Summer is hard, y'all.

Really hard.  There's no structure, there's no schedule, and there's enough heat and humidity to make the sweetest of us cranky.
But I think the very hardest thing has been having my kids at home with me all day, everyday.  I said it.  Now I'm officially the worst mother ever.
I do adore them, and generally love spending time with them.  They are amazing, wonderful little people.  But I am a complete and total introvert, and being surrounded by demanding, talk-your-ears-off little people all. day. long. just drains me.
I can't think clearly or function properly.  I never get a chance to recharge before the next little "Mama, I need you" zaps me of my last bit of energy.  There's no me left over at the end of the day for, well, anything.
I am more than aware of the irony here.  We waited, and prayed, and fought for children.  We wanted them so very badly (and still do).  We hoped they would bring with them a sense of fulfillment.  And in many ways, they did.  But.
But maybe we were looking to them for joy instead of the only one who can give it.  Maybe these amazing, wonderful little people became more to us than the sweet little children they are.  Just maybe they occupied a place in our hopes and in our hearts that nothing, no one should occupy except Christ alone.
Looking to anything other than Him for joy and fulfillment can only lead to disappointment.  My sweet children are just that.  Children.  Children who sometimes fuss and argue and pitch fits and need me beyond my breaking point.  They are not my all.  They are not my identity.  They can never fully satisfy.
I'm so thankful for the Holy Spirit that convicts and points me again and again to the One and only source of joy.  And in Him, I can find strength and patience and everything I need to get through these hard summer days.  And maybe even enjoy them.
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7 months

Somehow seven months have flown by and I have this to show for it:
He's just about the most tolerant, most easy-going baby there is.
Everything about him is downright fluffy.
He's got the sweetest smile, and his daddy's smiley eyes.
And y'all, he's got a unibrow.  I never in my life thought a unibrow could be cute, but there it is.  Cutest unibrow I ever saw.
I'm smitten.  
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Handmade accordion light

I know I've been talking about our kitchen's face lift for a while now, and it really is just about done.  But taking photos and showing them here would require a bit more staging and cleaning than I'm prepared to do at the moment.  Which is none.  So instead of a full-blown kitchen reveal, here's one of the projects Keith and I worked on to give the space a little bit of personality (and to cut costs).
I fell in love with accordion light fixtures like this, this, and this, but quickly determined that they were way out of the budget for our almost-no-budget kitchen makeover.  So with two fracks, two pendant light kits, a replacement towel bar, and two aluminum workshop lights, we came up with this.
It's not perfect for sure, but it's a bit quirky, and kind of vintage/industrial/country cottage.  We'll settle for "pleasantly imperfect".  And it makes me happy...
...and the kids, too.  Their favorite part is the "spider" that lives inside the light bulb.

Maybe I'll get motivated to clean and photograph the rest of the kitchen soon, or maybe I'll wait 'til the kids are back in preschool and I have three mornings a week to get stuff done.  My bet is on the latter.  
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Look what's finally in the shop!

After months of planning and waiting, the large canvas wall hangings are live in the shop!

We picked them up from the printer last weekend, and I was so ready to get them listed, but ended up in the ER with kidney stones instead :(  So after a crazy, sometimes painful week, they're finally up!
We've got just a limited selection now, but will be adding more soon!  (There are more than are shown here, just click on the "Canvas wall hangings" category in the shop to see them all.)

And I think Keith added some kind of bar way up top ^ to give y'all free shipping.

Oh, and just like everything else from Gus & Lula, 50% of all profits go to our favorite charities.  So shop on!
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Phone Dump

It's VBS week around here, which means early mornings, tiring days, and late afternoon naps.  And not much time or energy for much else.  So a phone dump it is.
I moved around all the time growing up, and this is my fourth house since marrying Keith, so I'm wired to crave change.  I promised Keith I would try to satisfy that craving by moving furniture around instead of relocating.  So the striped curtain panels moved here from the dining room, and my greek key-trimmed white panels moved there.  The Venice maps were replaced with botanicals, and the frames whitewashed.  The solid pillows are from Ikea (with ribbon trim added), and the print is fabric my mom has had lying around.  
These gorgeous stools I found on craigslist after searching high and low for an inexpensive pair.  They'll be painted and recovered.  Next week.
Gus and Lula have been working on writing names....

....and learning memory verses.

This little guy has been working on charming his sister....
...and his brother....
...and me.  He's getting so big.  Everytime I hold him, I'm overwhelmed by how fluffy he is.  And I think of this:

I've got more to share, but kids are waking from naps and whining has commenced :)  Hope to be back with more next week!
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An improvement

Keith and I got away last weekend, just the two of us.  It was a little bit strange, and a lot wonderful.  We managed to squeeze in some of our favorite things: flea market shopping, German food (schnitzel, spaetzel, and a pretzel the size of my head!), a relaxing stay at Chateau Elan, a trail ride, and even a trip to Home Goods!
My first time on a horse in forever!  

