Thursday, July 16

From One Extreme to Another and Back Again

When SOS and I were first married, we lived in what we called our Honeymoon House. The Honeymoon House backed onto a golf course. It had four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and a gorgeous view of a mountain we secretly claimed for ourselves.
The view from the front porch of our Honeymoon House.
The dark shadow on the right stretching toward the moon is our mountain.

Of course we owned no furniture when we moved in. We each came from renting fully furnished rooms and so moved in with a borrowed mini-fridge, a borrowed air mattress, and all of our still-wrapped wedding gifts... and there were lots of those. So many in fact, that we gave them the extra bedrooms.

We were in that uncertain waiting game called "short sale" both of the condo we came to know as home and of the Honeymoon House. The owner of the Honeymoon House wasn't thrilled with the idea of an empty house for however many months the bureaucracy shuffled papers. As long as we didn't mind realtors coming and going with no notice and being told to move out with little notice, the house was ours.

Six years later, it's the second verse, same as the first. Another other-wise vacant house only instead of realtors popping in and out, we're living around a remodel in process. Oh, and yes, it's bigger. We've taken the square footage of the Honeymoon House, added square footage equal to our studio condo, and transplanted the house from the bottom of the mountain to the top of a different one.

This time around we have more furniture, belongings, and children, but it is still a vastly oversized house. The central portion of the house has extraordinarily high ceilings and because we have so little in the cavernous space, SOS has made it my private concert hall, complete with balcony.

Oh, and let me tell you about that balcony.

In our studio condo (or "little house" as we now refer to it), the kids had a favorite game of running the entire length of the condo, back and forth, back and forth. Even with their tiny legs, they could make it one way in less than 15 strides. The fun of this game carries over to our big house, only the distance is considerably longer and it requires running across this balcony (aka "The Bridge"). The kids love it. The adults? Perhaps, if it weren't for those middle-of-the-night calls to come pull the blanket up from around their feet where they kicked it off. At 2:30 in the morning, the distance from the master suite to the kids' bedroom seems to be as far as one side of the Golden Gate to the other.

At least there is no toll booth.

Back and forth. Back and forth. From one extreme to another and back again.

In this vast space where we have more room than we have ever had, we are sifting through our things, downsizing in everything but the size of the house. Our goal is to wind up with only the belongings that will fit in a 6'x7'x8' shipping container and the back of a minivan. We're nearly back to that first extreme of owning no furniture, of owning nothing but our clothes and the now well-used wedding gifts.

And what waits for us on the other side of our move? A space not even three hundred square feet larger than our condo, a space we will come to fill with beds, belongings and children.

Back again.

During these almost nightly concerts I watch SOS expertly work his bow across the strings of his violin. I know it represents years and years of practice. I've heard the difference between a beginning student and a world class violinist. The same back and forth of the bow brings about entirely different results.

So here's to another year of practice, another visit to the other extreme. Maybe some day packing up home and family will appear as effortless as SOS's late night Bach.

Friday, June 5

Last in a Series: Packing a Tiny House

Tonight is our last night in the place we've called home for six years. In honor of the occasion, here are six thoughts on selling our condo and moving on:

1) When we first talked about selling our tiny castle, I daydreamed about papering the house with post-it notes urging kind thoughts from the seller regarding the various quirks of a dearly beloved space. Like a note to the teacher of a child being sent off for a first day of kindergarten, I wanted to make sure no one misunderstood the charming idiosyncrasies to be annoying vices. As escrow drags on, I've come to suspect that no one could love this place as much as we have. With the help of the kids, the house has been worn until it has become real. The buyer will think it needs new paint and carpet, we know better. Maybe tonight while we sleep the magic nursery fairy will come and turn our tiny house into a real castle.
If only all our boxes packed themselves.

Oh, wait. They all do self-pack.
2) A number of companies print packing boxes with a helpful list of rooms so you can indicate which room a particular box should be stacked in. I'm stumped. I know what kitchen means. What do all the rest mean again?

3) Packing tips online suggest not combining items from multiple rooms in one box. Done. So easy.

4) We still aren't sure where we will find ourselves unpacking our boxes two months from now. One thing we've agreed on, though: We need at least one interior door besides the one on the bathroom. We could probably even benefit from having two additional interior doors. But what on earth would we do with three?

5) I've noticed a spike in my attention to small details in inconsequential matters. Hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of times I've walked through this door with the porthole window. Yesterday, the screws in the frame appeared unforgivably non-square. I suspect that perhaps in this situation where I have increased adrenaline for figuring out All The Things yet so little ability to actually solve any questions regarding inconsequential things like housing, kids' schooling, maternity care, etc., that the adrenaline must be focused elsewhere. Whether a symptom of CDO (you know, similar to OCD only the letters are in the right order) or the Type B in me trying to bring it up to an A-, believe me, you'll thank me later.

