Monday, December 15, 2014

Good Thing Santa Ain't Real, My Sweet Boys

[Let's just get this our here folks, no judgement please. 
As for me and my household, Santa is not real, and we gently explain that 
when the time comes and the questions are asked. 
We make it clear that other families may believe in Santa and that's okay too.] 

"In our house, mama and daddy put the presents under the tree."



Last week we went to a Christmas event and Santa was present. On our way in I reminded the boys of the general rules: 
1. Do not ask Santa if he is real ("We already know that he is not, and this is a fun time to just pretend and be silly, kind of like we do at Halloween.")
2. Do not mention around all the children in there that Santa is not real. ("Other families may believe in him and it's not our job to tell them differently.")

We went in and decorated cookies with friends, and then before we left the boys wanted to visit with Santa. They were so excited to share what they wanted for Christmas and it was as if the most famous celebrity in the world was in the room. They were completely starstruck. (we let them have fun with the santa thing, it's not like we are shielding them from the fun stuff)

Max and Eli sat on his lap (Gabriel hid behind me because he is so shy) and when asked what he wanted for Christmas Max told Santa that he wanted a policeman lego set. But Santa was not impressed. "You mean to tell me you don't have enough legos at home? I bet your mom and dad are tired of stepping on them." 

[Actually, we don't have a ton of legos and we bought them more for Christmas.]

Then he went to Gabriel, and asked what his wishes were for Christmas. "I want a nerf gun." Santa straight told him no and moved on to Eli. Then Gabriel quickly changed his mind as to not miss out on the opportunity to have Santa's blessing over his gift wish. So he asked for legos too. Santa was not impressed. Eli mumbled that he wanted "guys" (action figures) and then Santa told the boys that if they could go then next 13 days, 7 hours and 4 minutes without fighting that he would make sure that there was a special gift under the tree for each boy. And then he said "But I'm guessing you boys won't make it til the end of the night."

...

The boys wanted a picture with him, so I took one. Even though my heart ached a little bit at the fact that that was not "fun and silly" at all. It's okay if I tell my boys that I'm tired of picking up legos and stepping on them, and it's okay if I  tell Gabriel "no nerf guns" but it was not so much fun hearing it from Santa.

When we finally made it in to the car, the fighting started right away (as it always does after sugar has been devoured at record pace) and I turned around and hollered "YOU KNOW WHAT YOU GUYS? IT'S A GOOD THING SANTA IS NOT REAL!!!" That got their attention real quick. "Why would you say that mom!? That's so MEAN!" they told me. Then I went on with words that sounded something like this:

"It's a good thing Santa is not real because Santa ONLY brings toys to kids who are PREFECT. He has a good list and a bad list and by the way you guys are acting right now- do you think he would be writing your names on the good list? He told you he would ONLY bring those presents if you guys don't fight for THIRTEEN more days. You guys didn't make it THIRTEEN SECONDS. Mom and dad love you unconditionally and we don't put presents under the tree because you guys deserve it or have earned it by being "good boys." We bless you with gifts because we love blessing you with special things sometimes, whether you have been making good choices OR bad. God works the same way. He provides for us and gives us what we need EVEN THOUGH WE DON'T DESERVE IT. He doesn't JUST give us gifts if we are "good", be gives us what we need no matter what. So it's a GOOD thing Santa isn't in charge or NONE OF US WOULD GET GIFTS at Christmas."

Harsh right? Not really. I told them in a loving way, at a crucial moment, where I had their attention and they were teachable. 

I want my boys to be secure in the unconditional love and care of God our Father. I want them to know that even when we screw up, and fight with our brothers, and disobey and are rude, that there is redemption through a forgiving Jesus who gives us second chances... all the second chances we need, over and over and over again when we ask.  

I want my boys to find hope and security in a God that provides and pours down blessings even when we don't deserve it, and I want them to learn from an early age, because I did and I am still learning to understand it.

Okay, just had to get that out. More so for me. 

My parents did an awesome job of keeping Christmas sacred and holy, with a little bit of the silliness of Santa and reindeer and all that jazz. I hope to be able to do the same.

This mom stuff is hard. SO hard. 


merry christmas. 



