Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the Middle of the Night

I used to think that once I weaned my last baby, I'd be sleeping soundly though the night.

Well, he's been weaned for several months now, and here I am, at three o'clock in the morning, typing a blog post.  About three or four nights a week I find myself wide awake, here in the middle of the night.

It happens this way:  If I go to bed last of everyone, I lock the doors, make sure everyone is covered up and snug in their beds, and turn off all of the lights.  I'm usually freezing by this time, so I wear my warmest flannel nightgown to bed and cuddle in with my husband and the two year old who still doesn't have a bedroom (you don't want to hear that story).  Sometime in the night, I wake up broiling and thirsty.  I get out of bed, strip off the flannel nightgown that has gone from cozy to steamy, go get a drink of cold water, go back to bed and lay there. Eyes open in the blackness.  Bored out of my mind.  Running through every reason that I need to sleep because the next day's activities require that I am rested.

If, however, I am first to bed, I awake hours later in a panic because one of my children is in danger.  I burst out of bed, race frantically around the house checking first on the children, then the doors.  Nearly every time, at least one child isn't in their own bed--they decided to have a sleepover with a sister, they've built a fort and are sleeping there, she fell asleep on the couch, etc.  Those middle-of-the-night searches are the worst because I can't always find them right away!  My imagination runs wild . . . and not in a good way.

In addition, since losing our baby four years ago, I can't be contented with just looking in on the children, no I have to put my hand under their noses to wait for their hot breath.  It is a little broken thing in me that will probably never go away.

Now that I've located the children and confirmed that they are all safe, my heart is pounding and my adrenaline is pumping.  If I have a good book I'm reading, I'll sometimes read for a while.  I'll sometimes blog or research an upcoming class I'm teaching.  I'll sometimes run a load of laundry.  If there are Lucky Charms or Golden Grahams in my kitchen, I'll have a bowl of cereal.  I'm going to be awake for a couple of hours, anyway.

My parent's tell me that their insomnia started after the children were mostly raised.  I'm really, really hoping that my body decides on the opposite.  I'd love to consistently sleep through the night.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Mudroom

You don't have to be a parent for very long to discover that people come with a lot of gear. From strollers and baby packs to school bags and sports equipment to wallets, important mail and keys, we have stuff.  That stuff comes and goes daily, hourly, even by the minute . . . if there's a snow storm and you're three and you WANT to play in the snow . . . but your hands get cold so you come in . . . but then the big kids are still out there and you can see them having so much fun . . . so you HAVE to go play . . . until your boot fills with snow . . . repeat until Mom is exhausted and she tricks you into taking a nap by filling you with warm cocoa and reading sleepy stories.

Wait.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Gear.  We all have it and we all need a place to put it.  We also live in an all-four-seasons-in-one-day climate which boasts dust, pine needles, snow, leaves, dirt, rain water, and, well, mud.  Therefore, a mudroom!

The driveway comes right to this back door, so it is the family entrance.  It is a quick shot through to the kitchen for easy grocery drop-off.  Right inside the door, you find, ta-da! a drinking fountain!  We have noticed a rapid decline of single-sip "dirty" cups in the kitchen sink.  When we are hot and thirsty, no tramping through the house in muddy/wet/snowy shoes.  Someday I plan to make prettier, wooden steps that encase the plumbing, but this works for now.

Behind the door is our large white board. Handy and useful.
Just inside is the laundry room.
Notice the laundry is convenient to, but not a part of the mudroom.
The laundry room has a door making it separate from the mudroom and entry.

Let's be truthful, laundry rooms come with stacks and piles and no one wants to come home to that!
On the other hand, if you are dirty, best clean up there before tromping all over.

On one side of the room, there are four "cubbies."  I probably should have come up with a more sophisticated name.  Alas, cubby is all I could come up with on the spot one day and that will be their name henceforth and forever.
Above the drinking fountain is a picture of President Thomas S. Monson 
and an excerpt from his most recent address.  

On the other side is three more cubbies.  
Nearly everyone gets their own, though I share with the young boy.  
We share lots of stuff.

