what it’s like: to be a high school teacher.

One profession I have the upmost respect for is teachers. I cannot imagine what it would be like inside the classrooms these days. Gone seem the days that we grew up in. Environments are different + while students face the same dilemmas we did as kids, they also are facing a whole new host of struggles! I am just so thankful that today we get a peek inside what it’s like in the classroom these days and what days are like for teachers.

Even better, it’s my amazingly awesome brother-in-law Dave who’s sharing! I have seen his passion for his job spill over into everything and am so proud of the job he does. His students are lucky ones!

So, if you’re wondering what it’s like to be a high school teacher in 2018, take a peek below! I think you will find yourself even more grateful for these amazing adults who put their heart into developing this future generation. Dave, love ya and thanks for sharing!!!!

Not only is Dave a super awesome teacher, but he is a super awesome uncle too!!!! 


Teaching high school in 2018 is exhilarating and challenging. I have between 35-40 students in a classroom, all with a wide range of abilities, attitudes towards peers and school, beliefs, pressures, and expectations. Needless to say, they are not the only ones who learn something in the classroom. They teach me so much through their life experiences, their perspectives, and their interests. 

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I am a high school health and physical education teacher for students in a standard setting and in an alternative learning setting. A philosophy that shapes my teaching, and my life, is based on Carol Dweck’s research found in her book called MindsetHer research has found that there are two mindsets we can have with learning: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. I can tell within a matter of a conversation where my students fall, which is incredibly helpful in how I teach. It helps me authentically connect with my students, get at their hearts, and understand the world through their eyes.alphabet class conceptual cube

When a person has a growth mindset, every challenge is viewed as something you can learn and grow from. Failure is an opportunity to improve, not a reason to stop. Those in a growth mindset are not concerned with what anyone else thinks of them, but just want to get better. A bad test score? What can I do differently next time to take better notes? They receive feedback as feedback, and use it as a tool to do better for the future.

In the fixed mindset, someone believes that they are either above average, average, or below average at everything they do. For example, a student may say, “I am not good at basketball.” In the fixed mindset, they don’t bother trying to gain skills. They believe they were born with the inability for dribbling, shooting, and knowledge of the game.

If a fixed-mindset student says, “I am great at soccer,” and then misses a scoring opportunity, it can be earth-shaking for their self-confidence. They feel embarrassment because they did not live up to the expectations of something they believe they should be good at. And instead of seeking improvement as the outcome, the result is failure. Period. They receive feedback as criticism, and take it personally.

Dweck’s material is being implemented in a growing number of school districts, and I believe this knowledge has a significant impact on our students. (If you are interested in learning more, I would definitely recommend her book. It’s highly approachable, and a wonderful tool for personal awareness and growth. Many students (and adults!) have been relieved and transformed through her research.)

Personally implementing the growth mindset makes the hard days worth it. It’s no a secret that teaching can be challenging. But if one individual’s life is changed for the better based on the way I teach, then it makes the whole year worth it. It’s a rare job, a calling, that offers the opportunity to have direct access to the youth of America’s hearts and minds. I can help mold, shape, and prepare them to be a better generation.

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Just like any profession, teaching takes discernment. Some of the challenges that I face daily is deciphering the learning abilities of my students, meeting the standard, and handling what students bring with them into the classroom from home.

The learning abilities of students vary greatly. Some students pick up the material quickly when presented. Others require a different explanation. And a few students, no matter how many times or ways it is presented to them, will not absorb the information or choose to not absorb the information.

All teachers ask, themselves: When do I move on to the next material? How can I tell that the majority of the students learned the standard information? And what is more important: getting through every standard required by the board of education or making sure the students know the standard before moving on, even if that means taking extra time? Teaching certainly requires intuition, care, and being in-tuned with not only the classroom as a whole, but noticing and  connecting with individuals. 

I’ve learned over the years that a student’s home life has a significant impact on the child’s classroom success. Divorces, mixed families, single parents, and neglected children are becoming more apart of my student’s stories.  Too high of expectations or no expectations from parents dramatically impacts their work and learning abilities. 

Familial and social stresses are part of the reason educators are seeing a rising amount of anxiety and mental health issues in children. These factors reach the classroom and have a major impact on how the student performs, and how they treat their peers. As a teacher, I have to navigate how to best handle a situation where a student is expressing anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear.  Not knowing what is going on at home can be difficult when trying to navigate expectations for my students.

Are there hard days? Certainly. Are there moments of elation? Yes. And do teacher’s count down the days until school’s out for the summer? You bet. 

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But I get a front row seat to inspire and see the creativity and innovation that comes through the minds of my students. The relationships that are built along the way are so life-giving and joyful, as I see how students grow over the course of the semester. Each school year, teachers are being given more responsibilities than ever before. We put in extra hours and deal with rising behavior issues. Most of us don’t really have summers off, because we find creative ways to make extra income to supplement our teaching salary. We don’t teach for the money. We teach because we love your kids. We teach because hard work is the most rewarding kind of work. We teach because we believe in your kids, their worth, value, and future. 


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Dave is married to his lovely wife, Courtney (Chelsea’s sister), and they currently live in the Twin Cities area.  They are expecting a little boy, their first child, in September.  He is an avid sports fan (Go Minnesota!!  Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, Gophers).  He finds joy in connecting and relating to people that he comes into contact with.  He loves the Lord and trusts in the His faithfulness, joy, and undeniable peace.  


