Switching Up the Kids Bedrooms

While we were saving to build this house, and actually building it, we were in a 900 sq foot two bedroom cottage. There were only two kids at the time, and they shared a room because there was no choice. We were so, so against it at the time. We even considered giving each of them a private bedroom and putting our own bed in the living room. Well, my husband wanted to, I refused.

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(This is what the property looked like.  I can’t believe we bought it!)

Anyway, there wasn’t even enough room for two beds. One child was still in a crib at the time, but when she needed a bed we had her share with her older sister. They shared a dresser. There was one small closet in the room with no door, and half of it taken up by the HVAC return. And it was where I had to keep my own clothes, so no help there.

I was so excited for them to have their own room when the house got done. We planned on a downstairs master and an upstairs with three bedroom with a private bath each (please consult my tab on “simple living”….oh dear). I couldn’t wait for the storage space, the sparkly new bathrooms, the separate and quiet spaces so they would both nap. But as we put the build off, and off, and off, I came to see the benefits of the shared space.

They chatted with each other for an hour each night before falling asleep, so we started putting them to bed at 7. Everyone got some relaxing time before bed, me included. They shared a lot of books, and their baby dolls shared clothes, and they traded stuffed animals back and forth. There was very little middle of the night crying, or being afraid of the dark. They never resisted bedtime. Once they were in there they resisted sleep, but they were happy to get their pjs on and head in together.

And so, when construction began at long last, we decided they would continue to share. It never even really felt like a decision. It was just what everyone wanted, and was never up for discussion. I saw matching vintage iron beds for sale outside a thrift store, and that was that.

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This is our upstairs floorpan.  They have the large bedroom in the bottom left.  The “office” is their small play loft:  The large hall closet now holds their toys.

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When they are older we are thinking we will put some arm chairs here and make it a cozy reading spot.

The wide hallway holds their bookshelf, which needs a little more space:

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They have enjoyed a sweet shared bedroom for a year and a half now. They have fought over certain nightgowns, toys, the music they want to listen to, the stories they want to hear. They have read to each other, told each other about their days, and discussed what they will be doing in the morning. They have a had a nice shared bathroom with a big window where they attempt to style each other’s hair. They have occasionally come down at night when they are scared of storms or winds, but they have mostly been content.

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But last week, they asked a for a change:

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And we were happy to oblige.


How much…

One of my pet peeves is articles about homesteading written by people who have never done it. “It is so easy to grow fresh food for your family!” “Sewing your own clothes will save you money!”, “chickens can provide you with free meat and eggs!”

None of that is true at all. It is hard, can be very expensive, and there will be years that all you do is fail.

And it is completely missing the point.

For example, did you know that a loaf of bread can be purchased for under a dollar?

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That eggs at Costco are less than ten cents each?

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That land taxes will go up every year?

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That free range chickens require you to go lock up them up every evening at sunset?

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That tractors, even used, are very expensive?

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That heating your home with wood is messy and requires year-round work?

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That the farther you are from town, the longer it takes your roads to be cleared in snow?

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That line drying your clothes will bring pollen and bugs in your house?

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That soap at Walmart is cheaper than making your own?

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That unless you are making minimum wage, it is almost always financially advantageous to work and put your kids in daycare?

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That porches are expensive to build and require maintenance?

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And that homegrown flowers save you exactly nothing.

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So put away your spreadsheet. It will never tell you what is it worth.


Signs

Virginia winters are not bad.  There are always warm patches throughout them, and by late February it all really feels like it is over.

Today is one of those warm days, windows open already, that was so very much needed after a weekend of rain and the stomach flu.  Isn’t it so hard to remember that there are always sunny days ahead when you are stuck inside in the rain?  It feels dreary and eternal.

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My brother died of cancer this past October, and I remember coming home after he died and wanting a sign.  He had not believed in heaven as far as I know, but I wanted something from him so badly.  I got home at night, and the next morning looked out the kitchen window.  There was some sort of pink trash in the garden.  Tissue paper, or wrapping paper, something like that.  It must have blown out from the trash cans and gotten stuck on a plant.  I walked out to it, and realized it wasn’t trash.  It was pink cosmos, blooming like crazy, looking absolutely ridiculous covered in flowers.

Not a sign from heaven… but a sign from the cosmos?  I would take it.

I have never told anyone that.

Since then I have tried to dedicate all my sufferings, big and small, to his soul.  They are mostly small, but I hope they count for something.  The church tells us that of course they do, but I feel my doubts daily.  This is stupid, they say, how could could God care whether you eat sweets or not this Lent?  What would some uttered words do for him now?  No one is listening.

