Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Captain’s Log

I have this sense that I’m failing. You guys have been so good to me, and really made me feel like something quite special when I asked you why you read this blog. (But I think you are the special-ness, really.)

You and me, we have something, ya know. It’s a real connection.
And I’ve kinda been disconnecting from a lot of things since my brother died.
And I feel bad about that. Some of you have reached out to me so sincerely -- and some of that has fallen through the cracks in terms of my responding, but NOT in terms of it how much it’s effected me in deeply beautiful ways.
So when I just show you before and after photos of stuff -- I don’t want you to feel shunned. I just am wavering, on everything. And so to blog feels really weird. I’m used to being really honest with you. And it’s not that I don’t want to be honest now, it’s that my honestly would take up Encyclopedia-levels of space. And I don’t have the time to write that out. And I don’t know which direction to go -- because my thoughts are sprawling.

But I do want to keep that line out.
So here’s an attempt to say how I am lately.

I don’t know how I am.
Sometimes I feel bad -- very, very bad. And sometimes I am good.

Grief is crazy. It breaks things. And you are left with all this shattered glass around you, and a mind full of mush, and... you get to choose what to do next.
And other people standing around you are in their own shattered glass -- but it all shattered and mixed a bit together, so everyone’s glass is everywhere -- and they get to choose what they do next. And we don’t all do the same thing. And everyone’s mind is full of mush. So sometimes just the reactions to the broken things breaks us.

There’s a thing called secondary losses in terms of grieving a loved one. You don’t just lose a person, a whole bunch of other things get lost with them. This list {HERE} pretty well sums up my current plight. Not every single thing on there applies to me -- but a very large percentage of them do. It’s a seriously heavy load to walk around with.

But generally speaking, I’m used to picking myself up and making things work. In fact, I get a charge out of solving problems -- seeking knowledge and solutions is my anti-anxiety pill. It always has been. That or... making things pretty. (Which I also use my problem solving skills for.) So what I’m doing these days is pointing my feet forward, and making changes, and steps towards functioning -- and functioning well.  (And things happen to also get beautified in the process.)
Part of me doesn’t want anything to do with that. (And everything to do with ice cream and never getting out of bed again, ever.)
But I have three very young kids that need me functioning, and ideally functioning well. So I’m pursing it with all I have.

I’m knowledge-pursuing, problem solving, fixing, mending, and doing my darndest to push everything I’m finding into my reality, with every waking moment I have.  Because I have a new urgency from understand the concept of living life.

So…this, I think, makes me look totally ok to people. I’m pretty sure I’m giving off the “She's A-OK. She’s floating around, just breezing through.” But I’m not. I’m a hot mess inside. I’m FULL of doubts. Like doubts come out of my pours now instead of oil. I’m extra hard on myself currently. I hear all sorts of negative things in my head -- memories, or self talk. And I don’t feel strong enough to fight them right now. I can’t control my memory-factory section of my brain. Sometimes I can’t pull up anything I’m looking for in my mind, and other times I am in vivid out-of-body flash backs. There is no fighting that -- there is only riding those waves. They aren’t gentle waves. I’m tired and beat up. And again, I get to choose what to do next. Do I quit (whatever that means)? Or do I say, “Nope. Not today. Back on the horse. (Which is a wave…keep up with me here ;) )”

Generally, I’d say I don’t see it as a choice. Me and the horse -- we have a job to do -- we have to get these kids taken care of, and raised well, and loved deeply. I have to get up. No matter how hard I get kicked.

And can I tell you something? Life isn’t backing down. It’s not saying, “Hey little lady, take a seat and catch your breath.” It’s just not. And sometimes I get mad about it. Sometimes I don’t sleep because of it. But I don’t have another option. I get back up.

