Friday, December 19, 2014

Conestoga Historical Society Candlelight Christmas

Last weekend we went to the Conestoga Historical Society's candlelight Christmas, and as usual, it was a pleasure. We never know what to expect when we take Dax out after dark, but he had a delightful time. He loved looking at the wagons, animals, and artifacts, but especially at the fire torches outside. 

Dax was particularly enamored with the blacksmith building - probably because of the fire involved. I love the beauty of all the old buildings surrounded by luminaries, and the homemade potato doughnuts fresh off the fire.

We finished the night off with hot wassail and listening to some live music. We planned on grabbing dinner at The Conestoga Wagon afterward, but there were no parking spaces. Lititz might be America's coolest small town, but Conestoga is a best kept secret. ;)

If you've never had the pleasure of drinking wassail, here is a recipe from The Pleated Poppy, a blog I love. I first had wassail in elementary school, and I am still obsessed. Like I am with most of my magical elementary school experiences. (i.e. Hawaii day, milk jug igloos, making butter in tupperware containers, Japanese day, shouldn't have gotten me started cause I can't stop ...)

4 cups tea (earl grey or any plain tea and brew it in the coffeemaker)
4 cups apple juice
4 cups cranberry juice
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
a handful of cloves
a few cinnamon sticks
Pour all of this into a big pot on the stove and leave it on low all. day. long. and your house will smell like Christmas! Makes about 13 cups, or double the recipe for a larger group.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Meditations on Chelsea: Chronicles of a SuperWoman Part 1

My amazing husband (and hero) Lance has written a creative, hilarious, and oh-so-kind post for the blog today ...     

When I was first asked to guest blog on Not Your Ordinary Anything, I was honored yet felt the extraordinary burden of posting on such a prestigious blog.  What should I write? How would it be received? Could I live up to the hype? Did I wash my clothes I am currently wearing?
My hope is to leave all questions answered in a satisfactory way.  I have decided to write about my wife of whom this blog belongs to, in hopes that I can honor her and her blog, and also so that she will feel loved.  Also this will score valuable “points” for me.
Many of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of superheroes, however what you may not know is that I am currently married to one.  Sorry to blow your cover darling but the world needs to know.  I first realized her powers when I first saw her.  It seemed she had mastered the art of seduction or perhaps she had mastered magic and simply cast a spell to draw me in.  She then followed that up with playing “hard to get”, a hard power to learn and put into practice.  I was defenseless.  Being that all my powers are merely physical in nature I had to resort to telling nervous jokes and puns, which I combined with general ridiculousness.  
Unbelievably, it worked in my favor and I eventually scored a date, which led to many more dates.  Over that course of time she showed me how she could fly, could walk on anything in her bare feet, and sort thru endless BS (that’s bad science to you Dax when you read this).  All very impressive.  Needless to say I was surprised some time later, when she agreed to marry me, a mere mortal!  Perhaps when it came to marriage, was when she showed her true superhero attributes.

Everyone knows that a hero has to make at least one sacrifice to truly be a superhero.  Chelsea sacrificed a good job and beautiful Lancaster to come down to Tartarus (Georgia) to be with me while I was fighting injustice in other parts of the world with my hero squadron.  The first of many sacrifices she would make over our time together.  A soon time later we found out that she was pregnant.  Would our child possess the same super powers as his mother?  Time would tell.  I am sure any mother out there knows how much sacrifice having a child can be.  Yes, Chelsea was still able to fight crime while pregnant.
Chelsea continues to make sacrifices daily for our family.  Early on she met her greatest foe, Sleep Deprivation, who still to this day will attack unannounced.  Their longest battle lasting nearly 9 months.  Casting her ally Sleep to the side and having young Dax waking multiple times throughout the night needing his mother so badly that he would use his power of screaming at ultra sonic levels unknowingly.  Things have finally subsided a little and the battle is not as terrible as it once had been.  Sleep has worked on her side once again by allowing young Dax to go to bed at 7 p.m. most nights. 
Chelsea carries the title of superhero for many reasons.  She is a super wife and a super mom.  I am lucky to be on married to her and thankful she decided not to throw me through a building at any of the times I upset her.  She is an amazing woman so if you see her, buy her a chai, or hold Dax for a few minutes so her arms can take a break from holding young Dax constantly and fighting crime (or Sleep Deprivation).

