DIY Dare-a-thon Date Night

These days, finding ideas for an at-home date night are running a little thin. Justin and I love games and puzzles and have no shortage of them, but every once in a while it’s nice to do something else.

As I was scrolling Instagram yesterday, I noticed Angela Rose Home and Vintage Revivals are hosting a little DIY Dare-a-thon to help inspire people to get creative while social distancing. Their first challenge was to build something with scraps in your garage. I immediately thought this would be a fun date night for Justin and I, and the DIY Dare-a-thon Date Night (say that 5x fast ha!) was born.

20200326_212614

Deciding on a project was easy. We have a little nook under our stairs that we lovingly refer to as our Harry Potter closet. LJ loves to “hide” in there and now that we’re home so much, we’re spending a lot of time playing there. I eventually want to transform it into a magical little play space for our kids. One thing I’ve always envisioned doing is creating little ledges to store some books for our kids to read, and this seemed like the perfect little project for the dare-a-thon.

We put the kids down for bed, grabbed the baby monitor, and headed out to our garage/workshop. Since we couldn’t go anywhere to get supplies, we had to use what we had. Justin rounded up some scrap wood from past projects and we had two 1×3’s, a long 1×2, and a few 1×4’s.

img_20200326_222201_822

We decided to make two shelves: each shelf would be 21 inches long and would be made of a 1×2, 1×3, and 1×4. The 1×3 would form the base, with the 1×2 as the front lip and the 1×4 as the back. Since we were working with scraps, it wasn’t all the same kind of wood, but I figured the only thing that would really be visible was the very front, and the 1×2 was long enough to be used for both shelves so they would end up looking the same.

Justin got to work measuring each board and cutting them to 21 inches long with his miter saw.

20200326_204446

While he did that, I got to work sanding each piece with 80 grit sandpaper.

Once everything was cut to size and sanded, Justin used his kreg jig to create drill holes in each 1×4 and 1×3. Kreg jigs are easy to use and it kept us from visible nail/screw holes on the front of the finished project.

20200326_205150

We used square clamps to line up the boards perfectly, and then attached them with pocket hole screws.

15413

We first attached the 1×3 to the 1×2, then we attached the 1×4 to the 1×3.

15411

Here’s a glimpse at how everything attached.

20200326_212745

Once both shelves were assembled, Justin took some 120 grit sandpaper and a wood block to smooth over all the edges.

20200326_212211

It only took us about 90 minutes to go from a few pieces of scrap wood to two book ledges!

20200326_212707

Justin has a box of leftover stain from previous woodworking projects and after scrounging around, we found this lighter shade that was pretty close to my original vision.

We used a sponge brush to apply the stain and let it dry overnight.

20200326_213541

We talked about multiple ways to hang the shelves. We could have attached hooks, but I wanted the shelves to lay flush with the wall. We talked about notches on the back, but we wanted them to be sturdily attached to the wall so kids didn’t pull them off. We ultimately decided to just screw the 1×4 directly into the wall, knowing that books would cover the screws up. Before leaving for work this morning, Justin attached the shelves to the wall.

I put some of our favorite books on the shelves, and the project was complete!

20200327_092757

I am still dreaming of ways to transform this tiny space, but this was a great first step. I picture lots of cozy reading happening in here!

20200327_09200620200327_092155

Overall, this was a great experience! Justin and I had a fun time planning what to do and working together to complete the shelves. It was nice quality time and we both feel really good about the finished project. The project itself was relatively easy, quick to execute, and didn’t cost us any money. Plus we took our first step towards improving this little nook and I’m really happy with it! I can definitely see more DIY Date Nights in our future 🙂

Easy DIY Basement Updates

With all this extra time at home, I’ve been itching for a home project to focus on. I didn’t want a huge renovation project right now, just something to stay busy and distract myself from all the stress and anxiety going on. After talking with Justin about a few smaller project options, I settled on sprucing up the basement, particularly the TV/den area.

Here’s where we started:

20200315_184416

Pretty lackluster, huh?

