Over a year later….

I shouldn’t be trying to write this right now, as I have two dudes that didn’t sleep well last night (subsequently, I didn’t, either) who are cranky and having a hard time entertaining themselves today! But I’ve been wanting to update anyone who hasn’t been fully caught up on our journey as of late. Plus I have other things I want to start writing about (mental purging), but I don’t want to do so without updating the timeline here.

My last post was about the possibility of buying land, and building small. That’s still our dream. But we ended up being forced to wait for another year while we come out from under the restrictions from our previous short sale. And while we waited, we ended up changing the timeline. The land in the pictures in the past post ended up selling while we waited, and we just weren’t finding our dream land at a dream price. So, rather than forcing it, we decided to buy a small house without a lot of land, and work on improving it, while paying off debt.

My parents plan to move soon, so one reason we decided to wait to build was so that we could be more available to help them, and then make decisions for our long term placement after they are settled. And, speaking of long term, we didn’t want to settle with land or location we didn’t want to live on for a long time, just to make it happen NOW.

So we found a little house (1,000 square foot or less–we’ve seen a couple different estimates). And we have really lucked out with this little house! It’s in a little town just outside our metro area, that has its own long history. It feels like a small town in the country, but literally right next to everything we access on a regular basis. And the house? It’s 117 years old. It has so much charm!

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Our little new-to-us old house! (That day I was painting new doors for the front, but currently they wait in the shed, because replacing them has been really challenging and had to be put aside for another day)

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Front porch texture ❤ 

So the last several months have been super busy with doing some renovating and personalizing the inside to make it more “ours”. The house was actually mostly already renovated by the business that used to own it (we are basically downtown in an area that is “mixed use”, meaning homes could be businesses or private residences). Lots of new in this old house, before we even purchased it. But the kitchen wasn’t quite adequate, so we made that our primary contribution to increase the value of the house and make it work for a family of four.

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New and improved kitchen! Floors will still need to be done at some point, and a few finishing details on some of the cabinetry. But it’s functional for us for now! (ready for a party in this pic)

We thought we were downsized enough for our small house….we have found that we should have downsized more! We are crammed in here, but we still have some stuff to sort through and assimilate or donate at my folks’ house! One challenge has been that this house has almost NO closet space. So we needed furniture to store EVERYthing. We’ve been to IKEA a million times, and I’m not exaggerating.

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Play area in front room

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Dining Area

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Reading Nook in the Dining Room

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The boys’ “Library” in their bedroom

We’ve been enjoying having a space of our own again. We have a lot to do, particularly in the back yard. We’ll have a few indoor improvements to do before we sell again, including the floors and the bathroom vanity. But we’re enjoying it as is for a while (especially because we just had to replace the air conditioner unexpectedly! That’s another long story!)

 

Stay tuned for more updates on other happenings in our lives recently, and news of upcoming plans!

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So, what’s new?

First off…a giant thank you for all of you who sent word of encouragement and prayer after my last post. I can truly say that I feel like we’ve been riding your prayers; they have been holding us up. I actually had the miscarriage the day after my post, and the next couple weeks were definitely a journey physically. I’ve been behind on several things I’ve needed to tend to, as it took a while to get motivation to get going again, and I was physically and emotionally wiped out. I’m still not done with the follow up. I still have yet another lab appointment to make sure my HCG levels have gone completely to zero (if not,  there is risk that not everything cleared and infection could set in). I feel 100% back to normal (aside from the stress of the crazy events of the last month), so I suspect my levels will be normal, by then.

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Could this be our new commute view?

Anyway, we’ve been trying to find a new normal, which is really hard when you’re hanging out in your family’s basement trying to sort out the next step in the land-buying process. In the midst of it all, we have had a birthday to celebrate (Jak turned three!), and I’ve been trying to reorganize my Usborne business and get it rolling again (I’m actually going to be sharing a bit about it here on my next post), and have had car troubles rear their ugly heads (nothing major…just brakes and tires, but just added stress).

I just thought I would take a moment to update everyone on the house plans! I know some of you are following along, anxious to hear what is next.  At the moment we are in a bit of limbo. We have land we want. But with it comes decisions! There are two plots. We would prefer one plot that costs a bit more. But they won’t sell it without the other plot. It’s a long story. We are pretty confident the other plot is worth purchasing. We just want the pricier one more (clearly, the price indicates it is the more desirable plot, not only to us). Anyway, we know the options on the table. And now we have some work to do with pursuing the financing to see our options.

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The view from the western parcel looking toward the eastern one. (The tree is pretty much at the line between the two. The western property extends more to the right of the picture.)

The pricing for all TWENTY acres (can’t believe we are even talking about 10 or 20 acres!) is actually very reasonable, and would leave us with a very reasonable mortgage price. But our whole goal was to get us set up for a minimal mortgage that we could pay off much sooner than traditionally is acceptable in our country. So it is really challenging our will to stick to the plan. (At least it is challenging for me…my eyes keep seeing 20 acres and thinking how amazing that would be!)  We are in the place where we need to discern the Lord’s plan, not just what is logical.

We know what the Lord has told us: the land is already set aside for us. So here is what my amazing husband said: if it is already set aside for us, we don’t need to fret and toil over the decision. We will make our offer (once we decide what to do), and if they don’t take it, we aren’t going to sweat it. We’ll keep looking. Because if God has it set aside, it won’t be hard to get. And we shouldn’t over extend our finances beyond our means, even if it looks to be in our means on paper…because that isn’t God’s plan, at any point.

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Standing in front of the eastern plot. There is a pond on this property, as well as more creek (both properties include part of the creek). A little less area to actually build. Not a problem when you are planning to build small. Just a decision to make!

