The Years of Making Magic

28 February 2019

Ever since I completed up my 60 Before 30 project, I’ve been considering options for a new iteration. My experience with longer-term goal sets has been overwhelmingly positive; I love allowing them to shape and mark a chunk of my life!

But how to theme it? 65 Before 35 just didn’t sound as jazzy. As I pruned and shaped my collection of ideas for a potential next list, and considered what our life is likely to look like for the next few years, an idea began to take shape.

The driving force in our family right now is paying off our mortgage*. We expect this to happen in the next three to six years, depending on the market’s performance, and until then, we will be making some aggressive trade-offs and sacrifices – forgoing vacations, reducing our grocery budget, delaying clothing purchases, cooking at home, (almost) never going to the movies, not purchasing alcohol, and more.

We believe the freedom of owning our home will be more than worth it, but we’re also not willing to put our young family’s life on hold for the next five years, eating PB&J every night and spending only the absolute minimum.

And here’s the thing: we’re convinced we don’t need to. The fact is, there are amazing amounts of fun and memories to be had for very few dollars. In fact, I’d argue that this list gets at the very best parts of life, the ones we’ll continue to chase long after we’ve put our mortgage to rest: the patience to move slowly, the softness to be delighted, rich and agile minds, deep relationships, confidence in our own ingenuity, a deepening bench of skills, and – above all – golden-hued memories. If these things aren’t luxury, I don’t know what is.

Each item below was carefully chosen, for reasons that may not be immediately clear. Some are unusual, some are pedestrian, and many you might never think to raise to the level of being put “on a list.” You might find it amusing that I included them at all, or worse, Not Fun.

Am I “flattening things that should be enjoyable into tasks“? Am I not fun??

Perhaps not. I am a creature of habit, and despite my best intentions, it’s easy for life to become routine. So, just like we put extra mortgage payments into our budget instead of hoping to stumble upon “extra” sums of money, I am intentionally setting out to create the conditions for delight instead of hoping delight will somehow shoehorn its way into my full life, with the financial constraints we are voluntarily putting on it. What we prioritize, happens. It’s always taken someone’s effort to plan the picnic, organize the lake day, or flip bunny-shaped pancakes. Just because something has been considered and planned doesn’t make it any less magical.

Alright. After that very lengthy preamble, I present to you…

Start: February 28, 2019
End: ??? (Somewhere between 2022 and 2025!)
Items completed: 16
Last updated: July 2022

1. Host a croquet tournament
2. Make potstickers with Mama Jean (December 2021)
3. Teach June the Lord’s Prayer (March 2019)
4. Make a month-by-month landscape tending list
5. Go trail riding at the farm with my family
6. Visit Hammocks Beach State Park (June 2022)
7. Camp at Grayson Highlands
8. Take June to a local high school’s musical (April 2022)
9. Complete a month of thank you notes
10. Host Chinese New Year fun for friends
11. Dance at a ceili
12. Go to BINGO as a family (July 2019)
13. Undertake a nature scavenger hunt for each season (spring 2020)
14. Spend two weeks in a row at the Island
15. Update our Advent calendar with our home’s colors
16. Eat at Waffle House (epic late-night visit with some of my dear coworkers in August 2019!)
17. Go swimming in a mountain lake
18. Host a book swap party (July 2019)
19. Work on a Habitat build
20. Take June to tea at the Carolina Inn or Fearrington (May 2021)
21. Order historical photo albums to get us up to date (2005-2009, 2010-2014, 2015-2019)
22. Enter something in the State Fair
23. Square dance at our town’s arts center
24. Lake day with the Rays
25. Buy bunting to hang on our home for patriotic holidays
26. Listen to all of the Harry Potter books
27. Finish my EFM guide to the Triangle
28. Host a pie party
29. Become an expert at French braiding June’s hair (officially given up on my own)
30. Lead another service at the Island (July 2022)
31. Watch a review at the CGA and go to lunch at the Officers’ Club
32. Take another family on an outdoor souffle adventure
33. Do a home swap with a friend or acquaintance in a place we want to visit
34. Make a new neighborhood BFF couple
35. Put together an ice cream sundae bar, just for us (August 2019)
36. Commission a special art print and give one copy to each family member
37. Take June to her first outdoor movie and pack excellent snacks
38. Organize another Great Island Race
39. Do something with the upstairs bathroom (shared February 2021!)
40. Host a chocolate chip cookie taste-off
41. Touch up the paint throughout our home
42. Teach June to sing patriotic songs
43. Go to rooftop yoga at The Durham with friends (April 2019, with Lisa)
44. Make “For God so loved ____” art for June and Shep
45. Golf as a family at Knight’s Play
46. Take the train somewhere (May 2019 – to Charlotte with June!)
47. Hike another bald
48. Have a full family sleepover with the Rays
49. Teach June to jump rope, trace her body with chalk, and play hopscotch and Spud
50. Finish the path in our alley
51. Plant lots of daffodil bulbs in our backyard
52. Memorize a favorite poem
53. Learn to cut June’s hair (and John’s and Shep’s – May 2020!)
54. Borrow a canoe and go on an adventure
55. Get back in a regular rhythm of playing tennis with the Terhunes
56. Party it up in a glow stick bath
57. Make a better display for my jewelry
58. Real estalk and visit the playground in Trinity Park
59. Explore Morehead Planetarium
60. Introduce June to the art of painted toe nails (May 2019!)

