Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Mess

I've been a bit of a mess lately.  Not a "hot mess" (I SO dislike that phrase!), but definitely not myself.  In fact, I've been sort of like the mess I have lived with at home this weekend...my "stuff" all spread out on the table for me to examine as I try to figure out what in the world is going on inside my head and heart.  I have taken about a month of downtime, a three week hiatus from Facebook, and I've tried to clear out the cobwebs in my gray matter attic.  I've actually hibernated a bit, if truth be told, and the more I hunkered down, the more I wanted to!

This past 4th of July weekend, we decided to do a little touching up around Casa LaJoy.  Remember my feelings about Facebook and the perfect lives of so many that were beginning to get to me?  Well, instead of going out and trying to pretend I was someone I wasn't, I took a good look around and decided gratitude was a much better path.   Part of being grateful for all you have been given is taking care of it.  As I walked from room to room, I realized that I really had no yearnings at all for the things we are always shown.  House Beautiful has never been something I've aspired to!  House Comfortable?  Yes, that's more my style.

However, as I looked around at the wonderful blessing of a warm home with plenty of space we have been blessed to own for the past 17 years, I had an "Ah Hah" moment.  It wasn't high end finishing touches I felt was lacking, nor was it new brand name furniture or a total remodel that I wanted.  When I stopped to think about it logically, the only thing I have ever wanted was a neat and clean home that had things that sort of matched :-)  Not terribly high standards, I'll admit, but then when you think about it, what else do any of us really need?  So we took an inventory, and made a little list (actually, a not so little list) of the things that were looking worn, ragged around the edges, or needing neatening up.

We dreamed a little, too.  Dominick and I spent an evening wondering if there was some way we could do some remodeling to give us a layout we would prefer with a more open floor plan.  After hashing it out for a couple of hours, we realized that to get what we wanted it would take a big remodel and addition, and after considering that for about 5 minutes, it was rejected hands down due to cost.  Our home would not easily lend itself to rearranging much either.  I expressed a desire to have a tile backsplash in the kitchen, which would make cleaning up after Olesya's culinary explorations so much easier.  Once again, Kenny, who is now designated Mr. Practical when it comes to money, talked it through with us and said, "Mom, that may not cost that much in comparison to other things, but wouldn't paint two or even three times be much cheaper and still give you a clean wall?"

Dominick and I looked at each other, and realized we have created a monster, and we just might never be able to justify the expense of certain things from now on, as long as Kenny is present! Haha!  I love how he has taken our lessons to heart and is able to apply them in real life circumstances.

With list in hand, we traveled to Home Depot in what often appears to be our own circus.  We almost never go out anymore without having people give us strange looks, there are just too many mismatched kids who are now BIG and take up a lot of space.  I mean, seven of us in an aisle is a pretty large group these days!  I had long ago grown pretty immune to it, but Angela finds it humorous and interesting how often people stop and stare at us.  We wandered the aisles grabbing stain, polyurethane, brushes, and other assorted items.  We were going to tackle an official Freshening Up of our entire home!

Over the last 7 days, we have cleaned our aging carpets and 25 year old couches, thanks to Dominick's upholstery cleaner.  We have touched up wall and trim paint throughout the house, thanks to having saved and marked all our old paint...yes, even from walls painted 10 years ago, the paint was still good to use!  We tackled cleaning up and weeding a bit outside, and sadly had to get rid of our totally cool pallet planter project as everything died in this extraordinarily unusual heat we've had this year.

We washed all the remainder of the walls and doorways, and fixed carpet leading into the boys' bedroom where it was pulling away from the threshold.  We then stained and re-urethaned all the wood trim and short backsplashes in all three bathrooms and the kitchen!  Who ever thought wood was a great idea for that ought to be shot.  We also completely scrubbed and waxed the kitchen cabinets, and we were all so surprised to see they look like brand new!!  We took down some rickety blinds that were in need of replacing, and instead installed super inexpensive new curtains from Walmart.  Definitely not designer quality, but neat, clean and new.  We needed a new faucet in the kitchen, as I have spent the last year having the handle come off in my hand half the time, so we replaced that as well.  Home Depot had a super deal on a stainless steel sink and faucet combo, which allowed me to have a mini-dream come true...a large single basin sink where I can wash Family-Of-Seven sized lasagna pans!  It's not installed quite yet, hopefully tomorrow, then I can soak and scrub till my heart's content!

Finally, we got a new picnic table for our coverless patio, along with an umbrella at end of the season clearance prices.  Yes, I know it was barely July 4th, but our local stores surprisingly are already clearing out all their summer patio items and bringing in school supplies.  Makes me a little sickened to see them speed up our seasons even more.  For the cost of one can of high temp black spray paint, Olesya did a terrific job refreshing our old, rusty fire pit.

So, though I didn't get a new designer kitchen with an island, breakfast bar (Yes, Jill, I will remain forever covetous of yours!), and drop down lighting, I DID get a home that looks fresh and clean.  We spent very little, but the difference in my spirit is overwhelming...or at least it will be when we finish painting the kitchen tomorrow and I get my dining room table back.

