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.

 

Anticipation.

I woke to the sound of rain beating steadily against the house. I stand at the window, cup of coffee in my hands, and watch droplets of rain collecting on the glass. Across the field, the trees are just beginning to noticeably blush in crimson against a backdrop of evergreens and gray.

Spring is really almost here. No, really. Almost.

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I realize it’s been spring for months in many parts of the country. But New England is stubborn and trots a season behind all spring before accelerating into fall a month ahead at the end of summer.

Summer is short so we squeeze all the fire and magic out of it while we can (and cry into our pillows once it’s gone).

I’ve filed multiple complaints against said weather but it seems this is not a democracy after all. And besides, I’ll practically be weeping over how beautiful the summers and falls are in no time so just ignore me and my whining until then (everyone here does).

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I catch myself standing at the windows—looking out, waiting—a lot this time of year. It’s as if I’m willing the crocus and daffodils to be brave and poke their heads above the cold, hard ground. Daring the trees to put on buds and open up in the morning light.

We’re achingly close to opening windows and doors and going outside in the warm weather once again—It’s palpable; I can almost taste it. And yet—we wait. We’re not there yet nor can we be. Nature will not be hurried.

I’m doubly reminded of this fact as I feel my daughter kick and nudge against my womb. She’ll be born in the summer, due just two days after my son was, and so the idea of warm weather makes me realize just how close her arrival is getting.

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Close and yet so far away. I want to hold her now. I want to kiss her and find out if she has any hair. I want to show her the wildflower nursery I’ve been getting ready and dress her in the teeny, tiny baby girl clothes I waited so long to buy. But she will come when it’s time and not a second before—like the spring flowers and rosy buds on the trees, I cannot hurry along what belongs to God and nature.

So today I stand at the glass and anticipate all that’s about to come—the warmth and sunshine, the baby girl in my arms, days spent outside instead of in. And while I wait, I’m reminded to be patient and to leave to God what is his. His timing is perfect and I’m perfected in the waiting. That’s all I need to know today.

Life is Funny

I walk along the coast, son at my side gathering rocks, shells, and feathers into a bucket. We weave in and out of the shallow waves, toes sinking in the sand. He stays close by my side, enjoying the water but not quite trusting it either.

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20150817_173054.jpegThis is how he will remember childhood–summer days at the lake or beside the ocean. The salty, tangy smell of water will remind and take him back to the sand and waves where he adventured from the time he could first walk.

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img_20160821_221843.jpgHow strange it seems that what will someday call my son to remember and reminisce remains a novelty to me. My childhood was red barns and cornfields, gravel roads and barn kittens. Though I love New England, My heart belongs to the Midwest prairie–and yet that is a place my son will barely know.

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img_20150830_100621.jpgThe Midwest will be a place he goes every once and a while to visit grandparents and family. He will hear me talk about it and perhaps he will always say “ya” like his Midwest momma–but it will probably never be a place he really knows or loves.

Life is a funny thing–the way it twists and turns and you never quite know for sure where you’ll end up. Every time I ride the train into Boston or watch the sun set over the water, I wonder how I got here. When we ride our bikes into the heart of our quaint New England town–past maple trees and shimmering lake, colonial homes and old, old, old cemeteries–I am struck by the foreign strangeness of it all.

DSC_0251And yet this place is becoming familiar too. After nearly nine years, Massachusetts is as much home to me as Missouri ever was. I’ve come to love the cities and beaches, the summers spent camping in Vermont or eating at all our favorite burger stands. I anticipate the gorgeous falls wading through colorful leaves, sipping apple cider, and chasing the sun through the last days of warmth before we descend into these unforgivable winters.

DSC_0530DSC_0527This is where my son was born, where I brought him home brand new and where I’ve learned to be his mother. This is where I’ve grown in love for my husband over the years–where we’ve gotten to know each other and learned to live life side by side through all the good and bad. This is where I’ve grown as a woman–from the girl I was when I moved here at 22, fresh out of college and newlywed.

This place has changed me, grown me, become a part of me. New England lives in my heart now. And though I’m still surprised every single summer to find myself standing beside the ocean, how thankful I am for all the unpredictable places life takes us and for the beautiful adventure this life in New England is.

 

Because Love

I’m sitting at my desk enjoying the sunshine after several days of snow and seemingly endless winter gray. My view out the window–icicles and snow mounded up in heaps on the roof.

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I live here because of Darren–that’s the truth. I love sunshine, and bare feet, and warm weather. I know you’re not supposed to hate stuff but you guys, I hate winter. So why do I live in a place that’s winter for six months out of the year? Because of a boy.

Darren is a New Englander inside and out and I’m pretty sure the one thing I will never persuade him to do is move away from the motherland. He’s fairly certain he’s already living in a foreign country having left the walls of Maine–so you see what I’m working with.

So if Darren’s in New England, I’m in New England. I love him and he’s worth it even for the cold–which is saying something significant and profound, trust me.

So you heard the Pats won the super bowl, right? Right. Darren wanted you to know. So let me you tell you this fine Valentines week just exactly what true love looks like, okay?

