Saturday, July 23, 2016

What Will You Miss about These Good Old Days?

I have a tendency to get very sentimental. I was telling someone a few weeks back of how I was thinking through future Christmasses with my children and realizing that they don't have very many left that will be magical, and even more depressing, this coming Christmas will be Ingrid's only Christmas as a two year old. The only one! The following year she'll be three. And then four. And the Christmas that she is four years old, Anja will be eleven. ELEVEN. !!! Unbelievable!

Funnily, the friend I was talking to about this was prevelant person of one stretch of “good old days” of my past. At the time, she had an eleven-ish year old herself while I was just stepping into my twenties and living a life that was exceptionally optimistic and inexpensive. Talk about the good old days... My hobbies were as abundant as my time, and to give an idea of how much time I had on my hands, walking was, for awhile, my only source of transportation. I read almost all the books on the “Summer Must-Reads” table at the bookstore. I tried (and ultimately failed) to teach myself Italian by buying an English-Italian dictionary, which I would carry to pretty, shady spots near creeks or rivers and sit and read for hours. (I'm shedding tears now, remembering just how much free time I had back then. Actual tears. No, not really, jk.)

That was a pretty great time of my life. Lots of friends, lots of music, lots of fun. But it wasn't all sunshine. I was really struggling with the whole idea of college and how to do it. (Another checkmark on the Fail List.) I was in that awkward phase between school and (I don't know what prefix to use here in order to convey that I believe college students are adults, but that being an adult as a student and being an adult as a non-student are so different) adulthood where you'd like to meet someone who is marriage material but you don't really want to mess around with all the tangly dating stuff. I wanted to pursue music but I didn't really have the means to do that seriously. It all worked out in the end (obviously) but since I didn't have a crystal ball to look into and see my future life, that stage was full of it's own challenges.

It wouldn't be long before I was thrust into a far different stage, and one that, if we're telling the truth, I wouldn't really care to repeat. I know that some people look back at having their first few babies and wish for that time back, but not me. I feel much more balanced and confident now than when I just had one or two small babies. Still, there are snippets of life back then that I remember fondly... afternoon naps with toddler Anja. The little jungle animal swing with a squishy new being snuggled into it, making gurgly baby noises. Taking long walks with one or two at my own speedy pace because no one else was of independent walking age. Generally speaking (even though it's never lasted very long with any of my girls,) I miss Naptime.

Now I'm in a very different stage of life; a few years into my thirties, four kids, too many bills, and way more hobbies than I have time for. It's so easy to get discouraged in this particular stage, but it's also easy to “live it up,” and “savor each moment,” as they say. Stumbling bleary-eyed to the coffee maker in the morning after being up half the night with a squalling infant, it's hard to imagine the days being gone in a flash. Every moment lasts an eternity. The idea that someday you'll look back and think anything remotely close to, “where did the time go?” (which is what everyone in the grocery store will tell you, as you're struggling with how the holy heck you're going to get your infant in her bucket seat AND all your groceries into that ridiculously small shopping cart which always had seemed a perfectly adequate size until now) seems ludicrous. Yet, here I am, looking back over eight years and thinking exactly that. Where did the time go? Because of that, I'm able to appreciate the sweet parts of parenting a little more and I'm grateful for that because it makes the job easier and a whole lot more fun. I definitely would say I'm enjoying parenthood a million times (I might even venture so far as to as a billion times) more now than I did when I had one baby. One baby was stressful. Anja was cute and sweet and funny, but she was also terribly overwhelming. I didn't know how I was supposed to get everything done with a baby to hold. In fact, I really didn't even know what I was supposed to do with her. We were just young bums with absolutely no parental qualifications. All the things we used to do couldn't seem to be done as easily with a baby. I found it very difficult to get used to existing as a family with a small baby after being simply two free-thinking adults for so long. Basically, I was young and selfish and didn't know how to give up my lovely lifestyle of whiling away afternoons in sunny coffee shops to change diapers and pace a floor with a colicky newborn who barfed on me a lot. It was a difficult transition. But I'm past that now!

