Family movie night

29 September 2022

Last fall, when June started kindergarten, we joined the ranks of many, many families before us and set aside Fridays for family movie night. This is not an original idea, but it has become a beloved tradition. The kids look forward to it all week and, to be fair – since we paired it with the takeout tradition we started early last year (after a mini emotional meltdown over the passing of time, no big deal) – so do we. Fridays have never been better over here.

A mostly-unrelated photo because I don’t have any of movie night… I’ve been practicing my French braiding!

Today, I thought it might be fun to share the movies we watched in the 2021-2022 school year along with a few mini reviews! But first, a little background:

  • June was 5 and 6 and Shep was 3 when we watched the movies below. Annie was under one and did not participate in family movie night.
  • On movie night, we aim to eat dinner no later than 6:30, then do quick baths and pajamas and be watching the movie by 7:30/8. Since most kid movies are about 90 minutes, this still gets our kids in bed by 9:30ish, which works for our us. (June had no problem staying up, though Shep would occasionally fall asleep or even ask to go to bed halfway through the movie, ha! Know thyself, buddy.)
  • We eat dessert during the movie. Historically, this was a cookie from the bakery we can walk to from preschool, but since it recently closed (sob!), we’ve been improvising.
  • Something I feel passionately about: this is family movie night, not kid movie night. I want my children to see me enjoying leisure time, not scrolling on my phone or cleaning up the kitchen while they enjoy themselves. And why wouldn’t I?! Movie night is FUN! Our rule is that the adults get to pick the movie for family movie night, since the kids get to pick their shows most of the time, so of course we pick favorites from our childhood and newer movies we want to see.
  • We do also have family movie night during the summer, but it tends to be more sporadic than during the school year, since we’re traveling, have more plans, or prioritize playing outside.

Onto the movies! Here’s what we watched last school year, as best as I can remember and roughly in order.

  • Ratatouille (I love this movie! June thought parts were scary and lots went over Shep’s head, but I adore it.)
  • Luca
  • Robin Hood (One of John’s favorites from childhood!)
  • Cars (Shep liked it; June was ambivalent.)
  • Lady & the Tramp
  • Monsters, Inc. (June thought this one was too scary – sensing a theme? :))
  • Cars 2 (I had never seen the Cars movies, so movie night was the perfect excuse to watch them!)
  • Toy Story (Our kids were not into it! Hoping they like it more as they get older.)
  • Peter Pan (It pains me to say it – John even had a cat named Peter Pan when he was little! – but I would not recommend this one – it just doesn’t hold up well, in my opinion. The Native American scenes were painful.)
  • A Bug’s Life (This isn’t one of my favorites, but our kids loved it! When they have a babysitter on a Friday night, we let them pick the movie from one we’ve watched together, and this is often their pick.)
  • The Sword and the Stone (One of my favorites from childhood! It held up and our kids went wild for the squirrel scene. June did think it was a little too scary at times.)
  • Aladdin (Also too scary at times for June.)
  • Encanto (Loved it! The story was a bit thin but the music and colors are great.)
  • Pocahontas (A hit! This was a favorite of mine from childhood, but I hadn’t seen it in decades and worried it wouldn’t hold up (a la Peter Pan). I actually thought it was surprisingly respectful and beautifully done, though of course I’m sure not 100% historically accurate. June’s eyes absolutely lit up during “Colors of the Wind.”)
  • Moana (Certain songs/scenes in this one always make me tear up!)
  • Brave (This was a bit of a pass – we found the accents a bit hard to understand and the story a little strange. With all of my Scottish heritage, I wish I could give it a better review!)
  • Charlotte’s Web (I must have watched this movie a billion times as a child, because it all came rushing back like muscle memory when we watched it! We watched this after reading the book and they loved it.)
  • Mary Poppins (This one is over two hours and it couldn’t hold the kids’ attention. We’ll try again when they’re older!)
  • 101 Dalmations (They LOVED this one! Characters do call each other rude names, but overall a very popular choice.)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (Also watched this after reading the book. Much of the humor went over the kids’ heads, but we enjoyed it.)
  • Finding Nemo
  • Ice Age
  • The Lion King (You guessed it – June thought it was scary – but we were able to warn her and she enjoyed it despite the scariness. Just so many epic songs in this one.)
  • The Aristocats (We ended on a high note – the kids LOVED this one! This was one of my favorites as a child, too, and it held up. Just a sweet and fun adventure.)

