flex room progress


Are you overwhelmed by the style in here?! :)

Slowly but surely, I’m pulling together a plan for this light and bright front space of our home, that I last talked about here.  While there hasn’t been all that much progress, I think the real step forward has been defining, for myself, how we’ll use this space going forward.

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While I’m no longer offering photo sessions in my home, I DO like the idea of keeping the neutral white walls because they bounce so much light around in this room, in contrast to our living room with its darker paint color and deeper wood/stone accents. The Nordic-style, white-walls-pops-of-color thing, really speaks to me and this seemed a perfect room in which to attempt the look.


It started with the rug. PSA: always shop around! I had my heart set on this baby when I first found it at overstock.com — then stumbled on it, nearly 150 dollars cheaper, at Rugs USA. Woot!


For now, I’m keeping the white Ikea Kivik chair that’s already in here — I’d like something just as comfy, but with arms and in a fun color (I keep seeing emerald green, if not in the seating than maybe in window treatments?). I go back and forth between a small sectional and a couple of arm chairs. My eye goes to more modern stuff from time to time, but I think at the end of the day I like a little more comfortable, relaxed, and dare I say traditional feel in my own home.


As chic as the little tikes basketball setup is (just keeping it real!) it will eventually relocate to the basement play area in a few months. I completely stumbled on this little end table marked down to a song (!) to tuck in a corner with the chair. I love me some copper.


I’d love to add a single big piece of art on one wall – kind of loving this guy from Minted for West Elm.


I would like to do some sort of coffee table in here since we’ve skipped one for now in the living room (it takes up prime play space, and is cumbersome with two reclining sofas that face each other). I keep coming back to round styles like this one (from overstock.com)…


…or something that brings in a little of the rustic vibe we have going on in the living room. I like that this particular version (also from overstock) has the more modern legs to keep it from feeling too heavy.


As plain as this inspiration board looks, it’s my “next phase” for this room, slowly pulling together (and funding) the right pieces, at a time we’re also focusing on a much bigger project (the basement!). This room will continue to take a backseat, but slowly and steadily, it’ll get there!


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the beginning of the end: basement finishing progress

I last blogged about our plans for the basement shortly before we moved in. If you prefer a quicker re-cap than reading the link, we had our builder frame this lower level for us and stock it with drywall, saving Page one of the more time intensive steps, and avoiding dragging messy (and huge!) sheets of drywall through our finished house later when we were ready to get cracking down there.

Our plan still includes some unfinished storage space, a fifth bedroom, full bath, gym, kid area/oversized toy closet/understair playhouse, an area to hang and watch TV, a wet bar, and a golf simulator. As much time as we spend at home now, it makes sense to us to put our time, energy, and funding into these types of projects. Additionally, after our last basement finish much more than paid for itself when it came time to sell, we also see this as a fun project that we not only benefit from now, but also (hopefully) and investment that will pay off later. Since we moved in, we had an electrician come out and rough in all our wiring.  

This summer, Page did some additional framing of the soffit in the bedroom, an access wall to the sump pump along the simulator area, a future stone column, and the wet bar. Although the gym is no more than framed, we added our flooring — the same horse mats used by CrossFit gyms — and moved in the weights and equipment. We’ve been using the gym as-is in lieu of a paid membership elsewhere and we both love the ability to work out at home.

August = insulation. #thispartsucks #basementfinish #casadesmith #houseprojects #diy

A photo posted by Liz Smith (@lizblogphotog) on

This past month we tackled insulation. There’s no way to sugarcoat it — insulation installation is pretty damn awful, but it’s a step we could do ourselves and save some coin.

