MEMORABLE MOMENTS • Benny had his first tee ball practice this week. The kids were practicing throwing and catching the ball, and the coach was totally blown away with Ben’s throwing arm! (Little does he know Ben’s been a total natural at playing catch since he was like 3…) Mike went to a job fair and has a few interviews lined up in the coming weeks. (Cross your fingers for us!) Myles is taking being ONE very seriously. He’s in full-on toddler mode now and he’s running and learning and just … wow.

WATCHING • Mike and I just got done binge-watching Game of Thrones so that we’re caught up to the current season. Talk about an intense show! I’m not sure what will be up next for our binge-watching. Suggestions?

READING • I’m listening to the audio book of The Silver Linings Playbook and I have Orange is the New Black on my playlist next. Reading is too difficult with Myles trying to rip books out of my hands these days!

PLAYING • The big boys (Ben and Mike) are currently hooked on Minecraft. We’ve been trying to cut back on video game time (it got to be a bad habit when Ben broke his leg and was really limited on what he could do), but this is their favorite game of the moment when they do play. We also had a great family game of Crazy Eights going the other night and Benny won 3 out of 5 games. Myles got lots of fun new toys for his birthday. He hasn’t shown a preference for anything specific yet. His favorite toy of the moment has been two plastic spoons, actually. (Kids…)

WORKING ON • I’m juggling more projects than I care to quantify right now. Thank goodness for notebooks to write it all down, so I only have to concentrate on a few tasks at a time! I’m doing my best to get a game plan in order, but there’s SO much to do.

WEEKEND PLANS • I actually feel way cooler than I am because for once, I have fun plans this weekend! My friend Melanie invited me to go see her work that’s featured in the Spring Show at the Erie Art Museum. I’m hoping since she has an MFA she can school me a little bit so I can appreciate all the art a bit more than “oh that’s pretty”/”I don’t get it”. (She has her work cut out for her.)

Happy Friday, friends!

Wordless Wednesday

Myles (12 months) // Life In Beta

Early Lessons in Home Remodeling

When you take on a major home renovation project, it’s pretty much a given that things won’t go as planned. (At least that’s what my extensive knowledge gained from watching hours of HGTV has taught me.) Having a cushion in your budget for when you uncover rotted floorboards, leaky pipes or (cringe) asbestos lurking in unexpected places is always a good idea. I went into our project thinking I’d be smart and have a cushion. I’d have my bases covered! I wouldn’t make mistakes!


Unfortunately, we’ve have already hit stumbling blocks before even getting started.

Home Remodel: Hammer // Life In Beta

The Equity Loan Process

(AKA “The Good News”)

The house has been transferred into my name and it’s just a matter of time till it’s on the books at the courthouse and I’ll have the deed in my hand. With that completed, the bank was able to start processing the home equity loan. If approved, we’ll be able to borrow up to 89.5% of the home’s value.

The process (which seems a bit backward in my mind) goes like this: First, we apply for the loan with an approximated value based on what we think the house is worth. If approved, the bank will appraise the house to make sure it’s worth what we requested. If the appraisal jives, then we set a closing date. They told us the entire process will likely take about 4 to 6 weeks.

Shifting Timelines

(AKA “The Bad News”)

Our contractor, Builder-Ben (he is known as “Builder-Ben” around our house to distinguish him from “our-kid-Ben”) had some bad news for us at the beginning of this week. The project he’s working on currently is going long, and he’s anticipating he won’t be able to start our project until July rather than May/June.

Like anything, there’s upsides and downsides: We won’t be able to move when we were expecting, so we’ll have to stay in our current rental home. We’re comfortable and happy there, but it means TWO homes to maintain for probably the next year. Two lawns to mow; two sets of utility bills to pay. (Yikes!) However, it also means we can take our time sorting out our house, sorting and downsizing (maybe having some garage sales this summer) and generally getting our lives in order BEFORE we have to pack and move. One more year where we’re at will be just fine, I’m sure.

