Saturday, April 18, 2015

Everything I've ever wanted

So, house status is solidly in the "it looks (much!) worse before it looks better" stage.  (Don't ever be fooled by the magic of the Internet that makes it seem like "before" goes to "after" in just one tidy snap of a finger.)

Much worse.  But since frequent postings of wallpaper peeling progress would be the Internet equivalent of watching paint dry, I'll switch gears to mom-blog and share some pictures of our lovely little afternoon picnic.  But not before I assure you that the fruit basket border is NOT staying; I just hadn't found the ladder yet at the point of this photo.

It was one of those days, weather wise, where everything seems absolutely perfect.  When I took this shot, I announced that it captured "everything I have ever wanted."  I think it felt all the more sweet because I have recently been doing a lot of thinking and reading about intentional living, and have been keeping a running list of the things that I want my life and our home to be like.  One of the recurring themes is simple joys, the carefree time spent together sharing the beautiful gifts we've been given.  

 I consider our lives at a bit of a crossroads, moving from a (haphazardly utilized and pretty overwhelming) temporary housing situation to our little dream house that very well may be the address where I receive mail from my grand kids.  The transition is a good chance for me to reflect on what I really want and make the space and our routines and decisions reflect that, but the exercise has been so fruitful that I recommend it to everyone, even if you're not in the midst of a huge change.

I kept a notepad on the kitchen counter for a few days with the header "I want our lives/home to be..." and jotted down random ideas as I thought of them.  I found Tsh Oxenrider's books to be inspiring and practical - check out Notes from a Blue Bike and Organized Simplicity.  The theme and content of the two is similar, but the former reads more like a memoir and the latter more like a manual.

Off the soapbox and on to more pictures:

Family photos are exponentially harder with the addition of each child.  These are my two favorites from the series.  Three out of four are smiling.  And the toddler is holding her nose.

Aaand, totally accidental, but perfect hand position from Anna.  

What is your perfect Saturday?  I hope you enjoyed some of it today :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My blank canvas

Well, friends, I've promised and promised these pictures for long enough.  Many thanks for your patience :)

I'm calling this post my blank canvas, since there are so many spots just begging to be decorated.  However, after the number of hours I've already spent peeling wallpaper, maybe "blank" isn't the best adjective.  Prep work is my least favorite, but soon enough I'll be moving on to painting :)

I've been working on things a little bit (with my two little helpers, so with obvious safety/time/logistical limitations), but renovations will ramp up significantly in May when Justin's semester is over and he's off for the summer.  (Having him 100% of the time in the summer makes up a bit for how little we see him now!)

At some point I'll have to type up the story of finding this house...God's hand is so clearly in the details, and we feel incredibly blessed to have found such a wonderful place in a dream neighborhood (there are several other young families (including 5 other little girls under age 3) on our block - and the kind of borrow-sugar-over-the-fence-while-the-kids-all-play-together kind of community I didn't think even existed anymore).  To be made more perfect, we decided to buy it on Valentine's Day and closed on St. Joseph's Day (the patron saint of homes).

And without further ado, the "before" tour.  (You would have thought I'd learned my lesson about taking good pictures from the last house, but apparently there are some angles I still need to shoot before we change things.  Possibly supervising an excited/exploring toddler while taking these might have had something to do with it :) )

The outside is growing on me, but I may have been heard to call it ugly.  Let's just say it was the charming inside that won me over, not the front!  It will be better in time with some modifications, most notably our plan for a portico instead of that silly canvas over the front door.

Entrance way/ living room - plans include removing wallpaper, removing blue carpet, adding hardwood floors, new sconce lights, removing window treatments.

Kitchen - for now, removing wall paper, painting & painting cabinets; we're considering a more significant overhaul in a few years once we've lived with the space and know what we want to do (this could include closing off doors, removing the wall between the kitchen/dining,, not things you want to rush into).  Also, new appliances at some point (and eventually converting back to a gas stove!)

Dining room (viewed from back family room, looking through into living room).  Kitchen doorway is to the right, large window to the left (apparently Anna was doing something crazy at this point since I have no better pictures?)

Adding hardwood in here, too (because who wants to feed toddlers over carpet?!), adding beadboard, a chair rail, and painting.  Down the line, we might do a built-in two-sided hutch between the kitchen and dining room, or remove the dividing wall all together.

The family room - removing the built-in desk, doing something about the hideous ceiling, removing carpet, adding hardwood floors, and PAINTING.  Sorry to you natural wood lovers out there, but this is a north-facing room where I'll be spending a huge portion of my days.  It's got great windows but needs to be brighter!!

EEEETSY BITSY powder room (off the family room) - remove wallpaper, paint, new sink fixtures, remove shelf, new light, etc.

