16.

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Dear Scorch-

You’ve turned 16. SIX-FREAKING-TEEN and I’m not sure how that’s possible. This is a big one, bud. It feels huge in my heart. And in my throat as I panic a little over you – and your friends- driving.

You, my darling boy, are a marvel. A wonder. A jaw-dropping miracle that I still can’t believe is mine all these years later. This is the year that I realized that you’re not going to be just mine much longer – you’re making your way towards adulthood and our time with you living full time under our roof can only be measured in years for a short while longer. So forgive me if I hold a little too tight sometimes, ok?

15 has been one hell of an interesting year for you. After almost two years, life is 99% back to normal. You started your sophomore year and it’s been…a challenge.  Things we learned from school this year:

  • You like Global Studies and English and Spanish – and you do well in those classes. When you want to.
  • You shouldn’t pick 600+ page books written in Russia in the 1880’s as your book report book, no matter how interesting it sounds.
  • Geometry and you are NOT friends.
  • You think Earth Science is stupid
  • If you feel anything is “stupid” you will refuse to put the work in and we’ll fight. A lot.
  • I don’t know how to do geometry and it makes me cry too.

Please, just pass the Geometry Regents so we can burn all your course materials and never speak of it again. I beg you.

Despite the challenges, school has been overall super positive for you. You’ve been challenged, you’ve had to learn to get shit done even if you don’t want to and you’ve kept up with your student council responsibilities.

Outside of academics, you’ve navigated a super interesting year. As you’ve gotten older, friendships have shifted. Some shrunk, some grew, some are brand new. You’ve also got a girlfriend. A GIRLFRIEND – and you’ve kept her for over 6 months. You seem to be really good to and for each other and I can’t ask for more than that. You played varsity football and JV basketball and baseball. You’ve put yourself out there at college camps and are starting to make decisions about your future.

As your parent, it’s scary and sad to see you go through uncertain times, to trust that you’re making the right decisions and surrounding yourself with people that push you to be your best self. Honestly, I’d be happy if you were younger and I was still making all your playdates for you. But you’re not and I can’t- so I have to have faith in you, and the foundation we’ve given you, that you’re making good choices and being kind and full of grace. Because, kiddo, you’re not the only one figuring things out- all your friends are in the same boat. You’re all growing and maturing at a different pace, but you’ll all get there. In the meantime, make sure to give each other a break, don’t be a dick and have a sense of humor. That’s prettttttty much the best advice I can give you for life too.

So, 16. SIX-FREAKING-TEEN. Here’s are my hopes for you this year:

  • I hope you don’t do anything too stupid, but I hope you do some stupid stuff and learn from it. By too stupid, I mean anything dangerous, including: sex, drugs, driving unsafely and breaking the law. Things you can’t come back from. But I do hope you fail spectacularly at something you care about so you have to learn grit and perseverance. I hope you feel what it’s like to really hurt someone’s feelings – so you can learn how to apologize with feeling and sincerity and know how shitty hurting someone feels so you don’t do it again. I hope you get your feelings crushed too so you can learn how crappy that is and see why words matter.
  • I hope you continue to be comfortable in your own skin. You are a wonderful person and I admire your drive and dedication more than you know. Knowing who you are is such a gift and I’m so glad you have it. But I hope you realize that others may not be there yet and you have to show grace and patience. That doesn’t mean you have to let them treat you badly, but it does mean learning not to let every little thing bother you.
  • I hope you realize that you can always change your mind. As we start talking more about your future- college, careers, etc- know that you’re never stuck. As long as you don’t do those truly stupid things I mentioned above, you can always change course. Your dad and I are going to love you and support you no matter what your path -all we ask is that you think things through and move with intention.
  • I hope you continue to value yourself. Your body, your feelings, your emotions. If you don’t prioritize yourself and demand to be treated well, no one else will advocate for you. Know that you are a good person, treat people accordingly and expect the same back.
  • I hope you *always* ask for consent. A.L.W.A.Y.S. Never take advantage, never assume and when “No” is said in any context, at any time, stop. That advice isn’t limited to your romantic partners or hook ups- it goes for alllll your relationships. 
  • I hope you’re mindful of what you consume- what you eat, what you watch and what you listen to. Know that life is very rarely ever black and white. People can have different opinions and thoughts and not be your enemy. Listen, learn and grow- that’s one of the true marks of maturity.
  • I hope you value your health. Don’t put things in your body that would threaten that. For the love of god, never take something if you don’t know what it is and if you DO know what it is and it’s not something you should take, don’t. Who gives a shit what others say or think? Your body, your rules.
  • I hope you know that you’re always loved. Always valued. Always needed. Always wanted.

