Thursday, April 24, 2014

Week 23 {Embrace the Camera} Part 2: Its a pink sweatshirt- yet its not.

I have a certain sweatshirt in my closet.... a pink sweatshirt.
It's my only pink piece of clothing as the color isn't always a good one for my skin tone.
I've had this sweatshirt for fifteen years.
And when it came to me fifteen years ago it was already used.

Now, I'm not normally one for hanging on to clothing forever and ever. Most everything in my closet is less than five years old.

But this isn't just any sweatshirt.
It's comfort wrapped up in pink stitched cotton.
It's remembrance.
It's love.

It was my aunt's.

You see, fifteen years ago my dad's only sister, my sweet Aunt Sandy passed away from cancer. She was only forty years old.
The age I am right now.

She loved cozy sweatshirts and had quite the stack of them in her closet. Her husband, who nursed and cared for and loved her right to that last moment wanted each of us who loved her, to have a little something of hers. My uncle instructed us to each pick out a sweatshirt of hers....
I picked this one.

I don't remember why I settled on this particular one.... because I know pink isn't my color.
But I did.

And over the last fifteen years, I have selectively worn it a few times a year. Those times when I'm missing her something fierce.... wearing it is like wearing her hugs.
Wearing it is wearing love and comfort.

I think of her when I wear it- think she'd like the forty year old woman I've become.
I know that she'd just be head over heels about her Lucy Girl and the amazing young woman she's become (Sandy was her Godmother). And for Lu's siblings that came after she had passed.... she'd just think they were swell also.....
Oh how I miss her sometimes. Miss the relationship we were only beginning to have as two adult women working and sometimes struggling to fit in their family roles.... celebrating our accomplishments together. I was only twenty-five-- a young mama of a crazy three year old toddler, still trying to figure out how to juggle marriage and work and family. I miss the sounding board she was to me.... the quiet and calm voice of reason to my erratic, changable, selfish self.

These past eight weeks I've worn her comfy pink sweatshirt twice or more each week.... which is more often than ever.
I've worn it to work at the farm.... worn it for the hope and possibilities and keep on keepin' on attitude that it brings to my mind. Worn it like armor against the doubts that want to clamor for space in my brain as we work towards the goal of this house sale. Worn it as a stand against the stress these remodeling projects, sale indecisions and days & days without water have caused to creep in and claw at me....

She was a sweet, soft spoken, always well-put-together woman who many may have seen as fragile.... and they'd have been so very wrong to think so. She had an inner steel core that withstood so much tumult and strain. She loved Jesus fiercely and her husband almost as much so. She celebrated family and life and worked past the sore places in her heart to love on others. She was Jesus with skin on to me in so many ways as a young married woman and I never got to tell her the half of it.

As a child and young teen I wanted to be like her- soft spoken, sweet, well-put-together and full of smiles.... everything I wasn't- I was loud, too often spoke without thinking and was a farm kid with a smudge of dirt somewhere on my person at all times. As a young woman whose eyes were more open to reality- I began to know the real her under it all and I loved her all the more for being willing to show me her flaws and scars.

Unable to have children of her own, she was the one who reached out and ministered to me when we lost our baby. She loved on me and shared her real feelings with me as I was so broken.... and she, during this time, was sick- going through heavy chemo. Yet she ministered to my heart in the midst of her pain.
It was while I was sitting in the waiting room of that hospital wing, having gone with my mama to take her there, waiting there while she was having her treatments, that I had the first inkling that I could be pregnant again. Oh how she celebrated with me when we found out we were expecting! Oh how she prayed for me when I was in danger of losing the baby.... 
I can't even put into words what it was like to watch her hold my Lulu for the very first time. That image is imprinted in my mind for eternity. In some ways Lu was as much hers as she was mine.

Can you begin to imagine what this pink sweatshirt represents to me? 