A couple weeks ago we found out we had bed bugs. Without any reason, we just had them.
Apparently that can happen -- you can just casually pick them up sometimes. I had no idea!
We had an exterminator come to look it over and he said we couldn’t have had them longer than a month. We’ve done nothing in the last month. Gone no where, had no guests, I’ve not even thrifted anything besides one mirror which never went anywhere near our bedroom. (The only room with any problem.) He didn’t seem surprised or confused by this -- just kinda implied they come from anywhere.
It’s ridiculous.

We caught them really early. We figured it out because one day Blake had three weird bites on his side one morning. I figured spider bites. A week later he found a weird bug skin on his leg. And he woke me up saying “I think we have bed bugs.” (I’m NOT a morning person -- this is like the… WORST... way to wake me up.) I refused to accept this and I angrily attempted to talk him out of it. When it wasn’t working I started wondering if I should google. And after he left for work, I did. And I then proceeded to lose my mind.

First of all -- no one likes looking at close-up bug photos including bugs, eggs, bug babies, and bug poop. That’s just not visually good.
Second of all no one wants to think that is on their bed.
Third of all, no one wants to realize that those creepy bug skins, that are also in those photos, sure do look a lot like what was on your husbands leg when he woke up.
And then when you read, that they shed those skins one week after feeding (aka biting someone) and you realize that’s exactly the time frame between your husband getting bit and then finding a skin -- well….
Time to throw the world’s biggest pity party, because girl, life is just going all sorts of creative in it’s random attacks on you.

I’ll save you the joys of entering too deep into my mind, and wrap the story up faster than it felt because I just don’t want to think about it anymore.

We had Orkin out and he looked everywhere -- all the rooms looked fine. And even our room didn’t really show much (because I had already washed the sheets in hot water trying to rescue myself.) But he gave us a quote of $1,000 for a liquid treatment or $1,600 for a heat treatment (the most effective.) With the advice of do this now because if it gets more intense it costs more.

So Blake and I were both like “Holy Crap that’s a lot of money.”

I was ready to shell it out because I was losing my mind trying to sleep “Fear Factor” style in my bed --- Crying myself to sleep, while waiting for my sleeping pill to take over my mind, so I could let the vampires come get me while I lay helpless against them. (And no, I didn’t want to sleep in another room because I didn’t want to lure them to more places -- they follow the food. And the last thing I wanted was vampires in every room of my house.)

But Blake being a bit less irrational, and emotional, was willing to think a bit more than my sleep deprived mind was able to. And he decided he was a scientist, and that scientists most definitely could heat a bedroom up to 130 degrees safely, and thereby do exactly what the professionals would do but for a heck of a lot less money.

So that’s what he did. He borrowed a propane heater from a friend. Got a remote thermometer (you can read it from another room.) Put the video baby monitor in the bedroom watching for any fires or mishaps. And he stood outside the room with a fire extinguisher for 90 minutes (30 minutes longer than the pros…just for good measure.) He assured me the fire extinguisher was just for the very, very unlikely possibility it will be needed, just really a true "by the rules" safety measure.

I couldn’t take it though. I sat on the far other end of the house trying not to have a panic attack while he did it.

But he did it. And our house is still standing!

Hopefully that was all it took. We will see. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. And it could definitely save us huge bucks. So far we’ve not seen any more evidence. So cross your fingers and say some prayers for us.

We also bought these mattress encasement covers for every mattress (and boxspring) in the house.
(I may have temporarily cleared our city out of queen sized covers, I had to buy at multiple stores to get enough!)

I bought them because: (And listen up -- this could be SUPER helpful for you)
When Orkin came through, he saw that we had these covers were already on in the girls beds (because of allergies) and as soon as he saw them he announced “Oh they won’t be in here with these on.” And he deemed the room totally safe.
So -- I will now be living the rest of my life with these covers on every bed -- why would I not?
(I honestly think everyone should now that I’ve experienced this. Save yourself. Get some. It’s much cheaper than the alternative -- it’s also a lot less stressful!)

