When you Feel Downright Crazy... {Life / Adoption}

Every so often, when that guard of mine is down, the feeling comes on strong... seriously, what were we thinking? 

How did we get here? 

I'm ordering slices of pizza and oatmeal cookies on hot lunch forms, making lunches and being sure to omit any peanut something, picking up hardened gum from under the couch, and reminding a little one to put his shoes on the right feet (nearly every time).

Some days it's messy, and confusing, and trying, and I'm wondering what caused us to catapult ourselves to this place. Bypassing all those years we could have had, just the two of us. The vacations we could have taken, the snoozing on weekends we could have enjoyed, the extra money in the bank, and oh, the nights out together and with friends... 

But instead, we went and entered a whole different story. 

And some days, when this mama, who looks nothing like those little ones, walks into the room she feels it down in her gut.. yes, we're the wildly crazy ones.

If we could rewind this life, would I do it all again? Would I still go with that pressing on my heart to reach out to the orphan in my city? Would I press back, and resist such a call, because who am I? Inexperienced, and young, and it would all be so silly to entertain such a thing. I've never even felt a kick in my womb, and the pains of child birth, and responded to their hungry cry in the night, so who am I to raise them from here? 

I ask her at the dinner table, over chicken fingers, ketchup and fries, how she knows she loved. What clue have we given her that she is loved to the core for exactly who she is. And she scrunches her face, leaning back in thought... and I wonder how deep this thought will be... because her brother just says that his mama is pretty, and this is how he knows he's loved. And while it's not the answer I was looking for, I'm wonderfully flattered by my 4-year-old.

And then it shocks me, as if my heart had stopped and the paddles are bringing me to life : you never leave us at home alone, she says.

And I'm not sure where this comes from, the neglect she may have felt, the emptiness she's experienced... I wish I could read her heart... but all those thoughts of what I've missed, and what we could have done, you know.. just the two of us.. each selfish thought is exposed as terribly shallow. That I could forget the depth of all this. That my own story writing is so small, superficial, and mediocre, but His story is big, it's deep and profound, and full of grace and glory.

To think, I nearly risked selecting my own story. Nearly settling for mundane mediocrity, confusing it for better. 

And that youngest, he agrees the next day, mama you never leave us. And it becomes over and over less about us, more about them, and more about Him. And He's letting us be apart of this redeeming story.

So, are we crazy? Absolutely.

We're out of our minds, wildly willing, completely silly and awkward, and stumbling. Imperfect, and spent, and tired, and messy. But the glorious thing is -- God's plan, His story is absolutely breathtaking and beautiful. We could never have written such a thing as this.


Our "Adoption Journey" has just become our journey now, where adoption is apart of it, but doesn't define us. But if you'd like to go back and visit our wild ride, here are other posts that may interest you :

Our Adoption Timeline {all the significant dates..}

When it Becomes Forever {a conversation I hope I never forget}

Our Adoption Day and My Letter to You {including many photos from the court room!}

Are You Able to have Your Own Children? {the question we get.. I didn't realize we could arouse such curiosity}

And if you're really ambitious there's more here, here, and here.

Also, this sermon {January 3, Matthew Eckert} deeply reminded me that God's story, the bigger story, is the one worth entering into. I humbly recommend a listen..

Shop Your Home... {Living Space}

I love this concept. Mostly because it saves this Dutch decorator, and her handsome Dutch husband, a buck. Every penny is a prisoner, you know. So yes, we always applaud the "using what we have" approach.

So you may recall how I was growing tired of all the brown in our living space. Brown walls, brown couches, brown rug, and brown coffee table. I'm all for earthy colors schemes, but this was too much earth.

We actually really like our couch and love seat (the love seat reclines which is a piece of heaven for us), so they aren't going anywhere fast. They are also quite old but show little wear and tear. They work hard for us.. hiding stains and giving comfort.. we like them. Even if we did want to replace them, we have our money going in different directions right now, none of which include new furniture.

My eye has always been on replacing that rug. And oh, we've looked, and looked, and looked. We've rubbed our faces against rugs all over the city (that sounds weird). But we just haven't seen one we've both liked. Maybe 2015 will be our year.

But in the meantime (picture a light bulb above my head), I decided to swap out the creamy, shag rug from the basement for the brown rug in the living space. There was some ugly sweating involved, and some very confused children staring at their weird mama... but the effort turned out to be worth it.

It's 5x7 like the brown rug, really we need an 8x10 but for now it's breaking up all the brown. And it's so cozy. I've seen the kids sprawling out on this rug with their books and cars which didn't happen before, plus we've played lots of family games here. Sitting on the floor is so nice. I also sent the other coffee table packing (to the basement). I still plan to redo that thrifted coffee table, and the makeover is in progress. I'm crossing my fingers that it works out. And by the window, we brought in our new / old chairs that we recently reupholstered here. We think it looks a lot better in here.

