Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Of My Favorite Books

These two books are literally changing my life.

I feel sorta awkward sharing something like this on the blog, because parenting is personal and the internet is messy -- I don’t want to be another source of frustration for anyone.

But because these books are soooooooo (oooooooooooo) helpful to me I wanted to step out of a comfort zone to mention them incase they could be this helpful to someone else.

As with everything I write, I’m writing with the best intentions and not throwing any secret extra judgements out with it. Just sharing what’s working for me -- and it’s ok if it’s not meant for you.

So here goes.

The hard thing for me here in trying to review them is, they are SO good that I am almost speechless. I have a hard time knowing just what to write for you. It really just boils down to: reading these is a fantastic thing.

Actually, at this point in my parenting career, if pressed, I’d say these are the only two books I’d read on parenting. I’d throw away anything on baby sleep (for sure!)(And I’m not even saying that embittered, it’s just that after three babies I no longer think there are strategies, I just think they sleep when they sleep - the end) (and again, it’s ok to disagree with me there), or anything to do with food, or just random whatevers….and just keep these.

The Whole-Brain Child is a really cool book. It basically takes neuroscience and psychiatry, as well as child development stages, and smashes it all into an extremely helpful, easy to follow, enjoyable read.

There are lots of treasures in this book. Two of my favorites are:

First, the book kind of breaks down the way the brain works, and how and when kids’ minds develop. I learned that initially kids minds do not have the capacity for higher function. (In hindsight while typing this I feel silly not seeing that one as obvious, but I didn’t --  it was something I needed to have pointed out to me.) What that means in life is, when a two year old is having a temper tantrum, it’s just because they don’t have the rest of their brain available to them yet, to work through that tantrum calmly. (This is all written MUCH better in the books, this is my butchered up version.) So just having that pointed out to me, was like a breath of fresh air and en enormous relief because I could see those tempter tantrum moments for what they were and come at them with grace and patience, instead of fear of failure and over-determination to force something impossible. I could just tell myself, “Their brain isn’t even there yet, it will be there later.” I’ve even been able to use that to teach my kids to understand each other better. When Ruby, my now 4 year old, is not able to accept Jasmine’s (who is 6) “No thank you” without screaming in dismay -- I’m able to remind Jasmine to not take it personally, that her mind is still growing and some day she will be able to respond different when she grows up some more. And then she is able to look at the moment with more grace and patience as well.

Really awesome.

One of my other favorite things in the book is how it it explains the way traumas enter the mind (they start on the right side as physical sensations and that swirls up emotions on the right side.) And then they go on to explain how important it is to talk about those things because when you name what you feel then it’s able to move to the left side of the brain and be filed away, and then it can stop swirling around inside your mind and rest. The books reminds parents not to avoid letting kids talk through their traumas because they need to talk about it in order to heal. 

That was HUGE for me to read, because when I read it my c-section was still swirling around the right side of my mind. And then I was able to grasp why, so I no longer felt so guilty about it, and then I was able to submit to the process of healing properly.

It’s also been super cool to use in parenting. When kids are young you can do this (the book calls it “name it to tame it”) for them. My middle child benefits enormously from this kind of help.
When she falls down and gets hurt  (because I read this book) I am able to go up to her, pick her up and verbalize her pain. I will say “You fell down, and you scraped your knee and your knee hurts.” (She will tearfully agree, or correct me if it’s some place else that hurts.) I then will say a couple more times something like “It’ hurts. It hurts really bad.” I will say her feelings for her until she seems to calm down a bit. Then I will maybe add something like “and you are so sad."
And usually at this point, she will perk right up and sound happy and say something like “YEP. But now I want to play.”
You should know, that when no one does that for her, she will scream indefinitely -- and I do mean indefinitely -- her feelings and will are a force to be reckoned with.
My dad watched this type of smooth interaction between us once and he said with some major stunned awe “That was like a Jedi mind trick.”
It does feel rather like magic.

The book has a lot more in there than that. And to be honest with you, I’ve yet to finish it. I’ve owned it for about three years, and I haven’t finished it. And it’s not because it’s boring, it’s because I keep re-reading the parts I’ve already read, and pausing to let it soak in deeper. I am certain I will read it all. And I kinda thought I should wait to write this blog post until I did. But then so many people could miss out -- because I’m clearly in no rush.

