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Amanda Rioux Photographer

9 Things Parents of Emotionally Charged Children Want You to Know

Disclaimer: I know this is a photography blog but some things in life you just don’t want to take a picture of. Please forgive me as I take a departure from happy pictures of families playing together and instead share a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

This is a post I’ve almost written 100 times but just never followed through with until now. I’ve worked with families and children for close to 20 years in a counseling capacity and I really thought I knew what I was doing….. But it wasn’t until I had my middle child that I realized I did not have a clue. This is a post directed at anyone who knows a special needs child in the area of emotion and behavior. These kiddos are often diagnosed with things like: ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disorders. Despite all the differing diagnosis what many of these children have in common is that they have trouble handling their emotions and as a result can be very challenging behaviorally due to their frequent melt downs and outbursts. As a parent of a child with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Severe Anxiety it became my mission in life to find out everything I could about these kids and what can be done to help them. I’ve made many mistakes along the way but I’ve also learned a whole lot and even though I am now in a club I never would have signed up for, I find myself driven to reach out and help others who are in this club too. The only way I can do that is through complete transparency which is what led to this blog post. Here are some things that I think most parents of what I call emotionally charged children would want you to know.

1. They Need Respite– Interestingly enough parents who have emotionally charged children are the least likely to ask for help. The reason for this is because they know how hard it is to be around their child and as a result they would never ask anyone else to assume that job even for a couple of hours. The irony is that a kiddo who explodes on them at home, will most likely be a perfect angel for someone else. I have literally had to make friends of mine hand over their kids and take a break and every time these children were the portrait of perfect behavior. But even if they weren’t it wouldn’t matter because giving that parent a much needed break is worth its weight in gold.

2. They Need A Support System– Parenting an emotionally charged child can be extremely isolating. While everyone else is on facebook touting the cute and adorable thing that their child most recently did, this parent feels like they are lucky to have survived another evening after their child just exploded because their underwear felt too tight, their peas tasted funny, their feelings got hurt, or fill in the blank….. The isolation is gradual but over time these parents can feel embarrassed/ashamed/depressed over what is going on in their home and think that others could not relate. And the truth is, you can’t! But you can listen, distract, bring coffee, pray for them, care….. Often times they are just too plain exhausted to pick up the phone and that is why you need to. They don’t want to grow apart from you but sometimes don’t know how not to. So Keep trying! Even when they tell you they can’t have coffee 10 times in a row, or they don’t pick up the phone for months at a time, just realize that they are on a battle field and it’s hard to take a break when you are at war.

3. They Need Compassion Not Judgement– This is a biggie in a time where everyone has an opinion about everything. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say things or I have read things that are just completely off base given the situation. Sometimes it’s well meaning and sometimes it is not but bottom line is, don’t ever judge a parent of any child let alone an emotionally charged child. Just don’t do it! Like ever! You have absolutely no clue what the day to day entails for a family like this and what battles they are fighting! Sometimes it takes my husband and I hours just to get my middle child dressed and able to go to school! Even if we wash his favorite outfit every night, the next morning it might not feel right and there will be yelling and crying and throwing clothes and this is all before 8:00! I can think of several friends who have little ones with autism that have been rebuked publicly for their child’s behavior when in truth the child was just overwhelmed, scared, or upset about something that they couldn’t get over in the moment. Or what about the student who has ADHD who can’t get her homework done because she’s used everything she had to pay attention all day at school and her brain feels completely fried when she gets home.

Even well meaning family members can get in on this act and I have to tell you that even as a Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, etc., you still cannot completely get it. The child is detonating like a bomb on a regular basis due to anxiety/sensory issues/mental health issues and outside people want to tell you that you are too easy on them or too hard on them. But the reality is that these parents are experts on their children. They have tried every behavioral chart, diet, essential oil, and consequence out there and they know what works best for their kid or at the very least what doesn’t work. Overall you will find that they are doing their best in hard circumstances and should be hugged instead of hated on.

4. They Need Understanding– Have you ever watched that old civil war movie about the young bi-racial girl that “passes” as white? I think it was titled Imitation of Life. I was always so fascinated by that concept as a child. How did the character feel as she portrayed herself as one thing but felt like another? The truth of the matter is that it has its similarities to the plight of an emotionally charged child. Often times they seem very normal when in a public setting such as school, church, and other outside activities. But it’s like the soda can that has been shaken all day and then what happens when the top is popped at home is that they explode. The emotional child can often hold it together all day at school suppressing all of the feelings, sensations, and noise and then Bam! when they get home and they are in a comfortable setting the fireworks begin!

