Day 39

It’s been quite a week.

 

  • We picked out cabinets.
  • The contractors demolished an old chimney.
  • Plumbing in the kitchen is done.
  • The kitchen radiator got lifted up today, so we can finish the floor.
  • We can see where the lights are going.
  • The electrical is going in this week.
  • The laundry room floor is being rebuilt this week.

So things are moving and that’s an encouragement. Emotionally we’re still doing okay as well, though…

  • My son just learned the word “hate,” and thus I got my first “I hate you” from him, and it was because I wouldn’t give him a juice box. (When I pointed out that saying that over a juice box was a waste he recanted pretty fast.)
  • My husband and I had our first fight about the remodel (though it was more about cleaning responsibilities than the actual remodel).

On the other side of this past week I’m still hopeful and thankful. It’s October, the best month of the year! We might not have an oven, but we’re not going hungry. My husband and I aren’t perfect at loving each other, but we DO love each other. My kids aren’t angels, but they’re growing and learning. And I’m not tired, I’m happy.

That’s a big deal.

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Day 26

Light & Warmth & Order. 

When my husband and I get stressed out in our house, the main reasons are because it’s too dark and too cold and too cluttered. So light and warmth and order have become our decision-making factors for this remodel, and I’m looking forward to seeing how well we do.

Order:

All of the practical issues we have fall inside these three factors. The foundation, for example, is our first issue of “order” while the last will probably be storage space. And now that the foundation problem is fixed we get to move on to stuff that is more fun (and more pretty) like raising/creating the floor and deciding whether to blow out a wall.

Warmth:

When the project is done, our kitchen floor will be insulated, and the kitchen, dining room, and living room will all be at the same level with matching flooring throughout. Ever since we moved in 3 years ago (a month before our daughter was born) we’ve been walking on a seriously cold, seriously marked up subfloor, which our son has dubbed “the sliver floor” for good reason. I remember telling my husband 3 years ago that we had to redo at least the floor before the new baby was 9 months old and started crawling. Well, better late than never.

Light:

Up until this point our dining room has been the darkest room in the house (sporting only one window and even that faces the alleyway), and, consequently, it is the least used room in the house. My husband is what we affectionately call “an outdoor cat” so he naturally wants to be in spaces that have a lot of natural light, so he preferred that we eat on room over in the kitchen (one of the brightest rooms in the house).

To change this up, we’re going to make the doorway double as wide and open up a big “window” or “passthrough” between the two rooms. On the bottom ledge of the window we’ll put a counter top. This we can use to put dinner dishes that we don’t want on the table during meals, or I can use it as a standing desk (finally!). And best of all, the new openings will allow a lot more light to spill into the dining room from the kitchen. So I can’t wait until our contractor starts cutting!

 

Over all, sticking to these three goals has already been really helpful, and I’m sure they will continue to be. Couples tend to fight most about the little things, like door knobs and paint colors, and that’ll probably be us too. But having the goals of light and warmth and order helps me to hold my preferences and opinions loosely. So bring on the paint!

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The new kitchen floor being built.

 

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.)

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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.

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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.

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