But yes, this book comes highly recommended by me, even while still in the middle of it.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is blowing my mind. And I don’t say that lightly. I actually mean it’s just blowing my mind to smithereens. In the best way my mind could ever be blown to bits.

The title is kinda misleading. I don’t think of this book as a discipline book but more like a guide to interaction.

I don’t quite know how I got past the title to actually read this book, except for I’m one of those people who kinda of just clears entire library shelves all at once when interested in something. This book just happened to be next to some other book I thought I’d like to read and so this one came home with me when I dumped the whole shelf in my bag. And it turned out to be SO amazing…and I can’t remember the other book which lead me to it. ha.

This is another book I haven’t finished yet. It’s in that same boat of “it’s so good, and so jam packed with helpfulness, that I have to go slow to really soak it all up.”

I have an even harder time describing this book.
In my case it’s basically like a re-programming my own brain book. And in so doing it’s greatly benefiting my parenting skills. Not to mention my whole life outlook.

Two things I’ll mention here that really impacted me are these. (But once again, there is innumerably more than two things I love about this book.)

The first one is, the author spends a great deal of time, and spreads the concept throughout the book, denoting the difference between acting out of fear or acting out of love.
I personally struggle with a lot of fear. So this is a big deal to me. And when she points these things out, she does so in a very concrete examples. Which is exactly what I need. It’s very clear instructions.
One way she does this is, she will run through different scenarios and describe a fear based response to it, and a love based response to it. And then she will give very clear instructions on how to handle teaching children from a loving place not a fear-driven place. It’s some of the most clear instructions I’ve ever come across in general, but even better they are super sound and good. And since I’ve  starting going to counseling this book has become even more amazing to me how clearly she is able to convey a bunch of stuff I’m learning there -- so I feel like I’m double checking my facts and finding them very good.

My other favorite thing that I will mention is: This book taught me how to get my kids to get along. Over this summer I’ve received a lot of compliments where people who basically say, “Wow your kids don’t fight.” And I will respond with “They do, I just taught them how to do it well.” And then they pretty much universally tilt there head (very far) and furrow their brow. Some would ask more, some would brush me off in confusion. But either way, I got a clear impression this isn’t a standard thing to do.

This book taught me that usually kids are not disobeying, or doing the wrong thing, because they want to, but because they lack the skills to do otherwise. So when you give them lessons in the skills they need, their behavior improves dramatically.
Therefore, when my kids disagree about something, I teach them the healthy way to voice their opinions, discuss their options, and come to an agreement.
Since I’ve spread my reading of this book out so far, I can’t remember if the book gave me exact instructions on this, but I know it gave me enough information in order for me to do this. This book made it really clear to me that since kids don’t have the knowledge do many things yet especially share smoothly,  I need to give them exact words to say to each other when the interactions occur.
This includes how to express hurt feelings in a healthy manner.
I want my kids to be empowered enough to believe their feelings matter. So I teach them to say them, so the other person can acknowledge them.
And this applies to both sides.
Lets say a doll gets taken away from one girl without asking.
I will make everyone pause and we will talk it out.
The girl who had it taken away from her --  I will coach her to say something like “I wasn’t done using that and I feel upset that you didn’t ask me if you could use it.”
A lot of times the other child will response naturally on her own to say she is sorry and give the doll back just because she hear how the other feels.
But sometimes that child is so into her own thoughts still she is still wanting to have it anyway.
So then we talk through that -- I will remind her that she needs to use her words to ask for a turn. And I will give her exact words. Sometimes they involve strong feelings like “I was really excited to play with that toy so I was hoping to play with it right away. Could I have a turn with it?”

Sometimes at this honesty and sincerity, the first girl will agree to share. But if she isn’t ready to share I don’t force her to. I ask her to say “Well I’m still in the middle of using it, but when I am done you can have a turn.”

I’m surprised by how well this can turn out. A lot of times the girl who had originally taken the toy away can her that answer and accept with a pleased “ok.”
Not every time. Sometimes hard crying follows that answer.  Which makes sense. And we continue coaching from there, or just let that person get some time to work through their feelings.

But the cool thing is, after we practice this enough times, my kids are more and more able to do this without coaching.
So when adults witness these conversations happening without me giving them help, that’s when I get the comments about how my kids don’t fight.
They do fight -- they just learned how to do it well.

