2015: the master bedroom.


I use the phrase “master bedroom” loosely because it doesn’t have an attached bathroom, and in fact wasn’t even considered a true bedroom when we purchased the house because it didn’t have a closet. The room has an outside access door (which is sealed shut) and a funky ceiling, so we’ve decided it was originally a porch or sunroom that was closed in.

You may remember that for the first year this room was our school/catch-all room, and last summer we gave it a makeover. It’s still not quite finished, and is one of those examples of me setting aside a space for a season. It’s not perfect yet — pictures aren’t hung and that cute hanging planter in the corner is still sadly plant-less.

But the room makes us happy. We’ll finish it one day. Probably right about the time we add on to our house and this becomes a kids’ room (Amie has already claimed it. And I’m guessing it will become pink at that point).


We did make a few changes this year — bought lamps and fun throw pillows from Ikea (it took me close to a year to find exactly what I wanted), and David’s dad installed a ceiling fan for us and built a baseboard for the brick wall. If you want people to offer to do projects for you, just decide to adopt two children! We’ve been so grateful for the help.


I’ve had various ideas of what to do with that painted brick wall. A rustic bench with candles and a stack of books? A little bookshelf? A couple large prints or a mirror? But the longer we’ve left that space bare, the more we appreciate its simplicity (although an outlet cover wouldn’t hurt).


In the spirit of transparency, here’s the view behind our door, which is decidedly unattractive. We’ve talked about hanging a curtain over the outside door. Or better yet, taking out the door and framing a window instead. I don’t love hanging our shoes on the back of the door, but I do love freeing up storage space elsewhere (I’m telling you, you have to get creative with no/tiny closets, people). Out of season shoes and purses go in the baskets on top of our wardrobes. I’ve never regretted trading out my desk for that tucked-away filing cabinet.


Back to purging/organizing. I’ve always been a clothes and shoes minimalist. So much so that it’s a little embarrassing to show you my closet (and one of those dresses even belongs to my friend). I discovered a long time ago that I tend to wear the same things over and over, so I might as well keep it simple. It helps that I have a couple of great friends who let me borrow clothes for fancy occasions. I try to keep the bottom of my wardrobe clean but sometimes you just need a space to throw things you don’t have time to deal with yet.

I’m so proud of David, who after skimming through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, did an entire Marie Kondo clothes purge — throwing all his clothes in a big pile on the bed and going through every single piece. The man still has way more clothes than he wears, but we’ve made progress!


As we did our whole-house purge this summer, I took notes of everything we got rid of. I wanted to try to discover common themes of clutter to avoid bringing it into our home in the first place. Here’s by far the largest category of stuff we purged: things given to us by other people. I don’t want to step on any toes by writing this. All of us benefit from the generosity of others, and we are so, so grateful for all who have helped us especially in our adoption process by donating their baby gear and clothes. But we’d collected so much of it we were bursting at the seams, as well as other things over the years we felt bad getting rid of because they were given to us, some of it from our wedding 11 years ago.

I’ve come to realize that when people pass along hand-me-downs or things they’re no longer using, they really just want to be helpful. So the way I can be most grateful is to thank them, then when I get home, go through the items and immediately take out what we need, and donate the rest. That’s what I want when I pass along things to others. I’d hate for anyone to hold onto something out of guilt.

The other thing I’ve noticed about myself is I often tend to say “yes” to something offered just because it’s free or really inexpensive: be it toys or more clothes or funky little kitchen appliances, even if it’s not my exact taste or not something I would otherwise buy. And now with six of us living here we just don’t have the space for those items anymore (which is why I also avoid yard sales).

If it’s not on my list of things I’m looking for for my house or something one of us needs, then I’m learning to say no, thank you! Just because people have offered us lots and lots of fun hand-me-down clothes for Gabe and Noah, doesn’t mean I should keep them all. I keep what can fit in their drawers without cramming, and pass on the rest.


I said this last year, and I’ll say it again: it took David and I ten years of marriage to make our bedroom a priority. It was always a little plain and clutter-filled, and quite frankly, depressing. The last room on our priority list.

We’ve never for one moment regretted investing last summer in making our room a haven — choosing a paint color and curtains we loved, buying a few new things here and there, working to keep it uncluttered and peaceful. It’s not big or fancy, but it suits us perfectly.

[2014 Master bedroom here]

four on friday.


Judah. Inspecting his newest Pokemon deck with Daddy. The card game is their current favorite hobby together.



Amelie. “Poisonous spiders and splinters are the worst. And falling on concrete. And bumping your head.”



Gabriel. Even his pouty face is pretty darn cute.



Noah. When Noah’s upset, everyone’s upset. And when Noah is happy, everyone’s beaming.

a little vacation.


We took our first ever vacation as a family of six this week. We discovered this hotel on our trip to Myrtle Beach with the Gentino’s last month and enjoyed it so much that we decided to head back for three nights. David and I love our Columbia life, but we were tired and in need of a break. I’m so thankful for a chance to leave town and just focus on each other and our kiddos.


