All posts by blogabbie

Master Bedroom + Master Bathroom Reveal + a Life Update

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally (f-i-n-a-l-l-y) edited some of those long-promised pics of the house that I took when we were getting it in perfect order to sell. And today, I’m showing you two rooms that I don’t think I’ve ever officially revealed on the blog–the master bedroom and master bathroom. Normally I do lots of detailed shots, but this time, I just went with a few quick wide-angle shots to give you an overall impression because I was literally photographing the entire upstairs in a 30 minute window.

master bedroom

(Are you shocked to discover that our bedroom is colorful just like the rest of my house? Yeah, I didn’t think so).

By the way, in case you’re wondering, although I’m no longer spending 2 hours a day making sure every little house “I” is dotted and “T” is crossed, both the kids and I have been working hard at picking up after ourselves, even in the midst of this super busy season, and–combined with all of the decluttering we did–it’s still pretty easy to keep the house decent with medium-ish effort. It’s giving me hope for the future. Not that I didn’t clean before. I did. Every day. But with extra “stuff” in this room or that, my brain never felt completely relaxed when it came to my house. I could function. I could ignore it. But I couldn’t ever get easy with it.

master bedroom2

(I’m going to be sad not to take that blue beast of a dresser with us. It holds a ton; and that gray tufted chair was an incredible steal from Amazon Warehouse Deals, considering that I got it for $60, and it’s currently selling for $350!)

Which brings me to a question that so many people have asked me: “So, when you say that you sold your house ‘fully furnished,’ what does that mean exactly? Are you literally taking nothing?”

No, not nothing.

I’m taking all of my decor (minus rugs and curtains) because it doesn’t make much sense to leave stuff that is special to me or our family like the pretty books I’ve collected over the years. But I’ve mostly got it paired down to my absolute favorite things–things that make sense in the new house and for which I’ve already mentally picked out a spot. The rest I’ve sold, given to friends, donated, or will get rid of before we move.

master bedroom1

 

(I love curtains. Always have. Because I love fabric. So, you might be surprised to know that there are very, very few rooms in the new house that will be getting curtains, mostly due to non-traditional heights or angles for a lot of the upstairs windows and a desire to keep things as light and open as possible downstairs)

Also, as far as furniture, I’m taking my Anthro clearance dining chairs because 1) only 3 of them are at my current house (the rest are at the new house waiting to be reunited with their sisters) and 2) they are bigger and more substantial/comfortable than any other metal dining chair I’ve managed to find anywhere else. I’m also keeping my (Craigslist) cowhide rug, my (Craigslist) coffee table, a (secondhand, Facebook swap) Anthro dresser, and a cool set of vintage lockers (from a friend) I can’t really hope to replace.

Everything else stays.

In other momentous news, Shaun and I went through a day-by-day timeline tonight for the next month. We close on May 30th (assuming the appraisal goes off without a hitch), and, just tonight, Shaun lobbed the rather preposterous-sounding possibility of moving into the new house as soon as we close by me.

At first, I was like, “Nah ah, honey. Ain’t no way.”  Southern for: “Boy, you MUST be crazy.”

master bathroom1

 

(What does it say that my first thought about this room is: “That’s where I had Honor!”)

But then we literally combed through every task we have remaining one by one and decided that IF we don’t about a) concrete floors or b) exterior paint or c) two finished bathrooms or d) all of the light fixtures being in or e) the stairs being done or…*insert several other totally non-crucial things like–oh–any semblance of grass or outdoor order*…

We could, feasibly–by working really hard from here until May 30th–skip moving into our rental and go straight to the new house.

So, as nutty as it sounds, that’s the plan currently. Lord willing. Because only he knows how this will actually go down. Of course, the nice thing is that, if we totally bomb, or even if we only miss our deadline by a hair, we have the rental house there waiting for us. Even if it is only 1,200 sq. ft., not 1,500 like I originally said (I don’t care, but Shaun was adamant that I understand this so as not to be disappointed if we moved in…because, apparently, his confidence in my ability to judge a house’s square footage with my naked eye is rock solid).

master bathroom

 

(You know your design sensibilities have shifted a bit when you used to worry about the pull on your vanity mirror not matching the rest of your metals, and now, you’re planning on intentionally mixing three different metal finishes in one space). 

So! That’s where we stand. Exciting things like trim and planked ceilings and rad doors and awesome $100 vintage pianos the likes of which I’ve been searching for for 5 years and paint color decisions and other furniture deals are happening right and left, along with all of the regular real life. (I’ll do an update post with photographic proof of the progress soon). And I’m not even sure which way is up sometimes. But it’s good.

The Lord is oh-so-faithfully unfolding this story of ours bit by bit, and–I can’t believe I’m saying this–I don’t even feel overwhelmed, except by his incredible goodness and loving kindness. That’s God, y’all. Because, without him, I would be a stressed mess.

master bathroom2

(There’s a toilet closet to the left there, but I figured I’d spare you that view). 

Oh! And one more little design tidbit. We’ve decided to go with white concrete countertops for the kitchen. I know I’ve talked through practically every single option under the sun here, but Shaun thinks he can do a bang up job (I have utter confidence in that amazing man), and, with the ability to customize our length, we won’t have to lose the foot of island we would have had to with quartz, so–deep breath–that’s the direction we’re headed.

Phew! Y’all would be surprised how many times a week I think: “Man! I need to blog that. So-and-so would love that.” But it just hasn’t happened until now. So, I apologize for the word + info vomit, but I appreciate again y’alls understanding and support.

For those of you praying, please pray for guidance, supernatural energy, peace, productivity, and NO sickness (I’ve had a cold for the past week that has been dragging at me, but I think I’m on the mend). More specifically, please pray that we make our moving deadline. I have utter peace that, whether we do or don’t, everything will be juuuuust fine. But it would be great not to have to move twice.       master bedroom3

 

Because why not end the post with a cute shot of Honor scrunching himself into the bottom of his bassinet as he wakes up from a nap?

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Because he first loved us…

I posted this blog a year ago on the day after Easter, but it came to mind again when I recently received an email from a sweet reader who said she kept coming back to it over and over again and wanted to know more about how to know Jesus. Which thrills my heart like nothing else. Being even a small conduit for the gospel is such a honor, and I absolutely love to hear from readers–both Christian and seekers alike. 

So, I thought I’d post this again, since it is once again the Monday after Easter.

Cool side note: the woman that I mention at the end of the original post is now my real-life friend and came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in September of 2016 after messaging back and forth with me for months. I had the distinct privilege of talking her through a prayer of salvation over the phone. The Lord is not done with her (or any of us) yet, but it is amazing to see the changes for good that he has already made in her life. 

