feel the pulse

We are on day 16 of the post-flood demolition and renovation, and it’s starting to wear on me. At first I was surprised at how little we paused for the interruption, but now I’m growing tired of the mess. It’s hard enough to keep two kids reasonably sorted out with their own things in even the best of circumstances. But my coffee table is in the playroom and the television on the living room floor as I type this. My laundry room is not usable. Everything turned upside down for a little while longer.

I think this experience has taught me a lot of things – as difficult experiences usually do. I’ve learned that a physical space it not what determines a home and that home is the space I have created between the three of us. But I’m also beginning to see that my home routine turned upside down is a trigger for me in terms of stress and exhaustion. I am the ultimate introvert and homebody in many ways. My house is important to me as a little refuge from the rest of my day – which can be exhausting to say the least. All day long, I hear demands scream loudly, and home is usually my space of familiar and real, a place where I can feel the pulse of who I am. But right now it doesn’t feel familiar at all. I’m working to carve out little spaces that feel cozy despite the madness. But my little office / writing room is really the only spot not affected by this mess right now. Our things are shifted all over the place, and my kitchen isn’t all that inviting with its cement floors.

That said, I am finally reaching the fun part in this process. I spent part of yesterday perusing flooring choices, and I’ve got paint samples to try later today. I’m shopping light fixtures online and trying to make decisions carefully and thoughtfully.  I purged so much unnecessary stuff this summer, but this process is basically like moving all over again as the work is completed in each room, so it’s an opportunity to streamline even more. When else do you get the chance to do this? Not much. There is a silver lining to the mess for certain. My home will be all mine from top to bottom when it is done, and I have this time to make it what I want it to be.

Physical spaces carry such an energy, don’t they? I went on a ghost tour last night with a couple of friends, and we walked around old historic estates, tiny houses once inhabited by mill workers, and a historic cemetery with unmarked graves. Whatever your beliefs are about the spirit realm and whether or not we can feel or connect, I know places have an energy to them. We feel this in churches, in historic spaces, and in our own homes, too.

As I reflect on the homes or spaces that have meant the most to me over the years, I can see how little comfort is determined by the actual objects on your walls or size of your house or condition of your furniture. Love and hospitality shine through without regard for that – as does greed or selfishness or a preoccupation with appearance or money. Energy doesn’t lie. You either feel welcomed and at home or you don’t, and so little of that is a result of aesthetics. You can breathe a lot easier when a space is authentic, and I’m trying to remind myself of this as I make decisions in this renovation. What feels like us? What works best for the lives we lead? What is left in this space that is a piece of my old life that doesn’t apply anymore? Out with the old and in with the new.

My grandmother’s passing taught me a lot about this, too. When I was a kid, I only saw abundance everywhere in her home. Always food for us to eat, always space for us to play without feeling like we were intruding or unwelcome, always little comforts that made you want to stay longer. My grandad is still there, of course, but we have cleaned out little bits of her things here and there, and I have stayed there a good bit this month in light of my own house’s mess. And again and again I’m surprised to see the simplicity in their home. I saw abundance when I was younger because of the energy present with love and hospitality and authenticity, not because of anything I could touch or see.

It’s the smallest objects that carry meaning as we sifted through a few of her belongings after she died. Old clothes I passed on to a friend to use in a quilt for me. Christmas ornaments I can remember hanging year after year on her tree. Old photographs and cards. Nothing of material value at all.

A couple months ago, I found a birthday card she’d given me and decided I wanted to use the handwriting on a piece of jewelry. I told my grandfather about this, and he decided he wanted to gift one to each of the women in my family – aunts and cousins and my mom and sister – all of us. I ordered them from Leo’s Mark and couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve hardly taken mine off since I got it.


All of her cards always said We love you, never I love you. It made sense for them and how they are and is a testament to their partnership and not just the sweetness of who she was. And every time I put it on, I think of her. The older I get, the less stuff I feel like I need in my life. But I am also learning how it feels to surround myself with a few things that are meaningful and purposeful. I’m working to do this in my home, my closet, my office, everywhere. Even in my own heart and daily interactions. Do someone’s words offer something meaningful and purposeful? If so, I take them to heart. If not, I let them fall away.

Leo’s Mark did such beautiful work with these necklaces, and they have all kinds of ways to honor a loved one if you have handwriting samples of any kind. They were incredibly helpful in designing and orchestrating all of this, and they’re offering readers 10% off with the coupon code MAMATHEREADER10 if you want to treat yourself or someone else to something that is both beautiful and meaningful. (What a perfect holiday gift!)

