Posts Tagged ‘home improvement’

WAHM: How to survive

Finding the time to blog is no easy feat. There are dozens of things I either need to or would rather do when I find myself with 15 or more minutes of personal time.

I’ve been working from home for the last several months, averaging about 10 hours a week. Is it worth it? So far, yes. I work with some truly understanding people who want to make this partnership work. It’s wonderful to keep my feet in the water without submerging. The flexibility is appealing, though I’ve had to be okay with unstructured days.

“Home office”

If you’re going to make it as a part-time work-at-home-mom with a toddler* who would prefer to be touching you all the time, here are a few pro tips:

1) Don’t work in your pjs all day.
Even if I’m cranking out productivity from 8-11, I feel gross and unaccomplished if I haven’t showered by lunch time. On days when Maisie takes a morning nap, I’m able to get ready right after she’s down; on the rougher, no-nap days, she explores the bathroom while I get ready (and I don’t get much done).

2) Schedule a few in-person meetings.
I have several dry shampoo and no make-up days, but it’s nice to attend a meeting every now and then with other people. It forces me to put in a little extra effort in being presentable. Maisie usually comes with me, and it’s good to get her out of the house, too.

3) Find atypical places to make an office.
I’ve made phone and web calls at restaurants, enjoyed the front porch while updating websites and crafted social media posts while parked (with a sleeping kiddo in the car seat) in my garage or in a Starbucks lot. Who needs a home office?!

4) Make a hard stop time.
Before the school year restarted* I had to find ways to entertain an 8-year-old* and baby. In the mornings I worked while Wes read, played Prodigy, a cool math RPG, or similar reading software, and until Maisie was up from her nap. Then we headed to museums, parks or the YMCA pool. Now it’s easy: I have to leave the house by a certain time to pick him up from school. I try not to work again until after bedtime because afternoons with the kids are fantastic.

5) Set aside 30 minutes for household chores.
Yes, the house isn’t as clean as I’d like*, but it’s acceptable. If I can find a handful of minutes to switch out the laundry, load the dishwasher and tidy up, it makes a difference. Some people focus on one room a day to clean it well; I don’t yet have that down. I still use Saturdays for bathrooms, dusting and other bigger tasks. And when I want to tackle a house or garden project*, I build it into the weekly schedule.

6) Don’t beat yourself up.
There have been plenty of planned work days led astray, and I just had to be there for the family. Maisie has had big developmental leaps* over the summer — we’re in the middle of one now — and she struggles a lot: fighting sleep, frustrated crying, refusing food. I want to pull my hair out and can’t focus on work, so I push “pause” until it makes sense to try again.

7) Take time off.
Though I spend the bulk of my time at home, I still deserve a vacation. In May we visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center* in Huntsville, Alabama, and we celebrated Independence Day in St. Louis*.

Footnotes / Summer Updates:
*How is little Maisie one year old? She has given us so much to be thankful for. And my goodness, what emotions and lifestyle changes, too. See her monthly photos from Year 1 here.

*(4)(1) Wesley is now a second grader! The school year started August 1, which seems early, but I appreciate the shift back into routine.

*(4)(2) Similar to the day he was born, Wesley’s birthday party day was too hot to host his field day-themed party in our back yard as planned. We made it work by renting an indoor field! He’s such a fun kid, and so was the celebration.

*(5)(1) Somehow I got MRSA staph infection(s) IN MY ARMPIT in July. Twice. One giant, painful boil was cut open to drain, and I broke out into full-body allergic hives from the antibiotics to kill the infection. I’ve been told the boil(s) likely formed from nicking myself shaving, and that I could have picked up the antibiotic-resistant bacteria anywhere. The surfaces in my house have never been so clean, and I’m never using razors again. (I’m also washing weekly in surgery-prep soap and tea tree oil in between. Possibly overkill?)

*(5)(2) Our house project list has slowed way down, though we do an occasional thing. Steven is installing ceiling fans and researching built-in bookshelves. We moved some furniture around. And ignoring the weeds, my dying arborvitae (thankfully Sugar Creek Tree Care is helping to revive them!) and the torn-up mess Lucy made in one of the flower beds, I’ve been dreaming of outdoor updates. We planted a Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree for Maisie’s first birthday as a companion to Wesley’s oak tree. And while at it, I planted hibiscus for our 12th anniversary. I’m now embarking on straightening the pavers that have settled over the years on our brick walkway.

