Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's Time for a Kitchen Makeover!

I am so very excited about what's about to go down in our kitchen!  Adam and I have plans to make some updates to our kitchen to make it a little more us.  We don't have the budget to completely redo everything, but we do have some money set aside to make some updates that will completely change the feel of the kitchen.  Here's a little glimpse of the look we're going for:

But before I talk about where we're headed, let's take a look back at where our kitchen started.  When we moved into our house, the kitchen was definitely dated.  There was pink backsplash tile, some very cheap-looking laminate wood flooring, and grimy white walls.  There were also a lot of gigantic features that made our tiny kitchen look even smaller.  There was a huge florescent light box in the center of the kitchen ceiling, a rather large light fixture above the sink, and the biggest microwave I've ever seen in my life.  Here's a blurry picture of our old kitchen in all its glory.  I don't even think a non-blurry picture would have made it look any better.

To continue to big theme, there was also a grand swagged chandelier in our little eat-in kitchen area.   

Adam and I didn't waste any time getting rid of some of that ugliness in our kitchen.  I wrestled that gigantic microwave into the garage on the first day we had possession of the house.  Adam ripped up the old flooring.  We tackled taking down the florescent light and getting rid of the pink backsplash together.  

Next, we turned our attention towards making the kitchen livable for us.  We had hardwood flooring installed throughout our entryway, dining room and kitchen to help unify all the spaces.  We moved the large light fixture above the sink to our entryway and replaced it with a smaller, more appropriate-sized one.  

We added a mosaic tile backsplash, which tested our young marriage in ways we had never experienced before.  I spray-painted the 80's brass cabinet handles and hinges with brushed nickle spray paint.  Finally, we put up a fresh coat of paint.  

Given our budget and limited DIY skills, we were very happy with the result.

Flash-forward 6 years and we're ready to make some changes.  We feel pretty confident in the direction we'd like to take our kitchen after living with it for a good chunk of time.  There are a few things we want to make sure we address.  We feel like the wood cabinets and the hardwood flooring are too similar in color.  There's not a lot of difference between the two so our kitchen feels very heavy and dark.  We aren't in love with our Corian countertops and we especially hate the white Corian sink.  The backsplash tiling job looks pretty amateurish and we don't love the tiny mosaic look anymore.  

So, we have been working on a plan to makeover our kitchen!  Here are the major components we'd like to accomplish: 

1.  Get new countertops.  We've been looking mainly at quartz since they are easy to care for, but also saw a pretty sweet slab of dolomite that just might change our minds.  

2.  Have a new backsplash installed.  Adam and I have decided tile work is just not in our skill set, so we'll definitely be hiring someone else to do this job.  We're leaning towards picking a bright blue-ish color in a fun shape.  We've seen some fun scallop and hex tiles we like so far, but aren't sold on one in particular.  

3.  Paint the cabinets light gray.  We like the idea of differentiating the cabinets from the hardwood flooring and think paint will do the trick.  We are planning on using chalk paint since you don't have to sand the cabinets before painting and it's non-toxic and virtually odorless.  While I love the idea of white, after seeing little graham cracker hand prints all over our house, I think gray might be a better option.   

4.  Make some minor modifications to the existing cabinets.  The shelf that previously held the world's largest microwave takes up a ton of wall space.  So we bought a low profile microwave/hood combination to put over our stove.  This will allow us to remove the microwave shelf and allow for more open space.  It's hard to use the countertop above the current microwave shelf because it comes down so low and juts out so much.  Removing it will open things up visually, but also allow us to better utilize the countertop below.  We also decided to remove the appliance garage.  After visiting the last countertop showroom, the designer there convinced us it would open things up and give us more counter space.  Adam also wants to rework the woodwork above the sink.  The wavy design drives him crazy and he'd love to showcase some of his woodworking skills in that spot.  He also wants to add some trim pieces to the ends of the cabinets and the peninsula to add a little more visual interest.

5.  Paint the walls a lighter, cooler color.  Neither Adam nor I enjoy the creamsicle color of our kitchen and family room.  When we picked it our, we were trying to find a color that would go with the chocolate brown color of our living room and the cream color of the hallways.  We've since decided a light gray or blue is more our speed and will still coordinate with the other rooms visible from the kitchen.  

