Wednesday, May 25, 2016

School's Out For Summer!

We did it.  We stinkin' did it!  We made it to the finish line of this school year.  We may be bruised and battered but we crossed that line!

Here's my crew of kiddos on the last day of school:


Garrit and Abby are part of my family.  On the drive to school yesterday, the kids tried out different smash-ups of our two last names.  It's a good thing we live near each other so we can get together this summer!

The kids had a half day for the last day of school, and I spent that time at the grade school helping with all the games and activities for the kids.

The girls at snack time
Me and the Girls

Me and Griffin right after tug-of-war

I'm so thankful for every minute I've been able to spend with my younger kiddos.  I've spent so much time with Nolan these last six months, so I treasure every moment with Griffin and Nora.  What a privilege to be able to spend their last day of school with them!

Jessica

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Finishing the Garage

As we continue in my mission to fix things in and around our home, I would like to show you the progress we've made in finishing our garage.

I'm sure it seems odd to many people that I would choose to put money and time into updating the garage rather than rooms in our house.  Over these last few months when we were constantly going to appointments, not to mention the daily drop offs to two schools and pick ups from two schools, I felt like I saw the garage more often than any other room in my house.

Our garage had drywall but the seams had barely been taped and not really mudded.  Jared and I finished drywall once in our old house.  It was hideous.  So for this job we finally broke down and paid someone else to do the work so it would be done correctly.  We hired a friend from church who is very particular about his work.  The best part was that he is very trustworthy so I didn't have to feel creeped out about having a stranger working in my home everyday.

Here is what our garage looked like before:




This is what the garage has looked like since we moved in.  The previous owner (who built the house) had put up the shelving and made the brackets up high for additional storage.  It's all good in theory, but I definitely didn't feel like we were maximizing the space.

We cleared out as much stuff as we could.  Some things were relocated and some things, unfortunately, just had to stay in the garage because it rained nearly every day of the garage project.  Plus we didn't really want tools and other valuable items sitting outside.




Then be brought in our friend William and had him do his thing.  He had to remove a lot of the old tape that was cracking and peeling.  He filled many many holes and covered old screws.  He even secured a lot of the sheetrock that he didn't think was properly installed.  He also brought in leftover drywall from home to fill in above our electrical breaker box.

I could already tell a huge difference just when he was finished with applying the joint compound.




I got annoyingly excited when William started priming!


There was a lot of life happening during the week that William was working on our garage.  I was so busy that I forgot to take a picture of the walls all primed.  But I can tell you that it was amazing to see them look like actual walls.

I was gone all day Friday while William painted the walls and ceiling.  Then we were busy helping my mom move.  Then we had Nolan's birthday party with his friends.  So last night was my first chance to really look at the finished garage.  And I happened to notice that it's the wrong color.

I won't name any names.  Let's just say that Spouse A asked Spouse B to get a 5 gallon bucket of the gray paint from our bedroom.  Spouse B found a leftover paint can in the basement that was a shade of gray and had our local hardware store do a color match and make 5 gallons.  Said paint was handed off to William who applied the paint in the absence of Spouse A.  And then Spouse A saw that Spouse B had actually color matched the paint color from our living room.  And spouse A hates that color.

Oh well.  This is what we like to call a First World Problem.

So our garage is finished and is a shade of blue instead of gray.  But it's finished.  Jared and I spent the evening cleaning up all the dust.  We moved a few things back to their intended spots and the rest we just put on Jared's side of the garage so I can park in my spot for now.  I still want to take some time to figure out the best way to organize our stuff rather than just putting the old shelves in their old places.





 
Now as I take the kids to school and go about the busyness of May, I can get a little jolt of happiness every time I see these nice smooth finished (albeit blue) walls.  Someday we will have great shelves and pegboard and cool hooks and a painted door, and all these things will make me happy as well.

Jessica

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fix It

Ever since we returned home from Mayo, I have been a mad woman on a mission to take care of all the things around the house that bug me or that need attention.  I have never been good about finishing things, so this sudden burst of motivation is odd to me.  I'm pretty sure something in me snapped and decided that if I can't fix Nolan then I will fix my surroundings.

So I set to work finishing all sorts of projects we had previously started.  We redecorated the kids' bathroom, and I'll share that in its own post.  Sometime.

We had painted our bedroom and put up pictures and curtains.  The last major piece was choosing a bedspread, which has taken me more than a year of browsing for the perfect one.  So I finally just bought one.  I originally wanted a frosty mint green, and this one is more blue, but I still love it!



