Stuff

Every year, around this time, I become a bit faint of heart. After the excitement of buying gifts for my children (I LOVE to give gifts), I look around my house and think, “we already have so much stuff!”. I’m not a fan of clutter and I become overwhelmed by the amount of toys the children have already that they don’t play with.

I watch a lot of HGTV while cleaning the kitchen and I’m a big fan of the tiny house living shows. I cringe at the idea of living in 200 square feet with three children but the idea of simplifying life and having less stuff appeals to me. I’m actually quite good at getting rid of stuff. Every season I go through the house and clear out what is not being used, that being said, it is a lot harder to go through my children’s toys. You know that dreaded moment when your child comes up to you and says “where is my favorite bear stuffy?” (that she hasn’t touched in a year) and you shrug your shoulders and change the subject because you know it went to Value Village six months ago?

To avoid this kind of evasive lying about where their toys have gone, I try to get my kids involved in the purge, with the disclaimer that we need to make room for the new toys they will be getting at Christmas. It is always a valiant effort but my suggestions mostly go unheard and they seldom come up with more than a few small things they are willing to part with.  And so it accumulates and I wonder, how do I make them understand that they don’t need all this stuff?

I hate stuff but I loved giving my kids stuff. Yes. I am a part of the problem. Yah, you too Grandma.

I live in a bit of a hippy pocket of the world where there is a push to buy quality toys, things made to last, wood toys, toys made of recycled materials. Recycle, Re use, Re purpose. I get it. I agree with it even. But I also get where one friend comes from when she says she likes to buy her kids “two second toys”: stuff from the dollar store that they will love and lose, use and break, stuff that spends a limited time in your home. Don’t you find that it is this kind of super cheap stuff that children seem to gravitate to and favor over the fancy toys?

I am trying to take a middle road this Christmas. I want to delight my children without stressing myself out about accumulation. A puzzle, a small toy, a stuffy and a stocking full of edible good, new socks and two second toys. But what about the accumulation of last year, and the year before? How do I make them cognizant of how much they have and how little they need? Are these presents still too much? Am I encouraging them to buy into a consumerist culture?

I am a big part of the problem. Gift giving is a big love language with me and I struggle with this on a year round basis, not just at Christmas time. However, at Christmas, when the true reason for the season really has nothing to do with Santa Claus and Christmas presents, my baseness in this manner stares me hard in the face.

How to purge my house of all this useless crap and how to discipline myself to not to fill it back up? That is the question.

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C’est la Vie

I never knew just how much I loved Sofia until I sent her to kindergarten. I physically ache for her presence. The quietness (even with two still at home) feels agonizing. As much as I have always stated with a sigh of frustration that Sofia is a real “fire ball”, it is that vivacity that added so much spice to daily life.

Anna continues to be sweetness itself but is more cuddles than companion. Charlie is three, so though I’d love to befriend him at a deeper level now that we have more time alone together, he is more at an age of combatant than companion (yes, yes, I know, our children aren’t our friends, blah blah blah). Charlie has always been more happy to play on his own than Sofia ever was and even as I write he is nicely playing with trains. Beautiful right? But I feel sad.

I think this must be a very small taste of empty nest syndrome. I have never felt so interested in the idea of home schooling. Except for that sticking point…Sofia LOVES kindergarten.

I do have things going on at home other than transitioning into this new stage of life…I’m re-finishing an awesome new side table, continuing to work on re-vamping Anna’s room, starting a new interior decor class, to name a few. But right now, Sofia is up most in my mind and you may not be hearing about too much else until I get over this hump. Though by the end of the week I should be finished Anna’s room and hopefully share some pictures of that transformation.

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Going Girly for Anna

Once upon a time Charlie’s room was well decorated and super cute. Since Charlie moved in with Sofia and his old room became Anna’s nursery, the decor has gradually disintegrated into not so super cute. Read: messy, ugly, disorganized, and not at all suited to a baby girl.

