Hello From the Other Side

It’s been one month in the new house.

We moved in the rain the same afternoon that we finally passed our final county inspection


Which, considering some of the events over the past two years, was somehow fitting.


I’ve wanted to write before now to capture some of these first newly made memories and track our family’s transition into a normal sort of living situation, but life has its way of intervening. We wound up hosting 20 people for Easter and then found out that everyone in our family had lice, events which both took up a lot of time and attention.

(I was exceedingly grateful to be able to wash clothes in hot water and use the dryer, let me tell you! We went into full on attack mode and got rid of those suckers stat.)


A few things:

-Our first night in the house Noah and I both stood up on our bed and reached up and neither of us could touch the ceiling!

-Within the first week, Sawyer was confused and wanted to go back down to the bus. He kept pointing and tugging on my hand until I finally took him back inside and set him down and let him wander around a bit. That seemed to settle something inside him and he hasn’t asked to go back since.

-Lily, the most vocal in the family about her dislike of living in the bus from the very beginning, surprised herself and everyone else by discovering that she missed it.  She’s learning that change is change and can be difficult, even when it’s a change for the better – even when the change is expected and desired.

-Em has missed having Noah and I as close as we were. She wants one of us to sit with her until she falls asleep at night, even though Lily is still in the same bed as her (until we get a mattress for the bottom bunk of their bed).

-Finn… seems to have taken everything in stride. He was very impressed with the microwave though.


Overall, the most surprising thing that Noah and I have discovered is that for us, the transition actually hasn’t been as big of a mind shift as we were prepared for. I mean, we were making jokes about how we were all going to wind up migrating to the closet to maintain the same feeling of closeness as we had in the bus, and even though I don’t think we thought it was going to go quite THAT far, we were ready for it to feel really WEIRD living in a house.

But… it doesn’t. Living in a house feels totally and completely normal. Instead of being overwhelmed by luxury after depriving ourselves of so much for so long, we’ve been very quick to adapt. Which surprises me and is kind of unnerving. I really thought the novelty of having things like a normal sized oven and lots of space and light would take longer to wear off, but apparently, deep down inside, we still knew what life was supposed to be like. Living in a bus for two years wasn’t enough to completely change the mindset that had been developed over the rest of our lifetimes.

Plus, this house is relatively gigantic and requires a lot more work to maintain, so that has probably had something to do with it.

A couple of big exceptions:

-I am absolutely thrilled to have a dishwasher. That’s one of the things I hadn’t had prior to living in a bus and it is magical. It’s a bajillion times easier to clean up after meals, I don’t mind using things like the blender or the food processor because I know I’m not going to have to clean between the individual blades by hand, which means that I can make more elaborate (and usually healthier) food.

-Having a table that we can all sit around together. We have never, ever had this before and now that we do, we are making dinnertime a priority where someone sets the table and we wait for everybody to sit and we say grace and talk about our days and say things like “can somebody please pass the salt?” It feels like a scene out of a movie!

-Refrigeration. I had forgotten just how long food can last in a good refrigerator. In the bus, I had pretty much stopped buying a lot of produce because it would simply go bad too quickly. A bunch of celery would last maybe a day or two and spinach had pretty much no chance. I threw out a LOT of cheese and yogurt. Even though we had a good fridge in my neighbor’s garage, it was such a hassle going back and forth with leftovers that we were subsisting pretty much on pantry stable foods, which, for the most part, consists of a lot of carbs and preservatives.

But now I can buy things like strawberries in bulk and I can make smoothies and salads and steamed veggies and we are eating so much better! It’s pretty amazing.

-Our closet. In the bus, Noah and I shared a 3×6′ closet space that was in the bathroom directly across from the toilet and also housed the family clothes hamper. Combined with the fact that we were living in a bus made of metal, I think that we probably smelled a little funny for two years and everyone around us was just too polite to say anything. Here, we have quite a bit more space to be organized and the toilet is not a part of our dressing area!


-The library. I have mentioned before that although our experience in the bus taught me how little stuff we actually NEED to get by, I really missed a lot of our things. Specifically, I missed our books. I actually unpacked them all before we even had shelves because I just wanted to see them and touch them and reacquaint myself with them. And now we have the space to keep them! Our new bookshelves make me smile every single time I look at them. Sometimes when I’m not home I pull out my phone just to look at the picture below because it makes me so happy.



-Lighting. I keep walking around in the dark because I forget that we have lights and switches pretty much everywhere. The bus had exactly three.

Okay, so there are actually a lot of exceptions, because not having to climb a ladder to go to the bathroom at night also still feels like a total luxury, and so does not having Sawyer sleeping in our bedroom. And playing Wii Fit together as a family. And having a TV at all. And couches that aren’t a futon.


And a bed that’s not a futon.


And my entire kitchen!



I take it back. I am still amazed at the fact that we have a beautiful house to live in and regular things to use. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for this to all seem completely “normal” to me. We have been extremely blessed. From Noah’s step-dad gifting us a large part of the money to buy the land, to our builders giving us a phenomenal deal on the actual construction of the house, to our neighbors helping us out when we needed it, we have encountered an overwhelming amount of generosity and kindness in every aspect of this journey.

