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In Blog, DIY, Mama on
February 25, 2019

Should you open an Etsy shop//and the story of mine: Dearest Delight

A little over five years ago I was coming to the end of my engagement and was about to become a bride. For nine months I planned my DIY wedding from the homemade wedding cake, hundreds of wine and kombucha bottles that were consumed by friends and family to be used as centerpiece vases, to the trail mix bar and hand sewn banners, bulk flowers that we arranged ourselves and the boutonnieres and flower crowns I made. I had so much fun planning my wedding and the closer my wedding got, I was pumped to marry my husband but I was sad to be done with all of the wedding crafting. Most brides talk about how stressful wedding planning is but I thought it was so much fun.

One of my college roommates said one day “why don’t you just open an Etsy shop?” I had thought about this before but didn’t know what I would sell or if it would be worth the effort because I was afraid of failure. Well it turns out all I needed was a friend to validate this thought I had for me to actually open an Etsy shop. Literally the next day I spent hours and hours making various boutonnières out of dried flowers I had but didn’t need for the wedding. I snapped some very poor quality photos of my boutonnières, picked out a name: Dearest Delight, figured out how to open my shop, listed my products on Etsy, and then I waited. I figured I would not get an order for a while but the next day I got my very first order! Being the type B, not really thinking about the details until I’m knee deep in it, person that I am I had not considered how I would ship fragile dried flower items to customers who were expecting intact products. So there I was pumped about my first order and then I thought to myself “well crap..how will I get this dainty little boutonnière safely in one piece to someone across the country..!?” Thankfully I figured out the details rather quickly but let’s say I should have taken a little more time to put some thought into the logistics of my Etsy shop.

Since that first order I have somehow managed to have almost 700 orders with little to no advertising. It has been a fun journey and thankfully there has been minimal drama. In five years I have only had two orders arrive damaged through the shipping process and only had two orders lost in the mail. Oh and only one nasty review. And yes, I still remember exactly what that review said because it made me sick to my stomach and almost throw in the towel. It’s sad how much we can let one mean comment from a total stranger rip apart our confidence. Managing my Etsy shop and making orders for people the last five years has been so much fun and has been very therapeutic for me. The highlight was when I received my biggest order which was 55 boutonnières for a special graduation ceremony for honor students. Thank you to whichever roommate it was (I don’t remember J) that told me I should start an Etsy shop because it has been one of my best decisions yet! It doesn’t make a ton of money and I limit the amount of orders I get because there is only one of me making tedious orders and now with a toddler running around but like I said, it has been so fun!

I am often asked advice about having an Etsy shop from people considering it, so here are eight questions to ask yourself if you think you want to open one.

  1. Is there actually a market for what you are selling?

Do your research. Ask around. Search on Etsy and other handmade marketplaces to see if anyone is making/buying what you want to sell. Is it something so unique and specific that there wouldn’t be many people interested? If so, sadly it might not be a great investment for you to open a shop as you wouldn’t have many people interested in buying. Do you really believe in your art or your product despite this fact? Then go ahead, it isn’t a big investment to at least try.

2. Is the market oversaturated for the product you want to sell?

Maybe you want to open an Etsy shop selling a super popular product like bows or printables or painted canvases. That is awesome and I am sure you do an amazing job with your work but you need to consider the fact that there are certain products on Etsy with a ridiculously saturated market already. For instance, I searched “printable wall art” and received 496,071 search results. Woah. That is stiff competition for all the people trying to sell printable wall art. Not saying you shouldn’t go for it but you just need to consider this fact. Maybe try selling at local craft fairs first to see if people are interested.

3. Are you able to easily acquire all the materials you need for your product?

This was something I did not consider before I opened my shop. I started getting orders in and I was still scrambling to source my materials. Some things I could get at Hobby Lobby, other things I ordered from various places online, some I could just get from my local grocery store. Again, I should have sorted this all out before I started selling and that would have eased a lot of stress.

4. Are you willing to offer competitive pricing?

I think this has been one of the biggest reasons why I have been successful. When I did my research to see who else was selling dried flower crowns and dried flower boutonnières I saw a few others were but their prices were outrageous. I did the math and saw that I could still make a great profit margin if I offered similar products for almost half the price. This is especially important when you are just starting out. I have been able to raise my prices a little bit over time with no repercussions now that I have built up years of great reviews.

5.Do you have a game plan for packaging and shipping?

I shared in my personal Etsy shop story above that I did not have a game plan for this. If you are selling something like t-shirts then you have it easy-fold them nicely and put them in a bubble mailer. If you are selling delicate dried flowers like me it’s just not that simple. Thankfully I was able to come up with a method that works great. Your packaging is so important too. I used to include a hand written note in each package, now I have printed thank you cards that are placed nicely atop the white tissue paper in each of my orders. I once ordered headbands on Etsy and when I opened the package they were stuffed in a small Ziploc bag. No business card, nothing. I was disappointed and it made the seller look kind of lazy. When you spend money on a special product it is always fun to receive it and see that there was thought and care put into the packaging.

6. Are you capable of managing the financial aspect of running a small business?

You need to be able to keep track of your expenses and to figure out your taxes each year. Numbers are totally not my thing so I hired a guy for that..my husband J. My part though is to keep all of my receipts or jot down each and every purchase for my shop. We have quarterly meetings to check how things are going and to make sure it is still a profitable endeavor.

7. Do you have time for it?

The goal with selling is to have orders and when you have orders you actually have to spend the time making these things for your customers. That might seem like a major duh. As I stated earlier though I had to start limiting the amount of things I list in my shop because I was initially working a full time hospital job as a recreation therapist and then we had a baby so I had to be realistic. If you don’t have time to put your heart and detail into your work you need to consider if you should open a shop at all or just how much you are willing to list in your shop.

