Merritt: 2 months

This little kiddo hit 2 months old on Saturday

Crazy talk.

And the comparison shot with Merritt and Zoe both at 2 months

The BIG difference this month is that she is SUCH a happier baby now, yay!!! It took a little bit of us trying to figure things out to get there. But we did, hooray! First we discovered she was extra super gassy, and now she takes medicine for that and it helps a lot. Then we found out she has acid reflux and she takes medicine for that as well (which helps a lot too). But she was still having a lot of fussies so I eliminated dairy from my diet and literally almost instantly she was SO MUCH HAPPIER. Chris is lactose intollerant and I think baby girl just has a more sensitive GI tract. I know it's fairly common with little babies, and our little just happens to be one of those kiddos who seems to be a bit more sensitive this early on. I know they can "grow out of it," so we'll see if she's still as sensitive to dairy as she gets older. We also discovered that she doesn't like spicy foods as well. Luckily I'm not a super spicy person anyway, so that one isn't the bummer to me like dairy is (I LOVE ice cream and cheeeeeessseeee).

It is so much better having a happier baby - for everyone. I'm so happy that she's not uncomfortable all the time and seems to enjoy life more :) She is full of smiles these days, which I love to see. I love rolling her over onto her back when she wakes up from a nap, seeing her refocus and wake up and then she gets a big ol' giant smile on her face when she realizes it's you right there in front of her. Makes my mommy heart melt.

She also smiles a lot at Zoe and seems to really like to have her around. It's weird, they already seem to have a really great and special connection. It's crazy how fast it seems to have formed. Zoe LOVES the baby and our biggest problem with her and the baby still is her not being able to hold and see her whenever she wants. She doesn't like it when Merritt cries and will walk over to her, pat her, hug her and tell her, "It's okay baby." Merritt also seems to calm down when Zoe is around. One morning Merritt was just SCREAMING her lungs out, and Zoe came into the room: boom, quiet in an instant. It was crazy. I love how much they already seem to love each other. It's a special bond I hope never goes away.

Merritt is full of smiles, but no laughing yet. She does have a very noisy smile and will make cute little noises when she smiles her giant smile. I love that. It's almost like she's trying to laugh, but can't quite yet. Cutie.

She LOVES to stare at the mobile above their changing table. Zoe went through a phase where she enjoyed it, but Merritt LOVES it. She could be crying and be so upset and the second she goes down on the table and I spin that mobile around she's got a big fat grin on her face. Sometimes the mobile gets her so worked up that she kicks her legs, flails her arms and lets out little whooping, cooing noises. It's hilarious. And adorable.

Sleep has been slowly improving and better with kiddo #2. Tracking her sleep has gotten our morning nap nailed down and her bedtime, so that is awesome at just 2 months. The later naps are still up in the air, they just depend on how much she sleeps that first nap. She doesn't like to be away more than 90 minutes before she wants to take another nap. She likes her sleep :)

Bedtime for her is 6:15-6:40, depending on how the day goes. That really seems to be when she has the best time going down. We haven't had a night of SCREAMING in a while, so that is wonderful. She does seem to be going through a phase right now where it takes her almost 2 hours to finally get to sleep. She'll fall asleep for 5-20 minutes, then somehow get woken up and be upset that she's not asleep anymore. She doesn't cry too bad, more of a little wimper, "Someone come help me please..."

She has a habit during the day of waking up when her first sleep cycle is done and then having a hard time getting back to bed. Sometimes it takes 20-45 minutes to get her back asleep (again, like her trouble falling asleep at night: getting to sleep for 5-20 minutes and then something waking her up, but during the day it's more like fall asleep for 1-5 minutes and then something wakes her up). We're slowly improving though, so I'm glad.

She still loves to sleep on her belly, so that's what we're going with. I know nowadays that's a SIDS concern, but honestly, the kid HATES to sleep on her back and screams bloody murder, so what are you going to do? She's happy on her belly, she can hold her head up, so we just go with it. The kid needs to sleep and she's just not going to do it on her back.

Nighttime has also improved in that she usually only wakes 1-2 times and then will go back to sleep (and last night she made it to 3am and only woke once, HOOOOOORAY!) Sometimes she has trouble getting back to sleep, but we're working on that too. We are already putting her down (both for naps and nighttime) still partially awake so that she can teach herself to fall asleep, so I know that's part of the challenge. We did this with Zoe and she is now GREAT at falling asleep on her own. We hardly ever rock or nurse her to bed, and I know that can make things challenging in the beginning as they are figuring so much stuff out, but I don't want to start a habit that we'll have to break.

