So We Are Remodeling Our Kitchen, Which Turned Into Remodeling Our First Floor….

Well, you know the old saying. If you give your husband a kitchen to remodel, he will end up gutting the entire first floor of your home. I’m living the grown up version of “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”

We bought our house five years ago before the housing market started to rebound, so we got it at a great price. We faced what many people eventually face, though, which is a family that has outgrown their space. The house itself is large enough but the kitchen was small and not very user friendly. Everything was built in place – including the appliances – and the refrigerator we are currently stuck with is a small, apartment sized model woefully too small for our crazy hungry family of five. We couldn’t make the kitchen into what we needed without a complete gut job, because if you changed one thing about the layout, you had to change everything. Everything about the space was custom built to accommodate things as they were precisely, down to the very inconvenient baseboard heat.

So we were faced with the decision to either move, or make the house work for us via a little remodeling. We chose the latter, because we knew that we couldn’t sell our house and make what we would need in order to actually achieve an upgrade – if that makes sense? Plus, we love our property and we really love the house itself. It may only be a two bedroom house now, but it has plenty of space to work with and holds endless possibilities.

So we gave Mike a sawzall and let him loose. This is my house right now. Processed with VSCO with a4 presetProcessed with VSCO with a4 presetFile_000File_000(1)

The thing about my husband is, though, that he never does a job half way. And in Mike’s mind, just doing the kitchen was doing an incomplete job. So instead of just gutting the kitchen, he took the opportunity to gut the majority of our first floor. So we moved everything we own down into our basement, where we will be living for the forseeable future.

The basement already had a kitchen. The previous owners decided to forgo installing central air and instead, just live in the basement during the summer months. Our house is old and doesn’t haven insulation so it gets pretty hot so I understand their need to do something. I just wish that something would have been “add central air.” Oh well. Live and let live, right?

Anyways. The basement had a kitchen but it was gross to the max. Some old water damage had made the cabinets stinky and the lighting was dim and oh yes – Mike had been using it for the past year and a half as his work space for his business. So first things first, he gutted the basement kitchen so that he could install the upstairs cabinets downstairs, along with our old appliances (Minus the dishwasher. Gooooodbye my lover…Goooodbye my friend. You are beautiful. Beautifulllll.)

So now, all that is left is for Mike to finish demolition before he can start putting everything back together again. There isn’t much left – he just has to tear up all the kitchen flooring and then there is one small detail of blowing a hole into the living room wall where he is going to install a sliding door to lead out onto the patio. No biggie. I’m soooo chill about this all. Completely fine. This process does not bother me at all.

Mike has been great through all of this. He certainly knows his stuff and I have complete confidence in him. For years, Mike worked with a contractor who remodeled historic homes. There really isn’t much Mike can’t do, and he has put together a fabulous design for the new space. And through all this, he is continuing to run his woodworking business. Just today he shipped 14 orders – two of which went overseas! I’m so proud of him. He does a lot.

There are times that I look around and see and feel the stress of the project and ask myself “Why the heck are we doing this?” and “Is this all worth it???”. Like when I’m sitting in the basement, trying to blog, and pieces of the ceiling fall on my head, for instance. Or when I look around me and everything is boxed up/piled up/strewn about in our attempt to combine two floors into one, and I just have to not really see what is happening. The mess is for realz, people.  Continue reading

A Place Called Grace

I never wanted to return to this place. The place where I was born. The place where I experienced so many defining heartaches. And truth be told, a place that felt like the antithesis of all that I am and hope to be.

And yet, here I am.

My husband and I returned to the town where I grew up shortly after completing college. What was supposed to be a rest stop on a one-way journey far, far from here, ultimately became the endless layover. Plans didn’t work out, and so here we stayed.

For years, I’ve viewed this return as some sort of failure. I didn’t want to be here, and yet, here I was. Surly that indicated some sort of failing. Some lack of creativity or initiative. At the very least, it felt cowardly. How often do we do things that we don’t want to do, simply because they are known? Our brains can be so fickled. Our heart wants what it wants, but our brains want the familiar.

And so we return.

I crave change and constantly desire to rework ideas, seek new experiences, and grow-grow-grow. So I worried what it said about me if returned to a place notorious for same-same-same.

I’ve been at odds over our decision to return to this place ever since the moment we landed. What’s more, I’ve been at odds with this place. There are so many things about this area that I do not love. So many things that drive me crazy. So many things that seem to crush my spirit.

