Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why We're Remodeling

It's time.

We've been living in our house for nearly 14 years. It's time that it finally fit our family's needs.

The location is amazing, the neighborhood unbeatable. And we love the charm of our older home.

What we don't love is that there is no bathroom on our first floor. There's only one actual bathroom in the whole house. (There is a toilet and sink in our laundry room downstairs, but they don't count as a bathroom, according to the appraiser.)

Did I mention that in less than a month our first-born will be a teenager? She is already up to 45-minute shower/private time in the bathroom, God help us if she begins wearing make up.

We don't love the cramped kitchen, where the main traffic pattern through the house goes straight past the stove.

Oh, the stove. Did I mention that there is no countertop space next to it? If I need to take a lid off a pot to stir some spaghetti sauce I take the chance of whacking a family member in the face with it as I search for a flat surface to place it. You can often hear "hot pan coming through!" during dinner prep. And I can't open the oven door if someone has the fridge door open -- they collide.

It's time.

For years Wayne and I have sat on our patio in the summer, looking at the back of the house and dreaming. What if we expanded the kitchen? What if we expanded the bathroom upstairs? What if...what if?

And now, we find those "what ifs" becoming reality. We are in disbelief that we are actually doing this, even as I look out at a new crawl space and framing wood stacked neatly in our backyard, about to become our addition.

"Where am I supposed to poop?" thinks Beauty.
Best of all, we are incorporating parts of our history into our home. One wall of our kitchen will be adorned with wood from Wayne's grandfather's barn, the original homestead of the Horsman family. We hope to fill the walls in the dining room with photos of the Upper Peninsula, where I spent many a summer as a child.

We cannot wait until it's all complete. But, we get to live through the middle part. Marissa will have to bunk with Lindsey for about two months. We will be without a kitchen for about that amount of time. Hopefully it'll be grilling weather most of that time.

Somehow I think we'll survive as a family; we've got our eye on the prize.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Not the Real Mexico

The view from our balcony.
When our family took our trip to Mexico, we all were more than a bit nervous about traveling to another country. It's been years since Wayne and I had been to Mexico, and we all wondered about the language barrier.

As I expected, everyone working in the resort spoke English. We got to practice saying "gracias" and "por favor" a lot, but otherwise all transactions occurred in English. We didn't even have to change our money, we paid for any cash transactions with US dollars and tipped in dollars.  Can you imagine someone from Mexico coming to our country and trying to use pesos?

Early on in our stay Lindsey asked if Mexicans who vacation in the US can stay in places that only speak Spanish. I said, "If they vacation in an area that has a lot of Spanish-speaking people possibly, but for the most part they need to know English."

"But that's not fair!" she said., You are correct, it is not.

One day when went shopping in Playa del Carmen and had a taxi take us to "5th Avenue" (which is actually on 5th Ave), with blocks and blocks of vendors with tables out, stores and restaurants. The drive to leave our resort was a boulevard lined with lights, sculptures and palm trees. The driver then took a left and we were on a city street lined with half-tumbled down buildings and ramshackle lean-tos. A clothesline hung under a bridge held tiny t-shirts for boys and dresses for little girls. The heat was oppressive and there was no escaping it -- no pool to dip your toes into, no one to offer you a cool drink.

I felt like we had been living in Capitol City in the Hunger Games while District 13 was right outside our door.

Our luxurious bathroom.
Our family talked about it for some time after our shopping excursion. I would like to think that our visiting the country, going to a resort that employs local people and tipping generously throughout our trip helps. Yet the poverty we saw in a few blocks was no different from the poverty I saw in Honduras 15 years ago. Of the thousands of dollars we spent on our vacation -- airfare, the resort, food and shopping -- the majority of that money went to Melia, the company that owns the Paradisus line of resorts, and the airline. How much of that trickled down to the employees themselves? I can't imagine very much.

Our girls got a glimpse of how extravagantly Americans live compared to people in other countries. We talked a bit about the girl our family sponsors in the Philippines and how we can't help everyone living in poverty, but we can help one girl. And that has to count for something.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


The view when you enter the resort lobby of Paradisus La Esmeralda.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined we could ever do a family vacation to Mexico. We never took exotic vacations like that when I was a kid, and when Wayne was a kid -- well, they didn't take vacations.

The four of us had an absolutely fantastic time. The weather was balmy and sunny every day. The resort was absolutely incredible -- top-notch service everywhere we went, amazing restaurants, and delicious food. Our room was breath-taking and perfect for our family, with a swim-out into the pool right from our deck, perfect for our little fishy Marissa who always wanted to go to the pool. She could swim straight from our room while we sat on the deck, reading a book and having a cold one.
Marissa on the steps of our swim-out balcony. 
 But the best part of the vacation wasn't where we were (though that certainly helped), it was who we were with and what we did.

On one of our first nights there Marissa tried to cut a steak and managed to keep one little piece and lose the entire rest of the steak under the table. Lindsey laughed so hard that the rest of us were in giggles the rest of the night.

One morning Lindsey sneezed and the cough drop that used to be in her mouth skittered across the marble floor in the lobby of our hotel, to be heard stopping against a potted plant. Again, I don't know why all these things were so funny to us, but they were.

We all tried snorkeling for the first time. Lindsey and Wayne went parasailing. We lounged around the beach, the room, the pool, the lobby. We read, journaled, listened to music, giggled at Spongebob Squarepants in Spanish, and napped most every afternoon.


Writing a letter to Grandma Horsman.
We are already planning next year's vacation. The Paradisus was an incredible resort and we would go there again, but we're thinking about visiting the one in Costa Rica. Or Belize. After all, we've only got 5 more years until the oldest one graduates high school.


Enjoying one last view of the mangroves before heading home.