Nursing has been a little bit challenging so far. Merritt is definitely more particular than Zoe was about feeding. Zoe could eat anywhere and had no problem with it. But Zoe also wanted to eat ALL THE TIME. Merritt will usually eat every 3-4 hours and dump each boob each time. She however is very particular about where she eats. She doesn't want it noisy or somewhere she's unfamiliar with. If she's not comfortable, she won't eat. Point blank. She also won't nurse if she's too tired and wants to sleep. I've got to get her before she's too sleepy and in a place that she can relax in. The girl knows what she wants :)

I went back to work at the A's this month and have scaled back my schedule a lot. I used to work almost every home game and now I don't work mid-week day games and never two days in a row, which means about 1/3 to 1/2 the home games. It's just not worth making myself over tired and not spending as much time with her when she's so little. Plus, it's hard getting both those kiddos down for bed all by yourself, so night games are a bit challenging because it's two against one at bedtime for Chris.

Chris and I seem to make big kids. At the doctor yesterday she was:
Height: 24" (97%)
Weight: 11 lbs, 3.3 oz (50%, we've got a beanpole)
Head: 16 1/2" (100%)
It's very interesting to me because I was always so tiny growing up, so I'll be interested to see if both of them keep on the trend of being so tall (Zoe is ALMOST in 4T clothes and she just turned 2 in June). Merritt's growing out of some of her 3-6 month clothes. She's still in them right now, but some of them are starting to get a bit snug.

The crazy thing to me is that both girls look like each other, but Zoe looks like Chris and Merritt looks like me. It's so interesting that they can look alike, and yet like each very different looking parent. Chris is pale skinned with light hair and I'm olive with almost black hair. And the even crazier thing is that I could end up having two kids with blue eyes and I have brown eyes and Chris has green eyes. I would have thought statistically (and genetically) that at least one of them would have brown eyes, but Zoe's have definitely stayed VERY blue and Merritt's eyes are blue for the time being. Hers have plenty more time to change color, but they are a very dark steel blue with light blue on the inside around the pupil. It'll be interesting to see how they change.

Well, I think that's about it for the 2 month mark. I'm looking forward to more progress next month and seeing what her new discoveries are! I love just how much they learn and observe in these first few months. It really is such an overwhelming time for them, so much to process and discover. But I think she's up for the task :)

Love that girl :)


Picardy Poll: What's Your Favorite Metal for Hardware?

It's been a while since I've done one of these suckers and I really like them. I LOVE to see what people think.

I've been thinking a lot about this one lately as brass has suddenly come back in style. I must confess, I still really dislike it, but when it's tarnished I don't despise it, so I guess there's that ;) Although I must say this bathroom and kitchen look pretty snazzy

Bathroom Bliss. Master Bath walk-in shower with rose gold fixtures and hardware.
from here

5 KITCHEN TRENDS FOR 2015 THAT YOU'LL LOVE. From StyleBlueprint.com How gorgeous is this? Black cabinets with brass fixtures
from here

We have of course used oil rubbed bronze throughout our house, which I know has been fairly trendy in the last several years

our bathroom

In our defense though, when you look through books of storybook homes there are A LOT of dark metals used. And the original hardware that was left in place was wrought iron, so we wanted to stay true to our home's architecture. 

When working on my dad and Wendy's house I really, really pushed chrome. I think it looks pretty foxy. I'm hoping to use these knobs on a project I'm currently sort of, maybe starting work on for my brother (we're in limbo at the moment)

Emtek 820NW
found here

And then of course there's the old staple: satin nickel

Martha Stewart Living 3 in. Polished Nickel Finial Cabinet Hardware Pull-P20647C-PN-CP at The Home Depot
found here

I've never really been a fan of satin nickel. It feels relatively forgettable to me. But that's just me.

Now that you've heard my opinion (because I'm never shy about giving it :) hehehehehehehehe), what about you?

What's Your Favorite Metal for Hardware


The Plan

The plan? Well, time to talk about that.

Let's be honest: I've said it once - I've said it 400 times - this market is fucking insane. And as much as we would like to move, it probably isn't the smartest decision now. If we stay living here we'll be saving money every month, living a less stressful life without renovating with an infant, and we'll get to wait for a house that really fits the bill instead of feeling like we have to settle. After all, we're looking for our dream house, forever house, whatever you want to call it. There have been several houses that we have liked and thought about putting an offer on, but nearly all of them would have required large compromises. And they all would have required a LARGE mortgage payment. And the more and more I think about it, I really do not want to be house poor. I would rather wait a little longer for a crash (or at least a dip) and get a house for $100,000 less, which would mean $500 less a month on a mortgage payment, which would mean $6,000 a year more in our bank account, which would mean $60,000 more in 10 years and almost $200,000 in 30 years. And that's not even accounting for how much that would actually increase with interest and smart investments.


