a letter to my son on his third birthday

23.03.17

GB, Geebs, Geebo–

Well, kid, you’re three. A threenager, as they say nowadays, and boy does it show. I was rereading last year’s letter and it seems at two you were just practicing for the horror that was to come.

We both feel today has been too much one-on-one time. #pottytraining #mrgatsby #ohbotherblog 🍯

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I’ll be honest: the past month or so has been pretty rough. You get, um, explosively emotional sometimes and it seems most of your ire is directed at me. I say sometimes that you’re like an abusive boyfriend–you go from yelling and hitting me one second, to stroking my face and telling me I’m pretty the next. Sometimes, though, you’re very calm and you’re telling me and Holdy, “it’ll be alright.” So my sweet GB is still in there somewhere, but he’s a little more hidden than he used to be. It’s sort of a Bruce Banner/The Hulk situation, I guess.

"GB, why did you take your clothes off?" "To be like Bruce Banner." #hulkout

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Speaking of The Hulk, you are obsessed with superheroes. Spider-Man and Captain America mostly. You know all of the Avengers’ first names and like to use them: “Spider-Man Peter Parker” (or Petuh Pawkah in your accent), “Tony Iron Man.” You like to pretend you can climb the wall and you have Spider-Man shoes, shirts, hoodie and underpants.

Spidey testing out his climbing abilities. #ohbotherblog

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Weirdo #giventhecamelback

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Ah… underpants. We just did our potty-training bootcamp this weekend and it actually went pretty well. I did have to take home several bags of wet clothes from yesterday’s first attempt at school, but we’ll get there. You’re refusing Pull-Ups now, saying, “I’m big” with a shrug. It’s true, you are.

You started school this year at York Day Nursery. Your teachers are Miss Jennifer, Miss Sheryl and Miss Latasha. You thrive at school. You like to work with your hands and you are so creative. Your school likes to send little notes home with interesting things you’ve said throughout the day. The latest was when you were coloring with a yellow crayon you said, “I’m making sunshine!” You speak in complex sentences and you have an impressively large vocabulary.

York Day Nursery Valentine's Day party

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Of course, that vocabulary also includes curse words. Man, you have a filthy mouth; way worse than your sister ever had. The other weekend you were having a morning meltdown in my face so I removed you from my presence. You sat outside my bedroom, banging on the door, repeatedly moaning for me to, “open the fucking door.” Two days later, you were angry at me for not getting your milk (and I was angry at you for not asking nicely), and you yelled at me to, “get the milk, fucker!” I mean, you were using the terms correctly which makes me secretly proud, but obviously that’s not cool, dude. We’re working on it.

Your favorite food is scrambled eggs. You and your sister would eat breakfast for dinner every night if you could… and during Restaurant Week this year you literally did. You love “white milk” and “bars” and that’s about it. You need to eat, kid! Your lack of appetite drives me nuts.

Valentines #whatholdywore #mrgatsby #ohbotherblog 🍯

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Your sister is your best friend but you guys fight like cats and dogs. You’re at each others necks (sometimes literally) all night, and yet somehow you both choose to sleep together in the same bed every night. I’m so glad that you guys have each other and I hope you stay just as close as you grow… though it does make for some crazy evenings at our house.

Good morning. #ohbotherblog 🍯

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You’ve grown to love Sally, who sleeps with you guys every night. You’re warming to Brutus, though I understand having a large creature who’s literally 100 pounds larger than you bounding at your being might be a little frightening.

Best buds both had a big weekend. #brutus #mrgatsby

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You’re warm and curious and thoughtful. You’re funny. You’re reserved with people you don’t know. You’re my buddy. You really are a mama’s boy. Sometimes it’s a little ridiculous–you really should be wiping your own nose by now. But I’m glad you still like to give hugs and kisses and I’m secretly happy to still carry you around (sometimes. Not when my hands are full of bags and whatnot). 

Watchin' superheroes.

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Happy Birthday, Buddy. We love you.

