Fun with Chalk Paint – Inexpensive Goodwill Picture Frame Makeovers

goodwill frame makeovers

We’ve lived in this house for over a year, but our walls are still mostly bare – due to a mixture of laziness, budget and not finding the ‘perfect’ frames. To get exactly what I wanted, for less, I decided to chalk paint two old picture frames.

A few months back I bought two old frames at Goodwill. The shape and details were great but they were beat up and not my choice of colors. I scored them for a whopping $4.

Here are the original frames:



The plan was to give these frames a makeover and use them to display photographs of our kids. A little chalk paint, sanding and waxing and they cleaned up nicely in a couple of hours.

I like how even though both frames are painted with the same color and style, the original frame color showing through in the distressed areas makes each frame unique.

Frame1 painted

Frame2 painted

I roughly estimated the blue frame as a standard 11×14″ size in the store. However, once I tried to put a new 11×14″ mat into it, I discovered the opening was actually 11×15″. Whoops.

Not wanting to make or buy a custom mat, I used some decorative tape I had on hand ($1 section at Target) to make a border all the way around.

tape border

With chalk paint and wax, a little goes a long way. I had plenty of black chalk paint leftover from the DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign, and wax and brushes leftover from the Updated Framed Mirror. I spent $4 on the two frames, $1 on tape, and $2 on the pre-cut 11×14 mat. That makes two framed photos for $7. Worth it!

Frame 1 finished Frame 2 finished


I Chose To Stay Home With My Children – Not To Throw Away My Career

As I left my job almost two years ago, the words of a trusted co-worker rang in my ears: “If you want to come back, you better find part-time work or a way to make yourself appealing to employers or you won’t be able to find a job”.

Last fall, out of the blue, another co-worker graciously recommended me for an amazing job (thank you). The appealing job description and company seemed like a good fit for my previous experience. While nothing is certain, if I’d pursued it, I think I could have gotten the job and would have enjoyed it.

For the first time, in a long time, I paused to question whether it was smart to pass on the opportunity. Was I blowing my chance to return to a career I excelled in and enjoyed? If I stay out much longer, will my 4 years of school and 9 years of experience be obsolete? Worthless? How long is too long?

I spent hours thinking, praying and trying to make sense of ‘what could be‘. I sought counsel of my husband and friends. The consensus reached was that now isn’t the right time, even for a perfect job. I am already in the right place; at home with our kids.

When I replied to the recruiter, he commended me for choosing to stay home. Then, in the same sentence, he warned – find contract or part-time work, soon, or re-entering the workforce will be challenging (he also offered his services to help me find such work).

I appreciate the truth behind this repeated warning. Biotechnology is a rapidly developing and changing field. While I read journal articles and do my best to stay up to date with emerging technologies, I’m not working in the industry. I can read all I want, but when I do return, there will be a learning curve. It isn’t that it can’t be done, but the longer the time away, the harder it will be to return.

The warnings made me wonder if I was going to wreck any chance of getting a similar job when I am readyDid I throw my career away? Society often thinks of stay-at-home moms as doing just that when they leave the work force. Just look at forums where moms discuss trying to go back to work. The boards are filled with encouragement, but are laced with critical, harsh and ignorant comments from people who made different choices. Different decisions don’t have to be judged as worse, or better.

But a decision to stay home is a bold one, not an easy or foolish one. It is carefully considered; options weighed, pros and cons listed, and agonized over. I did put my career on hold to stay home with my children. I did contract work during my first year away. I didn’t choose to throw my career away. I understood the warnings. My career may look differently in 10 years than it would have otherwise. I’m OK with it.

No matter what happens when I am ready to work outside the home again, I won’t feel penalized. Having the opportunity to be with our children beats any career success, published journal article, patent application, financial reward, or respect of co-workers that I may have earned during that time.

I was with the same company for 9 years. It was a busy (sometimes chaotic) job. I enjoyed the quiet solitude of the lab, loved technical writing, and appreciated that my co-workers were dear friends. When my son was born, my job was less fulfilling. Before, I’d have been excited by a priority project, even if it required some (or a lot of) extra hours. But now…I longed to run out the door.

