Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Turn a Ten Bedroom House Into A Four Bedroom House

Renovations are well underway at the new old house. It's amazing to see it start to come together after playing around with it on paper and on the computer for so many weeks.

My friend Christy keeps pestering me for before and after photos, which don't exist because we are very much still in progress. (Also, because I don't have a wide angle lens and cannot figure out how to take interior shots.) But I figured I'd let you guys know what we're planning to do to turn this historic house into our big family dream house.

Here's what the layout of the house looked like when we bought it:

and, presumably, when it was built in 1920, for a family of THREE. (And their servants.) It had ten bedrooms if you count the chapel (which you can because it has a closet) and the sitting room.

We don't need ten bedrooms. We don't want ten bedrooms. We have four bedrooms now, and many nights we'll have one open, because the kids like to sleep in a big pile. Like puppies.

So, most of the bedrooms are getting repurposed.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Starting on the first floor, here's what we are planning . . .

The kitchen is getting completely redone because it wasn't functional:

Actually the one thing in the remodel plans that I was a little bummed about was having to get rid of the butler's pantry. It was really cool.

But the original kitchen was intended for servants only, and was really small. There just wasn't room for the appliances we wanted without absorbing the butler's pantry and creating one big space. But we saved all the original glass and hardware, and the new cabinets are going to be built to look just like the old ones, so part of it will live on.

We'll have a full-sized refrigerator-only and a full-size freezer-only, but not next to each other, because that just looked too massive. We're also going to have two dishwashers, because even running ours at least twice a day, we still end up having to hand-wash after dinner most nights.

For the floors in the kitchen and laundry/mudroom we're planning to put in linoleum. I'm really excited about it because it's a way to get a fun, funky, retro-looking floor, that's also a natural material. Seriously. It's made of linseed and jute. Who knew? Those guys need better PR.

The downstairs bedrooms are going to become . . .

1. The TV room. I didn't really want a separate "formal" living room. We don't have one now. But the four walls of the living room are taken up with: french doors, the dining room, french doors, and a big fireplace. So, there really wasn't room for a TV. The plan is to remove a wall of the first bedroom to open the room to the stairs and the bathroom, and put our comfy couch and the TV in there. I have some fancy uncomfortable couches picked out for the living room, but I still have to talk the husband into them.

2. The playroom. All the toys in one place only. I hope.

3. The schoolroom. It's got amazing built-ins, french doors to the side yard, a working fireplace, and a cool old light fixture. If I didn't already homeschool, I would start just so I could do it in this room.

4. The guest room. Mostly for my parents.

Upstairs we're doing even more work.

I love having a  W I D E  family, but with so many different ages in the house, we almost always have someone asleep. Between the toddlers and the teenager, we could almost hot rack them, their sleeping schedules are so different.

But I'm not the kind of person who wakes up sleeping babies. Pretty much ever. So if you didn't get your shoes out of there before the baby went to sleep, you're out of luck.

That shouldn't be a problem in the new house.

We are creating three master suites: one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for the grownups. The boys and the girls will each have a sleeping room with six beds and nothing else, a bathroom, and a dressing room with individual closets and a washer/dryer. The plan is: Clothes don't come out of that room unless they are on your person.

The original floorplan had walk-through bedrooms, which doesn't work for us. The bedroom at the top of the stairs is getting split into the girls' dressing room and a nursery.

The girls will sleep in the original master bedroom. And we've moved the girls' bathroom to make it ensuite, and to create a hallway to the boys' rooms.

The girls' bathroom will have a chandelier, at their request, a shower, and a tub big enough for three little kids and/or an accidental home birth. Because you just never know.

The original sitting room will be the boys' sleeping room. The old master bedroom closet is becoming the boys' dressing room.

A weird old storage room (formerly with cable!)

is becoming the boys' bathroom with toilet, urinal, three sinks, and a shower with a shower head at either end, so two boys can use it at once.

In the new master bedroom, we took OUT the hallway to make the bathroom ensuite, and we also removed the ceiling, because it just so happens to be underneath the peak of the roof.

The husband and I really did pick the smallest room upstairs, because we figured the kids' needed more room. But now I'm pretty sure this is going to be the coolest room in the house.