Aren't the off-center screws on the port-hole so obnoxious?
6) When you've lived in a studio for six years without aiming to be particularly minimalistic and have acquired nearly three kids in the process, the estimates moving companies give for how much space your stuff will require for transport are all wrong. Don't believe the line "[this size] is perfect for studio and apartment moves as well as 1-2 bedroom moves." If you believe that, I've got a real castle I'd love to sell you.

(Photo Credit for door photo: MAJ)

Thursday, May 7

For Sale: Studio Condo 473 Sq. Ft.

Our realtor tells us we should make room in our house so interested buyers can have the room to imagine their lives in this space rather than just ours.

Gentle Readers, potential buyers will just have to have excellent imaginations.

Oh, to be sure, we are packing as much as we can. We rented a storage unit about the size of our living room, and we keep adding to it car load by car load. 

But still, we're a little tight on space and as much as we will love the person who decides to pay our price, we don't have any room to accommodate their imagination in our square footage.

Well, with one exception... we have decided to move out the pet snake. A reptile such as this could potentially swallow whole many a potential buyer's imagination.

Meanwhile, we've been working on some phrasing to use in the property listing. Some of my favorites include:

1) A bathroom as big as a kitchen!
2) The closets, cupboards, and pantry are all ready to showcase your unique style in the doors or coverings of your choosing.
3) Spacious great room accommodates 3+ rooms in one!
4) Environmentally friendly kitchen maximizes economy of movement.
5) Bedroom closets so big, you'll wish you had more people to share them with.
6) Generous porch adds 30% to your square footage.
7) Charming family home nestled on (soon to be) quiet culdesac.

So, any takers? If you're interested, we'll even take out the diaper trash and the dirty laundry before your walk-through... you know, so as to leave more to your imagination.

Thursday, April 30


It's been one of those months. Maybe you've had one. Or it had you.

Briefly, in April we

  • Found out SOS was accepted to grad school and they wanted to see him in person two weeks later.
  • Planned and executed a last minute trip for each of us (two different destinations), one requiring the acquisition of new formal wear.
  • Moved storage facilities.
  • Owed taxes for the first time ever.
  • Broke into a house (with owner's permission).
  • Survived a round of flu... and a nasty cold.
  • Celebrated 6 years of marriage (hugging the toilet, no alcohol involved).
  • Celebrated a birthday (hugging the toilet, no alcohol involved).
  • Enjoyed visits from both sets of parents.
  • Acknowledged our car was officially too far gone when it failed to change gears in traffic.
  • Researched and purchased a new car.
  • Learned that a case that has haunted us for nearly three years was settled.
  • Discovered that the girl we were expecting is actually a boy.
  • Listed our house for sale.
  • Were offered a TA position that will pay for tuition.
  • Moved half of our household belongings into storage.
  • Began house hunting from 2,000 miles away.
  • Picked up extra work.
  • Endured the suspicion that the water leak in the carport came from our unit.
Who knows what April would have held for us if there were 31 days instead of just 30?

Sunday, April 5

Wisconsin in Winter

Gentle Readers, it appears I will have to learn how to Do Winter.

I've never had to, up till now. For nine years, I lived in the tropics... things get cold when temperatures drop to 60 degrees. For thirteen years, I've lived in Southern California. I own eight pairs of flip-flops... and two pairs of shoes that have both a closed-toe and an enclosed heel.
Flip-Flops. A good choice for every season. Right?
The other years? Those are the coldest I've ever known. It snowed once when I was in high school. We got about an inch of snow during the night and it melted almost completely by 10 am. The important part of that day, though, was that school was cancelled on account of it.

But aside from the rare coincidence of cold and humidity arriving on the same day, my years in Central California were marked by a long-standing inability to believe that there existed temperatures colder than 60 degrees. I remember standing on the blacktop during the gray winter days of second grade, without a jacket or a sweater. I was cold, yes, but if I didn't let myself start to shiver, then I would be fine. Classmates and teachers would come by and marvel, "Aren't you cold?" And then before I could explain, they would remind themselves, "Oh yes, you lived in South America. You are used to it."

Not used to it, no. Just unable to comprehend that season called winter.

In eighth grade my lack of knowledge about winter caused me to ruin an otherwise 100 percent on a math test. Which is likely to have colder temperatures: Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day? My vast knowledge of seasons supplied the answer: Winter lasts from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Spring starts shortly after.

My math teacher was unconvinced.

Even as a mature boomerang, home in between college and career (also known as the interlude between my years in Southern California), the frigid winter temps of 40 degrees disoriented me. I'd run outside to check the mail or take out trash and hurry back, surprised at the tingling pain in my bare feet.
A typical winter day in Southern California. Notice the long sleeves.

Gentle Readers, what is that thing called below freezing? And when people speak of temperatures in the single digits or below zero, it is like those imaginary numbers in math, right? It is purely an exercise of consistency in carrying a theory to its supposed extreme. Yes?


