Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thankfully Not Average, But a Leader with a New Outlook

We have had a big week.  One of those weeks were you can't seem to catch your breath and you feel like you are on a treadmill that won't turn off.  But during this crazy week, we have had a couple of really neat moments. As I have discussed before, our oldest son has a lot of obstacles in his life.  He was born with congenital heart disease and recently diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and General Anxiety.  As you can imagine, school is not the easiest task for him.  He has to really work (I mean work hard, so hard) to stay focused, not get stuck on the little things, keep himself calm, etc.  as he goes through his day as a big third grader. He never has been and never will be run of the mill "average".  And let me tell you, he is anything but average and we love that about him!  He doesn't love others in an "average" way.  He doesn't study and learn in an "average" way.  He doesn't have an "average" outlook on life.  He marches to the beat of his own drum and we are learning to praise God for it. Yesterday, I checked my email and noticed a new email from his teacher (whom we love and feel was lovingly chosen for him by God).  Now, any parent with a child who struggles knows the feeling when you see an email from a teacher.  You have been scarred by countless negative emails and cringe at the very sight of their name in your inbox.  Your stomach immediately gets in knots, your heart drops, and you say a prayer before you can even begin to open it.  The beginning of the email was pretty standard.  She was answering some questions that I had and clarifying some questions my son had.  Then I got to the end and this is what I found... "I have to brag on JC. Monday afternoon, when they had some writing to do off of the board, he was the first one to move his desk so he could see the board better. He’s such a leader!"

Now read it again and again and again.  Really allow it to soak in, don't be afraid to pinch yourself.  This is real, a heart felt compliment from his teacher.  She said he was a leader!!!  We have never heard those words from a teacher.  What an amazing feeling!  I will probably keep that email for the rest of my life.  He is a leader!

The other breaking news for our leading third grader...he got glasses!  He has been having a hard time copying work off the whiteboard.  The eye doctor confirmed that even though he has 20/20 eye sight, he has an astigmatism which will definitely effect things like copying from the board.  He was so proud of his glasses last night.  I must say he looks so adorable handsome.  :)  It was so cute to watch him do his homework while adjusting his new specs.  He kept mentioning what a difference they made.

In the midst of a crazy week, we are reminded that he is (thankfully) not average, but a leader with a new outlook!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Birthday Dilemma

It is that time of year again...birthday season.  In the month of October and November, we have three grandparents and two children celebrating their birthdays.  It gets just a little crazy.  :)  This year we are trying to change the way we celebrate birthdays.  Why change?  Two reasons really: We are now a one income family and our priorities have shifted.  In the past, we have definitely been sucked into throwing the huge parties with friends, blow up bounce things, clowns, big cakes, etc. For weeks, I would stress about decorations, invitations, money, money, money, and about much will all of this cost?  In the last year, we have really tightened up our budget.  To be honest, I feel like we enjoy life more because we are not overwhelmed with keeping up with everyone else.  Like I said, we have re-prioritized and it is working great for my husband and I but the kids are still adjusting. BUT... with upcoming birthdays I begin to question everything.  I wish we had started our family with small birthday parties.  Our oldest son has had so many large parties, our middle son has had a few less, and our youngest...not a single blow out party.  All of her parties have been family only.  This is what I want to switch to - just family parties.  However, my oldest is not buying this new idea.  He wants what he has always had in the past. My cousins and some close friends have always had the "family only" rule for birthdays.  Their kids have amazing birthdays, I don't fill like they are missing out at all.  However, they have always had this rule, they are not trying to change mid stream. My husband strongly feels this is going be the year to make "the change".  I thought it would be great to let the kids plan their own day.  We, as a family, will follow their plan for the day.  The day will end with cake and ice cream and extended family.  To me it sounds great!  But to my kids, not so much.  They want their friends at Peter Piper  It makes me want to whip out the hand sanitizer just thinking about it. I am looking for suggestions.  Does anyone have any advice?  It is one thing when your family has always kept birthdays strictly in the family.  It is a whole other ball game when you are trying to change the mind-set of your almost 9 year old!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Distressed Window Seats

About a week ago, my husband finished the last piece for our living room.  We have three large windows at the back of our house.  For seven years, we have tried to figure out how to fill the space.  We have tried blinds, blinds with a valence, and long curtains.  It is such a large space it just never looked completed.  We have always liked the idea of window seats but again, it is such a large area.  It would take a huge window seat to fill it in.  After being completely frustrated with the space, he took the challenge to build window seats. I wish I could say I had a lot of input on this project but really it was all my hubby.  He came up with the design and well...he was the labor.  My job was to help carry them in and out, and in and out, trying to figure out exactly what fit we wanted.  Let me just say, they are heavy!

