Cheap and Easy Kitchen Update

I live in a farm house built in 1850. It had an addition in 1901, and 2012. The kitchen was updated 1987! 1987!! My mother-in-law, bless her heart, sanded, stained, and varnished every one of these doors herself. It was a gigantic improvement over the from metal cabinets, a hole in the middle of the floor, wallpaper to these beautiful oak cabinets 40 years ago, but everything is showing its age. It’s challenging for farmers to update what seems “good enough”. It is also hard to realize that 1987 was truly a lifetime ago! I’ve been wanting change in the kitchen for a really long time, but as a stay at home mom and Classical Conversations director, I don’t bring in much money. I also have next to no home improvement skills and very little interest in learning them at this point in my life.

kitchen DIY before update kitchen backsplash cabinets
Look at my tiny puppers in February 2018! She’s almost a year old now!

After a lot of thought, I realized that one of the things that bugged me the most was the cabinets over the peninsula. They blocked the way of talking to anyone on the other side of the counter. They blocked the  natural light coming in the  sliding glass door. They are dark wood, making the entire room look darker.

It occurred to me, maybe I would like it better if I just took off the doors! Then I can see the light and the people. I can handle unscrewing things, even if I’m not super great at it. I can never seem to make the electric screwdriver work, so I unscrewed all the doors by hand. I had already KonMari-ed a lot of my kitchen junk, so I was able to put pretty things in the now open cabinets.


Cheap and easy kitchen update diy backsplash cabinet
Some of my grandmother’s and mother-in-law’s vintage Pyrex is now on display.

Another thing I wasn’t very fond of was the paint  or outlet covers behind the sink and counter area. It was always dirty even when I had just cleaned it.  On Amazon, I found some press on tiles that supposedly you can cut through with scissors. I thought this seemed like a project I could handle. As it turned out, you CAN cut through the tiles, which come in a 12×12 block made of 1/2 inch squares of reflective abalone shell like material, IF you cut between the tiles. I soon discovered however, that my measurements come in the middle of the individual squares. When you try to cut through the actual tile, it shatters into a million pieces and is extremely challenging to cut at any rate.

I persevered although, it took me for freaking ever and confirmed why I really hate DIY home improvement projects.

Cheap and easy kitchen update diy backsplash cabinet
In the middle of the epic (for me) tiling project

I’m really happy with how it turned out though. Even if I couldn’t finish it by myself, even if there are lots of mistakes and crooked areas, and even if it took a lot longer than I hoped, I would recommend the tiles. I would also recommend these simple little changes to update an older kitchen. What do you think?

kitchen sink back splash window silver outlet covers hanging pans
All neat and tidy. For the moment.
Potty Training

Potty Training My Sixth Child

Potty Training my Sixth Kid

One would think I would be an expert in all things child, since I do have children ranging in age from 13-2. I’ve got boys and girls. I’ve got all the personalities (Ok, maybe not, since there are 16 main personalities, but it feels like it most days!)

I’ve got lots of experience in many layers of different. All five of my older children were out of diapers full time before they were three. They all currently use the potty on the regular.

potty training three year old
Three year olds sleeping without diapers can be risky

With my first five, they had a little sibling coming along around the time they turned two, so I was hyper-vigilant before the new baby arrived. We had long stints of Elimination Communication when they were wee babies. I instituted “Potty Train your Kid in Two Days” (Lies!) type policies. We used cloth diapers when we were out and about so they could feel the wetness. They were pantsless at home. They got chocolate chips when they did their business in the right place. They got it. They learned.

One would think potty training my sixth child would be a breeze.

If you think that, you would be wrong.

potty training before three
Almost two year old covered in caulk on the potty

Even with more eyes that should be watching this sixth kid, she gets away with more. Case in point: she completely flooded the bathroom the other day. There was at least an inch of water on the floor. The drawers in the vanity under the sink were two/thirds filled with water.

Kevin was home with the kids while I was on a writing retreat, and I like to think it wouldn’t have happened on my watch. (Lies.) Perhaps with more people around to keep an eye on her, everyone else thinks someone else is watching her, and no one actually is.

There’s a possibility she wasn’t being trained as closely during her readiness window because of her beloved grandma being sick and subsequently dying right around her second birthday. It could be because I stopped cloth diapering all together when she was still a baby. We could attribute it to the fact that I didn’t do Elimination Communication as long with her as I did with the other kids. It’s likely she’s just more stubborn and I’m more tired.