Our summer so far this year has been touch and go in terms of cheerfulness. We've had a lot of extracurricular events happening, which translates to a lot of late nights and little sleep. The kids have acted accordingly. We had a few weeks in particular that were especially difficult with Elka, who screamed at me all day long for days on end. Sometimes she was upset for actual, legitimate-to-her reasons, but not always. By the end of each day I was beat, and as I thought back on the day (or week...) I started wondering what specific things I would miss about this time, as a future me, when this span of time will have been filed away in the cabinets of my memory as a stretch of “the good old days.”

Well, I won't miss the screaming, that's for sure. I won't miss the “jelly legs” that Elka decided to use as I was pushing Ingrid's umbroller through the hoards of other families on the way out from swimming lessons, when she was kicking and screaming and refusing to walk on her own and everyone was staring at us. Nope, won't miss that.

I won't miss the kids accidentally falling asleep in the car at 5pm and then staying up until midnight, even if the nap they got was only five minutes long.

I won't miss being so nervous taking them out in crowds, or crossing busy streets with them.

I won't miss the fighting between them. No, most definitely not.

But I will definitely miss listening in on their funny train games, where they go to India and California with Captain Detergent. I'll miss all the shoes and bikes and Schleich animals scattered around, even though I complain about them now. I dream of someday having a really huge garden, but I know I won't be able to have the enthusiasm and love for one single plant that a four-year-old has. I'll miss baking with them and sharing what we've made to break up the quiet afternoon hours when everybody feels a little stretched.

Actually, there's a lot of little things I'm going to miss. Too many to name. I think often of that “vacuum lines” essay that floats around every so often. Truth be told, I've never actually read the essay. But I've gotten the gist of what it talks about (or imagined what it might say, which pretty much makes me weep,) which is enjoying even the messy parts of having kids because eventually nobody will be there to shuffle in those perfect carpet lines that the vacuum leaves. And that sentiment is one that I try really hard to keep at the forefront of my mind.

When Greta was two, the way she fell asleep every night was by me rubbing her feet. She'd stick her feet up in the air and say, “rud.” Often it was relaxing (sometimes too relaxing—I would nod off, and she'd start kicking her little feet at me, “Rud! Ruuud!!!”) but there were times when I just plain did not want to rub her feet for half an hour until she fell asleep. It seemed stupid that I would even have to do that. Other two year olds were simply put in their beds and fell asleep on command. Why couldn't mine?

                                                      Anja and Greta at ages 3 and 2

Turns out, we talk about that time so often now. And when we talk about it, despite the frustrating times, we can't help smiling and looking back fondly on those silly days. We can remember being frustrated but we can't feel it anymore. They were good days.

All four of my girls have gone through a phase right around 9 months to a year, when they wake up in the middle of the night and stay up for three hours. The phase lasts a month or two, and admittedly, it's exhausting. But it's also kind of special. Those middle-of-the-night times with just your happy baby are so memorable and unique. We read books. We play favorite games such as, “if I throw this toy on the floor and laugh, Mama will think I'm so cute and she will pick it up for me and then I can throw it again.” Another excellent one is, “dump all the books off the bookshelves.” A classic. Looking back, even with the sleep deprivation, those were special times.