Basement laundry - for being a basement, it's pretty nice and non-creepy.  I have plans (and Pinterest boards) for eventual upgrades, but for now it's sufficient.

Garage (off the kitchen) - the big challenge here will be making efficient use of storage space and adding a mudroom function since there isn't space for coats/shoes/etc inside the house (or at least, not inside the house in a logical flow...the coat closet is three rooms away from this entry, and I know myself well enough to say that the coats would not get put away properly if we had to do that trek every time).

Going back around to the front staircase:

Stair case.  This much wallpaper makes me want to cry.  New carpeting on the agenda.  I'm not a blue kind of person.

Guest bedroom - new carpet, new paint, new window treatments

Girls' bedroom - new carpet, new paint, new window treatments, general renovation fix up (light switches, caulking, door knobs, etc, etc)

Master bedroom (complete with 3 closets, including a cedar one!) - initially, basic paint/carpet/window treatments, eventually building a window seat

Upstairs bath.  This will be the biggest renovation this summer.  The tub doors have got to go, the vanity is too big for the space, and I've always really wanted to tile something.  Also, I'm brainstorming about that closet and whether it's going to still look like that (versus something more open).  Also, we're trying really hard to figure out a way to have a laundry chute (because naturally the first thing you want to do with a new house is cut a hole through 2 stories, right?!  Oh, maybe that's just us).

Aaand, back porch.  I have some decorating (and globe light) daydreams about this space.  The backyard will eventually have a garden, a swing set, and a shed.

As compared to our last house, which was pretty neglected when we bought it, this one has been impeccably cared for, so finding "former glory" might be a misnomer.  In this case, it's finding more of a current glory, a style and function that represents our family now as opposed to the elderly couple who lived there previously (we bought it from a widower).  But the "finding former glory" name is going to stick :)

We have very optimistic timelines about things we'll accomplish before moving in July, but realistically things will be ongoing projects.  Our last house took us about 14 months, and that was without kids (and it was smaller, although we also had to do more significant work in many cases).  The beauty of this place is that we have no plans to move - I mean, of course we might move someday (either within town or to a new area completely) - but until we feel called otherwise, this is home.  Even our beloved first house had a time stamp on it, since we knew we'd only be in Ithaca until Justin's graduation.  It's reassuring this time to know that we can take our time and do it right to make this place just how we want it.

I'd love to give you a tour in real life, so come on over...especially if you think you might enjoy peeling wallpaper ;)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Renewing our "yes"

I have so many new house pictures to show you (as of last week, we are home  project owners again!!) but I thought I'd pop in today with a quick little reflection on what struck me while celebrating yesterday's solemnity.

As we celebrate the Annunciation, we can rejoice in Mary's yes, her fiat, for the sheer wonder of the Incarnation, of God made flesh in a virgin's womb.  As mothers, we can also rejoice in Mama Mary's example, renewing our yes despite the uncertainties and challenges and fears of bringing a child into an imperfect and messy world.

Mary gave God her yes that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and place Jesus in her womb - but in so doing, gave an open yes to all the years that would follow.

Her yes to cradling the sweet newborn Christ child,

to the joy of her beloved son,

and to the wonder of raising the child God.

But her yes also to the panic when Jesus was lost in the temple,

to her helplessness at the foot of the cross of her crucified Son,

and to the sword that would pierce her heart.

And so on the Annunciation, we have the opportunity to renew our yes to God in the children He has entrusted to our care.  Yes to the sleepless nights, the diaper blowouts, the toddler tantrums and the near constant messes.  Yes to an unknown future for children in a world that can be downright frightening, in bodies that could betray them with disease and wills that could lead them astray.

Mary is to the left.  Anna told me today "I fordot to dive Mary a head."

When staring at a second line on a pregnancy test or gazing into the eyes of a newborn for the first time, we give that child and his or her Creator a blank check of a yes - to love and to selflessly care - no matter what life will throw our way.

The lyrics aren't a perfect fit (nor is the context - I'm sure this is the first time Moulin Rouge and the Annunciation have been connected in any way), but the song "Come What May" from that film was running through my head yesterday.  Written, of course, for romantic love, but so fitting for a mother's ongoing love and constant fiat.

With God's grace and Mary's example:

And there's no mountain to high, no river too wide
Sing out this song and I'll be there by your side
Storm clouds may gather and stars may collide
But I love you, I love you
Until the end of time

Come what may, come what may
I will love you until my dying day.

More inspiration from Mama Mary: They Could Have Been the Stressful Mysteries

Monday, March 9, 2015

Coming soon....

