Friday, May 31, 2013

Home Improvements: The Armoire

I bought this beauty at the thrift store.  It probably wasn't worth what I bought it for ($85), but it was love at first sight.  I went home to think about it (I'm not one to make decisions on impulse because I hate feeling regret), and I couldn't stand the thought of someone snatching it up while I was gone, so I went right back and bought it!
It's a beast to carry.  The heaviest furniture I've ever moved.  That means it's put together well.  ;)

The finish was literally flaking off, which made it extra ugly to people who couldn't see it for its potential, and extra easy to sand!

Here is what I did, step by step, along with the finishes I used.  It's a great guide for people finishing furniture for the first time.  There are a lot of "how-to's" out there, making it hard to put together exactly what you want.  But this piece turned out exactly how I wanted, so I can't help but share my secrets!

orbital palm sander with medium or fine grit sanding paper (you can sand by hand, but it's sooo much easier with a sander!)
spray-on primer (any brand): about $12
Behr paint sample as an accent color: about $3
Behr paint samples from Home Depot (for this LARGE project, it took less than 2 samples)(the samples come in flat only, which is perfect): about $3 each
Rustoleum Decorative Glaze in Java Brown: about $12, if I remember right
Minwax Wipe-On Poly (in clear satin): $8 (I got mine on clearance.  It's normally $12)
Four knobs from Hobby Lobby: $5
Lint-free rags
Paint brushes

Total cost for this project was $46!  That's a super fancy, nice-looking, like-new, boutique worthy armoire for $131!  And I still have enough wipe-on poly and decorative glaze for many, many more projects!

What I did:
I scraped off the loose finish by hand, then I used a $30 orbital sander to really prepare it well for painting.  You have to scuff up the surface of the existing paint so the new paint has something to grip onto.  If you don't sand beforehand, your new paint job will peel off with time and use.  The sides of this armoire are laminate, so I made sure to scuff those up with the sander really well.  After sanding, clean the dust off really well.
after sanding
After the piece is sanded and cleaned, spray on a can of  primer.  You can use brush-on primer, but spraying is so much easier!  This is almost as important as sanding.  It gives the paint one more thing to grip onto so it can withstand lots of use and wear.

After priming, I used a sample can of dark brown paint (I can't remember the color).  It was almost black.  I brushed that just on the corners and around the decorative curves of the doors, so that it would show through when I sanded the top coat of paint to give it that old, antiqued feel.

After that, use a good quality brush and/or roller to apply your paint.  I chose Behr Ethiopia.  Let me tell you, I have heard LOTS of good things about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  It's supposed to be amazing stuff.  I had researched it and even went to the only store nearby that sells it and talked to them about what I would need to finish up my armoire.  I wrote down the prices of everything, and I just couldn't justify it.  To stock up on everything for your very first project, you would need to spend $140--that's for paint, clear wax, dark wax, and a brush for the wax.  Sure, you'd have plenty of wax left over for future projects, but that's still a lot of money.  That would have meant putting $225 into my armoire, and I wouldn't have bought one brand new for that much.  It just wasn't worth it.  However, I loved the Coco color that Annie Sloan offers, so I wanted to get something as close to that as I could.  I found this chart that another blogger took the time to put together, and found that Behr Ethiopia is pretty much the same shade of brown as Annie Sloan's Coco.  Perfect!  So, instead of spending $40 on a quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Pain, I spent about $8 on two sample cans of flat paint at Home Depot.  Exactly what I was looking for!

This is what it looked like after I painted it and "antiqued" a few edges and corners with some sandpaper by hand:
You can't see the antiquing very much.  I was worried about going too far and regretting it.  See?  I hate having regrets.  Hate it.

But then I used the Rustoleum Decorative Glaze, and let me tell you...I have NO regrets there!  It absolutely transformed this project from "oh, nice paint job," to, "WOW!  Where did you get that incredible piece of furniture?!"

And the glaze was so easy, too!  Just brush on with a foam brush, then wipe off with a rag until you get the amount of color that you like.  Here are some short video tutorials put together by Rustoleum that show you just what you can do with their decorative glaze.  Here is the armoire with the left side glazed and the right side without glaze:

Amazing, isn't it?!  That's all from just one simple, easy-to-apply product!

