Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Need-to Vs.Want-to

Today is a day off of work for me, so I get to be home with the kiddos! It's currently nap time, and I'm wrestling between the "need-to's", "want-to's" and "should-do's". I've decided to take this time with both kiddos quiet to share what's been on my mind in regard to Momster Mash. 

I LOVE this blog and the community that we've been building. I have said it before, and I 'll say it a thousand times more...I adore getting to know each Momster of the Month, and sharing her story with you. I have seen the way this platform for mommies has encouraged so many, through so many different emotions, life events, and more. 

While I was home on maternity leave, I had the time pour back into Momster Mash once again. I dreamed up giant visions for what this little blog could continue to grow into, and excitedly began taking steps in the direction I dream (and know!) this blog could go. I made phone calls, I sent emails, I brainstormed with anyone who would listen. I set deadlines, I worked ahead, my excitement continued to grow to keep up with my dreams. 

And the doors keep closing...

I'm not one to give up easily. Shoot, I've been working on slowly growing this blog for the past few years! However, my recent roadblocks have me reconsidering my dreams of this blog at the moment...NOT forever, just at this time.  I want to be very clear, I do not want to stop blogging, interviewing moms, sharing stories with you, or staying connected on Facebook. However, I do feel that at this time, I need to step back and take a break from the commitment. Until blogging can pay our bills, I have to keep my priorities in check. I felt I had plenty of time to devote to Momster Mash (a "want-to"), without cutting into my "have-to's".

And then I went back to work...

I returned to work for a new office, very close to home, with the perfect hours. Unfortunately, this perfectly perceived situation took a turn for the worse when my daughter got lice from childcare and I had no choice but to miss work.  I'll spare you the frustrating details, but I also had no choice but to find new employment. As much as I can see of hindsight at this moment, it seems like it was for the best. My work schedule is very up in the air and all over the place right now; I might work 1 day a week, or I might work 4 days a week. Hubby is also currently on an unpredictable schedule, taking him out of town often. 

And then the roadblocks kept popping up...

Like I said, I'm not one to give up, but with the hectic and uncertain work schedule (and did I mention constant childcare arrangement issues?), I just didn't have the time or energy to devote to getting these roadblocks cleared. I have had Momsters not return their interview to me. I reached out to 4 local business with either no response or no follow through on what was said would be done. I just don't have the time needed, and desired, to address these roadblocks and make my dreams for Momster Mash a reality. 

I came to the realization that I was thinking so much about Momster Mash, and trying to work on my goals for what Momster Mash could be, it was becoming a distraction from what's most important to me in all the world, being a mommy! I sat down and prioritized my life on paper, and Momster Mash just has to take a back seat. Here are some examples:

"Need-to" Priorities: 
  • Work
  • Pay bills
  • Arrange childcare
  • Commute 
"Want-to" Priorities:
  • Wife
  • Mommy
  • Playing and cuddling with my children
  • Outings and play dates on my days off work
  • Household duties such as groceries, cooking meals, cleaning, laundry, etc...These are mostly "want-to's", anyway, cleaning floors is not a favorite of mine! :)
"Want-to's" (when I have the time-to's):
  • Nap (only because both kids have been sick and I've been getting almost no sleep)
  • Barre class or at least a consistent work out routine
  • Read 
  • Pedicure (embarrassingly overdue!)
I have regretfully and prayerfully decided to take a hiatus from Momster Mash, at least in the capacity that it is currently, and with the direction I would like it to go. I will longer be interviewing moms on a regular basis, or posting each week. I will still manage the Facebook page and would love to see that community continue to grow. I will also still share on the blog from time-to-time, but I had to free myself of the deadlines for the time being. Please know ho very much I appreciate each and every one of you! Thank you so much for the words of encouragement, support of my writing and the direction of the blog, and for all of the sharing and connecting.

My dream for Momster Mash was to create a "village". To help mommyhood feel less isolating, by connecting and sharing and empowering and encouraging moms from all walks of life. I have not closed the book on Momster Mash, but instead, think about it like I'm simply placing a bookmark within the perfect place to pause, carry on with other things of this life, and to return again when the time is right to finish the story.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 3

Catch up here:
Part 1
Part 2

Hello again, and happy Momster Monday! When we left off last week, Suzy shared so much with us about her son Simon, and a glimpse into what their days entail with raising a child with autism. To continue on with Autism Awareness Month, I asked Suzy to share more about the organization Better Together, which she created with the help of other moms just over two years ago. Suzy explains: "I had the idea rolling in my head for at least a year. When I was in the waiting room at a therapy session, I sat there getting to know the moms. This was the first time I really connected with other autism moms in a social way, and I told them I had this idea to create a club of sorts...because my son wasn't able to do the things his brothers did, and I wanted that for him...even if I had to create it."

Suzy says that Better Together is a name she "dreamt up" a year before she found a real purpose and meaning for what it would look like, "we were better when we got together". Suzy describes the early days of Better Together, "our kids played all that summer. We did great things, more than just play dates. We focused on the skills our kids lacked and needed to practice."

Since those early days, this original group has changed and grown a lot. Suzy explains, "I found another great mom that was very knowledgeable and had been an autism mom longer than me. We just clicked and our goals were the same. We built projects and webpages and activities so quickly because we wanted to see these things in place for our kids. Soon, we found that the parents were benefiting just as much from being 'better' together as our kids did from the social activities. Our support system online grew and became a constant hotline of sorts...a place to find answers from other parents locally."

