I enjoyed Amanda’s candor all the way through her interview, but when I read her answer to the final question…well…I adored her. I know what it feels like to put yourself truthfully out there for all the world to see, and I also know it’s not an easy task. It’s funny, isn’t it? Sharing our truths sounds like the most genuine, most effortless thing to do. But it really is difficult.
So beyond all the pretty scenes in Amanda’s home, I really hope you enjoy the gorgeous beauty that is her honesty. Friends, please welcome Amanda!
Q: We can’t wait to meet you!
A: My name is Amanda, and I share my home with my husband, Chris; our two kids, Quinn and Bennett; our two dogs, Vinnie and Cocoa; and soon to be Strong installment number three – name to be decided!
My daughter, if we are at home, is rarely wearing clothes. She’s even earned her own hashtag among my Instagram friends of #nakedjaybird. And, even though she’d prefer to be running around in underwear, she does love to put together her outfits for leaving the house. Her unofficial motto for dressing is “more is more.” The girl LOVES an accessory…or 15. She’s also shown a creative streak in the last few months with her drawings and coloring pages, which makes me wonder if we aren’t raising another little designer in this house!
My son is obsessed with cars, trucks, planes – if it has wheels and moves, he’s into it. At all times he has at least two cars on his person and takes a whole gang of vehicles to bed. He lines them up along the ledge of his day bed and collects them every morning to bring downstairs to breakfast. He is such a loving, affectionate kid. he has been known to tell my girlfriends, “I love you” and is generous with his hugs and kisses.
I am constantly scheming up the next big home project to work on. I joke about having to move once we’re done in this house because I won’t have anything new to do. It’s either that or just start all over again! I also love to craft, so I have to throw in those projects in between home stuff since we don’t have the budget or time to be constantly doing things at home. And, while I like a plan for the projects we take on, I also have a bad habit of just jumping into things, not knowing what I’m doing and figuring it out as we go along.
With our board and batten wall, I just came home one day and popped the existing base board off the wall so that we had no other choice than to start putting up the new boards. I promised my husband, “Oh, we can totally finish this this weekend.” It took about a month, as we aren’t the fastest workers.
My husband is extremely patient with me and always willing to go along with whatever idea I’ve cooked up. I don’t know if this is a quirky tidbit about him or just a trait for which I am eternally grateful. You have to have one person to go along with crazy schemes in every relationship, right? His nickname is The Robot, and because of that, he has amassed quite the collection of robot figurines over the years. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm for collecting them and dusting them are not the same.
Q: How did you find your home?
A: Oh, Lord. Our old house had been on the market for a year when it finally sold. Never ever EVER buy a home in the Midwest that does not have a basement. We had been waiting so long and didn’t expect to sell, so we weren’t looking for a new home. When we finally sold, though, we were scrambling to find THE house because our buyers wanted to close in 30 days. I was also 32 weeks pregnant with our son, so I was pretty determined!
The home we purchased was actually one of the first ones we looked at, and I remember thinking it was definitely a home we could grown into and located in a great neighborhood, but we wrote it off because it wasn’t in the part of town where we wanted to live.
We looked at so many houses over the next few weeks, and even explored the option of building, but for various reasons, none of those options worked out. W would find a few that we really liked, but they just didn’t work out.
Upon closing our own home, we moved out the last of our items and in with my parents. As my due date approached, I was searching the MLS and noticed that the owners of our house had dropped the price considerably since we first saw it and it was well under what other homes in the neighborhood selling for. When my husband came home from work that night and we started to talk about it, this house met all of our major wants and needs. It wasn’t in our dream neighborhood, but we were willing to forego that want in favor of the other things. I was also pretty eager to be settled when baby arrived, so hormones probably played a big part in my push to buy as well.
Prices in our area vary, but overall Cincinnati is a super affordable city. Homes in our neighborhood are selling for $100k more than what we paid – YAY! – so we’re very happy in our investment here. You can buy a nice home (three bedrooms two and a half baths) in our suburb for as low as $130,000, or you can go up to around $500,000 which would offer more custom features, four to five bedrooms, high-end fixtures and finishes, etc.) The majority of homes are very traditional in design unless you buy in one of the older/historic parts of town, where you can find homes that are a little more unique or with more character.
