Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Schiada

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Stefanie Schiada, 36, is a home design blogger who started the very popular Brooklyn Limestone in the midst of her recent home renovation. She is a world traveler who calls Brooklyn, NY her home and she is mama to a beautiful one-year-old named Agatha Grace.

Stefanie started Brooklyn Limestone to document the renovation of her 100-year-old limestone in – you guessed it – Brooklyn. Now, her blog includes entertaining, design, travel and decor. Since Stefanie does not receive her primary income from her blog or graphic design site (she works in finance), she keeps the blogging to the weekends.

Stefanie admits that she never wanted to add a personal side to her blog. She was simply going to document her renovation, post some photos and hopefully make a photo book out of it when she was done. Two years later, she finally showed her “mug” and more personal details about her and her family.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha's first birthday! Photo taken by Stefanie's brother.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha’s first birthday! Photo by Stefanie’s brother.

Before she moved into this house, she and her husband lived in a much smaller house and did room-by-room renovations. Now, she “just takes a lot more photos.” Stefanie says she has been interested in the DIY process for as long as she can remember.

“I think I’ve always been a little on the cheap side which definitely makes me ask the question “can I do this myself?” and “can I do it better?”.”

Stefanie says she gets her inspiration from all the places she visits, and trips to the home improvement store can also get her creative juices flowing. “Sometimes a pile of wood can really spark the imagination.” She also searches for items that she knows she won’t tire of quickly.

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn't mess around! Photo taken by Stefanie Schiada

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn’t mess around! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“While I always seem to have one project or another going, I don’t really want to have to change things out unless I’m in the mood.”

The experience Stefanie has with being a tourist – mixed with her knowledge and love of her city – has led her to create a downloadable one-day tourist guide for people who are visiting Brooklyn. Now, this was back in 2009 so I’m sure some stuff has changed, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are going to be visiting.

In fact, she loves her city so much that she had a hard time picking just one thing that she loves the most about it.

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical!

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“If I had to pick a favorite its having the variety of choice here in eating and shopping.”

And in all of her travels, Stefanie says that her safari in Africa stands out from the rest, and says it’s hard to compare it to any other destination. Stefanie has even taken on the daunting task of traveling with her daughter – something I have yet to do.

“I’m a pessimist so the reality is much easier than I imagined.  Obviously so much depends on the temperament of the baby and the parents but we have found that its not that different than spending time with her in a restaurant or any other public place.  The key is just to GO!”

Asam Church in Munich, Germany

Asam Church in Munich, Germany. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

As a new mom, Stefanie wrote a post titled “Things I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home Baby,” and man, could I relate. That post hit so close to home that I felt like I wrote it, and it is actually what pushed me to contact Stefanie about the interview. If you are a new mom, or you have been one before, you should read this. Trust me, you will have yourself a good laugh.

“My advice would be to not be so hard on yourself.  I think our generation of parents put this incredible burden on ourselves about creating the absolute perfect environment for our children (breastfeeding exclusively, organic only diet, educational toys, etc.) that cutting yourself any slack at all (no matter how much you are trying!) feels like a big failure.  

I know I cried many tears on countless subjects (especially about nursing!) that seemed absolutely crucial at the time but even  with just the little time I’ve had to think about it, its just not that important in the scheme of thing.  Its hard to remind yourself you are doing your absolute best and you are allowed to enjoy it too.”

Photo from Agatha's Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Photo from Agatha’s Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Stefanie recently planned her daughter’s first birthday and shared her experience and photos from the party on her blog. Since it was smack-dab in the middle of winter, and they live in New York, Stefanie came up with the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme, and beautiful decorations that fit perfectly with the theme.

“Don’t be ashamed to go over the top!  I love parties where you can see the host put a lot of time and effort into all of the elements and didn’t take the easy way out.  As a guest, it feels like you are part of something special.”

Thank you so much Stefanie for participating in this series! You can find photos from her travels and get tips here, and you can find party ideas here.  If you are looking for home renovation and design tips, just peruse all over her blog! And don’t skip this About page – it’s where she shares a lot of her tips and answers FAQs. Want an overload of inspiration – and adorableness? Check out her Flickr!

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Karen LePage of One Girl Circus!

Yo Momma Monday: Miriam Deuel

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To say that Miriam Deuel is a busy stay-at-home mom would be a huge understatement. She is a mother of four and is currently in the process of adopting a two-year-old girl from China. Miriam works with Courage Worldwide, a nonprofit that fits sex trafficking of minors worldwide and has gone to Guana, Africa twice with her Church to educate the students about various topics.

Miriam grew up in Sacramento, CA and happened to go to the same high school as me: St. Francis. She married her high-school sweetheart Dan in 1999 and graduated from Sacramento State in 2001, when her first baby was only seven weeks old. Whew! When her third baby was three months old, they took a trip to Guatemala to learn Spanish and do mission work.

