Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is this really "Mother's Day"?

Oh, Mother's Day. A day we love to celebrate our mothers. To give them the acknowledgement and their "due" for the hard work they put in all the other days of the year.  A day to honor and lift high our mothers. A way to say "thank you" for making us who we are and everything we do possible (did I go too far there? I mean, it's true....we totally rock!;)

Posing in 2014 for a Mother's Day picture - we were waiting to travel to China to bring home our Liliana :)

My "Happy Mother's Day" door a few years ago boasting numerous crafts and cards from my family!

My family for last year's (2016) Mother's Day

One of my favorite Mother's Day memories - May 2016

The card my then pre-school aged, Parker, (now 10 yrs) gave me.....I was not even close to 41 - at the time! ;)

Now, bear in mind that I am at a stage in my life where I still have young children. My oldest in 15 years old and my youngest is 5 years old and we have everything in between with our five. What I am about to write will apply mostly to those moms out there who are in a similar stage of life.  For those mothers out there with grown children who have gone before us - I pray that you will get to spend some quality time with your adult children who you probably look forward to getting special time with on this day each year. I look forward to the day when I can experience that with my crew :)

Okay, so on with my rant.....yep, it's about to become one so hold on!

Most of my life we have celebrated Mother's Day with a brunch, lunch or dinner out with my mother, my mother in law, my sister in laws, maybe even grandma's.  Basically whoever is in town, available and willing and their children and spouses. We end up with quite a large table of guest in a local eatery that quickly turns to chaos. This typically turns in no adults (okay, well the men seem to manage) actually being able to talk over the constant barrage of "mom" being yelled out by various children. Or orders being decided with the help of, you guessed it, Mom. Or the ever present bickering, arguing, laughing, crying, etc. of the various children at the table. Or the need for at least one of the numerous children to be requesting an escort to the bathroom pretty much on an ever constant rotating basis throughout the mealtime. Now, I know I left out the spilling of drinks, crawling under the table, crying over what they order or how quickly what they ordered comes out or need to order more, but I didn't want to send you precious mothers out there into a panic attack as you recall these very instances from your own life as you read about mine! And don't even get me started on the when we make the decision we are going to do the meal at our house for everyone and the guys are going to take care of, no. Never actually happens.

So what is my point?  Well, does any of the above sound like a celebration of moms to anyone else? I'm just going to go ahead and lay it out (think of me what you will!).....It doesn't to me!
It sounds like pretty much a snippet of any regular day of any mom's year. This is what we do. It doesn't mean we don't love it (okay, so maybe "love it" is too strong here ;), but it doesn't sound like an appropriate way to celebrate moms to me.  In fact, it actually makes me quite anxious to think about. Every year I really want to do the whole brunch, lunch or dinner celebration thing with my family. I am actually the one that is typically organizing it so it's not like I am drug along kicking and screaming or something. I think in my head and heart this sounds like the "right" celebration for Mother's Day.
It sounds down right blissful when I say it to myself each year. We will wake up (often times I am served a sweet little variation of breakfast in bed and given multiple hand made cards and/or crafts that I cherish!), head to church as a family and then enjoy a beautiful meal together as a family.  I picture sunshine and birds chirping. Me in a darling dress having an incredible hair day with my make-up applied just right. All of my children dressed equally cute and well groomed and well behaved and, of course,  my knight in shining armor (I mean husband) skipping up the sidewalk to our intended eatery.  As a matter of fact, I think I build it up in my head so much each year that when the actual event doesn't measure up I feel like I need to smile through it anyway to show my adoring children and husband that this is exactly what I wanted anyway. Because, after all, this is Mother's Day and this is what I should want to do right? Spend it with the people that are responsible for that title?  And adore Every. Single. Minute. I mean what kind of mother would I be if I didn't?

I'll tell you. I would be the mother that I actually am - and it has taken me many many years of motherhood to be able to admit this to myself, let alone the 3 of you that have continued to read this far!
I am a mother that LOVES my children with every fiber of my being. All five of them. Every day of the year. Each year of their precious lives. No matter what! I am a mother that is eternally grateful for each one of those children. The ones that came from my body and the ones that came to us through the miracle of adoption. I am a mother because I chose to be one - five times over (I know that several of you are questioning my actual sanity now - I don't blame you!;). I am a mother that loves doing all the "mothery" (just made up a word - go with it) things like going to the zoo, the library, school events, serving on the PTO, cheering loudly and embarrassing my kids at every sporting event they are part of.  I am a mom who loves to cook for my family - every day of the week if I can.  I actually love to serve them, truly love it (well, except for serving them by doing laundry - I could really pass on that serving opportunity!).  I am a mom who enjoys bath time (mostly because I know bedtime comes next!!). I am a mom who loves to read stories and sing songs and take my older ones on driving lessons and to pick out a tie for the next high school dance. And so so much more. I am a mom, like almost every other mom out there, hangs on every moment of our kids lives and falls all over herself to make their lives as amazing as we can.

