Saturday, November 30, 2013

25 Days of Kindness: The First 7 Days

I absolutely cannot believe that tomorrow is December first. Today I went on this epic journey through the tops of closets (look, I'm 4'11", closet tops are epic) and the attic to figure out what clever place I hid Jerry the Elf...only to have Mike look for about 3 seconds and find Jerry in a cubby in our closet. (/゚Д゚)/

Anyway, we are all set as far as 25 Days of Kindness (don't even ask me about the rest of the house--let's just say there is a lot of decor debris around). The advent calendar is ready and waiting for the numbers. Jerry is in Mike's desk drawer waiting to be installed in Autumn's room with his kindness assignment on the back of the date card (printable here!). And, we have our first 7 Days of Kindness planned, although things could change:
December 1: Finish Angel Tree shopping, wrap gifts, and deliver them to Mrs. Dede who will take them to the drop off point.
12/2: Make and mail a card for friend's grandfather in rehab.
12/3: Give a thank you card to swim coaches.
12/4: Visit thrift stores and regular stores to purchase (and then wash) uniforms to donate to Memphis Interfaith Hospitality Network.
12/5: At the school book fair, buy a book to give to a friend.
12/6: Deliver uniforms to MIHN.
12/7: Make a picture and cookies for Sunday School teachers.

This week's big project is getting school uniforms for a local emergency shelter. A friend from elementary and high school works there and mentioned that she just gave away the last uniform and how heartbroken she is over kids who are going to school cold. They need all sizes and for boys and girls. Autumn and I are going to go to Goodwill and the Salvation Army to see if there are any gently used items. I have some from last year that no longer fit Autumn, too. And, I'm keeping my eye out for sales to get some new uniforms.

Shelby County Schools students wear collared shirts in any color and blue, khaki, or black pants and skirts. If you'd like to donate any new or gently used uniforms or if you'd like to contribute towards the purchase of these items, email me and we'll connect!

Here's a bit of blog kindness: don't forget to enter the Kiwi Crate Holiday Giveaway! If you know a child who loves art and projects, this would be a fantastic gift!

25 Days of Kindness 2013 Posts:
Introducing 25 Days of Kindness: Ideas Needed!
Free advent printable and more details
Acts of Kindness Cards and Links
25 Days of Kindness: The First 7 Days
25 Days of Kindness: Week Two - Recap of Week 1 and Week 2 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 3 and the Wrap Up

Advent Calendar
Act of Kindness Card

Friday, November 29, 2013

Kiwi Crate Holiday Giveaway! Plus, The Adventures of Kiri Kiwi and the Little Girl...

Once upon a time, there was a happy and imaginative little girl who loved the kiwi from her Kiwi Crate boxes very, very much.

So, not long after school started, the little girl wrote a letter. She wrote the letter to the kiwi!

At the bottom, she drew her very best family picture. The little girl drew her kitty cat Molly, but far away because Molly doesn't like people. She also drew her papa and her mama, but she mixed up the names so her mama was a little too tiny but it's okay. The little girl also added the one she wanted to join her family: Kiwi.

She did her best to write a good, polite note. The little girl wrote it all by herself, hoping that Kiwi would see how hard she worked. She really wanted Kiwi to come for a play date. And, maybe, if Kiwi liked it at her house, they could play together for longer than one day!
"From Autumn. Will you come over to haos we will have a pladat to gever. We will have a grat tie plaey to gedr. You will haf to come tomorow aftr soole."

The little girl gave her letter to her mama to mail to Kiwi. Her mama warned her that Kiwi might not be able to come or that her letter might take a very long time to get to New Zealand where kiwis are from. They even looked for New Zealand on the globe! And it was very, very far away. But every day, she kept hoping and hoping and one day...

The little girl's mama sent her on a scavenger hunt to find a surprise that came in the mail. When the little girl saw the holes in the box she started to get so excited. There was a note. Kiwi (which must be a last name because she now knows his name is Steve) sent his friend Kiri! Kiri came all the way to stay with the little girl!

And, ever since then, they have had so many wonderful adventures. They played hide and seek with the little girl's grandfather.