Hopefully my first guest post has done justice to this great blog.  To you Chelsea, I love you very much.  To you the reader, leave a comment and check out some of her other posts….oh and yes I did wash these clothes…I think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

27th birthday

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. The first time that an age sounds and feels old to me ... and I went to bed by 9 p.m. Partially because I was getting sick (blah), but mostly I am just tired.

I think it's having a kid that has taken such a toll on my body more than "getting old," but my body is definitely different. I now need to stretch. I have back pain. I used to be able to work out like a champ, and I never understood the necessity of stretching before/after, or felt the benefits. Same with foam rolling. Now it pains me to foam roll, and I see what everyone was talking (groaning) about back when I first tried it in my Crossfit days. And stretching is difficult but necessary.

This is getting a little too upbeat, huh? MOVING ON.

Lance made my birthday a wonderful day. He planned surprises all day, and he watched Dax. Just having time to myself was g-l-o-r-i-o-u-s.

{I'm not a selfie person, but this was my attempt at capturing my hair and some of the amazing decor.}
I got my hair done at a sweet salon I'd been wanting to check out, had lunch and read/journaled at a cafe, did a little shopping downtown, and had a massage at the nicest spa. They had a "rain shower" you could use after your massage. I can't stop thinking (or talking) about how amazing it was.

{Can you guess how much this pillow costs? I love it. I'm a fan of  hooked pillows too, but I can't figure out why they are all so outrageously expensive. This one is $158.}
All planned by Lance. I love, love, love when people plan things. I am a planner, so it means a lot to me to have other people plan things. Plus I'm all about experiences and atmosphere, so his plans were perfecto! He really is the king of birthdays and celebrating in general, and I appreciate it so, so much.

Birthdays make me contemplative. (As do Christmas, New Year's, and just about anything I want to.) It's wild that last year on my 26th birthday, Lance had just returned from his deployment. I'll always remember that night, and how good it felt to hug him and to laugh at him in person. Knowing full well there were a lot of wives and girlfriends who wouldn't be so lucky, and who were probably being hit even harder with the realization that their husbands really weren't coming back.

I was pregnant with Dax, and as usual Lance made me feel like a million bucks when he told me that I looked great, and I didn't even look that pregnant! And that so-and-so thought so too. WHAT? I love you.

Now we are in PA. Lance is out of the Army, has a new job, and finished his first semester at school. Dax is almost walking. It's scary how much can change in a year. My 25th and 26th years were (relatively) hard years, so honestly it scares me to think about what could change this year. But all of the transition I've had the past two years has brought very high "highs" along with the lows, and some of the best friends and memories that I could ask for. Good relationships are the best gift.

This year, I want to be a person who makes other people feel special. Those are the people I love to be around. It's been an ongoing process to surround myself with people who build me up, and who I want to be like. I still find myself pursuing relationships that leave me hurt, and I'm unsure why I do that. I also want to concentrate on writing, and on getting back into great shape.

{I was sick today, so this morning when Dax figured out how to open this piece of furniture and started throwing plastic spoons everywhere ... I just let him. It was the only one in the kitchen he hadn't figured out yet, so it kept him occupied for a solid 10 minutes.}
{I love this kid.}

Monday, December 15, 2014

A style interview with Becky

{Cape May, circa I don't know, because the years all run together.}
I consider my friend Becky to be very stylish - even though she modestly brushes that description off. Becky is a beauty, and she always looks great. She is my go-to when I have wardrobe questions. She is actually my go-to for more things than I can list, because she's smart - through and through. 

The life lessons she's taught me range from the serious to the random like: never eat chicken salad in a second or third  world country ... or even at a diner for that matter. Our conversations span from style and food, to solving the world's problems, which at one time may have involved a scheme to start our own nation with Sarah. 

I hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I did. I just wish I could pay her to be my personal shopper.

How did you develop your own sense of style?
I like to shop and have always loved the smell of a department store, but I don't consider myself to be extremely stylish. I have strong opinions, so it seems easy for me to make decisions what I want to wear and what I like in a design.  My parents need to take some credit for stressing the importance of purchasing things in life (whether for the home or the wardrobe) that will not go out of style and are of good quality.  I base a lot of my wardrobe choices using that idea.  