On the one hand parents often feel thankful about this aspect because it’s like, “Yeah! My kiddo passes! People think he/she is normal!”. But on the other hand it’s frustrating because you feel like if they can treat the people at school with respect, they should be able to do the same at home. It’s also hard to decide how to deal with things like parent teacher conferences, and other extracurricular activities when teachers and coaches will describe your child as one way but you know a completely different side of them. Do you just smile and nod your head? Do you “out” them and let the person know what the reality is about your child?…..It’s often a hard call.

5. What Works For Your Child Most Likely Won’t Work For Their Child– If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “A good old fashioned spanking would do wonders for that kid!”….. Let me just say, it’s not that simple. These behaviors have different origins and have to be treated very differently than the every day child. When it comes to discipline and changing behavior, I could pretty much throw everything I was taught in college away and start over! Disciplining an emotionally charged child is as out of the box and challenging as it gets and is completely unique to that specific child! When I meet with families this is the thing we often talk about most and as a team we literally dissect every part of the day to find where the break down is. We then have to look at motivation and come up with a plan and routine that is completely tailored to the person.

6. This Type of Disability Is Hard On The Family– I’ve read in several places that the divorce rate for parents of kids who fall in any of the above categories is close to 80%. I can totally see why. This is a family that is put through it’s paces every day and when people are worn out they can really find themselves in some unhealthy cycles in the home. It can shake the most rock solid couples you’ve ever met not to mention what it does to other children in the home. I always liken it to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These family members have been through it and they have the scars to prove it! Inviting siblings of an emotionally charged child over to play or giving them a little extra love as an outside person is always appreciated.

7. This Is Not A Cute, Cuddly Special Need– O.k. I know there is no such thing as a cute, cuddly special need but what I’m trying to say here is that in these cases things can get ugly. Just getting through crazy sock day at school can be overwhelming for the sensory issued child. Or what about the ADHD kiddo who can’t filter noise and is in a loud pep rally? And who can leave out the beginning of the school year for the anxiety ridden child? The issues are all different but the result is very much the same. Kids have a fight or flight tendency in these situations and because of this you will either see angry outbursts, a child melting down in tears, or a kiddo that will just plain bolt. What is hard about this is that unlike in cases where a disability is more evident, these children often seem relatively normal till something happens that triggers their emotional response. The good news about this is that when we figure out what the emotion/feeling is behind the behavior we can often help prepare kids or at least recognize their triggers and try to avoid them.

8. Their Kid is Not a Scary Monster– Maybe you’ve seen some outrageous behavior from a child in your kiddo’s class and as a result you are thinking in your mind that you’d never want to do a play date with that kid….. Before you go ahead and check him/her off the list you need to know a couple of things. First off that kid might be the most sensitive and loving kid you’ve ever met. These children have a tendency to be sensitive in all areas and sometimes it’s surprising how caring they can be. Secondly, they often have other talents from having to dig deep on a daily basis emotionally and as a result can be very creative, passionate, and even humorous. They are also usually very loyal by nature and are often the biggest champions for other kids who are being bullied or are perceived as the underdog. The last thing is that being around an emotionally charged child can help your child develop empathy and acceptance towards others. Just ask my daughters! When my oldest starts talking about how difficult it is having a brother with these issues, after I validate her feelings I then remind her how wonderfully compassionate and caring she is as a person. I think her brother might have had something to do with that!

9. They Love Their Child– Despite all of the above, they love their child with a fierceness that not even they understand. In our house we use humor a lot when describing our son and the day to day dealings we have with him. Hey! It’s laugh or cry and we do both! Even though I may be slightly sarcastic about parenting my son, I love him deeply. I know this love runs deep because it is tested on a daily basis and it still rings true. Even on days when I’m exhausted and want to throw in the towel, I don’t. He’s a child of God who was fearfully and wonderfully made and he has purpose in this life. My job is to help him find out what that purpose is. So I’m going to keep on laughing, and crying, and sometimes beating my head against the wall in hopes that this kid is going to use all of this in his life to in some way help others!

Note: Although the thoughts expressed in this blog are my own literary diarreah, I’ve gleaned so much knowledge from others out there who have been living this life or working with these children longer than I have. A couple of my favorite books are: The Explosive Child- By Ross Green, The Out Of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz, and Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Krasinka.

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Harmony Hill: Welcome to the Funny Farm!