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

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PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgerydonate and adopt an embryo,  be on a reality show, go through the fostering process, throw a themed dinner party , have PCOS, and have had a cancer diagnosisStay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what its like: to have had a cancer diagnosis.

What can I say other than I love this girl? Our What’s It Like featured sharer today is my good friend Heidi Anderson. Name sound familiar? Yes! It’s the Heidi I co-wrote In the Wait with! We have known each other for years, first serving together in children’s ministries at our church and becoming friends through that. She is one of the most vivacious, encouraging, and kind people I know and her fire for the Lord is undeniable. I have so richly blessed to have Heidi in my life and I know you will walk away encouraged by her story and the truths she shares.

Heidi, thank you for sharing your story with us and allow the Lord to shine brightly through you!

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I come from a family with no history of cancer. In fact, I come from a family with little history concerning any illness for that matter. My grandpa had diabetes and later passed away from a cardiac arrest, but my other grandparents lived to their 90’s—one just passed away at 103—and everyone else is healthy and well.

So imagine my surprise when I felt a bump on my neck. My mom assured me colds can enlarge lymph nodes, but when another bump appeared a month later, I scheduled a doc appointment to be sure.

Fast-forward to that moment, and I’ll never forget sitting on that white, crinkly paper, staring at a doctor who held my results, and hearing the words: “You have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” I was 23 at the time (which meant my mom came with me everywhere), and I remember looking over at her, clearly frustrated because I had never heard of such a thing, and asked, “What even is that?”

She nodded and affirmed cancer in your lymph nodes—and then the next moment later, I was ushered before a scheduling assistant calling an oncologist for the next available appointment. Which apparently was 3 weeks away.

I walked out of that appointment desperately needing a Savior. Have you ever felt like that? I hadn’t before. A situation so out of your control, there’s nothing you can do to fix it, and you know you need help, Someone bigger than yourself. So I sat in those 3 weeks, not sure what the future held, how far along I was, and what treatment would look like. And praying every day for help.

Finally, I met with my oncologist, and he confirmed stage 2 cancer with 6 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation ahead. He then dove into all the possible scenarios that could result—like loss of muscle movement in my neck, or how chemotherapy could attack my ovaries making me unable to have kids. You know, trivial things.

Then came the symptoms that could develop in the future—breast cancer is a common second cancer and could come in my early 30’s (which is now….#thisis30) and by the age of 40, one of the chemotherapy drugs could result in a cardiac arrest or heart failure. Again, all things trite.

In all seriousness though, I say that because dealing with cancer in and of itself is scary and COMPLETELY lame. But then the enemy wants us to battle fear for the rest of their lives, because no matter how many years you’re in remission from that one cancer, there’s a whole legion of other deathly diseases knocking at the door. But I’m finding there’s reason God tells us in the Bible “do not fear” 365 times—every day, we have every opportunity to cower, but will we trust Him? That’s up to us.

This is where my story gets good.

I heard my pastor give a message around that time about suffering well—how men and women of the Bible had scary things happening to them. Daniel was thrown into a den full of hungry lions and Paul was beaten and thrown into prison… but Daniel didn’t focus on the roaring of the lions, and Paul didn’t stare helplessly at the bricks around his prison cell. They chose to believe that their reality was more than what meets the eye—and that God is working behind the scenes, and ultimately, He has already overcome.

I heard that message and thought, “That’s what I want, I want to do whatever it takes to suffer well.” And after that decision, three wonderful, jaw-dropping miracles followed that only the hand of God could orchestrate Himself:

  1. It wasn’t far into treatment that my pastor asked if I could share my story during services, so there I stood on that platform, sharing the news of cancer, but declaring the Gospel nevertheless. And there was the most wonderful man named Tyler Anderson visiting our church with friends that weekend, and he later sent me a simple Facebook message: “Heard your story, and I just want you to know that God wants you well and I’m praying for you.”

We messaged back and forth, met a couple months later, and got married almost a year after. The best, you guys. This, by far, has been my favorite blessing and proof alone that I serve a good God who gives abundantly good gifts to His people!

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  1. Because I worked at a church with thousands, I kept getting mauled with questions about how I was doing—and honestly, when my emotions were already a little tedious, it was hard. So I started writing a blog called Dear Mr. Hodgkin’s as a way to keep everyone informed, and ultimately, proclaim God’s truth in it. Each post grew to get thousands of views per day, people were sharing on social media as well as with friends and family, and it wasn’t long until believers all around the globe were praying for me. This is where I really learned the power of prayer.

The doctor soon found my body was responding well—and not just a “healthy, you’re on track, making progress as we projected” well, but like “plans need to change” well. Instead of 6 months of chemo, he cut it in half to 3 months and I was able to dive into radiation that much sooner. A miracle was happening before my very eyes, and it was UNDENIABLY Christ.

I want to pause here to say that I understand this isn’t everybody’s story. I’m not saying that if you pray and have faith, you’ll be healed, your child will be healthy, you’ll make plenty of money, and everything will go your way. But what I’m saying is that, sometimes, I think we as Christians forget about the power of prayer and give up on hope too early. We hear about a friend who was diagnosed with a terrible illness, we hear about a marriage on the rocks, and we hear about a friend struggling with infertility, and sometimes, we think, “That is so sad. I’m so sorry.”

