Adventures in Budgeting: Making the Leap to One Income

In October of last year, after years of working in some capacity after having kids, we made the jump to being a one income family. There were a lot of reasons for the jump, and I know that this topic can get touchy, so all I will say is that every family needs to do what is right for them in the moment, with the understanding that what is right for your family very likely may change on any given day. On paper, it was really hard for us to make the leap from a dual income family to one income. The logical part of my mind thought that B’s income had to completely replace mine before we could take this step, but as you’ll read, we have made it work with some diligent budgeting, foregoing some unnecessary expenses, and a commitment to frequent conversations about how the budget and our current setup is working for our family.

 

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1 Year Later House Tour: Living Room

We’ve been in our house for a whole year. It’s flown by but at the same time SO much has happened here that it feels like home. I mentioned on Instagram this week that I thought we’d have done a lot more (ahem…paint those darn oak cabinets!) by the 1 year mark, but that we were kind of assuming that it would take a few months after I weaned Nell to get pregnant with #3 and we’d have a 3rd June birthday. But, turns out I didn’t need to wean Nell at all to get pregnant with #3 (I don’t think I’ve ever shared the story of the crazy week we found out Peter was on his way…I’ll do that someday. It’s a good tale.), so the 2013 summer of cabinet painting and neutralizing rooms with paint I had planned got put on the back-burner. Happily!

But, shortly after Peter was born, my mom was over one day and we decided to paint the Living Room. Well, one of us painted while the other bounced a colicky and refluxy Peter up and down for hours on end. One would wonder why we didn’t just wait on that. It was the second to last room to get painted in our house, but the first one you see when you walk through the door. Let’s take a look. Oh, but first, let me apologize for taking pictures at night. I have 3 children under the age of 4…the only time the house is the least bit tidy is at night when they are all tucked away sleeping soundly in their beds.

Here’s the view as you walk into our house. You walk into a long hallway that’s basically the living room on your right and our dining room is to your left. A formal living room was on my must-have list when we were searching for houses. At our old house, there was one snowy Easter when no one left because they all wanted to watch the Master’s and my mom and I ended up upstairs cleaning my bathrooms because the downstairs was totally monopolized by people intently watching golf, and there was no other place to escape to for chat. So a living room and a family room were on my must-have list. But I swore we wouldn’t treat it like a formal room that no one ever uses. We use this room daily.

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Standing at the stairs and looking back to the front of the house:

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I painted the back of my front door black a couple weeks ago. As I was standing in line to buy the paint, I told myself, “This is a terrible idea.” It was messy, and getting it to look brush stroke free was hard. And it still needs to be sanded and given a finishing coat if it’s going to stay – but I’m undecided. B came home and I was covered in black paint. He asked what I was painting and I kind of grimaced. I showed him the door, and he said, “What color was it before?” So I decided I didn’t need to immediately paint it white again, I have some time to think about it. All of our trim needs to be repainted, too. We’ll get there. Someday.

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A few months ago, we moved the slipcovered ottoman back downstairs from our bedroom. We’d had the kids play table serving as the coffee table, but I was over that look, and in a rearranging frenzy one day, I decided to kick the beloved big green chair to the play room and keep this room airy and light. And bring back my signature green ottoman. It made the space feel way more “us”:

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I moved the play table to the far wall. The play table is necessary.   We color there. We do preschool homework there (oh yes…preschool homework). We play restaurant there. Nell occasionally dances on the table there. Thomas frequently tells Nell that tables are not for dancing on there. It’s a circus, my friends. Oh, and I don’t worry at all about the compartments underneath being neat. Well, for awhile I tried, but then I decided it was a waste of time.

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My least favorite thing about our house has become one of my favorites. This arched cutout is not my thing. I like architectural features that mean something – not weird cutouts just for the sake of doing something different. But a lot of houses in our area have them. My hilarious sister-in-law calls them “Crap Catchers” – and that’s 100% what this ledge/cutout functions as. A crap catcher. From the moment we moved in, I’d been on the hunt for a giant old window to hang in this ridiculous space. I had to go into college rival enemy territory (Fort Collins) to find one, but find it I did. I gave it a quick coat of white paint with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, and then it sat in our living room for months before I finally coerced B to hang it right after Christmas. And I love it.