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But there is no Lent without an Easter, no Friday without a Sunday, no death without a resurrection.  Every turn of the calendar page, every rise of the sun, every change of the season, reminds me of that. On days like this, winter with spring creeping in at the edges, I can hear it, that small voice that prompted my conversion years ago.

“I promise…  ”

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“I promise…”

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“I promise.”


Cozy Christmas

The Christmas decorations are still up (it is still Christmas!), and I am glad, as some of them made their appearance on Christmas Eve.  It is a shame to rush things so much that you are sick of them by the time they have actually become appropriate.  (Like premarital sex, filling up on snacks before dinner, giving two month old babies toys that they can’t play with, etc.)

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The holly can only last so long when your house is a toasty 78 degrees because of your delightful fireplace!

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(We used this gingerbread recipe and loved it, tons of flavor, unlike gingerbread cookies that look charming and taste like nothing.)

The last few days of school before winter break, we worked hard on our cookies, packaging up soap for teachers, and setting out our final decorations.

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The peanuts had a week and a half off school, and after one day back, it snowed half an inch and they were given two snow days.

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So we have been making garlands out of glittery construction paper stars…

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Drinking some of our fifty dollars worth of tea we bought with a Christmas gift card.

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And enjoying our Christmas gifts.

Soon it will be time to jump into January organization and garden planning and seed starting.  But now… it is still time to celebrate!

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Merry Christmas!

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Homeschooler at Heart

My oldest is a first grader in public school.  I am as happy as I can imagine myself being with her school, and she is a very good student.  She is eager to please, a good reader, and generally obedient.  Sort of built to be a student.  The kind of child who most homeschooling parents will say can do well in school, but that their child needs special attention at home.  She is absolutely NOT gifted, merely bright. She has plenty of friends and gets along well with her teachers.  And yet…

She is gone from 8:30, when I drop her off, until 4:20 when she gets off the bus.  Two days a week she has an activity after school, either ballet or religious education.  On those days she gets home around 6.

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The hours that she is is home she drives me a little nuts.  I’m not sure if this is built up energy from being forced to sit all day, negative influences from her peers, or just her age, but even since she has started school I have noticed a huge drop in her behavior at home.  She is perfect for her teachers, and behaves well when bribed, but I see a lot of her natural goodness fading.

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She does occasionally not want to go to school, and will pretend to have an earache or stomachache to get out of it.  It makes me wonder if something is going on that she is not telling me about, which makes me wonder why I am sending her away all day to such a big unknown at such a young age.

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I have hinted somewhat at the idea of homeschooling to my husband, who is firmly against it.  He thinks it is important for her to have relationships outside the home, that she would be bored all day, that children need a regular influence outside of their mother.  And it is true, I suppose.  I suspect he is just afraid people would think he was weird and that both of our families would be horrified (which is also true).  If it were the norm, he would love it.

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And in a way, I believe in public schools.  I was very happy at mine, and appreciate the relationships I had with my elementary school teachers.  I wonder if it is different because I was at a magnet school that had the best teachers in the county.  I truly loved many of my teachers and remember things that they taught me to this day.  Also my parents are a little weird and I definitely needed some outside influences.  For many, many children, public school is their best and only chance at success.

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And still, my heart longs for slow mornings, for library time spent reading classics instead of Magic Animal Friends, for lunches at home, activities done during the day instead of some time around dinner and dark.  I would love to get the best of my children’s day, not just time to supervise dinner, homework, and bed.  I would love to have no questions about what goes on during eight hours of the day, and know that my daughter is being treated kindly and being kind herself.

I know what type of homeschooler I would be. (Charlotte Mason.)  And what math work books I would use (Singapore, and I torture the poor little tyke with it in the summer.)  This year would we would be studying Ancient Rome, because she is showing natural interest in it, and learning to use a telescope to observe planets and constellations.  She also likes the presidents, and learning about wars, so we could be learning Revolutionary War history.  We would have a big history timeline that was added to bit by bit (she has a small one now), and would spend a lot of time outside, and doing legos and puzzles, and have ballet during the day at the homeschool class.  And swim lessons during the day, and piano lessons during the day, no more rushed and horrible evenings of changing in a hurry, shoving a dinner down our throats.  Afternoons would be for reading, chores, and outside time.

It will never happen.  But I will always be a homeschooler at heart.