I would love to hear: what movies have been hits at your house for movie night? Do you use it as an excuse to watch favorites from your childhood? (We have SO many more on the list I’m eager to get to!)

Kitchen Refresh: The Background, Inspiration and Plan

15 September 2022

September is a big month around here! Not only have we been anticipating our anniversary trip, but also the official start of our kitchen refresh! This project has been months in the making. Many of you expressed interest in hearing more about it in my mid-year goals update, so I thought we could chat about it today!

The background:

From the day we stepped foot in this house ten years ago, I knew I’d someday want to paint the cabinets. The kitchen was actually one of our favorite parts of the house – the layout was good, there was ton of storage space, the countertops were unoffensive, and overall it was in great shape – but the reddish wood of the cabinets combined with the reddish tone of our floors was just not my style.

That being said, we emphatically did not have the budget to hire a cabinet painter for the first many years of homeownership, and it was not a project I was interested in taking on myself. We also were unsure how long we planned to stay in this house, and therefore unsure whether the expense of a kitchen refresh made sense. We did make a few tiny upgrades along the way – a sliver of a chalkboard wall in 2013 and new pendant lights in 2014 – but the kitchen largely still looks the way it did the day we got the keys. Here’s a home tour from 2015 for a little background; I’ve sprinkled a few “before” photos throughout this post, too, very much unstyled :)

We’ve decided that this will, likely, be our home for at least the next few years, and that, combined with a more recent ability to pay for these upgrades, made us comfortable slating a kitchen refresh for 2022. For all the excitement I’ve had for this project, though, I’ve also been in my head a bit.

First, this project represents a large outlay of money for us. I feel pressure to craft an outcome I’ll LOVE and be happy with for a long while (probably the rest of our time in this house), especially because I am the one driving this refresh. (John would be happy to leave things as-is.) I’ve waited ten years to spend this money, and I want to spend it well and not have regrets. That’s a lot of pressure!

Second, while I am proud that we’ve lived with a kitchen that didn’t feel like us for a decade in an age when it’s easy to find instant, extravagant, ripped-to-the-studs renovations everywhere you look online, there’s still something in me that feels conflicted about replacing things for (almost) purely aesthetic reasons. I’ve wrestled with whether I’m being a good steward of the earth and of our finances in doing so.

Those are not rabbit holes for which there are easy answers, but I’ve come to a place I can live with and am truly excited for what’s ahead.

The process:

In planning for 2022, I dubbed the kitchen refresh a Q1 goal. LOL.

In reality, in what felt like a part-time job at times, I spent all of Q1 and into Q2 chasing down contractors to bid on our project. We did, by the end of May, choose two and pay deposits, and were able to get on their calendars for three months later.

A bright spot was meeting with my friend Callie of Haven & Hinge in January. For an hourly fee, we met in my kitchen, talked through options, and weeded through my Pinterest board together. She recommended contractors to reach out to and sent me a simple design plan based on what we chatted about. Based on our meeting, I ordered and then hung up four paint sample swatches. Friends, they have been taped to our cabinets since January. EIGHT MONTHS! Even though we chose our cabinet color in the spring, I refused to take them down. Through all the waiting, frustration, and delays, they were my sign – my beacon of hope! – that something was eventually going to happen in this kitchen, ha!

In August, I had a final meeting with Callie. To maximize our time, I combed through the whole project and bulleted out in granular detail my exact questions before she came over: where should we put knobs and where should we put pulls? Which style of hood? 8″ or 13″ pendant lights over the bar? Etc. etc. etc. These are the types of questions I could spend hours debating; instead, it was so nice to spend ONE hour making all the decisions.

Once I had answers, I had final meetings to relay them to Don (who is doing most of the work aside from the cabinets) and Sean (who is doing the cabinets – not confusing at all to have a Don and a Sean working on our project). I also entered the official “spending money” stage and purchased the light fixtures, cabinet hardware, tile, and hood vent. And that pretty much brings us to where we are today!

