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Dear Mushka,

TEN BEST GIFTS FOR BACK TO SCHOOL

TEN BEST GIFTS FOR BACK TO SCHOOL

For those of you headed back to school or loving a sweet girl who is, consider a little something to help start the year off right! 

1. The Parallel Cuff-- for when the right path feels confusing

2. The Harvest Necklace -- for when it all feels exhausting and you may want to quit

3. The Path Necklace-- a reminder that He'll lead you exactly where you need to go

4. The Promise Pack-- for a weekly reminder in His goodness & truth [would also make a fun postcard every week to a daughter away at school!]

5. An Art Print-- for a little style & truth in a dorm room!

6. The Commissioned Keychain-- for car/room keys and for a heart's reminder to stay on mission

7. The Aim Necklace-- so your mind and soul remember where to put their real focus and effort

8. The Poise Earrings-- because these are the qualities we really want to have and share

9. The Hope Necklace -- a reminder that He has beautiful, holy plans in store

10. A Gift Card-- because sometimes it's just a really fun pick-me-up to shop a little
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KATIE: 30 ON MY 30TH

KATIE: 30 ON MY 30TH

C.S. Lewis said "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." And so, a few silly facts about myself so you can know that the girl behind this brand is just as flawed & ridiculous as you. I'm so glad we're friends. xx 