8. Would you genuinely enjoy it?

This is the most important thing to ask yourself. In my opinion having an Etsy shop should be fun way to make an income or some extra money because you get to make something you are passionate about. Don’t just teach yourself how to sew bibs because you need some extra cash but dread each order because you don’t really like what you have gotten yourself into. There are other ways to make cash if that is your only reason for doing it. For me having an Etsy shop is a creative outlet that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is a way to connect with brides, expectant moms, grooms, seniors taking their senior photographs, and people who just want to look pretty in a flower crown. It is a nice excuse to sit down and turn on Netflix as I work with my hands. It has been so much fun and I am so thankful for the opportunities and extra income it has provided.

So what do you think? Is that little idea you had for an Etsy shop worth it? I hope the answer is yes! If you’ve gone through these questions and maybe reconsidered then I hope it was helpful at least to think about it some more. Don’t give up though; maybe you will have another great idea soon! Or maybe it just isn’t the time yet. Happy dreaming, my people!

 

In Blog, Cancer, Infertility, Mama on
February 5, 2019

Let’s talk about Sex(ual intimacy issues after cancer) baby

Cancer. The very word makes most people shudder.

It comes in all different forms. It comes with all kinds of journeys. For some it is quick, for some it is a battle to the end. There are so many different and unique experiences for those who are diagnosed with cancer and no matter how cancer affects you; there isn’t a rulebook for how it will touch your emotions.

My time with cancer was easier than most as far as the treatment plan. I had major surgery but other than that I did not have to take invasive drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, or anything else. The initial diagnosis of course was scary and emotional but once I understood what I was dealing with and I felt the peace and comfort of my God and had the rally of family and friends behind me I felt brave and strong and knew I could get through whatever was ahead. What I didn’t expect was that almost a year later I would be having a harder time processing my emotions through the aftermath of cancer than I did in the midst of it.

I have now had 3 gynecological surgeries, a handful of CT scans (with rectal contrast.. yes it is as horrible as it sounds), hours and hours and hours spent in gynecologist and oncologist offices, too many transvaginal ultrasounds to even start to count, invasive procedures that I wasn’t warned about, the presence of medical students without my permission during awkward procedures, and so on and so forth.

Something they don’t talk to you about when you’re going through cancer is how it will impact your sexuality. At least nobody talked to me about it. Every time I go in for one of these invasive procedures (and for me they are in very intimate regions…) I put on a brave face as if it’s just totally normal, I can tell if an ultrasound tech or nurse is uncomfortable and I usually say something like “oh I’ve had so many of these, no worries, it’s all good.” I think I hardened myself from feeling the actual real and vulnerable feelings that come with hundreds of people needing to be all up in your business to keep you healthy on a regular basis.

I first started noticing that anything to do with sexual intimacy (with my beloved husband, people) sounded like a big fat nah, not interested, no thank you, eh maybe another time, hmm thanks but no thanks, pretty much every single time starting pretty quickly after I was deemed healthy enough to…ya know. I hated feeling that way; I constantly felt guilty and confused, what is wrong with me?! I am young and in love and everything around me says I should be feeling my best and having the time of my life! Months passed and the same feelings or really lack of feelings in regards to sex were still sitting with me. I had another round of scans and exams and something happened that was incredibly uncomfortable and I came back from that appointment enlightened as to why I had ZERO sex drive, ZERO interest in anything in regards to physical intimacy…. I sat down with my husband and poured out my heart and emotions for the first time on how hard it is to be so physically vulnerable all of the time with doctors; everything that to me is reserved for beautiful private intimacy was now just routine this and that. I had become so numb or tried to become numb to all of the doctor’s visits and tests, etc.  that I lost my sexuality all together. My husband put it into words that made perfect sense “you must feel as if you have been robbed of your sexuality.” This made the tears flow even more to be so validated by the one I love most.

I am not writing this today because I have it all figured out now. I am writing this today for a few reasons: 1) I felt all alone. I thought I must be the only one struggling with sex after cancer. I am writing this to you ladies who have had gynecological cancers, breast cancer, or any cancer that has required you to constantly bare yourself to so many people that you did not ever so desire to be a part of your most intimate parts. If you struggle with this too, you are not alone. 2) To encourage you to start a dialogue with your spouse, partner, whoever is that person in your life; it doesn’t have to be about this  struggle in particular, just anything in general that is hard for you right now. You don’t have to keep it in. If anything the discussion will likely be liberating as you invite someone you trust into your struggle. Starting this conversation for me opened the door to finally working through it. 3) Vulnerability is so important. I think it truly does change the world to share your story, even when it might feel embarrassing to do so. I didn’t know if I would ever share this and I didn’t really want to, but I know that sharing this might help someone else even if it is just to know they are not alone and that they can get through a hard circumstance.

As stated earlier this issue isn’t solved, fixed, blown away all together- but I feel in a much better place with it. This is now a normal conversation with my husband. I am now able to comfortably and freely discuss it with him because I invited him in to the struggle and he kindly chose to walk alongside me in this. We pray about it. We give our burdens to the Lord and he helps to heal. I’ve shared this burden with multiple people in my life that I trust and I know they have been praying for me too. Also, this has opened up real, honest, and beautiful dialogue with other women who struggle with sexual intimacy for a variety of really hard reasons. It has been SO healing to have heart to hearts with other ladies who get it and it reminds me that I am not alone. We can love and support each other through this.

