‘Til Dust Do Us Part

OK, first things first. Not actually using a blog post to bitch about my marriage or signal its demise. Things may not have been pretty here lately, but 1) my husband isn’t to blame for 100% of the crankiness in our house lately because plenty of that is mine, too. And 2) I don’t think any couple goes through a major house renovation and is totally thrilled with their partner the entire time, so even though we haven’t exactly been ourselves lately, I’m pretty sure we’re pretty normal still.

And we’re going to have to keep on keeping on because the end is still not close enough in sight to be reassuring. The kitchen is getting there with floors scheduled to go in tomorrow and cabinets all set and just waiting on pulls and molding. The beam and a door frame need wrapped/stained, and the old trim Ben is refinishing still needs to be done so it, too, can rejoin the kitchen/DR here soon.

What is killing our progress (and my sanity) is that the counter tops are, at best, going in May 3. That’s still almost two full weeks away and a Friday, so even if they go in that day, what are the chances of the plumbers and electrician getting here to get my sink and cook-top up and running? Any why the delay, you ask? I have no idea. We got them in motion weeks ago but apparently didn’t get on the install schedule fast enough because now we’re stuck waiting (and waiting and waiting) and will most likely hit a solid EIGHT WEEKS with no functioning kitchen in our house before we are said and done. Holy. Eff. P.S. “I have lots of swears in my head right now that I would like to say you to” may now be heard on a bit of a loop around here, in case you want another indicator of how we’re holding up.

Of course, nothing else is done either because this whole thing is one giant Rube Goldberg machine where one piece can’t happen until the one that proceeds it is complete. That means the basement laundry and bathroom still need work (bathroom more so with flooring and vanity and fixtures still awaiting install), and the old laundry room that is meant to be the new play room hasn’t even been torn into yet. And did I mention we for sure need a new driveway?

Yep.

What. A. Mess.

Speaking of mess….waiting for me as soon as I have a place to put any of the shit that has been squeezed out of three major parts of my house amidst construction chaos, is my store room.

img_3528You see, my store room resides in the basement right next to all the new construction which meant Round One of work left a shit show of saw dust in there when doors didn’t get closed during work days. SMHx1000.

Then came Round Two with the demo of the lath and plaster of the old kitchen and dining room, which meant actual balls and clumps of debris rolled down the walls and into, you guessed it – my store room.

Then you add in duct work and plumbing that needed to sneak through the store room, as well, and HOLY. EFF. All the dirt. All the dust. All the swears.

So, friends, I ask you here, as we near the end of month five of this insanity…how am I going to do this? I realize it’s probably going to take me most of the summer to unearth img_3529all this grossness which sucks because it is covering all of the kids’ clothes bins and such that we actually need now that the seasons are changing, not to mention all the kitchen stuff and just general life stuff that a storage room holds, but seriously. It needs major cleaning and I am going to have to touch every single item in there to get it done. Do I channel Marie Kondo? Do I organize for a future garage sale? Do I toss a match and just walk away from everything?* For real. Please give me your best cleaning tips. We’re gonna need them.

*like the title of this post, you must realize this, too, is hyperbole. Things aren’t that bad. But we are drowning in dust that buried our sanity long, long ago. So much so that we now mix metaphors and don’t even care. We need ways to fix it!

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Time to Adapt

For the record, we never knew that our house reno would take this long. I mean, once you start, you’re at the mercy of the project and have to ride whatever twists and turns (and over the cliff moments) that come, which is never a known entity for any renovation, but still. There is no way we could have predicted this much time from start to (still not) finish(ed).

The great news is: major progress has been made in the last two weeks. Plumbing that we’ve been waiting on for months got knocked out in three majorly long days for the new plumbing crew, AND the overall wait turned out to be most fortunate because we discovered last week that our new main floor shower was – no freaking joke – leaking. Actually, it wasn’t and then it started and the new crew had to reset the drain put in by the old crew and HOLY HANNAH. I am so glad more progress wasn’t done downstairs so we could see and address that shit as quickly as possible.

We’ve also had drywall happening which in itself is a freaking PROCESS, but we’re getting there. Most of the basement to this point is rocked, and the kitchen got the green light Tuesday afternoon for paint, so that’s what we’ve been doing, with the help of my mom, the last two nights. One more coat to go tonight, but here is the south wall of our new space:

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What you’re seeing is the small door to the hallway/bathroom/etc. and the large opening between the dinning room and living room. And if you’re thinking that that paint color looks awfully familiar, you’d be most correct because it is the exact same as our kitchen was when we bought the house! I have always loved that gray/brown that I didn’t pick, and because the new space is so big, I decided we should just go for it and do the whole darn thing.