What sort of activities is Better Together providing? They have special activities for teens, socials and coffee events for the parents, and the parents offer up their talents for activities such as guitar lessons or craft nights. They also have outings within the community in order to practice dealing with sensory struggles alongside one another. 

This growing local community has "made a world of difference" for Suzy. "It's such a positive place to share knowledge with each other as well as just be there for the hard times. I can't imagine my life without these wonderful families.

The website is and serves as a resource to give families access to up-to-date resources in the Tri-Cities, WA area. The website also provides a step-by-step guide for parents who may be new to the world of autism, and Suzy says that they are wanting to get this out to the medical professionals, "so that our families can feel more empowered early on with steps they need to take with their child."

"The best thing about Better Together", says Suzy, "is that we are a parent-run program. We know our community. We know what we need and we try to empower parents to create those opportunities for their kids, if it's not already out there in the community. We don't have time to wait, our kids needs us now."

Suzy, what can we do during Autism Awareness Month (and always) to help bring awareness and support to this community? 
"Ask about autism, be curious, and learn what it means for us to have a child with autism. Learn what it means to be an adult with autism. Listen, even if you don't fully understand. See that parent that needs encouragement to keep bringing her child church, to the library, to the park. Support local causes that are trying to make a real change to bring quality of life for our autism community for the long term. Just be aware that this community shines brightly. All you have to do is want to see it. We are proud of our children, and we want a chance to brag about them too. I only know my own story. There are so many different families that have struggles I only read about. Some are harder stories, some are very brave, sleep-deprived families out there doing the best they kind to them. Be aware that the hidden disabilities are hard to explain and so often we just don't say anything. So remember just to be kind and patient with people out there in the world...some of us are literally just hanging in there, doing the best we can."

What advice, or words of encouragement does Suzy have to offer mothers who may be raising a child with autism?
"It's not easy news at first. Grieve. Allow yourself time to feel that. Some dreams will have to change, but then see the blessings that this child is. You have to accept autism first, though, it's part of them. They see the world differently; it can be almost magical. I love many things about the autism that is a part of my son. some is hard and I don't love...allow yourself to be sad. It will come up again at new stages...seeing the kinders go to school brought it back for me...but only a little. My beautiful, joyful son is here and I'm happy to be his mom. Know that life will be a new normal, and you can be happy."

For resources, of course Suzy recommends Better Together website, and Better Together can also be found on Facebook - just search "Better Together an autism social learning club".

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 1

Instead of waiting for Momster Monday, I've decided to introduce you to the MOM for April today...and there's a reason why. April is Autism Awareness Month and today is World Autism Awareness Day. Today, I'm introducing you to Suzy Higley, who has a son with Autism.  
Suzy is 40-years-old, mom to 3 boys, from my small little hometown of Othello, Washington and she met her husband in 6th grade!
"I met my husband John for the first time in 6th grade. He was annoying and adorable. We were sweethearts in Junior High until I broke his heart on Valentine's Day! Then 3 long years later we reconnected when I got nerve enough to ask him to a dance. We were together ever since...engaged at 19, married at 20. College together. Kids. House. Now we will celebrate 20 really wonderful years married this July 1st."
Suzy and John have 3 sons: Josh, Nathan and Simon. Her oldest son Josh is 16, and suffers from anxiety, depression and ADD. "Something that I wish I had known more about in his early years. It's been a hard transition for him into his teen years, but we are working through it with help from his doctors", she says. 

Nathan is 14 and has mild anxiety and ADHD. Suzy explains that Nathan "has managed well on his own...he found ways to cope well on his own, and is successful in school." 

Simon is 7 and has a more severe form of autism. Suzy further explains, 
"He is minimally verbal; meaning he has a vocabulary he uses for specific things, but struggles to talk. He has a better receptive language but still has Auditory Processing Disorder, so communication is very hard for him. But he is so smart and patient and finds ways to get his point across. He also has ADHD, which means he's a busy body with huge sensory-input needs and a very busy mind that is hard to keep focused. Our children, while all three are much shyer than me or their dad, still don't fall too far from the tree. I am ADHD myself and anxiety has always plagued me...but I manage. My husband as well; so it's in the genes."
As a SAHM, Suzy was able to spend many "years volunteering for preschool co-ops and PTA in the eleentary years for my older two boys. My youngest is now almost 7, and while I'm still busy volunteering, my path has changed a bit from PTA to autism."

I asked Suzy for the opportunity to interview her not only because she has first-hand experience with autism, but she has also been very active within her special needs community.
"Two years ago I started an autism social learning club called Better Together, with some other moms. It grew from a small group of moms trying to create opportunities for their kids, into a full supportive community of more than 245 members. We are now a program of the Arc of Tri-Cities [Washington], where we will be able to do even more for our special needs community."
Since 1954, the Arc of Tri-Cities has been a provider of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and now serves more than 1,400  individuals each year. All of their services help to advance skill levels, promote inclusion, integration, and socialization, and encouraged independence. 
What would Suzy like everyone to know about those with autism?
"Autism IS a spectrum. It's a big broad curve with lots of colors in between. Some on the spectrum can marry and work, some struggle more and need much more support throughout life. All have the same desire to pursue a happy, purposeful life. Never judge a book by its cover. Assume the desire for friendship and ability for higher learning even if the body language fools you."
In regard to the spectrum, Suzy's son Simon is more impacted, so she can only speak from experience with him. Simon doesn't speak much, but she encourages others to:
"Say hi anyway. Slow down and just see him under the anxiety. Assume he's listening and needs time to think it over and decide to trust you or not. Allow him that. Remember that he is working hard every day to fit in to our way of thinking just to be heard. It's a frustrating world, so be patient and understanding."
Today, this month, and always, Suzy encourages everyone to:
"See the complexity and beauty that is autism. It has its difficulties, but their special and unique ways help them see things clearer and more intense than our brains do...and that's why there is brilliance and beauty in the autistic mind. Appreciate the differences that make us ALL human, and make room for us all in school, in work and in life."
Suzy wears many hats, apart from her role as wife, mother, and co-founder of Better Together, she teaches "Exploring Art" at the Arc to adults with special needs, she loves the coast, and enjoys rearranging furniture regularly.
*          *          *          *          *
Click here for PART 2 as we learn more about Simon, 
how and when Suzy discovered he was autistic, and learn more about Better Together.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 2

