Graham Patrick McKevitt

Oh the blog. Last on my priority list these days. Graham Patrick McKevitt was born on April 28th and is just about as sweet as can be. We’re totally smitten with him. His delivery was rough – I had really hoped to go into labor on my own (Nell was my only kid who decided to show up on her own terms), but after weeks of regular contractions but making no progress and missing his due date (seems to be a common theme for my boys), and my OB being concerned about me going too far past my due date due to heart rate issues we monitored through the end of my pregnancy, I was induced. I had Mother’s Day tea dates with my biggest kids the next week at school, and when my OB gave me two date options – one that would have me out of the hospital in time to attend those teas and one that had me in the hospital and missing them, I opted to make the teas.  My induction was easy – no progress even with pitocin until my water was broken (just as I told my doctor and the nurses to expect), at which point things happened quickly. Graham was born “sunnyside up”, which made the actual delivery and my recovery a bit rough. If I had known what my recovery would be like, I might have opted for a C-Section, but we are ending our baby having years with a 3rd healthy VBAC – I don’t know if I ever would have thought that was possible 6 years ago after that traumatic C-Section delivering Thomas.

IMG_2374

Graham is a wonderful baby. He gave us all a scare and ended up in the NICU at two weeks old for monitoring after a scary night of choking in his sleep. They weren’t sure what was happening and tested him for infection after infection, and all came back negative (Thank you, God!), and he was eventually discharged with a diagnosis of silent reflux. I’m a pretty calm mama when it comes to medical stuff, but I was a wreck about the whole ordeal and barely sleeping after we came home just listening to him breathe. A little over a month out from that experience and we’re all doing much better – I’m sleeping again and Graham is a much happier little pumpkin. I’m off dairy and that has made a huge difference in his reflux (and also combated the colic that was starting to show up after our NICU stay) so now he’s back to being the best baby we’ve ever had (though I vaguely remember thinking Nell was the best baby ever…so maybe Graham’s awesome sleeping evens out with the fact that Nell never required a scary hospital stay :) .

IMG_2392

Graham’s name threw most of our friends for a loop. Not the Apostle name they (or we!) were expecting, but the names we had on the top of our list just didn’t seem right. Our landscape designer actually suggested Graham on an Instagram post when we announced he was a boy. I mentioned the name to B, and he said, “I LOVE THAT!” I said, yeah, I do, too, but it’s not a Saint. We kind of cast it aside but kept coming back to it. You have to love the name you give your baby. Graham Patrick just fit and plays well with our other English/Scottish/Irish name picks. I remember talking to one of my best friends before Graham was born and saying, well, we definitely have a Catholic thing going with our boys’ names, but all of our kids’ names are all also far more popular in the UK than they are in the US – so maybe I need to consider that route.  In the end, Graham was our top choice going into the hospital, but it still took me 5 hours to commit after he was born. We also toyed with spelling it “Graeme” and would have if we lived across the pond – and we also would have used that spelling for sure if we were using it as a middle name – but we decided to give him a spelling that he won’t have to correct people on for the rest of his life here in the US.

IMG_2473

So that’s that. Almost two months old and just getting his announcements addressed and his post written. Welcome to the McKevitt family, 4th baby :)

 

 

House Tour: Dining Room

Following up the Living Room tour from last week, let’s move onto the Dining Room. It’s not a huge room – it’s to the left of our front door when you walk in our home, opposite the living room which is to the right of our door. A dining room was a must have on my list when we were house hunting – but in actuality, we’ve eaten in here maybe 10 times in nearly 3 years. At our old house we used our dining room ALL THE TIME and therefore I didn’t want to move to a house without one. But, at our old house our dining room was part of our family room. In this house, the dining room is closed off enough from the kitchen that it’s just not the most convenient place to eat when we have a big eat at island and a dining nook in the kitchen. I’ve toyed with different plans for this room in my head a bunch – turning it into an office and letting our office be a playroom, closing off the entry to the front of the house and making this a big mudroom and project room since it’s right inside the door from the garage. But, it will probably just stay a dining room :) . We’ll see what the future holds. Here’s the dining room now:

 

industrial cottage dining room

urban cottage dining room

And here’s a look back at what the dining room looked like when we closed on the house – we moved in on a Sunday and I painted over the red (with Benjamin Moore Gray Owl) on Monday. Later we switched out the chandelier for something a little less ornate. If this room stays a dining room, I think we’ll eventually add wainscoting to the room to add some charm and brighten the room up a bit – the one window in the room is small and off center and doesn’t offer great light.

And that’s the dining room 3 years later. Living Room and Kitchen are next up!

