A Sneak Peek at the New House!

It's been about a month since we bought our house, and we've spent the past weeks doing project after project to make it look like it's been our own all along.

There still a ton to do (and frankly there probably always will be) but I figured it was time to give it to share a little sneak peek (with slightly blurry cell-phone pics).

The first thing we did when we bought the house was give the living room, dining room, and kitchen fresh coat of white paint, thanks to a lot of help from friends and family. That change alone did a lot to update the house and make it feel a lot brighter and show off the natural light that streams in from all the windows.

After that were a series of other projects, like repainting the kitchen cabinets, removing the doors to make open shelving and adding new hardware. Previously the owners had given the cabinets a really bad faux bois paint effect, so sanding and painting them white was a huge improvement right there. But I've always had a thing for white kitchens so I was pleased to finally have my own. The one thing I didn't expect however with how much dirt the white would show. That's why I was excited when Mom's Meet and Walgreens sent me some of their new cleaning products from their exclusive natural-products brand called Ology.

They make cleaning up any of the fingerprints left on the cabinets or food splatters a breeze. Plus, the all-purpose spray has a lovely basil lemon scent that freshens up the kitchen beautifully, and I adore the fun packaging. There are tons of other Ology products, from household cleaners to baby products (which I can't wait to try!), toiletries to toilet paper. I have also been using their free-and-clear laundry detergent, which I've found to be gentle on clothes and our sensitive skin while still fighting stains well. I love that like all the brand's products, they are free of dyes, artificial fragrances, phosphates, harmful chemicals and instead feature natural plant-based and mineral-based ingredients.

The last stop in the kitchen (which I didn't photograph), is a corner nook. I'm searching for a table and chairs to fill it, but for now a tableclothed card table is doing the trick. And I envision a lot of fun, colorful artwork hanging on the walls but those are usually finishing touches for me.

Because we lost a lot of kitchen space compared our old house, I had to get smart about creating storage in other places around the house. For instance, I made a China cabinet fashioned from an old cabinet that was in the garage of our old house by painting it white and adding classic gold cup pulls. Inside you'll find a lot of our plastic Tupperware and extra cups and mugs that don't look pretty with the open shelving. It sits in the dining room that adjoins the kitchen, so everything is still at hand whenever it's needed. (Pretty sure that artwork will hang here but as I mentioned earlier, I like to save art-hanging for last.)

The dining room segues directly into the living room, which features some really great, tall walls with windows at the ceiling that allows for tons of natural light. (And hence, plenty of potted foliage!)

Oh and did you notice anything else? We finally broke down and got a television as our Christmas present to ourselves this past year. We got a Roku and a digital antenna and have been quite pleased! They've made for a great way to rewind after a day spent toiling over project after project.

One of the things I was excited about with having wooden floors in nearly every room. Along with that, however meant upgrading to more rugs, and finding ones with personality proved to take some sleuthing but I think we hit the jackpot with the living room one. I love the lived-in feel it adds and the spunky color that ties in with the lampshades I picked up at a thrift store.

That is pretty much the main level, save for the entry way but there's really nothing to showcase there. I'm going to suspend the tour here because this is where most of the work has taken place and the updates are most evident. I'll try to post another update of one of the other floors in another couple weeks. Till then, I'll be keeping myself busy with projects aplenty and a cute little kid running around the place!

(I received the Ology products for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.)

Dear Claire: 15 Month Update (and a Look Back at a Year Ago)

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,

You keep on growing, growing, growing! We had your 15 month appointment, and you weighed in at 19.5 lbs and 30 inches. And, I recently just had to get you new shoes in size 5!

I got you dressed the other day and realized it was nearly the same outfit you'd worn a year ago when I did one of your first real photoshoots, back when you were only three months old, that we had done on our old house's back deck. So I went on and captured the moment, taking you out on our new deck to document the differences a year can make. See for yourself:



and for fun, because it was too adorable:

Speaking of the new house, we've been here full-time for a couple of weeks, and I don't think the transition has phased you much (except that it still isn't quite as dark in your bedroom as the basement was during naptime). So far, you seem to love it. Especially the outside. We have told you that you can only play outside if you have shoes on, so you say, "Shoe, shoe" when you want O-U-T. (We've had to start spelling it!)

Your Mimi bought you a new swing for the swingset, which you love to play on, as well as have people take you down the swingset's slide. You also discovered the surprise strawberry patch that popped up on the side of the yard and (on your own accord) picked off the only two red strawberries to eat. Between you and the birds/bunnies, the vines are now clean!

Otherwise we've just been settling in here, which you've been keen to play a part in, yourself. You are big into "helping" right now. You love to make a mess and when I tell you it's time to pick things up, you eagerly help. Sometimes, though, you take it a bit too far and pick things up when they shouldn't. For instance, you really like throwing things away--shoes, cell phones, Tupperware. I am on the lookout for a new trashcan whose lid you can't so easily lift. You also love flipping the light switches when we go into or out of a room.