And to be clear, I’m not saying we are perfect. And there are definitely days still where I coach through more fights than I knew could possibly ever happen. And by the end of that day I don’t feel like doing it anymore, and sometimes I just can’t. And some days as soon as Blake is in the door I go hide in another room for my sanity sake.
But what I’m excited about is, that’s not every day. And it’s not even most days, just some days. The cool thing really is that there is clearly a marked improvement in our family’s functionality because of this book.

But like I said before, this book is jam packed with goodness. I hope everyone who interacts with children at all, gets a chance to read it. And honestly, it’s so good it could be helpful even if you don’t interact with children. It just really covers some good emotional ground.

I couldn’t recommend it any stronger if I tried. I’m not overstating it when I say that I will think I will re-read this immediately once I finish and then again and again over many years. It is such a blessing to my brain patterns I want to seal it in really, really well.

So my advice is go get these two books.
If you are pregnant, just had a baby, have kids (who are probably about junior high and younger (probably older too)) or you interact with children (or even just people in general) -- this information can only benefit you. The sooner you read these the better you can implement them.
My library has them. I started by checking them out. But I soon bought my own cheap off of amazon because I knew I needed to own them.

So that’s what I’m doing at night lately (if I’m not too busy with the random house projects and life in general) I’m reading, and re-reading, these pages, and soaking it in.

So I hope this post inspires you to look into these, and that they help you out as much as they are helping me.

Love to you all!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Living Room Update

Today is the day.
I’m stepping up my blog game.

I gave the blog-space a facelift.
I pulled out my real, actual camera to take some quality photos.

Which isn’t to say my home has arrived by any means. I’m still working out lots of kinks -- for example, that totally white “art” on the walls up there. I’m planning on coming up with something lovely to do there. But for now, it hangs there helping me brain storm.

I also feel like I need to come up with window treatments. But I’m not sure what yet.

 But something I am sure of….my new leather pillows.

Well I took the rest of that coat, and made two pillows for my couch out of it. And I seriously LOVE the results. 
I keep thinking, well if I didn’t want to splurge on a leather couch (and worry over kid-mistreatment), this is a really nice compromise. (A washable Ikea couch meets leather pillow that only cost me $20 split 3 ways --into pillows and bench.)

I am not going to show you a tutorial of any kind, because this is something that was really random and based totally on what I had leftover from a coat. So it was actually about a two evening mental game of me figuring out exactly how to squeeze two pillows out of it and piece those pieces together. There would be no re-creating it.

But I’ll show you the tools I used.

I’ll say that this project challenged me, and I had to use my seam ripper more times than I wanted to because fitting leather to something is different than standard fabric and I wanted the fit just right. SO I wouldn’t tell someone new to sewing to start with leather. But if you’ve been sewing for a while, I’d say it’s worth a go -- you just need to buy a needle made to go through leather. 
The actual sewing of it is very easy -- the needle makes it all go through the machine like anything else would. It’s just the fit, that’s kinda different to master.

This bolster pillow’s end pieces proved so tricky for me to get the fit right, that (after about 4 tries with the sewing machine) I wound up hand sewing them into place.
But it was worth it. I love the highly styled look it brings to the arm.

I’m also learning latley that I’m much more into textures than I had previously realized, so having this natural fiber in the space really brings me joy.

Also, while we are hanging out, I want to show you something else that brings me joy.
My coffee table decor.
More accurately stated my child-friendly coffee table decor.

I may have a strangely strong pull on me to ensure my space can accommodate both kid-friendliness and beauty.
That solidified one day when -- before I had children, and right after I started getting interested in making pretty spaces -- a guest and toddler came over. I was anticipating child-stuff happening and was totally ok with that. But the parent noted, when seeing the toddler bang on my stuff and drool on my things that I wouldn’t be able to have nice things anymore. I said nothing, but internally I became indignant towards that concept. I knew I could have beauty that could handle being around kids -- and I promised myself I would think hard enough to make sure that happened in my life.
I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to push the envelope as far as I possibly can. The better I get at it, the more vindication I feel against that pretend prison of "kids=unenjoyable spaces” mentality.

 How to get there --
My rules:

  •  My first rule is that nothing can be priceless -- in fact it should all be as "low-ball-offer” price as possible. That way, if it breaks I don’t financially mind replacing it.
  • My next rule is it needs to be durable.
  • And the last rule is it still has to be pretty.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually not a horribly hard combination.
The biggest trick is knowing what you like, so you can recognizing it in places like a thrift store or craigslist.

