Monday, December 30, 2013

God is in the Details - 58

I promised to tell you about the crazy ways I've seen God moving in my life over the last 6 months.  I'm not short on ways I've seen Him in action, just short on time to write it all down!  But when I think about all He has done for me, I hang my head in shame for not making the time to tell of His good works.  So, let this be the day that I shift from waiting until there is time to share what He's done to making the time to shout out what He has done.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that a few years ago I saw 58:The Film which greatly impacted my life.  So much so that the ripples still continue daily for me.

Our church had a challenge this fall to pray daily for 25 days straight.  We were instructed to pray at the same time of day in the same location for each of the 25 days.  I participated in the challenge and implemented my pastor's suggestion of using small note cards for each of the prayers.  I quickly filled up note card after note card with things I wanted to pray about.  I included friends who were going through tough times, prayers for Feven's future, prayers for my godchildren, prayers for our marriage, prayers for our finances, and prayers for our church.

But then there was also this one random note card with a few verses from Isaiah 58.  It was the one card that listed only scripture, and there wasn't anything specific that I was praying about in regards to it, I just read it daily during prayer time.  It's a verse that grabs me at my core and makes my heart beat in time with God's.  It's Isaiah 58:6-10 where God is calling out his people on how they've been practicing religion with no heart or depth.  They've been doing it for show:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to cloth him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. 
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday."

Each morning at 6:00am, I'd sit down with my prayer cards, pray for all the requests, and read this scripture.

One of my prayers was an "out there" prayer.  I was praying that God would provide for us financially in a big way so we would have a fully-funded adoption account by the end of the year.  I wanted enough money in our adoption bank account that we would be able to get the word there was a child who needed a family, and we could write one big check and pay for every expense we needed to in order to welcome that child into our family.

I didn't have a clue how this could happen.  I mean, each month we were faithfully tucking away money into our adoption account, so we were eventually going to get there, but this was a bold prayer to have it completed by the end of the year.

Once during a discussion on prayer at church, a (brilliant, highly-spiritual, God-inspired) child in our church who was 11 years old said that a good prayer is one that "is possible, but highly unlikely."  So I continued praying that  God would fully fund our adoption account by the end of the calendar year.  It was a possible dream, but highly unlikely.

One day, out of the blue, I got a phone call from my college roommate.  She said she was going to host a Noonday party the following week to help me raise  money for our adoption.

WHAT?!?!  I was blown away and in awe of this surprise gift of time and energy.  And this is a friend who is chasing THREE children of her own around each day, one of whom has significant medical needs because of  genetic disorder and recent kidney transplant.  I know, right?!?  How does she have time for this?  A highly unlikely person to host a party...I saw it as a direct answer to the daily prayer I'd been praying for God to provide all the necessary funds for our second adoption.  God was working through her to show up big time in my family's life.

But wait - it gets better.  Noonday is a company that works with artisans around the world to provide them with a fair and competitive wage so they can provide for their families and work with dignity.  And do you know where their company name Noonday comes from?

Isaiah 58:10 - "and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

The very verse I was praying daily was the answer to another of my prayer cards that God would provide for us financially.

Only God could have come up with that!

She hosted the party and we were blessed to have many friends present at the party and virtually via social media who participated in the event.  Afterward, a check was sent directly to our adoption agency, and now that money waits there while we wait for God to bring our child into our lives.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Dreams, Little Me, Big God

Within the last year, I decided that I wanted to start a women's counseling center in Ethiopia.  Why not, right?

I don't know when this dream was originally planted, but I think it was growing long before I realized it.  It blows me away how hindsight gives us a view of our life that seems less chaotic and more seamless.

A few things have come together over the years to create this dream:

  • I saw the movie 58:The Film (see the full post here) about eradicating extreme global poverty
  • I've been frequently reading Isaiah 58 in its entirety and daily reading verses 6-11
  • My heart beats for the poor, broken, hungry, homeless, and oppressed
  • I adopted
  • I fell in love with my daughter's birth country of Ethiopia
  • My heart is torn daily wishing Feven's birth mother could be a part of this amazing little girl's life
  • I wonder who is counseling the birth mothers who have relinquished their children in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is counseling pregnant women in crisis in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is supporting women who are victims of domestic abuse in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is helping to heal victims of rape in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is crying with birth mothers on the difficult anniversaries of when they gave birth to their child, dropped off their child at an orphanage, or abandoned their child in desperation

I believe there is an unmet need.  I believe there is a way to assist women who have been through difficult situations in life to enable them to process what has happened to them and begin the road to healing.

But there are a few problems.  I don't know how to start a women's counseling center in Ethiopia or even if that would be helpful.  I don't know how to fund a counseling center or even how much it would take!  So faced with these questions I did the only thing I could do.  I started praying.

As I began praying, I remembered a children's book idea I had a few years ago.  I thought maybe I could get that published and the revenue from that would fund the counseling center.  The problem with that was that I don't draw.  During prayer one day I remembered that I had a friend who had illustrated a children's book one time.  I decided to contact him.

Amazing God Thing Number 1
Within 48 hours of contacting the only person I know who illustrates, he agreed to illustrate the book.  For free.

I continued getting excited about the counseling center and kept sharing my ideas with Zac.  I was also incredibly overwhelmed with life and was crying a lot during this time in my life.  Zac, being the truly amazing, protective, and thoughtful guy he is, advised me to stop working on the counseling center idea right now.  I had too much on my plate and it wasn't a good idea to add something else - especially something else that big.

So I kept working on it behind his back.

I wish I could say "just kidding" after that statement, but it's true.  I continued my slow work on the counseling center and stopped talking to him about it.  Not a shining wife moment.

I knew I could not do this on my own, so I decided to put out some feelers to one of my Ethiopia Adoption Facebook groups.  I was praying for 5 people to come alongside me to help research what it would look like to open a counseling center in Ethiopia.  I also prayed that at least one of the people would be a guy.

