Progress Over Perfection + Some House Pics

If you know me or have read my blog for very long you probably know we’ve been remodeling an 1860s farmhouse for the last five years. Five years in and we’re still not done but we’ve made tons of progress and feel like we’ll be totally finished in the next year or so. Hallelujah.

I’ve thought often of sharing pictures of our home and the work we’ve done along the way but always hesitate and delete any drafts with these projects. Yesterday I was thinking again about sharing some before and after photos and finally put my finger on why I always back out: Intimidation.

The world is so stinking visual these days. Which is awesome and I love all the beauty we’re surrounded with as much as anyone. But when it comes to actually sharing your own imperfect home and life in an equally imperfect photo, it’s easy to chicken out and hide behind the more talented faces and photographers out there.

But I’ve decided that’s silly and I’m over it. My photos and projects aren’t going to compare to a lot of what you see on Instagram or Pinterest but I think I’m finally okay with that. I’ll do the best I can and hopefully learn some things along the way too. IMG_20180218_081555_117.jpg

I have this photo of our home when we first bought it hanging in our living room; it reminds me of where we started, where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come. It’s a good reminder on the days when I get frustrated with unfinished projects and all the messiness and imperfection that will always be a part of this life. I need to remember sometimes that we’ve learned a lot and accomplished a lot these last five years and I’m excited to finally start sharing some of that with you too. After all, there was a time when our house looked like this so things are definitely looking up (and I’m not kidding when I say fixer upper!).

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I’m starting with something small, the mudroom/entryway because, apart from our daughter’s nursery, it’s one of the few rooms that’s actually almost 100% done (there’s always that almost 😉 )

When we first moved in, this place was not at all done. It was kinda a hot mess. In our hurry and also being super broke by that point, a lot of stuff was finished as quickly and cheaply as possible even if it wasn’t what we were really dreaming of when we started. We were also both pretty burnt out by that point and just wanted to get stuff done and behind us.

Now that we’ve lived here for almost three years, we’ve started to put our finger on what we love and what we’d still like to change. The mudroom/entryway was one of the first things we completely redid. The picture of Darren with Roman in his coat (lol) shows what the entryway looked like for the first year in our house. We painted it a beige-like yellow, put a white shelf up and hung a metal bar for coats and that was that. It was pretty ugly and not that functional but I didn’t really have an ideas for improvement at the time. FB_IMG_1518980035424.jpg

Then we spent a few days at a rental in Quebec a couple of years ago and the entryway there totally inspired me. It was so simple but perfectly functional too—a pallet wall, hooks for coats, and a bench for seating and storage. Before we left I started planning with Darren how we could make our own mudroom look like the one there.

We researched pallet walls on Pinterest and Darren used rough-cut boards to lay it out. He stained the wood all different shades to get the look we wanted then nailed the boards to the wall. We added black hooks for coats and bags and a bench to sit on and store stuff in. We chose a blue/gray paint—the darker color is a lot easier to keep looking clean in a high-traffic area and I love how it contrasts with the white trim. The area is really small but it still works perfectly for our needs: A place to sit and put on shoes, hang bags and coats on our way in and out, and storage for shoes and hats and such in bins under the bench. There’s also a place for keys and mail in the wire rack on the wall. It’s never this clean unless I’m taking a picture and usually has the carseat and stroller jammed in the corner, just so you know 🙂

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Across from the mudroom is the entrance into the garage. We used a piece of wood leftover from the original 1860s house for the shelf and just added the brackets underneath to hang it. The mirror reflecting the light from the window makes the small space look bigger and brighter and I love these curtains for that same reason—they give a little privacy but also allow for a ton of sunlight.

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Even though these are just small nooks used mostly for coming and going, it’s also the first thing you see when you walk into the house so I’ve really enjoyed having it cleaned up and decorated in a way I love and that helps keep this drop area a little more organized than before.

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Anyway, I’m curious to know if you’d like to see more posts like this sharing our remodel and projects? I’m thinking of doing one a month if you’re interested so tell me what you think!

I’ll Be Outside

It was 70 here Tuesday and Wednesday—70 degrees and a warm breeze in February is pure magic if there is any such thing in the world. The kids and I spent almost all of both days outdoors—Roman in the mud, Aletheia on a blanket with the wind curling her soft baby hair, and I chasing the sunshine around the porch and yard and breathing so, so deeply for the first time in months; I felt almost like myself for a minute.

