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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

forever in the winter

Oh, I have not written anything about this winter. It's been a long, deeply cold winter. I don't think I've ever felt a cold like this one, nor seen snow piled so high.
We had so many long days at home when it was too cold to go outside, and then days where we had no choice but to venture out to buy food and the wind bit our faces and clutched our throats as we ran down the sidewalk to get back to the car with our provisions. Liesel started walking and she had nowhere to walk except around and around inside the four walls of our house. 
We've been warm inside our cozy home together, and I know that is a blessing, but sometimes I just couldn't help but feel sad because the outside world was so averse to me.

This is my eighth winter since moving up to the Midwest from Florida. It never fails that each year by February, I give up on Spring. Warmth and light hides so far behind the white sky that I forget it's going to come back, until suddenly it does.

I remember the first return of Spring I ever experienced, it was 2007 in Kansas City. It snowed until April that year, and I was so discouraged that when the last snow came on, I cried alone in my bed. I was out of hope. I didn't know it was the end of the worst, and a week later when I stepped out into the sun and looked around, I didn't trust that it would stay. I had to go somewhere new that day and got lost of course and ended up driving by a new park. Screams of delight made me turn and see a playground full of children, like ants on an anthill, and they were all shrieking and singing and running their little cooped up bodies, and it moved me. I cranked down my window so I could hear them better and feel the air they were breathing and found that it was truly Spring outside, honestly the turning away of the cold.

Every year since then, I have endured the pain of the winter, and I've been discouraged by it. I've had to sit and wait in that discouragement throughout the horrible month of February. But then there's always a day when the thaw starts and the sun shines bright and warm. That day is a surprise every year, and it's so glorious that it is worth all the somber monotony because I experience thankfulness that reaches deeper than the snow piles were high. Gratitude in the fullest sense fills me to overflowing. My hope is renewed, and God proves again to me that He is faithful. He will not leave me forever in the winter.

"...but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5


Friday, November 15, 2013

everything's good

Everything is good over here. Just wanted you to know. We're a little frazzled, a little sleep-deprived, a little stressed about deadlines...but then I realize that I'm contemplating the hardships of life in my pajamas while sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee in my hand at 11am on a Monday while the baby is down for her first nap. "First world problems" doesn't even begin to describe it. 
Liesel is great. She's hilarious. We still start every day by bringing her into bed with us because she wakes up too early and we like the illusion of the idea that we might get another minute of sleep if we can just go back to bed, but the moment she gets pulled out of her crib it's an all-out Baby vs. Parents wrestling match that continues for the next 12 hours. This child climbs, pulls herself up, rolls, scoots, and hurls herself to the floor...but she does not crawl. She refuses to crawl. As if moving along the floor is way beneath her status. She prefers to walk. But of course because she's barely 10 months old she needs two adult index fingers to grab onto in order to execute her every directional whim and we are both always nearby and completely smitten by our little dictator so we do what she wants and we help her walk all over the house. She takes the stairs in adult fashion, with one foot on each new step, never both feet together, never taking a break. We are tired and we are happy. Thank God she still takes 2 or 3 naps every day (her sleeping has gotten so much better since we got a better weekend childcare system in place). 
These two together are true love. When he comes close she flaps every limb, whacking me in the face and clawing away from me to get to him and then she throws herself on his chest. She is enthralled, in awe, amazed by his tricks and jokes. Everything is new. Even his nose fascinates her. She grabs his ear and stares at it, drools into it and then squeals into it with her whole mouth closed over his ear lobe. He wrestles away from the little terrorist and then grabs her for tickles. When he plays the piano for her? Forget about it. She's right there banging on the keys and smiling up at him because she's doing it too: whatever he does is right.
He is her love, and I am her life. It's squeals of "Dada" when she's happy and cries of "Mama" when she's sad. She needs me for everything. She's still desperate for me, which I love. It puts my heart at ease when I see her growing into a little girl right in front of me. Lately when she's tired of playing she'll reach for me and lay against my chest and suck her thumb for just a moment before she's off again being busy and demanding the world from her little throne of only-childhood. I know it's going to be really hard being the oldest, so I'm happy to let her have her time now. 
I'm trying really hard to be awesome. I really really want to deliver on all my responsibilities, but every single day the laundry piles up and the coats hang over the chairs in the kitchen and the floor needs sweeping and the client emails need answering and the baby needs a bath and the delivered mail is sitting in the box from yesterday (poor Postman) and my husband is hungry because I haven't made a meal and I haven't showered and I'm seriously going upstairs to brush my teeth for real this time but the creaking steps wake the baby so here we go for another round of chaos until she goes to sleep again. 
I'm staring at this picture wondering how we got our act together for the photo and I just remembered begging Tim on a Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church: "I just want a nice picture of us together for a Christmas card." So he obliged and let me dress all three of us and he brought along the nice camera to our trip to the apple orchard where we picked no apples.
The days are flying by. Time has never slipped through my fingers as fast as it is right now. Liesel's first year is almost up. I'm 26 years old right now, and I feel like I'll wake up next week and be 40.
So we're making the most of every day and trying as hard as we can to memorize our baby because she's growing fastly into a toddler. But really, we're not sorry. This is hard and good and so rewarding.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