Q: What makes you love Cincinnati?
A: For our family, we first love Cincinnati because most all of our immediate family is here. Growing up, our closest relatives lived two hours away. So we saw them semi-regularly but mostly at holidays or family events.Since my husband and I started our family, I see how awesome it is to be in the same city as our families. We are so fortunate that the grandmas help out and watch the kids for us a few days a week so that I can have some kid-free time to work on client projects for my design business. They have grandpas who can stop by on the first day of school or in the evenings to visit, aunties and uncles who pick them up on a Saturday or Sunday and take them to the park…they are so fortunate to get to build these close relationships with their family, and I am so thankful for that because I never had that growing up.
Cincinnati is also a great place to raise a family. It’s a mid-sized city with a small town vibe. A lot of people, if they grow up here, stick around and start their adult lives and families here, too. When you meet someone new from the area, the first question is always “Where did you go to high school?” Everyone is so connected.
Over the last five years, the city has also been having a huge renaissance of sorts downtown; areas that were previously the kind where you might feel the urge to roll up your windows and lock the doors if you had to drive through are now coming back to life after such a long period of being closed off. We now have some amazing restaurants and opportunities for entertainment, as well as great shopping, beautiful parks, a wonderful zoo, and museums. We are never short on things to do here!
Q: You mentioned you’re just getting started making your house your own – it looks great! – and I’m curious about how you added your personalities first? What was important to you to change or decorate right away?
A: Since I was very pregnant when we moved in, there wasn’t a ton that I could do to start making the house ours, so I picked the things that I couldn’t get past and made sure we knocked those out right away.
The house was built in the mid 90s, and the previous owners had done zero decorating or updating, so we really had a blank canvas. The entire home, with the exception of the bedrooms, had been painted in gold color satin finish paint. Since I couldn’t paint, I hired painters to paint the rooms we would use right away: foyer, family room, kitchen, bathrooms, the master bedroom, and our daughter’s room.
There was a good amount of wallpaper and borders in the home, too, so I had them go ahead and remove those even if we weren’t painting, so that I wouldn’t have to do it later. We also changed out all of the gold hardware on all of the cabinets right away, and replaced the gold chandelier in the foyer and the gold fixture over the kitchen table.
I wanted to have the house unpacked before our son was born, and my biggest design goal was to finish our daughter’s room, which we managed to do that the weekend before our son arrived!
We have been in our house three years and every few months since, we have picked a room or something that we want to fix or change, and then plug away at that until it’s finished. It’s been a process, for sure, but I really love making this house ours and adding in the little details and touches that reflect our family and our design aesthetic.
Our friends and family have definitely taken notice. Every room now has been painted, we have replaced almost all of the flooring in the house, changed out or had wiring installed to add light fixtures in most every room, painted all of our kitchen cabinets white and our island blue, added a granite top to our island, added board and batten, changed out blinds, ripped out 98% of the landscaping and planted new, installed a new sink in our powder room, gave our master bath and kids bath facelifts…we have learned a lot with this house, and it has been fun to get to try new things
Q: What has been your best DIY so far? What has been the most frustrating project? And if you had all the time, skill, and money in the world, what would you do to change this house to better meet your family’s specific needs?
A: The best has definitely been painting the kitchen cabinets. They were a yellow oak color the same as the floor, and I first tried toning them down by putting a cool white paint in the kitchen. That helped, but it was still a lot of yellow. Also, the colors in our house trended more on the cool side, so it was definitely an eyesore.
In our previous house, we did a major renovation on the kitchen and it was lovely, but we did not make any of that money back when we sold because the market was so bad. This time, I decided that, rather than spend a ton of money on new cabinets, our existing ones were just fine. I could give them a face-lift painting them. It has made a huge difference. Visually, it makes the space seem a lot larger than when they were wood.
This was also the most frustrating project! The process is very labor intensive, and I tend to like projects that are quickly finished. Each section had to be cleaned and required four coats of primer, which then required 24-48 hours of dry time per coat, depending on the weather/humidity, and then four coats of paint and another 24-48 hours of dry time per coat. There were definitely times when I thought this project would never end!
