Category Archives: family

ikea Tarva Changing Table Top

We’re waiting on baby over here so while we wait we are finishing some projects.  Yesterday, Brian and I added this top to the dresser in the nursery.

IMG_5412The dresser is the 3 drawer Tarva from ikea.  It is unfinished pine so it was easy to match pieces from Menard’s for the top.  The original dresser top was just the right size for a standard changing pad to fit but it didn’t allow for any room to set out diapers and supplies.  Plus, I would like to avoid the chemicals in the plastic and foam pad this time.  Ideally, I will make a cushion to fit this new top but if that doesn’t happen we can just lay a towel in it and the sides will contain baby as well as the curved cushion did.  We plan to attach a buckle strap with screws.  I really like that we were able to custom make this and create the perfect place for the diaper pail underneath.

I didn’t snap a picture before we attached the top but you can see the piece that inspired me here:  Hemnes Changing Table Top.  Once you understand the concept my description will make a lot more sense.  If you’re going to attempt this read the whole thing first and then decide what order you want to proceed in.  We cut all of our pieces first and assembled them right on top of the dresser for the perfect fit.

IMG_5411First, we made a rectangle with 1″x3″ pine boards.  You can buy select 1″x3″ boards at Menard’s.  Or, if you have a table saw you can buy 1″x4″ boards and rip them to the width you want.  1″x4″ boards are way cheaper, like $2 versus $10!  The front and ends of our rectangle are the nicer boards, the back edge closest to the wall is a cheaper one that we ripped.  They aren’t exactly the same color but it isn’t very noticeable.

Anyway, the two short end pieces should be cut to exactly match the short sides of the dresser top.  The two longer sides should be cut to match the long sides of the dresser minus the ~3/4″ that each end piece takes up (so minus ~1 1/2″) plus the additional length that you want for however long you want your top to hang over.  We brought the pieces to the dresser, set them up the way we wanted, and marked the exactly measurements with pencil.  This saved a lot on sanding later to get flush edges.

We made our rectangle with the short ends on the outside and not vice versus so that when you walk in the room you see one solid board on the end, not a joint and the end of the two long boards.  If your table sits differently, where the front is seen the most, you might want to change it so the long sides are longer and the joints are visible on the short sides.

Anyway, assemble the rectangle with screws and glue.  We pre-drilled with a countersinking bit so that the screws pulled in to the wood and we can fill the holes and hide them.  We used two #8 x 1 1/4″ wood screws at every corner.  This rectangle should sit on top of the dresser and be exactly flush with one short side and both long sides, and overhang on the other short side as much as you desire.


Then, you’ll need a 1″ thick (truly ~3/4″) piece to attach to the bottom on the rectangle.  This piece will sit flush with the top of the dresser and extend the surface on the overhang.  This piece should be exactly as long as your short end pieces one way.  The other way it should fit tight to the short end of the dresser top and be flush with the end of your rectangle.  We actually pieced two boards together rather than buying a whole sheet of plywood for such a same piece.  We cut both of our pieces to the length of the short ends, and then ripped one of them to get the right measurement the other way.


To attach this bottom piece you drill through it and in to the bottom of the rectangle.  We used the same #8 x 1 1/4″ screws and glue here, and pre-drilled with the countersinking bit again so you wouldn’t see screw heads on the bottom edge.  For added support we used two pieces of metal hardware to attach the edge of the dresser top and the edge of our new board.  These pieces of hardware are called mending plates.  Since the dresser top and the new board are not very thick we used #8 x 1/2″ screws here and did not pre-drill.


To attach the end of the rectangle that doesn’t have any overhang we screwed up through the lip of the dresser top and in to the short end piece.  We used the 8# x 1 1/4″ screws here, too.  That hole on the far left is where I pre-drilled on to much of an angle and would have missed the end piece.  You have to go pretty close to the edge of the beveled top to stay in line with the end piece.

I thought the long top might make the dresser unsteady and planned to screw the short end piece directly to the wall if needed.  However, I can’t tip it at all by pressing down on the overhand so we just pushed it against the wall and called it good.  The dresser itself is not very tall or heavy but if we see any sign of a certain someone trying to climb it we will attach it all to the wall anyway.

We assembled the whole thing and then took it outside and sanded it before attaching in to the dresser.  Since the dresser is unfinished we left it at that.  It looks good to me, and I don’t think it stands out as being non-factory unless you look closely.


Budgeting for Children: Learning Materials and Beyond

I’m not sure why but I feel led to write about this right now.  We’ll see if Kent sleep schedule agrees.  😉

In my post about our Montessori Inspired Kitchen Setup I shared some of the products we’ve purchased for Kent to use.  We are on a tight budget around here so it is important to pull together nice materials for him without spending a fortune.

You can read more about our financial situation by clicking on “Our Money Story” up above.  We follow Dave Ramsey’s teachings and operate on a zero based budget by utilizing the envelope system.

We have a line in our budget for “Kent”.  This line will eventually changed to “Children”.  As is stands right now the amount will not increase with the number of children.  Right now it is $60/month and we put that amount, in cash, in an envelope for him every month.  If he needs something, or there is something I feel we should have to aid his learning, I go to his envelope first.  Here are some examples of what I have purchased from his envelope:

  • sunglasses
  • sensory materials (water beads, etc.)
  • puzzles
  • story books
  • books to aid me in teaching him
  • cloth diapers
  • shoes
  • snack cup
  • toys
  • dishes
  • storage containers
  • shelving
  • mats for him to work on

Pretty much anything that we wouldn’t buy if not for him can come from that envelope.  However, we have other options if his money is running low or if we need to purchase a big ticket item.  Examples:

  • clothing and shoes can come from our “clothing” envelope
  • books that I want for teaching him can come from my “Blow money” envelope
  • organizing, storage containers, and dishes can come from our “home repairs” envelopes (this envelope would be better titled “home improvement”)
  • special materials that we’ll give him at his birthday or Christmas can be purchased from the “gifts” envelope

So, there are a lot of options.  Usually when one envelope is empty another has a surplus.  I rarely feel like there is something he NEEDS that we can’t afford.

That being said, I don’t think $60 is much compared to what many people spend per child each month.  Kent’s line gets more money than most of our other envelopes so even when sharing among all the categories there is not a lot to work with.  I’ll have a post up tomorrow about how to stretch those dollars and still find quality products.

Babies don’t cost us much so I don’t anticipate much added pressure in the budget for a couple years.  I used some of Kent’s funds to round out our cloth diaper stash recently so as long as we are blessed enough to breastfeed again this baby will cost us almost nothing until he starts eating solids.  The books, toys, and materials that we are buying now should still be here when the next child is ready for them.  Most of our budgeted funds should still be able to go to what Kent needs as he grows, with a smaller portion being used to replace broken or outdated materials.

How do you manage your finances when it comes to children’s needs and learning materials?  I’d be interested to hear!

The Ewes Have A Date…

Today we took our flock of 7 ewes and ewe lambs to meet their new boyfriends. We split them up over 3 different rams based on who would best compliment each one’s physical features. The stocky, big ewes went in with stylish, finer boned rams and vice versa. It made for a long day since the handsome bachelors live almost 2 hours away.
We made a lot of stops on the way back too. We ordered a new back door for the house so that when the builder comes back to install the new front door he can do them both at once. That will be soooo nice. It is hard to juggle paying off our debt with cash flowing the farm and fixing up the house all at the same time. I’m glad we can still fit in some improvements here and there.
We had a gift card for Cracker Barrel so we had dinner there – we even got my Mom and sister to come with us so that was nice. I’m tired, off to bed. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Vacation: Days 2 and 3

After the tractor pull on Friday night we followed my cousin and her husband in to Indiana. We had enjoyed the pull with them and had made plans to visit some friends together for the weekend. Our friends in Indiana moved there a couple years ago to join their family business, McCoy Dairy Farm. Brian and my cousin’s husband had fun talking to the guys, touring the farm, and helping out where they could. Since my cousin is due to deliver her first baby in October and our friend recently had her 4th child us girls had plenty to talk about too. It was really refreshing to see a dedicated Mom in action who manages to balance work on the farm with parenting. She’s my new role model! 🙂

I was really interested in the farm too. That barn in the picture is new – can you believe how wide it is!? Here’s the very best part…those of you who have read about my desire for a milk cow will understand. They. have. a. miniature. jersey. cow. Her name is Elaine and I’m in love. First I got to pet her – and then I got to milk her!!! I wish I had taken pictures but I didn’t want manure and iodine all over my camera. I spent awhile (maybe an hour?) in the milking parlor helping out. I’ve always been interested in milking cows so it was fun to try it. It seems like the type of job a person could get very efficient at with practice which is what I like. I told Brian I know where we’re going to move if we ever have to rely on my income over his. I’d love to work for a vet down there!

That is all hay behind Brian. The picture doesn’t do it justice – it was like a wall of hay in all directions.

I think Brian could have stayed all week and I was really enjoying visiting and, I admit, holding the baby. As the weekend progressed Brian and I found more and more things we had in common with our friends there so it was great to talk with them. However, the whole goal of taking a vacation was to spend time together just the two of us with no farming to get in the way. We headed out late Monday afternoon…

More to come soon!

Vacation: Rough Start

We worked and worked and stayed up late on Thursday so we could get out of here Friday morning. We planned to leave by “10 or 11” and pulled out of the driveway at 11:05. Typical! We left separately, me with the horse trailer and a ewe we were going to drop off at the breeder’s and Brian with the pickup we were dropping off to be worked on while we were gone. I went to the bank, he made a few stops, and we met up at his uncle’s (he is our mechanic).
I parked on the road and got out to check the ewe. I opened the side door on the trailer and was surprised that the ewe didn’t startle and jump up. It took me a few seconds to realize why. She must have put her front feet up on the manger (4ft tall) and got her left front foot stuck in a big gap where the manger had rusted out. To make it worse, she tried to get down and ended up in an almost sitting position, essentially hanging from her foot with it way above her head and her toe pointing at the ground, thus make a hard angle at the last joint. I jumped in a straddled her, trying to pick her up so she could free her self. I started yelling for Brian to help and when he got in he was able to pull her foot out.
She would not stand and was shaking, obviously traumatized. I petted her for a few minutes and tried to calm her down. We were only 2 miles away from our next stop so we continued on. At Brian’s stepsister’s house we stopped. I was supposed to trim her pony’s feet. Turns out the pony didn’t want to be caught so we didn’t get it done. We opened up the trailer and got the ewe to stand but she would barely put weight on her injured leg. She was in no condition to go see the ram so we headed back home. We parked the trailer in the shade, left out some bute (pain medicine) for our neighbors to give her, and put food and water in with her. I hated to leave her but we were running way behind and like Brian said, there really wasn’t much I could do at that point. I will say that a newer trailer just moved up on our list.

Our next stop was Wind Racer Farm in Charlotte, Michigan. The farm’s co-owner, Violet Hickey, had contacted me recently to say that she had some Blue Slate and Bourbon Red turkeys ready to go to a new home. The turkeys look great and we really enjoyed visiting the farm and talking with Violet and her family. If you’re looking for local food in her area I would look her up for sure. We still have not decided if the turkeys are right for us. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to branch out in to heritage turkeys with the hope of breeding our own. On the downside we would have to feed and house them all year. I’d love your thoughts on this!

Oh and pictured here is one of Violet’s Buckeye hens with chicks that she hatched herself!

On to Ohio! We rolled in to the Fulton County Fair just in time for the truck and tractor pull. Our friend Rob Foster runs Simply Red so we had fun cheering him on. Of course Brian likes it a little more than me but I finished up one sleeve on my latest baby sweater while I was watching! 🙂

Next stop: a dairy farm! 🙂 Stay tuned for less talk, more pictures, and a lot more fun!!

Thoughts on Marriage after One Year

Can you believe it has been a year already!? That’s what Brian said to me this morning and he is right, this year just flew by. Lately, I’ve had a chance to take part in a lot of conversations with my friends about marriage. We all agree that we get so tired of everyone acting like things are perfect or, at the other end of the spectrum, of people getting divorced after only a few months or years. A lot of us younger couples never get to hear much about those who have struggled through things and managed to stay together. Of course, people say “marriage is so hard” but that doesn’t help much. Without going in to a lot of detail, I’d like to share a few of the things Brian and I have learned in our first year of marriage.

Dealing with the hard times…
-Don’t just think you’ll never get divorced, you’ll live happily ever after, and that’s that. If you had asked me last year if divorce would ever cross my mind I would have said absolutely not unless there was cheating or abuse involved. Let me tell you, I had serious doubts this year that I never saw coming.
-Sure, some couples are “perfect”. But I guarantee you, if you open up to your close friends about marriage issues you will find out that many, many couples go through more serious rough patches than you had ever guessed. Our issues paled in comparison to some of the things my friends had gone through, and I felt so much better knowing that a lot of other people have struggled too.
-Fight!! Please, please, just fight! Okay I don’t mean scream and yell and definitely don’t start slapping. If something is on your mind – tell your spouse. If a topic comes up in conversation and you feel uneasy – let him (or her) know. Don’t just let it go and build and build. I used to think all the little spats we have were a sign of a poor relationship. Now I feel like that is all part of working things out. I’ve seen more than one friend keep everything bottled up and when they finally let it out it was much, much harder to deal with and recover from.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. It is hard to tell what is going on when you’re so involved. Go to a pastor or an older couple and ask for their thoughts. We have avoided discussing our marriage too much with our own parents and friends who might judge just because their opinions might be too biased. 😉

Enjoying the good times…
-We started a new thing a few months ago that I really, really like. Almost every night we turn off the TV and computer, sit down the knitting or paper, and just talk to each other. It sounds silly but we really didn’t give each other a lot of undivided attention until we made a point to. Even 5 minutes makes a difference. We just level with each other about how we’re feeling and if things are going right or not.
-Do what the other likes. I’ve sat through a lot of tractor pulls (not that I don’t enjoy them but they aren’t my first choice for entertainment) and Brian has listened to me ramble on about my garden and my blog. Do what you both like too (for us it’s relaxing on the front porch or going to the rodeo).
-Laugh together! I love it how we both try to impersonate a funny thing the cat did that the other person missed. We can’t help but laugh when Brian is running around the house in his underwear and cowboy boots with a cookie sheet in hand trying to kill one of our many bat invaders.
-Ask each other’s opinion. I am so in awe of Brian sometimes when I expect a smart remark and he gives me a serious, thoughtful response instead. At the same time it feels really good when he says, “What do you think we should do?” and values my feedback.


I think we’re more in love than ever. We’re truly best friends, and are very well matched. Last night we went out for our anniversary. Brian confessed, “Umm… I still haven’t got you anything.” Oh thank God!! I had spent the last hour on Google trying to figure out what I could make/buy/do for him since I hadn’t thought of anything yet either. We went out to eat and drove past the movie theater on the way home. “I had halfway thought of asking if you wanted to see a movie…” I trailed off. “…yeah, there wasn’t much on when I checked earlier and…” he said. “…and I’d really much rather go home and relax” we decided. 🙂

We have done so much this year besides get married that I think we came through it very well. We’ve dealt with the barn fire, a lot of family issues that come with buying the home farm, starting a business (farming), fixing up the place, and stretching our budget to the max in order to avoid taking on any debt this year. Oh yeah, and remember I’m trying to learn how to grow and preserve most of our food while Brian runs in five different directions catching runaway cattle and fixing the semi. Maybe the best recommendation would be to live in an apartment the first year (with maybe just a cat), work 1 job each, and go to the grocery store more. 😉

I hope you got something out of this, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on marriage.

P.S. Sorry no “new” wedding pics, I’m trying to dig some up but they’re all copyrighted with the photographer so I’ll have to ask about that.

Busy Day, We’re tired

So I may not have mentioned it yet but both Brian and I’s moms are moving or planning to move. Brian’s Mom has to be out of her house by the end of August. It isn’t as bad as it could be since she moved out of there and in with her husband quite a few years ago. It has been really tough for her though because Brian’s Dad and brother have both passed away and a lot of there stuff was in the house and had to be sorted through. We also had a lot of stuff left in the house from when we lived there before moving to the farm. If you haven’t heard, Michigan’s economy bites and almost no houses are selling. Someone actually came to Brian’s Mom and made her a really good offer on the house – it wasn’t even for sale. I think this is meant to be and I’ll be so glad when it is done.

My Mom is planning to move closer to us next spring. Right now her and my little sister live about 45-60 minutes away from us. My sister will be graduating from high school next year. So far we haven’t found a house for them but we’re really hoping one will open up very close to us. I grew up with my Aunt right next door and loved going to visit. I keep saying I don’t want to have to drive, when we have kids and they wear me out I want to say, “Go see your Grandma!!” and mean it. They’re aren’t many houses around us so we’ll see what happens.

So all of this means that we needed to get all of our stuff out of both houses. Today was the day. My Mom and sister brought what was left at their house. They met me at Brian’s Mom’s house and helped me get the rest of the little stuff. Now all that is left is some furniture and a few things for Brian, plus he has to get stuff out of the shop there.

We worked at our house ALL DAY to organize the upstairs, haul everyone’s old crap out, and move our stuff in. Every one in Brian’s family left stuff in our attic. We tried to save some of the important things but at this point I feel like they should have come and got their things by now. Our porch is packed full of junk to go out to the trash. I hate throwing it all away but who is going to want a box of old waders, shoes, and mouse poop? We set aside anything salvageable to donate.

We did find a lot of cool pictures and old letters – I’ll share more about that as soon as we have time to look through them. I’m so glad we’re one step closer to make this house our home, instead of free storage for everyone else.

After that Brian and I moved 75 bales of hay in to the neighbor’s mow. I almost never have to move hay anymore and it is HARD when you haven’t been using those muscles. Then I took a shower and made another batch of homemade oreos. Now I’m going to check some blogs and knit until I fall asleep.

Have a great night! What cool things have you found in your house? Did you work hard today or get to relax?