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,