How To Be Yourself

I feel like now, at the age of 30, I’m starting to really know who I am. I’ve understood pieces, but I think that I’m finally figuring out how the many parts fit together. I’m learning what’s truly important to me, what really matters, the things I want to stand for.

Sometimes I make things so complicated. I turn little molehills into mountains – changing simple everyday choices into monumental decisions that will, in my mind, affect my entire future and determine who I really am.

But in reality, being me should be so simple. I got a lesson on being myself from a sweet little 6 year old last week. It brought me to tears and it hit home in a big way. Here’s his 11 step plan on how to be yourself.

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How To Be Yourself

  1. Do not copy somebody.
  2. Act like you.
  3. Be nice.
  4. Do what you usually do.
  5. Play what you usually play.
  6. Be who you are.
  7. Do what you like to do.
  8. Do your thing.
  9. Help people.
  10. Do what you’re supposed to.
  11. Have grace.

So simple.

So profound.

No catchy phrases.

No quiz determining what your personality type is or what the color of your aura is.

No instructions on figuring out if your true style is hipster or bohemian.

No analysis of whether you are a hands-on parent or a free-spirit parent.

No thoughts on the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, or the dietary plan you’ve selected for your family.

Simple.

Once again in my classroom, I was the student and my student was the teacher. And I remembered Jesus’ words…
Matthew 18:2-4
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

My hope is that I can learn to be myself in a simple, beautiful way like this little child.  That I can take away the complications and the silly details that don’t matter one little bit.

My hope is that I can remember to just do my thing, be nice, and have grace.  Because that sounds like a Shannon I can be proud of.

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A Place For Bows

So…you may have noticed a trend in my how-to posts.  They’re generally very simple.  Pretty straight-forward.  Rather easy to accomplish.  And inevitably, something goes wrong.  Well, I want to inform you that this post will be…exactly like the others.

This project is a bow-holder.  Claire loves bows.  She’s been indoctrinated since birth, and I’m glad it’s finally paying off.  She has so many that it’s hard to keep track of them and keep them organized.  Other bow holders I’ve seen are simply too small for all of them.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a bow holder to accommodate as many as possible.  I made a cute bow holder for her awhile back, and this time I got brave and was making one for a friend’s baby.

So, here we go.

What You Need:

  • Empty wooden frame (I got mine from Hobby Lobby – only about $8 @50% off)
  • Staple Gun
  • 1″ ribbon
  • Paint
  • Chipboard letters (If desired)

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Your first step will be painting the frame.  I’m super crafty and have all kinds of craft paint laying around, but I decided on this occasion to just use leftover Behr paint from our ceilings.  So, here I am, painting away.

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I enlisted Claire to take pictures for me, but shockingly, they weren’t turning out too well.  I decided to just use the timer option on the camera.  Of course, this was thrilling for Claire, so we had to stop for a quick let’s-use-the-timer-and-take-pictures-of-both-of-us,-Mommy photo shoot.

DSC_0017 DSC_0018 DSC_0019I’m sure you’re impressed with the high quality of the pictures.  My next how-to will be on using the self-timer option.  I know you’ll love it.  Thankfully, Chris came along and agreed to be my photographer for the rest of the project.

Moving on…

Once the paint is dry, you need to figure out your spacing for the ribbon.  I was doing 5 rows of ribbon, making them 3 inches apart.  I used a measuring tape and marked each side of where the ribbon would go with a pencil.  Then, cut your strips of ribbon – longer than you’ll actually need them.DSC_0013

Then you can start your stapling.  I found a cute little helper for this part of the job.  Pull the ribbon super tight and staple it to the inside part of the frame, then the outer rim of the frame.  Do this to both ends of each piece of ribbon.DSC_0021 DSC_0023

And here’s where this project took a turn for the worse.  I stapled too close to the edge and the staple poked through to the other side.  Of course, this was the night before we were leaving for Cozumel and the baby girl I was making this for was due while we were gone so I HAD to finish.  That’s just the way projects go for me.  DSC_0025

So, Chris ran to Hobby Lobby first thing the next morning and helped me finish just in time to head out of town.  He has the stapling thing down!  And doesn’t he have nice looking forearms?IMG_2115

Here’s the (almost) finished project.  I love it!!

