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Here is to 2015

Heather says

2014 has been very quiet at Home-Ec101.com; it’s been a year of healing and new beginnings.

The year has been about learning what is good enough and what can and can’t be tolerated.

Manda

Back in April, one of my best friends, who is also my assistant at FeedBlitz, found a lump and began the longest eight months of her life. It’s not my story to tell, but she had her last chemo treatment the week before Christmas and we are anxiously awaiting her return.

Some of you know that I made the decision to buy what I’ve been calling the fixer-upper late in the summer. That wasn’t a simple decision, it’s the house I grew up in. It’s the house where I tried to raise my youngest sister when our family fell apart.

Financially I knew it made sense, but I didn’t know if I could handle the emotional cost.

The house has come a long way. Yes, the bathroom floor is still sagging, but there is a new roof (and no more squirrels!).

kitchen

bedroomWorkinprogress

dining room

Living room

Paint and new appliances are helping. I am looking forward to the day I can rip up the carpeting, but there are a few more pressing repairs to handle first.

I’ve gotten so good at “cutting in” when painting that I don’t even have to tape the borders.

I’ve learned how to install new outlets and  light switches and what happens when you do that incorrectly. (In my case you live with extension cords from rooms with power to those that are lacking. At least until your ex-husband, an electrician can troubleshoot for hours, to finally pinpoint the problem -the brand new light switch, oy.)

I’ve learned that, in my home, the most important room, is still the dining room, that having the table where we can eat together matters far more than all of other improvements we’ve made.

I’ve learned that making an effort to stay on top of the kid mess matters so much more when the surroundings aren’t nice. It’s so much easier to fall into a why bother attitude when the walls need a new coat of paint and the blinds are torn. Dishes seem to pile faster, too.

But, I’ve also learned that a colorful bathmat can help me ignore the sagging floor until it can be repaired and that Ikea really can be a magical place of wallet-draining wonder.

2013 was awful, some of it was my own fault and some of it was caused by situations far beyond my control. I thought I would hit the ground running in 2014 and that I’d get Home-Ec101.com back to where it was in 2012. It turns out that new beginnings are a lot of work and much of that work happens where no one can see.

I’ve committed to keep showing up and I’m looking forward to 2015, yellow counters and all.

Some of it will be getting back to basics like a return to menu planning, but I also plan on addressing more reader questions and being more active in the online community that allows Home Ec 101 to exist in the first place. Thank you for being a part of the journey. I wish you well in the new year.

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Where Has Heather Been

Heather says:

Moving.

It’s not a cross-country move, just a one town over, this-won’t-be-so-bad wait, the Internet co doesn’t cover the new house move?

I’m in the process of buying a house. It’s the house I grew up in, but no one has taken care of it in at least ten years.

The upside? Cost. Budgets have been examined, what I’m paying for it, what it’s worth, what it will cost worst-case to fix, and what it will be worth in a year or so when all of the work is done. What’s the market value on sanity?

The downside that may actually be an upside when all is said and done, it was in terrible shape, awful shape, I’m on a first name basis with the exterminator shape.

I’ve learned a lot already. A lot about temporary and permanent fixes. Did you know that if there is a significant gap in the flooring, that you take steel wool, shred it a bit, pack it into the hole and use expanding foam or Great Stuff as a temporary fix? It’s definitely not pretty, but at this minute functional is what I need. Nothing unwelcome coming in to say hello are you going to eat that fixed, not a good as new fixed. That flooring will be ripped out and replaced in a couple of months, so I’ll just pretend I can’t see it for now.

The Fix It category is about to explode¹.

The plan is to tackle the house one room at a time, and get it ready to be a rental. The last six weeks all of my evenings and weekends have been spent getting the house safe for the kids and myself. I couldn’t actually charge anyone to live there, at least not yet.

There are a lot of memories in this house, some are pretty difficult to live with, but with each coat of paint, it gets easier. The kiddos will bring new memories.