Maybe there isn’t a good reason.

The reason doesn’t matter as much as you knowing that whatever stage of motherhood you’re in right now, you’re not alone. Even us seasoned mothers don’t know what we’re doing, or why we’re doing it, or why it’s going wrong. If your kid won’t sleep through the night and is crawling in bed with you, it’s normal, you’re not alone. If you can’t get your kid potty trained by 3, don’t worry, you’re not alone. If road trips make you think you’re going to lose your everloving mind, and any self control you had at any point in your life, you’re not alone. If you’re afraid your kids are going to kill each other in a spatula fight turned nasty, take heart, you’re not alone. What is going on with you and your kids happens to all of us. I’m here for you. You’re not alone.

Unless your kid is using the teeter totter to catapult  dead mice into an open window. Then you might be on your own.


After all, tomorrow is another day…

Oh. My. Gracious. 

This was one of those days PRIME for Mama Meltdown.
Cadrian pester pester pestering to walk across the field to meet up with the combine (child doesn’t realize he’s only four). Finally after all the no’s, and he still won’t stop arguing, I tell him he doesn’t get to go at all. Tantrum. Tantrum. Tantrum.
Denton grab grab grabbing everything he can get his chubby little paws on. Cadrian’s card. Book. Car. Stick. He doesn’t care. As long as it isn’t his he wants it. Tears galore. Whining immense. Bicker bicker bickering.
Denton scream scream screaming after his nap for no reason.
Girls lose lose losing their free tickets to the play at the theater where they take ballet. I had decided I couldn’t handle the boys and the baby at the play, so asked a friend to take them. She willingly agreed and then it turned out we had no tickets. Aviana’s was lost lost, and Brielle misplaced hers five minutes before we walked out the door. I said that we couldn’t go then…I did not want to drive an hour to drop them off  with a baby who does not travel well (read: screams most of the trip) AND pay for the tickets! Tears, tears, tears. Brielle said she would use her own money and then Aviana cry cry crying because she had generously and thoughtfully given most of her money to The Great Commission. Finally we agreed they would pay half.
Denton poo, poo, pooing and pee, pee, peeing everywhere. Yesterday poo in his pants in the very top of the McDonald’s play place. Me crawling up there with bleach wipes and dragging him back down. Me ending up having to clean the bathroom floor, wall, toilet, sink, and diaper changing station, not to mention his legs and bum. Today poo on the cream living room carpet, with tiny brown footprints all the way to the bathroom. Me having to bathe him. Coming back from getting him new clothes to discover a bathtub of floaters.
Me cry, cry, crying because I have no idea WHY this kid is not poo trained yet or how to begin to clean this mess up. Me shampooing what ends up to be most of the carpet. Me running over the vacuum cord and shredding off the covering. Me feeling guilty because I should be getting dinner and starting bedtime, but I just want to get. This. Finished.
Me, never once losing it, until Dear Husband walks in and asks, “You’re shampooing the carpet?!” 
And then.
Let this be a world wide apology sweet husband. I’m sorry.   l love you.
Want to go get ice cream?

The Ick.

We’ve all had it for about a week now.

Denton despite the green goo oozing now and then from his eyes and nose, is a happy little totter-er. He insists on walking a few steps when he first lets go of whatever he’s holding on to and then plops to his bummie. He holds his hands up in a finger splayed “stick ’em up” position as he totters. So stinkin’ cute.
Cadrian just mostly has the runny nose, but occasionally wants extra cuddles so he’ll tell me he’s “gick” so I’ll scratch his back and nuzzle him. Then he’s off to the next thing–especially if it includes sand or dirt or both.
Brielle had pretty much dodged the bullet, with the exception of Saturday when she was too sick to go to Aunt Katie’s bridal shower, (“Mama,”she asked plaintively from the couch, “will you doe det my fancy dress?” she couldn’t get up but she she sure wanted to be at the shower!) but now she’s lost her voice and fell asleep on the couch when she should have been coming in for dinner. She at around 8 pm. and went straight back to bed.
Aviana has had me up in the night with sore throats and ear aches. She seems fine during the day, singing as she’s puzzling, playing and reading a new Little House book every day (she’s in the Rose years right now) but awakens shrieking in the night. I’m praying she sleeps through tonight; I don’t think I could take another day of this.
Kevin, bless his heart, has worked out in the rain or sun with a stuffed up face and aching head, treating cattle, combining, baling hay, fixing–the endless jobs he’s conquering every day. If he feels as half as cruddy as I do, I don’t know how he finds the strength.
And me, I pulled together the energy to go to Heartstrings this morning, which was a blessing because I realized I would get a migraine if I didn’t get to the chiro stat, so since I was already in town it was a piece of cake. Relatively.
The kids waited in the toy room for a while, then about 1/2 way through they came to the exam room where the doctor suddenly looked up and quipped, “Wow! This room just got…populated!”

