Why Social Services Showed Up In My Hospital Room

Thank you, everyone, for all the congratulations and well wishes!

Sawyer is doing very well (after a pretty rough first night home before my milk came in) and is currently sound asleep . I am feeling much, MUCH better now that I’m not carrying around an almost ten pound baby inside me :) The older kids have been basking in the extra attention from Noah and I am SO THANKFUL that he is going to be home until January. It has made this whole transition so much easier than it could have been.

I promised a post about why Social Services showed up in my hospital room after Sawyer was born. Spoiler: it was because we’re living in a bus.

I have to say, I’m generally not very shy about the fact that we live in a bus. I mean, I don’t go shouting it from the rooftops or anything, but it’s something that most people find pretty interesting and I like to share about our experience (please see: entire blog).

So, when one of my night nurses turned out to be a friend-of-a -friend (and had also been my night nurse during my stay after Finn’s delivery at the same hospital) we got to chatting and the subject of our unique living situation came up. I gave her the blog address and she came back later to say that she had poked around a bit and thought it was great!

I’m not sure about the details of what happened after that. She went off duty, the day shift came on, and somewhere along the way somebody became concerned about the lady who delivered her baby on the floor and was apparently living in a bus, quite possibly in poverty and squalor.

The morning of the day we were due to be discharged a very warm and friendly woman came into my room and said she was from Social Services and could she have a chat with me? Noah was visiting the older kids where his mom was watching them at his sister’s house, so I was by myself.

I remember kind of wishing that I had kept my big mouth shut this time, because obviously somebody had gotten the wrong impression somewhere, but I didn’t feel nervous or afraid or embarrassed or anything. I just wanted to see exactly where this conversation would go.

After making some small talk (“So, I hear you gave birth in the hallway!”) she came to the point and said that somebody had heard about us living in a bus and was concerned that we might need access to some resources that she could point us to, such as SNAP or WIC.

I thanked her and said that I didn’t believe we currently qualified for those services, although we had at one point. I explained that we weren’t living in a bus out of necessity, but by choice and told her about building a house and the process of renovating the bus.

The first thing she asked at that point, before she asked about our income or Noah’s job or whether utilities were available on the property, was about whether friends and family were close by that could help us if we needed it.

I told her about my parents, Noah’s sister, all our awesome neighbors and my church family who are close by, not to mention Noah’s mom and Spencer who aren’t physically nearby all the time, but have provided an additional safety net during this undertaking.

She looked very pleased as I listed off all the people who care about our family’s wellbeing.  At that point she asked briefly about Noah’s job and utilities and space and was even happier when I eventually pulled up the blog on my phone and showed her pictures.

At that point she closed the notebook she had been using and said that she felt satisfied that we were doing just fine. I asked her if we were going to need to be on the lookout for a visit from CPS or anything like that. She stopped and turned at the doorway and said that it looked like we were doing about a thousand times better than the people she is normally sent in to see.

And that was that.

I have some thoughts about the whole thing, the first being that I’m glad that such systems exist in our community to help people access the public support that they might need.

Secondly, and the main thing that has been on my mind, is just how fortunate we are to be surrounded by a large web of family and friends (and internet peeps!) who are rooting for us, who truly want to see our family succeed in this endeavor, and have lavished us with love and kindness.

Social Services exists to fill in the gaps where community is lacking and I am incredibly grateful that our community is full to the brim.

Big Birth in the Hallway

Pregnancy due dates are a funny thing. At best, they are really nothing more than an educated guess, and yet when you are waiting for a baby to arrive all you can do is focus on that ONE DAY and pin all your hopes and plans on it.

Once that date has slipped by and begun to fade in the distance without even so much as a strong contraction to mark it, it almost begins to seem as though labor is LESS likely to happen as time goes by instead of more. I think this is why so many moms who are only even so much as a couple of days “overdue” tend to start making comments about giving birth to toddlers. (Ahem.)

So it was that I woke up Thanksgiving morning, 8 days post-due-date and still pregnant, convinced that I was going to wind up making it all the way to my scheduled induction on December 3rd. I was having contractions, but nothing to write home about and nothing super regular or close together.

Noah and I woke up the kids around 6:30am and trucked everyone down to my monitoring appointment (at a hospital 40 minutes away because the closer offices were closed for the holiday). The nurse said my fluid levels looked good, baby was active and measured my contractions at about 8-10 minutes apart. When she asked to rate the pain or intensity of them, I told her about a 1 or a 2. She said her guess was that I was going to pop any time now (because I hadn’t heard that before from ANYBODY, EVER).

