We Bought a School!

Yep, you read that right, we bought a school! On December 10, 2012, we closed on our very first home. 1st time home buyers at signing!
We are SUPER excited about it. It's an old brick schoolhouse built in the early 1900's that's been converted to a house! (Some may say we've taken the homeschooling thing a little too far)! Here's an old picture we received from the sellers at closing. This is a picture of when it was still a schoolhouse. We don't have an updated view of the front yet!
Currently, the entire first floor of the house is finished and complete, 2,300 sq. feet. It has a living room, dining room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. There's a staircase going up to the 2nd story which is unfinished right now, but it's closed off by a door at the top so when go into the house you wouldn't know it's "unfinished."

The upstairs is an additional 2,300 sq. feet and refinishing it will be our next major project! We will turn it into 4-5 bedrooms and an extra living area space, and the downstairs three bedrooms will be converted into a schoolroom, library/office, and playroom or guest room. But that won't be for a few years! For now we fit just fine into the 3 bedrooms downstairs.

The basement is a concrete floor basement and another 2,300 sq. feet as well and will remain "unfinished." It houses a super cool man cave tool shop with so much space for tools, projects, etc. There is also lots of storage, so now I need a Tupperware budget and lots of shelving to get organized! (Which actually really excites me! Haha). Here's the door to Jon's workroom!
So we're taking the plunge back into the country, out of the city, to have more space for our growing family.  The property sits on 2 acres and we are even more excited about the outdoor space for our kids to run and play! I've always wanted our kids to grow up outside! To spend most of their waking hours exploring and running around. There are several large farms surrounding our property and a small patch of woods. Here's an ariel photo of our property.
We have already started some renovations as there are a few things we wanted to be done before moving in. We have started the kitchen remodel (which will take us quite awhile b/c we need to do it little by little), and all the hardwood floors are set to be refinished this weekend. I cannot wait to see the refinished floors! Then we'll have a huge painting party and hopefully get all the walls painted before we move in. Here's a sneak peak of what's happening inside.

Jon prepping the floors to be refinished. Eeeek!!!! Love it. We've always wanted a house with all hardwood floors. 
Here's the before kitchen picture. 
Here's a picture of the dining room and the door to the kitchen. It's the before shot, as we have taken out that dividing wall to make one big kitchen/dining room area. 
And now here's the in-progress picture of the kitchen now. We took the wall down and that half wall will become an island with our stove and floor cabinets. The carpet has been taken out to refinish the hardwood floor underneath, and we've taken down the plaster to expose the original brick. Isn't it awesome! We still have to clean and seal the brick and paint the cabinets, but I am beyond excited for our rustic, farmhouse kitchen. I cannot wait to get a big huge farm table for that dining room! 
And I just love these original schoolhouse front steps. This is after you walk into the front door. 
Our schoolhouse will be a work in-progress and take quite some time to get it all decorated how we want it to be. We want to take our time being very intentional with what we add and decorate with as we want to keep as much of the history of the building as we can. We are currently on the hunt for a big playset for the yard at a great deal, so if you know of anyone wanting to sell theirs if their kids have outgrown theirs, please let us know! :) We'd also love some more eyes out for old schoolhouse items such as a couple old school desks, and anything else that might keep the character of the house! 

We were so thankful to have met the sellers at the closing. It was such a sweet time as we got to see how much their family has loved this property. We learned a little bit about the family, house, and property. We are only the 3rd owners ever since the schoolhouse was built back in the early 1900's. The owners before us were Ken and Alice. Ken has passed away, but Alice is still living. We hope to meet her someday soon. Her son was in charge of the property and was the seller we got to meet, along with his wife. He had lived in the house since he was 4 years old!

Here's a picture of Ken and Alice in their younger days. :) 
And here they are later in life on the backporch of what was their home for many, many years. How cute are they! 
We are so thankful for the Lord's provision in allowing us to buy this house. It was a long 10 months of looking for just the right place to raise our family. We know this is exactly where God wants us: to grow, to learn, to heal, to live, to build an unshakeable marriage and family life, to live our messy "one piece life" together. A life that does not see family and faith as separate from the rest of the world. A life where we do family, faith, and everything else as a complete whole, together. We are excited to nurture our growing family, not time-torn and fragmented. We thank the Lord for providing the perfect place for us, by His grace alone, to do so.

"The best part of going away is coming home. I don't care if that does sound rather mixed; it is true just the same" (Jenny Wren, The Burgess Bird Book For Children).


