the other side of the filter: my girls

 

tribeDo you ever look at social media and feel like your life isn’t as pulled together or as beautiful as it should be? I love a pretty Instagram post as much as the next gal, but sometimes I start to look at my surroundings and question myself. I’m sure that I’m guilty of the humble brag and putting perfection-panic inducing material out there, but I think we could all use a little more honesty. With honesty and substance, we build each other up, rather than focusing on a heavily filtered highlight reel, that ultimately makes others feel less than amazing about their own lives.

There are those people in your life who remind you to embrace and appreciate your own imperfections, that those are the things that make you beautifully human. Because perfection really isn’t a thing; it’s just some lofty ideal that no one can ever attain and constantly reaching can be exhausting and sometimes demoralizing. Over the last several years, I have learned to do some filtering of a different kind: I have stepped away from the negative voices and now make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who exude love and support.

I have incredible women in my life and in honor of International Women’s Day this week, they are my highlight reel. These are my people.

 

COLLEAGUES 

The wedding industry is filled with a high percentage of women and I am lucky to work so closely with colleagues whom I have admired for years. Our industry, on a whole, is one of support rather than competition. In a time when it’s still not uncommon hear stories from working mothers who have been discounted in the workplace or have not been able to take a reasonable amount of time after giving birth or adopting, I think that sometimes women can be toughest on each other. In my colleagues, I have found nothing by the strongest of supporters as I navigate the complexity of working motherhood. Through an unshakable camaraderie, they give me strength to tackle challenges, however insurmountable they may seem. They inspire me to have even bigger dreams, to think outside of the box and to set lofty goals. With them, I believe that anything is possible and feel a sense of pride and drive to leave my mark. They are more than just colleagues, they are friends, family.

 

FRIENDS

 

My friends don’t fit into one tight little group and I couldn’t possibly upload photos of all of them, or it would take up this entire post! They are scattered throughout close individual relationships and a few different clusters. Some I have known since childhood, others I have only just recently met and some I used to rely on heavily as mentors and now count as friends. There seems to be an ebb and flow with friendships and you may go months or even years without connecting, but you can still pick up just where you left off. My friends are moms, students, teachers, scientists, designers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, marketers, musicians, artists, foodies, yogis and more. Some of them can check many of these boxes all at the same time! As different as they all are, they carry similar qualities and have had a profound impact on my life. They are therapists {well, only one is technically a therapist!} and they always seem to know the right thing to say to help pull me out of a rut. They are confidants and keepers of my embarrassing moments, my heartbreaks and my insecurities. They inspire me to make the world better and they shape the way I parent. They love me as I am, which helps me love myself. Friends are the family you choose.

 

SISTERS

IMG_0222.jpg

I grew up with one younger sister – just the two of us. Marrying my husband gave me two more sisters, and for all intents and purposes, another sister who is technically a cousin. There’s something about growing up with a sister that holds a steadfast bond, even if the tides take you in different directions. You may have memories of intense conflict over stealing borrowing clothing, but right next to those memories are ones of inside jokes and sidesplitting laughter. Your sisters are there for you when you need them and in an instant, they’ll swoop in with a meal or help take care of your kiddos. You are connected to your sisters in a special way; your heartbreaks are their heartbreaks and your joy is their joy. Your history is shared and your lives are intertwined. Sisters are all about honesty, even if the honesty is brutal, you’re stuck with each other!

 

MOTHERS 

Mothers are everything. They are support systems, cheerleaders, confidants, advice givers, hand holders and beyond. I have three of these special ladies in my life: my mother-in-law, my stepmom, and of course, the incomparable original. My mother-in-law is the whole village in the phrase, it takes a village. Living nearby, she is a constant presence taking care of my children and taking care of our family in general. I would not have gotten through my last pregnancy and 12 weeks of bed rest without her. She is truly an extension of our parenting system. Now, stepmom is a word I only recently started using and I think it’s one that she’s only recently been comfortable hearing and using herself. But over the last ten years since they’ve been married, she has become so much more than just someone who makes my dad happy. She is my friend, my foodie resource and a mentor. It’s hard to find the right words to describe it, but she occupies a space in my heart that didn’t feel empty before, but now feels complete.

IMG_0223.jpg

And then there’s my mom. Where do I begin? How do I put into words what my mom is to me. My mom is my best friend. We talk multiple times a day and she is my go-to for just about any question I might have. I have a respect for her that cannot be matched, even when both of our strong-willed personalities butt heads. She has walked a path that was far from easy: as a woman working in a scientific field rampant with misogyny, a single mother jumping through fire for her daughters, a woman with an open heart and mind challenging those with closed minds, just trying to make a difference. She loves my children as if they are her own and spoils them like any good grandparent would do! She has set a lifelong example of the importance of character and compassion. Though we are very different in many ways, she has influenced me beyond measure.

The women in my life have all impacted the woman that I am and hope to be. It’s so important to build each other up because we women are fierce and we can move mountains together. When we support each other and drop the pretense, we are ultimately making our own lives richer.

xoxo

surround yourself

uncomfortable issues: bias, privilege & quiet racism

privilege
Privilege does NOT mean that you haven’t had to work hard to get where you are or that it’s been an easy road. It also doesn’t mean that you are racist. Via.