I almost didn’t make it through that “wave". It just was too random and cruel. Cruel and unusual, Life, come on!
But like I said -- there’s not really another option but “through."

So here I am on the other side.
Still standing.

In other news--
Before, and while, that was going on -- I’m trying to pull myself into a new self. Someone who CAN.

 My mind is a MESS. So I’m working on things that simplify my world so my limited brain power can still make things work.

So besides the Enormous stack of books I’m reading, trying to fix my mind enough to still be a mom.
I’m trying to streamline everything else.

I’m currently in the middle of Marie Kondo-ing myself. I plan to blog about it -- but after I actually get somewhere and live inside it more.
So far I’ve gone through my clothes -- and it’s been every bit the “magic” she attributes to this process.
I think it’s probably more-so because I’m in this really crazy mental place right now, but I’ve done very few things in my life that have made me feel so empowered and so aware. It’s weird that it can be such a huge deal -- but it really felt DEEP.
(I thought her second book was more helpful and clear. Especially if you are already on board with her game plan….which, I will say, is not for everyone, and that’s ok. But it IS for me. And it’s pretty cool because it’s actually is very custom per person. The main/basically only rule is: You keep what brings you joy. Not too sure how that could be a bad fit, really. The other rules are just the order she wants you to go through your belongings, because it’s easier on you that way.) (Both books I read via my library. And I took some notes to get me through after I returned them.)
She says getting this done in 6 months is fast. So don’t expect me to blog too soon about it. But when I do -- expect me to rave about it.
But small spoiler: This type of streamlining makes me 90% more functional because it’s SO much easier to only have things you love in your home -- soo much less stuff to pointlessly tend to.
Getting dressed when you only have clothes that bring you joy (part of this is stuff that fits) around -- simple and good. And laundry is easier to put away. And more enjoyable too -- because you are only touching things that are joyful as you do the laundry.

In terms of streamlining other ways --
I’ve also started a chore chart for us.
I can’t tell you if I stick to it or not. I’ve literally only had it for two days. And I know I usually crap-out on doing things like this in about a week’s time. So I don’t know yet.
BUT I made this one custom for me -- I looked at every chore chart that I had a connection with online and meshed them into my own self, life, and wants. And came up with this.

And I will tell you, in the two days I’ve had it,  that once again, this feels like magic and totally empowering. And VERY mind clearing.
I’m getting the kids involved, because I want them to have those skills. And I’ve revamped our routine chart a bit, going for a few more healthy habits, and we are experiencing only minor turbulence from the shift -- which feels like a big victory for me.
But what I’m liking internally, is that I feel like I have guide posts, and I don’t have to use my mind now for this stuff. I’m an over thinker. So I was over thinking when, what, how to clean.
So -- sitting down, being realistic, and figuring out my goals and putting them on paper took a lot of stirring inside me and settled it down and gave me the ability to focus. And having things set out gives me the feeling of accomplishment, seeing what I have to do and that I did it.
It also gives me the feeling that it’s ok to rest, and not do any more, once that day’s stuff is done -- because I know soon the spaces and things will get cleaned too, because they are scheduled.
I’m so all or nothing that my house usually has spurts of chaos and spurts of glimmering. I *think* this chart will keep me more balanced. And I’m totally on board with tweaking it as I go. For instance, I haven’t lived a “Wednesday” with this yet -- the monthly chores might need adjusting -- some might be too much for one day. Not sure yet.

