Thursday, January 31, 2013

What we did immediately after having a baby.

When we first bought our house, Leah's room looked like this:

It's a little hard to tell, but the walls are yellow.  A really ugly yellow that (although it looks pretty good in these pictures) was horrible.  Not to mention, someone had drawn all over the walls with all kinds of interesting pens and in multiple languages.
Probably my top priority was this room.  Knowing that she was old enough to actually be affected by her room, my dearest desire was to have the little's room finished and ready to go before the day we moved in.
The only catch was... well, I'd just had a baby.  And a bunch of nasty medical crap done to me.  And a fever.  And been hospitalized all over again.
I tried, honest.
Don't be judgin.  This was - literally - two weeks after Logan was born.  Do I remember doing this?  Yeah... that looks like a woman who remembers a lot in this moment.

See?  What an exciting first few months this baby had.

Then, one new fan and some carpet padding later, it looked like this:
When we moved in, her room looked slightly better:
On our very first night in our new house.  Not exactly the finished space I'd hoped for.
Somehow, she didn't seem too fussed about it...

These days, her room is finally looking a little more polished.

Sadly, I still wouldn't call it "finished."  We're still working on it, but at least it's a comfy space.

But, it is better.  And a very cute little room to house a little girl's memories as she grows up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

5 months

Some things about our sweet little guy at five months:

He's tried only two foods: rice cereal and carrots.  Both were well recieved.

Wears size 9 clothes but also fits into 6 mo and 6-9.  And one random 3-6 month onesie.

LOVES to vocalize.  He has such a wide range of sounds, many of them involve some kind of squealing.

I think he is awesome at imitating.  He hears the noises sister makes and repeats them right back.

I am also convinced that he says "hungry," "hi" and "yeah."  I know, I'm a nutter.

He definitely recognizes several words.  Hungry of course being one of them. 

He wears size three diapers, and I've moved his cloth diapers up another snap.  The only thing left to do is unsnap them altogether.

He doesn't like tummy time, and rolls himself back over.

Loves to sit in the exersaucer, bumbo, high chair, and lay his wiggly little body on the floor.  He also loves to jump in his swing.  He just grins and jumps.

Still nurses tons and doesn't sleep terribly well.  Usually naps 1.5 or 2 hours.  Always falls asleep on his own, so there's that.

Makes no bones about being hungry.  It is extremely clear from his attitude that he wants something to eat.

He enjoys playing with toys, and puts everything in his mouth.  Life would be so much easier for our boy if he would take a paci, but he adamantly refuses.

Holds things and transfers them from one hand to another (and then usually to his mouth).

Is ticklish under his neck and giggles madly when you tickle there.  SO cute!

Loves the pants off of his Big Sis.  He can't take his eyes off of her when she's in the room.

Is such a little wiggler.  He's definitely our roley-poley little guy.

Nicknames include: Bubba, bubba boy, bubs, chubs, little guy, big man and peanut.

Has just enough hair to make an awesome mohawk.  It's measured in milimeters, but it still counts.

It is crazy to me how fast time is going.  We've achieved Warp Speed here in our house, and I wish I could slow things down.  This is such a fun phase and such a fun age, and I am so glad that God blessed us with this little miracle.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adventures in orange

Introducing: Carrots

Verdict?  Huge success.
(Mom's note: look at those tired eyes! Poor little sick guy!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Parenting: it's not all about me?

The plan for me and my chubby little guy was to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months. 

The first time around, I read a ton of research that touted exclusively breastfeeding as one of the healthiest things you can do for your baby.

I caved a little early with Leah because I was going back to work and I wanted to see if I could help her sleep longer at night.

With Logan, I decided that, come hell or high water, we were mkaing it to 6 months on breastmilk.

Then, we saw the doctor.  Who asked me if he was showing any interest in table food.  And, since he watches table food like a fat kid in a candy store, I had to confirm that, yes, in fact, he does.

"It's best to start them on solid foods when they're showing interest."

Well, I appreciate your opinion, doc, but I have a plan.  You see, we're not starting until 6 months, thankyouverymuch

Please pardon my nursing shirt.  He's been sick so we've been doing the comfort-nursing gig quite often.
Yeah.  See how well that worked out?