So I've been keeping pretty mum on our latest news around here...but I can't contain my excitement anymore!  Here's a little teaser of the announcement and updates that are coming soon....

Note, I realized that Anna's beloved baby doll could insinuate the wrong type of announcement - it's not that!  Focus on those white walls and that blue carpet and my exploding pinterest boards ;)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} volume 3 - the completed crafts edition

On the tails of my post about not being able to get things done, it might seem a bit discontinuous to post my completed craft projects.  However, the "not getting ANYTHING done" should really be read more in the context of "not getting ALL the crazy things Emily can think up done" rather than the literal nothing.  Someday, maybe I'll learn to set reasonable expectations about what can be done in 24 hours...

But anyway, doing something permanent helps with my sanity during the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of my days, when there is more dog hair on the couch now than there was 24 hours ago...despite me having vacuumed it in between (argh!).  I've recently been inspired by some friends to do a better job documenting the projects I complete - partly so that I can contribute something better than "oh yeah, I made a, uh, thing once" when they pull out a binder of beautiful pictures of their completed projects (true story) - and partly to remind myself that, every once and a while, I do get a thing or two finished (even if it's not the 15 things I planned on!)


My mom's Valentine's Day present, made from this pattern.  Don't look too closely, or it won't deserve it's "pretty" categorization.


Anna's new winter hat.  I finished it late one night and couldn't wait to show her the next morning.  She immediately began "painting" with the tassels.


At around 11:30 the night before my Godson's Baptism, I kept saying "I really should have just bought a Bible"...but I kept on sewing and managed to not be too exhausted when we welcomed that sweet baby into the Church the next day!

I designed it with the ship motif as a nod to his namesake St. Brendan, the Navigator and incorporated the cross into the mast and the fish is a nod to the ichthus (fish) symbol of Christianity.


Photo quality is low, as I had to go on a wild goose chase to collect these pictures (one from my cell phone, one from the tablet, and some from my old camera) - at least I documented them?

I have to be realistic in recognizing that the only reason I was able to get the quilt done is thanks to Justin's mom & grandmother who were visiting and took care of the girls while I went on my sewing binge.  I moved my sewing machine down to the kitchen table, and it was fun to visit with them while I worked.  Also, I can crochet while holding a sleeping baby, so my project to-do list has been including more of that and less of the sewing machine variety (although right before Christmas, I did sew with the girls on my lap (but not both of them at the same time!))

I also have been trying to only do projects that use the materials I already own.  I read an article a few months ago that talked about how the constant desire to buy more projects can take the joy away from crafting, planting seeds of discontent because the project you already have is not as exciting as the one you might find.  Especially given my inability to set realistic expectations for what I can finish, I've realized that buying fabric is like buying stress (for me, right now!) because it just adds something else unattainable to my to-do list.  So, for this year, I've decided to only buy craft materials to finish project I'm already working on - and only when I'm actually at the point of the project that I need those things.  (I've rushed out plenty of times before for the things I "need" to work on a project that has yet to be started).  So far, it's been a great experiment and has restored some of the lost excitement, and even the creativity, to sewing and crocheting.

My year-to-date craft expenditures for 2015?  $0.00  

(Had to get this post in under the wire, as I'm going to Jo-Anns tomorrow - but I need elastic for new flannel sheets I've almost finished for the girls!)

(p.s., fun fact, I know Ana's sister from the craft nights I gushed about before!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The peanut butter to my jelly

Well, friends, I'm not sure if it's reassuring or disheartening to discover - after almost a week of significantly reducing my Internet usage - that the overwhelming status of our laundry/home cleanliness is probably related more to our current busy schedule and season of life than screen time.  That's not to say it hasn't helped at all, but I've noticed that a lot of the times I'd be checking in or reading blogs was when I was already sitting and nursing the baby, aka not times I'd be otherwise able to redirect my attention to washing dishes.  I have, it turns out (which should be no surprise, but still is), a significant inability to make realistic expectations about how much I can accomplish.  It was perhaps most telling when I had 3 hours of help from a University student one morning last week, and I accomplished only 1.5 of the 5 things on my list despite her entertaining the girls while I frantically worked.  (I still had to stop and nurse the baby and I helped Anna in the bathroom once...but I would not have estimated that the folding and putting away the mountain (not a particularly loose usage of the word in this context) of clean laundry would be measured in hours and not minutes).

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I've found myself increasingly interested in minimizing wasted time so that I can maximize whatever it is that I AM able to get done.