Regarding my decorating style, when I first started my job (selling furniture and working on interior design); I only had my instincts regarding designing/decorating. I never considered myself to be the "creative type", and in fact, would have identified with the exact opposite personality.  It wasn't until I had a few years of working at my job, that I began to take ownership of my creativity. I believe that most of my sense of style has come from experience, but I do acknowledge there are people that just seem to have a certain knack or gift for it.

{The Sea Willows in Cape May. Bliss.}
How would you describe your style?
I don't always follow this in all areas, but the general principle of keeping things classic and simple makes sense to me. I like not having to replace things just because it went out of style.

This applies to a wardrobe or home, but I think I use it more in the home setting. Partly because furniture and decor are more expensive to replace than clothes and partly because it is fun to wear a trendy outfit even if it might get tossed or consigned in a short time. 

I will admit that since I've been dating Shane, my penchant for purchasing "trendy" clothing has waned. I have picked up on some of his habits of purchasing basic quality pieces over purchasing a mass quantity of cheap clothes. Now I pick pants, blouses, and sweaters that work together in different combinations instead of buying all of these random pieces that I like, but aren't versatile. 

My style for home decorating is sometimes a mystery to me. Since I am exposed to so many different situations at work, I do find it hard to pinpoint what I love exactly and what I want exactly. I love the industrial European influences like you would see with Ballard Designs, but with less clutter.  I don't love a lot of color (surprise surprise). Neutrals with dark accents is my go-to.  Some color can be fun, in pillows or artwork. But I think it presents a cleaner, simpler look when the room isn’t bombarded with a lot of color/distractions.  It also makes it easier to add pieces along the way (as we all will do in our lifetime) without having to change a lot of decor.

{At the site of a future Sea Willows Boutique in Bethany Beach.}

What current trends do you wish would go away? (For wardrobe or home.)

Trends are always tricky to figure out. Do I hate this? Do I love this? Do I "secretly" love this? I haven't come across a lot of home trends that I absolutely hate lately - other than pallets. Sorry to everyone who loves pallets. I just don't get it using them as decor/furniture. The DIY furniture and decor is not my thing. 

Wardrobe trends - don't get me started. I have fallen into a lot of trends that I said I never would. Can anyone say "leggings"? I even have those dumb furry boots. I do have enough shame not to wear them in combination unless I'm going to my sisters or Shane's. 

Currently, I wish that T-shirts with French sayings on them would be used to dust my house or used as a rag to clean my gun.  Why are you wearing a shirt that has French words on it? Makes no sense to me at all.  Literally. Sorry, just a rant. Also, I am not completely onboard with all of the Aztec prints. But I might wear them in the future – who knows?

{All together! Just missing Brianna, but we left a spot for ya in the front. Circa 2009.}
Where do you find your style inspiration?
I can find inspiration everywhere. Looking through any and all magazines helps, even if it’s to figure out what I don’t like!  Walking through the Home section of any store, I might see a piece of decor that catches my eye and gives me an idea for a color scheme I would want to use in a spare room. Sometimes I just get online and search a thought, like "navy blue bedroom" or "white decor" or "winter outfits" and see what comes up.  

Pinterest is a great tool to have now - I can get lost on there and spend hours dreaming of what I could do with all of the ideas they present! Usually what I find makes me slightly depressed because I feel like I will never be able to have my home look like the pictures or I will never find the perfect outfit for winter. My advice for when we all feel like that is to see if there is just one area or one outfit to can work on.  Carefully think about what the end result needs to be and take time to figure out where to go to accomplish it.  

Places like HomeGoods can be overwhelming because they throw so much at the shopper. So, I try to go to Home Goods with a plan. "I am looking for a tray to put on my ottoman -I want it to be black or wooden."  Then, make sure to stand firm and leave if it’s not there - unless you find something even better!! 

I have been putting this plan into action while clothing shopping too. "I am looking for colored jeans" –so, don't buy anything but colored jeans. It does take time, it does take more effort, but, I have been so pleased with the results of shopping this way.  I am ending up with less clothing that just sits in my closet and more outfits that I feel great in!

{Friends helping me warm up after pictures and before I walked down the aisle. Becky might have been telling me, "Sure you can wear your moccasins down the aisle." And I almost did.}

Any other thoughts on style that you'd like to add?
Keep in mind: there are no real rules. 

