thistlewood farm

Sometimes in life there comes that awful, agonizing moment when you realize you can’t go home anymore.

I’m not talking about this home.

I’m talking about the home where you grew up.  Where you played hopscotch and taught school to your dolls and climbed trees and decorated your room with Laura Ashley wallpaper and watched your mother make pancakes every Saturday morning.

And where you first kissed your boyfriend.

And years later walked arm in arm with him up the back steps after you said “I do.”

That home.

spring flowers

The home I grew up in was full of life and laughter and joy.

It was a hub of bustling activity with a project in every room.  My mother tiled the kitchen herself.  My father kept his giant rock collection in the library.  My sister had everyone sign the wood floor in her room.  My brother built a giant marble machine that covered the entire family room.

There were speeches and performances and dancing and debates and stories.

And oh…the stories we would tell.

The halls of the house rang with them.


But eventually we grew up and left home.

Life moved on.

We all started our own families and the house was left a little sad and forlorn.  It became too much for my mother after my father passed away and so she made the very difficult decision to sell it. So we packed up our stories and our memories….

…..and started a new chapter in our lives.

bird house before picture

And as we were cleaning up the house and getting ready to move my mother to her new home.

I discovered this.

Dirty and broken and barely salvageable.

birdhouse before picture

It was the remains of a birdhouse.

This birdhouse once perched on a stand in the middle of the backyard at that wonderful home where I grew up.

It was there when I ran out the door to meet my friends after school.

It was there the day I chased the chickens around the yard.

It was there when I graduated from high school.

It was there the day I got married.

It was there the day I brought those precious twins home from the hospital.

And now?

birdhouse on the farm

It’s refinished and refurbished and recreated and rebuilt.

It’s been given another chapter in its journey.

Now it lives with me.

birdhouse project

My husband surprised me for Valentine’s Day with the new and improved birdhouse.

He spliced the pieces together.

And rebuilt the inside and painted it white.


And used leftover shingles from our roof for the top so it would match the house.

A little bit of old with a little bit of new.

birdhouse diy project

When the weather gets warmer he’s going to build a stand for it and place it in the center of the flower garden.

Just like before.

Because sometimes when you realize you can’t go home anymore….

….you discover something even more important.

Wherever you go.

Wherever you land.

Wherever the journey takes you.

You can always bring a little bit of home with you along the way. 🙂

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  1. Image for Shirley@housepitalitydesigns Shirley@housepitalitydesigns

    Oh how wonderful that he restored that birdhouse back to life and incorporated a piece of your home on it...It is always so sad to leave a place that you grew up and made such wonderful memories...but you will have those treasured memories forever, wherever you are....Have a great weekend and Happy Spring..

    1. Image for Ardith Ardith

      I echo Kim on her reply to your post, KariAnne. What a beautiful story. What a beautiful, thoughtful husband. Cheers, Ardith

  2. Image for Wendy from Wendy from

    Why did this post bring tears so early in the morning? Your elegant and touching way to tell a story? Most likely. But some times on a rainy chilly day you just want to go home again and snuggle in the warmth and safety of you Mothers arms. ;)

  3. Image for Vicki Vicki

    What a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes. Growing up I wasn't so lucky to have a home to grow up in. You see I'm what you would call an Army brat and we would move every couple years. From government Army housing, apartments and finally settling in Lexington, KY back in the mid-'60s. I had a home for about 10 years where I to kissed my first boyfriend and was proposed to in the front entry by my hubby. But then my parents split up and the home was sold - remarriages etc. You get the picture. I always wanted my 2 kids to know what coming home met and have tried to maintain that - although we have moved a couple times they and the grands are all local here in Land O'Lakes, FL where we moved to almost 30 years ago. It's all my grand kids know so hopefully they can tell stories to their kids of going to Grandma/Grandpa's house! Thanks again for a wonderful story. You are blessed with talent.

  4. Image for Suzanne Suzanne

    You are the best! Your stories warm my heart, bring a tear to my eye and make me smile...all at the same time. Have a wonderful day.

  5. Image for Debbie Debbie

    I really enjoyed your post today. It took me down memory lane to my old childhood home. It burned several years ago in a wild fire. I am so grateful that by then, Dad was gone to heaven and Mom was living with us. Now that both my parents are gone and so is the old house I still remember eery single room in that old house. Thanks for the cherished memories. That husband of yours, he is definitely a keeper.