1 or 2 is about where the discomfort level stayed all day long – through Finn’s nap and during dinner with Noah’s mom and nieces. At the end of the evening I started timing them, but they were still 8-10 minutes apart and only between thirty and sixty seconds long.

In retrospect, we probably should have hedged our bets and left the kids with Noah’s mom just in case (especially since there were some other signs of labor present). My mother was texting me anxiously with just such advice, which I unwisely ignored (sorry Mom). However, if precedence was any indication, I would just wake up in the morning still pregnant. So, we packed everybody up and headed home and went to bed. On the way I called the hospital to verify that they didn’t want to see me until things were more exciting. They confirmed.

About 2 hours later, at about 11 PM, I was woken up by a strong contraction. Noah had been awake, listening to me breathe through the other ones while I slept. They hadn’t gotten any closer together, but they were beginning to get a bit more painful – around a 3 or a 4 by that point. After debating it for a bit, we decided we should probably head in and that they were pretty unlikely to refuse us, especially since I was a 4th time mom and also supposed to received 2 doses of antibiotics prior to delivery .

Worst case scenario,  I would just wind up with another induction, baby would be here and the wait would be over. Huzzah.

Noah got my bag packed while I hopped in the shower and enjoyed the hot water on my aching back for a while. I told Noah that when we got to the hospital I definitely wanted to keep laboring in the shower until it was time for my epidural. When I got out, I thought that my water might have possibly started leaking a little. Noah got the kids up and we headed off.

We met Noah’s mom in a liquor store parking lot down the hill from his sister’s house and we traded vehicles at around 12:15 am. I said goodbye to the kids – Lily was tired and excited and overwhelmed and crying about everything that was happening – gave hugs and kisses and then doubled over with a strong contraction.

When I stood up, my water broke in a huge gush that splashed through my pajama pants and onto the asphalt.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Noah’s mom told me afterward that she was afraid they were going to have to lay me down right then and there to birth the baby. I was naively unaware of just how different this story could have wound up being!

Things got decidedly more exciting at that point. My contractions got fast and strong as Noah sped toward the hospital. We pulled into the parking garage and a security guard rushed to get us a wheelchair that we didn’t stay around to wait for. We headed toward Labor and Delivery, my moans and wails echoing through the empty hallways.

We rounded a corner and I couldn’t keep going. My body started convulsing with the overwhelming urge to push and I was terrified that I was going to rupture my uterus until I started to feel a burning sensation. I remember clinging to Noah’s shoulders and yelling “The baby is coming!”

Postpartum discussion has since revealed that at this point, Noah didn’t believe what I said. In his brain it was more like “Yes, I know, the baby IS coming… let’s get to a room.”  I tried to get my point across more clearly: “The baby is coming RIGHT NOW!”

Eventually some nearby nurses overheard my screaming and brought out a wheelchair. I don’t remember very much from this part, but apparently they kept trying to get me to sit in it and, instead, I laid down with my torso on the seat yelling over and over “This baby is COMING! It’s COMING!”

Somebody got the picture and I was laid down directly on floor. My sopping wet pajamas were removed and I could feel the head of the baby start to push through my underwear. Those came off too and the next thing I knew, Noah was laying an enormous baby on my chest: “We have a boy!” It was 12:45 am.

I wish I could say that in that moment all the pain and shock instantly vanished and all I could do was stare adoringly into my newborn’s eyes while trumpets from heaven sounded all around… but in reality, I was still hurting and shaky and just kept repeating “oh my god” over and over again.

I was lifted onto a gurney and finally made it to a delivery room. The placenta was delivered while the baby was being attended to and I announced its arrival to the room at large. I couldn’t stop violently shaking and the doctor had a hard time doing her post-delivery examination. Eventually they went ahead and gave me a shot of morphine. I think it helped, although I had trouble keeping my eyes open after that. The doctor didn’t find any tears, which is quite amazing considering the baby’s measurements:  9 lbs 14 oz and 22 inches long.

I nursed the baby and calmed down a little. Noah and I kept exchanging wild looks and asking each other if what we thought just happened actually DID happen.

We were moved to a recovery room about an hour later and this was what we found as a sort of proof to mark the scene of all the excitement:

This is where it all happened.

We were discharged the following day.

Thus was Sawyer David Springfield brought into the world: my water broke in a liquor store parking lot, he was birthed on a hospital hallway floor and was brought home to a double-decker school bus.

sawyer birthday

It’s no wonder social services came to visit during our hospital stay. (That, however, is a story for a different post.)

