Thursday, February 26, 2015

40th Birthday Surprise Tea Party

Yesterday I mentioned that I recently turned 40. And I think it has actually been the best birthday I've ever had! 

At the beginning of February, my two oldest daughters began talking about what they could do for my birthday. They decided on a surprise party, knowing full well how much I hate to be the center of attention. I mean, I really don't like to be focused on at all, and they know this. So, they hesitated at the thought of throwing a big party for me, but they went ahead with it anyway. And I'm so glad they did!

I really would have never guessed what they were planning. My oldest daughter goes over to my parents' house once a week to clean for them, so she was able to do a lot of the planning over there, and I didn't notice anything unusual happening at home. 

Around Valentine's Day, when my husband and I had a couples-only dinner party to go to, my mom came over while we were gone to do a bit more planning with the girls (again, I was completely oblivious to this!).

They planned the entire menu, which included chocolate-dipped strawberries, whipped cream and scones, cucumber sandwiches, cake, and of course tea!

So many friends chipped in to help, and our very sweet friend Kristin supplied the most beautiful tea pot cake I've ever seen (made by her mother-in-law, who makes cakes professionally). That cake (and the cupcakes that went with it) really made the whole tea party super special--I loved it! Thank you so much, Kristin! Another friend made the delicious scones, a friend made cucumber tea sandwiches, and other friends helped decorate and let the girls borrow some of their tea things, including tiny tea cups for the little girls' table.

It was such a nice afternoon just enjoying being with friends and feeling blessed.
The gifts were so special and thoughtful. Handmade soap, handmade candles, a beautiful tea cup and saucer (and a box of tea), handmade jewelry, chocolate, a lovely vase (photos of that are in yesterday's post), a $40 gift card to Hobby Lobby (one of my absolute favorite stores!), money for paint and the offer from another sweet friend to help me paint my kitchen (so sweet and creative!).

My mom gave me this very lovely Willow Tree figurine:
I love that it's called "Simple Joys," and says, "You're simply a joy in my life." ♥
And two other friends (a mother and daughter) made this beautiful hand-quilted table runner:
I love that they embroidered my name and the date on the back:
And then my precious children chipped in to make this beautiful basket of gifts for me:
They bought me a Lily's chocolate bar (my favorite!), a vanilla candle (another favorite!), a pretty journal and some special pens, a Burt's Bees chapstick, a handmade bracelet, and this pretty necklace:
I felt so loved this past weekend, and I'm so thankful for my wonderful friends and family! These girls did almost all of the planning for the party, including making the cloth birthday banner behind us:
My husband and other children also contributed a lot to the planning, including getting me to the party! My oldest son was our sound man, and kept lots of beautiful classical music playing in the background. My family also made a beautiful birthday video for me that they played on a video screen during the party. 
So thankful for my mom and three daughters:
And I'm so thankful to my friend Kristin for this photo and several others in this post! 
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of  you." ~Philippians 1:3

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Turning 40 {Smiling at the Future}

"Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come." ~ Proverbs 31:25, NKJV

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25, NASB

Yesterday I reached the "halfway mark." I turned 40. 

But rather than feeling "old and tired," and mourning my advancing age and the passage of time, I anticipate with excitement what the Lord has planned for me.
I know there are many changes and challenges in the future, looming up ahead. I can either shrink back in fear of the unknown, or I can put my trust in a faithful and loving Heavenly Father, who will carry me through the difficulties and shower me with His peace and joy no matter what comes.

My life scripture verse has always been Proverbs 3:5. And I really like verses 6-8, too.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones."
I found my first grey hair when I was about 35. I felt tired and worn, and I was starting to dread getting older. I think it was around this time that I began having a sort of "mid-life crisis." I felt like so much of my life was already over, and what had I accomplished that was of any value? (I know now that raising children and keeping a home is of very great value.)

And then, providentially, the Lord brought this book into my life:
The Best Half of Life, by Ray and Anne Ortlund, encouraged me that I have so much to look forward to! In Christ, every day can be a new beginning, and I always have reason to hope and live joyfully.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." ~2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV

Although I am proactively doing as much as I can to stay in the very best shape possible, we cannot hold off every symptom of aging forever. Eventually, our outer self wastes away. But the good news is that our inner self can be renewed day by day, meaning it just gets better and better as we become more like Jesus!
This beautiful Dayspring vase was one of my birthday gifts from dear friends.

"...It's never too late to start living. Michaelangelo began building St. Peter's Cathedral at 76. Verdi was nearly 70 when he composed his 'Te Deum.' Grandma Moses started painting when she was 78. Tennyson was writing his greatest lines at 83! The thing is, have you gotten going yet in life? If not, why not now?" ~Ray and Anne Ortlund

Life doesn't slow down as children get older. If anything, it speeds  up! Teenagers bring late-night conversations, hilarity, parties, and emotions. Some days my time seems to dwindle away as I take care of home and family needs. I'm much more aware of wasted time as I get older.

