A $10,000 Kitchen Make-Over

Sometimes you want a $50,000 kitchen. And sometimes your husband says “We have $10,000.”

The kitchen in our 1968 ranch house was marketed as “newly remodeled”.  My husband thought it was nice.

 I thought there was a giant kitchen trying to break free, so I called my good friend Bethany from Reclaimed Cottage and asked her to bring her husband David and her color wheel and come on over.

I love Bethany because she doesn’t make crazy eyes when I say things like “Let’s cut the peninsula and make it an island” Or “Let’s flatten the ceiling and panel it”.

David, though. David had a prescient warning: “You never know what you’re going to find behind the walls. And once you find it, you have to fix it”.

We discovered that the “kitchen remodel” mentioned in the listing was DIY with box store pre-fab cabinets. They must have been on sale because two sections were of the under-the-sink variety, with faux drawers. Ditto in the bathroom, btw. The quartz countertops were also self-installed, as was the laminate counter on the back wall.

Glass half full–once the quartz on the peninsula was cut, the cabinets underneath separated easily into their prefab sections and were very easy to turn.

Opening the walls and doorways was a bigger issue. The electrical was a maze.  In order to fit the refrigerator we had to knock out a half wall and relocate the main light switches. In the process, we somehow cut a line to the back of the house. There were so many wires in the attic, it took a two week process of elimination to find and then rewire the circuits.

The peninsula did not just magically turn into an island. It was too long for code on both ends and had to be shortened. Then it just looked like a bunch of cut cabinets. Bethany designed a “look” for the island, which included beadboard, trim and a cute little bookshelf at one end, and David made it so.

We opened both the doorways and took them up to the ceiling. David removed the soffet where the peninsula used to be and we paneled the ceiling with tongue and groove pine, purchased at Home Depot and stained just a hinch to call in the mantel in the family room.

In the middle of this madness, I found a wall clock.  It’s my most favorite color palette and it informed the colors choices for the entire house.

White walls, light blue cabinets and a cherry red island in the kitchen. Soft blue throughout the core of the home. Refuge blue—the same color from our last house—in the dining room. The family room walls lean about three shades away from white towards gray and while we need a new couch and curtains in there, I am waiting to find the right ones.

I did the dishes one night in the middle of all this and realized we were missing cabinets to the left of the sink. Didn’t have the budget for one more cabinet. So I went to Home Depot, bought a stair tread, cut it in half, stained and hung it with brackets I got from an Etsy shop. Total cost: $23.

Viola-ish.

The laminate counter is still there. The quartz counters too, rough cut edges and all. The ten year old appliances. It’s all there, and will be until we can save up to replace them.

Also, the bathrooms. They are an homage to 80s wallpaper:

They have to wait. My husband said “We have $10,000”. It is what it is.

“Good Grace” by Hillsong United

You know when you hear a song and all the hairs stand up on your head? This one.

Maybe it’s because I am feeling grateful beyond words that my friend and her family escaped disaster last week when their home caught fire. Maybe too, at the love they have been shown since. God is good. People are good. Life is good.

Still. Somebody needs this today.

If it’s not you, you know someone. Tell them.

So don’t let your heart be troubled
Hold your head up high
Don’t fear no evil
Fix your eyes on this one truth
God is madly in love with you
So take courage
Hold on
Be strong
Remember where our help comes from

Play it LOUD friends. Love is all around us.

Things I have learned from having a daughter in 5th grade.

  1. This is not your son’s fifth grade. Not even close.
  2. However, the way you parented your son when he was ages 2-6 will come in handy for your daughter’s fifth grade.
  3. Fifth grade girls don’t hit with their hands, but they hit. Hard.
  4. Yes, your daughter too. I don’t care who she’s been for the last ten years. She is full of hormones and no longer in control of her body, mind or emotions.
  5. It doesn’t matter how she acts at home. Group think has kicked in and no fifth grader is strong enough to resist it.
  6. Good luck figuring out the truth. When she was little, she spoke full truth or full lie. Now she lives firmly in the gray area, embroidering her stories with perceptions, assumptions, exaggerations. Sometimes, this will leave your family howling laughing. And sometimes—almost always after you have moved heaven and earth to set up a parent-teacher-principal meeting to demand an explanation—she will concede “Well, that was the way it made me feel.”
  7. Not all teachers are equipped to handle this. They will need your patience, your permission and your help. They may think you haven’t noticed that shrieking harpy is now a facet of your daughter’s personality. The earlier you let her know that you see truth, the easier it will be to cage the harpy.
  8. Not all moms are equipped to handle this. There are a lot of reasons for this—denial, defense, deflection, among others. Moms who haven’t walked in truth the first five years you’ve known them at school are not going to wake up one morning and see. It is not your job to help them see. Fifth grade is where Mom’s Nights Out go to die.
  9. It is past time to transition away from words as your primary form of discipline. It was never a good idea, but now it’s malpractice. Words are not a consequence. Fifth graders figure out that words just have to be endured. 9th graders see words as a challenge. YOU NEED TO GET IN FRONT OF THIS. Actions are consequences. You should clear a secret space high among the shelves in your closet for all the stuff you are going to take away from your fifth grade daughter.
  10. Somewhere along the year, your girl will outwit you. When your son did it, he thought it was funny and then apologized. When she does it, she will file it away as R&D. If she’s still got a smidge of sugar and spice left, she will remind you constantly that she “got you”. If she never brings it up again, you should know she is laying strategic groundwork to own you in ways explicit and implicit for the next 7 years. At this point, her dad is already a casualty. You are the last stand. Train accordingly.
  11. Finally, if you haven’t started talking about sisterhood to your daughter, you are behind the game. In fifth grade, girls want to be friends with other girls. The problem is that they still think this has to happen in pairs. They leave their friends they have had for years and cleave to new friends. You can see how this sucks. Sisterhood is the answer.

