Planning Home: A Living Space

January 17, 2018

 Old Brand New

One of the big changes this year holds for us is that we’re planning a move. I can’t share details yet, but I’ve started daydreaming and planning a little in my head for our next space.

For the past 2-and-a-half years, we’ve been living in a little 700 square foot apartment (photos here, from when Maya was very little!). It has served us SO well. But good grief, I can’t wait for a little more space for all of us to wiggle. We started as a couple, then grew to a family of three and then a family of four. With two bedrooms, three closets and a living room/dining/kitchen space that’s reasonably spacious, it’s been a great spot for us. It’s on the ground floor, has a little patio out the back for Michael to grill, and keeps cool in the summer and warms up quickly in the winter. The polished concrete floors have hidden a whole lot of baby and toddler messes and somehow Maya didn’t injure herself when she was learning how to walk.

The other thing our sweet little apartment has been, in addition to the place we brought our babies home to, is temporary. We knew we wouldn’t stay forever when we moved in with our two suitcases of clothes. We started with a completely unfurnished apartment and have made it a home over the last two years. But honestly, we’ve done it as cheaply as possible. Two adoptions in two years is expensive! Obviously, our resources have gone into making it comfortable and cozy for our family, but literally everything is second hand and there are no frills. We knew we wouldn’t be shipping big things back to Dublin when we went home, so everything has felt temporary from the start.

We are also looking forward to having two floors for the first time in our almost ten years of marriage! And while the details are still being worked out, we have started to dream about what that space is going to look like. I cannot wait to intentionally design our next home, starting with our living space.

I thought I’d share a few inspiration photos and a few products I’m eyeing, in collaboration with Arnott’s department store in Dublin.

Arnott’s is on Henry Street in Dublin’s north side and it’s the largest and oldest department store in the city. I’ve borrowed products from their homeware range for shoots before and it was hard not to leave with one of everything.

First, a few photos that are driving the inspiration for our living space in our new home.

Sugar and Cloth

Design Mom

Homes to Love


Sofa Homes

Oh Happy Day

Sugar and Cloth

So that’s our starting point. It clearly leaves a little to be ironed out, but I know I’m leaning toward a statement couch like the Isla from Content by Conran or the Soul Set-Up sofa. I like the idea of warm wood for a coffee table, and we’ll have to find something relatively safe for rambunctious little ones, but the Soho coffee table by Baker and this Chelsea console table by Conran would be nice options. A selection of cushions (like this Haden cushion from Sheridan) will always warm up a room, and soften Maya’s acrobatic landings!

This post was written in partnership with Arnott’s. Thanks for supporting the posts that make this blog possible! 

Maine Winter / Maya the Snow Bunny

January 16, 2018

We spent two weeks in Maine over Christmas and although the majority of that time was spent in the bomb cyclone polar vortex of well below zero Fahrenheit, we did get a few days to play in the snow before it was too cold to venture out with a toddler. Maya loves the snow. She could play in it for hours, or at least wander around and flop in it for hours. For such a tiny chica, she didn’t give a hoot about the cold or the fact that she didn’t have the use of her hands.

My sister lent us this adorable onesie snow romper thing (it’s Mini Boden) for Maya to use and I only wish we’d gotten more use out of it! The hat and a matching set of mittens were hand me downs and she wore them last winter in Ireland. I wish she would never grow out of that hat! It actually stays on really well because the pom poms are a little heavy.   It didn’t hurt that my parents were out in the snow with her either, though. Maya would do anything for hours with her Grammy and Granddad. Thank goodness, because Noah only made it out for about five minutes to say he had seen his first snow.    Not unlike our experience feeding the horses, Maya really loves carrots! Even when she can’t get to her hands to eat them!

Happy Friday

January 13, 2018

Reviving the oldie-but-goodie, Friday updates and links!

This week was the now-typical juggle between parenting and trying to get work done. It was more grey than usual in Houston, with a little rain, including a giant downpour that landed on me ten minutes into a run. We kept Maya home from school on Wednesday because one of her classmates had a confirmed case of the flu and we are not interested in having a sick chica. Sadly, our girl seems to be susceptible to everything and gets hit hard with whatever she picks up. Ain’t nobody got time (or energy) for that!

This weekend, we’re a little torn between trying to get out and about with the kids and hunkering down to potty train Maya. Big, big decisions. Ha!

I’d love to make it to feed the Mounted Police horses with Maya this weekend. She would be terrified/ obsessed / never stop talking about it. We booked a slot tomorrow at 4pm!

