Our Backyard Patio Refresh

Last year I shared a tour of our yard.

While our outdoor space has been pretty complete since then, we have made a few recent updates, namely the addition of a 12 by 12 foot cement patio off our covered wood deck. If you look at the photos from last year’s post you’ll see that the grassy area at the bottom of our porch stairs was very mossy. There was also a sloppy looking gap between the bottom stair and the ground closest to our home foundation. As a result we rarely used that part of our yard and never felt inclined to find other ways to make it work; it felt like a dark, damp, and dirty part of our yard. We’re so happy we made the small investment to upgrade this space and already have made it worthwhile.

We also restained our badly weathered porch in a rich chocolate color, bought four new plastic (kid-friendly!) adirondack chairs in lieu of a more expensive outdoor dining set and umbrella, updated the rug and decor under the covered porch, and of course, planted some new annuals in the various pots and containers you’ll see below.

This summer in Michigan has been VERY wet and rainy so the covered porch has been one of our few ways to actually be outside and stay dry. Our neighbor is always yelling over to us how much she wishes her porch was covered too! And on the few days where we’ve been blessed with sunshine we have loved the cement patio for making s’mores in our firepit, sitting out while the kids play in the grass and plastic pool, or watching our children play with our new neighbors’ kids (who have a sandbox AND a trampoline so you can imagine where Lachlan asks to go every morning!). Our backyard isn’t the most ideal because of the busy road and massive soon-to-start construction project happening right behind us but we have been enjoying it in simple ways I always imagined.

Here are a few photos from our cozy updated space!

I’m so happy with our beautiful upgraded rug! The palette of blues instead of the white and black scheme we previously had outside, feels more ‘us’ and in like with the timeless style we hope to adapt. The rug is from Target (as was the older one) and unlike the white stripes on the older rug, shows less dirt and grime. Zoe approves!

One of these years we will get around to having an actual vegetable garden; a longstanding dream of mine!

In the meantime our two railing planters with basil, oregano, dill, and rosemary suffice. We also have three large pots at the side of our home with tomatoes and yellow wax beans! Lachlan is enjoying the days we go out to see the progress our veggies have been having, which with the rain is a lot.

Now if only I could have you all over for an iced coffee on the back patio!

I hope you enjoyed this little tour and a slice of our peaceful backyard space. I’d love to know what some of your favorite outdoor spaces include or what your backyard dreams are made of. Join me in the conversation below! And finally, thank you as always to Sam for her lovely photos. Everything is sourced below for you. Xoxo

Furniture, rug, watering can, throw pillows, multiple-wick citronella candle: Target / adirondack chairs: Menards / Plants and baskets: Flowerland and Countryside Greenhouse / white side table and ceramic garden stool: Homes Goods / shirt and green tie pants: J Crew / slingbacks: Lulus

Organizing Our Kids’ Keepsakes

Over the last year or so I’ve been on quite the purging adventure, ridding our home of things we don’t need or love. It’s been a really slow yet consistent process and I’d say we’re about 80% ‘there’ with ‘there’ being a place where nothing requires massive attention or causes unnecessary stress and upkeep in our physical space. Together with Andrew’s feedback, my efforts have been driven by four primary thoughts and perspectives.

1. When our kids are older and ask questions about when they were babies, kids, etc, what sort of tangible items will I want to have to share or give to them? Will I want to have things like photos, documents, notes, and other small items to give context to experiences and stories that are shared with my adult kids and hopefully their spouses and children? What items are a part of our family’s legacy and what ones are unique to our values?

2. When our kids are older and ask questions about when they were babies, kids, etc, will I or they be disappointed if photos, documents, notes, and other small items not available to share and give to them? Meaning, if my boys marry women like me, women who, for example enjoy working on baby books and building a legacy for their family, will they be bummed out without say, school photos of Lachlan or some of Ev’s first pieces of artwork?

