Halloween 2015: The Year of the Goat on a Roof Costume

Every year so far (though I’m willing to bet this year will be the one that ends it), our kids have chosen their Halloween costume for the next year on November 1st. Last year I was on a plane on November 1st on a getaway with some girlfriends, and I got a text from B when I got off the plane that said, “Tom has picked Peyton Manning for next Halloween, Nell wants to be a Goat.” Of course. So when I got home, Nell clarified. Not just a goat. A goat on a roof. The pumpkin patch we visit every year with B’s mom has goats and a little lean-to with a ladder. We’ve seen the goats climb the ladder and stand on the roof. So, Nell wanted to be a goat on a roof. The goat I could handle – I’m a sweatsuit animal costume making pro (not really, but I can hold my own: Walrus costume, Penguin costume and skunk costume for your viewing pleasure).

The “Goat on a Roof” costume caused me some sleepless nights, but I pulled it off. Can I say? I love this girl’s mind. I love making Halloween costumes for my kids when it makes sense, and this was special: Nell had this totally out there idea, and I helped her bring it to life (with B’s help…I had her convinced that she could just be a goat and pretend to be on a roof, but B insisted that the roof needed to be a part of the costume, and so it was). I hope that she always dreams big and doesn’t care about what everyone else is doing. You do you, Nell. You do you.


Here’s Nell’s best goat impression:


Here’s my little goat on a roof leading her class in the school Halloween parade.


And the boys costumes were mostly a sourcing task. Since Tom wanted to be Peyton Manning, it made Peter a shoe-in to be Eli. The Manning brothers. Perfect.


Until last week, the actual Peyton Manning was having a kind of rough season learning his new coach’s offense. B joked with Tom that every time someone opened the door while he was trick-or-treating he should self-sack and fall over. In his trick or treating excitement, Thomas did indeed self-sack three times. But then Peyton had a great game last weekend, so all is good.

And my sweet little Eli. Peter loved Trick-or-Treating this year. He ran up to the houses and held out his little bucket of candy. Safe to say he’s a big fan of this holiday.


Hope everyone else had a wonderful Halloween this year. I love this fun holiday with kiddos.



Master Bathroom Reno: Before

This week we started our first big renovation at our house. The closest we’ve gotten to a big renovation before was our kitchen in our old house – I painted the cabinets, did a DIY subway tile backsplash, and we had new countertops installed. This time? Our Master Bathroom. This project is a huge one, and we’re not doing it ourselves. We know our limits – a backsplash? Yes. A small bathroom shower? Haven’t tried it, but I think I can and I will happily re-tile the kids’ bathroom shower (and am planning on doing it, their square bisque tile shower is starting to bug me more and more, but that will be awhile since our money and energy is currently focused on the Master. We can only lose one shower in our two shower house at a time!).


We actually knew immediately after we moved in that we wouldn’t do this job ourselves. Originally we thought we’d just replace the carpet with radiant heat tile floors and that I thought we could probably do ourselves but from a time is money standpoint we could just as easily hire out, but as we lived with the bathroom for a bit, we realized there were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed. Like, apparently our shower door has been broken since before we moved in. It stopped fully closing earlier this year, so when B and I sat down to prioritize our savings for 2015, we agreed to fast track saving to gut and remodel our bathroom. We had the funds that we’d been quoted back when we got a “Let’s just see what it will cost” quote back in 2013 when we moved in by April, and then we just kind of waited. When our shower door really stopped closing this summer (like, we couldn’t even force it anymore), we decided it was time to find a contractor and get started. I knew exactly what I wanted and had the plan, I just honestly had no idea where to start. We toyed with being our own general contractor on this project, but as I had no experience with this scale of project, that didn’t seem prudent. So we interviewed lots of contractors. And very few returned calls when they promised to. And many were so slammed with work that they just weren’t taking on new projects this year. The real estate market in Denver was crazy this summer, and it appears so was the home remodeling market. After many flaky contractors paraded through our home, we ended up calling a company that B knows one of the owners of through some community work he does. I assumed they’d be way out of our price range because they build and remodel luxury homes in far fancier neighborhoods and towns than we live in. They came out and are working nicely with our budget, and actually came in at a similar number to what the contractors who had all flaked quoted us, too – and they did all the ordering and coordinating. We’re getting far nicer faucets and tile than I would have picked at Home Depot and for not much than we would have spent buying all of that on our own for the other contractors we interviewed. Lesson learned? Sometimes it pays to hire it all out.