We now have 8 months of rural living under our belts and it has been quite a wild ride!  From the undertaking of a major renovation to adding farm animals to our lifestyle we’ve learned a lot.  Mistakes have been made along the way but we’ve also met some great people who have taught us a great deal. In fact we pretty much stay in touch with every family that we either bought animals or plants from. My Kindle is now full of books about raising chickens, goats, and equines as well as topics like companion planting and clean living. And as much as I’d like to say we’ve got it all figured out, there is still so much to learn.

When we started this life overhaul several short months ago, we had envisioned a life where our kids would grow up learning about responsibility and where food comes from. I think it has been so much more than that. My son who was diagnosed with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and severe Anxiety was one of the major reasons we made such a drastic change with our lives. I especially wanted to see him playing in the dirt, interacting with animals, and developing confidence. Although there is no magic wand to make the issues he faces go away, I do believe there is value in unplugging him from his device and plugging him into a more hands on lifestyle.  I’m not going to say he is a completely changed child as a result of our endeavors but we have watched him making great strides in certain areas. A boy who was formerly terrified of his own shadow can now be seen running with the goats, holding chickens, petting equines, and wrestling with the dogs. That feels huge when I look back to how he used to climb his Dad if he even thought a dog was nearby a year ago. And for the whole family things like weeding the garden, feeding the animals, and gathering eggs have replaced a good majority of T.V. and iPad time at least in the months where it has been enjoyable to be outside.

One of the coolest aspects of this whole project is that this place has not only helped our own kiddos but I’ve also watched it boost the confidence of the children who come over to visit. It has become sort of a mission to reach out to other families especially those with special needs children in the emotional realm. I have been counseling kids and families for close to 20 years and yet I feel like what can be done on our little farm far outweighs what I can do in an office. It definitely has Chris and I thinking about how we can use what God has blessed us with and make it into more of a ministry to others. Right now our little hobby farm consists of the following animals: Abel- Our number one Great Pyrenees. He’s an old soul who loves kids and is often seen with several of them sitting on his back. Prim- Our 8 month old Great Pyrenees who loves getting into things and is always ready to play. Snickers- Our large 24 year old pony. He’s a funny older gentleman with a sweet nature and a stubborn streak at times. Burpy- our mini donkey that is often confused about her breed. She loves people but can often be found hanging with the dogs who she is supposed to by nature hate…. Sky- Our hermaphrodite fainting goat that was bottle fed and as a result adores people and acts more like a puppy. Rosetta, Daisy, and Bob- The rest of our goat crew. They are a more exclusive group but love people when it is feeding time. Scraps- Our resident barn kitty who likes to peek in on all the animals. And last but not least we have seven Easter Eggers that lay beautiful olive green eggs each day. Of course Chris is also trying to talk me into getting a KuneKune pig but we have such a harmonious group out there right now, I hate to upset the balance. Whatever the future of this place holds, I think we are heading in the right direction! So stay tuned! Here are some pics of the animals on our funny little farm. Update- Looks like we ended up with a stupendous pig after all! Meet Peppa the pot bellied pig!

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Farm Fresh Wedding

When my little Sister told me that she and her boyfriend David were planning on tying the knot, I knew instantly that she would want a small intimate affair. Megan has always been very quiet about her relationships and a tiny farm wedding with close friends and family seemed very fitting.  We were all very excited to pitch in to make this wedding happen as David and his 6 year old son, Kit had already become a big part of our family. David and my husband Chris hit it off instantly and my son, Kai started asking me on a daily basis when Kit was going to become his cousin as they turned out to be bosom buddies. I’ve watched David take all the craziness of our family in stride and treat Megan with great love and care. This was a love story we were all happy to be a part of but the challenge with this wedding was that we had a very short time frame to pull it off as well as several surprises along the way. It was determined that my husband Chris, My Mom Teresa, and myself would be handling all aspects of the event which would be held on our 10 acre farm in TN.

We had most of the arrangements planned and then the week before the wedding Megan tried on her dress again and didn’t like it. She ended up changing the style of her dress which also meant we needed to change quite a few of the wedding details to follow suit. The change from a more formal white wedding dress to a more casual ivory wedding dress was a positive one in the end as it allowed us to be more casual with other aspects of the event. A carpenter friend of ours named Chris Shoap made planter boxes as the table centerpieces and we then sprayed mason jars a pretty robin’s egg blue and filled them with succulents to place in the planters. Vintage handkerchiefs were hung as a festive garland and sodas were served out of an old Maytag washing machine. We tried to use as many of the natural elements around us so we also used our farm fresh eggs on the table. Although our Easter Eggers do lay beautiful olive green eggs, I will admit to spray painting a few blue to help create the desired effect. Sweet G’s Cookies used this color palette as well as she made beautiful mason jar cookies. Although we did have an Alabama groom’s cake for David, Megan who has never been a fan of cake chose cookies and Grater’s ice cream as her portion of the dessert menu.

