decorating a home bit by bit

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Yesterday morning as I was pulling up the quilt over our bed, a well worn thought popped into my mind.

“New sheets would be so nice. I would love to have all our pillows match, paint our walls a soft blue, find an antique headboard and hang some wedding photos!”

Anyone would like to live in an attractive environment, but having a well decorated home has always been especially important to me. Since I was a little girl, I remember arranging things to be just so, and desiring to create an atmosphere that celebrates everyday life, beauty, and creativity.

This eye for beauty can be a gift, and also a burden. It’s easy to become discontent when reality is a long way from the final vision. 

My mom's house is a great example of a work in progress. She's always done the best she could with what she had. The table is a garage sale find over 15 years ago. For a long time there was no curtains, and the light fixture was the brass one that came with the house. She just repainted the dining room and hung the frames she'd collected a year or so ago and filled them with pictures of our family.

My mom’s house is a great example of a work in progress. She’s always done the best she could with what she had to make things welcoming and tasteful. The table is a garage sale find over 15 years ago.  The chairs come from a combination of different table sets they’ve owned. For a long time there was no curtains, and the light fixture was the brass one that came with the house. She just repainted the dining room and hung the frames she’d collected a year or so ago and filled them with pictures of our family.

I enjoy a good before and after decorating show or blog post like anyone else. It’s fun to see the big reveal and what amazing changes were made! But I wonder if this feeds an unrealistic expectation for the average homemaker? 

Most times, decorating a home doesn’t happen in a one weekend project frenzy or shopping spree. It certainly doesn’t happen in the time it takes to write a blog post.

Most times, it is a slow progress full of sometimes significant but often small changes. Building a collection takes time, swapping out the hand-me down lamp for an updated style.

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Four years into decorating my own home, I’m learning to be content with the process. Not everything needs to be done at once. 

I’m trying to practice waiting in patience, learning to be resourceful, and above all being thankful.

Bit by bit we will build a meaningful home that suits our personalities more and satisfies my thirst for beauty. One nail hole at a time, one painted wall, one throw pillow sewn.

And I think the end result will be all the more beautiful because of the story it tells. 

 

 


Loving the Little Years: a book review & using words to shape our attitude

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A book called Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches as been on my to-read list for a while and I thought there would be no better time to finally pick up a copy from my library. As Jude is becoming a toddler, our parenting is entering a whole new territory. We are moving past the keep-this-baby-fed-and-happy stage to raising a little individual who needs discipline and instruction.

Rachel Jankovic’s writing is friendly and approachable. She is in the thick of raising children of her own and isn’t just taking a walk down a romantic memory lane. She has no qualms about telling it like it is, but with a cheerful “you can do this in God’s strength!” attitude.

Each chapter is only a couple pages long, and they are all on various topics from dealing with bickering children to the place that “me time” has in our lives. They are easy reads for the busy mama, but there is depth to her thoughts that leaves you with a lot to chew on.

In one chapter, she encourages you to use story-telling to your advantage. “Setting behaviors into stories is a great way to communicate with your little people. Got a boy hitting a sister? Tell him about a brave knight who went out to fight the dragon but started hitting the princess instead. Give children a chance to get outside themselves and see their behavior as it plays out in a story. It often turns out that they know exactly the right thing to do.”

Later, she uses the same tactic on us moms, telling the story of two children who see a daunting task ahead—the chore of cleaning a dirty room. The first child picks up one or two things, but then sits down and cries about the hardness of the task. The second one takes a deep breath, puts away one thing at a time, and eventually sees faithful progress.

She brings the point home by asking, “Do you see yourself in that? Do you like to dwell in discouragement? Do you spend time not working but tallying the work that you think is too much for you?”

Rachel goes on to say that she became resolved not to let the difficulty of life define her attitude, and committed to give up her habitual use of the word “overwhelmed.” She is quick to clarify that it does not mean she is not often in over her head! But she recognized that her use of language directed her heart, and she wanted to train herself to rise to the work God had called her to with a cheerful heart.