I wanted to do both jobs well…but I found the demands of an infant and toddler and working to be often overwhelming. I was drained at work from sleepless nights, and drained at home from working. Some working moms find this balance less challenging – I am in awe of you. I found I wasn’t wired to do both while our kids were small. I wanted to give my family the best of me, not the left-overs.

I struggled sending our child to daycare and knowing I might miss precious first waves, words or steps. I wanted to be there during the ‘formative’ years; while they develop and learn new things every day. More and more…my desire to work waned. My greatest impact and legacy will not be in the field of biotechnology, it will be in our children.

Initially, we couldn’t make it work financially. I kept working; a mutual decision, and not one I regret. We trusted in God’s perfect timing. My husband is my hero. He was willing to do anything he could to help me stay at home. He worked a full-time job, while also earning his MBA. The MBA helped him achieve career goals, which allowed me to quit my job after my daughter was born. The timing was perfect.

Still, quitting was not easy. No, it was hard because I liked my job. I tried to have the best of both worlds…a part time gig. My employer and I couldn’t make it work, so it was full-time work or none. Tears were shed. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t work part-time. It would have been difficult to have one foot in each world when the purpose of leaving was to have two feet at home.

It also wasn’t easy to transition home. I missed my work, friends, and solitude of writing and the lab. Like any job, it took time to adjust, and the learning curve was huge.

While there is truth to fears of being obsolete when I want to return to work, there is also a misunderstanding of what I am doing while out of the traditional work force. I may not be working in a lab or traditional business, but I am still developing skills that will be useful to an employer. They are much more than perfecting laundry, cleaning, and cooking skills. Raising little people is no small feat.

I spend nap times and evenings doing part-time marketing work for a talented speaker and consultant, writing this blog, volunteering, and working for an online company. It is not about money, but to keep my brain busy and to spend time thinking about things beyond our household.

These years are a gift; a different career path.

I didn’t throw away my career to stay at home with my kids. I took a break to focus on what was ultimately stealing my focus already. I spend my days with two of the most precious people in my life. I enjoy smiles and giggles, and help them with challenges and tears.

What will I do when I go back to work? I honestly don’t know. It will be different than if I’d kept working. Fiercely loyal, I’d probably still be working at the same company; my current job is more fulfilling. I may not be able to jump right back in where I left off, but so what? I am not the same as before I left, so why should my work be? I expect and hope for more fulfilling work. With the joys and challenges I’ve encountered as a mom, I am not sure that writing and editing procedures or the solitude of the lab will be enough for me.

No regrets.

To the working world – I hear your warnings and take them seriously. But also take note: being a mom is changing me, for the better. My worldview is bigger, my skills are better-rounded, and if the lab world doesn’t think I am qualified when I go back, it may not be the right place for me.

Here is how I CHOOSE to remember our trip

I chose to stay home with my children – not to throw away my career

DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats and Favors

DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats And Favors |

I am excited to finally share the last special touches from our son’s dinosaur birthday party.

About a month before the party, I came across these DIY Dinosaur Tails on Pinterest. I was excited about the idea but lacking a sewing machine and the skills to actually make them. My mom is a talented artist and I knew she would be able to make them. I asked if she’d be willing to help me. She was excited and more than willing to help!

Let me first accurately describe what I really mean when I say my mom ‘helped’ (she’s amazing!):

  • she went with me to the store and helped pick out what to buy, and determine how much we needed
  • she clipped coupons and went through the checkout with half of the items so we could maximize use of coupons – most was 50% off
  • it was her idea to use patterned fabric
  • it was her idea to use two colors of felt to sew two sets of spikes on each dinosaur tail
  • she ironed the fabric, cut everything out, and made a pattern that maximized the use of our fabric
  • she sewed the tails (not only did I not have a sewing machine, but I haven’t used one since home economics in junior high)
  • she was gracious and willing to make 5 more tails after the initial 10 when ALL of the kids RSVP’d to the party…kind of like a dinosaur-tail sweat shop

We are so grateful for the work of my mom’s loving and skillful hands! 15 dinosaur tails later…the result was a basket of very fun party favors.

DIY Dinosaur Tails

Along with a tail, every child had a dinosaur spike party hat to wear. This idea was also seen on Pinterest, and modified. I used store-bought polka-dot hats and cut the spikes from folded neon paper. The spikes were attached to the hats using double-sided tape.

