Filed under: baby

nursery + childproofing updates

Thank you all so much for your kind words on last week’s post! We’re excited about the changes ahead and prepping our house for another little one!

I meant to put together this post in January, to share how we managed to fit Avery’s Christmas bounty into our already cozy home. Since our last nursery post back in August, I’ve also been meaning to show what’s changed and how we’ve had to childproof our house. But y’know – there were two things I needed to hang in the nursery so the post got delayed for months. Last weekend I finally got around to hanging them and it took me all of seven and a half minutes.

So, now that we’ve got procrastination out of the way…

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We haven’t changed the nursery too drastically since last summer. When I was nursing Avery I liked the idea of the glider facing into the room and feeling a bit more cozy, but a few months ago we decided to flip it to the other side as we’re mostly using it for reading before bedtime. Her storage boxes then moved to the other side of the wall. We’ve played with a half-dozen or so configurations but this more compact stacking seems to work well for our current needs. Although we envisioned it being used more for toys, it is almost all book storage now. I love that Avery loves books and have, rather eagerly, added quite a bit to her collection in the past six months. (We also regularly visit our local library branch and usually have 10-12 loaners in the rotation.)

Because Avery loves to read (err…look at the pictures), I bought her the Land of Nod chair (against my more rational, space-conscious side) for Christmas. Turns out she’d still rather sit on the floor and flip through books but maybe that will change as she gets older? Or maybe I’ll just put it in the basement for a while and free up some space in her room?

Also, have I mentioned that this girl is obsessed with trash trucks? In Seattle we have three different trucks that roll by each Monday and it’s pretty much the highlight of her day.

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I’m keeping things real by keeping the Disney princess car in this shot. She’s more into pulling it out and re-parking it, so maybe it will live outside once summer comes. By the way, the rug is going bye-bye. We have some ideas for a replacement and ordered samples last week. (For the record, it’s Bailey who trashed it. Dirty paws and claws that get caught in the loops of wool are to blame. Besides, we’d like something with a more level surface for playing on.)

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As another Christmas gift, I ordered Avery this custom growth chart from Etsy shop, PaperRamma. Tracking growth is just one part really, it’s more of a modern infographics baby book and as you can see I haven’t actually filled any of it out yet. (In hindsight, it would be been better to get before or right after she was born since we’ve already passed many of the milestones.) I do love the colors and overall design though.

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Not much has changed with the wardrobe organization either. We keep surplus books and art supplies at the back of the laundry basket shelf and use the bottom three drawers for toys, blankets, sheets and extra diapers and wipes.

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Hey, I also finally hung the “Z” that had been sitting on her dresser for the last 20 months.

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The big addition to the main living area is the IKEA play kitchen that Santa brought. This chunk of wall was literally our last free space so it was fortunate that the kitchen just barely fit. I researched a few kitchens and came back to this one for the price, design and size. Many of the others were quite small and I liked that this one comes with plastic extenders that go on the legs as the child gets taller.

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We’re still using the under-bench space for additional toy storage. The bench is at a good play height for Avery right now, so we took the cushion off and stored it under the couch.

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Avery is also really into blocks and building right now so this is typically her construction area. (I totally gave Kyle a hard time for buying her the girlie Duplos but she loves them. Although, I think she’d love them if they were primary colors too.)

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She also rediscovered her Grimm’s rainbow recently and its endless configuration options. Take note, rainbow cuffs are the hot new toddler trend for Spring!

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Now, onto childproofing. The good news – we really haven’t had to do much. The fauxdenza has had the most attention and primarily because it is parallel to a main path of toddler travel. Although we haven’t had any issues with our fancy, architect-designed pulls in the kitchen, Avery has had a couple run-ins with the ones here. So a few months ago we bought some foam padding, cut pieces to size and adhered them with some double-stick tape. (We put up the foam corner guards last fall when she was less steady on her feet.) She’s at the point where they could probably be removed, but it will only be a matter of time before we’ll need them again and yeah…who likes removing double-stick tape?