The last thing I do, is I talk to my kids --- even when they are very small -- about respecting our things. 
I let them use pretty much everything in the house (as long as they are safe for their age) but I am honest with them about how I enjoy the item, and how if we don’t treat it with care it can break and that would be disappointing. In addition, I often remind them that people are always more important than things and that I won’t ever be so disappointed that it could change how much I love them. But that part of caring for and about people is respecting their things.  
It’s not like a daily conversation by any means, it’s just something I am willing to bring up when it’s needed. And I like to have the conversation before it’s a correction -- so it’s just knowledge, not a reprimand -- so maybe we talk about the right way to handle a new item in the house the day we get it.
(Of course when they are babies we just start at telling them, “gentle” (and demonstrate that) when they are touching something more delicate. And we just kind of add onto the idea as they grow.)

Anyway --
Onto what makes this coffee table set up so kid friendly.

First of all -- I feel so blessed to have this coffee table itself --
It checks all my rule check boxes. It was free (!) from a friend, strong  and sturdy, very pretty.  And bonus points for being round for baby noggins.

But the stuff on the table.
I browed the concepts from ChrislovesJulia here on child friendly coffee tables, plus just the general idea of pretty things I’ve seen, and then went and found it all for cheaper than cheap.

  • The tray cost me $2 from Goodwill and it’s some kind or resin-plastic/something non-glass.

  • I asked Blake to cut me those blocks out of scraps of wood he had from projects. (For reference the the dark blocks are walnut and the light ones are tiger maple.) So free for those.

  • I found that wood bowl for them at ReStore for about a $1.

  • The plant holder is metal and cost about a dollar from ReStore. The faux succulent inside it is from Hobby Lobby -- probably about $4 or so. 

  • And The candle holder was less than a dollar from ReStore.

  • The “Lydia is committed to this concept” part is the “candles” -- I knew regular candles would get broken and I also knew I never intended to light them. So I asked Blake to buy a dowel rod that would fit in the holders, and we cut it into six sections. Then he milled the tops down a bit for me and I spray painted them white. The spray painting was fun because I just kept coating them and letting the paint drip so it looks like melting wax. (To paint them -- I poked them into an egg carton to keep them upright.)

 I love that we did this.
For one thing it just entertains me every time I see it -- and totally helps me feel accomplished.
But the kids actually have a great time playing with all these parts.
That’s a part of the fun of having child friendly decor -- it doubles as toys.
The “candles” come out and bang around like drum sticks -- and that’s ok. The girls are actually really great at putting them back when they are done.
The blocks come out and make things.
The plant is a jungle place.
 Those brass figurines I got a while ago -- still such a family favorite. Those also fit my criteria for kid -friendliness -- they are ESPECIALLY durable. And they play so well with the rest of the decor as well as the other toys.

So we are all enjoying this stuff together. It feels very special.

Let me know what you think about the new pillows and decor. As well as what you think about the blog’s facelift and better photo quality.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Patio Progress

So funny story… I had this whole personal pep talk, soul searching, deep digging internal event... and decieded I was ready to actually use my real camera and give you real photos (not iphone photos) of things. So I got the camera out and took nice photos of the leather pillows I sewed for my living room. And then I went to upload them and discovered I have misplaced my camera’s battery charger…as the battery died.
Life, I tell ya.


Until I find that….

iPhone to the rescue.

Let me show you our patio progress! It’s turning out rather mind blowingly good.

I had an imaginary vision for it -- but I couldn’t see it. Now that it’s physically appearing before my eyes I’m shocked by it’s wow factor. Blake is doing amazing!!

So, two weeks ago we had our pavers delivered. We found them at Menards and got them all during a sale. Score.

Then my parents came to town to visit and my dad helped Blake lay the retaining wall for the suken part. 
I’m not in on the manual labor business, I’m the kid wrangler. So I can’t tell ya much about it. But they told me that part required the most precision work -- it kinda determined the precision of everything else. So they spent a lot of time making sure everything was level and square.
To the left there, you can see the sump pump bucket in that circle slot in the ground. That’s going to carry rain water away from our house to keep the family room dry.

Then another day Blake and a friend built up the half circle step/platform by the sunroom doors.

