here we go again!

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It’s been two weeks since we moved into our room, which has felt like an eternity to Amie, who’s been waiting and waiting for her bedroom to be finished. We temporarily moved her into the space, and then right back out again yesterday to make way for our building crew.

It was actually great to see the guys again! Amie had made them friendship bracelets and passed them around, and was anxious to show them how much her chickens have grown.

Yesterday’s project was to remove the crown molding from the bedroom, tear out that old sealed exterior door, and seal up the space. We talked about putting a window there, but there’s plenty of natural light in the room already, and dry wall is less expensive and leaves more storage options for that space for the future.

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Here’s the view from outside:

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That area will have brick eventually. So basically now we’ll forever have a staircase that leads to nothing, but oh well. Thankfully it’s not in a visible part of the yard. And honestly a staircase that led to a window felt more creepy to me.

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Here’s one more view of the old ceiling before we get a new one!

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The dry wall crew showed up bright and early this morning and said they’ll be completely finished today.

That means we’ll just need new crown molding and some paint and we’re good to go.

Hang on, Amie, we’re almost there!

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the condition: may 2017.

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Hi friends, our bags are packed and David and I hit the road at 7:00 am for our backpacking overnight. All the hard work of prepping is finished, and now we’re just excited to be getting away. We promise to tell you all about our trip.

In the meantime, here are some photos of our addition progress!

Above is a little reminder of our “before” living room. Here’s what that corner looks like today:

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We not only got a doorway, we got a nice wide doorway and a sunlit hall nook. I thought I’d miss our brown chair reading corner, but we’re so charmed by that light-filled hall that we don’t mind one bit.

I haven’t decided what to do with that wall to the right of our TV. Any ideas? It used to house another tall pine IKEA bookcase, but we much prefer the open feeling without it.

Clearly we’ll paint over that living room patch, but it’s so low on our priority list, I can’t even guarantee it’ll be done this year. We’ll move that big chair and maybe get a larger rug so the kids can play on the floor in that space.

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Steve and Linda gave us the vintage pie safe awhile back. They’ve stored it at their house for months because we knew it simply needed to go in the addition, we just weren’t sure where. Doesn’t it make you happy?

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Here we are looking back into the opposite corner. You guys! I have a built-in bookcase!

The bottom half will have doors very soon. It’s nice to have a place to stow our not-so-pretty books. I’ve basically commandeered the whole thing for homeschool books and materials.

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And now we enter our bedroom hallway! How about those floors!?

The smell was pretty crazy for about a week-and-a-half after they were stained and sealed. Migraines were suffered. Brain cells were killed. We learned from a friend that setting out bowls of coffee grounds helps.

I’m so thankful it’s just the beginning of summer so we’ve been able to keep the windows open lots.

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Here’s truly the best part about the whole addition: the bathroom. The phone pictures just don’t do it justice.

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You know, it’s funny. It looks so simple now, but I can’t describe how much work it took to put this thing together. Well, not physical labor work on my part of course, but so.many.decisions.

It was worth every emotional outburst and every Lowe’s trip. We love our bathroom. It’s clean and big and restful. It’s truly a game-changer, you guys.

I can’t really explain why, but our tiles remind me of Florida. They’re cool and clean and lovely. I’ve dreamed of getting Turkish bath towels ever since discovering them in India years ago. I love their flowing, mis-matched look. The texture takes some getting used to after big fluffy bath towels, but they dry amazingly quickly. And since David, Amie and I share that shower (who am I kidding, the whole family uses it), it’s fun to have color-coded towels.

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Next up is the closet. We saved hundreds of dollars and bought an IKEA wall system for clothes organization, although after going through the process I now understand why people spend the money for custom wood shelving. The opposite closet wall is still blank; we’re trying to decide what kind of organization we need most (definitely a hanging rack for clothes).

I love having a walk-in closet!

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And here’s the bedroom.

That first night, when we spent our anniversary setting everything up, I walked in here and looked around and burst into tears. It’s just so perfect. Of course at that very moment my kids and in-laws walked in and said, “Wait! What’s wrong!?” David and I keep saying to each other, “This feels like something we don’t deserve.” I hate to think that one day it will become our new normal and we’ll take it for granted.

A very sweet friend gave David and I money to shop for our new bedroom.

We had so much fun picking out the console table, David’s gray reading chair, rug, and that fun India travel poster. The colorful quilt was made by my grandma many years ago. It’s been sitting in the attic, just waiting for this bedroom.

