The End of An Era: Closing Our Home to Foster Care

04/27/2016

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For the past five years I’ve been a foster mom. We started our classes in early 2011, were approved and took our first placement in July 2011. For five years, a significant part of my identity has been wrapped in the label of foster mom. It feels strange to peel that label off.

Our goal with foster care was to love kids in need, to be their parents for as long as we were needed to fill that gap, and perhaps to adopt someday. Our journey has been a success. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you probably know all about our experience but five years is a long time to keep track of so here’s a brief run down:

July 2011 – First placement 16-month-old “Ladybug” was with us for 5 weeks and then exited custody to an extended family member. Whirlwind first parenting experience!

September 2011 – Second placement was 2-month-old Alianna. Found out a few days later she would be an adoptive placement. A month or two later DCS decided to move her to a friend of the adoptive mom of two of her four half-siblings. We fought it. Hard. And won, by a miracle! We were given custody by a judge in order to pursue private adoption.

February 2012 – Put our home on hold to new placements while we prepared to sell our house, move in with my parents temporarily and build a new home.

August 2012 – Finalized Alianna’s adoption just after her 1st birthday.

February 2013 – Once settled into our new home, we took our home off hold status so we could start fostering again.

May 2013 – Third placement was 2.5-year-old Termain. He lived with us for 3 months, through the summer of 2013 and then was reunited with his mom. Through our experience his mom became a dear friend and I’m so thankful they are still in our lives.

November 2013 – Fourth placement was 6-month-old “Bee.” Technically placed with us for 3 months, although she spent 30 days in the middle of that period doing an extended family visit with relatives in another state. In February 2014, her ICPC passed and she was transferred to another state as a kinship placement with extended family.

June 2014 – Fifth placement was teenie preemie “Firefly.” He was 3 weeks old, brought to our home straight from the NICU. He was less than 5 lbs. and still several weeks before his due date. He was with us for four weeks before his case was dismissed and he was returned to his parents. The following month, I found out that I was pregnant with Isaiah.

October 2014 – Sixth and final placement was 1-month-old Noah (who now has a new name). He was with us only 3 days but his sweetness anchored deep in my hormonal-pregnant-mama-heart. He left custody to an adoptive placement who has since reached out and reconnected with us. We’ve had the privilege of keeping in touch and getting together with them.

April 2015 – Put our home back on hold status as we prepared for Isaiah’s birth. We planned to reopen within a year.

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Which brings us to today…

April 2016 – We had planned to be on hold just for 9-12 months and then start taking placements but I got pregnant again pretty quickly after Isaiah’s birth. Going from two kids to three in short period is one thing. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with the idea of three. But four kids still seems really hard to imagine. Our agency will only allow us to be on hold for 2 years. In April 2017 Ali will be 5, Isaiah will be turning 2 and Josephine will be 10 months old… I don’t think we’ll be ready to start fostering by then either, so we decided it was time to close up officially. It’s a bittersweet decision.

Bitter because it’s a cause we are passionate about. The need is great. It’s hard to walk away knowing there are still so many kids that need safe homes to go to in our city, right at this moment. And, honestly, it’s hard to step out of the label, the role, the identity of foster mom that I’ve worn proudly for the past five years.

Sweet because I’m so honored that we’ve had the opportunity to bless six children who needed safe mama- and daddy-arms to hold them through a really traumatic time in their lives. I am blessed by the friendships we’ve made through fostering…with biological family of the kids, with other adoptive parents, with other foster parents. The biggest blessing from our experience, of course, is our forever daughter Alianna.

Closing our home brings a wave of relief. For five years our lives have been in a state of temporary. It was hard to plan ahead more than a few months, never knowing how many family members we would have and what ages of kids we would be parenting at any given time. We’ve had bedrooms with gender neutral flexible set ups. Now, we can finally feel settled with some permanency in our family and our home. I can say with confidence that later this year we will have three kids, no more and no less. I know what their ages will be and that they will all share our last name. We will be allowed to leave the state without asking for permission. We won’t have regular home visits with a case worker anymore. We won’t have classes and credit hours to keep up with annually. We can even get rid of our home phone that we never used for anything anyway. It’s a new kind of freedom.