There is a Iain Thomas quote that says, “And everyday the world will drag you by the hand yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it is up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, and say ‘No. This is what’s important.'” I’m honoring this time in my own life to let the unimportant fall away and watch what happens as the outside of my life begins to align more sharply with my own heart. Keeping my hand on my heart everyday to feel the pulse of what matters.


Thanksgiving came and went, and Christmas time is here. I know this is cliche, but how is 2015 nearly over already? I can hardly believe tomorrow begins December.

My mom indulged my kids and all their little cousins with a pretty fun surprise on Thanksgiving night as we celebrated at my grandparents’ house.

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My normally energetic boy got pretty shy when it was his turn to talk to Santa.


But Norah talked his ear off as expected. Like most siblings, my two are opposite in so many ways.


We drove home in the dark seeing a few houses already lit up, and they talked a mile a minute – about Christmas and Santa and a million other things. I thought for sure they’d be asleep by the time we got home, but they weren’t. The holidays bring so much wonder and excitement for kids. It brings it all back in the best way.

They spent the next couple of days with their dad, and I got to use the time to wrap up some grading piles and get out the decor. When they arrived home on Sunday morning, we got started on the tree. It’s little and covered with kid-crafted things and nothing is symmetrical, but it’s ours. Our little tree and our little house. And a house never feels as cozy as when it’s twinkling inside with Christmas lights.

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We finished the afternoon with hot chocolate and a movie, and they were content and happy.


Tonight I’m filling the Advent calendar with our little activities for the month of December, gems we can enjoy everyday for the next few weeks…. make cards for your teachers, eat pancakes for dinner, wrap a present, go driving in pj’s and look at Christmas lights…. The smallest things can make them so happy. And me, too.

I see the value of tradition during the holidays more than ever. These are the moments they will remember as they grow, and that idea of creating memories for your kids is both the heaviest and the most beautiful part of motherhood to me. I’m creating the soundtrack and images that will replay for them in moments of nostalgia decades from now. And truthfully I don’t even know what will stick, what will survive the years and emerge as the things they love the most.

It’s the smallest things that they seem to remember so far – never the gifts under the tree. It’s the moments shared among the three of us that are creating a home and a life for them.

I hope I can calm myself for a few sacred minutes everyday in this last stretch of 2015 to remember that. I look around and see so much comfort and abundance. This is it. Not a year into the future and certainly not my past. This is life as it’s really happening and not a stepping stone to something else. I’m grateful for all of it  – for the two little people I get to share these traditions with and for all the magic that December holds.

on creating a home

I spent time with old friends over the holiday weekend earlier this month, and they are both in the early stages of house hunting and preparing for a move.  We talked a lot about houses and family life and why we make the choices we do to live as we choose to.  Money is always the determining factor on this decision, of course. But I think within family budgets there’s always the question of just how much you want to devote to housing. And within the perimeters of each home, we choose what sort of things we want to surround ourselves with. Our conversation got me thinking about the choices and routines that make a house a home and how those things can differ for everyone.

I think one of the perks of single motherhood – if I am allowed to say that or “allowed” to see a silver lining here – is that you get to set the tone of the house on your own. You don’t have to ask someone else’s permission or opinion on decorative or practical choices. It’s something I didn’t expect to feel so liberating, but as I settle into our house and roots are beginning to grow five months after our move, I see how monumental this is to me as a mother in this chapter of my life. I can create the reality around me with intention and purpose without asking someone else – or the rest of society for that matter – what I’m “supposed” to do.

I was recently reading The Gifts of Imperfection (as I wrote about recently), and in that book, Brene Brown has a chapter on the importance of creativity.  She reflects on her own childhood and sees it in retrospect as two distinct chapters: one with her family on a limited budget with her father in law school when they lived in New Orleans in a tiny duplex and the other when they graduated to a new lifestyle in Houston. I was struck so much by the simple description she gives that details how she remembers it through a child’s eyes. “In New Orleans, every wall was covered in art done by my mom or a relative or us kids… In Houston, I remember walking into some of my new neighbors’ houses and thinking that their living rooms looked like the lobby of a fancy hotel .. My parents were launched on that accomplishments-and-acquisitions track, and creativity gave way to the stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison.”  Her description is much longer and more detailed as she explains the safety and comfort and encouragement she felt in the tiny New Orleans home (as her parents no doubt scraped together what little funds they had) and the more hollow feeling she absorbed in the Houston community when she was given a message to compete with others by striving for that shiny, unattainable perfection.

