Homecoming

I don’t believe in love at first sight. But if I did, I’d say have experienced it exactly six times:

  1. At 16, when the boy who would become my first love smiled at me for the first time.
  2. At 27, stepping into the living room of the apartment my wasband and I ended up moving into together.
  3. At 32, the night I first locked eyes with R.
  4. At 37, when I held our daughter for the first time.
  5. At 40, the morning I gave birth to our son.
  6. At 44, when I first entered the house we just bought.

Each time, that first glance set off a chain reaction deep inside me. A sense of homecoming. It wasn’t so much that I could see the pieces falling into place, but that I could see where I fit, finally. Everything up to that point suddenly made sense, because it all led me to that moment.

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There is nothing about this living room I don’t love.

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about, really. I don’t tend to think in such woo-woo terms. But I can’t deny that those six moments held a significance that was apparent immediately. I dated a lot of guys between that first boy and R, but the others didn’t make me feel the same way. I’ve lived other places, and even loved those places, but none of them gave me that immediate feeling of being home.

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This picture pretty much sums up the adult life I’ve been working towards since I was 19.

So buying this house was understandably a big deal in more ways than one. Because three of the people on the list above moved into it with me. And while there’s still much about the house that feels weird and foreign and new, in many ways it feels like we’ve always been here.

I recently came across the Day Zero post I wrote nearly a year ago, in which I committed to writing my wish list for a house. It’s funny how much of what I was looking for I actually got. Of my incredibly specific 34-point list, here’s what I didn’t get that I can’t easily/immediately add myself:

  • A built-in vanity in the master bath
  • A walk-in pantry
  • A covered patio/sunroom with a ceiling fan
  • A walk-in closet for Anya
  • All wood/tile flooring

I mean, if I were designing a house from scratch, what I’d come up with would be almost exactly this house. I imagine that factors heavily in the way I feel about the house. But it’s more than that. We just fit here.

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See, even the couch fits! Not that we won’t be buying a new one at some point. This one’s ten years old, and looks it.

The lack of posts recently is because I have been busy. First unpacking, which is now mostly done — no, really! — and then cleaning and sorting and organizing. Which will be an ongoing process for a while.

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I wish I could say this was a temporary state, but the big difference is the garbage bags have been emptied and removed. All that crap’s still on the floor. I just stay downstairs as much as possible. But I will eventually have to go up there and deal with it.

The previous owners took good care of the property, but they weren’t much for dusting and vacuuming, it appears. My birthday present of a new Roomba (named Milo) is getting quite the workout. We’re all pretty congested these days, but I’m hoping that things will improve once I get some of this dust out of here.

The sorting and organizing I expected; no matter how streamlined and efficient your organization process, it never transfers perfectly from one house to the next. You have fewer drawers, more cabinets, more closets but less shelving. That sort of thing. My current project is the closets: They all have wire organizers that are simply not up to the loads we need to place upon them, so we’re in the process of replacing/upgrading them.

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I am also in the process of buying all new curtains, because the last time I bought curtains was with wedding present money. From my first wedding. In 2002.

Funny thing about these projects: They don’t feel like home improvements, but home realizations. It feels like we are helping this house become what it was always meant to be.

Ours.

 

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For the birds

My current project is setting up a bird feeder in our back yard. I’d initially wanted a bird feeder to keep the birds from eating my garden. Plans got more elaborate when I discovered how much we all enjoy watching the birds. Now it’s mostly just the principle of the thing.

I’ve been trying to pull off a kitchen garden for a couple of years now, and had hopes that this year’s setup would be successful. However, something’s been digging in my garden (a feral cat, I presumed) and I’ve watched birds eating the seeds I’ve planted to replace the ruined plants. Rather than give up, though, I’ve been trying to remedy the problem — if not in time for this year’s harvest, at least so next year’s goes well. I planted some catnip for the cats; I don’t want to run them off, as they help keep our mouse and spider population low, but I do want them to stay out of my garden. Now it’s time to deal with the birds.

We have had bird feeders on our front porch for a while now, so step one in Operation Quit Eating My Garden was simply to move those to the back deck. I put out bird seed ornaments, which the rain knocked down. Then I put out bird seed cakes in our bird feeder, which I simply suspended from the deck railing. They disappeared overnight. I figured a feral cat got to them. So I tried again, with store-bought suet cakes. (I was hoping they’d be gooey enough to not appeal to the cats. Also, the homemade seed cakes got moldy before they set, and I didn’t want to feed the birds mold.) I hung the bird feeder from a deck hook this time, to lift it above the reaching range of the feral cats.

The next morning, we discovered an empty bird feeder and the biggest, fattest raccoon I’ve ever seen licking his chops as he sniffed around the deck for any crumbs he may have missed. I was a bit frustrated, but didn’t really get upset until the fat bugger started digging in my garden for dessert.

I knocked on the window. He didn’t respond.

Anya knocked on the window. He ignored us.