  6. Image for Terri Terri

    Amazing..... and wonderful.... the memories we treasure... but what an extra special "nice" .. when you have that something to look at and reminisce..... the bird house is just beautiful!!!! Your husband rocks!!!!

  7. Image for Bluwatergal Bluwatergal

    How wonderful to have a tangible bit of your childhood home with you at your home now. Major props to your twinkly eyed hubby for his thoughtfulness. Yep, he's definitely a keeper! Can't wait to see your post when the birdhouse is on its stand in the garden. And I know you'll include a photo of your little girl self twirling around the yard herding the chickens. Please? Already smiling just thinking about that image :) Bwg ~~~

  8. Image for Cherie Cherie

    You have such a way with words! This one took me down memory lane. We have such amazing memories of the house we grew up in and the woods around it. Only,this past year, we DID go home. Lived with my parents for about 6 months after our house burned. They were in the middle of selling the house to my sister at the time, so we went with them from old to new. I've gotta say though.. by the end of it, we were more than ready to leave it behind! :)

  9. Image for Mary Crozier Mary Crozier

    Reading your blog is like a big ray of sunshine....I so look forward to getting my Thistlewood email! I just wanted to let you know that I received my first order from The Blue Apron yesterday. Last night's dinner was Pan Roasted Salmon with Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad. My two teenage girls prepared the meal and it was just delicious. Leftovers went in the lunchbox this a.m. as it was as good cold as warm. Thank you for the referral! We look forward to our Blue Apron dinner tonight. It came at such a good time as I've been so busy tending to a sick family member. It is so much better than take-out!

  10. Image for Kaal Huggins Kaal Huggins

    Lovely and tender memories...our childhood is forever with us. I am so thankful that you have such a visual reminder of your life in your own yard. When I saw the photo of the bulbs springing took me home. My Mother had a beautiful double row of King Alfred Daffodils that grew just behind the clothesline...all the years of my childhood. Nothing speaks to my heart, like the sight of those yellow beauties. We have been blessed with memories that are good...Love your site and posts!!

  11. Image for Regina Regina

    Love it. I have some tall phlox and tiger lilies that I brought to this county from the county of my birth - they came from the place I grew up, and where my mom grew up, and we had the tiger lilies at the house before we moved into my grandparents' house after my grandfather passed away. Convoluted, I know, but it means so much to me to go out in the Spring and look at the plants beginning, and think of my grandmother walking me all over the yard telling me exactly what each sprig of green's name. You're right - we can't always go home, but we can bring it with us wherever we go! GOT to get out there and see if they're poking through the damp earth!! :) Happy day, Karianne!

  12. Image for CC CC

    Your blog is my daily dose of Vitamin D - full of sunshine!! Thank you for making me laugh and cry and appreciate every single blessing. xo

  13. Image for Peg Peg

    Filling up here...what beautiful memories you have of your childhood and young adulthood. You are always such a breath of fresh air, and Mr. Thistlewood is a rock star! : )

  14. Image for Kelly York Kelly York

    I am so thankful for your mother telling me about your blog when we bought her house. This post made me cry and feel happy all at the same time. Those beautiful yellow flowers are blooming in the backyard right now. New chickens roam the yard and new birdhouses are being built. We are so blessed that our family gets to make memories in your childhood home too. I hope one day my children reflect back and see all the laughter and love they had here just like your family did. Enjoy that birdhouse.

  15. Image for Becky Becky

    Both my parents are gone now. I miss them everyday. Isn't it funny that the things that matter the most arent the things with monetary value but the memories. My sisters and I did the same thing when we divided up moms things, the mixing bowl she used for her pumpkin pies, the little goose figurine that sat in the kitchen window sill, her perfume bottle from her dresser. How sweet of your husband to surprise you. Enjoy the memories.

  16. Image for Shirley Shirley

    This is one that made me cry. Life changes many things. I, too, can remember where I grew up. We lived between the river and the airport. The main runway was in line with our house. When the planes came over, they were low enough you could see the people in the windows. As a matter of fact, that was when women wore hats and you could even see the hats on their heads. That is long gone now. The airport has taken all that property and extended the runway. Along the way, I have lost both parents, and two sisters, and my husband little over a year ago. But, I still have the memories. Not sure why it made me cry, but sometimes it just hits you that way. I enjoy your website.

