(Also, I wrote this in another word processor, and for some reason the format is a little ify now. Sorry. I think it’s still plenty readable, even if it doesn’t have quite as many paragraph indents as I told it to.)
Here we go again:
Is it a lot of work, fixing this house?
YES. More work than I could have comprehended before I bought it.
The work here really is basically just cosmetic stuff. (Not structural.) But when you are resolved to DIY it (because it can save us thousands of dollars) you sign up a for a HUGE time commitment. And even though most of this work is just a painting, paint does not go on as fast as you can watch an HGTV show. If I have no kids around, It takes me 2 days -- full morning to evening, only a fast lunch and bathroom breaks, to get a bedroom painted. (I paint the ceiling, then I paint the trim, then I paint the walls. Each one of those takes two coats at least -- trim often takes three, because semigloss just takes more coats.) And after that I am exhausted, my house is a wreck, I need a day just to recover. And then the rest of the week is often spent trying to un-hurrican my house from dishes, laundry,and toys. My elbow always hurts. And usually I don’t get the luxury of painting while the kids aren’t around. I did get to do each of my daughter’s rooms while Grannana watched them. But usually I need to work around them being with me. So everything is always slow going. I just checked, and we’ve been working on our downstairs bathroom for 3 months now! But yeah, it all just takes forever because we are busy: I have the kids, Blake works full time.
So how do you do it with such young kids?
This is the hardest part of it all. It’s really, really hard.When we first moved her Jasmine was 3 ½ years old and Ruby was 1 ½ years old. So When we got here they were too needy for me to work on the house while they were awake. Meaning I did any work when they were asleep. And it seems that my kids (regardless of sleep technique) seem to take about 2 years to sort-of sleep through the night. (sigh.) So Ruby would start her night time wake ups (sometimes 4 of them a night) right around 1:00am -- which was when I was getting into bed. I was pretty much a zombie. But somehow I just kept going. (I think God has equipped me in my time of need for such a time as this.)Thankfully Ruby sleeps most the nights now, with an occasional bad one thrown in. And sometimes Jasmine needs me here and there for something. But I do get more sleep. (Praise the Lord.) But no where near a full night. (My body actually won’t let me sleep a full night anymore, it’s grown so used to this shenanigans.)I used to try and get some stuff done during nap times too. But that was always hard on me because there was no guarantee on how far I could get before they’d stop me. Now my girls are 4 and 2, and surprisingly that makes a huge difference. I can leave them in the family room for a bit while I work on something in another room, and for the most part they do great. This doesn't last too long or anything, but it’s good for small projects -- like painting one coat on a door. And I can go back and do more once they are in bed. Jasmine has totally given up on, not only naps, but I also quit trying to have her do quiet time in her room because she was so lonely she basically spent the whole time getting me to come back in her room endlessly. But after we both adjusted to just letting her play downstairs while Ruby naps, she’s doesn’t mind me going off and working. So nap time can still be good for accomplishing things, even if it’s only dishes or dinner.
And other than that, I have to rely on using my time while my mom visits to get the really tricky-to-do-with-kids stuff done. A couple times I have had a mothers helper come over. I plan to do that some more, but it has a learning curve for me -- I’m not used to it, so I feel pressured to work faster than I actually can to make it worth my while. It’s hard for me to relax. And I try to use my time during the day to mentally plan out what I want to do to the house, since I can do that while I’m still giving the girls lots of attention. (You will notice Pinterest activity during this time -- it helps me brainstorm.)But the general summary of how I do this is: Not Sleeping. Plain and simple.
That’s how you work on the house renovations, but how do you work on regular day to day stuff like laundry and cooking and cleaning?
Ha! I don’t. My house is a wreck all the time. And by wreck I mean a scary, most people can’t comprehend the level of mess I am talking about, wreck. It’s “new mom can’t keep up” messy, plus some, a lot of some! Imagine the worst messiest new-mom-day (especially like mew mom with older kids making messes all over) you’ve ever had and then generously sprinkle drywall dust and paint droplets all over it. And add constructions tools and torn out house bits to the general chaos.
I just get by. I wash laundry all at once, tons of loads at a time -- It’s usually a two day festival of catching up. If I’m lucky I’ll put it away too. I clean my bathrooms when I get scared of them. Blake is really good at helping keep the dishes at bay. And food is ify around here no matter what - cause I’m working on figuring out how to feed a insanely picky, allergic to tons of stuff, child. We eat of lot of basic randoms: rice, an acceptable to kids veggies, a meat. Not all at once like a meal. That would be too ideal… Like we eat one of those things at random times of day! We don’t have family meals at the table together -- we just eat when we are hungry. But I have total faith in our ability to recover and become normal people who have a clean(ish) house someday, who eat a meal (that looks like some sort of meal) together. It’s just not time for that for us right now. Right now it’s time to get our house done. And we all handle it really well. And Jasmine is at an age where she might just barely remember this age, but not like a ton. So I feel pretty good about pressing hard through this stage of life -- it feels like good timing.
Do you have any guilt about doing all this house work around your kids?