We both knocked and yelled. Finally he looked up, languorously licking his chops, with an expression that said, “Yeah, I ate your bird seed. Every bit. And I’m not at all sorry. What are you gonna do about it?”

The answer is, apparently, nothing. We merely stood there and watched as he hopped down and sashayed back into the trees.

But I’m planning. I’m going to contact animal control and ask them to set a trap (my parents assure me he’ll be back), and I’m going to get a taller hook for my bird feeder. I’ll use the deck hook for our hummingbird feeder; hopefully that’ll be safe from the critters.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of putting the bird feeders out back in the first place. We spend way more time looking out the back window than the front. And this way, we’re not inviting birds to crap all over our porch.

Now I just want to make sure I’m not inviting small mammals to crap on the back deck, either.

The school day routine

Each school night, we follow the same routine:

7:00 Vitamins/medicine for everybody. I start prep work for the next day:

  • Set out clothes for Anya and myself (Kai will wear jammies until after breakfast)
  • Pack Anya’s lunch, setting the refrigerated items in their designated place in the fridge
  • Verify that all homework is done, all forms signed, etc. I almost always take care of this stuff immediately after school, but I feel better if I double-check.

7:30 Tidy up kitchen and prepare for bedtime.

  • Get our bedside water (Anya and Kai) and ginger tea (me) ready
  • Set out jammies, plus a diaper for Kai

8:00 Brush teeth (mine and the kids) and shower. Usually the kids shower with me (which is all sorts of fun when I’m shaving); sometimes R takes one and I take the other, and occasionally they opt to take a bath and I shower all. by. myself. (Which is, at this point, a very strange, slightly lonely feeling.)

  • Jammie up and get into bed
  • Read a story or 5

9:00 Lights out; watch cooking show and nurse Kai until the kids are asleep (which usually takes less than 15 minutes).

  • Catch up on email, social media; maybe play a game
  • Drink a cup or two of tea
  • Listen to my deep sleep meditation

In the mornings, I also have a routine:

6:00 Get up. (Or, as has been the case during our recent spate of late nights, hit snooze until 6:15.)

  • Put in contacts, wash face, fix hair, put on sunscreen if I’m walking/makeup if I’m not walking
  • Get dressed
  • Fix a cup of tea
  • Make Anya’s breakfast

6:30 Wake Anya.

  • While she’s eating, brush her hair
  • Administer our morning medications (allergy medicine, and recently a probiotic for her poor tummy)
  • Finish my tea
  • Help her dress
  • Finish packing her lunch
  • Ensure she has everything she needs for school

7:00 Drop her at school; go for a walk if time/weather allows

A bit rigid for pre-K? Perhaps. But you have to understand what mornings were like when I was a kid. Lots of fussing. There were usually tears. It was a stressful way to start the day.

I like that our mornings are stress-free zones. Yes, she occasionally fights me. She does not want to wake up and go to school; who does? But our mornings are nowhere near as frustrating as mornings were when I was a child.

So I will continue my overscheduling, even if it interferes with spontaneity and weeknight play time. Because all days should start — and end — well.

 

 

My brief love affair with tiny houses

A few years ago, I became obsessed with tiny houses. I was clawing my way out of the debt hole I fell in when I got divorced, and was daunted by the price of real estate. I had started out renting because it made sense at that point in my life. I continued to rent because buying a house was scary.

A tiny house cost roughly what a car cost. I’d already paid for a car in full. I could deal with that kind of debt.

I started poring over tiny house plans in my free time. I liked how elegant and efficient they were, how you could upgrade the heck out of them because everything was so small. Less to clean! Simplified living! I’d already downsized my stuff to the point where my 2-bedroom apartment was excessively roomy. I was the prime candidate for a gussied-up shed.

There were a few sticking points, though:

  • I wanted a laundry room. Not a mini washer and dryer, or a washer and a clothes line. I wanted an actual room that would hold my (by today’s standards, quite small) washer and dryer. Add a room for that.
  • I planned on working from home at some point, which meant having an office. I didn’t really want that office to be my kitchen table. My job is kind of hard to do on just a laptop. Add another room.
  • I have a lot of books. Even after ruthlessly culling my shelves, I still have four large bookcases full of them. I suppose I could buy some of them on Kindle, but some will never leave my possession; they have been reread, loved, annotated. They are treasured mementos. That’s fine, though; they could go in my office. But now I really needed a good-sized room for my office; it was roughly the size of the living area at this point.
  • I wanted a family someday. At the time, I was thinking just one kid, but still — that meant that R and a little person would be living in this tiny house with me. Add a room for the child. (I did not know, then, that I would end up cosleeping. Still, they need their own rooms simply to store all their crap.)
  • Around the time I was researching all of this, I sprained my ankle. That night, after I pulled myself up the stairs to my second-floor apartment using the railings, hobbled to my bedroom, and collapsed on the bed., I realized there was no way in hell I could possibly live in a place that required me to climb a ladder to go to bed. Because accidents happen. No, I needed a real bedroom.

