the one about the state of the motherhood address

Each year, the president gives the State of the Union Address. It's a whole televised thing -- so don't plan on watching Dancing with the Stars that night (learned that the hard way).

The purpose of this speech is for the president to update Congress on the happenings of the country and tell them what is important and what needs to happen next and what should have happened then and there's a whole bunch of standing and clapping for long periods of time.

Well tonight, I give you my State of the Motherhood Address. It's not televised (and thank the Lord because you don't want to see what I'm wearing). For now, you are my Congress. Feel free to stand and clap if you feel so inclined.

I have been a mama for going on 8 years now. I have 4 beautiful children. My youngest is almost 4 months old. I should know what I am doing by now.

But I don't.

Not even close.

Each day, I wake up in a fog of wonder. It's like a fun little mystery game. "What will I mess up today? What paper will I forget to sign? Whose life will I ruin with giving them 'the slimy' turkey at lunch? Will my child eat a vegetable today?" The suspense literally kills me.

My baby is close to 4 months old, but I still wear my maternity pants. Even worse, I still wear my maternity leggings. Who needs a stretchy panel of fabric at the waistband of an already stretchy waistband? Me. I do. No need to feel sorry for me. I chose this life.

And when I am not wearing my maternity leggings at 16 weeks post-partum, sometimes I am not wearing pants at all. In fact, last week, the doorbell rang, and Charlotte yelled through the door at the stranger, "MY MOM CAN'T ANSWER THE DOOR RIGHT NOW BECAUSE SHE'S NOT WEARING ANY PANTS." What's better is that I did attempt to throw on the first pair of pants I could find where I was standing, which happened to be the laundry room, but they were my husband's...who is skinny...and his pants didn't go up past my thighs. See also: maternity leggings. So the door went unanswered, and I still wonder if it was the Publisher's Clearinghouse or one of those MasterCard commercials where Justin Timberlake makes house calls. We shall never know.

Meals are hit or miss. Typically, the relationship is the longer I work on preparing a meal, the more the children will hate it. So, if I spend 87 minutes cooking something from a cookbook and it actually has real food in it, their world will crumble. Life will be over. There will be slouching in the seat. There will be wiping any sauce off with a napkin. There will be crying. Oh, and the kids will cry, too.

But if I spend 30 seconds slapping two pieces of bread together with peanut butter and jelly in the middle, or even better...if I let them eat cereal for dinner...I am The Dinner Goddess. Worship at my altar.

My new favorite thing is to do online shopping while I am awake at 3 o'clock in the morning with Leo. When the packages arrive in two days, I have no idea what they are because I have no recollection of what I purchased. Santa is real, Ya'll. I can't wait to see what comes in the mail on Tuesday.

My van has become some sort of apocalyptic survivor mobile. I am convinced that should the world fall apart and we need to seek refuge, we could survive for at least a week by living in our van. I am sure that at a moment's notice, I could assemble several Happy Meals from the leftover remnants between and under the seats, complete with a cheap plastic toy for everyone. There are plenty of half empty water bottles to go around, and that rogue sippy cup under the seat is surely housing some sort of concoction that will kill all the zombies.

I'm clumsy now. Fatigue will do that to you. I wake up with bruises from running into objects on my trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I have been hobbling around for three weeks on a bum foot, and I have no idea how I hurt it. The other day, I bent down to pick up something from the floor and busted my own lip on the arm of our rocking chair. I looked around, pissed, wanting to know whose fault it was...and I only had myself to blame.

The days are long. The nights are longer.

Motherhood. It's not for the weak.

Each day, I make 1,000 mistakes. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. I don't fit the description of a perfect mother, but the older I get, the more convinced I am that she doesn't exist.

Things are messy right now. And loud. Often smelly. Often it's me who is smelly. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things, so I try to make time for the important things. Read the books. Do the crafts. Sing the songs. Eat the ice cream. Buy the little plastic toys that they watch grown adults open on YouTube. I used to say, "There's always tomorrow," but you know what? They will be older tomorrow. And just a little bit bigger tomorrow. And a little bit less my babies tomorrow.

If I were to give this State of the Motherhood Address a year from now, it would probably look a little different. There may be a completely new set of challenges to deal with and obstacles to clear and phases to grow out of. But I am sure at least one thing will remain the same... life to my children gives me life, even if it sucks the life out of me.

That, and I may still be wearing my maternity leggings.

The One About the Tree HousE: Lights! (Camera! Action!)