I hope this is the start of your very best year yet. Happy birthday, baby boy. We are so very proud of you and cannot wait to see where the next year takes you.

All my love,

Mom

Teenagers are Like Toddlers: Part I

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I love raising teenagers. Except for when I don’t. And today, I don’t.

Story 1 – Yesterday
The scene: Scorch needs to / wants to eat. He is hangry but he’s also lazy. So he doesn’t want to cook or make anything. He just wants food.

Just none of the food in our fridge. We have leftovers, we have cold cuts, we have waffles, we have cereal. We have fruit and veggies and PB&J. We have frozen pizza and chicken strips.

He wants NONE OF THOSE.

Scorch: “Mom, we have NOTHING to eat in this house. It’s all the same food all the time.”

Me: “Well, make a list and tell me what you want and I’ll grab new foods the next time I’m at the store.”

Scorch, as he’s throwing himself on the couch, huffing in indignation: “NO! I don’t want new foods. I just don’t want the foods we have. I’m hungry.”

Cool, cool. That’s helpful, kid- super helpful.

Story 2 – Today
The scene: It’s Monday after school. Scorch’s girlfriend is over. She’s leaving at 5, and Scorch has to leave at 5:10 to go to basketball practice.

Me, at 4:50: “Scorch, come up and get food before you have to go.”

Scorch: “It’s early and The Girlfriend is here, I don’t need to eat yet.”

Me: “Ok, but you have 20 minutes until you have to go. Plan accordingly.” (hahahaha– I say that, but like, no, I know he’s NEVER going to plan accordingly.)

The girlfriend leaves at 5:05 and it’s 5:07. Scorch decides, 3 MINUTES before he has to go, that he wants to make eggs and waffles. EGGGGGSSSS AND WAFFLES- remember when I told him to plan accordingly!?

I calmly tell him that he doesn’t have time for that, he’s got to grab something to go.

Scorch: “This is such crap! I’m starving and now you’re telling me I don’t have time to eat?!”

I love him. I love him with my whole heart. But there are days where I wonder if he has a brain in his head.

Nothing At All

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I feel the urge to write- it’s like an itch under my skin. A prickle in my brain that’s telling me I’m forgetting to do something.

I don’t have a story to tell, or a theme to this post- just a general state of affairs in Jan 2022. Our schools handed out Covid tests so now I have two kits (4 tests total). I feel like this is similar to a 2020 toilet paper flex. Only it’s January in Central NY and if I used the tests every time everyone sneezed (dust allergies), coughed (it’s dry AF with the heat on 24/7) or sniffled (see: the sneezing), I’d use them all in one day. So instead I feel like I’m going to go the opposite direction and force my kids to pass a 45-point check point list before I administer one.

My kids are hoping that school will go virtual for a week or so. One because she genuinely loved doing school from her bed and the other because he doesn’t like getting out of his bed. Our schools, bless them, are committed to staying open unless there is a lack of teachers or bus drivers. I foresee this happening sometime in the next month, and frankly, I wouldn’t mind a few days home with the kids- but, please dear Lord, not long term. None of us would survive that.  Sports are still going full force and I’m very, very thankful for that – both my kids and myself (let’s be real – mainly me) thrive on routine and schedules so school + sports = happier people.