The plan:

So what actually are we doing in this refresh? Here’s the punch list:

  • STOVE WALL | We’re replacing the cabinet doors with Shaker-style fronts, replacing the hardware, and painting the cabinets.
  • HOOD | Removing the microwave, installing a hood that vents to the outside, and building and installing a wooden hood cover
  • REFRIGERATOR WALL | Removing the counter and cabinets to the right of the fridge, building a tall double-doored cabinet to the right of the fridge (the microwave will go inside), and building cabinets out around the rest of the fridge, to the ceiling. The wire shelf currently next to the fridge will be rehomed.
  • BACKSPLASH | Installing a new Clé Tile backsplash
  • LIGHTS | Replacing the pendant lights over the bar and the dining room table fixture
  • OTHER | Adding or replacing a few other decorative pieces: adding a rug, painting over the chalkboard wall, removing an old intercom, simplifying the molding, removing blinds, hanging curtains, etc.

Here’s a sketch I made of the refrigerator wall, since it’s a little harder to picture:

We are not replacing our countertops, sink, or any appliances. However, we are doing a few smaller projects in or adjacent to the main room, but outside of the kitchen, at the same time:

  • POWDER ROOM | Painting the walls and replacing the light fixture, towel ring, artwork, and hand towels
  • FIREPLACE | Building and installing a custom wood mantel and replacing the tile with the same tile as the backsplash
  • STAIRS | Removing some fussy scrollwork detail for a more classic, simplified look
  • SIDE HALLWAY | Installing three large fabric bulletin boards to display kid artwork and photos

The inspiration:

Let’s look at a few lovely photos to wrap things up for today!

Though I love a white kitchen, I wanted something a little warmer for our space. We’re going with Benjamin Moore’s Natural Cream, which is the same color used in Alaina’s kitchen (top left – so beautiful!). We’ll also be using gold hardware. (Other sources clockwise from top right: unknown, a friend’s kitchen, LEB Interiors, Friday & Co Design, unknown)

This kitchen by Emily Henderson has the same beautiful Zellige tiles that we’re using for our backsplash and fireplace surround.

Don is using this photo (from a Caitlin Creer home) for reference as he builds our mantel. (We aren’t doing the horizontal planking above.)

And he’s using this photo as a reference for our hood (I don’t have a credit for this one!).

Here’s some of the inspiration I’ve gathered for our fridge wall. (Clockwise from top left: Alaina Kaz, BHG, The DIY Playbook x 2, and Higham Furniture)

And there you have it! Friends, the paint samples are still on my cabinets as I type because this all still doesn’t seem real – but maybe by next week it will? Because there will be new tile in my kitchen?! Thank you, as always, for being excited about the journey – even the very long ones :)

What I’m packing for our anniversary trip to Bermuda

12 September 2022

Our tenth anniversary trip to Bermuda is this month and we are beyond excited. The last time John and I traveled without kids for more than a day was when we went to Anna Maria for Shep’s babymoon in 2018. In the months leading up to this trip (we booked it in 2021!), it has felt a bit surreal and even overwhelming to think about celebrating ten years of marriage in such a beautiful place with my best friend. For several days! Now that it’s almost here, grateful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So yes, we are celebrating big, and in ways that are outside our usual scope. John and I were joking the other day that our price-sensitivity meter has been turned wayyyy down when it comes to this trip – we are purposefully splurging in ways we don’t usually, even though doing so sometimes feels uncomfortable for these two savers. That goes for the trip itself, but it also goes for what we’re packing in our suitcases! We’ve both splurged on a few special items with this trip in mind, and I thought it might be fun to share a few of them (plus a few long-time closet staples I’ll be packing, too!).

BEACH DINNER DRESS | We are having a private dinner on the beach one night (if that is not the peak of fancy I don’t know what is) and I wanted to get a special dress for the occasion. This hot pink linen dress is more than I usually spend, but it is stunning in person and fits like a glove. I love it so much.

DAYTIME AND DINNER DRESSES | Dresses are one of my favorite things to wear, but sometimes they don’t feel as easy to throw on when you’re toting small children and doing all the gymnastics they require: bending, stretching, squatting, sitting on the floor, etc. I’m trotting out all my closet favorites for this trip: a cornflower blue floral Rah Rah dress from Pink City Prints, my white sleeveless royal shirt dress (on me here), my Nap dress, and a beloved UPF tunic dress (the material is so unexpectedly silky!).