Now that I have shared one of the most awkward, (I guess it doesn’t have to be awkward) intimate things I will probably ever share on my blog… I will choose to go forward, I will choose to continue to find healing, I will continue to share my story. I am not alone in my struggle and you are not either. I’ll end with a quote from the ever so wise Brene Brown ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

In Blog, Food, Indulgent sweets, Mama, Mi Familia on
January 15, 2019

Going to war with sugar

I don’t know about you but I love dessert. I love chocolate. I love cookies. I love pie. I love cheesecake. I love tarts. I love all the baked goods. For my whole life I have had a mega sweet tooth. I used to joke about it and talk lightly of it but the older I got the more I would wonder if I had a problem with it. It’s always been this weird thing where I value whole and healthy foods and love cooking healthy recipes- I know my stuff about what fuels our bodies and minds and what hurts them but I would always overlook that stuff when it came to sugar. Life without sugar sounded/still sounds miserable! Baking is a love language to me, going out for coffee and a treat with a friend stirs my soul, having a late night glass of wine and chocolate with my husband gives me life. So what’s the big deal? Sugar makes me happy; it brings forth pleasure and merriment. The big deal is that I have little to no self-control with it. The big deal is that the more and more I take the time to dig into this the more and more I realize I am addicted to sugar.

 Anytime I get a craving for something sweet I feel like I need to satisfy it. Whether it’s something more “innocent” like keeping a bag of dark chocolate chips in the pantry and having a handful, or buying a special sweet treat for myself at the grocery store each week, or feeling the sudden need to bake a whole batch of cookies and eat spoonfuls of dough as I go. I haven’t shared this or wanted to share this publicly before because I think it is embarrassing. It feels like this dirty little secret that I’m a human too and I lose control with certain things in my life and can’t get a handle on them. Every year I think “how am I going to tame my sweet tooth?” How am I going to learn to appreciate baking and eating sweets occasionally without feeling a loss of control anytime I have a sugar craving or access to a room full of goodies? I never choose to share publicly because I know I am going to lose the war with sugar. I know I am weak and will cave in so why share? Why don’t I just save myself from the world knowing I am a failure in this area? Well this year, 2019, the same exact thoughts are still running through my head but the difference is this year I had the courage to put it out there to the world that I struggle with self- control when it comes to sugar and I want to change it. I am scared because I worry I will fail, a whole year is a heck of a long time to keep a goal in my opinion. Giving up sugar all together for a long or extended time seems impossible to me and I don’t think I need to do that. What I want to do is to learn how to value my health first and to gain self- control where I can enjoy sugar occasionally without letting it rule me.

My solution to this is my 2019 goal: Eat sugar only once a month. I came up with this because as mentioned earlier, baking is my love language, it is therapeutic to me. Also, I want to be able to have a special dessert date here and there. Those things are ok, we don’t need to beat ourselves up about that, but because I am recognizing I have a problem with sugar and a lack of self-control, I need to set up some rules for myself to work through it. Now if I fail at this goal I will be disappointed with myself and I don’t need shaming from anyone else because I will already feel shame about it, but I feel like this is the strongest I’ve been mentally going into a sugar centered goal and I am excited about it. I think I can do it. So I will describe my “rules” below and if you feel like this is an area in your life that has gotten out of control I invite you to join me! I would absolutely love the accountability and to see what you choose to spend your one day a month sugary treat on.

2019 Sugar once a month challenge guidelines

* One day a month (12 times this year) choose a sugary treat to enjoy.

* You can bake it, go out somewhere and order it, have it at a gathering/party, or just choose something from the store.

* I am allowing myself to still have local honey for my allergies and to sweeten smoothies as well as maple syrup for recipes occasionally.

* I am not going to use coconut sugar or other sugar alternatives for healthier baking as this can become a slippery slope for me.

* Be mindful of labels and if there is added refined sugar. I will not be ridiculously strict on this as my main goal is to get a handle on the dessert kind of sugar cravings, but I will be mindful to avoid sugary drinks and sauces, etc.

* Eating fruit is absolutely allowed and encouraged

So what do you think? Is this a good challenge for you? If you decide to join me in this New Year challenge feel free to let me know! Tag your monthly sugary treat on Instagram with the hashtag #wellfedsugarchallenge2019. You are stronger than you think and so am I. It’s time to stop letting sugar have control!

In Adoption, Blog, Foster care, Mama, Mi Familia on
November 13, 2018

Beautiful Heartbreak

I have had these words pent up in my mind and deep down in my heart for a while now. These words have stemmed from thinking of all of the aspects of adoption, of foster care, of infertility, of beauty and of heartbreak, not just the joy that adoption has brought us. How did we get here? How did I get to this exact moment in life where I am a mother of a brilliant little girl through foster care and now adoption?

Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a mom. The idea of family, of nurturing, of growing, of encouraging, of being together, was my biggest hope in life. I knew about adoption because I have extended family members who were adopted and while that wasn’t a big topic of discussion in our family I wonder if that subconsciously played a role in my deep interest in adoption. In fifth grade I did a research project on adoption that was presented in front of my whole school. You see, it seems like I was knit together in a special way that adoption would forever be a part of my life.

While I always hoped to adopt, I didn’t know that I would have to trudge through two painful and heartbreaking years of infertility to get to the place of feeling God’s hand leading us in that direction. Infertility was heartbreak that later turned into the most beautiful surrender of my life. Surrendering what I wanted for the sake of finding peace in what God’s will was for my life.

