I love the writings of Paul. I find them inspiring, relevant, and challenging. My reading this morning included the scripture, “Shine as lights in the world.” It’s included in Paul’s letters to the Philippians, and is surrounded with many comments on joy and rejoicing. (It’s worth noting that his highly positive and uplifting letter was written from jail.) It’s made me ponder what I’m sending out into the world. Am I a light? It was also a lovely reminder to take time for joy and rejoicing. So that is what I’m doing here.

I made a small choice three years ago to homeschool. I’d already “homeschooled” two years of preschool. But kindergarten was my first year of real schooling. At the time it was a soft choice. I wanted him to have more time with his siblings. I wanted to keep our schedule flexible so we could take advantage of opportunities to travel and experience the world. I wanted him to be challenged academically, and I wanted to continue to be with him. Now three years later, that choice feels more radical. What I thought would just be a year of kindergarten at home, has now turned in to three years of school at home. My love for homeschooling as only grown, and my passion for the lifestyle increased. We have a beautiful life. The kids wake up and play an hour of legos in the morning, while I cuddle with Zoe, feed her, read my scriptures, and get ready for the day. Then they come up and do their “First five”: getting dressed, brushing teeth, making beds, reading scriptures and saying prayers. Then we meet down for breakfast together. During breakfast, we memorize a weekly scripture and study that week’s readings from the New Testament. We have time to talk about the lessons, mark scriptures, and have object lessons. We sing a song together. Then I read a few poems. Afterward, while I read “The Story of the World” our history text, and our family book club book, the kids color, hang upside down on their chairs, or draw. That’s just our first hour- and it’s lovely.

A podcast I recently listened to talked about the purpose of education. One of their points resonated with me. Education is meant to pass down culture. It occurred to me that this is one of the main reasons I homeschool. I love creating a culture in our home- and I LOVE watching my children embrace that culture and then add to it. I love our culture of talking about God openly. I love our culture of making music spontaneously. I love our culture of family togetherness and respect. I love our culture of curiosity. There are aspects of our society’s culture that my kids miss out on- I try my best to give them opportunities to experience those cultural opportunities as well. I cried inside a bit when my biggest boy went over to play with the neighbor boys, and I realized he couldn’t participate because he didn’t know how to play basketball. He probably would if he went to school. I wish my kids had more opportunities to experience kids of differing backgrounds and experiences. We’re slowly building that community, but it’s rather sparse right now. I’m hoping lion scouts, soccer, ninja, our neighborhood, and church will provide them with enough encounters to have empathy and understanding of people other than themselves. And where we haven’t experienced we try to read, hoping that reading of others’ lives will bring empathy. But they won’t have as much of that as they would at school.

More and more I realize that this choice is one grand adventure. I don’t really know how it’s going to pan out. Somedays that thought is overwhelming, but mostly it’s the excitement that pushes away the mundane. About four years ago I took my boys to explore Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle. I was curious to see the large fishing vessels and to teach my boys something of the hardworking profession that first established Seattle as a settlement. While we walked along the docks thrilling at the diversity of boats I notice a mother with her two children. They were probably 8 and 10. The three of them were all sketching boats together. The image stirred my soul, and I felt strongly- I want to be that kind of mother. The kind of mother that lives life alongside her children. The kind of mother that paints with them, cooks with them, plays with them, reads with them. Homeschooling affords me that. I’m re-learning French with Scotland, I’m learning to watercolor with Anders and I just adore it. I’m not on the sidelines, I’m in the game.

I want to do all the things

I love the newborn stage, because I love all the snuggles, the weekly milestones, the blooming of personality, and the sweetness of infancy. However, I struggle with the stark change in my ability to do- things. Between the sleep disruption that makes my mind blurry, to the one handedness, to the feedings that challenge my ability to focus on long tasks. It is always a fight to live in the present and enjoy the beauty that I have- that is fleeting, instead of yearning for those months prior when I was more able- to do.