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Doesn't it sound exciting to make decisions regarding every detail of your home? I will admit, I bought into this idea when we decided to build (vs remodel). The thought of picking out all the light fixtures, all the flooring, all the cabinets, all the wall colors, all the everything, sounded super fun and like a dream come true! And don't get me wrong, there have been (fleeting) moments of fun throughout this "picking process," but it also has been one of the most overwhelming tasks that both Luke and I have ever taken on.

This week, we spent nearly 3 hours with our architect walking through the house and identifying where light switches, outlets and light fixtures should go. This is important because the electricians are coming this week, and they will need to know the plan. It is amazing how you can think and rethink where a switch should be placed, and what lights should be tied to that switch. Do we want it on the right side of the wall or the left? Do we want to control this light or that light? Where will we need outlets? Should we have recessed lighting here or flush-mount lighting there? When you purchase a home that is already built, you kind of just get used to where switches are or you change your furniture layout to correspond with the outlets. With this opportunity, we can say exactly where we want things to go, which is awesome, but who are we going to blame when we hate the layout once we move in? Ourselves. We blame ourselves.

So, the pressure to get it right, and on the first try, is pretty heavy. We don't want to screw it up. We don't want to have to rip something out and start over, even though that happens frequently in projects like this. My motto has become, "Everything is figure-outable. Everything is fixable." I tell myself this when I feel overwhelmed by all the choices to be made. Or, as I texted Luke today, "No one is dying. It's going to be OK." It is imperative that you keep things in perspective. While it might feel like the end of the world if we buy the wrong toilet, it truly is not the end of the world if we buy the wrong toilet.

All that to say that yes, we are still moving right along. The HVAC and plumbing people have been working (and the basement looks like a tornado swept through it with all of the broken up concrete from placing pipes and vents and all kinds of other things). They should be finished soon. The electricians are coming this week. After that, we will be ready for insulation and dry wall.

We made some lighting decisions this week at our new "favorite" store, Menards. I know it's not a glamorous, prestigious design hub, but we have found a few gems in that store and have taken advantage of their 11% rebates when possible. By purchasing the bulk of our building materials (from the framing to the siding to the decking to the, yes, toilets) during rebate weeks, we have been able to earn 11% of our purchase price back in the form of store credit. We have then used that store credit to purchase more materials. We are hopeful that we have saved some money this way.

A couple of my favorite purchases from this week include:

These wall lights.

These master bathroom vanity lights (2 sets).

This is the light I would like for my office. Luke didn't want to buy it yet (because I think he thinks it is ugly), but it will be mine. It will. We aren't calling it the "Mom Room" for nothing.

We are also repurposing a couple of industrial work lights from one of my dad's work warehouses. These are heavy-duty, porcelain coated lights that we will have rewired to be used in this bar/pass-thru area from the kitchen to the great room. We are going to use two of them in this space. We love the idea of taking something old and giving it new life...not to mention, this was another money-saving move for us. These lights were free!

Other exciting updates include our front door being installed (color yet to be determined), the concrete porch and steps for the front entry being poured (LOVE the way it turned out), and the back deck is being built. We are going with a natural-colored composite decking material that will hopefully hold up well over time without the need to replace buckled or warped deck boards. This deck will serve a nice place to enjoy morning coffee, evening wine, or just a great back entry to the great room. There will be a metal railing, and the steps will lead down to the existing concrete patio that we were able to keep from the original house.

Front door and porch steps

Back deck in progress

Luke and his dad have been working hard on the design for the front porch roof. We have gone back and forth on the size, style, and shape of this space, but I think this design is definitely a winner. It's so awesome having Luke's dad lend his architect hands to us for this project. We will definitely keep his designs along with many other artifacts from this project so we can remember all the phases and progress.

We are officially just about 6 months into this whole process. Considering 6 months ago, there was an existing 75 year old house on the property that has since been torn down and this has taken its place, I think we have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. In another 6 months, I pray we are all moved in and enjoying this house that we have poured our hearts and souls into from the very beginning.

the one about how I take it back

"Hurry up!"

"Please hurry!"

"Let's hurry!"

How many times have these phrases been whispered, blurted, yelled, or sometimes screamed in some guttural war cry in the direction of my children? Hundreds...if not thousands of times. Whether we had an errand to run, an appointment to attend, an event to go to... I have hurried my little ones probably everyday of their lives in one way or another.

There have even been plenty of times where I have expressed similar sentiments to my husband, my friends, my parents, or even myself in the privacy of my own mind.

