Monday, June 30, 2014

Project Playroom

WARNING: This is the longest post ever. Apparently, I felt very wordy. Lucky you guys.

Two things inspired this project...

First! When we bought this house, it had just been professionally painted. Since Steve had just finished multiple, intense projects in the old house, knowing our new house had been done by professionals pretty much made him giddy. And they really did do a beautiful job. 

But here's where it's hard for me...the entire house is taupe. It's got clean lines, and all of the crown molding and trim is actually painted within the lines (I didn't know that was even possible!), but it's all the same color. I told Steve to be prepared that eventually I was going to get twitchy at having my entire house be the same color. I just need color.

I wanted to paint one of the walls in the playroom an aqua blue, but my normally "sure-whatever-you-want" husband put his very gentle foot down and implied "no dice". The main wall has a bunch of windows, and I know Steve (wisely) assumed that there was no way we'd be able to do a good enough job around all of the trim.

So this project is a way for us to compromise. If I can't have a colorful wall, I'm going to bring color into the room in other ways!

Now for the second "inspiration"...(I told you this was wordy.)

Do you remember my lovely post where we took out all of the toys from the playroom and told the girls they could earn them back a few at a time? It's been an utter failure. They aren't even keeping those few toys off of the floor, and this time, it's absolutely the grown ups' fault. By the end of the day, I'm just tired and worn out, and I don't follow through with making them clean up.

It's taken me five years (Hey, even when I can own my crazy, I can still be a slow learner), but I am finally willing to find alternatives for toy storage. I talk alot on here about my struggle with my desire to be a total control-freak balanced with the realities of living with toddlers. In the past, I've tried to "require" Bella to put specific toys in specific bins. (Cue Whitney saying, "Aw, honey.")

Besides the obvious drawback of trying to (stupidly) teach/force a toddler to always put the horses in the pink bin and the dolls in the blue bin, it also required that I always had to be a part of the cleaning process, so that I could guide (boss) where the toys went. Seasoned mothers are collectively shaking their heads at this point, and really, I should know better, but even though a part of me knew it was ridiculous, I also stubbornly wanted the playroom to look nice. (As I type this and read it back to myself, I'm even more annoyed at how long I held on to the idea of making Bella do this and how long I drove myself crazy in the process.)

Since my previously "drastic plan" failed so miserably, I'm once again trying a new idea. This seems to be the most realistic compromise between wanting the playroom to look nice and also coming up with something that the girls can actually succeed at. 

We have some super fun, colorful projects planned for the girls, but we also have some new ways to store toys so that, at the end of the day, they simply have to clean everything up off the floor and put it one of the baskets (any of the baskets) - no specifics, no coordinating; mommy will be happy if it's just cleaned up and put away. 

That was the longest explanation ever, so here's what we did...

Evidence of our great new plan still being an epic fail.

In just three months of living there, the carpet was already filthy. Job #1 was cleaning the stains!

Poor Steve always gets roped into helping with my project ideas. 

My first painting project was this bench. When Mel was in Florida last week, she and my dad found it while garage sale-ing, and brought it home for me! I knew it would look great in yellow, so I got spray paint at Walmart and got to work.

Doesn't it look cheerful? I love it, and I can't wait to put it in the playroom!

My next hope for adding more color was this idea I saw on Pinterest for a teepee...

The builder of this teepee is a professional craft blogger, so I knew mine wouldn't come out the exact same, but she called it "no sew", so I was willing to try! (And P.S. How great are those walls!)

The blogger also talked about how she had all of this leftover fabric that was (of course) super cute and bright, and just happened to look really trendy! I knew I couldn't spend a ton of money picking out my ideal choices at a fabric store, so we headed to Goodwill and I found two sets of King-size sheets - one in light pink and one in fuschia - perfect!

Here's our frame, using the blogger's instructions as our guide...

I've got to admit, at this point, I was already super proud! It had actually come together the way it was supposed to (and when does that ever happen with a Pinterest project???) Steve drilled holes for me, and then we thread the rope through, wrangled the poles into the position we wanted, and I just wrapped like crazy until it all felt secure!