So, our bathroom. The first thing that needed to go was the carpet. That was a given. Once we realized the shower wasn’t functional, we decided that we’d probably rather have wall tile that was “us” instead of beige builder squares circa late 90s/early 00s. So, knowing we’d replace the wall tile, we figured we’d redo the counter tops since the tile was also our counter top surface. Which just left the big corner bathtub and vanity in the space. The gargantuan tub is luxurious, but an eyesore. It’s also so big it’s hard to clean. And impossible to open the windows behind the tub. So, while we didn’t have to replace the tub like we did the shower and flooring, once we realized we were going to be doing a full scale renovation anyway, we figured it was worth it to spend a bit more and get an awesome tub that looks nice, too. I was going to reuse the vanity and just repaint it, raise it up a few inches to counter height, and build some shelves in the cutout. But when I mentioned this to the contractor we ended up going with they said, “So, how about for close to the same amount of money that it would cost to do that project, we just replace the cabinet with something you actually love?” Oh. Okay. Yes, let’s do that.

So, that’s a lot of talk to basically say, we’re starting our big bathroom renovation. Since I’ve never shown much of this room on the blog before, here are some (iphone – big camera is still broken) before pictures in all it’s carpeted, orangey-oak glory.


Here’s a panorama to try to give an idea of the whole space. It’s a weird room. We can’t change the actual footprint of the room much, but we can drastically improve upon the materials and appearance. You walk into the bathroom and there’s a nice linen closet on your right, double vanity past that, corner tub, and small shower, with a toilet room next to the shower. The closet is accessed through the diaganol wall to the left of the photo below, next to the toilet room. The long wall opposite the vanity has towel bars and that’s it.





IMG_0190   IMG_0195



So, that’s the dated before. I’ll share photos again when the whole project is done, but I’m doing the occasional update over on Instagram (my account’s private after I got some weird comments a few months ago, but just request me and if your name is recognizable and you don’t post pictures of women’s feet, I’ll likely confirm you ;) ).

The State of the Exterior: Fall 2015

At the end of last Spring, B and I started putting a landscape plan into place for our front yard. The last time we chatted about this, the shrubs were planted in front of the garage and the perennials were in, but small. They’re still small, but I’m noticing that some of the spreading perrenials are starting to spread their root systems, so I think by next Spring (the creep year of the sleep, creep, leap pattern that B tells me plants follow when establishing their root systems) I think we’ll really start to see the fruits of our labors. Over Labor Day weekend, we took advantage of a 50% off sale at our local Tree Farm and bought the four trees that we needed for the front yard and B planted them all one morning while I was at the zoo with the kids and my brother and his kids. We needed 3 compact evergreens and an ornamental tree, and we had to stray a little bit from the designer’s specs just because of sheer size (and availability) of some of the plants, but we found some similar trees and are ready to watch things grow!

The main reason we hired the landscape designer was because we felt like we were dealing with some challenges that were beyond our skill level. Mainly, the front driveway. When we bought the house, I loved that while the garage was in the front, it didn’t absorb the entire front of the house. But, we had no living shrubs, so our whole front yard was cement, gray rock and a little grass. We needed plants and I had no idea where to begin, and I didn’t want to piece it together over the next several years.

  upgrading builder grade landscaping side garage

The shrubs we planted in front of the garage to help soften all of the gray rock and brick are growing nicely. I’m excited to see how these round out as they mature.


shrubs in front of side facing garage

The designer we worked with specifically chose plants that will spread and mound, helping to soften all the rock that is in front of our house because at the time I didn’t want to change the rock. I wonder if I should have nixed the rock, but we can always swap out the rock for mulch or something softer later if we think the landscape still needs it. I’m hopeful the perennials will do the trick.

planting flowers in rockbeds Our neighborhood used rockbeds to distinguish property lines when the area was being developed. This is where our neighbor’s rock bed meets our rock bed. We planted a compact Juniper tree that will grow quickly but stay relatively narrow (about 6 feet wide) to block the direct view of the neighbors house, and add some year round greenery. I think this single tree will be the biggest difference maker in our front yard as the plants and trees all mature.

compact conifer

On the opposite side of the driveway, we planted three trees – two more compact junipers (these will stay even narrower than the other, growing only 2-3 feet wide, but tall) to add some year round greenery and visual height to that side of the yard, and an ornamental, flowering tree.  updating builder grade landscaping

Our Shasta Daisies love this sunny little garden spot, and the spreading perrenials are doing beautifully here. We planted the same flowers on the other side of the house in that rock bed I showed you before and they get a little more shade and aren’t quite as happy there – so we’ll see how those survive the next couple seasons.    low maintenance flowering landscape   I know it’s all still pretty small and hard to see from the street, so I’m mainly blogging about it now so that I can look back to see how they’ve grown. A growth chart of sorts for my trees and shrubs :) Since I don’t have one for my children. Expect an update next Spring ;)