And there is no question that my kid loves food.  He was all about the rice cereal.  Nary a revolted face was made.  (Which is kind of too bad, because the revolted how could you do that to me? faces are sort of the best part about starting them on solids.)  He didn't even spit it out; in fact, he kept lunging forward trying to get more.

My poor little sick guy was super proud of himself, and totally into his new-found flavors.

Sigh.  Mission accomplished, big boy.  It looks like it was just the right time after all. 

Sometimes in this business, you just have to get out of the way and let them do what they're going to do.  Even when it isn't part of the plan.  I'm not gonna lie, I kinda hate that about parenting. 

Next up?  Carrots.  Time to break out the icecube trays!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Excessive thriv-ation

So, folks?  Logan had his four month appointment this week.  Let's just overlook the fact that it was scheduled 3 weeks after he turned four months.  Yes, I'll be accepting my Mother of the Year award any day now. 

Height: 26 1/2 inches (78 percentile)
Weight: 17.3 lbs (74 percentile)
Head: 17 1/2 inches (98 percentile)

When a baby doesn't grow the way whoever the proverbial "they" are expects them to, it is called failure to thrive.

Which leaves me wondering: what do we call it when a baby rockets up all those charts like it's his job? 

We are thriving around here, friends.  Excessively.   

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Things I'm loving: almost-5 month edition

I'm not exactly a newbie on the baby front. I'm no pro, but I like the confidence that comes with the second-time around. 

So, for the record or the moms to come, here are a few tips from the non-pro:

Read to the baby.  Read the same book frequently (I've had The Cat and the Hat memorized for almost 3 years.  Boo-yah.), and read a book that rhymes.  Babies need lots and lots of repetition to learn words, and rhyming words allow Tiny to begin to anticipate sounds.  This, friends, is how language is built.  I'm currently loving this one, but Dr. Seuss or Goodnight, Moon are always good bets.

Invest in a solid monitor.  And, if you're paranoid, a heart monitor too.  This would have made my life soooo much easier the first time around.

Learn the 5 S's.  Harvey Karp is a genius.  I'm happy to tell you that both of my babies have been the happiest on the block.  Okay, so Logan is giving us lots of opportunities to practice because he likes his milk straight from the tap and every two hours, but seriously, they work.

When you bathe your newborn, place a warm rag over his body to keep him warm (and keep him from turning on his own waterworks).  Truly, one of the best tips I can offer, and so ridiculously simple.  Thank you forever, nurse at the hospital.  Also, holding a slippery newborn doesn't have to give you a heart attack.

Swaddle, regardless of what Junior thinks.  Casey prefers the easy ones even though he's better at the baby burrito than I am; I think these are tops.

Hand-me-downs rule, and if you're not lucky enough to be on the recieving end, find a good consignment store and visit often.  While we're at it, always invest in one size larger than you think you'll need.  Too big is never a big deal, and they grow into it fast.  Sometimes they wear 9 month clothing before they're 5 months, for example.

Get tough stains out with Dreft spray.  All things California Baby are okay in my book.  Babyganics makes great products for on-the-go and alcohol-free sanitizing.

My boobies are loving two new nursing bras.  For the girl who spent her entire life as an A or B cup, I'm rather pleased to be a 34 D these days.  Even if it comes with a side of muffin tops.

Beware the germs at restaurants and the grocery store.

The two things I use most often?  Moby and the exersaucer.  Whoever invented these two fabulous gizmos deserves a medal.  Go right now and add them to your registry, I'll wait.  You won't be sorry.

It's cliche and really only works if you're a first-timer, but nap when Baby naps. Don't feel bad about co-sleeping (we call that Attachment Parenting, in case you're wondering). Talk, sing, and smile often. Reflect and seek other's opinions in equal proportion, and then don't second guess your own decisions. Trust your instincts. Enjoy every phase.

Love the crap out of them, because before long, they look like this:

And, in the words of another blogger... for the love of all that is holy, don't watch the zombies  before bed or you'll never sleep.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The One with the Cheeseburger Theory

I love and adore my children. 

But I'm not so good at the whole not sleeping thing. 

I mean, if you count the whole going 9 months without once getting 8 hours of sleep thing as being "good at not sleeping," then I guess you've got me.  Months one and two post-Logan were doable.  But I'm rapidly running out of sanity on my continuing diet of 2 hours or less at a time.

Case and point?