On the end, across from the drinking fountain, is the Secretary.  
She is a most beautiful thing!
I know she seems cluttered, but I promise she isn't disorganized.
I tacked cork onto the wall like a back-splash, the calendar hangs on one side, and
bills to be paid, filed, or in some other way need my action are filed in their appropriate places.

The phone charger is always plugged in, so cell phones and tablets are charged here.
If anyone needs a permission slip, business card, phone number, birthday invite, coupon or other miscellaneous piece of paperwork, it can be found here.

There is even an actual phone,
with an actual cord,
that cannot get lost,
or run out of batteries,
or get cutoff during an emergency when cell signals are overloaded.
Also, I can hold it on my shoulder making it possible to talk and work.

Opposite the laundry room door and right through the mudroom, 
is a powder room.  
Easy access from the outside and from the main living areas of the house.

No guest will have to guess which door is the magic door.
I love my little brass signs.

The flooring is charcoal slate and I picked it up from Lowe's.  It is 12" x 24" which made it rather difficult to set, but means less grout.  This one side of the house is laundry, mudroom, powder room and master bathroom in a row. I set the tiles so the lines are continuous, without thresholds at the doors.
So far, it has been easy to keep up, even with all of our construction mess.

There you have it!
Once again, it isn't an overly large area, but it was carefully laid out and is highly functional.

Guess what.  There is not one single, solitary stack of papers anywhere in my kitchen.

Wall paint:  Sherwin-Williams Panda Bear
Back door paint: Sherwin-Williams Backdrop
Flooring:  Galvano Glazed Porcelain Charcoal Tile, staggered by a third
Cabinetry: Quarter-sawn white oak, custom stain
Trim and doors: Hemlock, custom stain
Drinking fountain: Kohler, purchased used off ebay
Hardware: Brainerd Champagne Bronze
Brass Men & Women Signs: Amazon

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dad Date

All summer long, my dad has been trying to get me to go camping with him.

Good morning, empty lake in the middle of paradise!
I love my dad.
I love camping.
It's just that, when you are the captain of an army, the boss of the land, 
the event coordinator for the group home, 
you can't pick up and leave very easily.
I had to keep telling him no.
Finally, this past weekend, when he invited me once again, I had no good reason to not go.
My family rallied and sent me on my way.
Our first stop was the grocery store, which was an hilarious experience in and of itself.
Dad doesn't buy generic things and I'm used to buying by the truckload.
Also, Dad hates the idea of getting out into the middle of nowhere 
and wishing he had a particular type of food.
The total came to $147 . . . for three meals . . . for two people.

He made me steak and I nearly cried.  
Do you know how often I get steak?
It is too expensive for me, but a daddy spoils his daughter when he can.

We watched a campy western while we ate our dinner
because that's the kind of movie I watch with my dad.

After dinner, we needed something sweet.
"How did we spend $147 and not get any cookies?!" Dad pouted.
Not a sweet treat in the house.

And it WAS a house!
My dad isn't one for sitting around on vacations, so as a child, any time we went camping, the only way we could get to our destination was if we had a pack on our backs.  Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall, we hiked or skied into the back woods to get away, literally, from it all.
Now, this old dude camps in a house!
It was the easiest tent setup ever.  No broken tent poles, no forgotten sleeping pads, no roots digging into our backs, not even a tiny, one-burner stove to take 9 years to heat up our dinner!
He's gettin' soft, I tell ya'.

After our feast (wherein Dad did eat a pile of vegetables, Mom), we walked down to the lake.
It was still and clean and open.
It is a small lake, so noisy watercraft are not allowed.
I could feel my soul rejuvenating.

I slept awfully comfortably in a bed and the next morning,
Dad made his specialty:
Eggs, sausage, mushrooms, green onion, and cheese all mixed up together
with raisin toast on the side.

Clean up was quick and easy in his sink! and we were off, back  to the water.

We paddled around the perimeter of the clear, deep lake.  
The temperature was that of a perfect September day.

