"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Monday, March 5, 2018

Cabin Life

We headed to the lake this weekend with all the kids - well all the kids that currently love at home, that is.  And it was such a good reminder of why we are doing this!

Building the cabin, nearly 100% on our own, has been hard!  There is still A LOT to get done.  Some days, it seems endless.

But, watching the kids hang together this weekend cemented the knowledge that THIS is right.  Our vision is correct and the work is totally, completely worth it!

Just look at them. . .

Where at home, we all tend to be off doing our own thing, at the cabin we nap together, game together, laugh together, and movie together.  Cabin life is my favorite life.

Monday, February 19, 2018


It was a week of new experiences.

I could tell you that I enjoyed it, but I would be (mostly) lying!  The truth is, I hate being stretched, and this week stretched me a whole bunch!  

It is kind of funny, really.  I have traveled to Mexico, Panama, The Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Aruba, The Bahamas, etc. . . and called those adventures fun - but a simple trip to Chicago has me stressed?!?

The difference is that on this Chicago trip, I am in charge.  I am all alone with my daughters, ages 14 and 3.  I am the sole navigator - which is NOT my best skill.  I am the one deciding what is safe and what is not.  I am also the only driver.  What was I thinking?????

The answer to that question is simple.  I was thinking about what was best for my family.  Brenna had earned a spot in a regional ACDA honor's choir.  That choir required a chaperone to travel with her.  I am the parent-on-call for things like this.  Plane tickets were not in the budget, so momma had to get brave!  

We left at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon.  Mataya was sooooooo excited!  She knew we would stop at "McDonald's with a slide" for supper AND stay in a hotel with a pool overnight.
 I bought her a few surprises to open along the way.  This Barbie kept her busy for three hours!
 McDonald's was a big hit.  

As was the hotel pool.
 And sleeping with momma.  

I grabbed her sleeping self out of bed early the next morning to continue traveling, hoping to make it into Chicago before rush hour.
 As we drove the temperatures got warmer.  At one gas stop we ran laps around the building to get rid of some wiggles.  She was so happy to be outside.
 We stopped at Popeye's for lunch.
 We also ran into Target for a few snacks to eat at the hotel.  Mataya was still in her pajamas and FULL of energy.  She loped through the store. . . literally.  We just went with it, calling her by her horsey name "Sunshine" and giving her horse commands like "woah."  People either thought she was hilarious or annoying.  I just knew she was Mataya, and Mataya needs to move and pretend!  Thankfully, Brenna understands her little sis as well.  She laughed, where most 14-year-olds would have been humiliated at the spectacle.

As we were leaving the store, I asked to take a picture of Mataya with the puppy statue.  She must have decided to be a puppy at this point because she gave the statue a couple of sniffs.
 And then, before we could stop her... puppy Mataya gave the puppy statue a hello lick.

It was completely hysterical, completely Mataya, and totally gross!

The next two hours were totally, completely stressful.  I'm not a total traffic wimp - I have driven a descent amount in Minneapolis - but that did not prepare me for the trek into the heart of Chicago during rush hour. Yuck!  It was lanes upon lanesupon lanes of crawling cars.  Thankfully, we did not miss a turn.  We arrived at our swanky (and totally not kid-friendly) downtown Chicago hotel frazzled.  They gave us directions to the valet parking garage.  I HATE parking garages - so it was double creepy - and additionally, they normally have guests pull up to the front and have the valet get the cars from there.  (Maybe the front desk knew just from talking to me that I would arrive with a preschooler in pajamas who was pretending to be a horse?!?)  So. . . I uncomfortably stumbled through checking in.  There were no luggage carts where my car was.  I had a ton of stuff.  So..... I had to figure out how to haul up a couple of loads of stuff to my room while keeping both the stuff and my girls safe. The valet did offer to do it for me, however after driving 12 hours with a preschooler in the back seat, my car looked like it vomited toys and snacks.  There was NO way I was letting the valet figure out what was treasure and what was garbage. It was a disaster, AND I was too exhausted and stressed to see it as an adventure.  BUT we finally got everything situated.  I have no clue where they parked my car.  I do know I payed far too much for the parking - but I did not  have the mental capacity to figure out how to remedy the situation, so I just payed the bill.  It is a good reminder that no matter how old you get, learning is expensive!

