On Why I Care SO Much About Climate Change

Moms Clean Air Force director, Dominique Browning, opened the press conference, surrounded by 500 passionate moms, fathers, children, nurses, reporters all hoping to communicate our goal clearly and effectively!

A week ago, I woke up in a hotel room in Washington D.C. I was there to participate in the Moms Clean Air Force Play-in for Climate Change. I had left my home and gotten on a plane… two, in fact… to participate in this event. I haven’t flown in nine years due to an extreme fear and the lucky excuse of having small children who don’t travel well. Yet, there I was, miles away from home because the issue of Climate Change is very important to me.

I suppose I’m a bit of an anomaly. I’m Baptist. I’m Republican. I’m Ohioan. On paper, those three details do not make an environmentalist. But not shown on said paper is my background as a biologist. What does not show are the months/years I spent following around my ecology professor asking endless questions, reading studies and soaking in lectures. What you cannot see are the weekends I spent as a college student doing lake monitoring, cleaning up creek beds in Tulsa or recording data about the wetlands. And before, you don’t see the teenager pestering her Biology teacher to explain how micro-evolution works when species are exposed to chemicals in their environment.

Four years ago, I was introduced to Moms Clean Air Force. I had an infant and a toddler. I was terrified of driving in traffic. I was afraid of navigating Columbus to attend group meetings. But what I was not afraid of was calling up to the Ohio Senate and talking to staffers for my congressmen. I was not afraid to educate them, ask questions about their standing on coal fired power plants. And when the opportunity came to go and speak to these politicians in person came, I got in my car and drove downtown… during morning rush hour. As the years have passed, I’ve gotten to be involved in ways that my biology degree did not prepare me for… I blew my senior presentation despite having two semesters of oral communication classes as preparation. {Apparently, I talk at mach speeds when I’m nervous and have yet to really conquer that.} I’ve discovered how much I actually enjoy speaking in front of people. Especially when I get to talk about science.

That’s the thing. Climate Change is actually science. It’s not an excuse. It’s not emotional {although sometimes I get choked up talking about the effects of climate change on our children}. It’s not a hoax. And it most certainly is not something that is politically one-sided. We are all impacted whether we “believe” it or not. As I type, a series of strong storms are headed my way. Did you know that as the temperature on earth increases, it adds moisture to the air? The moisture in the air joins our water cycle {a favorite topic of mine, so if you have questions, I love to talk!} increasing the intensity of our storms. That being said, the next time a nasty storm heads your way, or the forecast shows snow for days, stop whining. Call your senators and ask them to consider their position on pollution. In addition to making our air nasty, pollution creates what could be described as a fuzzy blanket around the earth, trapping the heat and moisture.

It doesn’t matter if you in New York or Amish Country, Ohio. We are all impacted by the pollution in our air. Some to a greater degree than others {I’m looking at you China}, but it is incredibly foolish to think that just because we may not live in an area with poor air quality, we are not effected. Those particles are in the air and the air moves. And fyi: state boundaries mean nothing to particulates traveling on the breeze. So it’s time to stop pointing fingers and stand up. If you live in an area of good air quality, consider yourself lucky, but don’t forget about the children suffering from asthma who aren’t as fortunate you. Aren’t quite sure what all the fuss is about? Check out this page for plenty of info on health, climate change, pollution and extreme weather. Read up and educate yourself. Gather your friends and take a stand. And call me. I’ll stand with you!

Graduation

My youngest brother graduated from high school on Sunday. And that morning I just couldn’t grasp the passage of time. He’s been a part of our lives for almost 17 years and yet it seems like yesterday he toddled in through our door for the very first time.

Because I’m so much older than him and having the advantage of being the sibling and not the parent, I’ve gotten to cherish his life for him and not experience the hardships like one responsible for the outcome of his development. Toddlers are hard. Elementary aged children are begging for balance between still wanting to curl up with their lovey and keep up with their peers. Preteens are dramatic. Teenagers are moody and hormonal. And if you can only focus on these hallmarks of development, it becomes difficult to cherish the moments.

Of all the advice I got prior to having children, I wish that had more prominent. I wish more people had been willing to acknowledge how difficult life is and yet how much beauty can be found in the midst of the hard. Instead, I was given endless commentaries on diapers and feeding and discipline, but no one really told me that I’d never get any of those moments back.

