I asked my Beloved’s help with a project and he came through beautifully. We’ve long had some sort of Little Tikes play structure in our yards since my eldest could toddle. There’s always been a few little cars or tractors too. But lately, I realized in a bittersweet sort of way that those structures weren’t be used anymore- and that when I sent them into the back yard to play, everyone sort of stood around and complained they were bored. There wasn’t a lot of room for kicking the soccer ball, and well, there wasn’t much “scope for the imagination” as our favorite red-headed Anne with an e calls it.
I wanted a more open-ended, natural play space that was a more appropriate size and scope for our elementary aged children. Perhaps more importantly, it couldn’t cost more than a few dollars. We cleared the entire back yard out, gave away our Little Tikes structures, raked and cleaned up, and then stood back to evaluate the space. I kept eyeing a structure my husband had built from pallets to store firewood. What if? (I should note here that we were lucky to have a lot of untreated pallets from James’ job.) He laughingly acquiesced but did ask where we were going to put the firewood now?
We pulled it out into the middle of the yard and removed its tarp cover. James had some leftover bamboo screening from another project that he cut to fit the ‘roof’, and we pulled a few more pallets around to make ‘porches’. What I like about this structure is that it is not just a house- it is a stage- it is a ship… and a couple more incarnations since the children began playing with it. We piled some leftover firewood into the more imaginary than real fire pit behind the ‘back porch’. We want to bring some stumps from a friends house to make some seating around the fire pit (and also to make some climbing and balancing possibilities).
Our square-foot garden on wheels is currently in the very back portion where the sunlight is best at the moment. It shifts around the yard over the growing season. While at the hardware store later that weekend, we found some flowers on clearance for $.50 or $1.00 and we tucked them into our old windowboxes (which we were going to get rid of), and so their little space even has a bit of beauty. Our grand total cost? $4.50, for the flowers. It came out so wonderfully, even more useful than I could have imagined. Our back yard is fun again, and the children spend as much time out there as they possibly can- even our seventh grader. I call that a win!
(my finds from the weekend)
My Facebook status from this weekend read something like this:
Tommorrow- me, myself, and I- coffee and thrifting. ♥ Much needed breathing room!
I had the most “likes” I had ever received on a status update. I got the giggles in the middle of a dusty antique booth as my phone kept making its’ “alert” sound notifying me of another email…realizing how many people were liking the status. I couldn’t decide if that was because you all like thrifting, coffee, and antiquing, or if you all simply resonated with the idea of breathing room.
Later that day, I walked in my wreck of a laundry room turned office- glanced down the hall to the completely non-functional basement/play room, panned over to the garage that was overrun with boxes (from work)…and got inspired. An hour and a half, two hours later, and my entire downstairs space was well on the way to order and usefulness. All I had needed was the chance to change my perspective for a bit- able to come back to this truly pressing problem with clear vision.
It’s making me think. As an artist, I crave margin, white space, and breathing room in what I create, and it feels very strange to me- the work is incomplete or cluttered- if there isn’t plenty of it. I’ve never, ever, felt the need to apologize for that. It’s not like I hand someone a piece I did and say- “I’m so sorry, I just felt like this big swath here was necessary.” It sounds a little ludicrous, actually- to say something like that to a buying customer of your work! Chances are, the reason they are even remotely interested in it is because perhaps they crave margin, whitespace, and breathing room too, and the piece ( I would hope) blesses them with some of that.
Why then, do I feel such shame in needing margin in my life? My job as mama is miles above in importance to my art, and the results are eternal, not fleeting paint on paper- and if I need margin in my art—how much more do my children and I need for me to have margin in my mothering?
I have to back up here a bit. The whole downstairs thing has been weighing down upon me for nearly the entire summer. When we moved into this house in March, I was three weeks postpartum, still quite ill, (and would end up remaining so well into the middle of July), and honestly, could not fathom the wheres and whatfores of how to arrange the new spaces. Most of our rooms sat in a barely unpacked state for months as I struggled to find my footing. It wore upon my creative soul. I delight in nesting and making my space beautiful; to live with blank walls and spaces that did not work for my family was akin to torture. It affected my work. I could never find what I needed for work- I could never find clean clothes- I couldn’t find any serenity with the tumble-down-ness of the upstairs because we practically lived right on top of one another, all day long. But every time I walked downstairs, I’d just get overwhelmed, and that would discourage me more- needing to do something but not really knowing how or where to start.
All it took was a morning trawling antique stores and flea markets and one cup of coffee. It is making me wonder what other things I’ve shoved up against time and time again that just need a little perspective. And this isn’t about time away from my kids either. I think it is a state of mind, margin in mothering- a place where things have room to breathe. Room to think. I think it goes as much for the children as it does for me. I am really good about making sure that Isaiah gets some quiet nest time because the lack of such is so glaringly obvious as to not be ignored. I am not so good at helping the other kids find that space because they can deal with it if it doesn’t happen….but I am not sure that is a true statement though, because it does “show”…in the long run.
Sonya did a post about Charlotte Mason’s schedule the other day that has woven itself into my thoughts about margin…ways of resting through out the day, both for my children and for me. What are you doing in your days to find margin?
I’m in a bit of time warp, blogging wise. There have been so many things I wanted to say, wanted to link to, you know- here and there? So it’ll be all over the place for a little bit.
