lately

IMG_9093

Hi friends!

I thought I’d do a quick photo update post of what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks.

If you can believe it, our church just had our first official church-wide picnic a couple weeks ago! It was a lovely, 70-degree Sunday afternoon and a great time was had by all. The consensus was: Let’s do this more often!

And, now, onto the house update . . .

IMG_9096

Weeks 4 and 5 have been all about framing. Yesterday the heating/air guys came, as well as the electrician. We asked our contractor if our friend Ben could do the electrical work, and it’s fun having him apart of the project.

IMG_9107

Seeing the walls and roof go up made it all seem so much more real! Currently we all climb through the windows to work/see inside. Our builder, Scott, is trying to wait as long as possible before he cuts the hole in our living room wall, which I very much appreciate!

IMG_9161

Look at those nice, big windows! Don’t they make the addition seem so cheerful?

IMG_9187

In the meantime, David finished the chicken coop! He has a couple last touches to do, but the girls have lived out there for nearly a week now, and are doing great. We were a bit scared with this extreme cold snap we’ve had the last few days (it was 27 degrees this morning!), but they have all their big-girl feathers on and haven’t seemed to mind a bit.

David and Amie still have to coax them up the ramp into their coop at night, but they make it down in the morning all on their own.

(Also you may be thinking: Girls? Are you sure? The truth is, we won’t know their gender for a couple more months, but we like to pretend they’re all girls)

It’s an amazing feeling of relief to have that project over with.

Now I feel really dumb about the silly fights David and I had over it. Why did I care so much? Why did I have to prove my point all the time and generally be so difficult?

It’s funny how that works.

IMG_9191

We’ve had the strangest weather lately: weeks of 70 degree days, followed by snow flurries this weekend. Seeing ice mixed with a thick layer of pollen on Sunday was a first for me.

Just last week I organized everyone’s clothes and stashed winter things in the attic! I literally threw away Noah’s coat because it had officially been through four boys and had holes in it. So we’ve done a bit of improvising this week.

We all managed to venture out on this freezing-cold morning to swim practice, and were thankful to come home to hot chocolate and heat vents.

fullsizeoutput_2322

If Organization is one of my keys to staying sane right now, Routine is the other one.

With all the construction noise and interruptions, it is so tempting to throw our entire schedule out the window and spend hours scouring Pinterest for bathroom faucets and paint colors, but that makes everyone crazy (myself included). I’ve learned these last five weeks to allow interruptions to happen, and then as best I can, pick right back up with our routine afterwards.

We still do school. We go to CC and swim practice and play with cousins. I cook dinner. We have pretend “quiet rest time” in the afternoon from 1-3 even when the house shakes with drilling and pounding. Am I getting as much done? Absolutely not. I’m just doing the best I can and letting the rest go.

Routine has been our comfort.

IMG_9182

Somewhat ironically, Judah chose to take a really big test for Classical Conversations called Memory Master. He’s working on memorizing every single piece of information we’ve learned this year. The testing starts in three weeks, and so we’re doing what we can in-between answering questions about light switch placement and shower tile. Thankfully we’ve been reviewing ever since August, which makes it not nearly so big and scary.

I just have to laugh at the timing of it all; also I’m very proud of my boy for how hard he’s working even though I know lots of loud noise is not easy for him (he and I hate the noise; the other three kids seem totally oblivious, ha!).

IMG_9160

We’re getting down to all the fun interior details which I’ve daydreamed about forever, but still make my head spin. This weekend our roof will be replaced, and hardwood floors go in next week.

Oh yeah, I’m also head to a homeschool conference Friday and Saturday in Greenville, and we have our CPC New Members class at our house on Sunday! Hopefully all the new members will have a sense of humor when they see our craziness.

IMG_9166

When the busyness presses in, I imagine myself laying on my bed under that lovely vaulted ceiling, in a room filled with light.

All of this is just the biggest gift. There are no words to explain it. I often have to remind myself that it’s really, truly happening.

I walk through the shell of our new bathroom and walk-in-closet and it feels surreal. Lovely and surreal. Like living inside an Apartment Therapy post.