I have so many interests and desires, and I’m working to prioritize each so I can give them their proper energy. I want to kiss my baby all day, to look deeply into her eyes, to listen as she looks intently at me and tries to work her tongue and lips in new ways to create new sounds- her desire to communicate so apparent. I want to give my children a supreme education. I want to read to them, to paint alongside them, to delight in the patterns of multiplication, the complexity of phonics, and the beauty of art, architecture and poetry. I want to plant a gorgeous garden- one that will fill me with wonder and peace as I wash dishes. I want a garden that will pull me outside, that will give me a reason to get my hands dirty while my mind can ponder the complexities and simplicities of life. I want to write more. To challenge my understanding, and give voice to my thoughts. I want to make friends, and spend time with them. I want to laugh and live with my husband. To have time with just the two of us, to continue to make memories. I want to eat good food, healthy food. I want to study the scriptures- deeply, to have the time to ask new questions, and listen for new answers. I want to connect with my parents and siblings more. I want to build my home into a functional space that facilitates our type of living while honoring all that is good and beautiful.

A tribute to Washington

Yesterday, we had the privilege of spending the day at Mount Vernon- George and Martha Washington’s home. It was presidents’ day and there were various special events held throughout the day that added to the depth and poignancy of the already symbolic setting. As I was reading up the night before I was shocked to learn that George and Martha only dined together twice in the last twenty years of their marriage- so frequent were the visitors to Mount Vernon. (And I didn’t get the invitation that they had invited all those guests!) In a re-enactment yesterday, the man playing President Washington said: “You may think of me as a war hero, or you may think of me as a statesman, but I will always think of myself as a farmer.” Seeing his gorgeous property with all his gardens- experimental, decorative, vegetative and floral, combined with the pastures with cows, horses, and pens of sheep and pigs; I pondered on the inner tension he must have felt between his duties and his desires. Here was a man called out to lead an army and then a country, and then to continue to be the “father” of that country after his presidency had ended. Certainly, he would have enjoyed more quiet evenings with his wife and grandchildren, and less responsibility to host and entertain so he could spend more time with his hands in the earth. And yet he didn’t balk at the call of duty- he found a way to combine his love of the earth with his love of man. His obedience to God and his missions for him, and his own personal pleasures. Ending the day at his tomb I was moved to tears at the scripture inscribed over his head:

I am the resurrection, and the life, saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. 

-John 11:25-26

George Washington has certainly never “died” in the memory of Americans, thanks to his willingness to believe in the Lord and accept His will. I have no doubt that he is still working for America and freedom today, from the other side. 

Surrounded by my fellow Americans this weekend in Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon I was reminded of something my father-in-law shared with me recently. He talked about conversations he’s had with people who are so discouraged and disgusted with certain aspects of our country currently. He said his response is that he has hope and belief in America- that America can handle it. Yesterday, I was inspired by the beginnings of America and present America. For example, Mount Vernon is privately owned- and has been for hundreds of years- kept alive and maintained by an organization of visionary women: The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. This spectacular historical jewel receives no government funding. This is America. I love this country. In God, I trust!

I’m grateful for…

People: My family, friends, and all the people I interact with. I love to be around people, to hear their stories, and to enjoy their presence. I love to hear the kids riding bikes in the neighborhood, overhearing conversations on the bus, and seeing families walking in the hospital.

Places: Our townhouse is wonderful. I love my commute by bike or bus. I love the trees out our windows. I love my memories of Italy. I enjoy the mountains, beaches and historic places of the world.

History: For my ancestors, especially my grandparents and parents who sacrificed much to make my life so enjoyable. For soldiers, revolutionaries and public servants who have created and defended my rights and opportunities.

Knowledge: For my teachers. The authors of the books I’ve read. For scientists and physicians who have given neuroscience and neurology. For each bit of knowledge which I have been able to remember.

Faith: In God. In my family. In good people that are trying to make a difference. In the hope and promise of future generations.

I am grateful for every moment.

