Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We were made to live for so much more....

     I wish I kept a better log of the constant changes around here, but it's hard enough to just keep up with the normal necessities of life.  I remember the days of recording firsts and exciting things that the kids did, and I wonder how long it's been since I've written anything on those logs.  Our girl has been home just over four months now, and in many ways it feels like at least a year.  I think part of it is because she was just meant to be here with our family so it feels natural and like she's always been here.  And I think the other major reason is because we have flown through so many stages in this short time.  We really went back to the beginning in many ways.....so many things that were missed out on, even during infancy, were noted....maybe because we have small children and she watched in awe, the way we cared for them...or maybe because she's really just incredibly aware.  But it gave us the priceless opportunity to start at the beginning.....and though she's flown through the stages, quickly catching up to where she would have been, it's been a blessing, and such a huge help in the progress that's been made.  It's a hard balance now, knowing when to expect more and teach more responsibility, while still wanting to give her more of those missed opportunities...to continue to meet some of her needs that she could easily meet on her own and would naturally be expected of most children her age.  I pray that we make the right choices and are approaching everything in a way most beneficial to her....but, the person that she is deep down...the sincerity, and genuine kindness, compassion and love that define her, make me certain that it is not our best efforts that are the reason for the progress we see.

     It's truly one of the hardest things I've ever done....and we've had some really trying weeks....but in just four short months, the difference is almost too hard to believe.  And I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this is for her....how challenging to learn an entirely new way of life...new expectations.....new language...and the list goes on.  And as she opens up and shares about her past....and as she just is herself, revealing her character, I cannot help but want to shout...We were made to live for so much more!!!! So this was a little hard.....and also a huge blessing that has taught us so much, and shown us even more what we are called to be as Christ followers.  Sure God will ask you to do hard things if you follow Him....but the hard is nothing compared to the blessings....and it's the whole point!  This life is not about us, but it's so easy to make it that way.  I have to remind myself of this constantly!  We sell ourselves short when we live in our little world that we've created....what we would have missed if we had given in to our fears...doubts...and decided our way was better.

     At this moment, I'm sitting in my warm house, watching my sweet daughter shovel and snow blow (the neighbor is so sweet, out there showing her how to use it and letting her!) for our neighbors.  And my eyes are filling up as I consider in amazement how one who has suffered so much could have so much love and compassion for others.  And I assure you it's not because we've taught her all of this in four months.....this is who she is.  She came in to tell me she'd been helping another neighbor shovel....and then in shock told me how they then came and helped her with the end of our driveway (which we had never asked her to do!).  "Me help people, people help me!" she told me.  She then asked to help another neighbor.  I reminded her that if she was cold or tired she should come inside....that she did not have to shovel.  Her response was matter of fact, "I want surprise God!"

     Just this morning I wasn't feeling well so she worked hard to help with the boys and when I finally collapsed on the couch, she helped them make cards for me as a surprise.....and she peeked around the corner to watch them give them to me, thinking I may believe they just did it on their own.  When I thanked her too she asked if I had seen them.  To not even want the credit......  She asked if I wanted tea or coffee....and told me she was praying that God would make me better.  I am forever the student....God teaching me through these sweet children....the least of these.....

     She always notes how different things are amongst people here...."wow, people here say sorry,"  "people no boom boom (punch each other)....talk....say sorry...forgive,"   "people hug."   If she hugged her friend there people laughed.....she was baffled.  She said she loved a friend and soon everyone was talking about it....the teacher yelled at her.....again, she just did not understand!  Two little babies, maybe one year old....hugging and giving each other kisses and everyone acting like it was horrible...."no" she said to me...."so cute!"  She just understood differently.....she got it.....even when everyone and everything around her said the opposite.  And she held onto that love.....and maybe this is why it's so easy for her to give and receive affection.....to crave it and so freely love others.  She has wisdom beyond her years....and well beyond her life experiences thus far.         