In this picture Blake is racing the rain, to get the sand covered by a tarp, just to make sure stuff doesn’t get washed away.
We seem to be getting a lot of rain while this project is underway. I can’t tell if it’s extra, or if that’s normal and that we are just really noticing that because of how it effects stuff. But either way, it’s rained often in the last two weeks.
So yeah here’s where I brag on Blake for a bit.
Let me tell you all the awesome things he’s been doing.

He moved 7.5 tons of road-pack gravel by hand, with a shovel and a wheel barrow -- from the driveway around the side of our house to the back yard.
7.5 tons by hand!
It’s not something I ever really stopped to consider before, but I just feel like saying a single human moved a literal ton of anything sounds amazing. And he moved seven and a half of them!
He debated renting a bobcat, but we’ve rented a few other things for this project and I think he was just dedicated to saving the money this time around.
That was a lot of labor, and he did it well.

After the gravel was in place he rented a tamper, and with a friend over to help, he went around and tamped it all down. I don’t think I got any pictures of that. But the tamper is kind of the shape of an oversized vacuum cleaner, only of course it’s not vacuuming -- it’s got a flat plate there that vibrates like crazy, pressing down the ground.
That tamping process makes the gravel turn into what feels more like cement when it’s all compacted down, and will make the ground more stable and less likely to shift in the seasonal changes.

Next he laid down landscaping fabric, to keep out weeds.
And then again he went to work with the shovel and wheel barrow and moved 5 tons of sand by hand!
He said the sand felt easy after gravel!
All I have to say is wow.

So random story time. 
There was a day at this stage where there was an BIG heavy rain, for like 15 minutes. The new sump pump is in, and had been working wonderfully. But this day it had been unplugged for something. (I didn’t know that and I kinda panicked for a minute thinking it was broken. Until Blake plugged it back in.) 
But the brilliance of this patio, is the fail safe aspect of the sunken part. If the pump doesn’t go on for some reason, the water has a place to go, that isn’t our family room!!
Another brag on Blake there -- he really thought this whole thing through!
That day’s rain was the kind that guaranteed would have soaked our family room before this project. But the family room was totally fine and dry -- even with the sump not plugged in. 
(After we plugged it in, it emptied in no time.)
And cute story time-- Jasmine is into having imaginary fairies and mermaids right now... so they swim in there, and play in the “fountain” the sump pump makes. I love it.

Anyway, here Blake is laying the bricks in place for the ground.
Once again -- gold stars all around.
He told me from the get-go whatever lay out for the pavers I could come up with he would figure out how to do and make it work. And that he has! He’s rocking it out.
He’s even putting up with me coming outside after he’s laid some and being like “umm wait, we need to tweak the design.”
I’m trying not to do that much. But I’ve had to do it once in a rather annoying moment. And another time I caught it before any real work had been put into it.
I love him for letting me do that because it’s making all the difference in the world for how it’s going to look in the end. And I know it’s not fun, but he’s good to me. :)
So here’s the sunken part before the fitted corners. I was THRILLED to see this.
Entirely more fancy and amazing than I knew to expect.
After that he moved over the the raised step.

Jasmine has been over-the-moon with helping. She asks all the time when Blake’s at work when she can help next.
She’s helped shovel gravel and sand, and move bricks. And she’s a trooper, I’ll see her struggling with a large brick (and I have to reign in my mom-fear of her dropping it on her feet and let her be), but she doesn’t give up she just keeps at it until she gets it and moves it over to it’s place -- never complaining. Just plodding along. She is into it!

Here’s the step up, with the bricks that need to be trimmed down, just set in place.

A view from the sunroom’s perspective. Eventually all that sand with be pavers too.

Then this weekend, Blake’s friend brought over a special saw to cut the pavers to size.
And over the course of the afternoon they got all the sunken part fitted.

I mean...
….that is PRETTY!
 Let’s just look at it for a moment and savor it...

As far as the sump pump area is concerned we are thinking we’ll probably set a fire pit bowl over it to hide it away.

I’m currently really ruminating on how to use the sunken part.
You may remember me saying in the last part we’d do benches on the sides. But now I don’t think we will.
The depth of the sunken part turned out to be shallower than initially we’d imagined it. 
Us, not being professionals, we didn’t know about the road-pack before the guy came and dug out the area. So that raised it up some. Plus, just generally we didn’t have a super specific depth planned on, so this is the height we got. I don’t think it seems bench-y. 
I want to REALLY nail it when it comes the the furniture I put in there, because as a rule the idea of a random sunken part of your patio seems out of place. So people are going to wonder about it. But I figure if I can plan out just the right something, it won’t be so questionful, but it will look artful.
I also don’t want anything to feel like a trip and fall hazard. So I want the furniture to flow with that somehow.

