7.30.2014

It's July, almost August. FYI.

I feel I must start almost every blog post with the requisite, "sorry it's been so long, I've been so busy, blah, blah, blah," but you've heard it before.

So here we are almost two-thirds of the way through 2014 and I still feel like it's just beginning. Like we just celebrated Christmas and moved into the new (old) house. But my baby will turn one next week and my mind is just... blown.

I had grand intentions of being one of those on-the-ball, picture-taking, picture-posting, progress-documenting kind of bloggers in regards to our new house and property.  But the truth is, this home renovation hasn't been pretty. Or progressing. We finished the bathroom except for base and door trim. It's lovely. It's the only thing that's lovely, though. I intend to post pictures once we get the trim up. So look for those next July. The rest of the place is kind of a disaster.

We decided that instead of starting on the major addition right away, we'd install an above ground pool to help keep us entertained during these hot summer months.  But to try and keep it from looking TOO tacky, we thought it would be a good idea to install the above-ground-pool slightly below grade and later add a deck all the way around it. To install the pool so that it's level with our current deck means digging a giant shallow hole and leveling it for the install. Easy right? Yeah, we'll be swimming by next weekend!  HAHAHAHAHA! The hole is dug, but leveling it hasn't happened. The pool is sitting in two huge boxes on the side of the house and there is a GINORMOUS hole right outside my back door. So, no swimming just yet. Here's a video of what we hope it will one day look like:

Also, instead of starting on the major addition right away, we thought it'd be fun to get a few chickens. We've been telling RW that we'd get them for, like, two years, so when I found a coop I liked on craigslist we jumped on it. I was thinking 4-5 hens for eggs would suffice.  Well the coop I found happened to come with 14 hens a big red rooster.  Now, in addition to a giant hole in my backyard, there are also giant chicken turds everywhere.  We do, however, have an endless supply of eggs. The hens are pretty fun. The rooster, unsuprisingly, is a jerk.  I've named him Pornstache. He may end up in the soup pot sooner than later.



Also, instead of starting the major addition right away, we're making adjustments to the plans and it's hard to settle on exactly what we want. It's more difficult than designing a custom home because we're tied to the work we've already done and we have to live here during the construction process.

So, say it with me now: "Instead of starting the major addition right away we ________." I think the minor renovation and move were both so stressful that we're deliberately procrastinating because the next step is going to be utterly ridiculously messy and stressful and unfun. But we're starting to trip over each other in this confined space and that will only get worse as the boys get bigger. Suck it up, Dana!

I guess I felt an update (or a vent) was warranted. Maybe even a few pictures. I read others' blogs and they're like, "Look at my cute outfit!" or "I updated this awesome thriftstore find and it looks perfect in my adorable house!" or "Look at this gorgeous baby shower I threw for my best friend!" or "We just got back from this amazing vacation!" or "My husband bought me a BMW for my birthday!" and I'm like, "Well, I dug a hole and stepped in chicken shit!"

I'm trying to embrace the simple life, I really am! But it's so haaaard sometimes. Sometimes I long for more space, less dirt and a garage to park in. I will say this, though: spring was bucolic. Before the heat and the droves of mosquitoes and chiggers (did I mention the chiggers?) there were frolicking fawns and ceremonious wild turkeys to entertain us almost everyday. RW has become quite keen on bird watching. We've yet to see the elusive Golden-cheeked Warbler, but we have spotted a pair of painted buntings and my-oh-my are they lovely. I'll just have to think of them next time I feel disparaged about our lack of progress on the actual house. Until next time!


show-offs

a cardinal and the painted bunting

2.04.2014

It's Ours.


The good, the bad and the ugly.  It's officially ours!  We closed on the dirt last Friday; the dirt that just so happens to have a little shack on it.  The property is quite lovely, with some old oak trees, a wet-weather creek, and a cleared field that I will heretofore call "the meadow" because it sounds nicer.


The house has the tiniest bit of potential and we are the tiniest bit not swimming in money, so the plan is to renovate/add-on to make it suitable for our little family.

