Filed under: misc.

the work-life balance, revisited

Thanks so much for all of your feedback and ideas about toddler beds! We’ve definitely given the subject some more thought and think we have a good solution in the works…

I’ve written about our work-live balance before, but now that we have two kids it seems timely to bring up the subject again. I reread our original post and think the main talking points are still relevant, so I’m including them again here.

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+ Flexibility

Having a second kid is anticlimactic in many ways – we’ve already made the big life change, we already have most of the stuff, we’re already used to spending a Saturday night in the company of Netflix. In a way, a second baby feels very comfortable and makes me wonder what all the fuss was about the first time around. (I have a group of girlfriends who all have a toddler and an infant and we joke about how relaxing it is to go somewhere with just the baby – like a vacation almost!) And while the baby phase seems easier this time around, I absolutely believe that the biggest challenge is not one child or the other but the combination of the two, namely – the sleep-deprivation of the infant plus the mental exhaustion of the toddler. It’s a potent mix, let me tell you.

Therefore, flexibility remains critical. Two kids means more unknowns and less predictability, especially during those first months. We seem to have settled into a schedule that works fairly well now, but we also know that at best, it will stay this way for a few months before we’re recalibrating again. And then there are days like last Monday, when you realize you have a client meeting that afternoon and someone has just used the last of the toilet paper. And although both kids had just gone down for a nap (i.e. – I should have been working) I jumped at the chance to run to the grocery store sans children and pick up some essentials. When I stopped for an iced coffee first, the barista asked what I was doing this afternoon and I told him, “oh, y’know…buying toilet paper – we work from home”.

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+ Schedule vs. Non-Schedule

The work part of the balance is somewhat of a moving target but we feel like we’re in a pretty good groove at the moment. The biggest challenge has been finding a childcare solution that works for two different kids with two different needs. Avery is an adventurous toddler who benefits from social interaction and lots of active play, while Lillian is a baby who naps twice a day and is relatively immobile. We’ve had a mix of childcare since Lillian was born (our previous and much-loved nanny moved out-of-state shortly before) and while finding childcare is a whole other topic (one which should probably include a bottle of wine), we’ve learned to accept that there is probably not a perfect situation and that yes, that might mean committing to different arrangements for each kid. For now, we have awesome childcare for 4-5 hours most mornings and then our girls nap in the afternoon. (Avery still naps 2-3 hours and I sincerely hope she never stops!) This gives us around 8 hours each day, but we’ve made a practice of at least one parent being “on call” in the afternoons in the event that one or both naps end early. We used to also do more evening meetings after bedtime, but have really scaled back on that.

And because our profession is project-based, we’ve accepted that some weeks are crazy busy with deadlines and site visits and meetings and other weeks are a slow simmer. Instead of relying on a solid 8 hours a day, we each have monthly goals that we try to hit and after nearly three years in business we’ve been able to figure out a healthy number that is reasonable and realistic. That said, we’re still vulnerable to the downsides of working from home – including working nights and weekends. It’s tempting when y’know, our offices are a few feet away and it’s work we’re excited to be doing but lately we’ve been really focusing on unplugging more. When Avery was a baby I did a bulk of my work after she went to bed but these days I’m lucky to make it to 9:30.

Part of our reason for the DADU project is to create an even healthier divide between home and work. We love the convenience of working from home and not having to commute, but having a dedicated space for our business will be a huge plus and affords us the flexibility to grow our business when the timing is right (see “Let it Go” section at the bottom).

+ Divide and Delegate

We’re officially pros at this now. Aside from childcare and housecleaning, we’ve hired out a number of other tasks, including dog-walking, landscaping care and a myriad of business-related consultants. We also order a lot of things online, reducing the need to run errands. (My one exception is the grocery store because it’s something I actually enjoy!) They are small (or infrequent) expenses that have a big psychological impact and free up time to focus more on our family.

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+ Make Time for Yourself and Each Other

This one is still tough. I think we’ve gone on two date nights in the past seven months. I know some people have a standing weekly or bi-weekly date night and I applaud you for that. At this point in our lives, we’re aiming for a weekly or bi-weekly date lunch – an opportunity to sneak out just the two of us without it being a full-blown date night. This September we’ll celebrate our ten year anniversary and we are optimistic about a whole weekend away. (Mom, I hope you’re reading this. Hint, hint.)

That said, it’s much easier and equally important for us to make time for ourselves. Now that Lillian has a regular bedtime, it’s easier to meet up with friends in the evenings. I also make a point to work out at least once a week (hey, it’s something!) and have allowed myself to indulge in the occasional pedicure or shopping trip while we’re paying for childcare. Kyle has carved out his own hobbies that allow him some guy time (probably much-needed in a house full of ladies) and we try to be sensitive to letting each other take that time when we need it.