But the truth is, we have the very Spirit of God who raised Christ from the dead, living in us, you guys! Alive. Working on our behalf. And still more powerful than anything we could ever face. So why do we respond so weak? Why do we even think to give up the fight before the battle has even finished?

And trust me when I say I was in the battle. It wasn’t all good, and God’s hand wasn’t always evident. I remember one night, the chemo drugs had an adverse effect on my body, and I was up all night, screaming into a pillow because my tongue literally felt like it was on fire. I had tears streaming down my face, begging God for relief, and I had to wait until the oncology center opened and they altered my treatment. There were plenty of those moments—when I’d touch the port on my chest and barely feel human, more like a robot than anything else, and just cry. When my hair started to fall out into clumps, and I had to shave my head. When the doctor told me I very well might not be able to have kids, and I’d cry for the future child I knew I was supposed to have.

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But I once heard my pastor put it this way—we know what happens when we don’t believe. Scripture shows us clearly when His people didn’t take hold of the faith, they didn’t enter the Promised Land, Jesus couldn’t perform miracles in His own hometown, etc. So when we give up, we know the battle’s been lost. We’ve forfeited the victory ourselves.

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But when we hope? When we pray for our friend to be healed, that marriage to be saved, and that friend to get pregnant, and actually believe it will happen, we very well might see the hand of God move. We might see people’s faiths getting restored and miracles happening. So why not hope? I’ve learned we can’t let our fear or disappointment get in the way, and we must remember God’s Word when it says, “As for me, I will always have hope.”

  1. Which leads me to my third miracle and blessing: My kids. Like I said, the doctors prepared me that I may not be able to have kids, but less than a year after we were married, Oscar came. A year and a half later, Mabel was born. And although I’ve miscarried, we are expecting our third baby to come this summer. This always chokes me up and reminds me that God alone holds the final word.

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So that’s my story, you guys. I wouldn’t have dreamt it, I would’ve loved a life with a perfect health record, and I still battle fears about the future because of my experience. But His hand has so heavily moved in my life that I’m eternally grateful and constantly convicted to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received.

And let me leave you with this—whatever you’re fighting against today, whatever you’re struggling against to keep the faith, and whatever is chiseling at your spirit and threatening your hope, remember the deeds of the Lord. Look back on your life, cling to those moments when He’s moved on your behalf, and don’t waver in the belief that He will move again. Because that’s our reality, that’s our truth. Not our struggle, not the things we can see with our eyes. But what we can’t see, the pieces God is moving into place that we can’t see, and the God who is ever-powerful and ever-loving that we can’t see but is indeed working and loving us today.

To God be the glory forever and ever, in our stories and in our lives and in our faith, Amen.


22459411_10159308293755167_3699831031687645309_oHeidi is a writer, speaker, and stay-at-home mom, who crafts daily devotionals for Eagle Brook Church, cleans up cheerio spills around the clock, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore. Ultimately, Heidi’s passion and the fuel behind her writing is that Christ-followers would realize, know, and claim the victory God offers His people—in the mundane, amidst the heartache, and on top of the highest mountains. You can follow her on Instagram at @thismotherhen and check out her daily devotions here


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

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PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgerydonate and adopt an embryo,  be on a reality show, go through the fostering process, throw a themed dinner party and have PCOSStay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

ttc exchange 2018: lucky socks.

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It’s GO time! I am kicking off our 2018 TTC Exchange to bring together all women in all phases of infertility (trying to conceive, currently pregnant, adopting, new moms, taking a break, post-miscarriage, surrogacy, adoption, etc). Year after year, hundreds upon hundreds of women across the globe come together and connect, getting a randomly paired partner, and creating a care box for them – this year containing a pair of socks! – and forming a new friendship.

I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

Why lucky socks this year instead of mugs?

  1. It’s easier to ship! Less hassle with bubble wrap, broke mugs, and heavy boxes.
  2. It’s cheaper to ship! With so many women willing to ship to partners around the globe, the cost of mailing a heavy box adds up fast. This will lighten the load – literally!
  3. Socks are worn by everyone! Whether you are slipping them on to go to a doctor appointment, adoption meeting, or just on a Wednesday as you go about your day, you will know and feel the love of this community around you.

ALL of the details + sign up link is found HERE.

Please take a few moments to read through everything carefully before signing up. Your sign-up is making a commitment to follow through with your partnership and we take that seriously around here!

Have fun! Sign-ups close on Wednesday, August 22nd at midnight CST. 

what it’s like to: have PCOS.

I met Monica last year through a brave email she sent me.

It started: “My name is Monica Allan from Orange County, CA. I stumbled on your blog while tirelessly searching for comfort, answers, or basically anything about infertility. I simply just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your life on your blog. It is simply beautiful. My husband and I are also dealing with infertility, PCOS, and a body that basically cannot communicate (mine)… I know you have no idea who I am but you have touched my heart and sparked a hope within me that I will need…”

And that Monica is the girl you will meet in today’s piece. (What a fun full circle moment – she will now have the chance to touch others on this platform!) She is kind and honest, and digs in deep to share what it’s like to go through PCOS. Monica, thank you for reaching out when you did and being willing to share your story with us today.