We have our house plan designed (loosely…it will have to be tweaked by the professionals). We are about 95% sure we will be choosing a kit home (remember the Sears kit homes?) barn-house cottage, cape cod style, from a company out of New Hampshire. It is a kit in the sense that they design it and prepare all the pieces in the shop, so that it will all come together, built to code, at your site. When the pieces arrive…you build it! (Or hire someone to build it…but it is designed to be built by non-professionals). We will hire out for the things we don’t know how to do ourselves that are not included in the kit (foundation, plumbing, electric, etc.). All the pieces add up. So many things to think about!

We don’t have a timeline yet, obviously, as we don’t have the land yet. We have lots of planning yet to do. So we’ll update you when we know more! But we continue to covet your prayers as we make decisions. And if anyone wants to help us build a house….we may literally have a barn-raising of sorts. 😉 And I’m not joking.

Heehee!

A Hard Good Friday

I know that I haven’t posted anything in forever. To say I’ve been busy is the understatement of the year. The main theme of the posts I’ve started on this blog has centered around our plans to downsize to a “small” house, and the reason I haven’t posted in ages is because we have been deep in process of working toward that goal.

We worked every weekend for a few months getting Grandma’s house (our rental) ready for putting on the market. We had more than one garage sale. We pulled carpet up from the entire house. We painted trim and walls. We replaced the kitchen floor and hardware and sink. We continued to purge our belongings to charity and storage. Our goal date kept getting pushed back, but eventually we got it ready right before Christmas. We had an open house, but didn’t officially go on the market until mid January. After a few miserable weeks of daily house showings (which is torture when you have littles!), in one day we had two offers, and one turned out to be amazing, not just in dollar amount, but mostly in quality of family. Amazing enough that we have been in direct communication almost the entire time via email, and hope to continue to be in touch now that the sale is over.

6 weeks between contract and closing seems like a lot of time, until you realize you have to process all of your stuff, and your grandparents’ stuff from decades of living in that home. We had loaded one dumpster prior to going on the market…and then TWO dumpsters before closing. SERIOUSLY.

Well, MUCH of the work of packing and sorting and preparing to temporarily move in with my parents, move some to storage, and then the rest to be sold in an estate sale fell on my own and my mother’s shoulders, as everyone else works day jobs. And having the boys meant only one of us worked at a time. Of course, the weekends were loaded with work by everyone. We haven’t been to church in several weeks because it has simply been crazy down to the wire to get it all done. But a couple weeks into that packing time, the week we had set for moving our stuff to storage so we could focus on estate sale prep, I was having heart palpitations, complete exhaustion, and poor success at getting stuff done. Finally it dawned on me that I have a history of heart palpitations when I am pregnant….Woah, boy.

Soooo….. took a test. Not a full five seconds passed before that stick showed positive. TOTAL SHOCK. Not the time we had planned. We hadn’t even STARTED planning for baby number three. Literally the day before I had thought to myself, you know, I MIGHT be ready for another baby, AFTER we build our house…hopefully within 6 months. That would be good timing. HAHAHAHAHA. God is so awesome how He likes to mess with our plans. 🙂 I took another test the next day because I was still in shock. Definitely still pregnant.

I told family right away, because clearly, I was overextending myself. So we slowed down our plans, and decided Grandma’s storage unit would have to wait. Dad’s offer to hire movers before we found out I was pregnant turned out to be a HUGE blessing after we found out. I have historically low progesterone, which led to my first miscarriage two years before we had Gideon. I have had to supplement (and fight for supplementation) with both boys. So I scrambled to call the birth center and get supplement, because in all the crazy going on in my life, I had no idea how far along I was, and if I was getting far along, that progesterone could already be super low. It took more time than I would have preferred, but I finally got lab results, which were definitely low, and got started on progesterone supplements immediately. We also got a sonogram scheduled so we could determine gestation age, and I got to see our little baby’s strong heartbeat! 7 weeks and 1 day.

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So, we work on processing all this new news, and continue plugging away at the house, while trying to get a little more rest. Truthfully, in our situation, getting rest, and “not doing too much” was nearly impossible. My progesterone continued to stay low. At one point it looked very high, so that was promising, but then we determined after a week of a lower dose, that it may have been a false reading due to taking a dose too close to the lab draw.

The last couple weeks before the house closing were crazy hard. Laaate nights prepping for an estate sale that was crazy exhausting. Two days of estate sale (constantly on feet!), followed by three days of packing what remained for donation, loading another dumpster, moving massive donation pile to curb, getting every last bit of personal stuff out, and finishing the last cleaning details. The crazy thing was that I had more energy than I thought I should for being pregnant AND that crazy busy. No heart palpitations. Tired for normal reasons, but not pregnant-tired. Not ravenous like I had been. Pants not fitting tighter like I figured they would be at that point in a technically-fourth pregnancy. Decreased nausea. I tried not to worry, because I had hardly any nausea with Jak. But my lab draw was low again, and the day the house closed….I started spotting.

Of course, I start to panic a little. I certainly know it could be many things. The midwife suggested it was due to trauma from lifting too much, and it would settle. When it didn’t settle (though wasn’t intensifying, either), another midwife scheduled a sonogram. Friday morning, Good Friday, the sonographer told me she wouldn’t be able to share results with me, but she would be able to give me a picture of the baby at the end. When she didn’t, I hoped she had forgotten, but immediately knew there was a reason. After a very long wait, she came back in and told me she had one of my midwives on the phone and she wanted to talk to me. Well, there’s no surprise what that meant.

They couldn’t find a heart beat.

She told me to drive on over to the birth center, and she would explain to me what we needed to do from here. I’m bummed, because I wish I had the presence of mind to ask about what age the baby looked, so I can know about how long it lived. But that’s ok.