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The downside to installing the foam is that it made the cabinet doors easier to open. We had bought some door catches from IKEA six months or so ago but just couldn’t bring ourselves to install the fussy hardware. So instead of childproofing, we tried child-deterring instead. Yup, we used a good ol’ fashioned rubber band around each pair of door pulls. Surprisingly, it worked. She fussed with them for a couple of days and then eventually gave up. In the kitchen, we have mostly drawers within her reach and she doesn’t really open them. I credit this to the drawer dampers that we installed, making them just a tiny bit harder to pull open if you have the strength of a toddler. (I should mention of course that we don’t keep anything dangerous in any drawer or cabinet within her reach. If she got into them, it would be a nuisance more than anything.)

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Sadly, we do not have a wonderfully creative solution for stroller storage. We keep the full-size one here in the mudroom and the smaller umbrella one in the back of the car. I know that with #2 our stroller situation is only going to get bigger, but that’s a topic for another post. (Our mudroom was limited in size because it’s in our front yard setback so we had to work with the existing footprint – had this not been the case we definitely would have gone bigger and incorporated more storage.)

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The only other childproofing measure we’ve taken is to put corner guards on our table. These started out at the corners of the fauxdenza but as she’s grown they’ve migrated to the table. I know it will only be a matter of time before they move to the island, especially since she’s already able to stand on her tip toes and swipe things from the edge (which has led to enforcement of the “12″ rule” where everything (like knives!) gets pushed in 12″ from the edge).

As for a quick update on high chairs – we’re still mostly using the Inglesina clip-on chair at the island (it’s more convenient), but she does sit at the Stokke a few times a week and we also use it for crafty activities like coloring. I know she will eventually outgrow the clip-on chair and it will be passed on to the next sibling so the Stokke still has a long future ahead of it.

So that’s our update. And if you didn’t notice – we have done nothing with the loft ladder! I know, we’re surprised too. I’d like to think we taught her not to climb it but really, that’s just her temperament. She’s a bit more reserved and quiet and that’s probably a big reason we haven’t had to do much to our house. I know it will change at some point (can’t keep a kiddo off a ladder forever!) but because Kyle’s office is up there and he uses the ladder multiple times a day, it’s been nice not to have a gate or contraption to deal with.

Of course, I probably just jinxed us and #2 will be the polar opposite and we’ll have padding all over our house.

adding on!

Every now and then, Kyle and I think about the long-term livability of our home and the ability to someday do an addition off the back of the house. We still have a few projects to tackle before we get to that point, but it’s been helpful for us to think through the feasibility of what an addition could look like and how that might impact our plans for the garage.

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Last weekend, Kyle even staked out the potential footprint. We would definitely lose some of the backyard and deck, but it’s a part that we don’t really use much anyway. (And let’s be real, we’re never going to park a car in that garage.)

But this post isn’t really about adding on to our house

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Surprise!

That’s right, we’re expecting baby #2 this September! And yes, this is part of the reason I’d been quieter than usual on the blog and my reference to “busy with life” in this blog post. So far, this pregnancy has been very similar to my first with Avery – mostly some nausea (I’m still on my vomit-free streak though!), carb-loading and an aversion to coffee. This time around I’ve been a lot more tired though. So yeah, pair extreme fatigue with no coffee and I’m pretty much in bed by 9:00 most nights – which hasn’t left a lot of time for blogging.

But, I’m into the second trimester and feeling like a normal human again! We’re so excited to be adding to our family and you know we’ve already given a lot of thought to how we’ll shuffle things around to accommodate another little one (more on that to come – and no, probably not doing an addition to the house just yet).

This will be another impetus to tackle our unfinished projects though (oh hey, bedroom!) so get ready for some more DIY posts on this blog in the near future!

diy baby gate

When Avery started crawling, we bought a baby gate for the top of the basement stairs. At the time, I was looking for the least ugly option that would fit the opening. We realized later that not only are compression gates not the best option for top of stairs, but our stair width (36″) was at the upper limit of the gate’s adjustability. This meant there was a large amount of exposed all-thread, enough to make us nervous.