The afternoon after we closed, we went out to hang around and run around and just be around the place and get a better feel for it. Husband worked from a bedroom for an hour (YAY for cell phone service), and the boys and I roamed around the meadow, opened dusty blinds and perused the piles of junk left behind be the previous owner. We hadn't brought any tools, food, or chairs for that matter, so our visit was pretty short-lived.

The next day we came more prepared. We had a trailer with some appliances and tools on it. RW wanted to push the button on the gate opener when we pulled up. Fine. He pushed it once, it started to open. He didn't see it opening, so he pushed it again. It stopped. He pushed it again, it started to close. Gate was getting confused. "Stop," I said. "Just push it once and wait." For the record, he opens the garage all the time, so I thought he'd make the connection that the gate and the garage door openers operate similarly. Nope. Finally the button was pushed at the appropriate moment and the gate slowly swung open. We were mostly through it when Chris looked into the rearview mirror and asked, "Did you push the button again!?!?" because the gate was closing. Onto the trailer. Gate was getting torn off its hinges by the trailer. Kid was realizing his mistake and starting to cry. Adventure was beginning.

After getting into the house and calming the distraught kiddo, I decided to vacuum the carpet so I could put the baby down. The carpet hadn't been vacuumed in, well, ever. In addition to a cubic foot of dust, I also sucked up five (!) scorpion carcasses. I'm not particularly afraid of bugs. In fact, I kind of like most of them, but the scorpions made me shudder. Writing about the scorpions just made me shudder. Guess I'll have to get used to 'em, huh?

Okay, so the gate has been ripped off the hinges, the scorpion carcasses have been vacuumed up. What's a girl to do next?  Scrape popcorn ceiling, of course!  I decided the popcorn texture needed to be taken care of right away, because it's such a messy job.  I only got to a closet and a bathroom, but it was so satisfying to see results.  After spraying and scraping the popcorn ceiling into a gloppy pile on the floor of those two small rooms, Chris came in with a utility knife and started pulling up carpet (no, I hadn't vacuumed it). He called it a "carpet taco." The place is looking better already!


Rip the entry gate off its hinges? Check.
Suck up dead scorpions? Check.
Make "carpet tacos" with popcorn ceiling filling?  Check.
The fun has only just begun.

Update on the gate:  It's been repaired!

1.30.2014

The Calm Before the Renovation Storm

So, if you know me, you know I've been-there-done-that in terms of renovations.  The first home I ever bought was in New Orleans, post-Katrina, gutted down to the studs.  We bought some siding, windows, sub-floors and a roof, basically.  It took us (with a TON of help from my father-in-law) the better part of ten months to "finish" that house.  Although, if you've done any sort of remodeling or renovations of your own, you know that finished is a relative term.  We moved into our New Orleans house as soon as there was drywall and a working sink/toilet.

younger, blond-ish, chubbier me putting glass back into EVERY SINGLE original window pane... by hand.

When we moved to Texas, I was pregnant with our first son and I was adamant about not moving into a fixer-upper.  I wanted everything done so I could focus on the most important thing in my life, so we moved into a very nice, very big, very new house.  It has served us well.  We've made it our home, and even squeezed in some projects over the last four years.  I've brought home two babies to this house and celebrated first Christmases and hosted boisterously loud and loving family gatherings.  It has been fulfilling and full.

But we've got the itch.  We really wanted to stay close to our current location because we've made great friends here, the schools are top-notch, it's conveniently located and RW goes to an amazing preschool.  So we were lucky to find this next project house, I think.

We've found a place that we hope will allow us to be closer (it's a 1200sf house) and more spread out (on 13.5 acres).  Chris can collect old rusty cars without the HOA sending us hate mail.  The boys can hunt for fossils and learn how to climb trees.  I will teach them how to identify birds and I will ring a dinner bell and the dog will walk through long grass and we will all bask in the quiet sun and drink chocolate milk and wine in the shade of the oak trees.