My husband Chris made a registry table from an old door we scoured from one of my father-in-law’s properties and Jani White did the chalkboard art for this display. My 9 year old daughter Maizy, also used a window from the old house where we found the door so she could create a collage of Polaroid pictures from the day as a wedding gift. One of my other favorite elements from the day was the use of our run in for the ceremony as we cleaned it out and filled it with lit mason jars for the event. Flower filled mason jars were put at the end of each aisle to complete the look. One funny aspect about cleaning out the run in is that we had to temporarily re-home our youngest goat named Sky with her goat friends in the pasture. Sky is used to hanging with our family so she seemed quite confused and even spent the ceremony nestled in between the groom’s legs as she leisurely took a nap.

The last big hurdle we had to face is the fact that I got food poisoning the night before the wedding and was deathly ill for days afterwards. This is not good when you are the wedding decorator and photographer. I watched friends and family pitch in to make all the details come together beautifully but it was still a question mark as to who was going to take the photos. I called a couple of photographer friends but everyone was out of town for Memorial Day weekend which meant I had to say some huge prayers and put my “big girl panties” on and press on.

In the end everything came together and it was a beautiful day! Chris and my sweet Momma worked all morning putting together all of the last minute details for the big event. When everything was ready,  my Dad walked Megan down the aisle and my husband Chris did the first part of the ceremony which was full of 80’s/90’s pop culture references so he could keep things on the light side. Of course by the time he turned it over to my Dad to make it official, Chris was the one in tears! After the ceremony the grown ups went into the house for some BBQ while the kid’s dined in our play camper. Each kiddo had a goodie bag full of silly items such as: coonskin caps, fake moustaches, etc., that they made good use of while the adults had some kid free conversation indoors. The kiddos then joined us for dessert while David’s StepDad Jim played us some bluegrass on the guitar. When the sun was setting I grabbed the newly weds and we headed outside for some last minute photos on the farm. We ended the day rocking on the porch and reflecting on all of God’s goodness. What a blessing it is to have such special people to share life with! Here are some pics from their big day!

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Save The Last Dance

Every year as we approach another daddy/daughter dance, I reflect on how grown up my daughter is becoming. This year was no different as Maizy wanted a vintage style dress inspired by the 1940’s. I know that I am most likely passing all sorts of my undesirable traits upon my kids but I do love that my appreciation for older things has not gone unnoticed by my eldest daughter. Maizy and I worked hard to come up with a look that we both felt was timeless although we did struggle some with the hair. We wanted to do retro waves but had a hard time as it was raining outside and Maizy’s naturally curly hair kept wanting to do crazy things in the weather. Still she looked beautiful as I sent her off to the dance with her sweet Daddy and I couldn’t wait to hear all about it upon her return.

Several hours later she bounced through the door and as she filled me in on her night, I kept thinking about how much I hope she always does this even as she grows into a teenager. Maizy told me all about the goings on during the dance and said that she made sure to tell all of the special needs kids how beautiful they looked. She didn’t say it with pride or to show off but with sincerity as she told me how so and so’s dress was so cute or how a certain girl wore her hair. But that’s the thing about Maizy, she is a kid who thinks about others. Later after I tucked an exhausted but blissful 9 year old into bed I went downstairs and got the daddy version of the dance. Chris told me that at the end of the night the DJ offered one last special dance for daddies and daughters and as he announced this dance Maizy told Chris she didn’t want to do it. Chris wondered why and Maizy let him know that she had a friend out there whose Dad couldn’t make it and that she couldn’t stand the thought of her friend sitting alone as she watched all the dads dance with their daughters. She then grabbed another little friend and they went and asked the girl to dance with them instead. The next morning I made sure to tell her how proud I was of her choice and we laughed together as she said, “I guess 1 out of 3 isn’t bad”! That has been sort of our private joke between us as her younger brother has some special issues that he deals with and her little sister has been going through a pretty rough stubborn streak as of late. After we giggled a little bit I made sure to let her know that I had very little to do with the girl she’s becoming because the fact of the matter is, that is just who she is and who she’s always been. I am just so glad I get to witness it!