In adoption there are three parties involved. The birth family, the adoptee, and the adoptive family. It would be the biggest disservice I could do to my daughter not to recognize the heartbreak involved in her coming into our lives. While our daughter sadly was an orphan at the time she came into our family, I still am heartbroken for her birth family. When I take the time to think of her story, I am still heartbroken for her, even though she feels 100% my daughter and to be honest in my day to day life it’s easy to forget that she was born to another woman. I grieve for the loss of opportunities her birth parents had, what kind of parents could they have been if they were given the same opportunities I was? What kind of life could my daughter have lived if her birth parents were able to raise her and love her all of her days? These are the kind of questions that could be easy to ignore and not ask if I wasn’t willing to dive into the difficult intricacies of adoption emotions. You see, if we lived in a perfect world, adoption wouldn’t exist because there would be no need for it. We obviously don’t live in a perfect world though and there are no perfect people. It is my greatest honor to be an adoptive mom. I am just a mom actually. I am no different than any other mom except I have my little girl’s story to honor. I have her questions to answer, I have a delicate dance to do to honor her heritage, one that is so vastly different from my own, I have her birth family, that despite what choices they did or didn’t make, to hold in my heart and my daughter’s heart because she deserves to know her story, her roots.

There is no other way I can describe the emotional aspect of adoption other than beautiful heartbreak. Beautiful because adoption made us a family. Beautiful because adoption gave our daughter parents to keep her safe, to stand next to her and encourage her/be there for her for life. Beautiful because it fulfilled my husband and I’s dream to become parents, it brought life, laughter, boundless joy, memories to forever be made, and lessons that needed/ need to be learned into our home.  Beautiful heartbreak because no matter how beautiful adoption is, it involves heartbreak. As mentioned in the previous paragraph there is so much to be grieved. I wonder how often E’s birth parents cry over her? I don’t know if they do but I would imagine despite the choices they made that their hearts are broken.  As my daughter grows I know there will be times, maybe frequently, maybe infrequently, where she will wonder what life would have been like if she was with her birth family. I can’t say what she will or won’t experience heartbreak over in regards to her story, but I know there will be times where it is hard for her, rightfully so.

As an adoptive mom I am learning so much lately. In many cases, our adopted children grieve and struggle with their adoption quite frequently, especially if they are held back from knowing their story. We need to sit with them, we need to listen, we need to point them to important truths, remind them of how loved they are, but most importantly we need to just listen. Despite how loved they are by us, their adoptive families, and how much they love their families in return, it is something we need to talk about often and stand next to them as they find healing/find answers/process things.

I pray God’s grace in my daughter’s life. I pray that she would be confident in who she is as a Child of God, who she is as a woman, who she is as our daughter, and where she came from. I pray that her story would empower her to help others and be the best person she can be. Beautiful Heartbreak and all. 

In Blog, Mama, Mi Familia on
September 24, 2018

How to enjoy being a stay at home parent

If you aren’t a stay at home parent you might fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be the director of your days, to choose if you want to sit on the couch all day watching Netflix as your child plays quietly on the floor with their toys or to head off to the shops for a lovely afternoon. As a stay at home parent you know this is the opposite of the truth. Stay at home parenting is no joke- being woken up early, dressing someone, diapers, potty training, cooking, cleaning, feeding, holding, comforting, having someone demand almost every second of your time when they are awake, cleaning, breaking up fights, taking deep breaths when your child slaps you in the face, etc. you get it. Being a stay at home parent can feel incredibly mundane- day in and day out, the same. Some days it’s easy to want to roll back over in bed because you know exactly what to expect and you’re bored with stay at home parent life. Well, here are my 10 best tips for how to actually enjoy your days as a stay at home parent! As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Take advantage of this special time you get with your kids and make the most of it!

  1. Get out of the house at least once a day

This is the most helpful for me. I am the kind of person that cannot stay a whole day at home without feeling a little sad or wondering what the rest of the world is up to outside of my little home bubble. Also, keeping a little human occupied at home for a whole day is quite difficult. By the time naptime is over (if you are lucky enough to have one that naps) the kids have already played with every toy they own, read every book on the shelf, had snacks upon snacks, and now they are just whining out the wazoo. Ok. Let’s get out of the house! It could be as simple as a walk down your street, a trip to a store even if you don’t need anything, a park, the library, a friend’s house. The options are endless but getting out of the house even for an hour helps keep everyone sane!

  1. Get a hobby you can do at home

Having a hobby gives you something to look forward to when your littles are napping, or during those rare quiet moments when they are entertaining themselves. My main hobby is my Etsy shop. I make dried flower crowns and boutonnieres. It has become mindless work for me after 4 years of doing it but I genuinely enjoy sitting down to create whenever my little one is asleep. I also love cooking, blogging, working out, and reading. My hobbies help keep me sane and we all know mama needs to be sane to effectively raise a small human. Playing on your phone and watching TV should not be considered a hobby. Find a hobby that genuinely stirs your affections for life!

  1. Keep a clean house

Now,  I know everyone’s SAHP situation is different pending how many kids you have, if you have a spouse, if your spouse travels, if you homeschool, etc etc. BUT this tip goes out to all the people that are in a situation where they can handle this. Clean your house! Like actually keep it clean. Being a stay at home parent means you are likely at home a lot so why not keep it clean? I know for myself I feel yucky and more irritable when my house is dirty and unorganized. I have the time to keep things clean and organized and everyone is happier when it is kept well so that is what I do. Of course some days are busier than others and sometimes the dishes don’t get done or toys don’t get picked up, but as a rule of thumb, I do my best to keep a clean house and it is a positive thing for the whole family.

