Thursday, January 24, 2013

I'm putting down my power tools

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. 
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 

Psalm 127:1

I have been memorizing this verse this week as a homework assignment for the Entrusted With A Child's Heart curriculum that I am currently going through with my moms' group. I tend to have a difficult time memorizing anything (which is why a Nursing degree didn't go so well and I decided to be an art teacher instead), and have really been treating my scripture memory as merely homework. It's hard work! Finding time to memorize and study these verses to commit to memory is not easy for me. (I have discovered that much of the "not having time" tends to be a personal choice in how I choose to spend my spare moments, and it turns out I am not spending them very well.) 

I guess what I am trying to say is that I have been looking at Scripture memory as a homework assignment. And what I didn't expect, is the Lord to speak to me through the numerous repetitions of this simple verse. These words have been running through my head and changing my heart since last Monday, reminding me of who God IS even in my daily routines and activities. 

Unless the Lord builds the house... as I argue with my husband for something I was holding against him and then realize mid sentence that I am not, in that moment, allowing the Lord to build the "house" of our marriage.

Unless the Lord builds the house... as I discipline my daughter out of anger because I have been thoroughly inconvenienced by whatever she said or did. And I hear these words resonate in my heart as I have, once again, taken parenting into my own hands, in a vain attempt to be the builder.

Unless the Lord builds the house... while I try and figure out a formula or system or some crazy way to cause our Gospel Community to fall desperately in love with the Savior, when in reality, unless the Lord builds it, we truly labor in vain.

Unless the Lord builds the house... as we transition into expanding our home and family while my sister lives here, and life has altered. I learn to be flexible, and learn to be in control of my emotions. I learn to be a friend. I make the choice to let the Lord build this, because in the past, I have failed miserably.

Unless the Lord builds the house... as I struggle to babysit two extra kids and feel completely overwhelmed as a parent with four young kids in the house. And I realize once again that being a foster parent will probably be the hardest thing we have ever done. And we can't even attempt to do it alone. 

I don't want to labor in vain. I don't even want to spend my life "trying" to get it right, or parent well, or make it work. I am always trying to build everything in my life myself. My daily living, my activities, my plans for present and future. Trying to figure out what I have to do so my girls turn out well, how to be a full time mom and an artist at the same time, how to maintain good friendships, how to build and be a part of a healthy, gospel centered community. The list goes on. I want to fabricate everything in my life so that it works well for me and to make sure that I am doing nothing that is pointless or meaningless, and everything that is right and good. But God doesn't call us to that. He only calls us to HIMSELF. He calls us to love Him. To be changed by Him. And to then live out the calling we have received.

He calls us to surrender our vain attempts at construction, and let Him alone be the Master Builder.

Unless the Lord builds the house.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tidbits, Sisters, and Cozy Blankets

Thoughts on this past week.

Lyla is a bottom feeder. As in the fish. She spends the entire day on her hands and knees scouring the floor for anything and everything to put into her mouth. I can't even begin to tell you how many giant slobbery hairballs, sticker remnants, small rocks, dried food, and other strange articles I pull out of her mouth every day. And who knows how much random crap she has actually ingested. So, she has been rightly dubbed, The Bottom Feeder. Normally this status is reserved for the family dog, but since we will likely never have one of those (if I have anything to say about it), and our cats refuse all table food except raw broccoli (yep. weird.), Lyla has no competitors. Not even the broom, apparently, since no matter how often I sweep, I still am digging the same amount of treasures out of her mouth every day.

Since we are talking about Lyla, I also find it amusing that since I didn't start her on solid foods until this month, she skipped the puree stage completely, and is perfectly happy and content feeding herself small soft foods from the high chair tray. Her favorites are always what Lexi sneaks her while my back is turned. So far, she has generously been gifted a PB and J sandwich, raisins, peanuts, almonds, an entire banana, half a sweet potato, chocolate chips,  half of a chocolate chip cookie (at least Lexi is sharing, right?), a cinnamon roll, breakfast cereal, cucumbers, and hummus, just to name a few. Naturally, most of these items were excavated from her mouth as soon as I saw what was going on (usually given away by the sound of mild baby gagging due to having a very very stuffed mouth). Older sisters are so helpful.

Really, they are. My sister is now living with us and has been nothing but helpful in the week she has been here. All the hard to get to places in my house that have been layered with filth for months are now sparking. Seriously. You should see my stove. I half expect one of those animated twinkly stars to appear every time I look at it. And my shower curtains. Spanking clean. Makes you kind of want to bust out in song as you scrub. Kids are thoroughly entertained by the energetic auntie. Lots of happy singing in the house with her and the girls and I am far from lonely with good good company.