So, when I was at a friend’s house a few months ago I noticed they had a nice plywood custom gate. Fortunately for us, they also had an extra one. Perfect, I thought, we can get a custom gate without spending a crazy amount of time making one!

Of course, nothing is ever that easy.

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First of all, the gate we came home with was really just a piece of routered plywood. It was also a smidge too wide for our opening, so Kyle had to trim it down (which also meant re-rounding the corners). Then, Kyle installed 2×2 trim on both ends (screwed into the wall framing and painted white) to mount the hinges and latch to.

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The plywood had some blemishes and imperfections so we decided to paint it. Originally I voted for white and Kyle the dark gray of our interior steel, but ultimately we landed somewhere in between. (We were concerned that the white would show too much dirt and handprints but that the dark gray would become too much of a focal point.) The color is “Del Ray Gray” (Benjamin Moore). I like it enough. It looked slightly lavender at first but I think we’ve gotten used to it (or over it? Kyle says he’s still not a fan). At any rate, we’re not repainting now.

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The hinges are stainless steel and self-closing, so we don’t have to worry about manually closing it each time.

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On the latch side, we used a simple stainless steel gate latch. (We realize there may come a point when she can unlatch it herself and we’ll modify if needed.) The only downside to this latch was that with the self-closing hinges it was pretty noisy as the gate swung back into place. So, latch hack! Kyle had the clever idea to install heat-shrink rubber tubing (commonly used for electrical work) to dampen the noise.

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The vertical trim on the latch side also provides enough of an offset for the gate swing to clear the handrail.

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During the initial installation, we debated adding another latch on the opposite wall in the event that we wanted to keep the gate open. We didn’t love the idea of our pristine white stair wall having a latch wart on it (or the possibility that someone might accidentally leave it open) so we decided to wait.

But, after a summer of having someone sleeping in the guest room almost every weekend, we realized it was nice to have the option of leaving it open (and since it only happened while Avery was asleep, it wasn’t a safety concern). So we added the other latch.

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Yeah, it’s kinda dumb looking, but we’re over it. The important thing is that we now have a nice-looking and safe gate that only took way too many hours to fabricate and install.

We still don’t have a great solution for baby-proofing the loft ladder. We currently don’t have any issues with Avery trying to climb it (she just likes to throw her toys down to the basement), but we know it’s something we’ll have to deal with at some point. If Kyle didn’t go up and down the ladder multiple times a day it would probably be less of a design challenge, but as it stands we need something that restricts her use but not ours. So, we’ll keep brainstorming.

Bonus! Can you spot the two photos with a cone-of-shame photobomb?

boxes + nursery updates

The northwest corner of Avery’s nursery has been sad and lonely for the last twelve months…waiting, patiently, for this:

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Bam!

You see, the trouble with being an architect and being married to an architect is that you set the bar pretty high for even the simplest of projects. For over a year now I’ve had the idea that we would design and build Avery some type of toy and book storage for her room. Originally, we were going to build a bench/cubby that would sit under the window. Well, it didn’t happen before Avery entered the world so we considered just buying the similar (and very pricey) Offi version ($$$) and calling it good. But then I started seeing modular storage boxes well, everywhere and thought this could be a quick and easy project. (Ha!) Thinking I might be able to find some inexpensive pre-made boxes (that we could then finish/paint), I scoured the interwebs but no luck. (Seriously, I’m sure this would be a lucrative business model. Someone should get on that.)

So, DIY it was.

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The four boxes are made from a single 4′x 8′ sheet of 3/4″ maple plywood. In lieu of exposed fasteners, we opted for biscuited joints. Our clamp collection came in handy.

We did consider installing backs but the boxes were plenty rigid without them and their omission simplified the construction and overall project costs.

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After the boxes were assembled, Kyle applied a coat of benite and a couple of coats of clear polyurethane to the outside faces.

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I wanted to do something playful for the inside faces, so we chose four of our house colors (“lakeside cabin”, “thuderbird”, “luminous days” and “birds of paradise”, all Benjamin Moore). Also, this photo was taken the day before her birthday party. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through the whole remodel process it’s this: PARTIES = FINISHED PROJECTS. Seriously, trust us.