If I had unlimited funds, time, and skill I would bump out the back of our house to make our kitchen and family rooms larger. We spend almost all of our time in those two rooms, and I would love to have some more space. A larger pantry would be nice, as well, and more cabinet and counter space. I love hosting our families in our home, so just having some more room for everyone to spread out would be lovely.
Q: How has your aesthetic changed since having kids? Have they relaxed your style, or prompted you to hold tight to it?
A: My tastes have changed, but I don’t know if it is a result of having kids or just getting older! When we bought our first home, I wanted all of the colors! I wanted really strong colors and a lot of red, and gravitated toward furnishings that were chunky, darker woods, with somewhat of an early American style. After our daughter was born, I started to lean more towards softer colors, neutrals, and a more streamlined design.
I’m definitely not the type to not buy or decorate with certain things that I want in my home because I have kids. I have had friends comment on how I have a lot of breakable things on my tables or at kid height, or how their own kids’ rooms look institutional because they are afraid their kids will destroy things. Every family and every kid is different, but for our family, I wanted my kids to grow up used to having those things around so they were used to it because not every home or place they visit will be free of glass vases or decorative items.
So far, we haven’t had any major incidences with things getting broken or damaged. It’s good because I know I can send them to friends’ and our family’s homes, and not have to worry about them if their homes aren’t kid-proofed.
Q: How are you preparing your home – and family – for your latest project due in November?
A: I’m the resident wall painter, so there were a handful of things we did between November and February knowing we would be trying to conceive in early March. I finished painting our kitchen cabinets, our formal living room, repainted and stenciled our half bath, transitioned our daughter from her old room to her current room, etc. We finished our dining room, got new flooring on our stairs and in our office/formal living room, and dining room. This winter was a big one for us to get stuff done!
We also recently gave the kids’ bath a facelift. And, of course, I keep finding little ways to tweak things here and there. Our family room was feeling off to me, so I stripped it bare and let it rest a few days. In doing so, I realized that my sofa tables were too dark, my accessories on the tables needing editing and re-styling, and that my blue walls needed some retouching. Since I can’t use primer and latex paint – my usual go-to for painting furniture – I did some research and found that I could safely use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I had always wanted to try it, and so I ordered two colors so that I could give the table a distressed look, and went to town!
I was so pleased with how easy it was – no sanding, no priming, just clean your surface and go! – and loved the colors I had chosen, that I decided one Friday afternoon that I should put a coat on our banister in the foyer! I had been planning to paint it but wasn’t sure what color I should use or how I would do it. Lo and behold, it looks awesome now and so much better with our gray patterned carpet going up the stairs.
Baby won’t go into his own room until around six or seven months, but I have been prepping the room here and there. My girlfriend offered to paint the room for me as a baby gift and since that’s been finished, I went in and hung my curtains, put up a few pictures, and arranged what furniture I do have in there. I have a plan drawn up of how I want to put furniture, and while I doubt the room will be finished by November, having a plan definitely satisfies my urge to decorate!
For our kids, we have been working on age appropriate tasks. They each have their own set of chores that they do daily to earn money each week, which has been going well. I have been working to encourage independence in certain areas, realizing that being able to do simple tasks without my help will save time on crazy mornings getting out to preschool or just if my hands are busy with baby. Those little things like getting their own drink, and putting on their own shoes and coats can be game changers!
Q: What do you hope your kids remember about this childhood home and you as their mom? And what do you hope they forget?!
A: I hope they remember this home as a fun place to live and grow up. That it was a home where they could feel comfortable and safe. Where they have their own special spaces to be creative and play.
I hope they remember me as a mom who wasn’t uptight about messes or if things got broken or scuffed. That’s been a huge thing for me to learn to live and be okay with the mess of life that naturally comes with kids. I hope they remember how I decorate for the holidays just for them to try to make them special, and create and keep traditions.