House Tour: Living Room

So, I’ve been meaning to update pictures of our house for years. We’re coming up on 3 years in our house, and I’ve just not gotten around to getting pictures of everything all in one place. But as I was taking down the very limited Easter decor I put up this year last week, I figured I’d snap a couple pictures as I went room to room and just get it all done. Now, as you know with me, this is imperfect. I believe in real and I believe in honest. I’m not a designer, I’m not a career blogger – I’m a casual, Colorado girl who’s current role in life is to provide a warm, inviting home for my family and raise these young pumpkins of mine to {hopefully} be kind, loving, upstanding members of society.  You will not find perfectly styled, magazine-worthy vignettes in my home. There are 5 (countdown is on to 6) humans and a golden retriever who live their lives in this house every single day. The floors are scratched, the walls are dinged, and any flowers I were to put in a vase would be demolished by a football in 30 seconds. We live here, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. There is likely a basketball or a coloring book under a chair here, there and everywhere. And I take pictures of full rooms because I think you should see a full room, not just the pretty pillows on the one clean section of the white sofa or a stack of pretty books styled to perfection (if you’re looking for that, move along right now. I don’t know how to do that :) ).

We live in a suburb of Denver in a home that was built in the late 90s. You can see what the house looked like as we moved in here and after unpacking (and making do with some things that didn’t quite fit in this house from our last house) here. We spent the first year of living here neutralizing all the paint, and since then we’ve gotten rid of some furniture that just didn’t work, rearranged about 30 times, and bought a few new pieces to put a little more of our touch on the place.

Let’s start today with the Living Room. My goal is to get the first floor done and blogged about before #4 arrives in a few weeks. So here we go: You walk in the front door of our home to a pseudo-entryway and our informal “formal” living room. I love this space and we use it a lot. Since moving in, we’ve painted the walls (Benjamin Moore Gray Owl lightened 50% – when we repaint if I stick with Gray Owl, I will just do full strength everywhere. The lightened version looks a bit blue in certain lights) and replaced the curtains. Next on my list is to replace the blinds – the blinds that came with the house are all orange-y wood and were never my taste, but they were fine and did the job. But that front blind isn’t functional anymore, so it’s time.

urban cottage living room

industrial cottage living room

I took away most of my signature green accents in my house last Fall. Simultaneously, I just felt like something was off in our house, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The rooms didn’t spark joy as I walked through them. In a use-what-you-have-and-for-the-love-brighten-up-the-house-for-Spring moment a few weeks ago, I pulled out my old green pillow covers and spruced up the pillows on the living room sofa. And bam! Energy and good vibes came flowing back through the windows. (Might also have something to do with the fact that green is returning outside and I’m a Spring and Summer girl over Fall and definitely over Winter…but regardless, green in my home makes me happy. So what if Pantone and their color of the year disagrees. Do what you love.)

white ektorp sofa ektorp sofa with pillows

The antique window I hung in our 90s cut-out niche is still one of my favorite things and adds character to a feature I otherwise don’t love in our home. And I love it even more since I hung that puppy long before I’d ever heard of Fixer Upper. Not that I was the first person to hang an old window, far from it, but you know…it’s the little things.

how to decorate a niche cutout

  green black and white living room   living room

 So that’s our Living Room as it stands today. Stay tuned for the dining room…

The Boys’ Shared Room: Navy, Gray & Rugby Stripes

We moved Thomas and Peter into a shared room the day after Pete turned 2. I shared my inspiration for the boys’ room a month and a half ago, so I’m back with the current final reveal. Here’s what the room looked like when it was just Tom’s room. Peter will move out of the crib sometime this year (no rush, baby boy!) and at that point we’ll have to figure out a new bed situation, so the goal was to make due mostly with what we had and simplify the room so that when it’s time to get rid of the crib, we have some wiggle room to make more changes if needed. So this is a “for now reveal” of the boys’ shared room.

gray owl boys room

boys shared room

 

I bought a new, lower bookshelf to act as a bedside table between the two beds. I hunted for a long time for a vintage piece on wheels to no avail. Finally, I was about to buy an IKEA 4×4 Kallax shelf and put it on casters, when I discovered that Target sells copies in a “wood” finish that I like a lot more than IKEA’s, and in a lot more size configurations. Love that Target and their knock-offs. The lighter wood tone is the direction I was hoping to go with the room anyway. My style has changed a lot since I bought the trundle bed for Thomas 4 years ago – I like a more collected look now – a little modern, a little vintage, far less traditional than I used to be, and their future beds will likely not be espresso – metal or painted, or who knows!?. I like that I have some time to decide on that.  We put the shelf on casters so we can wheel it out of the way to pull out the trundle bed when Nell wants to bunk with her brothers.

DSC00312

I bought two of these trunk baskets to house the boys’ “treasures”. The texture is a nice addition to the room, the gray wood tone helps to tie in the new bookshelf, and Thomas is a bit of a “collector” and having a place for all of his stuffies so they’re not overflowing onto the floor was necessary.

