The new kitchen!

Now, you all know that I am *not* a blogger of design, houses, kitchens and Martha Stewart stuff.

I write about parenting, food, garden, homeschooling, gluten-free cooking, and my adventures while raising three children.

I also, freely and willingly, acknowledge that I am not a neat person. I'm not not an orderly person, and I don't believe in having a house that fits a magazine lifestyle.

 In fact, "wildy exuberant, with a generous helping of comfort, a dash of messy and a side of what-the-fuck" could sum up my decorating style.

But the kitchen is different. This is my home, where I cook, spend most of my day, and where I ply my skill. I cook for five people, three times a day, every day. That's 21 meals a week, times five servings. More than 100 servings a week need to come out of that kitchen, and that's not counting parties, birthday cakes, snacks, extra granola bars, muffins and the occasional cherry cobbler.

My kids can't have wheat, and they can't have dairy. That means we're not serving bagel bites and a side of Kraft mac and cheese for dinner, either. We're making real food, from scratch.

And that means that I want my tools close, I want the kitchen to be easy to clean, I need bowls, serving spoons and whisks to be close at hand, I want a baking station where I can churn out the GF goodies, and I need a place where I can spend a lot of time and actually enjoy it.

This is the kitchen when we moved in, on March 7:

There was nothing really wrong with it.

It was functional, sort of, and aside from being boring, it was better than some kitchens I've had before.

But we got a loan with the house that let us spend a small amount of money toward fixing up the house.

Not a fortune, and not enough to knock out walls and build whatever I wanted, but enough to get a new sink and a new floor and to paint. I'd have to keep the old fridge, and the old dishwasher, and the cabinets. But I could get new countertops.

The biggest problem with the kitchen was the layout. The lady who lives next door was born in this house, and her mother designed the kitchen, in 1952.

She came by and said, "Oh, yeah, it's time for an update! Back when my mom designed it, it was OK to have the fridge way in one corner, and the sink in another, and the stove way over there. Of course, we had a half-wood, half-electric stove back then..."

Yeah. So the kitchen hadn't been updated since 1952, except for new, ugly floors.

So, almost two months later, the kitchen has arrived.

Our contractor, Jennifer, kicks ass. There's no other way to put it. She's feminine and fun and shows up in a Porsche with high heels and leather-print skirts, and then comes in, changes into a T-shirt and jeans, and guts the kitchen by hand. She hauls out cabinets, lays flooring, does detailed paint work and still manages to be nice to my kids when they walk across the work area trailing crumbs.

She has muscles you wouldn't believe, mad design skill, and she took a project witn NO budget (I swear -- this is a high-end makeover on an IKEA budget,) and she made it look like we spend thousands upon thousands of dollars.

If you need anyone to do anything, from painting a bedroom mural to putting in a new bathroom, she's your go-to: http://www.jenniferryandesign.com

So, here it is, in all of it's glory, finished and ready to go:

This is the island, made with butcherblock, with an induction cooktop. I like the induction very much. I don't like that none of the fabulous cookware I got for a wedding gift works with it. Right now I'm down to a Le Cruset Dutch Oven and a cast iron skillet. I love the farmhouse sink. I love the huge faucet. And I'm in love with the open shelving that lets me see everything I need.

My family who all live at least 500 miles away and will visit less than once a year, are freaked out by the open shelves and are very afraid that the shelves will be messy and that this will bother them.

It sure as hell won't bother me -- I'll be too busy admiring all of the good meals I've made.


This is the other side of the kitchen. The lamps above the table are called up-and-down lights, or pendant pulley lights, and they had them in a house my family stayed in during a trip Tuscany. My aunt bought a pair while we there and never used them, so she sent them to me. And now every time I sit down, I think of Tuscany, which can only improve the mood of the kitchen.

In the back is the baking section, with a marble countertop. Baking pans below, baking supplies above, oven right there under the counter -- everyone's getting cookies for Christmas!

I don't think I could be happier with it. A little paint, a new island, and a lot of work, and we have a kitchen that I love.


The apples in the garden of Eden

The apple trees are starting to blossom, and they're gorgeous!

I have so, so many stories to tell about the new house. I have a new kitchen, and the start of a garden, and some chickens, and just so much wonderful that's it's hard to remember where to begin.

So, I will start with a story.

This house was built in 1952. That's all I knew, going into it -- that it was built in 1952, that it used to be a dairy farm, and that there's a silo.

