Author Archives: Kristin

About Kristin

I blog in my little corner of the www here in SW MN. I used to journal as a young girl and ever since I first heard about blogging I have been hooked! Thanks for stopping by and sharing with my journey of faith!

Discovering Who I Am

It is my 43rd birthday today. A few years ago that age may have freaked me out. When I turned 40 my dearest friends surprised me with a getaway weekend and the transition into what felt like would be a tough life change was made beautiful. Yes I am aging but I am finally coming to that place that I am ok with who I am.

The last several years have been ones of extreme changes. 2015 into 2016 were, admittedly some of the most difficult days emotionally that I had walked through. I was a woman that really struggled with being perfect. Some days it can still rear its ugly head, don’t get me wrong….but in those days it was BAD.

I spent all my time worrying about what people thought and trying desperately to keep up appearances so that I looked like I had it all together. I would go to church on Sunday all prettied up and smile at people and talk about how great God was and then come home and be a monster to my husband and my kids. I was angry and bitter and broken inside and I basically wanted to run away from my life.

I believed in God, I believed that He could redeem and restore my broken pieces but I was also so stuck in myself, so full of pride that I was unwilling to admit that my attitudes were a huge part of the problems we were having. I fought seeing a counselor, but when I did things started to change.

It was a sacrifice I had to make. Weekly I drove almost an hour and 1/2 to meet with the Christian counselor that had been recommended to me. We talked about a lot of different things and I did a bunch of recommended reading. I had to deal with some things that were really painful and let go of other things that could not be “fixed” at that time.

I found a freedom during those 12+ months. As I began to be more honest about what was going on, things inside of me started to change. My circumstances had not necessarily changed, but I was able to see them with a fresh perspective. I share this because we all have things that we may feel ashamed of. Things that threaten to hold us down, tell us that we are not good enough.

But one thing that I have learned deep in my soul is that I don’t need to be “good enough.” God has always been there for me, standing in the gap when I am too weak, lifting me up when I am not strong. He gives me strength to keep going and a passion to encourage others who may be feeling the same.

A few weeks ago a couple of my girlfriends and I went to see The Greatest Showman at the local movie theatre. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet – go today. Make it my birthday present to you. Seriously it is a must see! We left the show and I immediately bought the soundtrack to have on my phone. Like so many, one song, in particular, has spoken volumes to me.

The words to This is Me go like this…

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

 

Who can’t relate to those words? How often do we feel like we can’t present our broken, bruised selves to the world. Because if we do we will be judged. People may talk about us or cast us aside. How often as an adult have I felt like I was right back in middle school? Worried about what I said, or analyzing what someone else said…trying to put on appearances because gosh darnit I just want people to like me.

But as This is Me suggests, we don’t have to be afraid anymore. We are warriors. Yes we are broken and bruised but we are strong and we don’t have to apologize for not being perfect. This is a truth that I have learned slowly over the past few years. It is one that I have grown into but it feels good.

To finally be in that place where I feel happy with who I am. I am 43, I am aging. I am a wife and a mother. I make mistakes all the time but I am loved. I am a child of God and I am forgiven. I am learning what makes me laugh and discovering deep friendships that are the true gifts during this time in my life. I will probably always take a shower and put on makeup before I go outside. I am vain yep, absolutely. I work hard at our business and care about the clients we help, I have a heart of mercy and would probably donate to every tear-jerking cause I come across if I was able. I can be passionate and outspoken and also quite shy. I will share my heart with those I trust and have difficulty trusting again those who have betrayed me. I am a sinner saved by grace, sometimes that grace is needed minute by minute. I trust God with my life and believe He has given me freedom in areas where I suffered extreme bondage. I am ever grateful to be His daughter. This is me.

The You Tube video below was shared on FB by a friend of mine with the backstory that when Keala Settle showed up to perform this when they were trying to get the show funded, she believed that she would not get the part…that it would be cast by someone more famous than she. But after she sang her heart out below, after she got out from behind that stand and stepped into the center and sang her heart out…the producer came over and hired her on the spot. I love that don’t you? Step out, start discovering who you are…stop being afraid of being judged and just be you!

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Link to video

Photo Credit: via

My Hysterectomy Surgery – Part Three

Hello friends! I thought I would do a quick update for you on my surgery recovery since I am now {almost} at the 4-week mark! If you want to catch up on my past posts you can read here about Part 1 and Part 2.

So it has been a couple of weeks since I shared an update and it is mostly because there wasn’t much to report. I felt pretty normal during the days but fairly tired by dinner time. I was so grateful to have all of those freezer meals prepped because I am usually to tired to think about cooking once I get home from work. We did have 1 night in 2 weeks that I was exhausted and Dominic was working late and I didn’t have a meal thawed, so the kids did cereal and fried eggs. But in 4 weeks we haven’t done too bad!