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My old window is fun – I like that it adds history to an otherwise meh architectural feature. Whose history? No clue…but it had a history in a house in a town that B and I will not pay for college educations in. Unless the kids want to be veterinarians. Then we’ll discuss a Colorado State education. I digress. I will say, the crap catcher is fun to decorate for holidays – and my window just adds to the fun. I love to hang happy garland from it. This garland was put up to celebrate B finishing his Master’s degrees but staying up to celebrate summer and the two kids birthdays that are quickly approaching, and you better believe I’ve got something patriotic in mind as soon as the June birthdays are over. I can’t wait to deck that window out at Christmas. But, lest you think that hanging a window prevented me from using this as a crap catcher, think again. It loves to hold outlet covers when I’m painting (and paint cans and water bottles and a host of other crap). And Thomas’s lego creations. And I frequently lose my sunglasses and phone to the crap catcher.

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So, that’s our living room as it stands today. I’d love to switch out the curtains and replace the leaning bookshelf with something more in line with our “urban cottage” vibe, and that will all happen in good time. But for now, it’s a fun, casual space. Not the least bit formal. And it’s my favorite place to hang with Peter in the early morning  with the windows open, just having coffee talk with my baby boy.

Losing It: 30 Day Shred After Pregnancy, Clean Eating and Moral Support

Okay, fitness and healthy living post coming at you. A little backstory:  When I got pregnant with Thomas, I was at my “happy weight”. I gained 22 pounds during my pregnancy and lost 18 of those by my 6 week postpartum checkup. I fluctuated over the next 9 months back to my pre-pregnancy weight and up to that 4 pound above mark, which I was fine with. When Thomas was 8 months old I did the 30 Day Shred every day to tone up and loved the results – I didn’t drastically change my eating (but tried to be conscious of making good choices). When he was 10 months old, a lot of crap happened all at once and I just stopped working out and started eating like crap. When I got pregnant with Nell when Thomas was 15 months old, I was 10 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight. I gained 22 pounds during that pregnancy as well and lost all of them by my 6 week postpartum checkup, and lost the 10 stress pounds by the time she was 6 months old. So, when I got pregnant with Peter, I was back at my “happy” weight. And I fully expected to gain 22 pounds and lose them by my 6 week postpartum check. Ha. Ha. Ha. I gained TWICE what I gained in my previous pregnancies, had a 6 day period where, I kid you not, four people asked me if I was having twins when I about lost my mind (some people just don’t think), and though I was down 20 pounds by my 6 week check-up, I was not feeling great about the fact that I had no clothes that fit and that three people in the first three weeks after Peter was born asked me when I was due. “Um, he’s 3 weeks old.” I didn’t even enjoy watching the back pedaling “Oh, I didn’t even look at you, I just hadn’t heard the baby had been born!” take place. Yeah, right.

So, needless to say, I had some work to do. At 4 weeks postpartum, with my OB’s guidance that I should workout as much as I felt up for, I was down 20 pounds with 25 to go, and started the 30 Day Shred. And I started to feel strong again right away. I love and hate the 30 Day Shred workout – the repetitiveness can get really old, but the workouts are effective and the 25 minute thing is key for a busy mom. I did most of my workouts after T and Nell were in bed and while B was hanging out with Peter, and as Peter started to sleep a bit more and his colic and reflux started to get under control, I was able to workout more during naptimes. And while I definitely felt stronger, and noticed muscle and toning, I didn’t notice any change on the scale, which was frustrating. I felt strong and lost 5 pounds in the first 25 days and a couple inches, but for the work I was putting in, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted to see.

