Friday, August 22, 2014

Preparing to be Full

We are definitely in a season of transition. My brother-in-law moved in last week to spend his senior year here playing golf. He's a good kid, and we love having him here. It's going to be a great year. Our kids love having him here despite Wyatt's face in the picture below. {I think he was concerned about the candles Brad had just blown out...ya know...our kids never see real candles.} 

Not only did Brad move in, but my kiddos went to school this week! I won't pretend I didn't cry on the 1st day. I lost it, and wanted to go back and pick them up, but it only lasted a day. After that, they were happy, we were happy, everyone was happy. What's not to love about happy? 

Plus, they only go to school Monday-Thursday. It's pretty much perfect {except that I thought it was Saturday all day today, and I took 3 kids to Target....who does that?} 

So I'm here, preparing for this house to be full. Full of family, people, kids, and love. Oh and food. Lots of food. 

As I've been looking through my journal from our Italy trip, I found a page full of a list I titled, "How I want Italy to change me." On that list was fullness. To be full of life. Full of love. To have a house always full of people. 

We are definitely getting that. My in-laws will be here this weekend and my mom, so I get to practice that full-house thing this weekend. 

Part of "preparing to be full" has meant that we're intentionally working through each room of our house to make it more functional to serve, host, and love others. Systems, a place for everything, a plan, if you will. It's all there. 

Even tonight, I sit here thinking about how we have a couple weeks to get in the groove of school and activities and business before Brian and I head out of town for almost 2 full weeks. We're headed to Boise for the 1st ever Velata convention. We are elated. Plus, we're meeting our friends there, and we'll spend a few days with them camping and dreaming and catching up. 

Immediately after that, we get to spend several days with Scentsy's top leaders at our annual SuperStar Director Summit. It's a time to re-charge and collaborate and learn, and it is sweet food to my soul. 

Brian and I will fly from Boise to Pittsburg to help launch the business of 3 new team members. 

To say it's going to be a busy week-and-a-half is an understatement. In addition to all that, when we come home from Pittsburgh, there is a very good chance that our home will officially be open as a foster home again which means, we will very likely welcome a baby into our home the middle of September (that's less than a month away folks!). 

When I say we're preparing to be full, I mean it. But full is good. Empty is bad. 

I want to be full. I want my home to be full. I want my heart to be full. So we're preparing over here to be full. Preparing to be full of love, full of Christ, full of community, full of good. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Italy...Day 1...Rome {Part 1}

We snapped this selfie on the plane right before we left D.C. on our way to Rome. 
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I remember how the Rome airport smelled of cigarette smoke. Distinctly and undeniably. 

I remember how narrow the streets were. Our cab driver drove fast and unconcerned about anyone in his way. {I would soon learn that this is how all Italian drivers drive.}
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I remember the apartment balconies. Nearly every balcony we passed had flowers on it. I found so much simple joy in the flowers on the balconies. I don't know why, but I did. 
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A lemon tree on a balcony. 

The streets, the buildings, the architecture. The things that were here and have been here long before America was ever America.
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I couldn't help but wonder who had walked those streets....the wars they've seen, the heroes and the villains they have lived through.

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And as we neared the building we were staying in, I so vividly remember this man and his dog and that newspaper stand. He reminded me so much of my Pa. My heart was already in love with Italy after a single cab drive through the streets of Rome. 
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We arrived at our building and were escorted to the top floor. Our bags took the lift, we took 6 flights of stairs. 

It was only 9:00 am. We had flown through the night from Washington D.C. into Italy's capital city. We had no idea we were arriving on the soon-to-be-historic day that two Popes were canonized by two living Popes at the Vatican. There were an extra three million people in Rome that day, and we were two of them. 

It was overcast and cloudy that morning. From the rooftop deck of our building, we could see and hear the Pope's helicopter flying over the city. 
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We enjoyed a simple Italian breakfast on the rooftop of Nutella toast and cappuccino, cheese, ham, and yogurt. Brian had a bowl of cornflakes and milk too. 
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We met Nancy and Art from D.D on the rooftop that morning. They were celebrating 35 years of marriage. We talked Scentsy and real estate and children while listening to the birds and enjoying our view of the spot where Julius Caesar was killed. 
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We got settled into our {tiny} room and spent some time simply basking in the fact that we were actually in Italy. We had a little tiny, private balcony off our room that I adored. 

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Later that morning we would venture out to explore Rome.....more coming soon. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Remembering Italy

One of the reasons, I need to write everyday is simply to document. I have the worst memory in the world and I have yet to find a better way to remember it all. 

Since I wasn't writing everyday when we were in Italy, I feel the need to catch up. I wrote everyday in a journal while we were there keeping track of where we went, who we talked to, and most importantly....what we ate. 