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The Pony Persuasion

I just had to share a cool story about how we acquired our latest edition to our little family farm. Although we currently have chickens and 2 Great Pyrenees on our property, Chris and I had several acres fenced off from the rest in hopes that we would eventually have some other type of livestock animal in that pasture. We’ve researched goats, sheeps, pigs, horses, ponies, you name it! We’ve talked to family and friends who live the farm life style and received some great input about what types of animals work best. So after a great deal of thought and a certain 9 year old who really wanted her own pony, we decided that we would prayerfully go on the search for the right equine companion. As a result  Chris, would send me pics of ponies from Craigslist regularly but we’d yet to call about any of them because none of them seemed like they were the right one……until about a week ago when we saw a special ad about a 24 year old pony named Snickers. Snickers is an older gentleman that was trained and loved by 2 precious sisters whose father just found out that he is having to relocate for work. Because of this transfer the girls were going to have to say goodbye to all of their farm friends and find loving homes for them.

When I  called and talked to their wonderful Mama over the phone, we had a good conversation and I let her know how “green” we are in the area of ponies. Although I was one of those kids who would go to horse camps in the summer and muck out endless horse stalls just to be near them, I’ve never actually owned one myself. I wanted to be completely transparent with the seller about our inexpertise but I also wanted to let her know how much we would love to have the privilege of having this very special pony. You see, I am a person who believes in that little feeling that tells me when something is right, and I had a really great feeling about this. After our lengthy phone conversation Wendy(the seller) let me know that they were interviewing other prospective buyers and that the girls would ultimately make the decision since it was their animal. That night I prayed that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. So when Wendy called to let me know that they had decided to go with more experienced owners I was both heartbroken and understanding. Since Chris and I had been bitten by the “pony bug” we continued to do our research and even looked at several other ponies in person. But the fact of the matter is that none of them were Snickers and we knew that we’d be settling if we went another direction.

One particular evening after we’d just looked at another pony that wasn’t as wonderful as I knew Snickers would be, Chris decided to give Wendy a call to see if there was any chance that she would change her mind. Chris approached the task like he did his pursuit of my hand and marriage and let me tell you that he can be very determined when he wants something! Wendy informed him that it was still up in the air but the girls were considering an owner that had a pony business where they would be posting pics online so the girls could see how Snickers was doing. Chris then informed Wendy that I had a photography blog and there would be no shortage of pony pics. As Wendy’s sweet daughters (ages 14 and 9) asked Chris and I numerous well thought out questions we soon began to realize that they may actually pick us! And they did! After our phone interview the girls deemed us the new owners but the catch was that they would have to deliver Snickers that evening as they were moving and wouldn’t have access to the horse trailer after that. Chris and I scrambled to get the water trough and everything ready as we eagerly awaited their arrival.

Wendy and the girls arrived after dark and they gave our excited kids a quick run down on how to care for a pony. The family and Snickers himself were everything I’d hoped they would be and it felt like being with old friends as we bonded over this fine animal. Before it was all said and done, cookies were eaten, gifts were given,  addresses were exchanged, and 2 certain 9 year olds were planning their very own pen pal relationship.

So here we are, pony owners! We have one day under our belts and Maizy went from grooming and walking Snickers around this morning to riding him bareback on her own this afternoon. I literally watched her confidence double before my eyes and it was a beautiful thing to see. We are so thankful for 2 special girls who allowed our special girl to experience something so wonderful.

P.S. I’m sure there will be a beautiful stylized pony shoot one day but for today we have some quick pics of dirty, mismatched girls, with very big smiles! Oh, and if you wondered what happened to Kai in all this…..I’ll tell you that he pet the pony and then informed me he was more of a dog person before he walked off and left it to his sisters…..

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Lyric’s Donut Shop

When I asked my soon to be four year old what kind of birthday party she wanted to have this year she didn’t even have to think before she answered, “a donut party”! This is a kid who likes her sweets and donuts are on the tippy top of that list. In fact, last year we took her to Krispy Kreme the day after her actual birthday party(see bottom left pic) and I remember thinking that she seemed just as happy with that as she did the actual party. So for this year I figured a casual donut breakfast with a small group of family and friends would be both fun and easy. The birthday girl (who had a strong vision of her own) helped me make the birthday garland and treat bags and then we went to Krispy Kreme to get the donuts as well as the hats for decorating. Lyric’s donut shop sign was made by 3 Sweet memories and  Sweet G’s in Nolensville made the delicious donut themed cookies. All in all it was about the cheapest and easiest birthday party I’ve ever done and it seemed like the kids all had a good time. Here are some pics from her special day.