As far as fitness goes. I’ve seriously LOVED PiYo so much. Chalene has been like a true life mentor to me right now -- with the way my mind is, her words, and even just sweetly timed smiles and winks, during the workouts are like sustenance to my bones. I will say some of her statements to myself randomly throughout my day.  Even the more pointless ones seem to have depth to me. I’ve never liked the words on a workout program in this deep soul way before.
And I’m really happy with the way my body feels these days. I feel really healthy and walking around in my skin feels good. I love the way I feel doing Piyo too. It’s by far my favorite at home workout ever. It’s not overly hard feeling (for me) and it’s gotten noticeably easier as I keep at it. I LOVE the feeling of progress it gives me. I love knowing mid workouts: “This used to make me think I was dying, and now I’m sailing through.”
I’ve had very little next-day-soreness. I’ll feel like "warm muscles" -- like “hey you used me” muscles the next day -- but nothing like other workouts... where I’m not sure I can walk the next day.
But still, it’s crazy effective. (You do have to combine it with a healthy diet to get full effect, but…)

I took some more After photos. But I can’t find the same clothes. (I can’t remember getting rid of them. But I don’t see them anywhere.) So these might not give you the full effect, correctly. But I’ve knocked more inches off since last time. Actually since starting this journey (in Earnest -- in June) I’ve lost 22.75” all over. And 21 pounds.
Here I am this morning premake up. And obviously rocking the I just nursed the baby lopsidedness. (See, I love you guys!)
Starting / Mid-Way-Progress

Starting / Mid-Way-Progress

Starting / Mid-Way-Progress
You guys, I can actually see my abs when I flex nice and hard. You can’t see them when I’m just standing around. But when I flex I can see where those little “packs” live. It’s crazy, I NEVER thought I’d experience that. (Babies or NOT -- I just didn’t think this is who I am, or could be.) I’d love to show you because I’m still shocked and in denial and I’d like that added level of “this is real". But I can’t figure out how to take the picture without looking... "a bit much for the internet." So I’m just gonna leave it off the table. But it’s so amazing, and I’m still kinda weird-ed out that I can do that.

Actually, an unexpected stress for me is that when you mix those secondary losses (from grief) that I was talking about, into this body shift, I’ve really been thrown for a loop when seeing myself in the mirror. It feels like another loss -- more loss of self. I don’t really feel any of the “standard” emotional benefits most people experience when losing weight. I just feel lost and confused.
It’s not bad enough that I want to stop being healthy -- because I physically feel great. And emotionally  I feel like a wreck either way. Plus the after-workout emotional boost has been super grounding for me. But my physical changes have been extremely disorienting visually and therefore emotionally inside this mix.
     My brother and I looked a LOT a like. When we were kids I was short and he was tall, so even though I was two years older, we were the same height (till he grew just about a literal foot taller than me starting in Jr High.) So people would would always ask us if we were twins. (The fact that my mom loved to dress us in boy/girl matching outfits added to the effect.) But I even into my adult years I’ve regularly heard, “Wow you look SO MUCH like your brother. It’s weird.” I heard that exact sentence at his funeral.
So as my face changes with my body, I’m constantly confused on if I’m finding more of him or losing more of him. Or finding more of me, or losing more of me.
Nothing is straightforward these days.
Everything is laced with hard and uncomfortable, even the good-good stuff. And I don’t feel like celebrating my hard work and progress because all my progress (on other fronts too) just make me feel like “Who am I?” I really feel like I’ve lost myself these days.

Additionally, people treat me different. Pretty much just women. I’m not really emotionally still enough to fully deal with the whole world of women and their emotions that come up when they see my body changes. But I’m REALLY attuned to reading other people’s feelings. And I feel painfully guilty if I can tell my presence stirs up anything negative inside of them. (I’m working on that one -- I can control my actions, but I cannot control how someone responds to those actions. I’m not in charge of how anyone feels but me. I cannot control anyone else’s feelings. ….oh my gosh, I have so much work to do to start believing that!) So that’s actually super draining on me. Being by people -- yet another layer of “maybe I should never leave my house.”

I actually got to the point where just getting dressed was emotionally overwhelming for me because none of my clothes fit and I didn’t know what I even like to wear anymore. I didn’t know what to shop for, because I really just don’t know myself right now. And the things I’m used to pulling off the rack both: look wrong on my body now, and feel wrong, as is “this isn’t me” style-wise. I feel like I’m starting Jr. High all over again but with the knowledge of an adult, which is nuts.
I did find a pair of high waisted black jeans that fit me well and felt like “me” -- and just having a single pair of pants that fit really did help chill that fire down.