    We struggle often with trying to teach our children (and ourselves, who are we kidding) not to have this "me, me, me" mentality.  It's a constant battle, with both extremes very evident in our home.  And it so naturally catches on from oldest to youngest much of the time...so we try also to teach them that they are modeling for their younger sibling.....which sometimes is hard to expect from someone who is learning so very much as it is.  But then we have these moments.....Caleb wouldn't eat the meal he ordered when we went out to dinner.  He's a mini me basically with major food issues, so it wasn't a huge surprise.  But he insisted he would eat it, so we bought it and he wouldn't even try one bite.  He was so upset about it...and she was so distraught.....everyone was not happy and content.  He wanted to eat, but didn't want his food and we weren't buying a second meal, so he was miserable and she did everything she could to change his mood......to make sure everyone was happy.  She succeeded and proudly whispered to me that it was working.  At one point though, it really got me.....she even offered to eat his pasta for him so he could have a different meal.  But she hates pasta....

      I truly believe this is only the beginning of a beautiful story for this girl.  She is strong and wise, compassionate and genuine and so full of love.  I am so very proud of her.....and she is finally starting to believe it herself.  When she first came home, she would often block her ears and shake her head no, refusing to look at us when we would tell her that she was beautiful...smart....a good sister...good daughter...good friend.  That we loved her and God loved her.  And so it became something we said as often as possible, and in time began asking her to repeat after us as she became less and less resistent to the words and began to see the truth about who she is.  And now...four months later she will say those words....."I am beautiful, I am smart, I am a good sister, I am a good daughter, I am a good friend....My family loves me and God loves me."  And she believes it.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Two Years Home - Celebrating Gotcha Day!

        It's always the same story.....feels like he has been here forever, can't recall life without him, and yet surprise at the fact that it could be two years!  Being in Russia seems like another lifetime...the little boy that was carried into the room and seemed so much smaller than I had imagined seems like a different boy than our son today.

Our first day with Levi (then Vanya) in October 2012

Gotcha Day - January 21, 2013

            He is so much the same in many ways....ready and eager for adventure, attention, silliness...and then for cuddles and love.  Basically, he can be a crazy man and then the sweetest, most lovable boy ever : )  It's crazy to imagine that last year at this time he wasn't walking on his own yet....so much like a baby still in many ways.

           He's made so much progress in this last year...always slow, but steady.  He has to be ready on his own....confident in his ability...before he will really try.  To watch him do a puzzle with ease, or walk up and down the stairs still makes me so proud of him.  Everything has been a struggle....so much harder for him to master than for most.  And now we're finally hearing more and more of his voice....imitating us on his own without so much prompting....a few times now even putting two or three words together on his own!  It's so exciting to see.  I know how smart he is....I know that there is so much he wants to say....so much that he knows though it appears to others that he does not....so much frustration coming out in the form of behaviors that are not so highly desired......and I can only imagine how difficult it is.  And yet, most of the time he is incredibly happy....full of life and joy and eager to keep up with his big brother and sister.  


       He's still such a peanut despite the fact that he eats and eats and eats.  And though one of his biggest obsessions remains playing with his tools and "fixing" things, he has a newer love of being nurturing and caring for his stuffed dog as if he is a baby.  And I think that he will love the opportunity to be a big brother.  He is so sweet and (usually) gentle with little babies....concerned when they cry, and wanting to meet their needs.  I'm so excited to hear more of this little one's voice and to see him grow into his new role this coming year.  He truly is a miracle!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meet The Wetherington Family!

      I am SO excited to introduce you to the Wetherington Family!  They are currently on their third adoption within the past two years, and are working to bring home two kiddos now.  There's a sense of urgency due to necessary medical treatment for one of the children they're adopting, which makes it challenging for fundraising purposes....but God is faithful and we know firsthand that no matter how impossible or challenging things seem, when He calls us, He equips us.

