It seemed like a good idea at the time
Housing prices were skyrocketing, and we were moving. I was not planning to work anymore so that I could stay at home with the kids.....something we had been planning on since we made the decision to have children. We wanted to move from our first home in a neighborhood to the country. Considering we were cutting our income by more than half, we didn't exactly want the mortgage to go up either. Finally, we found it.....a little 1940s, 1100 sq ft farmhouse on almost two acres. It was the first, close to town, stick built home on land we had seen in our price range. And, believe it or not....we were first in line on it's first hour back on the market after the initial offer fell through.
Granted, the place was no gem. It had a shoddy remodel sometime in the 60s and patch work construction throughout. Many of the twelve other rooftops on the property were in shambles....some decent enough to keep and repair....others we simply tore down. Much of the house we had to take back to the bones, ripping up floors, supporting beams underneath where carpenter ants and time had destroyed the framework. The electrical needed to be upgraded, heating system changed, the chimney lined, walls rearranged, and bathrooms plumbed and installed.
The fact was, despite absorbing a great majority of our sizable profit from the sale of our home, the house (let alone the surrounding outbuildings) could have easily absorbed twice what we had put into it already. Jason was working long, exhausting days at work, and I was pregnant with our second child...while chasing around an 18 month old. In fact, for the first few months, Caleb and I lived elsewhere thanks to the generosity of my distant cousin. Not having a kitchen, bathroom, or floors somehow didn't seem acceptable for a pregnant Mama and a little one.
So, night by night, over the course of several months, Jason, and sometimes one of our visiting dads, would frantically chip away at the basics...cutting corners and taking the "good enough" approach....accomplishing the "must haves" and leaving the rest for later....losing much sleep in the process. That was the way it had to be done in order for us to come close to having our family living back together and be settled into our home before baby Emet arrived. Once we finally did move in, Emet arrived, cash reserves were low, and work on the house slowed to a drip.
Livin' the Dream
Fast forward to now, six years and two more children later....here we are. Still in this house. We've been able to finish a few projects: carpeting the crazy patched linoleum floors upstairs, installing a wood stove, putting up drywall over decades of peeling wall paper layers and gaping holes, finishing trimwork, adding a back splash in the kitchen, and most recently, finally being able to use our full size bath/shower downstairs.
Still, when it rains hard, the roof leaks in the laundry room, onto the crib in the girls room, and onto my feet in our bedroom. Several rooms still have light bulbs operated by pull strings. Our water is orange. ORANGE! So, despite having a new water softener system, it appears the best our laundry will ever look is dingy. On a bad week....bright orange....which then matches our sinks, bathtubs and toilets. For, try as I might, I cannot stay on top of the orange. Cleaning anything in our house is like trying to take sips from a fire hose. When you walk through the living room or kitchen, a loud thud pops under your feet, likely from the beams supporting (or not supporting) the house. More carpenter ants? Perhaps. The windows are the silver metal framed kind. You know, the ones with four panes whose primary form of insulation comes from the dirt, grime, and spiders trapped within the permanent panes. Jason has the privilege of having to turn sideways to fit between his side of the bed and the wall. And, I have a furry friend that lives within the wall behind my bed....apparently one that doesn't succumb to mouse traps. It might even be the Mouse King from the Nutcracker. And this is just the house. I won't even begin with the outbuildings. They're worse.
Like anyone, we too want to improve our property, and feel good about the place we call home....so add in mowing the lawn once a week (which isn't really enough), trying to pull key patches of weeds, and throwing down some bark from time to time. We did paint one summer - a tremendous improvement on our collection of patchwork but mostly turquoise green buildings.....though considering issues with our old siding and fascia boards, both Jason and I often had to paint as we looked the other way to not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the project before us.
Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning here.
In the Meantime
In addition to all of the home maintenance, repair, and remodel projects looming over our head, we have been parents of a growing family of little ones! We are a family of six now, with four children age six and under. Life is busy, messy, and sticky. We are frequently swimming in laundry and dishes....scrambling to keep up with the basics.....just like everyone else in this stage of life.
Between the wood stove, living in a drafty old country house, our dog, and our little boys, I believe there may actually be no hope of having a clean, tidy, dirt/dust free home. Ever.
I will admit though, we do try. We vacuum, sweep, mop, dust and do laundry. It's just that the odds of you ever seeing it freshly done, or all at once, are slim to none.
