Make Your (Rental) Home a Haven

home-sweet-homeOne of the biggest drawbacks to renting your home is not having the freedom to make changes in order for it to represent your family’s personality. My husband and I have been renters since the almost six years we’ve been married. We have lived in three very different places and have struggled with not being able to make repairs, paint walls funky colors, start a garden, etc. Through these struggles, however, we’ve found ways for our home to represent who we are. I thoughgt I’d share in case you’re in the middle of these struggles.

Struggle #1: Repairs Needed – No railing on sometimes icy porch stairs, a leaky roof, a room-type carpet glued to the floor, bug infestations. These are just a few of the problems we’ve had with our rentals that required repair or maintenance but didn’t seem important enough to the landlords to take care of. There are ways to handle this. You can do the repairs yourself and ask for reimbursement, you can just take the cost of them, or you can find ways to get around them. Our landlords never reimbursed us for the bug fogger or the carpet, but it was worth it to us to have these things taken care of so we handled it ourselves – with permission, of course.  If you have a major issue and the landlord won’t take it upon him/herself to make your home safe it’s important that you take matters into your own hands. We went for a whole year with a growing infestation of Black Mold on the walls, underneath the mattresses, along the windowsills, next to my baby’s bed! Our landlord told us to spray it down with bleach. We moved out the first chance we had.

Struggle #2: Making it feel like YOUR home – There are ways to personalize your home and give it your own home-y touch without painting walls, removing cabinet doors, etc. My favorite way is to create my own focal point of a room. I once had a huge collage framed in an old picture window frame (that got taken down because it was never tested for lead paint). You can also make your own curtains or drapes and have coordinated pillows, fabric squares on the wall, etc. Place plants about the place or blow up your favorite pictures – not just your formal pictures. We have a great picture from our wedding with my husband in a backwards cap and me in aviator sunglasses running underneath the arms of our friends that will (SOON!) be blown up to 11×14 and framed as the focal point of our living room. Remember, also, to keep it simple. The more things you add to your home, the more cluttered it can feel and own or rent, this is never a good thing.

Struggle #3:  Neighbors – The politics of neighbors in a rental home are tricky. The people who have lived in your neighborhood before you may have preconceived notions about you and your family due to the experiences they’ve had with the other people that have lived in your home. Bring them cookies, anyway. You really shouldn’t have to be the person to introduce yourself first, but God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and this is how this gets done. Include a note (I just use index cards) with your name and telephone number – depending on the neighborhood – and let them know you’re there if they need you. When you see them say hello, smile, pet their dogs, whatever. You can’t feel safe in your home if you don’t know your neighbors – especially if they’re 10 inches away from you in the next apartment. (This goes for home owners, too.)

Struggle #4 – None or very little garden space – Man, this one makes me bummed. I see all the beautiful gardens all my blogging friends are planting this season and my hands just ache to plant, sow, water,  and weed. In the home we’re at now, we have just enough yard for the dog to go potty.  But we can create a lovely herb garden and keep healthy, toxin reducing plants in each room of the house. We also visit the local Farmer’s Market in the summer and fall – this gives us community that we would otherwise miss out on – plus it funds small business and family farming. The other sad part about renting on a year lease is knowing that what you plant this year will be enjoyed by someone else next year – always frustrating especially if you know you won’t be living there for longer than your lease. The best thing to do is look on the bright side – at least your nails still look pretty!

In the six years that we’ve been renting as a family every single day I have dreamed of owning my own house. I have the colors, the kitchen, the living room, the garden, the garage all laid out in my mind. I see my son and our dog running in the yard and I see me hanging up our clothes to dry on a hot summer afternoon with my husband diligently working in the garage or mowing the lawn. But I’ve learned that a house/apartment/duplex is only wood without my family. A home is not brick or wood, but the family that God houses you with.

How do you make your rental a home? Please share your thoughts, struggles, ideas!

Mother/Wife and Everything Inbetween

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To see the book, go here.

Hello all! I have missed writing so much this week! The old computer isn’t quite the same yet, as we need to wipe the hard drive and can’t do that until we copy all of our pictures to a discs, but it’s working enough to post this small bit I’ve been thinking about for some time.

