Friday, December 8, 2017


The leaning pole in this pic is holding electric wire over our new driveway.

It's a weird thing to take a picture of, but I took it to serve as a reminder. I traveled to Zimbabwe and Tijuana in 2017, and both were bold reminders of the blessings we experience here, and thus the need to be mindful of how we are stewarding what we've been given. 

Zimbabwe, where the people are beautifully joyful and full of energy themselves, often experiences blackouts due to unreliable electricity. People don't spend their evenings glazey-eyed over instagram photos or Facebook rants, nor do they spend their time worrying about their electricity; they spend their time with other people, and some of the most amazing citizens of Zimbabwe help others in amazing ways

And in Tijuana, just five miles away from prosperity and reliable systems (electricity, internet, water, road systems), people are hauling water buckets up 15 flights of stairs up the side of a cliff so they can wash a pot and a pan and then themselves. And they are helping elderly women with canes hobble down washed out roads atop mountains. They are sweeping dirt floors and wishing for access to good healthcare. 

And they are celebrating weddings with songs sung over sound systems powered by poles that are barely standing up straight, poles like the one in the picture below. One of our friends told us of a wedding he visited while in TJ. He was trying to remain inconspicuous, standing behind the crowd and leaning on a pole, only to find that the pole began to lean and fall down, pulling wires from above him and then pulling the wires connecting the wedding sound system to power. He was leaning on a wonky electric pole. He and a passerby scrambled to pile more rocks around the pole to steady it and allow the wedding to continue. I'm not even sure many people noticed the incident, to be honest. With poles set using a bit of dirt and rocks, loss of power seems inevitable. 

Lastly, in DRC, where Clementine is from, where we lost two children we had hoped to adopt, and where 31 of 51 children in one orphanage in one community died due to dysentery, caused by unclean drinking water. Unclean water. Clean water is such a gift, and I take for granted every day. 

So the pole here is a reminder to be thankful for what we have, including even the often annoying systems, rules and governments that regulate things like electricity and where we can place a well and how close driveways can be to one another. Sometimes those systems and rules seem ridiculous (and they can be very ridiculous!), but overall we must be thankful for them, because they enable us to have reliable systems in place. 

But the pole is also a reminder that while it is fun to dream and scheme about building an amazing house, we want to be sure our budget allows room to give to others, in whatever way God may ask us to give in the future. We need a bit of wiggle room (very tricky on a pastor's budget anyway, even trickier when trying to build a house for 6+), which means we need to make sure we don't go crazy with additions and upgrades in order to stay within our budget. It would be very easy for me to get carried away and upgrade all sorts of items (flooring, and countertops, and tile, oh my!), but I can't let the thrills of all of the pretty things get in the way of the joy that comes with giving. 

(So if it ever looks like I'm going crazy and upgrading everything over here, remind me of this electric pole.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

the home front

I mentioned earlier that the original drafted exterior plans for the house we are building were less than stunning. They were good, don't get me wrong, but they lacked a certain modern edge that we would have enjoyed but did not express to the person who drafted our plans. Happily, we have people around us with home-building wisdom who were able to visualize with us and help take it from "ho-hum" to at least "bam." (I apparently don't know how to describe it without using sound effects, but I think you get the idea.)

This is where we started:

We knew when this was drawn up that the stone would probably be placed in different areas and that the front door wouldn't be quite the same and the detail over the garage would be different. Long story short, we knew we had some adjustments to make. We just didn't know what, exactly, those adjustments would be.

Our friend, who is one of the nicest people ever and also a legend in the masonry business, sent our draft to a friend for some suggestions, and he came up with this, which includes minor changes to stone placement and the size of the window in the front left. (Note: Real life colors will be different.) Even with the subtle changes, it's a marked improvement from the original:

Which has now evolved into this, via my spectacularly "advanced" drawing skills using Markup on my phone: 

See the huge difference? Well, maybe it's not huge, but I think I like the depth a dormer could add in that blandish area in the middle of the roof. Sometimes I text our builder and friend, Travis Pirtle of Pirtle Homes, "How much extra would it cost to.....(fill in the blank). I'm asking for a friend." I think he's caught onto my schemes. He says the dormer might have to be a shed dormer instead of a doghouse dormer. I say "my friend" will take what she can get. We will see how that goes, if we decide to go that route. As of now, I like it.

