Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Healthy Again

Before you dive into this post, I strongly recommend you read this one. It'll provide a good baseline and explain a little about my mindset while on this journey.

I've reached my body goal :) And it's absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. I've had quite a few people ask me how it was done, so here's my best shot at explaining.

Let's see, where to begin.

It's January, 2013. I am 195lbs, very tired, extraordinarily uncomfortable in my clothes, and very self-conscious of how I look. I've been working out for 6 months now with minimal results. I work full time and miss my newest baby like crazy. Pumping isn't going so well. I'm frustrated and strung out.

I knew what my problem was, but didn't want to admit it. You see, I'm one of those awesome people who is destructively self-aware.....I know what I need, but I fight myself the entire way through.

Jen, you need to save that money. Bite me, that dress is hott and I deserve it.
Hey Jen, I think you've had enough wine. Said no one ever.
You are overreacting and need to calm down/talk it out. ..........Nahhhhhhh, it's go time! Rage on, independent woman!

Jen, you can work out all you want....if you don't change what and how you eat, you'll never lose that weight.

I kicked and screamed and dragged myself through every justification I could while downing another serving of couscous....another "every-once-in-a-while" breakfast bagel.....another random handful of cheddar cubes. In my mind, these foods weren't horrible, so they couldn't possibly be to blame. I knew better, but I fought the crap out of myself. That's just what I do I guess.

So on January 6th of this year, I got real. I decided I would try to count how many calories I was consuming and then track how many I burned.

It. Was. Insane.

I was consuming way more calories than I expected and burning way less than I estimated. I thought mayyyybe I was eating 2,000 calories and burning 600 every time I went to the gym. Turns out I was eating closer to 2,900 calories a day and only blasting 400 calories with my cardio workout. This was my fear, realized. All that hard work, all those months of busting my way through elliptical intervals, all that time spent on crunches and bicep curls...I was literally erasing my efforts, bite by bite.

I was so disgusted with myself. The shame was overwhelming and even worse, I knew I couldn't become one of those fabulous people who plan out every meal, freeze garden-grown kale for the off-season, and give up french fries forever. I could not be that person. (!!I love french fries!!)

So I made a Jen plan.

1. No at-home scale. I can't do scales. I become obsessed. I use the one at my gym once every two weeks. Period.

2. Track calories. This is a big one. It takes time and can be frustrating....but not nearly as frustrating as sweating your tush off for no reason. I use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone. It has a barcode scanner so you can seriously just *zap* your product and it's entered for you. I began in January with the MyFitnessPal recommended calories, I want to say it was 1800 or so a day. This first part is really, really tough. I essentially had to retrain my stomach to recognize what full felt like. Once I got over the sugar and starch cravings, however, I was golden. My body now automatically uses food for fuel and I'm gradually increasing my calories back to "maintenance mode" ~ I'm at 1600 calories a day now and I don't feel the least bit deprived. It's crazy, actually, because I am a huge food lover. I dream about food. I could bathe in food. Gross.

3. No food is off-limits. I can eat cheeseburgers. Oh yes. I can eat the heck out of that cheeseburger. The catch? I better be willing to either blast through some calories later or go hungry.
***Funny side note about this part of my plan.....I never denied myself fast food. As I've progressed into the year, however, I've found myself not even wanting joke! Nutrient-rich foods actually fill me up and taste awesome. I don't want to waste 600 calories on a drive-thru burger when I can have a huge, homemade, avocado-laced salad with full-fat dressing and a cheese-and-salami sammich on rye bread. Get that second option in my mouth!

4. Cheat meal is a must. I have one cheat meal a week. It allows me to take a break from tracking and just allow myself to be. Great for BBQ's and parties, too.

5. Exercise with a heart rate monitor for 40 minutes 5 times a week. This is do-able for me. I needed to be honest with myself and push. Taking the stairs at work is great, but it's not going to burn enough to justify anything worth eating. And muscles! Those magic muscles....they keep burning calories even when you're asleep. I wanted them so dang I started weight training. I used a Gold's Gym DVD two times a week and alternated with three days at the gym on the elliptical. Some days I didn't want to go. I went anyways. Real strength is built with hard work. Your body is an incredible have the ability to mold, shape, and manipulate it with your own movements.