I’ve written a lot lately about how the comparison trap is losing it’s power over me as my life situation is not the “norm” anymore. The striving for a combination of fitting in and being better than? Not happening over here. In part because I’ve learned that comparison means nothing and you can turn yourself inside out to be as close to perfect as you can muster and someone will still deem you not good enough.  And partly because I have broken the mold anyway. I know that I had the pressure before to create the pristine coordinated hotel lobby within my own house, and that pressure was coming from both outside my home and inside it as my partner wanted that life and prioritizes it so intensely. Like so many other things in my life, I didn’t realize the extent to which it was drowning me until I unloaded that weight from my back.

When I began reading blogs regularly, about five years ago as I was a stay-at-home mom, I stumbled on so many sites that detail how to create perfection in your home and what routines or purchases can achieve that for you. I now understand that it’s not that simple. Different things work for different people, and you have to decide what matters most to you and what routines bring the most comfort or benefit to your home. And the same goes for aesthetic choices. Like everyone else, I want my home to look nice. But I am beginning to see the difference between wanting it to look like a magazine because other people like that and wanting it to look like we live here – reflections of our own tastes and our own personalities in every room.

I’ve surprised myself at how quickly our home is feeling worn and comfortable, how these walls are already beginning to absorb and reflect the essence of my little family of three. The kids’ complete disregard for the “downgrade” in the size and newness and price of our home earlier this year speaks volumes. Much like the description that Brown remembers in her recollections, my kids clearly crave support and connection and space to feel a sense of belonging and a place to be creative.  The rest is not important to them. It’s inspiring really. And a good reminder to parents and all the “grown-ups” in the world that the rest of it doesn’t matter.  We are definitely not a shiny catalog over here, but it’s home to us.

Our house is busy and full of energy, and half the time it is also full of neighbor kids who run in and out as often as they can. The moment we walk in the door from school, my two are asking if they can head through the backyard to see what the neighbor kids are up to. Before long, they are into something here or somewhere else. Always imagining and always talking and always at play.



Jude woke up in the middle of the night last week and told me in a panicked tone that he had a bad dream.  I did the usual shhhh and back rubs and asked him what happened so that I could soothe fears of imaginary monsters or catastrophes. He replied that “We were at the playground, and we came back home, and another family bought this house! They were living here! We had to leave!” It cracked me up. That was his nightmare. That I sold this house to another perfectly normal family.

And it is never exactly spotless in this house except for that one moment just before the kids come back from their dad’s house when I’ve had a day or two to catch up. But it never lasts long, and as soon as I’ve got them under my feet again, we just do the best we can. Each parent has her own routines that speak to her priorities. For me, food on the table and clean laundry in the drawers are the only demands I make of myself during the week.  Beyond that it doesn’t happen, but I am okay with it. Bathroom counters are cluttered, and toys are strewn in the playroom a bit. But it’s lived in, and to me that feels better than a showroom.  I want my kids to have memories of real life here. Moments when we are doing nothing at all or we are doing all the little things that regular life brings. No special agenda. Life moments as they happen in a house with two kids under six.

I make my bed before I leave each morning even if there’s clutter elsewhere. (It’s another routine that is a personal quirk and makes me feel better.) But by evening, it is crumpled as all three of us have piled on it to read and talk, and usually the dog joins us. This is my favorite part of the day. It might be a bedtime stalling technique, but it is definitely when Jude shares the most about his day and the details of school. We talk, all three of us, and even the most hectic of days can slow its pace a bit in that half hour or so before I turn the lights out and tell them to go to bed. The master bedroom in this house is ridiculously large, and it is sparse given that I don’t even have a headboard at this point. I’ve slowly added a lamp, an Ikea side table, repurposed some curtains from elsewhere.  It feels like a safe spot despite the sprawling unused space. It’s lived in and comfortable.


I am fortunate that I was able to maintain a house in the town we were already residing in, with good schools and few worries about safety or peer groups for my kids. I am fortunate that I could purchase a house only ten years old with ample room for all of us. I understand this, and I can say with honesty that financial support from their father, combined with my own income, makes this possible (as it should, given that they are his children and we had a nearly ten-year marriage wherein I supported his demanding career).  I don’t want to be dishonest in misrepresenting that, and I acknowledge that my situation is entirely different from single mothers who are given no financial support at all.

That said, I am still raising two kids in the suburbs on an income that is just enough to make this happen. And though I can’t spend money at whim, I am seeing value in this chapter and this lesson it is granting me. We live with so much more, on the whole, than what we truly need. We buy things to fill holes that can’t be filled with things. We see our worth in these material things, and I am not immune to this. It’s a lesson I am learning still.  I am always asking myself why I want to buy something – if it is a want or a need. And if it’s a want, there is no shame in that, but I look honestly at why I want it. If we are honest with ourselves, the reasons are sometimes uncomfortable to admit.  My restricted income has narrowed my purchases to only include things I really need or things I feel a connection to that I save for and consider for a while before buying them.  It’s resulted in a home full of things I really love.

