Archive for June, 2011

Great Room – finished!

We’re slowly getting settled more and more each day.

Not too long ago, Ava remarked, “Mom, it still kinda feels like we’re staying at a vacation house.”

I knew exactly what she meant. In fact, I commented to Adam how the house didn’t smell like ours. I suppose that’s a bit of an odd way to express it, but there are certain scents I associate with places. Later that day though, we received a package from a sweet friend containing an aromatic set. So, I heat up my scented candle every day and this is what “home” smells like to me now.

I’ve immersed myself into decorating and trying to make this place “ours.” It’s amazing how even one family picture hung up on a wall, can change so much about the feel of a room.

Which brings me to…

The completion of our Great Room!

This time around, when it comes to decorating, I’m being very intentional about the pieces I put out. Almost everything has a little story to go with it or is very meaningful to me.

I’m putting in lots of pictures, so my dear friends who aren’t able to visit yet, can feel like they’re getting a good idea of the room’s layout.

Here we go!

Great Room (Before)

Great Room (After)


I saw similar design on a blog once of a wreath suspended from a curtain rod and really liked it. I decided to hang mine in front of a mirror which I paneled to resemble a window. The dimensions of the mirror are actually the exact same measurements of the windows in the room, so they play off each other nicely. The wreath was given to us by my parents and used to hang on my front door in Plainfield. Also, I plan on switching the rod scarf with the seasons to change up the room throughout the year.

Here is a view from the fireplace looking toward the front door. Speaking of fireplaces, I’ll have a closer shot of mine in another post. It’s going to be it’s own “before and after!”

I gotta point out my frogs. They’re a recurring theme throughout the main level. I found an adorable set at Hobby Lobby and have placed them in various rooms. I just love them!

This buffet used to be in the basement of our old home (along with the matching bar table and chairs). This time, they’re featured in the main room. The kids enjoy eating at the bar table every once in a while – they like the higher chairs. A few special things about the buffet:

1. The trio of green glass bottles tied with rope. My dear friend Dana has the same thing in her home. I’ve always admired it, but I specifically chose this, so I think of her whenever I see it!

2. The basket holding the blanket and pillows was made by my mother-in-law and given to Adam and me right before we were married.

3. The basket holding the magazines at the bottom of the buffet was given to me by my sweet book club friends and reminds me of some very special friendships.

4. Another theme running through the lower level is sunflowers. They are my favorite flower! I love the faded imprint on the pillow – it gives just enough color without calling too much attention.

5. The picture of my babies. They are my joy and I smile whenever I see this picture!

Well, that’s one big check off my list. I’m currently dividing my time between the kitchen and the dining room. The kitchen is getting close to being finished. But, I still have to paint my table and I’m working up the nerve to undertake that project! The dining room still has a long way to go (I have some very busy floral wallpaper to tear down…).

I’ll keep posting “before and after” pics as I go!



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how do you hibachi?

Yesterday, we ate out at a Japanese restaurant to celebrate Father’s Day.

Adam is a sushi nut, so we figured we’d indulge in his passion for raw fish (though the kids are still a bit sore at him for turning down their suggestion for Chuck E Cheese’s…)

The best part about the experience was watching the kids’ various attempts at chopstick handling.

For the record, here is the proper way to hold chopsticks:

Now, our little guy, Graders, probably came closest to getting it right:

(Sigh…) Did you check out his meal? I mean, why would you order rice and a wide array of vegetables at a Japanese restaurant when you could get nuggets and fries? Pshaw!


Now Garrett, well, his grasp was the most creative:

Hey, whatever works, right? This boy can eat! He was so excited to have steak that he even attempted to eat the pieces that slipped from his chopsticks and on to the floor. Gross, I know. But, steak is a rarity in our kitchen, so I can’t say I blame him.


As for Ava…hmmm – she’s kinda got the whole “deer in headlights” look going on. I think I caught her off guard with this quick snap of my phone!