This article rings through my head every time I tell Maya to ‘be careful.’ It definitely slips out of my mouth more easily than I’d like.

I haven’t watched much television lately (too much work in the evenings! and blogging!) but before Christmas I finished The Fosters and basically tell everyone I can about it. Michael wasn’t a fan of the acting, but I didn’t mind the after-school-special earnestness of it. What I really loved was how it deals with the topic of foster care and adoption in a very real, very accurate way with a lot of perspective from the foster and adopted children.

When I do have a little more time Alias Grace is next on my list.

Can’t get enough of this story about 600 dads showing up to mentor Dallas middle school kids.

Also awesome, women actresses brought women activists to the Golden Globes as their plus ones.

I made very simple tomato soup this week and it was pretty good. Not quite as good as using fresh tomatoes, but close for a pantry quickie.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

What We Learned About Maya’s Hair – And Tips For Curly Hair Kids

January 11, 2018

Maya right after her first haircut, of which I have zero photos I’m willing to share since she sat on my lap and I hadn’t showered in apparently at least 3 days 😉

Maya had her first haircut just before Christmas late last year. She was a few months over two by the time she had her first one! When she was born with a full head of hair, I thought she’d need a haircut before she was six months old, but it started to curl when she was four months and it just never seemed to need a cut! She had a serious bald spot on the back of her head for almost her first year of life and then it all sort of filled in and looked adorably curly for a while. Until it didn’t.

We took her to get a hair cut not because we wanted it to be shorter but because it was getting so tangly it took forever for me to comb it every morning. I thought I might get some tips from someone who knew more about what to do with her hair type than I did. And I was right! We got great tips I am anxious to pass along to anyone with curly hair or curly hair kids.

I had thought I wanted to take her to an African American salon that was recommended to me by a kind woman in the ethnic hair aisle at our local Walmart, but when I called I learned that the youngest they take is a four-year-old. So when my original plan didn’t work, I decided I would take her to this place called Planet Curls that’s not far from our house and was recommended by a Colombian woman I met at the park around the corner from our house. She and her daughter both have very curly hair and when she saw Maya (on a particularly frizzy post-nap hair day), she suggested taking her to this place for a trim. Lo and behold, while the name makes it sound like Super Cuts for curly hair, it was awesome and exactly what we needed (and it’s not a chain, just a single colorful spot in Houston Heights). Maya’s hair, which goes halfway down her back when it’s wet, is really soft but with tight curls that have a kink (a 3C curl, I think). My old system was to spray it wet and then spray detangler on it before running a wide tooth comb through it. It took forever to get her hair combed and involved a lot of negotiation and bribery to get her to sit for half an hour. Not to mention it added tons of time to our morning, especially on school days.

Well, Macy at Planet Curls told me that was actually the totally wrong thing to do to curly hair. Whoops! She explained that with her hair, I should never put a brush or comb into it. Fingers only! In fact, when she cut Maya’s hair, she only used her fingers and never a comb! She just spritzed it and trimmed off bits using her fingers. She explained that combing curly hair is like using scissors to curl ribbon, it just strips the hair and makes it frizzy. Womp womp. That’s exactly what I was doing!

Instead, she suggested a product called DevaCurl One Condition conditioner (there’s a whole line of DevaCurl products, but we got the conditioner and the refreshing spray). She said only wash Maya’s hair with shampoo once a week, because curly hair tends to be on the dry side, but use the conditioner as a leave-in every time she has a tub. The conditioner is designed so that when you get it wet the next day, it reactivates the conditioner. If it’s been too long since her last bath, we use the refresher spray and get it quite wet with water.

So now our system is that we let Maya play in the tub for as long as she wants, then at the end, we go in and put in the conditioner and sit there and use our fingers to break up any knots. I just look for the tangly bits that look like future dreadlocks and pull those apart gently, bit by bit, until it all seems smooth. Then we let her hair dry naturally (which might be a problem getting out the door in Ireland! But in Houston it tends to curl those locks up even faster).

Maya’s hair now looks amazing and healthy and you can see the individual ringlets even after a long day of playing and wiggling and general acrobatics. After a nap or riding in the car it still gets a little fuzzy, but it’s way better than it was before. My mom also made her a satin sheet for her crib which really helps cut down on the frizz.