After applying the glaze and allowing it plenty of time to dry (at least 8 hours), use a lint-free rag to apply the wipe-on poly.  This will provide a protective coat and make it easy to clean.  That's going to be a life saver with my two crazy little boys and their super sticky fingers.  ;)  I put on two coats of wipe-on poly, but you can do more if you'd like.  The clear satin is the perfect finish--not a lot of shine, but nice and smooth.  It's just right for an antiqued piece of furniture.  Also, I have used spray-on poly and brush-on poly to provide extra protection to my dining room table, and let me tell you, wipe-on is the way to go!  It's so fast and easy and you get a nice, even finish without worrying about brush strokes.

Once the poly dries, put on your new knobs and you're all set!


Isn't the difference amazing?!  I just can't stop looking at it.  I haven't quite figured out how I want to decorate the top, though.  I was tempted to sell it just to see how much I could get for it, but I just love it too much!  And I can't tell you how much I enjoyed working on it.  Who knew I could get into refinishing furniture?!  I'm seriously hooked.  I can't stop looking at the online classifieds to find my next project!  (Shhh...don't tell my husband!)  If you have anything sitting around, taking up space in your garage, let me know!  I'd love to take it off your hands, or help you refinish it.  I'm on the look-out for a new desk next!  And I plan to give new life to the kitchen stools.  I'm thinking white legs with green tops.  ;)

So, what do you think of my very first DIY furniture re-do?

TDC Before and After
You may also be interested in my numbered bar stools project.  It took one day, and it was free!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Home Improvements: The Powder Room

We've got a little half-bath on our main floor.  It's like a closet.  And for some reason the previous home owners picked huge toilets for the bathrooms.  But that was the best part of the pre-renovation bathroom.  Seriously.  Here is the proof:

 I mean, check out that "exposed brick."  It was textured with sheet rock mud around the edges.  I spent a lot of time sanding the walls.  And you can plainly see the faux marble sink.  Lovely.  And let's not forget to mention the stenciling on the cabinets.  Someone spent a lot of time on this bathroom.  I feel a little bad for them.  I mean, we bought our house from some fantastically nice people.  But I can't tell you how nice it is to make changes that reflect my own tastes and style.

Now let's take a peak at the new bathroom!

It only took a few hundred dollars (I can't remember the exact amount...I had it in my head for a long time, but it's been a while since the renovation was completed!).  Isn't the transformation amazing??  Daisies were my inspiration--I wanted yellow and white.  Bright and clean.  Perfect for such a little space, and goes along well with the white and green kitchen, which it is adjacent to.
 We stripped the bathroom down to the sheet rock and removed the toilet.  I chose what looked like the perfect shade of yellow and I painted it all in about an hour.  Then I stepped back and realized that when the light bounced off of it I felt like I was in the middle of a lemon meringue pie.  So I took my paint back to Home Depot and asked if there was anything they could do to calm it down a bit.  They tried tinting it, but it didn't make much difference, so they mixed up a new gallon of lighter yellow paint and traded me for it, no charge.  Isn't that so nice of them??  That's why I always pick Home Depot over Lowe's.  And because there's a chauvinist in the Lowe's power tool department who didn't treat me very well when I was looking for a jig saw to use in installing my awesome new beadboard backsplash.  He said many insulting things, and he thought he was pretty funny.  Boo.

 Anyway, the new shade of yellow was just perfect!  With lots of help from my amazing pa-in-law, it only took two weekends to get it all done.  He installed the tile, which was also from Home Depot, and the next day I grouted it.  Grouting is a pretty simple task, but a painstaking one.    I was glad the bathroom is so small.  ;)  Then he put in the vanity and sink, screwed down the huge old toilet, and installed the new light fixture.  The sink/vanity combo, faucet, and light fixture all came from HD.  The mirror is from Hobby Lobby, my other favorite store.  It was a lovely shade of antique white, but next to the yellow walls it just blended in too much and every time I walked into the room I cringed a little to see how imperfect it was.  So I took it out back and spray painted it!  It came out perfect!  Before painting it, I smeared a bit of vaseline on the black parts so after the paint was dry I could just wipe it down and it would have the antiqued look again.  I'm pretty pleased with it.  :)