This isn’t a direction that I pictured taking my blog, but there has been something weighing heavily for me lately and I feel like I need to write about it.

I think Chris Rock made an excellent point in his opening monologue at The Academy Awards, that I can relate to my own environment: Hollywood isn’t “burning-cross racist” or “fetch-me-some-lemonade racist” and neither is my world. But passive, marginalizing comments are too frequent. There are lots of marginalized people, but what I have seen in my news feed lately and the casual statements I’ve heard are specifically toward African-Americans. I’ve seen Facebook debates over the “offensiveness” of Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance; debates over the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement; debates over the second consecutive Oscar whiteout; debates over whether or not we are living in a post-racial world. The fact that these debates are taking place at all illustrates that we are most definitely not living in post-racial society. 

All of this has me thinking a lot about the types of things that will influence my two young kiddos. I can’t handle the idea of them growing up to become adults who perpetuate this status quo. As a parent to two white boys, how do I begin to make sure that they are raised in a mindful way? Mindful of their inherent privilege and the dynamics within our society and history. Mindful so that they can be part of change. This keeps me up at night. I find myself bringing this issue up in conversation a lot lately. I don’t know why I keep broaching a subject that makes people so uncomfortable, but I think it’s because I’m searching for the light in a dark room.

The reality of inequality, privilege, bias and prejudice is an uncomfortable reality for my fellow white folks. The way I see it, there are two ways that we can process that discomfort: 1. We can pretend the issue is not there because it doesn’t have a direct negative impact on our lives. OR 2. We can acknowledge it and be part of the change. As ugly as a truth as it is, if we default to choice #1 then we are part of the problem. Choice #1 just perpetuates the situation, but it’s the easy choice; it doesn’t ruffle any feathers. As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ll hit the publish button for that very reason.

Upworthy posted an great piece regarding two sets of white girls who were given black dolls. The original video that spawned the article is quite disturbing and eye opening about just how early children pick up on racial bias and unfortunately, I’ve seen it first hand. These children will grow up to be adults that will perpetuate these issues and this type of climate we’re living in now. A mom and blogger with Rage Against The Minivan also posted a response video to the original, featuring her two daughters and their dolls. The fallout is heartbreaking.

IMG_0416.jpg
Me with my bestie, Harmony Anna, posing for our formal Olin Mills family photos. This picture has been the cause of many a snicker over the years. Apparently it’s hilarious that my favorite doll was not white.

During the Cabbage Patch craze of the 80’s, my Cabbage Patch doll was Harmony Anna and we were inseparable. I even insisted on bringing her our formal Olin Mills family photos. This picture has been the source of to-my-face jokes, behind-the-back laughter over the years. Apparently it was hilarious that my favorite doll didn’t look like me. Fast forward to the 2010’s… I know a little girl who was in a store and picked out a doll, a Black doll, and an adult with her put the doll back on the shelf and replaced it with a White one. A few years later, that same little girl was playing a game of Guess Who and she commented on not liking any of the “brown faces.” This story shatters me. My oldest little guy is at the age where he is picking up on everything, even nuance, and I know that these observations will shape the person he grows into. It’s our job, as parents, to be aware of any kind of influence in our children’s environment, especially our own influence of modeling behavior. I want my sons to be the type of people who will stick up for the kid being bullied at school or fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own. Harmony Anna is one of the few treasures of childhood that I still have, and my boys often snuggle with her for naps.

I believe people tend to approach things with negativity when it’s something they don’t understand or can’t relate to. So, if the latest from Beyoncé and her dancers makes you feel offended or uncomfortable, shouldn’t you consider WHY you are offended and uncomfortable? Is it possible that she is acknowledging a societal reality that has not impacted you a negative way, so it’s just not a reality that you can imagine? Is it because when faced with these realities, we white people, have to think about how the structure of society has benefitted us? It’s uncomfortable. It’s icky. But it’s also just fact. I’ve learned that there is still a lot of confusion about our nation’s history and questions about why racial tension is still a talking point.

time chart
Putting things into perspective.

I heard a great explanation of the Black Lives Matter movement, in relation to people responding with “All Lives Matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t saying that black lives are more important than any other lives, it is just calling attention to a specific issue; much like going to a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. Responding with all lives matter is like going to that breast cancer event and proclaiming that all cancer matters. That would be ridiculous. This movement doesn’t diminish White lives or Asian lives or Hispanic lives. It is just calling attention to a very specific plight of a group of our fellow citizens who continue to be marginalized, treated unfairly and even killed.

Regarding the Academy Awards: A few friends have mentioned confusion at the dust storm surrounding the whiteout. More than one friend stated that the roles are just not there, to which I suggested this read that points out notable times the roles have been there and have still gone to white actors. The Economist noted that a “statistical glitch” leading to a whiteout would be “hugely unlikely.”

“The chances of no single person of colour being nominated across two ceremonies would be exceptionally small—even during a 15-year span, the odds of seeing at least one sequence of back-to-back whiteouts are around one in 100,000.”