The seats were built using 2X4 pine studs.  He placed hinges on the top piece to allow access for storage.

Each window seat was stained, painted, allowed to dry 3/4 of the way, scrapped, then left over night to dry.  The next day he sanded each seat with 120 grit sand paper then sprayed with polyurethane.

Overall, he said he spent about $60 per window seat.  I thought that was a huge savings.  If we had bought them at a craft show or boutique they would have been much more expensive.  The kids have really enjoyed sitting on them to look at books or pretending they are pirate ships... :)

Yet another successful project on a budget!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just a Little Wisdom from Grandma

My cousins and I are so blessed and fortunate to have the most incredible grandma.  She passed away in 2010, however, her ways, words, character, faith, etc.  help us each and every day.  She cared about every word we had to say, every detail of lives, she gave the best back rubs, told the best stories and was the matriarch of our family.  There isn't a day that goes by that we don't miss her but we are so thankful for the many things she left behind. Among the most treasured, are her stories.  She was a very talented writer and wrote on just about every topic.  She took copious notes about our family's heritage.  We also had guardian angel stories.  My guardian angel's name was Adora.  Grandma had me convinced that she sat on my shoulder (and she still does to this day).  Any time I was having a new moment in my life, I would receive a story about Adora and Elizabeth conquering that new moment.  Amazing.... We also have details from her wedding day, our great grandmother's childhood, our parents' childhood and the list goes on and on.  I have many favorites but there is one in particular about getting alone time as a mom.  It is not so much a story as it is an advice column.  I especially love it because I can hear her voice and sense of humor when I read it.  Some of the phrases are a bit dated but that just makes it all the more special.  I thought I would re-type it for all my "mommy friends" to enjoy. (It is long but well worth it.  Please stick with it through the end.)

by Esther Johnson

Do you know the best way to get away from cleaning house, looking for your child's lost articles, escaping the constant drone and sometimes roar of the TV set and jangling interruption of the telephone (which is always for some other member of the family anyway)?  Go to the supermarket.  It's a legitimate reason after all, we do have to feed our families, right?  And it does take time to read labels and go through the coupons.  (Don't forget to take along a big selection of coupons).

First, announce to everyone that you have to go buy groceries.  No, you don't need help, until you get home and the sacks have to be carried into the house.  Then you pick up your purse and the keys to your husband's car.  He can use yours if he decides to go anywhere, but he'll probably just watch TV or read the Saturday morning paper.  And, you can save your gas.  Go to the store, any one will do, and take a minute to read the ad of the current bargains that is just inside the front door.  Read both sides.  Isn't this peaceful?

Now, take a cart...try out several to be sure all the wheels are functioning properly.  After all, this will be your vehicle for the next hour or so.  Check over the shelf of day-old baked goods and the carts full of dented or out-dated items.  So you don't need a home permanent and never intend to.  Maybe there's something more interesting hidden underneath the seven boxes of permanents.

It's time to get to the serious stuff.  Take out your list and coupons.  You'll need a pencil to jot down prices or cross off items as you put them in your cart.  First, the produce section.  Be sure you find those plastic bags that are on a roll.  They never put them near the particular produce you need, and they move them to a different spot every two weeks.  If you need grapes, the plastic bags will be tucked away behind a stack of oranges.  Now that you have found them , tear off two or three and open them before you pick up the grapes.  Aha!  Here's a time consumer.  Near the center of one edge will be printed the words, "Open here."  Try a corner, you'll have better luck, and the other customers who are waiting behind you won't mutter unkind words.  Place your grapes in the bag and place them on a scale so you will have an idea of how close to bankruptcy this purchase will put you.  Use the other  bags for peaches or plums.  Don't forget the fresh vegetables - take your time.  Relax.  No one can reach you here with the any demands.  (Obviously, Grandma wrote this before she owned a cell phone).

Next, we come to the bottles and cans.  Read the labels.  Just push your cart close to the shelves and hurried people can go around you.  Check for calories, sodium content (remember your hubby's high blood pressure), and ingredients that aren't foods at all but chemicals.  Take the brand with the least of each.

Ah, the meat department.  Hamburger for the kids and, after you look at the prices, hamburger for your mate and you, too.  Remember things like cholesterol and fat content.  If it started out with fins or feathers, buy it.

Oh, yes, the dry cereal section.  Read the salt and sodium content here, too.  If it's puffed, it's less fattening but not as filling or tasty.  If the grand kids are coming for a few days, try to judge if they will get less tooth decay from the presweetened cereal or if they are allowed to shovel sugar into their cereal bowl themselves while your back is turned to make toast.  Don't miss a single opportunity to use coupons here, and don't figure up how much these crunchies cost per pound.  It only makes you angry, and you are here to relax.