A Wedding and Dressed Up Cuties

The weekend after Christmas we had the joy of celebrating with Jon's sister Lindsay as she got married to the new Uncle Justin! It was a great time spent with family and of course I loved seeing my babies all dressed up together! Mekonen and cousin Owen walked Grandma down the aisle, and Evie and cousin Joy were the flower girls. They were all too cute for words! :)

The lovely couple- Justin and Lindsay Wilson!
 Rehearsal- the only way we could get her to hold her flower girl basket was to put her baby in it. Haha. Of course! 
 All ready for the rehearsal dinner. 
Oh these two are so handsome! 
Pretty little ladies...
Me, Lindsay, and Meg (Jon's sisters)
Getting ready to walk down the aisle.
 Beautiful bride and her Dad!

So beautiful...
Someone is super happy about getting a new Uncle (or super happy about the Mike and Ike's Mommy kept feeding her to keep her quiet).

Grandma Magz and Boppy with their girls.
Classic Lindsay face. Love her. 
Jon and the biddies. 
A little girl, dancing with her Daddy.
A nice end to a really insane year.
At the end of this year, this is what I am most thankful for...


Happy 4th Birthday Mekonen

On December 28th, my sweet, handsome boy turned 4 years old and I found myself asking again, where on earth has the time gone! It seems like yesterday when I walked into the doors of the Wanna House in Ethiopia and fiercely hugged my son for the first time. Now he's a big, strong, healthy 4 year old who's love for life is contagious!

I get choked up simply writing about this amazing kid I am privileged to call my son. I have trouble even finding all the words to describe what he's done to my heart and simply how amazing he is, just as he is. Not because of what he's done, how he acts, or what he can do, but simply because he IS Mekonen.

Here are a few of the things that make Mekonen, Mekonen, and how I've been praying for him.
Every day when I pray with Mekonen, I thank God first for the joy that he's put in Mekonen's heart. I thank God for how he brings so much happiness to those around him. There isn't a day that goes by that this kid isn't smiling and laughing, even when he is sick. His love for life oozes out of every part of his being. Even in small ways, he oozes joy, such as begging me to tickle him just one more time! When I think of Mekonen, I think of joy and I pray that God matures and develops this wonderful quality. I want him to know that joy isn't dependent on circumstances, but on Jesus. I want him to know that joy doesn't mean there isn't sorry, and joy doesn't mean he has to always be, or appear to be, "put together." I want him to know that joyful people experiences tears, both happy and sad, and that it takes strength to know and rightly display both sides of joy. I think our culture has watered down joy and stolen its strength...especially in men.

Mekonen is growing into his namesake which means "Prince" or "the noble one; the next to rule." His vibrant personality and love for life can draw people to him...we pray that this is in a positive, God glorifying way. As one can imagine, that's a huge discipling task on our end... and not one that we merely want to train into outward behavior, but one that we want to come from a heart that loves Jesus. That's a big and overwhelming task that most days I'm not sure how it looks! I just pray that God gives us grace as we learn along the way to fashion the leadership potential he has.

On the outset, if you don't know Mekonen, you might not guess that he has quite the compassionate heart. He gets very upset when someone starts crying, esepcially Evie (unless he is the reason she is crying!) He becomes very unsettled when something seems to be wrong with others. We pray that the Lord develops this into having a soft and compassionate heart towards those whom society casts aside, and that he will come to the aide of those in need.

Right now, this characteristic seems more of a vice than a virtue! This child is the most persistent preschooler I have met in a loooong time. His persistence and "lack of ability" to let things go will be an amazing quality to have in this life if it is coupled with a heart that belongs to Jesus and a heart that is submissive to God's authority in his life. We are in a major training/instructing time with Mekonen on getting control of his persistence as it shows up in asking us the same question, or saying the same statement, in about 50 different ways, after we have already given an answer, in hopes of somehow getting the answer he wants! I have to daily ask the Lord to give me patience and wisdom as I navigate how to rightly bring this persistence under control without squelching what can be an amazing part of what God does in and through his life.
We are beginning to see the little snippets of protection that Mekonen has over Evie and it melts my heart. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of the time, my 2 feisty children are going head to head with each other, but we are also seeing some of our teaching about being a protector coming through. I love that our firstborn is a son. Love that we get to train him to love, lead, and protect. When he feels Evie is in danger (like when she is standing on ANY cement when a car is within sight- even when the cement is NOT the road, he will FREAK OUT. He will scream, yell, then burst into tears, if she doesn't move to where he feels is a safe zone, even when we tell him, she is perfectly fine). We pray that the Lord develops this protector quality... that Mekonen will protect his siblings, his future wife, his children, and anyone the Lord places under his wing. That he will do it fiercely and with great courage.