DIY Dinosaur Spike Party Hats

Each child took home their own dinosaur tail and hat, along with a little bag of dinosaur party favors:

party favors collage

Here are a few pictures of my son and daughter in their tails (the day after the party), and one picture of the kids all dressed up at the party. It was very entertaining watching the kids run around and enjoying their tails and hats. I’ve heard from several parents that the tails are still being played with regularly by the kids who attended the party. Three months later and our kids use them every day – they are well worth the effort!

Dinosaur Party FunCheck 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 Birthday Party Decorations



25 Real-Life, Tear-Inducing Toddler Problems

25 Real Life Tear Inducing Toddler Problems

Trying to understand why a toddler is upset is often a futile endeavor. Simple daily events that usually go unnoticed can suddenly induce tears, terror, screams, angry outbursts or any combination thereof. Then the same issue will cause no response whatsoever the next time it happens.

I wish grown-up problems were as simple as these. Sometimes you just have to hug your child, while stifling the smile (or laugh) over their shoulder.

These real-life events have induced tantrums, terror, screaming, crying, flailing, tears or downright panic from our little ones:

  1. Ice cream is not allowed for breakfast, or lunch
  2. Preschool said to call a diamond a rhombus
  3. When they demanded food, they wanted a snack, not lunch!
  4. Their lunch, cooled in the freezer for 10 minutes, is much too hot
  5. Lunch is on the wrong plate (not orange), and their water in the wrong cup (not blue), and they said they wanted ice
  6. Said ice, by the end of lunch, has melted in their cup. Mommy, why did you eat it?
  7. The garbage truck took our garbage
  8. They have to share [insert ANYTHING] with their sibling
  9. They have a runny nose. Blowing it is messy so they snort it up into their head, making themselves cough. They cry because they are coughing, making their nose more stuffy. Repeat
  10. Tonight they have to wear a pull up to bed, like every…other…night
  11. They cannot find [insert OBSCURE TOY]. There is nothing else to play with (in the entire toy box that is now emptied out on the floor)
  12. They bit their own finger while eating lunch, again. Chomp!
  13. Mommy didn’t take any pictures of them so there aren’t any to look at on the computer (after running away screaming they didn’t want their picture taken multiple times)
  14. They think their potty chair is an actual throne on which to hang out. Actually using it to go to go to the bathroom makes it dirty and is traumatic (and you are the one who cleans it up)
  15. They want to zip their own zipper but don’t know how. No, you cannot zip it for them
  16. In summer, they want to wear soft (fleece) pajamas to bed. They wake up soaking in sweat but refuse to change into non-fleece pajamas because they aren’t soft. Repeat tomorrow
  17. They cannot sleep because of the rain, thunder, lightening, snow, wind, or because it might rain…because there is that one white puffy cloud in the sky, over there! 
  18. The only shoes they like are Crocs but it is subzero outside. They do not want to wear socks, or shoes, or boots
  19. They are too tired to pick up toys but do not want to take a nap, or go to sleep…they want to play basketball in the basement
  20. Their snowman melted
  21. They taught their little sister that knocking down towers is funny. Now she keeps knocking down their tower
  22. Panic ensues (for them, and for you) when they’ve dug around in their own messy diaper. Happened multiple times…with the same outcome…still, they Houdini out of onesies, snaps, pants, and more until the last resort is putting them in feetie pajamas two sizes too big, backwards, so you can turn the feet around and zip them up the back. And they wanted to do the zipper
  23. They twirl their hair into a dread-lock and their finger gets stuck in it. Every. Single. Night
  24. Their special doll, teddy bear, or blanket has to be washed. Seriously. It stinks
  25. They didn’t tell you they were hiding, but you didn’t seek them

What are your toddlers biggest problems?

Fear Rises…


On November 26, 2014, a young man named Chandler Swink died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. I wrote this article that day. I waited to post this because I didn’t feel right discussing my fears as if they were as important as this man’s death. They aren’t; my fears are nothing in comparison to what he, his family and friends have gone through, and what so many other families have gone through when a loved one is lost due to a food allergy.   

