Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Music Camp

Kenna had the chance to attend a music day camp last week. Brooks didn't want to, and Grey wasn't allowed to because he swallowed a coin and it still hasn't made it's appearance, so I couldn't send him and risk "not seeing" it. KIDS! Anyway, Mon - Fri, 9 to noon for $40!! (And, a $100 family cap off, so affordable!!)

The camp is put on by Academie de Ballet, and they are run by a Christian family. The boys did choir and tumbling, the girls, choir and dance. They held a recital for all the parents on Friday, and honestly I was amazed at what they were able to accomplish with these kids in a week! After seeing the recital, Brooks thought he'd give it a try next year too:-)


Brooks had his very first recital this past weekend. He's only been taking lessons officially for 6 weeks or so. All the teachers had no more room for students! Anyway, he's been loving learning!

Here's the first song, "A Song About Cats"...so fitting, haha. Then the next one is called "I Like", and then after that, a small portion of his teacher Rebekah playing for us. She is a girl in our youth group, and quite talented!

Kenna's recital was a few weeks ago, and she'll be moving on next year to Brooks' teacher, because her current teacher is off to college and is moving away this summer.

She played There is A Redeemer, and she only started learning the piece a couple weeks before the recital, so she tried really hard to get it perfectly recital ready! And then she played a duet with her teacher Katrina, Praise the Name of Jesus

Reno - Video

A video to capture the "befores" of our Willow house project!

Monday, June 29, 2015

TV Cabinet Rehab

Tv cabinet back in Hugo house in 2010
Well, we needed a new tv cabinet. Like need not "need". It was purchased in 2007, from Walmart for about $100. This tells you about its quality, and also, that it really lasted longer than it should have! Moving it to the Willow house was not kind to it, and it was just so wobbly and unstable. Falling apart really. Knowing that it would have to move across the room in the Willow House, we knew it wouldn't be able to make. Moving it at all again would have it crumble. We needed to replace it, but decided we wanted real wood, nothing cheapo, but a quality piece of furniture. Which is pricey! Like, pretty much definitely over $500 for anything similar to what we'd want.

So, I came up with a diy plan: I have a friend who frequents thrift stores, (and you have to be a frequent shopper to find the best deals), and so I had her looking out for me. She sent me a few pics on her trips, but nothing grabbed me. Until she sent me this one:
It was exactly what I wanted! - Although, not just exactly like this of course. But I could see the potential. It spoke to me, as it were, and I could envision the perfection it would become.

I had my awesomely compliant husband oblige my demands with minimal sarcasm. We threw away 5 drawers ("I don't know why your mom buys something to throw half of it away" haha), and I had him cut away the bars between the drawers, so it was all an open space.

 I used Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Duck Egg Blue to paint it. This paint is a DREAM to work with, and goes over any surface with no sanding or scuffing needed.
 The paint is sealed with a soft wax, and then antiqued with a dark wax. This was very easy to do, and made it all look just perfect
The drawer at the top as been sealed with clear wax, and then antiqued with dark wax, and the drawer on the bottom has only been painted. See how the wax deepens the colour and the dark wax brings out texture? I sooo love it!
We made a shelf for the open are

We drilled holes in the back so cords can fit through

It's so gorgeous! I kept the existing hardware, and just painted over it. Brian was skeptical at my decision, but I am so glad I did this. I adore the way it turned out. I aged it also with the dark wax.

Our poor old tv cabinet on it's very last day in this world

In order to take down the walls in here, we have to change a few things around - so it's time to move the tv! First, we had to remove this ugly paneling.

It took a whole evening, but we moved everything across the room, and got it all working again. Not an easy task:-)

One of my favourite things: Our charging station. We drilled a hole though the back of a drawer, and through the back of the cabinet, and so now, all our charging items are hidden! No more phones, tabbies, etc all over the place out of every outlet in the room charging away.
A lot of charging going on!

 We decided to place the tv here, because once all the walls are down, it will seem more centered to the room, if centered on the wall, it will be too "in the corner" once the whole big room is exposed.
So for now, it's kind of blocking the door way, but it won't be, once there is no doorway!

So now, here's the other side of the room, where the tv used to be. Gotta say, loving this new arrangement!