Starting with the fabric. I used a hot glue gun, and other than burning myself about a half dozen times, it went pretty easy! I would say the entire project took me about two hours. 

Finished! I added a carpet and some blankets inside, cut up a lace curtain to "bedazzle" the front a little bit, and wrapped a few random ribbons around the top to add a touch of color other than pink. I love it! I mean, LOVE! (It only cost us about $30.00! Bonus!) Can I also say that I love the wooden poles and thick rope sticking out from the top? I like the rustic feel that it adds. Okay, enough of patting myself on the back.

They look like prisoners here, but I promise you, they brought their toys in immediately and played all afternoon! Win! I still have a project I want to do to the wall to the left (duct tape!!!), and I'm just holding my breath for the moment that the girls push their hands (or a toy) through the fabric, but I'm really pleased with how it came out.

The teepee was definitely our main project of the day. In between singeing off my fingerprints and letting the glue dry, I painted the rest of the furniture in the room.

The most-used piece of furniture in this room is the table and chairs set that Steve's dad built for Bella a few Christmases ago. They eat, color, have "tea" - we use this table all the time! And it shows. We have stained it pretty badly, so I decided to use this opportunity to paint it a bright color! 

As you can see at the bottom, I have some touch-ups to work on, but how cool are these color combinations?! I have to give Steve and Bella all the credit - it was actually their combined efforts that came up with the colors AND the idea to mix them. I work with talented people! So far, I love how the colors are all coming together!

The last thing I worked on was a white desk painted blue. If I'm completely honest, I think the girls are still too young to need a real desk, but it added some fun color to the room and I figured, why not? As we re-claim the nursery from being our "throw in all our extra junk" room, we're looking at some of our furniture and trying to decide to keep and use, store in the attic for later, or just get rid of. This desk was something that we don't have a place for anywhere else, so we thought the girls might like it in their playroom. If it turns out to be impractical, or there's something that fits our needs better, we can always just get rid of it. In the meantime, I love the color!

This is the FINAL PRODUCT! (Minus my duct tape project.)

Look at all of the colors! I already decided that I'm going to go back and replace this picture with one taken during sunlight hours, but still; it's so bright and fun! The grey bin on the left and the striped hamper are our new toy storage solutions. Just based on today, it's working great - all the girls have to do is put their toys in one of the bins.

The only things in the cubbies are books and crayons, so it should be easy for them to put books back on the shelf without too much stress. Steve and I talked about painting the easel since it's gotten pretty marked up in the last few years, but I was out of motivation this evening, so we'll see what happens. I love Bella's artwork hanging from the twine, and I can't wait to add Evelyn's as she starts preschool.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up

This was a really fun weekend! Since our actual anniversary fell on the same night as Bible study (and ended up being an incredibly stressful day with VBS and the little wretches...I mean, humans), Steve and I celebrated on Saturday night.

Here we are, busting out our date night selfie...

Aaannnddd...the pretty version with the help of Instagram filters...

I'm pretty sure my life motto is #alwaysuseafilter.

Steve made reservations at Ray's On The River, and told them it was our anniversary. When we got there, they sat us at a window seat, so we could actually see the river, and the hostess unenthusiastically threw "happy anniversary" confetti on our table. Seriously. Her total lack of any emotion made it kind of hilarious. 

Dinner was a knockout! We had a crab cake appetizer with a sweet corn relish that was just delicious, and I had a lobster tail for my main course! Oh my word. It was amazing. Steve had a horseradish-encrusted grouper that he loved, and the restaurant surprised us with a chocolate cake for dessert. It was just a really nice evening to eat in a quiet, romantic setting and enjoy a great meal! (Not to mention, celebrating nine years of general awesomeness.)

Meanwhile, the girls were doing this...

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is in theaters, and because Mel's an amazing aunt, she took the girls! AND bought them snacks! They were in heaven! Evelyn even made it through the entire movie, although there's a rumor going around that she may have tried to slither through the seats like a snake on her belly in the middle of the movie. Just sayin'.

