Friday, August 30, 2013

Redecorating A Small Bedroom

This week we had a good start to home schooling, we survived several days without seeing Julia, and Anna Kate suddenly decided to attack her room. She started with the white shelf above her bed. I found her gazing at it, looking uncertain. I said, "Well, maybe some of your printed cardstock would look good on the back of it. Like wallpaper." "That's what I was thinking," she said softly. "But I didn't know if it was a bad idea."

Gulp. This is where my strong and vocal opinions on decorating get me into trouble. I want my kids to be free and creative and confident.  I said, "Honey, go for it! I am no expert! Don't be worried about what I think."

After she papered and re-displayed the shelf, she painted her bedside table. It just needed some touch-ups, but she was desperate to paint something. Then she found a new (old) lamp lying around, and she painted that, too. She moved the photos around, she changed the things on her dresser, and she tore the closet apart and threw a bunch of stuff away.

That, my friends, is the secret to a pretty room. Be willing to throw things away. The less stuff I have, the better my house looks. We had a little pang when we found her baby teeth, but full of resolve (probably bolstered by recent viewings of "Hoarders") she tossed those, too.

Here are the results. I have to admit, it was a tough week. Not only was Julia gone, but the paint and paper and general mess that this decorating generated made me cranky and nervous. My daughter's room looks great, but my kitchen is another story.


Malachi had to be in his stroller for us to get anything done. He was fascinated by the mysterious objects pouring forth from the closet.

Painting the bedside table and the white lamp. The aqua color is called "Aquatint" by Sherwin-Williams. I found the table for about $3.00.


Julia chose this wall color years ago, when the room was hers. It is "Gleeful" by Sherwin-Williams. It's a wonderful fresh, bright green, not too acidic or too yellow. I still love a bedroom with color on the walls and a white bed. This metal bed used to belong to Nate's mom, and she has delightful memories of jumping on it with her sister. It's springy and tall and must have been a good trampoline. I like that we can fit lots of bins underneath it for storage.

The three hatboxes are another storage idea that has stood the test of time. Each one is painted with an American Girl doll name, and contains that doll's clothes.
These too-short curtains need to be lengthened. Curtains should kiss the floor. At some point I'll sew a pink or aqua band along the top (or hem) to make them the right length. But they've been this way for about eight years, so clearly I'm in no hurry here.

My little photographer fixed the photo shoot by adding another pillow sham. We've had these forever, but they're Pottery Barn and they still look good.

Here you can see the "wallpaper" cardstock on the backs of the shelves.
Anna Kate, heady with paintbrush power, also painted the two empty frames. The dark one is done with chalkboard paint, so she can scribble things on it. (She thought of this! I am so proud of her!)

The top of the dresser. She found a vintage cupcake tin, decorated it with paper, and filled it with accessories.

The cupcake tin.

The painted lamp and a deconstructed lampshade.

In the flurry of throwing things out, a few items stayed. Here they are, in case anyone needs little-girl birthday gift ideas. Above, a pretty journal. She wrote the funniest things in it. We howled with laughter at the Magic Tree House story she tried to write in first grade.

Decorative initials. Just plain cute.

If you know a child's favorite book or movie, that's a great gift idea. She still watches these over and over.

This little cash register really works, and she played with it for hours. The belt moves, the drawer opens, and (as long as Daddy keeps fixing it), the microphone speaker sounds legit. Here is Malachi, breaking the microphone yet again.

This has been in steady use since she got it a few years ago. This week, amidst the stress of everything, Anna Kate and I made brownies. We did not have to turn on the oven, a real boon when it's 97 degrees out. With Malachi's help, we ate every brownie. They go down so easy when they're bite-sized!

Shopping sources:
Les Junc occasional store in Zimmerman, MN (where I found the dresser)
Junk Market (open twice a year) where we got the tin ceiling tile on the wall
Salvation Army (cupcake tin, lamp, table, and frames)
Pottery Barn (curtains, toy cash register, pillow shams)
JoAnn Fabrics (hat boxes and card stock)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cheering Strategies

Yesterday afternoon I said to Anna Kate, "Guess what? I put something special in your room. To cheer you up."
And Nate said, "What is it? Julia?"
Because that's what would be the best right now.
Her sister, back in our house.
Well, obviously it wasn't Julia that I put in her room. It was a peachy-fresh dahlia, given to us by our church friend who grows them by the hundred.
It's so perfect. I think it helped. Flowers help when we are sad.

