Archive - August 2015

REVIEW: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
My Kids are Riding the Bus
DIY: Sliding Barn Door
What did you eat in Uganda? A photo blog.

REVIEW: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

Disclaimer: The folks at Crossway kindly provided a copy of The Biggest Story for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

When I first heard about The Biggest Story, I was excited to read through it with our children. The first thing anyone would notice is the beautiful illustration by Don Clark (co-founder of Invisible Creature). This has been great for Charlotte as she has recently been interested in art and illustration. But then you get to the eloquent use of words from Kevin DeYoung (senior pastor and regular contributor for The Gospel Coalition). In DeYoung’s words: “When you write a children’s book you don’t use many words, so you feel much more of the weight of getting them right.” Of course the 132-page book isn’t the Bible but it is one of the most well written summaries of God’s work of redemption for children and adults to engage with.

Conclusion: For us, The Biggest Story is more suitable for all kids with lots of illustration and short text. Children as young as three could follow along really well. We are definitely going to make an effort to build this book into our bedtime routine (we’ve done about half of the book so far). The Jesus Storybook Bible, which many people have, covers many more stories with quite a bit more text.

FYI – You can read the author Kevin DeYoung’s explanation behind the book at The Gospel Coalition.

My Kids are Riding the Bus

I have both awful and wonderful memories of my bus-riding days. Growing up, my bus was supposed to arrive early. It rarely did, but we always had to be there bright and early just in case the bus was on time.  I grew up in Charleston SC, which isn’t known for it’s bitter winters, but when you take middle schoolers with Southern blood and mix it up with a winter morning we could have sworn we were in the arctic. The boys started a ritual of lighting the neighbors newspapers on fire to keep warm and strangely none of us really found a problem with this… and we never got in trouble.

The bus ride itself was full of foul language and massively overcrowded. And I had the added burden of hefting a tenor sax back and forth to school everyday. If you’ve never seen a tenor sax just know that they are huge. And the case is even bigger, basically it looked like I was hauling a coffin to school. The bus was crowded so we were three to a seat and a tenor sax in my lap. Pot holes became the enemy as they sent my tenor sax crashing into my face. Sometimes… I would “forget” my instrument at school so I wouldn’t have to haul the crazy thing.

When it came time for my children to start school I looked back on my bus memories and decided there was no way I was going to place my kids on a bus. For two years I raced to the pick up line, hauled a crying, cranky toddler in and out and made sure that my kids didn’t labor a second trying to spy my van in the pick up line. Man. I was a good mom.

One day as I was doing this “good mom” routine I realized something. My kids need to learn to fight their own battles. They need to learn about difficulties and responsibility. They need to learn discernment and how to recover from bad choices. These are skills I had pushed to the future when really these skills were needed now. Things began to change when the reality of our current world became apparent to me. Our kids have to be strong. Not at the cost of their childhood, but to preserve their childhood.

I made a compromise. We drop the kids off at school in the morning… mostly so no one has the need to stay warm by the glow of newspaper fires. Then the kids ride the bus home in the afternoon where I watch from the front porch. This skill is especially important for Lola. Lola does not have the vision to drive and will always rely on alternate forms of transportation. This allows her to exercise independence from an early age.

They have been riding the bus for three weeks now. They have a sweet bus driver, who I have met and spoken to at least 4 times, and their bus ride is about 15 minutes total. They love the bus. It hasn’t been perfect. Elliott had a few name calling episodes and we talked through that. We talk about the bus ride every day. What was cool, what wasn’t. And if one doesn’t talk, the other two certainly do!

We’ve had great conversations centered around standing up for what you believe in, being kind and helpful to others, resisting temptation, being responsible (don’t leave your lunchbox on the bus!), and being independent and trustworthy. They don’t know it yet but, to teach them about perseverance, I have big plans to purchase huge instruments for them haul around. Mom, Dad…. that’s what you were trying to do right??

I realize my bus experience doesn’t sound great. But I learned to be strong, I learned when to speak and when to be quiet and I learned to take things 20 minutes at a time. Valuable lessons for much harder life situations down the road. I also had the thrill of my life throwing open the emergency hatch in the back and jumping out of the bus on the last day… but don’t tell my kids that.

Raising strong kids isn’t always easy or comfortable but how can we send kids into a dark world without the tools to defend themselves. It may not be a bus for you. But I challenge you to consider small steps you can take to build independence and character in your kids.

In fact! I would love to hear from you. What are you doing to help prepare your young kids for success?