Foster parenting will forever have a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t doubt if we do it again in another season of our lives. In the meantime, we can stay involved in other ways. We are signed up to be mentors to new foster parents in our county. I plan to continue supporting and encouraging the many friends I’ve made through #fostercare on Instagram, many of whom are still in the trenches as foster moms. I’m considering becoming a CASA or a member of our county’s foster care review board someday.

I’ve gotten away from blogging over the past year but my heart is aching to write again. I’m looking at my life from a different angle now. For a while it seemed that foster care was the only exciting topic in my life to write about but I’ve realized there is a lot more going on besides that. This blog originally started out with a focus on mid-century-modern style, furniture, homes, living, etc. with an emphasis on home projects. As we because foster parents, my focus shifted. I’m planning to return to more blogging about home projects, modern/mid-century-modern furnishing/architecture/homes, interior design mixed in with parenting, adoption, graphic design, craft projects and one of our newest endeavors: homeschooling.

How does that sound? (Is there anyone still out there, reading this blog and this super-long post? Chirp. Chirp.) What do you prefer to see posts about here?

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Home Tour: Living Room

01/14/2015

Our living room has changed a bit since February 2013 when I originally did a photo tour.

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Sources:

Sectional Sofa – IKEA Karlstad
End Table – vintage from Jason’s grandmother
Arm Chair – yard sale find, reupholstered by us
Pillows, Throw blankets – Target
Coffee Table, Lamp, Wall Birds, Clocks – vintage from estate sales and antique stores
Lamp Shade – made by us
Rug – overstock.com
Painting – gallerydirect.com
Bookshelf – IKEA

If I missed anything you’re curious about, feel free to ask.

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Christmastime is Here

12/23/2014

The tree has been trimmed. The lights have been strung. The cookies have been baked…and many of them eaten. Christmas is my favorite thing about winter. The warm glowing lights. The crackling wood in the fireplace. The cozy clutter of decorations. The family time. The advent…the waiting…the anticipation. (Increased this year by the gift of discovering our baby’s gender on Christmas Day.) The dressing up in red, knit and boots. Celebrating the birth of Jesus and all that it meant when God came to walk the earth in human form. (Increased this year by the kicking baby in my belly reminding me often of Mary, young and scared, carrying the most important baby in the world.) The excitement of a small child over every element of the holiday season.

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Home Tour: Alianna’s Room

10/29/2014

Alianna’s room has made the full transition from a nursery to a big girl room. In the past couple weeks we moved the twin IKEA Kura bed into her room. Eventually we’ll flip it over so she can have a low loft bed, which I know she’ll love. For now, she has no idea it does that. She does LOVE to hang and swing off the bar at the end of the bed. With the addition of the bed, I swapped her nightstand out with the IKEA Ribba book ledges we’ve had for years. They’re positioned to work with the bed in either position. We’re all loving the new bed and she’s only fallen out once – yay! Her old dresser was a vintage find from a local antique store and was perfect size and height to use as a changing table. With baby Froggie on the way and since I took away Ali’s two drawer nightstand, it was time to get her a taller dresser. I went with the unfinished wood IKEA Tarva so I could customize the look for less money. I ended up building the whole thing myself (though Ali helped me with the drawers!) and doing all the painting and staining myself too. Usually when we do home projects Jason takes the lead. He’s more experienced and much more detail-oriented than me. He’s in a busy work season, though, so I’m pretty proud of myself for how this turned out. Ali was not crazy about the idea of a new dresser until the day she helped me build the drawers. Now that she’s personally invested, she’s very excited about it. In the upgrades to her room we also added a real curtain rod. When we moved in we bought a cheap tension rod to be used temporarily and almost two years later it kept falling down when she’d try to open the curtains. This room continues to be one of my favorites in our house.

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A few months ago I wrote about her Lottie dollhouse and the Barbie furniture my granny name for me.

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I bought a small digital clock to fit on her shallow shelves and it happened to have colored numbers. It’s actually been quite helpful in teaching her to read the time. We used to use a timer and light for “OK to come out of your room now” but we’ve been using a digital clock now that she can easily recognize numbers. With this clock it’s even easier to say, “You can get out of your bed when you see the green 8.”

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I love all the special touches: this name banner made by a friend after her adoption, the flower was an adoption day gift from another friend, the crocheted owl blanket was a gift from her Nana for her 3rd birthday.