Again, if you have any questions about how to have a relationship with Jesus or just need someone to pray for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

We recently started attending a new church. By recently, I mean back in January. Since January, we’ve only gone half a dozen times or so–one of which was yesterday for Easter Sunday.

The reason for our poor church attendance record is twofold: 1) we’re in an unusually busy season of life right now (I’ll share more about that soon), and Shaun has had to work every single weekend other than his birthday and Easter for the last 3 months and 2) it took me a while to work up the gumption to take six kids to church by myself. (We actually really enjoy “doing church” at home where we can listen to Ravi Zacharias’ sermons and dance to worship music).

When we finally did get our act together, the kids were the most excited about one thing: the prospect of being ferried to the front door on one of the golf carts that patrol the parking lot (it’s not a huge church, but the parking lot extends a ways from the building itself).

Sure enough, by the time we had all tumbled out of Nina the Nissan, there was a cart idling by our van, driven by a beaming older man with a crisp part in his silver hair and dressed in a sweater vest, sharply pleated trousers, and shiny loafers.

The kids clambered on, jabbering and giggling. But I was less enthused. I’m used to drawing stares everywhere we go, but while I don’t think much of it anymore, I don’t tend to choose ways to be more conspicuous. And a woman by herself arriving at the front door on her “chariot” with 6 little kids in tow seemed about as subtle as using a sledgehammer to crack a pecan.

But, like it or not, the next week, our chariot driver was waiting for us again, still smiling, still dressed to the nines, still graciously chatting with my children. He exuded an old-world gentlemanly Southern charm the likes of which I rarely encounter these days.

He told us his name is Chip, and he didn’t ask me where my husband was or if I “know what causes all these here kiddos” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Instead, he just told me in the most serious of tones what a good job I was doing as a mama and how precious he thought my kids were. He assured me that he would be on the lookout for us after church.

Y’all. I (a non-cryer) teared up right then and there on that golf cart and had to hide my face in Evy’s hair as she sat on my lap. That kind of unexpected kindness and respect just undid me for a moment.

True to his word, Chip zoomed up the second we exited the building after church that day and cheerfully carted us to our van.

And just like that, one man’s being Christ to a mama and her six ducklings transformed a daunting experience (taking six kids to church by myself) into one to look forward to.

In fact, the next week, when the golf cart driver wasn’t Chip, we were all a little disappointed. Until, of course, the driver said, “You have six?” I nodded, unsure where this was going, but he just grinned and said, “Me too! You don’t see that too often. Good for you, Mama! You’re doing a great job!”

Even in Christian circles, such positive responses to a large family are rare. And much-appreciated. (People aren’t usually unkind. Just surprised or amused).

easter2016

Then, yesterday, as all eight of us tramped our way to church together from the “you only got here 10 minutes early on Easter Sunday when you should have been here an hour ago” overflow parking, we saw Chip directing traffic. He spotted us too and called out: “Hey! There are my favorite kiddos!”

I smiled and waved and nudged my husband with a whispered, “That’s Chip.” (You better believe he had already heard these stories). But I didn’t think much of Chip’s “favorite kids” claim until we encountered yet another friendly greeter at the door, who introduced himself to us, surveyed our kids, and said, “Now, you must be the family that Chip loves so much!”

My mouth just about dropped open, y’all.

Chip wasn’t just being polite.

I delivered my kids to their Sunday school classes with the goofiest of grins and whispered admonitions to be extra kind to Mr. Chip on our way back to the car.

So, why the sudden need for story time?

Because it’s the Monday after Easter, and quite honestly, I think it’s a little too easy to come off of the “high” of all of that celebration–the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, the 3 day weekend, the candy buzz–and feel a little deflated.

Like, ho hum, it’s just another Monday. Nothing miraculous about this at all.

I can only imagine that’s not how the disciples felt the day after Jesus revealed himself to them.

Or maybe it was at first.

Maybe, when they awoke, their first thought was one of sadness: Jesus is dead. All of our hopes are crushed.

But then a slow, fuzzy realization began to dawn, gradually solidifying into one crystal clear, glorious thought: NO! He’s alive! He rose from the dead! This changes everything.

Or at least, it should. It should transform how we speak to our children and our husbands, how we respond to the person who cuts us off in traffic, how we treat the mama with her kids who rides on our golf cart. How, when, and with whom we share the gospel (good news!) of Jesus’ paying the penalty on the cross for our sins.

Because that’s ultimately what Chip and the other men who showed us kindness are demonstrating with their actions: that the death and resurrection of Jesus are wonderfully meaningful–not just on Easter weekend–but every other day of the year.

The knowledge of the debt we owe and the Savior who paid it should motivate us to surprise others with our joy, our kindness, and our love.

When my brother fell off of his roof, I was so struck by how fleeting life is that I extended a virtual “altar call” on social media to anyone who wanted to learn more about how to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Honestly? I didn’t expect anyone to respond. People usually don’t unless they know you well. I just felt the need to do it anyway.

But someone did. And that lady and I have been writing back and forth for about two weeks now. This woman has endured a lot of abuse and suffering in her life and is very confused about who Jesus is, so I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when, at one point she asked, “Why are you doing this? What makes it worth it to you to keep writing me? I want to make sure I can repay you.”

At first, I kind of panicked because I thought, I don’t want anything from you except for you to find your way out of the despair that has been blackening your life and find hope in Christ. How-with your history–can I possibly make you believe that?

But then, this phrase popped into my head: “We love because he first loved us.”

It’s from 1 John 4, which has a lot to say about godly love and how we show it to others. But these are the words that I quoted to her:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannotlove God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:18-20)

It’s that simple. “While were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And because of that unconditional love, which we celebrate with great joy at Easter, we are–if we have confessed our sins and accepted his salvation–enabled to extend that same love to others.

Every day and everywhere.

So, that is my hope for myself and you too on this, the not-so-special Monday after a special weekend. May we celebrate the joy of Easter year-round by being like Chip, who is, in turn, being like Jesus. Because Jesus first loved us.

And if you don’t know Jesus’ love or have questions about how to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior, please don’t hesitate to email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com. I would love to chat with you.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

The House that God Sold

When Shaun first floated the idea of our building another house from scratch by me–oh–3ish years ago, I was initially very resistant. I thought he was crazy. At that point, we were only 5 years removed from our first building experience, which, while successful and not nearly as stressful as you might imagine for doing it all ourselves, was a LOT of work. Plus, at that point, I had 1-year-old twins, was pregnant with Theo, and was homeschooling 3 other fairly small children, and it all just sounded…hard.

I mean, what was wrong with our current house? Short answer: nothing. And that still holds true. It’s a great house! And we love it! But Shaun just kept his eye open for land, checking out different email alerts as they came through. None in our price range were that tempting, though. Usually, if the land was a good deal, it was located across from a rundown mobile home park or had little privacy or was designated by more than half as a flood plain.