Necessity is the mother of invention, I hear. I am not at a place where I can spend volumes on making this house look like a magazine.  But I’ve made conscious choices to do things with purpose and intention around here and create a space where my kids feel safe and valued and I feel inspired. I decided that a coat of paint that is far from professional but done is better than not done at all for fear of imperfection. I’ve asked the kids to weigh in on things along the way – what do you want here? do you like this color? what toys do you want to keep that you like to play with most? I want our home to be a place that continues to inspire them and make their friends want to gather here. A place that reflects who we are and also what we want to be.


I am human, and I look around and see so many things i want to replace or improve or touch up. My summer plants are waning, and the pine straw needs to be replaced outside. I have probably at most another two years left before I need to shell out money for a new exterior paint job. Sun has faded my wicker furniture and dried it out to chip away the paint, so I need to refresh that with the start of a new season.  I still haven’t hung shelves in their bedrooms as I said I would. There are broken blinds that need to be replaced and curtain-less windows crying for attention. The table where we eat is old and scratched with stained upholstery.  But I’m finding my kids don’t care at all. Not about any of these details. All they see is home and mom and friends and all the familiar comforts that come from belonging somewhere. We are making memories here.  Special occasions and everyday moments.



I have moved three times in the past eight years. I am tired of it. Each time I move, I think this is it – this is where we are staying. But obviously it hasn’t turned out that way. This time, I don’t even know how long I will be here or if I will leave or what this house will be in my life path. I have no plan. Every day I wake up and do what needs to be done to keep the fires burning, so to speak. Mortgage paid, trash taken out, laundry done, school lunch packed, papers filed away, kids dressed, food on the table. I have no grand plan.

But as I wrote about earlier this summer, it’s liberating in ways. All that matters is here and now, and I scrape by with the routines that work for me and that grant us comfort and make us feel safe and cared for. I’m not sure where the story leads, but I know that home is where is starts, and this place is starting to feel pretty special. I look around and all I see is abundance – pictures on the wall, crayon art cluttering the fridge, plenty of food on the table, little voices always chattering.  All I need is here and now.


home is where

We’ve been in this house 17 days, and I am – as expected – still tripping over boxes occasionally and looking endlessly for things I remember packing but can’t quite remember where they ended up.  I moved in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, and now again in 2015.  Frankly, I am really tired of it.  That said, at least this is a familiar dance for me.  I can remember having that feeling that  I’ll never be settled or never have things looking the way I want them only to find things exactly as they should be with the passage of time. Time.  The answer to everything lately it seems. It all takes time.

We are getting settled little by little.  I’m using what is, I’m assuming, a formal living room space at the entryway as a kids’ reading area.  They are loving it. (Yes, I’m careful to secure bookcases as best I can with this little monkey.)


It’s funny how liberating some of this feels.  That I get to set the tone of the house, for instance.  I don’t have to get anyone else’s opinion or approval before making decorative choices.  I have been veto’d in the past when I wanted any sign of kids’ and play spaces near the common areas of the house.  So it feels good to have this little space greet us as we walk in the door.  Yes, children live here. Yes, you can tell.  It feels authentic and lived in and comfortable that I am not trying and hide that.  I want this to feel like their space as well.

Their rooms have a lot left to be desired. But beds are there. Clothes are in closets, and as of this weekend, I began putting a couple of things on their walls. I am hoping to paint a bit this summer when I have the time. We shall see.


We settled in earlier tonight with a movie and a huge bowl of popcorn after their bath time.  The comfort of old routines feels good, and this rainy weather we’ve had all week has encouraged some cozy indoor hours anyhow.

I’m also finally feeling my kitchen motivation emerge again.  Moving is so terrible on dietary habits. I hated that we went a good 7-10 days of mostly eating out as we packed away anything left in the old house and took a day or two to get unpacked here.  The kitchen is always the first thing I unpack when I move. I feel like the moment I can cook a meal and sit at my table to eat is the moment the house really starts to feel like home, you know?  My fridge and pantry are stocked now, and I shopped today for some really great meals I have lined up this week.  It feels good to eat and cook like my old self again.  I’ve also got two lettuce pots on the patio, thanks to my grandparents and their gardening expertise, so we’ve got salad for days and days ahead.  I love spring and seeing all the fresh food return to my table.