Here are a few pictures of our progress:

Command Central
Our master list, which was added to over the weekend.

The carpet in the boys room had really been bothering me, as it was pulling away from the threshold and their constant traffic was causing it to look really bad.  The picture doesn't show it very well, as we had been trying to staple it down to keep it from further damage.  We need new carpeting, but that is years away from being able to afford, so we need to do what we can to keep it looking reasonably decent for now.  I didn't want it totally torn up, so we decided to replace the useless wood thresholds with metal ones.  Again, not designer or even matching, but neat and clean, and will save the carpet from further damage.  We replaced three of them.

Matthew is really learning a lot about home maintenance, and now often can handle things all on his own.  Kenny has the ability, but his organizational challenges make it almost impossible for us to assign him a task and let him "go to town" on it.  Hopefully one day he'll be able to, and if not, he will be a most able assistant!

It's a blessing to have children who care about their home, and willingly...happily...help take care of it.  Angela was working on the staining in the kitchen and she declared, "Mom, I love taking care of our house!  It is fun to see it change, and to know we have made it nicer."

Olesya and Kenny are prepping the area.  We are seeing them put to good use the things we have taught them on the "Rental Rehab", and they all needed very little guidance other than explaining how stain and polyurethane were different than paint.  

Angela is beginning to mask off areas and sand. The drawing on the upper left which is on the fridge is an Angela Original, a gift for our anniversary.

You can't see from the photos taken further back in the room, but this shot shows how faded and dried out the wood has become after 17 years.  What this doesn't show is how icky the walls are, though not nearly as bad as the wood because we have fully painted once and touched up the paint twice before.  Our countertops are old formica and definitely scratched up quite a bit, but that was more than we could tackle so we'll live with them for a long time to come.

Matthew is learning how to disconnect and remove a sink.

I often take for granted the skills that Dominick has that have so benefitted us over the years.  He has done a complete overhaul of our dishwasher once (we have the original one that came with the house!), and repaired our washer and dryer multiple times.  Our old fridge lasted much longer and could have kept going if we hadn't really needed a larger one.  Repairclinic.com has become a favorite link!  I am glad that all the kids are learning from him how to maintain items and save money.  These days they always calculate out how much our savings is versus what it would cost to have it repaired by someone else.

And I have to say, I never, ever thought I'd look at my newly minted 14 year old and feel at moments as if I am looking at a man.  They are all growing up so, so fast, and though there is still plenty of kid left in each of them, the young men and women are fast coming to the forefront.

Guess it was probably a good thing we replaced the sink as well!

Joshie wasn't left out either, as he spent 3 or 4 hours learning how to iron and ironing our new 
Wally World curtains.  That kid can stick with a task like nobody's business, and though we offered help several times, he declined saying he liked it and wanted to get good at it.

With all these big kids, it is nice to still have a little guy to sneak in tight spaces!  Here he helped Dominick disconnect the stove.

Sweaty, tired, hot...what an awesome Dad our children have. Never in a million years would I have imagined back when I was 15 and we first started dating that Dominick would be as engaged and involved a father as he turned out to be.  Angela and Dominick have a special relationship.  They tease each other mercilessly and Angela's favorite refrain is, "Oh Dad..." after he says something goofy or tricks her.  He is definitely her Daddy, through and through.

So this is just part of the mess we've had for the past 5 days.  It's worse tonight because no one in my family works quite the way I wish they would...you know, maybe neat and orderly, putting things away when you are done with them, being able to find things because your work space is picked up.  Nawwwww, why would we do that?!?!  Ugh!  I have one friend in Mr. Steve who surely understands how hard it is for me to just wade in and turn a blind eye to it :-)

Regardless of what is stained, moved, or cleaned out, 
this will always remain.

So, the mess is a productive one, and I remind myself that after the dust has settled and the paint dried, life will return to normal.  Life IS messy.  It isn't the cover of a magazine, and just as models are Photoshopped to death these days, we never realize that people don't truly live like the cover shots might have us believe. We don't see the designers who came in beforehand to prep the rooms, we don't see the props brought in to make it look more appealing.  We don't see the debt that sometimes accrues, the not-so-picture-perfect family life that takes place in those supposedly flawless cover homes.

We forget, in our granite and marble countertop desires that the overwhelming majority of us live in a formica world.  The world is not made up of just the 1%ers, nor is it even comprised solely of the 20%ers.   No, the real world consists of mostly people just like us, living in homes much like ours, doing the best they can to create a place where their family is safe and comfortable.  Many women just like myself manage to raise happy families in homes that are devoid of the beautiful designer touches that I STILL wish I actually had the talent to bring into our home.  But you know what?  Our mess is beautiful, our life is beautiful, our very ordinary formica existence is about as sweet as anyone could ever hope for.  

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I LOVE this!! Seeing you all work together with such huge smiles on your faces and the kids beaming with pride warms my heart to no end. They are growing into amazing young men and women. We've been painfully slowly plugging away at very small (similar) projects at our house and could use a crew like yours!!