Last week I posted about my new job title as a stay-at-home mom, or “Domestic Goddess”, etc. (LOVED that one, by the way, although not so sure any execs would…) I got so many awesome ideas – some funny, and still so many more that were hugely insightful. Right after that post I picked up a great book at the library called The Family manager Takes Charge: Getting on the Fast Track to a Happy, Organized Home by Kathy Peel. So, so good. On pages4-5 she has a humongous list of some real-to-life job descriptions any mom could easily be described as, working gainfully or otherwise. Here are just a few:

* Accountant/Bookkeeper

* Auto Maintenance Supervisor

* Day-care Worker

* Building Supervisor

* Chauffer

* Cheerleader

* Chef

* Counselor

* Dean of Education/Educator

* Fashion Coordinator (what would Rick look like in the morning without me?)

* Fitness Trainer

* Gardener

* Gift Coordinator (I buy all the cards and gifts for cousins Rick doesn’t even remember the names to!)

* Historian and Curator

* Health-care Practitioner (how many of you homeopathy buffs are out there?)

* Hotel manager (Go here to see more on that)

* Launderer

* Maid

* Manager of Food Services

* Referee

* Seamstress

* Secretary

* Short-order Cook

* Travel Agent

* Veterinarian

Okay, okay, so that’s more than just a few… but seriously, let’s just step back and take this all in. Consider finding this book and taking a little bit of time in it. I personally don’t have time to relearn how to clean my whole house from top to bottom – I’ve been taking care of this family unit for more than 7 years now and I’m pretty set in my ways, but I certainly was encouraged to find these. I feel pretty empowered right now. How about you? New topic coming soon!

My new job title

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I don’t know about you, but when I tell people that I am a stay-at-home mom their eyes glaze over. Or they raise their eyebrows in judgement. Or worse still they immediately assume my husband is a lawyer or a doctor or something that makes us rich so that I don’t “have” to work. *chuckle, chuckle!* All this aside, I AM looking for a part-time-after-Rick-gets-home-from-work job, but it’s hard to go into an interview and say, “Oh yes, hello. I have my degree and I have loads of experience, but if you could only schedule me from 5-9 and not on weekends and oh yeah I have Bible Study on Wednesday nights that I am committed to until June, Okay? Thanks!”

I’m sick of people judging me because I don’t have a professional 9-5’er. I mean, let’s be serious here. I don’t judge parents who both work and put their kids in daycare for 12 hours a day. I’ve worked in that atmosphere and I know those kids need a.) more sleep b.) more mental stimulation c.) more lovin and d.) more mental stimulation than what a daycare can give. I also know that this is what works best for some families. I also don’t expect my husband to come home, put his feet up, smoke a cigar and have dinner served to him by me in high heels, freshly applied make up, wearing a clean, cute little apron (no offense to those of you who CAN pull that off, by the way!). I expect that man to dig in and get his hands dirty with us, too. My job doesn’t stop once he gets home, why should his, right? My family sacrifices a lot so that I can be home with Sam. The biggest thing for me is more experience. I would love to have a professional career. I mean, come on now – who WOULDN’T like more money, the opportunity to help others, and some recognition? And while I sit here with no new clothes since maternity wear, a crappy dented van, and the only jewelery a wedding band – I see my twenties QUICKLY dwindling while my counterparts live the T.V. life (or so it would seem). I have a little more than a year left. And I’m only on child #1! But I LOVE my job and the negatives outweigh the benefits – at least for us.

 And this is why I think we need to come up with a better name for ourselves. Housewife sucked. Mostly just because it put women in two different (warring) categories – gainfully employed or not. Homemaker? Eh. Stay-at-home mom? Come on! How many of you spend your days actually AT HOME!? Plus all of these labels suggest that we just sit here on our ever expanding asses waiting for our husbands to come home so that we can finally start our day. (I must admit here that when the time draws near for Rick to get home I do get pretty excited. I’m almost as bad as the dog who waits by the door. But this doesn’t mean I don’t still have stuff to do…)

 I am suggesting something much more professional. Because, in reality, we are professionals. And we don’t want to exclude the stay-at-home-dads, now do we? I suggest something like the following:

*Director of Family Economics

*Home Maintenance and Welfare Manager

*Chief Educator

*Chairperson of Housing, Education and Dietetics

That’s all I’ve got right now. Any more you’d like to see up here? I’m getting pretty excited to redo my resume!