I hadn’t started exercising yet, I was waiting for my follow up appointment to get the all-clear for that, and I was afraid that even 20 minutes of hard walking on the elliptical might wear me out too much….so I gave myself grace to let that go for now.

I saw my doctor yesterday for my 4-week visit and got the good news that everything is healing even better than she expected at this point! I still have 2 more weeks of all the typical restrictions, no lifting over 15-20lbs, no hard exercise (light, slow walking only – no resistance) etc. But it was nice to know that everything was healing as planned. I am so grateful that I didn’t have any issues.

When I first decided to consider this surgery I found a website called HysterSisters. It is a website that offers information, forums etc. for women going through this process. You “join” by entering your email address and anticipated surgery date and then each week I would get an email with links to information about what to expect either before the surgery (how to plan, prep for it) and then after the surgery. Other women share their experience and offer support and encouragement.

One thing I had to be careful about, and would caution anyone else considering this, is that every woman is different. Every case and doctor and treatment plan is different. Some of the experiences I read about could have filled me with fear. Not every surgery goes as well as mine did. Many women have experienced difficult recoveries and complications. I will say that I didn’t allow myself to read too many of the negative stories because I know how fearful I am prone to get. I said it before that I felt such a peace about this surgery the entire time. I decided to trust God with this surgery and stopped researching all the what-ifs.

I guess the bottom line is, pray about it, seek counsel from your doctor (I really trust mine!) and make the decision that is best for you!

My surgery notes say that my uterus was enlarged and sharply retroverted, something I shared in a previous post that my doctor commented on, saying she hadn’t seen one that twisted. Several of the symptoms that come with having a retroverted uterus are issues that I dealt with for YEARS. I didn’t know it was likely the cause of so many of my problems. I don’t know when the uterus became so retroverted, it can happen with pregnancy, as a result of endometriosis (which I have had) or it can be genetic!

In addition, my doctor shared that my pathology report showed several fibroids (which I didn’t know were there!), all benign thankfully, but that she believed would have continued to cause me problems in the next several years. All those issues have been removed. No cancer risk, no fibroids, no pain caused from the retroverted uterus. And because my one ovary looked very healthy and remains intact, no hormones and hopefully a typical transition into menopause when that time comes.

I know that my story may not be typical. My doctor said I was the perfect candidate for a vaginal hysterectomy. And everything went as planned and I am so grateful for that. I hope these posts have been helpful for anyone considering this type of surgery. Again if you have any questions please feel free to email me at kasmith03@gmail.com and I would be glad to answer them!

Happy Wednesday!

Waiting in Anticipation for What God Will Do

Last night I tried to capture the beauty of the sunset. What I saw on my drive home and what I was able to capture with my phone just minutes later was not what I was hoping for. I shared the image on FB with the following caption…

“I had to trudge through melted dirty snow and dog poop in my backyard to try and take this picture. In the end it didn’t turn out like I was hoping. You can’t quite see the beauty of the cotton candy pink skies that I was trying to capture.The big, barren trees are blocking my view. It’s there, I saw it on my drive home but it eluded me. Isn’t that a lot like life? Those times when we struggle to see the beauty because of all the Brokenness in front of us…. when we trudge through the crap of life. Those times when it’s difficult to see the light because the darkness is so overwhelming.

Today I am certain of two things. 1. The enemy has come to seek, kill and destroy and he wants to see people hurt and families crushed, he wants shame to rule and Truth to be buried. 2. My God has already won! It doesn’t matter how dark it seems, His light will always shine in the darkness. He is never more present than in those moments when it seems He is far away. He will never leave us or forsake us.

The sky reminded me tonight that His light has overcome any darkness the enemy may try to put on my path or on the path of those I love. No it will not always be easy, sometimes it is downright hard. But I have more hope in this momemt than I have in a long time. God is good. All the time, He is good.”

I have commented before that I am a negative person by nature. It is much easier for me to see what is wrong with a situation well before I can see what is right. I have a tendency to get bogged down in worry and what-ifs. Fear has long kept me in bondage.

But it isn’t a place I can afford to live right now and quite frankly I am tired of it and I am saying no more!

A few days ago I saw a post shared around FB about a young woman, I think from Australia, who was dying of cancer. She wrote a challenging piece about how we all need to stop complaining, stop getting upset over the little things and start enjoying life. As a woman who was facing her last days she knew full well all she was going to miss out on, all the things she wished she had not done and the things she would do differently.