The Economist

image_thumb[2]

It’s easy to look the other way, but once you start paying attention, it becomes a screaming chorus of disturbing beliefs and comments. You might not see burning crosses, but even just hearing the words THEY and THEM is unsettling, as though anything other is unsavory.

I’m certainly not an expert in this subject and I don’t have a solution. I have more questions than answers, but I think that acknowledging the issue(s) and not being okay with the status quo is a good start. I just want to do right by others and most importantly, do right by my children. I want to raise them to be the light in a dark room.

Good Reads:

Chicago Now: Talking about race with young children

Do Something: Important facts

Rage Against The Minivan: White Privilege

More Rage Against The Minivan: 7 action steps

when are you going to try for a girl??

IMG_7596.jpg
My little men.

Thank you for your interest, clerk at the grocery store/lady behind me in line at Target/valet attendant/schmoozer at an event/friend, but why is this still a question people ask?? I am a #boymom and for some reason, the most common question launched my direction is if I want a girl or when are we going to try for a girl. I don’t even know where to begin with this. One of my friends and fellow boy mom, told me about an acquaintance who asked, “What? You didn’t want a girl?” To which, she responded, “Oh! I didn’t know you could choose!” Brilliant.

When I was pregnant with my second baby boy, I just looooooved the people who responded to the news in disappointment. I mean, I was still pregnant and there was a clear pattern of audible let down from would-be-well-wishers. 

IF my husband and I decide to have another baby it would be only because we want a bigger family and not because we are holding out hope for a girl. My last pregnancy was a bit rough, complete with 12 weeks of bed rest. As much as we would love to have a big chaotic family buzzing around the house and though we have envisioned having three children for years, I don’t know if I’m ready to sign up for another tricky pregnancy again. Pregnancy issues aside, the years of the littles are tough and we are in the thick of it. We’re finally starting to feel slightly less sleep deprived and that we have a good system going, but some days we still feel like we’re barely treading water. If we were to add another baby to the mix, would we be ready? So, if we do go down the road of trying to have a third, it will be a well thought out decision and NOT a whim for the possibility of having a girl. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dreamed about being a mom. I even made a book of my future family, by cutting out pictures from catalogs and then writing a story of my life as an adult. {I would have a daughter named Stephani – HELLO 90’s! – and then I’d get divorced and remarried and have twins, Molly and Peter. AHMAZING!} Truth be told, I have always pictured having a daughter. I grew up with just one sister, my cousins are mostly girls and my mom is one of four sisters – women rule the roost in our family, so I hadn’t ever pictured not having a daughter. But, my motherhood reality is that I have two sons; two loving, snuggly, funny, happy, healthy BOYS and my heart is full.

After over a year of struggling to get and stay pregnant, learning that my first baby was a boy was neither here nor there. We were just thrilled to have a healthy pregnancy. Following a miscarriage, we had that same feeling of gratitude when we found out that there was another healthy baby boy on the way. This time there was also a sense of understanding that we are officially a boy family and I am a boy mom. There has definitely been a process of letting go of the idea of having a frizzy-haired mini-me, running across a ballet studio, but in no way have I ever felt disappointment. Sure, it would be great to have the experience raising “one of each” but at the end of the day, for us, that’s not a reason to have more kids. Even if we do try for another, who’s to say it wouldn’t be a third boy? If a third baby happens, I can guarantee you that it would be because we want another child. 

IMG_0016.jpg
Frizzy-haired me, running across a ballet studio; circa mid-80’s.

So, back to the question at hand: how are these types of inquiries and comments still a thing? Don’t we all know better? Maybe that boy mom isn’t pining for a daughter and she is just happy to be a mom, period. But maybe she is still holding out hope for a daughter and your comment is salt in the wound because it’s not something she can control. Or perhaps that mama has lost a daughter. I just recently learned that a family we know with three boys, actually had a girl first who passed away as a baby. At the very least, the “you need to try for a girl!” comments are silly and uninformed. At their worst, they are hurtful.

Some days our family feels complete and perfect just the way it is. Some days we daydream about having another little one. {Usually those are the days when the kiddos are remarkably well-behaved and we are well-rested!} When thinking about my dreams for our family, I think about the closing scene in the tv show, Parenthood. Zeek and Camille take a step back, looking at their four grown children and grandchildren, all interacting with each other, in a sea of voices and commotion and they say to each other, “We did good.” I want that. So whether the “we did good” feeling comes from having two boys or a bigger family, it certainly isn’t continent upon having a daughter. I just want a family full of love and I feel beyond thankful to have two little boys that fill my heart with joy. 

IMG_6227.jpg
I couldn’t ask for more.

essentials for the kiddo commuting circus

IMG_8789.jpg
Our last city outing with the kiddos at Christmas. Santa and Zoo Lights!
I love living out on the furthest edge of the burbs. I love the stars, open spaces, the quiet, the deer in our yard and the homey vibe. Being out here makes my small town heart happy and it’s definitely where my country boy hubby and I feel the most centered. But, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I became a bit of a city girl and still work in the city twice a week.