A new house is like any other new relationship.  It takes a while to see what you value most about it and what annoys you or drives you crazy. The eccentricities and sounds and details aren’t apparent yet, and for that reason, it still feels a little foreign here. But we’ll get there. I’m learning its patterns and quirks a little already.  The best light is late morning through the back side of the house, especially the patio door.  The laundry room is my favorite of any house I’ve ever lived in. My bedroom feels perfect and safe and cozy, even though it’s hardly got any furniture in it. The kitchen window makes washing dishes tolerable and even a little pleasant. Most notably, the neighbors are kind and showering us with gifts and hellos already.  I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, but I think I want to stay here a good long while.

Remember me?

Hi!  Let’s just say that moving with two little kids was a lot more insane than I expected.  We are getting settled, but the few days of the actual move were so awful.  As an adult, it is jarring enough to have a total change in your home and your routine, but throw two little ones in the mix and holy moly.  It is crazy.

They have been sleeping well (we all have!  so exhausted!) and we are steadily getting settled a bit.  Real pictures may come one day.  When I can find my camera. Ha.  SO MUCH STUFF we have.  It really makes you want to simplify when you move all those belongings.

It was a long moving day when we moved out of the last house. I thought I’d be a lot more emotional after living there 7 years and bringing home 2 babies, but the day of the move, it was so tiring and intense, I just wanted to wrap it all up.


The kids are opening boxes faster than I can put things away which is fun, but it’s resulting in a lot of clutter.


But we are loving the house, and it’s feeling like home already. I think this is our forever place for sure.



new curtains


We are dealing with construction sites right and left at the moment. Someone doesn’t mind though.


It’s a work in progress in every way. But I am grateful to be here, and I hope to share more soon.


Here we are again.  New year and fresh start and the opportunities that lie in front of us in the next twelve months.  I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions this past few weeks, and I’ve loved having this journal here to look back on my past resolutions and what stuck and what didn’t.

Remember that one time I resolved to finish at least one craft project a month?  I actually did it.  And that time I resolved to take a photo a day for all of 2012?  That one didn’t happen.  Sometimes they come to fruition and sometimes they don’t.  Nevertheless, it feels good to make goals, and writing them aloud here makes me more accountable, I know.

So first up this year, nutrition.  I have to say that I am really proud of how far I’ve come on this topic and how much healthier my family eats than we used to.  We are more or less purged of processed food, and I feel like I’ve mastered the whole grains quest.  My grain mill has us eating true whole wheat in our muffins and pancakes and breads and cakes and cookies and everything.  Brown rice and quinoa are frequent on our table, too.  And I do feel like that major change has had some really positive effects on our health and well-being.  Where I can improve, however, is my intake of fruit and vegetables.  I’m a creature of habit, and my morning breakfast is almost always one egg and one bread-like thing of some kind … muffin, toast, etc.  And my most often repeated dinner recipes are usually crockpot dinners or some other sort of one-dish meal.  Chicken and potatoes roasted in a skillet.  Fish with a side of bean salad.  Chicken over rice. … You get the point.  Quick and somewhat healthy and easy clean-up and simple to prepare with kids running under your feet.  Lunch is whatever I can grab in a hurry, to be totally honest.  Ham and cheese wrapped in a tortilla or leftover pasta from the night before.  Whatever I can find.  So I’m resolving to eat at least one fruit or vegetable in every meal of the day.  More than one is good and veggie snacks between meals are even better.  I know I probably won’t accomplish this three times a day for the next twelve months straight, but my hope is that it will change the way I think of eating and meal planning.  And making a real rule for myself, one I can count or see clearly, seems to work for my accountability most of the time.

For the past five days (yay, me!) I’ve been doing this, and it’s not that difficult, but it does require thought.  I throw a chopped mushroom and a sun-dried tomato in a tiny omelette in the morning, for instance, and it takes all of forty extra seconds to grab those from the fridge.  Some raw celery on the side for lunch.  Green beans to accompany our chicken and rice for dinner.  They are easy solutions, but they make me feel better about the variety in my diet, and I hope they will shed light on some creativity in the kitchen as well.

The second area I want to work on is my home.  Which I know was on my list of things in 2011, and I do actually think I’ve made strides since then, but I just find that as we add another baby to the mix and the months roll by, routines need re-evaluating and I need to make changes.  The main issue for me is to simplify.  Like simplify a million times over.  We cleaned out a ton of kids toys and old bedding and odds and ends over Christmas break, and I find myself wondering why on Earth we hadn’t done that sooner, or the real recurring question of why do I own this to begin with?  Making a house a home takes time, and you acquire hand-me-downs first and then the cheapest something of your own that you can afford and then maybe years later you get what you really want.  [Or this is how it happened with me.  Am I the only one?] So sometimes I look around my house and think what is that?  Or I find that the corners in my home that make me most happy are the things we’ve carefully chosen and really loved when we decided to buy it or hang it or arrange it or whatever.  I hope I’m making sense here.  All this is just to say that I want to work harder at making my house a home this year.  Whether through some aromatherapy oils or some kitchen cabinet reorganization or some new decorative details or whatever the case may be.  I want to walk in my home and feel that it is ours and full of our flavors and our tastes and our most favorite things and devoid of useless junk that does not serve to make me happy.

