Living With Kids: Lonnalee Anderson

This home tour squeezes my heart in so many ways. If you only look at the photos, you’ll see nothing but happiness. Plus two of the best chalkboards I’ve seen! Read Lonnalee‘s story, and you’ll see much, much more. The subject has shifted a tad this week, Friends, from how she and her husband are living with kids to how the entire Anderson family is adjusting to their particular set of challenges, including Lonnalee’s illness and an impending arrival of a new baby. Life is messy. But sometimes it’s the mess that clears all the clutter away, right? Please enjoy the tour.

Q: Tell us all about who’s living in this well-loved home!

A: There is David, who works as the teaching pastor at a little neighborhood church down the street. There’s me, a full-time mommy and sometimes artist who makes paper flowers mostly for weddings and home décor. And then there are our precious little Mollie Lou who is four, and Ryle (pronounced like Kyle, but with an “R”) who is three. I am currently growing a third, and we’ve decided to wait until birth to find out if the baby is a sister or a brother. No pets. Ever.

Q: How did this house become yours?

A: I was pregnant with Ryle and we were in a 500 sq. ft. bungalow near Old Littleton, Colorado, a part of town we loved. Built in 1907, that house had so much character and was one of the first homes in the area. I loved that house. The second we had our daughter we realized how small it was. When I was pregnant with Ryle, it became even smaller (as happens to an ever-growing six foot woman!). I knew I would miss the simplicity of living in a small space, but it was time to go.

We lived in my parents’ basement about eight months while in search of a larger home we could afford in the same area. David had seen our house when he first started searching, but didn’t even show me because he thought I wouldn’t like it. After eight months in a basement, tons of home tours, and one contract falling through, Dave showed me the house in a moment of desperation.

“Well there is always this one.”

I was beside myself. It was a tri-level that had a red carpeted kitchen, green walls, blue shag carpet…on paper, it was all wrong! But when I saw it, I knew we could make it beautiful and wonderfully functional. I just felt it. So we knocked out walls, replaced floors, brought our colors in, and eventually we knew we had made the right choice. I even love the floor plan now!

Q: How would you describe your style? Do you gravitate toward homemade and re-purposed strictly because of money or because that’s just your preferred style? If you had a never-ending budget, would your aesthetic be different?

A: I think my style is certainly eclectic with a touch of rustic and industrial. I remember when I was making the lamps on our living room table, I told David that if we had tons of money I would be so bored! I think if we had more money, my stuff certainly would be different but I would be spending my time shopping instead of creating.

I love the rush of making something for nothing, or using an unusual item for decorating. The natural boundaries that money sets induces creativity and allows me to be content and thankful for what I have, instead of always looking out for the next best thing. I know many people with loads of money who are very content. I am just not sure I am wired that way, and am thankful not to have the tension!

I was raised by an eminently practical woman who also appreciated beauty, but function always trumped. She is incredibly creative and always enjoyed making things look nice on a shoe-string budget even if she had a pot of gold. She is one of those content people not driven by materialism. I so admire her.

Q: What are your favorite pieces in the house? The ones that make you smile every time you pass them…

A: I adore our kitchen bench seating and the big blue kitchen table. Growing up, I always was so excited to sit in a bench for a meal. Our neighbors had bench seating in their kitchen, and so I vowed one day when I was the Queen of a household (as my mom called it!) I would also have bench seating.

When I looked into building one in or buying one, I quickly realized I it would become a creative challenge. I found the majority of the bench on Craigslist for pennies, and had a carpenter add on to it in order to make it long enough for a large table. I had just enough saved up from Christmas presents to pay for the project. My husband painted it all white with some leftover paint we had. I was so pleased with the results! Then we had to replace the table we had with a pedestal table to fit the bench. I found that beautiful blue beat-up farm table for far less than we had sold our set. These are the things that make me smile every time I walk by…that and the neon pink crayon that made it into the final finish on the old table!