All that said, I feel like getting Covid again is pretty much a guarantee at this point. It’s everywhere right now. I’m very, very, VERY thankful that the vaccine seems to be limiting most people to mild symptoms. But I have that same sense of dread I used to have when the stomach bug was going around the kid’s Kindergarten classroom. You KNEW it was coming. You KNEW it was only a matter of time. So all you can do is hunker down, make sure you’re stocked up and wait. It’s been a tad over a year since it hit my family in 2021, so- yeah. Cheers to that anniversary.

In non-Covid news, I did not win the Powerball lottery last week. I very rarely play – only when the jackpot is super high. Yes, I realize that actually lessens my chance of winning since everyone plays then, but no one has ever accused me of being logical. Am I the only one who dreams about what they are going to do with their winnings? How much money each family member will get. If we’ll stay in our house/town so the kids can finish school with their friends. If we’d keep our jobs – or, really, work any jobs. Where we’d travel to.

Our addition was completed almost a year ago now and I’m 99% sure no matter how rich we’d get, we’d stay in this house. I *love* my house right now- I love my bathroom. I love the space. I love my pretty easy commute to most places. The only upgrade I’d 100% make is I’d put in radiant heating in the floors and put in a heated driveway so allllll the snow and ice melts without having to shovel / snowblow. That would be the ultimate luxury in NY in the winters. I would also 100% quit my job and work in a library or volunteer somewhere in case anyone was wondering. (Our cat is also still loving our bathroom.)

Goodbye to 2021

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2021 wasn’t 2020, so there is that! It wasn’t a normal year, but it wasn’t the horror show either and I’m taking that as a win.

The bad: we all got Covid (3 of us in Jan and 1 of us in May), the Hubs got pneumonia twice, the Hubs had knee surgery #454, and geometry.

The cats enjoying the quiet of the addition being done.

The good: we all recovered relatively quickly from Covid, we celebrated our 20th anniversary, schools were back 100% in person this fall, family vacations, live music, watching the kids play sports in person, and the addition being done.

James Taylor in concert, August 2021


I blogged a lot less because writing about teens means their stories aren’t mine to tell any more. They read what I write, they critique it, and they want to have their private lives remain private. It’s exhilarating/exhausting/amazing to live in real time, but makes from a whole lot of nothing for the blog.

View from the Ocean Isle Pier, August 2021

I’m not big on resolutions, but I do try to pick a word or a thought to start the new year of with. The word for 2022 is intentional. I want to be intentional about how I spend my time. How I spend my money. What I consume. Who, and what I invest, my passion into. I have 2.5 years left with Scorch living with us full time and 4.5 years left with the Bean. That is insane to me, so I want to make sure I’m making the most of that time and prioritizing properly.

If the past 2 years have shown us anything, it’s that we have no control over what the world throws at us. All we can control is how we react to it, the people we surround ourselves with and the love we put back out into the world. So, 2022 – be gentle. We all need a break and I have high hopes for you!

The End of Summer

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If you have spent any time with me in real life over the summer, you know I was counting down the days until school went back. I needed the stability of our routine back, I needed dedicated time where I didn’t have to worry about which kid needed to be where at what time during the summer. I needed hours where I could just work and not multitask working/parenting/cooking/driving/etc all at the same time. I’m a much better mother, wife and employee when I have a set time during the day to do each thing, not huge chunks of time when I’m trying to do all 3, and the return to school allows me to do that.

And I loathe feeling like that because I *love* summer. Hot days, vacation, swimming, sunshine and an, in theory, easier schedule. And this summer has been wonderful- we had two great vacations, lots of family time, countless laughs and a lot of great times. The kids were a delight and, as they continue to get older, I love their company more and more. We packed a lot into our short, northeast summer and I don’t regret a single moment of it.

But this summer was also hard – the kids, at 15 and 13, very rightly want to hang out with their friends during the summer. Scorch had football conditioning and practices, the Bean had basketball and I was the one coordinating it all. There were  a lot of days this summer where I was pretty sure I was failing at everything as I tried to keep all the balls in the air. So when the kids went back to school a few weeks ago, I may have danced a jig. 😉

Bean is in 8th grade, Scorch is in 10th. They are fully vac’d and back to school full time, wearing masks. There were a ton of nerves on the first morning (mine and theirs) as I made them pose for pictures in their back to school “finest”. Both have challenging schedules this year and will be juggling a lot but I couldn’t be more excited for them. I adore them both and know that they’ll do well this year – if nothing else, 2020 showed us just how adaptable and resourceful my kids are.