This is a wonderful house. It has four bedrooms, a great, funky basement, and a kitchen that has not been updated since 1952.

This is the "before" picture of the kitchen!

Much of it was renovated about 20 years ago, and it has a new roof, new carpet and paint, an unfinished basement that's huge and that has sliding glass doors that go outside.

The basement has cool stuff like a huge pantry/fruit room, which is a cold storage room with a freezer -- perfect for my paranoia about how having a huge supply of dried beans will prevent the end of the world as we know it,  and the entire room is lined with huge shelving units, which will make my goal of have a five-year supply of peanut butter from Costco much easier. 
And the room is about 20 feet by 15 feet, so bigger than most bedrooms. Perfect for storing anything from five years worth of food to Christmas stuff to whatever.
So, the house is gorgeous, there's nothing wrong with it, and we got extra money in our loan to renovate whatever we want in the house.
We decided to update the kitchen. There's nothing really structurally wrong with the kitchen -- except that the fridge was in one corner, the sink was in one corner, the stove was in a third corner, and there was a kitchen table right in the middle, and you had to walk around the table to get to any of them. Plus, the stove was in a very weird place, right by the hallway to the kid's rooms. So if you're at the stove cooking, you've got kids and dogs and everyone going right behind you all the time.
So we're ripping out the floor and the florescent lights, putting in can lights and a pretty new floor, taking out all of the upper cabinets and putting in open shelves (my family is all having a heart attack at how messy it will be, while I can't wait to have everything I need right in front of me with no stupid doors in my way,) and we're putting an island in the middle with the stovetop on it. Oh, and new butcherblock countertops, too.
So, here's the other part: The rest of the property.
The barn, and the silo, and the kids and the dog.
It used to be a dairy farm, and there are still nine acres attached to it. There's a carriage house behind the house that has a small room downstairs, an attached garage, and then two bedrooms upstairs. There's a huge barn, with a silo, and then there's woodworking shop in another barn-like building, and a small shed where they kept the milk, and then down the hill, there's HUGE chicken coop -- we're talking 125 feet long by 20 feet wide.
So, the owners put a new tin roof on the barn and the woodworking shop, and haven't done anything with the rest of the property. For whatever reason, they just let ivy and blackberries grow all over it. The guest house, which is a very cute, solid building, two stories with glass windows -- not a shed or anything -- had four feet of ivy over the roof and sides of the building.
That's Mark, on the guest house roof, struggling to take the ivy off.

And behind it, the blackberries were 20 feet tall in places, and there was no way to get down to the chicken coop at all, except to go through the blackberries.
So, here's the story:
The first day we got the property, two weeks ago, I hired a guy with a tractor to come out and take out the blackberries. He spent eight hours getting rid of them and hauled them into a huge burn pile, and right in the middle of the blackberries was another building! We didn't even know it was there! Seriously, the building is ten feet tall, ten feet long and has a door and glass windows, and it was so covered by the blackberries that we hadn't been able to see it!
The first peek into the egg house.

That night, the lady next door started walking up and down her driveway, craning her neck to see everything and checking out where the blackberries had been. So I hollered hello and went out to see her, and started talking. She was older, gray haired and thin and tall, and obviously interested in what we were doing, so I introduced myself.
She said, "Well, I'm Rachel, and I'm sure you've heard, I was born in your house. Well, when it was still a log cabin, of course." 
What? Seriously?
Turns out, she was one of the daughters of the original farmers who built the house. There were five children, and she was the youngest, and she was born in the log cabin there. When she was a teenager, in 1945, her brothers decided that her mother needed a bigger house, so they tore down the log cabin and built the carriage house as a place to live while they built the main house.
She pointed out everything  -- where the outhouse was, that the WPA had built in the 1930s, complete with two seats and wooden walls, and showed us how the chicken coop had worked, and that that the little building we'd uncovered was an egg house.
A peek into the outhouse. The door has to be dug out from under 40 years of dirt.