Oh, hear, your forgot to go through the generic shelves.  Well, there's no hurry.  Just retrace your steps.  Adjust your bifocals precisely.  Here, everything looks alike.  Maybe your family likes the generic peanut butter but not the catsup.  Get some generic instant coffee to mix in with the name the name brand jar.  It looks more impressive when somebody drops by.  How about rice, noodles and other pasta? Don't forget the generic aspirin.

Your escape time is almost over.  Stretch it out a bit by chatting with someone - a neighbor, a friend, a toddler,  or an older senior citizen.  There's always the weather or the prices to start the conversation.

The dairy department and the frozen foods section don't take much time, but be sure to check for salt content in the frozen foods.  It can fool you.

Just sail right on past the junk food shelves.  Look at your watch.  If you've relaxed a little too long and it's almost time to eat, pick up something in the deli.  It's less expensive than going to a good movie and it's a necessity that we all have to eat.  Get your coupons together and choose a line at the checkout counters.  It doesn't matter which one;  you're in no hurry and if there are just a few things in another customer's cart ahead of you, at least one of them will require a price check or the packaging will be defective and a stock boy will have to find another one to replace it.  Be sure to smile at the clerk.  If her back doesn't hurt, her feet do.

Now you are home, and it's back to the rat race.  Select the two lightest sacks and carry them in the house with a few grunts so your hubby will know you are home and offer to carry the rest of the groceries in the house for you.  If he doesn't offer, just sing out, "Hi, honey.  I am home.  Could you please help me carry in the groceries?"  You get the best results with this if you shop in the morning before any sporting events are on TV.

As you put the groceries away, say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for food for your family, a car with which to get it, and a family to love and care for.  Don't forget to add a blessing for mothers who have to see their children hungry with no way to stop the hurting.

Now, it is time to prepare the next meal and set the table.  Next week you can do it all over again.

It just goes to show, mom's of all generations and decades need a break.  Now days we call it "alone time" or "mommy time".  Her generation called it grocery shopping.  Either way you look at, all moms need a break from time to time...even if it is at the grocery store.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Just a Little Kitchen Updating

Most of our summer was consumed by updating the look of our kitchen.  The majority of our house has always been brown, dark wood tones, some maroon etc.  For whatever reason (I call it Pinterest) our taste has completely changed.  A year ago we painted our walls a beautiful gray (Taos Taupe by Benjamin Moore).  Slowly, we have moved through the downstairs of our house updating each area.  You have already seen some of our changes ShelvingCredenzaCoffee Bar, and Kitchen Curtains. Yesterday, I finally decided to take pictures of the finished kitchen.  It was a bit frustrating.  I could not get the lighting correct.  Having the kitchen lights on and using the flash definitely did not work.  However, using natural light wasn't quite right, either.  I decided to go with the natural light and edit the best I could in PhotoShop.  They are darker than I would like.  The kitchen is much brighter in person.  So, if you are a photo pro please do not judge the quality and lighting of these pictures. :)

Before:  brown, brown, brown

After: new, fresh, glass doors with white cabinets on top and black on bottom!!!!

Before:  Originally the walls were beige.  In this picture, the walls had already been painted.  The original floor was, you guessed it, brown tile.  We replaced the floor about four years ago.  There is nothing wrong with this look, it just lacked personality.

After:  Personality!!!  We added drawers pulls and cabinet knobs.  We also added a new light fixtures over the sink and in the center of the kitchen.

Here are a few more pictures of the completed look.

You can see the coffee bar on the side.  It has been a great addition to the kitchen.

The Kitchen Aid was my grandmother's.  I love every bit of it.  Did I mention it has magical powers?  Everything that is made in it is delicious!

And...a few pictures along the way. :)

I always sand from inside the cabinet! :)  I thought this was pretty smart, actually.

Cheap labor!

The sanding from the cabinets was almost more than I could handle.

Well, we made it through and love the outcome.  We may make one more cabinet the future.  I need to clean our cabinets before we do that. :)

Let's end the post with a current picture.  I can't possibly end looking at that mess!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

DIY Shelving (for Picture Frames)

We are continuing our living room update.  The latest project has been shelving for picture frames.  We have a huge wall in our living room.  I think it is hard to decorate really large walls - it is almost too much space.  Last week, we installed our Living Room Credenza which did a great job of taking up space.  But we felt the sides of the wall appeared empty.  My husband built shelves using poplar board and wood trim.  He painted them white and mounted them on the left side (looking at the wall) of the credenza.  I love them!!!  The white really pops against the gray walls. He took two pieces of poplar board and attached them together in an "L" shape or right angle.  This allowed for one side to go against the wall and the other become the shelf.  Then he added the wood trim to the front to act as decoration.  Each shelf is 4 feet long.
There is a larger space between the bottom two shelves to allow for larger frames.