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After we got the kids in bed Wednesday, I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my reflection for a moment; “I know that girl,” I thought. My hair, normally pulled up tight (to keep my daughter’s hands out of it) was a tad windswept with a couple shorter locks in the front framing my face. There was dirt on my flowy white shirt from playing with my son—a bit wild and untame—like the landscape, like the weather.

IMG_20180221_162934_494.jpgI spent a good bit of time Wednesday surveying our yard and dreaming up plans to clean things up and landscape it into something really beautiful this spring. Five years ago when we bought this place, both the house and yard were in complete disarray. While we’ve made huge gains on both, the yard and wooded tree line have certainly lagged behind.

Darren spent the fall building a rock wall out of fieldstone that will wrap around a patio area by the backporch. Right now that whole area is a mud pit (Roman’s favorite place….he will be so sad when we clean it up). We plan to finish the wall and patio this spring, add a fence around the backyard to keep the kids in sight and away from the road and dream of nights with friends around a campfire under the stars, grilling out, letting the kids play in a green grassy yard, and swinging on the porch swing in the sunshine.IMG_20180222_142957_295.jpgLast summer, while my family was here waiting for our daughter’s birth, my dad worked tirelessly on our tree line—removing brush, trimming trees, and opening the area up into a beautiful park-like look instead of an overrun jungle. Roman still talks about helping papa with the trees and I still love looking out my kitchen window at the area he cleared. But there’s still so much to do and I’m chomping at the bit waiting for warm weather so I can get outside and start working.IMG_20180222_143314_684.jpgI have plans for a small vegetable garden, a clothesline to let our laundry dry in the sun, and a sandbox for Roman to replace the mud he loves. We will be finishing and screening in our backporch so I’m watching for just the right pieces to turn it into a cozy little boho, plant-loving, Persian-rugs-everywhere corner where we can sit and soak up the breeze and sunshine (and hide from the bugs—I forgot about the bugs until they woke back up with the warm weather).

IMG_20180222_143114_009.jpg{Baby feet and chubby thighs forever please}

It snowed yesterday and today and we are back to the white winter landscape we know to expect this time of year in New England. Darren is home today and I came downstairs this morning to a fire in the fireplace and a baby asleep in his arms. As I write these words and sip my hot coffee, I’m reminded that everything will be okay, will keep moving forward, changing and growing—me, the weather, my kids, even the yard. None of us are done yet and that’s okay.

20180221_170753.jpg {On our walk to the lake Wednesday}

I know this isn’t my normal kind of post. But the truth is, I wasn’t planning on sharing anything today. I’ve felt so weary and dreaded the thought of writing yet again about struggles and learning. I know the challenges of this particular season of motherhood will pass. I know winter too will pass, and sooner than it feels right now. But while I’m in the thick of it, it’s hard especially in my writing which tends to be so honest, to pretend all is right and well. So rather than complain and turn this space into something dark and dreary, I’m tempted not to write at all until this period of baby blues and winter weather is a memory.

But for today, I’ll meditate on the goodness—the warm breeze in February, the dreams enlivening my sometimes weary heart, and the hope for tomorrow. Things will get better; I know they will. And until they do, I’ll be over here pulling weeds both in my heart and in my backyard, dreaming of sunshine, and looking for a reflection I recognize in the mirror.

 

Kansas City

Over Thanksgiving, I went home to Kansas City for the first time in almost three years. It was our first time flying with both kids and as soon as we got into the air, Roman–who was sitting behind the wing, loudly announced, “Oh no, something’s wrong with the engine! We’re going to crash!” So really, it went as well as expected 🙂

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The last four months since my daughter was born have mostly been spent at home caring for my babies. The days get long and lonely sometimes so it was just nice for a week to be out of the house and with a few of the people I love most in the world.

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It’s funny how something as simple as food or coffee can bring people together. We flew across the country to share a special meal with family and ended up sharing lots of meals, moments, and memories along the way.IMG_20171129_130542_235.jpg

My little brother would go into the kitchen to prep food, turn on some jazz, and eventually, almost everyone would end up in the kitchen working on something. I stood at the sink on Thanksgiving washing a gazillion dishes. My grandma stood beside me drying, and though it was a simple act I repeat at home several times a day, it was nice being in the kitchen together sharing an ordinary task with people I love.

I got coffee with my best friend who I haven’t seen since March and got my nose pierced with my sister-in-law because she’s braver than I am and wouldn’t let me abandon ship once I was there 😉IMG_20171129_125538_981.jpgMy parents and grandma were saints and let the couples go out to dinner kid-free one night. We ate fabulous Indian food and my little brothers made me laugh until I almost choked.20171206_190908.jpg

Each morning we’d sit around the kitchen table with coffee and some crazy toddlers and start our day together. It was noisy and chaotic and frustrating sometimes for sure. But I think that’s how families always are. They make you swear off your lineage right up until the moment you have to get back on the plane—then you just want to cry because you miss them so much and know they won’t be at your table tomorrow morning when you sit with that cup of coffee.