Camp Baby Shower

My college roommate is expecting her first baby this Fall, and last month a group of her grilfriends, Caroline and I threw her a baby shower. Her baby’s nursery is Colorado Mountain themed, and she mentioned that if we wanted to somehow tie that into the shower she would love it, so we went with a camping themed shower. There were 8 hosts of this shower, so we pretty much divided and conquered and trusted that it would all come together. I’m not the best at letting go of the little details, but with a group this big I had no choice. And honestly? It was awesome. No stress, everyone focused on their couple tasks really well, and everything came together nicely. We hosted the shower at my mom’s house – she has a great house for parties so people can spread out, lives about 45 minutes closer to the mom-to-be and other party guests than I do and her house is pretty much setup already for a camping theme party, so it worked. I took a few pictures of the food and drink table and then I stopped. But it was cute, so I figured I’d share. Also, I broke my DSLR while we were in Hawaii, so all these pictures were taken with my aging iPhone. So, there you have it…

As for decor, Caroline and I pretty much used what we had. Between the two of us we have quite the collection of serving pieces. We used a lot of galvanized metal, wood pieces and tones and white servingware. I know that professionals like all white, but have you been camping? It’s mix and match and use what you have, so we rolled with it.

camping baby shower


My mom and I both have mini spruce Christmas trees in galvanized pots (both IKEA Christmas finds a few years back) that we dug out of our Christmas bins for the party and they went perfectly with the camp theme.

camp themed baby shower

Food was all divvied up and everyone did their own thing. The grandmas to be provided sandwiches and fruit, I made pigs in a blanket and provided the beverages, Caroline made a big pasta salad and we had a veggie tray.

camping baby shower food table

We used real plates and silverware. Mostly because I have an aversion to plastic flatware, but also because Caroline has lots of white plates and we liked the idea of classing camp up with real plates and utensils.

camp baby shower food table

One of the hosts took on dessert and she did it up. S’mores cupcakes topped with little hershey’s pieces and graham crackers. They were delicious. One of my most vivid memories of college with my roomie was sitting and eating chocolate covered s’mores (she worked at a chocolate shop during the summers and always brought some goodies up to school with her for our long days of Rush Camp) late at night during Rush Camp every August while we caught up on our summer antics (since I spent my college summers in Maine and these were pre-high speed internet, texting and unlimited minutes days, we had lots of crushes, romances, heartbreaks and perhaps a skinny dipping story or two we always needed to catch-up on. So it was very fitting that we had S’Mores cupcakes at Brie’s shower.

smores cupcakes

Another one of the hosts was in charge of setting up a build-your-own trail mix bar. It was super cute. And delicious. I may have snuck a few {handfuls of} Chocolate covered raisins during the setup. camp baby shower trail mix bar

Out on Caroline’s back porch we setup the drink station with mason jars for everyone to drink out of. Water, lemonade and iced tea in drink dispensers and mimosas for the non-Mama’s to be at the shower. drink station camp baby shower So, that was Brie’s Camping Baby Shower. She’s surrounded by a huge group of people who love her, and we’re all so excited to meet her sweet boy in just a matter of weeks.

McKevitts in Maui: 2015

We just got back from an amazing, week long trip to Maui. B and I both agree that it was probably the best vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. We went into it with very few planned activities or expectations other than to disconnect from social media (me!) and email (B!) and enjoy the time as a family and get as much beach time as was humanly possible. With B traveling for work, I am fiercely protective of our family time, and this week with just our five was exactly the refresh break we needed. Sometimes, in the hub-bub of everyday life, the things you have to do: the kid shuttling, the meal cooking, the house cleaning, the disciplining so that you don’t raise hooligans, can lead you to forget that family life is, at it’s core, supposed to be fun. I realized during this trip that this was our first trip that was purely us five. We’ve traveled a decent amount with the kids and always made vacations out of all of our trips, but often our vacation destinations were driven by seeing people we knew places, even if we stayed on our own. But anyway, back to the trip.


You can pretty much break our trip into two parts: the travel, and everything else. Let’s just touch on the travel quickly. Flights from Denver to Maui were absurdly expensive, we were kind of thinking they’d be lower since August is not Hawaii’s busy season, but nope. Due to the fact that the flights alone are usually what we budget for our annual vacation, and also not knowing if it would be better to have a quick layover to break up the sitting or do it all in one swoop, we didn’t splurge for the direct flight from Denver to Maui (lesson learned: splurge for the direct flight).  So, on the flight out, we left Denver at 5:45 am and had a quick layover in Phoenix, before taking a six hour flight from Phoenix to Maui. The flights were torture. I’m not a great flyer. I’m not an anxious person usually, but flying brings out a certain level of anxiety that I’m not used to. Suddenly everyone on the plane is not to be trusted (I’m the same way in movie theaters now, too…to the point where we just don’t go to movies anymore), and take-off and landing tie my stomach in knots. But this isn’t about me. The big kids were awesome. We generally don’t allow technology for flights, but based on the fact that we’d be flying for 8 and a half hours, we broke our normal rule and downloaded as many Stella and Sam Sprout episodes to B’s iPad as we could. I also bought a few little dollar store activities, and the kids slept for about 2 hours of the Maui flight. It was a long haul, but the big kids didn’t complain once. Peter, on the other hand…made a name for himself. As soon as we took off from Phoenix, Peter fell asleep in the Ergo – he’d been awake for 5 hours at that point since we woke him up at 3am.  He woke up an hour later, and I distracted him for a good hour with stickers. And then we reached sheer exhaustion but the toddler doesn’t want to sleep point. And I would say that Peter screamed on-and-off for two hours of our 6 hour flight. To the point where the next morning (at 5:30am) when I was on the beach with my time confused youngest two, a man stopped and said “Peter! I remember you from the plane. I’m not the least bit surprised that you’re awake at this hour.” At least he had a good sense of humor.