  1. Go on an adventure with your kids

You and your kid are forced to be together all day if you are a SAHP so why not make the most of it? Go on an adventure. Who cares that it is 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, go find an orchard and pick apples, go find a beautiful trail to hike, go on a treasure hunt, or drive to the next town to have a special treat. Find an adventure and take advantage of the fact that you have the availability to go do something fun and make memories with your child whenever you want!

  1. Build friendships with people in your same season

We were not meant to do life alone! It is wonderful to have a spouse to share in the hard realities of parenting but you need to find a friend who is in the same season as you. As an adult I know it is hard to make new friends but suck it up and put yourself out there and get to know another parent who has a child that is a similar age to yours. It is so beneficial to spend time with someone who GETS it. Drink a cup of coffee while your kiddos play and share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your days and I promise you will feel so much better knowing you are not alone.

  1. Have structure to your day

Your days will be so much easier if everyone in the house has an idea of what they can expect for the day. Wake up at a similar time each day, do certain activities at a similar time each day, get out of the house at a similar time each day, eat your meals at the same time each day, and have nap and bedtime at the same time each day. Kids thrive when they can have a good idea of what the day will look like and when your kid is thriving your day is better too. Now I am not a planner and I don’t schedule playdoh at 9 am and blocks at 9:30 am, I simply mean have some sort of structure so that everyone can have a good idea of what the day to day looks like.

  1. Take advantage of all of the free activities in your community

Did you know that there are wonderful, free activities just about anywhere? I live up in the tippy top middle of nowhere upper peninsula of Michigan and guess what!? There are still plenty of free things I can find to do with my child. Library story time, playgrounds, safety days, free nature hikes, community festivals and fairs. Sometimes it takes some researching but there is always something you can put on your calendar to take your child to.

  1. Commit to a minimum of an hour a day to play with your child

You might be thinking well that is crappy to only give your child an hour of your time each day…Well that isn’t what I mean. If you are a stay at home parent you know that most all of your time is dedicated to your child in some shape or form each day, what I mean is for at least one hour a day put your phone away, turn away any distractions, get down on the floor with them and invest in them and how they want to play. Read books, build blocks, play outside, whatever- but give your child your full attention. I know I enjoy playing with my daughter so much more when I choose to turn away any other distractions and find the joy in the moment of truly spending time with her.

  1. Playing outside is good for the soul

When your kids are whining and you feel crazy, just let everyone loose outside! Go out with them of course unless you have older kids who can keep themselves safe (or go out with the big kids too and have fun). Whether you just sit and watch your kiddo play as you take some deep breaths of fresh outdoor air or get in on the action, there is something magical about getting outside. Blow some bubbles, dig in the dirt, play in the sand, go down the slide for heaven’s sake, don’t take yourself too seriously. I know my daughter and I feel 10x better after spending even just 20 minutes outside. We are able to come back inside with fresh minds as we get on to the next thing.

  1. Playdates for the win!

Invite friends over to play! If you haven’t made good friends yet be the brave one to be the first to invite them over. The kids will hopefully entertain each other and wear each other out while you can bond with a fellow parent who is also in need of some adult conversation. Again, we are not meant to do life alone and being a stay at home parent can sure as heck be lonely. Build friendship, build community, go play at other people’s house, and be brave and invite other people to your home.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Life as a stay at home parent can be enjoyable, so make the most of it! Don’t ever undervalue the incredibly difficult job you have raising your child up to be the best person they can be. You rock!

In Blog, Cancer, Infertility, Mama on
April 18, 2018

Surgery, recovery, and anticipating life changing news (that time i had cancer pt. 2)

 

Hey friends. There’s been an awkwardly long gap in between posting about my health journey and cancer diagnosis. Life has been crazy and we’ve had a major unexpected thing happen that we are trying to sort out. I know that is so dang vague and I’m sorry but until it’s sorted out I don’t want to share about it. I will say that we are all healthy, no one is in trouble, and we are striving to find joy amidst a confusing and stressful time. ANYWAY all that to say, I already feel so far removed from my cancer journey because we have this new crazy thing we are dealing with. But I definitely want to sit down and share the rest of my cancer story, so here goes part two.

I left you off last with this “It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.”

I called and they didn’t have an appointment open until a week later.  I asked if they could get me in sooner and she shared they couldn’t but if they had a cancellation she would call me. God is so good and not but 10 minutes later I got a call back that someone cancelled and I could be seen in two days! My appointment day rolled around and my doctor was great. She sat and listened to me and my explanation of my odd symptoms and then did a physical exam. She touched my abdomen and immediately made a shocked face and asked if I had a family history of cancer. Wow that’s not a great question to be asked so quickly. That definitely freaked me out but as the appointment went on and she affirmed me more and more that it was so unlikely it was cancer. She sent me off to get some ultrasounds and bloodwork done and ordered STAT results so that we could find out immediately what we were dealing with. An odd thing while I was getting one of the ultrasounds is when the tech said “did you know you have a retroflexed (backwards) uterus?” I replied I didn’t because going through infertility I had a pretty good knowledge of what my uterus was like (lol) and it was not retroflexed (turns out my tumor was so big that it flipped my uterus backwards. What.).  Anyway, the next morning came around and I was headed to a play date with some of my mama friends and our babies. I was just about to get out of the car when my doctor called. She shared that I had a 21×21 centimeter ovarian cyst with some concerning dark features. It did not surprise me. Something was obviously going on down there. I had what looked and felt like a pregnant belly but definitely no baby inside. We made another appointment to talk about surgery and talk options and then I nonchalantly strolled into the play date and shared the news with my friends. They were shocked that I was so chill about it but after going through all of the crazy reproductive health issues I had this seemed super unideal of course but not shocking.

