Too darn hot

My money pit

Last week I was in Dallas, and I was complaining about the weather back home (and how it was the same as the weather in Dallas). “Yeah,” said one of the Texans, “We hear you guys have a terrible heat wave in the 90s and we just have to laugh!” Unspoken at the end of that were the pejoratives about our tenderness that no Texas gentleman would use around a lady such as myself.

I countered in a way that terrified and horrified them: “I have no AC in my house.”

They were dumbstruck, as though I’d told them I had no toilet. No air-conditioning? That puts an entirely different spin on 98 degrees with 90% humidity, my friends. Yes, it does.

Thinking about it, and I think I’ve only ever lived in one place that had AC. We lived in California for a while when I was four. My thrifty grandmother, through osmosis, somehow taught me how to manage the heat with as little AC as possible… but we still had AC in Central Valley. (Those tips, by the way, come in awfully handy right now.) Every house I’ve lived in since we took Amtrak north to the Pacific Northwest has been heated, but not air-conditioned.

This summer has been HOT. (Except for Memorial Day when it froze. I might be whining about that for the next year or two, so brace yourselves…) I think we’ve already had 10 days over 90. In my mental calculus, I usually figure that Boston will have 8 – 10 days over 90 all year, and that plenty of those days will be like 91. We actually do have window box AC units (otherwise we can’t sleep), but usually that 10 days a year just doesn’t seem worth installing central air for.

But we’re in day five of a seven day likely heat wave, and tomorrow is supposed to be the worst yet. The basement is hot. The attic is unbearable. It’s only getting down to the mid 70s at night, so the house doesn’t get a chance to cool down. (Oh! The unthought-of consequences to having good insulation! When the house gets hot, it stays hot.) Suddenly, you find yourself wondering whether an AC unit would be that expensive after all.

When I was at a formative age – around 9 – my family watched the Tom Hank’s movie The Money Pit. At the time we were living in a house built with a gorgeous view on a just fantastic plot of land. The house had a great layout. And it was about half-done. The sink in the bathroom wasn’t hooked up. The nursery was exquisite, but other bedrooms were just drywall. In my room, there was a door to what was supposed to be a porch (one assumes) but was actually a story-long fall. Needless to say, my parents were renting.

But the combination of the movie and the house have instilled a life-long terror of home maintenance in me. I lived for six years in terror that at any moment my roof would cave in and I’d have to pay gazillions of dollars to get it fixed. (I think I added about $5k a year to the estimate I was given when we bought the house, but the roof did end up costing a bundle.) When the guy redid our roof he informed us that the window sills, which we had fixed and treated to the tune of $3000 when we moved in, were completely rotted and needed to be replaced. Now I imagine water seeping into my walls and wreaking havoc. And that will be another, what? Six thousand dollars?

And then there are the bats. I had high hopes that my Very Expensive Roof would be batproof. In fact, I counted on it. I looked up at the dollar bills taped to my roof, um, I mean, my new shingles and thought, “At least there are no bats.” Then I spent an afternoon in the attic and heard the squeaky voices of my unwelcome guests. I called up The Bat Guys and attempted to sound non-hysterical in my insistence that they come IMMEDIATELY and RELOCATE THE BATS to MAYBE THE BAT HOUSE I HAD INSTALLED. So that’s another two thousand dollars.

Of course, there’s the porch project too. We’ve gotten the stain. We need to test the stain on a piece of wood before we can decide whether the stool we’ve picked out will be a good match. And then we’ll need to get about four more of the stools in order to go sit in our nice front porch.

And the kitchen floor could stand redoing, as could the hall carpet. And there are bees living under my porch.

All this is to say… it’s too darn hot. And it’s likely to stay too darn hot at Chez Flynn for at least another year.

A day to myself

Today should be written down on the calendar. For reasons obscure to me, today is a holiday in my company. Not in my husband’s not-for-profit company that takes Columbus Day off, or my son’s preschool. No, just for me.

It’s like one of those daydreams you have, “What would you do if you suddenly had $100,000?”… the object of my fantasies has become reality. Better yet, it comes at a point where I’ve caught up on sleep, have no laundry to do, the dishes are done, the house is clean, the pictures are uploaded, the church web site is up to date and I’ve gotten clean through my backlog of blogging ideas. Bliss!

Although I’m at the snot-phase of a cold, I’m actually feeling quite energetic. So I did get up with my husband (instead of moaning inarticulately and covering my head with pillows which is my standard method of pleading with my husband to please let me sleep in just this ONCE! — I do this at least once a week.). I hied my sons to school. Thane looked trepidatous to return, but Grey was delighted. As I left he was busily comparing t-shirts with Nicholas. (Nicholas had gotten a Mario shirt, for the record.)

8:15. I was home and awake. So… I broke my fast, made a pot of coffee, made the bed (I NEVER make the bed, ever), checked my email upstairs, called two financial planners to talk about financial planning (I’m hitting the point where I need help, I think) and my OB to schedule my annual. Then, I tackled the attic.

Ah, the attic, repository of all that is not needed! As part of my energetic New Year’s burst (it’s astonishing how much energy I have when I don’t have to work!), I went through all the boys’ toys (with at least Grey’s help) and we set aside the ones that aren’t played with, or have been outgrown or broken. I called Salvation Army to schedule a pickup, so now its open season on “things I really don’t need”. And the attic figures prominently in that role. But there is a catch.

Bats. You remember when I said that “I know there is a population of bats in our area”. Confession time: the real reason I know is because they live in my attic! Such a welter of conflicting impulses there. The homeowner is all “BATS OUT! NOW! NO BATS!” while the environmentalist argues, “But their habitat loss is sooo bad you wouldn’t kick them out would you?” and the mother argues with herself “I don’t want those rabies and histoplasmosis vectors in the same building as my children, but I won’t kick them out until after hibernation and baby season is over because that’s just mean.” The mom voice is winning here. I set up a bat house to give them a place to go, and I MEANT to evict them (gently!) in the fall… but I got busy. Plus, all the bat eviction places I googled looked… histrionic. “Bats, the great bug scourge of the skies!” (Extra credit for getting the reference.)

So, I cleaned up all bat-related evidence, fixed the temperamental light fixture, plugged a few more holes (not so it would prevent them from getting outside, but prevent them from getting further inside) vacuumed and rearranged the attic. That’s as good as it gets until fall! I worked up a sweat going from attic to first floor and back again, moving the outgrown baby things to the porch!

Then I showered. Don’t worry, I had a mask on for that work.

A “what I did next” list is probably boring (well, if it’s not already too late for that!), but let’s just say my errands involved EIGHT different stores in three different zip codes. Then I came home and started a batch of bread.

Because I am a domestic goddess.

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook and Twitter so far that points to 2011 getting off to a rocky start for many of my acquaintance. Although I have a small and unrepresentative sample so far, let me just be a voice of dissent to that trend. I’m totally digging 2011 to date!

It’s also interesting to see how much I like myself when I’m not incredibly tired and busy. It took me 10 days to get to this point (with significant help from my MIL who was primary child-carer, cook, maid & chauffeur for 9 days!) but this sense of energy and enthusiasm is very pleasant. I’d like to have it more often. I don’t know how to do that.

PS – SCORE! One of my 8 errands was to our local used bookstore, The Book Oasis to drop off and acquire new books. I brought the list of books we’d be reading for the humanities book club I belong to, and having struck out, I gave them the list and asked them to keep an eye out for the titles. I just got an email from the proprietress who did research on the best version of Thucydides and is working to get it for me. WIN! Now to make it through Herodotus. Not light reading. Even with all the leisure time (see above) I only made it through to Book 4 this Christmas!