To the family of Chandler Swink: My heart is broken over your loss. I have thought of and prayed for you often since I read your story and will continue to do so. I am praying for your comfort, for you to find peace, and that God and your loved ones will carry you through the difficult days and years to come.  I pray that the memories of your son will be vivid and will bring you joy and solace through your pain. I thank you for speaking out about your family’s experience with food allergies and for advocating for other children. 

From November 26, 2014.

Today was just a normal day. I woke up and spent time reading my bible, praying and journaling in the warmth of my bed. I felt great.

A quick shower, and the kids were awake. I spent some time snuggling with my 4-year-old, talking about what we to do today, and we prayed to start our day. By now, we could hear my daughter squealing and playing in her room. We cracked the door open and peaked in to find her jumping up and down in her crib, giggling as we entered. As always, she was ready to go and full of joy.

Thanksgiving on the way, these sweeties to spend the day with…I went downstairs with smiling kids, and an even bigger smile oozing off my face. Today would be a good day.

I served breakfast and sat down with a piping hot cup of coffee to check my email before heading out to run errands. Nothing important in my email and the kids were still eating so I opened Facebook and started to scroll down the news feed.

The second post stopped me in my tracks. I spilled that hot coffee on my hand. It burned, but my reaction to the coffee was nothing compared to what I read.

A college student in a coma from an allergic reaction for a week. A grim outlook. It didn’t even sound like he’d eaten a nut.  A contact reaction. Later that day, I’d read of his death.

I can’t adequately describe the tightness in my chest and the intensity  and loudness of my heart throbbing wildly I looked across the room our son.

Innocently eating breakfast, giggling with his sister. All smiles and silliness with a mouth full of cereal.

My eyes welled up with tears instantly, and I walked out of the room. I tried to compose myself. This news was much too heavy for a 4-year-old to bear and he doesn’t need to see me cry. When he is older, perhaps I will let him see my tears over these stories, but for now, I spare him.

It saddens me that this is not the first or last time that I will read news like this. To say my world is turned upside down is an understatement. It releases fears that I usually give to God and move on from. But today…

The fear rises…

Welling up with a ferocity and power I can’t control. I suddenly find myself paralyzed by fear and subject to my own terrifying daydreams of my worst fears. My mind wanders to places it shouldn’t be allowed to go. Thinking horrible and terrifying things, down a rabbit hole I go…The story of a child being harmed or dying is enough to make ANY parent find heart stopping dread in the possibility of what could happen to their own child.

News of severe and fatal allergic reactions occurs too often and reduces me to tears and heart seizing fears almost every time. It wasn’t even a month ago when I was reading about another child who had a fatal reaction on Halloween. I don’t think they ever learned what caused the reaction to occur. It shook me then, and now, again, it shakes me today. But deeper. Building on the knowledge that this isn’t a one-time news story. These deaths are too frequent. Too real. They make me realize our own frailty, and to fear this outcome for my son who has a peanut and tree nut allergy.

These death are accidents that happen to vigilant and responsible people. It is not carelessness. They are doing everything they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from allergic reactions. Then suddenly, an unforeseen, unplanned interaction with an allergen, and suddenly what should have been a normal day becomes deadly.

On what started as a normal day for me, I suddenly find myself trembling, my white knuckled fist clutching a tissue as I struggle to catch my breath. I desperately plead with God to not only save this young man and comfort his loved ones, but also to protect my own child. And to help me simply continue on with the day and enjoy my children who are here with me now, safe and sound.

I’m sure this child and his loved ones started that fateful day just as simply as I began my own. Unassuming. Hopeful. Joyful. Unaware that it would be the last day he would ever wake. As parents of children with food allergies, we always have that nagging voice that reminds us to keep them safe. But most of the time, I don’t wake thinking that today will be the day that a reaction occurs; that this could be it. We don’t think about how even if we do everything right that a reaction could occur and that an Epi-Pen may not save them. We can’t thrive if we spend all of our moments like that. But it could be a reality we may face, any day.

Too often, I find myself soothing my fears with the Epi-Pen. Not good. News like this reminds me that an Epi-Pen isn’t a cure. It’s not a security blanket. It surely gives them a fighting chance, but for a severe reaction, sometimes it is no more than a Hail-Mary.

It. Might. Not. Work. There are no guarantees.