This was a great challenge to me, since that word has been a frequent choice in my conversation, especially since becoming a mom (just ask Derek).

There have been many mornings when I wake up to crumpled laundry tossed on the couch, and dirty dishes spilling over onto the kitchen table, with a needy baby who wants my undivided attention, and just want to crawl back into bed. It’s hard when your to-do list is three pages long and you are starting the day already in the hole (not to mention needing a shower).

I don’t think there is anything wrong with honesty or admitting that we are feeling weak and struggling. However, Rachel’s story really prompted me to think before I speak to myself (or others), and to choose the better path in preaching to my heart.

I need constant reminders that God promises to sustain me in stressful situations, and that He will bless my faithful efforts to move forward. This means carefully choosing which words focus my heart on those truths instead of dwelling in discouragement. 

This was just one of the lessons I’ve been mulling over since reading this book. I think it will eventually find a permanent place on our bookshelf so that I can read it again sometime. It is definitely worth adding to your collection, or would be a great gift for any mama you know who needs a good dose of encouragement!

What about you? Have you thought about the effect your choice of words have on your attitude when you are faced with challenging circumstances? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

July in Our Home

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Monthly Updates

I really enjoyed writing the “Weekly Miscellany” posts. Blogging is the easiest way for me to record our memories at this point, and it makes it easy for those who want to keep updated with what’s going on in our lives! But it actually took a good bit of effort to produce it once a week, and once I missed a week, it was hard to get back on the horse. When I get a spare moment to blog, I’d like to write about more than just our family as well, and weekly updates take a good chunk of that time.

So instead I will be writing a “miscellany” post at the end (or beginning, ahem) of each month to recap our happenings, overload you with iphone pictures, and blabber about what Jude’s been doing lately. I may even round up what’s been going on around the blog (it’s obviously been very quiet the last couple months) and a few links to read. I don’t have much prepared this month, though, as it only dawned on me the last couple days that I could do a monthly feature and keep the updates hopefully regular.

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Independence Day

Derek had to work the holiday, so our plans weren’t big this year. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law to`ok Jude and I out thrift shopping and then we went over to their house to grill dinner. Derek joined us in the evening, and we just hung out and chatted and played games. Sadly, we didn’t even see any fireworks this year, so Jude has yet to have that traditional American experience.

IMG_1925Lots of Family Get-togethers!

This has been the month of seeing family!

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Derek’s extended family on his paternal grandmother’s side is very close and meets in July for the annual Brady Reunion. This year was the 35th (I think?) reunion! Everyone drives from all over the country to take over a hotel in a central location for a few days. We ate lots of puppy chow, went mini-golfing, had a junk auction with fake money, and honored our heritage (this year’s theme). It’s such a privilege to be part of such a great, loving, massive, loud, fun, godly family.

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My mom’s parents (we call them Pake and Beppe) and siblings and their families all drove to meet at a park one Saturday. We had a picnic and just caught up–it had been two years since I’d seen some of them! Jude met aunts and uncles and cousins for the first time.

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The week afterwards, my Pake and Beppe came into town to visit. At first, we had some terrible storms Sunday night that took out my parent’s power, so everyone came over to our apartment last minute and had dinner together. Later, it came back on and we went and visited my parent’s home for a meal of chicken satay, peanut sauce and fries. The flavors of this meal are from my mom’s childhood growing up as a missionary kid on Bonaire, a Dutch Caribbean island.

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Jude at 17 months

Jude has fast leaving babyhood behind for being a toddler. He’s running full speed everywhere, and chattering up a storm. I don’t understand much he says, yet, but he sure has lots to say! A few decipherable words are “mama, doggie, thank you, hi, bye, no, night-night.” He’s shown a lot more interested in books and likes to be read to or flip through them on his own.