We heard all kinds of horror stories about builder/homeowner relations, but I have to say thus far our builder, Scott, could not be more pleasant and easy to work with. He’s very experienced but never makes me feel like an idiot for the things I don’t know. I’ve taken to asking his opinion about decisions, and I like his ideas.

IMG_9195

We got a whole lot of rain this weekend, and since a portion of our roof is under tarps, we had some leaks, as you can see from the ceiling and the way we had to pull the bed out when water streamed down onto David’s pillow the other night.

The good news is: Amie will get a new ceiling for her room! You can’t really tell but the ceiling of this room has always been a strange, almost drop-ceiling-like material, because this room was actually an addition too. I’m thrilled to see it go. Tomorrow they will be sealing that window on the left off and make it a wall (our new bathroom is just on the other side!).  We also have an exterior door in that room, behind the door, which will be sealed off (pictures to come).

Isn’t this so fun!?

Happy Hump Day!

 

Save

Save



six years ago.

Has it really been six years?

Oh, the places we saw, the people we met.

I look at these photos that seem like something out of a beautiful dream, and yet, my main memory is: Sick.

Sick, sick, sick. I did not go to the Taj Mahal — David and Judah visited the Taj Mahal while I holed up in a hotel room in an enormous foreign city with a migraine and a one-year-old.

Even so, I’m thankful for every single sight I saw: snow capping the Himalayas, orphans with beaming faces, enough stand-still traffic jams to last a lifetime.

And I look at the Julie in those pictures and ache for her, because it’s going to get so much harder, up ahead. I had yet to face the darkest moments of my life. God’s rescue was going to feel a lot like death.

But if I could, I would give her a big hug and say, “God is not punishing you. Nothing — not one single minute or one single tear — will be wasted. He is going to use all of it for your good and for His glory, I promise.”

Mostly I’d just say to her, “He will never, ever, ever leave you alone.”

I wish I could also say, “Your life will hold more pain than you know now, but it will also hold surprises so beautiful you couldn’t possibly dream them up.”

You know what’s funny? Why couldn’t God have just left all of that out? The whole journey to India, the illness, the abrupt return and grief and depression so bad I wanted to die. All the subsequent challenges of the last six years. Why couldn’t He have just plopped us down, right here and now in Columbia with our church and our family of six?

I don’t know, entirely, the reason.

What I do know is it’s all so inexplicably part of our story that I can’t imagine our life any other way — no, I wouldn’t want to imagine it. I am the person I am today because of what I’ve been through, the good and the bad. I trust God today in a way I never did before. I can sit with people who are suffering in a way I was oblivious to. I can be just a bit more patient in trials because I’ve tasted hope. I can look ahead to the future with confidence because I know nothing will be wasted, that God is going to make all things new.

No, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Save





the condition: 3 weeks in.

IMG_8979

IMG_8983

IMG_9022

IMG_9024

IMG_9018 (1)

IMG_9017

IMG_9054

A little recap:

Week 1: Demo, initial inspection, stake out space, footers

Week 2: Footer inspection, lay brick skirt

Week 3: Begin framing, week cut short due to rain (thus the tarps!)

Hardest part of process: the noise!!! And the interruptions. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to have a homeschool day in the midst of this.

Best part of process: knowing how much the extra space will help our homeschool days in the future, constant entertainment for our kids and our neighbors. We talk to way more neighbors than we ever have before, and at least three have told us that we’re inspiring them to consider their own renovation project!



kitchen cabinet project.

IMG_8970

I don’t know if it’s the construction happening outside or the feel of spring in the air, but I’m in major Project Mode. Actually, when I’m stressed, one of the most calming things I know to do is to organize something.

The only way I know how to explain it is that when certain parts of my life feel big and somewhat out of control, here is this one small thing I can bring order to, be it the hall closet or the kitchen pantry or a bookcase. I manage stress much better with an organized house, it’s just the way I’m made. David laughs at me because even on vacation or on an overnight hotel stay I clean up and bring order to our little, temporary place.

Do you think I’m crazy yet? It can be an obsession of course — I have to remember my family shares my home and I can’t always impose my need for order onto them (although, come to think of it, I kind of try to). But by and large, we’ve all discovered that the key to living peaceably in a small house is staying organized, and they like it too.