Here's how the basement TV space is looking with the brown rug:

It looks fine. I really can't believe we've held on to this rug for this long. I bought it from Walmart when I was a poor university student. I find rug shopping tough.. you? It's tough for me to imagine a new rug in my space with all my furniture. One of these days, I'm going to just bite the bullet, and if it doesn't work I can still return it.

But overall I feel like I'm looking at a lot less brown, everywhere. And the (temporary) solution was right under my nose. High fives all around. 

Here's a before and after so you don't need to scroll up:

Ahhh, so much better.

What about you? Have you found a decorating solution in your home, which just took some sweat and awkward grunting? Maybe it was rearranging your furniture for better flow, or digging art out of the attic... whatever it is, I don't think we realize what we really have right under our noses. 

By the way, in case you were wondering, this creamy shag rug was an affordable purchase from Home Depot back when we were redoing the basement. 

Children's Broom and Mop... {Kid Stuff; Tutorial}

We are really happy with how these turned out, and even more happy with the cost - just $8. 

We made them for our niece for Christmas, and she loved them. She likes to clean like her mama. Originally, I looked online for children's cleaning supplies but the costs surpassed the agreed on spending limit (I like the challenge of a spending limit), so I ditched that idea and started to brainstorm how we could make our own. When it was all done, we couldn't wait to give them to her. 

Here's a quick tutorial: 

1. We picked up a 1 inch dowel, 4 feet in length from Home Depot. This cost about $4.

2. Next, we headed to Dollarama and bought the mop and broom heads. We matched them on purpose (the red accent) so they would like a pair when it was all done. This also came to around $4.  

3. At home, we cut the dowel in half with a hack saw and sanded our two halfs with fine sandpaper (320 grit). This made the dowel very soft and smooth.  

4. The dowel was a little too wide to slide into the openings of the broom and mop, which we were aware of and this was actually a good thing. So while the handyman held a belt sander I slowly rotated about 1 inch of the dowel against the sander. We checked to see if it would fit while we went, so that we wouldn't sand it down too far. 

Here's a sketch of what we were trying to achieve:

5. When it looked like it would fit, the handyman then screwed the end of the dowel into the mop (and the broom).. this took some elbow grease. Tip: He drilled out the grooves in the mop just slightly.. and when it came to the broom, he drilled a larger hole. For both, it was a snug fit so it didn't require glue, like we had thought it might. There was a slight gap in the broom head where the dowel met the broom, so I used wood glue to fill the gap and smoothed it out with my finger. (This sounds a bit more complicated then it really is... I hope it all makes sense). 

6. Lastly, we drilled a hole in the top and tied a string, so they could be neatly hung when the housework is done.

Time: About 2 hours
Cost: $8.00

My sister-in-law spreads buttons on the floor for our niece to mop and sweep into piles. So, you could always add to this little project with buttons and a dust pan... and have them practice cleaning while their young! 

I want to hear from you! How do you get creative with a spending limit? What was the limit, and what do you do/make? In addition to this gift for our niece/cousin, our son made her alphabet cards with words about her family (names, traditions, likes) which I then had laminated at Staples (laminating 26 cards cost us $15). They turned out great too. 

Holiday Highlights from Around our Home... {Life}

We're back to routine this week, which is bitter sweet. The holidays were wonderful, but routine again (and healthier eating) was welcomed.

I'm surprised school wasn't canceled today given how the snow is coming down.. so we all put on our snow pants and embraced the day (we walked to school, because this mama loves her exercise, and the kids adore the snow even if their breathing hard to get through it). I came home and shoveled the driveway, which feels like a hopeless task as the snow fell even harder. So after a very Canadian morning, I'm drawing my blanket and tea close and enjoying these holiday highlights from around our little home:

1. Who are we without a diy Christmas gift? We're proud of this homemade gift we made for our almost 2-year-old niece. And she loved it. It took us about 2 hours and cost us $8. Should I do a small tutorial? 

 2. Our spread for Christmas day... candy, chips, guacamole, veggies, and fruit.. we snack all day between presents and games.  And in the middle of it all, our Advent.. Mary and Joseph have arrived to Bethlehem and Jesus is born! And we're reminded of all the joy, and peace, and love we experience because of this. 

3. Their faces and these classic toys. An etch-a-sketch for her, and a remote control car for him. Okay, so the latter isn't so classic, but a remote car is always fun. We swap and play with them all, and it's so entertaining. 

4. A snow globe, one for each child, to mark our first Christmas together as a legal family (our adoption went through in September... and we're still amazed by this). 