Many of these cost no money. Some cost more than that. More importantly, they all require our attention, capacity for delight, and thoughtfulness. I hope to get to tell many of these stories over the next few years, but if you’re particularly curious about one, by all means – ask away!

*As you may have gathered, we have changed our approach to paying off our mortgage. A Marvelous Money post addressing the topic is coming soon! :)

On having family close by

21 February 2019

In October, I shared the happy news that my sister was moving to North Carolina. It was exciting enough to have Kim in Nashville – in the South! a short flight away! – and Nat and Joe in Northern Virginia – a reasonable weekend trip! – but this development was a revelation. Kate and family are now outside of Charlotte, a little over two hours away from us, and that’s closeness of a whole different order.

Since my sister’s arrival about three months ago, we’ve gotten to taste the sweetness of proximity – taking the girls to the Nutcracker, organizing their new home together, texting about North Carolina happenings (since they now matter to all of us!), celebrating birthdays around the same table. And we’ve made plans, so many things to look forward to – trips to the zoo (the perfect halfway point between us!), shopping my favorite consignment sale elbow to elbow, weekend visits with scooter rides and cousins piled in the same room.

You have to understand that I truly never thought this would be our reality. My family always desired to be closer to each other, but everyone seemed firmly ensconced in their separate – widely scattered – states.

North Carolina welcome

So, over the last almost ten years since moving South, we built our own life here. We’ve (slowly) made friends that have become family. We’ve worn traditions like grooves that have become part of our family identity, ones that were once new to us but will always be familiar to our kiddos.

Away from our hometown and our extended family, we turned homesickness into homeyness out of necessity – begrudgingly at first, and then with gusto. We had to make this place our home, even if our family wasn’t her. We couldn’t just wait for them to show up one day.

And I know that even as this was sometimes hard and lonely, it was also a gift, because some new couples in the literal shadow of their parents or hometowns are never quite able to set themselves apart, to establish their own traditions, celebrations, and identities. And we were.

welcome box

And therein lies the rub. It happened almost immediately: Kate and Co moved in October, and the conversation quickly turned to Thanksgiving. Of course we were going to spend it together, since we were now so close! And of course we wanted to be with family on this most family-centric holiday!

But but but. For the last six years, we’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner with our dear friends and their parents. Air travel at Thanksgiving is SO expensive, and besides, John has only ever gotten Thanksgiving Day off, making multi-day travel impossible. The Terhunes may not be our actual family, but Thanksgiving at their house has become a deeply-cherished tradition – the only Thanksgiving setting June has ever known!

But how to explain this to our flesh-and-blood family, who understandably assumed we would spend Thanksgiving with them?

It all shook out – we spent Thanksgiving Day with our friends, and then drove over to Charlotte after John finished work on Friday – but not without a small sense of disappointing people, at least on my part.

We are tasting a little bit of what those with family close by know well – the push and pull of obligations and expectations for time and presence. This is not the last time we will face this kind of quandary, and while our lives may be slightly more complicated for it, all I feel is grateful. After all, the only reason we now have more family expectations to navigate, is because we have more family. Thanks be to God.

Friends, I would love to hear what this has looked like in your life. Do you live close to your or your spouse’s immediate family? Have you always done so? If so, how often do you see each other? What have been the best and hardest parts?

Above, the North Carolina welcome box we sent Kate and Co before their move, filled with some of our favorite reasons to love the Old North State: popcorn from Asheville, peach candy, Chapel Hill toffee, a bucket list map, Cheerwine, Videri chocolate, the Western NC jam we served at our wedding, Duke’s mayo, cheese straws, an NC coloring book, the best magazine, and a CAT earth mover in honor of their presence in the state. It was so fun to collect and put together!