It still looks quite simple, but we decided to take our time with the remaining walls and curtains. It’s funny to try and bring balance to David’s desire for “minimalism” and my desire for “coziness.” We’ll work it out!

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Finally, here we are looking back down the hall toward the rest of the house. A friend told me, “I enjoy looking at your photos, but I just can’t get ahold of the layout of everything.” If you live in Columbia, you’ll just have to come see it in person!

We have some bits and pieces left to finish in the addition, but mostly in Amie’s room (even though she couldn’t help temporarily moving into her space), and the outside of the house. Scott told me he hopes to be back here Monday to get started. Next week I’ll show you Judah’s bedroom!

Thank you so much to those of you who have been praying for us and celebrating every step of the way. We’re so happy!



i’m still here!

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Hi friends!

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog lately, and I feel bad about it. Not that I expect you to be sitting by your computer waiting for a post.

It’s so odd, really. For years I wanted to experience a home renovation so that I could take pictures and blog about the process, but I neglected to factor in one very important thing: that during the renovation I may have zero — and I mean zero — energy for blogging or really anything beyond laying on the sofa with glazed eyes and watching Netflix every night.

Ah well. I’m sure some of you could’ve told me that was a pretty good possibility.

I have absolutely no idea how these DIY-ers manage to do enormous home projects and also blog about them. They have all my respect. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not a DIY-er, and I’m still just hanging on for dear life.

Things got a whole lot harder here during the last third of the addition when a giant hole was cut in our living room wall, and various and sundry people began traipsing in and out every day. Oh and there’s the dust. And the noise. And the piles of clutter around our house. And a lot of kids to keep out of everyone’s way.

And the shopping. I know, I know, you’re like, wait, she’s complaining about shopping now? Must be nice. But as anyone who’s ever experienced a house or yard project can attest, you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on average 1.5 times a day. There are so many decisions, about things I never in my life expected to care about, but are suddenly vitally important. And remember this: whatever you buy will have to be exchanged at least once.

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I blanked out at least two times in Target, and when I came to I was wandering aimlessly in an aisle and had no idea how I got there. It’s bad, people.

For all their challenges, here’s where Gabe and Noah are just the best.

Me: “Hey, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but we actually need to go back to Lowe’s.” Amie and Judah: “Noooooooo!!!!” Gabe and Noah: “Yay!!!! Lowe’s!!!!!”

And enough of my whining already, right? I mean, I’m getting another bathroom! And a bedroom! And a closet! And a lovely little hallway for books and plants. Truly, I’m very very thankful, and David and I say constantly that it’s going to be worth every inconvenience and every penny we’ve spent. It’s turning out better than we ever imagined it could be.

Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant group of people working on our house: not just our builder and his crew, but all his subcontractors have been so nice that Amie said, “I’ll be so sad when all the workers leave” (that’s my extroverted child speaking).

We’re almost there! We’re so close we can just about reach out and touch it. Maybe two weeks until we can move in? That’s nothing, right!?

Tell me that’s nothing.

And now, because I’ve proven to us all I’m definitely not one of those cool DIY bloggers, can I please just give you a hodge-podge of low-quality phone pics to fill you in on our month?

Thanks!

Okay, first, the house!

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We have brick! Actually these photos are outdated. The brick is completely finished, and I’ll post more after the masons come this weekend and clean of the mortar and it looks all nice and crisp (who am I kidding, I’ll probably post photos a couple weeks after the fact).

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Oh, how much my little guys are going to miss having an “instruction site” in our yard. They were mesmerized by this dumpster exchange. And meanwhile, I was consumed with guilt over the fact that our little house project has generated over a dumpster’s worth of waste. Wendell Berry would be horrified. Please don’t tell him.

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For those who are interested, here’s the roof tie-in from the back yard. Isn’t it cute?

And speaking of back yard . . .

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A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a lovely field trip to a nearby family-owned farm outside Columbia, and the farmer showed me this whole area where she lets her one-year-old daughter garden to her heart’s content. I told David how inspiring it was, and about two days later he put in a third raised garden bed, for our kiddos.

The other two beds are David’s babies. He loves them. He tends them. It’s one of his favorite ways of unwinding. But we want our kids to learn the gardening process and to be able to do it all by themselves, so this bed is for them. Soil and plants aren’t especially cheap, so it’s more than “digging in the dirt.” There are rules. Think of it as a little hands-on class. They are thrilled.