The next day I went to my appointment. My husband came too because we knew it would be a big appointment with some big decisions to be made. My doctor shared all about the tiny so small eensy weensy chance that my giant ovarian tumor could be cancerous. We talked about all of my options. Seeing an oncologist, getting my surgery with an oncologist, my doctor doing the surgery but making a 12 inch incision in my abdomen so as not to rupture the tumor, or just trusting that the crazy one in a million odds of this thing being cancerous were so low that we would just do a simple laparoscopic surgery with my doctor and she would drain the cyst and cut it up inside me to get it out so that I wouldn’t have an intense multiple month recovery. She talked with the oncologist too about this and he agreed I was probably fine, had me do tumor marker blood work which all came back normal, and then left us with the decision. Ultimately we chose to do laparoscopic with her because we have a busy life and a toddler and we felt so comfortable with the incredibly low odds of cancer that it seemed overkill to do any of the other options.

Surgery day rolled around. The surgery went well and I awoke to the news that my ovarian was in fact a dermoid cyst which is so weird and rare. Y’all.  It had hair, teeth, and rib cartilage in it. What. WHAT.? Fascinating but ew! Oh and we wouldn’t find this out for another week or so but it also had cancer all up in it too. I stayed in the hospital for most of the day and was finally released to go home that night.

The first 3 days of recovery were HORRIBLE. I was in so much pain and so dang nauseous. I guess when you have a 21 cm part of your body removed you don’t feel too cool for a bit. Anyway, we had amazing family and friends doing everything for us. I was on strict bed rest the first 2 weeks so I couldn’t do much of anything for myself or my family. The love we received in form of babysitting, food, gifts, and house cleaning was so beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up. People were SO kind to me and my family and I am forever grateful for that in our great time of need.

 

Where I spent my time recovering.

One week and one day passed. It was a Friday morning and I was lying in bed reading when I got a phone call.  A phone call that changed everything and took away my naïve sense of being totally fine and healthy. It was my doctor’s nurse. She called and said “the doctor received the pathology results and she would like to see you today at 5 when her office closes.” Sucker punch to the gut. I simply said “ok” and said I would be there and hung up. I was so scared. I was too scared to ask or say or hear anything else. My doctor had assured me multiple times that I didn’t need to be seen or looked at until my two week  post op appointment but now all of a sudden she is in a rush to see me on a Friday at the end of a long workday for her with my pathology results. I knew exactly what it meant. I immediately felt like I was dying. Mentally I went to the worst case scenario thinking “my daughter has already lost one mom and now she is going to lose another.”

Friday March 2 was a curveball. One of those curveballs that will forever change your life. Friday March 2 was one of the most difficult, emotional, anxiety ridden days of my life. I was alone most of the day with the knowledge that I was probably not ok but I had no idea what exactly was wrong with me other than it was something big. It felt like a lifetime waiting from 9 am when I got the call to 5 pm when I got to my doctor’s office.

After many hours of the kind of anxiety that takes away your breath and stabs your stomach I told my husband that I just wanted to have an hour with our little family. It was a gorgeous perfect spring day outside so we went to a nearby park and this was also my first time outside in over a week. I chose to block the impending doom of some unexpected diagnosis that would radically change my life just for that hour. To exist, to be a mom, a wife, a person who loves soaking up the sun and gorgeous spring days. We took that hour together and it was perfect. We needed that before all of the crazy hit.

A treasured photo taken during this time at the park.

 

 

In Cancer, Infertility, Mama, Mi Familia on
March 25, 2018

When you get the best of the worst: that time I had cancer pt. 1

Hello dear friends. It’s that time, that time where I sit down and tell you all about my unexpected cancer diagnosis in the last month. That time where I sit down and tell you about my journey through hearing those three little words “you have cancer.” That time where I tell you why I chose joy through the whirlwind of shocking news. That time where I tell you about my God who answered prayers and performed miracles. Wow. Wow. Wow. I put off writing this post for a while because honestly I have been kind of at a loss for words for all that has happened in the past month. I sat down with the intention of this being all in one post but I quickly realized I have a lot of words on this to share, so I am going to break it up into three separate blog posts. Part one (which is this post here) will be about my symptoms and everything that happened before seeing a doctor. Part two will be from the time I saw a doctor, to getting surgery, up to before my cancer diagnosis. Part three will be from the time I was diagnosed with cancer to now. This series of posts might come across a little more dry than my typical writing style because I am sharing a lot of facts. My hope is to share my story for a multitude of reasons some being- I would like to share my signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, to encourage you to see a doctor if you are having obvious concerning issues, to share how and why I could choose joy in a crappy situation, and just because stories are powerful and maybe this will mean something to someone.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I have PCOS and a history of developing less than ideal lady issues like painful ovarian cysts and uterine polyps and I have had surgery twice in the past for these things. Well, in November of 2017 I noticed every time I would pee I would have a super intense crampy feeling, it was always quick and momentary so I ignored it for a while but after a few weeks I told my husband about it and scheduled a doctor appointment. We prayed over it and guess what, it went away. Like immediately. For the next few weeks I didn’t get this crampy feeling anymore so I canceled my appointment in faith that God had healed me. I’ll explain in the next paragraph why I was so quick to cancel my doctor appointment. I didn’t continue to have this symptom but a couple of weeks later I started having intense cramping again off and on but not related to peeing, it would just randomly happen. I felt pretty discouraged because we had prayed and God had taken away the pee cramping, why was I experiencing this new pain? So yet again, we pray, I am fine the next day.