Our basement was one of the big selling points of the house when we first bought it: I think it was built with the idea of being an in-law living area because in addition to having the guest bedroom and bathroom, it also has a large multipurpose space with a full kitchen. It has great potential and we see this as a perfect space for entertaining and a great recreation space for our family as our kids get older, but it was painted brown and just seemed a bit dingy and dated. Since moving in, we haven’t really focused on it very much other than to put in some furniture and other random things that didn’t go anywhere else (like our treadmill ha!) or to store piles of things I’m decluttering.  Now that the guest suite renovation is finished, I wanted to focus on freshening up the rest of the level.

20200315_184704

We didn’t have the budget to do much and social distancing prevented me from going out and getting a ton of things anyways, but I knew that a fresh coat of paint could work wonders. I settled on Sherwin Williams Repose Gray because I painted the guest bedroom trim this color (tinted at 75%) so I knew it would tie the two spaces together and it’s a nice versatile greige (gray+beige) that works really well in an open-concept space. Justin tucked up all the surround sound speakers into the ceiling for now (we aren’t currently using them but might someday) and I got to work!

All I planned to do for now was paint; however, once I started priming the walls and reached the half-wall where our foundation lies, I knew I wanted to also do a small update here too. I actually don’t mind the wall itself and actually like having a ledge to put plants, artwork, etc. What I minded was the dated trim on either side of the ledge – I wanted a simple, clean look and decided to try to remove the trim.

I recruited Justin’s help, and he used a small crowbar to pry off the old trim.

20200319_15464820200319_202203

The wall behind the trim wasn’t in great shape. In many places, there were large gaps between the walls and the board on top of the ledge. We didn’t want to replace the ledge board (because, $$$!) but I believed we could get creative and work with what we had.

20200319_145654

First up, Justin took plasting patcher we already had and patched as much of the wall as he could. He used a putty knife to smooth down the plaster and let it dry overnight. There were a few areas where the wall was so bad that he needed to patch a few layers. Once everything was dry the following day, he took a sanding block and sanded all the areas smooth.

20200323_151434

The pictures above are just one small portion of the wall, but we did this for the whole length of the wall.

There were still gaps between the wall and the board. I knew I could caulk them, but some of the gaps were really big and I didn’t want to waste a ton of caulk. I bought this caulk backer rope and it was the perfect solution! It filled in the gaps and allowed me to just caulk over top. I just squished the rope in there and cut it to the correct length with scissors. In some areas, I had to use 2-3 layers of rope because the gap was so deep – imagine how much caulk that would take! This was a really great way to save a ton of time and money.

20200323_152355

I used the filler in all the gaps on both edges of the board and then caulked over it with a paintable silicone caulk. We already had the caulk gun and one tube of caulk, but I did end up needing to buy one more tube of caulk because the other one was already halfway used up. I gently smoothed over the caulk with a wet paper towel to ensure it had a nice, even finish.

Look at that difference! From freshly ripped off trim, to a patched and sanded wall with caulk filler, to a caulked gap, ready to be painted!

I needed to wait overnight to let the caulk dry because I had to use so much of it in some areas. The next day, I was able to finally paint primer + 2 coats of repose gray to finish the project!

It’s certainly not perfect, but I think it looks 100x better. I love the clean lines and simple look of the ledge now!

20200325_100515

I didn’t want to spend any money on decor, so I decided to shop my house for frames, plants, and other decor to put some finishing touches on the space. (Psst – if you’re one of my very few OG blog readers, you might recognize that “W” as our wedding guest book!)

20200325_100346

I follow a few other DIY bloggers and home designers and sometimes it seems like many people wait until a room is 100% DONE to post the “final” picture. But I don’t want to wait to celebrate this progress. This room is far from done and I still have plans for this space. Eventually we want to replace baseboards and window trim and get new carpet throughout. I’d love to update the side table and lamp and find a new place for the treadmill still hanging out behind the couch. Our TV is still on a slightly bent folding table and we plan to mount it and have a nicer console underneath. But for now, I’m practicing contentment and celebrating the progress that has been made.

20200325_100357

The cost of this project was pretty minimal. I spent around $100 on paint + primer and about $13 on the extra tube of caulk + caulk filler . Other than that, I already had all the supplies needed and I shopped my own house for decor. It just took some time and work . . . and strategically placed decor like picture frames hiding unused wires and internet jacks and a plant in a basket hiding the lamp cord. The space is definitely improved and I love the simple but significant transformation!

