My Thoughts On Riots…More Heartbreak…More Damage

In wake of recent events, I think few of us have escaped the images on our screens and newspapers after the rioting broke out. No matter what your view of the Ferguson decision is, I think we can all agree that the rioting is heartbreaking. News stories like these grab the attention of even the most sheltered news consumer.

I have often been guilty of turning off the TV during times like these. To shut it out and pretend it isn’t happening. My life is easier that way. My soul, lighter. But this summer the news of persecution in Iraq threw me for a loop and I was challenged to approach difficult news differently. While I don’t write about emotionally charged topics like these often, sometimes I can’t sleep until I do. In fact, I’ve written and rewritten this post several times, searching for peace-of-mind over these events in the haven of writing. Here are my thoughts and reflections – I apologize in advance that they are a bit jumbled; this is hard to wrap my head around.

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “ri·ot (noun): is a situation in which a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way”

I guess if rioting had a purpose, it would be to attract attention. So, in that way, I guess the rioters in Ferguson achieved their purpose.

Attention.

However, I must say, the effectiveness of rioting goes no further. The kind of attention they have drawn does nothing for their ’cause’.

Now, I am a suburb-living, stay-at-home mom, living a generally sheltered life. So let me be CLEAR that I make ZERO claim to know whether this decision served justice or not. It is not mine to decide and I am so far removed that I would consider myself far too ignorant to pass judgement. Please don’t read into these words as me saying what was right or wrong about the incident that sparked these riots. What I am pondering here is the riot that ensued. What I know is that what has resulted from the decision is utter chaos.

And yes, rioters, we are ALL seeing this; WE SEE YOU.

But instead of making me want to understand what has transpired, and who has been hurt and why, I find myself shrinking back, and just SAD. This behavior isn’t going to change or fix anything. A riot is painful to watch; painful to ponder.

Damage being done to the physical property of residents of the community, BY other residents. And to what end? Neighbor against neighbor. Creating a greater rift between the people and those who swear to protect it. And which of those store owners who were looted were involved in the event that sparked this? On what planet did their store and livelihood deserve to be the punching bag for your unleashed anger?

Where healing is needed…an already deep wound is instead ripped open. Exposed. Infected.

Uncontrolled anger and hate is a tangled and sticky web, snatching up more as it spreads. Those whose lives were already at risk serving the people are at even greater risk of harm.  In danger, just because of their uniform as people stew in emotion.  A riot can begin from just ONE person, intent on violence. I wonder if those who began this riot were trying to express an opinion, or just to stir up trouble and cause chaos? I wonder if the decision had been different if the riot would have occurred anyway?

Whether the anger and hurt are justified or not, these actions are NOT.

I’m sure some who joined in the chaos did so because they got swept up in the moment and did what others were doing.  I’m guessing many ended up where they maybe didn’t intend to be. These hurt, frustrated, and at-the-end-of-their-rope people rioting in the streets, requiring force to be subdued to restore the peace. People finding themselves arrested. Jailed. Now a part of criminal acts against their own city. For many, a city they actually love.

Was it worth it?

As the national guard and police restore the calm…the peace is fleeting. A mask. Covering the swell of emotion, rising up, and uncontrolled. Deep rooted. Bubbling over. What has been accomplished here? Nothing. Just more damage.

The damage is much more than bruises, burned cars, and broken glass. The cost is higher than the insurance claims. Riots perpetuate despair. Afterwards, all eyes have seen the emotions, but little has been accomplished. Now those who have felt wronged are seen as wrong.  Their purpose of being seen has certainly been accomplished, but they’ve tarnished our empathy. The problem isn’t their emotions; they may have been justified in feeling hurt, angry, bitter. In fact, I have no doubt that the emotion they felt was powerful and painful and awful…it was the ACTIONS that were born out of those emotions that were not right.

Now they have taken what is already a deep-seated issue that needs miraculous healing and have made it worse. Adding to the pain. Adding to the fear. Adding to the damage. Collateral damage. There was no healing here. No pain was relieved. Instead, this historical, emotional pain leaves another physical scar.

And it breaks my heart.

Riots for this reason are not new. Perhaps you remember Cincinnati in 2001. It has happened before but we haven’t prevented more from happening. And as of now, I don’t see an easy way to prevent this from occurring again. This is not a post saying I know how to fix this. I don’t. The solution is not clear-cut. It will take WORK from all in our country, or history will repeat itself in a different city, as it has before.

So while I can’t fix this, I can do my part to step back and ponder if I can do my part to love others. If I can do my part to make sure my actions do not cause others to hurt, or to feel that lashing out is OK. On days like these, especially before a holiday when we’re supposed to gather together and express our gratefulness, we must consider how our actions affect others.