Amazing God Thing Number 2
Within about 3 days, I had 3 women who showed interest.  And one of them "happened" to be a travel agent who frequents Ethiopia, another "happened" to be a licensed counselor, and another happened to be 100% awesome.  So I had my 3 people interested + me making 4.  It wasn't 5, but I was pretty happy nonetheless!
By this time I was feeling awfully guilty for continuing my work when Zac was assuming I had laid this project down for a time.  One night after we crawled into bed I said, "Uh, Zac.  I have something to tell you..."  I told him everything and was expecting him to be (rightfully) upset with me.

Amazing God Thing Number 3 
Instead of being upset, he was energized by all the good ideas the team of people had come up with, he was amazed at how God was working, and...

Amazing God Thing Number 4
...he wanted to be a part of it.  He went from encouraging me to drop the project for an indefinite amount of time to supporting me continuing with it AND wanting to be a part of it. His interest made him the 5th person that I had asked God for.  AND Zac joining the research team made him also the "at least one guy" I had prayed for.

A few weeks later I was out weeding in the front lawn with Feven.  A lawn service solicitor walked up the street, saw me in the yard, and began chatting with Feven and I.  Quickly into our discussion he realized that I was not going to purchase his company's services, but we continued chatting anyway.  He was a good-natured man, kind, and had the build of an NFL player.  A few minutes into the conversation, he looked at me and said, "Are you a Christian?"  I was taken aback by this forward question.  I said yes and he said, "I thought so.  I am too."

Amazing God Thing Number 5
He then shared that he's an ordained pastor who is not serving at a church right now and wondering why God has him pounding the pavement for this lawn service.  He told me of 4 different mission trips he's been on and for some reason I told him of my dream to open a women's counseling center.  After I shared my dream with him, he quoted Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them." and he grabbed my hand and said, "Let's pray over this dream."  So he took my hand in his big paw and we stood there in my front lawn and he prayed over my dream to start a counseling center in Ethiopia.

We talked a little more after that, but then his cell phone rang and he had to go.  His ringtone?  The chorus of "My Savior, My God" and I heard these words, "My savior loves, my savior lives, my savior's always there for me."

Indeed, my Savior lives!  He is listening to my prayers and He is moving in this world in ways I can't fathom.  He is placing big dreams in my little heart and moving to build those dreams for His glory.  Amen!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Comfort on a Cold, Windy Night

I hear the wind outside blowing against the house tonight, forcing these walls to groan in protest with creaks and pops.  The wind chimes on the north side of the house, normally quiet and unaffected by the winds, are shouting tonight.  

Inside couldn't be more opposite.  I sit at a quiet desk, the office illuminated softly by a small desk lamp on the corner of the desk.  The dishes in the kitchen have all been washed and put away for use tomorrow.  Feven has been asleep and the baby monitor quiet for an hour and half.  All is still.

My faith life in the last 6 months has been more like the calm inside my house tonight.  I've been praying regularly and specifically for certain people and situations and I feel that God is answering these prayers in ways I can see.  I feel like my faith foundation is becoming more solid and that regardless of the chaos around me, I can stand firm.

I'm anxious to tell you all about the things that I've seen coming together in my life.  I hesitate to call them miracles - that just seems like a really big deal and should involve feeding thousands of people with one person's lunch, walking on water, raising people from the dead, etc.  I haven't seen anything THAT extraordinary.  But I have seen some pretty wild, inexplicable details come together that I could not have orchestrated myself.

God is moving in my life.  I plan to write down some specific stories over the next few weeks which will have you shaking your head in awe with me.  Together we can marvel at our incredible God.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

$25 Gift Card Giveaway!

Just when I thought this week couldn't get any better, I learned that I get to give away a $25 Noonday Gift Card!  Yippee!

If you haven't had a chance to read my post from Tuesday, please check it out here.  I had an amazing experience this past week where 4 of my life passions combined into a single event!

The short of it is that a friend surprised me by raising funds for our adoption via a Noonday party.  Noonday is a company that works with over 1,000 artisans around the globe to provide them sustainable, living wages for their beautiful handiwork.  Another fun fact about Noonday is that the materials made by the artisans come from within their country, so not only does Noonday help to provide jobs for the artisans, but also supports the local farmers and economy as well.  Very. Cool.

I'm excited to pass along the Noonday catalog to you today.  I hope that you will bring your Christmas shopping list to the computer and find some things from Noonday for your friends and family.  My dream is that Noonday's demand would explode because of you, creating exponentially more jobs for these talented artisans who are often from impoverished and vulnerable communities.

A portion of the sales from this event will go directly to our adoption agency on our behalf.  That's right, Noonday writes out a check and mails it into our adoption agency for us!  What an incredible blessing that is to be able to partner with a great company empowering people around the globe and at the same time come another step closer to welcoming another child into our family.

Gift Card Giveaway Details

Each person is entered into the drawing when they place an order with Noonday.  To do this, first of all, browse Noonday's collection. I dare you to not find something you love. I may have already purchased this card set and have found 20 other things that I want!

When you find something you like, add it to your cart. At checkout, make sure that you select Sara VanZee as the Ambassador and then type in Lindsay Millard in the Trunk Show spot before completing your purchase. This particular sale closes on Monday, November 18th, so make sure to choose your items before then. Doing so will ensure that you are entered into the drawing for the $25 Gift Card.  

Please share with your friends and family as you see appropriate. I'm so encouraged by companies like Noonday and I want to make this company known, especially as the holidays are approaching.  What a great way to use our Christmas shopping dollars to not only get something unique and beautiful for the people on our list, but to help others around the world to provide for their families.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Passion Explosion!

Four of my passions are combining into a single event and I can hardly think straight because I'm so darn excited!

If you've been reading my blog from time to time, you know my heart for the poor around the world. You also know about the crazy kick I've been on the last few years, attempting to combat Christmas Consumerism. If you've seen any photos on my blog in the last year and a half, you know about my passion for adoption. And although I haven't blogged extensively about it, I've shared with many about my desire to somehow create more stability for vulnerable families to actually prevent orphans worldwide.

And YES, it is possible for these four things to combine into a single event. Let me explain...