Having kids is so full of fun times. And plenty of frustrating times. But it's good to try and look at mundane or even slightly irritating instances as being something you will miss at some point, when you're looking back on your life. Because you likely will. Because even though there are difficulties, even though there are days you want to tear your hair out, even though you're tired of serving pasta with butter and salt because the kids refuse to eat anything even lightly shaded green, someday you'll have the time, energy and resources to cook a gourmet meal that everyone will devour and appreciate and nobody will make gagging sounds or run from the table crying because they hate the smell of broccoli so much. And when that time comes, you can lift your wine (in an actual, breakable wine glass! Not a juice cup!) and toast to the Good Old Days.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Beat the Blues with Carnivorous Plants

I posted on Instagram late last night a [somewhat staged and cheesy] picture of me standing by the Bob Dylan “Forever Young” quote painted on my shabby bedroom wall, and I admitted publicly the mournful, pity-partyesque truth that I'd been having a hard time seeing the beauty around me at home. Even though I didn't need to be so emo about it, it is true that I've been struggling with that lately. Maybe it's because we spent the weekend bouncing around between farms, eating good food, playing good music and talking agriculture with good people, only to wake up on Monday morning back in the city. Maybe it's because we still can't justify spending money on a privacy fence, so we still have a nine-house audience anytime we are out in our backyard. Maybe it's because sometimes I feel like our house is pretty cute, but then I realize it's actually filthy and junky and needs an extreme amount of renovation and work to undo those traits. Whatever the reason, I have been feeling especially down about our current living situation and I somehow felt the need to publicly share that.

I immediately regretted it and decided to delete it the post. But it was super late and I was tired and the only reason I was still awake was because I was perusing Zillow (again.) So, I fell asleep. And I forgot to delete the post!

In the morning, I suddenly remembered--

Wait, first I have to say the funny thing that happened in the middle of the night. There was a HUGE storm with SO MUCH cloud-to-ground lightning, it was crazy. My first realization that it was storming was when there came the hugest, most intense clap of thunder I have ever heard in my life and I ACTUALLY JUMPED OUT OF MY BED. It must have looked like a cartoon, I sat up and then LEAPED out of my bed from a dead sleep. It was such a scary sound! I have no idea how, but all four girls slept straight through it all.

--Okay, back to the original post subject.

I suddenly remembered that I hadn't deleted the post; I hopped on Instagram to delete it and saw that I had loads of comments and five or ten new followers. I read the comments, and it turns out they were all really kind and uplifting and some said that they felt the same way and thanked me for my honesty. I quickly made a new post, thanking people for their kindness and explaining why I was feeling the way I was feeling, and I got even more comments on that post from people who have been feeling, or have in their lives at some point felt, the same way! People who have gone through the same situation of living in a place that is not where their heart wants to be, but they find a way to make it work. They have to work extra hard, but it's possible for them to see beauty where they are. So many people have shared my exact experience of leaving a homestead they loved to return to city life—reluctantly—knowing that it's what they have to do, even though it is so much what they don't want to do. Then one person shares their honest feelings about their situation and it causes people to reach out and share.

Isn't that beautiful? It is so easy to get dragged down by this modern age. This age of hatefulness and terrorism and ugliness. There are days I think it would be better to live the secluded cave life rather than have to deal with the human race for one more minute. Nobody can seem to get along. Everybody is angry. Disagreement abounds. But then something little like that happens—I used our modern age of the internet to put something personal out there, and it somehow brings people together. All the people going through similar circumstances can look at all those comments and think, “I'm not alone. I'm not the only one feeling this way.” And it makes me feel glad to live in this age of interconnection. It's not all bad. People aren't all bad.

Inspired by the encouraging comments, I reflected on my surroundings today and tried a little harder to see what around me makes me happy. Obviously, my little girls and silly husband. That goes without saying. But what in my aesthetic surroundings? When I imagine us living someplace else, what from this house do I hope will also be at the next? When I think of my dream-life, what do I have there?

Well, I'll tell you one thing.

I'll have a Venus Fly Trap.

We bought (adopted?) a Venus Fly Trap plant for $10 from a plant sale this spring (I think I blogged about it) and together as a family, we have made sure that it is the happiest plant on our windowsill. The girls catch flies and feed them to it. We water it strictly with collected rainwater. The thing is thriving! We love to observe it, to see how full it is, to watch the little baby mouths grow up from the middle, develop their teeth, open up, and eventually gobble enough bugs to turn black and fall off. It's a really amazing plant!

