August 21, 2014

A Peek At My Favorite Spaces In Our House

Our kids are back to school.  Thank you sweet, little 6 pound 7 ounce baby Jesus. I love these little humans, but school is the loveliest little routine builder ever and the older I get the more I crave a routine.   

First day of 5th, 2nd, 2nd and 1st grade



So the children went to school and I scrubbed the last 2.5 months of sticky goo (otherwise known as summer) off of every surface of the house.  So while the house was moderately clean, I thought I'd take a few pictures and show you a few of my favorite spaces. (We have a house full of floor to ceiling windows and I'm not a good photographer, so forgive the washed out photos and the dog that wanted to be in almost every shot)

We moved in right at a year ago and I *think* I have most things exactly how I'd like them to be.  A few words about my decorating style... I love to buy local.  I love to repurpose.  So most of the things in my house were bought used or thrifted and refinished.  It helped me decorate on a shoestring and also made me feel like my home was less box store/cookie cutter and more unique to us.  Allow me to give you the tour.


THE LIVING ROOM:

My favorite things about the great room are the high ceilings and that sign that hangs between the windows.  It's a piece of wood from the milking room of my Grandaddy's farm.  A friend stenciled the lettering for me.  I love having that piece of the farm's history displayed.  (Paint color: Revere Pewter/Benjamin Moore)

My bestie salvaged several old windows and shared them with me.  I blew up some of my favorite family photos and taped them into the frames and hung them all around my house.  Those window frames tend to be the one thing that people are really drawn to when they come over to visit.


Our built-ins hold all of our favorite momentos. 



This sign is one of the first things I displayed in our house (from an etsy store I love) along with my favorite picture of the first time I met Miles. 

On the opposite side of the living room are the stairs.  This week,  I had my girlfriends over for breakfast and a frame hanging party up the stairwell.  I have such awesome friends who will dangle off of 20 foot ladders brandishing cordless drills.   

I found these frames at a little local vintage shop.  They were gross and gaudy gold and beat up and all mismatched.  Some chalk paint was just the trick to get them to all be presentable.  I love that they all have various textures and borders.  They aren't too matchy matchy but still go together.  They are imperfect because I let my 10 year old paint them, but that's just the way I like it.  My husband had a hard time catching my vision for empty frames on the stairwell, but he now loves it just as much as I do.  

My favorite little corner.  I always think the bottoms of stairs are awkward so we popped some color in the corner and it livened up the whole room. 

THE MUDROOM: 

This may well be the most functional space in our whole house.  I wanted a mudroom desperately when we built this house.  I wanted to have a place where backpacks and shoes lived.  It's like organizational heaven.

Those cubbies were a Craigslist find.  My BFF saw the listing and said, "YOU NEED THESE".  They were part of an old cubby system that came out of a school.  They were pretty nasty and kind of 1980's school house so I gave it a coat of paint with a super high gloss black so it's easy to wipe off.  

 We have a local art shop that does drop in painting on days off of school.  The kids created these adorable canvases, so we arranged all of the kiddos artwork in this room and it is the first thing you see when you walk in our house.  (Paint color: Wheatgrass/Sherwin Williams) 

The mudroom as seen from the kitchen.  We mark the kids' heights on that giant ruler on the left. 

THE ROOM WE CALL THE KEEPING ROOM:
When we were ready to move, we looked at a billion houses.  None were quite right for our family so we decided to build.  But one of the houses that we looked at had this little second living room type thing off the back of the kitchen and we knew that we really wanted one of those because with as many kids as we have it seemed like a good idea to have another quieter living room type area.  Our builder said it's called a hearth room if there's a fireplace in it and a keeping room with no fireplace.  So keeping room it is.  


 It's our calm room.  No TV in this living space.  It's where we play games.  It's where Kamron and I sit if it's too cold or hot to sit on the deck.  (Paint color: Wheatgrass/ Sherwin Williams)
We keep all of our family photo albums on that bookshelf and we go through them all the time.  They used to just stay in a box, but I love having them all displayed.  That little dressing table on the far right was the first piece of furniture that I bought in our married lives.  It was $10 at a yard sale. It was the first "ours" in the melding of the his and hers.   

extra kitchen seating

THE ENTRYWAY:



  
I wanted a serene entryway.  It stays serene because no one actually ever walks in those front doors.  We are garage door kind of people and so everyone just comes in our mudroom.