Yaaaaaassss. #finishingthebasement #houseprojects #casadesmith A photo posted by Liz Smith (@lizblogphotog) on

We’ve had the hardest time finding available drywallers, and in something unheard of to us, we are discovering many options — but some ONLY hang the drywall, and some that ONLY mud/tape/texture. Weird, but whatever, we’ll take it. We were able to get on the first contractor’s schedule this month, so voila, we now have walls! This was SUCH a huge step down here — to get all the drywall up and off the floor makes the space, while unfinished, much more usable. We have a busy toddler who can spend the cold winter months riding bikes, big wheels, and jumping on his trampoline (shh! he doesn’t know Santa is bringing it!) down here all winter long, while we save up for the next steps (and pick paint colors! No idea what we want to do down here yet!)

Please excuse the dump of photos…it’s been over a year since I last came down here with my camera! Beginning with our basement stairway…


…this is the view into what will be the living room area…


Off to the right of this area is a kiddo space…


…with an extra-deep closet to the left for toys/games…


…and perhaps my favorite spot of the whole basement, a mini door to under the stairs for a Crew clubhouse…


…In the opposite corner of the living room will be a full bath, and a guest bedroom…


(guest bedroom)


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…and opposite the guest bedroom is our workout room…


…turning around from the workout room looking across the living room to what will be the bar area…


…and in front of the bar, the golf simulator…


…the door to the right is a long narrow closet mainly for access to A/V, our sump pump, etc.


For now, we’re at another pause point down here, cleaning up this latest (dusty!) phase, but so happy with the progress made as we save for and decide on next steps. As mentioned, the mudding and painting will be completed by a pro, but Page will do the trim work himself. Flooring will be professionally installed, although we’ve toyed with installing the bath/bar floor ourselves. (It’s worth noting we also said this the first time we finished a basement…and changed our minds, so…). Final plumbing and electrical stages will be completed by outside help, and we’ll plan to install our own bath fixtures, closet fixtures, and bar cabinetry/counter. So more or less “half DIY”. For now we’re just happy dancing that these most recent steps are behind us!

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Crew: 20 Months

We’re winding down your second summer as you roll into the 20s — 20 months old! Moment of truth — I’m already giving some thought to your second birthday bash! We didn’t do much last year, but I did quickly learn that everything closes (bakeries, Etsy shops, etc) over the holidays, leaving me in a bit of a lurch for a January 5 fiesta, so I’m trying to think ahead a little this year.

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Until then, we’re relishing where you are, right now: More running than walking, in a major mom-cling mode the past couple weeks, and growing like a weed — in particular your hair and feet ha — nearly every month, we are getting your hair cut and purchasing the next size up in shoes! You’re still a good napper but are starting to understand how bedtime works and fight it a bit more!


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Your obsession with all trucks continues, but you’ve developed a bit of a fear of them up close in real life. You are locked on them the whole time, but scramble to be held if they get too close. Other faves continue to be Elmo (who was wearing his raincoat in an episode one day, so you, too, had to get yours out – below), you love to get the mail — it’s a whole thing to cross the street and use the key to open the box, shut the box, etc.), and you’ve become a pretty big fan of play-doh.

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You’ve made big strides in shapes and colors. You can’t name them all, but if we ask you to find a shape in your puzzle, you can locate it. You can correctly name yellow, blue, and purple most of the time, otherwise when you don’t know, you default to everything being “blue”. :)


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You love to pour and sort stuff — muffin tins, mixing bowls, cups, ladles, and anything you can dump between it all (rice, dry pasta, pom poms, anything) is a bit hit that will keep you occupied for tens of minutes at a time. (Woot!) We’ve also made up a game at home with flashcards that have letters and illustrations on them. We spread them all over the floor and ask you to find an object — just another way I see your vocab growing! You’re continuing to add to your arsenal of animal noises — the horse neighing and the cat meowing (hilarious — you must only encounter loud, mean cats!) are a couple of your newest skills.

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Your response to anything we say or ask right now is an upbeat “yeah!”. You must say it fifty times a day. You’re in a pickier phase again with eating — you no longer eat cheese (how are you my child?!) or the veggie nuggets I was relying on for getting you your broccoli. If you had it your way, it would be hot dogs, yogurt, and applesauce for every meal. You’ve discovered sugar is pretty damn good — vanilla soft serve, mini M&Ms, and chocolate chip cookies are never turned down!