I've been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks. Chris and I work really hard. We're young and there are certainly people who have worked much harder for much longer, but between the two of us and all of our jobs and raising two kids we put in some really long hours. And working for yourself it's really hard to ever turn down work. And the work is FLOODING in right now. Chris has turned down more work in the last month than probably the last 6 months combined. We're getting really picky about what we take, trying to send stuff out to other people we've worked with before, taking on more management projects so it's less fatigue on Chris' body, etc. But still, we sometimes get 4 new client phone calls and 3 new client emails in one day. It is a WONDERFUL problem to have, but it still makes life more stressful. Chris works a full - and very physical - day, comes home, plays with the girls, helps me put them to bed, returns new client emails and phone calls, invoices people for the work he's done, corresponds with clients he has projects going on with, and pretty soon it's 10pm and he's been up and at it since 7. Meanwhile, I'm up with the girls, getting them ready, shuttling Zoe to a grandparent's house or day care or spending the day at the zoo with her, taking care of Merritt, trying to make sure I feed myself, doing filing, billing and back end office work for our business, emailing, researching, or bill paying for my brother's business and then some nights heading off to work at the A's. Pretty soon it's 10pm and I'm crawling into bed after I get home, and I've been up and at it since 7am.

I don't want a pity party at all. I know everyone works hard. But I think the hard work is wearing on Chris and I bit. In a perfect world we want to make more passive income, work a little less and enjoy life a bit more. My brother's real estate business goes bonkers when the market isn't so hot (it's better to make real estate investments if you have the capital in a lower market because the potential return is much greater), so we're hoping that when the next wave hits we're able to invest some of our money with my brother's company, work for him more managing projects (less clients involved so a better chance for less stress) and take on more project management work for our clients. Or at least less physically taxing work for Chris. I know he doesn't want to be on his hands and knees tiling when he's 55.

One thing that would make life less stressful is making a lower mortgage payment. We have goals of how much we'd like to bill every month and have been meeting or exceeding that (which is wonderful), but as is the nature of working for yourself: you never know how much you're going to make in a given month. So not having a GINORMOUS payment to make every month would certainly ease the burden and stress. It would also allow us to save more money every month because as self employed people no one is helping pay for "retirement" but us. And one day we would like to retire. Or at least work a lot less.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that we'll probably be here at Picardy for longer than we initially thought. Maybe another 6 months, maybe another 2 years? Who knows. It really depends on what happens with the market. That doesn't mean we've stopped looking, but it definitely means we're being a lot more selective. Over the weekend we checked out this place...

4260 Coolidge Ave, Oakland, CA 94602

4260 Coolidge Ave, Oakland, CA 94602

4260 Coolidge Ave, Oakland, CA 94602

...but it didn't work for us. Still too high of a price. But it was worth a looksy.

When we were looking for Picardy it wasn't in the depths of the market, but it was pretty low, and there were actually a fair amount of fixers out there for us to look at. They were also at prices that we didn't mind paying at all. Now when we look at a place we wonder just how long it'll take us to save up for kitchen cabinets.

With that in mind I've been thinking about how we'll shift things around here. First off is definitely the girl's sleeping arrangement. Right now Zoe's got a room to herself

And Merritt is in our room with us. I'm thinking that either around the time Merritt starts sleeping through the night, or when she shifts to one nap a day (if Zoe is still taking hers at that time), we'll move them into the same room. Of course the room Zoe is in now is teeny and it would be pretty crazy to stick the two of them in there together, so my office will turn into their room

I still need to purge more art supplies and donate the ones I really don't use. Some office and art supplies will stay in here high up on the shelf just for storage's sake, but most of this will become their room. I'll get rid of some more of my stuff (the sewing table for instance, I just don't sew enough anymore to warrant the space a table just for the sewing machine takes up), but most of it will move to the office with Chris

We'll reconfigure this space to work more efficiently for the two of us to work together. Before that happens though we need to repair the ceiling in here

We had it tested for asbestos and everything was okay, so we just need to scrape it down, repair, skim coat, texture and paint. Not too bad. I'll probably scrape it down and have been hoping to get that on my to do list in the next couple of weeks.