Monday, November 10, 2014

What does a Trades of Hope trunk show look like?


 I'm really excited about numerous opportunities I have coming up to share Trades of Hope. Many of my hostesses don't really know what to expect so I decided to share a little peak at what one of my Trades of Hope trunk shows looks like; here is an overview of what it's all about.

When I decided to become a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope, I was sick with anxiety. You guys I have done the Mary Kay thing, and other direct sales things that have not worked for me because I am not a sales person. I did not start Trades of Hope because I am a self-motivated business type. I started because I have a heart for the millions of women and children stuck in the sex industry. I want to be part of the help that gives hope and a future to women who can't feed their babes. I have a desire to be an advocate, a voice for the voiceless, and this is one of the tangible things I can do.

We all buy cute things to decorate our house and most of us wear jewelry and accessories. Even more of us use purses and bags to carry around diapers, Ipads or your necessities for work. Have you ever thought about who makes those things? Usually it's groups of people (including children) who are being under-paid, in undesirable working conditions, with no benefits, no breaks, no adequate bathrooms, and bosses who demand long hours and are unable or willing to care for their workers as individuals with basic needs.

(source)
(source)
We work with reputable organizations (most fair-trade certified*) and ministries that pay their workers livable wages, generally 3-6 times more than they would make if they were working on their own selling their goods on the street. Many of the organizations/ministries are able to provide benefits like job skill training, budgeting classes, dental and health care, childcare while the women work, etc.

(*those that are not officially fair-trade certified still follow fair-trade guidelines; their groups are just too small and unable to pay the fees enabling them to have the certification)


Artisans in Haiti from the Apparent Project
One of our artisans in Uganda
Esther is one of our artisans in India. 
Our group in Costa Rica is happy to work with Trades of Hope. Our large orders
enable them to hire more women and create amazing change in the slums where they are located. 

So what does one of my Trades of Hope trunk shows look like? 

I bring a couple of "trunks" full of the items made by our artisans and I display them creatively in your home or wherever you have decided to host. I have done shows in both. I love being in people's homes, but it is also really fun and easier for the hostess to be at a neighborhood coffee shop (where they do all the dishes, make the coffee, serve the wine and provide the treats.)



We wait for all of your friends to arrive, and then after everyone is settled in with their drinks we begin. I just basically share my heart, educate about the global issues going on that are negatively impacting so many women around the world, suggest tangible ways we can help, and encourage everyone to take part in one way, shape or form. We have amazing discussions, share experiences, and ask questions. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we pray. Sometimes hard questions are asked and hard answers are given.


Sometimes hearts are broken, but they are quickly encouraged. This is not a pity party to make you feel bad for being a privileged American. This is an opportunity for you to become aware, and for you and your friends to help be a light where there is so much darkness.


Then we refill our drinks, enjoy some snacks and everyone shops. Most of our items are under $50 so even those of us on a tight budget are able to leave with something special. One of my favorite pairs of earrings is just $20.

Earrings range from about $18 to $32.
Some items are available to purchase at the trunk show,
other items are shipped to your home for a flat rate of $4.95
Bright and colorful bags, clutches, purses and even a child's sized turtle backpack
One of our best sellers, this necklace is from Haiti and is a beautiful collection
of hand-made beads; some are made of clay, some are made of CEREAL BOXES!
Not a "jewelry person"? Bracelets are a great and easy way to ease into wearing accessories.
At the end of the night it's fun to take a picture of everyone that was able to come, if that's your kind of thang:)

And some times we sneak cute pictures of  our cute friends
wearing their cute new stuff:)

If you want more info or would like to place an order online 
you can check out my website here.

If you have any questions, want to book a party 
or want info on becoming a compassionate entrepreneur 
you can email me at:
sierra.tradesofhope@gmail.com

[all photos not sourced were graciously shot and shared by Sarah Hardie Photography]

Monday, November 3, 2014

All about that simple life...


I really should order this.
[source]

It's been two months since our family life got a lot more "simple." And by "simple" I mean I just don't do daycare anymore.

I have been working my tail off doing house projects, volunteering, loving on Eli while Gabriel is at school, learning about/using essential oils, preparing wood signs and dolls for craft fairs and my friend's new shop HWY North, and getting ready for lots of Trades of Hope trunk shows and vendor events.