I think, in retrospect I was suffering from a little bit of baby blues all along, but between Peter’s 7th and 9th weeks we had some really tough days over here. Peter’s reflux and colic were bad and he screamed all day every day. And finally, I just started crying in the shower one day. And then I realized why: I love hanging out with my kids. I love playing games with them, getting down on their level and learning with them, but since Peter had been born, all I could do was hold a baby who didn’t feel well. And since my older kids weren’t getting the individual attention they were used to, they were pretty tough, too. And, because I was exhausted and my patience was low, I would snap at them instead of listening to them. It was a vicious cycle. But acknowledging it – to myself and then out loud to B – was what it took to get me back on my feet. B picked up what I couldn’t do when he got home after work – sitting on the floor and playing games with Tom and Nell. I started saying “No” when people asked to come visit when I wasn’t up for company and hoped that people would understand that it wasn’t personal, but it was necessary to my sanity to have some free time. I started taking my mom, mother-in-law and aunt up on their offers to help entertain Thomas and Nell without feeling guilty about it. And I prioritized working out and eating clean (partially to eliminate any trigger foods – other than dairy which I took out of my diet when Peter was 3 weeks old – for Peter but also to reset my body after 9 months of pregnancy. And that – I followed the Whole 30 strictly for 30 days, and am now continuing to eat that way (essentially a slightly stricter Paleo) with the occasional cheat meal – not day.

So, my recap of the 30 day shred: Eating as I normally did and doing the shred, I lost 5 pounds in the first 25 days. I absolutely felt stronger, but I was hoping for more weight loss. As I did the first time around, I loved Level 1, but this time around I really disliked Level 2′s heavy arm work and was better about Level 3′s ab work. However, while I felt stronger, the pounds weren’t melting off. When I started eating clean, I had 5 days left of the shred and lost 7 pounds in those 5 days (honestly, I looked kind of like the before picture until Day 25 when I started my Whole 30). In the last 4 weeks, I’ve lost an additional 8 pounds (only 5 more to go!), started running again, noticed muscles from the 30 Day Shred that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and feel incredibly strong and healthy. I’ve become so much more focused on how I feel than how I look – even clothes that were a little tight when I got pregnant are fitting comfortably now despite the fact that I still have 5 pounds to lose.

30 Day Shred Results

I definitely lost inches doing just the 30 Day Shred and eating as I normally did (I eat pretty clean for my meals, but I had a tendency to snack on un-clean foods), but changing my diet absolutely had the most impact on my results. The 30 Day Shred was a great workout, but this time around, it wasn’t the single answer for me in losing weight. I was doing the 30DS every single day, and I was eating within my calorie limit every single day leading up to the Whole 30, and while I felt stronger, I didn’t see the results I wanted. The picture of me in the coral tank top was the last day of the shred and the 5th day of my Whole 30 – I was already noticing a big change in my body shape just 5 days in – and starting to see those muscles that I’d been building with Jillian over the last 30 days. Because I’m breastfeeding, I’ve still been keeping track of my calories to make sure I’m eating enough on this plan to sustain my milk supply, and I go over my limit most days and still lost 15 pounds.

So, with results like that, it’s hard to go back to eating any other way. Plus? I felt SO SO good during it. I had a Margarita last weekend after the challenge ended and couldn’t sleep that night – I think from sugar – when I had slept like a baby for the entirety of the Whole 30 challenge. My friend Jessica, who runs a motivational fitness challenge group I take part in says something along the lines of it’s 80% what you eat and 20% how you workout, and I couldn’t agree more. I even took pictures of myself in a two piece on Monday and while I’m not going to post pictures of me in my skivvies here, I have to say I was really proud of the way my body looked – but even more importantly, I’m so proud of how healthy and strong I feel!

So now, life after the 30DS and Whole 30. There was a 4 week difference between the middle picture, on the last day of my 30 Day Shred, and the last picture, on the last day of my Whole 30 (which I finished last Friday). As soon as the 30 Day Shred ended, I started the Couch to 5K program. That program has me doing a walk/run hybrid three days a week. Two days a week, I still use the 30DS (and occasionally another video when I just can’t take a day of Jillian) but I alternate through the levels – so on Tuesday I might do Level 3, and on Thursday Level 2, then the next week Level 1 and Level 3 which helps make Jillian more bearable. I do a Yoga DVD or go to Yoga one day a week, and rest one day a week. If I’m feeling up for more or have time on a run day, I add in more cardio or yoga. And I’m starting to feel like an athlete again. I’ve got a month left of the C25K program, but intend to up my cardio a little more in June, too. Now that my Whole 30 is over, I intend to keep eating clean, but allow myself the occasional beer, glass of wine, or dessert (though with dairy out for Peter, there’s not much dessert that appeals to me). I can’t say enough about the Whole 30 – it completely changed the way I approach food, really helped me feel good about myself and my energy during a tough time postpartum, and improved my sleep while I was at it.

