Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beyond Here There Be Dragons

Where I could spend hours, literally hours, roaming the aisles at hardware stores and home improvement warehouses, my husband is a get what you came for and get out kind of shopper.  Most of the time that is fine with me.  Sometimes there is something specific we need to purchase, but I'll want his opinion first.  I'll drag him to the aisle and point out a handful of options after I've already spent time narrowing it down.  He'll point to one and the decision is made.  It is a pretty slick system and has worked well for us over the years.

Now we are beginning the pre-selecting phase of our house building process.  I have anticipated this all year and I am looking forward to seeing if all of my ideas can form a perfect union.  Justin, on the other hand, hasn't spent hours researching countertops or hardware.  After all of our years together and our many, many home improvement projects, we know each other's tastes pretty well.  We've developed a system of united decision making (any couple who can agree on the first and middle names of seven children has got to be good at that!) and feel like we're ready to tackle this next big phase together.

Last week, I warned him that on at least one of his days off for the foreseeable future, we will be shopping.  I warned him because he doesn't like shopping and he hates surprises.  Once he has his head wrapped around something (and it is on his To Do list) he is all about getting it done. And because it is a house that he has long anticipated, he is actually excited.

Yesterday was the day to decide on exterior siding materials.  Sometimes the internet is helpful and sometimes it just causes confusion.  After all of my hours of research on the matter, I had no idea if fir, fiber cement board (Hardie), aluminum siding, or cedar would be the best choice for our area and budget.  Each forum contradicted the other to the point that I was utterly confounded.

We decided to go to some local building supply centers to ask the bearded guys with callused hands.

A few hours and many, many questions later, guess what?!  We have a plan!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Someday House Update

So many of you are interested in our house planning and building process.  It has been forever since we started the process and we are still months away from digging a hole.  Not to despair, however, because we are (finally) moving right along.

After our initial meeting with our architect, we had some financial surprises that forced us to wait to begin planning in earnest until September.  We got our first drawings in October and started working out kinks throughout November.  We paused movement during the month of December because I felt like I needed to "live" with the plans for a while before making final decisions.

We didn't change a ton of things from the original drawings John rendered.  There were a few major moves, like the stairs, but mostly it was tiny tweaking to satisfy my tastes.  (Okay, most of it was pet peeves I've had to live with over the years and refuse to build into a new house--things such as being about to see the sink full of dishes from the front door, too narrow spaces making me constantly have bruised hips, or dark and dreary laundry rooms.  If we get to plan things, I'm going to nudge a wall this way a bit, put a window in here, or stretch that hallway a smidge.)

January was spent exchanging emails.  I am notorious for taking forever to make a decision, then second guessing forever.  I have REALLY tried to be decisive and to then put that decision behind me.  Oh, man, that is hard for me!  Justin and I have been married long enough that we pretty much know each other's tastes and have a good system of making united decisions.  (I mean, any two people who can agree on the names of seven children definitely have practice in that arena!)

We now have floor plans and elevations of our Someday House.  I have been carrying them around everywhere.  Justin even warned that the paper was going to disintegrate in my hand if I didn't put them down sometimes.  :)  I'm so pleased with them.  The house does not look like The Seven Dwarfs Cottage.  John sketched me a house that looked that way, but in the end it was too dang expensive.  The final plans represent several compromises (no fireplace in my bedroom--so sad), but we would rather have made some compromises and have the funds to leave it sometimes!  I'd hate to spend so much on the house that we could never go on vacation!

So, no, it doesn't look like it would fit in in Fantasy Land, but they are still beautiful and efficient.

I'd love to post the plans here, but that somehow feels illegal . . . or unprofessional . . . or something.

You can imagine how excited I was when John mentioned in a recent email that it was time to choose siding and begin choosing other materials (roofing, doors and windows) over the next couple of weeks.  Over the next couple of months we get to begin picking flooring, banisters, finish colors, and so on.  Guess what I've been filling my insomniac hours with!

Mud room floor?  Good for snow and mud.

Master bathroom floor.
Stair railing.
Possible exterior finishes.