Budget Constraints

(AKA “The REALLY Bad News”)

I considered not writing about this part. (Hell, I considered deleting my previous post about this project and pretending I never said anything about the project at all!) It’s hard to share less-than-perfect moments with the blog-world, putting it all out there for scrutiny. But after thinking it through, I felt it’s much more useful to be candid and honest about this whole process (even the parts that I’m not proud of) so that someone else might benefit from our missteps along the way.

So… there was some major miscommunication that took place as far as our budget. When I tell people this, they wonder how on earth I could have screwed this up so badly. (Hence why I’m embarrassed and hesitant to share), but let me explain:

When we started our project, Mike and I came up with our wishlist of everything we’d like to do with the house. We went pie-in-the-sky and figured we could always pare it down based on what Builder-Ben felt was possible with our budget. When I met with Builder-Ben, I gave him the list and told him an approximate number for our budget. We walked through the house so he could take measurements, check the foundation, look at the supporting walls, etc. I asked a couple times, “do you think we can do this with our budget?” and he gave me a general “sure” sort of answer.

However, we hadn’t gotten to the point of an exact quote yet. Turns out, he was saying “sure” that we could get the partial basement and second floor structure done, but not necessarily the finish-work.

His thinking (which he had indicated to me, but I didn’t fully understand) was to get the OUTSIDE of the house 100% perfect — partial basement and second floor with new siding, new windows, etc. — in the first round of renovation, so that in a year, we can go back to the bank and get a loan for more money based on the new assessed value of the home after adding on double the square footage.

So that means the building process will have two major phases (plus any DIY we can do in-between) and for a year we’ll be living in a semi-unfinished home.

Home Remodel: Junk Drawer // Life In Beta

Next Steps

I’m moving forward with the equity loan process and should hear some more about that next week. Once I have a definite budget, I’m going to have a formal sit down meeting with Builder-Ben and we’re going to map out exactly HOW unfinished the house would remain with the budget constraints we have. For example — I can deal with walking on bare underlayment floors or looking at un-taped/un-mudded drywall, but I can’t live with no plumbing or exposed wiring with having a toddler in the house.

Sure, it might not be pretty for a while, but it’s entirely DO-ABLE. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to get creative, pick up some tools, and DIY our hearts into those walls and floors!

I’m sure some of you are cringing right now. You’re thinking I’m crazy, right?

Thankfully, my childhood was filled with sawdust. (No joke.) I watched my parents tear down walls, put on additions, and well-over double the size of their house over years of renovations.

I watched them learn as they went along. They were never afraid, which had a huge impact on me. That dust and chaos was exciting to me as a kid, and more importantly, it taught me you can do anything if you just TRY. My parents are amazing people, and I feel like growing up watching their adventures was a huge gift.

Now it’s my turn. (And boy am I ever glad they’re still around to look over my shoulder and teach me…!

Myles’ Birthday, Easter and Uninvited Guests

My writing about our birthday/holiday weekend has been delayed due to a couple of uninvited guests: the norovirus and a corneal abrasion. Poor Myles will always have his first birthday be remembered as “that time our whole family and half the party guests were puking their guts out all weekend”. (Sorry guys; we feel terrible.)

Somehow, despite everything, Myles did have a beautiful first birthday party. Thanks to my very dear friend Erica Bickel for all of these wonderful photos!

Centerpieces & Favors for Myles' First Birthday (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In Beta

I love party themes. I love picking colors and finding the perfect pieces to set a mood. For Myles, our theme was “Little Man” with ties and mustaches, and our colors were red and light blue. We decorated with balloons, blue mason jars and banners.

Decorations & Cupcakes for Myles' First Birthday (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In Beta

I had assorted mini-subs and fruit salad catered from a local deli, and the amazing Kimberly Sprickman supplied the cupcakes! The flavors (chosen by big brother Benny) were Ho-Ho, Cookies ‘n Cream and Peanut Butter & Jelly. (The PB&J are my new favorite thing EVER.)

Myles' Birthday Signature Bear // Life In Beta

I lost count of exactly how many people came, but my heart was so happy to have so many family members and dear friends there to celebrate with us. I only wish the day hadn’t passed so quickly, because I hardly felt like I got to visit long enough with anyone.