5. My most lovely gift, The Nesting Place. This book is teaching me so much about loving my home, even in it's imperfect condition... and as a bonus, it's inspiring me to tweak my home (when I had almost given up), and to be okay with the mistakes along the way.

6. Oh, how we loved our tree which we cut down and strapped to the roof, and breathed a sigh of relief when it made it home. The handyman and I do the lights, and the kids take care of all the ornaments. Then we have the advent which we colored through the month of November and added each day to the tree.. as we eagerly anticipated the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. How glorious when this special day arrives. 

7. The handyman loved this stocking stuffer, "Pass the Pigs." We had hours of fun with that. And, a gift from our son, a candy train, that he bought from school and so carefully wrapped for daddy. It makes for a melted heart..

8. So attentive, with heads down, for an electricity experiment from daddy the electrician. Who could resist lemons and electricity?

9. And their first hockey helmets.. now there's nothing holding them back on the ice. We went to the Storybook Gardens ice rink and had so. much. fun.

10. My new birch candles.. because we hardly go a day here without the warm glow of a lit candle.

11. And finally (because I have to stop somewhere).. ping-pong on the office desk (a gift for the handyman), because we don't want to take ourselves to seriously around here. A reminder to find balance with work and play. 

How wonderful, and priceless, and special are these moments... our hearts are full as we begin 2015

Our New Budget Friendly Chairs... {Living Space}

So I finished reading The Nesting Place and I'm looking at our home through a whole new lens.

Rather than waiting on our dream home (if that exists), I'm beginning to appreciate our home for what it is. I'm changing the adjectives in my head: cozy and well loved, rather than small and flawed, and in-progress rather than unfortunate decorating choices made in stone. This adjective overhaul is giving me a lighter approach to every room, and I'm considering budget friendly ways to tweak them so that they serve our family well.

Over the holidays I decided to tweak our living space and provide more seating for family and friends. The more seating, the more comfortable everyone is. Originally, we used the bench as seating but I always thought it was uncomfortable and it serves better as a coffee table.

So the handyman and I set out on a mission, driving all over the city to big box stores and thrift stores to find two chairs. In the end, we went to Yardigans (which was the closest location after all) and perused their antique chairs. We liked these two the best and picked the pair up for just $25.

They stood out to us with their charming, wavy back and their good bones (we gave them the wobble test). Plus, we saw they would be easy to reupholster since the seats could be removed by undoing four screws.

I gave the chairs a wipe down with a damp cloth, while the handyman purchased two pieces of thick foam from Walmart for $7 each, and we picked up some free navy blue fabric from the handyman's grandma (which was perfect because I was envisioning navy blue chairs all along). 

We removed the existing fabric and foam, popping out each staple. It was crazy to see how flattened the cushioning had become over the years.. it was a 1/4 inch thick or so. We used the original plywood, cut our foam and fabric, and using our staple gun secured the fabric to the back of the seat. We didn't have a lot of fabric to work with so we really had to pull it snug, which caused a slight ripple effect, but it might work itself out the more used the chairs get. We don't mind it. 

We're really pleased with the result. We're not professional upholsterers, so they aren't perfect, but isn't there beauty in that? If I really wanted, I could readjust the fabric, but for now we just like sitting in them, or propping our feet up on them. And they came to live with us just in time, we had company over the following few nights, and these chairs were well used. The thick cushion was the way to go for comfort's sake. Plus, they are so versatile.. we pulled them up to our dining table when we had company over for dinner. I'm loving how much that dark fabric will hide. 

I thought about painting the chairs (what do you think?) but we're appreciating the dark wood and all it's nicks and scrapes for now. 

Once again, here's a before and after so you don't have to scroll up:

How cool is that wavy back? It's like a little ocean.. the waves and blue.. in our cozy living space. 

A 5-Minute Bathroom Update.. And My First Artificial Plant {Home}

Happy New Year! 

I have a really good feeling about 2015. I'm ready to let go. To take more risks with writing, our home, my art.. to just kick perfectionism in the butt because it's held me back for far too long. So hopefully you will see some changes around here. 

Speaking of changes, I finally brought some loveliness to the exposed shelving above the vanity. See the before here.

It's now a nice view if you crane your neck upwards, which I do for fun. A soft grey wire basket corrals the toilet paper, and a fake plant in the middle brings some needed greenery to the space without the care (bonus). Both items were $10 each from Homesense. I grabbed the handyman's yellow wooden sail boat that he played with as a kid for a slight burst of color and a nod to our two little ones.

I often thought a fake plant was "selling out" but I'm seeing that there's definitely a place for it...