  Hooray!  It is coming along!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Moment's Folly

I have been reading books and trying to educate myself about the next steps in the building process.  While there are bright spots, it began to seem like the entire process was one of trying not to get robbed (by the contractor, the plumber, the lumber yard, etc.).  It also began to feel like it was likely that we would be nickle and dimed until we had doubled our budget and we wouldn't be able to afford the home we built.  On top of those threats, my trailer is causing me extreme frustration these days.  Not only is it small, but things are breaking all over the place (all the shelves in the freezer, one of the elements on my stove, the toilet, the kitchen outlets, the constantly foggy windows).  I had a severe case of cold feet and began to think buying an already finished house with enough bedrooms to house everyone, including the new baby, would be a better option.  I plopped myself down in front of the computer and began searching.

Most of the houses for sale were not appealing to me, for one reason or another, and I refused to look for houses with fewer than four or five bedrooms.  
This is what I found:

Look at the awesome vertical orange glazed tile and the galley-style hood cover.  Amazing!

Lava rock fireplace in the sunken living room--complete with 70's beams!  I'm in love already.

Pass-through peninsula cabinets and a fireplace in the breakfast area.

Then it starts getting really good.  Original green shag carpet and more wood paneling that anyone could hope for!

Yes, even a wet bar.

I knew we had to see the property.  My husband is about the most nostalgic man on planet Earth and this is his dream home.  I contacted the realtor and made an appointment.  Once we were inside, we could hardly believe how perfectly this time capsule had been kept.  It was an estate contract and it was the same couple who had built and owned it for the past 40 + years.  They were careful housekeepers, to be sure.

Just LOOK at this laundry room.  My heart squealed when I saw the same linoleum that my parents had in their 70's house (though long-since replaced, in their case).

A sunken tub in the master bath.  Also, carpet in the master bath.

Orange mosaic tiles over the peach bathtub in another bathroom.

Wrought iron and bad wallpaper throughout.

One of my favorite features of the home was the red library with this massive, old chandelier.  Oh, my gosh.  

But, the coup de grac was in a hidden corner of the basement.  
Yes, it is.  A sauna!

We fell in love with this house!  You cannot find this kind of perfectly preserved history unless it is recreated for a movie.  While I loved it, Justin was in fits of ecstasy.  He ran and yelled out in delight at each new discovery.  It was everything he dreams about!

However, the back yard was very small, it overlooked the noisy freeway, the oven in the kitchen was too small to cook even a 12 pound turkey and the average winter heating bill was over $500 each moth.  

In the end, it was the wrong choice for us, but, man alive, were we tempted.

Fast forward a few days and I am holding our house plans in my hands.  I expressed our worries to our architect and he carefully reassured us.  It will be a big project and will certainly include some high-stress days, but we will make it.

But, isn't that a great house?!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Catching Up

I thought that since I had a big pity party post a few days ago, I ought to give you an update.

It is Wednesday and I am working dutifully through my hefty list.

  1. We presented at our Science Fair (thanks to a tip from Jenna).  The youngest did not have a presentation since it was a bit more than I could handle and the child with the failed project explained that sometimes in science, things don't work.  She also explained what she would do differently next time.
  2. I wrote all of my Thank You notes and even made it to the Post Office for stamps.
  3. Speaking of Post Office, I also compiled all of Isaac's forgotten items and mailed it.  I am thrilled with myself.
  4. My mother got the same gift for her birthday that she got last year: I brushed her hair, then bumped it up a notch by also rubbing her feet.  Why change what isn't broken?  So, Mother Dear?  You'll probably be getting that birthday gift for the rest of your years.  Thank you for being gracious about it.  :)
  5. Our trailer is still suffering from several major maladies, but our architect sent us our mostly finished elevations and floor plans yesterday.  Suddenly every crappy thing about this trailer is temporary again.  I can handle anything if I get that beautiful kitchen, that lovely two-headed shower and a new toilet that won't sink into the floor.
I still have some major things to work on, but at least my list is getting smaller.  It never goes away because new things creep up, but some weeks are harder than others.  Thank you for the support and kind words.  Oh, boy, do they help!