(Lauren Conrad at Kohls -- couldn’t find a link to what looks like them. Mine didn’t come faded at, all but super black through and through. But here is a link to “washed black” high rise ones. I cannot promise anything about those. I tried on the denim version and hated them -- they felt bad and fit bad. But the black ones I have are great and feel like quality material, not thin and cheap like the jeans felt. So I can’t tell ya anything about the “washed black” ones.)

And I’m slowly trying to put my finger on the rest of my general identity and my clothes fall into that whole process. I’m trying to be patient and trust. But when EVERYTHING feels like it changed at once, small stuff does get hard not to sweat. Sometimes you just want something to be easy.

But all that said (ha -- a bit much said for this transition) -- I’ve been doing PiYo for a good while now. And I’m starting to drag on wanting to do the exact same thing every single night. I’m also wanting to shorten up my workouts a bit. (PiYo is usually about 30-40, with one being closer to 50.) Because I’m just wanting more time to do house stuff.
So I’m on the lookout for something new.
(Also just FYI: I’m not trying to do any physically crazy transformations anymore. I just enjoy working out and feeling good, and want to fit in my work outs into my day easier, and shake things up a bit. Also -- nobody panic, if you knew my weight, and were look up body weight recommendation charts, you would see that I am inside the “healthy” range, and that I actually have a large buffer between me and the “underweight” category. And I don’t have any sort of notion to actually even get close to the edge of that either -- I don’t have that kind of energy, or that kind of desire. So no one bother with any freak-outs that I’m under weight or getting close to it. I’m sitting squarely inside the healthy weight range -- and actually on the upper end of it…..Maybe none of you are thinking about that at all -- but just in case, I wanted it out there. I’m healthy and not joining any eating/workout disorder arenas. Just healthy. I still eat chocolate. 
Random Rant Done.)

Anyway -- yesterday I tried a free app on my phone that a friend told me about. And I actually had a blast doing it.
I will say -- I don’t think I would have liked this as much to start with --  because I have officially hit the stage of fitness where I like to workout -- I like those endorphins enough to put myself through a wringer to get them, and I’m totally over the “eww sweat” thing -- I feel like my day is weird if I don’t sweat. When I started I needed something I liked the actual fluid feeling of doing -- piyo feels pretty. The workout I did today feels like working-out. But I’m at the point where that’s cool with me.

Anyway it’s called Freeletics. And you can use it free (they have paid options -- I have no clue what it does. ) And as of today I barely know what the free version does. But I did 2 short little HIT circuits with it. And it was great. My girls saw me doing the mountain climbers and joined right in because they were like, “That looks like fun!". We had a blast counting down our reps and they did a big majority of the workout with me, laughing the whole time. It was really motivating.  So I think I’ll be playing with this some more, maybe mixing it with PiYo or something else, we will see . Could be a fun thing for you to check out if you’re into that kinda thing. It’s free. Why not?

In other news --

 I’m liking music again.
I haven’t truly liked music for a long time (we are talking years here.) It was just something to have on in the car. I don’t know why. I just kinda lost a feel for it at some point.
Lately I’m really enjoying it again.
A friend shared on Facebook her love of a Pandora Radio Station named “Hipster Cocktail Party Radio” and although I was skeptical I turned it on -- and I haven’t looked back. I’m really into it. It’s fantastic to have on in the kitchen. Give that one a whirl, see what you think.

Also I’m joining the world of technology-and-socially aware. Having a blog and loving Pintrest does not a Tech Savy person make.
I’ve only just recently discovered podcasts. And I’ve just finally discovered the real point of Instagram.
(Insert crying laughing emoji here.)

Incase you are also as un-aware as I have been until about a month or less ago let me share with you.

