Thursday, October 18, 2018

How Much Do You Love Your House Right Now?

I was listening to an episode of the Coffee + Crumbs podcast (I think it was This is How We Do: Home Decor) where the co-hosts were talking about how much they love their homes right now.

And it got me thinking.  How much do I love our home?

I've written before about {10} Things I Love About Our House and {10} Things I Dislike About Our House and those lists still stand.   I can tell you that it is possible to live with just one bathroom for a long time (12 years and still going) but that it is certainly not ideal.   (Which it's really only a pain maybe for a few minutes each day, the vast majority of the time our bathroom is sitting empty and it doesn't matter we only have one.  BUT those few minutes when someone is wishing there was another option?  Those really matter.)

But, one bathroom problems aside, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being I LOVE IT FOREVER, I'd give our house an 8.  Which feels like a lot of a happy accident given how little we knew about houses and decorating and DIY at 22 when we bought it.

Would I buy this house again right now?  No, 1 bathroom and only 2 real bedrooms would not be a good choice when we already have 2 kids.  That would actually be crazy.

But I am sure glad we made the choice we did way back then.

This is not the perfect house for us right now (see the often mentioned only one bathroom) but it has been home for us for over 12 years and we've definitely put our stamp on it, inside and out.  We had some projects in mind when we bought it but not nearly all the ones we've taken on and some of my favorite outcomes weren't even a possibility back then.

I couldn't imagine living anywhere else and even the thought of leaving it someday makes me really sad even though we aren't even looking to move yet. 

Even though it's not perfect, I think part of what really makes me love it is that we've stopped putting things off until "our next house" and just made this one as perfect as it can be with it's limitations.

For a long time we talked about buying a new couch, building a picnic table, and adding a swing set "at our next house".  We've taken care of all of those in the last couple years.  We've stopped giving ourselves limitations, besides budget, for what we can do here and that seems to have opened up all sorts of possibilities.  I want to make the most of where we live, to really love it, to have it feel lived it (but still generally clean, I don't get along well with clutter).

It's actually really freeing to stop thinking "at our next house we'll..." and just make the most of what we have now.  And to stop thinking we'll have projects done when we finish the current list.


We'll never finish all our project lists.  I can almost guarantee there will, someday, be a post on this blog about the things we still wanted to tackle here but didn't get to because we finally moved (I have some time to come up with a shorter title). 

Playhouse in progress

Once the swing set playhouse is done (will it ever be done?) there is still a large majority of this list that I'd still like to get done this year (I don't want to admit how many of those items are still open...I'm HOPING I can knock some out in the next couple months...with's not looking good).  And then there is another list I have going on my phone for possible house projects.  We add to that almost as fast as we finish things. 

I'm glad we stopped waiting for the next house, waiting for some day in the future when everything will be perfect (impossible).  I'm glad for almost all of the projects here we've taken on.  Even though there is always more we want to do, I'm really really happy with here we live right now.  It's not perfect, but it's home.

How much do YOU love your house?  What could make you love it more?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Quick Lit - October

Talking about what I've been reading lately!  Which is less than I'm usually reading which I still can't figure out.  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and you can find me on Goodreads here!

First, other book posts in the past month:

And now, everything else I've been reading lately.

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua
I saw this title and I completely blanked on what the book was about or that I had even read it, so that's a pretty good indication for how that went.  A Chinese woman gets pregnant by her (married) boss and he sends her to America to have the baby so the baby can be an American citizen.  She's staying at a house filled with other women who are in similar circumstances.  Is this a thing??  Then pregnant lady goes on the run a bit and is in hiding.  It was...interesting but clearly forgettable. 2.5 Stars

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler
I really enjoyed this one, of a Catholic Mom of 6 kids who is trying to find the time to write a long dreamed about book but also raise all her kids without going crazy.  I could relate to the Catholic-ness and wanting to be more than just a Mom, as if that's not enough, but also have something you do for you.  3.75 Stars

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
I reallly enjoyed their last joint book (The Forgotten Room - one of my favorites of 2016) so I was excited to read this one - about 3 different passengers on the doomed Lusitania.  I didn't like it as much as The Forgotten Room but still enjoyed it.  I didn't know much about the Lusitania before, other than it sank a few years after the Titanic, and it was interesting to read about. 3.5 Stars

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
A reread, when I needed something to read on my phone during bottle feedings and none of my holds were coming in.  I enjoyed it again, especially the parts about The Office3.5 Stars