That's it! That is my plan and the plan has worked.


It's July, 2013. I am 155lbs, very tired, constantly pulling up my pants, and only moderately self-conscious of how I look. I work out 5 days a week for 40 minutes at a time and eat ice cream almost every night. I work full time and miss my babies like crazy. I'm strong and strung out.

Improvement :)

Happy Before: (love yourself regardless)

Happy After: (fierce beast mode face)

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Real-Life Things: Read Me Seymour

Books :)

Just thinking the word, "book" relaxes me. I think "books" and I think the bookstore from The Neverending Story; the smell of a smoking pipe fills my nose and musty shelves crowded with endless volumes of wonder envelope me in possibility. I can hear that old bookstore man saying the word "book"......they way he says it is awesome. This book is not for you, Bastian.

Lucky for me, I married a man who loves to read. It's kinda become our thing. Anya read her first book at 2 years old. The smallest one is already showing signs of her own budding book obsession.

With all this reading passion lying around, you'd think my house would be chalk-full of books. Alas, I don't own many. We have a ton of textbooks, some incredible home improvement books, and children's books up the wahzoo....but very few adult books. This leads me to believe the books we do own must be pretty dang good, but I'll let you be the judge of that. Here's a few of my favorite reads :)

1. Mama's Little Book of Tricks
You don't need to be a mom. Ever wanted to sound incredibly smart or shock people into believing you are some sort of trivia master? This book is for you. No kids necessary. The book teaches you to tie knots, whistle with an acorn, make slime, entertain yourself and others during a road trip, and recite shark facts. It's small, but powerful.

2. Domino: The Book of Decorating
I love to dream. This book helps me dream about my home. I suppose it could be considered a coffee-table book, but I have kept it on my nightstand next to my bed for years. I pull it out whenever I need to cheer myself up or find a bit of inspiration. The pages are colorful and enticing, with comfortable separations between each feature (paint colors, furniture choices, fabrics). A must-have for those looking to identify their preferred decorating style!

3. The Help
I had to list this because I'm reading it right now. It's not my book, so technically I'm cheating by even bringing it up, but read this book. Always read the book, especially if you liked the movie! I try to read the book before I see the film; it allows me to really develop the characters within the limits of my own imagination. I find a comparison between my imagination and a director's imagination to be most intriguing!

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Classic. My mom read these to me when I was little, and now, I read them to my babies. Nothing quite like extending traditions through literature!

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sesame Street, and Dr. Seuss
Speaking of traditions, these were my books when I was young. My mom, despite moving multiple times as a single mother and thereby having few possessions from the past, saved these for me. It's such a gift to share these with my lil' babes....some of the first books Anya ever read were from my own childhood collection. I curl up with her, like my mom did with me, and we read. Heaven on paper.

6. The Five Love Languages
I bought this book during Aaron's second deployment. Whether I like it or not, I refer to its teachings frequently. This book doesn't necessarily relate only to your significant other....I've applied it to friends, family, coworkers....even strangers. Mr. Gary Chapman breaks the way we perceive love into five distinct languages. The book includes a quiz to help you/your partner identify your language. I'm a blend of a few different languages. Imagine that. My love language, complicated? No way! .... ......

7. The Shack
Mind-blowing describes it pretty well....if you can keep up. It's a challenging read, but worth the necessary focus. The storyline is difficult to read and I found myself crying a few times. There's an element of fantasy/mysticism that dances atop some very serious subjects, both philosophical and spiritual in nature. The book is somewhat controversial; some find it highly inspiring, others find it blasphemous. I loved it. It reconnected me to the love and acceptance I identify with in my own religion.