What a week and a half!

We have been busy–

–squeezing every moment of enjoyment from life–

–emotionally distraught–

–all at the same time–

Last Monday we visited my cousin a few hours away and spent the night with them. Tuesday, after very little sleep and a ridiculously slow start on my part, we went to a wonderful children’s museum.
She had said she’d heard it was fabulous, five stories of fun. It turned out to be three stories high, and after a huge day of fun which completely exhausted me, Aviana, as we were leaving, whined, “I thought it was going to be five stories high, not just three!”

Grrr…Frustrating. Especially because I still had to drive a couple of hours home, and was already at my limit.

Wednesday is an utter blank.

Thursday my mom and dad came over for a visit. I am so thankful they are part of our daily lives.

Friday we visited our friend’s new little girl (what a delight she is!), bought material for curtains for the camper, went home for quiet time, went back to town to go to the park for some hooping fun. We enjoyed being sprayed by the fountain and at the playground.

Saturday we visited a working grist mill. We had planned to go for a nature hike too, but it was pouring down rain the entire time we were there.

Sunday I got one of the curtains made, and it turned out so adorably too!

Sunday evening I was making myself a cup of tea, with my three cherubs right by my side as usual. Cadrian somehow reached up far enough on the counter to grasp the saucer my cup was on and flip the whole thing over onto himself as I was pouring the boiling water into the cup!

Thank God my instinct was to get his shirt off and get him under the water in the kitchen sink. Acting quickly stopped the burning at the second degree. I’ve heard of children doing the same thing who ended up with third degree burns, long hospital stays, and skin grafts. Thank God it didn’t get in his eyes or on his face. Thank God neither of the girls were burned. It could have been SO much worse. He ended up with a largish burn on his chest and tummy, and several small ones on his arm.

We did a lot of research, a lot of talking, a lot of praying, and within the hour had him sleeping comfortably at his normal bedtime. We opted to treat the wounds with vinegar and aloe. We kept his burns wrapped in a diluted vinegar cloth all through the night, and he only woke up twice, and even slept a bit later than usual.

In the morning, he seemed more uncomfortable so we decided to go to the doctor just to have everything checked out. Let me tell you, there is nothing like having your parenting decisions called into question by a medical professional. Even though the appointment was two days ago, I am still angry about how she treated us. She thought we should have gone to the ER Sunday night.

It should be allowed to have differing opinions. I am the one who has my child’s best interests at heart. I am the one who loves him with every breath of my existence. I am the one who would go to the ends of the earth to protect him and keep him safe. I should be allowed to make the decision I thought was best, even if it isn’t the same choice she would have made. I shouldn’t be made to feel negligent, even while giving good, thorough, loving treatment, just because I don’t have an “MD” after my name.

Monday and Tuesday, I spent the whole day holding my sweet boy, who just rested and slept a lot.

Today, he is completely back to normal; tantruming when I say he’s done at breakfast because he starts flinging oatmeal, chasing his sister around with a spray bottle, chuckling loudly all the while, climbing in and out of his high chair and the swing and the bed, even though he’s got to be scraping the burn on his belly as he does so.

What a joy to hear him laughing once again! Thank God.


My Day

Up. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Nurse. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Sleep. Sort of. Nurse. Up. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Dishes. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Counters. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Floors. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Laundry. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Closets. Nurse. Scrap. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Baby up. Play. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Cook. BURN FINGER! Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Dishes. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Counters. Nurse. Baby down. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Rub eyes. Cry a little. Floors. Scrap. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Change. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze.Drive. Swim lessons. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Walk. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Park. Walk. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Drive. Buy. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Husk. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Cook. Scramble. Supper. Nurse. Stories. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. ‘Puter. Sneeze. Sneeze. Wipe nose. Sneeze. Scrap.



Last night, Brielle and I made the most delicious cake in the world. It’s called Mocha Layer Cake. It’s about the only kind of chocolate cake I can honestly say I love. I love chocolate, but generally, I don’t like chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream. I know, I’m an odd duck. Anyway.