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I don’t feel like spending the kind of time, energy, and money I put into Charlie and Sofia’s bedroom makeover, sorry Anna, so I am going for low cost, big impact, DIY projects. Under the reign of Charlie the room was blue and white with yellow-green accents. I haven’t stopped liking those design elements and eventually the bedroom will revert ownership back to Charlie so I don’t want to do anything too permanent.

Between my sewing machine and a bottle of spray paint I am in the progress of girlifying the room for Anna. That is, exchanging the yellow-green accents for hot pink. FYI, I find pink a terrifying colour to work with. It will probably be the most wild room I have created thus far and at this point I am slightly dubious about the results but excited about my list of simple DIY projects. Here is an idea board with bits and pieces of my inspiration. Wish me luck!

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Smart Phone, Meet Smart Counters

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One of the great things about working with other decorators or people who are otherwise involved in the design industry is that I pick up all sorts of information during our conversations. Recently, when discussing a kitchen renovation with Daniela Hammond of Counters and Decor, I learned about DuPont’s Corian charging surfaces. Corian is a hard wearing, stain resistant, and easy to clean surface material and now you can have a charge spot installed under these counters which transfers power to your smart device through magnetic induction. No wires necessary.

Any product that minimizes unsightly chords is on my A-list. There are all sorts of stylish charging stations out there but who wouldn’t rather place their phone on an unblemished counter top and let a hidden charging station do its job, site unseen.  If I had known about this device when I wrote my post on Meet the Jetsons: The Home in 2016 this product certainly would have been included.

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The down side is that I’m not really a fan of the appearance of Corian.  Admittedly, I have not spent any time looking at a large variety of Corian so I’m sure there is better looking options out there but the ones I have seen do not hold a candle to natural stone. They also don’t have the benefit of being less expensive than many natural stone options.  They are however, very durable, and if I ever have a super techi client, I will definitely be doing some shopping around to see if I can find any Corian as nice looking as that in these pictures.

 

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Fluctuating Emotions and New Beginnings

It has been a bit of a strange summer, and not only because of the weird Vancouver weather. I have found my emotions to be all over the map and my mood to fluctuate from high to low at a moments notice. I’m still breast feeding Anna so I’d like to blame part of this emotional roller coaster ride on hormones but who really knows. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 6 + years so I’m not even sure what it feels like to experience emotions without weird hormonal interference. I wasn’t properly medicated for my OCD before having kids so I imagine that mental health plus hormonal balance will be quite blissful…

I spent much of the month of July battling anxiety about our annual August camping trip. It was our first time with all of us in the tent together and the longest camping trip we have thus far ventured to undertake as a family. FYI, it was fantastic. We ended up with a baby in bed with us every night but none-the-less we slept fairly well and had a great time playing at the beach and tramping through the woods every day.

My mood has continued to be all over the map this past month but I’ve found some previously missing motivation and a new flow of creative juices as I help my mom plan a kitchen revamp and work on sewing and craft projects for my nieces’ bedroom. I need something other than entertaining kidlets to find fulfillment in my week and these projects hit the mark.

Now that September is here my emotions are rolling for a different reason. My baby girl is entering kindergarten. I am simultaneously filled with relief, anxiety, and grief. Relief, because she has always been…ahem…spirited, and her interactions with her brother are intolerable. Anxiety, because I worry about what she will be taught, how the other kids will treat her, and if being blabbed at in French is going to make my super smart little girl feel frustrated and stupid. Grief, because it means that my baby girl is no longer a baby.

Because of her less than stellar behavior in regards to her brother, I often loose site of how extraordinary my Sofia is, but she really is something else. The way she lights up when she gets a new idea, the way she gets lovey eyes and wraps her arms around Steve or I to tell us she loves us, the way she still cuddles up close during story time, the way she looks after her baby sister and seeks to entertain her…It is surprising, even to myself, that I could go on and on about her attributes. I am going to miss our afternoon quiet times reading in bed together and her spirited suggestions for activities. I am going to worry about what she is being taught at school and how it might influence her decisions in life. I am going to be filled with joy when she thrives and sadness when she experiences disappointment and rejection.

