Cheerful chat about this and that

June 17th, 2016

Ever since my girlhood, very small houses have fascinated me.  I used to try my hand at designing them, sketching out plans just for fun.  I always said that if I never married, I’d live in a tiny house.

Now there’s a small but growing movement of tiny house living.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?

It recently occurred to me that I’m living out my dream!  I did the math.

Our home used to be 1300 square feet shared by fifteen people.  That’s equivalent to an average American family of four living in 350 square feet.  You can see a 350 square foot tiny house HERE.  Now our home is 2300 square feet shared by fifteen people.  That’s equivalent to an average American family of four living in just over 600 square feet.  You can see a 600 square foot tiny house HERE.

So there ya go.  Tiny house living for a super-sized family.  I’m pretty sure many of my large-family friends are doing something similar.  No wonder we have to be so organized!


Plenty of outdoor breathing room is a gift we don’t take for granted~



One of my brothers was our builder; he spent countless hours on this project without charging us for his own time, at great cost to himself.  I tell him, “We love this house all day every day.  We’ll never be able to repay you for all you have done for us.”

He recently texted to let me know he has our final bill ready for us, “No pressure.  Just don’t stress about it.  God will provide.”  I replied, “Can you send it home with Laura?  We’ll lay it out before the Lord and pray over it!  God knows all about it, and yes, He will provide.”

The masonry guys who were unable to build the retaining wall for us sent us a large check toward the expense of having someone else do the job.  We are sure this loving act was also done at great personal sacrifice and we were so surprised, touched, and grateful!  Thank you for doing this, M family!  (Anyone in our general area able to recommend a good stonemason??)

Joe and I are actively talking over potential dates for a big thank you open house for all who helped in any way to make this addition happen!  We’ll let you know in plenty of time, as we would love to see everyone who can possibly get here for that!  We want to show it to you and thank you in person!





This is what our back porch looked like for several months, while we were waiting for siding.  Then every day last week, Monday through Friday, we targeted a different area of the property that had gotten messy during construction; this space was cleared of everything that wasn’t necessary for the siding job.  On Saturday, Joe, Daniel, and three friends put most of the siding up, then thoughtfully moved everything off this porch and stacked it neatly out in back of the addition.

Joe and Daniel put a half day in on the siding earlier this week, and are finishing the job and removing the scaffolding today.  Of course, the younger boys are as close to the action as they can get, and are able to be helpful at times.  Today our propane tank is being buried, also.




These items were waiting in the wings, and quickly set up on Saturday night.  We already had everything but the table, so I’d researched and chosen this one at half price.  Although it was the cheapest patio table I could find, the reviews seemed decent, so we hope it holds up well for us.




This is the first time in twenty-three years of marriage that we’ve had outdoor space for something like this, and it is in nearly continuous use now, very often by Josie, as it is on level ground right outside the door of her room.  Its location suits older folks and those with mobility issues to be able to hang out where other people want to be.  Plus, it faces the southeast, so it’s in full shade all afternoon and evening.  Perfect.

Saturday night after dark, when Peter and I were finished setting it up and lighting the tea candles in the little lanterns, we sat down to soak it all in by candlelight. After a few minutes of shared silence, Peter sighed happily and said, “I wish this night would never end.”

The next afternoon and evening, this space wasn’t empty for even one minute, as we had invited our whole church family here.  We love having people over, but hadn’t been able to manage it over the past several years.

I left my camera in my desk on Sunday, for reasons of my own, but it was a fabulous day, gorgeous weather, full of so many people we love, in and out of the house, filling the front porch, the back porch, the front yard with swings, small pool, sandbox, airplane teeter-totter, and picnic table, the large yard Joe’s aunt and uncle generously share with us for ultimate frisbee–even the sidewalk and the huge dirt hill behind our house–with conversation and friendship and laughter.  Near the end of the day, which lasted until nearly eleven pm, Daniel observed, “This just feels right.”




Verity is sitting on my lap as I type this, and she’s delighted to see herself on the screen doing her favorite chore!  She needs to be talked through it and frequently redirected, but she is quite capable when she is focusing.




This baby is all sweetness and happiness.




Since we didn’t know whether he was a boy or girl before he was born, I’m still getting used to his name and often call him, “Baby.”




He holds the family record for being the most contented baby.  He is so easy to love and so enjoyed by everyone around him.  Isn’t it something how I was so sure we would never have any more children of any kind, from anywhere, ever again, and now we can hardly imagine our family without Josie and Nathaniel?




Second trip to get her hair shaped as it grows out~




We would have gone in a few weeks earlier, but our stylist was visiting her home country of El Salvador for a month.  She’s been my stylist since the twins were babies.




A drop or so of hair oil every day keeps Josie’s hair nicely tamed.  It’s looking good, isn’t it?




Jane was also eager for this trip.




She donated twelve inches of thick, healthy hair.




And still has plenty left.  She reports that her head feels so much lighter and better now.  She’s very happy with her decision.




Josie took a turn with the camera while I had my haircut; she absolutely loves taking pictures, and her skills have improved over the past six months.  Sorry if you would rather not have seen this shot, haha!




