As I mentioned in my previous post, we are in the process of (slowly) building a house for our family. I have studied countless plans and none of them seemed to be right for us. So I set to draw my own plans, based on some ideas that I liked. It took me months of many many ideas and alterations (and discussions with hubby =), but finally we came up with something that we both think will work for our family (with it’s growing needs, but also for the older days). There were several goals that I tried to accomplish. I have met most of them, but not all. And I am sure that a we build and live in it we will find out mistakes we made, but I think I have thought many things through. Just a reminder, we are a family with five children (13 down to 3 at this moment) and there is always a possibility God will send us more blessings =). We also have many relatives and good relationships, so we need lots of space to accommodate them as well as other guests. These are the things I did manage to fulfill: ~ No stairs! (meaning one story home, hubby’s main condition. Partially because all his life he had to deal with lots of stairs – see picture of stairs in our current rental home – but even more because we have witnessed how people, even in our own family have built two story homes and in their older days couldn’t climb them. My own grandfather who had sick knees was never in our home in these six years, because he just couldn’t climb the 12 stairs it takes to reach our main floor) ~ Kitchen big enough so that more people could work in it simultaneously (our current kitchen is great for one person, but almost impossible for the girls and me to work at the same time) ~ One large eating area instead of the two small ones (which most plans have or what we have now) We want to be able to as a family and have lots of room for guests. I wanted this area not to be enclosed by four walls, so that if needed we can extend the table into the living room for even more room. ~ A work/media/play room separate from the main living room. I want the computer, toys, electronics and games out of the living room. I want the living room to be clutter-free and able to seat many people when we have guests/family gatherings. I also want this room to be clean most of the time, as it’s what people see when they come in. I also want for our family to gather there away from the electronic distraction to talk, read, sing (the piano is going to be in the living room), pray and play. I also want to be able to just close this extra room when we all need a fast from the electronic influence on our lives. Still I wanted this room close to the main area, so I can see what the children are doing even from the kitchen and dining room. ~ A door from the kitchen to the terrace, so that food could be easy carried out in the summer, since we plan to eat outside quite a bit. ~ An attached garage. And if possible a two car garage. Although we don’t plan to ever have two cars, we do have 7 bikes that are used almost daily (main mode of transportation here). And since we are not going to build a basement (lots of problem with ground water here), we need some additional storage. ~ A laundry/mud room that would be in between the garage and the kitchen. I have never had a laundry room before and in this house my laundry “tools” are scattered all over the house. ~ Lots of built-in closets. That’s one thing I like about American houses. European houses usually don’t have any built-in closets and then we have various wardrobes, which hold little clothes, are usually too short for coats and dresses, have lots of unused spaces above them, are difficult to move when cleaning or painting the home, etc. I want to be able to store most of our clothes in the closets (in and out of season), instead of packing all extras each and every season into boxes and then having to wash them again and iron. ~ Four bedrooms. We kept going back and forth on this one. Whether to make just two large children’s rooms or three smaller one. But with us having 4 girls and only 1 boy currently, it seemed very uneven. So, we decided that we will rather make three smaller rooms. This way, no matter which direction our family grows/shrinks later, we can come up with the best room division. Also when guests come, we can easily move children into two rooms and have the third for the guests. The rooms are quite small, but we are planning on bunk beds and also we do not want the children to spend much time there, but rather together in the main part of the house. ~ At least two bathrooms. We kept debating a lot whether or not to have the access to the one bathroom only from the master bedroom or not, but although we tried avoiding that, it’s the only way it worked in the end. We did want both bathrooms to have windows for ventilation and natural light. We also wanted both bathroom to have easy access to water/sewage, which will be done outside of the house instead of going under the slab foundation. I know there were a few more goals, but I can’t remember them now. The main challenge was that the left side of the house has to be built on the property border and couldn’t have any regular windows! (According to building regulations in this town). So that was very challenging. But in the end I managed to put on that side the garage, the laundry room and the bathroom, which will only have small matted windows