Kiri and the little girl basked in the sun, reading books on the balcony at the beach.

They read and have story time together.

And Kiri even gets to ride in the baby carrier on trips around the house sometimes!

The little girl is so happy to have Kiri. To make sure she really, really never wants to leave, the little girl made Kiri a super comfy bed in a hat with very soft clothes.

Kiri is a fun friend to have. °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

We love Kiwi Crate so much that I want to offer you a free Single Crate or a Limited Edition Holiday Crate just in time for the holidays!

Get festive with Kiwi Crate's Holiday Creativity Kits! shop now ››Fairy Fun with Kiwi Crate! The perfect gift for kids ages 3-7. shop ››

One lucky winner will get their choice of a Single Kiwi Crate or a Limited Edition Holiday Crate! The contest will run today through Monday, December 2, at 11:59pm, Eastern Time. We'll contact the winner on Tuesday, December 3. Also, this giveaway will be limited to those in the US, US territories, and anyone with an APO address.

To enter, first let the Rafflecopter widget load. Then, you can see the different ways to enter and how many entries each one is worth. Even better? You can tweet or share the giveaway for an entry daily, if you want! The easiest one is to simply leave a comment telling me which crate you think you and your family or friends would most enjoy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monthly Subscriptions make a great holiday gift! Today through Monday Kiwi Crate is offering the Black Friday Weekend Countdown! Click here for your chance to save:
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This post was originally written for our family blog on October 13. None of the photos are posed, if you can believe it!

Fine Print: No purchase necessary. Open to Residents of the United States, its territories, and those with APO Boxes. Must be over 18. Giveaway will end Monday, December 2, at 11:59 PM EST. One winner will be selected at random using Rafflecopter and we will contact the winner on Tuesday, December 3. The winner will be emailed and he or she will have 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be selected. All information provided is solely for the purpose of contacting the winner. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google are not associated with this giveaway and Kiwi Crate is not sponsoring the free crate.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Updates: Good news and an adoption update

I've been saving this one until Thanksgiving because, well, we have a lot to be thankful for--and not just the three things I'm going to talk about in this post. It's funny, Mike and I have often talked about how blessed we are even if the blessings don't look like the typical ones most people share. At the same time, I'm really glad I get to share a few bits of genuinely good news beginning with the smallest item.

I am officially a sub at our local athletic club!! This is one of the things I was really hoping would happen when I first got my certification. Some of our most supportive friends are people we met at that gym and I am so happy to be a part of it. I subbed my first class there this week and it went pretty well. No one left when they saw me and I think almost everyone had a good time even though I'm not much like their regular teacher. Later in December, I get to sub one of our favorite classes for one of the teachers who was a huge encouragement to me during the entire process--she's the one who recommended the trainer I worked with after I recovered from my last surgery.

The second piece of fabulous news is that we are going to meet a birth mom next Wednesday. We know a few details about her but I'll wait to share them until later. She is due December 27 with a boy and we are the only family she is meeting. Bethany actually waited two weeks to contact us so that they could make sure the father wasn't going to be the same kind of issue as last time which is encouraging. Provided she likes us, the tentative plan (tentative until the day he comes home) is that the baby would go to interim care for the 10 day revocation period and then we would bring him home.

Friends have asked if we're anxious or gun shy or anything like that. And, you know, surprisingly none of the above. There's such a long time here with so much uncertainty that it's hard to get way excited. Right now we're just thankful something is happening. It's been silence punctuated by weird news (like our social worker suddenly retiring) for such a long time.

And, last, the same day we got the call that the birth mom wanted to meet us, Mike called me a few hours later and said, "this is a weird day." Which, yes. But I asked why he called to tell me that. Turns out he got a two level promotion at work. We knew something was coming because his work load has become increasingly heavy and his job has changed quite a bit in recent months. But this was a massive surprise. I've been looking at our budget since we bought the car and trying to figure out how in the world we were going to pay for the adoption and the car and all the other things that keep cropping up.