Also, I've REALLY been wanting one of these metal awnings over a window or a garage or something (or everything):


(Source: Screenshot of my Pinterest. Sorry to the original owners of this image.)

Lastly, I'm digging this type of gable accents. I think a natural wood tone like this one would add some subtle natural elements to our exterior, which will feature black window frames. (I like the gable instead of  the vent-looking thing on the drafted plan above, which might have an actual purpose...I don't know.):

Source: Pinterest again. For the win. 

Side note, I SWOON over these garage doors, but they've already been vetoed due to the additional cost involved. As I've mentioned before, I have really good taste. ;o):


See how all over the place I am when comes to overall style? This could get interesting as we actually have to make decisions, particularly when you throw a budget into the mix. My husband, obviously, has a say in all of this, too, but he doesn't seem to love planning this as much as I do. It's kind of thrilling.

(If it's your first time here on the blog, feel free to hop around and learn about us. The blog is severely outdated, but I'm learning that "done" is better than perfect. This has been an adoption blog for a while, but now that "we're done" having and adopting kids for a while (in our opinion), it's been adapted to other things, including home building, apparently. I enjoy having a place to dump my thoughts. Go here for info about the home building process up until now. Go here to read about the most ridiculous year of our lives.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

this new house

Jumping back in with the story of home-building...

We found the perfect spot to build a house, and then we had to pick out a floor plan and have it drawn up pretty quickly in order to get things going. You have to have a floor plan and estimate before getting a building loan started, so there are several steps to building a house that go unseen.

We didn't have a clue about what kind of floor plan we desired. We never really thought we would be building a house (not that I hadn't DREAMED about it). So when this sort of dreaminess all came about I got sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest and then into house planning magazines and then my brain got completely overwhelmed. There was no time for being sucked into vortexes; we still had a lot of packing to do and a temporary housing plan to make and 4 kids and jobs.

So I made a list.

3+ bedrooms with room for expansion later on as kids grow
2+ bathrooms with plenty of sinks for teeth brushing
plenty of storage
biggish kitchen for welcoming guests
opportunity to build an extra bedroom/space for guests (I was once a "random guest" to a sweet family in Kentucky who took in myself and my brand new baby when we were adopting, and I want the chance to offer that sort of hospitality and warmth to someone else in the future. We also might want to offer a place to a college kid or two.)

views to the backyard/land
outdoor entertaining opportunities
laundry on the same level/side of the house as all bedrooms
pantry (big family!)
open floor plan--again for welcoming people into our home
space for kids to go crazy

So we looked around and suddenly saw that our good friends have the very floor plan that would work well for us. Um, everything about it would work. And we needed a floor plan asap in order to get going on paperwork and contracts and everything else. We just didn't have much time to spend perusing.

So I rather awkwardly asked if we could use their floor plan as a basis for ours. We didn't need ours to be as big or as awesome, but we needed it to be as efficient and well-organized as theirs. (And theirs is beautiful, because my friend is an amazing interior designer, so that helped.) They were very gracious to allow us to use theirs as a guide, and we took it in for some adjustments in size and minor features and we were ready to go with this:

(This is not the first time we have jumped on the backs of people who are paving a path. We did this in adoption, too, when we found out friends who were adopting had done all of the research and settled on an agency, we just jumped on board with them. When you see wise people doing something you're going to do anyway, doesn't it make sense to jump in line behind them?)

Unfortunately, we failed to really think through the exterior of the house, which has/had some rather wonky roof ankles and some boring design elements. Our drafting company was good but rather "1990s" so we just didn't really think about the exterior being set in stone, so to speak. Fortunately, we have had some great help and input from a friend who happens to know awesomeness in masonry like the back of his hand, and I think we will eventually end up with a house exterior that says "yummy" not "crummy."