Thursday, November 04, 2010

oh, the things we can learn from our children

Our house is a wonderful, drafty, old house.


I feel a lot like George Bailey from "It's A Wonderful Life" since we've been living here.


It was two months ago, today, that our moving truck from California arrived.


And over the past two months, we've done a lot of work to this house. In short order, we've painted the dining room (twice), we've also painted the living room, hallway and boys' bedroom. We've bought the paint for our bedroom and the girls' bedroom. We plan to get those rooms finished over the next week, and then, go back and finish all of the trim and baseboards within the next month. We've replaced almost all of the outlets, switches and lighting.

Although we'd planned to tackle it first, thus far, we haven't done anything with the basement. Except throw an exorbitant amount of things down there and then gasp at how disastrous it looks whenever we stroll through, dropping off even more stuff.


In addition to painting, over the past two months we have also:


Had our two fireplaces and chimney repaired.


Removed several large trees.


Re-wired much of our electricity.


Had several drains roto-rooted.

And last week, we had a radon mitigation system installed. This topic will eventually be a separate post in and of itself, because radon - that colorless, odorless, invisible, carcinogenic gas? It's a lot more prevalent than you might realize.

Suffice it to say, we have spent a lot of money on home improvement, but most of the money has gone in to safety measures. Which are typically things you can't exactly see.


This past week, we vented the laundry room. That topic, is also, a separate blog post in and of itself because golly gee, the laundry room? I see such potential but it has such a long way to go. I'm very excited to post pictures of the non-dry walled, fiberglass exposed laundry room and share the story of how in the time it took Charlie to secure a vent line from the dryer to the outdoors, we had birds flying in through the 5-inch hole.

That's right, Internet.



That very same day, our electrician found "nesting material" in the ceiling of our garage, as he was snaking new electric lines. Nesting material that might belong to some species of mouse, rat, or to quote the electrician, "Sqrl."

Which I take to mean, "Squirrel."


You mean we might have SQUIRRELS in our WALLS?

I guess that explains the gnawing we sometimes hear at night.


In relative comparison to this house, our house in San Diego was pristine. Everything was new. Everything was shiny and pretty. Everything was reliable.

Our house in San Diego was done.

This house is far from done. And because we're not willing to bury ourselves up to our eyeballs in debt, it won't be done for a while. Despite that, everyday, I try to remind myself that this house is such a blessing to our family. Not only because it affords us the space to grow, which it appears are children are doing a little more of each day, but it is forcing Charlie and I to be patient. (FYI: Patience is definitely not one of my stronger suits.)

A prime example is our front yard. The presence of grass was a little spotty when we first moved in and now that we've removed some large trees and stumps, we have a lot of dirt. Charlie called around to a few landscapers to find out what would be involved in having the area seeded and as it turns out, we missed the window of opportunity for this year. If we didn't seed before the end of October (which we didn't), we won't be able to do it until the third quarter of NEXT year, for a host of reasons that involve frost, extreme cold, too much rain and not enough time to root before the extreme highs of summer.

It might sound crazy, but this house is really forcing us to live in the moment. We have always been about instant gratification. And yet, this is the first time that we've had to step back and assess ourselves. We've made the decision that although there are some home improvement activities we are going to tackle now (i.e. those that surround safety), the big ticket items are going to have to wait until we pay off some of the debt that we incurred just to get here.


Charlie and I have discussed how we could EXPEDITE some of the home improvement activities, but we're not willing to plunge both of us in to a full-time work schedule for the sake of funding renovation projects. The arrangement that we have right now is incredibly awesome and I'm so grateful that we're able to swing it such that at least one of us is home with our young children. Although, I must admit, both of us working full-time and significantly bumping up our income has been very tempting...

The fact that our garbage disposal rattles the entire counter whenever we turn it on and there's some obscure leak in our 30-year old refrigerator that is causing puddles to form beneath our crisper, really troubles me. The fact that not a single fan in any of the three bathrooms work and the toilets are discolored and chipped, really troubles me, too. The fact that we have no grass and when it rains we have mud pits that extend across our entire yard, causes me genuine heart burn.


I'll stare off in to space, envisioning the day that our kitchen is renovated and our bathrooms are updated and we have a functioning door on our garage and a laundry room that is dry-walled and devoid of woodland animals. I think about the day that our driveway is repaved and we replace the brick wall that is falling apart and extend a planter wall all the way to the front stoop that will be broken out and redone in flagstone. I imagine the beautiful plants and the bright green lawn and the rock "river" bed that will extend down the side of our property to the back yard where there will be a sprawling patio.