Q: What are your top tips when it comes to decorating on a budget?

A: When it comes to being thrifty, I try not to get my heart set on one option when I am looking to fill a space. And I wait.

For example, I knew I wanted a big statement piece on our dining room wall. I looked at large scale art work — I really wanted a big barn painting because my husband grew up on a farm — and photography, but nothing fell within my budget. I even tried creating something myself, but I am not a 2-D artist! I looked at big maps and mirrors, and they all ran too high for what I had in mind.

Finally, after a long wait, that beautiful old school two-sided chalkboard showed up at my local thrift store. Seven bucks. It wasn’t in my color scheme — yet! — but that would soon change! Pieces like that open me and my home up to new adventures I wouldn’t take if I only had my eye on one thing and wasn’t willing to wait.

Q: We need to discuss that wallpaper! Charcoal black! It is wallpaper, isn’t it? Also, do you have any decorating tips to make a dark-walled room seem brighter?

A: That lovely wallpaper is actually a chalkboard wall stenciled from a cardboard box with chalk pen. I am not sure I have the commitment in me that wallpaper requires. I wanted something bold, but also something I could change easily. I love that it is an open-ended statement. I could go even louder if I wanted, or tone it down. It stays for now, and everyone in the home loves it — especially my not-so-loud-loving husband!

As far as making a dark-walled room seem brighter, I’m not sure that is always the best option! There is something about all the light being swallowed up that makes it exciting. At least to me. Our upstairs hall is unapologetically dark brown, and I love it.

Q: What’s your reaction to clutter and messes? How do you navigate creating with cleaning, especially with your kids?

A: The answer to the question has many facets for me. At one time, I would have said keeping the house clean was massively important to me. But I have struggled with an undiagnosed neurological disorder that looks most like MS for the past few years, and it has changed my views on so many of my daily tasks and values. Cleanliness being one of them.

I would still say that by nature I love a clean house and actually enjoy cleaning, but I have to choose my battles when faced with limited physical resources. I always remember something my parents, who raised seven children, said while we were growing up: “Life is messy.”

My mom could keep a spotless house, but she showed me that embracing life is more important. With my ever-changing limitations, I have learned to let go of the standards I once held in exchange for more time cuddling little people and answering endless questions about sleeping on the clouds and when Jesus is coming back. Messy life is beautiful, too.

I must say here that my husband has also been faced with the challenge of shifting his value for order and cleanliness in exchange for our more often reality of messiness. I am so impressed with how he can lead our family joyfully and peacefully even when this is a large tension for him. When and where he is able, he picks up my slack along with the rest of my lovely family, but also has developed a good perspective and sense of humor when things are a little more than out of order. His flexibility in this has been invaluable to me, helping to relieve my burden. He’s a stud.

Q: What is your favorite part of living with your own kids? What has been the most difficult adjustment? And what do you miss already?

A: I just adore little ones! We were once trying for a crowded house overflowing with little ones until my limitations struck. Now we are learning to be content with our final little joy growing inside me, knowing the loving one in control knows best. One of the major blessings of being unwell is all the time I am available for cuddles on the couch. I will forever remember these precious little ones curling up with me to ask me questions or show me their creations or bother me for just one more book. Often they are little stinkers, too, because I haven’t had the energy to bathe them. I will remember the smell of outside all over them.

It is most difficult when I do not have the energy to do even the bare minimum of what is required. There was a time where I would pray for the strength just to get up and fill a bottle with water. I would get so frustrated thinking, “Why would you give me children I cannot even care for?” I’ve learned, though my anger may have hindered the process for a while, that there is so much more to the care a mom gives than even practical service. Though I wasn’t always, I am thankful for whatever measure of involvement I am allowed to have. Even some mom is better than no mom. The kids usually don’t care about what I can’t do; they are so good at just being happy with what I can do.

Q: What do you hope your children learn about decorating and making a house into a home from you?