Here’s what it’s like to have PCOS. 


I grow cysts, really well. That is what I have learned since a young 12 year old girl, loosing my right ovary to an ovarian cyst that caused my right ovary to twist. Little did I know as a young girl that these cysts would persist and bring so much heartache into my marriage that I so effortlessly assumed would be nothing short of the storybook fairy tale I had dreamt of; marriage, pregnancy, creating a nursery, and happily ever after without soul crushing diagnoses and heartbreaking realities. If I could, I would tell my 12 year old self to buckle up and become an advocate for myself and my only precious ovary.

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4 years ago I was told I had a diagnosis of PCOS when the doctor found another ovarian cyst. I felt confused, I thought I had already climbed this mountain at a young age and would be in the clear to start my dreams of motherhood once I got married- at least that is what the fairy tale books tell us, right? You overcome a struggle and things become sparkly and fairy tale like. Sadly, this is not the reality of many of us in the infertility community. Instead, I was hit with continuous cysts, rapidly growing, non-existent periods, the occasional chin hair (although what girl doesn’t get this, let’s keep it real), and seasons of deep depression and anxiety.

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a well-known diagnosis within the infertility community. But what each person goes through, presenting symptoms, PCOS is so unique and individualized. Something I have learned over the past 4 years is to advocate for my future family, my future babies, and myself -wrapped up in one precious but strained ovary. I had to seek answers, doctors throw PCOS around like it is “normal”, but 4 years ago, to me, it was not written in my fairy tale book. I had to accept PCOS being written in my fairy tale, and learn how to not allow it to dictate the happy ending. I wish I could tell all of you that over the past 4 years I have overcome and fertility treatments have worked, but sadly I can’t. What I can say is that due to PCOS being so unique to each woman, you can’t lose hope- you have to tighten up your boot straps and not give up on understanding your body, how to writer your fairy tale regardless of diagnoses and obstacles.

My fairy tale is still unfolding. My husband and I have attempted to begin 3 IUI’s, but at each baseline appointment our fertility doctor finds another cyst growing so we are stopped in our hopeful tracks and I find myself back on the surgery table, begging doctors to save my ovary so I can experience my fairy tale. After 3 surgeries in 3 months (5 total) and doctors reminding me of the devastating high possibility of losing my ovary because the cysts get so large before each surgery we have encountered the rarity and depths of the realities of PCOS.

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Finally, just 2 weeks ago, my husband and I were told by my surgeon that due to the cysts reoccurring so often and being unable to control the growth that my only ovary needs to be removed. Also, on June 28, 2018 we were given the opportunity to attempt and retrieve eggs, though many obstacles stand in our way (such as a large growing cyst) we rejoice in the opportunity to freeze embryos before the removal of my ovary. Small miracles do exist written in the pages of our fairy tales, faithfully pursue them.

Now, before you become overwhelmed – this is VERY rare for PCOS diagnosis. In addition, over the past 4 months my husband and I have come to a place of peace that we have done everything in our power to save my ovary, literally begging doctors to save it while going under anesthesia for surgeries, and blindly beginning stimulation to retrieve eggs. My hope for all of you reading this is that you find your armor, to advocate for yourself and go down fighting for your fairy tale. PCOS does not have to rule or dictate your happiness. There is so much joy and hope in this world. People with PCOS may have to rely on faith and science to become pregnant, but it does happen! Each of us are so uniquely and wonderfully made, fight for yourself. Ask the difficult questions to your doctor. And most importantly, always remember this diagnosis does not have to consume you, we are more than depression, hairy chins, and cystic ovaries. I have worked hard the past year, through going to therapy and leaning on my faith in God to identify myself not as “the girl with PCOS” but as a child of a faithful God, a wife, a sister, a friend, and a fighter. My “cysters” out there; you are warriors, fighters, and overcomers (even if you simply just got out of bed today) keep up the fight. Fairy tales do happen, mine is currently unfolding, just differently than I thought as a child and because my fairy tale has been anything but simple, I have found a new part of myself I never knew existed. The fighter. The advocate. The strength to live with a diagnosis of PCOS that has stolen so much from me, but daily choosing to find joy in how strong I have become due to this difficult, heart breaking, fearful road.


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Monica lives in Orange County with her husband Aj who have been married since 2016. Monica is learning to embrace the uniqueness of each infertility story and desires to connect with other women who can share in their journey towards parenthood with the help of lost of faith and science. She loves Jeep rides, cooking, and Jesus. You can connect with her further on Instagram at @lotsoffaithandscience.


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

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PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother,have weight loss surgerydonate and adopt an embryobe on a reality show, and go through the fostering process.Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to throw a themed dinner party.

What can I say … today’s featured writer is my very own Mom and I couldn’t be more excited to share her passion today! Those who know my mom will say one thing – she’s CREATIVE! She is the OG Pinterest. She handcrafted costumes when buying them was more popular.14906971_10207551093792448_2068120258079971620_n

She has an eye for taking things many might consider ordinary and reinventing it in a way you would never imagine. She’s know for her immense talent of throwing themed dinner parties … and her cooking … well, it’s out of this world.