In the daylight. I am so in love with this cabinet, it's not even funny. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, and what can be better than that?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Orange Room

The play room/school room/extra room in this house is affectionately called The Orange Room because of the orange-y peach paint that is on the walls, and was there when we moved in. Well, I'd had it up to here with the orange room! It's super nice to have such extra space, but from when we moved in, I just felt we put things in there, and somehow it just wasn't laid out well.

My goal was to change that! I had a few ideas for cube storage and such to deal with our school stuff - but I really don't have a lot of money to dedicate to this little rehab right now, since we are doing some major renos to the house on the whole. But I just needed it fixed now, or at least improved for my own peace of mind!

We don't keep any toys in the bedrooms (or any other room) outside of a Playmobil table in Kenna's room, and our spare tv, crafts, books, school stuff - all of these need to be smushed into the only spare bedroom we have.

Here are some very real pics of the orange room right before the revamp.Very real.

View from the door. Lego all over the floor - and !!! I just figured why clean it up as I was about to destroy it, in order to put it all back together again.
Tv cabinet is to the left, toy bins to the right.

Tv cabinet and game storage. It never fit well in this spot and always blocked half of the closet door

The weird corner. An old desk, printer underneath, and an open styled filing cabinet I use for school

Sorry the lighting from the window made this pic very dark and I tried to lighten it. Maybe that's ok though:-) It's a messy corner with a little desk and plastic totes - and school books everywhere (new stuff for next year has arrived and no where to put it...)

The toy bins
Okay, well, it was almost like - where do I start?! I was able to transform this room for a grand total of $10!!

Here are pics of the "new" orange room. Unfortunately still orange...lol:-) Paint is coming later, but that's out of my domain right now. Everything is a process!

View from the door. There are two stains on the carpet that was a from a marker or something that got caught under the edge of the couch in it's old position without a lid on - I thought about trying to get it out - but I'm not going to bother since it's all getting replaced soon enough:-) (The white stripes on the couch is so that the cats don't scratch the leather)
Opposite wall from the couch. TV cabinet & kids games storage, toy bin, and a school shelf
The closet, which contains my crafting supplies, and some school binders, books, "extras" etc

This has a few toys on the top rack bins, but it's mostly school supplies. A bin for dry erase stuff, pens & pencils, pencil crayons, flashcards etc. I really love having them in bins like this!

I got all the old books put away, all the summer stuff in their school boxes, and next years stuff sorted well! 
I threw out the desk that had been in there, holding basically just the printer, and then "stuff" - it was just unnecessary. The tv cabinet now holds the printer, and everything was able to be sorted and put away in a proper place. I moved the childrens desk up stairs to the boys room. A place to do quiet work when the distractions of the dining room table are too much for a trying-to-concentrate child.

The plastic totes that had been stacked 4 high in the corner - I swapped them out with the black totes in Brooks closet - there is only 1 dresser in their room (Grey's clothes), and Brooks uses totes on the floor of the closet for pants, shirts, pj's, socks & undies. It works pretty well! Anyway, I wanted a less busy look in the orange room, so using all black totes works well. Now Brooks has a colourful closet:-)

We do our school at the dining room table, mostly, which means lots of carrying books back and forth. My initial idea with the plastic totes is that each kid has their own tote for their books. I used this idea even back at our old house. But it's never worked out because the totes are too heavy and large for the kids to carry. The idea is a good one though! So here is where my $10 cost came in. I'd love to someday invest in a "cube storage" bookcase idea, with the removable baskets. I decided to make it work with what I already have.

I used the black plastic totes, and inside them placed smaller cloth totes that I already owned! They fit plenty of books perfectly, and I think it will really be a good solution. And if it's working, someday, I can buy the real deal.

These are the totes that I placed inside the plastic bins - the bins aren't super deep, so these fit well "sideways" as you can see in the pics above. They are from Thirty-One, and I had been using them in the front hall closet for hats, mitts, sports clothing (when it's baseball season, I keep all the socks, shirts, pants and hats together so I'm not tracking them down in each kids drawers each week).

So the $10 comes in because I needed new totes for that shelf, since taking the other ones away for school books:-) So, real pic of my closet! One tote (they are larger than the Thirty-One ones) for sports stuff and hats, and one for winter stuff. The gap in the middle is currently filled with things I need to return to friends - they've left things here accidentally:-) 
I bought these totes at Walmart for $5 each.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jumping Board

May's first jump into the pool I caught on my phone. After some convincing and a few "psych out's" she was ready to try. She screams out "Cannonball" and throws herself off the edge in a huge bellyflop! We tried and tried and tried to get her to jump straight down, but everything was pretty much a bellyflop:-)

She calls it the jumping board, and says it's super fun!

Ella is the kids best friend, and she lives off and on with her Grandma - they are our "across the yard" neigbours. And lucky for us, we have an open invitation to swim in their awesome pool, anytime we want!

Naturally, we take them up on this offer...often:-)
I was able to catch a little more action on the real camera

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Gil

I recently purchased a childhood favourite to introduce my kids too – Anne of Green Gables. It's probably been 13 years since I'd seen it, maybe longer. It was so much fun to watch it again, and I realized something I'd forgotten. I want to marry Gilbert Blythe.

 And I realized something else I'd not remembered – the story of Anne and Gilbert is hauntingly familiar and personal to me. For those of you that don't know about our troubled beginnings, lets just say you can picture Anne, nose in the air, ignoring Gil's very existence. That would be me. And you can picture Gilbert, always stealing a glance at her, always amused by her, always trying to be helpful, and with a knack for showing up at the least desirable/most necessary moment. That would be Brian.

I realized something really incredible when I watched the movies last week. I married Gilbert Blythe.

I don't know how many people get to say – after treating someone unkindly, intentionally, for years – that this person ends up being the love of their life. I can imagine it's not very many people. “We quarreled and I wouldn't forgive him when he asked me to. I wanted to after a while, but I was stubborn and I wanted to punish him first. He never came back. I always felt rather sorry. I sort of wished that I'd forgiven him when I had the chance” - Marilla Cuthbert
Most people decide that they are too important to be treated badly, or that the future is bleak and there is no point in perseverance, and move on.

There are a select few, like Gil, who see beyond the troubled circumstances and petty quarrels to beautiful beginnings and happily ever afters. They are the fortunate ones. And there are those, like Anne, who believe in no other version of the story's ending but the one she's determined in her own mind. There is but one path to happiness, is there not? And I've decided that it certainly could never be you! These end up being the most unhappy of us all, unless they can be persuaded to change their perspective.

I have never been deserving of the time, attention, and pursuit that has been given to me. I will always be grateful that God allowed my heart to see what I had standing in front of me. A loyal, faithful friend, determined in his own way to write the story that he saw, with all it's marvelous possibilities. He is the hero of our story, steadfast, honest, and charming – and I'm just the lucky girl that he loves.

As for life? “We couldn't enjoy it's loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds” - Anne Shirley

Wedding Party

Each anniversary I highlight an aspect of our wedding - you can click here to browse through videos, pictures, kisses, music and more!

This year, I thought I would highlight our Wedding Party. If you were involved in our wedding, well, here you are!

The wedding party decisions were quite the conversation! I thought it would be best to have groomsmen (4 or 5 of them - his friends), and ushers (my brothers). He didn't want anyone to be "second class" as an usher. LOL. My efforts to explain that being an usher is not a second rate position were futile. And Brian has a LOT of friends. And I have a LOT of brothers! So our wedding party was based around the number of guys, mainly. I feel like most weddings it would be opposite with the girls, right?!

(Honourable mention goes to the "nineth guy" Keith - he was living in Alaska and unable to come to the wedding, though, he was asked to be a groomsman too. He was a good friend of Brian's from Indy/Chicago)

Here are pictures of the guys, in no particular order
Dan was Brian's childhood friend, and our Best Man. The decision of who to make the Best Man was extremely difficult for him/us - basically he just decided to pick based on years of knowing the person. Is that the best way to do it? In his heart, he had 8 best men.
Brian was Dan's groomsman also - and actually I can't remember the details, because Dan has many brothers, but I believe Brian was his Best Man too, if memory serves. Maybe because he couldn't pick between his brothers:-)
Ben. He's been a good friend to us, and was with us for just about every major milestone of our relationship, from first family visits, to ski trips, to our engagement. A wonderful, adventurous person. We love him! Brian was Ben's groomsman when he got married.

David was one of Brian's best friends in Chicago, and was one of my friends too. Such a fun person, and so kind and generous. After my work permit came through, I worked for Dave as my very first job as an American Permanent Resident - in recruiting for insurance actuaries. I had to take a few trips to Atlanta and got to train and hang out with Dave and his family which was really fun! 

Jared is my brother, and one of my best friends, and naturally Brian became pretty good friends with him over the course of our courtship. Brian was a groomsman in Jay's wedding two years later.

Brent is another one of my brothers, and always game for a good time! He and Brian also became good friends during our courtship, and Brent came with me on trips to ski, and to NYC for our engagement. Brian was a groomsman in Brent's wedding too.

Aaron is Dan's brother, and these boys all grew up together in the Catskills. They have great stories! Brian was also in Aaron's wedding as a groomsman.

Josh. These two met as young boys and will be best friends until the day they die. "Fearless Prediction" :-). Josh wrote and performed a song at our wedding for us, and he was also our Emcee at the reception. Brian was in Josh's wedding as a groomsman too (notice a theme here?!)

Luc - another good friend made during our time in Indy/Chicago. He's a remarkable person. Friendly, kind, and hospitable. He's the reason we moved to Virginia and started our life here in 2004. We'll always be grateful for his friendship. And of course, Brian was his groomsman too:-)

Davis, Logan and Kaden - they are all married now with kids, but look at them here! Just cute little boys!

The Groomsmen

The Bridesmaids - This pic will have to double for Meghan, Janessa and Jillaine. I don't seem to have a picture of me with just them. But how cute were they?! So hard to believe they are all grown up now. My mom and grandma made all the dresses  for the "juniors" and the Flowergirl (with very minimal help from me). 
And now for the girls!!! The decision for a Maid of Honour was not as difficult for me, as it was for Brian (since he has no brothers) - I rounded out my "eight people" to match his besties/groomsmen with my friends and family. Having family involved was very important to me.
Lauryn. My Maid of Honour and sister. She helped out SO MUCH for our big day, and I was so proud of the young lady she was becoming (being nearly 5 years younger than me). All these years later, and she has surpassed all expectation by far, and is a wonderful, giving, and hard working wife and mother. I couldn't be prouder! 

Audra was my best friend from the ol' Chicago days. For those that know our troubled beginnings, she was the one who wanted to go to Moody church, and forced me to ask the new guy, Brian to take us. This Moody church going event ended up being a pivotal moment in history - for all the wrong reasons:-) Audra was always there for me, through thick and thin.

Caralyn is my Aunt, married to my Uncle, and she was always the one I looked up to as being the most fun and beautiful. I have learned (and continue to learn) much from her over the years! To have a good friend in family is a rare blessing!

Lauren is Brian's sister. At the time of our wedding, we didn't know each other very well, as she had been in Russia while Brian and I were dating. She has become a very good friend, and is the only family member on either side to live near us. So she pretty much gets favourite Aunt status and everything by default. She is generous, and tenderhearted, and we love her so much! 

Lisa is a trooper! She consented to be in my wedding, knowing that she'd have to wear this bridesmaid gown shortly after having her 5th baby! Now 12 years later, and she's just had #11!!! She, and her husband, were such an inspiration to both Brian and I, of a great relationship, great parents - great people to follow after, learn from, and get advice from. She's the "super mom" that I look up to, and I am so grateful for the friendship that we shared.

Elizabeth is my "oldest" friend - we've been friends since we were about 11 years old or so. She is a true friend, strong and steady. I can always count on her to be "just the same" - which is a very desirable thing, in my estimation. And she invited "that new guy from church" to our wedding...little did we know how much we'd love James - though, not as much as she does;-)

Ann is Brian's younger sister, and again, at the time I didn't know her well, since they'd been in Russia. She has grown into a beautiful woman. She has faced incredible hardship and loss in her life, and yet she's strong, graceful and kind - not a bitter complainer as you might expect, but one who sees hope and has strength in adversity.

Liana - my friend, and at the time, my brothers girlfriend. A few years later, Brian and I stood up for Jared and Liana as they said their vows. She asked me to be in her wedding - and forced the news to come out - I was pregnant with Kenna, and didn't want to say yes, in case that changed her mind about asking me (preggo dresses are not always the best, haha). We broke the news a little earlier than intended to all our family - A baby was on the way! She was very kind to let a chubby 21 week preggo me be in her wedding anyway:-) She's pretty much a perfect person, and I couldn't imagine a better match for my brother!

Lehman and Maryn - they are teenagers now, and it's amazing to think about how much they've grown since the babies pictured here. They brought quite a bit of joy to us and our wedding, and have continued to do so over the course of their lives. We can't wait to see what life has in store for them. It's gonna be great!