DSC00320

So that’s that. It was an easy and inexpensive re-do, and works really well for the boys for this stage of our lives. No telling what the room will look like in a year when Pete’s out of the crib, but this is the boys’ room for now!

Room Sources:

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

Bed: Similar to Pottery Barn Elliot Bed

Crib: Similar to Pottery Barn Kendall Crib

Trunks: IKEA

Bookshelf: Threshold by Target (casters added)

“Brave” Canvas: Hobby Lobby

Envelope System of Budgeting: Refocusing and Refreshing

Back when I was a new blogger and a newlywed, I posted frequently about our budget. We got married right at the beginning of the 2008 economic downturn, and with a mortgage, car payment and a volatile job market, we got strict about living on a budget. I was laid off 4 months after our wedding from my job in marketing at an internet start-up, and while I luckily found a job again quickly, at the age of 24, B and I became acutely aware of how quickly things can change. We started living on Dave Ramsey’s envelope system of budgeting to sock away a 12 month emergency fund (because we didn’t feel 6 months was enough in the economy at the time), pay off that car loan, and save wherever we could. We did well, loved the cash budget system, and paid off our only debt other than our mortgage (that car) by age 25. Then we had kids – we bought a used family car in cash rather than taking out another loan, continued to be dutiful about saving and living well within our means, and moved forward with our financial goals – eventually for me to stay home with the kids, to buy a bigger home and to long-term provide for our family’s future needs. And in those years that I was blogging frequently about budgeting, it was a hot topic. But have you noticed that it’s kind of gone away? Blogs have turned from “DIY this! Save money!” to “Buy this amazing sofa right now!” And that’s okay, to an extent. The economy is better. But that doesn’t mean that living on a budget should go away! So, I’m bringing it back up – let’s talk about it, even if it’s not cool anymore.

 

We credit the envelope system of budgeting with where we are today. Over the last few years, we decided we didn’t really want to stick to just cash budgeting anymore. Part of it was laziness, part of it was a lack of need to account for every single purchase, part of it was just the feeling of a comfort and a better economy. We’ve usually done one or two “No Spending Months” a year to reel things in and reset when we felt like we were getting a little too spendy. We saved cash for our bathroom remodel, and are now saving cash to purchase a new vehicle (or maybe a slightly used one) to tote our soon to be family of 6 around town (and the country…because 6 plane tickets makes me think we’ll be driving to many of our vacation destinations in the future). We have good budgeting principles and do pretty well with our monthly spending – that doesn’t mean we don’t have months that get a little out of hand and we have to reel ourselves back in, but overall, we live well within our means.

 
So why go back to cash budgeting? First, no matter what situation we’re in, we spend less money when we use the cash budget and saving – no matter how good the economy is – is always a good reason to do something!  There’s that likely car purchase on the horizon (I need to install 4 carseats in my Pilot to see just how imminent that purchase is). And anytime there’s a big purchase in the future, I feel the need to really save to help offset that expense even if it’s one we plan for and can afford. But, mostly, it’s driven by teaching our kids about money. I recently read Dave Ramsey’s “Smart Money, Smart Kids” book. We’re at the age with our oldest two where we need to start teaching them about money – how to make it, how to spend it, how to save it, how to give it. B and I have slightly different philosophical opinions on allowance and kids earning money and I needed to be informed before we entered into that world – I like the idea of giving the kids an allowance because they are active participants in our household and we do things to help around the house, B prefers allowance to be tied to work performed. Dave Ramsey sides with B on that one, and while I don’t agree with everything in his book – I will NOT be paying my kids to make their beds every day, they make their beds because in this house, we make our beds! – I do see a lot of value in teaching them that money is earned, not given. As I was reading the book, I realized that I can’t ask my children to budget if we’re not actively and outwardly living on a budget either. As I thought about the relationship I want my kids to have with money, I realized we needed to model that. Nell LOVES to pay for our groceries. But paying for groceries, these days, involves me handing her our credit card to swipe (we still pay our credit card off in full every month, but she doesn’t see that side of things, she sees a piece of plastic that magically buys food!). I see how it would be so much more powerful to count out the $75 -$100 I spend each grocery store trip with her, and let her hand it over to the cashier.