But then, this property in a little community 10 minutes from us popped up one day. The price for the area (which is growing rapidly and shooting up practically daily in price) was fantastic. And, after checking out the land, Shaun was optimistic. So, I went out and had a look. And, from the moment that I drove down the first long stretch of “driveway” and it opened up into a verdant bowl surrounded by layer upon layer of trees that climbed ever higher up a steep hill that curved around the edge of the property like a big green hug, I knew it had potential. Lots of potential. Plus, it was 10 minutes closer to the town to which we drive almost daily.

This is going to sound strange–especially since I can’t completely put my finger on what made these words pop into my mind–but when I first saw the property, I thought: “Jurassic Park.” Something about the bowl-like park feel to the center section, and the intense greenness of everything surrounding it. Thankfully, minus giant carnivorous reptiles.

And so the story of what I have hashtagged on social media #mifmbuildsagain began.
And it’s no short story. Instead, it’s a bit more like a War and Peace length tome. We bought the land 2 years ago in February, and we’ve been plugging away at either prepping it for the new house or actually building it ever since. In some ways, the process has been similar to our first build as Shaun (and often his dad) have done everything from clearing to framing (so. much. framing) to siding to electrical to plumbing, and so much more. And I have held down the fort at home and hunted for deals on everything from ceiling fans to shower heads.

In other ways, it’s felt different. The pace is much slower. The house is bigger. And even though Shaun has worked almost every single weekend (Saturday, at least) since the beginnning, I don’t feel like I never see him like I did the first go-round. Also, I have more specific architectural things in mind that I have time to hunt down (my favorite details of the house so far are several vintage doors and that giant carved post thingy that I blogged about a while back).

We have 3 and 1/2 times as many kids this go-round, and pretty soon, the kids and I will get to take a more active roll in some of the finishing chores (like caulking, puttying, sanding, cleaning, painting, staining, etc.). And the boys (and even Della) have already spent many a Saturday hauling trash, carrying boards, and vacuuming sawdust. It’s been a family effort, for sure. (Although to say that Shaun and his dad have done the lion’s share of the manual labor would be the world’s biggest understatement). I am happy that my older kids will get to look back on this process and remember what it was like to contribute and get their hands dirty.

And then, for the last 6 weeks, the focus has shifted from the new house to our getting our current one ready to sell–as I’ve already mentioned. (Our house was already sold, and we were renting from my parents while building our first house).

Which brings us to now. We have 3 months left before the new house is move-in ready (we hope), but we decided to go ahead and list our current house because interest rates for loans are rising, and the spring (with the end of the school year) is when so many people are looking to move.

We debated whether to engage a realtor or just try to sell it on our own to begin with, but when a friend recommended a realtor who works for an extremely reasonable flat rate fee, it seemed like a no-brainer to let her take care of the showings.

Plus, if we had contact with the buyer before we signed with her, and they didn’t have a buying agent, we wouldn’t have to pay that 3%. Score!

So, I announced it here on the blog and on social media and proceeded to spend a couple of days fielding over 50 messages (I just about wore out the “copy + paste” combo on my keyboard).

One of those messages came through my Facebook page (for the blog), and before I knew it or we had even signed anything with a realtor, Shaun and I were showing Jessica, her husband, Scott, and their 4 cute kids around our house.

That showing went well, but, since they’d had to come after dark, they decided to schedule another one for the following Tuesday during the day. We went ahead and signed with our realtor, and the MLS listing went live on Monday night. But I held off sharing it anywhere in hopes that Jessica’s family would want to buy it. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that I “had a feeling,” but…I had a feeling.

And peace. Always perfect peace. I didn’t know what would happen or how long our house would take to sell, but I didn’t feel anxious about it at all, and I was already so grateful for the Lord’s guarding my heart against unnecessary stress.

For over a year, we’ve been praying that the Lord would bring the perfect family to buy our house. That they would be as blessed by living on our beautiful property as we have been and that they would fully enjoy all of the love and sweat we’ve poured into our home.

On Wednesday, I texted Jessica and asked what they thought of the property, and she said they loved it (well, actually, what she said was that they LOVED it!!!). Scott was just waiting on confirmation from the Lord that this was the direction for their family, since they hadn’t even been actively looking for a new place to live when they saw my Facebook announcement.

Turns out, Jessica hadn’t been a blog-reader (as I had assumed) but had simply seen the post shared or commented on (she couldn’t remember which) by a friend and decided to at least get more information, since they’ve had their eye out for property in the country (at least casually) for a while.

I mentioned in a post last week that, when they came that first night, Jessica and I had kind of danced around the idea of their buying the house fully furnished (after she joked about my needing to come decorate for her if she bought it, and I basically said, “Um, I think I already did”). So, on the following Thursday (this past one), when she texted to ask if they could come over to discuss the furniture situation, I was hopeful. So hopeful. But still not anxious.

We invited them for lunch on Friday, and we had a lovely time eating on the back patio, swapping backgrounds, and watching the kids play with our kittens.

And then, while I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, we got down to business. Ultimately, they decided to buy our house, fully furnished, for a little less than our original asking price. Which we were thrilled with since a) we didn’t have to show the house anymore b) they weren’t bringing a buyer’s agent, so we didn’t automatically lose that 3%, and c) we now don’t have to move practically any furniture.

In other words, our house sold in one week to the first and only people who looked at it for a great price, and the buyers are keeping everything from the rugs to the curtains to the sofas.

To say that I am flabbergasted by God’s lavish goodness is barely a drop in the deluge of gratitude and thanksgiving that has been washing over my heart these past few days. Elation. Joy. Celebration. Wonder. It’s all there.

And then, as if to further emphasize that it was He who was orchestrating this deal, they told us that the only furniture they didn’t need was the girls’ bunk beds, which I had been hoping to keep so that I could give them to my mom (since she keeps our kids so regularly).

Not only that, but they decided to buy our tractor (yep, we have a tractor…but will no longer need it, since the new property has considerably less mowing than our current one) as well.

Not only THAT, but they want to keep 4 of the 6 kittens, which means one (or technically 4) less thing(s) to try to find a home for. (Scott even jokingly included some “official” language about the kittens in his letter to our realtor).

Ultimately, every concern that we had about our house being a hard sell–the location (it’s a little ways out), the amount of land (27 acres), the school district (not so great), and the uniqueness of the house (we love it, but we made it to our specifications, without ever really intending to sell) were overcome by the Lord’s doing precisely what we had asked: bringing the perfect family for whom none of those considerations mattered (their children go to a private school; they wanted to be in the country with lots of acreage; and they think our house’s “quirks” are awesome) and who love our home as much as we do.