It would also be nice to finally get the laundry room cabinets out of our front room

Just so that we can finally use this space again for SOMETHING.

The laundry room is definitely waiting for its storage, sigh...

Chris wired an outlet several weeks ago where the smaller base cabinet will go, so that's progress!

While I would be excited to move on to our next BIG project of finding the "forever" home, there are still many ways to make this house work for the time being. And it still allows me a chance to be creative and make the girl's space their own, even if it still feels a bit like a leftover for them. It'll also be nice to share an office with Chris and make that space more efficient for us as well. And the possibility of having our front room back in play as a space we can use would be stupendous (how long have those cabinets been sitting there???) All in all, this house can definitely work super great for us for the time being. The girls will have their space and we'll have an office. We still really wish we had extra storage space for client materials and a larger yard for the girls to run around and play in (Zoe LOVES to be outside), and because I'm selfish I do wish Zoe and Merritt had their own rooms, but those are the items that will have to wait for now. I'm hoping that maybe we can get the office and their room ready within the next 6 months. That would be my goal. Zoe was sleeping on her own by 8 months, but wasn't down to one nap a day till about 14. I'm hoping that Merritt makes it through the night sooner, but I think just for convenience of sharing a room it would be nice that they be on the same napping schedule so they could play in their room and not have to worry about the other one taking a nap. Being on the same schedule and sharing a room would let them play and sleep at the same times.

So, here is my question for you folks: this blog started out as a renovation blog. And while we're mostly done with renovating there will be another 6-10 months more of shifting those rooms around and working on them (though it will be slow going), but when that's done, and while it's going on what would you be interested in reading about? I realize this blog is for myself and I can write about whatever the hell I want to, but I also was wondering if you guys had any ideas? There will probably be a period when little to no renovating is going on and I still want to keep the blog going, so fill me with ideas of what I can write about. Go! :)


Oh, Hey, Drawer Fronts!

If you follow us on Facebook, you would have seen that oooohhhhh almost 2 months ago Chris installed the fronts on our bed drawers! Yes, that's fucking right, work was done on our bed! Our bed that has sat unfinished since Zoe was a little tiny baby! Let us also remember that this is a project we started back in AUGUST OF 2013! Holy jesus fucking christ we need to get our shit together and finish this thing. I keep hounding Chris that when we DO finish it he needs to write a post called "Why I'll Never Build Another Bed," lol. This project has killed us.

Let's take a trip down memory lane.

This is what our bedroom looked like when we decided shortly before Zoe was born that we should redo our bedroom

God I'm glad it doesn't look like this anymore.

Then we decided that we would finally build our bed in August of 2013. That's right, we had no bed frame before that and our mattress was on the floor. That meant for my entire pregnancy with Zoe I got up and down from the mattress on the floor night after night to make my nightly pees. It wasn't as unpleasant as it sounds. I probably would have been REALLY pissed off with pregnancy #2 though.


We had a plan and we got to building

And in January of 2013 we moved the bed into the room. No more sleeping on the floor!

baby leg rolls!

Then it took us another, ohhhh 3 months to get drawers in there

And then the bed sorta sat like that. For about a year and a half. I can't help but laugh at us. But well, we had an almost 1 year old, we were just about to go out on our own full time starting our own business, it was the middle of baseball season (when I used to work nearly every home game) and in another few months I would be pregnant again. So, I guess looking back on it I totally understand why it took us a long time :)

But alas, Chris did get those drawer fronts on at the very end of June (and I've totally forgotten to post about it apparently). I didn't get any good photos of the work being done because, well, Merritt was just a week old so she was attached to me and Zoe was at my dad and Wendy's house that day. I was still in survival mode :) I remember hearing very LOUD noises coming from our bedroom though and I wondered what the fuck was going on. Chris had all the doors closed in an attempt to not freak the baby out and wake her from her slumber. Eventually after this went on for close to 40 minutes I wandered in there wondering what the hell he was doing (well, I actually suspected he was putting the drawer fronts on, but I didn't want to get too excited). I came across this

Praise the LORD! :)

Also, do you like the state of the top of our bed in that photo? Clearly MUCH laundry needed to be done (and I was getting out my regular clothes from the attic as motivation to get a "new" wardrobe once I had lost enough baby weight).

What do the fronts look like? Well, here's a really shitty cell phone pic I took 2 minutes ago

Why is it a shitty cell phone pic? Well, because there's a sleeping baby on the bed and I didn't want to even take a SLIVER of a chance of waking her

Yes, yes, I know you're not supposed to put babies to sleep on their bellies when they are this little. But little one can hold her head up and she HATES to sleep on her back. This is just about the only position she'll sleep in (or strapped to your chest in the Ergo). So we'll take what we can get. Would you like to see smushy baby face cuteness?