But, just this one day of the year....the blessed Mother's Day...I would like to actually take a break from all of that. Not because I don't love it - most of the time. But, because it would be awesome to have just one day a year, since becoming a mother, that I have to think only of myself.  And what could be even better than having just one day where I get to think only of myself - taking care of just me, me, me?  How about throw some other moms in there for some great conversation, laughs and relaxation and it is starting to sound like EXACTLY the way I would love to spend my day being "celebrated"!

So this year that is exactly what I am doing! I have gathered up 5 of my girlfriend's and we are heading out to a mom's only dinner and a very "girlie" destination! We will not be worrying about what our little people are eating for dinner that night or how much of it they eat or when and how it gets cleaned up. We will not be giving baths and washing a drying hair or cleaning up the splattered water all over the bathroom. Or putting on pjs or reading the 5th "just one more" story for the evening. Or answering whatever need it may be that takes us back into their rooms or has us getting back out of bed to answer the knock at our door for the 12th time.  Or threatening, cajoling or begging for them to put the electronics away, do homework, get off the phone or just get to sleep so they can get up for school the next morning. No way.....not this day!

We will be sitting at a table dressed in our darling dresses, having incredible hair days with our make-up applied just right while we have amazing glorious uninterrupted conversation about whatever we feel like talking about (which will most likely be our children :).  Our orders will be taken by a waiter who will tell us he can't believe we are mothers because of course we all "look way to young and carefree to possibly be" (that's how I am picturing it of course!).
We will enjoy incredible (HOT - like not lukewarm, but actually HOT!) food that we did not have to shop for, cut coupons for, prepare or clean up. We will sip incredible drinks and indulge in rich desserts all while taking as much time as we want to enjoy.  Then when we get home the house will be cleaned up, toys put away and kitchen back in order. The kids will all be tucked in bed where we can look in on their angelic little faces fast asleep and sigh to ourselves that we love them more than life itself. And we will fully appreciate that having been refreshed and renewed and feeling totally "celebrated" in the last few hours of sweet freedom that will carry us through the next 364 days (again, this is how I am picturing it, of course :)
Selfish? Maybe. But can't we have just ONE day of the year where we are allowed that?

And, finally, to all of you mothers out there - I hope that you enjoy your day of celebration however it is that you chose  (or are dragged) to. ;)  Without mothers none of us would be here, that's for sure. And to all of you who are blessed to still have your mother here on earth; give her a big heartfelt "thank you" for being your mom and for the 364 days of the year that she does so without recognition or fanfare.
Me & my mother in law :)

My mom, my grandma (her mom) and my girls :)

Happy Mother's Day beautiful ladies!

And one more thing to help you all out:

Are you having trouble coming up with a great last minute Mother's Day "date" idea? Looking for something fun and different that is more than just simply dinner out? Check out DateCrawl on the app store. It's a free app that will lay out the entire date for you. "Datecrawls" are submitted by other users and verified before being added to the site.  My husband and I assembled a great team of programmers and developers a little over a year ago to build our latest app - Datecrawl. We felt there was such a need for this and based on our users the public agreed!  There is nothing like it out there and it will CHANGE the way you date :) 
Check it out and have a great Mother's Day ladies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Year's Resolutions? Service calls!

I can not believe that this is the 3rd week of 2017 AND that I haven't written a post in 6 months!  Life is beyond busy....just beyond.  It is that reason exactly that I was both determined and terrified by what I knew had to be my "New Year's Resolution".  

Do you make resolutions every year? I confess that usually I do not. The few times I have made a resolution I have never managed to stick with it or see it through.  I realized that making the resolutions typically just leave me feeling like a failure when I don't stay with it.  However, this year I decided to make a resolution for my entire family (yep, dragging them in with me and I didn't ask their permission!) and we are going to see it through!  

