman?" and plunked those boys down on the couch so I could go slap some makeup on my face and dig in to my box.  Before I reveal what my stylist Margaret chose for me, here's the quick and dirty details about what exactly Stitch Fix is:



Stitch Fix is, in a nutshell, exactly what a clueless gal like me dreams about.  It is an online personal styling service that assigns you a real live personal stylist based on your responses to an extensive questionnaire about your size, tastes, and particular style preferences.  Once you have expressed what kind of clothes you like, what styles you are interested in trying, and chosen your budget range, you get to wait eagerly for your "Fix" to arrive in the mail!  (Raise your hand if you love getting fun mail as much as I do!

Shipping is FREE both ways and when your box of goodies arrives, you get to sort through the items your stylist chose for you and try them on in the privacy and comfort of your home.  What you want to keep, you keep!  What you want to send back, you just re-pack in the enclosed envelope and pop it in your mailbox.  You fill out a review of your items so your stylist can tweak what they send to you next time.  You pay a $20 styling fee that can be applied to anything in your Fix and if you end up loving all five items, you can buy them as a set at a 25% discount!

Now....on with the Fix!


I opened the box and found the clothes to be folded neatly and the information from my stylist nestled right at the top.


Before I tried anything on, I reviewed the price list included with my Fix so I would have a ballpark idea of what I was dealing with.  I didn't want to fall in love with a $200 blazer, after all.  Thankfully, my stylist had really listened when I filled out my profile and didn't send me anything that was incredibly over-priced.  The merchandise total of my Fix was $264 so if I chose to keep everything, it would cost me $183.

Let's see what was in the box.


At first glace, I was a little concerned about the color of this top.  I can pull off a little bit of coral, but I was worried this would wash me out.  And the whole "open back" idea scared me.  I'm a gal who wears a shaping cami under pretty much everything and sure enough, you could see it peeking out back there.


It wasn't terrible, but I didn't love it.  It fit just a little too tight and the length was a teeny bit too short.  This sweater was priced at $45, which I found to be pretty comparable to the price tags on many of the stores I shop often.


Back in the box it went!


This sweater really excited me.  What's not to love about a drape cardigan?  Such a wardrobe staple.  I had written in my style profile that I wanted timeless, versatile pieces.  Another cool thing about Stitch Fix is that each item comes with a card like this attached that shows you suggestions for how to style the piece.


I didn't have a black and white striped dress, but I did have a black and white striped tank top from LOFT that I thought would work well to create an outfit for giving this cardigan a test drive.


The Verdict: I liked it, really I did.  But....I felt it was a bit too big on me and the cinching waist band didn't really do much to help that problem.  Priced at $45, I just couldn't pull the trigger on this one when I knew I could get something similar that might even fit me better at the Target or Kohl's down the street.  I was looking for something a bit more unique from my Fix!


I opted to have accessories included in my Fix and these earrings were really great.  Simple yet statement.  However, I felt the $38 price tag was too rich for my blood.  I tried 'em on and put 'em right back.


And back to the box we go! Oh my word.  What is that adorable thing I see nestled at the bottom there?


Be still my heart.


How cute is this sweater?!  I was immediately drawn to this top and I just knew it would look cute on me styled with my Hudson jeans and trusty black boots.


Yup, I liked it a lot.  Something seemed so familiar about it though.  The thought kept nagging at me until I scrolled back in my phone to find the photos from the dressing room at LOFT on my previous shopping trip.


No wonder I was having deja vu!  This colorblock sweater certainly fit me better than the shapeless top from LOFT, but I kept coming back to the $58 price tag on the Stitch Fix sweater.  For $58, I really wanted to get something special, something that I wouldn't likely have picked out for myself.  Clearly, this wasn't it.  It hurt me to put that sweater in the bag to send back, but I did it.

There was still one more item waiting to be given a test drive.


A tunic dress?  Yeah, I have no clue what to do here.  Let's check the instruction card.


Ok, let's try it on its own as just a dress first.


Ummmm....huh?  Is this shapeless lumpy frumpy look what it's supposed to be going for?  I thought to myself, "I think I have a belt that might help."  So, I slapped a belt on there and the results were much more appealing.


It was certainly different than anything else I had in my closet and I liked the idea of the piece being able to double as a dress or as a top with leggings.  Still at $75, was it TOO far out of the box to take a risk on?

Well, I didn't want to lose out on my $20 styling fee, so I definitely wanted to pick something.  Really, the only piece I flat out disliked was the pink sweater, so it just came down to choosing something that I thought was priced right, that fit well, and that offered me something unique.


 Cross Front Tunic Dress for the win!

Thus completes my first Fix.  Overall, I found it to be a very positive experience.  I love getting packages in the mail, so it's immediately a good day when a box full of clothes hand-selected for me arrives at my door!  I found a piece I really like and I am really eager to scheduled my second Fix....but not until the budget allows it.  :)

Sound like something you might like to try?  Sign up for Stitch Fix for FREE and claim your spot on the waiting list.  When you get the clear to get your Fix on, have a blast filling out your style profile and then let your personal stylist work her mojo!

See you next time!

Linking up once again over at The Pleated Poppy for some amazing fashion inspiration!




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