Conference high

The first weekend of October is always the Church’s General Conference. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my entire life, it is one of my favorite weekends of the year. It’s the ultimate life conference. I gather with those I hold most dear, my family, and we immerse ourselves in the good news of the gospel for two whole days- listening to ten hours of instruction on how to come unto Christ and live a life of greater faith. Every year it’s transformative. This year has proven no different. I’ve been riding a sort of high ever since. Perhaps it’s spurred by the Social media fast I’ve been on in response to the Prophet’s challenge. Perhaps it’s the change in perspective sparked by this talk by Joy D Jones, that has helped me parent with more consistent love, patience, and forgiveness now that I’m doing it for God, and not for my children. Surely it’s because of the increased desire I obtained to live a life more in tune with God’s will. I want to be worthy to have His spirit with me more frequently, actively guiding me, teaching me, and raising me up to a higher plane of living. When I think about all my feelings from Conference my heart brims up with joy and I just want to shout it all from the rooftops. These last two weeks I have left the “world” behind and sought for a life of greater spirituality, and it has resulted in continual bliss. The increased attention and length of my morning study of the Book of Mormon has reminded me once again of the precious truths contained therein. Too often I forget just how precious that book is. Just how much truth is contained therein. In our post-modern world, it has never been more needed!

It was wonderful to be affirmed in my current lifestyle choices by Apostle Henry B. Eyring. My choice to go all-in as a mother, teacher, and spiritual guide for my children has brought me surprising fulfillment. And hearing the Prophet and Apostles and Female Presidents of the Church speak of the importance of increased learning in the home filled my soul with sweet assurance. I am living in line with God’s will for me. I’m grateful. I’m full. I’m happy!

 

Awareness

I just had my first experience with a natural disaster. Hurricane Florence devastated much of our state, we were spared, but so many weren’t. We waited anxiously the week before, wondering the best way to prepare, pulling out flashlights, purchasing propane, washing out tubs to fill with water and checking our food reserves. We watched the weather channel incessantly, and wondered- should we leave? Curiosity made us stay, that and trust in our hilly residence. As we watched that ominous white swirl move ever closer, my innards matched its movement, twisting ever tighter. In the end, nothing much happened- for us. But scenes of the catastrophe of our neighbors have sorrowed me, moved me.

We are very open with our kids, and as is the norm we talked about the oncoming storm, even took a vote of whether to stay or go (when it looked like we’d be hit bad.) They elected to stay. They, like me, wanted the adventure of experiencing a hurricane. They thrillingly biked through our flooded street, and danced in the downpour.

But now that the storm has passed, how much of its wreckage do I share with my children. I often wonder how much of the world’s hardships to expose my children to. I’ve shown them scenes of the flooding, talked about the deaths, and we’ve tried to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have been displaced and are now homeless. As a result, my boys, whose prayers are usually- “We thank thee for clean water. (Thanks to a book about children in Africa walking all day to get water.) and “Bless us to have fun today,” have now added, “Please bless those whose homes have been destroyed by the hurricane.” They have sensed the need for their faith, the need for God’s help. I rejoice to hear my children pray for things that are meaningful. It always disturbs me that the majority of their pleas are for  “fun” days. I’m not convinced that God is interested in making our lives more “fun.” Meaningful, yes. Fun, I don’t think so. But I digress.

So if awareness incites empathy, how much exposure is best? It occurred to me tonight, as I pondered this, perhaps the reason Christ asked the crippled, sick, and lame to be brought to him was not just to heal them, but to bring awareness to the rest of the multitude of their humanity, their sameness.

Tonight I spent an hour reading essays by Mormon women. Their open vulnerable stories were heavy and disturbing. The kind you want to skim through, to spare yourself the heartache. And yet as I read their words, trusted them, believed them; instead of a break, I felt a softening and blossoming-awareness inciting empathy. I was taught as a child to not read such accounts, that it would weaken my testimony. I can see the merit in that advice. Perhaps its why I wonder how much of the world’s problems to lay before my children. Will the burden of it strip them of their childhood? Will it weigh them down with worries and cripple a healthy development?

Whenever I take that side, I am faced with the fact that God does no such thing for his children. Children are born to parents that God knows will abuse them. Children are born in countries that can’t provide for them. Why? I can’t help but wonder if my own privilege makes it difficult for me to tease out the real meaning of life. Perhaps the test is simply how will we respond to what we’re served. And going back to my original question, how much should we serve our children the struggles that are not naturally theirs? Perhaps that’s its own test? Can we extend ourselves past our own selfish existence? Are we willing to truly see the sick, lame, blind or halt, the maimed, leprous and withered, the deaf and those that are afflicted in any manner? (3 Nephi 14:7) To see them for them and not their affliction?