And last but not least, I hope to write here more often.  I’m going to try to impose a Wednesday and Sunday schedule for myself, and I’ll hope that it grows from there.  But that will have me checking in at least twice a week.  I miss this space and the journal it gives me to look back on and of course the clarity writing brings.  That’s something I want more of in 2013.

What about you?  Any things you’ve resolved to work on?

Norah’s Nursery

I’m full term this Thursday, meaning if I were to go in to labor, they wouldn’t stop it.  And while I fully expect another three or so weeks before baby girl makes her appearance, I’m crossing things off the to-do list like mad lately.  I’ve got plans for a stop at Babies R’ Us (ugh) this week to use some store credit and pick up odds and ends I need to replenish, and I think next week I’ll start packing hospital bags to be ready.  The idea of packing my stuff doesn’t bother me at all; I think I started packing a few things on my due date last go around, and I had all I needed.  The idea of packing belongings and instructions for my two-year-old is stressing me out though.  I have no idea how long I’ll be gone, and I’d really prefer that he meet his sister at home if I can be back here in the time frame of 24-48 hours, but if it’s longer than that, he’ll come to the hospital.  The guessing game of labor and delivery – when it will happen, what time of day, how things will go – is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking at this stage of the game.

This weekend brought some fun things though when I crossed a big one off the list.  Norah’s room is finished!  Take a look now, folks, because I know most of the details and organization won’t look like this in a couple of months when we have a real eating, sleeping, pooping baby living there.  That much I remember.

We went with Baby Cache again for the crib and most of the furniture because we loved the one we had for Jude, and we actually are still using his as we’ve converted it to a full-sized bed. It’s served us well, and we found one we liked this time, too.

crib and monogram

The monogram is one I found on Etsy, and I simply spray-painted it with gray paint. It’s fairly light, so we hung it with Command strips. (There’s a glare in this photo, but I think you get the idea.)

For a long time, I couldn’t fine any bedding I even remotely liked, but then a Pottery Barn sale email landed in my inbox one day, and I settled on the “Dahlia” pattern. We’ve used Jude’s toddler blanket / quilt that came with his bedding as he’s grown older, and I love that it’s a quality item we can keep for a long time for each kid. Pottery Barn nursery details make me swoon. So so cute!



I also decided (Thanks, Pinterest!) to use various fabric and embroidery hoops to decorate the wall above her changing table. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, and it was pretty inexpensive for a large focal point. A bonus is that I also have some scraps of fabric to use for one thing or another.

embroidery hoops

I chose one particular fabric from that wall to carry to the windows, and I made this simple valance using this easy tutorial.


Add a garage-sale find that I repainted…..

yard sale find!

And some other details like a mirror we found at Home Goods and an old Ikea lamp that we used to have in the guest bedroom….

Norah's nursery

My favorite thing about putting a nursery together is the tiny details that become sentimental. This is the first thing we bought for Norah, just after we found out she was a girl. I found it in a random souvenir shop across from the Louvre on our Paris trip when I was about 22 weeks pregnant. It loosely translates to “When I am grown, I will go to Paris.” I love it and the memories it brings.

Norah's first gift

And then this little project was a mix of a few different Pinterest ideas (mainly this one), and I am happy with the final result. It’s big brother’s scribbles, hole-punched and glued on a painted canvas to form her letter.

toddler art

Lastly, we moved the old Expedit shelf and rocking chair from Jude’s room to the nursery. I spent countless hours in this seat last go-around with a newbie, and the shelf became a command center of sorts. The baskets are great for storing burp cloths, blankets, and snacks and such you need as an overwhelmed nursing mama in the early days.  And great for faking organization by hiding the mess.

Jude's old expedit and rocking chair

All in all, I am happy with the way it turned out. It’s not really all that much like my earlier idea, and I discovered that the antique / dusty sort of pink is pretty much impossible to find. Still though, we used some sprinkles of purple and a little pink to lighten up the green, and I think in the end it’s feminine without being overwhelming. Or so I hope.

