Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Master Bath Update

Now that our home has a big "Sale Pending" sign in the front yard, sharing home improvement projects feels slightly out of place.

I knew it was bound to happen. While we did manage to complete many, many projects on our home, there were still quite a few we always meant to get to. The thing I desperately didn't want to happen was to postpone those projects until right before we sold our house, so that we could actually have some time to enjoy the results of our work.

Obviously, that exact thing I didn't want to happen happened.  Although we had the plans and most the supplies for our master bath renovation for nearly a year, we didn't actually tackle the project until a month before we listed the house on the market.

We even hemmed and hawed about doing it at all. We could have saved ourselves a little money and quite a few weekends by just re-caulking the shower and calling it a day. But every time we would look at the brown shower tile and the grey vinyl flooring, we felt we just couldn't leave the bathroom looking like that.

Our master bath is quite small. I wanted to make it something special to somewhat compensate for the small size.

This project was much more manageable than the hall bath renovation. We only had to redo the floors and the tile in the shower. The sink was perfect, the shower doors and base presentable.

Just like the hall bath project, this started by ripping everything out. Unlike the hall bath project, I got so excited, I completely missed a before picture.  I did manage to snag one small picture of the ugly linoleum, of which there ended up being two layers.

I also didn't take a picture of the nearly gutted bathroom. I was too focused on just getting things done.

Because the bathroom is on the small side, we used nicer finishes. I really wanted to use marble, but it was still cost prohibitive. So we got a porcelain tile with a marble-esque pattern. 

So much nicer than the dark, yucky linoleum.

In the shower, we used the same white subway tiles we used in the hall bath. Here, however, I splurged on some glass tile for an accent.  The tile ended up coordinating perfectly with the existing turquoise wall color (almost as if I had planned it, which I didn't. I just gravitate towards the same things.)

After having done a bathroom just weeks prior, we were hitting our stride. Everything went very smoothly. With only one tiny hiccup.

We were so determined to completely finish on a Sunday evening. Until we realized we were one single tile short.

That meant we had to drive across town to the hardware store and buy a single $0.70 tile. We couldn't think of a single other thing we needed at the hardware store to make the trip seem worth while. In hindsight, with that being our only hangup, it was nothing. At the time, after hours spent cutting tile and applying mortar and spacers, it felt terrible.

We opted for gray grout to accentuate the grey marbling in the floor tiles and to highlight the beautiful subway tiles. There were moments that I worried I had made a bad choice, because the grout seemed so dark. But after it dried and was a lovely light gray, I was extremely glad we chose that color.

Watching every come together made me so glad that we decided to refinish the bathroom. 

Yes, we will only enjoy it for a few months. But those are a few months of getting ready in the morning and taking showers in a very pretty bathroom.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dear Buyers

When our home went on the market, it was our first time going through the whole process of selling a home. From picking a real estate agent, to getting the house staged, to keeping it ridiculously clean, every step was new and stressful.

In fact, even Bug, who is adamantly against the move, said he hoped our house would sell fast. He said he didn't like having to keep things that clean, and besides, he hated all the art the house was staged with.

We had been mentally prepped before hand about the stress. That we would no longer be living in our house the way we normally lived in it, but we would be selling it.

What we didn't expect was for things to happen so fast. We listed on a Monday at 4 pm. That same evening, we had two showings. By 10 am on Tuesday, we had scheduled 6 more. At noon, an offer came in for above asking, and by 1 pm, we had accepted the offer. Our house was on the market for 21 hours.

Our agent had suggested that we right a letter to any potential buyers, about what we loved about the house and why we were moving, so that no one would think we were moving because there was something wrong with the house.

I wrote a letter about all the improvements that had been done to the house, about the great schools and neighborhood, about the large yard and how much we enjoyed the fireplace.  But I felt that I had to hold back a little about how much I really loved our home, because when I started writing about how I actually felt about the house, it started sounding like I was trying to sell it too hard.

So, here is the letter I would like to write, how I really feel about the home we are going to be leaving.


Dear Home Buyers,

At first glance, this house may seem like any other small neighborhood house from the 70s. And while it definitely has its quirks due to strange building codes back then, I assure you, this home is anything but typical.

You will be hard pressed to find a home that has been as loved and as lived in as this one.  And as far as all those quirks, we've made sure everything about the house is perfectly safe. But there a few stairs that squeak every time we try to sneak downstairs when the children are sleeping. And getting to the laundry by going through the garage is definitely not ideal, but after years of going to a laundry mat with children in tow, I couldn't have cared less.

This house was our first home as a family, the first time we didn't have to worry about sharing walls, floors, and ceilings with other people, the first time our children could just be children. We lived fully in each room, from family game night at the kitchen table, to story time in front of the fireplace, to pillow fights in the bedrooms.