After church on Sunday, our wonderful friends, Ben and Carolyn Smallwood, were back in town, so we got to all meet up for lunch! They live in Colorado right now while Carolyn finishes her medical residency, but they're hoping to move back here more permanently once she's done next summer, so they were in town for job interviews. 

Carolyn is just one of those friends who you feel like you've never left. It was so much fun!

The peeps...again with a snazzy filter.

And a more realistic display of how "in-synch" we are!

It's so fun to see this group with babies and to see how life has grown us in the past five years! It has literally been two or three years since this group was all together, in the same room. It did my soul good!

Tonight, I think we're tackling our first "vacation project"...the playroom! Hopefully, I'll have pictures tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Announcing Our Baby Boy!

We finally have our little man and we couldn't be more excited!
Going into this 20-week appointment, I think it's the first time in our pregnancies that finding out the baby's gender was secondary in our minds. Since we had declined getting any genetic testing at the end of the first trimester, this appointment was going to really be the crucial visit where we would find out if everything was okay and the baby was developing correctly.
One of the things that has actually been comforting throughout this pregnancy is how normal the doctors and midwives have treated us. We're not "at risk" or a special case. This might make some people feel like the previous miscarriages weren't treated as important, but honestly, I found it refreshing to not only not have the losses hanging over this pregnancy, but it also confirmed during each visit that this baby was wonderfully and beautifully boring.
The sonogram tech (who in my opinion, should absolutely be considered a "doctor"; our techs are amazing in their ability!) was friendly and normal, not careful with us, which I loved! She walked us through all of the organs and body parts, and showed us that everything was where it was supposed to be. She asked us if we had a preference for baby gender, and we said it would be nice to have a boy, but we were expecting a girl.
As she was looking for "special parts", she called Bella over to her and whispered in her ear. Then Bella yelled out, "I have my baby brother!!!!" (By the way, she hasn't stopped announcing the hallway at church, to total strangers...since we found out on Friday.) I had to look at the tech for confirmation, because we were just so surprised! Bella and I "Woo-hoo'd" loud enough that I'm pretty sure everyone down the hall heard us! I think Steve was more overwhelmed with emotion than I was.
After it sunk in a little bit, we wanted to share the news in a way that included the girls. I saw a cute idea on Pinterest to paint the girls' hands and then have them leave blue handprints on my belly, so we decided to try that. Of course, our actual attempt to pull this off resulted in a few attempts that included anger (me), frustration (Steve), and lots of fruit snacks (for bribing). Here are some of our "process" pictures. Don't they look fun? (Don't let their smiles fool you.)

Our end result only happened after this conversation:
Me: Evelyn, put your hands on mommy's tummy.
Evelyn: No.
Me: Do you want a fruit snack?
Evelyn: Yes!
Me: Put your hand on mommy's tummy.
Mission accomplished!

And here are their handprints! They actually came out pretty well!

Pinterest attempts aside, we are thrilled at the chance to experience a little boy! It's still a little surreal for Steve and I to be able to say "he" as we're making plans, but it's slowly sinking in and we're loving it!
Our favorite name right now is 'Henry', but we have no idea about middle names yet. We kind of go back and forth between funkier names like 'Oliver', and more traditional, like 'David' or 'John'.

The Weird Mind Of Little Human #1

While driving in the car...

Evelyn: Mommy! Puppies! Arf! Arf!

Me: Did you see dogs, Evelyn? Cool!

Bella: She didn't really see dogs, Mom.

Steve: Bella, you don't know that. She could have seen a dog.

Bella: Well, I know everything about unicorns.

Steve and I: ...

She's been doing this a lot lately. If she gets corrected for being bossy to Evelyn, she'll insist that, well, she knows everything about unicorns/horses/ponies. Such a weird way to assert her defiance.

Celebrating Our Man!