THE OFFICE:

  Normally, this rug is covered in Legos since the giant tub of Legos lives here.  I was super nervous to go with such a dark color on the walls, but I ended up really loving it.  (Paint color: Newportberry Blue/Benjamin Moore)
  
My grandfather built this bookcase for me for my 10th birthday.

DINING ROOM:

All the paintings I bought in Congo are framed in this room.  We are some of the only people in America I know who actually use their dining room on a regular basis.  We heart dinner parties. But alas, my table is covered in back to school stuff so this is the only peek at the dining room.  

That sideboard came out of my great-grandmother's house.  It stores all of the things that won't fit in my kitchen cabinets.  Furniture that doubles as storage = good.  Pops of color in corners make me so happy!  

 And just to keep it real... my kid's rooms are a slop fest 75% of the time (and currently so are my bedroom and kitchen)... so the rest of the house is a disaster and is not suitable for human consumption. And the reason for this is because kids.  I think that kids should be kids and their rooms are their business and they can play and leave out messes and create forts and cities out of blocks up there til the cows come home.  So one day when the behavior is atrocious and they earn extra chores, those upstairs rooms will be cleanish and picture worthy.  Maybe another day...

August 14, 2014

Good For The Soul

I fill my sink up with suds from drops that come out of a green Palmolive bottle.  I don't really even think it cleans my dishes very well, but the smell of green Palmolive is good for my soul.  In the grand scheme of things, I think life would be so much better if we always picked what was good for our souls instead of what is good for our dishes or what is on sale. You see, my Granny Sadie has used Palmolive since probably the dark ages.  Always the green original kind except for a brief stint where she tried green apple.  Thankfully, that didn't last long.  From the time I pop open the top of that bottle I'm transported back to her kitchen, standing on a chair and washing my hands with green dish soap before a meal.  One sniff and I feel 8 years old and cared for and safe.  I love it when that feeling waves over me. It's the best feeling there is.  I know that my Granny wears perfume but she always smells like Palmolive to me.  And waxy lipstick.  And God knows she gets every last drop of lipstick out of the container with the end of a bobby pin because it's sinful to waste good lipstick.  Or anything, really.

That kitchen at Granny's holds a million memories for me.  I love seeing my children in that kitchen, mixtures of so many generations... laughing, fighting, catching up, judging, but always loving.  To this day, I measure heat by varying degrees of the inferno that was Granny's kitchen.  There are few things hotter than that kitchen in August when it was full of my aunts talking and cackling a million miles an hour with the canner full of green beans in mason jars and corn boiling to freeze and no air conditioning.  My cousins and I would run around that kitchen while our moms sat and snapped beans or cut corn off the cob while sweat would roll down all the places you don't want sweat to roll.  We'd help for a few minutes and then run off to do other things, so dealing with the garden felt like more fun than work.  Granny's place was where we would step back in time.  That 150 year old farm house felt like our very own Little House adventure.

The entire farm was our play land.  It still feels that way to me.  When I walk through the barns with my kids and tell them stories about how we would play in the hayloft and how the chickens would lay their eggs in the gaps between the bails of straw or how one time my cousin got stuck up on top of the grain bin, they look at me like I might be part alien.  Like I'm walking, talking historical fiction.  Part of the love affair with the farm and that house is that when us kids would go to Granny's (and it felt like we were there all the time) she made us feel like she had all the time in the world to sit and read us books or tell us stories or cook us endless plates of food from scratch.  Mostly, though, she listened.  She listened to our little kids concerns like it was the most important thing she had going.  My cousin, Kate, used to say "Granny's house is free". It was... free to make messes and mistakes and still feel valued.  We were truly lucky kids.  It was a slower way of life.  One that felt boring to me as a teenager, but one that I love to come back to now as an adult.  There are just certain things about that place (like the smell of Palmolive) that just bring me back to my center.  The other one is Granny's garden.  My mom thinks I'm crazy for that, since as a kid, it was her JOB to work in that giant garden.  But for my generation it was a place to run through and pick from and marvel at.  It was like magic to see things grow and watch Granny be in her happy place.  She ho-hums and haws and worries about that garden but when she sees big fat ears of corn or has a good bean crop or has a cup full of juicy cherry tomatoes you can just watch her light up.  It's soul deep.  It's so much fun to watch.