On Friday, I sent the following e-mail about a student's reading test results:

He defintly needs phonics.  Struggles wth advanced voules and sometimes makes up letters that aren't there.  Comprehension does the same.
I recieved the following e-mail in return:
Everything okay with you?
Um... would you be referring to the fact that my specialty is Language Arts, I was ironically giving a reading test and my own e-mail reads like a Who's Who of bad grammar and spelling?
Have I mentioned that my family has been sick?  Casey brought it home to all of us on Monday.  Tuesday night, Leah was up all night coughing and Weds the doc confirmed it as croup.  Logan didn't get it until this weekend.  Thanks to a combination of $75 worth of vitamins and sheer dumb luck, I haven't had it yet. 
But I'm running on empty.  My well wasn't exactly deep to begin with, and caring for three sick-ies hasn't been the easiest of tasks.
So, to frame the crazy e-mail story, let's just put it in perspective.  Here's what my Thursday night looked like (after having already pulled solo-middle-of-the-night duty the previous two nights):
7:00 - fed a baby and put him to bed.
9:30 - Baby wakes up, Mommy feeds him.
10:00 - Mommy goes to bed.
12:00 - Baby wakes up.  Mommy wakes, cries (yep, that happened) and can't get up, so Daddy goes in to put him back to bed.
2:00 - Daddy goes in again.
2:30 - Daddy putting him to bed didn't take, Mommy goes in and feeds him.
3:00 - Big Sister wakes up, Mommy goes in.
3:30 - Baby wakes up, Mommy puts him back to bed.
4:30 - Big Sis up again, Mommy goes in.
5:00 - Alarm goes off.  Mommy seriously contemplates putting the pillow over her head and screaming.
Oh, this tired is on a whole new level. 
Logan was getting better at the concept of sleeping longer than two hours.  Casey began trying to help sleep train him after Christmas, and since then, there have been three nights when he slept the better part of the night.  Once, I got six hours.  In a row, I might add.  Another time I got 8 whole hours (and the light of heaven shown down and the angels sang) in 3 and 5 hour spurts.  It was glorious. 
Without Casey, though, the whole thing doesn't really work. I can't sleep train him, because when I go in it just reminds him that he'd really like to use me as a human pacifier. 

It's the Cheeseburger Theory. 
If you woke up in the middle of the night, hungry for a cheeseburger, and someone came in and held one in front of your face without letting you eat it, you'd be pretty ticked off too.  That's when the screaming really kicks into high gear (the baby, just in case that was unclear).
So, sometime in the foreseeable future, we'll get back to it.  In the mean time, I'm just trying to get through. 
Somehow, I don't think my CSAP scores will be topping the district this year...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Peter Pan effect

I don't wanna grow up.

More preciesely, I don't want my baby to grow up. 

With Leah, I could hardly contain my excitement to watch her take on each new phase of life.  Everything was sparkling shiny and new and full of funtastic-ness (new word alert! said the English teacher).  It was all entirely too much fun.  New foods?  Let's do it!  Talking?  Bring it on.  Crawling?  How much fun!

This time 'round, I'm all like,

please don't sit in that high chair! 
Please don't drink water from a sippy cup!

I know where this leads, and I don't like it.

Yes, this road begins a path that leads to the end of babyhood. 

Boy, that was fast.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Having it all: The biggest myth since Prince Charming

Ladies and Gentleman (but especially ladies):

Let's get real for a minute.  I think we know it deep down in our bones, and yet we continue to propagate this silly, unattainable myth. 

The post that I have gotten the absolute most flack about since I've been writing this blog is this one, which I wrote last year as I was contemplating Leah's birthday.  I'll admit that it surprised me that this one became such a conversation starter.  Please believe me when I say that I wasn't trying to be controversial, simply sharing my own experience.

Many of you have e-mailed to tell me that you're in a similar boat (mothers, all, I might add).  A few have written to express how selfish I'm being in setting the priorities of children and family above my friendships (singles all, either by admission or omission).  I even recieved one e-mail from a random someone who was quite enfuriated by the post and felt the need to tell me.  I believe the words naiive and stupid were bandied about.

While I'll never understand the idea of fishing through the internet with the intention of correcting the opinions of someone you've never met and whose circumstance you don't know, I will admit that it got me thinking.

I respect the perspective - the belief that mothers ought to remain as they always were; the ones who feel baited and switched after their friends (or employees, for that matter) have children - but I disagree.  Adamantly. 