Watching him walk across the stage and get that diploma was one of the most special moments of my life. I wished I could have frozen that moment for a while and just soaked it up. I’m not sad the moment is over, I’m just realizing even more so how quickly life passes by.

I’m so grateful for the moments I get to experience… and my thoughts turned to his birth mother. I wished I could have shared this with her. I wish I could have told her how wonderfully he turned out. How handsome he is. I wished she could have seen his soccer accomplishments. Of course I wish these moments for the mother he and I share, but she got to see so much in the years she was alive. Birth mama only got him for 8 days. And I wonder if in those 8 days, she was able to soak up enough of him?

I came home and hugged my own babies a little tighter. The moments will pass quickly between now and the day when each one walks across the graduation stage. Until then, I plan to soak in as much as I can of not only my babies, but my brother. I can’t wait to watch their lives unfold!

4 Tips for Helping Your Child Adjust to Glasses

I started wearing glasses when I was in college. Textbooks with tiny print + the lousy lighting in the Biology department meant I spent a lot of time squinting. I wore them throughout college, got a “nice” pair of glasses when I started my first real job and then never went back to have my eyes checked again. All those years of squinting made me adapt to an impaired vision – I quit driving at night and always sat close to the front of the room. Two years ago, I went in for a routine exam and the doctor was horrified at my prescription. Horrified. I now wear glasses on a regular basis and it is amazing how clear things are! {please note the mockery in my tone… it’s directed at the condescending nurse who asked me how I didn’t walk into walls without glasses… ahem}

4 Tips for Helping a Child Adjust to Glasses

We figured our kiddos would have to wear glasses at some point in life since both of their parents do, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was for Liam to see until one day this summer a friend watched him trip and fall and promptly told me to take him in. Sure enough the next day, the eye doctor sweetly explained that because of a significant difference between his eye prescriptions, Liam’s depth perception was off adding to his already challenged eyesight.

A week later, the cutest little pair of black framed glasses were on his face and he noticed just how BIG the world is! {Also, he stopped falling 20+ times a day.} Since I hadn’t had my glasses all that long, I remembered how uncomfortable it was to adjust to them. Their constant presence on my nose, the headache for the first week while my adjusted to seeing things normally and gosh darn it, the desire to toss them in the trash and continue to spend my days squinting.

The first day Liam wore glasses, I counted 17 times I had to remind him to put them back on. The next day it doubled. Adjusting to glasses is hard. Add in the desire to rough house or play in the pool in the summer and you really need to take some extra steps to help your child stick it out. Our eye doctor explained that because children often don’t realize that their sight isn’t clear, their eyes adapt so that they can function, but when you introduce glasses, the eyes are forced to relearn how to see.

4 Tips for Helping a Child Adjust to Glasses

In light of our experience, I thought I’d share with you what helped us make the adjustment to glasses simpler!

  • Make sure they like their glasses – There are so. many. options. these days when you choose your frames. So many. Thankfully, on the first tray of frames, Liam spied a pair that were miniature versions of what Matt wears. He snatched them up and declared them his favorites. You wear what you like and this boy likes to look like Daddy!
  • Make sure that your child understands that they can complain about the fit – Liam didn’t say anything about how uncomfortable the glasses were on his ears until we were almost 3 weeks into wearing them. It was a simple fix, taking them back into the office and having them stretched a tiny bit and once it was done, no more pinching! But before that appointment, I reminded him that he’d been uncomfortable for 3 weeks… far longer than necessary. If it’s not comfortable, tell me so I can fix it. If I don’t know, I can’t help!
  • Establish safety guidelines – Liam’s lenses aren’t supposed to ever break. But even still, if he wants to wrestle, play in the pool, wear his super hero costumes or do anything rough, he has to take them off. Additionally, when they come off, they are to be placed somewhere safe {I prefer his bookcase}. I didn’t express how serious I was about that rule and that is how the glasses were left on a bed that they were jumping on and got crushed… at just one month of having them.
  • Reward the little victories – because I knew that he was going to have headaches and feel like his eyes weren’t “right” while they were adjusting, I wanted to make sure there was an incentive to continue wearing the glasses. For the first few days, I gave him an awesome rock at lunch, snack, supper and bedtime if he’d been good about keeping the glasses on. By the end of the first week, he was getting four rocks a day so I knew it was safe to switch over to only getting one rock a day. I did that for another week and by then only had to remind him to put them back on after he’d taken them off for rough play. These days, if I see that he’s being responsible or I don’t have to remind him even in the morning to put them on, he gets an awesome rock just because I love him!