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I wanted to put a cute little A on the corner of the frame and bought simple chipboard letters at Hobby Lobby.  Again, even with the excess of craft paint laying around, I went with another option.  Ceiling paint mixed with Claire’s finger paint (don’t tell her – I used it all).  It came out to the perfect shade of pink.  I painted the A, glued it on with a glue gun, and stepped back to admire my work.

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Here’s the final finished project.  Simple, sweet, and perfect for lots of bows!

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Traveling Tips

Our family travels a lot.  Both sets
photo 1 of grandparents living out of state + two teacher schedules + a sense of adventure = the perfect recipe for lots of trips!  Here’s what our summer has looked like since school let out June 7th:

June 10th – 24th: Florida
June 25th: Amarillo
June 26th – July 3rd: Estes Park/Albuquerque
July 4th – 11th: Home, Sweet Home
July 12th – 20th: Cozumel

Now that we are home, I thought I would share some of our traveling tips with you.  These are very simple, but they have really helped make our trips smoother and easier.  (Super nervous about adding another kid into the mix soon, by the way.)  So, here we go…our family’s tips for travel.

1.  Each person gets their own suitcase.  This has helped tremendously in keeping our things nice and neat when we’re away from home.  I hate having to rummage through a suitcase full of all of our clothes and shoes, trying to find the particular shirt I want to wear.  This way, we know where all our stuff is and our suitcases stay tidy for the whole trip.

2.  Pack kids’ clothes in ziplock bags.  This was our first time to do this, and I am a huge believer now!  I laid out Claire’s clothes in outfits – shorts, top, panties, and bow all together.  Then she helped me bag them and put them in her suitcase.  They lay flat and are great to pack.  Then each day she could just pick out a bag with the clothes she wanted to wear.  So easy – I will pack like this forever!

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3.  Pack lots of entertainment.  We pack books, activity/coloring books, markers and crayons, simple games, lacing cards, and baby dolls.  We also have a magnet set that is a life saver for trips.  Seriously, it entertains Claire for hours.  I couldn’t find the exact set online, but here’s one that’s similar (I actually like it better).  Of course, when all else fails, we pull out the almighty DVD player.  Bless God for that little device.

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photo 4_74.  Pack snacks.  Who doesn’t like to eat on a road trip?  I’ve found that there is much less whining (from Claire as well as Chris) with snacks readily available.  Whether we are traveling by plane or car, we pack a bunch of easy to eat, non-messy snacks in a large bin.  Some of our usuals are pistachios, apples and oranges, raisins, popcorn, peanuts, and some sweets.  On plane trips we also pack treats to help with take off and landing like lollipops and gum balls. On road trips we also bring a cooler with drinks.

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5.  Make a road trip time line.  We love this idea and have used it for our road trips this summer as well as our 3 week road trip across 5 states last year.  Just print out a little car or truck from online (here’s a cute one), let your little one color it in, cut it out, punch 2 holes in it, and string it with ribbon across the backseat.  Then, as you move along the road, you can change the position of the car on the ribbon.  Claire loves to watch our progress as we drive, and it really helps cut down on the “Are we there yet?” questions.

photo 2So, what about you?  What are your family’s travel tips?

Mother’s Day

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not an artistic or craftsy person.  Most of the time when I try a new project with Claire that I’ve seen someone else do or seen on Pinterest (evil, evil Pinterest), they turn out with me swiftly exiting the kitchen into the laundry room to do some deep breathing and get myself under control.  (I try to ensure that Claire’s proximity to my wall punching and yelling is at least one room away.)  I tend to plan crafts that look very simple but are not.   Plus, Claire is 3 and I’m pretty sure that most of the pinned projects that claim they’re done by children are actually performed by said children’s mothers.  Just my opinion, of course.

I am happy to say that for Mother’s Day this year I successfully completed a pinterest project with 20 first graders AND completed 2 projects with Claire.  All of this, and only one trip to the laundry room!  I am growing.  Please, be impressed.