They'd had 2,000 chickens in the chicken coop, and the front of the building was to wash eggs, the back was a pump house, and the top was to keep bees for honey!
I was, of course, entranced by all of this. She'd had the master bedroom when she was a teenager, because that was before it was remodeled, and it was just a tiny attic bedroom, just for kids.
She was SO pleased that we'd torn up all the blackberry bushes, and she showed me where her mother had an old iron cookstove outside (it's still there, covered in ivy,) so she could can and jar things in the summer without it getting too hot. She was also excited that we were redoing the kitchen -- "Oh, I'm so glad -- you know, my mother designed that kitchen, but back in 1950, it was OK to have the refrigerator so far away from the sink -- it needs to be updated!"
She told us a little bit about the apple trees -- there are four of them, and apparently one's early, one's late, and two are in the middle, and one's good for applesauce, and one's good for keeping, and I'm supposed to keep this straight somehow.
The next morning she left a gift on the front porch -- a photograph of the house she took in the early '50s in black and white. I'm to hang it in my new living room, I think, when I'm finally finished painting.
I love this picture. The barn looks almost the same!

Then I met the neighbors on the other side. A very nice woman, who said she'd been friends with the people who had lived here before us.
This woman, Diane, started to tell us about the apple trees on the property. And then she said, "But watch out for Rachel! She thinks the trees are still hers! And last year, she asked if she could have a couple of apples, and she came and carted off bushels of them!"
Wow. That's a lot of drama for my first day here.
Then Diane said, "Oh, and the lady across the street -- that's my ex-sister-in-law. We don't speak."
So the following day, the lady across the street came over, and it turns out that she has the nicest kid ever and he's perfectly suited to play with Sander every day.
Except that Neighbor-across-the-street doesn't speak to Diane, and now Diane is miffed that neighbor-across-the-street comes over to fetch her son and say hello.
Can you say "The Real Farmwives of Washington State?"
And Neighbor-across-the-street said to me last night, "Oh, and watch out for Rachel -- she'll take all of your apples if you don't set some boundaries!"
So then Rachel came over to bring Sander some tadpoles from her pond, which I thought was awfully nice of her.
And she said, "Boy, those apple trees look great this year! I bet you'll have a great harvest -- I love those golden transparents in applesauce!"
I don't know which variety this one is...

So now I'm getting completely paranoid about people stealing apples in the future from trees that currently just have a blossom on them.
We're a month into living here, and our kitchen is almost finished. I have before-and-after pictures to do, and pictures of the chickens, and of the coop, and of the apple trees, and of the view from my bedroom window.
But for now, I'm happy that the drama in my life centers around apples, farm houses, and silliness.

The apple trees are Sander's favorite perch.


I have changed the names of all of my neighbors. Because they're already mad at each other, and this is a two-degrees-of-separation kind of place, and I don't want enemies this soon.


An open letter to the Boy Scouts of America

To the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America,

Why do you have to make this so hard for my family?

We want to be a Scouting family. My son, Sawyer, will be 13 in June, and the thing he's most proud of is that he's supposed to make Eagle Scout this summer. My husband is an Eagle Scout. So's his brother. My father-in-law was a troop leader who won some kind of award that was a big deal. I know this because I hear ALL THE TIME about the Silver Beaver award and how it was a BIG DEAL.

I knew, when I got married, that I'd have to be involved in Scouts. It was a done deal, like marrying into a Catholic family when you're agnostic, or marrying a Red Sox fan when you don't care about sports. They care about it. They love it. You love them, and you're along for the ride.

All I knew about Scouts was that it was quasi-military and that it made me vaguely uncomfortable. All that boy-to-man, God-and-country, uniform, straight-back, meetings and badges stuff was not a part of my world. Give me Girl Scouts and craft night over pitching a tent in the dark anytime. But my husband Mark talked about Scouts like men talk about college, football and their first girlfriend, all rolled into one. There's a camp in New Mexico called Philmont he never stops talking about. Mount Baldy, camping for days, dehydration. Sounds like hell, but he couldn't wait to have a boy so he could go to Philmont with him.

All of the best men I know were Eagle Scouts. It was a secret club. My uncle, who I adored growing up, is an Eagle Scout. When he met Mark for the first time, that was their connection -- both Eagle Scouts. It meant something -- perserverance, an ability to get things done, a way of seeing the world as an obstacle course that could be navigated through, if only one was prepared enough. I liked that. I wanted it for my kids.

Mark loves to talk about the Grand Canyon -- he hiked from one rim to the other. That means, yes, he walked down into the Grand Canyon, across it, and then back up. He almost fell off a cliff at one point, but another boy saved him. At one point, on a trip, I said I might stop by and take my two boys to see the Grand Canyon. "Not without me," Mark said. "I need to show them. That's MY Grand Canyon."