I love that my handwriting is in a book. When I blog everyday, I don't always do that. 

As we were going through my Pa's house, I found a few things with my Grammy's handwriting on them, and they are treasures to me. I hope one of my kids or grandkids treasures this one day. 

 I also have handfuls of corks from the wine we drank while we were there. As I look back through my journaling tonight, I'm so excited to make the pictures match the words and re-live it all over again. I have over 675 pictures that I took on my real camera that I haven't even really looked at. 

Here's to knowing that more goodness from Italy is coming here soon. I miss it. Italy was truly magical. It'll be a great story to tell. Re-living it will definitely make me want to go back. I want to take my kids there desperately. A culture, a people, a place that needs to be documented and remembered and re-lived over and over again. 

More on Italy coming soon.......

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why we chose genetic testing

You may call it controversial, you may say it's not necessary. I say, it's my future. 

My grandmother passed away from ovarian cancer when I was just a baby. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when Addison was just a baby. 

Because of my mom's family history (that included aunts as well), it was suggested that she proceed with genetic testing to find out if she was a BRCA 1 or 2 carrier. BRCA 1 and 2 are the gene mutations that greatly increase one's risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer. 

It's rare for someone to carry one of these mutations....about every 1 in 400 people has one mutation or the other. It's extremely rare to carry both mutations. My mom is one of those rare people with both. 

This morning, I sat in a genetic counseling meeting with Brian and my sister and her husband. I brought our notes from 6 years ago when we originally met with the genetic team to discuss our options as a family when it was discovered that mom carried both BRCA 1 and 2. 

What did it mean? 

It meant our chances of being carriers would be greatly increased. At the time, I was 24 with one baby. My mind wondered if I should be tested, but my heart wasn't ready. Back then, there wasn't anything in place to protect a mutated gene carrier from being dropped from insurance. It seemed it would be scary to know if I did have the mutation. What if we could never get covered? What if we were discriminated against because of BRCA 1 or 2? 

But years have passed, and there are three babies now, and there is protection against mutated gene carriers called GINA (the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) that would prevent any insurance company from dropping us or not picking us up due to the knowledge of a mutated gene. And unfortunately the way genetics works is that if I carry one or both genes, there is a chance that my children do as well. And that is something I want to know. 

So today, we gave a blood sample, and they sent it off to be tested exactly like mom's was, and in a couple weeks, we'll know. 

Then the question becomes.....then what? What if I carry one or both genes? I don't know. I'm not there yet, so I don't know. 

I will know that my risk is increased. I will know that I'll need a proactive plan moving forward. Carrying BRCA 1 or 2 does not mean that I will get cancer. It simply means that my chances will be greatly increased for breast and ovarian cancer. It will mean regular 6 month screening at a minimum

There are other approaches too. Having your ovaries removed before the age of 40 reduces your risk of breast cancer by 50%. That could be a very real option and recommendation if I carry one or both genes. Mastectomies are regularly performed on women who carry BRCA 1 or 2 as well. Having both breasts removed reduces the risk of breast cancer by 90%.  

I don't know what I'll do with the information that comes. But I know that I will have options and lots of them. That's the most important thing to understand. If you are in a similar situation, know that you have options. Not everyone will agree on what you should do and how you should proceed, and that's okay. But know that you do have options.

At the end of the day, as I process our decision "to know," I know that it's not about fear. I don't want to know because I'm afraid. I want to know because I'm not afraid at all. 

Modern medicine has given me the opportunity to understand what killed my grammy and her sisters, and it's given me the chance to stand tall and fight back. 

Knowledge is incredibly powerful. Knowing the truth about my body and what I'm made of, will allow me to fight stronger and braver. It will allow me to be proactive and do what's best for my family. 

I don't know how the test will come back. I don't feel one way or the other. Whatever it is, I know that it wasn't a mistake. It wasn't an accident. It wasn't an oversight. 

I was created by the Creator of the Universe. He knit me together. Nothing went awry. There was no misstep. Mutated gene or not, I am exactly the way that He created me to be, and that is all the assurance I need. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The 1st day of School

It's official. We have tried every kind of school there is. Private school, public school, home school, Christian school. We should win some kind of "try every possibility" award. 

Last year, we made the decision to take Addison out of public school and homeschool her for 1st grade. It was the right decision for her for that year. And it was a joy. We loved having her home and loved teaching her. 

But as the end of the year approached, we started discussing this school year. Would we homeschool both of them? A kindergartener and a 2nd grader with a 2-year-old in tow and a foster baby and a business to run? Can we do that? Do we want to do that? Is that what's best for everyone? 

After much prayer and discussion and more prayer, we decided that homeschool wouldn't be the best option for this year. We started touring private schools late last Spring. 