 

potty-training GB

19.03.17

It was time.

 

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Time to pottytrain GB. The kid will be three next week. We had waited long enough.

One of the most frequent questions you hear when it comes to potty training (besides, “why the hell isn’t there a magical way to just make this happen?”) is, “how do you know when they’re ready?”

In our case, I’ve been making GB change his own Pull-Up after he’s peed himself for about a month. So, yeah, if the kid is changing their own diaper, it’s probably time for potty training.

 

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With Holdy, I did the Potty Training Bootcamp Weekend method, as made popular by The Moes Family and Growing a Jeweled Rose.

Because the kids are with their Dad every weekend, this was going to take some planning, but as it turns out, the kids were going to be with me this weekend so we decided to go for it.

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:

  • Give the kid a lot to drink.
  • Set a timer for every 15-20 minutes.
  • Take ’em to the potty.
  • Reward them when they go (Avengers stickers here).

I like to have the kids wear just underpants so that they can experience the feeling of wet pants… and hopefully want to avoid it.

Absolutely clutch this time around was that both Philip and my parents helped by keeping Holden out of the house all day (and overnight) so I could focus on GB.

 

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GB and I currently have a love-hate relationship (as I’ll share in my upcoming birthday letter to him), so I wasn’t sure how this weekend would go. In all honesty, it’s been great. We’ve been getting along–with the exception of one fight yesterday at naptime–he hasn’t been resisting the potty and he only had three accidents on Saturday morning… and none thereafter (yet).

He was even dry during his nap, during which he refused to wear a Pull-Up. He also refused to sleep on top of a bedwetting mat thingy… until I agreed to draw Spider-Man on it. For the record, he did wear a Pull-Up to bed but he was also dry overnight.

Potty-training GB @ohbotherblog

One of my biggest questions about potty training is how they magically switch from being taken to the potty every 20 minutes to knowing when they have to go themselves, but somehow it just happens. 

Today he was preparing to take a walk with Philip and Brutus and I said he had to go potty first. He said, “I already did mom! Just now! By myself!” And he had. No idea how that happens.

potty-training gb @ohbotherblog

Of course, he hasn’t pooped at all yet. Like at all, at all. We’ll see how that goes.

making emergency kits for refugees

11.02.17

Assembling Emergency School Kits for Refugees @ohbotherblog

Since January 20, 2017, I have personally been trying to make small, positive efforts when I feel appalled about current events.

On January 27, I started a monthly gift to Planned Parenthood because I believe we all should have access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare. On January 29, I started a monthly gift to the ACLU because I believe that the rights and liberties of all people matter. This week, I purchased some Spanish-language early-learner novels to donate to our local public school district in response to the appointment of the current Secretary of Education. 

I’ve also been working on a project with some friends since the January 28 announcement of a certain “travel ban.” Feeling helpless, I googled ways that I could help refugees in my own small way and I found IOCC, International Orthodox Christian Charities.

IOCC offers emergency relief and development programs to those in need worldwide, without discrimination. An average of 92 cents on every dollar donated goes directly to assisting the people IOCC serves, in areas like Syria, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Haiti, the United States and more.

One of IOCC’s initiatives is the Donation of Emergency Kits. Emergency kits are small packages of essential supplies assembled in the United States and shipped to people in need around the world.

Types of Kits

  1. Health / Hygiene Kits – Curb the spread of disease by donating basic hygiene items.
  2. School Kits – Give a child the tools needed to succeed at school.
  3. Clean-up Buckets – Help people clean up after a natural disaster.