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He’s super friendly to anyone, so this introverted mama has had many conversations with random strangers after Jude waves at them and says hello. We were at the farmers market last weekend and he was twisting around in his stroller to wave at people and launch into a string of jibberish. Before I could stop him, he even reached over to pat a lady on the behind who was waiting in line ahead of us to ask a few very intense sounding questions. He also waves goodbye for everything, even when I go in the bathroom and shut the door.

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He’s also become really interested in guns. His uncles and cousins have let him play with their nerf guns and he loves it. We don’t have any toy guns at home for him to play with, but he is learning to be resourceful! He picked out a tiger-shaped puzzle piece to use as a gun, and also a letter “F” fridge magnet and will run around the house yelling, “Ba, Ba!” (bang, bang)

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Jude also jumps at any chance to be outside. His favorite thing to do is go on walks, which we’ve been trying to do every day. Last week he brought me my shoes and went and sat in the stroller to say, “Okay, enough waiting, mom, it’s time to go on a stroller ride!”

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Enjoying Summertime

Summer is half over, and it feels like I’m just starting to enjoy it! We’ve been trying to visit the park, go on walks, frequent the Farmer’s Market across the street, eat fresh produce, and have the windows open whenever possible. I’m determined to soak up every bit of sunshine left and am in no hurry for colder weather.

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On the Blog

The only post from July was Ten on Ten, a monthly photography challenge.

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A Few Links

A beautiful desktop calendar for August

I’ve been enjoying reading through some of the archives of this common-sense, wisdom from experience blog on the ins and outs of homemaking. It is like sitting down with an older woman for a chat on so many practical and helpful ideas on how to run a home efficiently. Check out the category The Reasonably Clean House.

Jim Weiss from Greathall Productions has lots of free audio to listen to on Spotify!

That’s all I have time for today—since we are having dinner guests tonight I think a shower and vacuuming the crushed cheerios off the couch are in order.

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Linking up at Joydare Capture Your Journey

Ten on Ten: July

Ten on Ten is a practice of finding and capturing everyday beauty–ten pictures at a time on the tenth of the every month. I’m linking up my July photos at A Bit of Sunshine!

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Thanks to my sister-in-law, we have a coffee maker again! It makes a single serve portion which is ideal for a little pick me up in the mornings.

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Enjoying our little bit of the outdoors on our apartment balcony. Jude likes playing in a little sandbox out there.

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I’m loving having a couple pots of herbs outdoors! So easy to pick off a bit to add a special touch to our meals.

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Podcasts are my friend these days. Derek has been working overtime (7 am-8:30 pm shifts) at least twice each week lately. I’m so thankful for his hard work to provide! But the days do get long and podcasts give me a little adult conversation to pass the time. The Art of Simple on home fries is favorite.

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Tiny little dill seedlings.

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I’ve been joining in on a great Bible Study at Doorposts on the Proverbs 31 woman. It’s been eye-opening, encouraging and convicting! Jude is always eager to help me out.

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Afternoon play time in Jude’s room! He’s been enjoying this toy lately.

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Around when Derek would normally be getting home from work, I need a little pick me up. Essential oils to the rescue! Diffusing this combination smells great. Serenity is a calming, relaxing blend, and balance is great to help ease anxiety and help you to focus.

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Pausing for a treat. White chocolate with raspberry and chocolate chip ice cream…mmm.

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Had to snag at least one photo with my wiggly little cutie pie!

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Some thoughts on marriage…

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I’m up late tonight after a busy day celebrating the upcoming wedding of Derek’s brother and his fiancé. The bridal shower went great and I will post pictures soon.

We asked each person to write down their best marriage advice for the bride. This of course got me thinking about the biggest lessons that I have learned. It’s in no particular order, but this list is what came to the forefront of my mind, and is obviously not exhaustive, but what I would want to tell my soon to be married self four years ago. Of course, ultimately no advice prepares you for how hard and sweet marriage is. Just enjoy the ride and learn from your successes and mistakes.