That's it, loves. I told you, I don't have much ownership invested in my passion for reading. I have a very serious thing for libraries and it's never made much sense for me to purchase what I can easily borrow..........although of any 90's child who loved to read......I still dream of one day having Belle's library.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Revamping Perspective: 3 Steps to Keep a Shower from Sucking

For women in their 20's and 30's, nothing is more feared, more dreaded, more sigh-inducing, than that little pink envelope in the mail:

You're Invited to

If age were a television rating, the mid-20's to mid-30's would be primetime. Careers. Houses. Weddings. Babies. Each event sometimes prods two or three other events, all lumped into a span of only 5 or 10 years, and all including some sort of friendship-testing, obligatory action.

OOOOO I got a new job, buy me a drink.
OOOOO I got a new home, help me move and buy me wine.
OOOOO I'm getting married, buy me a crockpot.
OOOOO I'm having babies, buy me some diapers.
OOOOO my kid is turning one.... and two..... and three....

Over and over and over, the cycle can wear on a person, especially a person blessed enough to have a large group of family and friends.

Well never fear! I've developed a surefire plan to set my your perspective straight on showers.

1. Get over the registry.
There will always be some thing on the registry you can't understand.
How can she want a freaking melon baller!!
That bedding is more expensive than my house.
What kind of infant needs a tub with a mini shower??
I swear on my mother's grave she will never use all 24 "requested" chardonnay-colored napkins.
Why in the name of all that's holy does that bib cost $25??
I've asked each of these questions multiple times....but have you ever held one of those scanners in your hand? It's like the Trident of Poseidon...unyielding power to control the tides during what is likely to be a tumultuous time in your life. Save the judgments and just get what you can afford. After all, if she ends up regretting her choices later, you can always be that awesome friend who screams, "I KNEW IT! HAHA!"

2. Personalize, customize, and leave your mark.
Virtually all registries include household items. Cookware, towels, dining sets, blankets, bath items...each of these things are affordable, popular choices for both brides and moms-to-be. Getting the gift is wonderful, but putting that extra two seconds into your gift makes it memorable.

Kitchen items? Print off recipes.
Bedroom items? Embroidered names and initials can be pretty, especially for brides who are pumped about getting a new initial and moms who are crazy about their new baby's name.
Bathroom items? Toss is something special just for the bride or mama, like a lotion, bath salt, magazine, or candle.
Outdoor items? Include some applicable flower seeds (the bouquet flowers, or the baby's birth month flower)
D├ęcor? Make it yourself! Pinterest, people, Pinterest will show you the way.

Adding these very simple, personalized touches conveys how much you really care about her.....

But Jen! What if I'm too busy to get creative with my gift? What if I'm too worried about how much money I'm spending and how much time this will take out of my weekend? What if all I'm feeling is "uuuuugh!"???

Simple! You're acting just like me...and there's a very easy solution I've used time and time again when I get into Negative Shower Mode....

3. See past the present.
I had the pleasure of attending my dear friend Leigh's bridal shower this weekend. I went in on a gift with one of my girlfriends; we purchased her bread basket, ramekins, and martini glasses. I didn't give a rat's ass about the things I purchased. Nope. Not a drop of emotion toward those little white bowls. Those martini glasses? No love from me. And that bread bowl barely fit into the box I picked out, so that thing could screw off.

But I sure as crap wasn't going to let the bride hear that. This is my friend we're talking about here! She really wanted those things and I needed to get pumped up about giving them to her. Here's where I found my motivation:

I pictured her using them.

Those aren't just martini glasses, they're the glasses she and Nick will set out a few years from now, on New Years Eve....and never get to use because they pass out at 9PM, exhausted from their first few weeks as parents.

That isn't just a ramekin set, it's the warm blueberry cobbler she cups in her hands while the snow falls outside the window of her new home.

That bread bowl? It is used at Christmas, thirty years from now, while she hosts a house full of laughter to the gilded sounds of Frank Sinatra and Henry Mancini.