I’ll admit that I’ve used a comb a handful of times just to make a straight part in Maya’s hair so that I can put a pony in it, but I’ve been shocked that the comb glides right through her wet hair with no resistance. That never used to happen! So, here are my tips for kids with (slightly unruly) very curly hair:

  • No combs or brushes!
  • DevaCurl. It’s expensive but a bottle will probably last us 6 months and I was buying expensive products every week trying to find something that would work!
  • Use your fingers to detangle
  • Satin sheets! They really do help cut down on frizz, which is especially helpful during nap time because the last thing I want to do is her hair twice in one day because it’s gotten so frizzy!
  • Only shampoo once a week

And enjoy all the time and anguish you’ve saved yourself! That’s the best part!

Welcoming 2018

January 8, 2018

Tiny Maya on the beach in Ireland this summer

Like most people, I found 2017 incredibly hard. In August, we welcomed Noah, the second biggest gift we could ever have been given, which thankfully lifted the overall tone of the year, but 2017 certainly wasn’t one of the easiest on record in my 34 years of life.

In the last year I didn’t write very much about the political climate (or anything else, really!), or how heavily it weighed on me in waves, but it did. In fact, I didn’t make it through January of last year before I had to take Facebook and Twitter off my phone because I was so distraught by the then-very-new administration. It helped a little, but not a lot.

In addition to the general state of the world, which is, in so many ways, dire, 2017 was one of the most difficult for us personally. Not the whole year, thankfully, just a few months, but they were incredibly difficult. Michael and I spent a lot of the beginning of 2017 hashing out whether we would switch agencies to adopt again and honestly? That process was messy. It involved a lot of tears, counseling for which I will forever be grateful, and so much emotional energy. That cloud lifted around April, when we made the decision to stay another year in Houston and change agencies and continue to pursue adoption. The summer was busy with travel, and then we got the news at the end of July that Noah was arriving a month later, which turned into only two weeks!

Since Noah arrived in early August, the weeks and months have zoomed past. We were in the hospital with him when he was only seven weeks old because of a 102.3 fever, and then back to the ER a month or so later with another nasty respiratory virus. We traveled to LA for Thanksgiving, and then home to Maine for Christmas.

There were so many highlights throughout the year, like absolutely loving working with my big kids in Michael’s school, and getting to watch Maya run wild and free on the beach in Dublin. We spent many hours sweating at the park and trying to cool off in the pool while explaining to Maya that she can’t, in fact, swim by herself in six foot deep water. We took many walks, visited all the Halloween decorations, and watched Maya thrive in her new preschool. I’ve worked for Romper for nearly the whole year, and have written for the Mail on Sunday in Ireland weekly as well.

2018, I hope, will be a year of settling. The last two and a half years have been a roller coaster of babies and adjusting and traveling. I’m hopeful that 2018 will be a year of settling into routines as a family, intentionally finding ways to build up my kids into kind little humans.

I also hope it will bring back some of the brain space that will allow me to come back here more and write. My broken camera (now replaced!) and failing computer (hopefully soon to be replaced!) have created some technical difficulties that my sleep-deprived state couldn’t really overcome. I hope Noah will soon learn the joys of sleeping through the night. I can’t wait to see how productive I can be on a whole night of sleep!

I want to read more books (I think I read 3 in all of 2017), and spend less time on my phone. I want to finally print photo books (eyeing Chatbooks, but anyone have another recommendation?) and blog more.

I hope 2018 is the year I can begin to figure out how I could positively change the adoption system in Ireland (ambitious much?) and as Noah gets older, I hope to take on more freelance writing again and possibly even an editing role.

2018 will also be the year my first novel (written in collaboration with my dad) is published, which I sometimes forget because it’s been so long in the making. It’s looking like April, but I will keep you posted as it gets closer!

In August, Michael and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (which is hard to believe!) , and we’re already planning how we’ll celebrate that milestone. I’m voting for a week in Portugal while the kids hang out with their grandparents! Michael wants to throw a big party. Maybe we’ll end up doing both!

We’re looking forward to Noah’s adoption finalization on Valentine’s Day that will be celebrated with both sets of grandparents and at least one uncle!

We are welcoming 2018 with open arms. From our family to yours, happy new year, friends!

Exploring Los Angeles / The Getty with Kids

December 6, 2017

Here’s my takeaway from going to the Getty with two kids two and under. It’s lovely and beautiful but don’t bother going inside. Ha! We just spent our whole time wandering around the grounds and it was spectacular and more than enough for an afternoon outing. Our visit just wasn’t full of art. We saw a few sculptures, yes, but I couldn’t tell you much about what was in any of the buildings except the vast array of restrooms in every nook.