We have so many lakes in our area that water property isn't always unreasonably priced.  That means many of our lakes are built up with fancy or enormous lake houses.  You don't see many of the lake cabins anymore, the A-frame, one-two room types, that is.  This particular lake had only those types.  I loved coasting along the shore, looking deep into the woods to spy the mossy roofs, the pine-needle covered decks and the secluded fire rings.

That is me, a ways ahead.  
For the record, paddling a kayak on a perfectly still lake is not difficult, whether you are 62 or 38.  
He could have kept up if he had wanted to!

In fact, he did eventually catch up and we moseyed our way back to the truck.
It was a restful, enjoyable 18 hours or so.

Thank you for your persistence, Dad. Thank you for finally getting me out there.
I loved it.
I love you.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The School Cabinet

There are new changes to our place every day.  
Today we'll feature a fun place I'm calling the School Cabinet.

As you know, we home school the children, so supplies such as pencils, crayons, notebooks, glue and so forth are needed on a regular basis.  I've always had a school cabinet and it was sufficient, but there were a few small changes that would make a big difference if integrated into the cabinet.  

Here it is:

Since the supplies would need to be accessed often, we put it in a highly trafficked hallway, across from the library.  Being in this very visible space meant everyone would see it, pretty much the moment they step into the house.  I decided on an armoire type built-in.  This is the view from the library and it shows how the arches of the library and front door are mimicked on the trim above the school cabinet.

The doors were supposed to be a beaded glass, but someone made a mistake.
At moments like this in the building process, I just close my eyes and chant,
"It's just a house, it's just house."
Because, you know what?  It is.
And it's fine.

Inside the cabinet doors are the school supplies.  Lots of tubs filled with markers, water colors, scissors, and etc.  It is about as tidy as the rest: tidy enough. ;)

Below the doors are three drawers, each divided in the middle.  
Each of the six children are assigned to a drawer.
Here they keep notebooks, text books, assignments, favorite pencils (and, oh, boy, do they have those!) and other sundries that belong to that specific child.
In addition to the drawers, but not specific to the cabinet, everyone has a color for the year.  It usually changes every year, though I think the youngest but one will always have pink.  
It is her favorite in the universe.  
The colors help me to keep track of whose is what.  
Green notebook or purple scissors or royal blue folder left out?  
I know the culprit. 

The school cabinet has made a big difference in keeping our school days organized and smooth.  
No one has to search for anything and there is a place for everything.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Not a Magazine

I had something odd occur yesterday.  After I took a hundred pictures of my kitchen and posted them here for the world to see, out of the clear blue sky, I was not thrilled with my kitchen.  I was baffled by this feeling because I AM thrilled with my kitchen.  After analyzing all day, because that's how I do (my poor husband), I realized the problem: My pictures didn't do the place justice and the pictures that I posted made the kitchen seem less than what it is.

Isn't that bizarre?  We spend so much time on Pinterest or Houzz or flipping through (studying, in my case) pictures in House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens and This Old House that those pictures become the vision in our heads.  I think this is how white kitchens have become so popular--they absolutely shine on a glossy page.  My kitchen, overflowing with natural light, which makes it hard to photograph with a crappy camera, came across as orange, the gorgeous grain of the quarter-sawn oak was lost in the digital transition, the warm golden tones of the hardware was colorless, and the perfect gray of the island looked flat and bland.

In addition, I had no team of current and fashionable stagers to set out gallons of magnificent flowers, perfectly ripe and color coordinated fruits, or fresh, crisp, and probably European linens.  No, no. I actually had a dirty pot in the sink that I had to carefully angle my lens so as not to capture. That HAD to have been easier than washing it.  And even though I vowed we wouldn't have junk on the fridge in the new house, there isn't another convenient place to hang scriptures we are memorizing or rewards charts for the resident school children.

I feel kind of like when I took one of my daughters to her first fine art museum.  I had forgotten to warn her about all of the nakedness.  After her astonishment wore off, I invited her to notice that the women who were  portrayed as goddesses were soft and voluptuous; their breasts were a normal size, their eyes were not carefully painted, even their hands and feet didn't always look dainty and thin.  Not one of the women in those fine art museums looked like 11 year old boys because, historically, the women who were considered beautiful looked like real women, unaltered by false means.

