We had no clue what to expect from this day. At this point we had only seen one photo and a 30 second video of him so we were walking into this unprepared. Would we have a “moment” with him and feel overwhelmed with love and emotion? Would he say anything to us? Would we walk in and feel no connection? The last question was the one that kept haunting me. I tend to romanticise things sometimes so I was a “little” freaked out that it wasn’t going to be perfect..who are we kidding, my expectations were off the charts.
We had gone to Target the day before and picked out a little Paw Patrol gift for him. I even bought a new shirt that had zebras on it so he would think my shirt was cool, I tried to think of anything and everything that would make him more comfortable around us. Truth is, the first meeting wasn’t as magical as I hoped for…it was kind of quiet. When we met Henry that day we learned he was non-verbal and wow, that was a hard pill to swallow. We knew from the mounds of paperwork we had read about him he was diagnosed with severe autism but I didn’t plan on him not being able to talk to us. He made little sounds here and there but he had a bottle in his mouth the whole time and barely made any eye contact. We followed him around Chuck E. Cheese for about an hour and tried to get to know him a little better. We left feeling a little defeated to be completely transparent, it was far from magical.
During that visit we met his foster mom, his social worker, and his case worker. They were all so kind and gave us as much information on “J” as they could. His case worker Emily was so helpful as we talked about his case and what was next for this little guy. It was during that conversation that I felt a fire lit inside of me to advocate for “J” but I also felt afraid that maybe we weren’t equipped to be his parents because of all he would need. The drive home was really quiet that day, I don’t think we said more than a few words for the next few hours. It felt like this boy we had dreamed up in our heads was much worse off than we had hoped. I knew this wasn’t the end though, I wanted to see him again. With Curt’s permission I am sharing this – he was VERY unsure about moving forward. That evening we finally opened the dialogue and started talking about our first visit with “J”. He couldn’t wrap his brain around parenting a severely autistic son right off the bat so our first conversation was me trying to convince him that he wasn’t “that” autistic. That conversation didn’t really end well and we needed more time to really come to terms with things.
Several conversations later, we came to the conclusion we should have another visit. Because we were selected as his adopted parents already, we were given the opportunity to do a series of visits with him before a decision was made. Our next visit would be one hour unsupervised which we both felt would be a much better gauge of how we felt about moving forward. On the drive up the second visit, I did most of the talking. I asked Curt to be open-minded and did more convincing that autism “isn’t that bad” because I had so much experience with it. Looking back, I wish I would’ve just trusted the process and not been so anxious to talk Curt into loving “J”. Within the following weeks, we saw God lead Curt to make the decision to adopt in a completely different way. If I could have done anything different throughout this process, I should have trusted that the Lord would work in Curt’s heart like He did in mine.
Thankfully, our second visit was much better. We picked him up and took him to Chick-Fil-A because what kid doesn’t like chicken nuggets and french fries, right? During that visit we saw a new side to “J”, he started to open up a little. Although he wasn’t super interested in the nuggets and fries, he sat on my lap and snuggled into my chest while sipping on his apple juice. Remember that magical moment I was waiting for? Yeah, that was it for me. I looked at Curt from across the table and held back tears as I whispered, “Oh my gosh, I love him”.
Wow, I never thought I would type those words! I never pictured myself as a homeschooling mom, but here we go! Originally we had both of the oldest boys registered in a private Christian school for the fall. As most of you know we have been foster parents to a 5 year old boy named Finn – him and Henry are only a few months apart. We were all set for them to start kindergarten in the fall when we found out our agency had changed their minds about Finn attending private school. Immediately we were devastated but looking back, it’s so obvious it was part of a larger plan.
It wasn’t long after, my mind kept wandering to the thought of homeschooling. It would be too difficult to put the boys in different schools and for the first time, I started to entertain the idea. I spoke with several homeschooling mamas who expressed their deep love for teaching their own children and it sparked enough interest for me to do my research. The original thought of keeping Henry home seemed overwhelming and honestly scary knowing I would be the one solely responsible for his kindergarten education. I immediately started reading the book The Unhurried Homeschool and it was such an eye opener. From the freedoms you get, the extra amount of time with your children, and having control of how and when your children are exposed to things – I solidified the decision in my mind..now just to convince Curt.
He immediately thought it was a great idea which was further confirmation that I needed to know this was the right decision. Not long after, we asked Henry what he thought and he was also 100% on board and SO EXCITED. Another part of this journey to make this decision was knowing how much time I would be “getting back” with Henry. We didn’t get those first 3 years with him and keeping Henry home this year will feel like I’m gaining some of his most precious years back. It’s a win win for our family.
Now for the fun part – the schoolroom. I wrestled with even creating a specific space to begin with because so many blogs said you really don’t need one. Being a former kindergarten teacher myself, I wanted to create a space that would be special for this experience. I think having a schoolroom will also help with our routine although things don’t have to be run like a formal classroom. Separating homeschool from our living space will help keep some structure..and I love me some structure.
This room has changed so many times in the 2.5 years we’ve lived here. It started as an empty nursery as we finished our foster certification, Henry’s bedroom, Hailey’s bedroom, a guest bedroom, Teddy’s bedroom, our office space, and now a schoolroom. I was able to work with a few companies to make this space come together and I’m so happy with how it turned out!
My budget for this room was $250 and we stayed under budget with the help of Tilt Blinds and D.Marie Interiors wallpaper. Everything else was pretty much thrifted, from Facebook Marketplace, or found on clearance. I love this space so much but more importantly, so do the boys. Even though I won’t be able to homeschool Finn this year, he and Henry are up here almost every day and we have started doing some preschool review! I can’t wait for my first year of homeschool to start, even with all the ups and downs I’m sure it will bring. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, let me know what you think below! If you would like to follow our homeschool journey, I have created a separate account on Instagram, Our Gathered Homeschool. I will be sharing more in depth about how I plan to tackle this first year as a homeschooling mama!
It’s only been a couple months since Marie Kondo’s method swept the nation and her new method not only became popular, but it inspired lots of people to start deep cleaning and organizing their homes. When Joss and Main reached out to see if I could share some organizational tips and favorite items from their website, I couldn’t wait to start this project!
I’m a little OCD when it comes to organizing and I love to keep things extra tidy in my boys’ room so they can always find their own things and keep their space clean. Here are a few tips that have successfully worked for my toddler boys on keeping their rooms tidy and organized –
Clean up EVERY TIME you get toys out. It’s a rarity that you will walk in our home and see their room a mess. It’s not because I’m mom of the year, but because we have a system that works great for us – it’s important to me to teach my children to respect their belongings. Even if we are running out the door, we clean up every time. It took a little time to teach them this method at 3 years old so I would recommend starting as early as you can. It wasn’t too long after that they started doing this all by themselves.
One toy at a time. We have a rule in our home that if you are playing with one toy and are ready to move on to something different, you should put that toy away first. It makes cleaning up a breeze when there are only a few items to pick up when it’s time to leave or get ready for bed. Of course there are times this rule doesn’t apply, but in general they play with one toy or set of toys at a time before switching to something new.
Don’t do it for them. I am all for helping my children tidy up their rooms but teaching them to be responsible for their own things is something we started pretty early on. A few months ago I taught them how to hang up their own shirts and now they love helping me get laundry done. Each day when they get ready for bed they put their dirty laundry in the hamper, shoes on the shelf, fold their pants as best they can, and get their pajamas on by themselves. My boys love that they have independent jobs and look forward to doing things by themselves every day.
Organize by category. If you have one giant bin that everything goes into chances are things will get lost frequently and your children will do more of a “dump everything out” method when they play which makes cleaning up so much harder! Here are some photos of how I have organized the boys’ books, games, and toys!
Choose good organizational items. Under each of the boys’ beds they have several plastic totes that are designated for certain toys. They can easily slide these out and open/shut them by themselves. We also have a variety of baskets, bins, and sliding drawers that they can use without help. If children constantly need you in order to access or put away toys, chances are they will get frustrated and may not play with those toys as much or be excited to clean up. Choosing age appropriate storage items for your children to use will help them independently get out and put away their own toys.
Make it fun or use an incentive program. If you children are not used to cleaning up by themselves and resist when you ask them to help, make it something they look forward to! Whether that’s getting an extra five minutes on the iPad when they do clean up or even cleaning up to a fun song! Children will be more excited and motivated to organize and clean up if they are enjoying it!
When browsing through Joss and Main’s website it was hard for me to narrow down my choices because of their amazing selection! Below are my absolute favorites that inspire me! I chose warm and neutral tones, lots of textures, and things that are beautiful, yet functional for a child of any age! I hope you enjoy this selection from Joss and Main and be sure to let me know which ones are your absolute favorites!
Thank you for reading this blog post! To see my Joss and Main favorites shop the look below!
A few months ago I started searching for a mantel for our dining room! For the last two years we’ve been in our house there has always been something not quite right to me in the dining room. The wall on the right side of the room is so large and no matter how I decorated it, it felt off. One day I was browsing through Pinterest and saw a faux fireplace when it hit me – that’s what it needed! Right away I hopped on Facebook Marketplace and started searching. Surprisingly it only took two days to find one in my budget. This mantel was chippy and gorgeous and only $100! Most fireplace mantels were priced near $350-$400 so when I saw this one I immediately made plans with the seller to purchase it.
We drove over an hour to pick up the gorgeous piece and as soon as I got it home and leaned it against the wall, I knew my brain could finally rest because this was what this space needed! I loved it but in order for it to match the style and decor in our house, I knew it needed to be lightened up a bit. Off I ran to Michaels and purchased Folk Art Milk Paint! This paint was perfect because it wasn’t a thick coat of paint, just enough to give it a “white washed” look.
