Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One Word 365: not just a January thing.

One word. 365 days.

Did you choose one this year? I did.

The one word part...that's the easy part. The harder part? The 365 days.

It's a commitment and a challenge to frame your thoughts and actions within the context of your word for one whole year (and hopefully beyond).

This isn't just a January thing. It's a whole year thing.
I'm forgetful. And busy. And a mom, which means I have approximately 2 zillion less brain cells than I did before I was a mom. I need to write things down... lists, notes, reminders, words... otherwise I forget.

One way I'm remembering this year is with a one little word print from the Mercy INK shop. Lauren @ Mercy Ink has created these pretty prints in a convenient digital format with multiple colors included to suit your fancy.

I'm going to frame it and put in on my pretty new desk.
Three of my dearest gal pals also choose words this year {believe, breathe, grow}. I love their words. After all, I love them.

Together we're looking out for each other, rooting for each other, celebrating each other. We're believing for each other, even when we can scarcely believe it ourselves.

So I take back what I said before... I didn't choose just one word this year. I guess I choose four.
Here's to 2013...

to remembering

to community

to words (that are so much more than just words)

and to not going it alone.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

frame it. {Project 52}

This picture arrived in my inbox last Sunday just as Autumn posted this week's Project 52 theme: frame it.

This is my mom. We're practically twins.

OK, on the outside, I received much more of my dad's Chinese genes than her Scandinavian ones, but on the inside {and I've been told in our mannerisms} we are very much the same. Different, but the same.

She is one of the smartest, funniest, and bravest human beings on the planet. I love that she's my mom. In a world where mother/daughter relationships are often broken at worst or complicated at best, I know her presence is one of my life's greatest gifts.

When I was a little girl, my mom bought me this a plaque that said, "A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be your friend." I remember she made me promise that I would.

Every year on my birthday, without fail, she tells me the story of my birthday {33 years ago, things we're getting pretty interesting...}.

As a kid, she was present. The details fade away as I grow older, but when I think of my childhood I have an overwhelming sense that she was there. Whenever I doubt my own mothering skills, I remember that fact.

Through my own years as a mother, she has saved me in countless ways and watching her invest in my kids does my heart good.

She delights in me, supports me, celebrates me, listens to me, laughs with me.

She gets me.

My brother snapped this photo while we were on vacation earlier this month while all 12 of us waited, Braverman-style, to watch my oldest nephew meet some new dolphin friends.

In the age of digital photography, we often take 10 pictures just to get the one. Sometimes we miss the moment because we're so busy trying to capture it. I love this photo because it was a one-shot wonder. A quick, spontaneous snap when we weren't expecting it. No time to fix our hair {the make-up boat set sail the day vacation started} or adjust our posture. No time to politely decline.

Just us. My mama and me.

I think I'll frame it.
Pop over to Charis Images and see what makes Autumn's heart say frame it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

marriage is no joke.

Yesterday, I thought I had dinner in the bag. At 6pm, I went to the fridge to grab the ingredients for an old Jen family favorite: fried rice. The rice cooker was already humming along, and I started pulling out the ham, onion, soy sauce, peas, and eggs {try not to be jealous, it's delicious}. Traditional side dish of choice? Blueberry muffins. Betty Crocker. From a box. Just add water, oil, and eggs. Don't ask, it just goes, OK?

Um, yeah, the eggs. We didn't have any. So I texted Matt at 6:06 pm just as he was leaving work inquiring on the whereabouts of the eggs. I was hoping for one of three responses:

1) oh yes, I just used up the last egg yesterday {I could stop looking}
2) oh yes, they're right behind the spinach {hallelujah!}
3) I'll pick some up on the way home {what a nice husband!}

Instead, in what will live on in infamy in our house as The Egg Incident, this happened:

From Matt's perspective, his wife had lost her marbles. He was finishing up a long work day, 35 minutes away from home, nowhere near our refrigerator, and facing down a horrendous commute home in the snow, ice, and cold.

From my perspective, I wanted him to read my mind and save the egg-y day.

Good news: we had a good, hard laugh about it after the kids were in bed.

