Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to be a working mom?

Ha! You'd think I'd have it down pat...right? Wrong? First off, I don't know how you could be a SAHM. I think it is such a demanding, stressful, hard job. I also don't know how to be a FT working mom. It's the same: demanding, stressful, hard. Yet both are extremely rewarding.

Growing up, I wanted to be a SAHM. My hubby and I talked about it when we were dating, and that was the plan: I stay home with the kids and he works.

About 2 years into our marriage, that went out the window. I was a full time realtor, and he was a full time financial advisor. He hated it. Not all of it, but most of it and while we were on a trip to the BWCA, he decided he would pursue his dream: to become a teacher. Shocking? Yes. Best decision for his career? Yes. A tough pill to swallow that I would HAVE to work? Yes.


Fast forward a year, and we were expecting our 1st child.
Mike was a special education assistant (making less than $20K/year), he was going to school full-time (nights and weekends), and I was working full-time for a pharmaceutical company. I had the world's WORST manager. WORST, WORST, WORST. She sucked. Big time!

After our first was born, I had the strongest desire to stay home. Mike said we can make it work, but we may have to sell our house and move into an apartment. I hated that idea and had a very hard time letting go of my ideal of staying home.

When Blake was about 7 months old,  I  started a job with a different company and was blessed with the world's greatest manager.  He totally understood what it meant to be a working mom. He still expected 100% at work, yet understood that appointments and sick kids certainly came first. 

Most days, however mornings are crazy!  I typically get up early (5:15) and then work out. When I come home, I make lunches, take a quick shower, help with any remaining homework and get the kids in the car.  It seems so easy and written down, but it is far from easy.  Unfortunately. tears can be shed and I sometimes lose my cool with rushing to get out the door by 7:25. 

At this point in my life, I bring the boys to daycare and drive Kenna to her school and have her there by 8 AM.  Again, it seems so simple.... But we have been late plenty of times. So much so that I got a letter stating that if she were to be late to school one more time that the county iwould be contacting us. I am not sure what that really means, so I have shredded her late slips and worked really hard to get her seated in her classroom before the kids that ride the bus get there!  

Aside from our crazy, rushed mornings, I have found it easiest to plan our dinner and set out parts of what we'll have for dinner in the morning.   I will grab stuff out of the freezer that needs to be thawed and set it in the sink, or remind myself to buy ingredients as needed for whatever it is that I am making.  

After picking up the kids from daycare and school, it is a mad dash to cram in some fun at night!  Now that it is spring out, the kids play outside either playing a sport or playing on the swing set or trying to capture our chickens!  

I will make dinner and we eat as a family, then finish up homework and head to bed.  It is completely exhausting, but I get the best of both worlds!  I get to do a job that I love and I get to spend time with my family...I wouldn't have it any other way.  (Unless I could have summers off, like Mike) 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Christmas Letter

I try to send out letters to everyone, but inevitably, I miss people. I'm sorry. If you missed out letter, here is mine from 2011:


Yes, you may be a bit surprised…we’ve added to our family. I found Crosby’s birth announcements recently…about a year after I finished making them. What a perfect time to send them out…for his 18 month birthday!? ?????

Welcome to life with 3 little ones! Poor Crosby. No really, he’s not a poor kid. He’s a doted over, happy-go-lucky, smiley little guy. He’s into everything. Especially playing football with his daddy, “Bay-ey” (Blakey) and “Nenna” (Makenna). He loves to run around the kitchen and have us chase him, and then he’ll run into the living room and throw himself up onto the chair or couch. He thinks it’s the best game, and we think it’s pretty fun as well! He’s chatting up a storm and recently started to say “Bible” when we read from it to do our advent calendar. Have you ever heard a little person say “Bible”? You should. You’d be asking him to say it almost as much as we do, if not more!

At 5, Blake is all boy and sweet as can be. He played soccer and t-ball this year and learned how to ride his bike without training wheels. He loves to go biking with me when I go for runs. He is gearing up for kindergarten next year and enjoys learning about letter sounds and spelling. His other love is Lego’s. He’s obsessed….’nuff said. He is strong-willed, kind-hearted and has a minimum word count he has to hit each day before he goes to bed. Many nights we can hear him chatting away with anyone who will listen while he lies in bed!