My current podcast listenings are limited to:

These are both done by Bloggers who do interior design stuff. I wasn’t sure how their podcasts could have anything interesting in them -- because it’s a visual topic. But I’ve throughly enjoyed them.
I’ve either been thrilled to listen in and hear them voice thoughts that are in my head and I think “I must be the only person who cares about this stuff, or thinks this way.” but they get to prove to me this is just a cool niche -- my brain isn’t nuts. I’m detail oriented on some stuff and so are other people. That’s fun for me. But I’ve also gleaned some really good tips and a lot of those are from their guests they have on -- usually other big name interior designers. And I’ve also learned who some other not “HGTV, or like Oprah, or whatever gets names in houses” interior designers are. And I’ve found a few that seriously speak my visual heart song.

My current biggest design crush is Studio McGee. I’m very into her clear feeling color pallet.
But I’ve found a bunch of others I’m extremely into as well.

Which lead me to the Instagram thing.
I’ve been using Instagram like Facebook -- I just had my Facebook people on there. Oh what I have been missing.
The other day I clicked to see who ChrisLovesJulia was following and I saw ALL these designers and all their work and I fell down the best rabbit hole I’ve ever seen. And I think I may love Instagram more than Pinterest all of a sudden.
(Also side note, when you start following a TON of new people, sometimes you get more followers as well -- wasn’t even thinking that was part of things.)
But I’m now thrilled to open Instagram and just feast away on beauty. (Once again -- I cannot believe my ignorance here until now.)
Makes me really want to up my game. I’m so inspired. Beauty is so beautiful.

So that’s kind of my plight right now.  Bad. Mess. Crazy. But really inspired. And really pushing through the burn.

Thanks for hanging out with me while I’m on Fire.
(Hopefully I get to use that “On Fire” in the positive connotation way soon.)
You guys mean so much to me.

Also -- because you’ve earned my trust -- “Captain’s Log”--  my post title:
I grew up on Star Trek "The Next Generation", and “Voyager” and a bit of “Deep Space Nine” as well. I’m not ashamed to say -- my life-flash-backing grief has me Netflixing some history there. (It’s kinda goofy because I don’t think my brother cared a bit about Star Trek, but I my dad loved it and I would always watch it with him and some popcorn. So it reminds me of being a kid, and my time with Jeremy in association with those days.)
That’s right, I’m a Treky. Would you have guessed it? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Either way. I am. ;) 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Girls Get A New Nightstand

I think the last time I showed you the girls’ room it was arranged differently.  I got antsy and moved the beds to the wall facing the door and that layout has felt a lot nicer to me. 

But this arrangement meant I needed a nightstand between the beds, instead of having a dresser there. (The dresser is on the wall facing the beds now, as are the doll houses.) In the transition I was using the old octagon table I made over a while back. But it’s scale was very off, and the paint had seen a leaky water bottle mishap, so not looking great.

I had found a great mid-century-modern nightstand for Bronson’s room. And Jasmine fell immediately in love with it. So she was telling me she needed one JUST like it. So our hunt began...
The whole event of getting this table was pretty fun for me as a mom. I got to explain a lot of stuff to her, and she was really listening and learning and growing.

I explained the concept of vintage shopping and how we were not likely to ever find that exact same table again. But we could look for similar ones.
     We also walked through Target and looked over brand new ones trying to brainstorm the right look.
     We came across one at Target that she liked and when I told her the price tag was 100 dollars (without a “big deal voice” just a “fact voice”) her eyes almost fell out of her head. (She’s six years old so the number 100 is essentially a million to her.) And when I told her I was able to find Bronson’s nightstand for $12 she was very much on board my train. (She LOVES math. This was speaking deeply to her.)

So from then on I was keeping my eye out and texting pictures home to Blake to show her on my mom-vaction thrifting trips. She turned down SO many that were VERY close to the one I had bought Bronson. 

Eventually I came across this piece.  

