Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Remodel....A Year Later

Last year at this time, the four of us had been crammed into roughly 400 square feet of our basement for over a month, and it was definitely wearing on us....but let me start at the beginning.

David and I bought our 864 square foot ranch home in 1998, right after I graduated from college. It was our "starter" home, and we thought we'd be there for 5 years or so before buying something larger that was more "us." A couple years after we moved in, we finished the basement, adding a second bathroom and another bedroom, along with a crafting space and our computer room. A year after that, we added central air. By this time, we had decided we liked life with just the two of us, and since we weren't planning to have kids, we started to rethink the idea of buying a bigger house. Didn't it make more sense to stick with our small mortgage and stay put? After all, the house was just fine for two people.

Then God called us to adoption, and before we knew it, we had added two more people to our little family. Okay, the house seemed a little smaller with two busy boys, but really? We had seen where they came from in Ethiopia, and it just didn't seem fair to think about buying a much bigger house (and going into a lot more debt) when there were so many without.

At the same time, two rooms in particular were really starting to make me feel claustrophobic. Our tiny galley kitchen felt cramped, and as the boys' main in-and-out-constantly access door swung directly into my refrigerator, I found myself losing my temper a few times too many as they came crashing through the door to the garage right as I tried to move something to or from the fridge. There was very little counter space, a wasted soffit area above the minimal cupboards, and I was really starting to regret the fact that we had no dishwasher. Our pocket-sized bathroom had almost no storage, and all of our towels were stored in the base of our bookshelves in our "library" across the hall. All of it was looking very cluttered and dated as well.

In the summer of 2013, I began to sketch out some possible additions to our upstairs. As we started to talk to a contractor, we ruled a couple of things our right away. Some plans were too elaborate and too expensive. Others just didn't fit the rest of our house. After a lot of praying, discussing options, and talking to the bank, we eventually settled on a plan that added 125 sq. feet or so onto the kitchen and upstairs bathroom.

The builders began work on the project in October by digging additional space for our basement in the backyard. They built a temporary wall across what had been my craft space to protect the rest of our finished basement from the mess, and the processes of framing, roofing and pouring cement began. The new kitchen extended about three feet into our garage as well, over what had been a stoop to the old kitchen.
Our temporary wall across the basement.
Smashing out the exterior cement block wall of the basement.

The former stoop in the garage was enclosed to become part of the kitchen.

 The enclosed addition onto the back of the house.
By mid November, the old kitchen and bath were ready to be torn out, so we moved our living quarters to the basement. The basement bedroom became our makeshift kitchenette, as well as clothing storage and sleeping space. (Our upstairs bedrooms were closed off and taped shut, to try to keep the dust and dirt to a minimum.) Our computer area became our school room, craft area, eating space, and sleeping space for the boys at night. Our downstairs bathroom was shared with a steady stream of construction guys through the day (and I came to realize how blessed I am to share my home with guys who never put the seat up.) ;-) It was a bit of a fun adventure at first, but then we were in the midst of the holidays, with presents and Christmas cards arriving daily, and no place to cook my offerings of food for family gatherings. Thank goodness for microwaves and crock pots! We used paper products as much as possible, and I drove to my mother-in-law's house to do dishes three times a week. Sintayehu melted down even more than usual, and we spent our evenings looking at appliances and tile samples, and sketching designs for our cabinet maker.
The basement dresser/kitchen counter.

Kitchenette, consisting of the microwave, toaster oven, coffee pot, and crock-pots.

Bed/laundry room 

Crafting, eating, schooling, and sleeping area.


 The light colored rectangle of subfloor in the middle of this photo is where my kitchen sink used to be.

 It seemed like forever, but really, it was only about a month and a half until we were completely moved back upstairs to our new space. The addition to the basement meant that the boys had gained a playroom and a closet for toy storage, so moving all toys to the lower level brought a whole lot less clutter upstairs. My new kitchen has cabinets that go to the ceiling for maximum storage, about three times the counter space, and a DISHWASHER!! The extra space also gives us room for entertaining once in awhile. Our bathroom has a small walk-in shower and a lovely amount of storage for linens and bathroom necessities. (It is such a luxury to have plenty of towels in the bathroom, and a whole drawer to store the stuff I use to get ready every day.)
 Basement craft and play area
 Yay! My basement school room, returned to normal!

 We have our eye on a gorgeous, copper-topped table, but until that fits into our budget, this one opens to comfortable seat 8 people.

After a year, I still love my "new" house. It is the perfect size for the 4 of us, and I marvel that this was accomplished by adding less than a 5 foot width to the back of the house. Sure, my home will never be the show-place that I once dreamed of, but you know what? I'm really okay with that. This is just right for us, and I am so thankful for what I have. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bedtime Lesson

It's been so long since I've blogged. I've actually started referring to my May/June trip to Ethiopia as "the trip that killed my blog." I still can't adequately process the thoughts and emotions that I experienced, and there's a little part of me that wonders if I'll ever really be able to. If I'm not writing about that, I ask myself, what's the point of writing about anything else? Except that maybe I need to write some things down to remember them later. Things like what happened tonight.

We've been going through a rough season with Sintay for the last few weeks. I don't know exactly what has set it off this time (although I do have some educated guesses), but suffice it to say he has been difficult. He is testing every single thing we say, and I do not react well to that. Add in the fact that I've been sick with a doozy of a sinus infection this week, and we could just chalk this week up under "disaster." Battling with this little dude day in and day out brings to light some serious ugliness in my own heart. Lack of patience? Check. Lack of mercy and grace? Check. Lack of temperance, meekness, love and joy? Check. I may have called David at work one day sobbing that "I can't do this right now!" I may have lost my temper more often than not with one exceedingly whiny, angry little boy. I finally asked for some extra prayer cover from a couple of people and that has helped significantly. (Why oh WHY is that EVER a "finally" moment for me?)