After tracking down the old paint cans in our basement and discovering that the paint color is called “Elephant Gray” I had no doubt it was right for us and our sweet Elephant babe, Wilson!

Side note: don’t be freaked out by the different colors on the wall – those are just funny shadows thrown by the temporary lights. And, sorry to say it, but the brick isn’t staying visible. As much as I love it, I need the cupboard space that will go in front of it more than the visual element of it. Darn it.

Second side note: we bought way too much paint because clearly we are not used to painting new, smooth walls! LOL Any ideas for what we can do with the extra cans?

There is some odd, great comfort coming from seeing color on our new walls. For one thing, it means we are so much closer to the being back in our kitchen which will be a Hallelujah moment for sure. But another element is that the use of the familiar color is helping me feel more at ease with this massive change to our house because even though SO much is different, keeping the Elephant gray means not everything is different.

And this leads me back to the (painfully slow) time frame that we’ve had with this entire experience: as much as I wish it has been much smoother process from the start, I have to say that the incremental progress has been good for my brain and heart to go slow and steady with getting used to the new layouts and looks of the house. These are huge changes and adapting to them requires time.

Thankfully the time to see a lot of the rest of it is getting smaller and smaller.

16, I Mean, 37 Candles

A birthday on a Tuesday? How did I not put this together until 14 hours later?! Now it all makes sense.

You see, this morning I was so excited for the kids to get up because it’s My Day. And Mama was ready for some birthday love.

Except then they all got up and started talking about video games and where are my socks and I’m HUNGREEEEEEEEE and not one birthday wish was uttered in my direction. Not even by my husband, which explained why the children had no freaking clue what day it was.

But then my aunt sent me a text and HD was creeping over my shoulder, reading it, and said, “Wait. What? Is today your birthday?” to which I nodded yes and then he told me happy birthday, but still, that was it. No one else heard. So eventually, because I’m mature like that, I had to tell Harrison that I was sad that no one remembered and that he could fix it please and thank you by telling everyone, which he did, and then finally, wishing and singing commenced, and you know – a birthday on a Tuesday was had.

Did I get a fancy birthday dinner? No, it was restuarant night for school, so I got a fast food salad, but I didn’t have to cook and I got to see some dear friends while we were there, so I’ll take it.

Did I get a fancy birthday treat? No, because I have no oven, but a friend dropped off cookies and another one surprised me with more cookies at a meeting we both had to attend (because, Tuesdays), so I am sugared up and happy all the same. And I don’t care what anyone says, Eileen’s ARE fancy to me because they are the best (besides homemade, but again – no oven!).

Did I get a (fancy) hot minute to myself today? No, but that means people were here working on the house and that is always good news at this point, even if my nerves are reno-fried. And actually, I did get 60 minutes for myself because even though I was spent from all the things all day long, I went to a yoga class tonight that felt just right.

img_3308Did I get a fancy birthday card? Well, yes, I did actually from my parents, along with the amazing cuff bracelet you see here (the naughty word is on the inside where no one else can see it and I LOVE it), AND I finally started having the children write in my Mama’s Journal which is an idea I stole from a friend last year where instead of having the kids buy cards (for birthdays and/or Mother’s Day and/or maybe even Christmas), they date a page and write a note, year after year, and I’ll get to keep them all collected forever in the same notebook.

And oh. my. gosh. It’s so good.

LT dictated his note to me and it’s perfectly a 5yo’s bit of randomness.

RL clearly speaks my love language, Words of Affirmation, so so so so so so so soooo well!

And HD is hilariously 85 and British. I mean, really. Hilarious. And British.

(TJ and WA will participate in the future, I promise).

And so, the day may have started off more Tuesday than Birthday, but I’d say it more than made up for itself as it progressed.

Cheers to 37 Years. It may not seem all that glamorous, but it is truly a glorious place to be.

Don’t Poke the Bear

Over time, the phrase “don’t poke the bear” has had several meanings in my life. Lately, though, it seems to be the phrase that keeps escaping my mouth as we come, this week, to the end of Month Four of house renovations with at least a month, but most likely more, still waiting before we cross the official finish line.

We poked the bear (the house) and it’s a little pissed (the list is growing longer, not shorter on To Dos, folks. Yikes.).