I went to the walk-through today and stepped out on to the somewhat derelict porch and you know what I heard?  Nothing.  It was so peaceful.  I looked up the hill and saw trees and sky and it was really really nice.  I know there will be things I won't like about living more rurally.  The grass is never that much greener, but I'm excited about this change and I'm trying to use that excitement as momentum to get me through the whole moving phase, which I DESPISE.

The house will need a lot of work and a pretty substantial addition to make it functional for us.  If things go as planned (and if we are able to get some flippin' internet service) I'll be documenting our progress here.  As a teaser, here's some of the loveliness we'll be having to deal with; note the popcorn ceilings, wheaty wallpaper, stunning chandelier and the blue laminate back splash.  Awesome.

Here we go!  Weeeee!

(Incidentally, while double-checking to make sure "rurally" is actually a word, I ran across this blog and I like it: www.rurallyscrewed.com)

1.23.2014

Small Living

As I mentioned earlier this month, my family is toying with the idea of a move.  The logistics are still being worked out, but we're pretty close.  It's exciting and scary, just like any new thing.  As I wrap my head around the idea of four people living in a much smaller space, I am occasionally stumped, occasionally overcome by claustrophobia, and occasionally exhilarated.  I find a lot of inspiration seeing how other families live in small spaces.  Here is a stellar example of small living by a family of four.  I found the full album on houzz.com.



Isn't it gorgeous?  The two children share the only "bedroom" and the parents sleep in the loft above those bookshelves.  Cray-cray!  The space looks totally comforting and livable, though, don't you think?

1.20.2014

"Stupid me."


My four year old and I were playing with playdoh one evening last week, one of the few quiet activities my son seems to enjoy (hallelujah!).  I enjoy it too, so it's something we do together on the regular.

Midway through our dough session it was dinner time, so we nudged the dough aside to make room for Eggplant Punjabi over Basmati rice.  So worldly!  So sophisticated!  So ready-made from Trader Joe's!  RW enjoyed the rice.  The punjabi?  Not so much.  There was even a discussion of the similarity between the words punjabi and, well, that other word four year olds seem to be drawn to.  Poop.  The word is poop!  

Once sufficient amounts of rice had been consumed, we cleared our plates and went back to sculpting masterpieces.  RW rolled out some dough and asked for my approval. "Mom, does this look good?"  

"Yes," I responded.  "But it looks like you've got a little rice on it."  Three of four pieces of rice from our dinner had lodged themselves into his creation.  We were in such a hurry to keep playing we neglected to wipe down the table, okay?  I pointed out the rice in a merely observational manner.  But his response floored me.

"Stupid me."

My heart broke a little.  He said it a little playfully, but the words stung.  We're pretty careful not to use the word "stupid" in this house.  Mostly it's because I can't stand the thought of a kid responding to every suggestion with the whiny refrain, "That's stoooopid!"  Also because it can be very hurtful.  In situations like this one, we try to make light and say things like, "That's so silly!"  In a more serious situation, we refer to "bad decisions" and "better choices."  Not "stupid." 

I want so much to protect my children from bad things: intolerance, cruelty, abuse.  But I also want to protect them from themselves.  Self criticism is an important and useful skill.  Self loathing, though.  That's a whole different animal.  I know, I know, "stupid me" is far from self loathing.  However, it's the first time I've heard my kid say something potentially hurtful about himself.  I discussed it with my husband and we agreed that the reason it's a hard pill to swallow is because it's just one of many losses of innocence that we as parents will witness in the coming years.

With each one of these little epiphanies, I gain a whole new level of respect for my parents, well, for any parents.  Watching your sweetest creation grow up is so bittersweet.  Milton wrote, "innocence, once lost, can never be regained."  A heartbreaking truth. 

In a recent article in New York magazine, Jennifer Senior (the irony of this surname will momentarily strike you) analyzes the tension that arises between parents and children during the adolescent years.  The article (an excerpt from an upcoming book) addresses many interesting statistics and anecdotes about parents, puberty, and the biological implication of "adolescence."  She cites Adam Phillips' writing that "happiness is unfair thing to ask of a child," and Dr. Spock observing that "raising happy children is an elusive aim compared to the more concrete aims of parenting in the past: creating children competent in certain kinds of work [and] creating morally responsible citizens."