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Thankfully, the littlest Zerbey approves.

(Side note because I know someone will ask – all of our outlets are tamper-resistant which means they have a plastic “shutter” behind the holes to keep kiddos from sticking objects in them.)

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Mid-way through construction we wondered if we should have spent more money on a nicer plywood with more ply’s (since the end grain is so prominent) but now that they’re finished and in the space we’re really pleased with how it all turned out (and realistically, she’s going to eventually give them her own “patina”). The individual box dimensions are as follows (all are 15″ deep): 15″x30″, 15″x15″, 12″x12″ and 15″x9″.

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Aside from basic toy and book storage, we like the idea that the boxes could also be used to encourage creative play for years to come. (My sisters and I used to spend hours making “doll houses” from cardboard boxes and I like to think Avery might use these in a similar way someday.)

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Of course, safety was a concern so we bought these clips from DWR to attach the boxes to each other. They’re metal with a rubber lining so they fit snugly and can’t be removed by little hands. At first we attached them to the front faces but then decided it looked too busy and instead attached them to the back. We have five clips, which should be plenty for the various configurations we come up with.

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(Since Avery’s still in the paperback destruction phase, I love that so many classic children’s books now come in board books.)

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Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel was Kyle’s all-time favorite book as a kid. In fact, he checked it out of the library so many times that his teacher had to stage a mini-intervention.

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The heights of the boxes are perfect for Avery at this age and encourages more independent standing (she’s not walking yet, but I know it won’t be long!). Although we haven’t reconfigured the boxes yet, we have discovered that by pulling them away from the wall by a few feet we can create a cozy little nook for her.

Aside from the boxes, we’ve made a few other tweaks to the nursery over the last several months:

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We bought the IKEA PAX wardrobe with the intention that it could be rearranged and added to as Avery’s needs changed. At first, I just bought four shelves and stacked everything inside. That worked fine for the first 9 months or so but it wasn’t the most efficient set-up. As she started playing with more toys I pulled out all the newborn gear that we no longer needed and packed it away in the crawl space. I then bought three plastic drawers and rearranged the existing shelves. The bottom two drawers are for toys and I use the top one for blankets, sheets and extra diapers. We’ve had this configuration in place for a few months now and it works really well. She can only reach the two bottom drawers, but because they’re so wide she can’t pull them open far enough to create a ladder. Moving the laundry basket up keeps her from constantly emptying her dirty laundry. (Behind the laundry basket and diaper bag is our stash of non-board books.)

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Having three areas for toy storage (these drawers, the plywood boxes and the felt bins in the living room) also allows us to rotate through different toys so she doesn’t get bored or overwhelmed with too much to choose from.

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Toys, what toys? Actually, we usually have some toys strewn about but since the living area also doubles as a place to meet with clients it was important to have a system in place for quick and easy clean-up.

Also, I’m finally calling this room DONE! So, a few overall shots to commemorate!

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Confession, this is the third set of air plants I’ve bought. The first ones got neglected in those first six months and then the second set quickly died when we put up temporary blankets over the windows to make the room darker. (Apparently plants need sunlight?)

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Speaking of, I procrastinated so long on curtains because I really did not want to make blackout shades for the windows (those chevron curtains took way too long as it is!). So, imagine my surprise and happiness when I discovered that IKEA sells both blackout curtain liners and roller shades (and in a dark gray color)! At the larger window I used the liner with a pair of IKEA curtains in a dark gray-blue (the curtain rod is from West Elm). We hung them near the ceiling to compose with the wardrobe curtains but stuck with a color similar to the walls so that they wouldn’t compete visually. At the smaller window above the crib we installed a surface-mounted roller shade (we wanted to keep the existing recessed shade for diffuse natural light). The exposed hardware on the roller shades leaves something to be desired but we figured we could build a custom valence of sorts if it bothered us too much (it hasn’t).

