Archive - February 2016

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» Fundraising with a Fun Run
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» Waiting Child Advocacy
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» REVIEW: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron (Food Delivery Service)
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» Motherhood: Snow Days and Dance Floors
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» REVIEW: Sonos PLAY:5 (2015) Review

» Fundraising with a Fun Run

We frequently receive e-mails from friends connecting us with other families starting the adoption process. Each time, the first question we are asked the BIG F question: How did you fundraise??? If you’re anything like the rest of us, raising money is not something you find joy in. Unfortunately, adoption expenses can add up pretty quickly. Just like many other families, we’ve done everything; t-shirts, yard sales, auctions, bake sales, you name it.

A few months before our travel date to China, we wanted to do a final push to raise money for the upcoming expenses. We put our heads together with another family (also in the adoption process) to figure out what we could do. We were tired of yard sales (who wouldn’t be? It felt like we had already done 20) and t-shirts became less and less compelling as more people were doing them.

After about an hour, we came up with the idea of doing a 5K run. This was in 2013, so the Color Run was becoming established and at the cusp of becoming wildly popular. There were also a lot of spin-off themes that we didn’t want to compete with. We wanted to attract and encourage whole families to participate so we decided to do a superhero theme. People told us what a great time they had and we felt like we provided a great family experience in return for supporting us financially. And seriously, I still love our graphic.

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We tell people over and over again that this event was the most fun and rewarding fundraiser we’ve ever done done but that doesn’t mean it was easy. By some miracle, we were able to pull off the 5K run in a matter of four weeks. In total, we raised about $5,000 but with proper planning and more time, I think we could’ve easily doubled it.


If you’re needing to raise money for a mission trip or adoption, a run should be something you consider. Here’s a short list of what you need. Feel free to e-mail me if you want more details or have any questions!

Before the Event

  1. Sponsors
  2. Venue
  3. Marketing collateral (Flyers/Posters)
  4. Online signup (PayPal, Active, EventBrite)

Day of Event

  1. Signage
  2. Fruit/Bars
  3. Water
  4. Cones
  5. Volunteers
  6. Speaker system with microphone
  7. Tables and tents

 

» Waiting Child Advocacy

You may have noticed that a new tab has been added to the blog. Waiting Child Advocacy. We will be using that space to advocate for kids, primarily with some type of medical need, who have files and are ready to become a part of Forever Families. We are hoping to see advocacy grow as others share these posts and become voices for amazing kids who need medical care and families to thrive. We have seen first hand how kids GROW once given what they need… once they experience the love of a family. The road is hard, the work is ongoing, we aren’t perfect but these lives are worth it. Let’s fight together. I remember meeting Miss Lola just 2 1/2 years ago, and wishing I had gotten there earlier. I see these kiddos today and I know their families are out there. It is my prayer that I can somehow help them get there just a bit quicker.

» REVIEW: Hello Fresh and Blue Apron (Food Delivery Service)

I love to cook. And we have a family full of adventurous eaters. (minus Elliott) This gives me a lot of freedom as I strive to serve a diverse and healthy weekly rotation of meals. We rarely eat out and we really enjoy sitting down to a meal together in our home. However, I do all the cooking in our house and I definitely hit a wall from time to time as far as creativity in meal planning. I am also mostly vegetarian, with the exception of ethically sourced fish from time to time. Typically I serve vegetarian meals a few nights each week with no complaint and modify my own meal on the nights when I cook meat for my family. I always need more inspiration for Veggie meals.

Thus the interest in food delivery services such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. We ordered each service using a great coupon, which I’ll provide at the end of this post, and cooked through each box hoping to discern which service had the most to offer. They both have similar recipes and pricing structures so I knew it would be a challenge to pick one over the other.

Delivery: Both offer free delivery and arrived promptly on Saturday morning in similar boxes. Each company used plenty of ice packs and everything was fresh when I opened the boxes. However, I noticed one difference right away. The Hello Fresh meals were divided up into their own little boxes inside the big box. This made it easy to keep everything together. I simply picked up each meal box and put it in the fridge. The Blue Apron items were all mixed together in the big box. So it took a bit more effort to sort things out and put them in the fridge. Not a big deal but the convenience of having the meal items packed together made a good impression on me.