I have a ton of excuses for why I don't volunteer as much as I used to or as much as I want or as much as I feel I should be.  "For who much has been given much is expected."....can't remember who said it but I do believe it.  We are a blessed family and I know that. While we have a lot of responsibilities and challenges within our own four walls I know that we still have a lot that we can give outside of those walls. I used to do a lot on my own in regards to volunteering with church, school and even, for a couple of years, with a local pregnancy care center, but as our children increased my time decreased until I feel like I do almost nothing any more outside of my home.  We also used to spend a lot of time giving back to our community as a family, but with the addition of my littlest ones over the last few years we have also nearly stopped doing any volunteering as a family. Well, this year that is going to change. 

My "resolution" this year is really about being intentional more than anything else. I am resolving to be intentional about something that is important to me - giving back, volunteering, loving and serving others. And it is something I want to model to my children (even if that means listening to them grumble and complain about it - let's be honest!)  the way that my Savior modeled it for us and to hopefully teach them it's really an important part of our lives.

We actually started our resolution back in November, but I officially handed the mandate down to my children while on vacation as a family over the holidays a couple of weeks ago.  
The resolution: "We will be participating in serving, volunteering and/or giving back to our community and others around us in at least one intentional way each month." 

Typing that out doesn't make it sound like a lot, but I have to tell you that I was already panicking about what we were going to do in January as I looked forward to the rest of the month and realized that we had no more available weekends!  So this past Friday night I realized we had some time on Saturday and I planned our "give-back" activity for Saturday afternoon. After some grumbling and fussing about it, the kids (all 5 of them!) actually got into it and were happy to participate by the end of the activity. 

What did we do Saturday?  We collected sporting equipment for a charity that's local branch was started by a family that we are connected with in our community called Ohio Cleats for Kids (C4K).  You can check them out on Facebook here

We designated an hour for our family to "divide and conquer"! My husband and I tackled the mudroom and garage areas and we sent each kid to his or her room to go through closets, drawers, under beds (lets be real - that is where most of their unused sporting equipment ends up and I have no idea why!), etc. and come down with everything they have that cold be donated. We ended up with a good bin of supplies including gymnastics outfits that no longer fit the girls (sniff, sniff - they are growing too fast), cleats, gym shoes and both soccer and football pads and equipment.  After loading it all up with all piled in the car and drove it to a drop off bin so they could all participate in seeing the entire project through. 

We chose this bin at Scene 75 in Milford, OH since we were going to be in that area.

That was all it took and I know that small amount of time and effort (even though it felt much bigger trying to get all 5 kids to participate "joyfully"!) it will be a BIG impact on others in our community. 

In preparation for the coming months I have reached out to many different area charities to find out their volunteer policies (ages, times, place, etc).  In case anyone reading this would like the info on the charities I reached out to so that your family can spend some time giving back this year, I have listed them below with links:

FreeStore Foodbank: Volunteer opportunities for ages 5 years old and up. During months of harvest they have a farm in Melbourne, KY that you can visit with your kids and help them by spending some time working in the fields. Learn more about Giving Fields Farm here

Matthew 25 Ministries:  volunteer opportunities year round for all ages. No need to call ahead or plan your visit - just show up and they will put you to work :)  We have volunteered here many times as a family over the years and it is really a great place for the family to work together with other families and the projects are always changing. 

Hands Against Hunger (A Child's Hope International): I LOVE this ministry and what they believe and how they support families and children not just around the world but also right here in Cincinnati. Families can go to their facility and work together for 2 hour time blocks to package enough food to feed a child for 1 YEAR! Imagine if everyone you knew just gave 2 hours a month?! Go to their website here to see the packing schedule and sign up for your day of service.

I had mentioned earlier that our family started our volunteering/serving back in November. We started by going to a woman's home who we knew was ill and unable to work in her yard to clean up all the leaves that had fallen over the last month. My husband and I talked about how we could assist her and briefly talked about sending our landscapers out to her house and paying the bill for her. In the end we decided it would be more meaningful for her and our kids if we helped her as a family so that is what we did. We packed up the kids, our rakes, and leaf blower and headed out. Unfortunately the morning we had set aside to do the work it began raining and it was cold. The kids were grumbling and upset that we were "making them do this"! I can't tell you how many times they complained and asked why we had to do this and why she couldn't have someone else do it.  I stuck it out. It was cold and it was hard work - there were WAY more leaves than I realized and our little couple of hour job ended up taking us the half of the day. 
The best part though was that the kids got to see how this act of service impacted this woman. They realized how she was a real person who needed help and how much what they were dong was truly making an impact in her life. She just couldn't believe that we would come out and do all of this work and not ask for anything in return.  That we were just there to show her love. The next day (yes it took and entire day for them to come around!) my boys were starting to talk about how cool it was that we were able to help her and to do it as a family.  And we were even talking about naming something that was a good memory for you over the last few weeks at dinner a couple of weeks later and my youngest son said that he really liked doing the leaf raking together - WIN!