I bought enough materials to make 12 School Kits for about $100, including the canvas bags. I wanted to make it an activity I could do with my kids, so I showed Holdy this video before we got started to help frame the conversation:

Assembling and Sending Emergency Kits:

  1. Choose which type of kit (or kits) you wish to assemble and only include items specified on each list.
  2. Download the IOCC Emergency Kits Return Shipping Label to fill out an include one on the outside of each box.
  3. You can plan on $2-$3 per kit to cover the cost of shipping to the warehouse. Mail all kits to one of the below addresses.
USPS Shipments FedEx or UPS Shipments
IOCC/Church World Service
Brethren Service Center Annex
601 Main Street
PO Box 188
New Windsor, MD 21776
IOCC/Church World Service
Brethren Service Center Annex
601 Main Street
New Windsor, MD 21776

With the help of my friends, Kevan, Emily, Sara, Andy, Sarah and Jennifer, I delivered 32 School Kits and 14 Hygiene Kits to IOCC this morning.

I’ll continue to take action when and how I can. If you find yourself feeling angry and helpless, I encourage you to do the same.

chatbooks

14.01.17

I was browsing Facebook today, when I came across a video that resonated with me:

I love photo books but have absolutely no time to make them. I still haven’t finished GB’s baby book on Shutterfly and he’ll be three in March. So I decided to give Chatbooks a try.

Chatbooks links with your Instagram, Facebook or iPhone favorites to automatically populate a photo book. When you get to 60 photos, your book is made. 

Chatbooks @ohbotherblog

You can go in and exclude any photos you don’t want to have printed. I post a lot of food photos, apparently, and obviously don’t need a printed book of all the food I’ve eaten, thank you.

You can also edit your cover photos, choose not to include your Instagram captions, etc.

Chatbooks @ohbotherblog

And then… you order your book! The standard book comes with a soft cover and costs $8. You can upgrade to a hard cover for $5.

Chatbooks works on a subscription system as you fill your books: you can indicate if you want books immediately sent out once filled, 1 a month, 5 a month or 10 a month. 

Chatbooks @ohbotherblog

I spent about an hour this morning setting up my account and excluding all of my Instagram photos from the past 5 and a half years (that’s a lot of food photos). Because I had about 15 books’ worth of photos, I signed up for the “5 a month” subscription to get myself caught up. If’/when you want to change your subscription level, you can do that at any time.

You can also order individual prints and seasonal books!

Chatbooks @ohbotherblog

We all know we post our “best” photos on social media, so looking back, these seemed to be a pretty fair representation of our life for the past five years.

If you’re a hot mess like me, I have a feeling Chatbooks will work for you. Give it a shot!

*Disclosure: these links to Chatbooks are “Friends” links. You’ll get your first book free and if I get five friends to sign up, I’ll get a free 5-year subscription to Chatbooks!

Happy Ohbotherdays 2016

19.12.16

Okay, so the printing and sending of Christmas cards is not happening this year, but we did manage a tripod-timer photo shoot, so give me some points for that.

So it’s my pleasure to present the (digital) 2016 ohbotherblog Christmas Card:

christmas-card-2016

Here are past years’ cards so you can see how we’ve grown:

Christmas Card Photos 2015 @ohbotherblog

the oh bother christmas card 2014 @ohbotherblog

Merry Merry!

Hello Belsnickel, Goodbye Elf on the Shelf

05.12.16

Last year, my partner introduced the kids and me to the character of Belsnickel, Santa’s grouchy “cousin.”

Legend has it: Shortly before Christmas, a dirty, disheveled, cranky man wearing furs would arrive at your house. He held a hickory switch in one hand and a sack full of candy and nuts in the other.

He would call the children forward and asked them to recite a poem, a Bible verse or math equations. He’d warn them to behave. Then he’d toss the goodies on the floor — and if the greedy kids dove for the candy, he’d hit them on the back with the switch. 

Belsnickel (also Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, Pelznickel) is a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg. The figure is also preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. ~ Wikipedia

Basically, the whole thing was to scare kids into behaving… for Santa. Not unlike a certain other Christmas character who sits on a shelf.

Unsurprisingly, Holden LOVES Belsnickel… so much in fact that she asked for a Belsnickel doll this year.

So I’m doing her one better: I’m replacing our Elf on the Shelf with Belsnickel. I despise the Elf on the Shelf. I have written about how terrible I am at participating in the Elf on the Shelf Christmas bullshit. I think a dirty, fur-wearing, crotchety old man is a much better ploy for getting my kids to behave during the holidays. And I don’t have to put him in any ridiculous positions.