    1. Image for Betsy Betsy

      I was reading the responses and Shirley yours just tugged at me. I wanted to give you a hug via the internet. I grew up in the city, one block from the elevated train. We could see the people in the train looking out our bedroom window at night. The day after Thanksgiving Santa would ride the train into Center City several times a day and as children my sisters and I would wait by the window for hours. Your comment made me think of those times fondly. Life is a wonderful place but loosing people we love is so hard. Thank goodness our memories go with us no matter where we are or what changes occur. Happy Spring Shirley!

  17. Image for Jeannie Jeannie

    I can so relate to this. I can't imagine how hard this decision was for your mother. I think knowing 'you can't go home again' is one of the hardest parts of growing up, no matter your age when it happens. Trisha Yearwood, one of my very favorite singers, has a song about going home called Dreaming Fields. Here is a link Have a tissue handy when you listen. Your guy is such a treasure. You are one lucky girl. Then again, he's pretty lucky, too.

  18. Image for Linda J Linda J

    You did it again. Yes, you did. You made my eyes drip. I never had what you had growing up. I know kids who did and I always envied them. I have since learned to love who I am and what I have at the moment, and as life moved forward I have apparently made my own *stories* because my daughter and grandkids get the biggest kick out of story telling and the *remember when* moments. Your story just reinforced everything for me. Thanks so much. You know we all just love you and Mr. Twinkly Eyes!

  19. Image for Jenni Jenni

    I love your blog. The way you write almost always makes me cry. This has to be one of my favorite posts. I can't believe your husband surprised you with that!! What a beautiful thing to do.:)

  20. Image for Paulette Paulette

    Oh KariAnne, this post especially resonates. My Dad passed in 1995 and my mother followed in 2012. My mother wasn't able to maintain the home and it had some serious issues which led to the decision to raze it. The property was sold. The property is as beautiful as ever, but I will never be able to walk those rooms again. Your post made me realize I have keepsakes and photos and memories that I can cherish. Thank you.

  21. Image for Jackie Holt Jackie Holt

    I can sooo understand your post this morning! My Mom left for heaven over three years ago and only two weeks ago did we get the house completely emptied and sold. We were in no hurry because both of my sisters live out of state and could not come for long enough to go through and make decisions on what to keep, sell, give away, etc. The house held so many memories and all good ones. We have an amazing family because of the parents we had and so close knit. Every Christmas, almost every child and grandchild, and great grandchild would come home, filling the house with laughter, joy, and love. When she died, we were up in the 50s in number !! They came from states, near and far, but you just didn't miss Christmas at Nanny and Grandy's! To know that we would never walk back in the house that she loved and always welcomed us back to was so bittersweet. A young couple with three little boys were able to buy it and they are already remodeling and so excited to make it their own. It is sweet to know that once again it will be filled with the sounds of family! As much as my parents and all of us loved it, I know that where they are today they would say "it is just a house ..keep your memories and move on and we will be together again". I love my family and I love my faith! I also brought a birdhouse from their yard and the porch swing!!!!

  22. Image for Rosalie Rosalie

    So wonderful Kerrianne! Your story and the replies from everyone brought tears to my eyes too... The birdhouse gift on Valentine's Day was extra special. Shows the love and care he has for you! All this makes me appreciate when my adult children want to "come home" to visit where ever I am, share a cup of chocolate and homemade treats. I hope your bulbs are starting to inch their way up and the snow is almost gone so you can enjoy them. Happy First Day of Spring!

  23. Image for Bonnie Bonnie

    I shared this with my family this morning and well we are pretty much all in tears. Our parents have sold their acreage of 21 years and although I never grew up there it has been the place that my children have known. We are all grown and have married kids of our own but it is always bittersweet when change occurs. Thank you for sharing your story.

  24. Image for Dawn Dawn

    Kari Anne, I loved your post today and, like others have written, it brought tears to my eyes. I never had the opportunity to experience that...I was an Air Force "brat" and we moved every 1 1/2 -2 years. My mom worked very hard to make each new place home and we have memories from each place, but it just wasn't the same. My parents purchased their "forever" home after I was grown and married. I made sure my kids had a home to grow up in and create memories in. We lived there until they were grown, but sadly hubby's job transferred us and we had to sell. I'm just glad it was when they were older. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Image for Laurie Laurie

    Seems your readers all had a similar reaction to this story today. I am teary eyed and I rarely cry. I think I am feeling sentimental today as it is my sister's birthday, and she passed away two years ago. Since it is also the first day of Spring, a time of renewal and re-birth, today feels especially tragic. My Mom died a year ago and my Dad was just recently diagnosed with Parkinson's and this post made me feel nostalgic for my childhood, back when we were all little and did silly things together (like rolling downhill in the drum of an old dryer!). Thank you for such a beautiful story. Your childhood sounds idyllic. You have an enviable life.