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Blue Apron

 

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Hello Fresh

Cooking: Each service includes meal cards with clear directions. I had no problem understanding or following the steps to achieve the delicious meal on the picture. My meals looked exactly like the picture every time and everything was very good. Additionally I picked up new cooking techniques and ideas for future meal planning. Blue Apron uses large individual cards, Hello Fresh gives one book that contains all the recipes. Once again I saw a small step that Hello Fresh had taken to make things a bit more organized.

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Quality: The quality and freshness of each box was great. Both companies used high quality meats that were antibiotic free, locally sourced, grass fed etc. The produce looked great and was super fresh. Hello Fresh does take it one step further. I noticed anything like beans or canned tomatoes in Hello Fresh boxes were organic or GMO-free with a BPA free liner. I did not see this in the Blue Apron box. Additionally Blue Apron packages all their own sauces and spices while Hello Fresh provides a miniature version of the sauce or spice instead of packaging those things at their facility.

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Customization Options: Each subscription is VERY flexible. We were able to pause, skip and opt out of certain weeks. From a Budget perspective the cost on each service is good for what you receive. It’s cheaper than eating a meal out and much healthier. However, it is a bit more than we would want to spend every single week. My solution was to look at the meals offered and choose two weeks out of the month to receive the service. It keeps things fresh and helps me on busy weeks. Both services make it really easy to hop on your account and pause the subscription for as long as you want. Here is one place where Blue Apron pulls ahead a little bit. They actually give you the option to choose NOT to receive meals that contain things your family doesn’t eat. For example, you can choose not to receive meals that contain fish or red meat. Hello Fresh does not give that option at this time. You are given a choice between vegetarian (which was helpful for me) and classic (meals with meat).

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Conclusion: I really enjoyed each service and feel that using it twice per month is a great way to fit it into our budget. This allows me some freedom in meal planning and some help during busy weeks. Hello Fresh is ultimately my pick. I loved the meals they sent, the organized packaging and the easy to follow recipe book. I also liked having the actual spices and sauces from the manufacturer and not receiving something that was put together at the packing facility. Hello Fresh also allows you to give $40 coupons to your friends, something that I could not find Blue Apron doing. I definitely think it’s worth a try, using the coupon. If it’s not something you enjoy it’s easy to cancel after you receive the first box with either company. They each showed great customer service and no pressure to keep the service. If you have questions about anything that I failed to mention in this recap please comment below and I’ll give my input.

If you want to try Hello Fresh yourself, check them out here and use the following coupon code to receive $40 off your first box:

AZSZ3S

 

 

Blue Apron can be found here and I did find a retail me not coupon for $20 off your first box here.

(All opinions are from my first hand experience, I was NOT compensated in any way for this review)

 

 

» Motherhood: Snow Days and Dance Floors

I had to laugh, just a little, when I peeked on Facebook this morning. With an onslaught of snow days the women in my region are getting a bit worn out. This was evidenced by the jump in “10 ways to find joy in the trenches” and “When mothering is hard and no one sees” posts. And when I had the previously mentioned laugh, it wasn’t because I think these are silly. It was because YES. I am so there. And apparently ya’ll are too. Solidarity girls.

When it snows, when school is canceled, the responsibility of caring for the kids falls to me. I work from home most of the time and my husband works in an office. It makes sense that I’m the chosen one. But it doesn’t make it easy. The unknowns and schedule changes are difficult on kids. Especially kids that have experienced trauma or have needs that require a schedule. It’s not that time spent with them isn’t enjoyed but they aren’t their best and I’m not my best.

And I keep coming back to one thought “what a waste of time.” The weight of my children’s ever growing status is heavy on me lately. While I delight in their growth and knowledge acquisition I also miss the days of chubby hands and pureed foods. I look forward to the pre-teen and teenage years, but also fear them… in a healthy way. This is the age-old dance of motherhood. Those before me have cleared the floor and now I’m in the center trying to keep up with the beat. And it’s a fast song.

