Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What makes a house a home?

This morning, I got up and showered, took Kate to her college classes, came home and cuddled with the dog, had some breakfast, and then got ready to sit down and take care of emails (which is a catch-all phrase for family stuff/scheduling/schooling/appointments/correspondence/errands/to-do lists, etc.). It was chilly, so before I sat down, I flipped on the fireplace and grabbed a blanket to cover my lap.

As I was reaching for a fuzzy blanket out of our basket of many fuzzy blankets in our living room, I had the immediate thought that these blankets are part of what make our home "homey." In the winter, we're all always grabbing blankets for our laps or to cuddle with. When we watch TV, we're often all on the couch with fuzzy blankets covering our legs. Sometimes we each have our own. Sometimes we share. But there are always blankets. Scout loves them, too.

That thought gave me the idea for this blog post. I thought it could be fun to challenge myself to come up with a list of 10 things (tangible and intangible) that makes our house a home. My mind is racing today and I'm struggling to focus and concentrate, so I'm going to stop right now and write this blog post. Here we go - just posting what comes to mind off the top of my head:

1. Our basket of fuzzy blankets. I've already talked about these, but let's officially list it as #1.

2. Emotional safety. Everyone is safe, in our home, to speak their minds, share their feelings, have their feelings, have their opinions, and talk about anything. No restrictions. If someone is sad or angry or happy or excitable, we try to be understanding of one another. Sure, we all have our times when we're a little irritable or short on patience, but by and large, this is a safe place to be. No one gets angry at anyone else for having an opinion that's different or for having whatever feelings they're feeling. I like that our kids can come to us with anything - excitement, frustration, and questions - and know they're not going to get yelled at or mocked. We are sarcastic and snarky sometimes, but we are not mean and do not make fun of each other.

3. Talking. So much talking. We talk all the time. We talk at mealtimes. We talk before bed. We pause what we're watching and talk during shows. We talk in the car. We talk in the middle of the afternoon. It doesn't much matter. We enjoy talking and sharing with one another and I love it. We know each other and share and listen and it's lively and comfortable and wonderful.

4. Games. We have so many board games. We play games a lot. Sometimes we go on streaks where we play a game (or lots of games) repeatedly for days in a row. Sometimes we have weeks of lots of game playing. Sometimes we have stretches where we don't easily get to play, but we always come back to games (and yes, we talk during game play, too). We also have a ping pong/pool/air hockey table and that's often a room we go to in order to take a break from the grind and challenge one another to a quick game or a quick tournament. I love it. Again, I've always wanted that kind of home - one where being playful and creative and happy is the basis for not only how we furnish and decorate our home, but also how we live in it.

5. Music. We often have music playing as we prepare meals together, set the table, and sometimes just for fun. We play music when we get together with friends and play games. We play music when we celebrate New Year's. We listen to all kinds and lately it's been a lot of Broadway. When I put mine on, it's either that or lots of 80's pop. At Christmastime, we play so much holiday music. We watch the Grammys together. We geek out reading articles about songs and musical artists we like. It's happy. I love to dance and can't seem to help myself when the music is on. I also love to sing along and everyone knows if they ask me something while I'm singing, I have to finish singing before I answer them. I almost can't even concentrate if music with lyrics is playing. Sometimes Mark and I dance in the kitchen. And when I'm dancing and singing, I don't even care how silly I might look or whether or not I'm getting the words perfectly. I'm just happy and having fun. And we're all enjoying one another.

6. Scout. Neither Mark nor I grew up with a dog. We had no idea what we were in for when we got Scout. She brings SO MUCH LOVE, JOY, and ENERGY to our home. So much. I have never in my life felt so loved like this. She is a lot of work but oh so worth it. She is, at turns, cuddly and playful and sweet and demanding and feisty and mischievous and energetic and mellow and hilarious and and and . . . well, you get the idea. She definitely makes our house more homey. We love her excited pants, her pitter-patter walk, her hops, her licks, her wet nose kisses, her pawing us, her snuggles. We love our Scout!!