I hope they forget how the house looks like a bomb went off when my client work gets crazy. Or how many consecutive episodes of their favorite shows I will allow if I am under a tight deadline and it isn’t a school day or there isn’t a grandma to pinch-hit for me while I work!
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What surprised you the most about being a mom?
A: Hands down, I love all holidays and birthdays. I have had so much fun choosing which family traditions to continue from our own childhoods and what new ones we want to add to our own family history.
The most surprising thing about being a mom is how big the love is. It is the biggest, hardest, messiest, most wonderful love I have ever had in my life. From day one of finding out we were expecting and falling madly in love with this little being and then watching them grow and change each day – some days it can be maddening and you’re just counting down the minutes to nap time or bed time, but you can’t remember life without them nor would you even want to imagine it…because life with your children is a million times more full than what I ever imagined it to be.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: This question has been the one holding me up on sending this interview back, but I keep coming back to the same thing so I’m guessing this is what I’m called to write about!
I wish someone had told me about the crushing anxiety.
I am very much a person who likes to be in control of a situation. When you have kids, that sense of controlling anything flies out the window the moment you find our you’re expecting! Parenting lesson one: YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL!
For the most part, since becoming a parent, I have been able to manage the little anxiety attacks that have crept up from time to time. For some reason, when my kids get sick my brain automatically goes to the worst case scenario – DEATH! – but I have always been able to listen to the rational side of my brain and can nip those thoughts quickly.
Last November, however, we lost a son at 18 weeks gestation to anencephaly. Up until that point, my pregnancy was completely textbook, and it wasn’t until our first ultrasound that we discovered he had the fatal neural tube defect.
You try your best to do everything right. You eat healthy and exercise and attend all prenatal appointments…but sometimes, things just don’t fall into place as you expect them to. Needless to say, getting his diagnosis threw us into a tailspin. From there, my anxiety attacks escalated. If I couldn’t protect and save this baby who wasn’t even on the outside, how in the world could I protect my older children? My husband? Myself?
I had to log off of Facebook for a few months because it felt like every post in my newsfeed was about someone’s child with cancer, which led to middle of the night thoughts like “Do my kids have cancer I don’t know about?” On the eve of my husband’s birthday in December, we laid in bed watching TV and I remember the thoughts creeping in; he was turning a year older…what if he dies before I do? I knew that none of these things were likely to happen but I had no control to stop them if they did.
In February, we discovered that we had mice in our home. Of course, I started Googling every possible thing I could find from getting rid of them to the diseases they carry and every worst case scenario that could come from the situation. WE WERE ALL GOING TO DIE OF HANTA VIRUS! It got to the point where the sun would set in the evening and I would start to panic and my heart would race, and I would usually end in tears at the thought of a mouse coming up from the basement and into our main living space. I wouldn’t let the kids go downstairs to play even though all of their toys were down there, for fear that they would get sick.
I think it was the mice that made me realize that what had gone from infrequent anxiety that I could easy manage had gotten way out of control. I needed to find a way to get myself in check. I was getting better at dealing better with the grief over losing our son and so I started exercising more regularly again, which has always helped me in the past, and being more open with friends and family. I found talking through my fears, even if I knew they were ridiculous, helped a lot. And, more recently I started to try meditation, which has been a HUGE help, especially with this pregnancy. I have spent so much time this pregnancy worried that something was wrong or going to go wrong. It’s been helpful to have another tool to help me quiet my mind when things start to go awry.
As a parent, the love for your children is consuming. You struggle to remember life before them and cannot imagine life without them. I would do absolutely anything for my kids, and the thought of something happening to them is terrifying. It’s that awesome love, I think, that may make me go a little hyper vigilant sometimes. I grew up with a mother who had anxiety and worried over the same things I find myself worrying about now…and I know how that has affected me, so I don’t want to affect my kids with my own worries.
Oh, Amanda. Thank you for sharing your honest experience with us. Do you even know how many readers you just reassured that the way they’re feeling right now is a feeling shared by others? Do you even know the collective sighs of relief that are probably happening because of you? I do know. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
For those of you who experience the same crushing anxiety, how do you cope? Is exercise enough? Does meditation quiet your storm? Solutions, great and small, are always welcome here!