We’ve been bringing both boys into the city since they were tiny because we don’t want it to feel like a novelty for them. It can be intense, but sometimes it’s a necessity thanks to our ever-changing schedule and hodgepodge childcare situation. We are super lucky to have someone who is more of an “auntie” than a babysitter, who will open her apartment to hang with our boys while I’m in meetings. After I’m done with work, I scoop them up and we have family time before heading home. {Bonus: we avoid rush hour!}

This week, the boys are going into the city with me for the first time since December. I’m feeling a little anxious because it’s been a while, so it got me thinking about all of the things I need to pack. I’ve tried to whittle down all of the items so that there’s the least amount of schlepping possible. We used to bring 837 bags: kiddo bag, diaper bag, cooler for food and milk, my handbag, my computer bag and my breast pump bag. I’ve been able to eliminate the pump bag and diaper bag and by upgrading to a larger kiddo bag, I can fit everything we need in there. It’s still a bit of a circus though!

Thus, I present our Essentials for the Kiddo Commuting Circus!

 

commuting must haves

1 – The stroller is key. We need something that holds both kiddos side by side, because our 4-year-old is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, so the tandem strollers don’t work for him. We also wanted a stroller that collapses easily and has a small footprint when it’s folded for easy travel. We landed on the City Mini GT, by Baby Jogger. {On sale now!} I love how it goes through doorways easily and has a great turning radius. The only down side is that the pocket under the seats isn’t as large and easily accessible as I am used to with our UppaBaby Vista. We still use our Vista a lot, as a single stroller with the PiggyBack attachment but the City Mini GT is better longer hauls or if we want to make sure that both boys are strapped in.

2 – Lovies. Our boys have both grown quite attached to very specific Aden + Anais swaddle blankets. The Silky Soft Swaddles are dreamy to snuggle with, so I don’t blame them for having a preference! They both have the regular Aden + Anais blankets, but they have a clear preference and have been known to completely freak out if they are in the laundry.

3 – Baby G loves his WubbaNubs. These are great because he can find it easily on his own at night or in his car seat. Can’t leave home without them.

4 – This wet bag was an impulse purchase, but it’s gotten a lot of mileage. It’s great for dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been spilled on, so it keeps the mess contained. It’s also a good size, so our city sitter can throw some diapers and wipes into it for outings without lugging an entire diaper bag around. I love things that can pull double duty!

5 – I love this little bento box! It’s great to pack snacks or lunch for the kiddos. I do usually send something else in addition to this, like a sandwich or something, but this is a concise way to pack small bites.

6 – We have tried a million sippy cups in our 3 years living in sippy cup land and these are the two clear favorites. We have several Nalgene water bottles for the 4-year-old and the 1-year-old will graduate to one shortly. In the meantime, we’ve found that this Avent penguin sippy is the easiest for him to hold onto but also doesn’t spill. He has one sippy that looks cool, but it’s essentially a milk paint brush. Awesome.

7 – While big brother isn’t interested in pouches anymore, they are a daily staple for little brother. Even more so when we’re on the go! We love Ella’s Kitchen.

8 – While we try to keep it simple with the big gear, we always miss it when we forget to bring our lobster claw phil&teds seat. We thought we’d use this more for restaurants, but it’s most helpful when we go to other people’s houses, because usually high chairs are not as readily accessible.

9 – A great bag to tote all of this stuff is an absolute must. I love these bags from Lands End. I’ll be stuffing this bag with all of the above plus these odds and ends…

  • Winter outdoor accessories to bundle up on walks.
  • A change of clothes for each, just in case.
  • A pair of pajamas for each, so we can get them bed-time ready before the drive home. {If you’re looking for a fun, family bonding activity, try changing two wiggly kids into their pj’s after dinner, in your car. Favorite.}
  • Enough diapers and then some.
  • Wipes, Aquaphor, Etc.
  • Food for lunch and snack, plus extra snacks for the car to keep the peace.
  • Little people utensils along with the sippy cups.
  • A bottle of wine for mommy, to help recover from the whole process. {If you don’t know me, this one is obviously a joke, although not my worst idea! I mean, the hubs will be driving home!}

xoxo

winter skincare overhaul 

 

IMG_9933.jpg
My new skincare must haves.
I have a new skincare jam! Being the product junkie that I am, I have to spread the gospel. I have super dry and sensitive skin and it has been misbehaving for the better part of the last year, but things are finally in check!

On one side of my extended family, the women outnumber the men by almost double. We ladies have a lot in common: our laughs, our smiles, our voices that carry, and our deep-rooted love for beauty products. So, maybe it’s part of my DNA, but I have a bathroom cabinet filled to the brim with scores from Sephora. I had a stint working in skincare with the cosmetics department at Nordstrom. I don’t claim to be an esthetician, but I will say that my product habit, paired with that hot Nordstrom minute have helped me to understand my skin and how to care for it.