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This is at the Pats victory parade in Boston. It was sleeting and snowing AND raining because, hello, New England, remember? That is me with my eye makeup washing off in said weather. And you can see in the background how totally delighted Roman was to be there. Darren is smiling. Of course he’s smiling.

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When you need an umbrella because it’s raining but you also have to keep shaking the snow off your umbrella so it won’t collapse…just no. Also, I’m pregnant so I have rights, people 😉

After my legs were numb and I had sung my baby asleep under an umbrella in a backpack carrier surrounded by a mob of loud, intoxicated Pats fans–Darren says, “Wow, we were 15 feet from Tom Brady’s face–that was so worth it!” And herein is love–I did not punch him in the face, ya’ll, not even once.

I walked back to the train in the apocalypse of New England weather and rode the train…stop…this is the train —->

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Sooooo….many….drunk…Pats fans….in one place 8]

And I walked back to my car because the parking lot at the train station was overflowing and I didn’t get a divorce…I didn’t even start the proceedings. Happy Valentines day, you guys, this is what true love looks like in New England ❀ ❀ ❀

Frosty Enchantment

God says we are made in his image—we humans somehow carry with us the likeness of the God who made us, in part, like himself. But it is in nature I best see the breaths and fingerprints of my God. That’s not to say I don’t see God’s handiwork in people—it’s just that people are always in motion, and for me at least, more difficult to study and learn from. But nature moves at a steady pace and watching the stars drip evening light out of the night sky or listening to the magnificent roar of thunder rumbling down around us somehow speaks far more deeply to me about the things of God.

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We are just two steps into November and already frost kisses the brown and gray things with glittering light—robing all that now seems dead in one last moment of beauty and enchantment.

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It’s a rare moment these days when I find time to pull my camera out. But sometimes the light or the shadow out my window pulls too strongly to stay busy inside and I find myself instead kneeling close to the ground, enjoying the weight of the camera in my hands, and trying click after click to capture what it is that brought me outside searching in the first place.

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Today, it was the frost sprinkled like star dust through the grass and leaves and the way the morning light danced in rainbows through the frozen drops of dew. And it’s here, knee-deep in grass, camera chasing the sun through frost, that I see God in my midst. I see him making dead things beautiful and breathing glittering light into things we might think are done and gone and no more needed.

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I see God making me new and somehow beautiful in his sight when I would be dead and useless apart from his light. I see the enchantment of frost sparkling on leaves and in that light, I see his light, shining too in you and me.

He can make you new. He can give you life. He can make all things beautiful in his time. I know, because he’s doing so in me.

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.

Patience.

I’ve watched the rain fall and freeze these last few days. The sky is moody, unable to decide if it’s winter or spring. Fluffy white clouds are pushed along by chubby clouds of slate brimming with rain one minute and sleet the next. The sun breaks through now and again, threatening rebel patches of snow and inviting the timid little birds to sing. The flowers are not so brave and have yet to poke their little heads up through the cold sod.

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This world ebbs and flows in the rhythm of seasons—the hot days of summer are caught on fire by the burning leaves of fall, fall gives way to winter as the last leaves drop and tuck away beneath a wintry blanket of snow. Winter holds on forever and every year I forget spring will ever come again.

And then, just when the last shred of hope is slipping through our cold fingers, the birds come home and the snow gives way to rain and we are reminded once more that nothing in this life truly last forever—however good, however bad—this life is made up of brief, ever-changing seasons of warmth and rain, of heartache and hope.

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Life in New England teaches me patience. Through the long winters and slow advance of spring, I learn to wait. Missouri was not this way. Missouri winters yield to spring in violent cracks of thunder and electric fingers of lightning stretching from heaven to earth. The warm and cold air spin and dance in confusion knowing one must win and the battle will be fought out in violent tornadoes that ravage and forsake every bit of ground they touch.

Missouri springs are not quiet, not safe, and certainly not slow. Spring in the prairies feels as though the very land you love is trying to hurl you off of it, trying to crush and destroy you or eat you up in its loud, rumbling belly of thunder. I’m not being dramatic; I thought more than once that I would die in a Missouri spring and never see another summer.

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Sometimes, in New England, I think I will die in the winter and never see another spring—or perhaps the whole earth has died and there are no more springs to be had—now I am being dramatic.

Through His Eyes

I sort of hate winter. Like, I fall apart and have a really bad attitude about it not unlike a toddler throwing a temper tantrum–it’s bad. So it makes sense that I would live in New England, hating winter and all. Fortunately this post isn’t actually a downer about things I hate, it’s a shameless excuse to share cute pictures of my baby. And to say that even though I still hate winter, this one has actually been kind of fun because I get to watch it through eyes that have never seen snow before. I mean look at his face…I really can’t hate something that leaves him filled with so much wonder.

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And then there’s this one which has nothing to do with winter, but isn’t he cute? I love him so much. That’s all. Carry on.

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The Wild Blue Sea

Baby Boy, you saw the ocean for the first time this week, heard the music of the tide pulling on and off the shore. You felt the briny air on your soft baby skin and watched the evening sun melt into the waves. I hope Darling, that your heart and soul and mind are as deep and wide and wild as the deep blue sea.

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“All good things are wild and free.” –Henry David Thoreau