*PS – I kind of scoffed at the Whole 30 for a long time, until Claire posted about her experience and results (Part 1 and Part 2). I was pregnant with Peter at the time and filed her posts away to revisit after he was born. Right around the time I’d started my whole 30, Laurel posted that she’d just completed her first one. Her Instagram account has been a huge help to me in coming up with meals for our family and lunches and breakfasts. These two are great resources, check them out! My original 30DS recap is here.

Master Bedroom: New Bedding and Curtains

How’s that for a creative post title? Killing it. We’re coming up on our 1 year anniversary of living in this house, and so I’m trying to get progress photos taken in every room…so get ready for small updates on the house  and a house tour of sorts over the next few weeks.

When we moved into our house last June, the master bedroom had yellowed-by-the-sun faux wood blinds, white frilly sheers and plastic hardware including curtain tiebacks. Works for some styles, but not mine. We took the curtains down immediately and eventually removed the hardware before we had the room painted last November. The blinds are still up there while I decide what I want in their place (I’m leaning towards bamboo for the texture).

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For my birthday, I asked for new sheets for our bed and new shams. I loved the shams, and was getting tired of the quilt (still love it, but like the option to change it up), so when the duvet cover that matched the shams went on sale, I waited for a free shipping day and ordered it. I also bought long navy blue curtain panels (at IKEA) and new hardware and B hung those a few weeks ago…and our master bedroom changed dramatically with those two changes. I also bought some new, graphic lampshades for our existing lamps and moved the white drum shades to my green living room lamps that were in need of new shades. Just little, pretty inexpensive overall, tweaks. I have an evolving vision for this room – eventually I’d like to go away from our matching dresser and bedside tables. They were some of the first things we purchased for our last home before we really had a keen sense of what our style is – and it turns out our style is a little more eclectic than matched furniture sets – I’ve always called our style “Urban Cottage” and I think that’s still on the money. And that boxspring needs a tailored bedskirt on it as opposed to a cheap sheet, but we’ll get there.

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So that’s where we are for now. I’m still hunting for a navy accent pillow to anchor the bed and the bedskirt, and the furniture is absolutely fine so if we find something more our style, great, if not, oh well. It will continue to evolve, but that’s where our bedroom stands almost one year in. Here’s a peak at it on move-in day.

Peter’s Nursery: Gray, Blue and Rugby Stripes

You all saw the blank slate nursery that was ready for #3 to be born so we could personalize it based on the baby and their personality. I had no real clue what to do with the room if Peter was a girl, though I’m sure I would have figured it out, but I was ready to run with a boy nursery plan when Peter was born. It’s mostly done now…I have a few projects to finish up, but I figured I’d share it now and share updates later.

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Peter’s nursery is very similar in shape to the nursery at our last house (here as a nursery for Thomas, here as a nursery for Nell), it’s just about 21 square feet bigger and has a wall in front of you when you enter, so we kept the furniture layout pretty similar because we knew it worked. Crib on the far wall, changing table on the opposite wall, chair floating in front of the big window.

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The bookcases we bought to flank the crib in Thomas’s nursery are some of my favorite things in the house. I adore them. But I wasn’t feeling the same layout for them, so I chose to just install one on the wall as you walk into the room. I’m planning to add a giant P for Peter above it soon, but taking three kids to Hobby Lobby is torture. If they don’t have a cart that fits at least a car seat and a toddler, I’m not going there anytime soon. That’s why Costco and I are so close these days. And you guys know I’m frugal – if I can make it myself, why pay major markup for something? But I’m tempted to just order the giant Pottery Barn P already painted navy blue and call it a day…sometimes $60 is worth your sanity, right? I digress.