I really like the look of the dark gray walls, white shelves and baseboards, and dark floors.

This shows the "L" or right angle of the poplar boards plus the trim on the front.  Using liquid nails and a nail gun, he attached the shelves to the wall.  We were very careful to make sure the shelves were level and evenly spaced.  

The total amount for fives shelves was $57!!!  I love a great project, especially when the price is low and it requires minimal trips to Lowes! :)

I will reveal the right side of the credenza next week when I finish that project. :)

Thank you to Living Well Spending Less for throwing a fantastic Thrifty Thursday Link Party.  


Monday, September 9, 2013

Lamp Make-Over

We have been busy giving our living room a make-over.  My husband built the most beautiful Living Room Credenza.  I have had a great time filling each cubby of the credenza.  We decided the top area (by the television) needed two lamps.  I did not fill like spending money on new lamps so I decided to make-over the lamps from our bedroom.  I already had the spray paint on hand, left over from our DIY Coffee Bar.  I also remembered that I had quite a bit of black and white fabric from my attempt at kitchen curtains. *I never posted about the curtains because I decided I didn't like the look.  Instead, the black and white curtains were replaced with No-Sew Burlap Curtains. I used the spray paint to give the lamp base a new color and the fabric to recover the shade.

The spray paint color is Valspar - Gloss Exotic Sea.

We definitely needed the pop of color against the white and gray.

In the end, I am very pleased with my "new" lamps.  They were super easy and cost $0!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Living Room Credenza with Great Storage Space

We have always had dark furniture in our home.  Over the last year, we have started changing the look of our downstairs.  The biggest change was the wall color.  We went from a light beige to a really dark grey.  The paint color is called Taos Taupe (Benjamin Moore) and we love it!  However, after painting the walls we decided our furniture was too dark.  We had dark floors, a dark wood entertainment center, and dark brown leather was just way too dark. We are not in the position to buy new couches so we had to begin making other pieces lighter.  Here is our first piece, a living room credenza.  Well, to be honest, I am not sure what the exact title would be.  It is not an entertainment center but it is not a TV we went with credenza.  I like the sound of it! :) On a whim, my husband and I scratched rough plans in a notebook.  We are not designers or carpenters by any means.  We just know what we like and figure the rest out as we go.  I usually take care of the "look" and he does the building.  My biggest concern was storage.  I wanted cubbies for baskets and such. We decided a white toned paint would be best.  It would off-set the dark floors and grey walls.  We also added bead board to the back wall to give it some texture.  We are both really happy with the finished product.  Plus, considering we did not have any official plans, our measurements turned out really good.  Anyone who knows me, is aware that math is not my strong point. :)
We have large and small storage spaces.  The crates on the bottom will hold blankets for cuddling up on the couch.  I haven't decided it I want to paint them or not.  I kind of like the natural look.

I love that he made the spaces large enough for bigger picture frames.  It is also nice that we still have an empty cubby on the bottom. :)

I used baskets and other items we already had on hand.  This really helped to keep the cost down.

This shows the bead board in the back.  I love the texture it brings to the piece.

Left end of the "credenza"... :)

Right end of the "credenza"... :)  It is such a fun word!

 I love it!  It makes the room look so much better.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our Homework Box

With the first week of school behind us, homework is in full swing.  One thing that drives me crazy is having to search the house for school supplies to complete homework assignments.  It never fails when your child needs a glue stick you can't find one anywhere.  Or maybe they need markers, scissors, tape, notebook paper, the list could go on and on.  The point is, why make homework more stressful by running around like a crazy person looking for glue?  Oh and let me mention, when you actually find the glue stick it has shriveled to practically nothing.  Is that just me?  Sorry, apparently I have some pent up issues about glue sticks... :) Back on track, I find it much easier to have everything organized and in one place.
I used a document sized plastic bend with a lid that is easy for the kids to remove and put back into place.

I filled the box with standard homework supplies:  scissors, tape, glue sticks, crayons, markers, pencils, notebook paper, pencil sharpener, bookmarks, etc.

This little piece of organization took hardly any time and cost $0!  We already had the supplies on hand from our Back to School Party at Ma's.  I also found the plastic bend tucked away in a closet.  At one point, I used it as sensory buckets when the kids were younger.  I love it when things can be recycled!

Here's to an organized 9 months of homework. :)