So. My tiny house had grown into a small 3-bedroom house. Which might be tiny by McMansion standards, but is not hipster, off-the-grid tiny.

(You can tell, by the ridiculous notions above, that R and I did not live together at the time. If we had, I’d have known that a tiny house was not in our future — not unless he lived somewhere else and just came to visit me in the tiny house on weekends.)

As I’ve said before, I’m crunchyish. Not truly crunchy. Not reusable toilet paper, make-my-own-compost crunchy. And, apparently, not tiny-house crunchy.

It all worked out for the best, though. Because as it turns out, even my smallish 3-bedroom house (which I also rent) is too small for my family. I may not be a McMansion girl, but I’m closer to that than a tiny house.

They sure are cute, though. Maybe there’s a she-shed in my future, at least.

A new week, new month

We are finally on the mend. ::knock wood:: I feel like I am playing catch-up now — taking care of everything that fell apart while we were sick. It isn’t an entirely bad feeling, though. I am emerging from my chrysalis of Kleenex. Hopefully I get to be a butterfly for a bit, until it all falls apart again.

Loving:

It is cooler. I am happy. Bring on the pumpkin!

Reading:

Lots of kids’ books. Anya’s teacher has challenged them to read 100 books by April. We are already a quarter of the way there.

Watching:

Not much this week. Kids’ shows. And the movie trinity: Wreck-It Ralph, Minions, Hotel Transylvania 2.

Listening to:

I keep catching myself humming “Love My Way.”

Working on:

Getting my plates spinning again. I have the house mostly clean. This week is going to be about taking care of the neglected areas.

Anticipating:

The fair. I love the fair. It never lives up to my memories of childhood fairs, but in all honesty they probably weren’t so great, either. I still enjoy the excitement.

Making me happy:

This mop. It is the perfect example of something that simply and elegantly makes my life easier.20160901_085352

You take the good, you take the bad…

I am feeling pretty smug this morning. It is 9:30 am, and alteady I have

  • Got Anya up, dressed (with brushed hair!), fed, and off to school
  • Dressed and fed Kai
  • Played with Kai
  • Loaded the dishwasher
  • Took out the trash
  • Caught up on email
  • Made laundry soap and washed/put away the laundry
  • Cleaned the whole house (except for Anya’s room and the office; those get added next week)

Not every morning this week has gone so well. Monday, for example, kinda sucked. Kai got me up after a solitary hour of sleep, and didn’t go back down for 4 hours.

Yeah, I was not at my most Mary Poppins that day.

I need days like that, though. They make days like this even sweeter. So if you will excuse me, I think I will go revel a bit more in today’s go-rightness.

My new favorite granola bars

I don’t normally post recipes, but this one turned out so much better than I expected that I have to share.

A little backstory: I’ve been trying to come up with a recipe for granola bars for a while now, but so far have been disappointed in the results, which have all been way too sweet. I’ve also been hoping to use up some of the excess food we’ve amassed for various reasons. I have on hand, at this very moment:

  • five cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • three and a half largeish canisters of quick-cooking oats
  • two Cosco-sized containers of sweetened applesauce (Kai and I prefer unsweetened)
  • wheat germ (I love wheat germ, but it usually goes bad before I finish it)
  • flax seed meal from my lactation bar/oatmeal days.

Surely there is some way to make granola bars out of this stuff, right?

Well, I haven’t tried any of the applesauce recipes, but I did find a recipe that uses the oats and the sweetened condensed milk. And it’s good! The consistency of the bars is closer to no-bake cookies than granola bars, but they meet all of my criteria: fast, easy, customizable, no weird ingredients, and Kai can eat them. (Anya is in that foodphobic stage of preschoolerhood, but if she’d give these a shot, she’d love them.)

These make a pretty big batch; no way could I eat them all myself before they went stale. But Kai is more than happy to help me out. The kid literally hoots when he sees them on the counter.

Because I do a lot of recipe collecting online, I won’t reinvent the wheel here — this recipe is a lot easier to save, print, and share from the source:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/25794/easy-granola-bars/

My tweaks:

  • I added some wheat germ (about a cup) and flax seed meal (about 1/3 cup) in place of the coconut, because I had them on hand and was out of coconut. (I bought some for the next batch, though!)
  • I skipped the cranberries and substituted sunflower seeds for the almonds (same quantity) to make them easier for Kai to eat. (Kiddo only has 4 teeth.)
  • I doubled the chocolate chips to make up for the loss of the cranberries.

I baked these for 20 minutes in a greased 13 x 9 Pyrex pan, cooled them completely, then cut them into bars. I found a metal spatula to be the easiest tool for cutting; with a little pressure, the bars simply pop apart. (So not the experience I’ve had with other recipes.)

I was going to try an applesauce granola bar recipe next, but I think we’ve found our master recipe here. I’ll try something else with the applesauce. Maybe some sort of quick bread. Fall is approaching, after all.