As far as the furnishings, I’ve had several people ask me how I could let go of so many things that are special to me. But honestly? Even though almost every piece in our house has a story that usually involves finding an amazing deal on it and then strapping it down in our van amidst a passel of kids, I’m not particularly attached to any of it. The only diehards for me were the pipe shelf Shaun made me for Valentine’s and the chest he made me before we were even married that now sits at the foot of our bed and holds all of our favorite sentimental mementos.

The rest? It’s just stuff. Which I am learning to hold more and more loosely. Especially when it means I don’t have to load it up and move it.

But wait. Didn’t I say that we wouldn’t be done with our house for 3 months? Where are we going to LIVE?!

Turns out, God already had that in hand too (no surprise there). One of our rental houses just came open, so we’ll move into it in about a month and sort of “camp out” there (think: mattresses on the floor and clothes in a suitcase) for 6 weeks or so. It’s only 1,500 square feet, so we’ll be on top of each other a bit, but I’m almost looking forward to the simplicity of it while we focus on finishing the new house. (And, as one of my gym members pointed out, “You’ll never have to wonder where your kids are.” Indeed not).

I know this is long, but I wanted to type all of this out as a testament to the Lord’s incredibly gracious provision in our lives in this whole building (and now selling) process. And so that I can look back and say, “See, what our good God did!” I am wary to declare how “blessed” I am when things go my way because I know that, often, the Lord’s blessing manifests itself through hardships.

But neither do I want to skimp on praising him for his love and incredible attention to detail in our lives. Every good and perfect gift comes from him, and I couldn’t have imagined a better or more perfect gift for this tired mama of many than to not have to show my house a gajillion times. Even if I’d shown it a gajillion and one, he would still be just as good and loving. But I am so grateful that he saw fit to let me off that hook.

Thank you yet again for your love and prayers through this process. I have felt them. And I am grateful for them and you.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

This and That

If we were just sitting down for a chat (how fun would that be??), I would have lots and lots to share with you. Life is careening along at a breakneck pace, and things that I think just happened (like last night) turn out to have taken place 5 days before. No wonder Honor seems like he was just this teensy little thing and now is stretching the toes of all of his 6 months outfits, holding his head up, swiveling it around when he hears a voice he likes, and even starting to giggle a little at his siblings’ shenanigans.

He’s just as wonderful as ever and maybe my most content baby yet to just be. This is the first time the boys have been old enough to “watch” him at the gym, which has actually simplified things considerably, since he’s not allowed in the nursery until 12 weeks, and I started teaching at 3 weeks postpartum (totally not what I would have preferred, but I ran out of subs rather quickly this time). In the past, I would have had to feed him mere seconds before rushing out the door, leaving him home with Shaun who hopefully wouldn’t get an important conference call in the middle of a crying fit (Honor’s, not Shaun’s…although Honor has almost as few of those as Shaun does, so it probably would have been fine ;) ). And then, I would have had to hightail it home as quickly as possible (since it’s a 30 minute commute both ways) to feed him again.

baby elephant

Gimme those thigh rolls!!

But now, Ezra and Simon–who have turned it cute little bookworms–will happily sit for an hour and read at the table right outside the childcare room door with Honor hanging out beside them snoozing or looking around with bright, round  blue eyes (shaded by thee longest, straightest eyelashes…after having a passel of curly eye lashed kids, it’s funny to see him peeking out from underneath his stick straight fringe). Maybe you’ve heard of blanket-trained kids? Well, Honor is car seat trained. And it’s pretty rad. And then, if we need to do an errand, or–like on Tuesdays–I’m teaching two classes, well, he’s right there with me to feed. SO much simpler!

Speaking of babies, we have six new fur babies at our house.

kittens

Having nursed twins while 3 other small children used my body as a jungle gym, I feel a great kinship with that mama cat right now.

They are just getting to the super-cute, playful, fluffy stage, and the kids have convinced themselves that we’re keeping ALL of them (my eyes just crossed a little). You know…one for each of the big ones (because Honor is only old enough to pull their tails by accident).

Funny story: we have a cat house that Shaun made with the boys a while back that matches the exterior colors and trim of our actual house. And Faith (the mama cat) had the good sense to have her kittens IN that house. But the very day that Shaun hauled a trailer of miscellaneous junk to the dump (a few weeks after they were born), she had the very bad sense to move them.

Shaun came back from his trip to the dump carrying a mewing bundle in his t-shirt and informed me that, just as he was about to throw out the last bit of trash, he heard high-pitched meows and noticed that a dark, furry pile in the corner of the trailer appeared to be moving!

Nothing like throwing all of your kids’ kittens in the trash to lose you your Dad of the Year Award double-quick. (And nothing like hauling a bunch of frantic clawing fur balls home in your shirtto elevate you to Super Dad status even quicker…and a well-deserved status it is).

Speaking of kittens (sort of), we’ve already shown the house to one family of 6, the dad of which asked if the kittens came with the house. (The mom was less enthused). And it’s a good thing our older kids weren’t there because both Shaun and I very enthusiastically agreed to throw a pile of kittens in as a closing incentive.

Either way, this family is coming out again today, this time to see the property in daylight (they had to come in the evening the first time), and they are not only interested in the house/property but in possibly buying it furnished! (I can’t even begin to properly express how happy the thought of not having to move furniture and/or sell it off piece-meal makes me).

If you think to pray for the outcome of that situation, I would be grateful. We want the Lord’s will first (and only), but I’m not going to lie that I have definitely been pestering the Lord about whether this might possibly be it. This morning, during family Bible reading, we read Luke 11:9, which says: “Ask, and it will be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” I KNOW that verse is used out of context all the time, but it is addressing the idea of approaching the Lord boldly with our requests, and so that’s what we’re doing. Ultimately, only he knows our future (of course), and I feel perfect peace about all of it, so it’s all good!

In other (bizarre) news, our UPS driver has taken to dropping our packages off next to a particular tree beside the driveway (only about 1/5 of the way down it) rather than bringing them to our front porch.

At first, I thought it was a fluke (had to be, right?), but after our last three packages all materialized in the exact same spot, I’m thinking not. The slightly impish part of me wants to call his boss and suggest that he only pay him 1/5 of his pay and see how he likes that! Ha. Either way, he has me trained to check the bushes for packages these days.

books

 

Those pretty books that I scored on Amazon Warehouse Deals were just languishing beside our driveway for several days before I realized it. Good thing they were wrapped in plastic!