Part I:
My college roommate Lindsay approached me a few months ago and asked if she could help me raise funds for our adoption. She knew of a company called Noonday that has some pretty sweet stuff for sale made by artisans across the globe. And YES, Noonday has artisans in the beautiful country of Ethiopia. :) Noonday provides a sustainable, livable wage to all their employees, and is working hard to better the lives and communities that their 1,000+ artisans reside in. Best of all? They're helping vulnerable families stay together and move away from a crisis point to a place of stability. (Read: orphan prevention)

Part II:
The stores have Christmas things out, friends! Christmas things! As we preview ads for Black Friday and map our store routes, let's consider again what our dollars do post-purchase. When you buy a Christmas gift from a big-box store, you pad the wallet of a corporate exec. When you buy from a store like Noonday, you help families around the globe survive and thrive. Noonday gifts are like a double gift - you get a sweet gift for your friend and you give financial stability to a family across the globe.

Part III:
A portion of each sale goes to support our family's second adoption. This isn't like a Tupperware party where I will receive $200 in Tupperware when the night is over. Noonday has a heart for supporting adoptive families, so a portion of all sales will be paid on our behalf directly to our adoption agency. This is especially meaningful to us at this time because we recently needed to raise our adoption fund goal. We have been praying for God to provide in radical ways, and we believe that our friend Lindsay hosting this show is part of God's answer and provision. Remind me to tell you more stories about this later. God's doing some crazy awesome things in our lives right now.

How You Can Be Part of the AWESOME
First of all, browse Noonday's collection. I dare you to not find something you love. I may have already purchased this card set while typing my blog tonight. Please take your Christmas shopping list and browse through Noonday's Jewelry, Accessories, and Home+Gift Items. See what you can find for the people on your list. My dream is that Noonday's demand would explode because of you, creating exponentially more jobs for people in vulnerable communities.

When you find something you like, add it to your cart. At checkout, make sure that you select Sara VanZee as the Ambassador and then type in Lindsay Millard in the Trunk Show spot before completing your purchase. This particular sale closes on Monday, November 18th, so make sure to choose your items before then! Doing so will ensure that a portion of your purchase will go towards giving Feven a sibling. In case you're wondering, she has stated on numerous occasions that she wants a "really big girl."  I don't know what that means, but we're leaving it up to God. :)

Please share with your friends and family as you see appropriate. I'm so encouraged by companies like Noonday and I want to shout their praises from the mountaintop!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Things

It seems that we are a little behind the curve when we give Feven new things to try.  When she was little she threw a fit one meal that she didn't get to use a spoon. We knew she couldn't do it - she had never tried before!  But upon her insistence, we gave her a spoon and you know what?  She handled it expertly!  This same phenomenon has happened with a number of different things over the last year and continued today when we took a small purple bicycle out of the garage rafters and presented it to her.

She has gotten pretty good at pedaling from riding on a little tricycle that we have, so we knew she wouldn't be starting from square one with the bike.  When she saw it she was so excited and wanted to hop on right away!  Much to our relief, she could reach the pedals and without hesitating even a second, she was off!

As she pedaled slowly around the driveway and street, she kept exclaiming, "I'm a kid!  I'm a kid!"  She felt so grown up on that bike - it was really sweet to see how excited and proud she was.

Here's a picture of the newest cyclist.  Please excuse the hair and wardrobe.  Our family was in our outdoor work clothes and we all were rockin' some great bedhead.  That's what holidays are for, right?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blog? What Blog?

I've been quiet for awhile.  A large part of that is due to the fact that I am TIRED!  And we are BUSY!  And we have a daughter who keeps us on our toes with antics such as these...

The other night on vacation I came into her room two hours after we put her to bed.  I heard a little voice in the darkness say, "Lotion!" and I looked over by the light of my cell phone to find her sitting up in her pack and play with the lotion bottle and at least half of the bottle smeared all over her face, arms, legs, clothes, and bed.  I laughed so hard I cried.  Then I found Zac and my friend and told them.  Then I cleaned her up.

Speaking of late nights, she was up an hour and a half after I put her to bed a few nights ago.  I came down the hallway to find her room light on and her reading in her bed.  My little Bookworm.

She decided to use the stick of a dum dum sucker she received at the bank as a q-tip...while we were driving in the car...and we hit a bump.  She punctured her ear drum and the doctor recommended we follow-up with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist in a few weeks to make sure all is healing okay.

She got bit in the face by a dog on our first day of vacation.  The dog was a sweet dog who was old and tired and also suffered from a severe case of arthritis.  We suspect Feven touched the dog in a place that hurt  the dog, so the dog nipped at her to warn her not to do it again.  She cried really hard and was very shaken up, but luckily bled just a little.  I was proud of her for still wanting to pet dogs after that, but I also noticed that when the dogs she has seen since get their faces close to hers she freaks out.  I don't blame her!

She had to go to the bathroom the other day after running errands and I didn't get her out of the carseat fast enough. She peed in her carseat and so I took her out and then tried to quickly remove the carseat cover to minimize the damage.  I told her (without thinking) that if she still had to go more she could just go pee in the grass.  About 1 minute later I heard a little shuffle-shuffle-splat.  I looked over to find her with her pants and underwear down around her ankles, fallen face-down on the driveway in front of our house.  As a car drove by.  We are that family.  I scooped her up, threw the pee clothes in the middle of the driveway, and headed inside.

I was composing a difficult email this morning and she brought me a snack.  She carried in a small green plate from her tea set with a plastic donut on top and placed the plate on the office desk with a napkin.  She said, "You hungry, mama?"  I thanked her for the donut, then she put her little hand on the red and white checkered napkin she brought and said, "I have this if you need to wipe your mouth."  Such a thoughtful girl.  You better believe I stopped writing that email and gave the best little girl in the world some snuggles!

She and I spent 30 minutes snuggling and reading books together this morning in bed.  There was no place else I would have rather been than cuddling with her under her baby blanket, our foreheads touching, reading some of my childhood favorites and some of our new family favorites.

So those are a few things keeping me from the computer these days.  Life keeps spinning onward, leaving behind a trail of toys, dirty laundry, giggles, and memories.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lose a Ton Lessons - Freedom in Limits

Having a Lose a Ton trial before my "actual" 10-day challenge proved to be helpful in many ways.  One way was that I began to see the freedom in limits.