A few weeks ago, during one of my selective wearings of The Sweatshirt, Lu's bestie remarked on my unusual attire- she's never seen me wear pink and I'm not one for wearing sweatshirts either (I'm a sweater and cardi gal) and Lu smiled big and told a bit of the tale I'm sharing in part here and her friend understood that I wasn't just wearing an ordinary sweatshirt.
I was wearing comfort.
I was wearing armor.
I was wearing love.
I was wearing memories.

When I pass from this life into the next and my children and/or their children go through my things they will find this sweatshirt and maybe my Lu will take it, smooth it out and hold it close and tell the tale as she remembers it. And maybe, just maybe, the sweatshirt will have weathered the years well and someone I love will slip it over their head, nestle in it's warmth and know the comfort, the strength, the love that is woven into it tighter than it's stitched pink threads.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Reluctant Reader Update

Awhile back I wrote about my son, the reluctant reader.
Here we are about a year and an half later and yes, he's still a reluctant reader.
But it is better.... most days.

We have our good and bad days but mostly they're good ones. By my calculations, he's about half a year  behind where he should be.... and I've learned to be okay with that.

Here's where we're at>>> As long as he's reading, it's good. 

So what if the book he's reading right now is a grade level below him? He's reading it and feeling more accomplished and that's so important.

And that other book that's about a half grade level above him? Well, he picked it out because it's a great guy story and involving him in the selection process gives him ownership.... which is also important. 
How do we read this book? Together. I read approximately half the chapter and he finishes the last three to four pages of the chapter. Yes, it's a struggle but he keeps at it because he so wants to find out what happens next. And that's good.
Real good.

Changing it up.
I don't make him sit in a chair to read to me. He can pretty much do whatever he wants as long as I can clearly understand him. Some days he lays on top of the table, other times he's laid on the floor with his feet on the wall, other times he walks around the room while he reads or sits on the swing (if the weather permits) and still other times he makes a pile of blankets and pillows by my chair. He's a boy and boys need motion.

And what about those days when he doesn't want to read and I don't want to fight to make him?
First off- yes, we have these days. I've decided not to feel guilty if we don't read every single day because some days, honestly, it's just not worth the hassle. I don't want my son to hate reading and sometimes, this mama just needs a break.
Sometimes I get sneaky with the reading- I have him read his grammar worksheet out loud to me (We love WinterPromise's language arts- this year the worktexts are set up as a detective solving fun crimes complete with decoding and secret messages and suspects.) Or he'll read directions to me for a project we're working on. Or reading a recipe for something yummy.

I also have him write silly stories every so often and have him read them out loud to me. Either he comes up with the entire little story or I give him a silly story starter. Sometimes we use a silly story starter at the beginning of the week and he adds a couple more sentences to it each day. 

One of the hardest parts of this is continuing to find books that interest him. He likes true stories, war stories.... you know- boy stories.
We hit the jackpot on books-to-love right before school started when my sister-in-law introduced us to the "I Survived...." Series by Lauren Tavish. These stories have fit so well into our American History lessons this year- Bonus!!! 

He also loves the "Who Was...." series (by various authors) about famous people in history.The two of us looked over the series and keeping in mind what we were studying for history, he picked two books: Who Was Thomas Alva Edison and Who Was Amelia Earhart.

Another great help this year was that The Boy was part of a book club class in our homeschool co-op. Reading the same book at home that his friends were reading and discussing it together was great fun to him. He loved the stories that were chosen also. Thanks to this class The Boy read Stone Fox (you'll need kleenex), The Chocolate Touch (so funny) and Pippi Longstocking (his very favorite- 'cause that girl was crazy!).

I continue to learn along with this boy of mine and am learning to let go of my ideas of what should be accomplished and instead enjoy the journey with him. What does that mean? Well, it means if our curriculum suggests reading two chapters a day and that's just too much for the boy, then we read one chapter and just take longer. It could mean that if a book is just not working for us and we just can't get into it and its no fun whatsoever.... well, it means we ditch that book and start another one.... without feeling guilty about it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kitchen Counter Top Update.... two years later

Recently I've been getting a lot of hits on this Pinterest pin and a few questions about how the paint on the kitchen counter is holding up....