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Farmhouse Renovation

My husband Chris and I are not strangers to large projects so when we found an opportunity to renovate an old farmhouse on 10 acres, we decided to go for it. For a long time now we have been wanting to change our lifestyle a bit. My parents both grew up on farms and some of my best memories in life were days spent picking berries, petting farm animals, and going on adventures with the cousins. For our farmhouse we envisioned a life where the kids play outdoors  and have more responsibility. We also wanted to start growing some of our own food and add some animals to the mix. This is how the 2 1/2 month long farmhouse renovation began…..

Now, if you skip to the pictures below you are going to miss the reality behind how challenging it was to renovate a property like this. Truthfully, it was the most stressful project we have ever done and there were days we felt like we were never going to get there. We started by gutting the entire house and there were so many issues we had to deal with such as: a spider infestation, plumbing issues, structural problems, overgrown acreage, and a work crew that caused as many problems as they fixed! The house itself was built by a retiree who purchased a log cabin kit and worked on it on the weekends with his friends. Since they didn’t have construction backgrounds there were a lot of problems with the house. Case in point: the stairs. Kai fell down them when we just went to look at the house and then a workman fell down them on the first day of the renovation. The stairs had very narrow treads and so they had to be rebuilt…..twice(don’t ask)! At any rate, the stairs sort of set the tone for how the rest of the project would go. Many days it felt like 2 steps forward, 10 steps back but we kept plugging along.

I had created a book with detailed design instructions for everyone to follow and Chris managed the work crew to see that things were finished correctly. While he worked day and night at the new house, I managed the home, 3 kids, a farm dog (in a subdivision), and preparing our old house to sell. Doug was our yard man, and he was excellent as he cleared the creek and property and then put up a gated fence. But perhaps the real hero of this whole renovation was Ricardo Perez our painter who became like family through this process. Ricardo used over 200 tubes of caulking to fix issues in our house and then he painted the entire inside, porch, roof, outside building, and later our old house! He worked nonstop without complaint and later helped Chris with other carpentry projects when we let the work crew go. He’s the kind of guy who would overhear a conversation about putting a bookshelf in the staircase and then the next morning surprise you with it. After a month of working with us he started living on the property in our camper and I have to say that when it was time for him to move on, it was a sad day for all of us.

The Vision

The vision for the house was born out of my love for my Grandma’s house growing up as well as my own personal style. I wanted the house to look like a very open and airy 1930’s farmhouse cottage with a little Anthropologie thrown in. For months I scoured sights like Etsy and Ebay as well as Goodwill and Antique Shops looking for the right textiles, furniture pieces, and decor to go in the house. I basically swapped out all of my more modern furniture for antiques and then had them repainted by the fabulous Heather Rosenberry at Rosenberry Redo’s. Heather is fantastic to work with and executed my vision for each piece to perfection. She painted almost everything in the entire house and distressed it. I had purchased a 1920’s farm table that had a bad top and Heather and her husband Keith made a new top out of old barn wood from the Rocky Fork property and extended it so it could accommodate 8 chairs. The result is something I hope to pass down to my children someday.

The Living Area

The kitchen/living area has a lot of fun elements that I worked hard to pull together such as: a vintage mustard couch & chair, 1930’s quilts, pillows made from vintage dresden plates, antique signs, vintage Fisher Price farm toys, lighting fixtures made from old wood and mason jars, Goodwill finds, and old dishes and accents that belonged to my Grandma. The old countertops were replaced with butcher block, the old sink replaced with a farm sink, the wallpaper from behind stove was replaced with tin tiles, and a new island was brought in with bar stools. Other changes include the floors and large beam which were sanded and restained as well as the walls and ceilings which were all painted a honeymilk white. I also finally got around to having canvases made of recent photos of the family to put up on the walls. All in all, I am very pleased with the end result as I think this space reflects who we are as a family more than any other home we’ve ever lived in. It’s the kind of place where some doors are harder to shut than others, and some walls are a little wonky, and of course the floors are never shined to perfection because there are paw prints, kid prints, and chicken feed on the floor, but I love all of it’s quirks because after all, we are a quirky family and it fits us!

The Bedrooms

The master bedroom sports several antique 1930’s pieces as well as a vintage garden quilt and my Dad’s old typewriter. Over our bed I decided to hang a painting that I received for my 30th birthday of a guitar Chris proposed to me with. We still have curtains to hang and a few other things to pull together for this room but I like the simplicity of it so far.