Mike and I were just talking about how to pick up extra side jobs for him and more students for me. Things aren't all sparkles and roses and we're still strategizing around growing my classes and his side work but between this and all the students I do have, we have a little more breathing room starting next month. Plus, I'm super happy for Mike. He's been working so hard and I am so happy that he has a boss now who he likes and respects and who has really been advocating for his team. More than the promotion, it's been cool to see how much Mike has grown professionally in the last couple of years.

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know this season is a hard one for many of us who are missing loved ones for any reason. I pray that there is a measure of comfort for you today.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

25 Days of Kindness: Acts of Kindess Cards and Links

I finished up the Acts of Kindness cards! We'll give these out when we do some of the activities but not all of them. I'm including the link to download this file at the bottom of this post but if this kind of card isn't your cup of tea, there are actually a lot of people doing these kinds of activities out there. I started a pinterest board with links to other blogs and websites and I'll keep updating it with information I come across. There is good stuff out there! You'll find other printables, act of kindness ideas, and just general encouragement about the state of the world!

I have links to some of the ministries and programs we will be working with locally. I have emails out to a few people, including someone from a nursing home, so I'll be posting again, I'm sure. Check these out if you're looking for similar activities or would like to join us!

Urban Bicycle Food Ministry
We are going to make care packages for the homeless this ministry serves. From the email: Simply take a one-gallon zip lock bag and place basic, necessity items in them. Some good suggestions are: handwarmers, wool socks, hand sanitizer, lotion, hygiene products, snacks, or basically anything you can come up with. From their facebook page: We are still in need of supplies! We need snacks of all types: chips, beef jerky, fruit, etc. We also need blankets, jackets, cold weather gear, hand warmers, etc.

Memphis Interfaith Hospitality Network
We are going to donate some school uniforms to this group. A friend from high school works here and I am also trying to find out if there are any chores around the facility that we can help with.

Shelby County Food Pantries
My friend Mimi sent me this list. We'll probably do some shopping and take items to one of these food pantries, I'm not sure which one yet.

Grown Up Christmas Wish List
A local radio station is sponsoring a wish list for adult shut ins. Check out the link for names. I emailed with the adults we would like to give gifts to and asked for more details about when/where to drop off gifts.

25 Days of Kindness 2013 Posts:
Introducing 25 Days of Kindness: Ideas Needed!
Free advent printable and more details
Acts of Kindness Cards and Links
25 Days of Kindness: The First 7 Days
25 Days of Kindness: Week Two - Recap of Week 1 and Week 2 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 3 and the Wrap Up

Advent Calendar
Act of Kindness Card

Sunday, November 24, 2013

25 Days of Kindness: Free Advent Printable

I had really fantastic responses to our 25 Days of Kindness project! I've contacted some local ministries with varying amounts of luck getting answers. I'm still looking for someone with contacts at a nursing home if anyone in the Memphis/Shelby County area has any ideas for me. I've updated the original post to include some of the newest ideas.

I decided that our Elf on the Shelf Jerry is going to deliver our kindness assignments! I wasn't ever way pumped about the elf but after Lainey gave us the book last year, I ended up having a lot of fun with it. I figure that Jerry can show up, do his thing, and bring the little cards that we can then put into our homemade advent calendar.

At the end of this post, I'm going to include a link for anyone to download the advent calendar I made! It isn't anything earth-shatteringly amazing but it's free and, I think, pretty cute. I should have put it into a picture frame or something--if I find one I'll do it--but I just used clear thumb tacks to attach the red and white twine to the wall in the playroom! Autumn and I covered clothespins with some scrap fabric with hot glue. For the cards, I made four different backgrounds and used four fun fonts to make the dates 1-24. The 25th is a star that goes at the top of the "tree."

The lighting in that corner is really weird so that above photo is kind of terrible but you get the idea. I've taken it all down and all that is hanging on the wall is the twine and the thumb tacks. Beginning December 1, Jerry will bring one date card every morning. On the back, we'll get our kindness assignment. I thought it might be a fun way to make Jerry and Christmas in general a little less about us and a little more about giving to others.

If you'd like to download the advent calendar, go to this dropbox link. If there are any issues with the file, contact me. I recommend printing this on white cardstock. If you end up using it, send me a photo!