We are so blessed to have Steve as our husband and Daddy! He is more patient than I could ever imagine, and a wonderfully hands-on man with our girls. As the girls get a little older, I love seeing them run to him for specific things. Evelyn always chooses to hold his hand when we walk through a parking lot or store, and he is the Master Rough-houser! He is so good with hugs and snuggles and singing to them at bedtime.
Here are some pictures of Steve and the girls before church...

We had friends staying with us that night as they traveled to Tennessee, so I wanted to make sure Steve got some "manly alone time" before we were hosts. After church, he took his motorcycle and did a bike ride up north a little and stopped for lunch. It was really nice to give him a chance to get on the bike and not have a time limit.
Here was my coping mechanism...

Steve's request for dinner was a cookout with potato salad. His mom makes it a special way that their whole family loves! Luckily, I found the recipe in this amazing cookbook that his mom gave me when we got married - it's got special or favorite recipes from Steve's mom, his sisters, and both his grandmas - I love it!
I don't like potato salad, but I (weirdly) love the smell! Maybe its a pregnant thing. But doesn't it look colorful?

Our friends, Mark and Jenny, came sometime in the afternoon, and we made Mark the official babysitter. They have a little boy named Ben, so it was good for him to get some interaction with little girls!
I loved being able to celebrate Steve in little ways, and show him how special he is to all of his girls!

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Nemesis

Do you have a room in your house that you just hate? Mine's the playroom. It's the bane of my existence. especially as a Type-A mom. I hate walking into/by/near this room. And I fully understand that 90% of the problem is me.
[To be fair, 100% of the problem is Bella, but the fact that I'm not consistent in making her only play with one thing at a time, or I get so overwhelmed by it all that I don't make her clean it up every night, is my fault. And Steve's. If I'm going down, he's going down with me.]
And I do make Bella clean up. (I swear, I do!), but usually I give her one job at a time, like, "Mommy's going to clean up the plastic animals and you're going to pick up all of the crayons." There is so much whining that goes into the 10 minutes and 437 reminders that she's supposed to be picking up the crayons, no playing with her horses, that I frequently end up yelling at her to JUST PICK UP THE CRAYONS FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY!, or I give up in defeat and end up cleaning the entire playroom myself.
Clearly, neither option is good parenting, helping me out, or teaching her crap about responsibility. My girlfriend, Ashleigh, was over today, and we were commiserating about this mutual frustration. She shared that her husband, Ryan, had recently gotten so frustrated at the mess (and accompanying whining/manipulation from their daughter when asked to clean it up) that he had walked into the playroom with a trash bag and started collecting everything. (Much to their daughter's  unhappiness.)
It was my light bulb moment.
Our playroom currently looks like this...
And like this...

And it's absolutely my own fault when I admit that I've allowed it to look like this for over a week now. I stick my head in, deep sigh or grumble in frustration, and walk away.
So, I formulated my plan, and called Steve to make sure he was on board.
When he gets home from work (when it's a "drastic" solution, I like us both to be involved), we're going to explain to Bella that since she can't clean up her toys, they're going to get put away until she can earn them back.
My plan for the moment is this...
1. Allow her to keep 2 books and only 2 horses (actually Steve and I decided she could choose between her horses and the crayons, but let's be honest...we al know what she's going to choose.
2. She must keep those four items put away at the end of every day.
3. If, after three days (or a week), she has kept those four items picked up, off the floor, etc., she will earn back more of her toys (the crayons, more horses, etc.)
4. She must share those four items with her sister, so if she's playing with one of the horses, Evelyn gets to play with the other one.
It still seems a little hardcore in my mind, but then I look at the playroom and I think, "Nope."
I also think it will help me learn consistency. I hate that I struggle with this in almost every area of my life - healthy eating, devotions, exercise - and parenting is no different. I'd love to blame it on exhaustion from pregnancy, but really I know that that's only magnifying the problem.
So, as much as this is for Bella, to hopefully train her in some responsibility, it's also for me, to train myself to be more consistent as a parent and follow through with things I've asked of her.
I'll let you know how it goes!

P.S. This is what the playroom looks like now that we've cleaned everything out.

I'll confess that her immediate reaction was not nearly as traumatic as Stevd and I were hoping. (Why does that always happen???)