The towel holder was from Walmart and the hand towels were from Target.  The perfect little corner shelf was an awesome find from the online classifieds.  It was $15 and is exactly what I was looking for.  The owner was located pretty far away, but when I saw the ad it was love at first sight so I asked if she knew anyone who was coming up my way in the future.  The very next week I picked it up just 30 minutes from here.  It was originally black with bronze accents, but I spray painted it white to suit my needs.  I love the little details, and I love how perfectly it fits the space!

As you can see, I'm in love with the whole tiny room.  How do you like it?

TDC Before and After

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What You Need to Know About Eosniophilic Gastrointestinal Disease

It's National Eosinophil Awareness Week.  I thought I'd take this opportunity to remind you exactly what Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Diseases (EGIDs) are and why you need to be aware of them.  If your brain is taking a break (I get it, I do that too...a lot), then skip down to the bold numbered section at the bottom.  If you're feeling up for a bit of education, read the whole thing.

Official information can be found here.  This post is a compilation of what I know about the subject.

Eosinophils are a specific type of white blood cell, found in the blood and/or in the gastrointestinal system.  Everyone has them.  They are helpful in fighting off infections.  There is a "normal" number of eosniophils in every person's digestive tract, but when that number becomes elevated then it causes damage and symptoms of EGIDs.  It is considered an autoimmune disease, since the body attacks itself.
What an eosinophil looks like.  source

EGIDs are commonly seen hand in hand with typical allergies (anaphylactic, where the throat swells and is life-threatening; and IgE, where hives, upset stomach, and diarrhea are common symptoms).  The reactions are different (typical allergic reactions don't cause eosinophils to infiltrate the system), but many people who have EGIDs also have typical allergies.  Caleb, however, does not.

The eosinophils come as a reaction to the food protein (the building block to the food, not the nutritional quality known to be found in meat and legumes), and sometimes as a reaction to the environment (in the case of eosinophilic esophagitis, where particles from the environment can be breathed in and effect the esophagus).  Every individual's reactions are different.  Some people react to one food, some to 20.  Some people react to all foods, some to all but a small handful.  Some even react to foods in their raw state, but can tolerate them when cooked, since cooking foods breaks down the proteins and makes them easier to digest.  The trick is to figure out which foods are ok and which ones cause a reaction.  Food trials can be quite a process!  Some people are so sensitive to a food that if it is cooked indoors and they are in a nearby room, the food particles can enter their body and cause a reaction.  Some people can tolerate a food as long as it is eaten in small portions and not very often.  Some people react to being in an older house with mildew in the sink drains.  When trialing foods, these are important factors to consider.  Many people have to use an amino acid based formula (which is hypoallergenic) to supplement their diet and get enough nutrients.  The formulas don't taste very good, so many children need feeding tubes in order to get enough formula to stay healthy.
This is about 2 month's worth of formula for Caleb.  Thank goodness for lots of cupboard space, and thank goodness for good health insurance!  If anyone breaks into our house, I'm tellin' ya, this is where the goods are!

The only way to diagnose and track the treatment of EGIDs is to take a biopsy of the effected area.  The person is put under general anesthesia for an upper endoscopy and/or a colonoscopy, depending on where the symptoms are taking place.  After the biopsies are obtained, the lab counts how many eosinophils can be seen under a high powered field.  If it is higher than the cutoff, then a diagnosis is made.  After a diagnosis, diet modifications are made to try to control symptoms.  Once the eosinophils are controlled via diet and it is confirmed via biopsies, foods can be trialed.  Most people need a scope after one to five foods is reintroduced.  Foods are added and taken away according to scope results and symptoms.  It's not abnormal to have ten scopes in the first few years after a diagnosis is made.