(non-existent transition here, since one didn't quickly come to mind...see efforts to not waste time)

Once, my sister and a friend were at my house for dinner when I had made macaroni and cheese.  I must have mentioned something about "needing" to make baked beans to go with the meal - my sister quickly agreed and the friend questioned the necessity.  We couldn't believe that he would eat the macaroni alone, and he was incredulous that we were so adamant about the beans.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but I remember laughing with my sister at that moment at realizing we had probably never had macaroni and cheese without baked beans.  For whatever reason (well, probably that's it's a delicious combination) my mom always made the two together.  It may not have the national notoriety of peanut butter and jelly, but in our family they were every bit the pair.

I realized tonight as Anna and I were eating that our dinner was another infamous combination - another pairing I always make together because I always ate it together.

tuna noodle casserole ~ Harvard beets

In the aforementioned interest of my time, I'm not going to fully flesh out my dinnertime musings about how little comforts of home can be grounding regardless of where you are or what plates you're eating from...or about how much of an impression even the smallest details of making a home can have on those we serve in that house...



...and I'll stick to the random/silly burning question that originally inspired me to snap pictures of my dinner:  what combinations are family favorites in your house?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stop worshiping the god of technology: ideas for Lent

Before I dive into the post, I want to be clear that I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with technology.  In fact, I've counted it among some of the things for which I am most grateful.

However, our use of technology, our reactions to its addictive pulls, our time spent (or wasted) is something to be wrestled with - a delicate balance of consuming information and staying connected that, I daresay, none of us have completely mastered.  With the rapid speed of technological advancement, we all struggle to figure out what this new world looks like for our lives, for our homes, and for our children.  I realized that as I've wrestled with these questions and my own response, some component of technology has been involved in my Lenten sacrifices for at least 10 years (was I really a college sophomore that long ago?!) 

Aren't there days when we allow these technologies to surpass the true God in terms of our attention and our desires and our emotional connection (cue the rising panic when the little icon in the corner informs us that a connection can't be made).

We worship our newsfeeds, and find our comfort in the glowing screen.  We suddenly have "no time" for prayer and feel completely disconnected from the true Source of comfort and refreshment and wisdom.

Perhaps you feel surprised by your own obsession with checking your phone or the rate at which you "just need to check your email."  Perhaps you've felt like a hamster in a technological wheel that you just can't get off.  Perhaps you simply want to be sure that the one true God is the one true God of your heart.

I bring to you an (non-exhaustive) list of ideas of ways to cut back on your dependence on technology and restore a little self-control in this area.  Obviously, everyone's situations are different, and the extent to which we truly need our email or our phones varies, and our temptation are different, too.  But here are some ideas - some small and some drastic - to stop worshiping the god of technology this Lent (or anytime!)  Some are intentional changes about where and when to use technology, some are just ideas to make yourself more aware of your own screen use/dependence, and some are just common-sense ways to be more human and less robot.

(and one more time for those who were distracted by their Facebook notifications the first time I said it...this isn't a vendetta against the use of computers or phones.  I don't hate technology, I just hate the way we allow it to control us).

- Just because it's a laptop doesn't mean it needs to be on your lap - plug the computer in on a desk somewhere and stop carrying it around the house whereever you are.

- Charge your phone in the kitchen and not your nightstand.  They make stand-alone alarm clocks.  Start your day by checking in with God and not with your newsfeed.

- Carry a rosary or a prayer book in the pocket where you usually keep your phone.  

- Give up one (or more) social media accounts for Lent

- Set a timer, and log off when it dings.

- Buy a watch so that checking the time doesn't involve diving down a rabbit hole on your phone.

- Turn off notifications

- Make Sunday a "no technology" day.  The world will still be there when you come back.

- Keep a notepad on top of your (closed) laptop.  When you think of something you "need" to look up "right away," write it down and check the whole list later  

- Install an app or program to measure your time online or alert you when you've reached your limit 

- Initiate a "no screens after dark" rule in your house

- Write someone a letter instead of a text or Facebook message

- Give up a favorite show or a favorite blog for some time in prayer or Adoration

- Print out the recipes or craft instructions or whatever information you keep looking up online, if only to save yourself from the distractions each time you look for it.

- Don't turn on your phone/computer until you've said your morning prayers (or, attended daily Mass)

- Turn off "auto log-in" on social media sites - the added time of needing to type in your username and password sometimes wakes you up when you're mindlessly clicking

- Set a religious image to the background of your phone or computer.  Bonus points if it directly reminds you to disconnect and talk to God.  (Mine is this one).

- Make a list of the things you know you'd rather do than waste time online, and put it on a sticky note on your computer or phone.

- Just. log. off.

What other suggestions do you have?  Are you ready to spend a little less time with technology and a little more time with God?  I haven't decided exactly what my plans are, but I know at least a few of these will be incorporated!

After I had typed 75% of this post & list, I thought to myself, hey, I bet the marvelous Meg has something to say about this.  She does.