The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee
I don't know why I keep reading this series other than the premise is really intriguing.  A 1,000 story tower has been built over much of Manhattan (but not all of it??, not entirely clear on that).  The richer you are, the higher you live.  This is the 3rd and final in the series (1st, 2nd) and I thought I needed to read this one to see what happened but it turns out I barely remembered what happened in the first two.  It was...ok.  I still have the same problems with the core romance that I've had since the first and that probably really hurt my enjoyment.  I really don't know what to think about it.  2.25 Stars

There Are No Grown-Ups: A Mid-Life Coming of Age Story by Pamela Druckerman
This is basically a collection of essays on growing up.  She was writing in her early-mid 40s and I'm not there yet but still found plenty to relate too, pretty much that none of us really know what we are doing and we are mostly making things up as we go.  Which is how I feel about so many things.  It was easy to pick-up and read an essay as I had time.  3 Stars

Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction by Catherine Pearlman
I had high hopes for this solving all our parenting woes with our oldest but it is mostly for ignoring fits and how ignoring them will make them stop, eventually.  Which makes sense.  But I also can't ignore everything he does that I don't like because then he would continually gorge himself on candy and food right before supper.  So, still trying to figure how to best apply this to my life but I do think the strategy is mostly sound even though ignoring is REALLY hard sometimes.  3 Stars

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
This was another adoption story, I feel like I've read multiple lately.  A daughter is unwanted in India and put up for adoption.  An Indian-American couple adopts her and takes her back to California to live.  It tells the story through the eyes of the birth mother, adoptive mother, and the adopted daughter.  It's very different from our adoption stories but I still could relate to a lot of the feelings and I do enjoy a book that helps me see adoption through a different angle.  I don't think you have to be involved in an adoption to enjoy this one.  3.75 Stars

Rush by Lisa Patton
I know very little about sororities and this book was all about a specific (fictional) one at the University of Mississippi.  Told from multiple perspectives - an incoming prospective member, a former member who is over seeing "Rush", and a maid at their sorority house.  I did not recognize all their rushing terms and understand what they were talking about all the time and the book seemed to kinda wander all over the place, how it ended didn't feel like the same book that I started, but it was interesting, in a "reading about different cultures" kind of way.  Sorority life is apparently much more intense in the South, or at least fictionally more intense.  But felt appropriate to read in the fall.  3 Stars
I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
This one was about something I had no idea was a thing - there are at least 250 documented cases of women disguising themselves as men in order to fight in the Civil War.  This was the story of one woman who didn't want to stay at home while her new husband went off to war.  It's at times graphic and made me a little squeamish to read while eating lunch on more than one occasion but I haven't read much previously about the Civil War and this was a very interesting and different look at it.  I liked this one, as much as you can like a sometimes graphic war book.  Also, slight language warning, it is war. 3.5 Stars

What have YOU been reading lately?  Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

{11} Christmas Things to Think About NOW

I KNOW.  It's not even mid-October and I'm talking about Christmas prep.  I KNOW.  It's borderline ridiculous, especially seeing as it feels like 89° outside as I write this.  (That is not typical for this time of year, it should be closer to 70°.)  But, yes, I am thinking Christmas prep already.  Really, Christmas is never that far from my mind besides maybe in the heat of summer.  I've been known to start missing it the day after we take down our tree in January. 

But even for people who aren't Christmas crazy like me, it's never too early to start planning to have a peaceful and joyous December.  Well, maybe much before October is too early to start planning with with just over 2 months to go, mid-October is definitely not too early. 

And, really, I like to have most of my work-ish prep done by the first week in December, leaving the rest of December for watching Christmas movies and tv episodes, wrapping presents, frosting cookies, and, of course, all that celebrating.  So, really, that only leave me 9 weeks which all of a sudden doesn't feel like enough time.  SO, Christmas things you can start thinking about now to save yourself some stress in November and December.


1) Buy Christmas card stamps
The post office starts getting them around October 1st.  I will buy these on my next trip there.

2) Make a Christmas card list
I, of course, have this in Excel.  A list of names, I use as my final check-off when sending cards and then check off who sends us a card each year (you might get cut if you don't send one back, depending on how many extra cards I have).  Some quick reviewing for anyone getting cut from the list this year and who I know have moved in the last 11ish months and need to get a new address from.  Done in under 5 minutes.

3) Update addresses
See above, I'll usually text or Facebook message people for their address.  Or ask my Mom/sisters.  Quick and painless.

4) Start Pulling Pictures
We do a photo card, and since we can't agree on having professional family pictures taken, I've been using a variety of pictures from throughout the year.  Now is the time to start pulling favorites and possibilities to put on the card.  If you do a fall photo shoot, as often seems to be the case from cards we receive, well this is pretty easy.