It was so refreshing, and so wonderful to be able to have some good conversations without being interrupted by cries or screams to "Please come wipe me!".  :)  We talked about our marriage, the business, and the kids, and have a short list of improvements we want to make.  So far, we've implemented this:
It used to be pink and hang as a mirror in one of the guest rooms in the old house.  Now it's a cork board with plenty of purposes.  It has a blackboard for keeping up with family memory verses.  (Zeph. 3:17 is up there now, and the kids pretty much have it down.  It's one of the songs from our Seeds CDs, which are amazingly helpful for memorizing scripture!)
The calendar is for scheduling -- and reminding us of -- one-on-one dates with the kids, opportunities to serve as a family, and other important dates.
We have a stack of info sheets for missionaries our church supports so we can remember to pray for different missionaries and their families.
There's a spot for prayer requests, and a spot to move them to once they've been answered.  One of my friends did this with her girls, and it was so neat to see all of the prayer requests that were answered (some quickly, others over years).
And finally, the stop lights.  They're new for us.  We have one kiddo that is very easy to discipline - just about everything works.  For the other, we've not found anything that is very effective yet.  We're hoping something visual and clear-cut like this might do the trick.  Seems to be working well so far.
We're hoping this helps add a little structure, helps us to be intentional in teaching the kids to pray and memorize scripture, and will remind us to take the one-on-one dates we always mean to do with the kids.  We typically approach things very loosely around here (Keith and I are both middle kids and not big on structure), so hopefully this will help with the long summer days ahead of us!    
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Ethiopian, through and through

Ethiopia has been on my mind lately.  With the third anniversary of our "home for good" day, and Mother's Day (always a beautiful, humbling, mixed up emotional mess of a day for me), and some reconnecting with families we met while in the adoption process, my heart has been tugged back toward the sweet days we spent there.  A few weeks ago we took an overnight trip to the mountains with some good friends, and while hiking with Hampton and six other little ones in tow, I caught a whiff of something that was very definitely Ethiopia.  Keith confirmed, and we had a few moments of sweet nostalgia.  My friend took a sniff and declared it was spoiled milk.  Well, spoiled milk mixed with nature might be the very sweetest smell in the world for me.
We've also been talking to the kids more about Ethiopia, visiting local Habesha restaurants, and looking through photos of our time in Addis.  They're soaking it all in, and maybe starting to understand just a bit about the wonderful place where they were born.
With all that, it seemed like time to pull out the traditional Ethiopian clothes we bought in country.  The second set just fit.
Goodness!  They look so Ethiopian!  
Hampton got in on the shoot, too, wearing Gus' smallest outfit.  (Poor baby may have inherited my pasty complexion.)  
I hope that we will see some of the inner strength and beauty of Ethiopia in them as they get older, as well as the outward beauty of their lovely faces and smooth brown skin.  As a new mama of a little girl from Ethiopia recently told me, "It's so good to see their sweet Habesha faces".  Yes it is.  
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Greek key trim (again)

So I most definitely wasted waaaay more time on this than it was worth, but I did continue in my search for some inexpensive Greek key trim.  Last week I finally gathered up the courage (and a bag full of snacks and teethers.  and the double stroller.  and the baby carrier.)  to load all three kids in the car and head to the stores, and this is what I found:

Joann had just a few color options, mostly in the neutral family.  It was pretty nice trim, and was priced at $7/yard to start with.  Add in a 40% off coupon (you can always find one for Joann's), and it was an inexpensive $3.5/yard.  Not bad.  Unfortunately, they were a few yards shy of the 12 I needed for my curtains.

So I moved on to Hobby Lobby.  (Or HollyLolly as Lula calls it.)  They had some pretty colors to choose from.  Just like the trim I had found online, it was $7/yard.  (Again, 40% off coupons are always available, so it would come to $3.5/yard.)
So many choices.....and not a single one with enough yardage.  Stink.  I opted not to place a special order and wait around for a week or two, only to have to go back to the store to pick it up when it came in.  (If you've never shopped with three kids 3 and under, you may not understand.  It's an ordeal.)

And then I found this:
Super inexpensive grosgrain with a printed greek key design.  It felt a little like cheating, just a little bit wrong.  But come on, let's be real here.  I'm not an interior designer.  Most people who come to visit me in my home won't even notice (or care about) the silly trim on my curtains.  And chances are, I'm going to want to change it out in a year or two anyway.
And it felt much better to spend $8 than $40, $80 or $100.  Especially since I was sewing it onto $20 Ikea curtains.
My inner cheapskate is quite happy.  And even my inner design snob has to admit that you really can't tell from a distance (and nobody's going to be looking very closely anyway).
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We've been struggling around here just a bit.  Some days much more.  And while there are plenty of tears and much parenting angst to go around, this girl has been the epicenter of our struggles of late.  We desperately needed to see some hope - just a little reflection of His goodness - in this wild and trying girl.    
One morning months ago I found her curled up in Hampton's crib, singing sweetly to him.  Now it's her morning routine.  This girl has always been the very opposite of a morning person, but now she wakes before us all to tiptoe into Hampton's room and climb into his crib.  She sings to him, tickles him, brings him toys to play with.  One very stormy morning a few weeks ago, I found her huddled over him, covering his ears so he wouldn't be afraid of the thunder.
She's a very passionate person, and she passionately loves her baby brother.  Their sweet relationship is the bit of hope we needed.
And it is delightful.
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