Of all of the EGIDs, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is the most common.  EGE (eosinophilic gastroenteritis--in the stomach and duodenum) is the second most common while EC (eosinophilic colitis) is third.  You can have eosinophils in any combinations of those areas--esophagus and stomach, esophagus and colon, stomach and colon, etc.  Caleb is the only person I've found who has eosinophils in his duodenum only.  Russell was borderline for EC when he had a sigmoidoscopy (which is like a mini colonoscopy).  If he has more symptoms in the future that interfere with his health and quality of life, he will have a colonoscopy.  Leave it to my kids to be rare.  ;)

Symptoms of an EGID vary from person to person.  EoE in an adult typically manifests itself as the feeling of food getting stuck in your throat.  In children, EoE looks like reflux with lots of vomiting, colic, and poor sleep.  EGE typically shows lots of stomach pain and diarrhea.  EC is accompanied by diarrhea or constipation and abdominal pain.  In young children, failure to thrive is common, although there are exceptions.

Why do you need to know about eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases?  There are many reasons.

  1. It's important to think twice before sharing food with someone else's child.  The other day, a child on the playground offered Caleb a Capri Sun.  I overheard him say, "My mommy says I can't have that." I was so proud of him!  He also asks me what ingredients are in a food before asking for a piece of my food.  It's a huge relief to me to know that he is able to think about what he eats and how it will effect him before eating something.  But when we started out on this journey, he would have eaten a cheerio left on the floor at church, and it's hard to know if one little cheerio would have altered the results of a scope.  For some children, one cheerio would be followed by severe pain and vomiting.  With his best interest in mind, we absolutely cannot let him eat something that isn't on his "safe" list.  So keep that in mind before you let your toddler share his snack with another toddler.
  2. EGIDs are becoming more and more prevalent in the recent few years, although there are still many people walking among us who have the symptoms and don't know what's causing them.  If your daily pain could be taken away with a few diet modifications, wouldn't you want to know?  Caleb's diagnosis came almost two years ago, and in that time I have met two people who knew someone else with an EGID, and one person who I was casually talking to who said, "Oh, yeah, I have EoE."  Um, WEIRD!  That just happened a few weeks ago.  All this time I have felt like I'm living on an island, with no one around me who knows what it's like to check labels obsessively and pack food for your child everywhere you go because you can't just stop for a snack at the nearest drive-through.  I've met lots of people through online support groups, and even a local support group, but it's just not the same as knowing someone.  Recently, though, a friend of mine from college had a son who was diagnosed with EoE.  I try to imagine what it was like for her to have been slightly familiar with that awful word...eosinophil...before having the label slapped on her own son.  I'm guessing it made it a bit more scary, because it's clear that the road we're on isn't the scenic route, but it also had to feel comforting to know that she's not alone.  Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could feel that way?  This has been a lonely, lonely path for me, and although I'd love it if no more friends or family ever had to be diagnosed with an EGID, if they did happen to be in this boat then I'd be glad to tell them that they're not alone.
  3. We all want a cure.  At the very least, I really want a way to take biopsies without having to put Caleb under anesthesia every time.  If Caleb passes his next scope and is clear to keep eating everything but the top 8 most common allergens, then we will be ready to trial those top 8.  We already know that he reacts to dairy and soy, but when we trial wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, we will have to scope after each and every food.  That's a minimum of seven more scopes in the next few years.  That's hard on a little body.  That's emotionally hard on him and his poor mother!  My top priority has always been his health, and my second highest priority is his quality of life.  But the best way of managing his disease is to decrease his quality of life by extreme measures.  And it's something that will follow him for the rest of his life.  You would want a cure, too.  So, if you can, please consider donating to CURED, the Campaign Urging Research for Eosinophilic Disease.  It's a great way to spend a few extra bucks.  ;)
Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy post, and through this lengthy journey.  It really does mean a lot to me to think of all of the people who care about my sweet Caleb.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Remember When...

Remember when God gave us Russell?

I think it's easy to see that Caleb was a miracle baby.

But sometimes 8lb 5oz babies are miracles, too.