*(6) Maisie’s fussiness pattern is as predictable as a textbook when she’s working on a “Wonder Weeks” leap of skills. She’s as sweet as they come, but she is cranky for several weeks until mastering something new. At 12 months she is:
– Babbling “Hi-ye” / “Uh oh” / “Momomom” / “Dadada” / “Whoa” / “Dis”
– Fascinated with eyelashes, ceiling fans, spalshing water
– Eating all the green beans, whole milk
– Growling at the dogs and waving “night-night”
– Cruising along furniture, almost standing and walking with assistance

*(7)(1) This was our best family trip yet, and it fell over my birthday and Mother’s Day. The kids did great in the car (audio books for the win!) and slept well in hotels. The space museum is fantastic: lots to do, including rides, not crowded, cool models and equipment. We found a local diner for real fried chicken and pecan pie before going home.

*(7)(2) I can’t believe I hadn’t been to St. Louis until now. The city is packed with family activities! We loooooved The City Museum, which was the reason for our trip. A patriotic parade, fireworks and an air show by the Gateway Arch made it a Fourth to remember.

And if you’re still reading this and need more Shattuck updates, here’s a video of our summer moments:

Posted: August 23rd, 2019
Categories: Leah
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Exterior House Painting Reveal

It looks so different. If you ever want to meet your neighbors, paint the exterior of your house. I think I’ve talked to nearly everyone on the street – and so far everyone likes it, albeit with opinions.

Remember when you were pregnant and people asked about your birth plan? Haha, painting your house is kinda in the same category of public opinion and knowledge. Not that I care, really. I have had so much trouble and anxiety on selecting colors, that I’ve actually SOUGHT help.

Months ago I found a photo in a color swatch brochure of a house with a similar roof line as ours.

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I used it as an example when we replaced the roof last fall.

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I was still on the fence about the colors, so I took our painting company’s advice and met with a painting consultant to confirm swatches several weeks ago, and she reaffirmed my selections, saying that it would “look great.”

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Then the dreaded waiting period began. I kept asking friends and family if they thought I was making the right choice – I mean EVERYONE is painting their homes GRAY and NAVY. This is a completely different spectrum! I feel like everyone was being nice about it and assuring me it would be fine. It didn’t keep me from waking up at night, though.

On Monday, the painting crew arrived for a walk through and began prepping for the week. We were assigned a team of foreign exchange students, who were friendly and enjoyed playing with Wes and the dogs. They instantly loved them back.

Steven was out of town for the day, and the Reynolds came over for dinner to celebrate Jovia’s belated birthday, get sweaty in the bounce house and watch the painting crew. It was a perfect day, really.

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Tuesday was the first painting day. When we approached the house after work, it was impressively different. The way the sun hit the tan color, though, made the color look yellow, and I started to have major doubts. But the back and side of the house looked great, so I bit my lip and literally prayed that I would learn to love it.

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Wes certainly did. “Mama, look! I like our yellow house!”
Facepalm. It’s not yellow! It’s tan! My fingers were crossed that the warm white trim color would help soften the yellow tint. After work on Wednesday, we came home to this:

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By now, everyone in the neighborhood was in it. I watched people point and drive by slowly (do they hate it? what are they saying?!); I spoke with people I hadn’t in months: “It looks AWESOME!” and “You really hit the nail on the head.”

There were also several questions – even months before the painting began – on whether we’d paint the brick. Though Steven has little opinion about color choices, this was one decision we made together: not to paint it. There are several houses with similar features as ours in the neighborhood that have successfully pulled off a single color for both the siding and brick, and they do look nice. And though there are some places around the house that show water/paint run off on the brick that could have been covered up by paint, it wasn’t really a debatable decision.

We actually like brick and its variances. We left the family room fireplace unpainted as well because we like it. It’s nearly impossible to restore to its original coloring after its painted, too, and who knows? Maybe red brick will come back in style in the next few decades…and we’ll be trendy!

Back to Wednesday’s progress: So far, so good. And the weather had held off its forecasted thunderstorms.

Until Thursday. There were a few scattered storms, but the guys got the trim done and started on the doors and porch. Wes enjoyed waking up each morning to see his new friends.

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Mom and Dad were in the neighborhood to return a borrowed ladder at a friends’ house on our street, so naturally they stopped by to check out the handiwork. I asked if it was weird for them to witness their house of 26 years change colors, but they seemed pleased with the outcome thus far.

We had hoped to complete the project by Thursday, but the crew needed another half day to finish the porch and touch up random places. We semi-grudgingly went to bed knowing that we’d have one more day to dodge and avoid certain windows while getting ready in the morning.

I was a little nervous to come home on Friday because of conversations at work about the porch (floor) color. Apparently people don’t paint porches anymore, but we couldn’t just leave the blue-gray floor, and an all-white porch seemed like too much. And shutters? I kept going back and forth. But my prayers (seriously, I did pray that I’d like it), seemed to work, because approaching the driveway was beginning to be fun.

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After the final walk through, I attached a handful of white painted shutters before hopping in the car to see Wesley’s last preschool 500 bike “race.” It was just as adorable as you can imagine.