I’ve been taking pictures of the progress, but I would like to have a few more afters before I begin sharing. I know that I’m not responsible for the current condition of the house, but I’m still a bit embarrassed by it.

Soon there will be tutorials on: replacing light fixtures, light switches, electrical outlets, dry wall repair, fun with water damage, water heater flushing 101, squirrel eviction, rodent control options, some basic plumbing, how to talk to contractors, and most importantly, why they aren’t kidding about using Killz in a well-ventilated area. I’ve gotten pretty quick at replacing an outlet and I’m really good at painting, even if I hate it.

I’ve started stalking the mis-tint shelf at Lowes. So far I’ve found a super nice tan for the boys and an actually not as institutional as it sounds mint for Ellie. It’s definitely possible to paint a room for under $50, including brushes and roller. (Even cheaper if you don’t have to use three coats of primer)

I keep telling myself it’s an adventure, that it’s going to be worth it.

Moving into the house wasn’t the easiest decision I’ve ever made, but sometimes being a grown-up means sucking it up and doing the things that aren’t much fun.

I hired a moving company to handle the furniture, but I’ve still got to deal with the piddly things. (What was I thinking and I’ve only lived in that house for a year, how did I amass that much stuff?) I’ll have all of my things at the new place soon and more importantly, I’ll have Internet on Friday.

Moving stinks.

¹Here’s hoping we keep that to a metaphorical explosion as I’ve still got a lot of electrical work left to tackle.

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The Really? That Happened? Personal Aside and Back to School Nightmares, Share Yours

Heather says:

Yesterday I stood at my children’s bus stop for over an hour, eagerly waiting for their bus to drop them off. I was excited to hear about their first day.  Dripping sweat and with my phone battery dying I paced at the edge of the road, out in the sun.

Finally there was the bus.

There were a few kids, but I was confused because my children were. not. there.

The bus driver noted my obvious concern and distress and asked, “What bus are you waiting for?”

I told her.

She said, “That’s not this bus, that’s an entirely different route.” (For clarity: I had obtained the information from the school’s website.)

Controlling my panic, I asked the bus driver how I should locate my children (who have now been misplaced for well over an hour) and I immediately followed her recommendation to go to the school.

I showed up at the school, jumped out of the car, and went into the office which had the usual chaos of first day confusion (remember this is my first experience as a parent with kids in school).

My children were located, I was told to go home to wait, and that the other bus would drop them off at our house. This finally happened, a little over 2 hours after the children had been dismissed. Remember unairconditioned buses, in August, in the Lowcountry of SC?  The bus driver was kind and told me I should have gotten the information from the Open House. I let him know that I had attended and stood in the long bus line, only to be told, by a school employee, to get the information from the website. At that point he was irritated, too.

Naturally I called the bus office the moment they opened and I’m sitting here waiting on that return call. . . The bus driver who finally brought my kids home to me also let me know that I could request a more convenient stop, since the closest is more than 0.4 miles from our house. (The neighbor child’s mother and I are both quite relieved as the closest stop was on a highway that includes a walk on a busy road with no sidewalk and two blind corners. Yay rural life).

That phone better ring soon.

While I wait, and breathe, and try to remember it’s not the person I’ll be speaking to’s fault, entertain me with your back-to-school nightmares.

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Share Your Best Back-to-School Tips / Ideas

Heather says:

Here’s a little transparency for you.

This is the first time my children are going to school and frankly, I think I’m more nervous and excited than they are. I have once mentioned that my oldest child is on the autistic spectrum (Asperger’s) and that he needed a couple of extra years at home to mature before he could adapt to a classroom environment. We used a virtual charter school system mostly because I needed the structure. My middle child also used this program, because I couldn’t wrap my brain around schooling one at home and not the other. This year all three will be school-age and now, with my working outside of the home, as well as here at Home-Ec101.com something had to give. Thankfully, everyone seems ready for next week. My house quiet after having three marauding minions stampeding around for the last 5 years 9 years in all) is mind-blowing.