Today is the first day of seventh grade.
She started a few weeks ago, when the new math curriculum arrived. She was excited to start.
Today she began with a little bit of art.
Malachi is so busy these days, and clingy with his molars coming in, that she's doing a lot of learning by herself. I'm not worried about her, because she tends to be motivated. Last year at this time I was full of trepidation, not sure if I could home school while caring for a baby. Well, that was easy. Julia was home a lot, and the baby was at a sleepy, easy age. Now he's busy, getting into everything, and still not napping in a crib. I should be nervous. For some reason I'm not.

The day after we took Julia to college, Isaac came home for the afternoon.
He brought his window-washing gear with him.
Some of my friends think I'm a fussy housekeeper, and I am in some ways, but let me tell you, the windows of this house were filthy. Every time I thought about cleaning them, something else needed my attention. And if you've ever had your windows washed professionally, it's hard to go back to Windex and paper towels. Isaac uses various squeegees, and the water is sudsy with Dawn dish detergent. It's gotta be Dawn.
He washed all our windows, inside and out, plus the French doors. I couldn't believe how happy this made me feel. He graduates from the University of Minnesota this December, and his window-washing days are behind him. So having my grown son show up, work a job he doesn't love, and do it perfectly, made my heart soar a little.

Of course, little brothers are famous for ruining a good day's work.
Here is Malachi, dressed for the weather (100 degrees today!), with sticky fingers all over the back door.

I took this picture this morning. The days when our huge yard was filled with football-kicking, frisbee-throwing, running, laughing kids seem to be behind us. The boys won't come home much anymore. Anna Kate would rather hang out inside. We don't have a swing-set or even a little slide for the baby. It's a big-kid kind of yard.

Baby's crying, time to stop writing and tend to him. Today I choose to be thankful that I had more kids, that we have air-conditioning, and that we don't have to go anywhere in this heat.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Too Much Cuteness

That's what my friend Kristi kept saying, when she saw Malachi this last March.
Too much cuteness.
I still wake up with a feeling of pure joy, even when my night has been interrupted every hour by a teething baby, because I cannot believe I get to wake up to this.
This cuteness.
If Malachi wakes up too early, at about four a.m., I change his diaper and give him a bottle and settle him with his daddy, who by then is usually on the sofa in the living room.
They both seem to sleep better out there.
Then I keep peeking at them, because seeing their sleeping faces is about as good as it gets.

On the morning I took these pictures, Julia woke up early too.
Malachi adores his big sister.

Today we take her to college.
It's close to home. It's my alma mater. It's small and beautiful and I think she's going to love it there.
But this little guy is going to miss her.
The other sister will be disconsolate.
My quiet, sleepy mornings are going to feel a little different.
And our not-so-big house, which has been packed to the gills all these years, will have an empty bedroom for the first time since Julia was born.

I hope when I wake up tomorrow morning, and carry the baby out to his daddy, and nestle him on the sofa, I still feel the joy and gratitude and wonder that I have felt every morning since bringing Malachi home.
It's a lovely way to start the day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer's End

 The window above our kitchen sink, looking into the living room.
Beautiful tomatoes, zinnias and dahlias of late summer.

 Anna Kate loves to take close-up photos of flowers.

 Because of the design of our cabinets, we can't put baby-proof latches on them.
The ones with knobs set close together can be closed with rubber bands.
Malachi can get into this one, and he flings it open, tips out the can of chocolate chips, 
and when the lid pops off, starts to eat.

 We went to our last wedding of the summer this weekend.
The groom, one of Isaac's best friends, was in our home a lot as the boys grew.
This wedding brought on more tears (mine, of course) than most.
We've known Michael since he was about six!

 This guy! This guy's going to be a great husband.

I keep saying it, but it's so true.
They grow up way too fast.
It's a joy and an unexpected blessing to have another baby to raise.

As I listened to Michael and Brooke say their vows to each other, I thought,
These vows are thorough, they cover just about everything.
I liked that they promised not to slander one another.
My husband and I talked about those vows, as we drove home after the wedding.
Maybe they were idealistic, we agreed.
It's impossible not to be a bit idealistic, when you're twenty-one years old and full of love.
When you say "For richer or poorer,"
you're imagining richer.
When you say, "In sickness and in health,"
you cannot predict what sickness might look like, 
or how it can destroy peace and rob joy.
We know something about that.

I think of the marriages I know
that have begun in a cloud of hope and optimism, 
and have been ground down to death.
Usually the death is brought on by either generational curses
or by addiction.
We know something about that, too.

