I'm Tonia and this is my family. There's Hubs, my wonderful partner; Bug, my darling daughter; and Boo, my charming son. We are the Collins clan. We are a homeschooling family who try our best to live out God's will for our lives every day. There are lots of stumbles along the way, but we love each other and this little life we're carving out for ourselves. Recently we found ourselves called to make some big changes in our lives so we're packing up the McMansion and moving out to a little farm in need of a lot of TLC. We have tons to learn and tons to do and we invite you to share the journey as we turn our not-so-new heap into a home.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

5 Reasons We're Making Our Kids Work Too

 Yesterday the Hubs worked without us because we went to visit with my sister-in-law and my two sweet nieces. They live about 8 hours away from us so visits to our area are not to be wasted. It was a lovely day off for the kids and I and a grueling day of work for the Hubs. I couldn't believe how much he was able to get done in one day! He finished ripping up the carpet, finished pulling out those ghastly baseboard heaters, and cleared out a ton of overgrowth outside. I'm not being sarcastic when I say he is my hero- for real, he is the best!

Today we were back at it and we made some great progress. The kids got some time at the pond while we did some measuring and planning, but then it was time to get to work and they were put on a job right alongside us.

In this kid-centric society of ours a lot of parents would view making our kids work as unfair and mean, but we disagree. Here's why:

1. We're homeschoolers.

Recently Kirk Cameron got the homeschool community all aflutter with his description of his family "Lifeschooling". We all loved it so much because it really resonates with us. Sure, we do Math, History, and Science, but we also do so much more. Our kids experience real life every. single. day. Some days we don't do formal school because life is literally running us over- and the kids see that reality. They aren't off somewhere believing that life as an adult is all peaches and cream because they see real life in action. Let's face it, it isn't always pretty.

The Heap provides us with a wealth of invaluable education for our kids. We've got science...electrical, plumbing, bugs, gardening. We've got history when we talk about how the house was built and how things have changed. We've got math when we measure and cut and install. You get the picture. Why would we let these precious opportunities pass them by? They'll thank us for this education some day. They will.

2.  Boy Bonding Time:
There is a strange, but true phenomena with menfolk- they talk best when working shoulder to shoulder. I know, it's weird, but there it is. I have never felt as connected with the Hubs as I do when we're working on a project together and now I'm experiencing the same thing with Boo. Tonight as we worked he chattered away.....we talked about perseverance- what it means and how a man of honor perseveres. We talked about how of all the people anywhere his daddy is my very favorite one and that's how it should be. We talked. If I try to have serious talks with this boy child of mine any other time he squirms away, but working.....he's all mine. It's a priceless thing.
3. Work is a Biblical Command:
Proverbs 31 tells of a woman who works in many different ways.  Proverbs 12:11 says, "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense." And 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, "..if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." It's pretty clear God expects us to work while we're here and a thing not learned as a child is very often a thing never learned- our kids are going to learn how to work now so that when they are adults they are prepared.


4. Ownership:
This is their home too. We want them to be proud of their home and we want them to care about their home. If they are working to help keep it clean or helping to renovate it they are much more likely to recognize when their actions could be destructive or cause a big mess. And when they don't, they get a valuable lesson in consequences  as they have to help clean up or repair the damage.
5. Reward of Job Well Done:
When we finished working tonight Bug said, "I feel like a huge weight is lifted now that I can see how nice the floors look." I asked her if she was proud of the work she had done and she was quick to reply, "Yes!" Both kids could see the pay off of their work and they were really pleased. So were we. They did a great job with great attitudes, which means we're doing a good job teaching them, I hope.
One more night of work and all the floors will be ready for re-finishing. We hope to have someone out there to do that this week since we have to move in next week. We would have preferred to wait to re-finish floors until the other renovations are done, but when you're moving into a tiny house with wood floors throughout you don't have many options for re-finishing while living there. It will need to be done before we move it if at all possible. Now that they've had all the staples and tack strips removed and been swept we can see how great they're going to look and we're really excited. The plumber was out today as well so we expect to have that all set this next week too, which means a working toilet and shower. Moving in is sounding a lot more desirable now!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bye Bye Icky Carpet!

It was an exciting night at the Heap. We finally got to that little chore of removing carpet, which was horrifically disgusting, but also exciting because we finally got to see what was under there.

First up, we got some high quality gloves. These things are pricey, but we will be using them plenty over the next few months or more. If you're gearing up to do some demo work be sure you have some gloves- look for leather, it'll hold up better. Don't send anyone else to pick them up for you either- a good fit is super important.