The most concerning symptom started becoming obvious around mid December. I work out a lot and like to stretch, and also like to lay on my stomach on the floor and I started to notice it felt like something hard was in there. I was also having a hard time bending over to put on my shoes without feeling out of breath and I noticed my pants weren’t fitting well. My first thought was could I possibly be pregnant…? Likely not knowing my infertility history but I needed to rule that out so off I went to buy a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was negative. That was fine. I was not sad, I have processed, accepted, and come to peace with my infertility story. So now I knew I wasn’t pregnant so why in the actual heck did I have this weird hard feeling in my abdomen? This is not a normal thing. Well friends, we are in this stage of life where we are kinda pretty poor, (but we are rockin it and making it work) my husband is back in school and I am working part time to stay home with baby girl. Instead of doing the wise thing and scheduling a doctor appointment with this obviously concerning issue I decided I would wait until my annual appointment in March so that I wouldn’t have to pay for it. Well, in hindsight I would do that differently knowing what was really going on (yikes).

Ok, fast forward to the end of January. The feeling in my abdomen is becoming more and more weird and obvious. I even felt like I was starting to actually look pregnant too and I worried I was just gaining weight and I was super frustrated about this. Well the straw that broke the camel’s back finally happened- I went to work out on a Friday morning at 5 am. At the end of the class we were cooling down and laying on our backs and the instructor told us to pull our knees into our chest and clasp our arms around them. Y’all, I used to be a dancer- this is something I have done thousands of times. Well, I could barely even touch my fingers together, I was so uncomfortable, and so out of breath. I came home confused and kind of worried. I laid down on the ground on my back and had my husband come look at my stomach and push around on it. He immediately felt something hard and from that moment on I went into panic mode. I felt like I was dying, I felt like I had a monster inside of me, I wanted it out right that very second. It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.

Not a pregnant belly..

To be continued.

In Adoption, Blog, Foster care, Infertility, Mama, Mi Familia on
February 4, 2018

Adoptive/foster mama, you are not a second rate mom

I’ve heard you talk about it, I’ve felt it myself. The feeling like you or others consider you “less of a mom” because you did not birth your children. I’ve heard you share the hurt of no one offering a baby shower for you when you have announced you are adopting/fostering, or no one starting a meal train for you when you finally get to bring your baby home or after a caseworker drops off your child at a random hour of the night. I see you being left out of the pregnant belly pictures all of your friends take together. The people who consider hand me downs a better option for your foster or adopted child instead of a nice new outfit like your friend who is about to give birth might receive for her child. It’s so frustrating. It hurts. Why can’t you be celebrated in the same way your pregnant friends are being celebrated if in fact you too are just as much of a mom as they are?

Well mama, you are not second rate. Some people might say things that make you feel as such and you might even tell yourself at times you aren’t as much of a mom because you didn’t give birth to your child  or because you didn’t get to nurse your child or maybe you missed months or even years of your child’s life. But guess what- you are just as much of a mom as anyone.

Adoptive mama, you fought hard to bring your child home. You might not have conceived your child, spent 9 or so months growing them, and birthed them but you spent months and possibly years preparing for your child. You prayed about it countless hours, you had difficult conversations with your spouse and family members. You sat through hours and hours and hours of classes. You went through piles of paperwork. You sat through meeting after meeting exposing every tiny and embarrassing part of your life and finances so that someone could judge if you were “good” enough to foster or adopt a child. You prayed fervently for the health and safety of your child and how they would come to you when you didn’t even have the slightest idea of who they were or where they were coming from. Everything about you worked so hard to become a mom and it was all a choice. You didn’t have to do it. But you chose this path and you did it because you are an amazing mom. You are a first rate mom.

Last May was my very first mother’s day. I was 6 or so months into this “momming” gig and I was so excited and grateful to finally get to be recognized as a mom on mother’s day. Six months I had spent keeping my tiny human alive. Feeding her, bathing her, changing her diaper, taking care of blowouts, taking 8,000 photos of her, scheduling dr. appointments, scheduling caseworker visits, cleaning my house from top to bottom for every one of those caseworker visits, buying clothes, going to play dates, YOU GET IT I “mommed” like every other mom out there. Well friends, can I tell you on my very first mother’s day I had someone ask me “so are you celebrating mother’s day today or no…since you aren’t technically a mom?” Wow. Major punch to the gut. For those reading this who aren’t adoptive/foster parents if anything, please take away from this post- don’t do that. Don’t you dare question how much of a mom someone is because their story looks different from yours or what you would expect.

Adoptive mama, you are an amazing mom. God chose such a beautiful path to motherhood for you. It was a hard path to motherhood but you deserve to be celebrated. You are doing the same job as every other mom on the planet. I hope you never doubt how much of a mom you are.

 

In Adoption, Foster care, Mama, Mi Familia on
January 4, 2018

To my daughter’s birth mom

You don’t know anything about me, not even my name. But I know a lot about you.

We are the same age but oh were we dealt different hands.

It’s easy for me to be angry at you.

It is easy for me to point a finger at you and say that you harmed your babies and put them in danger.

But if I sit and think about it, it is also easy for me to lower my finger and want to hug you because the world was not kind to you.

I know I don’t know everything about you but I do know you have had a hard life.

My heart hurts for you because you are doing the only thing you know how to when it comes to coping.

I wish I could tell you that your daughter is safe, that she is healthy, thriving, and incredibly opinionated even only at 15 months old, that she loves being outside, eating , hugging her stuffed animals, seeing dogs and kitty cats, and dancing to music.

There are many times I think about reaching out to you anonymously but I just don’t know if that is a good idea or not.

I want you to know that I think of you often.

I want you to know that when Evy asks about you one day, she will know as much as she wants to and as much as is age appropriate.