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Peter’s crib is the same one that Thomas slept in. Thomas likes to tell Peter that a few times a day. “Your crib used to be my crib Peter. It was never Nell’s crib.” Siblings, man. Pete got his own crib sheets though. 3rd baby has to have a few things that are just theirs.

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We moved the IKEA Jenny Lund chair from Nell’s room to Peter’s room before his arrival, but I bought the pouf for an ottoman the week after he was born when it was on sale at Target, and I’m smitten with it. My mom made Peter a gray and white strip quilt just as she did for Tom and Nell.

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My absolute favorite piece of furniture I own is that $30 vintage dresser I found on Craigslist when I was pregnant with Thomas. It’s been the perfect changing table for all three of our kiddos, and I always remember putting Casco in my little red bug and racing to South Denver to pick it up after work one day. I’ve realized that I like at least one piece of old furniture in every room. Not beautiful, ornate antiques…I’m not fancy enough for that. Farmhouse style, simple, sturdy antiques. That dresser will always have a place in any home I live in, hear me now. I’m looking for a small scale, industrial-esque shelving unit to go above the dresser. I know exactly what it looks like in my head, just haven’t been able to find it in reality yet.

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The whale changing pad was just fun, so I bought it. It’s from the same collection of sheets that he has and was his baby gift from my parents, but I like that they’re not matchy-matchy…just coordinated.

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And although I love everything in the room, I think the rugby stripe curtains make it. Caroline and I made them when Peter was one week old. Because we had nothing better to do with our time. We cut a king size duvet in half and hemmed the edges. Peter’s window has a shade that pulls down that darkens the room, so we didn’t bother blackout lining the curtains, but I can always add blackout liner later if needed.

So that’s Peter’s nursery. It’s come along way from the bright blue make-shift guest room it was when we moved into the house 11 months ago.

Sources:

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl color matched in Behr paint

Bookshelves: Target circa 2010 (but knock-offs of these Pottery Barn shelves that are still available)

Crib: JCPenney 4 years ago

Sheets and Changing Pad Cover: Land of Nod

Crib Skirt: Pottery Barn Kids, no longer available

Chair: IKEA Jenny Lund

Ottoman: Target

Rugby Stripe Curtains: DIY from king size duvet cover (available at Target)

Updates

  • We had a great Easter (a week and a half ago now)…busy, but good. Starting with the kids coming down Easter morning to their Easter baskets. Side note: Our stairs have this diagonal in them for the bottom four steps. I’ve never loved it, but it wasn’t a deal breaker…I’d just prefer a more traditional staircase. But, Easter morning, I realized it’s perfect for three Easter baskets. It would fit four…but B says our stairs accommodating an extra Easter basket are not a compelling reason to keep having more kids. So there, one holiday transformed the way I feel about that crazy staircase layout. IMG_9203 The Saturday before Easter, we dyed Easter eggs using Kool Aid. It was perfect, and I’ll never dye eggs with one of those kits again!

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Easter morning, we woke up for Easter baskets, then booked it to church to get there at least 30 minutes before Mass was slated to start. The great Catholic dilemma arose as we arrived in time to hear the Homily and watch the 7 am Mass receive Communion – if we’re there in time for the Homily and Communion, do we call it attending and leave with the early birds? Or wait for our normal 8:30 Mass.  We waited for 8:30…but the debate absolutely took place. We love the church we’ve found and the community we’ve established going to church there for the last three years, but they could use some work on their time management. After Mass, we rushed home and before hosting B’s parents for brunch, we grabbed a quick family photo: our first, I’m ashamed to say, of all five of us (bonus that Casco posed!) since Peter was born.