I’m reading “The Poisonwood Bible” right now. It’s contributed to this quandary. The book tells of a Baptist family who goes to The Congo as missionaries. They arrive self-righteously determined to bring “light” into a “dark” country. Only as trial and tribulation humble them, do they start to see the humanity and light in the people around them. To see them as humans and not just sinners. Thrown in the fire of affliction their privilege is stripped from them and they are left bare but with eyes wide open. Only then do they find the truth. Perhaps the meaning of our existence is to find truth. Truth, those experiences/thoughts/feelings that permeate our soul and change the way we interpret life and its meaning. One doesn’t need higher education, or really any formal education to come to great truth. Ease can be a barrier to finding truth, as one doesn’t sense the immediacy and need for deeper understanding. Hardship can inspire questions like “Why?” in a way that prosperity doesn’t. Just as my children are more sensitive and thoughtful in their prayers after confronting another person’s hardship, hardship- our own or others has the possibility to be the strongest means of drawing us unto God.

So why do we run from it? Why do we assume we’ve been cursed when we’re faced with it? Is it such a travesty that some children in Africa never have a childhood? Or should envy their awareness and appreciation for the essential things- life, breath, family. From the Poisonwood Bible:

“Children should never die.”

“No. But if they never did, children would not be so precious.”

“Anatole! Would you say that if your own children died?”

“Of course not. But it is true, nevertheless. Also if everyone lived to be old, then old age would not be such a treasure.”

Do we undermine our children’s ability to treasure those things of greatest import, by shielding them from the potential loss of those things? And what of ourselves, are we willing to face the heartbreak in order to find the hope?

I’m grateful.. .

I’m grateful I get to be my children’s main teacher. I love seeing the light in their eyes as they understand a new concept. I love, though I’m often frustrated by, hearing their inner thinkings and tangential wonderings. I love that we can exchange giggles, or hugs, or tickle wars as a break to a strenuous grammar lesson, or writing assignment. I love our ability to connect everything in our lives- since everything interweaves. I love how my children can reference briefly a sentence we read or a wonder we saw and I know immediately what they are talking about and can jump into the conversation with them. I love that in a way I’m rediscovering learning for myself. I’m learning how to learn, how to cultivate learning. I’ve discovered anew my love of math, I’ve marveled at the English language both for its beauty but also complexity. But mostly I’ve marveled at the capability of the child’s mind. They are astounding. I’m humbled daily by their ability to remember, understand, and connect. I’m so grateful that my children’s world revolved around each other right now. Yes, they have their separate communities, but their core group is our family, and I’m grateful that we have more sway than “they” for the time being. I’m grateful that we have the means, and I have the opportunity to stay home with my children. It is overwhelmingly frustrating at times, and yet strikingly blissful in moments sprinkled throughout the day: When Anders looks up with his little smile and sweet eyes, while he reads to me. When Chiara climbs on my back while I’m on the floor working through math with Scotland. When Scotland’s eyes light up with a new idea- always grander and less likely than the last! I’m grateful for a home from which we can easily take in the outdoors. I’m grateful for a healthy body and mind. I’m grateful for literature, poetry, and music. I’m grateful for our piano. I’m grateful for slow early mornings, and fast late mornings, for slow early afternoons. I’m grateful for the opportunity they both offer all of us to contemplate, ponder, and be just ourselves. I’m grateful for yoga. I’m grateful for time to consider my gratitude!

Side gigs

Ever since I was a senior in high school I’ve had a job. I’ve only had a full-time job once. I worked as a secretary at a loan office one summer. Otherwise, my jobs have always been part-time, or undefinable like my “job” designing and renovating the homes we’ve flipped. My main side gig has been teaching voice lessons. I love teaching. I love the interaction with my students, I love the music, and I love the person I become when I teach- more playful and funny.

I had around 15 students in Cleveland, and then only 3 in Seattle. And now in Chapel Hill, I’m trying to decide if I should teach again. Perhaps some of my hang up is I like the idea of having a “studio.” A group of students, who know of each other, have recitals together and feel some sort of group identity. In Seattle, I never had that, and it sort of embarrassed me. I didn’t feel like I could offer the sort of experience I wanted for them. (Though, thinking about it, my first voice teacher didn’t have a “studio” that I interacted with in any way. She was a university professor and I was a side student, an eager 12-year-old who’s mother talked her into taking me.) Now in a new city, I’m trying to think through the practicality of taking on new students. Our stay here could be a year, or it could be three or it could be permanent. Though, as of right now it’s looking more like a one year gig. Tom’s career will likely take us to a few different locations in the next ten years, would it be better to pick up a side gig that is more mobile, say freelance writing? Or maybe, wait for it, I don’t need to have a side gig. Maybe I can just do the Mom gig. Heck! I’m already homeschooling, isn’t that job enough? Maybe I should claim that as my “gig” and use any free time to pursue other hobbies?