We'll see how it goes tomorrow when she realizes the toys aren't actually coming back...

I Just Have To Tell

I had one of those parenting moments where you can't admit it in front of your kids, but secretly you're thinking, "My kids rock!"
On Wednesday, my friend, Andi, and I took our girls to Chick-fil-A. There's a wall of glass right next to the play area, so Andi and I got to eat lunch while the girls played after lunch. Evelyn is in a hitting stage, which I hate, but for the most part, it stays between she and Bella. At the CFA playground, I was watching them out of the corner of my eye, and saw a little boy push Evelyn. Well, she didn't back down; instead, she slapped him. Not like, across the face or anything, but hard enough that he started to cry. I realized that no other parents were moving, which meant that the little boy's parents either couldn't see him or were waiting.
I decided to slowly start moving in that direction in case things escalated, and as I was walking towards the door, I saw the little boy wind up to hit Evelyn again. He was the same size as her, so he wouldn't have hurt her, but out of nowhere, Bella walks in front of Evelyn and shoves the little boy with two hands against his chest. Hard enough to knock him on his tail.
I know that I was supposed to discipline both of the girls for hitting, and I did, but I was also secretly really proud of Bella was standing up for her sister. This boy was not being a bully at all - he was the same size as Evelyn and it was just a regular, playground skirmish, but it was hard not to have a twisted sense of pride that my girls held their own. I know, it's immature, but what can I say?

The girls eating their (victory) ice cream with Abby.

The Great Infestation

Oh my word. Evelyn got lice. I'm not really sure from where (and really, why does it matter?), but I'm assuming it was nursery, because it's really the only place where she comes into contact with other kids or toys.
I had noticed her scratching her head for a couple of days, but didn't think anything about it until she started saying, "Itchy, mama." I looked at the nape of her neck and just thought, "Crap." When it comes to the girls, I tend to think, "Eh. It'll be fine.", but with lice, you can't do that. You have to be thorough!
I called Cathy to get her opinion on using mayo (it's an idea I've seen on the internet), but she recommended just using the good ol' fashioned lice medicine from the pharmacy. Whoever wrote the instructions on the back of the box clearly never had to follow them with a two-year old! You had to apply the medicine (with clothes still on so that you minimize skin contact), let it sit for 10 minutes, rinse into a warm lather, use the nit comb over their entre head, and THEN put them in the shower again with normal shampoo.
All I could think about while reading all of the instructions was, "Yeeeeaahh, that's not going to happen..."
I did the shampoo and the nit comb, but it was horrible and Evelyn pitched a fit the entire time. Well, she was a champ for the application of the medicine, but she hated having to sit still while I used the nit comb to go through her hair. I didn't bother leaving all of her clothes on; it was just one of those moments when I figured God would just have to protect her from weird chemicals. I decided to put the medicine on myself and Bella, too, just to be careful.
Slathering on the medicated shampoo. She was very serious throughout this process!

Watching Bella get her own torture applied...

Our "sad faces" while waiting to rinse out our shampoo.
Luckily, we got everything done, and beds and toys washed. I've used the nit comb for about 3 nights in a row, to double-check Evelyn's head, and I'll do another application of the medicine this coming weekend. She hasn't said anything more about itching, so we're crossing our fingers and saying a prayer that they're all gone! Luckily, I never found actual bugs, just the eggs. (Shudder.) For some reason, that actually makes me feel a little better.

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Monday, Monday..."

Mondays are my "recover" days. The house is usually a hot mess from us being lazy over the weekend, so there's wiping and cleaning and usually, lots of laundry.

I took the girls with me to the church this morning to get some work done, and then we napped and cleaned the rest of the day.

My Instagram pictures came in the mail today! I ordered about 40 and they turned out great! They are on a thick cardstock, and I was really impressed with their quality. I'm still thinking about how to display them...

After naps, we played outside and then waited for Daddy to come home!

Spinning for the camera!

Love the precious moments when they are getting along, playing together, and let me capture it on film!