Hmmm…what else? I think I’ve mentioned several times before that my mom (who is my super hero) takes my three oldest kids home with her to sleep over every. single. Thursday night? Shaun and I like to make that our “date night” of the week (which usually means Thai takeout that we eat while watching Fixer Upper on the couch #partyanimals). Last week, instead of the usual, we went down the hill to our neighbor’s house for the very definition of a “roaring fire.” Our neighbors have a peach orchard (he’s a farmer, among other things, by trade), and they have an actual peach pruning bonfire. We roasted hotdogs and s’mores (though not on the big fire…our sticks would have had to be 30 feet long) and then awed all of the little kids with the blaze.

blaze

In still other news, we only have 2 meetings left of our home school co-op this year, and I’m a bit flabbergasted that the school year is almost over. The way this particular co-op works is to focus less on “tuition” (which is nominal) and to focus more on parent participation (your kids can’t attend unless you’re there fulfilling some role or another). To that end, I’ve spent my Mondays for the last 7 months grading grammar workbooks and essays. I actually kind of enjoy it as it gives me 5 kid-free hours a week during which I can exercise that word/sentence loving part of my brain, and my kids can socialize and learn from someone else. But next year, they’ve tapped me to teach high school Spanish, which is taking me back to my teaching roots (since I taught Spanish 2-4 in 2 different public schools and 1 private one before I eventually quit after I had Ezra and Simon).

I’m thinking I may have Ezra take Spanish 1 with me, even though he’ll only be in 6th grade, because he’s very bright, has an incredible memory, and needs to be challenged. I can honestly say that I never really expected to be able to teach my own child in a classroom setting, and I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Oh! And in case you’re wondering, it’s not nearly as hard as I thought it would be to keep a house show-ready, even with 7 kids in it. Yes, it’s taking up way more of my day than it did before, and other things (usually dinner prep) are getting put on the back burner (sometimes, literally). But it’s happening, and I am really enjoying not tripping over toys as much. (Although, to be honest, one of the main reasons that it’s so much easier is that we have gotten rid of almost all of our toys or anything else extra, for that matter). Now, if we can only convince ourselves to “live like we have a house showing in an hour” in the new house, we’ve got it made!

cactus

Theo has been SUCH a helper, replacing cute little cactus decorations with toy cars and wearing his sister’s necklace on his head so we don’t have to put it back where it goes. So thoughtful. 

And speaking of the house, I did manage to get pictures of (almost) the entire thing, so as soon as I get a chance to edit those, I’ll do a post or two.

Aaaaand, now I’m off to do a list of things longer than my arm. Our Tuesdays are always hectic because they start with school/chores, continue to piano lessons + errands + teaching 2 gym classes in town, and end with getting dinner on the table and everybody ready for bed (and then falling onto the couch in exhaustion). It’s a long day for everybody, but I’m always pretty impressed with what troopers the kids are.

Thank you again for all of the kind thoughts and prayers. I appreciate them more than you know.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

On the Market

We did it! By the grace of God, we did it!

house3

I feel like dancing some sort of wild jig in a field of wildflowers. Buuuuuuttt it’s raining, so maybe I should put on my boots and go stomp in a puddle instead. That sounds like just about as much fun (way more fun according to my kids and Peppa Pig).

What did we do?

We finally got every last room in our house and the entire exterior sell-worthy.

We have worked steadily for the last 5 weeks or so, cleaning and scrubbing, purging and decluttering, rearranging and redecorating. I’ve lost count of how many bags I’ve taken to Goodwill (and that’s after doing that 50 bag purge last year!!).

I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself a hoarder in the past (although, I do tend toward, “But what if we need it?” more than, “Toss it.” Or…I did in the past. I think I’m cured, honestly). But the amount of stuff just sitting around in my closets unused would have called me a liar. I have parsed 5 years worth of kids’ clothes, donated at least half of my “extra” decor, and finally (FINALLY!) planted every inch of my flowerbeds in a respectable manner (because I am definitely guilty of only buying wilting clearanced Lowe’s specimens, which is a hopeless endeavor for someone who already struggles with black-thumbitis).

house1

We’re planning to use that pink Cozy Coup as a negotiating tool (as in: we’ll pay you to keep it!}

WHY we (because other people have told me they do this too) wait until we’re ready to sell to finally finish off those last few projects like adding trim around the closet or mulching the tree ring, I don’t know. Well, I do. It’s because this kind of concerted effort takes so much focus away from everything else that if we were to do this stuff all of the time, we’d never have a hot meal on the table or a lick of school done. And, considering how busy we’ve been with the other house and pregnancy/new baby, the time and desire to tackle the stuff that didn’t have to be done right that second just hasn’t been there.

I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am to my friends and family who have helped out. My parents–who have painted and cleaned and watched kids–have been the biggest source of help, but my sister-in-law and other sweet friends have taken hours out of their days to pitch in and tangibly just BE the hands and feet of Jesus to us. Their kindness floors me.

My kids deserve a shout out too. They have worked like beavers.

Of course, now we need to see if we can keep this thing show-worthy for longer than 15 minutes with 9 people using all the things all the time (it’s been a full day, and everything’s still looking good, so I’m hopeful!).

Either way, it’s DONE. Pretty much. I still have some clothes to sell (be on the lookout for a closet pop-up sale…maybe…no promises), and a bit of decor to rearrange, but the realtor came by yesterday and gave us the go ahead to list.

house2

I do believe we’ll just eat on paper plates outside every night on our pretty patio under the twinkle lights, thanks very much.

HUGE sigh of relief. (Because, if she’d given us a list of things to change at this point, I might have thrown in the towel).

Which! Brings me to the point of this post.

IF you happen to be in the market for a large, private family home in the country with lots of acreage, a giant back patio, a workshop, a barn, two ponds, and some of the prettiest views in East Texas, feel free to email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com for details.

house4

One of my favorite views (ignore the wheelbarrow)

We officially list on Friday, but anyone who contacts me before then will be placed on what our realtor calls an “exclusion list,” which means that, if you come without a buyer’s agent, then nobody has to pay that 3% fee, which gives us a nice bit of negotiation wiggle room in our price. If you know of anyone else looking, we’re S. of Tyler, so if that’s their target area, feel free to send them our way!

Also, stay tuned for pictures of the house. We’re supposed to get some sunshine tomorrow, and I will be snapping away!

Thank y’all again for being patient with me during this extra busy time. And thank you for the prayers you’ve already promised. I appreciate them more than I can express.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Raisins and countertops

Hi, friends.

I write those two words with almost the same level of trepidation that I would if I were texting a friend whose birthday I’d missed (something I did last week, actually). Everything is such a blur at the moment. But I still feel like I “should” be blogging…should be updating and encouraging and sharing with you.

In the past, I don’t think I couldhave gone a week without blogging without a significant level of guilt because I’m a dutiful sort, and I feel “bad” if I don’t do what I say I will…even if no one else is requiring it of me.