The basket to the right has always been there and it works well for now. I picked it up from a thrift store (Value Village) a few years ago.

So the days of unsightly-ness are behind us (almost). We still have some trim to finish up. Yes, we're working away on our second bathroom (walls are going up as I post this), so it's unlikely this bathroom will get the handyman's attention anytime soon. DIY'ing can be very slow, am I right? 

I also went ahead and bought this soap dispenser. I wanted to steer clear of anything breakable without having to go with plastic, so this stainless steel dispenser, which I found in the kitchen section of Homesense, is a good fit for our family and little guests that come by.

It's almost like we're grown ups now.. an artificial plant, and a new soap dispenser (rather than the plastic bottles that come with soap).

The Nesting Place... {Good Reads}

This handyman is so good --

-- he knows the exact route to my heart.. a good design book on Christmas morning. Which then occupies my time for the next hour, while this family buzzes around playing with their new gadgets.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith has met me exactly where I am. Stuck.

We are planning to move. Surprise! We began to entertain the idea in the summer when a home came up for sale in an incredible location with a spacious interior.. dare I even say it? Possibly a dream house? But we weren't in the market at the time, I just happened to stumble upon the house listing. And before we could even get our ducks in a row, it sold. I wasn't surprised, just so disappointed

I began to feel restless where we are, and so we decided to get into the market to see if there was something out there waiting for our family of four. We got our agent lined up, headed to the bank for approval, and went to open houses.. but nothing. Crickets. I hadn't anticipated how little would interest us. 

Which takes me back to being stuck. I've been holding off on doing anything to our home because I'm waiting... waiting for a fresh decorating start, waiting for more room to work with, and waiting for a home with less flaws. I've been discontent with where we are.. and missing all the beauty. 

Myquillyn, you are teaching me a lesson, girl. 

"Have you given up on the idea that you can love your home? Do you find yourself thinking that your next house will be the one you love? Do you put off decorating projects until 'someday' because someday you'll have the time and money to do it 'right'? And yet do you long to create a beautiful home for more than beauty's sake?" (The Nesting Place)

Yes, yes, yes, and yes ! You ?

I've been holding off doing anything to my home (except for our second bathroom, which is more in the handyman's court right now), because I'm waiting for something better to come along. I've been unhappy with our paint colors, tired of the all the brown in the living room, sucking up design decisions from a few years ago because I haven't given myself permission to make mistakes and try again. I just live with it, and then I stop loving our home. Forget beauty.  

So here's what I would like to do (and I've already started) : 

- Love the wear and tear on my home.. see it as a reflection as a happy family continually "breaking in" our home so that it's entirely comfortable, a place to rest, have conversation, and love on each other. Allow sticky fingers and dented walls because we're living and we can't do it without leaving a trail. 

- Make design choices, take risk, dip into the home budget (rather than freeze it).. and if it doesn't quite work, tweak it (within reason) until it works well for the family. But here's the thing.. it doesn't need to be perfect

... because (hang on to the edge of your chair..) we might be here for awhile. 

Friends : I'm just barely into "The Nesting Place" but I'm already inspired, and I just had to spill what was on my mind. I've even made a recent design choice (shock!), and in all it's imperfectness I plan to share it with you soon. 

The Shower is Here... Second Bathroom Progress {Home}

I feel the one bathroom cloud lifting, as construction moves forward on our second bath in the basement.

It's glorious.

The handy-guy picked up our Sterling shower last week and the framing and base were done last night.

I'm jumping slightly ahead as I don't even attempt to understand all the work that was done under the floor and in the walls (plumbing and electrical). See where the concrete is lighter? That was recently poured after the pipes were changed out and redirected for a toilet and relocating of a drain.. among other things.

As my mother-in-law would say, it looks like nothing has been done! 

You can begin to see our layout plan. To the left will be the stand up shower (no tub in this bathroom). Far left will house a small vanity while the right wall will have the access and toilet.

It's all very exciting for this family of four..

A Second Bathroom... {Home}

How many of you live with one bathroom? Sometimes I feel like we're the only ones. Not to say that we are so hard done by, but it can be challenging at times especially with a 4- and 6- year old.

So we threw our hands up in the air (last week!) and said let's do it. It was always in the back of our minds, but we thought we'd move to a home of 2+ bathrooms before we needed to build one of our own. And since we're going nowhere fast, we looked to our basement storage space to share some room for a 3-piece bath. 

And so far, as the handyman chips away at the concrete downstairs (as I write this), there's no regrets about this quick decision and fast execution. 

We first had to move items stored here. We decided to finally (4 years later) utilize our attic space for camping supplies, Christmas decor, sporting equipment.. items that are used 1-2 times per year. Then, as you can see from the wood to the left, the handyman dismantled the two large wooden shelving units. 