Sending her to kindergarten is a big change for all of us and I know that it is normal to feel all these things. The thing about this anxiety is that I have to try my best to mask it with excitement so as to not rub it off on her. I’m sure she is experiencing plenty of uncertainty of her own.

Oh my baby girl. I love you. You will thrive. You are covered in prayers. May blessings follow you as you start this new adventure.

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In Dawson City, Yukon.

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Dressed up for Halloween, super Lady Bug Girl!

 

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At Cultus Lake Beach.

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Two weeks ago at the Queens Park Petting Zoo.

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Life with Kids: Beautifully Indestructible Decor

When you have a young family, maintaining a beautifully decorated home can be a challenge. Between air borne toys, sticky fingers, and flying food, it is tempting to sacrifice style in an effort to minimize costly damage. However, a few well made design decisions can increase the durability of your decor without sacrificing beauty. Here are seven tips to help you create a beautifully decorated home that will survive your children.

1.) Accessorize with Second Hand Pieces

Whilst you have children tearing through your house on a regular basis, it is not the time to invest in expensive, one of a kind, beautiful and breakable accessories. Stop by your local thrift store and pick up inexpensive accessories like vases, candlesticks, and lamps which are beautiful as is or can be easily adapted to your design through a quick coat of paint. They look good, and if they get broken there is little harm done to your pocket book.

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2.) Buy Furniture with White Slip Covers

It may sound counter intuitive but white slip covers are a great option when you have kids. Chocolaty finger prints? A misused marker? Just make sure the fabric can be bleached and the stains can all be washed away.  Be sure to check the fabric labels. Some stores like Ikea sell furniture with white slip covers but they instruct you not to wash them with bleach. The opposite of this advice is to choose darker fabrics that will disguise the stains even if you can’t wash them away.

3.) Use patterned Fabric and Rugs

A busily patterned rug or fabric can hide all manner of sins, or at least diminish their appearance since the stains just fade into the pattern. Even if the pattern has a white background you have a better chance of maintaining the beauty of your decor if the pattern is busy.

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4.) Choose carpet tiles over area rugs

Let’s face it. Shit happens. Far too literally if you are the parent of very young children. It’s important to have a soft surface for your children to scamper around on but area rugs are not always ideal (if you have potty trained a child, I’m sure you agree). Carpet tiles are an excellent option as you can remove the desecrated piece of carpet and hose it down. If worse comes to worse you can chuck it and replace it with a new one (always order a few extra). Flor.com has a variety of gorgeous options.

image via www.flor.com

image via www.flor.com

5.) Opt for good quality furniture in well used spaces

If you happen to have the luxury of both a formal and informal living room you are likely more inclined to buy expensive furniture for your formal, less frequently used living room. While it is appropriate to have beautiful furnishings in your entertaining space it is better to invest money in higher quality furnishings for the room you use the most. If a couch or chair is truly well made it should hold up to all the abuse your children can dole out. Spend a few pennies on something beautiful and comfortable for your formal space and invest the big bucks on a gorgeous, good quality couch that you will use and abuse on a daily basis. It seems like an odd concept at first look but will save you money in the long term.  An excellent place to find durable furnishings that will last you a life time is Norwalk Furniture.

6.) Wipe Easy Walls

Choose your paint finish wisely. In your children’s bedrooms and play areas it is best to choose a satin finish as it is washable. Avoid flat finishes in highly used and messy areas as they do not clean well. If you want to avoid sheen and are willing to spend the extra money, try out  Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Kitchen Paint in a matte finish (be it a kitchen or not, it washes well). As an additional counter offense against smudged, dirty walls, stock up on magic erasers, or the equivalent.

7.) Choose Quartz

When choosing a surface material for your kitchen opt for quartz. Design magazines make marble look like the be all, end all of surfacing options but it just isn’t practical for a family home. Unless you plan on banning your children from the kitchen and are yourself an impeccably clean cook your marble will end up a stained mess. If you are still hankering for marble there are plenty of marble-look quartz surfaces to choose from. Another bonus of quartz is that unlike granite, marble, and slate, you don’t have to seal it on a regular basis. There is nothing more family friendly than low maintenance.