Being together. That’s the thing. Life is pretty routine really—meals, dishes, kids making noise. But when you get to do these pieces of life together, they’re warmer, deeper, and richer because they were shared with someone you love. I miss my people, these pieces of my story. But how thankful I am for one loud, busy, caffeine-fuled week together. I’ll take a hundred more any chance I get ❤

A Legacy of Love

I’m at the stage of life where you drink all the coffees and read all the parenting books. Parenting books are great except they all say different stuff.

Lately, instead of reading all the books, I’ve been watching all the parents. Again, every family is different but I’ve noticed something: The families I admire the most and see the most hope and happiness in are the ones brimming with love. They may have different rules, live in different cultures, go to different types of churches, educate their children differently—on and on. But they have love in common.

So what is love, exactly, beyond a feeling or a nice word?

I opened my Bible to the “love chapter”— 1 Corinthians 13 — and read through the detailed description for a better idea. After explaining how you can do everything else right and have all the ability in the world but if you don’t have love, it will count for nothing, Paul goes on to detail what love is action by action.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

As for prophesies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (italics mine). 1 Cor. 13

Just about every word in this passage convicts me. When I look at our home and my mothering in particular, I see how poorly I live out the actions of love in our family. This is not meant to heap on mom guilt when it’s already so easy to feel like we’re failing and can’t keep up with all that’s required of us. But it does give me pause to think over how often I’m patient or kind with the people I’m with the most.

20626962_10154761931351517_5291673004939242159_oAfter praying over this passage and asking God to specifically help me live out love in my home, I noticed all the more how often love is the last place I go with my husband and children.

When love asks me to be patient, I am so often impatient with the dawdling and explanations of my three-year old.

When love asks me to be kind, I catch myself being sharp in moments of frustration and fatigue.

When love says not to envy or boast, I find myself scrolling through social media wondering why everyone else is doing a better job and having more success than me.

When love is not rude, I’m biting with my words and attitude toward my husband and kids after a long or disappointing day.

Love doesn’t insist on its own way but how often do I, either openly or overtly through quiet manipulation?

Love bears, believes, hopes, endures and never ends. It’s as if Paul is saying, if you just do first what love requires of you, you will later see the fruit in that love never ending in your heart and home.

All of this challenged me, as I said. But what really caught my attention was the latter part of the passage where Paul talks about all these other impressive things eventually passing away—the knowledge and wisdom of the day (uh parenting books for instance 😉 )—these things are only limited, partial knowledge that will eventually fade in light of the full knowledge of eternity. They’re helpful, but they’re not necessarily the most important thing.

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What will last though, is love—the greatest of all these things. Greater than knowledge, greater than ability, love will be the lasting legacy.

I want to be careful not to rip the passage out of context and away from Paul’s intended purpose but I thought what he said about thinking like a child was so helpful too because I forget sometimes that my three-year old is just that, three years old—like he’s been alive for only three years and sometimes I expect so much of him. Perfect, immediate obedience. A level of calm and self-control that probably no three-year old boy has ever had. Understanding of big concepts and words that are still quite new to him—respect, responsibility, consequences.

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Yes, these are things he needs to know and learn but he’s a child—he speaks, thinks, reasons, and acts like a child because he is one. Eventually, like Paul, he’ll become a man and give up childish ways. But until then, what he needs is love coupled with truth and correction

So what does this look like? It’s patience with a little boy’s energy and learning curb, it’s kindness and gentleness when I’m prone to lose my temper and ere on severity. It’s words that build up and instruct when I’m tempted to be sarcastic and rude. It’s being steady and self-controlled when I’m prone to react in the moment and let my emotion and frustration rule. It’s bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring whatever life may bring to our home and family because if we do—love never fails. Love wins. Love brings the child in his childish ways into the man who puts childish ways behind him. All the rules and frustration in the world can’t produce that and all the other knowledge I might gain along the way is partial and fleeting in light of love and the eternal imprint love leaves on a heart, home, and family.

The greatest of these is love. I see it in the families and people I look up to and I see it laid out so clearly in Scripture—love—above all method and knowledge, let our homes be built on love for this is the one thing that will not fail in the hearts of our children and families.