HOWEVER, I know that you all are busy too–that you understand that some seasons in life are more hectic than others and that you would agree with me when I say that my priorities are better now than in the past when I might have forgone something more important than blogging just for the sake of fulfilling some sort of misplaced duty.

Even so, I miss you guys. I miss writing. And I’m sorry that I’m not doing a better job of balancing all of the things at the moment.

To make up for and distract from my shortcomings, I am posting pictures of Mr. Theodorbs himself in the midst of the Great Raisin Heist of 2017 (aka: what you have to resort to to get a snack around here when Mama is distracted by cleaning/organizing/rearranging all the things that seemed perfectly fine to you to begin with).

raisincollage

This little boy is like no other of my children so far (true of each, but, in some ways, especially true of him). He is mischievous and happiest when either a toy sword or stick is clutched in one plump fist (or both). He is noticeably athletic–leaping, throwing, catching, and running with a coordination that belies his mere 27 months. He’s reached almost every milestone earlier than any of the others. He is SO cheesy and hammy. Definitely the most theatrical of a bunch of rather UNshy and drama-prone children. He still has his sweet, soft, lisping voice–except when he’s hurt/scared/just plain mad as a hornet…in which case he uses the exact same level of volume and ear-scratching rasp to express all of his woes (makes it a wee bit difficult to discern between “bleeding to death” and “he looked at me wrong”).

And, even though he has his “days,” more often than not, he is a welcome source of smiles and chubby-armed hugs in the midst of the crazy that is trying to get a house ready to sell, finish building the other one, homeschool (including attending our homeshool co-op), teach fitness classes, and put something decent on the table for dinner most nights. Oh yeah. And feed a newborn every 2-3 hours.

Speaking of the new house, the loose plan is to shoot for moving in in about 3 months. That is, if this house sells quickly (only the Lord knows). If it takes a while to sell, we’ll just keep plugging away at the new one. Regardless of when we sell this one (unless it’s a year from now), we’ll be moving into an unfinished house because, even with all of the incredible progress Shaun has made, there’s still a lot left to do.

But we have lined up some tradesmen to finally start doing some of the work (he’ll still be working every chance he gets…just in different areas of the house)–especially key as he’s about to start a round of work trips that will significantly decrease his ability to get things done out there.

The plan–Lord willing–once we get our current house on the market (hopefully this week) is to spend as many evenings as possible at the new house as a family–cleaning, caulking, puttying, sanding, and doing anything else that might lessen the load and expense for any workers that come out.

To that end, I really need to figure out some travel-friendly meals to plan ahead for those nights. We have a small fridge there, and Shaun will hook up a stove for us to use, but it won’t be anything like a fully stocked kitchen, and most nights, we’ll be stopping at the new house to work on our way home from my teaching at the gym. So! Any brilliant ideas you have for easy, portable, reheatable, nutritious meals would be greatly appreciated.

In other news, we’re seriously considering going with quartz on the countertops after all. The manufacturer we were planning to use to fabricate our laminate countertops is no longer available, and let’s just say the samples I’ve seen of the laminate edge I want from local guys have left something to be desired.

We’re still not set, but we’re leaning toward Torquay by Cambria, which comes in jumbo slabs, which we’ll need for the length of the island. Even so, we’ll have to shorten the island by a little over a foot, since the longest option is about 132″.

torquay

 

That’s it above, and the color is a pretty white with gray/tan veining that more or less mimics the look of marble.

We’ve gotten three quotes (well 2 wholes and 1 partial) so far. The first was eye-bugging, the second reasonable, and the third hopefully a bit of a steal (we’re waiting on them to come back with what they will charge for the quartz itself; but their install price per sq. foot is almost half of their competitors).

Aaaaand there you go: an update of sorts for the goings-on in these parts.

The good news is that I’ll have to take pictures of our entire house for when we list it, which means you’ll get a more detailed HOUSE TOUR than any I’ve yet shared in–oh–the last six years.

Which means you’ll finally get to take a gander at our master bathroom–something I just know you’ve been hankering to see. Ahem.

Anyhoo. Get excited. If we’re all lucky, I miiiiiight post a room or two sometime later this week.

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

2 Months of Honor

It feels like mere days since I did Honor’s 1 month update. Like…last week, right?

But no. A whole month has passed, and this little boy of ours is getting less little by the minute it seems. Especially considering that I put him a 6 month sleeper the other day, and…it FIT. 6 months. He’s 8 weeks, yo. That’s just wrong.

Everything else is juuuuust right, though. Seriously, he deserves some sort of award for being the chillest baby in the land. Joely, a super sweet freshman girl who used to work in the childcare at our gym, texts me every time she’s home from college and begs to see my kids (see: suuuuper sweet), so Shaun and I snuck in a Tuesday night date while the kids yucked it up with Joely at home. Of course, we had our main little man with us, and he was the model citizen. You might even say it was an Honor to have him with us (grooooooooan. I know. so wrong).

8 weeks1

Such a chill dude.

He was awake (and happy!) for pretty much all four hours of the date, just staring around, cooing, smiling, making bubble goatees, and generally being an all-around sweetheart.

15 years ago, when I knew nothing about babies, I think I foolishly thought that those with lots of kids must surely get jaded by the whole process. Ho. Hum. Another baby. Big whoop.

But it IS a big whoop, as I’ve discovered more and more with each new little amazing human that has joined our clan. I might be getting MORE (not less) obsessed (which is saying something–because I was pretty dang smitten with Della, and she was number 3!).

I think I mentioned that Honor was sleeping great from the beginning but had yet to make the jump from 6 hours to anything longer consistently. Honestly, that was my fault. I hadn’t really hadto employ any of my more “hardcore” sleep-training techniques (letting him fuss before bed or cry a little at night) because he’d pretty much always slept for big chunks, since day 3.

But, one night, a few weeks ago, I put my mean mama mask on and put him in the bathroom when he started to stir after 6 hours and let him spit and mew for a bit (which he only did half-heartedly anyway). And the very next night, he bumped his sleeping stretch up to 8 hours and has been holding steady between 7-9 hours ever since.

Edit: I first wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t manage to get the pictures loaded (because that is the story of my life right now), and he slept a whopping 10 hours both of the last two nights!!

8 weeks

I slept 10 hours last night, and I feel grrrrrrEAT! (Also: baby feet). 

Which…is awfully considerate of him, since Theo has decided it’s time to try a little 2-year-old sleep regression on for size. Hint: it doesn’t look good on you, buddy. Mama thinks you’re the cutest toddler in the land, but she still has no interest in waking up at 3 AM to your chubby-cheeked self mouth-breathing an inch away from my nose.