Moving has given me the opportunity to assess who I am, and what defines me. I struggle to feel that spending time on hobbies, just for joy’s sake is a worthwhile use of time. I really enjoy nature journaling. It has brought me such wonder and curiosity, but every time I take fifteen minutes to do it, I feel guilty. I really enjoy reading, but it’s very hard for me to sit down and read. Its why I adore audiobooks- they allow me to “read” while also doing something “productive.” And yet, I know how productive reading is, I know the power and importance of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and learning about the experiences of another, but it’s just so hard for me to do! Sometimes I can justify it if it is a parenting book- continuing education, but a novel- it’s difficult! And so back to the side gig, part of my reason for working has always been to keep my toe in the water so that I’m ready when the time comes that I want to “go back to work.” I’ve taught voice lessons because that’s where my training lies. I love teaching voice, but I identify myself as a singer less and less with every passing year. It occurred to me that I haven’t a clue who Kjirsti Foutz will be in ten years. And if I don’t allow myself to fully immerse myself in my present passions, I will probably have no clue “what I want to do with my life” then! Often people that create vibrant fascinating careers later in life, do it naturally as an extension of something they pursued for personal interest first. Unless I allow myself time to throw myself into my present-day interests how will I ever grow those interests into something that will pull me out of bed each morning?

I’ve been surprised at the change in me as I’ve experimented upon this idea. I’ve taken along my nature journal more often and with it a field guide or two. I’ve taken pictures of leaves at the park. I’ve been more dutiful with my yoga practice, and more intentional with each poise. As I’ve allowed those buds of interest to open a bit, I’ve felt the subtle calls of expansion into work- perhaps I could create a local field guide “Trees of Homestead Park.” or maybe I should get a yoga certification, I’d love to teach a Friday Enrichment course!  I think it’s great if my desire is to share my knowledge with others, but I find it worrisome when the minute I start to see growth in an area I feel the need to capitalize it. As if making money doing it will make it worthwhile.

So this year I think I’m going to take a break from side gigs, and instead just really claim my main gig- mothering, homeschooling, and living life fully. I want to show my children the joy of adulthood. I want to so fully immerse myself in my interests that when in 10-15 years I feel the pull to work, I know just what I’d like to do.

Things

In my preparations to move I’ve been going through all our stuff. And I’ve been faced with the repetitive question- what is worth keeping? Around 60 of our stuff has been in a storage unit for two months. These are the things we’ve missed: the speakers for my computer and our TV sound system. “The Greatest Showman” just couldn’t get off the page with our TV’s meager speakers, and Dvorak doesn’t appeal to my senses coming from a mac mini’s speaker. We’ve missed our books, and our bookshelves. The first piece of furniture I moved back after we sold the house was our little bookshelf. We love books and read a lot of them. I went looking for Tom’s hiking boots and rain boots for our weekend getaway. I missed easy access to all our art and learning supplies- I packed some of it away, and I shouldn’t have it, we need it, we use it, daily. I missed my “extra shoes.” I went looking for the hammock and our picnic blanket.  But that was about it. There are things we love, and there are things that don’t add much to our lives.