Here's a view from the other side of the basement to help you visualize where our new bath will go. 

Straight ahead is where the bath door access will be. Those walls will stay put in terms of where they sit, but they'll be rebuilt and include soundproofing. 

We've hit the ground running.. having picked out a toilet, purchased flooring (we had leftover tile from our main floor bathroom renovation, we just had to grab two more boxes of the same tile from Lowe's - and it was on sale!), prep the electrical side of things, and start to pull up the concrete to prepare the way for new pipes. We'll endure the awkward day of no plumbing tomorrow while the handyman (an electrician) and his dad (a plumber) get the plumbing sorted out. 

How blessed are we to have willing, helpful handymen in the family in our time of need? 

New Born Shoot : Halle

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.
— Marc Riboud

It has been a wild few weeks. Been there? Where most days it feels that I'm underwater, and it's all a blur. And perhaps it's this that causes me to click away on my camera, to cause moments to freeze. My new, sweet niece, who with a single grin, or yawn, or frown, or stretch, strips away the day of all the chaos and has you savoring the moment. 

Welcome to the world, little one, you are splendid (and deeply, deeply loved).... 

Engagement Shoot : Sonny and Jaime... {Photography}

October has been wildly surprising and wonderful

. I went from photographing my little home and my little family too recently engaged couples who have taken a chance on this new, amateur photographer. If you've been following the blog, you've seen these unusual photography posts popping up. And while I still want to write about home, adoption, and family, I'm venturing into this new creative outlet with some nervousness and excitement. 

I've been so blessed by amazing couples this month... Sonny and Jaime, who have been together since they were 16 years old (!), are the happiest couple I've ever met. Their smiles are contagious,

watch out

Engagement Shoot : Eric and Janet... {Photography}

Just looking at this couple brightens any grey Monday morning. I met up with Eric and Janet (

a high school friend

) at Western University campus to indulge in their recollection of where their romance started 9 years ago..

their first year of university

. The pursuit of their academic dreams took them to several universities and cities, but their connection more than endured every long distance bout. It was such a wonderful privilege to enter into their story, their romance, their anticipation of a Spring wedding and living in Scotland, and their knowledge of campus (no change to campus goes unnoticed by these two, especially Janet - a former Western tour guide). 

Oh goodness, I'm getting goosebumps all over again

. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to photograph friends in love... here's just a small snapshot of our time together.

Happy engagement, friends


Our Adoption Day and My Letter to You... {Adoption}


I've grown to admire it, to be in awe of it, and understand some of it's depth. Amazed by how much it requires of us, and how much it's been given to us. 

It's complexities stretched me, the ache nearly crippled me some days, but it's beauty is restoring the pieces. It pulls in more people than we could ever know, and it begs us to consider all it's parts. We cannot take it lightly.

As we don't take the Creator's adoption of us lightly.

It is so wildly profound. 

On September 19th our family of four was recognized as family. Something our Heavenly Father knew all along, and something we knew was coming since earlier this year.. but to have the stamp of approval was glory.

It amazes me still how God brings something to the surface to breathe, that which was on the ocean floor breathless.

I sit in bed, the night before our adoption day, emotions flooding every inch of me and I'm poised to write.. and it's a struggle to find the words. 

How do I explain this? How do I share their story with them? A story that must be jumbled, and awkward, and unclear in this moment. How do I make it all clear? How do I give them the lens from which to see their adoption? Lord give me the words, the wisdom, the strength... 

And then it comes to me --from the beginning.

I start to write the story that God has written for you. I write with detail and urgency this story that is for your eyes only. A story that has ups and downs, losses and gains, grief and joy...

"... this is your story, and we desire that you know it well. But it's just the beginning, there are chapters and chapters to go (you're living one of those chapters right now as you read this) and we can't wait to follow this God-story starring you. And son / daughter, adoption does not define you, never let a single person put you down for your past or present, because you are defined by God as loved, wanted, unique, and beautiful. He is doing a work in you that is unfinished and good, and not dependent on what you've done and where you go...

'For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' Jeremiah 29:11

'And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God...' Romans 8:28

We look forward to this life you as our son / daughter. We pray that as your parents, God would equip us to love you well and guide you along a path of faith, and hope, and healing, and joy. We think you have so much potential and so much to offer.. we dream about how far you'll go.. because nothing should hold you back from what God has in store for you..."