 

And then there’s the fact that I’m a planner. I tend to be a bit of a worst case scenario-ist when it comes to the economy, but I’m not convinced that the current economy is here to stay. I personally believe (and have done very little research to back this up, so this is strictly my personal opinion) that low interest rates have driven home prices up and allowed people to buy more house than they can really afford. So, I’m not convinced that the strong housing market in Colorado is here to stay. There’s retirement, which we contribute to pre-tax but I think we could always pump more into. Not to mention the fact that we’ll have 4 teenagers (three of them boys) to feed one day – I told my neighbor (with two boys) a couple months ago when she was lamenting the cost of groceries and how much her boys eat, “You know it’s not going to get better, right?” She looked at me like I was crazy, and then she told me the next day, “When you said that I really had to think! You’re totally right – I will just continue to spend more on groceries. It was alarming, but a good perspective change for me.” Sports and activities are absolutely choices, but are things that we feel are healthy and important parts of kids’ childhoods, and they cost more and more the older and more competitive they get. We would love to give our kids the gift of a fully paid for (in-state) college education. B and I were both given the huge gift of graduating from college without debt. We’d love to give our kids that same gift – there will be expectations for performance and behavior attached to those gifts, but it’s something we really want to be able to do for them. We will have 16 years of college educations to pay for in the not really all that distant future – and those 16 years will be paid over 10 years due to our 2 year apart kid spacing. I googled “Colorado in-state tuition and room and board cost predictions for 2028″ the other day. Don’t do it. Or do. But, those 529s are gonna need a little more attention than we’ve currently been giving them.

 

So, we’re getting serious about the budget again. I’ve simplified the categories a bunch from when we first started this in 2009. Rather than having a category for absolutely everything, I’ve roped our spending into 6 categories: Food (groceries, eating out, any beer or wine that is purchased, etc), Household expenses (anything not food that you might buy at Costco or Target, including diapers, plus fun stuff like home decor), Pets, Gifts, Clothing for the entire family, and spending money. We will continue to pay all of our bills online via our credit card and pay that off monthly, and we pay gas via our credit cards, too. Another thing I’ve changed up is to pay ourselves first. In the past, I’ve had our budget, and whatever we had leftover was our savings. Instead, I’ve setup automatic transfers from our checking account to our savings account for a specific percentage of our income every single paycheck – and I’ve done the same with our charitable donations (church & a few non-profits we support). I think those two small changes – paying our savings first, and then paying our tithe and other donations before allotting money to spending, have me feeling the most energized. I might need to read a Dave Ramsey or other budgeting book every three months to keep me energized, but for now, I’m feeling good about getting back to our budgeting roots – so that we can raise our children to do the same!

{All the old blog posts on our budgeting adventures can be found here.}

Inspiration for the Boys’ Room

In preparation for Quattro’s arrival, we’re getting Thomas and Peter ready to share a room. Thomas is so excited about the idea of sharing a room with Peter. When reality hits, I have a feeling it’s going to be quite the adjustment. And sleep-personality wise, it probably would be a better fit to put Nell and Peter in the same room. But this is what we’re doing for now. No guarantees that it won’t change. Because I like to change things up over here, anyway. Long term, I kind of predict that Peter and Quattro (who at the rate of progress we’re making on boys’ names over here will probably end up actually being named Quattro…) will share a room, as they’ll be closer in age than Tom and Pete. But who knows. We’ll see how personalities emerge over the next few years. For the forseeable future, Tom and Pete will share Thomas’s current room.

 

boys shared room inspiratoin

The overall feel of the room is going to stay the same – we just have to squeeze a lot more into the space and do it in a way that looks good. The boys’ rooms have always played off of each other, so moving them together will not be too tough. I still love the navy blue rugby stripe duvet cover (from Pottery Barn Kids) that we bought for Thomas when he was still an only child and his orange star sheets. Peter received a navy rugby stripe and orange star crib sheet as his “needs” for Christmas. Tom’s bed and Pete’s crib are stylistically similar (similar to the current Elliott bed and Kendall crib but purchased many years ago and no longer made by the retailers I purchased them from), so that will work well. Tom’s bed is not what I would pick if I were shopping today, and when Peter’s out of the crib I may re-think the bed situation all together, but for now, the furniture remains.

We’ll likely have to lose the bookcase that’s currently in Tom’s room. I’m okay with this. If we are able to make it work in the room, I will likely give it a little makeover to reduce the amount of dark espresso wood in the room. As I was dreaming up a plan for the boys’ room at the end of the summer, I envisioned metal beds. But, switching out the beds now isn’t practical as our bed needs will definitely evolve over the next few years – who knows how long Pete will last in the crib (but I learned after springing Nell from her crib at a little over 2 that I shouldn’t mess with a good thing, so he’ll be crib-bound as long as he stays in there safely!), and who will share which rooms long term?  So, I envision lightening the room up with a different bookcase that can double as a night table between the two beds, and adding in a mix of metal to help the room feel a little more fresh.

With the boys sharing, we’ll definitely need more storage, so I’m planning to put trunks at the end of each of their beds for their stuffies. I’d love to do some industrial-inspired wall shelves if we have room for artwork and containing the treasures of an almost 6 and 2 year old. All of the artwork in the inspiration above is already in either Tom’s or Pete’s rooms, but we’ll pull it all together for an eclectic mix that suits both of them.