Enjoy your summer, moms of fourth grade daughters.

Then fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy year.  

Fourth Day

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Today is the Fourth Day. Yesterday we were born again into eternal life and today is the day we begin to live like it. That’s why I want to tell you what I learned during this Lent.

I gave up 24 hour news channels.

I did it because I have watched people I know slide into anxiety bordering on mental illness over the last two years from watching these channels.

I did it because of how many times in the last six months the hot take has been wrong and caused massive social upheaval.

I did it because a friend told me she hoped her bro-in-law had been able to drag her sister away from CNN for her birthday.

I did it because these channels are an echo chamber. We watch the one we like the most and all they tell us is what we want to hear.  That’s disturbing on so many levels—but the one that disturbs me the most is that viewership is UP on these channels as we all align ourselves for 2020.

I did it because when the lady from Church called to tell me “Turn on  Fox News!” because Notre Dame was on fire, even after 40 days of not watching any of them, I thought to myself “I know something about you now.”

I did it because those channels are not reporting news. They are opining, which is not news. And they are opining for money which means their integrity is questionable at best and non-existent at worst.

I did it because I have noticed that people who watch these channels have lost their faith in humanity and joy in life. They are always angry, always accusing, always ready for a fight.

I did it because that was me.

I think it was probably the best way I could have spent my Lent and I am not kidding.  I learned something gnarly about myself:  how often I turned on those channels to get my “I’m right” validated.

I’m not going back. A little bit of distance has taught me that these channels want us to worship them, submit to them. And a lot of us have done it, especially the ones of us who work from home or at home or are retired. These channels are the noise running in the background of our daily lives—but what is it costing us?

Our sanity, if you ask me. Our kindness. Our faith in each other. Our faith in God. So many of us are scared, and faith-filled people aren’t scared.

You know what I’m not since I stopped watching? Scared. Angry. Suspicious. I’m not sure the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I’m not anxious.

I see love and light in the world. I see kindness and joy. I see work to do, for sure. But it’s not dire. It’s not endtimes. I believe in our ability to climb this mountain together because there is glory and goodness all around us.

All around us.

Turn them off. Just trust me and turn them off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Want To Know?

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So, Fortnight.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all Prince Harry here. To me, there’s very little difference between spending hours on Fortnight talking to friends and the hours I spent on the phone when I was 13 talking to friends.

But.

My mom couldn’t hear my friends unless she picked up the extension.

I can hear it all from the Fortnight.

I have said before that my teenage parenting strategy is to establish my crazy mom cred when my kids were young. I believe that I have done this with Gabe and his friends—the right mix of cool and I will pull my car over to yell at you, I don’t care whose kid you are.

So no one blinks that Gabe’s Fortnight is where I can hear it all. Or his phone has a mad mama control that allows me to read all his text messages. I don’t—our agreement is that I won’t unless my mom radar tells me I should.

But I could. And they all know I would.

So yeah, I have rolled into the middle of Fortnight and told some young men to watch their language and play nicely or they won’t like what happens next.

Here’s what I need to know though—if your kid is a douchebag when you aren’t listening, do you want to know?

My girlfriend’s son is 11. He plays with a kid who drops the F bomb so often she swears he’d give me a run for my money. It’s natural that my friend thinks his mom must know this, since the child is so fluent. Hard not to judge that, a house where 11 year olds use the F word in all the parts of speech and sometimes in the same sentence.

But what if his mom has no idea? What if the xBox is in his room upstairs in a house with a main floor master and all she knows is thank god for Fortnight because he’s not constantly asking her what’s for dinner?

It’s an age old mama question.

Do you want to know?

If your kid is the one with the anonymous Instagram who posts crap about other kids, do you want to know?

If your daughter is changing her clothes on the way to school into something less…modest…do you want to know?

If you kid is downlow dating someone (and by downlow, I mean that YOU don’t know but all the followers on their mom-free snapchat account know) do you want to know?