So I’m thinking like crazy what it could be that we put there. It doesn’t have to be this year that it shows up. I just want to ruminate and find the right thing.

Anyway --

Time for a Family Room Window’s view flash back:

What I saw when we bought the house

What I saw for the past year.

What I see today.

That’s some good looking change right there!
It’s just gonna keep getting better too!
I’m kinda in shock -- in the best kind of way.

Blake, you are awesome!
I love you so much! (With or without a Patio, I love you so much!)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Not the first, not the last


Yeah, so…..

This is not the first time I’ve had writer’s block with the blog, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
But it’s the first of it’s kind.

I’m in a weird place.

I’m still sad and grieving. But I’m past the socially really acknowledged zone. Because for the rest of the world time is moving. But for me it’s not. So we are on different planes there. After my brother died I looked up the old custom of mourning clothes (I just can’t help myself -- I study anything of interest at all) and I noted the time length -- siblings wore mourning clothes for 6 months back in the Victorian days. That time frame feels about accurate in current social greetings and their delicateness. (I’m not saying people are immediately in-considerate, or not delicate, after that much time. It’s small and almost imperceptible, but after 6 months there is a shift.)
I’m messy right now inside.
   I’m tired all the time. Like weary in my soul. I’m super sensitive. I’m boring and can’t think of conversation. If I can think of anything to say, it’s gonna be WAY over detailed and specific and likely not appealing to just anyone. I have zero small talk skills right now -- ZERO.
    This all makes going to church (or of I had any other social things at all, those would count too) seriously exhausting, very awkward --I likely come across as a real weirdo -- and it’s not refreshing or enjoyable.

But I’m sort of starting to feel normal. Kinda. So I kinda want to be normal and see people and stuff. Only then when I am there I remember that I flinch when people say hi to me. (Grief makes greetings hurt.) And I watch them pause and process that very briefly. I over-think that, I lose ability to catch up with the next thing they say to try and recover that random moment, and so I flinch some more, or I look down or away, or look disappointed. You can see the conversation is doomed.
OR I don’t flinch when we greet -- I get there by trying to muscle-through ---- which looks like smiling overpoweringly and saying “I’m GOOD!” like I just won the lottery or something. But then I  have no way to say a second sentence. Because I’m not good. So I just kinda have to move along then. And then I’m sure people get the wrong impression that I’m just breezing through life. I’m not, I just have no social skills right now. (Or maybe it’s not that I don’t have skills, but there just isn’t room for this-current-situation in social arenas right now. Either way.)

I have never been a huge fan of the general “How are you?” question as a greeting. I’ve never enjoyed how it seems like a really meaty good question, but is used as a general hello, as in "I might just be trying to get past you towards the coffee station and need to be friendly too.”
But right now, I have no skill in maneuvering it. I wonder every time “Are you asking me, for real? How long do you want to listen?” I don’t know.

I kinda of just want to walk up to people, and right off the bat, be like “Hey, I’m gonna be weird. Just ignore the weird and keep on going, I’ll suck it up and we’ll all be fine... Now let’s just get to it. ‘How are you?’"

Because honestly I don’t think people know which way to maneuver that question with me either. I experienced a horribly awkward “How are you?” scenario about a month ago, where I thought the person was just asking lightly, so I said “good” to be polite. Then they pressed really hard with searching eyes, “How ARE you?” but it wasn’t the right timing to be asking (it wasn’t a conversational moment at all), so I looked confused, paused, thought, and said, “My life is hard, but I am good.” (Totally not sure WHAT to say.) And then they patted me on the arm and said “You’re blessed” (entirely too care-free) and walked away leaving me stunned.
These kinda of things are weird and I guess happen anytime. But when they happen during these hard times they are SO alienating and leave me second guessing so much.

So how I am…
And how come I haven’t been blogging much…

So I’ve established I’m not good at being by people. (I could go on, but I’ll call that much good for today.)

I’ve established I’m sad.

I think I’ve implied I’m confused. (Death has a way of throwing everything you think you knew into a new light. And you are left to either ignore that and try to make things feel like they used to even if they can’t ever be what they used to be, or totally reexamine EVERYTHING until you get your footing back.)

