Sunday, January 31, 2016

The "hidden truth" you might not know about me

If you've been following my blog or Instagram (@jennyfromgeorgia), you've seen plenty of moments of simple joy in my life lately. This week, I decided to share something I wrote a few years ago at a time when my life was full of frustration and heartbreak. We’d been trying to start our family for a few years, trying all sorts of treatments and trying to find a doctor who could help us, and we’d also been through 2 miscarriages (I lost three babies before Caleb came along).

I felt strongly that one day I’d be a mother, which gave me hope, but I was grieving the loss of my babies, and I was struggling with the amount of effort required to keep trying and the toll it was taking on my body. I also came to realize that many (as in, most) people had no idea about the day-to-day struggles of infertility beyond the waiting and constant yearning for a child. Yes, I was yearning, and yes, I was trying to be patient, but there were also endless hours waiting on hold to speak to the insurance company (again) and medications that wreaked havoc on my hormones and expensive medical bills and countless blood draws and bad news (lots of bad news) and, well...I’ll just let you read it yourself.

Now my life is overflowing with joy even greater than my heartbreak, but I don’t ever want to forget the pain that has made motherhood so sweet, especially when I know that so many people are struggling with infertility now. Here’s the truth about their pain that you might not see.

The Hidden Truth

Get ready for an emotional post. What can I say? That's my life. Sometimes.

Sometimes, I physically ache for all the women facing infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, or the overwhelming obstacles of adoption.

Sometimes, I ache for myself...My first, my one-year-old. And my second, my little baby, due this fall. I think of them this way, maybe because I've had a while to think about them. It probably seems strange to other people, but it's natural for me. It brings me peace.

Sometimes it seems like everything I do every day reminds me that I've lost them. I can't help but think how different life would be if they were here now.

A stranger, Katie, who shared her story on www.facesofloss.com, wrote, "Miscarriage is death, yet there are no funerals, no sympathy cards, no bereavement time. Instead couples grieve in silence. You’ve just got to pick up the pieces, hold your head high, and go on with life as usual."

I’ve observed that some people believe that infertility or pregnancy loss is mostly longing for a baby, something like dreaming of a car or new furniture, only perhaps more intense.

They believe that you just have to be patient, because eventually you'll have a baby (when it's somehow magically "the right time"), and everything will be alright. And that you shouldn't worry so much, and try to be happy with what you already have. It's a matter of faith and patience.

This is true, because happiness is a choice, but it's only half of the truth, which makes it half a lie. The whole truth is that it's much more than waiting. It's more than what it seems.

To keep reading, click here to open the original blog post.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's time to get moving on one of my 2016 resolutions...

One of my 2016 resolutions is to finish a sprint triathlon this spring, so I only have a couple months to get in shape. Obviously, I'm going to be running, biking, and swimming the distance as part of my training, but I also needed a workout I could do at home to build strength.

The problem is, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I hate working out, and I have two little ones (and did I mention that I hate working out...?). Lucky for me, my sister-in-law suggested a mommy-and-me workout on YouTube, and I'm so glad she did! Not only does it keep my kids occupied while I work out--because they're actually part of the workout--but it makes working out fun, too. Well, at least it's more fun than working out by myself. I still get sweaty and out of breath (which I actually don't mind as long as I'm outside, but inside, it just feels gross).

So here's the video that inspired us to start working out together at home (even Ben's getting into it!). I'd never heard of Carlie before, but I think she has some great ideas to get everyone moving. And since I'm new to this, are there any videos or work outs you'd recommend?




Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Resolutions for 2016



After traveling this New Year’s and being sick last week, we’re already halfway through the month! I consider that a blessing, since January tends to drag on. But I do love looking forward to the new year, and the upside of being sick  (you know just how sick if you’ve been following us on Instagram) is that I had the perfect excuse to sit at home in my pajamas and just think about all the exciting things I’m planning to do, without having to actually get off the couch and do anything.