3. When we leave earth for heaven, legacies aside, what type of tangible and physical reality will we leave for our kids? Will we make their grieving process harder emotionally and physically by having more things for them to have to shift through and make decisions on? Or will we have left minimal items, most of which are sentimental and worth keeping? Better yet, will the items we’ve left behind be easy to access, make sense of, and bring joy and happiness to them as they experience an otherwise (what I am assuming) difficult time?

4. If a fire started in our home and we had to try and save a handful of items, or even just one extra thing in our home, after of course our kids and our dog, Zoe, what would it be? Do we have keepsakes that the thought of losing in a fire, would be devastating? Do we have things that are irreplaceable when it comes to preserving our family memories and legacy, and if so, how do we simply and easily collect and protect those?

Friends! This is a DOOZY of a post.

I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to organizing the photos on my iPhone because that’s going to be a process too. But keeping in line with organizing our physical stuff, especially stuff of value that just cannot be replaced, I feel very passionate about sharing my experience so far. It’s been a surprisingly fulfilling journey over the past year and one that gives me much peace of mind as I continue to make decisions on what stays and what goes in the never-ending receiving and gathering of our kids’ keepsakes.

MY SYSTEM FOR STORAGE

By far, the easiest and most cost effective way to keep everything together has been in Tupperware bins, each child assigned to their own bin (I went with blue of course because #boymom). When I first started collecting mementos while pregnant with Lachlan I used small shoebox type containers from IKEA for storage. They are the gray ones within the Tupperware bins. But the items I felt strongly about collecting were starting to overflow that box and then came Ev meaning the four smaller boxes weren’t cutting it on their own anymore.

The bins are affordable, stackable, and clear so I can see everything inside which is another driving force behind keeping things intentional and organized; if you can SEE your stuff chances are you’re more inclined to keep it organized and trim. While I don’t want to collect enough items to warrant buying more bins, I do like knowing I can easily source more like them, an especially helpful thought should we have more children.

The bins currently sit in our bedroom closet which is a nice walk in size. However, I’d like to find a place closer to the garage door so again, if needed they could be removed quickly in an unfortunate situation. I’m also finding a certain little boy likes to climb on the stacked boxes to see out our closet window so my ideal place for the bins would up high enough that they are out of reach but easy enough to access when needed.

I feel it’s important to note that I don’t keep the boys’ baby books in these bins. Those are in our small fire-resistant, locked safe, along with our passports, my greencard, life insurance paperwork, my grandmother’s wedding rings, our old kitty’s ashes, and a couple other very special items. These are things that if we absolutely could not get anything but ourselves out of the house, would be safe as a last-resort effort. They are irreplaceable. Ultimately, should we build another home in the future we’d like to create a walk-in fire-safe closet where all of the special things could be held but for now this works.

FIRE ESCAPE PLANS

I know I’ve referenced my concern for a house fire and keeping our things safe multiple times in this post so I wanted to touch on that specifically. I’ve seen the devastation of disasters like floods and fires from friend’s experiences, and felt like it would be responsible on our behalf to come up with plans should we run into these situations. Not to be paranoid and on edge with the what-ifs but to instead be prepared and responsible. This means Andrew and I talked about who would do what in the event of a fire (who grabs what kid, who gets Zoe), how that plan would change if we were upstairs versus downstairs, what we would grab pending the severity of the fire, and making an investment into things like a fire escape ladder, an extra set of car keys taped to the fire escape box so we have a way to potentially get our car away from the house, and of course the fire-proof safe. While I hope we never have to put this plan to action I feel confident knowing we have a plan in place, and of course a way to hopefully salvage the things that mean the most to us.

ITEMS I KEEP

For each of our kiddos, I’ve saved the following items so far:

• Miscellaneous items that were collected during my pregnancies like ultrasound photos, cards from friends, the onesie I bought to tell Andrew I was expecting, the onesie we used to announce L’s pregnancy, and special photographs. I have especially more of these items for Lachlan than I do for Ev and that’s probably because Lachlan was our first baby and Ev is obviously sill quite young.