Rewind to my postpartum skin last year. Dry, angry and reactive to just about anything I put on it, even just simple vitamin e oil. I had this stubborn irritation that popped up in April that I initially attributed to stress acne, but acne treatments just caused it to flare up even more. I was never able to diagnose it, even after a few visits with different doctors, skincare consultations and prescription topical creams. We ruled lots of things out, but never identified the culprit. When I wasn’t focused on battling this angry skin situation, my face still just looked dull and my wrinkles/fine lines seemed to be more pronounced. I stressed for months and simplified everything to try to keep my face from waging war against me. The irritation finally cleared up around September/October, thanks to cortisone. Since then, I’ve slowly added things back in and built a new skincare routine, piece by piece. After all that, I’ll be damned if I stray from this lineup anytime soon!

Fresh Soy Cleanser
Soy Face Cleanser, by Fresh
Cleanse: This cleanser by Fresh was one of the first things that really calmed down my skin this past summer. I think the cleanser I had been using had grown too harsh with my changing skin. This is so soothing and gentle and it also removes makeup, easy peasy. In the mornings, I use this cleanser along with my Clarisonic cleansing brush with the radiance brush heads. {Although, I do have my eye on a new cleansing ‘brush’ that I’m planning on snagging in the near future – stay tuned!}

flashmud
Flashmud, by GLAMGLOW
Exfoliate: I’ve mentioned this mask before and I will sing its praises again! I use this guy 2-ish times a week. Once a week, I’ll use one of its sister masks that deeply cleanses pores. I always multitask when I’m doing a mask, because who has time to just sit and meditate for 15 minutes?? Lately, I’ll throw it on as I’m getting ready to jump in the shower and then rinse it off at the end and there seems to be something good happening with the steam from the shower. Full disclosure: showering does not happen daily, because #momlife. Sometimes I only get to do a mask once on the weekends and skip the weekdays completely, but when that I happens there is a noticeable difference in the way my skin looks and feels.

rose water
Rose Water, by Poppy Austin
Tone: I’ve recently fallen hard for rose water. It’s super hydrating and I love the scent. I’ve been using this straight up rose water toner lately but I also love this one that is blended with healing witch hazel and hydrating vitamin e. The big thing I’ve learned with toner is to be sure that it is alcohol free.

truth serum
Truth Serum, by Ole Henriksen
Serum: We need to talk about the magic that is this vitamin c serum by Ole Henriksen. {Pronounced Ooh-la.} The texture is perfect and vitamin c is known for protecting the skin from irritants in the environment and also brightens. I use this guy only in the mornings and another Ole serum at nights. What I like about the night serum is that unlike retinol, it’s safe to use when you’re pregnant or nursing and I just stopped nursing within the last week. I am officially hooked on this line and can’t wait to try out more!

sheer transformation.jpg
Sheer Transformation, by Ole Henriksen
Moisturize: Did I mention I have crazy dry skin? Another goodie from Ole Henriksen, this moisturizer by totally does the trick without feeling heavy or greasy. I also love that it doesn’t have any ingredients that react to my tinted moisturizer when I’m doing my makeup. {Ever notice tiny balls beading up when you’re blending makeup? That’s a reaction between ingredients in your moisturizer and your foundation/tinted moisturizer/bb/cc.} I use this morning and night, and just switch up my serum. I need to mention that you don’t have to have aging, dry skin for this moisturizer to be worth a shot – our nanny, Young Mary Poppins, actually introduced me to this and is using it herself. We both are newly converted groupies for Ole, even though there’s a 12 year age difference between us.

wrinkle resist
Benefiance Wrinkle Resist 24, by Shiseido
Eyes: This eye cream is my new winter staple. I have a feeling it will feel like too much in the summer, but it has totally hit the spot like I’ve never experienced before in an eye cream. It’s really rich and ultra hydrating. I haven’t had a problem with using concealer or other makeup on top of it. It is a heavier consistency, so I tread lightly with the application and I lightly swipe, even though I know you’re supposed to tap. I have been using it for about 3 weeks now and I’m already noticing a difference in the lines around my eyes, I believe that is due to finally getting a solid level of hydration that really penetrates rather than just sitting on top.

All of this takes less than 5 minutes, after I rinse the exfoliating mask.

When it comes to makeup, I have a dirty little secret: I keep my makeup bag in the console of my car and just throw it on at red lights or in the drive through lane at Starbucks. My poor vanity desk isnt getting any love these days! My makeup bag lives in the car because again, #momlife and I would have to move the pile of clothes off my vanity chair even if I did want to be civilized about my makeup application. But the great news is, lately I’ve been skipping makeup altogether, save for some mascara and lip gloss!

What skincare products do you swear by?

xoxo

cabinetry & countertops: on the cheap & beautiful

After months of building an addition and transitioning one of our garage spaces into a mudroom, the finishes were coming together and the end was in sight. I talked about our plan for the floors last week and this week it’s all about the cabinetry and countertops.

We decided to go cheap simple on those elements, because it is a mudroom, after all. Hopefully, we are going to do a major kitchen remodel soonish, so I’d rather spend the money there than in mudroom cabinetry and countertops. I also knew we could accessorize boring cabinets with hardware, so I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it.