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  • So that was Easter…Next up. Peter. We are loving life as a family of five, but it’s been loud :) . Peter is colicky and has reflux, but we’re doing whatever we can to get to the bottom of it to make our little guy more comfortable. I’m back off dairy (as I was with Nell, but for different reasons) and eliminating other foods from my diet, and we’re gonna get to the bottom of it.
  • I’m working out daily and eating clean to get back in shape (well, the clean eating was dictated by Peter, but the getting back in shape is a bonus) after Peter’s birth. My go-to workout after every pregnancy is the 30 day shred…and I’m so sick of it. But I’ll see it through the 30 days and post results here similar to what I did 3 years ago when I’m done. I am so passionate about not dwelling on body image – we have a daughter, and sons, who we want to raise to be healthy and confident young people, so I’m focusing more on being healthy than being back at my exact pre-pregnancy weight.
  • I loved Sarah’s thoughts on technology and kids from Monday. I’ve shared before that we really try to limit screen time and technology with our kids, like, the TV is rarely on unless there is a hometown sporting event in the background, and even then we turn it off if we notice Thomas paying too much attention to it. We started letting T watch an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or similar, about once a week a few months ago so that he’d know what his preschool classmates were talking about, but otherwise we keep screen time to a minimum. I don’t say this to declare our way the only way…or even the right way. It’s just what works for us and what feels important to us.  But anyway, coming from a technology minimalist mindset for kids, I really enjoyed Sarah’s thoughts on technology for me to process as our kids get older, so thought I’d share if anyone else was interested.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Peter’s room is ready for me to take pictures of, so hopefully I’ll get to that in the next few days!

Nell’s Room: A Pattern Explosion

When we moved into our house last June, I immediately knew that the room with the built-ins and window seat would be Nell’s room.  When we found out I was pregnant seconds after moving in, everyone questioned if we shouldn’t just move Nell to the guest room and keep the “nursery” (as it was for the previous home owners) a nursery. But I felt strongly in the beginning that Peter was a boy (and then talked myself out of being convinced of it for most of the pregnancy) and I just had this picture of Nell in her room and the boys in the two rooms across the landing from Nell’s room. A girl’s wing and boy’s wing, if you will.

 

Anyway, this was Nell’s room when we moved into the house last June. Under the chair rail was a sage-y green and the top of the chair rail was yellow. The window seat was covered in jungle fabric that tied those colors together well, but Nell’s turquoise crib (my $69 painted IKEA pride and joy that we painted long before Pottery Barn Kids was jumping on the painted crib bandwagon) blended into the green too much and looked more green than turquoise with the colors. Plus, I had firmly established Nell’s color scheme as shades of blue and coral, and yellow and green didn’t work well with that.

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Making Nell’s room her own was a very long process. In September, my mom and sister primed the green and painted the yellow gray (Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore). When B flew out to DC for a wedding in November, my mom and I put up beadboard wall paper on the bottom half of the walls (the same weekend my mom and B’s mom ridded Peter’s room of the cobalt blue paint).

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We still had so far to go. This room needed color and pattern (and perhaps photos taken during daylight hours). I knew Nell’s room would be navy and turquoise with pops of coral, so immediately after we moved in last June, I ordered this Ikat print for the window seat and seven of these seaglass bins for under the bench. And that’s as far as I got until the painting happened last Fall. In February, we started to finally put the pieces into place when we moved Nell’s dresser and chair to the guest room so it could become the nursery, and the double bed from the guest room to Nell’s room for her to grow into and for guests. Did you follow that? Phew.

Enough talk, here’s Nell’s room as it stands today:

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painted ikea crib

window seat

Bookshelves

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So much of what’s in the room are things we already owned or I relocated from Caroline’s basement.  In fact, the only thing we purchased was the bedding. The room will continue to evolve – I’m sure in the next year sometime, the crib will come down, and artwork will change, but for now, we’re calling it done. And so, that’s Nell’s room. It’s a vibrant, colorful room and it fits her personality (and wardrobe) to a tee.