On Day 3 of my trial run, I went through my massive collection of gift bags.  I was able to weed out bags liberally because I decided an appropriate number of gift bags for our house was 3 bags per size per holiday.  Having that limit enabled me to discern which bags I liked the best quickly.

Limit-setting also played an important role on Day 4 of my trial run.  I saw how nice life could be with a DVD cabinet where you could actually see each DVD without having to move around stacks of DVDs and VHS tapes.  Seeing the benefit of a limited number of DVDs helped me to make some tougher decisions regarding which movies to keep and which to sell.

When I began my official 10-day run, I started going through my kitchen linens.  I implemented a limit on my place mats after discovering I had 8 different place mat sets.  Sadly, I must admit many of them have not made an appearance yet in our house...which we've lived in for 5 years now.  I laid them out according to how many settings were in each - I had place mats for 4, 6, or 8 people dining.  I chose to keep just one set per group.  Having that practical limit helped me push through the obligation I felt and the irrational thoughts of what scenarios I might encounter later in life that would require me to need all 8 sets.

I need to remember limit-setting in the future.  When storage space seems infinite it's easy to hang onto everything.  When a limit is set only the truly important things stay.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lose a Ton Garage Sale (aka Blessed and Exhausted)

This weekend I got to be part of a garage sale with a few of my friends who have also been scouring their homes for unused, unwanted, or overabundant items.  My friend hosted at her house and we had a great time!

I spent some late nights over the last few weeks rummaging through my house looking for items to sell, pricing the items and packing them up, then hauling them over to my friend's house to set up for the sale.  The alarm clock seemed to go off far too early the last few mornings and I felt I needed an IV to get caffeine into my system more efficiently!  However, despite the exhaustion I have felt this last week (and feel as I sit here trying to type!) it was SO MUCH FUN!  

Minnesotans know that the summers in our state make up for the harsh winters, and the two days we held our rummage sale were prime examples of perfect Minnesota summer weather.  I got to sit outside with my friends all day, relaxing in patio chairs under an umbrella and enjoying the gentle summer breeze with temps in the upper 70's.  Above the sky was blue with a few crisp white clouds.  Gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous.

A few weeks ago I started praying for our sale.  I prayed not just that we would earn some money from the items we had to sell, but that there would be people who would come who would find just what they needed at a really, really good price.  I wanted to meet the needs of others.  I wanted to bless others.  Within the first 15 minutes of the sale we got to see our first answer to that prayer.  It continued over the course of the two days.  A teenage girl found a TI-86 graphing calculator she needed for school for only $3.  A woman struggling financially found some very affordable kitchen items and some free cleaning products.  A couple who had just purchased all the needed ingredients for stir-fry meals found a wok.  A man found a Princess Bride DVD and was so excited because he and his wife only had the VHS (side note - he looked JUST like Cary Elwes, the main character in the movie!  When I told him this he said that's why his wife married him! Awesome!)  There are so many stories of people finding just the right item I can't remember them all!  It was incredible to see the people who stopped by our sale find items that were really special to them.  

I got to work with some very generous people.  My friends are amazing.  Time and again I watched them lower the price if someone asked or give away an item for free.  Sure, we all were happy to take home some extra cash, but what we liked the most was giving our stuff to others who would use it and enjoy it.  

Friends who lived nearby (or not so close too!) stopped by to say hi.  It was delightful to see a familiar face stroll down the alley to our sale.  I got to catch up with a few friends I haven't seen in awhile and hear what they've been up to.  

I brought home money to add to our adoption fund.  I feel blessed and excited to make another transfer into that fund.  We don't know yet who will join our family or when, but we're getting ready for when that time comes.  

I did NOT bring home as much stuff from the sale today as I hauled over to the sale on Wednesday.  That is a blessing!  Over 400 pounds of stuff left our home rummage-sale-bound.  I don't know how many pounds returned, but it was considerably less!  

What a fun experience.  Even though my body is aching and my eyes are heavy, my heart is happy and I will cherish these memories for a long time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lose a Ton Lessons - Obligatory Possessions

There are many reasons items stay in my house, but over the course of this endeavor I learned how many things I have kept out of sheer obligation.  Sometimes these items were Christmas gifts, Bridal Shower gifts, or even Wedding gifts that I felt so bad getting rid of because I cared deeply for the person who gave it to me...I just didn't care for the item.  It's sad to report, but I even came across a few wedding gifts that I have yet to use.  And it's been 8 years since I said, "I do."

I also hung onto some stuff too long because it was in good condition and I "should" use it...even though I didn't like it for one reason or another.  Or I hung onto it because I would use it someday at a big family Feven's high school graduation party.  After I did the math on that one and realized how long I had kept the item already and how much longer I would have to keep it to use it at Feven's graduation, I quickly put it in the "sell" pile.

The overwhelming realization of how much STUFF I have kept out of obligation came to me initially as I was going through the kitchen cupboards.  Here is an excerpt from my journal that day:

Today I started going through the kitchen cupboards and I couldn't stop!  It was so much fun!  There is such a freedom in this exercise.  Get rid of that pan that I never use?  Yes!  More space in the cupboard!  Toss out that broken vase?  Yes!  Give myself permission to get rid of that 9x13 pan I hate to cook in (even though it has a lid?)?  Yes! 
Tonight I started to peel off a little bit of the obligation I walk around wearing.  Even though that special person gave me that _______ for a graduation/Christmas/wedding gift, it's okay to get rid of it if I want to.  This is my kitchen and my home.  And if the item is just collecting dust anyway, what's the point in keeping it?

Keeping things around out of assumed obligation is just plain silly.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lose a Ton - WE DID IT!

A quick post to say CONGRATULATIONS to the Lose a Ton cohort!  Collectively we removed 2,001 pounds of stuff from our homes this month.  Some members are still going, so our total will continue to increase, but I had to give a shout out to the group because they have been working SO HARD!

Woo-hoo team!  You made it happen!

Lose A Ton Lessons - How Things Define Us

It's easy to let clutter in and it's even easier to let it stay.  Getting rid of things can be so difficult because it forces us to pinpoint where our stuff and the purpose of our life intersects.  Once we see how these two things relate to one another, we can begin to look through our possessions with a lens that is helpful for weeding out stuff that has become clutter and keeping the things that are useful and beneficial to who we are and where we're going.