Our next step is to try and give back. When we were first considering building a house, Noah and I prayed that whatever steps we took, we would be walking within God’s will and that there would be a purpose behind it. Here we are, three years later, and we want to be able to use our resources to help other people just like we’ve been helped.

We don’t know exactly what this is going to look like right now. We’re still in shock and awe about finding ourselves here, but the desire to use all this for good is strong. I guess for now, we’re just going to be keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities and do our best to be hospitable to others.

I’m curious to hear from others though, what would YOU do in our situation? And while we’re at it, does anybody have any burning questions about anything? Are there any details that I’ve left out over the past couple years that you’re curious about with regard to the bus or the house or building or what have you? I’m totally open to answering any questions or doing a post on whatever.

Now that we’re out of the bus, I’m not quite sure where this blog is heading. I love writing here, so I don’t want to give it up, but the story is obviously going to change.

I guess we’ll just see where we end up.

An Open Letter to Our 1970 International School Bus


Dear Bus,

It pains us to realize that we never actually named you. It’s probably for the best, however – since our time together is now drawing to a close, let’s not clutter our goodbyes with saccharine sentimentality. We’re better than that.


These past two years have been… intense. You’ve been, on the whole, a good bus. You’ve kept us mostly dry in the rain and if not warm in the winter, then at least out of the wind; if not cool in the Summer, then, well, let’s just not talk about Summer.

You’ve housed our family’s laughter and tears, bickering and hugs. You’ve stood solid and welcomed our fourth child as well as an occasional bird or mouse into our home.


Our youngest children don’t have any memories without a steering wheel and gear shift within easy access. They don’t remember ever living with doorknobs or an upper story taller than three and a half feet. They’ll have to get used to walking up stairs in the new house, rather than climbing a ladder, but they won’t have to remember to close the hatch behind them.


You’ve given us a story to tell throughout the years, Bus, but more than that, you’ve given the gift of teaching us about ourselves. Our limits have been tested and stretched to the max, but we have learned that we can do more and endure longer than we thought we could. We’ve learned that we don’t need air conditioning, central heat, a dryer, a dishwasher, a working refrigerator, privacy, a real toilet that doesn’t need to have its tank drained and carted off once a week, room to stretch out or lots of storage space… but that we REALLY, REALLY want them.


We have learned more about what the term “simple living” means to our family and that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the amount of stuff that we own or the size of the space that we live in. We have learned that home isn’t a bus, or even a house – it’s wherever we’re all together.


We’ll miss the gentle rocking of your suspension whenever we move around too vigorously. We’ll miss the closeness and security of having our entire family within a few feet of each other at any given time. We’ll miss the novelty of being able to tell people about our situation and see their reactions. I’m sure, one day, a long, long time from now, we might even miss the weird charm of actually living here.


But the time has come. The goal that we have strived for these past few years has been reached: we have a beautiful, spacious house to move into. It is everything we could have possibly wanted and then some. Our hearts are overflowing.

We never could have accomplished this so soon without you and I doubt that we would appreciate it even a fraction as much.

Thank you for not tipping over or rolling away or spontaneously combusting. Thank you for sheltering our family for these two long years (almost to the DAY). Sorry that we whined so (SO) much.

Thank you, and goodbye.


On Birthing a House: A Stretched Metaphor

Hello, faithful readers.

Can I just say that I am really thankful to have kept this blog up the past couple of years? Maybe not as regularly as I’d like since a certain somebody was born, but enough so that I’ll have a relatively good record of how this has all gone down and will be able to read over it with the kids when they get older and Sawyer doesn’t believe that it even happened.

It’s already been super useful in reminding myself of the timeline of events or how long something took when somebody asks AND it’s provided a great resource to point people to when they have questions about our process because they’re interested in building their own house, as at least two other friends of mine are starting to do (one of whom requested a tour of bus because they might be interested in buying it, which would be rad).

I also will say again that it’s been awesome having you guys giving encouragement and advice along the way. So, thanks for following thus far. :)

Now, onto the progress pics!


This is a big one, since prior to the railing going up, we’ve basically had a gaping hole opening to a ten-foot drop onto a stairwell covered with a couple planks of wood. I couldn’t let the kids go upstairs alone and basically had a heart attack any time anybody (even an adult) took a step towards it). It’s not done yet, but it’s such a relief to see!


The front door is finally painted and I love it with the love of a thousand loves. For some reason the door didn’t come with a second hole for a deadbolt, so that still needs to be drilled, but it’s so purdy. It makes me smile every time I look at it.


My kitchen sink and faucet are installed! Be still my heart. I want to bathe a baby in it. Or maybe take a bath in it myself, I don’t know, but I am thrilled to death. And do you see that magnificent appliance next to it? I haven’t had a dishwasher for 7 years. I can’t even with this. I have lost my ability to can.


Aaaaand the kids’ bathroom! Still missing a mirror and cabinet hardware and the faucets aren’t actually hooked up, but you get the idea, right? It’s also been 7 years since we’ve had more than one bathroom for our family to share. I mean, technically we have a port-a-potty on the property for the build, which has come in handy in a pinch, but it’s not quite the same.