"I just wish she had a little more independence."

"It will be easier when they are older and don't need me as much."

"I can't wait until they can do ________."

"When will this pregnancy be over?"

All of these thoughts point back to the same root meaning -- hurry up.

It's so easy to play these thoughts on repeat when I am sleep-deprived. My brain is consistently foggy. My emotions are on high alert. It is incredibly tempting to look forward to next year, or the next ten years, and think life will be infinitely easier when my children are in different phases of life.

But it never fails. As soon as I get my wish. As soon as my children start growing up and needing me less, I am full of regret.

I take it back.

I didn't mean it.

Let's try it all again.

Don't get me wrong. I cannot possibly put on a pedestal the nights where I was up every hour on the hour with a fussy baby. I can't forget the time I tried to potty train Noelle using the three-day method and quit after day one. I won't glamorize the incessant time outs or the handful of times we have walked out of a restaurant with our food in to-go bags because our child(ren) threw an epic fit. These are not parenting moments that I wish to relive, but rushing through them wasn't the answer, either.

While each new phase brings along excitement and new adventures, it also leaves behind a tightening in my chest...a longing in my heart... for the days that we will never have again.

I take it back.

Don't hurry.


The minutes, hours, and days are going to pass in the same speed, whether we wish them away or not. And before we know it, our babies...the ones we held and rocked and stared at for hours on end in their first months of life...will be walking through the doors of their elementary schools, and we will be so lucky to even get a look-back or a wave.

At least that's what my oldest baby is doing today.

Today, she starts 2nd grade. But wasn't she just in Kindergarten? How did this happen so quickly? And how do I get things to slow down?

Many times throughout this past summer, when my patience had worn thin, my energy level was on empty, and my creative juices were dry...and my children had watched their fill of the Disney Channel and even the weirdest Youtube videos of adults opening Easter eggs full of cheap toys couldn't entertain them...I thought to myself, "I can't wait until they are back in school. Things will calm down and return to normal."

But damn. I take it back.

I miss her already.

And next week, Charlotte will be headed out the door for all-day preschool, three days a week, and I will miss her, too. All the times I have been frustrated with her...the times I have wished she wouldn't want one more tickle on her back when I just want to go to bed...the times I have groaned in disbelief when she asks for a snack 20 minutes after eating breakfast...I will take those back, too.

They are only small for such a small amount of time. Too soon, you are called to send them out into the world, which is probably the most painful thing ever because it is literally a living, breathing, piece of your body, heart, and soul walking around in that great big space without you. You love them so much it hurts -- a widely-used cliche, but the only fitting way to describe it.

Too soon, you are worrying about friends (and enemies). You are worrying about parties (and not getting invited to parties). You are worrying about love interests (and broken hearts). You are worrying about getting into college (and then them actually going to college).

The future, though colorful and bright, can take its time. At least for me, for right now, I am in no hurry. I can't be in a hurry. It's all going too quickly on its own.

We don't have time to go back and get your blanket.

I take it back.

We don't have time to see one last animal at the zoo.

I take it back.

We don't have time to read one more story.

I take it back.

I can't wait until...

I take it back.

the one about when I was 17

Tomorrow, I will be 33 years old.

When I was younger, like most teenagers, I would project forward and try to anticipate what my life would be like at each upcoming stage. When I am 25, I will be _____________. When I am 30, I will have _____________. And while "33" wasn't really a milestone age that I looked forward to very much, I know that I had some prediction of who I would be, what I would be doing, and how my life would be unfolding.

And honestly? I don't know how I am stacking up.

I have a four year bachelor's degree in elementary education that I "used" for six years full-time and three years in the part-time realm. I now walk past an entire shelving unit in my garage stacked to the top with teaching materials on my way to the deep freezer to retrieve yet another box of frozen waffles for my hungry children demanding "breffast."

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I am greeted by the kisses of four beautiful children each morning and I place my kisses on the foreheads of those same four beautiful children each night. And twice, over the past nine years, I lost two babies to miscarriage. Babies I can't think about because it hurts too much to go there.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I am a weary traveler on this road of motherhood. Wherever I go, I carry a bag of diapers, Minnie Mouse undies, fruit snacks, pouches of puréed vegetables, and 13 Shopkins toys. I am still wearing maternity jeans because why should I wear anything with a button or zipper ever again? I'm sure there's spit up on my shoulder and at least one booger in my hair. I haven't slept through the night in 7 years. I pass other mamas on the same journey and raise my Starbucks cup in solidarity.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I spend my days folding endless piles of laundry. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Wiping chins and wiping tables. Refereeing arguments over junk toys. Transporting tiny humans in my mini van. I answer 36,815 questions a day. I am an expert at preparing meals that my children refuse to eat. I find solace in long afternoon drives with four sleeping beauties and a McDonald's Diet Coke. I vacation at Target.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

And while my life may not be exactly what I had scripted many years ago, I find myself extremely grateful for the mess, the chaos, and the opportunities for growth. The adventurous times, the predictable times, and all the times in between. The memories, the mistakes, and just the simple opportunity to get up and try again each day.

