Thursday, January 12, 2017

following the moon.

On the way home from daycare & work last night, after dark and almost 6pm, Penelope asked, "Why is the moon following us Mommy?" I might've died a little, mostly because I remember wondering the same thing as a kid, tucked into the backseat of my parent’s car on car rides that probably seemed much longer than they really were. 

The fragility of my kids' youth and innocence has really hit a chord with me this week, as the tension that comes into a home during remodels, busy seasons at work, the holidays, and general life with three very young ones, has been bottle-necking inside me. I'm realizing that stress is affecting my whole home, my kids, my animals even, and my need to protect my kids from hurt and worry has been feeling threatened. I keep repeating to myself that everything is a season, but it can be hard. And I can't help but wonder if, while I sat in the backseat as a wee one wondering about the moon, my parents were worried about protecting me from worry and hurt and the fragile state of my own innocence as a child? Maybe. Parenting is by far the hardest role I've taken on, and there are seasons that can be particularly harder. 

My husband wrote a song for Elliott back when he was tucked safety in my belly, before our knowledge of his heart problem, and it makes me cry these days every time I hear it. "I believe in sunshine after rain, even when the skies are full of gray." Keeping that phrase close to my heart today.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

the peach tree renovation.

One of the single biggest happenings over in our neck of the woods is that our little house is getting a big renovation! During the first part of last year we looked into the idea of selling our current home and buying a new one, but after a lot of thought, scouring what was available in different zip codes, both in more desirable and less so, we decided that we had a good thing going with our 2011-sale price mortgage, sweet little neighborhood, and the current condition & size of our home. After evaluating a lot of factors we decided to invest a little back into the property and add some amenities we have always wanted! 

The planning stages started all the way back in July and we are knee-deep in the renovation now. I can’t wait to share the completed spaces but for now this is what we are working on for the current project.

Backyard upgrades: When we first initially planned out the renovation we originally considered focusing completely on the backyard. Living in great Southern California weather, we spend a lot of time outdoors, and it seemed totally reasonable to invest all of our money there. After switching around our plans, we still kept these big hitters in place:

-Fence in our large corner lot. We live on a quarter acre on a corner lot. Our backyard was fine enough but we weren’t utilizing a lot of the side yard at all that wasn’t fenced in. We added 7000 square feet of fencing, knocked down the inner fence, and were suddenly able to triple our backyard space! Talk about an upgrade!

-Add a deck. We had some weirdly configured concrete pads in the back that weren’t connected and felt a little haphazard. We added a big deck that conjoined the concrete spaces, thereby making them a beautiful multi-level grounding for multiple dining & lounging spaces. There’s room to add a big Jacuzzi down the road too! In order to even begin to put the deck in we had to move our air conditioning unit to the roof, and of course the recommendation was to get a new one while we were at it. It was all a big expense we didn’t want to have to front for but in the end we have a brand new central air & heat system running through the whole house and it does work so much better.

-Add an outdoor storage closet. We all know the sob story. Old homes=zero storage. Our midcentury home is no exception. With this new plan we are adding a closet where the current door to the backyard is, allowing us to enclose gardening tools, patio furniture, and outdoor toys for the kids when they aren’t in use. No more piling stuff along the side of the house! 

-Add new larger French doors leading to the deck. Currently our little door leading to the back has very steep stairs and is barely wide enough to carry a large tray of food with. The current window overlooking the back is being replaced with a beautiful set of custom French doors and we are removing the old door altogether (see above). It will make the whole space look so much more sophisticated!

-Add a kids’ space! This is one facet of the big renovation that is already completed. We purchased a beautiful cedar playground set on Amazon, had a section of our yard leveled, and filled the area with rubber playground mulch. I expect a lot of summer night memories to be made in that little tree house.

-Still to do: Upgrade our sprinklers, add fruit trees, upgrade landscaping, put in garden boxes for vegetables! 

Music Studio upgrade. One of the big reasons we settled on the house we did was because it had both a two-car garage and a two-car covered carport. We’ve always parked in our carport and my husband used the garage as a studio space for music. In 2013 we added some insulation and drywall to make the space somewhat more bearable in the summer and winter to be in. This year, we tore all that down and are rebuilding in from the ground up. We tore down the garage doors, added new walls and a steel door into the carport so his late night visitors don’t have to enter/exit through the house. We added three windows along one side of the house to add natural light, and another big set of French doors leading out to the backyard. Rockwool paneling and resilient channeling have been added inside the walls for sound absorption, and we redid all of the electrical so it is well-suited for a man who has a lot of electronic music gear running simultaneously. The pièce de résistance is the vocal booth, which is something my husband has always wanted. We added microphone cables in the walls that can run from his desk to the vocal booth so he can have the highest quality of vocal recording. We can also count this whole studio as a fourth bedroom with an actual closet should we want to sell the house down the road. We may, at some point, enclose the carport so we can have a garage again, but in the meantime we boosted the ceiling supports in the studio and added an attic door with a ladder so we have a place to put Christmas decorations and bins of old keepsakes that isn’t one of the kids’ bedroom closets. Did I mention we have a storage issue in this house?

Still to do: Currently the only way into the studio from inside the house is through a tiny little bathroom that seems like it was added merely as an afterthought to increase the value of the home. The bathroom is functional enough for you to do your business in but using it as a pass-through is pretty awkward. Right next to that is a utility closet with our central heater and one (of two!) of our water heaters. We’d like to reconfigure that closet and put in a tankless water heater, then somehow make that all a hallway to the studio with access to the bathroom and utility closet on either side, but that is another big expense for another time. 

Adding a laundry room. Okay, so I said the vocal booth was the pièce de résistance but I was lying, it is actually the new laundry room! A laundry room was something I really, really wanted when house hunting in 2011 when we purchased our home and again when we thought of buying again before we decided on this renovation. We had washer/dryer hookups in the “garage” when it was actually my husband’s studio, and I always had to coordinate with him when I wanted to run a load. I was always behind and leaving clothes all over the floor, which was a bummer to my artistic husband who needed a place of his own to be creative. Now, we are punching a hole in the wall from our den to access the laundry area and are walling it off completely from the studio space. I’ll never again have to access the laundry through the dumb bathroom and my husband’s studio. With the washer & dryer hookups we are adding a sink, a place to hang dry clothes, a hamper system, a place to iron, and lots of cabinetry to add even more storage. All of our cleaning supplies and appliances (like the mop and heavy duty vacuum) will be housed in that room so we can reclaim the tiny coat closet for shoes and bags. We also added a window into the backyard and it adds SO much natural light into the little space. It will be a dream come true to attend one of my most hated chores. I’ll take the motivation any way I can get it.

Still to do: add a countertop for folding clothes, a peg rail, and lots of open shelving for storage.  Hang an antique barn door to access from the den.

Wow, I can sure write a lot about house projects! And the truth is, even with this there are so many more ways we would love to modify our home. In the end, what it all boiled down to was adding more value and equity into our home as well as making it more suitable for us. I may never want to leave once this custom laundry room is complete but it made sense to sink a chunk of our spending not just into things that would make our square footage more functional for us, but also to increase our property values. If you can get the best of both worlds, why not? The truth is we love our home without all of these modifications but feel so completely blessed and excited to be able to make some changes. I can’t wait to share the completed project in a few weeks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

a new year, renovation stress, & finding time for self-care.

And just like that, it’s 2017! I felt as though it was a feasible time to pop in here and dust off the keyboard a bit. Winter in SoCal has been wet, wetter than we are used to and the constant gray in the sky, I am realizing, it starting to bum me out. To top it off, we are still in the throes of a big renovation, and while the end result is crazy exciting, the journey to the end is incredibly stressful. I get why people say renovating is so stressful. It really is. But by the same token it’s also really thrilling, getting to reimagine our spaces and make every little square foot purposeful and useful. I cannot WAIT to share more here soon.

I will say though, the winter blues, the holiday stress, renovating, renovation mess, teething, three kids four & under, family planning (not to get all TMI on here but it’s something we have to think about), and Elliott’s next cardiology appointment have all become a tornado of things that have my head spinning. My head is literally in the clouds all the time and I am having a really hard time being present. I don’t want to be present, actually, I want to escape. It’s hard to be present when I have so much to attend to all day, every day. After Adeline was born and I returned to work I presented the idea of setting aside creative pursuits in favor of real life, but I am realizing more than ever that setting aside creative time for myself is an act of self-care. Like eating well, getting enough sleep, and showering on the daily, setting aside time to clear my head and calm the tornado is not necessarily desired, it is vital to my mental well-being. And I’ve been letting it slip.

So, I guess, this is why I am here. To say hello to myself again, the cyclical push and pull of needing creativity and then setting it aside again, needing it and setting it aside. Over and over. I am thankful there is such a space we can come to. Recently I cleared out all of my craft supplies and pared down big time, and it wasn’t long before I was looking for something in particular for several heated, huffy puffy moments before I realized that my need to purge had become between myself and said item several months prior. Blogging is great that way. I don’t need to purge, I can just sit down, write, and be. Hello old friend.

With this new year, I have decided on holding off on any major goals for our family & home because honestly, it sometimes feels like way too much pressure to put on myself anyway. This new year, I am just going to try and look inward a bit more, stop sloughing myself off, and to allow a bit more time for me and less to that never ending pile of mismatched socks. More time for a bit of self-care, writing, and handcrafts. More time for me, so that in a sense, I have more energy to be present with my kids and husband. They are truly my greatest blessings and because I haven’t been giving myself much of anything these days, I haven’t been giving them my best either.
Hello 2017! I am looking forward to it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

welcoming autumn.