It got me thinking about the messages that we send to women in our society.  Particularly the one that declares, "women can have it all."  I feel like that statement deserves three exclamation points and a poster of Rosie the Riveter for emphasis.

This list of things that women are supposed to be is long.  Ambitious career woman.  Nurturing mother. Healthy meal-preparer. Clean house-keeper. Thank you note-sender. Birthday party-planner.  Errand runner.  Patient teacher.  Master of fun activities.  School volunteer. Accountant.  Chauffer.  The list goes on (and on and on), all while keeping ourselves in good shape, making time to have cocktails with the girls Sex and the City-style and still keeping things spicy with the hubs.

Say it with me, people.  YEAH, RIGHT!

The way I'm learning to see life is as a pie chart.  Yep, a math analogy.  Probably the only one you will ever see me use.

There are times in each of our lives when the radius of our pie is bigger, meaning we can slice it up many ways and still serve sizeable pieces.  There are other times - the past seven months or so of my life, for example - when the size of our pie feels about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

Regardless of how large or small your pie is, the point is that you can only fit in so many things before the circle is full.  Period.  Making any one slice of pie bigger means another slice of pie somewhere has to be smaller. 

At the end of the day, this chart demonstrates the priorities of our lives. 

The important thing to remember here is that each of us gets to determine how big or small the slices of pie in our lives are.  Each of us has our own paradigm for how that circle should be divided up. 

For me in my life, the division of my pie is dramtically influenced by having children. 

Research has demonstrated the importance of the parental role in the lives and development of children.  The absolutely critical role of the caregiver.  Not to mention that as I teacher, I've observed many times what happens to a child when that role isn't filled well.  But it isn't this that impacts my own desires and priorities.  It is the intangible.  The magic that happens between a parent and a child.  My own desire to be present for my children on a daily basis.  To be the one who provides the feedback that my children need to grow and develop.  To be the one who rises with them in the morning and sings them to sleep at night. 

For me, as a woman, it is my highest and most challenging calling. 

I understand that not everyone feels that way.  I also understand that other people divide up the pie-charts of their every day differently.  It's okay. 

But I have to point out that this ideal that a woman should be so many things to so many people is, to me, as limiting as the 1950's ideal of womanhood.  We're so proud of our "liberating" femminism, but in my view we've traded one limited, narrow-minded paradigm of womanhood for another: the first was due to lack of options and the belief that women couldn't; the modern version creates an expectation that is both unrealistic and unattainable that all women should

The worst part, though, is that as women we are so critical and feel so empowered to judge each other based on this model. 

Shame on me for not being more open minded!  Shame on me for chosing to devote a larger piece of my pie to children instead of _______ (insert: friends, exercise, career, and the list goes on)!  Shame on me for not trying to have it all!

The truth?  I don't want it all.  I want my pie chart to be a reflection of the things I value most: God, family, children, home.  I want to do less, and do more well

And so I'll leave you with a final word (or 300).  One that resonated strongly with me. 

And then?  Seriously, let's just go easy on one another. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Crafts for the Un-crafty

Alternately titled: "How to steal art and put Bible verses on it."

Let's just get this out of the way right now.  I am not an artist. 

I would never pretend to be.  Even my stick people look like horses.  Although I desperately whish I was, I'm not exactly "crafty" either.  While I'd like to think that I know how to arrange a bookshelf and throw a super cute birthday party, that's about where my creative juices end. 

A lot of my design inspiration comes from the internet.  (In fact, even when I think I've found a creative, original idea, I tend of discover through the glory of the web that I'm not original at all and someone's already done it.  Better than I could have, for that matter.)

As I was browsing recently, I came across this, this and this.

My first thought was, "Cute!"

Then I saw the price, and my next thought was, "You've got to be kidding me!  Who pays $65 for one tiny picture?!" 

But after looking at it for a few minutes, the wheels got to turning.  "That doesn't look so hard.  I bet I could do that."  And because I have a husband who tends to think that too, he agreed with me. 

It's totally my kind of crafty project - the kind that doesn't involve drawing, sketching, painting or anything which I will inevitably make look like a horse. 

So, with the help of my extremely handy hubby, google images and photoshop, we came up with these.

