Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Trap

So, here’s the thing: every time I start thinking about a post in my head I start it with those words. I’ve never actually used them, but I am just going to go with it today and we’ll see what happens.

So. This thing.

So, the thing is.

So the thing is this: I fell into a trap.

I knew it was coming and I tried really hard to avoid it, but I stepped right into it regardless of all my mental preparation.

I fell into the trap of believing that having a Thing would solve all of my problems.

When we were living in the bus everything was difficult. Even just getting out of bed involved remembering not to smack my head on the ceiling when sitting up and then climbing down a ladder either pregnant or holding a baby. It was difficult to keep things clean when leaving a jacket out on the couch made the entire room look messy, difficult to cook in a tiny space, difficult to even bring groceries home because it involved unloading half of them at our fridge at our neighbor’s house across the street.

Under the circumstances, it was pretty easy for me to start believing that once we got into the house, all of the problems would be gone and things would be all awesome all the time.

And then we got into the house. And it was amazing! It was big and beautiful and brand new and it had a big, beautiful, brand new kitchen with a dishwasher.

My life should have been officially perfect from that moment on.

Except, you know, it wasn’t.

Remember how I compared building a house to being pregnant?

Well, if building a house is like being pregnant, then what I went through was a bout of post-partum depression.

A few weeks after we moved in, after all the initial amazement had died down and reality had started to set in, I realized that I was really not as Happy as I should, by all means and rights, have been.

Here I was, after all the waiting and planning and expectation, standing in the middle of our very own home. The home that we had watched rise from the ground and had walked through every single day since it was just a pad of concrete. That we had documented and written about and looked forward to for years now.

And all I felt was overwhelmed.

I felt overwhelmed by its size. Having gone from a thousand square foot rental into a four-hundred square foot bus, a twenty-two-hundred square foot house with ten-foot high ceilings on both stories seemed like a behemoth. And I was now charged with the responsibility of keeping it clean with four kids running around. I suddenly had baseboards whose existence I needed to be aware of in order to dust them at appropriate intervals, not to mention ceiling fans that would require a ladder to reach.

I felt overwhelmed by trying to decorate it. All I could see was big, blank walls that needed big (and therefore expensive) artwork to fill them, twenty-four windows to buy curtains and shades for (seriously expensive), we definitely needed new couches because the old ones had been destroyed in storage, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the whole rug situation. Apparently they’re a thing.

I felt overwhelmed with the expenses. Property taxes, filling the propane tank, the electric bill – even though I knew these things were coming and we had money saved to cover them, it was still a bit shocking to watch so much money pouring from our bank account all of a sudden.

I started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning because I knew that all that was ahead of me was cleaning and trying to keep the kids from sitting on the cupboard doors in the kitchen (as an aside: what the heck is with kids and wanting to use cupboard doors as chairs? I actually broke a cupboard door doing this as a kid. Is it just because it’s a convenient height? I’m thinking about installing spikes along the tops of all of them.  See also: using the drawer handles as a ladder.)

When people would ask “do you just LOVE your house?” I would say “YES! But, it’s a LOT to take care of…” and I would feel guilty for not being able to just gush about all the good things. I started to feel like maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew and that it was wrong for us to have gone down this path.

It sounds super spoiled and whiney and awful for me to feel the way I did after everything we’d been through, and I KNEW it! I could not figure out what the heck was wrong with me. This was what we’d wanted, after all, and worked for and put up with two record summers living in an uninsulated school bus for. And yet there it was: I sometimes (not always, but sometimes) wanted to throw my beautiful new house out the window.

I didn’t, obviously. I mean, maybe I would have if I could have lifted it up, but it’s pretty heavy.

But I also don’t feel the same way that I did before. Or at least not to the same extent.  And it’s not because I suddenly figured out a cleaning schedule and so everything is spotless. I still don’t have curtains or new couches (but I do have two dining room tables right now, for some reason. I am seriously bad at this interior decorating thing) and bills are ever present.

What changed is this: we started opening up our home on a regular basis to a small group from church. Every couple of weeks we have several families over for a potluck and just to hang out. That’s it.

You would think that it would be counter-intuitive when I feel lame about my house to invite a bunch of people to come over, but for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  I really look forward to having everyone over and getting things ready. There’s a purpose to it.

The kids run around like a pack of happy animals and the adults get the chance to sit around the table and talk. I get to watch the house that we built be a gathering place for new friendships and conversation. After the first one we had, Lily said it was one of the best days of her entire life.

The thing that changed is that our home is being used for more than just us, which was the goal in the first place. Nobody sits there and stares at my blank walls and asks me when the heck I’m going to put something on them. Everybody is much too busy talking and laughing and chasing after kids to bother judging the rugless living room.

Or maybe they are secretly judging me, but the important point is that I’M not concerned about what my house looks like because I know that it is being useful.

It’s a small step in the right direction, but it’s important for me to remember that when my focus is off of myself and more on others, it’s a lot harder to be discontent.

On Maintaining My Sanity Over the Last Decade

In less than two weeks I turn 30.

Starting a new year as well as a new decade of my life has me in a rather reflective mood.

In the past ten years Noah and I have gotten married, moved six times, had four children, been unemployed, worked nights, been on WIC, racked up and paid off debt, started homeschooling, lived in a bus and built a house, in addition to other personal periods of challenge and growth.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

It’s been a very… turbulent period of time for us and I don’t think that it’s quite how most people of my generation spend their twenties.

