For The Fixer-Upper Family–5 Things You Need To Know

I live in a turn of the century farmhouse with an old charm I love, but I also remember the work that went into making it that way. My parents bought this fixer-upper house when I was 15 and invested countless sweat hours, money, and tears into making it our home. It was stripped to undo the years of neglect and refurbished from the ground up. Since my husband and I bought it 14 years ago, we too have worked to make “our” space a place we always want to be.

4681572110_1e72d91afe_zRecently, I found myself looking at “This Old House” for ideas on updating our kitchen. I couldn’t help but see the parallels between making a fixer-upper house functional and beautiful and making a family the same. With a little knowledge and a lot of hard work, we can be assured both will become a place of sanctuary and rest instead of a dilapidated mess.

5 things to keep in mind when working on a fixer-upper:

1—They’re all fixer-uppers. Whether homes or families, they all need constant attention. It’s easy to look around and think you’re the only one with problems like yours. Don’t believe it. Every home, including the brand new ones requires work. The same is true for families. Your family is unique, but your problems are not. And remember that just because something is beautiful on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not a landmine on the inside. Comparison is the surest way to envy what you don’t have and be ungrateful for what you do have. If you were to switch places, you’d quickly find yourself with just a different set of issues.

2—Start with the foundation. My husband was a builder for 25 years, and he can tell you that the foundation is the first thing to get right and keep right. No matter how well everything else is done, it all will eventually crumble without a solid foundation.

For us, it’s a home built on the principles of God’s word. We believe that “everyone who hears these words of [God] and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

3—It requires constant inspection, maintenance, and investment. There is never a time we’re not working on our “fixer-upper” home. We seem to constantly be fixing cracks in the walls, leaking faucets or pipes, or unsealed windows and doors—you know what I mean. We’re often tired and without the money in the budget to make repairs, but to ignore the problems means bigger problems later.

We’ve found the same is true in our family. Problems don’t go away just because we ignore them. They simply build up under a façade that’s waiting to collapse.

We routinely seek to inspect our family for “cracks” to determine what’s getting in that we aren’t aware of and what’s leaking out that we want to keep. When attitudes and behaviors that we are uneasy with begin to creep in, we try to take stock, assess the cause and go to work on repairs. The longer it goes unattended, the longer it takes to fix, but be patient. Nothing falls apart overnight and nothing is fixed overnight either.

4—When the job is too overwhelming or beyond your expertise, call in the professionals. Why does this seem smart in regard to a house, but like a failure in regard to a family? Can I just revert to my growing-up-country-girl-days and say plainly, “That’s dumber’n a doornail”?

My husband is the best carpenter and fisherman around, but let him under the hood of our car and someone might die. He doesn’t have the knowledge or skills for it, so why jeopardize our lives to prove himself in this area? We can be just as stubborn in our families. We lack the knowledge and skills we need but we jeopardize everything rather than ask for help.

Let’s face it, we can’t know everything or do everything and it’s just smart to ask for help.

5—It’s all worth it. We’ll never be done fixing up our homes, and we’ll never be done fixing up our families. But with the time and energy and money we invest, both grow in value.

My kitchen is a mess right now. After sanding and painting, and sanding and painting, I think I may find sawdust for years. But it’s a good reminder that this process of improvement is a slow one and things definitely always look worse before they look better. Keep the end in sight and don’t grow weary. The dividends are worth the investment.


Where are you today in your fixer-upper family? What do you think might need a little extra attention? Happy renovating!


In Alaska and Back With You Again

Oh My! So much has happened since I last posted, and I wish I could catch you up on all of it. I can’t wait to have some regular time with you again and I want you to know how grateful I am to you for continuing to check in and for being patient with me.

IMG_3307We are finally pretty well settled in Alaska, but it took us a little longer than usual. Life is always crazy as we gear up for the new fishing season and we’re never quite sure what the summer will bring, but rarely do we expect it to include a hazmat suit! Unfortunately, this year started with an unexpected and unwelcome guest–a bat!–that lived AND died (and pooped freely I’d like to add) in our sleep cabin. After a near panic attack, I got to work tearing out everything that wasn’t attached, throwing it away, and bleaching and repainting every remaining surface. This left Jon to do the fishing prep and site work all alone, so we started out a little behind but managed to be mostly ready for the first day of fishing on the 22nd in spite of it all.

Jon and the girls and I were on our own for the first day’s catch until our crew flew in that evening. He was gracious and didn’t complain about having to do the majority of the work, and I didn’t complain (much) about swollen fingers from picking fish again.