A little history on how my sister landed in our house. She decided it was time to move out of the deep south and come back to be with family in Chi-town (hooray!). It had to be a quick move, so we offered our home to her and the next weekend Eric and my brother drove all night down South on Friday, picked her up Saturday morning, and drove all day and into the night to bring her home early early Sunday morning. That was last week. This weekend, Eric's brother and sister-in-law are here visiting and Brian is simultaneously working on turning our ancient filthy basement into a lovely studio garden apartment. Once it is finished, my sister will be able to have her own living space, while still being a part of the family as she starts a new life here in the city. We are thrilled to have her, are thoroughly enjoying the helpful hand and company, and are excited to see what life holds for her here.

But currently, as I type this, the boiler is turned off as they re-route pipes, and since our heat comes fully from our radiators, let's just say it's getting colder by the minute up here. Lyla is napping in her snowsuit and Lexi is sound asleep (despite the crazy racket of equipment - kid's sleeping abilities are unmatched) under a pile of blankets on her bed. We have to replace all the windows in the basement as well, so all the windows are pulled out (there are quite a few of them down there) which means that the basement is no warmer than the outside. And I'm pretty sure this weekend is the coldest it's been all winter. Go figure. This is why I am upstairs...

So we are thankful for warm blankets, warm mugs of hot liquid, family, and the roast cooking in the crock pot that promises a hearty dinner later on this evening. And of course, we are anticipating the sound of the boiler firing up within the hour (we hope) as the guys finish up the whole re-routing of pipes business.

Once the basement is nearing completion, I will start posting pictures of the construction process. In the meantime, let's just say that our house is every bit of 98 years old and it is starting to show (hello, old rusty pipes!). But, in spite of the age, it has good bones. And I am so thankful that God has given us this peaceful little space to welcome others into as our family and ministry grows.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reason # 5,896,321

...why I love raising little girls.

I grew up a tom boy. I would have died a thousand deaths before ever even dreaming of putting these on my feet. And yet here they are on my daughter's feet. Beautiful and glitzy and glamorous. She calls them her "Princess shoes" and won't let them out of her sight (even though they are still a size too big). She makes me wish I could do my girlhood over again. This time with all the glitz and little girl frills. Maybe it would have helped my fashion sense, or lack thereof. 

Seriously. I am pretty sure I am doomed to plain cotton tops paired with jeans and sneakers for the remainder of my life unless someone drags me to the store (without my kids of course) and does all the right shopping for me. Actually, if I'm being honest, (and I'm always honest on here) my biggest fantasy (purely non-sexual, thanks) is for someone to arrive at my house having done all the shopping for me, and supply me with trunk loads of a new stylish wardrobe that is also boho-chic and me all at the same time. And all the clothes and shoes and everything fit perfectly without me ever having to set foot in a public dressing room or, God forbid, the Mall (which to me is on the same pain level as purgatory, which I don't know much about, but have heard it's pretty terrible).

Maybe Lexi will turn into a fashionista and buy things for me while she is out. Or not. After all, this is the same toddler that spends the majority of her daytime hours running around the house in just her underwear and shoes. She says she's wearing her "nakey nakes." If I ask her to put clothes on, she tells me she's already in her "nakes" and therefore doesn't need clothes. Can't argue with that. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A little chalkboard paint and some imagination

Being homeowners is a blessing and a curse. There are probably more reasons for it being a curse than a blessing (like the fact that when things fall apart, you are responsible to fix it...and pay for it...). But one of the few blessings of home ownership is that you can do whatever you want with your house and appliances. One of our long term  plans (very long when we are millionaires long term) is to completely gut and redo our kitchen. Our house was built in 1914, and believe me when I say that there hasn't been a whole lot of updating in the past 98 years. It is in great shape, but it's just really dated. (If you still don't believe me, you can stick your head in our basement and see the antique stove and ancient refrigerator that was left with the house. Or you can walk in our bathroom and soak in the lovely bubble gum pink tiles and teal bathroom appliances.)

So here we are, with old ugly appliances in the kitchen, a horrid linoleum floor, cupboards that are WAY too high for me to reach, let alone put anything in them (I am slightly vertically challenged as it is), and zero counter space. Like, NONE. 

