spring + summer projects {our home}.

we’ve had our first taste of spring here in South Dakota, and warmer temperatures and sunshine-y days bring out the good ol’ “do all the things” attitudes in Jord and me. you’re on watch, Listy McListerson – we’re coming after you!

to give you a hint of what’s to come from us {and from this here blog} in the coming months, here’s a few projects that have jumped up on our to-do list:

1. plant a vegetable garden. we’d love to get our hands dirty and plant our first-ever garden early this spring. while we wait for temperatures to warm up a bit more, we’re dreaming of DIYing a raised garden bed or two {like this} and placing them in our front yard for maximum sunlight.



2. remove the dogwood bushes surrounding the cement patio in our backyard.

as i mentioned here, we’d love to improve sight lines around this patio to help us to see and interact with our young, play-loving kiddos, so we plan to remove these bushes early this spring as well.


3. move the “man nook” to the guest bedroom {and DIY some rockin’ industrial shelving while we’re at it}.

after many conversations about Jord’s current “man nook,” we’ve learned the following things:

* our visions for the “man nook” are very, very different; while i want a finished, polished and “pretty” space {in that it fits in with the rest of our home decor} in which he can work and play, Jord envisions a space that is totally, 100% his – a “no-girl-opinions-or-prettying-up” allowed kind of feel;

* the current “man nook” is SMALL {it IS a closet, after all}. while we surely knew this before the space became “the man nook,” Jord’s plans to customize the space to fit his needs are making us wonder if his {great} efforts to make it work are worthwhile;

* we have a third bedroom downstairs {what we’re calling our guest bedroom} which is currently a glorified storage room, meaning that it’s largely unused.

thus, after some enlightening conversation, we’ve decided to move the “man nook” to the guest bedroom downstairs.



but, instead of just plopping down a desk in there and calling it quits, we’ve decided to take our time and plan out a killer wall of industrial shelving {using pipes and stained wood} that will really MAKE the space.


we’re super inspired by the photo above, which is from this post over on A Beautiful Mess. the post features the home of Jessica Krause. we weren’t the only ones who were inspired – in fact, after seeing this wall o’ shelves, Traci over at Beneath My Heart wrote up a super helpful tutorial that has us believing that we can really make this project ourselves!

but, before we can make this wall o’ shelves happen, we need to paint the walls in the guest bedroom {i’m currently brainstorming colors, but my gut reaction is something neutral and fresh, along the lines of our new lower level paint job}. we also need to move the full-size bed to another wall in the guest bedroom {we will be using the wall that the bed is currently on for the shelving, since it’s the only wall in the room without a ledge going around the perimeter}. finally, we need to go shopping for some totes and devote some time to project: organization in order to pack up and move OUT of the room the various {and many!} baby-related items and other stuff that has accumulated in this room since move-in day.


we can’t wait to tackle this project, since it will be such a welcome change for Jord {more space! natural light!} AND will be a handsome installation for whatever this room turns into {for instance, it will surely be L’s future bedroom down the line}.

what projects are you tackling? do the first signs of Spring have you in a tizzy as well?

Comments { 0 }

daycare eve {a letter to Quincy.}

* written after church on Sunday, March 15, 2015, as sweet Q-Bug slept nearby.

dear sweet Quincy-Bug,

tomorrow is a big day for you, for it is tomorrow that you will enter, for the first time as a child under their care, the daycare in which you will spend your hours while Mama is at work. this date has been marked on the calendar for quite some time, since your untimely arrival 3.5 weeks early, and as each day passed, your Mama grew more and more anxious about this date.


you see, sweet Bug, your Mama has never before sent such a youngster to daycare before; when your big brother made his first debut at our {beloved, we’re-so-blessed-to-have-this-place} daycare, he was fourteen months old. of course, i had nerves and worries about that day, too, but those seem so silly in comparison to sending you, our little four-month-old, to even as wonderful of a place as our daycare is.