**The important thing here is that you have a high resolution image to start with.  If you use an image that is too low quality, the edges of your image will be pixelated and jagged. 

Step 1: Save the image to your computer from google and open in photoshop.
Step 2: Create a mask of the shape using the magic wand tool.  *This will only work if you use a sillhouette or other uniformly-colored image.  If you find an image you like with multiple colors, you'll have to go about it a different way. 
Step 3: Fill the mask with the desired color.  You can either use the color wheel or pull the color directly from another image.
Step 4: Add the text.  Preferably, all artsy and fancy like.

Casey took the document to Kinkos and had them printed on off-white card stock, and I found the frames on sale at Michaels (for half off, thankyouverymuch!).  For a grand total of about $25, we were able to replicate the original art work that I liked.

The best part is, this could be done with anything that you love.  Any image, any saying.   We chose Bible verses and stuck pretty close to the original since I liked it to begin with, but there is really no limit to what you can create.  Lyrics of a favorite song or poem, quotes from a book, movie or eccentric family member, family names and birthdates... anything! 

Happy (non)crafting!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The best decade

To my beautiful children:

Your daddy and I are part of a love story.

Not the kind Jane Austen wrote about, or one that will ever be featured on a movie.  The kind of wonderful love story that happens in real life when two people come together and magic is the result.

It started on Christmas day on a bus on the way to San Antonio in college.  We watched the Buffs lose, had our first date at an overpriced restaurant on the Riverwalk and took a boat ride.  When we got back home, your daddy asked me the first question I'm really glad I said yes to. 

And in the ten years that have followed, we've had quite an incredible journey.  We finished college.  We got grown up jobs.  We bought a house and fixed it up.  We lived on one income so I could get my Master's degree.  We got married.  Twice.  We had a gorgeous baby girl and watched her grow.  We did all those crazy things in 2012.  And, of course, we've been blessed with another amazing little life.

That's a heck of a decade. 

I'd like to think we've learned a few things along the way.

So, in no particular order, in honor of our 10 year anniversary, here are ten things I absolutely adore about your father:

He always opens doors for me.  'Cause he's like that.  I'd like to tell you he did this throughout our whole relationship, and perhaps he did.  But even more meaningfully, he has always - always - done it since Leah was born, because I tend to have my hands full.

He supports my dreams.  When I told him I wanted to go back to school and quit my job, he was my #1 cheerleader.  There was no hesitation, just a sincere desire to make it work.  When I wanted to try for a baby - waaay ahead of when we had talked about - he was game. 

We can always talk it out.  I won't tell you that we don't fight.  We do.  Everybody does.  But the thing I love about your daddy is that we both try - hard - to fight with dignity and respect.  The goal isn't to win the argument, because where there is a winner, there has to also be a loser.  The goal is always to talk it out, even when we don't see eye to eye.  To come to a mutual understanding that works for both parties.

He makes sacrifices for his family.  This is such a big deal to me.  This is the highest calling of a man, in my opinion.  God charges him with loving his family as He loved the church; in other words, enough to give up his life.  Your daddy understands and embraces this, and is a dedicated husband and father.  That kind of man should be celebrated and admired.

He holds my hand in public.  And sits on the same side of the booth with me at a restaurant.  And snuggles with me when we sit on the couch.

He never laughs at my crazy ideas.  Like when I said, "hey, we should build a desk."  Instead of scoffing at how much work that would be, he thought about it for a moment and responded, "we could do that."  I love that about him.  If it won't work, he'll tell me, but not before genuinely considering all the possibilities that might make it work.  Our skills and strengths compliment one another's beautifully; we are a much stronger whole than the sum of either of our individual parts.

He changes diapers.  And does dishes.  And laundry.  In other words, he doesn't think that all the "home" things are the sole responsibility of me, the wife.  Real men do those things, because they understand that they're part of a partnership that's only as good as what each person puts in.

He likes home as much as I do.  We could go out.  He could have boys' night and play poker or pool.  (I'm sure sometimes he wants to.)  But much more often, he'd rather stay home, give babies a bath and enjoy our family and the life we've created.  We're both that way, thankfully.