A: I would love for them to embrace the fact that creativity and life is still beautiful when messy. That a home is for inviting others to know you and be known — not to entertain — and it should be set up accordingly. To me, a beautiful home is a blessing to have, but a peaceful home is much more important.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I wish I had known that there is always peace on the other side of pain when I lean on the Lord. There is no need to fret.


Lonnalee, you’re just the loveliest! Thank you so much for inspiring us today with your cheery disposition…and your chalkboards! Your “chalk-paper” wall has me scheming and dreaming!

Friends, Lonnalee’s thought that “Even some mom is better than no mom” got me thinking. It’s such a challenge to live well with kids when you’re not feeling one hundred percent yourself, isn’t it? How do you cope, and on whom do you rely? I’m interested in what keeps you from pulling the covers over your head and giving up. Will you share your stories with the rest of us?

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. If you’d like to share your home with us, drop me a note! I’d love to hear from you!

36 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Lonnalee Anderson”

  1. Westchester Mom

    You are an inspiration to all moms. Thank you for an honest uplifting portrayal.
    You are blessed to see the world as you do.

  2. Lovely! I love when she says “that a home is for inviting others to know you and be known — not to entertain — and it should be set up accordingly.” Wise words–thank you!

  3. Lonnalee, Your house is beautiful! Also, thank you for sharing your perspective on motherhood. It is easy to forget the important things in the midst of a crazy day with the kids! My day will be made easier by keeping your words in mind. Thank you!

  4. This was so beautiful — the house and the post! I was struck by that same phrase Gabrielle — the some mom better than no mom bit — we all just keep doing what we can –oh and that rose sofa and chalkboard wall just thrilled me to bits!

  5. I love these interviews so much! Lonnalee, my heart goes out to you. My husband is dealing with chronic pain as a result of a spinal cord injury, so we’ve had to learn to move at a different pace, too. I’ve been repeating “life is messy” for years, but it’s a struggle for me to accept it. I always think if I can just get my act together, everything will fall into place.

    I love your thoughts on how limited funds or resources can encourage creativity. I think that’s so true!

  6. I think that Lonnalee has a career option here as a writer. I loved all of her answers and her perspective of life. I will be quoting her often.

  7. We just watched a documentary on Lyme Disease and her symptoms sound so much like that. I hope she is able to find a diagnosis and treatment to help her. Beautiful paper flowers!

    1. Julie!
      Thanks for the comment, I do have Lymes Disease, though informally diagnosed, and I would like to share I have found a very effective unconventional treatment that we are so thankful for! I have rough bouts still due to the damage that has been done, but I am light years better than I was! If anyone struggles with this, please contact me and I will give you more information. Have a lovely day Julie!

  8. i read this with tears in my eyes…it reminded me of the years i spent on the couch watching the kids play while i recovered from surgeries and treatments and a new limited capacity – and embracing a smaller family than planned. but there is so much peace to be found in embracing our limitations in life – and you can feel that peace in her home and in her words. so beautiful. and the cabinet full of baskets full of art supplies – inspired, love it.

    but seriously, tears. happy/bittersweet flashbacks. i want to invite so much more love into my home now that i’ve read this!

  9. Thank you so much Gabrielle for the post! I am so honored to be forever in the annals of Design Mom!
    Thank you to everyone who took the time to read our story; it is so nice to feel connected over the miles by similar experiences. We’ve all had pain/struggle, chronic or not! I love Gabrielle’s question, what keeps you from giving up? The grace of God for me! Often through others wisdom and experiences! Thanks to all who shared! I am so touched!

  10. This story came to my Reader just at the right time. Today would’ve been my grandmother’s 94th birthday had she not passed away in April. The psalm in the opening photo has special meaning to her and now us, her family. I had to write about it on my own blog today! Thank you, Lonnalee, for allowing God’s light to shine through you and your home even in difficult circumstances. You were a blessing to me today!!