House Projects. 
Living room:  a few porcelain mounted deer heads have joined my living room decor. We ripped up the carpet in the living room and I found a great new rug.... that already has a stain. I was devastated.... but with small boys come spills, leaks, messes. That's life.

this is my feeling on the art of raising boys lately. 


kristen wiig's faces help me express my deepest emotions and thoughts.

Our bedroom: Matt surprised me and painted! And a day later I began painting over it. Baby yellow is not my thang, and as nice as it was for him to paint, I had to gently break it to him that... just, no. I got some fun things to hang above our bed. An old vintage looking fan (it's just the cage and blades), some neat frames and a manly rugged scull and antlers... I said no to the paint color, Matt said no to an animal scull hanging over our bed. Marriage is all about balance. I can handle it. (I thought it looked rugged and manly... he wasn't amused). I also got nice new sheets and a gorgeous new white duvet... that Gabriel poured fractionated coconut oil all over last night when he was mad that Ipad time was over. Oil. All over our sheets and down comforter. Did I mention I'm all in to the oils? Like literally... they are now stained in to my sleeping arrangements. That's life.
So anyways, when our bedroom project is complete I will post pictures. I am so excited for our room to feel finished.

Volunteering.
I am now at Breaking Free very Friday morning and every last Tuesday of the month. On Fridays my friend Moriah and I help process donations. We hang clothing, organize, and sort. It's really fun, and we get to work with one of the interns that is a graduate of the program there. She is fun to chat with and it's fun getting to know her. A couple of weeks ago a new girl had just joined the program and she came in while we were there. The intern helped her to find under garments, warm clothing and a winter coat. It was a beautiful thing to see her so amazed that these items were available to her. I am so grateful to be a part of this. 
On the last Tuesday of each month we do outreach on the streets in Minneapolis. We hand out sandwiches, water bottles, toiletry kits, condoms and business cards with info about Breaking Free. In September I had the opportunity to talk with a woman who is stuck in prostitution. She needed help and we were able to provide resources. She told us her story and it was so heart breaking. But she was positive and encouraged, and she let us speak life, truth and beauty in to her heart. She even let us pray with her. Pray for Bonnie.  

Mornings with Eli.
Me and Eli have the sweetest mornings. Some mornings I get the biggest and middlest on the bus and then crawl back in bed with Eli at my side where we fall back asleep for another hour. Sometimes we visit Sugarush for donuts and good conversation with the owner. Sometimes Eli watches Curious George while I clean and do dishes. Sometimes we have friends over for a coffee/play date. Whatever we do, it's wonderful and peaceful and I am soaking in every minute with my littlest boy.

Essential Oils.
Yep. I did it. You haven't yet? You should. I use doTERRA oils and our family is benefiting majorly. I have barely touched our medicine cabinet since August. I'm a believer. 

Getting Creative.  
I now have wood signs and dolls at my friend Emily's local gift shop! Check out HWY North at the intersection of Hamline and Minnehaha Avenues in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. I'm also going to have hand-crafted items for sale at a few craft fairs in November and December.

Trades of Hope
I have parties and vendor shows booked for the holiday season. I am super excited to continue to share this vision and to help teach women that we are all able to help empower women out of poverty. We have a new catalog out for fall/winter. Check it out my website here.

Well, there's what my "simple" life looks like as of late. It's busy and full, but I am feeling good about what each and every day is accomplishing. Good stuff. Hard stuff. Life stuff. 
All of the things I wanted to do once this season began. Well not all, most. I still suck at meal planning. Oh well. That'll come next season maybe.

xoxo

Thursday, September 4, 2014

mama to many

This week has been so wonderful and quiet. I feel like it's been the weekend for a week now.

A lot of people have asked why I'm not doing daycare anymore, especially because they would have liked for me to watch their children in the future.

Doing childcare over the last seven years has been so helpful to my little growing family. I have had the joy of caring for SO many little ones since Maximo was a babe, and even before. It helped me to bring in some income, it allowed for me to be with my kids and to eventually care for kids in my own house. It was a perfect fit with my life as a stay-at-home-mom.