{Click here for Part 1 of Suzy's interview}

Happy Momster Monday, and welcome back for Part 2 of MOM Suzy's interview. April is Autism Awareness Month, and I am so glad that Suzy allowed me the opportunity to interview her and agreed to share her son Simon with us. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to walk the path of discovering your child has special needs. So many unknowns, so many questions, so many different emotions.  Suzy says she "never knew much about special needs" until their story began when Simon was 12 months old and his doctor began to see some red flags, "which for him were the lack of any words and he didn't point to objects."

At 16 months, Suzy says she "reluctantly had him evaluated and by 18 months he was in early intervention." Autism didn't truly enter the conversation for a while because as Suzy explains, "it is hard to know what are just delays or quirks and what is true autism...but by two I was pretty sure, and by age three he was diagnosed."
Suzy says "Simon was born as he is. I don't ever remember a change and I have learned gradually as he as grown the extent of his struggles, but I have also learned such a great deal about autism and how unique each individual with autism really is. How it affects them each differently. How each responds differently to therapies and diet."

Suzy explains how the special needs community has changed her "in profound ways that I am so thankful for. I never wished for this and I hate seeing my son hurt in a world not built for his way of thinking. But I also feel blessed. There is a pure and honest way of living now. It's liberating to leave the other world behind."

Because of Simon, Suzy feels she has become an even better mom to all her children because she "stopped measuring them against other standards. I see only my handsome, intelligent, creative, kind, open minded and generous boys. I have the family I always wanted."

Suzy says that she's learned to see the world the way Simon sees it, "[he] is a bouncing ball of joyful energy. He has a love for life that makes you happy just being around him. He sees the world through is own autism eyes. I have learned to see the world through his eyes now. It took some time, but it's a beautiful and honest and pure way that he lives."

Suzy, what is a typical day in the life of Simon?
"He has big sensory needs and needs to feel his body move. Not just a lot, but in big ways. He jumps from high places and lands like a gymnast and swings hard and smiles from ear to ear as he pushes his body further. He climbs with upper body strength to be envied. He runs and jumps and rolls and dances and sings all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. He has echolalia, which is the need to repeat words, phrases and sounds often. It's just the background noise of our life when we aren't fully engaged with him. It's just Simon, he chatters. It's a happy, comforting sound to us now. It doesn't always mean he wants us to talk to him about those things, sometimes it's just for him. He can still answer us or do what we say, all while not missing a beat in his repetitive songs...He can, and does do, many things at one time. He is always going, thinking, learning, problem solving."

Suzy explains that the autism becomes a "problem" when other people come into play. "This is the hardest part for us. Or him. He doesn't understand human social nature. The social rules we all abide by without thinking to fit in. He doesn't know these and he doesn't learn these easily...Keeping him safe is the big problem. People can hurt him or take advantage of him. He will be able to care for himself in many ways, but I think he will always need someone to watch out that he isn't taken advantage of. He will assume people are what they appear to be and say what they mean."

"And so a typical day with Simon", Suzy explains, "is learning this and relearning this daily, even everywhere we go, and although it's a huge exhausting daily task, there is so much joy and love in it all. He is an eager student, a lover of life, a fun and carefree spirit that reminds me to let loose and laugh and run and dance like no one is watching...but they do watch...but we just don't care anymore!"

*          *          *
 Thank you so much Suzy for sharing so much of your Simon with us; he does sound like such a joy! Momsters, be sure to tune in each Momster Monday, as Suzy will be sharing more about her organization Better Together, what we can do during Autism Awareness Month and always to become "more aware", and she will also be offering advice and encouragement to any mothers who may also be raising a child with special needs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hubby and I are currently doing a study developed by Pastor Troy, the lead Pastor of our church.  We meet with a two other married couples on Saturdays, and I meet with a group of women on Fridays to discuss the same study.  The study is called Recalibrate Your Life and revolves around the principle of "recalibrate or stagnate"'re either moving forward, or your moving backward.  The 5-week study focuses on 5 different areas of life:
Your Soul
Your Relationships
Your Home
Your Finances
Your Legacy

I've been thinking about how I can apply this study to other areas of my life, and thought I would share and ask for your ideas as well. 

Recalibrate my Friendships:
Honestly, friendships take a lot of work.  It takes being intentional in nurturing friendships, especially once I became a mom and had nap time, work schedules, traffic, and swim lessons to work around. It's not necessarily easy, but oh so necessary to maintain those dear friendships.  My hubby and I love each other dearly, but we also think time away with our friends is vital. 

My friend Brooke and I have season tickets to a theater about halfway between where we each live. We meet early for dinner, have time to visit, and then get to enjoy a musical or play; something we both love! The dates are set for us in advance, so we are sure to get together on a regular basis, and we hope to still be doing this when we are old and using walkers.