placed high, which is permitted. The master bedroom has windows only to the backyard, so that’s good. Fortunately this wall that can’t have regular windows is facing north, so that is ideal. Here are the goals that I didn’t manage to incorporate: ~ I really wanted to have a true walk-in pantry. But I just wasn’t able to fit this in. So, in my laundry room I will have a large shelf behind the door for the extra food. And since our kitchen is much larger than the one we have now, there shouldn’t be so much need for the pantry. And since we are going to be able to store lots of the stuff I have in the pantry right now in the garage (like hubby’s tools, gardening stuff, paints, etc.), this should help also. ~ I really wanted access from the backyard into the garage and to the mudroom so that the children would use this frequently. Unfortunately with the width of our property and some of the laws, this just didn’t work out. This is the thing I regret most, but I am sure we can work around it somehow. ~ I wasn’t my intention to have the master bedroom right off the kitchen, but that’s the only way it all fit together. Our children are bigger now, so I don’t think they are too far off from us (right now they are on a different floor anyway). And as we joke now, it will be a short trip to the coffee pot in the morning. ~ It probably would have been good if we had a bathroom accessible from the outside or from the garage, but the house would have to be bigger. So, for the most part I think we are very happy with it. But only after we actually live in it, we will find out if our plans were good =). Well, finally, here is a picture of the plan. I took a photo of the plan the architect drew. The walls are crooked because the paper has folds. The measurements are in centimeters. The architect hardly changed anything, only some details (like my entry closet was larger and the hallway closet smaller before – something I would have loved to keep, but he moved the walls around a bit). 1 – Master bedroom 2 – Kitchen/Dining room/Living room/Entrance 4, 7, 12 – Children’s rooms 6, 16 – bathrooms 14 – office/media room 18 – laundry room 19 – garage The architect numbered also the closets, but you can figure that out easy. I am glad that we only have an entrance and a very small hallway, so that most space is used for rooms (houses in Europe mostly have many many large hallways and staircases and little space is left for the actual rooms). Here is the architect’s idea of the front of the house ( I wish he hadn’t put those people on there): The roof in the back of the house is just plain (I am not sure how you say that in English), only one large surface. We are still thinking about investing in a few solar panels, since electricity is very expensive. But I don’t think we can do that right away. Anyway, those are our plans. We do not have enough finances to finish the whole house, so we will have to trust God to lead us and just use what we have and be patient about it. We also pray that we can stay here in this house one more year or until we finish our house (and that the owners wouldn’t raise our rent again).
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Wow, I thought I was in good shape by doing housework every day. But after a whole afternoon of moving grass (some in very difficult places and very tall) I feel so tried. But I am so glad that we finally got a nice rain-free day and got to go to our building site and get some work done. About two years ago we finally were able to purchase a small lot at the end of the town. Then it took us over a year to get all the paperwork and permits. During that time we were trying slowly to clear the property and last August we dug the foundation and poured it. We are trying to build the house ourselves as we can, but the weather was so uncooperative last summer, that we didn’t get further with the building. This afternoon my husband was hauling some dirt from neighbors who don’t need it to fill in the spaces under the slab that we need to pour sometime soon. Our two youngest were helping all afternoon and I tackled the grass moving. We have a lot of work to do this summer. And we are still not sure how we are going to get the main construction done, but we trust God will help us and show us the way. We decided to build an “American” house – framed. That is still a relatively new concept here. Most houses are build with bricks. Some friend from the US were supposed to come on a short-term work mission and help us do the framing. For various reasons none of the groups can come. Hubby can not do the construction completely on his own. We are now thinking about hiring someone locally to do the main framing and then we will continue slowly on our own. We just have to keep praying about it. I have worked on our house plans for a very long time (after studying several hundreds American and European house plans). I think I finally came up with something that will work for our family. I will write about it some other time and show the plan. We really thought that we would be out of this rental place by now and in our own home, but we have to be patient and take things as God gives them. And in the meantime do the work He has given us. I didn’t have our camera with me today, but this approximately how the site looks now:
Friday, April 14, 2006