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+ Get Out of the House!

Before kids, Kyle and I were always working on something. When not at work, we were doing projects on the house, taking exams or in some way being productive. I think we are just the personality types where it’s hard to truly relax and do nothing. With one kid in the mix, we were able to maintain that lifestyle to some extent. With two, not so much. Having kids has forced us to actually get out on the weekends and do things just for the sake of doing them, even though my brain is telling me to organize the pantry or vacuum out the car. In a sense, our kids have forced us to add more “life” to the balance. Avery is also at an age where it’s fun to go out and do things with her, to explore a part of the city that we’ve never seen or go to a new park. (Seriously, I had no idea how many parks where in Seattle till we had kids.) The novelty of a 4:30 happy hour happens less these days, but we’ve been pretty good about rallying a few times a month or at least getting out for an early dinner.

+ Focus on the Awesome

This one is still a challenge. We have two healthy kids, an awesome dog, a house we love, a thriving business and yet – it is still so easy to become focused on what could be better, what we don’t like, what’s dragging us down. To some extent I think it’s important to always question things and push towards improvement, but not if it becomes overly consuming. We’ve found it’s helpful to remind each other that we’re in the thick of it right now – two small children, our own business, probably not enough sleep. It’s not easy and it’s not supposed to be. And yet, it is awesome. And exhausting. And exciting. And crazy.

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+ Let it Go

Ah, a bonus section!

These last few months have been exceptionally busy for our business, fueling our need (or so we thought) to get.on.it and make the DADU happen so we could continue to grow our practice. A few months ago, we made an intake appointment for the building permit but a couple of weeks ago we resigned ourselves to the reality that we just don’t have the time to dedicate to it right now. We also started to rethink the design for the DADU (which has already changed some since our last post, based on some discussions with the City). Financially, it will be a significant project (one that will include major sewer and plumbing work) and unfortunately not something we can hire out completely. We think we could make it pencil if Kyle does the concrete and framing but that would mean he’s spending his weekends all summer working on it.

So, we let it go (let it gooooooo!). For now. The risk with putting our plans on the internet is that you inevitably feel some guilt and disappointment if they don’t come to fruition in the way you hope. But we also try to use this blog as a means of transparency and “realness” so there you go. We still want to do the project and feel that doing a multipurpose design is the right solution, it’s just a timing issue. Instead of canceling our intake appointment, we rescheduled for early July (it was the first date available!). Maybe we’ll be ready by then and maybe not. One thought is to just get it “weathered in” this year (framing, siding, roof, windows, etc.) and then finish the interior next year. Of course, this means delaying hiring employees and moving our offices out of our house (and possibly turning down some projects that we would have otherwise taken) but we can manage that. And if delaying construction means spending more time with our girls this summer, focusing on our current workload and feeling more balanced in general, we think it’s the right decision.

Dwell + the Future of Architecture

Ok, I promise that the focus of this blog has not devolved into self-promotion, but (BUT!) we have another bit of exciting news to share and it’s that our house (our house!) is featured in the special issue of Dwell called Your Rooms We Love (on newsstands now!).

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Since it’s a special issue, it’s not part of a regular subscription but there are so many great homes and spaces to drool over that it’s definitely worth making a special trip or ordering online. (Page 62, yo!)

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Hey Bails, you’re looking a little scrappy here – your stylist is fired!

Second, Studio Zerbey is participating in the Future of Architecture showcase, sponsored by Houzz and the American Institute of Architects. The contest is open to students and emerging architects and includes categories such as Social Impact, Small Spaces, Innovation, Universal Design and Student Work. We’ve entered our house in the Small Spaces category and our proposed remodel of the garage in the Social Impact category. (Aside from work and the kids, the DADU project is taking up some of our attention right now as well – more on that soon!)

Here’s the interesting part – winners are selected based on how many Houzz users add the project to an ideabook. So, the more ideabooks our submissions get added to, the better our odds. If you’d like to check out the showcase and boost our chances of winning a cool $5k and a trip to this year’s AIA convention in Atlanta, click on the links below and add individual images to ideabooks. (Voting ends next Tuesday, April 7th!)

We’ll be back soon to share a handful of Studio Zerbey projects that are just wrapping up or under construction. Architecture is a profession of patience and it’s always so gratifying to see a project all the way from conceptual sketches to move-in day.

hello and happy holidays!

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We tried to get a decent family photo, but with two little ones and a dog, well…let’s just say it’s a good thing I know my way around Photoshop.