A few days ago, I took the kids out there to pick corn.  Seeing them run through the rows of corn and hearing them talk to Granny about adequate water supply and mature ears and the raccoons that were threatening the harvest took me back.  I couldn't help but want those moments with my beloved grandmother and my children to last forever.  I've thought back over most of our summer together... of all the things big and small that we've done... all the adventures that we've had... and seeing my kids pick corn and the smile on my Granny's face as she walked out of the corn patch with her arms overflowing may just top them all.  To them it was probably something small.  They might not even remember that it happened.  But for me, it was reliving the best parts of my childhood memories all over again through new eyes.  That's the magic of being a parent.  If you sort through all the other things- there is still magic anew.




     





July 17, 2014

You Get What You Need

This week has run a little differently at my house...

I'm down by half of my kids.  It is so completely strange and different.  And lovely.

There are two types of personalities that my kids have.  I have two that are so outgoing and never meet a stranger and could talk all the live long day to anyone who would listen and two that are shrinking violets who get nervous around new people and experiences and who need massive amounts of quiet to function.  I live somewhere in the middle.  I really love the quiet, but I also love people and hearing their stories and just doing life in community with others.  But the way we've "done summer" so far really only catered to the two who are outgoing and enjoy chaos.  

Scarlett and Miles go full throttle all the time.  They don't like to sleep at night.  I find them wandering around, lights on, beds full of toys many times during the night.  They pop out of bed in the morning ready to tackle the world.  And by tackle the world, I mean meet and greet the whole world.  It's almost like a cartoon where everyone throws the windows open and greets all the people in the streets.  That's Scarlett and Miles.  They bound down the stairs in the morning and say things like "Let's go take the dog on a RUN and then jump on the trampoline (at 6:30am)!!!!" If Scarlett sees the same woman at Walmart twice she will say, "There's my friend!  I need to go and say hi to her!"  And I will say something like, "Baby, that woman is 75 years old and screaming at her grandchildren and buying all the toilet paper in the free world and we don't know her."  It's both a good quality (if you want to be, say, a politician or a preacher) and a bad quality (if you don't want to be abducted by strangers.)  Miles will high five anyone he meets and then sit down and swap life stories.  He's going to make a hell of a journalist, that boy.  Those two are uncomfortable in the silence.  They need structure to the nth degree.  And chaos- but structured chaos.  They need transient relationships.  They are who you want next to you in the face of an emergency because they are always ready to jump into action.  They need activity.  THEY NEED TO GO 100 MPH ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY or they get bored and antsy and pretty much pull the paint off the walls in an effort to find some sort of stimulation.  That, or they fight.  

Fighting is not my M. O.  and so I have filled summer to the brim. Truly, to the freaking brim.  There has been swim team and piano lessons and appointments and running here and there and everywhere.  Scarlett and Miles lurve it.  Sadie and Noah, not so much.  They are exhausted.  Sadie, who could sleep til noon everyday wakes up saying, "They are just so loud." And then sometimes she'd just burst into tears because some of us aren't built for noise.  Noah would sometimes look at me and say, "Mom, can we just have a day off to snuggle?" I would think, "Hmmmm... I'd like to snuggle, but if we stop, disaster will surely strike!" Those two are the "quiet mice."  The deep thinkers.  The ones who could sit in their beds all day long reading a book and talking quietly to each other.  It borders almost on laziness, but they just need a lot of sleep and a lot of down time.  They are the ones who introduce themselves at camp as, "My name is Sadie and I have social anxiety." We are all just wired differently. 

