Bathroom Before and After

This is the bathroom project that I thought would never end.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this when this web site is sort of supposed to be about homeschooling it’s because homeschooling is tied in so intricately with the rest of life. That’s one of the things that makes it so challenging.

You have to figure out how to do school, not in nice, neat spreadsheets in a book that lays out your scope and sequence.  You have to figure out how school fits into your home, finances, menu plans, discipline, character training, and life.

One thing I’ve found helpful in making school work better at our house is to get every single project I can think of and possibly do, done in the summer. The less I have to do during the school year, the better. Any home improvement project, organizing, planning, dreaming, etc. ideally would take place during the summer.

It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes trips interrupt our normal routine, last year I had to edit a book for months on end, and babies seem to just come with no consideration to my schedule, but my point is: the more we can get done in the summer the more smoothly our school year seems to go.

So, I have a very long list this summer. I remember God is ultimately in control of what gets done and what doesn’t, but as much as possible, I’m trying to get some things crossed off my list. Hence, this bathroom “remodel” (basically painting and new hardware) that has been waiting in line for ten years.

The Really Awful Before Picture

You’d think I staged it to make it look as awful as possible, to contrast with the AFTER picture, but no, it actually looked like this, socks on the floor, counter covered with junk and all.

Yep. It was bad. Really bad.



This next picture was taken after the counter was cleaned up (Organizing Extravaganza), but with the lovely green wallpaper still there:














I  textured the walls, painted them blue and painted the ugly white lattice brown. I didn’t want to mess with new cabinets so this solves the problem and makes them sort of disappear. I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Here are the before and afters for the inner part of the bathroom, the part with the tub, shower and toilet.

BEFORE                                         AFTER








Granted, before looked like a tornado had just gone through,
but that’s what it usually looked like. It was amazing how much difference the
paint on the walls and cabinets made.

Wallsabout $150 in supplies (paint, etc.); 4 full days of work

  • Removed wallpaper (came down great- took maybe an hour for all of it)
  • Realized I needed to texture walls, typed  “texture walls” into youtube. Learned methods of texturing walls. (I did not  want to use some messy machine or hire a man to do this. I wanted to get it  done.)
  • Taped off baseboards, put down dropcloths
  • Used 3 ½ gallons of “mud” (joint compound) to create a plaster look on walls. Basically you spread it on with a: trowel? ?putty knife? (one of those blue thingies you put mud on with), then you spread it around like you’re frosting a cake with CoolWhip until it looks pretty. Let dry.
  • Primed. Let dry.
  • Painted. Let dry. (This is Benjamin  Moore Buxton Blue.)
  • Touched up.

If you need to texture a wall, I’d highly recommend the plaster treatment. It took about a day, but it’s super cheap and I love how it turned out. Hides imperfections really well. I noticed at Jason’s Deli that’s how they’ve done their walls, to give it an old-world feel. Here’s a close up:







Cabinets = $50 total, 5 Days of work (a few hours each day)

I loved how they turned out EXCEPT the oil based  glaze took forever to dry and still is sticky to the touch. The man at the paint store told me how to do this treatment where you paint it an orangey brown first, then that  dries, then you paint a brown glaze on top of it, it’s just a stain, like you’d  normally use on wood. I used mahogany and love how it looks, but each coat took over 3 days to dry!  If I were doing it  again, I’d probably spray paint them brown and call it a day.

  • Took cabinets off their hinges
  •  Painted frames in the room
  • Painted cabinet doors in garage/outside.

Hardware & Accessories– Total cost about $180? (mostly towels) My husband hung new towel racks; I switched out the light switch plates. New towels, soap holder, and 2 baskets.

Overall, we love how it turned out. It brings out room into this millennium, ties the bathroom in with the bedroom better so that we actually aren’t going to paint the bedroom after all, and just gives a very clean look.

OH! And I have to show you what else I learned! How to remove grout and caulk! Our shower grout was nasty. I paid Stanley Steemer $100 to steam clean the tiles and it hardly helped at all. The man said the grout was shot, due to mildew.

Now, I’m going to show you a picture of this removing grout thing so that you can see how easy and cheap it is, if you, like us, have a 30-year-old house, and nasty grout.

I have never seen repulsive grout highlighted on another blog.

There is probably a reason for this.

But I want you to see how much better it looks. You’re not going to judge me, right?

I have a lot of other good qualities. Grout maintenance is just not one of them.

Okay, are you ready? No judging, right?


I know, I KNOW!

But, here’s the point. You can change this.

You type in “removing bathroom caulk” into youtube and these
nice men show you what to do.

