A happy work in progress: Photo tour

April 10th, 2016

On our way from this…



…to this…



…a lot of life happened here!  Non hebes momento!

Any of you long-distance friends interested in seeing the second floor of our addition?  It could be several more months until it’s finished, but…since the Biblical meaning of the word “perfect” is “complete,” and I’m not a perfectionist anymore *wink, wink,* there’s really no good reason to wait until the rooms are completed to give a bloggy tour for your enjoyment.

I’m still going to hold out for completion of Josie’s room, so that those of you who have contributed can see the full effect of your gifts.

It’s a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

The photos of the children fit nicely into this theme, so I added them to the end of this blog post.



The room below used to be the master bedroom, and that doorway into the walk-in closet used to be a window.  As you cross that threshold, you’re stepping from the old house into the new one.

The room may have been itty-bitty for a master bedroom (we had to downsize from a queen to a full sized bed when we moved into it so we could close the door), but it makes a laundry room spacious enough to dispatch large quantities of laundry in short order.  All part of the master plan to place the Musser laundry back into its proper place at the periphery of our life.




The photo below shows the transformation of one side of this quirky little room into two changing rooms.   There are mirrors on the outside walls, and Joe plans to build in small bench seats below the wall hooks.  These changing rooms already see a lot of use; no more bottleneck when many people need to change clothes within a short period of time.


Having this dedicated work space, even unfinished, has already streamlined many laundry tasks.  All the laundry is stain treated, folded, and ironed in here now.

Every spare minute during the past month, I’ve gone through every stitch of clothing we own, sorting, selling, donating, organizing.  No time is lost in setting up and tearing down in order to use the space for something else.

The colors were chosen to be cheerful, clean, and brisk!  There’s one window for both rooms and it’s north-facing, so we added plenty of indoor lighting.



We’ve experienced all these benefits, and the laundry machines aren’t even set up yet!  They’re still in our basement waiting for the plumber to come finish his part of the job.

Once the new system is up and running, it will streamline the process further and also cut down considerably on the amount of ironing we generate.  As it is now, we’ve been paying a young woman to iron for us; each week she picks up the ironing we didn’t get to and takes it to her home.

Below, you can see where our two sets of stackable laundry machines will eventually sit.  This corner will be pretty well filled up to that duct work.  This was formerly our closet; there was a window in that left wall and a wall coming in from the right.

That blue spot on the ceiling is waiting for the electrician to come finish up his part of the project as well.




One of our goals for the space you’ll see next is to bring as much stored clothing down from the attic as possible.  Our attic attracts stink bugs and isn’t a great place to store clothing; it always has to be laundered and often ironed after spending time packed in bins up there.  The big seasonal clothing switch has become more and more time-consuming as our family has grown.  Additionally, now that there’s a furnace and large snakes of duct work in our attic, there’s much less storage space up there.

These two hanging racks now contain all the summer and winter hanging clothing for Jane, Katie, Verity, Joe and me.  Josie and Laura will eventually have generous shelving and hanging space in their closet downstairs, Daniel and Joshua are now using the upstairs hall closet, and the younger boys have a closet in their bedroom with sufficient space for their needs.




This is a view of the unfinished walk-in closet from one end looking into Jane and Verity’s bedroom.  It’s technically a hallway, but I couldn’t bear to see precious space go unused either for living or storage.  It was a new and enjoyable experience for me to be able to design the upstairs addition space to fit our furnishings and our household logistical needs.

You see here all the baskets we used for clothing storage in our old master bedroom.  The baskets are waiting for Joe to build floor to ceiling shelving in this space; it will cover all the area except where the hanging racks are.



Jane and Verity’s room is finished.  It’s a room of light, with three large windows illuminating the Granny Smith apple green Jane chose.



Again, we furnished this space almost entirely with refurbished re-used, thrifted and gifted items.  There’s a story behind almost every item.  We’ve had these swag curtains for years; most recently, they hung in our former master bedroom.  They just needed a good soaking in Oxy-clean.

Jane did all the furniture-painting for her room herself.



Jane loves the outdoors and is gifted at tenderly nurturing small growing things.  She hopes to eventually have plant boxes outside each of her windows.  I’m guessing that five years from now, there will be many more plants growing in her room.