I feel like I live in my car, and oftentimes, my car looks that way too, even if I clean it out every couple of days. The goal is to clean it out each time we go in our out, but someone always has to go potty, or we only have a ten minute transition before we have to get back in the car again...and that needs to include getting drinks and snacks and ???
To top it off, and I say this with a chuckle, but it is with all seriousness, Jason and I feel very strongly that our God given calling is to people, relationships and hospitality.....continually opening our home to others, and putting other people first. Yes, that means helping someone move on the one free day we have that week (or month). It means going to a wedding to celebrate alongside a friend....and actually staying there, not just dropping in for appearances. It means modifying our plans when a friend drops in, starting up the fire pit, kicking back, and making them feel welcome. It means showing up to a friends' house when it sounds like no one else is going to go. It means keeping our word and not skipping out because it sounds better to stay at home. It means giving money to someone in need that we had set aside for something else. Most importantly, it means putting all of these things aside (cleaning, housework, plans) to make sure that when our kids ask...."Can we play tag today?"....the answer is often "Yes."
Oftentimes, these choices are rewarding, and we feel good about the decision afterwards. But, they are sometimes hard, when in the balance lies the fact that the home repairs don't move forward, and the house is never as tidy as I would hope for.
Livin' the Dream
Wait....same title right? Yep.
I remember that time long ago and deep in new love that I told Jason I would be happy with him anywhere, even if we lived in a cardboard box. I remember the day Jason broke his back and how the neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he wasn't paralyzed...that he was even alive. I remember the day each of our children were born, healthy and strong. In those moments, I didn't care about a single one of the things that can get under my skin.
We live in one of the most beautiful places I could imagine. Beautiful by adult standards, but a child's dream. From our two acres, we can look out onto a hundred flat acres of open fields framed by tree covered hills, with snowy mountain foothills in the backdrop.
From the house, our land gently slopes down to a winding creek accessed by secret passageways through the brush. A steep roofed playhouse, a family project, sits nestled in the tree line atop the small hill leading down to the creek.
The woodshed is full of wood, much of which we have received for free with a little hard work thrown in. And the children have begun to learn the value of hard work, as it is their responsibility to bring wood up to the house in the winter time for the wood stove.
We have ATVs, a children's motorcycle, our bicycles, and a swingset....all old, to be sure, but still providing hours of joy. And, our property on the other side of the creek has been slowly built into a racing track with jumps and fun from many buckets of materials brought home from Jason's work. In the center is our bonfire pit, from which we host our annual Christmas Tree Roast.
The children love to run and race around the yard "hunting" bunnies with their bow and arrows and telling tales of cayotes.
The small barn has nooks and cranny's galore, with little doors leading to passageways...and the smell of hay remains, despite no longer having animals.
We have space for a garden, and through this have an ability to teach our children life lessons of preparation, new life, and care for living things. And oh the lessons of the weeds!
There are four more outbuildings, used as storage, a pantry, a wood shop, and for me - a little craft cottage, filled with crafting whimsy.
Our house has secret doors....leading to secret attic rooms, which we hope to make full use of here in the near future. The tiny bedrooms with sloped ceilings provide for cozy spaces in which we rock our children at night as we tuck them into bed and hold the Ordway Family Prayer Council. The squeaky old floors and small spaces let us hear all of the thuds and giggles as the children laugh and play upstairs....or allow us to sneak half way up the stairs to hear their heartfelt prayers, made up songs, and brotherly discussions or dolly play.
And, I simply cannot fail to mention that my remodeled kitchen is amazing!!! A cook's delight with double ovens, a warming drawer, a six burner gas stove, and gorgeous cabinetry.
I can't count the number of times people have said how much they love coming to our home. These walls have shaken with laughter, and despite our tiny space, we've had over sixty people here at once (thankfully it was a nice day outside!). We've hosted countless birthday parties for family and friends; held dinners, bbqs and showers; hosted Bible study Sunday nights, and have had many overnight guests on our living room couch or camping in our yard.
Often, as I walk around the yard, I think, "I can't believe I'm so blessed. I'm not sure where we'll move next, or when that will be....but it better be good, because I'm not going to give this place up for just anything!"
As Jason and the children were waiting for me to get in the car the other day, Caleb told Jason: "Papa, we are so blessed. We live in a big house. We have five outbuildings, and a big yard to play in. We have quads to ride... and a motorcycle. We are just so blessed."
"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."
Livin' the Dream....