Every mother who has gone before me reminds me that it went so fast for them. And I can truthfully reply that yes, it’s going so fast I can barely hang on. I’m trying to teach them about Jesus, teach them to read, teach them to care for others, teach them to be kind, teach them to clean up, teach them to respect others. The list grows and multiplies daily. They fail to meet expectations. I fail to respond with grace. We are all, as I mentioned above, not our best. And attempts to recover this time, to have do-overs, are thwarted by circumstances outside our control.

And then everything scrolls back to mom, me, on that dance floor, with the fast song. It feels like techno because the world is disjointed and everyone is crying and someone has been hit in the face with a stuffed animal… and it hit. their. eye. And I just want to scream “turn the music off!”

And in that quiet moment I’ll gather all of mine to me. And whisper in their ears… I’m not my best. You’re not your best. But while I was frantically going through the motions I realized something.  You can’t learn, unless I lead.

Unless I wake up with joy on my lips and in my heart. Unless I beg God for the Grace to be who He made me to be. Unless I take the internal struggle and purposefully push it up to He that is Greater than I… it’s all, as i said, a waste of time. The responsibility of four lives is too much for my humanness. And it appears that snow days, that were meant to be joyful, bring out way too much me.

Today, in the midst of all the find joy posts and the lonely motherhood posts I’m gathering the ones I’m entrusted with, I’m gathering them close. And we are breaking free of the not-our-best moments. We are embracing grace for each other and most of all I’m giving it up, so I can be filled, so I can lead them well.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

 

 

 

 

» REVIEW: Sonos PLAY:5 (2015) Review

Disclaimer: The folks at Sonos kindly allowed us a Play:5 unit for review. As always, the opinions are my own.

A frustrated AirPlay customer turned happy Sonos family.

We love playing music in our house. The ability to play music in any room and control it from my phone is great for the times I just want to listen to my favorite Spotify playlist by myself or when the kids request an impromptu dance party to some Kidz Bop. For years, we had multiple AirPlay speakers (compatible with Apple iTunes) throughout the house but became frustrated at music dropping too frequently. So in my search for a better solution, I came upon Sonos.

Some might say the Sonos speaker system can be pretty pricey but if you listen to home audio as much as we do, you might agree that it’s worth the investment.

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Installation + Setup

I know that not all moms care about decibels and sound quality (although Sonos is great!) but would rather read about how easy, good and practical a product is for their house. The good news is you can plug in, get connected to your wireless router, and begin playing music anywhere in your house in about 5 minutes. Similar to the Nest Thermostat, the iPhone app walks you through step-by-step instructions (including Trueplay which uses your iPhone to adjust how each woofer and tweeter produces sound based on your room layout).

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Best Features

There are lots of things to love about Sonos and the Play:5 but here are some of my favorite:

  • The unit is always on so we never have to power the speaker(s) on before playing any music. This was always a hassle with our former AirPlay speakers (we would have to turn them on and wait to begin playing music and the speakers would shut off after idling for so long). There’s even an alarm and sleep mode with the Sonos speakers. Fun addition.
  • When you have more than one unit, you can play different music in different rooms or pair the speakers to play the same music.
  • The Sonos system integrates nicely with your computer’s music library, almost all streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Now Music, and Amazon.

Accessibility Review

As with most products we want to make sure that our blind daughter will be able to use this speaker to find and play music, especially as she grows older and more independent. Before trying out the Play:5, I was connected to a Sonos employee (thanks, Todd!) who graciously spent time answering questions and guiding us through the process. Their commitment to accessibility is one of the main reasons we’re investing in this system. As an iPhone user, Sonos works great with VoiceOver. This is a big deal as music and (listening to) movies are a great way for Lola to be included and participate in our family activities.

Conclusion

The Play:5 is just the beginning of our Sonos journey. You’re never waiting on the speaker (see AirPlay notes above), it’s always waiting on you. The response from the app is so fast that you can skip a song or change the volume and go back to your business. I’m most happy to report that we’ve had zero(!) drops in audio in now over two weeks of use. This was almost a daily occurrence with AirPlay. I prefer the iTunes interface but it might be because I’ve lived in it for so long now. It will take some time but we’re ready to add speakers to other areas of our home already.

Sonos website

Buy Sonos on Amazon

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