IMG_3771We spent Friday evening on the freshly painted front porch, then had dinner on the back patio. Wes was clearly enjoying himself, as he looked up at the house, then the porch umbrella, and announced, “It’s really nice to spend your life with people under the umbrella.”

Sure is, buddy.

The paint crew gave Wes his very own painting t-shirt, which is now a coveted item. As I’m looking more closely at areas they painted, the quality of painting around specific areas (door frames, mainly) was mediocre, but they were great to our family, and at least I didn’t have to climb up a ladder with a paintbrush.

And yes, I’m still debating the color of the garage doors (should they be tan? red?), and I couldn’t get all of the shutters properly installed. But that’s ok because I’d like to replace them with wooden (maybe functional?) shutters in the somewhat near future. Everyone knows that a project like this is never fully finished.

THAT ALL SAID — the photos are misleading; it really does look warm and inviting in person, which is exactly what we were going for.

The day we moved in:                                        Today:

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Instead of grays and dark blues, we’ve opted for browns and reds. I’m sure we’ll still get asked when we plan to paint the lower brick portion, too, haha. Despite my uncertainty, we’re starting to really like the “finished” product. It’s the Shattuck way to be different, I guess.

Come by and visit!

Posted: May 29th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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10 Months Later

IMG_3134The house. We’ve remained pretty busy during the colder months, and as of last week, we completed last year’s summer project list with the fence repair! Whew. It felt so good to cross off that last, important item.

2015 Unfinished Summer Projects:
Repair rear fence
Remove wallpaper: 1/2 Bath ([still] TABLED: Steven has hinted enough that he actually likes the wallpaper!)
Remove wallpaper: 3rd Bedroom
Paint: Master + Bath, Entry/Stairwell, Dining Room, Family Room

Sofa slipcover in Living Room

In January, Steven had the wallpaper removed in the 3rd bedroom and the walls painted for the beginnings of my own craft/painting room. Because the room gets the most amount of sunlight than any other in the house, I picked the same soft white paint color as the entry – mainly so I would have enough extra paint to do the family room myself. I still need to organize some things, but doesn’t it look like it has potential??
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In March, I decided to jump into the thick of it and start painting the walls and trim in the family room – the only room in the house with original brown trim and crown molding. The project took 2 weekends and nearly 20 hours, but it was so worth it. I found dried paint in my hair two weeks later.
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For giggles, this is what the family room looked like when I was a kid.
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(Yeah, so there’s a story behind the photo on the right of my sister and I. My grandma, who had dementia, was in a goofy mood that day; she posed us and then snapped this pic. Great memories.)

THEN Steven and I went to find new bedroom furniture for Wes. We found the best set(!) that he’ll use for ages and ages, and it looks great in his room. Here’s an adorable photo of Wes spinning around in his room right after the furniture truck left.
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While we were shopping for bedroom furniture, Steven spotted this wonderful small sectional and fell in love. After we bought the bedroom set and left the store, I called them back and added this piece, because why not? I hate that we said goodbye to the beloved couch of my grandma’s (which for the life of me I couldn’t find a slip cover to fit!), but it was a good time to move on.
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And now the fence is fixed! We didn’t want to replace the whole thing – just the sections with holes to keep the dogs contained. I mean, you can clearly see where the new sections start, but nothing a little spray paint can’t hide.

Now that we’re “done”… naturally I need to put together THIS summer’s project list, right? Believe me, it won’t be nearly as aggressive. Here’s what we’d like to do this year, and we’re already off to a good start.

Summer Projects:
Paint: House Exterior, Porch, Trim, Doors
Replace porch furniture
Kitchen Drawer Pulls
Weeding & landscaping
Replace interior doors

We’ve been outside every nice weekend day and weeknight to start cleaning up from the winter and clear out some overgrowth. Some of the “weeding and landscaping” is/will be fairly extensive – removing old roots, stumps and dead ash trees. I’m not planning on planting much of anything new this year, but will instead get ready for next summer’s possibilities.

I guess the exception is Wesley’s new addition to the yard: Tree-Rex. We received this baby Shumard Oak from the Indiana Earth Day Festival last weekend, and we planted it where an old fir tree had been removed. Wes is in love with this little tree and even gave it its own birthday party.

We hired a company to paint the exterior of the house in June, which is super exciting and nerve-wrecking. I feel like picking the right colors is essential. Did you know that painting consultants exist?! Sherwin Williams is scheduled to come to the house this week to look at the roof line, other homes in the area and our building materials to help me choose paint colors.

It’s amazing what some elbow grease and new furnishings do to make a place feel like home. Our evening walks have started up again, which helps us meet more neighbors and feel even better about our decision to move into this space. We’ve definitely settled in to a rhythm here – our little place in this city. We’re loving it.