We were following the laws of averages, half being content at the warp speed of summer and the other half longing for a break.  I felt a lot little ragged trying to keep everyone happy.  I find that's one of the hardest parts about being a mother... trying to nurture and love all the little differences in their personalities... especially when what makes them all tick seems to really be at odds with one another.  After 6 weeks of being so lopsided to catering to the ones who need to go all the time, I had a little breakdown where I felt so tired and felt so bad at not giving my other kids what they need to function as well.  When mama gets out of whack, there is no hope for anyone.  I started feeling defeated.  I broke it all the way down.  The kind of breakdown that makes you think for just a fleeting moment, "I wonder how long it would take me to just get in the car and drive to Mexico?"  Really, let's be honest.  When there's more than one kid, it just feels hard to meet all the needs.  So, last week, I tried to slow down this train so that I didn't need to take the train to Mexico.  The ones who need the structured chaos like they need air could not handle the stillness and so the behaviors that went down in this house are the kind of crap you see on made for TV movies about possessed children.  There was not enough coffee, Jesus, or Zoloft in all the world.  I went to the The Google and thought about typing "Boarding School" but instead typed "day camp".

A place in our town did day camp.  It was affordable. It was ALL DAY LONG.  It was fear factor themed and there was going to be swimming and eating worms and canoeing and running and being with so many NEW PEOPLE TO BECOME FRIENDS WITH!  I didn't hesitate.  I announced this to all the kids, "Who wants to go to day camp!?!?!?!" True to their personalities, Miles' and Scarlett's hands shot up so fast it made my head spin.  Sadie and Noah looked at me and Sadie became the spokesperson, "That sounds like it would make us nervous."  So we divided and conquered.  Two would go to camp.  They would get everything their little adventurous hearts could ever desire.  Two would stay home.  They would get everything their little introverted hearts could ever desire.  EVERYONE GOT EXACTLY WHAT THEY NEEDED.  And yet, I couldn't help but feel major guilt that I couldn't be the one to give everyone exactly what they needed all at the same times.  Which is completely stupid because everyone would be perfectly happy doing their own thing (Some at camp, some at home) and it didn't matter if it was me giving it to them as long as they got it.  On Sunday night, the excitement of the upcoming divide and conquer week was palpable.  Sadie and Noah had planned our Monday with all the things the other kids didn't like to do.  Scarlett and Miles packed their water bottles and bathing suits for camp and declared that it was going to be the best day ever. 

And it was.  By noon on Monday, I felt relaxed for the first time all summer.  It no longer mattered that I couldn't be everything each one of my children needed simultaneously.  They were all blissfully happy.  One Monday, I took Sadie and Noah out for a day of their favorites: stir-fry for lunch, a long relaxing trip to the bookstore, and then we capped it off with a scary movie since Scarlett and Miles hate scary stuff.  Then on Tuesday, we stayed in our pajamas for the entire day.  When I say the entire day, I really mean it.  No one put clothes on all day.  We read our new books.  We snuggled.  We took long baths and had long uninterrupted conversations.  On Wednesday we went to the museum and stopped and read all of the signs since no one was there running from exhibit to exhibit to stop us.  

When we all convene for dinner together in the evenings, it is so fun to hear the kids talk about their days.  The campers are all fired up for all the go go going they've been doing.  They come home with dirty clothes in a sack and ketchup in their hair and stories of new people they've been meeting.  While none of those things appeal to the others, it's awesome to see them all be genuinely happy for each other's experiences.  Watching each one of my kids be in their element has helped me find the balance I was so desperately searching for.  It feels like a weight has been lifted off of me.  I feel like I can make it to the start of school in 26 days.

They say that money can't buy happiness.  But money can buy day camp and so far I think those two are the same thing.
Cutest. Campers. Ever.

Freedom.


July 06, 2014

Happy 6th Birthday, Miles!

Dearest Sweet Little Miles,

OH BABY!  You are not a baby anymore.  Last week you turned 6 on Independence Day.  Noah will still declare that his Halloween birthdate is the best day to be born on, but I think being a little firework baby suits you just perfectly.  You are just that little spark... that little something extra that bursts forth in the darkness and leaves people in awe.  