And yes, she too enjoyed a plate of chicken nuggets and fries. According to her, they tasted almost as good as McDonald’s (which says a lot!). Well, at the very least, I can say my kids are consistent in the fact that they order American cuisine no matter what the setting and enjoy stuffing their faces.


I actually managed my chopsticks quite well, but I’m a Medieval Times girl at heart…I prefer eating with my bare hands.

It was a fun afternoon – lots of laughs and lots of good food!

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a ring

Recently, Garrett brought home a surprise.

He came up to me with his eyes all aglow, looking about ready to burst. I love how hard it is for my kids to hold on to their surprises. It’s all they can do to keep their little mouths closed before revealing their secret.

As I sat at the kitchen table, Garrett pulled a gold heart ring out of his backpack:

“Here Mommy,” he said. “I got this for you.”


I think it’s so important to show our kids how much we cherish the treasures they give us. My kids take such pride seeing me incorporate their gifts someway into my daily life: I wear their beaded bracelets and necklaces when I sing at church, attach paper flowers to my purse, put their fistfuls of afternoon flower picking in a vase and hang pictures on the fridge or place cards on my nightstand. It doesn’t have to be much, but highlighting the thoughtfulness of their simple gestures means so much to them.

I’m currently trying to figure out what to do with all the tokens they’ve given me over the years. As we packed up our home back in Illinois, Adam asked me, “Do you really need all these pipe-cleaner bracelets?”

“Yes,” I told him. “I do.”

We have a curio in our new home in Tennessee I have yet to find a function for. I’m thinking about using this piece to showcase their gifts. I figured I could make a scrapbook of all the paper pictures and cards and then display the rest of their keepsakes.

Simple gestures mean the world to me. They brighten my day and are sweet reminders that I am loved. I draw strength from them. I recently shared a piece of my story in church and was very nervous about the level of transparency I’d be revealing. I thought through what I wanted to say, but was afraid of not articulating everything clearly. Before the service, each of my kids ran up to me with dandelions. I quickly tied the flowers (that’s right, flowers…) together with a strand of long grass and tucked them into the top of my jean pocket. It was then my fears quieted and my soul settled. I was ready.

These little acts and tokens not only are marks of love, but they’re little reminders of part of my purpose in life. I am Ava, Garrett and Grady’s mommy and I take great care in raising them. I don’t always get it right, but I try daily to honor God’s entrusting them to me.


I’ve been wearing Garrett’s ring since he gave it to me. He had to work hard for it. If he read every night for a month, he was able to pick a prize from the classroom treasure chest. He saw the ring the month before, so he spent all of May reading for the ring.

It’s a little scuffed, it’s plastic…it’s beautiful.

As much as I admire diamonds, pearls and gemstones, I’d rather have a macaroni necklace.

As beautiful as a bouquet of roses is, I’d rather have bunch of dandelions and clover.

My babes are my joy. If everything was taken from me and all I had left was their smiling faces, I’d be content.

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a decade

10 years ago my husband and I built a house.

This house had four bedrooms.

At the time, we couldn’t even begin to imagine filling this house with furniture, let alone children.

Throughout the course of a decade, this house became home to a family of five.

Watching empty rooms fill with a crib, Cinderella carriage bed and bunk beds seemed to happen overnight.

I look back and am flooded with a sea of memories.

I look ahead and am excited for those yet to come.

This was a good home.

A very good home.

Taken August 2001 on the day we moved in


Taken May 2011 on the day we moved out


A family of two (August 2001)


A family of five (May 2011)


A decade


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Respect. Responsibility. Effort. Pride. Honesty.

Cooperation. Perseverance. Courtesy.

These are the “8 Great Traits” my kids’ elementary school values. Each month throughout the school year, a particular trait was highlighted. Teachers then selected one student from his or her class to receive a medal for demonstrating that trait. At the end of the year, however, one grand medal, the “All-Around Hero Award,” is awarded to a student from each class who best modeled all of the traits.