But the beauty of  Maui is that the second we were in our rental car, the flight portion was behind us. We stayed on the Northwest side of the island. I grew up going to Maui for Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family and we always stayed in Kaanapali, and this time we were a little further North towards Kapalua. It was so fun to be back in a place that some of my best childhood memories are tied to with my own family. I think that’s what made this trip so special to me – exposing my kids to something that was a huge part of my childhood. But also, exploring a place I knew with my husband and seeing it through different eyes. It’s so neat to see how your view of the world changes as you’re exposed to new people and things.

So anyway, Maui. We mostly played at the beach and in the pool, with a couple little activities mixed in. Or room had a full kitchen, so we ate breakfast and lunch or dinner in the room and ate out one meal a day. We’d wake up (early…because…time change) and hit the beach within 30 minutes of being awake. We found a sweet beach early on that has a huge reef about 300 yards out, so it protects the shore from huge wave breaks and makes it the perfect, safe place for little kids to play in the ocean. I forced B (seriously – had to force him) to play golf at Kapalua on Monday, and that was the day I took the kids to the protected beach. We had the best time floating, building in the sand and pretending that we were a family of fish. The next day, Tuesday, I decided we should all go to Kaanapali beach. That beach is truly beautiful and the quintessential sandy beach, but the waves were intense. Tom, Nell and I all got knocked over and tossed by a huge wave as we were exiting the ocean: I realized the tides were getting a bit high for my comfort being in the water with a 5 and 3 year old, so we body surfed a wave in, and as I was carrying them out of the water, the undertoe combined with a huge wave behind it and we were thrown under, tossed around and landed on our backs (me still gripping the kids with all my might) with B and random strangers running at us to help. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and from that time on, we decided to play it safe and stay at the little wave-less beach.  We redeemed Tuesday by eating a delicious lunch over the ocean at Koa’s Seaside Grill on Front Street in Lahaina. Delicious food, and gorgeous views.

On Wednesday, we woke up and headed straight to Baby Beach with B so that he would see that not all the waves were terrifying. And once B saw Baby Beach, that was our home base for the rest of our vacation. We had several people at the hotel with kids our kids ages who had similar big wave experiences ask us if we had found a beach that was good for little kids, and B told everyone about Baby Beach. I said, “Good thing we’re leaving in a few days, our secret little spot is going to be so crowded now that you’ve told everyone about it!” It truly was like a hidden gem that we had all to ourselves for most of each morning – which is funny because we found it by googling “Best Beaches for Kids in Maui”, but maybe not everyone googles? After spending the morning at Baby Beach, we headed back to our hotel and I rented a standup paddle board for 24 hours. The first day was really rough on the ocean outside of our hotel, but the second day was beautiful and we had a blast.  Wednesday night we went to the Maui Nui Luau. I warned B that they can be a little hokey, but it’s a neat way to see a bit of Hawaiian tradition and culture. It was indeed hokey, but it was fun, the food was good, and the kids thought it was the best. Which truly, is all that matters. In the future, we’d probably skip the luau, but if we did do it again, we’d probably choose a different one.



Thursday was sort of a repeat of Wednesday – we woke up, went to the beach where B and I took turns snorkeling while the other stayed with the kids, swam in the pool, did some stand-up paddle boarding, and then went to Whaler’s Village and ate dinner on the beach at Hula Grill. Peter was not the most enjoyable at meal times this trip. He’s in a phase where he doesn’t eat much, and he’s squirmy. So B and I were passing Peter back and forth to try to keep him from ruining everyone’s meal. I’m sure we looked like a hot mess. When we were done, our server came over and said, “All done? Well, today is your lucky day. Another table has picked up your meal.” He told us that the table had already left, and we’re pretty sure it was a couple that was sitting behind us who at one point picked up a crayon Peter had thrown on the floor. B and I were both dumbstruck, and honestly felt a little guilty, but then we told ourselves, “They wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t wanted to, and we’ll just have to remember to pass it on someday”. We laughed as we were leaving and I said to B, “They either saw us and thought ‘Man, those two are in way over their heads, let’s buy them a meal.’ or they said, ‘What a sweet family, don’t you remember when our kids were that age, let’s buy them a meal.’” We’re hoping it was the latter, but something tells me the first one might be more realistic.
Friday we woke up and went to breakfast in Lahaina, then went to our favorite baby beach. We spent the morning splashing, floating and sand playing. After naps we went back to Lahaina and had the most delicious Hawaiian Shave Ice at Ululani’s, then did a little bit of shopping and went to see the Banyan tree. It was our last night in Hawaii, so we ate dinner at the hotel overlooking the beach and watched the sunset and schemed about how we could extend our trip by another week.