It's been two years since we painted it. [see here]

This is right before the Mister took out the sink.... I was a bit anxious to get the project started!

My thoughts- The counter tops have held up okay but not spectacular. 
In hindsight, I would definitely have put a poly coat on. We've got quite a few nicks in ours- especially around the sink where the most activity happens. I think a poly coat would have prevented a lot of the nicks or at least kept it nicer for a longer period of time.
I think we went almost two months with it in pristine condition before the first few nicks. 
>>> I saved the leftover paint in a smaller (well sealed) jar and touched up the first dozen or so marks (using a very fine tipped artist paint brush) but after several months, I gave up.
Also- it says right on the can that you can't put anything real hot on this coating, as it will discolor the paint. We've maintained vigilance on that front and don't have any discoloration (but from my further research, I see that it has been a problem for others).

As for the bang for my buck factor? I think it's spot on. The can of paint cost me $20. It took about 20 minutes to apply each coat (the biggest hassle was taking the sink in and out). My old counter top was ugly, seriously so. Even with the nicks and chips in the coating- I still like it better than what it once was. I wasn't expecting a $20 fix to look like a new $500 counter top. I just wanted better than I had at the moment, so my expectations were right on target.

The counter today- those little whitish specks are the chips in the paint.

Bottom line: I would totally do this again for the price. However, I would consider this coating a temporary fix, like phase one of a project, and I would plan on either repainting it or replacing the counter tops in two years.

Since this project, I have done more research on Rustoleum's countertop coating vs. countertop transformations and my personal opinion is this: don't spend the mega big bucks on the transformation kit. It looks like you'll have the same chipping (nicks) issues that I've had and you'll have spent a whole lot more than I did. [$20 vs. $250]. Plus there's a lot more steps involved in the prepping and painting process.

With drying time and sink removal and re-installation- this project took 3 days (and all but a couple hours of that was drying/curing time).

Right now we're in the planning stages of another kitchen project (when we move to the farm) and I have different plans for the countertop at the farm.
We're thinking either a concrete countertop (a la this)
or our own spin on a faux butcher block top (a la this)
Which do you like more? I'm having a hard time deciding!

The counter top at the farm is way smaller than we have now so we may even go the more professional less DIY route and just buy a new counter top.....
but somehow I doubt that. We love to DIY.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 24 {Embrace the Camera}: Family Photos

Yes, I still owe Part 2 of last week's Embrace the Camera post.....
the words are still percolating.
and so it will keep for now.

We are now on Week Twenty-four.... 24
Which ohsonicely included Easter.
A day on which we always take pictures.

Wagners- Easter 2014.

We clean up nice.

My guys.... oh be still my heart. They are spiffy!
My girls- Lu dyed her dress all by herself.... from a pretty white dress a friend handed down. It turned out spectacular. Mads dress was an amazing Goodwill find by my Mama (paired with last Easter's cardi and belt). Mine was a new pairing of some older pieces from my closet.
The money we would have spent on Easter outfits is going towards 30 Hour Famine (which the girls will be a part of this weekend). Even though we're frugal clothes shoppers- the money we might have spent will feed a child for two months.... I can easily go without new Easter duds when we put things into that perspective.

Easter was a wonderful day spent celebrating our Risen Savior with the most amazing Holy Spirit filled and fueled worship service at our church. Whew-wee but it was rafter rockin' and soul shakingly good. Seriously.

Easter dinner at the farm with my family as it also happened to be my Mama's birthday too. It has been ages since we just simply relaxed and rested..... sat down and propped up our feet and fellowshipped with family. And it was so so needed.
We've been hard at work at the farm crossing a ton of stuff off our to-do lists. We're feeling mighty accomplished but at the same time- mighty worn-out.