For my mom and my MIL, Claire painted canvases.  This was actually not inspired by Pinterest, but inspired by my recent trip to Pinot’s Palette.  Imagine that – real life inspiring a craft!  How strange.  Anyway, we bought a two-pack of canvases at Wal-Mart for $5 and let Claire do her thing.  We used Tempera paint, little paint brushes, and a paper plate – easy peasy!  She decided to paint a rainbow for Mamaw (my mom), and 3 sunshines for Gammy (my MIL).  As we began, Claire scribbled with a pencil on one canvas and I simultaneously dropped a huge glob of green paint onto it.  (Cue trip to laundry room while Chris tries to clean up the mess.)  The canvas cleaned up very nicely, and after the painting was finished, I can barely make out one of the pencil marks.  I loved just watching Claire go to town on her paintings.  She did such a good job, and  her grandmothers love them!

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The best part is that Chris saw how excited I got over these and secretly bought more supplies so that Claire could paint one for me.  They also sent me for a pedicure.  So sweet, those two.

My first graders made their moms the sweetest cards.  They each wrote a letter to glue inside, and then we painted the front of the card.  We tried the ‘painting flowers with the bottoms of soda bottles’ idea, and it was simple and successful.  (We also did this at home for Claire’s teacher appreciation cards, and they looked pretty cute too.)  I cannot tell you how triumphant I felt on the day we worked on these.  Really, when you’re a non-crafter like me, you have to celebrate these small victories!

Here’s how the front of my kids’ cards turned out.

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And here’s one of the letters that I thought was so sweet.  The translation is below if needed.

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Dear Mom,
Happy Mother’s Day!  Thank you for everything I have.  You’re the best. You’re so sweet.  You are so helpful.  You are the most kind person I know.  You are so awesome!  There’s no way I can make it without you.
From,
<Student>

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Dear Mommy,
Happy Mother’s day.  You are a blessing to me.  Have a good Mother’s day!  You are the best Mommy in the world!  I love your smoothies.  You are loving.  You are caring!  I love you with all my heart and bones.
Love,
<Student>

I love you with all my heart and bones???  Can you get more precious?

Then there’s this letter.

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Dear Mom
I miss you a lot infinity and beyond and you live in <City> and it is a long time to get there.  I miss you infinity and beyond.  Mom you are nice a lot cuz I never see you in a long time ago.
Love,
<Student>

My heart breaks for sweet babies like this.  I just want to take this child home with me and make the world right for him.  I want to love him so much that all the pain in his life turns to joy.  Kids shouldn’t have to miss their moms to infinity and beyond.  They shouldn’t have to say they’ve never seen them since a long time ago.  These precious children are carrying burdens that would break an adult’s heart.  Lord, help us.

I am so very blessed.  I have an incredible mom.  Throughout my life she has been a constant source of love, support, and encouragement.  She loves her family fiercely and always pushed us to be the best we could be.  Everything I learned about being a mom I learned from her example, and I am thankful beyond words that God made me her daughter.

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I’m also blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who has welcomed me into her family and made me feel so loved.  She is such a godly woman – always lifting us up in prayer.  She is full of joy and shares it with everyone around her.  I am so grateful for her!

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Of course you know how I feel about Claire.  I don’t even know how to express how deep my love is for this sweet girl.  Every single day she makes me laugh, makes me proud, makes my heart feel like it’s just too full of love.  I never knew how strongly, fiercely, passionately I would love as a mother, but now I do, and I love how much I love her.

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This Mother’s Day there was another special woman on my heart.  I’ve never met her and I don’t know what she looks like.  I don’t even know her name, but soon she will change our family more than anyone else ever has.  She is our birthmom.  When I think of her, I pray for courage and wisdom for her, and strength as she makes the decision she will.  Most of all, I pray a prayer of thanks for the love that she has for the child that will someday be mine.

Amazing Movie Theater Popcorn At Home

Popcorn is probably my all-time favorite snack.  I can (and sometimes do) eat it every single day.  I love the crunch – I love the butter – I love the salt.  I do not love the kernels stuck between my teeth, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  My most favorite of all is movie theater popcorn.  That is the main reason I go to the movies (which is only a few times a year these days).  I get my bag filled half way up, head to the butter (aka hydrogenated oil) machine, load it up, get it filled the rest of the way with popcorn, and then refill on butter.  Then I top it off with some salt and I am in heaven!