20200325_100426

20200325_103800

Sources 

Primer: Kilz 2

Paint: Sherwin Williams Repose Gray in Eggshell

Patching Plaster

Putty Knife (similar)

Caulk Backer

Caulk

Sanding Block (similar)

 

 

 

 

Two Player Games for Staying Inside

I have always loved playing games, and I married someone who loves them just as much as I do. Justin and I are both competitive and love strategy so we thrive on the energy of a great game. Throughout our marriage we have had countless game nights – we love having friends over to play games and we’re always up for learning something new. We’ve accumulated a lot of games over the years and while we generally choose games that we can play with more people, we have also collected some games specifically for their 2-player options because we love the occasional date night game at home!

In these strange days of social distancing, we are spending more time than ever with each other at home. One silver lining to this is that it’s given us the opportunity to spend lots of quality time with each other in the evenings once our kids are in bed. Of course, we’ve watched our share of Netflix too, but we’ve also pulled out puzzles and games and had a lot of fun with some friendly competition to take our mind off the anxieties of the world.

Today I thought I’d share some of our favorite games to play with one another at home. There are always classic options like Scrabble or Uno, but I thought it’d be fun to share some other games we enjoy in case anyone is looking for a fun option to play now that so many of us are staying home.

20200323_095955

Our Top Favorites

Citadels

This card-building game involves choosing characters, building cities, and collecting resources. It’s pretty quick to learn and easy to play but does involve quite a bit of strategy and secrecy. We have actually never played it with more than two players so I can’t speak to it as a group game, but we really enjoy it as a two player game!

Carcassonne

This game involves drawing tiles and laying them down to essentially create a giant, interconnected medieval world. You are building off one what everyone else lays down, but the strategy involves being able to stake claim on what is being built. We enjoy this game as a two-player but it is also really fun as a group game. We even bought the expansion pack so we can play with up to 5 players. It is recommended for ages 8+ and I think it would be a great option for a family game night as well!

Takenoko

This quirky tile-building game involves accumulating points based on completing card objectives in cultivating land plots and growing different species of bamboo. I think it’s pretty easy to get the hang of and we have played with both two and four people – equally as fun!

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries

I love the Ticket to Ride board game franchise, but most games are for at least 3 players. We were thrilled to find this version, which is a smaller game board and meant for only 2-3 players. Ticket to Ride involves creating train routes between destinations and involves a lot of strategy, yet is really easy to learn and relatively quick to play.

Hand and Foot Card Game

If all you have are a couple decks of regular playing cards, Hand and Foot is a great option. It’s kind of a rummy-style game where you try use multiple decks of cards to try to generate “books” of the same type of cards (a book of 7’s, a book of queens, etc). When we first started dating, Justin and I used to play this game all the time with my roommates and we had so much fun, but it is also a fun game for two players (instead of 4 people working in 2-player teams, each player just works on laying down their own books). Everyone’s rules are slightly different, so I would suggest googling a few different versions and figure out what works for you!

Honorable Mentions

These games are ones we have that have a 2-player option and are still decently fun, although we ultimately prefer to play with more people.

Rummikub

This tile-laying rummy game is a classic! I will say playing with only two players does make the game seem slower overall. Justin and I just played this last night and there were several rounds in a row where we each were stuck and kept drawing tiles. With more people, there is usually someone who can lay a tile and alter the playing options so the game seems to move faster. Still, it was a decently fun option for two players!

Forbidden Island

This cooperative game has players working together to gather all of the islands treasures before it sinks. This isn’t our go-to game for two players, but it’s a good option for when we need a little variety. And it’s nice sometimes to have a game where you work together against the game itself instead of competing with the other player.

Potential 2 Player

These games are all games we own that include a 2-player variant; however, we have not played them with just two players yet so I can’t actually verify that the 2-player version is fun. Before this social distancing is done, we’ll probably play many of these games and I’ll be sure to report back and update with my thoughts once we do! I can say they are all winners for more than two players, so if you happen to be socially distancing with older children or more adults, these are great options!