Ava was pretty sure she was up for her class medal. Her teacher praised her throughout the year and during conferences, told Adam and I how much easier teaching would be if she had a room full of “Avas.”

Garrett has said little throughout the year regarding the medals.

That is…until two days ago.

While sitting on the school lawn, enjoying his class picnic, he sided up to me and quietly asked, “Mom, do you think I’ll get the medal?”

I had absolutely no idea what to say. I told him it would be great if he did, but even if he didn’t, I was proud of him nonetheless.

I found myself thinking quite a bit about the medal. Ideally, it would be great if they both won. However, if Ava won the medal and Garrett didn’t, I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. And then I thought about Grady: would he feel left out if his siblings each came home with a special award?

A part of me considered perhaps I wasn’t giving my kids enough credit and was possibly underestimating the attitude they would have. And then there was another part that thought this could be a great “be a good sport” teachable moment. After all, not everyone gets the top prize and of course the kids are going to experience disappointments throughout life. So, may as well start prepping now, right? Ahhh, the woes of an over-thinking mother!

Oh, so what to do?

Well, the includer part of me ended up taking over and I decided we’ll deal with how to respond to disappointments another day. Yesterday, I just wanted an all-around happy day.

We’ve been staying with neighbors this past week, so the kids could finish out their school year here in Plainfield. Ava stayed with Anicka and her family, while the boys and I stayed with Luke and his family. These are the homes of my kids’ best friends. So, then it hit me, “Why not celebrate each of the kids?” The school medal is awarded for what takes place in the classroom. But, it created for me the perfect opportunity to honor not only my kids, but their friends too for what took place in my home. After all, I’ve been loving them for the past decade and I wanted them to know from me personally what I value about them as individuals and the impact they’ve had on me, my kids and my family.

I went to Party City and bought a package of medals. I then found some decked out paper and made a certificate for each of them. I previously arranged to take the kids and their best friends to see Kung Fu Panda 2 that afternoon followed by eating dinner out. All the pieces were falling neatly into place and I hoped they would enjoy my surprise.

After school, I was greeted by a sea of smiles. Ava did indeed win the medal for her class. Garrett did not, but I could not have been more proud of how happy he was for his sister (and that was without me reminding him!).

Kung Fu Panda 2 was awesome! All the kids and I really enjoyed it. I decided to hold my medal ceremony during dinner and that was fun too. I was afraid I might get choked up, but the ambiance in the room was light and everyone was laughing at the table, so things went smoothly. After calling each of the kids forward and bestowing their medal and certificate, we’d all applaud for each other. It was an afternoon I’ll always treasure.


I’d like to share with you about some very special kids in my life. You know my three pretty well by now, but I want you to know about their best friends too:


“All-Around Awesome Girlfriend Hero”

When we found out I was pregant with Grady, Ava prayed he would be a girl. She wanted a sister soooo bad! Well, God did not give Ava a sister, instead He gave her Anicka. The friendship these two girls have shared has been a blessing. In fact, one of the most difficult parts of our move was not only leaving behind our family, but these dear friends. Anicka has been Ava’s sister: they support one another, love each other, still have the occasional bickering, but are always there for each other no matter what. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend and playmate for Ava and I am thankful for the role she has, and I pray, continues to have in my daughter’s life.


“All-Around Best Friend Hero”

Ahhh, our sweet Luke. I am going to miss seeing his face pressed against my backdoor when he comes over looking to play with the kids. This past year, he stayed with us before and after school. I know he loves cinnamon rolls, playing “Sorry!” (he always beats me…), and getting the “blue” cup for breakfast. He has the most endearing personality and you can’t help but smile when you’re around him. He rough-houses with the boys, but they are still careful with each other. He loves trading silly bands with the girls and is so considerate. In fact, if not for him, I don’t think my kids would put their dishes in the sink when they finished with them. He succeeded in teaching them that, even though I tried. I am thankful my boys had another brother in him.