I printed off a picture I found of you. It is tucked away and if Evy ever asks for it, I will give it to her.

You are not a secret.

As hard as all of this is, the fact that you got pregnant, endangered your child, and had her taken away, I am grateful. It seems twisted and unfair but the fact that despite every negative choice you made, you chose to bring a beautiful life into this world. That life is my daughter. She is going to make a difference in this world in the best way possible.

I’m sure it might anger you that your greatest heartbreak is my greatest joy.

I care about you. I want you to start making better decisions. I pray for you often. In a weird way I feel close to you.

As a foster and adoptive mom I am not in the business of taking away someone’s precious treasure. After much prayer I signed up to be a safe place, a parent to a child in need. Your child was in need, you were in need, you and I both know you were not in a place to take care of your child. So there I was. Not because I am any better than you. Life is hard and doesn’t always make sense.

You are capable of finding healing. You are worthy of love from your Creator, from your family, from those around you.

It starts with surrendering your hurts, apologizing to those you have hurt because you were hurt first, and with accepting love from others. Much easier said, than done but you can do it. I bet you are stronger than you think.

Your daughter is safe. She is healthy. She is happy.

I pray these things for you as well.

In Infertility, Mama on
December 11, 2017

Never an Afterthought

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a mom and once I got married I had this naive thought that I would get to have my big close knit family the way I had always pictured it. As a kid, not only did I dream of being a mama through having biological kids but I also dreamed of adopting. You see, I thought we would first get pregnant and have a kid or two and then we would start adopting/fostering. Literally as a 10 year old child I wanted this; I even did my 5th grade project on adoption. I remember checking out multiple books and autobiographies from the library on adoption and being so intrigued that I would stay up reading with a flashlight under my covers for hours beyond my bedtime. Adoption was never an afterthought; it was never a plan B whenever we weren’t getting pregnant. I wanted to be a mom through pregnancy just as bad as I wanted to be a mom through adoption. It is really cool how unique and diverse we all are, what we want, what we hope for, what we desire, and I truly believe my heart was always woven in a way to be passionate about loving children that I did not birth.

Even though adoption was just as big of a desire as pregnancy for us, we still had to grieve the hard and unexpected situation of infertility and infertility is HARD let me tell you. That will be another post for another time. In the deepest, darkest throws of infertility I cried out to the Lord one night “if you aren’t going to let me have biological children, you are going to have to take that desire away.” It wasn’t an immediate change of heart but over months of praying this I can tell you he completely changed my heart. We began the foster licensing process and through these months of anticipating a child through this way, the Lord took away my desire for pregnancy. How could it be? Even to this day I am still dumbfounded that thinking about my infertility is not that hard for me anymore. I had always longed for pregnancy, I begged the Lord over and over and over and over. I had some of my hardest moments crying out for healing for my messed up body and fulfillment of my biggest dream, becoming a mom. I noticed as we were wrapping up the licensing process and especially in those first days of having Evy placed with us that I was 100% fulfilled with being a mama in this way. Over time I noticed even more so that I was rarely thinking about pregnancy and even better I was starting to have little to no sorrow whenever I would consider the likelihood that our family would be built through foster care and adoption alone. That reality even became exciting to me.

Y’all, can I just tell you that the Lord is faithful? In my loudest cries to him he heard me and he knew his plan was better. He knew he would mold me and change my heart in a way I couldn’t have expected. The suffering I experienced waiting to become a mom was absolutely worth every single second because it meant I would become mama to my sweet Evy girl. It is so freeing to entrust your life to a God that knows better even when you are pleading and tugging in the other direction. I think many people unfortunately feel quite the opposite, that it is constricting to be a Christian, that it is stuffy and just a book of rules to follow. But there is freedom in Christ. Freedom to throw your hands in the air and just say “Lord, I don’t get you, but I do trust that your plan is better and that I can become closer to you through this and I can become a better and stronger person because of it.” Every now and then I’ll have a little moment of sadness over my infertility. I absolutely believe that it is normal and good to grieve through hard things, but we have to accept them and make the best of them. My infertility has made me a better version of myself. It has opened up so many doors, allowed me to meet so many people and bond with them in an intimate way that I couldn’t have in any other circumstance. It allowed me to become a mama in the exact way God intended for me.

It is totally not impossible for me to become pregnant one day- that would be super cool and miraculous, but I can tell you this- my heart is so full right now. Can I encourage you to bring your hard things to God? He listens, he answers, whenever we seek him and ask for things that align with him, he gives them to us. He gave me the gift of motherhood through foster care and adoption. It was never a plan B for us, never an afterthought, it just happened a little (or a lot) differently than expected, but our story is playing out exactly as it should for our little family.

Today I was at the grocery store and a woman about my mom’s age came up to me. I had noticed she had been eyeing me and my daughter for a few seconds but I figured she thought Evy was just cute. Anyway, she said “can I ask you a fun question?” I thought in my head…fun question..? But out loud said “sure, of course.” The woman asked “is your daughter adopted?” I told her yes and she shared “How wonderful, I have 5 children of my own, all adopted and it has been the biggest blessing of my life.” We talked there in the freezer section for 5 or so more minutes. It was so sweet and encouraging to hear this woman’s story about her thriving family, all adults now, all adopted, but all very much her and her husband’s children. It gave me hope that maybe I’ll be sharing my story one day talking about my big family, all of my children, born from my heart and the desire that God gave us to foster and adopt. I can’t wait to meet all of my children as they come to our family over the years. They are already in my heart. They are so wanted, never an afterthought.

 

Photographs by First Delight Photography.