The finished product wasn’t quite what I had initially pictured; I mean, perfect world would have been refurbished, painted cabinetry that felt like a 1900’s farm house. But, sticking within reason, these prefab cabinets were a super simple solution that provided decent storage for all of the what-nots that live in a mudroom. Maybe we might change this at some point, but for now, it gets the job done.

IMG_7756
Basic cabinetry waiting to be dressed up with hardware.

We decided to only do the one upper cabinet because we want a rod extending from the cabinet to the wall for hanging freshly washed items. I thought the easiest solution would be a tension rod – I got a pretty and substantial one from Target, that’s technically a shower curtain rod. After having that damn thing fall down, I don’t know how many times, we’ve decided to table it and come up with something else.

Countertops were a bit trickier because there are just endless options and we didn’t have a clear vision of what that should be. First we had to narrow down the material. Here’s a great countertop breakdown on function and price of various materials. In our research, we learned that laminate countertops have gotten quite sophisticated and they’re still the most obvious cost effective option. I read a handful of reviews that described today’s laminate countertops as not your mother’s formica.

So formica it is… but now, do we want to go with solid white, white with flecks of gray, or maybe gray with flecks of white or what about something with a wood grain or a faux marble finish??? It’s enough to make you lose your marbles or give you a drinking problem. I was terrified of it looking like the laminate countertops of childhood. You know… like this.

95b551cf-00be-47ca-af9c-603f791eae85.jpg
This vision is almost enough to scare you off of the idea of laminate. Via.

When our contractor stopped by to see if we’d made a selection, we still didn’t know what we were going to do. And then it hit me: we needed faux butcher block in a dark stain, to bring a little warmth into the space to offset the gray floors and white cabinetry. Though we hadn’t considered that type of option in our wine-fueled sample viewing the night before, there was a sample that looked promising. A google image search confirmed that we were headed in the right direction with Old Mill Oak.

With a little emotional support from our contractor/family friend, who assured me that we would not end up with edges that resemble the scary laminate of yesteryear, We felt comfortable pulling the trigger. {Holds breath and hopes for the best.}

Voila!

IMG_8135.jpg
Old Mill Oak laminate countertops with gold cabinetry hardware, pre-install.

IMG_9895
Our completed laundry space in the new mudroom.

I’m super happy with the way it turned out. We will probably end up putting some open shelving in that space where the tension rod wouldn’t stay put. Then we can potentially secure a legit rod from the shelving. Maybe a basic white shelf with pretty gold supports?

Next up… my favorite part of this space, the PANTRY!!!

xoxo

 

work/life tug of war

 

IMG_9831.jpg

If there is a difference between a #momfail and #workingmomfail then I have definitely nailed both of those categories lately. Most recently, I’m working on a solution for something in the #workingmomfail category.

My preschooler has a musical program next week. I’ve had the little flier pinned up for a few weeks, but I hadn’t written it down in the calendar, so I didn’t realize the conflict. Wouldn’t you know, his program falls in direct conflict with a large team meeting that I cannot reschedule. {Commence anxiety attack!}

I could certainly let my colleagues know that I have a conflict and just show up an hour late to the meeting. I’m sure it would be fine, BUT I would be the person who is an hour late to a meeting. I don’t want to be that person. Alternatively, even if the hubs ends up being able to rearrange his work schedule so he can be there in my place, it wouldn’t absolve me of the guilt of not being there. {I guess I need to refer back to the concept of stopping the guilt.} I haven’t missed a preschool function yet. The thought of Henry looking around for me or asking why I’m not there makes me queazy.

I have a dreamy work/life situation. I have a career that I have worked very hard for and am truly passionate about. I have my dream job. I am no longer working 90 hours a week, like my pre-motherhood days and I have control over how many hours I work now, based on the number of clients I take on. Depending on the week, I’m averaging about 20-30 hours a week. This allows me to be around for all of the mommy things: doctors appointments, preschool events, preschool drop off and pick up, special classes, play dates, quality time, etc. But I still have the opportunity to step back into the shadow of my pre-mom life. Most days, I feel like I do “have it all” but I also feel stretched to get there. Everything eventually works out – it just takes a crazy amount of juggling.

My husband doesn’t grapple with this same sort of back and forth. It’s much more clearcut for him and sometimes I’m jealous of that. He gets to leave the house and go be an attorney without worrying about juggling childcare or daily kiddo logistics. Don’t get me wrong, he is 100% in this with me as a partner. I love midcentury decor, but I wouldn’t have married someone who was all about midcentury gender roles. I envy his ability to be completely in the career zone when he’s there, compared to my daily game of tug of war. On the other hand though, I know that he’s envious of the flexibility of my career, to be able to be with the boys so much.

I don’t want to give up either of the sides of myself: The wedding planner and the mother are both such integral parts of who I am. I’ve never been good at compartmentalizing my personality. I don’t have a business persona and a mommy persona, and though I might wear different “hats,” I’m always in the same voice.  Often, I wonder if I should focus more on compartmentalizing. Would that make moments like this conflict easier to manage or would I still feel like there’s no real solution?

the case for herringbone tile

Time for the fun part of our mudroom addition project! With the bones of the room in place, the pretty things started to come together. First up: FLOORING!