Belsnickel Doll for Christmas @ohbotherblog

I bought this awesome Nordic Gnome from DaVinci Doll Designs on etsy and I’ll glue a little stick into his hand. And that, my friends, is my Elf on the Shelf replacement, Belsnickel.

I also bought this awesome Belsnickel card from Famous Last Cards on etsy that I’m going to frame as part of my holiday decor:

Belsnickel Card @ohbotherblog

That’s your boy, Dwight Schrute, who also happens to love Belsnickel:

Happy Holidays! Hope you’re kids are more admirable than impish!

a magical freaking december

02.12.16

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar @ohbotherblog

I’m trying really hard to make Christmas magical this year, so I’ve decided we’re going to have a magical freaking December.

I found this Threshold Stocking Advent Calendar Garland on clearance at Target the day after Christmas last year and held on to it for a whole year to hatch this plan.

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar @ohbotherblog

Every day, the kids will remove a slip of paper from the numbered stocking to reveal what fun Christmasy thing we’re doing that night.

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar @ohbotherblog

For the First of December, we went Christmas decoration shopping (hey, sometimes you have to throw some practicality into the mix).

I’ll be honest, a lot of our “activities” consisted of me cross-referencing the Freeform 25 Days of Christmas schedule for holiday movies that are playing each night.

Other activities will include our Downtown Tree Lighting Ceremony, visits to various Christmas lights displays, making gingerbread houses, baking cookies, and probably just a good old fashioned piling in the car to look at Christmas lights.

Magical Freaking December, here we come.

the great outback give back

08.11.16

I’ll be honest: as a mom of two young kids, I don’t do much dining out. My kids are not quite fit for public consumption. But when a representative for Outback Steakhouse reaches out and asks you to do a sponsored blog post in exchange for some Outback swag, you sell your soul for some bloomin’ onion.

To celebrate Outback Steakhouse’s grand opening in York at the West Manchester Town Center (380 Town Center Drive in West Manchester Township), the restaurant is hosting a Charity Give Back event tomorrow, October 9, in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of York & Adams Counties. A portion of sales for the day will go directly to the organization.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
11am–10pm
Ribbon cutting at 4pm

As a restaurant owner myself, I found it super interesting to do a little digging into the history of Outback Steakhouse. Four friends–Chris Sullivan, Bob Basham, Tim Gannon and Trudy Cooper–opened the first Outback in Tampa, FL in 1988.

“It was in very bad shape, and it smelled like alcohol,” Cooper said. They laid down the cheapest flooring they could find — wood reclaimed from an old basketball court. And the decor? “I was collecting things out of antique stores — bullhorns and sheep shears, some dirty rugby equipment that a friend had,” Cooper said. “The night or so before we opened, we sat here with a six-pack of beer and hung decor, literally screwing stuff to the wall.”

Things started off so slowly, “we used to have to get our employees to park in the parking lot to make it look like it was busy,” Basham said.

Holden, I’m sure, would appreciate Outback’s “no rules, just right” philosophy, so when we decide to venture out for dinner again, perhaps we’ll take a trip down unda’.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters: For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. For more information, visit www.bbbsyorkadams.org.

#sponsored

growing up holdy

07.10.16

I’ve debated writing a post like this for a long time. I’m not sure if I was embarrassed, or if I didn’t want to overshare something my daughter might be upset about later, or if I just didn’t want to get into it. So I didn’t write it.

But as the months have gone by and I’ve talked about it more, and people have come to me with questions and help for their own kids, I’ve decided it’s time for this post. Because it is nothing to be ashamed about, because I think Holdy would always choose to help others, and because I kind of just need to get it out now.

Most of you know Holdy from my posts, from her funny faces in my Instagram photos and her fashionista hashtag, #whatholdywore. You know that she is fun and vivacious and silly and creative and strong and brave. She lives life out loud.