Then in December we had to opportunity to volunteer with Hands Against Hunger where our church hosted a family event packaging 30,000 meals!  We volunteered together for 2 hours in that event and even my little ones (4 year olds) got to help fill the packages. I am looking forward to going to their warehouse and doing this again with the family soon. 

Of course there are many many ways to volunteer and help serve others in our community and around the world but I hope that this gets you going and helps you to step out with your family. What a difference in the world we can make if we can just set aside a little of our time each month or week or year to love and serve others :) 

Happy New Year and make this a GREAT 2017!


P.S. I have had some messages about doing "outfit posts". I know I haven't done one in a long time - even before the last time I posted. I will do my best to update with an outfit post soon. Thanks for reading and being patient!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why do they call it "Summer Break"?

Did summer really just start?  Really? Then why am I already D.O.N.E.....DONE?! Is it called "summer break" because someone figured out that it will literally break you?! 

I probably should have called this post "mommy confessional"...maybe I will go back and re-name it. 
Okay, I am just going to go ahead and spill it so here goes (and in the process I hope this makes another mommy - or daddy - out there feel like they aren't the 'only one'!).......

So I decided to treat the kiddos to brunch out today in an effort to brighten (my) spirits and bring an end to the hostility between some of them (seriously, how many times can a sibling yell "STOP" at the other before they actually stop??!!). 
I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself this week (yes, I know that is ridiculous and I have way to much to be thankful for to be wallowing in "woe is me" but there it is!) and am just a bit overwhelmed - already! I always think summer is going to be lazy mornings, blue skies, lounging by the pool, reading in the hammock while my children play peacefully together in the yard, but it is never actually like that at all. I mean there are moments - okay maybe "minutes" of peaceful bliss, but with 5 children -and usually many more than that when you add in the friends and cousins hanging out (which we absolutely love - really!) - the bliss runs and hides more often than not.   

So what our summers actually look more like: crazy mornings as we prep to get out of the house to various events, lessons and therapies, meals that have to be prepared All. Day. Long. for all these little people (I am SO out numbered), phone calls that have to be made to make appointments for so many things I lose track and we never seem to be on time, bickering siblings, whining (if I hear "mom, I am SO bored" one more time.....!!!!) and me barking out orders and keeping things moving forward as best I can without snapping. I wish I was kidding on that, but I am being real here......
There is little to no time to stop and reflect on all the blessings caught up in with all the demands. Most days I don't even have a single adult conversation (except through texts usually with other moms who I am trying to coordinate running kids places with, etc. Can I tell you how much I love even just the adult words typed on my screen - seriously!) until my husband gets home and then I am too tired, too frustrated or too busy to engage in a conversation. 
My sweet husband told me this morning before he left for work (because I was whining about all the things I had to do today and how exhausted I was from yesterday, blah, blah, blah - but for real!!)  that "I was made for this. God knew I had it in me to give each of our children exactly what they need and that is why he entrusted them to me." I thought about for a while today (okay, for like 1 minute because that's how long I was able to hide in the bathroom to reflect and pray this morning! ;) and he is right. 

So today I decided to get everyone from the 4 year olds to my teenager and treat them to lunch. It was a little rough getting out the door...teenager had to be woken up (it was 1pm - seriously)! And trying to get get 2 four year olds out the door and buckled into seats with the 15 stuffed animals, books and barbies they want to bring with them is a bit like packing for a cross country trip. Of course, this was after the 3 appointments this morning - 2 of which we were late to -  and trying to fit in the house cleaning before we left. This is a cleaning day at my house and I have to make an attempt or with this many people we would truly be living in filth if it was left to go more than a couple of days. 
Okay, so after everything was said and done we made it out of the house and to the lunch place. Still smiling.....

Not pictured: my two oldest children. My oldest son was taking the picture and my 2nd oldest was not here because he was at theater camp today. Yes, I know I look tired....I AM tired!! The sleeping in during the summer thing doesn't happen for us since my oldest daughter wakes us up about sunrise every morning!! I NEED to learn how to get to bed earlier, bu summer activities always have us up later than usual ;)

Once there we talked, laughed and enjoyed a meal I didn't make and didn't have to clean up after. There were no electronics involved and we really just connected for a few precious minutes. 
And maybe the best part is that while we were there an older woman and her husband got up to leave and approached our table. She smiled at me and said, "honey, I wanted to come over and commend you on how incredibly well behaved your children are. I know how hard that is to do and how much work you put into them. You are doing a great job!" I thanked her and smiled as tears welled up in my eyes. I was so grateful for her kind words and knew that my Heavenly Father had laid it on her heart to give me that message. I had been praying that He would help me be a better mother and have a better attitude (an "attitude of gratitude" I called it)  toward my daily responsibilities no matter how wearing and mundane they can sometimes feel. Because even when I feel bogged down or frustrated or like I am just barking orders at the wall all day because no one here actually hears me, I truly am blessed and I am so thankful that I am mom to these 5 beautiful perfectly imperfect children than only I can raise exactly the way I will raise them no matter how imperfect that may look. Because I believe the words my husband spoke to me this morning and the ones he sent me in this sweet text just a few hours later:

So I want to wrap up by saying that I wrote this entire post not to throw all my insecurities and struggles a party on the world wide web, but because I know that when exposed to the light those dark  things have a harder time taking seed in your life and mind. I also know that sometimes we feel all alone in this parenting thing. We see images of people having fun with their kids (I LOVE those pictures for the record and often post them myself. It's like seeing hope out there!) on social media and can sometimes feel like we are the only ones frustrated, struggling and ultimately alone. Even though I know that isn't the truth often those lies start to creep in and I can start to second guess everything I am doing and why I am doing it. The struggle seems so much greater than the cause some most days.  Rest assured it is not. I don't think there is anything more important that I could be doing in my life right now than raising up this next generation.  I have been called do this and I am equipped to do this!  I KNOW that I will miss these days when they are gone. I need to and I will live in the moment and do my best to cherish even the messy hectic times doing my best to put to memory the blessings in those moments because they are there when we learn to look for them. 
And for the days that I fall short and forget how blessed I am I pray that my Heavenly Father will continue to remind me with stranger's kind words and my husband's sweet texts.  

I hope that in reading this any other parents out there feeling  the same way I have been are able to take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back and keep carrying on the good fight!  Don't ever feel like your work is less important because you are at home raising little ones. No corporate job or even running my own company has ever been more work or been more demanding than what I am doing now. Nor has it ever been more rewarding or more worth it!  


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Updating Your Wood Railings (New House Project)

So I have what feels like the never ending to do list for a couple of months now. It started when we decided to sell our last house - lots of little projects I wanted to complete before we put it on the market. Mostly painting...NOT my favorite!  Then we started in on the new house literally the day after we completed the projects on the previous one. And I am still going over 2 months later.....
Since I am doing all these projects I thought I should share some of them that may be helpful.  For instance the last week I have been working on changing the color of all the railing in my house (I had no idea how much there actually was until I started the project!).  

When we bought this house we decided to have the floors refinished before we moved in. I had my heart set on a very light, muted, casual floor. After looking at many many samples (and my husband wanting to check out the darker stains too) we ended up having them do a custom mix that would give my husband the depth he was looking for and me the softness and varied muted wood grained I wanted.  

We ended up using a blend of Classic Gray and Weathered Oak to get the "weathered" soft look I was going for. 

When I saw the floors done my heart skipped a beat - PERFECTION!!  

These pics were before the poly was added. I did go with a mix of "matte" and "semi-gloss" poly - heavier on the "matte". I really wanted to see the grain and variation in the oak, but make it soft with pretty much no shine at all. The more the grain in the wood the more of the gray it took on. The floors actually look "soft"!

And here is a section after the poly was done. In pictures you can't see the gray or "weathered" look as much as in person, but you kind of get the shine/soft/lots of variation.

But then I looked at the stairway railing. It was yellow - or orange.....well, all I know for sure is it looked terrible with the new floor stain. 

(This is actually the lower level railing because I forgot to take a good "before" pic of the upstairs railing, but it looks exactly the same)

I asked my floor guy about the railing and he said they could do it for me or he told me how I could just do it myself (and save a ton of money). Done!  

So I went to Lowe's and gathered up all the supplies he said I would need and set out to work.  

Here's what I bought: 
Very Fine sandpaper for finishing.
A course sandpaper to strip the old poly and stain from the railings.

Rags for wiping on the stain and for clean up.
A brush for the Poly coat.

Clear fast drying poly in a satin finish.

Minwax Wood Stain in Classic Gray and Weathered Oak to mix - I did a 1 part Classic Gray to 2 parts Weathered Oak.

Step 1:  I started by using the coarse sandpaper and really getting all the old finish off the railings. After getting the finish off I switched over to the very fine sandpaper to get everything really smooth again.
I finished up this step by taking a damp rag and wiping down all the surfaces I had just sanded to remove all the dust. 
  This step too me pretty much an entire day (did I mention how much railing there is in this house?!).  Your arms will be SO tired!!

Step 2: The following day I mixed my stains in a plastic cup and applied them by dipping my rag into the cup and then removing the access stain on the inside edge of the cup before wiping the railing with it (so it didn't drip everywhere while applying). 
I also kept a clean damp rag with me so that if I got any of the stain where it wasn't supposed to go I could quickly and easily wipe it off. 
After about 15 minutes I would go back over the railings lightly with a clean rag to wipe off all the access stain that wasn't absorbed into the wood. Then the railings need to dry for 4-6 hours before applying another coat of stain. 
I did this step 4 times over the coarse of 2 days. You can do it as many times as you want to get the color/effect you want just making sure you allow at least 4 hours in-between coats. 

Step 3: On day 4 I was finally ready to put the poly on! I used my brush and gently applied a light coat of the poly onto the railing. Caution: do not shake your polyurethane can prior to using. It will cause bubbles in the poly coat that will remain in your finish! After allowing this to dry about 4 hours I lightly sanded the finish with my very fine sandpaper. I then took a damp rag and wiped all the dust off before adding a 2nd (and final) poly coat to the railings. 

And that's all!  I am SO pleased with the results and it really wasn't all that difficult (and it saved me a ton of money over having it done professionally!! :)

Here are the results:

Looks great, right?!  I can't tell you how happy I am with the results. I didn't take pictures of all the two story areas, but they look amazing too.
Here is a pic of the catwalk you see from the entry:

And part of the upstairs hallway railing:
It no longer clashes with the stair treads! :)

I hope that this has been inspiring for someone and if you have been thinking about updating your stairways and railings that you feel like it is certainly a project you can tackle successfully now! 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Good Reads - Food for your Soul!

Good morning!  

Man, I have just been all over the board on doing my blog posts. This whole moving thing has really messed up any sense of a schedule that I was trying to do. 
Well, I have a little time this morning to get one out real quick so here it is......

I really wanted to share with you a few books that I have been reading lately. They are not just good reads, but they are incredibly good for feeding your soul and helping you to live your best life - REALLY!

I want to start with One Year Chronological Bible (NLT). 

This is a life changing way to read and understand the Bible. So I know it's not January 1st (which is where the Bible reading plan starts), but I just started there and plan to read a bit extra every day until I am caught up on the plan. But really even I don't catch up it's not a big deal. Just reading the Lord's Word every day will be incredible whether you are on the actual reading plan or not. 

Really the best part about this One Year Bible is that it is chronological so that means it walks you through the bible as the actual events happen so it jumps around from book to book as needed.  It is such an amazing way to get a new understanding of the Bible and God's Word. 

Another book I am really enjoying right now is Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs.

What a raw, honest, insightful and inspiring read this is. I am only about half way through the book, but I can not recommend this enough for every woman to read. Whether your struggles are the same ones as hers or not we can all relate on some level because we all have our own struggles. Her words will resonate with you - I am certain!  I love how she ties everything back to our Creator and biblical text and helping to show her readers that we were created for so much more than we often feel in this life.

So I show you this picture because this is how I was reading the other day - on the hammock in my back yard. It was a GORGEOUS spring day and the little ones were at school so I took advantage of a little relaxing (something I have not been doing much of since the move over a month ago!). 

So the third and final book I want to tell you about it this one:
To Love, Honor and Vacuum by Shelia Gregoire
(yes, I know it's not pictured above - I had already finished it by the time I was relaxing in the hammock!)

A couple of months ago I started a bible study/book club with some girlfriends and this is the book we decided to use.  It's been a great look at struggles that we have as women whether we have 5 kids or none, work outside the home or are stay at home moms, have lots of disposable income or none, have great supportive husbands or ones that we butt heads with a little bit more, etc. 