Kai’s room is off the master and is just like it was in our previous house. My son deals with anxiety especially in situations where change is involved so we chose a room location closest to us for his room and worked hard to put all of his things just as they were in our home before.

Lyric’s room is also very similar to her previous room. Although technically she has her own room, she actually will be sleeping in Maizy’s room as she doesn’t like to sleep in a room by herself. My favorite new element to her room are the vintage hobnail lamps. I bought some shades from Hobby Lobby and covered them with the same fabric as her comforter and then attached them to the vintage lamps.

Maizy’s room is probably my favorite bedroom in the house with it’s spaciousness and bright, cheery colors. I was able to find  two vintage Jenny Lind beds at The Tanner House in Nolensville and Heather Rosenberry painted and refinished them as well as the rest of her furniture. The quilts are my absolute favorite element as they are made from all the girls dresses, crib bedding, my old pjs, and my Grandma’s old sheets. Melanie from Southern Charm Quilts(Etsy) did a fantastic job and they were very much worth the wait. This is the kind of room that is perfect for a sleepover which Maizy insisted on first thing.

The Bathrooms

Oh my word! The bathrooms in the house nearly sent me over the edge! We completely gutted them but had problem after problem with plumbing issues. I believe we had 4 different plumbers work on them before we could say we were finished. My favorite aspect of both bathrooms is the vintage style tile as well as the new vanities.

The Basement

Although we technically downsized in square footage, the basement if counted boosts us right back up to where we were. Before the basement was grey unfinished cinder block and wall to wall storage. Although we didn’t finish the basement out, we did paint the entire space as well as build some walls to create storage. We then created a space for the kids to hang out and be messy downstairs as well as a place for our chicks to stay until they can go to their coop. I think this space will come in handy in the upcoming winter months when the kids can’t play outside.

The outside

Last but not least, the outside of the house as well as surrounding property also got a total makeover. Railings were put up on the wrap around porch, the house was pressure washed, and the porch and roof were repainted. Rose bushes were planted around the house, new gravel was brought in for  the drive, as well as sod for areas where grass had not been growing. We also cleared  the creek, cut back trees, patched pavement on the basketball area, and put a fence around the majority of the property. There was a second building on the property that was literally crumbling and we rebuilt the outside of that building as well as put a new roof on it. Someday we’d love to make it into a guesthouse as it is pre-plumbed for a bathroom but that is for another time. The kids area that is visible from the kitchen window boasts a new playset, picnic tables, and our vintage camper as a play house. Lastly, we decided to leave the right hand pasture on the property for future goats but did make a bonfire area on the left pasture for entertaining.

Although this renovation process has been a stressful one, I do feel thankful and blessed now that we are done with the major parts of it. We celebrated the final product with wonderful family and friends and I loved seeing the house full of people laughing and the property full of kids running and exploring. I envision that this place will be a place where we will make many precious memories together and I can’t wait to get started!

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Camper Sweet Camper

Some women live in fear of what their husbands are secretly looking at on the internet. I am one of those women……But not for the reason you might think. You see, if I were to look up my husband’s internet history I would find retro hot dog carts, unusual living spaces, and vintage campers. Now don’t get me wrong. I also share a great love for those items but what I would reserve for my pinterest board, Chris would go ahead and have delivered to the house! These things have happened. As you can imagine, we’ve had many “discussions” about his surprise expenditures over the years and after 10 years of marriage they have all but stopped.

But the one item we both still look at with great regularity is the vintage camper. There is just something neat about those retro tin cans that remind me so much of the importance of family and the simplicity of life back in the “good ole days”. I recently busted my hubbie posting on the camper wanted ads. Why did I see his post you might ask? Because I was looking for a vintage camper……. They are actually very hard to find in decent condition where we live so when I found an older model Shasta for a good price I immediately sent the post to Chris which is how we ended up with a an old camper in our driveway.

This began several months of restoration and a lot of blood sweat and tears. Of course after we bought the camper we realized that it had water damage so we had to hire someone to restore the ceiling and put a new vent in. We also had to have quite a few of the cabinets rebuilt. After that we retiled the floor, painted the inside/outside, put on new tires, and had seat cushions made. The finished result is not my dream camper as we would have really liked to have a 50’s model, but I think it at least comes close to the kind of camping we both envisioned when we started on this project.