Now that we are adjusted and the safety guidelines have been established, glasses are a piece of cake. Although, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by giant smudges or finger prints on the lenses, he is doing a great job taking care of them. Even Sylvi is aware and will remind him to take them off if she thinks their play might get “crazy”.

When we had Sylvi’s eyes examined, the doctor told us that she’ll be in need {more than likely} in a few years of her own pair of glasses. I’m glad that she has such a great example to follow. And I feel more prepared to help her adjust when {if} her time comes!

**Of course, today, Liam took his glasses off before gym class and left them with his teacher. We almost left without them. Adjustment has been smooth, but he’s still a 5 year old!**

Bitty Ballerina

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On November 3rd, 2010 an ultrasound tech told us we were going to have a little girl. Matt’s brother had died the night before, we were exhausted and emotional and mustering up a response was almost too much for us. As she went through and identified each body part on our little girl, I remember thinking that her legs were nice and long… perfect for ballet.

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Last night, my little one finally got to attend her first ballet lesson. She’s waited for weeks and weeks for this night and I tell you, she was practically bursting with excitement. She was supposed to wear a costume instead of her leo, but I couldn’t talk her out of it. 🙂  Halfway through the class, she took off the costume and happily danced and stretched.

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Her little face was filled with a mixture of concentration and awe as she watched the teachers demonstrate throughout class and I could hardly hold back tears of excitement watching her finally find something she enjoyed so much. As we left she sighed a deep, dreamy sigh and told me how much she loved her dance class. Thursdays are going to be a wonderful day for all of us!

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In the weeks to come, I’m looking forward to lots of twirls and pliés. Mom bonus? Watching every single version of the Nutcracker suite I can find before Christmas. I didn’t realize how long I’ve waited to have a little one in ballet until last night… and I’m so happy to be soaking up every moment!

Brave

Tuesday was the first  MOPS meeting of this theme year. I’m the mom in charge of the newsletters, so I’ve had lots of opportunities to read through the theme material and consider the goals. This year, it’s to take the opportunity to step and be YOU bravely. In the context of the mothering community, we can rally around one another’s bravery in support… kind of like a good bra… and who doesn’t love good support, right?

I’ve never thought of myself as a brave person. I’m too reserved to be brave. I like to be safe and follow the rules, so bravery never comes as the result of adventure. But you know what I do like? Superhero movies. A tense mystery novel. Action movies. Adrenaline-laced films I can watch from the security of my living room. I’ve always been happy to live vicariously through the creativity of screen writers and actors. Then I became a mother and it felt like every moment was dedicated to an expression of courage. Colic? Be brave. Post-Partum Depression? Be more brave. Building a solid relationship with my mother-in-law? Put on those big girl pants and get BRAVE.

I thought that for myself the theme would be about being brave and standing up for myself. Setting boundaries and taking care of myself. It’s not something I’ve ever done well and I decided at the end of last year that I was going to focus on Presence. But if all you ever do is worry and wonder if you are keeping everyone happy you don’t get to be very present. Oddly enough, once I worked on my boundaries, learned to say no and started to feel more present with my children, I realized that there are areas in my life where I need a little bit of support.

This year, I’ve stepped out {often shaking in my boots} and actively started to seek help for my son. Almost 3 years ago, our doctor decided that his sensory quirks warranted a diagnosis and Occupational Therapy… the gross motor skills needed that therapy. In the past 3 years, we’ve seen 4 different therapists and Liam has grown a lot, and yet, we still struggle on a near daily basis with many of issues that make his {and by default my} life so hard. I reached out, and have discovered so many other families in our circumstance. Perhaps, the best thing I could have learned from the idea of bravery is that sometimes, admitting we need help is more courageous than struggling on alone.

If you’re looking for more great writing from the MOPS organization, check out the Hello Darling blog… lots of fun and challenging posts on that site. And if you’re looking for community, you can also look up a MOPS group in your area and maybe find a little more support for your own bravery.