As soon as the building project started, I raced around the living room, de-cluttering. I stowed all but one of our cute throw pillows in the attic and put away several knick-knacks, just to streamline things a little bit. Chaos reigns outside our front window, but inside there’s room to breathe.

IMG_9028

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a couple of my projects from the last couple of weeks.

First, the kitchen cabinets.

I read this post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, who just moved with her family to a new house and talked about conquering the blank slate of a new space. She mentioned a few organizational tips she picked up during the unpacking process, including the idea of stacking sheets pans and cutting boards in a basket in the kitchen or dining room (see the post on Apartment Therapy here).

Something clicked right then for me, and I jumped up to inspect our kitchen. My kitchen looks cute, but it is often functionally a pain in the neck because it’s teeny-tiny. Two people can technically work in it at a time — but with much stumbling over one another.

I love baskets and I love the idea of having my sheet pans and cutting boards within easy reach!

Only problem?

I have zero space for said basket. And I mean zero.

Every available area of floor space in our kitchen and dining room is put to use.

However, the idea got me on a roll.

I hate my kitchen cabinets, I mean really hate them. They are white and cute on the outside but so very old; the paint and wood is crumbling on the inside, they are dark and awkward, and every single time I pull an item out from my lower cabinets, I have to rinse and dry it to remove peeling paint and wood shavings. Yuck.

So I thought to myself, Okay, I can’t have a cute basket for my pans, but what can I do to make this situation a little better?

(This is an extremely helpful question to ask when considering any problem area in your home)

And that launched a couple-hour project of purging my kitchen cabinets!

I’ve been pretty good at maintaining the upper cabinets because we removed the doors from most of them. You may think the plants on top of our refrigerator are decorative (and they are!), but they’re also a reminder to never, ever open the cabinet immediately over them. No amount of scrubbing when we first moved in could remove the smell in that cabinet.

I can’t even explain to you what it smells like, and actually I don’t want to think about it anymore.

I so wish I were better at “before” photos! I almost never think of taking pictures at the beginning of a project.

Oh well. Just imagine me on my hands and knees, removing every item from the lower cabinets, and literally sweeping them out with a broom. They were pretty bad.

I made three piles: a donate pile, a throw away pile, and a “wash me now please” pile.

I’m embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve completely organized and cleaned out those cabinets — reached into the furthest, darkest corners — in the three and a half years we’ve lived here. Sigh.

I’m baffled by the phenomenon that in a kitchen as small as mine, somehow those corner cabinets still turned into a scary black hole. I was thrilled to discover not one but TWO Pyrex dishes I’ve lost for at least a year. And all that time I thought I’d loaned them out!

So my biggest kitchen problem is accessing the pots and pans and cutting boards I use every single day, multiple times a day.

I looked around and decided that the place for them is on the bottom shelf of my island.

Of course it’s not as cute as a staged shelf with plants, cloth napkins and a mound of cookbooks. But who cares!?

IMG_8978

You guys, it’s a game-changer.

It’s been a week and I feel like I have a new kitchen! Chores that used to make me groan, like chopping onions for soup, now feel simple. I reach down to my open shelf — I do not have to root around in a dark space and then rinse wood-shavings off my cutting board — and I chop the onion!

IMG_8972

After sweeping and wiping everything out and washing pots and pans, I went with a greatly minimalized cabinet approach, shown above. The items are easy to reach and I don’t mind giving them a quick rinse because I don’t use them every day!

When you think about it, most of us have way more in our kitchen than we use or even need. I’ve hung on to a very few family heirlooms from each side of our family, and have purged what I just never use (it is helpful to consult parents and siblings before giving these things away!). Even items we received as gifts for our wedding, if we never ended up using them, have been donated.

It sounds harsh I know. But there are many things that make life stressful; clutter should not be one of them. It’s the simplest to remedy!

I didn’t solve all of my kitchen woes, but just tackling one of them is a big help.

IMG_8976

Finally, a windowsill lined with succulents always makes a room more cheerful.

I feel ten times better after this project and find our little kitchen a much happier place to be!

Next up: my composting project!





weekend.

IMG_1810

We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter here in Columbia, which is perfect for the various projects we have going on.

And we have a LOT going on. This may be a good time to tell you that we’ve found a home for our church, Columbia Pres! We just signed a long-term lease on a building in the Cottontown neighborhood of downtown. It’s right in-between where we live and where CPC currently meets on Main St.