...Well, other than clean up puke, keep the washer and dryer going, suction out little noses, hold my baby at a perfect 45-degree angle all day long so she could keep something down, and provide as much cuddling and comfort as my sick family needed. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But now that we’re on the mend, it’s time to start tackling my resolutions, and so I decided to share my Personal and Family Resolutions for 2016 here on the blog. It makes it more official, don’t you think? It’s also a way for me to keep track of how I’m doing (to be honest, I can be a little scatterbrained), and hopefully, a year from now, I can say that I’ve had at least some success.

MY PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016

1. Make and use my own daily planner.
I already tackled this while I was glued to my couch, TV, and puke bowl this week (TMI, sorry). I’ve never been satisfied with any store-bought planners, and as much as I love my Evernote app for keeping track of lists and ideas, it just doesn’t work for me as a daily planner, so I decided to design and print my own. I’m pumped to try it out this year and maybe even improve on it next year.

2. Simplify by letting go of what we don’t need.
Now that we’re settled into a home for good (and for the first time in our marriage), I have a pretty clear idea of what we need and what we don’t. It’s time to let go of anything that we don’t use or love, and keep only what really matters and makes our lives better. This resolution extends even beyond our closets and cabinets--I plan to work on one area of our lives each month (January: holiday storage, February: email and online accounts, March: the kitchen, April: photos, May: clothes, and so on). We’ll also continue to declutter as we go, which we try to stay in the habit of doing, and we plan to have a garage sale this spring or summer.

3. Learn to use 3 new essential oils.
I doubt I’ll ever be a die-hard user (or seller) of essential oils--it’s just not me--but I do love using oils around the house for cleaning and deodorizing, and they’re amazing in baths and rubs when we’re sick. I own only a few oils, but since it’s not practical to buy all the different oils and combinations I’d like to try, I decided I would choose just 3 this year. I think I’d also like to try using a mist diffuser.

4. Train for and finish a sprint triathlon this April.
Ten years ago, I probably could’ve finished a sprint triathlon, maybe even a full triathlon, without training. You might be shocked, but I used to be pretty athletic--in high school, I was a top runner in my state; I even competed on a tumbling team (black flips, handsprings, the whole nine yards), and in college I killed it in competitive ultimate frisbee. Now I do yoga on YouTube and take my kids on walks at the park--fun, but not exactly competitive. The truth is, I hate working out (always have), but I miss being active and challenging myself. Now a triathlon--swimming, biking, running--that sounds like fun to me. But I’m going to have to train for it, and that means working out. At least it’s for something I can get excited about.

5. Post weekly on my blog.
I really enjoy blogging, and for years, I’ve wanted to do more with my blog. I feel like now is the time to start blogging seriously, not for anyone else or for money, but for me. Along with posting weekly, I plan to upgrade my blog to a better platform (i.e. not blogspot) and to use social media almost daily to share my blog and simple goodness from our lives.

6. Update the kitchen and family room.  
We’ve had plans to update the kitchen and family room since we moved in, and now that we’re finished with the bedrooms (as of 6 months ago, so we could relax and enjoy our new baby, which we have!), we’re ready to get started. The kitchen and family room are one room--like a great room--so we plan to paint the entire room, plus refinish the kitchen cabinets and counter-tops and build shelves in the family room. We started on the cabinets back in November, then decided to put our project on hold for the holidays. Progress is slow with two little ones, but it’s my first DIY project, so I’m just going to take my time and do my best.

OUR FAMILY RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016

Back in December, we made a few family resolutions together for one of our weekly family nights (a.k.a. Family Home Evening, #fhe). We each have a goal to work on this year, and we’ll all be working together to help each other.

Dad - Use woodworking skills to help improve our home. Some of my personal resolutions are actually shared resolutions with Ben, and that includes getting organized (= more shelving) and updating the kitchen and family room. I’m going to be relying heavily on him, especially in the “handyman” department.

Mom - Make a habit of going to bed early and waking up early. I’m up early anyway with the kids, but since October I’ve been trying to be more intentional about how I start my day. I just need to get to bed earlier, too. My goal is to head for bed by 10 every night.

