Woven by Grace

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In this Season: New Surprises & Family Moments



Though I took an unexpected break from blogging, it has definitely still been in the forefront of my mind. Being able to share and record life in a unique way is a big piece of my heart and I'm so grateful to be back (hopefully for much longer). Well much has happened! Lots of growth, changes, challenges, but oh so many triumphs. The ones that humble you and remind you that God is working ever so sweetly in your life to make you better. 

As you can see the boys have grown! And their personalities are something for short stories and live television for sure...especially Titus. They are so much fun, so much that we are having our THIRD BOY in February! Yes, you read that right...our THIRD BOY ha! I can't say that Mike and I weren't hoping for a girl (so much he thinks we should try one more time...), but my heart truly is at peace and full of excitement. 

We had the opportunity recently to do a family photo session with one of my absolute favorite photographers and close friend from Uplifted Photography! I cannot even describe how I feel looking at our family in this new season. Thank you as always Bri for capturing us so perfectly, and sweet baby boy before his arrival!








Sunday, February 12, 2017

Motherhood: This is hard...

The last few weeks have been hard. I mean lost sleep, way too much yelling, and tears after bedtime hard. I lost my cool so many times I can't count and all of me would like to hide under my sheets until I can pull myself together. Sometimes this parenting thing really throws you some curveballs and you can't dodge or catch them fast enough. 

 
Last week Mike and I sat down and spoke with Kai's teacher and the PreK director in regards to preparing him for Kindergarten. There were concerns about his ability to self regulate and if he may be too young to really adjust to the structure of the actual classroom setting. Truthfully the feedback was helpful, though my momma heart was so torn and broken as I felt I missed the mark. I kept thinking how did I not see this? Have I been too lenient and passive? What do I do now? And I beat myself up. Blaming what I felt was a stamp or label (which it was not) on our son....and my job as his mom. I cried. I ugly cried. Did I say I cried?

Everything inside of me wanted to quit motherhood for the next several days. But I knew I needed to really get my head straight and see what was what. When you hear "negative" or unpleasant things especially about your children it can overshadow any truth. All of the sudden you think it's ALL bad and it's ALL over, when it's probably not. So I took a mental break and this past weekend I did some rearranging. I received several helpful tips to better prepare myself and Kai for next year along with developing a structure and expectations that are conducive without overwhelming him at home (I'd love to share my 3 favorites):

 
  1. Get Creative in Learning your kid's learning style: Though every child learns differently, knowing how your child learns makes you a stronger advocate. You can share and provide tips when working with your child's teacher. It's great to know and verbalize your kid's needs, because they are one of many in a class (not bad, just reality). Trying flash cards, art projects, interactive apps, videos, and games help you gauge what your child leans towards in comprehending content. I'm noticing that Kai does very well with all of those and I'm still learning more!
  2. Have a learning time in your schedule: It's okay to carve a specific time in your day and/or week that's dedicated to learning and academic growth. I have shied away from this in efforts to not "overwhelm Kai," but he has eaten up our 10-15 minutes a day of skill work. We started off with 5-7 minutes as his attention span was a concern and are close to 10-15 now! I time it as I know he will be required to maintain focus for that long with a few breaks in between.
  3. Find Resources!: From Pinterest to Target and even ALDI I've found awesome skill workbooks and ideas that have been so helpful. It has also taken the pressure off of having to come up with it all. I will be sharing my favorites soon! 
In my fear and lack of knowledge in how to engage Kai academically I almost missed a new side of connecting with him. I'm really grateful that asking other moms, educators, and being able to see the recommendations for him from the school have turned into a positive situation for all of us. Wish us well as I navigate this with him. He is so bright and amazing I want him to always know that.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Devotional: Seasoned with Salt


Scripture: Matthew 5: 13-16 MSG
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage."

Though I'm not a professional chef, I am a proud connoisseur of food. In other words I love to eat, so therefore I've learned to embrace cooking. Early on in our first year of marriage, Mike came to realize that I wasn't one to whip up meals in the kitchen and there were lots of trial and error dinners (and late night runs to pick up some fast food). My biggest problem I quickly learned was I rarely tasted my food before serving it. I know, I know that's a huge mistake. For some reason I figured I could just eyeball the seasonings and it would turn out fine...I was wrong. Your palate and tastebuds are a tremendous part of cooking (just in case you didn't know). There is nothing like tasting a lack luster meal or an overly salty and saturated one. Either one can ruin it for you.