      This family is allowing me the opportunity to start something that has been on my heart for a while now.....a chance to help other adoptive families raise funds.  I've spent the last four months or so learning about essential oils and putting them to the truest test by using them in our daily lives, and decided to jump on board fully.  So....for the next 30 days all profits from my doTerra store will be going directly to the Wetherington family's adoption!  They will be sharing with their friends and family, and have a created a group here if you'd like to join in!  I'll be posting information and tips daily and will be happy to serve as a resource to guide people and help them to find what may work for them.  Anyone who places an order in these next 30 days will be entered to win a personalized gift (details in the group), and I will be sharing about some promotions and other opportunities.  We'd love for you to join us, and to keep this family in your prayers as they follow God's leading!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Adopting From Ukraine?

         Are you or someone you know considering adopting from Ukraine?  One of the things I initially found most overwhelming was how we would ever find a trustworthy facilitator to help us with our adoption.  I really did not want to use an agency this time around, if possible, but it seemed impossible to trust someone in another country that I had never met and knew nothing about.  I stumbled across this site for Ukraine Christian Adoptions and so wanted to jump on board....but I was still so hesitant....until, just when I was about to close out the page, I noticed a reference from a family in our state.  RI being so small, I put their name into facebook and sure enough we had some mutual friends.  So I reached out to them, and they were more than happy to share what a wonderful experience they had and what godly men these facilitators were.  Adoption is not easy....but I cannot imagine having gone through it with anyone else.  They were efficient and always ready to respond to my millions of never ending questions.  They were so knowledgeable and helpful with everything....and then when we were in country?  I was a mess that first trip....I can't imagine not having worked with someone who shared our beliefs....who I knew was praying for and with us.  I knew we were just where God wanted us...yet I struggled.....but what a comfort to have them working with us.  So if you have somehow stumbled upon this page as I did their site....please feel free to contact me, or them....and know you could not be in better hands.  Right now our facilitator is offering a special for five more families in 2015.....ANY number of siblings, for no additional cost.  No it is not too good to be true.....it is about getting these children home...finding families for as many as possible...and answer God's call to care for the orphans and defend the cause of the fatherless!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DIY Recipes & Other Alternatives

     I have to laugh because as I thought about sharing this I realize that once again I'm eating my own words.  "I'd never make my own ____! What a waste of time.  I'm a good bargain shopper and I can't imagine I'd get this any cheaper!"  I constantly find myself doing the things I said I'd never do....and this is no exception.  So over time, in my quest for healthier, more natural alternatives (in addition to cheap!) I have slowly transitioned many things in our home to these simple DIY recipes or alternatives....and I must admit, I love them all!  I'm a super clean freak so I am always hesitant that things aren't going to clean well enough, and I'm also very skeptical about all these natural remedies as I've said before, but I really love the changes we've made so I thought I'd share......I've told many of you that I'd give you recipes for several of these and have completely forgotten who wants what, so hopefully this helps!!

1.  Laundry Detergent - RECIPE = 1 bar of Fels Naptha, 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of Washing Soda.  (All three can be found together in the detergent aisle of Walmart).  DIRECTIONS: I use a cheese grater to grate the bar of soap, then just mix in the other two ingredients and that's it!  Use 1-2 tablespoons per load.  I typically do 1 heaping tablespoon, which comes out to about $.05 a load!

2.  Dishwasher Detergent - INGREDIENTS = 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of Washing Soda, 1/2 cup of LemiShine, 1/2 cup of Kosher salt.  DIRECTIONS: Simply mix all ingredients together!  I will warn you that if you seal this up, it will harden and can be very difficult to use.  I've started keeping it in a bowl loosely covered with foil and it works much better!

3.  All Purpose Cleaner - INGREDIENTS = Fill 1/2 with water, 1/2 with White Vinegar.  Optional: add a few drops of lemon essential oil and On Guard essential oil.  DIRECTIONS:  If using essential oils, use a glass jar.  I buy a glass vinegar jar from walmart for about $1.50 and a spray bottle for $1.00.  The sprayer top from the spray bottle fits perfectly on the glass vinegar jar.  Add a label and you're good to go!

4.  Facial/Body Scrub -INGREDIENTS = 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup epsom salt (give or take a little, I don't usually measure, it depends on what type of consistency you like!).  Optional: add lemon essential oils, and/or frankincense, peppermint, and lavender EO's.  DIRECTIONS:  I melt the coconut oil so that everything mixes together well.  It will harden more once added to your jar.  I use a small glass jar with a latch which can be bought for about $1.00 at AC Moore.