So, that’s my vision for Tom and Pete’s shared room. A lot of what actually happens will depend on how things work out when we start moving things around – measurements only tell me so much, I have to play with the furniture placement before I can commit! Thomas thinks it would be best if Peter moved in when he was two (all that maturity that two brings, you know), so he’s decided that moving day will be March 6th. Nice to have a kid who plans like I do. As soon as I have the boys together, I’ll start thinking about tweaking Peter’s room for Quattro. It will stay mostly the same, but I think every baby deserves a little bit of a refresh.

2016 Resolution: Tidy Up

Last year, in 2015, I made a resolution to make my bed everyday. I figured it was something 30 year olds do, so I should comply. I also committed to improving my penmanship (check – love my handwriting now!) and painting my nails regularly (lasted 3 weeks, turns out I hated having manicured nails). But back to the bed. It took a couple weeks for the habit of getting out of bed every morning and immediately making the bed to set in, but once it did? I loved it. It’s not like I parade people through my bedroom all that often, but somehow it seemed that more often than not, I ended up taking guests upstairs to show them something and our bed was a disaster. Making my bed daily changed that – I’d happily waltz people upstairs to show them my Kon Mari’d closet or what we were planning for our upcoming renovation for our disaster of a master bathroom (afters are here if you missed them – our master bathroom remodel made this my favorite room in the house) if the topic came up.

I’ve never been a crazy messy person, but I could definitely be tidier. But this Fall, I felt like I had no control over our home’s cleanliness. I’d put things away and they’d be right back out. I’d clean the floors and Nell would spill milk everywhere at dinner that night. Right as we were starting our renovation in October, it felt even more out of control than before. And that’s partially because it was – when your house is in renovation mode, it’s hard to feel settled. I was also just emerging from the 1st trimester which kept me nauseous or exhausted most of my days. But excuses aside, our house felt chaotic and unclean. I thought it was just me, but B looked at me one night and said, “What do you think hiring someone to do a good, deep clean of our house as soon as the bathroom is done?” I said, “What do you think about reworking the budget so we can have a house cleaner once or twice a month?” We both thought it was a great idea. I started collecting names from our neighborhood Facebook page every time someone recommended their housekeeper, figuring that come January 2016, I’d be pregnant enough to justify the expense of a house cleaner.  We’d had a house cleaner before – when I went back to work after Nell was born, we hired a housekeeper to clean once a month. And can I be honest? I kind of hated it. I hated feeling like I needed to be out of my home, or out of her way, for a full morning once a month. I loved how clean my house was when she left, but I didn’t like just sitting in my house while someone cleaned around us. It just didn’t feel right to me. So, when Thomas started preschool, I let our house cleaner go in the name of the budget – but really, I just needed an out. So I had a slight hesitation about hiring a house cleaner again.

But a funny thing happened. In mid-December, our bathroom was done enough that we could move back into it. It was beautiful. I didn’t want to put anything on the counters. I removed my shampoo and soap from the shower after every shower. I wiped down the shower doors and counters daily. And the bathroom stayed tidy. Not just clean – the toilet scrubbing, floor mopping, shower and bath tub sudsing that happens once a week isn’t really that big a deal. It takes me maybe 30 minutes to clean all 3 bathrooms in our house once a week. That’s not a lot of time. It’s the tidying that made the biggest difference: Not leaving my glasses on the counters when I put my contacts in every morning, putting my hairdryer away as soon as I’m done with it.

It dawned on me as I spent the month of December putting things away in the bathroom as soon as I used them (a novel idea, I know) that if a surface is cluttered, the room overwhelms me and feels unclean. It also dawned on me that I’m good at taking on new routines in small doses. When I committed to making our bed, I did it, because it was a small thing and not overwhelming. When I KonMari’d my closet last May, I kept it up. With our bathroom shiny and new, I committed to keeping it that way, and I was doing a darn good job of it. The issue, I realized was not the physical cleanliness of our home – I actually do a good job of physically cleaning our home – it was the lack of tidiness. What I wanted in a house cleaner was a magical way to keep my entire house tidy. And a twice monthly housekeeper wasn’t the answer to that problem.  Our kitchen is the biggest culprit when it comes to my house feeling “untidy” – it’s so open to the rest of the house that the counters are an easy drop-spot for books, papers, backpacks, etc. But, because it’s open, it’s also where everyone ends up. My dear friend has a spotless house in general, but her kitchen is always immaculate and she keeps her counters clear at all times. Every time I walk into her house I feel so at ease, but somehow I couldn’t replicate that feeling in my own home. When people drop by, my kitchen is the room I feel the most need to apologize for – even though I don’t believe in apologizing for the way you live, the fact that it bothered me meant that I needed to solve the problem. I reflected and realized that if I   tackled the kitchen, the whole house would feel tidier.