When we first bought the house, most people gave us disbelieving, almost pitying smile. All they could see was the popcorn ceilings, the lack of lighting, and all the gray vinyl flooring. We, however, were beside ourselves with excitement about that potential in this home. We had seen over 30 homes during a whirlwind weekend of home shopping. But the moment we walked through the door here, we knew it was home. I never once saw the imperfection. I only saw a house that wanted to be loved, that wanted to become our home.

We have loved this house almost like a family member, slowly bringing it to its potential. We stripped away the popcorn ceilings. We put in all new flooring, flooring that would hold up to the antics of three active boys. We added as much light as we could. We painted every surface. I'll be honest. When we were picking things for the home, I never once thought about which would be best for resale, what would be most appealing for other people. I picked things I loved, that went with the feeling we were creating in our home. 

There are more memories here than I could possibly share. We've planted bulbs in the front garden. We've made enormous leaf piles in the back yard. We've eaten countless dinners on the deck and then watched our children chases fireflies under the trees and wondered how we ever got so lucky.

At a meager 1300 square feet, this house has never felt small (except when suddenly, we've had to figure out where 6 house guests are sleeping.) Even as our family grew, there always seemed to be enough room for us. 

This home isn't the fanciest, most spacious home out there. But nearly everyone who has ever walked through the front door has mentioned how lovely the home is. I like to think that it isn't because of the decor or the paint color (although of course, I'm quite partial to those.) I like to think it's because there is so much love and life here, everyone can feel it.

It's time for us to move on with our lives, and that moving on is taking us back west, closer to family and away from this home. I'm quite heartbroken about leaving this house. There were days that I actually pictured us living here forever. Maybe this is how everyone feels about their first home.

I definitely hope it's how you feel about this one.



Monday, March 23, 2015

The Only Constant is Change

Here it is, nearly the end of March, and I haven't sat down all month to write.  After our whirl wind month, it feels difficult to summarize in a way that is succinct enough to be manageable and in depth enough to be meaningful.

We are in the middle of a transition period. Transitions are always difficult, full of unknowns, stress, half-executed plans, and a feeling of being unsettled. 

We are moving.

Hubster and I have both accepted jobs in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm originally from there, as much as I can be originally from anywhere. Hubster has taken his dream job in a private practice dental practice. I've accepted an academic position at the University of Utah, which is turning out to be the dream job that I didn't even know I always wanted. We are both extremely happy with our new jobs.

That still doesn't make things easy.

Hubster found out about his job in November, but just got the contract settled two weeks ago. I interviewed for my job mid January, and am still trying to get things completely finalized.

Since we were fairly sure things were going to work out job-wise, we knew that we would have to sell our home. I actually met with our real estate agent weeks before I had even interviewed for my job.

Before putting our house on the market, we had a long list of home projects to do, including redoing both bathrooms. I've already shared the hall bathroom redo. The master bath is also completely finished, and a post sharing that is in the works. Doing all the projects ate up all our weekends in January and February.

We also had to replace the siding on our house, because the woodpeckers and weather have had a heyday with the original wood siding. Working with the subcontractor for the siding ended up being immensely frustrating; the whole process was prolonged and drug out and painful. In the end, the siding looks wonderful, although maybe not so wonderful as to be worth all the stress (which included the inability to use our garage or driveway for a month and a half during the worst of the winter weather).

Finally, all the work on the house was done, and we listed the house two weeks ago. We got an offer right away (that is its very own story.)

Last week, we flew out with all our kids to do some house hunting in Salt Lake City. Financing is still hazy, because of our massive student loans, but we think we have found a house we want to make an offer on.

Top this off with trying to get a new medical license for the state of Utah, Hubster taking his dental board exams, being in charge of decorations for the school carnival, keeping our house spotless for pictures, inspections, and showings, Duck deciding to unleash the terrible twos in full force, and Monkey and Bug extremely moody and difficult because they don't want to move, things have been crazy.

I'd like to say that I'm sailing through this with grace and poise and optimism, but that wouldn't be true. It's more like I'm blundering my way through with a short temper, frequent tears, and occasional active avoidance. 

At least winter is over and spring is coming. 

I'm hoping that just like the seasonal change, these changes in our lives will all be for the best. We just have to survive the transition.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Curly Locks

As part of simplifying and de-stressing my life, I've decided to work on accepting my hair in its natural state.

My hair is naturally wavy/curly/very poofy.  I've always felt I would have had awesome 80s pop music hair, but unfortunately, by the time I was worried about fashion, the 80s were over. 

For the longest time, all I wanted was smooth, flowing, shiny, straight hair. I've spent most of my life fighting the waves and curls. I blow dried and flat ironed my hair daily for years. I spent ridiculous amounts of money on straightening products. I looked into salon treatments to chemically straighten my hair. In junior high, I literally ironed my hair, with an actual clothes iron. (Doing that by yourself is actually incredibly difficult, and I highly don't recommend trying, for reasons other than the complete obvious of not using a regular iron on your hair.)

