We finally have a pantry!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

This post is wayyyyyyyyy over due as our pantry was one of our first big changes we did to this house when we bought back in October 2018. But here I am in May 2019 just getting around to writing about it, whoops! Note: I am really sorry about the before photos. I took these when I was just documenting our progress on Instagram, and wasn't even considering blogging! I don't have any un-drawn on before photos of these angles, so bear with me!

When we first toured this home last summer, we knew we would want to make some cosmetic changes to the kitchen in time. We weren't interested in doing a big renovation, but were okay with painting cabinets and adding a backsplash. The only thing we knew for sure had to change was the pantry. The existing pantry was really small, and we knew would not be workable for all the food and appliances we have. Spenser loves to cook with gadgets, so we just simply needed more storage.

Here is what the existing pantry looked like. It's only 13 inches wide. Miracle of miracles, it fits a crockpot, but you have to put everything in on an angle to get them through the door! 


When we moved in, we had not originally planned to make any changes to the kitchen layout or flooring (due to budget restraints), but when we started the process of re-doing our floors, we didn't  have a choice.  The tile floor of the kitchen was set so much higher than our new hardwoods, it would be impossible to level off, and would ultimately be a dangerous trip hazard if we left it. In hindsight, I am so.so.so.so. glad we took up the tile before we moved in because holy dust bowl, it was messy. I don't know what I was thinking trying to wait! We knew that by tackling the kitchen floors, we would have to do the pantry at the same time so we went ahead and tacked that on, as well. It essentially doubled our budget, but it was worth it in the end.

Here are my crappy before photos from my Instagram stories before this blog was born!

 You can see just how deep this closet was, and how much space it took up in the kitchen. Aside from adding storage, our main goal for doing this was improving flow. There was hardly enough room between the closet and the counter to walk through without turning sideways to fit. Not great.

So, the pantry project to-do list was fairly straightforward:
✅Knock the closet wall back 30 inches so we had more walk way into the kitchen
✅Rotate the door 90 degrees to be on the new wall facing the kitchen
✅Add an electrical outlet for the microwave
Build shelving/trim/paint etc.
✅Add a light switch to where the old door was

Unexpectedly we found plumbing in that wall, so we had to add "move plumbing" to that to do list, which was not inexpensive. But at that point, we had already knocked the wall down so there was no turning back!

The evolution of this project took longer than expected. Thanks to delays in getting the plumber, electrician, drywall guy, and flooring team all lined up, we didn't get this finished, trimmed, or painted until mid-January. It wasn't a huge deal, since functionally it was fine, but it was annoying to wait almost 4 months to get it done! Here are some in-progress shots of how we lived with it through Christmas. 

And, here's what the finished product finally looks like 7 months later. For reference, the old wall used to come all the way out to where our Nest smoke detector now sits!!

Side by side of the old view and new!


I mean.... huge difference. Am I right or am I right? 

And before after of this angle: 



Overall, this was a drastic, drastic improvement to the flow of our kitchen, and gave us much needed functional storage space. We have more walkway between the pantry and the counter, a better sightline when you walk in from the garage, we doubled our storage for food and appliances, and I love the upgraded look the glass door adds to our builder-basic kitchen. 

The only downside is that we did sacrifice the only coat closet we have on the first floor to do this, but living in North Carolina, we only need warm coats for a few months. Since we use our kitchen multiple times a day, it felt like a worthy sacrifice (and it has been). To add some function back to our space, Spenser built this stylish entry-way drop zone for me, and we plan to add more coat/cleaning storage in a garage project coming soon.

I am so thrilled we pushed through our budget concerns and went ahead and did this project at the time we did. Removing the kitchen tile floor was a huge improvement in itself, and adding this extra storage has made us love using our kitchen (even if we still have cosmetic improvements to make here, down the road!). This was by far the biggest renovation (if you include flooring) I've ever been apart of, and "project creep" is real (when the to do list just keeps growing, and growing...) but I am so happy with how it turned out because it corrected several major pain points in our kitchen at at once.

A big breath of ahhh.... Master Bed Re-Fresh

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Trigger warning: This post is mostly about my room makeover, but I do mention my miscarriage. 

Since you all pay super close attention to my blog ... 😛...  I'm sure you noticed that I didn't post anything from January - April, other than our house painting. And that's because I was thick in the ick of my first trimester with Lennon. Man, pregnancy is a beast! Normally, I have a super strong nesting energy that drives me to get projects done. It's so strong that I call them my "super powers." I regularly get these bursts of creative energy to do a project and have to follow through until it's complete, like a mad scientist.