Moving cross country is expensive and I’m trying to be cut throat about what we keep and what we leave. It’s made me consider what I value.  Why is the gorgeous bright and colorful plate I bought in Mexico not on my wall? I love it. It makes me happy just looking at it, and brings back a sweet memory. Well, it doesn’t match your decor scheme. Hmmm. Why am I buying new blankets when I have all these other blankets that people I love have made for me? Hmmm. I love a well dressed home. I love a stylish thoughtfully designed home. But the homes that make me pause and feel are the homes that are filled with items of meaning. I follow a couple of feeds on instagram that have homes like this. Their guitars, banjos, and violins hang on the wall- because they want easy access- they play them often. The art supplies are often the centerpiece, because why put them away when they’ll use them tomorrow? Children’s art is framed and displayed whimsically, and the whole home has a worn-out-in-love look. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my Mom about my sister Dantzel. My Mom mentioned that Dantzel  had a wise realization a few years ago:  she couldn’t afford to dress the way she’d like to, and rather than fail in her attempts she ‘d embraced a new style that she could rock without breaking the bank- grunge. Now she wears our father’s shirts, and my Mom’s worn flannels. Her natural un-styled hair, a bi-product of waking up at 5:30am for seminary, is perfectly in style. Her dusty shoes- from caring for animals on the family’s hobby farm- en pointe.

As I’ve considered what to take and what to leave, I’ve found delight in the thought of a fresh take on my home design choices. Yesterday, I sold the first pieces of new furniture I ever bought- two tufted leather chairs. They’re prone to scratching from children’s unclipped toe nails, and they tip over if children lean up against the backs as they look out the window. They’re not cozy for reading, and too slippery for building forts around. And their formality begs for their surroundings to similarly shape up and be rigid. They stage beautifully. But they aren’t chairs you really live in- just look at. Selling them was hard at first. But now with them gone, the window entirely exposed, an whole rug to play and roll around on- we’ve had more spontaneous dance parties, i’ve enjoyed the poppies, delphinium and daisies more out the window, and I’m sitting on the floor now as I type- relaxed, casual.

I guess I’m grappling with the ‘look at’ vs ‘live in’ approach to design. I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive, in fact the IG posts I mentioned above tell otherwise. But I’m beginning to understand why so many large families have some element of ‘farmhouse’ styling in their homes. A weathered wood dining room table- welcomes the dings of an impatient toddler’s fork. A rustic shelf welcomes the collection of “treasures” from a hike. More and more I want a home that welcomes my children in all their energetic creative aka rowdy messy splendor. This month I’ve seen my kids in a new light. They’re inventiveness astounds me. Their focus and drive inspires me. Their full-on embrace of each day- their determination to not waste a moment, it’s breathtaking! I want my children to always see a home as a place to romp, wrestle, sing, build and exult. I want them to fill their days with passionate pursuit, and I want our home to be a place where their creations have a place- even a place of honor.

I’m not sure our rental is going to achieve these aims, but I’m hoping a year of make-do furniture arrangements, no house projects, and two large parks nearby will open a new chapter in our lives! One filled with adventure, togetherness, and focus on truly living! 

Before and Afters of our Shoreline home

We listed our house a little over a week ago, thanks to an amazing market (from a sellers perspective) we had accepted a great offer within a few days. I took screen shots of the listing photos from when we bought the house and I thought it would be fun to show the before and afters to showcase the work we’ve done on our little abode.

We knew we wanted to buy a house when me moved to Seattle, and we figured we’d do another flip like we’d done in Cleveland. We were nervous however because the homes were at least twice as expensive in Seattle, and we heard of many people who were making offers on multiple homes. We rented our first three months in Seattle so we’d have time to look. Our price range was low, and I wanted a yard, a basement, large windows, two bedrooms and Tom wanted to be 20 minutes or less from work. By, I think, a miracle, we found our house. It had everything on our list (one of only three that did). We made and offer, it was accepted, and it was completely sans drama. We didn’t like the busy-ish road we were on, but knew that was what pushed the price down, and the quaint private backyard made up for the less than ideal front.

Updates: New front door (that I painted), I trimmed and repainted the garage door- which made it too heavy for our old garage door to open- so Tm installed a new garage door opener. Woops! We painted the foundation, and the trim. I also did a lot of landscaping- adding the burning bush and perennials in the bed in front of the picture windows and a sunny perennial bed at the edge of the lawn. We also put in a full sun garden bed (non pictured) and a raspberry patch!

We were immediately taken by the huge picture windows, vaulted ceiling, exposed brick fireplace, and exposed beam. Having done a flip before I immediately started seeing the potential- tear this wall down here, open this up there. . .

Of course the most obvious change was the wall color- which we painted twice. First with some left over paint from Cleveland (I was desperate to get rid of the dark navy.) And finally this Tapestry Beige when we finished the kitchen.