Right now, we’re all just settling in. Family and friends and neighbors have been bringing us meals, Noah has been phenomenal with the older ones and I am working on making my hipbones remember where they used to be positioned (they’re not listening).

sawyerwithsibs

The kids have been adjusting pretty well so far, all things considered. They definitely love their new brother and are thrilled that daddy is home for another few weeks. We’ll see what happens after that!

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers these last few weeks. There is a lot more to share about where things are going with the house, how we’re adjusting to having a newborn in the bus and why the heck social services showed up in my hospital room.

I’m looking forward to telling you all about it.

Don’t Get Too Excited…

There’s no baby yet, despite my best efforts at self-induction.

These have included (but are not limited to): lots and lots of walking, eating an entire pineapple, squats and magical thinking. By magical thinking I mean things like trying to keep a few things undone in the hopes that the baby would arrive “before we’re ready” or creating inopportune times for me to go into labor, because OF COURSE it will happen then… right?

But no dice.

Apparently, I CAN’T control when my body is ready to birth a baby – who knew?

For the record, and in case you felt the “whoosh” as it flew by, my due date was Wednesday, the 19th. Five days ago… but who’s counting?

With my last pregnancy I was being induced on doctor’s orders at this point, but with my new OB they are comfortable letting me keep on keepin’ on as long as I’m being monitored twice per week.

On the plus side: less likelihood of unwarranted medical intervention!

On the negative side: I might give birth to a toddler.

Noah started his paternity leave on Monday in preparation for my due date, so he’s been home all week which has been AWESOME for everyone and has made me feel slightly less angsty about still being pregnant.

He’s been able to plant our winter garden and build several sheds around the property out of recycled crates from his work. The kids have been building an elaborate house out of the giant foam inserts from said crates on the trampoline. I’ve been able to waddle around and ask for help lifting heavy and awkward things (or sit around and think labor thoughts and catch up on my reading of the internet). Win win win.

So, that’s the status quo around the bus-stead until this little Miss or Mister decides it’s time to make an appearance. Although, I can understand why s/he might be hesitant: between the kids occasionally sticking their faces up to my belly and shouting “IT’S TIME TO COME OUT NOW, BABY!” and my neighbor friend who keeps trying to “scare me into labor” by startling at me at unexpected moments, the outside world might seem like a frightening kind of place.

It’s not though, little beeblet… it’s just sort of strange.

Are We Obligated to Make Sure our Kids are Happy?

This is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. I touched on it after we first moved out here when I wrote about how our kids don’t like living in the bus, but the whole idea of what sort of obligation we have to make sure our children are “happy” while we’re intentionally in a difficult living situation is still something that we’re trying to figure out.

A few weeks ago I asked Lily if she wanted to write her own blog post about her feelings about living in the bus. Her reply was “Sure, but it would be really short: I don’t like it.” Neither of the the girls’ opinions seem to have changed in that regard, and since my own enthusiasm for this particular lifestyle has been waning, I can’t really blame them.

The things they don’t like, as far as I can tell, are pretty much the same things that we don’t – namely the inconveniences: climbing up a ladder to get upstairs, going outside to get something out of the fridge and the lack of air conditioning when it’s hot, among other things.

I should note that there are definitely things about living out here that they DO like. They like that they have a ton of a space to run around and take rides on Daddy’s quad. They like their play set, tree house and trampoline. They are enthralled by the chickens (this morning they both came running in THRILLED because they actually watched one of the hens lay an egg!) and they love the fact that there are kids around to play with.

It’s really just the bus that they object to. Fair enough.

I think that if we were ONLY dealing with that issue, it wouldn’t really be a big deal. Like many people have told us, eventually this will be a distant memory that we will all probably look back with fondly and tell stories about to our grandkids. For sure.

However, it’s not just the bus. They have also had to deal with me being pregnant almost the entire time that we’ve been out here, which, despite my best efforts, is not tons of fun for them. Or me. Or ANYONE at all, really. I can’t jump on the trampoline or run around or rough house and I’m tired and cranky and hormonal and in a decent amount of pain a lot of the time, which makes for lameness all around.

In addition, Noah is in a really busy season of work right now and has also been putting in extra hours to make sure everything is squared away for his upcoming paternity leave. He has also been working hard when at home dealing with everything from a broken generator (which means I can’t do laundry), to building the chicken coop, to repairing leaking pipes and helping out with the household stuff that I’m no longer able to do (crawling around on my hands and knees to clean the floors upstairs just ain’t happening).

Plus, we’re also trying to get this ding dang house built, which requires even MORE time dealing with the bank the builders, fund control, insurance, etc. (though, I have been able to use their dislike for the bus as leverage on occasion, as in: “If you ever want to live in a house, you will be quiet while I make this phone call.”)