You just get some various tools. I used these:






(I just looked around for sharp things.)

Then you chip away at it while you listen to Dave Ramsey for three hours, and finally the old grout and caulk are gone.  I just did the corners because they were the
nastiest and I was a bit done with this whole bathroom project idea by then

If mine had been a normal shower, this would have been caulk
and no big deal to remove. It was grout, however, so it involved serious
chipping away.  I asked my husband to go to Lowe’s and see if they had something that would soften the grout.

They did not. They sold him some machine, but I don’t do machines. What if I cut off my
thumb by accident? No thanks. We returned it.

I used my handy-dandy sharp tools and they worked fine. By the time Dave
Ramsey was over, I was ready to caulk.

Then, you just get a caulk-gun, which is super fun, and you
put the caulk in the crevice to seal. Again, watch those people on youtube.
They show it all to you.

So, one (long, tedious) afternoon, NO money (we already had
the caulk), and the shower looks like a beautiful spa!  It makes me happy to go in
there now.

Oh, and the shower door, there was soap scum on it, so I
used vinegar and a sandpaper scrubber and it came off. See how pretty those
doors are? I don’t have a before picture, so they might not look that great,
but they looked basically like they were encrusted with barnacles. Now, they
look all shiny and new.

See, doesn’t that bottom corner look much better?








Anyway, I’m showing you all this to say—it was hard work,
but actually, not all that bad in the scheme of things, and it’s so nice to
finally have a bathroom and bedroom that feel clean and  like ours!

Only ten years after we got married.

No time like the present!

I’m also so thankful to have energy to do ridiculous and exhausting projects again. I praise God daily for energy, because after years of having none, just the fact that I can do this type of thing and not get sick is so wonderful. I’m very thankful.

Here are my kids getting a kick out of helping

The toddler was NOT invited to help! I was stressed out enough
with the older two and they only helped about 10 minutes each.








Happy Summer Projects at your house!

Living Lightly

I have been feeling like I really need to declutter the house this summer, but I get overwhelmed whenever I think about it. I read a post here about this family that lives in a 750 square foot chalet, and has just the minimal amount of stuff to live beautifully and simply. It looks so lovely.

Then, I was reading in Crystal Paine’s Moneysaving Mom’s Budget book about decluttering (she’s a minimalist too), and she was saying that there’s no point trying to have a budget or goals when you’re drowning in clutter and really you need to set aside a weekend to get your house decluttered and in order before going any further. She also said that when she and her husband got married they lived in a 750 square foot apartment (notice a theme here?) with one bedroom and one bathroom. She said this, which I think is profound: the less space you have, the less stuff you need.

Isn’t that brilliant? I think that’s so true. Our family seem to follow that 80/20 idea pretty well, that we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. Most of the junk in the cabinets and closets and drawers we NEVER use. And because we live in Oklahoma, where housing costs are so low, we have what most people in this country would consider an enormous house. But because we have all that space, I just keep hanging on to stuff I don’t need anymore, because I can stick it somewhere, except then all the cabinets are full when I come home with a giant container of toilet paper there’s nowhere to put it so there are rolls of toilet paper on the floor, and nowhere to stuff the clean laundry, and it’s just exhausting.

I’ve never really organized my husband and my bedroom/bathroom area, the whole thing, all the way through, since we’ve got married and I moved in with all my stuff and we sort of just shoved it somewhere. Since we got married. Ten years.

So Thursday night, I read the part in Crystal’s book where you set a timer for 30 minutes and go through a room. I already know that Crystal and I live in parallel universes, so 30 minutes in her time is at least 3 hours in mine, so I was planning on a good few hours. It took two days.

From early Friday morning, to when the kids were at the Friday afternoon babysitter, to when my husband and my dad took the kids to the YMCA to swim today, every moment I could, I worked. I counted up about 20 hours. Actually, I still have a few hours of putting things away in other rooms left, so I’d say maybe twenty-two total. And this is for ONE room! Well one room plus the bathroom and the closet, so it was more like three areas, but anyway, one HUGE area filled with tons of stuff.

But, oh, it’s so glorious. I went through every drawer, every tub under the bed, every corner, every nook, every cranny, every shelf of the closet, the cabinets in the bathroom, every bit.

I took 5 huge black trashbags full to Goodwill. We threw 10 + black trashbags away. And most of the decisions I was dreading weren’t even hard. Holey undershirts? Trash. Twenty half-used travel bottles of lotion? Trash. Old sweaters my husband never wore? Goodwill. Cute candleholders I got for a gift but never used? Goodwill. I just had to flip that switch in my brain to ask: Have I used this in the last two years? And if the answer was no, it went away, with only a few exceptions. I kept thinking—if I were moving to a 750 sq. foot house would I take this? Usually the answer was—no way!