I have been intentional about phone calls!  I've realized I've done a really bad job at staying in touch with friends via the phone; partly because it's so difficult to find the time to talk on the phone with little ones who instantly and desperately need my attention once I put the phone to my ear...but partly because I've been slacking!

Recalibrate as a Mama:
This also falls under the Friendship category, because for me, taking time away to be with friends who lift me up and fill my cup, freshens up my mama soul and allows me to return home ready for another round. Just like a computer needs to be restarted every once in a while when it "freezes", so do we as mamas.

Sometimes, it's as simple as planning my grocery shopping during a time Hubby will be home to watch the kids. Never underestimate the power of a solo grocery shopping trip. Sure, a trip to Target is nice without kids, but give me Grocery Outlet with just the baby and I'm a happy mama.  Sad how easy I am to please these days.

I have fallen in love with Barre! The isolated, controlled, graceful movements are right up my ally, and new classes have recently been added to my local gym's schedule. I grew up dancing and this class really brings back great memories. Hubby and I have worked out our schedules so I can go at least 1x/week. 

Quiet time with my computer is another way I refresh. Some might see this blog and the Momster Mash Facebook page as "work", but this is a hobby and creative outlet for me that brings me so much joy. I am filled up by connecting with and encouraging other mamas. I encourage you to do what brings you joy; life is too short to rely on "someday".

Making time for the activities that bring me joy, allows me the ability to offer more patience and attention to my children. Knowing that I am guaranteed time in the near future to nurture my passions, apart from my #1 passion and priority of being a mama, helps me to be more present with my children in each precious moment I get with them. 

Recalibrate my Career:
I am a Dental Hygienist, which I love, but had been working in an office for far too long which was sucking me dry.  I made up my mind that I wanted to work less, closer to home, in a wonderful office filled with coworkers who worked well together, and I was going to find this office while on maternity leave. I sent my resume on a whim one Sunday night and was hired that's 2-3 days a week, 10 minutes from home, and I absolutely love everything about this dental office. The job is a long-term temporary position, but it was clearly an answer to prayer. We prayed hard about what to do, but really felt the choice was easy and I am SO happy in my new office. I often see people working a job they hate for 20 years. Comfort zones might be cozy and familiar, but I believe great things happen when we wisely step outside of those "safety zones", trust God, and try something different.

Recalibrate my Schedule:
Time is precious, and I want to make the most of it. I've always been a task-oriented, list-making, goal-setting lady, but since becoming a mama of two I've found keeping an organized schedule is so vital to my productivity. Mommy-hood is unpredictable, so I know my lists aren't hard and fast when I make them, but it sure helps me stay on track. I was getting so frustrated when maybe one to-do would get crossed off for the day, especially when I used to crush a to-do list like it was an Olympic event. 

I've learned to prioritize my lists to the three most important items and give myself grace with none of those get crossed off by the end of the day. 

I have fallen in love with my Plum Paper planner! It is completely customizable to your needs and style, and is large enough to keep my family, blog and AdvoCare business organized in one place.

These are just some of the areas of my life I've been giving more attention, as a way to continue to recalibrate and grow (GROW is even my "One Little Word" for 2015). What areas of your life are you currently recalibrating, and how are you doing so? Are there any areas you'd like to recalibrate?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wholly Chicken Broth

Since March has unexpectedly turned into a random blog post month, now is the perfect time to share some random nuggets I've been stashing away, waiting for a good place to fit them in.  

When I conducted my survey, I received feedback from almost everyone that you would like to see some more personal posts from me, as well as more recipes.  So, I'm just going to get both of those birds with one stone and share a crock pot favorite of mine involving a whole chicken..."wholly" heavens this is amazing!  

Cook a whole chicken in the crock pot all day for a tender and juicy rotisserie-style chicken for dinner, then cook all remnants overnight for a delicious and nutritious broth you can use for weeks and weeks!  I'll also share my tips for storing my broth. I recommend this process for a Saturday, or a day where you'll be home all day. It's incredibly easy, but a time consuming.

What you need:
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, quartered
What you do:
  • Mix all ingredients, except garlic and onion, and rub all over chicken, inside and out, and place in crock pot breast-side down.
  • Place onion and garlic inside chicken cavity.
  • Cook 8 hours on low.
  • The chicken will be so tender, it will fall right off the bone!
  • Eat your delicious chicken for dinner, and then return to the kitchen for part 2...
To make the chicken broth:
  • After the kiddos are in bed, get to work on that chicken. Get all that yummy chicken meat off the bones and EVERYTHING else remains in the crock pot; bones, fat, skin, juices...everything.
  • If you have them on hand, add 1 roughly chopped onion, carrot, celery rib, 1 bay leaf.. Don't worry if you don't have these on hand, the broth turns out great anyway, but these will add extra flavor if you have them.
  • Fill crock pot with water, leaving about 1-inch at the top.
  • Cook on 'low' for 8-10 hours. I like to set it before going to bed and let it cook all night long.
In the morning:
  • Ladle out broth from crock pot and filter through a fine strainer over a bowl.
  • Cover and refrigerate a little bit to cool it off before moving onto the next phase of broth storage, which usually takes place over the course of the day.
Broth storage:
  • Grab your muffin tins!  I use a 4-cup measuring cup with a spout to pour the broth into my muffin tins.  Mine hold 1/4 cup liquid each. Very carefully, with the grace of a prima ballerina, place your broth-filled tins into the freezer. 
  • Once frozen, use a spoon to pop out each "puck" and place into a gallon freezer storage bag to store in the freezer.
  • Repeat until all the broth you want to freeze is in bags. 
  • When I'm in need of broth, I know exactly how many "pucks" to pull from my freezer stash. 4 pucks = 1 cup!
There you have it!  Homemade broth for dayyyzzz, and I don't know about you, but making this always makes me feel like Suzy Homemaker.