FANCY COVER UP | I literally pulled over to the curb when I saw my favorite local boutique had a rack of block print dresses on the sidewalk for 50% off. Turns out they were by Oliphant, a new-to-me brand, and I was thrilled to snag one as a cover-up at a great price. It looks similar to this one but golly they have SO many cute patterns and styles!! Dangerous!

SWIMSUITS | Between the beach, the pool, and water-based excursions, I hope every day will involve a swimsuit! My favorite Summersalt will be at the top of the pile – I recommend ordering a size up (and holy moly it’s 50% off right now!).

SUN HAT | I seriously considered buying a Sarah Bray hat (we are going to Bermuda, after all!), since my beloved bow hat is showing its age, but I haven’t pulled the trigger. They’re sold in several shops on the island, however, so perhaps it will be a souvenir :)

TENNIS WEAR | John and I love to play tennis together (yes, even after his injury!), but we haven’t had too many chances for the last few years. Our hotel has courts and we’re looking forward to playing! I’m packing the Vuori tennis skirt he gave me as a Mother’s Day gift and my dusty green Clementine shorts. (I wish they still had them stocked in my color – at first I wasn’t sure it would be that versatile, but I wear them ALL THE TIME.)

TOILETRY BAG | The lining of my previous toiletry bag looked like swiss cheese after several years of wear, so I picked up this Amanda Lindroth bag at a local boutique when we were in Connecticut this summer. It’s also on sale at a great price right now!

Again, it feels surreal that we won’t be packing three tiny sets of clothes alongside ours, but I’m trying to embrace a lighter suitcase on this rare occasion :)

Affiliate links are used in this post!

How we handled summer as two working parents

7 September 2022

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, I wanted to share a bit about how we handled our first summer as two working parents to an elementary-school student. As a consummate planner, I looked ahead to this summer and thought about it for actual years in advance, knowing it would require thoughtfulness and careful planning to execute what I thought was best, in the way I wanted to live it out. Today, you get to see a bit of the fruit of that :)

In the hopes that our experience might help someone else, I’ll start with a little background information and a few thoughts that helped guide my planning, share a bit about what this first summer looked like, and then end with some thoughts on how it all turned out. I hope it’s helpful. For all the content that is pumped out daily online, this is not the type of thing that gets talked about very often, but as a parent, it’s the type of thing that matters very much to me. Here we go!

A little background info

In bullet-point form!

  • In previous years, June attended daycare and preschools that were essentially year-round, so we did not have to come up with a special care plan for the summer months. Our younger two kids still largely kept to their “school-year” routines this summer.
  • Where we live, we have the option of attending a traditional calendar or a year-round public elementary school. We opted for the traditional calendar. Call me stubborn or nostalgic (or both), but long summers at home were formative for me, and it’s important to me to offer the same to my kids, even if it means more effort on our part.
  • When we began to plan for this summer, we considered three things: what was possible given other constraints (time, money, etc.), what mattered to me and John, and what mattered to June. The third was the least important factor, though I think it will become more and more salient as she gets older. (More on this below!)
  • Everything cannot matter, so articulating what mattered most to us was hugely helpful and helped us make decisions. Your priorities will almost certainly be different than ours or your neighbors’. That is okay.
  • What mattered to us: Relaxed time to be a kid. Time outside. Time to be bored and use her imagination. Low/no tech programming. Time to read. Time to play with neighborhood friends. A chance to engage her faith. Space for John and I to do our work with minimal interruption. Minimal travel time to and from activities.
  • What did not matter to us: Anything overly-academic. Wow-factor activities or adventures. The simplest logistics. The cheapest cost.
  • Since we’d never experienced a summer break like this before and June is young and early in her elementary school career, I erred on the side of more “programming.”
  • John and I have a good amount of flexibility in our jobs. We both work from home most of the time. John has some ability to set his own schedule. I work part-time (this summer, from 9-3, Monday-Friday). We have worked toward our current situation over many years, in part with elementary-school summers in mind.
  • Start making plans early, if possible. I booked her first camp in November of last year.