Those mental images motivated me to take my gift from this:

To this:

And then eventually this monstrosity:

I included recipes for her ramekins:

....and a martini glass full of specialty martini recipes:

From someone who despises showers, I can say with 100% sincerity... this was fun for me. I was giggling as I pictured her trying to make meringue while Nick reads the martini named "Moneypenny" over and over again like James Bond. 

THAT, my friends, is what it's all about. Not these things, but these moments. When you're invited to someone's shower, you're invited into the possibility of witnessing these incredible moments. It's hard to keep that in mind all the time...but at least try to remember it a few hours before the shower.

Congrats, Leigh and Nick! It is going to be a beautiful wedding :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Real-Life Things: Blue Collar Commute

Apologies for the late post! My power went out last night because we finally, thankfully, had a rain-soaked storm!! The grass is green and the humidity is down this morning and I can't wait to tell you about one of my most favorite real-life things - my morning commute.

I don't enjoy working so far from my home. The fact I spend over ten hours of my life per week in my car makes my skin crawl. I've battled snow, the morning sun, downpours, fires, construction, and floods. I've been hit on, cussed out, ignored, and followed. I've gotten two speeding warnings and one red light camera ticket. Countless little bugs have lost their lives to my windshield. It gets dangerous out there. I am not a fan.

Unless of course, we're talking about these guys.

These are my morning road neighbors. Pickup trucks, utility vans, wood chippers, semis, dump trucks, and construction equipment. Plumbers, electricians, firemen, landscapers.....craftsman.

I live in a far western suburb near the big and beautiful city of Chicago. I have farmland in my backyard, farmer's markets every weekend in the summer, and a historical section of town dedicated to the nostalgic days of locomotive commerce and ice from a truck. Like most towns, we have our fair share of economical diversity. We've got some sprawling mansions with private beaches and a few subsidized apartment complexes with broken-down cars. The majority of us, however, are average Americans, with two or three bedroom homes, an obsession with barbequing, and a deep pride for our well-kept lawns.
My place of work is very close to the city. After years of driving the same route each day, I can almost pinpoint the exact moment my craftsmen are swallowed by a sea of lawyers, executives, and luxury vehicles.

This isn't to say I don't love me some fine-lookin accountants (Aaron's an accountant). I respect all professions and think everyone deserves the chance to make a first impression, free of pre-conceived notions about their chosen line of work.

But there's something to be said about my early-morning truckers...something makes me feel safe and free when I see them, mud spattered on tires, random metal chains and parts hanging off the truck bed, a water cooler potentially brimming with a dependable supply of hydration. I think about their day, the job site they're heading to, the client they're meeting that morning, the wood and tools and machines they might touch that day. There's beauty in their labor.

They work long hours, sometimes for very little pay, almost always exposed to the elements. They may not have air conditioning in their truck, but they've got a tan arm hanging out the window and that works just fine for them. Squeaky brakes, diesel fumes, quiet pride. If asked to wear a suit they might pull out their fancy, singular tie...but when asked to fix a closet door they show up with 17 different tools, a new closet plan, and the lumber they pre-cut for the job. Eating out isn't as comfortable as sitting on the couch with a beer and a day on the lake is more memorable than anything they have over there on Michigan Avenue. It's a simple, but passionate life.

I'm proud to be share the road with these people each morning. At the end of the day, when I cross that imaginary line on my drive home and start seeing parking lots like this:

......I smile and feel my heart lighten just a bit, knowing I'm finally home.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Paint Your Trim Like a Jerk

I love the country-cottage, almost coastal look. White kitchen cabinets, pops of color, curvy furniture, and farm antiques make me a little giddy. Something about it makes me feel relaxed.

Unfortunately, my home is a rather beige, earth-toned little dwelling. The previous owners left every paint can they ever purchased, neatly labeled with its location in the house. My kitchen, for example, is painted with Mississippi Mud. It's pretty dark in there, with deep wood cabinets, black countertops, and then of course the brown-green mud. I love my home, don't get me wrong, but I'm ready to bring some light in. Maybe make a mud pie. Ok bad joke.