The Olympics were a big hit with you! You particularly liked watching the swimmers and the gymnasts. Both would prompt you to sprint and try to somersault, or to lay on the carpet and pretend to swim. There was lots of kicking and scooping and bubble blowing in the bath, too! You started a round of swim lessons again this month and we’re planning to put you in a tot gymnastics class this winter to burn off some energy!

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We took you to your first Iowa State Fair this month. You loved the cherry lemonade and seeing the animals! You ended up going back with me the next day for a client’s photo session, and we made a stop at the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit — you didn’t totally get it, but loved collecting things in your bucket, and riding the toy tractors, as you went through the course!


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We wrapped up the month with an overnight trip to Omaha, but I’ll save those pics for the next month’s post. I can’t believe we are in the “20s” and on the home stretch to two. So looking forward to a new season and all of the fall activities you can participate in more this year!

Love you lots and lots and lots!

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moved in: the guest room


This room has been the afterthought room since we moved in — as long as it had a dressed bed and some curtains, and room to set up my computer and work, I was happy. Obviously, guests stay here now and then, and when one of us is sick or up with a baby, I may crash here for a night, but most days it’s my office space where I edit photos. With so many hours logged in here, I was ready for this room to feel more like a finished space and less like the dumping ground for all the stuff that couldn’t find a home elsewhere in our house.


I originally wanted to try the “all white with pops of color” look in here…but in a standard bedroom with little architectural interest and your basic carpet/four walls/one window layout, it was all falling flat for me.


So I decided to go the other direction from clean and white…to dramatic and bold. With three white doors, thick white trim, light carpet, white ceiling and a decent window that gets northern light all day long, I wasn’t concerned about going dark. I was stoked when I ran the idea by Page to do a nearly black room and he didn’t bat an eye. #wifetrust Game on.

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The color is SW Iron Ore (a “light black” as I’d call it) and while the paint was fabulous and would have covered in what felt like a single coat, the TEXTURE on these walls is deep and full of grooves — it was a beast to paint and I went through several tricks and tools before it got it finally covered.

But I LOVE it. The room has some drama now and personality. I love the contrast against all the white trim and should we move Crew in here as a “big boy room” at some point, I already have visions of making it a cool boy campout spot without needing to change the color!

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I had visions of spending some time actually staging this room a bit and taking my time to photograph it. I had to settle for two minutes of snapshotting while a curly haired toddler ran trucks over my feet. Good enough and for now, it’s checked off my list. :)

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Crew: 19 months


Nineteen months. So much happens in thirty days and while you’re always the same crazy soul, you grow and change so much that in some ways you’re a totally different kid from one month to the next.

Suddenly it’s all about basketball (between a Sesame Street episode where Elmo plays it, and watching the neighbor kids play, you’re a bit obsessed, so much so that we bought you a hoop!).


You continue to LOVE. TO. READ. You’ll look at books on your own but much prefer to sit in our laps and be read to. You frequently get to the end and ask to read it “again” — often more than once.  IMG_3050


You want ALL. THE. PEANUT BUTTER. On crackers, on waffles, in granola bars. You’ll take it all — sometimes just straight up with a spoon. You’d eat hot dogs for every meal if we let you, and you continue to love the pouches of fruit/veggie blends. Still won’t touch noodles (except a couple magical times at school) but you will down quinoa.


You’ve developed a love for Elmo. You still tune into a couple of the more sophisticated Baby Einstein videos, but for the most part it’s all about Sesame Street now — but only the Elmo-heavy episodes. We keep the same faves on DVR on repeat. You love the music, the kids, the puppets, and when a funny antic happens, you laugh and point and look at us until we acknowledge with you just how hil.ar.i.ous. that Sesame gang is.

You’re putting together lots of two-word phrases. “Oh man”, “big truck”, (big anything really), and “bye (whomever)” are the most frequently used.