So, those are the big developments lately, but it still seems like there’s a TON left to do. However, we have started punching out some of the bedrooms, which is nice, and there is a cleaning crew here today to start getting the dust and debris cleaned out of the upstairs so we can actually put some furniture in them this weekend, which is a HUGE step. And I’ve already scheduled a pickup for the storage unit that’s been sitting on the property holding all our furniture, so February should be our last month paying for storage, Lord willing. If nothing else, it will at least be in the garage!

As things get closer and closer to being finished, I have been struck by the idea of how much building a house is like being pregnant with a baby. Maybe it’s because such large swaths of my adult life thus far have been consumed by these two activities, or maybe it’s because my best friend is pregnant and every time she texts me “Is your house done yet?” I reply with “Is your baby born yet?”

At any rate, the more I’ve thought about it, the more similarities I’ve discovered:

You start out with bright-eyed enthusiasm and naivete. You know (or think you know) you want this thing – a house, a baby – and you’ve seen or heard about others who have done it before you, but you have no idea what it’s ACTUALLY going to be like to get one for yourself.

You start to plan and dream and take appropriate steps.

There is a lot of waiting and Lord help you if you share your hopes with others because there will be endless requests for status updates.

Once progress actually BEGINS, the reality of it all hits you like a ton of bricks and it doesn’t seem like it could actually be real. That the nothing that was once there will become SOMETHING in such a seemingly short amount of time seems improbable, at best. There’s just too much to do. For months a large part of your brain is consumed with nothing else. Every new development is cause for celebration and it’s pretty much all you talk and think about.

When it comes to decision making about the final product, the metaphor kind of falls apart, so let’s just forget that bit.

But towards the end, as you’ve watched things develop and grow and get bigger your anticipation reaches epic proportions, so does your nervousness and anxiety. You’ve lived with this growing sense of excitement to the point where you could just burst; you LOVE this creation that you’ve watched and waited for for months, and yet, it is still a stranger to you. How will it fit within your already existing life? There will be a lot to get used to and the sense of responsibility seems overwhelming. You’re not ready for this, but you want the wait to finally be over, come what may. Just let the darn thing be done already or you’re going to scream!

What do you think, too much of a stretch?

At any rate, I haven’t reached the end yet, so I’ll let you know if building a house also ends up bloody and painful. Let’s hope not.

Drawer Debacle and a Plethora of Mixed Emotions

Sooooo, I made a mistake in the kitchen planning.

In my design, I neglected to take into account the depth of a slide-in range and put a 30″ stack of drawers in the adjacent corner. Although we haven’t ordered a range yet, my contractor realized that we wouldn’t have enough room on Monday. A typical oven unit is about 28″ deep, including the handle. That protruding handle will block my top drawer in the corner from fully opening and, unless this is fixed, I will be forever reminded of my mistake by having to open the oven to fully open the drawer.

Here is the hastily edited picture I sent to Noah to explain the problem while he was at work (I’ll go ahead and leave out the expletives that accompanied the image):



We’ve talked through some various solutions, including (but not limited to):

-turning the top drawer into a flip down opening for storing baking sheets, etc.

-trying to find a narrower oven or one with a recessed handle

-modifying a typical oven handle with hinges so it can be flipped up when needed

-redoing the drawer stack with 24″ drawers

-making the slide-in a cooktop and replacing one of the pantries with a wall oven

-leaving it as is and seeing how far the top drawer can actually open

A shout-out to the folks on the Garden Web Kitchen Forum for their help in coming up with many of these ideas and also talking me down off the ledge because I felt ridiculous for making such a lame mistake in a prime area of kitchen realty!

For now, we are going to leave it as is, see how it works with whatever range we decide to get and then most likely replace the drawer stack with a 24″ set and filler. It’s an unfortunate hiccup, but it’s not the end of the world.

And, of course, even having to open the oven every time I need to access that top drawer would STILL be better than cooking in a bus.

Aside from that annoying problem, or maybe in addition to, I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety over the past week or so in relation to the upcoming house completion. Nothing debilitating, just a general nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach and difficulty trying to calm down at bedtime.

Some of this is because even once we are actually LIVING in the house, there are still going to be a lot of things left to do to make it functional and comfortable and there is an ever-growing list of stuff that we will eventually need running in the back of my brain. Things like window coverings, new mattresses, towels, rugs, kitchen chairs, stools, desk, bedding, pillows, slipcovers, hooks, window seating and a new kitchen table, to name a few.

Ideally we would be able to shop for and acquire these things ahead of time, but we just don’t have the space to store them right now and I don’t have the ability to focus on a whole lot more than immediate house decisions right now. The idea of throwing future decor in the mix causes me to break out in hives. Many of the things won’t be absolutely necessary right away, but they’re still on the list, niggling away at me.

The other parts of my anxiousness, though, are manifold.

For one: simply the idea of the huge, impending change about to descend on our family. I have no doubt that this is going to be a positive change overall – any lingering ideas that bus-living could be a viable long-term option for us have died along with a small piece of my soul somewhere in the past 22 months – yet a part of me still looks forward to it with a great deal of nervousness.

It’s just… as much as this has been at times an extremely difficult experience, as sick as I am of the mess and the over-crowdedness and the chaos and noise of 4 kids being amplified exponentially by the space limitations, as hard as I have struggled to keep my temper and my sanity amidst all of this and as many times as I have failed… this is still where we as a family have spent two years of our kids’ early childhoods and all the emotional accouterments that entails – birthdays, Christmases, lost teeth, first steps, you know how it is.