The cake doesn’t turn out so well if you forget to put in flour. Pretty key ingredient that.

In other, completely unrelated news, I’m looking for a tee shirt to buy that reads:
I used to have a mind, but now I have small children.

I did manage to salvage some semblance of the cake however, and oh yes, we’ve been eating it.

All’s Well that Ends Well, Don’tcha Know, My Little Scissors Legs?

I started off Monday by getting up early. If you know me at all, you know this is akin to Fat Albert doing the Iron Man.

After I nursed Cadrian, I got up spent time with God, blogged, went outside wrapped in a quilt and prayed in an Adirondack chair while I watched a magnificent sunrise. I got a lot done around the house that had been put off over the weekend (like finding the counters. And the floors.)

The girls had stayed over at their grandma’s. With no incessant demands requests and interruptions, I was feeling peaceful and positive while I was being productive.

Then the girls got home. I’m not even sure if it was five minutes before I started yelling.

“Mama! Going potty!” as she is standing right next to me in the living room.

“But I Don’t Want to Wear Soos and Socts!! I Never Wear Soos and Socts!” as the other one follows us from room to room, her unremitting whining much like a tornado siren.

Cadrian’s screaming only adds to the cacophany, and before I know it, I’m frustrated and my jaw hurts from gritting my teeth.

Finally everyone is clean, clothed and herded into the van. (This is after another stern lecture about how we don’t scream and cry because giant sized pool floaties are not allowed to accompany us to my midwife appointment an hour away. Followed by another lecture about not climbing into the front of the van to push random buttons.)

“That’s it. No one is allowed to talk until we get to town.”

We are meeting my friend Pam and her daughter before we make the trip over to the midwife’s. She crazily generously offered to watch my hooligans children for me while I get my check-up (and Pap) and then we were planning on having a play day.

We’re late.

Then I couldn’t get the seat that we were going to put Aly’s carseat in, the only available seat for another child, in an upright position. After wrestling with the thing for 15 minutes, we pile everyone into her van.

We’re later.

We arrive at Kathy’s office only a bit behind schedule, thanks to speeding and no traffic. We unbuckle and corral the three walkers and I carry the now very hungry, but not yet ravenous baby.

There’s a sign on the door to Kathy’s office that is not hers.

The door is locked.

I accost some guy stepping out for coffee. He informs me that Kathy is now keeping her office hours in her house! It’s close though, just a few blocks away. We try calling but get voice mail. He can’t remember the exact house number…

Urge everyone back out to the van. Buckle everyone back in. Try to appease everyone.

Follow some guy’s directions. Go on an adventure when the street dead ends into a park. Find the general vicinity. Call again.

“Oh Jessica Darlin’! I’m so sorry! Did you get my message?”

Jessica Darlin’ stares blankly at her phone. “No”

“I tried calling and calling your home but I never got an answer. I got called to a birth, and sent you an email.”

Chat. Chat.

“By the way, we’re in your neighborhood because some guy by your office told us you’d moved.”


“You’re in Iowa City?!”

“Um. Yes.”

“Oh Jessica Darlin’! I was coming to you!”

She was halfway to my house when she got called to a labor in progress.

So Pam and I decide to go to this cute little bakery/deli I’ve eaten at before for lunch.

It’s closed. They’ve moved to another location.

We eat a Bruegger’s Bagels. Which we have in our town.

After much ado about going to the restroom–all five of us in a convenience store type restroom–and what to eat, and the eating itself, and the obtaining of the nutrition information binder, because yes, still doing Weight Watchers, and the breast milk leaking and the college students staring warily and mumbling to themselves, “I’m so never having kids!”, and the baby wailing and the girls running around in circles singing, and another trip to the restroom, and the tying of the baby into the Mei Tai, we are off to the park.

Oh and Pam has to be back at a certain time to pick up her kindergartner from school.

We’re at the park our alloted five minutes when Aly falls and bloodies her nose. Bloodies. As in Evander Holyfield bloody.

She really is fine, after the blood is all sopped up, not even a bruise or bump to show for it.

We play in a fountain for a few more minutes to wash the blood out of her hair and distract her from her crying. My girls end up in another time out.

And it’s back to the van. Three out of four of them napped on the way home. Pam and I had another wonderful visit.

The girls are asleep now.

And I didn’t have to have a Pap.


Don’t be laughing at me!