So that’s the finished project!  Drawers full of baby girl clothes, a finished room, and clean sheets on her bed are making me realize we have a new little person making her entrance soon.  And that’s pretty exciting.

food and gratitude

We had such a great Thanksgiving here, and I’m sad to see the weekend end.  Scott tends to go on a cleaning and organizing rampage if he’s off for more than three days in a row, and it happened again this weekend.  It’s his way of fighting cabin-fever, I think.  Or maybe it’s just that the mess drives him crazy while I grow used to it.  Whatever the reason, it was much needed, and I feel like I am out of pregnancy icky feelings and moving on from fatigue to productiveness just as the holidays begin.  It’s great timing, and I am grateful to be past a slump and looking on to bright things.

We baked cookies with cousins.

more baking


We played with a parachute on a warm Thanksgiving Day.

under the parachute

And we did a million other things I didn’t take photos of.  I ate so much good food that I’m pretty certain it’s not all baby in that belly.  We drove a couple hours south to visit family and also got in a quick visit with good friends and their snuggly newborn girl.  We played a lot, wrapped gifts, decked the halls, and generally enjoyed each other without much worry or rush which doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is to be grateful for what you have and take time to really think of all those things, and as kids we roll our eyes when we have to list them: my parents, a roof over my head, my friends, food to eat.  All the things we are supposed to say.  But I think as I’ve grown older, and especially as I’ve been writing here, I’ve really started to see the ways that gratitude affects my everyday life.  Saying thanks makes me see more things to say thanks for, and it’s a good feeling.

This year, I am most thankful for this season of my life and all that comes with it.  Sure I’m persistently tired, all the nice ornaments are crowded on the top of my tree where little hands can’t reach them, my house is cluttered more than it’s tidy, and the time I get for myself is such a rationed commodity.

But I get to see a little person learn and grow and change everyday, and I love that.  I get to grow a whole new person in my own body, and I love that.  I get to see my husband become a father, and I love that.  Best of all, I get to see my own little family beginning and growing, and I get to dream and think about what all is next for us. It’s such a good time: to be at the beginning of so many things and looking ahead to all the possibilities.  Funny that as a twenty-something, we tend to think thirties are gross and old and what’s left then?  As it turns out, the best is left, and I am so excited to see what it feels like.

Christmas cards are ordered, stockings are hung, tress are up, and my house feels clean and cozy and festive.  The holidays are here, friends!
Jude and tree

It’s rainy out and cold this week, so we’re looking forward to soup nights and more lounging by the tree.  I’ll check in soon with a couple of recipes that graced our table this weekend.

emerging from the snow here…..

In case you missed all the fun, Atlanta was buried in snow for a full week or so, and most of us couldn’t drive anywhere.  My driveway is especially treacherous, so I was housebound from Sunday to Saturday here.  Oh, and also, my husband was in sunny California while Jude and I braved the cabin fever.

Everyone I know was a little worried about the possibility of my being alone with him for a full week without getting out.  I fielded hourly phone calls from friends and relatives.  I am not exaggerating; people were calling and emailing me all the time.  Are you okay with Jude by yourself?  Do you need any other food?  Do you need someone to come get you? (how, I don’t know…) Are you going crazy? While I appreciated everyone’s concern, the whole thing was a little weird to me.  My normal once-a-week trip to the grocery store had me well-stocked on food.  We had power (thankfully).  I wish I could say it was vastly different from a usual week for me, but it simply wasn’t.  I admit I started to get the itch around Thursday afternoon or so, but all in all – save for a few choice moments – it wasn’t really hard on my patience.  [Well, there was that one afternoon when time-out wasn’t yielding good results and I had him in bed at 6:30.  But I’m human, and if I’m being honest, the witching hour always seems to occur at about 6:00 pm, even on the sunniest days.]

I am so happy it’s the beginning of a new week, and of course I was happy to see Scott get home, but in a weird way, last week was also a nice change of pace, a needed reminder. It left me thinking a lot about how I conduct my days and how we tend to go-go-g0 all the time.  Every time I checked in to Facebook, people were complaining of cabin fever or the need (not want?) of a trip to Target.  And this started on day two.  TWO.  We can’t handle two days in our homes without driving around or buying or consuming something?  Come on, people.

Again, I don’t consider myself holier-than-you, and I got the cabin fever itch occasionally, but last week made me realize that – even alone with my 15 month old day and night – going a full week without leaving my home has its merits.  Not only that, but it would have been the norm for families just a few generations ago.


We built forts and played in our jammies.

We colored and worked on puzzles.  Without even trying to mend our crazy bed head.

We played cars.

And blocks.