the end result

The morning of moving day. We were so very blessed to find a nice family to take over the last 4 months of our lease, so we got to walk away from our apartment with only a small penalty taken out of our security deposit. The transition was so smooth.
Liesel was such a trooper. She sacrificed many naps for this renovating and moving process. But, she doesn't like sleep anyway so I guess it wasn't that much of a pain for her.
Tadaaaaa!! We were pretty thrilled with ourselves, and the awesome tradesmen and friends who made this happen for us.
Doesn't it look like the varnish was still wet on the wood floors? It was! Seriously. Tim got to the house early on moving day and the floor squished under his feet. In hindsight, packing 3 major projects (the floors, painting, and new baseboards) into 9 days was a little too tight. Our floor guy wanted to add another layer of varnish as the very last project before we moved in so we would have gorgeous shiny floors that were unsmudged by workmen's boots, and he worked so hard late into the night before we moved in. Thankfully, our movers were about 3 hours late, which gave the varnish enough time to set before we hauled the furniture inside.
Baseboard love. It made such a huge difference in the room, and the vent improvement really swooned me.
Our bedroom. It's so moody and sleepy. Which is great because this is where I do all my sleeping.
Liesel's room. I wanted her white crib to really pop against that chalkboard wall.
This is Jenny's room. We did get her new outlet covers. Just not in time for the photo.
My dad was such a huge help in this process. He is handier than we are.
That pendant lamp's days are numbered. I have a beautiful new one waiting to be hung at this very moment.
I just didn't want to end this post with you thinking the whole house looked perfect. This was going on in the kitchen as we were moving in. But things do look kind of perfect to me with her in the middle of my messes.

And the process slows down from here. We're still figuring out where to put our furniture and which art to hang on the walls. But mostly we're just shooting weddings and editing like crazy because it's September and we have to work hard to pay for this house and all the snazzy things we just did to it. Thanks for tuning in to my little home improvement series!

the process

Closing day was a big day for us! It felt like a bewildering new level of maturity and responsibility. Here we are with our baby, ready to jump into debt to buy this house. Gulp. We had no idea what we were doing. But we did take on 8 extra weddings this year to make this downpayment so the bank decided we could be homeowners. 
 Speaking of which: we are so tired. Do we look tired?
Liesel and Tim had a little play time in the living room before we set to work. She threw up on the carpet and I was all "yeah girl. Make your mark."
The carpet was up by the next afternoon. We were so delighted to learn that the floors were in perfect shape! It looked like they had been given a fresh coat of wax right before the carpet was laid down. Unfortunately, that linoleum entry square wasn't hiding any wood floors underneath it, but our awesome floor refinisher assured us he could tear it up and lay new wood planks in its place.

When I saw all the dust involved in the sanding process, I was so glad we didn't wait to refinish the floors. Even though the door to the kitchen was taped shut, the dust still seeped in and settled on every surface of the kitchen. This was easily cleaned up since we had none of our dishes, or belongings in there, but if we had, I'd have had to wash everything instead of simply wipe off the counters and cabinets.
Over 800 square feet of old carpet and baseboards, and one unwanted square of linoleum gone. Seeing this outside the house was so satisfying.
We knew we wanted a really dark brown stain, but we didn't want to go black. Instead of agonizing over the minute differences in the stain samples above, we chose Jacobean immediately and then scrammed to let the guys get the work done.
I got a little scared at this point in the process. The stain was on, but the varnish was not. We had no baseboards, and the walls were still in their old state. Once the first coat of varnish went on, it already looked better.

So then we turned our attention to paint. We knew we wanted a lot of white, a little bit of grey, some chalkboard, and at least one bold dark room. Pinterest can be a double edged sword, but it did me right this time. I saw this picture and loved the rich, flat color. We would have the same side window light in our bedroom.
I was so scared to do it, but Tim wasn't. We decided on Newburg Green for our bedroom. 
While we were applying sample colors on the walls, we had a painting contractor come to give us a quote on how much it would cost to paint the living areas and entire upstairs. I was naively thinking that this project would cost under $1000. When the nice painter told us he could do it for $2800, not including supplies, I went a little numb in the head. I don't doubt that his hard work and specialized equipment would have been worth it, I just really wanted an upstairs bathroom remodel, which would cost about half of the painter's quote. Tim doubted his ability to paint the house as well as a professional could, and he didn't want to live with reminders of his own sloppy job. So he went and got us some Starbucks so we could think and talk it over. In the end, we decided to save the money and do all the painting ourselves. With a lot of help from our friends.
Joel is one such friend. He's the guy that everyone calls when they need painting done because he's so good and fast at it. When we told him how much it would have cost us to hire a painter, he said "I didn't know my friends owed me thousands..." Then we chuckled, gave him a Chick-fil-A sandwich to show our appreciation, and wondered in awe at our fortunate friendship.
Does this make us look like bad parents? Feel free to tell us all about it, you won't be the first. The above scenario lasted about 5 minutes before I left the house with Liesel to go buy more painting supplies. Then she and I went to pick up lunch for everyone. Then we went to rent a ladder. Basically, I kept her out of the house while we were painting only to learn later that kids are more at risk for developing asthma and allergies from paint fumes by living in a recently painted house than being in a house while it's being painted. Awesome. I guess we're just going to have to pray about that one.
Here's her room in process. I wish I could share with you the expression on the face of the woman at the paint counter at Home Depot when I told her that I actually I did want a full chalkboard wall. Just trying to save money on paper later on in life.
I distinctly remember when I started loving this house. It was when I was painting those stairs. I tediously taped off the freshly varnished wood, and I carefully and lovingly painted back the white on the risers and skirtboard. Then I painted it again, and when it was all done, I loved our house. Doing the job ourselves made us learn every nook and cranny of our home, and it made me appreciate everything I touched. I really felt like I owned it. 
It took about 3 full days, but we got all the painting done. Finally, we started on the baseboards.
One of the niftiest tricks I can pass on to you for decorating ideas is to get an account with I spent many hours on there looking for inspiration (and by inspiration, I mean something to copy) on how to decorate the house.
I was a big fan of the baseboards happening in the two photos above. Further research told us that this look isn't achieved by using any kind of traditional baseboard. Those are just 1x6 poplar boards painted white and nailed to the wall.