The largest project we tackled in this house was our kitchen. Literally three days after we moved in my sister and I tore down the wall between the kitchen nook and the dining area. As it was there was this awkward breakfast nook that was too small for a decent sized table, and then this small door way to a dining area that was too small for a dining room table. The floor and wall had gaping holes from where the wall had stood for years, but our table straddled it and I preferred the function to the form.

Over the first three years we lived here we slowly worked our way through our kitchen- first having a  HUGE cantilever beam installed above to support the weight of the house, and then vaulting the dining side and opening up the wall between the kitchen and living room. 

I’ve never posted about our kitchen, but it was my first large design project  and since this is my private blog I’m going to boast a bit here. Thanks to our weekend warrior renovation schedule (and since my husband only gets one weekend off a month it’s more like a mono-monthly renovation schedule) it took a LONG time to finish this space. I say thanks, because that gave me abundant time to design the space. I was grateful for the time to live and use the kitchen so I really knew what our needs were. The only reason we felt secure in putting in this nice of a kitchen was because I felt secure that it was a solid investment- given the strong real estate market. I wanted to strike a balance between what would be sellable and widely liked; and what I wanted personally. I made many many sketches of this space, tweaking here and reworking there. I knew I wanted a place for my music books to go (since there wasn’t an easy way to have them by the piano) I knew I wanted a built in desk, I wanted shelves for the shoes that crowded the walkway from the front door, and I wanted lots of pantry space. It’s fun to think about the various steps of this process. We took the washer and dryer down stairs early on- which was a huge help- moving the fridge out of the walkway really helped open things up. When we moved in, the washer and dryer were behind those accordion doors. Thankfully we had just enough space to put them in our cold storage room downstairs. Which opened up the space they were in for the fridge- a real blessing since it fit a full sized fridge without jutting out past the counter! I wanted a bar, because I grew up with one, and I love the image of kids sitting up to help prep food. Eventually this plan materialized, and I’ve completely loved it. Many people have asked me since, “Is there anything you would change about your kitchen?” And in all honesty I don’t have a good answer for them. I LOVE my kitchen! I LOVE all the pull out drawers. I love that everything has it’s place. I love the built in office area. I love that there is enough cabinetry for a drawer for art supplies, and two drawers for homeschooling books and materials. I love that all my appliances fit in drawers- and don’t have to be out on the counter. Even large appliances like a Bosch mixer, Vitamix, and instant pot! I love my built in – under the counter microwave. I love my open shelves- for their character, and for the openness they lend the kitchen. I adore our induction range. I love that we left the kitchen partially closed- you can’t see my sink of dirty dishes when you walk in the front door, and I can hide anything unsightly behind that wall when I teach.

One of the things I’m most proud of in our kitchen is the windows. I had a window guy out to give us a bid to replace them, and he said that being that they were already double-paned we’d have to upgrade with a really superior window to improve their efficacy. He suggested painting them. They are aluminum windows and they just looked old and ratty.  I’d started noticing a lot of black trimmed windows in home decor magazines and on pinterest and really liked their dramatic contrast. I was soo nervous when I first slapped on the paint, but the final results combined with trimming them in wood (they didn’t have any millwork before) is striking, and completely transformed the space. The windows no longer look old and outdated, but stylish and current. They highlighted one of the main features of our home, in my opinion, our huge windows!

It was fun to see these pictures because I’ve often felt bad about how little I’ve done on this yard. The greatest contribution has been a huge amount of pruning, tearing out, cutting down. I’ll never forget the look on my neighbor’s face then they saw me 6 months pregnant, out in the drizzling rain, standing on our heavily sloped terraced gardens tearing out salal and ivy. I’m pretty sure they thought I’d lost it. The entire first tier was covered in it, and I was determined to prepare it for a flower garden the following spring. I was also pretty proud of those huge loads of vines, branches, bushes, etc that I smashed into the bed of our truck and delivered to the dump without help. It was my first time “Securing a load” and again I’m sure I got many a snicker from passers by seeing this pregnant woman jumping up and down on this huge bed of branches to compact them down- so I could fit more! The men at the dump were equally surprised when I yanked and pulled with all my might to then dislodge the heavily compacted yard waste from the truck bed- almost falling into the pit at the dump several times!   The above pictures don’t really show the garden vignette’s I created, but at least hint at the amount of openness and light I achieved.