She is growing into a lovely young lady who beautifully balances a soft heart with common sense.



She begged to share a room with Verity.  She also wanted Tommy’s beloved green pear and the green and aqua paper crane chain an English friend made and sent us after he died.

The bunk bed that Laura and Jane shared is now downstairs in Josie and Laura’s room, so we needed a bed for Jane.  Last summer, I saw this one in our neighbor’s driveway with a For Sale sign on it.  He wanted $10 for this solid cherry Ethan Allen twin bed frame.



Verity finally moved from a crib to a bed when she moved into her new room.  She took to her new space with firm affection.  Her bed was given to us by a friend who no longer needed it.



The view from Jane and Verity’s doorway; straight ahead you can see into our master bedroom.  We left both laundry room doorways without doors and put pocket doors into each end of the walk-in closet.

Bins on the left: Verity’s winter clothes on top and summer clothes on the bottom.  Bins on the right:  Ben’s winter clothes on top and summer clothes on the bottom.  They’re destined for baskets on lower shelves.



The master bedroom was designed to be a quiet, private, cozy, serene, restful haven for the parents of this brood.  After living downstairs in the middle of everything for several months, I will never forget how it felt to walk into this room and close the door.

Below you can view the wall to the immediate right as you enter the room.  This dresser holds all the baby supplies.  You can barely glimpse the doorway into the bathroom on the left.



I was mother to two who are no longer here.

A friend gave this figurine to me after Tommy died, and when I see it, I remember holding him.




Mama misses you, sweet Tom-Tom.  I am glad you are happy in heaven, but I’m so sad you aren’t here that it makes me cry.




Another friend gave me the little ceramic heart as a memento of the baby we lost twelve years ago.

Oh, my child, I don’t even know
If you are a girl or a boy.
Oh, my Lord, please, if you would,
Give a name you might enjoy.

It’s hard to let go just as soon as you know
You’ve been given a life.
Your mom and dad are hand in hand,
With your brother in my lap,
Praying, Father, take our child.

~Nathan Clark George, Oh My Child



I have taken up the habit of writing briefly in a journal each day as a way of keeping a finger on the pulse of my life–what’s coming in, what’s going out.  I have the same categories every day, and jot one- or two-word summaries about each one.  Slept, Ate, Smiled, Laughed, Hugged, Loved, Watched, Read, Listened, Thanked, Helped, Created, Conversed, Connected.

Note that I didn’t list “cleaning up messes,” or “organizing stuff.”  Those have to happen regardless, since (as I annoy my kids by reminding them occasionally) we are not Haiti.  But they have a way of swallowing up the more important.

This simple habit has helped me become more aware and more deliberate about the more important.



Didn’t you know?  Three-poster beds are all the rage now.

Actually, you might be able to spy the fourth post back in the space between the bed and desk, waiting for its turn on the list of things to do.

I placed the neutrals and the red in the room carefully so that the red can be easily and inexpensively switched out for another color at some point.



We hung blinds and sheers as well as these light-blocking curtain panels.  They help give this central command center an atmosphere in which we can think, study, reflect, pray, plan, write, talk, and sleep.

You can barely see the trunk in the foreground of the photos.  We purchased it for a low sum in the same auction at which we bought this house, Joe’s grandmother’s house.  Last fall, Daniel repaired the trunk and lined it with cedar wood for us; it now holds our bed linens.



Most of our date nights take place in our room; eventually I hope to find two small wing chairs for either side of this table my father refinished.  Joe’s desk will eventually be set up in front of that window where our clothing bins are sitting now.

It’s fitting that our family’s life flows forth from a place of rest.  Sunday’s gift to the rest of the week.  Jesus’ gift to the weary and heavy-laden.  We cannot work for Him if we do not first find our rest in Him.



I need to see this verse every single day.  Really, verses four to thirteen, but at the very least, this one verse.



I’m a true child of my father; I love everything that is old.  I love it all the more if it tells a rich tale to me.



I gave you a tour of Katie’s room here.

The photo below gives you a glimpse of the view from my side of the bed when both doors are open.  My next organizational task is to sort through the large bins of books we have stored in our attic.  The space between those two doorways was designed for the largest bookcase we own.  I can’t wait to choose which favorites will take up residence there.