5) Make Your Own Wish List
I haven't been very good about this myself but I have been thinking about it!

6) Determine Who You are Buying Presents For
Ours is usually pretty much the same every year, with just changes for who we draw in the various exchanges.  Our immediate family of 4, parents, godchildren, the gift exchanges, that's pretty much it.
7) Make a Budget
I honestly do this in January when I am tweaking my budget for the year and for the most part, it stays pretty consistent year after year.  BUT, I am a firm believer in having limits, in a variety of areas, and sticking to them and money handling is certainly one.  Especially at Christmas when it's easy to keep going on the shopping and one more things turns into 5 more things and there is just so much excess STUFF exchanged in December.  Make a budget now, way before last minute panic sets in, and then stick to it.

8) Wish Lists for your Kids
If you have them.  I've already given ideas for both boys to people, even if we don't fully know what we are giving them ourselves.  (What do you buy for a baby who can wear all of his brother's clothes and doesn't need a single other toy?  I am very open to suggestions, he might be getting formula for Christmas and really, that's about what he loves most in the world, so he'll be thrilled, if he understands this gift giving AT ALL.)  But since I am anti extra/excess stuff, we try to be very conscientious about what we give the boys as gifts.  I suppose you could also ask them what they want but, if your kids are like mine, they have already told you 100 times.

9) Pick Recipes
For Christmas cookies I make pretty much the same 8ish standards every year and then throw in 1-2 new ones.  Those new ones usually come from something I've pinned to Pinterest.  But I also start looking at pie and other dessert recipe possibilities for Thanksgivings.  Which I KNOW isn't Christmas but I'm working on that in the midst of all my Christmas prep.

10) Make a Baking Plan
I will have this done by the end of the month.  I use the same general plan I wrote about WAY back here.  I've added a spreadsheet (OF COURSE) with all the ingredients for my old favorites so it's easy to calculate how much flour, sugar, butter, etc. I'll need to buy in early November.  Then I just follow my plan and bake away for 6 weeks!

11) Schedule, and Then Schedule Some More
I like to have my Thanksgiving - New Years pretty well planned out by early November.  The big family parties are already on the calendar but for things like date night, picking which Christmas movies we watch which nights, when we'll frost cookies as a family, etc. I'll be blocking it all in before too long.  I like having a plan and it eases decision making to get it all done at once!

Whew.  It feels good to get this all written down instead of just jostling around in my head.  Even though I took multiple breaks in writing to stop and actually do the steps I was writing about (I've now started pulling Christmas card pictures and have my mailing list almost done, thank you).

I love Christmas and most of the prep that goes with it, but I especially like getting most of it done so that we can spend December actually focusing on what really matters (Jesus' birth, family, cookie eating) instead of stressing about all the little details.   It's a beautiful time of year and if I can spread the Christmas season to almost 3 months instead of just one, I will most definitely do that!

What are you thinking about Christmas?  Or do you think I'm crazy for putting this much thought into it while most of the leaves are still green?  Let me know either way!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Book Love: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Since adopting twice, we are firmly entrenched in life as an adoptive family.  We've been living with adoption on the brain for many years, 6+ since we officially started the process, and I am always interested in hearing or reading about others' experiences with it.

I personally just know life as one part of the "adoption triad".  My sons know life as another part of the triad, even though Sam is definitely too young to explain feelings and Luke hasn't expressed many about it.  So while I like talking to other adoptive parents, commiserating over paperwork and pregnancy comments that drive us batty, I am fascinated by the experience of birth mothers.

We met Luke's birth mother in the hospital but haven't seen or heard from her in 5½ years.  Sam's is closed and we never met his birth mother and, I'd imagine, won't until he's at least 18 and might be able to find her on his own.

So reading about birth mothers, even fictional ones, is about as close as I can get to understanding their thoughts and what the adoption process is like for them.

And that might be a large reason why this book, Where We Belong by Emily Giffin appeals to me so much. I first read it after we started the adoption process but before we got Luke.  I didn't know what it would be like to parent, much less parent a child we were adopting but I really enjoyed reading this.

This is my second reread since adopting and it still stirs up so many of those feelings.  Largely, empathy for what birth mothers go through as well as what it might feel like to grow up adopted.  We can talk to our sons about it all day long but we will never really know what it's like, if they feel lost or how often they think and wonder about their birth parents.