So, school? WELCOME THE FLUCK BACK. Please don’t ever leave me again, you gorgeous institution, you.  Summer 2022, I’ll be counting down the days until I see you.

20 Years Down.

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A few months ago, we were out of town for a baseball tournament. The Hubs and I were tired, hot, hungry, sweaty, stressed over an ever changing schedule that day, and pretty much completely over everything.

Including each other.

Something really dumb happened and he yelled at me and I yelled right back at him for raising his voice at me. (I know…the logic astounds.) Then we just yelled at each other over stupid shit like who was right to be angry and who was wrong for like 5 minutes. We’re not typically yellers – especially with both kids in the car – but we were D.O.N.E.  Shortly thereafter, I dropped the Hubs and Scorch off at the hotel and the Bean and I went to grab our lunches.

As we pulled away from the hotel, Bean says, “I don’t know why you both just don’t get a divorce. Allllll this yelling, come on.”

Wedding Kiss

I started to giggle a little because while we were both being asshats that day, we aren’t on the brink of divorce. When I asked her why she thought we should get a dirvorce, she told me that NONE of the couples fight on the TV shows she watches- The Outer Banks, The Vampire Diaries, etc.

I started to laugh even harder because…yeah. Real life, those shows are not.

~*~*~*

The Hubs and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a short while ago- a few days after my 25th high school reunion, as a matter of fact. (Any time I still feel hip and cool, I’m going to reread that sentence a few times.) I hate to say that our 20th felt anticlimactic, but it 100% did. This past year and a half was insane between Covid, remote learning, a huge home addition, summer travels, work stress and on and on and on. The fact that we survived this one year is more impressive than the past 19, to be honest.

I’ve been trying to figure out something profound that I can say about 20 years of marriage…and I’ve got nothing. It IS a milestone and it should be celebrated – and we did by going away for a night with friends to see James Taylor in concert (10/10 would highly recommend). But there are no magic words of wisdom or secrets I can tell you.

Here is what I have learned:

  • No one has a perfect marriage and there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Anyone who tries to showcase theirs as such is lying to you and themselves.
  • Maintaining my marriage is, at the same time, the easiest and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Some days I kill it, other days I fail miserably.
  • Staying married is a choice the Hubs and I make daily. We choose to put each other and our vows first even when it’s hard.
  • Some days we suck at it – we barely speak and just go through the motions.
  • Other days I look at that man and my heart swells because I have no idea how I got so freaking lucky.

Over the course of 20 years, the days I thank my lucky stars far outnumber the days I wonder what the hell I was thinking. My husband makes me laugh every day, always has my back and is a wonderful father to our kids. I have no idea what the next 20 years will hold but I’m praying hard I walk them with the Hubs by my side.

13.

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Dear Bean-
As of writing this, you’re 13 and have been for a few weeks now. You’re annoyed that it’s taken me so long to write this, but girl, you know as well as I do that it’s been a summer. But that’s just an excuse because I’m still in denial that you’re 13. I mean, you’re my baby and the fact that you’re this old is mind boggling to me. You’ve heard me say countless times that I adore parenting older kids but that doesn’t mean I want you to grow up at warp speed.

But enough about me, your birthday is about you and you, my child, are amazing. You are smart, and funny, and quiet and loud and animated and reserved. You are ridiculously self-contained and you force me to be a better mother and person on a daily basis. You challenge me, my decisions, and my beliefs and there are days when I wish you were easier while marveling a minute later over how astounding you are.

So 12 was a crazy year, right? You moved to 7th grade which meant a new school allllll during Covid. You started out the year going to school full time, but after a series of never-ending quarantines, you transitioned to fully remote in January. You managed to avoid getting Covid when Dad, Scorch and I got it, but you did manage to get it 5 months later. You can never be simple, can you? 😉 Thankfully we all recovered relatively quickly with no long term side effects.