Simply put: we’re in a season where neither of us feel like we have been super available to the kids lately and we both feel guilty about it.

Despite the fact that this is just a season – eventually we will be in a house and I won’t be pregnant – it’s causing us to want to do things to “make up” to the kids for things being not quite normal in their lives lately.

This manifests itself in little ways, such as letting them have macaroni and cheese two nights in a row for dinner, or sometimes in bigger ways -like,  we’re planning to take a field trip to Legoland this week with Lily’s school (justified by majorly discounted tickets and a hope that so much walking will induce labor). We want to give them stuff to be excited about and look forward to.

The struggle, I guess, is in not going too far. It was noted in the comments on the Halloween post (and rightly so) that the kids dressed up and got candy – no fails there. It’s just that the pressure we’ve been putting on ourselves lately to try and make family events EXTRA special (let’s go trick or treating AND to a party!), and the ensuing regret when we make poor choices as a result (tired, overstimulated, cranky kids) is kind of a crazy cycle.

I don’t think that we’re the only parents to ever experience this phenomena (right?), but it’s new for us and I don’t want it to have long-lasting, negative effects.

I don’t want the kids to always be expecting us to present them with “new and exciting” things to entertain them. I don’t want them to feel like they have a right to be overly coddled because they’re going through something not exactly comfortable. I want them to be resilient and creative and hardworking and to rely on themselves and each other instead of just mom and dad.

I think all those traits have enormous potential to be developed in our kids, but I also think that we could totally undermine it all by taking away the opportunities for them to grow. And that’s something that I think we’re going to try and be more mindful of… I just don’t quite know how yet.

Thoughts?

Chickens and Rainstorms

Halloween night we got a tremendous rainstorm.

Of course, we weren’t  expecting anything more than a bit of drizzle and so were completely unprepared.  I woke up at 4 am and heard the pounding on the roof of the bus (only a couple of feet overhead, which makes it even MORE intense) and was at once delighted and anxious. I love rainstorms, but I started imagining all the car windows unrolled and stacks of library books left outside.

Neither one of those fears turned into reality, but when I went to check on the kids’ room I discovered that their skylight had leaked quite a bit . Thankfully, the water was nowhere near their beds AND they had recently cleaned their room, so he only damage sustained was to a few books in their bookshelf (but we expect them to make a full recovery). I mopped up the water and slid the changing pad under the leak to catch whatever else came down.

The next morning Noah took a bigger tarp up there and covered it completely, so it shouldn’t happen again.

The really strange part, though, is that nowhere else in the bus leaked. That is, of course, a GOOD thing, but if you remember the time it rained before we even moved in, you might recall that there was a leak on our side of the upstairs as well. Several readers commented with great suggestions for ways to repair the leaks and Noah wound up swabbing that entire area on top of the bus with sealant or tar, or something of the sort. Whatever it was, it worked spectacularly and it hasn’t leaked in the rain ever since.

However, it DOES leak when it’s NOT raining.

It’s the strangest thing and we can’t figure it out for the life of us. The only sort-of correlation that we can make is that maybe it has something to do with the heavy, heavy amount of dew we sometimes get here. There is just one point, right past the foot of our bed, that drips dirty, brackish water down at random, unexpected intervals, not every time we have a lot of dew. There’s nothing in that area for the water to soak (unless the covers have fallen off) so it’s not a HUGE deal, but it’s still a perplexing annoyance. We’ve taken to keeping a bowl in the corner of our room to slide under the drips if we wake up and notice it at night.

In sum: Huge rainstorm = dry as a bone. Sunny morning = a large-sized mixing bowl half filled from drips…  sometimes. Any theories?!

In other news: we now have chickens of our own! Our neighbors offered them to us since they kept asking us to take care of them when they were traveling anyway. So, Noah spent the past few weekends building a coop out of scrap wood and chicken-wire to house our six hand-me-down hens (plus one rooster). It’s situated at the end of what will eventually become our lush, fruitful garden… or maybe a goat pen, we’ll see:

chxncoop

We transferred them on Sunday and they seem to have made themselves right at home. At least I think they have… it can be hard to tell with chickens:

chxns

The girls want to name them “Red”, “Reddy”, “Red Crest” and, interestingly enough, “Christmas”. (We’ve also had fishes named “Blacky” and “Whitey” and a cat named “Bitey” – our kids are big on literal names.)

On the baby front: Two weeks to go… and counting down the minutes… 

With regard to the car seat conundrum – we’ve decided to keep the kids as-is for now and I went ahead and ordered the Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat (affiliate link) for the beeblet. We’ll re-evaluate in a year or two, which gives Lily a chance to put on some weight. (Fun fact: UPS delivered the seat right as I was typing that, which is neat.)

I am in the process of washing the baby clothes that I will put in one of these (affiliate link) three-drawer bins (sans wheels); the most convenient place to store said drawers is TBD.

The only to-do list items left are to pack my hospital bag and finally decide on a name in the 50-50 chance it’s a girl (I think it’s a boy, but I ALWAYS think it’s a boy and I’m rarely right). Names are hard!

Other than that, it’s just a waiting game at this point. Lily was induced (after my third trip to the hospital because I couldn’t figure out what real labor felt like), Emmaline was five days early (my water breaking was the tell-tale sign with that one) and Finn was five days late (also induced), so this one is kind of a crapshoot (but I DO know what real labor feels like now).

As for how I’m doing… without going into the gory details, let’s just say that I am very, very ready to be done being pregnant while living in a bus and that the general population at large will be much safer in a few weeks when this is all over with.

If you want to be first in-the-know as to when you can come out of your house without having to worry about this hormonal wreck on the loose, you can follow me on Twitter and I’ll probably remember to make the announcement there first, social-media-wise. Otherwise, I can make no promises about updates post-baby, because, you know… baby. Right?

Halloween Fails

springfieldjackolantern

This is Noah’s jack-o-lantern from a few years back. We didn’t actually get around to carving our own this year.

I had high hopes.

Every year, around July or so, Noah and I sit down and say “we really need to start planning for the holidays NOW so that they’re not so stressful when they come and we can do awesome things with the kids.” And then every year around October we look at each other and ask “Where did we go wrong?!”

This year was pretty much been the same (only, you know, in a bus with a baby on the way). However,  we DID come up with a feasible, affordable and cute idea for costumes relatively early on. I was actually excited last weekend as the girls and I went from shop to shop looking for pieces of their outfits. I even MADE some parts of them, which I am inordinately proud of because any sort of craftiness or creativity in that regard happens so rarely with me.

This burst of craftiness was borne out of necessity, though, because APPARENTLY all they sell costume-wise for kids these days are movie characters and princesses and fairies. Or maybe all the other costumes got nabbed by people who actually did start their holiday planning in July – I don’t know. Last year the girls’ costumes were purchased the night before Halloween for half-off at TJ Maxx because we failed to plan so well (surprise! they were fairy princesses).

At any rate, our plan was to have the kids dress up as animals and then Noah and I would be zoo-keepers. Totes cute, right?

Problem number one: I overestimated the staying power of a full face of two-dollar costume makeup on a 6 year-old with eczema (even worse: her eczema has been so well under control lately that I actually didn’t even take it into account until right this minute while writing this and now I realize why her face has been a bit rashy – it’s not just the changing weather!)

Problem number two: we were rushing around and didn’t wind up taking any decent pictures of us as a family early on. We snapped one of the kids right before trick-or-treating, complete with the RV in the background – totally classy. Emmaline is a fox, Lily is a panda, Finn is a lion… our neighbor back there is a zombie rockstar, I think?:

kidscostumes

Noah: “It kind of looks like an album cover.”

After a bout of trick or treating around our neighborhood – that wound up being much more lucrative candy-wise than I would have anticipated – the plan was to pop over to Noah’s sister’s Halloween party.

Problem number three: Even though it was getting late and we knew it wasn’t going to be geared towards kids, we decided to stop by anyway. She had put a ton of effort into it (for the record, it did turn out AMAZING) and we apparently needed to cram some more Holiday Fun And Memories into the day.

So, here we are with our overtired and cranky children who don’t understand why they’re not allowed to go through the blood-spattered haunted house set up in the garage. They each look unique, special kinds of miserable. By this point I was also over-tired and cranky, though slightly better at hiding it in front of a camera (but look at how well the guest-room decor goes with our costume theme!):

halloween2014

Lily: “You know… I kind of MEANT to look like a zombie panda.” Yes dear, I know.

We are seriously better parents than this on a daily basis, I promise. At this rate, I am setting my expectations very, very low for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In the end, I think we learned that we really just need to plan better… like starting in July.

Building and Baby Update (Plus A Carseat Conundrum)

The other night we signed papers with our new builder and so, like a train starting up from a dead stop, we are chugging along again.

The company we chose is a husband and wife team with four kids. Ten years ago they built their own home and lived in a small trailer with their three children during the process. When they saw the bus they were actually quite impressed – apparently when they were building they had a lot less room and didn’t have a full bath like we do and the youngest children bathed in a large sink. (It’s all about perspective, right?!)