We’re so excited about our new space! It’s in a really fun area, and a coffee shop is about to open next door! We start major renovations in the next few weeks and hope to be in the facility in several months. I’m so happy for David and our associate pastor, John, because after nearly four years, they’ll finally have offices in the same building where we gather for worship.

All of that to say, here are our three projects, all happening in the next 4-6 months:

  1. A house addition
  2. A church renovation
  3. A chicken coop

IMG_1691

David said to his friends, “I’m not sure which of those three projects will be my undoing first.” Ha ha. The chicken coop being the joke, sort of.

This is a very happy season for our family, but a stressful one too. Actually come to think of it, we haven’t been in a non-stressful season since starting the church. But I’m guessing you are all in your own stressful seasons too, right?

That’s just life.

I heard a great podcast interview with Sally Clarkson where she said, “Do yourself a favor and stop waiting for life to not be hard. Life is always hard. Parenthood is always hard. When you accept this reality, you can begin the work of learning contentment.”

IMG_1801

I’ve been pondering that a lot and it’s surprisingly helpful. I’m not sitting here waiting for our addition to be finished and CPC to be in our new building (and the chicken coop to be finished). Because those things will be wonderful, but then I’m guessing our family will be facing new challenges.

What God wants is to give me grace for right now. For today.

IMG_1796

This is waaay easier said than lived out, for me at least.

Yes, we have some idyllic photos of baby chicks running around the yard and this amazing chicken coop that David designed and is building from scratch, but the truth is we get tired and cranky and selfish. The coop project turned out to be way bigger than either of us expected. We fought this weekend about how to spend our time (I’ll let you guess who didn’t want to spend it painting a chicken coop). David can be too driven and I can be too selfish.

Both of us have realized of late how easy it is to take one another for granted when life is stressful.

We’re pouring all we can into work and the kids and the house. And I don’t know why but it’s all too easy to take it all out on the person who’s the very closest to you — who should be your safe place and biggest cheerleader when life is crazy. It’s easy to let resentment creep in, to start keeping score and blaming one another.

IMG_1609

We’re fumbling our way along, but I think the biggest key we’ve found is repentance. Lots and lots of it. It’s hard to stop, to look your spouse in the eye, and say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” And it’s even harder to shut your mouth and listen to them tell you how they feel, how you’re treating them and how much it hurts. It’s hard not to give excuses for your behavior, to act like a victim.

But we’re practicing this simple act, and we’re also trying to pay attention to one another.

To give kisses hello and good-bye. To stop and look one another in the eyes. To say, “Thank you for washing the dishes tonight.” We work hard and talk out our disagreements and usually end up meeting somewhere in the middle, which is probably the best place to be.

IMG_1629

We left all the addition noise and craziness and went for a long family hike at the Congaree swamp Friday. My parents came and helped paint Saturday afternoon, and David’s parents cooked us dinner.

Yesterday afternoon turned out to be a very sweet balance of resting and then getting outside in that beautiful sunshine and doing a project together.

And I guess that’s what Sally Clarkson was saying. Life is hard now. Life will be hard in six months. What matters is today. How am I trusting Jesus to show me what’s most important in just this hour? How am I giving thanks for the gifts in my life, instead of focusing on the negative, instead of waiting for the next season?

How am I loving the people around me well and making them feel special? How am I giving up my rights and dying to myself? How am I pursuing fun and joy and laughter? Today?

Happy Monday!



the condition: week one.

IMG_8836

Two expressions that we use a lot around here these days are:

“The condition” (addition)

and

“The instruction!” (construction, coined by Noah and always said with an exclamation mark, as in, “The instruction is digging!!!” or “Those little boys left their instruction at our house!!!”)

IMG_8810

Here’s our house on Day One.

After we posted that the addition had started, lots of people said, “Wait, you didn’t mention that this was finally happening!”

The truth is, we didn’t know it was finally happening until Monday morning at 8:00 am, when the crew arrived.

Last fall-ish, we thought we’d finally found a builder, and scheduled him to start the first of the year, only to have him lose touch for a couple of months. We figured we were back to square one.