Today, as I was imagining these things and how one day at some point in the unforeseen future, we're going to transform this space in to paradise, the children grab my attention and pull me back in to the present. And I wonder for a moment, what the children would think of the meticulously renovated house of my dreams? Would they like it as much as the house we're in right, now?

The house where if they spill paint all over the orange shag carpet, Mom and Dad don't care.


Today they were jumping in to puddles. They were laughing like maniacs as they ran around in circles and splashed one another. When they ran past me, they'd yell, "Mom! This is the BEST DAY ever!" Then, they kicked off their boots and they let the mud ooze between their toes. Carolyn comes to my side and says, "I LOVE IT HERE!" Then she wrapped her arm around my waist and adds, "Mommy, thank you for the move to Virginia!"

In our children's eyes, what we have right now, is paradise.


They are healthy and happy and their parents love them more than the world. They have a beautiful space to run around and get completely filthy.


They aren't daunted by the huge list of things that we have to do to this house. They don't care if it gets done or if it doesn't. If for some reason, we don't have a front lawn next year either - that's perfectly OK by them because that just means they can jump in mud puddles AGAIN.


As far as our children are concerned, it doesn't get any better than this.


And as far as I'm concerned, they are at least 98% correct.


  1. Thank you for this post! Once again, our lives our paralleling one another and in 9 days we are moving out of our totally "done" house and into a 1970's time capsule. We are moving into a smaller home with less property so that I can spend more time with the kids and less time on the house. However, our "perfect" house needs a ton of renovating. I keep warning myself that I'll have to pace things so that we don't spend all of our time renovating and defeat the purpose of moving. This blog post you wrote is something I will come back to again and again for a reminder. Thank you.

  2. Love this post. Like you, we have things falling apart and have been choosing what to do, bit by bit, over the last six years. I am ashamed to say that I think you all have already done more than we have! But yes, it is a process and in the meantime, kids go on and build memories.

    BTW, was that really yesterday that they were out in the mud barefoot? If so, they have developed a pretty good tolerance to cold already!

    Love your blog. I know it is harder to keep up with, given your new work schedule, but I am happy every time I see a new entry.

    If you ever feel up to a Virginia meet-up in a public place, let me know!

  3. yes :) Kids are so good at keeping us grounded and thankful for the right now. Love the pictures!! And Henry peeking out of the cabinet is a crack up!

  4. Jen, you're taking the right attitude - everything will get done in time. AND sometimes it's better to live in a house a bit before making all of the changes.
    I speak from experience...... We have moved more than I ever could have imagined and in each house we had some projects! I know there are days when it can all be overwhelming. That's when you take a break - step away from it for a bit.
    It will all get'll get there!!

  5. Ahhh, bliss! We decided not to replace our living room carpet this summer as well, simply because we don't have grass up here in the Arctic and our summer is filled with mud and dust, and we have dogs and kids and random spills. We just bought a carpet shampooer instead! :) The kids are grateful!

  6. NJ is slightly cooler than VA. In Nov 2007 our front lawn was dug up to access the water pipe, when trench was closed seed was spread. It actually sprouted soon after and was good in the spring. My brother-in-law has sown grass seed on top of snow. I wouldn't spend thousands on a landscaper now but a few bucks for a bag of grass seed would probably not be a waste of $.

  7. Ah, your post explained exactly how our life is right now. While our house doesn't need as extensive of remodeling and repairs as your home, it needs new flooring through out, updated kitchen and bathrooms, and some new furniture to bring it into the current decade.

    I don't work outside the home, we are in a bit of a hole financially from some moves (to bring us closer to extended family) and two adoptions . . . and home remodeling (or new vehicles) just are not in the near future for us.

    And some days I curse our old carpet and the constant trips to the mechanic for our cars, but then I think . . . but I get to stay home with them, and we have everything THEY need . . . and like you said, when messes happen . .. oh well, it blends in.

    It's a good life. I wouldn't trade this time for granite counter tops or hard wood floors or a new mini van. I really really would not. And I know they wouldn't.



  8. RADON! What an evil word. We finally sold our house. It was only 3 years old and had no trouble passing inspection...except radon. We will be paying $850 for a mitigation system on Wednesday for a house we will no longer own by the end of the month. What a pain in the butt radon is!

  9. Love it - you are 100% correct. Your kids are loving life in your house.

    A bit of paint can change your whole outlook on the house - plus it's cheap (compared to major repairs/replacement) - and you know - a kids playroom with orange carpet doesn't sound so bad - you could paint the wall blue with orange big dots - something fun and retro to fit the carpet - until you have the money to put in new carpet and get all serious.

  10. Your pictures are fabulous. They remind me of the book I'm reading, "Last Child In the Woods" by Richard Louv. (

    You might really enjoy it if you get a chance to read in between renovation projects! Good luck.