Smushy! I still can't get over how much hair she already has compared to Zoe at the same age.

Oh, but back to that bed. We still need to install the hardware...

But honestly, after that, I think the bed is OFFICIALLY finished. Holy crap in my pants I can't believe it's almost DONE. Then I really need to do a budget breakdown for this project because it actually didn't come out to that much cheaper than buying one. Oh well. And Chris needs to write that post about why he would never do this again. At least we can say we built it ourselves...?


How to Survive Near Constant Crying/Fussing From your Newborn

Our first month ESPECIALLY with Merritt was a doozy. Literally it felt like every. single. waking. moment with her she was crying. It really sucked for 2 reasons: 1) I feared I may go insane and 2) I felt so, so, so bad for the little one. The scream crying is the worst and just makes my heart ache for them. It's also a knife in the chest of insanity. But the love definitely trumps the insanity.

I am BY NO MEANS AT ALL an expert on what makes a kid not cry, but I think Chris and I sort of, kind of, maybe, in a small way figured out a way to at least cope with the constant crying and fussing those first several weeks (and the fussing continued past that, it just wasn't quite as constant. Thank god.) Here are the things I think at least helped us through that time:

1. It helps to have a partner

And this one just flat out sucks if you're doing it alone. And holy fucking shit I don't know how single parents do it alone. For Chris and I it basically always worked out that one of us was slightly less annoyed than the other, so that person was the picker-upper. One of us was on the edge of our seat of insanity having had a bad night of sleep, or a hard day of work, or just tired of crying, and it ALWAYS helped to have the other one tap us out and relieve us of baby duty. Having someone who can even just spell you for 15 minutes makes a difference. It allows you to recharge, even ever so slightly. And the nights when she would cry for 3-5 hours near constantly we usually tapped each other out pretty frequently. One of us bouncing her, rocking her, holding her, feeding her, etc., and then relieving the other when it got to be too much. Because it does get to be too much at times. A partner always helps.

2. Try to remember that you love your partner

This one sounds a little stupid, but sometimes you can forget how much you do in fact actually love your partner. The day to day tasks of raising kids become a job and your partner has become more of your co-worker. And for Chris and I, we actually are co-workers because we run a business together, so it's extra important for us to remind ourselves that we are in a LOVING relationship, and not just one of work and raising hooligans. Remember to say, "I love you," when you leave and give each other smooches. Just a hug in the hallway is nice and reminding the other person why they're special to you. I know this sounds like an after school special, but in all honesty I feel like it makes a difference. That bond with your partner is an important source of strength in raising your kiddos, so it's important to remember that it's there.


There is a lot of science behind exercise making us happier people. And I believe it. I find I am a much bigger bitch when I don't exercise (I'm always a bit of a bitch, but that's part of my charm). Of course in those first couple of weeks you're not "allowed" to exercise, but that doesn't mean you can't walk. I strapped that little nugget into a carrier and walked and walked and walked around the neighborhood with her. It satisfied 3 things: 1) it helped her fall asleep, 2) it helped me feel close to her and 3) it helped me feel happy because I was getting my body moving, sweating and feeling like I was getting something done. After every single walk with her I felt better. Sometimes I didn't want to do them, but I always knew that after I would feel so much better, and that was great motivation. Once you get a doctor's clearance you can resume normal exercising (if that was your jam beforehand like it was mine), but even if you aren't a gym goer, or runner, or otherwise, those walks can really make a difference in your mental and physical health.

4. Pick something exciting to watch

You WILL be up late at night or at weird hours, so you might as well entertain yourself. We slept with Zoe in our bed as well as Merritt and in order to have this be successful we turned the brightness on the TV WAY down and basically listen to it on mute with closed captioning. If you sleep with the baby outside of the room, this is way easier. I know this sounds terrible and many people do not advocate TV in the bedroom, but hey, Chris and I do. This was a life saver at times. When I normally would loathe going to bed for fear of the screaming, I would look forward to whatever show we were binge watching. With Zoe it was American Dad (and we got through SEVERAL seasons), and with Merritt it was Newsroom. We made it through the Newsroom fairly quickly and haven't found something yet that we love just as much, but it really makes a difference. I enjoyed being able to watch a show that was entertaining or interesting and it was a great distraction from the crying. This may or may not work for you, but it definitely worked for us.