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Here’s a before picture of the Tarva dresser, straight from the IKEA website.

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And after paint and stain.

 

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11th Anniversary Squirrel Buster

06/26/2014

We celebrated BIG last anniversary with a trip to Naples and Key West for 10 days, including snorkeling in a coral reef—the highlight of the trip. Father’s Day, our anniversary, my (30th!) birthday all fall within 5 days of each other. Combine that with newborn baby induced sleep-depravation and schedule-juggling and… This year I ordered a bird feeder. To celebrate our 11 years of blissful matrimony, we have a Brome 1015 Squirrel Buster Classic hanging outside our living room window. (Using this bracket.) It really is a gift to both of us, our whole family, as we’ve already been seeing lots of birds frequenting the feeder and we can see it from the dining room table and from the living room (where I’ve been sitting a lot to feed Firefly.)

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It’s pretty cool how this works. It has a spring mechanism that closes up all the feed openings if a squirrel-weight animal clings to it. But for bird-weight animals, there are several openings for seeds. The birds are dropping a lot on the ground, though, so the squirrels are still happy.

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Courtyard Deck and Built-in Bench

06/25/2014

I gave a little sneak peek of this project on Friday. Jason recently constructed this bench and deck into our courtyard. This is the main entrance into our home, a private garden space that’s secluded from the street and neighbors. It’s a lovely space to sit and it just got better! We still need to add some cushions but we’re enjoying it already.

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Real Life

03/27/2014

In an effort to keep up with writing more frequently, here’s a really random post. I’m practicing with my wide-angle lens on my DSLR and photoshop settings as I’m starting to get into real estate photography. Practicing with my own house was the obvious choice. The living room was pretty tidy but I made no effort to clean up the other rooms. I’ll spare you from Ali’s bathroom and our bedroom. Here’s a little real life peek into my house:

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Homestead (Not Child-Related) Happenings

01/09/2014

We’re building a privacy fence in our backyard. It’ll be a modern wood fence very similar to our last house. I did an extensive tutorial on that fence three years ago, as well as the process of enclosing our courtyard at this house, so I will not be documenting our process this time. We managed to get all 23 posts set in the ground just before the great Flash Freeze of 2014. Now Jason’s touring schedule is rolling again so we’ll have to wait for some warmer days to line up with the days we’re both off work so we can start on the pickets.

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We’re getting chickens! Two years ago Nashville passed a new law allowing backyard hens to be raised for eggs. Jason was interested right away but it took me a while to get on board. Now that we have the fence started and Jason got this new book for Christmas, I’m all in. I’m so excited. We’ll be getting our chicks in the next month or two to start raising them inside until we have the coop done and it’s warm enough for them to move into their new house. We’re allowed to have up to 6. We’re planning to start out with 3 or 4. We eat a ton of eggs around here (18-24/week) so I’m excited to start getting them fresh from our own backyard.

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The foster kids’ room (which I’m tempted to call the little girl’s room…or is it the little girls’ room…) is getting a mini makeover. We’re repainting the walls. We got some new art and moved art in from a different room and I’ve moved some furniture around. Bee is gone for 25 days and with the possibility of baby Trust coming, well, I guess I’m nesting. We decided to paint Sherwin Williams Ellie Gray just like the first foster kids’ bedroom at our last house, which ended up being Ali’s nursery. We were very happy with that color and we’re not so happy with the neon green I chose for this house.

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Our master bedroom has been slowly getting designed. We realized one day that it’s sad how neglected it’s been design-wise. Last June we celebrated 10 years of marriage and decided that it’s time for a properly designed room. I’ll share more about it when it’s finished. We started out with a dresser and curtains. We added some art. New bedding. A new bed frame and lamps. Still to go: paint and wall/headboard treatment. Rugs. More art.

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Ali’s room got a mini-makeover too. She mastered climbing out of a pack-n-play while we were staying at my brother’s house for a few days and quickly transferred her skills to her crib at home. She’s now in a big girl bed again (side off her crib for now…eventually that KURA bed in the foster kids’ room will be hers). I’ll post more about that transition later. It’s going so much better this time around. She got a new lamp, owl poster and hot pink dog-butt hooks for hanging her dress-up clothes from IKEA.