It challenged me. How often do I find myself complaining about little annoyances? My kids do it too. Yesterday morning one of my kids had a boot that kept slipping off their foot. I get why it was bothering them but it was threatening to ruin their whole morning and it was ridiculous!

So I shared a little with that about what this woman had to say. How we have SO MUCH to be grateful for. We have a warm home filled with so much stuff, they have their every want met. They do not go hungry, we are warm and full and happy. But it is a choice! Life isn’t fair. There will always be someone who has it better, easier. There will be times that things happen that are cruel and not right. Sometimes we don’t have a choice in what happens to us, but we do have a choice on how we respond!

Trust me, it is easy to say these things when life is going along perfectly. It isn’t so easy to walk that walk when the road is hard. I know because we are walking it. There are some things that are really hard for us right now, not fair things, discouraging, worrisome things. I could start comparing our situation to other families’ and saying how unfair it is. Or I can start counting my blessings.

I can’t afford to do anything but count my blessings. I have no idea what will happen in the coming months but for once in my life, I am not filled with fear. Instead, I am waiting in anticipation of what God will do.

God has done some pretty amazing things in our past. He has restored and redeemed some incredibly broken places in our lives and made them whole. Some may say that our lives and our marriage are a miracle….I would agree with that. God is in the business of redeeming our broken places. I believe that for me, and for my family….and I believe it for you too.

I don’t know what you might be facing today, what hurt or fear or worry that is weighing you down. It is easy to run away, easy to believe in lies, to be consumed with shame instead of His Truth. Sometimes fighting to see Truth is the hardest thing we can do. But it is there. And so in those moments where I am uncertain about what is next, I will trust my God and wait in anticipation for what He will do. I have seen what He is capable of and it is pretty incredible. Don’t miss out on the miracle friends!!

My Hysterectomy Surgery – Part Two

Hello friends! I am back again with part two of my surgery and recovery story. And first can I just mention the beautiful flowers pictured above?! My sweet grandma sent those to me on Friday to brighten my day and it was such a nice surprise!

So I shared about my surgery and the first few days in the hospital, now I thought I would share a little more about my recovery at home. It is funny because as I sit here now over a week later and try to think about what I have done it feels like a lot of nothing! I suppose that was to be expected though.

For those that don’t want the TMI details you can stop reading now…but I said I would be honest about my experience, so here goes. I have given birth vaginally 4 times. I remember what it was like those first few days recovering. I remember sitting on ice packs because everything down there was so swollen. Going into this procedure and knowing that everything was being done vaginally, I honestly expected the same kind of response. But this was not the case.

One of the things the Dr. warned me about that I didn’t fully understand was that with this type of procedure people often feel too good too soon and then over do it. I woke up and besides the terrible cramping in my abdomen, I had no other physical symptoms of having had surgery. No swelling, no pain – nothing. Because there are no outside stitches, one may not even know that I have just had a major surgery.

The cramping was deep inside my stomach/abdomen and felt a lot like labor pains. When my Dr. stopped to check on me we asked about it. Why would I have cramping pain in what felt like my uterus when it was gone? She said that there is a lot of connective tissue that had to be separated from around the uterus to remove it. The pain I was feeling was likely the brain sending signals down to those nerve receptors, just like it does in labor. So it was like the phantom pain that someone who has lost a limb often experiences. Crazy right?!

So for the first few days I did need to use the pain meds almost every 4 hours or so. I don’t like the side effects of using narcotics (constipation) but tylenol wouldn’t cut it for the pain. I spent the first few days mostly on the couch watching Netflix and sleeping. It is tough for me to stay so still. I can get bored pretty easily. But even just taking a shower was exhausting.

I think that is the part of recovery that has surprised me the most. How incredibly tired I am. I didn’t lose a ton of blood so I guess I don’t understand why I feel so drained. Someone explain it to me please?! My doctor said that my recovery would be a lot of walking and then resting, walking and then resting. And she was right. I can handle small tasks for a short time. I can walk for a little bit but then I have to rest for what seems like even longer.

I begged Dominic to take me to Walmart to get groceries one day (I just wanted out of the house) and he said he didn’t think I was ready and took the kids instead. He was right – that day it would have been too much. Three days later I did get a short trip to the store because I needed an extra pair of comfy pants and that 30 minutes was enough to land me on the couch for over an hour. It felt good to walk a little and then it felt really good to rest. If you are having this procedure done don’t push it. It is hard for me to do too, but I can see why so many people tell me to take it easy!!