 

Someone’s starting Pre-K at York Day Nursery today! #weefees #ohbotherblog

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But last winter, I started to realize that the size of Holdy’s emotions and reactions to negative situations seemed to be more extreme than other kids. She was frequently and easily frustrated. She would throw a tantrum on a dime: huge, Exorcist-style tantrums that could last for 45 minutes. I noticed that, as a tantrum was starting, she would rub her feet together–almost as if the emotion was fighting to get out of her. One time at school, she had kicked her shoes off during a tantrum and rubbed her feet together so vigorously that she blistered and bled. The physical aspect of her emotional reactions really scared me.

Parenting a toddler @ohbotherblog

There was also the defiance, which was off the charts–even for a threenager. Extreme excitability and impulsivity. Bedtime was a nightmare. We were getting some negative reports from school–reports that Holdy was bullying other kids, specifically picking out the meeker kids that she felt she could control.

I felt like I was always walking on eggshells, not sure which Holdy I was going to get. Everything came down to picking my battles–was this “lesson” worth the 45 minutes of horror that would ensue? I hate to say this, but I dreaded picking her up from school. I could feel my blood pressure rise every time I pulled into the parking lot. I felt like a failure.

People tried to reassure me, “she’s just three;” “all preschoolers are like that.” But I knew there was something more. So I made an appointment with her pediatrician and I started scheduling sit-downs with her teachers. And together we worked out a plan.

Holdy and I started attending family counseling in March. These sessions mainly consist of me airing my grievances while Holdy plays with the counselor’s toys. We work on behavior goals and tactics for me to try positive parenting and keep Holdy on track. Honestly, it’s more like parental counseling for me and I’m fine with that. I also took a Positive Parenting Workshop in the spring offered by Holden’s school.

growing up holdy @ohbotherblog

In July, I took Holdy to see Dr. Susan Mayes, a pediatric psychologist at Penn State Hershey, for an evaluation. In advance of her appointment, I, her dad, our counselor and her teachers filled out extensive questionnaires about Holdy’s behaviors. The appointment consisted of 45 minutes of alone time with Holdy and the doctor, while Holden played games that were actually various tests. Afterward, they brought me in for the recap and diagnosis.

And so I got the official word on what I had pretty much known all along: Holdy has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder combined type (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), often associated with ADHD.

I was a bit taken aback to learn that Holden was also diagnosed with dysgraphia, which is a difficulty with handwriting and letter recognition. According to the tests she took, Holdy’s IQ is in the “gifted” range and she did very well with puzzles, reasoning and vocabulary… but her performance on writing skills and letter recognition were very low, which led to the diagnosis.

I had just assumed she had terrible handwriting because she was four, but once I learned about the disorder, things came together. Holden doesn’t write her name in a straight line–sometimes she writes it like a box. Some of her letters are written backwards. Dysgraphia is a graphomoter disorder that will require a lot of remediation and accommodations.

So there it was. Out in the open and down on paper. Verified.

image

I felt… relieved. Relieved that this wasn’t all in my head. Relieved that I wasn’t just a terrible parent who doesn’t know how to control my kid. Relieved that there was help on the way.

But I also felt sad. Sad knowing that this is something Holden can’t control and doesn’t understand. Sad that this is something she will struggle with her whole life. Sad to learn that kids with ADHD and ODD frequently deal with frustration, low morale, and poor self esteem because they’re constantly being scolded.

So again, we worked out a plan. We’ve started wraparound services and Holden has a therapist who works with her at school a few hours a week, helping to redirect her when she sees Holden being triggered. Soon we will also have a therapist come to our home a couple of hours a week in the evening.

