Thursday, 28 April 2016

Milk and Cookies party: Sophia's 1st Birthday!

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I had a moment the day that she turned one where it hit me. Where I had flashbacks to that amazing day one full year ago when our baby girl decided to make her grand entrance into this world. Where I had the most out of body experience that I've ever had as I gave birth to her, as she shot into this world in a matter of minutes, almost in the hospital hallway, almost before anyone was there to catch her. I scrolled back through to that blog post that I wrote that day--her crazy birth story (HERE) so that I could re-read it and remember all of the details, because I just don't ever want to forget it.

Our third baby. Our sweet baby Sophia. The most perfectly adorable baby girl who was placed in my arms that early April morning, and who I have been holding close ever since.

And so for a full year we have been learning how a family of five works. We have been learning how to parent when we're clearly outnumbered. We have had days when we feel like we're nailing this whole parenting gig, when we have looked at our kids and feel so ridiculously blessed and when everything is going perfectly right. Then we have had days when we feel utterly defeated and completely exhausted, questioning if we're doing things correctly, questioning what we could do better. Because parenting is designed to teach you as you go, to force you to make mistakes and learn from them, and to steal ideas from others who have done this before, and to love on your kids like you've never loved before. Because although everyone has different ways of parenting, although everyone approaches their children and their needs in different ways, the one thing that I've learned is that everyone's intentions are the same: everyone is just trying to love their kids. Our approaches might be different, but our intentions are the same.

And loving them we certainly are.

But the true reality of having three kids is that although it is the most incredible thing in the world, and the best thing I've ever done in my life, it can also be absolutely exhausting. So with Sophia's birthday quickly approaching, I decided that we would do a family party for her, but we'd pass on the big party with friends. Because just thinking about the effort of putting a party together made me want to crawl into bed and take a nap.

But at the very last minute, I decided to just go for it. Because you only turn one once.

So we decided to invite our group of friends who have been there with us from the beginning--a group of friends who were from our original mommy group from way back when Mya was a baby. A group of friends who have been there for babies being born, for first steps and then first days of kindergarten. They have been there for devastating losses of babies, and for joyous celebrations of new birth. We have laughed over the funny things that our kids have done, cried over the hard times, comforted and encouraged each other with zero judgement when our kids at different times weren't behaving like angels, and ultimately just been there for each other. So what better way to celebrate the year that we have just been through than with a few of the people who have been there with us from the beginning.

So, as I quickly tried to throw some sort of plans together very last minute, I decided that a milk and cookies theme would be super cute and relatively easy to pull off.

And these milk bottles? Well, they were my inspiration. Because a milk and cookies party just isn't complete without adorable little glass bottles.

So we had chocolate milk, strawberry milk and regular milk...

and a table full of cookies.

And when people asked how I pulled this off with such short notice? Well, the answer that I gave them was the truth--I had a lot of help.

The day before the party my parents helped out with the kids while I made the cake, put up the decorations and got things organized.

And myself along with Jen and my mom baked up a storm, while my mother-in-law Judy bought and plated other food for our guests.

And I stayed up late, worked through nap times, and ultimately threw it together as quickly as I could.

So we played circle games where a detective had to find the person who stole the cookie from the cookie jar...

and decorated cookies with icing and candies...

and had cookie races on spoons...

where everyone got to eat their cookie and pick from the prize bucket regardless of how many cookies ended up on the grass.

And they played on our playground...

and ate lots of cake.

And just as the sugar high kicked in, we headed out onto our court, got their helmets on and let them burn off some energy. 

Just in time to be sent home with some more mini cookies to nibble on, from the birthday girl herself.

Happy birthday to our sweet Sophia.

We love you more than you'll ever know.

Love mom and dad xox

Friday, 8 April 2016

Staircase transformation: BEFORE and AFTER

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These stairs were one of the reasons that I fell in love with our house when we first saw it.

The dramatic huge, curved staircase that you see the moment that you walk through our front door.

The stairs that have now become a place where siblings like to take pictures, and giggle, and climb.

The place where little princesses walk down to reveal their costume for a friends birthday party.

The staircase that makes me dream of our teenage girls walking down on prom night, all dolled up walking into the arms of nervous dates standing at those front doors. Or wedding dresses flowing down those steps, while the flashes of cameras go off all around them.

These steps will one day have history and hold memories for our family that I won't ever want to forget.

But in the meantime, every time that I stared at those beautiful wooden steps all that I saw was an 80's flashback of oak, which we're slowly but surely trying to erase from our home.

So with nothing but determination, a strong will and a bunch of Google searches, I decided to transform this staircase myself. Having absolutely no idea what I was doing.