Codenames

Phase 10

Rook

Seven Wonders

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Exploding Kittens

 

What are your favorite games to play? I’m always up for learning about other options! 🙂

 

My Updated List of Book Recommendations

I have always loved to read and over the years, I’ve read many, many books. Friends and family frequently reach out to me to get recommendations, and it’s always a little tricky because there are so many books I’ve loved throughout the years that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. We all have different tastes and preferences and it can even depend on what kind of mood you’re in with whether or not you like a book.

Last year, I wrote up a post with all my top recommendations and it was super helpful to reference whenever people asked for a rec. I’ve been meaning to update the list with books I’ve read since then that I also highly recommend – since so many of us are social distancing at home these days, it felt like a great time to update the list!

I do want to reiterate the disclaimer that I think it’s also helpful to read my previous book reviews and see if you agree with my take on books that you have also read. If you find yourself nodding along to my reviews because you felt similarly when reading, we likely have similar taste. If you find yourself frequently saying “what was so great about that book? I thought it was boring” or “she’s crazy – how did she not enjoy that book? I thought it was brilliant” then maybe we just have different styles and you might not like my recommendations. Different strokes, different folks and all that 😉

With all that being said, here are my TOP recommendations!

MY VERY FAVORITES

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman (easy to read yet captivating and meaningful. As my fellow book lover friend Kaitlin described – “a beach read with depth”)

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

-Basically anything written by Kate Morton. The Lake House, The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours  – they are just phenomenal historical fiction! If I had to choose one to start, I’d say The Secret Keeper.

General Fiction

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (read first)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (read second; they aren’t technically sequels but I would still read them in that order)

Defending Jacob by William Landry

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

-My Grandmother Asked me to Tell you She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio (read first)

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio (read second)

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

“Beach” Reads + RomComs

– The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

If You Only Knew by Kristin Higgins

Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan (the last one is my favorite!)

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

One Day in December by Josie Silver

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

-The Haven Point Series by RaeAnne Thayne (Hallmark movies in book form – a little cheesy and predictable but sweet and fun)

Psychological Thriller/Mysteries

Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins (I feel like everyone has read it by now, but when it came out it blew my mind!)

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond (creepy and cult-like)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Final Girls by Riley Sager (part psychological thriller, part homage to campy-slasher movies)

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

-The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

The Glass Ocean by  Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

World War Two Historical Fiction

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (this book does get very heavy and difficult to read at times)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosay

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Young Adult

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The War that Saved my Life (#1), The War I Finally Won (#2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (this is a series!)

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

-Harry Potter (because it should be on every list)

Nonfiction: Self-Help

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

-Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

-To Have and To Hold: Motherhood, Marriage, and the Modern Dilemma by Molly Millwood

Nonfiction: Memoirs and Biographies

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Becoming by Michelle Obama

-Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Educated by Tara Westover

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

 

Happy reading!

 

 

Staying Busy while Socially Distancing

This week has been one marked on our calendars for months now, and it will definitely be one we remember forever, although not for the reasons we thought it would.

Justin was supposed to have a conference for work this week and we were going to spend the week traveling, first in Memphis and then New Orleans. We were going to turn it into a work trip + vacation and we were both really excited. Obviously, things have drastically shifted in our world lately and that trip has been cancelled. Instead, we are hunkered down at home, socially distancing ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. I still can’t believe I’m typing those words – this all feels very surreal.

I know many of us are feeling anxious in this time. We hear about toilet paper shortages, increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, stores and restaurants closing, quarantines, and a general sense of panic amidst all the leaders asking us to remain calm. There’s no sports. There’s no school. It feels like a strange, alternate reality where normal life is cancelled.

Today I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve done to make the most of social distancing at home. I recognize that this isn’t an easy time for many people. I know that many families are affected personally by this virus and have loved ones in critical condition or who have died. I know many people have lost a source of income due to all the store closures and cancellations. I don’t at all want it to seem like this is a lighthearted time at home for us, because all of this weighs very heavily on my heart. But I also know that I need to try to stay positive and busy during this time to keep my own mental health up and take care of my family. We are all just trying to do the best we can with a very difficult situation. I wanted to share what I’ve been doing in case it helps even just one person find something that helps them cope with staying at home for an indefinite period of time.

Make a List

When I realized that we would be staying at home for the forseeable future, I wrote out a list of things that I would love to accomplish – everything from opening Vi’s 529 plan to home updates. I appreciate that a ‘to-do list’ makes this time feel purposeful, which helps ease my anxiety level.