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, for the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." ~Ephesians 5:15-17

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." ~Ephesians 2:10
"We shall have all eternity to celebrate the victories, but we have only the few hours before sunset in which to win them." ~Amy Carmichael

I'm determined to live life to the fullest through Jesus Christ! Turning 40 has only increased my desire for living well and making the most of this short life.

I encourage you that no matter how old you are today, you can begin to live for Jesus and make the most of the life you've been blessed with. You can start fresh today!

"The truest lengthening of life is to live while we live, wasting no time but using every hour for the highest ends. So be it this day." ~C.H. Spurgeon

Possibly Sharing Here: Mom 2 MomThe Modest MomMama MomentsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTitus 2 TuesdayTitus 2sdaysCapture Your JourneyA Wise WomanRaising HomemakersSo Much At HomeA Little R & RHearts for HomeGraced SimplicityGrowing in Grace

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Ruby Top

Last spring I decided to make myself some spring tops. I started with Made by Rae's Ruby pattern, since I liked the simplicity of it.
I found some cotton voile that I really loved, and went to work on it. It was fairly simple to sew (which is my favorite type of sewing!).
I made my own bias binding, and I love not having to deal with facings.
I do love the voile, but I found that it did need a cami or layering tee since it's pretty sheer. Depending on your physique, a pattern with these lines could possibly make you look like you're expecting, which is why I like to wear this with a cardigan or something over it. (Although now that I'm healing my diastasis, I'm enjoying not having to worry about that as much!)

Overall, I think it's a cute and comfy top.
I still have some fabric left over from last spring (that I bought to make more tops), so I may make some more soon. Do you have a favorite spring/summer top pattern? I'd love to hear suggestions if you have any!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Week 2 With the Tummy Team {Healing Diastasis Recti}

Time for a Tummy Team update! I've now been doing the Core Foundations Program for almost 2 full weeks. And I am so excited! I'm definitely seeing a difference in my body, particularly in my abdominal area. The "before" photos are on the left, and if you compare them to the photos on the right, you can see that my muscles are strengthening and actually starting to hold me together!

Before, I had pretty much no muscle strength, and everything was hanging out the front, through my abdominal separation. Now, things are slowly being knit back together, and going back into place. It's such a wonderful transformation to experience!

In the "after" photos on the right, I'm not "sucking in." This is actually where my muscles "live" right now. If I were to suck in, it actually looks even flatter. For the purpose of comparison, I'm planning to wear the same exact clothes for the photos, and I'm making every effort to get pictures in the same angle so that I can see if there is improvement.

I couldn't bear to show skin to the entire world, so I'm wearing a thin knit layering t-shirt that kind of gives you an idea without actually showing it all!
Before starting the program, I took my waist measurement and also measured my diastasis. My waist around the fullest point at the belly button was 37 inches. 

For the diastasis, you measure at three points: upper, middle, and lower (there's a video showing how to measure in this post). And in addition to measuring how many finger-widths your diastasis is, you also feel for the connective tissue, which is the part in the center.

Here were my starting measurements: 

Upper: 4 medium  ("medium" refers to the connective tissue depth) 
Middle: 4 deep (with pulse--meaning I can't even feel the connective tissue, and I can feel a pulse beating there)
Lower: 3 medium
The above tape measure represents where my waist was when I started (37"). Here's where I'm at now (34"):
After two weeks of doing the Core Foundations Program:

Waist: 34"
Upper: 3 medium
Middle: 3.5 deep
Lower: 2 shallow

I am extremely excited about my progress so far! To lose 3" off the waist is amazing to me, and it's all just my muscles beginning to hold me in instead of letting it hang out!

When I first started the program, I was very dedicated to going all the way with this. I was determined to wear the splint, even if it was uncomfortable. 

I had no difficulty with the splint during the day. In fact, I loved the feeling of wearing it, since it reminds me to be aware of my muscles. Rather than being a crutch that hinders me, it actually helps me remember to focus on that area and keep my core activated.

It did take some time to get  used to wearing the splint at night. At first, it was almost unbearable. The first night started out fine, but then I woke up a few hours later and felt so uncomfortable that I ripped it off. The same thing happened the second night. I started out okay, but then I woke up about four hours later feeling like I was suffocating. Again, I took it off for the rest of the night.

The third night, I prayed before I went to bed, that I might be able to wear the splint all night. As with the other nights, I started off fine, but then I woke up a few hours later feeling a suffocating feeling. Instead of giving in to the feeling to take it off, I decided to distract my mind by meditating on Bible verses. It worked, and I haven't had any trouble since that night! 

Now I'm at almost two full weeks of wearing the splint at night, and I actually find it comfortable, and I know it's helping my muscles and my connective tissue to heal. I'm so thankful for this, since I tend to be a kind of claustrophobic person, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do this part of the program.
I love that the exercises to focus on are broken down week by week, so I don't feel overwhelmed with too much information all at once. And I love the progress record sheets. They help keep me on track each day. The exercises are relatively simple to fit into my normal routine.