So this winter, David scurried and found two more builders and they came to give us quotes. During this entire time (and truly for the last two and a half years), he checked Zillow house listings daily, emailing me some every now and then.

Then suddenly our original contractor got back in touch with us within the last couple of weeks, invited us to come check out a home addition he was finishing up in the Forest Acres neighborhood (which we loved!), and began talking details. He came out to give us a final quote. All of which seemed promising. But after wearying of the rollercoaster of House Addition Waiting, we sure weren’t holding our breath.

The truth is, until Monday at 8:00 we didn’t know for sure what we were going to do. Stay or move. Addition or no addition.

IMG_8830

But when our builder, Scott, knocked on the door Monday morning while we were scrambling to get ready for Classical Conversations, building permit in hand, and asked me to move our van out of the driveway, I had the most amazing feeling of relief and happiness. I couldn’t stop grinning all day long.

So really, this story isn’t so much about a home addition, as it is about figuring out that this is exactly where we’re supposed to be.

We looked at so many big and beautiful homes over the past couple years — ever since we decided to adopt — quite a few that are way more sophisticated and historic than ours (and some really lousy ones too). I lost my temper many a time over our teensy one bathroom and small kitchen and us tripping all over one another here.

But the truth is, we didn’t want to move. None of us.

Last month David and I looked at one another and said, “What the heck, let’s just stay. Let’s never move. Even if it’s cramped. Even if Judah and Amelie share a bedroom forever. Let’s pretend we’re Tiny House owners.”

Because when it comes down to it, this is the first house we’ve ever purchased. It’s affordable. It’s the home God gave us after the heart-break of leaving India. This was our refuge when we started a church, the place we welcomed our two sons, and ate chili with CPC New Members. We love our neighbors. We love that we can walk to the grandparents’ house. It seems that after just three-and-half years we’re so neck-deep-rooted in memories that it felt like losing a part of ourselves to sell it, even for something bigger and better.

So we decided not to.

The very next week, David went out and bought eight chicks, and has spent the weekends since working on building them a coop.

I think we held out so long on chickens because we just.didn’t.know.

IMG_8816

And suddenly, out of the blue, here is Scott, arriving each morning with a bright smile, his crew friendly and hard-working, our boys enamored with the fact that a construction zone has plopped itself right outside our window.

And the happiness just washes over me like waves.

We don’t have to move.

We know exactly where we’re supposed to be.

When it rained on Wednesday, my sister-in-law texted and said, “I’m so sorry the work is being delayed!” But you know what? I couldn’t care less.

It’s started! And that’s enough for me.

I really think if we’d been doing this a year ago, I’d be impatient over every little thing. Now I’m just grateful.

IMG_8886

And now a few details.

As you can see from the pictures, the addition is coming off the front left as you face our house, turning it from a rectangle into an “L” shape. From the inside, the window where the boys are standing will become a doorway into a tiny hall, take a right and there’s the bathroom, walk-in closet, and master bedroom in succession. It will be about 450 sq. ft. total.

IMG_8932

Judah and Amie exclaimed over the yellow Port-a-John that arrived the other day, and Gabe asked, “Mommy, is this our new bathroom?”

One of our favorite things about living here is that our neighbors are pretty awesome. My friend says we’re on the “wrong side of the Earlewood tracks,” meaning our neighborhood is next to some really nice neighborhoods but isn’t so fancy itself.

But you know what I love about that? No Homeowners Association. No neighbors chiding us for not landscaping our front yard sooner (judging from the way it looks now I’m pretty happy we waited). No one cares about the noise (at least not yet, fingers crossed), and my friend across the street invited the crew to use their second driveway if needed.

Our next door neighbor said awhile back, “You can do anything you want to your house, as long as you don’t move!”

IMG_8884

This week the crew moved the gravel driveway, cleared the front bed of azaleas (which we’re attempting to replant elsewhere), removed the brick, measured and dug the footers, had a footer inspection, and today the concrete was poured.

If you’re wondering how invasive the project is, well, you can see that outside our house is mass chaos. But thankfully because it’s an addition rather than a renovation, very little of it will affect our living space. We have a couple of sheets draped in the corner of our bedroom because of the dust. Eventually they will need to seal up a window in our current room (Amie’s future bedroom!), and cut the door.