I called Andy, who works literally a block from the birth center. He left work immediately to join me. I cried on my way. Of course I’m so very sad. Worried about how the next week will go. But in that short drive, I felt such a comfort. And I decided that, while my emotions are going to fluctuate, I’ve been through this before, and I have two amazing boys, and two angel babies. We may have more in the future. Or we may adopt. God is good. I know where this baby is. And he or she is not suffering.

(Oh, and BY THE WAY…PUH-LEEASE NEVER SAY ANY OF THESE THINGS to a woman who has or is suffering through a miscarriage or infertility as a reason they SHOULD be joyful and not sad about their loss. DO NOT pass off ANY miscarriage as anything less than a sacred human soul having passed, and a deep loss for their parents. Each family needs something different, but please do NOT say things flippantly, do not Jesus-juke them, do not tell them to get over it. God honored Hannah’s deep despair in her infertility. It is normal for this to be a very hard thing.)

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It’s not fun walking into a place that everyone is looking at you with pity, wondering how you are doing with this sad news. Especially as an introvert that doesn’t like to show emotion anyway. The fact that we were deciding to be at peace with God’s timing and His presence with us while we walk through this, may have allowed us to be more positive than some of the caregivers in the birth center would have expected. (Of course, this was also me trying to keep myself from crying more for the time being.)

As we left, with instructions of what to expect next and what we would do to follow up after the miscarriage occurs, we decided we needed lunch. Well…I guess I can eat sushi now.  Let’s do that, and celebrate the life of our fourth baby.

So we did. And then, as we drove home to be with the boys…I decided before this process really kicks in, while I feel good, I want to enjoy the beautiful weather, and spend some happy time with our boys. I also still had done nothing for Easter! So, as crazy as it sounds, we took the boys out for some fun. And we had a blast. We enjoyed macarons as big as our hands, and we shopped at Target for Easter basket stuff. And then that night, Andy and I continued with our pre-arranged plans to enjoy some homemade gumbo with dear friends.

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It was what my heart needed. It was a hard, but good Good Friday. What great comfort to know on THE day our Lord was crucified, by HIS stripes, I AM HEALED, and so is our baby. So amazing.

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We decided to let the Easter weekend take whatever course I need it to take. We had plans to join family for a celebratory house-is-DONE meal out on the town, join other family for an easter egg hunt, had hoped to make it to church, and then brunch on Sunday.  Still feeling good this morning, we did the first of those plans. But as the afternoon progressed, it became clear the not fun part was coming. So I don’t know what the rest of the weekend holds.

Before I end this long post, let me say a few things. I am in a good place about this. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, and sad. We are sure to have some up and down feelings about all of this. And it doesn’t mean that this baby isn’t valuable to us, or that anyone else going through this should process this in the same way, or be feeling this positive while in the very throes of a miscarriage. I certainly wasn’t the first time we faced this. And it isn’t even just the fact that this isn’t our first time going through this that is giving me comfort. There are many factors right now. Part of it may be that I was still really reeling from the fact that I was pregnant right at this moment. It was a really stressful time for me to process it. I hate to say, there might even be a tiny bit of relief for my heart right now. Do I feel guilty about that? A little, for sure. But I know God holds my heart, and I’m not going to berate myself for having MIXED emotions about it all.

But truly, the only true reason I can have any contentedness in this situation is because I know Who also holds this little one. And I know my times are in His hand. By HIS stripes we are healed. He is RISEN.

He is RISEN.

And I know He is WITH me.

Our little one deserves an announcement, even though he or she only existed in the womb. We were planning to share an announcement this weekend, if we had good labs this week. Sadly, our announcement is bittersweet. We love this little one, and we eagerly await meeting them someday. We welcome your prayers, especially as we actually go through miscarriage this week. We greatly appreciate the prayers and encouragement we have already received from the few that we had been sharing all this with from the beginning. We truly have amazing friends, and we are forever grateful.

Sorry for sharing sad news on the eve of such a glorious, holy day. But please rejoice with us, for His healing is available to us, as it is to everyone! We wish you a blessed Easter!

DON’T ASSUME

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I was awake tossing and turning last night. I am finally coming down with the cold virus my sons have been fighting the last week and a half, so I was awake a lot coughing and feeling uncomfortable. Periodically while awake, I perused social media. This is never a good idea in the middle of the night. Particularly when things are inflamed as they are right now (as we can’t seem to get away from for more than a week), following the Paris terrorist attack, among others, and the massive Syrian refugee situation. It only added to my unrest.

And, to be honest, I’m not the most savvy political and world event follower. These days, I’m in a bubble with my kids, trying to not have the scary news on, and, honestly, trying to not be overcome with anxiety and worry, myself. I was always prone to this before, but it only gets worse after having kids, because I no longer have just myself to worry about. It has been a major struggle for me, and I am aware that the biggest reason for this has been infrequent time with the Lord, not allowing His truth and peace to be in charge of my worldview and giving me significant peace. So in my effort to actually sleep at night, in general, I try to minimize the amount of news I get, for the time being, because it only feeds my flesh and my fear. Of course, I’m not trying to be unaware or uncaring about the plights of the world at large, or our own citizens, with the intense chaos and hate that is stirring everywhere.

I have even said on Facebook that, while I struggle to keep my own mouth shut, I believe Facebook is not a great medium for discussing our political views, because it is so easy to be flippant and inflammatory. It’s easy to bully by typing a glib sentence. It’s easy to offend with a fancy meme over a picture. And to never have to actually have an honest, fruitful dialogue with another human being, face to face. But, I confess, it’s tempting, and I fall prey to the constant arguing and bickering easily. And I am trying to keep my mouth shut, even though it may be the only platform I have at the moment to share my views.