I’m hopeful that this next year (and decade!) brings a lot more stability and time to regroup and allows us to be more intentional with our time rather than simply putting out fires and reacting to situations as they occur. Looking back, it seems like it’s been ten years of almost sheer survival mode. But, hey – we survived! And the times when I was clinging to the precipice of sanity with barely the tips of my fingers, I was usually brought back from the edge by one of these three things:

1. My marriage. The state of my marriage affects every single other aspect of my life and if our foundation is strong, then we are pretty much unbeatable. We have gone through lots of unpleasant situations over the past decade, but I mean it when I say that I would rather face the worst with Noah than have the “best” with anybody else.

2. A strong support system. We are extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who care for and invest in our family. Our extended family, friends and neighbors have prayed for us, spent time with us, and helped us when we needed it. Having a strong support system in place is a privilege that many people don’t have and I am very grateful.

3. Faith. It is sometimes difficult for me to write about my beliefs in a serious and public way, but I can’t leave out the fact that there have been so many times over the past ten years where the only credit that can be given as to why things didn’t go horrifically wrong or why I didn’t lose my ever loving mind is simply due to the grace of a loving God. My relationship with God has definitely evolved and changed and grown since I was twenty. I have learned a lot more about what it means to me to be a Christian – as well as what it definitely does NOT mean – and I am still working out (with fear and trembling) how that relationship should be lived out in the real world with real people. Going through this process while raising four small children has been humbling, to say the least.

On that note, I am not sure whether or not I’ll be continuing to blog in the coming year. As much as I enjoy it, it is time consuming and expensive if I continue to pay for self-hosting, so there will probably be some kind of change occurring in the following month or so as I decide whether to switch over to a free hosting site, which would make a lot more sense for me at this point. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Have a lovely 2017.

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Our neighbor took this picture after one of the last rainstorms!

On Suddenly Living in a Big House With Lots of Stuff

Well, hello there!

It’s been a while.

We have just been over here… hanging out… taking huge gulps of normalcy.

We’ve been doing normal people things that we either couldn’t or chose not to do while living in the bus.

The girls are participating in activities like choir and soccer and ballet:

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We got a Costco membership  (the savings on milk alone are enough to cover the cost of joining – this is about two weeks’ worth):

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I’ve actually been putting some effort into our homeschooling now that we have the space to really stretch out:

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It’s been, for the most part, really, really nice.

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See how relaxed we look?

I know that after living for two years in a tiny space with a dearth of all sorts of things I’m supposed to have gleaned a better perspective on how our copious amount of belongings actually trap us into a mindset of consumerism and complicate our daily lives more than we realize.

I know.

But you guys, after living for two years in a tiny space with a dearth of all sorts of things, I have actually come to realize that I will probably never be the minimalist that I thought I would. I like stuff just a little bit more than I thought I did, sorry.

What I am feeling overwhelmed with, at this point, isn’t so much the amount of stuff that we have so much as the amount of space.

Twenty-two hundred square feet is a BIG jump from four hundred. Even before the bus, we hadn’t lived in anything bigger than one thousand square feet. I could vacuum our entire last rental from one plug and there weren’t any ceiling fans to dust.

Now, I’m starting to realize that when you have things like “baseboards” and “multiple bathrooms” and “a staircase” you have also keep those things clean. Otherwise you start to live in squalor and people judge you. And there’s probably some health and safety concerns in there somewhere too.

Quite frankly, friends, it’s kind of overwhelming. I feel like we might have bitten off a bit more than we could chew at this point in our lives. We have an acre and a half of land and a large house to maintain, plus four kids who are absolutely determined to undo all of our work. Between cleaning and cooking and homeschooling and running errands I feel frazzled and tired more than I would prefer. And a lot of those feelings stem from trying to keep this brand new house from being destroyed.

Since we moved in 6 months ago:

-the top lid of the powder room toilet has been dropped and cracked

-someone had scribbled all over the side of the white bathroom vanity with purple marker that I can’t get off

-irremovable superglue has been spilled on the kitchen counter

-the fireclay farmhouse sink that I love has been chipped in two places (thankfully, we were able to call in the warranty and get a replacement that is sitting in the garage until this one is officially ruined in the years to come)

-the laundry room flooded and leaked into the kitchen and wrecked part of the flooring

-the front of the house and porches have been colored on with with chalk, crayon, markers, mud and paint

I could go on.

And you know what? A lot of these things happened while I was trying to clean some other part of the house.

Here’s the thing: when I was younger, I read a lot of great books that included great mothers and idyllic households (not that there was anything missing from my own mother or household, these were just *perfect* ones). My two favorites were Marmee from Little Women and Anne Shirley when she grows up and has her own children in Anne of Ingleside. (Affiliate links).

I wanted to be  just like them: loving and kind and caring and to have a tidy, put-together home filled with warmth and love and laughter and grace. Sure, there would be some busyness and chaos, but it would be fun and the “little scrapes” my children would get into would simply cause me to roll my eyes to the heavens and laugh. Hahahaha!

It wasn’t until recently, as an adult that I made the connection that both Marmee and Anne had housekeepers! They weren’t doing everything themselves – all the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the errands, the schooling – they had help! Not to mention, Marmee had all girls, which counts for quite a bit.

In any case, all I’m saying is that from now on, the only thing I’m asking for my birthday or Christmas or Valentine’s day or Memorial Day or St. Patrick’s Day is a house cleaning service.

That’s all.

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

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

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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-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.

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-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.

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And a bed that’s not a futon.

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And my entire kitchen!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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):

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Sigh.

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:

stockings

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

rain

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:

floors

We transformed this Ikea delivery:

ikea1

into an almost-finished kitchen:

kitchen2

kitchen

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

stairs

and interior doors:

frenchdoors

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???

carscratch

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:

steamroller

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

drivewaydone

It is enormous.

parking

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!

housesidingfront

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.

paintsamples

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.

girlspaintcolor

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

tilesamples

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.

drywall

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!

drywall3

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.

drywall2

Kitchen

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.

drywall4

Bedroom

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.