I couldn't wait for my kids to be a part of Scouts -- of something that makes my husband feel that good about his experiences, this many years later.  And now, with boys ages 8 and 12, we're really in the thick of Scouting. My husband wears a Boy Scout uniform to meetings, which I think is pretty hokey, but he's really proud of it. My older son, Sawyer, has learned more from Scouts than I could have possibly imagined. Mark has two weeks vacation a year, and took a week off last year to go to Scout camp with Sawyer last year in Colorado. They had an experience that I wish every boy could share with his father: Camping under the stars, long days of hiking and talking, and watching Sawyer learn every day.

Sander's still in Cub Scouts, and I have to admit that years into Scouting, I still can't understand the difference between a pack and a troop, a den and a council. But Sander loves it, too, and there's a race on to see who's going to hit Eagle Scout at a younger age -- Mark made it at 14. Sawyer's hoping for 13. Sander's planning on trying for a tie. My littlest one, a girl? She's named Scout.

But I'm afraid that I might have to just back out of the whole thing now, and it breaks my heart.

How, how, how can I justify to Sawyer that a Scout is "Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent," when every action that the Boy Scouts of America has taken lately has been shown to be deceitful, cowardly, unkind and untrustworthy?

Either you believe that gays are immoral people who don't belong in Scouting, or you don't. If that's truly what you believe, then fine. Don't let gay children into Scouts if you believe they're going to grow up to be warped, immoral human beings -- it would be cowardly of you to do so! But if that's the case, Scouting is no longer a place for us, and you have secured your place on the wrong side of history. The organization will shrink, wither away and die.

If you don't believe that being gay is a moral issue, then by all means, stop caving in to religious sects and let gays in to help lead! Actually, just let *people* in -- it really helps not to categorize people by what they do with their genitals in private at night, and instead to notice what they do during the day. 

Some of the best people I know are gay, and they're parents, too. And they're gay parents who were once Boy Scouts. And they would make amazing adult leaders. Better than you could possibly imagine. And some of the best people I know stay away from Scouting, because of the intolerance and bigotry. And I have defended you to them, and told them, "We're working for change from within."

But I can't do this anymore. A policy that is drawn to please as many members as possible is by design disingenuous and dishonest. You don't believe that gay kids are fine and gay adults are evil. That's not a real thing. So, apparently Scouts are NOT to be trusted. How could I trust an organization that could come up with this policy?

Show your courage, and change with the world, and accept everyone. Or, hell, show your courage and stand behind your belief that homosexuality is wrong in all forms. But this? "Sure, gay kids are fine. And then they turn 18 and an evil zombie bug attacks their brains and turns them evil and they can't sleep next to other kids. But they could when they were 17. Just not when they're 19."

I call bullshit. How is this kind? "Sure, kid! Be an Eagle Scout! Join us, and help represent everything good about Scouts! But since you're gay, when you get married and your kid hits Cub Scouts, we don't want you around anymore!"

How is this cheerful? I've got a pre-teen that cries because his gay friends think he's a bigot for still being in Scouts, and because most of my friends think I'm an idiot for not getting out before this. Cheery, all right.

Loyal? How the HELL is it loyal to tell kids you accept them for who they are, unless they're gay, in which case they're dumped at 18?

Reverent? I'm trying to love the sinner, Scouts of America, and hate your sins, but it's tough. How can I see past your arrogance? Your willingness to meld your beliefs into a Frankenstein policy in order to keep as many Scouts as you can, rather than standing up for what's right?

I want to be a Scouting family. Even though many of the people who are left in Scouts are bigots who believe you're better off without gays. Seriously -- a lot of really good people who would be great Scouts won't touch the organization. They're joining Campfire/Indian/Rainbow Warriors or whatever the "We include everyone, and we still go camping" groups are.

But I want to be a part of this. I want my sons to be Eagle Scouts, and I want it to stand for something besides bigotry and "Old-fashioned-conservative-white-Christian-America."

I want it to mean the Grand Canyon and starlit nights and campfires and tents and pushing yourself for one more mile to Mt. Baldy. I want it to mean good men. The kind who stand up against bullying, bigotry and hypocrisy. I want it to mean Truthful, Trustworthy, Loyal and Brave. 

I just want my kids to know how to go camping, without it hurting people we love just by the act of being a Boy Scout.

I don't want to break up with you. You've meant a lot to me.