But... it's a plant.

Yes, but it's a family plant. It's interactive. We all take care of this plant together. And it makes us all really happy. And having that silly plant for some reason makes me content to be where we are. We bought the plant because we had moved back to this house and were walking everywhere and that plant sale happened to be on our walk home. It kind of symbolizes our new beginnings. A new endeavor in an old place that we would not have if it weren't for moving back here. It's a small thing, but as I was advised, it's the small things that you want to hold onto in order to be happy where you are, despite feeling unsettled.

For the most part, I am happy to be back here. The things I missed about downtown life when I lived away from it are even better than I remembered them being, now that I'm back in those old routines and activities. But some days lean more toward unhappiness. While I maintain that I need to nip the saddies in the bud, I was also given the wise advice that it's okay to be sad. It's alright if you're not happy-happy-happy all the time. We are all real people with real feelings and the spectrum of those feelings is huge! And we can embrace them all individually without believing they are permanent. And as I learned today, we can relieve others by being honest about those feelings that they may share, reminding each other that it's okay to feel that way, we're not alone, things get better, and that it's important to see the beauty in the little things around you. Our big picture is made up of all the little things we focus on, and if we focus on all the little things that make us happy in small moments, we might open our eyes to see that we really are happy in our hearts.

Thank you to all of you who left comments on those posts. Thank you for putting your own words out there for others to find comfort in. It's so nice to be reminded that we're really all in this together. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Embracing the Imperfections of Everywhere

I'm usually pretty good at looking at the bright side of things. Not perfect, but pretty good. Sometimes I look at where we are and I think, “hey, this place is pretty swell, I could see us living here forever!” And I make plans about privacy fences with vertical agriculture and selling our van for an expensive cargo bike and not ever driving again, and having the ultimate green urban homestead. I allow my mind to disappear into sunny, happy daydreams about picket fences covered in rambling roses and houseplants at all the windows. We entertain the idea of taking off the crappy aluminum siding and replacing the exterior with stucco and totally renovating the kitchen and bathroom to be a-freaking-dorable. We sit on our “boho patio” (it kind of rhymes, see?) with it's strung up globe lights and hanging lanterns and area rug under the table; we sip Sofia wine because we think the bottle is so pretty and we say, “isn't this place great?” and a lot of the time we mean it.

But then the police will down on the corner arresting a very loud woman who is taking off all her clothes in the street. Or one of the neighbors will come out and scream profanities at their kids. Or then I'll look back at my Instagram feed, scrolling back to before we lived here again, and I'll think, “What have we done?”

Here are a few pictures of the backyard of the last place we lived:


And here are some pictures of the place we lived prior to that:


And finally, here's where we live now:


I don't have as many pictures of this place because I try not to take very many pictures. Chain link fences and trash aren't especially photogenic. When I compare these pictures, it makes me very sad. I know we're better off than a lot of people. I know we should be grateful for what we have (and we are.) I know the kids don't even care that much. I know that my life is filled with blessings and that I truly have nothing to complain about, but still... we had something really beautiful (though ultimately unsustainable), and now we don't. It's easy for me to lose sight of any smidge of gratefulness and just wallow in self-pity, and in times like that, I have to re-think where we are, what we've gained by coming back here, and remind myself of all the unpleasant aspects of those idyllically beautiful homesteads that are thankfully in our past.