I have about three different areas that I spend most of my time. Our bedroom and then two different couches in two rooms. One of the best things I did was purchase this Heating pad/neckwrap set from Amazon. I have the heating pad on our bed and the neck wrap on one of the couches. Having a heating pad over my stomach has really helped with the pain and it keeps me warm too! On the other couch I have a heated blanket that I use. Not having to move these from space to space has been really nice. The set from Amazon is unavailable right now, but I believe I paid $40 for the set, best money I have ever spent.

For the first several days I didn’t have much of an appetite. And the only thing that tasted good to me was fruit. Thankfully Dominic went to the store and picked up several different kids of {highly overpriced} fruit for me. Everyone responds differently to surgery and medicines etc. So my diet has consisted of a lot of toast and fruit and small meals. I don’t have my full appetite back yet.

Thankfully I had several weeks to prepare prior to my surgery and I made a bunch of freezer meals in advance. I think I had 11 pre-made and today we are using our second one. The first one was jumbo stuffed shells and it provided at least two meals. It will be nice as I have to start working again to be able to come home and have a meal to throw in the oven when I get the kids from school and it will be ready by dinnertime. If you can prep ahead I recommend it! I think as I try and get back to a semi-normal routine I am going to be exhausted by the end of the day and cooking dinner will be the last thing I would want to do. Having pre-made meals ready will be perfect!

I think that is all I have to share this round – as I get into the full second week of recovery I will come back and share more details again. I don’t see my Dr. for a follow up visit until January 23rd so at almost the 4 week post surgery mark. I will be interested to hear how everything is healing because I really can’t feel anything at all!! Again feel free to comment/message me with any questions you have and I will do my best to answer them!!

My Hysterectomy Surgery – Part One

Hello friends! I wanted to start by thanking everyone for their prayers. My surgery is over and I am now home. Today it has been over a week since my surgery and I thought that I would sit down and try and write out some of the details of my surgery and recovery. Like some of my prior procedures, I have found that sharing honestly about my experience might be helpful for someone else who is planning on or considering a similar procedure. So if you do have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me and I will answer any questions you have!

My surgery was scheduled to start around 11:45 am on Thursday the 28th. We had to be at the hospital 2 hours early, and our drive to the hospital takes 2 hours so we left the house right away in the morning. We got checked in and they brought us back to a surgery prep room. I changed into a gown and then they put this awesome heated air blanket over me. It was glorious. Apparently there are studies that have found that  patients that are warmed before, during and after surgery have less chance of infection. I am always freezing so this blanket was wonderful! We waited and waited and then found out that my surgeon had been delayed at another hospital that morning and had another surgery before mine…so my surgery didn’t start until almost 1:30pm. The worst part about waiting was that I was SO HUNGRY because I was unable to eat after midnight.

I was having a vaginal hysterectomy. Thankfully everything was able to be done vaginally and my Dr. didn’t have to use a scope to assist, which saved my belly from being blown up with gas. In the past, that has caused me the most discomfort, so I was grateful that she wasn’t needing to use that method. Prior to the surgery I googled and watched a vag. hyst. surgery on You Tube. I know that probably seems weird, but I wanted to have an idea of what was happening to me. I always felt at peace about having the surgery done. I wasn’t worried about it and knew that medically speaking it was the right choice for me. I will share how my Dr. confirmed that for me later.

I have a history of getting really nauseous from the  anesthesia, so we had a plan in place to use the same meds that had worked during my October procedure for this one. Unfortunately the several hours after my surgery are completely lost to me. I am not sure what happened this time but I remember getting on the table in the operating room around 1:30 pm and then next time I was aware of time was after 8 pm that evening. I have no memory of getting to recovery, or my hospital room or the multiple hours into the evening after that.

I do remember waking up in incredible pain and being SO TIRED. I could not stay awake. I remember hearing the nurses ask Dominic if my reaction was typical after a surgery. They had me hooked up to a pain pump of Dilaudid. It gave me a pump of meds on a scheduled time, but I also had a pump that I could use to give myself an extra shot of meds if I needed it. I would use the meds and I was still in such terrible pain. I would wake up writhing in pain and fall back asleep and repeat. Finally I was awake enough that they were able to ask me if I could stay awake to try a pain pill of a different medicine and they would shut off the dilaudid. Apparently some people can have very negative reactions to that medicine and I guess I am that person! It did not bring me to a fun happy place! Once I was given a new medicine and it kicked in, everything changed. The pain was much more manageable. It wasn’t great, but it was manageable.

Interesting fun fact, I came home with rug-burn like sore spots on both of my elbows. I don’t know how I got them, except that in those first hours I must have been using my elbows to move myself and put so much pressure on them that I hurt them enough to rub them so raw that they eventually scabbed over! Ouch!!