7. TV shows. It's funny. I kind of hate the sound of a TV that's on, but  more specifically the sound of a TV that's on mindlessly. Like just on for noise. It's like nails on a chalkboard. But for us, the TV isn't something that someone flips on and then clicks through for hours on end. It's something we turn on to watch stuff together. It's deliberate. We flip it on sometimes at lunch and eat around the coffee table while we watch yesterday's Trevor Noah. We all get excited on Tuesday nights to sit down (with blankets and sometimes snacks) and watch "This is Us." We laugh as we watch episodes of "Clarence." We binge watch shows like Friends, The Office, New Girl, Glee, Frasier, Malcolm in the Middle, and more. We have our Gilmore Girls tradition that we've all shared. We sometimes watch a news special about Lin-Manuel Miranda or Taylor Swift or something else we're interested in. But whatever it is, we're interested and if we don't all watch it, we take the time to know, "Hey, Max really likes Invader Zim" or "Kate really likes Castle." Mark hardly ever watches baseball, but when he does, we ask him questions and he teaches us. Kate binge watched Castle and I got inadvertently sucked in and loved getting interested and sharing that with her. Mark now watches Supernatural with her. Max wanted to watch The Office, so Mark is watching that with the kids (and I get sucked in now and then, too). I recently watched the entirety of Frasier with Kate and now am starting up Glee with Max (I had gotten to about season 2 or 3 with Kate, but it's been a while so we're casually starting over). It's funny - a few weeks ago, I was thinking of writing a blog post all about TV shows and how much we learn from them due to the conversations that come from watching them together and maybe I still will, but I guess I'm alluding to that a little bit here, too. We love sharing hobbies and this is one of them - a love of good television and pop culture.

8. Food. All kinds of foods, but especially savories and meals from all over the world - Japanese, Indian, Mexican . . . we love it all. We love to try new things. We love to eat out and get take out. We love to cook. When we watch something special like the Gilmore Girls revival or an Awards show, we often make themed foods or appetizers. When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, we made Obama cookies and cooked Kenyan food. When Prince William and Princess Kate got married, we got up early and watched while eating tea and crumpets. When we watch awards shows, we sometimes make a bunch of little savory appetizers like pigs-in-a-blanket or salami pickles or mini egg rolls. We're not opposed to ordering in at 10pm or spontaneously suggesting a fun food outing. New restaurant? Let's check it out! And cooking. So much cooking. Our house often has the smells of such good cooking. We enjoy food as a hobby. We eat pretty healthy overall, but boy do we have fun with it.

This picture is a just because candid - Mark recently got me flowers to bring some light and cheer to these gloomy winter days and you can see the lived-in nature of our home (calendar, pencil, book on the table), books in the background, fandom art on the walls, etc.

9. Books. Shelves and shelves of books. Books in nearly every room. A basket of books from the library. Piles of books we're reading. Boxes of books from overflowing shelves. Books we read ourselves. Books we read together. We share stories. We read books. We listen to podcasts. Right now, the whole family is listening to Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" and it is excellent! We're enjoying it so much. We listen in the car and at home while we eat our meals. I've read the Harry Potter series 3 times so far - once myself, once with Kate, and once with Max. It's so special. There are quotes on our walls from the Harry Potter books. Fandom stuff all over. Another book that is special for me to read with the kids is "To Kill a Mockingbird." I've read it with Kate and will read it with Max soon. We all like all kinds of books. I'm so glad books are a big part of our home.

10. Pictures. We have pictures all over the place. In frames on the mantel. In frames on the wall. We have a digital frame that goes through old pictures. We take family pictures every couple of years. We have scrapbooks. We have home videos. It all contributes to a hominess. I've never wanted a stuffy home. I've always wanted a place where people can feel comfortable and relaxed and welcome. This isn't a museum. It's our home. I like things clean and sanitary. Neat even. But it's also lived in. Because we live here. And I like it that way.

