Saturday, December 22, 2018

Cozy Christmas House

I decided to do something a little bit different this year. I put together a video of our home all wrapped up for Christmas. So grab yourself something warm and yummy to drink. Come back... I'll wait for you.

When I took these little videos I didn't clean up my house and I just noticed little piles her, a phone cord charger there, even a ladder propped up to the gutters that Scott had just worked on the weekend before.  Real life, ha! But snow was fluttering down when I was walking around my house taking these shots.

So here is the place we love to call home on Christmastime.

(simply turn up your sound, and click to enlarge)

I do love decorating for Christmas and doing all of this while teaching full time with 23 kiddos and a pile of teacher planning, correcting, meetings, and boy howdy all those emails can take it's tole on my in the merry month of December. But I'm determined to make my home a festive, welcome, beautiful place for the 4 of us... so here are a few tips I can recommend to those busy mamas out there:

1.  Start Early - although it feels weird to pull out the Christmas things reallllllly early it's better that way. I actually start the day after Halloween. Bit by bit. I like to think of it as scene by scene. I love how it was just beginning to be Christmasy in our home on Thanksgiving. The dining room was still all fall while the rest of the house was just beginning to show signs of Christmas.


2. Make a Decorating Plan - This year I actually typed out some new ideas I had for vignettes that I wanted to create. I made a plan. I had access to it on my phone so starting November 1st whenever I was out shopping here or there I could take a look at what I still needed. One of the little vignettes I wanted to create was in the corner of my kitchen counter. I love baking. L O V E it! And I thought how lovely it would be to have baking jars all set to bake for my girls and to give as gifts. So one early November weekend (way before Thanksgiving I make a bunch of these cookie jars) I love how cherry they looked in my kitchen. Made me F E E L like I was still that mama at home allllll day with lots of baking time on my hands... and let me tell you it worked!  Just feeling like it relaxed me, brought peace to my heart, and reminded me that I D O have time to do all things (just not all at the same time)

For example I knew I wanted to tie wreaths around these little lambs and it was actually typed up in my plan. Yes, something as small as that I didn't leave to chance.

living room 14

And then there was our new porch. Oh how I couldn't wait to decorate that room. Even though we'd have to enjoy it from inside our house {since it's cold here} I wanted it to be all dressed up for Christmas.

porch 3

3. Don't Compare Myself to Anyone Out There -{in blog world or insatagram} We all know how that can feel... you've finished decorating and one day you sit down to enjoy someones blog and all of a sudden you see a house that bigger, prettier, newer, has just the furniture you wished you had but don't... and before you know it the little touches of Christmas you've put around you house feels icky, not enough and it's almost like you can't enjoy it. Well, gosh by golly, I was not having A N Y of that!  I put up "Christmas in the forest" every year because it reminds me of the Christmases when my girls were even just a few years younger and they were enchanted by the forest. I'll put it out every single year. And while others are going alllll W H I T E {I love all of that on instagram} I still have lost of red and green. And that's okay. We can all still admire and enjoy others decorating while doing what we like in our homes.

Childhood felt house and new picture books aren't all the rage out there on istagram but I love it. So that's what I did!

family room 2

family room 1

4. Remember the R E A S O N Why we Decorate - Well we all know the reason for the season is Jesus born to us; to fill our hearts with love. Well, I like to remind myself the reason for decorating because sometimes I don't want to finish. And sometimes my little ol mind wonders 'why am I doing allllll this? It's all just coming down January 1st."  For goodness sake, kick that voice outta my head. It's Christmas after all!  It's the merriest, best time of year. Now, get busy, create, and bring joy to the hearts of those you love. And if I have to I say out loud, "you're doing all this because you love to"{my Dad always taught me to say this when I was stressed out} and sometimes I even put myself in my home on Christmas morning and think 'what do I want it look like, feel like, taste like, smell like' and then I'm motivated.

5.  Don't Do It All - Yes, you heard me. There are some things I didn't get to this year. {and that's okay} This year we didn't put up our tree in our bedroom where I hang all of the girls ornaments they've made when they were preschoolers. I adore that tree filled with literally hand prints and fingerprints of their littleness. But I just didn't get to it. Could I do that today, December 23rd? Sure, but I don't feel like it. So I'll do it next year. Maybe I'll even S T A R T with that in 2019 decorating so I make sure it happens. And guess what? I'll enjoy those handmade ornaments even more next year because I didn't see them this year. Honestly if I asked Scott to go into the attic and get another tree he would do it for me because he loves me... but is that really fair? This season is about enjoying our home and now that we are all home for some time I want my hardworking, principal amazing husband to relax and enjoy his home. One more tree might make us all grouchy and so next year will be perfectly fine.