I’d say we reduced our stuff by half. We got rid of at least 50% of the stuff in that room. But we have everything we need and use, easily at hand and organized. What’s left is exactly what we need. (We might add a few more things out of the closet later. These were just the easy, no-brainer things.) I might even wear makeup now occasionally now that I can find it!

I grew up with my parents keeping everything forever, because a) there could always be another use for that broken, old something or b) some sentimental reason (someone gave it to them, it was some great aunt’s plate). I have to get over that. It’s getting easier. Each time I do this (I’ve done this before in other rooms) I love the lightness of the space and the utility of it so much that I don’t regret getting rid of a thing. It’s totally worth the time and effort and mental energy to tackle this in order to have a life that works again.

I am excited about our room! I think I’ll actually have the energy to paint (and call a painter friend for parts), and swap out the outdated fixtures now. Before it felt like way too much work, but now that so much junk is gone, it seems totally doable. I am taking pictures so maybe I’ll post some when it’s all done. For now just picture lots of trash bags of junk exiting our house. Beautiful! (Also, I’m not posting any pictures because it’s too much work. I need to go to bed.)

Next up: the kids’ rooms and putting away the laundry basket full of stuff from our room. Hopefully we’ll get them done in two days because the carpet people are coming on Tuesday, thank heavens, to clean our disgusting carpet.

Oh, and then the best part! My parents-in-law got me a Yankee candle gift card for my birthday so I got yummy new Yankee candles. My husband was home so we had dinner by candlelight in a clean kitchen with our hilarious children, the tiger lilies my daughter picked for me in a vase, and actual food to eat. Granted it was from Subway, but still, it was food, at our table, in a clean kitchen. We’re making progress.

What about you? Have you ever and a cleaning frenzy and felt better afterwards? What do you like to organize?

For Better or For Worse, In Sickness and In Health

I could tell you all about how my husband and I met at church,
discovered we worked two floors apart in the same fifty-story downtown building,
started running together, then served in our church’s Awana program together,
and somewhere along the way, fell in love.

But that’s not the real love story.

The real love story is how, during the first few of years of
marriage, my husband learned to ask heart-level questions because that’s what
showed love to me, and I learned that yelling at him was not, surprisingly, the
ideal way to his heart.
Read the rest of my “Real Life Romance” over at author Shannon Vannatter’s blog >

Beauty in a Juice Glass

White Peony, Pink Rose in Small Mason Jar

One of my favorite things in the spring is cutting a sprig of this or that and bringing some beauty indoors.  I wrote a post recently (and might actually be brave enough to publish it soon) about getting overwhelmed at the chaos that is my yard, but choosing to focus instead on the beauty that is already there.

Like roses. And peonies.

It really inspires me to keep my tables cleaned when I have a gorgeous flower to put in the middle of it.

It doesn’t take much. A few branches of some blooming thing: wildflowers, a flowering tree or bush, or one amazing rose. Here are some pictures from today. Everything’s in bloom, it seems.

White roses and pink Abraham Darby rose.

This pink one is an heirloom one called Abraham Darby. I only remember that because the name sounds so fancy and Jane Austen-ish. [Note: I read later that he invented smelting coke into iron, thus enabling the Industrial Revolution. So if I invent something that inspires a revolution, will they name a rose after me?] They are an heirloom variety, so they cost maybe $30 for a plant instead of $20. It’s worth it. The blooms are exquisite, and the aroma fills my kitchen. It’s rosey-lemony scent is delicious. (Despite the fact that my toddler takes a whiff and declares emphatically, “Pea-yuck!!!” He’ll grow into it.)

  I am told this is Privet. Two weeks ago I thought it was a weed. This week I see it has tiny honey-scented blossoms and apparently, is a butterfly magnet. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this the last nine years I’ve lived in this house.
One gorgeous rose in one beautiful glass (my grandmother’s juice glass). It doesn’t take much to brighten up a room.
Today we’re not doing school (other than a spelling page, listening to Little Town on the Prairie CD, and doing math worksheets), and I’m enjoying getting everything in order again after being out of town for a family camp over the weekend. And even though my toddler is potty training and things are a bit crazy with messes in the bathroom, we can still have a joyful kitchen and dining room with these friendly flowers smiling at us when we come in the room.
They make us all happy.

Here are the flowers that grow in our yard during the spring with very little involvement from me. This is the order in which they bloom.