We're always talking about moving. We're always talking about “the perfect place” and what that would include. And it's interesting that when we first came back here, we were so relieved because it was warm. It was February and we had spent two winters being frozen in houses without insulation. Two years of putting wool hats on the kids while they slept, dressing them sometimes in four layers of clothes just to spend a day inside the house. We were grateful just for warmth and space and an oven. We could bake cookies! We could sleep in separate bedrooms! We could have an actual COUCH! We were feeling pretty kingly when we were first living here. But now that we've been here awhile and are remembering the imperfections of the house and the neighborhood, we don't feel so royal. And while I don't exactly miss all six of us living in 540 square feet (I really don't think I'll ever miss that, to be honest... it was fine at the time, honestly I was hardly ever bothered by it, but looking back—no thank you) I do miss the lifestyle of the old homesteads. I miss quiet mornings outside with my coffee, sitting on the patio talking to the goats (don't judge.) I miss all the baby birds we had at our homesteads—swallows everywhere, baby chicks, baby turkeys. I miss watching the dogs roll around together and run through the long grass. (I don't miss picking ticks off of them afterward though—nor do I miss finding their engorged ticks crawling across the floors, or stepping on them uuugggghhhhhh!) I miss the solitude. One day recently we saw a man tripping on drugs across the street and my kids stared, but didn't say anything. I don't like it that that scene is commonplace for them. Police walking the area looking for people is not exciting or newsworthy.  But I don't miss the solitude turning into isolation when nobody wanted to make the drive out for a visit or when the driveway was so icy we were homebound for long stretches of time.

Looking back at where we used to live (both homesteads,) it can seem like we lost something perfect. But that's memory for you. Our “perfect” was perfectly full of imperfections. When we lived at our first homestead, there was one night when a blizzard came through. It was our first winter there, shortly before we put in our wood stove. We had a kerosene heater and electric space heaters, and we were all freezing. That night we put the kids to bed and the wind was so intense that Martin and I sat up all night, alternately pacing through the house checking on things and sitting near the heater just staring at each other, with scared expressions. The electricity kept flickering off and on and at one point stayed off for about a full minute. It felt like the walls were going to blow down. Our house sat on a little knoll in the middle of a meadow surrounded by farm fields—we had nothing protecting us. And we worried so much about disaster during that blizzard because we were near nothing. Our road would get plowed eventually, but it was not a priority, and we were two miles from the highway and the closest little town. It was kind of scary.

We didn't live through any blizzards at our second homestead (the cabin,) but there were plenty of wind storms during our time there. Just as before, our dwelling was not tightly sealed and it felt like it would blow over with just a little more oomph from the weather gods. The cabin was just on a concrete slab—no basement, not even a crawl space—and it was one room. So, you know the advice they give for tornadoes: go to a small interior room without windows? No such thing in the cabin. In the event of an actual tornado warning, we would all run across the yard to the big house and go to the creepy cellar over there, but there were a number of nights in the cabin that I sat up for hours waiting for storms and wind to pass before I could relax enough to go to sleep, feeling sure that the roof wasn't going to be blown off and that my children were going to be sucked away into the twister.

So, in our ideal home, we will have a livable basement—a place that is naturally cool in summer, warm in winter, in which we can have at least one big bed so that when there is severe weather being predicted for the overnight hours, we can put the girls to bed down there and not risk having to wake them up and drag them down to a creepy cellar when the tornado sirens go off.

Also, insulation. Insulation is a must.

Winters at both homesteads were unbearably cold. We would drive to town for dinner at a restaurant just so we could get warm! At the first place, the bathroom pipes would freeze as soon as the temperature dipped into the twenties. (Um, in case you aren't from Indiana, that isn't really very cold for wintertime.) We would go days and days without having a working bathroom. We would bring in buckets of water to manually flush the toilet, and if there were any water left standing in the bathtub, it would freeze to a sheet of ice. That was kind of a smelly time.

At the second place, when we lived in the cabin, there was no inside shower; just a toilet and sink. The shower we had built onto the exterior. So this meant that, not only would the pipes freeze easily, but we would sometimes be running through snow to and from the shower. Or if it was raining, we'd be jumping over mud puddles. (Of course, on sunny summer days, it was a truly magical experience to shower out there and open the shower door afterward to flowers all around you. Sigh. BUT I'M NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW.)

Next home must: normal, functioning bathroom.