Before I continue any further, let me stress that our stress is self-induced, and after the last week and a half of flooding here in Nebraska and other Midwestern states, our “problems” seem pretty damn small in comparison to people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and in some tragic cases, their loved ones. Squishing my kitchen, dining room, play room, and living room all into one room is stressful, yes, but at least we have a house that isn’t under water and a roof over our heads.

But water is in fact one of our concerns, as the recent dampness here in Hastings has img_3303shown that we may have some larger issues to tackle before this project is said and done in our current, unfinished laundry room. In theory that room should have been framed and finished out by now, had our original timeline held tight. As it did not, I guess we are fortunate (this is my husband’s clinging to a bright side, and I’m trying to get on board with it) to now see that some water may be coming in on the north basement wall’s foundation which means our cracked-to-bits driveway’s days (it’s been like this since we bought the house) may be numbered. Driveways are cheap, right? (you saw the sarcasm font there, right?)

We knew when we decided to stay in this house that there were going to be issues. In fact, knowing its issues instead of switching to a new house and it’s unknowns was a contributing factor to our decision to stay versus move. But I am an idiot for ever saying, “Well, at least we won’t have to deal with the stress of moving” because house renos also come with a ton of stress, and they never have official closing dates like when you sell and buy houses.

So yes, we poked the bear and the bear is now showing jaws, claws, and budget busters.

What the bear is also aggravating, that I never saw coming, is my trauma recovery and health. Thanks to the prolonged winter, the sick kids, and our stress levels, I have been fighting illness for the last two months straight. I don’t know that I’ve had more than a few days at a time where I feel pretty alright, much less totally healthy, and that’s just in my physical body. My mental body is also struggling in the midst of all this chaos.

In the last four months, a great sense of control has been taken away. For all this work to get done, we must rely on others to come do it. We must rely on them to communicate and listen and show up and do, which clearly hasn’t been a smooth process, although it’s improved in recent weeks. As much as we’d like to plan everything, we’re at the mercy of other people, and that lack of control for me as a trauma survivor in particular is HARD. Did I know a house project was going to trigger that? Um, no. Not at all. But whenever something doesn’t go as planned now, I can feel my anxiety rising at record rates.

We also have to have extra people in our house as much as possible for anything to get done around here which is, at this point, completely frying my introvert heart. I can’t tell people not to be here. In fact, on days when people are not here, I am not OK, either, because I just need all of this to be done and as soon as possible, please and thank you. But the utter lack of privacy and invasion into my home, my family space, my work space, my quiet that all of it has caused? Again. I am not handling it well anymore.

Of course, none of this is to say that anyone has done something terribly offensive to me or us. Minus the switch in providers, I’d say this is probably a pretty typical house reno project and process. But when we chose to embark on this journey, I did not realize the ramifications on my own well being that would come from poking around in the walls and floors of my literal house. And, quite frankly, it’s a metaphor that I wish wasn’t actually coming to life.

End of an Era

All the signs have been there for some time now, but oh my goodness, it appears that the actual END has arrived.

After 9.5 years of nursing babies around the clock (there are less than a handful of months in that time span when I wasn’t pregnant, nursing, or both), I’m done. Wilson is apparently, officially over it and my Boppy (OK, Boppies) are ready for retirement.

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In some ways, this breaks my heart.

I weened some of my others because I knew I wanted to get pregnant again, but I would have gladly let Wilson go the distance for as long as she wanted; so even though this is pretty average for a nursing stint for one of my babies, it still feels too soon. How we are already to this point?

In other ways, I know this is perfectly fine.

She’s walking, she’s eating, she’s following her growth charts, and she’s totally typical in all the best ways possible when you consider where we started those 15.5 months ago. These are all amazing, normal things, and this no-more-boob bit is just a natural step in the process of her getting bigger and more independent, which, you know – is the ultimate goal of this parenting gig.

But you guys. A decade is a long time to go between being a solo person in charge of and responsible for only their own body. And while I’m sure I’ll figure it out quickly enough, I legit don’t even know how to be a mom who is not growing or feeding another human being at the same time as the mom-ing and the adulting and the existing.

I guess a lot of it will feel like freedom but enjoying that is going to take some time, as I’m already missing the sweet, sequestered moments with just me and the baby in a rocking chair, doing our thing.

 

A Quiet Mind

img_3153For the first time in three months I am sitting in my house with a hot minute (actually 50) to just be here with my coffee and my computer while everyone else is at school or napping. While this is supposed to be normal every Tues/Thurs, it hasn’t been in ages because of construction. But today? No one coming and going. No banging or clanging.

Why the total quiet? Because we are in the middle of a Big Change in the middle of our Big Changes in our house.

Passing the three month mark as we did last week was meant to be quite exciting in terms of completion (at least some things should have been completed, you know?) but instead we are faced with the “exciting” prospect of starting over and finding a new team to complete our projects.

You all get the heavy dose of sarcasm living in those quotation marks, yes?

I won’t go in to details here, and of course no house project happens without some drama, but this total shift midstream is not something we anticipated when we began this journey the first week of December.

But now it’s March, even though the foot of snow still existing in my yard would say otherwise, and with the changing season that IS coming, so too comes a need for us to push onward and upward, to not be deterred by confusion and delay (yes, I realize I’m quoting Sir Topham Hat here. I have five children, so this is not unwarranted. Plus, Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Train have some legit, mad skills when it comes to parenting mantras).

This week also brings me the gap between terms of online teaching, so as I wrap up grading and prepare for the new sections incoming next week, I’m taking in the bubble of space we have given ourselves in our house and flat out appreciating the lull, the quiet that my system hasn’t had in months.

I’m trusting that this same quiet will help us find the right way forward and that all the chaos that brought us to this moment of pause will be worth it in the end.

Because, for the love of all things holy, there will be an end and we very much have a say in how we get there.

 

 

2019 Reading List

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My reading year has started off intensely with ALL the library requests coming in at the same time (naturally) and some really long books (because, why not?) and just life, but here’s the start of the list, what I’ve read to the children, and what I hope yet to read in 2019. As always, titles to add are welcome!

Read:

