By Gabrielle.

I don’t know how to best describe Amelia. She is someone utterly smitten with her life — contagiously so! — and seems completely uninterested in trading her everyday for anything else out there. Some might call her authentic, but I honestly find that term a bit redundant.

I think I prefer content.

I hope you enjoy this breath of fresh, happy air as we all wind down a bit before the holidays. Welcome, Amelia! I’m so glad you’re here.

Well, I’m Amelia, a wife and mom and occasional blogger. My husband Ryan is a structural engineer with a 9-to-5 job, but I’m fairly certain that deep down he wants to be a carpenter. He’s a man of many talents, one of them being that I can show him a picture of something and ask “Build that for me?” and most of the time he can. He’s quiet and kind and patient and hilarious, and very, very good to me.

Our son, Ralph, is a grown man stuck in a three-year-old’s body. Ralph wants so much to be big. On the morning of the first snow this winter, after I’d bundled him and let him out the door, he grabbed his shovel and immediately started clearing the driveway like his dad. All work and no play for Ralph, and that’s the way he likes it. He loves to help with whatever tasks we’re doing, which is sweet and sometimes maddening, because he truly believes he can do it. He once pried a doorframe almost completely off the wall with his little toy tools after spending some time with Ryan in the workshop. There are dents from his hammer all over the house.

Ada, our girl, is five months old. She’s officially grown out of the hazy, sleepy baby stage, and we’re finally starting to see glimpses of her personality. She’s bright-eyed and curious, and quick to smile at anyone who looks her way, a trait I really love about her. I wonder a lot if she’ll always be so cheerful and friendly. I kind of hope so.

We bought our home three years ago from a sweet elderly woman who raised a family in it. When we originally started looking at houses my husband wanted to find something far out in the country, but I was pregnant with Ralph and afraid I’d get lonely out there — just me, a newborn, and some cows and cornfields.

We found a cute house in the suburbs, just a few blocks from my sister, and I was sold. I love living so close to her and her family, and knowing that if I accidentally lock myself out or need a quick babysitter, she’s right there.

Ralph adores his cousins and loves being able to drive past their house regularly or walk over on a nice day.

Our house isn’t perfect, and we won’t live here forever, but it’s been a good starter home with just enough projects to keep us busy. Our budget is tight (our budget will always be tight, thanks a lot student loans!) so we’ve had to take our time with fixing it up — a good thing, I think.

So far we’ve managed to repaint most of the rooms, update the kitchen, and put in a garden. We’ve just started talking of the future and maybe moving again — this time to the country, we hope! — but we’ll be sad to go. This house has taught us patience, how to make do with what we have instead of what we want, and how to keep a home, and for that I’ll always love it.

We live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, land of beer and cheese and long, cold winters. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, but I happen to think those stereotypical Wisconsin things are pretty spot on. Growing up I think I always assumed I’d move somewhere else, but now I can’t imagine living anywhere but the Midwest.

The people of Wisconsin are kind and friendly, and the state is beautiful in all seasons. Milwaukee is a bigger city with all sorts of places to explore if you like city life. Museums, great restaurants, shows.

Ryan and I tend to spend our time doing things outside of the city, and seek out the quieter parts surrounding Milwaukee. On the weekends we love to hike and camp and drive out to one of the many little lakes around here. The summer months in Wisconsin are my favorite — hot, sunny days, beautiful farmland, awesome thunderstorms, time spent at the lake or in the backyard from morning till night.

Folks here are used to extreme weather, which means there’s plenty to do all year long. And if there’s not, there’s always beer. You may think that’s a joke, but honestly…it’s not. Ha!

I won’t deny it, I love to clean. I breathe easier when things are tidy and everything has a place. But I don’t think I’ve always been this way, at least not quite so intensely.

I grew up with three sisters and, out of all of them, I think I was the one who had to be reminded most to take care of my stuff. My mom keeps a clean and tidy home, and I’ve always been used to living in a space that is well taken care of. When I moved out, I had to step it up!

We’re a one car household and my husband takes it to work most days, so I’m home with the kids a lot. To be honest, I think that’s why I’ve become such a devotee to a simple, clean, tidy house. If I’m going to be here all day long, I need to make it a pretty and clean place to be or I’ll go bonkers. If the house is messy, my brain is messy, you know?

That said, there are days, especially now that Ada is here, where things just don’t get done. And on babysitting days I completely give up on tidying until the day is over, because there’s just no point! I keep a little mental list of things to do every day — sweep the floors, make the beds, do the dishes and wipe up the kitchen, and put away any clutter that has gathered — because those are the things that grind my gears if left too long. Almost everything else I’m okay with waiting until I can get to them.

I’d describe my style as a little bit of storybook cottage, a smidge of minimalism, and a whole lot of Martha Stewart.

I love a cozy home, and I like things to look a bit on the old-fashioned and homemade side, but I don’t want anything too cluttered or stuffy.

The majority of our furniture is second-hand or handmade. The desk and cupboard in the dining room were from a thrift store, my husband made our dining room table and bedroom dresser, our bed and Ralph’s bed were found on Craigslist, the living room chair was from my Grandma’s house.