But, I do have one thought that is burning in my mind since this discussion about whether to bring over the thousands of Syrian refugees. And I am trying SUPER hard to only express this one thought, because I’m feeling too crummy to get into a day-long argument about whether I actually believe we should bring them over or not. BUT here is what I urge everyone: DON’T ASSUME.

We have already had multitudes of things to be divided on lately. And this issue is creating even deeper chasms, and challenging the fundamentals of how we feel about humanity and what is the morally right thing to do. A house divided amongst itself will not stand.

Here’s my concern-which is not really a new concern, since there has always been a tendency to believe that conservatives have no compassion and that liberals have no caution-but this is a division I see happening between conservatives:  assuming that those that do not feel bringing refugees onto American soil is a mistake feel that way out of hate and discrimination is not a fair assumption. Assuming that bringing them here is the only “Christlike” thing to do is not fair. Assuming that those who want them to come are the only ones that truly love them, is not fair.

I’m seeing several posts on Facebook and on Instagram that are insinuating that those who are concerned about bringing the refugees here  are not living as Christ would want us to live. That they should be ashamed of themselves. Equating them to the past history of hate crimes and treatment of German refugees and Jewish refugees.

It’s obvious, I’m sure, where my perspective on this leans, but I haven’t made any conclusions about what exactly I think should happen. Of course we shouldn’t live in fear, we shouldn’t lose compassion on the destitute and hurting. There is certainly SO MUCH more that I can do. BUT having concerns about the wisdom of bringing in the masses in a hurry, despite the very real issue of security concerns DOES NOT MEAN I hate them or want them treated unfairly. If anything, I am concerned that the innocents will not be treated well enough here, and I don’t want that to happen, either. I FEAR FOR THEIR PROTECTION HERE, AS WELL AS IN THEIR HOMELAND, because we have enough crazies here that are letting rage and fear get the best of them, as well. I’m not sure they are as safe here as they should be. Especially if people are truly afraid there are terrorists amongst them…which I believe is a valid concern, even if the percentages and odds say there may “only” be a FEW. Of course, I’m not saying that I CONDONE any hateful behavior toward anyone, on our soil or elsewhere. But it’s a reality I fear…given so many horrendous crimes that have happened within our borders in recent years.

So, all that to say, regardless of your perspective, be so careful with your words. Be careful when linking how Christ would want us to act as a judgment of whether someone is on the right side of the fence on this. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. We need to consider that question for our individual choices and worldview, for sure. And I would LOVE for a Godly worldview to be guiding our nations behavior and decisions. But it is not fair to assume that an opinion in support of not accepting refugees IN THE MANNER IN WHICH IS HAPPENING is a blanket opinion of hate and discrimination.  It is not fair to assume that those that want them to be allowed in are the only ones that truly care. And it is not fair to assume that those that want them to be allowed in have no concerns of safety, either.

It’s a tricky issue, and not a clean answer. So don’t cause division by making assumptions. Assuming hate only breeds hate. And please don’t be broken hearted that I may have a different perspective of the issue, because it must mean I have no compassion on the children facing these atrocities. DON’T ASSUME.  It only makes the whole thing more difficult.  If you have an opinion, call your senator about it. It may be the only true action you can take.

I have hesitated to say anything, because I’m seeing dear friends posting from all angles of this, and I truly think the general consensus is that we all WANT our nation to take up the defense of the refugees. We WANT to be a benevolent nation. We WANT to see our nation take a strong stance against hate and have the courage to do what it takes to help the defenseless. So I just want to urge that we handle the debate on HOW to do that with grace and diplomacy…not political correctness but true patience and understanding. What we post on social media makes such a difference to setting the tone for either peaceful discussion or rousing anger and division, even without intending to. PLEASE, just make sure what you write and say is without assumption of the intent of someone who has a different view.

That is all. 🙂 I’m sorry for my LOOOOONG absence from the blog. I have something else I have been wanting to post for over a month now, but have just not had the energy to sit down and make it happen. I will try to post again soon. 🙂

What’s new?

So…..I have been absent from the blog for awhile. That’s kind of been my M.O. over the years with blog writing. But also, I believe I stated on my last post that this would be a possibility as I attempted a little break from my phone.  Thought I would take a moment to update everyone, on a few things.  I have some more heady things floating around in my brain that I would like to write about at some point. But I have so much going on in life right now, I haven’t had time to sit down long enough to put them into a readable post. I’ll get to them eventually!  But here’s a couple short updates, and a bit more of a glimpse into our ideas for a possible Wong homestead.

The no-phone experiment: went soooo well. I have been pretty significantly changed by it, but some old habits have been creeping back in and I need to work on addressing them. I LOOOOOVE instagram. It is currently my favorite form of social media. HOWEVER, I follow so many people, it takes hours to keep up with every post. Soooo, I don’t any more. I miss a TON of great things, and I try to hop on every now and then and look at different favorites to see some things I’ve missed. And I post stuff almost daily. But I don’t look at everybody’s pics any more. I miss it, BUT it is definitely helping me not stay on my phone as much. That said, I have gravitated more toward Facebook….partially because my business endeavors have been connected to FB and I find myself remaining there. Even still, I try to not look at my feed endlessly. I would like to spend less time on FB except for designated times for connecting for my businesses (handwriting tutoring and Usborne Books & More), and short bursts of social connection. But it can take over your time like a leech. So, I am working to change some habits at home with my time management, and continuing to monitor and limit my time online is a big factor.  It is a major step in BLESSING MY HOME by serving it, taking care of it, and blessing my family by worshiping the Lord with my time and diligence.