So, they have an idea of what we’re going through and have been very willing to work with us (unlike some others…) Plus, they’re already approved by the bank, so that should avoid any further hiccups in that area. I’m thinking they’ll do just fine.

According to the lender, after we obtain builder’s risk insurance (which is like home insurance during construction) and file paperwork with the company who handles fund control (to make sure all of the money is allocated properly and that we stay on budget during the project), we should be good to go. He’s estimating about two more weeks before we close on the loan, get the first funds released and can start the permit process.

Which means that we will be starting to pay the interest on the loan and the risk insurance, bringing a baby home, plus trying to prep the bus-stead for winter all right around the holidays.

Whew.

In the meantime, the weather is cooling down deliciously and we are making our final preparations for bringing the baby home in about three more weeks. My mom took me out shopping for some staples the other day (PJs, onesies, receiving blankets, diapers, etc.) and I realized just how hard it is to pick things out when you don’t know the gender of the baby! So we picked out a few things in grey and yellow for now and we’ll get more off Craigslist or from hand-me-downs once the little darlin’ arrives.

We have the port-a-crib that Finn was sleeping in packed away for now and he is in one of the big kid beds (the transition went much smoother than I thought it would). A friend gave us an awesome portable bassinet that I’m thinking the beeb will use for at least the first few months, so hopefully by the time the crib is pulled out again he will have completely forgotten about it.

My biggest concern is the ladder to the upper story. As troublesome as it is to have to trek up and down it pregnant, I’m thinking it will be even LESS fun during postpartum recovery. We have the futon that folds out downstairs that we could sleep on, worst case scenario, but it’s not super comfortable and would be a big hassle to take down and remake every day.

As far as carrying the baby up and down the ladder, I don’t think that will be a big deal if s/he is strapped to me in a carrier. As my old carrier is packed away in the very, very, very back of the storage container (in a box inside a bookshelf facing the wall, if I remember correctly) Noah’s mom has kindly ordered me a new one (thank you Claudia!).

I feel like I’ve been saying this about everything for months, but… we’ll just have to see how it goes.

We are also trying to figure out what to do with the car seat situation. All our kids so far are still in five-point harnasses – even Lily at 6 years old. Originally, the plan was to just get a booster for Lily, put Finn in one of the bigger seats and turn his around for the baby. However, the more we look into it, the more convinced we are that switching to a booster at this point would be a pretty big step down in safety – especially since Lily is only 37 lbs (just shy of the “recommended” 40 lb mark) and a backless booster is pretty much just a glorified phone book.

I’ve asked around to the other moms at Lily’s school and pretty much all the other kids are in boosters already (which, whatever, Lily doesn’t know that), so I’m wondering if we’re just over thinking this whole thing. Lily takes after me as far as being petite – in fact, there are definitely times I wish I had a booster seat for my five-foot-nothing self while driving – she might not reach the safety guidelines for height and weight until she’s 12 or something.

Soooo, there are still things that need to be worked out, and some things we’ll just have to wait and see about.

Noah has been working a bajillion hours the past few weeks getting ready for a full dose of paternity leave and I’ve been waddling around with the kidlets doing whatever it is we do all day – mostly schooling and chores and errands and visits to the park it seems like (and yet it’s utterly exhausting).

I’ll have some other updates coming soon – Noah has been building a chicken coop for some chickens our neighbors are giving us, plus some “glamour shots” that he took of the inside of the bus the other night that I thought you all might enjoy once he gussies them up a bit. Also, some pictures of the kids in their costumes tomorrow – we’re dressing them up like passengers on a bus!

Just kidding :)

PS – For those of you who are new here, I updated the FAQ page. For those of you who are not new here, sorry it took me 7 months to do so :/ Any ideas for other questions?!

On Choice

Do you ever think something over in your head and then have to say it out loud to see if it sounds true? I do it to Noah all the time. It’s a good way of testing the waters to see if I’m on the right track with a particular train of thought or if I just sound like an idiot. Usually, I run it by him before potentially embarrassing myself, but in this case I’m trusting you all to let me know if I’m totally off base or if there’s something that I’m missing.

The other day a friend and I were talking and she made a complaint about something pertaining to her house. Jokingly, I compared her situation to ours, something like: “Do you have dispose of your own waste every week? Then count yourself lucky!”

Her response: “Yeah, but you guys are CHOOSING to live like that.”

That pretty much shut me up.

Her comment has stayed with me over the past couple of weeks and I’ve been mulling over what exactly I should take away from it.