For now, it’s mostly just noisy.

We’re going to plug away at our normal routine as usual, and escape when we need to. David took the day off work today, and we all went to breakfast at the Wired Goat cafe, then for a five-mile hike at Congaree National Park. We can’t do that every week, but today it was amazing. The woods were delightfully quiet after the construction.

Now they’re finished for the holiday weekend, and David is out back happily working on his chicken coop.

Scott estimated the project to take about three months from start to finish.

It’s hard to believe by summer it might be finished!

We are all so very, very thankful. Waiting was not easy. But it seems that it’s made the whole process all the sweeter.

Happy Friday!

IMG_8934

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save





five things on friday.

IMG_1435 (1)

1. We’re recovering from two weeks of sickness. Not the flu, thankfully, but a bad virus that we all passed around and just lingered until I finally took the kids to the doctor on Tuesday. Turns out the three oldest had sinus infections and Noah had a double-ear infection. Poor things! It was kind of miserable, because I caught it on the front end, got better for a few days, then caught it again from someone else.

Thankfully I’m healthy again, and after a few days of antibiotics the kids are much more like themselves too, although let me tell you what, dispensing different doses of antibiotics twice a day for four children is not for the faint of heart.

Now we’re all more than ready to resume our normal routines next week. I consider myself a homebody but this bout of illness made even me stir-crazy!

2. Judah and Amelie finished their first swim competition season on a great note. They worked hard and overcame some fears and their last meet at the end of January was the smoothest yet. Still a little nerve-wracking, but no tears. More smiles and more thumbs-up to their cheering section in the stands. They’re both great swimmers and I love seeing them gain some confidence.

Before the meet, David said to Judah: “You know what buddy, after your very first race when you messed up and were embarrassed and wanted to quit? You know how you came back and swam again and finished the whole meet? Well, that was the proudest I’ve ever been of you.”

Later Judah said, “When Dad says stuff like that to me, I feel like I can do anything.”

IMG_1449

3. All eight of our chickies are alive and growing and as cute as they can possibly be. It turns out I’m a very happy chick-owner; and I’m more surprised about that than anyone.

I put off getting animals because I thought they’ve be a nuisance; one more chore that falls to Mom. But first of all: Amie adores her girls and, along with David, does most of the feeding and watering. Of course I think it makes a big difference that they’re outdoor pets. I just cannot imagine owning an indoor pet with all these kids.

But also, I care about them a whole lot more than I expected. I love their bright, curious eyes and how they each look just a little bit different. I like that some are feisty and wild and some like to be held. I even liked scrubbing their Tupperware bin home in the sunshine on Wednesday, and then making it all cozy again with a layer of pine shavings. I try to take time every single day to walk down to the basement and hold them and talk to them and freshen up their water.

It’s simply impossible to be in a bad mood when holding a baby chick.

4. Which brings me to my next point. This morning some fun plans we had were canceled and the kids were very disappointed. We had to talk through a couple of their reactions, but Judah came back said later, “You know what, Mom, after I heard the news I went to my room to build Legos because I knew it would make me feel more calm.”

And so that launched a discussion about things we can choose to do when we’re feeling angry or frustrated to help us calm down, rather than lose our temper. I was amazed that each of the three oldest had something that they knew right away makes them feel better.

Judah: “jump on the trampoline or build Legos,” Amie: “curl up with my stuffed animals, visit the chicks”, Gabe: “build a puzzle.” We all told Noah his calming activity is to go outside and dig for bugs (and when available, fire pits are a close second). Mom: “go for a walk, hold the chickies, go to the library.”

It was such a sweet, rambling conversations, one of those that made me think, Wow, my kids are actually becoming my friends.

IMG_1457

5. I’m making it a goal to learn names of native South Carolina trees and shrubs. My mom and Linda are a fount of information, and when I walk with them I ask them to tell me names of things. It feels very overwhelming to begin, so I’ve decided to focus just on what’s in bloom. Then I try to write what I learned in my bullet journal so I can practice on my run or when I’m driving.

Here’s what I learned to identify (and what’s blooming!) this week:

Forsythia

Camellia

Tulip poplar

Loropetalum

Nandina

What’s blooming where you live?

IMG_1498

Happy Friday!