We are aware of the unnatural physical expectations put upon us by the media.  Some of us don't care at all, some of us care a whole lot, and I think most of us fall somewhere in between.  I think it helps that we are aware of it and can work through it in our own way.

Maybe we need to be more aware of that same deception going on about our homes.  Wide angle lenses change perception.  Professional photographers spend years perfecting angles, lighting and set-up.  Christmas is staged in February to capture the perfect snowfall.  We begin to think our homes are not good enough because they don't look like the pictures, when, in actuality, the homes pictured in the magazines don't look that way either!  If an editor wants to smooth all wrinkles off a 50 year old woman's face, you bet your bottom dollar they're going to alter a room to be more editorial on their pages.

Like any woman who has a life of joy evidenced by the smile lines around her eyes, I have good things happening with the scriptures tacked to my fridge.  My belly is soft and saggy because I've born seven Gifts of Creation, just as my sink has dirty dishes because we've been loving our work space.

Now that I've labeled the weird reaction to my own post, I can shrug it off and celebrate my textured woods, my touchable counters, my vintage-feel light fixtures and my otherwise perfect-for-me kitchen. I don't have time for this tomfoolery.

We have cookies memories to make.

My Kitchen

Today is the day, the day for which you've all been waiting.
Today, I will show you my kitchen!

Cooking in this place has been such an absolute delight!
Of course, there is a learning curve with every new appliance, and that has been true here.
I have burned a couple of things because everything cooks so much faster.
Whereas in my old kitchen, a pot of water for pasta could take 15-20 minutes to come to a boil,
it boils in about 2 minutes on my induction cooktop.
I used to start my water first, then start the sauce. Now I wait until my sauce is all done and is simmering before I'll even fill my water pot.

This kitchen was designed in my head over years and many kitchens.  I knew I didn't want a sprawling room so if I was cooking alone, I wouldn't have to hike from the sink to the fridge to the stove.  However, I wanted it to also function equally well with a number of cooks.  Most of my meals are cooked from scratch which points to specific needs.  In addition, I'm a free-range parent, so I need the kitchen to function for small people, just as well as for adults. If they can't make some of their own meals, I'm done for.

I tried to let the cabinets be the star of the show.
They are quarter-sawn white oak and display God's gorgeous handiwork.
He loves us.

Enough with the words.

My big sink, centered on a forested view.
Dishwasher and everyday dishes are to the right because we're right handed.
The counter is a black leathered or honed granite.  It is so soft.  
Everyone who comes over stands and strokes my granite, haha!
The kitchen faucet is Arbor by Moen with a side spray.
(I've seen too many pull-down faucets with the sprayer dangling helplessly
after some spring-action part inside the faucet broke.)
Our black sink is a composite granite and I'm so glad there was this option.  
I couldn't afford a white apron-front sink and didn't want stainless--
I don't like the way stainless sinks sound.  Is that petty?  Probably.
The shelves next to the sink were a big hold-up.  They finally came yesterday,
which got my everyday dishes off the counter!
It will take some fiddling to get the dishes arranged in just the right way.
Boy, oh, boy were they worth the wait!  2" thick slabs of white oak, with a natural edge.
They are quaint and cottagy and really finished off the kitchen.
I wish I had a better camera because none of the wood in my kitchen is orange. Ug.
You can see some of the knots here.
White subway tile with gray grout throughout.
No busy backsplash to distract the eye from the pretty wood.
Here are the induction cooktop and the hood.
Like I said, this baby cooks fast.
Tied for first in favorite qualities of an appliance, though, is its cleanup ease.
Because it uses magnetism to heat only the pan, nothing cooks to the glass surface!
I had a glass top electric range once that I loved,
but I was constantly battling the burnt ring around the electric burners.
This just wipes clean, even after greasy or tomato sauce splatters.
I am enjoying the double ovens, but I'm enjoying the eye-level height of the upper oven more!
It is so easy to spy on dinner when it is right in front of your face!
Once again,
GE appliances in Slate.
Smart storage above the double ovens. LOVE.
The island is painted Backdrop Gray by Sherwin-Williams.
All of the hardware is a dull brass called Champagne Bronze.
I love the gold with the gray!
One of the best parts of the kitchen is inside the island.
Dry goods bins!
50 pounds of flour and it glides open with no effort.
Flour, sugar, rice and oats fill the bins, each with a Plexiglas cover.
The little countertop containers are cute,
but when you're cooking for eight, they are worthless.