  1. My full name is Katie Evelyn Lewis. My parents found the name Katie in Gone with the Wind [Katie Scarlett O'Hara], and I secretly loved how common the name was because it meant I never stood out. Ha! Quiet introvert over here. But saying I was "Katie D. ...yep with a K and an ie" my whole school career got a little old, I admit. 
  2. But also, I always wished my name was Taylor. If we have a girl, she'll probably end up with a "boy" name because I still think they're the cutest. 
  3. And you should also know that I've never actually seen Gone with the Wind. Isn't it like four hours long? #nope
  4. Speaking of... I would be 100% okay without a TV. Except during the Summer Olympics because hello, gymnastics. But as it stands, we have one, and Robert and I watch a show together every evening-- right now it's The Great British Baking Show! If you haven't watched it, you must. The happiest cooking competition. And their adorable accents!
  5. I'd rather read in the evenings, and usually sneak away to do so while Robert watches a little of something else. According to Goodreads, I've read 23 books this year which is maybe a little low but alas, time is limited and motherhood. 
  6. I have lived in the same city basically my whole life. I "went away" to college-- 30 minutes down the road-- and came back after marriage because no where else seemed as wonderful and it always felt silly to move away just to move away?
  7. BUT. If I could live anywhere else in the country, I'd choose New York City. Robert would never, but the history & culture is so rich. I'm a little obsessed.
  8. If I hadn't studied Psychology in school, I would have studied graphic design and marketing. Ah, how those skills would be helpful now! But at the time, I had no clue Dear Mushka would be a thing and how the brain works is incredibly fascinating. Of course, I graduated, did the math, and realized I'd be ready to have kids by the time I finished my masters + doctorate so that was enough of that. [Side note, anyone else wish they'd had better counseling to help figure this stage of life out? I was way too young to be making life decisions!]
  9. Instead, I graduated, got married, and worked at a doctor's office until I called Robert one day and told him I'd quit, I was going to start an Etsy shop. Perhaps a different approach would have been better? Ha! But he was so supportive, and somehow I just knew it was the right next step. Clearly :)
  10. My mom was my best friend until her death in 2010. I haven't told her story on a public platform in a long time, but one day I will. Suffice it to say, mental illness is scary & I constantly praise God for healing her sweet body in Heaven. Until we meet again, my dear Mama. xx
  11. I have omphalophobia, the fear of bellybuttons. Not my own, so much, but watching other people touch theirs gives me the serious creeps and makes me want to gag. WHY? I acknowledge that it's so dumb, but I can't help it! Also, three year olds touch their belly buttons a lot FYI. 
  12. I cannot spell to save my life. I never remember which letters are doubled in words like accommodate and recommend and embarrass. You know I had to spellcheck those just now. 
  13. But pet peeve: the phrase "I could care less". It's couldn't! Could doesn't even make sense. [But don't worry, chewing with your mouth open or smacking your gum doesn't bother me one bit.]
  14. I scoffed at people who said running could be fun until I actually set out to run three miles at a time a few years ago. I couldn't even run .25 a mile without stopping at first, but now I run 3-4 miles a few times a week. And it's fun! What in the world. I just signed up for my first 1/2 marathon!
  15. My biggest regret is not speaking up in a "world religions" class I took in college. People had Christianity all wrong, seeing it as a religion of laws instead of love, and I sat back and watched them walk away with the wrong impression because I was too nervous to speak in front of 50 classmates or whatever. I think, in part, it is fuel for my fire as I store scripture deep in my mind-- I want it to be there when I need it again! 
  16. I cannot think of one living celebrity whose autograph or photo I would like to have. But you better believe I'm calling dibs on time with women like Elisabeth Elliot & Corrie ten Boom in Heaven!
  17. Okay, but I did talk to Taylor Swift for a second once here in Nashville. And Daniel Radcliffe [Harry Potter] said "Hi" to me after his Broadway play performance in NY one year. He's very little!
  18. If I'm feeling completely uninspired, I usually declutter a space in our home. So when it's time to plan a new Dear Mushka line, watch out junk drawer and closet! Something about tossing out the old and making visual space helps open up my mind? 
  19. If I had 12 hours to myself, I'd probably go for a long run. Actually dry my hair. Get lost in the Word instead of anticipating my boys' wakeup time. Walk the streets of Downtown Franklin freely, going in every store. Get a massage. Take a nap. Pray & worship aloud. Eat all of a meal without sharing with little hands ;) 
  20. Speaking of food, tacos for life. Or fajitas. Or nachos. I don't discriminate. Plus some chips & guac. And ice cream with chunks of cookie dough for dessert!
  21. My most repeated Bible verses: "You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." [Isaiah 26:3] and "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." [Psalm 16:11]
  22. The quote that has most helped me in my life: "We won't be distracted by comparison if we're captivated with purpose." -Bob Goff. The Lord really used those words to settle my heart into what HE had called me to do and I was immediately able to set aside extra pressures from the world.
  23. My favorite season is, without a doubt, Summer. I love how nonchalant it is, with its lazy mornings and easy meals and firefly catching evenings. I love everything about it. Except the mosquitos, I suppose. It's good for my control-loving heart. 
  24. My favorite piece of clothing is an old denim button down shirt from Old Navy. It's not fancy and actually, the sleeves are too short. But it's just the right weight and color, and every time I try on a replacement something just isn't right.
  25. Second place: My Birkenstocks. I've had them a few years now and will buy the exact same pair when they bite the dust. So comfortable and not tooo ugly, I say. 
  26. This book on the Enneagram is my go-to marriage gift because it was so incredibly helpful for me and Robert. Nine over here! 
  27. Lord willing, I have 5-6 more decades of life to live; I'm dedicating my 30s to the discipleship of women God has placed in my life. This Fall, I'm leading my first group and can't wait to teach on prayer, how to read the bible, etc. Gosh, sometimes I'm in awe that God uses us to point others to Him. 
  28. One time in a rain storm, my car spun across four lanes of traffic on the interstate, straight to the median on the other side. Miraculously [truly] I didn't get hit and was able to just merge back onto the road. And then I saw a car burst into flames while it was in motion! So anyway, I don't love driving and will never offer to drive for someone else. But I'll pay for your gas and buy you car candies! 
  29. I cannot whistle. I cannot do the splits [please, as if]. I cannot dance. I cannot sing. I cannot raise one eyebrow. I cannot tie a cherry stem with my tongue. How do people do all of these things?! 
  30.  Whoops, I made it to the end without mentioning our kids. We have two boys, 3 & 1, both adopted. And the truth is, motherhood is exhausting right now. I have no earthly idea how to parent siblings who bicker and take toys and hit! But of course, in our weakness He is strong & I feel closer than ever to the Lord as I [constantly] call on Him for wisdom. One day at a time, yes? I remember fighting with my siblings, we made it out alright. Ish. 

And now you. What are we twinsies on? xx

ADOPTION: faqs part two

ADOPTION: faqs part two

Okay! Here's part two of our adoption FAQs. [Find part one HERE]. These focus more on the post-adoption process. 

1. How long did you wait to bring your children home? 

We met both our baby boys in the hospital and were given our own room to snuggle them in for a night or two. Then we were able to take them back to our hotel room while ICPC cleared. That's basically the communication from your adoptive state to your home state verifying that you are, in fact, allowed to take home this child; it can take a few days to a month+. Our first adoption took a few days, our second took a few weeks. Both times, we savored the opportunity to be away from "normal life" and soaked in our new little guys. 