Today she is sharing with all of us her process behind throwing a themed dinner party and why it is so important to her. I am so grateful to have eaten around her dinner table time and time again and experience what can only be known as a true party filled with laughter, conversation, and life!

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There is nothing that gets me as excited as when I decide to throw a themed dinner party. All of my creative boxes get checked during the process of planning and creating one. Growing up, my parents always had a crowd of people around our table; neighbors stopping in for a cup of coffee, or dads work friends stopping by with their wife for a visit. There was always a reason for people to gather at my house growing up. Sunday nights we celebrated someone’s birthday with a cake, Saturday night was often card parties, weekend mornings were for the coffee drinkers who needed a place to be heard and shoot the breeze.

My dad was a natural at socializing with the best of them, he was a jokester, a listener, and he just loved people; the more the merrier was always his thinking.  My mom, who was put in a position to be ready for any unexpected visitors, always did her best to keep up with being the hostess with the mostest. Mom understood, like all of us kids did, that dad loved people, and at any given time of the day our table could fill up. As I observed the people around the table with my young eyes, and listened to conversations from another room, I couldn’t help but hear the laughter that was shared, the troubles that were mentioned, and how each person had their platform to speak and be understood.  I share this with you because it wasn’t something that I just experienced as a little girl; as I grew older, this table gathering continued, only I was now enjoying being part of the conversation. Coming from a large family meant that there was always a table to gather at, including mine.

When we made the move to Minnesota a few years ago, one of the things I found myself missing was the table gathering times that I had obviously taken for granted back home.  I was new to the state and feeling a little lost; I had to find a way to bring people to my table even if at first it was just my husband, and I. So that’s how it all started out, just the two of us, sitting at a well dressed table, eating good food, and feeling like we were at some restaurant, on a date. It wasn’t very long before I got to include others at my table, and well almost 60 dinners later I have made some incredible memories; in fact I still laugh at some of the things we found funny then.

As I sit here writing these words my mind is going over all the people I still want to share a themed dinner with; you know who you are, and perhaps some don’t. These themed dinners have become more than just a dinner; they have become a way for me to write and share about my personal connections to the theme. They have allowed me to try some good recipes, take some great pictures, share some tablescape ideas, and even start a sort of time capsule that holds one or two items from every tablescape,giving future generations the chance to unwrap and connect with my story and dinners in a special way. Perhaps it will inspire others not to underestimate how just gathering around a table can change things. Great conversations get shared and closeness to one another builds in a way that chops down walls. What I feel incredibly grateful for with these dinners is the chance to celebrate people in a very unique way, letting them know they matter, and are loved; what could be better than that?

Of all the dinners I have done there are only a few that include game playing, dressing up, or some mystery to solve. The thing about theme dinners is you are the decider of what you want to include, and how detailed you want to get; be forewarned though, you will never control how much laughter takes place or where the conversation goes. These are the things your guests will decide, and that is what makes these dinners so much fun. Let me share with you, just in case you are interested in throwing a themed dinner of your own, how I go about putting them together. The one I am sharing with you today is a little more involved but not all are as detailed. This themed dinner stirred up some childhood memories just as I thought it would; the theme was MONOPOLY.

Before I get started with my tablescape I always first hit the local thrift shop. I look for anything that will add to the theme of my tablescape if I have one in mind or if not something that will inspire an idea.  This particular trip I had an idea in place so I knew what I was looking for. I picked up several things, including a worn out Monopoly game; I can use the game pieces to highlight my theme.  So as I get started on my tablescape, I always choose a tablecloth; it is the foundation that will help direct you on many more decisions. In some rare cases like this one, when I can’t find the exact color tablecloth I want, I head to the fabric store and purchase material. After prepping the material to work as a tablecloth, I place it on the table.

Once my table is covered I decide on place mats. For this table I made a place mat template using Monopoly money and then copied them; they looked great and added to my theme.

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After my tablecloth and placemats are in place, I start to put together my place settings. Will I use a charger or won’t I? For this tablescape I chose to not only use chargers, but also to paint them. Each one represented a property color. I chose black plates and white bowls and my table started to pop with color. Thank goodness for craft paint.

Plates

Every table needs details to bring your theme to life; take a look at some of the ones I came up with. Wine glass charms that had a game piece token added to them, thanks to my husband and his drill.   I glued Monopoly houses onto napkin rings, and found salt and pepper shakers that looked like dice. I also added a “community chest” to glass coasters that had a property card taped on the back side of them. I printed out Monopoly labels for my water bottles and topped each one with the iconic Monopoly hat.  Lastly I printed out a copy of a smaller Monopoly board and made copies of it. I spray glued them on to thick pieces of cardboard and will use them for hot pads, and mini game boards.

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The table was coming together just as I hoped but I still had glasses to decide on and napkins. After those decisions were done I just had a couple more things I still wanted to include before I was finished. One of them was a MONOPOLY sign that would hang on the wall right above the table; so iconic and familiar it just had to be part of this dinner somehow.

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The last thing I was lucky enough to find when thrift store shopping, was game board tokens only bigger. The items got spray painted silver and looked pretty close to the originals; as close as I was going to get. I placed one token at each place setting matching it up to the wine glass charm. Thank goodness for thrift stores and silver spray paint because I loved how these turned out.