And, I just started using this Fit2B Tummy Creme (available in their store under "products"), which will hopefully help with all of my loose skin and stretch marks. I'm not being unrealistic about this, since I know it can never be what it was previously, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to do a bit of work with the skin and help it out as much as possible.
Kelly Dean uses this creme in her clinic on her Tummy Team clients, so I felt like that was a pretty good endorsement! I love the texture of it, and I love that it contains essential oils and other ingredients that are good for the skin.
It is recommended that you use a scrub of some sort before applying the Tummy Creme. Right now I'm using the Fit2B on Your Skin Define scrub, which is an exfoliant containing Jojoba beads, but any natural scrub (you can make this yourself) would work, too. 

I use the scrub in the morning during my shower, and then I do some dry skin brushing and then apply the Tummy Creme. At night before bed, I dry brush the skin again and then apply more Tummy Creme. It feels so good and moisturizing!
I still have a long way to go, but I'm so thankful for every little improvement to my diastasis. I hope to be back with another report in a couple of weeks.

P.S. Kelly (the owner of The Tummy Team), has kindly offered a discount for my readers, which is good through March 2015)!

Use the promo code ARTFUL20 to get 20% off the online Tummy Team programs when you order here!

Other Posts in This Series:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Our Frugal Wedding

Since we got married in January (17 years ago!), and Valentine's Day is in February, the beginning of each year always finds me focused on love and romance. So, just for fun, I thought I would share about our frugal wedding.

When we got engaged, we were both working full time, but we still had very little money. And we decided to buy a house, so we didn't want to spend a fortune on the wedding. My dad bought us a brand new washer and dryer (which we were very thankful for) instead of footing the bill for the wedding, so we were very motivated to keep it simple since we were paying for most of it ourselves!

I say we paid for "most of it," since so many friends and family members chipped in to help us. I'm especially grateful to my mom and my aunt for all they did. We couldn't have done it without them! 

First of all, there was the dress. THE DRESS. The one I had been dreaming of my whole life! I didn't want to spend an extravagant amount on it. And I'm still not sure how this happened, but I went to one store and tried on one dress. Seriously. I don't know what I was thinking!

I had just gotten off work, and I was tired and hungry. I met my mom at the bridal store (which I picked because it was closest to my office and easy to get to!), and I told the lady there what I was looking for. I knew I wanted white, I didn't want bare shoulders, and I didn't want long sleeves, because I am always hot (especially when I'm nervous) and I was afraid I would get hot during the ceremony (even though our original wedding date was in March, which isn't usually hot!).

I had been told that short women shouldn't have a full skirt, as it will make them look shorter. So there went the full ballgown-style skirt I had always wanted (now I know that I should have tried one on just to see what it would look like before I made a decision). So, I figured an a-line silhouette would be best for my petite frame, since I'm only 5' 2". 

The lady didn't have very many options with sleeves that weren't long and pouffy, so she brought me this dress. I tried it on and fell in love with it (except for the open back with the big bows--I've never been a bow type of person).  
I decided to go with this dress, which was around $300, and then I still had the veil and shoes to buy. After we moved our wedding date up to January 24th, I decided to add some gloves for a bit of warmth, even though I've never been a gloves type of person, either. 

The dress was a size 4, but I still had to wear a bustier with it to help fill it out! And they had to take a lot of the length off and re-hem it for me.

So, the dress was probably the biggest expense we had. And also the photographer, although she was less expensive than most. We also had two high school students do the video for us, and they did a really great job.
We asked our church pianist to play the piano for us, and she asked her cellist friend and a soloist to also help with the music.
My mom and aunt made the bouquet for the bouquet toss. My mom made the bridesmaids' dresses. We found a fabric color called "eggplant," and we based the colors of the wedding on that. One of the reasons we had such a small wedding party was to save money.

We also rented tuxedos for the guys, and we bought the fresh bouquets of roses (cream roses for me, and lavendar and cream for the bridesmaids) from a local grocery store florist. We also rented the candle holder things, and my mom and aunt decorated them for us with ribbons and flowers. 
We asked our two brothers to be ushers, rather than having them in the wedding party, since my husband's brother was traveling from out of state, and my brother had several small children and was also traveling from another town. 
We bought our wedding cake from the same grocery store where we got the flowers. It was just a very small, basic white cake. My aunt is very creative, and she dressed it up a bit with some extra roses and ribbon. We had homemade sheet cakes in the kitchen to help serve all of the guests.

I think my aunt also made the punch, and then we just had nuts and mints. It was a very simple reception at the church.
I got some inexpensive white satin shoes at Payless (if I'm remembering correctly), but they killed my feet. After the wedding I took them off, so almost every after-wedding photo I'm barefoot (but the dress hid my feet)!

The day of our wedding was sunny and beautiful. I'm so thankful for everyone who helped to make our day a success, especially my mom and my aunt. 

Of course, after the fact, you always think of things you would do differently (For instance, I wish I would have asked my sister-in-law and cousin to be bridesmaids, even though they were both expecting! I also wish we would have had our brothers be groomsmen. And I definitely would have had my little niece and nephew be part of it, too, as flower girl and ring bearer). 

Sooo many things I would do differently, but one thing I wouldn't change, and that's marrying this sweet guy! ♥