I’ve noticed more frustration and less patience this month when it comes to toys and other objects — you want things to fit a certain way, bear more weight than they should, function more quickly, etc. You’re getting much better about saying “help” rather than getting so frustrated!


It’s scary how proficient you’re becoming on phones and the ipad (both of which you can ask for by name) — you know how to tap the app you want and navigate through it. You love to FaceTime and watch videos of yourself and your buddy, Tatum. In general, you’re becoming more interested in friends and playing somewhat together as opposed to side by side.



Hitting seems to have subsided as quickly as it started (thank goodness). You are a big hugger – sometimes more than your buddies would like to partake in ha!


We continue to be so happy with the switch to your new school and you clearly love your time there. It’s great to receive photos of what you’re up to all day! I notice little things at home that are definitely rooted in school routines — for one, you actively start cleaning up if you notice me picking up (without me even asking), and you are much more interested in all of us sitting down together to eat — so in recent weeks we’ve been giving a booster seat at the table a go (“big sit!” as you call it).


You are very good at playing on your own for several minutes at a time, although just in the past few days, you’ve started to hold out your hand, or to come grab ours, to pull us to where you want us to play with you. Similarly, you no longer want to go up or down stairs on all fours, you want to walk, which means if we’re nearby, you’ll reach up for our hand to hold. I have noticed if I’m NOT right there, you are getting pretty smooth at holding onto the rails and stepping down yourself!


You clocked in at 23 pounds exactly and just shy of 32″ tall at your 18-month checkup. You gained only a couple ounces in weight, but nearly two inches in height since your last visit three months ago! You’re wearing 18 mo/18-24 in most tops and 12-18/18 mo in most bottoms. You went from wearing size 4 shoes in May to a quick pair of 5s in June, and are now into 6s already. It’s the little things that make me realize you’re getting bigger, but after checkups only two and three months apart since birth, we now don’t go back until you turn TWO!

You’re really interested in babies. You want to hug them and point out where their eyes/mouth/nose are…none of which you do gently, so we have to run interference when we’re around any. It’s a different story when Mom gets to hold any of them…you quickly swoop in for a spot in my lap the second they’ve been handed back. You love to watch repeatedly an episode of Sesame Street that is all about babies and study how the older kids interact with them. If we ask you “how do you play with a baby, Crew?” you do the gestures and say “peek-a-boo!”. No, that’s not an allusion to a future sibling!


We surprised Dad with your newest trick — to “show us your muscles”. You do a half-“Grr” and hold up your little arms. I die. You’re starting to want to help in the kitchen more — sometimes I let you help stir something for real, or dump in an ingredient, but mostly for my own sanity, I just set you up with your own bowls and pans and utensils and let you pretend. You LOVE the toaster and mimicking the “pop” of whatever is inside. We got you a toy version that has been a big hit. You’re starting to get the idea of pretend — we play that we are eating pretend fruits and veggies, and you pretend to drive a car around the house.


Your dad went on a guys trip this month for several days and you missed him– you wouldn’t really mention him and you were in good spirits the nine days he was gone….but then it would come out of nowhere. Twice when you got upset about something unrelated, you started crying hard for him and again once after we hung up the phone talking to him asking for “more dada” :( Break my heart! For a couple nights after he got back, you’d wake in the night and we could hear you asking on the monitor for him by name. We’re both glad he’s home!


You are suddenly super interested in the potty from a functional standpoint. Let’s just say I’ve had a very attentive audience when I need to use it, and you occasionally want to sit on it. Nothing happens and I’m certainly not pushing potty training yet, but I also want to encourage any interest, so we’ve added a seat in your bathroom to try here and there. It feels so big kid!

We love you so much — but you know that already 😉
Lots of fish-face smooches,

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toddler bookworm: a 12-24 months reading list


Crew is ALL about the books, and has been for some time. Fortunately for us, he’s moving from some of the touch and feel books with no words, to some with a BIT more plot. Of course we have the classics in rotation — Goodnight Moon, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and others — but I’ve discovered so many new favorites in recent months and always love to share hit titles with other parents and caregivers. It’s fun to think ahead to reading some of the more elaborate, classic stories I remember reading as a child, but for now I’m enjoying a toddler in my lap, asking to read these simple but sweet titles over and over…(and over).