The week-by-week schedule

Here’s how our rising first grader spent her summer break:

  • Week One: Farm camp. Outside all day with lots of chances for water play, stomping in the creek, getting dirty, crafts, visiting animals, etc. The hours allowed me to shift my time slightly to accommodate pick up and drop off.
  • Week Two: The original plan for this week was to have one of our babysitters come in the morning to hang with June and then leave her to her own devices in the afternoon. However, it turns out my parents came to visit, so she and my Mom had fun (mostly reading, playing pretend, and running errands I never get around to, ha!).
  • Week Three: Our town’s parks and rec tennis camp. It was a half day program, so John or I picked her up on our “lunch break” and she hung out at home (mostly in her room, reading or playing) in the afternoon.
  • Week Four: Michigan!
  • Week Five: A beloved high school babysitter came from 9am-1pm. They went to the pool, they played pretend, they played with American Girl dolls, they got Crumbl cookies and went to Chick-fil-a for lunch on Friday… one-on-one attention for four hours a day with one of her favorite people in the world?! You bet this was one of June’s favorite weeks.
  • Week Six: VBS. The church was in downtown Raleigh and the camp was only from 9-12, so to cut out some travel time I “coworked” with Lisa, who lives about 5 minutes away from the church. For these two former coworkers, it was a sweet excuse to get in a few hours tapping away again side-by-side!
  • Week Seven: Back to farm camp.
  • Week Eight: Maine!
  • Week Nine: Connecticut! John and I worked remotely this week from his parents’ home while the kids hung with their grandparents. They swam multiple times a day, ran around the yard, rode bikes, went to the aquarium, read, and played a lot of Wii Sports, ha.
  • Week Ten: A local music and art camp. The hours easily fit within my work schedule. This was also one of her favorite weeks, and I think it was mostly because a good friend from school attended with her.
  • Week Eleven: This was a free week. It was the last week before school started, and I kind of ran out of planning steam, ha. It ended up being sweet and hopefully a prelude to what future summers might look more like: she spent hours playing outside with neighborhood friends and reading, and then on Friday (after I had switched to my new schedule), she and I spent the day together as a last hurrah before the first day of school.

Throughout the summer, she took swim lessons about once a week at our neighborhood pool.

A few reflections on this first summer

The bullet points seem to be working, so we’re just going to go with them :)

  • The logistics were a lot, but not overwhelming. I’m good at logistics! They don’t bother me! (See: prioritize what matters most to you. Logistical simplicity might matter most to some, but that wasn’t high on the list for me.)
  • I was wowed by June’s ability to walk into new experiences and environments week after week, usually not knowing anyone, and to make new friends – all without hesitation. This is so far from what I would have been capable of at her age.
  • At the end of summer, June said summer felt short. This was a bit disappointing to me, because part of my desire was to facilitate a summer that felt long – leisurely and somewhat boring. But I wonder if adults only say childhood summers felt long in reflection? I also know that the segmentation of her summer probably contributed to this, and we will likely be able to back off the programming and incorporate more boredom as she gets older :)
  • I think she will have more opinions about how she wants to spend her time next year, which makes me both excited and a bit nervous, ha! I’m looking forward to crafting a plan with her now that she’s experienced different options, but it also was pleasingly simple to make the decisions solo.
  • This was one summer. It was a good one, and it provided some learning opportunities. Everything is on the table in future years when we have more elementary-school kids and/or our work schedules are different!

And there you have it! As always, I could write many more paragraphs, but I’ll leave it there for now :) In closing, though, I wanted to add this: I know summers can be challenging for working parents: the logistics can be stressful, the clash between what you want and what’s possible can be frustrating or emotional. Maybe you feel pressure to facilitate a certain kind of summer for your child. Maybe this is the time of year when you really wish your work situation were different. However you’re reading this, I hope you’re able to be gentle with yourself and to find the good in your summer circumstances – I’m positive it’s there. You’re doing a great job.

P.S. This is one of those posts where I am truly not sure if it’s helpful at all. If nothing else, it will be a fun record for me to look back on, but if this was helpful, I’d love to hear it! Grateful for you all!