We must realize that justice is only rightly served by God. People are, well, human. Flawed. And our system is equally flawed. Regardless of the issue being decided, someone will always disagree. This is WHY we have courts to decide these things, or we’d have vigilantes deciding for us. The emotions will be strong any time a life has been lost and people have been hurt. Because we love and miss what is lost. I know the rioters are hurting. I have no words to soothe them.

When we lose what we love, why respond with hate? No matter how much it hurts, hating never brings a GOOD solution. It brings more darkness. More pain. More grief. We must THINK before we ACT. And see the long-term consequences of our actions. We must learn that emotions betray us and that they can lead us down a very dark, and destructive path. We must think about how our actions teach children, and how they will learn to either promote peace, or chaos by our actions. 

Chaos and hate are dangerous things. Adding to pain, fueling the fire where emotion has been smoldering, waiting for a chance to erupt.

There are some deep and very real issues at the root of this riot. As a society, we must acknowledge those issues and the hurt and pain associated with them. As a Christian, I know that we are the ones who need to lead the way. We are called to LOVE others by the one who CREATED love. And we are called to love with not just a ‘feeling’ but with action – With a sacrificial, laying-down-MY-rights-for-another kind of love. When so much hurt and hate has ruminated like this for so long…only love can overcome.

While I am saddened by these riots, I find myself angry. But I don’t see how my anger helps anything. I’ve written this post 4 or 5 times in the past couple days, and pretty much every word has been typed, deleted, and rewritten. As I mentioned at the beginning, it has been very difficult for me to write about this, to find words, any words, that adequately describe the mixed emotions I have been thinking and feeling. And now that it’s written, I am sure I could rewrite it again a few more times, but at some point, I need to move on. To think of happier things.

To move to action. But what action? Here are the best I can come up with for now:

First I need to set aside my own anger. While the riots do infuriate me, today I set aside my anger and say that I know I don’t understand where the rioters are coming from. Who am I to judge? I have no right to judge them. So while I do not condone the actions performed by the rioters, I also know that they are hurting. Not a surface level hurt, but a deep and profound, hurt. I won’t diminish it. They don’t know what else to do. I decide to love them and to pray for them. And I ashamedly admit that I was not ready to pray for them yesterday – I know that isn’t right. Lord, forgive me for my OWN anger. It only adds to the problem.

Today, I pray for softened hearts around the country. Hearts open for healing. Hearts willing to seek change and to lift others up when hurting, rather than lashing out and causing more harm. And I pray for the country to stand up and choose hope and love over hurt and hate.

And I pray for a mighty healing work to overcome the hate, so the next riot doesn’t happen. 

I’d love to live in a world without riots. Wouldn’t you?

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Thanksgiving – Are You Feeling It?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

It’s coming…

Whether you celebrate with family or friends, and whether you eat turkey or something completely different, Thanksgiving is almost here.

I remember how when I was working Thanksgiving week (and any other short-week) ended up crazy-busy. There was always a rush to complete last minute projects before the holiday. And while I remember most people being cheerful, it was often a stressful time.

But this year is different.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that looming holiday stress. But it presents differently since I stay at home with the kids now. Instead of work deadlines to meet, I have errands to run, activities to attend with the kids and a husband who travels often. The pressures are different but still exist.

But this year is also different because I’ve been doing my best to focus on gratitude so when stress comes, I can look upon it with a different perspective.

And you know what?

It’s working.

Sure, I’m still struggling in some circumstances to be grateful. In fact, if you lived with me, you could have called me out during plenty of those ungrateful moments. They most certainly occurred.

This year, I feel like ungrateful moments have been shorter in length and that, in general, I’m actually experiencing the gratitude and the joy that is talked about this time of year.

It’s a wonderful thing. Beautiful, really.

My son and I have been making note of what we’re grateful for, daily, since November 1. We’ve made an effort to find something NEW to be grateful for each day, so there are no broken records here.

Inspired by this, we made our own index card calendar journals, and bought 2 containers for $1 at Target in the dollar section.

My son's and my gratitude journals for November

My son’s and my gratitude journals for November

Inexpensive. Simple. Effective.

My barely-4-year old son’s choices are simple. Sometimes they’re just food (aka. grapes are his favorite food and were his FIRST entry), but often times they are someone, or something that he encountered that day.  He’s really starting to get the hang of it and isn’t asking ME what HE is grateful for anymore. After the first week, he began to freely come up with his own answers.  In fact, some days he was on such a gratitude roll, we made lists.