At the crux, it implies:

1. We have no right to complain about any of the difficulties about this lifestyle because we could call it quits at any time – sell the land, the bus, etc, and go back to renting a house or an apartment.

2. We shouldn’t compare the inconveniences that we’re voluntarily experiencing to anybody else’s, because they aren’t making the CHOICE to go through theirs.

On the one hand, I agree. I think it would be pretty ridiculous to say that we have it just as hard as someone who is forced into an unconventional living situation due to poverty or hardship. I absolutely think that my whole outlook would be much, much different if it weren’t for the fact that there is an end in sight.

On the other hand, however, I also don’t think there’s any reason NOT to point out the simple conveniences that so many take for granted on a daily basis. My patience for people bemoaning the size of their closet or wishing they could update their perfectly functional kitchen has (understandably, I think) shrunk to an imperceptible amount. Simply because most people, if given the opportunity, would choose to live with MORE conveniences than are already afforded to them doesn’t negate the fact that they are already living with a  LOT of conveniences.

I don’t mean this in a holier-than-thou, martyr-ish sort of way, and I certainly hope to never develop that kind of complex. I’m also NOT trying to justify our “right to complain”, because that would be kind of silly.

I guess all I’m saying is that throughout this whole experience we are cultivating heaps of gratitude for simple things that most other people have without even thinking of them as a luxury, such as abundant electricity, a room with a floor big enough to rough house with the kids on and a regular-sized fridge and freezer.

Yes, we are choosing to go without these things for the sake of pursuing a larger goal - and a big part of that larger goal includes being able to have those exact things and then some – but I don’t see that as taking away from the lessons that we’re currently learning.

Noah pointed out that our choice, essentially, was to build a home for ourselves and that all the rest is because of that. We’re accepting of the fact that if we want the end result, we have to go through the trials to get there. The trials also serve the purpose of building up gratitude, resilience and resourcefulness and have given us a completely different perspective on how we live our lives day-to-day.

There are always tradeoffs. Your family chooses to go into the ministry and so you live in a small apartment off a pastor’s earnings. You choose to cut cable so you can save up to take an awesome vacation. You choose paying cash for an older vehicle over going into debt for a nicer, newer one.

If you get right down to it, the biggest convenience of all is the ability to choose the path we want to take and that’s not something anyone should take for granted.

Quick Clicks

After emails, phone calls, spec reviews, meetings and various other miscellany, we have finally picked a replacement contractor! I’ll post more details next week, but things should FINALLY be getting back on track.

In the meantime, here are some links I think you might enjoy:

-Everything About the Way We Teach Math is Wrong @ Business Insider – “Lockhart begins with a vivid parable in which a musician has a nightmare in which music is taught to children by rote memorization of sheet music and formal rules for manipulating notes. In the nightmare, students never actually listen to music, at least not until advanced college classes or graduate school.”

-Remember Your Reasons @ The Art of Simple – a great reminder for just about anyone on a journey towards a dream or goal who is experiencing a bit of burnout (not that we know ANYTHING about what that is like….)

-This Couple Spent Six Months Eating Garbage @ Good – this made me want to buy every bruised apple and brown banana in the grocery store.

-It’s Like They Know Us @ Tumblr – I just laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed…. and laughed.

Have a mah-vellous weekend!

Band-aid Fixes for Food Storage

This is kind of a behemoth post about how something as basic as food storage becomes ridiculously complicated in an unconventional living situation. I could probably break it up into two posts, but I figure it’s better to just get it all out of the way at once :)

One of the best and most frustrating aspects of this whole bus-dwelling endeavor is the fact that it’s temporary. And by “temporary” what I mean is… that I actually have no idea what I mean by that.

When we first moved in we anticipated being out here at least a year. As of now, it’s been over seven months and I am still telling people when they ask how long we expect to be in this situation “at least another year” (if I’m feeling optimistic).

Aside from the obvious reasons that it’s kind of a frustrating situation to be in, it mostly makes it difficult to plan for things or make longish-term decisions – especially when it comes to improving our personal comfort or saving money.

If we had made the decision to live in the bus permanently, there would be things that we could and would have done when we updated the interior to maximize space, to better suit our lifestyle and to generally make things a lot easier on ourselves. When issues arise currently, we would invest in long-term solutions instead of slapdash “good enough for now” band-aid fixes. This is, I think, a huge part of why we haven’t been able to fully embrace this lifestyle as some others have been able to.