This year because I had some new Ideas I spent what time I had on those and felt it was okay to not get to everything else. I reallllly wanted to decorate my childhood dollhouse for Christmas. I wanted to make it a farmhouse Christmas and I L O V E the way it turned out. It makes me so happy to walk up the stairs each night and see it at the top. It's a reminder of my Childhood Christmases and my heart feels full.

dollhouse 5

In my plan I had typed up 'farmhouse dollhouse' so everywhere I went I kept my eye open for things to make it magical. Abigail helped me find the horses at an antique store!

dollhouse 8

6. Think About This - Something Scott will like, Something Anna will like, Something Abigail will like, Something I will like {in that order} Sometimes I get carried away with decorating ... for goodness sake I start on November 1st... and it can quickly become all about me... what do I like... But really this year I tried to think of my sweet family too. And as I decorated I thought, "oh Anna would love this just like this; Scott would enjoy this and I would make is life easier this Christmas; Abigail would adore this" So I went about my decorating a bit more for others this year. Guess what?  It made it so much more fun and such a blessing to make T H E I R Christmas house just for them.

One thing I loved this year was creating a non-pinterest coffee tea area on my counter. Although I have always had a tea table around the corner in my kitchen I wanted to have out a way to quickly make coffee for anyone that visits. I decided to buy an old fashioned percolator - I love the way it makes my house smell and how cute it is when it bubbles up to the glass lid.

kitchen 4

My something for Anna was a cherry mudroom to walk into each day after school. Anna is the first one home and it is important to me to welcome her just like I used to when I was at the door each day. Since I can't be there until after she is home I filled the mudroom with touches of love.

porch 13

I knew Abigail would love this paper (right outta golden books) garland above her bed. When she was really little she adored Little Golden Books. So this reminds her to younger childhood Christmases.

bedroom 9

For Scott, an orderly family calendar for a quick glance makes it easier for him. I love the Susan Branch blotter calendar. Yes, this family still uses paper and pencil. We love that way it gives us that 'big picture' look at a month that I just don't feel like I can get from a phone screen.

mud room 4

7.  Start with What I Love and Let the Rest Fall Into Place- When I start with my children's books the rest just kind of just happens. I love to pull out certain things and make them the 'stars' of each room. And then everything else just falls around it.

living room 8

family room 20

One Last Thought - I'm not expert at decorating but I do know that when I put my mind to it I can do anything - I can be that homemaker I still want to be; I can {try} to be that teacher I so desire to be; I can make Christmas magical in our home... I just need to remember that I can do it all - just not all at the same time.

Enjoy slice of Heaven this Christmas season and enjoy making your home all you want it to be. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Re~post {but still my heart}

...I came across this post from waaaaay back in 2015. I read it and loved it. And wanted to share it again. So from 2015...

(in China 2004) (I knew I loved you before I met you)  (I know that it might sound more than a little crazy but I knew I loved you before I met you.  I have been waiting all my life) 

It's not often that I let myself go there.  To drift back to thoughts of her actual birth day.  But just one day before I can't help myself.

On June 8th or 9th or 10th  (we really don't know the day... but somewhere around that time) I was teaching second grade.  I was finishing up my eighth year of teaching that June and I'm sure it was a hot day in my classroom.  Scott was just across town as an eighth grade Social Studies teacher.  Even my Dad, a teacher then was just a block away from me in his sixth grade classroom.  I could see his school when I was outside for recess.  It was a happy time in our lives.  A very, very happy time.

At that point God had already revealed to our hearts that our first child would be adopted.  Our paperwork was nearly done and Scott and I were a buzz thinking about what was to come in our lives.  We were 'paper pregnant' and we were glowing; both of us.

On the other side of the word there was a mama who was carrying our daughter.  She had never met us.  And she didn't know what was about to happen to her life.  She had no idea that the joy we were 'expecting' in our lives would come from her.

I have no details.  Not a one.  I don't know the time of day.  I don't really know the day.  I have an 'idea' of the city she could have lived in.  But I don't know for sure.

The concept of another woman on the other side of the world going into labor, hoping perhaps for a boy and then seeing the face of my daughter is too hard for me to understand.  Was she alone?  Was she with family?  Was she in the country near that city or was she right there where I walked in the summer of 2004?

Did she hold her?  Nurse her?  Want her?  Get to spend time with her?  Did she feel love for her?  Could it, might it, have possibly been this profound love I feel in my heart today twelve years later?  Or maybe not.  I'd like to think so. (here I am)

I do know that Anna wasn't (deep breath) abandoned for a possible fourteen days after her birth.  So perhaps.

And as much as time goes on her birth day is a difficult, raw one for me.  Sometimes I feel mad that I didn't get to hold her as an infant.  Didn't get to hold her on my lap on her first birthday. I feel mad that she was nameless and simply just the 'job' of someone who worked in the orphanage.  She was fed (mostly) but not when she was hungry.  She had other babies in the room.  But really she needed a mother and father.  I know I can't go back but on this birthday I wish I could have just picked her up and held her when she cried.  I know that no one did.  For months and months and months until I got there.  (and then I didn't put her down for months and months and months)

(not in this photo because I just cant... but in there for fourteen months.  Dirty, smelly, walls picked at for lack of anything to do)  

Adoption is such a miraculous gift from the ultimate gift giver, God.  He trusted us to love and raise His daughter.  (she really belongs to Him) And with that gift, with that trust and with the beauty of adoption comes the knowing that I will never know on this side of Heaven the deepest questions in my heart.  I will always wonder.