We then apply his gratitude list to how God has blessed us in this way.

For me, the daily recording is a way to look at life and the experiences we have each day, and actually pause to recognize the blessing and the joy experienced from those moments.

At Thanksgiving dinner, does your family go around and say what each person is grateful for? Have you given it any thought?

Perhaps instead of a generic answer this year you can give a well-thought out answer…

Perhaps in thinking of your answer, you will find your spirit lifted, and the JOY seeping in…

And perhaps you will find that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with turkey

Perhaps there will be more things than you have time to share…

It’s OK if it takes practice to think this way.

Gratitude doesn’t always come easy or we would all be joy-filled.

Are you feeling it?

Here’s my sons answers for the past 25 days (my list became more of a novel than a list so I won’t publish it here).

aidenHappy Thanksgiving!

I am THAT Allergy Mama: Something Good HAS To Come From All Of This {6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy}

There Must Be Good That Comes From This: Here are 6 life-skills our kids can develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Something good HAS to come from all of this..6 life-skills our kids CAN develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Yes, calling out ‘benefits’ of food allergies may be putting on rose-colored glasses. But I am a mama who needs to see that there is good that comes from such strenuous effort and from these challenging experiences. I need to know that there are things I can do to help my child thrive in the midst of something very serious and not-so-fun.

Food allergies can be incredibly scary for parents and children who live with the reality that food can cause harm. In no way by writing this, am I saying that food allergies are desirable; all of us would rather not deal with them and put our Epi-Pens prescriptions to rest. But what I AM saying is this: as parents of children with food allergies, we are charged to not only teach our children to navigate food safely, but to make the most of the experiences they encounter. And yes, this is also true of parents whose children do not have food allergies; we need to make the most of WHATEVER experiences they have.

What does that mean for us? It means we praise and encourage skills and character traits that are both required for safety and developed as a result of having a food allergy. All those lessons in label reading, asking questions and in developing personal discipline and responsibility can be an opportunity for you, your child, and family. Despite our fears, and the harsh reality when a reaction occurs, something good can and will come of all of this, if we are committed to it.

The key word here is can. While a select few children will harness these skills on their own, most need our help. We help them apply their food allergy skills to other areas of life. Instead of raising children who view their allergy as a hindrance, we can help them see it as an experience that taught them life lessons and skills that they will actually use as adultsAs we teach the skills they NEED to keep themselves safe, we can champion their efforts, recognize their growing independence, and encourage their empathy for others.

But before listing the skills and character traits we can encourage, we must first ask ourselves…How do I view my child’s allergy? What do I convey to them? Do my attitudes, words and actions reflect that I am annoyed with it, frustrated by it, or hindered by it? They are looking to US to see how to act. Our attitudes must show that we will make the most of this. We must make it our goal to equip, empower and trust these little ones…first with a little, and step by step, we will have to trust them a LOT….they won’t be in our care 24/7 for very long. It starts with US.

It is my goal to make sure our child knows I am in their corner. That I am doing what I NEED to be doing to keep them safe, and at the same time, they need to do the same. There are times when a feeling is hurt, a food can’t be eaten, a child is excluded, or a reaction happens and all they need is someone to grieve with and to be comforted by. I’m there. But otherwise, I want to be sure they know to be proactive and take necessary precautions, but to also ENJOY life. I want them to tangibly know what they are learning from this, and that they will succeed in other areas because of what they’ve learned and endured.

6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

1. Food Awareness and Healthy Choices

In a society filled with wide availability of sugar, fat, and sodium packed foods, there is value in knowing that what we put into our body MATTERS. Children with food allergies and their parents KNOW this on a whole new level. Why not use this food-awareness as a stimulus for life-long healthy eating habits? With intentional education from us, these safe, and healthy food habits will promote a lifetime of food choices for our whole family. Here are a few of the lessons we intend to pass on to our children (allergic or not):