20200318_094345

Home Projects

Some items on my to-do list are things I’ve been wanting to do for a while and just haven’t made the time to do them . . . now that it feels like I have nothing but time, it’s a good time to tackle some of those projects. For example, I’ve been meaning to put another coat of paint on our playroom toy shelves since it was starting to chip off in some places. It’s been bothering me for a while, so yesterday I finally tackled it and it looks so much better now!

I’m also working on some projects that were on my ‘someday’ list to do, like painting the basement. I knew I wanted to paint this space eventually but it wasn’t on my radar to do this year; however, now that I have so much time at home, it’s a perfect time to get a larger scale project like this done.

It doesn’t have to be a huge project or cost money. Even something simple like rearranging furniture, cleaning out closets, finally putting together a gallery wall, etc. can be done during this time and makes your home feel fresh.

Date from Home

Justin is also home for the week since he took this week off for our vacation, so it’s been nice to have lots of quality time together. We kind of each do our own projects and things throughout the day, but in the evenings we try to do something together. The first night it was folding laundry and watching Frozen 2 on Disney+, then the next night we got out a puzzle to work on together. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun and meaningful. Streaming movies and shows together is a nice way to unwind but doing something like completing a home project, cooking a meal together, putting together a puzzle or playing a 2-player game is a great way to connect and focus on our relationship in ways that we don’t always have time for.

20200315_211426

Move your Body

I’ve never been more thankful for my at-home workout plans from Expecting and Empowered. There are a ton of free workouts from various fitness instructors on YouTube and lots of subscription programs out there too. Find something that works for you! Exercise is proven to be a mood booster and can help reduce stress and anxiety – all things we can use right now.

Get Outside

Yesterday I was feeling the need to move my body and I was craving a change in scenery, so I put Vi in the stroller and we just went for a walk. It was a little chilly but the crisp spring air was so refreshing! I meant for our walk to be about 10 minutes long and it ended up being over 30 minutes. It felt so good to be moving outside and I kept on going. Obviously, weather is going to be a factor here but on days where the sun is shining and it’s above freezing, I’m going to make it a point to get outside at least for a little bit.

20200317_170918

Stay Connected

I took a break from Facebook for Lent and I’m so happy I’m not on it right now. Social media can be a great way to connect, but it can also just be a continuous cycle of seeing people panic and share misinformation. I am still on Instagram, but I limit my time consuming that content. Instead, I stay connected with friends and family through phone calls, group texts, and the Marco Polo app. Marco Polo is my favorite – I am staying up with my college friends in different states as well as my fellow stay-at-home mom friends from my area. We’re sharing our experiences and days with one another through videos and it really helps to have regular communication with others to keep me from feeling too isolated.

screenshot_20200318-115928_marco-polo

Simple Self Care

I haven’t taken the time to paint my nails in a long time, so I gave myself a pedicure. It felt good to do a little something for myself and feel a bit normal. Things like a face mask or a deep conditioner (Pinterest is full of DIY options if you don’t have a store brought product) can help you stay relaxed. Light a candle, listen to music, and give yourself some TLC.

20200316_202040

Learn Something – Classes, Books, Podcasts

Now is a great time to take an online class! There are SO many options out there. Brit + Co is currently offering FREE classes through the end of the month and I’m going to take advantage and take one or two of them.

It’s also a great time to read a book! My physical library is closed until mid-April,(thankfully, I already checked out many books beforehand) but they are still doing digital checkouts. There are apps to download books if you don’t have an e-reader or you can also use an app like Audible to listen to audiobooks.

20200316_163044

Podcasts are also a great way to get some mental stimulation too. I’ve previously shared my favorite podcasts here but I’m currently loving listening to the Herself podcast, Chris Loves Julia, and Happier with Gretchen Rubin as I work on projects around the house.

 

I think one of the most important things is just to try to stay occupied – keeping my body moving, my mind active, and my relationships growing has helped me cope with these difficult and strange times.