You took to remote learning like a duck to water- your grades were out of this world and you managed your schedule and to-do’s like a boss. I never had to worry about you when it came to school, I wish I had half your organizational skills. You also played basketball, a sport you’ve loved for years, and volleyball, a new-to-you sport. You excelled in both, made some new friends and challenged yourself which is all I can ask from you. Honestly, girl, you’ve done great this past year. You’ve shown grace during some really crappy situations, rolled with a lot of punches and grew more into who you are as a person. Have I mentioned lately that I adore you?

Now you’re 13 and getting ready to start 8th grade. Hopefully you’ll be in school, full time, with your friends that you missed all last year. Here’s what I hope for you, my wild child, as we enter this new year:

  • I hope you continue to hold on hard to who you are. Don’t break for anyone. You may have to bend a little – everyone does – but hold true to who you are and screw anyone who doesn’t like it.
  • I hope you hold tight to your friends. Your two BFFs are crazy in the best way and I hope you 3 continue to support and love each other fiercely.
  • I hope you make new friends. Two BFFs are amazing, but you can never have too many friends. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, give new people a chance and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Is that scary? Yup. Is it worth it? 100%
  • I hope you do something that scares you. Play a new sport. Join the drama club. Take a new elective. The world is getting bigger for you, embrace it, child.
  • I hope you are kind. You, my girl, are a little scary.  Quiet, self-contained girls in middle school always are – and that’s fine. You don’t have to change who you are, but I do ask that you be kind to others. Give people grace, have a sense of humor and be nice.
  • I hope you remember that your brother is your life-long best friend. Is he annoying? Yes. Does he smell? Yes. But he adores you and while you’re on the same school campus, lean into that. Love him hard and he’ll do the same.
  • I hope you know your worth. You deserve to be treated with respect and consideration – always. Don’t settle for anything else in any relationship.

Most of all, child, I hope you know how amazing you are. Because you truly, truly are. Smart, passionate, funny- you’re a blessing to our family, the piece that made it complete and one of my greatest joys. Know that we will always love you, always be your safe spot and that we are so proud of the woman you’re growing into.

All my love,
Mom

15.

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Dear Scorch-

You are now 15. And the time has finally come for you to butter your own waffles and make your own chocolate milk every morning. That was the deal – you can have social media at 15 in exchange for some self-sufficiency. So, happy birthday kiddo- the butter is in the fridge.

How are you 15 years old? How do you have friends that are driving now? How are you within spitting distance of the end of your freshman year of high school? This- all of this– is a mystery to me.

Days-old Baby Scorch

Here is what I do know. I know I freaking adore you. You are a delight 95% of the time. Hysterically funny, kind hearted, smart, witty and mostly a joy. You have shown more grace, tenacity and adaptability than most adults I know during this pandemic year. The end of your 8th grade year ended with a whimper. Asynchronous school, no sports and a hell of a lot of uncertainty. We went from 100 to 0 overnight – it was jarring and scary for everyone. My anxiety was elevated, so I worried you were going to struggle, but you rolled with the punches with a level of maturity I didn’t know you had.

For your 14th birthday, I took you on a hike (alllllll we did was hike), made you some BBQ chicken and we sat outside, socially distanced from people who stopped by. Sadly, this year looks like it’s going to be an exact repeat of last year since we’re all in quarantine. I’m so, so, sorry about this, bud- more than you can know. But a month or so after your birthday last year, life opened up a bit more with travel baseball, a family vacation and a social bubble that included your best friends. I have no doubt we’ll rebound from this quarantine with no problems either.

Cheeks for day

You entered 9th grade going to school full time in person this past September. You’re taking enhanced courses, a foreign language, and a graphic design course. You’ve learned to balance your time, prioritize, and juggle a hell of a lot all the while playing two sports. You skipped football this year since football was jammed between basketball and baseball and, let’s face it, baseball is your one true love.