So, here's something funny - know how I wrote this post because I was feeling so distracted? Well, writing certainly helped. Then, I got distracted again and it wasn't until I was climbing into bed that I remembered I didn't post it. :P See? So yeah, I wrote this yesterday, but am posting it now.

So, I'm curious to hear your thoughts - what are 10 things (tangible and intangible) that make your house a home?


Jimmy said...

Sounds like a great home! I really like the part about it being a safe place where people can have different ideas and thoughts without feeling mocked or threatened.

Besides the ones you nailed? The only thing I'd add is we're lucky to have neighbor kids that come in and out of our home and I like that. I like when the girls have friends over and I like that some of their friends give me hugs when they see me. Our neighbors up the street have a 2 year old that always waves to me and says my name real clearly and likes to come over and visit us and smell the flowers in the front yard.

In the summer what I love most about where we live is there are two sets of neighbors that come and hang out with us in the evening on the front lawn sitting in our lawn chairs. Those moments make me feel like our house is a home.

The Magic Violinist said...

Ha, I could have come up with all of these things! As I was reading, I got to #8 and thought, "Where are the books???" But then it was listed right after that. Our house is definitely super cozy. It's probably part of the reason why I'd rather stay home most days. :P

Boquinha said...

Jimmy, thanks. Me, too. Oh, I like what you've added! That sounds so nice. We're so into our media entertainment that we're not always the best at getting outdoors. Now that we have a bigger deck, that's changing. And Mark put in a nice fire pit outside in the backyard and friends as well as the neighborhood kids have come over to use it. It's nice.

TMV, I can imagine your rising sense of "Hey, where are the books??" :P Of course they're there. Anything you'd add? And your comment made me say "awww" out loud. I hope that's a good thing.

Dr. Mark said...

If talking makes a house a home, we may qualify as a subdivision all by ourselves!

This is a great list. I can't think of much to add to my list. I guess I'd add an adult who is plugged in. This person, a mother, perhaps, is so aware of what 10 things make a house a home, that she is forever making sure those 10 things are always there. Yeah, that's a big one for me.

Great post. I love our home!

Boquinha said...

Well, that was a nice thing to say! Thanks, Mark. :) (And the subdivision comment made me smile - so true.)

LMW said...

Your home sounds like a nice and fun place to be!

Interestingly, because I grew up in a big family and parents who were often loud or even yelling, I value that my home is quiet and calm. This includes that we don't yell at each other, but that there isn't a lot of pointless background noise. Bill and I talk to each other a comfortable amount, but it isn't incessant. In fact, one of my younger brothers lived with us for 8 months for a semester of college and a summer of work and told us that when he went back to our parents' house, he really missed our quiet house where he could "just chill" and talk with us without judgment or tons of interruptions. That was a huge compliment to me! When we have kids, however, I hope our house can be like yours, full of life and kindness.

I'll have to come back to list my 10 things when I have more time!

Boquinha said...

Thanks! Oh, I love hearing stories about family dynamics and home life.

It's interesting to me to hear about people from large families - we know two very large families here, one is remarkably close and the other is, well, I don't know, but I'm not sure I'd use the word "close." Anyway, as the kids get older, many of them are adamant that they don't want a lot of kids. Most of them say "1" or "2." Which is wild to those of us looking on, because their big families look like so much fun that I thought for sure they'd all want a bunch of kids, but nope. They love their family but they don't want that for themselves. I find that fascinating!

I like quiet and calm, too. Definitely not a fan of background noise. With younger kids, there's often the noise of squeals and toys and stuff like that. With two teenagers in the house, it's quieter. They're often at their computers or reading or maybe playing a game of ping pong or Skyping with friends or outside walking the dog or hanging out with the neighborhood kids or reading. Different stages.

That is a huge compliment! Our kids' friends (who have big families or more chaotic home lives) love to come here for the quiet, too. :) And I'm sure that when you two have kids, it will be filled with music, good food, fun, life, pets, and kindness. No doubt!

Boquinha said...

What's funny is we have family conversations by email, too. :P