you’ve grown so much since that first day that my eyes met yours, but you’re still so little.

but, in an effort to help me through this transition {which promises to be awash in Mama-guilt, an emotion that i know so well, one that, i’m certain, is unending, even when our children leave our safe haven to embark on lives whose movements and milestones we no longer direct or chronicle in intimate detail}, i’ve compiled a list of reminders for myself – and for working mamas everywhere – who are struggling with the realization that their children’s days will pass without as many Mama-snuggles as we’d like:

* by sending our children out to have their own adventures, apart from us, more of the world will get to know and love all of our children, including my sweet Q. this is such a blessing, for {i’m convinced} that it’s in the eyes and the coos and the snuggles of babies that magic happens, that God’s love becomes tangible, that faith in humanity abounds.

* the work that we are doing – whether it’s education or management, public policy or food service – is important work that displays to our kids the importance of contributing to society. it’s also setting an example for our children to follow, as voiced by {plenty of brilliant people, i’m sure, but here’s my mantra} Grey’s Anatomy season nine, episode five entitled “Beautiful Doom.” in this scene, Callie is reassuring Meredith that it’s okay to leave her child to work:

Hey. No, no, no. No. No, don’t do that to yourself. It’s good for her to see you work. It is good for her to see you achieve. Yes. That’s how she’ll become CEO one day. Yeah. ‘Cause mommy works. That’s good.

* allowing our children to blossom {and, yes, to feel afraid, to fall, to falter} in situations where our gaze is not constantly trained upon them will help them to grow into strong, independent individuals, which {as my husband so often reminds me} is the greatest goal of parenting anyway: to raise strong, independent individuals.

* in the absence of a parent’s watch, other relationships are able to foster and grow, and i cannot WAIT to see how my big boy Lionel embraces this change, the arrival of his baby brother at a place that brings L so much joy, as they share together the adventures of daycare as a duo.


yet, while this list gives me comfort from time to time, as i sit here, now with my sweet Q slumbering on my chest as i write, i’m giving myself permission to feel sadness, to feel guilt, to feel whatever it is that my heart wants to feel at this moment.

for today, i’ll let my heart soak up all of him as it prepares to let him fly on his own, to experience life without his Mama watching, in amazement, his every move.

for today, i’ll let my eyes close as his little body clings to my chest, as his fingers wrap themselves around one of mine.

Quincy-17-Weeksfor today, i’ll delight in nursing him from the breast, pushing away the thought of the bottle that will deliver my milk, instead, in my absence.

for today, i’ll make silly faces and alter my voice to sing-songy decibels to elicit that one, precious smile that will sustain me through the sadness that is imminent.

for today, i’ll relish all of him, from the spit-up and the diaper explosions to the rolls of chub on his baby body and the loud coos that take us by surprise, that seem to erupt from his very being, that distinguish him from the memories we have of his big brother’s babyhood.

the time to be brave is tomorrow, when my eyes linger a little too long on his sweet, growing-up-too-fast body before finally tearing myself away from the doorway.

until tomorrow, then.

Comments { 3 }

{mood board} boys’ playroom + reading nook.

when we last discussed our family room, we revealed our most dramatic change in this space to date: a fresh coat of paint. if you missed it, take a look below {the paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Woodland White}:


in short, we looooooooove how much brighter and more open this space feels now that the dark, dark walls are gone-zo. and, we can’t wait to add a few more things to this level of our home to continue to reflect what we love to do as a family and how we need our home to work for us.

after living with the space since we purchased our home in august 2013, one of the big priorities on this level of our home became creating a dedicated space in which the boys can just be boys and play their hearts out. namely, we needed this space to house a few big toy items, including L’s play kitchen {which we gave to him for his first birthday}, a kid-size table + chairs {which you can see in the picture above}, a few sports-related toys, such as the Little Tikes basketball hoop pictured above, which lives inside our home during the long {LONG} winter months, and the Thomas the Train table that the boys’ uncle so generously gifted the boys for Christmas. we also have a car rug that L likes to vroom his cars on and a few other miscellaneous items that we needed more space to house that our upstairs living room allows. so, the idea of a playroom area was born.