Two: The confines of the bus have had the benefit of forcing a closeness on our family that I am fearful of losing in a much bigger house. The girls sleep in the same bed, Finn is right next to them and all of them are only feet away from us at night. As INCREDIBLY inconvenient that has been at times (maybe inconvenient isn’t strong enough of a word…), it has also been comforting to know that we can immediately tell if anything is wrong with them. I am constantly aware of where they are and what they’re doing. All four of them are within arm’s reach at this very moment, in fact.

Three: Noah and I also have the concern that our kids will only barely remember this time as they get older, but not enough to really appreciate the struggle that it entailed. They will grow up in a nice, big house and we are worried about them developing a sense of entitlement. We share the belief that the best people come from slightly dysfunctional backgrounds and are concerned about going too far in the direction of normalcy and stability.

I admit that this is maybe not the most rational of my concerns.

Four: even though this period of time hasn’t been as “simple” as I was originally hoping and has actually made things that USED to be easy a lot more difficult and time-consuming (see: laundry, food storage, cleaning, etc), it has offered me the ready excuse to not do a lot of other things. I don’t feel the impetus to create elaborate meals from scratch or cook a hot breakfast every morning. The kids aren’t currently in sports or dance or lots of other outside activities and our homeschooling hasn’t involved much beyond the most basic tenets of education and free play. I also haven’t felt the need to participate in any “challenges”, such as waking up earlier, time tracking, decluttering, fitness or no-spend, among others.

Not to say that those aren’t all GOOD THINGS to do, they definitely are, it’s just that with the situation we’re currently in I’ve given myself a free pass to ignore whole swaths of them for the time being. Moving into a real house with real furniture will mark the re-entry into “real life” and the expectations that will accompany it that we start acting more like normal people.

I understand intellectually that a lot of these fears I’m holding onto are dependent on my own choices – I don’t HAVE to do anything. I could live in a house without blinds and rugs and continue to not exercise and eat cold cereal for breakfast every morning. But I probably won’t, nor would I want to.

Five: I’m going to go ahead and be brutally honest: two of the pillars that our family life has been revolving around for two years – the fact that we live in a bus and are building a house – will end at the same time. Where does this leave us with regard to our place in the universe? What will make us special and unique? What will people have to ask us about repeatedly if not “how’s the house coming?” I’ll have to come up with a new Instagram username!

(Okay, you can go ahead and file that one with concern number three in terms of legitimacy.)

It’s all just going to be a huge adjustment, guys. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Long, Overdue Update

So, in case you didn’t know (or notice), our computer has been broken for the past few weeks.

The motherboard quit on it and it turns out that buying a new computer (or, rather, a refurbished one off Ebay) will be less expensive than getting it fixed. While we save up for that unexpected expense in the budget, I’m using a borrowed laptop because I have missed writing and there’s a lot of stuff to share! I would have updated sooner, but do you know how hard it is to type out 500 words on a phone screen?

Thanks so much to those of you who caught up with me on Instagram or emailed or left comments to check in and see how things have been going and were hoping we had moved in around Christmas time. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We spent another Christmas in the bus:


It’s looking more like mid-February at this point, but IT WILL HAPPEN.

I mean, unless the crazy weather we’ve had since we moved into the bus is a sign from God that we should abandon this crazy scheme. Because, seriously, guys: we live in Southern California and since we’ve moved into the bus we’ve experienced the coldest Winter on record in twenty years (remember how it SNOWED?), a record breaking heat wave and drought in the Summer and the most recent freaky weather phenomena has resulted in TORNADO WARNINGS. What gives?!

From Instagram:

IG snip


That was a tough week. I might have sent some texts to my nearest and dearest about how completely ridiculous it was for us to think that we could live in a bus with four kids and how everybody who ever said we would go crazy was right and that I was very seriously considering running away to Canada. I might have made my mother worry a little bit.

Once I was able to let the kids outside to play again (and do laundry), my sanity level improved greatly. So now we’re holding steady here at the bus-stead with only the token utterance of “I’m seriously ready to live in a house.”

On that note, let me show you what else been going down on this side of town!

Let’s see, when we last left off the driveway had just gone in. Since then the house has been painted and now has floors:


We transformed this Ikea delivery:


into an almost-finished kitchen:



The siding is going up nicely, we now have baseboards and ceiling fans, real stairs and sconces:


and interior doors:


Everything is coming together so much better than I would have ever imagined or hoped for on such a slim budget and with me having absolutely zero interior design experience.

But I do have major decision fatigue. This morning our GC asked me exactly how I wanted the trim for the chimney to be – did I want mitered edges or did I want them to be straight to match the windows? These are the kinds of teeny tiny details that nobody will ever even notice (unless they’re on the roof for some reason) and yet, since a choice is presented, I am now in the position to make sure I make the correct one. (I went with the straight edges to match the windows.)

Financially, instead of extending the construction loan, we simply rolled into our mortgage which wound up being the less expensive route. It is frustrating to be paying a mortgage on a house we’re not even living in yet, but it is what it is.

I just have to remind myself that it’s really only a few more weeks,  a month at the most, and then we’ll be in the house and all this will be behind us. The frustrations that we’re going through now won’t last forever and I really need to quit my whining. Because did you see those pictures?