2. How did extended family and friends respond to your adoptions? 

I have a feeling a few people were shocked when we said we were going to adopt the first time and double shocked when we said we were doing it again, but they hid it well and have loved our boys 100%. I'll never forget our first son's first birthday and the packed house we had for his party. A family member is a family member, no matter how they got there. And it's been such a fun way to share the gospel with people it wouldn't have normally come up in conversation with. 

3. Were you worried about the birthmothers changing their minds? How do you speak to your children about their adoptions/ birth parents? Do you have a relationship with them? Etc. 

Certainly, every situation is different here. For us, we were absolutely open to a relationship with our birthmothers and don't have one right now because they haven't been open to it. And that's okay! 

We were never really worried about her changing her mind, but did use the allotted time period (different in every state) to pray an extra amount for all parties involved. We also tried to collect any information we could in case our boys would like to have it down the road. 

We pray with our boys for their birth families every night and have started to talk to our 3 yr old about how he grew in Ms. T's belly and then was put in my arms to snuggle and smooch. We have the utmost respect for both families, and want our boys to grow up knowing how loved and desired they were.

4. What's been the hardest part of adopting?

Foolishly, the hardest part for me has only come in my own mind & worry as I anticipate hard conversations and emotions as our boys get older. I know they'll have questions and I fear I won't be able to lead them well. But of course, when I remind myself of how freely God gives wisdom, and how he works all things for his glory and our good, I know he has my sweet boy's hearts in his hands. He'll be there with us as the difficulties come (just as he is for every mother as we learn how to teach and lead our children in everything else!)

5. What's been the best part?

Gosh, I don't think I could ever narrow down a best part; the good outweighs any hardships infinitely. Saying "yes" to something unknown when God called us to it was beautifully faith-building. Having our family look a little like Heaven makes me so excited to worship with believers of all races and colors. Having the gospel front and center in my mind on a daily basis, and being able to share it naturally with others through our adoptions. And really, understanding in a deeper way what God did for us as he adopted us into his family-- priceless. Doing something hard and sanctifying with my husband. Having racial reconciliation at the front of my mind and starting to use my privilege for change. 

And of course, having these sons in our home. We couldn't love them one single bit more. 

6. But how do I do their hair?

(Referring to African American hair, mainly) I got this question a lot which made me laugh because I was unsure, too! And double laugh because, like, I still don't even know how to do my own hair? Ha!

The short answer is: Everyone's hair is different. I was told that my second son's hair, especially, would change a ton by 6 months. At the beginning, we brushed it lightly with this brush and then sprayed in a little of this. We recently started rubbing this in every morning and evening to keep it soft and moisturized. 

So far, his hair is short and there isn't much to do. We'll keep learning as we go on. But I think that's one of the best parts of having a child of a different race-- we have a sweet opportunity to get outside our comfort zones and reach out to people who don't look just like us. I'm really good friends with one of our Target cashiers now :) 

7. Which books would you recommend for both an adoptive parent AND adopted children? Books that feature children of color? 

You know the reader in me loves this question. Here are two I definitely recommend for adults.

[Click on the pictures for a direct link]

 

Adoption books for children can be tricky because they tend to have a specific story line that doesn't always apply to your situation. These are pretty generic and encourage good conversation. But of course, we own a few that don't totally apply to us ("I adopted because I couldn't get pregnant" or "you came from far away across the world") and we use those for conversation, too. 

 

As far as books featuring dark-skinned children goes, I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many there are gracing the aisles of Target (or the shelves of Amazon). I've read some of them, and have the rest on our list for one day. Some of these series are beautiful-- I'd recommend to every one... especially those of you with white children only. Let's show them the diversity God has made!

I hope this helps! Shoot me an e-mail if you have more questions. Katie@dearmushka.com

ADOPTION: faqs part one

ADOPTION: faqs part one

Recently, I asked my Instagram community if they had any questions for me, a two time adoptive mama, and the responses flooded in. And oh sisters, I get it! Adoption can be a really intimidating process. 

I'm going to do my best to answer these questions, but please remember this is our family's story, only. Take what is helpful, skim over the rest. And mostly, trust in our Big God who promises to instruct, teach, & counsel with his eyes upon you [Psalm 32:8] If He has called you to this, He will absolutely see you through it. 

Alright! Prepare to read. 

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1. Did we always want to adopt? Were we always on the same page?

The short answer is: no, and no

The longer answer goes something like:

There are people who grow up with a passion for adoption, and neither Robert nor I were one of those people. Adoption had literally [and sadly] never come up in conversation over the 6ish years we'd known one another... so imagine my surprise when God used a random show on PBS to whisper to my heart: "you will find your first child through adoption." And imagine Robert's surprise when I told him the same. 