Anyway. . . it was dark.  I was creeped out - and Brenna was ready to explore.  Since we had to eat, I decided to choose a good attitude and an adventurous spirit.  We headed out with our phones set on google maps to find "The Bean."  Google maps set to walk-mode, I learned, can be very weird.  It took us on a 3/4 mile walk when The Bean was actually right across the street and then over one block.  But we found it, and we have the pictures to prove it!

(Just pause for a moment and imagine us. . . It was raining.  Brenna was happy and adventurous.  Mataya was NOT happy that I was insisting she hold my hand.  Very not happy.  I had a fake smile firmly in place, trying to keep both girls happy, but inside I just wanted to be home.)
Brenna was very happy to finally get to "The Bean!"
 We grabbed a meal at a deli close by, and then headed back to the hotel.  Brenna wanted to navigate.  When I was certain we were heading the wrong way, she was equally certain we were not.  So, I went with it.  After about walking about 8 blocks, I finally convinced her we were not going the right way.  At this point, Mataya was insisting on being carried, and I was trying to be kind, polite, and fun.  However, I've been Brenna's mom a long time.  She knew I was actually stressed, very stressed.  When we finally got back to the hotel - by way of the creepy parking ramp - I was exhausted.  I suggested we find the pool.  And when I discovered there was no pool, I nearly lost it.  Not even joking.  For some reason half a week in downtown Chicago in a hotel without a pool seemed like prison.  Mataya needs to move.  I had counted on a pool.

So, I called Chad.  Threw a fit on the phone.  Opened a very expensive mini-bottle of wine from the hotel minibar.  And tried to chill out while Mataya happily splashed in the tub, and Brenna begged to go (by herself) to find her friend.

It was NOT a good start.

However, every day is a new day.  I decided that we could and would figure it out.  So, after Mataya went to sleep, I googles "things to do in downtown Chicago with a preschooler" trying to make a plan.

First thing the following morning, I informed Mataya (who has always hated strollers and has not used one in 2 years) that whenever we left the hotel she would have to be in the stroller.  PERIOD.  It would be her "Chicago car seat."

Then we headed out for breakfast.  

Mataya in the stroller was a huge improvement.

As was daylight.

We had a quick bite and did a bit of shopping.  Mataya understood the Chicago is dangerous memo, she was very careful and obedient.

We returned to the hotel just in time to get Brenna settled into her conference.  That was not fun.  Long lines, a hungry preschooler (I asked if she needed a snack before we left - but in true three-year-old fashion she refused to eat.  However, as soon as we were standing in a huge line, she decided she was starving.  She cried quietly into my shoulder the entire hour we waited.) and a bit of lost information made it a less than thrilling experience.  BUT - we survived!

After that fiasco, Mataya and I returned to the room to fuel her belly.  She wanted a bath, and then to change into her new clothes.  Then we headed out to take on Chicago, preschool style.
 Thanks to the internet, I discovered a few things that might keep a preschooler busy (and safe) that were within 1.5 miles of the hotel.  The first thing we picked to explore was Maggy Daily Park - which was carefully hidden right across the street!!!  And I am so very happy to say, we had SO MUCH FUN!!!

 It was 40* which was warm enough to play - and the area was nearly empty.  It was perfection.
 Her favorite area of the park was designed for 5-12 year olds, so she needed some help.  Which ended up being really fun!  It was the best mommy-and-me playdate we have had in a long time.

 This is the biggest, tallest - MOST FUN slide ever!  We giggled all the way down, many times!
 This one was awesome, too.  

After two hours at the park, we headed back to the hotel to color pictures and wait for Brenna.
 Brenna had rehearsal after dinner, but Mataya and I convinced her she needed to see the playground and skating loop we had discovered.  So we ate a quick meal and headed back to the park.

 Brenna agreed, it was a great find.  She even headed down the slide with Mataya once!

(And how pretty is she with the lights of the city at her back?)

The next day, Mataya and I went on another grand adventure.  We found the Chicago Public Library.  We walked forever, but we found it!  She had so much fun playing with all the puppets, puzzles, toys, and books.

 She would have stayed longer - but we needed to get back to meet Brenna for lunch.

We had planned a lunch date at the skating loop across from the hotel.  I thought a little fresh air would be fun for Brenna since she was in rehearsals all day long.  And, she loves to skate.  It was a fun!

Mataya watched Brenna skate while playing with the snow.  She thought sneaking up on me with snowballs was the funniest thing ever!