  11. Thank you for this. I think it might have touched me more than any other in the series. It has put things into perspective and ‘ life is messy’ is just the quote I need at the moment. Also the story about the search for the house and living in your parents’ basement is so resonant! Best of wishes to you Lonalee and thanks.

  12. Ooh, I have that same clock! I feel so special now — like I have excellent taste in clocks. Thanks for sharing your clock, Lonnalee!

  13. With a three-year-old at home and one on the way in a few weeks, sometimes I slip into thinking, “I’ll just feel better when [fill in the blank with whatever task is most pressing: the laundry isn’t piled on the bed, the dishes are finally put away, we have a closet that’s not the size of a toothpick, etc.].” Lonnalee’s story reminds me not to let that thinking prevail! I don’t want my kiddos to remember Mommy cleaning. I want them to remember Mommy creating, loving, hugging, singing–and only occasionally taking a break to wash up the dishes. :) Thanks for sharing, and blessings for your healing. Your story blessed me today.

  14. Such a wonderful home tour, thank you for sharing. I love following these home tours. We are under constant renovation here in our Boulder ranch and trying to raise 2 small ladies. Some days with all that seems to stare me in the face, both figuratively and literally it is hard not to become overwhelmed. Thank goodness for the Word, and His promise of Peace. Thank you once again.

  15. I love this home – from that fabulous white bench nook to the chalk paper wallpaper to the unapologetic approach to mess, dark corners and mom-ing! At the end of this interview, with the underlying theme of joy amidst some tired and sickness, I kept thinking of a wonderful Mary Oliver poem, ‘Skunk Cabbage,’ that ends “Ferns, leaves, flowers, the last subtle refinements, elegant and easeful, wait to rise and flourish. What blazes the trail, is not necessarily pretty”.

  16. I love this home!! We too, try to remind ourselves that life is messy and not ever quite what you would have imagined.

    My husband and I learned a few years ago that we cannot have any more children other than our son (soon to be 5 tomorrow!)- so we are now moving to adopt. I see this transition in our family as a bit of poetic beauty – my mother was adopted by my wonderful grandmother, and now I have the opportunity to adopt a child too! Not exactly what we would have expected, but it makes me very happy.

  17. what a beautiful, warm, comfy home…
    and what an open and inspiring woman.
    thank you, lonnalee for sharing your struggles and your joys!
    you have an incredibly heart for Jesus and it shows!
    thanks again!! :)

  18. Jessica Poelma

    I love the realness of this home! I would so want to live there because it has style yet it still feels like a home.

  19. This post resonated with me for many reasons. I have Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis and am on lots of meds for both. And I have 4 kids :) So I can understand where she is coming from and she is right, some mom is better than no mom. Her home is lovely but what makes it beautiful is that it is filled with love and commitment. THAT is always in style :)

  20. hi! i’m not sure you’ll have time to answer this question, but i love that print/papercut/bunting art sitting on that dresser in one of the shots above! it says, “where there is love, there is life”. would you happen to know where that was from or where we can purchase? thanks!

    1. Hi there! I got that lovely piece from etsy:
      The shop owner is such a delight to work with! Hope this helps!
      Here are some links to other etsy purchases aswell:
      Hanging air plant holders:
      vintage egg pictures:
      Happy Etsy Shopping!

  21. Lonnalee a wonderful reminder to me of letting go and just praising the Lord! I struggled with Lyme Disease for about five years and I remember feeling so worthless just sitting on the couch all day! I’ve come a long way since then and some days when I’m in the throws of craziness with my own two kids I forget what I have been healed from. I might just have to get a chalk board and write that verse down to help me remember. Thanks.

  22. I just stumbled upon this post and have been so encouraged! Indeed, God’s infinite strength, sufficient grace, and unchanging love are evidenced in your family, Lonnalee!

    much love from Singapore

    2 Corinthians 4: 7-18

    But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but snot forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
    Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
    So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self his being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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