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The 3 Sprouts canvas bin (which used to hold all of her toys!) now houses our collection of baby quilts (thanks Mom!) plus a few stuffed animals.

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Aside from these few modifications and additions, the overall layout hasn’t changed in the past year. It’s simple but continues to work really well for our needs. We still use the dresser to store most of her clothes, diapers, wipes and a few regularly used odds and ends. Bonus, I think it finally lost that Craigslist smell!

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The only thing we might swap out in the near future is the rug. I love the design and feel (we bought it from West Elm a few years ago), but it does show dirt and the looped design is not conducive to giant golden retriever paws. It would be nice to replace it with something more easily cleanable too, so we’ll see.

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I’d also like to design/incorporate a growth chart into the nursery – maybe something on the backside of the sliding doors? My mom did this on the back of our closet door (my sister and I shared a room) growing up and I want to continue the tradition.

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The nursery is starting to feel more and more like a kid’s room and we love it. (In fact, it’s Kyle’s favorite room in the house!) I know there will be more items to accommodate as she expands her interests and abilities (art supplies! a mini kitchen!) but I’ve got some ideas for that.

avery’s first birthday

Our baby is one!

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Avery’s birthday was the week before last and we (along with my mom) celebrated by going to Remlinger Farm, blueberry picking and out to dinner that evening (where Avery had her first bites of chocolate cake and ice cream!).

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The rest of the week brought the arrival of various family members (including 5 grandparents and 3 of my siblings!). We were thrilled that so many people travelled to share this event with us and it was really special to see the interaction between Avery and our parents (living 2,000 miles away they don’t get to see her nearly as much as they’d like).

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Aww, don’t be jealous Bailey.

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Avery “opened” gifts from the family later that week (before her party on Saturday) which was definitely a good call and kept her from getting too overwhelmed.

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Because y’know, there were gifts like this. Yeah, Kyle’s parents totally got her a Disney Princess car. She loves it.

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On Saturday afternoon we had a backyard party with family and friends. We kept it pretty low-key and didn’t go with a particular theme other than a handful of bright and happy colors. The plywood boxes on the table are Avery’s gift from Kyle and me. I plan on doing another post (soon!) that talks about them in more detail (including how they fit in the nursery), but for the party we used them as a display area for gifts.

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Another small gift from us were these plastic animals. Avery has some plastic dinosaurs that she loves, so I thought this would be a good addition and something that she can play with for years. The party hat idea was borrowed from Oh Happy Day and kudos to my sister for carefully making each one.

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I also made a small “smash cake” for Avery and couldn’t resist these tiny pennants that I found at Target.

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We printed each of her monthly photos and displayed them along the top of the fauxdenza…

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…but my favorite part was this “installation” that I created from a year’s worth of Instagram photos (printed via Prinstagram).

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Although we didn’t get too fancy with the food (small sandwiches, fruit, salads, veggies, beer and sangria) it was a lot of work and I am so, so grateful to all the family that pitched in to make it happen.

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Here are few shots during the party. I was rushing around and obviously didn’t have my camera on the right setting so they’re a bit washed out. However, it was a perfectly gorgeous Seattle day and I look forward to all the fun summer birthdays in our future!

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Towards the end of the party we brought out the smash cake and sang “Happy Birthday”. Overwhelmed and probably a little unsure why she was only wearing a diaper, Avery burst into tears.

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She calmed down a bit when we showed her the cake but wouldn’t go after it till she was safely sitting between her daddy’s legs.

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Once she realized that she could actually eat the frosting she became very focused and started using both hands.

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Nom! Nom! Nom!

A few minutes later, she looked up to realize everyone was still staring at her and started crying again, this time with an emphatic almost face-plant into her cake. We took this as a cue to move to the bathtub and give her some time to regroup before opening more gifts.

All in all, it was a great party. People say the first birthday is really for the parents and I think that’s true, but it’s also a chance for us to thank everyone for all the help and love we’ve received this past year. (A special thank you to you guys as well, who have offered tons of great ideas and reassurance along the way!)

We made it! Happy birthday Avery – here’s to many, many more!