We would replace the current sliding cupboards with something functional, fix our bedroom so we could actually sit up in bed and finish the porch so that the naked sheets of plywood aren’t  covered up with tarps and the roof isn’t just a (borrowed) easy-up tent. We would replace the kitchen faucet with it’s various drips and leaks, install a p-trap under the shower so that we don’t have to cover up the drain to avoid a bad small and fix the fluorescent overhead lights to keep them  from flickering for a solid minute whenever you turn on more than one at a time. Heck, while we were at it we’d install a septic system too!

(Noah read over that list and then looked at me and said “having a rough day?” And I laughed.)

That’s just to name a few. Everything competes for time and money and we have to ask ourselves “can we deal with this as is if it’s not FOREVER?” (Of course, then I start thinking ‘what if it IS forever???’ and I die a little inside, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Then there are the things that we ARE planning to invest money in in order to be able to continue to live out here through the winter – such as putting in a wind turbine in addition to our solar panel to boost our power output when the sun’s rays aren’t as prolific (currently, we try to keep all major electricity – the computer & overhead lights – off on cloudy mornings until the sun comes out again and the batteries recharge).

Anyway, all that to say that our whole food storage situation is a work in progress as we evaluate needs and costs, so don’t judge. I’ve mentioned this issue before (and got some awesome responses – I’ve added powdered milk into our pantry, at least for the kids) and it still continues to be a problem we’re trying to mitigate.

The main issue we have is that the fridge/freezer unit in the bus doesn’t work and we don’t have the foggiest idea what is wrong with it. I’ll go into why it hasn’t been fixed yet in a minute. Also, our solar set-up isn’t powerful enough to run our full-sized fridge.

Originally, when we first started out here we just piled all our food into a cooler for the few days that it took to get the fridge in the RV up and running (via propane). Then, once the RV fridge/freezer was working, we piled all our food in there. Unfortunately, the darn thing kept turning off randomly and without warning and sometimes during really HOT days which resulted in a lot of food spoilage which resulted in a LOT more spending on groceries!

After dealing with that for a few frustrating weeks we eventually decided to go back to using the cooler until we could either figure out what was wrong with the fridge in the RV OR the bus or have someone come out and look at it:

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Noah’s risk assessment of this method: “The only way that something can go wrong is if we forget to buy ice and then we’ll have only ourselves to blame.”

A cooler is obviously not a permanent fix, but we worked with it for quite a while. It was a mother having to buy ice every few days (not to mention that it’s not cheap) and, unless things were sealed PERFECTLY, water would leak into things and ruin them which resulted in a LOT more spending on groceries! (Are you seeing a theme here?)

It was supremely helpful when, a couple months ago, my dad remembered that he had an old mini-fridge sitting around that ran off propane and gave it to us (thanks Pop!). It goes through a 5-gallon propane tank over the course of about 2 weeks and we haven’t had any real issues with it (unless we don’t notice that the propane has gone out, which results in spoilage which results in a LOT more spending on groceries… etc).

It’s not the COLDEST unit in the world, so things like raw meat don’t keep for nearly as long as they do in a normal fridge (and I therefore don’t keep raw meat in there for more than a day before cooking it). It is also super tiny so I can’t store a ton of stuff, but as a TEMPORARY thing, it works. Ish.

To maximize the space in the mini-fridge we are also still using the cooler just to store beverages (mostly milk, because it’s so much better icy cold!). Because we’re only storing tightly sealed things in it we started buying blocks of ice rather than bags, which are cheaper and last longer. Now nothing gets spoiled so it’s not nearly as expensive, plus it allows us to store more than one gallon of milk at a time, which results in LESS trips to the store and LESS spending on groceries! Hooray!

Another thing that we’re in process of doing is storing our full-sized fridge in a neighbor’s garage (we’ve offered to pay them to off-set the additional electricity costs). However, we’re still figuring out how that would work out in practice. It would require a bit more advance planning and inconvenience, plus intrusion into their space whenever we want to fetch something out of the fridge. But it could save us more money on groceries if we’re able to stock up on good deals that need to be frozen or refrigerated.

Of course, another question is why don’t we just fix the fridge in the bus?

For one thing, it’s not THAT much bigger than the mini-fridge we’re using now (although it does have a small freezer as well) and it also runs off propane, so it wouldn’t exactly save us money. Also, it’s a couple hundred dollars to even have someone experienced in RV fridge repairs come out and so much as LOOK at it (not to mention that when I called around every repairman that I spoke with was rude to the point where I thought it must have been some kind of joke, which was very strange).

It all comes back to what’s more effective in this situation for the (if there is grace in heaven above) SHORT-term.

SO. That was a huge amount of words to describe what would normally be a simple problem, and yet, for us, in this situation, is NOT so simple.