But recently, I’ve had a change of heart.  Continue reading

Why It’s Important To “Adventure” With My Kids

Being a stay at home mom is simultaneously hard and wonderful. This year, I’ve taken some time to learn a little bit about my personality in the hopes that I can acquire some tools for navigating how I’m hardwired. I’ve learned my Enneagram number (5), my Myers-Briggs personality (ENTP), and my happiness style (relator/experiencer). This information has been hugely helpful.

In particular, I’ve found it so practical to understand how I experience happiness. I best experience happiness by cultivating deep relationships and having meaningful/fun experiences. Anyone who knows me remotely well would tell you this. The thing that has been so revolutionary for me, though, is that this information has helped me pin point the particulars of why being a stay at home mom can be such a struggle for me.

As much as I know I’m cultivating relationships with my kids, they are still very little and at this point and it’s still much more of me pouring into them than it is a mutually satisfying relationship. And, because they are so little, my daily experiences aren’t so much fun or meaningful adventures as they are, WORK.

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying I don’t love what I do, I’m just starting to understand that while being a stay at home mom is incredibly meaningful for me, it’s not necessarily the best way for me to feel….happy.

There. I said it. Are you going to hate me for it? Or maybe…you can relate a little bit to that confession, too?

The good news is, though, that now that I have this information, I can take simple and effective steps to making sure that my happiness tank gets filled even while fulfilling my full time gig as a stay at home mom! The answer for me is simple: adventures. Continue reading

Insecurities, Emotional Intelligence, Instagram and Me

The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.
-Carl Jung

There have been some thoughts percolating in my brain for some time now, but a few recent events have cause the percolation to – how shall I say it – spill over? Today’s post is written from an honest and vulnerable place, with the hopes that it will encourage all of us – myself included – to be a little smarter and stronger as we consume social media. Heck, this isn’t limited to social media. You could apply this to life in general. Let’s just say this is post about how we tend to measure ourselves against other people, regardless of what form that measuring rod might be (social media, jean size, income, etc), and how we will always fall short in that sort of comparison.

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No one is perfect, so stop thinking that they are.

No matter what it is you are picking out about someone else’s life and using to deem them so “special” or “perfect,” I promise you, perfect is not real. Stop it. Stop it right now.

Sure, other people can be skinner than us. Have more money than us. And be really good at the things they are pursuing. But I promise you that no human on this earth is exempt from experiencing heartache, pain, or struggle. If you look at someone’s Instagram photos of their fun night out with friends and start to bemoan how perfect their life is and how much your’s sucks because you ate alone last night then all I can say is – honey, tighten up.

We have to smarten up. Toughen up. And stop being so self indulgent. And that truly is what it comes down to. We pick out everyone else’s highlights and compare them to our struggles and feel sorry for ourself. And guess what? Everybody loses when we do that.

We all get caught up in this. Call it FOMO – the fear of missing out. Call it comparison. (Didn’t someone say that is the thief of all joy?) Call it whatever you like. At the end of the day, it’s just plain stupid and it’s not taking responsibility for our own emotional intelligence.

We have a responsibility, as humans, for our own well being. I’m a little tired of people posting well intentioned but unnecessary apologies for sharing the things they love with others. And I’m not just talking about social media, although that is of course one source. This happens in ordinary conversation, too.

We feel like we have to give all these caveats about how our life isn’t perfect when in reality, shouldn’t we all just KNOW that? I mean seriously, as human beings, how can we all be so stupid to actually think that someone else is better than us just because they shared a good moment with us?

Their promotion, weight loss, fun vacation does not diminish the good things in our life…unless we let it!

I’m reading a book, The Happiness Dare, that talks about happiness shaming and it is so powerful. In the book, the author talks about how it can be scary to be happy because people instantly get so defensive and resentful. Um. Yes!

We’ve all been there, on both sides of the equation. We have been the one sharing our happiness and having someone else bring their rain clouds to the party, and we have all certainly been the rain clouds.

I’ve been thinking about two important truths that I think will help us all mature in our emotional intelligence, become smarter consumers of social media, and perhaps most importantly – learn how to share in other’s happiness instead of shame them.  Continue reading

An Impromptu Trip To Cleveland – What We Did & Where We Ate

This past weekend is one that I’ll be lingering in the residual good feels for a long, long time to come. My husband and I had made plans to spend some time together, but then my brother and sister-in-law ended up having her baby. Yay! I’m an aunt!!!! Everyone is healthy and doing well, and I was so excited for her to get to spend this Mothers’ Day as a full fledged momma.Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Saturday morning, after going in to the hospital for all of us to meet the new baby and check on mommy and daddy, we all got back in the van and headed to my favorite Ohio city – Cleveland!