“All-Around Helper Hero”

“Miss Kelly, can I help you with anything?” I would hear that phrase from his mouth every day during the time he stayed with us before and after school. Even when I pulled up late Monday night, Charlie was right there, unloading my suitcase from the vehicle and bringing it to my room. I can’t believe he’s going to be a 7th grader! As the oldest of the group, he’s played the big brother role well. He’s responsible and watchful over the kids. And, he is currently giving me a crash course in “iPhone for Dummies” – extra bonus!

Ava Grace

“All-Around Sweetheart Hero”

Ava cares for people and goes out of her way to show it. She loves making pictures and writing letters to her friends and family. Whenever we’re out shopping, she is quick to point out how so-and-so would enjoy a particular item and is a good friend. I am very proud of my the young girl my daughter is becoming.


“All-Around Perseverance Hero”

Garrett works so hard! He is excelling in school with his reading and especially in Math. There are times when he may want to give up, but give him just an ounce of encouragement and my boy pushes right on through. I remember how many afternoons he and I spent working on making the lower-case “e.” He eventually got the hang of it and now makes them with ease. I am so proud of him!


“All-Around Sunshine Hero”

I wasn’t sure how Grady would react to me calling him a sunshine hero. It doesn’t sound too boyish, but I couldn’t think of a better word to describe him. This boy lights up a room the moment he steps into it. He makes me laugh with his impish antics and silly stories. He has a smile that melts your heart and like my other kids, I am very proud of him too.


I know this has been a very long post, but how could I not pay tribute to a decade of cherished relationships? I mentioned in my last post, I want my kids to know I value what they value. Today, I share with you I also value who they value.

Thank you, my sweet neighbors for blessing my children with your friendship. I love you so much and will miss you dearly.

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We spent Memorial Day with my parents. They have a huge yard with many trees. With all the trees, come activities like pine cone collecting and bug hunting.

I know whenever I see all three kids in a full out run, sprinting from a tree to the house, that I’m in for a surprise. And if the “MOMMMMM!” call happens while they’re running, then it’s going to be a good one.

This time it was an inchworm.

Or, maybe a caterpillar.

Either way, Ava found a little critter who has now become her new “pet.” She was so excited! Grandma found an empty sherbet container and I poked holes in the top. Ava then assembled a little suite for her pet consisting of a variety of leaves, clover and others plants(?).

After supper, we started our drive back to Plainfield. We hadn’t driven long before Ava realized she left her inchworm at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. “You have to go back!” she cried. I was tired & the last thing I wanted was to turn around. We made our 9 hour trek from Tennessee the day before and we had another two hours to drive that night. I glanced up in the rearview and met her eyes. “This is important,” they said.


You know what? I used to think it was the big things that spoke love best to my children: a surprise vacation to Disney World, a trip to Cancun or new bikes. Don’t get me wrong, these grand gestures are special and fun, but they are also few and far between. But, everyday I have the chance to show them in little ways how much I love them: whether it’s writing a note on a napkin and placing it in Ava’s lunchbox, an impromtu picnic or baking their favorite cookie. I used to underestimate the significance these little acts of love have over the long haul. But, over time, I’ve learned that my kids remember them as much as the big things. So, I try to tune in more to simple acts and make the most of their opportunity to gift love.

The decision to go back or not for Ava’s inchworm was a perfect example. Yeah, I know…it’s just a worm or caterpillar and we’ll probably let him go by the end of the week. But, it’s really not about the worm. I want my kids to know I value the things which are important to them – not because of the object itself (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?), but because of what it means to them.


So, I pulled off the road and headed back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Ava gathered up her worm and we were soon on the road again. After driving a bit, I teasingly suggested she name her pet “Mommy’s the Best.”

“But Mom,” she replied, “I already named him Inchy.”

Ava with Inchy

A closer view of Inchy (yep, we turned around for this little thin brown worm 🙂 )

Inchy’s Suite (with Inchy rockin’ the inchworm pose…)

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