Stay safe friends ❤

One week and $50 goes a long way

Before I start today’s blog post, I want to acknowledge the strange days that we are currently living in. In the span of a week, it seems like COVID-19 has taken over our thoughts, actions, lives in a way that none of us saw coming. On the one hand, it feels strange to post lighthearted, normal posts. On the other hand, I think normalcy is very much needed in whatever ways we can have it right now. I have made the decision to continue blogging and posting about our life, what I’m reading, our family, our home projects, etc. because it provides something for me to do and a much needed mental distraction while we socially distance ourselves at home.

I really enjoy uncovering potential in things. I like to find something that the world overlooks and re-purpose it into something beautiful and unique. It’s not only a great way to save some resources and give new life to an item but it’s also typically less expensive than buying something brand new.

For each of my children, I have taken an old, inexpensive dresser and fixed it up to use as a changing table/dresser combo for their nurseries (Vi’s is on the left and LJ’s is on the right).

When my brother and sister-in-law announced that they were expecting a baby, I offered to fix up a dresser for her nursery as my gift to them. They accepted and I began the hunt for a good dresser to fix up.

It took longer than I expected to find a dresser for the project. I searched Craiglist, Marketplace, thrift stores, and kept coming up empty. Many dressers weren’t the right size (too narrow to fit a changing pad, or too high to be able to change a baby) and many that were the right size were too expensive (LJ’s dresser was found for $30 and Vi’s for $10, so I knew it was possible and didn’t want to shell out $70-100 for a dresser I was going to fix up anyways).

Finally, I found this gem on Facebook marketplace and negotiated the price down to $15.

20200307_142257

Justin thought I was absolutely crazy for bringing this thing home, and honestly, I don’t blame him. The veneer was pretty ugly and there were scratches and chips all over the place. One side had pretty significant damage and pieces came off when we were loading and unloading it from the vehicle. But I just knew I could make it shine!

20200307_142310

By the time I got this piece and had time to work on it, there was only one week until the shower. I love a good challenge, so I got to work with lots of enthusiasm. First things first, I removed the hardware, pulled out all the drawers, and sanded the veneer to smooth out as many scratches and chips as I could.

20200307_143232

It quickly became obvious that the super damaged side was beyond repair, so Justin ripped it off entirely and I just sanded down the frame to prepare it for a new piece of plywood.

20200307_14572720200307_150614

The other side of the dresser only had minor damage, and I decided to try a few methods to repair the damage instead of replace the entire side. I took a utility knife and cut out the damaged pieces to make a clean line, and then my plan was to take a strip of veneer from the damaged side we ripped off to use as a patch. The problem was, the veneer was glued down to the other side in such a way that it didn’t peel easily. I could only peel off small pieces at a time and it took a long time to haphazardly patch. I started with just once section and waited to see how it all dried and sanded.

20200308_161015

Unfortunately, I wasn’t satisfied with it when it was sanded and dried so I decided to take out the patched veneer and try something else. After looking at a few various options, I decided to try Kwik Wood.

20200312_150137

This stuff worked like a dream! You knead a small amount of putty and then fit it to the space. It dries super hard and is sandable and paintable!

20200312_154409

I know I know, this still looks super ugly. But it FELT super smooth and I knew it would look so much better painted anyways.

The next step was to prime everything and let it dry. We are fortunate to have a room in our garage devoted to painting (the previous owners fixed up cars and had a room built specifically to paint them).

20200312_160221

Justin had plywood leftover from a previous project and he cut down a piece to replace the damaged side of the dresser.

20200312_211731

We used wood glue to attach the plywood to the dresser frame and Justin also put a small nail in each corner for extra durability.

Once the side was dry, I sanded the edges and primed the plywood as well. Then the whole dresser got two coats of paint (my sister-in-law chose “Fading Rose” by Sherwin Williams).

I originally thought I would replace the hardware, but decided instead to spray paint the existing hardware in a metallic gold to give it a fresh, like-new look. The hardware was so unique and I thought it really gave a cool look to the dresser!

I’m SO happy with how the dresser turned out!

20200316_091903

Justin and I worried that maybe the side with plywood would obviously look different, but it didn’t AT. ALL. In fact, it turned out so well, that I wish I would have just done that to both sides. The patched side turned out well, but you could slightly tell where the patched areas were. Cutting the plywood and attaching it took a fraction of the time as patching and repairing the other side and actually looked better in the end.

20200316_091955

I’m so glad I kept the original hardware – it gives such a unique look to the dresser!