Timing was perfect. It was recently time for Tya to start kindergarten. Ramona's mom and dad were ready to move her to another in-home-daycare with her cousins. As this time drew near, I knew in my heart that it was time for me to be done.

Eli is only home for one more year before he does pre-K NEXT YEAR! I want to enjoy his last full year home.

My ability to advocate, educate and help to fight against sex trafficking is expanding. The door has opened up for me to volunteer with Breaking Free. And I hope to do many Trades of Hope trunk shows this fall. Have you hosted one yet? If not, please think about it! You can help me spread awareness, hope and love to women all over the world. Check out my website and take a look at our new fall/winter catalog here.

I have an opportunity to sew and create again, AND for my items to be for sale in an up and coming local, hand-made gift shop! I plan to make more wood signs, poster prints, dolls (including more Frida dolls!), etc. And I am looking into possibly doing screen-printed shirts.

A couple of weeks ago my husband brought me home a plant from the farmer's market. I have become a hoarder lover of indoor plants and he knew that I would love to welcome another plant child. I'd never seen a plant like it before so I posted a picture to the St. Paul Perennial facebook page and other plant lovers educated me. It's called a "Mother to Thousands". Go figure.



I believe that God's timing is perfect and that He has a plan for my life that is coming to fruition. I will always be a "mother to thousands many" but it will look differently now.

Tya had a wonderful first day at school. Ramona's new daycare mom sounds wonderful. And my life moves forward with those little girls and all the kids before them forever in my heart.

Cheers to the new season. Cheers to autumn time- my favorite time of year. Cheers to the next chapter in my beautiful and messy life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

sometimes He calms the storm...

There is this super outdated song that still warms my heart every time I hear it about how God comforts us and protects us. It sounds like it is from 1994... don't make fun of me. Here are some of the words:


Sometimes He calms the storm 

With a whispered peace be still 
He can settle any sea 
But it doesn't mean He will 
Sometimes He holds us close 
And lets the wind and waves go wild 
Sometimes He calms the storm 
And other times He calms His child 

Max has been really worried about Gabriel starting school. He is worried that kids will bully him. Max hasn't had issues with bullies yet, but the funny thing is that HE is always bullying Gabriel. 

I can tell that this Gabriel-going-to-school issue is heavy on Max's heart because he had an awful nightmare the other night that Gabriel drowned in a lake. For a couple of days it was something that he needed to tearfully process through with me multiple times.

Max was really difficult this summer. I was beginning to think that I had the meanest most awful kid in the world. All he did was bother his brothers and bother me. He was rude. He picked fights and called everyone names. He was completely empty of any compassion for anyone. 

And now, over night, his heart is filled with brotherly compassion and he is a changed kid. He has been so sweet, so thoughtful, and so loving towards his family.

I'm letting him ride this out. We are talking a lot about our responsibilities as mom+dad, his responsibility as brother, and God's responsibility as the ultimate protector. His current fear and anxiety can't go away unless I decide to keep Gabriel home this year and not send him to school. That's not an option. 

In this situation I can't calm the big worries. But I can calm his little heart and assure him that Gabriel is going to be okay. 

I feel like God consistently reveals his identity to me through situations that come up with my boys. God always comes through, whether it's to help our little heart manage or to help solve the big huge issue that is burdening us. 


Sometimes He calms the storm 


And other times He calms His child



I have a lot of friends who are struggling with big things, situations that feel over whelming and too huge to handle. Be still and know. He may solve the big picture, or he may comfort your heart as He walks with you through it.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's all about to change.


Hey. 
Yeah hi...
It's been a long time.
I know, I always say that.
This summer has been busy. Last week and this week have been pretty peaceful as Maximo is in summer school and one of my daycare kids is gone this month. So I have had a little more breathing room. We spend almost everyday at the pool or at the park. We have playdates every other day. For as busy and crazy as it has been, it has been fun.

This fall though, everything changes. Take a deep breath. I do every time I think about it.
Max will be in school.
Gabriel will be in pre-K (like preschool) half days.
I will no longer do daycare.
I will only have Eli home during the day.
Just let it sink in.