It was quite nostalgic. My brother made floating islands for dessert.... something our grandfather use to whip up every Easter when we were young. And we had the most amazing egg hunt for the kiddos that reminded me a lot of my grandfather's hunts of old. The man had a color coded map he made each year because he hid the eggs so well. And this year we gave the kiddos a taste of that old tradition. 
The weather was beautiful and beckoned us to sit back and slow down.
And so we did.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Farmhouse Projects: The Boy's Room

We've been hard at work on projects at the farm.
We've almost got all the bedrooms move-in-ready. Yippee!

The biggest, most extensive and most expensive project has been-
The Boy's room.

This room was once my little sister's room and then it became the junk room at the farm. There aren't any true before photos because it was just one big mess. I can, however, give you a bit of a description- the room was paneled with cheap, dark paneling in the mid-80's, which was both glued and nailed onto the walls all the way down past the baseboard right down to the quarter-round trim at the floor. The wood floor was once a chocolate brown color but had become badly scuffed an gouged over the past 25+ years and in recent years, a can of paint had leaked in a couple of spots by the window.
The room is oddly shaped and has one window, a pull chain light and no outlets. 

Since the paneling was glued onto old horse hair plaster we figured we were going to find a crumbling mess behind it all and had decided, due to time and fiscal restraints that we would pull down the old paneling and put up paintable bead board panels in their place. Imagine our surprise when we found the walls pretty much intact and that the old glue would sand right down to the plaster with some properly applied elbow grease.
And so began our campaign to save the plaster walls. The plaster walls that had been painted an interesting minty  green in the 1940's.... and that paint had been applied over old wallpaper from the early 40's or late 30's. Which is where this whole tale gets really messy.
We scraped down all the lose stuff off the walls and began to prime. The heavy duty primer reacted with that icky 1940's paint and the paint began to flake and roll right off onto the rollers.
It wouldn't just scrape off either- we had to wet the walls down and scrape and scrape and scrape to get that paint and most of the wallpaper off. To say it was a big, wet, stinky mess would be a slight understatement. 
Because we can only work at the farm on the weekends- this hiccup put us a week behind and caused a bit of project rearranging. We all maintained pretty good attitudes about it- I guess when you've gone without true running water in your home for 38 days, a bit of soaking and scraping isn't such a life altering task.

While we were scraping, the Mister starting patching. We had a section of wall that required a half sheet of drywall to patch it but most of the other patching was much smaller in comparison (except for the ceiling but that's not a post for today)- however, there was a lot, as in a whole lotta lot of patching to be done. There was also a short section of wall that was in bad shape that we tore out and put a piece of lauan board in it's place because we're planning something like this right here.

After scraping and patching and waiting for the patches to dry.... we were able to start priming and then painting.

Here's where we came from and where we're at right now-- taking you clockwise through the room- you'll see the before picture of each corner, two "in progress" shots- the unprepped walls and then the patched walls and then the after- freshly painted walls!

Northeast Corner-- This is the corner you see first when you walk in:

 The Boy has been a part of this process right from the get-go. He helped empty the room of "stuff" and jumped right in tearing out paneling and sanding the old glue off the walls.

Southeast corner-- 

Southwest corner-- you can see the large section that we needed to add a piece of drywall to for repairing. The west wall is the accent wall and is therefore painted a darker blue.

Northwest corner-- this has the short wall where we tore down the plaster and added a piece of lauan board.

After finishing the walls we started on the floor. We love the old wood floor but it needed a redo and since we're in this time and money crunch we decided to use the leftover porch paint from when I painted the stairs of the yellow townie farmhouse last summer ( a grayish blue called Boardwalk Blue from Dutch Boy). I'm quite amazed at how far this paint stretched. We had 2/3 of a can but purchased a 2nd can just in case.... We were able to put down two coats of porch paint without even opening the second can!