Caleb - Learn to use the toilet without accidents. He’s already used the toilet a few times, and even though I wanted to shout it to the world on Facebook, I resisted (it’s one of my pet peeves). So you might not hear anything more on this resolution, but I’m hoping he’ll get excited about potty training soon so that he’ll be accident-free by the time he turns 3 in November.

Lydia - Learn to walk. Lydia will be 1 in July, so she’ll be learning to walk sometime this year, maybe in the next few months. Caleb was walking at 8 months (Lydia’s 6 months old now), and although I don’t think she’ll be walking that early, I can tell she’s anxious to get moving. And so am I! If she’s anything like her brother, she’ll be much happier (and that means Mom, too) when she can get around on her own two feet instead of being carried all the time.

As a Family - Go on a camping and fishing trip this summer. We love to be outdoors, and it’s high-time that little boy learned to fish. I was very pregnant/having a baby last summer, so we didn’t get to go camping or hiking or fishing like we usually do, but we want to make sure it happens this summer!

As a Couple - Finish paying off Ben’s student loan by December. This is another shared goal, and we’ve been punching the numbers and increasing our monthly payments so that our pharmacy school loan is 100% paid off by the end of the year (or earlier). Merry Christmas to us! This means more date nights in 2017, right, Honey?

So there you go. Keeping all of our resolutions this year might be a challenge, but assuming we’re all in good health for the next 12 months, and barring any unforeseen crises, I think we’re up for it. What resolutions are you making this new year?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy 2016! (and 2015 Highlights)


In keeping with tradition, this New Year's post is late. This was the year I finally came to terms with the fact that I’m just not a Christmas card person. I guess I’m an email person (family and friends, be on the look out!). Or apparently, a week-after-New-Year’s blog post person.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting Christmas cards, but do you ever get an email from a friend around the holidays and think, “Sheesh, send me a REAL Christmas card, why don’t you?” Most likely not. In my view, electronic greetings can bring just as much holiday cheer to loved ones as Christmas cards.

And so I’m determined to embrace my reality and make the best of it. I’ll still keep my addresses updated (something I do every Christmas to stay organized), and who knows, maybe some years I’ll send a “real” card, but in keeping with what’s become a tradition, here’s our yearly New Year’s greeting and highlights.

Ben has been pretty busy this year, managing the pharmacy where he works since May. He loves what he does, which is making specialized IV treatments for patients at home, and we’ve been trying to find ways to grow the business and support the team he works with. It’s a lot of late nights and weekends on call (not to mention a crash course in management), but it’s an adventure, and one we’re very grateful for. He also works as Assistant Clerk in the office at our church (pro bono, so to speak, as clergy and personnel are unpaid). In his free time, whenever that is, he’s planning to take up woodworking and tackle some projects around the house.

Caleb is busy, busy, busy, too. At age 2, he loves all things construction, knows all of his letters, most of his numbers through 10, recognizes a handful of words by sight, talks nonstop, plays pretend on his own now, and explores constantly. I can barely keep up with him! (Read about Caleb turning 2 here.) He looks out for his little sister, and he can make her laugh like no one else can. By next year, I’m betting they’ll be best buds.

Lydia is growing fast! Has it really been 6 months? (...I guess I should stop telling people I just had a baby…Read about Lydia’s arrival here.) She’s sweet, sunny, and just slightly sensitive. She’s active like Caleb, too--she can roll across the room in a matter of seconds, loves sitting up to play, and she’s starting to scoot around on her tummy. Her favorite pastime--aside from talking--is grabbing anything within reach, including toys, people’s faces, and plates full of food. We really have to keep an eye on her now (she wants to put everything her mouth), but she’s so gorgeous, we can’t take our eyes off her anyway.

Jenny (that’s me)...I’ve had a busy year just trying to keep up with the rest of the family! Oh and you know, I had a baby in July. (Read about my pregnancy here.) I’m exhausted, but I’m having the time of my life. It's been a miraculous experience to become the mother of two, and I'm loving this time to teach and learn at home with them. And I have "my girls" at church, too, where I work as the Second Counselor in the Young Women's Presidency (i.e. youth leaders, also an unpaid ministry). Those girls never fail to brighten my week! Blogging continues to be a therapeutic hobby for me, and I hope to do more in the coming year.