Just in case you've forgotten the horror, let me show you the before photos again. Ick! I wish I could describe how this stuff smells so you could really appreciate the awfulness, but I don't have adequate words. Just imagine wet dog with a bit of sweat and urine mixed in and you'll have an idea. Yeah, pretty gross.

After some grunting and groaning,  pulling and tugging we were rewarded with this site. Fantastically, the floors underneath are really beautiful and in good condition. Hooray! They will need refinished, of course, but they are going to be amazing. I am so, so excited.

While we were at it the Hubs decided to start removing another monstrosity currently residing in the Heap- the baseboard heaters. If anything can be more disgusting than the carpet, these are. 

Turns out they are also propane burning so we had to halt work and let the propane get out of all the lines before we did anything else. We were all pretty happy to have a reason to call it a night. Turns out ripping out carpet is hard work!



Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Revelations

I suppose the first rule of this whole process has to be: Expect Anything. There are just so many things that can go wrong and so many unknown variables there is just no way for us to anticipate everything.

We went out to the Heap tonight with the plan of measuring a few things and then tearing out the stinky, gross carpet. We only got one of those things done. Along the way we discovered some pretty cool things, some just plain weird things, and one whopping bummer.


We were pretty excited to find that we have both walnut trees and apple trees on the property. I have no idea how to care for either of these things, but that's what Google is for, right?

While the Hubs was measuring things I was just wandering around aimlessly....er, I mean staying helpfully out of the way....when I saw this guy for the first time. Yes, that would be a lovely little plaque of a child peeing. Nice, right? It is on the door frame of the bathroom door and I have NO idea how I missed it up until this point. Apparently, it is there to assist in locating the one and only bathroom in the place. Just in case you couldn't find it otherwise.


It is a sure bet that when the Hubs yells, "Hey baby, come check this out!" that I should be very worried. Tonight was no exception. While he was checking out things in the basement/cellar he came across a snake skin hanging from the wall. I have no idea how it came to be there and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. The kids booked it out of that basement in 2 seconds flat after he showed them this- some parts of country life might be a bit harder for us to embrace.

While the Hubs was measuring and inspecting he decided to turn on the water. We quickly discovered that there are significant plumbing problems that will have to be dealt with immediately. For one thing, the original metal plumbing is still there and it's hard to tell which parts are still working and what is not. The biggest problem, though, is the area by the hot water tank. There are numerous pipes here and a really weird set up that allows you to divert the running water from one pipe to another, but does not allow you to turn it off. So, if the water is turned on to the house the water here is pouring out- which it did for several minutes while we tried to figure out what to do. Not good. Not good at all. So, the water is off while we wait for a plumber to come check out the septic tank and the incredible mess that is our home plumbing.

So, armed with Rule number one we march bravely forward.... well, unless there is a snake skin in our way, then we just run in whichever direction is fastest.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Heap

Here they are- the pictures you all have been waiting to see! The Heap is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath farmhouse south of Paola, Kansas. It was originally built in the 1920's, but appears to have had two additions over the years. We don't know much about it because it was a foreclosure and the bank knows nothing about it, or so they said in the many, many papers they made us sign stating we understood that they know NOTHING about it. We will have to have different folks out to look things over and let us know what things are functioning properly and what things aren't.....like the septic tank, for instance, but that is a different post completely.

The "front" of the house leaves a bit to be desired. I'm not sure what I'm going to do to "hide" the electric meter hanging right next to the front door....guess I'll have to get creative. Here we hope to add a wrap around porch and some flower beds.

When you walk in the front door you enter a large room that will be our living and dining areas. We're rockin' some beautiful orange carpet right now, but that will soon be gone. Underneath we've seen glimpses of hard wood....we're hoping it's all in good condition and can be refinished. The house does have central heat, but not air currently-only a window unit and an attic fan. I am of the opinion that this situation is priority #2, right after the septic tank- the Hubs is a little less concerned. Luckily, I sorta have the Hubs wrapped around my little finger so I expect we'll be having an air conditioning unit installed pretty shortly.

There are two bedrooms currently. The kids have chosen the first one as their bedroom (that'd be the one with the "pretty" brown and orange carpet) and the second one will house the Hubs and I for awhile. Once we get the third bedroom done we'll move there and bedroom number two will become our schoolroom/office. That's right folks, the kids are sharing a bedroom....permanently. Don't fret, I intend to make them an option for some privacy, but gone are the days of locking each other out of their bedroom......should be an interesting transition we're gearing up for.