This week we have been decluttering/spring cleaning our main bathrooms on the MIT email list. The house we live in has one of the ugliest bathrooms I have ever seen =). We have been living here six years now and I have finally just learned to live with it. It’s tiny and it’s the only full bath, so all of us 7 people are using it. It has tiles till ceiling and so we can’t install any shelves or decorations. After complaining for a few years, I have decided that I just have to keep it clean and not think much about it =). Although this bath is generally kept up by weekly cleaning, it really really needed a deep clean. I kept pushing it off. Mrs. Catherine’s challenge gave me the needed push. Here is the bath before. There isn’t much to declutter, but the walls needed washing, as well as the window. This is quite a challenge, as the only way of reach it is standing on the bathtub and balancing on one end. Also the top of the water heater and the corner behind had not been washed for a few years (again, very hard to reach). So, I washed all the tiles, top to bottom. All the corners, nooks and crannies. I also cleaned the window. Then I cleaned behind the toilet, the bidet and sink. It’s hard to see a big difference on those brown tiles, but the cleaning rags were black from dirt =(. That was the hardest part of the job! Then I sorted and decluttered the only cabinet we have in there. It holds all of our toiletries and some spare ones. With seven people it’s hard to keep it neat sometimes, but I did throw out some old ones and relocated others. It look much better now. We do not have any shelves in the bathroom, so I can’t keep towels in there, only the one hanging on the rod and on over-the-door hanger. The clean towels are kept in my master bedroom which is on the same floor. The used ones also hang in our rooms on the doors. After this I did a good scrubbing of the baths, sink, toilet and bidet. There was not much to declutter there, only some magazines. I also disinfected the potty and the toilet brush and cleaned the waste basket well. The last thing was to spray clean the mirror and straighten things there. After I put away all the supplies and washed all the cleaning rags, I took a shower in my clean bathroom. True, there is not much difference just looking at the picture, but I know that it is much much cleaner =).
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Recently in our family, the computer has somehow gotten a bit more attention then it should. Although the children got only limited time on the computer (30 minutes and not each and every day), still it seemed that all that they do is was just to get to the computer faster. The focus was the reward (computer time) and not the jobs and responsibilities they needed to do. Now, most of the time our children do not play mindless games, but really create wonderful stuff in various programs. And whenever someone would be on the computer, everybody else (especially the little ones) seemed to stand or sit next to it. On top of it, our three year old (who is a real computer whiz) wanted to play computer all the time and it would really be occupied by it all day, and didn’t seem to be able to play anything else. Also I noticed that when the computer was on, I somehow migrated towards it more than I should during the day. A quick email check would get prolonged into half and hour. Whenever I got a little break from housework, I would end up doing something on it. I would start researching something and ended up over half hour on the internet, which is something I can’t afford, since we have expensive phone and internet time. So….. I decided that we needed a break! I declared an pre-Easter computer fast =). I decided (although it was a very hard decision) that the computer is going to stay off all day long. I only turn it on after the children are in bed to check the mail and do the most important things on it. It’s been almost two weeks and wow, we can live without it! I did let the children on twice during this time, but only in the early evening hours and not all of them in the same day. But the rest of the time it was completely shut down. The first few days were very hard for our three year old boy. He kept asking me to turn it on every half hour. I told him that the computer is sleeping, but he argued that the sun is up and since he is awake, so should the computer, LOL. Then he told me that he is completely dressed and even had slippers and that’s why he should be able to play on it. But as the days went on, he stopped asking. He discovered other toys and activities. I think I like him much better this way. The girls complained a bit and I had to let the oldest a few times to answer her mail, but they have been pretty good about this. I of course have accomplished so much more during the day and really don’t miss it that much. I almost do not want to turn it on in the evening, but some things just have to be done. I have spent my little breaks reading the Bible or reading to the children. I have done a lot of spring cleaning done. And my mind is not so scattered anymore. I think I like it much better this way. I realized I do NOT have to constantly read and research and learn something new. That I can be content and chew on information I already have for a while =). We also limited TV. Well, actually the children hardly watch any TV, but they have lots of movies on tapes and DVD’s. WE didn’t completely forbid movies, but I limited it to just biblical stories. That has worked pretty well. They have asked a few times and I made one exception over the weekend, but the rest of the time they didn’t even ask for the movies. I am not sure how we are going to handle things after Easter. I think we will probably stick to not turning on the computer until early evenings and then I will make a schedule so that each child would only get two or three times a week. And I will probably keep limiting the movie watching. As for me, I will stick to not being on the computer (unless absolutely necessary for ministry) in the morning and early afternoons and do what needs to be done in the evening. That should keep me really disciplined. I am so glad we decided to do this.