  • Label Reading Fosters Wise Decision-Making: In general, the more food is processed, the more likely it can be cross contaminated with a food allergen. AND the more likely it is loaded with less-than-healthy additives. Diligence is key and can be taught NOW. Teaching that we read labels not only to check for an allergen, but also to see if it is healthy. You know, you are what you eat – It may not be scientifically proven, but I am convinced that if you eat enough processed, high sodium food, that you can pickle your body from the inside out! Food allergy kids and parents have to read the label anyway, so why not read it together and make wise decisions together?
  • Whole Foods are Safer and Healthier: Even with diligent label reading, we all know from recalls that the label isn’t always right. WHOLE, RAW fruits and vegetables and plain, unflavored meats are safest. Not only is the raw food less likely to be contaminated, but is packed with natural nutrients. They are also free from strange chemicals with complex names that I used to use for science experiments in the genetics lab.
  • Cooking at Home Promotes a Love To Cook:  Watching and helping a parent cook creates lasting memories and imparts life-long skills. Sure, it takes longer to let a 4-year-old help, but it is worth it. I hope his future wife appreciates that he will know how to cook before he leaves his stay in this house.
  • Knowledge is Powerful: A child with a food allergy and their siblings simply HAVE  to know more about food than others.  It goes with the territory; they know about cross contamination, manufacturing, and how reactions happen. It is my hope that knowledge about how allergies work will someday generate curiosity about science and drive our children to search for their own answers.
  • Passing on Dessert is a Good Idea: As adults, we all know that passing on dessert is a good skill. In an allergy household, pre-made desserts can be particularly difficult to find allergen-free, so food allergies often make baked goods a rare treat. Instead, fruit at the end of our meal has become our go-to dessert; grapes, blueberries, and strawberries are the coveted ‘treats’. These kids won’t expect a baked or creamy treat after every meal because most have not grown up that way.

2. Empathy

Any child who has sat alone at a nut-free table, been excluded from an activity or treat, or had an allergic reaction knows how important it is to have the support of others. Or, even better, someone to step into it with you and pass on dessert WITH you. When they see others going through their own struggles (food or otherwise), it is my hope that they will be better equipped to come alongside others and meet them where they’re at.

As parents, we can guide and encourage our children to reflect on how they have felt in similar situations. We can teach them how to ask questions to understand what others are going through, and how to stand by them and lift them up. It excites me how this will affect them long-term. These kids are going to be some of the most kind and loyal friends out there.

3. Appreciation

Many of us take the freedom we (and our kids) have to eat whatever we want, for granted. Our family never will again. We feel the occasional pang of jealousy or disappointment when a nutty treat is being passed around. And frankly, it will hurt when we see our child hurt. But we will also be proud when he makes the right choice. But, because of those moments, we have learned that where disappointment and self-control is great, so is delight, surprise, and gratefulness when it goes the other way.

When someone makes a special effort to buy or make a dessert my son can eat, it brings delight; he knows it is really special.  We recently attended a birthday party where a parent did her own research and found a store that will sterilize all their equipment to make nut-safe cupcakes (you know who you are-THANK YOU isn’t enough). When that nut-free cupcake was placed in front of my son, he looked at me and said, “But mama, doesn’t it have nuts?”.  I was first proud that he asked first, on his own, and then it was my pleasure to explain that his friend’s mom had gone out of her way to make sure he could have one. His surprise was evident and the look on his face was so sweet.

To say he was grateful is an understatement. He will always know it is a privilege when someone makes a special effort on his behalf. These lessons foster a sense of gratitude that only experience can teach.

4. Self-Advocacy

I recently read this article, which states that children may develop helplessness from their food allergy experience. Helplessness? Sigh. Initially, I was offended. But as I read the whole article, I saw how my PARENTING will largely decide whether this is true. Fear and the knowledge of the danger in food makes it hard for me NOT to control every aspect of their food and environment. But while we need to do our part to keep them safe (and do it WELL), we also need to make sure they are learning to do the same on their own. Whether they’re only 2, or 3, or 4, or…

The article did change my thinking and motivate me. Instead of asking all the questions for my son, we need to help my son learn to ask questions, NOW…This doesn’t mean that we don’t keep asking those food allergy 20-questions before we get together. These questions still need to be asked and I will continue to advocate for my child! But it DOES mean that we need to take the time to help our child learn WHAT to ask, WHEN to ask (always), WHY it is important, and HOW (respectfully, kindly) to ask. In essence, to practice self-advocacy.  As they learn this skill, it will be our job to show them how to use it in others areas of life, and on behalf of others.

5. Real Faith

There are just some things that parents can’t provide on a life-changing, fulfilling level; we are limited, but God is not. When a child finally understands the gravity of what a life-threatening food allergy means, they will need all the hope, comfort and faith they can get. This can only come from a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ our savior.

Tell them when you pray for them; they should know the prayers being said on their behalf and understand that their parents are putting their trust in the Lord’s protection. As they get older and express their own fears and frustrations, it will be time to share some of your own and to show them how you have worked through them with the Lord’s help. Being honest about our struggles and how the Lord helps us will be a powerful example for them to emulate. We will teach our son how we know that no matter what happens, the Lord will be with us ALL as we walk through it.