Saturday we did our traditional wake-up, hit the beach and play. We came back and showered and did final packing before checking out of the hotel, then headed to the East side of the Island to look around. We ate at lunch at the Flatbread Company before heading to the airport. We decided that based on Peter’s age and phase, this was not the trip to eat at Mama’s Fish House, but we will be back someday, hopefully with a less scream-y Peter in toe, and then we will have our delicous fancy meal.


The flights home were long and made us ready to be home. So maybe that’s why you do it – so that once you’re on the flight, you feel ready to be home and not sad to be leaving Hawaii again. It was a red-eye flight with a layover in Dallas (yes, that’s past Denver. I told you the flights we got were awful. Next time, direct it is.) Peter screamed for about an hour, but did fall asleep for the part of the flight where everyone else would want to sleep. I didn’t sleep, and during that time Peter was crying and I was trying to settle him, I got plenty of evil looks from a not very pleasant newlywed bride. But what can you do? We’ll never see her again, and someday, maybe she’ll be traveling with a 17 month old and I hope that people treat her more graciously.


So what would we do differently? Direct flights. And we’d stay an extra week. Here’s a video I put together of our trip:


Nell’s Big Girl Room

I just posted that I’m not really blogging anymore, but then I was clearing out the camera card before our vacation and realized I had pictures of Nell’s room that I could share. The shelves in her room aren’t styled (and probably never will be), but you all can overlook that, right? Last time I showed you Nell’s room, I had a 3 year old (enough said) a 1 year old and a colicky, refluxy 1 month old who screamed 20 hours a day. I can’t believe I pulled that blog post together. 16 months later, I have a sweet, helpful 5 year old; 3 year old (still enough said) and a wild 17 month old.  And I’ve given up on “pulling” any kind of blog post together. So how ’bout some quick pics and a few words here and there instead?

I bought a Jenny Lind bed off of Craigslist last month, and that was the impetus I needed to get Nell’s room whipped into shape. The bed was in great shape and I decided to keep it walnut – I love an old piece of furniture in every room, and I love a little bit of real wood tone in every room, too. With the bed came a vanity. It was in really bad shape and needed to be refinished, and I didn’t really like it. So I figured I’d chalk paint it and if still I didn’t like it, I’d sell it. And what color did I paint it? Raspberry pink.  Remember when I said there’d be no pink just because I had a girl? Yep. Feel free to laugh at me. I’ve embraced pink. The mirror on the vanity bounces light around her room nicely, and Nell loves her “pink desk” – she calls it a desk, and I don’t think my three year old needs to know anything about makeup and vanities, so we’re rolling with it.

raspberry and navy girl's room

painted jenny lind

My approach to decorating kids’ rooms is similar to my approach to the rest of my house – I keep the walls and bigger elements neutral and pretty classic and always include an antique or two (usually in their natural wood tones) in each room and then I have fun with the less expensive pieces. I don’t do theme rooms for kids in the sense that they have a theme comforter, themed artwork, and decals on the wall, but I bring their personality into the rooms in colors and the occasional art piece. Nell LOVES pink – I tolerate it. So, she has a quilt with some raspberry in it – a more tolerable shade of pink for me, but the quilt has lots of other colors that we played up throughout the room. The navy especially helps balance the raspberry for me, and ties Nell’s room in nicely to the rest of the house.  Nell’s bed and furniture are all old and I tend to like more of a mix of old and new in furniture, so I made sure that the patterns in her room were bright and colorful and modern to help keep her room from feeling heavy. Bright white roman shades on her windows also look clean and tailored and keep the feel of the room light.


navy raspberry and mint girl's room



window seat in girl's room

Confession: I never actually sewed the cover for Nell’s window seat, just wrapped the fabric around it – as you can see in the photo above. It’s on my list of things to get to this Fall.

pink mint and navy girl's room

So, that’s our Nell’s room. It’s one of my favorite rooms in our house. It’s also the only room in the house that has any pink in it. I must be going soft :) . Tom’s room is my current project – I’m updating his gallery shelves and tweaking the layout a bit to be more functional for our kindergartner. Unbelievable.