As I got busier and busier, I had less and less time to spend fighting my curls. Gone were the mornings I could spend, meticulously dividing my hair into segments and running the flat iron repeatedly over each one.  My solution was to just wear my hair up, which is what I did most of residency.

Recently, I decided that I'm done fighting my hair. I'm ready to embrace it for what it naturally wants to do.

A couple years ago, I found a hair stylist that I really like. At my last hair cut, I told her I was ready to embrace my hair in all its wild glory. So she did a cut that would allow my curls to shine.

(This is also the point where I should confess that I am awful at maintaining hair cuts. It is all I can do to get in about twice a year to get my hair cut. I wait until my bangs are covering my entire face and then reluctantly admit that I really should get it cut again.)

Now, my hair routine consists washing my hair at night, combing through it with my fingers, working in a little mousse, then going to bed with wet hair.

This is what I wake up to.

This is my hair in its (nearly) natural state. I call it my "I just don't give a crap anymore" hair style. There is no more hours spent attempting to tame my mane on a daily basis.

Although, with my current cut, it's fairly easy to wear it straight, should I feel like it. I save that for special occasions, like date night or Thursdays. 

I was so nervous about starting to wear my hair curly. I was worried it would look unkempt or unprofessional. And maybe it does. But the response has been very positive. Which is good, because with how easy it is to do my hair now, there is no way I can go back.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Favorite Child

On my way to work, I listened to a piece on NPR about how parental favoritism can affect children's health. Even the child's perception about the parents having a favorite child can have impacts. As it does with nearly anything related to parenting, my maternal guilt emerged and I instantly started questioning myself as to whether or not I had a favorite child.

Parents aren't supposed to have favorites. My parents always assured us that they didn't have favorites. But apparently, research shows 80% of children think their parents have a favorite child.

I love all my children, but I started examining myself to see if I was showing favoritism.

Is Bug my favorite?

He's my oldest, and we had 4 years where it was just us, no other children to distract me from him. He's the one that made me a mother. He's such a smart kid, always at the top of his classes. Just this week, as we reviewed his grades, he told me that he had done some extra credit to bring his Literacy grade up from a 92%. He's self motivated, never needing any reminders to get his homework done. His sarcastic side is starting to develop, so much so I occasionally remind him to bring the snark down a level. He loves to read and draw. I see so much of myself in him, and I love that.

Is Monkey my favorite?

I had a little more experience in parenting when Monkey came along. I wasn't as uptight and demanding and thoroughly enjoyed things more this time around. I had significantly more time at home with Monkey, both as a newborn and then a few years later. Monkey has always been more laid back, more all around happy. He's such a creative soul, with a delightful lack of self awareness that is beautiful. He's so kind and loving. Even at 8, he still enjoys hugs and piggy back rides and snuggles during story time. He's got such a big imagination and is constantly telling me stories about alien worlds and grand adventures. He's so different from me, and I love that.

Is Duck my favorite?

When Duck arrived, it had been quite awhile since there had been a baby in our house. With all the work it took to get Duck here, the emotions were a little different, maybe a little stronger. Also, the knowledge that he is our last baby has made everything a little more bitter sweet. With his toddler antics, he takes up the majority of my time and attention. His sweet baby smile melts my heart. I delight in each new word and milestone. I know I spoil him, maybe just a little too much. He's the baby of our family, and I love that.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't have a favorite child. I really do love each and every one of them fiercely.

They do each take it in turns to see who can chip away at my patience and sanity.

Bug has his days of pre-teen sullenness and times he is bossy and mean to his younger brothers. Monkey has moments where he straight out ignores everything I say and will get his feelings hurt when I ask if he's fed the cats. Duck has times where he deliberately colors on all the walls, bites my legs when I'm cooking dinner and stuffs all his toys under the couch.

But there isn't a child who bothers me more than the others, who frustrates me excessively, that I'm just done with.

So, I'm just going to continue to tell my children what my parents told me. I love them all the same amount. Which is with all of my heart, more than they can imagine, to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and ever. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another Midwest Winter

At the beginning of January, it seemed like winter might just pass us by this year. I wasn't that upset by the lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures. I like snow and sledding and the excuse to sit by the fireplace and drink warm drinks as much as anyone. But after the last winter we had, a mild one would be just fine.

Winter, though, had not decided to bypass us. It had just decided to show up late. Right after Christmas break, we had snow and subzero temperatures, causing multiple school delays and cancellations. So far, February has brought even more snow and even colder days.

Just this morning, I had to scurry across the parking lot to catch the bus to work with the wind chills approaching 20 below zero.