I really miss our animals. But I don't miss worrying about them. I didn't worry about them quite as much as I worry about my kids, but it was close. Were we keeping up with hoof trimming? Would we ever find someone to help us shear the sheep? Are the animals staying warm enough? Are they staying cool enough? Would the rabbits ever have a live litter? Would every rooster we ever got be satan incarnate? In all of our 2.5 years, we lost only two chickens to unexpected sickness—one of the two Golden Comets died and the other showed matching symptoms so we culled it. Other than that, our flocks were always extremely healthy and productive. But I worried so much about them. I worried that we'd go out to feed them and they'd all be dead in the coop. For awhile, when we had a naughty dog, we were losing chickens constantly, and that was a huge stress. What to do with the dog? How to break this habit? How much money do we spend replacing hens before we say forget it, let's buy eggs at the store? And I was constantly inspecting poop. I was a poop pro and was very intimate with many varieties of farm, domestic and wildlife. Carcass identification was another interesting hobby during that time.

If we ever live in the country again, I would probably not do anything differently about the animals. I loved them all, I loved having them all. Actually, I maybe would just have more of them. So, in our ideal home, we'd have acres upon acres of lush pasture for all of my beloveds to frolic about in a constant state of barnyard ecstasy.

One downside to both places we lived was the lack of hunting opportunity for Martin. Squirrels, deer, wild rabbits... we saw none of those. Here in town, we're overrun with wildlife. In fact, just two nights ago, Brynja made friends with an angry possum in our backyard! (The friendship didn't last.) We've got squirrels galore! Chipmunks a'plenty! A rabbit warren in every yard! We did not see such wildlife at our homesteads; we were not especially near to any woods. (Though we did see more wildlife at the cabin than in our meadow, which seriously, only had birds and mice.)

At our ideal home, we will have enough wooded land for Martin to hunt and for us to forage wood and food for ourselves. Hmm.... since we're wandering into fantasyland here, let's just say 100 acres. Excellent.

Now we're onto the really important part: JUJU.

During my brother and sister-in-law's visit a few weeks ago, my sister-in-law and I talked a lot about “juju” in different houses we've lived or been in. It's such an interesting topic and she and I had experienced a lot of the same things in places we'd been together, and she shared with me about times she's “cleared” dwellings of theirs. I am pleased to say that this house now, our current downtown home, has the strongest feeling of peacefulness ever. I only can recognize this now after being in so many other places (including home searches for all that time, pre-first homestead.... There was one place that gave off such bad vibes I couldn't get out of that place fast enough!) Now that I can recognize it and after having talked about it and given my feelings some credibility, I really appreciate that part of this house and may not settle for less in any homes that we may consider in our future.

Next home requirement: Good juju.

Okay, so we're through the big stuff. Now the little details of an ideal home. I prefer older homes. I like built-ins and original woodwork and wood floors. I would take tile over linoleum, never carpet. I definitely need lots of natural sunlight. Outside of our million acres of pasture and million acres of woodland, we require a spring-fed creek and at least enough yard for a substantial garden and a nice sturdy playset with FOUR swings so the girls don't fight over them all day. Alright, I'm ready for my Zillow search!

Oh, bummer. Zillow says my perfectly perfect home doesn't exist. Sad face.

We did have good things at our homesteads. And we have good things here. And now as we carry on with our very good life here, we also have two years of really fun and unique memories that we share as a family! Not everyone gets the chance to live in a tiny cabin beside a lake for a year. Not everyone gets to live in a meadow where on the 4th of July you stand outside your house and watch a panorama of all the fireworks displays in the surrounding towns at the same time. We were so fortunate to have those experiences with our kids, even if they weren't our daily life forever. It's pretty lame of me to have my little pity parties just because that particular style of fun is over. And if we make it back to the country someday, okay, that will be great. But if we stay in town until we retire to some posh retirement community that we pay for entirely from the money we would have spent on gas after we transition to bicycle-only transportation—that's great too!