I think the best part about doing this book club with the women is the discussion that the chapters have us getting into. It's so good to know that we share so many of the same struggles and successes and are able to get ideas and solutions from each other.  It also has us digging into the Word and seeing how applicable it is to our daily lives. 

So in both pictures where I have my books grouped you see the Raising Grateful Kids in An Entitled World by Kristen Welch.  

I have not actually started reading this one yet - even though I keep carrying it around with intentions of cracking it open! I have read so many amazing reviews on this book. This very topic has come up several times in my book club meetings lately so I know that it is something that is not only heavy on my heart but on my girlfriend's hearts as well. 

With this is mind I am thinking that I may use this book for our next "book club book" to discuss. I plan to take a couple of months off for the summer so maybe this could be a good summer read for us all and we could go through it and share in the fall. 

Well, that's all I have for today.  I hope to get back to a more regular schedule for posting, but in the meantime I would love to hear from you and any comments that you may have. 

Have a blessed rest of your week!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Moving....And the power of Staging a home!

Wow - it is hard to even really know where to start with this post so I will just start by saying we are MOVING!!!  Okay, well actually at this point we have already moved.  My last blog entry was on Feb. 24th and at that time I had absolutely no clue that I would be sitting here in my new office in my new house writing this blog entry about a month after my last one.

So we are in Real Estate - as in that is our careers, our business and the way we make a living, but it is also our passion and a career that we really love.  Having said that it is also the way we see a lot of homes and get the itch to move fairly often (we have lived in 8 homes in 20 years of marriage!).  I think after this last move we have decided we need to get into the business of buying, fixing up and selling OTHER homes instead of the ones we live in! Anyway, these moves have been motivated by many different things; investment opportunity, need for more space (nearly every time we have had another child - we have FIVE!), wanting a change of location and in this case it was much of all the above in addition to the fact that we were about to start on some serious remodeling projects that would have locked us into staying at our previous home for a long time.

Just before we made the decision to hire a contractor to get started my husband came home one afternoon - about a month ago - and said, "we are moving".  What?! He MUST be crazy I though, but he was ultimately right!  After showing a home to clients he said he just knew it was meant for us and was going to be our next home. He showed it to me the next day and he was right! I instantly loved it and knew it was the right move for us. It gave us so many of the things that we were going to attempt to get in a remodel on our current home and then many other things we would never be able to accomplish. And all for less than what we were going to have to spend on ours!

So the work began to stage our home and get it ready for sale. We moved into our new home 2 weeks later with half of our furniture (the rest stayed behind for staging) and put our house on the market the very next day after moving out. It sold in the first few hours on the market and for FULL asking price (Yay! for the BEST Realtor I know - I also happen to be married to him! :)

Anyway, in this post I wanted to share how we staged the house and some of the things we did to get it ready. It mostly involved a lot of long hours, hard work and lots of help from friends and family to pull this off in such a short amount of time.

I always loved this house but seeing it freshly painted, cleaned, organized and staged made me really excited for the new owners and the amazing family home they will be moving into.
And just to refresh your memory - many of you may have seen this post from almost 3 years ago when we first bought this home. This pin was shared almost 3,000 times and this pin almost 3,000 times and this one 300 times on Pinterest and the blog post was viewed more than 67,000 times and counting!

So let me show you some of the work we did to it over the last few weeks:

When bought this house we converted a second family room that was on the back side of the house into a "mudroom" or multi-purpose room. there are 3 doors off this room leading to the outside (back yard, garage and front yard) and one door way to the kitchen and the other to the laundry room which made it the perfect "catch all" room.  The room is about 22'x15' so it made a very large and wonderfully usable space for our family of 8 to dump shoes, coats, homework, mail, have our computers, extra overflow storage and even a large island space in the center of the room that I LOVED for wrapping gifts. Because it was the only room I allowed to collect junk in our home it definitely did collect! Check out the before and afters of this room's transformation:

Very functional but dark and crowded with all our stuff. The fireplace in this room is a second fireplace in the home and never used. Even so I always thought it was such an eye sore and had wanted to at least paint it to lighten it up.  I started by painting the brass fireplace insert an Oil rubbed bronze (already completed in these pictures - Below is the work in progress).  And then I painted the mantle our trim color.  Ultimately I would have white washed the brick, but I think it all turned out beautiful.  Check out the pics below for what the finished product was once we staged it! 

I used Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint from Lowe's for the project. It took 3 days for the smell to dissipate. I do NOT recommend breathing while you paint with this stuff! 
Insert turned out so nice and now matches all the other finishes in the home!
 Sanded down and ready to paint the mantle.  

Mantle painted, insert time to stage this room!
*Our whole house interior trim here was Sherwin Williams Muslin (#6133). I used their interior "Pro-Classic" trim paint in a satin finish to do the mantle. 

And here we are "Staged"

It is truly a dream space for a large family and now it just looks incredible and is about the most amazingly functional space ever!

Basement/Lower Level:
The next super large project we tackled was the lower level/basement area. It had been finished in the 90's with some really nice built-ins, a full wet bar and mini kitchen, 5th bedroom, bathroom and storage closet fully lined in cedar. It all looked great - for the 90's. It had literally not been touched since then. It looked like an oak tree threw up in there and I avoided spending any time down there at all despite the fact that it was nearly 1500 sq ft of living space (actually I did go down there - when it was dark and we were watching a movie in the theater area! :).  I knew what had to be done to bring it up to date and set out to get it done in a couple of weeks time with just the help of some friends and family. 
Here is the progression in pictures:

This was "Before".....

Painting is underway.  We painted ALL the built ins (I can not describe to you how many actual linear feet of cabinetry there was in this basement!), all the trim (baseboards, etc) and all the doors (all solid 6 panel oak). 

My 77 y/o father-in-law painting a "love note" to my mother-in-law....these two! ;)
And here is my 9 year old son and my mother in law (hidden behind him) painting one of the support columns. My best friend, Anna (not pictured), also came over and helped me get all the doors, railing, and all the walls done (painted in Sherwin Williams Nomadic Desert #6107) over a few days of hard work. 

And here is the finished project! 

  Looking into the theater area from behind the bar. 

  Looking back to the wet bar area from the playroom (not pictured but we painted all of it too!)

Theater area complete with popcorn and man were we ready to plop down and relax after all that hard work! 

Not only did we paint the ENTIRE lower level including the playroom that you can't see in these shots, but we also added all new frieze carpet, new light fixtures and recessed lighting baffles, new sink faucet and new door handles. 
All the hard work really paid off though!

For the finishing touches my girlfriend, Julie, came over and helped us do the final staging before we actually listed it for sale.  Not only is she an interior designer, but she is starting her own "staging" and design consulting firm called ASE designs. She has done a few now and has been very successful at it. I can't recommend professional staging enough to anyone who is selling their home. And if anyone is reading this in the Cincinnati, OH area and is planning to sell their home I would definitely check out Julie's Facebook page and get in touch with her. It is a fact that staged homes sell quicker and for more money than homes that aren't!
Julie also offers "virtual design" for anyone who is not in the area. You can see pics on her FB page of homes she has done through "virtual design" services. 

Check out the rest of the pics of our home when we were done:
A pretty traditional full brick Colonial built in 1979. It was located on a beautiful 3/4 acre level, partially wooded, cul-de-sac lot. An over sized 3 car side entry garage was the icing on the cake when we looked at this house to purchase a few years ago :)

Master bedroom - paint color: Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige #6106

Kitchen, breakfast room and hearth room - Paint color: Trim & cabinets Sherwin Williams Muslin #6133 and wall color Valspar Milk Chocolate #2007-9B (we redid all of this when we moved in 3 years ago...I LOVED this kitchen and always just wanted to be a little bit bigger for entertaining).

Master Bath - recently remodeled by Neal's remodeling (has a killer shower that isn't pictured)

Entry - Terracotta floor tiles, refinished stairway and remodeled arched opening into the kitchen (new light fixtures not pictured)

 Upstairs hallway - updated paint (SW Nomadic Desert) and new chandelier

Dining Room

Freshly painted all exterior trim, power washed all brick and concrete work, refinished blacktop driveway and freshly mulched and trimmed all landscaping.

I hope that this helps inspire you to stage or just to freshen up your home a bit. I know that in the three years we lived here we did a lot of remodeling projects, but had always talked about doing most of the things we ended up doing right before we sold it. It sure would have been nice if we had done those things earlier on and actually enjoyed them while we lived here! 

I will share pics from our new house and some of the projects we have already done here in my upcoming posts. We have been working on this house now for about 3 weeks and have done so many fun things to make it our own. I am excited to share those with you - including some fun new paint colors that I am absolutely in love with right now! :)

All the best,