We’ve recently reinstated one Mom’s night off each week and added one whole Mom’s afternoon and evening off each month.  I’m reading voraciously again, reconnecting with friends, walking three to four times each week (only when Laura is home), and taking time for fun, creative activities even if it means more practical tasks have to wait.  I’m getting about six hours of sleep a night right now.  Joe makes me a full hot breakfast each morning before leaving for work, and I’m maintaining a healthy weight (I’ve let it go way too low during busy times in the past).  I’m learning to know and respect my limitations in this caregiver lifestyle God has chosen for me, to relinquish the desire to do everything and to do it perfectly, and to ask for and accept help when I need it.

These are some of the steps we’ve taken toward helping me live without stress, set healthy boundaries and maintain healthy physical and emotional habits.


The best answer to that question has been stated clearly and concisely by a man named Peter Rosenberger in his book titled, “Hope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit,” with the forward written by Ken Tada, husband of Joni Eareckson Tada.

One reviewer stated, “Written by one who has ‘been there and done that,’ Peter offers caregivers practical advice for everyday living.  This book is an important resource for caregivers–and for those who care for the caregivers.”

I have six copies of this book to give away to the first six people who email me to ask for a copy and include their full name and street address.  Please read it and loan it to others who also need to read it.  UPDATE:  ALL COPIES HAVE NOW BEEN PROMISED.  Wish I had more to give away!  Love you, friends!


IMG_8055 - Copy



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10 Responses to “Cheerful chat about this and that”

  1. Carol Bidewell says:

    I am so happy for you and your family and the way in which the Lord has blessed you and provided for all of you over the past several years. Keep trusting Him!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    That’s my goal to have a tiny house on a big piece of property! My son loves working on engines and it annoys the neighbors in our townhome community. He is on the spectrum and it calms him down to hear the sound and vibration of engines-and he’s a mechanical genius. So, i am frantically looking for a little place for us with enough property around us.

  3. Becky J says:

    I am always blessed by your updates and the love your family exemplifies- God’s continued blessings on you all!

  4. Tami says:

    So happy you are doing well, Susannah – and also that you are able to take care of yourself as well. It’s so important and yet hard to learn to do until you begin to see consequences. I wish all the best for you!!! Beautiful pictures of your girls! And sweet sweet baby. 😀 (I always loved to call my babies Baby; still catch myself sometimes with my baby – who’s 4! Terrible I know! 😀

  5. Jeunesse Nageotte says:

    Hello😊I think I would like a copy of this book…so sweet of you…we are in a 4-6 week inpatient feeding program right now and right before coming realized I just cannot keep up with the caregiving pace I’ve been trying to maintain. I know the Lord is showing me this, but what to do when we go back home?

  6. Susanna says:

    Hello Jeunesse! I am emailing the lady who gave me the copies to pass along to others to ask about the possibility of giving more away, since we are connected with so many people who are in caregiving roles. I know she had lots more in her box, and they’re not doing anyone any good in there. :) And Joe and I are glad to pay the postage for this purpose. I’ll let you know what she says, okay? I removed your street address from your comment, but I jotted it down for myself.

  7. Becky says:

    I was so sad to miss time with you on Sunday. I hope I get over this “whatever it is” soon. It hits at the worst of times.

    Love the table and chairs out of doors. It must be wonderful to have an additional space to the front porch…even though I really love that front porch as well.

  8. Susanna says:

    We missed you so much too, Becky! We love the front porch, too, especially for the little kids. We set it up for them because it has railings and a gate that latches. It holds their super spinner, sit and spin, rocking horse, and ball pit, as well as the porch swing. Even if we didn’t need it as a safe, easily accessible and easily supervised outdoor play space for the littlest family members, it’s not wide enough to accommodate a table and chairs. There’s also a step down to get out there. On Sunday, the men spent a long time on the front porch talking on kitchen chairs with their plates on their laps. The back porch was perfect for Josie and Jen, and it’s also perfect for me to use with Katie’s wheelchair and tray, which is now her feeding chair. It’s amazing how different everything looks when seen through the eyes of those with extra needs! :)

  9. Danielle M says:

    Thanks for the updates, it is wonderful to see how the house has come along, and the wonderful blessing of a shady, comfortable spot to enjoy the outdoors. We just put in a little patio outside also, although it is not very shady, but I am looking forward to getting some furniture for it.

    Anyway, I was encouraged to hear that you are doing things to help take care of your own physical and emotional health. This is something I very much struggle with. I feel that I am the caregiver, to the family, and at the same time I need to be cared for. After I felt well enough, I jumped back in full force to all the daily household cares and work, and it just ins’t going well. I am not sure how to manage caring well for my very real and sometimes rotten physical needs, as well as 9 children and all that entails. When I was going thru treatments I had lots of help, meals provided and so many other blessings, but now we are mostly on our own. I am not sure how to make it all work. But you encouraged me to keep trying.
    Thinking of you guys and praying that you have an awesome summer.
    Love, Danielle

  10. Susanna says:

    Danielle, it does feel like it would be so much less complicated to leave our own needs out of the balance. Problem is, it doesn’t work. It’s also not good for the people around us. For all our family’s needs to be met, I had to deliberately let go of a lot of peripheral ideals. I can remember when they used to be really important to me, but they just aren’t anymore. In many ways, we are a completely different family than we were half a dozen years ago. I guess it’s God re-defining our priorities, and I am so glad He is. I know you can say the same. ((((hugs))))

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