5.  Moisturizer - INGREDIENTS = 3/4 cup coconut oil (again give or take, depending on the size of your jar!)  5 drops of Frankincense EO, 4 drops of Peppermint EO, and 3 drops of Lavender EO.  DIRECTIONS:  Again, I melt the coconut oil so everything mixes well.  This will harden a great deal in the colder months, but as soon as you take some out and put it on your skin, it's perfectly fine!

6.  Un-petroleum Jelly - This is just an alternative we've switched to, but can also be easily made at home with beeswax, coconut oil and olive oil (there are several variations).  I have yet to make my own, because I've found this!

7.  Tea Tree Rub - In place of Vicks, this is another one that can be DIY, but I'm happy with this and it lasts forever!

8.  Honey - I've never used any regular cough meds for my kids, but we've tried several natural cold and cough meds out there without noticing any difference.  This honey, however, is our go to (aside from oils and Elderberry) when the kids have colds.  It's the only thing that has made a huge difference for them, it's safe (over 12 months), and they love it!

9.  Essential Oils - I literally use these for everything now....if one doesn't work, I try another, and I am so excited about how they are working for our family! You can literally replace everything in your medicine cabinet with an oil or blend of oils....it's so much fun and so much better for you!  For instance....if you suffer from headaches you can try Peppermint or Past Tense (and so many others, but these work wonders for me and many others!)  If you have trouble sleeping, try some Lavender!  I used to take sleeping pills b/c I never slept....I so wish I could have tried these then...I hated the feeling of taking that medication every day!  If you have questions please let me know, I'd love to help find you alternatives!  And if you're a skeptic like me....if one oil doesn't work, don't give up...there are so so so many options :)

10.  Neosporin - So here's an example of something I've made with oils to replace something we use regularly.  We go through a lot of band aids around here....sometimes for quite microscopic, or potentially non-existent, cuts....but the kids always want their medicine on there too (neosporin).  So I just found this super simple alternative!  INGREDIENTS = Witch hazel, Meleleuca essential oil, Lavender essential oil, Frankincense essential oil, 10ml roll on bottle.  DIRECTIONS:  Add 10 drops of each oil, then fill with witch hazel.  Shake and roll on!  For the details on the benefits of each oil, see the original site here!

11.  Elderberry - Anytime I'm starting to feel sick, I take these.  Twice a day, and I really think it makes a difference!  I've ordered a liquid version for the kids that I've yet to try (since we've been seeing so much of a difference with the oils), but I think it's a great thing to have on hand!

12.  Soaps etc. without Sodium Laureth Sulfate - I suffered with major skin problems on my hands for about 10 years.  I went to countless dermatologists who treated the problem as best they could, but no one ever tried to find the root cause.  My hands would itch and then hurt so badly that it would literally keep me up, and wake me up, at night.  One day, I saw a random post on facebook with someone questioning if they were allergic to this ingredient "sodium laureth sulfate" with a picture of their hands that looked like a mild version of mine.  I ran around the house looking at the ingredients on every soap bottle, shampoo bottle, cleaning product in the house and felt panicked as every single one contained this ingredient.  We're on a tight budget and I just knew there was no way we would ever be able to buy special products to replace each of these!  It was in the kids wash too!  I eventually searched everywhere and was able to find comparably priced products at a few stores to switch out for each of ours.  My hands healed and I only very occasionally experience a similar problem where my wedding ring is if I wash my hands too much out in public or at other people's houses.  Crazy!  All of my experiences, this being a major one, have compelled me to keep searching for more natural alternatives....and what a difference they each make!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sharing Oils

    Okay, I'm going to ramble a little more about these essential oils.  Let me just say, this is so not like me to jump on board with something and then want to share it so much with others.  But this is just different.  It's been so amazing to see the results and changes we've experienced!  I am not exaggerating when I saw that I have not touched the medicine cabinet since I started with these oils in September.....no tylenol, ibuprofen....sudaphed...nothing.....not for me, not for the kids.  And whereas last year, we were at the doctors constantly...catching everything that went around....this year we've been so much more healthy.  I'm the farthest from a businessperson there is.....I really mean that....many times I've ended up giving things away for free that I'm supposed to be selling, or apologetically insisting people do not have to buy something.  That's so not what this is about....I do not want to be another person trying to push something on someone else, or trying to get you to spend your money!  But I am way too excited about how these are changing our lives to not share!