I wore Noah 95% of the time we were in California because it was way easier than staying inside for his naps 4 times a day. Lillebaby sent me one of their carriers right before we left and it was a lifesaver. He’s just about too heavy to spend the entire day in the Sollybaby wrap, and I have an Ergo 360 but I’ve never loved it. This one is a little bulkier but it has much better back support – like 8 hours carrying an 11 pound baby back support.  Maya loved running around the grounds, which was only mildly terrifying for me and my fear of heights.   Noah seems sort of giant to me normally, given he’s about double the size he was when he was born! But look how tiny he looks in peeking out the side of the carrier! I brought a bunch of “yollies” or dum-dum lollipops for the plane, and Maya kept asking for the pink ones all week. They came in very handy at very exhausting moments throughout our trip! All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon despite missing out on most of the art.

8 Toddler Gift Ideas

December 4, 2017

Little one-year-old Maya playing with her animal magnets

With the holidays coming up, gift ideas are starting to pop up here and there. And by here and there, I mean everywhere I turn. Maya has been gifted a few sweet gifts in the last year so I thought I’d share some in case the ideas are helpful for your toddler shopping.

This year, we’re going with the wear-read-need-want combo that I’ve seen other parents around the internet sticking to in order to curb some of the over-giving that happens around Christmas. I love gift giving, but I also like the idea of having limits.

These are some of the hits we’ve experienced in the toddler toy department in the last year or so, in case there’s a toddler on your gift list this year!

Chunkies – My mom brought these for Maya last time she visited and they’re the consistency of an oil pastel, but they dry like paint very quickly. They’re more satisfying for Maya to play with, since they easily make bright swaths of color, whereas crayons are a little less exciting because she’s not strong enough to press down very hard yet.

Cupcakes – My friend Becky sent these for Maya for her birthday and she’ll play with them for ages, at least by toddler standards. They have pieces that easily slot in together, and the colors aren’t obnoxious.

Play kitchen – For realllllly tiny spaces, like our cosy 800 sq foot apartment, this mini kitchen from Ikea fits in one of our closets!

Forest Magnet Set – This one has been socked away for our plane ride to Maine in a few weeks, another gift from my mom. It’s a little heavy, but it has lots of animals to play with.

Wooden camera – My sister gave Maya a camera for her birthday and she’s just now figured out she can “use it” to take “potos,” through the wrong side. It’s hilarious but also nice to have something that’s fully imaginary. Nothing lights up or make noise, so instead she says, “one, three, kick!” She means click, but we’ll get there.

Animal magnets – Maya carries at least one of these around every day. We gave them to her when she turned one and they live on the fridge. The kitty and elephant get the most play, by far.

Little People farm – You can’t go wrong with Fisher Price Little People, even if they have changed since I was a kid. Maya plays with this set every day.

Dog Charlie – My brother’s name is Charlie, so when our friend Debs gave Maya this pre-named dog for her birthday, we had to differentiate between human Charlie and dog Charlie. Now dog Charlie goes everywhere with Maya, and whenever she’s scared or sad, she cries out for “My Charlie!” He came to LA with us and about eleven million other places.

Good luck with your holiday shopping! I’m still at lest 75% unfinished 😉

A Christmas Project

December 1, 2017

Over the weekend, after we returned from LA, I decided I had to aggressively get into the holiday spirit. There’s something about 70 degree weather that makes it really hard to believe it’s anything other than August all winter long.

When I was in second grade or so, I made a wreath with my hands in school, and I’ve always loved it. My mom has hung it every year since I brought it home from school and I’ve always wanted to make one with my kids. This year, I got to. With both my kids, although I tweaked the original for Noah because he’s so obsessed with chewing on his hands at the moment that hand prints with paint were out of the question! Instead, tiny green foot prints for Noah and hand prints for Maya. Although once Maya saw the foot prints, that’s all she’s talked about since.  Maya went rogue with the red paint at the very end, but otherwise she followed directions really well. Not bad for a two year old!

Santa Barbara With Friends

November 30, 2017

In the middle of our trip to LA last week, we took a few days to drive up to Santa Barbara to visit friends. One is a friend from college and her husband and little boy, and the other is my friend Ashley whom I’ve known for years from when we were both ex-pats. I was in Dublin when she was in Berlin and we used to travel to blogging conferences and with our friend Anne. She drove down from San Luis Obispo and spent the afternoon with us at the loveliest, most kid-friendly beachside restaurant/sand box while Maya played and Noah mostly slept.  It was so fun to have a reunion on another continent!