When Dan got his call to be the Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran in Stockton in 2005, they moved here and have been here ever since. In December of 2012, they started the process of adopting Ai Lan, who has Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS), a rare neurological disorder. She has a port wine stain on her face and some atrophy on her brain. The adoption process isn’t completed yet and they’re hoping she will be with them for Christmas.

“Whatever the future holds for Ai Lan,” says Miriam, “we will be there 100% for her, just as we would for our biological children.”

Miriam says that they decided to adopt because they believe in the value of life and they felt that their Christian faith demanded action, not just words. She says that they have spent a lot of time, energy, and financial resources helping bring awareness to the value of human life.

“We are advocates for the unborn, the poor, the mentally and physically impaired, and those who are sold as slaves, whether for sex or in other forms of human trafficking,” says Miriam.

According to Miriam, there are 210 million orphans in the world and 38,493 of them age out of the system at 18 years old. She wondered why most Christian families don’t have an orphan in their home and wondered where the orphan was that should be in her home.

“Our decision to adopt was planted in our hearts by God, and we are simply, after all these years, responding to the call,” she says.

She has been a member of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) International for 11 years. MOPS is a support group for moms have kids under the age of five. There is also MOMSNext, which is a support groups for moms who have kids of any age. The meetings usually include guest speakers, crafts, discussions and of course…food! There are mentor moms to help out new moms and she assures that although MOPS is a Christian-based group, it is not “preachy.”

“In fact, many of the moms who attend MOPS are not Christians and really feel comfortable because MOPS is about supporting moms.  We are not trying to “convert” anyone.  I promise.”

For the past five years, she has run a Teen MOPS group at her Church that supports young moms and says that some of the moms have been there since the beginning. She says that she has seen dramatic growth in all of the moms that they mentor.

“Their lives are full of many trials and hardships,” she says. “But honestly, I’ve seen a resiliency in these moms that I’ve rarely seen in older moms.”

Since Miriam Deuel is a stay-at-home mom, she hasn’t received a paycheck since 2003 and everything she does is volunteer work. As a supporter of Courage Worldwide, she coordinated a “Courage” concert in Stockton a few years ago. Courage Worldwide is a nonprofit out of Rocklin, CA that brings awareness to the worldwide problem of sex trafficking of minors. They also operate a home called “Courage House” which offers shelter for girls rescued from sex trafficking.

“I had our church team up with another in Stockton to host a benefit concert to benefit Courage House and to help raise awareness that this happens in every city in our country, and in every country worldwide.”

She also went to Ghana, Africa twice to visit schools and villages and talk to students about different topics. She says that the most interesting topic to the students was sex, of course. In Africa, you have to have an education to rise up from poverty. Otherwise, you will be there for the rest of your life.

“This is not the poverty we see in the US…we’re talking real poverty like literally no food, rags for clothing, no clean water what so ever…it’s everywhere you look.  Getting an education is the only way to raise yourself out of this.”

During her stay in Ghana, she attended the opening ceremony of another MOPS group in the capital city of Accra and she says that MOPS has been spreading quickly since their last visit. She also taught in the church that hosted them and spoke to men, women and youth.

Miriam and Dan have held two fundraisers to help with the $30,000 cost for adopting Ai Lan. Their first fundraiser was a rummage sale that raised $2,300 and the last fundraiser was called “Love to the Rescue,” a prom for adults, where they raised $3.600.

“I can’t tell you how excited some people are because they never had the opportunity to go to their prom…so here is their chance,” she exclaims.

So how does she manage doing all of this while raising her children? She admits that she is way too busy and has a tendency of getting stressed out at times. I don’t blame her! She says that all of that will come to a stop when Ai Lan comes home from China.

“She needs to come home to a calm and quiet home in order to begin her adjustment process, so I’ll be forced to say “no” to people’s requests, says Miriam.  Can I even tell you how excited I am for this forced down-time?”

Miriam adds that she wasn’t always so busy. When she had her first son, David, she was finishing school online and could barely find the time to take a shower. I can relate!

“I swear I spent 6-8 hours a day bouncing a colicky baby on the yoga ball and watching Oprah and Seinfeld reruns.  Then, as time goes on, the kids get more independent, you learn how to mother more efficiently, and all of the sudden, you have 4 kids and you are thinking, ‘I can totally take on another.’  At least that’s how it happened for me!”

If this story leaves you feeling inspired, visit Miriam’s blog about the adoption process and more at www.deuelfamilyadoption.blogspot.com, where she is graciously accepting donations. So with all this going on, what’s next?

“My summer plans are to SLOW DOWN, enjoy my kids, and do whatever I have to do to get my baby home from China.”

Know a cool mom that would be perfect for Yo Momma Monday? Let me know in the comments!