We chose a smaller suite with an ocean-side view, and it was absolutely worth it. Neither of us have done much vacationing in hotels, and I was surprised at how much I loved it. Our hotel was booked solid while we were there this week, so it was crowded. We chose it for its water slide and lazy rivers, which made it a great family environment. The pool was open until midnight and people were swimming and shouting and laughing until then.

Both of us loved sitting out on our balcony watching others enjoy themselves, the big groups with their beach chairs and coolers and flashlights on on the sand, and inter-generational families gathering, arms loaded with take-out, at tables around the pool. I didn’t even mind drifting asleep to the noise and it always quieted down before too long.


The best part of our trip was the hours and hours of family time. The kids enjoyed the water slide and lazy rivers, but ended up wanting to spend most of their time in the big pool or on the beach. They played so hard that once Gabe said, “Mommy, I need to go rest in my bed please.”


We spent the first evening hanging out just the two of us; the second David took the big kids for a nighttime beach stroll with flashlights, and the third I cuddled up and watched Paddington with them.

We went to bed early and woke up early so we could enjoy a quiet cup of coffee with our Bibles before the kids woke up. We ate in every meal (ordered pizza for one of them), walked across the street to Ben and Jerry’s yesterday afternoon, and ended our trip in the blazing hot sun at Broadway at the Beach this afternoon (and understood why it’s a little more popular in the evenings).

And we returned home today rested, with happy new memories, and ready to face another month!


2015: the living room and a word about decorating.


We’ve officially been in our house two years, and each year I want to do a little house tour to document how it looks right here and now, and also to talk about our latest organizing streak.

For some reason getting myself together to do this simple thing has felt like a monumental task, so I’m cheating by taking cell phone photos instead of using my nice camera, and spreading it out a bit (if nothing else because it’s impossible to keep more than one room in the house looking neat and child-free at a time).

Why do it at all?, you ask? Because it’s fun! Because I love peeking into other people’s houses! And most of all, because it makes me feel a tiny bit like I have one of my old hobbies back.

And so I give you, the living room!

It’s been fun for me to discover my decorating style and rhythm over the last few years.

When we bought our house, I had a specific vision of how I wanted it to look (paint colors, big bookshelves, etc), and over time I’ve tweaked bits and pieces. Through the process I’ve discovered the decorating philosophy that works for me, and that is to spend a season gathering ideas and working on a room, and then be done! Walk away! Stop perusing Pinterest and design blogs. Stop frequenting yard sales and the Target home section (oh how I love the Target home section!). Stop looking at my friends’ homes longingly and wishing I could totally redecorate. Refuse to gather more ideas.

Because there’s a fine line between inspiration and total paralysis. If you wonder where this line falls, remember: you are always going to find something you like better for your house. If you spend lots of time on the internet or in stores, there will always be cuter textiles and furniture paint and area rugs. That’s the reason those websites and stores exist! Trends will change, that adorable chevron throw pillow you just bought will be declared outdated, and something else will take it’s place.


That’s why I’ve found that it’s important to know what I like. Not what someone else likes; what I like (and to some extent my husband, of course). It’s also been revolutionary to read The Nesting Place and to really come to believe: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” I know when I’m finished with a room, not when it’s perfect or even complete, but when it makes me happy. Who cares if chevron is supposedly outdated? If I bought it because it made me happy rather than because it’s trendy, then I can keep it around for years without worrying about the fashion police.


Um, here’s where I’d like to point out that I have a lamp shade problem: they are always crooked. All my lamp shades. My mom brought over a lamp I adored a couple months ago and I swear from the moment it entered my home, the shade became crooked. Anyway. This is where I embrace the not-perfect.

I had “ceiling fans” on my to-do list ever since we moved in. We didn’t have one ceiling fan in the whole house. In South Carolina! So this spring we bought them for the living room and our bedroom and David’s dad kindly installed them for us. It makes this hot summer much more bearable. We hope to add them throughout the house over time.

In addition to little projects like fans, I’ve let myself stay on the look-out for a couple smaller pieces for different rooms: that old battered Coke bottle crate from a great flea market in Florence where my brother Danny lives, a couple of candle holders, a vintage tray. I added that black-striped basket by our front door right before we adopted the boys for little people’s shoes.


To keep from just amassing clutter though, I have a specific list in my phone of things I’d like for the house, for instance, a new crock for the mixing spoons on my kitchen counter. I’ve seen dozens of crocks over the last couple years and more than once been tempted to grab one at Ikea or Home Goods because it’s cute. But I refuse to do it, even though I dislike the one I have. I want to wait until I find one I love (and it could still turn up at one of those two stores). In this way, I’m trying to fill in the corners of my house thoughtfully with things I won’t immediately get tired of.