DSC00132

So on New Year’s Eve 2015, while B and the kids were out shopping for my birthday, I tackled the kitchen. I took everything off the counters, scrubbed them within an inch of their lives, and replaced only the necessities. I moved our onions and potatoes off the counter and to a cupboard drawer in the bay window. I moved our mixer to the cabinets, because if I only bake once or twice a month, there’s no reason for it to be out all the time. I pared down to the bare minimum on the counters – without things taking up visual space, it automatically seemed cleaner to me. I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the entire kitchen floor with hot water and vinegar. And then I made a promise to myself: The kitchen will stay this clean. It’s my 2016 goal.

DSC00134

And do you know what? I’ve kept it clean. And not just clean, tidy. Granted, we’re only 3 weeks into the year, but my kitchen has stayed clean and tidy. Instead of leaving the breakfast dishes in the sink until I get back from school drop-off, I put them in the dishwasher immediately. If the dishwasher is clean? I empty it so I can reload it ASAP. I wipe down the counters at least twice a day, sometimes after every meal. And it’s easy – because there’s very little on them. I gave Thomas a designated spot in the office for his school work to sit when he’s not working on it so that it doesn’t sit on my kitchen counters. As I cook dinner, I rinse things and put them away. After dinner, I do a quick wipe-down of the counters, quickly swiffer the floors and run the dishwasher. My house feels clean. And with that feeling of cleanliness comes such a sense of ease. And joy.

DSC00133

I realized last week that I had conquered the kitchen, so maybe I could take on more than one room a year. I mean, devoting all of 2015 to making my bed was good and I still jump out of bed every morning and make my bed even though it’s no longer 2015. But if I take on one tidy-ing chore a year until it becomes so ingrained in me that it’s natural, I’d have an all-the-time tidy house by the time my kids are out of school. In which case, most of the mess will go with them and what was the point of all this anyhow? So that’s my resolution for 2016: gradually become a tidier person. Room by room. Kitchen in January, our home office in February. I’ll keep you all posted. Now, I know this is nothing revolutionary: Put things away (where they belong) as soon as you’re done with them. But breaking it up into little pieces, giving myself permission to really handle one area at a time until it’s natural has changed my house. My kitchen sparks joy in my heart all day every day – so at this rate, I think it’s going to be a very joyful 2016.

Master Bathroom Remodel

At the end of October, we started our Master Bathroom remodel. You can see the before pictures in all their carpeted glory here. This was a complete gut job, and one we hired a contractor to complete. I knew exactly how I wanted the bathroom to look but we needed a bit of expertise on how much we could expand the shower. I handed my vision over to the company we worked with then met one of the owners at a local store the company works with where I picked tile, counter tops and finishes. Things like the bathtub were pretty easy – there were only a few tubs that would fit the footprint we needed it to fit, so we had limited options, and love the tub we ended up with. For cabinetry, I specified white, shaker-style cabinets and a cabinet between our sinks, the cabinet company sent us a mock-up, I had them add feet to it, and we were off and running. It was a pretty seamless process (to get started).

The remodel took about five weeks, plus an additional month waiting for a replacement cabinet for between our sinks to come in (though we could use our bathroom for that unforeseen extra month, so it wasn’t a huge deal). It should have taken about 2 weeks (plus another 1 -2 for the shower glass to come in), but there were a couple hiccups along the way. It all worked out in the end, and we are so thrilled with the final result. The biggest luxury we added was in-floor heat. I still brace myself every time I step foot on the tile, and then realize it’s warm and throw a little party in my head. And that freestanding tub, it’s a dream. So pretty and simple – I was a little hesitant to lose the big (eyesore) corner tub that I could easily bathe all my kids in, but this tub has plenty of room for the kids…and Quattro when he arrives. There were other things we added that just made the room. When the cabinet plans came through, I asked if we could add simple feet so that it would look more like a piece of furniture. We replaced all of the baseboards and trim in the room with simple wide trim. It’s exactly what I envision for the rest of our house – someday.  I love our concrete style tile floors. I wanted gray plank tile flooring, but I specifically wanted a more concrete looking tile, not a wood grain tile. Turns out, the wood look has saturated the flooring market and it’s really hard to find plank tiles that don’t have a wood look. It took a long time to find something that fit my vision, but when I saw this tile, I knew it was perfect. Our gray quartz counters remind me of our quartz counters in our old kitchen, though they’re a bit lighter gray and made by a different brand I can’t recall. In fact, I’m sorry to say I don’t know the brands or names of most of these things – I picked what I liked, physically handed my choices to the contractor, and they ordered them.