Baby Girl’s Wildflower Nursery

1495046273730I’ve been horrible about sharing photos of our house remodel– mostly because there are still things throughout the house I would like to finish before sharing pictures. But we did finally 100% finish a room with baby girl on the way so I thought I’d share some photos of her sweet little wildflower nursery ❤

IMG_20170513_071931_233IMG_20170513_071903_940Prepping the room with fresh paint and clean carpet (this was Roman’s room before so it needed some love after him 😉 ).

IMG_20170513_071508_774Eight months pregnant and painting 🙂 I’ve felt very relaxed about this baby until recently but something about realizing she’ll be here in less than two months has me hustling and acting like a crazy person trying to get everything ready.

IMG_20170521_170933_614IMG_20170521_164557_037IMG_20170521_165211_326IMG_20170522_070619_198This has always been my favorite room in the house with all its natural light and views of the field across the way. It was the perfect spot to rock Roman asleep and now I look forward to sitting in that same sunny corner rocking my baby girl and introducing her to this lovely wildflower world.

IMG_20170521_164310_118IMG_20170521_170739_277Her first toy– Roman’s was a little white cat from the same company ❤20170519_073532A closet full of tiny, girly clothes ❤IMG_20170521_164911_130IMG_20170522_070835_055IMG_20170521_165034_047I pinned some of the art back when I was expecting Roman but before I knew if I was having a boy or a girl. It was fun going back and getting some of the stuff I’ve loved for years but had to wait for my baby girl to need ❤

It’s Good to Be Home

Life has been a little cray around here lately—and by lately, I mean for months. I spent most of last fall and this winter either not feeling good or trying to catch naps whenever possible thanks to pregnancy. I’m excited to be expecting again so it’s fine and definitely worth it but it also feels like a chunk of my life is missing from those hazy months.

IMG_20170509_103347_440Spring rolled around and we got busy with travel, lots of company coming to visit, and all kinds of miscellaneous crazy. It’s been a fun couple of months packed full of people and places I love—but oh my word, I’m ready for some down time with my boys.

Sunday, my parents packed up and headed home after a two-week visit. We had a great time with them (and everyone else who’s come to visit over the last couple of months). But when Monday rolled around and I sat alone in my quiet house (as quiet and alone as things ever are with a two-year old running around 😉 ), I have to admit, it felt nice to watch the dust settle on my life for a bit. IMG_20170508_204442_403I sat down with my day planner to figure out what’s next and it was really nice to see that nothing major is on the agenda for the next few weeks. I even cancelled a couple things I had planned on doing just to free up the weekends and spend a little extra time enjoying my boys before the next wave of activity hits. IMG_20170509_094322_351These next three (hopefully) quiet weeks feel sacred and I’m doing my best not to add anything unnecessary to our days.

This week its felt nice just to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, cook a meal in my kitchen, and sit around the table with my little family. Sometimes I get tired of the routine that comes with being a wife and stay-at-home momma—the endless cycle of laundry, dishes, meals, errands, and diapers. IMG_20170508_204110_747He’s a cute little imp but trust me when I tell you, he’s a holy terror to grocery shop with 😀

But the exhaustion and busyness of the last few months have shown me how valuable and peaceful these little routines can be. When we’re frantically moving from one thing to the next, just trying to keep our heads above water, it’s easier to recognize and crave the value of quiet days at home with the people who matter most.

IMG_20170508_204252_318So for the next few weeks, I’m savoring the quiet and the routine. I’m enjoying the time with my boys and preparing for my baby girl. Life will change tremendously in a couple months when our daughter is born. So until then, I’m holding onto and enjoying life as it is—and not allowing guilt or the American obsession with busyness to distract and pull at me.

Our days are numbered and short. Our people are precious. These are the things I’m keeping in mind and wrapping my heart around today ❤

November.

Autumn dazzles and keeps us ever looking up, up, up at orange and red and golden leaves set aflame against New England’s cobalt skies. We rode our bikes into town the other day and soaked up the magic of crunching leaves and the whole world smelling like a big cup of hot tea.

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My son, two years old, stood in wonder beneath maple trees and watched as still and quiet as I’ve ever seen him as the leaves came raining down in a sharp breeze.

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This is the time of year when my wandering heart find its way home after hot summer days spent away camping and traveling and chasing the sun while she’s ours.

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Today I sit with my second cup of hot coffee and enjoy the smell of the house filled with dinner simmering on the stovetop. Tonight we’ll light a fire and gather around for a few quiet moments as a family before we slip to bed and start again tomorrow.