I actually saw it once and passed it up. 
Because the inside was made for holding records, and I didn’t see that working for us.

But it was still at Goodwill a good bit later, after Jasmine had turned down a few more tables. And now it was half off. So it was also only $12 now. I figured at that price the inside could be ok with me. I thought it through trying to think how we’d use it…. and I realized the girls actually have been trying to find a good housing spot for their special stuffed animals, and they weren’t really getting anywhere, so the animals were just kind laying everywhere. So I decided it could be stuffed animal beds now, and that when they get older it could be maybe like a sweater or shoes stashing station or something.

So I texted those brown photos home to Blake and Jasmine, explaining I thought her stuffed animals could sleep in the slots. And she was sold. She said that she “could see it in white.” (My upycling mom-heart could not be more proud.)

So white it was. I used some BIN shellac to start with, because I knew it’d be harder to go from such a dark brown to white without primer. And then I used Rustoleum oil-based white semi-gloss brush on paint. 
I love to use oil based paint on surfaces that get a lot of use because it dries hard and solid, unlike latex which always has a hint of tackiness.

I tried numerous knobs on here trying to update it and finally landed on this one.  This might not be like my super number one choice, but I do like it a lot. I like that with the clear knob you can see the flower shape of the wood underneath. It was pretty hidden by the original knob. And I went with this clear knob from Home Depot over another clear one I liked more from Hobby Lobby, because this one is acrylic and not glass -- I feel better about that with kids. I just didn’t want to think about broken glass happening.

Here’s Jasmine tucking her animals in for the first time. Two slots for her, two slots for Ruby. All is right and fair with the world.

In case you’re curious. The ipod is as old as Jasmine is, and we let the girls listen to night time stories that I read and recorded for them. (I just used garage band on my mac to do it.)

And the bunny figurines were brown outdoor bunnies that we gave makeovers to.
The girls decided on the concept and I loved it. I spray painted them white, then painted on gold rub and buff paint in pokadots and stripes. They turned out super cute.

Anyway -- I LOVE this piece in here. It’s the perfect size and shape and height. And it turned out quite a bit prettier than even I imagined it might be. (Scroll up and look at it brown again….yeah. The white did some magic.)

I’m still tweaking their room. So stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll have another update in here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Patio Completed

3 Months in the making!
Here she is folks, our patio.

She’s gorgeous. 
But you still need to put on your imagination goggles, because the surrounding areas are still a wreck, and the patio furniture needs a makeover, and…as much as I’ve been telling myself I’m gonna amp up the blog’s look with great photos... I did not wait till the time was right to take the photos, so the light and shadows aren’t pretty. (But baby nap advantage -- so…at least you get to see it.)

That said, let’s check her out.
If you walk into our backyard through it’s side yard entrance, this is how she will great you.

I’ve been searching for inspiration images for months now, trying to figure out our furniture situation.
The depth of the sunken area (If you are just joining us, that area is actually the reason we made the patio -- it’s purpose is to act like a retaining pond when it rains hard, so that our family room will stop flooding. You can read more on that here.) So yes, the depth that area wound up being, is hard to style.
I set some normal kitchen chairs in it for scale, and they looked very, very awkward -- much too tall. So I learned I needed something squatty. Our broken plastic adirondack chairs actually seemed right in there. 
So I came to the conclusion that I could go for something easy like adirondack chairs, or something really elaborate and unique (and either costing a fortune, or needing to be DIYed) and I was pinning all those things. While I was keeping my eyes peeled for Craigslist or Restore treasures. (Because new wood adirondack chairs start at about $100 a piece, and after buying all these pavers….not gonna happen.)

Then last weekend I was shopping with a friend who is letting me play interior designer at her house.  (I’m so excited!) We found her an AMAZING mirror as like the showstopper piece for her living room.   (Can’t contain the thrill.) While shopping with her, I made sure to stop by ReStore’s area where they would set out the patio furniture if they had it, telling her how I had regret about passing up some really beat up adirondack chairs because they had only been $10 a piece. But there was nothing for me there that day.