My sister recently loaned me “Island of the World,” by Michael D. O’Brien.  It’s the first book I’ve ever read that made me want to read it again immediately upon finishing it.  It’s profoundly beautiful and moving and even paradigm-shifting in its vision of a good and loving God in light of horrific evil and suffering.  It’s obvious to me that God was holding this book back until just the right moment in my life.  I cannot recommend it highly enough to those who have suffered.



Here is the door leading from our upstairs bathroom (old house) into our master bedroom (new house).

What an enormous difference the new arrangements have made to all of us.  Perhaps you would understand how dramatically our logistics have improved had I been more candid about our previous challenges.





And now, as promised–children!

Reaching for the sky…or something…



I also value books for the civilizing effect they have on wild young males.  Ha.





Two lovely young ladies, just home from church.





Sleepy girl.



“Do you like your new bed in your new room, Verity?”




Josie’s worked up to four minutes of standing independently.  I have a feeling this is just the beginning!



Just another Saturday afternoon Josie-run!



I share my laptop with Verity these days.  Her neurodevelopmentalist recommended we enroll her in an individualized speech program called Gemiini.  We’re sold.  Katie can watch it with her when she’s home from school as well.



“Hey there, Kate!”



“Hi, sweet girl!  Are you reading a book?  Big girl!”



Double take~




How is it that I have been so blessed?  I love these two little people so very much.



















Josie selling handmade items as part of a school project.  She had practiced saying, “Hello, how may I help you?” Her teacher texted me this photo with the caption, “Josie working hard…she is doing a good job!!”  She was allowed to shop at the other tables; we were so touched that everything she brought home was for someone else.



Three littlest morsels~



I’m amazed when I’m out with Josie how many people openly stare at her without smiling.  I guess we’re so immersed in the world of special needs that we forget how different they still look to others.  So I explained a strategy to Josie and she nails it every time now.  When someone stares at you (my demonstration of a blank, gaping stare throws her into giggles), look straight into their eyes, give them a really big smile, and say, “Hi!”

She doesn’t need her wheelchair most of the time, and if we’re shopping, we’ve discovered that she doesn’t need her walker most of the time, either.  She’s getting good at navigating a cart and it provides her with the stability she needs.



Doodle, it’s time for Gemiini!






I’m not asking for mountains of riches,
no silver or gold,
don’t need fame or fancy things
I can’t take when I go.
I’m just asking for grace,
grace to carry on,
grace to take joy in my place at the table
and the rock that it’s standin’ on.

And even when I’m burnt down,
and even when what I got now is falling faster down beneath the cracks,
and I don’t know when
it’s coming back around,
even then I’ll be calling out louder,
loud enough to wake them up.

And I believe,
and I believe what I will hold,
hold will be enough,
will be enough.

So let’s take this slowly;
all I need is coming,
but it’s just beyond what I can see.

So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm,
just turn my head back to see,
to see how we got,
got this far,
and I’ll be alright.

~Take This Slowly,
The Gray Havens


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19 Responses to “A happy work in progress: Photo tour”

  1. Esther Paris says:

    The good, the pure, the cashmere. ESD and I often spoke of, paraphrased and alluded to the lovely verse on your wall. I’m grateful ESD gifted me with the friendship of YOU. Keep on livin’ & lovin’, precious friend. L❤ve from Rhode Island

  2. MamaV says:

    Oh, the colors! I love them all!!

  3. De Murphy says:

    So fun to watch you all grow. :)

  4. Rebekah D. says:

    I love love love your home! Beautiful! And the photos of the children! I just love reading your updates!

  5. Chloe says:

    I love your new addition and I am glad you have been able to make your home work better for you all logistically. May I ask, where did you get so many of those lined baskets that you have stacked up against the wall? They are adorable but unfortunately they are always expensive when I see them in stores!

  6. Jennie says:

    A fantastic update ~~~the photos are worth a thousand words. Josie is the personification of JOY~~all the time.

  7. Addie says:

    I love seeing the updates on your home and all of your kids! And Josie is gorgeous! Please keep us updated about the Gemiini program – we were thinking of starting it but not sure of the cost or how well it works, so would love to hear your experience with it!