Me... adding the 2nd coat- my "I'm not amused" face....
We waited two hours between coats.

We've got plans for a seriously cool rug for this space but for right now we're putting the floor rug that was previously in the room back in.

We also decided that since we had all that porch paint leftover that we'd use it to paint the floor in the family closet room [more on that room another time]. We were able to get the first coat on the closet floor before running out of the first can. As for what will be leftover from the second can.... oh, we shall see!

Here's where we're at on the boy's room:

Some of the furniture doesn't belong in here- it's just visiting until the closet is done!
Here's the project list details:
Move out all the accumulated junk
Pull paneling off walls
Sand old glue off walls
Repair any holes/cracks in plaster walls
Replaster hole in ceiling
Finish ripping down plaster on short wall
Add Lauan board to short wall
Scrape old paint and wallpaper off walls
Prime walls 
Prime doors
Paint Ceiling
Paint walls [color: Surfing USA by Dutch Boy]
Paint Accent Wall [color: Go Blue by Dutch Boy]
Paint trim (including door frame and window)- Superhide White by Dutch Boy
Paint door (hallway side)- Superhide White by Dutch Boy
Paint short wall (lauan board)- prime & paint Superhide White
Paint inside of door- Black Chalkboard paint by Rustoleum
Scrub/wash wood floor
Paint wood floor [Porch Paint by Dutch Boy in Boardwalk Blue]
Replace window shade
Hang curtains (made by Ms. Books) higher on wall above window
Create Pallet Wall on short wall [from this idea]
Hang large map of world
Replace ceiling light with a lighted ceiling fan
Add at least two wall sockets to room
Add a gallery wall on accent wall
Add an 8x10 area rug in fun colors to floor

As pieces of the project get done I'll cross them off and (hopefully) update y'all with the progress. As you can see- we've been able to cross off half the list!

Note: The walls took one coat of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer Plus by Zinsser and two coats of colored paint. 

Because he's a boy and dirty smudges seem to be everywhere in his room right now- we went with a semi-gloss paint for easy wipe down. Looking at how the light glares off the walls, I wish I'd gone with satin but it's not a real big deal (just a learning lesson).

Project cost breakdown:
1-2-3 Primer: $14.82 (used entire gallon)
Dutch Boy Refresh Paint (2 gallons- 1 of each blue color): $57.68
Dutch Boy Platinum Paint- Superhide White: same gallon as hallway $0
Floor Paint: free as we had it on hand $0
Half a piece of dry wall (other half is for repair in hallway): $4.00
1 Lauan board (for pallet wall project): $12.69
Lrg bucket of joint compound (for patching walls-used approx. 2/3): $13.78
Lighted Ceiling Fan: $72.08
running total >>> $175.05

Whew! This has been quite the project so far! It's taken four weekends of work (along with a couple of week nights) to get to this point. We're planning to paint the ceiling this weekend (backwards but we had to wait for the plaster repair to set) and we're still gathering the perfect pallet wood for that short wall but the big stuff is done (except putting in the fan light).

Verdict: The Boy LOVES it and wants to start moving his stuff in right now. We'll see if I can keep him contained a bit longer....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Week 23 {Embrace the Camera} Part 1: New Do

I'm officially half way finished with my one year  Embrace the Camera challenge.
Yes, it's getting easier.... as long as I don't get so caught up in my weekly to-dos that I don't make time for a photo op.
In honor of this momentous occassion- my Embrace the Camera post for this week will be a two part-er.
One post is very close to my heart and hasn't reached it's right reading flow yet.... its a work in progress that I hope to share later this week.

The first part is right here....
We spent as much of our "spare time" as we could this week at the farm priming and painting The Boy's bedroom and the family closet (very small bedroom that's gonna be a wonderful big closet for us!).