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And now we go inside!

Here’s our new doorway, in all it’s glory. I love that Scott made it larger than a traditional doorway, in order to let in more natural light from that window. The bookcase to the left will go in Judah’s room to open up that space more, and those books will be moved to the new built-ins, which will be in the nook to the left when you walk through the addition doorway. The brown chair will go elsewhere too.

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We’re doing the painting ourselves in order to save money, and by “we” I mean mostly David, with some help from my brother and me. It’s a whole lot of painting, especially with all the new trim. Some pieces were primed but still need two coats. He’s been wonderful about it.

I really wanted to go with an almost-white to make our space look big and light-filled, but worried that all white would feel a bit stark. So our exact color is Olympic Hourglass, which is a very-slightly-gray white. The trim and doors will be the Behr paint match of Benjamin Moore Simply White (I highly recommend this color if you’re looking for a true white; I got the tip from Young House Love).

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The hardwood floors will be sanded and stained next week to match the floors throughout our house.

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Here’s our closet! After getting the quote for custom shelving, we decided to go with an IKEA metal rack system, which is considerably less expensive. There will be carpet in here too.

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And here, my friends, is the bathroom. In the last two weeks the shower and floor were tiled. We planned to save money and use vinyl flooring in the bathroom right up until this very week. The cost turned out to be reasonable, since we went with larger tiles, and we are so, so glad we did it.

I found our bathroom paint color on an HGTV Pinterest post: it’s the Olympic brand of Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray (from Fixer Upper!), and it’s a Gray/Taupe. I spent some time really stressing that it was too dark (of course it was the one color we didn’t get a sample of), but the light floors and cabinets make it look better. I wanted it to feel cozy and I think it does!

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Look at this shower! We think it’s stunning. We wanted to go with subway tile with an inset and little shelf, and because we were willing to use remnants from our builder and the tile guy, we got the floor tile and that pretty inset design for free. We still walk in the bathroom and look at each other and say, “This can’t really be ours.”

Actually our other bathroom is kind of disintegrating during this building process (for example, we now have to use a wrench to turn on the hot water, and more floor penny tiles pop free daily), so I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that the entire family will be using the new bathroom for the foreseeable future. That’s okay: at least we’ll all comfortably fit, right?

If you’re wondering what all my Home Depot and Lowe’s trips consist of, let me give you a list of things we’ve needed to provide: shower tile, door knobs, cabinet hardware, sink faucets, all paint and primer, light fixtures, mirrors, shower head kit and shower curtain, towels, towel rack, toilet paper dispenser, closet shelving system, not to mention furniture for our room and Amie’s.

Okay, now that I look at it written out, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. Why, oh why, does it feel like it?

Whew. Let’s move on:

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My baby is a Classical Conversations Memory Master! He did it! He was tested on 400 pieces of information from our school year in the subjects of Latin, English Grammar, History, Math, and Science, and had to achieve one hundred percent in order to get the award. He was the youngest student at our CC campus to become a Memory Master this year.

Words cannot express how proud I am of him. It’s not that I care if all my kids are Memory Masters. But God has given Judah an amazing mind, and I loved seeing him set a new goal this year and work hard for it and do his best. We told him he’d get the reward of a fun experience if he became a Memory Master, and I’ll let him tell you about that in a post after the experience.

We had our CC end-of-year program on Monday, and have just about three days of school left before we’re officially finished. It seems early, I know, but last year we started back during the summer, and that worked really well for us, so we plan to do it again.

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Monday was a big day for another reason: we celebrated two years with Gabe and Noah.

Two years! Can you believe it?

I’ll give you an adoption post here soon, probably after the addition is finished, because I have some thoughts. But I’ll just say now that choosing to adopt our boys is the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s a mark of what God has done in making us a family that we had to consider how exactly to celebrate this anniversary, because they don’t even really think of themselves as adopted now. They’re just ours.

But we love adoption and want to celebrate it and support it for the rest of our lives, and of course we know one day they will have lots more questions. And so we decided our family’s annual Adoption Day tradition will be Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. The kids loved it!

Today David took the two older kids on a big hike in the Greenville area, and I took Gabe and Noah to the zoo and to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, it was my favorite two-year celebration because it’s rare that I get to be alone with just the two of them, just having fun. Spending today enjoying my boys felt beautiful. They make my life better.

Thank you for enduring my long-windedness, my friends!

And now will you do something for me?