but, since L is such a voracious reader {like his English-teacher Mama}, we knew that we also needed a space where we could cuddle up as a family and read a book {L’s current favorites are Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and a Mickey Mouse “i-spy” type of book}. and after seeing many an adorable kids’ reading nook on Pinterest, including this one, which is from Lay Baby Lay, i was convinced: our playroom needed a reading nook, too.

since we want this space to be multi-functional {and since it is so large and open}, we want the play space to reflect our boys’ changing interests yet still fit in with our overall aesthetic preferences when it comes to home decor. so, to this end, i’ve created a little mood board to illustrate our hopes and plans for the space:


a few details:

* we’re SO delighted that Tiny Prints agreed to collaborate with us on personalizing reading nook space for our sweet boys! {click here to see our boys’ shared bedroom, on which Tiny Prints also collaborated with us!} specifically, i customized three of Tiny Prints’ personalized pillows for the boys’ reading nook to cozy up that space and provide a bit of whimsy. they arrived last week, and they are perfect – i can’t wait to show you the finished reading nook space later this month!

* like many of you, i’m totally inspired by Pinterest, and i found the idea of painting a little “house” on the wall from here. i’m still trying to narrow down a paint color for this treatment – i want to do something bright and fun! – but i can’t wait to tackle this charming {and inexpensive – it can be done with just a bit of paint!} project.

* my Mom gave us an {adorable!} white kids’ bench that was originally part of a kids’ store installation but was no longer needed. i want to customize this piece with some rope detailing on the legs of the bench to give it a bit of a rustic touch. a little hot glue should do the trick!

* i’m on the hunt for a large {i’m envisioning at least an 8′ x 9′ size} area rug to help to ground and bring some color to the playroom + reading nook space. much like Katie over at Bower Power, i want something durable yet comfortable for little knees. while we’re still saving up our pennies and trying to track down just the right rug, lately i’m LOVING this from Rugs USA.

* when we were still renting, we purchased a television stand from Target {it’s no longer sold, but it’s similar to this one in black}. it’s made of wood and is still in great shape, but when we purchased a larger television on Black Friday in 2013, we needed a bigger piece to hold the television, so this piece has been in storage for awhile, awaiting a new use. then, when Q was born, we quickly realized the need for a diaper-changing center on the lower level of our home {in addition to the one in our master bedroom upstairs}. thus, this great piece of furniture is getting a new life! it’s the perfect height for a changing table, and the drawer is divided into three sections, which make it ideal for holding two different sizes of diapers {one for L and one for Q} and wipes, as well as a few burp cloths and swaddle blankets. plus, the glass-door storage underneath is perfect for additional book and toy storage! we’ve had this piece out in the playroom space for approximately three months now, and so far, L’s been very kind when opening and shutting the glass doors to access toys and books, but we’ll keep you posted.

* i’m creating an art project out of these fantastic Penguin book cover postcards that i received for Christmas. i only have a few steps to finish the piece, but for a taste of what it’s looking like so far, check this out from Design Mom!

* i purchased a dreamcatcher for the boys on my return visit to Write: Doe Bay {recap coming!} from this fantastic lady; for your very own dreamcatcher, contact here here!

be sure to stick around – i’m on spring break from my teaching job this week {yes, i returned to work – maternity leave is over! more on that later…}, so i hope to get a few of these projects accomplished!