For a solid year after that, Robert was not on board. It's not that he didn't like adoption in theory, it's just that neither of us had grown up around it and pursuing it as a plan A for growing our family felt abnormal and scary. We went through all the typical concerns our world screams at us. Didn't we want "our own" children first? [Eeesh] Where would we even start? What if the child was addicted to drugs? What if the birthmother changed her mind? What if the child was a different race than us? 

It was the first time we'd disagreed on something major in our marriage & the first time I had to pray consistently for a clear answer. The growth that came from that process, alone, was life changing. Looking back, I'm so grateful for that year; I learned how to lean on the Lord, how to seek His answer, how to patiently wait, how to respect my husband in the midst of disagreement, etc.

Sanctification, baby. 

2. What did we do once we decided to pursue adoption?

After a year of praying for clear direction & unified hearts within our marriage, The Lord kindly changed Robert's heart. And then we had a lot of decisions to make :) 

After Googling "how to adopt in TN" and feeling incredibly overwhelmed with the information available, we prayed in faith that God would make our next steps clear. At that time, we weren't doing life with anyone who had adopted so I talked to the one distant friend I knew who was in the process. She told us the home study group & agency her family was using and we said "sounds great!" and contacted them right away. 

For our first adoption, we signed up with Faithful Adoption Consultants but ended up adopting our sweet Brooks via private adoption through a connection from church. [That's another story but essentially, right before we signed on with FAC someone knew someone who was pregnant and we said YES.] For our second adoption, we signed up with FAC again and completed the adoption through them. 

3. What is a consultant group? Is that like an agency? 

An adoption consultant group is kind of like a middle man between you and an agency. Instead of being one agency themselves [something like Bethany], they work with multiple agencies.

The Pros: You're usually matched with a child more quickly because your name is out there more often. They're incredibly helpful and kind when you might otherwise feel very alone in the process.

The Cons: It tends to be more pricey-- You have to pay them a fee [it was around $2k when we did it] and then might get matched with a birthmother who is part of a more expensive agency. The agency might be out of state [rather than choosing something in-state like Bethany], which comes with additional fees like travel and accommodations.  

4. How did you make certain decisions like age, race, domestic vs international, fostering to adopt vs an agency, etc?

These questions feel extra hard because they aren't decisions that need to be made when you're growing your family through biological children; they're unnatural! 

For us, we never felt drawn to a country outside of America. There are children in our backyards that need homes and we loved the idea of meeting & knowing our children's birthmothers. [And yes, were also pretty intimidated by that idea!] 

Our hearts were ecstatic at the thought of adopting children of a different race who would reflect the beauty of Heaven, but we also knew issues would eventually come up as a interracial family. We decided to say "yes" to anything and trust that God would give us wisdom as we needed it. And he's been faithful to do so!

Every state is different, and fostering to adopt is not the main way people adopt young children in Tennessee. Here, the goal of foster care really is reunification with their biological family. At the time, we knew we wanted to grow our family with small children first and didn't think it would be fair to enter into the foster care system with that goal in mind. But every state is different! And we'd love to do foster care one day. That just wasn't the time. 

5. How long did it take? How did you trust God during the wait? And what does that process look like?

Every adoption is completely different here. The short answer is that we were able to bring both our boys home in a shorter amount of time than I could have grown a baby. Part of that was because we chose to use a consultant group [see above], part of that was how open we were to race and minor health concerns-- we weren't looking for a 100% healthy white baby. And a lot of it was just the way God chose to write our story. 

It can be so hard to sit at home with your arms and heart open, while you're seemingly not making any progress. I repeated verses to myself about God being the one to bring justice & care to the orphans. Verses about endurance, patience, faith, etc. 

And I love this quote from Russell Moore in Adopted for Life: "There’s something about patience that God deems necessary for our life in the age to come and so, whether through agriculture or discipleship or bodily development or eschatology or procreation, God makes us wait” 

As far as the process goes, you generally "go active" after your home study is complete [don't fear that part at all!] and you've made some sort of profile book-- a book full of pictures and some words for birthmothers to look at as they consider their prospective adoptive parents. Once you're active, your profile book is shown to birthmothers who meet your criteria (max adoptive fees, health, race, etc). When you're chosen, you receive a call from your agency. And you happy dance big time. And probably freak out for a minute.