I write, pray, cry.. write, pray, cry. A cycle you put this mama through, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

You couldn't possibly be more loved than this

And I end it all in deep gratitude. Thankful to God, thankful for the journey that brought us here.. and for all of you that partook even in the slightest of ways

Engagement Shoot : Jacob and Rachael... {Photography}

When these two asked me to do photos for their engagement and wedding, I almost fell off my chair. Me? The girl who has zero experience with this kind of thing. I eventually regained composure and said I do yes... encouraged by their faith in me. This past weekend we went out into the crisp, chilly autumn air for their engagement shoot and had so. much. fun. I love how laid back these guys are. I just hope these photos do you two justice. I'm sure it wasn't helpful that my assistant (my willing, happy husband) was throwing beans at you (brothers!)...

A Small Collection of Likes.. {What I'm reading / listening / enjoying}

September was a big month for us.. to say the least. We went to the court house on September 19th, with anxious stomachs and ready hearts, to legalize our adoption. Our lives will be forever altered by this amazing event. More pictures and thoughts to come.

These pale in comparison to our news, but here is some of my normal...  

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this album, Yancy's Roots for the Journey, at ohamanda.com. It's become the calming soundtrack to our busy school mornings. 

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker is so good. Helping me feel comfortable in this new mama-skin by talking honestly about her experiences... a me-too rather than a how-too. 

And The Princess Problem by Rebecca Hains is a really awesome guide to how to raise media-savvy kids. Already I've put some of my new found knowledge to the test, helping my kids be critical and thoughtful of the books they are reading and movies we watch. 

I'm adjusting to being a stay at a home mama with kids in school... not that it will always be this way... but this blog, sent to me by another mama, was an interesting take on the life circumstances I find myself in. I love being available for field trips, and volunteering in the classroom (yup, I'm all signed up!). I feel so fortunate to be able to be in my children's lives in this way. We missed the baby-bonding years, so this feels good right now. I'm learning to be okay with this

This has got to be my favorite blog on the web right now, HouseTweaking.com. Her house tour has me in love. Plus, I like her idea of creating 10 Features Of My Dream Home. I'm thinking of giving this a go, especially as we consider moving. What? Did I just say that? 

Have a great weekend all. Our weekend is full to the brim.. including my first engagement shoot as the photographer. I can't believe this couple asked me. Crossing my fingers that it goes well... and if it's good you know I'll be sharing some pictures with you

A Living Room Walk-Through.. {Home}

I'm starting to figure out this blog thing. And I'm trying to do right by my readers (and me) and increase my knowledge of the inner workings of Blogger.

I'm sure I'm the last to figure this out -- that I can make headers along the top (I made an "About" page) and I'd like to keep going with this and create a house tour option. But first, I need to create posts about the rooms in our home where we carry out our day to day. Most rooms are unfinished. They are forever evolving and adjusting to suit where we're at in that moment.

So today, grab a cup of tea, and join me in our living room..

I wrote about our living space within weeks of opening this blog in 2013. It has been slightly tweaked since then but what hasn't changed is the amount of time we spend here. It's still that old t-shirt we throw on at the end of the day... in a good way. It's cozy, comfortable, and familiar. We spend a lot of time in this 11 x 13 space talking, reading, visiting, and playing board games.

Yes, we still have those brown couches which work hard and disguise much that this young family throws at it. I haven't switched out that brown rug just yet, but I will rejoice the day we do.

We are enjoying the opening between the kitchen and living room which has allowed for better sight lines and flow of conversation. And the big windows, which we replaced in the fall of 2013, bring in so much natural light. We're also loving our $10 coffee table with it's bar cart lines. I still plan to make over this thrift store find.

Here's what the other side of the room looks like. The picture wall has evolved to include pictures of our little ones and low hooks to accommodate their reach. They were away at school when I took this picture but when they are home those hooks hold their backpacks and jackets. In the future, I would like to disguise our footwear, backpacks, and jackets by creating a closed in system against the wall on the left (where we have our shoe rack and other baskets). But for now, this space works well for us and we do our best to keep it tidy. It's all apart of small space living. 

We choose to keep the toys at bay in the living space, unless their brought in and returned to their "home." Really, our living room just houses several books that the kids come back to again and again. We keep their books on the lower tier of an end table and a basket (to the left in the picture above). We have a subscription to the magazine Clubhouse Jr., from Focus on the Family, and those magazines are housed in the basket too. The kids also love to flip through photo albums that we keep at their level on the other end table. We enjoy fostering this love of books, reading, and looking at pictures. 

We keep a few special items around. Nothing that feels too cluttered and all have some significance whether it's a vacation keepsake or an item that has been passed on through generations. Oh and I love to have fresh flowers around.. which reminds me that I need to clip some from my gardens.

So this is our living space.. it's nothing fancy.. but we can hardly have it so since we have two energetic little ones. But I wouldn't feel completely relaxed in a fancy space anyway. My goal is simply to keep it tidy since it's the first thing you see when you step into our home.