Bad news: marriage is HARD. And sometimes ridiculous. And often infuriating.

I love a good love story. I appreciate young, newlywed love {he never has to go home at night! look at our new blender!} but those days seem like a distant memory. And the first ten years of marriage are filled with all sorts of excitement like new jobs, new houses, new babies...but that ship has sailed too.

We're in the second decade of marriage, and I realized the other day that life is pretty much going to look the way it looks right now for a good long while. No major changes on the horizon, just the day-in and day-out tasks of working hard at being the wife, mom, daughter, friend I was created to be.

It's easy to fall into a rut in your marriage and in the spirit of truth and authenticity, Matt and I have found ourselves staring at each other lately, quite sure the other person is out of their mind, wondering how did we get here?

Luckily I'm married to a man who loves me {and I love him}, and we are firmly committed to each other. Love is one thing, however, like is another.

Half in jest, half in all seriousness, we said to each other on Sunday, let's try to actually like each other this week. Let's laugh together and act playful. Let's talk about things besides the kids and logistics. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt and believe the best case scenario, instead of leaping instantly to the worst.

The She Reads Truth community started the Soul Detox reading plan this week. Yesterday's passage centered on the 'full armor of God' (a familiar one to most), but the translation in The Message floored me.
"God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 
Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."
This is for keeps. A fight to the finish. Be prepared. Pray hard. Keep yours eyes open.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that marriage {like all things that matter in life} is no joke. It's hard work, but it's worth fighting for.

{Now, this poster: that's a joke. They say the couple that laughs together, stays together...or maybe they don't actually say that...I dunno.}

Keep on keeping on, friends. I'll root for you and yours, and you can cheer for us. I'll see you at the finish line.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

living it up {down} in Basement-ville.

Twelve weeks + many decisions, subcontractors, noisy days (oh, and some dollars) later, the basement is finished!

True story: I am completely smitten with the space. The first few days after it was all done, I found myself wandering downstairs just to sit on the new carpet and take in the sights.

Some people have asked to see pictures of the basement, so I thought I'd share them here. I don't know how those real estate photographers do it because it is really hard to capture the essence of a space on camera. Ideally, you should come on over for coffee, and I'll give you the grand tour myself!

Approximately one half of the space is a long room pictured here (above and below) which we will use as a TV area and play area. The door seen in the picture below opens up to a large walk-in closet perfect for storing toys, games, and the components for the TV.

I really, really love the sconces (which were a bit of a last minute decision as the electrician explained to me that there was no place to fit lighting into the bulkhead on account of the duct work).

The second main area, to the right of the stairs, is an open square-ish room that we will use as dedicated office space. I am grateful for a great work-at-home gig, but I'll be glad to get out of a corner of the dining room and be able to spread out a bit.

The blueprint really maximized the space down here and allowed for three really great closets. The one above will be near the desk area and will hold office, crafting, and scrapbooking supplies.

One last view looking from the office area back over to the family room area. I was worried about the basement feeling dark -- there are four windows but one is in the bathroom under the deck and one looks out under the back addition -- but I think all the white down here along with the recessed lighting keeps things bright.

Paint colors: Benjamin Moore White Dove & Galveston Gray
Carpet: Signature Gravel Path, Century Flooring. Doors: Masonite. Sconces: The Lighting Corner.

The third area is the bathroom. Because it was already plumbed for a shower and because Dylan will eventually reach the point in life when he doesn't really want to share the hall bathroom with his sisters, we went ahead and added a shower to the space.

There were a lot of decisions to be made in here and it probably caused me the most stress, but in the end, I love the way everything turned out. Our main floors tend to be a bit more traditional and down here I wanted to have a little fun.

I really love the floors down here. It might sound crazy but I don't really like ceramic tile. We ended up going with a vinyl tile. The texture is great and it doesn't feel cold under our feet.

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Amsterdam. Vanity & Mirror: allen + roth PalenciaWilliams Kitchen & Bath. Granite: Santa Cecelia, Williams Kitchen & Bath. Shower Curtain, Towels & Accessories: Target

We worked with a great builder {local peeps, we highly recommend Chet Glass Builders}, and while we can't take credit for the awesome workmanship, it was still a major undertaking for our family, and I'm proud of the way it all turned out.