• Study him. Know his likes and his dislikes. His dreams and hopes. Learn his love language. These may change over time.
• Try to put yourself in his shoes and think about what his perspective is and why he may be feeling that way, instead of always focusing on your own feelings.
• Be his safe place. Show him that no matter what he does or says you will love him and respect him unconditionally.
• Support his leadership, whether or not you always agree (you can discuss disagreements privately but don’t do it in public!). Don’t talk bad about him in front of others!
• Focus on the good. Practice biting your tongue or saying something nice instead. Let yourself cool off before you approach him if an issue must be addressed. Always say thank you. Praise is much more effective than criticism–but don’t manipulate!
• Don’t resent having to ask for help or tell him what you need. He can’t read your mind.
• Prioritize intimacy even when you don’t feel like it. Think of the marriage bed as renewing your vows. It’s so much more than simply physical.
~Don’t expect from him what only God can give. Be satisfied in Christ. He is the only person who will never let you down.
~Be his wife. Not his mom, or his school teacher, or his boss, or his pastor or the Holy Spirit. You are his lover and his partner and his friend.
~Don’t be afraid of dry spells. The feelings will evolve and come and go, have highs and lows. Good times and bad. Just cover your marriage with prayer and patience and remember that love is primarily an action and where you lead your heart the feelings will follow.
~Serve/give with no expectations or strings attached. But just because you love him.

What is your best marriage advice? What lessons have you learned?

The soundtrack of my childhood…

My dad and I dancing together at a wedding.

Whenever Jude hears a beat, he can’t help but start moving and grooving! It is the cutest thing to watch his head bobbing and arms swaying. Lately, I’ve been turning on some music just for the sake of taking 20 minutes and picking Jude up and dancing with him. He loves it.

I’m a quiet person, and you will have a hard time getting me out on a dance floor. But seeing Jude’s unabashed love for music brings me right back to my childhood. Awhile back, Derek and I watched all my old home videos, and there is tape after tape of my sister and me whirling around our living room and dancing, often joined by my dad.

Music is a huge part of my memories as a little girl. And not the cheesy “kid music” (although I’m sure we listened to some). No, what I remember is my dad’s sharing with us his love and taste in music, which we in turn grew to love as well. Every song holds a story and brings me back in time when I hear it.

Sunshine on my Shoulders reminds me of my dad at breakfast, making chocolate chip pancakes and singing his own words to the classic John Denver tune. “Oatmeal in my belly makes me happy, grapefruit in my eye makes me cry…”

Elton John comes on the radio and I’m a kid again, with sandy knees in the backseat of our van (you know, the dinosaur with curtains and a ladder on the back), windows down, driving home from a day at the lake, and my dad pumps the song up as loud as the speakers will handle.

After dinner, he would sometimes put on an Irish Jig (loudly again), and let us go wild when we were supposed to be clearing the table. In later years, we eventually had to stop because our dog would get so wound up, running around and barking at her family that had suddenly gone crazy.

A sure sign of spring is when my dad would hear the frogs singing, and would spot a red-winged blackbird. Then it was time to break out some Moody Blues to celebrate the season to brush away the cobwebs from our windows.

Then there was the just plain old fun and catchy song, Sunflower. It would get stuck in your head for days. My little brother enjoyed playing along to that one on his toy banjo, along with Rhinestone Cowboy.

Once, I was working on a school project about Van Gogh. My assignment was to write a letter to Van Gogh, and when I was telling my dad about it, he immediately unearthed a dusty cassette tape. He sat me down to listen to Vincent’s Song with him, and it captured my imagination.

Growing up, we loved to hate Van Morrison, but now I find myself enjoying the nostalgia of his unique sound and songwriting ability.

Sometimes I will be at the grocery store late at night and hear Marc Cohn’s voice come crooning over the speakers. We know all the words to Blue Suede Shoes and my dad would often describe someone as “a man with a plan and a pocket comb.”