All in all, 9th grade and your 14th year, hasn’t been all that bad despite Covid-19. You had your first girlfriend, you got to go to school with most of your friends, you lived through a huge home addition / construction project that netted you a new, big bedroom. Hell, we even let you get a TV in your room – something I said I was NEVER going to allow, but Covid quarantines and my need for sanity made a liar out of me. You still hang with the same amazing group of kids outside of school – you and your group of best friends really hasn’t changed since you were little. But you’re happy to hang out with who ever you’re around, wherever you happen to be. Your adaptability and complete faith that everyone wants to be your friend is one of my favorite parts of you.

~*~*~
Every year, I share what I hope for you for this upcoming year. So, sweet child, here is what I wish for you for your 15th year:

  • Never stop being interested. Ask questions, challenge assumptions and be curious about the world around you.
  • Don’t try to plan your life out. You’re 15 – you’re not supposed to know the answers. Ask questions and feel your way around. No one expects you to have your life planned out no matter what they imply – right now your interests should vary and change. I’m 42 and I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Take this time to learn everything you can, keep your grades up, and set yourself up for success no matter what path you choose.
  • Know that this life is yours. Despite us not expecting you to know everything, we do expect you to be mature enough to start making some decisions on your own. Start exercising your ability to say no or yes. Say yes to the things that bring you joy. Say no to things that you know aren’t right – for you, your friends and your safety.
  • Make smart decisions. Oh sweet boy, as awesome as it is that the world is opening up to you, it scares me silly. You’re going to be presented with situations, scenarios and decisions that you have to be so smart about. Being smart won’t always be cool and it won’t always be easy – but you know in your gut what’s right and what’s wrong. Listen to your gut, always.
  • Be kind. I say this every year and so far, you’ve done a good job of listening. You, child, are the total package and with that comes responsibility. Be kind to others. Choose to lift others up instead of stepping on them. Always punch up, never down.
  • Treat your romantic partners exactly how you want your sister to be treated. Be respectful, be polite and always, always ask for consent. Never assume liberties, take their interests into account and don’t be a douche.
  • Insist your romantic partners give you the same consideration. I don’t give a hoot who you date as long as they treat you well. Kindness, consideration, manners and consent are things that should be given in equal measures on both sides – don’t waste your time on a partner who doesn’t treat you well.
  • Know that you can always ask for help. I don’t care what you need help with, we’ll provide it. From homework to a ride home after you’ve made dumb decisions (because you will make dumb decisions), we will always, always help you. Never doubt that – you, your safety, the safety of your friends, etc are the most important thing in the world to your dad and I. We may yell, we may holler and we may huff in annoyance, but we’ll be there. But we won’t bail you out if you mess up. Bearing responsibility for your decisions is part of growing up, kiddo.
  • Remember that social media is forever. Now that you’re 15, you have social media. NOTHING you post is private. NOTHING is temporary. Be mindful of what you post, be intentional and don’t do anything that can come back to haunt you. No bullying, no sexting, no name calling, nada. Don’t learn this the hard way.

I hope your 15th year is awesome, bud! Keep being the amazing kid you are, mind your manners, be smart, and take chances. Hold your friends tight, but don’t be afraid to make new ones. Do things that make your happy, that scare you and that help you grow as a person. Keep learning, pick up a book or two and remember how very loved you are.

All my love,
Mom

Hopeful.

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Today is April 21 and it’s snowing. Frankly, this isn’t surprising in my neck of the woods – after all, it has snowed on Mother’s Day more years than I can count. We’ve had a span of gorgeous weather for the past few weeks so I’m not even mad at this snow. I can appreciate it for how pretty it is, knowing it’ll be gone in a day or two.

Sunrise

I feel like hopeful is pretty much my general state of mind right now. Last year when the world shut down, I started using Facebook as almost a daily diary to record how I was feeling from moment to moment. It was not good. My anxiety was through the roof as was my frustration and anger and sorrow. But really, it was my anxiety. I worried about everything – our physical health, our mental health, the kid’s schooling, my work, the Hub’s safety at work, friends, family, if our addition was ever going to start (and then end), money, and on and on. Some of the posts are funny, some are sad and some are self-pitying.

