November 30, 2012

20 Months

Thanksgiving at the in-laws.

Anna is 20 months old! This has been an exciting month, because she has started to blossom in a lot of ways. She is learning word after word and is able to communicate her wants and needs well. She is showing more of her personality and is so much FUN to be around.

A few of the things that have stood out to me this month are how much she LOVES books. She spends 75% of her play 'reading' books. She also loves to play pretend with her doll. I finally broke down and got her a pretend bottle after a few weeks of her feeding baby crayons :). She's started playing very well on her own, too! She will go into the play area and sit there for up to 45 minutes, looking at books and playing with her doll and bear. Sometimes I peek in to see what she's doing and it's so cute to watch her talking and playing by herself. Love it.

Anna has also GROWN. She gained 0 weight from 12-15 months, and a little bit at 18 months, but lately she has  shot up. For the first time, she is wearing clothes that are almost for her actual age range, rather than 6-9 months younger. She has grown out of a majority of her 12 month clothes and is wearing almost all 18 months!

I love this age and am really enjoying it. It's fun to discover her likes and dislikes and to see her temperament coming out more and more. She continues to be a cautious child- she likes to sit back and observe things rather than jumping right in. When she saw the Christmas tree up for the first time, she didn't go near it for the first 10 minutes, but then she was all about it. She can be the same with people she's unsure of. I know this is how she is wired so I try to respect her and let her do things in her time rather than push her... and in a lot of ways it's a blessing because she seems to be a 'think before I act' toddler. 

It comes out more and more that she is a particular child, as well. I don't use the word stubborn, because she listens well, but she is quite particular. This can be a challenge because I have to learn when and how often to cater to her preferences. Some things I do, some things I don't. I try to find a balance so she learns that I love her but that she can't always have things the way she wants them! The biggest challenge in this area is definitely in the food department.  I don't do multiple meals. I feed her one meal and if she doesn't want it, she doesn't have to eat it. But I rarely make other options. Part of this is because her food takes so long to make and is so expensive that I simply can't lest I lose my mind. So I pray for patience and sanity and know that I can only do the best I can with her allergies and she will have to learn to eat what is available to her. When she sticks her nose up at something allergy-free that that took me hours to make, I remind myself that many children in the world do not have a choice in what they eat, and that being a picky eater is- in a sense- a luxury. That makes me feel better when I am not always able to cater to her preferences.

All in all, I love observing the little person she is becoming. Here are some of our latest pictures:

Wants to get right in the middle of all the action. Here she is with Daddy putting together a bookcase.

Playing in the children's museum library.

We are all decorated for Christmas and enjoying this season. Don't you love the beautiful tree my parents handed down to us? Now we are awaiting the arrival of our new little one. It's hard to believe she could be here any time. Praying for a safe delivery and healthy baby girl. We cannot wait to meet her!

November 18, 2012

Home Makeover: Dining room, our DIY chandelier, and visitors

Ben and I have almost finished most of the major things in the house. We are completely unpacked, completed most of our major projects except a few that will wait until warmer weather, and are officially set up. We did it all in a month-and-a-half. It's not completely done, but close enough that we feel very settled and content with stopping and relaxing to wait for the baby. I know less than two months is really insane to do so much, but with the new baby coming, it was best to do as much as possible now because it would never happen otherwise.

I thought I would share what we did in each room as I get around to posting. I'll start with the dining room and then kitchen, since they both flow into one.

Our goal was also to spend very little on projects and use what we already had. One easy way to keep yourself from buying a bunch of stuff is to stick with the same colors you had in your previous place.  We kept the red the same throughout the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Since they all flow into one, it keeps things looking uniform and open, rather than broken up by different colors.

Here is a picture of the dining room before we bought the house, with the previous owners' stuff in it. Nice and GOLD. Not loving that yellow or the brass chandelier.


AFTER (mostly done, and yes, I already have Christmas decorations on the table):
The room looks really pretty with the chandelier on, but I couldn't figure out how to take a good picture of it that way.

A couple of other angles so you can see into the kitchen:

We didn't do much, but what we did made a big difference. We painted the walls from yellow-gold to a soft gray (same as the kitchen walls) and re-did the chandelier (more on that below).
We reused the large white frame we already had with a print from and some non-glare glass. The other stuff we already had in our old place, except the hand-me-down furniture which we will eventually get around to painting.
Total cost = $120
  • Paint (Benjamin Moore Stonehouse Gray) - housewarming gift from the parents
  • Art print (Red Friends from - $50
  • Frame glass and mounting (Hobby Lobby with a coupon)- $50
  • Chandelier re-do= $20
Our Chandelier DIY
One of the first projects we wanted to do was give two of the chandeliers in the house a makeover (one in the dining room and one in the foyer).  The brassy-gold stuck out like a sore thumb. After noting how expensive chandeliers were (umm $300+? No, thanks), particularly ones of this size, we wanted to make use of the what was already there. We researched the best way to go via Young House Love (my favorite) and took a shot at it.
After we took it down and removed the glass and bulbs, here's what it involved:

We went with Kilz odorless to keep the fumes down.

We had trouble deciding between black and white, but ultimately went with white because it seemed a little more fool-proof. We went with Valspar gloss white from Lowes. Most all-purpose spray paint like this is rather toxic, so Ben took care of this since I wanted to avoid the fumes being pregnant and all. If I wasn't pregnant, we probably would have gone with Rustoleom paint, however. It's even more toxic, but works a little better. We had some issues with Lowes mislabeling their paint colors, so I would definitely not get Valspar spray paint again. But it served its purpose.