BUT on the other hand,
I’m also happy in places.
I’m also at peace in places.
I’m also excited in places.
I’m also hopeful in places.
I also see beauty in places.

BUT it’s not the way it was.
I don’t see beauty the same.

Some beauty means entirely more to me now.
Some beauty is totally unappealing to me now.
Some things I thought were beautiful now look ugly -- or maybe not ugly -- yeah ugly isn’t the word-- but like….not what I want to gaze on.
Some things I never noticed are now a really big deal that I want to gaze on for ages.

I don’t have my barring on that yet.
And that right there is really what’s been holding me up with the blog.

Because blogs are used to showcase things, generally speaking.
And generally, they look pretty.
And I don’t really know how I feel about all of that right now.

I used to LOVE taking photos. (Before the blog. Sorry you never really got the full benefit of that skill on here.)
I used to do wedding photography. And I adored catching people’s soul. And I didn’t mind photoshopping stuff because to me that’s how I actually saw the people -- when you know someone and love them, you see them with photoshop eyes -- so I just wanted everyone to see them that way.

But when I peruse the general internet -- photoshop isn’t showing people’s souls, it’s like hiding their souls with skin perfection. (Or room perfection, or outfit perfection.) I don’t see a soul. I see a shell. And it’s a pretty shell. I wouldn’t mind my shell looking so shinny.
But I know they didn’t wake up like that. Or the room doesn’t stay like that.
And I’m too tired to pretend that way.

And it’s fine either way. I’m not mad at anyone or saying anything bad here.
I’m just not sure what to put on my blog.
Because part of me is like “Hey shoot for the stars, find your dream, live your best life. Take some seriously good photos now and step up your game.” and part of me is like “Don’t do life with makeup and filters. It’s not real.” And part of me is like “But remember how you used to photoshop with decency for love sake?” And then part of me is like “Meh. I’d rather take a nap. I have three kids, and a BUNCH of stuff to do.”

And I also currently have a FIRM gasp on the fact that you can’t win. If I were to put stunningly gorgeous photos up, I’d turn some people off because I’d lose authenicty. If I were to put only “real life” messy, no filter, no makeup, no cleaning photos up, I’d turn some people off because if you hit that too hard you seem depressed or too mediocre. If I did both, people would lean towards more of one or the other, and hope I would too. Because we are all different and like different things have have different hopes. And that’s fine. But I am currently HIGHLY aware of there not being a right way. And I’m fully aware that this is my blog and I can do what I want.
But I’m not sure what kind of way I even see right now.
My filter’s aren’t inside photoshop, instagram, VSCOcam. I don’t see with photoshop eyes like I used to. My personal filters --they are a lot more tactile right now. I’m not sure how visual I even am right now. (Says the girl who’s still making over every square inch of her house.)

I’m me. I’m messy.
I’m not sure what to say.
But someday I’ll get a foothold again.

Here’s a really filtered photo of me.
How’s it make you feel?

In art interpretation,
I like that half is washed with light and half is heavy with contrast.
Does it speak a thousand words?

Or does it just say 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Digging out the patio

Hey there,

It’s been too long since I’ve really shared much at all.
I’ve been changing tons of stuff in the house decor. And Blake’s been changing all sorts of stuff outside!
You are over-due for an update. 

Today I’m just gonna show you the back yard and talk to you about what we are doing.

But since I feel like I’ve been lacking in contact with you --I actually went all out... and added a little video tour! You get to hear me ramble to you, while I walk you around our yard. Sweet!

So let’s review first. Here’s the best photos I have of our back yard “before”s -- I didn’t really stop to think about how we’d need before photos out there, so they aren’t like great visual aids, but they help. Unfortunately I don’t have any befores from the back of the yard just looking towards the house.  So I’ll try to piece what I have together so you get the idea.

This is the family room window. And when craning to look left you can see the sunroom.

The family room is on the ground level. The sunroom is up a set on a foundation. So there was an awkward step up from a sidewalk onto the deck when exiting the family room. It felt like a tripping hazard. And the sidewalk collected yard debris easily, from the wind blowing it into the valley that it was.

The deck made a straight cut around a LARGE locust tree. (It was dying and we had it removed for safety reasons.)
But the deck angled out harshly from the sunroom. It was a strange feeling layout. Jarring to the eye. But I can see what they were doing. And based on the breaker box, I think there was a hot tub on the non-angled area back in the day -- which would have felt like there was more flow and logic.
tree gone!