6.  Find a new light fixture for our eat-in kitchen.  We still have the light fixture that came with the house.  It's too big and heavy for the space, so we'd like to find something better suited for our small area with standard-height ceilings.  Since we have a smaller table in that area, there's also no need for it to be swagged, so we're looking for a fixture that can hang straight down.  We've found a few we like, we just have to narrow it down.  

7.  Replace the cabinet handles and hinges.  I tried to convince Adam I could just spray paint the existing handles and hinges again, but I couldn't talk him into it.  The hinges have definitely not held the spray paint well.  The handles have held up well, but Adam feels like we need something a little more our style.  I can agree with him there.  I definitely wouldn't pick the handles we have now given the choice.  

8.  Replace the window treatments in the kitchen and eat-in kitchen.  While I still adore the roman shade I made from our old faux-wood blinds, it won't quite jive with the rest of the kitchen.  So I'll likely make another one using fabric that coordinates with our new kitchen.  We've also decided to replace the faux-wood blinds in the eat-in kitchen with some bamboo shades.  We love the look of the one we added to our half bathroom, so we'll get some more for the eat-in kitchen.  I like that you can open them all the way up to let in lots of light and keep exploring hands off of the shades.  

9.  Replace the sink and faucet.  Since the Corian sink and countertops are all one piece, we'll have to replace it along with the countertops.  We are going to go with a single basin in a stainless steel finish.  While we're at it, we'd also like a new faucet.  We're trying to find the perfect matte black faucet that doesn't cost a fortune.  

I'm so excited to get the ball rolling and can't wait to share the progress along the way!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Universal Parenting Advice

I wasn't quite sure which direction my blog would take once Archer and Lyla arrived.  So much of this blog has centered around dealing with infertility and I wasn't sure what would happen once I was lucky enough to have my babies.  I thought maybe I would be able to start writing some blog posts with advice for other parents.  And then I became a parent.

The more time I've spent as a parent, the more I realize how crazy parenting really is!  Most days I feel like I am just winging this whole being a mom thing.  What works one day most likely won't work the next.  And so much of figuring out what works best depends on each kid.  So while I might be able to give wonderful advice on how to deal with Lyla when she's screeching at Aldi while other shoppers whip their heads in our direction to make sure I'm not abusing my kid, that advice won't necessarily hold true for any other kid.  So much of parenting is just learning your own kid and responding uniquely to them.  So needless to say, I don't have a wealth of tips to share that will help everyone out.

But there are two bits of wisdom I'll share that apply to all parents.  No matter your kids' personalities or your parenting style, these ideas ring true.

Take lots of pictures and videos!  

We are so lucky to live in a day and age where it's so easy to take pictures and videos of our kids.  We all pretty much have a phone within arm's reach at any moment of any day.  Use it to take lots of pictures and videos!  It's no joke how fast kids grow up.  I still can't fully grasp that my babies can walk and talk now.  I am so lucky that my husband and I took so many pictures and videos of Lyla and Archer during their first year.

Adam was especially good about taking videos.  We watched a bunch of them together not too long ago.  I literally had no recollection of any of them!  That first year was such a blur that I have very little memory of specific moments.  Having all those sweet videos to look back at are such treasures!

I was especially good about taking pictures.  I probably took pictures of one or both babies at least once a day for their first year.  That's a lot of memories to look back on.  One thing I wasn't very good about was deleting all the outtakes.  So I would highly suggest looking back at the pictures you take immediately after taking them to delete all the crummy ones.  Or else you'll spend hours deleting thousands of blurry pictures when you decide to make a photo book a year later.

Read to your kids, even before they are born!  

This is so incredibly important!  Early literacy is one of the biggest predictors for success in school and even later in life.  There are copious amounts of research out there to back this up.  Read to babies while they are still in their mommas' bellies.  Read to babies when they can't even hold their heads up.  Read to them when your toddlers bring you one of their favorite books to read for the millionth time (I'm looking at you Moo, Baa, La La La!)  Read to kids when they're in elementary school and can read by themselves.  Heck, read to them when they're in middle school if they'll still let you!  There's no such thing as reading to your kids too much. 