This is the part of winter I don't like. I'm getting antsy for sunshine and warmth and green growing things. Every day I wake up and it's still cold, I just feel like giving up on the day and crawling back into bed.

My boys, however, delight in every wintry day. They cheer each time we get a phone call that school is cancelled. They play in the snow each chance they can (as long as the temperatures are safe.)

I'm trying to approach winter with their enthusiasm. We do our best to find activities that that only be done in the winter.

We make ice lanterns.

We sled (when the frost bite concerns are low enough.)

We take short walks along the river and watch the bald eagles that are so plentiful during this time of year.

We spent one evening out at the lake. The frozen surface was dotted with ice fisherman, either huddled around the holes in the ice or out of sight in little fishing huts.

My boys were anxious to go out on the ice as well. Despite my qualms about walking on ice and the potential of breaking through and perishing by frigid drowning, I let them run all over that lake. There were already people and huts on the ice, and those full grown men weighed significantly more than my scrawny boys. Asking some of the people fishing, the ice was 5-6 inches thick, so we knew it was safe.

After a short distance, I was too anxious to continue, but Hubster and the boys ran all over the frozen lake (probably to the consternation of those actually trying to catch fish.)

We spend most of our evenings next to our fire place, drinking cocoa and hot cider, things that are definitely more enjoyable when it's cold outside.

Just because we are stuck in the middle of another extreme Midwestern winter, doesn't mean that we can't continue to explore and make memories. Those memories are just make while wearing a lot of layers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Iowa State Capitol

I'm a big fan of backyard tourism, or exploring local areas. I adore traveling, but our budget and schedule don't allow for fair flung exotic locales. We did do an amazing road trip last summer, but more often our adventures are all within a few hours of our home.

(Time for a confession: while I love traveling, I actually haven't been anywhere that requires a passport. I don't even have a passport. All the paperwork is filled out and ready to go. I just haven't been able to justify paying the fee when I know that the furthest I plan on going from home is the west coast.)

This last weekend, we made a trip to Des Moines, Iowa's capitol city. We've been to Des Moines quite a few times, and always enjoy our visits. We've been to the State Fair, the zoo, and the science center.

This trip, the weather was predicted to be cold and miserable, so any outdoor activities were automatically excluded. We liked the science center, but wanted to try something else. A friend suggested we tour the state capitol building. Apparently, many other people agree, because it is TripAdvisor's number one attaction in Des Moines.

Once we decided we were going to do this, I actually felt a little silly that we hadn't gone before. On our road trip, we made a concerted effort to stop at all the capitol buildings for each state we drove through (even Florida, which ended up being a big detour, because there isn't really a direct route from southern Florida to Tallahasee.) We'd seen the state capitol buildings of South Carolina and Kentucky, but not our own State.

On the outside, the Capitol Building is beautiful, with its gold-leafed dome and ornate architecture.

Inside, it's even more impressive. 

We decided to take a formal almost 2 hour tour so we could see all the rooms, even the ones that are normally locked during the weekend. I was a little nervous about how Duck would do. But securely on my back in his new mei tai wrap, he was actually happy nearly the entire time. The tour guide actually kept commenting about how he was the friendliest two year old she'd ever seen, since he kept peeking over my shoulder to say hi to her.

The tour was absolutley worth it, and if you ever find yourself in Des Moines with a couple of hours to spare, I cannot recommend this enough.  I initially worried the length of the tour might be too much for my children. No need to worry, it turns out. Bug and even Monkey were attentive the entire time and we all learned so much.

First, we started by standing in the rotunda underneath the main dome. All the lights and windows made for the most impressive view.

Down each hall way, we were surrounded by amazing carvings and impressive hand painted walls. 

Both the chamber for the senate and the house of representatives contained amazing chandeliers and stained glass windows. 

Being allowed to sit on 130 year old furniture scared me, especially with the swinging feet of my 8 year old son.

Beautiful mosaics lined the upper hall way. I loved seeing the amazement in my boys' faces when they realized that the huge pictures were actually all tiny pieces of tile.

Far and away my favorite place in the entire building was the library. It almost puts the library in Disney's Beauty and the Beast to shame. Because this one is real (although knowing that it is filled with law books and not amazing literature did slightly diminsh its appeal.) 

The spiraling staircases, the balconies, the smell of books. I could have stayed there all day. But the tour guide said I had to leave when she did. 

Hubster and the boys got to go up and walk around the highest walkway in the dome. Children under the age of 6 are not allowed up there. I stayed down below with Duck and took the opportunity to take even more pictures.

Touring a capitol building may not be what most people think of as a fun family adventure. However, when it's combined with history, impressive architecture, and a lot of winding staircases, it's the perfect afternoon spent being tourists in our own state.