That’s what we have to look forward to.

Progress Report (we actually picked some finishes!)

Hello there!

We have had a ton of stuff going on around here and have FINALLY been picking finishes. Which means I’ve just been closing my eyes and randomly pointing at paint and tile swatches.

Okay, not quite. But almost.

And we now have a driveway and siding on the front of the house! It’s all coming together! Want to see???


Okay, that has nothing to do with the house. I just wanted to share how this morning started with me scratching the heck out of the van on my neighbor’s gate. Because that’s what cool people do with their vehicles. And I am super cool. (I think most of it’s superficial and will just wipe away, but, darn it, this is why we can’t have nice things!)

For real now:


Finn was very excited about the dump trucks, asphalt machine and steamroller that arrived to create our driveway.


It is enormous.


The fire department specifications required it to be at least 16 feet wide with a turn around of at least 30 feet. Since we live in a very high fire danger area, I’m going to go ahead and not argue with them. Plus: all that extra parking will come in handy when we eventually invite everybody that we know over for a house warming party!


The siding on the front of the house is on! This isn’t the greatest picture, but IN REALITY it is exactly how I wanted it to look. I love how bright and friendly the yellow is and the white trim and how it looks with the roof and every time I see it I get very, very excited – eeeek!

The big decisions we’ve had to make this week are interior paint colors and tile for the bathrooms.


Did you know that there are approximately one trillion and fifty two shades of white? I have been hemming and hawing all week, waiting for the cabinets to get in (THIS AFTERNOON) so I can see the colors alongside them because I’m matching the trim color to the cabinets and I want to see what the wall color looks like with the trim color because that will make all the difference between my main three contenders which are (in order starting with the second sample from the left): Import Ivory, Spanish Lace and Calming Cream. It’s a big choice because it will be our main color for pretty much the entire house, aside from the bedrooms. I told our contractors that we would definitely know for sure by tomorrow.


The girls, on the other hand, had pretty much zero trouble falling in love with a bright aqua for their bedroom and bathroom.


We had to run to Home Depot the other day when the tile that I had originally specified on our finishes list turned out to be not quite what we had actually envisioned. Above, you can see the color for our bedroom and master bath, the dark grey tile for the shower, and the white tile for the shower and bathroom floor. The black and white will be for the kids’ bathroom and the downstairs powder room.

WHEW. Next choices to be made are a final decision on flooring and lighting. And trim. And door hardware. And probably a million other things that I didn’t even know could be chosen but are now imperative.

The biggest struggle that I have with making these kinds of decisions is that not only do I want to like it, I want EVERYBODY AROUND ME to like it as well. Which probably denotes a big heap of insecurity on my part because I’ve never done this before and am terribly afraid of making some huge faux pas that will make everybody who enters my home raise their eyebrows in shock and disgust. (Like choosing the wrong window treatments! Egads!)

Noah doesn’t suffer from this at all. He doesn’t care that maybe those faux wood tile planks that are so trendy right now will be passé in just a few years. Or that my entire family is voting for us to use the paint color Gourmet Mushroom (which is the first sample in that picture above).  He just knows what he likes and thinks looks cool (and Gourmet Mushroom seems too dark to him, sorry everyone!)

Thus far we haven’t hit an impasse that we haven’t managed to get around yet. He wanted to paint our bedroom walls red and grey until I pointed out that those are his company’s colors and we decided on that pretty shade of blue instead. Symmetry with ceiling fixtures and light switches and the like barely registers with me, but is very, very important to him so he got to make those kinds of decisions. I am typically the one using the kitchen the most, so my opinion had the biggest weight in that area. It’s been a lot of give and take and compromises.

There haven’t been any knock-down drag-out battles because there isn’t anything about the house that is so important to either one of us that it’s worth a fight. Both of us have to live here and both of our opinions are equally important. (Although, we’re not done yet, so you never know…)

In the end, we might wind up with some design picks that only appeal to us and that’s okay. We want our house to be warm and welcoming, but I don’t think that paint and flooring are the main elements that are going to make people feel that way when they come over. I think having a peaceful, loving atmosphere within the house itself will make the greatest impression

But the perfect shade of white will probably help.

On Freaking Out

Noah and I first met and started dating during the Winter of 2006.

Because it was football season, Noah had been growing his beard out to help the Chargers (I imagine that only makes sense to other die hard fans who believe that actions they take in their own personal lives actually affect the playing abilities of the teams they love). In January, the Chargers, despite Noah’s impressive amount of facial hair, lost their second game in the playoffs. It was a hard blow and Noah immediately shaved off the beard he had been sporting for over three months.

I happened to be there for that game and for the subsequent shearing (there have been eight more repeats of this ritual since then). When Noah came back downstairs after undergoing this rather drastic change I was immediately ambivalent, to put it kindly. To put it less kindly, my attraction to him plummeted and I thought I had made a huge mistake.

At least, I felt that way for a couple hours until I realized I was an idiot and he was still quite handsome and now we’re married with four kids and living in a bus. I told him about how I nearly broke up with him when he shaved a long time ago and it still stands in my mind as a testament to my huge aversion to change.

I was reminded of it yet again this week as the dry wall installation has been begun (and nearly completed!) in the house. After months of seeing the house as a skeleton of bare, see-through framing, having it suddenly closed in was very alarming for me. It just looked so… different.