  • Bulbs (Daffodils, Tulips)- March – we planted one fall about five years ago.
  • Flowering trees - March – Plum (others include pear, apple, dogwood, etc.)
  • Flowering bushes - March/April – Forsythia (Sadly ours is dying, but these are gorgeous. Others include Azalea or Privet.)
  • Roses/Peonies – April/May/June usually. I am in love with roses. I planted eight bushes three years ago (my birthday and Mother’s Day presents). They’re not thriving like I want, but they are working their best at it. At least one bush is blooming for most of April and May.

But, in almost any yard, I’d bet there is something blooming and lovely, if you look hard enough. Wildflowers in a tiny vase are delightful. Send your kids out with their safety scissors and they can probably find something.

What lovely things are growing in your yard? What do you enjoy in a vase? How do you bring God’s beauty into your home?

(I have to stop typing and get off the computer now so my daughter can do her Xtra math. Have you heard of Xtra math? I love it.)


I got this adorable apron from Pier 1 the other day and it’s hanging in my kitchen making me happy. I hardly ever go to Pier 1  because a) they have too much gorgeous stuff, and I end up wanting things I don’t actually need, like cute aprons, and b) it’s about the worst place in the world to go with small children. I really talked to my kids about NOT TOUCHING ANYTHING before we went in, and the older ones did fine, but I put my two-year-old down for like four seconds, and when I turned back around he had grabbed this feather-covered chicken and had white feathers sticking to his grubby little hands and a guilty look on his face. I offered to buy it, but the
guy there kept telling me they could write it off and it was no big deal, and I was very glad because it was, by then, a sort-of hideous $15 half-bald Styrofoam oval of a chicken. And I don’t really need one of those.

Anyway . . .  my apron. Got it. Love it. I’m hoping it will inspire me to make dinner, which is one of my goals for the rest of the year. I didn’t actually make dinner much last
year, and I think it would be a fabulous new hobby! My husband says he supports
the idea.

I’ve been working on the book like a crazy person, but there was a brief two-week window where there wasn’t anything I could do, so I was just waiting (which I’m not so good at), and I made gluten-free chicken-pot pie and let me tell you, it was delicious. I even served it on actual plates.  I took pictures. Of dinner. On plates. See,
don’t you feel better about your own homemaking skills?

I’ve had a thousand blessings a day around here lately, what with books being published, children turning six and eight (gasp!), prayers being answered, and plum trees bursting into bloom in the sunshine.  I’ve been writing down lists upon lists of
answered prayers and blessings. It’s all very exciting, and I’m enjoying it immensely
(Except for figuring out Facebook. That, not so much.), and thrilled at what God
has done and excited to see what He’s going to do with this book. But also, I’m
looking forward to having a few less things on my list. What’s been ignored a
lot lately is the heart of my home. I’ve been so busy, typing my little fingers
to the bone, that I’ve been blocking out all the non-essentials. Dishes, for one.




We’ve been listening to On the Shores of Silver Lake on CD, and I haven’t enjoyed it as much as the
other books. I kept feeling oddly unsettled, with that Ingalls family packing up their belongings and taking the train out West, leaving their sweet, cozy home on Plum Creek so Pa could work with the railroad. It didn’t feel right. I missed their home. I didn’t know where they would end up. Ma didn’t really like
the idea, but she went. It just seemed all wrong. I can’t remember what happens
at the end of the book, but tonight the chapter we listened to was when they
got to move into the surveyor’s house for the winter. It was a good, snug,
board house with supplies and even a trundle bed for Grace.  And, in this chapter, everything was right again. The family was together, settled, with peaches and saltines for dessert on their red-checked tablecloth, and Ma rocking idly in the rocking chair after
supper. For the winter at least, they were home.

Even in the midst of math clutter and play-doh placemats, they're beautiful, aren't they?

That chapter changed the tone of the book—to have a warm home and a contented mother. I feel better hearing that, and Laura felt better living it. So, I’m eager to get back there myself, to the heart of my home.  I’m humbled and grateful that God
and my husband were in cahoots to help me get this book done, so thankful for
all the friends who helped it happen, and amazed at how God has carried this
plan along. I’m looking forward to promoting the book this summer.  But I’m also looking forward to wearing my cute apron and making dinner.

For now though, despite the busyness, I am so incredibly blessed. I can kiss my soft-cheeked children, get tears in my eyes at how they’ve grown, feel my heart dance every time I see snowy blossoms gracing the dining room table,
and rest in the beauty of home.


Family Song right now is How Firm a Foundation, verses 1 & 3. Love this video of friends in France with a new church and it’s on there.

How Firm A Foundation
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”