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Window Washing Day Today was a nice sunny morning, but the forecast for the afternoon and tomorrow was rain. I knew that I had one large chore that really was pressing but I had been putting off until now. But with Easter this weekend it really had to be done ? cleaning all the windows in the house! So, this morning I took off the sheer curtains from the living room and bedroom window (I just did the kitchen window two weeks ago, so I could skip that one). Boy, was there dust and dirt in them! I also took of the fabric covers from two lamps and the shower curtain. I shook them out and put in the washer immediately. I washed ribbons with a bit detergent by hand and hung them up. After breakfast I gathered my supplies and got busy with the bedroom window. I first vacuumed all the dirt and dust inside and outside the windows. Then I clean all the wooden frames. I had to change the water twice. These windows had been done before Christmas, but still that?s a whole winter worth of dirt, =). Then I cleaned the windows, first wiping them well with a microfiber cloth inside and out and in the end with a clean cloth and glass spray. Oh my, what a difference! Since I had the vacuum cleaner there, I gave the room a good vacuum before leaving the room. I managed to also clean the living room windows (the largest ones in the house) and balcony doors before noon (with many interruptions, LOL). I got a bit sidetracked by sweeping the balcony and trimming the plant in front of it, but it had to be done as well. I also gave the living room a good vacuum and rearranged the sitting furniture for the summer season (we had to switch a couch to a different place during the winter because it was blocking the heater). As I was picking up my 3y. boy?s toys to vacuum I realized they need decluttering really bad. So I enlisted my daughter?s help and we quickly sorted through the toys, taking some to their proper place in the girl?s rooms, giving away some and throwing out broken ones. Looks so much better now. As I was done with these two largest windows, the curtains were washed. I didn?t wash the heavy draperies, just gave them a good vacuum with the small attachment. I hang my sheers up immediately while they are wet, this way they don?t get wrinkled and there is such a nice fresh smell in the room while they are drying. This is the hardest part of the job, since the hooks need to be pushed into the curtain holder. And this has to be done over the head (great workout for the arms!!!). I hope not to have such a system in the new house, but for now I don?t have another choice. This is the living room with the curtains in place drying. But I do not like to have the whole window covered and I like to see my flowers. So after they dried, I pressed the washed ribbons and just kind of scrounged the curtains in two places and tied them with the ribbons. Not perfect, but it works. After the fabric covers for the shades were half-dry, I pressed them and put on the shades. Some of the elastic was totally shot, so I had to put in some new ones, but now they are also nice and fresh. And here is the bedroom curtain, which I just tied with two ribbons to the sides after it was dry. The afternoon brought a bad storm, so I took a bit of rest. But as the thunder, lightening and rain stopped, I took all the supplies upstairs to do the rest of the windows. The dirtiest was the upper hallway window. It?s never used, because it?s dangerously low and we even uninstalled the handles so that the children couldn?t open them. I only put them in when washing the windows. I must say that this window wasn?t washed for well over a year. But now it?s all clean again. I washed all the wooden walls around it and vacuumed behind the dryer and the little shoe cabinet (which really needs fixing). I put back the washed curtain and voila! Of course this area never is that clean, because it is usually full of clean folded clothes or things needing to be put away, but it?s nice to see it empty once in a while. We also cleaned all the windows in the children?s rooms. The older girls did their by themselves, the younger ones assisted with their. We took down the removable fabric mosquito nets and I will wash them tomorrow and then put back. We vacuumed their rooms as well and decluttered their toys a bit. The ladies on the MIH list are cleaning their bathrooms this week and I really need to do a good spring cleaning in our main bathroom. I will do that probably tomorrow. But I am so thankful that I got all the windows clean! Now I am ready for the holidays.