Coming soon: Acts of Kindness cards!

25 Days of Kindness 2013 Posts:
Introducing 25 Days of Kindness: Ideas Needed!
Free advent printable and more details
Acts of Kindness Cards and Links
25 Days of Kindness: The First 7 Days
25 Days of Kindness: Week Two - Recap of Week 1 and Week 2 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 3 and the Wrap Up

Advent Calendar
Act of Kindness Card

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

25 Days of Kindness: Ideas Needed!

Last year we did an advent calendar for the first time. Nothing fancy, just some stars on a ribbon. This year, I want to do something a little different. I looked at different calendars out there, both purchased and homemade and I ran across this idea from the blog I Heart Nap Time:

How cool is that? Theirs is 25 days of service but I think we will do 25 days of kindness. I'm having a little bit of a hard time coming up with ideas, though. I want to do things that Autumn can do along with us, for the most part. I'd like her to use her own money sometimes and family money other times when money is called for. I'm also looking for local ideas--like bringing something to women's shelters or to children in need. Or donations we could bring to a particular animal rescue mission. I know I have friends who are missionaries, public servants, or connected to people in need and I'd love to hear your input. I have a few ideas in mind but haven't really started putting them down until right now. I need to get a move on! Here is what I have so far. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them here, by email, or on Twitter or Facebook! I'll post an update when I have our 25 days set.

Bring hot chocolate to bell ringer.
Send home made card to Mrs. Mary.
Send card to a special friend.
Choose a worldvision gift.
Make cookies for Papa's coworkers.
Leave a gift for the mail person.
Give cookies to the librarians.
Buy 2 dollar tree gifts to give away.
Take Lula to dinner and leave a nice tip.
Visit Nanny and Boppa and help with a chore.
Smile at everyone and give nice compliments.

Update: I'm adding ideas as people give them to me!
Write a love letter for
Send a picture to a friend's grandfather in surgery rehab.
Decorate a nursing home resident's room (anyone have contacts in a nursing home?).
Give a gift card to a cashier.
Make a care package for homeless group (link to come).
Donate cans to church food pantry (links to come).

25 Days of Kindness 2013 Posts:
Introducing 25 Days of Kindness: Ideas Needed!
Free advent printable and more details
Acts of Kindness Cards and Links
25 Days of Kindness: The First 7 Days
25 Days of Kindness: Week Two - Recap of Week 1 and Week 2 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Plans
25 Days of Kindness: Week 3 and the Wrap Up

Advent Calendar
Act of Kindness Card

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Then and Now: Family Photos with Elizabeth!

It's been a little over two years since we had family photos taken. I know it's silly but I told Mike after Autumn was born that it was really important to me that we have family pictures because we didn't really have them when I was a kid. Here's one that my dad took before my brother was born:

Dawwww, weren't we all so cute. Anyway, we were hoping that we'd be able to do another family session with our friend/family photographer Elizabeth when we adopted but, well, it's been two years and I didn't want to wait any more. She had some fall mini sessions available and I grabbed a slot. Mike was surprisingly chill about it. I suspect he likes having cute pictures of us, too. :) Like this one...

I think that's going to be our Christmas card (I am, incidentally, completely out of ideas for our christmas card). This one is a possibility, too.

Here's the thing that's amazing about this session. We got soooo many great photos in just 20 minutes!! We got Autumn with and without her beret. Lainey, of course, provided this adorable outfit. Mike and I coordinated our clothes around her. We're so silly but it's fun.

I think this one really gets Autumn's fun personality. Like her giant bracelet? That was all her. She also spent a lot of time collect the pieces of grass you see in all of her photos. Autumn's tongue cracks me up. She did the same thing in our last set of pictures.

I like this one, too.

Mike and I came out pretty well in this session, I think. I'm definitely going to have to get one of these framed.

Over the years:




Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sick Days

Yesterday I was standing at the stove making soup and feeling sentimental about my paternal grandmother who was the first person to cook with me. Mike was sitting at the table talking to me and I mentioned that when I'm sick I think I might get a little mushy. Mike kind of snorted and said he could tell I wasn't feeling well because I didn't have any fire in me. Ha.