So it's no wonder why this infamous scripture spoke to me in the midst of all the words, Facebook posts, and endless debates going on lately. Because we all, yes ALL of us, want to be heard. Especially in the name of not being classified or misnomered in this age of labels and identifiers. We all in some way do not want anyone to speak on our behalf, and there isn't anything wrong with that. Words, thoughts, and ideas so easily get lost in translation in the midst of fingers violently typing and conveying a message that is meant for our mouths and our actions. The internet's fiberoptic cables have jaded our eyes to reality. Our emotional and mental tastebuds haven't felt the authenticity of what life and true conversations have to offer in quite some time...and that's the significance of being referenced as salt. You know the taste of a well flavored meal.

Salt is a common ingredient we all have used, more importantly it has so many uses. Nothing can replace salt, that's the truth. Historically and presently being used to preserve meat, an antiseptic in medicine, and bring flavor; salt is a vital spice to life! However, as Christ followers we can see a verse like this and immediately sprinkle our salt and ideas to the point of distaste. You don't think that's possible? Ever been around a fellow Christian or someone who wears that label, and after talking you feel discouraged and turned off? I know that I have and I know there have been moments where I've been that person. Pouring my precious salt in the "name of Christ" only to turn someone away. I hadn't portioned what could bring out God-flavoring in the situation, but rather my own selfish desire to be heard or seen as "Christian" enough overshadowed an opportunity.

Read the verse once again and take a moment to taste the bitterness of an excessive amount of salt. That's what we are called NOT to be. In other scriptures we are urged to let our speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6), with the key word being seasoned. That implies tact, control, and portion. I'm so challenged as I'm prone to allow my words to flippantly chastise, control a situation, and trample on the voices and emotions of others...causing a much saltier  and damaging situation. 

But take hope! As we cook up delicious meals in our conversations and situations with friends, family, our kids, and especially online may we season each with salt. Being careful to know the power of Christ entrusted with grace in our lives that we should urgently share with others. Taking time to prayerfully seek God's hand rather than our own when we pick up scripture, wisdom, and words to bring out the God-flavoring in our world. Leaving a situation seasoned rather than salty is the best we can offer today. So friend before we post may we imagine our words as rather a pinch of salt or a dose of disastrous distaste in the making. Valuing the opportunity we have to not fight to be heard, but fight to allow God to bring about His glory in us AND those involved. May we be the sprinkle chefs in our communities, knowing what we hold is so precious and so vital!

I love what I recently read on a post from Jen Hatmaker and I couldn't have said it any better. May you be encouraged and challenged as well friend!

"Sisters, don't spend your energy spitting into the wind to win over people who will not be won. Don't say passive aggressive things to take jabs at critics who may or may not even be listening. Stop having arguments in your head, however much you may be wining them. Drop it. Drop it all. 

Speak to the highest level of your best people. Send it out like you want it returned: love, grace, courage, encouragement, kindness, humility. Do not give in to the lowest common denominator. Speak words of life, because that is the very thing that will save us."



Monday, January 23, 2017

Weekend Adventures: Chalk Art at Not Your Average Joes

Life never ceases to amaze me, especially in the last few weeks. Though it seemed like a coincidence, I'm sure it wasn't and I'm grateful. 

 

If you live in Woodbridge, VA or know much about Northern Virginia we are known of course for Potomac Mills Mall, but also a sweet spot called Stonebridge Town Center. It's perfect for walking around or finding a bite to eat with friends, just a really fun place to go anytime of the week. Well one of our favorite spots to indulge in is Not Your Average Joes. From the industrial lighting to the smooth relaxed scene, Mike and I love eating there with and without the boys! 

Well earlier in the week we met the general manager and in our conversation I shared how I teach secondary art. Well it turned out they were looking for someone to redesign their chalkboard menus! So Saturday I spent the morning into the afternoon doing just that! It was an incredible experience - I mean truly it was. 

 

I can't thank Not Your Average Joes for allowing me to share one of my passions! Of course in honor of my new adventure I want to celebrate with you! So check out my Facebook page on how to enter for a $50 gift card courtesy of their wonderful staff! When you go, please be sure to check out the menu boards! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our Nest: Do's & Don'ts when knee deep in Thrifting



Remember when going to the thrift store was a bad thing? I remember those days, until I hit college and a friend of mine told me all of the great clothes she found at our local thrift! All of the sudden I realized I could look fairly decent AND save the little money I had haha. Once we moved into our home I really started to get into thrifting as my old job had a Goodwill right next to it.

I've had so many great finds, and definitely some terrible ones. Following professional thrifters like Amanda Rydell, I'm constantly wishing I could find a crushed velvet couch or the perfect set of vintage quilts. However, in spite of how much I love thrifting and the thrill of finding a great deal, over the years I've learned a few things that I hope will help you on your next hunt!