Enough talk, let’s just get to the pictures.

 

 

 

When B and I were shopping before we hired the contractor to get an idea of what we’d be spending on materials, I realized that B was very drawn to everything modern, and I was drawn to more traditional elements. I loved the classic, almost throw-back faucets, while B loved the ones where you could see water pouring out. I loved classic white subway tile, B loved the big modern tiles we saw. So, we compromised. We went a little bit modern, a little bit traditional. We picked a modern version of white subway tile – 4 x 12 with gray grout to make the tile really pop. Instead of a classic clawfoot tub, we went with a more modern freestanding pedestal tub that has a nod to traditional elements, but is sleek. The gray quartz counters add a more modern edge than the marble-esque quartz I also love would have. We went with classic cup pulls (from Pottery Barn) and more traditional fixtures (the Cassidy collection from Delta), but in shiny chrome. I think this bathroom was a perfect exercise in blending two preferences and coming up with a bathroom we both adore.

I added some natural texture and warmth to the room in the form woven shades, a woven waste basket and a rustic basket for holding our TP. I knew that with the gray and white room, we could easily end up with a cold feeling room. But adding the natural texture and a bit of brown helped to warm up all the cool tones.

All the hiccups that come with a project behind us, we are beyond thrilled with the result of our bathroom. It’s by far the nicest room in our house now and has me scheming big time and dreaming about things we could do to the rest of the house. Maybe someday – right now all of our extra saving will likely go to a minivan. Because, Quattro.

Master Bathroom Remodel: elfa Walk-In Closet

ELFA custom white closet

As part of our master bathroom remodel (almost done, but we’re waiting on a cabinet that needed to be re-done to come in before we can officially call it done), I worked into our budget a customized elfa closet from the Container Store (this is not a sponsored post, though that would be awesome). After elfa-ing our laundry room last year, I was sold on the efficiency that is the elfa system. My good friend works for the Container Store, and she was over one day while I was talking to her about our bathroom plans. I took her upstairs to see our closet in person – sometimes the dimensions of a room only tell you so much. She took a look at how we used our closet. I had a long hanging rod that had almost nothing on it since I fold almost all of my clothing. I had a small freestanding elfa drawer to hold my jeans and workout clothes, but it wasn’t a sufficient amount of storage and everything spilled over. B had double hanging space that was stuffed into a tiny area because our closet door opens to hide half of his side of the closet. B also has a (self-proclaimed) hat and jersey hording problem. He has jerseys and hats that he collected as a kid that he understandably doesn’t want to part with. But because he doesn’t wear them, they just took up valuable real estate in our closet before. And our lack of a system for containing that collection just looked sloppy.  Our shoe shelves were front and center when you walked into the closet, but weren’t laid out very well for our needs. So basically, we had a big closet with an awkward angled wall and no function.  In fact, before this closet re-do, I was adamant that walk-in closets were a waste of square footage.  I’m still not sure they’re not a bit of a waste of square footage, but now that our closet is functional I have a brand new appreciation for it.

So, together with my friend, we came up with a solution for our closet. Lots of drawers for me with a little bit of short hang and a small section of long hang (Colorado girls don’t need much long hang – we’re not a formal bunch!), a bit more hanging space for B but also some drawers. And lots of shelves behind the door to store things that we don’t access very often, but want to have on hand.

Here’s what we were working with before (mostly cleared out for our bathroom remodel and with a pint sized blonde running around, but you can still see the layout):

IMG_0563

See all of B’s hats and jersey’s up there on that top shelf?

IMG_0566

And here was our closet before anything was moved back in. We decided to install the closet ourselves and it took us about a day. 1/2 a day to take down the old stuff, patch and paint the whole closet bright white (what a difference truly white makes is a closet compared to the yellow-y white builders use!), and 1/2 a day to hang the new stuff.

IMG_0568

The great thing about elfa is that it’s changeable. So if when Quattro starts school in 5.5 years, I decide to go back to an office job (or maybe get a job at the Container Store to subsidize my elfa habit…) and my wardrobe requirements become a bit more formal, I can switch out some drawers for more hanging space. Or if we decide B needs more drawers, we can move his pant hanging space to behind the door and add another set of drawers next to his existing drawers.

custom ELFA closet with drawers

These drawers are my favorite things and probably the number one reason in my mind to go with elfa over many other closet systems. When we were interviewing bathroom contractors, one guy said “I’ll redo your closet, too. Build you some nice wood shelves.” And I said, “I’m good, I’ll wait for the elfa sale, I need drawers”. I fold the majority of my clothes (as evidenced from my tiny hanging space allotted in the photo two down), and these drawers keep everything in the closet so that I can get dressed in one spot. These have eliminated our need for a dresser in our bedroom altogether. Drawers are also the most expensive way to store your clothes, so there’s that. But in my mind, it’s worth every penny. I did tell B the other day, “If we ever DO move [NOT our plan, just talking hypothetically], we should totally take the drawers out before we list the house, replace them with hanging rods and move them with us since they’re the most expensive part of the whole system.” B politely smiled and said, “Or we could just not worry about that right now.” Probably wise, that down-to-earth husband of mine. It’s why we make a good team: his living in our current reality, and my not-so-much.

custom elfa closet with drawers and hanging space

Here’s my half of the closet. I love that it’s customized to how I keep my clothing now. And that I’m not pigeon holed into keeping this setup forever if my needs change.