5. Make sure you do SOMETHING for yourself

Chris and I have instituted a policy that we each get two nights a week where we get an hour to ourselves after the girls go to bed (we're trying desperately to get Merritt on a regular schedule faster than it took us with Zoe). Sometimes this doesn't work out because Merritt has a particularly bad night and we follow Rule #1, but more often than not we stick to it. I usually spend my time writing posts :) or working on an art project. It's a nice moment that we have to ourselves to recharge a bit. Having alone time is SO IMPORTANT and it feels like you're giving yourself a treat. Which you definitely fucking deserve.

6. Have a mom date (or, alternatively a dad date)

NO ONE knows what you're going through like another mom (or another dad). It helps SO MUCH to get to cry, vent, talk or just be around another mom. I am very lucky to have many girlfriends with kids around the same age and we have play dates or even text dates. Getting to understand that it's not just madness in your own house can give you peace of mind. It helps to commiserate. You tend to think the toughness is only being fought by you - but every. single. mom knows what it feels like to want to go to the bathroom and lock the door. Because we've all done it. Remember, our friends are here to support and love us, so make sure you share that.

7. Make sure to ask the Dr.

Sometimes they really are crying for some reason. We noticed Merritt jerking around and making a gagging reflex, so we made sure to call the doctor to make sure that she wasn't just crying for no reason - we wanted to make sure there wasn't something wrong. Sure enough the poor kiddo has REALLY bad gas AND acid reflux. Since getting medicine for both it definitely helped her fussiness. That's not to say it completely went away (wouldn't that be wonderful), but it certainly helped (and eliminating dairy has made another improvement). And nothing makes for happier parents than to know that your kid isn't suffering (or isn't suffering as much). She no longer has the gagging and she is able to pass her gas A LOT better, and that is wonderful to see.

8. Track it

Zoe is a kid that needs to be on a schedule. We tried to acclimate her to us as soon as she came out, but that was a dissaster. She wants scheduled naps and bedtimes and she responded to it amazing well once we figured her out. So for round 2 I started tracking Merritt's sleep habits at about 3 weeks. I track when she wakes up, how many naps she takes, how long they are, whether there are patterns, whether those patterns impact her evening sleep, etc. Since I started tracking things we definitely locked down her first morning nap. The afternoons are still a bit more of a question mark, but I have noticed that a longer mid afternoon naps tends to contribute to a better evening of sleep. The sooner you can figure out how happily your baby likes to sleep, the sooner you will have a happy baby. At least for us.

9. Accept that it's going to be HARD

I don't think I was really fully aware of how hard it was going to be, much like when I became a first time parent. I hear people say, "Oh, we have such an easy baby, I thought it would be so much harder!" Seriously? I want to punch those people in the face. I'm glad that they have an "easy" baby, but I also jealously wonder, "How THE FUCK did they luck out with such an easy baby?" Neither of our children - so far - have been little chill zen babies. We make crazies - just like we are :) What goes along with that is just coming to the realization that life is going to be HARD until you get used to things. You're going to feel like you're treading water, and sometimes even drowning, but just know that there are BILLIONS of other people who have survived. I try to think about that when I see some idiot out in the world do something really stupid: "That moron raised a kid, I probably have my life together more, I CAN DO THIS!" It really is a marathon though, and we're all there with you.

10. Cry

Yup, just do it. Sometimes (maybe even every day. I'm on an every 3 days bout right now) you just gotta LET IT ALL OUT AND CRY. It's okay. We all do it. Hell, that baby in the other room is doing it. We may have more emotional tools to deal with our frustration than they do, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel better to just grab your friend, parent or partner and just sob into their shoulder. I've been known on occasion to go lock myself in the bathroom and sob. That's what the lock on the bathroom is for, right?

11. Celebrate the little victories, because you will feel like a failure. A lot

The other day I had both kids napping at the same time and I almost pissed my pants. Before that, TWO nights in a row Merritt put herself to sleep without screaming bloody murder. And we went to a kite festival a couple weeks ago and the kid looked THIS HAPPY

There will be victories, and you NEED to celebrate them. You NEED to think you are awesome. You NEED to think you are doing a good job. Being a parent is a fucking marathon, and those victories are your water breaks and mile makers - it is SO GLORIOUS to see them. Give yourself a pat on the fucking back when those things happen. It is so easy to only remember the rough things, but there are so many moments you don't want to forget because those great moments are what you need to think about when you just feel like you're failing. We have those failing moments and we feel so helpless, so remember those moments when we felt like we were kicking life's ass. Because those are even more important.