After lunch, we walked Brenna back for rehearsal and returned to the park.  After a couple hours of play, we walked to CVS to buy nail polish and headed back to the hotel for some girl time.  Nail painting, book reading, coloring, and a movie on the IPad kept us busy.

I ordered Chicago-style pizza for dinner - yummy!  

Brenna spent the remainder of the evening in rehearsals.  Mataya and I packed up the hotel room, watched the Olympics, and snuggled on the bed.

The following morning, I was so happy!  We would be heading home! I was also a bit terrified.  The drive into Chicago had been NASTY!  I was not looking forward to the drive out, at all! 
 My early morning snap to Sierra.  

Brenna and I managed to get all of our things loaded into my car before her first rehearsal of the day.  I was SO thankful because loading everything with only Mataya to "help" me sounded daunting!  When Brenna headed for rehearsal, Matata and I returned to the room to kill time until we had to be out.  It was cold, a bit snowy, and windy.  Heading outside did not appeal to me at all.  But by 11:30 we had to leave the room.  I tried to talk Mataya into going to the Art Institute, but she insisted on (you guessed it) the park.  Thankfully the park was in a valley below the wind, so although chilly, it was bearable.  We played for a couple of hours before joining Brenna for a late lunch.

Mataya fell asleep as we stood in line for lunch.  She slept through lunch, for another hour, and woke up just as we arrived at Brenna's concert.  The poor peanut was soaking wet, and ALL of her clothes were packed in the car which was parked I-don't-know-where.  So we stripped off her pants, wrapped her in her blanket, and pretended to be civilized people attending a concert.
We know how to adventure, don't we?!?

The concert was SUPER!  Very talented vocalists and uber talented directors.  It really was phenomenal.  (No photos allowed.)

Because the concert ended at 4:30, I had told Brenna that I wanted to RUSH out of there and get on the road ASAP.  I called the valet to have the car waiting the minute the concert was over.  When we walked out of the concert hall, snow was falling at a crazy rate.  It would have been stunningly beautiful had I not been freaked out about road conditions!   It took a while, but Brenna met us as soon as possible - actually faster than possible - she snuck out a side exit!  We were drenched from the wet snow by the time we got back to the hotel.  So poor Mataya now had a nakey-heiney AND a soaked blanket!  (Seriously!!!)  But the car was warm and waiting, so OFF we went!

It took us several hours to get out of Chicago.  Traffic was not as bad as when we arrived, but road conditions were not the best with the snow.  However, none of that mattered because every mile I got out of that crazy city and closer to HOME, the more secure I felt!

 Brenna did a super job navigating.  She also picked a location and booked a hotel for the night while I drove.  She was amazing!  Mataya was as well.  She played and sand and watched movies happily.  We didn't stop for hours and then it was just for gas.  She was such a trooper.  The only complaint we heard was about 30 minutes from the hotel when she said, "Mom, my butt hurts from all this sitting!"

It was late when we got to the hotel.  Thankfully, she was OK with waiting until the morning to go swimming.

The next morning I took her swimming, and she had such fun.  There was a toddler pool and lots of kids.  She loved it!  In fact, she loved it so much she refused to leave.  She swam to the center of the pool, refusing to get out when Brenna told her it was time to leave.  (Smart and naughty.  That's my girl!)  I had gone up to get ready and pack, but I headed back down to help Brenna.  When Mataya saw me, she came right away, tears running down her exhausted cheeks.  I gave big hugs, promised her unlimited use of my phone in the car, and we hit the road again.

 9 hours.  One potty stop.
One pizza stop. 
One section of roads with TERRIBLE visibility.

One play stop.

And we were HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never been so happy to be home!

I would absolutely return to Chicago for an all-girls trip, without small children.  There is a lot to see and do, many things I would enjoy.  However. downtown Chicago in the winter, with a preschooler, by myself, was not very relaxing!  Worth it?  For sure!!!!!  Just not relaxing!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Curling Up on Daddy's Lap

I snapped this photo a couple of weeks ago.

And it won't leave me.

In the middle of a noisy restaurant, in the midst of a crazy day, Mataya Hope-y girl climbed up on her daddy's lap for a snuggle.  You can see just how pleased she is, wrapped tightly in his embrace, by the grin sneaking out of her cute little mouth.  Her closed eyes and relaxed position show just how content and safe she was feeling.