DIY: Sliding Barn Door

What a week. Back to school and home improvement are in full swing. I’m a big fan of this project because it means we FINALLY have a bathroom (see bathroom reno here) door in the master bedroom. It took us some time to commit to the barn door but I’m very happy with the results and the convenience of the sliding door versus traditional door. We did choose to build and design our own door after pricing out several options. Hopefully this will inspire you to tackle some long awaited projects and design choices.

Part 1- Building the door
I headed to Lowe’s with Calvin and our youngest. We had a rough sketch of a door design and we needed to check out the wood selection for possibilities. We chose “whitewood” 1x10x10 boards which we cut to 82 inches long. The instructions from National Hardware’s hardware kit (more on the actual kit below) were good but we still took our time measuring and thinking through where the sliding track would drop the door and the distance we wanted between the bottom of the door and the floor. So basically, to get your length you measure from the hanging slider to the floor and take an inch and a half out for your floor clearance. We chose additional boards (2x6s) for our cross pieces. These were cut to 36 inches long. A trip down the hardware aisle produced a modern/rustic handle and I quickly chose a weathered gray stain by Rust-oleum that I’ve become completely obsessed with.


Building the door was a very smooth process. I laid the boards out on a large table applying beads of Liquid Nails Wood between each board.


I then attached the cross boards, after measuring the placement area, with wood screws. The wood screws should enter through the back of the door to ensure a clean look on the front. It is advisable to use a clamp or some other device while the glue dries, but I’m a short cut person and decided to quickly screw in the cross boards to hold everything together while the glue dried. It worked out great, I’m not sorry.

I did not screw in the middle cross board because it needed to be stained and have a handle added before becoming a permanent part of the door. I traced the location and set to work with the stain and drilling holes for the handle.


Once that portion was completed I began to work on staining the entire door. The Rust-Oleum stain I chose is a one coat stain, and it does indeed work very well for that method. However, I like to add details to the staining process. I brushed on the stain and rubbed it in. Then I used my sander to round the edges of the cross boards and top of the door. I also gave the entire door a quick pass with the sander and then rubbed another coat of stain into certain parts of the door to achieve the character I wanted. Once the door was finished I screwed in the center cross piece with handle attached. (I also cleaned off the stain residue with finger nail polish remover… it’s a messy process ya’ll)

And then there was a door. A modern/rustic barnwood door. Once the stain was dry (1 hour!!) I applied 2 coats of clear polyurethane giving 4 hours between coats and lightly sanding as well.

Part 2- Installation

Installation was fairly painless. National Hardware provided a great kit with instructions for this project. It includes the track, rollers and stopper hardware necessary for a quick and easy installation. You can also combine two sets to create double-sliding 3 ft. doors, which we did not need.

National Hardware

I stained a header (National Hardware recommends a 2×6) to install above the molding around our bathroom door. The track for the rolling hardware is screwed into this beam. This provides a stylistic touch and security to the door system. Make sure you have your level for this step as you don’t want a door that slides open or shut on it’s own. Calvin and I took turns hanging with kids and working on installation. My hair just screams Saturday morning project.

Once the beam and track were installed we added the rolling hardware to the door. They provide a template that makes drilling the holes into the door really simple. After installing the rollers the door slid easily onto the track and we screwed the guides into the floor, very simple.



Conclusion: If you’ve been wanting to do this project but unsure of the cost and difficulty level, you have nothing to worry about. Building the door is easy (do all your measuring and math before you leave the house) and with two people, installation was a breeze. I don’t have any other hardware kits to compare against but the National Hardware system had clear instructions and the pieces were all sorted and labeled nicely. For two people, I would say this project would take about 3 hours. This doesn’t include the paint drying and the interruptions from kids who are constantly hungry and wanting to help hammer and drill things. Total cost for this project is $255

Our Material List (based on 36″x80″ door opening):

4- 1x10x10 boards cut to 82 in long
3- 36 in. 2×6 boards
1- 72 in 2×6 header board
20- wood screws (for door)
20- drywall screws (f0r header)
1- can of Rust-Oleum one coat stain in weathered gray
Liquid Nails for Wood
Paint brushes and old t-shirts for stain
National Hardware Rolling Door hardware kit
Door Materials: $85
Hardware: $170






Disclaimer: The folks at National Hardware kindly provided the sliding barn door hardware for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.


What did you eat in Uganda? A photo blog.

(I didn’t eat beef, no worries, my cow friend is safe)











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