We were blessed to have Lu's bestie, Al, come and help us out one day. I love this girl like she's my very own.... she calls me her second mom and I love that. Here we are together as she helped with some of the serious dirty work in The Boy's room- scraping all that old paint and wallpaper (ew). 

I love that my Lulu has this girl as her best friend. God has truly blessed these two young women in their friendship. They have that "iron sharpens iron" true blue, speak-the-truth-in-love relationship the like of which I didn't have until my 30's! This is a friendship that will last their whole lives through. What a precious gift! And what a gift to me to have this young lady as an "adopted daughter".

Besides all that painting- the other news of the week was that I finally decided I couldn't stand my long hair getting caught in doors and seat belts anymore and I went in for my first hair cut in over a year....

A friend of mine is a beautician and was able to get me in the very day I called for an appointment! I love that. She cut over eight inches off my hair and gave me some lovely face framing layers. I love it.

I continue to embrace the streak of grey that continues to appear in my hair and my beautician friend loved playing up this "natural highlight". Yes, a streak of grey- not a few greys here and there sprinkled throughout my hair but an entire section on the right side of my part is turning grey. The exact same thing happened to my mama and people thought she purposed to dye it that way.... so, instead of coloring it and having to try and keep up with the touch-ups that I know I just won't keep up with- I'm embracing my natural hair.
And most days I like it just fine.

>>> Embrace the Camera is a year long challenge in which I agreed to take/have taken and post at least one photo of myself each week for 52 weeks. No editing out the wrinkles or digitally shrinking the waist line or cloning out the growing grey.... real pictures of the real me. Along with the photos comes bits and pieces of my heart- written out here as I walk this journey to capture the real me on camera for the remembering.
Click here for all cumulative weeks of the Embrace the Camera Challenge.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Free Printable: May's weekly menu plan and a few links to some quick & easy meals

We're not even into double digits in April yet and I'm ready with May's free printable!
Yay me!

Our menu plan here at the homestead is currently a "work in progress"- meaning: don't be surprised if we eat pbj's tonight because we've got too much going on.
This is mostly due to us spending as much time as possible at the farm working on house projects. Sometimes we don't eat until 7:30 or 8 pm..... due to working.
AND-- since we're hoping for the sale to go through on the house, I've been working on us eating from the pantry and freezer in hopes of having less "stuff" to move.

So far- I've cooked up most of the meat from the freezer (exception: 2 big turkeys!] and have had the unfortunate job of tossing a few unidentifiable freezer burned items.... [boo!] but have also used some odds and ends to make some good meals! [Yay!] 
I'm working to buy only what we absolutely need for 1-2 weeks' meals when I go grocery shopping and my mom is supplementing some meals at the farm with stuff she's trying to get out of their freezer in anticipation of us moving.
I am so very thankful for our new Aldi store in town which is making this whole process a lot easier on my pocket book. Running in to Aldi for a few items is a lot easier, quicker and cheaper than the big box stores. I'm not tempted or lured by end caps and big sales and I don't have to walk half a mile through the store to get to the milk....
Of course, I haven't bought any Easter candy either.... hmmm.

Here's a few links to some of the easy to prepare meals we're planning:
Corn Chowder and biscuits
Aunt Florence's mac-n-cheese casserole with some of our homemade Wagner Pickles
Hamburger gravy on toast with green beans on the side [Comfort food!]
Parmesan broiled tilapia [so quick and so good!] with mixed veggies on the side
Sloppy Pizza Burgers with fries on the side

I bought a frozen veggie lasagna ($8.99) when I was at Aldi the other day to have in the freezer to have on hand for that day I just don't want to/or can't go to the store or be bothered to put too much thought into cooking.

I've also been thinking about creating some freezer meals (mostly for the crockpot) for when things get super crazy.... thinking of spending an afternoon creating some from different pins I've collected on Pinterest. We shall see if I can eek out the time and the energy to make that happen.


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