A Painted House

Archive for January 2012

Some of you may have seen me reference a book I was reading on Facebook last week, titled 7: An Experimenal Mutiny Against Excess.  I have never reviewed a book on my blog so this is a first.  I do read (though not as much as I’d like, post-children) but rarely (if ever?)  have I read a book that evokes the kind of response that says, “Everyone I know must hear about this.” 

This is one of those books.

I read it in three days and that’s only because I dilly-dallied through the last chapter because I didn’t want it to end. 

The above picture is of a brand new copy of 7, waiting to be gifted to someone.  The picture below is of my copy after just one reading.

Every one of these little pink tabs marks a spot where something struck me so profoundly that I wanted to mark it for easy reference later. This doesn’t include the dozens of additional places I underlined, starred, or circled sentences that *pinged* my heart.   A few sections will be printed out and posted in my home as reminders, for when the initial feelings and thoughts start to fade with time. 

7 was written by one Jen Hatmaker, the author of eight previous books.  This is the only one I’ve read but you can bet it won’t be the last.  The premise of the book is that Jen takes seven months and during each month she drastically reduces her life in an area where she feels she (and we as an American church) lives in excess.  The areas include food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, shopping, and stress.  People, it’s fascinating.  We get to follow along with the ups and downs of this experiment which is presented in a funny, earnest, and most importantly, non-judgemental way.  I was surprised and grateful that while the content of this book may be convicting as you digest and apply it, it’s not one of those books where you walk away thinking you’re the scum of the earth because you own a blowdryer. 

I walked away from this book and lived several days in a state best described as holy shell shock. In the best possible way, it wrecked me.  7 resonated more deeply with me than any book I’ve ever read. And that is probably because a few details notwithstanding, my life looks eerily similar to Jen’s as she describes it in the Introduction, from the devoutly Christian upbringing right down to the (still being saved for) double African adoption. And for some time now I’ve been wrestling with – but mostly mentally shelving – the notion that I’m far too blessed.  Too privileged.  And that giving our tithe plus a little extra to the church just isn’t cutting it. I know Jesus wants more but I just can’t (or won’t, out of fear it might hurt too much) come to any concrete conclusions what to do about that. 

I read.  I cried. I took really long showers while I asked God what I was supposed to do with this change in my heart.  We’ve already instituted some changes around here, things I’m super duper excited about because they are things that challenge me to be more like Jesus, to really DO the things Jesus told us to do while we’re here, not just nod my head in agreement when we talk about them.

And God’s sense of timing never ceases to amaze me.  I had no more finished the chapter on possessions, one which says, “John the Baptist said that if you have two coats, one belongs to the poor” and left my emotions raw and convictions overwhelming my thoughts, when a friend announced a coat drive being conducted for the homeless in our county.  People, I’m no longer too proud to tell you I spent the better part of an hour mentally wrestling with whether I really, REALLY needed to give away my favorite (and only one year old) red pea coat.  “I mean really, does a poor person need a slightly impractical but oh-so-cute red pea coat?  I’ve already given five coats to the pile, including my most versitile black one.  I could keep this one and would still have given away over half of what I have.”  Turns out Jesus really wants that pea coat (and He just wouldn’t ding-dang leave me alone about it) so in the bag it went.  I’m still smarting.  And the Casper household is down about 50% in outerwear.

I tell you that not to make myself feel better, look better, or seem more spiritual….but just because it’s a tiny fraction of the response I feel God calling from me.  I will never be quite the same.  Or at least that’s what I’m praying; that my new thought processes and understanding won’t fade after a season like a post-summer camp slump.  I don’t know when I’ve last felt quite so far from the stagnation that’s plagued my spiritual life, or quite so close to Jesus.

“I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers.  May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without.  Great yet, I’m tired of calling the suffering ‘brothers and sisters’ when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise.  That’s just hypocrisy veiled in altruism.  I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them.  Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”  pg 51.

 Friends, get yourself a copy of 7.   I can’t wait to discuss it with you and then let’s DO something we’ve been called to do all along.

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Dear Edison,

You’re fourteen months old!  I’m so glad I waited until the end of the day you turned fourteen months to start this letter because just before bedtime tonight you decided it was time to walk.  You’ve been toying with the idea for a while, flying around furniture and launching yourself between stationary objects with your arms spread wide like one of those flying squirrels.  But tonight you finally summoned the courage to let go, trust your own feet, and toddle your way across the dining room and into the outstretched arms of your Daddy.   And then you did it over and over and over again, your excitement growing each time, until you were flinging yourself back and forth between your Dad and I with uncontained glee and a reckless disregard for your own safety.  And your Dad and I were just as excited as you were, cheering you on like you were competing in the Olympics.

This month’s letter is one of those that won’t just write itself, Edison, because it’s the middle of winter and we’ve been cooped up inside for several months now.  Which means we’ve been staring at each other, the new paint color in the kitchen,  and little else for weeks.  Also, we’re taking turns at whose nose gets to alternate between Fire Hose and Cotton Wad status.  It’s the least fun game, ever.  So I might find myself stretching for material here and waxing poetic about the adorable way you empty the sippy cup bin all over the kitchen floor every stinkin’ time I turn around.  One minute the kitchen is clean and the next it looks like someone threw a hissy fit in the cup aisle at Babies R Us.  Or maybe I’ll talk about how you must have been born with a homing device leading you to the remote control, no matter how sneaky we are about hiding it.   The back of the couch, behind the throw pillows, on top of the kitchen table….these are all no match for you my little button-pusher.  I swear we could bury that thing in the garden and plant tomatoes over it and you’d find a way to resurrect it and change the channel on the TV during the pivotal scene of James’ favorite TV show.  This does not annoy him at all.

All that to say, we’ve all been challenged to find ways to keep busy during these winter months, a task at which you’re exceptionally good.  There is always another cupboard to empty, another drawer of batteries and silverware and sundry baby-maiming objects to discover, another roll of toilet paper to unwind.  And I will admit that not once but twice in a week’s time did I enter the kitchen to discover that you’d reached further than I thought you could, pulled down James’ half-finished carton of yogurt off of the kitchen table, and painted yourself, the chairs, and the floor in pink goo.   And I don’t even want to talk about how many times I found you with your hands in toilet water before I remembered to always, always, always keep the bathroom door shut.  So smart, I am.  You may catch on incredibly quickly to new ideas but it seems I do not.  The upside, if there is one, is that you now regularly smell like strawberries.

We’re so looking forward to introducing you and your wobbly little walk to the outside world in a few weeks, Edison.  You’re going to love this thing called Spring and all the places outside the walls of this house that your legs can take you.  Hopefully by the time I write your next letter, we’ll be experiencing some of that together.  In the mean time we’ll pass the time by emptying the DVD cupboard, dumping the pieces out of every puzzle we own, and spreading Hotwheels cars far and wide across the living areas of our home.  It seems these things never grow old, a fate I regularly wish for you.

Love, Mama

Dear Edison,

You’re well into your thirteenth month.  I’m usually a bit more prompt in writing your letter but your thirteen month birthday fell three days before Christmas and in all the hoopla surrounding the holidays I’m just now sitting down to get caught up.  This was technically your second Christmas but the first for which you were awake most of the day.  Your favorite part of Christmas this year was far and away, the Christmas tree.   We’d no sooner put an ornament on the lower third of the tree and you’d reach up and yank it down.  To tell the truth your Dad and I found this endless cycle, James decorating only the bottom third (as it’s all he could reach) and you just as determinedly and systematically un-decorating it, to be hilarious but it seemed prudent after a while to put a stop to the madness before James’ head exploded.  To keep you away from the tree, and thus prevent you from climbing it like a cat, your Dad constructed a just-tall-enough baby gate for the oversized doorway between the dining room and the reading room.  I thought for sure you’d throw a royal fit at being barred from a whole room of the house but you took it in stride.  In fact it became a favorite pastime to carry small objects over to the gate and then throw them over and out of reach.   Had I widened the scope of all those pretty pictures I took of the tree the frame would have included three puzzle pieces, two Hotwheels cars, a half dozen foam alphabet letters, and a bottle brush strewn over the floor.  If ever there were a more truthful picture of life with a mobile baby I don’t know what it would be.

The major news since your birthday is that you took your first independent steps.  As luck (and sentiment) would have it, you chose to take them in the same room in which your brother took his first steps.  We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Casper just after your birthday and you tottered a few inches across the living room of the 100-year-old Casper family homestead.  Edison, I know there was no way that was a conscious choice on your part, to mark that particular milestone in that particular location, but just indulge me and let this sentimental Mama believe that you might turn out to be my history-conscious kid.  You know, the one who displays old family photos, stores hand-written recipes in a box somewhere, and keeps track of the Casper family history.  But, should this little dream of raising a sentimental kid come true, promise me you won’t take it to the level of a hoarder.  I mean it’s one thing to keep my Grandma’s recipe for meatballs because a) it’s written in her handwriting and b) they’re stinkin’ delicious; it’s another to keep a tube of Chapstick that your Dad used to leave in the glove compartment of his car.  Just so you know the difference.

Edison, I would be remiss if I let this letter go by without mentioning a little habit you’ve developed.  And frankly, it’s weird.  When most kids get tired they rub their eyes or pull on their ears; when you’re tired you’ve taken to pinching the skin on your neck between your first finger and thumb.  See?  Weird.  But for some reason it’s also really adorable.  You’ve always been cuddly and your slim little frame is perfect for snuggling up right under my chin, head on my shoulder.  But it’s just that much cuter when you cuddle in to my side and then without fail, reach your hand up and gently pinch your own neck.   Edison, please don’t ever try to play professional poker because with a tell like that, you’ll lose your shirt.

I think it’s safe to say, a little over a month into being one year old, that I love this age.  One year olds are sweet and curious and happy and wildly entertaining.  And I especially love this age on you, Edison.  Your gregarious nature, eager smile, and that fast crawl you do when you just can’t get to me fast enough make me wish that we could somehow skip the future, more contrary age of Three and instead do an extra year of One.  You are much loved, my little neck pincher.

Love, Mama

How to drive yourself crazy with a project that was supposed to be fairly simple, if a bit time consuming:

1.  Decide you want a ginormous gallery wall of family pictures.

2.  Stalk your local Goodwill  on 50% off days, raid your Mom’s basement, and eventually collect 58 frames.

3.  Disassemble 58 frames for painting.

4.  Have a stroke of genious and number each frame and its corresponding glass/innards for easy reassembly later.

5.  Lay out all 58 frames on the garage floor.

6.  Spray paint 50 frames and then run out of paint.

7.  Make a special trip to the hardware store.  Buy an extra can just in case.

8.  Paint a second coat to cover all those places missed the first time around.  Watch in irritation as the paint on 55 out of 58 frames bubbles up in one place or another.

9.  Don’t panic.  Let them dry overnight and hope it will be better in the morning.

10.  Hand-sand 55 frames with steel wool to remove cracked paint.

11.  Attempt to touch up the sanded spots on a half dozen frames with your final can of paint.

12.  Feel like screaming when the paint not only bubbles up again, this time it’s worse.  Wonder if perhaps you’ve managed to accumulate 58 frames with some form of Frame Cancer.  Or Paint Repellant Syndrome.



13.  Give up.  Chuck the entire pile in the garage and call it a night.

Moral of the story:  Always, always, always prime before you paint.  Just, ACK.





James’ room was the first room to get a makeover after our move (see: Room Reveal: James’ Room) and is one of my favorites in our house.   Not too long ago our little boy transitioned from a toddler bed to a big boy bed and so his room underwent its second revision in eighteen months.

Oh, how I loved James’ airplane themed bedding.  One of the biggest arguements I hear against buying baby bedding sets is that they’re so expensive and you don’t use them for very long.  And it’s true, they are crazy expensive.  As in, some people pay more for them than they do in deductible to actually give birth to the baby.  So when we were picking out a set for our firstborn’s nursery I deliberately chose one which was more Little Boy and less Baby.  I was determined even then that with a $180 pricetag, I’d use that sucker for more than the first year of my kid’s life.

Here are some snapshots of James’ teeny tiny nursery in our first home.  Sigh, sniff, nostalgia.



Gosh, I loved that little room even if it had no storage and barely any floor space.  When we moved in to our current house we kept the same motif, subtracted the crib and changing table, and added a cutey little toddler bed.  Again with the sighing and sniffing.

As the crib bedding still fit his toddler bed, nothing really changed except adding the moulding treatment on the feature wall.  (Which had nothing to do with his age and everything to do with my love for moulding treatments.)


So several months ago my big kid outgrew his toddler bed and it was time to change things up again.  The first step was to prepare his new Big Kid Bed.  We’d had this fantastically orange wood headboard in storage for years:

It was Travis’ when he was a boy and came with the entire set of bedrom furniture we’ve been refinishing one piece at a time over the years. (The dresser shown above was part of that set too, refinished to a dark cherry color.)  Rather than strip/sand/stain/seal this particular piece I decided to paint it white.  A little room rearranging placed it up against the feature wall and I love, LOVE how the white pops off of the color.



The bedding was not a cheap find…..but when you pre-determined your colors with an extremely labor-intensive feature wall and your theme from a pre-purchased bedding set, you have limited options.  So when you find a set that a) matches your existing color scheme and b) fits the airplane theme but ratchets the age level up a notch, you just buy it.  It was still less than half of the cost of the nursery bedding. I really love the vintage airplanes because they will carry the theme all the way through elementary age.  Plus oh.my.word. the comforter and sham are the softest, squishiest, comfiest fabric ever.


So back to that nursery bedding set.  It came with sheets, comforter, bumper, crib skirt, and window valance.  I was determined to use as much of it as I could and part of that was repurposing the crib sheets into pillow cases.  We had two sheets that matched the set so I cut off the elastic edging, sewed them into pillow cases, and now James has two that coordinate with his new bedding and are super soft from years of washing.


The crib bedskirt was repurposed into the new bed’s bedskirt.  Because crib skirts are four-sided and a twin bed only has three sides showing, I was able to cut the skirt apart and piece each of the four sides together into one long strip.  I then tucked it under the box spring and it just barely made it all the way around his new bed.

Next up, every big kid room needs a night stand.  This beauty just happened to be free on the side of the road:

I know, I can’t imagine why, right?  It was a garage sale leftover and it seems no one wanted it despite it’s insultingly low price of $3.00.  I’m never too proud to stop and pick up something free if it has potential, a trait which annoys the junk out of intrigues my husband .   I thought those little cubbies underneath were darling!

The table had a big hole in the top where I’m guessing a lamp pole used to be, but that was pretty easily fixed by plugging the hole, spackling over it, and sanding it down.  Once the whole thing was spray painted a semi-gloss white you can’t even see where it used to be!


And there you have the main players in your big kid room: new bedding, big bed, and night table:

The dresser and rocker stayed, though we removed the footstool.  The curtains remain from the original bedding set, along with the blackout panels I made years ago when James started waking with the sun.  Not cool, kid.

The quilt from his nursery bedding stayed as a wall hanging, as again, it’s more boyish than babyish.

The frames are new and started out looking like this:

They were $1.00 each at a garage sale.  I discarded the old artwork and painted the frames a white semi-gloss.  For the artwork I cut squares of fabric and several of the appliques from the crib bumper and framed them.

The rest of the crib bumper was cut up and sewn into pillows.  I just whacked them off at the right length, stuffed a little more padding down inside, and sewed the ends closed.  I stitched leftover cording from the bumper into the ends of my new pillows so they look finished.  I made two, one that sits on his rocker and the other tucked into the back of his nightstand.

The little end table next to the rocker is a square chest and was a garage sale find years ago.  I originally had plans to paint it and cover the rattan panels with fabric but for now it does just fine.  James loves that he has a treasure chest in his room!

The bookshelf display got a little makeover as well, adding a mirror salvaged from my Mom’s house, a framed drawing of James sketched by my Dad, and two wooden puzzles made and given to him by my grandfather.

The final change to James’ room is the one he found far and away, most exciting.  Anyone who knows my boy knows he has an obsession with ceiling fans.  And “obsession” is probably stating it far too lightly.   So much so that he has a “favorite fan”……which just happens to be the fan hung in the master bedroom at our old house, and under which my boy spent hours napping and playing in his first two years of life.  That same fan was on display at Menards for years and every time we went there James would ask to go visit his “favorite fan”.  So when Menards discontinued it and took it off display last year we had one crestfallen little boy.  Enter Daddy to the rescue….Travis ordered this ugly favorite silver ceiling fan online and then earned Daddy of the Year award by installing it in James’ bedroom.   Oh my, if you could have seen the elation on that boy’s face.   Daddy is his hero.

MY favorite part of James’ updated room is the saying above his door.  It was gifted to him by my Mom and truer words have never been spoken.


There you have it…..from nursery to big kid room.  May we not redo this room again until he’s old enough to pick out something hideous more mature for himself!

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