I think part of the reason I get SO frustrated (and Chris too) is that we really expect a lot out of Zoe and Merritt. Zoe makes a mess with her toys and we want her to pick them up. If she hurts someone, she needs to say sorry. She wants to cook, then she has to learn to try and not spill everywhere. With Merritt we want her to learn to put herself to sleep. It's rough with the crying, but these are the lessons we really want our kids to know. It's tough to pay attention SO MUCH, but it makes for a better kid in the long run the more you pay attention. Sure, it would be a lot easier to just sit them in front of the TV (and believe me, that's the only way I get a shower most days), but the energy you put into your kids - even if it tires you the fuck out - pays off in the end. Zoe is great at picking up and won't leave day care until she's picked up her toys and whenever she hears a kid crying she insists on going over to them and giving them a hug. It is great to see things pay off - the things we put so much work into actually functioning properly (sometimes). And that's the lesson: the more work we put in, the bigger the payoff. It's certainly more exhausting, but it ends up being more rewarding.

So, there you have it. I have certainly NOT mastered all of these things by any means at all, but they are the lessons Chris and I try to remind ourselves each and every day. And those smiles, hugs and development are so worth it. Even if there are some tears along the way.


How to Properly Paint a Room

Disclaimer: I've been wanting Chris to write this post for so long. He's an awesome painter (painted his way through college) and taught me the tricks of the trade as well. Most people think painting is "easy" and although it can be, a good paint job and a bad paint job can really make or break a room. I can't stand going into a restaurant, or store, or home and just see horribly painted spaces. It's really easy to mess up, be sloppy and not use good materials. A great paint job though sets a great base for a room and makes a difference. Without further ado...

Meryl wanted me to write a bit about painting efficiently and effectively. So, here it goes.

I'm pretty lazy sometimes, but I've learned over time it's best to put dropcloths everywhere to start. You'll spend more time cleaning up splatter than you will laying down the cloths. Just do it.

Don't go crazy with the masking tape. It's usually more trouble than it's worth. For cut-ins you're better off using a steady hand (more on that below) and for most other stuff there are ways of avoiding it. If you're cutting in around ceiling lights or smoke alarms or outlet covers...you shouldn't be. Take down lighting canopies, smoke alarms, and switch/receptacle plate covers before painting. Quicker and better job than it would be trying to paint around them. Masking around window muntins sometimes makes sense. Other times it's better to just brush the muntin and clean the glass with a straight razor afterwards. Other than windows, it's pretty rare that I find myself using masking tape while painting inside.

Prep is key. Most clean surfaces don't need much prep, to be honest. If you want to do everything by the book then even a clean surface should be given a light sanding prior to painting to provide a good key for the new paint to grab onto. This is a good idea with semi-gloss paint, but I don't bother with eggshell or flat. Using a quality paint can let you skip steps if you know what you're doing. If the surface is dirty or has any kind of peeling or trouble areas then you'll need to do more prep. I could write a whole post just on this topic, but the basics are that you want new paint to go on a clean, sound, dry surface. Prep is about getting that to happen. A basic job will include light patching, sanding, caulking, and priming. Caulk where trim meets the wall, patch with a decent spackling (lightweight spackle, drydex, mh patch, etc.) where there may be small holes, and prime (glidden gripper or zinsser 1-2-3) over any stains or patches. This is something a homeowner can do without trouble. If you have a lot of peeling paint, wallpaper, bad staining, etc. then it will require more specialized prep. There are a lot of specialized patching compounds, paints, and primers that can solve a variety of problems, but that gets pretty far into the weeds.

Box paint. This means if you need to buy two gallons of paint for a room, you need to mix them together before you start. Pour them both into a 5 gallon bucket. Even if paint is mixed with the same formula, it can vary can by can. The way to avoid mismatched paint on the wall when you're finished with the first gallon and move to the second is to pour them each into a large bucket and mix them together before you start.

Sequencing. I'll assume the room has crown, base, and casing. Paint all the trim first with your first coat. Carry the paint onto the adjacent surface - no need to be fussy at this point. Second coat the crown. Next, cut in the ceiling to crown with the ceiling color and then roll the ceiling; do this twice. Then cut-in the wall color to the crown and roll the walls; do this twice. Finally, do your second coat on the casing and base. I like this order because you don't have to worry about splatter on the base or casing because you're going to give it a second coat last anyway. I prefer to cut-in from the wall to the trim, instead of trying to cut-in the trim to the wall; I've just found it a lot easier.