I don't want to tell Sawyer that we can't as a family, do this anymore. He'll quit if we discuss this with him -- he wants Eagle Scout more than you'd believe, but he wants to grow up to be a good man even more. Don't create an environment that means Sawyer has to decide between being a good man and being a Boy Scout.

Get your act together, and live up to the Boy Scout Law. 




Well, we made it!

After a journey that involved escaped rats, a bout with pneumonia and lots of family drama, we made it to Bellingham the day before Thanksgiving.

We started out two days late, with two dogs, two cats, two rats, three kids and Mark and me riding up front. 

Mark drove with me and the kids as far as Los Angeles, stopping at the Grand Canyon, and then we traded out: My Aunt Nora, who thankfully had a lobotomy recently and had offered to help, got in, and Mark got out.

Then I dropped off a dog, lost a rat, had a fight with one of my sisters, developed pneumonia, got stuck in hellacious traffic in Portland, ask Aunt Nora to open the glove compartment, thereby found the rat, and rode the rest of the way with Aunt Nora in the car-top carrier.

You know the motto of the true alcoholic -- "I'll never drink again," they say, as they sit by the toilet, ashen-faced and shaky? I can't even say "I'll never move again," because we're in rented house. We have to do all of this all over again in June.

But you know what? That's a good thing. 
Because I like it here.

Bellingham is gorgeous. Until I came here, my two favorite places in terms of scenery and everyday beauty were Indian Lake, New York, and Tuscany, Italy.

Indian Lake would have been perfect, if it weren't so far away from oceans, Target, Costco and any place to have an actual job. Well, that and the fact that the weather gets to 20 degrees BELOW zero on a regular basis and everyone has a snowmobile as their second vehicle. 

Tuscany would be perfect, if it weren't so freaking Italian. I mean, really. There's no a Sonic drive-in for miles -- where's a girl going to go to get a 44-ounce Coke with crushed ice in a styrofoam cup? (OK, Tuscany is pretty near perfect. But I'm looking for a place in the US, at least for now.)

But you know what?

This place gives them a run for it.

Bellingham is nestled between the mountains on the east and the ocean on the west. It's about a 40-mile stretch of hilly land, surrounded by pine trees and forest.

There are mountains everywhere you look, unless you turn around, and then you've got an ocean view. You want snow and cold weather? Drive up to Mt. Baker. It's an hour away, with three feet of snow on any given winter day.

Want a big city? Vancouver's less than an hour away. Or how about Seattle? I went Christmas shopping there yesterday -- 80 miles away, all freeway, and you're in and out.

But the best thing about Bellingham, so far, is Bellingham itself. It's small enough that there is no traffic and the town is less than five miles from end to end. It's got 80,000 people, and it's a university town, which means there's good Thai food and sushi and beer and live bands.

And it's big enough that there's a Costco and a Target and a mall and a library system and a farmer's market.

Want good, local food? There's a store called the Food Co-op with great organic stuff and a gluten-free bakery. Oh, and there's a store called Public Market with great organic stuff and a gluten-free baked good section.

Oh, and there's a place called Fred Meyers which has a huge organic section.

Oh, and there's a Trader Joe's, too.

Oh, and a Farmer's Market every Wednesday and Saturday where everything's local and funky and in-season and everyone's welcoming.

And that doesn't count the actual gluten-free bakery in town, or the stores which all offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches, or the restaurants which all have a gluten-free menu.

Or the ice cream store which has five types of vegan ice cream, all served in "real" bowls, not disposable, because, why not? And of course, they only take cash.

Add in more good Mexican food than I would have thought possible this far north, a store that sells only socks, a bicycle parade where the kids lit up their bikes and wore superhero capes, and tomorrow, a glass-blowing class for my Cub Scout, and it's been a good couple of weeks so far.

The weather is dreary and cold, and it gets dark very early. But I don't really mind dreary and cold -- you can dress for it and go out in it, and it hasn't really rained very hard -- a little drizzle here and there.

I can live with that -- you can only take off so many layers in Texas before you're stripped to the skin. You can't get more naked than naked, and when you're in shorts and a T-shirt and flip-flops and you're still hot, you're screwed. Time to go inside. With the cold, you can dress for it. You can always add another layer and be ready for anything.

I might change my mind come February. Hell, I might change my mind next week. But another funny thing I've noticed is more redheads than I've ever seen. Perhaps it's not just vampires who live in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps this is where red-headed people who combust at the sight of the sun are supposed to live. 

We haven't quite been enfolded into the homeschooling community yet, but we're working on it.

We've gone to three park days and a game day, and the boys are in Scouts and in Cub Scouts.

I've met people I recognize, and people who are friendly-ish. I don't have anyone's phone number yet. I don't have anyone to call if there's an emergency.

If I were sick in bed for three weeks, I have no one to bring me soup. I've gone as far as to contemplate joining a church just for the potlucks and friendship.

But I think as we go along, the friends will come. There are a lot of people here who are like we are, whatever that is.

So far, we're settling right in.


Screw minimalism

We're deep, deep in the midst of a cross-country move to Bellingham, Washington, from Austin, Texas. You don't realize what a big place the United States is until you want to take everything you have, put it in a truck and drive it to a different coast on a different side of a continent.

We're at the point where we have to work backward: Mark has to be at his new job on a Monday. So we have to get to Washington by Sunday night at the latest. So we figure out how far we have to travel every day to get there.

2,342 miles. Across Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and finally to Washington, where we'll greet a new life, new friends, and new weather. If we can manage 600 miles a day, it's a four-day trip.

And to do this, we have to take our stuff with us. We're on box number 193, and still counting. Most of it is books, but there are at least 25 boxes from the playroom, lots from the craft room, some with Sawyer's things, some with Scout's, and way too much for Sander.

Everyone keeps saying, "Make sure you give a lot of stuff away! It's just clutter -- make sure you get rid of it!"

And with much of it, they're right. A Hanna Andersen catalog, Christmas 2007. More pieces of plastic crap toys than I ever wanted in my house. Remote controls to TVs we no longer have, pictures that I don't like any more, craft projects I'm never going to finish, games we don't play anymore, bowls I never use. 

Sure, I tossed a lot of it.

But you know what? I'm not going to feel guilty about having too much stuff anymore. Because I like our stuff, and we use it, and it makes us happy. Sander loves his collection of snakeskins and antlers and bones, shells, fur and rocks he's collected, and he has a name for every stuffed animal, and a backstory to go with it.

Sawyer likes the pictures he has in his room, and his books. He's proud of the Scouting awards on his walls, he loves the lamp that my aunt made for him when he was three, and he wouldn't give up the stuffed animals he loved when he was a toddler. 

The rest of it? It's all me. We have too many quilts, because I like them. Too many books, too many art supplies, too many craft things, too many board games.

I like having 30 board games in a closet, and a few science kits, and a paper mache kit, and stamps and ink, markers and glue, paper and scissors -- glitter and puzzles and costumes.

We have three kids in the house, and they go to school here. They learn here. We have a timeline on butcher paper on one wall in the playroom, and maps of the US and of the world, and it looks like a schoolroom, a bit, because it is. My nephew said today that we do "open-source" learning, and he's right.

So we have 3,000 books, organized in categories, and we have to move them. Everyone kept saying, "What are you getting rid of? Which books are you selling?"

You know what? Not any of them. We're taking them all. There will be a time, not too far from now, when Mark and I will live alone (well, Scout's only two, so we'll have her for a while... but the boys will be gone the next time I blink!)

And then, perhaps, I'll downsize.

As I was packing, I felt guilty because my children have so much, when other children have so little. But then I realized that this is not a zero-sum game: The fact that my children have  books does not deprive others of books. A rich learning environment is not a finite resource, like oil or oceans. In fact, it works in sort of the opposite way: The more we have, the more we can give back.

We have homeschooling co-ops here twice a week (or we did until the chaos of the move showed up!) and we're able to have 19 people here on Tuesdays, and offer them books, crayons, tables, a place to visit, a place to make friends, and a place to learn. On Thursdays, we put up a projector, show off Powerpoint presentations on the differences between Istanbul and Constantinople and have great discussions about what we've learned.

Could we do this with less stuff? Sure. I'm sure Plato didn't have markers or construction paper and he was apparently a great teacher. But I'm fairly certain he didn't have a toddler asking him to draw a sheep while he lectured.

So, my goal for the move is to embrace it. This is who we are: A traveling schoolhouse. It's a big production. We're not nimble, we're not light, we're not quick on our feet. We're a big, lumbering, slow, chaotic mess at the moment.

But it will, eventually, find us in our new home, surrounded by our stuff, with our family in the middle of it, living our lives in the way we've arranged them. In a happy jumble of books and games, quilts and pillows, pictures and hand-made art.

Why would I want to give any of that away?