Makenna, Makenna, oh how we love thee! Our spirited 3-going on 13-year old who is into all things her brothers are, as well as taking care of her babies. The only thing she asked Santa for this year is “jewelries…. Lots of jewelries”. When asked why, she said because she wants to wear them to work when she turns 4. She mimics many of the things I do or say and definitely adds a little emphasis to her words when she wants to by adding a little lip smack to it! She is into fashion and accessories, as well as wearing skirts while playing soccer and bike riding. She has gotten pretty good at biking and is a determined little thing!

Mike is in his 5th year teaching kids with Autism. He teaches in the Ghetto…Minneapolis. Actually, it’s a nice school. I just like to tease him. He took up shooting a bow this summer, which has now turned into bow hunting. Saturday mornings are typically spent in his tree standing waiting, waiting, waiting for a deer to come. Someday he’ll get one and then I’ll have to cook venison. No thanks! Maybe we can donate it?

I am still in pharmaceutical sales with Daiichi Sankyo… Sounds like God Bless You! I’ve picked up woodworking this year and built our headboard and a craft table, among other items. It’s great… when I actually finish a product! I have some pictures of our bed frame on our blog: www.thevpfamily.blogspot.com

In other news, we got a cat. His name is Buzz and he lives in the “old garage” and has already earned his keep by catching a chipmunk. We got him in September and he weighed less than 5 pounds. I’d guess he weighs 10-15 now. He has a healthy appetite, to say the least!

Kali, our 8 year old Labrador, thinks Buzz is pretty cool, except when he bites her tail. She loves to go in and play with him, as well as snoop around his “house”. Speaking of houses, we built a dog house for her. Fully insulated and with roofing to match our house. She’s pretty stylish!

We hope you have a fabulous year, we KNOW we will… Attitude is a choice!

Love always,
Mike, Nicole, Blake, Makenna, Crosby,
Kali (the dog) and Buzz (the cat)

And the picture to go with it?


Monday, January 30, 2012

2 by 4 storage shelves how-to

We have a large furnace room in our basement. We also have 3 little ones, and along with that comes the chaos of toys. What better thing to do than build and industrial strength storage unit in our basement?
Last year, I set out to find something to hold the big Tupperware bins we have. I went to Home Depot and started explaining to the lumber guy what I wanted to do. He kept trying to point me towards a metal shelf for $100. A 4 x 8 metal shelf for what? No way. I knew I could do better, so I just ignored him and went searching for myself.




What did I find? 2 x 4 x 8's and plywood! The guy was such a jerk trying to help me. He said my plans were not right, it wouldn't work, yatta, yatta, yatta.


So. . . I bought the lumber and drove home to build my shelf.


I sawed all the wood in our garage with a miter saw, then split the 4 x 8 sheets of plywood in half.


I then hauled all the lumber into our basement and built the shelf while my hubby looked on (he had just had spine surgery and couldn't lift more than 5 lbs).








This year? I just zipped into Home Depot, bought my 6-2 x4 x8's and 2 sheets of 4 x 8 plywood. I had one of the nice lumber guys rip the plywood in half and then cut another few pieces of 2 x 4's into 24 inch lengths to use as the braces for the shelves.




Mike ended up putting almost all the "ladders" together for me using 2 1/2 inch screws.







After putting all the ladder pieces (the ends and middle that hold up the shelves) together, we started placing the plywood in between them.








Thursday, January 26, 2012

Furniture Refinish

I really enjoy woodworking , furniture refinishing and re-doing pieces of furniture. Every so often, I will browse craigslist and look at pieces that are inexpensive and think "how could I make that cute". My criteria?

1. It has to be cheap. Cheap meaning $50 or less.

2. It has to be solid wood. Some veneers are okay, but solid wood is best.

3. It has to have great lines. Lines meaning detail on the piece.

4. It has to serve some purpose once refinished/repainted.

So...I bought a really ugly piece of furniture off of craigslist a while back for $50.

It was super ugly.