Ryan built a bookshelf in our living room out of wood he found in the dumpster behind our first apartment. Ha! Aside from my sentimental attachments to some things, nothing in our house is too precious. I’m happy to let Ralph tumble and jump and bounce around.

I also take great delight in making things look just so. From my cleaning supplies to my medicine cabinet, I get a thrill when even the basic stuff looks pretty. But I’m finding that I have to be careful about this.

I owe so much of my creativity to my mom because she let me and my sisters have a lot of control over that kind of stuff growing up. She allowed me to paint my bedroom hideous colors more than once, and never discouraged my enthusiasm for bedecking the house with paper chains and ugly crafts.

I hope my love for a perfectly spruced house doesn’t ever get in the way of my kids’ creativity.

My blog is called The Homebook, and I write about all sorts of stuff relating to home: motherhood, recipes, cleaning, odds and ends. My favorite blogs are ones that read like a magazine, and that’s what I strive for with my own blog.

I majored in Art in college, yet I never really found my niche while I was there. Once I started my blog, I found it. Or at least something close to it. I love the entire creative process of blogging, from the brainstorming of ideas, to the photos, to the writing.

I think I might be the most erratic blogger ever, even though I love to do it. I dream of having regular time to work on it so there’d be more consistent posting, but here and there will have to do for now.

Instagram is very much a creative outlet for me. It’s like a modern-day scrapbook of my life, but with a pretty little filter over it. I try not to take it too seriously, and I hope my followers don’t either.

When something strikes me as especially beautiful or funny or happy, it’s fun for me to snap a picture and post it. It’s real life, and it’s not, if that makes sense. I mean, yes, I bake a lot and my house is clean and I have a beautiful, happy family. We also eat a lot of frozen pizza, and there are almost always dishes in the sink, and my kids whine and get colds and have fits. But when those things are happening, whipping out my phone to post a photo on Instagram isn’t usually on my mind.

I think sometimes there’s a push to make social media more real and less glossed over, but eh. I’m happy with keeping Instagram a pleasant and inspiring little place to check into, and I’m just as happy to check out and get back to real life.

Amid the happy postings, there was one event at the beginning of our family-growing that was and most assuredly still is heartbreaking. My husband and lost our first baby at twenty-one weeks, four years ago this past October.

Things weren’t quite right at my 20-week ultrasound, so we were sent to a specialist a few days later, and that’s when we found out. The days surrounding that time kind of seem like a dream now. They were very sad and scary.

I delivered her in the hospital, and we were able to hold her and touch her, and then they just took her away. It was beautiful and terrible. We were suddenly parents to a little baby, and yet we weren’t.

The doctor who delivered her told us she was a boy, so they dressed her in blue and we named her Daniel, my husband’s middle name. Later on, test results told us she wasn’t a boy after all. When we found that out, I’m fairly certain I laughed out loud. I think the doctor expected me to be upset and apologized over and over for the blunder, but I don’t know…human error and all that.

After all we had been through, I think I realized that a name and some tiny blue clothes didn’t matter. The bigger picture was clear: she was our baby and we knew she was with her Savior.

I struggled for a long time after that, even when I became pregnant with Ralph just a few months later. I was kind of a mess, and was terrified of losing him, too. People were so kind and understanding, but often their words felt empty because I was so angry. It took time to get over that.

What helped me most was when people reached out with their own stories of loss. I’ll never forget the day we had the inspection for our house. The man that came was quiet and had a really dry sense of humor. We were in the basement, and he was checking nooks and crannies with a flashlight, and out of the blue he mentioned something about losing a son many years ago.

He didn’t offer much more than that. He didn’t even know about our loss. But oh, I could have hugged him. It was so encouraging to hear a middle-aged man, practically a stranger, bring up his child like that.

There aren’t pictures or stories about Daniel for me to share, but she’s still my baby. Getting a chance to talk about her every now and then is therapeutic for me.

I’m happy to just care for my kids, and I hope they grow up feeling that. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, more than anything else. Making lunches, wiping noses, picking up toys — all those things are tiring and hard. But those things are my duties!

I don’t ever want my children to feel like taking care of them is a chore for me. I hope I’m always joyful about it.

My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.

I wish someone had told me to fill out the baby book!

Take more pictures and videos, write down funny things my babies say and do, make a clay foot print ornament, for heaven’s sake!

The other day my husband found a random, forgotten file of videos of Ralph when he was just learning to toddle and babble. We sat there for over an hour, laughing at his sweet baby face and gasping over how much he’d changed. It’s only been a few years, but I’d already forgotten what he was like.

I need to get better at keeping a record of their little-ness. They grow so heartbreakingly fast!

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Thank you, Amelia, for your words and soothing images. I swear, it’s the perfect exhale to a lovely year of tours!

I begged Amelia to tell us the story of Daniel; I’m so moved by it. This time of year is often about the missing, isn’t it? I really, really hope whoever it is you’re missing is surrounded in a cloud of lovely memories and heartfelt thoughts.

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.