As I usually do around the time change, I’ve begun moving their bedtimes to a more respectable one 15 minutes at a time. (This seems to cut down on the whining and bickering after lights out).

So today, since I’m the n00b, I ask you:

What is your best back-to-school tip or idea?

Just for fun, I’ll randomly select and send a digital copy of Home-Ec101: Skills for Everyday Living to someone  who comments (with an actual suggestion, First and Lulz, do not count).

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Sunday Confessional with a Side of Site Admin

Heather says:

Let’s get the site adminstration stuff out of the way. Home-Ec101.com has been having some performance issues; my good friend Michael Carnell and I are working hard to make sure that we get it whipped into shape.

The comment system has been changed, IntenseDebate seems to have been a part of the problem, but certainly not the only cause. I have switched out to LiveFyre which seems to be lighter and faster. It also looks as though it has the ability to host a live chat, which intrigues me with the possibilities. Don’t worry, you’ll still have the ability to share via your Twitter or Facebook identities if that’s what floats your boat. If you just want to say hey and get on with your life that’s fine, too.

If you are used to using the categories in the sidebar to navigate, switch to the tag cloud. I’ve shuffled up the taxonomy of the site to help Google understand what Home-Ec101 is all about.

The forums have been closed temporarily, in case they are a part of the site issues. I’ll reopen them after I get back from Type-A Parent Conference.

Now, on to the confession part of the show.

I have two this week, one small and one that I’m not sure is exactly a confession, but it is something I’ve been struggling with for a long time.

The small one-

I got lazy about sharpening my knives AND I wasn’t paying attention to my chopping -there were a few extra neighbor kids bouncing in and out of my work area- I had a knife slip and took off a good chunk of the nail on my ring finger. It’s as attractive as it sounds. Knife skills are important, but attention and basic safety matter just as much.

Now the one I’m not sure is a confession and I hope doesn’t come across as a plea for attention. (See, there goes my neurotic side and I haven’t even managed to spit it out yet.) My oldest son has been diagnosed with a mild form of autism most commonly referred to as Asperger’s. For a long time, we didn’t want to put a label on him even though we knew that his mannerisms, while similar to our own, didn’t fit in with “normal.”

My son isn’t the type that shuns contact, he gloms onto it in a way that makes many people uncomfortable. He has no sense of personal space -which is ironic because my personal bubble is gargantuan. He’s incredibly articulate, his vocabulary rivals that of Anne Shirley. He lives in a world of his own creation, but he’s more than happy to tell you all the details, if you glance in his direction. It’s kind of cute when a 3 year old invites a perfect stranger over for dinner, it’s not so cute when he’s 7 and the size of your average 10 year old -he gets his height from Tim and I. He tends to  invite random adult strangers to spend the night and thankfully no one has taken him up on is offer. We’re dealing with the usual set of challenges with an atypical child with the added bonus of people assuming he’s much older.  We’re working with a psychologist to give him coping skills that neither limit who he is as an individual, but allow him to relate better to others.  Most of you know I’m very self-conscious, I won’t lie this stuff stresses me out like crazy.

So, it’s not exactly a confession, it’s just that I’m no longer going to keep that information private.

One of my goals is to be as honest as I can about life. There is joy to be found in the everyday, when we aren’t trying to make it fit some unrealistic ideal. I know people who took drastic measures when their version of reality didn’t match what they thought it should and this makes me look carefully at what I present to the world. I started this series to encourage people to admit that life isn’t magazine and tv perfect. Real life is messy, tiring, and wonderful at the same time. Sure you can’t really laugh at everything when it happens -like if you step in dog vomit before coffee- but the rest of us can. After the irritation wears off, it’s time to share and laugh at what we all go through in our day to day lives. On the internet it’s all too tempting to share the cropped and photo-shopped version of our lives (the one where all of my kids behave perfectly all the time), but that isn’t my reality. Is it yours?

So Home Eccers, I ask, what do you have to get off your chest?