We found a couple schools that we loved. We knew we wanted a Christian curriculum and a high level of parental involvement.  Of course, there are waiting lists and applications and all that goes along with private school, but we did it.

And we found a little gem....only 5 minutes from our house with Christ at the center of it all, and I'm happy. 

But even today, I cried and doubted because that's what I do as a momma. I want so badly to make the right choices for do what's best for their little hearts and souls. I want them to grow and prosper and be leaders and be kind and give love to the world. I want them to love learning and love Christ. 

So here we are. At the beginning of another school year, trying something new again. Maybe we've got it right this time. I hope so. I won't pretend I have this all figured out, but I will fight for the best education for my children....that's ultimately one of my most important jobs as a parent. 

Even though the day started a little rough for Luke, as you can tell....

he came home happy and joyful and thrilled to be in kindergarten. 

And I knew this one would love school. She was practically begging for it. The classes are small so there is only 1 girl in her class {who told Addison that she had been praying for the Lord to bring a girl to her class!} and 4 boys. And she's in heaven. 

Here we go.....this year is going to be a whole new adventure. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More Planning tools and tips

Since we've been talking planners around here lately, I thought it would be helpful to show you a few of the other tools we use to maintain our sanity around here. 

In case you missed yesterday's post, I'm giving away 2 free planners. Check it out here.

Sunday is usually the day that I figure out exactly how the coming week will function. I've found that as a wife, a mom, and a small business owner, this is absolutely vital to my ability to function from day to day. 

Here's a snapshot of my dining room table today while everyone rested. 

So a few things, you can see my Driven Dreamer weekly spread there in the bottom middle. 

At the top right and bottom right are a monthly meal planner and a grocery list from Jones Design Company. There is a great paper works section on her site that reads: 

A monthly collection of stylish designs to help keep you organized. Choose from the digital (print on your own) version or the print + digital version (a set of prints will be mailed to you). 

I'm a huge fan. Go ahead...go check it out.

In the center of the picture above are: to the our jumbo monthly calendar from Erin Condren and to the left is our Weekly Schedule Pad from Erin Condren. The jumbo monthly calendar hangs on our fridge and has everything that has to do with our family schedule. The weekly pad hangs in our kitchen as well and is more detailed and includes dinner plans for the week as well. It's a quick at a glance look for everyone to see what's going on at a glance. 

 Any whoo.....I thought you like to see that there's lots of crazy planning that takes place at my house. 

What about you? Do you have any great products that I don't know about yet? What works to help you keep your family organized? 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Planners, Planners, and More Planners

If you're new to the blog, I should warn you that I'm a bit of a crazy person when it comes to planners and agendas. I don't know if we should call it a condition, but it might be something close to that.

I wanted to tell you about this awesome new planner that I found that I fell in love with called the Driven Dreamer, but she went and sold out all the planners she had printed.  But you can go ahead and go follow An Organized Girl on Facebook and check out her website......

The Driven Dreamer planner has my favorite layout right now. It features a weekly layout with to dos under everyday. But it definitely has a couple flaws. The paper is thinner than I would prefer for a planner, but it suffices, and there aren't tabs, which I understand are expensive to include.

I also had a little sweep with A Passion Planner. Also a fan, but still not my all time favorite. I do love the weekly layout though and all the extra space on and before the monthly spread.

You can check out a Passion Planner here.

I may have also just ordered a Kate Spade agenda from Amazon because it was so pretty (didn't I warn you that I have a problem). It's also a weekly layout, but it doesn't have an hourly time log which I love to keep track of appointments and even to block out a specific amount of time to do something.

And to top it all off, today, I ordered the 2015 Day Designer and Day Designer Mini from Whitney English. The Day Designer is also not my favorite because it's a daily layout. I love the space of it, I just don't like being able to see my entire week at a glance. I like to highlight things when they the get done. On a weekly layout, I don't have to re-write things every time they don't get done. If it doesn't happen on Monday, I can still see it on Tuesday when I've got a weekly layout.

But I functioned with a Day Designer for half the year. And really, it's the prettiest thing on the market when it comes to planners. How can you resist?

So there you have it. My favorites right now. I should also mention Erin Condren's Life Planner since I'm a semi-fan. It almost works for me. I just personally don't like the weekly layout without time slots, but it works so well for so many people. And it's durable and so so cute!

Since this is a planner post, you better believe I have a planner to give away....two actually! I have 2 Driven Dreamers from An Organized Girl to give away! {Please excuse the unedited, late night photo below). 

All you have to do is comment below, follow along, and I'll pick a winner using next Sunday, August 24th. They're sold out and the only place you can get one is right here! Good luck!