I can’t speak highly enough of the nursing staff that helped me during my stay. I always try to be so grateful for everything that they do. I am sure that first several hours were difficult for them as they tried to figure out how to deal with my pain.

My Dr stopped in at some point, I couldn’t even tell you what day that was! She said that the surgery went just as expected. She was able to leave my one ovary so I will not have to be on hormones at this point. She said the ovary looked perfect so that was wonderful news! She removed the cervix and the uterus. She said that my uterus was “profoundly tipped.” I knew it was tipped, thus the reason I was unable to to do the in office biopsies, but she said it was almost twisted on itself. She hadn’t seen anything like that before. She said the way that it was positioned, it was no wonder I was having pain issues.

Hearing that report just reaffirmed that having this surgery was exactly what I needed to do. Not only did I remove any possible cancer risk, but hopefully any pain issues I was having should be gone once I am fully healed!

Typically with this type of surgery you only get an overnight stay. Crazy right?! I guess years ago it was 4-5 days, but with insurance these days it is now a single night. The test to be able to go home is the ability to pass gas. Again doesn’t this seem crazy to you?! It isn’t how your pain is managed, or if you can move around well etc…no if you can pass gas you go home. I don’t know if it was all the pain med mishap or if my digestive system is just slower than normal, but I wasn’t producing “results” like they needed so we ended up staying a second night at the hospital.

Honestly I was so grateful for this because the difference that I felt the evening I should have gone home and the next morning was so much different. The next morning I woke up and felt ready to take a shower and walk around a bit. So we were able to get checked out after the Dr. stopped by later that morning and were back in Marshall before dinner time.

I have lots more I want to share about my first few days at home, and some of the things that have been so helpful to me but this post has gotten SO LONG already!! So I will come back in a day or two and share some more then! Again, if you are considering this type of surgery please feel free to reach out. Everyone will have a different experience, but it was helpful for me in the beginning to be able to read a couple of first hand reports.

2017 Year in Review!

I can’t believe that the end of the year is almost here! Since I am having a major surgery tomorrow afternoon and will probably be a little out of it for several days, I thought that I would share some thoughts about the year today!

Last year at this time we were wrapping things up and planning our escape to Tybee Island in January. While it was colder than normal the few days we were there, it was such fun to get away together as a couple and explore a part of the country that we hadn’t ever been to before! We really enjoyed exploring Savannah, GA and hearing the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach from our VRBO rental! We came home with full hearts and lots of lovely shells too!

In February we took some extra time to love on one another. I had seen someone else share on FB that they were going to do a  week of daily affirmations for their kids. So I ordered these foam hearts and every morning the kids came down to search for their newest heart. It was fun seeing them light up at the truths we were speaking into their lives. {I should do it more often I think!!} On Valentine’s Day our Elijah had a CRAZY situation happen where our dog knocked out not one, but two of his loose teeth! You can read all about my warrior boy here!!

In April our daughter made a very important decision and asked Jesus to be the Savior in her life. It was a special moment that Dominic was able to walk her through and we are all so proud of her. It is my hope that all of my kids would grow to have a deep relationship with God, and while we can’t force that, we do pray for them and do our best to show them how it looks in our own lives!

The rest of April and May ran together as I worked on a secret project that would become a gift for my mother and grandmother for Mother’s Day. A friend from church helped me to publish a large number of my old blog posts into a book format so that I could give them something to hold and read! It was really fun to do and exciting to have so much of my writing in one place!

In late May we anxiously awaited the end of the school year and I got to help plan for one of my favorite weeks of the year – VBS!! We always have fun doing the decorations and then I also help to lead the worship time and it is just a joy every year!

Oddly enough, I didn’t write a single blog post in the entire summer! Sitting down and writing at the computer just didn’t happen. Life did, that’s for sure but I didn’t document it here well. We did take a trip up to Northern MN in late June and loved exploring the beautiful country there!


We became die-hard agate hunters and had to fight Elijah for the best ones. He could spot the biggest best agates from a mile away!! Here were a couple of my biggest and best ones! It is addicting though, once you find one you want to keep looking in hopes of finding the true beauty!!

We spent a lot of time in July taking care of our garden and canning. We canned hundreds of quarts this year of tomatoes, salsa and refrigerator pickles!

We bought an outdoor cast-iron stove that has made the process so easy, we set everything up in the garage and then we don’t have to make a mess in the house!

In July/August we started a little home renovation project. We did work in two of our bathrooms and our kitchen and laundry room. We did a lot of the initial demolition ourselves to save on costs a bit and joked that a family that reno’s together, stays together!