Thyroid: If you follow me on Facebook or instagram, you already know, my biopsy came back clear. I’m so grateful! I need to follow up in a year to check on the nodules I have. But at least we can breathe a little knowing it’s not cancer. So that’s good news for future kiddos, should the Lord decide to give us more the biological way.  🙂  And if you’re wondering what is happening in that area….I know it’s not really what everyone wants to know. But I will say, having these two so close has WORN ME OUT. I can’t control God’s timing…as was evidenced by how long it took us to get Gideon, and then by how NOT long it took us to get Jak. But, if I had a choice, I would wait a while longer to give my body a little more recovery time. 🙂  We will see. But I’m glad to know that I have a thyroid that is working well (all the labs indicate thyroid is just fine!) so at least that’s one issue I don’t have hanging over my head if we did get pregnant again sooner or later.

House: Ok. So we aren’t a lot further than we were last time I posted. Basically we are inching our way in home improvements to Grandma’s house so we can put it on the market, and downsizing our stuff and selling Grandma’s stuff. If you have ever had to take care of a parent/grandparent’s estate after they have passed, you know it is a daunting process. So much stuff to find a place for or sell. It is overwhelming at times. But little by little, we will get there.

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We don’t have a lot of decisions nailed down yet, because we won’t be able to really move on things until the new year, and until this house sells. So we know there will be a (hopefully short) time of transition in between homes. Not 100% what the plan will be for that time, and we are definitely not 100% sure what our final destination will actually be. Pinterest is both my best friend and my nemesis these days. I can’t hop on to find a recipe I’ve pinned without seeing several more pins on tiny homes that have been “picked for me” based on my search history, and then rabbit trailing to more ideas and pins. I know you all know how that goes, if you are a Pinterest junkie.

I LOVE so many of the ideas I have found so far. But it’s hard to know what the most cost effective, yet appropriate for us kind of dwelling we will end up with. I love the tiny homes on wheels. Kind of cool to be able to take your home with you if you need to move. But there can be issues. For one, most of those just don’t have enough space for us with two energetic little boys, even though they will hopefully spend a lot of time outside. But as anyone in the midwest knows, you can’t spend a lot of time outside all times of the year. PLUS, there’s not a lot of room for adding to the family in a home that tiny with the limitations of trailer bed size. I have seen some hybrid ideas…a tiny home on wheels with a side building and deck. Just not sure.  There are other issues with being on wheels.  Financing might be an issue. Unless we pay cash, but then we wouldn’t be able to buy land, so we would need to find a place to be a squatter. But then, you can’t build other structures….I don’t know. Just not looking like a perfect fit.

So then we look at small/tiny homes that are built on foundations. This is more what we lean toward. But there are many factors that make these become way more expensive than what the intended purpose is to be.  The cost and type of foundation can be huge. Cost of septic. Or compost toilets…but still need a grey water system that can be as expensive as septic. Well water. Electricity vs. solar. We would LOVE to be off grid. But the up front cost for that is not cheap. So that leads to questions about how close to city we want to be. The structure itself can be expensive if you don’t do it yourself. And being novice home builders….whatever we decide needs to be easy enough for newbies. But the easy stuff is the prefab stuff…and that isn’t cheap. So many unknowns right now.

The TYPE of structure that we could go with is so varied! We have looked at some adorable options. Cute cottages. Ultra-modern container homes (which I LOVE, but some super smart architect friends have suggested they aren’t the best way to go). Super-efficient passive-hause structures. Are you interested in learning about our top two contenders? One of them is very traditional. One of them is very NOT traditional. I’m curious to see what the thoughts are on the non-traditional one.

Traditional first:  A Cape Cod style barn house.

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I am not going to lie. I AM IN LOVE WITH THESE. They are so traditional. So rustic. So adorable.

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And surprisingly easy to find a cost effective way to build. We found a company that designs them for you, cuts everything to the exact specifications, and then provides the instructions for you to build them yourself. The reviews are promising.  Even if we don’t go with that company, the design is basic and flexible. You can go modern. You can go classic. You can build on easily later.

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My gut feeling is that this will be the easiest type of structure to get approvals for. The resale value should be pretty decent if we do it well, make good choices, and pass inspections. And, goodness, can you get any cuter?

barn house inside 1

barn house inside 2

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So how about our non-traditional option?

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Meet the quonset hut home.

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These structures have a long history in the military as a building that could be quickly erected as barracks. And they have been used post-war for military families. They are self-supporting and very strong structures, due to the arch design. Because of that, the inside structure is basically limitless and can be designed to fit your needs.  (The same is basically true of barn houses because of the post and beam design.) That is big for us, because that way, we can build the rooms to the sizes we desire and plan lots of ways to make the design super efficient.  There are many intriguing benefits to these homes!

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One of the big ones is efficiency. They have a reflective coating on the metal structure, which keeps the inside cool. You can add fabulous rain water collecting systems for grey water and gardening. They are strong and reported to be very wind resistant and capable of heavy snow load.

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The other big one is cost. The most well known company for these buildings provides them for the military, so they have a lot of extra stock that they put on clearance regularly. Even when not on clearance, they are pretty affordable. I just got a notice about a clearance price for a 720sf quonset hut (not including loft space) on sale for $7,967. At one point I was quoted a price for a 1200 sf one for somewhere between 10,000-13,000.  That’s pretty amazing.

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Now, those prices are for the structure itself, which you assemble with a small team (you can hire, or gather your friends like a barn raising!).  You still have all the expenses of the end walls, anything built on the inside, the foundation, and all the other things I listed above that you deal with for any new home structure. But it’s a pretty great price for the primary structure!