One of my favorite pictures of you from your 2nd birthday party

This year was a year of big changes for you.  You started kindergarten! *sniff sniff* I didn't think you were ready.  You are still just a tiny little guy and all those other kinder critters just seemed to tower over you.  I worried that emotionally, kindergarten was going to chew you up and spit you out.  I worried that you wouldn't be able to keep up because kindergarten has changed a lot since I was in it.  Then, we did recess and colored.  Now, if you can't read by the end of kindergarten, you are behind.  That scared me for you.  You see, you qualified for preschool years ago because you tested across the bottom of your same aged peers.  You got some labels slapped on and a slew of interventions.  We braced ourselves for how difficult school would be.  We've sat through a ton of IEP meetings.  And through it all... you kept doing your thing.  You kept working, you kept learning, you kept moving at your own "Miles is too cool for school" pace.  And then this year in kindergarten you exploded.  Things started clicking.  You started making connections.  You started writing and reading!  You started realizing that 8 or 4 or 6 weren't just arbitrary words!  Word on the street is that next year you won't qualify for services or need an IEP.  MILES!  You went from the bottom 7% to all caught up.  It blows my mind.  And yet- it shouldn't.  All your life you've been defying odds.  You've always set your own path and done things in your own time.  You'd think by now I'd learn to just sit back and stop worrying about you because YOU'VE GOT THIS.


A few of my favorite stories from school this year... I was told at a meeting that you were having trouble figure out what more and less meant.  One of your teachers said she finally broke it down to you like this, "If your mom was going to give you 4 pieces of candy or 8 pieces of candy which one would you rather have?"  And of course, your answer was, "Well, my favorite number is 4, so I pick 4."  And so we learned that you totally know more and most but that you always picked what number of the two was your favorite.  I am so grateful for the teachers in your life that take the time to get you.  The other thing about school is that you never stopped talking.  I can't even count how many times your work came home with a note that said, "Finish at home.  Miles was talking during work time."  By the end of the year you had "I'm sorry for talking, Mrs. Owens" completely memorized for your apology notes on those papers.  Your teacher and I had many a giggle that you were the class politician and everyone just always wanted to talk to you and be your friend.  Everyone in your whole school knows you.  I can't walk in there with you without a herd of kids coming up just to be in your presence.  It's hilarious, but there is just something about you, Miles Terry.  But my favorite story from school is when a big group of 4th grade girls saw you in the hall and called out to you and you waved your hand in one big giant dramatic circle from one side of your body to the other and said, "HEEEEEEELLOOOOOOOOO LADIES" all slow and sweet and like a total Casanova.  We've known all along that you are just Mr. Personality and there is nothing anyone can do (or would want to do) to reign that in.

Shortly after school started, Scarlett came into our family.  The instant relationship the two of you had truly felt miraculous.  You could reach her when no one else could.  You all developed this simpatico within minutes that transcended the adjustment all the rest of us went through.  You both marveled at having someone else that looked like you in the family.  I am so grateful for that connection that you have.  It often gets you both into a lot of trouble because DEAR GOD YOU EMBOLDEN one another.  But you also love each other fiercely and deeply and seeing you together makes me believe that there are still forces of good in the world who can bring such redemption to both your lives by giving you each other. I listen to you both reconcile your pasts and I whisper up silent prayers of thanksgiving that you have each other as you navigate what it means and feels like to be adopted together.

This year, I saw something shift in you.  You are becoming so sensitive.  I'm watching you use that sensitivity in the most amazing ways.  You are turning it into empathy.  Miles, a couple of weeks ago, I watched you give a high five to a homeless man and then tug on my arm to make sure that we gave him some money.  I see you befriend people who might not have friends.  I see you walk up to people in the assisted living facility and give hugs and a "How you doin' ma'am" to people who desperately want to be seen.  And you do every bit of this without prompting.  I watch it come right from your heart.  You have such a beautiful heart.  I'm so incredibly proud to be able to witness you becoming such a champion for people.

