The Full Suburban: With the house finally empty, one project gets knocked off the to-do list

It’s been a summer of firsts. First family trip to Hawaii. First time with not one but two kids leaving the nest. First summer with no cow escapes whatsoever.

But perhaps the most amazing first I experienced was one I’ve waited 10 years for: the first time I was left at home alone while Logan and all six kids went on their annual Dad Hike.

The Dad Hike is a backpacking trip Logan has taken our kids on for the past 10 years – as long as they’re over the age of 8, which is the arbitrary age we chose for Dad Hike eligibility. And this year, our youngest son, Hyrum, was finally able to go – perhaps the first and last time all of our kids would be on the hike together.

With everyone else planning on being gone on the Dad Hike, there was brief discussion about me coming along.

“It seems weird that we’ll all be together and you’ll just be home alone,” Logan said. “Doesn’t that make you sad?”

I looked at him incredulously. “Sad? Are you kidding me? I’ve been waiting 10 years for these two days all to myself. Besides, I’d just ruin everyone’s fun by worrying about whether there are enough spoons for the oatmeal and if everyone is keeping track of their dirty socks. Let’s not mess with a good thing.”

Logan agreed (I’m still not sure if I should be hurt by that) and gamely loaded all the kids and their gear into the Suburban for two days and nights of backpacking.

After they drove away, I walked back into my quiet house and expected to feel exultant, but instead, I felt kind of melancholy. There was a stillness about the place that I am simply not used to – a pervasive quiet that touched every cleared-off countertop and stray toy and made it feel wrong somehow.

I took a minute to gather myself. I sat down and ate a silent dinner while reading the newspaper. I checked on the kittens in the garage – the two newest additions to the alarming village of barn cats we are somehow amassing. I lowered the blinds against the evening sun and looked out into the pasture to make sure the cows hadn’t escaped.

Soon enough, the quiet around me started ringing with opportunity, and I was determined not to waste this gift of 48 uninterrupted hours. Melancholy banished, I started making a list.

Number one on my list of projects was to paint a barn quilt to put up on the side of our garage. Barn quilts are giant wooden quilt squares, and I think they’re completely charming. I’ve wanted to make one ever since we first saw them during a family trip to the Oregon Coast several years ago. And now, with everyone gone, I finally had my chance.

I set up my supplies on the kitchen counter, turned on a chick flick, and got to work. It was downright calming to work this way, with no one spilling milk near the paint brushes or asking me to heat up a corn dog halfway through my project . And when I got tired around midnight, I just left everything out and went to bed, knowing I could clean it up in the morning without mishap.

For weeks after the Dad Hike, I asked Logan to please put up the barn quilt. He promised he would get to it, but he never seemed to find the time. Finally, one night last week, I brought it up yet again.

“Now?” Logan said. “It’s about to rain.”

I looked him straight in the eye and delivered the death blow. “That’s OK. I’ll just hire a handy man.”

His eyes got wide. If there’s one thing Logan Ditto cannot abide, it’s someone else doing a job he is fully capable of doing himself. He got defensive.

“If you hire a handy man, then I’m going to hire a house maid.”

He immediately realized his mistake when I shot back, “That would be great! Dreams really do come true!”

His shoulders sagged and he turned towards the garage. “I’ll go get my drill.”

All it took was 30 minutes and some truly impressive acrobatics on a tall ladder, and my beloved barn quilt was up. Never before has Logan looked more attractive to me – except for maybe when he was driving away with all our kids for a blissful 48 hours.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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