I often wonder what would happen if someone I didn't know took a tour through my home.  Who would they think I was based on what they saw?  What would they think our dinners looked like if they opened up the fridge and the pantry?  What games would they think we played the most often based on what they found in the game closet?  What idea would they have about our family relationships based on the photographs on the wall?  Would they know I am a Christian and if so, how?

What does my stuff say about me?  And more interestingly, what does my stuff say TO me?

On Day 8 of my "official" 10-day challenge, I dug out a box of old notes, journals, and poems from high school.  Not only were these funny to read as I took them out one by one, but it was also SUPER embarrassing to read them again.  I wrote so many bad poems about unrequited love!  I also had a lot of depressed journals and poems where I was convinced the world didn't understand me and couldn't relate to what I was going through.  Oh, the life of a teenager.  Reading these things again brought me back to that lonely place and I thought, "Why on earth am I still hanging onto these?"  I don't want these things popping up intermittently throughout my life to remind me of who I was then.  These are not helpful to building me up and quite honestly I think I would change my name and move to a remote island if anyone I knew EVER read these bad poems!  I can't believe I lugged all those stupid things through 4 moves in my life.  Sheesh!  They are not helping me carry out my life's purpose nor are they helping me to build my self-confidence.  No more.  They are going in the campfire.

Let go of the pieces of your past that make you cringe and hang onto the pieces that make you hold your head higher.

(While you're doing that, I suggest you let this play in the background.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lose a Ton Update

Our cohort is working hard and weeding out things we no longer need or no longer use (or just plain don't like!).  I am so proud of our group - together we have removed 1,868 pounds from our homes and we're still tossing over the next 7 days!

My basement is an absolute disaster right now with tables set up holding boxes and messy heaps of discarded items.  I look at the items sitting there and have not once been tempted to take back an item!  I'm eagerly anticipating our garage sale next weekend to sell off these unused items to others who will love them and use them.  I've started praying for our garage sale - that the people who come would find just what they need there.  I can't wait to see what happens!

This challenge wasn't always easy for me; many times I'd wait until the end of the day to begin finding my 10 pounds when I was tired and just wanted to go to bed!  I'm so thankful I pushed through and did it, though.  Especially in the tough times!  The discipline of this exercise has given me a new lens with which I view stuff.  As items come through my door now, I can easily determine if they are keepers or I should discard them, rather than waiting for 5 or 10 years before I part with them still unused.

Over the course of the next week or two I'll share with  you a little more in-depth about the lessons I learned during this project and share with you a few words of wisdom from those who journeyed with me.  It has been a truly great experience!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

First ECFE Class (Read: My Baby's Growing Up Too Fast)

Feven and I attended our first Early Childhood and Family Education class together today.  This was not my first experience with ECFE: as a child, my mom took me to ECFE and in high school I worked as a teacher's assistant for our district's ECFE classes.  Even a few years ago Zac and I were required by our adoption agency to attend a class to learn how to care for an infant (no, of course that was not awkward being the only ones in the room without a child and instead bringing our stuffed hippopotamus with us to do all the songs and actions).  Today, though, was my first time being at an ECFE class as a parent - with an actual child - and that was a whole different experience!

Upon entering the building, we saw our dear friends in the hallway and Feven went right over to say hi.  (What, you don't need me every second honey?  Are you sure?)  To help Feven get used to a new space I held her in my arms when we entered the classroom.  She promptly wiggled down to go and play with just about every single toy.  (New space, honey!  Don't you want to cling to my leg?  Aren't you nervous?)  I got to play side-by-side with her for about 20 minutes before it was time to clean up the room for snack.  We washed our hands by the adorable short sinks and then my little girl chose her own seat at a table where nobody was sitting yet.  (Who is going to sit by her?  Does she feel alone?  Please someone sit by my little girl!)  Her friend came bounding over, pulled out a chair and sat right by Feven (phew, she's going to be okay).  I moved away from her to the other side of the room so Feven could interact with her peers and the teachers by herself but still know I was present. 

I watched as a teacher knelt down and showed Feven how to unfold her paper napkin (Oh my word, my little baby's learning how to have snack time!).  Feven was then given a cupful of cheerios and she ate every last one of them (Did they see she's out?  Is she still hungry?  Will she know how to ask for more?).  They came around and gave her another helping which she ate entirely.  The drinking cups were dispersed next, each small plastic cup containing a small portion of water.  I watched as my baby picked it up and drank like a big girl, sitting in her seat the entire time, eating her snack and listening to the story being read.  (She's going to be in Kindergarten in no time and then graduating and then she'll be moving out of the house all too soon!) 

I actually teared up watching her, and my friend who was standing beside me had the grace to not notice or to not say anything.  It's funny how a little thing like watching your kid have a snack during an ECFE class can tug on your emotions.  It was such a small moment, but it symbolized her growing independence and the realization (again) for me that I can't always be there for her or protect her from everything.  I can't go with her everywhere in life to make sure she knows how precious and loved she is.  I have to teach her so she knows it thoroughly inside of her soul that she is precious, loved, strong, capable, talented, smart, funny, and kindhearted so that when I'm not there to whisper those things in her ear she can carry her head high and know that those words are echoing inside of her and emanating from her. 

My baby went to ECFE today.  And I cried.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 7 - Final Trial Run

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  Click to read about Trial Day 1Trial Day 2 Trial Day 3Trial Day 4, Trial Day 5 and Trial Day 6 here. 

10:30pm and I just want to go to bed.  But I committed to this.

While scouring the linen closet before bed for something, I noticed 2 cleaning products I no longer use.  That gave me my idea for today.  I went to a spot in the basement where we store cleaning products (I don't know why we store them there, it makes no sense), and found many cleaners we don't use anymore.  Some I could have saved for that time that I will get a scratch in my "light wood" furniture, but I think by the amount of dust on the bottles that they would be better off in someone else's home or properly disposed of.  I found 8 to eliminate and one spay bottle I thought we got rid of a few years ago!

I'm still scale-less, so I hope these cleaners add up to 10 pounds!