The first room we started with was our bedroom. It went from an off-white to a light gray-lavender. The color was actually Aaron's idea, which shocked the heck outta me. He was dead-on, really works with our furniture and I love the way it changes to a smooth, almost milky-blue when the light fades.

That brings me to my first tip on how to paint your trim like a jerk:

Jerk Tip 1. Paint the walls first. This way, when you go to paint your trim, you'll have double the prep work.

Once we had the lavender up we unanimously decided we should paint the trim white. Everyone always says you should never paint your wood. I disagree - the wood in my home, while beautiful and appreciated, dulls the light I crave from our big, beautiful windows. I went for it.

Well, and by "I went for it," I mean, "Aaron went for it." He removed the door first, painted it, and started on the trim in a matter of days. I was super impressed...and anyone who's tried painting with a one year old toddling around understands why!

Then I got the text.

"FML. Paint isn't sticking. I give up."

Jerk Tip 2. Just go for it and don't do any research. Makes it exciting to learn as you go.

We found out the hard way primer is a must if you aren't sanding your trim. If you don't prime, and instead just apply latex paint, you'll end up with doorframes like this:

And baseboards like this:

Jerk Tip 3. Make sure your home's baseboards are completely jacked up and almost warped in places. It will allow the paint to bubble right in the crack. Perfect jerkness!

Jerk Tip 4. Paint right over that bubbliness with some primer, then add two coats of your paint. And no, don't tape off the wall first. Just go for it. Fix it later.  

We used a pretty good primer called Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. It came recommended in an awesome blog post I read from LiveLoveDIY. She recommends sanding your trim first, if you can....but I wanted to do this like a jerk, so I of course didn't even consider sanding.

Jerk Tip 5. Don't sand your trim. It takes way too long and primer works great. For now.

Now when we got to the windows I must admit I was a little conflicted. Painting the inside part (what is that, the sash?) would mean getting paint on the glass (let's just be real and acknowledge this is ME we're dealing with here) and probably cause some sort of issue with the way the window seals and then a blizzard would come in and we'd all be frozen in our beds or a swarm of mosquitoes would come suck the life out of me while I sat in my room with white trim.

So we left the inside part of the window alone.  

Jerk Tip 6. Ignore what you learned about conducting research and just paint the windows like they're normal pieces of trim. Wood is wood, am I right?? Ehh? EHHHH??? Ups your jerk appeal to have those teeny little bubbles right in the frame. They're staying.

I tried to avoid being a jerk by taping off the inside of the frame, the part that comes into contact with the bottom of the window while in the "closed" position and creates that magical seal.

Jerk Tip 7. Get frustrated when the project takes longer than you expected and just rip that tape off. Just rip it right off at an awkward angle. You get this real jerky feathering around the "closing zone." Looks good. 

In all seriousness, this project was way more time consuming than I thought it would be...and I'm not even done yet. I need to go back and touch up all the lavender paint I covered with trim primer. I think I might keep adding paint on the windows so I can cover those bubbles. Oh and I need to keep scraping away at the door with a screwdriver because some jerk painted over the hinge areas and now the door won't close.

But when all is said and done, I love it. I mean I really, really do. I may have completed the job like a jerk, and been a jerk while doing it, but I would do it again. That's the plan, do the kids' room, the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. It's just so bright and beautiful!

Not bad for a jerk, huh? Happy Tuesday everyone :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Real-Life Things Part 2: Happy Thoughts

It's been a pretty rough week. Even as I type this I can feel my resolve begin to weaken and my negativity is kinda hanging over my shoulder, ready to pounce and consume at any given second. I think it's important I make my next "Favorites" post about happy thoughts. These are a few thoughts I concentrate on when I need to fly out of my funk and/or be coated in pixie dust ;)

1. Sunrises. I leave for work at about 5:45AM, so naturally I'm exhausted and sometimes dreading the long day ahead of me. Beautiful sunrises almost seem to welcome me to the world and give me something to look forward to. After all, if I didn't get up and out at 5:45 in the morning, I would likely miss a sight like this.