B asked me the other day, “So, do you blog anymore?”.  Uhhh, I guess not, huh? The truth is, these little people of mine are growing like weeds – they demand (and deserve) all of my time and energy, and so no, I don’t really blog anymore. When school rolls around this Fall, I might have time to upload pictures from my phone and camera to recap all we’ve been up to and share some of the updates we’ve made to the house over the last few months, but for now…just checking in to say hello, and then run to get sunscreen on faces for an epic sprinkler run. Happy summer friends, enjoy the rest of it!

The State of the Exterior: Summer 2015

I didn’t think I’d blog about our landscape progress because year one of any landscaping project isn’t that exciting in picture form. Plants take about 3 years to really establish their root system, so by the time Nell’s in Kindergarten, our yard is going to be awesome! But, in the interest of having pictures to look back on and documenting these projects we love, I thought I’d do an “in the beginning” post. I mentioned a few months ago that we hired someone to help us come up with some plans for the front landscaping – I don’t know plants. I know what I like when I see them full grown and in bloom, but in terms of just knowing plants, that is not my gift. The problem is that I did have a vision for outside, but I couldn’t articulate it well – so we decided to hire a landscape designer that our friends used to give them a long-range plan rather than piece it together little by little.  We didn’t want a complete overhaul in terms of the landscaping – I wanted to leave rock beds where they were, etc – but the landscaping at our house was pretty dire and short of just planting some stuff and seeing how it did, which B is okay with but I don’t have patience for, hiring an expert to just give us a cohesive plan seemed like the best use of our limited time.

front landscaping progress 2 The first summer we lived here, B pulled out a dead creeping juniper shrub to the right of our driveway and he planted a few plants that Home Depot had left over at the end of the season, and we called it good for awhile. The next year, I bought some Endless Summer hydrangeas at Costco and planted them in front of the garage, but it became clear quickly that the crab apple didn’t provide them with nearly enough shade from the hot afternoon sun.   Over the winter, two pitiful shrubs on the left side of our driveway that we never really loved finally gave up the ghost, so we decided that the blank slate we were left with was the perfect time to bring someone in to give us an overall plan. And now we’re putting it into place.


Working with the landscape designer was so easy. She came over, chatted with me about my style and preferences, and then came in for a cup of tea. I told her I’ve always called our style “Urban Cottage” but with a Colorado twist. She totally ran with it, giving us shrubs that produce hydrangea like flowers but that will do much better with our hot West facing Colorado exposure. She suggested great perennials that over the next few years will spread over our rock beds and create 3 season interest and help to soften all that rock in front of our house, and she gave us some great recommendations for compact conifers that will help block some of our neighbor views and add greenery year round without growing too big for our front yard.

We’ve planted all the perennials the designer called for, and are now waiting on trees and a couple of boulders. I fear we’ve missed our window of opportunity for the summer, but we’ll see what the weather forecast brings because I know that getting the trees in will make the biggest difference and I would rather not wait until Fall. The first year of any perennial is always unimpressive, but I can tell already that when everything matures we’re going to have a great, 3 season landscape.

landscaping progress

I’m most excited about the part of they yard in front of the garage (above). Those shrubs will get pretty tall and grow into each other. They have gorgeous bright green leaves and pretty white flowers and I am already in love with them, but I know that I’ll love them more as they grow. I’m excited for the smaller perennials  to get bigger and lend some color throughout the summer. There’s another portion of this rock bed that’s planted bordering our neighbor’s yard, but the plants are so small it’s not noticeable from the street yet.  We’ll have a smaller scale evergreen in the back corner next to the garage to help soften the view of our neighbor’s house from the front, and a great boulder or sitting rock in front of it. I can’t wait.

front landscaping Here’s a look at the entire front yard. To the left of the new shrubs will go that compact evergreen I mentioned and the sitting rock, and there are already some perennials planted even farther to the left, but, again, they’re not much to look at just yet.  To the right of the driveway is a small garden where that dead creeping juniper bush was. It was unpleasant to look at, and we’ve planted perennials in there as well that just need some time to grow, but will add an ornamental tree to add some height to that side of the yard just as soon as we can track down the one we want. We have grasses for year round interest, and I’m feeling a little bit impatient, but the planting process is so fun that I think that helps. Back next to our neighbors’ fence on the right side of our house we will add a small hedge of narrow trees – that height and greenery will be awesome.

Eventually, B and I would like to have the cement strip between our driveway and porch removed and add a garden in there to break up all the concrete (funny because the original homeowners took out a garden there to add the cement – not the best for curb appeal, but practical for backing out of our side garage), and when the kids are older we’d love to add a porch railing. We talked about doing that last year when we painted, but decided against it for this stage of our lives. Our kids are little and they need us frequently, and it’s so nice to be able to see the kids riding bikes on the sidewalk from the porch and get to them in a second if someone falls.