So I spent months planning. Researching. Talking to people. Getting advice. Because, even now that it's finally done, I kinda can't believe that I actually pulled it off.

This girl who has never even touched a can of stain before. Never even practiced staining a little side table or anything--well, I decided that I would take the BIGGEST staining project, the most dramatic, noticeable part of our house, and just go for it. Because sometimes you need to take some big risks, you need to be confident in your lack of abilities, and just go for it. Learn along the way. Just do it.

Because honestly, the other option was to pay someone more than $8000 to transform them instead.

Quotes on stairs, as we learned, will make you want to run for the hills.

So, with that are a few pieces of advice if you are at all inspired after this to take on the beast of a challenge of doing your own stairs:

1) Have LOTS of wine and chocolate on hand. You'll want to cry many times. You'll need to eat and drink your sorrows away. Be prepared with these two critical items, on hand, in your house at all times. Trust me.

2) Have a husband or family member who can swoop in and help you when you're over it, tired and ready to give up towards the end. My "I can do this by myself, thank you very much, yes with a baby and two other small children" attitude got me almost to the end. But when I wanted to throw in the towel, Terry and my dad were seen with paintbrushes in hand, helping me finish painting white spindles that I just couldn't stand to do another millionth coat on.

 So, here you go:

Some before shots--cause I love a good before shot.

This picture below is what we walked into the first time that we viewed this house.
I literally walked through the house that first day that we saw it painting walls in my mind, envisioning replacing all the light fixtures, removing their furniture and replacing it with my own, tearing down that wall on the left and ultimately re-doing the stairs and getting rid of anything oak. Oh, and check out that fireplace on the right...remember when it used to look like THAT? Click here to see it now.

I had/have a vision for this house and we're slowly but surely getting there. But in the meantime...this is what the house looked like when the old homeowners lived here.

And this is what it looks like now.

This is the view from when the old homeowners lived here, with the old oak banister leading you into the master bedroom...

and this is our view NOW.

And the truth about how I got to this point?
Well it wasn't pretty.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't enjoyable.

But man was it ever worth it.

Because the 80's are slowly being wiped from this house, and that is worth every moment of sweat and tears that I put into this massive undertaking.

So, be prepared...the next few pictures might scare you. This is what we lived with for months--it literally took me almost 3 months to actually finish this project. Because working about an hour or two at a time when the kids weren't at my feet meant that it took a super long time. But if you're in the same boat as me, with little kids or a baby in your arms, and you know that you can't do any kind of staining job with them around and you certainly don't want them around any harsh fumes, then I found the perfect safe stain for this job. It is water based, has zero fumes and is safe for both children and adults alike to be around, as stated right on the bottle (products are listed at the end of this post). You pay more for it, but clearly it's worth it.

But in the meantime, let's take a look at the scary-looking process of getting these stairs done.

Seriously. It looked like a disaster.

And the best part was that I decided to start staining these stairs 3 weeks before Christmas, when I was preparing to host Terry's whole extended family at our place for Christmas and hosting another New Years party shortly after--all while terrifying our guests with this scene as they walked in the door.

Because waiting an extra few weeks to start this beast until Christmas was over was too too long for my impatient self to wait.

Disclaimer: If you're a professional stainer, don't worry--it won't look like this. This is called take a rag and stain it trying to make it look perfect--then just give up and make a mess since you'll be painting everything white afterwards anyways. 

And you know how I said you'd need some wine and chocolate to get through this? Well, these pictures below are exactly WHY. 

A murder scene of dark stain, splattered ALL over my walls and my newly painted white spindles. Because when you're dangerously hanging over the edge of your railing trying to get some tricky spots--bottles of stain can slip out of your hands...and you'll want to cry.

Anyways, moving on...

Here are some shots of the process

mounds and mounds of painters tape...

Sooooo many spindles to many coats of stain to get that colour dark enough to match our new floors upstairs. 

And then,'s done!

I never want to see another can of stain in my life again. 

But those oak coloured floors....well, I'll wait a while before tackling those. We'll let the kids finish racing their cars, pushing their baby strollers and leaving their scratch marks on them before even thinking of touching them.

But until then, on to the next 80's take down.

Have a great night everyone, 
Erica xo


Here are the products that I used:

Saman dark walnut stain (sold at Home Hardware).  This is water-based, safe to use, kid/pet friendly. You'll pay a bit more for it because of this, but obviously it's worth it to keep everyone safe. 

Saman varnish (not pictured, but sold at Home Hardware as well). Also kid/pet friendly. No fumes. 

Circa paint/varnish remover (make sure your whole family is out of the house while using this product and keep well ventilated). 

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