Once the mantel was complete we mounted it on the wall by attaching heavy duty picture frame brackets to the back of the mantel and hung it on the wall. We kept it low enough so the legs would still touch the ground and help support the weight of the mantel. I knew right away I wanted to build an insert and had just the perfect idea in mind.
I have seen book page inserts floating around Pinterest and Instagram but never any tutorials on how to make one that I’m aware of, hence the point of this blog post. This may have been the most simple DIY project yet and looks like a million dollars! Here’s how to make one yourself!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 piece of hobby board or 1/4 inch plywood
1 book – I recommend a novel or a book with all words
Nail and Nail gun
Here’s how to make a book page insert:
First start by ripping lots and lots of pages out of the book you will be using. I love the look of ripped pages so the more tattered the better.
I started gluing individual pages at the bottom of the hobby board and worked my way up. In my opinion, making them look different and mixing up the way they lay on the board gave it a much more textured look.
Don’t overdo it with the hot glue or you will have lumps and bumps behind the pages. I typically did a thin line on 2 sides and small dots on the others.
I did overlap the pages on the hobby board so it would have a clean line to cut the edges with. I recommend making your board about 2-3 inches bigger than the space so you don’t have to make it look perfect since it will be tucked in behind the mantel.
Once it was all dry, I tripped up the edges with scissors. From there we used a nail gun and attached it to the back of the mantel. If you don’t want to attach it, you can always just slide it in behind the mantel.
That’s it! Pretty easy peasy! There are lot of other ideas for faux fireplace mantel inserts as well I will link here for you to get more inspiration!
Thanks for reading and as always if you try this out, please tag me on instagram @ourgatheredcottage!
April 28, 2017, the day we were interviewed to become Henry’s adoptive parents was such a special date in more ways than one. I remember sitting in that cold, white conference room staring at the box of donuts we had brought to the ladies who would be interviewing us. I took a deep breath as they slid a giant stack of papers to us – it was there we found out so much about the boy we now call our son. When we looked at the top we saw his birth name followed by a familiar date, April 28, 2014. It was his third birthday that day and I felt an instant bond with this boy I had never met. Then my heart started beating because I realized what else that day had meant for me three years ago, it was the day my life fell apart.
As I sit here in my beautiful home – my husband in the next room watching a football game and my children asleep in their beds – I am eternally grateful for the beautiful life God has gifted me. I could never have imagined living the life I have now and I truly owe every piece of it to the Lord. He has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. Four and a half years ago, I couldn’t say that though. On April 28, 2014 my life as I knew it completely crumbled apart. My 7 year marriage was suddenly over and I was left to pick up the pieces alone. The day your life falls apart is not a date you forget, well at least it wasn’t for me.
As I sat there in the interview and read that date, my heart felt like it was exploding. My eyes started welling up with tears, and I grabbed Curt’s hand. It hit me. God allowed my son to be born over a thousand miles away the exact day my life fell apart. The day that I fell to my knees and thought life would never look beautiful again – He was working and my son was born that very day. You might have thought I was crazy when I knew he would be my son after seeing his picture on a poster board? That’s nothing compared to the complete peace I felt after seeing that date on that paper. This was my son and I knew it.
The interview went on for another hour as we talked in depth about the home that Henry and his sisters would need. At that time all three of them were diagnosed with some sort of speech delay, trauma, or autism. I truly felt in my heart that we would only be chosen for Henry that day from the conversations we had in that conference room. There we sat as a newly married couple that had never been parents, can you blame them for thinking we weren’t ready for the instant family we wanted so badly?
Let’s get to the part about Mother’s Day because after all that is the title of this post. May, 2017, two days before Mothers’ Day around 2:30 pm I was teaching yearbook to my class of high school seniors when I got a call from DSS. It was the director of the program to let me know we had been chosen as pre-adoptive parents for Henry. She then went on to let me know we had not been chosen for the girls and that they felt it would be too overwhelming to take on three special needs children. Tears immediately poured down my face as I stood in the hallway trying to grasp what I had just been told, I was going to be a mom. There was so much happiness and sadness all at the same time because as happy as I was about being chosen for Henry, I immediately grieved the loss that he would not grow up with his sisters and my perfect idea for our instant family was gone. As my conversation ended with the director she said, “Mrs. Baker, happy first Happy Mothers’ Day, you are going to make a great mom.”
She ended the conversation by giving me a few dates to choose from to meet our little boy. Without hesitating I agreed to the first one she gave me. I hung up the phone, closed my eyes, as I realized it was all working out. I was going to be a mom.
Welcome to Our Gathered Cottage! I have loved home decor + thrifting for years but it was't until we moved into our 1953 Maryland cottage and started styling our home on a small budget that I wanted to share it with others! Take a look around the blog and hopefully something will inspire you too!