A word about “things I won’t get tired of.” I still have those things in my house. All of us do. I’m very, very tired of our two angular, bulky sofas, which have remained a little worse for the wear after sailing thousands of miles across the ocean from India. We aren’t going to spring for new living room furniture anytime soon. But even though they aren’t my favorite, I’ve found ways that they make me happy:

I’m happy when I see Judah sprawled contentedly across his “favorite couch” playing with toys. I’m happy because they’re comfortable. I’m happy when we have enough living room seating for our church new member’s class. I’m happy when someone spills a glass of red wine on the couch because it doesn’t bother me at all. And I’m happy because I’ve filled my living room with several other things I love, so the sofas just don’t really dominate my attention.


That’s a whole lot of words to say that I’ve discovered I’m one of those people who’s going to decorate in spurts, and then leave well enough alone. I have to make a decision to turn my attention away from viewing a room as a project, and turn it toward simply living in and enjoying it. And it’s working! I’m not perpetually obsessed with decorating. I’m able to let several projects go that I know we’ll get to one day.

And I’m not threatened when a friend’s house is way cuter than mine. I can enjoy going over and sitting in her adorably vintage living room and not feel like I need to race home and change everything. I also thoroughly enjoy living vicariously through friends/family who are in the midst of decorating projects.


Since I promised to talk about organizing, here’s my un-cute photo: this has become our homeschool book shelf/cabinet. And here’s a lesson I’ve learned in fitting into a small house: I can usually find space for everything, but I need to let go of it being exactly where I want it.

I wanted our school books to be in the dining room, where we do the majority of our school work. I wanted the books on this shelf to remain color-coordinated. But try as I could there just isn’t space in the dining room for everything, so here we are. Those are all our fun Sonlight read-alouds on the shelf right above the cabinet, and because they’re now eye-level, the kids are constantly picking out books to read and look through. This makes me happy and I see that this solution is going to work just fine.

The easiest rooms to keep clean in our house are the ones that have the least amount of stuff and the rooms in which everything has a place. This is true of our living room, so it takes very little effort to tidy it up before naptime and bedtime. For this season of life I removed all throw pillows and blankets from the sofas because they just ended up on the floor all the time and it drove me crazy. The kids are all four responsible to clean up their own things when they’re done playing with them.

It takes some reminding, but Judah and Amie got really good at cleaning up when they gained two little brothers who snatched up anything they left laying around. And Gabe and Noah are at that fun preschool age where they actually like to clean up their things (especially if it involves a Barney song).

Our living room is one of the reasons we feel like we can stay in our little home: it is wide and spacious enough for the six of us to comfortably hang out and it makes the whole house feel bigger.

We love it!


[And just for fun, click here for: 2014 living room, 2013 living room. We’ve come a long way!]

this week.

Hi friends! Sorry I’ve been MIA. My laptop has been at the computer doctor (a.k.a. my brother’s house). It was struggling, to say the least, but he worked his magic, and now five years’ worth of stuff is stored safely away on an external hard drive and I have a new operating system. Hooray!

I’ve been working on some posts about our house and organizing, like I promised. In the meantime, here’s a few photos.

David and I got a date last Thursday night. We went to Five Points for Ethiopian food, then parked on Sumter Street and walked down to the State House to scope out the pre-Confederate flag removal festivities.


We finished off the evening with small-batch ice cream at Sweet Cream on Main Street. Yum. I love date night.


A sweet couple in our church gave us a family membership to the children’s museum, Edventure. We had a membership a couple years ago and the kids loved it. We had a great time showing Gabe and Noah around last week.


Speaking of fun gifts, David’s childhood friend from Maryland, Dan and his wife Katie, sent the kids Terrapins t’shirts. Go Terps!


I’m not a fan of snakes in general, but how cute is this baby one that David and Ams found in the backyard!?


This past week my three big kids went to VBS for the first time! Lexington Pres Church does a Marketplace VBS that immerses the kids in biblical times. This year’s theme was Galilee by the Sea. They all had a wonderful week. Linda kept Noah two of the mornings so I could have some time to myself, then the other two mornings, he and I had adventures with friends in Lexington.


This morning we celebrated our friend Soren’s half-birthday because her birthday is right at the beginning of January. We loved the slip-n-slide and the breakfast theme: chocolate chip pancakes, donuts, fruit, and bacon, with iced coffee for the grown-ups!


And finally, one of these two cuties.

Happy Saturday!

four on friday.


Judah. Builder of birthday Legos.



Amelie. “Mom, isn’t Noah just the cutest baby you’ve ever seen!?”



Gabriel. I love that he will always choose to be outside — even in 100-degree heat — rather than inside watching an afternoon show on Netflix.



Noah. “Mommy! A pire-work!”

myrtle beach.

We hit the beach for a couple nights this week to join David’s parents and meet up with his brother, wife, and family from Pittsburgh. Gabe and Noah got to meet uncle Joe and aunt Lindsay and cousin Lucas. We haven’t spent much time in Myrtle Beach, and had a wonderful stay.

We loved our hotel, which had a spacious suite for us and Steve and Linda with a full kitchen, and was right on the beach. The main attraction for the kids though was the hotel’s water park, and we especially appreciated that half the water park was indoors so we could take breaks from the sun.

A great time was had by all!