Here's to "33" being far better than I could have predicted when I was 17.

the one about the tree house: SUCKS and NON-SUCKS

Wow. It's been a month since I have written anything! I guess this whole mama-of-four-while-building-a-house is kicking my butt. Time really means nothing to me anymore. It is amazing how a day can feel like a year, and a week can seem like a second. So anyway, if you have been waiting on the edge of your seat for an update on my life (sarcasm), here it is!

The Tree HousE is coming right along. Luke and I are still married and mostly like each other despite this stressful process, and I call that a win. Of course, per the usual, we have had a couple setbacks over the last few weeks, so I think I will divide this post up into two categories, SUCKED and NON-SUCKED.

First, what SUCKED:

1. Another one bites the dust. I wrote in my last house update that our plumber dropped our project just a few weeks before we needed him. Shortly thereafter, our HVAC guy did the same thing. It is very difficult not to take these types of things personally, especially when it happens twice in a row. And maybe there was a personal problem that we weren't aware of -- not sure. However, you can imagine that curve ball really threw us off and caused a lot of anger, frustration, and worry. It was back to the drawing board, again. Luke spent the next couple of weeks calling more plumbing and HVAC companies, most all of them recommended by friends, in a desperate attempt to get someone who would want to take on our job. Thankfully, after more than a few dead-ends and hiccups, we believe that we have the right people who can help us. Fingers crossed. Eyes crossed. Legs crossed. All of it...crossed. We cannot take another round of "starting over"....but we will do what we have to do.

2. Rain, rain, go away. More rain has slowed down the process of getting the exterior finished up. Weather issues are always so frustrating because there is nothing anyone can do to make them better. You just have to wait it out. Luke has stopped checking weather forecasts in order to avoid depression.

But...what NON-SUCKED:

1. We have siding! It is so exciting to see the actual color of the house! We picked a two-tone look. The majority of the house will be white. The rest will be a dark gray. We are using fiber cement siding for a nice, clean look. We are loving the way it is looking so far.

One of the last looks of the house before siding.

White siding going up on the garage.

The dark gray siding is going up.

2. All interior framing is done. Basically all of the interior framing is done. You can walk through and see all of the rooms and closets. This has been so helpful in seeing how the house will look and measuring how everything will fit. As soon as we can get subcontractors in, we will be that much closer to dry wall.

3. We picked vanities, faucets, and other fixtures for our bathrooms and kitchen. It feels so good to make decisions, and I have found that making decisions inspires more decision-making. It is easy to reach "paralysis by over-analysis," and that is definitely something both Luke and I struggle with. We like to research and analyze everything before making the leap -- and sometimes you just have to go for it. You can only talk about things so many times. So, we chose vanities, sinks, and faucets for our bathrooms and kitchen, and it felt good! And we (mostly) agreed!

4. We bought new kitchen cabinets! This was not really in the original plan. The original plan was that we would use the existing kitchen cabinets and refinish/paint them. This was a great plan until our kitchen layout changed slightly, and we realized that we needed to have three cabinets (two corner units and a sink unit) custom made. Luke tracked down a cabinet maker, but even that person couldn't make new cabinets to match the existing style. It was looking like it was going to cost too much money and be too much effort to get cabinets made to make the existing cabinets -- on top of sanding them down and painting them. We decided to go ahead and order new cabinets for the kitchen and then reuse the old kitchen cabinets in other areas of our home (laundry room, office, garage, etc). We took advantage of a sale at The RTA Store over July 4th weekend, and we were able to save 22% off the total price of our cabinets. We went with this cool gray shaker cabinet. Originally, I had my heart set on the marine blue kitchen cabinets I have seen all over Pinterest, but I realized that for our budget, I needed to make a compromise. These cabinets have a really interesting look and will be perfect for us, I believe. The idea behind this site is that you buy everything "ready to assemble" (RTA) and "do it yourself," but for a little more money, you can get the cabinets pre-assembled, which is what we decided to do. Luke's plate is already quite full. Adding cabinet assembly to his list of tasks might send him over the edge.