We don’t have to dress a certain way and our homes don’t have to look like everyone else’s. If you look in any decor magazine or fashion blog, we all will all say at least once, "that's so ugly" regarding what someone else has designed. I even find myself critiquing high end designers who have a lifetime of experience.  

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I usually tell my customers that if they like it, use it/do it. The era of having matching furniture and curtains is over! Decorate eclectically! Build up a killer wardrobe over time, piece by piece. Do research, get ideas, and be patient – the right look will come!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Louie Zamperini

I am finally reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and it is amazing. I bought the book for my parents a few Christmases ago, and this Christmas it is being released as a movie. I wanted to read it before I watch it.

If you're in Lancaster and need help picking out a book for someone, or just like supporting local businesses, check out Aaron's Books in Lititz. They have a great selection and give excellent recommendations.

Sidenote: I miss when I could buy books for everyone. Now you never know who prefers reading on Kindles/Nooks/whatever, so I am hesitant to give books. (And I still read hard copies, so I have no clue how to gift books via e-readers, although I'm sure it's not that difficult.)
"In a childhood of artful dodging, Louie made more than just mischief. He shaped who he would be in manhood. Confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament, he was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried him into war, this resilient optimism would define him." [Unbroken, pg. 7]
The language of that paragraph beautiful, and it makes me think: YES. That is how God wants us to operate! Now, I'm not finished with the book (or even close), and I'm not saying God wants us all to be like Louie Zamperini. But I believe God designed us to be so confident in who we are as His children that we will be clever, resourceful, finding solutions to problems in the world, and almost incapable of discouragement. Resilient optimism, eternal hope defining our lives. 

The stories of Louie's childhood are straight up W-I-L-D. He becomes an incredible runner in high school, and this floored me too ...
"After he flew past the finish, rewriting the course record, he looked back up the long straightaway. Not one of the other runners was even in view. Louie had won by more than a quarter of a mile. He felt as if he would faint, but it wasn't from exertion. It was from the realization of what he was." [Unbroken, pg. 18]
Have you had moments like that? A feeling of freedom and confidence, and a realization that this is who God created you to be? I don't know that I've had moments quite as epic as Louie, but I've had glimpses and I want to have more! I want the fullness of all that God has for me and my family. Bill Johnson says something along the lines of: if we knew how God sees us, we'd never be afraid to fail. We'd be blown away.

Tap into your identity today ... ask God to show you how He sees you ... think about what you would do if you knew you couldn't fail, and do it. There is more to you than you probably give yourself credit for, and you are created for GREATNESS.

Have you read Unbroken? What did you think?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

favorite names

I love names. Biblical, traditional, classic, family, new or quirky. Hearing what people name their babies is one of my favorite things in life. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I don't think it is. The stories behind how names were chosen are so fun. I even like hearing what people name their pets, and I come up with great dog and animal names on a regular basis.

I love Dax's name, and I love that he probably won't be one of several Dax's at his school or job. I was the only Chelsea in my class, and I liked having a name that was different but not TOO crazy.

We all have different (and usually strong) opinions when it comes to what qualifies as a "crazy" name, so I'm finally figuring out that there is no better time to not say anything at all than when it comes to your negative opinion of names. 

When we chose his name, I fully anticipated people thinking that it was a weird name. And I was fine with that because:

1) Wouldn't be the first or last time people would find something about me weird.
2) Lance and I both loved it.
3) Strong meaning. (Leader.)
4) Easy to spell and pronounce. 

Being a substitute teacher reiterated the importance of "easy to pronounce" as a factor in choosing names. I felt so bad when I would mispronounce the students names, but they would always be quick to respond, "It's okay. Nobody knows how to say it." Heartbreaking!

As it turns out, Dax is difficult for some people to pronounce. Maybe you get that with any name? But what I did not anticipate at all was everyone asking, "Is it short for something?" It is not, and I'm unsure what Dax would be short for, Stranger in the Grocery Store. (This also creates a stalemate in conversation. How do I breeze past this?)

To me it seemed like a hassle to give someone a name and call them something else their whole life anyway, but formal names are really important to a lot of people.