  8. Susanna says:

    Chloe, we invested in the lined baskets in the spring of 2009 when we switched around who was in which bedroom. Joe and I took the smallest bedroom, the girls had the next biggest, and the boys moved into the biggest, with triple bunks and a toddler bunk bed. We had more wall space than floor space, so Joe built shelving. (Now we’re reusing the shelving he built then, in various rooms.) We waited and bought the lined baskets when Michael’s (or A.C. Moore?) had them marked down. In 2012, when we were expecting Benjamin, and Joe built more wall shelving for all his baby things, we couldn’t find the kind of baskets we’d bought a few years earlier, so we bought the collapsible canvas kind online for a very low price. They’re now in Katie’s room. :) Between the one dresser we use for a changing table (given to us by one of Joe’s customers years ago), the shelving Joe built, and under-bed bins, our old bedroom held the clothing of seven people, plus the good clothes for John Michael, Peter, and James.

  9. Missy says:

    I’m so glad you let us peek before it is all finished. It looks great! The master looks like a perfect retreat. I always like seeing the “little boys” and doodle and a squishy baby. Thanks!

  10. Sandi (bbcooker) says:

    Thanks for this update. :) I loved the tour.

    I like your idea of changing rooms. We could use that idea here.

  11. Jeannie says:

    Josie’s new haircut looks fantastic, especially with the headband. Glad to see y’all having a sunny season. :)

  12. Heather says:

    Beautiful, beautiful home – I love the colors! Your children are absolutely precious! I would love to hear more about the Geminii program in a future post – we’re thinking of trying it when our little one is a bit older.

  13. Deanna Rabe says:

    I’m smiling so big here! I love seeing it all come together and be so useful and beautiful and wonderful! It’s a blessing to have that new space. I can’t wait until you show Laura and Josie’s room!

    Josie is a bright light – cheery and determined. So glad she’s a Musser!

  14. Susanna says:

    Deanna, thank you for your consistently helpful and encouraging ways throughout this journey. You were one of the few who saw this coming before we did! I am so thankful to be able to call you friend!

  15. Love this update! What a blessing your new space is! Thank you for sharing! <3

  16. Hannah says:

    May the Lord give you strength! You are a great encouragement to me seeing all the children and especially Josie. I am amazed at her progress! Waiting for the day she walks! I always thought she could walk someday! Tell her that Hannah Jiejie (Chinese for sister) says hi and misses her! Some times I feel overwhelmed with my five little ones but seeing your blog just reminds me how much I need to trust God for help. Thanks for blogging !

  17. Rachel says:

    I wanted to pop in and say how beautiful a teenage daughter Josie is and how I love the picture of her with the headband (with the cart). She looks much older in that photo and the style is adorable.

  18. Anna T says:

    Hi Dear Susanna and Family!!

    I really enjoyed reading your update!! God brings you and your family to mind from time to time (different things remind me of you) and I pray for you!! I LOVE your list of things that you reflect on after the day. This spoke to my heart…to go after my dear husband and children’s hearts and not be so focused on the “to do” list. Our Lauren is 16 now and I’m certain you know that Jacob is 6! Time flies in a good way. Love the verse on your bedroom wall too, we have it in our bathroom. Also interested in Gemini, especially how do you know what level to start at (we’re not doing Neurodevelopmental program, but, Jacob is saying so much more now and expressing his thoughts, which I love!!)!! He was just diagnosed with celiac this week (officially). I’m glad I pressed the pediatrician for the blood test as he wasn’t having large symptoms (e.g. was not sick). This is not a surprise as John’s g-pa was diagnosed over 30+ years ago with celiac sprue, waaay before it was popular. God is always so very good to us as we travel this journey!! Please know that you are so loved!!

    Anna T

  19. Susanna says:

    Love you too, dear Anna! I set up a free phone consult with a Gemiini consultant. She’d read the summary I’d written re: where Verity currently is with speech. I felt it was helpful. There’s also a private FB group for Gemiini users, which I understand is very valuable but haven’t joined yet. Interestingly, the consultant began our conversation by telling me she was excited to see Verity’s name assigned to her, because she reads our blog. 8-0

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