Please share your favorite healthy crock pot recipes 
and let's help each other save time in the kitchen!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MOM Elizabeth: Trusting God in the Delay, Part 4

During the month of February, we've learned about Elizabeth and her story of being blessed with twins after trying to conceive for two years.  You can catch up here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 

Today is the first "Momster Monday" of March, and I would typically be introducing a new Momster of the Month.  Instead, due to several unforeseen circumstances, I am going to use today to share more about Elizabeth. 

For our last installment of Elizabeth's interview, we will learn more about her passion for social justice and what she is doing to make lasting change for lives around the world, using fashion and design as a vehicle for poverty alleviation. She has also offered Momster Mash readers s giveaway, so read on to learn more!

Elizabeth has a huge heart and sincere love for people, and has made some very intentional changes in her life in order to bless others. Elizabeth's passion for social justice stems back to the first time she visited a brothel.  You read that correctly.  In 2007, she spent four months volunteering in Bolivia and this is when she truly realized that slavery still exists.
"...I met women and very young girls who were bought and sold for sex and money...I ate lunch with women and transvestites who prostituted. Some were physically forced or coerced, though many found themselves in poverty's grip and no way to feed their families without working the strip."
In 2013, Elizabeth was "dismayed" to realize a completely different type of slavery also still existed, while "bragging about bargains and relishing in my comfortable consumerism for far too long." To further explain, Elizabeth shares why Forever 21 is among the worst places to shop.
"On a grading scale of A (the best) to F (the worst), [Forever 21] consistently received a "D" grade on worker rights, traceability, monitoring, and use of excessive overtime. They don't guarantee their workers a living wage, and they have not taken steps toward responsible purchasing."
Did you know that Forever 21 prints John 3:16 on their bags?
"For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

I agree with Elizabeth when she says "the last time I checked, the "world" refers to ALL people, from every tribe, nation and tongue, from every economic status, with every job title. The "world" means those living and working in desperate, horrific conditions like Forever 21's cotton growers, cotton pickers, fabric dyers and garment sewers...those exploited by the company's cheap and fast fashion."
If you're like me, and admittedly Elizabeth, you find pleasure in how inexpensive you were able to snag those cute new shoes, You share with your friends the low shopping spree tally from your favorite store. You are quick to blurt out the amazingly low price of the necklace which brings such regular compliments. 

However, Elizabeth urges you to consider this:
"Think about it. If an accessory costs less than $4, someone in the supply chain isn't getting paid appropriately (or at all). Considering Forever 21 has a net income of $135 MILLION, one would hope they would invest a little more money into the humane treatment of their workers all over the world today."
Over the years, the tension Elizabeth faced continued to grow, "...I can NOT keep buying what I've been buying without knowing it was ethically produced." So she took action and changed her buying habits from low-cost Target finds to intentional purchases from fair-trade companies who empower artisans across the globe, pay living wages, source local textiles and give back to the communities from which the goods come.

Enter Noonday Collection!  In February 2013, Elizabeth made the decision to become an Ambassador for Noonday Collection, a company that trains and employs artisans from across the globe to create beautiful hand-crafted jewelry and accessories from locally sourced materials; alpaca from Peru, recycled artillery from wars of conflict in Ethiopia, scraps of paper in Uganda, and up-cycled VHS cassette ribbon in India.  Each artisan is paid a fair, live-able wage according to fair trade standards, work realistic hours, in comfortable and sanitary conditions.

Each piece is on-target with current fashion trends and colors, similar to what you might find at Nordstrom or Anthropologie. Check out some of my favorites:
La Vela Bracelet
Glass beads
~ Guatemala ~
Here I am wearing the Tushabe Layered Necklace
Handcrafted paper beads, seed beads, ethically harvested horn.
~ Uganda ~
Monaco Necklace
Ethically harvested cow bone and brass.
~ India ~

Minted Cowl
Alpaca and wool
~ Peru ~
Isn't it all so lovely?! Elizabeth says that her goal is to "empower you to take action." We have the opportunity every day to caste our vote with the dollars we spend. As the saying goes, "you can't eat an elephant in one bite".  The problem may seem too large an overwhelming, but one by one bite at a time, we CAN make a difference. Here's what you can do to take action today:

1. Purchase from Elizabeth's website.
2. Host a Trunk Show - style your friends, change the world.
3. Become a Noonday Ambassador by contacting Elizabeth via her website.
4. Read more about Elizabeth and follow along on her mission of using fashion and design as a vehicle for poverty alleviation via her blog El-Town.

"Together, we are building a flourishing world where children are cherished, 
women are empowered, people have jobs and we are connected."
- Elizabeth Bricknell -

Elizabeth has graciously offered a $25 Noonday Collection gift card to one Momster Mash reader! Follow the prompts below to enter.  Winner will be announced this Friday, March 6th, 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

MOM Elizabeth: Trusting God in the Delay, Part 3

Click here for PART 2

We left off last week with Elizabeth sharing how for two years she was waiting, praying and pleading with God to fulfill her heart's desire to be a mother. Elizabeth explains a certain Sunday during Advent that was particularly difficult for her.
"Advent is all about anticipation and waiting, which resonated with me as we reviewed the story of barren Elizabeth in the Bible. I squirmed in my pew, on the verge of tears, as we not only shared the struggle of infertility, but our name too."
Luke 1:37 reads "For no word from God will ever fail." When Elizabeth read that passage while alone later that day, it resonated with her in a way it never had before.  She explains, "God spoke to me that afternoon and I remembered what He'd promised me in the past. I cried a lot that day and remember wondering aloud if something was wrong with me. I just didn't feel quite 'right'".