Well, hello! I wasn’t planning on this little hiatus from blogging but that’s life. And life is good right now. Juggling two kids and a business keeps us plenty busy and we have done absolutely nothing on the house (basement laundry and bathroom, still incomplete), so there hasn’t been much to report here. And if I’m being honest, after 8 years of remodeling it’s been really nice to just live in our house for once, without constantly feeling like we should be working on something. I’ve also just had less motivation to blog these days. Eventually I realized it wasn’t worth the stress of trying to meet weekly or monthly goals or write about something that wasn’t really worth writing about. Or maybe I should just blame Instagram, which has taken the place of some of the more random/personal posts we used to share (my username is laurenzerbey and Kyle’s is kzerbey if you want to follow us there). Blogging is funny because it often feels like I’m just talking to myself, not knowing who or how many people are actually reading. I miss the days when there was more back-and-forth dialogue on blogs, but I get it – of the blogs I do follow I mostly read them on my phone (in 10-minute increments while nursing or attempting to sleep) and rarely comment.

So, moving forward we will continue to blog but it will be at a pace that works for us. We’d like to continue to write about what we’re doing with our house (that garage isn’t going to remodel itself!), Studio Zerbey (so many projects under construction right now!) and other topics that I think might be relevant (like how to live in a small house with TWO kids!). This blog has been an important part of our business (hello clients!) and we want it to continue to be a unique forum for sharing and discussing residential design, even if things are sporadic for awhile.

So with that, we hope you have a happy holiday and new year and thank you for sticking with us! Kyle’s been tinkering with ideas to remodel the garage into a two-story shop/office/studio apartment so you just never know what 2015 will bring. Cheers!

Lillian Gray

She’s here!

Lillian Gray Zerbey was born last Sunday night (9/21) and we are now a family of four! (Err…five, sorry Bailey.)

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I had a scheduled c-section with Avery because she was very.stubbornly.breech and really wanted to try for a VBAC this time around (especially since I had no labor signs with Avery, not even Braxton Hicks!). Fortunately, miss Lillian decided she was ready 3 days before her due date and everything went really well (besides that back labor…ouch!) and faster than I had mentally prepared for. She was born at almost the exact same time and nearly identical in weight and length to Avery. Her hair is a bit darker (more like Kyle’s is now) and slightly longer. Lillian’s birthday is two days after mine and four days before our anniversary. We’re still nibbling on leftovers from my birthday cake and joked that maybe we should just get a big sheet cake to celebrate the three events each year. (But in all seriousness, my step brother’s birthday is the 24th and my parents learned early on that one cake with two clowns on it was not cool. NOT COOL AT ALL.) :)

We’re settling in and adjusting to having a newborn again. (Although, second time around – so much easier. Which is good since, y’know…now we have two!) Avery and Bailey seem to be handling things well and are interested but not too interested in their little sister. My mom has also been here to help with the girls and make sure everyone is well fed, which has been a huge help!

Here we go again!

hello, september!

Hello! I meant to write this post a week or so ago and now we’re halfway through September!

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This month has been (and will continue to be!) one of transitions. It started with saying goodbye to our long-time nanny, who is getting married and moved out-of-state to be closer to her fiancé. It was harder on me than I expected – she had such a positive influence on Avery and was an important part of our work-life balance.

And just last week, Avery started a new preschool. It’s a big step, but one that we feel she is completely ready for. (And an excuse to finally use that backpack? Heck yeah!) It’s a different daily routine than we’re used to but so far, so good!

Oh, and we’re having a baby this month! I’m due next week! (Right between my birthday and our 9-year wedding anniversary!)

Speaking of births, when Avery was born our firm, Studio Zerbey, was just starting out. Two years later, we’re the busiest we’ve been and finding ourselves in another type of transition, one where most of our projects are either under construction or getting ready to break ground and we have a handful of new ones in the beginning phases of design. It’s not uncommon for even residential projects to take a couple of years from the first meeting through construction so we knew there’d be some lag time till we could start counting our built projects. Well, that time is now arriving and it’s exciting to see things take shape! (Updating our website is also on my list of things to do.)

And finally, with all of these transitions, it’s nice to know there are things that haven’t changed – like our basement. Yeah, I know. We intended to finish the bathroom and laundry room by now but work got too busy. Kyle’s been chipping away on it here and there and we’re almost ready to get our plumbing and electrical inspections but it just can’t be a priority right now. And that’s ok. The washer and dryer are functional, we have another bathroom, we’ll survive (sorry, Mom).

But we have to get it done soon, because we’re starting to seriously scheme about the garage/carport.