Nate and I always thought that two years was a great gap between our children.  I don't know why.  Maybe because that's how everyone else seemed to do it.  So shortly after Caleb's first birthday we started praying and thinking about how to go about having another baby.  Looking back, it seemed so early.  Caleb was 13 months, but as far as milestones he was only 10 months.  And his health and eating was so poor.  We really had a lot to worry about with him at that point.  But I started "doctor shopping" anyway.  I saw two doctors (neither of which I actually ended up liking).  One gave me a prescription for the same high dose of fertility drugs that was required to get pregnant with Caleb (200mg of Clomid).  The other said that our bodies change after having a baby, so it would be wise to start with a lower dose (50mg) and work my way up 50mg at a time until I got pregnant.  That's how I did it for my first pregnancy, and it took five rounds of Clomid over the course of nine months.  That's a lot of time.

Nate and I prayed about it.  It was scary to think about our chances of having multiples if I took the higher dose, especially since we had no way to know if I would deliver early again or not.  If I could only carry one baby to 27 weeks, how far could I get with two?  It was a scary thought.  Our prayers were answered and we felt confident that I should take the higher dose of fertility drugs.

I didn't get pregnant on the first round.  The medicine made me really sick.  I remember telling Nate that I wasn't willing to take it a third time if I didn't get pregnant on the second round.  I just couldn't handle deliberately making myself that sick.  That we'd have to take a few months off, and take our time.

Then Caleb was put in the hospital for five days with RSV, a stomach virus, and an ear infection.  He was so dehydrated that the IV fluids made him gain a whole pound in one day.  He was 16 months old and only reached 17 pounds because of the fluids.  He looked like a different baby.  And we had to postpone the scope that would ultimately diagnose him with an eosinophilic disorder because he had a respiratory virus and couldn't go under anesthesia.

Then I got pregnant, after only two rounds of Clomid.  We were very happy.  It was all part of our plans.  Just what we wanted.  Our second baby would be born just one month after Caleb turned two.  Perfect.

Then, not more than a month later, Caleb was diagnosed with eosinophilic enteritis.  I was about eight weeks along, and scared to death.  It's hereditary.  Caleb would need a feeding tube.  He would have needed one even if he hadn't received this diagnosis.  What if I went on bed rest?  What if I had another dangerously early preemie?  All of the what ifs just seemed like too much to handle.

I kept thinking that if I hadn't gotten pregnant when I did, I would have put it off without hesitation.  Truthfully, I resented my pregnancy for a while.  It was such bad timing.  We should have waited until Caleb's medical conditions had stabilized and we had all adjusted, which I sometimes feel may never happen.  We may have been a family of three indefinitely; always feeling as though something is missing, but not having the courage to act on it because of our previous and scary experiences with Caleb.

The one thing that gave me comfort during my pregnancy was the knowledge that Russell would be part of our family because God wanted him here.  It certainly wasn't a risk that I was willing to take.  If I hadn't taken the higher dose of Clomid, if I hadn't gotten pregnant on the second round, if Caleb's scope hadn't been pushed back...then I would have chosen to not have another baby.  God chose to give us Russell--failure to thrive, blue eyes, bald head, silly little personality, unknowns and all.  He was meant to be in our family, so God made it happen just when it needed to happen.

And I'm so glad it happened how it did.

Monday, May 13, 2013


I put "friends" in quotations because these aren't just regular, ordinary friends.  Caleb has a handful of those, too, but these friends are special.  Meet the "friends:"

Funny Bunny

 Mickey Mouse

 Woofie Doggie

Each friend has his own story.  Funny Bunny was at the check-in desk at the Children's Hospital when Caleb went in for one of his scopes.  I believe it was his second or his third scope.  Caleb pointed to it and asked the receptionist if he could hold it.  She told him he could have it, and he has clung to it ever since.  Sometimes he wakes in the night, crying because he can't find Funny Bunny.  He named him himself--Funny Bunny makes a squeaking, laughing noise and it's a bit creepy and a bit funny.  Hence, Funny Bunny.

Mickey Mouse was acquired at Disney World when we went there in the spring of 2012 for my brother's wedding.  Caleb has been a Mickey Mouse fan from the first time he saw Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Our very own Mickey Mouse joined our family just after meeting the real Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom.