ELFA closet shelves and hanging space

My friend and closet expert talked me through a couple trouble zones. Instead of giving valuable drawer space to my swim suits, for example, I bought some canvas bins to hold all of the things that we don’t access on a daily basis, but need to have nearby. The beauty of this is that it makes things easy to switch around for the seasons. I have started folding my sweaters, but there’s very little sense in devoting a whole drawer to my sweaters May – September in Colorado, so I’ll probably swap my sweaters into the bin and replace my swim suits and cover-ups in the drawer for the summer months. I have a bin for swim suits, a bin for tights, a bin for bags I’m not using at the moment. And lots of shelf space for more bins as the need arises.

organized walk-in closet with ELFA

Those same canvas bins hold B’s everyday hats, his sentimental hats and jerseys, and his logo shirts for work events (that he has to wear about once or twice a year for when he’s representing the company at an event, so didn’t need to be taking up room hanging or in a drawer he accesses daily).

closet redone

For our shoes, we decided to install elfa’s gliding shoe racks. B and I are clearly not shoe people as this is as full as they are at the moment. The shoe racks are awesome, and definitely more convenient than standard shelves that we always tended to just pile extra stuff on. I keep my heels (which I wear only for special occasions) in clear shoe boxes above my long-hang. Above the gliding shoe racks are more shelves. Here’s where I keep my bin for extra handbags and snow gear, and also where we will most likely keep out of season clothing (neatly stacked in bins of course :) ) as needed. Right now we keep our entire wardrobes in the closet year round, but this system allows us to move to a more seasonal closet if we want to.

So, that’s our closet today. We installed this system a little over a month ago and I can say with complete honesty that it has stayed this organized since the day we put everything back. I didn’t move a single thing when I took these photos (which is why my orange striped sweatshirt hanging above is out of color coordinated order!) That, in my mind, is a closet organization success.

Once again, this is in no way shape or form a sponsored post, but the elfa closet sale (30% off) is going on right now if you are in the market for an organized closet yourself. I’m trying to justify the cost of elfa-ing Thomas’s closet since he and Peter are going to share that room in a few months. But after the major spending that our bathroom and closet remodel entailed, I think I’ll just save up for next year’s sale :) . Let’s just be real about the cost: Our closet wasn’t cheap. Even with the sale it comes in at a pretty penny. To be honest I haven’t priced out other closet systems, so I have no idea how they compare.  But, even B, who I’m pretty sure just went along with this because I was so passionate about it told me that it’s been life changing. He’s also asked me if he’s allowed to actually use the shelves or if they’re just supposed to stay empty. Jury’s still out on that one.

Baby #4: Quattro

We are thrilled to announce that McKiddle #4 (whom we affectionately call Quattro) is due at the end of April.

IMG_0661

We used this photo to announce Quattro on Facebook and Instagram. I’m 20 weeks along, and hadn’t announced to anyone but family and close friends yet. But my creativity was tapped and I figured maybe we just wouldn’t do a big announcement. And then I remembered how well that went over in 2010 :) . So here you all go, officially announcing that our 4th (and final…for real this time!) is on the way.  Thomas and Nell are over the moon. I wish I’d filmed Thomas’s reaction when we told the kids that we were having another baby, it was just about the sweetest thing. If you ask Peter where the baby is he points to himself and shouts “BABY!”…so this should be good.  Thomas and Nell want to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl, so we’re leaning towards finding out for the first time to involve them in the pregnancy…but we’ll see. I’m on the fence about it.

 

We are set on a name for a baby girl (and despite Nell’s insistence, it’s not “Poodle”), but if you have a suggestion for a New Testament, Irish-Catholic boy Saint’s name that’s not in the top 50 (I’m leaning towards an Apostles name because it’s clearly the established theme for boys around here, but the remaining ones we like are all a little more popular than we tend to choose so we’re not sold on anything), send them my way! I’ve already combed through my dad and grandmother’s Catholic high school yearbooks since my mom calls our naming style “Old school Catholic school”, but I’m coming up empty. And, if we do find out the baby’s sex next week then maybe it won’t matter. Or maybe it will matter a ton.