6. How much did it cost? How did you fundraise? 

So many people asked this question and I totally understand- I imagine costs are one of the biggest reasons people decided not to pursue adoption.

For our first adoption, we used the funds from Dear Mushka [a small Etsy shop at the time] & we sold puzzle pieces to a 1,000 piece puzzle for $40 each. Your name went on the back of the piece when you bought it, and the puzzle hangs in my son's room to this day. I posted updates on Facebook to keep people in the loop and friends loved us so well. In the end, God gave us $12 more than we needed for our adoption. We bought burgers :) Because this adoption ended up being a private adoption through church friends it was well under the average cost. 

For our second adoption, we sold t-shirts and used the income from Dear Mushka to fund the whole thing [giant hugs to you if you helped support us in this!] Because we used Faithful Adoption Consultants, got paired with a pricey agency, bought last minute plane tickets, had to stay in another state for two weeks, etc. this adoption was well over the average cost. 

But you know? God provided everything we needed both times. And I think he loves doing that, reminding us that he is the owner of all funds and showing off when we are weak and needy. Which we definitely were. 

I clung to this verse: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." -2 Corinthians 9:8

Ultimately, DO NOT let finances be the reason you tell God no if He is calling your family to adoption. Trust him as the creator and sustainer of all things. Tell him your fears! Ask him to provide. And watch him lavish you with gift upon gift. I have yet to meet a family who said they weren't able to pay for their adoption when God called them to it. 

And remember, your life is not compartmentalized into times God is working on you to become more like Him and times He is not. God promises to complete His good work in you [Phil 1:6], which means He will use things like adoption to do so. Praise Him for growing your faith & ridding your heart of sin in the process!

[Note: We didn't go this route, but I know there are tons of adoption loans, grants, etc too. I imagine a local adoption agency would be really helpful here.]

7. Okay, I'm definitely interested-- what do I do next? 

If you haven't read Adopted for Life, I can't recommend it enough. For everyone, adopting or not! It's such a beautiful book about how we're all adopted into God's family and is packed with helpful truths. I was shocked at how many adoptive terms I'd been saying incorrectly. [Example: "own children" or "are they REAL siblings"]

I'm blanking on the statistic, but something like 60% of families want to adopt and only 2% do. Satan has his hand in this, y'all! Talk to anyone who has adopted, ask your pastor if someone in your local church can be a good reference, or just give a local agency a call. If someone works in the adoption world, chances are they love it and will be more than happy to answer all your questions. I called one agency before Robert was even on board and said "I have no idea what I'm doing but if we decide to adopt, what would our next steps be, just out of curiosity?" She was so helpful!

And ultimately, stay in the word. Pray, pray, pray. Pursue Christ, and the rest will fall into place. 

I'm going to split this up into two parts. The "post adoption" FAQs coming next!

FAMILY: Summer Goal Setting for Littles

FAMILY: Summer Goal Setting for Littles

Summer is my favorite season for so many reasons, not excluding the leisurely days that seem to fall into place. But for the rogue segments of time I'm not sure how to fill, I find working towards a few goals is a wonderful go-to activity for me and the boys. 

Of course, there is zero pressure to accomplish any of these before the Summer is out, but it gives direction to our days & offers one less decision for me to make. Check!

For Brooks, age 3.5:

· Do a 24-50 piece puzzle by himself

[This and this and a random one from Aldi are our favorites.]

· Master what all 26 letters of the alphabet look like. Bonus points for upper and lower case

[We use this and plain ol' paper & crayons. Also a fan of this website in short bursts.]

· Memorize Psalm 23

[We say a verse every morning at breakfast before he gets his vitamin gummy. When one is mastered, we add another. He's zooming through it!]

· Find joy in "reading" by himself for 30 minutes

[This is his favorite book to look at, hands down. This subscription has also been a huge winner, thanks Meme!]

· Successfully get dressed all by himself on a daily basis

For Maddox, age 1.5: 

· Learn to say "Mama" ;) 

· Learn to leave Brooks alone while he is working on said puzzle or reading said books

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For us, the hardest time in our days are after breakfast but before it's time to get ready for our daily activity (pool, play date, whatever) and while I'm making dinner. It's been really helpful to say "please get a puzzle, you can work on it at the table while I cook!" or "Yes! We can absolutely go outside after we sit and read for twenty minutes."

What's working for you this Summer? I've closed comments on these posts, but I'd love to hear via e-mail [katie@dearmushka.com] or over @dearmushkaroots xx

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