 

Senior

When I was a senior in high school, my parents adopted the cutest little boy… EVER. The adoption process started my sophomore year and every so often once we were placed with his cuteness, we’d get an updated photo and a letter about how he was doing. And I’d stare at those photos dreaming of the day we could snuggle together and all the fun things we would do. But the Indian government was taking it’s sweet old time and it took until Homecoming weekend my senior year for him to come home.

My parents had to fly out to New York to pick him up {lots of drama throughout the whole process suffice to say} and when I woke up a week later, there was this precious, precious little boy with enormous brown eyes staring at me. It was a Saturday morning and my parents were exhausted so they went back to bed and I got to stay up with him. And just absorb his sweet face, his chocolately skin, his curious eyes. Typing this, my eyes are welling up with tears remembering wanting to cuddle him so badly, but needing to wait 3 painfully long days for him to trust me enough.

In the last 16 years, he’s grown up a lot. He’s experienced many things that children his age don’t and when I see him, I am amazed at how life has changed him. Sure, sure I knew he’d grow up and lose his baby face. I knew his braces would come off and he’d start shaving. And I knew he’d eventually graduate from high school and move on with his life. But what I didn’t anticipate is how I’d feel.

I’ve said before he changed me as a person. I finally understood the sacrifices a parent makes and how deeply you love a child. And then I had my own children and I think my heart grew to love my brother even more. It’s odd. These maternal urges just take over! This week, he played his final game of the regular soccer season. He walked across the field as a senior and was presented with a soccer ball from the team. The announcer said he wanted his teammates to remember how funny he was and that he’s going to study engineering.

Last night, I put the kids to bed and slipped over the field to watch the last part of his final home game of the season. His final season as a high schooler. I realized how much I am going to miss watching him play on these chilly evenings. He’s chosen a college that is close enough we could make a weekend trip out of seeing him play, but it’s not the same. I won’t pass him as he drives home from school. And Liam won’t get to run up to him after church for a hug.

As much as I respect my parents for choosing adoption, I’m grateful to his birth mother for choosing adoption. I’m so grateful she chose to give him to us. To give him a safe and healthy life. I wish I could tell her how much her decision has changed my entire life. I wish I could thank her for loving him that much. And I wish she had the opportunity to be as proud of him as I am.

Sight words and life lessons

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.

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When we moved into this home 4 years ago, I struggled to make it my home and get over that it was my grandmother’s home my entire life. Initially, I picked darker colors for all the walls… Covering every inch of the stark white paint I could. The hardest room for me to “transform” was the dining room.

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For one thing, it’s in the middle of the house, and filled with the massive dining room suite I couldn’t sell when we held the auction after her death. Dark and formal, it’s never been the style that is practical for our family. And the added worry of little ones opening the glass doors and breaking the china? No thanks.

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As the years have passed, I’ve taken things out of the china cabinets and packed them away. The table no longer has a centerpiece or a table cloth for that matter. And little by little, the table became the place to settle in and draw or paint. So when we decided to homeschool, I knew right where we would set up.

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The cabinets now hold workbooks and books I’ve been collecting in the last year. The drawer that once held fancy silverware now holds my Montessori letters and 100s board. And the table that was only used for holidays now is the table I will always hold dear as the place where Liam learned to read.

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Every morning we settle in at the table and I’m grateful that although I never thought I’d find a way to make this room ours, it fits like a glove. We watch the cardinals out the window and spread our words out on the table. We high five our success, jump out the frustrations and soak in our lessons.

For us, the room that didn’t fit is now the room I look forward to spending more and more time in as the years pass. In that, we all are learning together – sight words and life lessons.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family’s home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama’s most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn’t have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia’s nursing nest and changing room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry’s recent “home tour,” That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she’s thankful for around her home. Don’t plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family’s newly renovated home and how it’s set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen‘s life is now host to her family’s homeschool adventures and a room they couldn’t imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she’s created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

Awesome!

I need this for my home… where we can see it every day!

It is my personal parenting goal to teach my children that we can do hard things. Life is hard. Challenges come and we are faced with how we will respond. We choose to tackle these challenges head first, asking for help if needed, and we conquer. I’ve had the Bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” in my head over the last few years, so I felt that it was an appropriate addition to the lesson. 