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So, Andy and I have always leaned modern in our decor choices. Not ultra modern. But certainly modern. We like to do things differently. My heart feels like it is craving traditional and cozy. But we still could make this pretty darn cool.  How easy is it to get approvals for in city limits? I have no idea. Would it sell if we have to move? I have no idea. (That is one of the primary concerns I have). Would it be attention grabbing? Certainly. That could be fun, but could be bad.  It largely depends on where we want to settle, and the cost of the land. If we have more wiggle room, we would maybe lean more traditional. If we have less wiggle room, but all the permissions to do it…we could go this route. Just don’t know yet.  It’s a bit wacky, isn’t it?

What do you think??  Would you live in a round house like this, if it was REALLY cool inside??

 

My phone is my best friend. And it is an unhealthy relationship!

Ok, y’all. (Did I just say that??)  This post will probably be more of a verbal spew than a well-written composition. But I’ve had some stuff on my mind lately that I think I need to follow through with.

Actually, I have stuff on my mind 100% of the time. And one of the things on my mind is how foggy my mind is. That just sounds idiotic to me. But it’s true. And I have been worried about my level of forgetfulness, my level of distracted and unorganized thought patterns. Sure, there are a million potential reasons. Maybe the ongoing sleep deprivation from having two boys that seem to trade off being good sleepers and hitting illness or developmental issues that cause disruptive sleep. Maybe my thyroid (I have a biopsy scheduled for next week, by the way, so prayers appreciated!). Maybe food related. Maybe information overload. Maybe addiction to poor substitutes for social connection (facebook, instagram). Don’t get me wrong…I am inspired significantly by so many friends on both of these mediums, and I DO get a lot of social benefit from participating.  But it is also contributing to a spectator lifestyle, as well as the information overload.

Speaking of information overload…we have access to infinite amounts of information at the touch of a fingertip. I am in over my head thinking about our future housing options and desire to build. We don’t know the first thing about buying land in the country and building a house. We don’t know what type of house we can afford or what kind we want. But I can find a MILLION or more resources and ideas on Pinterest and Google! And one link leads to another! I am constantly learning more about food intolerances and ways to lose weight and supplements we need and things we should be doing to improve our health. I am constantly scouring the internet for answers to our boys fluctuating sleep issues, often scrolling through my phone in the middle of the night out of desperation. Not exactly helping my own sleep hygiene by doing so. But you get desperate and you’re up anyway, right?

I have a million things I need to do. I am not kidding when I say we have a garage and a basement FULL of stuff that needs to be sold and donated. I have two closets full of things that still need to be organized since we moved into this house. And I have giant piles of laundry in every room of the house. But I am exhausted from middle of the night sleep disruptions (and I swore I would never be that mom that didn’t get sleep…but kids don’t follow the rules, nor do they have their issues in sync with each other when you have kids of different ages). And my mind is overwhelmed. I can’t wrap my head around how to catch up. We have major financial things to get in order. But we are exhausted at the end of the day, and know that we will likely be up in the middle of the night, possibly more than once, and there is only a short window of time between when the boys go to bed and when we need to go to bed, and the energy to keep going during that short window is simply not there. Are we alone in this situation? I don’t know. We are obviously not Type A, stay on top of everything people. It would be nice if at least one of us were, but apparently, neither of us is. So things spiral out of whack.

Now, I do feel like I have some physical reasons for brain fog: sleep deprivation is a real thing, and it is a serious thing. And thyroid issues obviously cause legitimate, hormonal reason for forgetfulness and fatigue. I don’t know if I can separate the two in my situation, to identify which is causing more detriment to my cognitive and emotional status. I suspect the sleep issues are the more dominant problem.

Out of these three things (sleep, thyroid/hormone, info overload), there is only one area I can take full control of at the moment.

Again, maybe I’m not giving myself enough grace. But here’s the deal. It may not take a lot of energy to coast along my instagram or FB feeds. But it takes a lot of my time. And it loads my already overloaded brain with MORE info, MORE inspiration, MORE things to fight against comparing myself to. And, while I have found INCREDIBLE support and help from people in these forums when I have been desperate for advice and answers, I am thinking I need to get off the grid a little bit.

Ironically, I’m posting a blog post to the “grid” so to speak, about needing to get OFF the grid. But, I think it’s a necessary step for me, for a season at least. At the moment, I don’t have balance. And I desperately need it. And regardless of the thought process behind it, I feel like it is a direct instruction from the Lord for me, for a season. I see people taking “Facebook fasts”, and I totally get it. I’m not doing this to follow a trend. Nor am I doing it to make a social statement about our over-dependence on social media. I’m not even going to call this a “fast” of sorts. But…I’m making a choice about my own involvement for the time being.

I would drop FB altogether, but it’s better than email for keeping all your contacts from past and present in one place. And it’s a networking place for small business, and momma advice. I would drop IG altogether, but it is the one social media place that I feel is the most positive, and it just does hold a special place in my heart (I know that sounds silly). I used to do a lot on Twitter, but I cut that out a long time ago, because I just can’t keep up with all these things.

So here’s the deal. For one month…well, maybe to make it even more clear cut, until the first of June, “birthday week” (mine and my husband’s birthdays), I plan to limit FB and IG, as well as Pinterest and online research for life stuff  to the following for my involvement:

-Usborne Books & More business (I have a FB party coming up, and would love to host more, so let me know if you are interested!)

-Handwriting tutoring business (I am gearing up to do some summer tutoring sessions/classes, so stay tuned for more info this week!)

-direct message/communication for specific needs/questions, and limited to 1 or 2 times a day.

-for a month I plan to stop researching home options, new meal ideas/recipes, or toddler sleep strategies. I have MORE THAN ENOUGH info to work with. And I don’t HAVE to have a house plan yet or any time too soon. But I do have work to do around here, soon. So I need to stop the info search! If I do happen across a link I want to save in any of these areas, yes, I may pin it. But I’m not going to search or keep following links. No surfing.