Comments { 0 }

our lower level {sneak peek!}.

this post is long overdue, but i hope it’s worth the wait…it’s time to give you all a sneak peek of our newly{ish} painted family room in the lower level!

to help to jog your memory, here’s what the space looked like on move-in day {RIP, glass globe lamp on the table, which fell victim to L’s ball-playing}:



and after a coat of primer and two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Woodland White {using BM’s Natura line, which we’re huge fans of}, take a look at the dramatic change! it’s amazing what paint can do for a space:




as a reminder, here are the plans that we have for this space, taken from our good ol’ Listy McListerson posts of yore:

- paint

- bring in TV {at least 55″}

– add a wood accent wall behind TV {like this}

– add a vintage sideboard/buffet/credenza {with doors for DVD/toy storage} under TV {repurpose 2×4 black/brown Expedit in boys’ closet for storage}

– add large area rugs in living space and in playroom nook

- add graphic curtains, art {there’s still a few bare walls that we’re working on!}

- add playroom area for L and Q, complete with a reading nook {i can’t wait to show you this space soon – we’re waiting on just a few more items to finish off the reading nook!}

– eventually add a fourth bedroom by adding a wall to close off part of the large family room {stay tuned on this – we’re a few years away from tackling this project}

– eventually DIY a drop-down double desk + two chairs for homework and art time for the boys + any future sibling(s); hang two farmhouse lanterns over the desk {in red? yellow? teal?}

Comments { 0 }

happy love day.

happy Valentine’s Day from our “first love” and our latest “love bug” :)


xoxo, the Gillis family

Comments { 0 }

“mama” to “mom.”

a newborn asks for nothing. well, except for his Mama’s body {swollen, first around the middle, then later, in her chest}, her mind {anxious with worry all the time, except when she remembers to breathe}, and her nourishment {which, for my babies at least, are seasoned with Nacho Cheese Doritos, peanut M&Ms from a large yellow bag, and a taste – or three – of red wine.} a newborn doesn’t ask for his Mama’s heart, for her soul to ache with each milestone reached, each gurgle and snort and sigh; these, she gives freely.

a 2.5 year old, on the other hand, asks for everything, from the toy Lightning McQueen car at Target to the first, second, and last bites of his Mama’s supper. he, like the newborn, got his fill of his mother since birth, yet his 2.5-year-old self has since armed himself with an independent mind and a stubbornness that rivals only his mother’s. it’s this recently-realized autonomy that leads him to christen the woman formerly known as “Mama” with a new name altogether – “Mom.”

of course, this moniker of “Mom” arrived all too soon for the mother in question. you see, while “Mama” inherently points to a sense of youthful innocence, both on the part of the word’s user and its counterpart, the term “Mom” colors it all differently. unlike “Mama,” “Mom” is a term that’s reserved for three types of exchanges: 1) for exasperated teenagers {“oh, Mom!”}; 2) for whiny children in dire need of a sleepover with Jenny or Jerry or whoever’s the friend of the minute {“please, Mom?”}; 3) or for twenty-somethings who see “Mom” pop up on their iPhone and click “Ignore.” thus, since this 2.5 year old is neither an adult nor its pre-pubescent opposite, and since sleepovers in his mind mean snuggles in the “big” bed instead of his own, the name “Mom” should not escape his mouth for, say, at least five years. but, the mother hears it at almost every turn in nearly every situation.

“i need juice, Mom.”

“sorry, Mom, for hitting.”

“wanna watch Blippi on the iPad, Mom.”

and yet, the exception to the rule, the asterisk in this 2.5 year old’s reincarnation of his “Mama,” is one single, solitary phrase:

“snuggle Mama.”

uttered in moments of discomfort or pain, of unfamiliarity or stress, “snuggle Mama” is always accompanied by big, brown eyes that pierce the soul and outstretched arms aimed in her direction. and, for a moment, all thoughts of the word “Mom” – and the cantankerous exchanges that this word brings along – dissipate. as the mother – no, the Mama – takes her boy into her arms, her only concern is for her son, even though he’s guaranteed to ask for something soon, even though he’s destined to use the forbidden word of “Mom” again.

oh well – – there’s always hope for the newborn.