• Sentimental items from each child’s birth like the hat Lachlan wore in the hospital, the blankets they were first swaddled in, and hospital bracelets. I also have both boys’ bracelets in their baby books on the appropriate page.

• Odds and ends from ‘first’ celebrations like a dinosaur from Lachlan’s first birthday or the booties Ev wore for his first Hallowe’en. I could see this category of keepsakes being one that could get a little out of hand so I’ll need to remain very intentional about what I keep and what I toss in this department! For example, I have a sweet monogrammed burp cloth that we were gifted after Ev was born thanks to this sweet former bride. I didn’t have the heart to use it and have it stain so I saved it for his bin. But! It was rightfully so worth saving because it was the first and the only monogrammed item he has. Again, saving those ‘first’ items is special to me.

• Artwork from school but only the really best pieces and ones that are sentimental and clever; like art where my kids’ hands and feet were used to ‘stamp’ animals and plants. Or saving special holiday artwork or pieces from Mother’s and Father’s Day. My plan is to keep only a few pieces from each school year until the boys are five years old then determine if this resource will be worth the investment for the treasures we keep. The first artwork piece each child completed at ‘school’ is framed on our legacy wall for good measure.

• Leftover images that didn’t make the baby book! These include photos larger than standard 5×7 prints that I may have purchased to be framed but didn’t, leftover Social Print Studio squares, photos that were gifted to us from talented photographers that captured our maternity sessions and newborn sessions, and so on. I’m trying to reduce the amount of photographs in the box because there are some better ways to organize these things on an external hard drive but I also greatly value the timeliness of a tangible image so I want the boys to have many.

While this bin system is more newly implemented in our home I look forward to using it for years to come in. I also purchased bins for my things and Andrew’s, so that our special keepsakes would be organized and kept the same way. With both sets of parents divorced and being on our own now for well over a decade, there are a lot of childhood keepsakes in our collective possession, and especially so with my things since my family lives much further away and have relocated multiple times since we were all under the same roof.

Some keepsakes that are stored within my three purple Tupperware bins:

• Anything from when I was a baby that was saved by my parents and grandparents and given to me. This includes many photos (these are such treasures given how much technology has changed), the flower girl dress I wore in my parent’s wedding, my first pair of eyeglasses, and much more.

• Many, many photos! My high school and college years took place in the disposable camera era, where if you were like me, before any event or holiday, you’d stock up on the $25.00 plastic cameras from the drugstore. Then when the film roll was full you’d take the camera back to the drugstore and drop it off to be processed. Getting back those envelopes full of your memories and images, eagerly awaiting to see what moments you had managed to capture, was SUCH fun. Talk about delayed satisfaction! For that reason, there are quite a few photos I’ve saved. I’ve tried to only keep the best.

• The best of the best gymnastics-related keepsakes. This includes special awards, medals, and trophies, select newspaper clippings from college, my first leotard and one of my last, two scrapbooks I made in high school, and my NCAA media guides from all four seasons I competed.

• Old VHS tapes and mini tapes that fit into my dad’s handheld recorder. Most of the tapes have my gymnastics competitions and recruiting videos on them but a couple house miscellaneous content like a school project I did in twelve grade. Again, this is a conversation for a different post because I’ll need to do some content-transfer to get these onto a USB where I can enjoy them but for now they are safely kept and with similar items.

There you have it! I realize this is a lot of information but hopefully I’ve presented one approach clearly enough to inspire you too, to find an organizing solution that works best for managing your keepsakes.

I’d love to know what things you keep when it comes to preserving tangible memories. How do you organize your children’s or even your own, mementos without feeling like like your home is a chaotic or cluttered catch-all? How do you decide what stays or what goes? I’d love to hear from you below! As always, a big thank you to Samantha for capturing the beautiful imagery you see here.

Xo

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