Also, you've started to make some friends in the neighborhood. All around us are little kids (boys, mostly) within a year of your age. Across the street is a boy who's only a day younger than you! We've only hung out with them once or twice for a homemade music class, but I imagine that over the next few years, you all will get to know one another quite well!

Here are some more notes I made over the past month of changes you've shown:
  • You know where your belly button is (a trick Daddy taught you!) and if you see a picture of him, you can say "Da." (If I point to a picture of myself, you just stare at me blankly, though!)
  • You love to say uh-oh and then drop things.
  • Your Mimi loves to sing a nursery rhyme to you about a blackbird snipping off your nose and as soon as she starts to sing it, you pinch your nose because you know that's coming at the end!
  • You can make monkey and seal pup sounds (which you learned from one of your animal-sounds books).
  • You love to try to make people laugh and you discover something that makes us laugh, you will keep doing it over and over again.
  • You love to empty drawers!
  • You can climb up and down stairs pretty smoothly, so we haven't even bothered to try to babyproof the stairs here. (We have however, babyproofed a couple of drawers, if you see the point above!)
  • You love anything that is your-sized for sitting. I finally found you a little wooden chair at a thrift store that you sit in quite a bit!
  • You also are getting into baby dolls and if I ask you, "Where's baby?" you run off to find the one your Grandma got you for Easter!
  • Your hair is long enough for a ponytail although your bangs are still growing out and get in your eyes.
  • Foods you've liked over the past month include hummus, sloppy joe meat, raspberries and raisins. You go through phases with nearly everything, but your morning oatmeal is a staple.
  • You also went swimming for the first time! The neighborhood pool is just down the street, so we took you on opening day and you loved the baby pool. I can foresee quite a few afternoons spent there this summer!
So, as you can see, it's been a big month! I love watching your personality blossom and your insight and intellect grow. Here's to another month and a summer full of fun!


A Week In Our New Home

It's been a week now that we've been living in this place that we now call "home." And a little less than two that we've owned it. And yet, it seems so much longer than that.

In that short amount of time, we've had friends and family give up their own busy schedules to help us paint and organize, drop off meals, watch Claire. We've put together new furniture, started dozens of projects, made incredible progress and already mopped up a geyser of water from a washing machine gone ruly. 

Our sweat and elbow grease are all over this place and it shows--it finally is starting to feel like us.

It is a grand thing, this place of home. And Claire already understands that, somehow knowing that the room with the room with the brightly-colored carpet and neon walls is hers. She loves opening all the cupboard doors and playing on the open deck. I think she understands this is home, our home.

Dear Claire: 14-Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.) 

Dear Claire,
I am convinced after all your leaps and bounds this month, that you are a genius. It is obvious now that you understand so, so much.

For instance, your love for playing outside is evident when you walk up to us, put your hand up to us so that we’ll hold it, and then walk us to the door where you where ask “ball, ball” (because there are always balls outside to play with, which are now your #1 toy). Sometimes you’ll say, “outside.”

Like I mentioned, your number one toy right now is a ball. It doesn’t matter what shape or size; you’ll walk up, pick it up and walk around with it. You now can throw it and love to try to put it in a basket—just like your uncles when they play basketball. They sure have rubbed off on you! Your other favorite toy right now are baby dolls, sparked by the doll you received in your Easter basket from Grandma. You love to sit in your little chair (perfectly sized for you!) and hold your baby, which is absolutely adorable!

Every once and awhile, I used to play peekaboo with you. I’d usually use a piece of clothing and hold it over your face and ask, “Where’s Claire Bear?!” Then I’d pull it away and say, “There she is!” I honestly didn’t play it that often but this month you started playing it with us; you’d hold something over your face or cover your face with your hands, pull them away and say, “Der she is!” Which of course would get us to play along with you—exactly what you intended.

Along with that, you feel pretty strongly about getting your way and can throw quite the hissy fit (usually involving shrieking loudly) when you don’t. That’s pretty usual for kids your age, I guess, but still, you’ve got quite the dramatics in you!

You can also follow simple commands. I realized this the other night when I found an empty Kleenex box and put some cloths in it and asked you to pull one out. I didn’t demonstrate, but still you reached in and pulled one out. I asked you to do it again, and you did. Then I asked you to put the ones you pulled out into a pile. You followed that command. I’ve been experimenting with more and more commands, such as today when I opened the door to get a package. I asked you to pick it up and carry it to Grandma, which, of course, you did!

You still love shopping and getting out to see new people. Especially so that you can wave at them and blow kisses to strangers and revel in their affection and reactions. (Still, though you love being around people, you don’t have any interest in being held by strangers. Close but not that close is your motto, it seems.)

We have let you start to spoon-feed yourself sometimes, which is obviously quite messy. You do pretty well with your morning oatmeal most days. But a new favorite is to try to feed me (Cheerios, usually) while I’m feeding you. You find it hilarious. (And I find that it helps you eat more—a good thing because you still are quite the dainty eater!)