I may actually be able to run to Costco, Trader Joe's and Target during the day.
I may get to go visit more friends during the week, and with only one kid to buckle in.
I may be able to keep a cleaner house, and be a better meal planner.
I may be able to work out again.
I may be able to volunteer once a week at Breaking Free.

It's weird that I am entering in to a new season of life, that my season of little kids at my feet all day - is over. I'm done having babies in my house.
Just let it sink in. I'll give you a minute...

I have so many hopes and dreams for what this next season will look like.... but I don't know what is to come. The one thing I am certain of, is that I am leaving it up to God. Because he has a plan for this next season.

So for the next six weeks I will be finishing up this season well. I'll be holding Ramona a little tighter when she lets me. I'll be soaking up Tya's giggles and hugs. I'll be having lots of fun at the pools/playgrounds/playdates with the kids.

Ugh. Fine, I guess I'll try to enjoy every moment the way the seasoned moms tell me too... (personally I think they tell me to do that only because they remember every moment with their little tornadoes treasures being tender and wonderful... I hope I remember these moments like that!)

Here is a little taste of my summer so far:


pool day e'ery day



me and seester pretend we are kardashians sometimes.

matt and i are being intentional about our marriage.



maybe i'll actually wear real pants when i'm no longer
chasing kids all day? prolly not.

little eli


seester got a neck tattoo. i got one on my foot.

a tiny bit of brotherly love

a lot of brotherly cuteness here. wow.

tya and tha boyzz

being intentional..... we are stuck together so we may as well like it.


my brother-in-law finally got married!


b'mona (as we call Ramona) is growing up too fast. she is mobile.
she wrestles eli to the ground trying to steal his bagels.

some of our best friends and godson are moving away.
at least we got one good grill night in!

Alright, I am off for the night. Hope you all are enjoying the summer.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

enslaved.

Lately I am learning a lot about slavery: Human Trafficking. Women, children, and even men. Forced. With out a choice.

And I feel like my eyes are being opened up to so much. Some very profound things, some very simple things.

One thing I have been pondering is what I allow myself to be a slave to. All the people I am learning about who are modern day slaves, have no choice. Prostitution. Sweat shops. Desperation. Poverty. Devastation. War.

Me? My life is pretty easy when we're looking at the big picture.

And I am asking God what I need freedom from.

And then I feel really stupid. 'Cause it's things like facebook. And sugar. And my bad attitude. A poor body image. Fear of what people think. And my desire for a neat and tidy cute house.

I took facebook off my phone a couple months ago. Before, whenever I had a spare moment I was on the good ol' fb. Checking out what you are making for dinner tonight, how cute your baby was when she woke up this morning, or who was causing drama on the neighborhood facebook page again. Not all of it is pointless. Because I genuinely care when your little boy has had a fever for three days, how your honeymoon was, that you posted a new blog entry or that you're sick of your job... but it's getting in the way. And I could be managing my time better. And ugh. I hate admitting that.

I put Facebook back on my phone not too long ago. I manage so much on there.... Like my Trades of Hope page and our Urban Collective Trunk Show page. It's a big source of communication for me and my friends. 

Balance. I need to balance it out. I need to be intentional about what I am doing on facebook and not do the mindless scrolling thing.  

I'm trying to clear out the unnecessary stuff that gets in the way. (I feel like I am ALWAYS  in this process.)
I want to take away the false comforts that somehow allow me to escape for a moment. It's okay to escape sometimes. But I'm trying to do that by listening to good music or by chatting with my mama or one of my girls.

I think it'll be easier now that we aren't stuck in the house for days at a time.

So, there it is. Our daily battles and slavery to the stupid things overwhelm us at times, but luckily we can claim power and victory over them if we really try.

Daily I am thankful for the freedom we experience. And daily I am reminded of those who suffer, stuck in bondage to circumstances they cannot control.

On Mother's Day I went to a march for the girls missing from Nigeria. I'll share some of the photos that were posted below.



source


(photo by Renee Horsman)

Heavy stuff on this mamas heart lately. But I believe sometimes we are called to share in the burden of what weighs on the hearts of those around us and all over the world. This slavery issue is what my heart aches for so I continue to press in and figure out what I can do about it. 

Pray for the missing girls. Pray that slavery ends. It's an overwhelming situation but there are things we can do.