Next up: bringing down some furniture so I don't have to keep sitting on the floor ;)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

round. {Project 52}

This past Friday morning before school, Ella burst into tears. She declared that it wasn't fair that Mady got to spend the day with Mommy and Daddy while she had to go to school.

Because Matt usually works on Saturday's, he often has Friday's off. When the kids were all young, it was one big family day. Now that the big kids are in school, Mady gets to tag along on Mommy and Daddy's makeshift date day.

We spent this particular day enjoying Real Food breakfast spread (always a treat) and running errands. We found ourselves at the mall and soon we were trading in a dollar token for the best {toddler} ride in town.

And a great photo op for Project 52's week three theme: round.

Daddy was her riding partner while I got to sit back and snap photos, each revolution of the animal parade producing a colorful snapshot in time.

A spunky girl (I'm three!). A daddy smitten by said girl. A circular zoo. An ordinary Friday. Quick glimpses of two of my loves in motion.

Afterwards, Matt joked, it's only a dollar...why don't you do that with her every time you come?

At age 33, the mere thought of riding on a carousel makes me want to barf.

At age three, it's pure joy.

And your Daddy? He's what makes your world go round.
Pop over to Charis Images to see what's making my friend Autumn's world go round this week.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

new. {Project 52}

We spent last week in a place called Paradise Island. The name speaks for itself.

It's a place we've been visiting every year since Dylan was a baby (and once before he was even thought of, the getaway when my parents bought the timeshares -- on a cool, overcast day -- that we now enjoy annually).

So while the setting is more or less the same year after year, the characters keep growing, evolving, changing.

Each year, we do our best to take a family picture. (Well, Matt and I do our best; the other three are generally an over-tired, under-napped, sun burnt, ornery, don't-care mess.)

A long time ago I stopped shooting for perfect and now we go for good enough.

My take on the Project 52 theme this week? A new family picture, to kick off the start of a just-begun year, representing a fresh set of memories from a familiar, well-loved place.
2013 'Hamas Memories
Ella's lost tooth (she's now missing her two front teeth, that proverbial six year old rite of passage) and the Tooth Fairy scandal that followed.
Hours on a white sand beach spent sifting and searching for sea glass.
Mady's muddled, mumbled, adorable take on the English language. (One thing that's crystal clear? Her emphasis on the word now at the end of nearly every statement she makes.)
Beach football -- and the taller, leaner little man now holding his own with his Daddy. Most of the traces of my baby boy are gone.
An emergency orthodontics extraction (by Mommy, for Dylan) complete with a call to the orthodontist, at his home, on a Sunday afternoon.
Celebrity sightings to add to Matt's roster: chatting with Troy Polamalu, bumping into Michael Phelps
Traveling without a stroller, for the first time in eight years.
One of my favorite post-vacation activities -- in between fighting through the mounds of dirty laundry... which is not my favorite part -- is sorting through the photographs, smiling at the memories, and filing the fresh, new memories away alongside the old in my mama's heart.

A trip, vacation-style, down memory lane.
{Alas, no family picture last year, but I'll count one of all three kiddos as good enough.}
Click here to take a peak at how my friend Autumn sees "new" through her lens.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

a mudroom for the masses

We moved into this house a little over five years ago, and it's a great family home - two stories, four bedrooms, in a quiet neighborhood we love. It was built in 1996 so not an old house by any means, but definitely built in the era before people discovered the art of the mudroom locker.

We've lived without and made do and it's definitely not been a terrible hardship in a world where many go without clean water and other basic necessities.

{A quick glance at the before.}

But now with three kids (two school aged) and bigger and bulkier gear, it was time to find a place to put the shoes. and the snowpants. and the backpacks, lunch boxes, and sports gear. and the coats.

Don't forget the boots.

We tried really hard to contain the scope of the basement project to the, errr, basement, but adding lockers to our home was one project we really wanted to tack on.

I'm so glad we did.