The weather changing plus a foolish one day trek to Georgia and back (more on that later) meant that I got a nasty sinus infection or something. I've been viciously fighting back, though! I am resting whenever I can. I went for acupuncture on Monday. Today the chiropractor did something magical and vaguely painful to my face. I'm taking medicine. I deployed the neti pot. And I have this canvas bag that goes everywhere with me. It has a box of tissues (I've, um, been through 4 boxes), vaseline for my poor nose, my wallet, cough drops, and a bottle of water, not pictured because I dropped the top and was too pitiful to look for it under the bed. Wah!

All that is for three reasons. One, I hate being sick. Two, I just started a new kickboxing class and I really don't want to sub it out yet. And three, I have an audition at the gym where I've been really, really, really wanting to work tomorrow. So. If you think of it, please pray that my voice at least temporarily rallies like it did for my Wednesday class. It didn't come back for aikido today so I told my assistant Emma what to say and she'd say it loudly.

Also, I am happy to say that I applied to be a Kiwi Crate affiliate and they accepted me! You'll see the banner in my sidebar now and I'm thinking about doing a crate giveaway. Would there be any interest in that? Let me know! I did a post on the family blog about Autumn and the little kiwi she carried everywhere before I did the affiliate thing--I applied because I love Kiwi Crate so much. When I finally completed the process, I contacted the Kiwi Crate folks about reposting it here and doing a giveaway just to make sure it was okay. The person who emailed me said it was fine and even suggested I enter a blogging contest they are hosting. Fun! Anyway, if you're looking for a fun Christmas gift, definitely check out Kiwi Crate and look out for my Introducing Kiri Kiwi post. If there's interest, that will be a giveaway, too!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Weekend of DISARMS

I fully intended to write this post sooner but what I didn't count on was having to finish all of the things I didn't do while I was having fun over the weekend, haha. Not too bad. Just taking down our few Halloween decorations and packing them into the attic and sorting my piles of school work and aikido papers that have accumulated. Ah! It never ends.

Anyway, the Kang Rhee school a couple of towns over brought down Chuck Pippin of Innovative Martial Arts. He usually comes with Don Young but Don didn't make it this time. We're hoping that when Chuck comes back in the spring to visit our Aikido school, Don will be able to make it! Here's Chuck P. attempting to stab Chuck S. (who is my martial arts big brother and acupuncturist friend) during a demo. The friends who stab together are fab together?? Yeah, that was bad.

Patrick, who has been in Aikido for about a year and a half, came to the seminar and did really well, especially considering he's only seen this kind of material once in a seminar and on the occasions I can work it into a regular class. On Saturday we worked on knife disarms. I have always liked the Combat Training Concepts teaching methodology because it takes something ugly like knife work and breaks it down for people who have never picked up a knife much less tried to block one. And, even better, students are encouraged to take on the roles of coach and trainee depending on who is feeding the attack. I really believe this removes a lot of the ego and fear that martial arts and self defense training often brings out in students.

Sunday we had a significantly smaller crowd so we moved through the material pretty quickly since it was a refresher for most of us. It's funny, when we're doing these disarms, they happen pretty fast and hard so when I see the stopped motion in the photo, it kind of looks like we're just giving our weapons away! But it's really that we're getting yanked around, haha.

I had an odd assortment of bruises come Monday morning. It isn't that we're going hard. I've learned over the years to be moderate at seminars because otherwise I end up hurting and bruised for days. So this time it was mainly that most people would hit the same place on my arm every stinking time they blocked! Once, I paired up with Chuck S. and when I blocked him he said, "Oh, thank God. You're hitting a different part of my arm." I knew exactly what he meant. I tend to catch with the back of my arm out of habit from practicing with knives (less chance of bleeding out if that's cut) and unless I shear with my forearm, it's not too bad on my partners. Anyway, one of my weird bruises was on the front of my chest/shoulder when I held the fake machine gun. That's Matt, the same martial arts little brother who has drawn a number of pictures of Autumn!