These bushes used to be right next to those white chairs (you can see their stumps if you look) and it severed the ablity to walk into the back yard from the side entrance. Not sure what that was about. 

Here is looking from the sunroom towards the family room.

And the deck’s angle-out from the sunroom

Here’s a few random family photos (and a selfie), that are about two years old, with the deck in it.

The yard was crazy over-grown. I think at one point it was very nicely landscaped. But I think over the years it saw little to no care.

So we had to chop down a LOT of stuff.

Last Fall Blake pulled up our deck.

You may have picked up that we were not into it at all. AND we needed to address drainage issues for the yard which affect the family room. So there was no saving it.
Putting the family room on the ground level was not great planning, and when it rains too much, water seeps right under it’s door crack.

So after a lot of thinking, talking to different people and planning we (well mostly Blake, because this stuff doesn’t click with me) came up with a plan.
We decided to have a sunken patio with a sump pump placed in the bottom. This way there is a place to collect the water (that is not our family room) and a pump to take it away from our family room.
As well as we decided to re-grade the yard. The ground wasn’t correctly angled. Yards are intended to let rain water flow towards the property lines, and then to the street. Our yard was aiming the water at --- you guessed it -- our family room.
So while we were digging out the patio, we also just went at most the yard as well to correct that.

So here are the videos where I walk you around. This one is after the deck is gone, but before we do the digging. (I don’t really remember all that I said here. Hopefully it’s not too random and confusing.)
And here is what it looked like after the excavator.

If you don’t really want to/ can't watch the video, here are a few photos.

So here’s the yard after the deck and tree, before the digging:

 Our stunning view we’ve had for some time now. :) It’s exactly like living directly off the ocean -- vacation views 24/7 over here. ;)
And our side yard that started out a weed infested area used to house rotting fireplace wood.
 Then the excavator came -- he was great fun to watch.

And now our view looks like this:
Which I gotta be honest, really does feel much more serene than it used to. It’s just nice to see progress and less chaos -- at least the weeds are currently at bay.

But anyway you can see the deeper rectangle part -- that will be the sunken portion.

You can’t tell in the photos, but in there is a something of a half circle area from under the sunroom door over to the brick wall. That will be an oversized “step”/ level which will be how we transition the heigh difference there.

 But yeah, so now the yard drains the right directions.
 And the side yard has also been scrapped down to drain more appropriately as well. (Blake did that part for us! Yay Blake!)

And we are currently----here:
 I cannot explain it -- I will not try. I’ve left everything in Blake’s capable hands. And I’ve picked out the patio pavers. :)
The above pavers will be the ground level.
The lower picture is how we plan to do the retaining wall areas.

(At least that’s what we’ve got going in our minds thus far) I just really wanted a classic traditional brick look since the house has brick.
We are leaning towards the brick color “autumn mix” instead of the bold red -- our house is red brick -- but not RED brick -- so I think this is a better route. I think the red-red might wind up looking like the family room fireplace red I had to white wash.

Anyway, I’m thinking I’d like it laid in a herring bone pattern.

Maybe an extra thick rectangle border in the sunken part, sorta like this?
Pretend the white floor center part above is herring bone, and you’ll get it better.

As for the sunken part, we are planning built in benches -- not in this style at all -- but the layout concept.

You can see my pinterest random attacks at brainstorming here.

Blake thinks that’s do-able. And I’m doing my best to just trust him. But I do keep panicking. For some reason this patio has me very apprehensive -- I don’t know how to do outdoor things -- inside I’m set -- but outside I’m overwhelmed by inexperience. I’m just hoping I can pull off a good design scheme -- and that it’s one we can actually tackle.

There are a lot of steps left. 
Some landscape fabric, some backfill, some road pack, some sand, some retaining walls, the brick laying, some steps into the sunken part…I have no idea when we will get done. Before it’s too cold is the deadline….

(So you may have guessed we’ve not really addressed the rest of the sunroom right now. This took precedence because it’s actually structural integrity stuff -- keeping the family room from flooding. So once this is done we can go back the the sunroom ceiling and door and fans…)

Anyway -- as I can I’ll try to show you my interior fun as of late. But getting back into regular full time schooling is next up -- so who knows when I’ll get to what on here. Thanks for your love, patience and interest!

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