Two days later, Elizabeth "Googled" some unusual symptoms she'd been experiencing, "I developed a metal taste in my mouth. I also began waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, which was unusual for me." She decided to take a pregnancy test and "two little lines appeared! Naturally, I went to the store and bought another test. Another instant positive. I was dumbfounded!"

Later that day, when her husband came home for lunch, Elizabeth gave him a card which read, "New're going to do great!" She then wrote 

"Father. Start date: August 2014"  

Paul and Elizabeth laughed in disbelief together, cried tears of joy and hugged...but they were in for another surprise and were about to have their joy increased twofold! Elizabeth explains:
"At my first ultrasound appointment (9 weeks pregnant), we found two babies! I laughed and cried at the same time. Paul was silent at first (he was in shock), and later joked that he had chest pains when he heard 'twins'! Both of our grandparents are fraternal twins, but we never thought we would have twins."
How do you start preparing yourself for a twin pregnancy?  Google, of course! Elizabeth began searching and found images of pregnant women and their twin bellies.
"I got a little freaked out about the changes my body was going to go through. Thankfully, besides swollen legs and feet and difficulty sleeping, I didn't have any complications! And I never got as big as the pictures! We even made it full term: 38 weeks and 3 days."

Meet Ada May ("happy, first daughter, wished for child") and Libby Joy ("God's promise, joyful")! They are now 6 months and are developing their adorable personalities! I would say that I'm biased because they're my nieces, but I'm not...because they really are incredibly precious!

Ada is "observant, bashful and independent. She sucks her thumb and index finger...and her toes! She has big, beautiful eyes." Libby "is my silly baby! We've nicknamed her 'pterodactyl' because she makes dinosaur noises. She is a noisy eater and has been making us laugh since she was born. She rolls all over the place, loves to be held and is a spitting image of her daddy."

A while back, Elizabeth shared the way her and Paul pray intentionally for Ada and Libby, and I asked her to share here.  I think it's such a lovely way to pray for our children and have begun to implement this as a part of our night-time routine too.

Sunday:  Salvation
Monday:  Their mate
Tuesday:  Truth
Wednesday:  World-changers
Thursday:  Thankfulness
Friday:  Forgiveness and friends
Saturday:  Sin (victory over it), spiritual armor and servant hearts.

What tips or advice regarding motherhood did Elizabeth discover to be useful?
"Breastfeeding twins is downright difficult. I wasn't prepared for the emotional or physical toll and it is easily the hardest thing I've ever done! I took advantage of seeing a lactation consultant and a breast-feeding counselor which I would recommend to everyone."
What was one thing Elizabeth wasn't quite prepared for?
"A mom sacrifices SO much for her children! I knew this was the case, but I didn't understand the extent until I hadn't slept well, showered regularly, or left the house in a month! I was overwhelmed with love for my girls and I was determined to give them anything and everything they needed, no matter the toll."
Does Elizabeth have any advice for expectant, or new moms of twins?
"A lot of people tell me 'I don't know how you do it with twins!' The truth is, if they were given the pleasure of two babies at once, they would figure it out too. We decided early on that we wanted to include our girls in our everyday lives and not stop doing things, simply because we had babies. So we took them to a day retreat with our youth group at 3 weeks old, family camp at the beach with our church at 4 weeks old, drove 300 miles (a 5-hour trip that took us 8 hours) to spend time with my parents when they were 5 weeks old. When they were 3 months old, we flew to Los Angeles so they could meet their Auntie who was on an airport layover. At 4 months, we went on a youth retreat, at 5 months we flew to Texas for a weekend work conference. Most recently (6 months) we went on our youth group's winter retreat. We are raising flexible, adaptable babies who are learning to love traveling!"
Elizabeth has some words of encouragement, as someone who has been there herself, to anyone who may be struggling to conceive:

"You are not forgotten and you are not alone!"

 "Be honest with what you are feeling and share those emotions with those closest to you. Allow people to journey with you because it's too heavy to carry it alone." 
For more resources and a community for women in the midst of infertility, a friend of Elizabeth's has created a ministry called  The Carry Camp.  Look into what they have to offer for you, or forward this on to a friend whom you might be able to bring encouragement.

*          *          *
Check back next week for the final installment of Elizabeth's interview, and learn more about her hobbies, passions, and how she is making an impact on the world in regard to social justice and lasting change!

Monday, February 9, 2015

MOM Elizabeth: Trusting God in the Delay, Part 2

Click here for PART 1
Elizabeth and her husband Paul had prayed, waited, and trusted in God's timing in regard to the decision to start a family.  So when they felt God filling their hearts with the desire to be parents, the were ready! However, Elizabeth explains, "Naive as it sounds, we were not ready for the waiting which lied ahead."  
Elizabeth was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome after trying to conceive for seven months.
"I wasn't the least bit surprised because I'd always known something was off with my system. My hormones were completely out of whack.  I was constantly plucking black hair from my chin, I wasn't ovulating...the most pressing reality, though, was that it probably meant it would take us a long time to get pregnant and we'd likely need intervention."
Elizabeth and Paul did their research, spoke with professionals regarding treatment options, and spent time praying for "wisdom and discernment" as they began to "navigate unfamiliar territory." Seven months turned into two years...