-I also want to not use my phone for my entertainment. I waste too much time playing solitaire and watching ASMR videos to drone out my mind so I can sleep. I go to my phone when I am bored. I go to my phone after way too short a time of “quality” time with my kids. I need to be reading books! Reading my Bible. Writing. Playing. Crafting. Giving. There are so many more productive things to do for “fun”, and to unwind my stressed out brain. I need less glow of electronic light in my eyes. And so do my kids. It’s springtime. Time to get out and do more. Even if it is really just “hanging out” outside. It’s more than staring at a phone.

-I plan to be able to text and communicate with friends and family. But, because of my “addiction” to my phone, I plan to put my phone out of reach, in one place, and designate a tone just for my husband, so I know it’s him. Otherwise, I will check it at designated times. Just like if I were at work. Being at home, without a boss, has made it too easy to think I’m just briefly looking something up, or checking for updates…but it ends up being way too frequently, or too long. I’m not saying this should be what everyone does. I just need to challenge myself to remember, there was life prior to the smart phone. And I need to relearn what it is like to live without depending on it every second. And I have a feeling it is going to be a tough withdrawal period.

So….starting tomorrow officially, if you see a lot less of me, that is why! If you want to share something with me, you can tag me, or you can message me. I will check it and I will chat back! But just know it may not be within minutes of the message. 🙂  I’ll let you know how things are going at some point!

Moving On….

I’m moving on from the discussion about motherhood for now. I had grand plans for digging in deeper, because such intriguing conversation really exploded when I brought the subject up. But in all honesty, I’m kind of ready to discuss other things, because my mind is on other things. Heavily on other things. So let’s move on, shall we?

And quite literally, what is on my mind is MOVING ON. Our next step. When we were urgently planning to move from our house because we had to sell as quickly as we could, we moved into my grandmother’s house, which had been being rented by my sister and a friend. The reasons we moved in there included the fact that we were the only ones in the family that had long term interest in the home if we could get out of our rapidly growing challenge of a first-home. If our house had sold as we had expected (and our realtor had promised), we probably would have arranged a sale between us and my grandmother (who was living with my parents at the time).

Well, I already mentioned in a previous blog that our experience of trying to sell our house turned into a nightmare, as we were desperately trying to sell it before I had baby number two and wouldn’t be able to work for a while.  We were applying for a short sale because after we had purchased the house, Andy lost his job and the housing marked crashed, and property values dropped, and we found ourselves in struggle after struggle to keep up. When we found out we were having baby number two so quickly after number one, after I had already made arrangements to work less (FAR less…quit my full time job and started working PRN, which is actually more stressful than you would imagine), we knew we were going to have a limited time of being able to afford to keep up with payments on a house that was no longer a good fit for us. We were promised by our mortgage company that we were ideal candidates for a short sale situation and it would be easy to get approved. And then they continued to give us the runaround for a whole year, losing our paperwork, telling us we had to resubmit it, accusing us of abandoning the house because we moved out to try to sell it (we continually maintained it after we moved), accused us of not returning phone calls (after they repeatedly called the number we asked them NOT to call, and then not answering when we called them back)….etc. Until we ran out of savings, and became late on our payments for the first time EVER.

Our cute first house. (I'm careful to say house, because you can make anything a home...)

Our cute first house. (I’m careful to say house, because you can make anything a home…)

We have never experienced such stress, not to mention guilt. And in a time that having a baby should have been so exciting. Well, it still was. We just had so many unknowns hanging over our heads. And what a blow to Andy who was working so hard to provide, and feeling constant instruction from the Lord that he was to stay at the job he had, even though he could probably find work that paid more, once the economy was improving again.

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We’ve also never experienced such GRACE. My family paved the way for us to be in a safe place when we were being dragged through the dirt by our mortgage company. (I will try to stay positive here by not going into all of my feelings and opinions about our mortgage company, or our first realtor!) God carried us through and somehow we kept our bills paid otherwise, including our baby birth bills. Our boys never went hungry, and we were always safe. And we followed our gut reaction when our realtor told us we should just go into foreclosure bc he couldn’t see how we would sell our house otherwise, and got a second opinion. Even a short sale went against our convictions about making promises and borrowing money and repaying it in full. We just could not go down that road without some other counsel and help. LIFE CHANGING DECISION. Contacted another realtor at a friend’s recommendation, and she rescued us! She knew the short sale runaround! And she made a price change to the house, and before we could even put it back on the market, we had an offer. She stayed on the backs of the mortgage company, and we got our short sale approved in the nick of time, and the relief from that headache has been unbelievable. I’m telling you friends: a good realtor is INVALUABLE.

The thing I probably miss most about our first house is our first baby's room.

The thing I probably miss most about our first house is our first baby’s room.

Anyway…I’m taking way too long to tell this story. I started this to tell you about our future plans, not all that history. Not long after we sold that house, Andy got called by a company he had interviewed with almost a year prior, saying they wanted to hire him.  And he’s been with them a year now! We have rented from my grandmother the last year as we have prayed about our next step, and if it would be in our ability to buy this house, or if that is what we feel the Lord is calling us to.  We have had a gut feeling for a while now that it’s not what the Lord wants us to do, not to mention, not really what we can afford if I plan to stay at home with the boys and homeschool.  So we started praying about what to do next, and we kept it a secret for what has felt like an ETERNITY.

Grandma passed away Thanksgiving Day.  I was actually with her, alone in the room, the moment she breathed her last breath. I have never experienced anything like that in all my life, and that is another blog post in and of itself.  It has been bittersweet to come the realization that we are not going to buy this house from her, and now we need to make plans with the family to prepare it to sell it for her, and make the next step in our own living quarters.