He wants to be a good husband and father.  I say "wants to be" not because he isn't both of those things, but because good husbands and fathers are not born, they are made.  Made through hard work and effort.  Through mistakes.  Through tears of sadness and joy.  Through understanding that the job of a husband and father is every bit as important and takes every ounce as much effort as what he puts into his career.  Miss Leah: Don't sacrifice for anything less in a husband than a man who understands this and lets that desire guide his actions and thoughts.  My darling boy: You have a wonderful example in your father.  Follow him, and remember that a family is the greatest blessing God can give you.  Don't take it for granted.

He makes me feel loved every day.  He tells me with his words and shows me in his actions.  He brings me flowers for no reason.  He thinks I'm beautiful, and he never, ever oogles other women in my presence.  He is my best friend and my partner.  He makes me laugh, and doesn't make me cry.  He makes my dreams come true.  That sounds like a lot of reasons, but they are all ways in which he confirms his love. 

I often say what a lucky momma I am.  And there is no doubt, it's true.  But I hope I also say enough what a lucky, lucky woman I am to have such an incredible man to spend my life with. 

He was wonderful when I met him as a 19 year old boy.  But now, he is better than I could have ever imagined.  We are both better than I could have ever imagined.  We have grown together.  We have found strength in one another to overcome life's obstacles.

On our wedding day, we heard these words:
" Let me charge you both to remember that your future happiness will be found in mutual consideration, admiration, and affection.  It is the duty of each to find the greatest joy in the company of the other; to speak in wisdom, not in anger; to always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.  Rejoice in life’s seemingly small, imperfect moments, as it is these moments that will one day make up the rich tapestry of your lives.  May you never take each other’s love for granted, but always experience the miracle of knowing, 'Out of all this world, you have chosen me.'  When life on Earth is done, may you be found then as now, hand in hand, still thanking God for one another."

 I thank God for you every day.  Thank you for the best decade.

So far...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New year, new beginnings

One of our biggest goals for 2013 is to transform this house into a home. 

Forget spring cleaning - we're talking total reformation from top to bottom.  We're going Exorcist- style on this house. 

Already I have to take a deep breath, because it's a b-i-i-i-g job.  BIG.  We have a lot of work to do, and that's on top of the fact that, although it doesn't exactly look like it, a lot of work has been done already. 

The project we've started with is re-working our entry so that it actually, well... works.  This is still very much a work in progress, but I am so excited with how things are beginning to come together.  I suppose that's a slight exaggeration, but they're showing signs that one day they might come together.

Here's the before. 
Drab woodwork, a giant (*giant*) mirror hanging on the wall, and don't even get me started on the fact that there were holes in the wall, and someone had allowed kids to take their crayons and nailpolish to the walls and go at it. 
Here's the after.
Please pardon the ladder, and the fact that we're clearly not done.  I told you, this is a work in progress.  The point is, it's getting there...
A fresh coat of white on the stairs, and new color and accent color throughout the entryway. 
Casey showed of his mad skills in the electrical wiring department. 
And patched the holes in the wall.  The paint was soooo refreshing.  I can't tell you how satisfying it was to paint over all the tragedy that had been inflicted on our walls.  Crayon?  Meet my paint roller.
The best part might be that the massive mirror - which made you do a total double-take when you walked in the door and saw full-size "people" walking around ahead of you - is GONE!!  All that mythology about breaking a mirror being bad luck? 
Yeah, I'm feeling like one lucky girl. 
Now, when you walk into our home, you see this:

Oh-ho soooo much better!
I have to brag on my own creativity for just a minute, because I was particularly impressed with this idea:
This one came to me because... well, truth be told, my family is a bit slovenly.  We're never going to be those people who neatly place our coats, shoes and bags in the closet every time we walk in the door.  We're more the "just dump it" types, which creates a big, heap-y mess that no one can walk around. 
These hooks give us a place to hang things so that they're out of the way and slightly organized.  And the big girl is quite excited to have her very own special hook within her reach.  It's coupled with a storage bench which contains our shoes and gives us a place to sit while we put them and take them off.  Picture coming when all the paint accessories currently stashed there find their way back into the garage... ahem.
I know it's not exactly Home and Gardens perfect from a design perspective, but it is functional, and works for us and our lifestyle. 
We still have a substantial amount to do: paint the rest of the wood and moldings, finish the patches and the paint, paint the front and closet doors...  But we're getting there.  And this feels like a HUGE step in the right direction. 
Be prepared.  You'll be seeing a LOT of remodeling posts this year.  Game on.

I changed my font at