As a family, it was a big year. In January, we visited my family in Georgia while Ben tested for his state license there, and for spring break in March, we spent a week with Ben’s family in Idaho Falls. After a couple trips to the hospital for false labor, followed by house rest (doctor's orders), we swore off traveling and settled down at home to get ready for our baby girl’s arrival.

Over the next few months, we finally got the rest of our boxes unpacked, painted and put up shelves in the front sitting room, moved Caleb into a new room with a toddler bed, refinished furniture and set up a guest room, painted and organized our master bedroom, and painted and put together Lydia’s nursery. We worked hard (actually, we overdid it), and by the end of it, I could barely move--not that I could move anyway, being 9 months pregnant.

In July, we welcomed Lydia Grace. My mom spent a few weeks with us (and my dad surprised me by flying in for my birthday, too!), and a few weeks later, both sides of our family came for her blessing day.






This fall, I helped start a preschool playgroup with a few friends in the neighborhood, and it’s always a highlight of Caleb’s week. A highlight of the year for all of us was hiking to Jump Creek Falls, and we can’t wait to explore more of Boise’s best hiking spots this summer.

We had a fun Halloween as the Flintstones and a wonderful Thanksgiving with Ben’s family in Idaho Falls (in spite of traveling in a deadly blizzard), but the most memorable part of the holidays was definitely my brother’s wedding. We love his beautiful new bride, Bailey, and we’re so happy for them!

We had a White Christmas at home with just our family, and my cousin Alan and his family joined us later that day for Christmas Dinner. We’ve been on the road this New Year visiting my family and Ben’s brother Adam and his family, and we’ve had the best time, but we’re also excited to get home and see what this new year brings. We hope it brings the very best of blessings to you and yours!



Saturday, January 2, 2016

9 Simple Things I'm Doing Now to Be Ready for (and Enjoy!) Next Christmas


Happy New Year! To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel much in the Christmas spirit this year. Between some unexpected health problems at the beginning of the month and my brother’s wedding, it felt like I didn’t get a chance to enjoy Christmas as much as I could have (I really enjoyed the wedding, though!...The kidney stones and week-long infection, not so much). So this year I resolved to start planning early, so that by next Christmas, I can really take in the season. These are 9 simple things I’m doing right now to be ready, and believe me, if they weren’t simple, I wouldn’t be doing them.

1. I made a new note in Evernote for Christmas 2016, so that I can add to it throughout the year. This note gives me a place to “dump” all my ideas as they come to mind. I like my Evernote app, because it’s easy to access on my phone or computer, but you could also use your planner (the December section, for example), or whatever works for you.

2. I’m making a list of traditions we love and want to do again (or try out) next year. As a young family, we’re just starting to make our own Christmas traditions, like going caroling to our neighbors and opening a new Christmas book and reading it together on Christmas Eve. I’m keeping a list in my Christmas 2016 note so we can be sure to make time for these next year, and even try a few new traditions.

3. I wrote down all of the people I gave gifts to this year, what I gave, and how much I spent. This was quick and easy to do, and I’m relieved to already have a working Christmas list for next year (which I’m usually writing out over Thanksgiving).  

4. I’m setting up a monthly deposit for my Christmas savings account based on the total amount spent this year. After writing down the gifts I bought and how much I spent, it was easy to add in food costs and come up with a working total for next year’s Christmas budget (and break it down into a monthly savings amount).

5. I’m also adding to a generic list of gift ideas for next year. I have a hard time deciding what to give people, but having a list of ideas to pick from should take some of the stress out of next year’s Christmas shopping. Some of the ideas are gifts I’ve given, some are gifts I’ve received (and loved!), and some are ideas I just don’t want to forget before next Christmas comes.