I think every mom feels mom-guilt about one thing or another, or more likely a plethora of things. So yes I do. I don’t live up to internet boasts of how great others are mom-ing their kids. We don’t do tons of detailed projects together. I do let them watch a lot of TV (PBS) and movies (Princess stuff and Disney.) And they have no concept of table manners (outside saying please and thank you.) We don’t work on chores, and we don’t have any real routine (well besides bedtime, and "mommy needs you to let me have my morning coffee" time.)So some days I feel really bad about that -- especially when I get some kind of Facebook smack down. But to be honest, when I step back from it all, and if I could look at it the way I would have looked at it pre-motherhood (hormones and suffocating love included) I am really rather pleased with where we are.
Is there a better way to raise kids? Probably. Could I do any better right now? Nope. I’m giving it my all. And I like where we are going.We do read books together. I try to pick out good ones specifically off this list when we go to the library (we also pick up movies while we are there.)I do give them crafts to do -- just they usually do them without my direct supervision.We do go outside and play together -- when we are outside I try to be very present.And to be honest with you I don’t mind that they watch PBS and princess stuff. PBS has taught them amazing stuff -- I’m shocked (in a good way) at some of the stuff they can tell me about because of it. And here’s the thing about the Princess movies, Einstein said if you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales. We read them too. But they can’t read themselves yet. Movies are basically pre-books, as I see it. When I was a kid I loved movies. And as I got older I really loved books. I still do. I read and read and read. Mostly non-fiction, but give me a good fiction book and all is well in my soul. I also think we have a lot of time to work on table manners and chores later. I’m pretty sure I’m not spoiling them. I keep reminding myself I wasn’t raised the “perfect way” that I, or is it the internet, that keeps telling me I need to maintain to raise my kids. I was raised well, and I turned out well. I can’t do perfect and neither can my kids. We are gonna do life together. I am forever grateful to my parents for living the life they have (redoing houses, fixing everything, sewing tons of stuff, DIY-ing before they called it that), because if they hadn’t I wouldn’t be brave enough to be living mine. I have to tell myself that my kids will reap more benefits than I think they will from this house reno work.
Has this house had any bad surprises for you?
Yes. But nothing that’s been crushing. But there definitely have been some hard surprises.When our furnace went out on Christmas Eve. That was an adventure.Then our shower, and later our bathtub leaked through our ceiling downstairs. Thankfully those were both easily fixed with caulk.Our drain in the laundry room needs to be snaked out so I can’t leave the area when I do laundry -- I have to baby sit the wash machine to give the drain a break while the machine drains 2 or 3 times a load. The girls have been screaming in terror for me when they hear “The BUBBLES” -- they think the first instant they hear the sound our house will go under -- they just start panicking and NEED me to go in there NOW!!! (In reality I have at least 2 mins before I need to worry. And even if I didn’t catch it nothing too bad happens, mostly just bare tiled floor gets wet.)We didn’t foresee needing to tare out the walls in our downstairs bathroom. It’s turning out gorgeous, but it was surprise.And we knew the sunroom needed a new roof, but it definitely leaks in there when it rains. I always beed to go see where to move to buckets to that day if it’s raining.And of course there was the day our family room flash flooded.
What do you think is the hardest part about fixing this house?
As far as specific projects go, the entryway is my biggest challenge. (Blake may have a different opinion on what’s hardest about this house because he does the drywall and wiring and fixing. I do the painting and decorating.) It was no surprise, I walked into the house and saw wallpaper up a two story entryway wall and knew that was going to be no fun.We are going to have to either hire someone or rent scaffolding to get the wallpaper down and the paint up. AND under the wallpaper is fun ancient wallpaper paste I need to wash off, and walls that need a lot of mudding and sanding. AND last time I check I was afraid of heights. (Fingers crossed I’ve outgrown that…it can happen right?)Right now I have the wallpaper torn off as high as I can reach, then I’m gonna do the stuff I can do before we get scaffolding.
But as far as what most emotionally challenging about fixing this house is just the inability to settle in. I feel like a dog who is circling in his bed, trying to make a soft spot, so he can lay down --- only I haven’t been able to lay down yet for 8 months. The other thing I think is hard is that people don’t really get it when I tell them we are working on our house, I can’t commit to much else. I think they just think I mean I painted a room. It’s hard to convey my whole life is a crazy mess. It’s hard to explain: I love it, but it’s hard, and I want to buckle down and only do this so I can live normal ASAP.And it’s hard to have people over for dinner or anything like that -- when there are paint cans and drywall dust as part of your kitchen it just feels wrong to ask someone to eat with you there.
How do people react to your house?
Well it varies a lot. If they haven’t been there they kind of say stuff like “have fun doing your house” -- which of course I am having fun -- but it feels like they think it’s a day trip to the beach, not like a full year of extremely draining effort.Upon visiting, it seems like most people kind of get shell shocked and overwhelmed. (Can’t blame them -- if you’ve never lived in a reno it would be totally shocking -- I lived in one before I’m used to it.) They seem to (very hesitantly) think it will be nice, but that it’s not nice to the standard eye initially, and they can’t really understand how I knew it would be nice.And then there are a couple friends, and our family, who walk in and marvel with us.They know how fantastic this house can be, and they have total faith in us that we will bring it there. That’s my favorite. But I think the funniest thing is that almost everyone who takes a tour seems to take authority of the house saying at least one thing they know for sure they house needs, or say one thing that MUST change. I don’t always agree. Which is why it’s kind of funny. It’s just different taking someone through your house in progress than it is if you house is in order.