Knowing that this room is going to be all about function, I wanted to make some kind of a statement with the floor. The walls are largely reserved for functional pieces, so the floor is the largest swath of blank space to do anything fun.

We tossed around the idea of doing a brick floor, to play off of the exposed brick in our kitchen, but after some research, it appeared that brick floors are actually not as durable as one might expect. They are also hard to clean because they are so porous, which is not the best bet for a space so heavily trafficked. Hardwood was a viable option, but our whole house is hardwood, so I wanted a bit of variation from the rest of the house.

Tile really ticked all of the boxes for us.

I love the look of wood floors in a herringbone pattern, like something you’d find in an NYC pre-war apartment, so I became obsessed with the idea of herringbone tile for our laundry/mudroom.

pre-war style
Pre-war style floors. Via.

Our contractor tried to talk me out of it and the hubs was initially hesitant that it wouldn’t be worth the extra $600 in labor, but I remained undeterred! This plan was definitely not something revolutionary, so I’m not sure why it was such a hard sell. I envisioned good-sized tiles, rather than a shorter or thinner tile that might be more typical for this pattern. I was also picturing something with a woodgrain texture, kind of reminiscent of my initial inspiration, but in a gray tone, with charcoal grout. I love this combination for being forgiving with all of the action that room gets.

I am able to picture a complete finished product, just by looking the individual elements, but sometimes I forget that not everyone works this way. {I guess this is part of the reason I am a wedding planner!} It took a little convincing, but the hubs was quickly on board. When you’re investing so much money in a home addition and transforming part of your garage into a new room in your home, at that point, $600 feels like a drop in the bucket! {Another parallel to planning a wedding…}

We didn’t want to make this process too complicated, so we just loaded up the boys and ran to Lowe’s to see what they had in stock. We figured we’d look into other options if we didn’t see anything we liked that was within our budget, but luckily, we found several options. This one was the clear winner for us!

IMG_2455-1
The winning tile.

It’s amazing that we actually agreed so quickly on this. We have a little window of overlap in what we each like with design, but when we’re making choices like this, there is usually some kind of heated debate involved. Being married to a lawyer, I have picked up some of his argument debate techniques to prove my case. But, he was the one who spotted this tile and it was exactly what I was looking for. Good find, honey!

Even after we had the tile delivered and I placed a few pieces herringbone style to demonstrate my idea, our contractor/family friend wasn’t fully convinced. Pretty sure he thought I was crazy. But once the tile was down, BOOM. Vindication.

IMG_7424.jpg
Loooooove the way the herringbone turned out!

 

FullSizeRender
Herringbone prettiness.

Next up… cabinetry, paint and countertops! xoxo

the things we don’t talk about: miscarriage & fertility

So much for my plan to write about my new favorite eye cream today. Apparently, I am getting super personal this week, but I promise to lighten it up next time!!

A dear friend of mine is currently in the middle of a heartbreak – she just had a miscarriage a few days ago. I was talking to her about grieving this loss and I said something like, “You don’t realize how common it is, until you mention your own loss and then the flood gates open with stories of other women who have miscarried.”

IMG_0114

I’m not sure why it’s such a taboo subject, but there seems to be a certain code of silence that comes with miscarriage. I’ve mentioned my experiences, in passing, a few times and the people I’m talking to usually seem shocked that I’m acknowledging it. When you’re in the thick of that loss, it can be extremely lonely and feeling like you must be shrouded in secrecy only amplifies that loneliness. For people like my friend, I am opening up about my experience with pregnancy loss and fertility because it doesn’t have to be such a lonesome and quiet road.

Before we had kids, we struggled with fertility issues for over a year and part of that struggle included several very very early losses. That whole experience was difficult because it was easy to blame myself and pick apart things that I might have done to contribute to our challenges. {If only I hadn’t walked so much…} I understood intellectually that it wasn’t my “fault” and that I couldn’t have changed the outcome through anything that I did or didn’t do, but I still felt responsible somehow. I finally accepted that it wasn’t anything I had done and in my case, it was a physical condition that required surgery. Also, it’s funny how everyone around you seems to be getting pregnant and staying pregnant when you desperately want to be.

During that year of struggle, the hubs and I had a fun way of taking our minds off of it: following each realization that a baby was not on the way, we would pull ourselves up and make a night of it. We’d do all the things we knew we wouldn’t be doing once we were parents, which usually involved our favorite sushi restaurant, a bottle of wine, then bar hopping our way back to our apartment! It dulled the disappointment by sheer distraction. Traveling was a great way for us to reconnect and to help keep ourselves from being consumed by the desire to have a baby. Without consciously taking the time to have fun and step outside of the fertility bubble, I don’t think we would have maintained our sanity.