In September I saw my doctor because I was having some issues and discovered that there was a cyst on my only ovary that was concerning. It was a scary few weeks as we waited for the surgery in early October. While the chance of cancer was only 30%, I found that I had a lot to learn about my faith during that time of waiting. Thankfully everything came back negative from that scare.

October 3rd was my surgery and my recovery was hard on me. I don’t rest well and found myself on quite the pity pot. It makes me chuckle now as I am hours away from a more serious surgery and one that will keep me even more “at rest.” We will see how this goes!

For those that don’t know, I am now having a total hysterectomy. During the surgery in October a D&C was done of the lining of my uterus and the results of that showed that I have pre-hyperplasia. While now it is not something I have to be super worried about, it could become something later if left unchecked. The only way to check is by doing a biopsy…which due to the way my uterus is tipped, is impossible in office and would require surgery each time. Having the hyst. removes any possible future cancer risk there and because I will be able to keep my one remaining ovary, I won’t be put into menopause early. So I have really felt at complete peace over this decision.

I have 11 freezer meals prepped and frozen and know that my family will take good care of me!

Right before Christmas, I had the fun opportunity to take a trip with Karlena to Houston to visit my best friend Gindi. It was such a gift to get away even for a few days and to laugh and see our girls connect. I can’t tell you how much I needed that before the end of this year!!

Christmas with both of our families went by too quickly and I didn’t take a single family picture. Every year I think I will stop and do it, and I forget! We had a wonderful time with both sides of our families and even if it was a fast trip, it was a blessing! We came back home to try and get a little more work done before closing down the office for a week and 1/2 for my surgery! And last night as a last hurrah, I met with some of my best friends here in Marshall for a ladies night out where we laughed and ate wonderful food! They even gifted me with some goodies to keep me warm and cozy while I recover! I am so fortunate to have good friends!!

I would so appreciate your prayers for tomorrow and will be praying for you as well as we say goodbye to 2017 and look with anticipation to what 2018 will bring!!

Calendar Photo Credit: DafneCholet

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!


“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9: 6

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! May you be filled with an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Nicole Photography

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed


If you are friends with me on Facebook you likely saw my oversharing of photos from this past weekend. (Sorry) I had the opportunity to take a trip to Houston with Karlena to visit my best friend Gindi and her daughter Lillie. We also got to spend a little time with my dear friend Cathryn and her daughter as well. Cathryn was a friend of Gindi’s and over the past year I have gotten to know her through Gindi and Voxer and it has been such a gift to share life with these women every day.

It was the first time that I have ever traveled alone with one of our kids. Karlena was both excited and nervous. She was a wonderful travel companion and it was so much fun watching her experience all of these new things. Her unique personality came out this weekend and it was interesting seeing a different side of her outside of our family unit.

I was worried about Karlena being shy around Lillie, but the moment she got in the car they started talking and they played so well together the entire weekend. At one point they both needed a little alone time to rest, but there wasn’t any fighting or arguing. Gindi and I talked about how it was just such a joy to see our girls becoming friends. Just a few short years ago she and I were strangers and today I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

We had dinner on Friday night at a yummy Mexican restaurant, Los Tios. On Saturday the kids had breakfast, made cut-out sugar cookies and played and we got ready to head out to see an afternoon showing of the Nutcracker. Gindi had some very special tickets to the show and so we were treated to some light snacks before the show, pictures with a couple of the characters, a beautiful nutcracker to take home as a gift and the most fabulous ballet production as well. The costumes were stunning, it was definitely a show to see if you are ever in Houston in December!

Saturday night Cathryn came by with her daughter Carsyn and the girls decorated sugar cookies and had a little “contest” where everyone was a winner in one way or another! Next we loaded up the car with hot chocolate in hand to drive around and see some of the beautiful light displays that Houston residents have to offer. My favorite were the wrapped trees with the light strands that hung down. I don’t suppose that would work in the cold and snow of Minnesota, but it sure was beautiful.

Sunday morning we went to church and then made a stop at a nearby mall so that Karlena could experience the American Girl store for the first time. She was so overwhelmed, she walked in and told me that she was just shaking all over. I had a weak moment and let her pick out a little dog that she has since carried at her side non-stop. We made a few more stops in the mall and then went back home for lunch and relaxing a little before our next big event.

We had tickets to see a Broadway production of Sleeping Beauty on Sunday evening. So we went downtown to the Hobby Center and had dinner and then went over to see the show. We all thought that we were seeing the classic fairy tale rendition, but this version was a bit different. They had a bunch of audience participation, which was good to keep the kids awake through a show that lasted until 10pm, but there was a lot of “adult” humor in the show, many Houston related jokes and some songs that were way over Karlena’s head. I was entertained, but I think we expected something completely different!