I should preface that. Super ugly, as in, if you lived in a 70's house with shag carpet and a nasty "70's" stain on your wood paneling it "might" look cool! Really ugly stain...right? It met all my criteria. It has great lines, it is mostly wood (the sides are veneers), it is solid and would look fabulous as a dresser in a shabby-chic room, or as an addition to some Pottery Barn furniture.

My intentions were to put it in our bedroom opposite the bed frame that I made.


It would be adorable!


So I set to work sanding the top. I envisioned the top being finished in a walnut stain with a few coats of poly on it. Everything else? A cool teal/turquoise color.

Yuck! It was such an ugly color! I hope we don't look back at colors we wear or paint now and think that. It's inevitable, I guess!


I set out sanding the top, yet quickly realized the top would not work stained, as the veneers were also surrounding the top lip. FYI...veneers do not sand or stain as well as wood. Heck, they don't take stain, unless it is a paint-like stain.

So, I just put a coat of primer on the whole thing. I used a primer that I bought at Sherwin-Williams which is a furniture primer that you can put over stain. It was perfect. It really grips to the furniture, so your paint application is much smoother.

Then, I painted. I also bought the paint at Sherwin Williams. It is a furniture pain that is really thick and self-leveling. It's great.

Next step? Distress. My favorite part. Take some 150-grit sandpaper and start sanding edges, spots where typical wear would be, and any spot you mess up on. That's the beauty of distressing: if you screw up, just make it look like there was wear in that spot.

The result:

Original hardware was kept.

Awesome color!


Love how distressing pulled out some of the white primer. It made it look even more shabby-chic in that it appeared it was old and rustic and had been painted multiple times.



Before and after:










You'd pay $50 for the after...right? Well, I decided to put it up for sale on craigslist to see if I could get a bit more than what I paid. I ended up getting $200 for it. I made $150 for simply painting it and using a little muscle to sand/distress it. I love the piece, but I definitely made a chunk of change off of it!



Thank you craigslist man who's wife could not live without my turquoise dresser! You paid for me to start another woodworking project!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Landscaping






Why all the dirty feet?




Fluffy cotton-like gunk in his hair?





Why...we landscaped our muddy yard, but of course!
This was one of the first things we did to begin the final landscaping projects...we took down a huge-HUGE Cottonwood tree on the side of our house. It was an enormous tree...the biggest one in the yard. It was stuck at some point by lightning and had a large cavity that was rotting. We talked to our insurance agent and he said if it fell on the house, insurance would cover $500 of the removal. Not something we wanted to hear, so we paid less than half of that to have it removed.




John arrived right at 7:30 and was in and out of the branches like Tarzan. He had the tree cut down in less than 20 minutes!



And this was the mess that was left. It looks like a forest on the ground!






As you can see, our kids had no problem playing in the driveway all of the spring before we seeded. Isn't this picture adorable of them? Bikes propped up, chatting away about something very important to a 2 and 4 year old!





Here's a picture of Kenna and I starting to get the front gardens ready. She had no problem getting totally filthy in the mud and muck!







We decided to landscape in the front of our house as well as the tiered landscape under the office window!




Here's close to the final grade:








Here's a picture right after our sprinkler system was installed.




And the moment we finally waited for: grass to sprout!

More grass beginning to grow!



Then, it was time to landscape the backyard. Tyler came over with his bobcat and assisted in making the yard look great! Dirty pigs were just the icing on top of a long, hard-working day spent driving a bobcat around and distributing fresh soil and seed throughout the yard where the old house was.

A dirty little face to match those pigs!



No worries! Crosby got to enjoy the dirt and mud of the day as well!





After baths, these two littles got to go outside and see what Blake was up to while they were bathing!





Driving the bobcat with Ty was what he was up to!
Thanks, Ty, for all your hardwork!



Here's some of the front gardens. Tons of dirt, hundreds of plants and 100's of bags of bark mulch were added to make these gardens look as they do!


Who's that hotty down there!!!!! WOOOT woot! He's my HHH!




Ms. Kali enjoyed napping by us as we finished the gardens and put some finishing touches!







And one final picture of the first time Mike mowed our new "lawn" which ended up being mostly weeds at the end of the year. It ended up downpouring for about the last 15 minutes of his lawn-mowing!

And that, is part of our landscaping journey. There was definitely more that we did, and much more that we have to do this year. Welcome to home building!