Comments { 0 }

baby Q’s birth announcements {from Tiny Prints}.

when sweet Lionel was born, we sent adorable birth announcements that i custom-designed with the help of this fantastic Etsy seller. here’s what they looked like, complete with a wallet photo of L’s newborn self, taken by Kara of Creative Kindling, our favorite photographer:





and for dear Q’s arrival, we worked together with Tiny Prints {see more of our collaboration on the boys’ shared bedroom here!} for a stellar birth announcement and Christmas card combo to introduce our newest boy.

i selected the Stylish Debut: Tropical design and customized it for our growing family. i also ordered black envelopes, matching gold + black dot envelope liners + wrap-around return address labels to add a little flair to our sweet baby Q’s official introduction to the world. we customized the announcements with photos from Quincy’s newborn photo shoot with Creative Kindling! i couldn’t have been more pleased with the quality of the announcements; we received SO many compliments on our sweet cards!

take a look:





many thanks to Tiny Prints for working with us on these fantastic cards – we feel so blessed to have introduced our sweet Q to our family and friends in such a stylish way!

{all photos by me; photos used in both L and Q’s birth announcements by Creative Kindling}

{NOTE: Birth announcements c/o Tiny Prints.}


It has been a long while since I’ve written any posts for this blog, my blog, or any blog blog. I could rattle off the hundreds of reasons or excuses as to why that is, but I’m going to ignore it and pretend like I’ve been writing once a week since the beginning of time. Go.

As my wife has so beautifully described to you on several occasions, I became a father of two boys past November. Quincy has a been an absolute riot and deserves a few hundred thousand words to describe the experience he has been in my life already, but I only know a thousand or so words (bad dad joke). Since his birth, I have gotten the pleasure to watch Lionel interact with this new human on a daily basis.


Before the birth, Sara and I did our best to try and prepare Lionel for this major life change, but I still did not know what would happen when Q-day would come. That day came and went, and both Lionel and Quincy have blessed us with an outrageous level of tolerance, love and patience.  It is extremely rare to have both of them upset at once. I don’t believe I have ever seen one trigger another one into some sort of fit. Granted, I know that Quincy, being less than three months old, has little to do or say, but both of them have their special ways of showing love for each other.

Lionel is down right adorable when he interacts with Quincy. He reads, he sings, he plays, and he watches “his shows” with Quincy. He gives him kisses, tries to comfort him while he is upset and even when he is rough-housing, Lionel takes a general care to not over do it with the small baby. It is remarkebly fascinating to see my oldest boy, who is on his way to three years old, coordinate and control his body around the baby. You can see him actively trying to be extremely careful. Finally, when Quincy needs immediate attention, Lionel might not always be happy to share “Mom” (that’s his new name for Sara, and it is under-appreciated by “Mama”), but he shows understanding.

Quincy, on the flip side, has dealt with an almost three year old who thinks he’s being extremely careful, is watching his every step and playing a charade of games to impress Mama and Daddy. That older brother steps, lays, screams, steamrollers (my bad), and runs all around Quincy, and of course, accidents happen. Socks get pulled on or off, pacifiers gets shoved into Quincy’s face, and the swing stops rocking as big brother attempts to join in the fun. All that being said, Quincy is resilient. Quincy typically handles all these interactions with a careful studying of the scenario at hand. Clearly, he prefers the tending loving arms of his mother, but from time to time, when Mama needs a break, he’s quite content when, sometimes, the entertainment duties fall to big bro.

As a father, it is absolutely fascinating watching and following Lionel grow up and learn new things. It has been just as fascinating to watch Quincy take seemingly a different course to the same conclusion in many ways. They are so similar and so different in so many ways. Perhaps I’m remembering things differently or perceiving things differently the second time around, but the best part of all has been watching them interact, learn and grow together. The sibling dynamic has been deeply meaningful, and they are so full of love and care for each other, even if, perhaps, they don’t yet understand fully what it means to have a brother.

sara’s going {back} to doe bay.


last time i was there, i had just learned, one week prior, that this little guy was joining our family. last time i was there, i was sniffing citrus fruits and drinking seltzer water and praying for my nausea to subside long enough to take a car ride with three total strangers who quickly became friends. last time i was there, i shared my heart’s deepest fear – of feeling inadequate as a soon-to-be mama of two – and received nothing but love and reassurance and “me, too’s.” and what’s so, so wonderful is that this time, when i’m back at Doe Bay in one week’s time, i’ll have this sweet Quincy Bug with me to share it all with. my sweet Q is a Doe Bay baby, for real.