We had a good friend of ours cut, paint, and install all of the new baseboards and floor vents. And by then our 9 days were up and it was time to move in.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

as we found it

The first time we pulled up to this house, I wasn't very enthralled. I wanted something classic. A two story Cape Cod, built in the early 20th century. I wanted drawers built into the walls and an attic bedroom. White kitchen cabinets and wood floors. But I also wanted the modern amenities that we'd been living without in our Oak Park apartment. Life without central air and a dishwasher was so not fun. So our realtor appeased my desires to see a few of the old houses and we were largely disappointed in the amount of updating we would have to do and the odd problems that came with them. Like not having room in the kitchen for a refrigerator. 

After listening to what we wanted, our wise realtor must have privately prioritized our wish list and excused some of my fluffy requests, because she brought us to this house. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a finished basement located in an incredibly family friendly neighborhood that was only half a mile from the elementary school. 

When we first walked inside, I dismally noticed the carpeted floors and angular mid-century lines. What am I going to do with those? But the living space was open and airy, something I was really ready for after living with endless walls and long hallways that early 20th century architecture loves. The windows were new, the roof was only days old, the yard was fenced in and it had a deck. It was everything that we needed, just in a Mid-Century Modern modified split level ranch. 
We proceeded into the newly remodeled kitchen and our thinking started to shift. A nice kitchen? I hadn't even thought to put it on the list. None of the women in my family have nice kitchens. I thought nice kitchens were reserved for after the kids got out of college. Tim saw that gas countertop range and started drooling a little bit.
Down the stairs and we flew away into a happy place. The basement was completely finished, recently updated, and only half sunk. We really needed a good space to do our job. One that was out of the way of the main living area but that had plenty of natural light so we don't get depressed while spending many hours on the job. One that allowed Liesel to play while we work. This room gave us hope.
A newly remodeled basement bathroom. Let me just note here that having a second bathroom was a dire need for us. My husband grew up in a family of 9. There were no private spaces in life except for the bathroom. He was conditioned from an early age to get all of his quiet, peaceful time in the bathroom, and to this day his extended bathroom time is sacred. He actually thinks it's called a restroom because that's where you take a little rest from your day. When we were sharing one bathroom in our apartment, times were hard. Tim couldn't get his break-time and I couldn't pee. So this here bathroom is a holy grail of sorts for us.
Cute baby, old carpet.
The beige carpet was everywhere. The walls were light tan. It all blended together into one great mass. But then I noticed a loose corner and reached down to see if I could pull up some carpet...
And lo, there they were. Under the carpets and the carpet pads there lay beautiful oak wood floors. 
And we were very happy. This discovery actually didn't happen until we already had a contract on the house so we suddenly felt like we were getting so much more for our money. We knew immediately that we would rip out the carpets and re-stain the floors dark.
This is the master bedroom. We love those modern windows in the corner. We didn't love the monochromatic colors or that huge outdated air vent.
The other two bedrooms. The smallest bedroom, above, was the worst situation. That carpet was shag and much older than the carpet in the rest of the house.
Upstairs bathroom. I want to do so much with this. I want to rip out everything but the tub and replace with white subway tile and a dark floor. I want open shelving above the toilet and anything but that pedestal sink. I'd love a big round mirror and some modern lighting. Spoiler alert: this bathroom still looks exactly the same and will for at least a few more months.
Does anyone have a creative solution for this situation? There's a delightful new window behind that plastic curtain that I would love to actually see, but I'd rather have a plastic curtain in my life than mold growing in the sill.
These oversized baseboard vents were everywhere! Why, 60's? Why did they all have to be 18 inches long? And I didn't fancy the sudden blonde wood happening on the windows.
So much going on here on this living room wall. Beige, tan, white, older white, and a painted over, unusable 220 outlet.
So this is how we found the house. We had 9 days between closing and our move-in date to refinish the floors, paint every wall in the living room and upstairs, and install new baseboards and air vents.