Cut-in tips. If the corner that you're cutting in is rough (like a textured wall or ceiling meeting each other) then it may make sense to run a good bead of caulking there beforehand to get a smooth transition that you can follow with your brush. Use a good quality angled sash brush (2-2.5" Purdy or Corona are my favorites). When cutting in the ceiling to wall or ceiling to crown transition it's better to have the ceiling paint come down slightly onto the crown/wall as opposed to the other way around. A steady hand is important. Make sure you don't overload the brush. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it's better to keep the brush moving pretty fast. It's harder to get a wavy line if the brush is moving briskly.

Rolling. Use a small extension pole. Run the roller as far up and down as you can. A lot of times you'll see amateur painters roll up and down about 2-3' at a time. It's much better to load up the roller, spread out the paint a bit and then finish it off with long strokes from a few inches away from the ceiling to a few inches away from the baseboard. BTW, this is one reason I like to cut-in first. You want to see as little of the brush strokes as possible. If you do the brush work first and then roll over it, there will be very little in the way of brush strokes showing. Keep a wet edge and look for runs. Rolling the ceiling can be a pain, but try to keep the roller in front of you instead of right over your head. The extension pole should be at about a 60 degree angle, if a 90 degree angle is directly above you. Use a microfiber or lambswool roller cover for best results. Clean new roller covers well before using; the best roller covers have been broken in with at least 2-3 jobs. Get them slightly damp before loading with paint. Use an 18" roller if you're into production work and have big open spaces you need to roll.

Clean up can be a pain. Roller covers can be tossed if you're lazy or the cover is inexpensive, but I don't recommend that. Wring it clean first with a painters' tool and then use a hose on the jet setting to spin the roller. You need to get the jet on the edge of the roller and it will spin fast and the paint and water will go flying everywhere. If you've done this a few times you can angle the roller just right so that you don't get wet and the roller gets clean in less than a minute. If this method scares you then you're in for some fun standing over the utility sink for 10 minutes.

Brushes are tougher to clean, but the battle is won and lost before you are even ready to clean. Keep them clean in the first place by brushing carefully and not loading them up with paint up to the ferrule. Don't be sloppy with your brushing. If painting in warm weather, it's a good idea to clean them a bit at lunch time so they don't get too crusty. Brushes can be sprayed as well for the majority of the paint. Then you can bring them into the sink and rub the bristles in your hands pinching them, flexing the bristles on your hand, rubbing them between your hands like you were trying to warm your hands, etc. It takes a while, but you don't want to rough up nice brushes. Check for paint by loading the brush up with water and flexing the bristles back towards the ferrule. If the water looks clear then you can stop. (here's Chris' tutorial on that too)

While everyone who paints has their methods for what works best, these are the tools, sequencing and tricks that I have found work the best for me. Hopefully you find them helpful as well and please leave comments if you have tricks that work for you too.


Before & After: My Parent's Exterior Paint

Welp, here it is, the official last Before & After of my dad and Wendy's casa: the exterior! It took a while for me to finally get to this, but yesterday I brought my camera during Zoe drop off and snapped some photos of the finished outside. I apologize if they are not perfect, I did have a baby on one arm while I was taking all of these

But let's get to it, shall we?

I realize that I am completely irresponsible and didn't take full on "Before" shots of the back and side of the house before exterior paint got started, doh! I'll do those shots first (and save the front for the end :) hehehe), so please excuse the scaffolding in the before shots

Here's the back

Aaaaannnddd AFTER!

More of the back

After (the downspouts look so much better with the new color scheme)

And last one of the back

Ahhhh, much better

Now the boring side you never see because it's on the VERY edge of the property line

Hello extra plywood

And, now, I know what you've all been waiting for: the front and courtyard.

The old walkway

The new, glorious, bright, happy, inviting and hanging lantern stupendous walkway

A wider after because all the flower pots and those orange doors are so damn pretty


Oooooooohhh, ahhhhhhh

Oh, more you ask?

Man oh man do I think this is pretty

And here are just a couple other afters cuz those are exciting :)

Oh, and let's take in the view from their upper patio

 Yeah, not too shabby, right?

And ohhhh, the front of the house

Holy crap in my pants yay no more acid rain

And just one more of that courtyard, because I can't resist all of those orange doors

And because of one of your fabulous comments, it's definitely a necesity for me to update the post with Zoe playing in the courtyard, because that's a favorite of hers :)

I won't post the one of her shopping with her grocery cart while buck naked, because, well, that will embarrass her in several years ;) But it is adorable.

And that my friends, is my dad and Wendy's house in all its "After" glory. HHHHHOOOOOOOORRRAAYYYY!