I'm sure a lot of Mekonen's inquisitive nature is simply his age, but it's been so much fun to watch him begin to ask questions and understand little things about the way life works, about who God is, and anything else that comes up during the day. He's paying much more attention to our catechism questions, our Bible readings, and prayer times, which has led to lots of seed planting. I need to continue praying desperately that God gives me wisdom...that my answers will lead Mekonen to the cross, covered in Grace, not works righteousness. This is such a big task, one that I know the Enemy tries to overwhelm me with. But instead, it drives me more to the Bible and prayer, where I seek God's mercy and wisdom.

I encourage you, parents, to pray for your kids, out loud, and not only the things that you want to see God "change" in them, but let them hear you praise God for them, and let them hear you praise God for how He is working in their lives. Many of our seed planting spiritual talks come after we pray. Just this week after prayer Mekonen asked me, "Mommy, why do you always pray that God will draw me to His heart?" And I had the opportunity to talk about God's love and goodness, and how desperately I want Mekonen to know, in the depths of his soul, how good God is, how much God loves him, and how worthy of his worship God is. Another day he asked me, "Mommy, why is it that I should love God?" From that we got to talk a lot about God's grace and how we love because God loved us first and that there's nothing we can do to earn God's love and favor. So parents, pray, and pray out loud. Even if you don't think they are listening, or understanding. Pray, because they are!

So without further ado, here's a snapshot of how we celebrated the most precious boy in our life.
I'm so not a character Mom. I can't stand character theme bedrooms, clothing (except pj's and t-shirts he doesn't wear in public), and I even balk at character themed toys (unless it's the actual toy- so no "Thomas the Tank Engine baseball bat" because Thomas is not a bat). But one area I definitely let lose on is birthday parties! I say heck with it, and let him have the birthday party of his current favorite character(s). This year, it was Toy Story!

The special birthday boy place setting! 
So fun to have all your cousins at your birthday party!
 Buzz Lightyear cake! 
 So happy! 
 He was all business blowing out those candles! 

 cheesin' it
He was all about those candles and wanted them right on his plate. 
 And he sure enjoyed licking the icing off of them!
 Mekonen is very into construction vehicles right now!
 So handsome. 

 I love the cousins gathering around. Same thing as my childhood birthdays. Love it. 
 Where oh where has my baby gone? 


Christmas Recap!

We had a very busy Christmas season and lots going on in our lives as we get ready to move. But we still managed to add a new Christmas tradition- Family Christmas date night- a trip downtown to ride the horse drawn carriage, go to dinner, and to see the Christmas lights.

On Friday the 21st we were so excited to pack into the car and drive to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with my family. We left Friday afternoon and ended up needing to stop at a hotel overnight because of a snow storm! We arrived early afternoon on Saturday and enjoyed all the time we got to spend with everyone. It definitely went by too fast! So here's a snapshot of our Christmas!

We finally got to meet and snuggle new baby Tessa! Evie was so excited about her new baby cousin. She was always wanting to hold her and kiss her. She looooves babies!!!
Candlelight Christmas Eve service at my sister's church.
Christmas tradition- Christmas PJ's to open on Christmas Eve!
Christmas morning stockings!
Christmas fancy :) 

Mekonen admiring his favorite present! The Playmobil barn and silo set. He loves it!!!
Very big thank you hugs for Grandma who went crazy on Christmas gifts. These kids are spoiled! 
Evie got this little doll in her stocking and the baby diaper bag on the side was the first gift she opened. After that, she wanted nothing to do with the rest of her presents. She just wanted to push that doll around. She cried when we tried to get her to stop and open the rest of her gifts.
After all the present opening was done, with a bit of resistance, we finally convinced Evie to open the rest of her gifts, and let's just say she was more than happy she did! Baby doll furniture!!! She was in heaven!
Castro Christmas Mayhem! Love it!!
Half of the cousins!
Mekonen, Manny, Evie, and Aderyn
Kids dinner table! I love that almost every year there's been a new kid to add! (Miss Tessa is in the background. hehe). 

And the best part of Christmas this year...having my brother around and watching him love on my babies, nieces and nephews. It's been a long awaited blessing.