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When the table was completed I was happy with how it turned out. I think it will be a fun table to sit at, eat at, laugh at, play at, and even win at. I can’t wait to hear all the memories everyone has connected to this game. Let’s face it, most of us have memories of who we played with, what our favorite token was and stories of wins and losses.

Each place setting was unique and represented a property.

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After the tablescape is finished, I get cooking. Now I realize not everyone cooks, so at this point, why not consider take out! Don’t think you couldn’t throw a themed dinner just because you don’t cook. On an occasion or two I have felt perfectly comfortable grabbing a Jimmy Johns Italian Sub to cut up and add to my menu. Now I want to do a themed dinner with only takeout food, and see what I come up with ….. Hmmm.  Whatever works for you; you are in the driver seat.

Don’t miss out though on a fun evening of getting to make some great memories, and enjoy some laughs, just because cooking isn’t your thing. Life is so good around the table!  Since the Monopoly game properties are all located in Atlantic City, a resort city on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast, I wanted my food to represent the casinos, wide beaches, and iconic Boardwalk it’s known for. I decided instead of a 5 or 6 course dinner, that I would serve 9 food tasters that included desserts; one for every property, including the railroad. Every dish was made with New Jersey in mind.

When the company arrived it was important we got a little bit more into the Monopoly spirit ….. So everyone was given a Monopoly T shirt that I had ordered and asked them to put on. We all took a seat and just like every other dinner first said a prayer, and then toasted to a great time together.

And then it was time for the food; every couple each got their own appetizer to enjoy; and any leftovers were theirs to take home. For round one I served: Mussels with Garlic Bread, this was something I never cooked at home before, but cooking new things is one of the things I love about these dinners. Next was Disco Fries, yes that’s the name of them, you cover the Steak Fries with brown gravy and cheese sauce;  I can’t even tell you what a surprise this was, so, so good. Then I served Tomato Pie, it’s just incredible and so full of flavor.

Round 1

For Round Two I served: Scallops with lemons and melted butter, an Italian Wedding Soup, a plate of sandwiches which included Italian Beef and Sausage Combos and Hoagies. My Cheese filled Crepes topped with my Creamy Alfredo Sauce completed the savory dishes I served.

Round 2

This is the part at the dinner where people start to get a little slap happy, start experiencing hot flashes, and start realizing they might of over ate. When they see Round 3 my dessert course heading to the table, they all proclaim they are too full to taste any of it; but when they see the New Jersey Crumb Cake, The Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches, and the Salt Water Taffy, there seemed to be a change of heart.

Round 3

We played a short version of Monopoly that I made up, and enjoyed our desserts throughout the game playing. I was thankful for the fun night we shared; it always seems that as the night goes on the craziness starts to creep out of everyone. I wouldn’t have it any other way though because that’s when some great memories are made. So gather those you want to share a themed dinner with and make the most of it; you will be so glad you did.

“LIVING LIFE AROUND THE TABLE”


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Kim has been happily married for 35+ years and currently lives in the Twin Cities area. She is originally from Chicago and continues to cheer on Chicago sports teams (Go Cubs! Go Blackhawks!). She finds so much joy being with her grandchildren, and being creative through themed dinners, decorating and cooking. She loves the Lord with all her heart and believes with God all things are possible. 


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

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PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgerydonate and adopt an embryo, be on a reality show, and go through the fostering processStay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

what it’s like: to go through the fostering process.

Ahh, if you have been around the trying to conceive world at all, my friend Elisha is no stranger to you. She writes over at Waiting for Baby Bird, runs a Facebook encouragement group that supports of 37,000 women, and loves on women in her in-home infertility support group, The Nest.

I have had the privilege of meeting this sweet friend in 2016 and am thrilled that we are speaking at the same conference together in a few weeks, The Hope Narrative. She’s funny, heart-felt, and an encouragement to this community. I am so honored to have her sharing her story as a foster parent today!

Elisha, thank you for sharing your time and story with us … and I can’t wait to hug you in less than 2 weeks! Whooohoooo!

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Our friend Caroline, Elisha and I

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My prayer team … Elisha is a POWER PRAYER


Day 1: The doorbell rang and when I opened it, there she was, a beautiful three-year-old little princess who was barely 34 inches tall. She had a small white stuffed animal kitty tucked underneath your left arm; a thumb stuck tight in her mouth, and on top of her head was a pigtail that looked like a palm tree. Her smile warmed my heart as I said hello and showed her the room she would be sleeping in for the next 30 days while her Momma was trying to get back on her feet. Little did anyone know that the 30 days would turn into 90 days and 90 days would soon turn into 180 days and 180 days would somehow turn into 1,273.

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So much happened between day 1 and day 1,273. So many fun memories, belly laughs, birthday parties, and vacations. I’ll never forget the time her toes touched the ocean for the first time and a wave knocked her to the ground. She giggled. I giggled. And then we chased the birds while stopping to pick up every single sea shell.

Dan and Mikayla on Swing

But as you might have already guessed, or perhaps already know through experience, foster parenting is not always tea parties and coloring books. And trying to explain the ups and downs and the battle that rages within is hard.