I’ll take hopeful over the hot mess my head was this time last year all day, every day.

~*~*~*~

I’m also feeling a tad nostalgic. My baby boy turns 15 shortly. My baby girl turns 13 this summer.

Y’all, I LOVE these ages and I’d like to freeze them right here. They are old enough to be great company, hysterically funny and a joy to be around but young enough that they rely on us for all rides and activities. So I have the joy of kids that are old enough to put themselves to bed, but young enough that I don’t have to worry about them sneaking out. #countryliving One of my kids is inches taller than I am, one is almost as tall. They are stupidly smart, determined and fully their own people and I really, really like the people they are.

We escaped to the beach in March

I am trying to find my blogging groove again. The STORIES I could tell – raising teens is not for the weak or the easily offended and they make me laugh every damn day. But these stories aren’t just mine anymore.  They are mine and the kids; and the kids are old enough to have a say in what I can and cannot share. So while I want to share dating pitfalls and period stories, I won’t. At least not publicly. One day maybe my kids won’t care, but now they do.

So sporadic updates it is until I hit the season of my life where my life is more mine and less chauffeur / cheerleader / woman-praying-she-isn’t-screwing-it-up-too-badly.

The End of an Addition

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When the Hubs and I moved to our current town back in 2002, we were *thrilled* that we could afford a house. We knew it would be a starter home – it didn’t have to be perfect, but it would be ours. We looked at a lot of homes – one of which we totally fell in love with. The bank said we could afford it, but we were a tad nervous because we didn’t want to be “house poor.” House poor was a term I heard a lot growing up – simply put it means that you have an awesome house, but because you spent so much on it, you couldn’t afford to do anything else. I didn’t want that- I wanted to travel and be able to save for our future family, not pinch every penny on a house too big for two people. So, we passed on the house we loved and moved into an apartment while we kept looking.

The gravel pit that is where our addition is now. August 2020.

We saw what is now our home a few months after moving to our town. It is my *least* favorite style of home – the very common split-entry home that you find everywhere around here. But it was on a gorgeous 2 acres of land, in a great elementary school district, with enough privacy to make the Hubs happy. So we put in an offer, got into a bidding war, wrote a heart-rending letter and finally got the house. Even if it wasn’t my favorite, it was our home and we’d only be in it 5-7 years so I could deal with the style.

Shocking no one, fast-forward 15 years, 2 kids, 4 cats and 1 dog later and we were still in our starter home and the house was feeling more than a little cramped. 3 bedrooms (2 of which were oddly shaped and quite small) and 1 postage-stamp sized full bath with a tween, a teen, the Hubs, and me was starting to grate especially as we approached the the kid’s middle/high school years and all 4 of us needing to be ready to leave the house at the same time every morning.

My poor, naked house.


After a bunch of false starts and the help of a VERY patient architect (thank you, Dave!) we finally found a builder to work with. We had gone through a bunch of drawings with a previous builder, trying to narrow down what we wanted to do and while we hadn’t nailed it down exactly, we had a rough idea of what we wanted:

  • an extra full bathroom
  • laundry inside the house (it was in the garage and the pipes froze every damn year)
  • bigger living space in our family room
  • bigger bedrooms for the kids

We had also worked with the bank and knew exactly how much they would loan us to ensure that 1) we could afford the monthly payment (see: my aversion to being house poor) and 2) we didn’t out-price our neighborhood and get stuck with a house we’d lose money on when we eventually moved. So when I called the builder we ended up working with (at 7 pm on a Friday night, in tears, while diving in a blizzard – all no joke), I could tell him very concretely what our budget was. (Hi Ian- aren’t you so glad you called me back that night?!)

Hawk, wondering what we did and why we’re doing it.

The pandemic hit roughly a month later – so this project didn’t start exactly on time, it didn’t go exactly as planned and there is still exterior work to do in the Spring – but the interior of our 900+ sq foot addition is DONE! And for that, I couldn’t be more thankful. Especially since we had to isolate in different corners of the house when we caught Covid.