8 pounds when weighed.  I am reminding myself it's not about perfection but about progress!  :)

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 6

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  Click to read about Trial Day 1Trial Day 2 Trial Day 3Trial Day 4, and Trial Day 5 here. 

I attacked kids' clothes today.  We had been previously storing them in small batches according to size, but had multiple small boxes of the same size.  Our hope is to go to the container store and get 1 large bin for each size.

I began by gathering all the clothes boxes, then unpacked them and considered each item.  It was very nostalgic, remembering how little Feven was when she wore those clothes! (Yes, it has only been a year!)

It was pretty easy to go through all the clothes.  I generally had one of two responses:
  • Oh, she was so cute in that!  OR
  • I never liked how that outfit looked on her
A few clothes were too worn for another child, so those will go in the free box at the garage sale in case any families need more play clothes.

Zac tossed in another tool today too - I bet he's enjoying creating extra work space in the garage.  All in all, a good day!

14 pounds

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 5

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  Click to read about Trial Day 1Trial Day 2 Trial Day 3, and Trial Day 4 here. 

Today was a bit of a challenge because our scale broke!  I will have to get a new one to document the weight our house lost today.

I went through the bathroom vanity cabinet today.  We had a lot of duplicate boxes, expired meds, and lotions and soaps that I will honestly never use.  Why hang onto them?  Now we have room for everything to fit comfortably and even have extra space.  This is great because it means I can buy more stuff!  (Just kidding)

Zac tossed in a sawzall from the garage to make sure we could make our weight - don't worry, he wanted to get rid of it anyway!  I'm happy to have created more space in the bathroom cabinet and am thankful that now I can easily access all the items we use frequently.

13 pounds...according to the new scale

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 4

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  Click to read about Trial Day 1, Trial Day 2 , or Trial Day 3 here. 

Today Zac and I tackled our DVD and VHS collection.  That's right, I said VHS collection.  Some movies were pretty easy to put in the sell pile, but I surprised myself with how many times I cried, "Oh, that's a classic!" and moved the DVD in my hand over to the keep pile.

I'm proud of how many we got rid of, but after the first cut we were still .4 pounds short of the 10-pound goal for today.  I went back for a second look with meeting my 10-pound goal in mind....

I came up with an additional 3.2 pounds!  Zac put all of the movies back in the cabinet while I went to weigh the removed ones, and once I saw how nice the cabinet looked with everything (almost) fitting nicely inside, I wanted to remove enough to make everything fit! 

It's interesting how when storage space seems infinite, it's easy to find a reason to keep things.  When there is a limit, decisions come easier. 

12.8 pounds

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 3

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  Click to read about Trial Day 1 and Trial Day 2 here.  

I absolutely LOVED the project I embarked on today.  Not only did it help me get rid of stuff but it also provide some much-needed organization to a particular closet and will also save me time and money in the future.  

I organized our gift bags.  

I enjoy reusing, but my gift bag collection was overwhelming and was all stuffed in brown grocery bags.  That meant that each time I needed a bag, I had to dig through to find not only the right size of bag I needed, but I also had to find one that fit the event I was celebrating!  

I started by laying out all my bags on the bed according to size, then went through each size allowing myself to keep a maximum of three in each event/holiday for each size.

When I began, I had 84 bags in 11 different sizes!  Now I have 35 NICE bags separated into 5 different events/holidays.  

I only had to throw a few away and was able to set aside a considerable number for the free box at our upcoming garage sale and then recycle the rest.

After that project, I began scouring the basement storage shelves.  I found quiet a few things to give away.  We had a couple nice glass bowls we had planned on saving for special occasions and/or Feven's high school graduation party, but 16 years seems like a long time to hang onto something we don't regularly use so I'm parting with them.  I found some random recyclable containers (why was I keeping them?) and an air mattress with a hole.  I can see the shelves opening up now and it's exciting!

30 pounds

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 2

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and throughout this week, I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.  If you missed Trial Day 1, click here!

Our group has officially begun but there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

Our anniversary.  I did not time this well.  Also, a bunch of adoption fundraiser card orders came in, so I was blessed to package cards for hours today.  But it's our anniversary.  Wife fail.

Tonight I went easy - I grabbed the bin of my college textbooks.  I feel sheepish.  However, the point of this endeavor is not to be noble nor to overachieve...the point is to get rid of STUFF.

Parting with my textbooks reminds me why it's hard to part with stuff.  Stuff usually symbolizes other things.  For me, my textbooks symbolized an old dream to be a high school English teacher.  Getting rid of them feels a bit like giving up on that dream, so I kept a few, just in case...

21.2 pounds

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lose a Ton: Trial Day 1

Before I was going to publicly ask others to join me in this endeavor to clean out a literal TON of things from our homes, I wanted to make sure it was actually possible.  I didn't want to ask something that would only frustrate or be sure to fail.

I began a week-long trial run about two weeks ago, and in the next 7 days I'll share with you my journal entries from that trial.

Our group has officially begun and there's still room for more to join!  We have a private Facebook group where we share stories and encourage one another.  Let me know if you want to join the challenge and I'll add you to our group.  It has been a source of much motivation and inspiration!

I didn't mean to start today, it just happened.  I opened up a drawer and started organizing and it began.  Then I went through my closet and took out the clothes that I still hang onto even though I don't like how they look on me (why do I do that?!?).  I sifted through a dusty under-the-bed box where I came across my high school Spanish notes (which didn't even make sense anymore).  I pulled from here and there without rhyme or reason, then proudly stood on the scale to see my total.

5.4 pounds.

That's it?  I took the stance of an athlete in a huddle, looked at Zac and said, "Okay, what else can I get rid of?"  I was determined to find 5 more pounds before the day was over.  I went into the kitchen and started going through the cupboards.  It's a project that I'll certainly have to resume later, but I grabbed some items to increase my weight to make my goal for today.  I got rid of a set of bowls I bought as a freshman in college and don't use anymore, an old camp mug, and a french bread pan.  I don't know why I thought I needed a french bread pan to make french bread.  Anyone want a french bread pan?  :)

12.4 pounds total.  And so much of the house left untouched.  I have a feeling 10 pounds a day will come quickly.  Maybe I should have raised my goal...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lose a Ton...Literally

Simplicity is a theme that continues to find its way into my life.  I have come to believe that we are happier when we have less.  The idea that stuff makes us happy is a complete lie; instead, stuff often gives us more worry and work.