2. Bare feet on clean sheets. There's nothing better than sliding your toes into a soft, cool bed.

3. Good dads. Just check out this handsome man with one of our precious angels. He may have read this book 17 times already, but you wouldn't know it. He would (and most likely will) read it 17 more times.

4. Nightlights. I am a clumsy person and insanely near-sighted, especially at night. Night lights are beautiful, make me feel cozy, and keep me from falling over.

5. Remnants of my child's amazing day. A wet bathing suit, pile of toys, handprints on the wall, crayons under a couch cushion, a bike in the driveway....they are like breadcrumbs leading me into my baby's world. It's incredible to think I often overlook these things and treat them as annoyances. These are the things that made my kids smile today. Chill out and enjoy, Mama.

6. These curtains. I know it's wrong to love an object, or in this case, a fabric. But c'mon. These curtains are incredible. And the way the light comes through at all hours of the day? Gotta take my word for it...instant relaxation. These hang in my bedroom and filter my weekend sunrise with unmatched beauty.

7. Gearing up for a workout. Now I'm going to be honest, I normally don't love hauling crap around and taking 10 minutes to get ready for a workout (water-UGH! Heart-rate monitor-UGH! Sports attire-UGH! Phone with earbuds-UGH). But then I stop and think...I mean really think about it. I  have both my legs. I can run, jump, do push-ups (kinda). These are blessings....blessings some people don't have. And so a happy thought is born - gearing up for a workout because I can.

8. Uhhhhh, low gas bills. I don't care how much I'll pay in the winter because right now it's July and my gas bill is $30. Opening this bill was like opening a present at Christmastime.

9. Decorating for the holidays. For me, decorating has always been a source of joy and fun. I love coming home to a festive house. It warms my heart and makes me feel like I'm in my own secret little cottage, out in the woods, where everything smells and tastes like the season. Ahhhh :)

10. Tea. I never liked tea growing up. This is a new happy thought. Tea makes me feel good and calms me down. The idea of tea is way better than the actual taste in some cases, but heck. This is Favorites: Happy Thoughts, not Favorite Foods.

11. My kids in my bed. I don't love it all the time, but on a Saturday or Sunday morning, nothing is better than having my loves all snuggled close. Sometimes we'll lay there and talk about our dreams from the night before, sometimes we'll play, sometimes we even doze a little. I don't do it often enough now that the little one is mobile, but it still is one of my favorite happy thoughts.

12. Magazine Jen Time. I am obsessed with magazines. I love the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, the way I can tear it out and keep it in my "Magazine Madness" binder. Yes, curling up with Pinterest can be fun, too....but there's something about books and magazines that will never go out of style.

13. Post Workout Jen. I'm making my *damn girl* face here but really, I love that moment right after you complete a kickin' workout. I feel so strong, so glowy, so rich, and so (literally) hot. This gem of a shot was taken today. You're welcome.

Ahhh. I feel better already. Thinking my happy thoughts breaks the bad mood and pushes my negativity even farther into the shadows. What do you do to kick negativity? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hidden Local Treasures: Ellwood House in DeKalb, Illinois

One of my favorite movies is Fried Green Tomatoes. It tells the story of two girls from a small, rural town in Alabama. The best element of the film (and book) is the overwhelming intricacy given to each person in the small town. Vivid, captivating stories splash you through love, murder, friendship, pride, name it, this town's experienced it. It absolutely thrills me to the core to think each and every town, city, and home in America (in the world!) can paint a similar portrait of life; for each person, a tale to be told. How many stories lie in waiting? How many disappear from existence with a dying breath, never to be heard?

It is beautiful that we need only to look around to learn about deeply involved affairs of generations of families, governments, and communities. Over the weekend I drove to DeKalb, Illinois. My mother had suggested we visit a place called the Ellwood House, and because I am nosy and love, love, love looking at other peoples' homes, I hurriedly agreed.