Picture from Silestone USA

Picture from Silestone USA

There you have it! Keep these seven tips in mind as you decorate your home and something beautifully durable is within your grasp (and your child’s!). Need help? Hire a family oriented decorator at www.thebestnestdecor.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Magic: Messy Kid Fun

One thing I have learned as a mother is that my kids have the most fun when they are making a mess. Whether it is lining up cars all over the house, getting elbow deep in bread dough, or transferring water from container to container, if it is messy, it is fun. After visiting their cousins and seeing their thrift store bottles full of of red potion (water and food dye), my kids became interested in the idea of making their own potions.

Anything to keep them busy! I headed off to Value Village and collected an assortment of second hand odds and ends to make an “apothecary kit” for them. I used items from around the house to fill the containers: cold red tea became dragon spit (I forwent the red food dye for obvious stain related reasons), vinegar became liquefied Ent roots, baking soda was ground fairy teeth, Epsom salts were ground unicorn horns, and some unappetizing stevia became ground leg of magic toad.

My new mattress was delivered yesterday and I held onto the plastic wrap so I could cover up my sundeck and contain the mess. After setting the ingredients up along with some mixing utensils, they got to work mixing all the “magic ingredients”.  Thank goodness for the plastic! My sundeck was like a pool of green potion by the end but they certainly had fun. We won’t be mixing potions on a daily basis but I highly recommend this activity for a messy good time!

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IMG_5403Notice how there is no hitting or screaming in any of the pictures? Win. Win. Win. Mess be damned.

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Little Garden in the Big City

My husband and I far too often begrudge the fact that we don’t have a yard. I think in our hearts, though neither of us has ever lived in the country, we are country folk. However, we have chosen to stay in the Great Vancouver Area in order to be close to family rather than follow the dream of moving somewhere where we could own a house and a small acreage.

This summer I decided to stop complaining and make the best out of the little outdoor space we have. The budget for said decision was small and did not include replacing any furniture. I instead focused my budget on creating a little piece of “country life” on my sundeck. A visit to Wigs Nursery and some advice from my lovely neighbor resulted in some DIY hanging baskets which quickly flourished and gave me confidence to expand my little garden. My sundeck now houses a couple decorative plants in addition to mint, basil, tomatoes, and edamame beans. I love that even here in the city my children can walk outside and snack on a home grown tomato.

I happened to have some fabric hanging around the house which looked perfect with my rugs USA rug so I whipped up a couple of cushions to decorate the simple Home Depot chairs. The cats spend 50% of their time lounging on these chair

I happened to have some fabric hanging around the house which looked perfect with my Rugs USA rug so I whipped up a couple of cushions to decorate the simple Home Depot chairs. Though I bought the rug two years ago it only made it onto the sundeck this summer!

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There is some serious mutual adoration between Anna and Papa Price.

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My home made hanging flower basket. Thank goodness for the workers at WIGS who told me which flowers to plant and my neighbor who has taught me everything else!

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A tomato plant for snacking, a mint plant for mojitos, and sunshine for Sheba.

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I would like to say, “here is a picture of Charlie enjoying a nice juicy tomato from our sundeck” but really he is holding the tomato he spat out. Sofia, who did enjoy her tomato, ate it too quickly to be captured by camera.

On one of our many visits to Wigs, Sofia asked to buy some berry bushes. Whilst my original reply was “no, we don’t have room on the sundeck”, I soon realized that our unused 10′ by 5′ bit of “yard” downstairs was beckoning to be used for a greater purpose than hiding toys chucked off the sundeck. I got the kids involved and we tore up the crawling plant which covered the ground then returned to Wigs to pick up three blueberry bushes and two raspberry bushes. It was a delight to get down and dirty with the kids and plant our berry garden and it has brought joy to my country girl heart to watch them truck downstairs and pick a berry snack from our very own little garden.

I didn’t get around to taking any pictures when the berries were ripe but I look forward to sharing more pictures of our city garden next year when the bushes are grander and the berries are ripe for picking!

