Day 18

UPDATE: Apparently we have river running beneath our house, at least when it rains, and so we have to dig a trench around our house to divert it. This could take awhile.

It’s finally caught up with us….

Let’s talk labels for a second. I am an introvert and an Enneagram Type 1 with a touch of social anxiety. Gary is an extrovert, Enneagram Type 7, but with slight agoraphobia. In other words, too many people and too much clutter in enclosed spaces wears us out entirely. On the other hand, on the APEST spiritual gifts test we’re both APEs (with him leaning more on the apostolic/evangelist side and me on the prophetic side), so despite our sensitivity we’re constantly battling with our other need to get stuff done, start things, fix things, host people, and overcrowd the calendar.

Up until this weekend we were doing an okay job of slowing down for the sake of the remodel. We were doing okay with the lack of space and the extra time needed to cook and do dishes. But this weekend we fell pray to our whims of hosting and doing, and come Monday our whole household was a wreck.

This past weekend we:

  • hiked with friends (Gary and the kids)
  • designed a new branding logo pack for a church (Susan)
  • had family movie night
  • hosted a preschooler sleepover
  • hosted a college student sleepover
  • cleaned/turned over the house twice
  • watched the Eagles game
  • helped lead a church service (each of us responsible for multiple elements)
  • hosted 5 extra adults for dinner
  • talked through a public speaking experience with our housemate
  • (not to mention caring for our two preschoolers)

This much stuff is pretty normal for us, or at least it used to be. But this time, after this past weekend, we were all past done. The truth is, we used to have a laundry room/play room that would dampen the noise of 19 hours with extra kids, but not this time. We used to have a dishwasher to fill and run after a dinner with 5 extra adults, but not this time (so Gary did 2 hours of dishes by hand on Monday). We used to have a spare bedroom that was always ready for guests, but not this time.

By Monday, Gary and I and our kids and our housemate all needed naps and quiet and alone time to recoup from the overstimulation of too many people in too small a space for too long. And so now I am finally posting.

Having a small house is great when you’re a small intimate family. It’s great when you don’t over commit your time. It’s great if you don’t host lots of people. It’s great if you’re not highly sensitive to noise. But Gary and I are notorious over-schedulers who have a housemate and love to get a bunch of people together for food and stories (especially when we can control the volume of said stories). So it’s finally happened: I can’t wait to get my big house back.

(P.S. – To the friends we hosted this weekend, we love you, and it’s not your fault we are highly sensitive. We would host you again in a second.)



Days 14 & 15

After this summer of traveling, the kids are used to this arrangement. We’ve now slept in one room in various hotels, airbnbs, timeshares, and relatives’ houses, so they took very little convincing to try it in our own house. (It’s not a bad way to teach your kids to hold their possessions [even their own beds] lightly.)

Our bedroom is on the second floor and next to the bathroom, and I took the kids up there right after dinner. They both lay down in their travel beds immediately and I changed their clothes and brushed their teeth right in bed. I read a couples books, turned on the sound machine, turned off the light, and was out of there. 10 minutes start to finish.

But here’s how it goes normally.

I take them up to the second floor and we stop in the bathroom. They fight over who gets to stand on the step stool to brush their teeth. If Augie wins, I brush his teeth while Rosey brushes hers. If she wins, she brushes her teeth and Augie takes off to who knows where to do something that is of maximum importance only to him. 5 minutes later I get him back into the bathroom and we brush. Meanwhile Rosey makes her way downstairs and back up again only forgetting some vital toy or blanket downstairs. I finish brushing Augie’s teeth and tell him to go upstairs to his bedroom on the third floor while I carry Rosey downstairs (she insists) to get the forgotten item. I then carry her up two flights of stairs, down the hall, and into their room. I lock the door behind me: no escape!

It is now time for jammies. Augie and Rosey have the biggest bedroom in the house so, after I get their day clothes off, they run around like wild beasts, chasing each other in their newly nude freedom while I tell them several times to come back and get their jammies on. Once again, they argue over who goes first until I tackle Rosey because she’s the easiest to subdue. Then I tell Augie that he can sleep naked with no story time and he lets me get him dressed, but he’s “not happy about it.”

Deep breath.

I pick out two books and hope they pass inspection because otherwise Augie will get to the shelf and pick out the longest ones possible. The kids sit in their reading chairs. I read. Rosey then complains that Augie is too close to her even though he hasn’t moved. Augie gets offended at being falsely accused of something and I can’t console either of them because the whole thing is irrational. Finally I scooch their chairs farther apart and I’m able to finish story time and get them into bed.

They have various stalling techniques that they can employ at this point, but let’s say it’s a good night and I get out of there without 5 songs, 4 prayers, 3 sips of water, 2 potty breaks, and a partridge in a pear tree. Let’s say I get out of there with a simple g’night: this whole thing has taken an hour and a half.

In a small house there is much less distance, much less room to run wild, several fewer rooms to entice little interests, several less steps to haul things up and down. In my smaller house I got the kids to bed tonight in 10 minutes.

I’m not complaining.