The haunting beauty of uilleann pipes is breathtaking. Dad used to play Magh Seola, and it would make my stomach tie up in knots. Years later, I chose that song to walk down the aisle at my wedding.

He had a song for each of us that he would play over and over and dance with us when we were newborns struggling to go down for the night. Mine was The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck. Sing by the Carpenters for Allison. Elton John’s Daniel’s Song for Trevor, and Jesus King of Angels by Fernando Ortega for Evan.

Music is such a powerful emotional and bonding tool. It has the uncanny ability to bring you back in time in such a vivid way, and remind you of feelings that have been long forgotten. I’m thankful for the sweet memories with my dad and the unique soundtrack my childhood had.

Taking the time to share something you enjoy together with your child is a precious gift that communicates love and creates bonds that last a lifetime. It doesn’t have to be music–it could be anything at all. Showing enthusiasm over something you can love together is so meaningful. Even if it’s something you may not be interested in, but your child is, you may learn to love it too.

That’s my goal with these little dance parties with Jude. Someday he may not want to dance with his mom anymore, but I know from experience that those memories are never really forgotten.

Linking up at Casey Leigh. 

A birthday party for our little man

Okay, so I am finally getting around to posting some pictures from Jude’s first birthday party! Lets start it off with one of his adorable little gap tooth smile. IMG_0818

The decor colors were bright primary colors. A friend made this cute banner with her Cricut machine, using kraft paper and colored cardstock.
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Just so you know, I did not plan to match the high chair to the decorations! That was a happy accident. I bought a huge roll of kraft paper (at Home Depot for $10). It covered all the tables and I have a lot left over. I’m so glad I decided to go this route. The ease of just throwing it away afterwards was great, but it looks much better than plastic tablecloths in my opinion. I found the roll of happy birthday wrapping paper at Target and cut it into strips for table runners, to add color. The centerpieces are jars of crayons, tied with red ribbons. Simple, colorful, and fun. A spur of the moment purchase was the tissue paper circle confetti and I LOVE the way it looked, especially against the kraft paper. IMG_0774 IMG_0775

The menu was baked potatoes and chili with all the toppings, and salad. It was great for a crowd, filling, and yummy. My sister baked all these yummy cupcakes. We set them all out in holders, and just wrapped an empty box with kraft paper to serve as a “cake pedestal.” IMG_0783

Drinks station. Our church bought a collection of old shutters last summer and they have come in handy with many decorating scenarios! I love how bright and colorful the kraft paper and streamers look, and it was affordable and pretty easy. IMG_0779 IMG_0996 Got some chalkboard inspiration and drew this up last minute, with Jude asleep on my back in the Ergo. Please tell me you get the if you “mustache'”thing…all the boys were like “whaa? a mustache?”

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Grandma Deanna and the birthday boy :)IMG_0984 IMG_0998

This pinwheel was in one of his gifts. He immediately grabbed it and was fascinated! For some reason, he always tries to touch spinning things with his nose. IMG_0826

He was getting pretty tired, and there were a lot of people, so he was a little mad about me putting him in the high chair for cake. You can kind of see how his eyes are red from crying. IMG_0858 IMG_0859

He wasn’t too sure about this cake thing…he poked at it and ate maybe a bite, but wasn’t too excited. Oh well, give it another year and I’m sure he’ll be into it!IMG_0862

Another little “J” man getting baby snuggles from his mama and my sister-in-law. IMG_0895 IMG_0959

He was very interested in trying out his new toys, and so were his friends! This elephant toy is a favorite right now. IMG_0934

Taking it all in…he didn’t know what to play with first!IMG_0948

Love this picture…as always, I got busy and didn’t end up getting pictures of Jude with many of his guests, unfortunately, but I’m thankful for these pictures with my parents! We had a great time with all of our family and friends celebrating Jude’s first year! IMG_1025 (1) IMG_1030Thanks to my father-in-law for taking all the pictures!