There's only one bathroom, but it's a good size, with lots of storage space. It will be an adjustment for us to share one bathroom, for sure, but I'm confident we can do it. Bug took one look at the shower/tub today and said, "We ARE replacing that, right?" Yep, sure are, but it may be awhile.....

The kitchen is small, with a lot less counter space than I'm accustomed to. It is also weirdly mismatched and well, just gross. A good scrubbing will make it usable, but the plan is a total remodel at some point. This is one of those places where the change has hit me hard. We don't have room for special dishes and kitchen tools and gadgets that get used rarely so I've had to put my big girl panties on and get rid of all of my former catering and hostessing life. I am mostly at peace with it. Mostly.

There is a space beyond the kitchen that has been framed out, but not completed. One side of this space will be the third bedroom and the other will be a laundry room and pantry area. Hopefully we will one day be able to put a mudroom/porch off the back door so the outdoors isn't tracked immediately indoors.

Outdoors are where things get really exciting. We are on almost 3 acres and we have 3 different outbuildings already in place. They are all in decent to excellent condition. One is the garage/storage building, one is an outbuilding we plan to convert to a chicken coop, and one is a loafing shed that will probably shelter some sort of animal on one side and a small garden tractor on the other. There is room for a large garden and fruit trees too. And, of course, there is the kids' favorite part of all.....the little pond that is currently home to little frogs and crawdads and will soon have a few ducks hanging out as well. And, oh yeah, there's a greenhouse! I'm going to have to figure out where to get replacement panels since some of them are broken or missing completely, but I'm super excited that I'll have a greenhouse!

So, there it is....our little Heap. We are pretty excited and ready to get to work, but first we have to finish packing up the McMansion....more on that later!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You're Doing What?

It all started when a friend announced she was looking for a house- a really, really cheap house...with land. I don't know why it had not occurred to me until then that it was possible to downgrade housing just like it is possible to upgrade, but it hadn't. When I told the Hubs about it he was as intrigued as I was. In short order, we had decided that a cheaper place was just what we needed. It would enable us to live on one income and free me of trying to juggle homeschooling and running a daycare. I was elated. Finally, I would be a truly stay-at-home mom! We crunched the numbers and figured out what we could afford on his income. After a month of painting and repairing we had the McMansion ready to go on the market.

Once the offer came in it was time to start looking for our new place. We had our max price in hand and our dream amenities in mind. Sure, there were those homes that were really cheap, but they needed a ton of work, or didn't have enough bedrooms, or were otherwise undesirable. No thanks. Besides why would we buy something like that when we could afford more?

The Hubs was enchanted by the idea of an earth contact house that was on the market. You know what an earth contact house is, right? The houses that are built right into a hill so that when you look at them from the back it appears there is no home there? Yeah. Those. Ugh. They are, according to the Hubs, very energy efficient and exactly what he wanted. I was not so enchanted, but I do love my Hubs so I dutifully went out to look at this beauty. It was priced way, way below our agreed upon budget, but the Hubs assured me we could build on top of the existing house in short order so I was at least open to thinking about it. It was a total mess, but we both agreed that if we could build a house on top of it we could make it work. We'd have the land we wanted, he'd have the earth contact he wanted, and I'd have all the space I wanted.

We figured we'd take out a loan for the amount we agreed we could afford and use the "extra" money to build the new house with. Terry set to work figuring out how to get the loan and I set to work folding laundry.

And then came the moment. You know the one- where everything changes and you realize you're not going to ever be able to go back to the moment before. Ever.

A tiny whisper in my mind.... "What kind of difference could we make in the world if we weren't so busy building up treasure for ourselves in the form of a mortgage?"


What!? No, that didn't come from me. I like my big house, my bedrooms, my STUFF.

But, there is no going back when you know God has called you to change. Suddenly everything I've worked for, collected, treasured seemed so incredibly foolish. Why are we, a family of 4, living in a house with 4+ bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, 2 full kitchens, and 2 full living rooms? What in the world are we doing?

A 3 bedroom, 2 bath house would seem like a palace to a lot of people. And we could have that palace for a low enough price that we could own it straight out. No mortgage. Freedom to do what we wanted to do, freedom to help people when they need it, freedom to give freely without worrying about all the bills we have piling up.

Freedom to change our world.

We didn't end up getting the earth contact house, but the dream remained and in due time the Heap came to us. We closed on it today. It's ours. There is lots of work in store and I'm sure lots of frustration and exhaustion, sweat and probably even some blood (power tools are dangerous you know!) but there will also be great reward and family coming together to build a life that is about so much more than stuff. And for that chance, we are eternally grateful.