    There's been a huge bonus too.....while I've been using the oils for one purpose, they started to help in others.  I realized recently that my typically split fingertips (starting with the slightest bit of cool weather in the fall) are...well...not!  I realized that because I'm applying the oils with my fingers so frequently, it has probably made this huge difference.  Something I'd really given up on.....I'd tried every lotion, every "proven or your money back" product for splitting fingers and nothing ever worked.  Another thing I just decided I had to live with, and now I'm realizing more and more that I don't!

    I tend to have the weirdest problems which often results in repeated doctors visits or just dealing with whatever the problem is for fear of the former....one recurring problem is that I get cysts often on my face, and have had to have two surgically removed.  Whenever they appear, I start to stress that it may require another surgery.  This time, I checked what oil may help, applied some thyme for about a week and.....gone!  Sure it may come back as they often do, but now I have a simple remedy at my fingertips....and more options if that happens to not work the next time!

    We've done so well health wise this winter, and then this sudden blast of sickness hit just about everyone we knew.....like every member of our family that we were surrounded by at Christmas time.  Caleb started first......cold symptoms.....and I thought this may be it.  I applied the oils diligently, put some peppermint in the humidifier, gave him some honey and again within a few days he was already almost back to himself!  No bad cough, no sleepless nights.....a little stuffy yes.....not quite himself yes.....but what a huge difference this has made.  Coughs used to linger at least a couple of weeks around here and we've really managed to skip that step altogether!  Levi caught it too and was a bit more stuffy, but again within a few days, he was so much better.  All of us ended up with some mild symptoms, but nothing that slowed us down or really took a toll.
     Okay, one last way I'm using them.......I made a facial scrub a while back with coconut oil, Epsom salt and some lemon essential oils.  I absolutely love it, and the best part is how cheap it is!  I've never been one to buy a lot of products, especially any beauty type products, mostly because I'm cheap and they're expensive...but also because whenever I do, my skin breaks out or I just don't like it.  So the other day I saw a blog post about a moisturizer.....with the same coconut oil base, but with a few drops of frankincense, lavender and peppermint oils (each soo good for you in so many ways!).  I made my first batch tonight.......my entire family was literally smelling my face....weird I know, but it smells that good.  And it feels incredible.  I thought it would feel super oily and was a little hesitant, but it doesn't....it's incredibly smooth and for the first time this week, (with these frigid temperatures!) my skin doesn't look dry.

     I'm telling you, the possibilities are endless.  I'm sure I've only discovered a small fraction of what is to come.  We are very blessed to have good health insurance, where we don't have to pay copays.....but I remember a time when we did and I keep thinking how much I wish I knew about these oils then!  To be able to find solutions (and safe, natural ones!) in my own home that really work, is priceless.  I'm not saying oils will take away all sickness.  That's unrealistic.  But using more natural products all around, including the oils, has made a huge difference in our lives.  The differences are so exciting.  The things I'd given up on, the things I'd just learned to live with, are no longer things I have to live with!!

    What about you?? Are there things that you deal with on a daily basis?  Things you've decided you just have to live with?  I've already shared some oils with some of you, but I'm really more than happy to share samples, so please feel free to ask.  I wish I had been able to try some samples when I was interested, but still very hesitant, so this is my way to help you.  If you have questions or want to try some, please send me an email at karissacruse@hotmail.com.  I'd love to set up a day to be at Panera or someplace local for a couple of hours and give out samples of your choosing etc. or just meet up one one one, so let me know!