Myles Opening Gifts (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In Beta

I told everyone gifts weren’t necessary — it was important to me that people CAME, not that they bring gifts — but Myles sure had a lot of presents to open. He is a very fortunate (and somewhat *cough* spoiled) little boy!

Opening gifts with Mom (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In BetaMyles Loves Tissue Paper (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In BetaMyles and Amelia (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In Beta

Myles’ birthday cake was the one thing I did make myself for this party. My mother always made me fancy cakes for all my birthdays, so it was important to me to carry on the tradition. I made a chocolate No-No cake (a favorite family recipe) and frosted it in a simple blue ombre design. I tried to keep it simple because it’s been quite some time since I wielded a pastry bag! I’m happy with how it turned out.


Myles didn’t dig into his cake too much because by that point in the day, he was tired and not feeling all that well. (Damn you, norovirus!) But he did manage to get through a bit of frosting!

Big brother Ben (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In BetaHelping Myles Open Gifts (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In BetaBath after Cake (Photo by Erica Bickel) // Life In Beta


Fast forward to Easter Sunday … Mike had to work and Benny spent the holiday with his mom’s family, so Myles and I had to fend for ourselves. I started the day by waking up with pain in my right eye. I wound up squinting and blotting my eyes all through church and lunch at my parents house. When Mike got off work, he took me to the ER and it turns out I did something to cause an abrasion on my cornea. I spent the better part of Sunday and Monday with my right eye half-swollen shut.

Happy Easter 2014 // Life In BetaWe took this family snapshot on 4/17 — Myles’ actual first birthday. The bunny ears were all Mike’s idea!

We managed to have a happy Easter though — hope you did too! Now I need another weekend to recover from our holiday weekend.

Myles’ Home Birth: One Year Later

Today marks an entire year since the morning I woke up with an “upset stomach”, only to find out that I was in labor 5 weeks early. I’m still in awe of the entire process, and I find myself wishing that the exact feelings and emotions weren’t fading into distant memories. Myles’ birth was life changing for me in a deeply spiritual and emotional way. It was empowering and magical. It’s something that etched itself deep into my heart and mind, and I was forever changed by it.

Silly Myles // Life In Beta

On the anniversary of Myles’ home birth, I thought I’d share a snippet of video of him being born. (You can read his birth story here.) I didn’t share this originally because I felt self-conscious about posting it, but watching it a year later all I see is the moment I fell in love with my little boy. Any flaws or awkwardness is just irrelevant in such a beautiful moment, right?

(Please excuse my terrible video editing skills. I did blur some areas. While you really couldn’t see anything, I wanted to be a little modest.)

I’ve learned over the last year that choosing a birth plan isn’t black and white. Initially, I was so profoundly affected by my home birth experience that for quite some time I couldn’t understand why anyone would possibly voluntarily choose a hospital birth. It’s taken me time to realize how insensitive that was for me to assume. Births come in all types and shapes and sizes, and they can be just as profound no matter how they take place. It’s the journey to motherhood that changes you, not the method by which you get there, and no one mode of transportation is right for everyone.

I continue to advocate for people to explore home birth as an option. I believe women should take a proactive role in their prenatal care, do lots of research, meet with lots of doctors and midwives, and then make the decision about what’s best for their family and situation.

I feel beyond blessed to have had the experience I did bringing this little guy into the world.

SO BIG!! // Life In Beta

But even better, I love getting to watch Myles grow and change. He has a HUGE personality that just gets bigger every day. He has a corny sense of humor just like his mom and dad and laughs about the silliest things. He is stubborn and determined. He’s mama’s little cuddle bug. He loves to eat and try new foods. (His love of roasted garlic hummus was most shocking!) He is a daredevil and nothing stops him from walking or even climbing to get wherever he wants to go.

Motherhood is simultaneously the most wonderful and most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced. My baby boy is turning one, and as Mike loves to remind me: every day he needs me a little less. And while I’m so proud of him for that, it’s also incredibly painful. My heart breaks when I look at his newborn photos. I love one-year-old MyMy, but I miss delicate 5-pound, 10-ounce MyMy too. I try not to think about that part, and I try just to focus on drinking in everything he is right NOW in this moment.

Happy birthday, bug-bug. Mommy and Daddy love you so much!