In the end, we make our own happiness and where we are now is a really great place for a lot of reasons, even if we don't have chickens or a huge swingset or a super huge clothesline surrounded by buttercups and queen anne's lace. We live in a snug house that's full of character and love and happy times, and that does sound pretty ideal, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Geraniums on the Windows

**This is an older post. I've been having some computer/internet difficulties but they seem to be worked out now. Hopefully it stays that way. In any case, here is a post from a few weeks back**

Coming back to this house was difficult, for sure. We reeeeaaaallly did not want to live downtown again. We didn't want to get rid of our animals. We didn't want to get rid of our freedom. We didn't want neighbors. We didn't want kids living next door who scream the f*bomb day and night. This is in so many, many ways NOT our ideal pocket of the world.

But. Here we are.

When we came back here it was February and we got to work right away improving the inside. Painting the concrete floors of the back part of the house, rearranging the rooms in our minds to better suit our family this time around. Ripping up carpet and putting in a painted plank floor, painting walls, decorating... all these things we did while it was still cold and gross outside. When spring finally came I had serious visions of what I wanted the outside of the house to look like. To sum it up: PLANTS EVERYWHERE.

The last time we lived here I really wanted window boxes to plant geraniums in. I thought that would looks so sweet. Cottage-like. Then we moved to New Richmond and I thought, “you know, the only thing that would make the exterior of this house better is window boxes filled with geraniums.” Then, at the cabin: “Martin, the outside is just made of wood, you could easily nail window boxes up to the windowsills and I would plant geraniums in them....” are you seeing the pattern here?

This time, I didn't even have to beg. (Martin is all about keeping me happy here. I think he's afraid I'll run away, especially now that I'm in such better shape from walking everyplace!) I have window boxes on almost all my windows (only the kitchen one still needs to be built.) And they are all filled with thriving red impatiens which I pretend are geraniums. (not true... one box is filled with geraniums, but they don't get enough light, which I suspected would be the case, but I had to try anyway.)

These window boxes make me happy. These and the roses Martin and the girls gave me for Mother's Day, and the dream of a picket fence and gate at the top of the driveway, all make me feel like this house is closer to meeting it's Cuteness Potential. It's kind of in a difficult spot—obviously, the neighborhood stinks in a lot of ways—our house is situated between an extremely cute and full of charm house and a dumpy, nothing-special-about-it, practically-falling-down rental, which looks a lot like ours, except we have green trim and are shorter. (Our whole house is short—oddly short. The ceilings are so low, which is goofy, but when you realize that the entire house is shorter than all the rest on the street, it's kind of comical. Like it was made just for us. Heart.) The rest of the houses all down the street are no better than the one next to us. They all are falling into disrepair. In fact, most of them look pretty awful. In the event that we end up spending the rest of our lives here in this house (likely,) the fact that our home looks somewhat taken care of, and cutefied, makes my heart feel a little more at peace with our situation.

I'm always on the lookout for other houses. Not just country houses (I'm hopelessly obsessed with my nightly internet homestead searches) but places in town too. Bigger lots, old homes that are more charming than ours, in cute, historic neighborhoods. Original woodwork, door, hinges, little garages or carriage houses outside... But whenever I do start wandering on a Zillow search, I always end up looking around at my own shabby little house and thinking maybe it really isn't so bad.

This past week my brother and his family have been visiting from Virginia. We had a little birthday gathering for Elka one night and the weather was nice. All the fifteen grandkids played outside and we had the patio lights and the house was hot and stuffy and full of food, and my sister-in-law snapped a picture late in the evening of my brother and me playing guitars on the patio, and I thought, “there's definitely a thin line between trashy and boho, and I think just maybe we have managed to make it onto the boho side.” And then, (even if it isn't true,) I convinced myself that we had.

And even if we haven't... the party lights are still friendly.