As soon as I got pregnant I told Spenser, "I think my super powers are gone." I just had no energy - creative or otherwise. I had never felt like this before! I could barely function to make dinner for us, let alone re-decorate a room.  I really missed having that drive to change something in our home, but at the end of the day, I just needed to rest, so I took a break for a few months. Thankfully, I was pregnant during the slower part of my year with real estate, so I took advantage of the time to feel sick, take all the naps, and just take it easy. Getting our house in order went to the back burner.

But, after we lost Lennon, that nesting energy started to return within days. Unfortunately I had an unexpected complication from my miscarriage which caused severe pelvic floor spasms that lasted almost a week. They were extremely painful, and the only way I was comfortable was laying completely flat in bed. So, I spent most of my recovery laying in bed watching Queer Eye in a room that was nowhere close to being complete, with creative energy coming back to life about how to make it better.  I knew that getting into a project again would give me a huge boost of happy -- one that I really needed -- so as soon as I was physically recovered I got to work.

We had made some improvements to our bedroom when we moved in, but mostly it was in disarray. When we bought our house in October 2018, we scraped the popcorn ceilings, installed a ceiling fan, installed new carpet, and purchased a king size bed. But, one of the side effects of the popcorn ceiling removal were water stains all down the walls. We had huge stains of dirt, water, and bits of ceiling stuck all over the room, and big wall screws in the windows from the giant drapes the previous owners had hung. At the time, we just weren't ready to take on this room, so we lived with it as it was. It was in pretty rough shape!

 If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the ceiling paint marks all along the back wall -- they went around the whole room - and huge water stains dripped below them. The room just felt boring and bare and definitely not peaceful! After the experience I had had in here, I needed this room to feel like a safe place again, so I knew I wanted something super serene and quiet.

My one rule of decorating is that I won't start a project until I know I can finish it. I will wait until I've been inspired with every detail, pull them all together in my mind, shop for all the pieces, and then once I have it all mis en place, I'll get to work. This works out really well because it allows me to fully check a space off our to do list (or at least mostly), so I can comfortably move on to a new project without feeling like I have things half done everywhere.

I selected my paint color first. I do this by putting up a few samples on the wall, and living with them for a few days. I always try out samples on different walls with different light, and next to furniture to see what pops. I had a clear winner with this color (it's the darker blue in the photos below) - Ben Moore Palace Pearl - so I knew the rest of the room would be built around that.


Since we already had our king bed (we bought our SECOND Leesa Mattress when we upgraded to the king size... I really can't recommend enough! You can read about my experience with that here) I knew I didn't need to change out our bedding. It was being washed in the photo above, but we had received beautiful bedding from our wedding registry earlier last year. I love this bedding because it's weighty, but not hot. We like the heavy feeling of it when we sleep, but it's not overly warm. Plus, it's very durable against cat claws. Since we have two kitties that often play on the bed, having something that wouldn't easily pill has been crucial. This has held up to the test!

Since the furniture and bedding wasn't changing, my to do list looked like the following:

So, here's what I did:

✅Paint the room Palace Pearl by Ben Moore
✅Purchase new curtains and rods at Target. I bought the 95" curtains and hung them above the window frame. It's a trick to make your ceilings look taller!
✅Purchased new lamps at Home Goods (these aren't the exact ones, but close!)
✅Refreshed a few new plants with this cute planter stand from Target
✅Added a dressing stool and hamper for my husband's side, where he usually collects a mountain of clothes on the floor (I don't have a link for these, sorry!)
✅Added some hooks for additional closet storage

One more before and after: 

All in, this makeover took me about a week to complete, and that includes time waiting for things to arrive from shipping. I am thrilled with how this worked out and the peaceful energy this room gives off now. It's definitely the breath of fresh air I needed and is a place of calm I want to retreat to at the end of the day!

The only thing remaining on our to do list for this room is to add crown molding to the ceiling. We hope to do that in the next few weeks, but we've never done it before so we need to research a bit before we get started. I'll be sure to do a full tutorial on that as soon as it's installed.


Monday, May 6, 2019

In light of everything I've gone through over the past month, I have been feeling really called to tweak the purpose of this blog from just home decor, DIY, renovation content, to giving me a space to share more family updates. I have been feeling deeply called to continue writing and sharing about pregnancy and miscarriage, and felt I needed a better space to accommodate that. 

I'll still be sharing mostly home updates, because LAWD KNOWS we still have a mile long to do list in our home, but I wanted to provide space for some family updates too -- not just home renovations.