We left the store, and by the time we got back she knew she had regret passing up a lamp, so she had to go back. When she got there they were right in the middle of setting out four adirondack chairs, in much better shape, still only $10 a piece! She called me... and the rest is history.
I’m SOOOOOOO excited to have these!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 They are so perfect. Their scale is so great. They are a bit on the small side of usual for these type of chairs -- which is wonderful for this application. I’m so excited. They just need to be repainted and tightened up a bit. Which I think is well worth the work saving us at the very least $360 by buying used. (But really $100 a new chair is a baseline price, and not counting sales tax, and possibly shipping fees.)
 I’m thinking a nice, subtle, sophisticated tan-putty color for them.

Anyway, let’s talk about the patio itself.
Blake did SO good.
So good.
Look at that herringbone!

This patio has been pretty much all he has done if he isn’t working or doing (day job) work at home -- for three months. This was no tiny task.

But as of two days ago, we finally crossed the “t”s and dotted the “i”s and the polymeric sand is in and hardened up. And a lot of (not quite all) the junk is cleaned up from the process.
Our free time is about to be spent NOT creating a patio! Woohoo! (I’m not sure I can say it will be spent lounging on it yet -- the list of projects…so long! But maybe sometime before it’s too cold we’ll spend a hoodie-d up evenining out there.)
If only we already had our fire pit -- that would be perfect.
But I’m still looking at inspiration pictures for that.
I’m leaning towards this concept 

to set over top the sump pump area. But making sure I can’t find anything even more ideal, before going that route. That will be another DIY thing.

In these next photos -- I moved the furniture around and attempted to style things out they way I think I’d like it -- but with stuff from the junk in our yard.
Next year I want to have pretty potted plants sitting in lovely spots. (Looking up stuff that keeps away mosquitos!)  So for now I have a couple almost dead attempts at herbs from our “mobile garden.”
And I set two dirty pots upside down to pretend they are side tables.
 So please use your imagination eyes with me: See the chairs looking tan, the plants looking good, and the tables being tables, add a fire pit, and see the yard having grass.

WHAT!?! SO GOOD! Right?

YES. Very good. If you can’t see it -- just trust. Next year we are going places!

I also can’t wait to get the kids some stuff to play on. to go over in the shady side of the yard. It’s going to be wonderful.

We also used our leftover pavers (and had to buy a handful more) to edge one side of our driveway with pavers. We’ve talked about this for about a year now --- it’s been quite tight getting out of the van and not walking on the plants, so we wanted to give some extra walking space for that, as well as give our feet somewhere besides mud to walk when going to the mail box.

I had to transplant a bit of our peony plant out of the way. (I’m hoping those will flourish in their new spots in the bed.) And Blake did all the back breaking labor.
I love it -- it turned out really great.

We need to get rid of the cinderblocks and then we will have a normal driveway again after 3 months of not really being able to use it while it housed all the pavers!

 In the middle of all those plants is a rose bush that came from my grandpa’s house. I have so many memories of him cutting off a rose to send home with me, and of a single rose always just floating in a clear glass bowl at my grandma’s table. My uncle was so sweet and he dug it up for me before my grandpa’s house sold.  I’ve been watering it diligently hoping it would weather the transplant, and it’s starting to grow LOTS of new leaves, so I think we might be out of the woods, I think it’s going to live! I’m so happy to think I'll  see it bloom here.

Here are the pavers by our mailbox. Someday we’d like to get a different mailbox-- neither of us like it for different reasons. I think it’s not pretty. Blake hates that tons bugs live inside it’s hollow insides. It’s also leaning without any small effort fixablity. But the pavers look fantastic!

So ends our patio progress saga.

Onto the next thing…whatever that winds up being…there are lots of directions we are being pulled.

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.

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