 

 

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Coping with Camping

Every summer we go camping with my in-laws. This summer we are trying out a longer stint. Six nights! (I’m going to try to negotiate it down to five). Camping with children is a mix of chaotic fun, tired shit fits, happy laughter, and anxiety attacks (on my part).

I have a wonderful time during the day splashing around the lake, reading stories at the campsite, and munching on cheesies at the beach. However, at nighttime a veil of anxiety begins to descend on me as it gets closer to bedtime. Firstly, anxiety about getting the kids to go to sleep; secondly, anxiety about waking them up when it is time for me to hit the hay; thirdly, anxiety about waking them up during the night when I have to get out of the tent to use the bathroom (I’ve had three kids, it’s inevitable that I get up many times per night).

This summer I began feeling anxious about our camping trip over a month in advance (it will be Anna’s first time in a tent. We slept in a hotel last summer). Anticipating the panic attacks I asked my doctor to prescribe me meds for acute anxiety because honestly, I’m not very pleasant to be around when I’m experiencing extreme anxiety.

The best, non medicated way, I can think of to cope with camping related anxiety is to glamp. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard of glamping (glam + camping), which is not actually camping according to my hubby. However, shock of shockers, I’ve been able to convince my husband that the solution to my annual anxiety fest is to buy a second-hand RV. The only condition is that I pay for it myself. For reference, he’s not being stingy, just practical. We need to start saving up our tax returns and any extras from his income for a van.

Thankfully, I have started making custom headboards again along with beginning my interior decorating business and have actually been making some money to put into our special new “Vacation” savings account. You can get a pretty “rad” 1970’s RV for under $6000 and I’m keen to rehab the interior myself after seeing some awesome RV renos (see below). It won’t be this summer but fingers crossed that next summer while the rest of my fam is roughing it in a tent I’ll be tucked away in an RV with a bathroom at my disposal! I see many happy vacations in our future!

 

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Airstream Before

Airstream Before

Airstream After

Airstream After

Airstream Before

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Death Plague and Passing it On

This past week I have been struck nearly dead with some death plague flu (yes nearly dead! and no, my daughter does not get her flair for dramatic exaggerations from me.)  Anna and I were the last of my family to be struck down and it has been a real treat. Three days after the start of this delightful bug I am still weak, nauseated, and achy. Thank you very much dear Gadd family for passing it along and don’t worry Di, I won’t be darkening your doorway this Friday!

Enough complaining and FYI Gadds, I would not have given up that vacation with you for a few days of good health. Moving on to passing something other than the flu along:

I love sewing and it is a skill that I hope to pass on to my children. I have even had day dreams of hiring my children, once teenagers,  to do some simple sewing for my interior decorating clients (minimum wage at least, no child labor in this house). I had a couple of pillows to sew up for my sundeck chairs this past weekend and since my littlest ones were sleeping I decided to chance a sewing lesson with my five-year-old.

I have often in the past given her pieces of scrap fabric to pin together (no blood shed yet) so she had a pre-existing interest in my sewing projects. When I first suggested that she try out my sewing machine she was hesitant but became enthusiastic after watching me and being given some simple instructions. Once she was at the helm of the sewing machine she was considerably less willing to listen to instruction. I definitely had some flash backs to my mom trying to help me with my piano playing and me being a snarky little jerk in return (sorry mom!). You home schooling moms out there…kudos! I don’t know how you do it!

Some pictures to catalogue my sewing adventure with Sofia:

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Sofia working on what turned out to be something like a small stuffy sleeping bag.

Sofia with her finished project: a "great big pillow". All sewing a la Sofia with some pinning help from mommy.

Sofia with her finished project, a “great big pillow”. All sewing a la Sofia with some pinning help from mommy. Thems some tired eyes there baby girl!

And, because Charlie can’t stand to miss a photo op:

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All dinosaurs, all the time at the LaRoy house.

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Can you feel the love tonight? I think he likes his t-rex grandma.

 

 

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