  1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty — I go back and forth with Moriarty’s books. Some I love a lot and others not as much. This swung to the loved side for me. It was a fun, easy read that didn’t seem as cloying as some of the others. Plus it had me laughing out loud at times throughout the whole book which was fun. Nowhere near as solid as What Alice Forgot, but a quick, light read. (finished 1.2.19)
  2. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Holy Hannah. My first Powers novel and does he ever give you a lot to chew on in one book. Good. Ness. Overall, I enjoyed this first foray, but one observation about the landscape of NE as a character of sorts within the book: not everyone who visits or lives here finds it to be the desolate drag the novel implies (thanks).
  3. The Winter of the World by Ken Follett (book club) — We upped our reading timeline and decided to finish all of book two instead of just half of it by the end of January, so I had to hustle and read a LOT (all 940 pages to be exact) in less than two weeks’ time. I liked Part Two of the triology quite a bit and enjoyed getting to know the second generation of characters. And, to follow up on my critique of KF’s writing after reading the first installment, this one is thankfully slightly less teenage hormonal when it comes to sex. Slightly.
  4. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (book club pick) — None of us knew what we were getting into with this one and I’m here to say, don’t do it. Ever. This book is terribly and porny and nothing like the romance the back cover and blurbs claim it to be. I finished it only because I read too many pages to abandon it and the time I spent on it (it’s short but dense) , so damn it, I was going to finish and add it here, if only as a warning not to bother with it (finished 1/26/19)
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens — Oh, this book! One of my dear reader friends suggested it and she was totally right: I loved it! Oddly, birds and nature featured as another dominate character, much like they did in The Echo Maker, but a totally different setting and tone to this one, which was essentially a murder mystery.
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — When OverDrive from the library rains, it pours, so another one of my Must Reads came dropping down in the midst of due dates, but I got it done and I adored it. Such a different story with some twists and turns I saw coming and others not. Would make an excellent book club selection. (finished 2/4/19)
  7. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan — I feel like I’ve met my quota of WWII books, however, this one was a good addition to that large pile of books read under the same category. The twist here? Based on a true life story and set it Italy. I don’t know if I just got tired or impatient, but the end of the book dragged on for me quite a bit, even though the first 400 pages were captivating.
  8. Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley — This was tough on many levels. I’ve obviously heard of conversion programs, but never read about someone’s account of having gone through ex-gay community. When you add assault and the mental distress of Conley, it is all just painful and heartbreaking to read. On a picky, literary note, I also struggle with memoirs containing overly descriptive passages/dialogue and this contains a lot of all that, too.
  9. An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (book club read) — I’ve read about the partition that created the separate states of India and Pakistan before, but this collection of short stories knocked the wind out of me. First, it’s one of the best SS collections I’ve ever read in that the stories are so different and yet so interconnected in smart but less than obvious ways. Second, the subject matter and abuse and struggle is just grueling. Not very much uplifting to share out of such a tumultuous boarder/political/religious split. (finished 2/17/19)
  10. Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy (book club pick) — this was a fun listen (in my case) and is such an interesting look at body image, high school, family relationships, friendships, love, etc. I realize it’s not the most serious book ever, but I think there is a lot that a lot of people can relate to in it. Looking forward to discussing with friends at book club. Also, the Netflix version is fun, but of course different and not quite as good as the book.
  11. This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways — (One Book One Nebraska pick) Being a farm girl from SD, this subject matter is not foreign to me, however it was never the plan for succession to happen in my family, so reading about the passing from one generation to the next and all that farmers, the markets, and the planet must endure because of our current Ag situation/climate in this country was fascinating. My only contention with the book is that Mr. Genoways claimed that Milford, NE (my hubs’ hometown) is “just outside” Omaha. Y’all, it’s an hour and a half away from Omaha. Just sayin’. (finished 2.28.19)
  12. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (Book Three, Century Trilogy) (KFC book club read) — holy moly cow. At 700 pages, I thought I was getting close to the end. In reality, I still had 400 to go. In some ways, the storytelling in this, like the other two, is fantastic. In other ways, the history of it all is a damn slog (and I’m still super annoyed by his portrayal of women and sex. I mean, UGH/gross/stop). Also, I’m not going to miss trying to read these great big heavy books in bed at night without injuring myself or Ben with them. I loved the group of women who comprised the book club that took on this challenge, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with Follett books for a good, long, maybe forever while. (finished 3.17.19)
  13. You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero — totally cheated and read this “read in bits and pieces book” in one sitting. Was loaned it by someone who gets it, and I’ve already ordered myself a copy of it so I can indeed have it on the shelf to pick up for now and then reminders and prompts of badass-ery.
  14. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (book club read) — I am so sad to be missing the discussion on this one later this month. It was such a pleasure to read and holds so much potential for discussion. The book is at our library as a book kit for clubs and I can totally see why, as it is captivating and full of considerations. (finished 3/20/19)
  15. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult — Whoa. Added this to my library request queue simply because it was the newest Picoult title, and although I struggled a bit with the narrative structure, she once again managed to blow me away with a novel centered on an issue that divides us in so many ways. I admire the humanity she shows in the last few books of hers that I’ve read and she manages to keep me guessing (for the most part) to the final pages as she does so.
  16. Overcoming Trauma through Yoga by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper. I have been putting off reading this in full because trauma work is WORK and hard work at that, but I’m glad to have finally gone through this title. Some stuff I’m already doing in my own teaching is there but there was also much to learn, as is always the case in this life.
  17. Becoming by Michelle Obama — everyone needs to read this book. That is all. (finished 4.6.19)
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (book club read) — my friend A picked this for book club because it is her favorite book but she hasn’t read it for age and wanted to see if it stood up to time. It was a first time read for me and a slog at that. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was slow, slow going for me. Over 500 pages, long, there were lots of little parts that seemed like maybe you could skim over them, but then they’d be referenced later and sure enough, the last five pages brought together so much of the seemingly small bits from earlier in the book. Curious to discuss this one (finished 4.22.19).
  19. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden — this YA book was good in that it was quick and thought provoking, and I could see where it would be a helpful read for its intended age range (8-12 yr-olds). It’s about a girl living in poverty also dealing with domestic violence and issues at school and it beautifully latches on to (pun intended) the imagery and superpowers of the octopus throughout the text.

 

Read Aloud Books:

  1. Crenshaw by Kathryn Applegate — my first Applegate book, about an imaginary friend helping a 5th grader go through some hard times with his family as they find themselves without enough money for food and housing. This one caused some good conversations with my kids about recognizing that others don’t always have the same living situations that we do. This one I read to the 9, 7, and 5.
  2. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DeCamillo — again, read this to all three of the bigs and they seemed to enjoy it, even though we got behind and strung it out over too much time. The chapters are short and the vocabulary done in an entertaining yet educational way, and the message of light vs. dark is of course age old and always good. (finished 2.24.19)
  3. The Wishing Tree by Kathryn Applegate – so good. SO good. My big three loved it and I loved it, too. Gave me hope, made me cry, made me laugh. Highly recommend!

 

To Read:

To Read:Becoming by Michelle Obama

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Eveyln Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Sticks & Stones, The Dorito Effect, Delivering Happiness, Shoe

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

There There by Tommy Orange

The Witch Elm by Tana French (crime)

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen