It's been...

I haven't written in here in nearly two years. Way to go!

This week, we celebrated our sweet 16 - 16 years since buying this house. An unbelievable milestone. Especially since I still low-key feel 16 sometimes, so I definitely cannot be old enough to have done anything for 16 years. Certainly not own a house. What a grown up thing to do. WEIRD. 


So, anyway. Like everyone else, my life has been extra lifey. The last couple years forced me to take stock of everything, reevaluate my priorities, and change some things. Unfortunately, writing fell by the wayside. 

It has been hard in a lot of ways, but breathtakingly beautiful in so many others. 

16 days after my last blog post, my husband's dad died. He was beloved grandpapa and father in law. I wrote about it on my other (equally neglected) blog.

In March of 2020, my mom (who had been paralyzed in a car crash late in 2017) got an infection and went into septic shock. She transferred to the ER, and none of us knew if she was going to live. My older sister came from two hours south. Because of COVID, borders were closing, so my younger sister had to make an immediate decision to either come home or risk being trapped two continents away, with no timeline for exit. Ultimately, she decided to come. 

It was a terrifying ten days, but she survived. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the world fell apart. 

I caught COVID in March, presumably from being in and out of the ICU with my mom. Masks weren't really being used except when we were in her room. When I was diagnosed, I was one of only about 50 cases in my county. I spent the year struggling with symptoms. This iteration is called long-covid, but I have seen some relief post-vax, for which I have been incredibly thankful.

Because of the pandemic, we couldn't see our mom in person for months and months and months. 

As for the house - some fun things have happened around here:

Again, like a lot of other people, we spent the first lockdown focusing our energy on our home. Passing time with projects and improvements wherever we could. We built a raised garden bed, filled it, grew some lovely things, and learned so much through the process. 

We have unearthed SO MANY BRICKS over the years, but never could commit to a single thing they should be used for. So, on a whim, I decided to build a path from the backdoor to the side yard. When I get a wild hair, I tend to start before I have a fully-formed plan. As a result, there are some things about this I don't love and wish I had done better, like digging out some of the topsoil and adding some other organic materials to improve overall soil quality and drainage while feeding plants. It can still be done, but will take some finesse. I was never very into gardening, so I didn't know better. 

It has become a meditative practice for me. Caring for and cultivating plants has required a lot more introspection, self awareness, and personal growth than I ever imagined. It turns out, gardening isn't the inherent skill, I thought it was. It isn't something I was bad at. It was something I didn't pay attention to. My yard has required thoughtfulness. It has forced me to slow down and be mindful at every step. I have to be calculated and intentional. I cannot force this. You cannot force a plant to grow. You cannot be too fussy and overattentive, nor can you be detached. You have to pay attention to what is happening and made decisions based on what is, not what you wish it was. You cannot plant a cactus in soggy soil on the shady side of your home and will it to thrive. Create a landscape for the space you have. Above all else: be a good steward of the gifts you have been given and it will reward you. 

In this situation, we have a very large parcel - just under a quarter acre - which can be unusual in a city. With the community shut down and no schedule to keep, plus a husband home for a spell, we had time to turn inward (and extra hands for parenting).

This year, we decided to grow our garden and added two more raised beds. 

Last year's plantings have been returning, so I can see what worked or didn't and adjust accordingly.

We decided to add 16' cattle panel arches between each bed to train plants upward. I am hopeful that enough of the plants will get the hint to climb. If all works well, it will look really, really cool. If not, that's okay. I'll try something different next year. I am no longer working toward a static goal. I am working to learn and grow. I am realizing that all my experiences can be opportunities for improvement. I don't mean "improvement" as "getting better," because growth isn't a constant ascent. Some growth requires stepping backwards or down or laterally. We have discovered that there is no straight shot from project conception to completion with the house, so why should life be different? Before we could finish the powder room, we had to add some wiring... which led to rewiring the entire house... and on and on... 

It's like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but more philosophical, I guess. 

My starts are in, and I wound soaker hoses to help minimize water loss and leaf damage. Hopefully this year, I will not be so fussy and will resist the urge to overwater.

Another space I'm particularly enamored of is the patio corner that housed the janky DIY brick and stone and ????? chimney. We'd wanted to build the kids a playhouse reminiscent of a bird house. We still struggle to choose between modern and vintage aesthetics, but after a lot of re-designs, I think we found a nice balance of sweetness, simplicity, and quintessential childhood. The roof is clear gray corrugated polycarbonate, so lots of light comes in, without totally baking the children. You can't see in the photos, but the face opposite the open gable is a solid wall with a single circular window cut out. It's really fun.

D. made curtains out of drop-cloths so the kids could have more of a closed-in feel. We punched holes and added grommets to reinforce them and hung the curtains on hooks for easy removal in case of rain or to take them down for winter. 

I got a tourist brochure somewhere that had a map of Washington State inside. I cut out triangles, laminated them, and punched holes to string them up. It was cheap and fast, and I love how it turned out. 

The powder room wiring is in, a new fan is installed (the last owners installed it in the interior wall, so it vented into the dining room - delightful), the walls are complete (including a fresh skim coat of plaster). We just need to do a few last things before painting and installing the fixtures. CanNOT wait to have another bathroom - especially with two big kids needing the toilet all the time...often at the same time.  

(we picked the top color)

Our girl was attending pre-k five half-days per week when covid shut everything down. She wasn't able to return, so she didn't get a full year of experience I had hoped. In September, she began kindergarten. Virtually, at first, but now she goes four full days per week in person, with one short virtual day. We converted the sunroom into a dedicated learning space, which was really fun and cozy. The room doesn't get used during winter, because it isn't insulated or heated efficiently, but it felt like a great soft start to kindergarten. 

Despite the challenges of covid-learning, she has flourished at school. I think, now, maybe the lack of classroom experience has been an advantage. She had no expectations, and went into it with an open mind. I am endlessly grateful for everything her educators (all of them, really) have done, especially for this cohort; so new to the concept of school and classrooms and, well, people. The ever-moving targets, changing guidelines, quickly adopting brand new course delivery platforms and teaching methods, all while trying to keep consistency, meet standard educational goals and priorities, AND being children's advocates? Holy crap. Someone introduce legislation to increase teacher salary by a million dollars each. I'm not joking. Teacher Appreciation Week is great and all, but I think they deserve money.  

So, just like that, somehow (without any warning), she is six whole years old with only about five school weeks left. Baby brother is not a baby. He is almost four. Life is hard and beautiful. Or, as Glennon Doyle called it: brutiful. Brutal and beautiful. 

In any case, I don't know how we got here, but I like it.

See ya' when I see ya'.