Woofie Doggie has been around for a very long time.  During the third month of Caleb's NICU stay, the Parent Support Network came to his room as they did once a week and gave us a gift.  She told me I could choose a bear or a cowboy dog.  Of course I picked the cowboy dog!  He wears a little red bandanna on his neck.  One day when Caleb was old enough to talk, I told him that we should give a name to his doggie and asked him what he wanted to name it.  He thought for a second, and I suggested Cowboy.  He said, "No!  Woofie Doggie!"  So Woofie Doggie it is.

Every night when we tuck Caleb into bed, he asks for his friends.  We give them to him and he takes each one and puts it on his chest, facing outward, and puts his arm around them, rolls to his left side, and sticks his left thumb in his mouth.

Caleb needs all three friends at bedtime, unless, of course, one of them is dirty.  He's fine if he has to wait for a friend to go through the laundry, he just needs to know where it is before going to bed.  He is also fine if he can only take one friend on overnight trips.  If all three friends are dirty at the same time, like they were last night when they were all soiled with vomit, then he will gladly take a replacement.  But he's always glad to get his true friends back.

snuggling his friends on the couch while recovering from his stomach virus

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to ME!

Yesterday, Nate and I came down with a nasty stomach virus.  Not fun.  We're still fighting it off.  Caleb is currently eating uncooked rice pasta (he calls it "crunchy pasta") for lunch while standing a few feet from the TV, watching The Lorax.  Russell is being really clingy, after a day of me either laying in bed or laying on the couch.  I threw up 3 times and lost seven pounds.  Nate lost count of how many times he threw up.  It was at least seven.  And guess what else?  Nate hadn't taken the boys shopping for my Mother's Day gift yet.  He had planned to do that on Saturday.  Those plans were foiled!

But I got the best gift this morning!  Sprite in bed (my stomach is still a bit sensitive), a dandelion and a tulip, a song sung by Mr. Caleb, and this Q&A (answers provided by Caleb):

1.       What is something mom always says to you? I love you. She says that to me.
2.      What makes mom happy? Me!
3.      What makes mom sad? Frowning. Frowning makes everyone sad.
4.      How does your mom make you laugh? Because she has to.
5.      What was your mom like as a child? She liked the playground. But she kind of doesn’t fit.
6.      What is her favorite thing to do? Clean up
7.      What does your mom do when you’re not around? She just gets stickers and glues them on. And flowers
8.     If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Because she will.
9.      What is your mom really good at? She’s good at painting.
10.  What is your mom not very good at? She’s not very good at getting Blue’s Clues on.
11.   What does your mom do for a job? She gets houses.
12.  What is your mom’s favorite food? Nike’s
13.  What makes you proud of your mom? Kind of good and good and good and good and good.
14.  If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be? Kind of, kind of, Steve.
15.   What do you and your mom do together? We just clean up. Ha ha.
16.  How are you and your mom the same? It makes me the same because I have to go outside. Trambordyish, Trambordyish, Trambordyish. That means words.  
17.   How are you and your mom different? Because she has to be different.
18.  How do you know your mom loves you? Because she has to love me, because she loves me today.
19.  What does your mom like most about your dad? She loves you! A lot!
20. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Kind of … Adobe.
21.  What do you want to tell your Mom on Mother’s Day? Happy Birthday. 

There are lots of mothers in the world.

What is a mother, anyway?

A mother is someone to have fun with.

A mother is someone who gives comfort.

A mother is someone who teaches.

A mother is someone who cares.

A mother is someone who is there when it matters.

A mother is someone who influences.

A mother is someone who sees the good in her children.

A mother is someone who sacrifices.

A mother is someone who values what's important.

A mother is someone who loves unconditionally.

Sometimes, another word for mother is Auntie.

Thank you, Auntie Jenna, for being such a great mother to your nephews.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Newest Tricks

Fetch!  Good puppies!

This trick is awesome.  Really comes in handy, I tell ya.  He'll have a fit if he doesn't get to throw away his diapers.  He also asks to throw away other trash, and he has only thrown one non-trash item in the garbage thus far.

Two little monkeys, jumpin' on the couch!

Smile.  :)