{progress} our laundry room.

hi all! since we moved into our home in the summer of 2013, we haven’t chatted much about our laundry room. in fact, all that we did since moving in was plop down an area rug or two, stored a few baby-related items and paint cans, and added a mini-fridge {from our college days} for convenience when entertaining in our lower level.

but, as can often happen when you’re a homeowner, circumstances sometimes demand your attention…

…and for us, that was true with our laundry room.

Exhibit A: Our Laundry Room.



see the water heater in the picture above? {that’s the cylinder on the left side of the photo.} guess what decided to start leaking {albeit slowly} this past fall? yup, our water heater.

although we had been talking with a local heating & plumbing company since we first noticed the issue last fall, the leak was quite intermittent and slow that we decided to wait to replace the unit until we had saved a few pennies and until the need presented itself.

as of this past weekend, guess what began leaking at a faster rate? you guessed it.

thankfully, our home savings account was prepared for this type of a “hit,” so when the plumber came out to visit today to take a look, i took the liberty of asking him a few questions while he was quoting us an estimate for replacing our unit.

as a reminder, here’s the current layout of our laundry room, which is partially drywalled with an open ceiling and concrete floor:


as you can see, our utility units are spread out around the perimeter of the room. while our washer and dryer are ideally located and offer a wealth of space for our front-loader doors to swing open, the challenge lies in concealing all of our utility units upon finishing our laundry room with drywall. while the picture above isn’t to scale {of course}, when the entry door to the space is open, it nearly hits the existing water heater unit, thus making it rather impossible to conceal the sump pump and the water heater by adding a closet and a door, for instance.

so, while the plumber was here, i asked him about the possibility of moving the water heater over next to the furnace…and happily, he said that not only would it be possible, but that he would also recommend doing so, since the water heater would then be located in closer proximity to the drain on the floor, which is currently positioned in front of the furnace! furthermore, moving the water heater from one side of the room to the other increased our estimate only slightly, making this project completely feasible and budget-friendly.

however, the plumber cautioned us that since our water heater is an electric unit, that we would need to call an electrician to help to make the move of the water heater possible. that’s all i needed to hear before hopping on the phone with a local electrician and requesting a quote. after a short phone conversation with both myself and with the local plumber, we had an estimate that was well within our budget for what we were saving for the water heater replacement itself – not including the opportunity to move the unit to the other wall!

so, after replacing our water heater and relocating it in a more logical space, here’s what our laundry room looks like now:


what has me so excited {and Jord, too, by proxy – he’s excited when i’m excited!} is that when we’re ready to finish the laundry room {perhaps this summer and fall?}, we’ll be able to rock out a layout like this:


a few notes + inspiration images {click here to follow my “our home: our laundry room” board on Pinterest, where all of these images hail from!}:

* i’m loving the look of these ceiling “tile” planks – but i wonder; are they accessible for electrical/wiring issues?:


* i would LOVE to tile the wall behind the washer and dryer and DIY some open shelves, much like this image from BHG and this photo from here:



* i’m obsessed with this DIY faux bois folding counter from Jenny Komenda’s Little Green Notebook blog:


* i also think that painting the concrete floor a rich color {like navy, which is what i’m lusting after!} a la Young House Love would also be fab:


* this paint storage is genius:


and a few more inspiration images for the closet space, which would include ventilated door panels to maximize breathing room for the utilities that we’d be concealing:




Ventilated-Doors-41, 2, 3, 4

what projects are you dreaming up for your home?