After story hour on Friday, we decided to go play in the Reading Garden. The Reading Garden is a tranquil stone seating area surrounded by evergreens and butterfly bushes, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and tall prairie grasses.

My friend and I settled in for a nice chat while our children picked up pine cones and played follow-the-leader. We admonished our offspring to stay within our view while I nursed the baby. Seated in an alcove of pine trees, we enjoyed the cool breeze and warm sun. We savored each other’s company as we discussed her daughter’s new ventures in preschool.

Eventually of course, our idyllic exchange was interrupted. Aviana was begging us to let them play follow-the-leader on the stepping stones, which were not within our line of sight from where we were seated. After much discussion about boundaries and what was and wasn’t acceptable, permission was granted.

After a few minutes, I rudely interrupted my friend.

“Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed.
“Aviana! She doesn’t have her pants on!” I had caught sight of her bare bum through the waving pampas grasses.
Suddenly, both my children came into view. Both with their pants down around their ankles. Both with their bare bummies out there for all to see.

Luckily, there aren’t any windows on that side of the library. And all the trees block the view of the parking lot.

“What in the world are you doing?!” I shriek inquire incredulously.

“I had to go potty,” my four year old farm girl calmly explains, the fact we had just gone to the bathroom before coming outside not ten minutes before notwithstanding. “I need you to wipe me.”

“Did you poo?!!!” I squeal my voice rising a few octaves until I’m sure only the neighborhood dogs could hear me.

“Yeah,” the culprit nonchalantly admits.

Meanwhile, I’ve handed the infant, who is now turning bright red, screaming mightily in protest of his meal being interrupted, off to my friend, only to discover that Brielle, in imitation of her sister’s farmyard antics, has saturated the hood and top half of her outfit with pee. She had unzipped the one piece outfit, and pulled it and her bundies down to her ankles, but then peed right into it.

I strip her of the offending article, leaving her clad in a Pull-up and shoes and socks, pull up the preschooler’s pants, grab our diaper bag and march my hillbilly youngsters to the van.

The story of the little boy who dropped trou to go pee-pee in the cereal aisle that my friend told me during the clean up and gathering process did help me feel a little better.

If you ever happen to be walking around in the Reading Garden, watch where you step.


Yes, those would be my children

Saturday we had a good old fashioned family day at a tiny town festival, complete with overpriced smoothies and funnel cakes. Despite the rising temperatures, we managed to have a great time at the pancake breakfast, racing in the Toddler Trot, hanging out at the library, at the parade, scoring loads of candy; running through the mister, getting our face and hair painted, and eating Walking Tacos.

We managed to have a great time until the pony rides. Aviana sorely wanted a pony ride, even though our neighbors have ponies and ride down a couple times a month and offer rides to the girls. And even though they were slow getting set up, and the toddler sorely needed a nap, we waited. And waited.

In our group we were set to be second, and all the children get to choose the pony they wanted.

Aviana, my high needs, intense child chose her pony right away while we were in line. And wouldn’t you know, when it came time to get in the ring and stand by the pony of your choice, the only little girl in line ahead of us wanted the exact same pony.

Aviana started screaming and crying, literally having a fit and falling in it. We were in the ring completely surrounded by the line of waiting children and their parents, who have nothing else to do but watch the children ride the ponies, or in this case, watch our four year old daughter have a massive tantrum. Kevin and I were ready to make her just forget it and lift her over the fence, but the pony girl took pity on her and got her calmed down faster than I would have been able to, and even got her to smile.

Toward the end of the ride, the pony girl told the children, “One more time around and we’ll be all done.” Then it was time to get off, and Brielle, my stubborn and strong-willed child, had a tantrum. I had to pry her fingers off the saddle horn and carry her loudly kicking and failing self out of the ring, again under the watchful eye of all these parents and their perfectly behaved offspring.

Now I know we are consistent in discipline. I know we seek the Lord’s wisdom in the raising of our children. I know our home is filled with love, and structure, and fun and learning opportunities, and yes, discipline. I know my children are fortunate to live in this home.


It is still hard in situations like that, because you know many of those parents were judging us, and wondering what kind of crazy house we live in. You know many of them were thinking, “Wow! Glad that’s not my kid!” I’m 100% positive we do a more intentional and more effective job parenting than many of the people there, especially the guy walking his toddler around the pony ring wearing this tee shirt.

In situations like that one, I need a tee shirt that says something like “I do a great job mothering. I don’t know whose kids these are or why they are acting like this!”