I have shared our financial story a little bit here. In a brief summary, we sold our house to pay off a substantial credit card debt and are now working on re-building our financial future. Taking it all back to the bedrock and getting a firm foundation this time instead of a shaky one. We’ve had a lot to learn in many different arenas-and it seems like just about the time we figure one aspect out another does us under for a bit. It is slow going, to say the least.
Aimee had just started a ‘buy nothing’ challenge with herself right about the time we were in the throes of selling the house, finding a place to rent and moving. I read the whole series as she was blogging it as much as I could off my husband’s iPhone because it was *so* what we were facing the consequences of- lots of buying without a lot of thought (at least early in our marriage, and then lots of bondage in the between time). There were so many things she brought up over the course of her series that I would love to discuss in depth, and I hope to do that soon.
And while this whole process of attacking debt and learning money management has been tough going at times, it hasn’t been all bad. Some of it has been down right fun! One of the things I challenged myself to do was to find anything we needed for our new space second hand or free, and to rethink furniture where possible. One saturday afternoon I slipped off to a local secondhand/antique store with few expectations but a pretty long list and hit the jackpot a couple times over! I’ll admit it- by the time I was done, I was giggling with glee at the ‘hunt’.
Here’s just the beginning…I figure I’ll share a few of these a week and show you how I used them around the house.
This is the steal of steals—anyone who loves vintage quilts can tell you how high they are getting, price-wise- this one should easily be $300 or more with hand work and cross-stitching, and I about pinched myself when I realized it was only $25! Someone did not know what it was worth, that is for sure. I got this amazing, beautiful quilt for Lorelei’s bed for cheaper than you can get a normal ‘bedding set’ at a big box store. Score!
I lurrrrve my new kitchen for the spaciousness, but I don’t have a lot of counter space, nor the room for a traditional island. I must have stared at this three or four time during my shopping (it was a vanity)- and it dawned on me it was the perfect width and height, and all I needed to do was slap some wheels on it. I store all my spices in the drawer, and what’s on top rotates with how I’m feeling that day. The shelf is a great place to keep all my most used appliances and my drain board. Considering most roly-poly islands at your normal store go for $199 and up, this was a serious steal at $75 plus $6 for the wheels.
These were just one of those things…he he he. I adore hobnail milk glass- but before moving to our new town, I could never find any I liked in my ‘price range’. These totally fit the bill, and I’ve been using them as vases (they are a sugar and creamer set). And at 50 cents each, a sweet little treat!
I had this wall in the kitchen that I hadn’t the foggiest idea what to do with (I’ve never had a decorate-able wall in a kitchen before now!) and it dawned on me that I already had a sort of collection of plates. I picked this one up for the simple beauty of it…and then the boys promptly broke it. A little glue and it will be as good as new. It was $1, so no tears lost! I’ll have to show you what I did with the plate collection. It makes me smile every single morning, and I figure it’s a good barometer of ‘good design’, right?
- I had such a lovely weekend. The grandparents kindernapped their favorite kiddos, which means James and I suddenly had twenty four hours of escape. The best sort of surprise, I think. We knew just what to do with it. An exploration expedition was called for, and the search was on. Chief on our list: a bench for the dining room table and a bed of some sort for Bean. Other things we always look for- old school desks, old glass insulators (from power lines), old ledger paper and ribbon.
First, we had to get sustenenance:
Fantastic does not even cover it. Divine? Heavenly? Is that too much? Fresh, local food, simply prepared, beautiful surroundings…absolutely lovely. It is inspiring my own work in the kitchen here at home, I must confess.
After all that wonderful food, we needed to walk it off and so the hunt began. We've been saving for these needs for a while, but we were still pretty limited as to what we could afford. I think that's half the fun of the thrifting adventure. Can we find it? Can we find it in a price range we can afford? Can we keep our eyes focused on the prize? The previous weekend we had visited every "fee farket" (as Harper likes to call it) in forty miles with the kids, and had come up completely empty handed and a bit discouraged.
Not this time.
I spied this.
I caught my breath. I almost didn't want to go closer. What if I drew near and it was impossibly out of my resources? I edged closer. Eyed the tag. Then my jaw dropped. Not only was it in my price range, it was ridiculously underpriced. It was just so perfect! Bean will be sleeping in our bedroom for the time being, but everything I had seen was too wide, too long, too big, too short to fit at the end of our bed. Big pack and plays would have monopolized all the space with no room to walk- bassinets were too short for our tall babies that quickly grow beyond them. This cradle is nice and deep, but narrow. And long. Lorelei (who has quickly claimed it as her "rocky bed") can fit in this head to foot, all stretched out, and she's a tall two year old. David has already snuck a nap in it. I totally did a happy dance right there in the store.
As if that wasn't enough, James spied this around the corner from the cradle as I was doing my little dance.
A *pink* old fashioned school desk. For Lorelei. Which brings our school desk collection to three. My happy dancing continued, because we got it for an absolute steal. Next to free, I'll take it for a song!
And that bench?
Six foot. Sturdily built, because our kids are hard on furniture. No cheap composite wood imitations.
Check, check, and check. The most expensive of our purchases, but still less than we thought we'd have to spend.
James was staining it with a new sort of stain that has the polyurethane and stain all in one. I don't think we'll use it again. It dried awfully fast, and it was hard to work with. And doesn't go on in the typical way.
I still can't believe how increadibly blessed we were on this hunt- we found both things we needed and a school desk for Lorelei and all for way less than we thought we'd have to spend. It felt so good putting that money back in the bank! More money for curriculum in June…another exciting hunt to be had. I could get used to this.