Tuesday, October 25, 2016

comfort in the pictures...

It's been a week.

There's comfort in the flowers on my table.  
There's comfort to be found in the food I eat
and the words and hugs of loved ones.

There's also comfort in the pictures.
Jameson and his friend enjoying smores at the ruf campfire

Because in the moments when it feels like the world has flipped upside down, 
and nothing is as it should be,
the pictures tell me
there is joy.
There is happiness.
And there are good memories being made.

Road trip 
Through times I won't necessarily want to remember, there are still those I will.  

Like his first swim lesson.

Like her incessant attempts to do a handstand in the living room.
Like their first football game.
And just like life, I'm learning the published pictures don't have to be perfect.

The crinkled-up-nose and fake smile doesn't need to go in the delete pile.

There is laughter, beauty and truth here.

We are all in process.

Life isn't a perfectly posed picture.

sassy girl
It's often a tangled, messy web of joys and sorrows.

It's getting knocked down, and learning how to get back up again.

It's a journey to find peace and joy in the midst of chaos and sorrow.

wrapping up his baby
And in the middle of it all are some of the quietest, most tender moments.

I struggle to embrace what God has appointed for me.
And I simultaneously give Him praise for all that He has given.

There is comfort in the pictures.

Friday, October 7, 2016

the river house #10: tour of the new addition...

River House before the addition
Phase 2 of the River House project is going strong!  

(Phase 1 was completing the basement over the summer, and now our female intern is comfortably living there... woohoo!)

Phase 2 is the addition on the side of the house.  There was no stairway connecting the main house to the basement, and the previous owners had poured a concrete foundation to build an elevator shaft (!!!).  So in order to be smart with our design (and our wallet), we decided to use that space meant for an elevator to be our stairwell addition. 

From the back of the house (remember that windows aren't cut out yet-- that'll come in Phase 3), you can see the addition begins on the ground floor with a door that will lead into a "mud room" area. 

Here's the mudroom area from inside.  There's a door on the right (you can't see in this pic) that leads into the basement area where Audrey is currently living.  We love that by keeping the basement area separate, we have the option to use it in the future as an Air BnB or private guest space.  And the rest of the time, it can be the kids' playroom.

The staircase will connect the main floor of the house with the basement, and we'll have a storage rom underneath the staircase.

the addition before windows and doors
When you walk up the stairs, the addition opens up into what will be the open Great Room, dining, and kitchen.  

view of addition from the kitchen
With the large window and french door installed, all the natural light flooding in makes me happy.  Nevermind that little temporary railing in the picture- that's to keep the inspector happy until we get real railings one day.

So where does that french door off the Great Room lead, you ask?  We designed it to open up onto a small deck.  (which will also one day have railings too, ha ha...)  Here's what we're thinking... see the large deck up top off of the master bedroom?  That's where you've got the beautiful river view.  But as it stood before this addition, there was no way for guests to get to the top deck without traipsing through my BEDROOM!  

So envision this.... you come out that french door onto the small deck, there's our grill right off the kitchen.  And ALSO on that deck is a SPIRAL STAIRCASE leading you up to the top deck for lounging!!!  Yes!  I just gave away our big secret for the addition!!  It's going to be incredible.  

You may notice that the addition has another floor above the main floor.  We decided to keep going up  another floor with it because on the top floor, there will be a new walk-in master closet with a washer & dryer in the closet!  (we installed a little window so I can look at the river while I do laundry in there...)  Y'all.  It's so exciting.  I can't wait to see what's only been in my head thus far become a reality.

Speaking of exciting, THIS is where it's at for a little boy.  The construction crew suddenly came to patch the road where the gas company installed our new gas line.  "Mom, I could watch this all day," Jameson said keeping his eyes fixed on that digger.

Also exciting was when Mr. Larry, our great contractor, stopped for a few minutes to throw big rocks with him.  

Back to the basement for a few more updates...

 I finished putting the stain and poly on the cabinetry Larry custom built for our kitchenette and I love how it looks against the old exposed brick.
Last time I told you the crazy story of building the deck off the basement, and here's how it turned out.

And instead of framing in a closet in the bedroom, I scored this beauty off our local craigslist and it's the perfect rustic "loft"-style closet with lots of open storage.  

So there you have it!  This week we're hoping to complete the framing of the addition so we can move on to the exterior siding, roof, gutters, etc. to get the exterior all ready and protected for the winter.  Then we can head indoors for Phase 3... the longest and costliest phase of them all... working on the main house!  But at the end of that phase, our family gets a beautiful new space to live, so that gives us the motivation to keep going.  

To be continued!...

Thursday, October 6, 2016


It is with deep sadness that I tell you this blog has lost one of its most faithful readers.   
And this world has lost one of its most treasured men.
I have lost my sweet Grandpa.
Though he lived so healthy, independent and strong for 94 years, 
I am left broken-hearted to think he's now gone.

Though we lived thousands of miles apart, Grandpa felt connected through this blog.
I knew he was reading.  
My eyes fill with tears knowing he's no longer on the other end of these words.

Grandpa was faithful.
Faithful to his wife of almost 50 years.
Faithful to his church for over 70 years.
And faithful to send birthday and Christmas cards, even for 24 years after Grandma went to be with Jesus.

So much of my life can be attributed to him.  
He chose to live with very little materially, and he gave so much of his resources away.
As I look at my children, tears come to my eyes
because with all of the costs of adoption, 
I don't know that we could've done it without him.

When we adopted a black son, I didn't know what he would think.
Transracial adoption can be harder to swallow for older generations.
But he cheered us on the entire way.  
He mailed many typed letters
saying how proud he was of me for adopting Jameson, 
and how he looked up to me for the way 
I want to incorporate Jameson's culture into our family.

I had a fan in Grandpa.  
His love and support, though long distance, 
has been an undercurrent throughout my life.

A kinder man you've never met.  
His mind could recall specific dates and specific amounts from decades past.
He cared about every little detail.
And now He is with Jesus.

I loved Grandpa.  
And I will miss him.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

everything's a lightsaber...

It's been a great beginning to the school year.

I can't believe this little baby I was just snuggling with yesterday is now in 3rd grade!  She has an amazing teacher this year, and she's completely engaged in learning everything she can.  She loves to read, and I just can't believe how smart she is.

Here lies her first homework assignment of the year... left on the dining room table.  I knew she'd be upset she forgot it, and oh man, I wanted to take it up to school and bail her out.  But how would she learn responsibility if she was never required to exercise it?  So she faced the consequence of a behavior conference with her teacher in the hall that day, and since then, she's had no problems with returning homework. :)

meeting Ariel at a street festival
Caroline is continuing dance this year, though we switched dance companies so we could stay close to home.  (Our previous dance studio relocated across town.)  Last year was jazz.  This year she's taking ballet.

I'm also continuing to teach Caroline piano, and she is really gifted musically.

These two together are such a cute pair.  Their LOVE for one other runs so deep.

Of course, they've got the typical older sister and younger brother relationship... she provokes, he erupts.  He aggravates, she erupts.  

 But they are a fun duo and they come up with some pretty imaginative play...

Buzz Lightyear!
Jameson's 3 this year, and he is also super smart!  He is home with me, except for one day a week, he goes to Miss Maria's house for the day while I work and run errands.  Miss Maria is doing a preschool curriculum with him, and he is learning SO much!  He and I also attend a preschool playgroup at the community center in my neighborhood.

Jameson would LOVE this car...
Everything in Jameson's world is STAR WARS!!!!  He and Caroline are geeking out on it BIG TIME.  They know all the little details, all the story lines, etc.  We are slowly showing them the movies, spacing them out and letting the anticipation build.  But they check out every Star Wars book from the library and study them intently.  EVERYTHING is a lightsaber to Jameson-- a chopstick, a straw, a stick, a sword.  (and he's got some actual lightsabers, too.)  There's no question who Jameson wants to be for Halloween, so stay posted...

I've been pretending I'm some kind of rock star and pouring into my band, Cabell St Collective.  (more coming on that soon...)

Marc is really enjoying having RUF downtown this year!  (more on that soon, too...)

So thankful for my little family and the beginning of a new school year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the river house #9: basement complete!...

It was a summer of hard, hard work, y'all.  The kind of project you commit to and everything else in life has to fall by the wayside in order to finish.  But we were determined to finish the River House basement just in time our new RUF intern, Audrey, to move in. (and as you'll see, it was literally a race to the finish!)

So let's just remember the "before."

Oh man, it was rough.  Just a cement slab and a wide open area filled with cobwebs.

But after the blood, sweat, and many many tears.... cue drum roll.....


It's a beautiful brand new 1 bedroom apartment for our intern! 

(Those of you who watch the tv show "Fixer Upper" can see the Chip and Joanna inspiration in this space!)
Sliding historic door
We really wanted to preserve some of the home's history, so we left exposed brick walls and used an old door we found inside the house as a sliding door into the bedroom.

I LOVE how the lathe wall turned out!  These were the strips of wood that were under the original 1901 plaster walls upstairs.  When we demo'd the walls, I saved some of the wood for this project.

Lathe wall
To make the lathe wall, we hung sheets of regular plywood over the studs in lieu of sheetrock, then beginning at the top, I hammered in each strip of lathe wood, making sure they were level and varied in color.  

The french doors were already there, but we added a window on each side.  Look at that view of the James River!

In the bedroom, you can see exposed brick walls and even the original stone foundation.

The bathroom was also a labor of love.  We wanted to do shiplap on the walls (Joanna would be proud...) but since there wasn't any shiplap in our city, we had to make our own.

We also turned an old cart/island into our sink vanity and I love how it turned out!

The kitchen proved to be the trickiest room to design, mostly because when our family moves in, I wouldn't need a full 2nd kitchen in the basement, so I didn't want to use up a bunch of space.  Nevertheless, in the meantime, we needed a kitchenette that could still function for our tenant (or for guests or tenants in the future).

So it made sense to try to fit everything we absolutely needed along the back brick wall, and then use a stainless prep table as a countertop.  And it worked!

I designed the cabinetry and used green painter's tape to check the layout on the wall.  I decided on a combination of open shelves and a closed standard cabinet.

Our contractor built the cabinetry.  It's SO cool to see things you've thought of actually come into existence!

This is where the kitchen stood the day of our final city inspection.  Our intern, Audrey, was waiting by the phone in Greensboro, NC, for us to pass this inspection so she could move to Lynchburg!  We had high hopes that we'd pass, and she'd move in the same day.

But unfortunately, we failed inspection.  

And not because of anything inside!  We failed because we didn't have legitimate steps leading up to the back of the house.  Grrrrr.  It was a super disappointing and stressful moment.

But our amazing contractor, Mr. Larry, got right to work that same day building a small deck off the back of the house.

He worked late that night, and came in early the next morning for us.  (even our neighbor came over to help out!)  We called in another inspection that next day, and we PASSED!  That piece of paper declared the basement now as habitable... woohoo!

Audrey moved in that afternoon and she LOVES her new space.
I was able to finish staining the cabinetry, and now we're DONE with the basement!

On to the next phase of renovation... the upstairs!

But first, a much needed break for the semester.