Then we met up with our friends, Randine, Travis and little Carver, who is about the sweetest little dude ever. Maya was in heaven with room to run and a little playmate. We spent a few nights with them on their friend’s avocado ranch high above the Pacific Ocean, with 200 acres of avocado trees, citrus trees, a horse and chickens. Maya was absolutely obsessed with the “donkey-horse” and making sure it had food, and with feeding the chickens even though she was totally terrified of them.  Happy, happy girl.  There was also a perfectly positioned pool. And warm enough weather to spend some time at least in the hot tub portion of it.  Even Noah got in on the lounging.  There was an outrageous amount of cuteness with the two tiny ones. Can you even?  One night, we all went out for pizza in downtown Santa Barbara, and I still crack up over this photo of Michael and Randine wrangling their respective toddlers. How things have changed in 11 years since we were all in college!    The light at sunset was incredible up on the mountain. And some gratuitous photos of the avocados (or as Maya calls them, adocado-cados) and citrus trees because that is the dream, isn’t it? Picking limes from the front yard for margaritas by the pool. Yikes, what a wonderful visit!  Earlier today I described our trip to LA as exhaustingly refreshing, and it was. It was more work with two kids away from home, but it was also very restorative during the days, to be with friends and family without work obligations or real life chores.

Our First Trip As a Family of Four!

November 28, 2017

We spent last week in Southern California on our first trip as a family of four and it was delightful. It was so, so fun to be out in the humidity-free sunshine, visiting with family and friends for the whole week. Don’t get me wrong, it was also exhausting to have two little ones sleeping in odd places for a week, but they were generally troopers and we only had a few sleepless nights.

Right before we left, I picked up a new camera! Mine was declared dead and not worth repairing, so I gave myself an early birthday present and am very glad I had it to play with and re-learn while we were away. And then I took eleventy million photos. Here’s just a fraction. We also went to the Getty Museum and spent a few days in Santa Barbara, so I’ll share those separately.  When Michael booked our Thanksgiving and Christmas travel (to LA and then we’ll go to Maine in a few weeks), he realized that it would be significantly cheaper for me to bring the kids a few days earlier than he is able to leave because of school holidays. So that meant flying with a 3 month old and a 2 year old on my own. Twice. We survived the first from Houston to LA and half the time I was cursing Michael for convincing me this was a good (or even doable) idea, and the other half I was trying to remind myself that it could be worse. Honestly, Noah was a dream (although only slept 20 minutes of the 3 hour flight because every time he fell asleep I had to bump him around because Maya needed something). Maya, on the other hand, just had trouble with the idea that she had to sit in such a big seat with a seatbelt she could easily wiggle out of. We could travel with her car seat, but I really can’t figure out how I could carry that in addition to Noah and wrangling Maya. Anyway, we survived and will do it again in another few weeks and hopefully survive again!  We were staying in Santa Monica, on 5th Street, where my aunt has an apartment she uses for an office. It couldn’t have been a better location and the kids and I enjoyed wandering around for the entire first day while we waited for Michael to get there. The weather was divine, bright and sunny the whole time we were there.  At one point, Maya finally fell asleep in the stroller and Noah needed a bottle, so we stopped at the edge of Pacific Palisades park overlooking the water and camped out for a little while. Maya made piles of the date palm droppings and Noah hung out on the grass after spitting up all over himself (standard, what a pukey guy he is!).  We had spent the morning at Christine Emerson Reed Park (2 blocks from where we were staying and loads of fun for Maya for several hours), so in the afternoon we decided to check out the public library to rest for a little while. Maya took her shoes off and rearranged books, and Noah sat on the couch and looked adorable. Great kids section and it was super quiet. We had the place to ourselves, thankfully!  Michael arrived in the middle of the night that night, and the next morning we grabbed coffee and took him back to the park. And we repeated that sequence just about every day for our whole vacation. Win-win for parents and kids!  In the afternoon, we met up with my uncle and walked down the incline to the beach to dip our toes in the Pacific. It was a beautiful (if chilly) sunset on the beach.  Maya wondering where her pants went 😉  Noah wasn’t so excited about the Pacific yet.  Maya loved it once we got out her cups and spoons for scooping. We had to drag her away with full sandy cups.  And then Michael had to push Maya back up the incline while I wore Noah. I’m not sure who got the bigger workout!