IMG_2149
We made sure to keep having fun together through it all.
IMG_1502
Travels kept us feeling like a team and feeling connected. Being connected kept us hopeful.
When Henry was about 14 months old, the pregnancy symptoms were intense and recognizable almost immediately, even though we weren’t trying. At 7 weeks, I noticed the beginning stages of miscarriage. I was in complete denial at that point – googling everything that could possibly indicate that it was just normal first trimester stuff. A few days later, it became obvious that it wasn’t normal and that I had lost the pregnancy. We left directly from the doctor’s office to be with my family, 4 hours away, for my grandmother’s funeral. Even though I was surrounded by family and love, I still felt lonely – like it was something that only I could understand.

I felt guilty because I had been shocked and maybe a little less than excited when I saw the positive pregnancy test. As though my mixed emotions had caused the miscarriage. In those few weeks, I had gone from shocked and scared to excited and fully envisioning our growing family. Even though I was only pregnant for a short time, I still felt connected and bonded, so I had to grieve that loss. I had to give myself the space to be sad. I think that is key – to give yourself permission to grieve, because it is a loss. It’s a loss of possibilities and hope.

I eventually regained my focus by fixing my gaze on my blessings; a wonderful husband, a healthy one-year-old and all of the possibilities for the future. I regained my sense of hope. I also did A WHOLE LOT of snuggling with my little guy, which I’m sure helped the process! We decided not to try for another baby for a while and exactly a year after my miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant with Graham. Those feelings of loss are still seared in the back of my mind and probably won’t ever go away, but I have two crazy kiddos now, so I don’t go there that often. Even when I do, there is a sense of lightness attached to those feelings now, because I’m at peace. I’m at peace because it’s just another part of our family’s journey that brought us to where we are now.

After I told my friend about my experience the other day, she said she just wanted to give me a hug, even though she knew that everything eventually turned out well. I said the following to her: “Everything will turn out well for you too and you won’t be able to imagine your life any differently. You’ll probably also be having a similar conversation with a different friend who is grieving a miscarriage and you’ll be the one telling her that it’s all going to be okay.” xoxo

UPDATE: Here are a few resources that helped through my journey.

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility – I have the 10th anniversary edition, but I’m assuming the just released 20th anniversary edition is even better. I still use this as a resource. {Why didn’t they teach us all of this information in health class?!?}
  • Fully Fertile – For those of you who have an inner hippie, like me.
  • Pulling Down the Moon – This is a space that promotes a holistic approach to health and fertility. Their resources are really supportive and if you’re local to Chicago or DC, you can make an appointment for fertility or prenatal massage, take a fertility specific yoga class or get acupuncture, which is what I did. I cannot recommend them enough. Side note, the above book Fully Fertile was written by the founders of Pulling Down the Moon.

 

kindness

 

birthday photo

Yesterday, I turned 35. I used to make a huge deal about my day, but somewhere along the line, I stopped feeling that special birthday buzz. Not sure if it was the February weather in Chicago that diminished the sparkle or if it was just adulthood. This year, I made a point of making a bigger deal out of it, for the first time since my 30th. In the last several days, I’ve had dinners with friends, brunch with more friends, spa time and date night with the hubs. Actually, he was the one who helped me to stop feeling guilty about taking time for myself this year.

I’ve been making a conscious decision to stop feeling guilty about a lot of things lately, as you may have noticed from a few previous posts. In honor of my birthday, I am taking the opportunity to make another change.

I am going to be kind to myself.

There are lots of ways that we can be less than lovely to ourselves with our internal monologue. I usually tend to pick on the fact that I am not always usually the fully put together version of myself that I want everyone to think I am. I know this is completely ridiculous. Life is short and there is a lot of unkindness in the world, so why am I wasting time, even if it’s only 30 seconds, being unkind to myself? Enough. I am going to hold myself accountable by putting it out there.

Baby Weight. Looking at myself during pregnancy, I had so much respect for my body and what it was doing. Why do I feel disdain for that same body after my babies are born? Those 10ish extra pounds are still with me a year later… I need to remember that they are there because I grew life and then continued breastfeeding each of my little guys for over a year. {Anyone else have a body that doesn’t abide by the adage that breastfeeding is the best way to lose baby weight?!} It’s frustrating that most of my clothes don’t fit at the moment, but I don’t need to hate on myself because of it.

My C-Section Scar. That scar is a symbol of a baby who was born safely. I couldn’t look at it for several weeks afterwards and when I finally did, I felt straight up maimed over the next few months. I’m used to it now, but I definitely need to work on feeling respectful toward that scar. I should respect it as a part of me and something that facilitated the safe arrival of my youngest, in the same way that I respected my pregnancies.

Perfection. I’ve been followed by feelings of inadequacy since I was a kid – early elementary school. As an adult, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be perfect, as a way of compensating. I didn’t have the perfect childhood or adolescence, but who does… other than my husband, The Beave?? I sometimes I feel like I need to make up for those insecurities by having a photo-ready existence. The reality is that things are usually far from photo-ready and that is OKAY.

I’ve said for a while that I think it’s important to be authentic, in the spirit of following your heart and your gut, to live a meaningful life. But how can you really have authenticity if you aren’t embracing the things that make you you, but instead striving for something unrealistic? So, I need to stop being critical of myself and replace that criticism with the same kindness and love that I extend to the people around me. I need to cut myself some slack. I need to respect my scars.

%d bloggers like this: