Thursday, December 27, 2012

adoption not separation: will you join in fasting?

a few years after mike and i were married we decided it was time to have a little one join our europe-traveled, mid-day movie going, college grad duo
what followed was unexpected heartbreak as i suffered through surgery and complications on our road to our sweet desire
i was separated from the child i longed to have in my arms
not because i felt ready to be a mother
but because of divinely given, inner yearnings to be one
what joy was ours when our tiny Owen finally came to join us

several years later after 2 and then 3 children, i suffered two miscarriages
not because i already had children of my own was the anguish i felt lessened at having those children removed from my earthly care
i have experienced longing
i have experienced aching
i have experienced loss
i have experienced heartbreak
but i can not imagine the sorrow of this kind of separation...

today my heart is heavy for a dear sweet friend whose grief at the separation from her child must be ever so great.
unique to anything i have ever experienced
she has worked, sacrificed, invested her spirit, faith, and heart into making this little girl apart of their family
recently katrina and her husband steve went to meet Natasha at the orphanage in russia where she has been since she was a baby
katrina and steve were her first visitors ever
as she shared these photos with her friends while she was away, my heart burst with joy for them
seeing them playing ball together, reading, going down slides, and laughing
i could just feel katrina and steve's hearts so full
{you can see more of their photos on this video here}

yesterday russia's upper chamber of parliament unanimously passed a bill that bans the adoption of russian children by american citizens.  here is a portion of the news article by the New York Times:

Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s child rights commissioner and a major proponent of the ban, told news agencies on Wednesday that he expected it to be enacted and to immediately block the departure of 46 children ready to be adopted by parents from the United States. He said the adoptions would be blocked regardless of previous agreements with the United States and even though some of the adoptions had already received court approval, and he expressed no regrets over the likely emotional turmoil for the families involved.“The children who have been chosen by foreign American parents — we know of 46 children who were seen, whose paperwork was processed, who came in the sights of American agencies,” Mr. Astakhov said in his statement. “They will not be able to go to America, to those who wanted to see them as their adopted children. There is no need to go out and make a tragedy out of it.”About 1,000 Russian children were adopted in 2011 by parents from the United States, which leads in adoptions here, and more than 45,000 such children have been adopted by American parents since 1999.
this tears at my heart
for katrina to face this type of separation from a little girl that she feels is her daughter
that sort of loss and longing is nothing i know of
to have held her
to have sacrificed for her through countless hours of work and stepping outside her comfort zone in fundraising
to have prayed over and over to receive confirmation that she had Heavenly Father's vision
to have done all she could...
to receive this news

katrina i weep with you and i want to be able to do what i can
i have learned from this powerful advocate for adoption "a place called simplicity" that the 'international voice for the orphan' organization is calling for a special fast on
December 29th
at this point the ban is in the hands of Putin to sign or not to sign
and all we can do is pray and fast
so i ask if you would care to join me this Saturday, December 29th
and fast
we have witnessed together the power of the fast for my daddy and Abigail
and now let us call on that power again
not only for Katrina, Steve, their children, and Natasha
but for other friends such as Christine and her sweet Elizabeth whom are also on this same path
and for all the other children and families whose hearts are grieving at the thought of this permanent separation
for the good of humanity
for all of God's children
thank you sweet friends
i know you will do what you can

this morning i woke to the devastating news that putin signed the bill
i haven't been able to think about anything else
my heart aches so much for these families
my friend Christine posted today on her Facebook page that there are a lot of rumors circulating:
everything from the ban will lift, special needs kids may still be adoptable, cases in process will be processed
and that she is still hopeful
i will still be fasting on the 29th
for hope in these rumors
for peace in the hearts of these families
for an overwhelming love from Heavenly Father to be poured out upon them all

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

merry christmas

Monday, December 17, 2012

watching them closely

this morning was rather calm
the misty rain and foggy clouds creating that feeling of wanting to stay right where you are and curl up in a blanket
my heart was still heavy from seeing the faces of those lives lost in that senseless act
and reading about their love for life
their dance recitals, baseball games, and passion for their professions
as i drove up to the the younger boys' school today my stomach had a twinge of fear
i followed them closely in my car after i dropped them off
i watched them closely, appreciating them each at this age
tate, 5, a ball of fire.  a spring in every step. you always know he's around.  everyone is his friend.  and he really likes to have can see the strain in his little body when he's trying really hard to refrain from something that he knows he shouldn't do but looks really, really fun
eyan, 7, a sensitive soul.  a easy-going, content boy.  his eyes are open to who needs help and how he can do it.  he is a protector and a watcher.  everyone loves him and is his bud.  he is naturally drawn to do what is right and loves to feel that warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanies it.

my 'mother heart' aches with those grieving mothers
losing my father was the most difficult thing i have experienced in my entire life
the void, the need, the longing
that accompany such a loss is sometimes too excruciating to bear
losing a child...
no words

what i do know is what i have experienced for myself throughout my recent journey of separation
that better than any earthly blanket
i have been wrapped up in the warm and secure embrace of my Savior Jesus Christ 
it is almost too reverent to speak of
but it has been real oh so real
that relationship has been my anchor
and when i have raised it up to tread that sea alone, i have felt it, i have felt the drifting, the confusion, the doubt, the anger
only when i am firmly planted with my anchor can i face the ever-changing, unpredictable waves that make up everyday life

as i greeted each of my boys after school today, i wrapped my arms around them and held them extra long
so grateful they were safe and home
so grateful to hold them
and watch them grow
feeling blessed today
very blessed

Friday, December 14, 2012

guest blogger over on commona-my house

don't you just love the kind of friends who sincerely celebrate your successes with you
who go up to others, even complete strangers, and tell them the good things that are happening for you
they relish in your joys
they encourage you in your aspirations and dreams
they work side by side with you
and then the best kind of friends are the kind who cry with you
who cry with you when you ache, when you have lost something or someone so dear
they feel what you feel

this is the kind of friend i am happy to introduce you to today
my dear friend Amy and I have one of those amazing friendships that you never tire of, a natural friendship that leaves me the better after every encounter.
But alas we live time zones apart
thanks be to the internet and the old fashioned telephone call

i am honored to be a guest blogger today on her new design blog Commona-My House {i just break into song every time i say the name}
Amy has impeccable taste, stemming from her upbringing around an auction house full of timeless pieces.
She is ready to share her knowledge of design and her drive for inspiring you in your individual style.

Amy has a series entitled Freebie Friday in which she shares her favorite free finds from her inspiration sites on the web
this week she invited me to share with her readers my Holiday Family Feud game that continues to attest to the power of the pin
she had a great idea of even printing out the question and answer cards as gifts 
wrapped in a basket of goodies
love it

head on over to Commona- My House and give her a warm welcome from our little
Sweet Dreams community
read about the inspiration behind her blog here
you'll fall in love with her and her sassy Gram

bloom organic airbrush tanning: discount and giveaway

local entreprenette #3

say hello to Renae...
this stunning lady also had a baby girl around the same time i had felicity.  poppy is her name.  poppy and felicity....two delightful names, destined to be friends.  renae is someone you immediately want as your friend. she has a warm, inviting nature with an ever-present essence of absolute coolness- her beauty always looking effortless.  her heart is big, super big.  one of my first meetings with renae was during our community garage sale.  renae and her husband, jesse, were thrilled to be planting a church and renae was searching for the perfect toys for their new members' children.  you could see the excitement in her hands as she choose each item with care.

i am delighted to have Renae introduce herself and her business

I have been married to my husband Jesse for 7 wonderful years. We have 2 children, a son Braeden who is 5 and a 2 year old daughter Poppy. They couldn't be more opposite and I couldn't be more happy. Our hearts are so full. We have been in ministry for five years learning and growing from Jesus each step of the way.
I have loved tanning since the early days of high school growing up in Bakersfield. Banana boat...boom box...105 degree weather. Then came tanning beds. Im fair skinned, that's a nice way to put it. The madness had to stop. I found airbrush tanning about two years ago and "organic" was the cherry on top. I actually care about skin now-and yours:) I'm the mom at the pool lathering my little Irish kids in SPF 50 every few hours. You don't have to damage your skin anymore to have a tan. It's a wonderful thing.

Bloom Tanning is a mobile organic airbrush tanning service, serving the Inland Empire, the OC, and Los Angeles and San Diego areas.  For whatever the occasion we want to make you come alive from the inside out. If a beautiful bronze tan is what you need to feel confident with what you already have, we can do that for you. Airbrush tanning is the safest way to achieve that flawless tan while softening your skin, naturally.

Our product is a perfect blend of natural ingredients that will bronze your skin while keeping it moisturized, radiant and hydrated throughout the tanning process. It is formulated with organic oils (high in antioxidants), green tea extract, organic herbs, vitamins and natural colours. The skin-firming formula goes to work while your tan develops. All of our products are hypoallergenic, paraben-free, and alcohol-free. The unique formula is custom blended to give you the most natural tan based on each client's skin or preference.


doesn't that just sound luxurious?! 
well you are due for a luxurious reward
renae is offering a $15 discount off the first tanning for all Inland Empire, OC, LA, and San Diego residents by mentioning this giveaway and contacting her here or by visiting her website
it gets even better for one lucky Inland Empire resident...


one lucky Sweet Dreams are Made of These reader will win 

*This giveaway will close at midnight on Thursday December 20th PST
*This giveaway is open to INLAND EMPIRE, CA RESIDENTS ONLY!!! {i know you wish you lived here}
* The winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to the winner notification email. After 48 hours another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{photos by Leslie Autumn Photography}

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

homeschooling: i can't quit

homeschooling is not for the faint of might
i have watched homeschooling moms from a distance for many years with great respect and awe and 
crossed my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye
that i would never, ever homeschool my children
well, you see, one needs quite an abundance of patience to homeschool
and that's just not one of my giftings

which brings us to present
as i mentioned in my post 'slowing down and drinking it in', i decided to homeschool Owen part time this school year, two days on campus and three days at home with me
oh there have been some beautiful lightbulb moments and choirs singing 'Hallelujah'
but it has been many, many long days of push and pull, give and take, get in close and walk away
with late nights of grading, finishing science experiments, grading, and reading up on density
it has stretched every patience muscle i have and i have failed miserably many, many days
i could easily throw in the towel
i could {as i have threatened to do many times} drop him off at the local elementary school that we actually really love

so why am i doing this
i have reminded myself of the reasons many, many times

it was two days before school began that i received the call that there was an opening for Owen to be homeschooled part-time this year through the wonderful local charter school
mere weeks after the passing of my Daddy

after living through those weeks of experiences, i felt as if my eyes had opened to a completely new way of living
one in which i looked at difficult things as opportunities to grow
one in which i chose to make difficult choices in looking forward to how i will change
how peculiar that in still going through the greatest trials of my life, i was ready for a new one
for yes, i knew this would be a big one
i guess i had finally seen the immediate growth that i had achieved in such a small amount of time, from such a difficult thing as this has been, that somehow i welcomed more growth

as i confessed in 'a mother's plea'
i have been struggling for some time in knowing how to parent my brilliant and sensitive boy
as i reread the words i wrote, it is a miracle to me that although so many of my worries are still center stage,
the beginnings of a solution started with something i would not have suspected
something i would rather have stuck a needle in my eye than do, say, 6 months ago
but Heavenly Father knew
he knew i was ready to be stretched
he sees what i was capable of, even though i see my endless shortcomings

and it is especially hard to see your own weaknesses reflected in your child
to see them struggle with the very things you struggle with every day
and in his case, magnified to some degree
i wonder if he is like that because of me, 
either by observation and imitation
or genetics
maybe in some part
but i am beginning to see what my husband continues to repeat to me as he beckons me to be merciful with myself, 
that Owen's spirit has been this way for a very long time
my heart is open to see that just maybe, a loving Heavenly Father relinquished this dear boy into my care because He knew I would understand him and how he struggles
and in turn could empathize and lift him like others could not
oh, just a taste of what our Savior does for each of us

oh my loving Heavenly Father,
he knew that in order for me to help my son
we needed to grow together
we needed more time together

so you see, i can't stop now, i can't quit now
that's not who we are
that's not what i want to teach him

i must continue to look at this year as optimal time for growth for Owen and myself
Owen - disciple, work, optimism, confidence
Me - to become the mom that i thought in my pre-kids days i would be, for i thought i would be so much better than i am
Me - patient, calm, organized, fun, but mostly patient and calm

as there continue to be good and bad days
i must place these desires for him in front of my own
that is very difficult, being such a selfish being
but in my case, this is what motherhood encompasses for me at this time
and i pray, oh i pray that i am enough for my son
my sweet Owen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Swan Princess Christmas and The Los Angeles Ballet Unite: a fairytale review and Giveaway

there are moments in our lives when our senses become a conduit for time travel,
when you find yourself transported back to a familiar age and/or place
perhaps its ignited by the aroma of a particular blend of spices
or the feel of cold water passing by your sand buried feet

for me, it was a combination of the senses that at once transported me to my youth.
the fantastical music of the “Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker tiptoeing into my ears 
married with my eyes being captivated by the graceful motions of the delicate ballerina as she floated magically across the floor
i was once more that wide-eyed little girl with dreams of becoming a ballerina
and then just for a moment i became ageless, 
the hopeful yearnings of my young self meeting the grown-up me, an appreciative advocate for those artists who can do what I cannot

I was privileged to represent Kailani and An Island Life at a lovely intimate event,
a behind-the-scenes preview of The Nutcracker performed by The Los Angeles Ballet directed by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary.  This preview was in conjunction with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and their November 6th DVD release of The Swan Princess Christmas, the fourth installment in the popular Swan Princess franchise that began in 1994.  I remember watching The Swan Princess with my younger siblings, wondering if Princess Odette would forever remain a swan.  Because this animated musical is based on the ballet Swan Lake, it was quite fitting for these two ventures to unite.

 As a long time mother of boys, I have experienced many firsts with them:  first football game, first reptile birthday party, first ER visit...
I do have to say that I am enjoying most of the firsts that are coming along with having a little girl with much delight, our first ballet has charmed its way up on the list.  Felicity was a fan of the ballet from the moment a tutu was presented to her as part of her wardrobe.  My sister Vanessa, sister-in-law Kelli, and my darling nieces Savannah and Juliet joined our freeway maze adventure in pursuit of the ballet. 

{sister Vanessa, Briana, sister-in-law Kelli, niece Savannah, daughter Felicity, and niece Juliet}                                           
We were greeted in a friendly manner by Nicole of MPRM Communications and made our way to the rehearsal studio filled with busy dancers making last minute preparations both to the scenery and their limber bodies.  Having attended traditional ballet performances in which the set, the costumes, and the dancers are all in place before the curtain is raised, I was very intrigued as I watched the unrehearsed scene of preparations in front of me.  It was apparent that the members of this ballet company were akin to family.  Smiles, laughter, as well as assistance in wardrobe needs and counting out their steps could be seen as the “Overture” of The Nutcracker played in the background.

Before the performance we were addressed by Sheldon Young, a producer of the Swan Princess series.  His enthusiasm for this timeless musical Christmas tale, The Swan Princess Christmas, was endearing.  He told of the new adventure of Princess Odette, Prince Derek, and all of their woodland friends, as well as the return of the villain Rothbart as the Ghost of Christmas.  He raved about the stunning music in this film, featuring a premier singer, the twelve year old “America’s Got Talent” finalist Anna Graceman.  

We were then addressed by the founder and artist director of The Los Angles Ballet
Thordal Christensen.  He introduced his young company and their upcoming holiday season of performances of the beloved classic The Nutcracker at five venues surrounding the Los Angeles area.  They are in their seventh year and have experienced beautiful success.  The Nutcracker involves combining various groups of performers into one large scene.  He relayed the story of a young dreamy Clara who, at her Christmas party, receives a nutcracker as a gift from her ‘crazy’ uncle.  Clara later falls asleep and dreams of a land where mice and dolls come to life, including the nutcracker.  Christensen invited us all to come to the performance to learn of the surprise ending.  Make sure to check out their holiday schedule by visiting 

{Thordal Chirstensen, director of the Los Angeles Ballet, Cyndee Ewing, Sony Pictures Marketing Manager, and Sheldon Young, producer of The Swan Princess Christmas}

The dancing commenced with the studio floor filling with dancers of varying ages, all portraying the excitement of the holiday party.  Young children were joyful, opened presents, and danced hand in hand across the floor.  We had captured front row seats which placed us no more than a few feet from the performers, at moments I tucked in my feet for fear of tripping one.  During the performance I continued to look over at my darling daughter and her sweet cousins, all of the ages under 6, and saw their faces fixated on the dancers and their movements.  I was pleasantly surprised how their attention had been captured by the ballet.  We were all, adults included, riveted by the grace and strength of all the performers: Clara, Uncle Drosselmeyer, the harlequin and columbine dolls, the Russian, and of course the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I felt privileged to be there witnessing this timeless classic with my little girl, happy to pass on the love of this holiday tradition.

What are your holiday traditions that you have passed on to your children?

At the conclusion of the abbreviated performance, we were able to greet and thank some of the incredible dancers.  The girls were rather demure upon meeting the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy, who graciously agreed to a few photos.  Felicity tried her hand at a few twirls, gazing at herself in the spanning mirror, but the highlight of the after party was the famed ballet bar.  After enjoying some sprinkle and crown icing topped cupcakes and punch from the table highlighting the debuting DVD The Swan Princess Christmas, the girls took to the bar with delight.  Hanging, pointing toes, raising legs, swinging, and all other sorts of tricks one could perform being shorter than the height of the bar. 

At the request of Sheldon Young, all of the attendant children gathered around him and his computer to watch some ‘smackers’, a film term introduced to me during this event.  Smackers are utilized during computer-generated animated features.  The director acts out every part of every scene himself which is later used to generate the animated character.  This particular smacker shown to the children had the director crawling around on the floor as a sneaky cat.  

Mr. Young continued his enthusiasm for the release of the DVD The Swan Princess Christmas on November 6th which features the premier voice of Anna Graceman, a “America’s Got Talent” finalist.  The DVD includes bonus features of sing-a-longs, storybook read-a-long, and a music video.  Take a moment to watch this darling trailer of the movie below and witness for yourself the immediate effect of the music on propelling you into the holiday spirit:

We will be pleased to offer you an opportunity to win a copy of this enchanting musical holiday treat from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Swan Princess Christmas, for your own family.  


For TWO LUCKY WINNERS, you will each win a copy of the newly released DVD, hopefully in time for Christmas for your littles.  You have 10 ways to earn entries into the giveaway using the nifty 'Rafflecopter' giveaway form seen below:

Good luck and may your upcoming holiday season be filled with joyous traditions full of laughter and peace.

*This giveaway will close at midnight on Tuesday December 18th PST
*This giveaway is open to US residents only.
*The winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to the winner notification email. After 48 hours another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Briana is the author of Sweet Dreams are Made of These, blogging the dish on mommyhood for four young active children {3 busy boys and 1 ‘baby’ girl who has captured them all}, the essential part creativity plays in finding joy in each day, and the role faith plays in her family’s adjustment to her husband’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and her father’s recent passing from cancer.

This is not a compensated post. This post was written for MPRM Communications who invited me to the event and who provided me with the complimentary item for giveaway.

Monday, December 03, 2012

2 Troublemakers: discount and giveaway

local entreprenette #2

say hello to Valerie...
this woman has drive and ambition.  she is a go-getter.  i first met Valerie when she spoke at a MOPS {mothers of preschoolers} event and shared tips she had learned from having her own photography business.  since that day i have seen her bouncing around town exercising, volunteering at the schools, being a voice and the hands for charity after charity, and now creating a successful online business for the coolest kids around.

i am happy to have Valerie introduce her shop she started with her friend Nicole

So, 2troublemakers is basically your one stop shop for cool boy things. (and some tomboy things!!) 
Nicole has 2 boys, Otto and Augie, now 6 and 4, and she was constantly scouring the internet for cool products for her boys. I had Cyrus 3 years ago and was very frustrated with the lack of cool boy's items in the stores. While Nicole scoured and always found the best stuff (ask anyone, her boys are the best dressed/accessorized kids around!), and I just sort of settled on the basic everyday options at all of the local stores, we were still left frustrated. Then Nicole, just thought "hey what if there was just one cool website where people can buy everything they need". She knew that we could do the leg work and make it easy for other mamas. She brought me in on the idea and after lots of work and time, our website came together. We are always on the lookout for cool products and we just put it out there. We sell wallets, suspenders, bow-ties, moto gear, patches, and lots of fun other things for little dudes. We are having so much fun with it because we are passionate about our products! And, we are stoked that people "get" us. We were a little worried that everyone really was into fire engines and puppy dogs on their boy's stuff! ;-)

the inspiration for their shop...their darling boys

once you look, you can't stop yourself
a few of my favorite things from their shop:
4. union jack bento box
5. green/black checkered bow tie
6. mustache reusable drinking straw set

read more about how they came up with their name over on their blog

Valerie and Nicole created their own rockin goodie bags for Craft Explosion attendees.
they are extending a generous discount to all of you at their wicked shop 2Troublemakers
20% off your purchase by entering the coupon code EXPLOSION20 at checkout


TWO lucky Sweet Dreams are Made of These readers will each win a set of Toyboarders!!

i am in love with these, and so are my kids;)  they are a twist on army men...little green skaters.  
see them in action below and tell me your boys won't go nuts over these.  
{watch out they may replace Legos as the new pain in your feet:)}

*This giveaway will close at midnight on Wednesday December 12th PST
*This giveaway is open to anyone on the planet:)
* The winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to the winner notification email. After 48 hours another winner will be chosen.

**CONGRATULATIONS to ASHLEY and LEWIS for winning our TOYBOARDER giveaway**

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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