Living/Dining Room

I was afraid, yet again, that we had made a big mistake. The rooms seemed too small, the doorways seemed too high or too low, the upstairs hallway seemed too long. Everything was just all wrong!


Upstairs Hallway

However, because I know that I have this tendency to immediately hate all things new and different (even if they’re actually BETTER), instead of telling our contractors to start knocking down walls and redo everything (ahahahahaha), I gave myself a couple days of walking around in the spaces and going in and out of rooms and trying to imagine them with furniture and paint and all the good stuff.



The kids’ rooms are small (each is about 11×10′), there’s no getting around that, but Noah reminded me that we planned it that way on purpose to make more common living space, because we want the kids out and about in the house rather than holed up in their rooms. We could have turned the upstairs Reading Nook into more bedroom space, but we wanted a place to sit around and read bedtime stories in the evening.



And if, for whatever reason, we decide that things aren’t quite working for us, we left ourselves a lot of options to change  or expand if we choose to.

For example: the three small bedrooms are all in a row on one side of the house, so we could knock down the walls of the middle one and just have two larger rooms. We also had the footings of the garage dug as deep as the rest of the house in case we decide to build out over it as well. We also have a closet in the downstairs library/office/homeschool room, with a bathroom right next to it with additional pipes put into the foundation to add a shower if we want, so we could eventually turn that into a bedroom. So, there are options for the future if we decide to utilize them.

Regardless, I realized that we are going to be just fine. Maybe we’ll even be MORE than fine. Maybe we can actually marry this handsome house!

Or, you know, just live in it for a long time. Whatever.

Doors, Inspections and Relating to the Ingalls

Guys! We have doors!

Front door:


Back doors:


They’re so preeeeetty!

Thank you all so much for your encouragement after my last post. It’s hard sometimes to admit when things aren’t going perfectly and I really appreciate the kind responses.

Of course, after that post our big inspection was delayed and the cleaning lady I had scheduled totally flaked.

BUT I hired another cleaning lady who came the following week. It was super helpful to have somebody come in and do the dirty work that I simply don’t have the time or, quite frankly, really WANT to do. It was really nice to know that things were getting done while I focused on doing school work with the girls. I wasn’t trying to set them up with something that they could do independently while I ran around trying to do chores in between reading questions out loud and explaining math problems.

Definitely worth the fifty dollars to have that time be a little calmer and also wind up with a clean toilet and sinks.

On the other hand, the big inspection that was supposed to be three weeks ago JUST wound up getting passed this morning. First, it got pushed back a week because things weren’t quite ready, then we had a short correction list to take care of after the initial inspection and then our contractors missed the inspector’s arrival by literally 5 minutes. Twice. They felt so horrible about it that Noah and I didn’t really say anything… but we also didn’t feel bad asking them to use the extra time making a few last-minute changes that had been nagging at us (well, mostly Noah since we’ve discovered that I am not “details oriented” when it comes to house construction and would probably not notice if they had nailed the roof on backwards).

This morning they got here at 7:30 am in time to meet the inspector when he showed up at 8 and we passed with flying colors. WHEW! So, tomorrow the insulators are scheduled to come and Friday they should be able to start bringing in the dry wall and once that’s in we’re officially in FINISHES stage and it should be downhill from there!

Being past that inspection has taken a big load off my mind and I’m feeling a lot better. I mean, it would be great to have electricity finally… but THAT would just put me over the moon at this point :)

Another thing that also helped lift my spirits a bit is that we just finished listening to the Little House on the Prairie audio book (we’ve been on a big audio book kick lately – we’ve also recently listened to The Magic Tree House, My Father’s Dragon, Clementine, Peter and the Wolf and A to Z Mysteries). It had been a couple years since we last read it, but a lot has changed since then and I found myself relating to the story so much more than I ever have before. It also helped to reignite the feeling of this experience being an adventure a little!

This blog is called “Little Bus on the Prairie” (my awesome brother Spencer is actually the one who came up with the name when we were first tossing around the idea of starting one), but I honestly had no idea how appropriate it would turn out to be until now. Obviously, there are some very big differences, but many of the sentiments echoed very close to home.

The main places where I was struck by my sense of empathy were:

-At the beginning of the book, when the Ingalls are leaving their little house in the big woods of Wisconsin and saying goodbye to the home and life that they’ve known to start out on a completely new and unfamiliar adventure, I started to tear up (which wasn’t fun while driving). I was reminded of the little rental that we’d lived in before now and how sad it was to say goodbye to a place that held such happy memories only to head toward a lot of trials and difficulties trying to get to where we want to be.

-When they finally reach the place that they plan to settle, Pa takes the horses and wagon and leaves Ma and the girls in the tent that he’s made out of the wagon cover. They’re left alone in the middle of the prairie wilderness and Laura feels how very small and alone they are.Again, not the same exact thing, but the first week or so we were out here with just us and the bus while Noah was working on getting things more “settled” there was definitely a big feeling of being exposed and insecure. I was very aware of how much privacy and comfort even a small house offered now that we were competely without one. This feeling has mostly gone away over the past 18 months and settled into a resigned mundanity – we can adjust to just about anything!