That picture is exactly what my soul longs for.

In the midst of a noisy life, smack dab in the middle of a crazy day, my soul longs to curl up on the lap of my Redeemer, my Savior, my Friend, Jesus, and simply rest.




Accept His love

and grace

and peace.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Journey to Contentment - Creating a Culture of Helpfulness

Christmas break ended with an angry momma.  For the first time, Christmas had been "all on me."  My mom was in Africa, so I was hostess to all the festivities.  I had been really looking forward to it.  I had meals planned, gifts wrapped, and lights everywhere.  I had always envisioned my family coming home for Christmas.  In my minds eye, we would all work happily together.  Table setting, meal preparations, clean-up would all be a group effort with adults chatting and joking as they zipped around the kitchen.

That is NOT how it went.

It went like this.  Children (adult or not) tasking when ordered to but spending the rest of their time napping, watching TV, surfing the net, etc while momma worked to keep them fed and the house clean.

I was so disappointed and disillusioned - which of course, I masked as pissed off.  I stomped around for days, maybe even weeks, complaining to Chad about the children we had raised.

Thankfully, I kept my mouth shut until I had the time, space, and wisdom to stop stomping and turn it over to the Lord.  When I finally simmered down and asked the Lord to show me what was REALLY going on, the "problem" turned out to be me.

Dontcha hate that?!?

As I thought and prayed and examined my family, I realized that I had always insisted my children be independent.  They know from a very young age how to take care of themselves.  They pack for themselves when we travel, set their own alarms, put away their own dirty dishes, and pack their own lunches as soon as possible.  I value independence, and so I have taught them independence very intentionally. 

I have NOT taught them co-dependence. 

I expected that as they became adults they would realize that when the dishwasher was full of clean dishes, it should be unloaded.  It is not "mom's job."  It is a task that needs to be done in order for a home to run smoothly.  The same would be true of so many other tasks.  SO MANY.  However, as I really examined my parenting, all the "other stuff,"  the stuff that did not directly impact them, I had handled.  I set the table.  I put away the leftovers.  I cooked the meals.  I washed and folded the laundry.  I cleaned the entire house, save their bedrooms.

Yes, they had been trained to bring their laundry to the laundry room, put their own dishes in the dishwasher, make themselves a meal or snack.  They understood how to care for themselves - but NOT how to care for our home.  Or for their mom.

I realized that it was time for a family meeting. 

So, I sat down with Sierra, Brenna, and Joshua.  I explained that I was not happy with the way in which our household was functioning.  I explained that although I really appreciate that they always help when asked, I wanted them to start doing things because they need to be done.  I joked that their putting their own fork in the dishwasher does not really help me, it helps them.  Dinner is not over until the leftovers are in the fridge, the dishes are ALL washed and dried and put away, the counters are wiped, and the floor is swept clean.  THAT, all of that, is the responsibility of a family.

I also admitted that we had had this conversation before, but that in time I always resorted to doing everything myself, allowing them to slip into lazy habits.  The truth is many nights I do not mind cleaning up the kitchen.  And I hate nagging.  However, I am realizing that by allowing that I am sending a message that it is OK to eat and run. I knew that habit needed to change.  So, I warned that I was going to be firm about this.  Our family dynamic must change, even though old habits are hard to kill.

Thankfully, my children could understand what I was saying.  They felt bad, and they expressed a desire to change.

The first night or two went great. 

And then one night. . . Mataya needed something as supper was coming to a close.  I left the kitchen to help her, and everyone else went to their rooms.  I returned to a kitchen that had three place settings moved from the table to the dishwasher. . . and the rest of the kitchen was in complete disarray. I began grumpily cleaning it.

Old habits are hard to kill.

Thankfully, I caught myself.

I called my three children back downstairs and pleasantly reminded them of our new family goals.  Praise Jesus I was pleasant, because they were instantly sorry.  The real kind of sorry.

Old habits are hard to kill, but they cleaned up the kitchen, with servant hearted attitudes.

And it is becoming routing.  Slowly.  There are nights that I have to remind them.  But there are also mornings in which the dishwasher is unloaded without me asking, nagging, or hinting.

Additionally, I have turned the girl's bathroom over to them to clean.  I walked in to clean it one morning and thought, "Why do I do this?  I have never even showered in this room.  Ever."  When I told Sierra and Brenna about my thoughts they laughed.  "OK, Mom.  We got it."  was their response.  Will I have to remind them.  Surely.  Old habits are hard to kill.