The island is covered with a large slab of maple butcherblock.
Every cottage needs a lot of natural elements, wood and rock, don't you think?
Antique brass schoolhouse pendants with milkglass shades light the kitchen.
There you have it.  It isn't large, but it is highly functional. I tried to keep the look simple and streamlined, without becoming contemporary (wouldn't jive with a woodland cottage).  I don't know if I achieved all of my goals, but my kitchen is everything I hoped it would be.

Monday, September 14, 2015

First Day of School

Our oldest daughter, Eliza, is a freshman this year.  She loves music; she plays the piano beautifully and is learning the electric bass and the ukulele.  She has been asking forever if she could learn to play the drums.

"Not in my house"

I know.  I'm cruel.  I destroy childhood dreams.

She decided to go around me.  For the first time ever, I have a child attending actual, brick-and-mortar, not-in-my-house school.  Eliza is going to the neighborhood high school for band.  She is the only girl on the drum line.  She walked into that building without the least idea how to play drums (or any of the other percussion instruments, save piano) and she is learning it!  Bravery, is what that is called.

In an unfortunate turn of events, I couldn't take her to school for her first day.  Her brother dropped her off.  I emphasized that I wanted a first day of school picture because I've never, ever in my 16+ years of parenting, had one of those.  They nearly forgot, but remembered at the last moment and snagged this hurried, but sweet picture of my girl.

I'm probably going to get in trouble for posting it, and maybe it is just my mother's heart speaking, but I can't get over her face.  You guys, she is seriously such a good girl.  How did the Lord ever see fit to bless me with her?  What a joy, raising this noble and strong soul!

And enjoy making the banging, clashing, clanging noise somewhere besides here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Some people call this the "Terrible Twos."  
I don't know how anyone could think this is terrible!

Our two year old charms us on a regular basis.
I cannot get over his desire for independence;
his mindset that he is "not a baby."

The other day, I caught him reading the comics while he ate his breakfast cereal.
The superman hat is a delightful bonus.

He is best buddies in the world with his big sister. 
She takes such care with him, always making sure he is included and safe when playing with the big kids.

Justin is teaching science this year.  Everyone requested chemistry, so chemistry it is!
He called the children into the mudroom, where we have the large whiteboard, for a lecture.
Our two year old, in his Superman cape, sat right down with them, ready to learn.

So, yes, he climbs on things, dumps out things, writes on things, still wears diapers, can be obstinate, and cries and whines when he doesn't get his way.

That doesn't make it terrible, it makes it textured, varied, and rewarding.

I love me a two year old.
Especially a superhero one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Tarp

We have a small utility trailer.

My dad was a trucker for many years, despite that fact (or maybe because of it--easier to do on his own), I never learned how to maneuver utility trailers.
I've shared horrible stories about me learning how to back up a trailer.
It has been an ugly saga.
But now, I have to boast, I can back up my little trailer pretty straight most of the time
without bawling.
In fact, I wouldn't mind hauling the trailer anymore,
except for the tarp.

All of the loads to anywhere must be covered.  Our trailer didn't have any loops or hooks to catch bungee cords or ropes so the tarp was constantly coming loose.  We usually had to stop for a re-adjust at least once on the way to the dump.
So, I took one tiny portion of a morning and solved the problem.
I drilled holes and inserted hook bolts on all sides of the trailer.

Then, I picked up a cheap pack of smaller bungees from Harbor Freight and 
all of the sudden, my life is all ease and comfort.

Why didn't I do that sooner?!