6. I hit up the Christmas clearances. After years of apartment living and Ben losing his job last November, this is actually the first year I’ve shopped the after-Christmas sales. The wait paid off, though. We scored a huge wreath and some garland for under 30 bucks (we would’ve paid over $90 at full price), so next Christmas—our third in our home—we’ll finally be able to decorate the outside of our house. It’s a good thing; I think the neighbors have been wondering if we even celebrate Christmas. But if you’re going to take advantage of 60-90% discounts, this is probably the last weekend before stores clear their shelves.

7. I’m re-organizing all of my Christmas stuff. For years, all of the Christmas stuff we owned fit in one box with the Christmas tree. Now, it’s a couple of plastic bins, but this year I stocked up on a few 18-gallon totes at $5 each, so it’s time to get everything organized—that way, it’s easier to put up next Christmas without having to sort through it all first.  

8. I’ve cleared out and designated a Christmas gift “hiding” spot, so that next Christmas I know where to find everything I’ve collected through the year. The problem with shopping early is keeping track of what I’ve bought, so this year I have one spot for everything, and I can keep a list in my Christmas 2016 note, too.

9. I’m adding and updating addresses in my address list as I receive cards from friends and family. For me, the most stressful part of sending Christmas cards is updating the address list, but I do this every year, and it always saves a ton of time.

So, that’s it. I probably could’ve thought of one more thing to make it an even ten, but I want to hear your ideas. What do you do through the year to be ready for Christmas?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

3 Keys to a Heavenly Home


Happy Holidays! I hope all of you reading this had a wonderful Christmas. This season, home is on a lot of people’s minds. It’s been on mine too, but not in the way you might think. Have you ever wondered what makes home so...homey?   

I visited the Idaho Falls area over Thanksgiving, where I lived for about eight years before moving to Boise. Going back always brings back so many memories--good and bad. Living there was, in the words of Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.

It’s where I went to college, dated Ben, fell in love, got married, and started my new life with him. We lived close to his family, including his parents and extended family, and even a few of my cousins. We had several close friends living there at the time, too--the kind of friends you hold on to your whole life. Those years were full of wonderful times--family dinners, annual reunions, get-togethers with friends, and adventures into Idaho’s great outdoors.

The crystal clear mountain lake at Palisades--one of our favorite hikes

It was also the most difficult time of our lives. Day to day, we didn’t see much of each other--we were constantly overloaded with the demands of school and work. This made the long, dark winter months seem even more lonely and depressing, especially when we were struggling to start a family and cope with miscarriage after miscarriage. And as independent as I’ve always been, it was tough being separated from the familiar support system of family and friends that I grew up with in the South.

But in good times and bad times, there was always home. I look back now and picture our small but comfortable apartment on the outskirts of town, our cozy cottage on Putnam Street, and even our tiny, 400-square-foot, 100-year-old apartment where we lived as newlyweds. None of those places was anything special, except that we made them so. Home, wherever it was, was always a place of safety, peace, and comfort.

Our first *tiny* apartment

I felt that same familiar sense of comfort while visiting family and friends over Thanksgiving, too. Each home was very different--at my in-laws’, there were 19 of us in one house, including 11 kids, while at the home of our friends Jeff and Jamie, it was just the two of them (although they’d welcome 11 kids after trying for almost 11 years), and my cousin Emily is single, living with roommates. As different as they all were, I was struck by how much each place felt like home.

So what exactly makes a home feel homey? What is about home, other than being together with loved ones, that gives us that sense of belonging? I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, because I believe you can feel at home no matter where you live, whether it’s a dream house, tiny apartment, basement, or bamboo hut--or whether you’re single (been there), childless (been there, too), or living with a large family. After thinking long and hard, I’ve finally decided on what I believe are 3 keys to a heavenly home.  

Key #1: What you give to your home, it gives back to you.

This saying is my Aunt Robin’s, to give her credit (which is very well-deserved, as she has a lovely home), but I was raised on the same principle. The kind of home you have is up to you, and it all depends on what you put into it. Your home is a reflection of your heart, and your attitudes and priorities set the tone there. Will you make your home one of kindness or criticism, open-mindedness or ignorance, harmony or discord? Will you bring to your home a love of art, books, sports, music, nature, thriftiness, humor, or fun? These choices all influence the look and feel of a home.