Hey Mamas, Let's Get Together... {Life; Book Club}

I'm going for it -

I'm going two feet into this online book club (my first online book club) lead by Lisa-Jo Baker author of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom.

I've been eyeing this book like I eye the cookie aisle at the grocery store.. I've been craving it. I so look forward to it's "me too" approach, that's what this new mama needs a lot of lately (because I get a little tired of all the how-to).

It begins today, if you too would like to join? It's not too late. And we can swap mama stories, and cheer one another on. (Looking for the full scoop? Go see Lisa-Jo).

Happy reading, learning, and growing, friends..

When They Fly... {A Small Bitty on Life}

This mama is finally taking a deep, long breath this morning (the first time both kiddies are in school). It's been quiet around here, my slice of the web. But this small home has been bursting with a series of wild and wonderful moments, and I didn't want to miss a second of it for the world. 


We wait for when it's quiet, when all the big kids are in school. 

And now you're the biggest kid here, for the moment. 

I mistakenly call them 'hills' (what was I thinking?) and you correct your mama and say their ramps.. of course

And I love watching you climb those ramps and then down you fly. That's what you've been doing a lot of lately.. flying. You smile wide at the wind against your face, and I can't help but smile big too. This is one of the greatest joys in my life

And you say loudly and proudly to anyone who will listen that you are on two wheels, no more purple training wheels balancing your bike and I still can't believe it. And the sparkle in your eye is pure joy. 

And today we kissed your forehead and cheeks, cupped your chin with adoration, squeezed your hand and wished and prayed for a wonderful first day of junior kindergarten. You were so brave and told your teacher about your two wheel adventure. 

You're flying, love

And you daughter, our lovely, quieter, thoughtful one, took on grade one like a champ. And the teacher already adores you after day one.. and I'm not surprised

You're tying shoe laces.. when did that happen? You're tying pony tails, and picking out clothes better than your mama could. Pretty soon I'll be taking fashion advice from you. You're five going on ten and I'm fastening my seat belt. 

Thankfully, still, you aren't too big for a big old fashioned hug and kiss on the playground before you take off and run with a friend. 

So you can see why this mama needs a breath after chasing two wonderful creatures, watching the youngest soar big, and seeing the oldest continue to grow. It's enough to take your breath away.. 

Our Back to School Musts... {Life}

I'm about to get really dorky. The truth is, I get too excited about being organized, finding quality items, and having good systems. That's what this is all about.. how we're telling the school year who's boss, not the other way around. I have one school year with kids under my belt (I know, so experienced right?) but that one year taught me a lot and I hope I'm a little wiser this time around. (Obligatory summer shot.. because this is all I have on my camera these days.) 

This year we have two little ones in school. Our son is headed off to junior kindergarten (we're still in shock) while our daughter with her grown up laced shoes heads off to grade one. So it's about to get even crazier since everything will be doubled up.. lunches, homework, field trips, special events. It's easy to miss a pizza day cash deadline (been there) and it's scandalous when the kids realize they are not getting pizza on pizza day.

So here's a few ways we'll be keeping it together, literally. This is what works for us and won't necessarily work for everyone.

Starting off with good quality backpacks.

We didn't spend much time looking at backpacks featuring movie or show characters. We find they're low quality (you seem to pay more for the flashy images and glitter than the backpack itself). Last school year, the zipper on our daughter's flashy back pack didn't make it to the end of the year. To us, it would be ideal if a backpack could last for more than one year, and we're willing to pay for quality. Plus, the backpacks we picked up have more than one compartment so they can divide their workbooks from their lunch/drink (water bottle holders on the side is a must). Pictured here is our JK's backpack which he loves. We like the bright color so he pops out to drivers as he walks to and from school with us. We picked up the backpacks at Staples but you can get decent quality packs at many locations.

A single tiered, spacious lunch pail was ideal for our kiddies.

This way they can see everything at first glance and just pull our what they need (ie. yogurt, thermos) without having to remove everything to find what their looking for.. and then potentially misplace a container in the process. The blue lunch pail (also from Staples) is for our son, while the Dora one was a gift to our daughter. Again, quality was ideal.. and I'm crossing my fingers that these lunch pail will survive several rigorous years.

I'm crazy about this sistema lunch box.

We now have three of them. I love that they fit a substantial sandwich (or main course) and two snacks all without having to deal with several containers. This is great for small kids. Fewer containers keeps it simple and reduces the chance of losing some along the way. I usually add another snack that is already packaged (ie. a small yogurt or granola bar) and a fruit (ie. apple) and/or another small container in addition to the sistema. Full disclosure: the handyman does not like cleaning these but I think it's a breeze (not dealing with several containers/lids). There is a trick to opening this container without having everything spill out. I gave our youngest a quick tutorial and he's successfully used it several times. We just need to add labels and we're good to go. I picked up our sistemas at Solutions but I've seen them at several other stores.