I tried really hard not to complain, but even though I tried to keep it to myself, I must have been groaning audibly (ok, I admit it. I was complaining), because for Christmas this year, my husband - my prince, told me that we were going to spend some money to fix up our kitchen for the short term!!! So, we went out and bought some cupboards and a counter top, painted two of the walls a nice bright white (as opposed to the nasty tan that has been on the walls for who knows how long) to compliment the one grey wall, and painted our dated yellow refrigerator with chalkboard paint. The kitchen as a whole is still in progress, still needs some more paint and new curtains (just got the fabric in the mail yesterday!), but here is my kitchen in the works (since I know you want to see it).

 Our chalkboard fridge! So much cheaper than buying a whole new one to match the kitchen, we painted it with a magnetic primer, and then applied two coats of chalkboard paint to the entire exterior. BEST. DECISION. EVER!!!! I spend so many hours in the kitchen with the kids and the fridge has just become the most amazing creative outlet that we can all enjoy together. Perks of owning old crappy appliances that still work, but look hideous. Give them makeovers! :)

 The chalk erases as easy as any real chalkboard surface does too. We love it. And we love the fact that everyone who comes over to our house (which is kind of a lot of people) is welcome to draw on it as well.

Here is the entryway from the hallway into the kitchen. New counter top on the right (**gasp** is that a Vitamix blender? Yes, yes it is. And we LOVE IT.) Stove and sink are hidden, but are to the left. Breakfast table is on the left in front of the window. I love this space. It is so bright and big. 

 My man is awesome. Also, if you know me, you know that I am kind of obsessed with my pot racks. Definitely my favorite part of the last three kitchens that have been a part of my married life. Can't live without them. I actually am trying an herb wall on the left there, with the hanging pots. All my herbs are currently all dead. No surprise there. Maybe I should have made a new year's goal that involved keeping at least one plant alive...

My stove and old farm sink (which is actually pretty cool). Those top cupboards will be getting a white makeover soon. Also please notice that my kitchen is not perfect, and guess what? It's messy. Real life, folks. This is what a kitchen looks like with two little kids and no dishwasher. Lots of dirty dishes all the time. At first this really bothered me, and I spent so much time getting frustrated and washing dishes just to keep up. But I am learning that life is not all about having the picture perfect house, and while I do pretty well at getting everything in its place at the end of the day, the dishes sometimes have to wait. Mostly so I can spend more time hanging out with this little cutie, who looks very much like her dad (minus the crazy ears...those are definitely mine. ;)

 And just to really prove to you how normal we are, here is what our fridge normally looks like. I like it better this way anyhow. ;)

I will have to do an update once the painting is done and the curtains are sewn. The curtain fabric is grey and white chevron. I am really excited. And I am even more excited that these crazy mint green tiles somehow look better now than they did before. I even got a compliment on them last night! (I

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One crazy tree, four happy people, seven attainable(?) goals

The holidays are over and everything is already packed up and put away on our storage shelves. We might have kept the decorations up longer, but our Christmas tree disintegrated. It was really epic, actually. Christmas 2012 will go down in family history as the year our real tree (that we cut down ourselves!) fell apart. I'm pretty sure I will still be cleaning up tree needles from this epic tree in 2022.

We spent the holidays at home with our closest friends, who like us, don't have family close by. It was really really fun! (despite our tree's preference to hang out in the nude on Christmas day). Seriously, though, I have NEVER seen a tree do that. EVER. Check it out. This is after Eric took the lights off.

I have never been so envious of people with artificial trees before...

The beginning of the new year is always interesting for me. After reflecting on the last year, I realized how full it was of change and tough transitions. Lots and lots of growth too. I can only imagine that this new year will be just as full of change as the last one, although hopefully not as drastic as a new baby (a biological one, that is), a new job, and a new house all in the same three months.

I am not one to publicly make resolutions, but always end up making personal ones anyway and then of course feel guilty when I break all of them two days in. So instead of making myself feel like a horrible person, I decided this morning that this year I would make goals instead. Goals are something that I can work towards gradually, and yet have a clear vision of the end result. Unlike a resolution, where I always feel like I am supposed to change who I am overnight. Yeah. Not happening.

So here are some of my personal goals for 2013. I think they are pretty attainable.

- Make space in my life as a SAHM to pursue my personal interests (drawing, painting, sewing, reading, creating)
- Illustrate two children's books (you heard that right. TWO. One is in the works, the other is in my head)
- Make my home a warm and welcoming place for everyone who enters
- Love my kids more, parent with patience and fun
- Make my husband laugh every day
- Drink more greens
- Let my hair down and do something crazy (hopefully more than once)

Hats off (or on, in our case...) to a new year! Happy 2013!!!

[maybe this will be the year we actually get a decent family photo that ALL four of us are in together?!? I can dream, right?]