To road test the Shasta we recently took it out on an overnight excursion to a local camp ground. We were able to pull it successfully to the campsite and found out that at least half of our electrical outlets worked in the unit. Having one working outlet at least allowed us to plug in a fan for sleeping comfortably at night. We were still not brave enough to turn on the proprane fueled stove but we didn’t need it because we used our campfire instead. Our kids enjoyed making s’mores, playing card games, and exploring the camp grounds and we found that even the sleeping wasn’t bad as our little compact trailer sleeps five rather comfortably. The other thing we noticed about driving around a vintage camper is that you make lots of new friends along the way. Once parked at the campsite we observed other campers milling around looking on curiously so we invited them in to take a look. It seems that retro campers are a fun conversation piece for people from all walks of life.

At any rate, it was a good first camping experience and we plan on making more trips when the weather cools down a bit. Here are some photos of the restoration. This type of camper is not for everyone but I think it fits our family well and I’m happy we decided to purchase one.

P.S. Sorry about the poor quality iphone before pics!

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Grandma Hazel’s Sheets

My Grandma Hazel died several years ago and I still have days when I cry just thinking about it. She was spunky and loving and she never forgot a birthday even though she had almost 50 grandchildren! She was a godly lady who had a great sense of humor and she gave wonderful advice. She sang loudly and off key in church and kept every Cool Whip container she ever owned(watch out if you tried to throw one away). But perhaps the most interesting part of her life revolved around her romance with my Grandad Ned who passed away during open heart surgery when I was only 2. Although Grandma Hazel was considered wealthy being the local store owner and senator’s daughter, Ned was from a poor family who didn’t have much. The one thing Ned had going for him was that he was good looking enough to rival any Hollywood star in his day. They met in church, fell in love and had 10 children. Somewhere in the midst of raising what turned out to be mostly boys on their modest farm, Ned was called away to serve in WWII.

Other than their children, their letters during that time are one of the most beautiful things left that symbolize the kind of love most people only dream about. Grandma once told me a story about Grandad when he was stationed away from home during Christmas one year.  He knew that the military train would literally be chugging along right in front of his farm but he would not be able to see his family. He ended up using a roll of toilet paper to write Hazel and the kids a love letter and then wrapped it up in plastic and threw it out in his front yard when the train passed! When I was in my 20’s I went to stay with Grandma during one summer and I helped get her pictures and letters in order. I cherish that time with her because she told me so much about our family history and what it was like raising such a huge family on little more than love.

Years later when she passed away, all the family members were able to keep something to remember her by. I chose to keep some of her well worn sheets and slips. It may seem like an odd choice to those on the outside but some of my best memories involved those well worn linens. When I was a child growing up my sister Megan and I looked forward to spending the night with Grandma Hazel. We’d wear Grandma’s old slips, and  read out of date magazines while we cozied up to her in her feminine, floral sheets. As I got older I tried to help out a lot more when I would visit. Grammy Hazel always had a steady stream of visitors so I would help by doing laundry and making all of the beds.

For years I’ve had these items in my chest upstairs. I knew I wanted to do a project with them but I just couldn’t decide what to do. As spring started to hit us this year, I decided to do a photo shoot involving my girls and some things that made me think of my Grandma. Megan, the girls and I went out to the property my father-in-law owns and and had a tea party. The kite and aprons are made from those well loved sheets and it made me smile seeing something so familiar on my girls. I know I have big shoes to fill when I think about the legacy I want to pass down to my children. There are so many difficult parenting days when I want to call my Grammy and ask her what to do about potty training a challenging 3 year old, or how I can get my tomatoes to grow… But I am so thankful for the time I had with her and for all the wonderful people she left behind to help me answer those questions.

P.S. A big thank you goes out to my lovely sister Megan for helping me shoot this today despite the chilly weather, muddy shoes, ticks, wardrobe malfunctions, and toddler temper tantrums! We had quite a few obstacles to overcome with our location and subjects but we made it work because that’s how Lemasters do it!

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My Super Sleuths!

It was “Read Across America” week this week and my two oldest kiddos had to dress up for school as a book character. Maizy told me the night before that she wanted to be Nancy Drew and not just any Nancy Drew but the 40’s version. I’ve created a monster! We did our best to throw together a costume and even though it crosses several decades, I think we did o.k.. My middle child has serious sensory issues so costumes are always tough for him. Themed days at school are usually really explosive for him so we tried to avoid the blow out by going with an outfit that would be easy to wear. Thank you Pinterest! Our efforts were rewarded as he excitedly put on his costume this morning and ran out the door for the bus. Here are a few pics!pennies-for-patients-5pennies-for-patients-4pennies-for-patients-2pennies-for-patients