1. Browse around.
    Jumping on the first thing you see sometimes isn't always the best. When I thrift I browse the entire store and place items in my cart, though I may not keep them. It's always better to see what's around before settling on just one thing. I've found the same, a similar, or even a better find by simply looking around! 

2. Go frequently! 
    This is tricky, because you don't always have time to thrift. But I have found that going at least twice a week to your local thrift stores and shops make a difference in finding great deals! Since the best and worst part about thrift shops is they aren't like Target or other stores with consistent and abundant merchandise. So items come are constantly scarce and on heavy rotation. Going on a regular basis helps to offset missing something new. 

3. Do NOT overlook Quality!
    I've made this mistake too many times when thrifting and it's not worth it! Inspect your items, especially if it's a furniture piece. Knowing that you're not purchasing something brand new does not mean you have to sacrifice its quality. Some of our best furniture pieces are vintage thrifts, but I've learned to make sure there isn't any significant damage I cannot repair. I remember purchasing chairs that would need new cane webbing. I ended up tossing them, because the repair cost 3 times more than what I paid for the chairs. So in short - the best deals are the ones that are worth the purchase!



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Adventures: Great Eats & Sweet Moments

 

Finding quaint places to eat and new adventures have become our thing, and it's great to enjoy it with Kai and Titus as well. I am convinced that the best places to eat are sometimes the hardest to find! And being able to try new things always makes for new memories and great weekends.

This past Saturday we were invited to try The Secret Garden with a friend of ours. I've heard about it and the dining experience, but just never found the time to make it. The restaurant is located in Old Town Occoquan here in Woodbridge, VA. It's most certainly hidden, only providing a hanging sign to its entrance. 

 

But my oh my is it fantastic! The food was absolutely incredible and the service was outstanding. I tried the salmon burger (trying to eat healthier...most days) while the boys ate fresh blueberries with chicken and fries. Did I mention they have a children's menu and all of their ingredients are fresh?!? We all had such a wonderful time amongst the peaceful and semi quiet (my kids were quite entertaining) environment. 
 
 

Mike and I plan to go back again for brunch just the two of us. I've heard it's even better! What are some of your favorite quaint spots? 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Our Nest: From Joseph's Colored Coat to Home

Purchasing a home was one of the greatest moments I've experienced in our financial journey. From being denied the first opportunity to purchase, to receiving the keys to your first place is something I hold dear to my heart. When we first stumbled upon our home it was completely unexpected, but Mike and I both knew that this would be where we settled in for sure. However, I wish I had the skills of Chip & Joanna Gaines when we moved in - but I have an eye for seeing the beauty behind most things!

This is long overdue, because if you've been to my home you know what as soon as we moved in within the weekend I had repainted the majority of the house (I don't recommend it). I'm know that pure adrenaline and the help of friends who appease my crazy antics made it all possible in such a timely manner. This is no exaggeration, but our house was about SIX different colors when we moved in. Doors were missing, walls were damaged, and the story goes that the previous renters (it was a rental property prior to our purchase) would rescue dogs and cats...totaling to about 13 animals who inhabited the home with free reign. Take a deep moment and pause...13. My eyes water thinking about it, and my skin itches if I could tell you how much we've cleaned out since then. But I digress, because the best part is how it looks now! So here is what we moved in to 2 years ago:

The main floor was a powder blue leading into the kitchen which was a tiffany blue. The ceiling is still an off white as I realized over time that it too was blue at one point... However, this is what it our living room looks like today!

It's most certainly an improvement! We are looking forward to stripping and re-staining the floors in the future along with this upcoming week we change out the banister! Can't wait to show you all that either. 

Moving into the kitchen...oh man the kitchen. With the original cabinets, faux marble counter tops, and old light fixtures it was quite the sight. I love the openness of the area, as the previous home owner had actually vaulted the ceilings (not common in the other homes in the area) and placed a beautiful skylight. These were huge selling points for us. So take a good look at before:
And this is AFTER! 

The boys were able to find a spot during my photos of course! I took on the task of redoing the cabinets myself with a homemade version of chalk paint. It's the same I used in this tutorial here. I eventually did touch up the cabinets this year with actual cabinet paint to help keep them durable and clean. New hardware on the cabinets pulled in the stainless steel look from the appliances. Also we had someone redo the backsplash and countertop as well as replacing the sink. I plan to get a few more copper items to offset the new and old look that I love. Also I will be redoing our coffee cart in the near future so stay tuned!

As much as I love home makeovers I honestly advise that you TAKE YOUR TIME. Over the last two years Mike and I have gone through a cycle of saving and changing items little by little. We made a list of prioritized areas in the home to fix and have knocked them off our list one by one. Each project takes time to find the right contractor and materials - trust me we've had some challenges with contractors! So set a realistic deadline and count your costs! It's worth it.