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I used to dread this time of year because it means a long, cold winter is soon upon us. But this time around I’m actually grateful for the cold giving me a reason to spend some slower, quieter days at home with my people.

Summer will come again and we will go outside and travel and play and chase all those glorious golden rays. But for now, for today, I’m happy right here with my hot cup of coffee and the smell of dinner on the stovetop.

Happy November 🙂

Talk About the Weather

I open the front door at 6:30 AM and already it’s hot outside. I tiptoe barefoot across the front porch down into our dusty, brown yard; grass crunches under my feet. This is strange for New England where all summer we’re accustomed to the reprieve of cool mornings and evenings.

I try to avoid talk about the weather; it seems cliché and so remarkably dull to say in winter, “it’s so cold!”—as if we’re astonished that it could be cold in winter. Or in the summer, “it’s soooo hot!” when obviously, of course, it’s supposed to be hot in the summer.

But THE WEATHER is a difficult topic to avoid when the heat or cold wrap around our temperamental bodies in waves of humidity or shocking gusts of artic air. We humans can’t help ourselves, we must talk about it, must say something against this demigod—THE WEATHER.

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I sit outside in the sweltering heat. My lawn chair is positioned carefully in the shade and I do a dance with the sun getting up and pulling my chair back little by little as the sun advances and eats up my shadowy reprieve. I’m trying to remember that I love summer, that summer is ever so brief, that all winter long I stand dutifully at the windows willing winter to die and go away so that summer might come. I’m not going to complain, I say, because I like summer.

But it’s hot, it’s sticky, and unless I’m sitting on the front porch in a lawn chair like a hillbilly, it’s too hot to be outside. My son, barefoot and shirtless, brown as a chestnut, is unmoved by the weather. He would spend every moment outside if his mother would stop complaining about the heat from her hillbilly perch. He fills buckets with water and gathers rocks; he reminds me of a busy little squirrel prepping for winter. He wants me to come play with him, “No”, I say between sips of iced coffee. “Bring mommy the ball.” “Bring mommy the truck.” “Mommy is melting; go away”, I say.

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Let me tell you what this post is supposed to be about: It’s supposed to be about living happily in our present circumstances and not wishing life away for the next best thing—in this case, fall and apple cider. But I’m afraid I may not make it to the moral of the story this time; it’s hot outside and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Something About Nothing

I pull on my coat and mud boots and march out into the rain. My camera hangs around my neck, tucked snuggly beneath my coat like a child I’m trying to keep dry and warm. I want to photograph something, anything, so off we go, my camera and I.

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Sloshing through mud and puddles, I inch up to the branches and brand new leaves waking up timidly in the cool spring weather. “Hold still,” I tell them as they move with the wind and rain. My camera tries to keep up and focus on what I want, ever grumbling about being out in the rain.

We have to catch spring now, I tell the camera, or it will slip away. “Ya right,” the camera grumbles quietly. I ignore and carry on.

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Chasing the Light

Yesterday I woke to the most magical morning light; golden fingers dancing across autumn leaves lit the day with fire. I don’t like peeling out of bed in the morning—the covers are so warm and the world so cold—but I would wake with the dawn any day to catch the world clothed in amber.

Today the morning sky blushed in pink—deeper and richer shades melted into each other until the sky reached a grand finale of gold.

I suppose I didn’t notice the morning sky before we moved here—the trees blocked my view or perhaps the house faced the wrong direction. But here, in this house we’ve worked so hard on for these last two years, I feel like I’m dancing in a painting as the sun comes glistening across the field and, for a moment, every leaf and blade of grass drips in glitter.

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I have thought many times over the last few weeks, that perhaps God knows me quite well and hand-picked this small corner of the earth for me. I feel as if this picture I’m dancing in were painted by him, etched out by his finger and left as a package waiting to be opened with each new day.

I grew up in the wide open prairies and often I have missed the grassy fields and endless spaces. Here, an open field sits directly across from us and I always think as I watch the light dancing through the tall grass that it looks very much like the home my heart knows. A row of maples stands at the back of the field and before their leaves gave way, they stood together in red and orange and gold. Now the leaves are gone but evergreens stand behind the bare maples and oaks and make the view out my window look always a little green—green—such an important thing to my soul.

So I see God in this place—in the grassy field, and colorful maples…in the evergreens and the fog rising from the wetlands like feathery magic lacing through the trees.

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It’s not so bad waking up and facing a new day, a new challenge, or even the same monotony if you can at least start that day with the fresh, brand new morning light.

God is light and I see his fingers painting light all around me, ever reminding me that he is there—he is here—with me always.