But, after going through a nightmare like we went through, we have found it hard to know what to do. It makes you not want to ever buy again, or at least feel like you will never be ABLE to buy again. It makes you want to be free from being tethered.  Even to a lease. It makes you want to go somewhere and start over completely. And Andy started talking like that. Let’s move to Wyoming. Let’s go somewhere and have an adventure. I was ready for adventure. But I was also not interested in taking my babies far away from family. Not when I desperately need a grandma to babysit occasionally or I might lose my mind!

What we discovered as an option would captivate our attention for MONTHS, as we debated, prayed, scoured the internet, evaluated the possibilities. We learned about “Fulltiming Families” : families that for a season of life, perhaps a year, or a few years, live full time in an RV or travel trailer, traveling the country, experiencing all of the sites and nature and adventure we have in this beautiful nation. We were immediately sucked in. We could have our adventure, but not have to permanently move away to do so. And we were amazed to learn that the majority of the families we found that do this are God-loving, homeschooling families, on a mission to be examples of Christ wherever they are, and have a family adventure that their kids would never forget.

One of my favorite RV remodels I found in my research. http://www.newschoolnomads.com

One of my favorite RV remodels I found in my research. http://www.newschoolnomads.com

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Andy COULD work remotely if he needed to/wanted to.  So perhaps this would the the season we could do it?? I mean, no mortgage any more. So we were in a place of freedom to make that choice more easily than some. However, somehow, as much as we LOVE the idea, as we have prayed, we haven’t felt like we have the release to do it. At least not immediately or long term.

So we’ve been back to the drawing board. But doing all of the research about getting rid of crap we don’t need, downsizing to live in a tiny space in order to adventure the vast space around us, has put a major desire in us to still do that very thing. We don’t want a big house. We don’t want all the stuff we have. We want to simplify. Live smarter. Need less. Give more. And adventure more. But rental options are kind of crummy, you know? Pay as much as a mortgage, sometimes more, never gaining anything that will appreciate (hopefully) in value, or bring you back anything in return. And tiny rental spaces are tiny, but not usually very efficient. Nor are they usually very adventurous.

So we have finally realized what we want to do.  We aren’t sure of the exact timeline, and we may find the road there to be a little more twisty than we would like. But the Fulltiming movement is in essence a part of the tiny house movement. Have you heard of that? (If not, catch the documentary Tiny on Netflix for an interesting snippet of Tiny House living.)  You can build a “Tiny” house for a fraction of the cost of traditional houses, even using top quality materials.  Tiny houses are incredibly energy efficient, and off-grid, using solar power and other means of resource management. So they are very cost effective to LIVE in, not just build. Many people who build Tiny houses do so on wheels, so they can be portable, which provides a whole host of benefits, even if they aren’t going to travel as MUCH as an RV.

My absolute favorite SMALL home (not tiny enough to fall under the "tiny" category, but tiny by many folks' standards.

My absolute favorite SMALL home (not tiny enough to fall under the “tiny” category, but tiny by many folks’ standards.

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But are tiny houses an option for a family of four, maybe more down the line?  Is it fair to little kids to cram them into tiny spaces?  Well, YES, actually, because that means they will get out to ADVENTURE more outside, and to see other places…maybe even the library! Maybe they will get out more to serve and give. But I digress. The thing is, even in this average size home, with more than enough space for us, that at one time I thought was still not enough space for all our STUFF, we hang out in the SAME TWO ROOMS for 90% of our day, and then the rooms we SLEEP in, we only sleep in. If you think about it, traditional houses are a fairly inefficient use of space.

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Anyway, in the interest of cutting this post short(er), we have come to this conclusion: Once we are able to recover enough from our short sale to qualify, we could actually build, on a big property, even, for cheaper than we could rent or buy in the city.  We could build and hopefully have a mortgage payment far less than our first house.  A NEW house. There are multiple classifications of “Tiny Houses”: Micro houses, Tiny Houses, Small houses, etc. What we hope to build will probably be a little more in lines of a “small” house. Maybe even smaller than our first house. But not only do we plan to build small. We plan to build SMART. I’m not sure you’re ready for the ideas we have in our heads right now. But suffice it to say, they are innovative, creative, and modern.

We will likely be moving out of the county we currently live in, because there ain’t no cheap land here! Ha! But we’ll probably be gravitating out in the direction that we have several friends and family living, and land is much more affordable, but still within a reasonable commute to Andy’s work and to our favorite stores (Hello, I didn’t wait forever for Trader Joe’s and Ikea to come to my city only to move away from them!). We may end up with way more land than we really want, simply because it would be where we are allowed to build what and how we want.  We don’t really know yet. Because first we have to figure out what is happening with this house, because we are very much invested in taking care of it for our family, after all they have done for us.

And now that the RV bug is in us…we’re praying that we will be able to acquire a smaller camper that we can travel in from time to time, since Andy can still work remotely, and we now have the itch to see more and visit our friends that live all over the country! If this all pans out as we hope, with a tiny mortgage and utility payment, we will hopefully be able to knock out our remaining debt fast, and start saving, giving, and living more, including TRAVEL. Plus, it can be guest quarters on our giant property! Ha! I’m sure you can see the decorating wheels spinning in my Pinterest-loving brain!

So there  you have it. The word is out. No longer secret. Praise the Lord. That has been hard to keep a secret! But we’ve shared it with a few people along the way, as we’ve been asking for advice and weighing options. So for those people, here is the decision we finally landed on. We’ve begun discussing all of this with family, so there is no reason to keep it secret from everyone else…so now, the stuff that is constantly on my mind right now can actually come out of my mouth.