As far as regular life, we’ve been pushing hard to get the house ready. It’s kind of a disheartening process. Just when I think we’ve got it in shape, the kids wake up. HA!

For real, though. It’s really, really hard to keep everything decluttered and straight and picked up when 9 people are con.stant.ly using it!

Still, the cabinets have been cleared out, their contents pared down, reorganized, wiped down, etc. The flowerbeds are completely done (and we haven’t killed anything yet!). Shaun has pressured-washed the exterior of the house. More loads of stuff than I even knew we owned have been carted off to Goodwill. (I’m starting to get downright ruthless…if it hasn’t been used in the last 15 minutes, it’s GONE).

And everyone has pitched in in his/her own way. I paid the oldest 3 a dollar each (which Della promptly gave to her grandma for her birthday…love that sweet girl!) to clean and organize my fridge, and it was 3 of the best dollars I’ve ever spent! They also completely overhauled and cleaned the pantry while I worked on closets, and it looks better than it has in years!

8 weeks4

Looking over into the kitchen and seeing moments like these–the older kids are painting the littles’ fingernails–give me such a boost of energy and motivation to keep plugging. 

As far as I’m concerned, I have ONE more space (a doozy) that serves as the game/outgrown clothes/pillow/suitcase/randomness closet, and it’s eating my lunch (mostly because I’m insisting on going through every last piece of 5 year old clothing instead of just shoving it all in bins), and the process of weeding out the stuff with the tiny stains I missed the first time and the stuff that’s just not cute enough to keep and the stuff that might come in handy (but who knows?!) is grueling for me. Well. As grueling as sifting through a surplus of possessions can be (we’re not talking about working in the rice paddies here, people).

Through it all, Honor continues to be a constant source of sunshine and snuggle breaks. MAN! I love this baby. I really couldn’t sugar-coat his existence if I tried because he’s just that sweet already.

8 weeks3

Best smile. Best baby. 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

A friend texted me a thank you the other day for posting this blog (which is several years old by this point) and observed that, if life ever gets too busy to post, I should just repost this one, since it was such a lifesaver and as many people as possible should see it (having been the recipient of this life-changing tip from several readers, I know how grateful I was too). 

The stomach bug has ravaging the entire East Texas area, and–while my children have emerged largely unscathed (so far) (the twins + Theo are the only ones who’ve had a short-lived bout with it after a stint in the Chick-fil-a play area #ofcourse)–you better believe that my pantry is stocked with both of these items at all times (and that they were a large part of the reason our only stomach bug this season passed so quickly). 

So! Here you go. A repost of what is currently my most popular blog post according to my analytics page (must not just be East Texas getting hit). 

If the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

That time I didn’t go to Hawaii…

 

A few months before I started blogging, Shaun and I took a trip to Hawaii with Della (who was only two months old at the time).

kauai

{An evening excursion to the beach the first night we were there}

It was a fun trip, but I discovered while I was there that I don’t love Hawaii (because, apparently, if you don’t absolutely fall in love with Kauai, then Hawaii is not in your soul because it doesn’t get better than Kauai). Don’t get me wrong. Kauai is gorgeous. It just didn’t inspire the raptures in me that it does in some.

So, when Shaun found out that he would be going to Honolulu on a work trip, my initial thought was that I would try to go, but I wasn’t as excited as you might expect. Mostly because–having traveled once before to Hawaii with a newborn–I knew the limitations/challenges. Della did AH-MAZING everywhere we went…even on the 6 hour flights there and back. She hardly made a peep. And Honor is an equally chill baby, so he probably would have done well too. But still…he is a newborn. Who blows out his diaper, needs to eat often, and gets cranky if we can’t find him a quiet place to sleep.

Plus! The timing was terrible. We’re smack dab in the middle of getting our house ready to sell, and, as my friend Kristy says: “There’s nothing like moving to make you feel like hoarder.” (AKA: what IS all this stuff, and what idiot bought it?? Oh. Yeah. Me).

All that to say that I chose not to go. Instead I stayed home with 7 kids and did yard work. I know. What a doofus, right? But all I could think about was how busy Shaun usually is on his work trips and how I’m not a big beach girl and how I’d rather sell our house quickly than frolic by the pool. (Hmm…maybe not that last one).

Turns out, this was one of Shaun’s least busy trips. He got to surf and hike. He has told me more than once that I “should have come” (although, he was fine/in agreement with my decision to stay).

So, 7% of me (the whiny 7%) is all, “Booo! Poor me! Should have gone!” But the other 93% knows I did the right thing. The kids and I got SO much done (with help from my sweet parents, sister-in-law, and some awesome friends), and I know I would have been stressed by all that was still left to get done when I got back from Hawaii.

Plus, a super bizarre thing happened to my dad, which, although not his fault at all, still required a lot of running around and trouble for my mom. And that stress would have been magnified greatly by having six kids under her care. For that reason alone, I’m grateful that I didn’t go and grateful that the Lord is sovereign even down to the smallest detail.

Also, grateful that our flower beds are DONE! I’ve admitted here several times before that exteriors are not my forte. So, having that particular monkey off my back is a huge relief. We have friends whose family business is a plant farm, so last Friday, I dragged the four littlest out of bed before it was fully light and drove out to their plant farm, where our friend, Rob, proceeded to race me around helping me (code for: practically choosing for me, thank goodness) choose flowers. Then, I hustled home, unloaded the van, jumped back in and drove to town to teach my morning class. After which, I booked it home to start planting, stopping for mulch on the way. My mom and older kids were already there hacking away at my neglected flower beds.

flower beds

 

{Theo is napping and Honor is in the swing on the porch in this picture, in case you’re wondering}

I know that I talk a lot about how #hardisnotthesamethingasbad and, honestly, I think that one of the hardest and best things in mothering is child-training. Especially training your children to do the right thing–i.e. obey, go to bed, pick up after themselves, speak respectfully, work. 

Sure, potty-training is rough, but it’s less of a heart issue than so many other aspects, and training your child to be diligent or full of integrity or kind is where the true mama rubber meets the life road.

Surely, that’s why the Bible specifically commands us to: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

God knew we needed this promise. Because it’s just so much easier to do the chore yourself or ignore the eye roll or let the toddler sleep with you every night, amiright? Except that it’s really not. It’s easier at the time. But ultimately, laziness, whining,  bad attitudes, and no sleep are a hardship on everyone involved (including the whiners) and makes the inconvenience of the initial training pale in comparison. 