The teachers and leadership at Holdy’s school, York Day Nursery, have been amazing through this entire process. They truly care about Holdy and want to help her succeed. We’ve been working together to make accommodations for Holdy during her school day, including:

  • a behavior plan and reward system to promote attention and compliance,
  • cues, redirection, repetition, and rehearsal,
  • frequent and specific feedback,
  • limited distractors,
  • breaking tasks into small, manageable segments,
  • preferential seating near the teacher and between peers who are attentive,
  • subtle signal system between Holden and her teacher to be used when Holden is off task,
  • hands-on activities that allow for active involvement,
  • computer learning activities (because children with ADHD are generally attentive to and successful with
  • computer educational programs),
  • frequent communication between parents and teachers.

When Holden starts kindergarten, she’ll require an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, to help her be a successful student. If we decided to try medication, we’ll be able to do that once she turns five.

#whatholdywore @ohbotherblog

For my part, I’ve been trying very hard to work on my patience, to try to praise the good more than I’m pointing out the bad, to keep her on task, to not put her in situations where she’s set up to fail. It’s not always easy. 

Last week, as we were hurriedly driving away from a family dinner out that ended early (and badly), Holdy was writhing in her carseat, trying very hard to use her coping skills and deep breathing to ward off a tantrum. She told us, “I want to be good, but it’s so hard.”

So, we’re figuring it out. No day is the same. I often regret the way I react or handle our interactions. I still often feel like I’m failing her. 

Sometimes when I’m feeling bad about the situation, I return to Dr. Mayes’ assessment, which included the line:

Holden enjoys a warm and affectionate relationship with her mother (who accompanied her to today’s appointment) and was happy to be re-united with her after testing. Holden’s mother interacts with Holden in a very loving and therapeutic manner and uses excellent behavioral strategies and accommodations.

 

Me and my +1. @susquehannastyle #BestofYork

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I also remind myself of the assessment summary:

SUMMARY: Holden is a very likable 4-year- old with superior verbal and nonverbal intelligence who has ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting).

She’s going to have some challenges in her life, but it’s my job to help her get through them so that she can let her goofball self shine.

 

Born to be wild #weefees #yorkfair

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Home Sweet (New) Home

20.07.16

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

We’ve moved! Yes, again. 

As you may know, I’m pretty involved in the revitalization of our Downtown. I work for our economic development organization, I own a business downtown, I’ve joined the board of a local charter school. Everything in our lives was converging upon Downtown… so we decided to put ourselves there too.

So, we bought this charming old house, built in 1912. The house was actually purchased last year, but we allowed the current tenants to hang out for a bit. So, come this summer, they moved out and the renovation began.

One full month of work: paint, floors, lighting, bathrooms. We’re so happy with the results–it’s amazing what just a little facelift can do.

Living Room: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Dining Area: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Kitchen: Before & After (the kitchen had been updated not too long ago, so luckily we didn’t have too much work to do here).

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Upstairs Hallway: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Playroom: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Kids’ Room: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Kids’ Bathroom: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Master Suite: Before & After

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

Here are some of my most favorite rooms:

The Kids’ Playroom! 
The second floor of the house has three rooms all dedicated to the kids. Because they’re sharing a room (for now), we have room for a playroom and family room that’s all theirs. 

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

The Kids’ Bedroom!

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

The Kitchen!
We added the faux-tin backsplash and light fixtures as an easy pick-me-up. The little figurines on the cabinets are old liquor decanters painted by my Great Grandma.

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

We even had time for a little DIY project in the few weeks since we’ve moved in. Funny story: I felt like the protruding wall in the living room was just begging for a faux fireplace mantel. A friend pointed out that there’s most likely an actual fireplace behind the wall–sure enough, there’s a chimney there! I’m not really into doing any more demo right now, so this faux fireplace will have to do in the meantime:

Faux Mantel Project @ohbotherblog

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

We have a friend painting a chalkboard hearth for us to go inside–I can’t wait to post the final results!

We absolutely love living Downtown. We take a walk every night, we visit playgrounds, ride our bikes on the Rail Trail, walk to Downtown shops and restaurants, flag down the ice cream truck, check out local historical buildings, play Pokemon-Go and talk to our neighbors. I’ll share more as we continue to settle in!

Downtown York PA living @ohbotherblog

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