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Solutions for the Bedtime Wanderer

08/14/2013

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1. Consequences

2. Bells

3. OK to Wake clock

Consequences

Honestly, I can’t remember the first time Buzz wandered out of his room at night. I remember one night early on Jason and I were surprised when we turned off the TV and walked toward our bedroom at 11-something and found Buzz sitting on the toilet in the hall bathroom. He was mostly potty trained to it makes perfect sense but we were surprised that we hadn’t heard him or that he hadn’t called for help when he was done…he just sat there until we noticed him. We didn’t enact any consequences for leaving his room at first, only for leaving the house or for helping himself to things in the kitchen without checking with us first (this was to ensure he didn’t attempt the toaster or something else dangerous without supervision). But, that one time he did let himself out of the house we had several very serious discussions about why it’s not OK. A few times in the days to follow he let, or attempted to let, himself out of the house in the evening when we were home. That resulted in another serious conversation as well as 2 minutes in time out. Followed by another talk, because we were freaked out about what could have happened. That lesson was learned pretty quickly.

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I started waking up at the slightest sound every night, afraid that Buzz was out of his room and could get hurt. (Reminder: he was 2.5.) Obviously we couldn’t lock him into his room. He was much too tall (the height of a 4 year old) for a crib or a baby gate to be a consideration. I was looking for an inexpensive solution so this is what I came up with: the jingle bell shaker from Ali’s musical instrument set hanging on the door handle with a pipe cleaner. I used a wreath hanger to keep the bells out of reach during regular hours and after he was in bed at night I’d quietly slip the bells on to the handle. He was not able to open the door lever in the morning without the bells falling to the floor. I think this was a set back to his night time potty training but we all started sleeping better.

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OK to Wake Clock

The bells allowed me to hear and wake up when Buzz exited his room but it didn’t help me recover my morning time. (See my previous post on boundaries.) The time that the bells hit the floor was still varied a lot, and often related to when my alarm clock went off in the morning. His room was right next to ours and he seemed to hear me open my eyes in the morning. I needed a way for him to know when it was OK to come out of his room. I remembered a friend writing about an alarm clock that lights up at the time it’s OK for the child to come out of his room so I asked for advice. Susan used this stop light design with her boys and it worked great. She also suggested the OK to Wake! clock but said that she had better success with the stop light since young kids seem to understand the red means stop, green means go concept better. I ignored her advice and got the more visual attractive clock. I’m a designer…I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. After reading a gazillion reviews. I decided to go one better than the OK to Wake! and I got the Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock. It has the same features plus some others. I will say – the clock face glows a lot even when the light is technically off so the change to on is subtle. If the child’s bedroom is not dark enough it could easily be unnoticeable. I’m not sure if Buzz ever totally grasped the concept of this clock but it gave me something concrete to show him when I took him back to his room and said “You need to stay in your room until 8:00 when the light comes on.”

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This is part 2 of a 2 part prelude to my post about transitioning Ali to her big girl bed that’s coming later this week.


DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition)

04/16/2013

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Almost 2 years ago, Jason and I built a modern horizontal plank wood fence at our previous house to enclose our back garden. We used the same technique to build this fence and gate to make the fourth “wall” of our courtyard. There were two major differences. 1. We only had a 12′ spanse to build. 2. We had concrete walls on both sides.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

There was only 1 post hole to dig. Hooray! Jason used our trusty old post hole digger. (Jason and that post hole digger have made holes for 2 fences prior to this!) We were only making our fence 4-4.5′ tall so we used a 6′ 4×4 pressure-treated post. The post hole should be 2′ deep.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