Total cost for both chandeliers = $20
We were thankful to have some friends visiting us to help put that beast back up on the ceiling. Our good friends Stephanie and David came into town for a visit, and we loved seeing them.
Anna particularly loved our visitors! Within five minutes she was sitting on Stephanie's lap and lifting her arms to be picked up by her. At night she was giving both of them kisses and hugs, and wanted to play with them all day. I've never seen her warm up to people so fast- it seems she can sense when people genuinely enjoy her company and feel comfortable around her like these two awesome people. Stephanie is a pediatric physical therapist. She really enjoys kids and is great with them. She knew exactly what would interest Anna at this age. It was so fun to watch them.


November 2, 2012

Less is more

I wanted to write a little bit about our home-buying journey and what I've learned through it all.

The initial thought of buying a home made me want to, well, run in the opposite direction, frankly. I know many people dream of owning their own home some day, and while I've always wanted the extra space and community that comes along with owning a home, there were a lot of things I didn't want. The responsibility of owning a home. The debt of owning a home. The extra costs associated with owning a home. The extra work. And perhaps most of all, the inability to pick up and move whenever and wherever we want. Homes tie people down, and I was very hesitant to jump on that bandwagon. I'd seen many people get stuck with homes that had to be rented out, and in those moments had been thankful we bit the bullet and stuck with renting for so long, even if it was hard. I didn't want to buy a home until we were completely ready and were going stay in it long-term.

Once Ben accepted his job, we initially wanted to rent. We were going to upgrade to renting a house instead of an apartment. It seemed like the logical next step. But we kept running into roadblocks when it came to renting. Everyone kept saying how great a time it was to buy a home, but the thought of buying a home freaked me out. What if Ben didn't like his job? What if we didn't like the neighborhood we moved to? What if our schools got rezoned? What if we want to move to a nicer, more mild climate? (the weather here can be atrocious- HOT summers, cold winters, and very little in between). All these fears kept gnawing at me.

As Ben and I prayed about it, I was sure God would not lead us to buy a home. I was convinced it wasn't the responsible thing to do. But God really is a funny person, and knows what our idols are. He also knows what's best for us. God usually speaks to me really clearly about things like this, because otherwise I wouldn't follow through. He spoke to me clearly on this one. And the message was this: move forward. Buy a home. Don't go crazy, don't be greedy, but buy a simple home you can afford that will be a blessing to your family.  I'll be with you. It will be OK.


So we started looking for a home. We kept running into two main options: buy a (what we considered) larger home that was a little pricier but needed more cosmetic work, or go with a small home that was nice, clean, and more ready to move in. At first I struggled with wanting a bigger home (by bigger I mean 2000+ sq feet). Don't we need a bonus room for the kids stuff? Don't we need a basement or other area for storage or workspace? A big kitchen? What if I decide to start couponing- don't I need a place to store that food? (then I realized I would never become a couponer with a stockpile of food- there are many reasons why it's not for me!) Don't we need 2.5 bathrooms? What if we end up with a larger family? All those questions ran through my mind. But in the end, I realized that less is more. We decided to go with a small, simple, but nice, home. When I say "small" it's relative. What would be considered small in our area for a family of 4-5 would be huge to many others (I think of our friends in Guatemala who's whole family lived in one room, for example). Our new house has a small kitchen, small living room, no basement, no upstairs. Our kids would share a room (which I actually wanted, anyway). I kept thinking that maybe this was a mistake, that we would regret getting a smaller home. But the more I thought about it, it felt right. It wasn't a perfect home, but it was perfect for us. For many reasons.

See, we knew that if we bought a larger home, it would be incredibly easy to fall into the trap of buying more. Fixing up the home. Buying furniture to fit into the home. Buying this and that for each new space. But as it was with the home we chose, the things we already had were more than enough. We only needed to buy a couple of items. There wouldn't be this drive to constantly accumulate more or go shopping for the house. There simply wouldn't be room. I was also drawn to smaller homes because of the way they foster family time. I grew up in a larger, three-floor home (main floor, upstairs, basement). We were always so spread out. I liked the idea of having one floor only, with all the rooms and people easily accessible. Good for accountability and for family time. Cozy, one of my favorite words!

So what this post is really about is the joy of less is more which I've experienced, more than ever, over the last few months. As we've moved in, I've had the opportunity to finally get rid of things we've accumulated. My philosophy is if it doesn't fit in the house and won't currently be used, we need to get rid of it. I've given stuff away and sold a lot of things on Craigslist (which has been great to save up for the things we do need). Instead of two sets of dishes - a nice set and a casual set, now we only have one. No bunches of extra sheets, picture frames, decorations, clothes, etc. If it's not being used, it's finding a NEW home. I LOVE it. There will be nothing in our attic except things we KNOW we need in the future and are waiting to use or seasonal stuff like Christmas ornaments. It's so nice to not have stuff stored and not in use. To appreciate and use what you DO have. To get rid of something if you are going to be bringing something new in. Ben always jokes about how quick I am to get rid of things. But it's so liberating! As we go through life in our new home, I hope to teach our kids the joy of less.

A great, inspiring mini-article popped up in my inbox this week, called "Less is more". It pieced together exactly what I've been learning the last few months and served as confirmation in my heart. Don't you love when that happens? Check it out here.

I'll share some of the things we did inside the house when I get the time (it wasn't much but made a big difference). We are enjoying having our own space, and Anna is thriving in a healthier environment where she has more freedom to explore outside. We are extra appreciative of this blessing after 10 years (16 for Ben) of apartment living!