IMG_3353 IMG_3349So, now life is life again without too many surprises. It is both a simple life and a challenging one on this beach in Clam Gulch. We have a beautiful inlet view, fresh salty air, and great fishing neighbors who look after one another. Still, I occasionally walk into the cook cabin and wish I could turn a thermostat up instead of stoke a burned-out fire in the wood stove. On those cold, rainy days, I mumble, maybe even grumble, on my way to the outhouse. And at the end of a long day, there is nothing quite as irritating as crawling exhausted into a bed that feels like sandpaper–there is NO WAY to keep the beach out of our beds!

In the midst of all of it though, my family grows closer in spite of bumping into each other way too many times in a 14ftX10ft cook cabin, we learn more lessons about who we are and what we’re capable of, and we close the season knowing we’re blessed with an incredible life. This beach is where memories are made. Some that are amazing. Some that are only good after we’ve gotten through them. And many more that I wouldn’t trade for a cushy life anywhere.

In Delaware, I wear many hats that include homeschool mama, occasional speaker, so-so bookkeeper for our business, and part-time blogger.

Here in Alaska, I’m just Rita–a full-time mama and part-time fisherman who loves to share her life with you. Thanks for sharing yours with me as well.

And now, I have a summer list to get to :-),

If nothing fails, I will be here next week.

Beyond Bunnies–Christ-Centered Easter Ideas for Families

Courtesy jannoon028 at

Courtesy jannoon028 at

Is Easter early this year or am I just late? Somehow I missed the last month, the month I typically spend gathering craft supplies, reading great Easter stories, and searching for new creative ways to make Easter fun and fresh and most of all Christ-centered for my kids. I wanted to gather my favorites over the last 15 years and put them together for you here. I wanted to make it easy for you to make Easter special in your home, but somehow life got in the way. It does that sometimes. Maybe if I start now I’ll be ready next year :-).

Still, Easter is important to me. So, I’m going to do my best to carve out a few new memories between now and Sunday and maybe you can find a sliver of each day to join us.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

We’ve been reading Amon’s Adventure A Family Story for Easter by Arnold Ytreeide, so we’ll continue reading a chapter a day and finish Easter night.


I love this author and all of his books. They are captivating stories that younger ones can enjoy and yet delve deeply into spiritual truths. We’ll finish ours Easter day, but it’s okay to start now and finish when you can.

Resurrection Eggs are a must in our home.


I love this activity that can be used with or without the book, Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson. One by one, the eggs tell the events leading up to the crucifixion and it all ends with an empty “tomb”.

Here’s what we will hopefully get to:

Crafts, crafts and more crafts from These are inexpensive to buy, but can also be used as ideas to make your own. We haven’t gotten to this yet, but we will by Sunday and my little girls will tell me how awesome I am.

Well that’s it this year. We haven’t done anything earth-shaking yet and likely won’t. We haven’t made a crown of thorns or constructed a giant lighted cross. We haven’t even made our annual tissue paper cross to hang in the window. Still, I’m sure my kids will survive an uneventful pre-Easter and we’ll all still love Jesus when it’s passed. In the end that’s what matters.


Just Jesus.

All the activity is fun, but if we make a crazy dash to create the perfect Easter but forget how to look like Jesus in the process then what have we accomplished but hollow religion? And who says we can’t have a cross cake and make resurrection cookies next month or any other time of the year?

Happy Easter dear sisters and may you find Him in all you do.

Cinderella: 5 Lessons on Raising A Modern-Day Princess

Their first meeting with Cinderella.

Their first meeting with Cinderella.

I recently took my girls to see the latest release of Cinderella and we just loved it! Well, I love all fairytales because somehow they depict life as it should be. Oh there’s plenty of trouble that threatens the protagonist, but we all know how it ends. Prince Charming saves the day and they all live happily ever after.

I believe every life has fairytale potential, and since I have two young princesses and one almost grown one, I intend to do all I can to ensure they not only dream of a happily-ever-after, but that I give them the tools to find it. However, since I spent most of my young life as a tomboy who’d rather chase snakes than stars and who preferred denim to lace, I’m not the perfect princess role model.

So, I took some lessons from Cinderella:

My own Cinderella

My own Cinderella

1- “Be courageous and be kind.” Cinderella’s mother tells her this great truth, adding that “there is great power in kindness.” I agree. As I said in my last post, I believe kindness changes everything.

2- Love others with “an open heart and an open hand.” Though Cinderella ate from the leftovers of her selfish stepmother and stepsisters, she was generous with what little she had, considering others’ interests ahead of her own.

3- Overcome evil with good. In regard to why she tolerated such ugly treatment from her new family, Cinderella answered, “They treat me as well as they are able.”  Oh if my girls can smile in the face of criticism and unfair treatment and deflect it with grace and peace, they will always be able to not only protect their own hearts but possibly change others’ as well.