I know all of you have your own busy, stressful lives, but if you get a moment, shoot me an email or text letting me know what’s up with you! What’s the hardest part of life right now? What’s the best? (those could actually be the same thing)

I love hearing from you and hate that this blog often feels like a one-sided conversation. In all of the construction stress, the most restful thing for me is to NOT think about the construction. I love hearing from my friends and family (and internet friends! you’re not a blog stalker!).

Happy Friday!





the home stretch.

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I’m long overdue for a house update.

Our house addition started February 13, which means we’re entering our eighth week. Can you believe it?

People told me the construction process would feel like an eternity, but February and March were such extremely busy months for us, that it’s flown by. All except the weekend the roof was being replaced. That felt like an eternity for sure. If you’re wondering why, imagine the sound of something like large rodents scurrying and stomping overhead, interspersed with lots of pounding (on your very skull) and every so often, what sounds like bodies hitting the roof.

That kind of did a number on our family, partly because we hosted our two CPC New Members’ classes the weekends they were here working. I truly thought I might have a break-down at one point, from the stress of it all.

But God gave us the strength we needed to just put one foot in front of the other, and what’s more, He gave us joy. Just in the nick of time. We loved having the big group of people over, as we always do, and if anything it was even more special than usual, because they came to us in all our mess.

And then right after, the Lord gave us a wonderful gift: our window shipment was delayed, and so the builders had to take a week and a half off work. They apologized a lot, but David and I felt that the timing couldn’t have been better.

We desperately needed a break: from noise, from interruptions, from thinking about the addition at all really.

When business resumed last week, we felt rested and energized for the home stretch.

Right now Scott is estimating that they’ll finish up at the beginning of May!

Alright, enough talking. Let’s take a tour around, shall we?

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Here’s the current state of our current bedroom. We had this window boarded up a few weeks ago.

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Now I am standing inside the new little hallway of the addition, looking back into the house. As of tomorrow that window will be a doorway (the cord to that Roman shade gave out not a moment too soon, didn’t it?)! Up until now everyone has crawled in and out through a window.

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Still standing at the window, I’m turning and looking at what will be a tiny alcove. You can see the bedroom doorway to the left, and it will open out into that alcove. The room beyond that wall is our bathroom!

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Hooray! Here’s our bathroom! Isn’t that privacy window fun? There will be a built-in linen cabinet on the right, then the double vanity, and on the other side of that half-wall is the shower. To the left across from the shower is the room for the toilet.

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Here it is! The kids are enamored by the fact that someone can actually close a door and use the potty in privacy while other people are in the bathroom. You know what I love about a building project? You can design it to fit your family’s particular needs, and what we need is a multi-user-friendly master bathroom.

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Now we head out of the bathroom and turn to look down another little hall into the bedroom. That door on my right is the walk-in closet.

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I’m looking out of the hall window to our front porch.

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And here, my friends, is our lovely new bedroom. Don’t you love those big windows? And the vaulted ceiling? David gets all the credit for ensuring that it happened. I didn’t have an opinion either way, but now that I see how charming the room looks, I’m thrilled.

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I turn and look back down the hall I came from. The closet is that first doorway on the left, then the bathroom. Turn right at the end of the hall and it leads to the doorway to our living room.

Don’t you like how the addition isn’t just a big box-like room? It has a hallway and an alcove, and I haven’t shown you yet, but our genius architect figured out a way to add built-in bookshelves off the living room. Yes, it is tailor-made for the Gentino’s.

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Hello again, bedroom! Our bed will go against that wall. We plan to go with a minimal look, furniture-wise, but hope to fit a reading/drinking-wine-and-chatting corner in under the windows across the room from the bed.

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And here we are again at the outside. As you can see, we gained most of the windows this past week since I snapped the above photos, as well as insulation and hardwood floors.

If the addition looks large compared to the rest of the house, that’s because it is! It increased our square footage by a third. Here’s one more glimpse:

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Doesn’t that roof look pretty? It was worth all the craziness! I’ve never in my life considered roofing style, but suddenly found myself needing to choose shingles. I went with architect-style, light-black onyx, mostly by looking around and seeing what I liked.

If you don’t think the roof looks all that remarkable, may I give just remind you…?

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The roofers said that our shingles were pretty much crumbling in their hands as they removed them.

And that’s all for now!

Happy April, my friends!



lately

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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 . . .

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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the condition: 3 weeks in.

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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.

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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.

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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!?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!