In fact for weeks I have sat at my computer desk trying to find the words to perfectly and neatly articulate what it is like to be a foster parent and care for another person’s child whom you love like your own. But after hours of typing and then deleting, I have given up on trying to articulate it in such a neat and tidy manner because the fact of the manner is…I can’t. Foster care is messy; therefore this article will probably be messy too. My thoughts might jump from one facet of foster care to the next and without warning; which honestly, that’s what fostering parenting is like. Everything is a mystery and nothing can be expected. Your whole world could change in the blink of an eye. The child you took to school that morning might not return to your home that evening. I believe this is why as a foster parent you are told so often to expect the unexpected; which I faithfully did, just not always in a healthy manner.

Me and Mikayla 2014

I can’t tell you how many times while tucking her into bed and getting her snug as a bug in a rug the reality of the situation would hit me like a freight train and I would begin to weep as I imagined it being the last time I would wish her sweet dreams as I blew her kisses goodnight.

With each court hearing I would pace the floor as I imagined the worst. What if the judge would announce that it’s time…time to pack her bags, box up her toys, and prepare her for a new life with a new normal? What if he would order her to a new home? It was highly unlikely they would ever move her anywhere else but back home to be with her Momma, however the thought and the fear was always still there, lurking.

And don’t get me started on the places my imaginations would take me each and every time the phone would ring or the case worker would show up unannounced. Talk about moments when your heart would stop and you would have to remind yourself to breathe again! Ay, yi, yi!

I would even subject myself to self-inflicted torment on a regular basis as I would allow my heart to feel what it would be like to strap her into the backseat of a state owned and operated vehicle, then shut the door and wave goodbye to her for the final time. Talk about a box of Kleenexes!

I once read a quote while in the midst of the 1,273 days of uncertainty that said, “Worry is a misuse of your imagination.” It was such a v8 slap in the forehead moment for me. God didn’t give us an imagination so that we could create scenarios that would cause our hearts to ache and fear to take root. Instead He gave it to us so that we could envision our life, see our situations, and even look at other people through hopeful eyes of faith; which is not always an easy choice to make when in the throes of foster care. Especially with that last one. Ya know, being able to see the biological parent as someone who deserves a chance, perhaps even a simple high-five of encouragement. Or a care package from their child letting them know they are not forgotten and loved.

Mikayla Sending Package to Her Mother

I’ll never forget the first time I saw her mother. Our foster daughter had been living with us for a few months before I shook her hand and looked into her eyes. Eyes that…well…pierced my soul. I will never forget the emptiness I saw in her that day. She was hurting. Her life was in a hopeless state. I could see her heart was broken. Actually, shattered. And her mind seemed to be controlled by the pains of her past that I just couldn’t understand because I had never faced them.

I remember after the awkward greeting our foster daughter taking her five tiny fingers that were wrapped in mine and letting them fall to her side as she then went to grab her Momma’s so that they may sit on a bench and color like old times. I surprisingly wasn’t jealous. I didn’t even sense the need to try to compete. And despite thinking I would, I also didn’t have feelings of anger or thoughts that she didn’t deserve her. But I must admit, before I saw her for the first time that day, I did. Because in my eyes, she was the sinner and I was the saint. She was the one undeserving to be her mother.

Me and Mikayla Being Silly

But on that day, while walking up the steps to meet her, I asked the Lord to help me see her the way He saw her. I knew that if I was to get through this process without all the ugly emotions that often accompanies situations like this then I didn’t want to see her the way the investigators painted her. I didn’t want to look at her the way her past and present spoke of her. I didn’t want to see her as the sinner I had written her off to be. And I didn’t want to condemn her for the poor choices she had made. Or label her as a bad mom, sister, daughter, or friend. I wanted to see her the way He saw her.

I wanted to see her through the eyes of grace. 

Because friends, who am I to judge?  Her life could have easily been mine. It could have been me seeking the love my soul craved from men who didn’t care about my worth. It could have been me chasing friends who were chasing the world and the emptiness that worldly pleasures so often bring.  It could have been me drowning in a sea of depression with no one to throw out a life preserver. It could have been me. And you might not want to admit it, but it could have also been you. I believe that we are all one bad decision away from losing our family’s, our homes, our money, our jobs, or our friendships. Just think about it.

When it comes to foster parenting and even life in general, you have to use your imagination for good. You have to believe for the best. Not always expecting the worst. Especially in people. It’s the only way to get through. Get through foster care. And ultimately get through life.

Many of you might be wondering what happened on day 1,274. Did she stay or did she go home? But because my word count is up, I’ll let a few pictures tell the story.

Kearns Party of 7

Kearns Rounded 2


Kearns Rounded 1

Elisha Kearns is the author behind the nationally known faith-based blog, Waiting for Baby Bird. She and her husband have been married for 11 amazing years and yearn to have a household full of children; however due to PCOS they have been challenged in the fertility department. Despite the facts, together they continue to put their faith in the Lord for a miracle. Her mission in life is to share her story in order to inspire and breathe hope into the lives of other women facing similar circumstances. Whether it is through her writing, standing behind the podium at infertility conferences, or leading her own support group in her small town of Southern Illinois, she inspires other women to never give up on their dreams and to believe for the impossible. She is witty, down to earth and transparent, always making every woman feel as though she is speaking directly to their heart. Aside from sharing her passion and love for Jesus, she is also a stay-at-home mom to their 7-year-old daughter who was newly adopted through foster care. For more of her story or to find hope and encouragement, visit her blog at waitingforbabybird.com, or connect with her and thousands of others @waitingforbabybird on Facebook or Instagram.


PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you! 

PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called In the Wait’!

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PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cyclesraise a child with special needsuse an egg donorbe a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse,  Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriagesuffer with endometriosis. experience depressionstart a company, have a micro preemie,  lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illnessfund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility,  be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer,  be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgery, donate and adopt an embryo, and be on a reality show. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!

 

july faves.

How, just HOW, is it almost August?! GASP! Time is flying my friends!

We are having such a fun summer. Logan is walking/running most of the time and Kirsten is taking huge strides here and there before resorting back to crawling. I say we are about a week away from full-blown walking for her! Yay! 

Both kids love the outdoors. Water tables, picnics, playing in their Little Coupes … they are such happy babies. Josh has been able to get some golf in this summer, unlike last, and we are finding a good rhythm with our family. They are growing SO fast! 15 months next week … *Faints*.

I am heading to Louisiana next week for the Hope Narrative conference, where I was asked to be the keynote speaker. If you think of it on Saturday August 11th, I would love a quick prayer, for everything to go well and that His words are what leaves my mouth! I am so excited to connect with some friends face-to-face for the first time instead of just phone or text! 

I just held a baby shower for my sister Courtney this past weekend which was SO fun! Her little ALL STAR and my nephew will be here before we know it! So exciting!!

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We also had the joy to celebrate the fact that IVF turned 40 last week! It’s amazing how far science has come and we are so incredibly thankful for how God has used this resource to help families in need, particularly ours! We occasionally get asked how as believers, we reconcile reproductive resources. For us the answer is simple: after all we’ve been through, all the highs and lows, failures and miscarriages, it’s abundantly clear that while IVF is an amazing resource, it’s only truly God who breaths and sustains life. The decision is personal and requires prayer and thought, but for us, it’s where we were pointed. So, similarly to how chemo may help heal a cancer patient, IVF helped heal my body and start our family, and for that, we praise the One who opened the path! Happy 40th birthday to the first IVF baby and thank you CCRM Minneapolis for your part in making our dreams come true! CCRM also held a reunion picnic earlier this month with all of the families who have had success there thus far … it was amazing to see and fun to meet other CCRM mommas!

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Who can compete with a family photo when there are BALLOONS!

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Finally getting to meet my friend Megan in real life with her own miracle!

Now, without further ado, here’s some of our favorite things this month!

1) Popsocket: This little contraption adheres to the back of your phone case and provides a little collapsible grip and stand for you to use while you are holding your phone. I have loved that I can pop it up and use my phone with one hand, especially for taking pictures, without feeling like it will slip out. One of those things I spent a few bucks on and now can’t imagine not having it!

2) Functional Diaper Bag Backpack: I’ve been on the hunt lately to find a good backpack I can use to throw the kids stuff in there and not have to worry about it getting dirty. While I did snag a Fawn Design too (LOVE), I ordered this one from Prime Day and LOVE how lightweight it is and am not afraid to get it spilled on or dirty. It even has clips for my stroller which is awesome. For $20-some bucks, its a great everyday backpack that I can drop off with my kids at sunday school or drag with us to the zoo. 

3) “You Say” by Lauren Daigle: Lauren’s music has had such a strong place in my heart for so long. I listened to her album driving to every single doctor appointment for nearly a year and her album was playing overhead during my c-section. She just came out with a new song You Say and it’s powerful.     

4) Trader Joe’s Blue Cheese Olives: Enough said. These jarred olives are amazing and everyone who tastes them says the same. Grab a jar next time you are there and enjoy with a yummy charcuterie tray. Mmmmm! 

5) Beauty Counter Lipstick: My friend Ashley was over for a playdate a few weeks ago and got me to try this lipstick she raved about … and I never wear lipstick … and low and behold, I really liked it! This Beauty Counter color was a perfect shade (twig) and she had me top it with a Bare Shimmer lipgloss and I love how natural it looks while still looking nice! I placed an order that night and now wear it daily! My favorite part is that neither are sticky and they stay on a longgggg time which is perfect because this momma never remembers to reapply! :) 

And now some of the kiddos favorites! 

1) Harry Potter Clothing line at Target: Sound the alarms! Target just launched an exclusive Harry Potter line for toddlers, kids, and adults and it’s everything an HP fan could hope for and more. The sizes were going fast when I was there but I managed to snag Kirsten a tee-shirt and Logan a sweat-shirt … and if you are an HP fan, you gotta grab something while it’s still around! 

2) Weighted straw cupsWe love these Munchkin weighted straw cups! These cups allow them to use a straw while being able to hold the cup at any angle. The straws and covers come apart easily for easy cleaning (and replacement straws are sold too). We have been big fans of these! 

3) Freeze dried mangos: You can get these at most grocery stores, we grab them at Target, and my kid flip when they see the bag come out! It’s awesome for them to munch and feels good on those teething gums. 

Also … the babies had their first Oreo at Costco (thanks sample day!). Logan loved his … and clearly ate his too fast and then had to watch his sister flaunt and slowly finish hers. This picture will forever crack me up!

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And finally, here’s a family photo from this weekend! We are just so utterly grateful for this blessing of our family … God is good!

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XO!

Chelsea


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