A chapter in Freakonomics gave one of the most interesting commentaries on how our names affect us, including some evidence that suggests our name can affect our school performance and career opportunities. 

In the south, I noticed that carrying on family names was a big thing. Calling people by their first and middle name is another thing that seemed to be more popular in the south. (Emma Jane, Dean Thomas, etc.)  Although my grandmother is from Pennsylvania and she has always been Mary Alice - never just one or the other. What would you say is important in names where you are from? 

Here are the top 100 baby names for 2014 - so many great ones. 

I love Harper (#19), and have an adorable step-niece who wears her name perfectly. I was a fan of Molly (#64), but Lance was not - mostly due to an annoying dog named Molly that he knew. (And I knew a lot of Molly dogs too, so that was out.) Colton (#56) is one of my fave boys names on the list, and I have a great cousin with that name. I like Easton (#94) too, and was surprised it wasn't higher on this list because I meet a lot of little Eastons.

What are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

pampers and parenting

My friend Kelly sent me this today. Pampers commercials always get me, and they pick the cutest babies. Be sure to click for English/subtitles if you watch - unless you know Japanese. (And if you know Japanese, please leave a comment ... because I'd love to know who reads my blog and knows Japanese.)

"Thank you for the most trying year of your life" sums it up well.

I haven't even reached the one year mark (almost 10 months!), but it's amazing how much has changed, and how much I've learned and grown. It is so scary at the beginning - when Dax slept I'd be worried about SIDS or if he was okay.  And the list of worries and fears goes on and on.

You can become a parent without knowing anything about babies and parenting. And let me tell you, I knew nothing. Sure I read books about it, but reading is no substitute for real life and experience. Even observing others isn't much help before you're the one doing it.

If being a mom has changed me at all, it has definitely made me less judgmental.

I can remember observing wild or misbehaving kids and thinking that the parents should really do something - and I probably had ideas in mind of what easy step could be taken to resolve the situation. Not any more. Now I think: maybe their kids are being a little wild, but that's okay ... because that mom is probably just really TIRED. I don't think it is possible to overestimate the effect that exhaustion can have on a person. And so I find myself with a much more gracious attitude than I ever did before.

{I still had no idea what was coming. NO IDEA. But even now, do I know what's coming? NOPE.}
Some parenting wisdom that has stuck with me ...
  • Get to know your child. Nobody else knows your child like you do. This baby has been given to you, and you can do it. You can be an awesome mom (or dad) to this baby, and in fact, you're the best one for the job because God chose you. So listen to your baby and your instinct.
  • Just when you think you have your baby figured out, they will switch it up. YES. Our friend Elizabeth said this when she dropped off a meal after Dax was born. And it certainly applied to Dax! For instance, month one: 'Oh you hate having your diaper changed, and love riding in your carseat?' Month two: 'Oh you love having your diaper changed, and hate riding in your carseat?' (And now back to hating diaper changes and, dare I say it, finally not screaming like an axe murderer is beside you in your carseat.)
  • He (or she) will sleep eventually, and you won't feel this tired forever. My amazing friend Heather told me something like this, right in the middle of Dax just not sleeping, and it was just the best thing anyone could have said. Especially paired with her own story about her firstborn who would not sleep. (And she has five kids, so this is something to cling to when I think 'I cannot possibly have any more kids!') I thought of Heather saying that after sleepless nights (or napless days), because it felt like light at the end of a tunnel cheering me on.
{I don't think Dax really looks like himself here, but I still love this picture!}
It's a gift, being a mom. I feel the weight of that gift when I think of how many people long for a child and don't have one. Or when people lose a child. Last weekend at church, a couple shared their story of losing their second baby a few hours after he was born. Tears were rolling down my face when his mom got to the part of where he reached out for her because he recognized her voice - all those months inside of her, listening to her, hearing his parents prayers for his life.

I don't tear up at people's stories and at Pampers commercials because I want to quit. (Well, sometimes I want to quit.) I tear up more now than I ever have before in my life because since the day Dax was born, my heart was different. Bigger maybe, and somehow softer and stronger all at once. I don't have words for what's different, but the tears are usually there to fill in the gaps. It is true when parents tell their kids, "You'll never know how much I love you." But when you have your own babies, I think you start to understand what they meant a little bit better. And one of the things I want most for Dax is to always know how loved he is.