So, I've done a little remix/rebrand and changed the blog name to Ring Around The Rubins. Some of you may remember this as our wedding hashtag, and well, it just works! I'll be hoping to share some more family focused content, not just DIY, home reno type stuff along the way. So, welcome. 💕

If you click here or on the family tab at the top of this page, I have also shared our miscarriage story. I didn't want to share this on my facebook broadly, because I didn't want it to be triggering or upsetting for anyone who doesn't want to read it. But if you'd like to read about my experience, I've spent the last three weeks working through my thoughts to get them to a place where they felt right to share. I pray they are helpful to you in some way.

Losing Lennon -- Our Miscarriage Story

Writing a post about your miscarriage is difficult--and not just because of the sadness we still face over losing our first baby just a few weeks ago. It’s difficult because you want to do right by every other woman experiencing this kind of profound pain. This may be a little long, but it includes everything I wish I’d known. When I went through this I felt like I had no resources to guide me. This is your courtesy warning that what I write below may be triggering to some.

I found out I was pregnant on Valentine's Day. Unable to contain my excitement, I blurted out the news to the cashier at Target while picking up some booties and a Valentine's card to tell Spenser the news. She was the first person I told. I will never forget what an amazing feeling it is to share that kind of joyful news for the first time!

During the early weeks of my pregnancy I was naturally anxious about having a miscarriage; I think most moms are! I knew the statistics and the warning signs to watch for so I prayed for the baby's health and safety, constantly told it to "snuggle in close to Mama." With every week that passed, my nervousness started to dwindle. 

At our first scan at 7 weeks, we were able to see the little blueberry growing inside me and hear its tiny, flickering heart. I had chills down my spine listening to that rhythm of new life whispering "wow wow wow wow wow." There was no doubt about it in my mind, now. I was a Mom.

At my prenatal appointments, we continued to progress normally. Bloodwork and hormones were all coming back in perfect, normal range, and my pregnancy symptoms were continuing (all. the. naps. and. all. the. carbs.). I asked our midwife if we could see the baby again. I wanted to see how its heart rate was progressing since it had been on the lower side of average before, but she advised that we wait until our 12-week check up since I showed no signs of miscarriage.

Let me pause here to say to all expecting parents everywhere:  If you are pregnant and want to see your baby, push for an ultrasound. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that you have to advocate for yourself. Your healthcare providers should obey your wishes. I don't know if it would have been any easier had we found out the baby was gone at that appointment (it was), but I do think I would have been more emotionally prepared than I was a month later.
Weeks 9 through 12 came and went in a flash and, in our minds, everything was going smoothly. My nausea was disappearing and my breasts were less sore, but I was nearing the end of the first trimester! All seemed normal and I continually let myself relax.

The morning of our 12-week appointment I sprang out of bed and told Spenser, "It feels like Christmas morning! We get to see our baby today!" The appointment began as the others had: they drew blood, gathered a urine sample, and took my vitals. 

“Ok,” said the midwife. “Let’s hear that baby!” I started to get nervous when the doppler didn’t pick up any sound.

“Don’t worry, sometimes it’s easier to find the heartbeat with an ultrasound.” She left the room and returned with the ultrasound machine. She put the wand on my belly and it was silent. I could see a tiny little body -- it wasn't anywhere close to 12 weeks old. I knew.

I remember her saying, "There's no easy way to tell you this,"  and not much else. 

My mind raced. It can't be. I hadn't had any bleeding. How could I have miscarried? The baby was so small, this had to have happened weeks ago. How is this possible? 

I had read six different pregnancy books before even getting pregnant. Not one of them mentioned what the midwife said this is: a Missed Miscarriage. A missed miscarriage, or silent miscarriage, occurs when a baby stops developing early on in pregnancy but the mother’s body doesn’t recognize the loss. The pregnancy continues as the mother’s body continues taking care of the baby as though it’s still developing. From what I've learned, silent miscarriages are usually discovered between weeks 11-14 of pregnancy, after a viable heartbeat has been detected. They are very rare, occurring in only about 3% of miscarriages. Mine was especially rare, lasting more than 5 weeks without any signs of loss. Based off of our baby's measurements, it had passed within days of our first ultrasound at 7 weeks. 

As anyone who has experienced a missed miscarriage can attest, to say that this experience is confusing is the understatement of the century. I repeatedly asked myself things like how could my body have betrayed me like this and not shown me any signs? I felt so disconnected from my body through this experience, and it was extremely difficult to process. I wrestled some really dark thoughts about how long I had carried this baby after it was gone. Did I even have the right to grieve a 12 week baby when my baby was really only 7 weeks old? My belly had been growing and I no longer fit in my regular clothes -- how could a pregnancy continue on if the baby was not viable? I've worked through a lot of these emotions, but they take time, and for me, they took research to understand how this was medically possible. I just couldn't wrap my head around it.
This is where I'm going to share some of the medical information about what can happen when you have a miscarriage. This is extremely personal, but I genuinely think this is important to share. If it helps one mom feel less terrified going through this experience, then it's worth it to me to be vulnerable.
While I tried to wrap my mind around the news she had delivered -- our baby was indeed gone and had been for several weeks -- the midwife gave us three options forward. 