These stories. These deaths. These children and broken-hearted families. We stand with them. We know these families are living the truth that we often want to forget and that society doesn’t always understand or acknowledge. Proof that food allergies can be deadly. Proof that deadly reactions do happen to responsible children and adults. Proof that food allergies are not just a nuisance we live with. They are a real, powerful reality that requires vigilance at ALL times.

Food allergies require empathy and help from the community. This particular story followed news of a school administrator who made light of food allergies, and of parents and community members who thought she was actually funny. She rightly paid for her comments with her job, but these children and families pay with a life. A precious life. There are no appropriate jokes when it comes to this.

All these thoughts swirling…I found myself this morning, and again this afternoon in our downstairs bathroom, sobbing. Stifling the sound so the kids wouldn’t hear me. I’m not sure I can explain this to my 4-year-old today but I know the day is approaching when we will have to. So here I am. Broken. Helpless. Fearful. Sucking air.

The burden is heavy. And much too real. I wish he didn’t have a food allergy. But he does. And we must go on. I cannot stay in the bathroom all day weeping. I will not squander the moments I have with these kids wallowing in fear. I can’t prevent the fear or the unknown, but I do have control over my own actions.

SO I pull myself together and focus on what I can do:

  • Keep going: I wipe my eyes and compose myself and open the bathroom door. I put one foot in front of the other, pull myself up, and move forward. I continue to love and parent our children. They are a gift, not to be squandered.
  • Pray: I pray for all allergic children to be protected. I pray for a treatment that would be effective when Epi-Pens are not. I pray for answers to why allergies are affecting kids with increasing frequency and for a way to stop it. I pray that these deaths would cease and that no more would be lost due to FOOD; eaten or touched. I pray that my son will NEVER have a life-threatening reaction.
  • Trust: I do the only thing I can do in moments like this. I put my faith in the Lord and remember that He has given me these children to raise and care for. I remember that He is Lord and He is sovereign and faithful. I pray that God would help me trust Him to protect our son because trust doesn’t come naturally. I believe that no matter what, God will see us through whatever happens. I trust in His promises in scripture to give us rest and peace:
    •  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
    •  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
  • Advocate: I will speak out for my son’s safety no matter what the situation. I will educate others and make sure they understand his needs and the true risks of his needs not being met. I will do whatever I can to make the world safer for him.
  • Equip:  I will continue to educate our son how to protect himself. I will ensure that those caring for him are educated as well. I will take time to learn all I can about allergies, scientific research and technologies.
  • Be Grateful: I commit to be grateful for each moment and that my son is sitting in my kitchen eating his cereal. I will be grateful we found out about his allergy with a test, not an ER visit and that he has never had a life threatening reaction. I will be grateful for family and friends who made our holidays nut-free and safe this year so we could relax and enjoy the day. We are so grateful for all of you who keep our son safe…it truly takes a village…

My son smiles as I walk in. He and his sister won’t know why they receive such intense hugs and kisses on the head. Today, they are oblivious. I’m glad I can protect them from this reality for a little while longer, but the time is coming when they, too, will have to know and understand these things. Today I am grateful my son is a carefree 4-year-old boy who knows there is food he cannot eat and medicine he has to carry. For now, he thinks nuts will make him feel sick and knows to ask before he eats anything…

But he knows nothing of death. This looming potential threat won’t always be hidden from him. His own fears will be tangible, real and heavy. The responsibility will be huge. My daughter will have fears for her brother’s safety, just like my husband and I do. I pray that by the time they have to carry this burden, I will have learned how to carry my own so I can help them carry theirs.

In the long run, I can’t control this, fix it, or heal my son. I can’t make his allergy go away, even though I would gladly take it on myself if I could. I will keep moving on when fear rises because there will be plenty more days like this. The fear creeps up often; when I’m unprepared with alternative safe food, when we’re in an unknown church, school or home, when a dessert loaded with nuts passes by us in a restaurant, when I learn my son ate something before a label was read, and when I read stories of those who have had reactions or have paid the ultimate price. I will keep looking forward and prepare as best I can for the days when I send him to kindergarten, summer camp, and someday, college. I know this fear will certainly be present in the days to come, but I cannot let it rule me.

So I hug these two little ones tightly. And today, I rise above the fear.