Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Benefits to Basement Living

Nearly five months ago, my husband and I did something most people thought was crazy. We put the upstairs portion of our house for rent, and we moved our family of seven down to our basement. Now, I'll admit from the outside, this probably does seem like an insane idea, but the truth is, we had prayed for an answer as to how to pay off the debt we incurred through adopting our newest baby, and this was the solution that we felt inspired to try.

From the onset, I was determined to have a positive attitude. We found a great little family to rent the upstairs and signed a one-year contract with them. One year. I figured I could live through anything for one year. So, we sold half of what we owned, and the other half we strategically nestled somewhere in new living space. Truthfully, it felt great. I couldn't believe how much we had accumulated that we simply didn't need. We worked extremely hard all summer to get the house ready. Now came the hard part--actually living together in a more confined space. I totally expected us to go somewhat crazy; I expected to get depressed from the lack of sunshine; I expected more fighting from getting on each other's nerves; I expected it to be a tough year. What I didn't expect was to love it!

That's right. I know I sound even crazier now, but I truly love basement living. Here are a few reasons why:

1-If we have a week of cloudy, yucky weather, I really can't tell. I mean, we have good windows downstairs and they are even pretty high above the ground, but it's not the same as having big upstairs windows that let in the sunshine. Of a truth, I do miss the sun a little, but overall, it's nothing like I expected.

2-No solicitors!!!! None! Ever!! I love it!!! Major perk!!

3-Half a house to clean. I mean, seriously. Half the house work. It takes us, well . . . half the time to get the work done. Less work, more play. What can I say?

4-More family togetherness. Okay, so this is not always a positive thing. There are days we want to choke each other, but overall, I truly think we are growing closer as a family. For one thing, there's no place to hide. We are pretty much all together all the time. Because of this, we are learning patience, tolerance, unselfishness, and much, much more. I firmly believe we will look back on this experience one day and realize it was one of the best times in our lives.

5-Free educational "experiences." What do I mean? Well, one day we walked outside to find a baby frog on our front steps. Another day it was covered with worms. We woke up one morning to a strange sound and noticed a frog climbing up our window screen outside our bedroom. The frog could climb up to the top of the screen, but then he couldn't figure out how to jump to the ground to safety. My boys were all over this. They ran outside to try to help the frog; the only problem was they were both too scared to touch it. Another morning we woke up to find a mouse in the window well. A praying mantis made its way up and down the screen on our bedroom window for weeks as well. It was like a different Discovery channel episode every day, and it was right outside our windows. Can't have that experience living upstairs.

6-Better temperature control. Sounds crazy, I know, because I honestly thought we would freeze down here. But without vaulted ceilings, it's much easier to get the house warm or cool. Lower ceilings do have their advantage. Another is that my kids can't jump rope, play catch, or do other inappropriate indoor activities they used to do upstairs, even though I told them not to. It's not an issue down here because it's simply not possible.

7-I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but if I'm completely honest . . . another perk is that we have less overnight company. That's actually a very ironic statement coming from me because one reason I wanted to have a bigger home with a finished basement is so that our regular company would have a place to stay when they come. The truth is I love visitors, especially our families. But I have to admit it's been nice to have a small reprieve from constant company. Since we have no extra room, we seem to have no extra guests. I know the day will come when I will be ready for more room and more guests and I will welcome that day, but as for now, it's one tiny stress I'm enjoying living without.( I still love you, dear family and friends--honest I do! Please keep visiting.)

8-I guess what it all really boils down to is that life is more simple. Yes, that's it. In getting rid of stuff and space and a lot of extras I was living with, I now have more time with my family. I am happier than I think I've ever been. Life continues to be so good to me--to us. I'm learning we can be just as happy, just as grateful, just as fulfilled living in the basement as we ever were living in the entire house, and that's the best benefit of all!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spicing Up Dinner

In an effort to make mealtimes more meaningful, I decided to try something new. Truthfully, I am infamous for pulling little "tricks" out of nowhere to draw my children into something I feel is important, whether it's a system to encourage kindness, or a new incentive to make it to scripture reading, or whatever. Such was the case this time. A little light bulb popped into my head and I did what I usually do--I ran with it. Most of the time my ideas start out with interest and fervor, and then end up losing momentum in no time. Somehow, that doesn't seem to deter me from inventing more and more schemes to manage, encourage, and . . . okay, I'll just say it because it's probably somewhat true--coerce my children into adopting positive behavioral patterns and attitudes.

So, here's what I did. I told my children that although I didn't have questions printed out yet, I thought it would be fun at dinner time to take turns choosing a random question out of a jar and giving everyone an opportunity to answer it. Questions would range from silly and easy-to-answer, to more thought-provoking and intrinsic. All in all, we could find out fun facts about one another and maybe even learn more about what is deep inside each other's heads and hearts. Mostly, though, we would all stay at the dinner table for a while--together--rather than some of us getting up and down or engulfing our food in one bite and then disappearing.

Since I didn't have printed questions, I decided to simply pull some out of the air to ask my family. Diving right in, I started with a deep question. "What is one thing you have learned from the current prophet, President Monson, that has stuck with you?" Noticing immediately that my husband wasn't portraying the kind of excitement I hoped him to, I decided to draw him in by directing my question to him first. "Dan?"

It was immediately apparent he had only been half-listening, but he reviewed the question and then tried to come up with an answer. Nada. Not off to a good start. I moved on to one of my children. My 10-year-old came up with an amazing story I had heard years ago and forgotten about a boy who had had his prayer answered. Impressive. And then my 12-year-old came up with a good answer (although she wasn't entirely positive the counsel was from the current prophet). My six-year-old gave her usual "Sunday school" response--"Read your scriptures," and my five-year-old . . . well, he was losing interest in our game already.

To be safe, I decided to lighten things up. Next question: "How many kids do you want to have?" Again, I started with my husband. I knew this was sly trickery but I couldn't help myself. He gave me the deer-in-the-headlights look as if to say, Is this a trick question? Then, he wittingly pointed to each child and counted up to five as he did. "Five!" I smiled and moved on.

My older children both said, "four or maybe five," and then when I got to my six-year-old, she immediately and matter-of-factly answered, "two!" I was impressed that she was so certain, so I asked her why she wanted two children. That's when she said (in a voice as if to say, "duh!"), "Because I have two names picked out!" I love the way children think! Of course! You can't have more kids than the number of names you've picked out!

Lastly, my five-year-old son said, "I want to have 10 kids."

Ten? Wow! Again, I probed further. "Ten kids is a lot," I said. Then, thinking myself quite clever I asked, "What will you do if they are all naughty?"

"Have you teach them to be nice!" he answered. What a solution! That's when my oldest daughter looked at me and said, "Well, Mom, I guess you've got 10 more kids to raise!"

Feeling a little tired at this point, I decided to end with one more question: "What is one goal you have to improve yourself this new year?"

"Dan?" I asked, catching him off-guard once again.

This time he had a good answer. "Well, keep exercising, keep reading my scriptures . . . and study more of what the prophet says so I have an answer the next time you ask me!"

I chuckled right out loud. I wasn't sure how anyone else felt about our new family dinner tradition, but I had found it very enlightening! It turned out to be one of the most insightful dinner conversations I'd had in a long time.

So, if anyone is looking for a way to "spice up dinner," you could give this technique a try. Just a little warning--be prepared for anything. You never know what answers you might get!