Days 12 & 13

If you read all these posts you’ll notice that Wednesdays and Thursdays get a combined post. That’s because I have absolutely no time to write on Wednesdays, and I don’t want to kill myself trying.

This post is about foundations, literal ones and metaphorical ones. The main reason why we’re doing this renovation now (instead of waiting until we have more money) is because one corner of our kitchen was literally sinking into the ground. Yes, the kitchen was ugly with stained floors and rickety, second-hand cabinets, and yes, we get bathroom blocked constantly with 5 people and 1 toilet, but we were surviving just fine. We don’t feel entitled to nice things just because we’re…us. But every time Rosey would drop a pea at dinner and it would roll downhill across the entire kitchen I distinctly got Numbers 16:32 stuck in my head, and I didn’t feel like making headlines as the modern day people who got “swallowed up by the mouth of the earth with all their household and all their possessions.”

So now that our contractors have the place gutted they’ve spent the past couple days starting to bolster the part of the foundation that was broken. It’ll take some framing and some concrete and some hard work that doesn’t do a thing to help the ugliness of the place, but it’s integral work; there’s no art, no beauty, no mastery or completion without a solid, rudimentary foundation. And this goes for construction as well as the arts, sports, education, and even faith.

This past Sunday at church our musicians gave out apple slices to everyone as a nod to Rosh Hashanah and how Jews all over the world were celebrating their New Year by eating apples dipped in honey, quoting Psalm 34 saying, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” I gave my almost-5-year-old son his slice. He ate a small piece and then gave it back, saying that he didn’t like it. But he also said, “don’t worry, Mom, my little bite reminded me of God.”

My son’s a particular fellow. Much like his grandfather who orders plain hamburgers (meat and bread only) at all restaurants whether he’s in Philadelphia, Helsinki, or Tokyo, my son is going to have to deal with a lot of things in life that he doesn’t like. My hope is that his growing up days are laying a foundation of understanding and appreciation, even if he doesn’t like Rosh Hashanah apples, and even if it’s going to take a while before our kitchen is pretty.


Day 11

Our gutted laundry room has an exterior door, so we’ve been taking our laundry out our front door, down the side alley, and into the laundry room from the outside. I’ve been calling it “our own personal laundromat.”

Other than the obvious hassle and the awkwardness of parading our dirty laundry outside, the only other inconvenience is that there’s no lighting in the room anymore. This is no big deal as long as we’re doing laundry during the day. But more often I don’t get to it until after dark, and then the whole thing feels like a horror film.

I grab my basket and a flashlight and head out the front door. It’s raining, of course, so I keep my head down and try to hurry. The alleyway gate screeches as I walk between walls of brick. I open the laundry room and, when I enter, my shoes make prints in the dust on the floor. All is still and silent. Crossing the room I put the flashlight down on the washing machine and set the laundry basket on the floor. I load the washing machine with clothes and soap and turn it on, its touch screen bathing the whole room in an eerie green glow. Then I grab the flashlight and I turn to leave but stop short; the plastic wall to my right ripples but there’s no wind. I shine my flashlight at it but no one’s there. When a floorboard creaks with no one to step on it, I bolt for the door, leaving the laundry basket where it lies. As I close the door behind me I almost feel invisible hands close their grip on the space I had just occupied, and I run through the rain to my front door, promising myself that my husband will be kind enough to put the laundry in the drier.


Day 10

We had a friend couple over for dinner last night, even though all we have to cook with is our makeshift kitchen. It was refreshing! We made vegan chili in the crock pot and washed all the prep dishes before our guests arrived so we could just enjoy conversation late into the evening. This was the first time they’d seen our house since the start of the renovation, and both of them commented with enthusiasm about our smaller space and all the neat systems we’ve put in place to make it functional (Laura is an event planner and decorator and Andrew is a cook, so affirmation from them felt good).

My affinity for having a smaller house hasn’t waned yet. I’m sure it still could, but so far I’m really enjoying it. When we bought this house we were hosting dinners, meetings, and other events at home several times a week, so having a big house with lots of nooks and crannies for people to melt into was attractive.

But having people over for dinner slowed down when our second kid was born. Hosting meetings went out the window last year when our church got an official office space. And now our church isn’t meeting in homes anymore (at least for now) so most of the time our house seems way too big for us.

As such, I’ll confess that I’m a little nervous I’ll miss the smaller house when this project is over. But let’s not go overboard on that. I know it’ll be nice to have a downstairs bathroom. It’ll be wonderful to get a kitchen sink back (two in fact, if I get my way). And I can’t wait, especially at this time of year, to get my oven back (pies, cinnamon rolls, acorn squash, apple crisp, etc.). So since we don’t plan to move anytime soon, we’ll just have to combat the tiny-house nostalgia by inviting lots of people over on a regular basis. Anyone want to come for dinner?!

(P.S. – Every year around this time [ever since I was pregnant with Augie] I get a horrible case of hives. I don’t have a clue what I’m apparently allergic to, but whatever it is comes out in September and makes my life miserable. Ahhhh! I just want to scratch my skin off! Why this is relevant is because I’m taking a lot of Benedryl, so if this post doesn’t make any sense, blame it on the drugs.)


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