Karlena showed her first real signs of being homesick on Sunday night. She climbed into bed with me that night in tears telling me that she felt so lonely and just wanted to see her brothers and daddy again. It was really sweet and was such a precious reminder of how valuable our entire family is.

On Monday we got up and Sam, one of Lillie’s brothers was home so Karlena got to hang out with a brother figure for a few hours! After breakfast Gindi pulled out gingerbread house kits and the girls got to decorating. They had planned on doing it the day before so there wasn’t an extra house for Sam, but he didn’t mind. He got out some graham crackers and set to work making his own gingerbread creation. It was fun to see him make something so amazing.

Sadly after we cleaned up our mess it was time to shower and pack and get ready to head to the airport. While our trip was a short one it felt like we filled it with so much laughter and fun. It was interesting because we got on the plane and Karlena said that she was glad to be going home, but she had tears in her eyes as she said how much she would miss Lillie. I think we all can understand that struggle when we leave a piece of our hearts with dear friends that live far away!

I too was excited to be heading home to see my family, and yet so very grateful to have been given the time to get away. We come home to a busy week of last minute things before celebrating Christmas with our families. A winter storm is now in the forecast for later in the week and we had to make some changes to our work travel schedule as a result. And I have a pre-op appointment with my Doctor on Wednesday to discuss my surgery which as I write this is a mere 9 days away. Life keeps speeding on by it seems….

But this weekend I was so blessed to be able to spend some time laughing with my girl and my best friends and it filled me up in more ways than I can count. Thankful, grateful, blessed indeed.

Family Honor Plate

When I was growing up my parents had a tradition that for various unique/monumental occasions, we had a special plate that one of us would get to use at dinner. It was gold in color and much more fancy than the other dishes they used for every day.

So for things like a birthday, or a great report card…things like that, we were “rewarded” with the special plate at dinner. We all wanted it and loved having the honor of eating off of it!

It is a tradition that I wanted to carry on with my own kids, but honestly, I hadn’t taken the time to find a special plate that would work for such occasions.

Then I was contacted by #Flyby Promotions about a new product they had for review called the Family Honor Plate. It was a kit that had everything available to paint a plate together that could be used to recognize honorable traits in your kids.

Around the edge of the plate are listed the Fruits of the Spirit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness,  Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.

The idea behind using the plate is simple. Watch for those times when your kids are displaying one of the Fruits of the Spirit and then they get the Honor Plate to use that day. But even beyond that, they encourage you to have your kids watch for those traits in other family members and “gift” the plate when it is appropriate!

What a wonderful way for us parents to be watching, but also for our kids to be learning how to see and recognize those fruits as well.

The kit comes with everything you need to paint the plate. We sat down as a family to come up with a design and color pattern. As you can see from the top picture, we used painters tape to mark off equal sections and it worked pretty well!

Then you start painting, making sure to clean your brush well between each color. I will say that for some reason my red and purple especially were very thick upon opening. Almost to the point that I couldn’t spread them with the brush. I was really hoping that when we baked the plate the brush strokes would soften and even out.

But as you can see from the finished picture below, that didn’t happen. So my only piece of advice would be to not paint on several coats and keep it as thin as possible! I have done other painted pottery pieces before and if you didn’t have several coats, the color after baking would be very light. In this case, the color after baking was just the same as before baking!

Once you are done painting, you let it dry for a period of time and then they have baking instructions on how to cure your plate. Once it has baked and cooled you can use it to eat on!

Our family is going to have fun using this plate over and over again as we watch for honorable characteristics in one another!

In addition, I was sent these fun Table Tyme Discussion cards. Every day has a new question that helps encourage conversation around the dinner table!

Even though my plate didn’t turn out “perfect”, we had a lot of fun planning how to paint it and discussing how we were going to be using it. I think this would be a wonderful project for any family and a great way to encourage kids to be aware of and watching for the fruits of the spirit!!

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I was sent the Family Honor Plate for free to complete and review. All opinions expressed are my own!

Randomness From My Life

Days seems to run together lately. It is almost Thanksgiving, can you believe it?! I am so ready to decorate for Christmas but Dominic is encouraging me to wait until after Thanksgiving to do so. There are so many things that I want to remember, and laugh about from this time so the easiest way for me to do that is to share them here.

On Tuesday we had our first band concert of the year. Gabe is in 8th grade and this will be our last year of middle school concerts for a while. I love the format they have, they match two grades together, 6th and 8th, and each grade play two songs. It is a nice, short concert. Perfect for my younger kids to sit through.