So, that’s the state of our outdoors for now. I’ll be sure to post an update when the little tiny trees get planted. So that 3 years from now we can look back and see where we started :)

On Raising Best Friends

I was sitting at swim lessons on Tuesday between two moms of 2 and a half year olds. Now, that in and of itself should say enough. Those mamas are in the weeds. Two and a half is a freaking nightmare. I can say this through the rose colored glasses of someone who just made it through the 2 and a half year old crud, is enjoying a sweet period with my technically still two year old and is a week out from 3…which, if memory serves me correctly, is worse than two if at all possible. Anyway, parenting two year old girls is another story for another day. This is about raising best friends. So, I’m sitting between these two moms I’d never seen before waiting for Tom’s lesson to start, and they are dealing with the two and a half year old crud. One of the moms had her three week old with her, too. Her two and a half year old was sobbing and kicking and screaming and refusing to go into the pool.  I could tell that she was seconds from tears. I wanted to give her a hug and a margarita and babysit her kids for a few hours.  Instead I said, “Would it be helpful if I held your baby for a minute?” She looked at me – I’m sure sizing me up to make sure I wasn’t crazy – and then said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” and handed that sweet newborn to me.

So, things settled down, the kids all got in the pool, and Nell and Peter were playing near me and scavenging for snacks in the pool bag. Meanwhile, across the room from us, two brothers were kicking the sh*t out of each other. The moms flanking me and I all turned to look – it was hard not to look. In the midst of this, Peter stood up to go scavenge for other people’s snacks and Nell followed him, kissed his blonde head and picked him up saying, “Oh Pete McGete. You are a sneaky snacker, ” then she toddled back to me with Peter in her arms and pulled out a toy for him to play with. And the mom that didn’t have a newborn said to me, “She’s so helpful! Is it because she’s a girl?” I thought and said, “No, my son is my oldest and he’s an amazing helper, too.” And the other mom, still wearily glancing in the direction of the brothers who were still fighting and then looking through the window at her son, she asked, “How did you teach your kids to be such nice friends?” I laughed and said something self-effacing like, “It has nothing to do with me, we just got lucky.”

But I think, in reality, it probably does have something to do with me and B. And telling this sweet mom that I did nothing to encourage the relationship my three kids have wasn’t helpful to her. At all. So as I drove away from swim lessons that morning, I was thinking about it. My kids are best friends. If you ask them who their best friends are, they name each other. My kids fight, of course. Nell knows how to pick at Tom, she knows just how to get him. Tom frequently doesn’t care about anything until Nell has it and then a battle can ensue. Peter can do no wrong in their eyes right now, but that day will come to an end soon. But here’s the thing about the fighting: We don’t tolerate it. There’s no “Siblings, what can you do?!” around here or “{shrug} Boys will be boys”. B and I treat each other and our children with respect, and we expect our kids to do the same.

I think that’s what it comes down to, respect. Not just respect of your elders, but respect of your peers. And as adults, respect of children. My kids inspire me every single day. They also make mistakes every single day, but so do I. An expectation of mutual respect is the key to how our family works. We share toys, but we also respect each person’s private rooms. We laugh and dance and cuddle and play, but we also allow kids to take time for themselves when they need it. Because sometimes kids just need to be left alone. We speak kindly around here and we speak with love. This starts with me and B. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t yell from time to time when I’ve just had it – there was a lot of yelling when Nell was 2 and a half – but every time I do, I regret it immediately. It’s not how we speak, and I would never tolerate my children yelling at me or each other, so it’s unacceptable for me to yell at them.  So during those rough patches when I catch myself yelling? I walk away. I slow count to ten, I say a Hail Mary, and then I come back and I apologize to my kids. Because they need to see how you apologize. They need to know that everyone makes mistakes and that everyone can redeem themselves with kindness. And they need to learn to forgive. And when they mess up? They need to apologize, they need to redeem themselves with kindness, and they need to see you forgive them, too.

My children are not perfect, fights happen. I am far from a perfect parent, but I do my best to be better everyday. When fights happen or things come up, B and I are consistent in our discipline. In our house, don’t tolerate physical violence – it’s an automatic time out. My kids are hitters as toddlers. I have a wise friend who swears that you get either a hitter or a biter – obviously to different degrees depending on the kid, but I think she’s on to something with that. Anyway, my kid are hitters. Starting at about 15 months, they try out hitting as communication. It’s exhausting. I can’t tell you how many flights of stairs I’ve climbed taking a hitting toddler to their crib. To that end, we don’t use physical touch to discipline, either. I can’t spank a child as punishment for hitting…the idea that I can hit but they can’t confuses me, so it stands to reason that it’s confusing to them, too. We speak with loving but firm voices when a child is in trouble, they have time outs in their rooms until they can be kind again, and then we move on. We don’t dwell on the negative. If the kids are having trouble getting along – pestering each other for a toy or not speaking kindly, I send them to their rooms to have some time apart. Not time outs, just time apart.