20200315_144040

The dresser is on wheels and if I had a little more time  to put into the project, I think it would have been cool to replace the wheels with turned sofa legs. Maybe something like this? Still, overall I’m so happy with the end result and I hope they enjoy using it once my little niece arrives!

20200316_092739

Sources

Dresser: Facebook Marketplace ($15)

Kwik Wood ($6.18)

Paint: Sherwin Williams Fading Rose in Satin ($20.92)

Spray Paint: Rustoleum Metallic Warm Gold ($6.40)

Sandpaper, paint brushes, plywood, primer: Already owned

Total Project Cost: $48.50

Fatherhood

I talk about motherhood a lot on my blog but today I wanted to talk about an equally important topic: fatherhood.

20190901_164243

I think it’s super common for new dads to feel a little hesitant and out of their depth with a brand new baby because they aren’t exactly sure what to do, but let’s be honest: moms feel that way too! It seems like there is this belief out there that women just instinctively know everything about motherhood.  That thinking is untrue and and does more harm than good. It can make a new mama doubt herself and feel like a failure if she doesn’t know exactly what her baby needs all the time and it can make a new dad feel like he is useless. No one gets a manual and there were many times where I felt like I had no idea what to do. I just learned one day at a time.  Each parent needs time to get to know their baby and his or her personality and particular needs – and the only way to do this is by spending time with the baby. I strongly believe it’s important for dads to be involved in the care of babies right from the beginning.

This can be easier said than done. I breastfed both of my babies so regardless of who was holding him or her, once the baby started crying, he or she was handed right back to me. It often was the case that the baby was hungry and that was something only I could do, so it wasn’t really a big deal at first. But then it started to feel like their care was always “on me” because I was the one to had to feed them.

If I didn’t want parenting to always feel like it was “on me” in the little people years, I had to let go of control and let Justin step in. This isn’t always easy for me, as I often want to be the one in control, but it has been a healthy thing for both Justin and I. When one of our babies was fussy (and I knew that he or she wasn’t hungry), I didn’t step in to try to soothe every time. I had to give him a chance too! It’s so hard as a new mama not to step in every time but it’s so important to give dads a chance to find out what works for them too.

20200307_075446

Today I thought I’d share a few other things that have been important for me to do in my role as mother in order to help encourage Justin in his role as a father. I think every person is different and every relationship dynamic is different, but this is what has worked for us!

Have a “thing” for dad to claim ownership of

Even when our babies were teeny tiny newborns who relied on me frequently for feedings, there were a few things that they needed that I didn’t have to be the one to provide and Justin could step up and take over. One was diaper changes – obviously not a glamorous job, but I think it can provide a sense of nurturing since it’s something the baby absolutely needs. (This didn’t mean that Justin got stuck with all the diaper changes, but it was definitely a place where he could jump in and help often). Another was awake cuddle time – bonding with the baby and getting lots of face to face time for the babies to see that he is a constant in their lives.

20190911_133501

Another big thing was bath time. From the very beginning when we brought LJ home from the hospital, bath time became Justin’s ‘thing.’ It was a task he could completely take care of from start to finish and was an easy way for him to have quality time with each of our children. There are days when he works late or just needs a break and I’ll give the baths but for the most part, this has been his thing for the past two years.

Communicate Ways to Help

Going from one to two kids was a huge transition for me. Tasks that I used to be able to keep up with easily started to slip as I tried to juggle more and more demands. I felt overwhelmed and stressed, and I found myself getting irritated because I felt like I was drowning in all the things on my plate and Justin wasn’t instinctively stepping up and taking over. The truth is, Justin was so willing to help but just needed to know what to do.  I had to remind myself that he is not a mind reader. While it would be great if he just *knew* that we needed to restock the diaper bag before leaving the house, it wasn’t something he thought about.

20190914_121929

I started to communicate how overwhelmed I was feeling and how I really needed him to step up. I listed some areas I wanted him to notice and help with, such as checking the diaper bag and restocking it before we left the house. After the first few times of us leaving the house and me asking him to check the diaper bag, now he does it instinctively. Even though it’s a small thing, it is so helpful to me and makes me feel like we are a team working together, both working to get our family out the door on time.