When our children grapple with their own fear and discouragement (allergy related or not), we WILL turn their faces towards the One and Only God. We will teach them verses about worry, God’s protection and our reliance on Him to meet our needs. We will demonstrate what faith looks like; how we need to do OUR part (wise choices, proactive planning, and carry medications), and then, when we can do no more, how we rely on God to do HIS part.

I can’t think of any better skill to equip them with.

 6. Accountability and Responsibility

A child with a food allergy is responsible for a LOT, at a young age. They need to be aware of their surroundings, what is in EVERY bit of food or beverage they consume, and are responsible for expensive medications that they will need to know how to self-administer. It is a lot on their plate. They need our encouragement, guidance, and TRUST. They need us to equip them as best we can, making sure they understand consequences, and then, we need to pray for them, and let them go….to school, to a friend’s house, to an activity…I feel like this goes without saying, but, when they return from…[insert activity]….we need to hold them accountable. We will ask questions about how they made decisions and we will praise their efforts to be safe, correcting when necessary.

When we make it to the Epi-Pen expiration date and not only has it not been needed, but they haven’t lost it, froze it, or heated it up…that is worth celebrating. When parents, teachers, or their friends mention how our children are being diligent when we’re not there, we need to tell them how proud that makes us.

These are 6 skills, but there are plenty more. Our experiences can make or break us. Lets make sure our children’s allergy experiences (good and bad) are a starting point for something wonderful.  There is no doubt that these lessons will take time and effort. It will often be faster to just do it for them. But, bear with it. The long-term outcome will pay dividends; not only will they be safe, but will excel in many areas as a result.

Our kids are pretty amazing people, whether they have allergies or not. All of these skills (and more) can be learned by any child, but our food-allergic children and their siblings have experiences that require them.

Oh, they are going to be some neat kids…And I can’t wait to see them as adults.

It’s No Wonder That As Women, We Question What We Should Look Like – I Want Something Different For My Daughter (and Son)

Whatever IS

As yet another week ends with viral news spreads of a woman showing a little too much (and doing so proudly), I find myself frustrated with the world my daughter will grow up in. She is only one and a half, but already, I am concerned for her future self-image; body image, self-worth, and what attributes she has that she’ll see as valuable.

I thought about linking to the most recent story, but I’m not going to spread it further and make you want to look.

You know the type I’m referring to, so save your eyeballs, and just keep reading.

When I was my daughter’s age, this type of behavior was considered scandalous. Don’t you remember when Madonna was considered too risqué? I wish we could go back to THAT, and even that is more than I want her to think is OK.

Today, it’s merely a blip of photos gone viral, only to be outdone by someone else on Monday. Instead of being rightly shocked and appalled, we are so inundated with it that we barely bat an eye. Some have their eyes glued to it, while others roll our eyes. FEW avert their eyes.

We accept that they exist because they are everywhere. Instantaneously. Accessed within seconds. Forever in cyberspace. Images are on social media news feeds, website homepages and sidebars, television and radio, billboards, or even in the coffee shop where you sit trying to focus on something else.

Censoring isn’t really possible today. Even if you look away, you saw a glimpse of more skin than you wanted to. Somehow, the media and world (including other women?) celebrate these so-called ’empowered’ women.

NEVER will the words “good for her” be uttered from MY lips for this.

[Rant]

You may be wondering what that means above…there was a long rant there. I removed it because, frankly, it doesn’t need to be said, yet again. I am not here to judge those who decide to post their photos online. I’m guessing they do not know God, and I can’t expect them to live to His or my standards. I am also sure that society has praised their actions, paid them handsomely, and I won’t deny that they are indeed, beautiful. And, I know that it takes a considerable effort to look that way. Time and effort I don’t dedicate to it. When I re-read what I had written, my words were not kind, so I took them out. Tearing down another woman isn’t helpful and won’t resolve the problem.

A rant is not the purpose of what I am writing today. We already know the harm these images do to both women and men, girls and boys. Both are affected, negatively. It cannot and should not be ignored.

That is why I rejoice when I read articles like this one;  a proactive approach to help our kids learn and know something different. Tools and words to educate our kids. Well said.

The truth.

No little girl (or boy) should stop eating, take diet pills, or save pennies for plastic surgery. Nor should they feel less-than because of judgmental glances or words by others. But, the content keeps coming. And we all suffer from a misguided bombardment.

While I avoid looking, I know the images are there. I can’t escape it and see images before I can turn my face away. Images are powerful. They imprint in your mind and can be recalled. It BOTHERS me. I find myself looking at my post-two-precious-babies body, and feeling self-conscious that it looks DIFFERENT. I question my beauty, and my worth because I do not live up to our society’s, albeit WRONG, standard. And I know better!

So what now?

First, I use care when getting ready to show my daughter that it doesn’t need to take HOURS. Spend too much time in the mirror, and you can primp, curl, and cover and look like SOMEONE ELSE. But I don’t want her to. I want my daughter to look like herself. I watch my words about my own body. She will not hear me telling myself that I am too fat, don’t like THAT wrinkle, or wish I looked differently. I censor any self-judgement for her, and for ME. I get dressed in clothes that fit and are modest in nature, and focus on looking nice for my HUSBAND. I have only a handful of makeup items and spend no more than 10 minutes ‘primping and curling’ unless it is for a very special occasion.

On that note, my SON will not hear or see those things either. He will see what a ‘normal’ female is like, and I hope he will desire THAT for his future wife.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to look nice, or struggle with body image. But, really, I just want to look like ME. While I will continue to exercise and eat healthily, my hair won’t ever be perfect, nor will my body. I will not take strange dieting herbs or inject any toxin into my face. No thank you. I will just look like me; aging slowly, like everyone else. Only I hope to do it gracefully.

For my children’s sake, I put my scale and mirror away, and try to align myself with what God sees and teach them to do the same.

I pray and have prayed daily, for my daughter’s future self-image. I will persist because the images persist.

I pray that her self-image will be as her mom and dad see her. And, even better, how God sees her.

Beautifully made.

Loved by God.

Loved by her mom and dad and countless others.

Intelligent.

Creative.

With great potential. 

Useful.

Wanted.

Intended for a great purpose of eternal value.

Responsible to take CARE of her body by eating healthy and exercising, but to be modest in the expression of it.

To make every effort to do this:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 (The Holy Bible, ESV)

And…

SO.

MUCH.

MORE. 

All these truths, I desire for her to KNOW to her CORE so the world will not shake her, or cause her question her value.

Pray for your daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, and friends today. Any woman is subject to these attacks. Pray also for your son, husband, grandson, nephew and friends. That they would know the truth that a woman’s value and beauty is not encapsulated by the exterior. I am.

With the way things are going, you can’t pray, teach or love them enough. Talk about the truth and be sure your little ones KNOW that the world’s view of a woman’s body is both incorrect and dangerous.

Censor what you can. Let the things they see in your home and hear from your mouth be pure in content.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – (The Holy Bible, Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Undoing what society throws at them will take focused effort. It is an ongoing battle and it won’t be ending anytime soon.

Are you fighting it?

DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted BELIEVE and GRATEFUL Sign

DIY Outdoor Vertical Sign Collage

For some time, I’ve had sign-envy. Our neighborhood is full of front porches that are decorated for each season. Porches add so much warmth and character to a house.

One of my favorite front porch decorations is a large, wooden sign. I’ve been looking around for them, but never buy one because they’re so expensive! When I saw this  ‘Believe’ sign (by Creative Raisins), I was inspired to make a sign that won’t break the bank.

Before making my sign, I searched for a word that could be used for fall and the Christmas season. While I found plenty of great vertical sign ideas (FALL, JOYBe Merry), I failed to find one word that applied to both seasons.

BUT, every board has TWO sides! So, I decided to make 2 different signs with the same board.

Multipurpose and cost-saving.

GRATEFUL for the fall season.

BELIEVE for Christmas.

This sign was made in my driveway using a common wood board. The board was painted with 2 colors of chalk paint, distressed, and stenciled. To make it last through snow and rain, the sign was sealed using spar-Urethane. (Update: I made this sign in October of 2014  – it is now 2017 and it is still in great shape – no peeling paint!)

Online, a finished (one-sided) vertical wood sign similar to this goes for $60-$120. Most need to be sealed for outdoor use after purchase. The cost for all the materials used here was $23, with plenty of sealant and paint leftover for future projects.

Materials

  • 1 inch x 8 inch x 6 foot Common Board
    • Money Saving Tip: These go for ~$4, but after digging in the Home Depot cull lumber pile, I found a slightly warped and roughed up board for 70% off and paid just over $1. Who cares if a DISTRESSED, outdoor sign is a little warped or beat up?
  • Chalk Paint – 2 colors
    • I used Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint in Cascade and Rich Black
    • Money Saving Tip: Plan ahead and use a Jo-Ann’s 50%-off coupon on the Chalk Paint, Spouncer and Stencils. Sign up for their free mailing list, and be aware that they may accept coupons from Michaels. Plan ahead and buy ALL with a coupon; there no reason to pay full price, well, EVER, when they mail coupons regularly
  • Fine and Rough Sandpaper
    • For prep and distressing
  • Paint Brushes
    • Money Saving Tip: Planning to distress? Any paint brush will do; use an old one
  • Letter Stencils
  • ‘Spouncer’ or ‘Dabber’ 
    • What on earth is a spouncer? Essentially, it’s a round foam ‘stamp’ used to apply paint. It creates clean edges without paint bleeding under the stencil. Trust me, you want to use this – it saves time and makes stenciling oh-so-easy!
  • Outdoor or Marine Grade Urethane or Sealer

Process Used

1. Prepare to Paint

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

  • The board was placed on two boxes to get it off the ground (I used 2 cases of diapers)
  • Both sides were lightly sanded using FINE sandpaper to remove any loose wood pieces (helpful if using cull lumber as it might be a little beat up)
    • Don’t worry about sanding the entire surface, especially if planning to distress. Imperfections give character and makes distressing look more realistic
  • Wipe down both sides to remove any saw dust or debris

2. Apply Base Paint Color

Apply the base color of paint

Apply the base color of paint

  • Apply the base color of chalk paint (Rich Black). Not going to distress? Skip this step
  • It’s the base so it’s OK if coverage isn’t perfect. Go ahead and work quickly, but get paint into any deep crevices so when distressed, you see base color, not bare wood
  • Allow to FULLY DRY, then flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated. Then allow to FULLY DRY

3. Apply Contrasting Color

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

  • Before applying the second color, determine how you plan to distress the paint. I tried two ways:
    1. Paint with FULL coverage, then sand to distress after the paint dries, OR
    2. Paint roughly, allowing the first color to show through – see below (MUCH EASIER)
Apply the second color roughly so the first color shows through

Apply the second paint color roughly so the first color shows through

  • Apply the second contrasting color
  • Allow to FULLY DRY and flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated

NOTE: You COULD use a different color on each side so you end up with two unique sides 

4. Distress the Surface (if desired)

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper to remove the top layer of paint. Use care not to remove the base coat and expose bare wood if you desire to see contrast

  • Use rough and fine sandpaper to distress the paint in RANDOM areas. Decide if you want to distress where the letters will be stenciled (I did not)
  • Use FINE sandpaper on the edges so the base shows without going down to bare wood
  • Use coarse sandpaper on flat surfaces if the fine requires too much elbow-grease
  • If you go too far, or don’t like it, go back, add paint as needed and repeat until you like it

5. Paint Stenciled Letters

Stencils

  • Align your stencils and tape to in place
  • Transfer a small amount of chalk paint to a plate or bowl
  • Apply paint to the end of the spouncer and blot slightly to remove excess paint
Dip the Spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray before 'stamping'. Slightly overlap the spouncer with the stencil and opening to prevent bleeding. Blot until paint is no longer transferred and go back over the thicker areas to evenly distribute paint

Dip the spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray to remove excess paint. Stamp so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until paint is no longer transferred, then go over painted areas to evenly distribute paint

  • Press down to ‘stamp’ paint so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until no more paint transfers
  • Use the now somewhat dry spouncer to go back over thickly painted spots and stamp to evenly distribute paint
  • Continue applying paint until all letters are stenciled
  • Remove stencils carefully once paint is fully dry

6. Seal for Outdoor Use

  • Place the sign on a large tarp in a well-ventilated area (garage with door wide open)
  • Use an appropriate mask to protect yourself from fumes
  • Read the can to be sure you apply properly and in the correct temperature range
    • Follow the same process (see here) as spray painting furniture for even application
    • Don’t forget to spray all edges
    • The spray I used had a special nozzle to prevent over-spray – a MUST HAVE feature!
  • Apply multiple coats according to manufacturer recommendations. The manufacturer of this spray recommended 3 coats for outdoor use. I applied 4 to be sure
  • Allow to dry 72 hours before using outdoors or as manufacturer recommends

Here are the pictures of the sealed, finished product in front of our house. When I was taking these pictures for the blog, a random woman stopped her car and asked me where I got it. That seemed like a good sign that it turned out well.

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

What will you put on your two-sided vertical sign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign | thisgratefulmama.com

DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

Dinosaurs.

The perfect theme for a 4-year-old boy’s first-ever birthday party with his little friends.

A gold mine of birthday decor ideas.

My ideas, combined with those gathered on my Birthday Boy Pinterest board, and I was soon a little overwhelmed!