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Posted: April 27th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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Week Two

IMG_1240Last Monday, we put our house on the market. Our realtors are a husband-wife team my parents’ age, and they sold our neighbor’s house 3 years ago within 2 weeks. They are no-nonsense, and we like that. They told us what to expect and what not to expect, gave a few pointers on what we should do rather quickly to the old house, took some photos and listed it that same day.

While we were taking family photos outside by the for sale sign, several neighbors and passersby asked questions about the house, complimented our front garden bed and wished us well. I’m hoping that’s a good sign that we will have several inquiries and showings! I did hear today that we indeed had a showing on Wednesday, and while their only complaint was the small dining room, it was enough for them to keep looking at other properties. Can’t really do anything to change that; we “survived” 8 years with it!

The week itself was fairly uneventful because it rained ALL THE TIME. Wes has been super antsy and cabin feverish from the weather, making up new words to songs, “Rain, rain, go away. Don’t ever come back!”

If you ask Wes about the new house, his response is nearly always about the garage doors. He is fascinated with them. The conservation goes something like this: “We have a loud and a quiet garage door at the new house. The garage doors are blue. The quiet one isn’t as fast as the loud one. And the loud one is really, really loud!” Uh huh.

Outside of getting connected with internet again (it was dreadfully painful without it!), we unpacked boxes, tried pieces of furniture in different rooms, and I researched kitchen breakfast nooks. Note: Amish-made breakfast nooks are the best quality, but they’re pricey. You can find cheap particle board sets within $300-500 online, but luckily I scored a used (and weathered) L-shaped bench/banquette on Craigslist. The seats desperately need to be recovered, as if I don’t have enough projects!

Ballard Designs Coventry Corner Bench: We actually placed it into the opposite corner after trying it out for a day

Ballard Designs Coventry Corner Bench: We moved it into the opposite corner after this photo was taken, and it looks much better. Maybe I won’t be lazy and will post the updated look later.

We spent much of the weekend attempting yardwork once it finally ceased to rain. All this precipitation has made the weed population go crazy over here. I spent four hours weeding out the front beds of approximately 30 square feet and nearly another hour clearing out random weeds, trees and other plants that have popped out of the lovely English Ivy in the side yard.

Steven has cut the lawn twice now, which is nearly triple the size of our past yard. Wes was so excited to cut grass with Daddy at the new house, but he didn’t quite keep up – he came in drenching in sweat, hair matted to his head, and out of breath – “I think I’m done.”

Probably the most worrisome project is problematic poison ivy and night shade. The night shade is actually pretty easy to pull, but it’s creeping up everywhere, and it makes me nervous that the dogs and Wes are so close to it. Yesterday evening, I attempted to pull as much poison ivy out of our back side garden. There are three more bad areas in the yard that I am well aware of, and I’m afraid I’m likely to miss a bunch.

IMG_1251Rachel came over on Saturday, and she helped ease some of my anxiety about paint swatches, project priorities and time frames. She suggested we place all the unhung decor and unpacked boxes in the unused guest room so that I can’t see “unfinished projects.” Decor is the LAST thing to accomplish, and it’s been stressing me out that we don’t have things on the walls. Rachel also helped take down window treatments to allow more light into the house, and we even attempted the dining room wallpaper! I also have to give a shout out to her husband Nate for hauling the kitchen nook across town for me. 🙂

My plan was to use my PTO day today to finish removing the dining room wallpaper and clear out more poison ivy. I was able to spray weed killer and get halfway through the dining room before a massive storm hit and wiped out our power for 4 hours. Wes decided to stay home with me today, so we hunkered down in the basement with candles and tried to fight our boredom until the sun came out and the lights came on. Way harder than it sounds!

Summer Projects:
List old house on the market
Stage old house for showings – in progress
Old house upkeep and maintenance – ongoing
Repair rear fence
Remove wallpaper: Entry/Stairwell

Remove wallpaper: Family Room
Remove wallpaper: Dining Room – in progress
Remove wallpaper: 1/2 Bath
Remove wallpaper: 3rd Bedroom
Weeding & landscaping – in progress
Paint grout in entry
Paint: Master + Bath, Entry/Stairwell, Dining Room, Family Room (retouch & trim)
Buy dehumidifier for basement
Additional runner for upstairs hallway
Sofa slipcover in Living Room (original purchase looked terrible this week)
Replace entry light fixture
Replace toilet seat in Master Bath
Remove bee nests on front porch
Poison ivy removal – in progress
Recover kitchen banquettes

In other news, WES TURNS FOUR THIS WEEK. In fact, today is my original due date. We’re having our first company over on Saturday to celebrate. We’ll see how I do!

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Posted: July 13th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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