We didn’t have much of a plan outside of our destination. I just needed to get out and travel a bit and even though I wasn’t getting my alone time with my husband, I was getting the next best thing – a road trip with my family.

I love traveling with the kids, and one of my all time favorite things to do is to explore new cities. It’s funny how we think we have to travel far or to a new state to really go on an adventure. We’ve found that all you need is an openness to explore, try new things, and go with the flow, and you can turn any trip into a road trip full of fun!

I had a few ideas for what we could do in Cleveland, but nothing set in stone – that is part of the fun for me. Sometimes it’s nice to have everything planned out for the sake of little ones, but I want to teach my  kids to be flexible and learn how to find the fun along the way. So I planned ahead in terms of packing diapers and extra layers of clothing and cash for parking, and I thought of a few places we could check out. But I didn’t make dinner reservations and our schedule was really wide open. We were out to see what all we could see! Continue reading

How We Spent Mothers’ Day, and Why Past Fights Have Really Paid Off (Wink)

On Mothers’ Day, I was woken up by Mike and the boys with a tray full of breakfast goodies. Oliver sat next to me while I ate in bed and kept rubbing my arm and smiling his Oliver smile, telling me that “you’re such a good girl” and that “you have the most beautiful nose in the whole world!” I died. Theo bounced around, so excited to surprise me with the omelette he made me (with his dad’s supervision), a card, and flowers. Mike told me later that while they were arranging my food on a tray, Theo said, “I’m so excited I’m shaking!” and when Mike looked down, sure enough, Theo’s hands were shaking. I mean, that is pretty stinkin adorable. 🙂

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We didn’t have any particular plans for that day because Mike had made other plans for the weekend that we ultimately had to cancel. So after breakfast we decided on a short little road trip to explore the Kingwood Center Gardens in Mansfield, Ohio.

We loaded up the van without much more of a plan than a destination. I knew we would be hungry by time we arrived in Mansfield, so we scoped out restaurants from the road, looking for a Chinese place we could grab some take out (a picnic favorite of ours).

Mike – the navigator king, found us a restaurant and I ordered our food and away we went. We parked at the gardens and I spread out a blanket (I never leave home without a picnic blanket in the car!) and we feasted on the random assortment I had picked out for us. Bea even managed to steal – and eat! – a piece of Mike’s sushi. Continue reading

Kids, Technology, and Me

I’ve been thinking about technology and social media use for myself and my kids A LOT lately. In fact, it’s a topic that is never too far from mind. How can it be? We hear about it ALL. THE. TIME. For me, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around it all because a) I tend to react negatively to any extreme argument and b) both sides make some valid claims.

But recently, I listened to a podcast from Culture Matters about The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch. First, let me just say that Crouch has one of the most balanced and reasonable approaches to this topic that I’ve ever heard. He wrote this book (which I plan on reading) not because he saw his kids struggling, but because he say how technology was infiltrating his every day moments as an adult. He decided to consciously make some changes in his own home for the benefit of everyone – NOT just because he was a fear monger who was bemoaning “kids these days.”

I loved that he talked about technology use in general. The lessons he learned and the tips he offered are just as relevant to the single adult as they are to the mom raising little ones or the family with teenage kids.  Continue reading

DIY Essential Oil Bedwetting Relief Cream for Kids: The Results and the Recipe!

Several weeks ago, I shared on instagram that I found a DIY bedwetting relief cream that used essential oils to help kids stay dry at night. I was blown away by how many of you contacted me since then asking if the cream worked and wanting the recipe. If nothing else, I’m just glad to hear we aren’t the only family to have a kiddo who is fully potty trained by day (and has been for years), but still suffers from weekly night time bedwetting. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing the recipe I used, the results, AND, I’m partnering with Plant Therapy to bring you a 10% discount off of any oils you order from them now through May 19, so you’ll want to scroll to the end of the post to find out those details and get your oils for this recipe! Continue reading

Date Night With Theo

Last week, Theo made several mentions of wanting to go out together and spend some time alone with me. This is not a normal request, so I was instantly excited to make this happen. I told my husband that I wanted to go out on a “date” with Theo, and asked him to help me make it happen. Because my husband is an incredible dad and spouse, he immediately agreed and started prepping Theo on all things male dating etiquette.