On the first day of school, we sat down and talked about the rocks and how we are building a foundation in their lives, one lesson {rock} at a time. By the way, Liam is the only who got this discussion… Sylvi was thinking about Ariel… So when he masters a sight word, or has a particularly awesome attitude for the day, or I catch them acting in kindness without prompting, an AWESOME ROCK goes into their jar. And lest you think that I’m just piling stones up, once they get to 10 in the jar, they get a bonus when I pay out their allowance. It’s a huge hit 🙂

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Today wasn’t the smoothest school day. Liam needs to work on ordering numbers, and he loathes practicing this. Although, he really enjoys math in general, I just haven’t found the right way to work on this skill so it’s not tedious for him. Neither child nor mother got an awesome rock. But in the afternoon, we were invited to a friend’s home to swim in their pool. I strapped on life jackets and told the kids to play… to be brave and swim without hanging on to me. Both children panicked and cried when they first realized they couldn’t touch easily. I encouraged from where I sat {close enough to help if it was needed, don’t worry!}, and actually watched the fear on their faces be replaced with determination as they moved their bodies from bobbing to kicking and stroking.

In the end, what was hard became something so fun they want to return… to swim without me. They tackled something that was hard and scary, but they did it. I’m really looking forward to tonight’s review of the day to get their thoughts on how they felt when they conquered. In the meantime, though, I’m adding some awesome rocks to their jars!

Friday field trip

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Today marked the 10th day of homeschool for our little family. We celebrated with a field trip to the nature center. I could hardly wait to get to this day because I had found the cutest little Nature Scavenger Hunt from Simple as That. 

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Joy of joys, Matt only had to work until lunch today (yay holidays!) so we waited until he got home to leave. As we were all lacing on shoes, Vito started jumping around like a puppy, so I asked if he wanted to come along. He gave me pretty much the same look he gives me when I ask if he needs to go outside, so I asked if he wanted to ride in the car and he let out a YIP! like I haven’t heard in forever. So we had an extra student along for the excursion.

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Once we got to the Nature Center, Liam was far too set on his personal goals to really play along with the scavenger hunt. I’m so grateful for a daughter who thinks every little thing I do is phenomenal. She was thrilled to carry a clipboard and pencil, searching high and low, delighting in crossing things off her board. At the very end of the hike, I found some acorns and she squeezed my legs, telling me they were “de best!”

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In the end, we found almost every thing on the hunt except for animal tracks, deer and of all things, squirrels. We did find a lot of poop though. A lot of poop. We listened to the cardinals calling, the insects humming and the dog gasping. I’m planning to take the kids back again as the weather chills for another hike to see what we discover as the seasons change… I’m even hoping to convince them myself it’s a great idea to do a snowy hike!

Rearranging the china cabinet

9 years ago, Matt and I were house hunting. We were engaged and the wedding was being planned, but finding a place to call our own proved to be a challenge. The home we finally decided on has turned out to be a bit of a lemon, but it is our first house. It is filled with charm and quirkiness that I just fell in love with, turning a blind eye to the practicality of the home once children would be introduced.

When we registered for our wedding, my mother was in a coma. And when she woke up, she couldn’t speak or communicate very clearly, so it was Martha Stewart’s list that helped me figure out what I needed. As it turns out, I didn’t need quite a bit of those items and although they were once proudly displayed in our china cabinets {first home had precious corner built ins that I adored}, they are now safely packed away.

After living in that home for almost four years, we decided to turn it into a rental property and moved into my grandmother’s home, which I had inherited. When we moved here, Liam was 15 months old and I was pregnant with Sylvia. Along with the house, I also inherited furniture and a lot of necessary repairs. And when you move while in the midst of your second HG diagnosis, you deal with what you can and call it a success. So the dining room furniture that I often ate holiday meals at now housed my china and serving dishes, and on a weekly basis served as my station for folding laundry… the latter not being my grandmother’s intent for the furniture’s use in future generations.

In a few short days, though, that dining room will serve as our homeschool room. With the giant picture window and storage for books, it was an easy decision. The only china that remains is in the actual china cabinet portion of the dining room set. The buffet has been cleared out to make room for books and paper and little wooden letters.

As I look around the house, I can’t help but notice that while the location or use of items has changed, the core of our home is simply who lives here. I have watched my home change in the last nine years and I gotta say… I really like where it’s going. I really, really do.