"Two years of frustrating appointments and health complications. 
Various approaches to natural medicine.
Acupuncture, chiropractic visits, a no-sugar diet.
Herbal tea and supplements.
Prenatal vitamins, ovulation predictor kits.
An unreal amount of feminine products.
Prescribed medications.
Two painful, invasive procedure.
Blood tests.
And lots and lots of waiting."

730 days passed, and during this time of praying, trying and waiting, Elizabeth explains how she identified with the woman in the Bible who suffered from prolonged bleeding (in Matthew 9).
"I could picture myself reaching out to touch Jesus' cloak as he walked by, believing in His healing power. There were moments where I genuinely, without a shadow of a doubt, believed the timing was now. And I was wrong over and over again...I questioned why I still had to plead with God to give me the deepest desire of my heart when He already knew it all too well"

While diving into Scripture, Elizabeth was reminded over and over that there was a greater plan in the works, and God had a purpose for this time of waiting, although she could not yet comprehend what that might be, "Of course, Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, knows best.  It's the Sunday school answer and it's the truth. There is always a purpose and God is always right on time. Even in my situation." 

Continue here to PART 3, to read more of Elizabeth's journey to motherhood.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MOM Elizabeth: Trusting God in the Delay, Part 1

BOTH children are napping right now!!!! Such a rarity. So that means it's Momster Mash "go time".  I promise I'm working on getting ahead of myself so I can be sure to post each Momster Monday. 
I'm so excited to introduce you to the Momster of the Month for February, Elizabeth!  I have been blessed to have inherited her as a sister because we married brothers within 6 months of each other in 2009.  We affectionately call each other "Sistaw" because it's much easier, and sassier, than typing or saying "sister-in-law". Elizabeth has a HUGE heart, and would most likely be the kindest person you would ever meet, should you be lucky enough to meet her one day. She is an ice cream addict, world-changer, Christ-follower, modern-day abolitionist, DIYer, and she has a story to tell about her journey to mommy-hood. Let's start from the beginning...
How did you meet your husband, my brother-in-law ("brothaaaw"), Paul?
"We got set up through a mutual friend! We were living 2.5 hours apart and I randomly got an email from a friend one day that said something along the lines of "he's a youth pastor, he likes coffee shops, and he has a big dog.  Are you interested?"  It was so out of the blue and uncharacteristic of her that I knew she wouldn't have contacted me if she didn't think this really could be something.  I was intrigued, but had low expectations of anything working out because of the distance.  We both were very invested in our respective communities and jobs, but the more we got to know each other, the more willing we were to make the drive or ride the train to see each other."
They had a few weekend dates, several late night phone conversations, and prayed about the direction of their relationship. While Paul was directing a summer camp, Elizabeth decided to take a few days off work and visit him, and there they found some quiet time together.
"We snuck off to the waterfall (camp director privileges) to have the DTR ("Define the Relationship") conversation and decided to give it a go! We both desired to be in a relationship where we would be more effective in ministry together, than alone."
At what point in the relationship did you realize it was L.O.V.E.?
"I realized I loved Paul after spending the weekend with him on a youth retreat where I got to be a camp counselor.  I love my cabin of girls, but have to admit I was a little distracted by the handsome youth pastor. Paul says he realized he loved me a few weeks later at Lowe's Home Improvement store, picking out tile together for his bathroom! It was the little moments of 'everyday life' where he started to picture us together beyond some really fun weekend dates."

"Ten months later, we were engaged, 
and four months after that, we were married."

Elizabeth recalls the summer of 2011 when adorable baby announcements began taking over their refrigerator:
"I started wondering when Paul and I would be ready to start a family.  I can remember teasing him about it at first, and then growing more accustomed to the certainly was a gradual process, though.  You see, I love Paul a LOT and the idea of sharing him with another didn't initially sit well with me.  How could I love someone as much as I love him?  The one I choose every day to share life with?  The man who doesn't complain, is not easily angered, the man I feel most 'me' with?...I questioned if there was really room in my hear for another.  To be Paul and Elizabeth plus one."
Elizabeth admitted she sounded "pretty selfish" as she verbalized these thoughts, so they began to pray that God would "quicken our hearts at the right time". Then God spoke. 
"At camp that summer (can you tell that's a special place for me?) I had a powerful experience during worship one night where God spoke directly to my heart...I felt God stir in my heart the way I had asked.  I don't remember hearing exact words, but in that moment, I felt God begin to prepare me for motherhood. Planting and confirming my desire to be a mom. A mom to a child of my own. Instant joy and peace." 
When their week at camp was over and they were driving home, Elizabeth shared her experience during that worship service. 

Do you know what he said... "Me too".

God spoke to Paul the very same night about being a dad, that he spoke to Elizabeth about being a mom, "We laughed in disbelief, marveling at the Lord's handiwork and timing and preparing our hearts to love our someday-child."