Hydrogen Peroxide 3% – Household Uses

Man, oh man. I hate bleach. I bet you do too, right? It’s stinky, poisonous, kills your clothes, kills our environment… So many, many more. But we need it. We need it if we are going to continue to banish paper towels from our homes and instead choose rags and towels. I don’t know about you, but the thought of cleaning around my toilet with a rag one day, washing it in just hot water and soap, and then cleaning up my toddler’s booster seat the next gives me the heeby-geebies! So I use bleach, feel bad about it, inevitably put something non-white in (every time) that gets all bleached out, and then do it all over again.

I found a solution!!!

In my lovely city we have a small little publication called, Second Opinion. I think it’s bi-monthly and it’s done entirely through people in my community. It gives great little tidbits of info like how to give baby massage, where the local farmer’s markets are, how to save money by using less, and on and on. This month there was a fantastic little blip about alternative uses for hydrogen peroxide. I thought that stuff was only for cleaning out cuts and rinsing your mouth (so good for whitening properties, although it tastes just a tad nast-ilicious!). I thought I’d share a few that I thought we great. Of course, my favorite is the laundry piece – good-bye BLEACH! WOO HOO!! (I’ll post a link if I can get the editor to start up a site…)

“Hydrogen peroxide is the only germicidal agent composed only of water and oxygen.”

*Soak your toothbrush in HP between brushings to kill bacteria.

*Add 2 ounces of HP to dishwater/machine formula to sanitize and eliminate transmission of colds and diseases. (My mother-in-law does this with bleach and it totally freaks me out!)

*Use salt and HP in chilled water to wash fish, chicken, and other meats to kill bacteria and viruses.

*Keep a spray bottle of HP in the kitchen and use it to spray down the sink to disinfect and smell clean.

*Add 8 ounces of HP to your wash in place of bleach.

*Add one pint of HP to a gallon of water in humidifiers to keep them clean.

Neat, huh? I’ve already started the toothbrush and dishwater tip. I was a bit confused by the ounce thing, but then I realized that I have a little boy who used to have bottles labeled 2,4,6, and 8 ounces. Perfect little measuring cup. Oh. And did I mention that I got a 32 ounce bottle for $1.59 at Walgreen’s?

 Have a blessed Easter, my dear friends! Here’s a fantastic idea on keeping Easter and Egg Hunts distinctly separated but still endearing to children – we won’t be doing it this year as Sam is still to young to understand either, but next year maybe…

To Do, Ta Da!

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So I haven’t been around much. It seems like I either blog a lot or not at all. I sure love Mondays, though, because everyone else is up and running again. Am I the only one who just can’t function on Mondays??? I feel like such a Non-Super Mommy, like Grumpy Lazy Queen, maybe? If I could only find a superhero costume for that one I’d try out for “Who wants to be a superhero?” Best show ever, I’m tellin ya.

So, ok. I have some goals for today that I’m pretty sure are gonna get nixed once I start feelin really crappy, but I’ll write them for you as some sort of silent advocate for good mommy-hood. I know. I am so full of excitement I’m almost peeing my pants myself and can only IMAGINE your enthusiasm…

1. Dishes. This includes every plate, blowl, cup, mixing spoon, etc. Because it’s been two days. Yep that’s it… (We don’t have many dishes!)

2. Sweep floor in kitchen. I already vacuumed the floors in the bedrooms and the living room, so I’m marking that off because, hey, I am the Grumpy Lazy Queen and all…

3. Make the bed AND put on the duvet finally… it’s been so long. I should wash the sheets because we smoked when we went out this weekend and crashed hard without taking a shower, but we only have one fitted sheet and no top sheets, so I’ll let it go a few more days.

4. Shower! That should be done already. I know this. Give me a break though, my vertigo is coming back because we’re out of heat again….

5. Make muffins. This has been on my To-Do list forever. I got a really good recipe here and can’t wait to try it out. However, I will be using frozen mixed berries, so I’ll let you know if this is doable or not…

6. Upload pics from new camera onto snapfish and send to family.

Ok. There’s my fantastical and so amazing day. I know you’re jealous, but try to keep in mind that jealousy is a sin, people!!

Kellie

A different place for us.

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Ok guys. We have three options that I’d like to get your honest opinion of. Our wants and needs for a house are the following: cleanliness. The house that we live in now is constantly popping up with new a funky places for mold. For instance – in every outside corner, in the bathroon, behind the fridge. And I am a good housekeeper. Ok, well, I’m dilligent. Better? I clean and clean this mold, but it always comes back. The wood is just completely rotten. Always has been. We’re ready to move and this is the main reason. Sam has asthma and we got rid of our lovely kitties for this reason and need to move because of the mold. There. Done. Said. I’ll go on.