  26. Image for Robin Stephens Robin Stephens

    And the mommy bird will kiss the daddy bird and they'll bring their twins home! Sweet and full-circle!!

  27. Image for Debbie Esparza Debbie Esparza

    Absolutely another beautiful story Kari! Your husband is a good man indeed! When are you going to publish a book of your journeys? Thank you each day for letting us share a part of you.

  28. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Ah yes, little grasshopper -- you've turned into one wise owl!!A house is place it is the feeling that we carry in our hearts that make it a home. Your memories will always stay with you -- and your kids will certainly appreciate the stories you tell them. And your twinkling brown eyes sure knows the way to a girls heart :-) Have a happy weekend.

  29. Image for Pamela Pamela

    Oh what bittersweet memories! Thank you for sharing. Your husband is a sweet blessing; I pray your sons will see him as a role model; a warrior on the frontline. Courageous yet caring enough to take that somewhat forgotten wood and preserve it for the woman he loves. In a world where marriage has somewhat been cast aside, it's good to see a strong happy one. God bless your family!

  30. Image for Sue B. Sue B.

    Seems as if the birdhouse being found when you were packing up your mom's things to move to her new house couldn't have been a coincidence; that someone watching over you wanted you to find that birdhouse, someone wanted your husband to fix and then give to you on the one day of the year representing "love." Miracles happen sometimes when we least expect them and sometimes when we feel we need one most.

  31. Image for Stephanie Brown Stephanie Brown

    Oh my I am in tears! This is where In Now as I clean and recall memories from House we have lived and brought babies now teenagers home from Hospital. Love memory keepers as well as think Your birdhouse is wonderful and ones like I hope to Have at our new home! So sorry I Never got bill for wreath workshop so thought It must filled. But would love to Purchase one. My pnemonia came back so would not have attended. Please let Me know if owe and if you Are going to do again!!! Sorry To Post her but problems with email. Happy first day of spring!!!

  32. Image for Susan jones Susan jones

    What a wonderful story! I feel the same about both my Grandmother's homes. Both are 90 and still live alone. The one I am named after lived near me while I was growing up and I spent a lot of time at her home. As an adult I live near my other Grandmother and love going to her home. Just today as I was shopping in an antique store I told my friend that the store smelled like my Grandmother's house!

  33. Image for Grace Grace

    I thought I was the nostalgia queen. My memories of making doll clothes, sewing since age 5, all the wonderful creating and imagination my mother instilled in me, gluing and cutting making treasures, exploring without worrying about making a mess. I can still see and smell those amazing memories. Every Christmas was magic because of her amazing ability to make and create all my dreams to come true. I mentally go through each room and remember the innocence and trust I had, what she gave her family. I still have Shirley temple and all her handmade clothes and my storybook doll, and my continuing love to make and create and explore. She came and lived with us until she went home with the Lord at 96. Amazingly still teaching me every day. What a blessing I was given. I treasure all those memories. Thank you for sharing yours.

  34. Image for Kelly Patton Kelly Patton

    Definitely a post and many beautiful responses to remember today! Thank you! I had a rough week and it was definitely the best medicine!

  35. Image for Jennifer Jennifer

    Well now I have a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye! What a beautifully written post that was so touching! Love your stories, finding you in my inbox is a highlite of my day! Thanks for your pureness and sharing your heart!

  36. Image for Jane Jane

    This tugs at my heart...and I love birdhouses so this is spectacular to me!! Sniff! We packed up our childhood home after my father died three years ago (my mom passed in 2001). I chose a few things, but the most special gifts were a few Christmas ornaments...very vintage. I cup them in my hands every Christmas knowing they hung on the trees that we all gathered around, every single year. And they had been there even before I was born. A big part of that home and a part of our lives as a happy family, now in my forever home. Sniff! Jane xxx

  37. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

    Tears? No, even more waterworks from this one ... Oh my, this touched me so, and my heart swells, thinking, "how sweet the thought ~ and the memories ~ behind that treasure." I know you truly appreciate all the tenderness and love and the *future* it holds ...

  38. Image for Gwen Gwen

    Sometimes I wish that your stories...humor sprinkled with poignant...could be a book. It's like a waste to have all these great stories end...with the passing of this day. Maybe in a way, our desire somedays are to "go back home" to Thistlewood Farms Have you thought about it? The cover would have to be just right so we could use it as our prop and on days we want to go that design of the craft room and the funny stories that went along with it, we could....