People tell me no. I don't quite believe them, but I am old enough and wise enough now to suspect that when winter next arrives, and I find myself in Wisconsin, I should plan on wearing a jacket and something warmer than flip-flops. I don't suppose they make open-toed winter boots, do they?

Monday, February 23

Ten Clickbait Headlines You Have to Read to Believe

He stretched. What happens next is shocking.

While the boss was away, THIS happened.

Wait till you see what happens at 24:31. Totally worth the time!!

You won't believe the shady pedigree on this guy.

Have lasting success following these 10 simple rules.

What this 12 year old does will blow your mind.

What this guy did with 5 loaves of organic bread = Epic.

Worst Fashion Fail EVAR

One new superfood you won't believe.

He increased his wealth using one simple weird trick.

It is really way, way too easy. After all, there isn't just scandal in the Bible... scandal got invented in the Bible. There aren't just amazing, surprising outcomes... there are miracles. And there aren't just good tips for self-improvement... there are the basic rules for life.

But still, I'm glad that my Bible has normal tell-all subheadings rather than clickbait headlines. Aren't you?

Tuesday, February 3

10 Signs My Kitchen is Small

CutieLittleBoy is firmly situated in the middle of the Why Phase. I am pretty well convinced that he asks the question so frequently that he doesn't always hear it himself. It is his verbal pause of choice. And then every once in awhile he throws me for a loop by expecting me to answer and repeating the question again and again until I come up with a suitable answer.

And for some reason, the size of our house has come up in his endless questions. "Why do we have a big house? Why is our kitchen small? Why do we have lots of things? Why do we have a small house? Why do we have lots of things in our kitchen?" In between scrambling for answers, I wonder what prompts the adjectives. What is he seeing that makes it big or small, full or empty?

I don't know why it surprises me, though. From day to day I find myself asking similar questions. "How can we keep living in such a small place? Why did I ever think we might one day need to move to something larger?" From day to day, the adjectives differ.

So I've created this handy list of ten signs my kitchen might be too small. Read it quickly, because if you blink, I will have made it a list of ten signs my kitchen is just the right size.

1) Costco-sized kitchen mats can't fit. It doesn't matter whether I lay the mat parallel to my kitchen counter or perpendicular. They won't fit. Oh, and those additional sizes available online? All larger.

2) A key feature of a kitchen trash can: a flat lid... all that additional work space!

3) Having a clean sink and a clean stove top ranks as an awe-inspiring encounter with the miracle-working God. With no dishwasher, it is a rare minute indeed where no dirty dishes huddle in my kitchen sink. And for drying? A dish rack can only hold so much. That's where the stove comes in, with all of that great extra space for drying larger items. Like a see-saw, if one is empty, the other is full. The last time my kitchen experienced double-emptiness, I'm nearly positive I saw the glow of heaven in my white stove-top enamel.

4) Putting away dishes involves a precise process. And it is not because of any wannabe OCD. It is a simple matter of physics. I can't open the cupboard to put away the kids' cups if I haven't yet put away the knives. I can't reach the plates if I haven't put away the cups. Etc.

5) The desk is seen as an extension of my kitchen space. Nothing revolutionary here, right? Doesn't everyone put a toaster oven on their desk?

6) A new pan ruins my drawer layout. I made the mistake of buying a new roasting pan. It's a little bit bigger than the one rust is eating it's way through, and that little size difference is fatal. When we remodeled the kitchen to maximize counter and storage space, S.O.S. measured our kitchen supplies and built the cabinets to match. Brilliant, except now I realize I need a new kitchen before I can get any new pots and pans.

7) Opening the fridge all the way involves pulling it into the center of the kitchen, so it perfectly blocks the doorway. This is hardly ever an issue, unless we're putting away pizza boxes, casseroles, large salads... or want to clean up the goop in the bottom of the vegetable drawer.

8) It is impractical to use a mop. Even a full-size broom, come to think of it. Up until about 4 months ago, the only broom I had was one of those waist-high mini-brooms. I finally splurged and bought a "grown-up" broom with the hopes that I could convince the kids that it was mine. No success to report on that front. The story with mops would follow the same plot line. I keep trying to make mopping the floor on hands and knees look similarly appealing, but again, no success to report.

9) Opening the oven requires an utter and complete stop on all other kitchen activities. Think of it in these terms: our floor space is the size of an oven door plus the standing space of an adult pair of legs. Yes, there is more room over between the fridge and the pantry, but again, open one and forget any of the others. The adults in the family understand this reality. The children, not so much.

10) In kitchen design, the kitchen work triangle is all about placing the refrigerator, sink, and stove top within a four to nine feet triangular walk area. Those step-saving kitchens? They have nothing on mine. I can have my hands in dish soap glory over the sink and turn on my stove without getting any suds on the knob. How? It's all in the lean, I tell you. Of course, I've only ever done this accidentally, but think of the possibilities!

So in summary, these are ten reasons why my kitchen has plenty of room. (But does anyone need a larger roasting pan?)