We do a lot together as a family. We are fiercely protective of our family time. We don’t pack our days with classes and outings and activities and play dates – those are special occurrences, not the norm. We spend a lot of time just playing at home or outside. We go for bike rides. We cheer for each other when someone does something for the first time. Or for the hundredth time. We read books and play games and have dance parties and play pretend. We eat dinner together at night and we talk about our days. And we enjoy it – all that time together, we look forward to it, we laugh, and we have fun. Simple as that.

I’m the youngest of 3, and I remember my mom saying to my sister, brother and me when we would start bickering, “You are each others’ best friends. You three will know each other longer than anyone else you will ever meet, so why on earth would you treat a stranger on the street better than you treat your brother and sisters?” That has always stuck with me. I cherish the relationships I had with my brother and sister growing up. They’re the ones who knew me as a bratty, tattle tale 8 year old and loved me anyway. Sisters let you sleep on their couches for two nights in college when you break up with your boyfriend and are heartbroken, and brothers tell you to get off your sister’s couch and go back to class and that everything will be okay. We all have grown-up lives of our own now, we’ve all had our great days and our terrible days, but I know that anyone of us would drop anything to be there for the other. We have, and we will continue to do so. Because we’re built-in best friends – we’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst, and we love each other anyway. Having grown up with that, I want that for my children. So we work hard to foster it.

So what would I have told that sweet mom at swimming lessons? I would have told her that she’s doing just fine. That two and a half is tough, and that moms who survive it with a newborn in tow deserve a medal. And then I would have told her that our kids are best friends because we respect how important their sibling relationship is, and kids follow their parents’ lead.

Purging and Organizing Books

This category was the one I was most looking forward to because I knew it would be the easiest. Contrary to Kondo’s findings in her reserach and day to day practice, I do not horde books. I have very little emotional attachment to books after I’ve read them, and I honestly don’t buy many books to begin with. I use the library or download an ebook if I have to buy a book. The few hard copies of books I do buy, I usually pass onto friends or my mom, and they do the same, so no book stays in our home for long. B is very similar – he mostly checks books out from the library or reads on his iPad, so we really didn’t have a book problem. What kind of English Lit major am I? For our garage sale last month, I went through our crawl space and pulled out the box of books we moved with us. We hadn’t touched them in two years, so they all went in the garage sale. I found all of my pregnancy and first year of a baby’s life books and boxed them up with some hand-me-downs for a friend. So when it came time to Kondo my books, I had about 10 to my name. I got rid of 7 of them. I have three books. So I moved onto paperwork.


But every time I walked by the kids’ rooms, I had a nagging feeling that I’d cheated. While I hope that my own tidying will spill over into the kids clothes, toys and books, my intention going into this was to simplify MY belongings. It’s hard for me to decide if a toy or book brings my kids joy. And if I have one criticism of Kondo’s book, it’s that it’s not totally applicable to moms. It’s perfect for single or married women with no kids. But I think there are just somet hings you save when you have kids. Does the bouncy seat in my crawl space bring me joy? I have great memories of all three of our kids bouncing in it, but it’s never brought me joy. But, I’m keeping it, because I have friends who are having babies, and when they come to visit, it’s nice to not have to bring a few things – so the booster and bouncer seats, the pack and play and a small box of baby toys will stay. Does the stack of Curious George books in Thomas’s room bring me joy? Goodness, no. I can’t stand that monkey and his irresponsible Man With The Yellow Hat. When is that man going to learn that you can’t leave that damn monkey alone? For the love. But the kids get a kick out of George. So I left their things alone.


But, honestly, their books were out of control. And I knew that by not touching them, I was cheating. So Saturday morning, B and Tom were at the golf course, and Nell, Pete and I were playing in Nell’s room, when I decided to take a look at her book situation. I pulled every book off her shelf and then brought every book from the boys’ rooms into her room, resorted them according to whose room they belong in, and then made a pile of books we never read to donate. And I was surprised by how many I knew the kids had no attachment to without having to ask them. Many of them I’d considered parting with but didn’t out of fear of parting with something someone special had given the kids. But the gift was given, it was appreciated and acknowledged and loved, and now it’s time to move on. We can’t hold onto everything forever. There were plenty of books we just had duplicates of or that never clicked with our family, but we know they’ll click with another family. So, I trashed the trashed books and donated the rest, and now the kids shelves are manageable.

After my donate pile was made, I put the books back on the shelves in rainbow color order. Because I’m a little crazy. That lasted until rest time, but at least the books are more manageable, and I know that the books we have left are ones that the kids truly love. Plus, with birthdays two weeks away, I know those shelves will get filled right back up.