That June, she became Aunt Elizabeth to our little Lucy.  We like to call her Auntie El :)  Elizabeth says that she "melted, again, and desperately wanted to be a mom"

Elizabeth holding our Lucy for the first time.
Elizabeth gives us a glimpse into the years that would follow:
"It's as though a switch was flipped as soon as we made the mutual decision to stop taking birth control. I was ready, and I was ready now. Each month that passed without a child was more difficult that the previous one...God was delaying the answer to my need which caused me to consider how I receive His silence. Do I trust God in the delay? Could I be right where he wants me to be, right now?"
*          *          *
Continue here to Part 2 to read more of Elizabeth's story, as she openly shares more of her painful journey to conceive, and the lessons she learned along the way.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mom's 61st birthday.  I sit here in the early morning dark, nothing but the glow of my computer to light up the living room. While my hubby and children sleep, I realize that waking up so early is the perfect way to start today.  My mom was a morning person, and I never have been.  We were so alike, and so different, in many ways.  I miss her terribly, and always will, but the pain of saying "goodbye" is losing it's sting.  Although vastly different experiences, I compare the feeling of losing the life of my mom, to gaining the life of my two children:  I had no pain medication during my deliveries, and the pain of birthing a new life will never be forgotten.  I will always remember the horrible pain, however joy slowly takes the place of pain as I reminisce.  

On my mom's birthday, I have decided to share the words I spoke at my mom's Celebration of Life service:

"You are all here to celebrate the life of my mom because she most likely touched your life in a unique way.  You all had different types of relationships with my mom and knew her in different ways, but I want to share with you who my mother was to me and give you a glimpse into our relationship that only she and I were able to experience.

My mom could comfort me like no other and had a very special way of making me feel special.
  • She would make me cinnamon-sugar toast when I wasn't feeling well.
  • While taking a bath when I was young, she would place my towel in the dryer so when bath time was over, I got a hug, and a warm, fluffy towel.
  • Lying in bed with my mom (and Natalie) at night before my Dad came in. We would read, look at magazines, talk about our days, and play footsies – she could not leave my feet alone :)
  • She insisted on putting every single Christmas ornament I ever made on the tree, even up until last year, and even though I insisted she didn't have to.  She was very sentimental.
  • She put special thought and intention into the gifts she gave and loved sending hand-written notes of encouragement out of the blue, or would tuck them away for me to unexpectedly find in surprising places.
  • My mom (and Dad) were my biggest cheerleaders in life.  Never missing one dance or vocal performance, track meet, or soccer game (even though I wasn't good) when I was in high school, home or away. 
  • Once Matt and I had our daughter, my Mom would make the 3 hour drive at the drop of a hat if ever we needed help. Only to return home and work on the weekend to catch up at her job.
  • I remember her tucking my hair behind my ears so she could “see my face”.
  • She hugged with all her might.
  • Her nickname for me, even as an adult, was “Bug”.
  • Butterfly kisses, Eskimo kisses and singing “you are my sunshine” are memories with my mom I will always have and are also new memories I now get to create with my daughter Lucy.
  • My mom emulated true selflessness and relentless, unconditional love.

My mom was unique.  Quirky, some may say...
  • She loved to read, but always had to read the ending of the book before she started from the beginning.
  • She also read magazines back to front.
  • She loved to buy and read cookbooks, more so than she actually cooked from them.
  • Whenever we ate out at a restaurant, she would organize and pile up all of our dishes on the end of the table to make it easy for the staff.
  • At Christmastime, when wrapping our presents, she used way too much tape. She really made us work to get those presents open....and I've realized I now do the same.
  • And she was NOT a gardener; she dubbed herself as having a “brown thumb”.  She could not even keep a bamboo plant or a cactus I bought for her.

Mom's 60th surprise party

My mom lived life passionately, was adventurous, and willing to try new things…
  • She told me about how exciting it was to see Elvis in concert.
  • She was a gun owner, and enjoyed going to the shooting range with Dad…and was a very good shot too.
  • She went skydiving in her 40s.
  • Learned to ride a motorcycle, and even got a tattoo (of a butterfly), in her 50s.
  • And the two of us had plans to go bungee jumping in Canada, which I will still do next year.

Her bike "Faith"
My mom loved…
  • The color yellow.
  • She loved Butterflies, they were ALL over our [yellow] house.
  • Chris Daughtry.
  • She loved playing (and winning) card games and board games.  She was very competitive, even when we were little…but she did play nice with her grand kids.
  • My mom loved the sound and the smell of rain.
  • She loved lavender, wind chimes and Earl Grey tea.
  • My mom loved a wide variety of music and loved singing.  I’ll always remember her cleaning house with all the windows open and oldies or worship music playing loudly and her singing along.
  • And there was no doubt of the abundant love she had for her grand kids – I knew she was a great mom, but was blown away with what an amazing grandmother she was. Her whole being lit up when she was able to spend time with her grand kids - chasing them around the house and playing on the floor with them making them laugh, they wore each other out!
  • Life around her stood still when she was with her grand babies.

I will always admire...
  • Her faith in God
  • Her strength through adversity and incredibly difficult circumstances she faced throughout her entire life
  • Her compassion for others
  • Her sense of humor
  • and her candor
  • She was passionate about every aspect of life.

Doctors told my mom she had 3 months to live after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.  I am so thankful she fought so hard and we were given 14 more years together, a second chance at life is an opportunity that not everyone is blessed with. I was given the blessing of having my mom in my life when I married my husband and when our first child was born – I will forever be grateful I was able to share those monumental moments of joy with her.

So, rather than dwell on what our future may have been, I am trying my best to take advice from my Dad and praise God for the extra years I was blessed to have with her, and for my memories that will always be a part of me.

I don’t anticipate there will ever come a day I don’t miss her terribly, but I also know that this pain will ease with time.

And on crisp, rainy days, or whenever I see a butterfly, or hear a Daughtry song, I will do my best to smile and be thankful for memories made and for these reminders of what made my mom so special."

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom, the original MOM:
Part 1: A Story of Survival
The Shocking News