Consequently, you’re still pretty small, able to fit pretty easily into some of your 3- and 6-month size shorts and bloomers. (Your waist, it seems to be is the smallest part of your body, making you the envy of women everywhere!) Otherwise you’re mostly in 12-month pants and shirts, though some of your summer clothes from last year still fit, just albeit a little snugger and much shorter!

All in all, you’re growing up quickly and before our eyes, blossoming and blooming like the summer weather that is now upon us. Just in time, because next week we close on our house, which is ready and waiting for you with a swing-set in the backyard and plenty of rooms to explore. It’ll all be a crazy whirlwind for a little while, but we’re looking forward to settling in and turning this house into what you will come to know and love as “home.”


The Gift of Taking Time to Get Outside and Play

Some of my most treasured memories are those that involve getting dirty, getting wet and getting intimate with the outdoors as a child.

I can still remember summer days spent splashing in a creek while my dad fished crawdads out from the murky, twig-strewn water and let me see the creatures up close and personal. I can remember my parents taking me by the hand and spending hours walking the paths that encircled a lake near my childhood home, stopping to feed the geese and marveling at all the leaves and greenery around.
I can remember my father finding animal tracks made in the mud around our garage and pointing out whether it was a raccoon or a skunk. I can remember digging through piles of gravel in our side yard, on the quest for uncovering fossils that I kept safe in an old tackle box my father handed over to me when he spotted in me a budding archeologist.

These memories were simple gestures that my parents fostered in me during my earliest of years. They were nothing extravagant, and yet they meant the world to me, and still do. Those days spent losing time in the outdoors gave me an appreciation for the world around me that can’t be found just by seeing pictures of the natural wonders on a computer screen or watching a documentary on the television.

No, the soil that sifted through my fingertips and the treasures I discovered with my own hands brought this world of wonder to life for me in a way that still shines bright for me today: With my windows thrown open, I listen to the crickets and the cardinals chirping outside, a melody that Mother Nature orchestrates daily. When I’m feeling stressed, I lace up my sneakers and take a stroll through a leafy part of my neighborhood, where the sights and sounds are a balm to my soul. When I want to truly connect with someone, whether it’s my spouse or a friend from years past, I invite them to take a walk or a picnic on an open, grassy plain where words can flow just as the wind blows ‘round.

All this stems from those early days lost in nature’s reverie, a gift that my parents gave to me as a young girl as they encouraged me to get outside and get lost in the beauty of this world. It’s that same gift that I hope to pass along to Claire, starting even now, as I take her outside to let her play (sometimes multiple times a day) and let her discover and adventure and dream in the great outdoors.


My Favorite Baby Items: Nursing & Feeding Must-Haves

When I was building my baby registry while I was pregnant with Claire, I poured over different people's lists to see where I should spend my money as well as where I could skip. (If you want to see what made it onto my original baby registry list, check out this post.) Even now, I love seeing what other parents recommend for their children.

So, I thought, as I'm looking back over Claire's first year, I'd recap some of the items we got for Claire that have been the best hits. I'll be sharing these favorites (the things I'd buy over and over again) in a series of posts over the next couple of weeks, divided up by category. (You can see all the posts in this series of my favorite baby items.)

Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter: I tried some other kinds but this blew them all out of the water. It's more expensive, but there's a reason for that! I haven't even used half the tiny tub, it was so effective.

Nursing Tank a la Undercover Mama: I didn't want to have to buy a new nursing wardrobe, so I ended up DIY-ing two of these nursing camis (thanks to this tutorial), which I have been using ever since. This way, I can keep my normal wardrobe (although I now stay away from dresses or tops that have belts, but that only eliminates a handful of options) and still be able to easily (and discreetly!) nurse. (Notably, I never had any luck using a cover to nurse her.)

Sassy Wonder Wheel: Once Claire was in a high chair, we needed to start using toys to entertain her so that she'd stay up there long enough to eat. This toy attaches to the tray with suction and then you can spin it and there are balls inside that rattle. Claire liked it a lot at first, but now she's pretty used to it, though we still have it fixed to her chair.

Freshfoods Cook-n-Blend Baby Food Maker: This little gadget is so helpful if you're interested in making any of your baby's food. I use it all the time to make batches. I love that it's an all-in-one device so that you can steam the food and puree it without dirtying multiple containers. And it works so well. It steams quickly and purees foods smoother than any food processor I've used. (In fact, if I'm just making a small batch of anything that I need blended up, I often opt for this instead of my big processor!)

OXO Tot Baby Blocks Freezer Storage Containers: I love these little containers! After making a big batch of baby food, I'll freeze helpings in an ice cube tray. When it comes time to pick out a new "meal" for Claire, I'll pick a couple of the frozen foods, drop them in these containers and then pop them in the fridge. They're a perfect size for the size of meals that Claire likes to eat, so they don't take up space or feel wasteful. Plus, they're really sturdy and have held up great.

Medela Breastmilk Bottle Set: This came with my breastpump and it turned out to be the only kind of bottle Claire would take. (Of course, I had bought bottles specifically for breastfed babies and she still preferred these!)
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