  39. Image for Marcy Marcy

    I have enjoyed your blog for so long now. Beautifully written always with lovely words to hold on to. My parents are both gone now but we are blessed to go home. My brother moved into their home after our mom passed away so we sit down to the same dining room table every Thanksgiving to a beautiful dinner on her lovely china. Always feel so blessed to go home. Love Miranda Lambert's song, The House that Built true isn't it? Irish blessings

  40. Image for Yolanda Yolanda

    Dear KariAnne, do you have never considered writting a book? You are so talented for writting and make that everyday life stories become unforgettable moments. You can made me cry and laugh, and this is really very difficult. I wish you and your family eternal happiness.

  41. Image for Lourdes Lourdes

    What a beautiful, sweet, thoughtful gift! Now you and your family can create more beautiful memories around that sweet birdhouse!

  42. Image for Lorraine Lorraine

    ....what a lovely story on this snowy and pretty morning here on cape cod. Happy you have a piece of your childhood are blessed......warm hugs Lorraine

  43. Image for Leona Leona

    Two of your recents posts have touched home deeply, and maybe even at my age ( senior citizen) your feelings run true for myself, as I too believed in happily ever after . BUT look what you have accomplished , wife, mother, decorator and an honored blogger. So come visit to my house and I will call the birds to circle your head and strew rose petals at your feet. You wonder about being amazing and rough around the edges. Think about how many homes you have entered with your blog, and those of us who wait for a new post , leaving us with a smile, a giggle, or an idea. YOU ARE AWESOME AND POLISHED TO PERFECTION !!!!!

  44. Image for Dianne Bell in Michigan Dianne Bell in Michigan

    Loved your story! It really touched my heart. Both of my parents are now gone. I miss them so much, as I'm sure you also miss your Dad. When my Mom & Dad moved from my childhood home, one of the things we did was dig up my Dad's beautiful peonies. Now,every Spring when they all burst forth in all their glory, I feel the joy and love that I was blessed with from my parents. Have a lovely day,KariAnne and everyone.

  45. Image for Betsy @ Happily Ever After, Etc. Betsy @ Happily Ever After, Etc.

    So sweet! What a wonderful thing for him to do! I hate not being able to go home anymore, I have the big croc from beside my mamas stove now in my kitchen... I have many memories with it but it's not the same as being able to go home and walk into her kitchen one more time.

  46. Image for Julie @ follow your heart woodworking Julie @ follow your heart woodworking

    You tell stories so creatively. Your husband certainly knows you well and took the time to make you that lovely birdhouse with such meaning. As for me, I can't "go home" because my childhood home (and there was only one) was torn down a few weeks ago to make room for a highway expansion. Sad, really, that there will be an off-ramp where children once happily played.

  47. Image for Amy W. Amy W.

    Just when I think you couldn't get any better than what you've already written on your do supersede it again! I'm so touched by your words. Especially the last 4 lines! I grew up an Army Serviceman's Daughter..(I detest the words "Army Brat" as could never come to grips to label myself the I felt with each move there was always a sacrifice)...anyways I had moved 13 places by the time my Highschool graduation rolled around. I never knew a one great house to grow up in . It wasn't my story...but those last 4 sentences you wrote are so fitting for someone like me! Thanks-so-much!! :) How I just adore what your husband made for you and of all holidays to give it to you on...Valentines! It doesn't get any better than that!! :)

  48. Image for May May

    KariAnne! This post needs to be served up with a huge hug and a box of tissues. Oh, my heart. My Mom and Dad are now both is the house where I grew up. There were far too many of us squeezed into far too small a space, and it was PERFECT! Your little birdhouse blending old with new is a tribute to a happy childhood that molded a girl who would grow up to provide happy childhoods for her own children. The most basic and beautiful purpose of life. And what a gift to have a man wise and sensitive enough to understand the power of that symbol.

  49. Image for Suzanne Suzanne

    I also have many fond memories of growing up -- on a 4-acre horse ranch in rural Ontario, Canada. When I saw the sign in your master bedroom in another recent post of yours, my heart stopped: Oxford Street was the name of the street. My husband and I with our six children also lived on an Oxford Court in Northern Virginia...if you *ever* consider selling that sign, I'd love to buy it. I know it's a total long-shot but just thought I'd put it out there. :) Blessings, KariAnne!

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