The yard is my domain. I still chuckle when I remember this conversation with our neighbor, John. (Please note that John is Korean and his english carries a strong accent. This conversation occurred one summer evening when I was out finishing up yard work after I’d put the kids to bed. I believe Tom was working at the hospital that night. )

J-“You work so hard! You do all the workee, I never see your husband do the workee. Your husband a fancy man? ”

I tried to explain that my husband is not a “fancy man” but rather works very hard at the hospital, and that he does many of the projects inside. (He’s the electrician, plumper, carpenter,  etc.)

While our yard was small I wanted it to have a portion of the magical outdoors my childhood yard had. It took a few years before I secured the slide I had envisioned- a cast off from a playground! Both grandpa’s helped build the fort hidden up on the hill, and careful pruning allowed for a grove of rhododendron that made for the ideal climbing environment.  I hope I always remember my children swinging under our apple tree, and reading books from the hammock we hung from the plum tree. I hope I remember how’d they’d drop down to the garden and pick sun-warmed tomatoes, green beans and strawberries, or how’d they’d lie about how many raspberries they’d eaten- the red smears on their hands and faces relaying the truth. As I was mowing the lawn for the last time, I cried thinking of all the plants that had been transplants from other people’s gardens. Sister Meringer started me off with heuchera, iris, peonies, strawberries and blue bells. Sabina gave me daisies, bleeding heart, and a few I don’t know the name of, the Mitchells gave me a bag of daffodils that bright up the dismal March’s and two Allium bulbs that stretch upward like aliens right in front of our front window and give me a chuckle with their absurd placement. They gave me one patch of raspberries and another friend from Moxee gave me the others. Sue Scruggs gave me a bunch of Fuchsia. I brought cannas from Cleveland that are HUGE and stunning next to my back door. And I always cherish the little Japanese maple that my sister grafted from her own tree in her front yard! My father fortified the front bed so I could have the full sun bed I’d been pining for since we’d moved here. He put it in the week after I had Chiara, and with every shovel of dirt and loading of wood I could tell it was his way of telling me He loved me, and was proud of me and his new granddaughter. I thought of the manure the Telford’s put on our rhubarb the spring we were living in Idaho- unable to prep our garden. How I wish I could bring all these plants with me, so I could forever have those symbols of generosity and love surrounding my home.

I took pictures of the other rooms, but they weren’t included on the listing, and I’m not going to take the time to unearth them. Let’s just say there was a huge sketch of a muscled man with a machine gun on the wall of one room.

These pictures actually don’t represent the house as we lived it. Anders room is pretty true to form, it started out as the nursery until the crib was replaced by the toddler bed. What was staged as the master bedroom was Chiara’s room and our guest room. Much of the decor in the third room originally was in there. The third room had a bright green wall with thin white stripes and was decorated in blue and green for Scotland.

This room was SO fun to stage. I splurged on new bedding and pillows and it came together so sweetly. I’m so excited to let it be Chiara’s big girl room in our next house.

I love a basement. I grew up with a basement, and it’s hard for me to imagine rearing children without one. I love having a space for my kids to be wild and crazy, to leave out their intricate playmobil worlds or lego creations without it interfering with our main living space.

We made this desk (made out of a door and two book case from UW dorms, to create this office nook. Tom’s always been a fan of a BIG desk, and this fit his criteria. For a while I kept my computer down there too, but after I moved it upstairs I’ve used the other side for my sewing machine. Obviously the staging doesn’t show our typical set up down here. We never used a coffee table- preferring to leave the space open for play, and instead had that long table over near the bookcases for kids art and play. We also had two more bookcases full of books and more toys. I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of liking the limited toy set up. We cut down on our toys by probably 60% (they either got donated or put in storage). Clean up at our house is SO much easier since there are no miscellaneous toys, and everything has such a clear spot that the kids have been surprisingly adept at putting things back exactly as intended! 

We had our master bedroom in the basement. I disliked the darkness of it, but it was ideal for Tom, since he so often has to sleep during the day. (We affectionately called it our mole hole.)

Well this post is WAY too long, but I wanted to jot a few of these thoughts down for memories sake. A more sentimental memory laden post should follow this at some point, but in case it doesn’t. Here’s something!