Natural gray shaker cabinet from The RTA Store

So, it appears that we had more "non-sucks" than "sucks," and for that, I am grateful. This has been an up and down process since the very beginning, but we get more excited by the day as we continue to see progress.

The one about the Tree HousE: Windows, a roof, and more walls...oh my!

Alright, things are getting exciting now.

If you drive by the site, it actually looks like a house. While we still have a long way to go before we can live there, we are inching closer and closer.

We have enjoyed seeing the rooms in the house take shape. We can actually envision where furniture will be placed, which is exciting. I can't decide which room in the house I am going to love the most, but I think it will be a tie between the great room and our master bedroom. I am in love with the tall ceilings in the great room, but I think the large windows in our bedroom will reflect nature's beauty in all four seasons.

For as much that seems to be going right, we also have had our fair share of setbacks and pitfalls as of late. Remember how months ago, Luke lined up all the subcontractors through a process of lots of emails, phone calls, and site visits? We thought we had all of our ducks in a row, but last week, the plumber decided to pull out of our project. I am not going to share this plumber's name publicly, but I will happily share it privately if you are in search of a plumber. Because this person waited until 2 weeks before we actually needed his services to back out, we are now in a pinch and starting the bidding process over again. A second company that we already had a bid from (but decided not to go with initially) decided to increase their price by $4,000 just because we needed them on short notice. It is so irritating that some people think nothing of causing a giant inconvenience to others, even after a commitment had been made. And now, because of no fault of our own, we might be forced into paying a lot more money for the same services, or at the very least we are experiencing a lot of stress. I am 100% certain we will get it all figured out because we have no other choice. Luke is meeting with more plumbers this week, and I am praying the right person takes the job (and for the price we had budgeted).

There's always something with a project like this. For example, the tape that goes around the windows to seal them started peeling off because it isn't compatible with the brand of house wrap we are using. A couple of windows arrived in the wrong sizes. We had to order more roof trusses because we were short a few.

It's all part of the process. Nothing goes as planned, and that's alright. I tell myself daily, "Everything is fixable. Everything is figure-outable. Nothing is an emergency." This helps to keep me grounded (and to keep Luke grounded, which can be very challenging as he is shouldering most of the stress).

For now, we are thankful for the dedicated crew of builders who have put up with us so far. We are thankful that they work when it's hot, when it's raining, and when they probably would rather be doing something else. We are proud of how far we have come since we began in February, and we are so excited to think about where we might be by August.

Here are some photos from the last few weeks!

 Luke is standing by the door of the girls' room. In front of him is the cutout for the lower level stairs.

 Standing in the kitchen, looking toward the laundry room and half bath.

The first time the girls got to visit their room. The site is pretty dangerous for kids, so we haven't let them do this since. They were really excited! 
Working on the great room. The opening where the plank of wood is resting is where the front door will be.
 Luke is inspecting the windows. This is Leo's room.
 Another view of the great room.
 Getting closer! The existing garage will be connected to the great room by a mud room and a fireplace sitting room (you can see the existing chimney on the far left of this photo).

project 365-2017; photo catch-up

When I was admitted to the hospital at 32 weeks with preterm labor in April, my photo project had to take a back seat. This was a big bummer because I had made it to 100 days without stopping. I had every intention of getting back on the wagon when I returned home, but once I broke the habit, it became daunting to start back up again.

I have been taking photos again here and there. Luke bought me a new lens for Mother's Day that I have been excited to use. Since Leo's arrival in late May, I have wanted to capture every second with him.

Here is a little photo catch-up of the last month or so. This project, to me, is also about not giving up when I was thrown a curve ball, so here's hoping I can keep going.

 Easter Sunday (and a rare photo with me in it)
Shiloh's haul from our small little egg hunt in the backyard. 

Luke enjoying some snuggles in the hammock with Shiloh. 
The girls put their new umbrellas to good use. We had a lot of rain in April.
  Charlotte taking care of baby Moana in the rain. 
Noelle had a great year and is really excited for 2nd grade! 
Charlotte had such a great preschool experience and already misses her teacher so much.
There is something about this sweet face...

Baby Leo joined our family in May.

I can't resist baby toes!
No more pictures, Mama.

Right now, Leo looks like the perfect mix of Charlotte and Noelle.
He is a wonderful, easy-going baby. How did we ever live without him before?