By the way, I'm looking forward to using these thermos' that were given to us as a gift. Who wouldn't enjoy something warm on a cold winter day.

I liked the idea of these luggage tags for backpacks and lunch pails.

Just in case a backpack or lunch pail is abandoned and left to it's own devices. Plus, some kids arrive with the same lunch pail or backpack and the luggage tag helps to quickly identify which is theirs. Our youngest is prone to leaving something behind (he gets caught up in the moment) so the more I can help him and his teachers out, the better. I picked up the pink tags at Dollarama which was a great deal, but unfortunately they didn't have boyish luggage tags and so I headed back to Staples and slightly overpaid for the red and blue tags which I think are super cool ($4 each). But again, I hope it's an item we can use for several years.

We got an awesome deal on good quality indoor shoes.

We hit up the clearance section at The Shoe Company and found these two pairs of shoes. Plus, SC was having a promotion - buy 1 get 1 25% off. So with all the markdowns the cost was just over $50.. instead of $120 + tax. I bought our son's pair of running shoes from SC at the beginning of the summer and they are still going strong. Also, I find the staff super helpful.. they measure our children's feet and are candid about the quality of each shoe. I'm not in any partnership with Shoe Company or other company, I just want to share good shopping experiences. 

I'm digging this big mama calendar.

Okay, so it's really a calendar for the whole family, but I think I'm the most dorky for it. It's called 'Mom's Ultimate Calendar' and I picked it up at Walmart for $10. Currently, I keep myself organized through my Google calendar but I don't always have it open on busy school mornings (and the family doesn't check it) so I resort to sticky notes on the kitchen cabinets to remind us of pizza day (so that I don't make lunches). I like that this calendar will be front and center every morning as we grab the milk or lunch meat.  It leaves a spot for notes and there's these little stickers which just makes organization more fun. It's not the most stylish thing to look at.. I don't expect a 'pin'.. but I love that's we'll be able to see what everyone is up to at a quick glance.

Coming together at the end of the day is so important to a good year.

Dinner is a family event. We all sit around the table and talk about our day.. the ups and the downs. And then we try to end with a family devotion and small prayer. It provides our family with perspective. What's really important in our day? Currently, we're reading, "One Year of Dinner Table Devotions," by Nancy Guthrie. I flip through and try and find a devotion that my little ones will understand (they are 4 and 5 years old) and may paraphrase some parts. I love the questions at the end and the conversation that it sparks. As we head in the school year I look forward to using examples from school in our conversations.

Your turn... what school year tips do you have? Is there a family devotion book that you would recommend (I'm always looking for book ideas)? Are you obsessed with a certain sandwich container, like me? Or am I the only one? 

Check out this blog I wrote earlier this year for more tips on life with kids. 

A Cheap Coffee Table and Design Dilemma... {Home}

We picked up this old coffee table at Yardigans (on Trafalgar just east of Highbury in London, Canada - for the locals) several weeks ago for just $10.

It was dusty, scuffed up, and very retro but it had a great shape (bar cart like) and good bones. I brought it home gave it a good wipe down and removed the wood tape (!).. I never knew there was such a thing. Removing it was easy since it came off in full pieces. It took all of five minutes.

Then, with other projects on the brain, I brought it down to the basement to live until I had the time to show it some love. We loved it here especially on movie nights since it held all our drinks and snacks.

And then, with the upcoming birthday party for our youngest we needed more seating so up came the coffee table from the basement to replace the bench in our living room (and we moved the bench to window for seating). Do you ever do this..  rearrange your house/furniture to accommodate guests?

Surprisingly, even in all it's retro glory, it received several compliments and we haven't had the heart to send it back downstairs. Plus, we've noticed it's super functional in our small living room.. it doesn't take up much square footage and it's two-tiered which makes it interesting and great for storage. I like that we were able to return to using the bench as seating. Gotta love a cheap fix.

But, now that this has all been established... let's talk makeover. I'm truly tired of all this brown (the couch, the rug, and now the coffee table). So it's nice that the top and bottom of this coffee table can be easily removed for another surface.

I'm leaning towards doing something like this surface. I think it's rustic, cottage-feeling, and would fit into our existing decor. However, I think I'd like to paint the metal white (not black) to freshen it up and draw the attention to whatever is on the coffee table, rather than the table itself.

But, here's where you come in... I'm open to ideas. Should I do a punch of color? Consider a glass top or solid piece of wood? Painted or unpainted? What would you do (wwyd)?