Our date night rolled around, and while I was getting ready, Mike and Theo said they had to run into town for a quick errand. They returned home just as I was finishing getting dressed, and Mike took Theo into our bathroom to help him tuck in his shirt, style his hair with gel, and even spray on a little cologne. I came out to the living room to grab my purse, and when I looked up, there was my little boy: walking towards me looking so incredibly handsome and grown up, grinning from ear to ear with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

I almost started crying then and there but I gave myself a quick pep talk and told myself to tighten up or we’d never make it through the night. Theo was practically bursting with pride and I didn’t want to ruin the moment with my momma-mushyness. I ooed and awed over the flowers, thanked him with a kiss him on the cheek, and grabbed his hand to head out.Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

We went to a local restaurant where Mike and I frequently go for dates. It is quiet and cozy and is the type of place where the staff greet you by name and make you feel right at home. We walked up to the hostess and asked for a booth for two and before she could even say “right this way,” Theo thrust his dad’s old wallet towards her (which I didn’t even know he had), and said “I’m paying!” Then he turned to me and whispered, “Do I give it to her now?”

For the love of all that is cute and soul-warming. I almost lost it right there.

I glanced at the hostess who was smiling at us and whispered to him, “Not yet. You can pay our waitress when we are done.”

He put the wallet back in his pocket and nodded a wise little nod and followed the hostess as she sat us at our table.

As we settled into our booth, Theo looked around and then back at me.

“Are you having a fun date with me?” he said.

“Baby, I’m having the absolute best time,” I said.

He smiled, settled back into his booth, and continued looking around. (He takes in everything about his surroundings. I know he has the inside of that place memorized!)

Theo knew what he wanted to order so the two of us gave our order to our waitress and then sat back to wait. He colored his coloring sheet and took out his little prize that he had been given when we first sat down. I asked him all kinds of questions and he answered without hesitating.

He told me that he wants to try wrestling. That he has no interest in soccer or t-ball or football. He told me who his best friends are at the moment. He told me he loves being home schooled because he can go to the bathroom whenever he wants. He told me he wants a dog so he can train it to drive a speedboat.

Heaven hold me, I could barely contain my joy at his sweetness and willingness to talk to his momma. We were laughing and talking and having fun and it was about the absolute best thing imaginable.

Our dinners arrived and he began eating at the rate of paint drying (he gets it honestly from his daddy who is a notorious slow eater). But he consistently (if not slowly) picked up bites of fries and chicken and, in between responses to more questions that I fired at him, managed to plow through an entire plate heaping with food. I was shocked and impressed.Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

I asked him how I was doing as a mom.

“Great!” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “There isn’t anything you’d like me to work on?”

“Step one,” he said. “Hugs and kisses. Step two, love your child. Step three, teach them well. Step four, eat healthy food. Step five, do good things. Step six, have fun with your children.”

He went back to eating.

“What are those the steps to?” I asked.

“To being a good mom!” he replied.

“So…How am I doing at being a good mom? Do I need to improve on any of those steps?” I asked, a little nervous at what he might say.

“You are doing those,” he said!

*This is the point in the date where I started blubbering about how much I love him and how great of a kid I think he is. I couldn’t help myself. I mean COME ON.*

We had spent the earlier part of the day with friends and a big highlight had been collecting eggs from their chicken coop and getting to hold baby chicks. We had a great time, and I was curious what he loved the most about the experience.

“What was your favorite part about our day?” I asked.

“Right now!” he said.

*More blubbering on my part.*

We continued on in this way throughout dinner. He never stopped looking around, watching people and asking me questions about what he was seeing, and I kept asking him all the questions I could think of about who he is and what he likes and what he thinks about his life so far.

Random people would sneak glances at us through the night, catching my eye to smile at me or stopping by our table to compliment me on my handsome date.

“How do they know we are on a date?” he asked at one point, surprised to have been found out.

Our waitress came around with the dessert tray and he pointed to a huge slice of carrot cake. She came back with it on one plate, with two forks, and told us that someone paid for it.

“Someone was just so impressed with your sweet little date,” she explained. I beamed at Theo. He didn’t understand quite what that meant – but I sure did.

She placed the check near me but Theo reached for it as she turned to leave. Again, he pulled his dad’s old wallet out of his jacket pocket and studied the check. He pulled a $20 bill out of the wallet and asked if it was enough.

“I’m paying,” he said again.

I looked at the check and told him it was enough, and he closed the little book with a look of such pride and satisfaction that I could barely believe the little boy-man that sat before me. I felt like I was truly seeing my son in a whole new light. A beautiful, wonderful light. Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Between mouthfuls of carrot cake he asked me if this could be our forever date spot and asked me not to bring his little brother here on a date.

“You can take Oliver somewhere else,” he said.

I told him I would. I told him this would always be our special spot.

And it will. Processed with VSCO with a4 presetProcessed with VSCO with a4 preset