-How Laura gets TIRED of traveling by covered wagon and waiting for the house to be built and how much she wants to complain, even though she usually manages not to. It was so reassuring to be reminded that lots of change, temporary living situations and just plain WAITING can be really hard on even the best people  and especially difficult for children. That it’s okay that my kids don’t like living in the bus, because Laura Ingalls Wilder was tired of living in a covered wagon and impatient for their house to be built too!

In relation to this last point, we also have to take into account that amidst the change of moving, living in a bus, building a house and the regular changes of the school year, we’ve also added another baby into the mix. Most of these are BIG DEALS for kids just on their own, but our kids (and ourselves) have been touseled by one wave of change after another for a solid 18 months now. It’s taken it’s effect in different ways.

We have been trying to be proactive  in spending one-on-one time, especially with the older two. We’ve instituted weekly “date nights” with each parent that they can look forward to. And we have a trip to Legoland planned for just the girls so they can ride rides with both of us (the past four times we’ve gone I’ve either been pregnant or had a newborn with me).

But overall, we mostly just have to listen to them, acknowledge that it IS hard (living in a bus, having two small brothers who wreck your stuff all the time, just growing up in general) and reassure them that it’s not going to be like this forever and that we are doing the very best we can during this season. I think and hope that listening is the best thing that we can do, because I can’t think of many other options right now. Can you?

Anyway, the book’s description of the actual construction of the house made Noah and I laugh and sigh and wish that it was just that easy anymore. Not that I would necessarily want to be helping heft giant log walls and worrying about the chimney catching on fire or someone nearly dying in the well that’s being dug… but it might be preferable to the bureaucratic nonsense that we’ve had to go through during this process.


Hello Again

Fancy meeting you here!

I know it’s been a while and I wish I was coming back with some really exciting updates… but I’m not. Womp womp.

The posting break has been for several reasons:

1. It’s been REALLY, REALLY HOT. Like, so hot that sitting in front of the computer inside the bus is pretty much unbearable and I just start dripping sweat. It’s pretty gross and not really conducive to any sort of creative mental energy. I like to avoid it.

It got so hot here this past month that we actually lost a chicken (and felt suitably horrible about it – especially my five year old who found it). Apparently, when it gets as hot as it’s been here, chickens can get stressed and die if proper measures aren’t taken to cool them down such as putting ice in their water or setting up misters around their coop. We now have a mist system set up for them, so there shouldn’t be any other casualties.

The point is: it has been REALLY HOT.

2.  School has started. You might recall that our kids are part of a local charter homeschool hybrid where they  attend “workshop” two days per week and we homeschool the other three. I wrote a little about it here. This year, my second daughter entered Kindergarten and it’s been interesting trying to figure out the logistics of schooling two kids with a toddler and a mobile baby in a bus.

We’re still trying to find our rhythm, but so far it mostly entails doing the work during Sawyer’s nap time and lots of screen time for Finn. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve been in full on school-mode for the past five weeks, tweaking curriculum and trying to find a good fit between what the school suggests we do, versus what I think we should do versus what my kids actually find engaging and interesting. It’s a bit tricky.

3. Not a lot of interesting things have been going on with the house. Now that the framing is complete, all the focus has been on the really necessary stuff that is extremely boring to photograph. Things like plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC and fire sprinklers. There are a few things that need to get finished up this weekend and then we should have our rough-in inspection on Monday and pray to the Good Lord that we pass. After that point we can start insulation, drywall and siding.

I am having very, very strong doubts at this point that we are going to be done by December 17th, which is when our loan matures. If we aren’t move-in ready by that date, the bank requires that we pay for a 3-month extension (about $1000). We will also be responsible for paying for the interest on the loan for those additional months, which will likely be at the full cost of the entire loan, since it will be so close to the end.

It’s somewhat comforting to me that our contractors don’t seem very concerned about it and have reassured us that we’ll make it on time… but I will continue to not count on it. Because, as we already know by now, I like to keep my expectations really low.

4. My mindset hasn’t really been spectacular. The final, and perhaps main reason I haven’t been writing is simply because I haven’t really been in a great place mentally. I am white-knuckling it over here. The heat, the cramped space, the stress of caring for four children in these conditions… it’s starting to take it’s toll on me and to be quite honest I am fighting an off and on mild depression.

It’s been 18 months now and we still don’t even have electricity (although the GCs just laid the conduit, so that should be coming SOON). I’m still having to rely on neighbors to keep our fridge for us, I’m running a generator to do laundry or doing it at someone else’s house and everything is dirty all the time from having the general, living mess of six people (including a two year old boy) condensed into what is essentially a hallway.

I think I’ve written about this before, but it’s hard to tell what is normal stress from this stage of life – four small kids, homeschooling, Noah busy at work – and what is specific to living in the bus. Would I still be sleep deprived from being up with a baby several times a night if we didn’t live in a bus? Very likely. Would Finn have wedged an opaque, purple craft bead so far up his nose he needed to be taken to urgent care to have it removed even if we weren’t living in a bus? I could see that happening regardless. Would I still have to cook and clean and divide every last morsel of my attention between all these small humans if we were living in a house? Of course.

It’s just that there’s all the normal stressful stuff going on AND we live in a bus.