While earlier in the week I felt like this:

Today, I'm feeling a bit more like this:

I will probably still crash and burn with at least some of my duties, but at least I have determination and hope to keep me going.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Do you ever feel like you're just not doing it?  Like everything that is supposed to be happening under your watch is slipping?  I feel like that lately.  Here is a list of my overwhelmedness:

  1. I have not written one Thank You note for Christmas or my birthday (two weeks ago).  I am an avid Thank You Note writer and feel super guilty for not getting it done.
  2. This coming Tuesday is a Science Fair for our little home school group.  One child has done a large chunk of a pretty cool project.  Another really tried, but it totally failed.  The two other girls have ideas, but need help to put it together.  Having never been to a science fair, I don't what is expected and as their teacher, I should know that.  I have known about this for months.  Typical.
  3. I visit teach four single mothers who all are needing an extra amount of tender love and care right now.  Two are expecting in March.  I'm doing pretty much nothing to help them.
  4. On Saturday we are having a Primary Activity to kick off the theme for the year: I Am a Child of God.    I have a semi-major role to play and haven't prepared one lick of it.  We will have nearly 100 children (age 3-11) participating.
  5. Sunday is Ward Conference and I have Sharing Time for Primary.  Shouldn't be a big deal, but I know all of the Stake leadership will be there to witness me try unsuccessfully to wrangle our huge, boisterous group into reverent worship.
  6. Isaac accidentally left a few things home after his long Christmas holiday.  I have to remember to go to the post office this week and that is a difficult errand for me to remember.  Always has been.  I don't know why.
  7. Tuesday is my mother's birthday.  What do you get for a woman who has everything she needs?  Last year I brushed her hair for an hour.  
  8. Our toilet is slowly sinking into the bathroom floor.  I am pregnant so I need to use the restroom a lot. Luckily, I am pregnant and can't fit under the trailer so my husband will have to handle this one.  (Even though he will be the actual laborer, it is still causing me stress.)
  9. Speaking of major problems with our trailer, two outlets in the kitchen suddenly stopped working.  The breakers are all where they are supposed to be.  Does this mean rodents are chewing their way into our house or is there a major wiring problem that will make my house burst into flame in the middle of a frigid January night?  We'll need to discover the answers in the next day or two.
This is the stuff that is coming up.  It doesn't include all of the other ways I am failing in my duties as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, disciple, accountant, and neighbor.  Let's not even mention blogging!

So, what am I doing right?  Well, my kids are happy and they love each other.  I made dinner every single night last week--not one whatever you can find meal.  I'm growing a baby and have done better with taking care of my body.  Ummmm, that's about it.  Really. I'm like Wile E. Coyote when he runs off a cliff and his feet keep pedaling, but he is about to plummet to the desert floor below.  

There is nothing on my list that anyone else can take over for me.  I need to gird my loins and get to work.  

Deep Breath.  Teeth Grit.  Prayer Offered.

Here we go . . . . .

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Random Memory

True story:  When I was a young girl, my mother somehow obtained a black faux fur toilet seat cover.  You know, those fuzzy toilet lid covers that everyone had in the 80's.  I'm not sure where it came from or where she got it, but I do know that she never used it for our toilet.

Mine wasn't zebra, it was shiny black mink.
I found it and knew, just knew, that it was a real fur bolero   I counted myself pretty lucky to have found such a luxe garment!  It was very fancy and even though the arm holes were in strange places (two holes between the fabric and the elastic), I still felt elegant as I pranced around the neighborhood in my mink.

So my question tonight, as this random memory pops into my brain, is for my mother.  Why did you let me wear that?  Didn't you notice your daughter was garishly flitting about the neighborhood in a toilet lid cover?  Ohhh, noo!  You did notice and you thought it was funny!  You stood at the sink washing dishes and looking out at the window with a big ol' smile on your face because that child is the strangest thing.

After all, that's probably what I would do if my daughter was wearing a "mink" toilet lid cover.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Aging/Pregnant Again

I am officially 36 years old.  While that may not be old old, I am definitely older.  I am also almost in my seventh month of pregnancy with my seventh child.  While that isn't as many as some amazing women, it feels like a lot right about now.

Not as old as Sarah and Abraham, but feeling like it.
I recently admitted to myself that I don't feel good.  Not depressed or sick to my stomach or any easily definable not-feeling-good.  When pressed, I suppose I would say I don't feel strong.  I'm having too many late pregnancy symptoms (separating pelvis, waddle walking, breathlessness, getting out of bed creakiness)  too early in the process.

This realization forced me to analyze the situation and helped me come to some conclusions.  In the past 18 months or so I have had some significant lifestyle changes.  First, we moved from the city to the country.  Where I used to walk everywhere (bank, post office, church, parks, etc.), I now have to drive.  While I work physically harder in the summer, mostly gardening, the winter provides much less opportunity for physical labor.  Second, I moved into a single level home.  I'm not running up and down stairs all day hauling laundry baskets.  And third, my children are getting older and don't require me to carry them and all of their stuff around.