Kirby was born in Chicago to an 18-19 year old mother who knew for months she was going to place this baby up for adoption.   She had gotten pregnant, accidentally (I assume most babies put up for adoption are not planned) the summer her birth parents graduated from high school.  Her mom only told her mom, deferred college for a year, and gave birth to the little girl who would become Kirby.  Her adoptive parents had been trying and waiting for years to become parents and were overjoyed at finally getting baby.   You don't see much mention of Kirby's birth father in the decision to place her for adoption?  Yeah, there is a reason for that.

The story jumps between the point of view of Kirby and Marian, her birth mother.  You hear Marian and Conrad's (the birth father) love story when they were 18, how Kirby and Marian ended up where they are today, in present day where Kirby just turned 18 herself.  Marian goes through all kinds of emotions as she decides what to do with this baby she is now pregnant with, how the baby doesn't fit in her plan for her life.  How things in present day might not being going completely to her plan either.

And then Kirby.  Her parents had a "miracle baby" about a year after she was adopted and she's long felt like she doesn't fit in with her family.  They are wonderful people and have given her everything, but she still feels like a bit of an outside.  She wants to meet Marian, find out why Marian didn't keep her, and reconcile these different parts of her.  Where did she get her smile? Or her musical ability?  Things that seem to make her stand out within her family but they should have come from somewhere, right?


I don't believe Emily Giffin has any first hand experience about adoption but I think she does a great job writing about the different aspects of it and exploring the emotions all around.  Everyone's feelings feel pretty authentic to the situations.  I don't know how my sons are going to feel about adoption in 10-15 years.  I don't know how it might affect them for the rest of their lives.  I don't know what it's like to make the decision to give up a baby you've been carrying for ~9 months and how it feels to actually hand over that baby.

This book is not worth reading just for understanding different aspects of adoption but that is why it appeals to me and why I've returned to it twice.  Highly recommend to anyone looking for an enjoyable read about adoption and how that can affect a family, all parts of the triad, for life.  It gave me a greater appreciation for the parts I'll never live.

Luke's Adoption Story | Sam's Adoption Story

Amazon | Goodreads
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Friday, October 5, 2018

Looking Back at September

I always think life will slow down in September, with summer being over, but then it never really does.  With final lake trips, bringing home the jet ski, and my race, there's always a lot going on in September.  We aren't into winter hibernation mode yet but we are slowly getting there.  Determined to soak up all these beautiful days before it gets cold!  Also, narrow down Luke's Halloween options from 3 to a solid choice.  Thank you, Target, for having a 40% sale a few weeks ago.

1) A beautiful sunset to start the lake season closeout!
2) Luke, enjoying a popsicle and the lake.
3) Some of the flowers I haven't managed to kill yet!  It was not our best year for plants.
4) Luke is a VERY prolific artist and combined with all the papers he brings home from's a lot of papers to sort through!
5) Taking out the jet ski to bring it home!
6) I found morning glories at the lake.  I hope to plan some at our cottage!
7) Changing someone's diaper started to get difficult.  He's already a lemur lover!
8) Running on a beautiful day at the park!
9) Morning glories at our house, in a place I planted them last year but got mowed down and then they showed up this year!
10) He was very proud of his Darth Vader (all black) costume.
11) 100° according to my car in mid-September.  OF COURSE it was 50° the weekend before when we were at the lake on a jet ski.
12) Lemurs at the zoo, always have to stop and see them!
13) Sharing his stories with the backyard!
14) Sunset at a high school football game.  I took Luke and it was really fun! 
15) Starting my race before the sun was up in 44°.  It was COLD.
16) And finishing my race! 

Looking back:
1 year ago: Letting Vacation Change You
2 years ago: Blackberry Bacon Grilled Cheese (my favorite grilled cheese)
3 years ago: The Drive-In
4 years ago: The Surgical Experience, Round 2
5 years ago: How Much Stuff Does a Baby Really Need? (on my thoughts a lot again this year!) 
6 years ago: Things I Really Like Right Now - September (my first one of these!)
7 years ago: Camping in Friendship, Wine Tasting in Madison

Books finished: 11!  A low for me in years!

Miles ran: 57.94

Currently watching: We watched Jack Ryan and now are on GLOW.  I'm just starting to get caught up on Grey's Anatomy since we got Sam. 
Most read post this month: Quick Lit, followed by Book Love: The Read-Aloud Family.
Luke's current favorite song:
He said: "The Star Wars song".  I think he means the main theme.  And we listen to "Everything is Awesome" on the way to school every morning.

October, please have some more seasonably appropriate weather and more fall colors!