Not to mention that kids can be genuinely helpful. All of my kids (except Honor and–99% of the time–Theo) have been required to pitch in as we’ve organized closets, weeded, planted, swept, scrubbed trim, hauled out trash, and just generally given our house a much-needed shine-up.

honor

{This was Honor’s reaction when I told him we needed his help with the flowerbeds. #sideeye}

And, yes, there has been some fussing and complaining. But there’s been a lot more cooperation and hard work. I hadn’t told Shaun what we planned to do while he was gone (although, he knew that I would generally be working around the house to get things in shape), and the kids loved the concept of wowing Daddy with a surprise yard makeover.

Simon–who started out finding things to kvetch about–ended up being upset that he had to have any help raking and clearing our entire (very large) front yard. He wanted to be able to present Shaun with a leaf-free lawn courtesy of Simon alone. He ended up needing a little help to finish, but that idea of ownership was a huge motivation for him.

I don’t always encourage my children the way that I should, but I do try to take every opportunity to tell them how important they are to our family. Their worth is inherent, of course. But I also tell them almost daily how their help keeps a particular aspect of our household running smoothly. And they love it. They grin from ear-to-ear every time I praise their efforts.

I don’t mean to broadly generalize, but it does seem that our society has something very backward when it comes to kids and young people in general. They are handed more knowledge (much of it completely inappropriate) than they know what to do with or have the maturity to process correctly. But they are given very little responsibility or true opportunities to grow in maturity through manageable, age-appropriate tasks and goals.

What if, instead, we protected our children’s innocence while respecting their potential to contribute?

What if we trained their hearts while shielding their minds from junk and praising their authentic efforts to help?

Again, I’m far from perfect in this pursuit. But it is my goal. I want my children to honor God first with their attitudes and then be a blessing to others with the actions that follow (because just “doing the right thing” without the right heart attitude is only half the battle). And not just because it glorifies God or benefits man but also because it produces character and joy for them.

chaos

{If you’re like me, then sometimes, when bloggers claim that their house is a “hot mess,” but all you ever see are perfectly styled pictures, you think: “Yeah right. Not MY version of a hot mess, it’s not!” Well…see Exhibit A of Hot Mess Central. It definitely gets worse before it gets better. This is what happens when you empty every single kitchen drawer of its contents so that you can clean all the things}

Because I only want good for my children, but, just as hard is not the same thing as bad, easy is very often not the same thing as good.

And seeing how my children glowed when their daddy got home and gushed with pride and appreciation for how hard they’d worked only underscored just how rewarding the results of training can be.

ANYhoo, I hadn’t started this post intending to preach at you, but I hope that–if you’re in the trenches of child-training (I still am, for sure)–you’ll feel encouraged to hang in there.

My children have spent the vast majority of their spring break weeding, mulching, cleaning, and planting. And–as Ezra cheerfully proclaimed after a full day’s work–”Getting stuff done is FUN!” (Not always how he feels about it, but the fact that it’s EVER how he feels is enough to motivate me to stay the course).

flower beds1

So. Much. Progress. Want to come buy our house? ;)

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

New Kitchen Updates + an Island Quandary

I was going to call this post “An Island Dilemma,” but the English major part of me knows full well that a dilemma is a decision between two bad choices, and I honestly think that all of the choices I’m about to present for your consideration are (potentially) good ones. Hence the “quandary.” (Which, to be strictly accurate, still refers to a “difficult situation,” which…this isn’t. But enough with the semantics).

So, in case you need a refresher (or never saw it), here is the inspiration board I put together for the kitchen in the new house (for someone who names everything, I really should have a name for “the new house” by now…feel free to throw some suggestions my way).

kitchen design

It’s kind of fun to look at this and see which elements have stayed the same and which have evolved. The sink is different (although still a farmhouse silhouette). The lights are different (went with these during a Black Friday sale, and they finally came last week and are lovely). The faucet is the same style but wall-mounted and in chrome. And for the hardware, I’m pretty sure I’m going with these:

knobs

FreestonePull

 

(Except they would both be the satin brass color of the knob from above).

They’re a super-reasonable price for real brass (holds up better; doesn’t discolor as easily as the zinc alloy versions), and they actually carry them locally, which is awesome because I’ve discovered that I’m pretty picky about the shades of brass that I do and don’t like (anything too green or yellow is a no-go), and these are a gorgeous soft gold in person.

Oh, and I must have had that rug embedded in my subconscious because I had completely forgotten that I’d included it on the board, and I still ended up buying this nuLOOM arrowhead design in a runner (on suuuuper sale) during Black Friday.

rug

Shaun saw this and looked confused, since I’m usually a floral girl. Not sure why I’m digging the tribal arrows so much, but…I am. So there.

The subway tile is still in the plan, as are the open shelves and wood range hood. The range actually ended up being rangeS, since I found an awesome deal on not one but TWO 30″ pro-style GE ranges with dual fuel (we wanted a gas stove and an electric oven).

Oh, and the color I’m leaning towards for the lowers is actually called Weekend from the Magnolia Home paint line. But I’ll probably just have it color matched because their paints are pretty pricey.

weekendOh! And not mentioned or shown above…but we’re 99% sure we’re going with laminate countertops in Wilonsart White Carrara with a velvet finish.

Oooookay.

Now that you’re all up to date on the minutiae of my kitchen choices, let’s get back to the quandary (dilemma…decision I have to make…whatever).

And that would be: what color to paint/stain/make the island.

Which, by the way, has turned out even prettier than I’d hoped.

island1It’s just under 12 feet long, so it’s a bit of a beast. But, as excited as I am to put her to work, what makes me a little swoony are all of the fun decorative details like those corbels, the curvy legs, and the carved panels on the ends–all of which I chose/designed not feeling entirely sure that they would turn out well together. Happily, they did! At least, I like them. So, that’s good. (And the base trim isn’t even on yet!)

Here’s a shot back towards the sink/windows.

island2And another from the other side.

island(Those drawers are removed because they forgot to include a spot for an outlet, so that’s getting fixed).

So, now that you’ve seen pretty much every angle of my kitchen island, what do you think?

Should I stain her? (That’s been the plan all along). If so, what color? (My stools and floors are both a medium oak tone, and I don’t want anything tooooo matchy-matchy).

Another good option would be white-washing, which would allow some of the wood grain to show through without committing to an actual color.

I’m disinclined to paint her, although, if I did, it would be white, since we will have white uppers, and there’s enough going on with the teal lower cabinets that I don’t need a competing color on the island.

Whatever I do to the island I’m probably going to replicate on the range hood to keep the tones in the kitchen consistent. So, this decision is a bit of a double-whammy.

Oh! And if it will help you to make an informed decision, if you scroll up and look at the side view of the island, you’ll see the stained hutch in the background, which will be against the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. The color it’s stained is a little more orange than I’m willing to go with the island, but I like the medium range it represents.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Specific stain names I should test out?

You know I love a good reader poll, so hit me with it!

 

 

 

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):