The lifestyle that used to keep me reasonably fit has been abandoned.  I realized that I can longer rely on my every day activities to keep me in shape.

Do you think Sarah practiced prenatal yoga?  I'm going to have to check out ancient Mesopotamian workouts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Sweetheart

First day of Pharmacy School 2008
My sweetheart isn't tall, doesn't really know much about cars and will probably never be on the cover of anything.  He doesn't follow NASCAR or the NFL.  He can't dance and won't sing.  He doesn't own a tool belt or cowboy hat, has never been on a set of skis, and hasn't driven a tractor.  Many people would label this a list of mandatory manly attributes, but do you know what?  I've got something every woman who writes to Dear Abby dreams about.  Let me tell you about the man at my side.

My sweetheart loves God, studies His word and strives to live it.  
That sentence alone trumps any other--ever.
He takes his role as protector of his family very seriously and focuses that effort on making sure our home is a safe place; a haven from the world.

He gets up early every day and goes to work.  
When he was in school, he got up early to study.  Even when it is dark or cold and there is a soft, warm woman in his bed, he gets up.  He gets to work early and gives his employer an honest day's worth of work.  He doesn't fool around on Facebook or send endless texts while on the clock.  He works hard to understand his craft and continues to go the extra mile to make sure that he is the best at his profession that he possibly can be.

My husband comes home.  
When he isn't working or completing a church assignment, he is home.  Home is not always restful, quiet or clean.  Dinner is not always on the table after work and his wife is not always in a happy, gentle mood.  I'm sure there are days where he sits in the car and takes a deep breath to steel himself for what might greet him; he still comes in the door.  

He actively participates in the lives of his children.
There aren't many people who have the patience to play board games with children, but he does.  He has gospel discussions with them and makes sure they understand doctrine.  He teaches them about the world and talks to them like the intelligent creatures they are, never dumbs it down but challenges them to rise up.  He is funny and entertains the children with oddball stories and adventures.  (I've even been told not to try to tell stories because I don't do it nearly as well as Dad.)  He gets excited about the little bumps and kicks now coming from our unborn child and looks forward to the wonderful perks of having a newborn.

My man listens to me.
Believe me, this has to be exhausting!  I can be full of hot air or spit and vinegar.  I can be completely backwards in my thinking, frustrated with our children or the world, or stuck on a topic he is sick of discussing.  BUT, he always listens.  He is compassionate and kind as he just listens or tries to straighten me out, whichever is needed.

He doesn't adhere to stereotypical roles.  
He helps with dishes, changes baby diapers, and even helps puts tights on wiggly little girls.  Our relationship is definitely one of help meet.  He doesn't leave me stranded with all of the hard stuff.  He'll make me a cup of cocoa, throw in a load of laundry or clean out the car because he sees it needs to be done.

And so, while my husband may have no idea what to do with a horse, how to glide me around a dance floor or fix a broke down car, he is so much more manly than many men that can do those things.

I love you, my dear friend and companion.  Thank you for being who you are.  I lucked out.

At the Redwoods on our Grand Celebration vacation.  2012.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Snow Cream

When I was a little girl, every once in a while we would get a huge snow.  When that happened, we could always count on the treat of all treats:  Snow Cream.

My mother made it for me just like her mother made it for her . . . and so on for generations.
Talk about a time honored dessert!

You can only make snow cream after a huge snow because the first few inches clears out the sky, then you need several more inches to gather.  Today we had a huge snow.

 I've been watching the picnic table and knew no child or dog had contaminated the snow.  I tromped through the nearly knee deep snow and scooped up a great big bowl full.

Then I brought it inside.  Cheering promptly ensued because there is no reason in the universe, other than snow cream, that mother might bring a big bowl of snow into her kitchen.

I added about 3/4 cup of sugar . . .

and about a pint of cream.

I poured a couple of teaspoons of vanilla into the cream before I poured it on the snow.  It just helps to spread the love.

Voila!  The ultimate winter treat!  It has the light consistency of snow with the sweet creaminess of ice cream.

I think the rarity of it makes it better.
You seriously have to try it after your next big snow.