1) Wait for nature to take its course and to miscarry naturally, which in my case, wasn't an option because it had been so long
2) Take a medication called Cytotec to induce the miscarriage at home
3) Have a D&C surgery to empty the contents of my uterus

The only thing I knew was that a D&C required anesthesia, and for some reason that frightened me, so I chose to take the medication. If, God forbid, I ever have to face this again, I don't think I would make the same choice. The Cytotec essentially induces labor. It was extremely painful, extremely traumatic, and caused me to have an intense and prolonged recovery that I was not at all prepared for. Prior to this experience, I didn’t know much about miscarriages. I didn’t know what could physically happen as the mother's body reconciles the loss. As naive as this may sound, I didn't realize it would be a birth.

I have worked really, really hard to not harbor anger through this experience, but this is where I get angry: I had essentially no information, no guidance, and no preparation from my providers about what to expect during a miscarriage. We walked away from the doctor's office with broken hearts, a prescription, and a pamphlet full of poems. That was it

Everything I learned about what happened to my baby--and what was about to happen to me--I learned from other moms publicly sharing their stories online. To those brave moms, thank you. Your vulnerability and willingness to talk about your loss helped me feel more prepared and less alone during an extremely frightening time. In sharing my story, I am following your example.
Amidst the blinding grief in those first few days after our loss, only one thing was very clear: I had to talk about this child I love. Somehow God gave us the words to say goodbye and the strength to share them with you, and that has helped me so much. I needed to have other people know there was a baby here, and I am so glad I did, because sometimes the entire pregnancy feels like a dream; like it was never real to begin with. Being able to talk about Lennon with you is helping me to process that this trauma did happen. It was real. I did suffer. I did lose something. I'm allowed to not be okay. I really needed that, so thank you for listening. 

Chances are you know someone or will know someone who experiences a loss like this at some time in their life. How I wish I could be the last woman to ever suffer this kind of pain. I would take it on for all of you if I could. Unfortunately, I can't, and already I have had friends find themselves walking this same path. When I've had people go through this before, I really did not know how to help and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. 

So here are some things I found helpful: 

🦋The most helpful thing you can say is "I'm sorry." My favorite card I received said "this absolutely f***ing sucks." I would kindly advise you to avoid telling a bereaved Mom that "God needed another angel" or things like that. Try saying, "this sucks so much, it's not fair, and I'm so sorry." I promise that will be more helpful than anything else.

🦋Providing food really does help. It was a blessing to have even a small burden like cooking taken off my mental load. Alleviating that small burden of having to prepare a meal was such a gift. Thank you, thank you, to all of you who helped provide food for us in those weeks, and stopped by to provide company and a hug. It is frightening to knock on the door of grief, but I am deeply thankful you did.

🦋The most comforting gift I received in honor of Lennon was a small, soft heart that fit in the palm of my hand. Having something to physically hold when I think of Lennon has been such a gift. I hold it every night as I fall asleep and it makes me feel closer to my baby.  I found this Etsy shop that makes a small little peg doll in honor of babies lost, and I wanted to share it as a resource if you know a Mama who may need it.

🦋Patience with my grief.  These emotions are complex, persistent, and surprising. Parents who have lost a pregnancy have not just lost the potential for a child, they have lost a real member of their family - one they wanted, loved, and deeply miss. If they want to talk, patiently listen. Ask how they are doing and allow them the space to answer honestly. Thank you to everyone who has patiently listened to me (in particular, my Godsend of a husband). I am an external processor, so sharing my story and feelings helps me acknowledge them and let them go so they don't consume me. You willingness to listen is oxygen to me!

🦋 This grief workbook. I have found this to be one of the most helpful exercises to give space to my pain and release it. I highly recommend this as a gift to a bereaved mother - especially if you are able to give it to her a few weeks after her trauma. I wasn't ready to open this book right away, but once some time had passed, I have found it so helpful to work through these prompts and feel guided to work through my grief.
I won't ever know why this happened, and I don't honestly believe there is a reason. But I do know that I have been tasked with making the most of the experience I've been given, and I will find a way to create life in this void. Hopefully some of the words on this page will touch you, or someone you know, or someone I have never met and help them feel less alone. And if you are going through this experience yourself, my one piece of advice to you is to let the Light in. Light will drive out the darkness, of this I am sure.
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