The last two rooms up there will be an office and the chapel. They are both also accessible by a stairway in the kitchen.

So . . . that's the plan.

I would give you more progress shots, but they pretty much all look like this:

I've been doing a lot of important home renovation research on Netflix. And, therefore, in addition to my OWN renovation update, I can provide you with the following helpful guide.

1. The Property Brothers:

Why are they so smug? Why do they delight so in dashing people's dreams with their "psych, you can't have it" first home? Does no one who comes on the show WATCH the show? Really? WHY do they all fall for it?

2. Dear Genevieve:

Creates cool, functional spaces. Also creates language. Won't stop talking about things like the "verticality" of items, and whether particular throw pillows can be "friends" with one another.

3. Flip or Flop:

Always flip. Never flop. So awkward it makes me think I would never want to be on a reality show. Seriously just ALL the awkward talking to the camera and obviously fake phone calls and even faker drama. Every single episode (of the five I watched): 1. We're going to try to buy this house. Hey we bought it! 2. Oh, NO. Everything is a disaster. This is a big problem. We are sure to be ruined. 3. Never mind, we made forty THOUSAND dollars.

4. The Vanilla Ice Project:


5. Fixer-Upper:

Love this show. Love them. Love their kids. Love the houses. Love Waco. Makes me want to have a reality show so we could be HALF as cute as they are. No smugness, no fake drama, no weirding of language. Just what appears to be a very genuine talent and love of homes and the people who live in them. And shiplap.

And I have shiplap!

I need Jo to come and help me know where I'm supposed to put old wooden gates up on my walls. How am I supposed to know?!

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.

Okay, that's all for now.

I've been maxed out with home decisions and supervisions, and all that Netflix-watching, and I still have some other projects on my to do list. Fortunately, baby Mary Jane just sleep-trained like a little champ, so I am looking forward to being able to accomplish things with both hands AND bending, which should be nice. But I'll be around. ;o)

See ya in the comments.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Women's Work: Do I Ever Feel Guilty About Not "Using" My College Education?

 Mailbag time!

The Question:

Hi Mrs. Tierney,

My name is Sanasi and I am a 21 year old university student. I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for more Catholic blogs to read in my free time and it's kind of weird, but I feel like I see so much of myself in what you write about. Someday in the hazy future, I'd like to be a Catholic mom and it's exciting to see what a wonderful blessing that can be.

I read your post about deciding to become a stay at home mom and I was wondering if I could ask you a question about that? Do you ever feel guilty for having gained a college education and then not "using" it? I'm in my fourth year of undergrad right now and plan to continue on to medical school or law school most likely. I love the idea of being a stay at home mom in the future, but I feel guilty just thinking of having spent all this money on post-secondary education and then not getting a career afterwards.

I know that's kind of a strange question and I'm not sure if you have time to respond to this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes,


The Answer:

Dear Sanasi,

I think this is a really important question to think about. And I'm not sure that young women are thinking about it enough.

Just after we were married, we lived at Stanford while my husband went to business school. I was lucky enough to get to know some of his classmates, and to interact with some of the undergrads, including my own sister, who had graduated from Stanford the year before we arrived, and was working on campus.

There was a lot of concern among the young women I met as to how they were going to balance it all. Most hoped to have a family some day, but all were also bright and determined and had professional aspirations.

We are trying to figure out how to balance all of this in a way that no one has really had to do before. For generations, "work" was mostly done in and around the home, by both men AND women. A woman's work could be done alongside her mothering. Whether you were a laundress, or a shepherdess, or a queen, whatever you were doing, you just did it with your kids around, at least to some extent. Then, after the industrial revolution, work slowly shifted to something done away from the home, and away from children.

For a fascinating in-depth analysis, check out this post by Daniel Bearman Stewart: Buttons, lard, and Old Norse: The Invention and Abandonment of Home Economics

Since you could no longer care for your children and "work" at the same time, families divided responsibilities: fathers worked, mothers stayed home with the kids. A shortage of laborers in an industrialized society during the World Wars meant women were encouraged to join the workforce. Then, eventually, the pill allowed women to avoid pregnancy even when their husbands weren't away at war, and they could join the outside-the-home workforce full time. Finally we were liberated! Right?

ummm . . . thanks?