But I am learning that killing them is possible.

And healthy.

I am learning that thinking through how I want my family to look in my old age, starts now. 

I love to dote on my kids.  I love to do nice things for them.  I love that I am home quite a bit so I can lessen the load and have our home tidy and organized without a lot of help.  But my doing it all is sending a message that I want to do it all.  And really, I don't.  I want to be a part of a team, rather than be a slave.  Which means as team leader, I need to inspire cohesiveness. 

It starts with you mommas.  If you are complaining about your family, look deep into your own habits.  It starts with you and only you can change it.  (UGH! I know!  But. . .) 

Change is possible.

And soooo worth the effort.

Last weekend, Joshua and Mataya fought over who got to dry the dishes. 

Read that again.  My children argued over who could wipe dishes.

Our family dynamics are changing.  We are very intentionally creating a culture of helpfulness.  And I am so thankful.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Cabin Update - Kitchen and Master Bedroom Nearing Completion

Chad and I had such a fun weekend at the lake.  We are working on final details.  I love that part of construction!  Seeing things come together is so rewarding. 

Chad and I design well together.  (Or at least we think we do!)  We bounce ideas back and forth, each adding vision, creating a final product that reflects us both perfectly.  It is just SO fun.

The lake house has been a unique project because we are designing on a dime.  We have worked hard to cut every cost we can, while still retaining the look and longevity we desire.  Upcycling is our jam on this one, and it has been so much fun.

 When we began our construction business, we primarily did work on preengineered metal buildings.  Though we have expanded and do a TON of remodel work, both commercial and residential; I have always wanted to use metal in some detail on a personal project because it represents so much to me.  The first time I saw the high slope of the ceiling in our master bedroom, I could totally picture it as metal.  When I asked Chad, he gave me a bit of a weird look, but confessed that he did have some metal panels they had not been able to use on a job. . .  but, was I sure?!?

I was SO sure.  And He allowed me to dream.

Thankfully, we both love the result!  It is just SO fun!

After we got the ceiling up, we needed to scrape the floor and start the flooring installation.

We are using a vinyl planking that has a weathered wood finish.  It is affordable and should be durable.  A nice look on the cheap!

 Chad fabricated barnwood beams to connect the wood look on the floor to the ceiling.

(Another one of my crazy ideas, he made happen.  I just LOVE it!)

We combined it all with crisp white trim and a sleek, modern door knob.  Quirky, yep!  However, I adore it.

(Plus, the wall paint, trim paint, metal ceiling, and base boards were all leftover from jobs!)

Chad also added a barnwood sill to the windows.  (This detail was all his idea!) How gorgeous is that - view and all!

 In the kitchen, we added hardware to the cabinets and trim to the windows.  Minor details that make a HUGE impact.  (Someday a dishwasher will go in the space the stool now sits.)

(In case you want some free construction advice...  If you do not want to spend a ton of money on cabinets, go with white.  Though cheap white cabinets will not wear any better than cheap wood ones, it is harder to tell the quality difference visually.  Is there a difference? Oh yes!  We have had custom build cabinets in our last two homes and these cheaper box cabinets are not in the same category.  However, high-end is not an option on every project.  These inexpensive cabinets look high-end because of the creative installation and detailing Chad and the guys came up with.  Visually, a white cabinet is a white cabinet - where a cheap wood look can be quite pronounced, even with superior installation.)

Our breakfast nook.

Some day we have a built-in banquet planned for this space.  Key word - some day!
 Detail of the barnwood trim.

Now do not be fooled - except for the kitchen (which still needs flooring), the master bedroom (which still needs electrical), and the main level bathroom (which still needs paint on the trim) - the cabin is a mess!  Chad has at least a month worth of sheetrock taping, then comes texturing and painting, followed by ceiling and flooring installation, doors to hand, trim to install, along with a million other small details. . .  We are definitely not done - BUT, we are having fun.  After the stress that I felt building our current home, I did not think I could ever enjoy construction on a personal level again.  This project is proving me wrong.

This project is a gift.  It is such hard work.  Yet, we have learned so much!  The place and the space is a dream come true, so I refuse to hate the process.

And that man I married, who trusts my vision and makes my crazy ideas come to life, he is making me fall in love with him over and over again.  He amazes me, inspires me, and delights me daily.