Princess in training

Princess in training

4- Be who you are. As Cinderella comes down the steps with her soot-stained face, bedraggled hair, and ratty clothing to meet the prince, we hear her uncertain thoughts, “The greatest risk for any of us is to be seen as we truly are.” Isn’t that the truth! My girls need to know that who they truly are has nothing to do with clothes or hair, but a heart of goodness and beauty within.

5- Believe in something greater than yourself. For Cinderella, it was a Fairy Godmother. For me, it’s God. All of us will reach a point where we know our own strength is not enough. I want my princesses to know that when they have nothing left to give, God has more than enough, and all He gives lasts well beyond midnight.

My girls aren’t likely to ever wear a real crown or live in a castle, but I believe that if I encourage kindness, love, grace, a knowledge for who they are and for Who is greater than they are, then they can live a life that rivals any fairytale.

Wishing all your princesses a Happily-Ever-After Life!

My fierce pirate princess thanks to big brother's influence.

My fierce pirate princess thanks to big brother’s influence.

More help from big brother

More help from big brother

A princess still must work :-)

A princess still must work 🙂

Not quite the complete look

Not quite the complete look

With their crowns

With their crowns

My 3 princesses today

My 3 princesses today

A Journey to Kindness

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

I remember the moment I spat the ugly words, punctuated with a piercing stare, “You act like children of the devil!” It was directed at my oldest children, who were then around nine and twelve years old. In the angry stillness that followed, Kaila, who has always been a mild-mannered child not given to back talk, looked at me with all her innocence and said slowly as though pondering some great mystery, “Mommy, if we are children of the devil, what does that make you?”

Time stood still and no one breathed as we waited for what would happen next.

The wind left my sails as I considered the answer and the truth in it. An apology followed and we salvaged what we could of the rest of the day, but my heart was pricked by yet another ugly stain on my checkered mothering past. We’ve since laughed about the day (along with others) Mom lost her mind and when they both were sure Kaila would lose her tongue, but secretly I’ve cried many times.

I’ve cried because I know love is kind, and I was not always kind. I was many things, but I was not kind.

I was intentional. I was nurturing. I was self-sacrificing. I was compassionate. I was generous. But I was not kind.

Kindness has been a journey for me, one full of determination and disappointment, but one also full of grace, both from God and from my children. I share it with you in the hopes that if you struggle with kindness, your own journey will be shorter.

My two youngest kindest teachers, Samara and Avielle

My two youngest kindness teachers, Samara and Avielle

Please don’t think I’ve arrived. I’m still broken many times over by my weakness in this area but I’m also reminded that it is my weakness that keeps me dependent upon God’s strength and that my children get to witness a life and a heart that is continually being changed by His strength as I remain teachable. I’m learning to love well as I learn to be kind.

Kindness changes everything. It softens hearts. It mends relationships. Kindness transmits love from head to heart, from knowing to feeling.

The scriptures say in Romans 2:4 that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Doesn’t it make sense then that it is the kindness of a mother that leads to the same in her children? Why then do we often choose harsh words, fierce stares, and cold responses when we love so much? For me, it’s been because I like results and I want them yesterday. Kindness, however, requires patience. It is selfless and humble.

In the day to day, kindness cuddles a toddler when he’s fussy instead of scolds him, realizing we all have bad days too.

Kindness gives a soft answer instead of yelling at children who are yelling at each other AGAIN.

Kindness looks a pre-teen in the eyes and recognizes the doubts and insecurities instead of labeling it rebellion.

Kindness reminds teenagers to be faithful with what they have instead of telling them how ungrateful they are for all they’ve been given.

Each day, it is kindness that compels me to say I’m sorry to my husband even when he’s wrong, and it shows me how to fight fair. I’m good at fighting. I can hurl my endless words and he can’t compete and I can win the argument, but I lose him in those moments. Kindness shows me how to fight for him and for us instead of for my rights so we can both win.

Still the one I learn the most from

Still the one I learn the most from

Love is kind.

And if I want my love to translate to my family, if I want them to not just know with their minds, but feel with their hearts, that I love them dearly, then I must not love without kindness.

Memories of my failures often threaten to bog me down in the quicksand of guilt. The tears well up and spill over even now as I type. Still, I have to choose to let grace, not guilt, cover my yesterdays and carry me into my tomorrows. I hope you will do the same.

When I do, I am sweetly reminded of a good God who will never give up on me and of a husband and children who have always extended more grace than I have deserved. And in such moments, I am grateful that I am the daughter of such a merciful God, wife of such a kind man, and mother of such forgiving children.

And I’m grateful to all of you who visit me here and see my heart through all my flaws.