We took an existing closet from the laundry room (which is near the door to the garage) and had our builder take out the closet frame and existing wire shelving. He then built into the 60 inch opening a boot box with a hinged lid, lockers with hooks, open cubbies for baskets, and some cabinet space up top.

I had an idea of what we wanted and he had some pictures of what he's done in the past, and we were able to come up with something that I think will work for us for a good, long time.

Thankful for a lovely, warm home filled with the people I love most in this world.

And thankful that we finally have a place to rest our shoes at night.

{And mothers all over the land breathed Amen}

Builder: Chet Glass Builders // Paint: Benajamin Moore Dove White // Rug: World Market 
Baskets: Sturbridge Yankee Workshop {no longer available, but similar to these

Sunday, January 6, 2013

self-portrait. {Project 52}

My friend Autumn is starting up a new project this year called Project 52. It's a weekly photo challenge for 2013 with 52 themes—one per week—to inspire a photo or series of photos that express that theme.

week one = self-portrait. I have to admit the idea of self-portrait is intimidating. I am not a pro or even a novice at shooting with my camera (my method: turn to Auto and hope for the best). In addition, I was not born in the era of let's-take-our-photo-in-every-bathroom-mirror-we-see-and-post-them-to-various-social-media-sites so I'm no good at getting the right angles.

Furthermore, I'm closing down almost a decade of one of the hardest {physical} phases of a women's life - the child-bearing years (9 years ago next month we found out we were expecting Dylan!)

And to add insult to injury, these past two weeks have been a couple of the most harrowing of my life.

(OK, I'm being a tad bit dramatic but not much.)

I call it the Perfect Storm for Mommy's Gonna Lose Her Ever Loving Mind... The Holiday Plague of 2012 (it got me twice!), post-holiday-stress-disorder (6 parties in 9 days), a construction zone for a home (the basement! almost done!), three kids cooped up in the homestead all. day. long. (#cabinfever), and suitcases begging to be packed.

I know. I shouldn't complain about that last one.

Long story short, life feels chaotic and my face tells the story. And I'm too tired to put on make-up. Or real clothes. Or "look for the light". Or find a kid to lend me a hand (the original plan...but as with all things these past couple of weeks, the plan got blown to smithereens).

So instead, you get my legs (one of my favorite parts of physical me) and my feet (currently the most put together thing in my life -- the girls and I made time for pedicures last night.)

Taken with my phone. Because I'm fancy like that.

And I'm resting. On my bed. Because my one word for 2013 is renew.

It seems like a logical first step.

Having fun yet? Head on over to Charis Images to see (what I'm guessing is) Autumn's more sophisticated take on self-portrait.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Word 365 {renew}

I picked a verb last year too.

{I can't help it -- I tend to be a do-er}

2012 started out as a year of action: I was setting goals, stretching myself, conquering new territory, saying yes, taking strides, moving forward.

Truth is, I'm a tad bit weary.

This year's verb is a little different: I'm not going to be the one doing it.

It's something I'm going to allow Him to do in me.

{*deep breath*}

Begin again, breathe new life into, bring up to date, continue, exhilarate, fix up, freshen, go over, mend, overhaul, reaffirm, reawaken, recondition, recreate, reestablish, refit, refresh, regenerate, rehabilitate, reinvigorate, rejuvenate, renovate, reopen, repair, replenish, restate, restock, restore, resume, resuscitate, retread, revitalize, revive, spruce, stimulate, transform.

My heart, my health, my half-full true self, took a beating last year.

It is time to begin again.

It is time to allow Him to wipe the slate clean. It is time for a fresh start.

I want to rethink, reestablish, reawaken what it means to be a wife, a mother, a friend, an inhabitant of this earth, an inhabitant of this body.

A daughter of the King.

I want to toss out the old ways, the things I thought I knew, the expectations.

I want to turn towards The One who is Alive, True, and Filled with Hope.

I want to hold on to His promise that He will make all things new.

{Even though hard is an understatement when it comes to a do-er letting go of the control, the action, the doing}

My hope, my prayer: transform. restore. revive. renew. 

Not by my strength, but by His.

My word. His word.
{button credit Melanie @ Only a Breath}

Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV) 
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:7-12 (MSG)
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!

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