Miles, I wish I could describe how much we love you.  If I had a nickel for every time your daddy said, "Man, he's just such a neat kid," I'd be a rich woman.  Your dad loves you like crazy cakes and he just gets this sweet little grin while he watches you.  A few months ago you had your tonsils taken out and some corrective surgery on your ears.  You didn't get out of my lap for a solid week.  If I went to the bathroom, you followed me.  So many times while you were laying on top of me while we watched Planes for the 306th time a tear would pop into my eye remembering how not too many years ago, you didn't want anything to do with me.  Thank you for letting me be a source of love and comfort to you now.  It's not lost on me how far we've come.  I'm crying now just thinking about it.  You have such a capacity for love.  Everyone that meets you loves you instantly.  I'm so grateful that I get to be your mom.

You are a busy little man.  This last year you played on a baseball team and joined the swim team.  You moved into a new house, started at a new school, went on a few vacations.  You spend your days playing with your bestie, Davis, who luckily moved in down the street a few months ago.  You spend hours jumping on the trampoline and soaking things and people with the water hose.  You run like the wind blows and you never seem to get tired.  Ever.   You learned how to ride your bike without training wheels and now you can zoom anywhere you want to go.


You play round after round of UNO with Noah and you let Sadie baby you any time you can. And, of course, there is no end to the mischief you and Scarlett get into. You lost your first tooth!  You weigh 35 pounds and wear size 4T clothes.  You've been growing your dreadlocks out from almost two years and you are kind of known for them in our circle of friends.  They suit your spunky little personality just perfectly. You are surrounded by a family who loves you to the point of insanity.

You are a ray of light and sunshine to everyone around you.  We love you so much and can't wait to see what the next year holds for you.

I love you!
Mommy

***Every year, I give my kids a little interview on their birthdays. I hope that it will be a great way for me to look back and see glimpses of who they were at every stage of life and see how they change over the years.  (For previous years, click on 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010)

Me: If a genie could grant you one wish what would it be?
Miles: Ummm, I don't know.  I guess police officer.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Miles: dentist

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Miles: yes
Me:  To who?
Miles:  I don't even know what her names gonna be.
Me: Do you want to have children?
Miles: yes
Me: How many?
Miles: three. One girl and two boys.

Me: Do you feel different now that you are six?
Miles:  Yes. It feels different that I can ride my new bike.

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Miles: Green cause lots of things are colored green.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Miles: Davis cause he plays with me a lot and he ummm, lets me in his room.

Me: Now that you are six, do you think you'll get a girlfriend?
Miles:  NO!

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Miles: Planes

Me: What do you like most about school?
Miles: Lunch because I get dessert.

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Miles:  That I love people.
*** That's my favorite thing about him, too!***

Me: What is your favorite song?
Miles:  Nothing can stop me from Planes

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Miles:  I would be thinking so smart.

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Miles:  Play with other kids who don't have other friends.

Me: What are you most afraid of?
Miles:  Lightening.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Mommy?
Miles:  That I love her.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Miles:  That he works so hard for me.

Me:  Is there anything else you want to tell me?
Miles:  You make it up.

Your Current Favorites:
Food:  cheeseburgers
Book: Mater and the Ghostlight
Ice Cream: Vanilla



A look back at the last year of Miles' life

Hawaii July 2013

The joy of being a brother to sisters July 2013

Handsomest Man on the Block- July 2013

August 2013

Scarlett's First Week Home August 2013

First Day of Kindergarten! August 7, 2013

September 2013

October 2013

October 2013

October 2013

Being Luigi- Halloween 2013

November 2013

Enlisting Daddy to help with dreadlock maintenance.  December 2013

 January 2014

February 2014

February 2014

Flexin' March 2014

Easter Sunday April 2013

Saint Louis, April 2014

City Museum, St. Louis April 2014

Ice Skating!  April 2014

First Lost Tooth May 2014

Still love getting your hair washed in the sink April 2014

April 2014

Hanging out with your BFF Davis May 2014

First Day of Tee Ball May 2014

Post Tonsillectomy Snuggles - May 2014

Pajama Day for the last day of kindergarten- May 2014

First week with our dog Maggie- May 2014

First day of swim practice June 2014



HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY, MILES!


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