But collecting things can be so easy!  I go for anything labeled "Free" and can come up with a number of uses for that free item if I could only give it a little TLC.  The TLC takes time (and often money!) and I honestly never get around to it.  My home is a collection of many useful, special things, but also a place where unfinished projects get stashed and unread books fill boxes.

Just a few months ago I was overwhelmed by excess when I was switching out our seasonal clothes.  As I washed all of our winter jackets, mittens, hats, and sweaters one last time before they got stored away, I was struck by the HUGE amount of clothing my family has.  I had four gigantic piles of clothes spread around the living room to be washed.  But if you looked in our closets and dressers, you'd never know that any clothes were missing because each one of us still had so much in our wardrobes!

In my disgust, I went to my closet and counted my summer tops.  Between the tank tops, sleeveless, short-sleeved shirts and jackets, I had 35 tops.  Thirty-Five tops.  Sick!  I could wear one a day for over a month and be fine.  That screams excess to me.  (But a little voice in my head says, "Well, there are different tops for different occasions.  This one you can wear when you go out on the town.  This is for colder days in the summer.  These are for layering so they don't really count as one; they're a part of another.  This one only really goes with that one skirt...where is that skirt...?")

Ew.  I saw my wardrobe with new eyes.  Zac and I went through our closet and dresser and came up with three full bags of clothes to give away.  And I've got to be honest - he did WAY better than I did.  I have such emotional connections to my clothes!  He asked me the hard questions to help me evaluate my clothes such as, "Have you worn this in the last 6 months?  The last year?"  That helped, and it also helped to think about someone else enjoying it rather than it sitting unused in a closet for that one day a year when I might wear it.

My thoughts have been stirred by that day, and I want to do more.  I want to go through our entire house and give every THING we have a hard look.  Is it a helpful item?  Has this item been used in the last year?  Is that a picture I like looking at?  Do we need that many ____?  Is this knick-knack worth the weekly monthly dusting of it?  Do I need to keep that book or manual or can I access that information online?

As I've talked with friends I've heard my sentiments echoed.  Since I know that projects are more fun with friends, I'd like to invite 19 of you to journey along with me to create a cohort of 20 people to collaboratively remove 2,000 pounds of unused stuff from our homes.  Yep, let's get rid of a ton.

The parameters for this endeavor are as follows:
  • Choose a 10-day period within the month of July.  These 10 days must be consecutive.
  • Each day remove 10+ pounds from your home.
  • Strive to give away or recycle the things you remove.  Send as little to the landfill as possible.
  • Daily write in your journal, photograph your removed items, and record your removal weight.
I will share some photos, stories, and lessons learned from our group on my blog so whether or not you are participating you can journey along with us.  I can't wait to see what we discover through this experience!

If you are interested in participating, please email me at: amber (at) spectrum of amber (dot) com and tell me a little about yourself and why you would like to take this journey.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Why 10 consecutive days?
To transform the way we think about stuff.  This is more than just a project; it's an attempt to create a new habit and new mindset about how we acquire and why we acquire things. 

What if I'm getting rid of a piece of furniture?
Great!  But that doesn't mean you're done for the whole exercise!  You can put that weight toward your 10-pound goal for one day, and I encourage you to push yourself to get rid of a few other items on that particular day too.

What should I journal about?
Anything, really!  How did you feel about the work that day, was it easy?  Difficult?  What is your relationship to the stuff you eliminated?  What are you going to do with the extra space?  What was it like trying to get up to 10 pounds?

Why take pictures of the items?
To document your hard work and get a visual of all that you are removing from your home.  

Why weigh the items daily?
To hold yourself accountable and also to document the total pounds removed by our entire group.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

The First Miracle

Guess what happened?!?  I asked for help selling cards and you came to the rescue!  You viewed my shop, purchased cards, and shared the link.  As of this post we have raised $498.50 for our adoption!

That in itself is MUCH to celebrate.  We are a quarter of the way to our goal to completely sell out the Spectrum of Amber Etsy shop and add $2,000 to our adoption fund!

However, it gets so much better...

This week we sent in our first check to our adoption agency.  The check we wrote was for $500.  Five hundred dollars.  Only $1.50 more than what money came in through the Etsy shop this week!

Talk about God our PROVIDER!

No coincidence can explain that.  So many different people ordered different items and different quantities.  There would be no way on earth to plan it so that it came within 2 dollars of the money we needed this week.  Absolutely...hands down...a God thing.  

THANK YOU for being part of the miracle.  You are putting smiles on our faces!

(And if you want to make it a miracle of abundant provision, you have until midnight to purchase one card to push us over the $500 mark!  Then we can say God gave us even MORE than we needed this week!)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thank You!

The Spit-Up Game Onesie

Thank you, faithful readers, for taking action on Monday's blog!  Since that post, our family has been able to transfer over $300 to our adoption fund as of tonight.  Glory and praise to God!  He is doing great things!

Here's some interesting data - since I first posted links to my Etsy shop on Monday, the store has had 303 visitors.  With a quick calculation, that means the store is averaging a dollar per visitor.  Permit me for a moment to do some more math.  I know, I know - it's SUMMER!  But I'll do the math and you can just read about it...

I need to sell about $1,700 more to completely sell out of everything in my shop and add a total of $2,000 to our adoption fund.  If the Etsy shop is averaging a dollar per visitor, we need 1,700 more people to walk through its virtual doors.

I'd be so honored if you could post a link to my Etsy shop on your Facebook page or mention it in your blog to help increase the traffic.  And please PRAY that God would move in even bigger ways to move every last card off the shelf.  And don't forget about the fun onesies, either!  I'm including a picture so you can see their cuteness (only to be outdone by the cuteness of my friend's daughter who is the model).

Here is the link for you to copy and paste:

If you need help linking the shop, just give me a shout and I'll walk you through the process.  Again, THANK YOU for your prayers and support.  I feel so small in light of your kindness and generosity.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Little Something Goes a Long Way

We are in the process of preparing our home, hearts, and finances for another adoption.  Since January we have been financially preparing to adopt again by aggressively tucking away every penny in order to reach our goal of having a fully-funded adoption account in one year. 