Chris and I are always saying, "We just want our kids to be happy.  We don't care if they become doctors or go to Harvard or graduate at the top of their classes."  And while the sentiment is sincere, Senior's article made me stop and think about the implications of telling everyone (including our kids) that we want them to be happy.  That's a pretty hard goal to reach sometimes.  Maybe even harder than, say, getting into an Ivy League School?

So, in lieu of wanting my children to be happy, what should I want for them?  A loaded question.

I want my children to feel confident that whatever emotion they feel is okay, that it's human to feel.  I want my children to know that they are loved unconditionally.  I want my children to experience happiness, not seek to attain it.    




1.16.2014

Hack.

I've documented the cutting of my own hair before.  Each time I do it though, I feel proud of my moxie and compelled to share.  So, here is the latest home-hair-cutting result.  It had gotten really long, which I enjoyed, except for that whole post-partum hair loss thing.  When you're losing several hundred hairs a day and they are all 15 inches long, it's gross.  It's like there's a miniature tourniquet waiting on every chair, every tile, on every sweater; waiting to wrap itself around your finger or your baby's chubby little hand, or land sneakily on your lunch plate.  Like I said, gross.

It was time for a chop.  I didn't take pictures of the whole process, just the before and after.  I took off about four inches and added some long layers.  So far, I'm loving how much easier it is to wash, style, and clean (when I say clean, I'm referring to the floor).  And yes, I put on make-up for the "after" picture.   

If you've got the nerve, I highly suggest cutting your own hair.  It's satisfying on many levels, particularly the frugality level.  And like they always say, "It's hair.  It'll grow back." 

1.06.2014

Happy 2014!

I keep picking up magazines around the house and thinking, "Wow, how did we already get an issue for March of this year!?"  Moments later it occurs to me that it's not 2013 anymore and that the magazine I'm looking at is, in fact, almost a year old.  Which brings up another interesting point; why do I have so many old magazines sitting around my house and what can I do about them?  I feel bad about throwing away a magazine that I haven't truly read.  It's like, a lot of people put a lot of effort into writing those words and taking those pictures and editing those pages, I should at least read some of the magazine.  I spend most of my down time doing really important things.  You know, checking for updates on facebook and instagram, playing Ruzzle, shopping online for things I don't need.  I've been toying with the idea of a technology fast for a while now, but I've been unable to commit.

Seemingly unrelated, my husband and I are thinking of moving the family a few miles down the road to a tiny house on almost 14 acres. (We are currently in a large house in a subdivision.)  The thought of moving to a MUCH smaller space has forced me to think about downsizing and (cringing at the buzzword) minimizing.  Such is my nature, I've been doing lots and lots of research about minimalism, and not a lot of actual minimizing.  Admittedly, even writing this blog post is a way for me to put off the task just a little longer.  To give myself a little credit, I have started a garage sale pile in the dining room.  I have found a lot of inspiration from Joshua Becker over on his blog, Becoming Minimalist.  One of his posts addresses the idea of "unplugging," and he says that he trys to unplug for 40 days out of the year, but not necessarily consecutively.  That sounds a little more managable and not nearly as daunting as a "technology fast," so I'm going to give it a try.  A few days here, a weekend there, and 40 days will add up pretty quickly.



As we get closer to the actual process of downsizing and moving, I keep thinking, "WHY are we doing this?  We're so comfortable here!"  Then I remember the ever popular quote, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." I feel physically ill for a second, and I image myself jumping off a cliff, not to end my life, but to literally take the plunge.  You know the feeling you get when you're falling?  Think of the first time you jumped off the highdive or the jerking sensation you sometimes feel as you fall asleep.  Yeah, that.  That's how I feel right now.

There will be some documentation of our journey on this blog.  A pretty extensive remodel is in the plans.  The elimination of so much stuff and the possible addition of some chickens will make up the first half of my 2014.  Here's hoping the rumors are true, that "A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there."