I’m standing where our bathroom vanity is now.

Living through a major home renovation that affects every room in our house during a global pandemic – which meant that 3 out of the 4 of us were home during most of this, the supply chains were screwed and materials could quickly disappear – was something I hope to never, ever do again, but I’m so freaking pleased at how things turned out.

Family room mid-build

I am not anyone who has interest in interior design, color palettes, home plans or anything of the like. Hell, my living room / dining room hadn’t changed once in 18 years until this past December. This whole process scared the SHIT out of me, but if I survived, so will you. Here is what I learned*:

  • If you have a set budget, awesome! It made making decisions so much easier for both the builder and us. It allowed us to take what we hoped were our final designs and whittle them down to something that fit what we could afford. It took A LOT of wiggle room out which was annoying, but also really helpful when it came to making decisions.
  • That said, plan on spending more than you anticipated. We ended up going over budget by roughly 12% as we realized we didn’t take certain things into account. For example, we didn’t plan on redoing our front deck- but we quickly realized that 1) the house would look like garbage with the old porch and 2) it was a hell of a lot cheaper to replace the porch during construction than trying to do it after the fact. Same for our back patio – trying to do it after the fact would have cost us thousands more after the fact.
  • Don’t skimp on the important things, like your fixtures or your heating system. Tankless water heaters and a new HVAC system aren’t sexy, but we love them both!
  • Think looooong term. We put in a new entertainment systems in our family room and made sure it was wired – while the walls were stripped down to the studs – for any future enhancements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends, ask people who’s house you love, ask your internet friends what they love about their house, what they are glad they have, what features they love / hate and learn from them.
  • Shop local. It’s not the folks at the big-box store that are going to pour over paints with you, it’s the owner of the mom & pop store. Lowes isn’t going to sweat over botched deliveries with you, but the owner of the local flooring store will move heaven and earth to ensure you’re happy, on budget and on time.
  • Find a contractor / construction crew you trust. You’ll be making adjustments on the fly, dealing with delays and having to pivot and if you don’t trust the team you’re working with, it’ll be 1000% more frustrating. I cannot say enough thank you’s to Ian, Jeremy, Annie, Jason, Jefferson, Adam, Eric, Mike and countless others that were in and out of house over the past 6 months.
  • Be nice to the people coming in and out of your house daily. Since August we’ve had various crews at our house just about every day – since October, there have been anywhere from 3 to 11 people inside the house as I’ve been working, the kids have been doing school and the cats have been underfoot. You don’t have to be BFFs, but life is a lot more fun for everyone if you can at least be friendly. I treated the crew here to lunch a few times, got them Christmas gifts and learned about their families. They are here 8+ hours a day and liking each and every one of them made this entire process so much more bearable.
  • Speak up if you don’t like something. I trust this team immensely, but sometimes shit happens. It’s a 1000 times easier to deal with things as they crop up than waiting until it’s too late.
  • Don’t rush, but know ordering items is going to take forever. I ordered new furniture the first week of September and it was delivered at the end of December. That was the shortest delivery time I could find – some stores were 6+ months out on special orders. Now that the furniture is here, I’m taking my time picking out the accent pieces. Does my house look a little blah now? Yes. But I want to get it right since it may be another 18 years before I do this again. 😉
  • Realize that the only way out is through. Once construction starts, you can change details and colors, but the only way to the house you want is to deal with the ups and downs. Is it annoying? Yes. Did we have a few times where both the Hubs and I lost our shit? Yes. Did it make a damn bit of difference? Emotionally, yes – but at the end of the day no matter how much I hated all the dust in my house, there was no turning around. So I took up stock in dust wipes, sucked it up and got through it.
My bathroom vanity that I love more than my children some days. 😉

I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about our construction crew and the vendors we worked with! They were all kind to me, my kids and my cats so they are solid gold in my mind. I cannot overstate how much liking and trusting the people we worked with made all the difference.

Hit me up with any questions you have on the building process- I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.