I have great hope for Michael and Brooke,
and for the other couples we saw married this summer.
The way I see it, 
they're part of the story of God,
part of His "tov," His "very good,"
and what they did, in this culture of death and man-made definitions,
was to choose life.

I thought a lot about life, about "tov," about God's plan for renewal and rebirth,
when we planted our garden this spring.
The Hebrew word "tov" has subtle variations of meaning, 
one being "its good is hidden within it."
Some seeds don't grow.
They have no life in them.
Other seeds, the good ones, the very good ones,
grow beautifully.
And what they produce, the fruit that we can eat and not be afraid of eating,
is so good that it too contains seeds of life,
seeds that are very good,
seeds that we can use again next year.

And that is "tov."
It regenerates.
The life in it grows, and nurtures, and gives birth to more life, more nurture.
And that is why I still believe in marriage.
Because it's not just about love.
It's about life.

Genesis 1:27-31
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  

Another excuse to hear a favorite song by Josh Garrels.  Listen to it here.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Cook One Thing (and my fave grill rub)

One of my friends is a pretty great cook. One day I asked her what she was making for supper. "Oh, I'm so over that," she answered. I have to agree. After all these years of cooking for teenagers and athletes, I am kind of done. Because cooking is so much work. You have to procure the food, clean it, chop it, cook it, present it. And then you have to clean up the mess you just made. It can be a thankless job.

But here's the thing. We still have to eat. I, for one, get hungry. 

Awhile ago, I realized that the meals that went over the best, that resulted in the most enjoyment for the least amount of resentment, were the ones in which I made one thing. So if I made a grand dessert, we ate hot dogs. If I spent all afternoon making my mom's amazing potato salad, then it went alongside something very easy, such as hamburgers (which my husband grills) or this Memphis Shake chicken.

It's still a ton of work to feed a family. Even if you only make one thing, I can assure you, many other things will need attention. But if you can slice a watermelon, chop some veggies, and throw together a salad without  feeling like a martyr, then tell yourself firmly that you are still just making One Thing. And enjoy every bite.

 The rub goes on the chicken about 15 min. before grilling.

 After about 40 minutes on the grill, the chicken was  perfect.

Memphis Shake chicken, served with bottled barbeque sauce.
On the side: our yellow beans (with some chard stems for color), sliced cucumbers, grated zucchini fried in olive oil. 
You might argue that the zucchini is work. But it was left over from a chocolate zucchini cake, so it wasn't work. Adding bacon, which would have made it amazing, would have been work.

Memphis Shake Rub

1/4 cup paprika
3 Tb. brown sugar
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 Tb. mustard powder
1 Tb. spicy chili powder
2 Tb. sea salt
1 tsp. celery salt

Combine ingredients, keep in lidded jar.

To make grilled chicken:

Chicken thighs, as many as you need. 
Take the skin off the thighs, cutting away extra skin and fat with kitchen shears or scissors
Sprinkle the Shake over each thigh, using about 1 Tb. per piece of chicken
Allow chicken to rest at room temperature for about 15 min.

Heat grill for about 10 min.
Over medium-low heat, grill chicken pieces shake-side up for about 20 minutes.
Turn chicken over, grill on other side for about 10 minutes, then test with meat thermometer.
Length of grilling time will depend on how hot your grill is, and how thick your chicken pieces are.
When done, chicken should register 170 degrees on a meat thermometer. The meal in these photos took about 40 minutes, because I was alone with the baby and couldn't get outside to check on it. It turned out fine though.

It's delicious. Hope you like it too!

(Hint: if you can get to the Anoka co-op, that's my favorite place to buy bulk spices. Much cheaper than a regular grocery store)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Overwhelmed (A Garden in August)

 Clipping dead leaves off the tomatoes.

My garden. At this point in the summer, everything about it is too much for me. The weeds grow faster than I can pull them, and even the veggies seem like homework. I have to check on them every day.

In the spring, before Julia's open house, Nate tilled the garden and the girls planted it.
We kept our heirloom seeds from last year, so we're finally starting to save some money.
Let me tell you, gardening can get expensive. Sometimes I wonder why we have a garden. I think part of it is guilt. Since we have this huge yard, we'd better grow something useful on it. Because I'd feel much happier just tending my flowerbeds.

I looked for a poem that would describe this garden, and oh my, poems are so dark these days! None of them summed up my real, messy, beautiful, growing garden.
So I had to write my own poem. Not easy with a teething baby who gets into everything, but here it is.