Likewise, the time, energy, and even money that we put into caring for our homes--within reason and within our means--are all worthwhile in making home a heavenly place. It doesn’t have to look like a magazine cover, it doesn’t matter if everything is second-hand (#craigslist), it doesn’t even have to be perfectly clean--when you give your heart to your home, it will give back to you joy, peace, and comfort. It will be a piece of heaven on earth.

Key #2: When you worship God in your home, He dwells with you.

I believe we lived with God before we were born, and that we can live with Him again because of Jesus Christ. So, eternally speaking, our true home is with Him. But our home on Earth can be a glimpse of that heavenly home, especially when we invite Him to dwell with us.

Daily devotionals--prayer, scripture study, sacred music--do more than bring you closer to God, they also bring God into your home. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27) As the Prince of Peace and our Eternal Father, He brings a sense of peace and belonging to our homes that cannot be matched by anyone or anything else.

Key #3: Opening your door will open your heart to others.

When you welcome others into your home, they feel welcome--it’s as simple as that. But it’s easier said than done, especially when your home life gets busy or complicated or just plain messy (I should know--with two little ones, I’m only beginning to learn the meaning of messy).

But I’m also learning to open my door and invite others in, in spite of my shyness, in spite of bad hair days and no make-up, and in spite of laundry baskets and toys on the floor. Because these days, what I can do is mostly limited to what can be accomplished with one hand, but fortunately, it takes only one hand to open the door. And making visitors--even unexpected ones--feel at home doesn’t take any hands at all, just an open heart and a genuine interest in others. Of course, we can’t forget the people who already live with us--it’s even more important to make sure they always feel wanted and welcome at home, too.  

No matter your circumstances, I believe you can unlock the door to a heavenly home when you welcome others with an open door and an open heart, when you invite God to dwell with you, and when you give your heart to your home. One more thing, while it’s true that happy people make a happy home, we can never underestimate how much a home itself can make people happy. In fact, in my opinion, one of the best cures for unhappiness is the haven of a heavenly home.

Now it’s your turn: what do you do to make your home a happy, heavenly place?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Best Two Years


It’s a term that’s familiar to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), because every young adult has the opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary for 18 to 24 months, and it’s a life-changing experience for most. That’s why they call it “the best two years.”

I’ve always felt like I missed out by not serving a mission. At the time, women had be 21 to apply (now it’s 19), and by age 20, I had graduated from college and was engaged to Ben. So although I’d wanted to serve, God had a different plan for my life, and I knew His path for me would lead to happiness, as it always does.

I’ve been happier than I could’ve imagined in the 7+ years I’ve been married to Ben. But it’s been the last two years that have been the very best, and this amazing little boy is the reason why.


Caleb was born two years ago today, and A LOT has happened since then. In November 2013, we became parents for the first time--talk about a life changer! Then in May, Ben switched jobs after a 6-month, nation-wide job search. We bought a house in August and became homeowners for the first time, and we’d barely settled in when we were shocked to find out that we were expecting again!

Less than a week later, Ben lost his job when his company downsized. He worked a couple of temporary part-time jobs--meanwhile turning down a management position in Sun Valley filling prescriptions for the likes of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger--and finally found a promising position with a specialized home care pharmacy. This summer, he became the manager there, and he’s been doing great things for the business.

So as you can imagine, these two years have been quite a roller coaster--3 job changes, 2 new babies, 1 big move (which came with a big investment too), plus the stress of new parenthood, unemployment, a tough pregnancy (high risk with two hospitalizations, plus the usual sickness, exhaustion, and raging hormones), then adjusting to life with two little ones--it’s no wonder we’ve aged more in the last two years than in the five years before that. Wrinkle cream recommendations, anyone?

How, with all that stress and change, could they have been the very best years of our lives so far? Why have I felt more peace during this time than in the years before?

I believe I’ve experienced what so many missionaries do, that even when serving a mission is the most stressful and trying time of their lives, it’s also the most rewarding. They have a sense of purpose, and they see the Hand of the Lord in their lives every day. They see Him working miracles.