I'd still love some decorative pillows and taller lamps, but I'm calling this one done for now.

We donated our dishes to a local charity and bought plain white Corelle dishes.  They are thinner and take up less room in our cabinets.  They also came in multiple sizes of plates and bowls, which has been a huge plus.  I threw out the kids old plastic "kid" plates and bought the divided Corelle plates for them.


You can see that I bought two shelf thingies to help organize the plates.  I also rearranged all of our cabinets so like items are together and everything makes a little more sense.  I moved the coffee pot to the counter under the cabinet with mugs.  I decluttered our plastic leftover containers to just what we use most.

Some of our drawers were already fairly well organized, but three of them were in desperate need of attention.  I didn't take "before" pictures because, as previously stated, I was a madwoman on a mission.




We had cute gray placemats that were a basketweave pattern.  It was hard to wipe them completely clean because inevitable spills would get between the woven strips.  So I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased some laminated fabric.  I cut it into rectangles to make my own placemats.



They would have been slightly nicer if I had used my rotary cutter and ruler rather than scissors, but again I plead the insanity defense.

My spice cabinet has been driving me bonkers for years.  I pulled everything out of the cabinet and got to work.  I ordered clear spice jars from Amazon, and I transferred my spices into the matching jars.  I used the labels that came with the jars, and I used my new label maker for the rest of the spices.




I still need to figure out how to organize the new spice jars in my cabinet, but don't you think they're better already?  I can guarantee you there will be some alphabetizing involved. :)

I had to run to Hobby Lobby this weekend and I just happened to pick up this cute little sign.  I hung it above the hooks where the kids hang their back packs and jackets.


My final project to share with you today is one I completed this past weekend.  We recently inherited a piano, which made us quite ecstatic as Griffin has a knack for playing it.  However, the piano bench left a little something to be desired in both the comfort and style categories.


So I removed the top by unscrewing the hinges.


I spent for-ev-er pulling staples out of each individual layer:  the trim, the white fabric, and the yellow upholstery.  My hand turned into a misshapen claw.


I cleaned the piano bench and the naked piece of wood that had been stripped of all old fabrics and trimmings.  Pretty sure I inhaled asbestos.

I had purchased some 3" foam from JoAnn Fabrics as well as some gray upholstery fabric.  I was looking at fun fabrics but ultimately decided to go with something very neutral since this is a semi-permanent piece.  But I did find one with hexagons in the weave!  I heart hexagons!

I put the foam on the wooden bench piece, wrapped the fabric around, and used a heavy duty staple gun to afix the fabric to the board.  Then I covered the back with a gray utility fabric, and I covered the edges of that fabric with some ribbon trim.



I then screwed the hinges back onto the seat board through the original holes.


I was amused to see the service record sticker inside the bench:


Here it is reunited with the piano:


Now I have to go fold my fifth load of laundry for today.  Anyone have a fix for that?

Jessica

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Who I Am

Let's just say it.  I'm anal.  I am.  Some may see me as uptight but I think my ways just make good sense.

For example, I own scissors for fabric, scissors for food, and scissors for paper.  My kids know which pair to use for cutting open popsicles and which to use for homework projects.  And which ones to never touch.

I want my fabric scissors to stay sharp enough to cut through fabric well.  I want the food scissors to always be clean.  But I also don't want my kids to grow up afraid of choosing the wrong scissors.  So I work on tempering my black-and-whiteness with grace.

But I think it's pretty clear that I'm a girl who loves rules and boundaries.  I like to know what's expected and how I'm doing.

Believe it or not, this can lead to problems in the Christian life.  It leads to a little something called legalism, where I worship the rules instead of God.

Today I finished reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  I highly recommend it, by the way.  It's filled with humor and sarcasm and truth, all things I enjoy.  I love her chapter where she writes one letter to Church Leaders and one to Church People.  I want to photocopy it and distribute it.

In her chapter entitled "Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Lame," she writes the following:

I obviously related to this passage.  I do want boundaries.  I do want to stand before God having gotten it right.  I do want to be assured of my insider status.  And I have asked all the same questions Jen Hatmaker mentioned here in her book.

Can I just be really really honest with you for a minute?  Even if it's not pretty?  I did fight for my insider status within the church.  Let me say, without hesitation, that I genuinely loved the people I served, legitimately wanted to further God's kingdom, sincerely sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I lived out my many roles within the church.  But part of me also grew to love being so rooted in the church.  I liked belonging.  I liked being useful and serving a purpose.  And I liked feeling approved.