The only problem with these concerts is that we need “Sunday Best” dress. Now our church is a little more casual. So Sunday best for us is nice jeans and a sweater. But we needed dress pants for the concert. My now 14 yr old boy has grown again and is tall and thin. His waist is skinny-appropriate for the boys pants, but his legs are so long he really needs men’s lengths. No store in our community carries pants in a 26/32.

I unfortunately forgot about said concert until the day before and frantically ran around town buying every pant remotely close to his size. None of them worked. I found an old pair from last year that we decided were good enough for this concert if he wore dark, long socks so his legs wouldn’t show.

Then in true, I have it together fashion, just 10 minutes before we had to leave we found his only pair of dress shoes and discovered they were a size 8. He is a strong 10 these days. There was no cramming his feet into these small shoes. So our only option was to tightly tie on a pair of dad’s old dress shoes, size 13. He flopped those babies onto the stage with ease and thankfully didn’t trip. I need to be a bit proactive about concert number two so we don’t have the same issue again!

I have somehow pinched my sciatic nerve and have been suffering with weird, shooting pains in my rear end for the last week. It is super fun and after a few days of what I thought was healing time and no pain, I did a dance workout on Monday morning and apparently irritated it again and man it is bad now. It hurts to sit and walk and lay flat. So basically everything I do is marked with some form of pain. If you see me rubbing my own backside, you know why! haha

Yesterday we found a large hunk of blonde hair on the floor by the bathroom. It appeared to be cut. So I called Karlena into the bathroom and showed it to her and asked if she cut her own hair. She emphatically explained that in no way would she cut her own hair, she would never do that! Then she went to get her blonde haired horse out to speculate if somehow its hair had been magically cut. I assure you, sir, it had not.

So I started brushing her hair and noticed in the back that there is a small part that is shorter. It isn’t hugely noticeable. I asked if she got something stuck in her hair and attempted to cut it out herself and her eyes dropped to the floor. Ahh yes, mama knows.  She is a terrible liar, she does have some incredible story-telling abilities, but I know better.

I received the nicest letter from grandma in the mail yesterday. She wanted to encourage me about my surgery. She has arthritis in her hands and I know writing a handwritten note isn’t easy for her. I will treasure those notes forever. And I could take a lesson from her. A call or text is nice, but a handwritten note can’t be beat!

My surgery is still set for December 28th. I have complete peace about it so I am grateful for that. I made my first freezer meal last night and had my mom pick up some special aluminum pans and lids from Sams so that I can make a few more. We don’t have a ton of freezer space right now, but I should be able to freeze and store at least 5 meals. That should help.

We have applied with and enrolled in new health “sharing” with Liberty Health Share. It will start in January and will replace our traditional health insurance so I can’t really speak to how it all works right now, but I will give you some of the information I do know.

For our family, this seemed the best fit. We chose the Liberty Complete Plan and the monthly share amount will be $449 per month. We will have an out of pocket “annual unshared amount” of $1500 for our family. So we are responsible for everything up to the first $1500 and then after that we can share all our expenses. This will require that we be proactive at each appointment, asking for detailed records/billing notices so that we can upload them into the Liberty Share system. But we know a few people that use this program and have had success over the past year so we are hopeful it will be ok.

A dear friend of mine works for a health care system in the South and she has told me recently about how many changes we are going to continue to see with healthcare. It is probably going to get worse before it get better unfortunately. We all need to advocate for ourselves.

She advised me to call the surgical center where I had my recent surgery after I got my bill and ask if there was a discount if I paid the bill in full. Honestly, I didn’t expect there would be a discount. I had submitted it to insurance and what was remaining was mine to pay. But they did in fact tell me that if I paid in full I would save 10%. On this bill it was over $400! That’s $400 I can use to pay my remaining radiology bill, or my surgeon’s bill. So take notes friends, don’t be afraid to call and ask!

We have conferences tonight and I am excited to hear how our kids are doing in school. I was most worried about Karlena but she really enjoys school and at least from what I can tell is doing very well.

We are hosting Thanksgiving next week and will have a nice sized group, 18 of us! Our kitchen is all put back together and I am excited to host. Now if I can just find time to dust those pesky built-in shevles…

I have purchased almost all of my Christmas gifts and will start wrapping very soon. I am taking a very special trip with Karlena to Houston on December 15th for a long weekend and basically I need to have all my gifts wrapped, my treats baked and freezer meals done before then because when we get back on the 19th we will have a couple of days before Christmas and then just a few days before my surgery. So basically I have 29 days to do a whole lot of stuff! Better get to it!!

Have a great rest of the week!

 

Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner

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