The other things we need for our new house are affordability and cheap heat. As you probably know we just couldn’t pay the oil heat this year. We couldn’t do it. We were freezing. And we live in WI – it was ridiculous. We would also like to find a house with a dining room so that our beloved table that we received from everyone in my family as our wedding gift can have a place. We also have a great dane and a little boy – so we need outside space and a tornado shelter of some sort. Ok, so here are our options – none hit everything we need.

1. The apartment. It is the cheapest of the three – honestly that’s the biggest thing about this place. Pros: CHEAP!, three bedrooms, dishwasher, big closets, new carpet, big bathroom (well, for us – we can’t both fit in this one at once). Cons: It’s an apartment, but there is a basement, there is no outside play space for Annie or Sam, there are a total of three small windows in the whole space, there is no allowed smoking but the whole place smells like smoke – not good for Asthma, the space is too small for Sam to play very much even inside. No dining room.

2. The studio. This is the second cheapest – although the most expensive upfront. Pros: HUGE! THIS PLACE IS HUGE! It’s also super old and airy with clean lines and lots of windows – even inside there are windows separating rooms. It’s all nook-y with tons of cabinet space with built in bookcases, hutch, etc. This are also three bedrooms – the third and smallest is a french-door type. There is so much room in here that we would actually not have enough furniture – that’s a good thing. Cons: The bathroom is the type we are now running from since our experience with this place with the claw-foot tub – not conducive to todller bathtime. It’s, well, sort of creepy. Rick and I are both convinced it’s haunted – already. The closets are huge, but are really dirty. There is no yard, again, and the basement is most likely the scariest one I’ve even been in. It’s the longest drive for Rick and in a smaller town so more driving for me and The Boy, too. The kitchen needs MAJOR help. Smoking is allowed in the building. The landlady seems like a nutter.

3. The smallest and most expensive. I’ll start with the two cons: most expensive (probably with oil heat – we don’t know for sure because we haven’t been shown the inside yet) and small – no dining room or any room at all for a table of any sort. Those are big, big cons. Now for the fantastic Pros: Um, right across the street from a park! (Ok, now moms – tell me that isn’t a dream come true!) It is also the only single home unit, with a large yard, a garage, a basement connected to the actual kitchen. It’s also the completely in the center of the city. The closest to Rick’s work and within a walkable distance to the library, museum, cafes, church, the river, three parks, the university, an elementary school, and (ehem!) Walgreens. Walgreens, people!!! If I got a job (which I will be doing either way) it will still be doable while STILL paying off debts.

Guys, this is the one we want. But they do a credit check and check with your old landlord. My landlady right now is horrible. I mean, we can see the basement from the bathroon above it and she got mad at me for using a non-slip mat for Sam in the tub. I mean, she hollered at me! And our credit S-U-C-K-S! Please keep our house hunt in your prayers and ask the Lord that if it is in His will that we can get the park house. We were planning on giving the new landlord my sister’s # for a substitute to the landlord we have now, but have decided together that this isn’t what Jesus wants of us, so please pray for her good reference. Our old landlords have good refs for us, so that’s not a problem. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that when I met my husband he was living just four houses down? Ah, nostalgia!

So… Whaddya think? Which one would YOU choose? You know which one I want, but how about you?

P.S. What we really want is to receive a gazillion bucks in the mail so that we can buy our OWN house and find everything that we need. That would be, as my pastors says, “Dreaming again”. And that is our dream. We could bring home baby #2 to this imagined house of ours. So, while you’re at it, could you please pray for a way to buy a house in the future? Please know though that Rick and I are secure in knowing that God has always provided a safe shelter for us and that He has CONSISTENLY kept us together. We are always so thankful just to have the three of us together, well fed and (for the most part) warm. Rick and Sam and God are my home. But as the mommy and wife in this family it is just SO important for me to provide a welcoming place for all who enter.

Breathe.

Slow.

Down.

Breathe.

There’s time. Don’t rush. Concentrate on one thing right now.

Finish. Stand up. Breathe.

Concentrate on one thing again.

Rhythm. Flow. Breathe.

Meditate on each dish. Fold each piece.

This is for love.

Knead. Wrap. Sweep. Dust. My work is love. My work is love.

Concentrate. Breathe.

Tomorrow more can be done. Love your work for today.

Ahhhh. There. Now I can get back.