That’s what motherhood has done for me. It has become my mission, my calling in life. When Caleb was born two years ago, I stopped questioning what the future held, because I held it in my arms. Whatever happens--whatever worries I have--nothing can erase what I’ve experienced and how I’ve grown as a mother.

So this isn't just any birthday--it’s a celebration of the best two years of my life! And I hope there will be many, many more to come. Happy Birthday, Caleb!


Caleb Turns Two:

Caleb loves all things motorized--trucks, tractors, construction vehicles, cars, trains, fire engines--you name it. He's starting to speak more in sentences, and I’ve lost track of how many words are in his vocabulary, but it has to be upwards of 500. He loves to learn and recognizes about half of the letters of the alphabet and numbers 1-10. Caleb also loves to play with friends at church and in our preschool group, and he asks to go to one or both almost every day. He’s a great helper around the house and loves to make his little sister Lydia smile and laugh. His sense of adventure and curiosity grow every day.







Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Fall Ya'll: DIY Faux Red Maple Branches


Ever since the leaves started turning a few weeks ago, I’ve been dreaming of red maple branches on my table. My neighbors across the street have the most gorgeous maple, and every time I saw those brilliant red leaves, oh, how I wanted that tree to be mine.

After considering the possible consequences of sneaking onto their property in the middle of the night to snip a few branches for myself, I decided not to risk incarceration. So I came up with the idea of making my own.

I don’t often craft (and I’ve never blogged about it), but there’s something about this cooler weather that makes me want to fire up my hot glue gun. And if you’re like me, you’re hanging on to every last autumn leaf and golden sunset. This simple fall craft will let you hang on to fall a little longer, because it won’t ever dry up or crumble like real leaves. (I think it goes without saying, however, that if you have access to REAL red maple branches, USE them!)


You can make your own “faux” red maple branches for your fall centerpiece or mantle in about 20 minutes for less than a dollar! All you need is:


  • Bare branches of any type, roughly 2 feet long
  • 2 sheets of red tissue paper
  • hot glue gun
  • scissors
  • pen or pencil
  • a maple leaf shape to trace



I cut the branches from my cherry tree, but if you don’t have a tree, you could gather sticks off the ground at the park, or sometimes you can find decorative willow branches at the dollar store. If you don’t know where to find sticks, I feel a little sad for you, wherever it is you live.

Caleb stayed busy by helping me take the leaves off the branches.
After you’ve gathered your branches, you’ll need the maple leaf shape to trace onto your red tissue paper. The easiest way is to Google “maple leaf” and print out whichever shape takes your fancy. You could also use a REAL maple leaf if you can find one, or preferably two or three of different sizes.

Fold your tissue paper in half about 4 or 5 times, then trace your leaf shape, so that for each tracing you cut, you’ll make several leaves.


TIP: Try to modify each tracing so that some of your leaves will be larger and some will be smaller. Also, the more angles and points you can make, the more realistic your leaves will look. You can make as many pen marks as you need, since you can just throw that top leaf away after cutting.

Once you’ve cut all of your leaves out, plug in your hot glue gun and start gluing! There’s no rhyme or reason--you may want to cluster a couple leaves here and there.


TIP: You need only a tiny dot of hot glue. Larger globs of hot glue will show through your leaves and produce thousands of annoying stringy things.

Meanwhile, I gave Caleb a few of the leaves so that he could work on his own fall wreath craft while I worked on the branches, but he was totally over it after about 7 leaves.


So here are a few finished branches.


And here they all are together, in a blue and white pitcher I fell in love with at a thrift store a few years ago.


So there you go--a beautiful and easy craft to bring fall foliage into your home, and it only takes about 20 minutes! ...Unless you have a toddler and a baby, and then you should plan on this stuff sitting on your kitchen counter for a few days before you actually finish it.


Speaking of...eek! Oh, and I can't wait to refinish our cabinets soon...or rather to be done refinishing them.

I think I’ll just keep looking at this spot.


What are your favorite fall crafts?