You said at one point, that your elbow always hurts, is this job really taxing on your body?
Oh yeah, I can tell it’s taking a toll on my body. I always have dark circles under my eyes (but I’ve had those for 4 years now….my oldest is 4. ;) ) But I can just tell I look worn. I’ve honestly assumed it’s gonna age me faster than had we not done this. But then again they say you need to keep working to stay young. What’s a fine line or two in the grand scheme of things, right? My back hurts often. Like you said, my elbow often hurts.The bummer of all this physical work is that, I do think it tone my arms, but none of the rest of me. I am more tired than if I had done a good work out, but I don’t get the endorphin rush from it, or the muscle tone.I tried to work out for a while there while doing this house stuff -- but it was really super hard to get my body to agree to doing all this stuff at the same time. I’m going to try it again, just a little differently and see if I can do it, but if I can’t I know that some day I’ll be able to again.
With all this hardship in mind, why is your family ultimately doing this?
Well, if this house had been for sale all fixed up, it would have been way out of our price range. Actually, this house was out of our price range originally, as is, but we told the seller that and we were able to get a price we were comfortable with.We really see this as an investment. Not just into the monetary value of our house. But also into our lives. We can easily see ourselves raising our family (a potentially larger family) here. This house has tons of space for us, and I really love imagining our Holidays and our day-to-day here.I also think of this hard work I’m doing as my gift to my family. As a stay at home mom I often feel like I can’t contribute to our income. But this, in a way, is like working from home. I am able to add tremendous value to our home. And I am able to give us a house we couldn’t have otherwise afforded. It feels like a worthy sacrifice to work day and night for a little while.
At the end of the day what gets you through this?
I really feel called to this house. Like God placed us here for some reason. A really good reason. Even if it’s only for our family. But maybe it’s for something more here too? I feel like it’s kind of a symbol of his love for me. This house isn’t fresh and perfect, it’s wood work is scarred and messy, and I’m redeeming it. And it reminds me of Him and His love for me. I think it’s a really beautiful picture. And so I lean on Him and the fact that He has called me to harder things before and gotten me through them. I drew this on my chalkboard door months ago, and it hasn’t failed to give me pause and a boost of courage every time I’ve walked past it.
So with all this work you are putting into the house, what are you looking forward to the most about it being done?
Well, we are thinking about homeschooling the girls. So I’m looking forward to having a space for the school stuff (I’m planning on our “reading room” aka the old dining room, to be our school space), and the time and energy to focus in on that. I’m happy about the timing of us buying the house, relative to the age of our family. I see it melding together well. I think we’ll have the house in pretty decent order by the time Jasmine is ready for kindergarten.I’m also looking forward to evenings where I just pick a spot in the house and sit down at read once the girls are in bed. There will be so many spots to choose from.I also really want to have people over more. Right now it’s very hard to have people over because the whole house is crazy -- tools everywhere. Or right now there is drywall dust coating everything. But later I hope to have an inviting house were we host dinners, or nights where we play music with people or games (although to be honest I’ve never been a game player -- but Blake comes from a game playing crew.)And I just generally look forward to getting my brain back. If motherhood takes up most my brain, house ideas take up the rest. As much as I love thinking house design, I’m ready to have some room in my head.
If there was anything you could change about your house what would it be?
The only thing I really wish I could change was that there was a bathtub in the master bathroom -- I’m an avid bath taker, so while I’m soo soo glad we have a master bathroom, and the shower is great, I would really love a tub in there.
I’ve scoured the internet over for any short of way to make a tub fit in there. They make small tubs, but not that small. There is a way that we could someday bump out the wall and add on. But who knows if I’ll ever be that lucky. :) I may just have to enjoy the bathtub down the hall forever. And that’s ok.
What’s your favorite thing about the house?
It’s not really a specific thing really. I just love the feeling inside the house. I think it has a bit of magic. I can very easily imagine fairies living in the back yard, or Narnia showing up in our closet. And I can’t really put my fingers on why, but I can’t stop telling myself it feels like our cottage we grew up going to in Michigan. They really aren’t too similar, but I think the windows with their square panes and the trees outside with the birds always signing in them somehow makes them feel just the same to me.I just really love this house. A whole lot.
Do you regret buying this house because of how much work it is?
No. Never. Not even in my hardest moments.
Honestly, being a mom is what wears me out more than the house. I didn’t know being a mom was so much work. The house reno stuff renews me. It’s just hard for me to find the balance between the two. Every day I wind up shocked that this awesome house, in an awesome neighborhood, is mine and I always end up just humbled by that, and praying a deeply felt thank you prayer. So many times I feel like this house is nicer than I deserve. I know I’m overly blessed. I really never expected to live somewhere this fantastic.