We also made snow cream, played in the snow, annoyed the dogs, played with playdough…… The list goes on and on.  It was so nice to just be for a week.  No errands.  No shopping trips.  Nothing to cloud my days and my thoughts. Another bright side?  I did more reading last week than I’ve done in ages.  My house is [was] spotless.  I made my way through some of our surplus food and did some baking.  I felt unhurried, cozy, and grateful that I had a playmate to keep me company.

Life goes on.  Snow melts, and people get back to the normal rush.  I learned a lesson though.  If we aren’t booked every week with a library hour or a play date or a million errands, my life is still full and valid.  I forget that sometimes, and I convince myself that being a good mom means being an extraordinarily busy mom.  And that simply isn’t true.

So happy Monday, readers.  Hopefully the chill of January has you snuggled in and slowing down occasionally.

And later this week?  My first finished knitting project and a recipe or two!

fresh start

Quiet house this morning.  Husband is gone to work.  Baby sleeping.  I’ve enjoyed a shower and coffee already.

I love new pages. Whether it’s an unwritten journal, a new book, a new day, or a new year.  Beginnings are good things.

2010 was such a good year for me. Looking back from about 2004 onward, it really seems like each year gets better and better.  I hope know that trend will continue, and I’m genuinely excited to see what 2011 brings.  So now the decorations are put away, the Christmas cakes and candies are [almost] gone from the kitchen, and it’s time to get back to real life after the holiday rush.  I love the holidays, but real life feels good too sometimes.

Regardless of my difficulty keeping them, I make resolutions every year.  I like that the fresh calendar inspires all of us to do better and be better in the coming months, and – this year especially – I have a lot to work on.

I love my job as a full-time mom, and I cherish 2010 as the year I was able to let go of professional responsibilities and focus on motherhood as my most important occupation.  That said, it’s a job like any other in that there is a learning curve and it can take time to discover what works for you and what your home and family needs.  I’ve spent the past 6 months flirting with a ot of different routines and ideas and not really committing to any of them for any length of time.  To add to the challenge, at this age, Jude changes every single day and what we are able to do together changes as  a result.  Much of my 2011 resolutions have to do with this.  I want to be an intentional and purposeful mother and create a home that is really a place of shelter – both figuratively and literally – from the world outside my family.  It’s so hard to look at the big picture and not get overwhelmed and bogged-down with the everyday things, but here’s what I have realized:  Those everyday tasks add up to the big picture I’m trying to create. The little things ARE the big thing.

As a feminist, I run from phrases like “make your home a haven” and anything that encourages me to be  good homemaker for the sake of my husband who should never see the hard parts of my day, only the vacuumed carpets and the freshly-set dinner table.  But in all seriousness and honesty, one of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to become more reliably organized and I feel as though my life now is more chaotic and unorganized than ever.  And now my home is not just somewhere I sleep and eat.  It’s somewhere I live.  Somewhere I raise my son.  In a sense, it is now somewhere I work.  So this year?  This year I resolve once again to get organized, but this time it’s more than that.  I hope to make monthly resolutions that become habits and make my home one I love to be in, one my family loves as well.  For now, I am trying out The Fly Lady, and her humorous little tips and reminders are making me laugh.  For the month of January, I’m resolving 2 household things:  scrub and shine my sink every night and complete one load of laundry a day (not including diapers) put up and wrinkle-free.  I’m hoping to create some habits around here and my spastic household cleaning schedule is no longer working for me.

I can't help but laugh at this photo. NOT MY LIFE right now. Not at all.

Life would be pretty boring if household chores were my only resolutions though, so I’ve got some other things I want to work on, too!  I LOVE creating things – all sorts of things.  I’ve made cards, both paper and digital scrapbooks, crocheted, cross-stitched, sewn, etc. etc.  Now I never seem to finish a project though and end up feeling like a mess with half a dozen undone things around here.  And I love the “me” time of crafting and love a finished project, so why are there so many undone things in my life?  I’m resolving to create one thing a month from start to finish.  Just one.  It might be something little (probably will be tiny more often than not), but creating something feel so good, and I miss it.

In addition to those two, there are a few other things floating around in my head – to read more (which is easier now with my new Kindle!!), continue on our “real food” journey with more whole nourishment and less processed junk, make connections and stay connected with mama friends, continue last year’s resolution that actually stuck and keep on with the budgeting, simplifying, and saving.  All in all, I’ve got lots to work on.

There’s an Anne Frank passage from her diary where she says, “”How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day.”  God knows the events of her day were so much heavier than the events of mine, but as always, her positivity and ability to simplify things are so inspiring.

I want to be a better me.

What are your resolutions this year?