But now, women of my and younger generations seem to be looking at this question honestly for perhaps the first time. What if we don't want to make the personal sacrifices necessary to pursue a career INSTEAD of having a family? What if we want children but also aren't content to neglect our other gifts and talents? What if, like you, we are trying to decide what to do with the whole rest of our lives at twenty, before we even know for sure that we have a vocation to marriage and motherhood? WHAT THEN?!

I got my degree (two actually) from a private university, then went to flight school after that to train as a pilot. About a year later, I began working as a flight instructor to build flight hours. About a year after that, I met my husband and in very quick succession I got engaged, married, and pregnant. I kept working until right before my due date, but then shortly after my son was born, I decided I wanted to stay home with him, and I've been home for thirteen years and seven more kids.

So, was my education and post graduate training a waste of time and money?

No, and yes.

No, because education is a good thing. My mind and my horizons were broadened by my university education and my vocational training. Even though I never made it to the airline career I had planned, I couldn't have known that when I started. If I were still a single woman, I think being an airline pilot would have been a good career for me.

And I could never regret my education. My studies in English and Comparative Literature for my degrees have probably been instrumental in my late-onset writing career. If only my professors could see all the cutting edge stuff I'm doing in the literary genres of "zombie homesteading" and "netflix sponsored post."

But, really, an educated society benefits everyone in it. I use the research and study skills I learned in college every day in my role as a mother. Especially as a homeschooling mom, (but all parents do this, I'm sure) I have the opportunity to share the subjects about which I am passionate (like grammar) with my children. The more I cared about my own education, the more I have to share with them.

Our homeschool group is full of moms who use their particular knowledge and skills to help our community. Traditional schools are the same. And there are tons of volunteer organizations who would love to have the part-time expertise of a newly-retired young mother.

On the other hand, looking back, I think I could have been more discerning in my career choice. I will encourage my own children to consider eventual marriage and parenthood when they are making education and career choices. Which, of course, my own parents did try with me. My dad always encouraged me to be a writer, it just seemed like too scary a thing to try to do at the time. It wasn't until I was settled into my vocation of marriage and motherhood that I finally realized that he was right all along.

If I had felt confident that I would be a wife and a mother, I should have studied something that I could pursue alongside my primary vocation. And airline pilot really isn't that. But, in my case, I didn't know. I really couldn't imagine being married to anyone until I met my husband.

Basically, my advice to you and other women like you, is . . .

1. study something you love, something that will be a part of your life whether or not you're getting paid for it
2. keep your options open as much as possible, and
3. realize that no decision, no matter the cost involved, is forever.

A wise woman knows when to call a sunk cost sunk and just move on to the next thing. That's allowed.

Edited to add:

THE most important aspect of keeping your options open is to avoid debt as much as possible. The comments below are full of cautionary tales and success stories about this part of the puzzle.

My parents and scholarships paid for all of my educational and vocational training, so I had no debt when I got married. My husband went to college on an ROTC scholarship, but did incur debt to go to business school. We are still paying it off, just a tiny bit at a time, but that was a good decision for us.

My lack of debt is what allowed me the freedom to decide to stop working after my son was born. I've read the advice (Kimberley Hahn, I think?) that after marriage, a couple should put all of the wife's salary into savings and live off of the husband's so that they will always be in the position to allow her to stay home should she wish to. I think that's REALLY great advice. But it's unlikely to be possible if you are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of graduate school.

There are so many different ways to do this.

I know a handful of women who have had relatively large families while working outside the home and being the primary breadwinner for their families. It's a possibility. But I think the sacrifices and hardships involved in that plan are greater than most women would choose to take on. In fact, in all the cases I'm thinking about, the women ended up in that role because of a unique family situation. I'm not sure if any of them would have chosen it, if it hadn't been for their particular circumstances.

That means that, for most of us, the ideal blend of professional and personal fulfillment is going to look different than it will for men. We can say all we want about equality, but the reality is that parenthood is a physical, bodily endeavor for most women and it isn't for men. So, if you're picking a career now, and you hope to one day become a mother, maybe don't pick a career (like I did) that just is NOT going to work with pregnancy and breastfeeding and the general care and feeding of small humans.