I just… I’m really, really over it at this point, guys. It’s been a rough journey and I want a home. Noah and I have questioned our judgement and sanity so many times lately. We might very well have made a grave mistake to have given up almost two years of our lives to a lot of stress and difficulty for something that might not even turn out to be worth it.

BUT we’re still hanging in here. The bad times come and they go. We can look out the window and see the house standing there, waiting for us. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and all that jazz.

Plus, I went ahead and gave myself the grace of hiring someone to come and clean the bus on Monday morning which sounds totally ridulous and you are FREE TO JUDGE ME, but made me feel better as soon as I made the appointment.

So, that’s where things stand as of now. I update a bit more often on Instagram because I can do it from my phone from anywhere instead of inside the hot, hot bus. I would love to connect with you there, but I will also be writing here when there are more exciting, POSITIVE updates to give. We’re not giving up yet.

Let’s Talk Unexpected Costs and Change Orders

A quick note to those of you who emailed and left comments interested in buying the bus: thanks so much for your interest! I don’t have any specific information for you all yet with regard to when it will be available and how much we want for it. We’re still a ways off from that point, BUT I will keep you posted as soon as we know.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

Noah has been hanging the ductwork for our HVAC system:


It’s a family trade – Noah learned how to work with sheet metal and ductwork from his dad growing up.

Our windows have been delivered and are almost finished being installed and our roof is halfway on:


Next up comes rough electrical and siding.

So, there’s all the fun progress stuff. Hooray!

I wanted to touch a little bit on the financial side of things, because I’m always curious about that kind of stuff and I imagine some of you are as well. A lot of time with remodeling or construction blogs all you get are the before and afters with none of the nitty gritty details about what happened in between. I’m all about the nitty gritty.

In some ways we’ve been extremely fortunate that we haven’t YET run into any major complications with regard to the actual construction of the house. A few windows and doors have had to be moved inches for various reasons and there have been a couple face palm moments where we realized we should have added or changed something on paper (i.e. adding a drain in the garage or making the closet under the stairs a kitchen pantry instead of a closet in the library – doh!), but on the whole, things have gone relatively smoothly and we’ve been really happy with how things are turning out. Again, lot of that credit goes to the simplicity of the design and our realistic expectations (we’re not expecting an exotic, Architectural Digest-worthy bungalow, here).

I think one of the best things that we have going for us on this project with respect to finances is the fact that we trust our contractors. We have had some bumps along the way with regard to our budget line items (which I’ll go a bit more into below), but the fact that we don’t feel as though they are trying to cheat us or rip us off or get rich off of our lack of experience makes all the difference in the world in how we feel about our build.

In retrospect, it was actually a really, really fantastic thing that our old contractor got nixed by the bank because I do NOT think I would have felt the same way about him at this point. At all. In fact, a lot of the issues that we’ve had with our new contractors are as a result of our old contractor’s mistakes (or deliberate attempts to take advantage of us, if you’re coming from that viewpoint).

Anyway, I wanted to give you guys a look into what sorts of things have cost us extra money (things we have paid for outside of the loan) on this build. We are very grateful for the fact that we have had this opportunity to save up a nice chunk of change to pay for all of it, even if some of the things aren’t really what we would have preferred the money to go toward.

If things had gone differently, these costs would have been included in the loan, however I like to remind myself that even though it’s cash coming out of our pockets, it’s also money that we’re not going to have to pay 30 years worth of interest on, so that makes it a bit more palatable in my brain.

The biggest and most costly item, by far, has been the permit fees. Our county requires an enormous amount of money out of every new build to go toward permits (grading, septic, building) and fees (for parks, school, traffic impact, etc.) On our budget with the original contractor, he had allotted $7k for them. The actual cost? $25k. Our new contractors were able to wiggle some stuff around in the budget to cover about half of them, but that still left us with $13k to pay for ourselves. Ouch. So far we have put $9k back into the budget to cover those costs and are keeping the last $4k in reserve, but we’re working with our GCs to possibly make up the costs with labor instead.

Another thing that is going to cost us money out of pocket is the fact that we really wanted siding on our house instead of stucco, which we communicated to our original GC and is detailed on the plans, but he neglected to include a line item for painting the siding. So the exterior paint job will be paid for by us to the tune of about $4k.

The only other things that we have changed so far (that have cost us money out of pocket) include digging deeper footings around the garage in case we ever decide to build on it, adding a little bit of plumbing in a couple spots for additional showers in case we decide to turn the library into a downstairs master bedroom in our golden years, adding a couple of floor outlets and upgrading some of the upstairs windows to double-hung (so they tilt back for cleaning). All of those changes added up to a measly (by comparison) $1300.

A few other changes that we’ve made include nixing the tub in the master bath in favor of a large, walk-in shower, and moving the island in the kitchen to a peninsula. Neither of those changes have affected our cost, however, because we’ve made other changes to offset any potential overage. Taking out a large bath tub helps cover the cost of the extra tiling for the shower and to cover the rest we took some of the tile budget from the kids’ bathroom and put a tub/shower insert in there instead.

And there you have it. Makes this:


look a little less glamorous, huh?

So, now that that’s out of the way, the next post will be about finishes and I will show you our Ikea kitchen plan and the book of preferred finishes that we’re making for our GCs. And you guys can help me figure out whether our dark, narrow stairwell should be carpeted for safety reasons. Oy.