August Warfare

A fresh day. Ready weapons
to rejoin the battlefield.
I'll need a hoe, garden shears,
and two strong persistent hands.

The troops take some convincing
before they join my unit.
Eventually, we three
struggle out to the garden.
The baby acts as captain.
Stroller out front, all-terrain
shoves a swath towards action.

Here we are, surprised again
by the quickness of the change.
In two days of heat and rain,
the enemy has gained ground.

"Do you want to pick beans, or
do you want to weed and hoe?"
I ask my daughter. "Well beans!"
she answers, and I, kneeling,
begin to dig and yank weeds.

In minutes, the colander
is heaped with our spoils of war.
The baby munches peapods.
Looks like we're victorious.

I fling a final weed clump
Far into wild-growth borders,
throwing out a dare to all
foes of order and bounty.

(I wrote this in syllabic measure, seven syllables per line).

 Walking to the garden. The cement raised part holds early crops and tomatoes, 
the bed behind it holds squash, pumpkins and cukes.

 A pretty pea blossom.
I weed around the beets.

 Peas, stealthily hiding in a web of green.

Harvest time!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Will Praise

 Our gift to Mabel: a flannel blanket and a silver spoon.

We visited a new baby yesterday.
I don't know if any baby I know has been so covered in prayer,
so loved, so much on the minds of many people,
as this little girl.
This is the baby whose mama made my colorful quilt.
You can read my post about her brother here.

When we got to the hospital and I held her in my arms,
of course I cried.
Her parents were calm and happy and tired,
and her mama told me a sweet story.
When she had Mabel, it was ten o'clock at night,
and she and her husband spent most of the night
cuddling their new baby.
But around five a.m., Liz got so tired that she placed Mabel in her isolette
so she could catch some sleep.
She thinks the baby just lay there for a long time, thinking about things.
After half an hour, furious cries erupted from the isolette.
Enough was enough, said Mabel.
Time for more cuddling.

On our drive to visit this little one,
we listened to hymns by Fernando Ortega.
I heard these lines as though for the first time:
"For the Lord our God He is strong to save,
from the arms of death,
from the deepest grave.
And He gave us life in His perfect will
and by His own grace I will praise Him still."

What a timely song.
It reminded me of the power of praise,
even during terrible loss,
and the promise that we have beyond the grave.

Yesterday was a day to celebrate life.
Such an easy day to give praise!
Thank you Jesus for Mabel Grace.
Bless her and keep her all the days of her life.
May she live to bring you glory.

Malachi and his doll, Sadie Jane.
We only held him near Mabel for a moment,
because I was nervous he would think she was Sadie Jane
and jab her in the eye!

Listen to the hymn by Fernando Ortega here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Everything Changes

It doesn't help that he's almost twenty-two.
I'm still sad that this son just moved out of our house,
possibly for the last time
But see that paper pinned to the bulletin board, on the wall behind him?
That's his acceptance to medical school.
And on days I've been cranky or out of sorts,
all I had to do was look at it, or think about it,
and I'd be suffused with joy and gratitude.
I told him all along,
You're under grace and favor.
So with grace and favor
we sent him off, and my husband prayed not only for his safety and protection,
and for ability to do the work,
but that he would seek the Lord continually.

 Sorry, Dad, I don't think he can help you with your back.

He has an old friend from kindergarten who wants to be a doctor, too.
Maybe that's what put the thought in his mind.
I used to tell him, when he was a little boy,
that he'd make a good doctor.
He showed an affinity for people and an aptitude for school.
But did we push him to do this?
No, he pushed himself.
It's going to be a tough road ahead.
I say to him now,
I have no advice for you as far as study habits go.

I hope he has time for sleep, for exercise,
for moments of holy rest.
God encompasses time,
so with Him there is always enough.
I want my son to experience that.
Plenty of time.
It would be a miracle.

At Julia's baptism this last weekend.

What I'm going to miss is the dailiness of seeing him.
When I got up with the baby, Caleb and I often chatted in the kitchen 
while he ate breakfast.
No more early-morning chats.
No more gone-in-a-day pies.
No more Malachi welcoming him home, both of them smiling hugely.

Writing this makes me sigh,
and I have to remember how exciting all of it is.
I am brimming with gratitude for each of our kids.
Part of the gratitude is that they grow up.
They grow up!
And then they have to go away,
and I'm going to have to get used to that.

A Blessing
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.
They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65:22-24