Shep’s New England-Inspired Nursery

18 February 2019

Friends, I’m so excited to share today’s post with you!! I had a clear vision for Shep’s nursery from the beginning, and it has been gratifying to see it come to fruition. Let’s take a tour!

But first, let’s look back. Here’s the before of the former “blue room,” our smallest bedroom:

Yikes! My inspiration for turning this dumping ground into a happy spot for our baby boy was one of my favorite childhood books – Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey, a treasured New England author. We’d use the bold but nature-inspired colors and whimsical illustrations from the book to set the scene, framing three spreads to star in the space. This was my original inspiration board:

All of the credits are in this post!

And here’s how the board came to life!

new england nursery

Whee!! Such a good before and after :)

To free up floor space, we moved the queen bed into our guest room and set up the full in here.

We hired out the painting – prepping the walls to cover up those stripes was a feat! – and he did a beautiful job. When I first saw the finished colors, though, I was convinced we had made a mistake – they looked a little cartoonish to me. But, once we layered in finishes and especially the artwork – what was meant to tie everything together from the start – they totally transformed. Speaking of which…

framed book pages

The art!! The illustrations that started it all have turned out to be the crown jewel in this room, just as I had hoped. We had Framebridge frame three spreads from the book (I bought a new copy and cut the pages out verrrrrry carefully!). The gold Richmond frames have a heritage feel even though the illustrations themselves are youthful. I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out and know we will treasure them for a long, long time!

Our only “major” DIY was switching out the light fixture and fan. John really wanted to keep a ceiling fan, so I hunted high and low before finding this one. The sleeker visual profile really makes a difference in how big the room feels, and I like that the frosted, round bulb has a bit of a nostalgic feel to it!

John’s parents ended up gifting us the white Jenny Lind crib, which looks sharp against the colorful walls. We have two sheets on rotation from Little Unicorn – this blue one and this wave pattern. For the big bed, I found coordinating pillow cases and throw pillows at HomeGoods (we already had the white duvet and sheets!).

Let’s see… the little yellow bedside table was one I found at the flea market many years ago, and the lamp was from my Mom’s childhood room (!). The racquets are from my grandmother’s attic – I had saved them for years without knowing where to put them, and I’m so glad they finally have a home!! The sweet striped basket was a gift from my work ladies, the rocks and driftwood were collected on the Island, and the stuffed whale was a gift, too.

tennis decor

It’s a happy, cozy little room. I hope Shep loves spending time here as he gets bigger!

Graham Terhune

And now, if you’ll indulge me with a few more of our family photos by Graham

family photos

Lake pajamas

Daddy son

swaddled baby

family on bed

Anagram Photo

My one request of the session was that we create a new version of our favorite photo from last time. I’d say Graham did an admirable job :)

black and white family photos

classic baby photos

Thank you for letting me share, friends! What do you think of our sweet baby boy’s spot? If you have any questions I didn’t cover, drop a note in the comments and I’ll help you out!

Photos: Graham Terhune of Anagram Photo | Hair and makeup: Samantha Ray | My pajamas: Lake Pajamas | Wall color: Beach Foam by Behr (blue) and Aurora Borealis by Ben Moore (green) – both colormatched to Sherwin Williams | Custom framing: Framebridge | Fan: Hunter | Jenny Lind-style crib: Amazon | Crib mattress: Amazon | Bed and bedside table: Raleigh Flea Market | Lamp and racquets: vintage | Crib sheets and blanket: Little Unicorn | Striped pillows: HomeGoods | Pennant: Seawicks | Striped basket: gift

P.S. June’s buffalo check and Liberty print nursery

Shep’s newborn photos by Anagram Photo

12 February 2019

The chapter of our family story wherein we introduce a new character would not be complete without photos, and I’m so very grateful to have had our friend Graham on hand to take these ones. His skill, his eye, his sense of light and scale and setting – they’re all exquisite. But what really sets him apart is his kindness and ease, and that goes whether you’re one of his lucky friends or just meeting him for the first time. I am so glad to share his beautiful work with you today! Here, a few of my favorites from Shep’s newborn session.

Once again, my lovely friend Sam was on hand for hair and makeup help. I am almost always FOR hair and makeup help (as I am useless when left to my own devices), but especially a few days after giving birth. Thank you, wonderful Sam!!

newborn session

We took a few more in Shep’s nursery, and they’re some of my favorites — that post will be up next!

P.S. June’s newborn photos and my baby favorites from the first six weeks