Industrial Exterior House Lights

Remember last week when I showed you our new paint colors and promised an update on the exterior lights with closeups? Well, I forgot that I had a colicky one month old (my normal blogging hours are before the kids wake up or after the kids go to bed, but those are Peter’s designated screaming time…so, yeah), a demanding 22 month old who is testing the waters and needs consistency and discipline to keep her from becoming Michelle Tanner (cute and funny and allowed to get away with s**t because of it and therefore eventually an out of control tween – our #1 goal in raising our daughter? Discipline so that she doesn’t become an Olsen twin. Or Lindsay Lohan.) and a stoic, rule following, almost 4 year old who just needs to be wrapped in a hug and told how important and special and wonderful he is. 3 very different personalities demanding attention over here at the McKevitt house these days. Happens. I’m a big believer in blog reciprocity – if you comment on my blog, I comment on yours. And hopefully vice versa. But right now the majority of my blog reading takes place at 2am…and my iphone doesn’t allow me to comment on blogger blogs for some reason. And by 6am, I forget what I’ve commented on and what I’ve just read. So don’t hold it against me, okay? One day soon, I’ll be a good blog friend again.

 

Anyway, our house. Originally, our lights were what every builder in our town installed on houses in the 90s and early 2000s. I called them the Olympic torch lights. They’re sitting on the workbench in our garage so that I can donate them for someone craftier than I am to transform, but I considered keeping one in case Tom, Nell or Peter ever has to play the Statue of Liberty in a school play. I don’t make fun of the lights to put down any previous homeowners: the house was built in 2oo1, and this was what the builder was offering. It never crossed my mind to change out the builder lights at our last house until we were close enough to moving that I didn’t want to put anymore money into it. And then the second homeowners made lots of changes to the house that are what made us buy it – hardwood floors throughout the entire first floor, built-ins in Nell’s room, etc. And I’m pretty sure, looking at all the other torch lights in our neighborhood, they painted these Oil Rubbed Bronze from brass to make them less prominent. But since we were painting, we decided to update and go with a style we like all around.

exterior lights before I showed you all the lights I was considering in this post and decided on this industrial style exterior light from Home Depot. It was the biggest scale of the three similar styles I liked best, which was important to me. I also liked that it had a dawn-to-dusk feature. We’re not good about remembering to turn lights off during the day, and so my electrical engineer husband opts for leaving our exterior lights off so we don’t waste precious commodities (and money). But I like the security of having lights on at night…so this works well for us.

exterior lights after

B installed the lights the day the painters finished and I adore them. gray house paint industrial lights

The Home Depot reviews are mediocre, but that’s based on a motion sensor feature we don’t use (motion sensor lights freak me out…probably the point, huh?) I will say, we accidentally had them set to motion sensor the first night and they seemed to work fine. So I love the lights, and I’d buy them again in a heartbeat.

So that’s the latest on our curb appeal updates. I love my Dark Sky Association approved lights – they definitely make our house more “ours” and less the now defunct builder’s.

The Games We Play: Preschool Edition

B and I love games. We play Gin Rummy together frequently. Bananagrams. Scrabble when we have hours. We adore playing games with friends, too. So when it came to playing games with our kids, we were all about it. But, because B and I are game people – we wanted to like the games we play with our kids, too. From my babysitting days, there are plenty of games that kids love (and that I loved) that are a bit tedious for adults. Candy Land comes to mind…

So anyway, here are our current favorite games to play with Thomas, who is 3 and a half. Nell, at one and a half, “plays” some of these too.

favorite-games-for-preschoolers From top to bottom (no affiliate links, just linking for your convenience):

Uno Moo: This is just fun. Thomas loves this game and is obsessed with skunks suddenly as a result of it. Nell also loves the game – she plays with us and on her own, but one of us helps her by giving directions like, “Nell, play your yellow chicken now to knock out Thomas’s blue chicken”.

Spot It, Jr: Santa put this in Thomas’s stocking and it’s been a favorite since Christmas. There are a couple different games you can play with it, and it goes quickly. B and I have played a couple nights after the kids are in bed, too. This is also our go-to gift for Thomas’s preschool classmates.

Zingo: I bought this based on Sarah at Clover Lane’s suggestion at Thanksgiving to play with Thomas and my nieces, and it’s a definite family hit. I couldn’t figure out what was so great about it from the description online – sounded like a fancied up bingo (it is). But way more fun than Bingo, plus it’s quick and just competitive enough for little kids without overwhelming them or making you “go easy” on them.  And I feel like my kids are now going to have a leg up on their nursing home buddies in their old age. Preparing them for life right here. Preparing them for life.