Toddlers Reading List | www.lifeinyellow.com

Noisy Trucks A title we discovered at our library, I admittedly am a fan of this one because, while there is some verbiage to read on each page, it can also be self-guided. Crew seems to like real-life photos of things he recognizes, as opposed to illustrations, so this book delivers. Each page includes textures like the bumpy tire or the rough ridgy grill. And of course, there is a button on each page with realistic sound bytes of the various vehicles’ noises, along with a re-cap at the end.

Alphabet Crew received this for his first birthday and it takes interactive to a new level! There are things to scratch, sniff, push, pull, and all while learning the ABCs (and tons of animals that Page and I had never heard of — so I guess we’re learning, too?!)

Goodnight Gorilla I have fond memories of reading this to the kids I used to nanny, so it was an immediate add to our baby registry. This story combines simple text with illustration-only pages that allow you to ad-lib what is happening as the pages turn. We read this any time of day, but it’s a particular hit at bedtime.


Little Blue Truck We were gifted this book at a shower, and thank goodness! I’ve since learned this title is basically an institution with little boys (and girls!). I like the underlying message of helping out friends, and there is lots of repetition around animal noises. We have since accumulated Little Blue Truck Leads the Way and Little Blue Truck’s Christmas (the lights at the end are a big hit!), with plans to pick up the newest release, Little Blue Truck’s Halloween. (PS, if you have a die-hard Blue Truck fan on your hands, you have to check out these pajamas – they are on Crew’s Christmas list!)

All Aboard New York We’ve had a couple of these books, but the New York is both my favorite and Crew’s. The colorful, bright illustrations are delightful and even at only a few months old, Crew would study them in detail. As the adult it’s fun to see the whimsical portrayals of famous landmarks in a favorite city.

Dear Zoo This sweet lift-a-flap book is small and easy to travel with, and great for learning animal sounds.


Maggie’s Ball I had never heard of this book until the librarian read it at Book Babies one morning. Obsessed with both balls and dogs at the time, Crew was instantly entranced. I bought a copy for our house, and got out a sleeve of tennis balls to play with while reading (Maggie’s ball is a tennis ball). This book continues to be a favorite nearly a year later.

Red Truck A perfect length book for this age group’s attention span. Red Truck comes to the (very dramatic!) rescue of a stuck school bus. Loved this for learning the color red (and yellow for the bus!). We point out red trucks all around town as a result of this title.


Machines At Work This book was one of my brother’s favorites as a little boy, and my mom lent his copy to Crew. I love the simple three or four-word phrases on each spread, accompanied by colorful, bold illustrations. Great for learning action verbs like “dig”, “build”, and “knock down”!

Down By the Station We are on our second copy of this book, after the first one was gifted to us at a baby shower, and well-loved by a certain someone who’s still learning to not rip paper pages (I do wish this came in a board book!). Crew loves the different scenes (airport, train station, etc) and pointing out each page’s vehicles “all in a row”. (Bonus points if you SING the story!)


The Watermelon Seed At a time when it is ALL about the truck books (I think we have nearly a dozen in rotation!) I was anxious for a book about ANYTHING else. It seemed appropriate for summer to add this read to our collection and it has not disappointed. Super bright colors, a dramatic crocodile, and a good dose of burping make this a much-requested read in our house.

Hi! A great title for short attention spans, this book is a fast page-turner, with simple one-word, rhyming, animal sounds on each page. The animals all look to the little boy at the end to hear what HE says, and it was these final two pages I credit heavily with teaching Crew “hi” and “bye”. He enjoyed this book early on before he could repeat back animal sounds, but now that he can, he seems to love it all over again.

What’s on your little one’s reading list???

Toddlers Reading List

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