Now DeKalb isn't really known for it's beauty and history. I mean, it is the home of Northern Illinois University, so there's some history there, but when people are looking for, "exciting, historical tourist towns in Illinois," they rarely consider DeKalb. I don't think people could even point to its general location in the state if asked. So you get the point. It's a little bit of an "eh" town.

It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn DeKalb is actually quite beautiful. It's surrounded by crop farms, freight train lines, and long roads. I drove through miles of rolling, corn-peppered fields, passed a teeny town without a single traffic light, and had to pass more than one tractor going about 5mph on the shoulder. It was comforting and I felt free.

Upon arriving to Ellwood House, we were greeted by a native DeKalbian (you're dang right I made that up) who seemed to have known the Ellwood family her entire life. She led us through the grounds and throughout the 3-story home, telling us stories the entire way.

You may not know (because frankly, who would), DeKalb is often considered the "home" of barbed wire. It was invented and later distributed in DeKalb way back in the late 1800's by a man named Joseph Glidden. Isaac Ellwood became Joseph Glidden's partner, hence the huge, giant mansion tour.

The home was handed down from generation to generation. It is literally a time capsule; the home was only recently handed over to the city, so the Ellwood family furniture, collections, and memories remain intact. From the architecture, to the small bathtubs (they were SHORT back then!), to the extensive book collections, to the Italian statues, this home almost breathes with you. It's walls carry sweet lullabies to small Ellwood babies, muffle hushed arguments between couples, and quiet the worries of a servant who accidently broke a piece of china. It was fascinating.

They've reconstructed and polished most of the original architecture, although our trusty guide mentioned a few times they've had a difficult time determining exactly what was part of the original construction and what was added later by other generations. One generation in particular seemed very fond of bay windows, light, flowers, and in other words, they were the "Jen" generation.

Now while our guide was very nice and knowledgeable, I get a bit flaky and inattentive when I'm exploring. I have no idea which Ellwood generation expanded the dining room and I can't remember the name of the wife who loved to sing. I do remember, however, that one of the husbands passed away and the wife consequently closed off her anguish by sealing the entire 2nd and 3rd floors. She later isolated herself in what I consider to be an attached porch. It wasn't until the next generation moved in that the top two floors were opened again. Imagine the mysteries they uncovered!

The family loved to collect things. There's these funky little statues from England all over the place. One of the wives loved to hoard so much, they built her collections their own house:

The kids were blessed, as well. It was rare to find a family with a 100% child-rearing success rate; many children died from illness back in those days. I can't remember exactly how many children she had, but I want to say one of the wives birthed eight kids, all of them living to adulthood. One of the Ellwoods build this for his kids, I want to say it was the second generation...notice the deer off to the left of this wonderland pic.
Once my kid called me Super Mom for making a nest out of crumpled magazine pages. 'Nuff said.

The city was fortunate enough to enlist the help of one of the Ellwood daughters. She came to the house, told them what it looked like, gave them a few of her things, and assisted with the redesign. Her room was my favorite. It was light, with a bold, floral wallpaper covering every wall, built-in bookshelves, and a sink tucked in a corner by a big, beautiful window overlooking the gardens.

Her room was next to a corridor that led to the nanny's quarters. I thought it was so strange the nursery was on the opposite side of the home from the master Mommy anxiety would be off the CHAIN, people.

The kitchen was in the basement and our guide said it was one of the best kitchens you could work in at the time. They had large windows to air the place out and their own dining area. They also had an intercom system and a dumbwaiter, both considered very posh. I kinda wanted to make an iPhone joke, but I didn't think it would be well-received.

I was able to snap a few pictures of the inside right before I stupidly asked if it was legal. This is the library. Those bookcases are original and at one point an important person, Teddy Roosevelt, I think, was entertained in this room.

Turns out taking pictures was not legal, so alas, you have only my description to lead you through the majority of the home. I do suggest, however, if you are ever in the area, to stop at this magnificent place and submerse yourself in it's rich past. Who would've ever thought a seemingly-boring college town like DeKalb would hold so many beautiful stories.