Alphabet Memory: I’ve mentioned before that we play a shortened version of this game. And honestly, Memory is not my favorite. But it’s so good for kids – it teaches focus. We pull out the letters of Thomas’s name when we play most of the time, and every now and then will do the whole alphabet, but that’s still a bit complicated for him.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel: Since I mentioned this over a year ago, I doubt it needs much explaining, but it’s a really fun game, and goes relatively quickly, too. Thomas received this for Christmas when he was 2.5, but Nell can play this one by herself with very little direction from us, too, so it’s nice to have a game that the four of us can play together since so many of the games are a little beyond Nell right now.

Sequence for Kids: This is our newest game acquisition, and it’s Thomas’s current favorite. He loves “blocking” us from winning, and it teaches strategy – which is beyond Thomas right now, but something we talk about and work on. We play this at least once a day right now.

So those are our current favorites, what about you? Any great games you’ve played lately (kid or grown-up, I’m always up for suggestions in either category!)?

Operation Curb Appeal: Gray House Paint

I thought about holding off on this post until the grass is green and the trees have leaves, but in the spirit of sharing things as they happen, here’s a big curb appeal update before Mother Nature kicks in her contribution. Last week, we had the exterior of our house painted. The faded brown paint needed to go and I knew that our house hadn’t been painted since it was built in 2001 so was likely on the HOA’s list for needing to be painted in the next year when we bought it last summer. You can read about my initial plans for the house paint – at the time I didn’t think we’d get to paint the house any color but one of the many tans or browns that the HOA currently had available, but I attended the annual meeting in January where they were talking about adding new colors to the scheme and was excited to see that they were including a few new colors to liven up the neighborhood. I jumped on the gray option (our HOA limits how many houses can be painted a color in a general area, and I knew I wanted our house to go gray), immediately submitted my proposal to paint, and lined up our painters. We also had our garage door replaced since the old one had holes in it and was falling apart, and replaced the outdoor lights.

 

Here’s what our house looked like when we bought it. It was a very faded brown that had some yellow undertones in certain faded patches. And some patched paint that was a totally different color than the rest of the house. The trim color was also only one shade lighter than our house color which I didn’t love – I like white trim – and the accent color on the door and one pair of shutters was barely darker than the house. It was monochromatic to say the least.

House Before

And here it was in February, with my commentary of all the things that I wanted to change called out:

house issues

And here is our house now. My friend Jules was over the day the painters were finishing up and as she left she said, “Em, this looks like a house you guys would live in, now.” And she was absolutely right…it’s very much us. We went with a deep charcoaly-blue accent color on the door and shutters, and added shutters to the porch window and big upstairs window to balance the house and extend color. You all helped me decide to bring the shutters to the second floor, and it was absolutely the right call.

kwal-sweatshirt-gray-house-paint

It was such a dramatic change that at first I didn’t know what to think. But as the week went on, I knew the gray with white trim and navy accents were the right call. It plays up the craftsman and cottage elements of our home and feels much more like us. And I’m quite smitten with the new exterior lights that B put up the day the painters finished up (I’ll do another post on the lights and the before and after this week – just need to get good close-ups of the new lights first).  Here’s another angle in a the bright afternoon light (which makes the gray look lighter than it really is):

kwal-sweatsirt-gray-house-paint

It’s not unlike our old house. And I’m good with that, because from a curb appeal standpoint, I adored our first house. And now I’m loving our second house from a curb appeal standpoint, too. The outside of our home means so much to me – it sets the vibe as people arrive at our home for the first time or the hundredth time. We still have some work to do: We’ll either remove or replace the storm door (undecided – maybe remove it and if we miss the breezes replace it? We love the functionality of a storm door and the cross breezes they allow from the front to the back of the house, but prefer the look of a solid front door), add some greenery and color with flowers in planters and in the surrounding landscape and pay a little attention to the porch furniture and layout. But the garage door, paint and lights were the biggies on our list for this year, and we’re loving the outcome.