Another thing he has started stepping up and doing is getting the kids dressed and ready to go. At first, he would always ask me to pick out their outfits and then he would get them dressed, but I communicated how that still put all the decision fatigue on me so he started picking out outfits for them. Which leads me to…

Minimize criticism

If I’m being honest, I’ve had to really bite my tongue sometimes when I see the outfit Justin picked out for one of our kids. I usually put dresses on Vi for church, but Justin will dress her in pants. I like for clothing to be cute and coordinated, but Justin will sometimes put mismatched combinations on our kids. I am not always successful, but I try really really really hard not to criticize or correct his efforts.

Why?

Because if I ask for help and then criticize how he helps, it works against me in two ways. It makes Justin doubt himself, which leads to him always asking questions to make sure he’s doing something just like I want, which does not help relieve my mental load but in fact, adds to it. It also makes him not want to help. Who wants to do something if they’re just going to get criticized? Not me. And not him.

20191208_162535

So when he folds the kids laundry and puts it in the wrong spot in the drawer, I say nothing. When he doesn’t fill the diaper bag the exact same way I do, I say nothing. When Vi’s socks are on the outside of her leggings instead of underneath, I say nothing. When he brings LJ out in blue shoes, brown pants, and a gray sweater, I say nothing. (Although of course, on that day we unexpectedly had our pictures taken at church. Sigh).

I’m not always perfect at this and have slipped and let out some comments about how he did or didn’t do something, but for the most part, I try to focus on saying only one thing: THANK YOU. Because in the end, it doesn’t really matter that Vi isn’t wearing a matching bow in her hair or that we have 17 more snacks than we need in the diaper bag. What matters is that Justin and I are a team and we are working together to raise our children.

Give him opportunities

Justin can’t figure out what works for him as a dad if he doesn’t have the chance. This means stepping back and letting him figure things out for himself. A good example is bedtime routines: I have a routine for putting LJ down for bed. Justin’s routine for putting him down is different. Neither of our routines is the “right” way – they both work! I’m not going to say “well here’s what I do and you need to do the same thing.” He figured out what works for him and LJ and it’s great!

I also make sure to leave Justin alone with the kids when I can. It drives me CRAZY when people call this “babysitting.” He is their DAD. He loves them and is very capable of taking care of them. Giving him some time to figure things out on his own is important for him to feel confident in his abilities as a parent (and it’s important for me to get some time on my own to recharge).

Celebrate his unique personality

I fell in love with Justin because of who is is. He is funny, caring, and energetic. He makes everyone around him feel comfortable and important. He makes me laugh and reminds me not to take everything so seriously. We are not the same, but that is why we make such a good team. We complement each other and each bring different strengths to our relationship. The same is true in parenting. We don’t handle situations the same way, but that is actually a good thing. Justin brings things to the table that I don’t, and vice-versa.

Justin is so fun and always makes time to play with LJ when he gets home no matter how tired he is from work.

20191219_173157

He is also nurturing in his own way and always provides a space for our kids to feel safe and loved.

20191109_142220

It’s so fun to watch him take obvious joy in watching LJ and Vi grow and develop their own unique personalities. He shows so much pride in them! And now that LJ is getting older, they are starting to go on little father-son dates together. We like to go get donuts as a fun little family outing, and just this past Saturday Justin and LJ went out for donuts and then to get a haircut and when they got back, LJ was grinning from ear to ear! You could tell he had the best time just soaking up all of daddy’s attention.

Justin does a great job in pushing me outside my comfort zone. He’ll try letting our kids sit on their own or try a new food or activity sooner than I would. But many times, it turns out our kids are capable of that skill and I didn’t even realize it. I just needed someone (him) to tell me it’s okay to try it with them. He’s adventurous and helps give our kids the confidence to try new things. He is a calming presence who reminds me to relax and not stress out about little things. The areas he takes a casual approach are generally the ones I’m a little more high strung about, and the areas I’m more lax about are sometimes the things he stresses out about (he does not like food messes haha!) We make a good team and balance each other well.

Our kids need Justin’s parenting just like they need mine. I need him as a partner in parenting. What he brings to the family is important and deserves to be celebrated too.  I’ll have the kids write cards for him or make sure to tell him ‘thank you’ often. We need him! And it’s important to remind him of that from time to time. ❤