Somewhere along the way "who I am" got tangled up with "what I do at church."  My world is so small.  I'm a stay-at-home mom to three kids and I babysit two more kiddos.  My world consists of my house, two schools, church, and Walmart.  Some days I just have this inner voice that asks the question, "Is there more to me than being a mom?"  It's the best job in the whole wide world, but I also know that if I am to survive these chickadees flying from my nest, then I need to have my identity be based on more than motherhood.  Since I'm not looking for Walmart to define me, church became my identity-giver.

And really it makes sense to find my identity at church.  My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life.  I just didn't realize that all this time I have been building an identity based on who I am in the body of Christ, rather than who I am to God.  Do you see the difference?  One is who others perceive me to be and the other is who God knows me to be.

There's another passage in For the Love that fits our current discussion.  In Hatmaker's letter to Church Leaders, she describes what happens when "ministry" is defined solely by church activities.
"When you tell your people, 'Come Sunday for worship, Tuesday morning for Bible study, Wednesday night for Community Group, Thursday night for Awana, Friday night for a service project, and Saturday afternoon for leadership training,' it is defeating.  Intentionally or not, it develops a culture in which discipleship is measured by attendance."
I became so highly aware of this once my attendance became less than perfect.  I felt (honest:  feel) scolded for not being the good Church Woman I'd groomed myself to be.  I've heard so many people in our church say something like, "We are in church every time the doors are open!"  I internalized that as a requirement for holiness.  So now that I'm not at church every time there's a service or event, I feel like a Less Than.

Oh, hear it.  Hear me say that I love my church.  I highly value specialized ministries offered at my church.  I would have shriveled into spiritual oblivion without my Bible study ladies.  Before my son's endless headache that rocked our world, I was super involved at my church.  I taught an adult Sunday school class (my very favorite role!), participated fully in women's Bible studies, planned and hosted baby and bridal showers (with two other women), served on a Sunday School & Discipleship Ministries Board, planned on a decorating committee when our church built a giant addition, planned and decorated for various gatherings such as our annual Women's Retreat, typed devotions for couples in our church, interviewed potential volunteers for our children's department, and taught a class about healthy sexuality for married women.  I was a busy woman.  Sometimes I felt like I was going to lose my mind.  But I wasn't about to say no to anything because I really do love people and want to serve God by serving people.

Once The Headache descended upon us and this whole medical crisis blew up in the middle of our ordinary life, everything had to change.  Most of it against my will.  One by one, God gently removed each precariously balanced role from my hands and said, "Honey, I'll take this."  When I looked at each thing individually, I loved each one.  But all piled up, I was simply carrying too much.  I'm guessing I probably would never have given up most of these precious roles if I hadn't been forced to by the extremely overwhelming task of caring for a chronically ill child.

The hardest crown for me to lay down, by far, was that of Sunday School Teacher.  I just flat out LOVE those people, and I'm afraid no one will love them as fiercely as I do.  Sound crazy?  I can't help it.  Even with being exhausted and--quite honestly--burned out, I just couldn't give it up.  So God pulled it from my kung-fu grip and patted me on the head.

So here I am.  I am not a teacher.  I am not a church decorator.  I am not a party planner.  I am not a decision-maker or a cupcake-baker.  I no longer have perfect attendance.  I'm wandering in uncharted territory where the boundaries aren't as clearly marked.

Jen Hatmaker says living the gospel life was simple according to Jesus:  love God and love people (see Matthew 22:36-40).  So I'm gonna work on these.  Each day I basically say, "God, what in the world does trusting You look like today?"  I'm learning what it means to love Him when He doesn't do what I wish He would do, when I am empty, when I don't understand, when we have a good day, when I get sleep, when I'm too tired for anything.  Oh, I love Him.  I'm practicing living out that love.

And the second most important commandment is to love people.  Sometimes that might look like church-organized events or ministries.  But sometimes that looks like taking my daughter to a birthday party and seeking out the one mom who doesn't know anybody else and drawing her into the conversation very deliberately so she knows she's welcome in our circle of friends.  That used to look like my family going to church on Wednesday nights so Jared and I could spend quality time praying for the people of our church while our kids participated in a Christian scouting program.  I love the Wednesday night crowd.  But now loving people looks like staying in on Wednesday nights so my kids can get a little time with their parents instead of being asked to listen and perform after a long day of school.  It's baking banana bread with my daughter while my boys play a game together.  It's getting my kids to bed at a decent time so we can all be more lovely on Thursday mornings.