In this age where our kids are putting their lives into permanent public spaces without the proper brain function to understand the implications—or thankfully, that they aren’t as smart as they think they are—do you want to know?

I do.

I want to know.

I have told my sister mamas this. Not when my child comes to them in second mom status for a perspective that’s different than mine.

But when there is skulking, lying or tomfoolery? I need to know.

Do you?

Into the Desert–A different way to think about Lent

I have always tried to find a better way to come at Lent with my kids.

This year is no different, as we are 1 day out and Annie is settled on giving up the monkey bars.

God bless her little heart, she loves her some monkey bars.

It’s probably too much to expect a 7-year-old to be reflective, but Gabe and Kate are now old enough to learn something from Lent.

And the idea of a token “sacrifice” of chocolate or cursing for 40 days has left me wanting more. Maybe because it was always presented to me as a small thing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

But what if that’s the wrong way to think about it?

Nothing I can do will ever match what Jesus did for me.

On Sunday, a solid catechism Bible Scavenger Hunt from my partner teacher Megan dropped a new way to frame Lent into my lap.

All three of the Temptation stories in the Gospels tell us Jesus went into the desert after his baptism to prepare for his ministry.

Why the desert? If the goal was solitude, why not a boat on the sea for forty days? Or a trek into the mountains?

Why the desperate, relentless austerity of the desert?

Yes, it calls back to the forty days Moses spent on the Mount before receiving the Ten Commandments and the forty years the Israelites wandered after their escape from Egypt. Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert and refutes the temptation, staying faithful to God, in contrast to both Adam and the Israelites. There’s a whole world of theological scholarship out there about these forty days.

But I’m just a mom in front of a laptop trying to figure out a way to grow faith in my kids, so I’m going with a boots on the ground application: Jesus went into the desert so he could focus.

In the desert, there are no distractions.

We are running with that this year: Focus—not on what we’re not doing, but on removing the distractions that turn us away from our relationship with God. Making our lives more like a desert for the next 40 days.

Pack up the toys, clothes, stuff that surrounds us. Clear out the clutter. Save money by forgoing nights out, expensive dinners, new things. Use less words, especially of the cursing and gossiping kind. Spend less time online wanting what we don’t have, or what someone else has. Spend less time watching news that is designed to scare, addict, divide. Reject all the ways we are tempted, as the devil tried to tempt Jesus, by the things of this world.

Practice simplicity. Prayer. Contemplation. Fasting.

Listen for the angels who will minister to us.

Open our hearts and hands every day to the word and will of God.

This will be our Lent, our walk in the desert. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

Violet and the Bangs

It has been a few months now, but a while back, I noticed one day that Violet, my 6-year-old, had bangs.  Suddenly. They appeared out of nowhere. The girls had just come back from a weekend at their dad’s and I asked her if she had gotten a haircut…. Nope.

Well, did your dad cut your bangs?  No.

Did your grandma?  No.

Violet, did you cut your bangs?  No.

And the Mystery of the Cut Bangs began.  

Periodically I would ask Violet about the bangs.  She always replied that she didn’t know what happened.  She couldn’t remember. She didn’t know if someone cut her bangs, or who.  It was all very strange.

Then about three months later, my older daughter, Mazie, who is 8, and I were cleaning out one of the toy bins.  I picked up a red plastic cup and Mazie said to me, “That’s the cup that Violet put her hair in.” What? “Yeah, after she cut her bangs.”

Mystery solved.  

I really didn’t care if Violet cut her bangs or not, and I told that to her.  She wouldn’t have gotten in trouble. But now, now she had been lying to me for months.  Lying to my face. And that hurt.  I do not want to raise a liar. 

Lies are slippery little suckers, aren’t they?  They’re a practiced behavior that sometimes start out so small and insignificant.  I’ve often told students that the first lie you tell someone is the hardest one to tell.  The first time you break that trust tears your guts out.  The next time you lie though, it’s easier. And the easier it gets, the bigger the lies become.  

I dated a guy once that would lie about anything.  If he had eggs for breakfast, he could swear on the Bible that he’d eaten cereal.  And he would lie about little things like that. At the time, it just didn’t make any sense to me, but when I found his emails with 4 other women, all of the lies began to unravel.  

Truth is big around these parts.  Jen and I had lots of conversations when we created this blog about Truth being the cornerstone of our writing.  I challenge you today to live in truth.  If you’re doing something you feel you need to lie about, I have an idea:  don’t do that thing! Don’t practice lying. Stop being good at it.  Walk in integrity. It’s so worth it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened with little Violet, this is how it went down:  She walked back in the room while we were cleaning, and I said, “Hey Violet, is this the cup you put your hair in when you cut your bangs?”  The poor little girl never had a chance. Without missing a beat she said, “Yep!”  And then her eyes got real big.  

Mama always knows. Game. Set. Match.