Writing works great for me. My sister, after she had kids, was able to transition from a regular nine to five office job, into a part-time, work from home position. But neither of us is supporting our family with what we do. It's more personal fulfillment and some "nice to have" money.

If you feel like you'd want to keep working even after having kids, you need to talk to women in the fields you are interested in. What does family life look like for them? There must be disciplines within law or medicine that work better with a family.

Maybe you know you'd want to stay home full time with your kids, should you have them. That doesn't mean you don't keep up your studies now. You never know what God's plan for you might be. Maybe you'll cure cancer THEN get married and have a bunch of kids. Maybe you'll stop out of your career for a while, then resume it once your kids are older. Maybe, like I did, you'll just walk away and never look back and find out you were actually meant for something else entirely.

As long as your evaluations and choices are made honestly and prayerfully and often, you really can't go wrong.

Unless you're this lady. That's just scary.

Good luck!

You might also enjoy . . .

A Vocation to Motherhood

The Country Bunny and Seasons of Mothering

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.
p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.


Monday, January 4, 2016

State of the Blog Address

I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas!

School starts up again around here today, for better and worse. I do like a break, but . . .

Especially this year. This holiday season has been an absolute blur of new house stuff.

There was some back and forth as to whether we would be able to remodel the house, henceforth to be known as Gramblewood,* before we moved in. I assured the husband that I loved it so much that I would have lived in it without a kitchen. Or electricity. Or plumbing. But I think he knew better.

Anyway, it was weeks of back and forth of figuring and planning and first we were just going to do a couple things, then all of a sudden we were going to do pretty much everything it needs, right this very second.

Which meant finalizing designs and supervising demolition and spending entire days in flooring and tile and furniture and appliance and fixtures stores making ALL the decisions for the rest of my life. But no pressure.

I think most of the big plans and decisions are done (and on pinterest) and I'm still enjoying the process and am really REALLY excited to see how it all comes together.

We also had a lovely Christmas and a lovely visit with my sister and her family and went to the parade and shot each other with silly string and ate all the treats and watched all the shows and had all the fun.

Let's pause for a quick holiday photo dump.


New Year's meant silly string and writing in the air with glowsticks and Mass and parade and football:

All that, and none of it got blogged, (gasp) and that was okay. Necessary even, for now.

January 2nd marked the beginning of the fourth year of this blog. I love it. Really, I do. I love all the parts of it: the writing, the photography, the graphic design, the Facebooking, the Instagramming, the comments, and emails, and community.

But because I like it all so much, I do it to the exclusion of other hobbies and projects. Even when I get way out ahead on writing posts, like I did before Mary Jane was born, comments and emails and social media manage to fill my free time.

I have many non-blog writing projects in various stages of completion that have been floating about for months and years, plus projects for the house that I really want to be able to do with my own two hands (assuming Mary Jane will relinquish her claim on them sometime in the near future).

Like refinishing this actual Victorian copper clawfoot bathtub, stamped 1891!

The original ad!

And that means I will have to be here less, for a while anyway. I plan to still post regularly, just less frequently. I plan to still be available via email and on social media, but maybe not as much as I have been. 

I have a few commitments for sponsored posts that you'll see, and I'm not going to be able to resist blogging the remodel every now and again, and I WILL catch up on my emails if it's the last thing I do. And you'll see some of those here. 

So, here's to new opportunities and getting out of my comfort zone in 2016, but with every intention of ending up right back here spending way too much time blogging sometime in the not too distant future.

Happy New Year and Merry (still) Christmas!

*when Jack was a little guy and he was having trouble with something, he would complain that it had gotten "grambled up." Somehow, the husband and I turned that into the name of our fictional dream home: Gramblewood. As in, "That renaissance masterpiece would be lovely over the mantle at Gramblewood." It was always just an inside joke, but when our friends universally demanded that this crazy house have a name, we realized that this is it: our dream home. Our Gramblewood. Let's hope we don't gramble it up TOO badly.