Limited by both time and budget, I couldn’t do it all…so I picked four decorations I could make myself using common and inexpensive materials that, for the most part, I already had on hand. The party was a big hit with both kids and parents.

Today’s post is all about decorations you can make yourself, with materials you probably already have. Using simple materials like paper, tape, string, markers, stencils, and chalk, your house can be Dino-party ready!

Each of the following ideas were completed during nap time, and each took an hour or less. Here is a little tour of the decorations people saw as they arrived for the party. Best of all, when my son saw it all, he was just delighted. It made every effort completely worth it.

DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decor 

1. DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

DIY Chalk Dinosaur Crossing Sign and Paper Footprints

  • We actually forgot to put these two decorations out before our party began – Whoops! I’m posting them anyway – since they were made in advance TO use!
  • Walking up to the house these construction paper dinosaur footprints would guide you to the front door and into the party
Dino Crossing Sign drawn with chalk

Dino Crossing Sign drawn with chalk

  • This Dino Crossing Chalk Sign was created on our Ikea Easel
    • A diamond with rounded corners was drawn, and a second border was traced
    • A dino-stencil was made by tracing a toy dinosaur onto paper and cutting it out
    • The stencil was placed in the center of the triangle and traced, then the rest of the inner diamond was filled in
    • Colored areas were blended with fingers to give a solid-looking finish
    • A diaper wipe and my pointer finger were used to remove chalk and ‘write’ black letters
      • After each stroke, a fresh piece of the wipe was used
      • Once the letters were dry, any smeary spots were ‘touched up’ with a wipe
      • Any letters that got too thick were colored in with fresh chalk
      • My kids smeared it right away – No problem! I just cleaned the smeary areas with a wipe and colored with chalk as necessary

2. “ROAR means Happy 4th Birthday in Dinosaur” Entryway Sign

Entryway "Roar means Happy Birthday in Dinosaur"

Entryway “Roar means Happy Birthday in Dinosaur”

  • When guests walked in the door, the paper footprints led them by this sign in our entryway. They placed gifts on the table below it
    • Inspiration for the wording of this sign was found here.
    • Pre-cut flags like these were bought on clearance at Target in the party section ($1.20 each for pack of 10 flags and string – I bought 1 blue, 1 green)
    • Lettering was done with these alphabet stencils that I already owned and a black sharpie
    • Flags were hung from 2 orange shoe strings I already had, and the white strings that came with the pre-cut flags
    • Banners were suspended from 3M command hooks to save the wall from pin holes
    • Additional lettering was created using one pack of vinyl wall alphabet decals from the dollar store ($1 for a pack containing 2 of each letter in the alphabet – I had to cut and ‘create’ one additional letter “N” from other letters to write these words on the wall)

3. Homemade Paper 2-Inch Circle Garland

Homemade 2-inch circle garland

Homemade 2-inch circle garland

  • Stung on a window and across two large walls, guests saw our 2-inch circle garland, made from bright construction paper
    • Using a 2 Inch Craft Lever Punch (Hobby Lobby – $6 on sale), holes were cut using several colors of construction paper (4 sheets at a time – different colors stacked in the order they’ll be strung)
    • Circles were strung using a needle and thread.
      • The needle was pushed up through the paper, then down and up again so they would lay FLAT on the string
      • Keep the thread attached to the spool until you’ve strung half of the punched holes
      • Then let out at least the same length from the spool and cut the thread
      • String the rest from the other side
    • Garland was suspended using 3m Command hooks
    • Three 8 to 10 foot long strings of garland took about 45 minutes total, which included punching them, stringing them and hanging them

4. “Happy 4th Birthday Aiden-a-saurus” Flag Banner

Happy Birthday Aiden-a-saurus Banner

Happy 4th Birthday Aiden-a-saurus Banner

  • This banner was the focal point of the main party area of our home
    • This banner was made using patterned 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper I already had
      • 12″x12″ sheets were cut in half. This sign used 14 pages to create 28 flags
      • A triangle was cut from bottom to create the flag shape; I used the first as the template for the rest
    • Tip: Buy scrapbook paper at a craft store when on sale or use standard solid color construction paper. Hobby Lobby runs a 50% off scrapbook supplies often. Something like this will work great; and with assorted patterns and 80 pages, you could make A BUNCH of banners for $7.
    • Letters were made on white medium weight art paper using these alphabet stencils that I already owned and a black sharpie
    • The flags were hung on a string; fold 1 inch over the string and secure with tape to the back of the flag
    • The banner was suspended on 3M command hooks over the entryway between our kitchen to dining room

Check out the dinosaur birthday party food and decorations in these posts:

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats and Favors