(in the orphanage... before we got to her) 

Wonder sometimes with anger wishing she didn't have to endure what she did.  But mostly wonder with deepest gratitude and profound love for my daughter.  For my God.  For adoption.

Everyday, but mostly today I am humbled and honored and amazed that what He started twelve years ago (much longer actually) on two different parts of His world would be mine.

To her birth mother on this day:

~ I don't know if this day means a thing to you.  Maybe it does.  Maybe it doesn't.
~ No matter what you felt twelve years ago, I honor you.  You gave her life.
~Thank you for her beauty.  Oh, she is so beautiful.  I wish you could see her.  Her eyes, her creamy skin, her thick hair with brown highlights, oh so beautiful.
~She's no longer a 'little' girl anymore so I can stand back and look at her knowing just what you  look like.
~It is my sincere and honest prayer from my heart that one day we will meet on the other side and I will know the whole story.  And you will too.  I will wrap my arms around you and thank you, thank you, thank you for my daughter. (I can only imagine)
Happy birth day Anna.  Be proud of your story.  It's a beautiful one.  It was written by the only One who could author such an amazing one.  Your story is profound and it is a miracle.  I'm sorry that mama couldn't be there twelve years ago.  Every wish in me wishes I could have.  One thing I do know above ALL ELSE (and listen closely) is that we (you, your mama, your daddy, and your abigail) were given a special touch of God's grace and God's favor.  Our family loves more deeply, more profoundly, just more.  You are loved more because of your story and because of the miracle you are.  Happy, happy birth day.  It really IS a happy day.  All my love forever, mama (on this side of the world)

(in China ... now she has a mama)
vertical photo with splash of color

(come with me.. it'll be alright)


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Forever Moments


I believe that Christmas is often made up of tiny moments - moments that sometimes only last a second and then are over. If we are careful those moments aren't gone. They are stored - forever in our hearts.

Perhaps that is why I love my camera so very much - it captures moments that only last a second - I look through my camera and somehow I know I need to snap my shutter because it is something I want to hold on to forever.

Here are some of my forever moments through the years.

Christmas in New York City ... just stopping for a snack

horse 4

Christmas Mornings


Ripping Open Presents


A Baby Doll


Waiting for Santa

looking up chimney

Christmas Eve Mass on her Daddy's Lap

at church 2

Add Dressed Up On Christmas Day

before church 6

Helping Her Get Dressed

1 collage

A Hug For Her Daddy

blog opening 19

Resting On Mommy


Little Golden Book Joy

43 collage

A Little Girl Growing Up

1 collage

Too Much Christmas

blog sized

The Year All She Wanted Santa To Do Was To Save Every Orphan... and he answered!


Little Feet, Silk Dresses, Opening Stockings


So much love


A Scream


Sprinkling Reindeer Food


When They First Walk Into the Living Room


Baby Doll Clothes


A Christmas Morning Cuddle




December 25th at 9pm


I could go one for days posting these moments. I have learned through the years that the big picture of a 'picture perfect' Christmas doesn't exist. I learned long ago it is in the itty bitty moments that the magic happens - when we remember to look.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Mid December Weekending

orchestra concerting
tea late with whipped cream making
christmas card envelope addressing
santa letter writing
77 boxes of christmas lights stringing
dating on the couch with the one I love 
new santa chapter book reading
classroom-ing (and an awesome husband who came to my school to help me fix a few things) 
wondering how am I this blessed to have my weekends so full to the brim with Christmas again... how very glad I am that it comes each year! 
and a favorite picture from the weekend: 


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Celebrate the Wonder

There are some traditions that we are still holding to - some that we all still love - seeing Santa is one of them.

"Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children" 

Not 'any ol' Santa of course, but the R E A L Santa. 

He visits in a pretty little Massachusetts town about an hour from our house, and he's well worth the hour drive.

Of course I pack blankets, and snacks and Christmas movies for the ride.

santa 1

santa 2

santa 3

santa 4

And honestly, some times when we are all in the car together it feels so so good. Because we are finally all sitting.

I've blogged about this tradition each and every year.

Here is 2017

and 2016

and 2015

and 2014

and 2013

and 2012

I know in my heart our years are numbered - not for going to a sweet place and shopping and going out for a special Christmas dinner. But sitting on Santa's lap. It's precious to me and I'm loving every single time she still wants to - and she does!

santa 5

Quite possibly my favorite from the evening.

santa 7

And there he is - in all his glory - Santa Claus!

santa 8

santa 9

santa 10

They had a lovely and long chat. He asked her at one point if she had a pet and Abigail told him that she had a bird that he brought her last year - "oh I remember" he said with a twinkle in his eye. It was magical.

santa 10

Abigail is growing up, of course. But she is still little - a sixth grader wearing a size 8 Santa Claus dress (just stay little - just stay little- just stay little)

santa 10

santa 12

santa 13

santa 14

After a while of that magic we walked out into the cold December night to dinner.

santa 15

We talked and laughed and I counted my blessings.

santa 16

I am so grateful to God for my little family. And for Christmas. And of course Santa Claus. I really love Santa Claus. 

"Backward, turn backward, O Time in your Flight; Make Me a Child Again Just for Tonight."