Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Every once in awhile it sneaks back into my consciousness.  Mostly the idea lies dormant in my mind.  I feel a prick of conscience when I hear about orphans and homeless folks and refugees.  But then things go back to normal.

It's this idea that I'm greedy.  Rich, and greedy.

I've never missed a meal, been without health insurance, or been denied education.  We have two cars, and a house for those cars (also known as a garage ).  We have a large house for people too and the ability to heat and cool it and even decorate.  And it's filled with a whole bunch of stuff.

Our income is in the top 1% in the world.

And we still struggle to live within our means.  We're still hoping for that day when things don't feel so tight.  Why?  Because we want even more money.  And let's be honest, we want more money to spend on ourselves a lot of the time.

Over and over, I've been feeling it.  From church.  In conversations with friends.  When I look at our checkbook.  That God-led nudge (call it conviction) that something in my life isn't right and needs to change.  Where is my true hope and security?  Am truly grateful for all that I have?  And am I actually willing to give of myself, my stuff (the good stuff, not just the cast-off stuff), and my ability to buy more stuff?  Not because God needs it, or because I'm trying to "be a better Christian," but because these things are heart issues.  You know, that place I've invited Jesus into.  And because stuff and prosperity and the desire to buy Caroline something cute that she doesn't need have a tendency to distract me from Him and what He's all about.

Enter 7.   It's a book called "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess."

Here's Amazon's description:
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.
The seven areas she focused on?  Clothes.  Shopping.  Waste.  Food.  Possessions.  Media.  Stress.

My bloggy friend Marla is hosting a read-along on this book.  Since A) it dovetails nicely with what I think God is trying to teach me and B) MAN do I need some accountability and C) Josh and I chose this book (and reading it together) as a small way to open up some space for God during Lent, I'm participating.  Oh, and we're starting a fast of our own here soon that's eerily similar to one of Jen's.

Per the day's read-along instructions, here is some of my (rambling!) commentary about a few key quotes:

“The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.” (pg 3)

Yup.  That's me. I have nothing to really say about this beyond the fact that it stings.

“7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (pg 4)

I think that's what fasting is all about.  It's not brownie points with God or earning favor.  It's just clearing away some of the rubble of life to experience a little more of God.  I know the clearing away part can be/will be painful and inconvenient.  But it's in those spaces that I have the opportunity to stop and invite God into my day that much more often.  

“My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” (pg 5) 

I SO want to teach Caroline that stuff isn't actually connected to true joy.  That it really is more blessed to give than to receive.  And yet how there's a season for receiving gracefully.  I want to teach her how to model her life on the life of Jesus - true love, sacrifice, service, grace.  And how will I best teach her these things?  Starting right now with me, and us.  Like, even before she has lasting memories.

So, here we go.  Rambling thoughts for the day?  Check.  A stirring in my heart?  Yes.  Next steps?  Not really sure.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Basement Project: Ceiling & Lighting

Um, I started this series in April of last year.  Since it's almost a year later, how 'bout I finish it? 

After our we cleaned up the joint, we had to decide how to move forward with updating the ceiling.  The stained ceiling tiles just weren't quite doing it for us.  Go figure.  And the brown metal grid?  Totally 80's.
Don't be jealous when you check out the lighting, the tiles, the paneling + drywall, and the ceiling.  I know you wish your basement looked like this.
As a part of that decision, we needed to figure out the overhead lighting in the room.  Florescent tubes behind plastic?  Not quite our style.  Also, it was just dim (read: scary) down there all the time. Time for us to ramp up the wattage.  We've found that simply adding additional lighting in a basement ratchets back the "creepy" factor a good deal.

For the ceiling, we first had to decide between these two options:
1. Drywall / Real Ceiling
2. Make the drop ceiling look more attractive.

In the end we chose option #2.  We had both an electrician and a plumber weigh in on whether or not we should go for the "real ceiling" look, and both said they wouldn't do it.  In the ceiling of many basements lie all kinds of pipes and ducts and junk, and cutting yourself off from those things can only make for a headache down the line.  Basically, you'll have to cut holes in your ceiling (and hope you can patch them up pretty well) if / WHEN something starts leaking or otherwise goes wrong.  Us?  We can pull out the tile, fix the problem, and pop the tile back in.  If it gets damaged along the way, we can just buy a new one.
Another issue with option 1?  More expensive.  And our DIY skills didn't stretch that far.  Plus, it's just a basement.  A play room. 

So, that left us with #2.  Make the drop ceiling look more attractive.  We toyed with the idea of making rectangle holes into square holes by adding some extra metal bars (and then buying square replacement tiles).   Perhaps square tiles are a bit more up-to-date?  But we added up the dough and it would have cost us at least $500 to do that.  The extra metal bars + more expensive square tiles = NOT WORTH IT.  To us, at least. 

However, we could inexpensively update the look of the metal grid by simply painting over the ugly dark brown.  We asked the paint shop folks, who sold us the correct kind of paint (we chose a light gray), and we covered up the 1985 look for about $15.

{Side note: when painting a ceiling, be sure to wear protective glasses.  I was doing some touch ups, and got a big drop of gray paint IN MY EYE.  In a panic I screamed for Josh to call poison control, sure I'd soon be getting fitted for a glass eye.  IT HURT SO BAD.  Gratefully the kind soul on the phone talked me down off the ledge and had me rinse out my eye in the sink.  For 20 minutes.  Folks, that's a long time to stand over a sink and allow water to rush onto your eyeball.  But gratefully all was okay.}

For the ceiling tiles, we chose with the most basic, most boring white ones from Lowe's.  Although they've got some pretty fancy options, we thought that it would be best to keep the visual focus off of the ceiling. 

For the lighting, we elected to go with recessed can lights.  Our electrician was able to get the correct equipment to attach them to the metal grid, and then he sawed holes into the our new tiles to pop the lights into them.  Not bad!

Unfortunately for our pocket book, this was an expensive step.   $100 per light times 13 of them.  My electric skills stop at "install a new light fixture."  For this job we were not only changing fixtures, but adding lights and changing locations.  So, we ponied up.  And the end effect is totally worth it.  LET THERE BE LIGHT. 0122_4415
Yes, there just MIGHT be a coat of paint on those walls. More on that later.

If you'd like to see the true "before" pics, check here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Advice needed: Baby hair.

We've got this toddler.
She's slowly but surely getting a baby mullet.

Sometimes it's nice and curly.
27 Curls

Sometimes it's nice and wavy.

Most of the time, however?  It's matted and snarly and she looks like no one loves her.

I've tried pigtails.  They totally melt my heart.
01 Backyard - Pigtails
However, her hair is so thin that the rubber bands move around/fall out pretty quickly.  And barrettes are instantly lost.

So, Internet, give me your best recommendations.  Product?  A wash/comb cycle?  A (sniff, sniff) haircut?  Just let it be?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Freezer Paper Stenciling

Like the rest of the world, it seems, I've been enjoying Pinterest.  And my latest Pinterest-induced crafting interest?
Freezer Paper3
Let me just tell you, this is SO EASY.  SO FUN.  SO ADDICTING.

I stumbled across this link, which first caught my interest because it was about how to DIY Disney t-shirts for your kids.  And I just happened to be in the midst of planning a trip to Disney.  Score.

In a nutshell, here's how it works.
Tools Needed:
Freezer paper - NOT wax paper (find it near aluminum foil at the grocery store)
Craft knife
Fabric paint - find it at any craft store.
T-shirt (or whatever you plan to stamp your image onto)... I've found nice options at thrift stores and Wal-Mart.

1. Find an image you want to use.

For me, that has meant scrolling through google images and selecting some nice, simple options.  Either that or finding a font I like and printing off a letter/word.  {Otherwise jump to #2 and just draw an image onto freezer paper.}

2. Trace the image onto freezer paper.

3. Using an inexpensive craft knife, cut out the image to create a custom stencil.

4. Iron the freezer paper image onto your t-shirt.

5. Using a cheap foam paint brush, dab fabric paint onto your stencil/t-shirt.  You'll want to let your initial coat dry and then add another layer.  I've found that 3-4 coats works well.

6. Let it dry for at least 4-5 hours, and then peel off the freezer paper.

VOILA.  Custom shirt.  And you don't even need to sew.

I made this one - Pluto was my favorite Disney character as a child.
2012 Random

My mom made this one:
I've also made several birthday/baby gifts.  Like I said, I'm hooked.

I've stumbled across a few more examples of this technique... fun, aren't they?