Summer, oh summer! I have to be honest, I am glad you’re gone. Summer in its beauty of long warm nights, brightly colored myrtle trees, summer vegetable gardens, and delicious barbequed food tend to get overshadowed by extended heat waves here in Southern California. A SoCal native, summer is, simply put, my least favorite season. Constant hot, sweaty weather and dead plants that we can’t even water because of a terrible drought, amplified by my busiest season at work and skyrocketing electric bills. No thank you, summer. Ta ta!

Now, autumn. Yes, autumn. I can get behind autumn. It cools off, and suddenly I can bake again. The nights are still warm enough (in SoCal, at least) to play at dusk outside with bare feet and a warm mug of cocoa won’t give you a hot flash. The leaves fall, and while the colors here aren’t necessarily worthy of an Instagram post they crunch beneath your feet and can be piled into magical cushions to be rolled around in. Yes, I see it. I get why autumn is so loved.

Summer is partly to blame for my break here on the blog, but I know full well now that in this season of motherhood taking time to write and post here is that of a luxury. Maybe it shouldn’t be, as this is one of the few things I enjoy that I can intrinsically call “mine,” but duty calls sometimes. It always does. I have three small children and a full time job for goodness sakes, not to mention a marriage that I value. Things can be put on the shelf to be dusted off later. All I hope is that the pilot light stays lit, and that when I’m called back, reminded so to speak, the fire is ignited. 

So much has transpired this summer!

-Elliott turned four and had a Batman birthday party! He also was cleared by the cardiologist for 6 months!

-Penelope’s third birthday was earlier this month, and she too had a party! Her My Little Pony cake was epic and now I’m constantly tripping over pink ponies with flowing rainbow hair.

-Adeline started solids, though it will be a while until she weans from nursing I am sure. She isn’t crawling yet, but she hops around on her little bottom and we affectionately call her “Scooter.”

-We started some renovations, and we feel so blessed & grateful that we get to do so. My husband’s studio is getting an overhaul, we are adding a big new laundry room, and our backyard is getting some big changes too!

I don’t know why, but I just feel so renewed each time October rolls around. I usually do. Four years ago this month Elliott was diagnosed with his heart condition, and we were a changed family forever. I often feel this bottlenecking of stress and obligations, activity and busy schedules each summer, much like I did those four years ago as a new mom who had this heavy weight on her shoulders, knowing something was amiss with her baby boy but not knowing exactly what. October and November were heavy times four years ago, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recognize the door that opened for us back in those days, too. So as I sewed my (three!) kids’ Halloween costumes up over the last few nights, I’ve had some time to think about that sense of renewal that this season brings. It’s a fresh start for us. A family starting their first holiday season as a family of five, the big kids now old enough to start remembering cherished family traditions. I surely hope they do.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

wilde sweet love, summer 2016.

A few nights back after dinner one night, a work day mind you, my beautiful little nuggets were driving me positively mad. All three of them! So I did what every desperate mama might do: I made them go outside. Our backyard is rather small & uninteresting at the moment, and to top it off it’s full of dog poo, so I pushed them out to our rather large, expansive front yard. We live on a very big corner lot, and our house is nestled right into the back corner, making the back rather tiny & the front & side yard rather large and lush. We hope this summer to completely re-do the back and fence in the side along with it, so we can build a lovely garden full of flowers & trees with more fun spaces to play… but for now it’s rather ho-hum for them. It means that at the moment, the front yard is more exciting, what with our big, dog poo-free lawn and long sloped driveway that’s perfect for tricycling.

Pushing them out in the front usually means I need to go out there too, to keep them out of the street and close by the house. Two & three year olds have a way of getting into mischief, and even though our street is quiet and our nosey, well-meaning neighbors are always keeping an eye on them too, I simply cannot let them play out front without watching. So, I laid out a blanket for baby to lay on, took out my camera & just let my kids be. Elliott and Penelope played in the dirt and ripped up healthy flowers (“weeds” they say) while Adeline cooed and looked up at the sky. Summer in SoCal can feel rather uninspiring when all the flowers start to dry up from the dry heat and the bugs are biting you more than the birds are singing to you. But there, on my front lawn, I got to capture their sweet faces, and holy smokes did my captures blow me away.

I would love to start taking seasonal portraits of these three, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to it, but I really do feel I will cherish these shots forever. How magical would it be to compare portraits of them over a year? Little kids really do change so much, and I cannot get over how much older and knowing my two big kids look in these photos. It makes me a bit sad, really. Elliott, with all the hard things he’s had to face already at such a tiny age… his soul just breathes so many more years in this photo. And my big girl, at times I feel being the middle is hard on her. Not the oldest & most trusted and not the baby, either. Floating somewhere in between. I know she craves more mama time and when I look into this photo I feel a twinge of guilt, and like I need some one on one time with her too. My littlest, oh what a joy she is! Rounding out our family in the best way, without so much as a fuss. She fits right in with the crazy in the best possible way. Not just tolerating it, but embracing it! Boy, am I ever so thankful for these three, my Wilde, my Sweet, and my Love.