We are slooooowwwly figuring out what our "new normal" is.  I'm still not a huge fan but I'm learning how to deal with it.  I still feel like I have dirty secrets (like not attending Wednesday night church) and like I wear some mark of shame for no longer being who I was.  However, I'm also discovering that the time I used to invest in my weekly lessons can be spent reading books like For the Love or even--gasp--fiction books!  I'm not as busy with school volunteer work, so I can get to work lifting up other moms at the school.  I'm focusing more on my family.  I'm listening to people rather than trying to earn their approval.

I'm learning who I am in Christ.  It's His approval that matters (ugh, will I ever learn this??).  He sees what my life looks like right now.  I don't have to explain to Him exactly what is so difficult about a kid with a headache.  He gets me.  Apparently He still has plans for me and they do not line up with my plans to wear pajamas all day, eat pure crap, and wait for life to change.  He is changing my course in order to shape me and use me.  He wants me to know that I am loved.  I am chosen.  I am redeemed.  I am clothed in righteousness.  I am His.  Every uptight part of me.

Jessica

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Modern Wreath

Yesterday I just wanted to do something, anything, to feel normal.  So I decided to tackle a craft.  And finish the heck out of that thing so I could feel like I accomplished something.

Inspired by this wreath that I recently spotted on Instagram, I made a new modern wreath for our front door.


I had some navy and white striped fabric left over from a previous project.  I went to Hobby Lobby and bought two embroidery hoops, some heavy duty Heat & Bond, and some fake succulents.  I had the white ribbon on hand already.

I love succulents.  They're like a plant-flower hybrid.  I really want some live ones in my house.  But at least now I found an excuse to get some fake ones!


I decided to use an 18" embroidery hoop and a 12" hoop.  I just liked these proportions.

I started by laying the bigger hoop on my fabric and cutting a square of fabric that was a little bigger than the hoop.


Then I cut a matching size (ish) square of the Heat & Bond.


I followed the package instructions and ironed the Heat & Bond to the back of my fabric.  This isn't strictly necessary but it gives the fabric more thickness and stiffness.


The next step was to cut out a donut-shaped piece of my fabric.  Mmm donuts.

I chose to separate the two rings of my bigger embroidery hoop and trace around the inner ring.  You could also trace around the outer ring and just cut a little inside your line so your fabric doesn't hang outside the hoop.

I used a black pen on the white stripes and a white pencil on the navy stripes.  Because I'm fancy like that.

Next I traced my inner circle.  I laid the smaller hoop on the fabric and measured all around it to make sure it was centered.  C'mon people, you knew I would be obsessive.  I traced inside the small hoop and knew I'd have to cut just outside the line to avoid having fabric show in the middle of the wreath.


I cut out the fabric donut. 

My glue gun had been heating up while I was thinking about donuts cutting out the fabric.  I very carefully hot glued the embroidery hoops in their proper places.





You may have noticed that I chose to place the screw-clasp-closure-thingy on the very top of the big embroidery hoop and in the bottom right region of the smaller embroidery hoop.  I knew my succulents would cover said thingy on the smaller hoop.

I had picked up some random fake succulents from Hobby Lobby.  I used wire cutters to cut off the stems.  I played around with the arrangement and then hot glued them to my wreath.


I got a white ribbon from my endless hoard of ribbons and fed it between the two rings of the big embroidery hoop.  Luckily I hadn't glued them together.  I tied a pretty bow.  Then I realized that it would be slightly twisted if I hung it on my wreath hanger as-is.  So I grabbed a white pipe cleaner, fed it through the knot of the bow, twisted the ends, and made a ring.


That made it hand straight forward on my wreath hanger.  When I put it up on our front door, I had to retie the bow because the wreath hung too low.

Don't we wish that my front door was painted a fun color?

Yes, it's crooked in this picture.  Yes, I fixed it.  No, I didn't take a new picture.

So I accomplished something.  I did something creative for the first time in quite awhile.  It did come at a price.  When Nolan and I went to Hobby Lobby for these supplies, he was suffering with a colossal headache.  We had to stop three different times for him to lay down on the floor in Hobby Lobby.  While other shoppers and employees looked at us like we were loony.  But lying flat eased the pain and then we could make it through a few more aisles.  I felt terribly selfish for dragging him to Hobby Lobby.  But we are trying to get to a new normal where we don't just shut ourselves at home and lay around trying not to anger his pain.  So I made a wreath.  Apparently that is part of my new normal.

Jessica