After making sure it was level, we added a few braces to keep it in place before adding the dry concrete mix and water into the post hole. Jason also added a little concrete mix and water under the post.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Next we attached two 2x4s to the side of the house. The bottom piece was going into the concrete block foundation of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Drilling screws into concrete is not easy! We used these pretty blue concrete screws.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason pre-drilled the holes for the screws. He opted to drill into the mortar to make it a little bit easier.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once that was secure, Jason added a second, longer 2×4 along the house. This one should have been easier because it was only going through wood (the hardibacker siding, the corner beam in our garage and the shorter 2×4 below. We borrowed this powerful hammer drill from a friend (necessary for drilling into concrete) and it was so powerful it stripped our drill bits and one of the outdoor screw heads. It seems like there is always something that goes awry on a project like this. Thankfully, he was finally able to get it secured to the house with a combination of this drill, every star drill bit we own and our wimpy Ryobi drill. The screw that was stripped was cut off with a hack saw.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Another 2×4 was attached to the concrete block wall of the courtyard. Everything went smoothly with this one so I didn’t have time to take any photos.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I don’t know if it’s the correct carpentry term but we call the horizontal boards planks (as opposed to pickets on a vertical fence) and to differentiate between posts and planks. Adding the planks went every quickly since we’ve done this part many times before. We started at the bottom, putting the plank as close to the ground as possible and leveling it.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We used 8′ untreated 1x4s. (Our last fence we used 1×3 ferring strips.) They’re cheap…around $1.20 a piece at Lowes. (Side note: in our experience Lowes has much better quality wood than Home Depot.) Jason used a nail gun to put four nails into each plank at the 4×4 post end and 3 nails into each plank at the 2×4 end. We work together doing this part and it moves rhythmically:

I position the plank into place.
Jason places the spacer between the planks.
Jason fires the nails into place.
I position the spacer at the other end of the plank.
Jason fires the nails into place.
Jason removes the spacer.
(Repeat.)
15x in this instance.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Anything sturdy and square can be used as a spacer. Since it was a fairly common question about our last fence project, I made a point of taking a picture. We used a plastic grout sample that was left at our house after construction. We have a bunch of them and it was quite convenient to have two so we could leave one at each end of the fence. They provided a gap of about 1/4″. It’s hard to see in the picture below because it’s brown…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We added another vertical 2×4 on the back side of the fence to keep the planks straighter. This 2×4 post is pressure treated but we didn’t put it into the ground. It’s only helping to keep the planks straight, not supporting the weight of the fence.We used the spacer again to make sure the gap between the planks was consistant. They’re often slightly bowed so we pushed and pulled to get them as straight as possible before nailing. Where the gap was too small, we used a pry bar to move the planks apart enough to fit the spacer.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Let’s step back and admire our work for a second. Ahh…

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Because we used 8′ planks, we made sure the space between the posts was slightly less than 8′. (If you’re building a fence with more than two posts, check out what we did here…I even have diagrams.)

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

We wanted the planks to be flush with the 4×4 post and we made a chalk line where they needed to be cut.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Jason used his circular saw for this. It’s a bit awkward, especially close to the ground. There may be a better way but this works for us.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I always insist on the safety glasses. I like how Jason tucks his pencil into his hat.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I didn’t do a very good job documenting the gate building process. (We started this project after Ali went down for her nap around 1pm on a Saturday and at this point 3 hours later, she was awake so she could “help” us.) We built a frame out of 2x4s just a bit (maybe 1″ both way) smaller than the opening for the gate. The extra 2x4s down the middle and diagonally (that I didn’t photograph here) help the gate stay square. We attached planks in the same way as the fence – starting first with the outside ends, using the spacer, and then the middle post, also using the spacer, using a pry bar as needed.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

Once it was hung, I took a picture of the back side so you can see the two diagonal pieces of 2×4 we added. I’m sure there is a simple way to calculate those angles and cut them but we had a heck of a time and ended up just experimenting until we got some angles that worked. It was pretty amusing! Jason hung the gate with three hinges while I was inside with Ali so I didn’t get a picture of that process. How he did that himself, I have no idea!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

He quickly stained the fence using deck stainer and sealer while Ali and I were having a snack. Just before dark, it was finished. Time to go out for dinner!

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A couple days later, I took some finished pictures.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hook and eye (attached to the house) hold the gate open.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

A hinge door stopper (the same kind we used inside) keeps the gate from hitting the side of the house.

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

DIY: Modern Wood Fence and Gate (Courtyard Edition) - myMCMlife.com

I love how the fence and gate make our courtyard feel so cozy and private. We can sit out here with the toddler and the dog and not have to worry about either wandering out toward the street. This is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for lunch alfresco, afternoon tea, blowing bubbles for Ali, and evening chats. It’s going to be even more wonderful once the landscaping matures.

All of my posts related to “modern wood fence”

Modern Wood Fence —Finished! (at our previous house)

Enclosed Courtyard (intro to this post, including some before pictures.)