To help us reach our goal, I've decided to sell off all of my Spectrum of Amber inventory.  Did you know I started a business in 2009?  It was a wonderful, creative endeavor that ushered me into a new chapter of life.  However, since becoming a mom I have learned how very little free time I have now (read: none).  I hope to pick up my business dream again in a few years when life settles down a bit, but for now I can use the blessing of the business to bring another child into our home.  Will you help?

My business was mostly focused on cards I printed from my photography, but I also designed a hilarious onesie that I had printed up too.  My items are available on Etsy.  Would you take a moment to look at my Etsy shop and see if there is anything you could use?  I've had a lot of people buy the card sets and give them away as gifts for teachers, coworkers, gift exchanges, etc.  You'll have to check out the bird house card too.  I had a realtor buy some of those to give away to her clients upon the purchase of their new home!  So please check it out, perhaps there is something for you there.

And would you also consider posting a link to this blog post or one of the Etsy shop links below on your blog or Facebook page?  My hope is to sell out of EVERYTHING, thus adding $2,000 to our adoption fund.  That would be amazing.

Thank you so much for considering doing a little something.  Together our little somethings will go a long way...all the way to Ethiopia.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

3 + 1 = 4

Our family is pursuing another adoption!

We are so excited to announce that it is our intention to grow our family again through adoption!  We had a wonderful, wonderful experience adopting Feven, and our family has been so blessed by her presence.  Daily I am amazed at this incredible child God created.  

There are some knowns and quite a few unknowns at this point.  We are open to one or two children (same as last time) and we want to adopt again from Ethiopia.  Our age window is a little broader than last time and we are not specifying gender.  These parameters leave a lot of room for surprises!  :)

Surprises seem to be a common theme in adoption.  When we began our first adoption, we were planning to adopt from Peru or Bolivia, and we were thinking of adopting twins.  When all was said and done we ended up with one child - a girl! - from Ethiopia.  So as we begin this next adoption focused on adopting another child (or children) from Ethiopia, we understand that the path we have begun may lead us to a place or a child that we didn't initially expect!  We look forward to traveling along this path in the next few years and seeing who we can welcome into our family.

As with our last adoption, we will keep praying that we will not be needed.  The desire of our hearts is that every child would be raised with their biological parents in a safe, loving, healthy home environment where all of their needs are met.  If this cannot be the case for a child, we have told God, "bring 'em our way!"  So now we wait again with open arms, ready to love.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Feven's New Kitchen!

We spent all of naptime Friday putting the finishing touches on Feven's kitchen.  Here is what it looked like before we added her cooking toys.  The "sink" is a small metal bowl we bought for about $0.20 at the thrift store.  The faucet was purchased on Craig's List for $5 and the stovetop burners are spray-painted cds.  The burners are sitting more to the left because we're still hoping to find some old knobs to mount on the right side of the stove so Feven can "turn on" her burners.  

This is what her kitchen looked like when we added the pots, pans, dishes, food, and an actual kids' oven mitt I found at the thrift store!

When Feven woke up we went in her room and told her we had a surprise for her.  We opened her bedroom door and she could see the kitchen down the hallway.  She said, "Ooooooh!" and went right for it. 

The first priority was chocolate chip cookies.  (They were delicious)

One piece of equipment that fascinated her was the battery-powered mixing bowl.  While using it she exclaimed, "How 'bout that!"  Here is a video clip that shows her using the mixer.

All in all it was a HUGE success.  I think that since Friday, the kitchen is the only toy that she's used!  She has cooked a lot of things including spinach muffins, coffee, pizza, cucumber hot dogs, corn, pear soup, ice cream cones, and lots and lots of cookies. 

What a fun project this turned out to be!  Here is one final look at the before and after:

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Sneak Peek at Feven's Birthday Present

Zac and I have been spending nearly every spare minute working on building a kitchen for Feven as her Second Birthday present.  On her actual birthday we gave her some of the play food and cooking equipment, but the REAL present is yet to be delivered.

We plan on presenting her with the kitchen after her nap today, but I couldn't wait and just HAD to show you pictures of it in process!  It is turning out to be very cute.  I'm so glad that a friend of mine suggested this project to me - it has been fun building it and I know Feven is going to absolutely love playing with it!

Per some internet ideas and directions, we started with an old entertainment center.  We got this one from Craig's List for $10.  The guy we purchased it from was so kind he even loaded it up and delivered it to our home when he realized how small our vehicle was!  Here is a picture of the "before" (although in this photo we have already taken off the doors...and cut out a hole for the sink!). 

We tried to sand it down well so the paint would stick.  We were partially successful.  I imagine there will be some scrapes after Feven starts playing with it, but I'm trying to tell myself it will be okay.  We didn't build this to be a pristine mini-kitchen that sits for show in our living room; we built it to be a fun, well-used toy!

Once we primed the entertainment center, it really started transforming!  We had leftover primer from various other paint projects, so it added no additional cost to this project.

We painted the left upper and lower cabinets all white to be the refrigerator.  The center cabinet is black for the oven and has a gray cook-top above it.  We used some leftover paint from our bathroom to paint the walls surrounding the sink/cook-top area a blue-green color.

Here you can see the shelves back in the refrigerator.  It's really transforming!

There are a lot of things I'm already loving about this kitchen, but my favorite is the picture that we chose for above the sink.  We found an old frame at the thrift store, painted it, and framed this picture to make it look like it's a window.  When Feven stands at her kitchen sink, she will be looking out of her "window" at a view of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I'm thrilled to infuse another part of her life with her birth heritage.  I think this picture also shows the blend of high-rise city and countryside well.

 Here is the picture hanging above the sink area.  Isn't that fun?!?

And here is my man, working hard on putting the hardware back on the doors.  I'm grateful for his knowledge and leadership in this project.  He patiently taught me how to use some of his power tools and talked me through tasks I hadn't done before.  An unexpected bonus of this project was the time he and I got to spend together working in the garage. 

Tune in Monday for some photos of the finished project and Feven receiving her gift!