And, of course, I had to take my turn. This is one of those moments where it looks really cool in person but not so much in a picture! In motion, it's fun (and encouraging to new people) to watch someone my size tear a gun from someone Matt's size. But a photo still? He looks mildly irritated at my buzzing around, hahaha.

Tiredness plus too many movies plus fake guns equals Charlie's Angels Gender Bender, also featuring one of Chuck S.'s students Rob. I think I shall call them Sharaze's Angels. Speaking of movies and books and stuff, if I ever write a book, my heroine is going to attack the bad guys with a sock full of dimes. So random but it's one of the amusing things that will come up at a gathering such as this.

Now, doesn't that make you want to come do some martial arts with me?? YOU KNOW IT DOES. Oh, hey, I'll close out with this. Today our kids' Aikido classes were in the hallway because the church was preparing the room we usually train in on Thursdays for a craft fair this weekend. I didn't bother putting on a uniform or anything and after some rolls and a warm up, we rolled up the mats and headed to higher ceilings to do a little bokken (wooden sword) practice. I let the kids strike at me while I blocked. Emma my preschool assistant snapped this for me. I LOVE IT:
Autumn rocking that bokken!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween Recap!

It's a CTC seminar weekend and I am SO TIRED. I'm not as tired as I have been in the past, thank goodness. I think it's probably that I have more stamina but also we didn't get through all the stages today because there were a lot of beginners. This also meant I had more teaching/helping time than pounding or pounding on time, haha. We aren't super hard core in these seminars but hours of bumping the same part of the forearm repeatedly can make a person feel a bit delicate. I'm super excited because with the time change, I get an extra hour to laze around. Although the flip side is that it gets darker earlier, blah.

I did want to get my post recapping our crazy, fun week up before I get really out of gas after tomorrow's session! This week was, omg, a mess. The best kind. We had THREE parties. Er. Events. I think I'll just cover Thursday right now and hit the other things tomorrow or Monday, but we hosted our second annual Halloween Not a Party. I called it a Not a Party so I wouldn't go crazy. It's supposed to be a few friends coming over and eating chili, going trick or treating and then having cocoa. And that's what we did! It was great. I made a regular red chili and a new white turkey chili that was pretty good. I didn't do printables other than the banner from last year but I did have a lot of chili toppings and I froze grapefruit slices to put in the water. We had a nice gathering of old friends, new friends, neighbors, and family! Here are the kids getting ready to roll out.

They were so cute! We've been working our way up over the years. We did the cove. Then the cove plus a few houses on the main street. And this year? THE WHOLE BLOCK, BABY. Well, Autumn got to the last 4 or 5 houses and was all, "I AM DONE." So, we went back with a couple of the other younger kids while the older ones finished up and met us back at the house. We all took pictures under the banner. I was a 50's housewife! I wanted Mike to wear business clothes and carry a cocktail but he wouldn't. Wah! And those crocs, they buuuuuurn. But, he was a great sport about this weekend of socialness so I'll give him a pass. Thank you, Mike!!

I am seriously considering retro hair every day of my life. Between this costume and last years Children's Ball dress, I have never gotten so many compliments in my life. I recently started wearing my makeup a little differently, too. I've tried for a slightly retro look and ended up just doing what I always do makeup-wise only going a touch darker. This picture isn't great but, really, I might have to sleep in curlers more often. The outfit is just something I had in the closet, a shirt and a skirt. I ordered a petticoat because there's another dress I want to wear it with as a church outfit. The apron came with one of Autumn's cookbooks, funny enough!

I just had to show you this. Autumn and Ellie are sooo cute!! I love that they got to hang out on Halloween!

Incidentally, I was so caught up in Halloween that I didn't get to do my sunset photo to close out Capture Your Grief. Consider this my sign off on that blogging event. Friends, family, a party, fun costumes, smiles, and hot cocoa. Can't beat that for proof that life and love can and will go on even through the bittersweetness of knowing that one sweet little face is missing. Thank you for walking through the journey with me. The whole journey, not just one month out of the year.

More next time on a dinner of martial artists, Lainey's suprise party, and the CTC seminar!