Having taught both elementary and middle school, I have seen what can happen when kids don't get a strong reading foundation in their early years.  It can be detrimental.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are instances (reading disabilities, dyslexia, etc.) that can make reading hard or boring for kids even when their parents have built a strong reading foundation for them.  But reading to your kids will never be considered a waste of time.  (Can you tell I taught reading prior to being at home with Archer and Lyla yet?)

Adam and I have done everything we can to set Lyla and Archer up for reading success in their futures.  We started reading them a bedtime story each night while they were still in my belly. 

I can already tell Archer and Lyla have a deep love for reading and books.  One of their favorite activities is looking at the baskets and baskets of books they own.  We are lucky enough to have books everywhere in our house.  We got tons of books as baby gifts and my mom bought a bunch for us at secondhand stores and garage sales.  While we haven't checked out any books from our local public library yet (both Lyla and Archer still enjoy chewing on the corners of their books in addition to reading them), we fully intend to check out lots as soon as we're sure they won't damage any books.

Lyla and Archer like to flip through the pages on their own and also be read to.  My heart swells each time they bring me a book of their own choosing to read to them.  And Adam and I always read our kiddos a few books as part of our bedtime routine.  Aside from the educational values of reading, it's a great way to bond with your babies.  You get to snuggle up close together and smell their baby-shampoo smelling hair and smoosh your cheek against theirs.  It's good stuff, I tell you!

So take too many pictures and indulge your kids in every book they want to read with you!  I can say with absolute certainty that every parent should do these two things! 

Monday, October 8, 2018

This Is What I've Been Waiting For

In years past, I remember looking at everyone's pictures on Facebook during this time of year.  Everyone and their kids were doing all sorts of fun fall activities, like apple-picking and hayrides and corn mazes.  And it broke my heart.

I was so devastated that we didn't have our own kids.  But this year is different.  This year we get to experience new adventures with Lyla and Archer.  Adam and I decided to take our babies, I mean toddlers, to Weston, MO, for a little day trip.  We planned to go to Red Barn Farm to pick apples and then to Weston's downtown area for lunch somewhere. 

We made it to Red Barn Farm and were all just plain giddy walking up to the farm from the parking lot.  Lyla and Archer were looking around and squealing with delight at their new surroundings.  Adam was smiling and I was trying really hard not to cry happy tears. 

We walked around and checked out the farm animals.  They both enjoyed most of the animals, aside from the scary sheep that said, "Baaa."  Archer flipped out when the sheep he had been looking at for a little while decided to "baaa."  I'm not quite sure what freaked him out so much about it, but Adam and I had to pull ourselves together from laughing to comfort him.  

While waiting for the hayride, we enjoyed a doughnut and apple slush snack.  I can already tell Lyla and Archer are going to be the kids who announce how hungry they are whenever we go anywhere.  

After our snack, we headed towards the hayride departure area.  Lyla and Archer had a blast walking around, trying to eat rocks, picking up pieces of hay, and playing in the dirt.  

It still catches me off guard when I see them walking around.  Look how old Archer looks in this picture Adam snapped!  Where did my little baby go?!  

Once the tractor arrived, we hopped on board.  Archer and Lyla loved the hayride!  They mainly loved the hay part, but they enjoyed the ride too.  They probably didn't have quite as much fun as Adam and I did. 

After our hayride, we decided to forego apple-picking this year.  We took the easy way out and just bought some apples that had already been picked.  It was getting close to lunchtime and we wanted to keep Archer and Lyla happy.  So we headed into Weston's cute little downtown area and ate lunch at Tin Kitchen, which is a delicious BBQ joint. 

After our bellies were full, we headed home.  Between all the food and dirt, Lyla and Archer definitely had tons of fun.  Adam and I had so much fun, too.  Adventures like this is what I've been waiting for.  It's definitely not lost on me just how lucky I am that I get to go on adventures with these two cuties.