Today, I had the privilege of attending a "women's retreat" at a friend's house. The topic was "Controlling Our Thoughts," and oh my, was it EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now. So much good stuff. So much affirmation that I'm not the only one who battles the lies that Satan tries to feed us. So much conviction over areas where I seriously need to do some work....taking every thought (and action) captive to the obedience of Christ. I came away energized and encouraged and thankful.

Then came bedtime. Ugh. Every night, for the last few weeks, bedtime has been a battleground. Yikealo and Sintayehu share a room, and they fight over....well....pretty much everything. If one of them wants the light off, the other one wants it on. If one of them wants the closet door closed, the other one wants it open. They fight over who gets to pray first, and who gets to fetch the Bible that we're reading together, and who's going to hold the bookmark while we read. (Seriously, guys?) We have made rules out of the most ridiculous things, because we don't feel like taking the time to deal with the underlying issues of selfishness and unloving behavior. (Fine! On the odd days of the month, Yikealo prays first. On the even days, Sintayehu prays first. Whoever prays last gets to choose who they lay beside during snuggle time.) In case you're wondering, that doesn't really work either....because soon they're just fighting about the rules instead of what the rules were intended to cover.

So tonight, after all of the pre-bed rigamarole, we tucked them into their beds. David left for a meeting at church, and I went to the kitchen to catch up on three days worth of dishes. I heard lots of kicking and arguing from the bedroom, so I went to lay down the law. "Sintayehu, GET BACK IN BED! Stop climbing up the ladder to bug your brother. I DO NOT want to hear another sound out of this room!"

About 3 minutes later, Yikealo was out in the kitchen. "Mom, he keeps kicking my bed!" I told Yikealo to go lay down in our bed, at which point Sintay started fussing that "It's not fair!" I told him it was his own fault, and he had better not get out of bed again.

10 minutes later, Sintay was out in the kitchen asking if he could close the closet door. Seriously? Just close the door, for crying out loud! Why do you need to walk all the way out here to ask if you can close your own closet? I closed his door, tucked him back into bed, gave him his "special" kiss....the one that helps him to not be afraid, and went back to the kitchen.

15 minutes later, my quiet thoughts were interrupted with "MOM!!"       (Pause)     "MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!"  I head back to the bedroom again. "What do you want, Sintayehu? You are seriously pushing your luck, Bud!" S: "Ummmmmmmm.......I think I heard somebody knocking." Me: "No, you didn't. I am out in the kitchen, right by both doors. Nobody knocked. Everything is fine. You are so tired, Mommy is very close by, nothing is going to happen to you. What is wrong?" S: "I don't know." Me: "Okay, why don't we pray together. The Bible says that perfect love makes fear go away. Do you believe that God loves you? (yes) Do you believe that Mommy loves you? (yes) Okay, than let's pray that God will take the fear away." We prayed together and I headed back to the kitchen.

20 minutes later, Sintayehu nearly made me jump out of my skin when he sneaked up behind me and grabbed my leg. I definitely yelled this time, "WHAT DO YOU WANT???" S: "I'm scared!" (Well so am I now!) I marched him back to bed, moved a soundly sleeping Yikealo from my bed back to his own, and told Sintayehu, "Okay! Your brother is back in your room, he is sleeping, and you had BETTER NOT wake him up! BE QUIET AND GO TO SLEEP!!!" His lip quivered and he squeezed his eyes shut, and I stomped out and closed the door.

And promptly felt terrible. Larisa Joy, who cares if the dishes wait one more day? Your child may be irritating at times, but he is actively seeking a connection with you right now, and you are repeatedly turning him away. Just go hold him. I walked back to Sintay's bed, and asked if he'd like me to rock him for a little bit. He'd been pretending to be sleeping, but when I said the word "rock," he practically threw himself into my arms. I walked out to the living room, sat down in the rocking chair, and wrapped him in a blanket, cuddling him close. He was sound asleep in 3 minutes. I stayed right there for another 10, praying over him, feeling his exhausted little body twitch into deep sleep, watching his lips make the little sucking motions that I imagine are left-over from when he nursed with his birth mom. Why did I almost miss this? Why didn't I try this first? It would have saved both of us a lot of frustration.

I am thankful that God's not finished with me yet. I am thankful for do-overs....and it seems like I need many of them every day. And....there's always tomorrow night!

Monday, June 30, 2014


Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of the day we met and took custody of Yikealo. I am so grateful for the way that God has knit us together over the last five years. We had fun reminiscing yesterday about those early days together. Both of my boys love to hear their stories, and we tend to mark special days by telling them again about how they came to our family.....celebrating the good after the hard.

Today is my 39th birthday, and also happens to be the day that I've been married as long as I was single. I was 19 and a half when we got married, and it has been 19 and a half years since our wedding. (It's kind of easy to measure time in halves when your birthday is exactly half way through the year and your anniversary is on January 1st!)

How in the world did we get from here....

to here?

Or even more so, from here....

to here....

to here?

Where in the world has the time gone? It all seems like yesterday in some ways, and yet I can't remember much more about our life before Yikealo than I can remember about my life before David. I'm amazed that two things I didn't think I wanted (marriage and children) have enriched, fulfilled and completed me in such a way that I can no longer imagine what I was thinking before. I am loving my life more than ever, and I'm so thankful that God isn't finished with me or my relationships yet!