When I was growing up, my Grandma made popcorn on the stove top – shaking the pan as the kernels began popping.  That’s an image ingrained in my memory that I will never forget.  I don’t know why it had such an impact on me – maybe the novelty of it and how old-fashioned it was compared to our newfangled air popper!

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Up until a couple of years ago, I indulged in microwave popcorn and enjoyed it.  Then I decided to try making popcorn Grandma’s way, and fell in love.  My dad and I tweaked the recipe just a bit, and I think it’s pretty close to perfect.   It is so tasty – just like at the theater!

Disclaimer:  Many people choose popcorn because it’s a healthy, low-fat snack.  This is not that popcorn.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups popcorn kernels
1 stick butter (Yep, one whole stick.  Paula Deen would be so proud!)
1/4 cup coconut oil
Salt to taste

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First, get a big saucepan with a lid and heat your coconut oil over high heat until it melts.  During this time, melt your butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave.

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(Going back to my post about being real, please appreciate my meticulously clean burners in these photos.)

Next, add your kernels and put the lid on.  Periodically shake the whole pan so the kernels don’t stick or burn.

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When the kernels begin popping, shake the pan more frequently.DSC_0016DSC_0020

Yes, I am wearing an apron.  No, I do not wear an apron for any other cooking or baking that I do.  Just popping corn.  Really, I do recommend it because the coconut oil pops and will stain up your clothes!

After it seems that all the kernels have popped, dump the popcorn into a large massively huge bowl.  Or two big bowls will work.DSC_0024DSC_0036

At this point, I took the lid off the pan before the kernels were done popping.  Popcorn went EVERYWHERE!  Of course I’ve made popcorn 174 times, and the time I’m having Chris take pictures for my blog, our kitchen becomes a popcorn fountain.

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Logan appreciated the popcorn raining down from heaven.

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I am still laughing at the fiasco we are having in the kitchen here.

Pour part of the butter over the top, add salt, and toss with salad tongs (using salad tongs will make you feel like you are preparing something healthy so you will have less guilt over eating the popcorn).  Continue tossing, buttering, and salting until all of the popcorn has been seasoned.  Yum!!

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Chris told me I looked angry in some of the pictures so I tried to look really pleasant here.  I don’t always smile at the popcorn as I toss it.

Luckily, the popcorn keeps well, even uncovered in the bowl, so you don’t have to feel pressured to finish it all in one sitting!  Happy popping!

My Best Friend’s Baby

My Best Friend’s Baby…the less popular sequel to My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Our friends Luke and Arra found out they were pregnant back in November and shared the news with their families on Christmas morning.  Now, to make things even more exciting they decided to have a big gender reveal celebration in conjunction with their son Nix’s second birthday.

When Arra was pregnant with Nix, they found out they were having a boy and had a gender reveal party to share the news with family and friends.  They cut into the blue cake, everyone cheered, and Arra cried.  Such a sweet moment.  Here they are at Nix’s gender reveal party a few years ago.

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This time THEY were being surprised at the party!  They went to the doctor for their sonogram and had the results written down and put in a sealed envelope.  The envelope was then passed on to me (which made me incredibly giddy and also freakishly scared of screwing things up!).  So, my job was to create a gender reveal gift for Nix to open at the end of his birthday party.  So fun, right?

Here’s the process for making the box…

Find a big box.

Buy scrapbook paper and use a die cut for the letters you want…I chose girlie paper for  g-i-r-l, boyish paper for b-o-y, and neutral baby paper for o-r and ?.  Then I cut out a big black heart and glued the letters on.

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Next, buy a bundle of (pink or blue) balloons to place inside the box.  I taped the weight of the balloons to the bottom of the box to make sure they stayed in place.

Then, wrap up the box with wrapping paper,

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glue the heart on,

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add a big bow, and voila, your gender reveal box is ready!

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Now for the big moment…

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IT’S A GIRL!!!

Congratulations to our amazing friends, the Brewers!!DSC_0698